The RCP’s long march from anti-imperialist outsiders to the doors of Downing Street

This week it was announced that Munira Mirza would be joining new prime minister Boris Johnson’s team as head of Number 10’s policy unit. Mirza, mis-identifed by the Independent as “an academic at King’s College London” (her actual job there is running their “cultural strategy”), was Johnson’s Deputy Mayor for Culture and Education during his City Hall tenure. Last month, the new crop of Brexit Party MEPs taking up their well-paid if “stupid” jobs in Brussels included Claire Fox, professional BBC talking head with a reputation as a contrarian libertarian.

 

Regular readers will know what Mirza and Fox have in common: they are both long-term members of the network that emerged out of the Revolutionary Communist Party and its magazine Living Marxism (LM). I’ve written before about the LM/RCP network, best known today for its web magazine Spiked, and this post draws together some of that material given the party’s importance in our current, Brexit political moment.

Radical “anti-imperialism”

Claire Fox joined in the early 1980s while a student at Warwick University. In 1988, its magazine Living Marxism was formed, with Mick Hume as the founding editor.

Five features marked the RCP out as distinct in the crowded market of Trot micro-parties in the 1980s. First, it was particularly hostile to Labour, attacking other left parties who saw Labour as having any relationship with the working class and denouncing slogans like the SWP’s “vote Labour without illusions” as right-wing.
It stood candidates in its own name at various elections between 1983 and 1992 and,. for a while in the 1980s, it launched the Red Front electoral vehicle to stand candidates against Labour. One of its candidates was a young Claire Fox, under the name Claire Foster.

Second, like the RCG, the RCP pursued a particularly hardcore form of “anti-imperialist” politics. The “anti-imperialism” they promoted was a vulgar version, descending from the analysis Lenin drew from the racist social liberal thinker J.A. Hobson, but refracted through a Cold War “second campist” mentality that prioritised geopolitical struggle against the Western imperialist camp and de-prioritised working class liberation in the colonial and postcolonial world. Other Trotskyists, including the IMG and Gerry Healey’s WRP, had charted this direction, but the RCG and RCP took it as far as possible. This meant supporting every authoritarian and totalitarian Third World movement that claimed to stand in the camp opposing the imperialist West, from Robert Mugabe to Gaddafi.

As John Rogan documents, “We back Gadaffi” was on the front page of the RCP’s magazine next step in April 1986.

On page 12 of the same issue it states ‘The Revolutionary Communist Party unreservedly condemns the US/British assault on Libya and gives its full support to Libyan resistance whatever form it takes‘… Thirteen days before this issue came out, on 5 April 1986, Libyan intelligence planted a bomb in a disco in West Germany. As this report in the New York Times (14 Nov 2001) on the conviction of those responsible states — ‘The explosion killed Sgt. Kenneth T. Ford, 21; Sgt. James E. Goins, 25; and Nermin Hannay, 29. Of the 229 wounded, many lost limbs’.

…Under her pen-name of “Claire Foster”, 26 year old Claire Fox featured in the “We back Gadaffi” issue of the next step (18 April 1986) as she was an RCP candidate in local council elections that year.

Third, following this hardcore “anti-imperialism”, the RCP (and its front organisation the Irish Freedom Movement, IFM) positioned itself as one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the most militant actions of the Provisional IRA, the Provos (the only left group to outclass them in this was Red Action, which was not Trotskyist). In 1980, the RCP said they would refuse to “criticise or condemn the Birmingham bombings”. After the Brighton bombing of 1984, the RCP declared: “We support unconditionally the right of the Irish people to carry out their struggle for national liberation in whatever way they choose”, while an RCP pamphlet by Mick Hume, now a Times columnist, scorned the ruling class panic about the IRA’s “war on imperialism” and suggested that the UK state “the real terrorist”.

John Rogan writes:

The journal of the RCP’s Irish Freedom Movement (Summer 1993) carried a similar response of defending “whatever measures necessary”. Not only that, but the RCP/IFM decided to heckle and disrupt a peace commemoration in Hyde Park held the month after two young boys were killed [in the Warrington bombings]. Further on (page 18), Claire Fox (under her pen name “Claire Foster”) wrote that the peace movement spawned by the Warrington attacks was all built up by the media.

