TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL SPANISH PIECE PUBLISHED IN CONTRA LA CONTRA #4
The magic word “security” imposes itself on the criminal as well as on the terrorist and the virus, and the health crisis shows how much the State obtains our submission in the name of health.
By Gilles Dauvé
In the society of Capital the discourses that are presented to us as “truths” are expressed by different spokespersons of the class in power, from the traditional mass media to the supposed alternative media, along with the countless digital social networks. In this way, the informative discourse that warns us since early 2020 about the pandemic of Covid-19, highlights that the information from the power is intended to be indisputable, to such an extent that it not only arouses consensus among the organisms of the bourgeoisie, but that it is even reinforced through public opinion on social networks and up to the supposed dissident media.
The question is not whether the disease is highly infectious or whether protective and care measures should be followed or not. It is obvious that we are dealing with a virus that spreads quickly and causes the death for a minority of infected people. Here the problem is that the whole information is distorted and instrumentalized to validate any action of the capitalist State. From locking up a population forcibly, to killing people who had the misfortune to be out during the curfew, to justifying the fact that individuals must isolate themselves from their relatives or go into seclusion without having anything to eat; because here, as in many places on the planet, “everyone scratches himself with his own fingernails”.
Since the virus spread around the world, the news media have done nothing but bombard us with news about thousands of deaths, about hospitals which are bursting at the seams with patients, delving into such contradictory assumptions that to this day they only cause stupor, in addition to an amount of improbable, confusing and biased information coming from the “experts”. All this with a clear objective to disturb us so that we accept to be kept in lock down. Without calling in question this fucking situation at all. Regardless of the fact that in the name of “public health” they have broken our mental health, and at the most, they have made it increasingly difficult for us to survive from day to day.
The holy “truth”
In the past, when they wanted to make us believe in something, to impose faith on us or submit us to a master’s purpose, they needed a Bible in one hand and a sword in the other. Today, things have not changed so much; they have only exchanged the Bible for the “scientific” argument in vogue, without forgetting the truncheon and the gun when this is not enough. Today the inveterate positivist vision that focuses on the new “scientific” faith tries to make us believe that outside of its truths (which are temporary and transitory) there is no other truth, and any other kind of interpretation or analysis that is not certified by the institutions or has not been validated in the scientific “papers” lacks value and must be discarded straight away.
Should scientific thought (or rather what has been validated and stamped by bourgeois institutions) be the basis for governing, controlling and managing our lives, as if we were the subjects of an experiment, just like that, simple mice on which social discipline, control and various projects of domination shall be implemented?
So why should we believe that the health objectives of capital are now neutral if they are based on a bourgeois conception of what hygiene, medical care and the health of the human body are? Since when are the WHO, the institution of science, hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry the allies of humanity?
In this sense, it is necessary to understand that the current situation is a continuation of what began in the origins of Capital: to separate the human being from his own body and from his collective being, to deny him subsistence first, and then, to deny him control over himself; that is, to create institutions in order to domesticate his physical and mental health, to develop in us the dependence on the organs of power, as if we were calves in need of the breeder to take us to graze. Under the dictatorship of Capital, our bodies do not belong to us.
Blessed be the social control
The best example of management of the coronavirus crisis is the one developed in several countries of the Orient, especially China, using the disease as an excuse to give free rein to the repressive and surveillance apparatus that has been perfected in that country for years; first to hide the development of the disease and then to “contain” it, emphasizing the entire population to be treated as criminals, subjecting them to extreme quarantine, curfews and strict controls, as in science fiction movies.
As if that wasn’t already catastrophic enough, the worst thing is that the world public opinion did not take long to applaud such measures and to hold them up as an example towards controlling the pandemic. Those mindless cheerleaders are actually hiding the political arrests, murders and the massaging of figures by that country, in addition to the concealment of information and the money-laundering by the repressive institutions.
Although these measures of confinement were considered somewhat “extreme” by the Western democracies, this did not prevent their implementation in several countries of the world, developing the double discourse of good and bad cops: “we do not act with as much repression as in China, so feel lucky and stay at home… or we fine you or imprison you” (or we kill you, needless to say).
The “mea culpa” of the world proletariat
On the other hand, the easiest formula to contain the crisis (and that has been proven many times over) is to put the blame on the proletariat, either by saying that the extent of this crisis is due to its lack of willingness to stay at home and respect normality in times of pandemic, or because it is not cautious, responsible and civic enough in not wearing a mouth mask 24 hours a day.
