“ZeroCOVID” Left Calls for the Authoritarian State – A Practical Example



A revealing article shows that the Lockdown Left calls for the expansion of the police and surveillance state


by Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 8 April 2021, www.thecommunists.net




We have pointed out since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis that most of the reformist and centrist left have capitulated to the political and ideological pressure of the ruling class. Hence, they fully support the Lockdown policy with all the anti-democratic consequences involved. In countries where they are part of the capitalist government (e.g. PODEMOS, IU and PCE in Spain or the SACP in South Africa), they implement themselves the policy of mass curfews, closures of small shops, restricting the right to assembly, and sending police and army.


In the past few months, large parts of the Lockdown Left have joined the so-called “ZeroCOVID” campaign which demand an even more draconic policy of mass curfews. This initiative praises countries like China and Australia as models and claims that a “short, hard lockdown in Europe” could result in the eradication of the virus. [1]


Naturally, it is completely illusionary to imagine that a virus which has already spread all over the world could be eradicated via a short lockdown. The fact that countries like China and Australia themselves feel obliged to impose lockdowns and mass curfews in regions because the virus appears again and again demonstrates this.


As the RCIT and other critics have explained, the whole Lockdown policy is thoroughly reactionary. First it is not particularly effective – a recent official study of the EU was forced to admit that Sweden, a country which imposed no Lockdown and hardly any restrictions, had less excess mortality in 2020 than most other European countries. [2] We showed and elaborated in numerous documents that the Lockdown policy is mainly politically motivated (in order to justify a shift towards an authoritarian state in a period of deep political and economic crisis) and not based on health considerations. [3] We published a number of articles in which we demonstrated that while COVID-19 is a serious pandemic (and not a hoax like the Trumpian muddleheads claim), it is, however, not unique. We pointed out in our documents that humanity, unfortunately, has faced repeatedly various pandemics and diseases in past decades which have claimed hundreds of thousands or millions of lives a year. Examples for this are e.g. the so-called Asia Flu in 1957-58, the so-called Hong Kong flu in 1968, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, severe Influenza seasons, etc. In addition, one should not forget to view the COVID-19 crisis in proportion to other diseases and preventable health risks (respiratory infections, tobacco, alcohol, etc.) which also cause millions of deaths every year. [4]


At this point we will not repeat our analysis which we outlined in numerous documents. Nor will we elaborate again our criticism of the Lockdown Left and refer interested readers to the relevant literature of the RCIT. [5]




Playing fast and loose with “Trotskyism”




In this brief article we will limit ourselves to the concrete example of a “Trotskyist” group which enthusiastically supports the “ZeroCOVID” campaign. The ex-revolutionary “League for a Fifth International” (L5I) drums up business for this initiative since the beginning in late 2020. Already before the emergence of this campaign, the L5I distinguished themselves by calling “cops to enforce laws” during the Lockdown period. [6]


A few days ago, the German section of L5I published an article on the COVID-19 crisis (which was also published on the German website of the ZeroCOVID campaign). [7] There is no doubt that the article reflects the collective position of the L5I since the German group is the largest section of the L5I in Europe and since the L5I’s International Secretary happens to be also the editor of the German section’s publications.


This article is interesting as it elaborates more concretely how such Lockdown Leftists imagine their ZeroCOVID strategy. The central part of the L5I article states the following: “In my opinion we need a combination of more tests, much more vaccinations, and – in particular – a solidarity lockdown which strongly restricts not only the private sphere but also the economy. Many intensive care physicians and scientists call for a hard lockdown as well as the revocation of all planned or already implemented relaxations. (…) A solidarity lockdown, as the initiative #ZeroCovid demands for some time, one could dramatically reduce the numbers of infections and, afterwards, one could introduce cautious relaxations by implementing a combination of increased vaccinations, PCR- and rapid tests as well as a continuation of strict hygiene regulations and digital tracing.“


This statement is remarkable for several reasons. First, it is obviously a complete illusion to imagine that the pandemic could be overcome in two weeks. Every reasonable person knows this. Probably the supporters of the ZeroCOVID campaign know that too. But in order to sell the campaign to the popular masses, who increasingly hate and despise the Lockdown policy, the cheerleaders of the ZeroCOVID campaign give only a short duration of their ultra-draconic Lockdown. But, as everyone knows, once the people are locked up in their homes and the police and army patrols the streets, governments can easily extend the Lockdowns as they have demonstrated in the past 13 months again and again.


