I want to tell you a story. Let’s start with the RCP. I used to hate the RCP when they were the RCP. I only ever read Living Marxism for its articles on culture, especially the brilliant TV reviews. I like them a bit better since they’ve stopped pretending to be Marxists, and occasionally hove over to Spiked for a dose of contrarianism from Uncle Frank and chums. Very rarely do I agree with anything they say, but then you don’t read Spiked to have your prejudices stroked.
So let’s talk a little about Socialist Action, a group that never had much in common with the RCP ideologically but in some ways was culturally similar. SA never formally dissolved like the RCP, but it’s practically defunct by the standards of left activism, not having done anything in public for at least a decade. Nonetheless, it’s held together by a shared worldview and personal ties. More importantly, the Rossites were always like the Füredites in being frankly elitist, viewing themselves as the brains trust of the left. Rather than try to win large numbers of people to their ideas, they concentrated on winning positions of influence. Although it’s to SA’s credit that they tried to win positions of influence in the labour movement, rather than Channel 4 or university sociology departments.
Which leads me to SA’s symbiotic relationship with Ken Livingstone. This has won a lot of coverage lately, with splenetic denunciations from Nick Cohen and Nick’s new best friend Richard Littlejohn, as well as hysterically far-fetched articles in Private Eye alleging that SA were running London and Ken was simply their puppet on a string.
Hardly. It’s more plausible, especially in view of Ken’s well-known political disagreements with SA, to accept Ken’s account, that he employed SA members because they were smart and had a can-do attitude. More to the point, they were willing to work for him after his 2000 election, at a time when Labour Party members could have been expelled for taking jobs with Ken. They were never really much more than the hired help. All the same, the Mayor of London running a job club for a secretive far-left sect didn’t look very good.
Which reminds me of a rather interesting article in the Spectator a few months ago, whereby James Delingpole, the Joe 90 of Tory journalism, came out as a revolutionary communist. No he didn’t, not really. But he had seen ex-RCP cadre Claire Fox on Question Time, agreed with everything she said, and was startled to learn that Claire was supposed to be some kind of Marxist.
Which leads me to Boris Johnson. Some time ago, this blog opined, apropos of the Lee Jasper affair, that Jasper-type figures are a fact of life in big multiracial cities, and Boris would soon enough have a Jasper to call his own. But this story in the latest Weekly Worker took even me aback. Most of the analytical bit is pure WW boilerplate and can be safely ignored, but the news at the front is hot stuff:
Spiked’s coverage of the new mayor has been generally positive. It views him as some kind of libertarian, and enthusiastically urges him to be more openly so (though Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill has criticised his new ban on drinking on public transport). It is similar to Socialist Appeal’s approach to Chávez – you might call it ‘critical fawning’ (the problem for Socialist Appeal is that Chávez is not the future of socialism, and the problem for Spiked is that Johnson is not really a libertarian).
Would it be terribly tactless to mention the Weekly Worker’s own deviations along those lines? Yes it would, so let’s beat on.
The new mayor, in an exciting twist, has repaid the favour, employing regular Spiked contributor Munira Mirza as his cultural advisor. Mirza’s main contribution to the ideological melange of this curious project has been to add to its highly unfavourable attitude to multiculturalism. “Multicultural policies,” she writes on the Guardian’s ‘Comment is free’ blog, “have encouraged ethnic-minority groups to believe they are in need of special recognition … paradoxically, by insisting on engaging with muslims as a separate group, the authorities make many of them feel even more excluded.”
Munira might simply be a ‘fluke’, employed on the basis of her papers for the rightwing think tank, Policy Exchange; but rumours abound that she will not be the last appointee from the Spiked project.
And why not? It’s not as if the Tories are coming down with intellectuals, so why shouldn’t Boris have his own analogue to Socialist Action? So come on, Boris. Why not offer Uncle Frank a job? You know you want to.