Britain: COVID-19 is a Cover for State Repression and for Attacks on Democratic Rights

Fight against the Counterrevolutionary Offensive

Article by Joseph Adams, RCIT Britain, 28th March 2020,


On the 23rd March Boris Johnson announced a lockdown in which pubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres would close in Britain. He also announced that there could not be meetings of more than 2 people. Everyone has to stay inside their own homes and only carry out essential duties like going to the shops for necessities and other basics. Every other shop selling no essential items will be closed. These measures were taken by Johnson who claims to fight the coronavirus spreading. People are also forced to establish “social distancing”, which means no social contacts outside of the family: “Boris Johnson will order police to enforce a strict coronavirus lockdown, with a ban on gatherings of more than two people and strict limits on exercise, as he told the British public: “You must stay at home.” The prime minister ratcheted up Britain’s response with an address to the nation on Monday evening, warning that people would only be allowed outside to buy food or medication, exercise alone once a day, or to travel to work if absolutely necessary If you don’t follow the rules, the police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.” The decision follows Friday’s announcement that all pubs, restaurants and gyms should shut down, then the continuation of commuters packing into trains on Monday, and of sun-seekers crowding into parks over the weekend”. All non-essential shops will close with immediate effect, as will playgrounds and libraries, he said in the address from Downing Street.”[1]


The result of the pandemic (which has claimed over 400 lives in Britain) is of a global dimension. Over 2.2 Billion people have been locked down but the virus still spreads. Britain with its very underfunded NHS and privatization rampant faces the health crisis with very few hospital beds, not to speak of the lack of intense care units. There are far not enough respiratory kits. Many doctors and nurses are showing signs of contracting COVID-19 and have been put in quarantine. However, there has been very little testing worldwide and especially in Britain. What a ridiculous situation!


Years of stripping the NHS of its resources by both Labour and Tory Governments has meant that Britain is quite unprepared to deal with the upcoming health crisis. Major appointments with doctors have been cancelled and many patients are only given phone contact which is absolutely inadequate. Many mental health patients are prevented from attending hospitals and there is a ban on all visitors to hospitals. Dentists are refusing to admit patients unless it is an emergency that evidently requires emergency treatment.


Johnson at the same time (infected by the Coronavirus himself) contacted all the mobile phone companies instructing them to send a text to all mobile phone users to stay inside and to not go out except in an emergency situation. “The UK government has taken the unprecedented step of asking mobile companies to send an alert to everyone in the UK telling them to heed the new nationwide lockdown rules. It is the first time ministers have called upon all the UK’s mobile operators – including O2, EE, Three and Vodafone– to send a mass broadcast that will reach as many as 60 million people across the country. Only 4% of households do not have at least one mobile phone, according to the communications regulator, Ofcom. Mobile companies were contacted by the government on Monday about the initiative, before Boris Johnson’s speech to the nation, broadcast on BBC1 at 8.30pm on Monday night” [2].


At supermarkets and other places like banks, “social distancing” is being enforced rigidly with shopper’s queueing for 45 minutes or longer. Security guards decide how many shoppers enter the store, one at any time.


Meanwhile in Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has gone further than Boris Johnson in England. She claimed that anyone seen outside of their home, even if it is to collect medicines or do some shopping will face on the spot fines. Sturgeon is de-facto advocating Bonapartist rule and opening the road towards dictatorship.


Scots could face “on the spot” fines and even prosecution if they breach new lockdown powers to tackle Coronavirus, Nicola Sturgeon has announced today. The First Minister said today that emergency laws to tackle Coronavirus passed at Westminster this week will come into force through new regulations being passed in Scotland later today. It will mean police have powers to disperse gatherings of two or more people outside, as well as ordering people home if they are found to be outside without good reason. This could include shopping, getting medicine or one daily form of exercise a day. The police will be able to issue “prohibition notices” and fines could be issued, while in some cases Scots could be prosecuted.” [3]


Many bourgeois commentators have also commented that the healthcrisis caused by COVID-19 is also responsible for the recession and the slump. The RCIT has shown in many articles that the contradictions of capitalism and imperialism are responsible for this recession which started before the new virus spread. The main reason for recurrent recessions is the falling rate of profit and the clash of capitalist production with the nature of production.


As Karl Marx correctly commented, it is the working class who will be the gravedigger of capitalism. The coronavirus has given the capitalist class an opportunity to create the conditions to enact counterrevolutionary proposals against the masses and the working class. It is the desperate reaction to another crisis of their own system.


The Reformist Left and many Centrist Forces support the Lockdown


The support for the lockdown has come not from right-wing, populist forces but rather from the reformist left and a number of centrist forces. The Labour party and the trade union bureaucracy have welcomed and encouraged Johnson to carry out this lockdown which is nothing more than a Bonapartist attack aimed against the masses. It is a measure to prevent mobilisations of the working class and oppressed against the planned attacks of the capitalist class. The prelude for the abolishment of various democratic rights is covered under the threat of a new, seemingly deadly virus.


