By Dave Vallely
It’s not new that people feel that society is being run in interests other than their own. Historically, recognition of this fact – that bosses and the rich dictate what happens in our lives, even in supposedly democratic societies – is why working-class people organised in trade unions and workers parties to fight for their own interests.
With the triumph of neoliberalism in the 1980s and the coinciding capitulation of the leaderships of the labour movement in country after country, there is a vacuum today for those looking for an explanation as to why society is so unequal and so undemocratic. The absence of a mass political alternative to an increasingly rapacious capitalism has allowed conspiracy theories to gain traction amongst a minority in society.
“They’re trying to control us” – Chemtrails / Fluoridation / 5G
One of the most common conspiracies is the idea that the masses of people are being subdued or controlled somehow. They offer a way to explain the apparent passivity of people. Rather than significant defeats, like that of the British miners’ strike, and betrayals by the labour movement in the form of social partnership deals, being responsible for working-class people feeling that struggle doesn’t really change anything, a simpler explanation can be found in the outlandish idea that we are all being poisoned by “chemtrails” in the sky, or fluoride in the water. Life is rarely that simple, however.
The truth about vaccinations
Another example of how an instinctive class consciousness can be twisted, is how people’s suspicions of the motives of big business contribute to the fear that vaccinations are unsafe. The rush to develop a Covid-19 vaccine has fed into these fears, with the race now reaching the point where different states are engaged in espionage against each other, and where the US government has offered to buy exclusive access to a vaccine in development by a German company. The fact that vaccines represent a historic innovation which have transformed the quality of life for millions of people, by eliminating horrific diseases such as smallpox, is lost in the scramble.
Non-existent “puppet masters”
Figures such as George Soros are a constant feature of these conspiracies, representing a shadowy figure behind any development which upsets the status quo. It is through this thinly disguised “Jews control the world” narrative where the conspiracies take a right-wing turn. Instead of being legitimate uprisings by the oppressed, movements such as Black Lives Matter or Repeal the 8th are instead supposed to be the products of billionaire provocateurs designed to disrupt supposedly perfectly just Western societies. By denying the oppression and motivation behind these movements, conspiracy- mongers become fodder for the far-right.
“New World Order”, same as the old world order
The idea that a cabal of “globalists” were intent on establishing “one world government” predates the collapse of the Soviet Union, but has really taken off amongst the farright militia movement in the US since then. There is nothing secretive about the global capitalist class meeting together in places like Davos and attempting to find common ground among themselves in order to defend their interests and attack ours. The problem is that the working class has no equivalent form of international organisation to fight as determinedly in our interests as the capitalists do in theirs. If there was a mass socialist alternative to the neo-liberal offensive, the claims that “cultural marxism” holds sway in our colleges and in our billionaire- owned media would be patently ridiculous to everyone. Not everyone who believes in these conspiracies is far-right, racist or anti-semetic; but what they all have in common is that they are wrong.