From Radical to Right Wing

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Jun 13 2010 12:27
From Radical to Right Wing

I'm fascinated by those who begin on the far left, and then with age don't simply mellow into centrism, but actually end up on the very opposite end of the political spectrum. The example of this that comes my mind is that of David Horowitz. A child of Communist Party members and himself a figure of the "New Left," Horowitz would evolve into red-baiting, jingoistic cheerleader of capitalism.

Horowtiz's case is hardly unique. So I ask the question: why does this happen? Is there anything that can be done so it might occur less frequently?

Last but not least, because they hold a morbid fascination at least for me, let's name a few others who have made similar transformations!

slothjabber
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Jun 13 2010 12:53

Stalin.

Mussolini.

Jack Straw and David Blunkett.

Joska Fischer.

Daniel Cohen-Bendt.

Guy Aldred?

As long as capitalism exists people will come to terms with it, I think. So, no, I don't see it stopping happening.

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Jun 13 2010 12:52

There was that Wobbly, in the 70's. He was head of the GDC and later became the spokesman for some far-right group. Someone had posted up some youtube videos him a while back, but I can't remember his name nor can I find those threads....

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Jun 13 2010 13:39
slothjabber wrote:
Guy Aldred?

Why do you say that? On wiki, it mentions:

wiki wrote:
During World War II the USM worked with people from across the political spectrum to oppose military action, in a form of Popular Front, and came to advocate World Government. After Stalin's death, Aldred became increasingly supportive of the Soviet Union.

I've never heard of this before. As Radical Glasgow puts it:

Radical Glasgow wrote:
At a meeting on 7th of April 1946 in Central Halls Glasgow Guy put forward his ideas for world government. His office at George Street became the headquarters of the World Federalists, some Anarchists objected to his use of the word "government".

http://www.gcu.ac.uk/radicalglasgow/chapters/aldred.html

...the implication being that he meant 'self-government' and in an anarchist sense.

I don't question the fact that he made some unfortunate decisions during his lifetime, was prone to sectarianism, egoism and seemed to ally himself with outright bourgeois benefactors. However, as far as I know, he never in fact shifted from anarchism and class struggle politics and was active right up till his death writing and distributing propaganda. He - like many other Glasgow anarchists - can be counted as one of the few who stuck to revolutionary and internationalist principles in the most difficult of circumstances.

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Jun 13 2010 13:57

Oh, and Eugene Genovese, what the hell happened there?!?

no1
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Jun 13 2010 14:18

Another example is Horst Mahler, founding member of the RAF, then Maoist, then Neo-Nazi (NPD member) and campaigner against the 'repression of holocaust deniers'.

With a lot of these people, if you look a bit closer, you'll find that there's a lot of consistency. Usually they are attracted to power and lack a class perspective. Or it's a personal thing - for example Mahler's political life seems to have been influenced a lot by his parents who were NSDAP members and fanatical Hitler adulators, and the experience of his father going into the garden one Sunday morning after the war and shooting himself.

slothjabber
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Jun 13 2010 16:27

I was thinking of Aldred working with fascists during WWII. I agree his positions in WWI were sound; but in WWII my understanding is that he was so 'anti-anti-fascist' that he was working with fascist symapthisers in Britain, at the time of the USM.

I did put his name with a ? because to be honest I don't that much about it.

Boris Badenov
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Jun 13 2010 16:40

Dos Passos (see recent article about him in the library)

Georges Sorel - from syndicalist ideologue to monarchist and antisemite

Aristide Briand - from anarchist journalist to Prime Minister of France. He was the one to actually coin the much-repeated reactionary dictum "If a man is not a socialist at 20 he has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at 40 he has no brains."

I'm sure there are many other interesting exampes, but what stands out from most is the fact that "radicalism" was for these people simply a step in their respective careers (mostly as politicians). That is not to say that they weren't "genuine" and that one can't be a certain thing at a certain moment in their life, and a whole different thing at another moment. But the most blatant examples of this kind of transition were obvious opportunists.

Boris Badenov
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Jun 13 2010 17:03
slothjabber wrote:
Stalin.

not sure how an irrelevant bolshevik cadre becoming the supreme leader of the bolshevik establishment constitutes a move to the right? As far as I know Stalin never had to compromise any of his beliefs to do any of the things he did.

