Dave – the editor
Living through a year such as 2020 has proved to be a bit of an experience to say the least. With the COVID-19 crisis and the subsequent lockdowns and tiered restrictions, life as we knew it back in January 2020 has changed. Looking at the way things are going, I honestly can’t see a return to the kind of normality we were living in back then. It’s a case of shock doctrine with a crisis being leveraged to bring in significant changes at a pace so rapid, it’s almost impossible to process what’s going on. This is the background to the following attempt to try and work out what 2020 was all about and how we can move forward in 2021.
A few leaders in history have come out with the adage of ‘never let a crisis go to waste’. If over the course of 2020, you’ve come to the conclusion that the COVID-19 crisis is being leveraged by pan global actors to usher in massive changes to how we live, love, play and work, you would be dead right. It’s not conspiracy theory to talk about ‘The Great Reset’. It’s the subject of books written by the likes of Klaus Schwab and has been used as a headline on the front cover of Time magazine. It’s pretty much out there in the open the kind of changes these players want to make. In fact, it’s almost like they’re rubbing our faces in it. A lot of these changes were already in the pipeline but the ‘crisis’ has been leveraged to speed up their implementation. This reading list compiled by winter oak is a good starting point to understanding what we’re facing: The Great Reset.
At this point, I should be honest about my own position on the crisis. When it first started to break back in February, there was an element of the unknown. The South Essex Strategic Social Alliance (SESSA) that we’re a part of had no idea of how serious things would be and we initially erred on the side of caution in terms of physical distancing and withdrawing from events we were scheduled to participate in. As the crisis started to develop, a growing number of things just did not add up and my position moved from one of caution to one of suspicion about the way it was being leveraged to speed up broader changes to society that were already in the pipeline. This piece on the now archived South Essex Heckler explains how, even by early summer, my position had moved to one of growing scepticism: An explainer on our (changing) position on the COVID-19 crisis. If I’m being honest, the degree of scepticism I have about the whole ‘crisis’ is not fully shared by everyone else in SESSA which is why this piece is being written in a personal capacity. The saving grace is that we have managed to agree to disagree while still operating as a group..
The problem is that too many people are still focused on the immediate issue of defeating COVID-19. This focus is as, if not more, intense now than it was at the start of the crisis back in March/April. It’s this intensity of focus that’s blinding them to the changes that are being foisted upon us without any discussion, let alone debate. In fact, merely raising what’s planned for us is enough to get you accused of being a conspiracy theorist, even though the pan global actors involved are becoming ever more open about their intentions! Suffice to say that a fair few of the predictions made earlier on in 2020 are materialising or getting closer to doing so: Told you so…
Over the course of 2020, a different political divide appears to be emerging, one that goes beyond the traditional left/right one we’ve been accustomed to accept. It’s a divide based on a belief in freedom and trusting each other at the grassroots level on the one hand and on the other, being willing to trust the state and the technocratic elites who claim to have our interests at heart but in reality, are cold hearted, selfish and utterly ruthless to make decisions about our lives. Back in the late spring, these were my initial thoughts on how that divide is manifesting itself: The emerging political divide. It’s a still emerging divide and as such, those of us who believe in freedom and trusting each other have found ourselves with some strange bedfellows. In a period of rapid and sometimes bewildering change, in some ways, it’s understandable that people want to cling to the familiar and the traditional left/right political divide is a part of that. It’s also the case that there are political elements who are not only still wedded to the traditional political divide but also, for a variety of reasons, are invested in the current crisis.
The Left are heavily invested in this crisis. Their stance is that government has failed to deal with COVID-19 and that tougher and longer restrictions should have been the order of the day from the outset. The Left have always had a bit of an authoritarian streak. There are elements within their ranks who love nothing more than telling us plebs how to behave and how we can and can’t live our lives. Bearing this in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that many of them are actually loving this crisis because it a) gives them unprecedented opportunities for virtue signalling and b) if at a local or regional authority level they’ve got their hands on the levers of power, they have the perfect opportunity to boss it over our lives. Which would explain why the Left has taken a fairly hostile stance towards the emerging movement against lockdowns and tiered restrictions. The Left see this movement as a threat to their world view which is why they always take any opportunity to denigrate and discredit it.
There’s an element in society at large who have not only brought into the narrative but relish the roles they’ve adopted which allow them to nag, cajole and bully anyone who questions the wearing of face masks, the need for physical distancing and rightly have concerns about ‘vaccines’ being rushed through the development process. This element seemingly love the opportunity to make the lives of anyone who doesn’t see the world from their narrow, inflexible perspective as much of a misery as possible. From the curtain twitching neighbour looking to see who’s been breaking the ‘rules’ to security guards who think they can throw their weight around in the name of enforcing COVID-19 restrictions, there’s a range of quislings only too ready and happy to do the bidding of those who presume to rule us.
