The Left and Covid – Part I: Reflections on a catastrophe

In this two-part guest post, British writer Chris R gives a visceral account of the Left’s failure to stand with working people in the covid era, instead siding with the oppressor. He argues that not since the vast majority of the European Left swung behind the war parties in 1914 has the movement made such a disastrous miss-step. It’s focused on the British experience.

For the purposes of this article, by ‘Left’ I mean the political, cultural and social organisations, networks and groups inhabited by trade unionists, activists, campaigners and party members including, not exhaustively, the Labour Party, trade unions and trades councils, groups such as Stop the War, the People’s Assembly, Extinction Rebellion etc; all the comrades, colleagues and friends with whom we have worked, marched, leafletted, campaigned and picketed for decades, and from whom, since the end of March 2020, we have become progressively alienated – in short, the entire socialist/labour movement/Left/progressive bloc. It’s a huge category and admits some anomalies but the differences are compensated for by its constituents’ unanimity of opinion on the covid question.

When the ruling class declared open war on the masses in March 2020, the national lockdown – it was actually a lockout – was met by the labour movement and the Left not with resistance and militancy but compliance and submission.

The Left was cleverly outmanoeuvred by Boris Johnson at the beginning of the crisis. By feinting in favour of ‘herd immunity’, he secured the support of ‘progressive’ opinion for a lockdown policy that was the plan all along. ‘How dare they refer to us as a herd? We are not cattle,’ cried the Left intelligentsia, as they dutifully stayed in their quarters and waited for their injections.

Almost to a man and woman, the Left swallowed the state-corporate narrative about SARS-CoV-2 and supported lockdown policies, differentiating itself from the government line only by demanding faster, harder and longer lockdowns in line with the insane ‘Zero Covid’ agenda.

‘Social distancing’, the quarantining of healthy people, face masks, invasive swabbing – there wasn’t a single anti-human behavioural proscription that the Left didn’t support.

The Left willingly participated in the ‘track and trace’ surveillance racket, enthusiastically shifted its activism online (all meetings being run off Deep State-infested Big Tech platforms), agitated and advocated for the replacement of real wages with state dependency and, most grievously, demonstrated the highest form of comradely compliance with the diktats of the emerging biosecurity state by rolling its sleeves up for four rounds – so far – of experimental injections.

At the dawn of a brutal new phase of the class war, the Left sided with the oppressor. It flunked its biggest challenge in a hundred years. Not since the entire European Left – with the exception of the Bolshevik faction – swung behind the war parties in 1914 has the movement made such a disastrous misstep.

As the lockdown crisis unfolded in spring and summer 2020, the Left was silent on all the big issues that mattered. The deliberate creation of mass unemployment, routine abuse of police powers, suspension of elections, totalitarian restrictions on freedom of movement, thousands of ‘collateral’ deaths, intensified surveillance – none of this elicited so much as a murmur of protest. This almost inexplicable ignorance has persisted right up to the present day, almost three years on from the first lockdown. There isn’t time or space to comprehensively detail the Left’s failures during this time, but dishonourable mention should be made of the following examples:

Where was the Left when it mattered?

  • In May 2021, Sean O’Grady, associate editor of the Independent wrote: ‘This is what we do about anti-vaxxers: No job. No entry. No NHS access.’ In December of that year, Anne McElvoy in the Evening Standard described the unvaccinated as ‘a lethal liability we can ill-afford.’ Neither these nor similar obscenities in other ‘respectable’ newspapers were denounced by Left journalists, or by the National Union of Journalists for that matter.
  • A campaign is underway to reinstate the 40,000 care home workers who lost their jobs because they wouldn’t submit to the experimental injections. These people are heroes of the labour movement. But Unison isn’t leading the campaign. The unions were also conspicuous by their absence during the NHS100k campaign, a grassroots, worker-led movement against a vicious Tory policy which would normally be a no-brainer for the labour movement.
  • The Left’s proud tradition of internationalism stayed squarely at home as unvaccinated minorities in Lithuania and Austria faced exclusion from society under neo-fascist Covid regulations. No vigils or petitions, no solidarity hashtags. Even industrial action wasn’t enough to engage the Left’s interest – the Morning Star expended not one word of coverage on the Italian dockworkers’ strikes in opposition to the ‘Green Pass’ system. These were huge acts of working-class militancy that enjoyed broad popular support in Trieste and other ports but were presumably not significant enough to make it into the pages of the People’s Press.
  • Over the years, the various ‘Stand Up To’ campaigns have managed to stand up to Racism, Trump and UKIP but they clearly didn’t think it worth getting out of their seats to oppose vaccine apartheid.

