Posts Tagged ‘Militant Tendency’

Book Review: The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship

June 4, 2016

By Mark Hollingsworth (London: Pluto Press Ltd 1986).

Press Dissent Pic

I found this in one of the second-hand bookshops in Cheltenham. Although it came out thirty years ago, and covers the major issues of that decade, it’s still acutely relevant. The press and media is still overwhelmingly right-wing, and bitterly hostile to anything like genuine Socialism. This is shown by their refusal to cover Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party, the uncritical support given to farcical and frankly libellous accusations of anti-Semitism, and its complete and utter failure to give to proper coverage to protests and demonstrations against the government’s austerity programme. One of the most flagrantly biased in this campaign is the Beeb’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, who has been booed and hissed by audiences at speaking events because of her blatant Tory bias, as recently covered in several of Mike’s posts over at Vox Political.

Individual chapters deal with the press’ attacks on and vilification of Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone and the GLC, press racism, Peter Tatchell and the Bermondsey bye-election, the Greenham women’s peace camp, the 1983 General Election, and the miner’s strike. The conclusion considers what may be done to alter this terrible situation. There are also four appendices. The first gives the commercial interests of the companies owning the British press. The second give the circulation figures for the national papers. The third lists the Fleet Street editors, and the fourth gives the NUJ code of professional conduct.

I remember many of these controversies from when I was growing up in the 1980s, but reading through the book I was shocked and amazed at the sheer venom and bile poured out on the people and causes featured in the book. Many of the ad hominem attacks sound like the kind of personal vilification Stalin meted out to his political opponents just before sending them to the gulags. It also shows how times have changed that the homophobia that was so prevalent in the 1980s, and which comes out particularly strongly in the press’ attacks on Peter Tatchell, is probably even more shocking now. And then there’s the attempts by the press to play down and demonise the women’s peace camp at Greenham common, which is shocking in its bias and repeated spiking of any positive articles or discussions of what they were doing. And if the press couldn’t simply distort the truth, they made it up, as shown in their articles about Black criminality and racist aggression against Whites, and the Miner’s Strike. There they fabricated a story about how the miners were all Communists – a standard line of attack on most of the left-wingers featured in the book – but were also being given paramilitary training by the IRA in Ireland.

Tony Benn

The book states that the businessmen, who worked with Benn had a high opinion of him. They found him clear and rational. John Shore, the chief executive of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, who dealt with Benn as the local MP for 14 years, says of him ‘I certainly never found him bonkers. He always presented in all his dealings with us a well-reasoned response to anything that we put to him.’ The Evening News, however, discussing Benn’s supposed political ambitions at the time of the EEC referendum in 1975, screamed that ‘Benn has gone too far to be treated as a joke… now he is seen in some quarters as a vampire, a fanatic and a bully.’ (p. 47). The Sunday Express ran a photograph of Benn, adding a Hitler moustache under the headline ‘Frightening Sketch of Wedgie’. It then went on to portray him very much as a traitor. It said, ‘In 1940 we knew we had no enemies within our own shores, that we were all united against Hitler. Can we say the same thing now? Could you, for example, be absolutely positively sure on whose side you would find people like Anthony Wedgwood Benn?’ Benn, the book notes, had volunteered and served as an RAF pilot during the War.

Ralph Miliband

This kind of smear was repeated a few years ago against Ed Miliband’s father, Ralph. Ralph Miliband was a Jewish immigrant from Belgium, and a committed and respected Marxist intellectual. He also fought for Britain in the Second World War. Nevertheless, the Mail denounced him in a long, ranting column as ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’.

Ken Livingstone

On the 27th September 1981, the Sunday Express denounced Red Ken as ‘The IRA-loving, poof-loving, Marxist leader of the GLC Mr Ken Livingstone’. The papers hated him for subsidizing gay and feminist organisations, and for championing the Nationalist cause in Northern Ireland. In their attacks, they published a series of articles by psychiatrists and psychologists supposedly diagnosing Leninspart as a clinical maniac. This was a gross misrepresentation of what the doctors had actually said. They made clear that they were discussing a type of personality, and not specific individuals, and duly complained.

