We would like to make some comments from an anarchist perspective on the current situation in Switzerland (and similarly in some places in Europe) on the subject of COVID measures, COVID certificates, and on science and vaccines.
For too long there has been a lack of critical voices from anarchist or anti-authoritarian circles in Switzerland. Now is the time to speak out and act. The state presumes to give us back the certainty of having the solution for a return to normality. But perhaps we have forgotten that the anchors of this certainty, this normality, were long ago (for many still current… fortunately) perceived as chains that had to be broken in order to steer the ship towards anarchy; knowing that it would be a stormy sea, but towards an unknown horizon of freedom.
But now many, too many, are throwing themselves into the lifeboats, rowing back, returning to land, feeling melancholy about our happy antagonistic islands and accepting the normality offered by the state.
On solidarity and hypocrisy
Since the outbreak of the Corona virus, “solidarity” seems to be the new buzzword within capitalist society. Solidarity demanded by the same states that wage wars, kill people on the Mediterranean, at the borders and in prisons, build fortresses from which poor people must be excluded.
This solidarity is propagated by the same pharmaceutical companies that always put profit above human lives, that have so much dirt on them that their “good deeds” would fill books. All hypocritical “moralizers” who scream at us out of fear of losing their comfortable lives and talk about solidarity, while all their lives they have indifferently watched and (even applauded) when people experience hunger, exploitation, torture, war, destruction of their habitats, just so that here in the rich European areas we can consume anything at any time, with as much comfort as possible, and travel wherever we want. All these hypocrites are now crying out for solidarity.
What kind of solidarity is this? Solidarity with a social order based on oppression and exploitation? Solidarity with whom, for whom? This solidarity cannot be the same kind of solidarity on which we want to build. Solidarity cannot be imposed by states or come from moral and social pressure. So, solidarity becomes hypocrisy. Solidarity is contextual and depends on the worldview and ideas that people share or not.
Even parts of the “radical left,” aligned with social democrats, have adopted the same idea of “solidarity” promoted by the states, calling for “solidarity lock-downs” or “#stayathome,” the use of covid certificates and vaccinations. In these calls for isolation, leaving the streets empty and using QR codes and COVID certificates, there is no space for practices like connecting with those who resist and the oppressed, conspiring and organizing together in a practical daily solidarity, or carrying our ideas and practices in the already existing social tensions and conflicts, in a moment of crisis or restructuring of capitalist society.
While “we” stay #home, the state offers the only alternative out of the lock-down, managing the situation and organizing the “solidarity”, with “our” tacit consent. Since when has delegating – especially to the state – been part of the anarchist toolbox? The gap left by the “radical left” in not criticizing and opposing the state measures is now mostly filled by fascist and other reactionary bullshit propaganda.
In this context, the question arises for us whether people in the circles of the “radical left” are aware of the real consequences of the often used slogans? “Against capitalism” “Against the authorities” “for a self-organized and self-determined life” (for some also “destruction of state, borders, prisons”). Are these things that people want to fight for and stand by, whatever happens? Or are they empty words that look cool on stickers or t-shirts and are just a required part of a subculture?
Because dear people, the struggle for another world, a revolution or revolutionary moments, in real life, will probably be so beautiful and full of emotions, but also full of suffering, difficult moments, losses, and will force us out of our comfort zones. Making the proposal to #Stayathome or to isolate ourselves and rely on the measures prescribed by the state, in our opinion, is not a good start if we want to learn how to struggle, live a self-determined and self-organized life and how to support each other in “times of crisis”.
It is important for us to mention how “radical left” circles relate to the current protests against the COVID measures of the state. The “social revolution”, ” social movements” or other social conflict moments are protagonists in some of our speeches, texts and ideas, but meanwhile people are taking to the streets and we are not participating because of the presence of fascist or nationalist assholes. Yes, this is an important point of discussion, and we believe that we should think together about how to deal with it. But have we ever thought about the importance of “social” conflict? Fortunately, at least we (who are writing this text) do not see a “social” or conflict as one in which the set of people involved corresponds to our perfect, idealized, revolutionary individuals who all share the same concepts, ideas, and perspectives. These struggles arise in the society we live in, with all its contradictions and outside the bubbles we like to create for ourselves. Suddenly we find that we are not used to dealing with these contradictions. This is an impasse, an obstacle that we want to overcome in order to bring our ideas, our critique and our practices to the streets, among the people.
From the Gilet Jaunes protests in France to the Gezi uprisings in Turkey, a multitude of people participated and still participate in these struggles, in which initially fascist, bourgeois and conservative forces also had their influence. The presence and determination of companions with revolutionary ideas on the streets, within these struggles, has helped to push back and isolate these forces.
