The latest issue of Theory and Struggle includes articles with a focus on COVID-19 and we asked the journal’s editor Marjorie Mayo about the ways in which Marxist analysis can help examine the impact of the pandemic and its implications for the longer term.
Theory and Struggle is the journal of the Marx Memorial Library, promoting the advancement of scholarship and learning, drawing on Marxist theoretical frameworks. The focus is on labour movement histories and contemporary struggles in Britain and beyond.
So why this latest issue’s focus on COVID-19 and its implications?
This latest issue includes a series of articles on different aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has highlighted so many of the fault lines in contemporary societies in the context of neoliberal globalisation and the growth of Far-Right populism. The spread of the virus has exacerbated existing inequalities, bearing most heavily on the most vulnerable communities in Britain, just as it has been exacerbating inequalities within, and between, nations on an international scale. Financialisation has similarly impacted on governments’ abilities to cope, as austerity policies have decimated public services, including public health services, compounding the effects of marketisation in Britain and elsewhere. Meanwhile, as Naomi Klein has long since pointed out, there’s nothing like a crisis for opening up new opportunities for private profit, accompanied by new opportunities for imposing restrictions on civil liberties more generally.
Much has been written about the pandemic already. This issue of Theory and Struggle adds its own particular perspectives, drawing upon Marxist understandings of the underlying causes and the implications for the longer term as the basis for developing effective strategies in response.
What do Marxist understandings bring?
As the Editorial to the previous issue of Theory and Struggle explained, Marxist approaches offer insights and understandings of the contemporary situation which can then be applied to the specifics of the pandemic’s implications for different sections of the population, taking account of differences in terms of social class, race, ethnicity and gender. Marxist analyses bring added value too when it comes to exploring the interconnections between the different elements involved, the impacts on the economy and the world of work as well as on public health and the environment. Theory and Struggle’s approach is to apply the tools of Marxist analysis to these different aspects of the pandemic and its implications for the longer term.
The main themes
Michael Roberts explores ‘pandemic economics’, a broad sweep and carefully evidenced analysis of the causes and global economic impacts of COVID-19. This is followed by Allyson Pollock and Louisa Harding-Edgar’s comprehensive discussion of the public health dimensions of the pandemic, explaining government failures to provide adequate, let alone timely, responses, making the case for alternative approaches for the future. Ben Fine and Kate Bayliss go on to explore the interconnections between food, diet and the pandemic in the context of neoliberal globalisation, broad interconnections which are further explored in relation to the environment by Ted Benson. And Marjorie Mayo focuses on the growth of mutual aid groups in response to the pandemic, exploring the potential of developing alternative approaches to caring in pre-figurative ways.
International dimensions are considered with Jenny Clegg’s article on COVID-19 and China. And there are contributions from Vietnam and from Cuba (by Bob Oram) examining the reasons for these countries’ relative successes in responding to the pandemic.
Finally, there is an article on the implications for workers and trade unions, from Carolyn Jones, along with an article on union strategies to organise in the care sector by Kevan Nelson. And there is a round table discussion about organising cleaners, low paid workers who have been so essential to safety in hospitals and care homes, and so undervalued by government in the context of the pandemic.
Taken together, then, this collection of articles provides a unique resource
But this is not all. There are a number of other features in this most recent issue, including a section on past and present struggles which are explored through the Unite History Project – a unique partnership between academics and trade union educators, co-producing political education materials – along with a critical analysis of the impact of Labour’s electoral defeat in 2019. This issue also reproduces recent lectures at Marx Memorial Library, including a lecture by John McDonnell, along with a section of reviews and reviews articles.
Visit the events page of the Marx Memorial Library for details of upcoming online events, including online lectures and the chance to take a virtual tour of the library and its collection.