Several years ago I was putting on green film screenings in Bristol. My doomer films about fossil fuel depletion were typically met with a fairly paltry turnout. There was one perennial favourite though, which always drew a good crowd. It was called ‘The Power of Community’ – a feel-good documentary which told of how, when Cuba lost access to cheap oil following the collapse of the Soviet Union, their lovely communist government enabled the population to feed themselves by helping the citizens set up organic community gardens. Nasty roads were turned into allotments, people started riding bicycles … and everyone lived happily ever after.
I came to deprecatingly dub it ‘The Power Of Communism’.
Whenever anyone came back from holiday in Cuba, I would ask if they had seen the community gardens. They bemused response revealed they had of course seen none. I happened to meet the film-maker. She was an American leftist who regarded her country as so bad that she was quite ready to portray any enemy of the US, such as communist Cuba, in a positive light and be an apologist for a repressive regime. Even 21st century trendy greens are ready to put a positive spin on communist dictatorship, because anything must be better than Western capitalism.
It’s strange how the word ‘community’ – which has morphed into a vague fluffy euphemism for state intervention or identity groups, while communities in the true sense of the word have been destroyed by mass migration and global corporatism – sounds similar to … ‘communism’.
It’s weird to a Westerner, having been consistently reminded by our media and politician of the repressive nature of Eastern Bloc regimes during the Cold War, to view old Soviet propaganda, which portrayed the USSR as a civilised and advanced society, looking after its citizens and promoting science, world peace and international friendship. (The truth is somewhere in-between.) There are parallels with how the EU promotes itself.
Socialists today act as if communist regimes have little to do with their kind of socialism. (I’m surprised Leanne Wood hasn’t branded Stalin right wing yet.) If you call them ‘communists’ you sound like a redneck throwback to 1950s McCarthyite America. It’s little more than skilful rebranding and control of the narrative. Today’s left is the continuation of the communist tradition and has failed to eschew many communist attitudes and tactics.
By the time it was my turn to go to university in the late 1980s, I was besotted with 1960s music and subculture, including the radical politics. I joined the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) (although they didn’t seem to have many workers among their members). This was a Trotskyist group, which had previously been called the International Socialists and had deep historic roots in communism. It believed change couldn’t be achieved through elections and that the capitalist system had to be violently overthrown. In this spirit I don’t remember the SWP holding any internal elections, but it was certainly well-funded enough to print and distribute a newspaper every week and organise an annual conference in Central London.
(There were several groups like the SWP at university, which each seemed to be guided by one slightly older persuasive individual and put most of their energy into fighting each other. I later came to wonder whether these groups were in fact run by the intelligence services. David Shayler, in his former partner Annie Macon’s book, claimed it was his job to monitor far left groups and that the group Class War was controlled by MI5. I once asked him over lunch (at a 9/11 Truth event, prior to his breakdown), whether this might have been the case with groups like the SWP. “Like an agent provocateur? Maybe,” he responded, implying he didn’t know. Later that day he used the suggestion in his book launch, to which I thought, “You just stole my idea!”)
I had assumed that groups like the SWP had fallen by the wayside after the end of the Cold War. A few years ago, a community activist friend of mine asked me if I wanted to see a controversial Palestinian speaker in Bristol. My mild-mannered hippyish friend was taken aback by the anger of the succession of ranting, nerdy (probably sexually frustrated) young men who stepped up to the rostrum following the main speaker. It all came rushing back to me – these familiar SWP types!
If you think the SWP is just an irrelevant fringe group, think again. They organise and operate through many front groups, such as the Stop the War Coalition and are heavily involved in groups such as Hate Not Hope.
At the same time as trumpeting how we need to remember the lessons of the Second World War, leftists like these have shown very little respect for the war generation – destroying much of the Britain they fought for and branding them bigoted and even ‘fascist’ or ‘Nazi’ if they raised objections. They do not even seem to care much about defending Jews. Indeed they embrace some of the Muslim hate preachers who spout modern-day anti-Jewish conspiracy theories which have striking similarities to those which Hitler exploited.
The Thatcher years dealt a devastating blow to the hard left. Ever since Marx their fantasy had been that the working class would overthrow capitalism through strikes. In the 1970s they were wetting themselves that the centre could not hold and this was it. Then it turned out that many of the working class weren’t interested in their revolution, they just wanted a country that worked properly. Many of them – in the south of England at least – gladly voted for Thatcher.
This was such a bitter rejection for the left that they don’t seem to have forgiven the white British working class. They instead turned to promoting identity politics, hoping to pull together a new army of disaffected minorities to put them in power. While relying on their votes, they treat their traditional constituency with fear and contempt. It is a sleeping giant, but time is short.
[Ed: This is the fourth article in the series. There are more to come which will be published here in the next days. Links to the previous articles are at the bottom of the page here.]