Brendan O’Neill, now a writer for the Spectator and Telegraph, was a frequent spokesperson for the IFM. In the 1990s, as the Provos turned away from armed struggle in the steps that led to the Good Friday Agreement, O’Neill and the IFM became entangled with the dissident Republicans who opposed peace. In 1994, they wrote that “Anti-imperialists in Britain have the duty of exposing the peace process as a dangerous sham. The peace process is designed to stabilise imperialist interests in Ireland by pressurising Irish people to give up entirely on the pursuit of freedom.”

Fourth, the RCP took an anti-anti-fascist position. Historian Evan Smith, as part of a broader project on the history of the “No Platform” tactic on the UK left has recently traced this history. To compete with the Anti-Nazi League and other Trot fronts, the RCP launched Workers Against Racism (WAR), which initially argued that state racism was the real problem and anti-fascism less important, but increasingly came to see anti-fascism itself as a middle class distraction.

For the WAR, anti-fascism against the NF was ‘a convenient diversion’ from the anti-racist struggle. As the militancy of the RCP dwindled from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, WAR’s street-based anti-racism faded and underestimation of the threat of the far right remained. But while it had previously argued that ‘[t]he fight against racism cannot be restricted to a campaign against racist ideas’ and that ‘[r]acism cannot be fought with “facts”’, the RCP in the pages of Living Marxism now privileged debate over other forms of anti-racist activism. This fed into the party’s approach to ‘no platform’, which had evolved over the 1980s towards free speech absolutism and a rejection of the anti-fascist consensus that had been built over the last two decades.

In 1981, they were building the foundations of a free speech fundamentalist position, declaring that, “Whether or not they are justified as measures aimed against fascists, all state restrictions of the freedom of speech, assembly and press are ultimately directed against the working class.” Quite early on, you can see the seeds of a contempt for anti-fascism that found Spiked making common cause with the far right in recent years. In 1984, they described fascist Patrick Harrington as “‘a soft target for the liberal left casting around for an issue on which to prove its anti-racist credentials’ and instead ‘[a]nti-racist student should have been campaigning against state attacks on overseas students’.” The said the no Platform strategy was “an impulsive outburst of liberal moralism which seeks to sweep away distasteful views, rather than confront them politically”, and dismissed fascists as “idiots…with virtually no influence.”

And the fifth feature? Leather jackets and hair gel. As John Sullivan put it in As Soon As This Pub Closes, his classic late 1980s tour through left sectariana:

“The answer is style. The group is part of the harder aggressive, post-punk move away from peace and love, and the average RCPer looks very different from the grotty SWPers. They have been described as ‘the SWP with hair gel’, and many a parent, pleased at the improvement in their child’s appearance, have welcomed the move from one to another. Alas! The mind remains just as untidy.”

I first encountered the RCP at the end of the 1980s, when they were a colourful presence in the student movement and, clipboards in hand, selling their magazine around Covent Garden, on a prime pitch now occupied by the Big Issue. The RCP were then known for the graphic pzazz of their magazine Living Marxism, by the uber-trendy hairstyles of the cadre, and by their ultra-contrarian political positions. Among the latter: AIDS is a state conspiracy to regulate the sexuality of the working class, a position I took particular offence at, while people were dying of the disease. By this time, the ultra-leftist positions of the early 1980s seemed to be morphing into provocation for its own sake. In 1996, the logic of this turn (they called it the “turn to the suburbs”) was pursued with the RCP formally closed as a party (though continuing as a tightly knit and highly disciplined network) and Living Marxism rebranded as LM, with Fox as co-publisher.

Genocide denial and libel

The hardcore “anti-imperialism” of their early days and the anti-liberal contrarianism that they had turned to in the 1990s came together in the publication that should have ended the LM network. George Monbiot tells the story:

In 1997, LM published an article claiming that the broadcasting company ITN had fabricated its dramatic discovery in 1992 of prisoners held by the Bosnian Serbs. “The picture that fooled the world” argued that ITN’s footage, in which emaciated Bosnian Muslim men clung to barbed wire, showed not a detention centre, as ITN maintained, but a safe haven for refugees. The Bosnian Serb soldiers at the camp were not detaining the Muslims but defending them…

[LM] recruited the fearless investigative journalist Thomas Deichmann to tell the real story behind the Bosnian enclosures. Only it wasn’t quite like that. Deichmann was an engineer by training, not a journalist. His writing was largely confined to an obscure German magazine called Novo, which he used repeatedly to defend the Bosnian Serb leadership against charges of murder, torture, rape and ethnic cleansing. He presented himself as a witness for the defence at the trial of the Serbian war criminal Dusko Tadic.

