Comment: Silencing dissenters is key to the survival of the far-Left

Organisations including the National Union of Students have made silencing 'controversial' voices a priority


Last week saw yet more attempts to silence dissenting voices among the Left – from the Chambers of the House of Commons to a lecture hall at a London university. While they were unsuccessful, questions need to be asked about the far-Left’s aversion to allowing those who disagree with them the same freedoms as those who do not.

Despite threats of deselection from Left wing activists, 66 Labour MPs voted against leader Jeremy Corbyn in favour of extending airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. Among the ‘traitor list’ drawn up by hard-Left party Left Unity were Hillary Benn and Neil Coyle, both of whom have since received death threats via Twitter.

Stella Creasy was sent pictures of dead babies, had 500 people march on her Walthamstow constituency office and has received abuse on Twitter comparing her to ISIS.

Meanwhile, over on the other side of London, yet another university student society was trying to silence a dissenting voice through fear and intimidation. Goldsmiths Islamic Society (ISOC) attempted to stop Left-wing Iranian-born Maryam Namazie from giving a talk on blasphemy and apostasy to the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH).

The ISOC President wrote to ASH claiming Namazie’s presence would violate their ‘safe space’. This so-called ‘polite request’ warned ‘we advise you to reconsider your event tomorrow’. When the event went ahead regardless, the ISOC members did everything they could to disrupt Namazie’s speech.

According to Namazie: “After my talk began, ISOC ‘brothers’ started coming into the room, repeatedly banging the door, falling on the floor, heckling me, playing on their phones, shouting out, and creating a climate of intimidation in order to try and prevent me from speaking.”

The national confederation of these unions, the National Union of Students (NUS), claims to be the ‘national voice of students”, but has made silencing ‘controversial’ voices a priority. Back in May, numerous delegates who attended the NUS annual conference reported an ‘atmosphere of intimidation’ at the event.

An open letter signed by 43 of the event’s attendees claimed that many students ‘felt too scared to speak on stage out of fear of the response they would get’ and that there was an ‘atmosphere of intimidation, fear and inaccessibility that perpetuated during the entirety of conference’.

According to the letter, ‘there seemed to be a general lack of tolerance for opinions which aren’t the mainstream view’, and ‘we frequently saw the same faces speaking on stage, time after time, creating an atmosphere that this was a conference for the few, not the many’.

Student unions’ decisions to ban speakers are often due to pressure from a student society on campus, who will more often than not claim their own ‘safe space’ is at risk. The Goldsmiths ISOC, for example, claimed that ‘the university should be a safe space for all our students’. Claims like this are often taken seriously enough to ban someone from coming onto campus and sharing their ideas with students, despite the fact that students are free not to attend such an event.  

The decisions taken by a few from within student unions to ban speakers have however crumbled under external pressure in the past. In September, when Warwick University’s student union banned Namazie from speaking on campus, the decision was quickly overturned by widespread criticism in the national press and on social media. Suddenly the union’s big talk about having ‘a duty of care to conduct a risk assessment for each speaker who wishes to come to campus’ went out of the window.

A month ago, University College London Union reversed its decision to ban former YPG fighter Macer Gifford after facing online criticism. Last year, the University of Derby’s students’ union overturned its ban on UKIP members speaking at events.

The far-Left’s attempts to shut down debate among its ranks are resulting in a stream of embarrassing own-goals. MPs are threatened with de-selection if they vote against the worldview of their leader. MPs exercise their right to vote however they like, and Corbyn’s sinister tactics make the headlines.

University student unions and societies attempt to silence speakers who deviate from their worldview, making those who threaten their supposed ‘safe space’ feel as unsafe as possible. But, almost every time, they are exposed for the fascists they really are.

Emily Dyer is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society

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46 Responses to “Comment: Silencing dissenters is key to the survival of the far-Left”

  1. Selohesra

    No-body takes the Students Union seriously – not even the students

  2. Peem Birrell

    Maybe that’s part of the problem….

