Frank Furedi goes Red-Brown in Hungary

It’s worth witnessing the descent of the former de facto leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, Frank Furedi to the far-right. The spectacle will add fuel to the speculation that all is not as it seems with the LM Network and Furedi’s former colleagues. In 2018 I revealed the dark money behind Spiked! Furedi’s former comrades who were in receipt of $300,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation (‘Revealed: US Oil Billionaire Charles Koch Funds UK Anti-Environment Spiked Network’).

Now, as Ravi Bali writes (‘Ex-Marxist Furedi Joins Racist Authoritarians at CPAC Hungary‘): “Frank Furedi––who was the foremost intellectual of UK radical-left group, the Revolutionary Communist Party, for more than 25 years––has made the transition from revolutionary Marxism into the fold of white-nationalist authoritarianism. Furedi spoke last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Budapest, Hungary. CPAC is organised by the American Conservative Union (ACU), the foremost right-wing Republican organisation in the United States.”

It is perhaps no surprise that Furedi has made this turn, given the LM Brexit Ultras dabbling with Faragism, entering Downing Street and hunkering down in the Lords like Baroness Fox of Buckley. Whether this is confirmation that this network were always a clandestine state-run outfit, or have a trajectory from ‘left’ to ‘far-right’ on the basis of a shared hatred of liberalism is not yet clear. Certainly for Bali “Furedi’s collaboration with Orbán and CPAC is an extreme example of a red-brown alliance, in which self-declared leftists become apologists for reaction..”

While Furedi’s appearance at CPAC is an eye-opening event given the other participants – it is a part of a shift from the supposed left to the far-right that his entire network has taken up.

As Andrew Coates has written: “Although the trajectory from the far left to the right is not an uncommon phenomenon, the shift en masse from the RCP to Spiked via Living Marxism, which kept much of the same leading personnel intact and with few openly breaking with the party/network, is more unique. As Chris Gilligan, a former RCP member, has noted, this network seems to be quite a conscious decision made in the late 1990s, citing Dolan Cummings writing for the Spiked Review of Books in 2007:

I never left the RCP: the organisation folded in the mid-Nineties, but few of us actually ‘recanted’ our ideas. Instead we resolved to support one another more informally as we pursued our political tradition as individuals, or launched new projects with more general aims that have also engaged people from different traditions, or none. These include spiked and the Institute of Ideas, where I now work.

Over the years, former RCP members who had made the initial transition into LM and Spiked have fallen away or become less involved, even though their public criticisms of their ex-comrades is muted.”

Mind Control

So who was at CPAC and what do they think?

The event was addressed by Donald Trump (by video), and Tucker Carlson, the white-supremacist, Fox News host. The far-right was represented from across Europe: from Belgium, Vlaams Belang, from Italy, Fratelli d’Italia, from Spain, Vox, from France, Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National.

The event – which had a complete media blackout – was peppered by figures from across the American new right.

Mark Krikorian of the American far-right Center for Immigration Studies, argued that ”The “loss of civilizational confidence is the real threat to the West, and it is in that context that mass immigration serves as a threat to Western civilization.” Migrants, Krikorian argued, were not truly assimilating nowadays.

“Patriotic assimilation” was essential Krikorian continued, “where the newcomers, and especially their children, emotionally and psychologically embrace the country and the people they have joined and see the culture and history and heroes as theirs with the blemishes and the glories of it.”

This was responded to by Furedi, who said: “What they’re saying is that the past is a clear and present danger – a danger to our lives in the here and now – which is why you have people in the United Statues getting rid of statues.” This was part of a left-wing attempt to control language, Furedi said; an attempt “to control our minds.”

This is the lodestone of the LM network. Their mantra of libertarianism has ended up with him siding with actual fascists.

