Once a upon a time in the British Isles, a land in north western Europe, where thousands of centuries ago Homo sapiens dwelt in caves and dyed their bodies blue there emerged a distinctive group of characters who banded together during the latter decades of the twentieth century to form a fringe political group grandiosely named, the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). Inspired by the works of the nineteenth century communist theoretician, Karl Marx, they supposedly agitated for the complete overhaul of the British capitalist system. The new order to replace this system was no doubt to be headed by RCP personnel or “comrades” as they would then have fondly yet seriously referred to themselves. The group eventually disbanded in the late 1990s to the surprise of no one who takes an interest in fringe political cults. Their story may have ended here but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Members of the Party and others have morphed into Brexit supporting, Zionist championing, anti-Palestinian British populists and their house journal, Spiked-Online, showcases their current interests and thinking. The first editor of Spiked-Online, Mick Hume, was the editor of RCP’s now defunct journal, Living Marxism (LM).
The main leading guru behind the RCP was the academic Dr. Frank Furedi a first generation migrant originally from Hungary via Canada. He arrived in Britain already as a “former student radical” in the late 1960s and then helped set up his cult of “revolutionary” partisans sometime in the late 1970s after supposedly splitting with the UK’s most famous group of failed revolutionaries, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). His acolytes have included former revolutionary Claire Fox who is now ermine draped unelected parliamentarian “Baroness of Buckley” and has now transferred her allegiance from communism to the late British monarch and her descendants including potentially Prince William’s youngest son the toddler, 3 and half year old Prince Louis; the supposed historian and unabashed pro-Zionist coloniser, Dr. James Heartfield who stood for election on Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party ticket and the anti-multiculturalist scholar and author Dr. Kenan Malik who now writes weekly for the warmongering Observer newspaper. Predictably, Malik has used this platform to belittle the Palestinian struggle against British authored occupation and settler-colonialism.
Furedi’s most consequential acolyte must be considered to be Munira Mirza who according to the BBC was a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and is said to have obtained her Humanities PhD under Furedi’s supervision at the University of Kent. She was Boris Johnson’s policy advisor during his eight year mayoralty of London and for most of his Premiership in Downing Street. Political migration from extreme left to right wing populism is of course nothing new in modern European history with Benito Mussolini its most famous and successful political transmutation. The latter ended up hanged upside down from the gallows but that is another story altogether.
A conventional recourse when grappling with this type of left-to-right political migration is to pinpoint the moment when the transition began to manifest itself. That is, at what point did they begin their Damascene march from the extreme left of the political spectrum to the political right? What political event pushed them over the edge to the other side? When in their political trajectory did they draw the conclusion that it was now morally right to do a 180 volt turn and embrace ideas or the people they once considered an anathema? This essay adopts a different approach.
In 2018, writing more than 20 years after his group dissolved, on the bicentenary of Karl Marx’s birth Furedi kindly shared his requiem on Karl Marx and Marxism. Unsurprisingly, he informs us that “Marx got some things wrong”. Specifically, he argues that Marx put too much hope and emphasis on the working class as the collective agents for revolutionary change or as he articulates it:
“his attempt to invest the working classes with a universalistic mission appeared to many as a plausible alternative to earlier, failed forms of universal thought. And yet in the following decades… Marxists have been forced to devote most of their energies to the task of explaining why the proletariat failed to grasp the universalistic role assigned to it.”
The fact is for two decades at least, Furedi devoted himself not to deciphering why the “working classes” never stepped up to its Marxian “universalistic mission” but clearly believing in this mission. Furedi theoretically devoted himself to implementing Marx’s thought and helped to set up his own revolutionary Communist Trotskyist outfit. This fringe group like many others believed that the working class are the agents of a universalistic mission or revolutionary change.
Therefore, one is compelled to ask why did he initially sit up this group if, as he says Marxists devoted “most of their energies to the task of explaining why the proletariat failed to grasp the universalistic role assigned to it”? Or did it take Professor Furedi, a man who had also devoted himself to the academic ivory tower a quarter of century before realising the “proletariat failed to grasp the universalistic role assigned to it?” Surely not. No one could possibly be lecturing undergraduates on History and Sociology, supervising Master’s degree programs and PhD theses and then realise twenty years into his career that the political, economic and social ideology he personally espoused is, if not flawed, then wrong. On this basis, it is only legitimate to ask whether there was another dynamic which fuelled Furedi’s revolutionary temperament for at least twenty years? A temperament needless to say which aimed for the overhaul of the British state, the removal of the then head of state, Queen Elizabeth and the abolishment of her parliament and replaced by him and his mates.
