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Germany: Corona and the (radical) left – An input for discussion

The following text was sent to Sunzi Bingfa and we are happy because this expresses exactly what Sunzi Bingfa is also supposed to be, a place of exchange and finding each other for those edges of the (radical) left who sincerely want something different beyond the prevailing (leftist) narratives in precisely the historical situation we are currently facing.

Originally published by Sunzi Bingfa. Translated by Riot Turtle for Enough 14.

For almost a year now, Covid-19 has been shaping all aspects of our lives and has cost the lives of far too many people around the world. At the moment, the powers-that-be are leaving us to suffer the consequences of a pandemic that capitalism has helped to create. This is particularly brutal in this second “social lockdown” in Germany (this text was written before the “hard” lockdown). People are in fact only allowed to consume and to work. Social contact, while not banned outright, is only allowed in a severely restricted manner, although all contacts are discouraged. In countries where a curfew has been imposed, it is even more brutal, as people are not even allowed outside without permission. Life is trivialized to its capitalist usability. “Health management,” “public health,” and “health policy” are the auxiliary medical sciences that maintain this usability in pandemic capitalism.

Since Covid-19 became an official emergency in March, the discourse seems to have narrowed to two positions. Either one “takes Corona seriously,” meaning one follows all government measures to the greatest extent possible, or even further restricts one’s life so as not to be responsible for driving the pandemic. Or one “does not take Corona seriously” and is thus a Corona denier, irresponsible and conspiracy ideologue. But neither do we approve of people calling for (authoritarian) leaders, nor should we silently accept the state trying to control our lives down to the last corners, while people are allowed to continue to toil for capital. As (radical) leftists, it is our very own task to develop a third position that is beyond the prevailing rationalities: Beyond state “morality”; neoliberal self-responsibility and the rule of the strongest and authoritarian answers.

Even on the left, there is often only a discussion for or against the measures. However, if one argues in favor of the measures, one is making common cause with the state. But we know that the state is never concerned with the individual well-being of the population. It is only concerned with keeping the system running, for which it needs a healthy population. Of course, there are conflicting interests here as well. For example, some focus more on preventing hospitals from being overburdened, while still others focus on keeping the economy going. What these interests have in common, however, is that they want to maintain or restore a status quo (of the reasonably under control pandemic) (capitalism without corona). We, however, reject any status quo! A (radical) left, which is actively in favor of the state measures, fights for the maintenance of capitalism, only without Covid-19.

How important is social contact, how are me and my counterpart doing, what risk am I willing to take personally. In our struggles this means: How important is our struggle to overcome the prevailing conditions? If so much is currently canceled or shifted to the digital space, this signals that we actually don’t consider our struggles to be relevant. If this is the case, then we have a serious problem and should talk about it.

All state measures are justified with protection against contagion and the need to prevent the spread of the virus. But it should be clear to us that allegedly rational arguments, which come across as scientific and objective, are still bourgeois science. As all our knowledge, our emotions, our being social, is a product of people, and thus to be critically questioned. The state treasuries are supposedly empty, one cannot pay for this and that, after all not all refugees can come, climate protection is too expensive, Greece has managed badly. All of these are and were arguments that we never accept as justification for decisions against the well-being of the population. Because the necessity of a good life for all cannot be justified rationally and scientifically, just as little as the eternity of capitalism. As (radical) leftists, we should not fall into such inhuman patterns of argumentation, because ultimately they consider the life of a person who does not become infected to be more worthy of protection than that of a woman who is affected by domestic violence, or a person who is contemplating suicide and does not get the help she might need. Let’s leave that logic to those in power. Our logic is that of survival & life. That doesn’t mean refusing to wear masks as a matter of principle, or having parties with lots of people. It means that one weighs up again and again on the basis of one’s own left and collectively developed standards. In everyday life, this means: how important is social contact, how are me and my counterpart, what risk am I willing to take personally. In our struggles this means: How important is our struggle to overcome the prevailing conditions? If so much is currently canceled or shifted to the digital space, this signals that we actually don’t consider our struggles to be relevant. If this is the case, then we have a serious problem and should talk about it.

