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South London Slavery Case: Allegations Focus on Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought

with 74 comments

The Sunday Times reports, (Hat-Tips F.W. D.O. and to Paul F)

A COUPLE suspected of holding three women captive for 30 years in a London home were introduced to two of the victims through a Marxist political “collective”.

Detectives have revealed that the man arrested last week met the two older victims “through a shared political ideology”. Separate sources said the couple and the two women were members of a Marxist-Communist group that lived together in the capital in the 1970s.

Commander Steve Rodhouse of the Metropolitan police said the couple, an Indian man and a Tanzanian woman, both 67, came to Britain in the 1960s.

“We believe that two of the victims met the male suspect in London through a shared political ideology and that they lived together at an address that you could effectively call a ‘collective’, ” he said.

A far-right site has declared that the  ideology involved was “a Maoist variant of Marxist-Leninism.”

The main suspect in the case is  Aravindan Balakrishnan.

In the summer of 1974 Balakrishnan (known to his friends as Comrade Bala) split from what was then the UK’s leading Maoist group, the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist), having previously been a member of the party’s national executive and central committee.

Comrade Bala set up the Brixton institute, taking with him a small faction of Maoist fanatics. His group was among several analysed in a 1978 doctoral thesis by a researcher at University College London, who described the institute as “the clearest case of far-left millenarianism which I have encountered, …a tiny Maoist sect with about 25 members, located in the Brixton area. …In 1977, they confidently predicted that the world would be liberated from capitalist oppression by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army before the end of the year.”

The Daily Telegraph has confirmed this,

he two suspects in the south London slavery case ran a Communist collective in the 1970s that worshipped the Chinese leader Chairman Mao, the Daily Telegraph has learned.

The husband and wife, who are from India and Tanzania originally, were arrested last week on suspicion of holding three women against their will for more than 30-years.

It is alleged they subjected them to beatings and emotional abuse and were only allowed to leave their Brixton flat in controlled circumstances.

The pair, who are both aged 69, arrived in Britain in the 1960s and were associated with a number of extreme left political groups known to the police and security services.

Last month a 57-year-old Irish woman contacted the Freedom Charityto report that she and two other women were being held as slaves.

The  Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought declared in 1977.

When beloved Chairman Mao passed away on September 9, last year, our comrades worked tirelessly to transform our profound grief into great strength. Right in the heart of the revolutionary base area in Brixton we have opened from October 1, 1976, the MAO ZEDONG MEMORIAL CENTRE – a workers’ Centre, Library and Bookshop – the only one of its kind in the world. Thousands of working people have visited the Centre and hundreds of them have participated in the vigorous revolutionary programme (meetings, film shows, etc.) conducted by the Institute. A steady core of them are now attending regularly the Political Evening School and the theoretical study groups which popularise invincible Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought at the Centre.

This new development in Britain, has taken the British fascist state by storm. In its vain attempt to escape the verdict of history it has spared no efforts to intimidate and harass the comrades of the Institute. Arrests, expulsions from jobs, evictions, psychological warfare in various forms, etc. have not in any way restrained our comrades, workers and intellectuals, men and women, young, middle-aged and old, of different nationalities of the world, from being the devoted soldiers of beloved Chairman Mao in the imperialist heartlands. Our comrades have steeled themselves in acute and violent class struggles in the past two years. Fearing neither hardship nor death in upholding the proletarian revolutionary line of Chairman Mao and following closely our great, glorious and correct Party, the Party of World Revolution, we are preparing ourselves to greet the greatest event in the history of mankind – the victory of world people’s revolution and the establishment of the International Dictatorship of the Proletariat!

Party Committee
March 31, 1977

This story is extremely tragic.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 25, 2013 at 1:34 pm

74 Responses

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  1. If this is the connection it is indeed not just tragic but disturbing. I remember seeing these Maoists when I lived in the Brixton area and they were definitley a group to be avoided. I thought they had just disappeared into the ether because I haven’t come across any Maoists in years.

    With the experience of the WRP and now the SWP the dangers of “cultism” is clearly ever present amongst a swathe of the left. The Spartacists are still around I believe and rumours were flying around about their internal life. I was told that they encourage members to marry each other. No idea of the veracity of the info but nothing surprises me any more.

    More free thinkers required on the left methinks! Which reminds me, although I don’t always agree with what you write Andrew (I’m not a Marxist) but if there were more like you perhaps we might have a more open and productive debate. I’m inclined towards secularism these days and cannot but help notice that Marxism has become a religion in itself to many of it’s practitioners.

    Of course to be fair “Marxists” are not the only ones who have drifted into cultism. Nevertheless the left needs to take a good look at itself.

    Howard Fuller

    November 25, 2013 at 1:54 pm

  2. http://www2.cddc.vt.edu/marxists/history/erol/uk.hightide/cpestatements.htm
    This maybe of interest. I can imagine that some of the obscure maoist groups still around and grew out of CPE (M-L) may have the jitters as a result of this news item that has been leaking since the story first broke.

    I think there is some evidence that former members of CPE(M-L) have found themselves enjoying the company of the far right with the passage of time.

    Chris.

    November 25, 2013 at 2:07 pm

  3. With this awful tale and the revelations about the Crystal Methodist (with a surname uncomfortably close to mine), the left is going to be the butt of the Tory press for some months to come.

    Dr Paul

    November 25, 2013 at 2:10 pm

  4. The Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) became the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) in the late 1970s (I think); it’s still going and now holds joint meetings with the New Communist Party praising North Korea.

    Dr Paul

    November 25, 2013 at 2:13 pm

  5. So it had links to the Tooting Popular Front did it? Power to the people! Freedom is slavery!

    Kevin Algar

    November 25, 2013 at 2:20 pm

  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutionary_Communist_Party_of_Britain_(Marxist%E2%80%93Leninist) This is their Wikipedia entry. Strangely enough their website is not available at present. About 100 odd members possibly with recruitment almost entirely London based and possibly recruited through various ethnic groups. Their HQ is in Wandsworth, South London.

    Chris.

    November 25, 2013 at 2:30 pm

  7. The word from a former CPB (M-L) member is that Harpal Brar of the Stalin Society (who have a Vice-President in the Stop the War Coalition), was a one-time comrade of Comrade Bala.

    Andrew Coates

    November 25, 2013 at 5:10 pm

  8. rcp-(ml) website is up and running again. Compared with the other M-L websites, it is more readable than most, but that is not a recommendation. Not surprised by Harpal Brar connection. Another weird fish in an ever shrinking pond. Unfortunately, by the time you get past the far left to the ultra -left, cult worship appears to be mandatory. Not a healthy state of affairs.

    Chris.

