Former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has not done badly for himself.
He got to be mayor for a while, he didn’t get lynched for bringing us the congestion charge, and he’s hoping to run again in 2012.
He’s on the far Left of the political spectrum, but he’s not demonised as an extremist or ridiculed as a bit of fruit cake. Well, not that often anyway.
He may have gained the nickname ‘Red Ken’ (alluding to his Communist leanings), but it doesn’t seem to bother him much.
He’s employed an adviser, John Ross, a former member of the Russian Communist Party, who once warned the “the ruling class” that they would be killed if they resisted a take-over by “the workers”.
And yet, despite the scandals, and despite number of enemies that he’s managed to accumulate in his time, his public persona is still relatively undamaged. He’s still respectable enough a figure to stand a realistic chance of becoming London mayor once more.
Perhaps history has been more kind to the far Left than it has the far Right. A politician whose views are not a million miles away from those of the Nazis would quite rightly be vilified as a far Right extremist who is not fit to hold office. So why is the same not true of the far Left? Why is that the ideological descendents of Stalin, a man whose treatment of his own people was just as horrific as Hitler’s, do not face the same level of criticism?
If someone on the Right is accused of being ‘far Right’ by an ‘expert’, then they can expect to face the usual barrage of abuse – ‘racist’, ‘fascist’, ‘extremist’ – often without any evidence or even any explanation of what is actually meant by the terms employed. So often this ‘criticism’ is actually little more than name-calling. And that is dangerous, not only because this name-calling is so often levelled at people or organisations that simply do not deserve it, but because it prevents the genuine far Right from facing any serious criticism.
When leader of the far Right British National Party, Nick Griffin, appeared on the BBC’s Question Time back in 2009, he faced a barrage of abuse in the run-up to and during the show – from accusations that he was a Nazi or a racist, to being referred to as ‘Dick Griffin’ by a particularly idiotic member of the studio audience. This juvenile name-calling is not a critique. There may well be some truth in the claim that Nick Griffin is a racist (which may be why he despises the EDL so much), but those sort of views are not defeated by censorship or by employing exactly the sort of bullying tactics that the BNP themselves are so often accused of.
Anyone who was even remotely uncomfortable with the idea that name-calling had replaced mature discussion would no doubt have felt a little sympathy for Nick Griffin, regardless of how they actually felt about his politics. Rather than exposing and challenging the BNP’s views, the sort of treatment that Nick Griffin faced simply justified his party’s claims that the other political parties are all the same, or ‘in it together’, and that the BNP represent a real alternative. And that really is dangerous, because it reduces consideration of the party’s policies to secondary importance behind their image as representatives of ordinary people fed up with ‘the establishment’.
Criticism is important because, by challenging some of the arguments that extremists use to gain supporters, it helps to prevent dangerous groups and ideologies from growing. It’s important that we criticise far Right extremism, far Left extremism, Islamic extremism, and all other forms of extremism. But the moment that criticism itself becomes extreme (censoring all discussion of controversial topics, refusing controversial people a platform, or replacing mature discussion with juvenile name-calling), it undermines the whole effort. That is exactly what has happened with criticism of the far Right: concern about far Right extremism now greatly outweighs the actual threat, and moderate groups (or groups that even have an anti-extremism agenda, such as the EDL), nevertheless face constant accusations that they hold far Right views.
So, who is it that is making these accusations? Who are the so-called experts who claim to know all about far Right extremism? Who is it that is accusing everyone of being a racist or a fascist, and why does their seemingly-transparent name-calling actually seem to work?
Much of the time they are people like Red Ken, or the far Left activist Nick Lowles who we wrote about recently. In Britain today, criticism of Right wing extremism has been all but monopolised by the far Left – by people who are often extremists in their own right. It is an incredible state of affairs, and one which must be remedied if we are ever to construct a working model to combat all forms of domestic extremism. What is common to both Red Ken and Nick Lowles, and to a whole host of far Left commentators, is the way that they are treated by much of the mainstream media, especially the BBC.
Lowles’ supposed evidence of a link between the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik and the EDL was treated uncritically when he was interviewed on the BBC, despite the Norwegian security services having dismissed any such link. Livingstone is granted regular appearances on BBC programmes, and rarely, if ever, has to face any probing questions himself. He is treated as if he were a wise statesman whose views represent the mainstream of British politics.
Imagine the exact opposite: far Right activists, members of the BNP or National Front perhaps, being uncritically introduced by the BBC as ‘experts’, and asked to comment on policies, individuals or organisations of which they disapprove. If it had been them, rather than the likes of Livingstone, that the BBC (and others) had allowed to decide who could fairly be written off as an extremist, then perhaps non-political, anti-extremist movements like the EDL would be demonised as ‘far Left’ rather than ‘far Right’. As far as legitimate criticism is concerned, it would make little difference because the term ‘far Right’ is rarely used as an accurate representation of someone’s views, but, instead, as an insult – much like ‘racist’, ‘fascist’, or ‘Islamophobic’.
Racism, fascism, and unjustified prejudice of any kind are certainly ideologies that should be fought against. But how many of the people or organisations accused of these things are really guilty? Is, for example, the head of the Commission for Racial Equality and veteran anti-racism campaigner, Trevor Phillips, a racist, as Red Ken suggests? What about David Starkey? Should they both be ostracised, and do they both deserve to be called names?
What about the EDL? Are we racist, as Red Ken has also claimed? We do not discriminate based on race, and our criticisms of Radical Islam make a crucial distinction between this dangerous ideology and ordinary, decent Muslims. So no, clearly not.