  3. Jacko

    The extreme Left (actually most left wingers) think that people who don’t agree with them are either evil or stupid, because they filter the world through an overly simplistic prism of good vs evil, rich vs poor, etc. You read it all the time on these pages.

    It’s something that young people tend to do since they lack more finessed models of describing the world. Of course, you do get some people who don’t grow out of it, but they are really outliers. As soon as I hear someone using the word ‘evil’ or ‘greedy’ in political debate I just discount their opinion as a low-end unsophisticated model.

  4. Richard MacKinnon

    It seems there is much weeping and gnashing of dentures within this whole article by Emily Dyer. Her perception is that Jeremy Corbyn and this new resurgent left wing of Labour is intolerant of others views. Is this not democracy? What does Emily Dyer and the Henry Jackson Society suggest we should do about this?

  5. Irishvoice

    always the “Hard” left, does it mean they are on Viagra?

  6. Guy

    It is the intimidation by the right-wing apparatchniks in the Labour Party, amongst conservatives and in the media that is the real problem, not those on the moderate left. Tthe islamofacists at Goldsmiths are right-wing authoritarians, whatever plotics and religion they claim, so are the blue labour careerists and sell-outs in the Labour Party.

  7. Guy

    Point is that the far-left and hard-left really wish they had the number of supporters Jeremy Corbyn has! They’d be hard-put to claim 0.1% of them as their own! Personally I’m a diehard, life-long liberal lefty, I was leafletting for the Liberal Party 54 years ago and I was very active within that party at every level for decades. I joined Labour at the General Election because the left must unite against authoritarians, whether tankies, trots, blue labour or tory, to re-establish the liberal socialist democracy we enjoyed from 1945 to 1979 in some form, or we’ll fall into the corporate fascist oligarchy state the tories are imposing on us.

  8. Stay Puft

    I think we should send death threats to those who have different views and bombard them with hate mail, comrade!

  9. Jono

    What a load of rubbish!!
    “…Corbyn’s sinister tactics make the headlines…” What are these exactly? Emily Dyer has fallen into the trap of quoting the patently false reporting by the Telegraph this weekend regarding deselection. When has Jeremy Corbyn ever said that he would deselect any of the PLP? This is right wing scaremongering by a neo-liberal cheer leading organisation like the Henry Jackson Society.

    When will we be seeing an article by the Henry Jackson Society about the fabrication of a death threat by Tory MP Lucy Allan which has hardly received any coverage in the right wing press? It will be a long time coming I am sure!

  10. Woo11

    Local Vicar Steven Saxby, present at the vigil held – after all staff had left – at Stella Creasy’s Walthamstow constituency office says this of all the slander being put about by the media and MPs re said vote on bombing Syria: I can think of worse things to be sent than dead babies (war dead babies no doubt) god knows there are enough of them in Iraq and Syria, and the pro-bombing voters have been gushed over quite enough by the media to last a life time. Dissenters Rule OK Emily Dyer – dont worry about it!

  11. Woo11

    Has anyone read the Statement of Principals of the Henry Jackson Society (Wikipedia) ?!!! Laugh ? I could have cried!!!

  12. DemSoc93

    Ah, Henry Jackson Society. Fair dinkum.

  13. Daniel

    Superb comment, thank you. Back in Feb the very same Islamic society invited odious man to speak, selective ‘safe space’ Goldsmiths?

  14. Daniel

    I’m assuming the woman in question is Maryam Namazie?

  15. Richard MacKinnon

    There is a struggle for the soul of the Labour party going on at this time. Corbyn may have some crazy supporters and his views on the economy may not hold up to detailed scrutiny but on foreign affairs he is right.
    There are within Westminster and particularly within Labour a strong and powerful group of right wing pro military pro Israel interventionist supporters. Blair is one, Jim Murphy, no longer an MP, praise the gods, is another. There are many more.
    Anyone reading this article should take a few minutes to read about the aims of The Henry Jackson Society, then ask themselves is this the sort of vision you want for Labour.


