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Living Marxism (LM)

'The GM debate is the terrain upon which society's relationship to science and human endeavour is currently being worked out.' So wrote Tony Gilland in an article called Seeds of the Future in the UK magazine LM, formerly Living Marxism the monthly review of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP).

The RCP has spawned a network, here called the LM network, of political extremists who eulogise technologies like genetic engineering and reproductive cloning and are extremely hostile to their critics, whom they brand as Nazis. What is particularly disturbing is that it is a network which engages in infiltration of media organisations and science-related lobby groups in order to promote its agenda as well as establishing a strong of their own organisations.

It is represented, often in very senior positions, in a series of organisations which lobby on issues related to biotechnology, e.g. the Science Media Centre (director: Fiona Fox), Sense About Science (director: Tracey Brown; deputy director: Ellen Raphael), Genetic Interest Group (former policy director: John Gillott), Progress Educational Trust (former director: Juliet Tizzard, later director Sandy Starr), and the Scientific Alliance (advisor: Bill Durodie). Both Tracey Brown and Bill Durodie were also brought in in an advisory capacity in relation to the strands of the UK government's official GM Public Debate.

History

1970s Trotskyist faction ejected from International Socialists, further splinters into the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP)
late-80s RCP establishes Living Marxism
early-90s RCP begins infiltration of academic and media circles
mid-90s Living Marxism title changed to LM
2000 LM forced to close after it loses libel case
2000 LM's ex-editor launches Spiked website
2000 LM's co-publisher, Claire Fox, launches Institute of Ideas
2001 Long-time LM contributor, and Claire Fox's sister, Fiona Fox becomes Director of the Science Media Centre
2002 LM/Spiked/Institute of Ideas contributor becomes Director of Sense About Science

The Background

The Revolutionary Communist Party was born out of Trotskyist faction-fighting in Britain in the 1970s. Supporters stood in the 1987 general election campaign as the Red Front, boldly proclaiming that the RCP was about to 'replace' the Labour Party, but the candidates all lost their deposits. Around this time the RCP launched its monthly review Living Marxism.

In the early 90s the RCP underwent a drastic ideological transformation. Its leaders turned their back on seeking mass working class action. The real contradiction in society now lay, they seemed to argue, between those who believed in the increased human domination of nature and those who did not. They declared a total war of ideas on the enemies of human progress.

One of the group's then supporters explains their thinking, 'In England, it is as if the Tories lost their nerve, lost faith in their own project. They could no longer unabashedly support roadbuilding for example. Where is this 14 lane M25 they at one time promised us? ...The trouble is that nowadays if you say: Build roads, use genetically modified crop strains, dump the oil platforms in the North Sea, experiment into xenotransplantation and human cloning, there is an anti-progress alliance from left to right on all this. In fact if you say these things, people can't really tell if you are right or left or just out of it!' (LM and Russia)

In reality, the RCP's new vision, which sought to champion 'progress' by opposing all restrictions on science, technology (especially biotechnology) and business, bore startling resemblances to that of the libertarian Right.

An obvious similarity lay in the RCP's strong antipathy towards the environmental movement. It was as if environmentalists had now replaced the old 'class enemy' for the RCP. The concerns environmentalists raised about the abuse of science, technology and corporate power were 'scaremongering', the RCP now argued, which undermined 'progress' and the emergence of a 'confident individualism' unafraid of risk and experimentation.

Post-modernism and the New Left were also viewed as enemies of 'science', 'progress' and 'the Enlightenment', all of which the RCP defended in a curiously uncritical fashion. Other inhibitants to progress were 'victim culture' and the 'culture of safety' which gave rise to 'risk-aversion' and 'moral panics'. One should pay the least regard, the RCP now argued, to the views of victims or their relatives, whether one was dealing with gun crime, road accidents, Bhopal, BSE, AIDS or whatever, as it only encouraged a culture of fear and caution and so inhibited freedom and progress.

