Socialist Equality Group meeting discusses New Zealand government’s abandonment of COVID elimination policy


On October 23, the Socialist Equality Group (SEG) of New Zealand hosted an online public meeting titled “No Hindsight on Elimination! Mobilize the New Zealand and international working class to defeat COVID-19! Speakers from the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand addressed an audience of more than 30 workers and students from New Zealand, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

They discussed the international significance of the New Zealand Labor Party-led government announcement earlier this month that it will “move away” from its previous policy of eliminating COVID-19 from the community.

The move, which poses immense dangers to the working class, came as a shock to scientists and workers around the world who viewed New Zealand’s elimination policy as a model. Unlike the vast majority of countries, New Zealand succeeded in eradicating transmission of the deadly coronavirus last year, using one of the toughest lockdowns in the world. This has limited deaths to 28 so far.

Presiding over the meeting, Cheryl Crisp, National Secretary of the Socialist Equality Party in Australia, began by explaining that the elimination strategy adopted by New Zealand, China and other countries had “been very successful. efficient and successful ”.

Cheryl Crisp

The vast majority of governments, however, have responded to the pandemic with the homicidal policy of mitigation or “herd immunity.” This program, driven by capitalist demands to keep schools and businesses open, has resulted in an estimated 16.5 million deaths worldwide. Ardern, Singapore and others served the same interests in rejecting the policy of elimination.

The task of ending the pandemic, Crisp said, fell on the working class, which had to be mobilized in a political struggle for socialism. She drew attention to the International Committee of the Fourth International’s analysis of the pandemic as a “triggering event” in world history, comparable to World War I. The war represented a collapse of capitalism, which ended only with the revolutionary rise of the working class throughout Europe and the victorious socialist revolution in Russia.

Tom Peters, the leading member of SEG, explained how the government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern quickly turned to a policy allowing COVID-19 to spread, “knowingly risking the health and lives of thousands of people.” An outbreak centered in Auckland has grown from just over 200 cases to more than 1,000 since restrictions in the city were relaxed more than a month ago. Today, Auckland high schools are reopening for thousands of students, with the help of unions. This will inevitably further accelerate the spread of the epidemic.

Tom peters

Peters refuted government and media claims that the Auckland lockdown was not working and was no longer needed because people can rely on vaccines. While important, vaccines alone cannot stop the spread of COVID-19. The government is ignoring scientists calling for a return to an elimination strategy and a hard ‘level 4’ lockdown in Auckland to save lives.

Peters has also debunked the glorification of Ardern by the international media over the past year and a half. The government had only reluctantly implemented a nationwide lockdown in March 2020, “for fear of a working class explosion.” Tens of thousands of workers, led by health professionals, demanded containment, regardless of the unions, which opposed such measures.

Labor and its coalition partners, the Greens and NZ First, had consistently prioritized corporate profits throughout the pandemic, with bailouts and subsidies funded by austerity measures at the expense of workers. The government abandoned elimination at the behest of powerful capitalist interests.

Peters called on workers to form grassroots safety committees, independent of labor and unions, to oppose the reckless reopening of schools and businesses as COVID-19 spreads.

British educator and Socialist Equality Party member Harvey Thompson spoke about the dire situation in Britain, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson ruled out further closures last November, saying: ‘Let the bodies pile up by thousands”. Since the government lifted mitigation measures in July, more than 10,000 people have died and the country’s COVID-19 death toll has reached 162,620.

Harvey thompson

Thompson hailed the example set by three recent school strikes, called by parent Lisa Diaz, in opposition to the reopening of UK schools which has fueled the rise in cases and deaths. The Labor Party and unions opposed the stops, with union officials “lambasting teachers and parents who called strike action to save lives.” Thompson said the strikes underscored “a basic truth: if there is to be a fight to save lives, defend science and eradicate the pandemic, it must be led by the working class,” regardless of capitalist parties and unions. .

Patrick O’Connor, a teacher in Melbourne, a member of the Socialist Equality Party in Australia and the Committee for Public Education (CFPE), also spoke at the webinar. He described the spread of the coronavirus as a “completely preventable and preventable disaster.” Australia is currently reporting more than 2,000 cases of COVID-19 per day and 100 deaths per week.

Patrick o’connor

While Scott Morrison’s federal government never adopted a phase-out strategy, state governments were first forced to impose lockdowns last year. They faced “immense pressures that have emerged within the working class,” O’Connor said, including a strike by warehouse workers in Melbourne who had been exposed to the virus, and talks about a industrial action by teachers and health workers.

This year, however, state and federal governments have deliberately allowed the highly infectious Delta variant to spread, telling people they must “live with the virus.” O’Connor described how COVID-19 is sweeping through schools, which have been reopened with the full support of teachers’ unions. The CFPE is fighting to expose conditions in schools, including hundreds forced to close due to COVID-19 cases, and to mobilize teachers and parents independent of unions and against the government’s criminal policies.

The speeches were followed by several questions and answers. A participant asked what SEG thought of the Maori Party’s accusation that by allowing the spread of COVID-19, the Ardern government was paving the way for the “genocide” of the Maori people. In response, Peters explained that the Maori Party, a right-wing capitalist party, sought to derail a unified working class struggle against the pandemic by claiming that the deaths were primarily a racial issue, not a class issue.

In response to a question about how other “socialist” organizations had reacted to the abandonment of the elimination strategy, Peters cited the example of the pseudo-left International Socialist Organization, which criticized the change of government. political while supporting the Labor Party government. . He also touched on a question about the role of the New Zealand Nurses Organization, which has used the pandemic to quash industrial action and push through a sales deal, perpetuating the crisis of underfunding, low wages and understaffing. in public hospitals.

Other audience members asked for more information on the UK school strikes, including the attitude of the unions, the parents’ response and the state’s response. Thompson explained that the unions were very aware of and feared the prospect of an upsurge in the working class, and that the government threatened parents with fines and even jail time. He added that most of the information about the spread of the virus in schools and strikes in schools has been suppressed in the media, but the strikes have been strongly encouraged by the SEP and the WSWS and have received strong support from the from parents and school staff around the world.

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