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Jun 13 2010 17:04

Christopher Hitchens

Most of Living Marxism, Institute of Ideas, Spiked Online etc

Boris Badenov
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Jun 13 2010 17:19
Choccy wrote:
Christopher Hitchens

Saw him on The Daily Show last week; he is still a massive ballbag. I mean he literally ended the interview by saying that the only way to be an idealistic young man/woman today is to join the army and fight in Afghanistan. Cunt!

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Jun 13 2010 17:31

remember when he got waterboarded?

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Jun 13 2010 18:04
ncwob wrote:
There was that Wobbly, in the 70's. He was head of the GDC and later became the spokesman for some far-right group. Someone had posted up some youtube videos him a while back, but I can't remember his name nor can I find those threads....

Who's your daddy?
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?gl=CA&hl=en&p=40AEA91E1E519E06

wink

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Jun 13 2010 18:43
Ed wrote:
ncwob wrote:
There was that Wobbly, in the 70's. He was head of the GDC and later became the spokesman for some far-right group. Someone had posted up some youtube videos him a while back, but I can't remember his name nor can I find those threads....

Who's your daddy?
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?gl=CA&hl=en&p=40AEA91E1E519E06

;)

You know what? I actually did a youtube search on "John Jewel" (to no avail) when I originally posted that, but, yeah, thanks.

slothjabber
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Jun 13 2010 19:27
Vlad336 wrote:
slothjabber wrote:
Stalin.

not sure how an irrelevant bolshevik cadre becoming the supreme leader of the bolshevik establishment constitutes a move to the right? As far as I know Stalin never had to compromise any of his beliefs to do any of the things he did.

I'm not sure that 'being the supreme leader of the Bolshevik establishment' means ordering the murder of hundreds (thousands?) of Bolsheviks and millions of other people.

Do you think he believed in 'socialism in one country' in 1902? Was he plotting it all the time, do you reckon?

rata
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Jun 13 2010 19:51
slothjabber wrote:
Vlad336 wrote:
slothjabber wrote:
Stalin.

not sure how an irrelevant bolshevik cadre becoming the supreme leader of the bolshevik establishment constitutes a move to the right? As far as I know Stalin never had to compromise any of his beliefs to do any of the things he did.

I'm not sure that 'being the supreme leader of the Bolshevik establishment' means ordering the murder of hundreds (thousands?) of Bolsheviks and millions of other people.

Of course it does.

slothjabber wrote:
Do you think he believed in 'socialism in one country' in 1902? Was he plotting it all the time, do you reckon?

That is a very ahistoric question. He couldn't think about that than, since it was a different time. And generally move to the right, as I understand it discussed here, doesn't mean the issue of changing one's tactics, but of changing the ideology. If you read some of Stalin's late works, such as Economic problems of socialism in SSSR (1952), you can see that he was quite firmly holding the authoritarian communist positions, coherently within it's own logic, till the end.

slothjabber
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Jun 13 2010 20:08

And what were his politics in 1902? If you believe that he didn't change his politics at all, you need to point to something other than the last thing he wrote going 'yer he was a bastard'. We know he was a bastard. The point is did he change at all from being a 'radical' to being right wing? He certainly ended his life right wing in my view - and by the same token he was right wing from the 1920s for sure... but was he right wing before he seized state power? Before the war? Before he wrote the pamphlet on the national question? Wasn't he thrown out of the Seminary for his 'radical views'?

The notion that 'the Bolshevik establishment' also means 'the murderer of hundreds or thousands of Bolsheviks and millions of other people' is beyond assinine. It would for instance mean that Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin and Zinoviev were never 'part of the Bolshevik establishment'. Indeed, only Stalin was ever part of the Bolshevik establishment on that basis.

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Jun 13 2010 20:13
Quote:
David Horowitz. A child of Communist Party members and himself a figure of the "New Left," Horowitz would evolve into red-baiting, jingoistic cheerleader of capitalism.

Surely, for all these supporters of left-wing captalism, merely shifting to right-wing forms isn't much of a change - they were always opportunist, totally lacking in integrity. Horowitz was an editor of Ramparts magazine, a crap populist journal in tune with, and perpetuator of, the typical lefty-leninist ideology of "The Revoution" at the time.

slothjabber mentions Jack Straw and David Blunkett. Straw was always a creep: as a rising student union bureaucrat in the NUS he opposed the occupation of the Greek embassy by various ultra-leftists when the colonels staged their coup. He was a tedious social democrat even then. It's the kind of thing the SWP complain about - how lefties said this and that in the 80s or before and now how right wing they are - but they were always recuperators at best; never directly contributed anything to the struggle, just mouthed the right phrases (and sometimes tagged along behind the initiatives of others).
Take Blunkett; Mark Barnsley, wrote in December 2004:

Quote:
"In the 1980’s Sheffield City Council may have had a publicity machine worthy of Stalin’s Russia, but any talk of ‘socialism’ was never more than empty rhetoric for Blunkett and his pals. Look beyond the publicity and their track record shows that.

