‘Ruled’ by cults?

Dennis Tourish’s “Ideological intransigence, democratic centralism and cultism: a case study from the political left” while an old piece and mainly focusing on the Trotskyite CWI, now the Socialist Party in Ireland and Britain, raises some controversial question on the organisational nature of the left with some resonances for much of Irish republicanism and left republican groupings in particular.

So, is the left, republicanism, and left republicanism engaged in cult like behaviour?

It is a lengthy piece but worth a read. The conclusion claims six areas define a political-cult:

1. A rigid belief system.
2. An immunity to falsification.
3. An authoritarian inner party regime.
4. A leadership able to exercise arbitrary power.
5. The deification of leader figures.
6. An intense level of activism.

Most of these seem an integral part of several parties at the heart of our devolved government never mind a problem solely of the radical left or republicanism.

Have politics been replaced by cults in the north of Ireland?

  • Bong

    You REALLY need to get out more, seriously you do.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Have politics been replaced by cults in the north of Ireland? ‘

    No -the cults of Northern Ireland have been trying to make real ‘politics ‘ work for the past several decades . The chicken entrails tell us that it may be easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of the needle or for a minister of born again religion to not only preach but actually practice the teachings of Christ.

    The world economy is now experiencing the joys of governance by the neo conservative right wing cult of trickle down economics over the past two decades .

    Perhaps all of these cults of the right or left should just cult off !

    For the left to become ‘relevant ‘ to people’s lives it’ll have to address the serious economic issues which are not being faced by governments anywhere, instead of seeking a haven of refuge in the thoughts of dead leftists from the last century .

  • RepublicanStones

    Axe the ‘l’ insert ‘n’ and you might be on to something.

  • Drumlins Rock

    the thing that struck me most about Eirigi’s and other “non mainstream” republican websites is all the 1916 iconography and hero worship of Connelly Pearse etc. not just tokenism like King Billy and Carson pics but the ideaology on which they seem to build their whole existance, its history, virtually ancient history now the Left needs to come up with fresh thinking and the first major decision is are socialism and nationalism truely compatible.

  • Drumlins Rock

    PS, It is only recently I realsied the influence and power Adams and McGuinnis have/had in republicanism, I think most Unionist just saw them as mouth pieces for some shadowy Godfathers.
    Sometimes virtual Cults can evolve in the long run, ie. Paisley retirement, there are certainly are currently no candidates to take on the status of Paisley, Adams and Hume, so the age of cults may soon have ended.

  • The original account of non-falsifiable political belief systems is Karl Popper’s the Open Society and Its Enemies, which does make it clear that such beliefs have been influential on the right as well as the left.

    A good modern example of a right-wing cult might be the followers of Leo Strauss, whose thought fits very neatly with Popper’s account of classical Platonist authoritarianism.

    The persistence of Leninism is a problem for the left, but not necessarily only for the left. There have been a few democratic centralist groups over the years that have morphed into cliques that gained a certain influence on the right.

    The classical example is the Lovestoneites in the US who went from working from the Comintern to working for the CIA, while retaining a lot of the same political style.

    The Living Marxism/Spiked group might be an example in Britain, which has gone from being the Revolutionary Communist Party to having a member of Boris Johnson’s cabinet.

    BICO and elements of the Workers Party maybe represent a similar phenomenon as well.

    Having said all of that, Tourish is probably right that it’s very difficult to distinguish the characteristics of a cult from the normal cohesion of a political party.

    It’s also true that there have been places and times when democratic social movements had to operate in a clandestine way. Owen McGee’s history of the IRB has an interesting argument about how that applied to much of Europe in the nineteenth century, something that shaped the history of both Irish republicanism and Marxism.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Many of these characterisitcs are closely associated with those involved in the military either as the armed wing of the state or as part of an insurgency – as it is generally not a good idea to have people reflecting too deeply and changing their minds in the middle
    of the battlefield. We would therefore expect that SF, being hot off the battlefield themselves, to share many of these characterisitcs.

    Although Robbo may himself have donned a red eret and tried to defeat the popish forces in a suprise attack in the middle of the night in Co Monaghan – explanation for the DUP behaviour probably lies outside the military realm and it would be a nice thought that the DUP were exhibiting cult symptoms with a hint of Trotsky.

