Above: Melbourne residents march against the permanent “pandemic” powers, raising the slogan “Kill the Bill”. Image from http://www.couriermail.com.au
12-11-2021: The moniker of “Dictator Dan” is more real than ironic. Labor Party Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews recently tabled legislation which shreds the fragmentary remains of liberal democracy in Australia. Dictator Dan’s almost lawless rule of Victoria meant that the capital of Melbourne spent more days in lockdown than any city on the planet, while enduring police repression that arguably surpassed anything seen during Mussolini’s Italy of the 1920s, or Hitler’s Germany of the 1930s. Whatever crimes Mussolini and Hitler committed, they did not imprison people in their homes, prevent some workers from earning a wage, nor ban physical and social contact with friends and family. Australia’s foremost expert on mental health warned that Victoria’s Stage 4 lockdowns came with a “suicide risk which is very serious”. Dictator Dan did not care, and Victoria endured one of the worst examples of lockdown fascism that has blighted the globe during 2020 and 2021.
On top of a totalitarianism barely conceivable, this execrable politician now has the gall to legislate for even more power to abolish the most elementary of civil and democratic rights – under the flimsiest of excuses of guarding against “pandemics”. Whether or not a SARS-CoV-2 virus exists, a Covid “pandemic” was always a fraudulent cover for an economic assault on working people. Now, if the Orwellian named Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 passes the Victorian parliament, “pandemics” can be imaginary by law. Dictator Dan could declare a “pandemic” even if there is none existing elsewhere – he only has to think there is one. The Premier could declare a “pandemic” with no outer limit on its duration. The Bill allows for discrimination – it can be directed against specific groups or a class of persons. This means that Aged Care residents, people in detention facilities, people with a disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders could be detained and have other rights specifically removed under a “Pandemic Order”.
Even the Victorian Bar Association has condemned the Bill, saying that it allowed the Premier to rule the state by decree, for an indefinite period of time, without judicial or parliamentary oversight. Those breaking the “rules” could be fined up to $454, 350 or jailed for two years, or fined up to $21, 909 just for protesting. Those punished could be interned at the purpose-built detention centre at Mickelham, on the outskirts of Melbourne. Police can use “reasonable force” to assist an “authorised officer” to detain anyone on the basis of their “characteristics, attributes or circumstances” – and the power of the authorised officers are unreviewable. Public and private meetings can be banned, businesses can be closed, and the Premier can prevent people from entering or leaving the state. Sound rational?
This Bill is perhaps the culmination of lockdown Australia, which demonstrated some of the most emphatic removals of elementary civil and democratic rights on the face of planet Earth. It is laughable to even suggest that the lockdowns were about “public health”, given the extent to which the private wealth of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos increased during the “pandemic”. Bezos, who is personally worth $200 billion, could give each of his 876 000 employees a $105 000 bonus and still walk away with the same amount of wealth he had before the word “coronavirus” entered the general vocabulary. Billionaires cash in, while working people are thrown into a virtual prison, millions who work from paycheck to paycheck lose their jobs, and concepts such as “freedom” and “democracy” are derided by politicians, the media and health bureaucrats as selfish individualism. How did this happen?
Perfidy of the Left
Any form of fascism, no matter what type, can only triumph if the working-class has not yet been able to forge a genuine left-wing political force, capable of leading the masses in a struggle for state power. During 2020 and 2021, the vast majority of those identifying as politically Left did not seek to combat the rise of totalitarian terror – but instead joined forces with it. Decades of declarations that they stood for progressive humanitarianism, for human rights and pluralism, were trashed almost overnight. Trade Union officials heading some Unions which are over 100 years old wasted not one minute in lining up behind the government and corporate onslaught against their own members, and workers generally. This epic betrayal had millions across the globe scratching their heads. If this lot switches sides now, is there any point to Unions, working class struggle or indeed socialism?
History has shown that these forces were NOT left-wing in the real sense of that term. In the parlance of Star Wars, these “rebels” turned to the dark side – without pausing for breath. The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) officialdom was on board the ruling class Covid agenda from day one. The ACTU tops never really questioned lockdowns nor the shutting down of entire sections of the economy – irrespective of the impact this had on working people. Over a year and a half later, the ACTU joined forces with the Business Council of Australia (BCA – the chief employer body) to issue a very half-hearted and almost muted statement which called on the government to recognise that Covid-19 vaccinations should be voluntary and should not affect the workplace. This half-sane position comes after the ACTU officials’ complicity with the most severe political repression in Australia’s history.
