Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Europe

Spiked, Shifting the “Overton Window to the Right” from Brexit to Racism.

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Image may contain: 1 person, text that says "Toby Young @toadmeister 3m You lost me when you said the Overton Window has "shifted to the Right" the few years. Where, exactly? Schools? Universities? The media? The civil service? Big tech? Financial services? Retail? The arts? I'm struggling to think of anywhere it hasn't shifted leftwards. Evan Smith @evanishistory. 11h Here is me in The Guardian on the history of the Revolutionary Communist Party, from its ultra-leftism the 1980s to the right libertarianism Spiked nowadays, the journal Living Marxism in the 1990s. twitter.com/guardianopini... Show this thread"

Spiked is also at the heart of a Red-Brown Alliance over Brexit.


Heartfield, born James Hughes (he modestly took the name of the great German anti-fascist photomontage artist John Heartfield), was one of many enraged by the colonial upstart’s critique of Spiked.

But the one-time cadre of the Revolutionary Communist Party  soon regained his composure:

Evan Smith’s  argument that Spiked had helped shift politics to the right, and its detailed, well informed, account of the cyber-cadres past in the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) has hit the spot.

Coming after Nick Cohen in the Observer we can take stock of the impact of this network.

How a fringe sect from the 1980s influenced No 10’s attitude to racism

Previously dismissed as a fringe group on the outer limits of political discourse, more recently Spiked has become an influential force in shifting the Overton window to the right in the UK.

To understand how it has come to occupy this space and its rhetorical style, particularly concerning issues of race and racism, it is worth looking at the long road from the RCP to Spiked, via the journal Living Marxism (later titled LM).

This is a brilliant account of the RCP (this Blog has a copy of the pre-RCP journal of the faction, then known as the Revolutionary Communist Tendency…). The evolution from Living Marxism to Spiked, and the Institute of Ideas, Smith points out, is a singular one,

the trajectory of its cohort from the far left to the hard right. While the story of former leftwingers becoming rightwingers is not new, the fact that the leadership of the RCP seemed to transition en masse makes it a compelling story.

This is pretty unique. French Maoism, famously, the  Gauche prolétarienne (GP), included individuals who moved rightwards, and ex-activists were at the origin of the anti-Communist and anti-Marxist group of “nouveaux philosophes”, although their leader, Benny Lévy  discovered the Torah and Orthodox Judaism. Their denunciations of the Gulag were however framed in liberal terms, including, in some cases, a defence of human rights. Nobody would say that they were more than a current of ideas, without any formal ties.

The ex-RCP by contrast is often seen as a much more self-conscious network, all railing against what their guru Frank Furdei calls the “countercultural establishment” and the “moral depletion of the West”.


As people have pointed out, it is equally odd that,

  • There is, in this respect, no largely ex-RCP group, large, small or micro-splinter, which claims their ‘heritage’ or to continue the battle for Marxism. They had no split, like the original home, IS/SWP into the RCG (and all the others), nothing like the break up of the WRP, or the kind of fragmentation into micro-fragments  left groups normally undergo,
  • That’s right. Very few people who dropped out of the RCP went on to keep up any political involvement — but then this might be related to the fact that we mainly picked up people new to politics. There are some people, pals of mine, who are a ‘Continuity RCP’ in that they still support earlier RCP politics, but they don’t have a group.

With the influence of a prominent figure from the Spiked network on the government’s Commission on Racial Equality,  Munira Mirza It’s their impact on government policies on race and multiculturalism that has come to the fore.

Smith notes,

These preoccupations have proven to be well suited to a moment in which the right has reduced racism to a component of a “culture war” being waged by the “woke” left.Mirza’s previous comments on Spiked about institutional racism, diversity and multiculturalism reveal the mindset in which this new proposed commission on racial inequalities has been cast. They also reveal how the fixations of a contrarian, right-leaning, libertarian website, established by disillusioned leftists, has become part of the mainstream discourse in the UK.

But the impact (however we may measure it) of Spiked has extended not just to the Tory Cabinet, it has extended to what could be called a ‘Red-Brown Front’, that is an alliance of left and national populists, over Brexit.

