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May 12, 2008

What is it about London Mayors and Marxist Sects? Boris Johnson, Munira Mirza, the Revolutionary Communist Party and the delayed coming of history

Posted by Michael Mosbacher

Michael Mosbacher on London Mayors, Marxist sects and the delayed coming of history. Michael Mosbacher writes in a personal capacity.

As Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone drew many of his - publicly funded and extremely well paid - advisors from one particularly obscure Marxist sect, Socialist Action. One might have thought that - with the political demise of Ken Livingstone - the era of the advisors to the London Mayor coming from Marxist sects would be at an end. This does not, however, appear to be the case.

Yesterday's Sunday Times records that Munira Mirza has been appointed as Boris Johnson's "cultural advisor". The piece points out that Munira is the third person to be appointed by Boris Johnson who used to work for the think-tank Policy Exchange.

To my mind, much more interesting is the fact that Munira is very much part of the tight-knit little coterie which came out of the Revolutionary Communist Party.

This Marxist sect emerged around University of Kent at Canterbury sociologist Frank Furedi. The Revolutionary Communist Party - and its magazine Living Marxism - was noted for taking provocative positions which outraged others on the left. Famously the magazine ran to ground when ITN successfully sued Living Marxism for libel for claiming that it had fabricated its Srebrenica coverage.

While the Revolutionary Communist Party has ostensibly dissolved itself, its former personnel are still much in evidence and are still operating as a tight-knit group. They are still noted for taking provocative positions. There is Frank Furedi himself, Claire Fox of the Institute of Ideas and Mick Hume of The Times and Spiked Online. Lesser figures include Bill Durodiť of Cranfield University, Ann Furedi, Frank Furedi's wife and the Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, and - allegedly - the contrarian film maker Martin Durkin.

Munira Mirza herself runs what in less charitable times would have been described as a front organisation - the Manifesto Club. Its strap-line is "history is still young". This might seem just an anodyne bit of snappy copy, but it fits rather well into what is the overall perspective of the Revolutionary Communist Party coterie. Their perspective is that Marx is right, only that previous Marxists have got the timing wrong. We are still in the productive stages of capitalism - the time for revolution will still come, it is just that history is not ready yet.

Michael Mosbacher is Director of the Social; Affairs Unit. He writes the above in a personal capacity - the views expressed are not those of the Social Affairs Unit, its Trustees or Advisors.

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This piece is slightly out on a number of points. The RCP does not believe that capitalism is in its progressive stage. Rather they believe that it is moribund wanting overthrowing at the earliest opportunity.

Nevertheless they acknowledge, as Marx always did, that capitalism is still capable of rounds of accumulation and development that do in practice mitigate some of the system's more negative, or barbaric, aspects, but only because it can implement its more hard-edged solutions without much challenge.

Today's ruling class, in their view, is living on borrowed time. The ruling class is morally, politically, ideologically bankrupt. It even lacks self-confidence, self-belief in its own system and rule. It survives only because there is no opposition.

They dissolved the RCP because:

1. The labels Communist/communism were totally discredited and were beyond repair in their life times because of a) Stalinism b) the defeat of Leninism and the Bolsheviks, reinforced by determined capitalist repression, destroyed all trace of the ideological independence of the world's working classes.

2. The RCP (Frank Furedi) recognized that before you could run an effective political party you needed to reconstruct a marxist tradition, which is based on a methodology rather than on labels, with a revolutionary way of seeing things, more than anything else.

3. They decided they could be more effective as a loose-knit group influencing debate than as a political party obeying pre-revolutionary style discipline that had seen them pissing in the wind joining picket lines and entering into elections (they got 38 votes standing against Peter Tatchell in Bermondsey, which was less than the Raving Loonies ever got in any election I would bet - in that election they got 97 votes).

It is the RCPs and Frank Furedi's belief that their ability to function as a loose-knit group outside of the grip of rigid party discipline was a sign of their ideological strength as much as it was a recognition of the task ahead and the failures of the RCP to be a real political party.

4. They do not believe that capitalism will destroy itself, they reckon it all depends on them and their vanguard. Once they think they have laid the basis for the vanguard they will get back to organising the revolution for real as a political party, for sure.

Posted by: Ex-RCPer at May 13, 2008 06:46 PM

Yes, the same point struck me.

I do wonder whether either party really knows what they're getting into.

The RCP can be quite sensible on some issues, but are utterly wide eyed loopy about others. At a time when the Tories are trying to appear "normal", I'd have thought that getting involved with professional contrarians like the RCP will provide a good many hostages to fortune.

Posted by: David T at May 14, 2008 01:31 PM

Is Munira Mirza not also the girlfried of Dougie Smith - chief speechwriter fro David Cameron and formerly a favourite target of the tabloids? Dougie Smith was the organiser of Fever parties - orgies for paying couples.

Posted by: Anon at May 14, 2008 02:17 PM

The RCP will do such things -- what they are yet, Furedi knows not, but they shall be the marvels of the earth. They're essentially a bunch of ageing student Trots who want to make history, any history. Hence the louds calls for independent thinking and boldness from a group who all think and write exactly the same.

A Furedi-bot could well appear shortly to deny that they're a cult.

Posted by: TopMarx at May 14, 2008 05:29 PM

What religion is or was Munira Mirza ? Does it link to how she sees the world now? Some people want certainty and they shift between certainties.

Posted by: James at May 14, 2008 11:23 PM

They also deny they're a party. Just as Militant did!

I like Munira. There are many examples of members of weird cultish fringe politicians from the zany Left who have ended up ploughing their own furrow, and casting off party discipline. Andrew Marr. Les Freres Hitchens. And many others. There's no reason that she won't leave her RCP comrades behind. I'm optimistic.

The problem with the RCP is that they're too silly, too cultish and too predictable. They have the capacity to embarass the Tories: it is in their blood as professional controversialists. I shouldn't care about this, if it makes Labour look good. But somehow, I do. I prefer liberal Tories to the old guard, with their section 28 and their back to basics rubbish. If the liberal Tories ended up on the back foot because of their association with the RCP, it would be a pity.

All in all, sincere liberals, of whatever party, are a whole lot better than ersatz ones.

Posted by: David T at May 14, 2008 11:56 PM

to David T:

Tell us please, what was wrong with section 28? †link.

Posted by: Robert H. Olley at May 15, 2008 01:42 PM

What religion is or was Munira Mirza?

Muslim - that has been the basis of her media carear and her work for think tanks etc - a Muslim woman (by birth) who attacks Islamism, attacks on cartoonists etc.

Of course, like any good Marxist, Ms Mirza is now an athesit.

Posted by: Jonathan at May 15, 2008 03:06 PM

Why do the people in or formerly in the RCP all have foreign names and ancestry ? Mirza is a Muslim and Furedi spells his name mit ein umlaut and is presumaly Hungarian. A very high proportion have Irish Republican names and indeed express Fenian views about Ulster. Is their ideology an expression of a sense of alienation on the part of people with an identity crisis who are seeking to replace a former religious or nationaiist authoritarianism?

Posted by: hilbert at May 20, 2008 03:33 AM

For lots more on this group, see

Posted by: Simon Ross at January 8, 2011 07:25 PM
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