Peter Tatchell

As for Peter Tatchell, not only did he suffer because of his sexuality, they also tried linking, spuriously and unfairly, with Militant Tendency. One reported told Tatchell that ‘We’re going to dig up everything you have ever said or done from the day you were born’. Questions were asked whether he ever visited gay brothels. They also turned up outside one of his neighbours, claiming to be officers from Southwark Council, claiming that they were investigating complaints that he had been holding loud, all-male parties during the night. They went away disappointed when the neighbour told them otherwise.

Fleet Street Racism

The book also shows how prevalent and pernicious was the racism in Fleet Street. Newspaper editors frankly said that aspiring Black journos shouldn’t try getting into journalism, because they wouldn’t be valued and would find their careers blocked, no matter how good or respected they were in their countries of origin. A Sun editor, discussing what kind of image they should put on the front page to show happy folk winning the Scum lottery, said that they should put ‘darkies’ on it, as no-one wanted to see that. And the Dirty Digger, Rupert Murdoch, himself said to Harold Evans, the editor of the Times, regarding a Black protest march, that there was nothing that couldn’t be solved by a crack over the head with a police baton. Asians were more than 50 times likely to suffer a racial attack than Whites, and Blacks more than 35 times. But there was absolutely no interest in reporting these racist attacks. One journo said that the newspapers were not interested in crimes and tragedies where the victims were either working class or Black. And while they claimed that Whites were being racially attacked by Blacks at every opportunity, they were keen to do the complete opposite involving racial attacks on Blacks and Asians. This was shown in the press’ treatment of an arson attack on a Black household, that killed 13 people. The press described it merely as arson, and did not interview any of the grieving relatives, even when it was clear that it was a racial attack, and members of the British Movement were jailed for violence and making firebombs. The statistics were also flagrantly manipulated, with non-violent crimes included with violent robberies to produce a grossly inflated picture of violent Black criminality responsible for drug-dealing and mugging, and ample space given to extreme right-wingers like Harvey Proctor and Enoch Powell demanding their repatriation.

Greenham Common Women

The Greenham women were repeatedly ignored. One female editor on the Times, responsible for ‘Look’, the newspaper’s women’s supplement, tried to have a sympathetic article on them published. Despite having successfully edited the women’s sections for the Grauniad and Observer, she was sacked. There were repeated attempts to uncover violent incidents committed by them, and they were accused of being agents of Moscow and supporters of the IRA.

The Miners

This was also one of the accusations aimed at the miners. One of their organisers had gone to Dublin seeking funding from sympathetic trade unionists in Eire. The papers claimed he had gone off to get the IRA to train them in paramilitary tactics they could use against the police. Someone, however, took the trouble of actually interviewing the Irish mining union, which had given its support to the British miners. They stated very clearly that they weren’t connected to the IRA, and not only weren’t providing any kind of ‘paramilitary training’, they didn’t even know how.

Dealing with the Press in the Age of the Internet

The picture given is of a frankly out of control press, that lies as easily as most people breathe. It is corrupt and deeply mendacious. But the book also gives clues on how it can be dealt with. Apart from its own suggestions in the final chapter, Hollingsworth notes that at one point the coverage of Tony Benn became markedly less hysterical, more level and less biased, because Benn took control of the situation. Instead of letting the mainstream press set the agenda, Benn was refusing to give interviews to them, preferring instead to talk to other magazines and journals.

This might give a clue on how to handle the latest biased reporting by the Beeb and the press, including not just right-wing papers, but also the Graon and Indie. The net now provides an alternative outlet for news, one that is actually preferred by the younger generation. The old, lamestream media like the Beeb are under threat, and they know it. Hence the rants by Beeb hacks in the Radio Times lamenting the fact that the political consensus previously created through everyone in the nation getting their news from the same sources, is vanishing. There are, of course, negative aspects to this. Mike says one of the problems is the decline in investigative reporting. But people are turning to the alternative media – the internet with its blogs and vlogs, because the mainstream press and the BBC have shown themselves consistently uninterested in anything like objective, unbiased reporting.

