With the rapid propagation of the so-called “Delta” variant of SARS-CoV2 becoming dominant, the Corona-virus pandemic has entered a new phase. First discovered in India, it is reported to be more infectious notably than the “Alpha” variant that spread from the South of England at the end of 2020. Faced with this turn in the pandemic, among concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccinations already administered, and confronted with staggering of the respective vaccination campaigns, several governments in the Western hemisphere have been caught in the middle, and were forced to recede from all too “optimistically” lifting their restrictive measures, notably concerning their night-life, tourism and festival sectors during the summer holiday season. Very rapidly, a widespread tendency showed up to intensify state control of social life (e.g. through the application of the “Corona-passport”) and to forcefully lift vaccination degrees by mandatory vaccination for specific professional categories (notably in health care and hospitals, like in France), or even for whole sectors (like in the USA). In Germany, a.o., the government saw itself forced to hastily reintroduce stricter border controls, notably for those returning from holiday travels abroad in “high risk areas”.
The recent measures by the respective governments have led to a resurgence of “Corona-protests” in these countries, habitually mobilizing a very heterogeneous spectrum of discontent, without any proletarian class character or perspective, but with a marked presence of all kinds of openly right-wing extremist groups, manifesting their anti-social character with increasing aggressiveness. The influence of this amalgam with certain proletarian milieus and political tendencies has incited an internationalist group like the Circulo Internazionalista “coalizione operaia” in Italy to take position, as can be read hereafter in translation.
Revolutionary Defeatism and the Pursuers of Defeat
It took Covid-19 to witness the spectacle of the most filthy, rambling, farcical national fascism, wearing David stars and making the Roman salute; yelling apartheid and intoning “youth”; rising against the “health dictatorship” to the cry of “Duce!”; ranting against the vaccine that would turn you into a zombie, showing glassy eyes lost in nothingness to the cameras; denouncing the “green pass” that reduces “freedom”, attacking reporters who have come to document the fauna that has taken to the streets. But, to be honest, the amusement that these remarks provoke is not worth the hundreds of thousands of lives mowed down by the pandemic.
Let’s make one thing clear: to discuss with flat-earthers, negationists, theorists of the Jewish-Masonic-Reptilian conspiracy is not only not a priority for us, it is not even considered an option. There is something else to do, and time is precious.
What perplexes us – and in some ways disconcerts us, but only a little – is to see shreds of a certain “radically radical” or “critically critical” left paying attention to these phenomena and even posing the problem of linking up with them, with a view to uniting the anti-system movements into a single subversive bloc, giving it awareness and direction…
Only those who pontificate reciting the obsolete verses of Marxism – [as] seem to affirm the “true revolutionaries”, those who have the “instinct” of following the “movement” – can start to fleece the social composition of these phenomena and look at them with “well-thinking” contempt. Only last-Century Marxists can dispute the fact that humanity is the victim of a mass experimentation called vaccination. Only parlor revolutionaries can indifferently look away from the tumultuous “squares” and take sides in fact, if unintentionally, with the bourgeois state that treacherously tramples underfoot individual freedoms and “people”, with a well thought out plan and marked by totalitarian authoritarianism…
The radically-critical critics, who with great indignation and animosity launch these pungent criticisms, have even realized – goodness them – that the pharmaceutical multinationals are swallowing colossal profits, speculating on prices, orders and patents. What a novelty. What a profound wit.
They soon realized that within the capitalist relations of production, the vaccine is nothing but a COMMODITY. That within capitalist relations of production every single producer of commodities wants to place his on the market as fast as possible, and at the best possible price, in competition with all other producers.
We know well that the quality of each commodity is directly proportional to the risk of paying out copious compensation in case of widespread and simultaneous findings of harmful effects. If the damages are neither widespread nor concentrated in time, we make a trivial cost-benefit assessment and… who touches touches. This is capitalism, gentlemen, and not since the year of our Lord 2020.