One of the journalists who broke the story of Trnopolje, the Serbian camp, was Ed Vulliamy, who was with the ITN team. ITN sued LM for libel, and won. Several celebrities, including Toby Young (who has kept up his association with them ever since), celebrated LM as the plucky free speech underdogs resisting the mainstream establishment. Vulliamy puts the more accurate view:

“free speech” has nothing to do with what is going on. Living Marxism’s attempts to re-write the history of the camps was motivated by the fact that in their heart of hearts, these people applauded those camps and sympathised with their cause and wished to see it triumph. That was the central and – in the final hour, the only – issue. Shame, then, on those fools, supporters of the pogrom, cynics and dilettantes who supported them, gave them credence and endorsed their vile enterprise.

It is one of the grim ironies of the RCP’s slow march through the institutions that now Claire Fox is a Brexit Party MEP she has been appointed to the EU Delegation to the EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee.

Corporate contrarianism

Image result for "institute of ideas"
As the ITN trial verdict was delivered, the LM network plotted its rise from the ashes. Claire Fox planned the events that would launch the Institute of Ideas – she is a director, company secretary and shareholder of the company which runs the Institute, the Academy of Ideas, and is the director of the Institute. LM‘s Hume launched Spiked the next year, editing it until 2007 when he passed the torch to Brendan O’Neill.
A new generation of activists was recruited, including Munira Mirza and James Panton. Mirza was associated with the network from 1999, the year she graduated from  Mansfield College, Oxford, and wrote for Claire Fox’s Culture Wars, for which she became a regular in 2001. Her first Spiked article was in 2002.
In the new century, with words like “Marxism” and “communism” deleted from the lexicon, the LM network became increasingly close to – and received considerable funding from – various corporate interests, including lobbyists for industries such as tobacco, GM food, big pharma and fossil fuels. It collaborated closely with thintanks of the free market right, such as the Institute of Economic Affairs.
Fox has been central to this corporate embrace. Her Battle of Ideas events have been sponsored by “groups as diverse as the security company G4S, the Ayn Rand Institute and Genomics England [and had] pharmaceutical giant Bayer (now merged with Monsanto) and PR agency Pagefield as their primary “Battle Champions”.”
As DeSmog’s Mike Small notes,

Fox has frequently tweeted about her rejection of mainstream and accepted climate science, calling the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “advocacy research” and says treating the body as “high priests of The Science and final word on climate” would be a “betrayal of scientific inquiry.” Fox has also tweeted supportively of hereditary peer Matt Ridley’s climate science denial and recommended people look to the discredited arguments of economist Bjorn Lomborg. In a debate with environmental journalist George Monbiot, reported by the climate science denial blogger Ben Pile, she was asked whether she wanted people to be “free to pollute,” answering: “I want freedom.”

Perhaps the apex of LM’s corporate work is their funding by the US right-wing libertarian billionaires Koch Brothers, as revealed by a DeSmog/Guardian investigation, which found that Spiked has received $300,000 from the Koch’s over the past three years, including $150,000 in 2016 — the year of Donald Trump’s US presidential election victory and the UK’s Brexit referendum.

The road to Downing Street runs through City Hall

Boris Johnson and advisers in 2008 – Munira Mirza, Sir Simon Milton, Kit Malthouse, Richard Barnes and Ian Clement. Evening Standard

Alongside their work for the corporate sector, the RCP slowly went about building up relationships with the Conservative Party. The thinktank Policy Exchange appear to be the nexus between the ex-RCP and the Tories. Policy Exchange was set up in 2002 by Michael Gove and others, and played a major part in pulling the Tory party out of its post-Thatcher slow death. As Wikipedia puts it, it “describes itself as seeking localist, volunteer and free market solutions to public policy problem” and thus contributed to the shift in Conservative thinking towards the Big Society big idea, and the whole re-branding under Cameron of the Tories as “progressive” party.

