Cultists & communists – too close to us for comfort

25 November 2013

Like the whiff of a mouldy madeleine, the statement by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) on the expulsion of Comrade Balakrishnan takes you back to a time that is well worth forgetting.

‘Balakrishnan and his clique were suspended from the Party because of their pursuance of conspiratorial and splittist activities and because of their spreading social fascist slanders against the Party and the proletarian movement,’ it read.

The churn of Dalek denunciations can only have come from one time and place – the Marxisant left of the 1970s.

I’ll try to translate. The central committee used ‘clique’ and ‘splittist’ to accuse Balakrishnan and his friends of seeking to divert the faithful from ‘the task of organising the industrial proletariat [that] will surge ahead, under the leadership of the Party’, as the communique went on to say. No crime was worse, because the party was the best and only hope for the working class, and by extension, all humanity. The reference to ‘social fascism’ would have confused listeners in 1974, and must be incomprehensible now. A ‘social fascist’ is not a Nazi with a full diary. The label comes from Stalin’s accession to power in the late 1920s, when the dictator decided to ignore the rise of Mussolini and Hitler, and concentrate communist energies on fighting social democratic parties. They were worse than Nazis, Moscow insisted, because they misled the workers into believing that they were an alternative to the one true communist path.

Freud’s ‘narcissism of small differences’ is too weak a phrase to capture the intensity of the hatred the committed feel for heretics, who share elements of their ideology. Heretics know the truth, or at least part of it. Yet they refuse to accept it and instead lead recruits, who might have seen the light, to perdition. Just as for the religious fundamentalist, the apostate is worse than the heathen, who is too ignorant to know better, so for the communist in this instance the social democrat is worse than the fascist.

As Scotland Yard briefed today, Balakrishnan went on from the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) to run the Mao Zedong Memorial Centre in Brixton. He is now under investigation for allegedly holding three women as slaves for 30 years.

The alleged slave case, as I ought to say, has puzzled observers. People at first assumed that the rescued women had been held hostage by foreigners – probably Saudi Arabians – who had enslaved maids from the Philippines. When rumours of a cult spread, people assumed that ‘cult’ must mean ‘religious cult’ – for what other type of cult is there?

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When I was writing What’s Left, my history of how far left ideas became mainstream, I was indebted to a study by Dennis Tourish and Tim Wholforth. Their On the Edge is a wonderfully illuminating book because it shows how the techniques used by political and religious cultists are identical, and says there is no need to separate the two. Because Marx was a great philosopher – whom I still read incidentally – apologists like to say that you cannot blame him for the crimes of Marxists. But Marx offered heaven on earth, and Lenin showed that a small group of fanatical murderers could seize power. The combination of the promise of Utopia and the promise that Utopia could be gained if, and only if, revolutionaries followed the one true dogma has meant that Marxism has produced more cults and millenarian egomaniacs than any other secular doctrine.

Religious and secular utopians agree that:

Reality is a lie

The leaders of any cult, political or religious, must ensure that their members treat news from the outside world as contaminated. They cannot allow sceptics to warn the faithful that they are wasting their lives on a fantasy. In religious cults, ignorance of the true religion damns sceptical voices. Those who question the authority of the faith are often worse than merely ignorant.They may be the agents of the devil deliberately trying to destroy the seekers of righteousness. Political cults achieve the same result by saying that the real world with its inconvenient facts is an illusion created by the cult’s enemies – the press, the secret services and so on. They spread lies. They stop the masses understanding that the cult is their saviour, and use any dastardly tactic to stop the party achieving its historic mission.

Break up families

Parents, husbands, wives, lovers and children are the people most likely to tell you that the leaders you are following are demented. At the time I was writing What’s Left, right-wing militia groups in the United States were encouraging their members to abandon their homes for retreats in the wilderness. The far-left cults had the same determination to hide their members from the malign influences of family life. The worst was the Workers’ Revolutionary Party, a Marxist party whose ranks were filled with an extraordinary number of actors. (Unlikely proletarians, but there you are.) Beyond agitation, the party’s main purpose was to provide women for the great leader, one Gerry Healy, to rape. Corin Redgrave and his sister Vanessa stayed with Healy to the end. To maintain his control, Healy had to isolate sect members, and make sure that he controlled the information they received.