    November 25, 2013 at 5:38 pm

  9. The relevance is that The Workers’ Institute of Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought (known as the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought until 1979) was a small Maoist political party based in Brixton, London. It was formed by an ex-member of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) in 1974 and circulated regular political statements in its publication, the South London Workers’ Bulletin, aiming to build a “red base” in Brixton, and to encourage the People’s Liberation Army to liberate the area. It claimed to be affiliated to the Communist Party of China. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workers'_Institute_of_Marxism%E2%80%93Leninism%E2%80%93Mao_Zedong_Thought

    The RCP – (ML) still exists Chris, as you say. http://www.rcpbml.org.uk/

    Link with the Stalin Society:

    The society is based on individual membership but political groups such as the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), and the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) are notably prominent within it. Many have pointed to a considerable overlap of membership with Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party, including Scargill himself.[2] The Stalin Society’s chair, Harpal Brar, for instance, was at one time a member of both organisations (although he subsequently left the SLP to head the CPGB-ML). Through Brar, the society was also linked to the Association of Communist Workers. One of its founders, Bill Bland, was expelled in a doctrinal dispute.[2][3]

    Link with the Stop the War Coalition: Kamal Majid (one of the StWC’s Vice Presidents): http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2013/05/28/anti-imperialism-no-excuse-back-assad

    Andrew Coates

    November 25, 2013 at 5:52 pm

  10. To think we used to collect the Workers’ Institute of Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong stuff for a good laugh!

    Andrew Coates

    November 25, 2013 at 6:08 pm

  11. We used to queue up at Brixton on a Saturday to pick up the WI’s flyers, then we’d be down the pub after our own paper sales to have a good laugh when we read them. This lot were positively barking. They provided the comic relief then, but it’s not at all funny now.

    Dr Paul

    November 25, 2013 at 6:15 pm

  12. Mind you, the Workers Revolutionary Party weren’t much better. Gerry Healy got up to all sorts, apparently.

    Chris

    November 25, 2013 at 9:33 pm

  13. I was a student at UCL in the 70s and I remember this group coming in to sell/hand out their tracts. So, someone was researching them, it must have encouraged them to hang round. They used to stand outside the refectory. One of the comrades was a small (ethnic) Chinese woman. I wonder if she is the Malaysian that is referred to? By the way, from what I have read, it’s not a clear cut case of slavery, not like other cases you hear about. More like ‘mind control’ which is probably why the Police haven’t charged them with anything yet. Fucking with peoples’ heads isn’t a crime (or there’d be a lot of people locked up for it!). Very odd about the youngest girl, she was given to them as a baby. Never been to school but can read and write. (Probably because she never went to school!).

    Sue R

    November 25, 2013 at 11:12 pm

  14. (I wonder what is causing this to be considered “spam”…)

    Ah, Bill Bland, my childhood optician, and semi-official representative of “People’s Albania” in the UK (in Ilford).

    For some reason, when I first heard this story, I thought: “Maoists” and “maybe music from Cornelius Cardew”. What a hunch, eh?

    Is the “John Buckle Bookshop/Workers’ Publication Centre” on the Wandsworth Road (?) still going? As a teenager it was a very occasional source for me for “amusing” (as in: mindbogglingly mentalist) publications from North Korea. It was clear the people running the place were, hm, mad. They advertised in the Morning Star.

    dagmar

    November 25, 2013 at 11:28 pm

  15. Was that the lot who turned their backs on China and worshiped Enver Hoxha in Albania. Incidentally its said he had a unique way of dealing with central committee members who disagreed with him. On one occasion his life long friend and comrade (I forget his name) argued with him vehemently at a central committee meeting, Hoxha adjourned the meeting so the two of them could discuss the matter privately, they both went outside, the CC members heard a shot and then Enva walked back in and called for any other business. Its said there was a great deal of shuffling of paper but no other business.

    Whatever the truth of the current slavery stuff, the police have behaved in a less than perfect manner, they made a big song and dance about the three unfortunate souls rescued, etc, but are now claiming it will take months to collect the evidence. One would have thought the last thing these women needed was wall to wall publicity.

    There was a time when even the English police made a pretense of collecting the evidence before they told us what clever clogs they were. I have a feeling this might all blow up in their faces and where will that leave the three women.

    Mick Hall

    November 26, 2013 at 12:09 am

  16. My interview on the BBC wireless on this is here

    Dr Paul

    November 26, 2013 at 12:22 am

  17. 4) Communist Party of England Marxist-Leninist (CPE M-L) .

    The last strand which we must examine in the development of British Maoism is that of the Communist Party of England Marxist-Leninist, the fraternal party of the Communist Party of Ireland M-L and the Communist
    Party of Canada M-L.

    All three organisations form a tiny internationalist network under the leadership of Canadian guru Hardail Baines. The Communist 103Party of England M-L has its roots in a Maoist grouplet of the late ‘sixties called the Internationalists, becoming in turn, the English Communist Movement M-L, and in 1973 the CPE M-L.

    This small sect of religious Maoists are renowned for having more front organisations than any other group on the far-left, for publishing unreadable journals, and for engaging in lunatic confrontations with the
    police. In 1974, the CPE M-L achieved publicity by standing for a number of candidates in the October general election. They were also involved in the violent breaking-up of lectures by the controversial
    psychologist H.J.Eysenck.

    The CPE M-L is the organisation from which Balakrishan and Brome seceded in 1975 in order to start their own group in Brixton, the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism Mao Xedong Thought, not far from the CPE M-L’s headquarters in Battersea. The Workers’ Institute characterises Hardail Baines, Alan Evans of the CPI M-L, CPE M-L leader Carol Reakes, and the ‘Worker Aristocrat’ Reg Birch as the West’s own
    Gang of Four!

    From http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1349448/1/D32160.pdf

    Stephen Frank Rayner.

    The Classification and Dynamics of Sectarian Forms of Organisation: Grid/Group Perspectives on the Far-Left in Britain .

    Andrew Coates

    November 26, 2013 at 11:49 am

  18. See also Bob From Brockley:

    “There are many questions still open – what contact Lambeth Council had with the sect, how a very locally based group under very heavy state surveillance in the late 1970s managed to keep a woman a slave for the last thirty years, etc – which I can’t hope to address here.”

    http://brockley.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/brixton-maoist-sex-cult-slave-shocker.html

    Andrew Coates

    November 26, 2013 at 12:03 pm

  19. Well the CPB (M-L) are still around though I don’t think they mention Albania much.

    They publish ‘Workers: http://www.workers.org.uk/

    Normally they have a stall at the Burston Rally.

    Andrew Coates

    November 26, 2013 at 1:11 pm

  20. A problem for the WIMLMZT was that their love for China was always quite unrequited. After the CPGB reestablished relations with the Chinese CP in 1986, Balakrishnan used to send some CPGB members and organisations Christmas cards (unsolicited and unreciprocated) in the name of his institute, signed ‘Bala’. One or two of them came into my hands; I wish I’d kept them now, as a rather ghoulish souvenir….

    Francis

    November 26, 2013 at 1:19 pm

  21. As I pointed out in my broadcast, it’s rare to have a left group in Britain raided by the Old Bill. The WRP’s school was raided, but that’s because the group was set up and the coppers were told there were arms on site (some bullets had been planted by someone annoyed with the group); so why was the WI busted? I suspect that it was because one of its members had annoyed the local police (they were stupidly provocative), it was discovered that some members’ immigration status was dodgy (quite a few were from abroad), and it was decided to do them over, the local issue being referred upwards and to the immigration authorities. It couldn’t have been over what the group had been doing; all they did was to act as comic relief for other leftists.

