After publishing my piece Brendan O’Neill, Brexit and Irish Republicanism, I realised that there was a lot about the Spiked network and its political evolution that many were unaware of. In this regard, I am no expert but the prominence given to many of them, especially with regard to Brexit, made me have another look at some of their changing opinions over the years.
As I said in the article above, Spiked Online has its roots in the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). Here are some of the names (and Party names as they appeared in RCP publications) of the key individuals who have been involved through the period of its political evolution -
When quoting authors by their Party names, I’ll put their real names in brackets.
Brendan O’Neill’s attack on Leo Varadkar led me to write the article about him and his views on Ireland over the years. It caused some surprise among many who only know him from his Brexiter views. However, it should be noted this was not the views of an individual rather that of Mr O’Neill’s organisation — the RCP.
The RCP set up a front organisation, the Irish Freedom Movement (IFM), as a means to build support for its views on Northern Ireland. This was unconditional support for Irish Republicans (primarily Sinn Fein/IRA) in their armed campaign — including defending their right to carry out whatever actions they deemed necessary to achieve British withdrawal from Ireland.
This was even the case with the IRA’s bombing campaign in Northern Ireland and Britain which resulted in civilian casualties.
Known at this point as the Revolutionary Communist Tendency, the RCP published an article on the Birmingham bombings in “The Next Step №3 1980” where left-wing criticism of this was described as a capitulation to British chauvinism. The RCP said they would refuse to “criticise or condemn the Birmingham bombings”.
The RCP’s attitude to the IRA’s bombing campaign and any criticism of Sinn Fein was made clearer in “The Next Step №10 1981” when the editor Mike Freeman (Fitzpatrick) wrote that the time to criticise Sinn Fein’s politics was when large numbers of British workers responded to IRA bombs with “jubilation”.
After the Warrington bombings the RCP/IFM newspaper “Irish Freedom №22 1993” wrote that they still defended “the right of the Irish people to take whatever measures necessary in their struggle for freedom”.
Of course, the RCP did not wait until large numbers of British workers responded with “jubilation” to IRA bombs before criticising Sinn Fein’s political programme. As shown in Brendan O’Neill, Brexit and Irish Republicanism, they criticised SF/IRA when they entered discussions with the UK Govt to end violence and decided to continue backing dissident Republicans. Their attacks on the peace process started in the mid 1990’s as highlighted in issues of “Irish Freedom”*. Mike Freeman (Fitzpatrick) wrote in issue 24 (Winter 1993) that “[w]hatever the outcome of the ‘peace’ talks, the liberation of Ireland’s future must now start anew” and in issue 25 (Summer 1994) editorial which stated “[a]nti-imperialists in Britain have the duty of exposing the peace process as a dangerous sham. The peace process is designed to stabilise imperialist interests in Ireland by pressurising Irish people to give up entirely on the pursuit of freedom”.
Do members of the Spiked network still hold these same views? I’ve no idea. Maybe if Claire Fox (who was a regular contributor to “Irish Freedom”) pops up on “The Moral Maze” in the future, someone might want to ask her about the morality of the IRA’s bombing campaign, the “jubilation” that the RCP felt about it and her views on political violence now.
The RCP’s views on the European integration was very critical of Euroscepticism whether it was of the Conservative or Lexit variety. During the Labour Party Deputy Leadership contest, it had this to say (“The Next Step” №17 1981)of the left candidate, Tony Benn and his view of Britain being a colony of the EEC — “This is an attempt to synthesise the traditional jingoistic prejudices of the die-hard Tory Empire loyalists into a populist appeal to the British people”.
In contrast to the then RCP view, Brendan O’Neill in his recent Spectator profile of Leo Varadkar (“a foreign leader interfering in Britain’s domestic, democratic affairs” ;“willing weapon of a new imperial power: Brussels”) quite happily goes along with “traditional jingoistic prejudices of … die-hard Tory Empire loyalists” to promote “a populist appeal to the British people”.
Again in opposition to their current Brexiter views, when the Maastricht Treaty (which founded the EU) was causing convulsions throughout European and UK politics the RCP took an abstentionist view (“The Next Step” №23 1992).-
James Heartfield helpfully told me about a change in the RCP’s policy towards the EU where they came out against it in 1996 (see link). These pages are from “The Point is to Change it: Manifesto for a World fit for People”. (Added 30 Dec 18).
The RCP and Spiked Online.
How is it possible to explain the political evolution from the RCP to Spiked? From unconditional support for physical-force Irish Republicanism to their support for Brexiter “traditional jingoistic prejudices of … die-hard Tory Empire loyalists”.
A very good question to which I wish I could give an easy answer. It wouldn’t matter, of course, except that leading members of Spiked get lots of media coverage for their present No Deal Brexiter populism — especially Brendan O’Neill in The Sun where he asks “WHERE is the British lion, or at least the British bulldog, who will stand up to Brussels?” (5 March 2018) or his backing for the “gilets jaunes” (7 Dec 2018).
We even have a bizarre situation where Michael Fitzpatrick (aka Mike Freeman) would pen the above “jubilation” for IRA bombs to backing Boris Johnson in 2008 and then happily writing a eulogy to the Bolsheviks (“October: a noble, ambitious revolution”) in September 2017 for Spiked.
Perhaps some clues can be found in Frank Furedi’s article “Class politics cannot be rebuilt, regenerated or rescued today” (LM May 1997) where he asked “…so how can we set about changing society?” He came to this conclusion-
There is some continuity of beliefs in the RCP/Spiked evolution — a hatred of compromise (eg the Good Friday Agreement and anything other than No Deal Brexit) and a hatred of the State — whether it be the “British Imperialist State”, the “Nanny State” or “Brussels”.
Maybe I’m trying too hard to figure out why the RCP changed as it did — perhaps it was just that they can make more dosh (see here and here) as “Libertarian Humanists” rather than “Revolutionary Communists”.
(28 April) Brendan O’Neill wrote to me complaining about “Brendan O’Neill, Brexit and Irish Republicanism” . My reply to him and information about Brexit Party candidate Claire Fox can be read here -“Brendan O’Neill’s emails, Claire Fox and Warrington”.