We continue to publish texts produced as part of the FACB’s [Bulgarian Anarchists] internal discussion on the protests against the measures taken by the authorities regarding the Coronavirus. Expect more on the topic. —- The pandemic has changed societies and economies globally, as well as the lives of each individual. These changes vary according to latitude, but can be summarized and considered as a general process. —- Unprecedented debt —- In the battle with Covid-19, governments around the world are about to borrow more than ever before in modern history, surpassing even the period of World War II.
From Germany to Japan, from Canada to China, the authorities took out huge loans from central banks, which invested in measures to support business (in some countries and workers) and protect the population and the economy from damage caused by the pandemic.
At the same time, corporations, encouraged by unprecedented government support for markets, are selling bonds like never before. In 2020 alone, global debt has increased by $ 19.5 trillion. Data for 2021 are likely to deepen this trend even further.
We can draw an interesting parallel with the financial crisis of 2008, when governments used a similar scheme – pouring huge sums of money to save the economy from the collapse of the financial sector. This debt was forced to pay those who were not to blame for the crisis – the working class (including pensioners, students and the unemployed) – in the form of measures to severely restrict, freeze pensions and wages and reduce investment in public services, which became known as “Austerity”. There is hardly any doubt who will pay the debt generated by the government’s response to the pandemic. The inevitable austerity will be introduced once the pandemic is over, when the economy returns to normal. But while we wait for that to happen,
Information technology boom
The global pandemic has further accelerated the already accelerated pace of digitalisation. This has affected all areas and its effects are mixed. On the one hand, the digitalisation of public services is making them increasingly accessible. On the other hand, digital education has exacerbated inequalities in the education system and further marginalized children from poor families without access to the Internet and computers. The rise of e-commerce worldwide has helped accelerate the concentration of money and power in technology giants such as Amazon.
Prolonged lockdowns have paralyzed social life for months. Although with a proven beneficial effect on the spread of the infection, social isolation has had an extremely negative impact on the mental state of people, which has led to a number of problems, including increasing domestic violence and exacerbation of mental disorders among those predisposed to such. Lockdowns have also paralyzed the organizational life of many political and trade union organizations, given that online meetings cannot replace live meetings and mass events.
Panic and mass psychosis
The capitalist regime has shown its complete inability to manage a global crisis. The state responded to the threat by panicking and began imposing indiscriminate measures. In Bulgaria, this was clearly visible in the first days of the pandemic, when with a single-digit number of new infections, the whole country was blocked by a complete lockdown, while only a few months later with thousands of new infections every day, not even basic measures were introduced. The behavior of the authorities in the course of the pandemic passed smoothly from panic to petty accounting. Whether there will be measures and what they will be depended (and still depends) more on the immediate material interests of the various business lobbies in the country than on the real need to protect the health of the population. Capitalist logic has also poisoned the global initiative to develop and distribute an effective vaccine. It turned out that all the scientific capacity of mankind is concentrated in a handful of private corporations, which used their hegemony in this difficult situation to make fabulous profits by patenting the newly discovered vaccines and thus limiting their spread. The results? Pfizer Bayontech sold $ 21.5 billion in just one year, doubling the value of the giant corporation and making both its owners (who are husband and wife) multibillionaires in just a few months. Modern is expected to realize between 18 and 20 billion dollars in 2021, and the value of the company increased by an incredible + 372%. The portfolio of the company’s CEO, Stepan Bansel, who owns 9% of the shares, swelled to $ 5 billion. At the same time, the private patent on vaccines and the market principle of their distribution have led to appalling inequalities in access to vaccination worldwide. While in rich countries the average vaccination rate reaches 60%, in poor countries this percentage is only 1%.
Boom of conspiracy theories
The global pandemic is an unprecedented event for our generation and extremes in public response are to be expected. For some, the fear of a pandemic has manifested itself in over-reaction, self-isolation, overstocking and paranoia. In others, the fear was expressed in the denial of reality and the surrender of conspiracy theories. This trend has been supported by several factors, some of which are not directly related to the pandemic. On the one hand, the most obvious are, such as the collapse of public education and information literacy of the population.
But they are not enough to explain the spread of susceptibility to conspiratorial thinking, which is by no means limited to uneducated marginals and middle-aged people who have trouble navigating online.