  • igor

    Drumlins

    Ahhh…mine’s a cult yours is just a token

    Is that itself a symptom of cult behaviour – the sense of almost religious superiority of your Gods over theirs

  • Greenflag

    drumlin’s rock ,

    ‘ not just tokenism like King Billy and Carson pics’

    Tokenism ? Three months of marching bands every summer replete with Orange Order sashes , Royal Black Preceptory , Purples , Sermons , Field worship services, etc etc etc all in honour of a dead monarch of 350 years ago . If this is mere tokenism then I guess NI is lucky not to have a fully fledged orange ‘cult’ . Not too many people would aspire to year round -12 months marching and poncing about dressed up in funny clothes instead of the already abnormal 3 months .

    At least the Fenians restrict their ‘cult’ to the one weekend -Easter and one day St Patrick’s Day and their icons are at most 200 years old and effectively not even 100 years (1916).

    ‘so the age of cults may soon have ended’

    Not at all . As long as the OO marches around NI for three months every year in thousands of parades , you can be sure that that the Orange Cult will continue it’s existence .

    And as we all know to every cult there is an equal and opposite cult . In this case the Green Cult which is the preferred cult of the vast majority of people on this island . If the GDP of the island /world were measured in hours spent in marching, commemorating , drumming and dressing up in funny clothes, Northern Ireland’s GDP per capita would be not only the highest in Britain or Ireland but exceed even Luxemburg’s and Norway’s .

  • DR

    igor,
    Its probably a bit simplistic but look at at the three website for Eirigi, IRSP, and RSF, all three have icons and quotes from republican heros, but SF or the unionist parties dont have these historic trappings on their sites,

  • igor

    DR

    I agree on that. The Hunger Strikers images on wall murals for example are often almost deified – a real throwback to Catholic imagery.

  • igor

    “the Fenians restrict their ‘cult’ to the one weekend”

    Where pray do you live? How can you have even visited NI and suggest that?

  • Reader

    Greenflag: Three months of marching bands every summer replete with Orange Order sashes , Royal Black Preceptory , Purples , Sermons , Field worship services, etc etc etc all in honour of a dead monarch of 350 years ago . If this is mere tokenism then I guess NI is lucky not to have a fully fledged orange ‘cult’ .
    The problem is, for all its visibility, it doesn’t really match the 6 point list at the top of the topic. It maybe scores a 3, scoring particularly low on the leadership boxes. Whereas, famously, all branches of republicanism score highly in those areas.

  • Citizen Smith

    Up the revolution.

  • Greenflag

    ,

    reader ‘it doesn’t really match the 6 point list at the top of the topic. ‘

    It doesn’t have to . The 6 point list is not infallible . It appears to be an attempt to paint fringe republicanism as a cult as compared to ‘other ‘ political parties in NI as being somehow more ‘normal ‘ less cultlike and less activist with less authoritarian leadership figures . I recall the Paisley cult and it’s reactionary and negative influence on NI politics for the better part of 40 years .

    The ‘Orange Cult ‘ also have their gable end murals – a real throwback to Protestant imagery as Igor would say !

    As for republicans scoring highly on ‘leadership ‘ ? The only reason they do is because ‘unionists ‘ score so poorly. There has’nt been a new departure or a ‘fresh ‘economic or politically progressive idea from ‘unionism ‘ for 100 years nor from ‘republicanism’ either .

  • Greenflag

    citizen smith ,

    ‘Up the revolution.’

    Which one ? All I see is a part restoration of the economic doctrine of John Maynard Keynes . And if that’s a revolution then I’m a member of the Unionist party .

    The neo conservatives of right wing capitalism have almost destroyed the world economy and came very close to wiping out financially the entire american and european middle and working classes .

    The left wing has been unable to do any more than ‘collaborate’ as the economic establishments everywhere try to shore up the financial institutions in the hope that somehow consumers will be motivated to spend their way (with what ?) out of this recession .