Whether there is any kind of organised ex-RCP ‘entryism’ or not, nobody can doubt that Spiked has been able to work with a remarkable set of allies in building bridges between national populism and a section of the Lexit (pro-Brexit) left.

These include their own alliance with Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party right up to the ‘Full Brexit’.

The nominally left-wing Full Brexit (“FOR POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY, DEMOCRACY, AND ECONOMIC RENEWAL“) is a much broader initiative. It includes apart from Spiked/RCP James Heartfield and many, many, others, there are Blue Labour figures such as Maurice Glasman, his ally, the FBU, Trade Unionists Against the EU and anti-rootless cosmopolitan campaigner, Paul Embery (both Spiked contributor),  well-known intellectuals and activists from the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), such as Prof Mary Davis,  Nicholas B. Wright, New Left Review top writer,  Prof Wolfgang Streeck, self-identifying leftists like Prof Costas Lapavitsas…Labour and other national sovereigntists, and a host of odd-balls and ……..

Bob from Brockley outlines its creation,

One LM initiative in the post-Referendum period was “The Full Brexit”, an avowedly left-wing pressure group launched in the summer of 2018 to reframe the Brexit narrative as one about “democracy” rather than just bashing immigrants.

Bob outlines the Spiked network inside this Red-Brown Front.

Alongside a smattering of Blue Labour social conservatives and Lexit Marxists, a good half of its 20 founding signatories are RCP network members. Academic Chris Bickerton has been a Spiked contributor since 2005, when he was a PhD student at St John’s College, Oxford. Philip Cunliffe, Furedi’s colleague at the University of Kent, is another long term Spiked activist. Pauline Hadaway, another academic, is a veteran of the Living Marxism days. James Heartfield was a paid RCP organiser. Lee Jones seems to have been recruited at Oxford around the same time as Bickerton. Tara McCormack is an RCP veteran, as is Suke WoltonBruno Waterfield write for Living Marxism.

Other signatories aren’t part of the network but have been promoted by Spiked: Paul Embery and Thomas Fazi for example (Fazi is also connected to the 5 Star Movement and recently retweeted an antisemitic tweet from someone with “Nazbol” in his user name). Many are also involved in Briefings for Brexit, which has several RCP veterans on its advisory committee, and some are involved with Civitas.

This is a peculiar form of left-right crossover politics.

Cross-over is a mild statement.

What other political initiative would be publicised in the Morning Star and Spiked?

Video: The Full Brexit in conversation – the British left after Brexit.

Morning Star January 31st 2020.

Trade unionists and academics from the socialist left met in London, January 28, to discuss the political prospects after Brexit – and after the disastrous 2019 election result.

Spiked 14th of March 2019:

Why we’re campaigning for a Full Brexit

Meet the leftists making the case for Brexit’s transformative potential.

Today Spiked ploughs its anti-woke furrow,

Multiculturalism is fuelling division

Ferdie Rous.

We need a shared identity and sense of history to make politics work.

Yesterday on Spiked Heartfield chanted his old refrain,

Labour has finally admitted it lost the working class

spiked and others have been pointing this out for decades. But Labour activists would not listen.

But let’s not forget the active help of Spiked, and their left allies in the Red-Brown Front, the Full Brexit, in swinging British politics to the right, and sowing the seeds for a Get Brexit Done victory by the Tories.

Why I’m standing for the Brexit Party  James Heartfield. (May 2019).

In the event Heartfield bottled out and did not stand in the January General Election..

His national comrade Claire Fox (ex-RCP, and a Spiked Stalwart) became a Brexit Party MEP in that month…



Written by Andrew Coates

June 24, 2020 at 11:15 am

Labour Election Review 2019: Leadership and Brexit, initial Left Internationalist thoughts.

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Election Review 2019

“Concerns over the leadership, Brexit position and deliverability of the manifesto damaged Labour’s chances.”

It will take a while to digest the full report but these are some initial responses, from a left internationalist, that is, from an activist in the anti-Brexit left.

One of the reasons to speak as the impact is being felt is that there are already efforts to use the report to blame those opposed to the hard right Brexit project for our Party’s defeat.

