The piece below is from the D.i.Y. CULTURE#9 COVID-19(84) – Dystopian Visions edition
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By Richard Parry, anarchist lawyer and author of ‘The Bonnot Gang’.
We are living the ‘Phoney War’ at the moment, as despite the significant rise in deaths in Care Homes, most people have settled in to “lockdown” without enormous inconvenience: we are not bombed out of our homes scrabbling in the dust for food. The lockdown was never enforced here to the degree it was in Europe, the shelves have been restocked and most people are being supported by 80% wages, loans, and rent holidays. There’s Netflix and, if the sun is shining, the beach or the park. And plenty of supermarket booze. What’s not to like – go back to work? You must be joking! “Work is the curse of the drinking classes!” as Class War used to joke.
But Winter is coming. By coincidence, in October 2019, wages had just restored themselves to the levels of 2008, before the last crash. The rate of profit was declining and the rich simply couldn’t continue to accumulate more billions for another decade without imposing another decade of austerity. The problem was how could they implement tougher austerity on people already struggling? Whatever the origin of the coronavirus, the capitalist states have moved quickly, if unevenly, to implement plans that will spell global disaster for millions. The “reserve army” of unemployed will be the perfect vehicle for massive layoffs, redundancies and wage cuts. Taxes will be raised and a big fuss will be made as the top rate goes up, but this will be insignificant compared to the huge dividends that will follow for the rich. Those with savings will see them slowly vanish as negative interest rates are hit, and pensions will be decimated. All sorts of benefits will be cut as governments shrug their shoulders and say that we have to pay for the lockdown and the bailouts (mainly to big companies) that followed.
If we have a second wave of infections, coupled with a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, then we can only see more of the same. And the State’s biggest weapon will be that 80% of the public supported lockdown or stronger lockdown. The Left in particular are arguing for stronger lockdown policies coupled with massive State intervention.
I believe it is a strategic blunder to support the Left perspective. It means we are ideologically disarming ourselves in the face of any attack from the State. It will lead to a dystopian future of mandatory vaccinations, social segregation and inability to effectively protest; there will be mandatory monitoring of every person’s life through the gathering of meta data and even micro data. The State will intervene in people’s daily lives on a level unprecedented in human history, and there will be no escape. At its worst people will be shot and killed as is already happening in South Africa.
Against this dystopia we will be forced to adopt survival strategies and strategies of resistance. This will involve having fake ID, ready made excuses to move around, networks of addresses, home testing kits and medicine supplies, support co-ops, prepared food banks. It may mean having unregistered non-Smart mobile phones without any tracking software, it will mean everyone having access to their own transport, bicycles, motorbikes, shared cars and vans. Protest will become “flash mob” in black bloc style to prevent arrests, organised through a social media that does not use a trackable visible App. All propaganda will become digital unless it’s spray paint graffiti. There will be an urgent necessity to exchange stories of resistance and adopt better strategies.
If the emergency laws lapse in 6 months, in September, then we have a space to protest positively against both the old normal and the new normal. This means being back on the streets. The most obvious reformist demands will be for Universal Basic Income, more pay for nurses and key workers, taxes on the rich. More radical will be the demand for a complete “Green New Deal.” As anarchists, without a complete manifesto to put to people, we can at least argue that every aspect of the reformist demands have attached to them the fundamental principle of workers’ control, and no sacrifice of individual liberty.
So now there’s 3 months to work on an anarchist “transitional programme” for a utopian normal – before Winter comes.
The Bonnot Gang were the most notorious French anarchists ever – folk-heroes, bank expropriators the inventors of the motorised getaway. It is the story of how the anarchist taste for illegality developed into illegalism. Get hold of a copy, it’s a page-turner!
Available from PM Press: https://pmpress.org.uk/product/the-bonnot-gang/