Monday, September 27, 2004


Frank is an Australian psychologist and ex-Marxist who has now long been a British resident

"Furedi found himself feeling 'ever-more estranged' from the conventional left. He recalls three incidents in particular that suggested the left was moving in a troublesome direction. 'The first time I felt it was when there were all these demands for "No Platform" for fascists, that fascists should be censored. I have always been, and continue to be, vehemently anti-fascist, but I felt that was just a cop-out, a very anti-democratic way of avoiding debate. I argued that rather than saying "No Platform" we should take up the fascists' views and undermine them, instead of opting for this very authoritarian, censorious approach.'

The second event was the miners' strike of 1984. A key issue in the strike was whether there should be a national ballot, which would allow all miners to vote on whether the strike should continue. In places like Yorkshire miners were striking hard, while other miners, in particular in Nottinghamshire, refused to strike on the grounds that there had not been a national ballot. The RCP campaigned for a ballot; just about everybody else on the left disagreed and the ballot was vetoed by Arthur Scargill, head of the National Union of Miners. 'I fully supported the strike', says Furedi. 'But I also called for a ballot, with a rank-and-file campaign to win the vote, for a strike that could be supported by everybody.' Thatcher supported a national ballot because she thought it would break the strike; the RCP supported a campaign for a ballot as a way of strengthening the miners. 'But others on the left wanted to prevent a ballot in case the vote went the wrong way. I thought this qualified approach to democracy on the left was a very big problem.'

The third event that further estranged Furedi from the left was the Cleveland child abuse scandal of 1987, when a number of families in the industrial region in the north-east of England were falsely accused of abusing their kids - often by health and social workers who considered themselves part of the left. 'I felt very uncomfortable, very uncomfortable indeed', says Furedi. 'People who I had known on the left were going around saying that loads of working-class men are child abusers. This very negative view of human beings took me aback. The kind of panic about working-class behaviour that would traditionally have been triggered by the right was starting to become a fixture of the left.'"

More here.


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