COVID: “Health Pass and Surveillance Technologies Will Stay for Many Years”

On an interesting interview with Armin Grunwald, a German physicist and government adviser

By Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 31 December 2021, www.thecommunists.net

A few days ago, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung published a highly interesting interview with Armin Grunwald, a German physicist and university professor. In this interview Prof. Grunwald spoke about the long-term consequences of the government policy implemented in the context of the current pandemic. [1]

The interview is of great interest for socialists and democrats for several reasons. First, Prof. Grunwald is a well-known physicist and serves since many years as an official adviser to the German government as well as the parliament on issues of technology. [2] Hence, he is a respected expert who is fully involved in the policy discussions of Germany’s government circles. Secondly, the paper which published the interview – the Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung – is one of the most respected publications of the European monopoly bourgeoisie, a kind of Financial Times in the German-speaking world. And, thirdly, the content of this interview allows a good insight in the long-term perspectives of the ruling class policy shifting from (limited) bourgeois democracy towards Capitalist Techno-Totalitarianism.

Lastly, the interview is also interesting as Prof. Grunwald is by no way an opponent of the official pandemic policy – quiet the opposite, he is strongly involved in the ruling circles as one of their advisers. Hence, his statement about the long-term consequences of the current policy of expanding the police and surveillance state – or chauvinist state bonapartism as we call it – can not be explained by any political prejudices against such. The same is true for the paper which published this interview.

But it is exactly these reasons which make this interview interesting for us. Both Prof. Grunwald as well as the Neue Zürcher Zeitung are completely above suspicion of advocating any fundamental criticism of the official policy concerning the pandemic. They could hardly be more afar from the Marxist analysis of the official pandemic control which the RCIT calls COVID Counterrevolution.

At this place we will not repeat the RCIT’s analysis of this historic attack on social and democratic rights in detail, we limit ourselves to summarize its essence in two sentences. We characterize the governments’ policy since spring 2020 as one driven not by health concerns but rather by political and economic interests. Their goals are basically the expansion of the repressive power of the ruling class state apparatus as well as the increase of the profits of capitalist monopolies. [3]

“A threat to democracy in many ways”?

Let us now move to the interesting statements of Prof. Grunwald in his interview. In the early state of the interview, the journalist asks: “Various technologies were used to curb the spread of the coronavirus: tracking contacts, tracking the population and, at times, drone monitoring. What are the dangers of digital surveillance?

Prof. Grunwald replies: “As soon as people know that their data and movement profiles are being recorded across the board, they behave differently than when they feel free. This is also known as the panopticon effect. The social credit system in China makes use of this effect: People shall be trained to behave in a certain way through surveillance. Most of the population there accepts that. On the other hand, one of the basics of a democracy is that people are able to think freely, to move freely without having the feeling of being observed. Who else goes to a demonstration when they know that they are being monitored and possibly later confronted by their employer? This adjusted behavior, gently enforced by surveillance, is a threat to democracy in many ways.

We shall leave aside the highly doubtful remark of Prof. Grunwald that most Chinese are happy with the totalitarian surveillance regime by the Stalinist-capitalist dictatorship. The interesting point here is that the government advisor is fully aware of the consequences of increasing surveillance of the population by the state under the pretext of the pandemic.

Of course, Prof. Grunwald – as a liberal supporter of the capitalist pandemic policy – claims that there is no need to worry about the extensive surveillance because we are living in a “democratic state”. “As long as the collection of the data is earmarked – such as with the Corona warning apps – and any other form of use is excluded, I consider this to be harmless. In addition, the surveillance must be democratically secured and limited in time. If that is the case, it seems legitimate to me that we lower the protection of data for the duration of the pandemic.

“We are becoming more and more dependent on digital technology”

However, despite his ideological commitment to liberal principles and his trust in the government policy, Prof. Grunwald can not hide some discomfort about the current speed of expansion of the police and surveillance state. On one hand, he denies that the current developments must inevitably result in a totalitarian society.

One the other hand, he warns: “As a society, we are becoming more and more dependent on digital technology. If we slide further down on this issue, it will be technically and organizationally more and more difficult to turn around, because everything depends on digital control. Take the example of the developments after 11 September: everything that has since been allowed to be monitored in the name of the fight against terrorism would have been unimaginable before. The work of the security authorities and the military is now based on being able to access data. For example, surveillance cameras have become the norm in public spaces. The legal options for monitoring have also been expanded. If that were to be restricted again, the security authorities would probably be helpless for the time being.

The journalist, herself a bit worried, asks: “Is it even possible to reverse technical developments?” The government advisor replies prosaic: “There are many examples of technology that is extinct, such as fax machines. However, deliberately making something disappear that is once in the world is almost impossible.

When asked “So will we live with the Corona apps for years to come?”, Prof. Grunwald removes any doubts: “The vaccination certificates are likely to remain for many years to come.