Corin Redgrave’s first wife, Deirdre, described how Healy reacted when she refused to join his party, and bolster rather than challenge her husband’s commitment to the revolution:

I was suddenly commanded into Healy’s presence. Two rather grim looking henchmen took me by the arms, albeit gently. He looked at me with a steady, even gaze and demanded,
‘Why don’t you join the party? Why won’t you support your husband?’
I told Healy quite clearly that I had two young children to bring up – and I didn’t want them to grow up disturbed. I wanted them to be normal kids. If you are a member of the WRP – a real dedicated member, that is – you would seldom see your children. You are travelling everywhere. Bradford one day. Cardiff the next.

The marriage broke down soon afterwards. I was not surprised to hear that the Stockwell cult allegedly targeted overseas students, who were struggling to make a new life in Britain. With no family, lovers or friends to tell them they are making a mistake, the isolated are a cult’s ideal recruits

Work your cultists half to death

Jehovah’s Witnesses keep banging at your door and the few remaining members of the Socialist Workers Party are still up early trying to sell newspapers because they want money. They are their leaders’ cash machines, and the harder they work the more they make for the cult. It is also true, however, that the harder they work the harder they find it to break away. They have committed all that time, all that hope and enthusiasm, how can they admit it has all been for nothing?

BEFORE WE BECOME too superior, and too eager to enjoy the show, consider how much cultish behaviour there is in mainstream society. Admittedly, it is on a far less intense scale. But I have known people who have had their colleagues berate them for marrying someone from the enemy’s political camp. They feared that if the man or woman closest to the person ‘marrying out’ did not confirm his or her prejudices, then their adherence to the party line would weaken.

That said, I have only seen the political policing of relationships a few times. More common is for managers to behave like cult leaders. They order their subordinates to work all hours. They treat family as a dangerous distraction from the greater corporate good, and evidence of a life away from work as evidence of disloyalty. As with cults, the harder the subordinate works, the more money the firm makes, and the more committed to the firm’s success the employee becomes.

In one instance, I think it is fair to say, cultish thinking is everywhere. You cannot read the political press without finding the ineradicable belief that a malign conspiracy perverts the minds of the masses. For the Left, the wiles and propaganda of the tabloids and Murdoch press stop the workers understanding their true interests. For the Right, it is the BBC, which writers for the Tory press, including Spectator writers and readers, credit with a supernatural power to brainwash the voters and prevent them seeing the blessed truth that an over-policed, under-funded, negligently regulated, closed-bordered micro state is in theirs and Britain’s best interests.

That must be true, must it not? For what would be left of your faith if it were just a comforting illusion?

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Show comments
  • hennesli

    The right would still complain about a biased ‘liberal media’ with or without a state funded broadcaster – just look at America.

  • Otto

    Good thing Lenin saved us from Hitler, all the same.

    Capitalism is cultism, too. it too divides families.

  • NewImprovedPretendName

    “Religious and secular utopians agree that: Reality is a lie”

    That’s rather a compression of the often rather gentle teachings of Christian Platonists, surely …

  • Hippograd

    Like rape-gangs, teen stabbings and the surveillance state, it’s all a fruit of mass immigration and the joys of diversity — which Nick Cohen and his comrades like Norman Geras have always backed to the hilt.

  • S&A

    Is it fair to describe Jehovah’s Witnesses as part of a ‘cult’?

  • MoronMcdoublechin

    EDL, BNP and Tories – Too close for comfort.

  • Daniel Maris

    I think it’s a bit unfair to refer to the SWP of being a cult. They don’t seem to have any “great leader” as you would normally expect with a cult. They have engaged with society rather than shutting themselves off.

    They have often been proved right. If you went back 35 years, I feel fairly sure that they would have been claiming UK government sanctioned death squads were working in Northern Ireland shooting unarmed republicans. It now appears that was indeed the case.

    No doubt a few years back they were railing against the fact that so many companies weren’t paying any corporation tax at all when no mainstream politicians were talking about that – now all mainstream politicians accept that is an issue.

    They have been at the forefront of several mass campaigns including opposition to the poll tax which have impacted on our national life.

    I respect the SWP in a way I don’t respect Mad Maoists, JWs or other cultists.

    Which is not the same as saying I support them or think their political aims are desirable or achievable.

    • Howard Fuller

      Two words:

      Comrade & delta

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Bizarre as this sounds, in 1919 Bolsheviks outside Moscow actually wanted to nationalize women. Which means they saw women as a commodity, reserving the best for party members. No pun intended. Lenin to his credit put a stop to this.

