Where do Leftists go from here?
In the first part Phil Shannon outlined the genesis and development of an oppositional outlook on ‘Covid’. Part II examines the demographic and political makeup of the Covid oppositionists and, in particular, why the modern ‘Covid Left’ did not provide the cadre of this new movement.
3. So, why did all the Covid hysteria pass me by?
Was it demographics?
I’ve had the flu a few times in my life and I get the occasional common cold but, classic baby boomer that I am (born smack dab in the middle of the 1946-1964 post-war baby boom and now so ancient that I can remember a Time Before TV), I come from a generation that took viruses, and illnesses generally (I had Scarlet Fever as a nipper and that was a real doozy), in their stride, accepting them ruefully as part of your lot in life. Remember the chicken pox parties organised by the parents of the Baby Boomers so that every kid could get this mild condition over and done with? Virus parties for the young ‘uns, however, would be inconceivable in this Covid day and age with its now-entrenched fetish for childhood vaccination.
As a rule, however, my Boomer peers were amongst those most terrified of Covid and were often the most fanatical of the restrictionists and vaccinators. They didn’t lack for company, of course, which included the very old, who had survived not only viruses but wars and economic depression but who meekly surrendered to a virus, as did those statistically least at risk from Covid, the young. Age-wise, there was an Olympic race to the bottom to see who could be the most frightened of Covid, the most obedient to their Covid jailers and most censorious of the Covid dissidents.
Was it politics?
If demographics didn’t hold the clue as to who would be a Covid conformist or dissident, then perhaps politics, as traditionally framed, has predictive power for telling who would fall for state bio-medical tyranny and who would reject it. After all, surveys in the US have consistently show that ‘liberals’ (i.e. Democrat voters, ‘progressives’, the ‘woke’) have been more hot for Covid restrictions than their opposite numbers (Republican voters). In January 2022, for example, the Rasmussen polling organisation found that a whopping 59% of Democrat voters would favour a government policy requiring the unvaxxed to ‘remain confined to their homes at all times, except for emergencies’ (by contrast, a more reassuring 79% of Republicans thought this beyond the pale).
Almost half (48%) of Democrat voters thought governments should be able to fine or imprison individuals who ‘publicly question the efficacy of the existing Covid vaccines’ (compared to just 14% of Republicans). Almost half (47%) of Democrat voters thought the government should be able to put a ‘tracking system, like an ankle monitor or a locked collar, on people who refuse the vaccine’ (only 14% of Republican voters thought so).
Deaf to historical precedent, 45% of Democrats would have favoured governments compelling unvaxxed citizens to live in ‘designated facilities or locations’ until they bared their shoulder (78% of Republicans would strongly oppose this historically sinister ‘camps’ mindset).
Australian surveys (for example Essential polls) also reveal a similar political divide on Covid Downunder, although the margins between Labor and Liberal voters are much narrower which is not too surprising considering how nutty all of Australia went in its early, fatuous quest for the fantasy of Zero Covid but the Australian ‘Left’ have been generally more zealous for Covid restrictions and vaxx compulsion.
4. Wither the Left?
The Covid Left’s support for medical tyranny was a shock to me, a four-decade leftwing political activist and trade union rep whose default setting is that governments and big media (corporate and state) always lie (about wars and strikes, for example) and that ‘follow the money’ is a much better guide to understanding the world than ‘follow The Science’, particularly when Big Pharma is in the game. Yet, almost all of the contemporary Left, negating their entire political value system, were as mesmerized by the Covid shenanigans as any other political tendency.
To me, on the other hand, the War on Covid was just the latest, and utterly blatant, incarnation of the disgraceful Iraq War (v2.0,) with its fabled Weapons of Mass Destruction hokum, all over again. The war against a virus, like the Iraq War (and Vietnam and any other imperialist war you care to name), was another giant con, based on propaganda in aid of a political agenda that threatened immense harm. Yet the Covid Left, which had easily seen through the Iraq WMD nonsense, swallowed the Covid Weapons of Mass Deception whole, and eagerly lined up for ever more helpings of the viral fable (more lockdown, masks, testing, vaxxes, please).
