As Britain heads inevitably toward a second lockdown and the coronavirus infection rate soars to new heights day by day, the catastrophe of a second wave that many predicted is upon us. Through Boris Johnson’s hubris, Nemesis is at our door. With 1 million now dead globally, you might think that reality had begun to set in for COVID-deniers and anti-mask cultists. Not so. If anything the phenomenon is getting worse and, alarmingly, some so-called socialists are among those proclaiming “muh freedom”.
While the official figure of UK dead from COVID-19 stands at 42,000, the real number has exceeded an astonishing 65,000. And, while the coronavirus knows no discrimination, the victims are disproportionately amongst the working class, many from BAME communities. These communities, of all creeds, are those that live in low-quality housing with overcrowded conditions. Many, through poverty, have been forced into work.
Our NHS and care workers, front line forces in this fight, have seen tragedy upon tragedy. Over 620 such workers have been killed by the virus. They fought to care for the sick, the elderly and the very communities that the NHS was created to serve.
The vast majority of these 65,000 people did not need to die.
Despite the claims of anti-Chinese propaganda, the West had more than enough time to organise their response to this crisis. They failed to do so as the interests of capital took precedence to human life.
The country was initially locked down on March 23 when Boris Johnson told the nation that people “must” stay at home and certain businesses must close. However, the contagion had already been spreading in the country for at least two months. On January 24 the UK had already implemented screenings at borders for onboard flights coming from affected regions in China. On the same day, the Lancet published an investigation into the new virus entitled “Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China” penned by several Chinese professors. Yet again on the 24th, Britain’s Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College’s School of Public Health had compiled a report which he sent to ministers and officials that stated the coronavirus had an infection rate between 2.6 and 3.5, a rate that was highly alarming given that the 1918 Spanish Flu had a rate between 2.0 and 3.0. Despite the warning signs, Matt Hancock left the same meeting stating that the threat to the UK was “low”. The first case was confirmed on January 31.
During these two months, the Conservative Party suffered an internal split between those who wanted a national lockdown and those who wished to keep the country open. The driving force behind calls to keep Britain open was the interest of the economy, with the Tories and City capitalists concerned that a lockdown would adversely affect British economic performance. The needs of The City outweighed the needs of humanity. This split was typified by the alleged comments of Dominic Cummings, with The Sunday Times reporting that Cummings outlined the government position as “herd immunity, protect the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad”.
The most optimistic death toll predictions suggested that hundreds of thousands would die through “herd immunity” and the numbers would almost certainly exceed those seen during the pandemic of 1918/19. Under pressure from the public and press, Johnson finally announced a nationwide lockdown. It was too late. Looking increasingly politically weak, Johnson lifted the lockdown at the earliest opportunity with his position as Prime Minister said to be becoming unpalatable to the hard Thatcherite-right of the party. Both Michael Gove and Rishi Sunak have been offered up as replacements. Both are opposed to a second lockdown.
Into this mix, we have the “anti-mask” movement.
With its origins coming from libertarian movements and the QAnon cult in the United States, adherents to the belief insist that the West is ushering in fascism through making people wear masks. Willingly suspending the logic that our governments control immense armies and weapons of mass destruction that could do the job overnight, they insist that the mere suggestion of collective responsibility is the end of their freedoms.
The reasons that the movement has gained traction are many, with the adherents coming from differing political backgrounds. The majority are members from the far-right and online conspiracy theorists, others from the growing QAnon — many crossover between all three. However, there is the undoubted bizarre sight of alleged socialists amongst this grouping.
These (former) comrades have escrowed logic and their collective responsibility, falling into the hysterical claims from liberals and libertarians about their freedoms and rights. These groups see fascism in every shadow. Equally, many have been influenced by disingenuous actors online who proclaim themselves to be “leftists” while being no such thing. Many of these commentators are in service to foreign powers, seeking only destabilisation and propaganda opportunities.
At the very core of socialist belief is the belief that the needs of the whole will always supersede the rights of the individual. The collective is stronger than the one, but the individual has a responsibility to that collective. This is the contract of solidarity between us.
For individual socialists to proclaim their “right” to not wear a mask in the name of “liberty” is a betrayal of that contract and their responsibility to the collected masses. They are placing their individual self-interest over the good of the entire community and in doing so standing with the likes of Michael Gove, City bankers, the far-right and Donald Trump. In betraying this solidarity, these individuals stand, not with the working class who will be decimated in a second wave, nor the families of the 65,000 dead, but with capitalist interests. To place these interests over the welfare of the people, all to prevent personal inconvenience, is unforgivable.
This is an ideology of capitalist libertarianism, not of socialism. And it is class treason, nothing less.