According to Andrew Coates: “In his CPAC talk, Furedi made a clear reference to Charlottesville, Virginia and the decision of its city council to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The city council decided that it was no longer acceptable to publicly honour someone who waged the Civil War against the US in order to retain slavery. Strangely, what bothers Furedi is not the Nazis who came to Charlottesville to oppose the removal of the statue, chanting “Jews will not replace us”. It is the anti-racists who wanted to retire the statue from public display in a park because they did not want to continue to honour a pro-slavery figure. Furedi suggests that this is part of an effort “to control our minds”.

Replacement Theory

Also on display at CPAC, among the swirling of wild paranoia and conspiracism was the idea of Replacement Theory, the belief that America and Europe’s (white) majority is being actively replaced by immigrants and ‘leftists’.  This idea has been cited as motivation for a number of school shootings and acts of right-wing terrorism, often claimed as acts of the ‘mentally ill’.

What does this all mean? Who cares if a marginal figure goes to a conference of crackpots in Hungary?

Bali claims: “Furedi is quite an influential figure. He was the main theoretician of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), until it disbanded in 1997. It was once the third-largest organisation on the far left in Britain.”

There are three reasons this is important.

If the RCP are long-gone they have not disappeared. They have instead (almost incredibly) infiltrated into senior and strategic positions throughout the British establishment, in the House of Lords, permanent media fixtures, dozens of front-group think-tanks, even in No 10. What does that tell us about who they are and who they were? How does part of the left (Corbyn and Co for example) getting vilified and buried by the media, and others get ‘invited in’?

The second is what this represents for the left (if we consider Furedi and the LM network the left at all). But, given the position of the ‘anti-imperial left’ on Russia, Putin, Ukraine and Syria we can see a phenomenon of elements of the left so embittered and disorientated by their hatred of ‘liberalism’ that they end-up full-circle sharing ideas and outlooks with the far-right.

This is an example of the left’s real confusion and inability to keep up. A lot of the positions spouted from the Alt-left come from knee-jerk positions that have been held tightly for decades. There’s a continuum between the confused apologists and Furedi where he has ended up.

Third, this exposes the idea that the LM family are dangerous iconoclasts and edgy radicals. When their intellectual leader is exposed like this it’s far more difficult to build a narrative of being (really) of the libertarian left.

Comments (21)

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  1. George Gunn says:

    I always admire your analysis. It is very clear. But I would just relax, Mike. These are mostly English public schoolboys who have nothing else much to do. In Scotland we have a job to do it’s called independence. Shagging in the sheds of oblivion is not what we do.

    1. I am (fairly) relaxed, I just think there’s something interesting happening with the far-right and alt-left meeting.

      1. JP58 says:

        Horseshoe effect.
        People at extremes tend to be very dogmatic and narcissistic. They tend to be more interested in proving their point of view is correct regardless of evidence.
        They also like being contrarian because it is a way of attracting attention to themselves.

      2. SleepingDog says:

        @Editor, or if, as the article suggests, there is false flag identity theft, secret state reputation-sabotage and agent provocateur work going on, this is potentially another SpyCops/Congress for Cultural Freedom etc. set of crimes against democracy and open government. The false friend tactic is surely one commonly employed today by the British Empire’s battalions of information warriors, appearing to support a cause but deliberately and publicly behaving to discredit it.

        Anyway, the left-right ideological construct is pretty limited, used and abused in many suspect ways. I rather like the Hearts of Iron model where that only features as one political dimension amongst several, including continuums for hawk-dove, open-closed, democratic-authoritarian, free market vs central planning, interventionist-isolationist, standing army vs drafted army (or whatever). Note that these continuums obviously do not meet at their extreme ends. But pretending that they do may serve the propaganda purposes of fake-centrist status-quo supporters. In its historical sense, left and right cannot meet at extremes: a politically egalitarian society cannot be at the same time a political hierarchy with a royal ruler; but you can combine, say, authoritarianism, or hawkishness, or isolationism with both.

