Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Lockdown Critique from the Left

By Pella Libertas

A specter is haunting civilization. The specter of Covid 19. For a year the world as we knew it has been plunged into a state of economic shock. By the recommendations of unelected Health Experts, Epidemiologists, the CDC, and the World Health Organization, social gatherings — both commercial and non commercial — have been for the most part, legally rendered into a state of nonexistence. Human migration, interconnectivity, and recreation has been reduced to being “virtual” as opposed to actual. The only gatherings that do occur are reserved for grocery stores, retail stores, and healthcare. The COVID 19 pandemic has ravaged and battered the state of humanity into a state of mass neurosis, mass paranoia, mass despair, and mass isolation. So far the answer provided by western governments to these recommendations and to this most wretched present state of affairs — at least concerning the United States where the pandemic imposes itself with the greatest ferocity with over 300,000 dead so far — has been an answer of brute austerity and cutthroat disaster capitalism.
As the corporate owned and mostly liberal mainstream media lucratively (regarding ad-revenue) inundates a shell shocked American population with news stories 24/7 regarding “virus cases”, “over filled hospitals”, “morgue trucks”, and never ending depictions of an obstinate segment of the population (Typically Trump Supporters) refusing to follow mask mandates — there exists a hideous underbelly beneath the tragedies and controversies regarding Covid 19 currently dominating the spotlight: the long term psychological and economic toll that lockdown measures are levying on the decimated proletariat in the name of public safety.

