29-03-2021: Late March marks one year since global capital launched arguably its most severe assault on the working class in history. Using the fig leaf of a patently false “pandemic”, the governments of the imperialist West threw society into deliberately stoked fear, which provided the cover for ordering whole countries and continents into lockdowns. Significant sections of economies were shutdown, hurling millions of workers onto the unemployment scrapheap. Workers who remained in employment were driven from workplaces and into working from home – if they could do so behind a computer screen. Ostensibly to protect children and teachers from contracting an allegedly deadly disease, schools were closed, and parents had to then supervise the education of their children from home. Lockdown orders in some places included “stay at home” orders, enforced by the police, for 23 hours a day. Protest, along with other cultural and sporting gatherings, were made illegal. Free speech, basic civil liberties and democratic rights were summarily abolished – and have barely been returned.
Lockdown left capitulates
The use of the cover of “Covid” for the most extensive historical attack on working people starkly demonstrates the level of decay of the capitalist socio-economic system. The system of production for private profit has degenerated to the point where it must degrade or kill off the holders of the very element which is its lifeblood – labour power. The capacity of the workers to labour is what capital needs to survive and grow, but workers’ expectations of maintaining living and working conditions together with basic political and civil rights at a certain point come into open conflict with this system in decline. Wars and recessions need to be waged or created, to protect the profits of corporations which in decades past were seen as part of the “free world”. Hence, the self-inflicted lockdowns.
Given the sheer magnitude of the broadside against workers, one would have reasonably expected leftist and workers parties to have been at the forefront of a spirited defence of workers in the face of such mortal blows. As we now know, almost the precise opposite occurred. Most left parties which for decades claimed to uphold the aims of socialism and Marxism were in fact the first organisations to utterly capitulate before “their own” bourgeoisie. With some exceptions, what previously passed for the organised left genuflected before the ruling class without batting an eyelid.
Generally speaking, it is somewhat to be expected that the Trade Union bureaucracy would fall into line so assiduously behind the capitalist class on Covid lockdowns. Union officials (not members) have a material interest in imposing the full spectrum of capitalist ideology onto their own members and the working class as a whole. Union officials often act as an auxiliary police force which keeps workers within certain bounds, even while organising them to defend or win a minor gain here or there. Their role is entirely contradictory, but almost always they fall politically on the side of the elite.
The bourgeois state as saviour?
Left parties which, for decades, had railed against the bourgeois state on any number of issues, flipped in the early parts of 2020. Many of those who previously swore allegiance to socialism, Marxism and revolution were now effectively arguing the capitalist state is imposing lockdowns and facemasks because they are primarily concerned with the health and well-being of the working class and the poorest sections of society. Needless to say, this is beyond laughable. It glaringly exposes these “revolutionaries” as bare reformists. The capitalist state consists not just of the apparatus of repression – cops, courts, prisons and armed forces. The extremely well remunerated education and health bureaucrats also form part of the capitalist state also. The maintenance of their careers is all they need to regurgitate whatever campaign the capitalist politicians and their masters dictate. As has been amply demonstrated during the fraudulent “pandemic”, any number of these bureaucrats can recite the very opposite of whatever scientific and medical research and training they may have conducted in the past. In the case of Covid, their lies match the lies of the corporate politicians, and many who are not politically experienced can be convinced that the government is “trying to save them”.
Yet there is no excuse for hardened leftists, many of whom have been activists for decades, to seemingly throw a class analysis of the state out of the window when they hear of a “health emergency”. As if the capitalist state, which has stripped its health care systems of funding for 40 or 50 years, is now trying to “save lives”!! The Australian so-called left capitulated almost universally. Socialist Alternative (SALT), the largest self-proclaimed socialist party in Australia, not only offered a full throated defence of lockdowns. They also argued that while workers should defend their right to protest and strike (thank goodness for small mercies!), it is “fundamentally misguided to see the main enemy in this crisis as state authoritarianism”. It cannot be clearer – SALT defendthe capitalist state in the process of inflicting economic and psychological terror on workers, while claiming to be left-wing radicals. With radicals like these, who needs enemies?
