The Failure of Liberalism to Combat COVID-19
Reality asserts itself in the unending pandemic, and the twisting contradictions of liberal ideology are tearing it apart
what if there was a Big Global Pandemic?
Any old socialist who has engaged in debates and arguments with liberals (that is, the ideological supporters of capitalism, be they right wing libertarians/conservatives, centrist-neoliberal Biden/Clinton goombas, or left-sympathetic but still incorrect Bernie bros/greens, etc) have examined a great many hypothetical instances of where their selfish individualism and their limited, self-centered, and narrow definition of freedom, embodied by the liberal worldview, would begin to break down. It’s become clear that the debate argument: “what if there was a big global pandemic” — where the venerated liberal principles of rugged individualism would fail, and collective action would not only be more beneficial, but necessary to overcome the spreading disease —turns out that it actually was a really, really strong argument for socialism after all. It is the failure of all of us socialists for pigeon-holing it, thinking that it wasn’t plausible enough to ever happen in our lifetimes. Indeed, it turns out that a coordinated, cohesive global scale response would have been the best thing to combat a global pandemic. Instead, we had a fractured, disjointed, uncoordinated, incoherent, conflicting, contradictory response, ranging from total denial of the pandemic, to intentionally spreading the virus, to suggestions of drinking bleach, to assaults on healthcare workers, to deceit-ridden ideological attacks and even mercenary invasions against some of the nations who had the best responses to the pandemic, and still many more manifestations of a breaking ideology, all worsening the pandemic in every way.
Now here we are living that nightmare reality, and seeing the ramifications of shattered-liberalism (one side insisting that liberalism is unbreakable, and that it is reality that is in error; and the other insisting that liberalism and reality are just fine, ignoring that their liberalism is held together with a million bandaids with the word ‘science’ written on them and even the slightest breeze from reality sends the system ripping apart again) play out first hand, as COIVD-19 deaths approach 5 million and emerging, increasingly resistant and deadly variants threaten to undermine all global progress thus far. Moreover, this harsh reality we are now all forced to endure is coming into conflict with all the ideological fictions and principles peddled by liberalism, and the liberal response to reality has been to embrace even larger and bigger narrative lies to cover up and dismiss reality, in the hopes that this will all just go away. The ideology burst already, when the United States had appointed Donald Trump, a Home Alone 2 guest-star, as the person to manage the worst pandemic of the past 100+ years— something that would have been described as an impossible farce that would never-ever happen only a decade ago, now a reality that neoliberals still have no real explanation for (other than ‘Russia did it’ conspiracy theories, which are as outlandish as the vaccine conspiracies of the far-right). But, unfortunately for liberals, the pandemic and reality, appear to have no end in sight, and liberalism itself is being torn asunder in a whirlpool of contradiction. And reality inevitably asserts itself, regardless of all the ideological bandaids in the world slapped over it.
what is Liberalism?
Before we can discuss the pandemic and the contradictions of liberalism playing out during the age of COVID-19, we should first identify what we mean by liberalism. While there isn’t enough time to go through a detailed history of the ideology, it’s important to be clear what we mean and what we are talking about when we say “liberalism,” as it has become one of the broadest and most-warped words in politics (though “socialist” and “tankie” are catching up quickly). Fundamentally, liberalism is the ideology of capitalism (that is the capitalist mode of production) — the corresponding ideas, morals, values, understandings and interpretations of the world, existing in a manner for facilitating the reproduction of the capitalist system — they emerged together, with the ideology used to explain and justify capitalism; toppling the old feudal mode of production (and the often religion-dominated ideologies of feudalism) to become the dominant hegemonic ideology of most of the planet.
This is to say that liberalism is a way of viewing the world, but like a pair of beer-goggles, the ideology distorts what is being seen, such that it is not being seen or understood with clarity and accuracy. The ideology of liberalism, more specifically, is the ideology of freedoms, free markets, individual liberties, individual actors, free trade, individual liberties, and especially (above all) property rights. It is the primary worldview promoted and utilized by the bourgeoisie, and through their institutions, it is projected upon the masses of society, who often consume it, accept it without investigation, repeat it, and reproduce it. While liberalism purports to be a universal ideology — that is to say, one that can apply to everyone in the world, every place in the world, every group of people in the world, all to their benefit — yet when examined with a materialist lens, it becomes clear that, no, not everyone on the planet can live like this, in this liberal manner, and that the benefits and ‘freedoms’ entailed seem to be an exclusive privileged country-club for mostly-white Westerners.
Pure, classical liberalism preaches notions of free markets and free individual actors, with free speech, operating freely and independently in some imagined free and neutral society and imagined free and neutral state of affairs, and that provided you are not interfering with one another’s freedom, then everything not only works, but works more wondrously and perfectly and productively than any other possible arrangement. The core idea in liberalism is that you need to maximize “individual freedom” essentially by minimaxing all of the ‘freedom sliders’ on the stat-screen of society, such that ‘individual freedoms’ are maxed out and any sort of interference or restrictions — on what a (Western) individual can do (and own) — are minimized and as marginal as possible. In doing this, liberalism decries, you will necessarily, universally, and always achieve the best possible societal result. Obviously, this can (and has, historically) come into conflict and contradiction when one “freedom” conflicts with the “freedoms” of another (such as the historical “freedom” to own slaves), or when the “freedom” of an individual conflicts with the larger needs of the whole society (like if there was a great big global pandemic, for example).
The core tenets of liberalism, such as ‘freedom of speech,’ personal privacy, and democracy, have almost never existed for most of the Global South — whose resources and labour are extracted to provide surplus to the ‘developed’ countries. This has been the case for all of the history of liberalism, with a primary example being (one of the leading philosophers of liberalism) John Stuart Mill’s defence of colonialism. Marxist philosopher/historian Domenico Losurdo points out:
“from the outset liberalism, as a philosophical position and ideology, has been bound up with the most illiberal of policies: slavery, colonialism, genocide, racism and snobbery.”
Western-liberals understand liberalism to mean freedoms for themselves, and if that requires bombing/plundering/enslaving/etc. the rest of the world to provide and fund those freedoms, then so be it (remaining intentionally ignorant to the suffering of the Global South, or worse, making rhetorical excuses and blaming the victims themselves). Similarly, liberalism talks big about rights and freedoms, but is blind for the ways in which those contradict each other. The right to private property of the means of production is also the right to withhold production from the workers and the larger society, the right to fire and reduce workers to unemployment (cutting their lifelines), the right to extract the surplus value from workers, the right of employers to dictate the (often miserable) existence of their employees and their conditions of work, and more. These contradictions have often proved to be philosophical obstacles for liberal philosophers, and liberalism has transformed (usually in superficial, insubstantial ways) over time to accommodate changes in the system in order to justify and explain them ideologically.
Again, we cannot discuss the whole history of liberalism, but the most recent and relevant major shift to liberalism comes in the 1980’s and continues into the present with the emergence of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism emerged as a response to the shortcomings and failings of Keynesianism (the previous iteration of liberalism in which the government played a heavy role in providing infrastructure, regulation, and public services) with the key characteristic of mass privatizations (including of things once thought to be unprivitizable), deregulation, austerity, and market influence/domination over nearly everything. The unspoken goal of neoliberalism is to privatize all that exists (including some things that do not exist, with non-fungible tokens being the latest example) to the point where the primary and dominant human interaction is the transaction. This mass privatization has all but destroyed civil society and turned every social arrangement into a “what’s in it for me” ordeal, and we now suffer this psychology to its full effect during the pandemic.
Neoliberalism is usually accompanied with notions of “having the elites in charge and running things,” where elite tacitly means bourgeois business interests. The left- and centre- sides of liberal ideology have, through all their history, made attempts to balance and reform liberalism with compromises, concessions, exceptions, and more — such policies have existed (such as the aforementioned Keynesianism), and even attenuated the conflict within society resulting from liberal policies, for a time, but, as mentioned, these compromises ultimately broke down and failed, so the notion in the 1980s was to return to ‘pure, proper’ (and, in fact, concentrated) liberalism without the compromises, concessions and exceptions— and this resulted in the neoliberal movement.
In the deepest irony, neoliberalism began as the far-right wing of liberal ideology (embodied by Reagan and Thatcher), yet today, has remarkably become the dominant centre (and even people thinking of themselves as the left(!) in some deranged, irredeemable cases) of liberal ideology, and is now the dominant form of liberal hegemony on the planet. This has resulted in the most extreme promotion and propagation of liberal ideology through society. Americans, especially on the right, have taken the ideology of liberalism to its utmost extremes (as an example, this is where libertarians and anarcho-capitalists come from— maxing out those ‘freedom sliders’ to absurdity, and the point of societal breakdown and feudal regression), broking little-to-no compromise with the ideology — it’s either all liberalism or nothing, because the ideology is the true and correct one, and thus, must always work (and when it fails its because one of those dirty ‘compromises’ interfered with it). The centrists, still wishing to have some occasional/situational compromises here and there (as capitalism itself is not stable, and its crises often require these measures to save it), will point and laugh at the ‘dogma’ of the rightists, but then fail to realize that they are the ones with the philosophical imposition — why does the liberal ideology only sometimes work?
Even more ironically, the far right, who had birthed the whole neoliberal movement in the first place, and served as its proponents and champions (gradually absorbing the rest of the liberals into it), having taken the ball of liberalism and ran with it as far as they could, now realize that this has lead to a dead end. The result of this is that they have (mostly) transformed into the new Trump dominated far-right of liberal ideology (creeping toward fascism), still practicing many neoliberal policies, and sharing many of the same conceptions, but also rejecting many of the new, necessary compromises of neoliberal pragmaticism, while also preaching reaction, xenophobia, and regressive jingoistic nationalism as excuses for, and then later in response to, the ongoing failure of neoliberal policy — “it must be because of the foreigners, or the gays, or the Jews, or the guv’ment, or the commies, or the globalists, etc.” — so they have thus become increasingly hostile to the neoliberals, whom they distance themselves from, even calling them “communists!”
Now the crisis of neoliberalism is another entire topic in itself, but the important thing to note was that neoliberalism was still in a relative crisis from the 2008 economic collapse, from which it had never quite recovered. That is to say, neoliberalism was already in a state of breaking down before COVID-19 happened, and the pandemic was just the (admittedly, very large) straw which finally broke the camel’s back. Point is, that many people had already felt the sting of neoliberal policy prior to this, and the latest iteration of the ideology of individual actors and their “individual freedoms” was not in good condition going into the pandemic. And a global pandemic, much like global climate change, cannot be defeated exclusively by the decisions and freedoms and well-wishes of individual actors. So here, all of those liberal notions of ‘you don’t get to tell me what to do’ have run into material conflict with ‘you need to put on a mask’ and ‘you need to get vaccinated’ — two of several reasonable, marginal, requisite obligations needed for humans to actually adhere to in order to defeat COVID-19 in reality.
It was the virus that did it
I’m sure when this disaster is over, mainstream economics and the authorities will claim that it was an exogenous…
As many of the hypocrisies and contradictions of liberalism were often far away, or off to the side, or in the background; this allowed them to be ignorable, and liberals were free to imagine themselves as the described independent, free, individual actors going about their individual transactions in a free market, islands unto themselves. But COVID is here, now, and up close and personal, in our faces, and intrusive. Your island is now (and really always was) a peninsula to a much larger connected landmass. COVID is a virus actually existing in reality. It is not something that can simply be ignored, as much as liberals tried this in the beginning of the pandemic (to horrific effect), but is now an inescapable part of human existence and our material condition in the 21st century. COVID-19 has become the reality for which liberal ideology cannot reckon, and liberal hegemony is rupturing and fracturing under the strain.
but wait, isn’t Marxism an Ideology too?
Yes and no. In day-to-day terminology, and discussions with liberals, Marxism can (and usually will) be referred to as an ideology, and this isn’t a huge issue for a casual conversation. Liberals will understand Marxism to be its own set of beer-goggles for reality. Liberals will often base their assertions on anecdotes or vague misrepresentations of history — the USA won the Cold War, therefore Liberalism must be correct, and Marxism can be ignored and dismissed (this is almost always done without any sincere investigation). But, from the perspective of Marxists, the Marxist lens is truth — that is, Marxism proports to be seeing and understanding the world for what it is — accurately and clearly. Marxist reject ideology. It is not another, different pair of beer-goggles, but rather the world when the beer-goggles have been taken off. And it is here that Marxism sees the liberal for what he really is, in all its wrinkled, bloated, hairy, shriveled grotesqueness, glory, and horror.
In response to the bourgeois human rights, Marx pointed out that “equal exploitation of the labor force is the primary human right of capital”. Marx and Engels pointed out in The German Ideology that “human rights are essentially a privilege, and private ownership is essentially a monopoly.” Engels also pointed out in Anti-Dühring, “One of the most important human rights declared is the ownership rights of the bourgeoisie.” Marx penetratingly expounded in On the Jewish Question, “The practical application of the human right of freedom is the human right of private property,” and “the human right of private property is to use and dispose of one’s own property arbitrarily, independent of others, and free from social constraints; this right is the right to selfishness”. He added that in the capitalist society, “Human rights do not free people from property, but they give people the freedom to possess property; human rights do not help people give up the filthy pursuit of wealth, but only give people the freedom to operate.”
-G.U. Chunde, The Gist of the Marxist View on Human Rights
Liberalism as an ideology is totally fine with imperialism/colonialism/etc., but extremely hostile and opposed to Marxism and communism — Marxism’s associated system which Marxists bring forward to challenge and topple capitalism. Indeed, this challenge to capitalism is the primary reason for the antagonism between them, as liberalism is predicated on capitalism, and communism is a threat to the existing order. Liberal ideology will attack communist ideology, usually in defense of the aforementioned “individual freedoms,” but the Marxist position is that:
“individual freedom” doesn’t really exist, and there is no such thing as the individual divorced from the society they belong to, the class structure and economy in which they live.
Communism is the abolition of class based oppression. In this sense individuals are “freer”, in that they are no longer limited by the exploitative structures of capitalism, but that is the effect of the emancipation of the working class as a whole, not some commitment to the “freedoms” of the individual.
Essentially, “individual freedom” is a concept based in liberal idealism and individualism, that doesn’t actually exist in any of the liberal democracies that extol its virtues, and communism is not just another system that promises to deliver on these ideals. It is the material abolition of class-based exploitation, and the “rights” and “freedoms” of individuals within that system shaped and defined by it, just as the condition if the individual with capitalism is shaped and defined by its class structure.
So, in the Marxist view, Liberalism is a distortion of the world (if not outright lies or falsifications of it), while Marxism is an accurate description of the world and its human-systems, as they actually exist. Of course, for liberals, Liberalism is the truth, the accurate description of the world, and Marxism is a distortion. While we cannot do a full defence of Marxism here (indeed, this is the life’s work of almost any and every Marxist), but the problem here, under the shadow of COVID-19, for liberalism, especially, is that the world (that is, reality) does not correspond to what liberalism describes, prescribes and entails; and this is a problem for the liberal ideology and cultural hegemony — this is a rupture in their bubble, a breaking point of their “individual freedoms,” and one that must be reckoned with or patched over in order to explain the disruptions in, and address reality. And liberalism is being split into two (there have always been competing liberal factions, but this has become particularly sharp divide during the pandemic).
right-Liberals and centrist-Liberals
This essay will focus on the two principle factions of liberals in the West (we can name more but these are the two dominant tendencies dividing against one another, and while these categories are not perfectly uniform, we can discuss the common trends) — the neoliberal faction (or centrist-liberals, or even just ‘liberals’), who are most clearly embodied by their support for Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron, Barrack Obama, etc; and the right-liberal faction (most often ‘conservatives,’ ‘libertarians,’ or even ‘classical liberals,’ as they will self-identify, as they are usually unwilling to engage with classical political economy, and only associating the word ‘liberal’ with centrist/centre-left Keynes-style welfare liberalism, which they often label ‘communism’ anyway) embodied most clearly by support for Donald Trump, Maxime Bernier, Marine Le Pen, and similar figures on the right. Not to absolve the left-liberals (social democrats, Bernie supporters, Canada’s NDP, etc) for their liberalism, but, aside from the fact that they are a disorganized, ineffective, marginal third faction compared to the other two which dominate the political landscape of the West, most of the substance to be brought against against the centrists will also apply to them, albeit to lesser degrees in some cases.
