An interesting post  has appeared on a blog called Necessary Agitation, which gives an insider’s view of the short life of Modern Movement, which was set up in March 2009 as a direct reaction to the success of the Plane Stupid environmentalist direct action group. MM was at best ‘strongly influenced’ by the RCP/LM, at worst another front, as this blog argued in a previous post. The post on Necessary Action is written by a progressive Marxist who supported, and still supports, cheap flying and the expansion of Heathrow airport, and not unreasonably joined MM as he shared their ostensible goals.
The article gives a good insight into how the RCP/LM manages its ‘offshoots’, and to why the MM eventually bit the dust. The poster is not unsympathetic to the Institute of Ideas:
Something which can be said of the new generation of recruits clustered around the Institute of Ideas is that they are on the whole more personable and open minded than the old RCP stalwarts. Indeed, the clique that originally banded together to form the majority of Modern Movement’s members were drawn to do so on the basis of their dissatisfaction with the present line of the continuity RCP’s leading lights—Frank Furedi, Claire Fox, etc.—and a desire for a space to stake out their own unique positions on the new issues thrown up by the 2008/09 financial crisis.
Although he does see the RCP as “a group straddling the fine line between a committed cadre and a middle class cult”, you get the feeling that he supports their general attitude. However, it appears that for all the RCP/LM’s trumpeting of “intellectual ambition and curiosity” and “open and robust debate” , intellectually speaking they operate on a pretty basic level, and in MM actively sought to lower the level of intellectual debate and suppress dissent. Not long after MM’s formation, according to the poster, it split between a “left” faction which was anti-capitalist and supportive of airline workers, and the dominant “right” faction led by the RCP/LM personalities:
In the short space of a month or two a left and a right faction of MM started to appear. Broadly speaking the rightwing leadership clique were closest to the IoI, most reverent for the traditions of the RCP, dismissive of democracy, and pro-capitalist. Conversely, the leftwing faction were more insistent on marking a break from the old formulas of the RCP, operating in a democratic fashion and taking an openly anti-capitalist line.
This split eventually brought about the movement’s dissolution:
Members of the right started to flake away, leaving the rightist leadership clique increasingly isolated. And then, suddenly, they just quit. With the scales having tilted decidedly in favour of the left the democratic decision to take an anti-capitalist message to the G20 was too much for the leadership to stomach.
The impression given fits in with other anecdotal reports of groups and events organised by the RCP/LM: that the sect tightly controls debate, is undemocratic, and is controlled by a cabal of senior figures going back to the RCP days. “Open debate” is not a feature of RCP/LM groups and events, for all Claire “Her Master’s Voice” Fox’s combative rhetoric on the Moral Maze and Question Time.
The closing paragraph of the post is telling and damning:
And so in a microcosm there you have a demonstration of the kind of shenanigans favoured by the post RCP. Secrecy, an aggressive ‘Leninism’ based on no respect for democracy, a tight control over ‘the message’, often at odds with the real aims. It could be added that the IoI itself reflects all these tendencies. Essentially a fringe political party in all but name, but lacking even the faintest trace of internal democracy, debate over fundamental principles or tolerance of dissent from Frank Furedi’s ideology. Evasiveness over core ideology is even promoted amongst new recruits; and as such, for all the endless show debates put on by the organization, there is next to no theoretical exposition or discussion of their central beliefs. The ‘line’ spread both inside and outside is that there is ‘no line’ and, as O’Brien tells Winston in Orwell’s 1984, 2 + 2 does equal 5.
 Institute of Ideas website home page, accessed 6/8/10
Yep, not content with getting Fox and Malik on Radio 4’s Moral Maze as regular questioners (and frequent RCP/LM members/followers on as ‘witnesses’, including the Dear Leader himself), the sect has now got a third interrogator on the programme. Step forward James Panton, most (in)famous for his robust defence of animal experimentation and the eminence grise (“co-founder”, even) behind the reactive group Pro-Test – see the earlier post “RCP/LM at Oxford University“. He’ll be appearing on tonight’s Moral Maze on “net-based protest” with Kenan Malik, though without Claire “Her Master’s Voice” Fox for a change, and it’ll be interesting to see if Malik and Panton acknowledge each other as comrades/colleagues. Almost certainly not going by previous experience, as Malik and Fox have never, to RCP Watch’s knowledge, acknowledged each other as close comrades going back over two decades, so it’s doubtful that Malik will nod to his arriviste colleague Panton.