The contemporary Left’s Covid performance accelerated the process of the Left leaving me. I didn’t leave the ‘Left’ because of Covid – it was the Covid ‘Left’ which left me. I now call myself an independent Leftist, initially turned off by the modern Left’s didactic blindness to the positive dynamic in working class populism and increasingly left cold by the modern Left’s woke obsessions: Professor James Alexander is not alone in arguing that Marxism and ‘Wokism’ have very little crossover:
all the modern intersectional obsessions – racism, anti-Semitism, empire, slavery, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, etc. – are, in the West at least, simply outgrowths of a Liberal inclination to side with minorities against the majority. The whole thing is more Liberal than Marxist … this universal feelgoodery is not Marxism: it is just the usual thoughtless elite Liberalism. Consider how thin the critique of capitalism must be, that it could so easily collapse in the face of Covid.
The split was a reverse case of the ‘it’s not you its me’ relationship breakup because, by revealing its new face as a supporter of state tyranny, censorship, big corporate medicine, damaging pseudo-science and magical thinking, it was the contemporary Covid Left’s fault. This wasn’t what I had signed up to all those decades ago. Adios, amigo!
5. The Left – in all its hues – is still stuck in its reactionary Covid delusions
The Covid left, including the anarchists, the faux Marxist radical left, the ‘respectable’ social democrats, mushy ‘progressives’ and freelance leftist/green public intellectuals like George Monbiot (who stridently denounces the handful of environmentalists who questioned lockdowns, ‘vaccines’ and masks) has been utterly reactionary throughout Covid. From the icons of the Left there was only silence, or cheerleading, as Covid tyranny unfolded. What a difference it could have made if even a few of the more prominent leftists, those with some mainstream penetration, had spoken up.
What a pole of attraction for the troubled and the confused who suspected that something was terribly wrong with the monomaniacal virus mania and the looming Covid policy wreck. But, from the usually voluble likes of Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, etc. – nothing oppositional, whilst all their peers who so readily divined that Trump was ‘literally Hitler’ could not see the very real fascist encroachment of state ‘public health’ tyranny.
The Establishment Left was easily the most prominent part of the left with its assault on free speech, science, freedom of movement, the right to protest, working class revolt and bodily autonomy. It’s standard-bearers for old-fashioned right-wing political reaction were parliamentary Labor leaders such as Jacinda Ardern with her lockdowns, border closures and monopoly on truth, and her political cousin across the ditch, the (comfortably re-elected!) Labor premier of the state of Victoria in Australia, Dan Andrews, who held the world record for the longest lockdown, and who imposed extensive ‘no-jab-no-job’ mandates whilst setting his militarised police to pepper-spraying protesting grandmothers and handcuffing pregnant mums in their pyjamas for sharing a protest notice on Facebook). Justin Trudeau in Canada holds his own with both of these class traitors with his ruthless assault on protesting truckers.
In standing athwart the ruinous madness of Covid policy, nothing, of course, should have been expected from the pro-capitalist, social democratic parties. Any commitment to the working class had well and truly atrophied since the days of yore when the leader of, for example, the German SPD, was referred to, even by Marx, as the Pope of Marxism. Still, the extent of the modern social democrats’ betrayal over Covid was stunning to behold.
The IS-SWP – a case-study in Covid delirium
The radical, anti-capitalist left, which used to run a decent line critical of class-collaborationist social democrats, found themselves on the same page with their one-time targets faster than you could say ‘stay home to stay safe’. To take just one of the most high-profile groupings, the IS/SWP (one of my old party stomping grounds through their Australian offshoots) has monotonously chewed the cud of lockdowns, masks, testing, the not-vaccines and all the rest of it. They believe that scientists and ‘public health’ experts must be empowered to run society. Schools, which are ‘one of the biggest spreaders of Covid,’ must be closed – it took good old-fashioned protests and wildcat teacher strikes to win ‘lifesaving school closures,’ they assert, unhindered by fact. It is also right ‘to scare people’ about the virus because they should not be left to make up their own minds and to evaluate contending views.