Now, a global pandemic would be a difficult thing to deal with in even the best of circumstances, but with liberalism being the dominant hegemonic force of the day, we are stuck with an ideology that has produced a mental toolset which is not only largely incapable of mobilizing the bulk of society into coordinated action to combat and control the virus and its spread, but worse it has embedded these ‘inalienable’ abstract notions of (absolute) “individual freedoms” into the minds of many which only makes solutions more difficult, serving to worsen the spread of the disease, and undermine the effort to fight it. You see the different, rupturing factions of liberals, each, still, presenting themselves as the authentic upholders of liberal ideology (usually labelled using vague terms like “freedom” or “liberty” in their limited understanding), now, not only ripping one another to pieces, but functionally tearing apart their own ideology, and even their civil society, as a result of the pandemic and liberalism’s inability to resolve the crisis and contradictions thrust upon it.
This is because liberal hegemony has placed a worldview in the minds of the populace which is fundamentally incompatible with the sorts of reasonable, scientific measures necessary to actually combat the pandemic. COVID testing, lockdowns, mandatory masks, travel restrictions, and mandatory vaccinations, while not any actual requisite part of communism or Marxist ideology (yet seen anyways by the right-liberals as “authoritarian socialism”), are something that Marxism in no way prevents, objects to, or inhibits, provided that they are of demonstrable benefit to the proletariat. That is to say, these things are just tools, and they and Marxism are fully compatible. Testing, lockdowns, masks, vaccinations, etc. while not inherently Marxist, are simply tools that Marxists can pick up and apply and use to try to solve the pandemic problem. Liberalism, on the other hand, has a great deal of trouble here, because liberal ideology has engrained these notions of “individual freedoms” and liberties which are utterly incompatible and ideologically opposed to working with these tools.
The right-liberals are the more repugnant of the factions at first glance, as well as being the easier target, as they have chosen to uphold (nigh-)absolute liberalism in defiance of reality. In yet another irony, it is the people who most detest the word “liberal,” who are, in fact, the truest defenders of liberal ideology. They have opposed the most basic “infringements” upon their ideological freedoms (that is, their imperialist privileges), including refusal to social distance, refusal to wear masks, refusal to not-congregate, and now, especially, refusal to be vaccinated. On top of this, there is a callous and especially cruel disregard and contempt to those vulnerable and dying to COVID-19 — an ultimate result of upholding liberal individualism to its extreme endpoint, that their comfort and convenience matters more than the lives of others:
Amplifying this anxiety is an imposed biological dichotomy between anti-maskers and vulnerable bodies. One sinister sign reads: “Sacrifice the weak: Reopen TN” (Folgie, 2020). The meaning behind their words is plain: we the “strong” will and should survive and “weak” bodies are disposable. The Tennessee sign is no aberration, a sign reading “Qurantine [sic] the sick, not the healthy: Reopen NC” (Gessen, 2020) appeared at a protest a month later. In both signs, the “healthy” bodies are rhetorically differentiated from the “sick” bodies, asserting the “fit” should not be subject to the same limitations placed on the “unfit”. Bluntly demanding the outright sacrifice of “weak” lives presupposes that those considered “sick” or “weak” need to make changes to accommodate the “healthy” and the “strong”.
-Jordan Grunawalt, The Villain Unmasked: COVID-19 and the Necropolitics of the Anti-Mask Movement
The right-liberals on their side have clothed themselves in the mantras of individual freedom and liberty, while simultaneously arguing for us to “sacrifice grandma!” and “cull the weak,” presenting this deliberate and intentional massacre of human life by disease and wanton human neglect simply as nature running its course, most frequently in the name of preserving the economy. This faction loves to tote the “99.7% survival rate,” (an exaggeration in the first place) somehow still ignoring that 0.3% of 7.5 billion (a global pandemic) is well over 20 million people (with about 5 million dead thus far)— such is to be the sacrifice of humanity upon their altar of liberal capitalism, which must go on uninterrupted and unimpeded (also, side note, but imagine for a second if the age-discrepancy of COVID had been reversed, where children have a 10% mortality rate to COVID while the elderly are all but immune — how radically different the liberal response would be; but alas, capitalism is fine with disposing of the less-productive elderly, rendering them as lesser, used-up humans to be discarded). This worldview, of course, is broken by reality, as this regressive (and genocidal) political philosophy not only worsens the pandemic, destroying humanity at the largest scale possible via disease, but in the deepest irony, causes the most long-term economic damage, threatening to even cripple the entire healthcare system; while the “authoritarian, socialist” policies to combat the virus, which these right-liberals most strongly oppose, provide the most rapid and complete economic recovery (as well as from COVID itself).
Meanwhile the centrist-liberals on the other side, seeming less vile in their veneer, ultimately share many of the same failings and disgusting opinions when one scratches beneath the surface. Since the absolute-liberalism of the right is obviously and evidently a failing strategy versus a global pandemic, they have, instead (nothing out of the ordinary, really), readily broken and violated their own principles of liberal individualism for a compromise. In this case, it requires them to clothe themselves in “science!” (mostly just the word ‘science,’ as most of their pandemic policies will be shown to be equally anti-science). The shiny veneer here is that they are more than willing to curtail some of these “individual freedoms” and take reasonable societal-scale measures to stop the spread of the virus (good!), as already practiced by most of the more reasonable modern liberal societies to a modest degree (many of Europe’s social welfare programs are examples of these sorts of compromises leftover from the Keynes era, though decades of neoliberalism have deteriorated these as well). However, because they have no materialist, concrete basis for fighting the virus, they instead engage in deeply flawed, ineffective, roundabout ways of imposing restrictions, mandates, and vaccines on an increasingly resistant and hostile populace, and in doing so they are, again with deep irony, the faction now most rapidly shutting down, undermining, and destroying all of the supposed “freedoms” (imperialist privileges) of liberalism, while promoting racist, warmongering narratives and unfounded criticism against the very nations the West should be emulating to fight and end the pandemic.
That is because these same ‘enlightened,’ “science-loving” centrists continue to pursue anti-scientific policies that also worsen the spread of COVID-19 in order to protect and enrich big business at the expense of humanity. A standout example would be the hoarding of vaccines in wealthier countries — aside from just being petty and selfish, this is actually backwards thinking, and something that works against the hastening global recovery from the pandemic, as it runs a much higher risk of allowing vaccine-resistant variants to develop, extending the life of the virus, and giving it more opportunity to spread. But it happens anyway because vaccinating the Western countries first would allow the West, and thus the Western bourgeoisie, to get a head-start on economic recovery against the rest of the world. This is among a myriad of other anti-scientific policies carried out for the benefit of the bourgeois ownership class, against the masses of humanity. Some examples include: refusal to commit to new lockdowns/shutdowns, refusal to protect lost wages and housing (which would allow workers to quarantine and isolate more safely and easily), refusal to share vaccine patents (something that would scientifically, necessarily, end the pandemic sooner) blocking medical supplies from reaching the Middle East and Latin America (worsening the pandemic there), refusal to nationalize care homes (privatized, for-profit care homes did exponentially worse at keeping grandma alive than the publicly funded long term care homes and were a leading place of preventable deaths), begging for disproportionate additional supplies for themselves, lying about case numbers (in the opposite direction right-liberals claim, but this is politicized, anti-science misinformation) — something they constantly accuse China of doing, and a plethora of other examples.
The cherry-on-top is that they do all this while avoiding any responsibility or admission that it was their dominant ideology and world-system which are most responsible for the continuing, worsening failure to end the pandemic. Desperately, they will instead attempt to hoist all the blame and criticism onto Donald Trump (make no mistake, he deserves a significant portion of it), and hide behind a banal strategy of ‘blame the anti-vaxxers’ for their own continued failures to fight COVID, despite having taken back control of the house, senate, and presidency in the USA and having as much political power at their disposal to fight the virus as they are ever likely to get. But it is their ideology, in the first place, which is most responsible for the creation, growth, and existence of the right-liberal anti-mask/anti-vaccine movements, having spent a generation feverishly indoctrinating Westerners into this dogmatic, free-market worshipping, liberal ideology, now needing to curtail it back before they lose control of a renegade faction of the liberal hegemony.
And they, too, are forced to deny basic truths about reality (supposedly the same reality that they claim to uphold in the face of anti-vaxxers) revealed in the pandemic, as the neoliberal centrist nations of the world only faired marginally better than the extreme-right wing ones in confronting the pandemic (compare America to France and you will see only the smallest per-capita difference — suggesting the what the difference between a Clinton-response and a Trump-response to COVID would look like), and on average, both right-wing and centrist states did significantly worse than the most left-wing nations of the world.
This whole unending affair is left rendering the ideology of liberalism into a nearly-dead husk on a ventilator, existing as an empty-shell — an icon only, like the Warhammer 40k god-emperor of mankind. Something both rival factions of liberalism are fighting to champion and preserve and lay claim to, yet it is already rotting long past any point of recovery or redemption. And like the 40k Imperium, this late-post-liberalism threatens to transform itself into a grim, dark, totalitarian (as much as I hate that confused, meaningless word), nightmare world that liberalism itself was supposed to (not really, but in its own, incorrect ideological view) inherently protect against.
the Curious Case of COVID-19
Going all the way back to the early beginnings of the pandemic, we can still remember the general line of thought of liberals living in the West. This was going to be another SARS (technically it was, but that’s beside the point) or a Bird Flu or a Swine Flu or whatever — something that would once again be devastating to “the sick man of Asia,” but mostly harmless and marginal to the “advanced, technologically developed, superior” Western nations. Neoliberals reassured us that the West was, by far, the most prepared and borderline invulnerable to a global pandemic, and that this was nothing to worry about, despite having months of extra time to prepare. It wasn’t until that fateful March of 2020 (probably when the NBA stopped) that the West suddenly realized that it was dealing with a problem that it wasn’t capable of combatting. The ‘marriage’ between reality and liberalism had always been a shotgun wedding, and while liberalism and reality have existed in conflict for all their existence, this was the first moment that many Westerners, having spent their last several decades in blissful liberal ignorance (with only the occasional hiccup of recurring economic catastrophe), had finally been confronted with the divorce papers. Reality wasn’t working the way liberalism had expected it to.
Suddenly, it was not America, nor Europe, but China that was succeeding, having rapidly mobilized nearly all of their society into a unified, organized plan of action to contain and combat the virus. This plan illustrates what a proper state and societal mobilization should look like, and gives the gold-standard global example of what is required from state officials, community organizers, and citizens to be done to combat the pandemic:
Over time, the government and the Communist Party developed an agenda to tackle the virus, which can be summarized in four points:
1. Prevent the diffusion of the virus by maintaining not only a lockdown on the province, but by minimizing traffic within the province. This was complicated by the Chinese New Year break (originally from 24 January to 30 January), which had already begun; families would visit one another and visit markets (this is the largest short-term human migration, when almost all of China’s 1.4 billion people gather in each other’s homes). All of this had to be prevented. As part of the effort to stop the spread of the virus, the break was extended to 2 February. Local authorities had already begun to use the most advanced epidemiological thinking to track and study the source of the infections and trace the route of transmission. This was essential to shut down the spread of the virus.
2. Deploy resources for medical workers, including protective equipment, as well as hospital beds, equipment, test kits, and medicines for the patients. This included the building of temporary treatment centres — including two full hospitals(Huoshenshan Hospital and Leishenshan Hospital). Increased screening required more test kits, which had to be developed and manufactured.
3. Ensure that during the lockdown of the province, food and fuel were made available to the residents.
4. Ensure the release of information to the public that is based on scientific fact and not rumours. To this end, the team investigated any and all irresponsible actions taken by the local authorities, from the reports of the first cases to the end of January.
-Li Zhong, China and CoronaShock
All four of these make perfect sense and are obviously useful policies for any society fighting a highly contagious airborne virus, but all four points come into conflict with liberal ideology — whether on grounds of ‘restricting freedom,’ repressing misinformation (precious free speech, how could they?!) or infringing upon the sacred property rights of capitalist society. Yet this proved immediately effective and China was able to contain COVID-19, saving millions of lives (another obviously true and scientific fact that no liberal dare utter aloud), and has barely suffered at all since the initial outbreak in Wuhan, thanks to these measures.
The other side of China’s response, which again goes underappreciated, was the mobilization and organization of communities, themselves, taking on enormous, coordinated roles and responsibilities in containing the pandemic, working in full orchestra with a centralized state plan; where the community can take action on the ground, with support and resources deployed, as and where needed, directly from the state. Something for Westerners to note: this was a highly democratic response — what actual democracy is supposed to look like, where all of nearly all of society is working together, with one another, towards a common goal, rather than individual parties pursuing only their own local accumulation against one another. This is not to say that China is some perfect socialist-democracy, but it’s quite evident that between the West and China, it was China which had the far more democratic (and successful) response. The systems at play have an effect on both the response itself, as well as the psychology of the people involved.
Facing such a severe crisis, the neighborhood communities which have always been part of the social infrastructure, all of a sudden stood out to be focal points of care service provision…the neighborhood communities were able to integrate both central state and locally-mobilized resources…
During the Wuhan lockdown, neighborhood community councils were responsible for disseminating virus-control medical advice as well as delivering food and medicine to every household, so unnecessary movement of people could be minimized. By doing so, community workers and volunteers took up a large portion of household chores (i.e. grocery and medicines shopping) and helped reduce stress imposed upon individual households. In contrast, we see photos of people holding shopping carts outside the grocery stores waiting for hours to get in at the beginning of the pandemic in the US and many other countries, a practice that is both risky health-wise and inefficient time-wise.
-Ying Chen, Community Infrastructure and the Care Crises: An Evaluation of China’s COVID-19 Experience
This response, of course, was not exclusive to China, though they remain the gold-standard in the fight against COVID. What you saw from the more left-wing places in the world, the ones least under neoliberal hegemony (Cuba, Vietnam, Venezuela, etc) was a prioritization of fighting and overcoming the virus first and foremost, and maintaining short term profits and business interests as secondary. As such, they guaranteed rents and bill payments, guaranteed housing and supplies, provided free food to their citizens, and countless more steps to ensure that the citizenry could safely endure a prolonged shutdown/lockdown. Vietnam had the most successful response for over a year with fewer than 100 deaths, before the prolonged duration of the pandemic finally began to take its toll. The tiny island nation of Cuba dispatched doctor brigades to help other nations, especially those in desperate need, to contain the virus, and China sent boatloads of supplies all over the world. On top of this, Cuba became the world’s leader in developing effective vaccines, many of which are safer and more effective than their Western counterparts. We also saw serious societal mobilization of communities and grassroots organizations working together to combat the virus; something not seen to any significant degree in the Western nations —and similarly, there was no comparable major COVID-denial or sizeable anti-mask movement in these countries.
In Venezuela, for instance, communes work as part of the community infrastructure and played crucial roles in imparting knowledge on COVID-19 prevention and coordinating quarantines. Commune doctors had gathered information on individual households prior to the pandemic, which helped them to quickly identify the most vulnerable members with extra physical and psychological needs. Before the pandemic even hit Venezuela, doctors had already started to make house-to-house visits to inform residents about the nature of the virus and ways to avoid catching it.
These are not anomalies or one-off events, nor just some coincidence of good fortune. Former socialist states of the world also had exceptional track records at combatting pandemics, with the horrible disease smallpox being among the victims of communism:
How the USSR defeated a smallpox epidemic in a matter of 19 days
Getty Images, Mikhail Grachev/МАММ/МDF, Archive photo It took the city emergency services a little more than two weeks…
We will never know if the pandemic would be completely over by now if every nation had taken a similar response as Vietnam, China, Cuba, et al. towards fighting COVID-19, but it’s unquestionable that there would be millions fewer dead and that we would be far closer to defeating COVID-19 than we are right now. Instead, these left leaning countries were the exceptions, and not the rule. Not only was their response better, but because of the success of their response, they were able to resume production and economic recovery more rapidly, freely, and completely (most evident in China’s case) than any of the Western countries, which are still struggling to recover. This is a major philosophical problem for liberal hegemony — the ‘freedom sliders’ are supposedly set much higher in the West, yet because of the pandemic, the people who supposedly have ‘less freedom’ are, in fact, more free now, and experiencing a better all-around societal result in every way. If the West had responded to COVID in the same manner that China had, the economic damage would have been drastically less severe, and curtailing of “individual freedoms” would have been over sooner. But the point is that it didn’t — and more specifically, it was incapable of doing so.
That’s because, most of the world, being under capitalist dominion and neoliberal hegemony, placed business interests first and foremost — profits before people — so the goal was not to combat the virus so much, but rather to avoid the disruption of business as usual and maintain/grow existing levels of business profits. This lead to the downplaying of COVID-19, hoping that if they never diagnose the problem, it will not manifest into an obstacle requiring business disruption. In the most right wing nations (Brazil, USA, etc) this even lead directly into COVID denialism, with the ideological (and incorrect) presupposition that if they deny the existence of the virus, then there would be no need to disrupt business as usual, and thus profits would not be harmed. We saw this echoed in statements by President Trump, downplaying the virus and constantly hoping that it would go away and resolve itself (ironically, this previously far-right solution which was ridiculed has now become the de facto neoliberal solution since their taking power). This all, of course, backfired, resulting in hundreds of thousands of needless dead grandmas, while also causing such drastic threat of shortage, breakdown, and collapse to the healthcare system (the large and oft unspoken danger of the pandemic) that the ensuing, unavoidable business disruption from poorly communicated and poorly enforced lockdowns and restrictions, combined with the cascading collateral damage from COVID deaths, that it ended up being even worse for most businesses than had they behaved in the manner of Vietnam or China or Cuba in the first place, where the pandemic might have been resolved over one single coordinated, prolonged lockdown — instead of the West’s half-hearted, wishy-washy effort against the virus, now continuing ad infinitum with half-measures and lukewarm recommendations.
Western governments smear China’s COVID response, while failing to contain pandemic at home — The…
Written by: William Ging Wee Dere “Can you believe that China has fewer deaths from COVID-19 than Québec and that the…
Remember how the free individual actors of liberal states behaved at the beginning of the pandemic. In a stark contrast to the behaviors seen in China, Cuba, or Vietnam, where citizens asked “what can we do to protect one another?,” the citizens of the West, especially in the United States, asked themselves how this terrible crisis could be turned to their personal advantage — even against their fellow citizens. The result was the mass hoarding of supplies, especially the now ubiquitous-with-COVID hand-sanitizer and the world famous run on toilet paper (a product that is cheap and easy to produce and there is no production shortage of). The reason for this was that, by monopolizing a (even temporarily) limited supply, the owners could charge an immense markup with monopoly price-gouging (charging upwards of $70 for a fucking bottle of Purel) to those in need, or even those joining the panic buying resulting from the artificial scarcity. Liberalism at its finest.
Within the healthcare system, we are already seeing actual shortages and misallocations of medical resources. This also leads to shortages in hospital beds (especially in the ICUs), even for children, and a depletion of healthcare workers, themselves, as they exert inordinate, above average labour-power to combat the crisis to the point of exhaustion. On top of this, the right-most of the two liberal factions is now increasingly hostile to the healthcare workers, often believing them to somehow be involved in some sort of COVID-conspiracy, while the other is only capable of supporting them symbolically or with token gestures — no real financial or material aid is coming. It would be easy enough to back the efforts of healthcare workers with the full might of the state apparatus, if the working class controlled their own, but these factions of liberals will not do so, as their primary concern is backing and upholding business interests. And exhausting resources on healthcare workers would undermine the short term revenues of those businesses, as the shutdowns, lockdowns, closures, and social spending required would be too much profit and accumulation lost (or even just delayed) to be acceptable to the bourgeois ownership class.
That said, the continuing issue of the West is that capitalism is not only ill-equipped to deal with this crisis, but that both factions of liberals are actually making it exponentially worse. A combination of a lack of central planning and state institutions, private for-profit healthcare sector, business with such low reserves that they were immediately discussing ‘sacrificing the elderly’ to save their shitty restaurant chains, and the veneration of property over humanity — all of which make obvious and easy solutions to fight COVID unthinkable. Most of all, the contradictions of capitalism make it impossible for the United States to take effective action, because business owners cannot effectively profit from aiding the masses who cannot afford to pay them, but at the same time refuse to take the financial loss that comes with a prolonged quarantine (a “bill” which only the bourgeois can afford to pay, yet will refuse to, as the deciders of society), and so continue to try to run and operate their businesses to the destruction of personal health (of their workers, customers, and society, mostly).
On top of all this, the United States, under both Biden and Trump engaged in the most hostile, viscous, (again) anti-scientific (especially in terms of fighting the pandemic), and ruthless activities against the rest of the world during a period of global crisis demanding international cooperation and solidarity. Some of these crimes against humanity include: actively trying to take leading vaccine candidates exclusively for themselves, actively conducting unnecessary war games , actively suspending environmental protections — which aren’t ever going to be unsuspended when the pandemic ends, literally putting out a ‘hit’ on another world leader in the middle of a pandemic, launching an illegal mercenary invasion, actively evicting First Nations from their land during a pandemic, engaging in racist scapegoating conspiracy theories — both neoliberals and right-liberals taking turns with that one —and criminalizing homelessness, all while dithering and delaying on quarantine and crisis measures, and all to appease private business. Hundreds of thousands of lives in the USA could have been saved with universal health care, but the centrist-liberals are making no stand whatsoever for the widely supported policy. This compounds with all kinds of individualist nonsense ideology drilled into the heads of these liberals from birth by these same bourgeois controllers of society, resulting in these selfish, destructive, anti-social behaviors we now see which spread the virus and makes the whole situation worse. Oh, and don’t forget actively letting people without healthcare die during a pandemic.
“Johns Hopkins University data shows the nation reported 14,220 deaths in the week ending Tuesday. At this pace, an American dies of COVID-19 every 43 seconds.”
Remember that 30–50% of Americans, if not more, are going to get infected (about 15% have already) with COVID-19 now, so something like several million or so Americans who survive the disease are about to be saddled with tens or even hundreds of thousands of medical debts they cannot afford, especially after not working for much of the past eighteen months — all of which is resolvable except that American capitalism does not allow resolution. Those millions will lose their homes and savings, and the pandemic will continue to worsen, as it already is destroying the poor at a much faster rate, as well as minorities, as more and more are reduced into poverty and destitution by the mechanisms of capitalism, so that even more and more suffer and die.
While the pandemic has been “bad for business” in the sense that production has fallen significantly, and many small and medium enterprises have collapsed or suffered, and that millions have lost employment, and that existing employment continues to worsen, and that inflation is destroying wages/salaries (note — this is exclusively blamed on government money printing by right-liberals, who ignore that private banks issuing loans also creates inflation) and that the aggregate production of human civilization failed to increase in a similar manner as it had been for the previous years; the pandemic has been an unbridled crisitunity for the financial bourgeoisie — the wealthiest and largest accumulators of human existence, who have managed to somehow grow their wealth — their ownership claims upon the world’s material — fantastically during the pandemic, while almost all others saw their claims shrink.
never let a Crisis go to Waste
The richest people on the planet have become exponentially richer during the pandemic, and yet production has declined. That is to say, less stuff was produced during the pandemic time interval, yet the ownership claims of the financial bourgeoisie expanded even more rapidly than normal (which was already too absurd a pace to be considered ‘normal’). The global economic pie (that is, things produced by labour) is growing at a greatly reduced rate (contracting, even, for a period) yet the largest slices (that is the largest claims of portions) of the pie are growing larger and larger, faster and faster. Take a moment to understand the math of what is happening to the pie, upon what the ownership claims of the wealthiest are extending and laying new claim to.
As just a single example of the sorts of shenanigans at play during the pandemic:
To solve the liquidity crisis, the Federal Reserve stepped in with a series of ongoing “repo injections” (repurchase agreements) into the short-term lending markets, a process by which the Fed buys up Treasury bills to funnel cash quickly into bank coffers. Repo, it should be noted, is also a primary form of financing for hedge funds.
In October last year, these massive overnight purchases accounted for tens of billions of dollars every night. The stock market is, after all, a fickle thing, an almost superstitious exchange vehicle through which investor confidence, or lack thereof, can be converted into money gains or losses. For a time, these repo injections did buy “investor confidence.” Enter coronavirus into the US in the spring of this year. Soon enough, these overnight repo injections went from billions-at-a-time to trillions of dollars. What happened? As it became apparent in March 2020 that the US government was planning to shut down sectors of business and social life in response to the virus, stock prices plummeted at a record pace. Reporting on the matter often made it look like the Fed had thrown massive trillion dollar piles of cash at the market, only for that market to nosedive at historic rates anyways. In other words, it appeared that money was rapidly furnished, and that that money was lost within the span of only a day.
What actually happened was much more sinister. Through those rounds of cash injections, money did not simply “disappear”; much of it went to major investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan, along with a few hedge funds.
-Patrick Higgins, Lockdown Imperialism
There are numerous mechanics at work here, ranging from government handouts and subsidies (often unneeded subsidies for businesses that were not struggling) to the largest corporations, tax loopholery and tax avoidance schemes, shifting cost burdens and labour demands even more heavily upon the poor, and however many other ways you can imagine using the state apparatus to benefit your business bottom line. The pandemic of course, has not stopped the bourgeoisie-proper — that is the real bourgeoisie, not the petty, whiny, insufferable small businessmen in tears over their shitty Applebees clone going under — from taking advantage of the situation to buy up all sorts of profitable assets — especially housing — on the cheap, from those distraught, desperate sellers in the wake of the crisis. The petty bourgeois hogs have been fattened up by decades of neoliberalism, laying the groundwork to produce productive, profitable assets, now being subsumed by larger business empires at a discount, as they watch, often helplessly, being spit roasted and devoured by the largest private forces of accumulation in the world.
Supports to small and medium business were mainly contingent on the cooperation of Big Business which was more interested in gobbling up smaller competitors than aiding them. The biggest fish ate the small fish and the bigger fish, as the concentration and centralization of capital rapidly proceeded.
The petty bourgeoisie are largely aware of this, and are not, technically, completely without power to resist, but as the petty bourgeois only have a single dominant aspiration — to join the bourgeoisie-proper — they will be among the most reluctant to risk conflict and confrontation against the societal overlords; instead preferring the tried and true strategy of punching downwards, and forcing more surplus extraction out of their employees and workers and tenants and other “dependents” to offset their heightened upkeeps, income shortfalls, and financial losses.
Think of a small landlord who is on the hook for several bank mortgages for the properties that he rents out to tenants. Both the landlord and the banks know full well that the state apparatus (correctly described by Lenin as the most powerful administrative tool of the class that controls it) is in the hands of the bourgeoisie proper (especially the banks), and that in whatever push-comes-to-shove scenario, it is the banks who can expect the state to be on their side in any dispute against the petty bourgeois (that is, rents will not be cancelled or reduced for tenants against the landlords because the mortgages will not be reduced for the landlord against the banks), and in the end, it is the banks who will win. This means the landlords wont be challenging the banks, wont confront the unfairness of having to pay mortgages in the pandemic (thus ensuring that the bank is paid in full and bank profits are uninterrupted) and will, instead, take out their frustrations and rising obligations upon their tenants. And we see this happening, as “delinquent” (read struggling) tenants are being met with almost no leniency or forgiveness, and instead suffering yet another fresh wake of new obligations and frustrations, rent hikes, evictions, reno-victions, or worse, for which they have no one beneath them to serve as a similar venting system, and instead must simply endure the additional accumulating hardships. “Fuck you poor people, pay up!” sincerely the petty bourgeoisie, who have no one else to beat up upon and offset their own shrinking margins, except from those directly beneath them.
Of course, most of these corporate handouts to the financial bourgeoisie are not sustainable — these are short term gimmicks (heists, really), which might provide an immediate infusion of cash for the upper strata of the ownership class; which they can use for all sorts of things — buying more financial assets, buying other wealth-producing assets usually from the petty bourgeoisie desperate to sell, and their own personal luxuries — but isn’t a long term replacement for the profits of ‘successful’ business operation and a functional, productive capitalist system. As such, for the small and large businessmen, but especially the largest ones, actual production and all of its surplus-extracted profits ultimately has to be restored (not because profitability is a requisite for doing labour, or producing in general, but rather because profit is what the ownership class get to take home exclusively for themselves, and they, the bourgeois class, get to make the decisions about the business’ profit generation) — this will inevitably mean cuts to services and workers pay and benefits. Not so the business will produce more or expand the means of production, and not so the workers will be better off with higher wages or benefits, but exclusively to ensure that their already large incomes emanating from ownership claims are not shrunk.
Many of us have likely seen or experienced the results of this in our employment and our lives. The owners, big and small, are trying to retain their income — the profits — which are derived from the ownership claim, and as we are witnessing, are produced by labour, and cease to exist without it (and have nothing to do with their brilliant capitalist ingenuity). But production is down, consumption is down, sales are down, and inflation is rising. So the decision is made to lay off workers (allowing what was previously their wages to be retained as profits), meaning that the workload of the laid-off employees is piled upon the remaining employees, who know have to put in that much more labour-power each shift, to offset the additional staff that used to be there to share in the work, meaning that their working conditions are harder and more exhausting and less pleasant and a worse experience and less safe, and that they burn out much quicker. As such, they are striking and quitting in record droves. As Marxists, we are on the side of the proletariat, and we can momentarily cheer their defiance, but this scenario results in a sadistic game of chicken, where the ownership class — having far more reserves of wealth than the working class — try to hold out and starve the proletariat into submission; where they become so desperate that they will be willing to return to work on worse terms because they need a paycheck to avoid homelessness or worse (again, a condition forced and enforced upon them by the bourgeoisie with the backing of the capitalist-state’s enforcer-repressors — the police). But during this time, the petty bourgeois bosses sees their staff walkout, and as such, the quality of service of their small-shit-businesses declines (costing them precious sales), while the financial bourgeoisie (the bourgeoisie-proper) can keep tightening the noose to collect interest payments or buy them out at bargain-basement prices to secure additional assets for themselves — and if all that fails, they can just raid the treasury some more and then go buy something else.
the decline of the Petty Bourgeoise
However, as the disparity worsens, and as those beneath the petty bourgeoisie see their blood turn to stone, sucked dry beyond their capacity to pay and be exploited, and as the “inner circle” of the bourgeoisie-proper above them contracts and becomes more distant from them, and more and more global wealth is concentrated within that shrinking inner circle, more and more petty bourgeois small businessmen find themselves on the outside looking in. Their small business becomes less relevant to society, less able to compete with the economies-of-scale of vast conglomerates, less important to consumers, and less powerful in the subsuming shadow of larger business empires. They will eventually, to some degree, recognize their own decline, and begin the search for answers: why is liberalism now failing them?
Unfortunately, in many cases, they become the leading voices of far-right reaction (they will generally not turn to the ‘left,’ as anarchists/social democrats often wrongly assume, as their relation to production is one of control — they are not living paycheck to paycheck dependent on paid wages by someone above them so there is no appeal to the abolition of class, but rather collect their own surplus from exploited workers, either in their small business or from the larger imperial surplus taken from the Global South, and then have to give up a portion of it to the state as taxes or the banks as loan repayments or whatever — this is how ‘oppression’ appears to them, not as a withholding of a necessity, but as a reduction of surplus.
Similarly, their existence in the Western capitalist system, under the already discussed neoliberal hegemony that has turned most social relations into transactions, their understanding of social existence is one of consumption. “What can I buy? What can I have? What can I do?” with this surplus. When those options retract and diminish then this, to them, is not a change in material conditions to be understood as part of a larger system, but a loss of their ‘individual freedom.’ In essence, they are seeing feeling a ‘loss of their freedoms,’ but what is actually happening is merely a contraction of the walls of privilege. There’s fewer items on the menu for me, but how can that be? After all, liberalism and capitalism is supposed to be making everyone richer. They also see those on the inside — the bourgeoisie-proper — are having their privileges continually expand, with new ‘freedoms,’ now including trips-to-space in penis rockets, but those just outside the walls are now suddenly realizing that the gates are closing and they are not going to be given a ticket in.