Here was a view, expressed by somebody believed, not least by himself, to be one of Corbyn’s close friends(1st of June 2019),

 Vilayat Khan: So, let’s start with Corbyn and the Labour Party.  How would you assess Corbyn on Brexit?

Tariq Ali: I think Corbyn’s position is correct. I think to make Brexit into the major divide of the British politics is crazy. Given that whatever finally happens, whether it’s Brexit or Remain, the problems of ordinary people, working people are not going to be solved. Brexit is very much a debate, I think, within the elite, and I think people voted, large numbers of people voted for Brexit to kick the establishment and to say you can’t get away with everything.


And ever since it happened a large chunk of the English establishment has been trying to reverse the referendum. So that’s what is going on, and for Corbyn it’s a serious problem because half of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, especially in the north. So he can’t ignore them. The choice, which the right of the Labour party is offering him is to agree to a second referendum now, campaign around it and Remain, and basically ignore the Labour supporters in the north, in other words, send some working class supporters in the arms of the Brexit party. That’s unacceptable.

Tariq Ali on Corbyn and the British Media, Palestine, Kurdistan, Pashtun movements and how to revive Internationalism.

In the coming days we can expect a lot in this vein. There will be claims that the metropolitan liberal Labour “elite”,by pushing for a Second Referendum, ignored the Brexit proletariat and drove the working class into the hands of Johnson. They will be strongly made by those who themselves campaigned, like Ali, for a Leave vote. Given the track-record of the national sovereignty left it would not be surprising if they try to apportion blame to groups like Another Europe is Possible, which mobilised the internationalist left, and had a strong presence at the hundreds of thousand strong protests against Brexit, for the catastrophic election.

In a fact-denying exercise some are already trying to make the claim,

Jon Trickett and Ian Lavery, the two most outspoken proponents of Brexit in Corbyn’s deeply divided top team, said: “Let’s be clear, people lost trust in Labour after failing to deliver change after 13 years in government. This was brought to a head when the party ignored the democratic vote for Brexit; it was the excuse that allowed loyal Labour voters to finally break with a party they felt had been ignoring them for far too long. (Guardian)

This is not going to wash.

More broadly, as one of the authors of the Review, James Meadway, point out (below), the report avoids “superficial explanations”.

This the Election Review 2019.

Labour List notes that,

The project commissioners included MPs Ed Miliband, Shabana Mahmood, Lucy Powell, plus journalist Ellie Mae O’Hagan, TSSA’s Manuel Cortes and former John McDonnell aide James Meadway.

These are key findings,

The report notes that Labour “lost support on all sides” in 2019 – around 1.7 million Leave voters and around one million Remain voters in net terms, compared to 2017 – and failed to attract swing voters.

Labour lost roughly equal numbers of Remain (1.9 million) and Leave (1.8 million) voters between 2017 and 2019. But it also gained around 900,000 Remain voters, while only winning over around 100,000 Leave voters.

Although one of Labour’s aims under Jeremy Corbyn was to attract non-voters, it was also identified that the Conservatives were more successful than Labour in turning out non-voters in 2019.

In summary,

It says the “broad consensus” across the party, reflected in the survey results, is that concerns over the leadership, Brexit position and deliverability of the manifesto damaged Labour’s chances.

