The Return of the Lockdown Left

Part 1: What’s Left?

A year ago I wrote a piece on the reaction of the left to the lockdown. I noted that most of the left had been silent or had supported lockdowns. None of them were alarmed that lockdowns would entail a vast transfer of wealth to the already bloated owner class, that they would kill or further cripple the poor or that they would take us further into a techno-totalitarian dystopia. None of them even questioned the so-called ‘facts’, let alone attempted — crucially — to see them in context. We were in a ‘pandemic’, uniquely deadly or, at least, enough of a threat to justify lockdowns, masks, vaccines and vaccine passports. End of argument.

The list of voices on the left who were either silent or openly supportive of what happened was long indeed, but it is vital to understand that their complicity is not at all surprising. Anyone who is surprised does not understand what the left wing actually is, how it operates, or what its interests are. Allow to me explain.

Some people believe that leftism is primarily characterised by support for Marxist ideas, or for unions, or for ownership of the means of production, or for state-run businesses, or for bringing down fascism, or for abolishing private property, or for nuclear disarmament, or for such some other noble goal. There is much we could say about these things, but they all secondary beliefs. To understand the left we must understand what they do and how they live. This clarifies why they believe the things they do, and, far more importantly, why they act the way they do; in this case, why they supported lockdowns.

If we start with what the left does and how they live, we see that they are the management class — they are the professionals who organise, conceptualise, administer or, in the case of the writers we are interested in here, promote and justify the system, or ‘the machine of the world’. The power of the management class comes not, as it does with the owner class, from ownership (i.e. from capital, hence ‘capitalism’), but from management (of and through society; hence ‘socialism’).

This doesn’t mean that the left do not also have the same kind of power as owners, that they don’t also sometimes hold right wing views, that the two don’t also blend into each other and are, ultimately, in their implicit acceptance of the system, indistinguishable. They do and they are. Nevertheless, when we say ‘the left’ we are referring to those people whose power comes from amassing abstract facts and controlling information and who therefore prejudice education and taste over morality and meaning, and, following this, never criticise the power of the tasteful, educated class.

When we say the ‘left’ we are talking about those who have been appointed to manage the machine, and who therefore have a faith-based belief in the power of the machine, of technology, and, insofar as the machine is society, in  collectivist, statist, democratic solutions to social problems, which they package as ‘tolerance’, ‘inclusivity’, ‘compassion’, ‘respect’, and so on, but which always contain the sneaky unspoken assumption that they, the ever-so nice professional class, will be somehow organising (or explaining, or assessing, or fixing) this tolerant, compassionate collective mechanism.

This also partly explains the left’s disastrous hyper-dependency on science, on rationalism, the religious nature of which the left is completely unable to fathom. All rationalists are blind to those aspects of reality which cannot be abstracted or conceptually managed, but the professional class, paid to serve the rational machine, are particularly militant (not to mention smug) in their adherence to what they call ‘reason’ but which is, divorced from the irrational totality of life (explained here), anything but reasonable.

Talking of experience, the left (and here they overlap with the right) do very little with their hands, and so tend to privilege form — intellectual ideas and theories, design, structural adjustments and so on — over function, over actually engaging with the real world. In addition, they are nearly always wealthy, comfortable, propertied and raised in a world in which uncertainty, much less the need to directly rely on other people for their survival, plays a peripheral role. All of this leads to a qualitative ‘atmosphere’ that the left partake in — a blandness, a smugness, an uptightness — even as their specific opinions vary.

The left have almost no lived experience of what the people — the working class and the poor — call ‘real life’ and very little ability to see that life as it is, or as it is experienced by those at the sharp-end of their society. Instead they ‘care’ — they ‘care’ about the poor (especially the poor in far-off countries) and about the marginalised and about the rainforests and about the tragic starving children. This leads to two central features of the left. The first is its moral hypocrisy — an expressed desire to ‘help’, combined with a sense of nice, ethical superiority, but with no actual interest in ever doing anything which actually deals with the problem, which actually takes apart the system that they fix and manage. The second feature of those with little experience of life (and again, this is shared with the right) is their intense fear of real life, with all its uncertainties, and of the people who live anything approaching such a life.