    They would not know if they were on viagra or had a hard on. They are like ISIL, lost the plot in life by taking life for something that does not exist.

  17. Richard MacKinnon

    You must be a bit older than I am Guy, I can only talk about politics from the 70s. But I know what you are alluding to, governments at that time whether Tory or Labour tried to achieve a consensus. The problem was that trade union leaders thought they should have their say. That for some reason their election as the leader of some car assembly workers union gave them the right to shape matters of state? As a result the UK became the sick man of Europe. Inflation was close to 30% under Callaghan and Healey.
    On foreign policy however Wilson, Heath, Callaghan got it about right, they did not see themselves as global gunslingers which I am afraid is a role our present and another recent PM have a preference for. It appears Hilary Benn fancies himself in role as well.

    Those that care about the direction of the Labour Party should get behind their new leader. If Corbyn loses and those Henry Jackson Society members within Labour’s elite win this fight then there is no reasonable and credible left wing voice left in the UK politics.

  18. Guy

    Thank you, most illuminating. If it sounds like a bunch of corporate, neo-imperialists, and looks like one, it may well be one. With people like Richard Perle, William Kristol, etc. involved, deafening alarm bells ring.

  19. Stay Puft

    Charlotte Leslie MP.

  20. Hope

    This article confuses to separate things, although they do have a common link. The deliberate muddling in universities of a safe space policy and no platforming is about minority groups competing against each other. And whether they are fundamentalist Muslims or reactionary queer politicos in fact their common target is women who are independent, or worse still, feminist thinkers, who do not show any allegiance to male / partiarchal groupings. ie most so called feminist student union societies have in fact been high jacked by queer activists whose agenda has very little to do with women’s liberation, let alone conceding women have equal rights to decide their political position as any male dominated grouping. The problem is that more recent graduates of universities will through indoctrination at universities have no other concept of politics other than the infantile, male ego fest practiced as “politics” by students.

    Equally the trolling or threatening of Labour MPs who voted (in accordance with being given a free vote) to extend UK bombing to Syria are equally practioners of male ego trip macho posturing. It is exactly these type of self appoint spokesMEN that alienate women (of all ages) from main stream political practice. And of course it isn’t just the left. Although the media has been happier to bash Corbyn dont forget that at the moment the Tories have had to own up that they may have officially licensed this type of alpha male behaviour through their youth group.

    For someone who according to her bio has written about feminism she seems to be approaching the issue through the blinker of party politics rather than the cross cutting analysis of the real dominant class – men.

  21. Guy

    A few are, but I’ve also canvassed the houses of a few NF, BF and EDL supporters and they were about on a par. Every shade has a loony fringe of intolerant idiots, whether it is politics or religion.

  22. Guy

    Yes, they’re Islamacist fascists. They may be posing as left wing, but of course they’re just common or garde authoritariann socopaths, homophobes, transphobes, male pigs, fundamentalists, etc.

  23. Cole

    Even that wouldn’t do them any good. But maybe that would explain why so many Trots are angry old men.

  24. Cole

    So you’re trying to deny that some far left thugs have been threatening Stellla – and sending death threats to other Labour MPs.

  25. Cole

    That the New Politics with Comrade Corbyn!

  26. K A James

    Blair is not in Westminster: Murphy is not in Westminster. What other parts of your contribution collapse under the slightest scrutiny?

  27. K A James

    I see immediately that many who have difficulty challenging the points raised have resorted to the “kill the messenger” style of argument. You don’t crush right wing philosophies simply by declaring them right wing. It is not that easy. If you find the Henry Jackson Society to be too right wing for you, take care that your personal animosities don’t lead you into the ultra right IS and Taliban-supporting ultra-loonies masquerading as a “hard left”.

  28. Richard MacKinnon

    I accept that Blair and Murphy are no longer MPs but don’t try and tell me they do not still have influence, also, that there are many within the Labour parliamentary group that hold similar views.

    The Henry Jackson Society is an influential anti muslim pro Israeli interventionist organisation and the truth is we don’t know much else and that includes who within UK politics are members or supporters.