The report, Election Review 2019, says,

  • There is a broad consensus across our Party – mirrored in the results from our survey of Labour members – that a combination of concerns about the leadership, Labour’s position on Brexit and our policy programme damaged Labour’s chances in this election. Our weaknesses going into this election were interlinked, and indivisible. They catalysed long term trends between Labour and our voter coalition.
  • This was an election where people were more often voting against the scenario they feared most, rather than for the party they liked best. We failed to provide a believable narrative for change, that enough of the electorate could vote for.
  • Concerns about Labour’s leadership were a significant factor in our election loss in 2019. ‘Stop Jeremy Corbyn’ was a major driver of the Conservatives’ success across all their key groups including previous non-voters, and among all the swing voters Labour lost to the Tories.
  • In 2017, Jeremy Corbyn’s personal poll ratings dramatically improved over the campaign.  Had these levels been maintained, Labour’s vote share in 2019 would have been 6 points higher. The very low poll ratings on leadership going into the 2019 election cannot easily be disentangled from the handling of issues like Brexit, party disunity and anti-Semitism.
  • The Tories won the 2019 election primarily by consolidating the Leave vote. In contrast, Labour lost support on all sides. Compared with 2017, in net terms, Labour lost around 1.7 million Leave voters; and around 1 million Remain voters. We also failed to attract swing voters, winning over far fewer swing voters than at any other recent election, and turning out fewer new non-voters than in 2017.
  • Non-voters (both those who did not vote in 2017 but turned out in 2019, and those who voted in 2017 but not in 2019) played a critical role in the Conservative success. According to analysis conducted by Datapraxis, well over 4 million voters turned out in 2019 who had not voted in 2017. In 2017 Labour benefited much more from 2015 and 2016 non-voters but in 2019 the Tories overtook Labour among 2017 non-voters, by turning out many older and Leave voters as well as some younger voters.
  • Whilst individual policies polled as popular, resistance to Labour’s reform programme came as people evaluated the overall package in our manifesto. Affordability, and the negative impact on the economy or their own personal finances were raised as concerns by voters. Unlike in 2017 many thought our manifesto was considered as unrealistic, risky and unlikely to be delivered.
  • Labour suffered a meltdown in Scotland, polling well below even the Tories, with the SNP making significant gains. The SNP gained at Labour’s expense among key swing voter tribes. Brexit, the UK leadership and our position on a second Independence referendum were key factors in our loss.


The Guardian puts two issues at the heart of the defeat,

 Jeremy Corbyn was deeply unpopular

The report is unflinching in its analysis of how the leader’s appeal to voters plummeted between 2017 and 2019. Had his popularity stayed at its peak level, it says, Labour’s vote share in 2019 would have been 6 percentage points higher.

By September 2019, it finds, 67% of voters disliked Corbyn, most strongly, and only 12% liked him. It links this to issues including Corbyn’s handling of complaints of antisemitism in the party, Labour’s Brexit position, and a perception of disunity due to events such as the defection of MPs to the short-lived Independent Group.

The report says research suggests an “intense” dislike of Corbyn was a key factor among voters who switched from Labour to the Tories; they raised issues such as antisemitism, perceived support for terrorism, and unaffordable policies.

The views of one 52-year-old woman who voted Labour in 2017 are summarised in the report as: “Frightened at the possibility of a Marxist government. Disgusted at Corbyn being a terrorist sympathiser. Most disturbed about plan to nationalise BT as I fear it would allow a Labour government to spy on internet users.”

4. A confused Brexit policy

In a poll of Labour members carried out for the report, 57% named the Brexit policy of promising a second referendum on any departure deal as the single most unpopular and challenging idea to sell to voters, citing views such as “dithering”, “dire”, and “reflecting division”.

This, the report finds, repelled both leave and remain voters. Of those who voted Labour in 2017, the party lost 1.9 million remain voters and 1.8 million leave voters in 2019. Given the generally pro-remain views of Labour voters, this represented a much higher proportion of leavers.

For many of those who changed their choice between 2017 and 2019, voting for another party in the European elections in May provided “a conveyor belt” away from Labour, the authors say.

Even those who stayed with Labour seemed to do so despite the party’s Brexit policy rather than because of it, with majorities of remain and leave backers saying they preferred to either stop Brexit entirely, or “get Brexit done”, respectively.


Corbyn’s Popularity.

It would take a fully hyped up fan of the 2018 Jez-fest to ignore that Jeremy Corbyn was not liked by the electorate.

It is hard to criticise the former Labour leader about this, above all because it was made clear (at least to those who cared to know) that he had initially not wished to stand for that position.

But doubts were always there.

One aspect that was visible was an approach to the issues on which he made a mark, within the Labour and wider left.

Corbyn’s political history is tied to a particular vision of internationalism.

For some activists on the left his campaigning had an edge of the ‘anti-imperialism’ which always measured international issues through the lens of supporting, however ‘critically’ states and movements opposed to the USA, from Venezuela to Cuba, the Palestinians en bloc, even Iran, when they were standing up to Washington. Issues such as human rights, evoked in abstract, tend to melt when conflicts with America arise.