Another common accusation is that we are far Right, which, again, is nonsense. The EDL are only ‘far Right’ in comparison to the ‘far Left’ – which is precisely why it is the far Left that are always so desperate to become experts in ‘far Right extremism’. It also helps explain why they conveniently manage to find it everywhere they look; taking great pleasure in ‘exposing’ or ‘stamping out’ the hatred or intolerance of those they believe are on the Right, whilst widely ignoring the hatred or intolerance of those that they find common ground with – most notably, Radical Islam.
It is the far Left and not the far Right that are in the most need of exposing. Far Left activists are spread over a vast number of organisations, often with names that give little to no clue as to their true agendas – such as the well-meaning-sounding Hope Not Hate, Unite Against Fascism or Love Music, Hate Racism organisations. Each organisation has in reality done some laudable work in tackling genuine intolerance, but they are dominated by far Left activists who permit little to no criticism of Radical Islam or antisemitism, and devalue the work of their genuinely well-meaning members and supporters with their politically-motivated campaigns.
There have been some easily identifiable far Left organisations in the UK, such as Class War, the Socialist Workers’ Party, and the Workers’ Revolutionary Party. The latter, referred to by the Observer, one of the UK’s most left-leaning newspapers, as a ‘sick sect’, was a lead by a Gerry Healy, at whose funeral Red Ken Livingstone delivered an eulogy in which he dismissed claims that the WRP had taken money from Saddam Hussein. Despite a wealth of controversies, these sorts of organisations have always remained fringe groups, never greatly troubling the mainstream, or the BBC.
In the main, far Left activists are to be found working quietly behind the scenes in (largely) respectable organisations. They have built networks that surround many of the large Trade Unions, the Respect Party, fringes of the Labour Party, and even some charities. We should make it clear that to portray all members of the far Left as dangerous Stalinists intent on abolishing private property and governing every aspect of our lives would be about as fair accusing anyone who criticises them of being a neo-Nazi. But the fact remains that fear of the far Left is not as strong a force as fear of the far Right is in the public consciousness.
Perhaps this is, in part at least, due to the far Right’s fondness for flags and symbolism. It is a tendency that has in the past made far Right groups immediately identifiable, and which has also had the unfortunate consequence of developing in the public consciousness an association between our nation’s flags and far Right ideology – an association that the far Left have been quick to exploit, alleging, as they do, that there is only a thin line between patriotism and far Right fascism. Of course, this claim is nonsense, but it has been able to develop because far Right politics has for so long been monopolised by only a handful of groups – namely the BNP and the National Front – which have together created an identity that is so easy for their equivalents on the far Left to identify and attack.
Criticism of the far Right must certainly continue, but there must also be greater criticism of the far Left – especially seeing as they are such greater enablers of Radical Islam. This is difficult when the supposed ‘experts’ on domestic extremism are so often move in far Left circles. Unfortunately, we don’t have a great deal of say over who the BBC judges to be an expert, but by campaigning against Radical Islam and criticising those who appease, enable, or actively support it, we can help to expose the far Left.
Radical Islam, it is important to remember, is neither a far Right nor a far Left ideology, insofar as the Right/Left distinction is one based on economics – the far Left believing in communal ownership, the far Right in private enterprise. What all three ideologies share is their opposition to individual freedom. The far Left believe it undermines their perfect society, the far Right believe that it undermines the glory of the nation, and radical Muslims believe that it is incompatible with submission to the will of Allah.
The best approach to tackling domestic extremism is, therefore, not to target groups that ‘experts’ are all too keen to brand extremist. Instead, it is to honestly assess which organisations, which movements, which ideologies and, yes, even which religions embrace the principle of freedom, and which reject it.
Which ideologies claim that there is only one right way of doing things, and have developed (or abused) specific terms for demonising their opponents? Who is it that yells ‘racist’ without any cause? Who is it that yells ‘fascist’ despite no obvious understanding of what the term actually entails? Who are branded ‘kuffar’? Who are the victims of this abuse, and who still celebrate and promote the cause of freedom?
Anyone familiar with EDL demonstrations will know that a group calling themselves ‘Unite Against Fascism’ follow us up and down the country, shouting abuse and calling us all kinds of names. They’re blindly ignorant to the obvious irony of using the cause of anti-fascism to threaten to ‘stamp out’ a group who campaign against extremism and who champion the cause of freedom (itself an anti-fascist position!). Perhaps it’s not surprising that they are led by none other than Red Ken Livingstone – the antisemitic, far-Left supporter of Radical Islam, who is himself no stranger to making bizarre, offensive, and baseless accusations.
What hope do they have of ‘uniting against fascism’ when their chairman himself holds far Left extremist views!?
But, of course, there is an even greater scandal surrounding the UAF. On their signatory list you will find none other than the man in charge of tackling domestic extremism, the Prime Minister, David Cameron.
How can Cameron, a man who is supposedly dedicating to fighting extremism (in all its forms), lend his support to the foot soldiers of the far Left and to Red Ken Livingstone – a man known to defend and encourage extremists? How can Cameron support a man who recently compared the Conservative Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to Adolf Hitler? And how can he support a group that is engaged in a campaign of misrepresentation and incitement, and which so often accounts for most of the arrests at EDL demonstrations?
Our country’s Prime Minister has lent his support to the friends of Radical Islam, to those who despise the cause of freedom, and yet he has the nerve to call us sick!
David Cameron needs to take a long hard look at this country. He needs to decide who is really ‘sick’, and who is really an extremist. If he stands against far Right, far Left, and radical Islamic ideology then he needs to stand alongside those who, like the EDL, stand for freedom.
In defence of the principles of freedom, someone has to stand up against Islamic extremism. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be the politicians.
For more information about Red Ken, we’d recommend the excellent Channel 4 Dispatches documentary ‘Court of Ken’, from which the above clip is taken.