26 Jan

Coronavirus, solidarity and anarchist struggle

In this time of crisis we find it important to position ourselves as collective in the debates around fight against Coronavirus as well as criticize the state measures that we find repressive and harming to society. But from the very beginning – we are not going to talk about conspiracy theories. We do know that COVID-19 is real, it poses danger not only to individuals but to society as well. After 2 years of the pandemic, there are only few people on this planet who didn’t get in touch with coronavirus: whether through relatives/friends/colleagues who were infected or many got it themselves. With Coronavirus killing at least 5.5 million people, we can skip the debates if it is more dangerous than flu.

Vaccination

Roll out of vaccination have failed to stop the spread of coronavirus. This happened primarily because of vaccine nationalism and capitalism. Both showed that solidarity is at the end of the day just a commonly used phrase when it comes to profits.

So-called vaccine nationalism was appearing in debates around Corona in liberal circles quite often. Hording of vaccines in economically strong countries created a situation in which less economically developed places ended up without vaccines at all. This taking care of the first world policy was completely ignoring the calls of scientists as well as the rest of the world to show solidarity and start vaccination everywhere instead of pushing booster programs. Yet it doesn’t need to be mentioned that the pandemic is global, so it will only end if the response to it is global.

Capitalism on the other side is just a fucking nightmare to fight crisis. Humankind is learning this hard lesson again and again, but seems like without a long-lasting memory. It is due to capitalist idea of patents and intellectual property, we are incapable of sharing the knowledge of vaccine against coronavirus with other countries. Some capitalist enthusiasts believed that the market will solve the problems by itself. But it did not. What a surprise…

The higher bidder gets everything, and the poor just die. Capitalism is literary killing people with economical hardships in the global south. There is no excuse to such economic system. It is not that capitalism was not killing people before, but the current crisis is so far the biggest concentration of people dying because of intellectual property rights.

Both of those problems contributed massively to the appearance of new mutants of the original coronavirus.

Covid World Vaccination Tracker

A lot of collective efforts were done by the people to actually get vaccinated. Starting from getting a jab by themselves with a lot of unknowns at the beginning of the roll-out (remember the story with AstraZeneca). Many had to go through hard reaction caused by the vaccine, with literal physical pain involved in the process. Some got involved in information campaign to promote vaccination in the society.

Hell, a lot of people agreed to limitation of their freedoms in name of the vaccination. After all obligatory vaccination in restaurants or social spaces had little to do with preventing virus at the spot and was mainly introduced to push people into vaccination. The regulations on vaccination certificate made some people believe that they are invincible to the virus and can do whatever they want. So the person with 2 jabs visiting 3-4 bars in the evening on the weekend at the end of the day from the perspective of the state is less of a problem than a non-vaccinated but tested person.

Now, let’s make it clear. Vaccination did help to mitigate the hit of the virus on the population, with fewer people dying and less stress on the medical personnel. But with Omicron we are pretty much back in 2020 in terms of actually containing and stopping the virus. Vaccination can not be an alternative to testing of the people. Booster shot is not going to prevent spread of Omicron variant, and we already know that, but everybody is still acting as if everything is going according to the plan.

In light of Omicron, further push into obligatory vaccination is questionable not only from the perspective of freedoms, but in its effectiveness. Current vaccines are developed for different variants. They do protect you from severe problems from Omicron as well. However, current regulations that allow boosted people all around places without any testing again create a situation where people believe that they can do whatever they want without any consequences. This creates a cluster of people who are going to spread the virus without any symptoms. Add to that the fact that many test kits are garbage in identifying coronavirus, and you are set up for explosion of the virus in the next months.

As for current situation of vaccine mandates in Austria and partly introduced mandates in Germany – we see those attempt quite critical from the social perspective. There have been a lot of protests on that issues around various countries. Many supported and instrumentalized by right-wing players, but as well supported by general non-political population. Liberal public seems to be fine with mandates.

For us, obligatory vaccinations bring a question of how the society is working in general. Is it ok for the state to enforce certain regulations on the people despite public disagreement? As anarchists, we perfectly know that this is how the state is working. It is constantly applying rules on the people, even when we disagree with them. It is not about the rule of the majority, rather the rule of those who have power. But what is dangerous is the readiness of liberal part of the society to start using punishment against those asking questions. We do believe that people should go and get vaccinated if they want, but instead of being forced to do that, we should convince people to get vaccinated. And not present it as the ultimate solution to the problem, rather as one of the many steps in our struggles against Coronavirus.

What we managed to learn in these 2 years is that there is no single solution to the epidemic. There should be multiple actions taken to actually fight it back. And we should really ask if it is morally acceptable that pharmaceutical companies are making money on the crisis that killed millions of people, is undermining basic freedoms that were won by generations before us, and in general threatens to move us further in the direction of authoritarianism. A big part of the solution to the crisis is about the moral side of what actions should be taken. And unless we actually fight back greed and capitalist madness, there is no future for freedom. Vaccines should be made available to every person on this planet without any profits!