In Switzerland, we also see the presence of anti-fascists on the streets. They organize counter-demonstrations and actions against the anti-corona measures and anti-vaccination protests, without taking a critical stance towards the restrictions and measures of the state that lead to more surveillance and control. These “anti-fascists” tend to generalize and claim that everyone who is in the streets alongside the fascists is also a fascist, or that people are at least “irrational conspiracy theorists.” With these generalizations, stigmatizations, and trivializations of all the people participating in these protests, they are taking a counter-position uncomfortably similar to the state in response to the presence of fascists at these protests. In our opinion, we should oppose the fascists while expressing a critical stance towards the state-imposed measures.
We think that we should build the capacity to be present at these protests or at least have our own initiatives to expose the reactionaries and fascists. We want to be able to implement our anarchist perspective on the situation within the different forms of conflicts and practices (by this we mean that we don’t just follow the protests and wait for groups and people to demand or do something so that we can react, but have our own practices and positions using the know-how we have) and make clear what we stand for. How to do that is, of course, the subject of many discussions, but discussions that we would like to have and try out. This could put us in a situation where it is more clearly defined who we could have as accomplices and who we could have as enemies.
The neutrality of science
The notion of the neutrality of science is a deceptive story. Science develops under certain social, cultural and economic conditions, so it cannot be neutral at all, as many other structures are not. In scientific logic and in Western medicine there is a standardized paradigm that turns people into measurable objects and ignores all differences, stories, emotions and the conditions and environment in which human lives. Western science has managed to establish itself as the general, neutral and only possible truth. By suppressing alternative approaches to knowledge, it is able to maintain its dominance.
Science is not static and is constantly changing. Who is funding the research, with what goal, at what time…? All the companies involved in the research and distribution of vaccines, biotechnologies, genetic engineering, nano- and digital technologies, and robotics are closely linked, shifting money and resources back and forth and furthering their interests by following the rules of the capitalist economy. This is nothing new! Actually, it is an old story, and the progress of science and biomedicine is closely linked to exploitation, colonialism, Western domination, and patriarchal imperialist practices. It is not particularly hard to find these connections in history, just as it is not hard to find the history of resistance and sabotage against them.
What is perhaps new for us is the fact that criticism of Corona vaccinations or genetic engineering is immediately given the uncritical label of ” Corona skeptic,” “conspiracy theorist,” or “wingnut,” which eliminates and silences any possible resistance to it. A new dangerous dualism and categorization within society (including within our own circles) is created, generating conflicts that are functional only for the state. For the conflicts remain horizontal instead of becoming vertical. Whatever criticism is put forward against it, no matter from whom and from which circles – even if it has been part of the struggles of companions in different places for years (let’s take as an example the critical consideration of biotechnology and nanotechnology or the digitalization of society) – today everything is put under the umbrella of the “corona skeptic”, of the “conspiracy”, together with fascist, reactionary and nationalist ideas. This categorization has been nurtured by the state and the media, unsurprisingly. But it has also been taken up and perpetuated within the extra-parliamentary left.
Today, the “war against the virus” is the perfect occasion to try out new technologies, to promote digitalization, control and surveillance, to close borders, to expand state and capitalist access to the human body. The insecurities and fears generated by this “crisis” and promoted by states, media and experts lead people to slowly and silently get used to and accept circumstances that many (at least of us) thought unthinkable just a few months ago. In addition, there is the economic aspect that some of the companies that have invested in the research, production and distribution of vaccines, tests, medicines, not to mention the development of digital solutions to “contain” the virus, are making an immense profit from this situation. A lot of money and resources are then reinvested in research, and suddenly all these opportunities open up for technologies that not so long ago were subject to many limitations. Another economic aspect is that all these technologies and research drive the development of new sectors that help to boost economic growth and restore normality to capitalist society.
An excessively polluting capitalist society, which in its past and present has destroyed everything that stood and stands in its way, with monocultures, deforestation, intensive agriculture, globalization, extreme exploitation of human life, nature and any living thing,… All this has created the perfect basis for the development of this virus (and many other diseases), and the vaccine does not change the direction, it is just a band-aid stuck on a sick society. All of these developments must always be viewed with a healthy skepticism and critique, and in our radical critique we feel that we should go beyond the vaccine and speak to the conditions in which we live that are conducive to the spread of disease.
Questions arise such as: What kind of world do we want to live in? As long as we live, there will be disease, viruses and death. How do we want to deal with that? Is the world we want to live in a world in which everyone is seen as a danger and we want to distance ourselves more and more from each other, are constantly suspicious, want to control and monitor each other? Interpersonal contact is necessary to live and survive. To do without it is to do without life.
