Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Posts Tagged ‘The Full Brexit

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

Former Corbyn Adviser Andrew Murray on Keir Starmer and the Brexit Fall Out.

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Brexit Derangement Syndrome” Andrew Murray Warns Labour Against ...

Andrew Murray, Former Corbyn Adviser, Anti-Imperialist.

Le Monde Diplomatique, it’s no secret – as we used to say- is no friend of the European Union. Its Director, Serge Halimi,  welcomed Brexit, but has wistfully remarked that it happened too late. In approximate translation he wrote in the March English language edition of the monthly, Brexit hasn’t freed EU of US

The UK’s decision to leave the EU has come too late. Brexit could have been good news for the EU, given that the UK is the state that has incarnated free trade since the 18th century industrial revolution, also alignment with the US since Winston Churchill’s ‘special relationship’, financialisation since the City of London began dominating the economy and politics, and flint-hearted neoliberalism since Margaret Thatcher’s reign. Britain’s departure could, in particular, have served as a reminder that the EU is not a prison: just as new states may join, existing members should be able to leave. On this score at least, the UK’s politicians have, after much delay, respected the will of its people, and that lesson in democracy has value right now.

It has not been too late for the soveriegntist inclined journal to publish – in its French edition – articles from supporters of the red-brown Full Brexit (with no indication of the nature of this alliance of the Lexit left, Communist Party of Britain, Faith Family and Flag, ‘Blue Labour’, former Trotskyists of the Revolutionary Communist Party, now stalwarts of the Brexit Party – members, and elected MEPs)  and assorted odd balls). Pro-Borders New Left Review star, social conservative, and Full Brexit backer Wolfgang Streeck, is another light in this little galaxy of national sovereigntists. 

Thus Chris Bickerton, author at the red-brown Spiked, which is now engaged in a war on the Black Lives Matter movement, has passed from their site to Le Monde Diplomatique. This pundit on Labour’s defeat, (Pourquoi le Labour a perdu. Chris Bickerton. February 2020.) As can be expected the article blamed metropolitan youth and elites’ dominance of Labour for refusing to accept withdrawal from the EU, supporting internationalism at the expense of the ‘real’ people in the Labour heartlands. Continuing the promotion of Brexit contained a lengthy justification for voting Tory, by an alleged Labour supporter and …a backer of the Full Brexit,  a gleeman called Chris McGlade, (« Je suis travailliste, j’ai voté conservateur »).

Such is the august publication which has welcomed Andrew Murray, Former Communist Party of Britain stalwart, leading figure in the, Stop the War Coalition (StWC) , Solidarity with the Anti-fascist resistance in Ukraine, UNITE Staff chief, and ‘adviser’ to Jeremy Corbyn on, amongst many things, Brexit.

The piece – alas not widely circulated in the British media – is titled:

Adieux discrets au corbynisme

There is an English version, but I do not have a sub to this, so the French will have to suffice.

Murray starts well (this bit is available without the sub…)

Starmer urged Labour to move beyond factionalism, probably optimistic given that the party has always hosted a range of competing tendencies, even in the years of Tony Blair’s ultra-centralising neoliberalism; the best Starmer can realistically hope for is to lower the fevered temperature of the ultra-polarised Corbyn years. However, he did not propose to move away from the main policies the outgoing leader had championed — public ownership of railways and utilities, major boosts to spending on public services to be partly funded by increasing taxes on the rich and big business, 

He generously concedes that the Labour membership made a clear choice (translation…)

Mr. Corbyn has given way to Sir Keir Starmer, the former Labour spokesperson, who won 56  % of the vote among party activists, supporters and unionists – a score barely less impressive than that obtained by Mr Corbyn in 2015 (59.5  % ).

Here comes the down side.

The ancient and, present, chair of the StWC laments, nevertheless, the loss of some of Corbyn’s keynote traits,”Le premier de ces traits est l’anti-impérialisme.” Noting that Corbyn would have a job getting through his ideas, indeed a  “scenario in which a parliamentary majority would support nuclear disarmament, much less a withdrawal from NATO.” There is a reference to the Middle East and the problems faced by any attempt to break the ” alliance with Washington or a reversal of British policy in the Middle East”. Whether this refers to the government’s and  Corbyn’s refusal to back opponents of Syria’s President Assad, to concentrate on justice for the victims of Daesh genocide, or to his more vocal backing for the Palestinians, is not clear. What is, is that Corbyn ran up against the “Atlanticist” alliances that dominate British politics – including President Trump’s active support for Brexit.

