Given the Guardian’s increasing pursuance of a metropolitan neo-liberal agenda the website Spiked has been something of a welcome oasis of good sense in the last 18 months. Whatever the politically correct view of the day, Spiked and in particular its editor Brendan O’Neil can be guaranteed to find the holes in the hegemonic certainties. Sometimes this can be as simple as pointing out that gun crime in London has not reached New York levels, but rather deaths in New York have been reduced to match those in our capital city. On Brexit Spiked has stood against the group think leftist tide of perceiving it to be a fraud perpetuated by shadowy figures and Internet jiggery-pokery on unsuspecting proles, and instead continuously argued that the demos be respected and that the people who voted for Brexit are far from being ignorant xenophobes and have a right to self-determination.
So articulate has Brendan O’Neil been in contrast to Conservative cheerleaders such as Johnson and Gove that he has been asked on to news programmes and recently contributed to publications such as the Spectator and even the Sun. O’Neil must be one of the few Marxists to have graced the pages of such publications but increasingly Spiked's views on a range of subjects such as: safe spaces, sugar tax, gun control and anti-Semitism in the Labour party seem to chime with those on the right. Or do they? Is O’Neil merely a far more articulate libertarian in the vein of Guido Fawkes or something else?
Spiked grew out of the demise of the publication Living Marxism, a demise caused by a court case brought against the magazine by ITV which left over a million pounds in costs. Spiked does not include the word Marxist on its about page instead arguing that…”It’s the publication that puts the case for human endeavour, intellectual risk-taking, exploration, excellence in learning and art, and freedom of speech with no ifs and buts, against the myriad miserabilists who would seek to wrap humans in red tape, dampen down our daring, restrain our thoughts, and police our speech”.
So far so contrarian even libertarian - perhaps the small group of writers have moved away and beyond Marxism? Well not really for almost every position adopted in Spiked is underpinned by a form of Trotskyism. Forget the Socialist Workers Party Spiked’s Trotskyism is more nuanced. Core principles taken from Trotsky are a form of permanent revolution originating in mass democracy and particularly the self–emancipation of the workers. From this basic position flows everything else. So sugar taxes and smoking bans usually supported by the left are seen as expressions of the state’s desire to exert control in the face of people’s right to self-determination. Spiked has come out against anti-Semitism in the Labour party, but is ultimately less concerned by the attacks on Jews and Jewish sensibilities, and more worried by how anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of a cabal of secretive Jewish bankers running the world economy deflects and even placates workers from seeking self-determination. On Brexit, Spiked rightly identifies the protectionist hypocrisy of the EU both in terms of goods and the movement of people. In the case of the latter it identifies that freedom of movement privileges the white majority of the EU. Less space is given to Spiked’s position on borders however which is that they should be wide open, something which might surprise many of those leaving comments on its pages. Similarly on industry, Spiked rejects government intervention and support for manufacturing. Such support is ultimately a form of Stalinist control and “zombie businesses’ should be allowed to fail to make way for innovation and efficiency. No wonder then that the seeming Brexit supporting Spiked was dismissive of there being any case for the new UK passports to be printed in the UK.
On issue after issue the position adopted by Spiked logically flows from the simple basis of a revolution underpinned by mass self–emancipated worker democracy. In a time of polarised bubble think such a contrarian voice is very welcome but what would the Spike revolution look like? Does Trotskyism have the answers for our times? Put simply on most questions no.
On climate change, Spiked is sceptic, not denouncing the science altogether brut putting its faith in the human ability to fix things. Insufficient attention is given to how the world will deal will rising temperatures, and the consequent flooding and mass migration. Spiked has little to say on the dwindling and ever more expensive energy sources available. The only answer to the issue of a stagnant low wage economy underpinned by a supply of cheap labour (that open borders would only exacerbate) appears to be cut off the supply of cheap money so as to let zombie businesses go to the wall.
The western world is facing a cocktail of problems including in no particular order: low productivity, unsustainable household debt levels, pension commitments that can’t be met, and a decline in trust in all its political institutions. Spiked is right that at such times it is absurd to be distracted by issues around identity such as wondering whether a transgender woman should be on a Labour party women only shortlist, or university lecturers warning students with trigger warnings in case set texts offend them. As a contrarian antidote to PC conformism Spiked is badly needed, as a starting point for solutions to underlying problems one may need to look elsewhere.