    Having gone underground, on the grounds that Britain was a fascist state and the raiding of their HQ was the start of something like Germany in 1933, the WI’s by now depleted remnants basically turned into an inactive group around Comrade Bala, not wishing to put their heads into the open lest the forces and agents of the police state spot them and haul them off somewhere. I’m sure that the two older women went voluntarily into clandestinity with Mr and Mrs Comrade Bala, one of them having a baby shortly afterwards. The two women eventually realised that their voluntary clandestinity had become imprisonment; the youngest woman never knew anything else, and it’s clear that she felt imprisoned. It’s clear that she was ‘home tutored’, as she is literate, judging by the letters she sent to her neighbour. Perhaps the women started to realise that Comrade Bala’s perspectives were a bit off, as even a chaperoned trip to the shops would be likely to show that Britain was not a fascist state.

    Reports indicate that Comrade Bala was paranoid even by the standards of his old group, the CPE(ML), and once a process of persecution — whether real or imaginary, and the WI was raided after all — gets under way, if only in one’s head, then one will be prey to a mentality that views harmless everyday events as evidence of persecution, or suspects surveillance when it doesn’t exist. Britain as a police state had an actual existence in Comrade Bala’s head. And as political people have a habit of following the leader (as I pointed out in elsewhere on this site about much less barmy groups, the AWL and my old lot, the RCP), Comrade Bala’s cadres would readily follow him along this path, at least for a while.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the state gave up watching this group after it went into clandestine inactivity. What’s the point if it wasn’t even issuing publicity leaflets or holding meetings?

    Dr Paul

    November 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm

  22. …and as for the point about Lambeth Council, well, that’s just plain silly. As any present or former Lambeth resident could tell you, if Lambeth Council were expected to keep tabs on every potentially dysfunctional, non-standard household in the borough, the council would have absolutely no time or resources left to do anything else.

    Francis

    November 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm

  23. Workers’ Fight, a forerunner of the AWL, got raided by Special Branch, presumably over Ireland, in the mid-1970s, didn’t they?

    To be honest, I’m not sure if I buy the ‘slavery’ bit, on the ‘evidence’ mentioned in the media so far. Bala’s daughter was seemingly not sent to school – but going to school isn’t legally compulsory in the UK, is it? She can read and write, as I assume sending 500 infatuated letters to her neighbour is evidence of that. This also suggests she wasn’t kept in total captivity. Where did the mobile telephone come from? A lot of this doesn’t add up.

    Also the overtones of the word “collective” concern me. It reminds me of West German news reports from the late 70s when the word “commune” would be used to refer to what were nothing else but flatshares (where the people living with each other actually know and talk to each other, and rent from the landlord together, unlike much flatsharing in the UK today). Of course, that isn’t the case here, but the use of the term collective are a bit strange. I have some grim expectations of this being, bizarrely, turned into some kind of anti-socialist media witchhunt which will then be aimed against the mainstream Labour party and trade union movement.

    dagmar

    November 26, 2013 at 4:25 pm

  24. Paul I listened to the World Service Interview and your argument, about going clandestine, seemed convincing.

    Lambeth, or indeed Ipswich, is as Francis points out, not going to home in a small household like that.

    On the collective, well Dagmar, there was Kommune 1, I suppose: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kommune_1

    The French media have picked up on the death of Sian Davies in 1997: http://www.lefigaro.fr/international/2013/11/26/01003-20131126ARTFIG00321-affaire-d-esclavage-a-londres-une-mort-mysterieuse-en-1997.php

    Andrew Coates

    November 26, 2013 at 5:52 pm

  25. I forgot about the Matgamnaites back in the 1960s. They wouldn’t get busted now over their line on Ireland. But I think that Ireland is the key matter: things were really taking off there, and any left group here taking an interest from a pro-republican stance would be carefully watched. Nonetheless, I don’t think that any left group in Britain was raided on account of its Irish work after then, so I suspect that the Old Bill were satisfied that the British left’s Irish solidarity work was not a danger to the British state.

    The WRP’s raid was again a one-off. If the police got wind of there being arms on the premises, then they would necessarily move in. And bullets were found, although these were almost certainly planted by someone with a grudge against the party. I don’t think it was a state provocation. The raid on the Workers Institute was, I’m willing to wager, because the authorities discovered overstaying or some other visa-style offence, and again was duty-bound to step in, rather like it does with cleaning firms using undocumented people. As the WI had absolutely no impact other than to give everyone else on the left a good laugh, and to baffle the good folk of Brixton with incomprehensible bulletins, why should its HQ be raided?

    Dr Paul

    November 26, 2013 at 7:18 pm

  26. I often wondered why cabbies used to be reluctant to go south of the river.

    Mick O

    November 26, 2013 at 8:22 pm

  27. The Kommune 1 was hardly Maoism, was it?

    The ‘Taz’ has run two rather sensationalist articles on this so far, both managing not to mention anything political and certainly not Maoism in particular. Why ever could that be, eh? (Instead Islam gets a mention. Eh?)

    That Figaro article links to the Daily Mail, and I note that the Mail articles refers to this sect being made up of people expelled from “the Communist Party”. Not wanting to defend the old CPGB or the current CPB, and even if it is probably sloppyness done by some ignorant online hack, I wait for the first articles abandoning the description of “Maoist sect” and instead referring to the “Marxist commune in Lambeth”, which gets us back to Miliband, and probably, somehow, the Co-operative movement. Guilty by (extremely tenuous) association and all that.

    The Tory Party smear department are rubbing their hands (and other organs) as I type.

    dagmar

    November 26, 2013 at 11:18 pm

  28. Workers Fight was raided by the police in 1973 (not “the 1960s”, Dr Paul):
    http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2010/04/16/debate-irish-workers-group-national-question-and-test-provo-war

    And when you, Dr Paul, say “They wouldn’t get busted now over their line on Ireland”, what’s that exactly supposed to mean? Care to Name a British left group whose present-day position on Ireland *would* get them raided?

    Jim Denham

    November 27, 2013 at 1:47 am

  29. “Care to Name a British left group whose present-day position on Ireland *would* get them raided?”
    Your bigoted invective against “Catholics and their vile priests” and calls for the killing of the latter would undoubtedly be enough to have you arrested in Northern Ireland under public order legislation concerning “stirring up hatred or arousing fear”.;

    holy joe

    November 27, 2013 at 9:50 am

  30. Dagmar my reference was to the reason why Communes are referred to in this way.

    On a more general point I agree: I lived for many years in shared flats/houses, and, if we were leftists, we were not self-styled Communes.

    Regardless of the source I am not at all sure about this death.

    On Workers Fight.

    I first met people from what is now the AWL when they were active in the Troops Out Movement (circa 1973-4).

    One of them, Danny later became a leading figure in CARF (The Campaign Against Racism and Fascism).

    If I recall correctly (remember I was well under 20 then) they certainly were pro-republican.

    Andrew Coates

    November 27, 2013 at 11:53 am

  31. If ‘Rosie’ is the child of Sian Davies (who was defenestrated in 1997), then she must be aware of her identity. One assumes that Social Services would have investigated the family at the time. The media describes this as a ‘collective’, but it’s actually a four bedroom housing association flat. Unless it is illegally sublet (not impossible) then the group would have been interviewed and judged on social criteria. So, it’s so much piffle.

    The Police don’t need to raid leftwing groups in Britain, when was the last time any of them talked about bombing and assassination? I’m sure they have their spies keeping an eye on things just in case, but raiding a group would bring adverse publicity. Look at the fuss every time a suspected Islamist group is raid/picked up.

    Interesting more on the background of the women is merging. The Malaysian woman is from a petty bourgeois background and originally came her to study surveying. The Irishwoman is the daughter of a leading codebreaker at Bletchley Park. Seems fairly typical for ‘cults’.

    Sue r

    November 27, 2013 at 1:25 pm

  32. I readily apologise, Jim. Mea culpa and three times around the Vatican for me (if that applies to an ex-CofE atheist). I made a slip of the finger when keying in my reply, something that we all do from time to time, and the Chrome spellchecker can hardly be expected to show that error.

    What I meant was that your group’s line on Ireland today wouldn’t get you into trouble with the Old Bill as you have long renounced any support for Irish nationalism, which, so I have been told (my memory of being told this having been jogged in the meantime), was the reason for your office getting raided in the 1970s (there, got it right this time). Unless, of course, it has been deemed that not supporting Irish republicanism is a threat to the integrity of the British state.

    By the time I was became involved on the left, the late 1970s, the most pro-republican group was Professor Yaffle’s Revolutionary Communist Group, which kept close contact with Sinn Féin and other republican groups, and was totally uncritical of them. My lot, which became the Revolutionary Communist Party, was also quite pro-republican, but not as much as the RCG, was more critical of republicanism (and became more so as time went on). Neither the RCG’s not the RCP’s offices was raided because of this, or for any other reason, although they had a member or two and we had an Irish supporter arrested (but not charged) under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

    As the time of your group’s bust — 1973 — was just about when the opposition in the IS that became the RCG was getting underway and did not have a public profile, could one assume that your group was the most pro-republican on the left here? If the pretext of the raid was not Ireland, then what could it have been?

    As for myself, I have long given up on any idea of the progressive nature of Irish nationalism, or of any form of nationalism. I also have concluded that the basic premise of Irish republicanism — Irish unification — aligns with the interests of the British state, as it would, I’m sure, love to be shot of the political and financial liability of the Six Counties. The problem is that the South doesn’t want them — and who can blame it?

    Dr Paul

    November 27, 2013 at 1:59 pm

  33. Just added this to my own post on Maoism. Dated but there you go…

    http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.hightide/uk-tree.pdf

    Howard Fuller

    November 27, 2013 at 4:19 pm

  34. Genealogy of Maoist groups in Britain (historical: hat-tip Ian Bone): http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.hightide/uk-tree.pdf

    Andrew Coates

    November 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm

  35. We obviously come across at the same time Howie!

    Andrew Coates

    November 27, 2013 at 5:45 pm

  36. Here we go: Guardian article headlines with (on the front page) “Marxist sect ‘slaves’ to be questioned” and (on the top of the article page) “Police to interview three women allegedly kept as slaves in Marxist sect”.

    I give it a week before it becomes “Socialist cult”.

    There’s a strange article on the Telegraph website, I think, from an ex-ISer (as she writes herself) who writes of the “mad” and “irrelevant” SLL (irrelvant compared to the IS) and how the SWP are very different. No Delta mentioned, and lying about her own then-group’s relevance.

    The article there from one of the ex-RCP/ Spiked/etc. people is far more like serious journalism.

    dagmar

    November 27, 2013 at 6:53 pm

  37. Otherwise, I am intrigued as to why ITV made a documentary over the death of one resident of this “commune” in 1997*. (Back in the days when ITV made documentaries…,the concept today sounds almost as unlikely as “London-based Maoist commune”).

    *and is it available online?

    dagmar

    November 27, 2013 at 6:58 pm

  38. There’s quite a bit of information about the origins of British Maoism in Lawrence Parker’s book The Kick Inside: Revolutionary Opposition in the CPGB, 1945-1991 (November Publications, 2012); I reviewed it here. The book doesn’t cover the CPE(ML) (later RCPB(ML)) and its idiot offspring that we’re discussing here, as it didn’t emerge from the CPGB, but the book does show how Maoism arose within that party.

    One thing I found interesting with the Workers Institute was that its international allegiance returned to China, having split from a group that had sided with Albania in the Sino-Albanian split. And of course it was very heartening to read in its bulletins that the People’s Liberation Army was poised to rescue us from the grip of the ‘fascist’ British state; although I detected some confusion when one bulletin also informed us that Peking had clandestinely set up the dictatorship of the proletariat in Britain.

    It’s also interesting too that lately the RCPB(ML) has ended up as a fan-club for North Korea, actually having joint meetings on the topic with the formerly Moscow-loyal New Communist Party. Still, after having one’s hopes in Enver Hoxha’s Albania cruelly betrayed, where else could these guys go?

    Dr Paul

    November 27, 2013 at 7:15 pm

  39. Actually, the collapse of the RCP 15 years back is an example of the ‘following the leader’ mentality which, in an exaggerated form, saw the WI women follow Mrs and Mrs Comrade Bala into clandestinity, self-exclusion from society and (for them) eventual imprisonment.

    I get the feeling that in the early 1990s Frank Füredi had a major crisis in his political confidence, and by the mid-1990s he had given up on the whole business that had occupied him for the previous 25 years. Did this and his subsequent drift into a politically-undefinable libertarianism lead to any major upheaval amongst the party faithful, a stirring defence of revolutionary theory and practice by those staunch supporters of Marxism?

    Well, no. True, a few by now highly brassed-off supporters, including myself at one or two meetings, raised a few objections here and there but gave up the rapidly-decaying party as a bad job whilst remaining loyal to the basic philosophy. Most of the members and supporters drifted away into inactivity; but the core of the RCP, the leadership and the office boys and girls, now under the label of Spiked, largely stayed loyal to the ganzer-macher, drifting with him into apolitical grumbling and silly contrarianism.

    Dr Paul

    November 27, 2013 at 7:34 pm

  40. In all the, frankly, very self-revelatory musing about mad Maoists (what do you think Joe/Jane think of Trots or even ‘Loony Lefts’ in Labour?) you have all forgotten (as well as when you were also described as having ‘mad, extreme politics’) the basic solidarity that should be offered to any Left against the state (and that includes out and out Stalinists, when they are part of the workers movement i.e. in all but what they called the ‘socialist’ (sic) states.)

    This case has seen some of the most flagrant prejudging of a case I have seen, with barely a mention of the word ‘alleged’.

    e.g. Cops: “This case is sadly what we probably all understand as forced labour and domestic servitude, slavery in simple terms.” Government: A spokesman said: “The home secretary is shocked by this appalling case and while the police need to get to the bottom of exactly what happened here, the home secretary has made clear her determination to tackle the scourge of modern slavery.”

    When considering the politics of the Maoists, or indeed the actions of anyone, it is the default of a witless spectator to see such simply as ‘mad’ – very few actions are irrational to those who undertake them.

    I find it unsurprising that such a world view as Maoism remained with those who came from places where that current had resonance, and where communist politics (of any shade) could get you killed and that is despite such politics being as mistaken there as they were in Britain

    In Malaysia, the Chinese orientated Communist Party (with a cadre heavily ethnic Chinese) fought a long and heroic action against British imperialism (and whose brutal actions still lie little reported), or in India, many a Maoist (Naxalite, in India) was murdered by the state in the 60s and 70s (in fake ‘encounters’) and where, like today, large areas are liberated ‘red zones’. You can see how they may have seen the world as ‘fascist’ – 500,000 Lefts (included many Maoists) killed in Indonesia in the mid 60s.