As I wrote in 2010, the Cameron project (like the New Labour project) was politically incoherent, combining elements of messy-haired libertarianism that felt appealing in the 2000s after years of hectoring, nanny-ish Blair and Brown with the harder communitarianism of Ian Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice, the vaguely liberal platitudes of Philip Blonde’s red Toryism, and the steely neoconservatism of Douglas Murray’s Centre for Social Cohesion. It is, arguably, this incoherence that made Cameroonian Conservativism an appealing project: there was something for everyone.

The libertarian edge was represented by Boris Johnson, journalist and TV personality turned Mayor of London in 2008. Johnson has surrounded himself with bright young and youngish things from Policy Exchange. During his mayoral electoral campaign, Boris was aided by Dan Ritterband, former director of Policy Exchange. On election, the mayor appointed Nick Boles, the founder of Policy Exchange, as Chief of Staff. Boles was, the Observer reported, ‘asked to help the new mayor find the right staff’.

Among the subsequent appointments were Anthony Browne as Policy Director and Munira Mirza as his cultural adviser. Mirza, a long term critic of both multiculturalism and of state support for the arts, was able to give Boris arguments for making reactionary decisions while giving apparently progressive justifications.

By late 2010, I wrote that the RCP had probably been more influential than any other bit of the British far left in the last decade. They gave a veneer of intellectual respectability to denialism about climate change, have acted as PR agents for the agribusiness, airline and pharmaceutical industries, aided and abetted AIDS denialism and its enormous death toll in Africa, given succour to Serb nationalism at its most aggressive, helped Boris Johnson capture London, provided ideological cover for cuts in the funding for arts, reduced the number of decent free festivals in the parks of London*, and, arguably, were the architects of David Cameron’s election victory.

Mirza drew closer to the Conservative Party in this period. She married Dougie Smith, Cameron speechwriter and co-ordinator of Tory thinktank Conservatives for Change (Cchange), on whose board sat politicians such as Theresa May – as well as once running Fever Parties, a London-based organisation that apparently hosted “five-star” orgies for swingers. By 2018, the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush was tipping her as a possible Tory mayoral candidate.

 

Going full Brexit: from Red Front to red-brown front

Boris Johnson’s mayoral win in 2008 was a dress rehearsal for the Cameron parliamentary win in 2010 and key to its splintering of the New Labour electoral coalition by presenting a “progressive” Toryism. But Cameron’s premiership also contained the seeds of its own destruction as its shifted the Overton window rightwards in the age of austerity, emboldening the party’s europhobic hard right and Farage’s national populist movement beyond the party. As Boris repositioned himself as the hero of this reactionary wing during the Leave campaign in 2016 (exposing how superficial his progressive sheen had been in his City Hall years), so too would the RCP network keep moving to the right, as well as giving pseudo-intellectual and even left-sounding cover to Britain’s most right-wing political forces.

Drawing on its anti-anti-fascist tradition, Spiked portrayed racists like Stephen Yaxley-Smith (aka “Tommy Robinson”) and the EDL, and later Steve Bannon and Katie Hopkins, as salt of the earth contrarians maligned by elitist liberals out of conformity and class prejudice. Furedi backed Orbán’s increasingly authoritarian government in Hungary, speaking alongside Breitbart’s alt-lite provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos at a 2018 conference hosted by Orbán. From 2016, the arguments developed in these polemics were turned against Remainers.

One LM initiative in the post-Referendum period was “The Full Brexit”, an avowedly left-wing pressure group launched in the summer of 2018 to reframe the Brexit narrative as one about “democracy” rather than just bashing immigrants. Alongside a smattering of Blue Labour social conservatives and Lexit Marxists, a good half of its 20 founding signatories are RCP network members. Academic Chris Bickerton has been a Spiked contributor since 2005, when he was a PhD student at St John’s College, Oxford. Philip Cunliffe, Furedi’s colleague at the University of Kent, is another long term Spiked activist. Pauline Hadaway, another academic, is a veteran of the Living Marxism days. James Heartfield was a paid RCP organiser. Lee Jones seems to have been recruited at Oxford around the same time as Bickerton. Tara McCormack is an RCP veteran, as is Suke Wolton. Bruno Waterfield write for Living Marxism. Other signatories aren’t part of the network but have been promoted by Spiked: Paul Embery and Thomas Fazi for example (Fazi is also connected to the 5 Star Movement). Many are also involved in Briefings for Brexit, which has several RCP veterans on its advisory committee, and some are involved with Civitas. This is a peculiar form of left-right crossover politics.

