Our expatriate English correspondent Peter continues his reminiscences about the Reds that infested local government in the UK during the waning years of the 20th century.
The Red Evolution
or, How I learned to stop worrying and loathe the Left
I sincerely believe that Leftism — whether you call it progressivism, communism, liberalism or radicalism — is responsible, either directly or indirectly for all the trouble in the world today. There are those who would argue that this accusation should be aimed at the disciples of Islam rather than those of the Left and I can understand why, but without its leftist enablers, the threat of Islam would have been extinguished long ago.
Leftism is an insidious, cancerous mind-warp that seeks to subvert the body politic into its own image while destabilizing and deconstructing any belief system seen as a threat. Lies and disinformation are its stock in trade, as are intimidation and threats of violence. Leftism has not only invaded the political sphere, in many cases it has also inflicted itself upon the workplace, where it strives for control and the power to manipulate the workforce.
I recall a time at the London Borough of Wavering (not its real name) during the late 1980s and early 1990s and the nefarious activities of an anarcho-Trotskyite group who were dominant at the time and specialized in fomenting industrial unrest and strike-mongering. I remember quite clearly one Thursday afternoon in April when I had taken a day’s leave and happened to be driving past the Wavering Housing Department. There appeared to be some kind of demonstration going on involving a crowd of young student types, chanting anti-council slogans, handing out leaflets and waving banners. I had seen people like them before at political gatherings elsewhere in London. They were clothed like fugitives from a fancy dress party in their combat gear, technicolour hair, medallions and brooches with various parts of their anatomies ostentatiously tattooed and pierced by metallic rings, and studs. They could have been demonstrating for civil rights for trolls, orcs or scarecrows, but there were two things about them that made them particularly unusual.
They were all Local Government Officers and they were all Housing Department employees.
This was my first encounter with the Socialist Workers Party. It would not be the last. I first became aware of their presence in the UK Local Government Service in the early 1980’s after Thatcher’s Conservative Government had transferred responsibility for Housing Benefits from Central Government to Local Authorities, thereby improving labour relations in the Civil Service and Government Agencies at a stroke. Unfortunately, Local Authorities had to live with the fallout, which, in the case of Wavering, proved to be a tightly knit cell of political agitators who sought to cause trouble at every turn and when they were not actually out on strike then they were actively plotting to be so in the very near future, taking a whole lot of other people with them when they went.
I had been aware of them nationally long before I encountered them. Indeed, it was hard not to be. Their fly-posted slogans proliferated over every building in every town centre in England. Whenever there was any kind of political demonstration, protest march, mass picket or rally, there they were. It might not have been their protest or demonstration but what did that matter? They would turn up in force handing out their own banners, distributing their own leaflets and selling copies of their newspaper, “Socialist Worker,” looking as though they had organized things even though, more often than not, it was some other pressure group’s show. But that is their specialty. They are Looney Rent -a- Mob, you name it they’re against it, Demos ’R’ Us. They will fight anyone, anywhere for any reason and have no qualms about jumping on other people’s bandwagons and hijacking them for their own ends. In the 1980’s they were in the process of hijacking public-sector trades unions, particularly our union, NALGO, the national and Local Government Officers Association, which subsequently became UNISON after a merger with two other public service unions. They were not alone in this endeavor, however. In Wavering we also had an active cell of the Revolutionary Communist Party, which if anything was a more aggressive collection of troublemakers and strike-mongers than the SWP. They were more serious and soberly dressed than their SWP counterparts and their leader and principal agitator was a loud-mouthed, rabble rousing barrister who ran the local law centre. This cannot have been a particularly onerous job, as it was he who was responsible for manufacturing most of the one-day strikes that plagued our working lives at that time.
From 1945 until the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1978, there had been a plethora of strikes, stoppages and industrial disputes across the UK which, if they did not actually cripple the country, caused untold damage to its manufacturing industry from which it never fully recovered. In the 1960s and ’70s there was industrial anarchy as workers walked off the job at the drop of a hat and , if they were held at all, formal strike ballots were often rigged by politically motivated union officials. In those days, the decision to strike was often taken at a mass meeting where intimidation was rife and anyone who voted against the leftist line was literally jumped on by left wing bully-boys. To combat this, the Thatcher Government enacted legislation in 1984 to make the process of calling a strike more democratic by introducing secret balloting. These ballots were required to be undertaken by post after 1993 and any strike called without going through this process would be declared illegal and employers were able to sue the unions involved.
The main difference between the strike-mongering carried out by the Socialist Workers Party and that of the Revolutionary Communist Party was that the former preferred a strike to last, at the very least, for a period of weeks so that they could milk as much publicity for themselves as possible. To achieve this, however, they first needed to win a ballot, something that was by no means guaranteed. The RCP on the other hand supported the one-day token strike which did not need a ballot and could be called after a show of hands at a special branch meeting These one-day strikes would be called for spurious reasons to support RCP pet causes such as solidarity with the IRA — a particular cause célèbre for them, troops out of Northern Ireland, support for Palestine, condemnation of Israel, Home rule for Hamsters, Equal Rights for left handed bog-snorkelers, etc. etc. Whatever the strike call was about, it had nothing whatsoever to do with the pay and conditions of local authority workers which was, after all, what the union was supposed to be for.