  • Bonkim

    Don’t generalise – some of the religious folk may be quite happy with their beliefs – now what makes you think superstitions prevailing in the majority are not harmful for their adhearants? A cult is good or harmful based on who defines it.

    I think some majority religions – Islam, Catholic, etc are more harmful than Jehovah’s Witnesses (I am not one ) – the societies they create are not necessarily equal or happy.

  • sarahsmith232

    ‘cultish thinking is everywhere’ a believe that ‘a malign conspiracy perverts the minds of the masses’? Oh, Nick Cohen, how can you work in the media yet appear not to have that much of an awareness, let’s say, of how the media operates?
    I would like to ask Cohen why he believes he is valued as political writer? I’m going to guess the deal is that he is and paid quite well by the publications that employ him. Why does he think these publications believe he’s worth so much? ‘Course, the answer is ’cause he’s influential, he’s able to influence. The Guardian wants to influence public opinion, it exists to do it’s bit to ensure the Left stays in power. This one, I’m guessing, is ’cause you’re able to persuade people of the fact that the Left can be irrational. Cohen is able to aid these publications is the attempts to affect change.
    Here’s where I think Cohen doesn’t appear to understand the process. Anyone that’s persuaded of an opinion by the media has not been prevented from ‘seeing the blessed truth’ about what’s ‘is in theirs and Britain’s best interests’ it is that they will have an identity that’s defined against many different groups. People understand themselves in terms of what they’re not and how superior they are compared to all the different groups in society. They are persuaded because media opinion will confirm their sense of superiority.
    People live their lives in ways which are most pleasing to them, so media pieces which say ‘you are part of a superior order, you think more correctly, you live more correctly, you vote more correctly’ confirm their real best interests. It’s not that they’re being lead to believe something that’s harmful to them, it’s that they’re having their groups interests elevated.
    Problem, for this to work the opposing groups interests have to be demonised. Being anti-Labour’s immigration policies is because you’re racist/fascist/sub-human/actually really quite sick. The Left has been persuaded of this. The Left has an unfair advantage in the BBC. The people who are persuaded are seeing themselves in opposition to this, so use this as evidence of their superiority. The BBC brilliantly plays into this, using it’s dominance to show the opposers as sub-human/stupid/scum etc.
    This ABSOLUTELY persuades. Those who haven’t been negatively affected by immigration are persuaded ’cause they’re having their ego’s massaged. This is all v.much in their interests. So no cultish conspiracy belief, just an understanding of the media works. Nick Cohen should know how influential the media can be, otherwise he’d be on just above the minimum wage.

  • NotYouNotSure

    Its not a conspiracy by the BBC, one can easily search for news stories where senior BBC staff openly state they are left. Nor is it a supernatural power, the fact that many believe the BBC is a paragon of objective reporting and it reaches so many, certainly does drive many to think how the BBC wants them to think.

    I don’t know how the author can dismiss the obvious fact that the BBC is left wing and does affect peoples thinking, as cultish, using his definition of cult if one is 100% certain the Earth is round then its cultish.

    • pdhan

      “That must be true, must it not? For what would be left of your faith if it were just a comforting illusion?”

      One of Cohen’s more insightful articles, this.

      • NotYouNotSure

        The BBC is left wing – BBC says its left wing, left wingers say they like to pay for the BBC. Its your own faith that the BBC is objective that you cannot to accept.

        • pdhan

          People on the left tend to like the BBC more as they understand the importance of a media outlet that is not governed purely by commercial interests, not because it’s communist.

          • sarahsmith232

            The BBC’s ‘interests’ are the maintaining of an advantage in society for BBC employees. Be that the most advantageous pay or be that the most advantageous class based sense of self. To maintain that the BBC can’t privatise.
            It’s governed by the purely self-serving, just like any other organisation. It’s illegal to not have to pay for that, no matter how un-advantageous it is for all of the rest of us.
            Personally I believe in the importance of individual freedom, so the BBC should be privatised.

          • La Fold

            Not because it shares many of the same views then?

          • Colonel Mustard


        • MoronMcdoublechin

          A good example of why far-right cultists like yourself need putting down

          • Colonel Mustard

            Thanks for showing us the true face of the left – again. Those who dissent must be eradicated. Across the whole history of the left in power it is a common thread. Yet mass murder is not such a crime as banker’s bonuses, eh?

    • La Fold

      Certainly it feelsto me those who despise the Daily Mail for its huge circulation figures and its ability to “influence” and “brainwash” people tend to be the same who believe the BBC to a paragon of objectivity and not subject to the same criteria of criticism. The only difference is that the Daily Mail does not send me bullSh*t letters threatening to take me court for not giving them my money.

    • White Dragon

      Jews own the BBC. Just Google it.

    • White Dragon

      Jews own the BBC. Just Google it.

    • White Dragon

      The BBC is JEWISH owned.

      Jews promote diversity and anti-Christian rhetoric.


      JEWS fear White unity and Christianity for historical reasons.

  • Terry Field

    I recall from a passing study of Communism many decades ago that it was propelled by Bolshevism, the small core group of super-activists, and not Menshevism, a much broader-based approach. A small group of activists seems to me to be the very definition of a cult – a bit like the shadow cabinet.

  • La Fold

    We have a word up here for people like this, “Zoomers”.

  • Kennybhoy

    The BBC bit aside, a fine, apposite article Maister C.

    • pdhan

      Of course, it’s only ever relevant to others, not to my own blinkered and biased thinking.

  • MikeF

    “the BBC, which writers for the Tory press, including Spectator writers and readers, credit with a supernatural power to brainwash the voters and prevent them seeing the blessed truth that an over-policed, under-funded, negligently regulated, closed-bordered micro state is in theirs and Britain’s best interests.”
    No – such people, I am one, lament the complete lack of impartiality in so much of the BBC’s politial reporting and indeed the way that the ‘left-liberal’ mindset infuses even so-called entertainment programmes. As for an ‘over-policed’ society – isn’t that what we have got now with ‘hate speech’ laws and who has brought those into existence? If you don’t mind me saying so that is a rather gratuitous and unconvincing attempt to use an otherwise interesting dissection of the ultra-left mindset of 40 years ago as an excuse for a sideswipe at the contemporary centre-right.
    By the way I think it was the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist Leninist) CPBML in other words Maoist as opposed to the Communist Party of Great Britain CPGB in other words Stalinist. I once got invited to Vanessa Redgrave’s house for a bit of indoctrination by a WRP (‘werp’ as we used to call them) member, but I declined the offer. Pity – if I had gone I might have been able to tell you what it was like. Did you notice that she turned up at the Dale Farm ‘travellers’ camp warbling on about their ‘wisdom’, but has not as far as I can tell made any moves to support the Roma of Sheffield as they are told what to do by their neighbours. I wonder why….

    • Colonel Mustard

      The current trend of the BBC impregnating even their drama programmes with out-of-context post-New Labour leftist revisionism and politico-societal anachronisms is quite unsettling. Too often contemporary political propaganda is woven into scripts and usually without any pretence at subtlety. Invariably “good” characters if involved in politics are on the left and “bad” characters on the right.

      This moral polarisation of politics grows apace to the point that “right wing” is now all but pejorative and rapidly becoming so. For those enthusiastically working towards making Britain a single party state and who ought to know better I’d say “Be careful what you wish for”.

  • Rocksy

    As soon as I read that the so called slaves and their so called masters had common ideological beliefs and had lived in a ‘collective’ together, I lost interest. The loony left in full spate.

    • MoronMcdoublechin

      As posed to the culte of Saville and Thatcher

      • La Fold

        What have you been smoking? And its Savile, not Saville you mook.

  • ShuggyMcGlumpher

    When discussing the dark paths cult can take, please remember the impressive resistance to Nazism that the Jehovah’s Witnesses showed.

    • Mr Grumpy

      Some hopes of Nick Cohen remembering that. It doesn’t fit into his worldview at all.

    • White Dragon

      And how NAZI’s build 1st world nations, but Marxists (JEWS) destroy them.

    • White Dragon

      And how NAZI’s build 1st world nations, but Marxists (JEWS) destroy them.

  • Chris Marker

    Yet another fruit of our sacrosanct multiculturalism. Curry Indians enslaving women just adds spice (sic) to our ‘insipid’ culture. Does’nt it?

    • The_greyhound

      It’s part of their culture. Whites have no right to critcize the behaviour of immigrants.

      We should be grateful they are here.


  • leoinlisbon

    ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses keep banging at your door.’

    No. Jehovah’s Witnesses occasionally knock politely at your door and ask, equally politely, if they might speak with you.

    When Nick Cohen brings Jehovah’s Witnesses into an article about the far left, he tells us more about himself than about them.