The RCP then played a key role in the creation of the Brexit Party, again providing “left” cover for a deeply right-wing project. Otto English in Byline Times documents how, in February 2019, a film-maker, Kevin Laitak, a disciple of Furedi, began turning up at local Leavers of Britain groups, telling campaigners that he was making a short film about rank-and-file Brexiters. He then recruited activists who might consider standing for the new BXP, who were then called by a woman called Lesley Katon. Katon told would-be recruits that she was the co-founder of a group called ‘Invoke Democracy Now’, whose activists, English notes, included Claire Fox, as well as Luke Gittos, the legal editor of Spiked, Brendan O’Neill, its editor, Living Marxism alumni Tessa Mayes and Munira Mirza, and Mick Hume, former editor of Living Marxism. Katon herself has several LM connections, and among the candidates emerging from this process were In addition to her client Claire Fox; Katon’s colleague David Bull who spoke at a Spiked event in 2003; James Heartfield, a long-time RCP cadre; Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, a former RCP activist and Spiked contributor; and in Scotland long time Spiked writer Stuart Waiton. Of these, only Fox was placed high up enough a regional list to get sent to Brussels.

Otto English notes that the RCP’s Alka Sehgal Cuthbert and John Heartfield, were in the cavalcade of hopeful Brexit Party candidates paraded by Nigel Farage earlier this month as he launched his bid for the next General Election.

It gets weirder, because, Otto English reveals, Lesley Katon is an associate partner at a PR company called Pagefield, founded in 2010 by Mark Gallagher, a close associate of David Davis and John Redwood. In 2018, Pagefield recruited almost the entire staff of Bell Pottinger public relations firm which, as English puts it, was expelled from the PR trade body and went into administration in the wake of a secret campaign to stir up racial tensions in South Africa.

Back with Boris

The mad thing is that so far I have only scraped the surface of the LM network’s dodginess. A whole other chapter could be written about their involvement in various awful educational experiments, in which they’ve worked with Toby Young and Michael Gove, their “Free Speech University Rankings”, their promotion of Mein Kampf and  Milo Yiannopoulos. Another on their support for (and denial of the crimes of) Assad in Syria through their association with the pseudo-academic Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media and through RCP front organisation Academics for Academic Freedom. And another on Munira Mirza’s extensive work laundering the dodgy race politics of her Tory friends. But I feel I’ve held your patience long enough, so we’ll cut to the current chapter, July 2019, a new prime minister, with a long-term activist in the Living Marxism network activist as head of his policy unit. What joys await us as they roll out their agenda?

Brendan O’Neill, writing at Spiked, is certainly happy:

“We often overlook how perverse it was that a nation which voted Leave was so dominated by a Remainer elite. Johnson’s new Cabinet redresses this undemocratic disparity between political-class sentiment and public sentiment and gives rise to a UK that is now run by Leavers. About bloody time…  On top of these ministers we have Boris’s new senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, the strategic whizz behind Vote Leave, and his director of policy, Munira Mirza, friend of spiked and a committed Leaver. Downing Street is now a Leave bastion. This is progress…  Now let’s leave. Properly, fully, with no turning back. Out, out, out.”

***

Further reading:

 

This article is reproduced with kind thanks – see the originla at the excellent Brockley Blogspot here.