Under Blunkett, more than half of the council’s own 32,000 employees earned basic pay below TUC guidelines, and 10,000 of them were paid less than the Council of Europe ‘decency threshold’. Women workers got a particularly bad deal, earning far less than their male colleagues, and getting fewer promotions. There was also evidence of racial discrimination, with only 1% of council employees being black, a quarter of what it should have been, and rumours of a ‘colour bar’ in the Town Hall’s heavily subsidised restaurant, where no black person had ever been employed.

While lowly council workers got a raw deal there were plenty of jobs and high salaries for the Labour Party faithful. Irrespective of their true politics, careerists from all over the country flocked to Sheffield and joined up. Sheffield didn’t need freemasonry, we had the Labour Party. Usually the jobs doled out to the boys and girls were in social or youth work, Sheffield had more social-workers per head of population than any other place on the planet. In special cases though, a job would be invented, such as the creation of a highly-paid ‘Peace Officer’ role for one Blunkett crony.

Blunkett presided over a huge homeless problem in Sheffield, while massive numbers of council-owned properties lay empty for years, and sometimes for decades. Early in 1983 ‘Peace City’ was somewhat embarrassed to find that a group of young peaceniks had squatted one long-empty council-owned building and turned it into a ‘peace centre’. In response, Blunkett’s pal Roger Barton, then Chairman of the ‘Nuclear Free Zones Committee’, personally went round and cut off the electricity to the building. Blunkett however, faithfully promised the young pacifists that they would not be evicted, a promise he quickly broke.

Another embarrassment for the Blunkettgrad ‘Nuclear Free Zone’ was when a British Rail guard blew the whistle on the transportation of nuclear waste through the area, a fact the council had tried hard to keep quiet.

As homeless figures in the city continued to soar, other long-unused council-owned properties were occupied. The council’s response was always swift and ruthless. Facing immediate eviction one group of squatters wrote to Blunkett personally to ask for a stay of eviction while they found somewhere else to live. With typical arrogance Blunkett replied, “It would seem to me that anarchy can hardly expect reasoned and structured responses within the system which is being attacked.” After the eviction the building stayed empty for several more years.

Blunkett’s administration also waged a long and bitter war against travellers, even evicting them in the middle of a TB epidemic. The treatment of Sheffield travellers led to a perinatal mortality rate of nearly 50%.

Blunkett and his cohorts constantly railed in public about the corruption of Tory politicians in Whitehall, while Sheffield City Council junkets were legendary and almost every night the Town Hall hosted a lavish function or banquet for some group of councillors or another. Some friends of mine once went to visit Blunkett in his Town Hall office in 1983. Walking in unexpected they witnessed a huge feast laid out, this was Blunkett’s elevenses.

A big part of maintaining the illusion necessary to running Blunkettgrad was the notion of ‘squaring up to Thatcher’, so from time to time various ‘stands’ were made, with Blunkett & co promising to ‘stand firm’ against the Tories on various issues. Things were made easier by the fact that to a very large extent the Council ‘owned’ the unions, the tenants associations, the peace groups, and just about every political front, tendency, and organisation operating in the city.

One Blunkett ‘stand’ was over ‘rate-capping’, when Sheffield and several other Labour council’s refused to set ‘a Tory rate’. How Blunkett and his pals puffed and panted about this one, before crumbling at the very first opportunity. The discovery of the ‘Tory’ rate demands already typed-up and hidden in Blunkett’s office said a lot about his personal integrity. The inside word at the time was that Blunkett had been instructed to back down personally by Labour leader Neil Kinnock, who was then waging a war against Militant Tendency, particularly in Liverpool where they controlled the anti-rate capping council. Blunkett’s promised reward was the advancement of his cherished political career. He was elected as MP for Brightside, one of the most solid Labour seats in the country, at the next General Election.