We can begin answering this question with reference to author John Sullivan, an observer of the many far left-wing groups that proliferated in the 1970s and 1980s who noted these far left groups served a social dynamic as a well a political purpose. In the afterward of one of his surveys, Go Forth and Muliply, it is written,
“A Marxist analysis of some of the ‘Marxist’ or Anarchist groups must start with an examination of their composition and social situation. What most groups have in common is that their members are rootles, middle class, or lumpen. Students, ex-students and other confused and bewildered people thrown up by a disintegrating social system.”
Sure enough this “seems” to be the position that Furedi was in when he first arrived in Britain. He was studying in a foreign land and must’ve searched for roots, social stability or friendship. A Marxist persona provided him with these essential elements of life. This is not to say that the Marxist critique of contemporary society is not valid but as Sullivan argues there is another dimension or purpose to these far left groups. The Marxist ideas Furedi espoused guaranteed him an acceptance, social standing and an audience in 1970s Britain among the fringe left. It also provided a social sanctuary from the general hostility of a then openly racist society. He could bond with others who felt ‘outsiders’ in that period such as people from what could be called difficult families, with people who had a chip on their shoulder from their school days or people who simply resented the rich for no other reason than resenting the rich. It can be argued that for some joining a ‘revolutionary’ group was their personal pushback against a society which they feel personally betrayed them. Others may be mere socio-cultural freaks transiently in search of a political coat for their freakery. Naturally, there are some who genuinely believed a solution to socio-economic predicaments is the overthrow of capitalism but these types disappear once they realise they had joined a bookish cult. To their credit, many of these groups led the fight against racism and fascism in the racist Britain of the 70s and 80s. But, generally speaking, for some participants the group wasn’t about a quest for equality, justice or opposing western imperialism – it was about mitigating the effects of the trauma of rootlessness and ‘outsidedness’. Of course, not everyone who was sorting out their heads ended up in a far-left group but as it is written in ‘Go Forth and Multiply’:
“Membership of a ‘revolutionary’ group is often good value for money…The members gain a social life and enhanced self-esteem. If one compares time and money spent against satisfaction gained through involvement in a congenial milieu, then for many clients, then political group membership is a better buy than tennis, religion, or football refereeing.”
In the revolutionary political group, one can socialise with similar minded people to engage in debate about obscure political left-wing terminology which incidentally the vast majority of working class people have minimal interested in. The group is also the venue whereby one could theatrically blabber about the potential of a working class you know nothing about or have little experience of. Taking our lead from the immediate quote above, in most public and private sector employment spaces, work colleagues would meet up once a week or so to play football, go for drinks or play bridge. This helps to create a bonding among the workforce. It’s the same with the so-called ‘revolutionary group’. One could encounter those with similar interests and in turn create a fraternity, social bond and in some instances meet a future husband/wife. Indeed, if memory serves me well, in Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses a character is depicted in a far-left meeting purely to hook up with people from other cultures. For Furedi and no doubt other academics being involved with a ‘revolutionary group’ was also a cultural side hustle. It provided the ultimate delusion that there was more to your charming, fine and genteel existence than the ivory tower. One becomes a partisan to overthrow the bourgeoisie order. It was an extra-curricular activity which fuelled the self-inflicted delusion that he and his acolytes will take hold of the reins of power from Britain’s aristocratic and capitalist elite and lead the British proletarian masses to a future they hitherto had shown no interest in. The irony is in most instances the fringe left group, especially the RCP, had little or no connection with actual workers. As a corrective, there is nothing wrong with setting up a reading group with like-minded individuals or passing time with them – actually, it’s something commendable. But calling it “revolutionary” is quite a misnomer, if not ridiculous.
Returning to the requiem, Furedi concludes that the best approach to the thought of Karl Marx is to cast him back and quarantine him in the years he produced his thesis or as he writes, “it is far better to leave him behind, where he belongs: in the 19th century.” Absolutely, Furedi no longer needs Marx or Marxism. He is now a much feted author, has had a successful career in academia, and Furedi enjoys being invited to right-wing platforms. His son has joined the British media establishment writing and editing for the right-wing xenophobic Daily Mail. Happy Days.
Marx and Marxism had served their purpose for Furedi. A normal person with a scintilla of decency, on the bicentenary of Marx’s birth, may have written on why they had spent decades agitating for Revolutionary Marxism or Communism and why it all came to absolutely nothing. Not for Frank Sinatra (he had written under the pen name of ‘Frank Richards’ for the RCP) to stoop this low. Instead it was Marxism that failed. For Furedi, one of the reasons Marxism failed would never be because political groups (ie Furedi and his acolytes) failed to connect with the ‘working class’. Therefore, it is someone else’s fault. And who better to point the finger of blame at than those on a lower socio-economic level, that is the working classes themselves who had “failed to grasp the universalistic role assigned to it”. They’re the failures, not the great Furedi. (Obviously there are general criticisms that can be made of the British working class such as their attachment to white supremacy and militarism but Furedi avoids this issue in his requiem.)