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The problem wasn’t that the Left didn’t protest during the lockdown period but that it protested about anything except the most pressing issues of the day. It got out on the streets for George Floyd but was unmoved by the dubious death of John Magufuli.

The George Floyd protests, incidentally, provided a sobering visual representation of the natural posture of the Left in the Covid era: muzzled and on its knees.

The Left protested about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act but had nothing to say about the even more repressive provisions of the Coronavirus Act or the wholesale application of intrusive surveillance technologies via ‘track and trace’.

The Left swung in behind Reclaim the Streets but was silent over regulations that restricted the free movement of the public and the forced masking of children in schools, a diabolical policy openly sought by the NEU.

Again and again, the Left tilted at the wrong targets.

In the meantime, the heavy lifting was being done by early anti-lockdown protesters in the spring and summer of 2020, who were routinely battered and arrested for their pains.

Though hugely significant, these protests were small enough for the Left to ignore; when they became the mass mobilisations of summer 2021 onwards, ignorance was replaced by slander, as evidenced by a priceless piece of intellectual contortionism from Socialist Worker in January 2022 entitled ‘Anti-vaxx marches – a warning from the right’. The article claimed that the NHS100k campaign was being used by shadowy far-right entities to legitimise a movement driven by conspiracy theories rooted in anti-Semitism.

The Morning Star’s Peter Frost weighed in that same month, accusing the White Rose sticker outfit of being a cabal of extreme Roman Catholic and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists and depicting ‘anti-vaxxers’ as ‘what the psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich described in the 1930s as “people in trouble” – the raw material of fascism.’

Right and Left, right and wrong

This trope – gullible people with grievances being used by nefarious actors in the pursuit of far-right agendas – has been a frequent feature of Left discourse over anti-lockdown/anti-mandate protests. It’s a lazy default response to a social movement that has had the temerity to emerge and flourish without reference to the Left. There is no respect paid to the individual agency of protestors who have arrived at their positions through lived experience and intellectual enquiry.

The Left’s fanatical opposition to anything that can be construed as right wing, or mendaciously characterised as right wing, enabled it to sit out the biggest mass movement of modern times.

Anything that contradicts the Left Covid consensus is right wing. Criticism of ‘settled science’ is right wing. Arguments against the legitimacy of lockdowns are right wing. Refusal to be injected with an experimental synthetic gene technology is right wing. Campaigning and protesting against any of this is right wing. Million-strong London marches were right wing. The Canadian trucker convoys and New Zealand freedom camps were right wing. Nurses campaigning against vaccine mandates were right wing.

To the obedient Left way of thinking, anything that contradicted that state-media Covid narrative, whether received direct from source or mediated through Left influencers, was right wing.

Many of us have gone beyond the Left-Right paradigm but, conceding that it still has substance, there are, of course, right wing elements in the freedom movement. It’s a mass popular movement representing the people in its broadest manifestation. But if the freedom movement is not far right, on Covid the Left has definitely been far wrong.

In fact, its response to popular uprisings in Italy, Canada, the UK and New Zealand and many other countries suggest that if there is one thing the Left hates more than poverty, injustice, racism and war, it’s the working-class taking matters into its own hands.

The utterly skewed balance between Left activism during the covid period and the real popular uprising was made plain in London in June 2021.

A huge freedom march shared street space with People’s Assembly, Kill the Bill and Extinction Rebellion demos. The contrast in numbers was staggering – up to seventy times more people were on the freedom march than the People’s Assembly demo – but just as impressive were the political aesthetics. The colour, diversity, energy, anger and humour of the freedom marches made the rituals of the traditional Left event suddenly seem lifeless and flat. The freedom marches were mass people’s events. They were fresh and vital and heterogeneous. They were joyous occasions. It was a sudden revelation, striking because of its sheer bloody obviousness: this is what a genuine popular uprising feels like.