Comments (15)

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  1. SleepingDog says:

    Perhaps this convoluted history illustrates that ideological constructs of ‘left’ and ‘right’ are unhelpful shorthands, and perhaps we need better language to describe political ideologies in a multi-dimensional way. Some ideologies appear to have outer shells for public consumption, while their true beliefs are in some more shielded centre. For example, an ideology that held that people were inherently evil might need a sugar coating to be swallowed by a multitude. At the most extreme end of the mystic, hierarchical organization spectrum, inductees may have to pass through multiple levels, adopting new creeds at each stage, before reaching the core. This may allow a significant amount of internal inconsistency to be passed off as defensive obfuscation to confuse outsiders. You might be able to detect such cult-like patterns in such belief systems as neoclassical economics, for example, where initiates are taught models that do not work.

    Of course, once you get to the core, you might just find a bunch of narcissists, nihilists, predatory groomers, fetishists, psychotics, psychopaths, compulsive manipulators and/or megalomaniacs, and no ideology to speak of. Who knows?

  2. Bish says:

    Is this part of your therapy?

  3. Southpawpunch says:

    This article has many errors to which I can attest through my first-hand knowledge of the RCP in the 1980s.

    The argument that Spiked grew from the RCP is only true in the sense that, for example, today’s Irish Army arises from the pre-independence IRA. True-ish, but near meaningless.

    It was not the only small party completely hostile to Labour. i.e. ‘no vote Labour’. The RCG was another, as was Red Action and others.

    Yes, the RCP supported ‘hardcore’ politics but then there is no other sort, e.g. calling for the defeat of Britain by Argentina or Iraq will cause Labour types to run several miles from you. But the politics are correct (supporting colonies or semi-colonies v imperialist countries, no matter what the basis of the dispute). It’s wrong to say the RCP were unique in this. Workers Power, what was the IMG, WIL and even what’s now the AWL supported the defeat of Britain in the Malvinas War.

    The stance of Marxists supporting anti-imperialism does not come from Lenin via Hobson. It comes from Marx who supported the anti-British forces in what you reformists would call the ‘Indian Mutiny’ and even though the rebels were formally trying to restore a despotic monarchy and committed atrocities against some Brits (nothing compared to what was done to them afterwards). The reactionary views of some fighting do not compare with the overall benefits of liberation and the defeat of imperialism.

    All Trotskyists take this view, not just the RCP and from that the formula of ‘unconditional but critical support’ for those fighting imperialism (such as the IRA) That’s not to support despotic leaders – I suspect the ‘We back Gaddafi’ statement would be an acknowledged error by the RCP. We want these people hanged – but by their own workers and peasants. Don’t confuse Trots with Stalinists who laud Castro, Maduro, Assad even Putin. All the groups I mentioned above supported the IRA/INLA on this basis – the RCP were not outriders.

    There’s a misunderstanding by the author on the views on the restriction on free speech by the RCP. Like most Trots (but not the SWP) we oppose STATE bans on fascists and their publications, etc. because we recognise it makes it easier for them to ban us as well. We were in favour of workers ‘banning’ Nazis – with our fists and more.

    And on style. Yes, the RCP were a group of young people in a hurry – and that was good, not bad. They immediately cut a swathe through the ageing hippies of the SWP and the buttoned-up social conservatives of Militant. It was shame about their politics, though. I never supported the RCP.

    1. LOL. Oh dear, struck a nerve with someone.

      “The argument that Spiked grew from the RCP is only true in the sense that, for example, today’s Irish Army arises from the pre-independence IRA. True-ish, but near meaningless”.

      Well, meaningless apart from the detailed accounts of their common personnel, politics, leadership, funding, false names, cadre groups, tactics of entryism and toxic right wing ideas … and their now complete capitulation to the most virulent right wing politics expressed in generations. What a disgrace and shambles they are in very respect.

      The ONLY question – the ONLY question remaining is are they – and were they always agent provocateurs – or are they deeply stupid reactionary individuals?

      I sincerely suspect the former.

      The RCG and other left groups did oppose Labour, of course they did, but they also opposed apartheid and fought a series of campaigns based on a coherent set of values and politics.

      1. Southpawpunch says:

        The nerve struck is when someone writes rubbish about something I know well, the British (ok, English) far Left from the 80s to now.

        It’s just incoherent to think they have any cohesive platform that has taken them from 1970s? to now – can you see Fox arguing with Widdecombe that she had been correct to support the IRA in the 1980s? I doubt she thinks that for a moment. Do you think Mirza, given when she arrived, was anything other than a sort of Tory?