Invasion of the body snatchers

While intellectually the RCP was now singing from the same hymn sheet as elements on the far Right, tactically it drew from elements on the far Left. One tactic practiced by some Trotskyists is 'entryism'. Traditionally this has involved infiltrating a trade union or a political party in order to try and exert a disproportionate influence over its direction. To forward its new war of ideas, the RCP initiated a new style of entryism. Suddenly its members were sharp suited and organising seminars.

'Its call in the early 1990s to 'return to the suburbs' saw it embark on a project of infiltrating academic and media circles in a style reminiscent of Invasion of the body snatchers,' commented a rival Marxist publication, The Weekly Worker. 'To give praise where it is due, our upwardly mobile executive 'Marxists' have managed to worm their way into the appropriate dinner parties, seminars, and conferences.'

As part of this process, Living Marxism changed its name in the mid-1990s to LM, selling the tile to associate Helene Guldberg while the Party itself was formally liquidated. One member complained, 'In recent times, people like myself have had to stand back and watch as the organisation, its discussions and activities, have been closed down and party leaders have switched from calling themselves die-hard communists to espousing the virtues of the free market. While Mick Hume, Claire Fox and others at the top were building up a coterie of followers in the academic and media world, we were being told: 'Our aim is social revolution.' Yet within a short time the party was declared finished and anyone who expressed any vaguely leftwing sympathies were ridiculed as being old-fashioned 'liberals', 'Trotskyists' and sometimes even both.'

But the core of the party had not been liquidated. The new glossier looking LM was still the vehicle of those who had been the party's leadership. The editor, as of Living Marxism, was the head of the RCP, Mick Hume. LM's star columnist was the RCP's chief theoretician, the sociologist Frank Furedi (aka Frank Richards). LM's regular contributors continued to be made up by other leading lights of the RCP. And they and their closest supporters continued to meet to discuss tactics and ideology. The difference was that such meetings were now by invitation only.

Against Nature the war zone

In the late 1990's LM's 'most spectacular coup', according to The Weekly Worker, 'was the three hours of prime-time television, in the form of Channel Four's anti-green Against Nature. Frank Furedi was the star of the show.'

Against Nature targeted environmentalists, presenting them as 'the new enemy of science' and comparable to the Nazis. They were responsible, the programmes argued, for the deprivation and death of millions in the Third World. (Crimes against Nature, The Revolution Has Been Televised)

Channel Four had to broadcast a prime-time apology after Against Nature drew the wrath of the Independent Television Commission which ruled, 'Comparison of the unedited and edited transcripts confirmed that the editing of the interviews with [the environmentalists who contributed] had indeed distorted or misrepresented their known views. It was also found that the production company had misled them... as to the format, subject matter and purpose of these programs.' (See CHANNEL 4 SAVAGED BY TELEVISION WATCHDOG)

Against Nature provided a platform not only for LM columnists like Frank Furedi, John Gillott (aka John Gibson) and Juliet Tizzard, all of whom were billed by the programme makers as independent experts, but for a whole string of contributors from the far Right. Extreme advocates of free-market capitalism were also increasingly to be found expounding their views in the pages of LM. The magazine published pieces, for instance, by the Executive Vice President of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, Ron Arnold. Arnold's mission was their mission, 'This is a war zone. Our goal is to destroy, to eradicate the environmental movement'. (Far Left or Far Right? Living Marxism's interesting allegiances)

According to Frank Furedi, such alliances are all part of LM's regrouping of 'all those who believe human beings should play for high stakes' (LM 100). LM loyalist Adam Hibbert admits that working with the far Right, 'might appear duplicitous and fraught with the danger of assimilation', but asserts that as long as the activist is alert to these dangers, 'much more progress is possible: and that is our overriding duty, if we're serious.' (Re: For Hibbert: LM and Russia)

Against Nature's director Martin Durkin and his production team went on to make an almost equally controversial TV programme about GM for Channel Four, in which GM proponents like CS Prakash played a starring role. (see Getting your science from charlatans)

Rewriting history in favour of the murderers

Controversy and notoriety had always been a hallmark of the RCP in their ideological jockeying with other factions on the far Left. They defended the right of racists publicly to deny the Holocaust, opposed sanctions against the aparthied regime in South Africa and sought to disrupt an anti-Nazi march in London. They even opposed trade union campaigns for better wages and against public-spending cuts. (The rebels who changed their tune to be pundits) Their unequivocal espousal of the republican cause in Northern Ireland was such that their continuing support for violence led them to eventually outflank even the IRA itself, whom they bitterly criticised along with the rest of the republican leadership for engaging in the peace process (see Fiona Fox).