The Socialist Alliance (SA) is not as direct as SALT in ramming lockdowns down the throats of workers, as they are somewhat aware that they are loathed by the majority of workers. Yet they uphold lockdowns as necessary, even while acknowledging the lockdowns are causing massive job losses. Their response is not to campaign against lockdowns (which they sometimes term “shutdowns” so they do not sound as onerous), but to urge employers to pay pandemic leave! This is dressed up as a progressive campaign when some Union officials have made similar calls. They do not seem to be aware that such calls imply that workers should agree with employers on the need to sack or stand down workers from employment, and then plead with the same employers for leave payments when they do. Needless to say, SA has knelt down before ruling class ideology so far that they do not even challenge “Covid” job cuts. In fact, by then campaigning for “pandemic leave” they are further reinforcing the “pandemic” nonsense of the politicians they supposedly oppose. One would think the natural option for socialists is to reject “Covid” job losses outright and help to mobilise workers to defend jobs. Yet this would mean a political break with the bourgeois state, which appears beyond SA.
“Trotskyists” and Stalinists for the government
The Trotskyist Platform (TP), known for brandishing the hammer and sickle and claiming to stand under the banner of “communism” and “Trotskyism”, also jump on the purely reformist “paid pandemic leave” bandwagon. Like their allies in the lockdown left, they appear to lack self-awareness. The “coronavirus as a deadly threat” is unfiltered bourgeois ideology. Any acceptance and/or practice of bourgeois ideology renders the workers’ movement virtually unable to win gains. As soon as the left accepts the “pandemic” concept, it stands on the ground of capital, not labour. TP is aware that job cuts have occurred supposedly due to “Covid”, but merely complain that the employers are “using the pandemic as an excuse to cut jobs”. They don’t seem to realise that the main reason for the fake pandemic IS job cuts to ensure the suppression of the cost of labour power (i.e.,wages). And by falling for wholesale corporate media hype of a supposed world threatened by an imaginary black plague, TP have handed employers and the government the political fuel needed to impose millions of job cuts without mass resistance. TP enforce “pandemic” ideology (an entirely false pretext) amongst workers, and then act innocent as employers and the government use this political context to wreak havoc. These “revolutionaries” could almost be hired by the Prime Minister.
The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) formerly had possibly the largest online presence of any left party prior to the lockdowns of 2020. Then its renowned World Socialist Web Site switched to a position which is potentially more conservative than the imperialist bourgeoisie itself. These “Trotskyists” repeatedly called for harsher and stricter lockdowns and even for schools to effectively remain closed. Even the United Nations (UN) – hardly even a liberal organisation – has cited studies which show that lockdowns and other restrictions could lead to an additional 10 000 children dying per month. Yet, in the name of “socialism”, the SEP are more pro-lockdown than the wealthiest ruling classes in world history. If the vampire squids of finance capital are not prepared to go as far as you demand, how on earth can such a party claim to be pro-worker?
Socialist Fight (SF) paint themselves as pristine Trotskyists untainted by other interpretations of what became of the Fourth International. Yet from day one, SF crumbled in the face of manufactured bourgeois hysteria on an allegedly deadly plague besetting the planet. They took the extraordinary step of expelling one of their members without recourse (who subsequently joined the Workers League – WL) for having the temerity to enquire as to why the SF had apparently taken to the view that the states of imperialist capitalism could suddenly adopt a position of ensuring health care for the working-class and the poor majority as their raison d’etre. They went on to slander the WL for “red-brown fascism” for its position of building the anti-lockdown movement despite the presence of supporters of former US President Trump and QAnon devotees. On our part, the WL stands for militant opposition to capitalism descending into arguably its most politically repressive phase in history – the pinnacle of which are the inhumane and dictatorial lockdowns. As for the accusation of “fascism”, whether of the red-brown variety or not, we suggest the most apt axiom is the one which maintains “the one who accuses is the one who is”.
Australia’s Stalinist parties are universally onside with pandemic hysteria, placing them onside with the Liberal Federal government and the state Labor Premiers, irrespective of their rhetoric. The Communist Workers Party of Australia (CWPA) do not print one word about the forced lockdowns, facemasks and vaccines in the March 2021 issue of their publication The Agitator. It’s as if the entire machinery of corona state repression is something that can be regarded by workers as a footnote. Similarly, the Australian Communist Party (ACP) barely mention lockdowns, and when they do, they imply that only the likes of QAnon “conspiracy theorists” are opposed to “coronavirus restrictions”.! One wonders if they are even aware of the thousands of people who have regularly mobilised throughout the country against forced lockdowns and forced vaccines. The Communist Party of Australia (CPA), meanwhile, demands a worldwide rollout of the Covid vax!
