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Our latest contribution, submitted anonymously, is an anarchist analysis of the so-called “Covid Culture War” and a followup to an earlier piece dissecting the right wing’s use of pandemic conspiracy theory.
At the beginning of the pandemic the state claimed masks were futile, but this was due to shortage and the government’s refusal to regulate the free market to ease the pain of the pandemic. Once companies managed to catch up with demand, the narrative changed. Many people likely died unnecessarily as a result of this.
Wearing masks can help save lives, but it is not a political statement in and of itself as some seem to think. Wearing your mask is not meaningfully countering the death-cult voices on the openly right-wing side of this culture war, it is simply common decency. On a larger level, it serves the state’s agenda to be louder about wearing masks than about the failing medical infrastructure around the world, or how the global medical establishment only serves the rich. I cringe when I see a liberal wearing a mask as if it is a symbolic virtue signal for BLM and organic farming. Supporting masks, encouraging vaccines, and not wanting vulnerable demographics of people to die is something we may have in common with someone on the liberal side of this culture war– a culture war that has been fabricated by state media and the worst of the internet– but it does not mean we can align ourselves with the liberals.
As Omicron predictably swept the earth in light of a vaccine rollout hobbled by the interests of capitalists, the pandemic that has plagued our lives is showing signs that it may be here to stay. Denmark has already acknowledged this: taking into account its privileged vaccine status, the country has already dropped all covid restrictions. Hong Kong, a country with some of the toughest restrictions in the world, is struggling with the futility of their own covid mandates in light of Omicron and may wave the white flag soon. Still many are dying across the world, as many also die from cancer, heart disease, famine, and war– although capitalism seems to consider these the cost of doing business. So much has happened since March 2020 when this boring apocalypse began.
I am not excited to be writing another piece on covid, but it is a truly unprecedented event. Even beyond the scale of death it has caused, its ripple effects and political implications are essential to discuss, no matter if we’re all tired of it. The pandemic continues to dominate our lives despite a looming and ongoing climate catastrophe, a global refugee crisis, the hyper-resurgence of fascism, and an increasingly stratified world. The world will never be the same. As anarchists, however, we must also evaluate our own behavior to grow and strengthen our communities of resistance in light of the world to come.
You can read my last article regarding the anti-vax and anti-lockdown right-wing movements that seized on the fear of those overwhelmed by this unprecedented event. I do not subscribe to this rubbish thinking. I am vaccinated; the first time to help others, the second time to be able to travel and enter a damn bar. I find the narrative of much of the anti-vax and anti-lockdown movements to still be dominated by double standards, inconsistencies, and the heinous influences of right-wing and anti-Semitic opportunism, but governments pretending the pandemic is the fault of the unvaccinated doesn’t work on me, because I know who is to blame. Omicron is a direct result of vaccine companies blocking patent sharing and the capitalistic practices of the “first world.”
I am uninterested in playing into the games of the governments of the world, governments that have proven they exist solely to preserve the comforts of the wealthy and maintain the existing social order of misery for most of us. Covid has made this even more obvious. After the arguments of state-defenders that murders and rapists are inherent to humanity (rather than a result of poverty and a patriarchal society), plagues and unprecedented global events are probably the next things to be used to defend and rationalize the horrors of government. Covid has shown, however, that the government really serves no purpose apart from its own interests, and will cravenly blame those it rules over if it can not manage what it supposedly exists to manage.
I am pro-vaccine the same way I am pro-chemotherapy. Both are a method of dealing with a horrible thing produced by the same horrible society responsible for the problem’s creation. I am cautious and concerned about who I come in contact with because I realize that the excluded and exploited are more likely to be affected by this pandemic, but I also believe many are suffering through this pandemic beyond the medical element of covid itself. If you don’t see this, you probably have a comfortable job or secure existence, because for myself at least, I wonder if the stress from this plague is going to kill me before the plague does.
I encourage people to be vaccinated as well as take precautions to ‘stop the spread’; but the implications of mandatory vaccinations concern me. I am concerned consistently with every opportunity the state may see in the fear caused by the pandemic or generally confusing times; this new precedent of mandatory vaccination worries me as does every crazy-ass thing governments do when people are afraid. It is ok to say this because it is an anarchist position.
Being an anarchist means rejecting the theater of politics. I am part of a movement that in its most sincere form cannot be trapped by the culture wars fabricated to divide us, because such wars are fought on faith that the systems in play will determine who wins. I can never welcome the decisions of the state without questioning them. However, some of us, whether through fear of a never-before-experienced pandemic, or more sadly, the fear of judgment by the liberal establishment, have made these kinds of compromises in position and rhetoric.