They have, however, recently grown a little cold towards lockdowns but not for their conceptual failings. Alex Callinicos, a veteran luminary of the old Cliffites, for example, has, in November 2022 (it took a while), admitted to the failure of lockdown-attainable Zero Covid. He states with casual certitude and surprising reliance on official, bourgeois information sources, that Covid killed over 18 million people in 2020-1 and that only Zero Covid could have prevented this carnage (which the ‘negligent and murderous management of the pandemic by the likes of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson’ prevented from being achieved). Callinicos now concedes that Zero Covid was really a pipe-dream – only China has given it a real shot and even the authoritarian CCP was not tough enough) whilst no government has listened to the Cliffites about ‘doing them right’ i.e. early and hard (‘Boris Johnson was too slow to introduce a lockdown and too quick to lift it,’ Callinicos admonishes the half-hearted, incompetent PM).
Fortunately, we are informed endlessly, there is a new bio-tech Great Deliverer Vaccine, which, ‘even if it doesn’t stop infection,’ will stop anyone dying from Covid but, even here, the neo-Stalinists must lift their game because ‘there is widespread vaccine resistance among older people in China.’ This must be overcome, comrades! Callinicos is reticent on how to do this but if state exhortations don’t do the trick (and why would they, at this stage of the game), perhaps some disincentives like vaccine passports, or some social credit score demerits, or ‘re-education’ camps, might help (no wonder the Swappies don’t go into the details).
They have also been silent on the recent ‘sudden death’ of John Molyneux (an intellectual stalwart of that movement – I read a lot of his stuff back in the day) who passed away ‘suddenly’ aged 74, in Dublin in 2022 when the jabs and their boosters were in full flow (to even think there might be a relation between the two is wicked Covid Wrongthink, of course).
Rely on Socialist Worker for Covid information and politically-informed commentary and you may as well be reading the Guardian, listening to the BBC or learning by heart the latest government press release on the virus. The SWP/IS have really gorged on the official Narrative in all its pseudo-scientific madness, giving it a dose of socialist camouflage by describing the disastrous Covid regimes as being all about putting ‘lives and safety over profits.’
This is what passes for ‘Marxist’ theory and practice these days on the Covid Left. It is as if, during, say, the slaughter of the first (capitalist) world war, they had managed to stick the boot in even harder to the working class by arguing for more men and munitions, more white feathers and police action against the ‘anti-vaxxers’ of that time, the ‘shirkers’, draft-dodgers, ‘fraternisers’, and other anti-militarists including those of the revolutionary Left.
Just as the so-called Great War exposed the massive political failure of the establishment Left and ersazst socialists of the time (which proudly claimed a Marxist lineage), so, too, has the Great Covid War against the virus revealed the treacherous nature of the modern, woke, pro-lockdown/pro-vaxx ‘Left’ which claims its own roots in the revolutionary Marxist opposition to the fake ‘Left’ of the days of WW1.
It is time for a new Zimmerwald movement, a decisive post-Covid recalibration of politics and ideology amongst the ranks of the Left based on a return to the principles of class politics, freedom from state authoritarianism (including and especially the tyrannical no-jab-no-job employment mandates) and a commitment to science.
6. The Covid Left – a case of terminal decline
Even now, with the worst excesses of Covid policy abating (other than the slow-motion disaster of the jabs, of course), the modern Left has not corrected its Covid course and has not engaged in any critical self-reflection on its own role as political quislings in the capitalist state’s rule by fear and force. Post-Covid – with mortality up, fertility down, economies fractured, education ruined, child development stunted – if any of these sequelae are even noticed, they are treated as mysteries or simply attributed to the virus and never to the illusory, futile and damaging measures taken against it. Blissful ignorance can be so much more comforting than admitting error.
‘Which side are you on’, we on the (old) Left used to sing about the big labour movement struggles of the past. Waving their ‘Covid forever!’ placards, however, the new ‘Left’, have crossed the figurative picket line and are openly on side with the new ‘public health’ rulers, the capitalist state and Big Pharma bosses now. The Covid Left now portrays freedom as nothing but a right-wing trope. Hello!? – if the modern Left doesn’t stand for freedom, what is the point of it as a political movement?
7. ‘Covid’ – A Test of Character
Covid was a test of character, for individuals, institutions and political movements, and far too many, from all points of the demographic and political compass, failed it. Too many (the Covid conformists and enablers) were easily and irrationally frightened into sacrificing their civil rights and personal freedoms, their community and social connection, sometimes their very lives and well-being, by seeking a world safe from viruses. The Covid rebels, on the other hand, accepted that life involves risks, including viruses, which can not be expunged by craven obedience to the state and to a technocratic caste in a futile quest for safety at all costs, including the cost of freedom – bodily, intellectual and human.