    I want to see what happens in the case and I would, of course, condemn absolutely any form of slavery (and which does not necessarily have to include keeping people under lock and key). But then I also look at the footage from 1997 when some of those who it is claimed were enslaved dealt confidently with enquiring ITN news.

    A ‘Red Salute’ from this Trotskyist to the many Maoists killed by the forces of reaction – and a pox on those smug, aged ex Lefts who have no grasp that not all Lefts think like them or for who their politics was never more than a parlour game.

    Southpawpunch

    November 27, 2013 at 7:48 pm

  41. Dr Paul: “One thing I found interesting with the Workers Institute was that its international allegiance returned to China, having split from a group that had sided with Albania in the Sino-Albanian split…” Well, the China/Albania split didn’t really become that apparent, in the sense of compelling ML groups to choose allegiance, until 1978, 4 years after Bala and his WIMLMZT had split from the CPE(ML). So there was no need for the WIMLMZT to reorientate itself – it had always been on the Chinese line. Hoxhaism was far more appealing to people who enjoyed their Stalinism straight, without too much Eastern mysticism mixed in. So it wasn’t nearly so good for cult-building as Maoism could be.

    Francis

    November 27, 2013 at 9:14 pm

  42. Francis: Thanks for that; I didn’t know that the Sino-Albanian split was as late as that. I must do some reading on the topic.

    Dr Paul

    November 27, 2013 at 9:29 pm

  43. Chris Pallis (Maurice Brinton) from Solidarity here on the Jonestown affair; a mad politico-religious cult that ended in disaster. The Spartacists ran a good piece on this sorry business; I wonder if this was an Aesopian look in the mirror…

    Dr Paul

    November 27, 2013 at 9:33 pm

  44. Dr Paul: if you google “Bill Bland” you find quite a bit from the main British Hodxaists, I discovered all this by chance when I was once trying to find my old optometrists’ practice telephone number. There is a, hm, interesting, speech by him on the “cult of personality” to the Stalin Society. Yes, there was one, was his line, but it was decidedly against Stalin’s will. Indeed, it was Trots and ex-Trots who started it all, you know (seriously! This was his line!)

    dagmar

    November 28, 2013 at 12:33 am

  45. The New Communist Party were at the Labour Representation Committee meeting in London last Saturday.

    They are a shell of their former selves.

    One of the problems with getting information about these groups, and one in particular, the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist–Leninist) (CPB(M-L) – though it applies to them all – is their secrecy.

    The CPB (M-L) ran, as people have indicated to me, Central London Poly student union for years (it’s now run by a gang of far-right Islamists).

    But as we heard at the time (I was in the IMG at a FE College not far away from the Poly’s sites), they never presented themselves as such.

    In the NUS they would claim not to be part of any party.

    Andrew Coates

    November 28, 2013 at 11:54 am

  46. Yes Francis but historically there was a difference between those who went with China over the Sino-Soviet split and those attracted to the Moaism of the Cultural Revolution.

    That’s why you got the groups in France like the Gauche prolétarienne (GP) and Vive la révolution! who were called ‘Mao-Spontex”, because they saw in the Cultural Revolution some kind of rebellion against all authority.

    Mind the GP were pretty authoritarian internally themselves.

    Andrew Coates

    November 28, 2013 at 11:58 am

  47. Here is my take on the WIMLMZT: http://hatfulofhistory.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/inside-the-paranoid-maoist-cults-of-1970s-britain-a-post-at-the-conversation-uk/

    Lawrence Parker has also contributed a chapter on the first wave of anti-revisionism to the edited collection on the British far left that is being edited by myself and Matthew Worley. It should be out by JUne 2014 through Manchester University Press.

    hatfulofhistory

    November 28, 2013 at 12:13 pm

  48. Woman ‘gave £60,000 inheritance to Maoist sect before falling to her death’
    Police investigate circumstances surrounding death of Sian Davies, 44, who broke her neck in fall at south London property

    “A member of a Maoist sect is believed to have handed up to £60,000 from her late father’s inheritance to an extreme leftwing commune before falling to her death from a bathroom window of the house they shared.

    Sian Davies, 44, died with only £5 to her name in 1997 after breaking her neck in a mysterious fall from the property in south London, where she lived with the couple who have been accused of keeping three women in servitude for 30 years.

    As police began formally interviewing the three alleged victims for the first time on Wednesday, more details emerged about Davies, who is said to have vanished without trace after joining the sect in the late 70s.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/nov/27/woman-maoist-sect-inheritance-falling-death

    Andrew Coates

    November 28, 2013 at 12:25 pm

  49. Evan S’s article states: ‘The Revolutionary Communist Party, later to beget Living Marxism and then Sp!ked Online, were also accused of behaving in a bizarre and cultish manner in the 1980s and 1990s.’

    My impression of the RCP was that whilst it might have looked odd from the outside on account of its different take to standard left-wing thinking on various topics, internally there was little of this obsessive cultish behaviour that one saw and still sees on the left. The internal atmosphere of the group was pretty liberal; people’s personal life was not interfered with so long as party obligations were met, there was no atmosphere of ideological or physical intimidation that there was in the Healyite group, there was an emphasis on security but it was not paranoid. Comrades were encouraged to think for themselves, to read widely, to be imaginative. That was my experience.

    That is why, when (as I believe to be the case) Frank Füredi lost confidence in the whole Marxist project, I was astonished that there was so little reaction to this amongst the core of the group, and that most of them just went along with him into an ill-defined libertarianism, with the group, now called Spiked, replacing thinking based on Marxism with, to be cruelly honest, third-rate sociology. Normally, even a suggestion of a shift of a few degrees in a group’s perspectives provokes discussion, arguments and (often) splits; here, a fundamental reorientation of its whole philosophy was meekly accepted by the bulk of the party’s leadership and office staff. So much for thinking things through, being imaginative, and so on; it was, once again, ‘follow the leader’.

    Just because the ganzer-macher lost it, should those around him merely follow suit? I know I jumped ship before this happened, having had increasingly distanced myself from the group as it moved from normal left-wing activity towards merely annoying liberals from 1990 or so. Nonetheless, I was able to ‘think for myself’ and ‘be imaginative’ — so why not those whom I always had looked to as intelligent and imaginative thinkers?

    The last word on my old lot should go to Arthur Trusscott: ‘The Revolutionary Communist Party, the last group in Britain to go through any real process of growth, has disappeared altogether, with its minuscule inner core surviving as a noisy if ineffectual right-wing libertarian think-tank. Leaving his exegeses on Marx’s Capital far behind him, the RCP’s guru Frank Füredi now rabbits on about the ‘culture of low expectations’, a theory brilliantly confirmed by the evolution of his group – from wanting to change the world to whinging about it like a cut-price Julie Burchill. Readers will, however, be gratified to learn that the group’s insufferable arrogance has survived the transformation, thus proving, in an interesting twist of the dialectic, that the content of a phenomenon can change dramatically, whilst its form remains unaltered.’