Liberalism had been a delightful ideology for the petty bourgeois (and many labour aristocrats — the overpaid workers of the imperial nations) of society — for as long as it appears to be working for you. You made this. All on your own, independent from all else in the world; therefore it is yours. All yours. This shitty, ugly, balsa-wood and pine suburban sheetrock shithole you call home, your shitty small business, water-sucking lawn, all-white neighborhood, and the enormous truck; that was all you, baby. The cars, the phones, the big TVs, the storage locker full of crap, the trophy wife(s), and ignorant gaming-addict kids— all you. It’s a tremendously wonderful lie, and this ideology for the bourgeoisie-proper (who get to continue living it), as well as the petty-bourgeoisie and labour-aristocrats (many of whom are being forced out, now being cut out and removed from it), above all other things, is exceptionally flattering to them. It’s like a Swedish made penis enlarger for your ego. The rest of the world is poor because they didn’t work as hard as you, or aren’t as smart as you. You’re special, you’re elite, you’re part of an exclusive club for only the very best of humanity.
The extent of the power of money is the extent of my power. Money’s properties are my — the possessor’s — properties and essential powers. Thus, what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality. I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness — its deterrent power — is nullified by money. I, according to my individual characteristics, am lame, but money furnishes me with twenty-four feet. Therefore I am not lame. I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honoured, and hence its possessor. Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good. Money, besides, saves me the trouble of being dishonest: I am therefore presumed honest. I am brainless, but money is the real brain of all things and how then should its possessor be brainless? Besides, he can buy clever people for himself, and is he who has power over the clever not more clever than the clever? Do not I, who thanks to money am capable of all that the human heart longs for, possess all human capacities? Does not my money, therefore, transform all my incapacities into their contrary?
-Karl Marx, The Power of Money
This, of course, has never been the case, as capitalism has been predicated on imperialism and colonialism for most of its existence, and the state has never at any point been a passive participant in upholding capitalist society. But provided you lived as a middle-class-or-higher person in the West (also helpful to be white and a man), it was something that you had no trouble imagining to be true, as all the affairs of politics and society were things you could imagine being separate and distant and apart from you (such that you can almost totally ignore them) or only marginally interfering at the very edges of your ‘free and independent’ existence (“gosh darn government and their taxes!”). Politics was something that you could turn off if you wanted, or engage with casually, as if it were a sport. Indeed, this was one of the selling points to the ‘return to the status-quo’ neoliberal supporters for Joe Biden; that they could tune-out the political ‘noise’ again, post-Trump, and go “back to brunch” — in intentional ignorance of the fact that many in the world live and die on these political decisions they take for granted. Things like imperialism are far away, or in the ‘distant’ past — you may be well aware of how they benefited you (as evidenced by the stalwart support for imperialism by both right- and centre- and even most left- liberals in the West, and all the Democrats and Republicans) — but because they are remote and rarely impede your accumulation (indeed, they accelerate it, and imperialism is a requisite for it to exist at all — your stocks and bonds are worthless without empire to seize the world’s labour), they can be compartmentalized and detached from your own material gains and your own ‘personal’ wealth in your own mind. It was all just you — your brilliant ideas and your hard work. The hard-work of the Global South is tacitly assumed to be lesser work for lesser peoples.
Thus the petty bourgeois and labour aristocrats of the depleting ‘middle class’—now in decline; some of the only creatures of capitalism with enough meat on their bones to feed a hungrier and hungrier financial bourgeoisie — are no longer able to imagine themselves as independent and free individuals, islands to themselves. Now they have obligations, and requirements, and tasks, and (no longer marginal) upkeeps, and problems — all the shit poor people have to deal with, that they were supposed to be above and beyond.
So, if they get the vaccine, or are ‘forced’ to get the vaccine; that’s it. That’s the breaking point; the end of liberal ideology for them. They are forced to ask themselves who they are if they get the vaccine — are they really in control? Do they actually have these liberal ‘individual freedoms?’ No, not any more. They are, in fact, part of society, and just as oppressed and unfree as any of the people beneath them that they used to mock and belittle (not really, as the proletariat has it far worse, but too close for their comfort anyhow). Now this is seen as a new intrusion for them, rather than something that has always been there and they have just been too privileged and ignorant to grasp that fact. But this is the end of the imagination-world, the liberal dream, of rugged men, living free and independent, islands unto themselves. Sure, it was never like this in the first place, nor at any point in history, including hunter-gatherer tribes, but this bubble of ignorance is burst by the sharp prick of the vaccine needle. The very act of getting vaccinated becomes a grim, terrible reminder that they do, in fact, live in a society, and they are dependent leeches upon the institutions of the state, government, and bureaucracies that coddle and protect them and their shitty small business (though not nearly as much as the bourgeoisie-proper), and this realignment of their ideology is, functionally, world-shattering.
So they become the leading voices of the COVID-denial/anti-mask/anti-vaccination movements; engaged (and enraged) in a desperate attempt reconstitute the walls of privilege to ensure that they remain on the inside looking out at those “who are not free” rather than facing and admitting the truth to themselves: that they were never a part of the real, actual, privileged inner circle (the bourgeoisie-proper), and indeed were never actually free themselves, either (merely the benefitting middle-servants of empire). They were always just close enough to remain blissfully ignorant toward their own condition and imagining a perfect liberal world for them in which they can adhere to their perfect and free liberal ideology; a beautiful and horrible ignorance that COVID reality has shattered like the Kool-Aid Man. An intrusion they have to reckon with.
This is why we see so much of the petty bourgeoisie middle classes are feeling the betrayal of the bourgeois-proper’s knife (carving them up to feed the forces of finance), not realizing that they were never actually a part of the club, and turning to the reactionary right camp to explain this turn of events, complete with George Soros/Bill Gates/Jeff Bezos/etc conspiracy theories. “Those still on the inside of the walls of privilege must be cheating somehow! It cannot be the capitalist system that’s broken, as I’ve been all-in on that system all my life, and it had benefited me greatly up to now. It must be that these capitalists are actually bad guy capitalists, ruining my good wholesome capitalism!” and similar nonsense, now, not-jokingly calling the world’s largest and most ‘successful’ capitalists (people they once feverishly defended) socialists and communists! (more on this later).
Wrestling with these contradictions is how and where a good portion of the, still relatively wealthy, and previously stable middle class in America find themselves shifting to the far-right as a response to their own powerlessness and impotence and decline in the wake of the big bourgeoisie’s tide; reducing them to the same rules and similar conditions and restrictions of the ‘lowly’ and very unfree proletariat (who have only been further crushed and repressed during the pandemic) — whom they had always considered themselves to be superior to, above, and better than. One of the largest remaining imperial privileges of the Western Whites is being distanced and protected enough from COVID to pretend that it doesn’t exist, while those beneath them suffer and die from the disease at a much higher rate. Societal-scale action is a requirement to respond to the pandemic, not individual action. And this is where rubber of ideology meets the pavement of material reality.
the Lockdowns and their Aftermaths
Once COVID-19 had hit the West, it was clear that the virus would quickly spiral out of control to the point where healthcare systems would be in jeopardy (which would cascade into the larger economy), so the lockdowns became a necessity for the capitalist nations. The dirty secret that continues to go undermentioned in almost any COVID discourse is that the lockdowns were actually quite effective at combatting the rising number of cases, and that a proper, full, complete, extended lockdown may have been exactly what the doctor ordered to beat COVID. But, like a bad patient who stops taking anti-biotics as soon as the pain goes away only to have the bacterial infection return and worsen, the capitalist societies sought to end the lockdowns early, so they could resume ‘normal’ ahead of schedule — after all, China had beaten COVID in a matter of months, surely the infallible West could do the same..
As such, the capitalist states began to pull back on safety measures before the pandemic had been fully contained, in their attempt to ‘get a head start’ against the rest of the world — getting back to normal to see those profits resume. Instead, this premature opening up not only worsened the damage (hundreds of thousands more needless deaths), but also prolonged the pandemic by allowing it to spread and more variants to emerge (a problem still continuing), whereas a continued lockdown would have seen exponentially fewer new cases and thus fewer new variants. Instead of a pandemic that might have lasted 9–18 months, we now have all sorts of mutating, divergent pandemic variants with no end in sight (to the point that the capitalist societies are embracing COVID fatalism, to the detriment of living grandmas everywhere).
Michigan’s new definition of a COVID-19 school ‘outbreak’ will mean fewer are reported
The Michigan state health department is increasing the threshold for the number of COVID-19 cases that would constitute…
However, lockdowns, while good for stopping the spread of COVID, are bad for capitalist business. Lockdowns means no one is coming into the stores. Lockdowns mean no tourism. Lockdowns mean reduced working hours and thus reduced wages, and thus less spending. Lockdowns mean the local Shit-Buffet at Cici’s is closed. Will this torment never end?! This is why businesses, large and small, are so resistant to the effective strategies of lockdowns, shutdowns, and closures, as all of these are highly disruptive to their profits. Tying into this, if small businesses are not making money, then banks — from whom the businesses receive their loans and other financing with lucrative interest— are not being paid, and that means the financial bourgeoisie are seeing their income diminish too. Thus, instead, the primary strategies the capitalist state proposes will be required to accommodate all these businesses and their reopening and continued operation, meaning that they can remain open and create all kinds of “necessary” social interactions (transactions) between individual actors, where humans can continue to spread the disease to one another. Lockdowns are now only a desperate last resort to prevent healthcare system collapse, and wont be used to combat the larger pandemic to a decisive end, and for the capitalist systems, the cost of human lives is a perfectly acceptable price to pay to avoid interfering with business profit — especially when most of the price is paid by the elderly, poor, and non-white (a result of the West’s racist history and racist systems benefiting whites at the expense of the rest of humanity).
Of course, the American response was exceptionally awful — indisputably the worst in the ‘developed’ world. Most capable nations, even the neoliberal ones, provided some form of monthly wage subsidy or payment support or financial assistance for citizens in lockdown — not out of any benevolence, but because those nations have (weak but still-functioning) labour movements capable of making and enforcing meaningful demands, while America doled out a single, paltry $600 cheque. This was followed by another $1400 one many months (and one administration) later — which had been promised to be $2000 — and little else has been seen since. That money was gobbled up by debt-holders (banks especially) immediately and that did nothing to slow the closures, foreclosures, evictions, insolvencies, and bankruptcies. And the banks are still coming for the house, the land, and any other repossessable assets. For the Global South, the brutality unleashed upon the masses is, and will be, even more severe, as austerity and privatization will be the order of the day.
Over 80 per cent of IMF Covid-19 loans will push austerity on poor countries - World
Over 80 per cent of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Covid-19 loans recommend poor countries hit hard by the…
What’s that? You want to us to pay for your medicine? What do you mean you can’t afford to supply our pharmaceutical industry with profits?! Well fuck you, if you want these healthcare devices and these vaccines, you gotta cut whatever little fucking social spending still exists and privatize whatever is left of your resources that America hasn’t already claimed. Don’t want to do that? Well too bad, go die of COVID. Prolonged lockdowns will not be an option for much of the Global South, because the West will not allow their principle exploited labour force of the globe to take the necessary time off.
But lockdowns will not be the solution for the capitalist nations of the imperial core, either . Not because they don’t work, but because any prolonged lockdown wont work unless the state provides assistance, food, healthcare, housing, aid, and protection for the workers, the unemployed, the sick, and, really, all those in need. And this would be a de facto state of socialism (not really but about as close as we can imagine without revolution). And the liberals cannot do a ‘socialism until the pandemic is resolved’ because the obvious result of such a policy would be tremendous rise in support for socialism — it would become something that they might not then be able to undo.
So a prolonged lockdown with massive welfare provision is a perfectly good, scientific solution to end COVID — but it cannot be applied because the requisites to sustain it for as long as required would undermine the capitalist system, both at home and abroad. This is why the centrist neoliberals had pinned all their hopes on the vaccines solving all problems, and why the emergent right-liberal COVID denial, anti-mask, anti-vax movement is such an obstacle for them, which they are now trying to suppress —vaccines are the only ‘profitable’ resolution to COVID and its all being undermined by the ideological-die-hards of the right.
the Vaccine and Return to “Normal”
Enter the vaccine — the panacea to all the problems of COVID-19 and the supposed guarantor of a return to normalcy. Yet another contradiction emerges here, as the capitalist cores and demi-cores (those capable of producing the vaccine, or at least buying it at a profit to the pharmaceutical companies), as already mentioned, decided to prioritize vaccinating their own populations first (which was another attempt to get a head start at returning to normal and resuming profits as quickly as possible), and leaving the Global South to linger, rather than distributing vaccines according to need and risk, such that the most vulnerable and exposed populations (especially the elderly) could be vaccinated first. And, of course, yet again, this ended up worsening and exacerbating the pandemic, as it made the spread of the virus worse by having the rich countries selfishly hoard vaccine supplies, allowing yet more variants to emerge and more preventable cases to occur.
“Wealthy countries have focused almost exclusively on securing vaccines for their own populations instead of investing in cooperative initiatives… If this trend continues, young and healthy individuals in wealthy countries will be vaccinated while older and vulnerable people in poorer countries continue to die, needlessly… Vaccine nationalism is also self-defeating. As wealthy countries roll out domestic vaccination plans, emerging COVID-19 variants threaten their success: recent data suggest that several vaccines currently in use may provide reduced efficacy against new variants.”
-Al Jazeera, A call for global vaccine justice
Again, these are deeply anti-science vaccine policies, which go upheld and unchallenged by the “pro-science” (ha!) neoliberals. This is because the neoliberals, as the dominant, hegemonic ideology of the West, serve as the mouthpieces and servants and representatives of the bourgeoisie-proper. While not one-and-the-same (lots of neoliberals are just middle class labour aristocrats who play moderately important administrative roles in service to large business or the capitalist state) they are the current, dominant architects of cultural hegemony, thus, the faction most immediately and directly under the influence of the bourgeois-proper (the so-called “elites” of society) — who only care about science insofar as it benefits their wealth, and throw science out the window (to the total silence of the “science-loving” neoliberals) when it is inconvenient to that end. As a great example of the extent of their anti-scientific madness, Cuba has not just one, but several of the safest and most proven successful of all the COVID-19 vaccines in the world, and is ready and willing to share with other nations, and it is your own liberal governments who are denying you and the world access to one of the best, safest, and most effective vaccines on the planet, so that Cubans will continue to be punished for refusing to submit to capitalist domination; and so that big pharmaceutical businesses will be rewarded with extra sales. America wishes to not only maintain and uphold the second longest and largest embargo in all of human history (first place being the one against DPRK), but to actively make it worse to punish the Cuban people for their defiance to the imperialists and for having the audacity to produce safe, effective medicine for reasons other than business profits.
Bill Gates says no to sharing vaccine formulas with global poor to end pandemic
Bill Gates, one of the world’s richest men and most powerful philanthropists, was the target of criticism from social…
Nevertheless, the vaccines — specifically those patented by private Western pharmaceuticals — are now seen by these same business interests as their golden ticket to get back to normal! As such, the capitalist business interests and their administration unit (the state) wholeheartedly embraced the vaccine roll-out — after all, the sooner everyone is vaccinated, the sooner normal (and profit) returns! Clearly, however, federal and provincial governments have prioritized profits over people. They have consistently opened up sections of the economy before it was safe — and entirely refused to close others, such as mining — and, in process, have cost lives and facilitated the spread of the pandemic. From the beginning, corporations and their neoliberal mouthpieces in government have used vaccines as cover for rushing to reopen the economy and return to profits.
In this narrowly focused drive, urgent issues such as equity have been pushed aside. A report released in April by the Wellesley Institute, for example, concluded that the Ontario government was “not distributing vaccines in an equitable way to areas with racialized populations and low-income neighbourhoods.” Data from Statistics Canada in July shows that this inequity has not been confined to Ontario, and that its effects are widespread and serious: vaccination rates lag among poor people, racialized people and young people. These groups include a large proportion of frontline workers, particularly in the low-paid and precariously employed hospitality and retail sectors.