These are very important remarks as they come from a government advisor deeply involved in the current official pandemic policy and who has an intimidate knowledge about the technological developments in the capitalist state apparatus. He leaves no doubt that the technological tools for surveillance of the population, the “Health Pass”, etc. – i.e. all those instruments which are decisive for the transformation from (limited) bourgeois democracy towards Capitalist Techno-Totalitarianism are here to stay. It is – in the words of the Professor – “almost impossible” to reverse this development. Of course, we allow ourselves to add, this is only “almost impossible” as long as the ruling class remains in power and is not overthrown by a socialist revolution of the workers and oppressed!

Prof. Grunwald’s comparison with the developments after 9-11 is also up the point. This was indeed a counterrevolutionary offensive of the ruling class which undermined numerous democratic rights and created a state monster above any control of the society. One could even say that – objectively, i.e. without knowledge of the participants – the counterrevolutionary “war on terror” by the imperialist states was a kind of historical dress rehearsal of the current pandemic policy.

Using data surveillance for finding out about political view of nonconformist sectors of the popular masses

There is also another interesting exchange. At one point, the journalist asks: “The willingness to get vaccinated is also linked to political views. Is it possible to draw conclusions about attitudes in this way? (by data surveillance, Ed.)

Prof. Grunwald replies: “The percentage of unvaccinated people in Germany and Switzerland is still relatively large. However, only a small amount of additional data was needed to identify the smaller groups and to make assessments about their views.

This statement reveals the enormous degree of data surveillance – helped with the increasing deployment of Artificial Intelligence – which allows the capitalist state to draw conclusions about various groups among the popular masses which behave nonconformist or rebellious! Since Prof. Grunwald is a renown expert on modern technologies, he certainly knows what he is talking about!

A strategic and fundamental attack of the ruling class

Prof. Grunwald statements are highly interesting. These fully confirm the Marxist assessment of the COVID Counterrevolution which the RCIT has elaborated in much detail in the past two years. It was clear to us from the very beginning that the state of emergency policy – accompanied with much hysteria – is basically not a health policy (or let us better say, not primarily a health policy) but a comprehensive political and economic project to transform the society. The policy of the monopoly bourgeoisie is driven by the fact that the capitalist system is in decay. Since the Great Recession in 2008-09 and more actually since the beginning of the depression of the world economy in autumn 2019, it faces an irreversible series of crisis, catastrophes, and global instability. [4] Add to this the global wave of popular uprisings since summer/autumn 2019. [5]

Hence, under the pretext of the pandemic, the ruling class went ahead in dramatically expanding the power of the capitalist state apparatus and in creating gigantic business opportunities for the monopolies in the pharma, IT, security and other sectors.

For these reasons, it was clear to us that these attacks are of strategic nature, that these are not temporary measures but rather reflect a fundamental transformation of the capitalist society. As we stated in the first RCIT Manifesto on the COVID Counterrevolution, published in March 2020, “with one stroke, “Big Brother” is here, openly and without any attempt by the capitalist state to conceal it. The massive surveillance techniques will soon be the new normal worldwide.[6] In other works, we did elaborate on these developments in more detail. [7]

And the “Left”? Oh, please, don’t ask me!

Large sectors of the working class and the popular masses instinctively know that the capitalist governments all over the world are exploiting the pandemic as a cover for a dramatic expansion of the repressive state apparatus. They might not possess a Marxist analysis, but they know who is the enemy and that it’s policy have dangerous consequences for the people. This is why the policy of the COVID Counterrevolution – despite all the fearmongering of the ruling class (and currently again with the hysteria about “Omicron”) and despite the increasing repression – faces mass resistance in Europe and all over the world.

To different degrees and with different conclusions, the Marxists, the popular masses and more honest advisors of the governments (like Prof. Grunwald) – they all agree that fundamental changes are going on under the cover of the pandemic. They recognize – again, from different viewpoints – that there is a massive expansion of the surveillance of the population.

One of the most bizarre phenomena of the current period is the startling silence of large sectors of the opportunist left on this issue. They deny the counterrevolutionary character of the ruling class pandemic policy and are totally unaware of the ongoing massive shift from (limited) bourgeois democracy towards Capitalist Techno-Totalitarianism.

Of course, we are aware that such political naivety is not accidental but has its material and ideological roots. These factors can be summarized in the integration of the leaderships of these parties in various institutions of the capitalist state apparatus – from directly in the government like various Stalinist parties to ideological institutions like universities. Another important factor are the close links of such „left-wing” parties to the labor bureaucracy (which again is integrated into the capitalist state apparatus).

Such a process of integration results in an increasing ideological bourgeoisification of the views of the leaderships and cadres of these “left-wing” parties, including the adoption of numerous middle-class prejudices about the “neutral” nature of the capitalist state and its health policy. As a result, these reformist and centrist forces have become a fully domesticated left. [8]

Authentic socialists must break with the Lockdown Left and join forces in order to fight against the COVID Counterrevolution. Our task is to create a new revolutionary vanguard which can provide a program for the upcoming mass struggles against the reactionary offensive of the ruling class. The RCIT and all authentic revolutionaries dedicate their forces to this task!


[1] «Eine Technik, die einmal in der Welt ist, kann man kaum absichtlich wieder verschwinden lassen». Während der Corona-Pandemie hat sich die digitale Überwachung verstärkt. Der Physiker und Philosoph Armin Grunwald erklärt, welche Gefahren damit einhergehen. Pauline Voss 26.12.2021, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, https://www.nzz.ch/international/technikfolgenforscher-ueber-digitale-ueberwachung-waehrend-corona-ld.1660607?utm_source=pocket-newtab-global-de-DE (All translations are ours.)

[2] Wikipedia: Armin Grunwald, https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armin_Grunwald (accessed on 31.12.2021)

[3] The RCIT has analysed the COVID-19 counterrevolution extensively since its beginning. Starting from 2 February 2020 we have published about 100 pamphlets, essays, articles and statements plus a book which are all compiled at a special sub-page on our website: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/collection-of-articles-on-the-2019-corona-virus/. In particular we refer readers to two RCIT Manifestos: COVID-19: A Cover for a Major Global Counterrevolutionary Offensive. We are at a turning point in the world situation as the ruling classes provoke a war-like atmosphere in order to legitimize the build-up of chauvinist state-bonapartist regimes, 21 March 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/covid-19-a-cover-for-a-major-global-counterrevolutionary-offensive/; “Green Pass” & Compulsory Vaccinations: A New Stage in the COVID Counterrevolution. Down with the chauvinist-bonapartist police & surveillance state – defend democratic rights! No to health policy in the service of the capitalist monopolies – expand the public health sector under workers and popular control! 29 July 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/green-pass-compulsory-vaccinations-a-new-stage-in-the-covid-counterrevolution/; In addition, we draw attention to our book by Michael Pröbsting: The COVID-19 Global Counterrevolution: What It Is and How to Fight It. A Marxist analysis and strategy for the revolutionary struggle, RCIT Books, April 2020, Chapter V, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/the-covid-19-global-counterrevolution/. Almedina Gunić and Michael Pröbsting: On Some Ideological Features of the COVID Counterrevolution. Comments on an interesting interview with a German liberal historian, 14 November 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/on-some-ideological-features-of-the-covid-counterrevolution/; See also our very first article on this issue by Almedina Gunić: Coronavirus: „I am not a Virus“… but WE will be the Cure! The chauvinist campaign behind the “Wuhan Coronavirus” hysteria and the revolutionary answer, 2 February 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/wuhan-virus/. See also a number of Spanish-language articles of our Argentinean comrades: Juan Giglio: La izquierda de la „Big Pharma“, dejó de defender las libertades, 1.10.2021, https://convergenciadecombate.blogspot.com/2021/10/la-izquierda-de-la-big-pharma-dejo-de.html; Juan Giglio: ¿Por qué la izquierda no cuestiona las políticas de la OMS? 8.9.2021, https://convergenciadecombate.blogspot.com/2021/09/por-que-la-izquierda-no-cuestiona-las.html

[4] See on this e.g. the compilation of RCIT documents on the Great Depression of the capitalist world economy at a sub-page on our website: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/collection-of-articles-on-great-depression/.

[5] See on this e.g. RCIT: World Perspectives 2021-22: Entering a Pre-Revolutionary Global Situation, 22 August 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-perspectives-2021-22/; RCIT: World Perspectives 2020: A Pre-Revolutionary Global Situation. Theses on the World Situation, the Perspectives for Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries, 8 February 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-perspectives-2020/. These documents contain many links to other statements and articles on the class struggle in various countries.

[6] See the above-mentioned Manifesto: COVID-19: A Cover for a Major Global Counterrevolutionary Offensive.

[7] See e.g. chapter II in the above-mentioned book by Michael Pröbsting: The COVID-19 Global Counterrevolution: What It Is and How to Fight It. See also, by the same author, our pamphlet: The Police and Surveillance State in the Post-Lockdown Phase. A global review of the ruling class’s plans of expanding the bonapartist state machinery amidst the COVID-19 crisis, 21 May 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/police-and-surveillance-state-in-post-lockdown-phase/.

[8] We have published many documents elaborating our critique of the Lockdown Left. They are compiled on a special sub-page on our website: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/collection-of-articles-on-the-2019-corona-virus/. See e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Why Do Some Socialists Refuse to Support the Mass Struggle against the “Green Pass”? PTS/FT, PSTU/LIT, IMT and PCL in the face of the latest stage of the COVID Counterrevolution, 15 October 2021, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/why-do-some-socialists-refuse-to-support-the-mass-struggle-against-the-green-pass/; by the same author: COVID-19: The Current and Historical Roots of Bourgeois Lockdown “Socialism”. Police State and Universal Basic Income are key elements of the new version of reformist “War Socialism” of 1914, 19 December 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/covid-19-the-current-and-historical-roots-of-bourgeois-lockdown-socialism/

taken from here

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