    What we do know is the HJS has influence enough to get articles published on Labour websites.

  29. Intolerant_Liberal

    Liberal fascism, pure and simple! I’m amazed at the general culture of Political Correctness, and how it has morphed from a genuine challenging of racism, sexism and homophobia into a mish mash of nonsensical ideologies, with the basic underlying premise that anyone anywhere challenges any thing put forward by a Left leaning PC liberal is a ‘racist, effing fascist, Nazi,’ ad nauseum!!! The so called democrats have become as intolerant, probably more so, than the people they see as their enemies.
    It has become, quite simply, the tolerance of intolerance, or the intolerance of tolerance. Whichever, they are all on a power trip, and the bubble is sooner, or later, going to burst. Ego trips always do end badly, after all.
    The underlying issue is that as the economic divisions grow in the UK, and anger and dissent towards both left and right have emerged, the idea of ‘protecting minorities’ is now just a tool to silence any genuine criticism of those in any kind of political or other power. The powers that be everywhere want to silence critics and want to silence any real debate, because they will be the first people to be criticised. That is the REAL agenda. Not to protect minorities or any other marginalised group, but to preserve the positions of pretend lefties and those who are on the gravy train or their own personal power trip.

  30. Intolerant_Liberal

    What I struggle to understand is that if largely working class white groups like the EDL and BNP and etc, are racist, anti Muslim, anti immigrant and right wing, they are roundly and quickly condemned, but when ‘Muslim’ extremists preach hatred of gay people, other religions, hatred of the West and etc, they are not condemned??? Confusing??? You betcha!!!!

  31. Guy

    They are condemned by any liberal, whether a liberal Conservative, a liberal socialist or a liberal Liberal Democrat. Similarly for Plaid Cymru, SNP, Greens, etc. But there are far too many authoritarians ready to silence victims and dissenters in each of those parties and in UKIP. 9I have never noticed any liberals in UKIP or the Northern Irish Parties.) But such condemnation generally doesn’t suit the agenda of the right-wing media, so isn’t reported.

  32. Intolerant_Liberal

    Yes, agreed. But mostly white upper middle class men!!! Not too many working class men in any spheres of power at the moment.
    The reality of PC and all that jazz is that ethnic minorities, any kind of perceived minority like gay people, Muslims or what have you, are played off against each other. This is just capitalism, ultimately, in that every group perceive itself as special and therefore should be heard and have greater access to resources. It is nothing new. This has been helped along by phoney lefties infiltrating a genuine left that was about fighting for workers rights, fair wages, better living conditions, affordable housing and so on, and turned into an ideology that is far more about trendy lefty white middle class causes than anything that most people struggling economically at the bottom are really concerned with. Fighting for the rights of transgender people is all very well, but few people are that, and most just want a better slice of the pie, when it is all boiled down to brass tacks. Wealthy students can involve themselves in radical left politics because they can afford to. Those of us who live in the real world of crap jobs, hard struggles and so on have little time for it.

  33. Woo11

    well, if you can show me them I wont deny them!!!!!!!!!!LOL!
    Grow up – was I denying that “some” idiots have ? no! Read my post again!!! LOL

  34. Intolerant_Liberal

    The Right wing are now using the ‘PC Intolerant’ card themselves as skilfully as those claiming to be on the Left. It was bound to happen. That is possibly why it is called POLITICAL correctness. When you have the establishment using an ‘ideology’ that was supposed to challenge the dominant culture in the UK and US and elsewhere, you know it’s a dead duck.

  35. Woo11

    ‘many who have difficulty challenging the points raised have resorted to
    the “kill the messenger” style of argument. You don’t crush right wing
    philosophies simply by declaring them right wing’ I dont see that many have…. I just think their Statement of Principles are laughable! And I have posted the comments of a vicar who was on the vigil that was declared thuggish.

  36. Intolerant_Liberal

    Democracy exists in name only, in short. Dissent is democracy, so silencing dissent is silencing any voice which disagrees with those acceptable to those in power.

