Monbiot on Spiked

by Chris Bertram on December 10, 2003

I’m suprised that none of the blogs that deal with British left sectariana have linked to George Monbiot’s column yesterday . I know George says daft things from time to time (and there’s a factual error about the Royal Society in this very column) but pointing out the genealogy of Spiked!, the Institute of Ideas, LM Magazine etc etc and the links between the various swivel-eyed neolibertarian technoenthusiasts who are the former Revolutionary Communist Party seems like a public service that should be performed every so often. (Especially now they all have “proper jobs” writing columns for the Times and fronting think tanks.)



jamie 12.10.03 at 8:21 pm


Ophelia Benson 12.10.03 at 8:22 pm

Dang, that is really interesting. And a bit alarming. Frank Furedi, eh? I linked to several reviews of his book on therapy, it sounded interesting. Hmm. And we’ve linked to spiked and Inst. of Ideas stuff several times, and re-published (by invitation) an article of theirs. Hmm. Interesting. Again one runs into the problem of judging things by their content rather than their provenance – but all the same one at least wants to know what agenda one may be helping. Hmm.

Monbiot’s first paragraph was odd though – made it sound as if the Bush admin is run by former leftists. I dooooon’t think so.


Ophelia Benson 12.10.03 at 8:32 pm

Philip Stott has blogged about it at Envirospin. He makes some excellent points, I think.


Backword Dave 12.10.03 at 9:56 pm

Nick Barlow got there yesterday and with a link to Scottish Socialist Party blogger Alister Black and I would have commented too, but GreyMatter died on me and I’m too busy writing my own CMS (as I promised to do a year ago).
I’ve got a lot to say on this, once I get it all straight in my head. I’m less surprised, even sympathetic, that some of the old left has moved to the new ‘right’: a lot of the appeal in the 70s and 80s was the anti-authoritarian “smash the state” ethos, and that looks right-wing now… I even feel that I ought to have moved with them, but there are other aspects of the left, the “compassionate” side, which have greater sway over me. Not that any of New Labour appeals at all… In many ways Glenn Reynolds is right, “left” and “right” are outdated. (And I really hate Instapundit.)


Yuval Rubinstein 12.10.03 at 10:25 pm

This certainly explains Brendan O’Neill’s incessant inanity…to a certain extent.


Matthew 12.11.03 at 9:54 am

This is a really really interesting subject. As far as I could understand, those ex-revolutionary marxists are now playing the corporate media whores… in order to make the situation so bad that the “real revolution” happens (!), and not just lame gradual reformism.
Well that’s probably the rationalisation of a newfound “take the money and run” attitude…


Lee Bryant 12.11.03 at 3:22 pm

A few remarks:

* the Deichmann / LM Bosnian camps episode was sickening and I will never meet an individual connected with this network and not remind them of this in forceful terms.

* Some years ago, I came across Joan Philips working under cover of her maiden name for that well-known bastion of the revolutinary left, the Economist Intelligence Unit, whgilst working for LM at the same time.

* IMO, Hume’s network has always been conspicuously better financed than it could ever have acheived through individual donations or whatever other stories he tells.

* By hook or by crook, LM/RCP/IOI/SOS/Spiked always end up pushing positions that echo the views of right-wing elements within the British state (not parlliament or parties, but the apparatus itself), which I guess explains why some people used to speculate on who was behind them.

* If you meet their acolytes after a few drinks, they tend to express some frighteningly neo-colonialist views that border on genuine racism.

* I don’t llike them very much ;-)


Richard 12.11.03 at 9:32 pm

Hang on, Spiked are ‘swivel eyed’ while the left wing answer to Roger Scruton, George Monbiot, is apparently a vision of sanity? On what planet?


Chris Bertram 12.11.03 at 11:37 pm

I’d be interested in the justification for your comment, Richard. Where is GM held up as a “vision of sanity”?


Zizka 12.12.03 at 3:26 am

Hm. There was an RCP here in the US. It was a militantly Maoist/Stalinist group which specialized in taking credit for demonstrations actually organized by opposed groups — they’d be very visible at the front and try to get on TV.

Earlier they HAD been involved in violence, against the LaRouche group (American Labor Party?) which had been a leftist faction in 1968 but moved steadily right. About ?1980? these two groups were fighting in the streets occasionally in a sort of pitiful way.

Now the LaRouche group took almost exactly the path the British RCP took — anti-environmentalism (and nuclear power) are their big political issue. Their RCP enemies, as far as I know, disappeared. (I can’t imagine them sliding in the libertarian direction, mostly because of their anti-intellectualism and stupidity though I never knew any of them well enough to be sure of that.)

