Spiked is run by the survivors of Living Marxism magazine, the high profile and often entertaining voice of the British Revolutionary Communist Party during the nineties. The magazine was finally steam-rollered by a law suit in 2000 but these guys were always more switched on than the rest of the hopeless hard left so it’s no surprise to see them back with a stylish, readable web site and now a series of debates on the entirely relevant theme of IT after the crash.
Spiked’s mission is the debunking of trendy ideas – in politics, science, business, anywhere really. But this is really just classical entryism – a subtle and accessible way of doing the important work of blowing away our ‘false consciousness’ and reasserting the eternal oppositions of the class struggle – labour vs capital, state vs individual etc. (I can’t find a trace of the political party itself. Was it wound up? Surely it can’t be this lot?).
I guess the logic of the project is that debunking is infectious: for every orthodoxy persuasively overturned there is a potential convert to the larger cause. There really is nothing so satisfying as a cogently argued rubbishing of the status quo – whether it be climate change (it’s not happening), edemocracy (it’s just more state coercion) or testicular cancer (it’s no big deal).
As a strategy it’s obviously working. If tonight’s meeting was anything to go by, they’re frequented by plenty of non RCP people, many of whom may have no idea what Spiked stands for and little or no sympathy with their goals (like me). More subtle still, with no actual political party to push, Spiked can rightly claim to be entirely independent and new recruits are recruits to a way of thinking rather than to a political creed. Very postmodern.
In this debate, Charlie Leadbeater, advisor to number 10 and prominent optimist, argued that informal, self-organising digital networks (like this blogging thing) might present a way of holding governments and trans-national institutions to account. Influential forecaster James Woodhuysen, for Spiked, disagreed – entertaingly, as always. edemocracy is phoney – worse, it’s a barely disguised attempt to reinforce state control, provide new channels for coercion and permit governments to steamroller dissent. All of this communication is just a smokescreen, a clever distraction from the real business (in ‘the real world’) of production – substituting participation for real power. This programmatic emphasis of production over communication (content over form, real over imaginary) is sooo last century and, paradoxically, neglects the actual, lived reality of networked communications. Leadbeater is on the money here.