The Covid pandemic has shone a spotlight on all forms of inequality in capitalist society. If you live in a poor area you are twice as likely to die from Covid than if you live in a rich one. The lowest-paid are more than twice as likely as the highest-paid to lose their jobs. The poorest have seen their incomes fall while those of the rich have risen. Poverty and discrimination have combined to make black, Asian and minority ethnic people especially vulnerable.
The pre-existing gender inequality in society has meant that women, particularly working-class women, have been especially hit by the economic and social consequences of the pandemic. Our jobs, pay, hours and working conditions, as well as the services we rely on, have all come under attack.
Our levels of stress and anxiety have gone through the roof as we’re worried about catching the virus; losing our jobs; having our hours cut; surviving on lower incomes; juggling childcare and care of other family members, work and home-schooling; surviving lockdown, and been concerned about what kind of future we will have in a society that puts the profits of the super-rich before the needs of the majority.
A major battle is brewing as the Tories and the big business interests they represent prepare to offload the Covid bill onto working-class people. We can’t sit back while our lives and livelihoods come under attack, and the rights that have been fought for and won over the decades are pushed back. We need urgently to get organised and fight back.
But Covid has also revealed that the organisations which were created to defend our interests have not brought their full potential to bear. At the beginning of the pandemic, many of the trade union leaders appeared to give up the struggle entirely. But where workers have organised together over workplace safety, such as in the schools, it has been possible to put pressure on the trade union leaders and make gains.
Building fighting trade union organisations will be central to preparing the fight back that will be needed to defend the rights of women and the whole working class in the face of the onslaught that is to come.
Covid has also dramatically exposed the failings and rottenness of a capitalist system based on profit, inequality and exploitation. It has shown the need for a root-and-branch transformation of the way that society is organised and structured.
We believe that socialism, where the major companies are publicly owned and controlled, and the economy is democratically planned in the interests of the majority, not a super-rich, profit-hungry minority, is the only viable alternative to the capitalist system, and the only guarantee that what we win through struggle will not be taken away again in the future.
Yet it is precisely at this time that the Labour Party under Keir Starmer has moved away from defending the interests of working-class people. It has abandoned Jeremy Corbyn’s programme that gave a glimpse of a political alternative to this failed system.
This poses the need for building a new mass workers’ party that can bring together trade unionists, young people, community campaigners and socialists to offer a real alternative to working-class people.
This programme has been drawn up by the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales) as a campaigning platform: to take into the workplaces and the trade unions, into the universities and colleges, and into local communities and campaign groups. As part of our broader programme to end capitalism, this is a fighting programme to defend the gains that women have made and to win what is necessary to live a life free from inequality, poverty, discrimination and oppression.
Read the full programme for women’s rights and socialism here: