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The Challenge to Labour and Tory Extremism

Extremism is on the rise, let there be no doubt. Apparently socialism is viewed by some as part of this growing problem, with Tony Blair stating earlier this morning that “radical leftism… is often in fact quite reactionary”. He warned, “let me make my position clear: I wouldn’t want to win on an old fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn’t take it.” This bizarre position helps to explain why Liz Kendall is Mr Blair’s favoured leadership candidate for the Labour Party – a women who openly supports the intensification of austerity, argues that the Labour Party should not have voted in Parliament to recognise the Palestinian state, and believes that the democratically-elected Government of the Greek working-class are in actual fact “extremists.”

On Monday evening the majority of the Labour Party reaffirmed their abdication of the 76% of the electorate, who most certainly did not vote for the Tories, by refusing to challenge the Government’s extremist Welfare Bill. This not unexpected failure took place on the same day that David Cameron delivered a speech in Birmingham about the Tories plan to eradicate Islamist extremism. A speech that went a long way to illustrating the similarities between the Tories anti-worker, pro-corporate approach to politics, and Blair and Kendall’s own stupefying misconceptions about extremism.

In his transparently faux bid to tackle the root causes of such problems Cameron explained, “what I call the grievance justification [for extremism], must be challenged.” Apparently we should not be fooled into thinking that “historic injustices and recent wars, or… poverty and hardship” contribute in a significant way to the growth of extremism.

Echoing the misdirections of the Government’s much maligned PREVENT strategy, Cameron said “we must be clear” that decades of war and needless slaughter in the Middle East have no bearing on the matter: “The root cause of the threat we face is the extremist ideology itself.” In defence of his newly minted PREVENT strategy for schools, Cameron says that it “is paranoia in the extreme” to believe that PREVENT is really “about criminalising or spying on Muslim children.”

But evidently such paranoid extremist beliefs are widespread, as demonstrated by an open letter published in The Independent (July 10) that condemned PREVENT in the sharpest terms — in ways that Cameron might term “paranoia in the extreme”. Supported by hundreds of people, the letter was signed by the likes of Labour peer Baroness Ruth Lister (who is based at Loughborough University) and religious historian Karen Armstrong, who just last month was awarded an OBE for her services to literature and interfaith dialogue.

Not put off by such criticisms, Cameron warned that “wild conspiracy theories” must be condemned, whether based in fact or otherwise. Historical facts merely seem to confuse matters for Cameron. But it is precisely the type of extreme paranoia promoted by non-violent extremists (like those who signed the aforementioned open letter) that Cameron wishes to criminalise.

It “is clear” he warns, that many Islamic terrorists “were first influenced by what some would call non-violent extremists.” Hence a “key part”of the Government’s anti-terror strategy “means confronting groups and organisations that may not advocate violence – but which do promote other parts of the extremist narrative.”

Poisonous ideologies “have existed before – whether fascist or communist” Cameron reminds us, thereby conveniently lumping communism — a democratic ideology (when not in Stalinist garb) that is committed to social justice and the promotion of egalitarian social and economic relations — alongside fascism. The latter ideology of fascism of course having much in common with Cameron’s own toxic and individualist brands of corporatist ideology (neoconservatism and neoliberalsm).

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Michael Barker is the author of Under the Mask of Philanthropy (2017).

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