A quiet crisis 2020 has been a very strange year. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, liberal capitalism and Neoliberalism was wobbling. Capitalists at the top, particularly in the West were trying to find a solution to the competition from China and falling returns on investments at home. Although they had managed to keep themselves insulated by freezing wages for the majority of people, resistance to austerity was growing and their move towards steady streams of income through privatisation such as water, electricity and increasingly schools and healthcare wasn’t providing the “efficiency savings” promised. Trump and Brexit were a culmination of this, with the political establishments of the UK and the USA split over the gamble to try and make their countries competitive again or to follow the safer routes. Despite Trump and Johnson being part of the capitalist furniture, they presented themselves as anti-establishment and were able to win a section of the Tories and Republicans to their cause. This political and economic crisis doesn’t make sense without understanding something that seems impossible and contradictory. Even though Jeff Bezos and Google etc are making higher profits than entire countries, there is a crisis in profitability amongst capitalism. Even though Sir Philip Green’s had enough money invested in his private Yacht to save his shopping empire, workers have less money to spend and are increasingly spending more of it on a smaller number of online platforms. Whilst tech companies increasingly hoovered up a bigger section of the market, there was disproportionate profitability for everyone else. Normally the rules in capitalism are simple, the profitable grow and the inefficient go out of business. But because of quantitative easing and low interest rates used to prop up the rich after the 2008 recession, many large organisations were able to carry on limping along despite market trends if they were large enough to borrow the money. The economist Michael Roberts refers to this as “Zombie Capitalism”, and on the plus side this has kept some people in work but on the other side this has masked the scale of the crisis. Behind the scenes corporate groups have been looking to dump investments with low returns even though on paper their businesses were making adequate profits. This has been developing slowly over time, but Coronavirus has given many firms the excuse they needed, which is coming as a shock to many who didn’t appreciate the scale of the crisis and lead them to look online for a theory to explain everything.
The mainstreaming of “Alternative Facts”
Propaganda and “Fake News” is nothing new, was practiced throughout history and “spin” as a way to bend the truth has always been with us. However, Donald Trump developed a strategy to say whatever his base wanted to hear, and to refuse to back down when caught lying. At the same time as this on the opposite side of the political spectrum Blairite and Democrat Party (and many others) establishment publicly promoted distortions in moves to block challenges from the left by Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders. I would argue that these two situations have formed a perfect storm as establishment media and political parties had been seen or appeared to be involved in a conspiracy to maintain the status quo.
This le large numbers of people to become disillusioned with Mainstream Media, just in time for millions of them to become extremely economically unstable as well as cooped up at home for long periods. Even worse than this, Trump’s desperate patronage of conspiracy theories during his failed election bid, twinned with social media platforms promoting conspiracy theories has led to a worrying growth of such theories, often with antisemitic undertones that previously had been the reserve of the far right.
Liberal Capitalists realise the game might be up
In the midst of all this, a section of the liberal capitalist establishment in the World Economic Forum (WEF) decided to lead a clarion call for capitalism to try to at least pretend they were going to make efforts to prevent climate catastrophe and wealth inequality.
They made a short video hypocritically saying that Capitalism needed to be reset as if they themselves hadn’t contributed to a race to the bottom with their “ Global Competitiveness Indices”. The WEF almost certainly saw Brexit and Trump disrupting their economic interests, but the COVID 19 pandemic has done considerably more damage. It is quite ridiculous to claim that this capitalist organisation wants to dismantle capitalism. Rather, they were saying it’s time to reform or face revolution.
Of course the WEF, who all fly in private jets to Davos every year, to promise to reduce carbon emissions, are no allies of the working class. However, their message was taken up by reactionaries who believed in a conspiracy against Trump as proof that Coronavirus and the measures to control it were also part of their imagined conspiracy. In particular the Black Lives Matter movement and the Extinction Rebellion movement that threatened Trump's base who wanted to carry on as things were fed into a hysteria that “Capitalism was under attack”.
The Great Reset
Somewhere on the internet the different strands of history discussed above were weaved into a theory just coherent enough to be accepted by large numbers of self-employed tradespeople who under normal economic circumstances were well off but had suddenly fallen into a safety net with large holes in it. This was not supposed to happen, they identified as the engines of the economy and the taxpayers. Many of them had never followed politics because they had never had to, as they had looked after their own with their SME’s.
The Great Reset Theory stated that Covid is no more deadly than flu (incorrect) it was definitely man-made (certainly not proven and not in the interests of governments) and that the ruling classes of each county had intentionally faked it in order to crash the economy, make people panic and implement their policies to ensure their control.
Online videos emerged of people infiltrating parts of the hospital where staff had been moved to the ICUs, they claimed that this was evidence that the whole thing was fake (hospital staff had in fact been redeployed to cover staff absences). The next point they made was to draw upon already existing conspiracy theories relating to Bill Gates and vaccines, to claim that the leaders of faltering economies plan to debilitate large sections of their workforce (because one thing Capitalists love is unproductive populations) in order to usher in a new Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The theory however fails to understand how capitalists are all competing against one another, for e.g. the car manufacturing industry or oil industry are not so weak that they have to kowtow to Amazon and Big Pharma, powerful as they are.
Perhaps the best example of how wrong this is, is the decision of Israel to not vaccinate the Palestinian citizens in the West Bank, a population which Israel has been going to extreme lengths to subjugate for 60 years. If the Coronavirus vaccine was indeed a recipe for a disabled population, the west would indeed be rushing to inoculate the global poor first rather than buying up as much as they can for themselves. Oh.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR) The Great Reset Theory begins by highlighting the implications of the FIR which is perhaps the claim they make with the most basis in reality although their conclusions are off.