        This is perhaps a typical conservative establishment ploy, sowing fear, uncertainty and doubt against radical change by associating it with corrupt nutters, a resource they may have in plenty to employ for such tasks. The aim is generally decoherence, the promotion of infighting/schisms/cliques and disenchantment with radical politics. If they cannot entirely discredit, or destabilise, or wound with doubt, then cacophony will do. After all, clear questions like “what is government for?” and everyday interpretations of politics as “how we arrange to live in groups large enough to contain strangers” must be kept from the public mind, lest politics become something people engage in with increasing confidence and clarity every day.

        1. Yeah I agree that a deeper construct is better, I hadn’t heard of the Hearts of Iron Model.

          I do worry when people say ‘left and right dont mean anything any more’ though.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Editor, one might suggest that leftist worldviews hold that people are generally/relatively/basically good, and therefore the people should govern themselves; rightist worldviews hold that people are generally/relatively/basically bad, and therefore an elite should rule over them. There tend to be contradictions and problems in both kinds of worldviews applied in a world where there are other divisions (and other forms of life).

            Michael Freeden in Ideology: A Very Short Introduction presents a more complex model of ideologies, and says that traditional attempts to place ideologies on a left-right continuum are challenged by, for example, green ideologies. We have seen an example of this with greens and teals in the Australian general elections.
            Freeden says that ‘left’ and ‘right’ labels, inherited from seating arrangements in the royal-era French parliament, are largely ideological constructs, often used to give a certain moderate, radical or dangerous (context-depending) aura to an ideology, that moving between ideologies follows a gradually traversable continuum path, and that ideologies can be clearly distinguishable and non-overlapping using such labels.

            Hearts of Iron is a computer strategy war-game series set around WW2. Domestic politics is set via sliders which have both positive and negative impacts on game-play at each setting. I expect there is an academic basis for their model, but it is not referenced.

          2. 220608 says:

            Yes, SD; the traditional ‘left-right’ dichotomy is a rather simplistic and one-dimensional way of cataloguing the vast range and variety of political positions.

            It does have its origins in the seating arrangements in the French National Assembly of 1789, where those deputies who were loyal to religion and the king took up positions to the right of the chair, so as to avoid ‘the shouts, oaths, and indecencies of the rabble’, and in the subsequent Legislative Assembly of 1791, where the so-called ‘innovators’ sat on the left, the ‘moderates’ gathered in the centre, and the ‘conscientious defenders of the constitution’ found themselves sitting on the right, As the seating habits of the deputies coalesced into ‘parties’, the left wing of the Assembly became known as ‘the party of movement’ and the ring wing as ‘the party of order’.

            Interestingly, many fascist groups emerged from the left wing or ‘party of movement’ of French-style republican assemblies in the post-1918 Europe. For example, the manifesto that launched Mussolini’s Fasci Italiani di Combattimento in 1919 was very much a socialist programme. Perhaps it’s therefore no real mystery that the sectarianism of the British ‘left’ has produced the likes of Peter Hitchins and the Spiked network.

      3. Paddy Farrington says:

        Yes, it is interesting, and thanks for the article. While moving from the far left to the right, and even the far right, is by no means unheard of (alas), the RCP were always seriously weird, even long ago back in the days when they could plausibly pose as left-wing. There was always something of the cult about them, and the way they operated was often deeply dishonest. So perhaps it’s not that surprising that so many of their leading lights have ended up where they are now.

        1. They were always weird Paddy. I remember specifically at a meeting of the Miners Support Groups in 1984 in Edinburgh one of them standing up and saying its ‘Time to arm the Miners’. This was deeply weird shit and the miners actually present believed them to be state-run agent provocateurs.

  2. David Jamieson says:

    “But, given the position of the ‘anti-imperial left’ on Russia, Putin, Ukraine and Syria we can see a phenomenon of elements of the left so embittered and disorientated by their hatred of ‘liberalism’ that they end-up full-circle sharing ideas and outlooks with the far-right.”

    FYI Furedi and co have backed Nato proxy-war over Ukraine.

    Furedi after the Russian invasion: “we do need to think about lending Ukraine far greater military support than merely providing them with anti-tank weapons and various missiles that they have received….I have come to the conclusion that we can no longer say in black-and-white terms that we are not going to have, that we are not going to seek to establish a no-fly zone”

    Of course, most on the political right hold the same basic stance – from the Tory party in Britain to the Republicans party in the US.