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Uncuriouser and uncuriouser

The Left’s failure hasn’t just been a failure to act. The Left has failed to be curious. It has failed to read dissenting narratives. It has failed to use its critical faculties. It has accepted everything it has been told about covid at face value.

Leftists have asked no questions about infection fatality rates, the PCR test cycle thresholds, the reporting of covid deaths or the prohibition on early treatment protocols; they have shown no hesitation in shoving swabs into their facial orifices, have expressed no doubts about the efficacy or desirability of mask wearing and have had no concerns over the speed with which the ‘vaccines’ were put into circulation. Every tenet of the state-media narrative has been accepted without thinking.

The Left has asked no questions about the role of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, EcoHealth Alliance and GAVI in setting the covid narrative or looked into the significance of Event 201; it has refused to acknowledge the absurdity of Neil Ferguson’s ‘modelling’ and shown no interest in exploring the circumstances surrounding the deaths of John Magufuli and other African leaders who challenged the dominant covid narrative.

The Left has also exhibited no signs of consternation over the routine censoring and banning of dissenting opinions on social media, presumably because all the censored and banned scientist, academics and writers were right wing.

All this important, troubling and downright fascinating subject matter sits way beyond the narrow field of Left inquiry.

Now, as the unfolding public health disaster of the experimental injection programme has moved even Piers Morgan to reflect on the illegitimacy of his previous stance on the ‘vaccines’, the Left apparently has no interest in looking at the data on excess deaths, negative vaccine efficacy or rampant myocarditis in young people. It has no ears for the warnings of Dr Aseem Malhotra or Professor Angus Dalgleish; worse, it has abjectly failed to show even the feeblest flicker of solidarity with the thousands of victims, dead and alive, of the jabs.

Shame on the Left!

It has missed out on the opportunity to be part of something magnificent. Dismal as the last three years have been, the flowering of new forms of activism has been wondrous to behold. Millions of people have organised, agitated and campaigned, many of them for the first time in their lives. There has been a thrilling surge in new modes of thinking. The global freedom movement, in all its diffuseness and diversity, has been a living school of revolutionary theory and practice. Millions of people have woken up and they will never go back to their old ways of thinking. But all of this has taken place outside of the precincts of the Left.

The Left has persisted with its customs and practices when all around it a new revolutionary world is being born. Suddenly these customs and practices look tired and worn. How dreary the Left press looks compared to The Light, for example! The Light is everything a proper radical paper should be – disputatious, unorthodox, lively, original, provocative, inspirational and brave. It has thousands more readers than the Morning Star and Socialist Worker combined and its analysis of ruling class power is more incisive and acute.

The Morning Star and Socialist Worker do not routinely write about central bank digital currencies, the Technate, the Medical-Industrial Complex or the World Economic Forum. They haven’t undertaken any analysis of the economic underpinnings of the covid programme. Work of the quality produced by the likes of Iain Davis or Fabio Vighi is alien to their pages. The Morning Star and Socialist Worker are no more radical than the Guardian, the Independent or the BBC. These otiose organs of pseudo-progressive opinion continue to toil in a self-referential circle, their backs turned to the emerging new reality, whilst a rising generation of journalists, analysts and commentators provides inspiration and intellectual ammunition for a growing global movement which owes no debt to the Left and has no reason to regret its absence from the struggle.  

The current outbreak of industrial action is a response to an economic crisis caused to a great extent by an insane policy that the Left applauded in 2020. It is three years too late. Faced with the biggest attack on the working-class in modern history, the Left exchanged the red cap of liberty for the blue face mask of compliance and abandoned the field. After such a catastrophic failure of judgement, the question is not whether the Left in its present form can recover but whether it should continue to exist at all.

In Part 2 I will examine some of the fundamentals of contemporary Left thinking that might explain why and how it failed to respond correctly to the covid challenge, including a horror of ‘conspiracy theories’, a pernicious anti-industrial mentality, and, amongst the intelligentsia, alienation from productive economic work.

This article was first published at Left Lockdown Sceptics.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent or reflect those of The Looking Glass.

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