pill testing
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews

The following communique from the Victorian death zone was picked up on Forces Radio at 06:15 before the line went dead. The current condition of the resistance is unknown. 

It’s a good thing there’s a plentiful supply of agency photos of Victorian Premier Dan Andrews looking forlorn, because it looks like we’re going to need them.

Initially it appeared that the Victoria-only outbreak of the plague — a sort of darker Nick Cave/Peter Temple strain, dressed in black — was merely a product of the state’s success in controlling the thing, a low-end bounce.

Now it appears to be an absolute stuff up, with poor control of a privatised security force, haphazard supervision, etc. And ain’t that Dan Andrews rainbow bulldozer all over!

The right faction which runs the government via Tim Pallas is totally gungho about privatisation of everything that moves and doesn’t, right up to Federation Square. Who would have guessed that running public health quarantine through the profit motive could go so horribly wrong!

The move was followed by an equal and opposite reaction. Basic wage security guards didn’t work to guarantee public health. So let’s a) blame men and women whose usual job and training is to guard Cash Converters; and, b) send in the army. 

That latter decision was rescinded 24 hours after being first agreed to, which suggests the Andrews government leadership got some pushback from residual progressive elements within the actual party, who believe that the leadership has been captured by the national cabinet process, something to which Labo(u)r leaders have had no natural immunity to since the movement’s founding in the 1890s. 

Perhaps it was A Mouse That Roared style plan in which federal troops would occupy Victoria, and we would then ask for UNESCO reconstruction funds to restore our world-class bar scene and artisanal tapas industry. 

In any case, the other go-to Andrews government measure was gone to, with the announcement that the cops would be brought in to set up roadblocks around 30 suburbs, with drones used to surveil side streets so the residents of Moreland West don’t make ratruns to the IGA or smuggle gallery-squat-bound RMIT conceptual art students back into the general population as crude revenge.

And that, all slightly tired jokes aside, is no laughing matter.

The whole idea of targeted lockdowns is only going to work with the comprehending consent of the populace in question, as part of a commitment to the common good. But this ostensibly Socialist Left government has so little trust in the population it represents that its first thought is to high-tech human containment. 

That is the inevitable result of a long Labor trajectory: the idea of combining neoliberal development and privatised economics with a social justice offset, much of it concerning cultural issues dear to the heart of the knowledge class, gender and traffic lights and some such. (The groundbreaking laws on industrial manslaughter are a welcome exception; a sign that the new Industrial Left faction is getting some results, perhaps.)

Labor’s neoliberal right see the populace as nothing but consumers; its SDA right see them as sheep to be corralled to a series of pre-decided moral outcomes. 

The Socialist Left is the most interesting. Once a place with great currents of liberatory radicalism running through it, much of the energy at the state level has gone into socially coercive initiatives, largely focused around a vast anti-violence against women initiative, which has had little measurable success but which has introduced multiple regimes of social coercion into standard progressive practice.

The supervision, shaping, penning-in of populations as a first strategy, gives the appearance of being dictated by epidemiological reasoning; it is worth being aware of the way in which such solutions are predetermined by a habit of thought, rather than arising from a “neutral” scientific imperative.

The left, especially, has to be aware of the anti-democratic trends that can emerge from the “progressive” wing of the movement. From eugenics through urban neighbourhood destruction (sorry, slum clearance), to the non-materialist, unreflective gender politics of today, progressives never saw a population they didn’t want to control in the name of their own betterment. 

The Liberal Party could have made some gains on this if they had been able to do some basic analysis of what’s going on (should have done a few units on Foucault! They’re going cheap in English departments these days).

Instead, it applied the old classical liberal myth that every single government action was coercive — instead of a mixture of coercive and consented-to — and set itself up as leader of an oppressed majority that didn’t exist, and looked like student politics dicks.

Lib leader Michael O’Brien should have kept to the loyal opposition line, then criticised the incompetence of party hacks, mediocrities, etc. Instead, having resisted the lockdown altogether, he is now criticising Dan for not calling in the army fast enough.

Ah, but he’s fighting on several fronts: a centre-right mainstream Christian, he is under attack from a coalition of suburban happy-clappies, Mormons (whom the happy-clappies think are satanists), loose-unit Tim Smith and the ragged forces of Michael Kroger, in a sort of alliance with them all — including Kroger’s partner Planet Janet Albrechtsen, who launches regular attacks on Dictator Dan from her column in The Australian.

That’s where we are. None of us know what will happen next. This report was broadcast on a radio made from Jerusalem artichokes and a postmodern theory journal printed on alcan foil, with sourdough breadsticks for an aerial, from a laneway bar that only allowed in seven people at a time even before the lockdown started. It has now been raided and turned into 340 student apartments.

We plan to blow up the 86 tram line to stop urban design consultants getting out of Northcote and staging a blackskivvies putsch. We await the arrival of the Well-Read Army.

Pray for us, Lorde, in this our dwelling place. 

Peter Fray

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