Below Chris R summarises the main sessions from our breakthrough event, Take Back Our Lives, which featured the Great Barrington Declaration three, NHS specialists and campaign groups like Together and Big Brother Watch.
After two successful (and somewhat clandestine) meetings in a North London church, February’s widely-publicised and well-attended ‘Take Back Our Lives’ event at 200+ capacity central London venue felt like a public declaration of intent.
The day kicked off with ‘The Selling of Health and Immunity’ a panel discussion featuring a Psychiatrist, another doctor, Dr. Jenny Goodman and Naomi Bridges – a fitting start to the conference given the primacy of health—or lack thereof—in the Covid-19 narrative. It really has been the vector of transmission for the disease of lockdown and provides public legitimacy for the establishment of the biosecurity state.
A consultant psychiatrist working in Islington, delivered a powerful and very personal (and at points harrowing) account of the effects the cruel lockdown policies have had on the provision of mental health services. He highlighted a red flag that many of us have noted over the past two years: how could so many health services be axed if the purpose of the programme was to safeguard health?
Jenny cut quickly to the crux of the matter: the big pharmaceutical companies are responsible to their shareholders first, last and always. The pursuit of profit inevitably trumps the health and wellbeing of the public. We have a National Health Service but not a National Pharmaceutical Service. The resistance movement has prompted a growing interest in common law. Perhaps we also need to learn common pharmacy.
Naomi, one of the founders of the Make Some Noise collective, said that lockdowns are analogous to abusive relationships. Although women bore the brunt of lockdowns, Naomi said that many of her feminist comrades did not want to engage with any kind of dissent from the dominant Covid narrative. This will have resonated with delegates, all of whom at some point in the last two years will have run up against a wall of indifference or even hostility when they have advanced arguments that run counter to the dominant narrative.
It was privilege to be able to hear live from the three authors of the Great Barrington Declaration. Professor Sunetra Gupta was in the room and Professor Jay Battacharya and Professor Martin Kulldorff joined from the US via Zoom.
If a monument is ever erected in honour of the real public heroes of the lockdown era, their names will be among the first to be carved upon it. It is sobering to think that all the opprobrium that rained down upon them the moment they put their names to the GBD was a response to a set of proposals in line with what was considered normal epidemic/pandemic mitigation policy prior to March 2020.
It was interesting to hear them talk from a political perspective. Martin said that in the US, lockdowns have been the worst attack on the working class and the poor since segregation and the Vietnam War. The characterisation of the Great Barrington Declaration as right-wing, he said, was inexplicable.
Jay picked up the theme: ‘Lockdowns are the single most illiberal policy I have seen in my life,’ he said, describing them as ‘the luxury of the rich’ and deploring the bogus distinction between ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ work. He reminded us that in India, more than 10 million migrant workers were abruptly sent home from the cities as the first lockdown was imposed. Worldwide, more than 100 million people have been thrown into poverty and 230,000 children have died of starvation. And all so the laptop classes of the West could stay safe.
Sunetra told the meeting that Covid-19 had revealed the powerful influence of hierarchical, authoritarian cliques on mainstream science. Jay said that at the highest levels, ‘science’ exerts tremendous influence over media coverage and hence public perception. This was why it was possible for the GBD authors to be dismissed as ‘fringe scientists’ a ridiculous notion given their expertise and experience. But the pressure of the downward force not only poisoned public perception, it ensured, through fear of ostracisation or loss of job or funding, the silence of their peers when many might have spoken up in support.
Sunetra revealed that she has asked Neil Ferguson several times to take part in a public debate. He has never responded. Now, why is that not a surprise?
The big afternoon session – ‘In it to win it: How effective campaigns flip the narrative’ – delivered a knock-out debate that threw up some critical questions (and ones close to the evolving purpose of LLS) about the actual and possible relationship of the Left to the global resistance movement.
Together’s Alan Miller and Charlotte Gracias were joined by Andrew Barr from the newly-formed Jews for Justice (this was the first public appearance of the group) and Silkie Carlo, Director of Big Brother Watch.
The panel discussed the role of the people in the current crisis. The public has been shoved into the wings during the long years of managed liberal ‘consensus’ which has encouraged the substitution of passive consumerism (including in political activism) for democratic participation.
But the lockdown emergency has brought the people back onto stage – rebellious, non-compliant and mutinous and characterised by both establishment and Left perspectives as the mob (when they deign to recognise the resistance movement at all).
How should the Left engage with the movement? Silkie cautioned against getting too close to right-wing elements which she believed were using the movement to advance their own political agendas. Socialists should be working to persuade their own institutions round to their positions on lockdowns, vaccine mandates and vaccine passports, not joining forces with hostile political forces.
Alan said that the working class is winning the fight, not the Left or the Right. The machinery that is running the Covid programme is overwhelmingly liberal and middle class. Working class resistance is providing the only serious opposition to it. Having abandoned the working class during the crisis (if not long before then), the Left cannot be part of the solution. A new version of the ‘people’ is coming into being and new ways of political thinking are required to understand it.
We will be publishing much more content from this breakthrough event over the coming weeks, including edited session transcripts, reflections from the organisers and spotlights on the breakout sessions. Stay tuned.