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The Reds no longer under the bed

Crude scaremongering by the Tories is in tune with Labour right's prevailing paranoias

“FAR-LEFT” influence on Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion to be probed,” read the “exclusive” headline in the Daily Telegraph.

“Attempts by far-left activists to ‘hijack’ movements including Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion are being investigated in a review ordered by Boris Johnson,” it said, with the review led by turncoat ex-Labour MP John Woodcock.

The idea of reds stirring up black activists sounded familiar, so I looked back at some old issues of The Times.

In the 1960s, black Americans in the Southern states could not vote, and were terrorised by the police and racist gangs. 

They organised a civil rights movement of marches and protests. George Wallace, the racist governor of Alabama, tried stopping them.  

In March 1965 Governor Wallace’s police viciously attacked civil rights marchers at Selma, Alabama: the attack on the march shocked the world at the time and became the subject of the 2014 movie “Selma.”

According to the Times, Governor Wallace “claimed that it was all the fault of the press and outside agitators who were communist-led. 

“Mr J Edgar Hoover, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had said that there were more communists in the United States now than there had been at the time of the revolution. 

“He would not treat with outside agitators or those belonging to subversive organisations.”

The Times said throughout his interview “George Wallace acted like a good man wronged, a straightforward American victimised by an international communist conspiracy. 

“It was a Southern version of Alice in Wonderland, and on reflection this was an American tragedy.”

This claim view that communist agitators were behind the civil rights movement was an absolute core of the racist resistance to change in the 1960s.

The Times reported Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett testifying to Congress against the 1963 Civil Rights Bill. 

The headline says: “Communists Blamed,” explaining: “Mr Barnett produced a large photograph which, he claimed, showed Dr Martin Luther King, the Negro leader, at a ‘Communist Training School’.”

Barnett’s attempt to paint Martin Luther King as manipulated by communists was matched with a threat of white violence. 

The 1963 Civil Rights Bill was backed by a large, black-led march on Washington. Governor Barnett said: “If you think 500,000 Negroes marching on Washington is something, pass this legislation and you will find out what 100 million angry white Americans will do.”

To be 100 per cent clear, US communists were very active in fighting for black rights — even at times like the 1930s when liberals were more nervous about getting involved. 

Communist Party members like Jack O’Dell were very much involved in the post-war civil rights movement. This didn’t show that civil rights protesters were wrong, it showed that the communists were, on this issue, completely right.

Today, the government, with the assistance of the Telegraph, is trying to revive some very old, very reactionary ideas: protest movements for racial justice don’t come from racial injustice, they come from “outside” agitation by “reds” and so can be discounted — if not attacked.

The Telegraph backed up the government’s Woodcock inquiry with an article by Rakib Ehsan, from the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society, which really did have the feel of cold war red-baiting of racial justice protests.

“Britain cannot be blind,” he wrote, “to the threat of far-left revolutionaries.” 

It claimed: “The infiltration of progressive movements like BLM and Extinction Rebellion by extremists poses a threat to social cohesion and public order.”

Reviving this very old, reactionary argument is key to the Tories’ “culture war.” 

The government wants to try scaring people into voting for Boris Johnson by pretending a conspiracy of black people and “revolutionaries” are threatening “order.” 

It’s a licence for every racist to believe that any complaints about racism are just the work of “extremists.”

Labour’s leaders are well aware the Tories want this “culture war.” To resist it they need to show that the protesters are responding to genuine issues and that radical people being involved in protests is perfectly normal, and part of our long history of dissent.

One problem Labour has here is that the party’s own right wing has so recently tried to use the same kind of “red scare” tactics against the left. 

This is another example of how Labour’s right was ready to set fire to basic socialist ideas in a scorched-earth resistance against Corbynism, and now find that this has burnt the party as well.

So Tom Watson claimed he had documents showing that support for Corbyn grew in 2016 because of subversive infiltration by “Trotsky entryists,” claiming he had found “instructions” for a takeover from “far-left parties” that actually turned out to be written by Labour’s Blairite group, Progress. 

Labour’s right wing relentlessly tried to argue that the growth of Labour’s left was illegitimate, alien and violent. 

Rather than seeing Labour’s new members as driven by genuine concerns about how Labour had gone along with austerity and pulled rightwards, Labour’s right tried to claim they were violent outsiders — “Trots” and “rabble.” 

This was old-fashioned red scare stuff. If Labour uses these methods, you can hardly excuse the Tories from trying the same trick. 

If Labour wants to resist the Tory “culture war,” its own leading figures have to avoid playing the same game.

 

Huntercombe: a case for nationalisation

THIS month the Care Quality Commission announced the Huntercombe hospital in Maidenhead was “inadequate,” placing it into special measures. 

The 60-bed hospital is a privately run NHS provider of mental healthcare for young people. 

Inspectors found uncleaned blood stains on the wall of the visiting room, caused by patients banging their heads. 

Inspectors found many other serious problems, including patients given drugs instead of proper treatment, which they called “chemical restraint.” 

Who is behind this grim treatment of NHS patients? Thanks to the financialisation of the NHS it is a secretive hedge fund based in Stamford, Connecticut called H/2 Capital Partners. 

Huntercombe Group is a subsidiary of Four Seasons, which runs British care homes. 

Four Seasons was owned by Terra Firma, the investment firm run by Guy Hands, who was very close to Tories like William Hague. 

However, under Hands, Four Seasons and Huntercombe went bust, and were taken over by the tight-lipped US hedge fund, H/2 Capital Partners.  

This is how privatisation works: the government pays for hospitals and care homes like those run by Huntercombe and Four Seasons. 

The companies take the money, treat patients and residents badly, and are traded between secretive, uncontrollable financial organisations across the world.

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