Another ‘stand’ was against bus-fare increases. The city’s famously low fares had actually begun to increase a few years earlier, but in 1986 Thatcher’s deregulation of public transport threatened to send them spiralling. After more hot-air Blunkett again capitulated, and as always he aimed to crush any uncontrolled dissent ruthlessly. As a member of a group opposed to the fare increases I was sent to prison for putting up a poster advising passengers not to pay. I wasn’t prosecuted by the police, I hadn’t committed a criminal offence, but by the Labour council, for not having planning permission...."

Edouardo Rothe was a member of the Situationist International as late as 1969 and is now a member of Chavez's government. In Hughes's terms this is probably an improvement (I don't know, but I suspect he would see it like this...?) . For me, however, it's a complete and utter betrayal of anything he ever upheld in the past. But no surprise really - unless people persist with a genuine anti-ideological experimental perspective constantly questioning, with themselves at the centre, it's easy just to succumb to the "if you can't beat them, join them" ideology - probaby in a few years time, or less, there will be quite a few libcommers who will overtly join the enemy (some are pretty much half way there already).

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Jun 13 2010 21:31

Actually, that link above doesn't work.. check this one out..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vYJ6d9VPOo

slothjabber
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Jun 13 2010 21:36

Yeah, Straw and Blunkett were never revolutionaries, I never said they were. As far as I'm aware Mussolini never was really a revolutiuonary either, and I'm not too sure about Stalin. What I was getting at was that were 'radicals' - they talked the talk (when it suited them) but whether or not they actually believed it at the time they became out and out apologists for and supporters of (and indeed administrators of) capitalism.

Which is why Guy Aldred is the only one on my list to have a question mark next to his name.

nastyned
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Jun 13 2010 22:21
slothjabber wrote:

Which is why Guy Aldred is the only one on my list to have a question mark next to his name.

I've never heard about Guy Aldred working with fascists so I think you really need to provide some evidence here.

slothjabber
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Jun 13 2010 23:23

I'll try to find references.

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Jun 14 2010 00:14

Nándor Tánczos was an anarchist (claimed to be an anarcho-syndicalist) in NZ in the 1990s, then became an MP for the Green Party from 1999 to 2008 - played on his activist connections massively to try to win the youth vote (also rode to Parliament on a skateboard most mornings, had dreadlocks, was a Rastafarian). He left Parliament claiming a desire to return to the grassroots and AFAIK now calls himself a social ecologist.

Metiria Turei was also an anarchist in the 1990s, she was involved in anarcha-feminist stuff, including a touring performance art troup. Also ended up in the Green Party, has been an MP since 2002 and since last year has been the co-leader of the Greens. Still calls herself an anarchist occasionally, says she sees her role as "trying to widen the floor of the cage". What a fucking dickhead.

Both of them were in the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in between their Anarchist and Green Party days, I guess it was sort of a halfway house to electoral politics.

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Jun 14 2010 01:24
Samotnaf wrote:
recuperators

What does this mean? I've read it elsewhere on LibCom, perhaps written by you.

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Jun 14 2010 01:28
Vlad336 wrote:
Dos Passos (see recent article about him in the library)
Aristide Briand - from anarchist journalist to Prime Minister of France. He was the one to actually coin the much-repeated reactionary dictum "If a man is not a socialist at 20 he has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at 40 he has no brains."
.

I'm pretty sure he was paraphrasing an older quote that was not referring to socialists. Could be wrong though.

EDIT: http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=374518

Quote:
Briand, however, appears to have cribbed the saying from another French statesman, Francois Guizot (1787-1874), who originally said, "Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head."
Mike Harman
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Jun 14 2010 01:32

Recuperation means the integration or co-option of radical movements or ideas into the support of capitalism, people who do that would then be 'recuperators'.

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Jun 14 2010 01:35

We call that reformism where I'm from.

Mike Harman
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Jun 14 2010 02:00

It's a bit different, an example of recuperation would be the BP 'beyond petroleum' adverts - there's nothing reformist about BP taking ecological rhetoric and using it in advertising. Reformism is just a tactic, recuperation is a much wider process which may lead towards reformism but isn't the same thing at all.

Samotnaf
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Jun 14 2010 03:28

"Recuperation" could roughly be translated into American English as "co-option", as Mike Harman has pointed out. But Hughes - you're still in the ideology of "Left" v. "Right", good versus evil - you're not thinking (or acting probably) beyond these categories; if you don't struggle against hierarchy in all its forms and content, moving from right to left is just superficially changing the immediate angle of your unreversed, externally imposed, perspective. The complicity with reification and the commodity form just changes its list of heroes from Ho Chi Minh to Thatcher or whatever.