Perhaps it’s just a chance coincidence of party names, and the two RCP’s were unrelated. Both the LaRouche and RCP groups were often thought of as police front groups, without much evidence except their bizarre and proocative behavior.


richard 12.12.03 at 6:00 pm

“I’d be interested in the justification for your comment, Richard. Where is GM held up as a “vision of sanity”?”

I suppose I should confess to more than a little intemperate hyperbole in my first post. I think what I should have said was that I was taken aback by the implication that, while George says daft things from time to time, this wasn’t one of those occasions? In particular, am I supposed to take seriously Monbiot’s assertion that the likes of Fox and Furedi are ‘in favour of global warming?’ They might well oppose Kyoto on certain grounds but such points can be debated; whereas the tone of Monbiot’s piece seems rather censorious to me (and frankly unpleasantly redolent of conspiracy theory without much in the way of conclusive evidence). If Monbiot disputes the views held by Spiked, perhaps he could confine himself to disputing them and avoid ad hominem. I’m sorry, but Monbiot just seems to me to have chosen an absolutely nauseating way to conduct a debate.


Greg Hunter 12.12.03 at 6:23 pm

The Monbiot’s trend appears to hold true for US liberals at least in the GM debate. A former US Congressman from Dayton, OH., was appointed Ambassador to The U.S. Mission to the United Nations Agencies in Rome. Mr. Hall spent his time in Congress on World Hunger and now he appears to have found the solution in GM food, but first he has to convince Africa and the Pope that this is A-OKAY. In order to get that done is advocating the Monsanto position on formulating ownership of GM food.

A former liberal turned corporate front man.


Q 12.12.03 at 8:25 pm

I could easily be speaking out of turn here, but presuming that people reading this have any actual interest in spiked’s politics…

First off, most libertarians I’ve run into make for dull company. They have a one track mind: tax, tax, tax, tax …. So far as I know spiked has never mentioned the issue. (In fact they’ve made the best defence of pensions I’ve seen, attacking the “demographic timebomb” argument as a variety of malthusianism.)

Libertarians are also not known for advocating politics and democracy. But laments about the collapse of politics are one of the most repetitive themes of spiked editorials.

Second, their IT coverage has focused around criticising technological determinism. They ran a whole conference in London on the New Economy focused around the idea or criticising both technophiles and technophobes.

On biotechnology they had a go at both Greg Stock (technophile author of Redesigning Humans: Our Inevitable Genetic Future) and Fukuyama (technophobe author of Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution) for technological determinism.

I can see where “neolibertarian technoenthusiasts” came from, but I have to say I don’t think spiked fits the image that the prejudices associated with the phrase are likely to conjure up.

Generally the tone of Monbiot’s article doesn’t aid understanding much. He makes a comparison to “neo-cons” and the Pentagon – but spiked has opposed war in Iraq. spiked has also defended abortion rights in uncompromising terms. On abortion and embryo research Monbiot makes it look like him who’s in the Bush camp.

Overall I think Monbiot is too obsessed with the environment to even think about what might be going on. Where is the corporate interest paying Furedi to write about Therapy Culture or the Institute of Ideas to make museums a big deal?

Lee: “By hook or by crook, LM/RCP/IOI/SOS/Spiked always end up pushing positions that echo the views of right-wing elements within the British state (not parlliament or parties, but the apparatus itself)”

Not exactly sure what you mean by “right-wing” here, but how do you square this with their line on immigration controls (abolish them)?

Apologies if I misunderstood the terms of the debate.


Richard 12.12.03 at 9:00 pm

Actually the point about spiked’s advocacy of abolishing immigration controls was one I made discussing this at Butterflies and Wheels. It is an argument I’ve heard from US libertarians, but it isn’t something I generally expect from the UK right wing. More specifically, what about Mick Hume’s current piece on how consumer choice is a contradiction in terms? Is that right-wing? Or Phil Mullan’s piece blaming the pensions crisis on the business class?


Barney Rubble 12.23.03 at 12:32 am

Monbiot’s piece is nonsense throughout. The first ‘RCP’ section is pure fiction. The events described did not happen. How exactly did the organisation try to destroy the Polytechnic of North London, for instance? Blocking the sinks and leaving the water running over the weekend? If you look at Monbiot’s website, the sources for many of his claims are either gossipy British leftists or LM articles. The latter he then distorts, but readers of his newspaper column might not have the time to follow up these assertions.
(Incidentally, the GMWatch source of this piece attacks the RCP/LM from the right – as ‘soft on terror’ etc.) Many of the people/networks Monbiot rants about in the second part of the article reached their current libertarian outlook regardless of whether ‘corporate sponsorship’ for it exists or not. Monbiot and Nick Cohen over at Guardian sister paper the Observer run the same sort of article annually – change the record!
Check out for a sense of the actual, not the fabricated political analysis under discussion here.

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