This is a crisis in journalism, but it also presents new opportunities for better reporting from a media not quite so dominated by the old media giants. And if people are abandoning the Beeb and the dead tree press, then they can only blame themselves. More and more people are sick and tired of their bias, and their hounding and vilification of those they despise as enemies of capitalism and the Tory party. If they want to regain some of the public trust they’ve lost, they can do so by redressing the issue of balance. In fact, as their readerships decline despite them becoming more extreme and opinionated, their survival depends on it.

Vox Political: ‘Sack Kuenssberg’ Removed due to Misogynist Trolls

May 10, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has put up several pieces about the controversy surrounding a 38 Degrees petition to have the Beeb’s politics editor, Laura Kuenssberg, sacked because of her overt Conservative bias. It seems that the fellow, who put up the petition has taken it down because it had in his view been hijacked by sexist trolls.

See the article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/10/sack-kuenssberg-petition-taken-down-due-to-sexist-trolls/

This follows a piece in the Guardian in which the former political editor of the Independent on Sunday, Jane Merrick, stated that Kuenssberg had faced a level of abuse not directed at male reporters, like Nick Robinson, which was explicitly misogynistic. She reported that Kuenssberg had been called a whore and a bitch on Twitter. She then made general comments about Corbyn’s supporters. They weren’t all sexist misogynists – far from it. But she said that there was a ‘core of hard-left misogyny’ that emerged when he was under pressure. This was the same kind of abuse that had been directed at Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips. She then called on Corbyn, as the advocate of a kinder type of politics, to condemn this abuse of a respected journalist.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/10/sexism-accusation-against-anti-kuenssberg-campaigners-is-a-classic-diversion-tactic/

Mike points out in these articles just how overt Kuenssberg’s political bias is.

Mike writes:

This Writer considers the BBC’s political editor to be hopelessly prejudiced in favour of the Conservative Party. It is an issue that has nothing to do with her gender, skin colour, religion or any other such defining factor.

She simply can’t keep her own politics out of her work. For a reporter, that is a fatal error and This Writer cannot understand why anybody would want to support her in it – least of all a Labour MP like Ms Phillips.

If Kuenssberg wants to turn every report into a pro-Tory opinion piece, then let her become a pundit. Stick her on the Daily Politics or This Week with Andrew Neil and give the political editor’s job to somebody who can do it impartially.

He also posts a piece from one of his commenters, who has a nephew, who did some number crunching of his own, which flatly contradicts Kuenssberg’s assertions. Kuenssberg has claimed that these elections are ‘mid-term’, when they are not, and that Labour should be winning hundreds of seats, which they haven’t. Looking at the evidence, the commenter’s nephew says that actually Labour have done quite well, and it is the Tories who have taken the hardest blows. The commenter states:

“In fact this is the worse Tory performance in the local elections since 1996 when John Major only got 29% which was an improvement from 1995 when they only got 25% of the vote. But again this is not being reported.”

Mike also condemns the sexist abuse of Kuenssberg. Not only are such views vile in themselves, but they bring into disrepute everyone, who genuinely wants the Beeb to report fairly and accurately, and have allowed Kuenssberg to get away with her biased journalism.

Mike in his article also suggests that the sexist comments might be a deliberate strategy to torpedo the complaints about her bias. He states that all a political stooge has to do is get their supporters to sign the petition and leave offensive messages on it. Then all they have to do is make complaints about it. He makes clear that this may not have happened in Kuenssberg case, but it is a possibility, at least from now on.

In fact, this is exactly the tactics Hillary Clinton’s supporters have used against her rival for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders. She accused Sanders’ supporters of being sexist, especially after a group of them threw money at her in protest at her accepting funding from Wall Street. She also hired an internet company to go online to tackle Bernie’s supporters posing as her supporters. The Company was ironically called Correct the Record. And I’ve posted up a piece a week or so ago from Secular Talk, which reported how a string of pro-Bernie websites got taken down after complaints from Clinton to the host company about sexism and misogyny. The numbers of websites taken down – something like 12, or perhaps as high as 25, I can’t really remember, all in one evening, make it highly suspicious that this was really due to sexism by the sites’ members.