More to the point electorally what kind of appeal does this campaigning have for either activists or for the wider public?

Chatting to Tariq Ali and Roy, Corbyn recently referred to his work with the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) which has done precisely nothing to defend the Kurds, the Yazidis  and Syrian democrats against Islamist genociders, and the Assad regime,

 Like you, I wish that Stop the War didn’t have to exist, but it does, and here we are all these years later. And the derivation of those wars has been the refugee flows of the Middle East, has been the wars all across the Middle East, has been the refugee camps in Libya and Lebanon and so on.

This is his lament and call,

….the arms still flow to Saudi Arabia that have been used to bomb the people of Yemen, the war carries on in Yemen. The refugee crisis of the Rohingya people moving into camp (inaudible) continues. The refugee crisis in Libya, and Lebanon continues and others do. And so we do need a global movement that recognises the real threat to world security is health and poverty inequality. The real threat to global security are wars based on the abuse of human rights and the thirst for grabbing somebody else’s resources. The real threat to our security is actually the environmental crisis. That we should be facing in the future.

7th of June: Coronavirus, War & Empire: Arundhati Roy & Jeremy Corbyn in Conversation w/ Tariq Ali

Charitably this illustrates a wide-ranging concern with global issues.

Another, less favourable judgement is that Corbyn come across, even in a friendly environment, as a bit of talker, a high-pitched waffler, not a doer.

Even less kindly, most electors would have given up listening early on.


Was Labour’s confused position the result of pressure from ‘liberal metropolitan elites’?

Was it an honest effort to reconcile largely pro-Brexit working class voters with the views of the majority of Party members?

Many people in a position to know doubt this.

There is old mucker again: Jeremy Corbyn ‘would be campaigning for Brexit if he was not Labour leader’, says long-time ally Tariq Ali (Independent May 2016.)

“The Labour leader was forced to refute comments by his brother Piers that his pro-EU stance is a ‘party management’ issue.”

These claims did not disappear after the Referendum.

When Jeremy Corbyn announced on Tuesday that he would back a second EU referendum in all circumstances and campaign for Remain against a Tory Brexit, it marked a victory for the pro-EU movement inside the Labour party. The Labour leader resisted pressure to make the shift for months, worried about the potential loss of voters in Leave-supporting areas. He was persuaded to make the move by an alliance of MPs, grassroots members and union leaders.

But he has still refused to clarify whether Labour would campaign for Remain or Leave in a general election, a sign of the considerable influence of his four key allies, dubbed “The Four Ms”. The group — Karie Murphy, Seumas Milne, Andrew Murray and Len McCluskey — have been the strongest advocates for Labour to back Brexit.

Reported the Financial Times in July 2019.

The “compromise” that resulted was not just for a Second Referendum.

It was for a renegotiated deal for Brexit which would then be put to a popular vote.

If it wins the election, Labour wants to renegotiate Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal and put it to another public vote.

Rather than backing either Leave or Remain during the election campaign, the party will remain neutral until a later date.

Should a referendum under a Labour government be held, voters would be able to choose between a “credible Leave option” and Remain.

The party would organise the referendum within six months and decide which position to back at a special conference in the build up.


In other words, you could back Labour to get a better Brexit, or because you wanted a ballot on whether Leave should take place.

It was this which looked, for the obvious reason that it was ” “dithering”, “dire”, and “reflecting division”.

Few bothered to go into this for the obvious reason that if you wanted Brexit there were other alternatives on offer.

Others may suggest that the Four Ms, with Corbyn behind them, equally played a major part in what the Guardian calls, the “dysfunctional ‘toxic culture’ (that) led to defeat…”

More to follow…

Written by Andrew Coates

June 19, 2020 at 11:09 am

Dominic Cummings: How long will he cling on as PM’s Senior Adviser?

with 7 comments


Scuttling Away.


The Previous Story….

There is a clear message at work.

And this was well:


Comrade Mason points out the implications for the media.