    • Terry Field


    • White Dragon

      Cohen is a JEW.

      Most Jews are Leftist for a reason.

      I wonder if he considers ZIONIST JEWS to be ‘cultish’?

      • S&A

        There’s a word that almost rhymes with ‘cult’ that can be used to describe people like you.

    • Colonel Mustard

      I have much less problem with Jehovah’s Witnesses coming to my door than I do with lefties pretending to be communitarians coming to a council office or fake charity near me. Those cultists don’t try to persuade politely, they wriggle into power unelected and then impose, “leading” beyond authority.

  • TRAV1S

    “credit with a supernatural power to brainwash the voters ”
    Not supernatural, but Orwellian.

  • Agrippina

    I have never understood why anyone would want to ‘enrich’ their leader whether faith, or political. Anyone with a little common sense can see through these charlatans but some folks just want to be led.

    I remember living in the USA in the 1980’s and watching the tv evangelists and couldn’t believe anyone would give them any donations, but they did, millions of dollars.

  • James Allen

    Er… we on the Right don’t force people to buy the Sun or the Daily Mail in order to read the Guardian, whereas the state forces me to subsidise the BBC in order to listen to what Sky or ITV have to say. So, nice try, but it’s not a matter of “faith” to believe the BBC distorts freedom of expression in this country.

    • Baron

      James, well said. Isn’t it amazing how the key point about BBC subsidising escapes Nick.

      Baron wouldn’t give give a quarter toss what the enlightened at the BBC said or did, if he didn’t have to contribute to their lavish pay and even more bountiful pension pots.

      • La Fold

        Graham Norton apparently recieves 2 million notes a year from the BBC and yet there still isnt a revolution in this country?

        • Baron

          That’s Britain for you, La Fold, a country of which the darling of the left, the bearded Marx said that if she had to have a revolution it would only be in gardening.

          • La Fold

            Ill have to remember that one for future use.

    • Daniel Maris

      Hmmm…that’s not a good analogy. When I buy something at Tesco’s I don’t ask them to give some of their profit from the transaction to Channel 5…but they do, whether I watch it or not.

      It’s true the state does force you to subsidise the BBC via the licence fee.

      But if I turn on my water tap I am forced to subsidise a private company who now operate the water supply even though it was largely built on public funds. I don’t want to, but I am forced to.

      • James Allen

        You’re not subsidising the water company, you’re entering into a contractual agreement to exchange Sterling for water. If you didn’t want the water, you wouldn’t have to pay for it. I have to pay for the BBC regardless of whether or not I want to receive their content.

        Sorry, this isn’t the Cambridge debating society…

        • Daniel Maris

          I have to pay for my water.

          There is no alternative to connecting up to the mains and paying the local monopoly water company.

          On your analogy the licence fee arrangement is justified for everyone, except those who do not want to watch BBC programmes.

          I guess something like that could be arranged with modern technology, so the tiny percentage who use no BBC services (say 1%) could have a refund on the fee.

          • James Allen

            Absolutely; a subscription service. Perfectly justifiable. Although it should be an opt in, not opt out contract. In any case, I think you’d find opt outs a little higher than 1%! More like 80%!

            p.s. You only pay for mains water if you use it. And you have an alternative; you could go out and buy bottled water. So… face it, you’re wrong.

    • Jonathan Cronin

      You’re not forced to pay for the BBC. You can choose not to.

      • paulthorgan

        It is not a realistic option so to do without removing televisions from your premises.

        • grammarschoolman

          Easily done in the age of the iplayer.

          • La Fold

            Well I dont pay my licence and I get the letters through all the time from the Centrica Salesman, sorry, the licence enforcement agent. Its not only TVs they try and tax you on. If you have an Xbox, PS3, Laptop, computer, tablet and even a smart phone which may be able to recieve a TV signal they will try and levy the licence fee on you.

            • grammarschoolman

              None of that has ever happened to me. Just make sure you don’t watch anything as it’s being broadcast.

              • La Fold

                Theyve obviously cottoned onto the fact that people are now watching TV online and this is their way of getting people to cough up for a licence. Still refuse to pay it though.

          • James Allen

            That would be breaking the law.

      • James Allen

        You misrepresent me; I said I was forced to subsidise the BBC “in order to listen to what Sky or ITV have to say”. I can choose not to pay for the BBC, but then I can’t consume content produced by other broadcasters. Therefore my freedom of association has been limited.

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