Having courageously unshackled himself from Marx and Marxism, Furedi is now free to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s legacy. Upon her death he praised her role as a defender of tradition. In this respect, the Queen was a “countercultural” figure against those that had no regard for tradition. He explains that by the mid-1960s, “Western societies, and sections of the British establishment in particular, had become increasingly estranged from the past. They distanced themselves, and sometimes even broke away, from the values and traditions of their ancestors.” Furedi is correct that there may have been some questioning of the past in the 1960s but the fact is Western Europe had exploded into war in the 1940s which eventually dragged in most of mankind. No doubt many middle aged people in the 60s had vivid memories of the war and these memories must’ve rubbed off on their children. Some in the 60s generation must’ve thought that World War is where these “traditions” had led. The war had begun in 1939 and by 1940 Nazi Germany forces had defeated the other white supremacist imperialists of Belgium, Holland, France and Britain. The British army (BEF) had stabbed its allies in the back and scurried to the coast. Hitler stopped the advance of his army which allowed the British to escape via Dunkirk to England in late May 1940. Had it not been for the resistance of the Soviet Union in 1941, there would’ve been a totally different Europe today. After World War Two, the United States developed a security umbrella to unite the white supremacist western European states and prevent them from squabbling and fighting with one another. So it is no wonder that some people questioned western traditions in the 1960s. These traditions especially the political ones had ultimately led Hitler to envision an Empire in Europe on a par with Britain’s Empire in India.
Central to Furedi’s profound meditation on the Queen is that, “Through her words and behaviour, she never let people forget that, on balance, Britain’s historical achievements should be seen as a source of pride.” The Queen was a celebration of imperialism, white supremacy and colonial conquest and it is, indeed, true that many Britons take pride in this achievement. The Furedian Queen connects the present to the past. She was a herculean figure in the vanguard of the resistance against anti-tradition; she resisted the temptation to conform to the rolling crushing boulder of today’s celebrity culture. Her Majesty may have humbly dwelled in government funded obscenely opulent royal palaces dotted around her Kingdom but she was the ultimate expression of British history and dare I say, resistance. “Almost single-handedly,” Furedi declares “this historical queen ensured that the thread that connects Britain to its past remains intact”. All praise to Allah, she had single-handedly held the fort against the anti-history rabble. In other words, the Queen prevailed and anti-history and anti-tradition lost. Unlike the working class, Elizabeth Windsor did not fail. We had the true spirit of Che Guevara living in Buckingham Palace without ever realising it and now “she will be missed”. What a hero! And failed Communist revolutionary Frank Furedi no doubt has his British passport.
(Obviously, this is all a charitable assessment of Furedi’s previous politics. There may have been something more sinister at play, such as, the fringe group may have served as a vehicle to attract young idealists with dreams of a more just society and through the channel of “Trotskyism” eventually turn idealists into pro-establishment figures or at the very least drain them of their ideals. In this respect, fringe left-wing political groups like the RCP were a form of sabotage organised by secretive sections of the British establishment. Incidentally, the British government today has an organisation called “Channel” to assist Muslims who may be attracted to jihadi Islam away from extremism.)
In conclusion, Frank Furedi had no actual connections with the working class in Britain. He probably never had any kind of engagement, whether positively or negatively, with the working class besides a postie delivering his mail, buying a kebab from a chippie or taking a taxi. Furedi is packaged in open source biographies as a formulaic “former student radical” which whether accurate or not, does conjure for him a back story. His socio-cultural racket, ‘Revolutionary Communist Party’ was an exercise in pure self-delusion and inevitable failure. At best, it was a an excuse to meet up with his mates, who, for reasons of their own, took him seriously to the point they actually thought he was the man to lead them in the fight to overthrow of the bourgeoisie order that was symbolically headed by the Queen. In truth, he had kept his admiration for the monarch hidden from his acolytes for decades. If he had attempted to mingle with the people he does now back in the 1970s he would most likely been told to go away in the most impolite and robust manner. Therefore an attractive option in 70s Britain was to ingratiate himself with people who were less racist and more hospitable, the far left. Society becoming less racist must’ve allowed him the space to manoeuvre to the right of the political spectrum.
Ultimately, as the Furedian Queen is the wondrous incarnation of the victory of traditional history that connects her subjects to the past, Furedi and his acolytes can be seen as the odious incarnation of the pigs in George Orwell’s fable Animal Farm. Only the mentally hardened would not acknowledge that as the “creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which” may well encapsulate Furedi and his acolytes as they are now routinely hosted in the capitalist media landscape.
Addendum: This is a work in progress and no one likes being taken for a ride. If you were ever involved in the RCP, took them seriously and would like to share your observations then please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d prefer to hear from people who have held onto their principles rather than turncoats. All correspondence can be treated in the strictest confidence. More so, if you enjoyed this essay, this piece on London based, Grenfell “activist”, the patronising and devious liar Dan(iel) Renwick maybe of interest to you.