30-05-2021: For the fourth time, the Australian state of Victoria has been crushed into an inhuman lockdown by compassionless politicians with the threadbare excuse of an “outbreak” of Covid-19. The restrictions imposed on 7 million people are possibly the harshest measures enforced globally since the start of 2020. Facemasks are mandatory virtually everywhere apart from inside your own home. All public gatherings, indoor or outdoor, are banned. No travel beyond a perimeter of 5 kilometres is permitted. Workers must work from home unless they are “authorised”. Weddings are banned, and there is a 10-person limit for funerals. No religious or church gatherings are permitted if they are in person. All schools and Universities must move to remote “learning” online. The bewildering list goes on and on. Victorians are expected to check a long list of “Covid exposure sites”, recall if they have visited a shopping centre, bar, restaurant, gym etc., get tested and quarantine for 14 days, or until they test negative. This nightmare scenario goes way beyond what George Orwell envisioned in his dystopian novel about future totalitarianism, 1984.
New round of job losses
At this stage, the lockdown may be lifted in seven days – but there is no certainty about that. At the very least, many workers will lose at least a week of income, and many may again be stood down or face termination. Under “Stage 4” restrictions, employees who remain employed must carry a work permit with them to attend their workplace, which must be downloaded and printed from a government website. The penalty for not having a “work permit” is up to $19, 826 for individuals and $99,132 for businesses that do not comply. Small Business Australia estimated that the lockdown would cost the state $1 billion in revenue, while the Grattan Institute estimated the losses would be $900 million. It is the working class which pays the heaviest price for lockdowns, as business owners can retain their assets while simply laying off staff. Federal Trade Minister Dan Tehan stated that workers without work can go to Centrelink to apply for emergency payments but was unable to say whether any assistance would be offered.
Professor Patrick McGorry, a former Australian of the Year, said that the Stage 4 lockdowns in Melbourne have caused a 20% increase in calls for help with mental health issues, and that “the suicide risk is very serious”. Previous lockdowns in Victoria had already caused a raft of intense mental health issues, such as eating disorders amongst young people. Lockdowns remove social, work and usual exercise patterns, leaving people feeling suffocated. Stress, anxiety and depression are simply turbocharged, devastating wide sectors of society. Aloof politicians attempt to feign concern, by offering platitudes such as the lockdowns are “regrettable but necessary”.
Pandemic of lies
The claim that lockdowns and associated restrictions are about healthcare is preposterous. Lie after lie from politicians and the corporate media attempt to excuse the inexcusable. Lockdowns obviously cause immense suffering, and it is the working class that cops the brunt. While the existence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is disputed, there can be no doubt that the only “pandemic” is a pandemic of lies. Australia’s mortality rate has hovered around 7 deaths per thousand for the past two decades, including the year 2020. There never was, and is not now, a “pandemic”. What has occurred is a deliberately triggered recession so as to “reset” global capitalism. Bar none, it is the most savage attack on the working class in history. Paraphrasing Russian revolutionary leader L Trotsky, capitalism can only survive by drastically reducing the living and working conditions of the proletariat. Patently, this cannot be done without severe political repression – hence the lockdowns.
We do not hesitate to label lockdown mania as a particular form of fascism. Fascism becomes inevitable the longer the life of capitalism and imperialism is extended. The list of bourgeois democratic rights which capitalism brought in its train during its heyday is significant. Freedom of speech, the right of assembly, the right to protest, the right to a free press, the right to free expression, the right to a civil trial – all of these and more were won alongside the bourgeois struggle against feudalism. Now the system of private production for private profit is in terminal decline, so all of these rights and much more are junked as if they were so much human refuse. For these rights to return, and for humanity to survive, nothing less than the overturn of the profit system through a workers’ revolution will suffice.
For this, clear working-class political leadership is key. The traditional avenues workers have deferred to – the Trade Union officials and left parties – have so betrayed workers it is difficult to find words of description. All Union officials and almost all left organisations have universally backed, and even enforced, barbaric lockdowns together with the very capitalist state they disingenuously claim to oppose. The staggering perfidy and base treachery of these “left-wing” functionaries is epoch making, for all the wrong reasons. They must be unmasked as capital’s gendarmerie.
Despite this, there is no reason to succumb to despair. The vast majority of working people detest lockdowns, facemasks and unrestricted dictatorial power waged against them. The anti-lockdown movement has been, and still is, the only thing standing between the ruling class and an even worse fate. Therefore, it is crucial that workers join and build the anti-lockdown movement as a matter of urgency. It exists in Melbourne, other states of Australia, in Europe and other parts of the globe. Within this movement, Marxists must argue for a pro-working class orientation, as a “people’s movement” is self-limiting. FREE VICTORIA! FOR A PERMANENT END TO LOCKDOWNS!