Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

‘There’s a pandemic!’ Covid mandates, restrictions and the left

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Guest post by Des Derwin

We can all agree that a raft of things are required that the system is reluctant to give and that we must campaign for: vaccine justice towards the global south, wage support for closed jobs, real ventilation in workplaces, an end to deforestation and desertification and intensive farming leading to zoonotic crossovers, provision of personal protective equipment, decent health services, etc., etc.

I’m bending the stick and splitting from what seems a widely held miscalculation on the international left about immediately responding to this massively lethal pandemic.

I support mandatory and legally enforceable public health measures and restrictions when necessary, just like I support workplace safety legislation.

No more dithering about personal freedoms, human rights, state powers, bodily integrity, rights to gather, and discrimination against spreaders of disease. 

The logic of this super libertarianism is that we oppose for example the requirement for face coverings on public transport. Even though bus unions have asked for reductions in passenger numbers and bus workers enforce mask wearing? 

Of course the state and the police might enforce new powers discriminately. They always do. It is up to us to expose and oppose that. Because most fines for lockdown breaches were imposed in Ballyfermot or similar areas is an argument for fair and universal enforcement not for shopping without a mask or holding house parties.

The effect of this anxious and contrarian libertarianism is to give oxygen to the anti-lockdowners and anti-vaxxers and their far right Svengalis. (‘We understand your concerns and respect your aggressively demanded “rights” and freedom to hold super-spreader rallies’.)

Should everyone have the ‘right’ to go to crowded pubs and nightclubs because the ‘hospitality industry’ demands that it begins to make profits again? Which class has pushed the great ‘opening up’ and brought on the Fourth Wave? 

Excluding the voluntarily unvaccinated from certain places and services is NOT forcibly vaccinating anybody!! 

Some have compared support for restrictions, rather than sharpening the crisis for capitalism by getting behind the movement against restrictions, to the opportunism of some socialists in 1914 who maintained a revolution wasn’t on so it was better to push for peace or even national defense. Well, what we have now isn’t a revolutionary situation, or anything near it, and is a plague. Letting the virus rip (the Tory-Trump position actually), or vacillating about it because of commercial or popular pressure, is more like the opportunism of the Great War era. The true World War 1 analogy, where system change is seen to be out of reach, is not socialism v. pacifism, and certainly not socialism v. defencism, it is socialism v. hoarding, speculation and blackmarketeering.  

I don’t understand the opposition of Sinn Fein and Solidarity-People Before Profit to legislation extending public health restrictions. Perhaps there are details I’m unaware of. Outrage on the British revolutionary left against the new restrictions, and praise for Jeremy Corbyn for opposing them against Starmer’s line, seems to be the order of the day. Some say the priority should be to defeat the restrictions and get Boris Johnson out, that not to take the opportunity to topple him is opportunism, together with arguments about socialists not sacking NHS workers.

Well, actually: 

“The Soviet government realized this, and Council of People’s Commissars …[… Sovnarkom…]) issued a decree instating compulsory smallpox vaccination of the entire population on April 10, 1919….This decree was reissued in 1924, with the addendum of required vaccination of newborns …”

Des Derwin’s Article also appears here, on the site Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières (ESSF) :

CoVid and Vaxx – by Neil Faulkner

Twenty-two Labour MPs have just voted with the Tory Right against mandatory Covid vaccination for NHS staff. They reflect the anti-vaxx position of some unions. They have support from some others on the Left. But they are wrong. Here’s why.

The anti-vaxx movement is rooted in far-right conspiracy theory. It is supported by many on the Authoritarian Right, like the 61 Tory MPs who also voted against mandatory vaccination. The Tory Right argues the case on the basis of individual liberties. Some especially moronic Tories have likened current pandemic precautions to events in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Gulags. 

The anti-vaxx movement is a bridge to fascism. It is fuelled by a torrent of internet bullshit, and is part of a global wave of irrationalism that is facilitating the rise of the Authoritarian Right and, under its umbrella, harder forms of fascism.

More broadly, neoliberalism has created a socially fragmented world of atomised, alienated, anomic people, and, with its relentless emphasis on competition, materialism, and personal advancement, has fostered an epidemic of extreme narcissistic individualism. An ideology of right-wing selfishness – ‘libertarianism’ – of which anti-vaxx sentiment is one expression – has grown in this seed-bed.

The Left should make no concessions of any kind to this reactionary rubbish. We are a society, we are dependent on each other, and we have obligations of care towards one another.

A duty of care

We are not entitled to endanger the lives of others by speeding or shooting the lights, to sexually abuse women or children or anyone else, or to physically assault people because of their ethnicity or religion. Laws against these things are not reflections of a ‘repressive state’ or ‘capitalist interests’, they are not violations of ‘individual freedom’ or ‘civil liberties’ – they are the universal protections of a civilised society. 

Nor, in the socialist movement, do we recognise a right to refuse to join a trade union in a fully unionised workplace or to cross a picket-line during a strike. Both of these may involve sacrifice (payment of union dues or loss of income). But they are nonetheless, as far as we are concerned, binding moral obligations. We describe those who violate them as ‘scabs’. 

By the same token, in a pandemic, in the face of a highly contagious and deadly disease, we do not have a right to refuse to be vaccinated and to go around infecting others. We have a duty of care to ourselves (to avoid becoming hospitalised and an additional burden on the NHS), and to others – our families, friends, colleagues, and strangers we meet as we go about our daily business. 

The Covid infection rate in Britain has just broken all previous records. That is thanks to the irresponsibility, incompetence, and corruption of the Tory regime. It is thanks to Johnson’s greenlighting of virus-spreading behaviour. And it is thanks to the fascists behind the anti-vaxx conspiracy theories that have conned millions of people. But that does not absolve us – not any of us – of responsibility towards others. It does not entitle us to behave like Tories. 

Those in close contact with others, especially vulnerable others, have a particular responsibility. I have been exceptionally dependent on the NHS over the last six months for medical treatment for a life-threatening condition. I am currently immuno-compromised and therefore vulnerable, shielding, and housebound. I would expect everyone coming into contact with me when I visit hospital to be vaccinated. I would be shocked to learn that any had not been. 

There are millions of us: people for whom Covid is a potential killer. That means every one of us has a social obligation to maximise the protection we can give to others. Vaccination is not a matter of personal choice. Socialists (and trade unionists) who make concessions to right-wing conspiracy theory and libertarian ideology are wrong.

The above article appeared first in the British Blog Anti-Capitalist Resistance. Link here :

See also : A Fascist Wedge – the Anti-Vaxx Movement. Link Here :

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