What is more, many Union officials directly and openly backed murderous vaccine mandates, and refused to support their own members who voiced a slight concern. In September, members of the Victorian Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) had to resort to picketing the office of their own Union, as their officials were openly siding with Dictator Dan Andrews and the Victorian government. Understandably, the demonstration became heated, as the frustration of workers being locked down and then being ordered to get a dangerous vaccine or go without work, boiled over. In response, CFMEU head John Setka denounced some of his own members who protested as “drunken morons” who can “go and pick fruit in Mildura”. This is all but undisguised treachery.
Roll Call of the lockdown left
It can be admitted that to prevent the entirety of lockdown terror, the working-class would have had to establish their own representative bodies and contend with the capitalist state for political power. This may have been an option IF the Trade Union bureaucracy and all accompanying left parties had opposed the Covidian nightmare in toto and committed to actions against it. Even with the Trade Union bureaucracy solidly blocking with the wealthiest sections of big capital and its government (which remains the case), IF all the left parties had defied the intense ideological ruling class agenda of lockdown/shutdown – this would have provided at least a partial basis for a ground-breaking anti-capitalist movement. Of course, none of this occurred. Instead, the Union officials AND the so-called left parties (with a handful of exceptions) willingly and openly deputised themselves as agents of capitalist and imperialist oppression. With a straight face, they expected workers to believe that they were doing so “for public health”. In a similar way in which almost all social-democratic parties in 1914 joined with “their own” industrialists to fight World War I, today’s lockdown left joined with “their own” capitalists to wage “the war on Covid”. Without blinking, they cried “we are all in this together” !!
The parties of what became the lockdown left “forgot” their ABCs of not only Marxism, but the most basic tenets of socialism. Not only did the lockdown left wholly endorse national border shutdowns, they were silent against state and provincial border closures – when there was clearly no science justifying a “health emergency”. Forget proletarian internationalism – the lockdown left flag waved for provincial parochialism. The lockdown left summarily dismissed concerns for the most basic of democratic and civil rights, denouncing plaintive cries for such as “selfish individualism”. These “left” forces reserved their most pronounced scorn for those who opposed lockdowns, the humiliation of forced face masking and the use of state coercion for vaccine mandates – by raising a cry for freedom. Somehow, the lockdown left equated the call for freedom into something which only the extreme right could possibly entertain. Needless to say, at this point many workers concluded that this “left” was in a state of deep collusion with the very forces behind lockdowns.
The following non-exhaustive list indicates just a portion of the antics that parties on the Australian “left” demonstrated during 2020-21.
Socialist Alternative (SAlt): SAlt have been the most physically aggressive in their support of the state and federal capitalist governments on Covid. SAlt have already organised counter-demonstrations against anti-lockdown protests, and are planning more. In the wake of the CFMEU rank and file rebellion against John Setka and the sell-out officials for unconscionable vaccine mandates and other issues (such as construction workers being barred from their own lunchrooms due to “Covid”), SAlt were the first to label anti-lockdown Union members as “fascists” !! They raised the inherently contradictory slogan of “Pro-Vax, Pro-Union, Anti-Fascist” – seemingly without a hint of self-awareness. Again and again, they claim that anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine mandate demands are part of a “fascist” agenda, and that “fascists” are using the anti-lockdown movement as a cover to build themselves. Without blushing, they scold Dictator Dan for NOT extending lockdowns further, for NOT shutting down more “non-essential” businesses and for NOT aiming for “Zero Covid”. Few others on the so-called left have drunk more Covid Kool-Aid than SAlt.
Socialist Alliance (SAll): SAll have at times tried to avoid the issue of lockdowns, even appearing to take a low profile with their pro-lockdown stance, in contrast to SAlt. Despite being less manic, SAll are deep believers that there is a real pandemic, irrespective of evidence which suggests otherwise. They strongly support the drive to vaccinate virtually everyone and oppose the government’s “Living with Covid” strategy. Thus, in the manner of SAlt, they criticise state and federal governments from the right on Covid. At the same time, they seemingly acknowledge that lockdowns have caused skyrocketing mental health problems and hospitialisations for self-harm and suicidal ideation. Make sense? There is more – they claim that the tens of thousands who protested against the most extreme lockdowns in the middle of this year, were “conned into it”. Suffice to say, one has to justify to one’s own members why there are rallies of tens of thousands protesting extreme political repression – but your own party is carping from the sidelines.
Socialist Equality Party (SEP): Until lockdown mania began in early 2020, the SEP arguably had the largest online presence (via their World Socialist Web Site – WSWS) of any left party internationally. Since then, however, the SEP has virtually become indistinguishable from the capitalist governments they used to critique. Even though they have not (yet) physically opposed anti-lockdown protests, the SEP display a religious adherence to Covid ideology that would be the envy of the most devout evangelicals. Despite severe lockdown fatigue in Australia, the SEP has loudly condemned state and federal governments for ending lockdowns and re-opening the economy. How popular is the call to extend lockdowns amongst the tens of thousands who have lost jobs due to precisely that? Yet they don’t stop there. Their most recent campaign is to PREVENT the schools from re-opening – children who are suffering from not seeing their friends and having to stay at home behind a computer screen be damned. Can we trust the SEP to look after workers and their families if they somehow held the reins of power? To ask the question is to answer it.
