UK Grim (II)

March 12, 2023 at 8:53 pm (Uncategorized)

Whenever I see a news clip from the UK about some awful Tory policy, my first thought is usually is another ex-Revolutionary Communist Party member behind this?

The most recent example is Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s recent statements about “illegal” immigration. As far as I know Braverman is not a former RCP type, and in a recent article, a Spiked columnist noted “the various cruel, illiberal and ill-thought-through features of this bill.” (Although, that last part is troubling and much of that article was directed against critics of the bill, so you be the judge.)

The Revolutionary Communist Party began its independent existence in 1978 as the Revolutionary Communist Tendency, a split from the Revolutionary Communist Group, itself expelled from the Socialist Workers Party a few years earlier. A common dis of the group, which seemed to thrive on its contrariness, was “the SWP with hair gel.” For the longest time, it seemed to be yet another Trotskyist sect with a series of publications and fields of interest (oddly enough, the RCP doesn’t seem to have pursued international links – which among the scores of “Internationals” is unusual.). But nothing more.

Then the group launched Living Marxism in 1988 (rebranded as LM in 1992 until it ceased publication in 2000), but within a few years, the group was beginning to present itself as “libertarian” rather than a Marxist organization. Decades later, contributors to the continuing “network” can still wield Marxist terminology as the occasion demands, though only to provide cover for rightist views. By the year 2000, the process seemed to be complete.

Several ex-RCP members ran as Brexit Party candidates. Claire Fox was a Euro MP and is now a peer in the House of Lords (!). Munira Mirza was a close associate of Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London and later Prime Minster. The suggestion that the RCP now existed as a kind of secret network has been rejected by many former members. Brendan O’Neill dismissed the idea as McCarthyite conspiracy.

People change their politics. Sometimes within a general framework (myself for example), sometimes more fundamentally. People often leave radical politics for something more conservative. James Burnham and later Max Shachtman come to mind. Sometimes entire milieus. I’m reminded of Alan Wald’s book The New York Intellectuals as a good example. But for an organization to transform itself from a left-wing Trotskyist group into a very right-wing libertarian organization? Are there other examples? Let’s leave aside cults like the LaRouche organization.

I confess, I’m fascinated in a detached way. I never met the RCP or really paid any attention to them, but the transformation intrigues me. Any thoughts, anyone?


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