In the prevailing discourse, the corona pandemic appears as a higher evil that has come upon us and that must now be controlled. For this purpose, it is important to realize that the corona virus is precisely not that. Numerous studies and researches of the last decades have already shown that capitalist agriculture and the urbanization of societies cause and rapidly promote the emergence and rapid spread of viruses. But even now, the principle of TINA already prevails again in the broad discourse: The population is already being sworn in for coming pandemics when it is said that people just have to get used to wearing masks, or home office is being discussed as the new permanent work. There is no questioning of the fact that we are now living in the constant and unavoidable danger of pandemics and that all the measures are justified, let alone the question of causes and overcoming the causes and conditions that have brought us into this situation.

But even the (radical) left in Germany does not seem to dare to question all this in a practical and audible way. Even worse: It seems that we have not even understood what the state measures are doing to us as comrades. We are moving away from each other quite materially, we are a danger to each other. Simply moving all our meetings to the digital sphere and closing our spaces means that we think we don’t need each other as bodies. Yet it is these very bodies that have protected us in actions against police violence, with whom we have sweated at parties, almost sat on top of each other in too-cramped spaces at plenaries, that have comforted us in hard times. Political exchange and networking took place in the social spaces. We learned about ideas, initiatives and debates. Something like cooperation existed. Today, we learn of three thematically similar demos on the same weekend through Twitter, cross-spectrum discussions happen only sporadically, and something like enthusiasm is a foreign word on Big Blue Buttom (or Zoom). All of this points to the old insight that the social/private is political: an almost forgotten insight from distant times when the left could still afford analysis.

But even the events mentioned above that at least addressed the economic side of the Corona policies were so small that the impression must arise that the radical left does not care about the authoritarian measures, or worse, that it agrees with these policies.

But instead of talking about this, everything continues as before, only with a mask and outside or digitally. So you can’t say that there were no left-wing actions in 2020. From the BLM demo, to the actions at Danni, to the demo against the Liebig eviction, everything was there. A loud criticism of the government measures, let alone a rebellion against them, however, was hardly to be heard let alone to be felt. On all these occasions, one could get the impression that Corona had never existed or had always existed. The few events or actions that explicitly addressed the government’s policies focused on the economic consequences. But the constant complaining about the alleged double standards of the current politics fails to recognize that the measures taken are extremely coherent in the logic of the powers-that-be. Go to work and stay at home. There will be no other lockdown here! But even the events mentioned above that at least addressed the economic side of the Corona policies were so small that the impression must arise that the radical left does not care about the authoritarian measures, or worse, that it agrees with these policies.

We allow ourselves to be isolated and consider it easiest to follow the state’s measures instead of considering together what might be a viable path for a left-wing community. Yes, such a process is exhausting and requires courage, because fears have to be voiced and in such a process it would become clear that we can never protect ourselves 100%. Security exists only in the ideology of domination. But a collective is more than its individual parts. It is a great whole that points beyond the individual: transferring responsibility for contagion, through a common discussion and perhaps decision, to the collective, thus relieving each individual of the heavy burden of the alleged “guilt” of having infected a friend, is what can be gained. Taking ourselves seriously as subjects or making 1st person politics also means collectively looking at what this situation does to us as female comrades, not to mention the rest of the population.

The radical left fights for a dignified life for all people on this planet. But a dignified life is far away. Right now more than ever. Social devastation in the form of millions of unemployed, hunger and violence is sweeping across the globe like a tsunami, almost unseen in Germany. We are being locked into our homes and patronized in our social relationships. Worse, we patronize each other. For example, children decide not to visit their parents because they think they are a risk to them, even though a visit is eagerly desired. People think they can decide for others whether to meet, instead of taking themselves seriously as subjects and asking whether the other person is willing to take “the risk.” In other countries, people are denied the resources and knowledge to protect themselves from the virus. This is because enough resources do not exist for everyone under capitalism, but mainly for us (on the northern part of the planet). – What is a life worth if it can no longer be lived together with others? Thus life is reduced to trivial survival. So it is welcome when it is pointed out that it is hardly possible for people without shelter to stay at home. This points to the social inequality in the possibilities to protect oneself from infection. But at the same time housing is reduced to being able to protect oneself from other people. A radical left must confront these contradictions. What a good life for all should be is something that seems to have been lost in the times of Covid-19.

As a radical left we have to revolt against this, and how are we supposed to do this if we say goodbye to the public space and leave it to the far-right? If we are not tangible for people, not approachable in the material sense? So let’s not argue about the pros and cons of “the measures” in the medical or virological sense. Instead, let’s analyze what effect they have on society, whether they limit achievements of left struggles and whether they oppose left principles and criticize them accordingly. Because with us it is impossible to build a state!

A lonely organized post autonomous person

Maria from M.


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