Rees and German: ex-Trots for hire!

March 28, 2010 at 11:03 pm (Champagne Charlie, comedy, John Rees, Lindsey German, SWP, wankers)

Ian Bone, who takes more of an interest in this sort of thing than I do these days, reports on the latest career moves of Comrades Rees and German:

Comrade German


Many comrades ask me ‘ Comrade Bone, what has become of the great helmsman JOHN REES since he was thrown off the SWP CC? Is he alright? Well I can report that Comrade Rees is completing his PHD on The Levellers at Goldsmiths University, is setting up a Levellers Society with Tony Benn and writing  a book called ‘Radical London’ to be published by Verso in 2012.But we all know the crafty little schemer won’t be happy with that. ‘What is he really up to?’ they ask.  Well after a brief sojourn in Bedlam Lunatic Asylum Rees has decided to form a sort of RCP Mark2 modelled on their long march through the institutions of Furedi’s ‘Institute of Ideas’ whizz. So Rees has set up COUNTERFIRE  which wil pass itself off as some kind of think tank and get REES/GERMAN on telly all the time and columns in newspapers like Mick Hume/Keenan Malik and the RCP ers do:

‘The Left Platform comrades grouped around John Rees and Lindsey German have now decamped to Counterfire, where the SWP in exile hope to ‘do an RCP’ and erect a big, inviting tent from which they can systematically infiltrate and inveigle themselves into the bourgeois media – maybe even make a modest career from being “available for interviews, commissions and quotes” and generally being “sensitive to the needs of 24-hour news’

So there you have it – while the rest of us sleep at 4am John Rees will be whisked off to SKY rolling news to give his opinion on the Tamil Tigers/BA strikers/May Hobbs/Black Power/ Feminism/ Climate Change and the Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm.


  1. Sarah B said,

    “the SWP in exile hope to ‘do an RCP’” But – aren’t those RCP types rather articulate and charming and (if you steer clear of certain topics such as the Balkans and global warming) actually quite sensible?

  2. Wot Evah said,

    Hilariously, a few weeks back, I saw John Rees on the BBC six o’clock news (i think it was the local section at the end) talking about the John Terry affair with the strip line “John Rees: social commentator”! Fair play to him I say, whilst I don’t share his brand of leftist politics, there’s something quite novel about having an (actual existing rather than former) trot as a “social commentator”.

    p.s was the unflattering German picture really necessary? Might smack a bit of sexism and we can’t all be oil paintings like you Jim.

  3. Andrew said,

    “the SWP in exile hope to ‘do an RCP’” But – aren’t those RCP types rather articulate and charming and (if you steer clear of certain topics such as the Balkans and global warming) actually quite sensible?
    A shockingly ignorant comment!
    Yes the RCP, they are all right, when they are not denying the bosnian genocide or publishing articles disputing the existence of the rwandan genocide: ‘Massacring the truth in Rwanda,’ LM December 1995, issue 85.

  4. Duncan said,

    aren’t those RCP types rather articulate and charming and… actually quite sensible?

    No. Not even remotely.

  5. charliethechulo said,

    Wot Evah: the “unflattering German picture” was not chosen for the sexist purpose you ascribe to me (though after I’d attached it to the post it did occur to me that some readers might think that): it was, genuinely, the best (from a photographic point of view) picture of her that I could find and I didn’t want to post yet another pic of John Rees impersonating Sir Guy of Gisbourne. I suppose we could have done without a pic at all, but having gone to the trouble of finding one I thought, “what the hell…”

    Oh, go on then: here’s some shots of Rees as Sir Guy:

  6. Sarah B said,

    Andrew and Duncan – I’m sorry if I perhaps gave an exaggerated sense of my approval for the views of some of the people associated with Spiked – and particularly if I trivialised issues where I’m sure I’m in sharp disagreement with them. Over the last few years they have tended (I think) to avoid highly contentious areas. I generally very much like what Frank Furedi has to say about education and I also think Kenan Malik seems sensible and thoughtful. I quite enjoy the more provocative articles in Spiked even though I don’t always agree with them.