Second, the L5I article is remarkable since it is more honest than other articles of this organization (as well as of other supporters of the ZeroCOVID campaign). While usually the “left-wing” ZeroCOVID supporters emphasize the “anti-capitalist” aspect of their campaign in order to delude the public, this article openly states that a hard Lockdown, for which the campaign calls for, includes “strong restrictions of the private sphere”. Of course, these are diplomatic periphrases for a total curfew locking the people up in their homes.


Third, the L5I author prudently fails to mention how such a hard Lockdown with “strong restrictions of the private sphere and the economy” could be enforced. Of course, as we know from experience since spring 2020, this will be – and can only be – the capitalist repression apparatus. In fact, the initiators of the ZeroCOVID campaign directed their call to the bourgeois governments in Europe. In other words, the Lockdown Left and, in particular ZeroCOVID supporters like the L5I, call for the expansion of the bonapartist state machinery – the Leviathan state monster.


Fourth, even if we assume that the ZeroCOVID strategy could result in the eradication of the virus in Europe, how could such a situation be maintained in a world where such a virus continues to exist? The answer is – and can only be – a complete sealing-off of the external borders of Europe, i.e. stopping migrants coming to Europe. In other words, the ZeroCOVID advocate in fact a social-chauvinist policy against migrants from the Global South.


Fifth, the article reflects once more the middle-class character of the Lockdown left as it fails to mention that there can never be a total lockdown. There will always be the lower strata of the working class – mostly migrants – who will have to work hard delivering food and other goods to the people locked up in their homes, to maintain electricity, telecommunication, and other basic services. But the middle-class left does not care about them because they all sit in their homes during the lockdown, watch TV or play videogames!


Sixth, the article is more honest in that it does not pretend that the hard Lockdown would at least have the benefit of restoring a “normal” life (without the restrictions). After the hard Lockdown of two (in fact more) weeks, “one could introduce cautious relaxations by implementing a combination of increased vaccinations, PCR- and rapid tests as well as a continuation of strict hygiene regulations and digital tracing”. We know very well the meaning of the diplomatic words “cautious relaxations” as it has been used so many times by the capitalist governments and their media. It means that most restrictions remain in place, i.e. a very hard Lockdown might be replaced by a not-so-hard Lockdown.




Less democracy, more police and surveillance state




Seventh, the following formulation is also revealing: “a continuation of strict hygiene regulations and digital tracing”. This means that the L5I (and other supporters of the ZeroCOVID campaign) support the anti-democratic restrictions since the category “strict hygiene regulations” means nothing but the ban of people to meet in private and the prohibition of mass assemblies and demonstrations. In other words, we see that the Lockdown Left unashamed supports the state-bonapartist policy directed against the popular masses.


Last but not least, the positive reference to digital tracing is also revealing. As is well-known, capitalist governments all over the world are advancing plans to surveil their population via modern technologies. China is most advanced in these efforts as it has implemented a “health code” system. All Chinese citizens are required by law to use a “health” app on their smartphones. After downloading the app, users enter their name, identity card number, telephone number and sometimes a photo. In addition, they have to input into this app their personal medical information, travel history, and COVID-19 contact history. This app tracks an individual’s travel, contact history, and biometric data (for example, body temperature) directly through one’s smartphone. One can enter public transports, restaurants, shops etc. only via a “green” Covid-19 health QR code on their smartphones. [8] Many capitalist governments wish to implement such a surveillance system in their own countries. As we see, the pseudo-“Trotskyist” L5I and the ZeroCOVID supporters share such a vision.


