Artillery Row

Infiltrating the far-left

What I learned from years of sneaking onto Momentum calls

My name is… [erm, no, I won’t make it that easy]… and I’m an infiltrator.

We all know the stereotype of how contributions begin at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Each person starts by making their confession that they have a problem, even if it doesn’t feel like one anymore.

These are the confessions of an infiltrator into the far-left.

For several hours a week, every week for the past two years, I have been attending their virtual meetings and watching their group chats scroll by. These include Momentum, Extinction Rebellion, Zero Covid, Labour Against the Witch-Hunt — the list goes on. While I do still have some links from my own political past, it’s actually pretty easy for people to do this — Zoom links and chat group invites are handed out like sweets, if you know where to look.

Most of the people involved in individual causes don’t really realise they’re being used

They typically last for a couple of hours and are all centred around one theme or another — whether it be the “climate emergency”, NHS pay reform, rallies for socialism, planning meetings for Momentum campaigns, etc. — but really, it’s all part of one overarching agenda. “Star speakers” like Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and Richard Burgon make regular appearances.

Both the left and the right are frequently guilty of calling relative moderates on the other side “far” or “hard” left or right, when that’s not necessarily the case. But how can you spot when they really are?

This is actually a pretty easy one once you’ve been around them for long enough — and I have. Whether it’s Momentum, the Labour In Exile Network (who hate Momentum, by the way), Extinction Rebellion or Black Lives Matter, the picture is roughly the same.

Politics — and different people’s different politics — are always based on their own lives and life experiences. It is what happens when people get worried. Left-wingers will worry that a certain policy might disadvantage particular groups and reduce equality, for example — whereas right-wingers will worry that a certain policy might in practice serve to rein in achievement and productivity. In both cases, though, it tends to be less about “what it is” than “where it goes”, or “how it will be used”.

All of their so-called “solutions” involve the destruction of our existing societal structures

All of that is normal, but in extreme politics (in either direction), you tend to see much more of an underlying agenda at work. In this case, it’s essentially to undermine and overthrow our extant society to replace it with something very much in their own image. These people would be a lot less dangerous if there was any chance of that society actually working, though.

The key thing you notice about social revolutionaries is that their first instinct is always to destroy.

These are not people who want to make our society better through reform or debate. Fundamentally, they believe our society is sick and incapable of reform in its current state. Their sole intent — whatever the “surface-level” issue is that they happen to be bleating about at the time — is to tear down this society and replace it with something else — inevitably, one in their own image.

Another element of this is that they’re only really interested in speaking to their own crowd, i.e. to those who already agree with them.  As I’m fond of saying: if you’re not in the business of changing minds, then why are you in politics?

Well, in the case of a revolutionary extremist, it’s pretty clear. Key to this is the undermining of the extant society.  Anything that could be seen to be good about our society, they will attack. Any sense of things not being entirely dreadful, they will savage. Anything that appears to validate the notion of very real problems in our society, they will embrace with vigour.

They do so because revolutionary politics relies upon the notion that there can be nothing good about the society it wishes to tear down. It could not sustain itself otherwise. Once you understand that core element, you can predict their behaviour and attitudes towards just about any topic with relative ease.

You quickly realise that their driving force is not to argue about black lives or the environment

Most of the time, when a group of people or a local community really cares about an issue, they understand at least at some level that they are part of a whole that isn’t fundamentally bad — it just needs fixing in some particular way. They might stage campaigns or protests, drum up support and raise money.

But extremists aren’t like this; their fundamental belief is that an extant, capitalist society is inherently dreadful. They don’t believe it can be “saved”, and they don’t even want to try.

When you engage with them on issues, you quickly realise that their primary driving force is not to argue about black lives, or the environment, or whether public utilities should be nationalised or not. In reality, all of their ideology is leading back towards the same overarching goal: a social revolution. It’s rooted in the notion that a better society can only be created — or rather, imposed — once the existing one has been torn down first. Nothing less than that will satisfy them, which is why all of their so-called “solutions” inevitably involve the destruction of our existing societal structures — if not sooner, then later.

The sad thing about all this, though, is that most of the people involved don’t really realise this. Typically, there is a small cabal of people at the top who know exactly what they’re doing, and exactly why they’re doing it. They then work through and “use” a whole army of other people — generally nice people, well-meaning and (often) well-educated people — who believe in individual causes, and gradually twist their minds in the direction they want them to go. That’s the key turning point at an individual level — when “belief” becomes “dogma”. 

If you asked any of your average, everyday protesters about this, though, they’d flatly deny it — they wouldn’t understand what you were talking about. That’s how you can tell it’s so effective. You can also tell this from the incredibly benign language that extremists use when describing dreadful behaviour. One good example would be this little clip from a TUCG call, which hasn’t seen the light of day before now:


This is from that very first day when there were mass BLM protests in Central London last summer, following the death of George Floyd. Did you notice the way the former Shadow Chancellor described what was going on, with public property and important symbols of our heritage being desecrated and vandalised?

“Demonstrating on that particular issue to highlight it”… it makes it all sound so innocent, doesn’t it? That’s a pretty easy way to spot these kinds of people right there.

Politics is the intersection of people and power. It is different factions vying for control — that’s what it is, and that’s all it is. All it ever has been, or ever will be. In politics, there is no such thing as objectivity. If you “get” people, and you “get” power, and you “get” how people work with power, then you will “get” politics with relative ease.

I was never a hateful person myself before I started doing this — but now, I despise these people

But power, and the pursuit of it, also changes you — whichever angle you come at it from. I think of it as rather like a black hole. Black holes pull in everything around them — inevitably, and inexorably, you will get further and further towards the centre of it, once you get close enough to begin with. They also distort the image of everything around them, just like what an observer would see as they saw a friend or a colleague falling into the event horizon that surrounds those centres of power.

The closer and closer they get, the less and less they look like the person you knew.

Spending too much time around those who seek it — especially when their own politics are so hateful — can change you too, though. I think that might be what’s happening to me. You see, I was never a hateful person myself before I started doing this — but now, I despise these people and everything they do. I suppose hate rubs off — and at the end of the day, even if all they teach you to hate is themselves, hate is still hate.

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