    Dr Paul

    November 28, 2013 at 1:48 pm

  50. Frank Füredi just repeats himself these days.

    His books are clippings (or rather now, cut-and-pastes) from the media interspersed with his rehashed comments.

    I don’t even bother to read Spiked on Line.

    Andrew Coates

    November 28, 2013 at 2:00 pm

  51. I reckon that there is a Spiked! auto-writer on the same lines as the Postmodern Essay Generator. Just key in your topic, press the button and — hey presto! — here’s your Spiked! article.

    Dr Paul

    November 28, 2013 at 2:13 pm

  52. Dr Paul, have you read Dave Renton’s account of being (briefly) in the RCP? http://www.dkrenton.co.uk/living_marxism_rcp_spiked_online.html

    hatfulofhistory

    November 28, 2013 at 2:17 pm

  53. Al Richardson had this to say about Bill Bland in a review of Tom Winnifrith’s Perspectives on Albania.

    THIS book consists of a collection of essays by serious scholars providing an overview of the development of Albanian history, and a comic epilogue from Bill Bland.

    Mr Bland’s qualifications for contributing would appear to be his position as Secretary of the Albanian Society. The older generation of left activists will remember that previous to this he was one of the leaders of the Committee to Defeat Communism for Revisionist Unity (or was it the other way round?) who switched his support from Mao Zedong to Liu Shao-Ch’i in the process of discovering his earthly paradise in the Balkans. He has previously imposed upon the public a bibliography of Albania in which he plugged the official view of the Hoxha regime, and called in question the far more truthful accounts coming from the Yugoslavs wherever there was a conflict of evidence between them. A rosy picture of the country was all set to emerge with the present piece, but alas, the regime foundered before the book came out, leaving the debris of economic misery and bureaucratic tyranny strewn around for all to see.

    Although Albanians may fail to be amused, it is with some merriment that we learn from Mr Bland’s presentation that ‘the standard of living of the lowest paid stratum of the Albanian working people is now higher than that of the lowest paid stratum of the British working class’ (p135), and that ‘income differentials are limited by law to 2:1’, which ‘makes Albania the most egalitarian society in the world’ (p134).

    There are some signs, however, that this toleration of the most deplorable standards of reportage and analysis of modern Albanian affairs is coming to an end. In his introductory essay Tom Winnifrith notes that Halliday’s edition of Enver Hoxha’s memoirs ‘has no pretensions to boring academic standards’ (p11), adding (a bland comment, if ever there was one) that ‘the execution of Coti Xoxe in 1948 and the suicide of Mehmet Shehu in 1981 are not mentioned by Mr Bland, but why should they be in his account of the improvement in Albanian standards?’ (p11).

    Dr Paul

    November 28, 2013 at 2:35 pm

  54. http://www.dkrenton.co.uk/living_marxism_rcp_spiked_online.html

    “As a supporter, I internalised the belief that the isolation of the Revolutionary Communist Party was due to the sectarianism of other parties. But life taught me how little sense that claim made. The party had been formed as a split from a breakaway, and never shed its conviction that the explanation for the failure of the revolutionaries lay with the faint hearts of their left rivals. Iraq invaded Kuwait. I attended a London-wide planning meeting at which the RCP’s attitude towards the crisis in the Middle East was worked out on the basis of a thirty minute presentation, ‘what is the rest of the left not saying?’

    It’s hard now to convey the oddity of that experience. For the RCP then claimed some 500 members (and would peak two years later at over 1000). To calculate the errors of the entire British left meant taking into consideration not just Labour, and the larger Marxist parties (Militant and the SWP), but even the smallest of the sects (Socialist Organiser, Workers Vanguard, Workers Hammer): the views of each of these group had to be considered before an RCP line could be drawn. ”

    I followed that link. I always thought Spiked was institutionally contrarian, but didn’t realise such painstaking work went into that attitude.

    Rosie

    November 28, 2013 at 3:10 pm

  55. I often wondered when I was an RCP supporter if the group worked out its line by seeing what the rest of the left said, and then devised something else. When I read John Sullivan’s and Jim Higgins’ only half-in-jest writings on the political market-place and the need for groups to have in this crowded arena something that could attract the eye of the punter (these days referred to as a Unique Selling Point), things fell neatly into place.

    I once had a rather cheeky letter in the Weekly Worker asking whether the Alliance for Workers Liberty elaborated its political lines by this method: seeing what the SWP says and then coming out with something different; and if this line is already being marketed, then just developing it ad absurdum. I gave the examples of Yugoslavia and Israel/Palestine to illustrate this theory. Sean Matgamna blew a gasket, and wasted a whole page of his paper with a wonderfully splenetic denunciation of me. Must have touched a delicate nerve…

    Dr Paul

    November 28, 2013 at 7:29 pm

  56. The 1970s spawned loats of ‘collectives’, ‘communes’ and ‘squats’. Lots of cults too: Children of God, the Moonies, the whole counter-culture thing. It’s a strange feeling when you read about people marooned in the 70s like this group seems to have been. Clinging together because they didn’t have anyone else, or rather prefered the authoritarian Mr and Mrs Bala to their previous existence. I expect it made them feel validated.

    Sue R

    November 28, 2013 at 9:52 pm

  57. That’s ‘authoritarian’ in line 5.

    Sue R

    November 28, 2013 at 9:52 pm

  58. […] Tendance Coatsey blog was probably the first to start publicly collating information on the WIMLMTT (mainly sourced from […]

  59. Halcyon days no doubt.

    The WRP’s approach (taken no doubt from Millwall supporters) was cruder, “Everybody hates us and we don’t care.”

    Maoists seemed to have genuinelly not cared what anybody thought of them at all – hate or anything else.

    I suspect there was such a gulf between most of them and the rest of the left that anybody trying to make points about Marxism, socialism, and the left generally, from this case are barking up the wrong (barking) tree.

    Andrew Coates

    November 29, 2013 at 1:24 pm

  60. Were Maoism seen as it was — the étatist modernisation of a big backward country, a re-run in China of the initial Soviet Five-Year Plans — then it might make sense for people in Third World countries to adopt it, or at least to consider it, as a means of development for those countries. But what relevance could it possibly have for developed capitalist countries? Al Richardson used to say that Maoism never took off in Britain because we’ve not had a peasantry here for 500 years; but, even when taking into consideration the existence in several European countries of a small-scale farming sector, how does this explain its not inconsiderable popularity on the Continent?

    Dr Paul

    November 29, 2013 at 2:45 pm

  61. “Al Richardson used to say that Maoism never took off in Britain because we’ve not had a peasantry here for 500 years”

    And not just Al Richardson; this seems to be the general “Trot” “line” on the matter in Britain.

    It seems to suggest that groups grow because their “line” is the correct one. This is nonsense. Groups grow because they are in the right place at the right time, talking and recruiting the right people, or any people. The SWP used to argue “we’re the biggest because we’re the best”. But more honesty might have been “we’re the biggest because we’re the biggest”.