As for Corbyn and the ‘hard Left’ having a misogynist core, well, perhaps. It wouldn’t surprise me. Obnoxious trolls are, after all, found everywhere. But it’s not typical of the hard Left in my experience. In the 1980s the Left was reviled and abused for being PC. This was the decade when alternative comedians like Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson, French and Saunders, the Young Ones, Alexei Sayle and Ben Elton burst onto our screens from the London comedy clubs. They refused to make the same sexist and racist jokes as the previous generation, reared in the working men’s clubs, like Bernard Manning. They were explicitly Left-wing, and actually made jokes about the chauvinistic treatment of women and at the expense of comedians like Manning.

They were part of a general trend in the Labour party of the time. Part of what had Ken Livingstone sneered at as ‘Red Ken’ was the fact that the-then leader of the GLC gave his support to a whole plethora of organisations for women and minorities. In his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, the bane of Margaret Thatcher talks about the evolution of human society from primordial matriarchy, and argues for a nationwide network of women’s support offices. This naturally drove Thatcher nuts. At one of the Tory conferences she delivered a foam-flecked rant about ‘Fabian champagne Socialist’ teachers corrupting the minds of their tiny charges with homosexual propaganda and ‘anti-racist mathematics’. Now, thirty or so years later, we have the Tories claiming to be okay with gay marriage. As for misogyny, one of the lads I knew at College, who was a very committed Labour party supporter, was very far from being either racist or misogynist. This was also characteristic of much of the Left outside the Labour party. I can remember reading a piece in the Express about one of the Marxist sects – possible either the Communist Party are the Socialist Workers, or perhaps just Militant in the Labour party, which explicitly noted how anti-sexist the men were, and their rejection of certain forms of traditional masculinity.

I’m not saying that there haven’t been sexist trolls spouting vile abuse at Kuenssberg, who are genuinely left-wing. But after the tactics used by Hillary Clinton to smear Sanders’ supporters, I’m more than a little suspicious.

Guy Debord’s Cat on the Tory Party Conference

October 7, 2015

Buddyhell over at Guy Debord’s Cat, has some very pertinent observations on the Tory party conference, beginning with their complete absence of democracy, their ranting smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Left, Cameron’s recruitment of Blairite Andrew Adonis, and particularly journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer’s outrage at people spitting and throwing eggs at the Tories attending the conference. The Cat’s article begins

If anyone was ever in any doubt as to the Tories’ loathing of democracy, then they need look no further than this latest conference or, indeed, previous conferences. Speaker after speaker mounted the platform to address the conference, all of whom either syruped praise on their leadership or smeared their opponents. Policies are never openly debated or voted upon at Tory Party conferences. The unspoken dictum is, as ever, “we speak and you will listen”. The Conservative Party’s members have little or no say in how their party operates or how policies are decided. It is, for all intents and purposes, a dictatorship. Is it any wonder why Tory governments act to crush democracy in this country when there is so little of it within their own party?

This conference also showed us how far into themselves the Tories have retreated since Jeremy Corbyn’s election to the Labour Party leadership, and the hundreds of thousands who have joined the party since his victory. In contrast, the Conservatives are estimated to have less than 100,000 ageing members. So watching the Tory Party conference was, for me at least, a little like witnessing the last days of the Roman Empire. Degenerate and decadent, they can only look inward and indulge themselves in a little mutual masturbation for a bit of comfort. Indeed, it could be said that the security barrier surrounding the conference centre was the physical manifestation of their bunker mentality.