An important, and perhaps key, factor in the current conspiracy explosion is the growing distrust of institutions around the world. The last 40 years, marked by the rise and peak of neoliberalism, have witnessed the complete emptying of the content of the already façade democracy, with the traditional political clash between left and right completely erased. Until the 1980s, although centrist, the main parties clashed over issues of economic development, such as the opposition between Keynesianism and monetarism in the postwar period. After the complete victory of monetarism in the 1980s and the collapse of welfare states in the East and the West, even this reformist political clash was erased and replaced by a cultural clash – for or against gay rights, for or against abortion, and so on. . At the same time, market reforms have stripped the state of its artificially grafted social obligations and exposed its main function – repressive. This development naturally led to a pervasive collapse in trust in traditional parties, official institutions and the state as a whole. But this collapse of confidence comes at a time of unprecedented working-class weakness worldwide.
Thus the rift between societies on the one hand and the state and the capitalist economy on the other is not realized in a revolutionary upsurge, but finds a vent in populism, nationalism and conspiracy theories. Their growing popularity, especially during a pandemic, is fueled by the widespread misunderstanding of the processes described in the above points of this statement. The concentration of power and money in technology giants leads to fear of technology and modernization, the lack of class analysis of global political and economic processes leads to their explanation with a global conspiracy, and the fear and lack of perspective – to antisocial behavior.
Dissatisfaction is controlled by nationalist, right-wing populist and religious organizations, which play the counter-revolutionary role they have historically always played – to divert analysis from class antagonisms and criticism of the state and capitalism to easily digestible racist and conspiratorial explanations for the crisis. Thus, in the unprecedented power of corporations like Pfizer and Bayontech, society is harnessed to see a secret conspiracy of some abstract world elite, instead of a logical consequence of the capitalist development of world politics and economics in recent decades. While class analysis would undoubtedly lead millions of people to see the empowerment of corporations as a historical stage in the class struggle in direct connection with their particular experience as workers and would encourage them to act against the capitalist system, conspiracy theories confuse people with crazy ideas about secret conspiracies and rulers of the world, which detach them from reality and struggle and push them into a dead end. The principle of the organization of religious mechanisms of power, whose “mysteries” are available only to the initiates, states: “No secret gives greater power than a secret which does not exist, because it cannot be revealed.” In the same way, there is no stronger enemy than the non-existent, because he can never be defeated. The boom in conspiracy theories is a direct expression of the victory of liberal individualism, which erodes societies and educates the individual in anti-social behavior. The principle of the organization of religious mechanisms of power, whose “mysteries” are available only to the initiates, states: “No secret gives greater power than a secret which does not exist, because it cannot be revealed.” In the same way, there is no stronger enemy than the non-existent, because he can never be defeated. The boom in conspiracy theories is a direct expression of the victory of liberal individualism, which erodes societies and educates the individual in anti-social behavior. The principle of the organization of religious mechanisms of power, whose “mysteries” are available only to the initiates, states: “No secret gives greater power than a secret which does not exist, because it cannot be revealed.” In the same way, there is no stronger enemy than the non-existent, because he can never be defeated. The boom in conspiracy theories is a direct expression of the victory of liberal individualism, which erodes societies and educates the individual in anti-social behavior.
The crisis from an anarchist perspective
Anarchists must not allow themselves to be carried away by populism and conspiracy theories. We must stand firm for all measures to protect human life and health during a pandemic, and attack the profiteering and systemic problems that have already led to the preventable deaths of hundreds of thousands. At the same time, we cannot turn a blind eye to the state’s authoritarian approach to imposing anti-epidemic measures, and we must oppose any attempt by the state to use the state of emergency to militarize public control and the police. Particularly harmful in this respect are the measures for compulsory vaccination of workers under threat of dismissal, which are not only repressive and authoritarian, but also have the opposite effect in the fight against the spread of the infection. Many people wonder Is the state so concerned about people’s health that it resorts to such measures? The answer is no. Mass vaccination is without a doubt the most effective way to deal with the infection and protect ourselves and our loved ones. But behind the mass vaccination campaign organized around the world is not a concern for our health, but purely economic interests. The state and the capitalist interests it represents have an interest in returning the economy to its normal functioning. This cannot happen without a mass vaccination campaign to control the infection as quickly as possible. But is there an alternative to the authoritarian approach and compulsory vaccination? The answer is again no, not in modern capitalist society. The state is a satrap not only by vocation but also by necessity. The state authorities have no choice but to use coercion, precisely because of the people’s complete distrust of the institutions on the one hand and the widespread individualism and anti-social behavior nurtured among the people by this same neoliberal state for decades. Thus the state and the capitalist system find themselves trapped in the effects of their own policies, which force them to expose their repressive nature. The state has not just lost its ability to persuade, but on the contrary – any information that comes from state or supranational institutions is rejected a priori by ordinary people. In some cases, this would be healthy skepticism, but in the context of a pandemic, it is social suicide. The average citizen is sufficiently exploited,
The average person, the ordinary worker, was cut off from his organizations and from his role as a political entity, producing his own analysis and pursuing his collective political interests as part of the working class. In the place of the worker appeared a depoliticized, individualized being, a product of the Transition, struggling under the also individualized and depoliticized notion of “citizen.” This citizen is detached from his community and from the very idea ofthe existence of a community of interests and is provided as an object, not a subject of politics (and economics). The citizen is the object of political campaigns, in the same way he is the object of marketing ones. Both consumer and product. Characteristic of this product of the transition is the binary thinking developed as a result of the complete depoliticization and the dominant liberal individualism ”. This binary thinking does not allow for multi-layered analysis and in-depth insight into political issues. It is thanks to him that skepticism towards the state and official institutions turns into sheepish trust in casual online charlatans.