In summary, we see that the Lockdown Left – including such Trotsko-Revisionists like the L5I – cynically support the reactionary expansion of the bonapartist state machinery under the disguise of “anti-capitalism” and “solidarity”. In the Middle Ages, hard-headed clerics supported the Catholic Church which dominated in alliance with the kings and princes and lived from brutal exploitation of the peasants. Today, the Lockdown Left supports the capitalist governments which are expanding the police and surveillance state and live from the exploitation of the working class. The hard-headed clerics might have believed in their silly phrases and illusions as the Lockdown Left might sincerely believe in their daydreams of mass curfews. In fact, one like the other turn out to be servants of the tyrants and exploiters!


In other words, “ZeroCOVID” means “ZeroSocialism”!




[1] See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: COVID-19: Zero Socialism in the “ZeroCOVID“ campaign. Following the model of China and Australia, some British Stalinists and “Trotskyists” call for a “total and indefinite lockdown”, 22 December 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/covid-19-zero-socialism-in-the-zerocovid-campaign/

[2] See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Mr. and Mrs. Lockdown Left: We Told You So! Official studies on extra mortality in Europa show Sweden which had no Lockdowns performed better than most other countries, 26 March 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/mr-and-mrs-lockdown-left-we-told-you-so/; see also Johan Ahlander: Sweden saw lower 2020 death spike than much of Europe – data, 24 March 2021, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-europe-mortality/sweden-saw-lower-2020-death-spike-than-much-of-europe-data-idUSKBN2BG1R9; Sweden’s 2020 death spike lower than much of Europe, data shows. Despite shunning strict COVID lockdowns, Sweden’s overall mortality rate was lower than most other European nations. 24 March 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/3/24/swedens-2020-death-spike-lower-than-much-of-europe-data-shows

[3] The RCIT has analysed the COVID-19 counterrevolution extensively since its beginning. Starting from 2 February 2020 we have published more than 80 pamphlets, essays, articles and statements plus a book which are all compiled at a special sub-page on our website: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/collection-of-articles-on-the-2019-corona-virus/. In particular we refer readers to the RCIT Manifesto: COVID-19: A Cover for a Major Global Counterrevolutionary Offensive. We are at a turning point in the world situation as the ruling classes provoke a war-like atmosphere in order to legitimize the build-up of chauvinist state-bonapartist regimes, 21 March 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/covid-19-a-cover-for-a-major-global-counterrevolutionary-offensive/. In addition, we draw attention to our book by Michael Pröbsting: The COVID-19 Global Counterrevolution: What It Is and How to Fight It. A Marxist analysis and strategy for the revolutionary struggle, RCIT Books, April 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/the-covid-19-global-counterrevolution/. See also our very first article on this issue by Almedina Gunić: Coronavirus: "I am not a Virus"... but WE will be the Cure! The chauvinist campaign behind the “Wuhan Coronavirus” hysteria and the revolutionary answer, 2 February 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/wuhan-virus/; Michael Pröbsting: The Second Wave of the COVID-19 Counterrevolution. On the ruling class strategy in the current conjuncture, its inner contradictions and the perspectives of the workers and popular resistance, 20 July 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/the-second-wave-of-the-covid-19-counterrevolution/; by the same author: The Police and Surveillance State in the Post-Lockdown Phase. A global review of the ruling class’s plans of expanding the bonapartist state machinery amidst the COVID-19 crisis, 21 May 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/police-and-surveillance-state-in-post-lockdown-phase/; COVID-19: The Great Barrington Declaration is indeed Great! Numerous medical scientists protest against the reactionary lockdown policy, 11 October 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/covid-19-the-great-barrington-declaration-is-indeed-great/; Michael Pröbsting: COVID-19: The Current and Historical Roots of Bourgeois Lockdown “Socialism”. Police State and Universal Basic Income are key elements of the new version of reformist “War Socialism” of 1914, 19 December 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/covid-19-the-current-and-historical-roots-of-bourgeois-lockdown-socialism/.