A big section of unvaccinated people is unable to get vaccinated, so mandates and passports will not help them. These are children who are being crowded back into underfunded schools across the country as transmission rates rise. Only increased funding to schools, reduced class sizes and proper ventilation will help them, and the response has been inadequate across the country. Governments are content to let COVID rip through schools and let children get sick, since the death toll will be “manageable” and double vaccinated workers can go to work. That’s what matters to capitalism.
Vaccine Passports No Fix for Government Inaction on COVID
Vaccines are a key component in stopping the spread of COVID-19, protecting people’s health and recovering from the…
Thus, the establishment just needs everyone to get a vaccine, and hopefully things will be back to normal, and the great capitalist buffet (feasting primarily on the labour of Global South) can resume. But, in another layer of the irony-cake, liberal ideology has created, fostered, and perpetuated a deep distrust of public institutions and bureaucracy over the past seventy years, including a complete erosion of civics (does anyone still celebrate Stamp Day?) and accelerated further in the past four decades of neoliberal regimes peddling “anti-government” messaging and lies about public sector inefficiency and incompetence. This was wonderful for the capitalist class, as it persuaded segments of the public to go along with privatization schemes, cuts to social spending, business tax breaks, etc, all to the benefit of big business profits. But now this liberal ideology run amok has created a society full of monsters, who see themselves as the free individuals of liberalism, who will not comply with societal needs — after all, they are independent and free and separate and apart from society. The problems of society have nothing to do with them, and they will not go out of their way, or even be modestly inconvenienced, for the needs of the many. Their “freedoms” (privileges) take precedence over all other things, including and especially human life. Enter the anti-vaccination movement.
a Great Reset and No New Normal
The anti-vaccine movement is a problem, because maximizing profits requires a complete return to normal, and if normal does not return, the system of capitalism risks larger breakdown — which would be a disaster for the big-bourgeoisie, the end, or at least a long term decline, to their accumulation. Hence the talk of a ‘great reset,’ to try a last ditch effort to reconstitute a fresh capitalist, or more likely neo-feudal, system, where they can bypass all of the clogs (that is, resistant small and middle owners who haven’t been reduced to renters yet) in the current system. To the right-liberals, of course, a ‘great reset’ is the old “New World Order” communist takeover come to life — further proof whatever conspiracies fit the narrative. Of course, actual communists overwhelmingly oppose the ‘great reset,’ which would be little more than letting billionaires restructure the economy as they please. Neoliberals are in a position where they can still remain ignorant to the mounting crises of capitalism, imagining them as nothing more than ‘bumps in the road.’ This is why from among these fools are the only people you will find who could to consider a ‘great reset’ to possibly be a good thing — imagining it as some sort of benevolence-motivated shift to “a kinder, greener capitalism,” rather than handing over all the remaining keys of the economy to the billionaire class. And, to be fair, even neoliberals are having trouble rallying support for this nonsense. But the big-bourgeois will keep trying to present this as a solution if they cannot re-stabilize the current crumbling capitalist system, which they don’t seem to be able to do with a massive unvaccinated population and a virus running out of control.
But if a quarter or more of the population in Canada, and upwards of 40% in the United States are not only unvaccinated, but refusing to ever get vaccinated, then normal is not able to make its triumphant return. This is a problem that the bourgeoisie-proper does not know how to deal with, neither materially nor ideologically. They aren’t in any sort of full blown panic yet, but they don’t have any other solutions either. Liberal ideology has served their capitalist interests for centuries, wanting to promote individuality and singular rights and freedoms, but if it continues to do so, it cannot manage or contain the pandemic, and the body count skyrockets. The dead are not of concern to the capitalists, but they cannot simply let the pandemic roll out of control because the collateral damage from the pandemic threatens a breakdown of healthcare systems, supply chains, and other continued disruptions to the economy, which would utterly undermine production and profitability — and only a small fraction of the more horrid of the neoliberals are falling for ‘great reset’ garbage. Sure, they can try to just passively promote vaccinations and quarantines (and they are doing this to agonizing effect), but in a nation full of those who have consumed liberal-ideology, this is effectively herding cats, and they cannot succeed at reaching the entire population without restricting some of those “freedoms.”
Some of the centrist-liberals, those who never gave in fully to the neoliberal ideology, as well as many of the less-vile left-liberals, have attempted to restore notions of civic duty and civil society to fight the pandemic, failing to realize that those things are already dead in America, long deceased skeletons in neoliberalism’s closet. Thus, in vain, they waste their energy trying to get the populace to take the vaccine for reasoning of the rights and duties of citizenship, saying “where is your concern for your fellow citizens?!” and “where are the civics?!” — and it’s like you fuckers privatized them decades ago, saying the market would handle it!
But petty bourgeois right-liberals are less bothered by any possibility of a larger capitalist system meltdown — it cannot possibly happen because capitalism is perfect and correct, so sayeth liberal ideology. It just works. If it isn’t working, then the problem is not capitalism or something wrong with the workings of the capitalist system — the problems have to be coming from bad faith actors out to destroy it! Capitalism cannot fail — but it can be sabotaged and ruined by interference! They see a meltdown or failure of the economy as something that is being done to capitalism and not being caused by capitalism. These are the people who have consumed liberalism all their life, as poured over them by the bourgeoisie and their ideological apparatuses, and they are now failing to contain and control the monsters they have unleashed.
This is an unexpected shock, as their own liberal ideology has been taken and turned against the bourgeois establishment, who suddenly realize that they need public trust in their administrative apparatus (the state) to resume normalcy and profitability; but the very people who swallowed their ideology whole are now arraying against them, and have long been indoctrinated to uphold those “individual freedoms” at all costs, and never trust the state. And herein, one of the biggest contradictions threatening to blow up liberalism emerges: the (big-bourgeoisie) capitalist ownership class (and their neoliberal sycophants) wants to have mandatory vaccinations, but this is a full contradiction to the base principles of liberalism, which they have lauded and championed and used as a shield to protect themselves (and their claims on property) for all these years. Liberalism cannot have mandatory vaccinations and still be liberalism — the ideology of individual freedom and rights of the individual and liberties and so on — so instead they need to attempt to indirectly ‘pressure’ the populace from all angles to get the vaccine (no going to sports or concerts without a vaccine, business policies requiring vaccine, travel restrictions, etc) with the hope that everyone will just shut up and get it done so their business profits can finally resume.
Liberal courts have ruled in such a manner: “Anti-Vaxxers Do Not Have a Constitutional or Statutory Right to Endanger Everyone Else,” cementing the neoliberal position that liberalism is a highly malleable ideology — an ideology of exceptions and excuses rather than concrete principles. This would be a fine thing, except that neoliberals have realized how challenging a mandatory vaccination policy could be to liberal thinking. You even see these notions being trotted out in the discourse between right and centrist liberals. If left unchecked, this could lead to all sorts of dangerous Marxism. Even the indirect strategy of “you have to comply with business regulations” and having the employers mandate vaccines (rather than the state) is just leading workers to realize that employers have too much control over their lives. Similarly, requiring vaccinations to go to concerts and sports makes sense, but wouldn’t the scientific position be to cancel/postpone all concerts and sports until the pandemic is completely over? These things are not necessary to human existence, and the vaccines are only 80–90% effective — these events will still further the spread of COVID. The bourgeoisie are truly struggling with how to force people to do something without anyone realizing that they are being coerced — this is what ideology is supposed to be for in the first place, and now it’s not working. As well, the bourgeois and their neoliberal loyalists have underestimated the forces of reaction.
of Pure Essence
Anti-vaccine movements are nothing particularly new, but this present one fighting the COVID-vaccine has been infused with the ire and fury of the reactionary right-wing of liberal ideology. Once upon a time several years ago, the anti-vaccination movement was actually filled largely, though not exclusively, with centre-left liberals; the sort that would typically vote for the Green Party and buy non-GMO foods. However, the pandemic has resulted in a jarring shift, such that the demographics of this movement have come to be dominated by the Trump supporting right-liberals and their emergent hostility to the imposition of vaccinations (though many of the former-‘greens’ are still present as well, becoming fresh new recruits for the right-liberal faction). On the surface, it seems that this groups ideology and understanding of the vaccine hinges on one or more of a great many conspiracy theories, and this is all fun to point-and-laugh at. But this is usually where the investigation often ends or derails. The problem being the liberal notion that this group merely has been given incorrect information, and if correct information can be given in its place, then the (pro-vaccine) neoliberal line of thought is that they will simply come around. This thinking is incorrect and dangerous, because the neoliberals do not understand what they are dealing with.
As such, the rival neoliberal faction — who have mostly been vaccinated by this point and are impatiently expecting the right-liberal faction to do the same — will point to this group and say that this is a result of a lack of education, or a lack of scientific understanding, and that the solution is to dump more and more scientific data about vaccine effectiveness in their laps, until they recognize the error of their ways. This is coupled with an all out media blitz (since the modern Western media in the West is a neoliberal institution itself), echoing the sentiments of the bourgeoisie-proper (wanting their return to normal promised by total vaccination) that the vaccines have to happen. Whether showcasing ill people who didn’t get vaccinated, having an infinite number of media personalities encourage vaccination, or any of a million other ham-fisted attempts at ‘encouraging’ full vaccination, the televisions are singular in their messaging, and this stick out like a sore thumb to the right-liberals, instead offering their conspiratorial worldview validation.
Yes, obviously the vaccines are safe and effective (though not so effective that you can go without lockdowns to end the pandemic) and if you are reading this essay you should already be aware of that. Of course, the right-liberal reluctance to the vaccine has almost nothing to do with whether or not they correctly/incorrectly believe the vaccine to be effective/ineffective — this isn’t something that is decided by a scientific paper for them, nor from a celebrity on television (unless of course, said celebrity is anti-vax, in which case they become a hero and pariah to the right). The thing is, that the wide array of incoherent, often nonsensical conspiracy theories cannot themselves be the source of this anti-vaccination belief, as they differ wildly in origin and substance. If there was one very good or supported anti-vax argument it might convince a mass of people, but a huge assortment of terrible and dated arguments do not each convince an otherwise largely consistent mass of individuals.
Now there is no singular reason or line of thinking for which someone becomes anti-vaccination (this is what Marxists call overdetermination — when there are lots and lots of different, compounding causes all leading into a singular outcome). On top of the traditional far-right lines of thought — for example, libertarians with their “don’t tread on me/don’t tell me what to do” attitude, the notions of “bodily fluids/Purity of Essence” common to fascist-thinking, religious anti-vaccination conceptions, etc — you have a group of people whose already deranged and conspiratorial worldviews are now being given extreme validation by seeing all of the ideological state apparatuses of society (the news media, big business, the social-media tech sector, etc. all controlled by those same financial bourgeoisie and their neoliberal sycophants trying to force a rapid return to normal) now being aligned and arrayed in uniform ideological attack against them and their resistance to vaccination. Their freedoms!
The conspiracies themselves — always changing and never coherent in the first place, though maintaining consistent themes and threads — have grown and transformed and developed and expanded over the years from the old guard of the Bill O’Reillys, Glenn Becks, Alex Joneses, Tucker Carlsons of the far-right media, deeper and deeper into the emergent alt-right Steve Bannons and QAnons, among a thousand other conspiracy theorist maniacs of the world; all pouring fuel on the fire. In reality, the big businesses of the financial bourgeoisie just want their profits to return — they are trying to restore and maintain their capitalist system — and they need a vaccinated population to get there. But under attack from this media and state propaganda onslaught, the conspiracies offer explanatory power for the besieged right-liberals, from their maligned standpoint.
Mediocre philosopher Adrian Bardon penned a recent article attempting to explain the conspiratorial thinking of the far-right anti-vaccination groups:
One school of thought in psychology, called compensatory control theory, holds that many social phenomena — including ideological science denial — stem from the basic human need for a sense of control over one’s environment and life outcomes. According to this theory, perceived threats to one’s sense of personal control can motivate denial of scientific consensus. The idea is that due to a combination of economic insecurity, demographic changes and the perceived erosion of cultural norms favoring whites, some people feel an existential threat to the white supremacy they’ve long benefited from — which in turn spurs them to deny government warnings about the dangers of COVID-19.
Not incorrect, but Bardon, in his mediocrity, only scratches the surface, and, in his Democrat-apologia filled essay, he fails to explain from where this comes from ideologically and why it affects so many, other than ‘they vote Republican,’ or have such and such identity (being Christian, or not trusting science, etc). But why do the anti-vaxxers rely on these fascistic conspiracy theories at all? It is not some mistake or confusion.
The right-liberal conspiracy theory explanations and COVID-denialism (and anti-mask and anti-vaccine positions) emerge because the right-liberals have taken a position (a dogma, really) that liberalism is the true, correct ideology, and capitalism is the true, correct system (something engrained and reinforced into them from a lifetime of unopposed, concentrated liberal ideology, with a double dose in the age of neoliberalism) and that maxing out all of those ‘freedom sliders’ automatically means success and prosperity for all but the most hapless, useless, and unfit individuals (whom they can also blame when something goes wrong, “lazy fucks wanting handouts”). This is their Swedish penis pump and it’s made their cocks feel huge — after all, they were fine in this system until fairly recently — this cannot a bad thing. This is usually echoed by that confused Ben Franklin quote, “Any nation who would give up a little liberty, to purchase a little security, deserve neither and will lose both.” Ignoring that this quote is typically taken out of context, the idea is that if you let one of those ‘freedom sliders’ drop, even a little (by say, “forcing” the population to wear masks, or mandating vaccinations) then you fuck up everything and the whole system starts to break apart and fail — and that must be what is happening now! The only solution for the right-liberal in their upholding the ideology to the extreme, is to max out those ‘freedom sliders’ and not touch the thing ever again, and whatever happens, happens — if millions more die of COVID then so be it — and it’s the best that can be done. This isn’t anything especially new (does anyone remember anti-seatbelt libertarians?) and “freedoms” have been rolled back for the larger needs of society before (often with great objection from the liberals), but this might finally be the breaking point for liberal ideology.
The right-wing-liberals are, as described already, the faction still more closely upholding actual classical liberalism (we will get to the neoliberals shortly). They see a reality in which some of these individual freedoms — the ones you are always supposed to maximize to get the best result — are being limited, restricted, or even reduced (often in the most trivial and marginal ways possible, like having to wear a mask on the bus) — and therefore, because the liberal ideology and associated capitalist system is perfect and correct (to them), and because this COVID reality is an intrusion forcing radical changes to their previously upheld beliefs and understandings of the world, then it must be that it is reality which is incorrect. The pandemic, therefore isn’t actually real. Or the death count is inflated. Or the dangers are overblown. Or random over-the-counter drugs are actually the cure. Or it’s all a conspiracy by George Soros and Bill Gates and their “corporatist” lackeys or the (((Keebler Elves))). Whatever — the point is that those individual freedoms are non-negotiable (at least not for them) and inalienable because the ideology is perfect and immutable, designed just right for them, and if reality is telling them it’s a problem, then the problem is with reality itself — which must have been co-opted and despoiled.
Taking a step back for a moment, again, and analyze these notions about maximizing freedom for the best outcome, as it is something easily proven false in the age of COVID. “Less-free” China has produced far better results vs COVID than any “free-liberal” society across the board. They, and others, have proven that there are policies and practices which can be pursued to eliminate COVID-19 completely, leading to a more rapid economic recovery and a more complete and full restoration of ‘freedoms.’ The fact that reality is requiring their ideology to change or bend or warp itself or write an exemption letter to resolve the pandemic is only further proof that it is reality that must actually be where the problem lies. This is quite consistent, as again, reality and truth for the right-liberals are things to be created and constructed by the individual.
So why then, are the right-liberals embracing all these assorted conspiracy theories and their ceaseless campaign of anti-vaccination, anti-masks, and a plethora of other behaviors and policies which all worsen the pandemic? This is the question the neoliberals struggle with.
not Engaging with their Opponents
As mentioned, the centrist-liberals wrongly see this right-liberal resistance to vaccination as some sort of ignorance of science, as if the problem was just that not enough correct information has been presented to the right-liberals, and once they have this information they will come around. Sure you may win over a few anecdote-providing individuals through this tedium, but this will never solve the problem. They do not see that it is their own ideology of liberalism at work here — that is their opposition. Nor do they see that it is the right-liberals who are the ones more properly defending liberalism and “individual freedoms” than the centrist-liberals, who just want to use the word ‘science’ as a cudgel to get them to fall in line. In reality, to the right-liberals, the debate is not over science, but about the liberal freedom that has supposedly been championed for so long.