As with any liberal movement, the class composition of the anti-wax movement is dominated by small businessmen, but the crowd is a colorful clowning that includes New Age hippies, libertarians, far-right organizations, and socially disoriented middle-aged housewives.
The campaign against vaccines is completely dominated by the neoliberal context in which it takes place. It is essentially liberal in the spirit of the classic liberal campaigns, which focus on the individual consumer, and are expressed in the field of consumerism on the principle of “vote with your money” – “I will not shop in this store because it does not offer organic products. ”For example. Similarly, the denial of vaccination as a form of boycott emphasizes individual choice and personal integrity, while rejecting social responsibility as part of the conspiracy against the individual. It is no coincidence that the anti-wax movement plagiarizes its slogans from popular liberal protest movements, such as the slogan of the abortion movement – “My body, My Choice!”
Anti-vaccination is above all a rebellion against public health as such. It is no coincidence that the leaders of the protest are, on the one hand, religious NGOs that have been attacking the social system and public education for years, and on the other, far-right parties and organizations such as Vazrazhdane, whose political agenda prioritizes public health privatization. At the same time, the private anti-wax industry generates tens of millions of dollars from gullible people, paying for “alternative health consultations” and treatment with dangerous veterinary drugs.
Both the state response to the pandemic and the conspiratorial movements below are the result of the helplessness of the capitalist system to mobilize the masses to deal with collective problems. This inability is rooted in the individualistic foundation of capitalism, which for more than 300 years has been waging war not only against the workers but also against the idea of the existence of a society in general. The conspiracy movements and their calls for salvation singly fit perfectly into the capitalist campaign against society.
What is the alternative? Many people are tempted to speculate on “how a classless / communist / anarchist or whatever alternative to today’s society would cope with such a pandemic.” I personally do not like setting such abstract challenges and embarking on empty theorizing and drawing utopias. Suffice it to say that in a communist classless society, organized on a free and democratic principle, the question of the authoritarian application of anti-epidemic measures would not be on the agenda at all, as the public institutions themselves would be built on a voluntary basis from the bottom up. therefore, they would enjoy full public trust, without which they would be impossible. In today’s capitalist society, there is no alternative. States have no choice but to use coercion,
Some people on the left are trying to find potential in resistance movements, but I think that’s a fantasy. The mobilizations against the measures are dominated by small businessmen united by their individual material interests and angry apolitical masses united by their own disorientation. The small businessman expects the privileges that have been granted to the big players, as he sees himself as part of the “business community”, but has been left to bear the effects of the crisis (almost) on an equal footing with the workers. This is the reason for the anger of small entrepreneurs, who form the core of protests against measures and vaccines. But apart from the class composition, what determines the reactionary nature of the protests is that the movement is based on the opposition of individual rights to general well-being.
Anti-wax protests are an expression of a combination of anger, disorientation and lack of perspective. This makes them the ideal environment for the far right. So the fact that the far right dominates the protests is neither a coincidence nor the result of insufficient activity by workers’ organizations. By joining these protests, the left can only be marginalized and serve as a useful idiot and a mass of conservative political forces drawing on the protests. The period that will give the left room for expression will come when governments ask the working class to pay for the crisis, imposing austerity.