In my last article I mostly attacked the right’s use of the pandemic to distract from broader issues such as the hyper-profiteering of the rich during the pandemic, state opportunism in repression and authoritarianism made possible during the pandemic, and rampant inconsistencies exposed by the pandemic when it comes to government regulation. At the same time, as we have learned from governments around the world, lockdowns cannot be a cut-and-dry debate, and the authoritarian opportunism the pandemic has allowed governments around the world is something we should have seen and challenged in the process of breaking away from right-wing counter-revolutionary analysis. We cannot fear the judgment of the liberal and left-wing establishments around the world that have blindly accepted government decisions and who attempt to smear anyone who challenges the government’s decisions as being in league with white supremacists and Christian fundamentalists.
We are anarchists, not a political party looking to appease those whose analysis and ideas only exist within the framework of the existing power structures. We are anarchists meaning we are anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-so on, and so on, because our defining characteristic is being opposed to all facets of domination and exploitation.
Blind support of lockdowns is inherently classist, and not consistent with an anti-authoritarian position. I don’t like to use the term classist, because the mainstream use of this word tends to focus on incidents of class bigotry rather than class society as a whole, and is directed towards achieving “class peace,” rather than pushing for the elimination of class society. With that said, and in order to confront a specific tendency, realizing it or not, there were some fairly offensive classist approaches and tendencies coming from those fetishizing the state’s pandemic procedures.
Take for example people staying at home and posting TikTok videos of fusion meals (prepared magically), pompously letting everyone know they were staying in to help others without acknowledging that this is only possible on the backs of cooks, delivery workers etc. unable to do the same. It’s almost in line with the disrespect shown to workers by the bosses and fascists who wish to challenge the existence of the pandemic sheerly to preserve their sacred free market.
It assumes that others can get through even a week of not working without financial aid, while millions of migrant workers across the world, documented and undocumented, have not been eligible for the emergency pandemic financial resolutions or stimulus packages made by nation-stations and banks.
It ignores the labor and suffering that is necessary for such a meal to be made during these times– the “heroic essential worker” praise at the beginning of the pandemic was temporary and conditional. It reflects the worst of the liberal establishment, both in the USA and copy-cat centrist movements around the world.
Even the liberal establishment’s distasteful promotion of the vaccine as a moral choice, despite the majority of the world still waiting for any access to it, continues this classism. From early on, Americans and eventually Europeans were flaunting their vaccine status as the rest of the world was beseeching the WTO to make generic versions because they couldn’t afford Big Pharma’s price tag. You saw many declaring that the pandemic will soon be over because “we did it,” despite “we” not including much of humanity!
Now, as the western world begins to acknowledge that its approach to the crisis failed, recognition of the possibilities of “a permanent pandemic” only takes into account the conditions faced in the West, not the increases in deaths and looming variants that will continue to spread in the so-called third world, most of which is still waiting on the first world to share patents or non-expired vaccine surpluses.
The inconsistencies and mismanagement of the pandemic shine a light on the inherent flaws of the state. Unfortunately, giving too much consideration to the coercive talking points of the liberal establishment prevents us from countering the fascists who have dominated the narrative around covid. That is why we must find a balance, never allowing ourselves to place faith in the mandates of the state or expect the state to share the interests of anarchists with regards to managing the pandemic.
Drawing lines takes courage, especially on sensitive subjects, but as anarchists we are familiar with controversial approaches. Many who claimed to be interested in saving lives in the USA are now silent as Biden sends people back to work, obeying the demands of the bosses and capitalism. It’s a decision followed by countries around the world due to the pressures covid mandates have put on air travel, the transfer of goods, etc. Saving lives will always come second to saving capitalism on both the left and right side of the power games, no matter if one side minces their words or is willing to budge a bit.