This is exactly right, and it’s been well-known for decades. I can remember being told about it by members of the Socialist Society back at College. They were outraged at the way the Tories under Thatcher were making much of the division in the Labour ranks over the Militant Tendency, and contrasting it with the supposed tranquil orderliness of their own party. In fact, the Tory party has never been a democracy, and given its history, this should come as no surprise whatsoever. The Tories started out as the party of the Anglican aristocracy. The Anglican Church has since clashed with the Tories several times on important social issues. I can remember Norman Tebbit’s frothing outrage when the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, dared criticised St. Maggie of Grantham on her contempt for the poor. However, the aristocratic attitude of patrician leadership over the masses continues. The major decisions are always made in private behind closed doors. The Cat notes that the Tories are now down to a bare 100,000 members – coincidentally – or not – the numbers the Italian Fascist and Nazi party in Germany claimed they would limit the membership of their parties to in order to make them truly elitist. Part of the reason the Tory party has shrunk so massively is that the rank and file members feel that they are being shoved aside and ignored in favour of rich donors and the party leadership.

Then there’s the little matter of Cameron’s tirade against Corbyn. Corbyn has stated that he wants a united Ireland. This, apparently, is the basis for Cameron’s denunciation of him as ‘friend of terrorists’. This looks very much like a piece of grossly malicious slander.

A lot of people in the Labour party want a united Ireland. One of the reasons for this is that a lot of Labour party members are themselves, or are descended from, working class Irish Roman Catholics. Clare Short was one of these. I can remember an interview with her on Radio 4, in which she talked about her Irish working class roots, and how she had made pilgrimages to the sites deep in the Irish countryside where her descendants were forced to worship secretly when the Roman Catholic church was banned by the British. Short was a very controversial figure, notably for her campaign to ban page 3 of the Sun. She was not, however, to my knowledge a supporter of terrorism. Neither is Corbyn.

Cameron here is trying to use one of the major lies Thatcher used against the Labour party in the 1980s. Some sections of the Labour party aroused extreme controversy for supporting Irish Republicans, including talking to Sinn Fein. Thatcher, by contrast, portrayed herself as resolutely defying the terrorists with her usual posturing of Churchillian patriotism.

It was all a lie.

All the time she was declaring her firmness of resolve never to give in Irish Nationalist terrorists, she was in peace negotiations with them. In fact, the Tories had tried to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the Troubles under Ted Heath, but that collapsed due to the obstinate refusals of the Unionists. And when a peaceful settlement was eventually found, the impetus for it was not the shocking violence and loss of life created by terrorist atrocity after terrorist atrocity from the paramilitaries on both sides of religio-political divide. No, it was purely monetary. It was when the IRA bombed Canary Wharf. Suddenly realising that the IRA could wreck the multi-billion pound financial hub of the City of London, Thatcher and Major finally decided to stop pretending military force was the only solution and talk to the Republicans.

Let’s get this straight: for all the Tories maudlin rhetoric about the victims of the IRA, what they really cared about, what really frightened them, was the IRA might force the bankers and financiers out of the capital, thus dealing a severe blow to the financial sector that they favour so strongly. Human lives don’t count. Elite money does.

As for supporting terrorists, this is another piece of massive hypocrisy. The Cat has already published numerous pieces about the connections between the Ulster Unionist parties and the various Loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. Moreover, there is considerable evidence that the British secret state heavily supported the Loyalist paramilitaries, using them to gather intelligence and act as death squads against leading Republicans.

As for spitting on and throwing eggs at politicians, the Cat rebutted Hartley-Brewer’s argument by putting up footage of Edward Heath having eggs thrown at him. There was a flurry of it in the 1980s under Thatcher, mostly directed against Keith Joseph. So much so that it became a joke in the spoof Dear Bill diaries published in Private Eye. As for it being only a feature of the Left, well, not quite. Some of us can still remember the incident when John Prescott punched a young Welsh farmer. The lad had thrown an egg at him, and Prescott responded with his fists. A thuggish, but perfectly understandable reaction.

So, as the Cat’s article shows, the Tory Conference shows the elitist contempt for democracy, and the revival of the kind of lies and smears used by Thatcher. It’s the politics of desperation, although you could be forgiven for thinking that the opposite was true. The Beeb was practically falling over itself yesterday about how exciting and optimistic it all was. The female newsreader on Points West, the Corporation’s regional news programme for Bristol and Somerset, even went and declared that it was ‘bubbly’. She seemed positively overjoyed.