All we need now is for Fox to reappear with Malik and Panton and we’ll have 3 of a kind on the programme, leaving just one place for a full takeover of the Moral Maze. Will the RCP/LM try to slip another member in, or would that be too brazen even for them? Time will tell.
Quite what the MM producers are thinking is a mystery. Everyone and their uncle in the metropolitan meedja world knows of the RCP/LM and their members and tactics, not least because they’re guaranteed contrarians – if you want a wind-up merchant on your programme to generate controversy, the RCP/LM is an immediate goto, and they always produce the goods. Yet the MM producers have now allowed 3 RCPers to appear as interrogators, which begs the question: do they know what they’re doing, and if so do they give a monkey’s? The charitable answers would be no and yes, but chances are it’s vice versa.
Does it matter if a secretive authoritarian entryist sect takes over a crappy Radio 4 programme hardly noted for its intellectual rigour (any programme that has that reactionary thicket Melanie Phillips on has no claim to be highbrow)? Well, it is a primetime programme broadcasting to the very chattering ABC1 classes, aka ‘commentariat’, that the RCP/LM sees as its prime audience and recruiting ground, so it matters in that sense. And if you consider dishonesty and duplicity to be moral problems, it matters in that sense as well. If you’re a world-weary cynic then you’ll likely think ‘what the f*ck’ and ignore it, which might be the best move – who knows?
James Panton staff page at St Johns College, Oxford University (with mugshot – tough lookin’ cuss, ain’t he?)
Yep, for your listening pleasure, the Moral Maze on BBC Radio 4 now features not one but two, yes two, RCP/LM members. Joining Claire “Her Master’s Voice” Fox on the panel we now have Kenan Malik, a long-time RCP then LM stalwart. Indeed, he predates Her Master’s Voice as in the 1987 UK General Election, he stood as a candidate of the Revolutionary Communist Party in Nottingham East. There are now two ‘panellists’ on the Moral Maze singing from the same hymn sheet, thus narrowing the range of opinions down even further.
Does it matter that the RCP/LM has colonised the programme? In one sense probably not – MM is little more than a bear-baiting session for panellists to ride hobbyhorses to death, and Fox in particular is absolutely assiduous in pushing the RCP/LM line at every opportunity. The intellectual quality of the ‘debate’ is uniformly low, as befits panellists, such as the rabidly reactionary “social commentator” Melanie Phillips, who have no understanding of moral philosophy or ethics. In another sense maybe it does matter, because for all its intellectual vacuity, MM does go out on primetime on the middle class’s house radio channel, so will have some influence on the chattering classes.
What really burns, though, isn’t that the programme producers allow them both on the show knowing full well, as just about anyone in the meedja knows, that they’re RCP to the core. They give good radio, with Fox acting the rabid pitbull and Malik the considered intellectual, a sort of RCP/LM good cop/bad cop act, and the producers only really care about ratings. It’s the sheer dishonesty of neither of them even acknowledging that they’ve been mates and comrades for over two decades that really rankles. The two act as complete strangers. This dishonesty gives the impression that they’re two independent voices, and thus they lend spurious legitimacy to each other’s views.
There are a couple of blog posts on the same theme:
Indeed, if you do a search for “Kenan Malik RCP LM” you’ll get more than enough material to keep you going for days. Do the MM producers not know how to use Google, or has the RCP/LM assimilated them also? Curious minds want to know…
A new series of the Moral Maze starts this Wednesday, 3rd June, at 8pm on R4. If you can bear the gutter-low and intellectually puerile ‘moral debate’ then it’s worth listening to the RCP’s double act, at least in the opening and closing stages, to get an idea of the current party line on the programme topic.
- Bruno Waterfield
- Scientific Alliance
- The RCP/LM runs a school
- Ellie Lee
- RCP/LM and Occupy
- Moral Maze triple act
- Modern Movement: an insider view
- “Unconditional support” for genocidists
- The RCP/LM reaches the East Midlands
- Another Moral Maze double act
- Swine Flu and the “Culture of Fear” [TM]