Their libertarian stance gave the group still more scope for controversialism. They opposed legal restraints on almost anything from guns to child pornography to late abortion. They appeard to revel in setting their face against almost every public concern or scruple, particularly where it showed signs of giving rise to any kind of social constraint, legal restriction or other form of intervention. (Life after Living Marxism: Banning the bans)

They downplayed concern over AIDS as a heterosexual disease or as a problem in Africa. They also engaged in a lengthy campaign of denial of the Rwandan genocide. This led to LM being accused of rewriting 'history in favour of the murderers'. (Genocide? What genocide?; see also Fiona Fox)

But what really threw the group into the spotlight and led to the demise of LM, was their downplaying of Serb nationalist atrocities. Throughout the 1990s LM had published a string of articles in this vein, mostly by its columnist Joan Phillips (aka Joan Hoey). Then in 1997 LM published 'The picture that fooled the world', an article by Thomas Deichmann who edited Novo magazine LM's sister publication in Germany.

Deichmann's article argued that the journalists working for TV news broadcaster ITN had deliberately misrepresented an image that came to symbolise the horror of the Bosnian war, an image that was supposed to show emaciated moslem prisoners in a Serbian prison camp, Trnopolje. Deichmann's article claimed the moslems in the picture had, in fact, come to a place of refuge and that they were being protected, not mistreated, by the Serbs. (Deichmann's claims are painstakingly revealed as fabrications, distortions, and lies in an article by David Campbell, Professor of International Politics at the University of Newcastle, Atrocity, Memory and Photography, Journal of Human Rights, March & June 2002)

LM was forced into closure after losing a libel case brought by the ITN journalists it had accused of fabricating evidence. It emerged during the trial that contrary to the claims in LM, 'Trnopolje was a camp where Muslims were undoubtedly imprisoned, and that many were beaten, tortured, raped and killed by their Serb guards.' (High stakes in battle over Serbian guilt)

But in the run up to the case the LM-ers successfully capitalised on the poor regard in which Britain's libel laws are widely held, by promoting themselves as the victims of ITN's 'deplorable attack on press freedom'. A highly successful three-day conference was held called 'Free Speech Wars'.

The Guardian journalist Ed Vulliamy, who filed the first reports on the Trnopolje camp, was unsparing of those who offered LM their support. 'Those who helped LM cannot fail to recognise that by doing so they also stirred the poison LM had dropped into the well of history, playing their own role in denying a genocide...' Vulliamy claimed there was evidence of collusion on LM's part with Serb military intelligence and worse, concluding, 'Shame, then, on those fools, supporters of the pogrom, cynics and dilettantes who supported them, gave them credence and endorsed their vile enterprise.' (Poison in the well of history)

Whatever LM's ultimate mix of motives, there was a clear ideological line running through the group's antics over Rwanda and Bosnia. While LM raised no objection to Western economic and corporate domination of other countries, which it seemed to regard as a necessary corollary of 'progress', it was totally opposed to armed intervention. This led in turn to a concern about the way in which conflicts were reported. The portrayal of the Tutsis and the Bosnian moslems as victims of horrific atrocities could fuel demands for greater intervention not only in those conflicts but elsewhere. Those behind LM and the RCP therefore fought to undermine such perceptions. The ways in which they did so are revealing.