You could say that the vast majority of the anarchists in the French CGT, and Kropotkin himself, moved from"left" to "right" - by supporting the First World War. In the case of the CGT, I think the form of opposition (violent strikes, sabotage) gave it a radical image which belied its reformist content, and often hid or ignored political questions in favour of purely economic ones (like later, the CNT in Spain - with its separation of economic questions from political ones ). There were even a few anarchists who "critically" supported the UN in the 1991 Gulf War.

Amongst proletarians (Horowitz was never one) people often change discourse from "left" to "right" and back again, depending on the balance of resignation v. rebellion/revolt in their lives: it can mean that in times of general social struggle, their activity and ideas are radical, but when social revolution seems very far, they revert to variations of the dominant ideology. And in practice, "radicals" are often the same: Marx, for instance, was never consistent (his comments on the "Slav races" were utterly racist, like Bakunin's anti-semitic, and anti-German, remarks). Though we struggle against contradictions, we are also partly an expression of them.

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Jun 14 2010 10:47
Quote:
"Recuperation" could roughly be translated into American English as "co-option", as Mike Harman has pointed out. But Hughes - you're still in the ideology of "Left" v. "Right", good versus evil - you're not thinking (or acting probably) beyond these categories; if you don't struggle against hierarchy in all its forms and content, moving from right to left is just superficially changing the immediate angle of your unreversed, externally imposed, perspective. The complicity with reification and the commodity form just changes its list of heroes from Ho Chi Minh to Thatcher or whatever.

You could say that the vast majority of the anarchists in the French CGT, and Kropotkin himself, moved from"left" to "right" - by supporting the First World War. In the case of the CGT, I think the form of opposition (violent strikes, sabotage) gave it a radical image which belied its reformist content, and often hid or ignored political questions in favour of purely economic ones (like later, the CNT in Spain - with its separation of economic questions from political ones ). There were even a few anarchists who "critically" supported the UN in the 1991 Gulf War.

Amongst proletarians (Horowitz was never one) people often change discourse from "left" to "right" and back again, depending on the balance of resignation v. rebellion/revolt in their lives: it can mean that in times of general social struggle, their activity and ideas are radical, but when social revolution seems very far, they revert to variations of the dominant ideology. And in practice, "radicals" are often the same: Marx, for instance, was never consistent (his comments on the "Slav races" were utterly racist, like Bakunin's anti-semitic, and anti-German, remarks). Though we struggle against contradictions, we are also partly an expression of them.

Transcending "Left and Right" doesn't hold much interest to me. No offense, but it sounds like a bunch of intellectual masturbation. That said, if you you have a readable, brief account (the size of a Wikipedia page or less) of what it is you're talking about I'd be happy to read it so I might disagree with you in a more informed way.

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Jun 14 2010 11:03
nastyned wrote:
slothjabber wrote:

Which is why Guy Aldred is the only one on my list to have a question mark next to his name.

I've never heard about Guy Aldred working with fascists so I think you really need to provide some evidence here.

I think you're talking about the "Marquis of Tavistock, Hastings Russell, who later became the Duke of Bedford" - although he's not the only really dodgy person Aldred collaborated with. The context is anti-war activity during WWII when Aldred gave platforms in the paper, The Word, to others who were critical of the war but often, as it turns out, for quite different reasons. Russell described himself as a pacifist but was also patron of the British People's Party - which was led by John Beckett, a former member of the British Union of Fascists, and sought a negotiated peace with Nazi Germany.

The whole thing, of course, stinks. Aldred's comrade, John Taylor Caldwell, was of the opinion that he didn't realise the Marquis' real political connections, and that "Neither influenced the other, nor subsidised, nor subverted the other". As Mark Shipway points out though, Aldred seemed deeply naive and took a non-sectarian editorial pluralism to rediculous extremes. He seemed to be flattered by the Marquis' attention and was, in fact, influence by him - although, I argue, not in the slightest in a fascist direction.

Again, you can't justify it, but it's not an example of a shift to the right. The point is Aldred was a significant anarchist but he made opportunistic fuck-ups throughout his life (another example would be his relationship with the Soviet Union, which he at first defended, then denounced, then flirting with Trotskyist interpretations of a 'workers' state' etc.).

For more see Mark Shipway's excellent history.