All of the foregoing is why the left — as a class of professionals, academics, managers and spokespersons — accepted lockdown. They are addicted to technocratic solutions to collective problems (such as the ‘pandemic’ offered), their power and security come from professional expertise (which the ‘pandemic’ augmented), they worship the state (which the ‘pandemic’ has also bolstered and which the left absurdly believes somehow ‘protects us from neoliberalism’), they are terrified of uncertainty, death and disease (not to mention humanity; all of which the ‘pandemic’ seemed to threaten them with), they see life in the abstract (just as the ‘pandemic’ viewed mankind through the prism of ‘cases’), they are uncritical of ‘science’ (and of how easily ‘science’ can be manipulated; as Hannah Arendt put it, ‘totalitarian propaganda is characterized by its almost exclusive insistence on scientific prophecy’) and they have no experience of what it means to be poor (to rely on your hated work for your survival, to live in microscopic shitholes, and to always be one paycheck away from ruin; complaints that lockdowns would destroy the poor sounded, in Caitlin Johnstone’s words, like ‘hysterical shrieking’).

Some of the left may have grown up poor, and remember what it was like to cling to the precipice, but they are only allowed to rise by showing they are obedient, uncreative and weak, which, by the time they’ve spent a good twenty or thirty years in academia, journalism, medicine, or law, they are. They are unable to speak out against a machine-augmenting lie which has gripped society, for the same reason they are unable to criticise the technocratic system they tend and tinker with; because they are afraid of losing readers, or of losing their status, or of losing their jobs, or — worst of all — of threatening that which provides them with these things.

(This, by the way, is why accusations of ‘controlled opposition’ are so silly, or at best besides the point. Yes, there probably are some prominent leftist commentators who have been supported and promoted by shady systemacrats, but it is totally unnecessary to go to the trouble of controlling to the opposition when it comes pre-controlled)

Now, and this surely goes without saying, there are all kinds of exceptions to the above outline, as there always are in such situations. Narrowly focus in on this or that detail of what I’ve just described and objections and exceptions can easily be found. Also, and more importantly for us here, there certainly are and were plenty of people ‘on the left’ who did object to lockdowns and to the myth of the pandemic. Amongst prominent commentators on the left, Charles Eisenstein, CJ Hopkins, Dmitry Orlov, John Micheal Greer, Neil Clark, David Cayley, Giorgio Agamben, OffGuardian, Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett, Patrick Henningsen, Daniel Fooks and others sounded the alarm with varying degrees of cogency and urgency. I hope it is now a little clearer that either these admirable folk are not leftists or that, to the degree they are, their leftism is misguided.

Part 2: The Lockdown Left

The Sonic Youth face mask, from the people who brought you the Gandhi knuckleduster.

Once upon a time journalists, writers and other public figures, such as comedians, artists, actors, musicians and so on, would risk damaging their positions or their popularity by speaking the truth. No longer. Even those who have made a career from ‘opposing injustice’ were silent or supportive of the horror presaged by lockdown. Here we might make particular mention of ‘anarchist’ or ‘punk’ musicians, such as The Stranglers, Sonic Youth, The Dead Kennedys and, most ironically, Rage Against the Machine; but the list of ‘rebels’, ‘radicals’, ‘dissidents’ and ‘outsiders’ who accepted the inauguration of the final nightmarish phase of civilisation, or silently let it happen, pretty much comprised… well all of them. A handful of musicians and actors were brave enough to speak out publicly, a few more made coded allusions to their opposition, the rest… tumbleweed.

The most striking closet authoritarian among left lockdown left was probably Noam Chomsky, who, we now find, approves of unvaccinated people being excluded entirely from society and starving to death. As with most of the left, his arguments for the need to segregate the unvaccinated all rely on the assumption than the coronavirus was deadly enough to justify vaccinations in the first place. And upon what does the famous anarchist base such assumptions? State-corporate authority.

Caitlin Johnstone declared she was ‘bored’ by the subject of lockdowns. She defended her remarks by complaining that they were taken out of context — for indeed she had, in the same tweet, also recommended people ‘feel their feelings all the way through’. Since August 2020, when she reassured us that ‘it will all be over in a couple of weeks’ she has refused to meaningfully object to the situation in her country, one of the most brutal examplars of the new bio-fascism, because those opposing it are ‘QAnon’.

