To freedom, to health, to solidarity!

A Passover message from the Jewish Socialists’ Group

To freedom, to health, to solidarity!

This week we celebrate Passover, the festival of freedom, where we traditionally tell stories of resistance to oppression and celebrate our people’s liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt. This festival always feels especially important for secular Jews, as we connect it to modern day struggles for freedom, locally and globally.  

But how can we feel free under lockdown? We cannot. We have little choice. Over the last 10 years our government has systematically underfunded and undermined our National Health Service which is free at the point of need. It has also criminally mishandled the Coronavirus crisis with a strategy of  “herd immunity” based on a malevolent eugenicist logic which sacrifices the poor, the old and the sick in order to save those deemed more valuable to society. It is only by taking collective action to restrict our own freedom and observe the lockdown that we can save as many lives as possible. And in this, the public has consistently been ahead of the government.

Coronavirus impacts on different communities in different ways. Migrants and members of BAME communities are more concentrated in low paid, marginal, unsafe work. Many live in more crowded, shared accommodation. They are less able to self-isolate.

The disease threatens us and attacks us but it is government policies and government neglect that will determine the number of deaths.

But resistance is happening. Wonderful acts of solidarity are sweeping through our communities as we establish grassroots Mutual Aid groups. Those groups must pay particular attention to supporting the most vulnerable and marginalised members of society.

Under pressure, a government by the rich for the rich has had to switch course, and divert resources in unprecedented ways – at least temporarily – to increase funding to the health service, assist workers laid off and provide accommodation for homeless people.

As we eventually emerge out of the crisis, we cannot allow the Tories to return to “business as usual”. Our socialist demands for putting people before profit must ring out louder than ever. We must take the experience we are gaining though grassroots organising into the way we campaign for change when we are more free again.

In the late 19th century, Jewish sweatshop workers in the lands of immigration, who were enduring the most terrible daily exploitation and unhealthy conditions that shortened their lives, wrote poetry about a shenere un besere velt – a more beautiful and better world. Perhaps a new idealism, a new determination among the oppressed and exploited today to force change, will emerge out of today’s crisis. We must help and nurture that process.

As Jewish socialists today we will continue to fight for change and give solidarity to struggles for social justice. We are proud that in the midst of the crisis we have produced a new edition of our magazine, Jewish Socialist, to share information, experience and radical ideas, and remind us of the issues beyond Coronavirus that continue to impact on our community and others.

We still have a world to win and Coronavirus has made it all feel so much more urgent.  

Posted: 9 April 2020