The final contribution we are publishing from the event last month is a set of critical observations by Simon Elmer, who was unable to attend. Simon’s writing for Architects for Social Housing is of seminal importance to the fight against the biosecurity state, and we publish the letter here in the spirit of debate and inquiry. Previously, we published Victor Conti’s Marxist analysis of the lockdown, Emily Garcia’s radical feminist perspective on the freedom movement, Dr. Jenny Goodman’s talk on the politics of immunity and a searing contribution from Robin Monotti, the Italian architect and film producer.
Open Letter to Left Lockdown Sceptics
On 18 September, a group called Left Lockdown Sceptics held their first meeting in London. I was asked to speak at it, and prepared some thoughts in response to the following questions, which the meeting was called to address:
- ‘How did the mainstream UK Left become a devotee of official restrictions, lockdowns, tracking, medical mandates and New Normalisation generally?’
- ‘In a climate of intensifying cases/variants/vaccine mandates, fear-mongering, how can we (re)connect with each other to build a broader Left LDS movement?’
- ‘How do we begin broader conversations, reach ‘across the aisle’, grapple with de-programming those around us from what has been called collective hypnosis?’
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend on the day; but I’d like to write here what I was going to say at the meeting, as a way of opening the question of how we can resist and oppose the UK ‘vaccination’ programme in the current economic, political, legal and ideological climate. I must admit that I had real trouble with these questions, and felt considerable ambivalence about contributing to yet another forum for the Left; but, perhaps because of that, I also feel I owe Left Lockdown Sceptics these reflections, which I put down here in greater detail than I could have conveyed at their meeting.
My first response to these questions was to ask — what UK Left, if by this designation we mean a socialist movement, mainstream or otherwise? I’d guess the answer most people would give to that question is the Labour Party and those trades unions, political organisations and pressure groups that advocate voting for it every time there’s an election. I’m not going to repeat what I’ve already argued in numerous articles, written over 7 years of work with Architects for Social Housing, about the UK Left having little or nothing socialist in their principles, politics or practices. Unlike most activists, I read the policies and opposed the practices of the Labour Party, including when it was under the Leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and I know that Labour is a party whose political philosophy is founded in the principles of neo-liberalism. Anyone who has knocked around the Left also knows that, whatever its so-called ‘left-wing’ elements and organisations argue between elections, when it comes to supporting or opposing the policies and practices of Labour in government at municipal or local authority level, they all toe the party line, keep silent and vote Labour.
I won’t say any more about this topic, which is not one that interests me any longer, and which the leadership of Kier Starmer renders irrelevant. But for the purpose of answering the questions above, it does have some relevance. Because of my work with Architects for Social Housing, which paralleled the rise and fall of Corbynism, it has come as no surprise to me that the UK Left, including not only Labourites but the wide diaspora of people who calls themselves ‘leftists’ and even ‘socialists’, have become ‘devotees’ of biosecurity restrictions on our human rights and civil liberties. But it’s not, as right-wing libertarians and commenters on the coronavirus crisis claim, because of the supposedly inherent authoritarianism of the Left. There is, I say again, little or nothing — in the Labour Party nothing, in its affiliates and fellow travellers little — socialist about the policies or practices of the UK Left. There are some small groups and independent organisations who are both vocally critical of Labour and recognisably socialist in their practices; yet even these have adopted the UK Left’s almost universal support for biosecurity restrictions, remain indifferent to the immiseration of the UK working class they are implementing, and have steadfastly refused to join the millions of UK workers protesting against their imposition, having uncritically accepted and adopted the media’s dismissal of them as ‘far-right conspiracy theorists’. Some groups have even organised counter-demonstrations.
What all the UK Left shares — and the origin of its otherwise inexplicable collusion with the right-wing government of Boris Johnson implementing the UK biosecurity state — is the former’s decades-long infiltration by the radical conservatism of multiculturalism, political correctness, identity politics and, most recently, the orthodoxies of so-called ‘woke’ behaviour. In some organisations, the infiltration is marginal and exists, under the umbrella of ‘intersectionality’, in an uneasy and usually unexamined co-existence with the slogans if not the practices of socialism. In others, such as the Labour Party and its affiliates, what socialist principles they may have once had have been entirely replaced by the values and orthodoxies of these relatively new ideologies, which have manifested themselves in such youthful, energetic and well-funded movements as Momentum, Black Lives Matter and, most recently, Extinction Rebellion. These are all pro-capitalist movements, hostile to the working class, and directly if not openly opposed to socialism, and it’s by their principles that the Left has operated for some time in the UK. It can’t be long before we see a similar movement, funded by the same or even more powerful capitalists and corporations, formed to support the next stages in the UK biosecurity state — particularly for a universal basic income. Like its predecessors, this movement of the COVID-faithful will claim a position on the UK Left by criticising the Conservative Government’s response to this ‘pandemic’, and in doing so will help create an even greater consensus among UK youth and the liberal middle-classes for increased online surveillance, stricter laws, harsher sentences, more intrusive technologies of public control and greater police powers to enforce them.
