Anti-extremism, academics and the UK state

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Joined: 6-01-07
Aug 9 2019 09:31
Anti-extremism, academics and the UK state

A poster on the spgb website picked up on a recent UK academic study commissioned by the government into Left wing extremism that was worth a read. In so far as the study concentrated mainly on the usual Trotskyist and neo-Trotskyist groups such as the SWP and their relationship to the Labour Party and trade unions it probably expressed some critical views not so dissimilar to those expressed by some anarchist and libertarian communists. Certainly one spgb responder suggested the spgb would agree with the studies initial views of such groups. But other aspects of the way the study sought to classify such views, in terms of commitment to a future communist society, the class nature of the state, working class struggle and anti-parliamentarianism etc would probably just as easily apply to many other genuine class struggle communists opposed to the Trotskyist and various other 'Marxist-Leninist' groups. If you have a look at the governments 'UK Commission for Countering Extremism' website it is obvious that this is all part of a more general politically ideological effort to shore up the capitalist liberal democratic consensus that ropes in all organised forms of what get described as left-wing, right-wing, ethnic and religious ideological tendencies that oppose the current UK states domestic and international policies.
There are some prominent Labour Party and liberal minded figures named as core advisors and plenty of useful academics roped in to assist at a no doubt attractive price. Of course none of this comes as a surprise but I was reminded of the value of keeping track of the spread of the states tentacles into so many everyday aspects of public and particularly academic life.
For those interested suggest you pick it up here (rather than me posting overlong links on this site):

R Totale's picture
R Totale
Joined: 15-02-18
Aug 20 2019 17:13

Ian Allinson of RS21 digs into the report a bit here, and predictably isn't impressed:

"The report into the far left is even more extraordinary. It uses YouGov polling on the general population, just 3% of which self-defined as “very left-wing”. Most of these were Guardian or Observer readers, NRS social grade ABC1 and voted Remain, and only 16% were union members. Allington, McAndrew and Hirsh, by a confused reading of Socialist Worker, Weekly Worker and Counterfire, come up with fifteen statements which they believe represent the views of the “sectarian” (by which they mean sect-like) far left, which they also characterise as revolutionary workerist. They pick five of these to measure people’s alignment with the ideas of far-left groups:

Capitalism is essentially bad and must be destroyed
Industry should produce for need and not for profit
This country needs revolutionary change
The wealthy make life worse for the rest of us
I would like to see workers rise up against their bosses

They are horrified to discover that only 41% of the whole population disagreed with all these, but instead of concluding that these are widely held views, they adopt the conspiracy theory that the population is “open to the ideology which the sectarian far left disseminates”, while treating as conspiracy theories the concept of “the 1%” and the idea that the media reflects the interests of the rich. The widespread support for these views doesn’t stop the authors arguing that this ideology “may from a certain point of view be considered extremist in and of itself”. The “certain point of view” would appear to be that of 21st century McCarthyites. Similarly, they believe attempts by the far left to gain influence by participation in campaigns and unions “may cause certain forms of social harm in their own right: for example, by interfering in the normal functioning of institutions created for another purpose”. Allington, McAndrew and Hirsh take it upon themselves to decide what the purpose of institutions of the labour movement and left is, rather than purposes being contested by those who take part. For the authors, democracy is a bit like a Vietnamese village was to the US military – to protect it they have to destroy it...

Having concocted these half-cocked measures of alignment with the sectarian far-left, Allington, McAndrew and Hirsh proceed to look for correlations with a modified version of the SyFoR “sympathy for radicalism” scale (Bhui, Warfa and Jones, 2014). People were asked to rate six statements about violence on a seven-point scale, showing the extent to which they sympathise or condemn them when carried out in this country. Four were about terrorism or using bombs, but two were “violence as part of political protests” and “street violence against anti-democratic groups”. The questions gave no other context, so will have been interpreted in radically different ways by different people. Some may have considered the questions in the context of planned violence in otherwise peaceful situations. Others may have been thinking about situations when under attack from the police or fascist gangs...

To make matters worse, the threshold they use for their analysis is sympathy for one or more of the statements, so those with slight sympathy for defensive violence against fascist gangs are lumped in with those committing terrorist acts. They assume, without evidence, that left wingers who exceed this modified SyFoR threshold are more likely to behave violently.

It is through this series of ideologically motivated leaps of logic and analysis that Allington, McAndrew and Hirsh manage to acknowledge that the far left in Britain has “no history of using terrorist tactics”, find no evidence that is likely to change, and yet conclude that “it would be prudent to monitor all developments carefully” because the findings “give no reason to assume that left-wing ideas would be incapable of” encouraging terrorist violence. Predictably, they give no consideration to the strong political objections that most of the British far left have to terrorism.

The reports are a threadbare attempt to justify surveillance and repression against the left by linking it to terrorism."

Craftwork's picture
Joined: 26-12-15
Aug 20 2019 20:33

Coincidentally, I recently attended Prevent Strategy training.

The PowerPoint presentation listed Anti-Fascist Action alongside the EDL, Al.Q., KKK, and IS as examples of "violent extremist" organisations, of the kind young people need to be kept safe from.

'Prevent' also includes environmental and animal rights politics in the 'extremism' category.

Joined: 6-01-07
Aug 29 2019 12:48

Then mad-eyed Tony Blair and his private 'think-tank' come forward to encourage the state to target their (and our?) version of right-wing extremists before they potentially move on to more violent action, but as we have seen with arguments over 'anti-semitic' definitions and the above reference to the states version of 'left-wing' extremism this doesn't necessarily stop there:
And this from the man who promoted real mass violence in the states Middle east wars.

Edit: I notice the German Trotskyist SEP is currently involved in a legal battle with the Federal Interior Ministry over it's designation of their work as ''left-wing extremist'' and ''unconstitutional'', requiring monitoring by the German Secret Services in a similar approach to that referred to in my opening reference. Presumably the SEP are pursuing this for propaganda purposes since monitoring of 'left-wing' groups such as the SEP has been well known and commonplace for decades.

Joined: 6-01-07
Nov 21 2021 17:17

This perhaps deserves a mention here as well in terms of the current Tory governments preferences: