Counterfire and the Anti-Children Left

Read Time:10 Minutes

By David Fletcher

One of the small but not insignificant groups on the Marxist left is Counterfire, an organisation that came about in 2013 following a split from the Socialist Workers Party.

Counterfire began their revolutionary mission setting up a cafe in St Pancras, hoping to rally the working class with skinny lattes and double choc mochas in Central London [1]. The cafe lasted less than a year, closing at the end of December 2013 according to Class War anarchist Ian Bone [2]. A comment on Bone’s short article sums up the class orientation of the group:

“I walked past that place a few times, it only had the odd Guardian reader in there sipping coffee. None of the local people from some great estates around it ever went there, kinda sums up their politics so close to the working class but so far.”

I am reminded of Karl Marx’s partner-in-crime, Friedrich Engels, and his explanation for the split in the working class; That the British empire’s super-profits, derived from colonial and imperialist exploitation abroad, afforded some workers at home better wages and conditions than the masses:

“They form an aristocracy among the working class; they have succeeded in enforcing for themselves a relatively comfortable position and they accept it as final. They are the model working men of Messrs Leone Levi and Giffen [both economists and statisticians – Ed], and they are very nice people indeed nowadays to deal with, for any sensible capitalist in particular and for the whole capitalist class in general.

But as to the great mass of working people, the state of misery and insecurity in which they live now is a low as ever, if not lower.” [3]

Engels’ description of this aristocracy of labour, at odds with the conditions of the common working people, could have been written yesterday. And yet it is the labour aristocracy, not the working class masses, who dominate the machinery of the organised Left, the Labour Party and the Trade Unions.

Blended, not stirred

One of those comrades certainly not in a ‘state of misery and insecurity’ is Sean Ledwith. He is a Counterfire member and Lecturer in History and Sociology at York College, where he is also UCU branch secretary [4]. Ledwith has certainly had a productive year, having written 40 articles for Counterfire over the past 12 months, over double the amount he wrote in 2019. Perhaps York College’s move to ‘blended learning’, teaming up with ‘Education-as-a-Service’ tech company Mindful Education [5], has something to do with it.

On 10 Feb, Comrade Ledwith wrote a Counterfire article entitled ‘Tories don’t actually care about your child’s mental health’ [6]. Indeed, but neither does Ledwith either:

Addressing the Education Select Committee earlier this week, Schools Minister Nick Gibb managed to come up with some proposals guaranteed to demotivate the country’s already harassed children and educators even further.”

Yes Mr Ledwith, the children are ‘harassed’ and ‘demotivated’. Their way of life has been reduced to staying at home and staring at a screen all day. Human contact, emotional bonds and friendship – the essential social components for the development of well rounded human beings –  has all but disappeared. Young people are suffering immensely due to school closures which were cheered on by both Counterfire and the various teachers’ unions. Children as young as eight are turning up at hospital A&E after attempted self-harm [7].

A Sky article quotes a doctor who claims the number of young people seeking help with their mental health has “sky rocketed” [8]:

“The closure of schools, the lack of contact with friends and stopping all sports activities is having a particularly damaging effect on children.

“One can only say the major factor across it all is pandemic – the lack of activities, the lack of schooling, the lack of opportunities for these young people and probably a deterioration of wellbeing of their parents not being able to cope.”

On the UsforThem England Facebook group, an NHS nurse working in a school health team despaired at the situation [9]:

“I just can’t do it anymore, getting multiple A&E’s every day of teenagers who are self harming and trying to end their life’s [sic] is taking its toll on me.”

Ledwith complains the Tories “have fostered a high-stakes testing culture in our primary schools that many educators regard as a major factor in the explosion of reported mental health problems among young people.” Again, we do not deny the impact of a decade of Tory austerity and education policy, which we oppose. But how can this comrade complain about a testing culture in primary schools causing anxiety in one breath, and then in another support the roll-out of mass covid testing (‘track and trace’) in schools as demanded by the ZeroCovid campaign [10]? What can be more anxiety-inducing for children than mandatory face coverings and regular covid testing on the basis of the largely irrational fear that children have the ‘capacity to transmit the virus to adults in an education setting’? [11]

Notions of children as ‘plague carriers’ ready to infect their teachers bears no resemblance to reality, with the ONS declaring that teachers are at no additional risk compared to the average worker [12]. I would have thought keeping schools open for all children was an essential key service, as clearly evidenced above?

The teaching unions didn’t even bother to go on strike to demand what they envisaged as a ‘safe workplace’, which would have at least given them leverage over the government and garnered support from children and parents alike. Instead they simply felt it best to work remotely, leaving frazzled parents and exhausted A&E nurses to pick up the pieces of damaged children.

Demonstrating apparently no awareness of the situation, Ledwith brazenly claims “Parents and teaching unions may soon have to gear up for another battle”. Is this guy serious? Every parent I know is absolutely desperate to have their children return to school, with some even going as far as demanding their employer write a note to claim key worker status in order to do so. Young people are suffering, as are the parents who are having to juggle homeschooling,childcare and work. A ‘blended’ approach indeed.

Doctor who?

In his desire to avoid his place of work and face the legions of plagued students, Ledwith cites Professor Devi Sridhar from Edinburgh University as “one of the medical voices cautioning against this right-wing charge to get classrooms fully open before the virus is under control”.

A ‘medical voice’? Fellow Left Lockdown Sceptic Bruce Wallace has previously reviewed Sridhar’s credentials and made clear she is not actually a medical doctor [13]. Whilst the accuracy of the PCR test is highly questionable [14], even taking it at face value, covid cases have fallen to the same level as they were in early October when the schools were fully open [15]. And unlike back then we are now approaching the end of winter and hence the end of the respiratory virus season, so there will certainly not be a ‘third wave’ the lockdown zealots are predicting.

But no, keeping children locked up in a state of depression and despair until covid cases hit near zero must be the ‘left-wing’ response to the ‘right-wing charge’ of giving them their livelihoods back. Those damned Thatcherite children and swivel-eyed loon parents. 

Like Professor Sridhar, Counterfire are not particularly well equipped when it comes to medical commentary on covid. They originally claimed back in May 2020 that the virus had an infection fatality rate (IFR) of 6.8%! [16]

The University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence Based Medicine came up with IFR figures of 0.30% using the Medical Research Council (MRC) data and 0.49% using ONS data [17]. However, this IFR figure is weighted towards elderly people because they made up the vast majority of deaths. The IFR for under 70s (covering all working age people) has been estimated to be around 0.05% [18].

Whilst it would be absolutely reasonable to allow teachers who have health issues or who live with others at greater risk to shield and work remotely, this should be the exception and not the norm. The average age of a teacher in this country is 39 years old [19], so the majority of teachers would be more at risk of dying in a car accident than from covid [20]. A proportionate sense of risk is needed.

Instead, the likes of Counterfire have been willing enforcers of SAGE’s nudge psychological warfare and have helped convince people, including teachers, that the virus is highly deadly for everyone, much to the detriment of our children.

In name only

Along with SAGE and the Tories, Counterfire continue to beat the lockdown drum, claiming it is the third national lockdown that has been bringing cases down, whilst simultaneously claiming it’s not a proper lockdown but a ‘lockdown in name only’. But England’s Covid hospitalisation data shows the daily number of admissions appearing to plateau by 7 January, suggesting infections peaked a couple weeks before the lockdown on 4 January. [21]

Only today, having been championing the NHS ‘vaccine’ programme, Counterfire’s Alex Snowden warns that this is still not enough [22]:

“The safest option – and the most sensible approach in the long term – is to wait for infection rates to come down to at most 1000 cases a day before lifting restrictions. It should then be done gradually. This will need to be combined with finally getting ‘test, trace and isolate’ organised properly – it can only be truly effective once numbers are more manageable.”

What is ever apparent from the Lockdown zealots is that the goalposts keep shifting. First we were told 3 weeks to flatten the curve. That turned into 4 months. Then we were told to wear masks. Then we had another lockdown. Then Christmas was cancelled. Then schools were closed again with another lockdown. Then the vaccine was rolled out to the most vulnerable groups, but that still wasn’t enough. Now we have stay in lockdown until this arbitrary number of 1000 cases is reached, and schools have to stay closed for at least the next two months. When is this nightmare going to end?

Counterfire has also remained completely silent on ‘vaccine passports’ and the associated restrictions on civil liberties, so one can only assume they support the continued encroachment of the bourgeois bio-surveillance state, or at least don’t oppose it. These anti-children ‘leftists’ are socialists in name only.

Sources

[1] https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/politics/firebox-cafe-london-cuts

[2] https://ianbone.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/rees-germans-firebox-cafe-closed-and-bankrupt-just-like-their-ideas/

[3] https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1885/03/01.htm

[4] https://www.counterfire.org/authors/13:sean-ledwith

[5] https://mindful-education.co.uk/

[6] https://www.counterfire.org/articles/opinion/22066-tories-don-t-actually-care-about-your-child-s-mental-health-counterblast

[7] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-55864573

[8] https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-children-seeking-mental-health-treatment-sky-rocketing-during-pandemic-12215488

[9] https://www.facebook.com/groups/3370510822981685

[10] http://zerocovid.uk/founding-statement/

[11] https://www.counterfire.org/articles/opinion/21513-johnson-is-bullying-schools-back-into-unsafe-reopening-counterblast

[12] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-55795608

[13] https://leftlockdownsceptics.com/f/covid-superstars-1—professor-devi-sridhar

[14] https://leftlockdownsceptics.com/f/deaths-within-28-days-of-covid-vaccination

[15] https://g.co/kgs/pgdoZZ

[16] https://www.counterfire.org/articles/opinion/21206-conspiracies-and-capitalism-why-we-shouldn-t-end-the-lockdown

[17] https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/estimating-the-infection-fatality-ratio-in-england/

[18] https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.13.20101253v3

[19] http://www.oecd.org/education/talis/TALIS2018_CN_ENG.pdf

[20] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8454331/Under-50s-likely-die-car-accident-injury-Covid-19.html

[21] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9139103/Coronavirus-Did-England-pass-peak-lockdown.html

[22] https://www.counterfire.org/articles/opinion/22072-the-vaccine-is-essential-but-not-a-magic-bullet-counterblast

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