Martin Cohen, the Editor of the journal of the Philosophical Society, The Philosopher, reports how at a talk he gave at Leeds University in the early months of the Bosnian war, the RCP sought to stifle debate and bury criticism of the Serbs 'in a cynically calculated bombardment of misinformation and propaganda.' For the RCP, he writes, ' 'truth' was a bourgeois notion, political power was the higher cause.' (Living Marxism and the Serbs)

Life after Living Marxism

The 'battle of ideas' over Bosnia was one that had largely been fought by the time of the LM libel trial in 2000. Undaunted by the legal and financial setback of the verdict, LM's co-publisher Claire Fox launched the Institute of Ideas (IoI) on the very day that LM folded in the face of massive damages. Shortly afterwards, Mick Hume, LM's ex-editor and by then a Times-columnist, launched the website of a new online magazine, Spiked. Spiked's managing editor was Helene Guldberg, LM's ex-publisher.

The Institute of Ideas regularly organises seminars and conferences, as to a lesser extent does Spiked, drawing in well-known figures to events carefully designed to promote the LM agenda. As a Guardian article notes, 'From the platforms and the floor, the LM line is assiduously promoted by the magazine's supporters and contributors often without clear attribution of their affiliations.' (Life after Living Marxism)

'An incestous and self-perpetuating world of undisclosed affiliations.'

Thomas Deichmann, the editor of LM's sister publication Novo, provides a telling example of the group's resilience and ability to not only make clever use of 'platforms' of their own creation but to re-present members of their own network in different guises according to the current need of the war of ideas.

According to German journalist Paul Stoop of the Berlin Tagesspiegel, nobody had ever heard of the editor of Novo before Deichmann reinvented himself as a fully-fledged Bosnia expert (The Guardian, 12 March 1997). In that guise Deichmann wrote material for Novo and LM, as well as for the RCP front group, the London International Research Exchange. Quite apart from the libel article, his pieces included a sympathetic interview with Radovan Karadzic, after the Bosnian Serb leader had been charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. Deichmann also put in an appearance as the final defence witness at the trial of the Serbian war criminal Dusko Tadic. (Poison in the well of history)

But as the battle of ideas over Bosnia receded, Deichmann was reinvented once again. In April 2003 he was one of the speakers at a Genes and Society 'festival' in London organised by the the Institute of Ideas. Here he was billed not as an expert on Bosnia but as an expert commentator on GM crops and the Third World.

Deichmann has also contributed articles to Novo and Spiked on Percy Schmeisser, the Canadian famer who has been in a long-running legal battle with Monsanto over patent issues in relation to GM crops. In his Spiked piece the man who once chided the Western media over their misreporting of Serbian atrocities, now chides them over their inaccurate reporting of the GM debate.

Completing his transformation from an expert exposer of 'myths' about Serb atrocities into an expert apologist for biotechnology, Deichmann has co-authored a book Das Populare Lexikon der Gentechnik: 'berraschende Fakten von Allergie' ber Killerkartoffel bis Zelltherapie (The Popular Lexicon of Genetic Engineering: Surprising Facts from Allergy and Killer Potatoes to Cell Therapy) .

The platforms that have made this reinvention possible Novo, Spiked and the Institute of Ideas are all part of the same network. However, when Spiked presented him at their 'festival' as, 'Thomas Deichmann editor, Novo magazine and co-author of The Popular Lexicon of Gene Technology', there was nothing to indicate that Novo is a sister publication of LM or that Deichmann's book was published by Novo's publishing house.

This incestous and self-perpetuating world of undisclosed affiliations almost exactly replicates what Brad K. Blitz found in his study of revisionism and denial in relation to the Bosnian conflict. Blitz, who considered the role of Deichmann and fellow Living Marxism contributor Joan Phillips in the reporting of the conflict, noted how 'marginalized ideologies' are advanced through the 'incestuous nature' of what he calls 'the publication drive'. The players are not, Blitz writes, 'advancing knowledge but are rather recycling the founding ideas of certain ideological arguments that mesh with their own political agendas. Phillips' outrageous comments (many of which came straight out of the government-controlled Belgrade media) are re-packaged... [in an article] in Foreign Policy... [which] is then cited by... Diechmann who also makes reference to Phillips' 20 Things You Know About the Serbs That Aren't True. Diechmann is Phillips' colleague who then promotes the work of another author... [who] himself cites... Phillips and again repeats the same accusations.'

