Class Struggle from Above | Hendrik Erz

Abstract: The main goal for governments globally is to completely drive down daily new cases of COVID. However, the current political strategies prove unable to reduce incidences. While public discourse asks how that could be and lockdowns are being extended, one initiative sheds light onto one sector that has been left almost alone so far.

For almost a year now we are struggling with containing a deadly virus that has spread globally. During yet another lockdown we all have to accept: the current political strategies resemble a form of class struggle from above.

For months now, each iteration of pandemic lockdowns has completely shut down the private lives of citizens – going into the city, meeting people, doing something communally. Yet the daily new cases go up almost unimpeded.

Don’t get me wrong: I am convinced that a shutdown of the social life is utterly necessary in order to get rid of that pandemic, so I’m not arguing against closing down of bars and restaurants. What is the problem in my opinion, is that the economy basically functions as it is.

No “lockdown” has really locked down the economy. While we weren’t allowed to leave the house for private endeavours, we were forced to leave our house for the economy.

This many new cases despite a lockdown can mean exactly two things: either the people don’t care and still meet each other, ignoring a global pandemic. Or, rather, the lockdown doesn’t work because not everything is actually locked down. A study by the German Hans-Böckler Foundation has stated that in November, fewer people were in home office than back in April. Despite a lockdown in both months.

I am convinced the latter hypothesis is the real cause of the current predicament in which we live. While there are certainly people disregarding the current COVID measurements, this cannot explain the amount of new cases during a lockdown. That is statistically not very likely, even if you have a highly transmissive disease. However, if you put a lot of office buildings into the equation, factories, and schools, the picture looks very different.

So indeed the current regulations equal a class struggle from above: The poor population has to go to the office every day, risking an infection either at work or on the way to work, while especially richer classes of society – to which I count myself – can stay at home. We all are equally affected by not being able to meet other people, but while the manual labourer has to go to work because their work instruments and the machinery sits within a factory, office workers can work from home.

But even with the current regulations, most transgressions are punishable only by fees. And if something only costs some money, it is illegal for poor people, but legal for rich people as they say. If I have to pay 500 € to meet ten other people at once, but earn 5.000 € a month, this is peanuts and my inclination to meet other people is higher as it would be if I were jobless.

Another flagrant example of that attitude towards working class members is a recent regulation by the German federal state of Bavaria, mandating the use of FFP2 on public transport. How are poor people supposed to buy the necessary amounts to get to work with that every day? One answer by the federal government in a press conference to this question was: “Well, if they have to buy FFP2, poor people might have to save in other domains.” That the state could simply provide them was not an option?

This is social darwinism in its pure form. This statement is not very far from the figure of speech, falsely accredited to Marie Antoinette (albeit this would’ve fitted her): “If the people don’t have bread, let them eat cake!”

The current pandemic strategy is a class struggle from above, and I hope that more people demand a “real” lockdown for once. In this regard, you might be interested in the campaign ZERO COVID, which has launched in the UK and in Germany yesterday. Please support their demands for a helpful lockdown that also completely shuts down the economy rather than just take away all social life without any consequences for the economy.

Suggested Citation

Erz, Hendrik (2021). “Class Struggle from Above”., 19 Jan 2021,

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