All of this has left society feeling more fractious and divided. Levels of trust in institutions such as the NHS, government, local government and the media are falling. While there’s still a sense of community where we are, there’s a creeping sense of mistrust emerging as no one can be sure of who would or wouldn’t grass them up if they were in breach of the ‘rules’. When you don’t know who you can or can’t trust, it’s not a good place to be. With the roll out of a ‘vaccine’, it’s inevitable that this divide will get a lot worse as will the resulting social tensions. At this stage, there’s confusion as to whether those who have the vaccine will be issued with a kind of pass that will allow them to return to travelling abroad, going to the cinema, out to restaurants and pubs or to football. Some politicians are saying it won’t happen, others seem happy to roll it out at the first opportunity. It’s this creeping, hi-tech enabled dystopia that I was alluding to back in August when I wrote this piece: Are we sleepwalking towards a 21st century form of totalitarianism?
The anti-lockdown, anti-new ‘normal’ protests aren’t going away any time soon, despite increasing pressure from the authorities to shut then down. These protests have been met with increasing levels of police intervention with mass arrests and the use of force and intimidation. A lot of people on these protests have never taken to the streets before. Many of them are getting a harsh lesson in the lengths the state will go to in order to protect its interests and those of the corporations whose bidding they’re effectively doing. As I’ve written before, this is a previously, largely apolitical audience we should be engaging with: Stirrings. There are a few parallels with the Gilets Jaunes movement across the Channel in France. It grieves me beyond belief to see some anarchists dismiss everyone attending these protests as falling prey to Qanon political influences. Sure, there’s an element of the right who are sniffing around the fringes of these protests. If anarchists continue to denigrate and ignore these protests, the right will gain traction.
An anti-lockdown protest in central London
Whatever I write in this piece will start to date from the moment it goes live on the Net. That’s because it’s difficult to predict how things are going to play out, particularly with regards to tensions that have been bubbling under for months suddenly erupting. New Year’s Eve is a potential flashpoint with gatherings planned for London as an act of protest against continuing restrictions. There’s also plenty of scope for raves and block parties taking place over the festive period to end up posing a ‘policing challenge’. How that plays out and how the authorities react will determine how 2021 starts and carries on. We have to carry on the work of developing and implementing strategies and tactics that enable us to carry on resisting while staying under the radar of the authorities.
Moving on, a few words need to be said about the anarchist movement which I’m nominally a part of but increasingly feel that I’m on the fringes of. Firstly, there have been some exemplary examples of grassroots solidarity work which will lay sound foundations for the future. That’s the good news, now for the not so good news from my perspective. I don’t want to start any more divisive rows but it has to be said that too many anarchists seem reluctant to look deeply into what we’re facing with ‘The Great Reset’. A few of my comrades who apply original and critical thinking to an issue fully get what’s going on. I will be forever grateful for the backing I’ve had from them over the last ten months. Sadly, too many anarchists appear to have accepted the narrative about COVID-19 to the point where those of us who are sceptical about it have been called out as ‘conspiracy’ theorists. In a movement that has already endured too many self inflicted divisions, the last thing we need is more division and more falling out. We are where we are, so I have to accept the situation, agree to disagree where at all possible and try to move on.
Let’s move onto considerably more positive developments. In terms of resisting the system, there are a fair few interesting initiatives developing. Ones that emphatically do not involve going out on the streets to protest but instead focus on building the new world we want in the decaying shell of the increasingly dystopian one we’re currently forced to endure.
Here are just a few that we know of:
Obviously, there are many, many more examples of solid grassroots actions that make a real difference to people’s lives…
Throughout much of my ‘career’ as an activist, I’ve always maintained that if you’re going to bring about meaningful, radical change, it’s essential to have a solid base in the community. Street protests have their place but without sustained action at grassroots level, they’re little more than theatre. Also, with the way the authorities are tightening the screws on protests, putting all of your resources into street action without a community base to back you up is a sure fired route to failure. While the COVID-19 crisis and the subsequent lockdowns/restrictions did spark the creation of a fair few mutual aid projects, many were up and running before that. Whatever criticisms I have of the way a fair few anarchists have not engaged with the anti-lockdown movement, it has to be said that when it comes to grassroots mutual aid and solidarity projects, the anarchist movement is stepping up to the plate.
So what of 2021? After what happened this year, let’s just say that making predictions is a mug’s game! There are however, a few general things that can be said about 2021. It’s going to be a challenging year on many fronts, personally as well as political. In some ways, we’re having to start from scratch in building solidarity networks we can implicitly trust to get us through what’s coming and bring about the radical change we need. Many of the assumptions we were operating with at the start of 2020 are now redundant. Many of the allies I thought I had at the start of 2020 have turned out to be a disappointment to say the least. New alliances are being formed with people who recognise that we’re in a period of rapid change and are willing to think outside of the box.
The baseline target for one year ahead from this point is to be alive, uninjured and in a position to write a piece looking back at 2021 and forwards to 2022! The ambition is to be part of a movement that understands as far as is possible, the situation we’re in, how rapidly that’s changing, and to have started developing and implementing the strategy and tactics we need to bring about radical change. There’s everything to play for but literally everything to lose if we fail to step up to the plate.