    My comment was essentially triggered by my sense that Spiked packages itself in a slick, appealing way – and by my feeling that Rees and German wouldn’t be able to follow suit.

  7. Rosie said,

    I think Kenan Malik is very good I like their liberty and free speech stuff. I don’t like their auto-anti-Green stuff. I also don’t like the way that they all, with the exception of Malik, write in exactly the same style.

    Was this storming the barricades of the media meant to be part of a long-term strategy to form the vanguard of the revolution? Has that been dropped?

  8. shug said,

    Shit the chapel is cyber.Hope the dude is better than the last one mind you, you dont know about these chapel types.

  9. Dr Paul said,

    Anyone acquainted with the RCP — I was a supporter of it for quite a few years — will know that it at least partially worked out its politics by seeing what the rest of the left said, and then came out with something different. Niche marketing, I believe it’s called. Having quietly junked Marxism and indeed any recognisable politics, its method as Spiked is still the same; only now it’s liberalism that is the focal point.

    Other left groups do have this tendency, only don’t remind them of it. I did it in respect of the Alliance for Workers Liberty and was subjected to a full-page rant in its paper by Sean Matgamna himself for my pains.

    The other thing that characterises the RCP and Spiked is that it got it right in respect of Aids: that it wouldn’t become an epidemic in Britain. This made it feel that all official scares are wrong. Now this has proved correct with bird flu, Sars and pig flu, but has also led Spiked to see climate change as false, although this line has softened a bit of late. If you have the time to study Spiked sufficiently, you’ll find this sort of contrarianism poking through on all manner of subjects, along with such things as the culture of low expectations and other sociological inventions. Some makes sense, some is just weird.

    Whether Mr and Mrs German have got sufficiently ‘controversial’ views on anything to get them the minor media careers that my old pals have obtained, I somehow doubt.

  10. Red Maria said,

    Back in January ’08 I happened to be at a party where another of the guests was Claire Fox. Outside I chatted to her over a fag or several. Do you know one of your old comrades, [Dr Paul’s real name],? I asked, adding that you were a good friend of mine.

    “You never,” she exclaimed, a broad smile spreading over her face.

    She asked what you were doing now and I think I must have told her about your book. One of these days you’re just going to have to bump into her again. For old time’s sake.


  11. maxdunbar said,

    ‘Whether Mr and Mrs German have got sufficiently ‘controversial’ views on anything to get them the minor media careers that my old pals have obtained, I somehow doubt.’

    That’s a fair point – the RCP can be unpredictable and contrarian whereas the Rees/German line is always predictable.

  12. martin ohr said,

    I was an RCP supporter a very long time ago when I was 16-17 in Bradford, so I vaguely knew some of the people who know have these sucessful media careers. They did always strike me as reasonably charming and personable although I reaslied pretty quickly that the politics were very bad. I always knew that I’d made the right choice between militant and rcp (that was the only choice in bradford at the time- and the militant people also seemed to be the whole of the left at labour party meetings) It wasn’t until I came into contact with other groups that I realised that their politics were wrong (and to be fair in 1987 the RCP weren’t anywhere near as mad as when I encountered them at university)

    2 Things that I’ve always respected the RCP for is 1) they argued their politics and they encouraged a 16 year-old like me to argue with other left groups and buy other papers, and they were prepared to argue their politics in any environment. 2) they always had good looking publications.

    You can’t possibly say the same for Rees and German.

    One of the things I despise about German is the way she puts on her faux ‘working-class’ accent for public meetings and her media voice for tv and radio work, sometimes she flips between the two if shes addressing a rally that might be covered on the news. Very strange.

  13. Dr Paul said,

    Martin O wrote: ‘One of the things I despise about German is the way she puts on her faux ‘working-class’ accent for public meetings and her media voice for tv and radio work, sometimes she flips between the two if shes addressing a rally that might be covered on the news. Very strange.’