The Left, therefore, did not ‘become’ devotees of the restrictions and programmes imposed on the UK population on the justification of a threat to public health that never existed. The Left is the Church in which the COVID-faithful have been raised, its guiding religion and principle denominations formed by the same radically conservative beliefs and practices. No-platforming, cancel culture, trans-essentialism, policing of speech and opinion, and all the other rapidly emerging symptoms of Left ideology did not emerge from a politics of emancipation or an ideology of freedom; they emerged from, and are advocates for, authoritarian practices of censorship, repression of debate, suppression of apostasy and punishment of non-compliance that are culturally inseparable from the technologies of surveillance and control developed by monopoly capitalism. Far from the Left being under some form of collective ‘hypnosis’ or ‘programming’ — presumably from the propaganda of the Right — it is from the Left that we hear the most Puritan demands for displays of public virtue, for the harshest punishments to be imposed on unbelievers in the new faith of biosecurity. There is a direct line of cultural influence between the Black Lives Matter slogan that ‘silence is violence’, the ‘rebels’ groomed by Extinction Rebellion to offer themselves for arrest and sentencing by its network of teachers and leaders, and the ideologues of ‘zero-COVID’ sentencing those who do not comply with the biosecurity state to second-class citizenship. Just as, for the past century and more, trades unions under Labour’s duplicitous leadership have repeatedly handed over UK workers to the interests of UK capital, so the Left has handed over UK youth to the UK biosecurity state. To claim these authoritarian, repressive and censorial ideologies have anything in common with socialism shows just how little the representatives of the UK Left knows or cares about its politics, principles or practices, except insofar as it exists to suppress any organisation that attempts to enact them.
Given which, I have no wish to see what Left Lockdown Sceptics calls a ‘broader Left LDS movement’, let alone to help build one. The only thing I wish to build for the Left — and will do everything I can to ignite it — is the pyre on which it will be burned to the ground, so that from its ashes a socialist movement of and for the working-class can be built.
What, then, can we learn — not from the failures of the UK Left to oppose what it has been instrumental in creating — but from its ongoing complicity with this revolution of neoliberal capitalism into the UK biosecurity state? Let me start, as every discussion about the betrayals of the Left should, with a quote from the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, this one from The German Ideology, where they differentiate what they call the real movement of communism from the idealism of other models of political and social change:
‘Communism for us is not a state of affairs that is to be established, an ideal to which reality will have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement that abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.’
The fact that even people opposed to coronavirus-justified restrictions refer to the current revolution of formerly liberal democracies into authoritarian technocracies as ‘communist’ — and not only because China’s system of state capitalism, surveillance and social credit is one model of the biosecurity state this revolution is building — is only the latest and not the most stupid misapplication of this admittedly contested term. But one of the things I understand by ‘communism’ is this definition by Marx and Engels. We used this quote as an epigraph to ASH’s recent book, For a Socialist Architecture: Under Capitalism, in which our organisation laid out the principles and practices for a socialist architecture — not within the vacuum of an ‘ideal’ in which so many socialist plans of action are formed, but within the political and economic reality of neoliberalism in which contemporary architecture is practiced. It’s under the same reality — what Marx and Engels called the ‘premises now in existence’ from which the ‘conditions of this movement result’ — that resistance and opposition to the UK biosecurity state must be formed. Yet, to my ears, the wish to form a ‘broader LDS Left movement’ appears to take no account of this reality. I’ve already identified the flaws in trying to align opposition to the UK biosecurity state with a UK Left that has laid the ideological foundations for its acceptance and is now its loudest advocate; but I want to add a few more comments on what I see as the flaws in this proposed movement.
As in so much about the terminology of the Left, the idea of ‘scepticism’ — which has been widely adopted by those on the Left who are opposed to at least some of the regulations and programmes of the UK biosecurity state — undermines the accurate understanding of the ‘present state of things’ that a real movement must abolish. ‘Scepticism’ describes an attitude that may have been advisable — it is one I myself shared — in the first few months of the coronavirus crisis; but it is completely inadequate as an attitude 18 months into this revolution in monopoly capitalism. There is no justification for being sceptical about what has repeatedly been shown to be the vast wall of lies on which the biosecurity state has been built, from medically meaningless health ‘measures’ to unfit-for-purpose testing regimes, to the wildly inaccurate criteria for attributing deaths to COVID-19, to the impact and dangers of lockdowns, to the medical and political consequences of the UK ‘vaccination’ programme. An intelligent child is sceptical when told Father Christmas brings him gifts; only a foolish and gullible adult remains sceptical of the same. Anyone who remains a lockdown ‘sceptic’ 18 months into this revolution has either ignored, or failed to inform themselves with, the vast evidence proving that Father Christmas is a story for children and the Pandemic a creation of those it has placed into positions of immense power. The better comparison, therefore, is with God, for whom the figure of Father Christmas tends to stand in theological debates; for, like COVID-19, the existence of God is a moot point when there is so little evidence of the existence of either. What is not in doubt, however, is the financial, political and ideological power of the COVID-Church that, in the name of this manufactured God, demands absolute obedience from the faithful and absolute damnation for unbelievers. Whether or not one believes in God or the Pandemic, only advocates of authoritarian, absolute and unquestioning rule believe either justifies the power and wealth their high priests exert over the world of believers and unbelievers alike.