It’s all forced. The fact that Cameron is claiming that Corbyn is a supporter of terrorism, simply because he wants a united Ireland, is proof of that. Behind the smiles is the looming spectre of despair.

The Cat’s article is entitled ‘Tory Party 2015 Conference: Some Thoughts’. Go and read it at https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/tory-party-conference-2015-some-thoughts/ for an effective deconstruction of the Tories’ bile and hypocrisy.

Fascism and the Liberal Party

October 3, 2013

Yesterday I blogged about how Maggie Thatcher had a Panorama documentary spiked because it threatened to reveal that the Conservative party had been infiltrated by the National Front. Thus the programme, ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency’ was never aired. I also mentioned how various Marxist sects have tried over the years to infiltrate and seize power in the Labour Party.

So that’s two of this country’s three main political parties. What about the third?

Well, we can’t leave the Libdems out of the party, can we?

In the 1980s there was also a scandal in West Germany, when it was revealed that the German Liberals, the Freie Demokraten, had been infiltrated by the Neo-Nazis. The fact that the Nazis would choose to infiltrate the Liberals, rather than the Conservative Christian Democrats doesn’t surprise me. The Nazis saw themselves as neither capitalist nor socialist. They believed they constituted a ‘third way’ in which capitalist industry was harnessed so that it acted ‘socially’. One of their slogans was, ‘Not Left, Not Right, But Forwards!’. As a party that was neither socialist nor Conservative, the Liberals therefore represented an ideologically suitable target for infiltration by the extreme Right. Not that the Christian Democrats in Germany also haven’t suffered similar scandals with revelations of the Nazi past of some of their MPs, such as that which broke out over some of the ‘Northern Lights’, a group of Christian Democrat delegates from the north of Germany, around Schleswig-Holstein. I can also remember reading in one of the Fabian pamphlets how one of the horrific monetarist dictatorships in Central America was actually a member of the world Liberal political grouping, rather than a Conservative political bloc.

I would be tempting, looking at the international Fascist connections to the Liberals, to conclude that this was the reason the party of John Stuart Mill and anti-Apartheid activists has now supported Cameron’s illiberal ‘war on the poor’ and supported profoundly anti-democratic and authoritarian measures such as secret courts. But I simply don’t believe that’s the case.

I think the simple answer is the personal background of Clegg himself, and the corrosive influence of the Chicago School. Clegg is an aristocrat and an ex-public schoolboy. By upbringing he views the lower middle and working classes as drones, who are only there to serve their masters in the haute bourgeoisie and aristocracy. And after Maggie Thatcher’s repeated electoral victories and her espousal of a strong state, the ‘Orange Book’ faction in the Libdems simply took over her economic libertarianism and elitist, militaristic authoritarianism. Neo-Liberalism claims to be a revival of classical economic liberalism. Clegg and his coterie took over this ideology, without paying attention to the fact that classical liberalism had been discredited de facto as the 19th century progressed. Despite the claims of laissez-faire, in fact the 19th century gradually saw the expansion of state regulation and interference. The New Liberalism of the 1880 with its basis in Hegelian collectivism was an attempt to provide an ideological justification for what was already in progress, rather than its beginning. All this, however, was forgotten.

And so we now have a supposedly moderate, centre party, supporting one of the most repressive, oppressive Right-wing regimes in modern British history, and the party of middle class aspiration and Lloyd George’s Limehouse Speech has become the supine accomplice to aristocratic government.

Banned from TV Under Thatcher: Maggie’s MIlitant Tendency

October 2, 2013

The Conservative party is always keen to watch for and denounced supposed left-wing bias in the BBC. There is an entire website, Biased BBC, which is full of such accusations. The Conservatives have, however, used their influence when in power to censor and suppress any material of which they didn’t approve. I’ve already blogged about how Thames TV lost its broadcasting licence because of Thatcher’s disapproval of the World in Action documentary, ‘Death on the Rock’. Another documentary that incurred Thatcher’s displeasure was the Panorama edition, ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency’. Mainstream political parties and organisations, such as Labour, are frequently targeted for infiltration by extremists, such as the various Communist sects. Called ‘revolutionary entryism’ by the extreme Left, the process is designed to allow the smaller, more extreme party to be able to take over its larger, more mainstream host. The extremists are thus able get into power, which they could not do on their own behalf. The nascent Communist party tried these tactics in Weimar Germany when the SPD split following the Council Revolution of 1919. The Communists tried to infiltrate the more extreme, break-away faction, the USPD, with the intention of breaking it up. This would remove the party as an alternative to the Communists. At the same time they hoped to radicalise the more extreme members of the USPD, and so get them to join the Communist party. It didn’t work, and the USPD eventually reunited with the parent party, the SPD, the German equivalent of the Labour party.

Similar tactics were tried in the ’70s and ’80s by other Marxist groups, which tried to get into the British Labour party. Harry Conroy records in his biography of Jim Callaghan (London: Haus Publishing Ltd 2006) hearing a conversation between a Maoist and another extremist about how they intended to infiltrate the Labour party. In the 1980s there was the controversy over the activities within Labour of the Militant Tendency, a radical group, which seemed intent on rigging elections and other activities in order to seize power within the party. Eventually they were expelled by the then leader, Neil Kinnock. This was, however, used by the Conservatives to show that Labour was full of splits, with a weak leadership, and that it had been infiltrated by ‘Reds’. Once Labour got in, these infiltrators would use their power to set up a Communist dictatorship. It was the classic ‘Red Scare’, and was run by the Sun. It also supplied the basis for one of Frederick Forsythe’s novels, in which MI% agents have to stop a Labour party infiltrated by Communists from gaining power and turning the country into a puppet of the Soviet Union. The plot appears to represent genuine fears on the part of the CIA and MI5. James Angleton, the head of the CIA, believed that Harold Wilson was a Soviet agent, a belief shared by his colleagues in MI5 and in the Conservative party. One of those who bought this rubbish was one Margaret Thatcher. Sadly, the Red scaremongering didn’t end with the suspicions about Wilson. In the 1990s the Times libelled Michael Foot by claiming that he was a Soviet agent codenamed ‘Agent Boot’. So much for the Times as a centre of journalistic excellence.

What was not widely known at the time was that the Conservatives were also afraid that they had similarly been infiltrated by the National Front and other Far-Right organisations. A 1983 report by the Young Conservatives concluded that ‘organised infiltration is a reality’. They identified the Fascist groups that had infiltrated the Party as WISE, Tory Action and the London Swinton Circle, as well as David Irving’s Focus Policy Group. A number of Conservative MPs, which belonged to some of these groups were also suspected of NF membership or sympathies. These included Harvey Proctor, Ronald Bell and Gerard Howarth, as well as George Kennedy Young, a former deputy head of MI6, who had almost taken over the Monday Club in the 1970s, and who was particularly active in Tory Action.

The Tory party was also faced with a series of public scandals where members of the party publicly declared their support for Racial Nationalism and the Far Right. I distinctly remember a report on the Six O’clock News about the leader of either one of the Young Conservative groups or Union of Conservative Students in Northern Ireland, Tinnies, who had publicly embraced the Front’s racism. Tinnies declared of himself and his followers that ‘we are not Fascists. We are Thatcherite achievers. But if Mrs Thatcher does not want us, we will go to the Far Right.’ I’ve heard since that it was because of Fascist infiltration and sympathies amongst the membership that the Tories wound up the Union of Conservative Students, and replaced it with Conservative Future.