One must wonder what the parties of the lockdown left actually plan to do in response to the capitalist state dispersing the proletariat through lockdowns, social distancing, the banning of gatherings, meetings, rallies and demonstrations. These measures are designed to make it extremely difficult to politically organise resistance. Their response is to either do nothing, or even virtually assist the police subject innocent working-class men, women and children to house arrest. Meanwhile, working people the world over have been resisting billionaire finance capital’s lockdowns in anyway they can. Despite a corporate media blackout, millions of workers and their allies have repeatedly demonstrated against the unstated but obvious agenda of severe economic and political subjugation under the false guise of a “pandemic”. The whole time, the parties of the lockdown left have been absent, or, as in the case of Germany, actively attempt to counter anti-lockdown demonstrations. Clearly, the “revolutionary” pretensions of the lockdown left have been shattered into a million pieces.
The end of the Spartacist tradition?
Arguably the most surprising card-carrying members of the lockdown left are the parties derived from the heritage of the Spartacist League. Seemingly without irony, the Spartacist League and its off shoots including the International Bolshevik Tendency, the Bolshevik Tendency and the Internationalist Group, fall like dominoes in thrall to the billionaire class they have sworn to overthrow for decades. We acknowledge the contribution that the Spartacist League and their “family” have made to the study and practice of Leninist-Trotskyism, whatever their shortcomings. Now though, this entire apparatus must be called into question. It is not for us to sling mud and label other left parties as “fascist”, as it hardly helps. However, we have characterised the use of lockdowns and the imposition of scientifically groundless rules (e.g.,social distancing, tracking and tracing, the banning of singing and dancing) as a form of fascism which uses liberalism as its political vehicle. We do not believe that the banning of protest, the effective cancellation of basic civil and democratic rights, and the use of state power to confine healthy and innocent men, women and children to their homes (for those that have homes) for up to 23 hours a day, for months on end, can be politically assessed in any other way.
The parties derived from the Spartacist tradition have openly joined with other left parties they have critiqued as reformist when it comes to the fear pandemic. These include the Workers World Party and the Party for Socialism and Liberation. In fact, with a small handful of exceptions, “Trotskyists”, Stalinists, Maoists and others who identify as “Marxist” or “socialist” have crumbled before the limitless propaganda of the corporate media and capitalist politicians on Covid. The fact that the propaganda barrage is much more intense than usual capitalist messaging should not be used as an excuse. Even though there is horrendous online censorship, the internet has not (yet) been completely cut off. There is no reason why leftists and revolutionaries cannot research and study alternative information to that which the vast apparatus of imperialism disseminates. The failure to do so reflects the fact that on lockdowns – arguably the largest broadside against the working class in history – the lockdown “left” have taken a class position on the wrong side of the barricades. Whatever heritage and past activism they may have to their credit, their avid assistance to big capital for lockdowns is class betrayal.
Fascism appears whenever capitalism lurches into an existential crisis, and lockdown fascism is certainly no exception. Workers need not fear this development, for it signals an opportunity to rise and defeat it through workers’ revolution. Indeed, the descent into fascism is a sure indicator that capitalism can no longer offer workers even minor reforms, and it must use extreme political repression to save itself. Finance capital is showing its vulnerability in doing this, despite the appearance of dominance. The overwhelming majority of workers despise lockdowns, or at the very least suspect something fishy is going on. They could be mobilised alongside the existing anti-lockdown movement if the requisite political leadership of the working-class was at hand. As one of the few left organisations to oppose lockdowns, the Workers League commits itself to helping forge the Marxist vanguard the global working class so desperately seeks. Capitalism belongs the old world, and the time of socialism has arrived. The revolution is rumbling beneath, and we need to prepare. Join us!
 https://www.icl-fi.org/english/wv/1172/covid-19.html (28-03-2021)