If then, as in the case of a pandemic that more or less brings the world’s health systems to their knees, the speed with which each “big pharma” – separately, in competition with others, without sharing studies, discoveries, results, problems – manages to find the first at least passable buffer remedy signifies multi-billion orders; better checks, exhaustive experiments, more accurate analysis, scrupulous evaluations on the possible long-term effects of the drug-commodity necessarily have to be sacrificed.
The risk of health problems in the future, after the intake of such commodities, exists, but the States, which are the buyers of these goods, and the bourgeoisie whose general interests they take care of, have other pressing needs: to avoid hospital overloads, to avoid carnage concentrated in time and new lock-downs which would slow down production and consumption, cause economic damages and social unrest. A concern for the fate of the species does not fit into these calculations. But this is even obvious.
In this society the important thing is that we don’t all die together. This is what the vaccine is for. If then there is a risk of disorders, syndromes, diseases or even death in the medium to long term, this is completely secondary. The “staggered” death is perfectly acceptable in this social system.
Now, THE ALTERNATIVE IS NOT TO “REFUSE THE BOURGEOIS VACCINE”, condemning oneself to the risk of dying immediately and to make those close to us die, at work, in schools, at home. The alternative is not to simply fight against the green pass and all the limitations and controls that it implies, without taking into account the real context in which we are immersed. The alternative, and it is the only one possible, is to fight against the social system that IMPOSES the choice between an almost certain death and an uncertain future. To do so, however, unfortunately – since, as a class, we do not yet hold THE POWER, and with it the pharmaceutical industries and research laboratories, and especially we have not established a society in which the health of the species is assumed as the first essential criterion and in which science is at the service of the species and not of capitalist profit – we must survive in the immediate term and are forced to inoculate ourselves with the “bourgeois vaccine”, aware of the risks attached. Unless those who are inclined to reject it, have the colossal amount of means necessary to produce a “socialist vaccine” and propose it as an alternative to humanity… here and now, however. Until these authentic, anti-state, anti-system, anti-capitalist revolutionaries have patented their “socialism in one vaccine” and have made their rejection of any bourgeois commodity palatable to the proletariat, we can suggest that they try fasting until food is no longer a commodity, a cheap and harmful commodity, by the way.
Capitalism is the society of uncertainty by excellence, until we have thrown it down, we will have to continue to deal with it. But to bring it down, we need to breathe, we need to be alive. As a counterbalance to the interested bourgeois calls for the sacred union, to the ideological bourgeois parallels of the pandemic situation with the state of war, some of these authentic revolutionaries respond by implicitly accusing those who do not follow them on their path of not being revolutionary defeatists. Gentlemen, the parallel with the imperialist war does not hold, because you do not know what defeatism is, even if you are convinced of the contrary. A good example of what revolutionary defeatism is was given to us by the Bolsheviks of Russia, who did not respond to the war conscription of Tsarism with the individual refusal of arms, nor with the collective one – also because they did not have the strength. They responded by wearing the dirty uniform of the army and embarking on the rifle that was handed to them. And in the trenches, when their officers urged them to shoot at the “enemy” with the certain alternative of being shot on the spot, they did not respond by inciting their fellow soldiers to run unarmed towards the enemy trenches shouting: “Don’t shoot! Let’s fraternize! We are class brothers!” None of this. Until circumstances and tenacity allowed them to convince their fellow soldiers to organize mutinies and revolts against their own officers, they used their rifles to save their skins against an enemy on whose internationalism they could not blindly rely. Only then could they pose the problem of fraternizing. Neither today nor tomorrow will it be possible to fraternize with the virus. But, today as then, in order to organize defeatism against the bourgeois state it is necessary to save one’s skin.
Every society, even this putrid capitalist society, HAS NO MARGINS, we are always inside it and we can only get out of it in abstraction, or transform it with revolution. Whoever winks at the middle classes, who pretend to “stay out of it” by adopting a specific individual behavior, puts himself on the sloping plane of petty-bourgeois individualism and does a disservice to the working class.