John Zerzan, the ‘anarcho-primitivist’, also equated criticism of lockdowns and the high-tech totalitarian takeover of the world they helped consolidate with QAnon and, exposing his leftist priorities, with ‘racism’. Why? Because opposition to the coronavirus illusion deprives Africa of vaccines! He doesn’t seem to be aware of how Africa miraculously escaped the scourge of the deadly ‘rona with only 6% vaccinated; how Nigeria and the Congo, with populations of 200 and 90 million respectively, somehow squeezed through the ‘global pandemic’ with death-tolls of three thousand and four hundred.

Slavoj Žižek had nothing critical to say about imprisoning the planet and coercing it to be pointlessly injected with experimental chemicals, hoping that the newest phase of the world prison would lead to ‘a re-invention [of] Communism, based on trust in the people and in science’ and ‘strengthen the intensity of our link with others’. He was a bit worried that ‘authoritarians are exploiting the crisis’, but he didn’t seem to worry that managers might.

Asa Winstanley, against Israel giving birth-control to Ethiopian Jews without their consent, but fine with coercing society to undergo experimental gene-therapy, said he found it ‘so strange how some Western leftists… [buy] into weird conspiracy theories about vaccines being some sort of plot.’ When challenged on Twitter (the great Eva Bartlett; ‘opposing fascism is so strange’) he told us that disgraced charlatan, nutritionist Eric Feigl-Ding, is warning us that Omicron might wipe out civilisation.

XR supporter Chris Hedges, he of the chilling leer, did not write a critical syllable of the ‘new normal’, finally concluding recently that ‘I don’t think we’re going to stop the pandemic and the mutations until everyone gets vaccinated… if everybody is not able to get vaccinated… we’re just going to get mutation after mutation after mutation.’

Paul Street, regular at leftist news pump ‘Counter Punch’, had an interesting ‘take’, although probably best to let him speak in his own words;

‘I am not kidding here; when is someone going to draft legislation for interment camps and separate quarantined regions for Amerikaners who simply refuse vaccination and masks? I’m sorry to have to say this but we get a big fourth wave because of this partisan and social Darwninan (sic) and invididualist madness and I’ll draft the legislation myself. I am so not an anarchist and so much an authoritarian on this issue. I mean perhaps we need to stake out some tens of thousands of acres… and keep these people there. If they want to attain herd immunity through mass death, fine, that’s their choice, but maybe do it under lock and key in Covidiot Banustans under the coordinated control of the Department of the Interior, Homeland Security, CDC, Department of Defense and Border Patrol. Go ahead, call me a fascist, whatever.’

Many commentators, such as Rachael Swindon, George Galloway and Michael Rosen, were gung-ho mask-wearing, lockdown enthusiasts. Jamarl Thomas, supported by his submissive co-host on Fault Lines radio, Shane Stranahan, applauded the death of the unvaccinated. Others said nothing at all. John Pilger was all but silent, Media Lens began by echoing the laments of their allies at The Guardian (not to mention every other newspaper they’re supposed to be holding to account), wringing their hands about ‘collapsing hospitals’ and sloppy mask mandates, before falling into silence. David Graeber said nothing (he died six months after the first lockdown; more than enough time to have and express an opinion), Jonathan Cook said nothing, Paul Kingsnorth said nothing, Glenn Greenwald said nothing, Jeremy Corbyn said nothing, Bernie Sanders said nothing.

Faced with the introduction of punitive laws across the world, widespread censorship on dissenting voices and a vast inflation of wealth of the richest in society (not just billionaires, but anyone who owns assets); millions of excess deaths around the world from destroyed health-services, disrupted logistics and wiped out income (particularly in the global south); vaccine mandates leading to fatal blood clots in those who already have immunity (as the experimental chemicals flies under the radar of the immune system which then attacks the infected cells); the psychological torture of children (not to mention compulsory injections; in the US 1 in 13 deaths from Swine Flu were in children, while 1 in 1300 deaths with COVID were in children); the introduction or threatened introduction of (Blair approved) vaccine passports and the virtualisation of society entire (particularly its currencies); the transparent bullshit of an ‘asymptomless’ pandemic (not to mention the litany of diabolical variants that have been dangled before us, which the incredible PCR test can also reliably detect, or the astonishing coincidence that symptoms from the latest variant are the same as those from the jab); faced with all this, most of the left chose to say… nothing.