The anti-imperialist writer continues. Starmer has no record of backing social movements – movements Murray locates in mass demonstrations, such as the ones held by the StWC and anti-austerity protests, heavily backed by his own union, UNITE. 

The crunch moment came when the Parliamentary Labour Party, and the Labour membership, ignored the advice of Murray to accept Brexit (a cause he, too modest to mention, embraced fervently).

The “notables of the party did not cease thereafter wanting to reverse the verdict of the referendum, by demanding a second ballot rather than the negotiation of a soft Brexit”. This opened up a division between,

….parliamentarians and most members on the one hand and the majority of working class voters. somewhere else. The difficulties of the left in imagining a world outside the European Union ended up sounding the death knell for Mr. Corbyn’s project.

If only we had the will and the imagination to dream of a real People’s Brexit!

If only Labour had ignored the mass protests against Brexit – just as Tony Blair had the StWC demonstrations against the Iraq War .

Instead the party listened to its ranks, in which “the elites of North London” were over-represented.

For Murray Brexit was, and continues to be, not a conflict between internationalists and sovereigntists,. It’s between these ‘elites’ and  the “majority of working class voters”.

The present piece eschews the colourful description of pro-EU internationalists, infected by “Brexit derangement syndrome” , the malady of “human rights” and  “rancid identity politics”, see Andrew Murray. The Fall and Rise of the British Left. Verso, 2019.).

But even so…

Casting aside his own claim to be neutral in this Brexit ‘culture war’ Murray declares, 

The fracture within Labour, between the proponents of liberalism and the partisans of democracy, got the better of Corbynism.

So it is said. Liberalism is against democracy – a sentiment that without a doubt warmed the hearts of the editors of Le Monde Diplomatique.

Commenting on the Coronavirus crisis, with justness, that, “The United Kingdom is one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, “

In conclusion Murray states,

In this sense, the crisis of today merges with that of yesterday. No matter how much Mr. Johnson claims he will overcome it, the promises of right-wing populism are likely to prove no less hollow than those of neoliberal centrism.

The contribution of Murray’s allies in the Full Brexit to the triumph of right-wing populism – their support for the illusion of a “people’s Brexit’ – is left unmentioned.

Right-Wing Identity Politics and the Trans Debate: the New Reactionaries.

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Image result for Rappel à l'ordre. livre


“In cultural matters the old division of right and left has come to look more like two Puritan sects, one plaintively conservative, the other posing as revolutionary but using academic complaint as a way of evading engagement in the real world.”

Robert Hughes, The Culture of Complaint. 1993. (1)

Trevor Phillips has been suspended from the Labour Party for alleged Islamophobia. What looks like a parting factional swipe at a long-standing opponent of Corbynism, only adds to the culture wars. After the crisis over anti-Semitism recent weeks have seen a new battle, over Transsexuals, reach a peak. Some have demanded that transphobes be added to the list of the expelled. Defenders of family, faith and flag from Blue Labour, self-identifying libertarians, and supporters of the Brexit Party in Spiked, full-blown national populists, and radical feminists have joined together to attack demands for trans rights.

Judith Butler wrote in her critique of ‘foundational’ identity politics, Gender Trouble (2007) “If I were to rewrite this book under present circumstances, I would include a discussion of transgender and intersexuality, the way that ideal gender dimorphism work in both ways to discourses, the different relations to surgical intervention that these related concern.” At present it looks improbable that differences between gender-critical, or “materialist feminists”, and those defending transsexuals, can take place within reasonable limits.

For Blue Labour, citing the inevitable Christopher Lasch on ‘narcissism’, Jonathan Rutherford asserts that, “Like other forms of identity politics, the language of its more extreme advocates has the same mix of moral self-righteousness and ideological certainty. Scientific facts that compromise ideology are dismissed.” “Identity politics becomes the singular pursuit of self-interest detached from social obligations.” He claims, “It is a struggle that many women feel is all the more threatening because of the involvement of powerful lobby and corporate interests.” (The Trans Debate And The Labour Party)The nastiness of a minority amongst those defending absolute ‘cis’ gender has shredded that hope to pieces. The Suzanne Moore affair has opened up a breach that is unlikely to be bridged. (2)

In 1993 Robert Hughes was one of the first to suggest that Marxism, dead after the collapse of official Communism, has had an afterlife by shifting away from “economic and class struggle in the real world”, theorising instead a variety of oppressions and “discursive” articulations and antagonisms. This ‘cultural Marxism’, exploring themes from German and French left theory, has become a target for conservatives railing against “multiculturalism”. Speech codes, the “PC wars” of the 90s, and. fast-forward. Today we have Mark Lilla’s 2018 left of centre critique of “liberal identity politics” (The Once and Future Liberal), and Douglas Murray’s conservative broadside against “identity politics and intersectionality”, “the last part of a Marxist subculture” (The Madness of Crowds. Gender, Race and Identity. 2019) (3)

National Populism.