Many who couldn’t “hunker down” and had their livelihoods sacrificed by state mandates are now turning to the right. As I write, truckers are blocking borders and cities in Canada and the USA over vaccine mandates. Blocked borders and occupied cities are typically something I would be excited about, but police and state forces haven’t obliterated these truckers the way they have indigenous land blockades and occupations against pipelines in Canada. The trucker protest crowds are generally of the included, not the excluded. They don’t challenge the broader system of capitalism, and are a generally confusing phenomenon for the status quo since they resemble its base. The convoys in Canada and the USA are quite troubling in light of the political associations and motivations of their founders. Solidarity blockades are also catching on in France, New Zealand, and more countries around the world. We are in conflict with the broader conspiracy theories and fascistic narratives that have helped to form these blockades, but we must counter them on our terms without resembling the voices of the liberal establishment. An excerpt from a recent on-the-ground review of the convoy in Ottawa and some of the liberal counter-protesters complaining against it helps paint a real-life example of why we need to challenge ourselves to counter these fascist events from an anarchist position that has no consideration for liberal approaches:
In the afternoon we check out a counter-demonstration organized primarily, it seems, by residents of downtown Ottawa who are sick of the noise, traffic, and acts of hateful speech, harassment and bullying on the part of some of the protestors. Countering the trucker protest before it becomes a full-blown neo-fascist revolutionary movement is so, so important but I honestly felt zero affinity with this counter-protest in particular. Most of the signs were either calling for more police, complaining about inconveniences like sound and traffic, or making fun of the demonstrators for being unvaccinated and/or stupid. “Honk if you failed civics,” “Self-driving trucks can’t spread covid,” “Ottawa police act now,” “Make Ottawa boring again.” A lady with a wordy sign about how vaccine mandates save lives mistakes me for a member of convoy protest and chastises me for apparently being illiterate, “Did it take you a few minutes to read that one, honey?” I have a graduate degree and no business being this personally offended but I feel a surge of rage at downtown liberal elites who think the problem is that these people just didn’t go to school long enough. We leave before it’s over, just as some of the protestors are engaged in a verbal standoff – antis chanting “Go home dipshits” while convoy protestors chant back “We still love you! Love! Love!” and the police form a stronger line between the two crowds.
The emphasis on appropriate and educated semantics and aesthetics that has invaded anarchist movements for years tends to come out of privileged university circles where issues are discussed instead of systems. As a result, we are discovering people on the fringes of our movements who feel connected not by experience and discontent but rather by a shallow connection of superficial identity. While fascists of all backgrounds deserve not a millimeter of space, we should admit allowing liberal mindsets “within” anarchy is a potential reason so many continue to get recruited by the right without even knowing it. Out of fear of resembling the right, we are allowing ourselves to be censored by the liberal establishment.
There are increasing riots worldwide related to lockdown restrictions. In the Netherlands for example, (https://itsgoingdown.org/reflections-and-report-on-the-nov-19-riots-in-rotterdam-nl/) on two occasions since the pandemic began there was some of the most intense rioting the Netherlands has seen in its modern history, mostly by unemployed and marginalized youth struggling in the most unequal country in the European Union. Many liberals, leftists, and even some anarchists dismissed these riots solely due to the ugly spark that may have helped trigger them.
On the days these riots happened, there were disgusting protests. The worst of the worst coming together: new agers, religious fundamentalists, right-wing politicians and neo-nazi/fascists protesting peacefully in their grossly white parades against the vaccines and lockdown mandates. Maybe some of the hooligans stuck around for the riots that followed, but those attending the pre-riot protests events are generally of the included, white, and privileged in the Netherlands, and could be seen denouncing the “hooligans” and “thugs” who came out when the sun set.
Lockdowns were the last straw for huge demographics of youth in the Netherlands who face constant racist violence by police and a second-class livelihood. Many pissed off, unemployed, and disenfranchised youth saw these events as an opportunity to manifest their rage. However, the liberal bourgeoisie and academic folks who dismissed these riots grouped fascists and politicians with unemployed youth of a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds simply because of the timing. How could some of us succumb to such a superficial and elitist approach to understanding a manifestations of social war that should be of interest to anarchists? It is a blurry time for humanity, myself included, but we have got to keep our analysis honed.
Anarchists consider looting the destruction of the sacred commodity, as well as reflecting poverty the looter faces. End of story, this is an anarchist response. However, those who tend to dismiss from the ivory towers of the academic and privileged world may not have the intellect or sincere desire for revolt to even appreciate such a thing. One may not manifest rage in the precisely opportune time or among the prettiest of circumstances, but it is our responsibility as anarchists to see these moments where such ruptures and tensions manifest and, regardless of the judgments of the liberal establishment, demonstrate our solidarity and support.
As anarchists we have to continue to assert our position unconditionally, heightening our voices and communicating our position clearly in order to make it clear to both sides of this culture war that we are not falling for the distractions. We want social war towards liberation.
We have learned a lot since March 2020. Just because we militantly reject the right’s death cult doesn’t mean as anarchists we should give in to the moderate right, centrist, or leftist establishments either. Whether civil wars in history, or Black Lives Matter, Occupy, the anti-globalization movement, or the pandemic of today, we hope the anarchist movement will always remember that “On the one hand there is the path that leads to the institutions, on the other, the way to the streets. These paths cannot co-exist.”
- The Real Covid Conspiracies
- Critical Notes From the Ground in Ottawa
- Against the Liberal Creep
- Greece: New Democracy and Pandemic Opportunism
- All We Have Is Us: a Call From a Delivery Driver in Manhattan
- Against the Coronavirus and the Opportunism of the State