Had you been catching forty winks under a rock sometime early in 2020, seriously overslept and woken two years later, you might have thought a cosmic practical joker had reversed the earth’s political polarity and inspired the Left to sound like the Right (and vice versa) over something called COVID.
Who was it that howled down a strike by working-class Canadian truckies? Who threw petrol on a bonfire of trashed civil liberties? Which side was urging Danistan’s robocops to beat up old ladies, pepper-spritz reporters and pelt fellow citizens with volleys of rubber bullets? Who cheered the ADF being brought in to support the states’ police forces? And which political persuasion was suddenly delighted to celebrate censorship? Who went all Taliban to enforce the wearing of face nappies, promote the voodoo science of lockdowns, ‘social distancing’ restrictions and all the farcical moments of political theatre of the absurd? Who has been gung-ho about forcing vaccines on the population and punishing those who, harbouring doubts about efficacy, have declined to roll up their sleeves?
The so-called ‘liberal’ Left, not the conservative Right, that’s who.
It was the Left which once claimed to be the party of the working class, of free speech and science. It was the Left which, before COVID, claimed to be the sworn enemy of lying, money-grubbing Big Pharma. It was the Left which staked out all this purported moral high ground in the political turf war with the Right, now humming something that sounds a lot like John Lennon’s ‘power to the people, right on’. One could get a serious case of political whiplash from repeated double-takes in response to the trading of places since the onset of COVID’s distemper.
Exhibits from the Great Transformation
Here are just some of the leftists, in thrall to the COVID State, who have been sounding like what they fondly imagine their loathed Right foes to be.
Lefty musos Neil Young and Joni Mitchell found their inner censor under the guise of ridding the world of podcasts spreading “fake information about vaccines” whilst the veteran anarchist academic Noam Chomsky advocated forced isolation of the unvaxxed to coerce them to take an experimental gene-therapy treatment which, going by the latest infection numbers rather than ‘safe and effective’ sloganeering, appears to be of little value if value at all.
The uber-woke Justin Trudeau greeted the Canadian Freedom Convoy truckers with a remarkably deranged, stream-of-consciousness outburst containing every identity-politics pejorative he could fit into one tweet. The truckers, branded in the style of Hilary Clinton’s knuckle-dragging Deplorables, were said to be smitten with “antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, homophobia, and transphobia”. Trudeau was joined by the Communist Party of Canada (in whose paranoid imaginations the truckers were a “convoy of hate” funded by conservative “dark money”). And don’t forget The Jacobin, a Marxist online journal which fingered the convoy as “a right-wing, pro-business social movement” pretending to be a “scrappy coalition of working people” but really made up of “white nationalist hate groups”. The Teamsters Union (like the rest of Canada’s trade unions) also jumped on the ‘hate’ bandwagon, vilifying the truckers’ protest as a “despicable display of hate led by the political Right”.
Britain’s Fabians kept the stuck record in the groove with Paul Mason from The New Statesman going full Battle of Cable Street by writing “there is no mystery as to what kind of movement this is: it is 21st-century fascism”, with every air-horn honk-honk a covert ‘Heil Hitler’. Nor should we forget Naomi Klein, the high-profile author and socialist intellectual — the threshold for ‘socialist intellectual’ not being terribly high — who sand the exultant praises of a pro-vax counter demonstration
… it was a very good day in Ottawa today. Huge gratitude to everyone who took to the streets. The people are doing what the cops won’t. That’s quite a 2-for-1: knock back the fake-freedom convoy and make the case for defunding the police. It seems the left’s not dead yet!.
When the real police violently dispersed the truckers, including the trampling beneath the hooves of Trudeau’s Mountie cavalry a disabled old lady, her Zimmer frame and anyone else caught in the horses’ path, the next step was stealing the bank accounts of the protests’ supporters and criminalising their owners for ‘hate speech’. The silence of the Leftoids formerly chanting ‘Defund the Police’ spoke eloquently of their implicit support for a police state that gags those who disagree.
Australia, still suffering from ZERO COVID withdrawal, has its own virally deranged Left, the most prominent representative of which is Green Left Weekly (GLW is the masthead of the Socialist Alliance), which has simplistically written-off protest marches against restrictions and mandates as “far Right pandemic populism”. GLW is ardently supportive of anti-working-class lockdowns, Big Pharma’s experimental hooch and, of course, that MAGA cap equivalent of the virtue-signalling Left, the face mask. It’s all GLW can do to refrain from labelling the protesters as public health ‘saboteurs’, ‘wreckers’, ‘political hooligans’ and ‘fascist agents’. Considering that GLW had its origins in Sixties-era Trotskyism, such historical illiteracy is extraordinary; there was a time when the Trots copped the same sort of terminological spite from their Stalinist opponents.