This is why the narratives being simultaneously and uniformly peddled by the centrist liberals, most left-liberals, big corporations, government bureaucracy, and “science” (that is whatever neoliberal mouthpiece is posing as some arbitrary representative of science here), are failing to dispel the myths of the right (and their unity is seen as collusion with the conspiracy). Neoliberals make a mistake in their analysis here, only examining the surface and not the substance, such as framing the conspiracy as a ‘coping mechanism,’ while failing to examine what is actually being coped with — usually avoiding any class or social-power structure discussion with vague phraseology, “economic anxiety,” or the like. They are not understanding that the right-liberals are not merely stupid or dumb or confused, as most Democrats wrongly believe, but well aware of this lockstep institutional movement against “their freedom” and see it as an imposing artificial monstrosity (which they, again, generally mislabel as communism) which they are defiantly rebelling against. The neoliberals and left-liberals will almost never attempt to engage against anti-vaxxers on their terms, that is, as an argument over the principles of liberalism and liberal ideology — a debate about having no right to tell others what they can or cannot do, because in an argument over liberal ideology, it is the right-liberals who hold the stronger and more consistent position (still wrong with respect to reality and how to beat the pandemic — but correct with regards to the core and founding principles of the ideology). Those (non-Marxist) fools of the centre- and left- that attempt to do — debate liberal freedoms — can sometimes even be persuaded to the right-wing line of thought.
It’s shocking to see so many leftwingers lured to the far right by conspiracy theories | George…
t’s an uncomfortable thing to admit, but in the countercultural movements where my sympathies lie, people are dropping…
Because the right-liberals have this surprisingly strong and resilient position, with respect to ideology, the response from neoliberals is engage in the very un-liberal strategy of silencing them from social media. The neoliberals and bourgeoisie wants to repress the anti-vaxxers (again, not because they are secretly correct about COVID being a hoax, as the anti-vaxxers incorrectly interpret, but because they just want to make everyone get fucking vaccinated and get their normal back, along with their profits), but the more it suppresses them, the more validation is granted to the right-wing worldview, especially ideologically (“hey you can’t take away their free speech!”) and the more recalcitrant their position becomes, solidifying their defiance. So facebook and twitter and the news and a million other platforms are now censoring and restricting the opinions of right-wingers with their anti-vaccination conspiracies, ensuring trusted voices with blue-checkmarks rise to the top and the dissenting opinions are suppressed.
A great example of this is Joe Rogan’s experience (hahaha, I’m so witty). A quick review of what happened: Joe Rogan — the guy who once hosted the TV show where people eat cockroaches — who was not vaccinated, and had spoken out with skepticism and doubts regarding vaccines, while going further and further into the right-liberal camp on the issue, eventually contracted COVID-19, and then proceeded to make a social media statement about what medicines he had been taking for the disease, including ivermectin — an anti-parasitic drug, often used in horses and cows. This blew up into a media blitz against Rogan, claiming that he had taken horse dewormer! The media had a field day, pointing and laughing at Rogan, but they omitted the fact that he, had, in fact, taken the ivermectin prescribed for humans. (Obviously this isn’t a cure, and Rogan isn’t some brilliant rogue medical scientist, but the media response is what is interesting here).
We can see the neoliberal strategy in play, to mock and belittle and subdue Rogan by portraying him as an idiot, thus, in theory, leading all of his followers and supporters to realize that he is an idiot — because the media said so — and then, in theory, they will then shut the fuck up and finally get vaccinated. However, while Rogan is not a clever man, he is not quite the imbecile that the media portrayed him as, and this was most evident, above all, to his followers that the media had hoped to persuade and pressure. Rogan retaliated with his own media blitz, pointing out the deceptions used against him, and exposing the machinations of the neoliberal ideological machine. This shows how these two sides of liberalism are not able to engage one another in goodwill — because the neoliberals need to end the pandemic before it collapses their system, but the right-liberals are not as stupid as neoliberals present them to be, and cannot simply be silenced into submission. Indeed, this is a great failing in how neoliberals confront the far-right endpoint — fascism — by pretending that all fascists and racists are just idiots and fools and that if only you yell ‘science’ at them harder and harder they will abandon their racism, discrimination, and bigotry and embrace neoliberal plurality. This has yet to actually work, as it is an attempt to fight fascism with no examination or understanding of power structures, and those on the right, including far-right fascists, while often ignorant, are not inherently idiotic, and capable of being just as cunning and clever as any neoliberal big-brain mouthpieces.
If there is a silver lining to the whole affair, it’s that Rogan has seen this media reaction against him and his actions, and is now casting doubt on larger media narratives, including those about Syria and Russia — two of the primary regime change targets of the neoliberal empire (but don’t count on much here, Rogan mostly just agrees with and aligns with whichever guest he is interviewing, and mostly interviews vile reactionaries). Rogan remains a fairly terrible and often harmful individual, but the larger point that needs to be understood is how the neoliberals are losing hegemony over the right-liberals. This is opportunity for fascists, who will attempt to replace and supplant neoliberal hegemony with their own developing reactionary/fascist counter-hegemony. The right-liberals are building themselves the ideological framework, often using many of the shards and pieces that have been discarded by neoliberalism (such as American exceptionalism, and racist presentations of history). If this is what they are trying to get rid of, then this must be truth!
And it’s here that liberal ideology takes on a life of its own, as it is no longer being (fully or properly) wielded by the bourgeois-proper class that has relied upon liberal ideology for generations, but now something that is being suppressed and fought against. So what you have now are, the claimants to the title of liberalism, the centrist neoliberals (as well as even some left-leaning liberals who had previously parroted Chomsky, saying that ‘freedom of speech’ was the hill that they would die upon), now, instead, in great contradiction, arguing for what is, de facto, suppression of the free speech of the right-wing liberal anti-vaxx movement (with twenty-four paragraph hyperbole about how this isn’t actually suppressing free speech because science or whatever). Marxists understand the need for mass vaccinations and collective action to combat the pandemic, but centrist and left-liberals are totally out of their depth in trying to argue for these things in individualistic terms, and without realizing it, they have set the table and written the playbook for further state/corporate curtailing of rights and liberties and speech — which will likely be used against us socialists sooner rather than later. Socialists (usually) know enough to deplatform fascists, but the methods being used aren’t going to be limited to fascist targets, so this censorship is nothing to cheer on, because it is bourgeois and not proletarian. The rightists are building the ideological base for fascism to take hold, but the neoliberal centrists are building the material mechanisms and apparatuses which a fascist hegemony can (and later will) use, should they come to power in the not-too-distant future.
The Horrifying Rise Of Total Mass Media Blackouts On Inconvenient News Stories
Two different media watchdog outlets, Media Lens and Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), have published articles…
So we now have “official” ideological state apparatus narratives about what constitutes truth, as decided by the literal-sentient-feces that is Mark Zuckerberg (as only one example). Once upon a time this was supposed to be one of the great things about liberalism — the plurality of thought and infinite array of truths to pick and choose from. This, of course was never the case, as communist truths were almost always removed and blocked, in one manner or another, and even still, the infinitely many truths thesis is actually horrible (technically part of the basis for post-modernism, which Marxists reject), but it’s still preferable letting capitalist corporations decide truth and silence the dissenters. Under liberalism, every idea was supposed to be, upon conception, equally valid, and free to compete within the ‘free market of ideas’— after all, it’s all just a wide variety of ‘different strokes for different folks’ — but neoliberals have now given corporations the power to be decisive arbiters of a singular ‘correct truth’ in our society and this is not something that will go away once the pandemic is ended, or even should Trump return to power. Don’t get me wrong, as we are communists, and not among those that die for the principles of freedom of speech (especially for fascists). Suppressing and silencing ignorant ideas is often a good thing, but it matters who is doing it and how and why. Handing the keys of ‘truth’ over to big business is a recipe for disaster. And suppressing anti-vaccination posts might work if the anti-vaccination movement was actually all the result of misinformation and confusion, but this is not the case.
right-Liberals, Ideology, and Descent into Fascism
Coincidently, these conspiracies also provide the grounds upon which the right-liberals have begun moving backwards, themselves, ‘voluntarily’ reducing the ‘freedom sliders,’ with the intent to reduce those of others as well, to reach their desired endpoint. As an example, the libertarians — the most ‘extreme minimax’ take on liberal ideology (okay, second-most to their deranged cousins, the ‘anarcho’-capitalists) — are being abandoned by right-liberals. This is in large part because neoliberalism has gone about as far as it can go with taking liberalism to an extreme endpoint — again see NFTs — libertarians have little further to go to except trying to promote child labour, (which neoliberals are doing anyhow) and the growing recognition that continued ‘non-interference’ will fail to overturn neoliberal hegemony, at least in the short term. Moreover on this, the ‘liberal’ explanation for the mounting crises of capitalism is that government incompetence is spilling over (the taxes are too high, too many regulations, etc. — despite all of these being at an all time low since the Great Depression), and the liberal thinking is that the way things are must be some sort of accident. But as it becomes more clear that there are explicit winners in the crisis (of which they are not among), they (somewhat correctly) realize that things are the way they are not by accident, but with intention — the problem is that intention is (incorrectly, but deliberately) assigned to whatever (((out-group))) to be blamed, instead of the bourgeois ownership classes.
Thus, the tenets of liberalism are slowly being replaced with a proto-fascism, where restrictions on freedom and suppression and repression and interference and violence are actually good now, as long as they can be placed mostly upon the out-groups, and used in defense of white identity and petty bourgeois privilege, all to the scapegoating and bloody detriment of the poor and minorities. This marks the ideological demarcation point, where right-liberals are no longer merely liberals, but now genuinely thinkin’-with-fascism, embracing even the annihilation of their own previous ideological principles. Though most of the Western right-liberals haven’t reached this final conclusion quite yet — many are well on their way there, and those that have already reached a fascist endpoint are constructing the ideological roadway to bring more into the fray. A white supremacist rally is still disgusting enough to draw public ire and outrage (rightfully so!), but disguising it as an “anti-vaccination” protest while carrying most of the same signs and spreading the plenty of the same messages (‘its all a (((globalist))) hoax!’) — that’s a trick neoliberals will fall for.
In their article about the experience published on March 26, Marketplace calls Tenpenny the “self-proclaimed grandmother of the anti-vaccination movement.” She is portrayed as a grifter. The series does some back-of-the-serviette math on how much she likely makes for each session — aided of course by Marketplace’s own fee — and implies that for her, this is cynical profiteering.
There’s certainly some element of that, but far worse than the grift is the fact that anti-vaccine, anti-mask and anti-lockdown movements are, at their core, new mobilizations of white supremacy. When journalists fail to mention this clearly, audiences are left thinking that these movements are simply about a few people profiting off of unthinking sheep. The reality is more sinister. …
Marketplace repeats the same mistakes Canadian journalists have been making since these movements emerged: They allow far-right conspiracy theorists to drive their own message in the hopes that average Canadians will scoff, see the disinformation for what it is and maybe learn more about how to convince their friends and families to think critically.
The problem is that this isn’t how disinformation spreads. Every time a journalist repeats lies about vaccines — even if the lies are followed by an expert saying that they are lies — they are platforming these voices. It’s a victory for the conspiracists. And worse, journalists have failed or refused to talk about what’s really driving these individuals.
Media Has Ignored The Anti-Vax Movement’s White Supremacist Roots
Earlier this year, CBC Marketplace journalists attended a “$623 Mastering Vaccine Info Boot Camp.” The session’s host…
There’s additional, compounding factors to this, of course. Combine a larger societal change (mostly a big-bourgeois response to the George Floyd protests, realizing they need to dial back America’s racism and racist history, or face possible violence or even insurrection from the left, as well as the need to sell to larger markets) as well as increasing unrest from the oppressed working class (growing numbers of strikes, protests, walkouts, rent-strikes, etc.), the people who are supposed to be the docile servants now daring to defy their masters! These changes are mostly hollow and symbolic anyway, but, in neoliberal tradition, the appearance of a thing is the same as the thing itself, so a symbolic gesture is perceived as actual progress to the neoliberals, and a horrific departure from “tradition” for the right-liberals. The change in symbols and imagery only reinforces their notions that some foreign entity has intruded upon their system and ruined it, rather than realizing this is the result of the system itself.
Much like the issue of racism, for centrist-liberals, they conceive that people (specifically many of those right-liberals) hold beliefs which are functionally racist — founded in white supremacy and American exceptionalism — because of a mere misunderstanding and not having enough knowledge on the subject of race or science or history or anthropology or whatever, and that textbooks and education will solve and end the problem. In reality, of course, racism is about power structures, and racism is a power structure in which decreasingly relevant white men can place themselves, reposition themselves, and keep themselves near the top; especially in a world that appears to be running out of musical chairs (in reality, of course, there’s still lots of chairs, its just that a handful of rich people own all of them and wont share). Similarly, where the centrist-liberals see the COVID-19 vaccination opposition as being a misunderstanding, here too, it is more correctly understood as a power structure. This is about their ability to shape the world, controlling the means of production, and avoid being reduced to the same lower statuses of the masses, hence their resistance and defiance. Yes, they are touting all sorts of nonsense pseudo-scientific cures, but this is that ‘alternative’ power structure at work — one in which they do not have to be reduced the bottom. Mandatory vaccine that everyone has to take? “State tyranny!” Drinking bleach and gargling iodine of my own volition? “Freedom!”
Everything they knew to be America (the glorious and terrible racist genocidal slaver torturer nation they worship) is transforming, and therefore it must be transforming against them! In a sense it is, and it would be a good thing if it wasn’t so co-opted and controlled by the neoliberals, and done for the benefit of the bourgeois above all (this is getting into a separate topic for this essay, but the big-bourgeoisie are so big at this point that they need a global market to maximize profits — and a global market means multicultural plurality because they have to sell to just-about-everyone — you can’t make as much money selling to a white Western male audience exclusively); but when the rightists see their own power (the imperial privileges and benefits awarded to the predominantly white male middle classes) curtailed, rolled back, or balanced out with those beneath them (again, largely a result of being taken over and consumed by the financial bourgeoisie, whose power continues to grow and concentrate, and have less and less use for the ‘middlemen’ of capitalism), then this is the end of America that they know. This can’t be American liberalism (which they will call ‘conservatism,’ or ‘patriotism,’ or ‘tradition’ or ‘values’ or whatever other abstraction, especially since they hate the word ‘liberal’) — this cannot be the same ideology, the same liberalism, that made their shriveled dick look and feel huge. No, this is a fake-liberalism, which must therefore be communism, because anything that is not liberalism (the true and good and correct ideology, promoting and protecting ‘real’ capitalism) has to be communism (the false interloper). They aren’t ever going to read Marx and realize they have a piss-poor understanding of communism —so communism just ends up meaning anything they don’t like, since its all a (((globalist))) trick or whatever, anyhow.
This is why vaccines are communism, and masks are communism, and why COVID is a communist conspiracy. While we (actual communists) would love to take credit for all the lives saved by vaccines, and we wish we had this much control over most of the planet, the truth is that vaccines are just a tool to solve the pandemic problem. For neoliberals, it’s just about the only tool, which is why they are struggling so much with the pandemic, because the capitalist system obstructs just about any other pandemic-fighting-tool from being put in play. The states of the world closer to socialism have more options, which is why they succeeded much more than the Western liberal societies, yet this just reinforces the notion that this is a communist plot. And since the neoliberals are the architects of the vaccine policies, for right-liberals, the neoliberals must not be capitalists at all, but rather, they, too, are the communists! Anyone but them is a communist, and their right-liberal faction, still a minority to the neoliberals (but that is changing), must actually be a secret, silent majority, suppressed by the media.
