On Wednesday 30th September, MPs in the House of Commons voted to approve the renewal of the government’s emergency coronavirus powers for another six months. The motion to extend these powers was approved by 330 votes to 24 giving the government a majority of 306. Most of the ‘opposition’ MPs abstained from voting. A few minor concessions were made to offer more opportunities for MPs to be consulted – and a Commons vote “wherever possible” – on any new coronavirus lockdown restrictions before they come into force. Note the two words “wherever possible” – should a situation be deemed to be enough of an ’emergency’, it’s not hard to imagine that it would not be at all ‘possible’ to offer the chance of a vote to the Commons.
A few minor concessions were made to offer more opportunities for MPs to be consulted – and a Commons vote “wherever possible” – on any new coronavirus lockdown restrictions before they come into force. Note the two words “wherever possible” – should a situation be deemed to be enough of an ’emergency’, it’s not hard to imagine that it would not be at all ‘possible’ to offer the chance of a vote to the Commons.
As part of the remit I’ve set myself to monitor reactions to the coronavirus crisis, lockdown and the ‘new normal’, I follow a number of people on Twitter who are sceptical about the narrative that has been used to justify the restrictions we’ve been living under for the last six months. The politics of these accounts ranges from those who have long given up on the system to deliver to those who were clinging on to some vestige of hope that MPs would do the right thing and put up some principled opposition to the extension of the government’s emergency powers.
What will be interesting will be the reaction of those who may have had a faint vestige of hope before tonight’s vote but have now lost faith in what they thought was a democracy. On a similar note, there are those who attended the anti-lockdown / new normal rally in London on Saturday 26th September who for the first time in their lives, found out what it was like to be on the wrong end of the police using intimidatory tactics to break up a protest.
Obviously as an anarchist, I’ve no faith in the sham of bourgeois democracy which is essentially two cheeks of the same arse. Seriously, if voting could bring about real radical change, it would not be allowed! Also, having been round the block as an activist for more decades than I care to remember, I’ve been on the wrong end of a fair few police attacks on protests and actions. It would be tempting to be very cynical and offer a world weary ‘welcome to the club’ to those who have just had a bit of an awakening about the harsh reality of state power. Tempting but utterly wrong.
At this stage of the crisis, there are a growing number of people who are not only cynical about lockdown and the restrictions we’ve been under for months, but also about the nature of government and the state. We are in a situation which should be the best opportunity anarchists have had placed in front of them for a long time. We need to be reaching out to and engaging with these people.
The problem is that apart from a few of us, it seems that too many anarchists are refusing to engage. Instead, because of a few iffy elements hanging round the fringes of the anti-lockdown protests plus some questionable speakers, everyone attending them has been tarred with the same brush. Doing so, avoids having to engage with the numerous issues around lockdown and the new normal that drove these people to attend the protests. I shouldn’t have to state the bleeding obvious but this refusal to engage with people’s legitimate concerns and fears for the future is creating a political vacuum which could well be filled by some pretty dodgy elements.
Over on the now archived South Essex Heckler, I wrote numerous posts about the negative and wide ranging impacts of lockdown.
Here is a rough summary of them:
Elderly people with COVID-19 plus other co-morbidities being shoved out of hospitals into already overstretched care homes with the inevitable tragic consequences.
Elderly people in care homes, denied physical contacts with family and friends, going into a rapid mental decline.
Many bereaved people unable to give their loved ones a decent send off because of the restrictions on numbers able to attend a funeral.
Restrictions on physical contact at funerals where people in the depths of despair need a comforting hug or an arm round the shoulder.
People unable to see friends and family for months on end leading to loneliness, depression and despair.
The long term impact on people’s mental health of the constant messaging that we are to regard each other as potential threats.
The constant messaging that any kind of physical contact – essentially what makes us human – is to be discouraged.
The culture of snitching where the public are encouraged to report any breaches of the coronavirus restrictions – classic divide and rule tactics.
Legitimate fears about rushed through vaccines where the manufacturers have indemnity from any claims should there be adverse side effects.
The acceleration of the trend towards a cashless economy.
The need to have a smartphone with the NHS tracking app installed to gain entry to a cafe, restaurant, pub, bar, football ground and many other venues – those that don’t have smartphones are the victims of the digital divide.
All of this (and I’m only scratching the surface) driving people into depression and even towards thoughts of suicide because there seems to be no end in sight.
If anarchists can’t show any empathy towards people concerned and frightened about these, then we’re in a very bad place. For various reasons I don’t particularly want to go into, I’m on the fringes of the anarchist movement. Because of this, it’s not possible for me to come up with anything like an accurate breakdown of those who understand the threat we face and those who to put it bluntly, still have their heads stuck in the sand.
Another reason for a refusal to engage with people’s legitimate concerns and fears is thinking they’ve fallen victim to ‘conspiracy theories’. That attitude is nothing more than an easy get out clause. For the record, I don’t subscribe to the view that all of this is a ‘plandemic’ but I do strongly believe that corporate players and other elements are exploiting this crisis for material gain and also the power grab. Rather than rehash the arguments here, I refer you to this piece: It’s not a ‘plandemic’ but…we’re getting screwed over and unity is needed.
We face at least another six months of restrictions on our lives. Restrictions which will kill off much of the hospitality industry. If that sector goes, then the property companies with city centre exposure who rely on the rents are in serious trouble. A fair few of these property companies are – or were – donors to the Tory party. If the property sector is getting thrown under the bus, then it’s a reasonable assumption that the Tories have got other funders lined up. It would not be a surprise if some of those were big players in the pharmaceutical, outsourcing and high tech sectors. Given that these sectors are doing very well out of this crisis, that has deeply worrying implications.
If hospitality goes down, a lot of live music goes down with it. That will be a major cultural loss. If we’re in for another six months of physical distancing, football clubs from the National League upwards will not be able to re-open their gates to the fans. No fans, no revenue, no future. A growing number of clubs are saying that if this is the scenario, they won’t have the financial resources to complete the season. If there’s a domino effect of a string of clubs going bust in the next few months, these leagues will simply collapse. These are just a couple of examples of how our lives will be diminished as the new normal is forced upon us.
Life as we knew it will not be returning. Okay, we know that for too many people, life as we knew it was petty shite. We know that radical change is needed so all of us have a better life. The point is we’re getting subjected to a lot of radical changes but we have absolutely no control over how that pans out. A growing number of people are scared and getting increasingly angry. We as anarchists have a duty to reach out to them and offer a vision of radical change that will give all of us more control, collectively and individually, over our lives. This is an unprecedented opportunity, let’s take it!
Dave – the former editor of the Heckler
Yes. I’m also wondering if many on the left, anarchist or not, are using ‘fear of the virus’ – perhaps unconciously – to support not opening up because they don’t have any other power to push through the societal changes they want to see. Unfortunately those changes (shorter working hours, flexible working from home, even UBI) will mean nothing if people can’t freely associate and assemble, go to arts and sports events etc.