Every three to four weeks a branch meeting would be called, which would be a stage-managed set-up, reminiscent of those conducted by the manufacturing Trades Unions in the 1950s and ’60s. We were only told about the strike motion after the meeting had started, because it was a special motion, that is, it was not included in the agenda papers. If it had been announced beforehand, rank and file members would have turned out in sufficient numbers to vote it down, but the lefties knew that.
To make things worse, the strike motion, because of its special status, was always the last item on the agenda. This, too, was intentional. The earlier items on the agenda were merely cotton wool and padding, and there was much obfuscation, manifold procedural motions and other fabricated diversions to delay things. The leftists knew that most of us had lives outside union politics. Many had commitments, particularly child care responsibilities, and we all had to contend with rush hour traffic to get home at anything like a reasonable hour.
The total branch membership in those days consisted of approximately 1500 people but no more than a few hundred of these ever attended meetings. By the time the diversionary tactics had been abandoned and the motion was finally put, there were rarely more than 30 members remaining in the chamber. The lefties had already doctored the branch rules concerning a quorum which would normally require ten per cent of the total membership to be present before a strike motion could be voted upon. Instead, it became more of a religious matter i.e. whenever two or three are gathered together…
Anyway, when the lefties decided that they outnumbered the remaining rank-and-file members, the motion would be put and the resolution carried. However, if the guillotine — that is, the enforced conclusion of the meeting — approached and the lefties calculated that there were not enough of them present to win a vote, they would call up the reserve team from the pub across the road. Either way, they got their strike.
Once a Branch resolution had been passed, no matter how fraudulently, it had to be complied with. As a result there was a one-day strike every month or so, causing inconvenience to Borough residents and every participating member to lose a day’s pay. In the early 1990’s, however, things started to improve. To the immense relief of non-RCP members, the troublemaking RCP lawyer managed to obtain a job as a lecturer in law at a university in the South East of England and the last I heard, he had been promoted to professor of Law at the same university where, if he ran true to form, he was busy indoctrinating, propagandizing and mass producing an assembly line of militant, rabble-rousing lawyers in his own image — which probably explains some of the dubious, almost farcical decisions emanating from the UK legal system these days.
The Socialist Workers Party did not always win their strike ballots, and when this occurred they proved, predictably, to be poor losers. On one occasion, they conclusively lost a ballot with 600 people supporting their strike proposal while 900 voted against, but that was not the end of the matter. The SWP took the position that as 600 people had voted in favour of a strike, this was a significant number and some sort of industrial action should be taken to reflect this. Fortunately, common sense prevailed and their contention was dismissed. They then challenged those who opposed them to a public debate, but to the best of my knowledge nobody responded, and they did well not to.
Anybody who has been involved in any sort of a discussion with these people has found it to be a frustrating experience. For a start it is very easy to be forced onto the back foot in such exchanges, since leftists mainly argue on the basis of a formula rather than any empirical structure. And they will never tell you what they believe in, only what they are opposed to, which, as far as I can make out, is everything the rest of us stand for. Their weapon is total nihilism, and they utilize it to discover your core beliefs and use them against you. From the outset, aggressive arguments and supporting statistics ooze out of them at a bewildering speed and with disturbing ease, but in spite of appearances, these people are neither intelligent nor informed, just incredibly well-rehearsed.
Given the evils of the ideology they represent and the fact that they somehow manage to hide their values in full view, they are reluctant to defend what is after all the indefensible. Instead, when they are asked about the purges, the gulags, the show trials and the summary executions, they shrug and either change the subject or offer something they consider to be morally equivalent as a response. For example, when they are questioned about their support for Islam and the atrocities perpetrated by Muslims in the Middle East, they offer the Crusades as some form of moral equivalence, as if something that occurred in the 12th Century was somehow equal to what is happening in the here and now. But it makes sense to them.
Ken Livingston, socialist former Mayor of London, was a prime example of this tactic. For many years he presented himself as a polished and impressive master of the art of debate until one night on BBC Question Time this image was systematically dismantled as he was exposed by the historian Niall Ferguson who challenged Livingston on almost every contentious statement he made and every “fact” he quoted, revealing as he did so many of the former to be erroneous and most of the latter to be bogus. To his credit, Livingston did not resort to the usual sneers, smears and name-calling adopted by leftists in such circumstances, but he was on national television at the time and that probably influenced his reaction.
It has been written that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I am not sure whether or not this statement is true, but I am convinced that if there is a road to a socialist utopia, then it is paved not only with malign intent but also with malice aforethought.
Peter is an English expatriate who now lives in Thailand.