Sunday, November 08, 2009

Reds under the chaise longue

Why would someone concentrate his academic research on how America has tried to counter Communism within its own country? But (and I think it more telling) why would the Labour Party notice and employ such a person?

Andrew Neather's PHD and a follow-up article surface in several places on the Web, e.g.:

"Popular Republicanism, Americanism, and the Roots of Anti-Communism, 1890-1925"
Duke University Ph.D. dissertation, May 1994

"Twentieth-Century Communism and Anticommunism: the View After the Cold War"
Reviews in American History - Volume 23, Number 2, June 1995, pp. 336-341 supplies details of Neather's experience - a year working for Dennis McShane; another doing editing work for the Labour Party; nearly 3 years with Friends of the Earth; a year speechwriting at the Home Office under Jack Straw and David Blunkett; a year speechwriting with Tony Blair; and now he's with the Evening Standard, writing on wine, cycling, travel and local issues, as well as editing comments. (There seems to be a lacuna of a year (1994-95) between completing the PhD and starting with McShane, but doubtless it was some sort of gap year-cum-looking for a career.)

I think he's probably harmless, and the track record suggests a touch of the Green idealist and instinctive-moderniser-against-the-wicked-Establishment. If he were a "sleeper", he'd not have blurted out the stuff about Labour's secret motivations regarding immigration policy.

But "as the twig is bent, so the tree will grow": we have to look at beginnings, try to find some of the warning signs.

I recall a tiny incident regarding Peter Mandelson's college, St Catherine's, Oxford, at the time he was there (1973-76 - why did Peter matriculate at age c. 20?). I'd gone over there one evening (summer '75) with some friends to see a Ken Russell film, and we had a drink in the student bar first. Noticing us, somebody at the other end called out "bleedin' poors". True, but why say it?

It's not what someone does that is most revealing; it's the context, the belief that what they're doing is acceptable. St Catherine's was rather nice - newish, and expensively-designed, right down to the knives and forks (I kid you not). We were impressed; it was time when we still wore thick jumpers because college rooms were cold, and drank beer from large Party Seven cans at parties. Ever get the feeling that you've been let in by mistake, and wonder when you can afford better-looking shoes and clothes?

Privilege and socialism went together in those times. Posh Marxist meddlers dined at the Elizabeth or the Randolph, wore expensive blue boiler suits as a political fashion statement, spoke contemptuously at the Oxford Union of "the talking professions" that, of course, they would soon join. In the street, I overheard two chaps discussing what they would do when they graduated; one said it was a toss-up between joining his father's stockbroking firm or the IMG (International Marxist Group).

Power is sexier than money. In the old days, bored toffs could shag debs at the Hunt Ball, knock the necks off brandy bottles at two in the morning, test themselves against professional boxers; but ah, the chance to lead Revolution...

Don't look for revolutionaries among the likes of John Prescott, a former "bleedin' poor" who knows which side his bread is buttered; look for them among the drawing-room drawlers, the tea-table traitors, the Kim Philbys.

Who is to say that forty years from now, one of our deadliest enemies may not turn out to have been in the Bullingdon Club?


Nick Drew said...

another interesting denizen of Catz, 1974-77, was Rob Hoveman - public schoolboy and fulltime professional 'revolutionary' Trot

Sackerson said...

Veeery interesting...

Sackerson said...

... and I note he was in South London, former fiefdom of Red Ted Knight and now home of Andrew Neather:

"...I got to know Greg [Tucker - deceased 2008] properly during the period of the Socialist Alliance. I used to give him a lift home after meetings. Or rather I used to give him a lift home after Greg, myself and Rob Hoveman (then of the SWP) had sat in the pub after the meetings talking till closing time about the ins and outs of the SA" - Mark Hoskisson, Permanent Revolution (

Sackerson said...

... and Greg Tucker was another at St Catherine's (op. cit.)

Have I opened up a can of worms?

Sackerson said...

... and any relevance of Dr Marc Mulholland (author of "Marx, the Proletariat, and the 'Will to Socialism') at St Catherine's? -

Sackerson said...

"My Life as a Revolutionist" -
Marc Mulholland -

Sackerson said...

... and then there's leather-jacketed (I remember seeing him at Oxford) Terry Eagleton - reviewed here by "Niall" Mulholland:

Paddington said...

Of course it's easier to be a revolutionary if you're rich. Why shouldn't everyone have what you do? Look at Vanessa Redgrave and the WRP. These buggers might appreciate things more having to really work for a while.

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