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The people are turning to collectivism

2 April 2020

Sign of the new times: the normally packed piazza at Covent Garden, London, now deserted. Photo heardiniondon


So collectivism is dead? Oh, and there is no such thing as society. In times of crises, it seems people know better than their leaders. Would that were the case always. 

As the most serious pandemic since the war works its way around the world, it is to collectivism that people turn. 

When the Prime Minister lists those of whom we should be proud, stockbrokers, bankers or estate agents do not feature. When we are invited to literally applaud those front-line fighters against the disease it is not politicians, lawyers or accountants we cheer. 

No need to list the professions of those who are protecting us. We all know who they are. 


It was becoming a truism of political discourse that Britain as a country was a busted flush and could not exist without being part of the EU, NATO or some other bloc. Well, no country that can build the world's biggest hospital – the Nightingale at the Excel Centre in east London – in less than two weeks should lack confidence. 

Whether as a country we can find the number of skilled workers to run the biggest hospital in the world is another matter. It will be a struggle: a struggle between the past and the future. 

‘The past is represented by a refusal to train sufficient skilled workers here.’

The past is represented by a refusal to train sufficient skilled workers here. It is marked by a lazy, colonial attitude to skilled workers in other countries, with too many people believing it is our right to steal those workers from countries who need them more than we do. 


The future is represented by a growing belief in independence and the possibilities that our decision to leave the EU give us. We will find the 22,000 workers we need to run the Nightingale London, but only by bringing back those who have left the NHS or by transferring staff out of existing hospitals. 

Careful planning has taken place to get us this far in double quick time, but even more careful planning lies ahead. We must not for example denude existing Intensive care units to provide staff for the Nightingale. 

Never again

And we must never, ever again leave ourselves in such an exposed position, where years of dependence on others means we could find ourselves unable to run our own health service in time of emergency or war.

The same battle rages over personal protective equipment (PPE). How much of it is made in Britain? Or how much of it is made in back room sweat shops in the Indian subcontinent (as a recent video revealed)? British industry should surely be able to manufacture sufficient PPE for its distribution not to be in doubt.

British industry is being converted to manufacture necessary medical equipment such as respirators. But why on earth were there only 8,000 in the whole country in the first place? How many of us had even thought to ask how many there were?

31 March,  Frank País International Airport, Holguín, Cuba: In another act of solidarity, Cuba allowed a Condor aircraft to refuel after other Caribbean countries had turned it away. The aircraft was on a humanitarian mission to repatriate 221 passengers from Managua, Nicaragua, to Frankfurt, Germany. Photo CAN/Cuban News Agency.

No comment on this pandemic should ignore valiant Cuba. Media outlets have in the main concealed the fact that Cuba has sent hundreds of medical personnel to Jamaica and Italy, and even took 600 guests off a cruise liner into Cuban hospitals to offer medical care. A cruise liner by the way which would otherwise have been prevented from docking in Cuba because of the illegal American blockade of the island. 

So it is not private enterprise to which we turn in a crisis. Capitalism did not win us the Second World War, when it was collectivity not private profit that triumphed.

In times of crises, the people know better than their leaders. We must not let thousands die in vain. Let us resolve to build a country able to defeat such an enemy, and build ourselves a safe future.