Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Nick Cohen on the Brexit Bolsheviks of Spiked: James Heartfield (né James Hughes), from Sectarian Marxism to National Populism.

with 3 comments


Heartfield’s Brexit Party Steps up Competition with Jehovah’s Witnesses on the Holloway Road.

James Heartfield, from the Revolutionary Communist party and its successor organisations, will fight rather than support Corbyn in Islington, and stand for Nigel Farage’s Brexit party. He’s not alone in that. In the European elections, Farage put forward four candidates from what was in the 1980s the RCP, and then morphed into Living Marxism, the Institute of Ideas and Spiked. The names may have been different but the personnel and mentality endured. One, Claire Fox of the BBC’s Moral Maze, is now a Brexit party member of the European parliament.


Meanwhile, if Corbyn has provided excuses for tyrannical regimes, his rival in Islington North from the Brexit party defended Colonel Gaddafi’s Libyan tyranny.

This is one of Comrade Cohen’s starting points in this excellent article,

The conventional explanation for the success of the RCP is that it has cannily moved from the far left to where the money is. It understood that the media reward talking heads who will propagate any theory, however simplistic or false. “It still operates as a clique,” a former member told me as I was researching this piece. “But instead of attacking liberals from the far left it now attacks them from the libertarian right.” For denouncing political correctness, wokeness and other assorted horrors, it receives Koch brother money and commissions from editors desperate for “contrarian” thrills.

This is true and I am not sure this accounts for the enthusiasm of Spiked for the Brexit Party and their other main field of operations, the Red-Brown Front, the Full Brexit, which brings them together with members of the Communist Party of Britain, Counterfire, Blue Labour, Labour Leave and other odd-balls, either (Why we’re campaigning for a Full Brexit. Meet the leftists making the case for Brexit’s transformative potential.)

See Bob on Going full Brexit: from Red Front to red-brown front.

From this one can see that their ideology has a lot in its misty mixture of virulent rhetoric. Which emerged when they discarded all political bearing s within Marxism traditions, and belief in the potential of working people and the whole range of the oppressed to change society and create for themselves forms of socialism.

Contrarianism, hostility to the welfare state social democratic Labour Party (ingrained in the group since its origins), a vague belief in the ‘risk taking’ promethean aspects of modern science and capitalism (grabbedat to justify anti-Green politics), the hatred of the “culture of complaint”, a well worn defence of the Enlightenment, and jibes at the identity politics of the 1990s, all go into the mix of Furedi  and chums. In place of Marxism they claim to be brave humanists as well.

There is a lot of ranting about elites – definitely outlined by Cohen as a vein of conspiracy thinking. But behind this there is a shift from standing for ‘strong democracy’ (Benjamin Barber) to national sovereignty thwarted by oligarchs and liberal elites, the cosmopolitan internationalists who oppose Brexit.

The EU is risk averse, it believes that if something moves it should be regulated. It represents risk as a form of danger not an opportunity.”The alternative is national sovereignty, “National sovereignty is not simply about waving the flag, it’s about understanding that only through the institutions of a nation state can you have a sense of control over your destiny and hold your leaders and politicians to account. It is only in this terrain that democracy has any real meaning.”

Sovereignty post Brexit: an interview with Frank Furedi

Cohen continues,

Brexit itself, however, is the ultimate post-crash conspiracy theory. Britain could be a buccaneering country again, as it was when it ruled a quarter of the world, if only it were not the victim of Brussels

Buccaneering nations are glamorous, no doubt, but exactly why do we need these pirates?

Conspiracy theory only gets us so far, what are they conspiring for?

One thing that struck me recently researching it, and reading, re-reading, far-right texts, is how some figures of the Nouvelle Droite in France, specifically Guillaume Faye, explicitly draw a link between defending ‘European civilisation’ (Faye shifted in the years towards his death last year to a more overtly nation based theme), and make a link between the kind of Furedi angle on glory that was Europe as independent sovereign states.(the RCP guru now slips from the Enlightenment to Judeo-Christian and Classical heritage) to overt ethnic racism. The route passes through nations, to ethnic groups, to ethno-racial forces. The elites, the ‘globalisers’ are out to thwart this.

The Spiked Red-Brown Front with the Brexit Party has not gone down that road – yet – but you can’t help feeling that the plea for the ‘white working class’ downtrodden by elites is pretty close to it.

Many of the contrarian themes – though very certainly not all, and there are some major differences over ‘Paganism’, of the RCP are also echoed in these quarters. Alain de Benoist though is more left-wing (he encourages pluralism and decentralisation, for a start) than Spiked on the issue of sovereignty.

The Spiked Red Brown front is serious, it is aimed not just at the Brexit party but through the Full Brexit Party, at the ‘left’.

Like the French nouvelle droite it seeks not just influence but political levers for a goal.

This is National Populism, a set of doctrines and ideas, attitudes and culture, that above all, denies that the democratic constitutions make sovereignty an ’empty psace’ which all can potentially occupy. Only the “real” people and their leaders can legitimately  do so.

Mind you a lot of their ideas are just plain drivel.

Defending the ‘anti-globalisers’ amongst the ‘native populations’.


Written by Andrew Coates

September 15, 2019 at 12:47 pm

3 Responses

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  1. On a closely-related theme, Owen Jones explains his withdrawal from Peoples Assembly rally with Dempsey on the platform:

    View at Medium.com

    Jim Denham

    September 16, 2019 at 10:00 am

  2. Jim Denham

    September 16, 2019 at 10:03 am

    • ” A few weeks ago, both me and Novara Media editor Ash Sarkar were invited to speak at a rally organised by the People’s Assembly. As it turned out, I’d double booked, but I was lobbied particularly by BME activists to withdraw, which Ash quickly did. The reason: the presence of RMT activist Eddie Dempsey, who once argued that “the one thing that unites” those who turn up at Tommy Robinson protests “is their hatred of the liberal left. And they are right to hate them.” Now we socialists have our own critique of the “liberal left” — principally their support for market economics — but that is not what Tommy Robinson supporters (or “fascists”, to use shorthand) hate them for. No, it is for having perceived anti-racist, pro-migrant, anti-Islamophobia politics.

      What makes it even more egregious is that Dempsey folds anyone on the left who isn’t pro-Brexit into his “liberal left” category, including both myself and Ash Sarkar. We were expected to stand as an ally with someone who believes fascists are right to hate us. For those of us at risk of violence from Tommy Robinson’s fascist supporters for espousing our socialist politics — indeed the last People’s Assembly protest I spoke at, they surrounded me chanting “Jonesy as a homo” then attempted to punch me in the face — it is a lot to ask us to stand together as comrades and allies with an individual who believes these hateful thugs are right to hate us. (We’ve since been accused of ‘no platforming’ Dempsey, including by the right-wing libertarian Spiked website, and Sarkar was inundated with racist abuse: in actual fact, we simply disinvited ourselves — no-one is forced to share a platform — and turned down an offer by the protest organisers to remove Dempsey as a speaker).”

      View at Medium.com

      Andrew Coates

      September 16, 2019 at 10:17 am

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