The Guardian • Issue #1973

Anti-mask is anti-working class

Thousands of anti-maskers have gathered in major centres around the country in opposition to COVID-19 restrictions. These rallies have been led by an assortment of far-right organisations, who have used the pandemic to draw in thousands of everyday Australians, who are justifiably angered by the government’s poor management of the crisis, to a reactionary position.

While the far-right have hit the streets peddling conspiracy theories, such as the denial of COVID-19, vaccines being used to intentionally kill people, 5G health concerns, mind control, fears of Communist Party of China (CPC) controlling Australia, and anti-semitism; other protesters joined them for more material reasons affecting their lives, including the slow vaccine roll out, the removal of welfare safety nets, vague rules around restrictions and lockdowns, a lack of transparency, and continuous “passing of the buck.” The very real issues which concern Australians have been co-opted by many of those on the far-right to shift the Overton Window, hence convincing people that discriminatory and dangerous policies should be deemed acceptable.


The anti-mask rallies in Australia are great examples of how denial of class society can be weaponised against the working class. To illustrate, if an individual is unable to grasp how the owners of productive forces under capitalism inevitably exploit their workers for profit (an undeniable and objective feature of capitalist society), and how this basis creates a negative ripple effect in several aspects of society, there is always the danger of crises being blamed on a scapegoat.

For example, many right-wing conspiracy theorists start from the position of blaming governments, or the “deep state,” but may support a multi-millionaire tycoon such as Clive Palmer because he is also critical of the state. But whatever Palmer asserts about Australian freedom and sovereignty, his primary interest is to maintain control over the means of production – which is why he is hellbent on blaming the Chinese. Creating a scapegoat like China moves the focus away from how he has exploited everyday Australians and over to a misunderstood minority or outsider. This is the basis of how fascist ideology manifests.

Many of these groups have direct links to the dangerous anti-semitic conspiracy theory and cult QAnon, which has produced white supremacist material alluding to Jewish elites controlling the world – another scapegoat of the fascists that is historically used to justify the Holocaust – the murder of millions of Jewish people and other oppressed minorities by Nazi Germany.


So why would Australia’s Liberal government allow such rhetoric to be unleashed across the country by broadcasters and news outlets alike? Perhaps the government actually aligns with Western values of freedom of speech or anti-censorship? This, however, appears to be a doubtful assessment. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd constantly battles the Liberal Party (LP) for allowing the Murdoch press to spread disinformation and lies about the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and left forces, while undermining or ignoring criticisms and misconduct of the Coalition government. News Corp’s Sky News Australia was recently suspended by YouTube after spreading disinformation alluding to the COVID-19 pandemic as an intentional plot to change global leadership or a hoax, however, this suspension was not instigated or supported by the Australian government but a private company. If the government really took issue with right-wing commentators as they do with the left, they have no reason or moral high ground that would stop them from suspending or censoring them.

With this in mind, could there be another reason these forces are generally permitted a voice? Without a basic understanding of extremism, everyday Australians can be pulled into its lure. These kind of mouthpieces and movements use language to describe their agenda which may seem reasonable, such as “Freedom of Speech,” “Bridging the gap,” “Pro-choice,” “Bodily Freedom,” “Fundamental Democratic Rights,” and “Protecting Liberties.” The slogans are sprayed all over their placards, shirts, buses and propaganda. They may also support extreme right politicians such as Pauline Hanson for appearing to “stick it to the man.” Australians who may have genuine criticisms of the government’s poor performance, and subscribe to some fairly universal values, actually end up supporting forces against their own interests. This inherently gives the existing ruling class “freedom from” working-class resistance and revolutionary potential.


Activity and campaigning of the anti-mask forces takes a very different, and ugly form to their simplistic slogans. They do not in fact focus on liberties to build a more open, inclusive, and hence, democratic society, but for more control and exploitation of the working class, and for dominance over productive forces for profit. It is not about allowing “choice” for all of society, but for a select privileged few.

The hypocrisy of these slogans is also quite evident when analysing what these extremists and fascists do not say. There are no parts in their programs which aim to build democracy for the most vulnerable elements of the community such as First Nations people, migrant workers, people with disabilities and the elderly. Nowhere do they focus on oversurvelliance in poor communities – they would rather put the focus back on their individualistic desires, while undermining genuine struggle. They use language like ‘pro-choice’ when peddling the anti-vaccine rhetoric, while despising women’s reproductive rights. They do not focus on the JobKeeper or JobSeeker cuts, which have moved more working-class people into homelessness and poverty.


The reality is that Communists do genuinely fight for liberation, freedom and democracy for all of the people, focusing on those who have been most exploited by capitalism and imperialism, and those who are in more precarious positions. It is only through understanding the dialectical and contradictory nature of classes under capitalism that freedom from poverty, freedom from oppression and freedom from exploitation can truly be achieved. The freedom to exploit, or to put a community’s health at risk, is regarded as deplorable. Only with the experience gained through the recognition of class struggle can the Australian working class develop their understanding and make decisions which are in their best interests and perhaps one day, have the possibility of working towards a truly liberated, transparent and fair society.

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