‘The Far Left – An expose of the extreme Left in Britain’ by Blake Baker
ISBN 0 297 78033 6
This is a good little book by Blake Baker of the Daily Telegraph, a book detailing one writer’s investigation into the sort of far Left groups that were operating in the UK up until the early 1980’s when this book was published. It’s a book that reads like a tome of British political history with names of individuals like Clive Jenkins and Ted Knight and groups like the Workers Revolutionary Party being prominent in certain chapters. But because some of those individuals and groups such as Livingstone and the Socialist Workers Party are still with us, it still feels as if it has relevance.
It’s an easy to read book written by someone who really did understand the malignancy of the far Left and how it corrupted British politics and exacerbated divisions. It corrupted most notably and often by entryism into the Labour party by groups like Militant and it exacerbated divisions by cynically exploiting Black Britons and the emerging gay rights campaign.
The first section of the book is detailed information on specific Left wing groups. Each chapter in this section deals with a particular troublesome Left wing group, which are: The Workers Revolutionary Party, The Militant Tendency, The Socialist Workers Party, and The Communist Party. A further chapter deals with The International Marxist Group and some of the smaller far Left parties, what I call the ‘AGM in a phone box’ revolutionary groups. There are chapters on the finances of the far Left at the time, and on the influence within and support from trade unions by the far Left.
What will be very interesting for the modern 21st century reader, or at least it was for this one, was the chapter on far left influence in education and local government. Mr Baker said that the far Left at the time viewed the education field as ‘an important long term investment’, and he said that the Socialist Workers Party among others had had considerable success in penetrating this sector. The far left parties were able to recruit school students via front groups and had a growing amount of influence in teacher unions, so much so that the National Union of Teachers in 1976 had to have a rule change to prevent far left factions calling unofficial strikes or walkouts or other actions. You can see from this book how the far left planted a lot of seeds in the education sector and it’s tempting to believe that some or most of the problems that we have with today’s education system stem from the seeds that the far Left planted in the system back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. With politicised teaching and relentless overt and often dishonest pro-Islam messages being given to too many of our children in schools, it’s fair to say that the far Left, although not generations of school students, have had a good return on their investment.
There is also some good information about some of those who later became involved in the phenomena of ‘loony left’ councils that popped up during the early Thatcher years. Students of Leftist mythology may also be interested in Mr Baker’s alternative explanation of the death of socialist activist Blair Peach and how the Left turned this man’s death into it’s own ‘Horst Wessel’ legend. Mr Baker said that if the SWP controlled Anti Nazi Leage had not actively decided to exacerbate an already tense situation by violently confronting National Front demonstrators, then Peach, an SWP member, would not have died. The SWP/ANL were on the day not interested in attacking the far right, but instead attacked the police, according to Mr Baker. Knowing how cynical and exploitative the SWP are, it would not surprise me.
The ‘Peace’ movement also gets a long-ish mention in the book and Mr Baker explains how various Trotskyist and Communist groups gained much influence in anti-nuclear and other peace groups. He also spoke of how hysteria about nuclear weapons caused significant growth in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and also strong and sometimes successful attempts by Trotskyists and other far Leftists to squeeze out the old style beard and sandals Quakers and supporters of the Communist Party.
I highly recommend this book, if you can get hold of a copy that is. Not quite sure if it is still in print even. Yes, there are parts of the book that now look dated and really do count as history, when you see Neil Kinnock described as a junion back bench MP it makes you realise just how different the political world was then and what it is now. We no longer have the threat of invasion and destruction by the Soviet Union hanging over us, but we face different challenges, some still involving the sort of far leftist organisations mentioned in this book.
If you are looking for the route of the SWP making a devil’s pact with Islamic groups or the dominance of identity politics in some mainstream parties or why the left have such a malign influence on our schools, then this is a good place to start.
Link and addendum
There appear to be a few copies available from Amazon see this link
I can find very little biographical detail about Mr Baker after a quick search. I know from his cover notes that he was educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School and Pembroke College Cambridge, so he was no intellectual slouch. He joined the Daily Telegraph in 1954 and has been German correspondent, chief industrial correspondent and did special writing for the Telegraph editor.