The Brixton slavery case: Monty Python returns?

The case of the Brixton Maoist cult and allegations of slavery are indeed bizarre and we may never know the truth. But it is fascinating to realise that many of the leftist beliefs of that cult still inform much conventional left-wing thinking

Are the suspects just guilty of bing lefty idiots?
Vincent Cooper
On 28 November 2013 20:59

It came from nowhere. Suddenly, the British public were inundated with a horrendous story. At last, Britain now had its very own Josef Fritzl case, right in the heart of London. Three female slaves, it was reported, had been freed after thirty years of brutal captivity in Brixton. 

Thirty years in captivity? It was hard to believe. People stopped what they were doing and stared at each other, shaking their heads in disbelief. How could such a thing happen?

It was dreadful news. First there was the dramatic story of the saving of the three slaves, after one of them had phoned a charity helpline. Interviews with police and with Aneeta Prem, spokesperson for the charity, revealed in solemn Guardianesque tones that three women had been rescued from a horrendous lifetime of slavery.

For sure, most people watching the reports on TV were shocked. Had Britain not brought slavery to an end over a century earlier? And of course Britain never had slaves here at home, did it?

But now, in the 21st century, on nationwide TV and throughout the press, the British people were being told that slavery was alive and well right under their noses.

It was indeed dreadful news, and thoughtful people everywhere were obliged to revise their ethical view of modern-day Britain.

How could we have allowed this to happen? The Polly Toynbee Guardian message to the world must have been right all along: British folk were a heartless, grasping, money-making lot, so indifferent to social injustice that they allowed human slavery to take root right under their noses.

However, as time passed, the police had not only saved the three slaves, but came to the rescue of Britain’s reputation as a civilised country. It was revealed that while there was no evidence of actual physical restraint or abuse in this modern day slave case, there was clear evidence of “invisible handcuffs”.

Invisible handcuffs? Well, that was some relief. Not being chained to the bed took the pressure off everyone, slaves and the British public alike.

But there was more. The three slaves had not even been kidnapped. No? So what had happened?

Well, these “slaves” had voluntarily joined their “captors”, all of thirty years ago. They had hitched up with a charismatic charlatan called Aravindan Balakrishan, now aged 73, otherwise known as “Comrade Bala”, and his wife Chanda, now 67. They were all, it seems, members of what many British folk would see as a Pythonesque cult entitled “The Workers Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought”.

The “slaves”, it seemed, had voluntarily joined this Maoist cult back in the 1970s. They wanted to turn Britain into Maoist China.

And there was yet more. ITV News footage from 1997 showed the “slaves” defending their “captors” at the front door of their flat – headquarters of the cult apparently – and perfectly rationally denouncing the ITV journalists as “part of the fascist state”.

The leftist cult members had form here. Years earlier at a trial, they had refused to recognise the court and had denounced “fascist states and their lackeys.” We’ve all heard such cardboard revolutionary language before.

But there was yet more. The “slaves” had not been confined to the house they lived in, except of course by those invisible handcuffs. They could come and go from the house, as they were regularly seen in the local Tesco supermarket.

So the “slaves” had some freedom, and as many British folk would say, every little helps. But it really is a puzzle as to why the “slaves” didn’t escape with the shopping.     

The horror slave story had turned almost 180 degrees. What had been billed as a nation-shaming slave rescue in the heart of London was turning into something like a scene from the BBC comedy Citizen Smith, the lefty Wolfie Smith and his Tooting Popular Front.

Why the police described this story the way they did is highly questionable. So is the public stance of the charity involved. Slavery is a serious matter and should not be trivialised by false comparisons with voluntary submission to a cult.

Missing from all the media and police accounts of the increasingly bizarre case of the “Brixton Slaves” is any mention of how the people of this Maoist cult managed to earn a living for the past 30 years. It’s known that the group lived in a council flat for some of the time. To that extent at least, the British taxpayer funded the group.

But there is a further intriguing question: why do foreign revolutionaries come to Britain to start their revolution? Britain seems to attract these revolutionary characters like a magnet.

Steve Rayner, an Oxford professor who made a study of this particular Maoist cult back in the 1970s said: “Their membership was overwhelmingly overseas in origin.”

The two leaders of the Workers Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought were foreign. Aravindan is an ethnic Indian from Singapore, and his partner Chanda a Tanzanian.

Why did they come to Britain to foment their revolution? After all, their countries of origin were perhaps in greater need of their wonderful Marxist solutions than was Britain. At least in Britain governments were democratically elected.

A well established and classic example of foreign revolutionary Marxists coming to Britain is Tariq Ali, the Pakistani lefty journalist now pushing 70 years of age and by now very much a luvvie and national treasure. This man has spent his career in Britain denouncing the very political values that offered him security.  

However, the Brixton case has seriously damaged the image of characters such as Tariq Ali, showing them up as deluded charlatans. Writing in the Guardian, Ali, like many other old lefties, is now attempting to distance himself from the 60s and 70s Pythonesque world to which the Brixton Maoist cult belonged.  

He doesn’t succeed. Tariq Ali was very much part of that world, very much one of what the historian Michael Burleigh calls “various charismatic academic charlatans espousing heterodox forms of Marxism.”

What is it about Britain that attracts these characters?

The case of the Brixton Maoist cult and allegations of slavery are indeed bizarre and we may never know the truth. But it is fascinating to realise that many of the leftist beliefs of that cult still inform much conventional left-wing thinking, to be found in the pages of the Guardian newspaper every day. 

Vincent Cooper is a regular contributor to the Commentator

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