Genetic engineering and a self-determined life
The vaccinations against the Corona virus are so-called mRNA or vector vaccinations, they belong to the category of genetic vaccinations. So we are dealing with genetic research, genetic engineering and biotechnology. Research in this area has been going on for a number of years. However, these mRNA vaccines were first approved in 2020, due to the “urgency” of finding a vaccine that protects against the Covid19 virus. The investigation and testing time for such technologies has been massively shortened and there is no possibility to legally defend against possible late side-effects.
That there is skepticism or a critical attitude among people here is not so far-fetched. And that many people also from anarchist and anti-authoritarian circles take a critical stance with regard to genetic research, biotechnologies or technical-medical progress should also not be surprising. The progress of biomedical sciences aims at an extension of life into infinity, at any price. People are turned into consumers of medical-technical solutions and slowly lose more and more the connection to their own body and to nature.
Genetics and biotechnology spring from the need of a patriarchal, capitalist world to control, standardize and perfect everything. Currently, as in other moments in history, a perceived crisis, a threat, is taken as an occasion to test new technologies on the human and social body in many areas of life. In other situations, the testing of these technologies would have met with more resistance and taken longer. And so the acceptance of these technologies is forced.
However, whether a person decides to be vaccinated or not: My body, my decision! was true yesterday, is true today, and will be true for us tomorrow. We still stand by the idea that each person decides (at best, in a collective context) what to do with his or her own body. There is no reason (and this applies to health as well) why people should be robbed of the ability to decide about their own bodies, and certainly not by a state or because of societal pressure. The issues around control over one’s own body and health are of great importance and there could and should be an exchange and discussion in our circles. In addition, we think that we want to try and figure out how to deal with these issues in a self-determined way. What is happening lately in some spaces of the “radical left”, in squatted houses, meeting places and social centers, does not work in this sense. Spaces that call themselves self-organized have submitted to the measures of the state and require people to have the Covid certificate or have been tested or vaccinated. Some even go so far as to say that people without the Covid certificate are not allowed to enter or stay in these places, or advise people to get vaccinated. Calling these actions solidarity or responsibility is somehow misleading. Reproducing and implementing state-imposed rules – especially if they mean registration, categorization, more control, isolation – is accountability to the state, which can also be seen simply as obedience.
New technologies for surveillance and control
The Covid certificate is only the latest development in a process that could eventually enable the complete surveillance of entire social groups and areas. Not only in the sense of repression, but also economically: “Big Data” – the amount of data we produce every day with the help of many digital tools that need to be categorized, analyzed, etc., from which profit can be made – is one of the newest “raw materials” of the future, on which many interests are focused. An anti-capitalist critique should take this into account.
Huge leaps are currently taking place in the fields of digitalization, control and surveillance.
The apps that everyone is being asked to download onto their smartphones that reveal movement and location data, the increasing ability to transmit this data and metadata in real time, video surveillance, contact tracing – all of this is part of an ever more pervasive and standardized development of surveillance technologies. Just like the recently passed Terrorism Act (PMT, Police Measures to Combat Terrorism), the COVID certificate enables the control and surveillance of ever larger parts of the population. People become a collection of data that can be controlled and managed. And with the justification of the threat (virus, terrorists, collapse of the economy) people are supposed to submit to control, self-control and surveillance. For the “good” of all. A dream for states and all who have an interest that all areas of life can be controlled, analyzed and capitalized. In the event of a threat of a virus, a crisis, terrorism, these technologies can be used more quickly, with legitimacy and without the consent of a population. By the way, these are also means that fascists and right-wingers are always happy to use and welcome. The call for the use of these means against migrants, groups on the “fringes” of society, resistant and rebellious people and groups is legitimate, but of course not against themselves. Therefore, we consider their calls for freedom opportunistic and hypocritical.
QR codes and certificates, constant registration and data collection, the slow acclimation to the digitalization of our lives and the all-encompassing and constant surveillance are progressing. COVID measures (border closures, COVID apps, Covid certificates,…) are taking problems like body and movement control, digitization and registration of people to a new level with blatant speed. People’s health status, where and when they are, who they are with, is recorded and made controllable in the form of data. The Covid certificate is a continuation of the state’s blatant intrusions and accesses into our lives, as is the recently passed Prevention of Terrorism Act (PMT). We cannot condone any of this.
For all these reasons and many more….
Against the state COVID measures, against the COVID certificate, against control and surveillance.
For a self-determined life, for freedom, for anarchy