  37. Guy

    Indeed, which is why trying to silencing brave Maryam Namazie is a direct attack on free speach, free expression, democracy. But whatever they call themselves, the perpetrators are authoritarian male religious fundamentalists; not the hard left.Wheres the completely legal, peaceful and respectful demonstration outside Stella Creasey’s office was apolitical and should not in any way have been condemned; but it was seized on by authoritarians in the Labour Party and elsewhere seeking to silence legitimate and democratic dissent.

  38. Intolerant_Liberal

    Agree with all the above. Ordinary people have been gently but firmly eased out of politics in the last 30 years or so, because the democracy we live in is more illusion than reality. Political correctness is a kind of surface respectability, ironically lionised by both Left and Right now, very akin now to the same kind of ‘respectability’ wealthy Victorian gentlemen clamoured for when they owned plantations and factories and so on, ruthlessly exploiting people and then pretending to be good and kind and Christian in intent, when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s always said that the Tories love the Victorian era, and when you read about the injustices and hypocrisy and virulent double standards of that period, accompanied by the idea that wealthy middle and upper middle class men should by some kind of unexplained divine right own and control everything and everyone, and that this should be unquestioned, you can see why! On the surface the Victorian era seemed respectable, but scratch that surface and the faux respectability covered a manifest multitude of sins. Hmmm. Nothing new under the sun, hey?
    And as the equality brigade and the PC brigade have become more virulent, have you noticed that particularly economic divisions have got much wider?? It’s obvious that much of the Left, even the Hard Left, has been infiltrated by Fabian socialists, or that the Hard Left is now just as fascist as the Right they virulently condemn. But then that is what happens when cliques appear. Perhaps instead of championing equal rights and anti racism and so on, and I hope I don’t offend you here, we should begin to ask why politics, business, religion and most other institutions in the UK tend to largely be run by white, affluent, privately educated middle and upper middle class men, no doubt going on about equality and how non racist they are!!!???

  39. Intolerant_Liberal

    Yeah, it’s a shame because as someone centre left myself and who believes that politics and society only work when there is healthy opposition to the dominant mainstream and the accepted ‘norm’ now of right wing laissez faire policies and economics, it means that there is a concerted effort from Left and Right to marginalise genuine debate, especially when it comes from the marginalised and disenfranchised, those at the bottom of the economic pile, whatever their creed, religion or colour. Labour was a party for and supposed to be of the broad mass of basically working class people throughout the country. Under Blair, and probably before that, it fell to the London metropolitan elites and then abandoned the working class, in favour the ‘middle England’ demographic, which I think in some cases is just an excuse to pander to the already affluent. What is the point of that? And did they expect that working class people would keep voting for a party that had very little interest in them anymore??? Most people who voted UKIP amongst the white working did so as a protest vote, as I know of numbers of people myself who did vote for them for that reason. So, the so called Left was part responsible for the rise of UKIP simply by abandoning those they purported to represent.
    Tristram Hunt said recently that we should have a debate on class, because the very fact that most of the Left and Hard Left groups rarely, if ever, mention the rise, once again, of pernicious class discrimination against white working class people as the ‘enemy within’ by both right and left liberals, tells you that most political parties are chock full of white middle class people who are embarrassed to talk about class prejudices, because that is the elephant in the room at the moment.

  40. Guy

    The ‘hard left’ like the SWP and it’s fronts have always been male chauvinist authoritarians who professed progressive views but were actually as aggressive as any fascist in trying to suppress criticism or dissent within their ranks. I’ve linked arms against them with veteran Labour people, communists, other liberals, even christians in CND, Grosvenor Square and elsewhere.

  41. Intolerant_Liberal

    Controversial is just another word for, anything someone in a group doesn’t agree with…

  42. Marie Gebhard

    This is the reason for thiss petition. We must unite, and oppose the tories not each other. Divide and conquer! Pls share and sign this !!!

  43. Intolerant_Liberal

    If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck….

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