Larry O’Hara, a historian of Fascist politics in this period and a staunch anti-Fascist, has argued that there was no organised infiltration of the Tory party in the 1980s. The NF members, who joined the Tories, according to O’Hara, did so due to disillusionment with the NF after its catastrophic performance in the 1979 bye-election. Moreover, according to O’Hara, the actual core membership of the BNP is small, perhaps only about 200 members. Most of its members leave after about two years as they are simply anti-White immigration and have no interest in Fascist ideology. Andrew Brons, then the chairman of the NF, and the leader of the ‘Strasserite’ faction in 1984 vehemently denied that the NF had any such policy. He stated ‘the idea that we, a radical, Racial Nationalist party, should seek to infiltrate the unsavoury corpse of the Conservative party is so ludicrous that is should not need to be denied.’ Nevertheless, at the time the idea that the Fascist fringe had infiltrated the Conservative party was all too credible. Mrs Thatcher’s model of a monetarist state was General Pinochet’s Chile, and she herself was friends with the Chilean dictator. The Fascist future depicted in Moore’s ‘V for Vendetta’ strip seemed all too likely to come true. The BBC’s long-running documentary series, Panorama, investigated the allegations that the Tories had indeed been infiltrated. The resulting programme, ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency, was not, however, broadcast as Thatcher had it suppressed.

In fact long before the Thatcher administration the membership of the Conservative Party and various Fascist organisations had overlapped. In the immediate period after the First World War Right-wing Tories had formed militantly anti-Socialist, anti-Semitic groups such as the British Fascisti. The first editor of the BNP after it was formed from the merger of the White Defence League and National Labour Party in 1960 was Andrew Fountaine. Fountaine was a Norfolk landowner, who had fought for the Fascists during the Spanish Civil War. Fountaine had been adopted by the Tories in 1949 as their candidate for Chorley. He was later thrown out of the party after he made a speech at the Conservative Party Conference criticising it for allowing Jews to gain important public offices. he then stood as an Independent Conservative in the 1950 election, only losing it by 341 votes. In 1958 he formed his own National Front, which was dissolved at the foundation of the BNP. In the 1970s and 1980s the National Front had a deliberate policy of trying to recruit members of the Conservative party, as well as alienated Whites in inner city areas. David Irving’s Focus Policy Group had made repeated attempts to purchase the mailing list of Conservative activists.

Other links between the Conservatives and the Far Right was through the various anti-immigration groups, such as the Race Preservation Society. These brought together Fascist organisations such as the BNP and Northern League as well as members of the Tory party. They were backed by wealthy private individuals, which allowed them to publish a series of magazines and pamphlets. These included Sussex News, Midland News, the British Independent, New Nation and RPS News. It has been said, however, that the RPS was not a Fascist organisation, but a federation of racial populist, anti-immigrant groups. WISE, whose initials stood for Welsh, Irish, Scots, English, was another racist, anti-immigrant group also maintained contact with the both the Conservative Party and the Fascist fringe. In the 1970s following the immigration to Britain of Asian refugees from Idi Amin’s Uganda, a number of former Conservatives joined the NF, such as John Kingsley Read and Roy Painter. These embarked on a struggle for power within the NF, which culminated in Read replacing Tyndall as chairman in 1975. The Monday Club was another society in which the Conservatives mixed with members of the NF. At an anti-immigration rally in September 1972 held by the Monday Club, the NF provided the stewards and 400 members of the audience. After George Kennedy Young was defeated in his bid to become chairman, the NF was gradually excluded from the Club. The Club ultimately presented their books for examination by Lesley Wooler, of the Jewish 62 group, to make sure there were no more anti-Semites within it. Despite this, the Monday Club still retained a reputation for racism, especially after various anti-immigration rants by Norman Tebbit, one of the Club’s members and member of Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet. So embarrassing is the Club’s reputation that about a decade ago David Cameron officially announced that he was severing the link between the Tory party and the Club.

The Tory party has nevertheless had links and shared members with the extreme Right over the years. This eventually became so embarrassing for Thatcher that she had the Beeb’s investigation into it pulled from the airwaves. This demonstrates the Tory party’s own willingness to use censorship and manipulate the news when th threatens their hold in power. In this respect, they may act precisely like the Fascist organisations from which they are so keen to distance themselves.

Meanwhile, here’s Spitting Image’s satirical suggestion of where Maggie that the idea for her policies.
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It’s on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2DnW5uC1_A.

Sources

Larry O’Hara, ‘Notes from the Underground: British Fascism 1974-92 – Part 1, 1974-83, in Lobster 23: 15-20 (June 1992).

Richard Thurlow, Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918-1985 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1987).