Another example of the failure to identify the present state of things that a real movement of resistance must abolish is something I have detected in many of the statements of groups and individuals opposed to lockdown restrictions — although whether this is shared by Left Lockdown Sceptics I don’t know, as I didn’t attend their meeting. I heard it at the launch of the People’s Lockdown Inquirer, to which I contributed an article on the impact of lockdown on UK housing, and in discussions around Laura Dodson’s book, A State of Fear: How the UK government weaponised fear during the Covid-19 pandemic. I may be mistaken, but what I heard is that a lot of the people opposed to lockdown have the impression that it is over, that the Government of Boris Johnson made a mess of it, certainly, and that it should be held account for that, but that it and the UK’s medical bodies were responding to a genuine emergency requiring some public health measures, and that, essentially, this crisis is now over bar the excuses and blaming. I do not share this view, and I believe that, this winter, we’ll experience first-hand how wrong it is.
As I write this, the Government has published a policy paper, titled ‘Proposal for mandatory certification in a Plan B scenario’, mandating not only face coverings but also what it calls ‘COVID-status certification’ requiring that access to aspects of public life in the UK will be contingent upon proof — not of immunity from SARS-CoV-2 produced by antibodies or even a negative test — but of being ‘fully vaccinated’, which it defines as a ‘course of doses’ of undefined number and content. Although open to the general public, the paper is addressed to the private sector — the businesses, event organisers and venue operators it is handing the responsibility and obligation to enforce compliance. These certificates, and the Fixed Penalty Notices issued for failing to enforce them, will be imposed under the emergency powers illegally conferred by Section 45C of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act, 1984. As I discussed in Part 2 of this article, this means the UK biosecurity state will continue to be governed under an emergency period it is in the Government’s power — and undoubtedly its intention — to extend indefinitely. Already implemented in Lithuania, this policy — which will inevitably be implemented as we enter winter — shows that ‘vaccine’ passports are, and always have been, the goal towards which the coronavirus crisis has been manufactured. In short, as I have said many times before and will keep repeating until it is accepted as the ‘premise’ from which any real movement of resistance must depart, ‘vaccine’ passports aren’t the unfortunate consequence of the failure of previous coronavirus-justified regulations and programmes to protect the health and safety of the UK public from a deadly new virus; they are — as this policy document should prove once and for all — the product of the success of those regulations and programmes in implementing our revolution into the UK biosecurity state.
The third flaw is the failure to take into account the unaccountability of the UK Government — and the global corporations to which, behind the cloak of this crisis, it has increased its outsourcing of the management of the UK biosecurity state — to the democratic process while we continue to be ruled by emergency powers. We are no longer faced with even the facade of parliamentary democracy by which we were governed before March 2020, and any plan for resistance must start from the premise that we are governed by unelected technocrats in committees of government advisors employed by and working for the interests of global corporations — a paradigm of government in which, as Mussolini once defined fascism, one cannot pass a cigarette paper between the interests of the Government and corporate interests. I have discussed this at length in my article, Cui Bono? The COVID-19 ‘Conspiracy’, and won’t repeat my arguments here, except to say that, with every passing week, this description of the UK biosecurity state has gained a greater purchase on our rapidly changing reality.
Having first reminded them that, under UK law, they are under no obligation to reveal this information to anybody, I recently asked a table of acquaintances whether they had been injected with the COVID-19 ‘vaccines’, and they all answered that they had. I then asked whether they approved of ‘vaccine’ passports, and they all said they were strongly opposed to their imposition. When I asked why they thought compliance with the former won’t inevitably lead to the mandating of the latter, they offered various hopes and beliefs that some form of check or balance — from the outrage of the middle classes, from liberal sentiment, from a deeply ingrained sense of British fair play, from the duty of the medical profession, from the rebellion of Conservative backbenchers, from Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, from the international community — would somehow stop this happening. It is on this outdated, politically naive and willingly blind perception of UK capitalism that the architects of the biosecurity state have counted and relied for its construction. So common is this attitude, however, that I have begun to make up names for it: the Munich Accords response to the coronavirus crisis; or the Ostrich response; or, perhaps most accurately of all, the boiled frog response. Recently, the 18 months of fearmongering by the Government, the media, Public Health England, the National Health Service, the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency, the Office for National Statistics, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and all the other agents of biosecurity terrorism have all but stopped, so sure are they of the next step; and even the incessant insults and screams for retaliation from the COVID-faithful have fallen silent. We are on the brink of disaster, there is no hand rail, and even the blindest are beginning to see the abyss open beneath their feet.