    1. And yet there’s some on the left who basically agree with Kissinger’s position, no?

      The statement you quote still stands as true.

    2. Pat Walsh says:

      Not so fast with the guilt by association David. Furedi’s so called ” anti-wokeism” and his pro-Brexit stance are both positions on which you have much in common with him.

      That doesn’t mean you’re a far-right “libertarian” like Furedi, it just means you happen to take a similar position on some issues.

      1. David Jamieson says:

        This is the idea I’m rebuffing. Mike says that the ‘anti-imperial left’ has ‘ended-up full-circle sharing ideas and outlooks with the far-right’. I entirely agree that this line of argument should be ditched.

        The fact that most of the European far-right backs the EU does not imply that there is anything fascist about the EU. Likewise, the fact that Tucker Carlson is a sceptic of the western proxy-war against Russia does not imply that other sceptics share Carlson’s general political outlook.

        And, Mike, Kissinger simply pointed out, years ago, what very many experts and historians have – geopolitical competition leads to war. Observing this truism, again, doesn’t imply a wider shared platform between people able to acknowledge truisms.

        1. I can understand how you find this deeply uncomfortable, if you share Tucker Carlson’s analysis of the invasion of Ukraine you do share at least some of his outlook – your own language reveals this ‘the proxy-war against Russia’ your entire framing of it reveals this.

        2. Pat Walsh says:

          There’s some truth to what you say but if you find that you and Tucker C are agreeing on more and more things or worse, if like Angela Nagle, you find yourself laughing along with Tucker on his show, then there’s a real problem.
          Again, David, I’m not saying this applies to you, but the slope from red to red-brown is a gradual one, not a sudden drop. You were once an enthusiast for George Galloway – a look at his monstrous trajectory is instructive.

          1. David Jamieson says:

            Pat, you’ve gone from saying “Not so fast with the guilt by association”, to saying that guilt by association is valid in the cases of your own selection. So I’ll take it you have no principle objection to guilt by association. It’s just that ‘red-brown’ is real, but the convergence between left liberalism and liberal imperialism is imaginary.

            Mike, you and I disagree on a truly fundamental question: can imperialism be a force for good? My answer to that question is no. Has always, and will always be no. If for conjunctural reasons I find myself in agreement with a Paleoconservative like Carlson, I’m completely at ease with that.

          2. I don’t argue that imperialism is a force for good, I point that you deny the agency and imperialism of Russia, fail to recognise the sovereignty of Ukraine, ridicule people showing solidarity with Ukrainian people and are against (it seems) ANY actions against Russian military assault. As a socialist your position is untenable.

          3. SleepingDog says:

            @Pat Walsh, if political ideologies are n-dimensional and n ≥ 2 (as in the Hearts of Iron model briefly described), then closeness on one orthogonal dimension does not imply closeness on any other. Ideologies can, apparently, have core and peripheral concepts (Freeden); be thin and attachable to others (which is why Mudde and Kaltwasser describe Populism as an ideology of both left and right; and be concerned with quite different aspects (democracy is essentially concerned with means, while an ideology aimed at ‘end times’ is essentially concerned with ends). Some ideologies (British political party ones, say, where policies might last less than years) seem very limited in time scope, whereas some ideologies (biocratic ones, say) are concerned with deep time and far-future survival. Some ideologies are theocratic, humanist, transhumanist, anti-humanist, or biocratic. Some ideologies are concerned with the structure of government (hereditary monarchies) or the absence of rulers (anarchism). Some ideologies are concerned with the mode of the economy (capitalism versus communism).

            And that is just a selection from the set of political ideologies that are (relatively) open, transparent, cohesive, consistent, describable, documented and so on. There are, for example, some ideologies which contain secretive beliefs (Pythagoreanism and Scientology perhaps), or whose support is expressed in deceptive ways (if crypto-fascism is a thing, say, but maybe generally in what is now termed dog-whistles). Then there are the more obviously irrational, hypocritical, self-contradictory, or ego-dominance ideologies, even spoof ones. These can be difficult to compare with others.