Defending Monsanto in the Wall Street Journal

However self-perpetuating and self-promoting the LM world may be, it is one that has been far from unchanging in the three decades since the birth of the RCP. The once fervent Trotskyist, Frank Furedi, who has been called the 'Father of the modern RCP', has in recent years been found defending Monsanto in the columns of the Wall Street Journal and pamphlet writing for the Centre for Policy Studies, a think tank founded by Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph. His CPS pamphlet was advertised alongside those of Lord Archer and Lord Saatchi.

Frank Furedi is even said to have tried to hock his services to the supermarket chains and the Food and Drink Federation as someone who could help them put consumers' minds at rest on food safety issues [1]. He also penned a reassuring report on risk for Lloyds of London which [http://www.futureproof.org/forewords.htm Lloyds say] 'has the potential to be invaluable to our business'. A decade earlier Living Marxism had dismissed Lloyds as 'a benevolent fund for the rich' (LM 43).

This corporate-alignment is also to be found at Spiked and still more at the Institute of Ideas (IoI) where events are put on, for example, in 'association with Pfizer', the giant pharmaceutical company that aggressively promotes biotech, and with 'thanks' to CropLife International (a 'global federation' led by BASF, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta). In a Times' interview, the IoI's director, Claire Fox, is drawn on another sponsor, Novartis. Asked who they are, she responds, 'Pharmaceuticals, I think. I don't know who they are.'[2]

Some of Furedi's followers appear to believe that he is just biting back the revolutionary critique in order to realign and mobilise forces who can, despite themselves, further the interests of the revolution. How those who choose to make use of the services provided by Furedi and his followers view the relationship is another matter. Like Lloyds, presumably, they see something of value for their businesses.

Monopolistic hidden agendas

Many of 'Furedi's children' have emerged from his base at the University of Kent Canterbury. Amongst these are Tracey Brown and Ellen Raphael, both of whom have gone on to work for PR company Regester Larkin. Regester Larkin help many of the major oil, pharmaceutical and biotech corporations manage their reputations in the face of what they term 'anti-technology activists' and 'risk averse' consumers. Regester Larkin's PR terminology is that honed by Furedi and LM.

Keith Teare is another of Furedi's 'offspring'. Teare has written of his time at the University of Kent, 'I got a double first on an essay I wrote for Frank Furedi, who became a kind of mentor. We still keep in touch.' This seriously understates the relationship. Teare, under the name Keith Tompson, became a leading member of the RCP and in the 1980s headed the RCP front organisation Workers Against Racism.

In the mid-90s, with the RCP heading more and more in its new pro-technology, pro-enterprise direction, Teare helped set up a series of internet business ventures, including Cyberia, Easynet, and Cscape. These were mostly headed by and employed other RCP-ers. Teare then went on to become a Silicon Valley tycoon, enjoying a roller coaster romp] through the boom years of the new economy bubble.[3]

During the Microsoft anti-trust trial Teare made a spirited defence of Microsoft and the American way of life a line that was also peddled in LM. That, however, was before Microsoft pulled the plug on Teare's company, plunging it into liquidation. Since then some have accused Teare] of playing the victim. [4] His views on Microsoft certainly appear to have changed radically: [5]

We believe that Microsoft's investments should be seen for their positive impact not as a sign of monopolistic hidden agendas. Keith Teare, June 7 2000
Microsoft killed a whole market. It is a poor business decision made by souless people who clearly have the arrogance that comes from absolute power. Keith Teare, June 4 2002

In Teare's extraordinary journey there seems to be a kind of metaphor for what happened to the RCP.

Further reading

LobbyWatch LM Watch

Wikipedia Living Marxism

Notes

[1] Nick Cohen, Boardroom revolutionaries], The Observer, October 1998

[2] Andrew Billen, A prickly opinion on just about everything, The Times, 17 Dec 2002, accessed 24 Nov 2009

[3] Nothing but sour grapes, accessed 24 November 2009

[4] 'Oops! I did it again', accessed 24 Nov 2009

[5] 'Oops! I did it again', accessed 24 Nov 2009

 
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