Not to mention this…

The Telegraph sums up the latest state of play:

Dominic Cummings is a hypocrite whose position is “untenable”, the Government’s opponents have said, after it emerged that Boris Johnson’s top adviser breached lockdown rules.

Mr Cummings was investigated by police after he drove from London to Durham with his wife and son to stay with his elderly parents after developing symptoms of coronavirus.

A Labour Party spokesman said: “If accurate, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser appears to have breached the lockdown rules. The Government’s guidance was very clear: stay at home and no non-essential travel.

“The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings. Number 10 needs to provide a very swift explanation for his actions.”


It’s worth remembering some of the political interventions Cummings made over Brexit.

This was late last year.


November 2019.

Summary: Tell your family and friends face-to-face: if Boris doesn’t get a majority, then Corbyn and Sturgeon will control the government, their official policy is to give the vote to millions of foreign citizens to cheat their second referendum, we’ll all get screwed on taxes, Parliament will drag the whole country into crisis, and immigration will return to being a central issue in politics instead of being marginalised by Brexit…

Dominic Cummings’s Blog

This was his programme of work after the Tories’ victory.

January 2020

‘Two hands are a lot’ — we’re hiring data scientists, project managers, policy experts, assorted weirdos…

A few examples of papers that you will be considering:

Complex Contagions : A Decade in Review, 2017. This looks at a large number of studies on ‘what goes viral and why?’. A lot of studies in this field are dodgy (bad maths, don’t replicate etc), an important question is which ones are worth examining.

Extract from this paper:

“2.1. Applications to Health
For the past few decades, the study of public health has concerned not
only biological contagions, but also social contagions concerning
health behaviors: e.g. medication, vaccines, exercise, and the ideologies related to each (Christakis and Fowler 2012). It has been found
that simple contagions do not adequately capture the network dynamics that govern the diffusion of health behaviours (Centola and Macy
2007; Centola et al. 2007; Centola 2010, 2011). Social health behaviours often require reinforcement from peers, and they are strongly influenced by cultural practices and group norms.

Dominic Cummings: If Leave had lost Brexit vote, I’d have queried result as invalid.

December 2019.

Boris Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings would have challenged the EU referendum result as “invalid” had Vote Leave lost the Brexit campaign.

According to documents seen by the Observer, the prime minister’s chief aide told the UK’s data watchdog that he would have contested the result because UK elections are “wide open to abuse.”

In an email sent in 2017 to the information commissioner’s office, Cummings, the former head of the Vote Leave campaign and architect of Johnson’s stunning election victory, said: “If we had lost by a small margin I would have sought to challenge the result as invalid.”

The UK voted to leave the EU by the slim majority of 52% to 48% in the 2016 referendum, with many Brexiters subsequently attacking the losers as “Remoaners” who refused to respect democracy. On Friday, Cummings openly criticised “educated Remainer campaigner types” for failing to understand the country and “driving everyone mad”.

And there was notably this,

In March 2020, it was reported in The Sunday Times that during a private engagement the previous month, Cummings had claimed that the government’s strategy towards the coronavirus was “herd immunity, protect the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad”. The spokesman for 10 Downing Street decried the article as “a highly defamatory fabrication” which “includes a series of apparent quotes from meetings which are invented”.[49] On 30 March, Cummings displayed symptoms of COVID-19 during the COVID-19 pandemic and is reported to be self isolating. This was three days after Johnson was tested positive for the virus.[50] On 27 April, it emerged that Cummings sat in on meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) which advises the cabinet on coronavirus response.[51] Cummings urged a faster lockdown and encouraged the scientists to support the closure of pubs and restaurants.


On the latter,

Johnson’s Top Aide Pushed Scientists to Back U.K. Lockdown. (Bloomberg).

April the 28th.

Boris Johnson’s most powerful political aide pressed the U.K.’s independent scientific advisers to recommend lockdown measures in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, according to people familiar with the matter.


Speaking on condition of anonymity because the meetings are private, the people said Cummings asked why a lockdown was not being imposed sooner, swayed the discussion toward faster action, and made clear he thought pubs and restaurants should be closed within two days.


Written by Andrew Coates

May 23, 2020 at 9:04 am