It’s clear to the right-liberals that capitalism isn’t functioning properly, so they wish to reconstitute and restore “true capitalism.” Yet not with a ‘great reset,’ but rather with the regressive notions of the petty- and national- bourgeoisie. They are not large enough to compete with the international financial bourgeoisie (the big bourgeoisie) on a world-scale, but have plenty of power within state or national borders, where they don’t have to embrace multicultural pluralism, instead (somehow in their imaginations) being able to limit themselves to a niche market of predominantly-white-men or whatever. Of course, this will not work, as smaller, local enterprises are neither as efficient, nor as productive as large scale ones, and any successful, growing enterprise will seek out new customers, but this intrusion from reality is not something of consequence to right-liberals. When it fails to work they can just keep blaming minorities.
They cannot even conceive that these problems are a mechanical result of the system of capitalism itself — that the rich club keep getting richer, and the outside poor get poorer, and they are not inside the club. This has to be a plot, the result of sinister outside agents who have infiltrated and despoiled the system. This is how they come to detach themselves from, and eventually hate the neoliberals (who are much more accommodating to these globalization-driven social changes, in part because their material conditions are often still stable, and especially because these changes can be profitable — lots of money to be made appropriating these rising anti-oppression movements and expanding to new, diverse markets). The right-liberals come to hate those who uphold and support the existing system, the one that they realize is no longer working in their interest, and that means the neoliberals. And when they turn on the TV and see the neoliberal news calling them fools for not getting vaccinated, seeing the same thing from one channel to the next, seeing their icons, primarily Donald Trump, belittled and artificially marginalized, this only heightens their resolve to fight the vaccine, and increasingly to ‘fight the system’ (HA!). This is how and why they see themselves as victim of a grand conspiracy (and in a sense they are, though it is far from a communist one; and they are also the group most responsible for worsening and prolonging the pandemic, so don’t feel particularly bad for them), and thus, understand their fight against the vaccine as a fight for freedom. Specifically this is a fight over those liberal “individual freedoms” (their receding imperial privileges).
The interesting and maybe tragic thing about the right-liberals (the ones that are still liberals, not the ones that have fully given into fascist-logic, where you can easily resort to just blaming whatever problem on the Jews/communists/foreigners/globalists/corporatists/out-group, etc), it is that they really are trying to wrestle with an actual philosophical problem here. If liberalism is maximizing individual freedoms, which is always best and always delivers the best societal results, but in order to combat COVID-19 — a disastrous pandemic inflicting massive casualties and complications upon society — requires not maximizing some of those individual freedoms (in the manner ideologically consistent with classical liberalism) — then something must be wrong. Again, they ultimately reach the wrong conclusion here, so there is no pity to be had, deciding that ideology is correct and reality is false, making those fascist explanations blaming the Jews or whatever suddenly that much more appealing — things are not working so it must be their fault.
This allows them to warp their own ideological precepts, but in a decidedly different way from the manner that neoliberals do. Instead of having compromises here and there on the principle of liberalism, for convenience, or pragmatism, or science or whatever; instead the concept to be dropped is the idea of liberalism’s universality (something most liberals already practice with regard to the Global South, so as Fanon once explained, they are just bringin’ the notion home). The rest of liberal ideology can remain, but instead of being an ideology that’s “for everyone,” or even just “Muricans” (or whatever nationality) now it’s explicitly and clearly just for the in-group (usually consisting of mostly Western white men from mostly the middle and upper classes), and it’s not the ideology for any of the other categories of human except theirs (which becomes more exclusive with whatever layer of racism)— those other humans have to get stuck with some other ideology because they refuse to ‘work properly’ with liberalism. This way, liberalism can be the exclusive club once again, where the walls of privilege can be reconstituted, but where they will be able to be on the inside with those that are ‘like them,’ and together fortify their positions against the (((out-groups))). The problems are the outsiders, the foreigners, the conspirators, the ones that are not compatible with liberalism, and because they are incompatible, then its okay to enter into conflict against them to ‘save’ liberalism for themselves. It’s not a good explanation, but it suffices (fascist rhetoric and further conspiracy theories, which grow sharper by the day, can fill in the gaps), in large part because they no background in anti-oppression movements (being mostly Western white men) and have no education or training in philosophy (the most powerful tool for resisting fascism, other than maybe the gun), as neoliberal ideology has all but discarded and dismantled the discipline.
This is why they engage so readily with conspiracy, because it ties all these threads together into a neat little package, and the ever-changing and highly malleable conspiracies make it all fit. Obviously, their explanations for the world, like the conspiracies themselves, are wrong and nonsense, but the issue is that, since the Marxist-left in the West is weak and marginal, bordering on insignificant, the main opposition to all this has to come from the neoliberals. But the neoliberals have no depth of explanations or critical reasoning, and indeed, theirs is the much shallower of the two (both incorrect) liberal worldviews. There are no philosophical weapons in the neoliberal arsenal with which to carry out an ideological battle — in large part because there is no philosophy at all. All the neoliberals can do is yell “science,” call them names, mock them superficially, or point and laugh at the nonsense of the conspiracy theories, but their worldview, too, is hinged upon conspiracy.
centrist-Liberals and their own Conspiracies
However, this centrist-liberal worldview is built upon conspiracy and nonsense just as much as the right-liberals, except they have the benefit of ideological state apparatuses telling them that they are correct and right. This is a worldview where, like the right-liberal ideology capitalism is great and works wonders (except that they defend actually existing capitalism, rather than the idealized conception), but with the occasional compromise or exception, or special case, or other legitimized excuse for a bypass. The conspiracy comes in to explain the things that the excuses cannot. For neoliberals, the largest problems, and the ones we are dealing with today are not inherent problems within the system of capitalism — no, simply the result of a few irresponsible bad actors. But instead of the Jews or minorities or whatever, only this group can instead identify the real enemy threatening freedom and society: Russians posting memes on Twitter. So, they blame Russian bots or Chinese spies — traditional, proper ‘enemies’ — along with Donald Trump and any of his followers — for any and all ongoing systemic failures, as well as these conspiracies even being used to explain the existence of the right-liberal faction, itself, splintering away from their correct, adjustable liberalism that they should have no reason to reject.
In relation to liberal ideology and COVID, the centrist position is like a parental exemption note for a field trip, about why the ‘universal’ principles of liberalism are actually not applicable in this one special case (or many other cases). This is why neoliberals try to frame any debate over COVID vaccines as a debate about science rather than a debate on the principles of liberalism. The problem, as they wish to imagine it, isn’t that America is filled with reactionaries, and is backwards philosophically, and that liberalism is an all-but-dead ideology, and that capitalism is failing the world — no, the problem is just that the anti-vaxxers don’t understand science well enough. That way you can stop thinking and wrestling with conflict here and just copy and paste whatever research paper the Washington Post has highlighted for you to serve as the rest of your argument. You just need to get to the some point where it feels like your arguments intersect with science, and voila, truth (as offered by neoliberal ideology). This ‘fight against anti-vaxxers’ is mostly just a performative lie they tell themselves to feel like they are contributing to a solution to COVID, where no power structures will be challenged and and meaningful material conflict can be averted.
Neoliberals do not want (you especially) to think about the power structures here, or even the ideology, instead disguise it and hide it behind “science!” and “rational apolitical bureaucracy,” as if any political apparatus in history has been apolitical. This is how they (wrongly) understand their conflict with the right-liberals. This cannot be a problem of ideology, because to neoliberals, ideology and principles are essentially meaningless — they don’t actually care about the compromise of principles or the contradictions of liberalism they are engaging with . For them, words and principles are just noises you make with your mouth in order to get what you want, and everyone and everything works like this and anyone that says otherwise is lying to get what they want. Neoliberals have long since “sold out” pawning their souls and principles off for material gain, and operate in the assumption that everyone else in society must be doing the same. This is the hostile, anti-social mentality decades of neoliberalism has produced, but it all doesn’t matter as long as the system and status quo keeps working to your benefit.
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To borrow a label from the philosopher Nancy Fraser (2017), the Biden administration is pursuing "progressive…
They can reassure themselves they are actually speaking truth, again, by wrapping it in the label of science. After all, if the right is anti-science, then therefore we must be the pro-science people. Such is the false preconceptions of Western bourgeois-democracy. The fact that their ideology, too, is filled with anti-scientific notions (dozens of examples listed earlier) and riddled with deep contradictions is all besides the point — the neoliberal worldview does not care about lingering loose threads of reality or unanswered questions — some talking head on television can wash that all away with rhetoric — only that the ignorant masses shut up and go along with whatever business interests (the noble ‘elites’ of society) have prescribed for them. Neoliberals often invoke Keynes here: “when the facts change, I change my mind” (ironic since their ideology was the reaction against Keynes, but maybe not since this quote is merely attributed to Keynes, but was actually said by that shitbag Winston Churchill) to defend their rapid, almost annual complete switches on positions. Someone should just simplify this for the neoliberals, “my position changes as hegemony dictates” most often by whatever is presented to them in the form of the news.
They have no desire to ask or answer philosophical questions — any question that cannot be answered by “science” will be answered by the market — and so they move the entire philosophy folder to the recycle bin and click delete, without opening any documents within. They, the neoliberals, are too clever to fall for such a deceit — and as such have all but dismissed philosophy, unless of course they can find some tenured hack in academia who agrees with them. Just shut up and trust that those that have been identified to be the “elites,” propped up on television (really nothing more than mouthpieces of establishment business interests) actually must know what they are doing, and must be doing what is objectively best for society (all despite growing mountains of evidence to the contrary). If someone brings up a point of dispute, accuse them of anti-science, or being a Russian bot, and then block them on social media. All of the mainstream news outlets agree with me. What’s on Netflix? This is an ideology for those lacking discomfort, philosophical or otherwise.
Neoliberals love to blame Trump for the “post-truth dystopia” we are living in, but in reality, they started it. We can look back to either of the Iraq Wars for solid gold examples. Trump just took up the mantle and carried it farther than they ever expected — their own methodology being turned up to 11 and then used against them. Truth is what the news says it is. Well when Trump is on the news, and he says otherwise, then which is correct? The neoliberal attempt at a solution is to remove Trump from the news (not for noble reasons of communist censorship, but because he is creating a counter-hegemony). Right-liberals have correctly identified a problem here (though incorrect in their analysis), and turned their backs on the mainstream news outlets — the ideology becoming too apparent, and the lies too obvious and overt — they see neoliberal ideology in all its contradiction and error, not because it is in conflict with reality, but because it is in conflict with liberalism (and thus, what they have always understood reality to be, regardless of reality’s position on the matter). They’ve cut themselves off from one of the primary inception points of neoliberal ideology and have even begun developing an immunity.
Remember that the neoliberal system is the same system that brought us the catastrophic 2008 economic crisis, produced the conditions that allowed a President Donald Trump, worsened Global Climate Change and failed to resolve any societal scale problem, among a myriad of other disasters. The crises have been mounting and compounding, while neoliberals fall back on their “legitimized” conspiracies to explain the failings, to the point that virtually every global event that undermines neoliberalism is blamed on Russia or China, even (or rather, especially) Trump. This leads to mass-consumed lies produced by the supposed watchdog organizations of truth, most especially complicit in presenting America to Americans as something other than the evil that they clearly are. Neoliberals will attempt to twist and turn and lie through their teeth in defense of this nonsense (and they must, this is what it is to be a neoliberal), but anyone whose concern is actually truth can quickly recognize what is actually happening here, and the absolute nonsense being upheld as ‘facts,’ as well as the wider aversion to admitting or speaking aloud obvious and blatant truths about the world (like that China combatted COVID-19 effectively, one of the most basic examples that should be said aloud in any discussion of how to resolve COVID-19).
Perhaps one of the most glaring examples of neoliberal contradiction and malleability is from the infamous Lab Leak Theory. This began as a racist Donald Trump notion (promoted by Steve Bannon’s propaganda networks), leading to all sorts of racism towards Asians, and laughed at and dismissed by the neoliberal establishment. But when the neoliberals took back power from Trump, and tension with China rose (in no small part because of the nonsense neoliberal claims of genocide, which they have since rolled back) the Lab Leak theory, previously upheld as nonsense, was re-armed and re-weaponized to be used against China. The Lab Leak Theory, of course, is nonsense, but the interesting thing was watching neoliberals go from pointing and laughing at the stupidity to embracing it wholeheartedly and claiming with certainty it was fact (see Jon Stewart’s descent into insanity above). In fact, it has long since been established that the virus (almost certainly) did not even originate in Wuhan, and, indeed, it very likely did not begin in China at all. Europe had several cases, all long before the Wuhan outbreak. Yet these scientific facts go deliberately ignored, especially by the “science” loving neoliberals and their media apparatus, when they have a political agenda.
This is the real societal problem for the neoliberals; that American democracy and capitalism are actually both sound and intact and working properly, and the media are the noble watchdogs protecting freedom of speech (upheld with words and ignored in deed). No, for them, the real issue is actually disinformation peddled by meddling foreigners (again, with total deliberate ignorance to America being the world leader in election meddling), and that stopping their outside, foreign influence is the key to stopping the return of Donald Trump and his ilk. America good! Whatever is wrong with democracy is their fault. This allows them to preserve their relatively conflict-free bubble, denying or at least distancing ‘real America’ from the actually existing reactionary ideology and genocidal history of America, instead scapegoating distant far-away, non-English speaking ‘bad actors’ for the horrors actually emanating from within their own borders. To this insane ideology, both COVID denial and Trump support are nothing but the products of outsiders ruining America — a horrific lie told to themselves to deny that America is and always has been rotten to the core (a truth that would require enormous ideological reckoning that the neoliberals have no desire to engage with). Neoliberals don’t care about the iron, immutable ‘values’ of freedom — abstract principles to be upheld — in the same way the reactionaries do; they care about freedom in a much more practical sense — “is this getting me what I want? Is that impeding my accumulation? Then I am for this thing and against that thing.” Their ideological dichotomy is actually the simpler of the two.
Thus, the neoliberal worldview, too, hinges on conspiracy and nonsense, except that their conspiracies and nonsense are offered validation and confirmation through neoliberal news and media outlets. They are socially acceptable conspiracy theories. For them, the idea that George Soros and a secret cabal of (((communists))) are secretly creating and perpetuating the COVID hoax is clearly and unambiguously nonsense and vile (correct), but then these same people believe that Vladimir Putin and a secret cabal of twitter users are actually a major determining factor of American elections, and that nearly the whole world world would actually be endorsing and cheering and celebrating Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden if only not for those meddling Russians! As always, this is in great, deliberate blindness to that time that the Democrats and US blatantly rigged the 1996 Russian Election. And you get to tune into Rachel Maddow and John Oliver and any of a thousand other paid mouthpieces playing the same game, and take great comfort in pretending that this is all actually correct and plausible (yes, mmmhmmm, millions of Americans changed their vote because a Russian on twitter tricked them — smile and nod). This, of course, is all done despite it all being obvious nonsense — as garbage as anything QAnon has produced, but with much higher production values.
For the neoliberals, the world is a cacophony of discordant information, filled with landmines placed by those pesky Russians, and all that can be done is to make your best approximation of the preferred truths — whatever the media is telling you is science — and to trust the ‘elites.’ This is why all those ‘compromises’ and ‘exceptions’ within liberal ideology have never been a problem for neoliberals — ideology is smooth and reality is jagged, so it can never map over neatly and perfectly, it will just be ‘close enough’ — those ‘compromises’ are the caulking to fill in the gaps where neoliberals believe their argument has ‘intersected’ with science and that ‘science’ can carry the day the rest of the way — no more political philosophy or debate or discourse. No consideration of power or challenge to power structures. This is something you can sell yourself and feel smart about, especially if you’ve ever taken calculus or graph theory, but this all starts to break down when the jagged ends of reality rip right through the smooth layer of ideology, puncturing it and protruding well beyond its explanatory power. President Trump was one of the first major ruptures, but COVID has produced a great many more.