[4] See on this our numerous articles on the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for total mortality: Michael Pröbsting: COVID-19: A Comparison of Historical Data. An analysis of the COVID-19 death figures and those of past pandemics and climate disasters based on data from the World Bank, 19 January 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/covid-19-a-comparison-of-historical-data/; by the same author: COVID-19: Sweden's Total Mortality in 2020 Compared with Past Years, 23 January 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/covid-19-sweden-s-total-mortality-in-2020-compared-with-past-years/; COVID-19: Some Interesting Facts (Which Governments & Media Conceal) Some Calculations about Total Mortality in Europe in 2020 compared with 2016 and 2018, 23 December 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/covid-19-and-total-mortality-in-europe/; COVID-19: How Severe is the Pandemic in Sweden Really? Once again, a comparison demonstrates that the mortality rate in 2020 is barely larger than in 2018, 8 December 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/covid-19-how-severe-is-the-pandemic-in-sweden-really/; COVID-19: Revealing Figures from Sweden. A comparison of the mortality rates of the first 9 months in 2020 with previous years confirm that this is a serious but not unprecedented pandemic, 23 November 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/covid-19-revealing-figures-from-sweden/; see also the chapter “Telling figures for Europe, Sweden and Ischgl” in the above-mentioned essay “The Second Wave of the COVID-19 Counterrevolution”.

[5] For our critique of the Lockdown Left see e.g. chapter V of our above-mentioned book by Michael Pröbsting: The COVID-19 Global Counterrevolution: What It Is and How to Fight It; see also by the same author the last chapters in the above mentioned essay: The Second Wave of the COVID-19 Counterrevolution; COVID-19 and the Lockdown Left: The Example of PODEMOS and Stalinism in Spain, 24 March 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/covid-19-lockdown-left-podemos-and-stalinism-in-spain/; Social-Bonapartism in Argentina. The Partido Obrero (Tendencia) of Jorge Altamira supports the State of Emergency, 29 April 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/latin-america/social-bonapartism-in-argentina/; When Ultra-Leftism marries Social-Bonapartism and Gives Birth to “Post-Marxist” Obscurantism. A reply to the CWG/ILTT, 5 May 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/covid-19-when-ultra-leftism-marries-social-bonapartism/; Brazil: Social-Bonapartism of the Lockdown Left in Practice. How the leaderships of the trade unions, PT, PCdoB, the pseudo-Trotskyist PSTU and PSOL sabotage the struggle against the Bolsonaro government, 10 June 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/latin-america/brazil-social-bonapartism-of-the-lockdown-left-in-practice/; Lockdown Left says: “Cops Need to Enforce Laws”. The ex-revolutionary L5I as another example for shameful social-bonapartism in the era of the COVID-19 counterrevolution, 24 July 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/lockdown-left-l5i-says-cops-need-to-enforce-laws/; COVID-19: Zero Socialism in the “ZeroCOVID“ campaign. Following the model of China and Australia, some British Stalinists and “Trotskyists” call for a “total and indefinite lockdown”, 22 December 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/covid-19-zero-socialism-in-the-zerocovid-campaign/; COVID-19: The Current and Historical Roots of Bourgeois Lockdown “Socialism”. Police State and Universal Basic Income are key elements of the new version of reformist “War Socialism” of 1914, 19 December 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/covid-19-the-current-and-historical-roots-of-bourgeois-lockdown-socialism/

[6] Lockdown Left says: “Cops Need to Enforce Laws”. The ex-revolutionary L5I as another example for shameful social-bonapartism in the era of the COVID-19 counterrevolution, 24 July 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/lockdown-left-l5i-says-cops-need-to-enforce-laws/

[7] Katharina Wagner: Tübinger Testmodell – Vorbild oder Irrsinn? GAM Infomail 1145, 7. April 2021, https://arbeiterinnenmacht.de/2021/04/07/tubinger-testmodell-vorbild-oder-irrsinn/; https://zero-covid.org/coronapandemie-tuebinger-testmodell-vorbild-oder-irrsinn/ (our translation)

[8] See on this e.g. the chapter “China: the most successful regime in making “Big Brother” omnipresent” in the above-mentioned essay “The Police & Surveillance State in the Post-Lockdown Phase