In the end, reactionary scaremongering on social networks has turned into blaming and pointing fingers at the neighbor who leaves his house or organizes parties, at the person who does not wear a rag over his mouth, or those who crowd into markets to buy supplies. As if these issues were the center of the problem, while leaving aside the fact that the responsibility for this situation and the way in which people are forced to relate with each other is because of the structuring of Capital, and does not depend on the choice of any individual or social group.
Now, it should be clear that despite the idealization of the confinement and the idiotic belief that health measures are the magic formulas that will save our lives, the reality of the circulation of commodities and capitalist relations make it impossible to keep safe from any virus or disease. Moreover, although the infection by any virus were not an exceptional event, but the consequence of the development of organic life on earth, we should not rule out that the generation of pathogen agents and their propagation are closely related to the mode of production. The devastation of land added to the continuous deterioration of the life conditions of the proletarians plus the dynamics of capital circulation are the breeding ground of the diseases that have been spreading throughout the world for several centuries now.
Furthermore, it should be noted that even if it was “our desire” to stay isolated at home, the proletariat does not have a guaranteed life; it is forced to sell itself as a commodity, and to circulate as such in public space. It is obliged to consume products in the places where they are sold at least cost, even if these spaces are crowded; it is subjected to make trips on public transport, because it has no other choice; and worst of all, no one has the capacity to endure isolation in a healthy way and the exercises and activities that aim to replace the physical and social activity of the population with virtual alternatives sooner or later end in total failure.
The illogical logic of Capital
So far, all the analyses about the pandemic have only emphasized figures, deaths, public policies, control measures and scaremongering all day long. At no time in recent months there has been a strong voice on the relationship between this health crisis and the political and social structure within the economy of Capital. And it is obvious that it will never happen. On this issue, as on so many others, the propagandists of the bourgeois order will wash their hands of the matter and say that “the fault lies not with the system, but with people”.
But how has capitalism responded to this calamity beyond the glorified measures of social control, beyond quarantines, mouth masks and disinfectant bottles? Well, sadly, nothing significant has been done, and if desperate (and at the same time so long awaited) measures like a vaccine are believed to be the solution to this problem, we are sure that many more people will die waiting for their vaccine, and that in fact this will not even guarantee the return to “normality”, nor will it do nothing at all to improve the already fucked-up conditions of existence of the majority of the world’s population.
In the field of the economy (of capital) one would think that it has been a catastrophic year for the market, industry and finance. This is how the news and other hucksters express it. However, the current figures reveal that the production of raw materials has had a historic increase; the working hours are extended for the workers in industry as well as for employees in telecommunications, pharmaceutical industries and other sectors. This seems at first sight to contradict the intentions of governments to “stay at home”, whereas it’s quite the contrary for workers in general.
The increase in profits has been the best thing that has recently happened to Capital, contrary to what “logic” would say; in this pandemic those who have gone bankrupt are not the big corporate conglomerates, but only the proletarians who live from day to day and the small merchants who had faith in the whimsical god of business.
It would however be reductionist to say that all the sectors of the production as well as services have had an upturn; in this crisis as in so many others there have been sectors affected, such as department stores, bars, sports facilities and stores that depend on direct service to customers. But as we well know, in the capitalist economy, while some collapse others stand up all-powerful on the world stage.
It is also clear that these events are signs of a new economic reset or restructuring. Something that we can see if we take as a basis the periods of crisis and decline of the capitalist economy of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Thus confirming that only the dynamics of war to break up the productive forces, replacing them by others, made possible the reconfiguration of production and the valorization of commodities, while giving new life to the corpse of the world economy.
Antagonism and weaknesses of the proletariat
Something curious that has been developing in the last decade is the media influence of groups of Christian fundamentalists, conservatives and neo-Nazis who have multiplied their pseudo-critical conspiracy rhetoric. Giving the appearance that these ridiculous minorities are the “opposition” to the established order.
We well know that these discourses are full of twisted fantasies where villains like Bildenberg, Soros and Rockefeller confront their white knights like Trump, the white Christians, and even the Russian government! Beyond their delusions, we must understand that these groups and their propaganda are mostly another way of spreading confusion among our class.