And this is from where the neoliberal acceptance of this new censorship response comes from — if we can just censor and block out these outside, outlying thoughts (branding these as misinformation, from foreign-state-controlled media always helps to sell acceptance of this censorship) then surely all of America and the world will recognize how wonderful Biden/Clinton/et al. are and the 21st Century of American neoliberal dominance can resume! “America is back!” and “building back better!” Everyone will go an get vaccinated! Any and all information that the neoliberals dislike — especially about America — is merely misinformation, spouted by those same Russian bots! In this way, neoliberalism becomes an impenetrable fortress of the mind — hostile information is rejected with no need for analysis; the mere fact that information is hostile is proof itself it stems from Russian conspiracy, and both the information and the informer can be dismissed, ratioed, and blocked. It’s all solved in this neat little formula, except that, as already stated, reality asserts itself.
The problem for neoliberals and their much more malleable take on liberalism is that their ideology is reality. While at present, theirs is still the dominant hegemonic ideology of most of the world, and that of the existing establishment, which merely seeks to restore and maintain the status quo (unless it can pull off a ‘great reset’ which would be even worse for humanity). The status quo restoration is all well and good (for the establishment, not for humanity) for as long as the establishment remains dominant and successful and functional, but as the establishment continues to fail (against COVID and elsewhere) and continues to break down and more and more problems emerge, and compound, and complicate, and cascade, and more and more intrusions upon existence from that pesky reality barge in, suddenly this ideology, no matter how malleable, becomes unpalatable, because its obvious that is isn’t working and lying incessantly (indeed, this is the problem we see today, where neoliberals are successful metropolitan urbanites remaining borderline oblivious or purposefully ignorant to the sufferings of small town America). As the establishment breaks down, the reactionary ideologies with their conspiracy theories and established enemies and clear, defined excuses — George Soros and the (((globalists))), or whatever (nonsense that they are) — for the existing problems becomes more and more appealing, and even logical. The intervention of communist ideology — that is, truth — is the only alternative , and one that has long been forbidden by liberalism and anti-communism is taken as dogma by Americans.
Right-liberals have to slowly grow and develop into fascists, wrestling with their own contradictions before they inevitably give up, embrace the racism, and decide to just resort to brute force and violence against whatever aspect of reality appears broken to them. But neoliberals are ready-made fascists, blindly following elites without critical thinking or questioning, and their transition will be much more sudden and will see many more of them shift at once. Compared to the far-right drip-feed, it will be a full deluge. They are the less vulgar and more sophisticated faction. The question is whether their transition to a ‘police state’ style fascism will see them merge with the right against a common enemy (that enemy is almost certain to include us communists), or divide against them into conflict (which would probably be a civil war).
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the Rupture Between them
What you are left with is one side that cannot abandon ideology, and as a result, is utterly incapable of resolving the pandemic and whose only actions are to spit-scream ‘freedom!” loudly in the ears of nurses while taking actions that (sometimes deliberately) make the pandemic worse, while trundling themselves into the depths of fascist ideology with all their conspiracy theories. Don’t forget that earlier in the pandemic, these were the folks unironically cheering on notions of “sacrifice grandma” and ‘the strong shall survive’ as a response to the pandemic so that they would not have to see the fucking Pizza Hut buffets shut down. Not only does their ideology abandon reality for conspiracy theories, but it functionally abandons civilization for barbarism. The same hyper-individualistic people who wont so much as put on a mask to stop the spread of a deadly disease because their “freedom” to spit-talk to waiters that made a mistake, and punch and scream at nurses to bring them to tears is more important than the lives of their fellow human beings around them. Don’t think that these notions were the result of some ‘economic anxiety’ or panic in the wake of the pandemic, but rather long held, deep internal beliefs finally having opportunity to be made manifest.
On the other side you have the upholders of the system, the failing status quo, who cannot see (or admit) that this is the very system not only creating, producing, and upholding the very anti-vaccination (and increasingly, nakedly fascist) movement that they oppose; not only responsible the strangulation of the masses of people worldwide being crushed economically by capitalism with the added the pressures of COVID, but most of all that it was their ideology, liberalism, itself, that caused (and continues to cause) the West (and most everyone else) to fail so badly in the fight against COVID, such that it might never go away. They are the ones most blind (sometimes deliberately) to how their continued deference to this system is producing all the waste biproducts and destruction and societal decay around them.
So the rupture is between the system itself, and its own ideology, no longer able to function within the very ideological parameters that it created for itself, as they have become outdated and obsolete in a new era demanding a different (not hyper-individualistic) approach to fight a really existing pandemic (among a hundred other problems of capitalism today). But abandoning the ideology threatens to completely undermine the system, pulling back the curtain and revealing the naked wizard emperor with no clothes, for all to see the shriveled gonads and below-average penis-pumpless dick of the bourgeoisie atop our societal pyramid. They have no intention of allowing this, nor of being removed, and have their feet in both ponds so that whichever faction comes to dominate, their position on top will remain secure. Thus you have a fascist ideology and fascist hegemony forming on the right — the violent last fallback of broken capitalism — but made all the worse with neoliberals constructing all the institutions and apparatuses for a nightmare fascist machine, while still in power from the centre. And all this under the shadow of a worsening pandemic that neither side can resolve.
The neoliberal faction has the upper hand for the moment, as theirs is the hegemony, and the right-liberals are the emergent challenger. But it’s the neoliberals who have built upon shakier ground, and in the long run, the neoliberals will not be able to hold on. As explained, their ideology relies upon the status quo being upheld, and maintained, (or in a last ditch desperate effort, completely rebuilt as neo-feudalism in a ‘great reset’) but reality is the deciding force in this matter, and as reality moves further and further away from what once constituted ‘normal’ in the West, it is the neoliberals who will see their supporters turn away. If it all falls apart or breaks down, are just stops working for them, then nearly all the liberals will be looking for someone to blame, and fascist conspiracies, with years of refinement, will start to look very rich with immediate explanatory power (much more so than the thick, dry theory in Marxism). Now, some will turn to Marxism (we can hope), but many will turn to the right as their conditions, too, worsen.
Despite being in power, the neoliberals clearly have no idea what to do — the vaccines were the last trick up their sleeve against COVID, and their own liberal ideology blew up their master-plan. So we are just supposed to accept that “vaccine = back to normal everyone” and as for the fourth wave and coming fifth, with mounting hospitalizations and growing pile of corpses and dead, we are all just supposed to ignore it and get on with out lives. I’m trying to decide which is the more callous — declaring ‘sacrifice grandma’ and letting her die, or quietly ignoring grandma as she dies of COVID while you gorge yourself on the brunch buffet, pretending that ‘America is back.’ The larger point here is that they (and we) can only hope (desperately) that the pandemic will go away on its own, because liberalism is unable to confront and combat it properly. We have effective demonstrations from multiple countries about what to do, what we can do, and what needs to be done, and we ignore these solutions because it constitutes “socialism” (or something too close for bourgeois comfort). If the pandemic does not go away on its own, liberalism is incapable of curing it.
The right wing faction isn’t any better though. This is the group that is promoting and perpetuating the conspiracies the fascism relies upon. The right-liberals have already begun forming militias (beginning years ago, but rapidly accelerating today), resorting to violence, and ‘taking matters into their own hands’ (something that reignites a wonderful sense of “freedom” where it seemed lost). The January 6 Capitol Riots were merely one of the first times the outbursts had truly infringed upon the neoliberals’ world-bubble. And the neoliberal response hasn’t been to transform or end the conditions giving rise to fascism, but rather to further develop and expand the repressive state apparatuses (defending their fortune is something the bourgeoisie-proper will never spare any expense on) in hopes that somehow all these tools of repression will keep the fascists at bay, without realizing that they are already inside the house (and really, always have been). The police are already filled with white supremacists and the army leans heavily towards the Trump faction as well. This all wont really be a problem for the big-bourgeoisie — save a few named targets — as they, having the most of the wealth and power of the world at their backs, can mostly transfer their flags over to the fascist camp should they come to power (something of a tradition in fascist history). But it’s the proletariat and the masses that will have to suffer this mess.
The growing US military budgets of recent years had been furnished to meet exactly these kinds of fallouts, the harbinger of increased surveillance, repression, forced labor, and raw extraction.
The “global police state” may then be understood as fascism in the 21st century. It would therefore be myopic, foolish even, to limit one’s understanding of its emergence in the United States to white supremacist militias and their ideologies. These armed groups are very much a threat to US-based protesters in the immediate term, as the state has resorted to collusion (now famously exemplified in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin) in order to get around the scraps of law and due process that still exist. This tactic of the US state in that sense resembles the use of death squads around the world, by the US and by other imperialist powers, in a long list of countries including El Salvador, Colombia, and Ireland.
But these militias are the bridge to eroding the rule of law for the technocratic police state. People would do well to remember that the Third Reich got shed its Brownshirts once its power was thoroughly consolidated across industry, society, and the state. The legal changes taking place and the new surveillance measures being implemented in the US and UK are the tip-off. For example, the UK recently passed a law that blatantly ensures that state informants have permission to break the law.
-Patrick Higgins, Lockdown Imperialism
So this is now the great contradiction of liberalism in COVID-19 — you have two opposed forces both converging on fascism from different directions. The anti-vaxxers are taking petty bourgeois individualism and defence of imperial privileges to their extreme (and frequently violent) endpoint, while the big-bourgeoisie and their neoliberal pawns, who currently control the state apparatuses(with many left-liberals, with having no large proletariat movement to fall in with, tail in support) functionally closing down all those supposed freedoms of liberalism with a surveillance state and ballooning police budgets larger than most global militaries’.
This is all the end product of liberal capitalism — this whole mess is one that they created — and the emergent fascism is but the most violent and desperate attempt to restore and maintain the collapsing capitalist system. Both the right-liberals and neoliberals are guilty of creating this and causing this. These are the consequences of liberalism. In the deepest irony of all, it has all been done in the name of freedom, but with no examination of what freedom really is or really means or really entails. Freedom, in our present material condition, would be a freedom from the virus, as well as from capitalism. This rupture, then, between the right-liberals and their centrist neoliberal cousins may be irreparable, although its always possible for them to both come together again against their common enemies — truth and communism.
the Marxist Conception of Freedom
There is a way out, of course. Lenin would always respond to liberal notions of freedom, used in the abstract, with “Freedom for whom, and to do what?” The notion Lenin played with is that freedom is not an abstract concept, nor a set of privileges, but gets used and treated in such a way by liberals who name neither those benefiting (and thus, those that do not get to benefit) from whichever “freedom,” and asks you to make freedom a specific claim — not an abstract thing you have, but something specific that you do in the world. When these important qualifiers are applied to liberal notions of “freedom” (and Marxists in conversation should always apply this method), a very different picture of both the world, and liberal ideology begins to emerge.
The Marxist conception of freedom, in stark contrast to the liberal ones with their promises of “no one tells you what to do,” is rarely satisfying upon first encountering it, but as the understanding of what it means deepens, the appreciation of what it is to be free to a Marxist gets more and more profound. For Marxists, freedom is the recognition and appreciation of necessity. When you recognize and understand why you have to do something, then from that understanding emerges the freedom. This sounds wild to liberals, but it makes perfect sense.
Let us examine this in relation to the problem of the COVID-19 pandemic, still running at large and out of control. Marxists cannot accept the right-wing thesis that reality and civilization is in error and that grandma must be sacrificed — such, as described already, is barbarism. Marxists are required to uphold civilization, and Marxism requires that material reality actually does exist. But Marxists cannot uphold the principles of classical liberalism, with all of its “individual freedoms” that override and suppress others in the name of property, nor can you have principles that are meaningless or arbitrarily revocable, as the neoliberals tacitly maintain, because such an ideology is functionally meaningless and useless. So the ideological solution for Marxists is simple — abandon liberalism altogether.
The principles of Marxism, on their own, are more than capable of upholding the real rights and real freedoms of the individual while also upholding, safeguarding, and expanding the rights (and lives) of the collective — and only at the expense of private property and the bourgeois class — those who do not earn their living from using their labour-power to contribute to society, but rather those who hold the ownership claims, extracting the surplus of the labourers to keep for themselves. This is the system that liberal ideolgoy upholds, and it is at a breaking point. It cannot save us from COVID-19. Liberal ideology has created a society of sociopathy now almost incapable of even maintaining the requisite behaviors of civilization.
Hegel was the first to state correctly the relation between freedom and necessity. To him, freedom is the insight into necessity (die Einsicht in die Notwendigheit).
“Necessity is blind only in so far as it is not understood [begriffen].” (Hegel)
Freedom does not consist in any dreamt-of independence from natural laws, but in the knowledge of these laws, and in the possibility this gives of systematically making them work towards definite ends. This holds good in relation both to the laws of external nature and to those which govern the bodily and mental existence of men themselves — two classes of laws which we can separate from each other at most only in thought but not in reality. Freedom of the will therefore means nothing but the capacity to make decisions with knowledge of the subject. Therefore the freer a man’s judgment is in relation to a definite question, the greater is the necessity with which the content of this judgment will be determined; while the uncertainty, founded on ignorance, which seems to make an arbitrary choice among many different and conflicting possible decisions, shows precisely by this that it is not free, that it is controlled by the very object it should itself control. Freedom therefore consists in the control over ourselves and over external nature, a control founded on knowledge of natural necessity; it is therefore necessarily a product of historical development. The first men who separated themselves from the animal kingdom were in all essentials as unfree as the animals themselves, but each step forward in the field of culture was a step towards freedom. On the threshold of human history stands the discovery that mechanical motion can be transformed into heat: the production of fire by friction; at the close of the development so far gone through stands the discovery that heat can be transformed into mechanical motion: the steam-engine. — And, in spite of the gigantic liberating revolution in the social world which the steam-engine is carrying through, and which is not yet half completed, it is beyond all doubt that the generation of fire by friction has had an even greater effect on the liberation of mankind.
-Frederick Engels, The Anti-Dühring, Chapter XI
And this is how we, Marxists, arrive at and achieve freedom. For everyone on the planet. In the case of COVID-19, freedom for the Marxist means freedom from the virus — which will eventually free us from the measures required to combat it as well. This means understanding the virus, how it works and spreads, understanding the world, and understanding which tools — vaccines, lockdowns, etc — are most useful and most effective for combatting and ending the pandemic, and what measures are needed to ensure that all of humanity can free itself from the virus’ oppression. We would then recognize and understand the necessity involved of getting vaccinations and wearing masks in protecting one another and locking down until the pandemic is over, and other measures for stopping the spread of the virus, and through these large scale, collective actions we can finally be free. Of course, this level of societal mobilization isn’t going to occur in anything short of fully achieved communist society, so the proletariat-state would be forced to take the role of prescribing and enforcing these measures in the interim of socialism. It wont make right-liberals any happier, but it will save and protect the freedom of hundreds of thousands of not-dead grandmas.
Freedom for the liberal means ignoring the oppression of the virus, and pretending that it isn’t there, or that nothing else can be done because prioritizing business profits and political agendas ahead of human welfare — the demand of the bourgeoisie to the detriment of all humanity — is the only way that the world can be. Liberal freedom is a pretend freedom. While Western states — and especially America — are struggling to recognize this, the much of rest of the world is coming around:
Many of them are deeply aware of how Western ideologies advocating liberalism have lost their charm and hegemony after failing to deal with the pandemic and economic recovery.
-Marxism resurges among young Chinese after CPC’s centenary proves a success
But for Marxists, there is a singular truth of history, and information stemming from history is either correct about material existence, or incorrect in one way or another (which can be quantified and identified with sufficient information). Truth is not inalienable for the Marxists, but we can see entire nations to which truth is alien, and any notions stemming from Marx are treated with the utmost distrust and hostility. We live in this reality, and our ‘ideology’ is, in our analysis, the best and more correct interpretation of it. The closest we’ve gotten to truth. This vast construct; one that, with sufficient information, correctly and accurately corresponds to the material as it exists, is not merely something that is static or unchanging, but something we can use upon the world. We can exercise our wills upon the material to transform it. Thus, for Marxists, the truth is discernable and discoverable — consistent and interconnected, and the world is something we can collectively change by understanding it and taking action based on proper understanding. This is how we can free ourselves from COVID-19, and this is how we can free ourselves from capitalism. Reality asserts itself, and only Marxism can allow us to meet reality head on. Indeed, capitalism is the disease, and communism is the cure, and it might be the only thing that can save us from COVID-19.