Australia’s hard-left animals and vegetables boast more diverse species than just GLW — although, when it comes to COVID, it is hard for anyone but the specialist political taxonomist to tell them apart. Socialist Alternative, for example, denounces the Freedom movement as “fascist”, “far-right” and “anti-health”. Solidarity advances the evidence-free claim that “established groupings of fascists” have joined the Freedom Movement whilst “individual Neo-Nazis” have infiltrated its organising circles. The Trotskyist Platform believes that those who claim it is their right to refuse vaccines, facemasks and social-distancing rules are doing so on the basis of “extreme individualism” in opposition to that good and virtuous collectivist spirit.
The Communist Party of Australia (CPA) maintains the Freedom movement is “far from harmless” and that, lurking beneath it’s deceptive surface, is “right-wing extremism”. Likewise, the Australian Communist Party (ACP) deplores it as a “mobilisation of fascist ideology” and the Communist Workers Party of Australia (CWPA) , not being particularly original, reckons it is “fascist”. For good measure, the construction workers of the CFMEU who objected to their union bosses’ sweetheart alliance with Premier Daniel Andrews and their complicity with his medical tyranny were dismissed as “fake tradies” keen for a bit of Nazi street violence.
By the way, hands up all those who knew there was not just one but three communist parties in Australia? There was a time, in a former political life when I was a fringe dweller of the above menagerie of hard-left parties, that such party distinctions were of intense interest. Older and wiser, it isn’t worth my time or energy to parse their doctrinal demarcations. All that matters is their unity ticket in support of anti-working-class lockdowns, restrictions and mandates, and their studied contempt for the cause of economic health, personal freedom and civil liberties.
Out of the blue? Hardly
The failure of the Left to side with its historical constituency, the working class, against COVID tyranny is is no surprise from a Left which has been increasingly dumped of late by ordinary workers and picked up on the rebound by the spruikers of identity politics. For this worker-spurned Left, Brexit (which was strongly supported by British blue-collar workers) was no more than Little England-style ‘racism’. The 2016 election of Donald Trump, with his strong appeal to the hard-hats and other American workers, was, again, nothing but ‘racism’ by white, male, climate-vandalising workers (and their trucks) who are just too dim to appreciate the need for all things woke (BLM, Critical Race Theory, #MeToo, transgenderism, gender fluidity, gender pronouns, Diversity quotas, a ‘borderless’ world, etc.) As with the woke impetus to keep ‘vulnerable’ groups ‘safe’ from ‘offence’ and ‘discrimination’ by granting authoritarian powers to the State or Big Tech, such political actors have been similarly called upon by the modern Left to keep us all ‘safe’ from COVID regardless of economic and social cost. It is no surprise that, for such a Left, everything is COVID-headline simple: the coronavirus is the greatest existential threat ever to confront humanity and only the all-wise, all-caring State can protect us through lockdowns, ‘social distancing’ restrictions, masks and censorship.
Thus has the Left been amongst the most extreme supporters of comically authoritarian virus-suppression strategies ranging from the disastrous nuttiness of ZERO COVID, to those ‘earlier, faster, harder’ lockdowns, to prolonged border closures, to the degrading theatrics of universal masking, coercive vax mandates and ‘green tick’ passports, to years-long states of emergency, to the illiberal police state.
Freedom, Flags and Nationalism
The Left’s disparagement of the movement against COVID restrictions and mandates has its antecedents in a long-held suspicion of the word ‘freedom’ which the Left has long heard as rhetorical cover for the freedom of capital to exploit labour unhampered by trade unions or government regulation. So, when the Left sees the anti-restriction/mandate movement mobilising around freedom, they see another simple case of putting ‘profits before people’ by ‘letting the virus rip’ just so businesses can stay open and keep making money hand over fist. Therefore, all the marchers and protesting truck drivers are dupes of capital and the Left can write off with a knowing sneer.
This is stupidity made doctrine. Go to any freedom protest and you will find a wide variety of participants, paradoxically more ‘diverse’ in all their normality than the typical progressives’ rally composed almost entirely of professional Left/green activists and uni students and hardly any actual workers. By contrast, the largest protest movement of recent memory represents a genuine cross-section of Australian society — from the white- and blue-collar workers who lost their jobs by declining the vax to the shop-owners whose businesses have tanked; from the civilian veteran of an anti-war movement to the military veteran of a real war; from the old hippy to the first-time ‘mum and dad’ protesters; from the credentialed medical scientist to the tiny minority of ratbag ‘anti-vaxxers’ opposed to all jabs; from the militant atheist to the ‘Jesus is my Vaccine’ Christian; from the Millennial neophyte to the elderly conservative.
