A Common Lexicon: Why Owen Jones Is Wrong About the UK Left and the Right
By the Shoogly Bard
Owen Jones, the darling of the UK left, made quite a splash yesterday after challenging Andrew Neil live on the BBC about far-right content in The Spectator – a current affairs magazine which Mr Neil chairs. Mr Jones made a guest appearance on Mr Neil’s sleep-inducing politics programme, This Week, to discuss the rise of the far-right and the consequent abuse he and Conservative MP Anna Soubry faced outside Westminster.
Mr Neil accused Owen of ‘hijacking’ the BBC programme in order to advance his own agenda. A rather trivial and unperceptive point; why else would a journalist come onto your show if it wasn’t to tell the masses about their views and opinions? But that aside – the locking horns overshadowed a deep hypocracy in Mr Jones ideals of the left and its extremism. In Jones’ three minute video montage (followed by a 10 minute debate) there were some gaping delusions about the left and right, primarily in historical and modern contexts. Here at the Bard, I seek to outline what may have been lost in the televised brouhaha.
A roaming band of right-wing thugs jostled Jones outside Westminster and called him a ‘traitor’ and a writer of ‘lies’. One thug had some brain-fart and ask Jones ‘why he wrote?’ (to which an apt response would have been ‘it is my job’). However, thugs are thugs and they do not care for civil discourse, only intimidation. Yet, from this encounter Jones made the wrong assumption that somehow because a far-right supporter uses the term ‘traitor’, ‘Enemy of the People’ or ‘saboteur’ that this is indicative of ‘language of the far-right’ and mass media. I’m unsure of what planet Jones is on, but clearly it doesn’t have any history textbooks on it.
In the Russia of 1922, a few years after the October Revolution, there was a tense power struggle between Lenin’s Bolshevik ideology and the Socialist Revolutionary (SR) Party. The SR Party later instigated an insurrection against the Bolsheviks which ended in failure. The botched coup d’état triggered the public show trials and execution of the SR leaders as traitors to the Revolution. Trotsky wrote a pamphlet entitled ‘Who are the Traitors?’ of course championing the persecution of the SR party. Another example from Lenin in his One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (1904) which called the rival Menshevik party ‘traitors’ against Marxist cause. So, traitorous and treasonous language (and action) certainly is not restricted to the far-right; more likely it’s just associated with extremism in general.
But if this seems too historical for Jones, lets look at a more recent example. John McDonnell is a blatant Trotskyist, claiming Lenin and Trotsky amongst his biggest influences and quoting from Mao’s Little Red Book; anybody who idolises histories biggest murderers and megalomaniacs is not fit for UK parliament never mind the executive. Additionally, he has called for insurrection and street riots if they cannot assume power through democratic means. ‘Insurrection’ and ‘riots’ being violent rhetoric used by the left to justify their challenge to power. Extreme language is used by both the far-right and far-left, and there is no lexicon to define a leftie or rightie – only delusional and bias leads you to this assumption.
Secondly, in Owen’s three minute rant he thinks the far-right is the only side who uses minorities for leverage or abuse. Wrong. Anti-Semitism is rife in the left (mainly as a result of Zionism of the 20th and 21st century) and for Owen to say that only the far-right abuse minorities is a complete disregard of history and fact. (I don’t really think it is worth the time going into the left’s atrocities against minorities for there are numerous examples.) Yet, I do not think Jones truly believes what he said in his piece, since only five minutes later there was a serious instance of back-peddling, saying that Anti-Semitism was a ‘disease’ and needed to be stamped out in the Labour Party.
Lastly, credit where it is due, Owen was correct in assuming that the far-right has instigated the rise of dark murderous plots. Far-right extremism is on the rise in Europe, for example, the horrific murder of Jo Cox in 2016 by the Nazi and white supremacist Thomas Mair and, far-right terror plots in general. Additionally, I am glad to see that, in the UK at least, history has not repeated itself; usually when there is a rise in one extreme the opposite extreme bubbles and ferments to the same level in an attempt to counter the atrocities of the other. The left has remained cool-headed and met the far-right with argument and debate and not violence (unlike Antifa in the US).
There are various other points in Mr Jones analysis, which I shan’t to go into, for fear of labouring the overall argument and for fear of this turning into a sole rant against Mr Jones, which would be unfair. Mr Jones biases are clear, however, I wish he would read a history textbook, novel, novella, pamphlet, speech or anything other piece of literature, without the red-flag’s sickle and hammer fluttering in front of his eyes face. For the left has grubby hands in the history of treachery too and it just so happens the far-right is taking action on their perceptions of ‘treachery’ now. May the left remain calm and to resist being sucked into the intellectual masturbations of John McDonnell’s call for insurrection and revolution. If they don’t the left will fall into that age old trap, which happens to all revolutionaries, and they will become the monster they seek to destroy.