Their supposed critical discourse is only of convenience; their criticism of the “new world order” is only limited to pointing out the bourgeois of the “liberal wing”, leaving the conservative and retrograde bourgeois as if they were sacred. It goes without saying that these subjects are protagonists of negationism in the pandemic, and they have gone further by pretending to play the role of “rebel” citizens for freedom. Yes, for the freedom to reopen their businesses and their leisure centers, to return to their former normality.
And as expected, the response to this type of conservative response came from the citizenry, equally conservative, but that was bogged down in the dependence on the official discourse. This has played an extraordinary role in the scope of the possibilities of overcoming this situation; because if you confront the dominant discourse and reason you are labelled as nothing else than a “conspiracy theorist”, in order to sink you into the swamp of official discourse and validate the measures of repression, the immobility of the proletarian struggle and the acceptance of the existing conditions of misery.
It is worth mentioning that even many comrades who call themselves opponents, anarchists and critics of Capital, were prey to a beginning of media terrorism which, early this year, presented the virus and the pandemic as “monsters who are enemies of humanity”, psychologically impregnating and reinforcing the atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and terror. Ironically enough, after years of anti-State preaching, the State’s discourse and actions were now backed up, also calling for “staying at home” and closing ranks to obey the health measures dictated by the WHO.
Given this situation, the question is not to get involved in a crude game of seeing who is more ultra or more “radical” in the face of the problem. The point is to understand that if a theory (in this case, a radical theory opposed to the State and Capital) should be dropped at the first obstacle that reality puts in its way, then it is quite useless.
We know that the speed with which the current process advanced is unprecedented since decades, which makes it impossible to be assimilated and understood in the short term. However, our perception can never be based on the reason or logic of our class enemy. At this point where the contradictions and fallacies of Capital and its pandemic are more visible, there is no longer any justification for a withdrawal and a consensus from the health dictatorship imposed by Capital.
On the proletarian struggle in times of confinement
As already pointed out, the situation of the pandemic has meant a deterioration of the living conditions of the proletariat, on one hand there are sectors forced to increase their day of exploitation, as well as on the other hand many proletarians have ended up in unemployment queues.
Furthermore, remote working and virtual school have also reinforced the fact that only a few have the possibility to adapt to the abrupt changes implemented under this mode of production. However, even those who have the necessary tools to meet the objectives of teleworking or tele-education have not been spared by the physical and mental deterioration that followed. It isn’t that we would claim work and education of the “old normality” but we emphasize the raising of the ultimate self-sacrifice ethic.
But contrary to what one might think, this also led proletarian groups, with the quarantine on top of that, to take to the streets and deploy against the forces of law and order, not because “life’s back to normal” but because of the hunger and shitty life they have been subjecting us to since long before the pandemic. The disease has intensified the riots in response to police killings in the streets or because of abusive controls that prevent even beg a few coins for survival, triggering racism and structural misogyny. Whether or not there is a pandemic, our lives are clearly marked by the violence of a murderous and inhumane order.
In this very tense context, where our class is rising up against its usual enemies, even with all the measures of “voluntary” submission, the fact to proclaim “stay at home” means to contribute to the reinforcing of this amorphous and contradictory disaster managed by the ruling class, because it even goes beyond agreeing on the military power and social control exercised by the State. It means to accept all the stupidity and ignorance which we are being subjected to, leading us to become a bunch of informers and paranoid citizens who defend cleanliness and purity where anyone known or unknown serves as an enemy because he or she is a possible infectious agent… in short, their pandemic warns us that “everyone is the enemy”. The motto “stay at home” means to deny the responsibility of the only and true culprit that is Capital and the State that goes with it. It’s in fact about reinforcing atomization and isolation, an “every man for himself” from the individuality, so that with the confinement we remain passive and expectant, terrified and impotent in our body and mind.
It is important and necessary right now to make a break with the dominant reason, to advance and rebuild the struggle in community, which has been undermined by this process. Capital will not fall off on its own. And retreating in times of great need is synonymous with accepting that there is no other hope than what our enemies want to give us. And beyond the empty discussions about how it would be optimal to manage this misery, on our part we refuse to accept the supposed alternatives and we prefer respond to this by supporting the outbreaks of anger where they occur, by encouraging the autonomous class conjunction, by struggling without making concessions. By pointing out that we should remain in the perspective of a world social revolution to put an end once and for all to this artificial infamy.
Source in Spanish: https://materialesxlaemancipacion.espivblogs.net/2020/12/23/la-pandemia-es-domesticacion/
English translation: Los Amigos de la Guerra de Clases