            Perhaps Bella can devote an article or two to political ideologies, to tease some of these concepts out.

          4. 220609 says:

            ‘Perhaps Bella can devote an article or two to political ideologies, to tease some of these concepts out.’

            I’d rather read a critique or two of ideology as a social phenomenon.

            Such critiques go back almost a century now. The main thrust of critical theory has been to specify what is distinctive of ideology, and it has variously, over the decades, specified the following characteristics as definitive:

            1. ‘Sharedness’: it comprises a set of shared conceptions of reality and value or ‘group belief’; it binds us in ‘tribes’.

            2. ‘Stability’: ideology manifests permanence or an enduring quality as opposed to the transient nature of our experience and the judgements we make on the basis of that experience; it’s ‘anchoring belief’; it provides us with a point of certainty around which we can orient our life-experiences.

            3. ‘System’: ideology is a logical system of ideas (that’s what the word ‘ideology’ means literally), of which coherence or consistency is a vital requirement; it’s a ‘narrative belief’; it puts the ‘story’ into ‘history’.

            4. ‘Commitment’: ideology commands a passionate commitment to and an intense affirmation on the the part of its adherents; it’s ‘faith belief’, belief by the content of which one is willing to live and die.

            5. ‘Total’: ideology is a comprehensive and all-embracing system of belief that provides a total view of society that leaves no room for any other; it’s ‘exclusive belief’.

            6. ‘Illusoriness’: the beliefs that comprise an ideology are illusory or ‘false’; they are characterised by distortion, simplification, and selectivity; it’s what Marx called ‘false consciousness’.

            7. ‘Positionality’: ideology is always directed towards change or preservation, for or against the status quo; it is ‘biassing belief’; it always serves the material interest of some class in society.

            All this can be summarised by saying that Ideology doesn’t have a truth function (ideologies can never be meaningfully designated ‘true’ or ‘false’), but has instead an action-orientation function. It serves not to advance impartial knowledge, but to:

            a) guide political action;

            b) legitimise one’s political objectives (policies);

            c) delegitimise the political objectives (policies) of one’s competitors in the struggle for power;

            d) create divisions and generate conflict to destabilise the status quo; and

            e) mobilise one’s ‘tribe’ in the struggle for power.

            The trick is to find the particular ideology that best serves to further your ‘tribal’ or ‘class’ interests, embrace it totally, and defend it against all others. The internet provides a global ideological hypermarket in which you can find your tribe and its particular shibboleths; that is, your ‘ideology’.

            (BTW I believe a sound case can be made for locating the action-orientation function of ideology in human biology. But that case might be itself nothing more than ideology. Maybe, as Žižek insists, EVERYTHING is ideology.)

    3. Pat Walsh says:

      David – you’ve missed the point – sure we can find ourselves in agreement with right-wingers of various hues on occasion, just by virtue of the fact of the wide range of positions held by left or right groups/individuals. The problem is when a socialist’s position begins to converge on a number of issues with the far-right. If you agree with Tucker on Ukraine, “wokeism”, immigration, liberalism etc etc then it surely is a cause for concern. I’m not saying you personally do agree with him on all those issues but some, on what the American left call the “dirtbag left”, do and at some stage that left becomes red brown.

      Can left liberalism converge with just plain old liberalism? Yes. Is that a problem? Yes. Equally a geopolitical position, which I regard as a legitimate though mistaken left position, can degenerate into a red-brown one.

      BTW many of those supporting the Ukrainian struggle against Russian imperialism are not left liberals but revolutionary socialists or anarchists who have a class struggle/liberationist position but that’s another days discussion.

  3. Monty says:

    Many thanks for this. Both jaw dropping and not all that surprising at the same time in a weird way. For reasons I don’t understand fellow traveller Stuart Waiton still gets a platform for his piffle in the Herald.

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