    She’s not the only one. I recall when I was in the civil service, there was a Scottish chap on the union’s executive who, if addressing a militant branch, would put on a tough Glasgow accent, but if addressing a moderate one, would adopt a ‘refined Scottish’ one. He was a bit at sea where I was, where we had a militant-minded branch committee but a largely moderate membership.

  14. Red Maria said,

    Oy, Dr Paul
    Have you read what I wrote?

  15. Rosie said,

    Dr Paul – that is automatic in the Scots. They’ll be on the phone talking to their family and will start saying “hame” and talking broad, then they’ll go back to using a modified accent to their colleagues. I visited a colleaguewho lived in an old mining village outside of Edinburgh. She worked as a receptionist in Edinburgh. When talking to her partner she spoke with a strong Scots accent, when talking to me she spoke in her receptionist’s accent.

  16. Rosie said,

    Re the RCP – I’ve only come across them since I’ve read them in Spike and in other papers/magazines. They struck me as being extreme libertarians, with a strong anti-Green bias. How did they make that journey from being Communists?

  17. Sarah B said,

    Rosie – I agree about the accent point. There are people who (maybe unconsciously) will go into a more RP mode when talking to outsiders or in a more professional context. And there are others whose default speech is RP but will go more w/c or estuary (again maybe unconsciously in some cases) in certain contexts.

    Re the RCP – is it the case that they think capitalism has to be embraced – and spread to developing countries – in order (in line with Marxist thinking) to hasten its demise? They tend to position the green movement as anti-human (seeing humanity as a nuisance) and socially conservative – for example the Spiked review of ‘Avatar’ asserted that it was both a highly ecologically aware film and one which represented a static and hierarchical society in which everyone knew their place.

  18. Dr Paul said,

    To Red Maria: Yes I did see it; well, the elevated places you go to (no scruffy squats nowadays for the Spiked brigade I wager) and the esteemed people you meet these days, what can one say?

    To Rosie: What went wrong with the RCP? My own take is that having reckoned (accurately) that the working class in Britain had taken a real pounding in the Thatcher years, the party came to conclude, in its usual one-sided way, that the working class was finished. That we had next to no presence in the organised working class made that an easier idea to accept. I also think that the lack on an independent role on the part of the East European working class in the collapse of Stalinism led Frank Füredi (who is of an Hungarian background) to conclude that even when society is in a fluid situation and élites are in crisis, the workers can’t take an independent class-based role. He therefore had a great crash in political confidence. I can’t prove this last point, it’s just an instinctive feeling on my part.

    Why did the majority of the party’s core follow Frank down the road to an ill-defined libertarian stance? I don’t think that they could really think for themselves. There was no faction fight, no real debate, people who didn’t like what was happening had largely gone anyway. Most of the party just drifted away; by its dissolution in 1997 there was little left other than the leadership and their respective partners.

    This process of following the leader has happened with other transformations, albeit not so markedly. (Shachtman left behind various Shachtmanites who didn’t become Cold War social democrats like him. How many people has LaRouche taken all the way to his present madness? Perhaps a few.) But where can a long-term RCPer go? Nobody liked us, we were Johnny-no-mates; there are no bolt-holes available, so you stick with your pals. What else can you do if you’re about 50, and there’s nowhere to go to in this harsh world?

    Have a look here at something that I helped to write in 1997, when the RCP formally dissolved.

  19. Dr Paul said,

    Re Rosie and the Scottish accent. I think that this was different. The change of accent in this case was based on the person’s perception of the political complexion of the people to whom he was talking. Militants: let’s use a gruff Glaswegian voice, it sounds tough; moderates: let’s be refined and respectable. Down here in London, the equivalent would be using the old-fashioned BBC voice to address a moderate branch; and a ‘gor blimey’ London accent to address militants.

    I’ve found over my 30 years in politics that a bloke addressing a meeting will be cheered if he makes sense and is convincing, but will be jeered if he is unconvincing and inane, whatever accent he may use.

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