Those who viewed freedom as a dispensable luxury in the age of Covid have also shown less than fervent attachment to the principle elsewhere, ready to throw freedom under the bus to ‘protect’ people from the ‘perils’ of free speech, from ‘misinformation’, from ‘offence’ and from Wrongthinkers like the Evil Orange Man in Washington who ‘threatens our democracy.’
For the first time in generations, and in highly intimate ways, entire populations of the West saw their fundamental freedoms all disappear in a puff of ‘public health emergency’ smoke. Whether freedom of thought, speech, movement or association, or the freedom to decline unnecessary, ineffective and unsafe experimental medical procedures, or the freedom to breathe unrestricted by a filthy mouth gag, Covid revealed a fundamental demarcation between those who opposed, and those who defended, these freedoms.
Too many fell for our rulers’ cheap conjuror’s Covid trick, forgetting all they should have learned from a long history of capitalist-state political trickery, lying and undemocratic power. Only the truly sceptical (or cynical), and those who paid much closer attention to history than to the idiot box in the corner of the room, saw through the hocus pocus of ‘Covid’.
It is vital to know what personal characteristics and political value systems proved resistant to the Great Covid Delirium because human history is, unfortunately, well-acquainted with dangerous mass stupidities fostered by malign, greedy elites and we need to know what it will take to foil future ones. Our freedom depends on it.
8. The Left – Where to now
For the Left, are we, the Covid dissidents, supposed to kiss and make up with those from that tendency who smiled when the unjabbed were sacked from their job or who faced escalating financial penalty the longer they remained unperforated, who would have happily deported the unvaxxed to camps? To just sigh with relief that the Covid nightmare is apparently now over? To just ask, ‘what was all the fuss about?, along with everyone else who even gives it a second thought? Surely not. What was seen can not, and should not, be unseen. What was heard can not, and should not, be unheard.
As old friendships and political allegiances have been tested, and sometimes broken up by the extraordinary political challenge of Covid, new partnerships have formed on a shared understanding of what it means to be truly human and free. Old political labels which don’t get this new political reality, including the Covid Left, have a place in the dustbin of history awaiting them. To update Antonio Gramsci, the old (Covid) left-right political world is dying but the new is not yet born. It is a huge task to clean the Augean Covid political stables but it is up to the left that resisted the Covid nightmare to start the job.
It is no surprise that the modern left, after years of political decline and distraction by woke-infested hysterias, wound up on the wrong side of the uber-hysterical Covid challenge. They did not provide the cadre of a new freedom-based resistance – the modern Left did not provide any of the important theoreticians, writers, political strategists or movement organisers. In this vacuum, these cadre came from the political Right or from the largely apolitical, single-issue centre newly radicalised by Covid.
There is an aching need for a new Left which capitalises on the lessons of Covid, particularly the centrality of freedom from state tyranny. Its makeup will be ideologically diverse, including those traditional Marxists who stayed true to their principles but also including many, the majority, who have never read Marx, nor ever intend to, but who, battle-hardened by the Covid wars, know that freedom should never be sold for a mess of ‘safety’ pottage.
Hopes for such a new ‘broad’ left spring eternal, of course, but often fail to materialise because of doctrinal differences, factionalism or irreconcilable ideological cleavages. Sometimes, too, the galvanising issue can simply fade away as a uniting focus and Covid may suffer this fate whilst those doggedly pursuing vaccine harms, or subsidiary issues such as Central Bank Digital Currencies (and other WEF policies which give governments more control over people) can be marginalised as the new flat-earthers. But if the Covid dry-run for 21st century state fascism isn’t a wake-up call for the Left to get its frigging act together and reach out to all those who resisted the Covid ugliness, then just what will it take?
 The Zimmerwald Conference was a gathering, a then-tiny international gathering, of anti-war socialists (including Leon Trotsky) in Switzerland in 1915 to oppose the first world war and set up a much bigger movement to prepare for post-war revolution after the bulk of the then socialist movement had backed their respective national ruling classes in the humanitarian and political disaster of a war for markets and territory waged by the world’s capitalist powers.