There are, roughly, three camps into which the UK public falls in their attitudes to the coronavirus crisis. I do not refer to the agents of the UK biosecurity state who, from the first, have acted in full knowledge of this manufactured crisis and the totalitarian society they are building on belief in its existence. I mean those who have been subjected to their propaganda, lies and threats. In the first camp are those who, from the start, took a sceptical attitude to the coronavirus crisis that has since developed into certain opposition. In the second camp are those for whom no amount of evidence or rationality of argument will dispel their faith in what has with some justification been called the new religion in which millions of Westerners have invested their belief for the past 18 months. And, in the third camp, which is the most important and growing in membership, are those who, from a position of either belief or scepticism, are now beginning to realise that a lot, if not all, of what they have been told over the past 18 months is either grossly exaggerated or an outright lie, and has been devised not to protect us from a viral pandemic but to direct us towards the present moment, when a totalitarian future appears inevitable. Like the swing voters in an election campaign, it is this third camp to which we must address ourselves — in the phrase used by LDS, ‘reach across the aisle’ — and any attempt to divide its membership into, or speak to it from, a Left or Right position would be fatal.
Our greatest strength is in the failure of UK politics to divide those of us resisting the biosecurity state into Left and Right, which has no bearing on the reasons for our collective resistance. Both Left and Right are unified, as never before, in imposing biosecurity regulations and programmes on the British people and, indeed, the populations of the world. Rather than forming a broad Left Lockdown Sceptics movement, my wish — and I believe our only hope — is to form a unified but decentralised opposition that is not sceptical of the necessity or efficacy of coronavirus-justified programmes and restrictions, but knows that the biosecurity state has been built on their lies.
To this end, we should endeavour to agree on certain principles and protocols of our opposition — for example, that ‘vaccine’ passports have been the goal of all previously imposed coronavirus-justified ‘measures’ — without making them a requirement of our opposition to them. We can and must propose a positive and alternative vision to the nightmare of centralised and authoritarian rule by the biosecurity state. We must, even, employ — as an alternative to the fear of COVID-19 that has been used to build the biosecurity state — the fear of the totalitarian world into which it is forcing us. We must develop and use new languages and new practices of politics that refuse division into Left and Right, and which instead allow as many people as possible to join, speak with and find agency in their opposition to this global threat. And we must replace the pessimism of political defeatism with which the working class has been infected with the optimism born of our desperation. As I have written before, pessimism is an indulgence of the present none of us can afford to pay to the future. The unity of opposition we require, however, will not come from sitting in meetings and raising our hands to approve principles of practice that are never turned into action. Unity forms from the action of opposition alone.
This does not mean that there is not, still, a critique of this revolution in capitalism to be undertaken using the tools of historical materialism, and which I myself have tried to initiate and will continue to offer; but agreement with this critique or the political position from which it is made should not be a requisite for opposing the biosecurity state into which we are being led by this revolution. There is no ideal position, political or ideological, to which the real movement of resistance should have to adjust itself. If, in order to describe their opposition to the biosecurity state, someone accuses it of being ‘communist’, they would not be wrong in attributing similarly totalitarian forms of surveillance and control to both past and present states that described and still describe themselves as communist. And while I would disagree with them that, because of the inherent authoritarianism of communism, this is the inevitable fate of all communist societies, it is their opposition to totalitarianism and authoritarianism, and not their understanding of communism, that unifies us. We are today facing something comparable to the rise of fascism a hundred years ago, and we need to form something equivalent to the Popular Front of the 1930s to oppose its so-far-unimpeded conquests. Unfortunately, instead of being faced with the merely Herculean task of uniting the constitutive organisations of the Left into a new popular front to oppose the neo-fascism of the biosecurity state, it is the organisations and ideologies of the UK Left itself that we must oppose and overthrow. If anyone can doubt it any longer, it is the capitalist state in its latest formation that threatens the freedoms of the British people; and which party sits in its seat of Government makes little difference to the biosecurity apparatus it now wields.
Finally, then, this brief review of what I believe we must not do if we are to avoid repeating the mistakes and failures of both the distant and immediate past — which I offer to Left Lockdown Sceptics as an apology for not giving my talk, and whose observations I hope they will take in a spirit of open inquiry — brings us to what we must do in the present and what remains of our future if we are to oppose the UK ‘vaccination’ programme and the totalitarian society to which it leads.
Architects for Social Housing