    The main “revolutionary left” grouping in Germany, even today, is the somewhat mad and organisationally very Stalinist Maoist sect, the MLPD, a cult whose own “the Jesus” is one Stefan Engel. It’s lines on “big politics” are very simple. The GDR and the USSR, and the rest, were all “real” Socialism, then nasty Kruschchev made a speech; immediately these states turned into capitalism. Not “like capitalism” but into actual capitalism. Mao was good, the cultural revolution was good, anyone who disagrees will be subject to a lot of “criticism and self-criticism” (and then probably be expelled).

    At the same time they do a lot of workplace activity to, in some cases, significant (and often positive) effect. I deliberately write “workplace” not “union” activity. Not only in this respect do they remind me of Lutte Ouvriere or their supposedly better (not my opinion) (ex)-fraction “L’Etincelle”. They are paranoid secretive cultists.

    So why did these people (but maybe not humans) who want a workers’ and peasants’ revolution become the main “serious” working-class orientated far-left grouping in Germany?

    I think the simple answer is probably: when it all “kicked off” in the late 1960s, the German Trots (Mandelites) were pretending to be social democrats and were doing deep entryism in the SPD. They had no public face, and when “the youth” went on the streets with red flags and proclaiming revolution, they looked to those countries and current groupings that seemed to represent that – and they generally had some kind of connection, actual or desperately wanted, to China. Such grouplings also proclaimed themselves to be the “real” KPD (banned since 1956, reformed as a very tame, social democratic and obviously bound by the politics and cash of East Berlin, DKP, in 1968), copying all the methods and slogans of the “third period”. Trotsky didn’t figure in the equation. The Trots were invisible, and very slow to remove themselves from the SPD and also probably had forgotten what to do and how to do it (and were old and without the energy required). And Mandel was banned from entering West Berlin to take up his Professor post there.

    What about France?

    dagmar

    November 29, 2013 at 5:01 pm

  62. In many countries there are theories that its support can be seen in relation to these factors,

    1) The first wave (orthodox Marxist Leninists) were essentially hard-line Communist Stalinists who never accepted that the Resistance, CP-led movements, did not take power in 1945.

    2) Part of the ‘Maoist’ second wave was inspired by the misunderstanding that the Cultural Revolution was an anti-authoritarian movement against bureaucracy – a ‘permanent revolution’ against those taking the capitalist road.

    I am only really familiar with the French case.

    All this withered under the impact of (amongst other more significant internal causes) Simon Leys’ books.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Ryckmans (his real name)

    http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Leys

    Leys’ impact was recently highlighted in the film
    Après mai (Something in the Air).

    This film’s backdrop is French Mao-Spontex and orthodox Marxis-Leninist groups in the early 1970.

    3) There was an intellectual justification in some countries (notably France) for Maoism.

    Charles Bettelheim (November 20, 1913, Paris – July 20, 2006, Paris) was very influential at one point, and he owed a lot to a very particularly reading of ‘Maoism’.

    “For Bettelheim, socialism is rather an alternative voice in development; a process of transformation of social understandings. Inspired by the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the thought of Mao Zedong, and in cooperation with the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, Bettelheim was opposed to “economism” and to the “primacy of the means of production” of traditional Marxism: against the idea that socialist transformation of social bonds was a necessary effect of the development of the forces of production (liberating those bonds from them, according to Marxist orthodoxy, since private property dominates them in “bourgeois” society), he affirmed the necessity for actively and politically transforming social connections. In his book Economic Calculations and Forms of Ownership (Calcul économique et formes de proprieté), Bettelheim re-thinks the problems of transition to socialism, while criticizing the supposition that nationalization and state ownership of the means of production was already “socialist”—it is not the legal form of property, but true socialization of the web of production, which characterizes such a transition ; the crucial problem in socialist planning is the replacement of the form of “value” with the development of a method of measurement which takes into account the social utility of production.”

    This is a very accurate summary (I have the above book).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Bettelheim

    Naturally there is a lot, a lot, more to be said about Continental and US Maoism etc.

    Andrew Coates

    November 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm

  63. Andrew C: ‘1) The first wave (orthodox Marxist Leninists) were essentially hard-line Communist Stalinists who never accepted that the Resistance, CP-led movements, did not take power in 1945.’

    Yes, this makes sense. I wrote in my review of Parker’s book: ‘One can add that those drawn to Maoism demonstrated the same sort of worship of a supposedly revolutionary state, and a clue to the attraction of Maoism can be found in official Chinese appeals to Stalinist orthodoxy against Khrushchev’s “revisionism”.If one had subscribed to the revolutionary image projected by Stalin’s Soviet Union, and if one felt that it had been betrayed by his successors, then it was not difficult to transfer one’s allegiance from the Soviet Union to another state that continued to promote that image. This state worship merely served to store up problems, as the policies of the Chinese bureaucracy proved as blatantly opportunist as those of Moscow. The further policy shifts after Mao’s death led many Maoists to repeat the whole sorry experience at a higher level of absurdity by abandoning their now dashed hopes in China and transferring their allegiance to Stalin’s memory to Enver Hoxha’s Albania.’

    In short, I pretty much answered the question myself!

    Andrew C: ‘2) Part of the ‘Maoist’ second wave was inspired by the misunderstanding that the Cultural Revolution was an anti-authoritarian movement against bureaucracy – a ‘permanent revolution’ against those taking the capitalist road.’

    ‘Misunderstanding’ is perhaps an understatement. I see the Cultural Revolution as a dog-fight between factions of the Chinese Communist Party; a kind of re-run of the 1930s Soviet purges only with considerably more active manipulation of public opinion (Stalin didn’t have groups of ideologically-intoxicated students running amuck). The Trotskyist Peng Shu-Tse took that position as it happened.

    In both examples, we had a repeat of the uncritical attitude taken by not a few radicals in the 1930s towards the Soviet Union: in short a recrudescence of the state worship of that time. What I discovered about the 1930s (see here), is that at the time there was sufficient information for an observer, if he or she wished to do so, to elaborate a reasonably accurate idea of what both the Soviet Union and Stalinism was. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were possible to do the same with China in the 1960s.

    Therefore, it is state worship and wishful thinking about that state that stands at the root of the Stalin-worship of the 1930s and of Mao-worship of the 1960s. Having been neither prone to state worship nor inclined towards genuflecting at Stalinist leaders, I nonetheless still find it rather hard to understand the appeal of China in the 1960s. I suppose one had to be here at that time to make sense of its appeal, and moreover today we are looking at the phenomenon in hindsight, with widespread knowledge of Mao’s China, and the experience of post-Mao China as it has turned itself into a capitalist state.

    Dr Paul

    November 29, 2013 at 10:51 pm

  64. There’s plenty of literature on the background to this kind of wishful thinking.

    La longue marche (essai sur la chine) by Simone De Beauvoir. 1957 – enthusiastic account of her (4 weeks!) trip to China.

    Maria-Antonietta Macciocchi (1922 -2007) De la Chine, Seuil, collection « Combats », 1971.

    En 1971, de retour d’un voyage en Chine effectué pendant le dernier trimestre 1970 pour le compte de L’Unità, Maria-Antonietta Macciocchi publie un livre de 570 pages, intitulé De la Chine, dans lequel elle fait l’éloge de la révolution culturelle.

    Her Deux mille ans de bonheur, Grasset, 1983

    I have read all of these, for my pains! (the latter is a key book on the French Left).

