Jeremy Corbyn has attacked the “vaccine nationalism” campaign of the rich and powerful and blamed it for stunting the global response to the pandemic.
Speaking at the virtual launch of his new ‘Project for Peace and Justice’ initiative, the former Labour leader said the pandemic has shown in its true, fatal light just how connected the world and its peoples are.
As such, future global responses to crises need global, coherent responses, devoid of venal pursuits for personal greed and profit.
The birth of the project was joined by the pixelated faces of Noam Chomsky, Yanis Varoufakis, Labour MP Zarah Sultana, Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey, anti-apartheid activist Ronnie Kasrils and climate campaigner Scarlett Westbrook.
During the launch, Corbyn – who is currently embroiled in a case over his suspension from Labour at the High Court – also called on the government to offer support in helping poorer countries gain access to vaccines.
Analysis from the Economist Intelligence Unit showed that poorer nations may not even get access to the jab by 2023. By that time, it is more than likely that the entire population of the US and Britain will vaccinated before some Global South nations have any chance of reaching the magical 60% threshold for herd immunity.
“A combination of vaccine nationalism and the irrational placing of profits ahead of public health is thwarting the global solidarity and coordinated action needed to roll out coronavirus vaccines for the entire world,” Corbyn said.
“Some rich countries have acquired enough doses of vaccine for their entire population to be vaccinated three times over. While nine out of 10 people in poor countries will not receive a vaccine even this year.
“Global problems cannot be fully addressed by local solutions,” he added.
The Islington North MP went on to cite the worldwide challenge to inoculate 60 per cent of the worlds population if coronavirus is to be beaten, but hinted this could well be out of reach given the prioritisation of profit over public health on an international scale by the powers that be.
This is something the Project for Peace and Justice will seek to fight against, he announced, pledging “to speed up the global rollout (of vaccines), to reduce the costs for people around the world and argue for a more rational system where public health comes before profit.”
As a result, he urged Boris Johnsons government to use its power through the World Trade Organisation to join with India and South Africa in supporting poor nations to obtain vaccines without being bullied into paying high mark-ups to massive pharmaceutical companies.
As well as the vaccine rollout, the inequality of the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed underlying, long-fermenting injustices in society.
The pandemic does not discriminate, we were told.
But the ex-Labour leader warned Covid-19 is accelerating already prevalent issues facing the world today and that radical change is needed.
The climate crisis, economic inequality and the “global order” holding people back have all been exacerbated by “the second major global crisis in a dozen years.”
Corbyn was a regular basher of so-called ‘mainstream media’ during his time as LOTO. While he continued to write for the Morning Star and supported smaller outlets, it was a rarity to see him in the Murdoch-owned press. Things haven’t changed since he left.
In fact, he even pledged a stern “fist in the ground” against billionaire media tycoons whose interests, according to Corbyn, have plagued the fight for peace and justice.
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Lamenting the British media landscape, he said: “We want a powerful and influential media. But one that puts power and influence in the hands of the majority, not in the hands of the few.
“A truly free media would expose truth and challenge the powerful. But right now, much of the media isn’t very free at all. The influence of billionaires and their interests is huge.”
Resident nuisance Rupert Murdoch was targeted. Corbyn stating this new movement will “take on” the Australian-born mogul.
Murdoch’s newest venture, a Fox News-style channel branded ‘News UK TV’, was given the green light by Ofcom last month. A launch this spring is planned.
When Andrew Neil’s own media project, GB News, is launched, Britain could well have two US-style media outlets going live every night.
Corbyn added: “We need an urgent parliamentary commission to protect our news media from oligarchy and monopoly control.
“We need to democratize the media too. So that real journalism, that seeks truth and challenges power is supported over misinformation and falsehood.”
Len McCluskey, General Secretary of UNITE, was asked about media bias against the struggle for social and economic justice during the launch.
Labelling it “the perennial question” within leftist discourse, McCluskey went on to describe how even seemingly liberal newspapers can be opposed to anti-establishment fervour when it emerges.
“Even they can always be relied upon to throw cold water on any group who are fighting back and challenging the establishment.”
He said his UNITE union would seek to “financially support alternative media outlets” in efforts to amplify the voice of the left.
After pausing for a somewhat deflated remark of “good luck” to Jeremy Corbyn in his fight against billionaire media power in Britain and mourning the lack of a widely-read socialist paper in Britain against the wall of “anti-socialist” mainstream media, the trade unionist did offer some hope.
(Editor’s note: Redaction Politics is happy to fill this role)
“The one shining light we have is to use social media. It allows an alternative view. And speaks to literally millions of people, especially younger people.
“We have to support those who can speak truth to power.”
It remains to be seen how effective Corbyn’s new brainchild of peace and justice will be, given it shall occupy the space distinctly away from pure political power.
“Things can, and will change,” the almost-Prime Minister remarked.