In what has been often proclaimed as “the greatest country on earth” in the year 2020 while there have been 13M cases and 300,000+ deaths that have been attributed to Covid 19, four in ten Americans overall find themselves food insecure, or to put it more bluntly, starving. It doesn’t end there! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 160M Americans make up the civilian labor force in a nation of 330M. 43% of working Americans have reported that their wages have been cut and or their jobs have been lost outright due to the Covid outbreak, with 6 in 10 of that 43% being Hispanic. 40M Americans have filed for unemployment benefits, and/or have had to sell their labor to low wage non-union but “essential” retailers and gig work. Over 160,000 small businesses have been permanently shuttered so far. 20M Americans face eviction in 2021 potentially adding substantially to the number of 3.5M counted Americans who already sleep in shelters, and all in the while mental health experts prognosticate a grim toll of “deaths due to despair” (suicide and overdoses) ranging somewhere between 75,000-150,000 by the time the pandemic has reached its medical ending. This is the “sacrifice” that working Americans have to pay to protect the health of the mostly socially liberal American professional managerial class and the mostly conservative American bourgeoisie who have profited ABSURDLY from these “sacrifices” which quietly transforms itself into an economic crisis of biblical proportions.
Since the Covid Era was ushered in with all of its sheer economic brutality, billionaires have profited enormously. According to USA Today (Just to name some obscenities) in 2020 alone: Jeff Bezos made $90B putting his net worth at $203B. Elon Musk made $68.2B putting his net worth at $92B. Mark Zuckerbeg made $46B putting his net worth at $101B. The Walton Family has made $39B putting their collective net worth at $210B. Bill Gates has made $20B putting his net worth at $98B. All who make their net worth off of multinational free trade deals, low wage (non-unionized) labor at home and abroad, and who use various legal loopholes to skate around paying their fair share in taxation to the public commons which they siphon wealth from every single day, and who use local-state and federal laws to get around paying their workers a living wage. The worst part of it all however, is that because their big-industries are deemed as “essential” (especially in the case of Amazon & Walmart) being related to retail and technology, they have used state government Covid mitigation policies drawn up by the good intentions of health experts to mitigate viral spread — as a form of “economic protectionism” and therefore are making themselves the de-facto beneficiaries of wealth redistribution from the pro-lockdown capitalist professional managerial class (wanting social liberalism but low to moderate taxation) and the primary exploiters of the American proletariat who are being rendered into a state of social isolation and serfdom as their public institutions and social safety nets crumble.
The response by the United States Federal Government to the economic crisis underlying the COVID pandemic has been paltry at best, insulting at worst. In late March 2020 the US Federal Government passed the $2.2T Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES ACT) with $300B allocated toward one time $1,200 cash payments for all Americans, $260B funneled into antiquated means testing state unemployment programs ($600 UI benefit, which expired in late July) $350B — later raised to $669B — for the Paycheck Protection Program allocated toward small business, $500B to large corporations and $339B allocated to various state and local governments.
On paper this may not seem “paltry” however only $300B went DIRECTLY to the American people in the form of pecuniary assistance. A one time $1,200 check to last for a year to sustain a working populous who have mostly had their wages substantially reduced and or were thrown out of work indefinitely! But Americans out of work could also collect unemployment insurance right? Yes, but only certain unemployed Americans could qualify for such benefits if they lose work through no fault of their own and worked enough hours to pay into the system, not all of the unemployed qualify for unemployment! The $339B allocated to various state governments will wind up in the hands of big business who were collectively given a $500B bailout. The PPP loans were also another means tested method allocated by states for small business owners to apply for, if they met the criteria to qualify for such and apparently they didn’t do enough to save 160,000 small businesses from going under! Talks of second stimulus are just that…”talks”. Republicans still embrace the trickle down austerity model championed by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics, Democrats embrace slightly less austerity with the same “free market principles”. Americans were met with the iron first of austerity when they needed a comprehensive $2T aid package that went directly into their hands with no strings attached. Instead the treasury facilitated a transfer of public monies into private hands that was even larger than the TARP program passed in 2008 — and that is not even counting the semi-privately owned Federal Reserve system which acts a de-facto interest free, no limit, credit card disguised as a central bank in the service of that same financial sector and big business which gets bailed out with public monies from the treasury! Where is the mass public outrage directed at this most blatant and disgusting gesture of class warfare being waged on the public during a pandemic?
During a year of anti-police brutality, Black Lives Matter backed uprisings producing conflagrations in Minneapolis, Kenosha, Seattle, and Portland; a year which also produced a referendum election that forced the incumbent president Republican-populist Donald Trump out of office, solely based on his mishandling of the Covid 19 pandemic — public outrage is definitely not in short supply. However public outrage is Balkanized and segmented. Contrary to the mainstream American liberal-leftist narrative with animus placed directly upon racial injustice, immigration justice, dismantling white supremacy, sexual inequality, environmental justice, and other various intersectional struggles — the wholesale concept of class struggle (proletariat vs bourgeoisie) which has been the traditional bread and butter of the left, has been pushed to the back burner.
The anti-corporate narrative, instead, has been dominated by the reactionary American right wing who as of late have been equating corporatism and economic neoliberalism with a socialist “New World Order” conspiracy. This narrative is also fueling the anti-lockdown movement, with the belief that the globalists are fabricating Covid 19 as a means to implement a coup on the sovereignty of the American people. And it is here where we find ourselves at a most interesting scenario: Grassroots American Conservatives, motivated by the racist dog whistles of “limited government” are rejecting the “Washington Consensus” of economic liberalization (global capitalism) and privatization ushered in by the Reagan Administration and further facilitated a long by subsequent Democratic administrations by labeling it as “socialism”; while mainstream American Liberals wholly embrace the concept of economic globalization so long as the philosophy presents a socially progressive front that promotes racial and sexual inclusivity and a commitment to challenge climate change.
The Anti-Lockdown protests conducted by the American right, which take on an anti-establishment, anti-corporate, and outlandish anti-science flavor are met with outright anger and dismissal by the mainstream liberal-left dominated by the influence, of not the proletariat, but the MSNBC viewing professional managerial class, who continue to show a lack of urgency regarding the economic and social damages imposed by Covid mitigation measures and downplay the overall magnitude of disaster capitalism that is being levied on the working class; with an over emphasis on what the pandemic is doing on the surface as it is relevant to the mainstream, in terms of covid cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and the level of overall mask compliance but with little to no focus on the catastrophic economic and social collateral damage that is bubbling beneath the surface.
Underneath the outlandish QAnon internet conspiracy theories of anti-semitic Satanic pedophile sex cults making up the “Deep State”, anti-corporate rhetoric, and anti-vaccination rhetoric, is a very real anxiety of economic marginalization that is not being vocalized by this segment of the population due to their lack of a proper understanding of social conflict theory promulgated by Marx and Engles due to generations of Cold War era anti-socialist rhetoric. It would be the best interest for astute American organizers not to automatically react in unison with American liberals to the outlandish nature of the Anti-Lockdown protests or outright denialism of Covid — but to instead take direction from the organizers of the India based Farmers Movement — and develop strategies around organizing and channeling the economic anxiety underpinning these protests and convert the anti-lockdown and anti-corporate sentiment expressed by American “traditionalists” into a broader movement that directly challenges neoliberalism, privatization, police militarization, and the systematic austerity that comes with such.
While we must acknowledge that COVID 19 is not a hoax and all do our part in doing whatever we can in stopping the spread of COVID 19 — at the same time — we must not let the pandemic alone divert our attention from the very real class war that the neoliberal bourgeoisie are waging on the proletariat and lumpenproletariat while they are making “sacrifices” to protect the health of the professional managerial class who are the main customers of the bourgeoisie. We must take advantage of the anti-neoliberal, and anti-corporate sentiment currently expressed by the grassroots American right and crush the conspiracy theorist garbage and racial propaganda collectively polluting the minds of a people who despite having no sense of class or intersectional struggle, know that “something is wrong with the system” and redirect that animus toward providing a direct challenge to neoliberalism and global capitalism. Finally, we must wage a unified class struggle both politically and on the streets against the government for their outright bipartisan refusal to provide adequate aid to the American people in their most dire time of need since the Great Depression. Do not let the Biden partisanship or the Trump partisanship distract us or lead us astray from the bigger picture: The class war is real, and the class war is right now. This is not drill. We are STILL the 99%, and despite our differences, we need to organize and stand together if we are to find our selves in a post-pandemic world that works for everyone!

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