    My own review of this, Les Maoïstes. Christophe Bourseiller, is relevant: https://tendancecoatesy.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/les-maoistes-christophe-bourseiller-review-and-reflections/

    More material here: http://www.isioma.net/sds00500.html

    I note that the Marxist Archive has stuff from one of the most obnoxious personalities ever to darken the French left, Benny Lévy (1971) (aka Pierre Victor) who was the leader of the main @Mao-Spontex’ group, the Gauche prolétarienne.

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/levy-benny/1971/investigation.htm

    On him: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benny_L%C3%A9vy

    On Simone de Beauvoir’s (very negative) experience of his relationship with Sartre. 1981 : La Cérémonie des adieux suivi de Entretiens avec Jean-Paul Sartre : août – septembre 1974

    This is a recent, completely sanatised, account,

    From Établissement to Lip: On the Turns Taken by French Maoism
    by JASON E. SMITH

    http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=10500

    Andrew Coates

    November 30, 2013 at 12:05 pm

  65. Thinking back to those days, I remembered although it was usually a young Chinese woman, but I do remember one time when a Malay woman was handing out leaflets instead. She was very vociferous, especially as my abiding image is of an elderly Englishman looming over her paternalistically offering to marry her. This enraged her for some reason. A small vignette of longpast London life.

    Sue R

    November 30, 2013 at 3:56 pm

  66. Tonight in Berlin, Berolinastraße 7, Naherholung Sternchen. ‘Sadly’ this is an instrumental piece…

    ONKALO
    With a performance of “the great learning” by Cornelius Cardew

    Onkalo are a collective of instrumentalists based in Berlin. The ensemble’s focus is on works which approach scoring for performers in a flexible manner; the combination of graphic, text and notated elements to allow performer freedom within composed structures and thereby bridge the gap between composer and performer. When this gap is bridged, new direct lines of communication between musician and audience become available.

    Members of ONKALO that will be with us:

    Shasta Ellenbogen – Viola
    Adam Goodwin – Double
    Moritz Nolden — Drum Kit
    Owen Roberts — Clarinet, Bass Clarinet

    dagmar

    December 6, 2013 at 7:55 pm

  67. STOCKHAUSEN SERVES IMPERIALISM

    Cornelius Cardew
    Originally published in 1974
    by Latimer New Dimensions Limited: London
    SBN 901539 29 5
    ubuclassics
    ubu.com
    Series Editor: Kenneth Goldsmith
    2004 ubuclassics
    This talk has taken a different shape from the one I originally planned. I had meant to go into the development of the avant-garde in Germany through the Nazi regime and after the war through the Darmstadt School (27). However, I soon experienced a real dislike for contributing to the already proliferous documentation of the avant garde. I decided to tackle the subject from a wider viewpoint.

    Stockhausen’s Refrain, the piece I have been asked to talk about, is a part of the cultural superstructure of the largest-scale system of human oppression and exploitation the world has ever known: imperialism. The way to attacking the heart of that system is through attacking the manifestations of that system, not only the emanations from the American war machine in Vietnam, not only the emanations from Stockhausen’s mind, but also the infestations of this system in our own minds, as deep-rooted wrong ideas. And we must attack them not only
    on the superficial level, as physical cruelty or artistic nonsense or muddled thinking, but also on the fundamental level for what they are: manifestations of imperialism.

    My saying something doesn’t necessarily make it true. The task of this article is to make clear that Stockhausen’s Refrain is in fact not just in my opinion – a part of the cultural super-structure of imperialism. The task falls into three parts. To expose the essential character of the musical avant garde in general; to outline the particular development of the avant garde in which Stockhausen plays a ……”

    More here (for the masses): http://guaciara.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/cardew_stockhausen.pdf

    Andrew Coates

    December 7, 2013 at 4:54 pm

  68. see the use of 1200 over undercover police now in 2014 then we can begin to grasp the context in which Aravindan Balakrishnan is being persecuted by the british state

    Julie brown

    December 30, 2014 at 4:44 pm

  69. I agree fully with Southpaw punch when he or she says that the basic solidarity that should be offered to any left organisation under attack by the state has been forgotten!Aravindan Balakrishnan himself had a meeting in 1979 called THE UNITY OF THE LEFT IN BRITAIN to encourage the left to drop their differences and unite against a common enemy – INJUSTICE in what ever form!

    Julie brown

    December 31, 2014 at 11:46 am

  70. […] Via tendancecoatesy.wordpress.com […]

  71. Alot of people in the Left have asked – why if the Workers’ Institute is so loonatic – why did the British state take the organisation so seriously and send over 250 police to close down their Centre in Acre Lane,Brixton in March 1978. The reason is very clear for those who can go deeper to try to understand the social practise, rather than quibbling about words. The Worker’s Institute provided a GENUINE alternative in Brixton – It completely broke from the corrupt, career-orientated, 9-5 ,putting self before others approach of Westminster type politicians.The Worker’s Institute is a set of people led by Aravindan Balakrishnan who gave up everything including brilliant careers to humbly serve the poorest and most needy people in Brixton and the world, sharing weal and woe with them.THIS is what the British state cannot tolerate.The main orientation of the Worker’s Institute , with the Communist Collective at the heart of it,is to idealogically and politically arm the working people of all nationalities and imbue them with the revolutionary tradition of the working people of the world ,to release their initiative to dare to struggle and dare to win! For example – in March 1977, when a woman from St Lucia called Jeanette Mathurin got into dire problems the Worker’s Institute organised their members to go door to door throughout Brixton ,informing people of her plight and asking them to contribute to a fund for her .This campaign raised 100s of £s which was given to help save her and her 8 children!She was a single mother forced to do two cleaning jobs , her health deteriorating until she was bleeding heavily as she worked-she could not earn enough money to feed her children and was terrified they would be taken into care by the Social Services(locally called ss)But the timely help by the Worker’s Institute and the people of Brixton saved her and her family!This is just one of many examples of the work done by the Worker’s Institute. People used to come to the Centre in Acre Lane because they KNEW they would get help there and this is what the British state did not want!They did not want people to know there is a REAL alternative – that people plus Communists can create miracles! Even though members of the Worker’s Institute were frequently arrested , imprisoned and even deported , they refused to be put down and continued the work! The British state was so worried that , when the Centre in Acre Lane was opened in August 1976,the L Division started in Brixton- the first POLITICAL police unit openly admitted to be working anywhere in Britain(Daily Telegraph 15.5.78) . It surely cannot be a coincidence that in the very place where the Worker’s Institute especially A.Balakrishnan dared to stand up to the bullying of the British Fascist State , the Historic Brixton Rebellion took place in April 1981- so who is having the last laugh ! Precisely because they have been so busy rediculing Aravindan Balakrishnan and the Worker’ Institute they still cannot grasp what happened nearly 40 years ago in Brixton- the Left in Britain have left themselves out of these Historic Revolutionary developments in Britain and the World ! So those who believe unquestioningly in the trumped up charges being put on Aravindan Balakrishnan right now – think again!!!!! Do not get left out yet again!!!!

    Julie Brown

    June 17, 2015 at 4:46 pm

  72. i just posted a comment and it was not posted !!!!

    Julie Brown

    June 17, 2015 at 4:49 pm


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