Let us be clear: this lockdown measure is just normal under dictatorship and it will inevitably lead to Bonapartist rule if the working class and oppressed don't fight back. Johnson is using social distancing to prevent people from meeting both politically and personally. He has prorogued Parliament and is ruling by decree through his cabinet. The trade union bureaucrats however act as lackeys of the ruling class, supporting the lockdown. It seems during this health crisis that they will agree with any decisions made by the capitalist class at any given point. They are the policeman of the Working Class. Leon Trotsky in his writings on trade unions characterized their role very succinctly: “There is one common feature in the development, or more correctly the degeneration, of modern trade union organizations in the entire world: it is their drawing closely to and growing together with the state power. This process is equally characteristic of the neutral, the Social-Democratic, the Communist and “anarchist” trade unions. This fact alone shows that the tendency towards “growing together” is intrinsic not in this or that doctrine as such but derives from social conditions common for all unions. Hence flows the need of the trade unions – insofar as they remain on reformist positions, i.e., on positions of adapting themselves to private property – to adapt themselves to the capitalist state and to contend for its cooperation. In the eyes of the bureaucracy of the trade union movement the chief task lies in “freeing” the state from the embrace of capitalism, in weakening its dependence on trusts, in pulling it over to their side. This position is in complete harmony with the social position of the labor aristocracy and the labor bureaucracy, who fight for a crumb in the share of super profits of imperialist capitalism.” [4]



Many Centrists embrace the Lockdown


No clear rejection is shown by the Socialist Party of England (section of the CWI, which shrunk massively after the recent split) against the anti-democratic measures. Here is their position spelt out: “The lockdown measures introduced by Johnson have already been employed by governments internationally as a serious measure to combat coronavirus. But from day one this government has failed to act quickly enough to deal with the crisis.”[5] It is fascinating that the Socialist Party is able to write article after article without a single argument against the anti-democratic attacks while gatherings with more than 2 people are forbidden, while massive expansion of surveillance is prepared and any legal possibilty to organize ourselves is systematically undermined.


Left reformists even congratulate the government for its activities and fail to understand the underlying counterrevolutionary action of lockdown. In fact they are welcoming the lockdown and only critisizing that it took so long for Britain to implement this anti-democratic attack. Many reformists and centrists make correct criticisms of the government's health policies but restricts it to this specific area. They demand investment in public health and economic protection of workers without realising (and in consequence without rejecting) the underlying move towards Bonapartist rule.


The RCIT in a number of articles on COVID-19 has made clear its position on this crisis. We fully reject the lockdowns, the use of mobile phone technology together with robotic and other aspects of technology and the use of the police and the army on standby. Instead, health screening and quarantine in case of a confirmed infection is effective enough. It can not be said often enough: All revolutionaries have to reject the anti-democratic attacks that are happening right now!


Today, capitalist governments all around the world implement draconic enforcement measures against COVID-19 like general quarantines up to complete lockdowns. They justify this by arguing that they “protect” the people, especially the seriously ill and the elder. Surveillance is used up to forcing people to use specific apps with face-recognition which check the temperature daily and inform the government about results. Drones are flying, police and military forces are mobilized to keep people at home and a large number of borders are closed. All of this happens in combination with mobilizing huge amounts of money from the state treasury in order to provide the multinational corporations and other capitalist companies to cushion the blow of the recession. Reject the COVID-19 hysteria and prepare to fight back against austerity measures, against mass layoffs and against attacks on democratic rights! Reject any lockdowns, any forced undemocratic measures, any rules to socially isolate yourself from others as long as you are healthy! Keep a clear head in order to organize a broad solidarity campaign for our brothers and sisters in the semi-colonial countries, who have already been hit hard by so many diseases caused by imperialism and who will suffer heavy from the current pandemic!”[6].


The ruling class in Britain is preparing patriotic unity, chauvinism and racism is inevitably a result of this. The trade unions have already jumped on the bandwagon and support the lockdown and its inherent denial of basic democratic rights. It is the urgent task of all revolutionaries to give a revolutionary answer to the events!


RCIT Britain's Action Programme


The RCIT in BRITAIN puts forward the following programme to warn workers and the oppressed of the dangers of the present counterrevolutionary situation here in Britain and globally. Oppose the lockdown and all attacks on democratic rights!


* Expansion of the Health system in Britain under the control of workers and the popular masses


* No to mass lockdowns! Defend the democratic right to assemble and demonstrate! Nobody should take away our right to fight and rally against injustice and oppression!


* No mass surveillance! Stop the police state!


* Open borders for refugees! Oppose any travel bans!


* Systematic and free health screening of people who might have contracted the virus! Free respiratory kits for all patients! Start Medical tests now!


* For an international team of medical experts to develop a cure and preventive vaccination as soon as possible! They must be under the control of workers, local branches of the trade unions and other organs of the masses!


* Nationalise the pharmaceutical companies under workers control to develop drugs against widespread illnesses like COVID-19, Influenza, HIV/Aids and many more!


* Support our brothers and sisters in the global south! Cancel all public and household debts!


* No sackings, no wage cuts. Nationalisation under workers control of large enterprises, which sack workers respectively which shut down production!


* Fight for the building of a New Workers Party!


Get organized now! Join the RCIT!