    Meanwhile in East Asia a new form of ‘capitalism’ is on the march . As it’s seen in Singapore , China and Taiwan and Malaysia it can be described as a more ‘authoritarian ‘ form of capitalism where workers rights are subjugated to the ‘growth needs ‘ of the economy . These ’emerging ‘ economic giants will not be restricted by ‘western mores’ or constitutional limitations on the ‘exploitation ‘ of labour etc etc.

    No wonder that American and European based multi nationals are investing heavily in the less restricted environment of East Asia .

  • Comrade Stalin

    Left needs to come up with fresh thinking and the first major decision is are socialism and nationalism truely compatible.

    Socialism, like neo-conservatism, is a destructive ideology which isn’t compatible with anything.

    The only socialist states which work and are prosperous are the ones that operate capitalism at a national level by selling their natural resources on the open global market (this is why the Soviet Union kept going as long as it did, and why it eventually fell as the Americans manipulated the price they got for their oil). This does not take into account democracy or civil liberties.

  • Comrade Stalin

    As it’s seen in Singapore , China and Taiwan and Malaysia it can be described as a more ‘authoritarian ’ form of capitalism where workers rights are subjugated to the ‘growth needs ’ of the economy .

    This happened over here, too. The industrial revolution was not pretty. But it eventually led to the end of the aristocracy, and I believe it will end the authoritarian regimes in these countries in the same way.

    These ‘emerging ’ economic giants will not be restricted by ‘western mores’ or constitutional limitations on the ‘exploitation ’ of labour etc etc.

    But eventually these debates will arise within those countries.

  • Greenflag

    Comrade Stalin,

    ‘Socialism, like neo-conservatism, is a destructive ideology which isn’t compatible with anything.’

    Not entirely destructive I’d say and I’d include neo conservatism along with ‘socialism’ in that view . Neo conservatism can be progressive when it asks questions at the micro level of how and where public monies are being spent in areas of welfare spending , business subsidisation , education and health etc and how effective such expenditure is in achieving policy objectives i.e presumably less state dependency . Socialism has solutions for some areas of the macro economy which help to bind up our democracy . Less choice can mean more choice . The supply of public goods like health care , electricity , water , and education are likely to be more equitably distributed than when supplied by an unfettered private sector .

    ‘This happened over here, too. The industrial revolution was not pretty. But it eventually led to the end of the aristocracy, ‘

    True and World War One plus the reforms of the post WW2 period helped to usher in a ‘better Britain ‘ etc .

    ‘ I believe it will end the authoritarian regimes in these countries in the same way. ‘

    One hopes so but nothing is inevitable . Russia lurched forward to ‘democracy’ but very quickly seems to have returned to it’s pre communist ‘authoritarian ‘ past . China is effectively a one party state . What we in the west understand as ‘democracy ‘ is the outcome of a long process going back centuries even prior to the Industrial Revolution . The west created it’s own form of gradual democracy by the extension of the franchise and the growth of a strong middle and political minded working class .

    It could be argued that what’s happening in the West today is a weakening of those forces which in the past gave rise to what we conceive of as normal ‘democracy’ . The increasing gap in the West particularly the Anglophone west between the haves and have nots within a world of increasing economic competition and the unfettered ability of capital (4 trillion dollars a day ) to circumnavigate the world for the best returns on investment all of this poses a question mark on the longer term economic viability of the western capitalist model as opposed to the more authoritarian eastern model .

    ‘But eventually these debates will arise within those countries.’

    By which time the western model may be a hollowed out shadow of it’s former self and unlikley to be either an example or role model for any other developing nations trying to emerge from beneath the new east and south asian economic colossi.

  • Blip

    Those would all be characteristics of a sect. Cults have no rigid belief system, limited leadership and require little or no commitment from members.

  • Richard Aardvark

    LMAO, obviously doesn’t apply to the UUP :o)

  • Darren J. Prior

    In fact the CWI have been on the go for about thirty years I think and are still there. It is not a question that they have ‘become’ the SP. The SP is part of the CWI. Illustratingly the strongest national branch of the CWI is in Ireland which illustrates how strong they are across the world. When the SP were Militant Tendency in Labour their members were in the CWI although I believe that they lied about this and denied that they were in another political organisation.