On our own account, we are against the society of capital and against its state, but we do not dignify the anti-social instincts, the boorish individualism of petty-bourgeois scum. Capitalism is the mode of production that has extended and deepened more than any other the objective social ties of the human species, and at the same time it has produced the most blatant, irrational and unjustified false consciousness imaginable: individualism. Although, as communists, we do not conceive any other aim than that of demolishing the present social form, we have and can have nothing in common with those who reject society per se, with those who express only the most repugnant anti-social ferocity. A ferocity well represented by one of the placards carried by the protesters against Covid-19 restriction in the USA: “I will not trade my ‘freedom’ for your safety.”
It doesn’t take great “Marxist” acumen or a detailed statistical census to pinpoint the majority class composition of our ‘no-vax’ and ‘no-pass’ demonstrations: petty-bourgeoisie, middle classes, all those categories that live off the free movement of the public, restaurateurs, shopkeepers, etc. They didn’t want the lock-down when the workers were dying in the factories and now they don’t want the green pass or other restrictions that reduce the volume of their business, increase the expense of time and money for the entrance controls, imply the risk of fines in case of non-compliance. They want “freedom”. The freedom to pay their employees a small amount of money, to make them work 10, 12 hours a day for 7 consecutive days and on top of that the freedom to complain that too few young people are forced to accept to work under these “generous” conditions; the freedom to receive “refreshments” and other gifts from the State; the freedom to deny paid leave, necessary for employees to go to be vaccinated, because “otherwise, who serves the tables? Who is at the counter? Who takes care of home deliveries? Who clears the table? Who cleans up?” Certainly not them, they are “free”. They must deny that Covid exists, because then it’s easier to deem it an “injustice” to be forced to pay for the illness and convalescence of a sick employee and then complain about it in barroom chatter. If Covid is a hoax, it is easier to be indignant, justify one’s “legitimate” growing anger, and shout “freedom!” in the public square, imagining oneself to be a William Wallace battling to the poignant sound of bagpipes… (1)
Freedom to exploit and enrich themselves in their own small way. This is the freedom they clamor for. The only freedom compatible with the system they never question. Yes, exactly the system they never question. Not even when they rail against “strong powers”, which, coincidentally, never correspond to the ruling class as a whole, to capitalism itself – or, to remain in Italy, to Confindustria – but to the banks that do not grant them loans, to the State that forces them to pay taxes, to individual capitalists – sometimes Jews, always foreigners – who plot against their “freedom”.
And they should even thank all their saints for the fact that, instead of the “health dictatorship” they rage against, certain of not paying the consequences, there is no “proletarian dictatorship”, or for the fact that no one has yet mobilized, who, faced with the risk of dying every day at work or on the way there, or with the risk of seeing the factory close its doors definitively as a result of new lock-downs, might come knocking very unfriendly at their doors to teach them materialistically the meaning of the word dictatorship.
Worse than this social muck are only those who let themselves be influenced by similar platitudes, over-exposed and over-sized by the media, thinking and claiming that they represent some form of step, incomplete if you want, in the right direction of the rejection of this social system. A step that they, the authentic revolutionaries, thanks to their formidable “instinct” for everything “anti-systemic” that is in motion, perhaps thanks to ace-of-spades slogans, can make complete, conscious, revolutionary; contending with what is “genuinely popular” in these protests to the cunning fascist demagogues, always ready to stir the pot.
It’s a bit like claiming that the Russian revolutionaries of the early twentieth Century have sinned of doctrinaire blindness for not having sought dialogue with the black hundreds – and yes, then it was also a mass movement that extolled “freedom”; or that the pieds noirs in Algeria were to be fought against with the right, since they were against the French state, and violently so; or that the riots in New York against the northern draft for the war of secession – riots accompanied by lynchings of blacks – had margins for socialist political intervention… almost as if to say that any revolt and rebellion has something “sacred” about it.
More than a century ago a German socialist, a certain August Bebel, said that “antisemitism is the socialism of imbeciles”. He did not mean that there was anything socialist in antisemitism, he simply meant that whoever was an anti-Semite was an imbecile, or a cunning person who used imbeciles by passing off their antisemitism as a “primitive”, “incomplete” form of socialism.