At the rallies, there were Australian flags aplenty, always a dead give-away to the Left of odious nationalism and allegedly misplaced pride in the nation’s past. Our flag, however, is profoundly democratic: it is a potent rallying symbol for all those ordinary Australians who have been ground down by pointless and destructive COVID restrictions, the hectoring of formerly obscure epidemiologists revelling in their 15 minutes and the unexplained — indeed, inexplicable — authority accorded fantastically remunerated public health officers who, amongst their other asininities, believe the virus infects pizza boxes and out-of-bounds footballs. The Freedom movement seeks to “take the country back” — the country, even if mildly dysfunctional, they knew and loved before virus hysteria set in and they still had their jobs, rights and liberties.
In many ways, the COVID freedom movement is similar in class composition, ideological variety and political dynamic to the successful rebellions against neo-Stalinist state autocracies in Eastern Europe of three decades ago. Freedom back then was not something to be scared of – and neither is it now. Freedom certainly is very real to all those battling the COVID State, those who want to work, or study, or manage their own health as they see fit, or who yearn to travel, dine out, buy shoes, play football, meet up with friends and visit aged parents in nursing homes. All this and worse prompted by a virus that 99.85% of the infected survived without or without the dubious benefits of multiple and enforced vaccinations.
Never the twain shall meet?
I have a COVID conspiracy all my own, namely that the entire pandemic was a plot to turn me, old lefty me, into a conservative. I’m guessing there are others formerly associated with the Left who have been transformed by the authoritarian monstrosity of the last two years.
Whilst the Left was off with the political fairies when it came to understanding the virus and recognising the damaging futility of all the politically motivated interventions in order that the political class and its bureaucrats be seen to be doing something to control it, it was the Right (not all of it, to be sure, but significant parts) which remained clear-eyed on the science and the destructive over-reaction. Apart from some politically heterodox free spirits who inhabit the wonderful, censorship-free Substack online publishing platform, my first ports of call when following the bizarre COVID mania have invariably been situated on the conservative end of the political spectrum. I speak here of TCW Defending Freedom, Brownstone Institute, The Daily Sceptic, the UK and Australian Speccies, American Greatness, American Thinker, and, of course, Quadrant.
As to be expected, some of the conservative opposition to COVID restrictions comes from a commercial interest in non-interference by Big Government, but this motive also serves workers by not shutting down their places of employment. Vested interests, however, are not incompatible with a principled opposition to the COVID political lunacy amongst sensible, independent-minded conservatives who, unlike the emotion-driven and hysterical Left, are people who have judged with calm heads the official response on its merits and found those merits profoundly lacking
In the end, it really doesn’t matter where anyone who is opposed to the restrictions/mandates is coming from politically. The more the merrier is a good movement-building principle, after all. What matters is the unity of all those who have any sort of beef with the new public health tyranny. As the invaluable and eloquent, Jeffrey Tucker puts it:
One might consider a conjectural history in which principled voices from the left, right, and libertarian worlds united early on, perhaps from the first sign of lockdowns in January 2020, and said this will not stand. This violates human rights. This contradicts the whole history of public health. This is anti-democratic. This contradicts equality, tradition, constitutional law, freedom, human rights, property rights, free association, and every other principle that built the modern world. Whatever our disagreements, we can surely agree that in order even to have debates on the particulars of policy or philosophy, we need a functioning society and economy in order for them to be realized.
What a pity the Left never took up this potential joint project, a reticence that continues today.
By now, most people have moved on from two years of COVID fever, slipping into “it’s endemic, let’s live with it” mode (even governments are easing up or completely letting go), but the Left hasn’t moved with them and remains bunkered down with an ever-shrinking corps of bitter-enders still terrified of the virus and unable to concede the war against the virus is lost and, indeed, was never winnable in the first place.
The masked-up and muzzled Left, the lock-downed and cattle-tagged Left, the obedience-trained and QR-coded Left has been on the wrong side of the greatest public policy disaster for generations and, because of this, one can only hope complete political oblivion beckons. Those of us who have suffered as a consequence of the COVID policy balls-up, which is to say all of us, are entitled to ask, ‘Why should the Left be trusted on anything ever again?’