Solidarity (SOL): To give partial credit where it is due, SOL are the best of a bad lot – but they still remain within the ruling-class ideological and political drive of Covid. In a burst of rationality, SOL recognise that workers who are concerned about taking the Covid shot are not “anti-vaxxers” or “fascists”, who can be won over. Even better, they don’t advocate the cheering on of lockdowns, as much of the lockdown left certainly have. Yet they do not oppose lockdowns per se and claim that lockdowns are used by the capitalist state primarily because they have failed to prepare – with enough PPE, funding for health services and so on. Thank heavens for one left party which is not gung-ho on lockdowns. However, SOL remain on the ideological and political territory of finance capital, who have launched lockdown fascism in order to help save private production for private profit. Calls for more health funding at this stage are so much kindling for the bonfires of reformism. All wings of the bourgeoise can comfortably deal with calls for a reallocation of state resources. What is desperately needed is a workers’ movement which breaks completely from the “New Normal”.
Trotskyist Platform (TP): TP brandish the hammer and sickle, and militantly emphasise (at least in rhetoric) the need for workers to establish their own state. Yet this contrasts sharply with their conduct during the fear pandemic. Declarations of adherence to socialism and communism notwithstanding, TP have been among the most loyal followers of the Liberal Party capitalist government of New South Wales (NSW). They have consistently backed the lockdowns enforced by the NSW politicians, and even completed a study backing Covid vaccinations based on the figures supplied by this government. They claim that without lockdowns, thousands more would have died. If they hadn’t noticed, official figures of Covid “cases” and “deaths” are baloney – the primary method used to instill false fear amongst workers. They urge workers to “get vaccinated”, and go on to claim that not one person in China has perished from the “Delta strain” of Covid. Applauding lockdowns, urging workers to get vaccinated, we have to ask: are TP socialists, or government spokespeople?
Spartacist League (SL): It took a whole 12 months, but eventually the SL came out with a position that opposes lockdowns and repudiates their earlier support for them. They are at least honest about initially backing lockdowns, but the position is still a very partial and incomplete opposition to Covid terror. For example, the SL denounce lockdowns as a “reactionary health measure”, but they do not mention facemask or vaccine mandates. Given their historical support for vaccines – regardless of consequences – we have to assume they are on board with the experimental Covid vaccine and all of its associated dangers. And they refuse to join the anti-lockdown movement, despite their anti-lockdown position, so there is little or no practical support for their position on paper. Unfortunately, the SL have a foot in both camps on Covid.
Socialist Action (SAct): SAct recognise that the wealthiest billionaires on Earth have vastly increased their personal net worth during the lockdowns, especially Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. But according to SAct, the fact that billionaires get richer while workers suffer during lockdowns is only an indication of the unfairness of capitalism! The thought that a broad scale attack on the working class might well have been the aim and purpose of lockdowns doesn’t occur to them. For the pandemic is real, and millions have “died”, apparently. SAct even recognise that the Ombudsman itself found that the lockdown of public housing units in Melbourne breached human rights. This was where residents were trapped inside, without warning, for days due to “Covid”. 500 police locked down these towers, with some of the most vulnerable people in society unable to surface even for fresh air. The capitalist state itself virtually admitted the government acted illegally, in this case. The response of SAct is not to question Covid, or anything like that. Their response was to reaffirm their support for “softer lockdowns” !! Is this something like softer jail cells?
Bolshevik-Leninist (BL): BL do make explicit calls for the overthrow of capitalism, and for the confiscation of the wealth of the banks and the major industries, which can only be welcomed. However, they go on to state that the funds expropriated will be used to fund a free health care system – as well as more research on vaccines!! Like much of the lockdown left, the BL seemingly do not hear about the dangers of the Covid injections, or perhaps they do not wish to know. They go on to praise the actions of the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in “combatting” the coronavirus. Yet as Trotskyists they, more than others, should be aware of the effects of the Stalinist theories of “socialism in one country” and “peaceful coexistence with imperialism” in practice. The conservative and bureaucratic caste politically leading the PRC will do anything to aid and assist the functioning of world imperialism – up to and including faking a pandemic. BL have allowed the deceptive “public health” mantra to distort and divert their usually sound interpretation of Marxism.