Those attracted to national populism, who disdain the causes of minorities, have become champions of identity, of the “Somewhere” plain folks against the identity politics of the ‘Anywhere” cosmopolitan elites. This strategy is not confined to the English-speaking world. “The ambition is to imitate the activism of minorities – postcolonial or LGBT – fed by French theory …..in order to serve the cause of identity” writes Nicholas Truong in this Saturday’s Le Monde (Il s’érige contre la « dictature » de la « bien-pensance » : l’essor du national-populisme intellectuel et médiatique). In France, “national populism”, a “catéchisme néo-réactionnaire”, the theme of immigration, the fear of the “great replacement”, the ‘Islamisation’ of urban spaces, up to hostility to human-rights “mongering” (droits de l’hommisme) , and the “terror” of feminist campaigns against sexual violence and harassment. The denunciation of multiculturalist “bobos” (Bourgeois bohemians) parallels British sneers, from Blue Labour, Spiked to the Morning Star at the ‘Islington left”. Truong, with good reason, compares this to French Communist language of the past century attacking the “petty bourgeois”.

In Le rappel à l’ordre (2002) Daniel Lindenberg outlined the way a group of French writers had begun to denounce May 68, human rights, feminism, anti-racism, multiculturalism, Islam, and “globalism” (mondialisme). These “new reactionaries” had moved from the left critiques of market liberalism to national republicanism, He suggested that anti-globalisation could serve as a crossing-point

A “crude piece of work” commented Perry Anderson. It takes no more than a few minutes to see some names, Marcel Gauchet, Alain Finkielkraut, reappear in Truong’s article, some, like Eric Zemmour, and Jean-Pierre le Goff, author of a study that is recalled or its postscript on the enduring impact of “cultural leftism” post-68, had yet to come to wider attention. Others, like the once respected historian of the French left, Jacques Julliard are much more recent entries, though one was perhaps forewarned by his willingness to debate Jean-Claude Michéa, who asserts that the original sin of French socialism was its Dreyfus Affair alignment with democratic liberal human rights defenders. That one of these figures, Michel Onfray, a self-styled anarchist and pop philosopher has extended his openness to reaction by contributing to the pages of the Nouvelle Droite Eléments, is the occasion for sadness. (4)

Realignments to the right that have yet to go so far could be seen in the UK during the EU Referendum and Brexit process. The Full Brexit brought together left sovereigntists, Blue Labour, Labour Leave, activists in Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, and members of the Communist Party of Britain. They contrasted the real popular sovereignty of the nation against the workings of the globalist EU elites. Andrew Murray has expressed the widely shared views of these sections with his hostility towards “rancid identity politics”, pitting the rights of “peoples” against the “poisonous seeds” of human rights (The Fall and Rise of the British Left. 2019)

The French new reactionaries have, Truong outlines, a strong and highly visible media presence right in the mainstream, the MSM. For those inflamed with hatred for identity politics Britain offers the consolations of Spiked, the Spectator, and the hard right press for those hostile to all things Woke, with the occasional television platform like Sky Press reviews. As interest in Brexit has waned some of  this new sect of plaintitive reactionaries  has taken up the cudgels against transsexuals. Elsewhere Verso Books publishes Andrew Murray, who thanks Tariq Ali for his “support and political commitment., The journal of Perry Anderson, New Left Review, is home to Wolfgang Streeck, a supporter of the Full Brexit, who believes that national borders are the “last line of Defence”….



  1. Page 60. The Culture of Complaint, The Fraying of America. Robert Hughes. Harvill. 1994.
  2. Page xxviii. Gender Trouble. Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Judith Butler. Routledge 2007.
  3. Lecture 2. Multi-Culti and its Discontents. Robert Hughes. Op cit. “PC Wars” in Chapter 8. New Consensus for Old. One Market Under God, Thomas Frank. Vintage 2002.
  4. Page 169. Perry Anderson The New Old World. Verso. 2009 Jean-Claude Michéa and Jacques Julliard La Gauche et le Peuple. Champs. 2014.
  5. Page ix. Andrew Murray. The Rise and Fall of the British left. Verso, 2019