If there is one thing that socialists enjoy more than imposing economic dictatorships on hapless populations, it has to be a good old purge. Nothing suits a group of left-wing firebrands more than collectively to take an ideological emetic and laxative and see what comes out.
Consider the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. By the 1930s things were not going well and Someone Had To Be Blamed. Of course, blame could hardly rest on Josef Stalin. So instead he blamed everyone else. I’m sure that made sense. The NKVD, the predecessor of the KGB, was given quotas of people to be purged. Even the head of the NKVD was purged. But that was not enough for Uncle Joe. The Army had to be purged as well. The replacement generals were all regarded as ideologically correct and ‘safe’. Unfortunately, this did not necessarily mean that they were actually any good. The Wehrmacht got to Moscow’s westernmost tram terminus before they were stopped, not by Soviet generalship, but by winter.
The People’s Republic of China is no stranger to purges as well. Any person unfortunate to have a degree of wealth after the communist victory in 1949 was seen as an enemy of the people and was purged to death by the mob. The ‘Cultural Revolution’ was a chance for Mao Tse-Tung to reassert his power, which had been diluted after the spectacular failure of the ironically-described ‘Great Leap Forward’ that resulted in the communist state falling down a hole for a generation. The purge this time was of the middle class. Doctors, teachers and the other kinds of professionals necessary for a modern country to function were seen as reactionary traitors and sent into the fields to work. Rather than climbing up from the hole, the world’s most populous country stayed there for a further generation. Mao is now officially regarded by the party as ’70 per cent right, 30 per cent wrong’, the 30 per cent probably being the percentage of the years he was in power that people died as a result of his peacetime policies. It may be an underestimate.
Our own Labour party likes a good old purge now and again. In the 1970s, the Trotskyist hard left and their useful idiot fellow-travellers (yes, I’m looking at you, Tony Benn) was purging moderates to the point that there was a split in the party. Had there been an election in 1981, then the resultant SDP may have been in government. But no. Labour authored the longest suicide note in history, offering economic dictatorship to the British Public. The British Public said no thanks.
Neil Kinnock joined in this Game of Purges, this time deciding he wanted to make his party a bit more electable and started kicking out the more blatant Trotskyites. By 1991, he had managed to expel a hard-left bearded radical MP who had been elected in 1983. How Jeremy Corbyn survived under Kinnock when Dave Nellist was removed from the party is curious. Perhaps Stalinism was okay where Trotskyism wasn’t. After all that was the case in the USSR and where the USSR leads, Labour clearly followed. After all, they do have that caricature of Lenin in their logo.
There is a new purge going on right now. The interesting feature of this purge is that it is not between the Hard Left and Moderates. Both camps seem to be holding their own in the Labour party pending the outcome of the local elections. No, this is a tussle between elements of the Left to determine who is the leftier. And the argument appears to revolve around genitals, who’s got what, whether they are happy with what they have got, the legal status of the genitals, whether they would like to act as if they do not have the genitals they have, whether they would like the genitals they have to be reshaped to look like the genitals other people have and finally, how these genitals, modified or otherwise, should be used and with whom.
It seems to be to do with gay rights, which has evolved into lesbian and gay rights, which transmogrified into lesbian, gay and bisexual rights, which metamorphosed into lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans rights (here, some clarification is required – ‘trans’ may mean transexual or trangender, which are two entirely different things. Apparently it is a social crime to confuse the two.), which mutated into lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights (more clarification is needed here – ‘intersex’ refers to ambiguous physiology, transexual indicates there is no ambiguity. Again, confusion or conflation may result in social death, apparently. Be warned), which blossomed into lesbian, gay, trans, intersex and questioning rights (here some more clarification may be required – ‘questioning’ may be substituted by ‘queer’. Or may not. It depends. As to what it depends on is a good question. This may be what is meant by ‘questioning’. Or it may not).
I hope that has clarified the matter.
What is happening is that a whole load of left-wingers from the 1970s and 1980s is being purged for being transphobic. The likes of Peter Tatchell, the man who invaded the pulpit of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Nick-Griffin-lookalike lesbian feminist Julie Bindel are being no-platformed by the National Union of Students There is also something about ‘safe spaces’
No-platforming, for the uninitiated, does not involve preventing them from catching a train, but instead means that they are placed on the same blacklist occupied by the BNP and other ‘fascists’ and banned from speaking at certain public events involving students, although, given that this is a left wing initiative and left wingers see fascists everywhere, this does imply a substantial proportion of the population. The reason they are denounced as transphobic (and you can’t be purged without being denounced first, this is how they do things, it’s a kind of socialist tradition) is because the purgees may have suggested at one time or another (in Bindel’s case it was one article all of thirteen years ago, but the internet remembers everything) that a person’s physiology dictates their gender or some such. They have said in some way that dressing up as a woman does not make you a woman unless you are physically a woman. The horror.
Safe spaces, not to be confused with indoor play areas for kiddies, are actually indoor play areas for adolescents and twentysomethings. Instead of climbing frames wrapped in foam, it is the words that are bubble-wrapped. In a safe space people are forbidden to say anything that anyone else may disagree with. Saying agreeable things is mandatory. Saying something determined by a committee to be disagreeable may result in no-platforming. Exactly what is determined to be disagreeable can be almost anything. In effect a ‘safe space’ is like a library. No-one is actually allowed to say anything, just to be on the safe side. Even raising your hand is frowned on. Of course the NUS means to be in favour of free speech, that is speech free from any meaning apart from that approved by the NUS.
Tatchell and Bindel are not the only ones to be purged. Germain Greer has also been subject to this treatment. The women most associated with the culture of women’s liberation has been ostracised for repeatedly stating that a post-operative transgender woman, which may mean (subject to checking) a man who has undergone surgery, ‘can’t be a woman’. What a frightful old conservative she turned out to be. Who knew?
Of course this hoo-ha may not actually be about this. Despite the increasing celebrity death toll, which is actually a function of an increase in the supply of celebrities from 1960 onwards, these old lefties seem to have a habit of surviving. And the stage is getting a bit crowded. So the Left are simply doing what they do best, which is getting rid of some of their number with a good old purge.
Since the Left is always about self-examination and criticism, they have simply opened up a new area of social thinking, while at the same time creating a lucrative, and probably taxpayer-funded, new market in genital surgery and hormone replacement therapy. The risk of industrial disease from social activism is quite low, and these old radicals persist in providing commentary that fills up the opinion pages of The Guardian, to the exclusion of younger firebrands. So a purge is under way, led by Britain’s answer to the Red Guard, the NUS. They want their place in the sun, their fifteen minutes of fame. Greer, Tatchell & Co have to go, so someone else can have a turn. This is called ‘fairness’.
It is all rather entertaining, in an oh-my-god-some-day-these-students-may-be-in-government kind of way. After all, NUS officers tend to become special advisers or Labour MPs. If you want to see the linguistic compromises, swastika throwing, and ideological balancing acts, together with bogus applications of equality that socialists excel in, hie thee hence to this recording of Monday’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, which at the time of writing, the BBC has promised to be available in iPlayer ‘soon’, unless it has been no-platformed as well. Anything is possible at the BBC, apparently. It’s all thanks to the unique way it is funded.
I did find it tolerable in small doses. Remember, some of the people here will graduate and only be able to get jobs in the state or NGO sector where they will be spending your taxes on whatever they decide.
Enjoy, if you can. This may be behind-the-sofa television.
(Image: Andrew Kitzmiller)