Let’s not be imbeciles. No offense taken. Let’s not make the worst figure a revolutionary political militant can make: that which, with no real strength in the class whose interests he claims to represent, counting for absolutely nothing, covers a reactionary movement from the left; let’s not play the part of the representative of the ethnic minority within the white supremacist movement, allowing racists to say they are not racists; let’s not allow reactionary middle classes to pass themselves off as “libertarian” because a few red or black flags are flying in the middle of their processions; do not bother to chase the alleged masses – only to discover that it was not the masses or that they have deflated like an intestine swollen with malodorous gas with the progress of the vaccination campaign – losing all credibility and decency in the pursuit; let’s not make it easier for the bourgeois state to take restrictive measures, encouraging pockets of proliferation of the virus and its variants with which to justify them, with the broad consent of the entire media circus; especially do not allow the real enemy: capital, the big bourgeoisie, the ruling class and its governments to pass themselves off as enlightened and progressive.
We must relentlessly denounce the historical and social responsibility of capitalism in the proliferation and spread of the virus, in its structural inability to adequately deal with the pandemic after provoking it. We must relentlessly denounce the hypocrisy of a ruling class that, in the middle of the pandemic, before the vaccine was prepared, shamelessly pressed to make us work anyway, at the risk of our skin, and that now, with the excuse of “concern for the health of all”, takes advantage of the pandemic for the second time to justify its need to cut the costs of anti-Covid prevention measures in companies, factories, warehouses; which takes advantage of the green pass to offload the responsibility for the effectiveness, or otherwise, of the vaccine to the workers getting sick in environments where they want to save on sanitation, spacing and supply of sanitary equipment; which takes advantage of the pandemic to reaffirm its despotism in the workplace and that through its state reduces the possibilities of trade unions and associations.
What must we do? We must square off with our class, with the working class. We must also take advantage of the pandemic crisis, but to try to foster a strengthening of our class as such and not to shatter it in the defense of the liberties of the bourgeois individual; we must concede nothing to the bourgeois state and its decrees, but on the terrain of our class, not on that of the bourgeoisie, engaged in its family quarrels; we must highlight every criticality and inefficiency of this social system in the management of the damage it causes, we must demand every guarantee and facilitation in access to vaccines for workers and at the same time defend workers from any employer discrimination, whether they are vaccinated, not yet vaccinated or cannot be vaccinated. Woe betide if a worker were to have his or her salary cut or even lose his or her job because he or she could not get vaccinated due to medical conditions that prevent them from doing so; woe betide if a pregnant or childbearing worker were to be suspended or fired because she could not get vaccinated and obtain a green pass. How to do it? With all the weapons of the labor movement, with strikes, blockades, mobilizations.
But – we will be retorted – in this moment the squares want something else, and we must relate to them! They want something else because they are different from our class, we respond, and to date we do not know that the working class is mobilizing against vaccines. Worker sectarianism! – will be the trivial charge that will invariably be made against us. If recognizing the interests of a class consisting of hundreds of millions of individuals around the world, and that carries within itself the cause of all humanity, is sectarianism, we can not deny this kind of sectarianism, indeed we proudly claim it in the face of all those who dirty their pants at the thought of being “cut off” from anything that “moves”, even if the movement is a river of slime that flows into a stagnant and fetid swamp, and in the face of all those who theorize “alliances against nature” at every turn, because the whole thing would be (arguably) very Leninist. if you care so much, construct these “alliances” yourselves, good luck, but stay away from the working class.
Circolo internazionalista “coalizione operaia”, August 2nd, 2021.
Translation by H.C., August 4, 2021. Illustrations: August 31, 2021
1 Wikipedia: “… a Scottish knight who became one of the main leaders during the First ‘War of Scottish Independence’ [1296 – 1328]” In recent times, the historic figure has been glorified in the film ‘Braveheart’ (1995) [Editor’s note].