As I have explained earlier, COVID has prompted capitalists to look to speed up mechanisation, but it was a process set in motion before and separate to the pandemic. The FIR is late-stage capitalism doing what it has always done, in the same way that cotton mills replaced weavers in the 19th century. Strangely the Great Reset theory presents ideas to mitigate the effects of the FIR, such as citizens' income and a Green New Deal, as a part of the evil plot. It seems to be saying it wants things to stay as they were, but simultaneously arguing against job losses and methods to avoid bankruptcies. On a side note, there are many who believe that although many jobs may be lost, others will have to be created in order for capitalists to pursue profits. The new wave of automation requires massive immediate investment, but the rates of profitability with robots are much more rigid as, unlike humans, you can’t push your machines to work harder for less money (short of constantly replacing your plant).
The slightly silly claims about us “banning car ownership” is a misunderstanding that the WEF has realised that workers can’t afford the luxury cars they build. It’s the reason why car finance is increasingly the norm. Although this might be a nightmare to Jeremy Clarkson, it’s not a Fascist coup.
The hostility to the Green New Deal is missing the Barnoldswick Rolls Royce factory strike after their employers tried to use the pandemic to offshore to Singapore. The Rolls Royce workers have now ensured their contracts and reinvestment in high-quality green engineering jobs in the UK, which should be the prototype for workers across the UK to prevent their decimation. Disaster capitalism The central point of the Great Reset is similar to Naomi Klein's “The Shock Doctrine”, which highlights the Milton Friedman / Frederik Hayek idea to push massive market liberalisation during a crisis. They even quote Friedman saying “you must never waste a crisis”. This neoliberal policy has been used to push South American countries to privatise their rainwater, to sell off public schools after Hurricane Katrina, and by the Tories to sell off the NHS.
This isn’t some one-off event to destroy capitalism. Boom and busts are capitalism. Capitalists always use recessions to consolidate capital.
Absolutely it is true that businesses are looking to take advantage and to fire and rehire on worse pay and conditions. But this isn’t a plan to overturn capitalism, it’s just more capitalism. The problems thrown up by COVID 19 exactly prove that the free-market model is a failure, as all essential services are streamlined to the point that they can’t handle a crisis. The 5G is coming!
The statements regarding 5G and big data are accurate in so far as at least in the short term, normal people are unlikely to benefit from increased connectivity, but the rich Tories will make a killing selling off our Track and Trace Data. It’s true that big data will benefit corporations more than normal people, but that doesn’t mean it’s part of a plot to release COVID.
It’s quite funny that they accuse Bill Gates of spying on people through Amazon products, as Microsoft and Amazon are competitors.
The claims about Elon Musk altering the Body and the Brain with 5G is still theoretical, and almost definitely years in the future. Elon Musk might be musing about the potential of his neural implants, but it's laughable that they want to link this to vaccine mind control.
The Police Overreach and the Global Revolt against Neoliberalism Xi Xinpings Social credit system paired with surveillance and the oppression of minorities such as the Uighurs are terrible signs that capitalism is not really a way to guarantee rights.
Although China is not a democracy, it is clearly a state capitalist country with increasing free-market characteristics. The idea that COVID will lead to the same here is possible, but not if the left and working people resist.
The UK government is pushing through draconian laws and wants to reduce the freedom of protest. They are exempting police & spies from prosecution and all of this is really disgusting and should be resisted. Too many people are quick to call lockdown sceptics and anti-maskers far right, but the protests in America, Germany, and to a lesser extent the UK, are being courted/led by far-right groups such as the Proud Boys, AFD Tommy Robinson, and (although less extreme) Nigel Farage’s party. These organisations will be the first ones to turn the country into a dictatorship if they are allowed to exploit people's concerns over the GRT, despite they themselves claiming that they are for freedom. Videos proposing the GRT show footage of the rebellions in France against Macron’s ban on filming police officers, shows footage of Catalans protesting for independence, Polish people protesting against abortion restrictions, and footage from Chiles anti-neoliberalism protests.
The protests they show in Italy and Serbia are indeed anti-lockdown, but are in a national context of already criticising the government.
The video very misleadingly presents these movements as part of the global anti-lockdown anti-mask movement, which although some of the people involved in the protest may hold those views, it's a lie to claim that is the primary motivation. The GRT uses short quotes from reports, videos, etc out of context - e.g. showing half of Boris Johnson’s speech about how AI could be misused, which made it look like he was publicly telling his evil plans. It draws a false association to a think tank's call for testing in a pandemic to the push for testing in UK schools, as if this was being put into place because the government was being dictated to by the WEF. In reality, the government introduced testing in schools as a means to limit industrial action by education workers against their unsafe school policies.
Conclusion The Great Reset Theory, like all conspiracy theories, draws on some true developments, but cherry-picks statements from organisations and distorts the facts. Its statement that COVID 19 is not deadly can be disproven by a short conversation with a frontline NHS worker who hasn’t been redeployed away from COVID wars. Its claims that the World Economic Forum seeks to “overthrow capitalism” is ridiculous not only because this is a capitalist organisation, but because the changes predicted by the GRT are things capitalism already does. The move to demonise movements like BLM and XR perhaps shows the true focus of the GRT, to drive a wedge between people made newly precarious by the crisis and genuine grassroots movements for change.