And here we should remember that development of mRNA vaccines was a long process, funded heavily by the public. And we are talking not about 2020 or 2019, we are talking about last 30 years of researches around mRNA. Just to refresh you on that. It is mRNA technology used in the most popular and effective vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna today. United States Department of Health actually owns part of Moderna patent due to financing of the researches around the vaccine[1]. According to reports, at least 28 % of financing for development of Pfizer vaccine against COVID came from German state[2] as well.

Why is it important? Because a lot of market enthusiasts would try to convince you that their mega profits on the crisis are the result of investments and hard work. We can call that bullshit in the first place. And if some researchers did get well paid for their work, in most of the cases the whole way to mRNA vaccine was done through efforts of big scientific community funded by the society and not by couple of people from private entities.

And let’s not forget the way the modern health system went in the last decades. Yes, we celebrate the fast development of vaccine, but in many western countries attempts to optimize health care led to its slow decline for everyone. The reason why the poor keep on dying, but the rich and powerful are fine even after getting Coronavirus is because although “equal” we are still treated differently and have access to completely different resources.

State and government

The first lockdown in Germany provoked a lot of conversations on personal freedoms and attack on public organizing by the state. Ironically, first lockdown had the smallest amount of Coronavirus cases in the country. It is still debatable how effective certain measures were, or how much police repressions actually helped to fight COVID, but the economical result of such hard measures impressed politicians so hard, that we haven’t seen anything like that since then.

In the last two years since the first wave, we’ve seen politicians doing their best to keep the whole economy working. This included a lot of jobs that you can easily call bullshit jobs[3]. The measures to fight Coronavirus were mostly introduced around private life of people. Consumption and free time was limited to different vaccination statuses. Amount of repressions that followed violation of those regulations dropped in comparison to 2020, but in general stays quite high. With the latest 2G+ rules (which in Germany means that you are either vaccinated/recovered + rapid tested), government from one side gave possibility for restaurants/bars to open, but at the same time using the regulations to repress the small business for not following the rules. We’ve already spoken about how unreasonable those regulations are.

However, in last 2 years public has almost no possibility to participate in the debates on how Coronavirus is handled, apart from voting process. Demonstrations in many parts of the country were limited or banned for quite a big part of 2020 and 2021. Punishment for breaking rules of demonstration can be quite severe, so people avoid escalation on that front. Open public gathering is the basis for at least liberal democracy, which seems to be of little interest to those who are in power in German state currently. With the development of the crisis, politicians found themselves in the sit of “experts” who know how to deal with it. Through these years we have seen that there is very little understanding on how the things are working as well as a lot of attempts to use crisis for political campaigns.

And it would be weird to expect other result. Politicians are working to keep their power and the power of their political parties. They are not going to do things that can potentially undermine their authority. This is a dangerous trap, as the more politicians believe right now in their own expertise, the more power they take away from society in their own hands. This is the inevitable development of the big brother. The latest discussions about vaccine mandate are just showing how much politicians see themselves above normal people. Instead of explaining the unvaccinated, the state believes that it is time to enforce the rules. The fact that most of the population is vaccinated is making this top-down decision a bit less risky, as those who are vaccinated are highly unlikely to be protesting at this point of epidemic.

In general, it is quite obvious that the state is consolidating its powers in an attempt to stop the virus. This includes repressions and more control of the population that as we know from history will be used for even further power consolidation. The power of the streets is dropping rapidly, and with it the possibility of the people to put pressure on important questions in the pandemic. Currently, it is hard to imagine a big popular movement that would force German government and private business to lift copyright on vaccines. Taking in account that business oriented FDP is in the ruling coalition, it is somewhere on the edge of impossible.

It is clear that the state as institution is incapable of dealing with global crisis. In light of escalation of climate crisis, we have to act swift and fight for collective solutions beyond national state. The virus is not stopped at the border checkpoints, nor it needs passport or visa to travel. The fight against coronavirus is not a question of the isolated countries, it is a struggle of humankind and as many other struggles it involves fight with certain people, state and companies that will be ok to make the whole world die if they can make some profits and maintain their power.

The left and virus

The response of anarchist movement as well as general leftist circles to Coronavirus was moderate, if we can say that. Push towards questions of economical and social justice was very limited and in general activists as well as supporters of anti-authoritarian politics were following and defending the rules of the state on public events unlike the right-wing part of the society. Which left the streets pretty much to the right wing groups such as Querdenker and other that are eager to spread a mix of conservatives ideas with conspiracy theories.

Antikapitalistische Kampagne Nicht auf unseren Schultern in Dresden

Anarchists and anti-authoritarian left was quite busy in German-speaking territories with a lot of social conflicts: economical struggles, social justice, ecology, international solidarity, antifascism and many many many other topics. In March-Mai 2020 we were confronted with new reality of strict measures, controls and police repressions. In that time, some groups started reacting to the “crisis management” of the state with local actions, also reaching bigger parts of society with their ideas and pushing the resistance against authoritarian measures, limitation of basic rights and repressions. However, this did not last long and by the end of the first wave, we all moved to our lives with hope of returning to normality.

So summer 2020 passed, and the anarchists returned to their struggle, pretty much ignoring the worsening situation. There were some small attempts to push the topic that didn’t get any proper response from political activists. Despite trying to address the problems that are important for the society in general, we failed to put a pause on ongoing struggles and actually start working on the topic that is going to shape the way the world looks for coming decade.

One of the reasons for that – anarchists became too slow to react to the real world events. We have seen that already happening in 2008 with economic crisis. The state seems to be more capable of reacting to such situation than street activists, who through generations were the ones addressing the issues at the spot. There was a hope that this will be the case in 2020 when solidarity networks started popping up in different parts of the country, but this was quite often symbolic and soon abandoned by the activists.

Long-lasting projects and organizing are essential to keep the conquered spaces in our cities and towns. But there are certain projects and struggles that might be of lower priority in the time of crisis. And we should be ready to make a step back in those struggles to prevent the march of the state on our rights and possibilities. It is not up to this text to specify the importance of the struggle in your region – this should be discussed in your groups. But it is clear that we won’t be able to address the crisis if we do not free some time and energy for organizing.

The problems of understanding how to deal with the crisis is visible in the current actions of the leftists in different part of the country. Mostly antifascists and liberal left are participating in blockades of protests against forced vaccination. Many fail to specify who are those people participating in those collective actions. By some, those groups are clearly defined as Nazis, but we see it problematic to basically brand a huge group without clear political affiliation as a Nazi. Part of conspiracy theory groups are joining those demos, as well as some vaccine skeptics. Nazis are also there on the streets of Germany and Austria. However, how much of this situation is actually forcing us to go into “blockades” mode?

Transparent bei der Gegenkundgebung in Wien

We are not arguing that those demonstrations are close to our political ideas (though some people in them can be closer to anti-authoritarian ideas than to fascism), however it is really important to understand the thing before building up position to it. Sometimes anarchists and left are good in it, but sometimes we are awful in that.

And of course the question is how much energy should be given to those people and how much energy should be given to the actual problems that we are facing. Is blocking a couple of hundreds of people more critical for our political movement than developing our own approach and perspective towards the crisis? This is a question to be answered, but take for example Querdenker. We do believe that there are bigger issues around Coronavirus response than this relatively marginal movement, even when the German state is trying to present them as the biggest threat to our freedoms.

Solutions/Conclusions?

We’re pretty sure that everybody would like to have some easy solution to the current situation. Just do A and you will get B, and we will be all in the better world. However, there is no such an easy formula for complicated issues. And that’s why solutions shouldn’t be delegated to the politicians or business. Dealing with COVID is a public interest and as we see should be addressed by the public. We do not believe that the state is protecting our health, nor the health of the people around us when we are banned from organizing rallies, demonstrations and other public political events. We do not believe that protection of intellectual property is in the interest of the general population, nor in the interest of humankind at all. Not only that, but we do not believe that there is a single pill that you can take and everything will be fine. We do not believe that market, capitalism and state are capable of dealing with current problems as it’s all corrupted and has little to do with the real world.

We do believe that as political activists, agitators, educators, organizers we are supposed to weight the risks of the current public organizing and decide how much freedom we should sacrifice in the name of health. Likewise, we do believe that there is no safe space from COVID right now as even outside our political groups we are still working/studying and there we risk to get sick as well. Isolation is not going to work unless capitalism stops, so we should give up on social isolation in political organizing and remove all this smoke and mirrors about how good the current attempts to fight virus are.

We shouldn’t be afraid to talk in our communities about the virus and our response to it. Nor, we shouldn’t be afraid of people who might have false information. They are not our enemies unless they are organized in some dodgy collective or part of the far-right effort to instrumentalize the crisis. Convince people to join the struggle against patents in the same way you are agitating people about climate change or social justice issues.

We should get back to the struggle and should get dedicated to the issue of the coronavirus. What is happening right now is hard and complicated, but it is really only a fraction of the problems that humankind will face in this century. We have to be able to react to those issues and develop our political theories not based on fear and state argumentation but based on what is really happening. After all, right now the struggle is actually about our survival and about our freedom.

For the world without coronavirus, capitalism and state
Anarchist Black Cross Dresden.

[1] – Published in July 2021 research “US Taxpayers Heavily Funded the Discovery of COVID‐19 Vaccines” on the website of National Institutes of Health of US is looking deeper into details of who paid for the current profits of the private companies – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8426978/
[2] – https://fortune.com/2020/11/09/pfizer-vaccine-funding-warp-speed-germany/
[3] – https://www.strike.coop/bullshit-jobs/

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