The facts have been clear enough arguably since at April 2020, possibly even before, and have become clearer and clearer and clearer. By September 2020 it was all but indisputable that a colossal global crime was being committed. By March 2021 we knew that lockdowns didn’t work, that the promised apocalypse had not visited unlocked-down Sweden (whose all-cause mortality was normal, and whose Covid cases, as I write, are well below their neighbours); that age-standardised mortality had been normal in the UK and the US; that the world’s population had grown in 2020; that PCR tests had created (and had been designed to create) innumerable false positives; that deaths ‘with’ the coronavirus had been conflated with deaths ‘from’ it; that the IFR from Covid-19 was very small (minuscule for the under 50s and practically nothing for the young); that the average age of death had been around 80 (i.e. the age that people normally die anyway); that vaccines were and are unnecessary and dangerous, particularly for healthy young people and that deaths and adverse reactions to the vaccine have been massively under-reported. We knew all this a year after the ‘pandemic’ began (when all those Chinese people keeled over in the streets; remember that?) and we know it now. It is indisputable — which is why there has been no public debate, and why so many on the left have not deigned to seriously dispute intelligent dissent, or have responded with the kind of feeble, fleeting — almost laughably insubstantial — put-downs, strawmanning and cherry-picked fussing that Johnstone, Zerzan, Chomsky, Monbiot and others have offered.

This is now changing. Now that the bio-fascist take over of the world is starting to inconvenience the lockdown left, now that they are facing forced injections with harmful substances that nobody needs, now that they too face censorship and ostracism, perhaps even a little bit of persecution, now that news forms of hell are visibly on the horizon (while, in some countries, the resistance to all this has opened up space for public questioning), now one or two of them are raising a shy little hand and a querulous ‘erm…’

Their numbers will grow. They will sheepishly emerge from the dark and say, ‘well, it was a serious illness, but I was never really down with it all.’ But they were. They either accepted the whole thing, or declined to publicly oppose it. Because, as I have explained, they are part of the management class.

Paul ‘I am a writer’ Kingsnorth recently wrote a clear and admirably non-compromising statement of opposition to the new normal, and it looks like more is to come from him. Likewise, Jonathan Cook is tentatively questioning whether, umm, excuse me, perhaps we don’t need to be quite so draconian in our response to this ‘serious disease’. Glenn Greenwald too has begun to ask one or two difficult — but peripheral — questions, John Pilger has asked if Australia isn’t ‘scaremongering’, Joe Rogan has been public about his refusal to be vaccinated, Max Blumenthal changed his mind and George Galloway, who (right behind his friend Tony Blair) had spent the previous year and a half pushing for lockdowns and vaccines and venting his spleen at ‘flat earth fucks’, has performed an opportunistic flip-flop ‘because the facts have changed’. And more will follow in time.

Great. But where were they? Where have they been for the past eighteen months? Wearing a mask and clapping for the NHS in the first eight weeks of the crisis is understandable. I myself, in March 2020, was sceptically ‘waiting to see’ what might be happening. Some folk took a little longer, which is still telling, but fair enough. A year and a half, however — nearly two years — is not a ‘cautious’ delay, it is a cowardly one. It is complicity.

Does this mean we shouldn’t welcome Kingsnorth’s discovery of his spine or tell the rest of the left to do one when they finally realise they’ve been assisting the final annihilation of free human society? Obviously not; these people have huge readerships. If Cook, Kingsnorth, Pilger and Galloway start opposing all this nonsense, it will clearly help, and that’s to the good. The more who understand where we are at, and speak out about it, the better.

But it doesn’t excuse their silence, nor does it mean that, magically, the management class can now be trusted. Indeed it’s worth considering the idea that in some respects silence is worse than blindly accepting the myth. It’s one thing to believe in lies — that’s stupidity, insanity perhaps, but whatever you call it, it’s not irresponsible, because the stupid and the insane have given up responsibility. Those who know the truth, who know they are living in a world of lies, but who still remain silent; they are responsible. Compare a mass murderer who cuts up a family and a man who lets him do so because he’s afraid of getting his shirt dirty. Compare your feelings about the murderer to the man hiding behind the sofa thinking of nothing but his laundry bill.