        They are a loose network of friends who happened to move right together. For those we say ‘but they kept together’ I’d reply – don’t be dumb. Of course a group keep together, that is the definition of a group. But what about the RCP majority or even Leaders, who long ago left – I knew several and Googling see at least two have nothing in common with Spiked – one is an active Green.

        No, they weren’t agent provocateurs – I knew some of their cadre intimately and would know – and no, nor were they stupid reactionaries.

        They were the opposite of such (if ultraleft). They were the sort of people who I marched with at the start of both Iraq wars chanting ‘Victory to Iraq’ in Trafalgar Square despite cop harassment and startled Labour types denouncing us.

        I might well be doing that again soon, albeit ‘Victory to Iran’. I would imagine you, Labour and Spiked Online will all be on the same side – supporting your state (whatever that is for you), firmly on the side of reaction.

        1. The RCP worked in Scotland too. I saw them close up.

          “For those we say ‘but they kept together’ I’d reply – don’t be dumb. Of course a group keep together, that is the definition of a group.”

          Do you and your friends operate a series of front-groups under false names too?

          1. Southpawpunch says:

            The point is perhaps 1% of the RCP at its height (mid 80s) is now associated with Spiked Online. Many leading people no longer there (some are), so how can it be seen as a continuation (or even a plot to the top) just because a few key people stuck around together? It’s a bit like saying today’s Verso Books is a product of the UK New Left (who split from the CPGB over Hungary in 1956). Verso still have a little of that outlook (they arose from the New Left Review)but a lot of water has flowed under the bridge. Spiked Online just shares a few people, and nothing like an outlook, with the RCP .

            There’s nothing wrong with front groups. The ANL was such originally for the SWP. But it also managed to break out, e.g support from Peter Hain. And had some success. And false names can be necessary – Southpawpunch isn’t my name. I don’t want to be on JSA for life.

          2. Because there’s an institutional and political timeline of continuity RCP > Living Marxism > LM > Spiked that’s very well documented, as you presumably know?

            The point of the front groups is that they operate the same people under different guises – for years out of the same offices, again, as you presumably know?

            Again, I’ll ask – do you and your friends operate a series of front-groups under false names – rather than you as an individual?

    2. John Hann says:

      Of course there is a link from the RCP to Spiked – the fact that they have shed dome characters along the way is irrelevant.

      The link is Frank Fuerdi and as someone who was involved in the left and worked with people from many parts of the alphabetical spaghetti of the left, it is clear to me that one consistent thread throughout RCP – Living Marxism – LM – Spiked is their total contrarian sectarianism it’s in their DNA. I know people, unmentioned in the article above – in nice professions- who have been involved and remain involved.

      That there is a political link from RCP days can be seen to Spiked’s response to the death of Martin McGuinness.

      I agree though that the article does display some misunderstanding of Marxist ideas.

  4. MBC says:

    Yep, there’s a collective psychosis going on. Leavers rail against an elite and so do Remainers. Except each side sees the elite as being composed of different elements. For Leavers the elite are the MPs, BBC, the universities and the civil service. For Remainers the elite are the global corporate backers of Leavers who want to dismantle the state. The elite for Remainers are generally foreign capitalists. The elite for Leavers are native representative institutions and they call rebellion against this liberty. It’s a helluva complicated world.

    People are as disconnected from reality as they are from each other.

  5. Gerry Kelly says:

    The RCP origins are in what was called the “Right Faction” of the International Socialists (forerunners of the SWP) in the early/middle 1970s. If you had time you could do a detailed genealogy of it. I was a member of the International Socialists and later the SWP (though not now). I think now that there were reasons for calling them politically right, we always thought their ideas would lead them in a rightward direction. I am, however, aghast at how far right they have gone.

    As for their smart dress and hair gel, it’s a bit of a joke; but as an old mod I’ve always liked good clothes and so was once told in the 1980s by an RCP member that I dressed too smartly to be in the SWP and should join them. Who knows, I could be wearing a midnight blue kid mohair suit in the EU Parliament and talking nonsense right now!

  6. Steelsberg says:

    That was interesting – cheers. Southpawpunch seems to have gone quiet 😉

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