Something has been gnawing away at me for months. Why have anarchists been so silent in the face of increasing state repression? Aren’t radical Leftists historically the defenders of civil liberties such as the freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press? Yet until recently, there seemed to be a taboo against criticizing measures justified in the name of Public Health.
Thankfully, that is now changing. In Quebec, home to a fierce anarchist tradition, it took the imposition of a curfew before anarchists reached the point of mobilizing, but I am happy to report that radical Leftists in Quebec are now taking to the streets. Today, on Saturday, January 16th, 2021, the first anti-curfew demonstration will take place in the neighbourhood of Hochelaga.
This is an encouraging sign, and I hope that it will lead to further dialogue about what the best way for the Left to respond to the new challenges of organizing a resistance movement in the age of COVID. I, for one, am hoping that to see more critical analysis emerge, as I think that we, as a movement, need to orient ourselves to the new political landscape.
It has been a dizzying whirlwind of a year. It’s hard to know what to think these days. Personally, I find myself questioning whether the political analysis that I had pre-pandemic is still relevant in a post-COVID world. In which ways do I need to adapt my perspective to keep up with the changing times? Has the world fundamentally changed?
I think that a good place to start is with the subject of censorship. The libertarian left, the broader tradition of which anarchism is a part, has historically been opposed to censorship. Nowadays, however, the Left seems to be silent on this subject. To be fair, it is a complicated subject in the age of fake news, conspiracy theories, and Cambridge Analytica. So I raise the issue earnestly, as a subject that is deserving of discussion and debate. I think that we need to seriously engage with this question, as we are undoubtedly living in an age of increasing censorship.
Let me begin with an example.
Today, Ontario MPP Roman Baber published a letter calling for an end to Ontario’s lockdown. In it, Baber makes the case that the health consequences of the lockdown, such as increased overdoses, suicidal ideation, and anxiety disorders, outweigh the harm of COVID-19. Basically, he is making a very tame argument that the lockdown is not in the public interest. His position is that “Covid is real, but the fear of Covid is exaggerated. While every death is tragic, after 10 months we learned that Covid is not nearly as deadly as first thought.” He supports his argument by citing recent statistics from the CDC about the fatality rates for COVID-infected people in different age groups. The letter can be read here: