Munira Mirza has been appointed to lead the Governments inquiry into racism in Britain. While she is little know outside of political circles her appointment has caused widespread shock. Mirza doesn’t believe that institional racism exists, and is a strong defender of Boris Johnson comments about letterboxes and watermelon smiles.
This is typical of her views:
Articles from Spiked on Line are being recommended to Tory MPs to rebut the arguments of BLM and Marcus Rashford
This is the latest escalation of a culture war, which has some very strange origins.
In 2001 the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yuogslavia judged that the Serbian leadership had commited Genocide. 30 people were tried for these crimes, including Slobodan Milošević, Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić. Despite the overwhelming evidence to support the allegations against the Milosevic regime many on the left refused to believe them and continued to back him. Uncritical support for Serbia went hand in hand with conspiracy theories about Western Imperialism.
Genodice denial on the left took many forms:
The Socialist Workers Party argued that that Milosevic wasn’t a war criminal and that it was Ariel Sharon and Henry Kissinger who should have been arrested for War Crimes on behalf of Imperialism.
The Communist Party backed Milosevic all the way through, even when he was overthrown in 2000 their headlines were; “Arson Rules In Belgrade” and “Pro-Capitalist Demonstrators Burn Parliament” . As late as last year Liz Payne, Chair of the Communist Party was indulging in Genocide revisionism “In Yugoslavia, imperialism saw not only the opportunity of ridding Europe of any last vestiges of socialism, splitting the country into controllable and exploitable statelets and securing access to high quantities of mineral resources, including the valuable lignite deposits of Kosovo”.
Even the Labour Party got involved. Jeremy Corbyn and his backbench clique backed an early day motion in 2004 denying the existence of genocide:
But craziest of the crazies were the Revolutionary Communist Party. The RCP published a magazine called Living Marxism (later LM), which was stalwart in it’s defence of the Serbian regime. In 1997 they published an article called “The picture that fooled the world” which claimed that ITN and the Guardian had falsified pictures of Serbian war crimes. ITN sued, and in 2000 Living Marxism lost a landmark libel trial over Genocide denial.
I went to RCP events in the 80s, and they were a weird affair. They were lavishly funded and included guests like Kate Adie, John Simpson, Melvyn Bragg, David Starkey, Nicholas Kenyon, and John Humphrys. While other left wing factions sold their newspapers outside of Tube Stations Living Marxism had a distribution deal with WH Smiths.
I’m not the first person to speculate that the whole thing was a front for MI5 to keep track on the left, or had some source of funding that they never disclosed.
You would assume that Genocide denial would blight someones career, but in the years since the careers of many of the main characters have flourished.
Claire Fox, joint editor of Living Marxism, became a Brexit Party MEP. Some of the other RCP members made the same journey with her, including James Heartfield and Alka Cuthbert. Mick Hume, the other co-editor of LM was a Times journalist for over a decade and now writes for the Sun.
Living Marxism became Spiked on Line, funded by right wing US billionaires the Koch brothers. Their new editor Brendan O’Neill is a regular talking head on the BBC proposing libertarianism for the rich and totalitarianism for the rest of us.
Munira Mirza left Spiked to work for Boris Johnson as London Mayor, and from there to her current job at No10.
For a fringe group of genocide denying weirdos who were too odd for me to cope with they have done incredibly well. It’s hard to tell if they were right wingers infiltrating the right or right wingers using Troyskite tactics against the left. Or maybe they just learnt from the ITN libel trial that there is a lot of money to be made from peddling outrage as long as you stop short of libel.
What happened to the rest of them?
Corbyn of course became leader of the Labour Party and led them to a historic defeat. Many of the signatories of the EDM served on his front bench, including John MacDonald as Shadow Chancellor. Andrew Murray from the Communist Party became his chief policy advisor, with Seamus Milne (a long standing communist with a passion for any anti-western authoritarian regimes) his spin Doctor. Murray, Corbyn and MacDonald all had their children on the party payroll too, like all good authoritarians do.
The Socialist Workers Party imploded after it emerged that young female members had made accusations of rape and sexual assault against a senior party member, normally referred to as “Comrade Delta” for legal reasons. The women had been pressured not to go to the Police, and instead to deal with it through internal party structures.
The SWP was banned from several Students Unions for “rape apologism”. It now operates through a series of front organisations such as Stand Up to Racism, and Unite against Fascism. It was active in Stop the War, and is attempting to use UK Black Lives Matters in the same way.
Corbyn and MacDonald continue to support the former leadership of the SWP, regularly sharing a platform with them, and inviting them to Labour conference. Comrade Delta was given fully funded PhD place at Liverpool Hope University, who were apparently happy for him to be in contact with female staff and students.
For a time the former genocide deniers help positions of power with the Conservatives, Labour and UKIP.
The massive question is…. how did a group of genocide deniers from the fringes of left wing politics in the 90s end up having such a massive impact on the left and the right.
The most obvious thing they all have in common is authoritarianism, and a willingness to support authoritarian regimes aboard. Labour under Corbyn and the Tories under Johnson have shifted way from liberal centralism towards authoritarian politics. Both sides share a destructive contempt for the institutions of liberal democracy, encouraging British voters to believe that their own institutions are no less corrupt than those of authoritarian regimes. Encouraging this belief is a key step in persuading voters to permit the destruction of the checks and balances that limit political power and hold it to account.
In such an environment Munira Mirza and Andrew Murray found themselves welcomed at the very top.
They also are people soaked in conspiracy theories in an era where social media has helped conspiracy theories go viral. Supporters of the far right and far left have become stewed in a mix of credulousness and cynicism that encourages belief in strange conspiracies, truths covered up, forbidden truths known only to true believers. Russian bot farms and hostile regimes stir the mix amplifying extreme and divisive views on the both sides.
A pervasive belief that the mainstream media are corrupt and in the service of a sinister powerful force that trades in lies unites both sides who equally despise the BBC for presenting ideas that do not immediately confirm their pre-existing prejudices and bigotries. Chomskys theories of manufactured consent gave the authoritarian left an excuse for failure, and the authoritarian right a blue print for manipulation.
Fellow travellers from the pro-Milosevic left can be found spreading nonsense about Syria, vaccines, coronavirus, Trump, Brexit, any divisive issue where facts are less important than a hot take. The conspiracy theories about the Iraq war and overheated claims that Tony Blair was a war criminal were key stepping stones on the path of madness.
In a world where truth and fact matter less than identity and ideology the likes of Claire Fox, Seamus Milne, Andrew Murray and Munira Mirza are at home.
I would like to be satisfied with these general theories, and convince myself that these awful creatures are the products of our times, the monsters produced by our reason sleeping.
But I just can’t believe it. The sequence of events that took these oddballs and weirdoes to the both of one political party would be strange. To find them occupying senior positions in Labour, Tory and UKIP all at once is hard to believe.
I can’t bring myself to enter fully into the “the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy ” that defines the paranoid political imagination.
But I can’t follow the journey from genocide denial to No 10 any other way.