Alright, alright, that’s a bit much. My point is that the management class are, as a class, moral cowards, and cowards cannot be trusted. Perhaps you have found this to be true, in your day to day life? that people who give in to fear (‘give in’ to fear, not ‘don’t feel’ fear, which is a defining feature of psychopathy) are never to be trusted? That they may be terribly nice and supportive and smart and sensitive and so on, but when it really matters, they are nowhere to be found? In the comfortable West it ‘hasn’t really mattered’ for many years, which makes it easy to conceal cowardliness, but that’s changing now. Just as in our everyday lives we can see more clearly who is essentially servile, spiritless and submissive, so too in the public sphere.

The people — the workers, the poor — have, as a class, been less willing to accept the lockdown lies. True, their mass mask-wearing cowardice was dreadfully dispiriting, as has been their willingness to be injected. As our leaders well know, the people are easily swayed. They can be fooled by the right, who tell them the smug, bland left are coming for their hard-earned wages, and their Christmas pantos, and their pronouns, or who appeal to their innate love of tradition and individuality. They can be fooled by the left, who tell them that the stupid, tasteless right are coming for their forests, and their hospitals and their corner shops, or who appeal to their innate love of solidarity and fairness. In the first case, we get the impression that the people are essentially tradition-loving, right-wing individualists and the left complain ‘the people have been fooled’, in the second case, we get the impression that the people are essentially class-conscious left-wing collectivists and the right complain ‘the people have been fooled’.

I’ll rephrase that. Some leftists are decent working class folk struggling to gain control over their communities. I’m thinking here of the majestic dockers and miners of the old-fashioned Northern ‘red wall’ and the courageous European and North American communists of the interwar years; but the world, and recent history, is full of poor people who have rallied under leftist flags, proclaiming ‘brotherhood’ and ‘solidarity’ and ‘charity’ and so on. What I would like to argue is that these ‘values’ — to which we might even add ‘empathy’ and ‘love’ — are no more ‘leftist values’ than ‘tradition’, ‘individuality’ and ‘freedom’ are ‘rightist values’. They are human values (or qualities) which are hijacked by socialist thinkers in the first case and capitalist thinkers in the second and appended to their system-friendly ideologies. Christian priests — in many ways the forerunners to socialist professionals — used to do the same thing, co-opting the charitable, mystery-loving instincts of the people and justifying their tyranny though appeals to it. Just as, at the core of institutionalised Christianity, is a mystifying, authoritarian masochism, so at the core of socialism is a cluster of other values — relativism, professionalism, statism, workism, technophilia and so on — which make a mockery of socialism’s fine sounding rhetoric, just as absolutism, property, corporatism and, again, workism and technophilia, utterly betray the principles that capitalists espouse. Decent people are at best honestly mistaken, more often sycophatically bewitched by the bombast of those who own and those who manage the machine, leading to the truly disastrous result that the machine itself remains intact.

As more of the left and the right find themselves threatened by the machine’s final takeover of the earth they will seek to join the people. The owners will do what owners do, and incite fear and demand obedience, while the managers will do what managers do, take control of knowledge and take credit for the work of those they manage. No doubt many of the people, with a domesticated addiction to leadership and management (and technology) automatically built in from birth, will be fooled again into supporting the owners or managers who, in the name of the machine, subjugate them. Fortunately, the immensity of the catastrophe that is coming, that has now begun, will ensure that many will not, that they will decisively reject both the capitalist right and the communist left.

What this leaves is genuine, joyous anarchism, the perennial political philosophy of the people; but that’s another topic.

For a beginner’s guide to anarchism, see Anarchism at the End of the World, and for an anarchist account of the system, see 33 Myths of the System.

Here is my guide to the pandemic, focusing mostly on lockdowns.

For more on leftism, see The Myth of Reform and Goodbye Mr. Marx.

Finally, here is an overview of the technological system or ‘machine’ that the left manage and the right own.