Communist Party of Australia (CPA): For decades, the CPA has pioneered the formula of practicing mild social democracy under the guise of “Marxism-Leninism”. Barely breaking stride, the CPA carried this modus operandi into the capitalist crisis which was given the code name of “Covid”. While the CPA recognises that lockdowns have caused skyrocketing rates of severe mental illness such as depression and anxiety, they swallow bourgeois ideology whole. They raise concerns that people with a medical condition will face danger – because they are unable to receive the Covid vax! The danger is Covid, the danger is not lockdowns, say the CPA – alongside the entirety of the corporate system they claim to stand against. Their demands are so tepid that one of their central demands is for Covid sick leave, underwritten by the government. This is like campaigning for a Covid termination payment when employers announce mass layoffs due to lockdowns. For the CPA, political struggle begins and ends with parliament and the government. This is scarcely left-wing.
Australian Communist Party (ACP): After their split from the CPA, the ACP on some issues appeared to be more left-wing than the CPA’s mild reformism. While they are more critical of the Union officials, and more active than most who identify as “Marxist-Leninist”, they too have chosen the opposite side of the class barricade when it comes to lockdowns. Abandoning previous critiques of conservative Union bureaucrats, they strongly defended the CFMEU officials in Melbourne and condemned rank-and-file CFMEU members as “anti-science”, “far-right” and the tip of a “fascist” movement. They go further, and explicitly label the anti-lockdown movement as “fascist”, “petty-bourgeois” and “anti-intellectual”. Given that much of the anti-lockdown movement is comprised of working people and “Mums and Dads” who are deeply concerned about the future for their children, the ACP’s invective against those protesting for the barest elements of freedom is more than revealing. History will record the fact that tens of thousands of Australians fought against lockdowns and for basic rights, while the ACP denounced them as “fascist”. A classic case of projection, one might observe.
Communist Party of Australia-Marxist Leninist (CPA-ML): The CPA-ML have been underground since their inception, barely coming to the surface in public. This was one of the rationales for their split from the original Communist Party of Australia, and this has continued. They are around, but refrain from identifying themselves in workplaces, movements or elsewhere, generally speaking. However, they do pump out a lot of material via their website. On the Covid lockdowns, their positions do not rise above any of their ML counterparts. They also condemn the CFMEU rank-and-file for bravely confronting John Setka and the rest of the Labor Party and government aligned Union officials who betrayed them to the vaccine mandates. “No Jab, No Work” is rational and normal according to the CPA-ML. They also chime in with the government campaign to whip up fear of the “unvaccinated” – open discrimination be damned. More than this, they call for praise to be heaped upon epidemiologists, researchers and health workers who fought for and won a stronger lockdown!! Presumably they also dismiss the tens of thousands of Sydneysiders who protested against Australian Army troops being used to lock them down, as “conspiracy theorists”. Class betrayal, anyone?
Communist Workers Party of Australia (CWPA): The CWPA also broke away from the CPA, at least recognising at some level that “Communists” have to be more than left-sounding social-democrats. All well and good, but at the first sign of a capitalist crisis, the CWPA wasted no time in declaring themselves part of the government/corporate/billionaire/Big Pharma drive against working people. All aspects of Covid propaganda were taken as good coin by the CWPA. They admonish workers NOT to criticise lockdowns, because lockdowns combined with a healthy vaccination rate can “resolve pandemics”! There is virtually nothing between this position and the position of the capitalist Liberal Party (Australia’s premier bourgeois party) at state and federal level. If that doesn’t sound left-wing, consider their criticism of the government for NOT building a fit-for-purpose quarantine centre. That is to say, the CWPA’s “Marxism” includes effective demands for the government to build and operate concentration camps. It beggars belief.
For a genuine Left
Thankfully, an anti-lockdown movement in Australia did emerge in response to the initiation of “pandemic” terror in early 2020. This movement has continued to mobilise hundreds of thousands across the continent, often in coordination with international days of action for freedom. This continues, despite the absence and even militant opposition from parties who claim to be revolutionary! Therefore, people in general are not “sheep” who blindly follow what the media tells them. On the contrary, millions of workers would be prepared to combat Covidian terror imposed under the guise of “public health” provided there was sufficient working-class political leadership. Unfortunately, the Trade Union bureaucracy staunchly defended a rapidly decaying capitalism devolving in a form of fascism never previously encountered. The parties of the lockdown left tailed after the Union officials, and utterly betrayed workers to join hands with the politicians and accompanying media of the wealthiest magnates in world history.
The overturn of Covid totalitarianism requires nothing less than the establishment of working-class organs of state power, which can then pose the question – for labour or capital? To begin this battle, self-serving Union officials and their “left” tails need to be shunted aside as relics of the ancien regime. This vital task is bound up with the forging of a genuine Marxist vanguard party, anchored with the theory of Permanent Revolution, which can help rally working people around the urgent task of defending their very lives from capitalism’s Armageddon. Real revolutionaries will light the path towards a workers’ republic, based on a collectivised and planned economy, where those who labour shall rule.
 Ibid, 35.