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Entryism (or entrism) is a tactic in which the members of an organised group conspire to secretly join a larger organisation en masse, with the intention of changing the targeted organisation's policies or actions.
Entryism provides a means for a small but determined group to leverage their influence onto a larger sphere, by using the entered organisation's resources (e.g. state funding, existing networks of activists, or voter goodwill). Entryism is particularly effective where there is a large but somnolent party with many inactive members who might pay their fees but not do anything else. It is most commonly associated with attempts to move a centre-left party leftwards, or a centre-right party rightwards. But it does not have to focus on a political party, and entryists could target a campaigning organisation, charity, club or society. Perhaps even a wiki.
Fantasies or fears of entryism are as common as actual cases of entryism: it appeals to the conspiracy-minded to imagine a secret organisation lies beneath each overt public body, exactly as Joseph McCarthy talked about secret communist infiltration in every American organisation. Even long-term, comparably successful entryists like Militant in Labour managed only minimal positions of power (Militant took the leadership of one already troubled and radical city, Liverpool). In most cases claims of entryism are a way to slur rivals.
- 1 On the left
- 2 On the right
- 3 From both sides
- 4 In religion
- 5 References
On the left
Leon Trotsky in June 1934 proposed the "French Turn", that his French Marxist supporters should quit their Communist League and join the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO in French). It quickly expelled the Trotskyites. They tried the same tactic in the USA, entering the Socialist Party of America, and elsewhere. Most of the organisations they entered were small, and had little or no power, so it is unclear if the tactic achieved anything.
Since then, many allegations of entryism have focused on Trotskyite bodies, such as Militant in the UK Labour Party (see below), or claims about the Revolutionary Communist Party and Living Marxism in the UK.
Militant and the UK Labour Party
In the UK, the most famous case of entryism was that of the Revolutionary Socialist League, better known as the Militant Tendency or simply Militant, a hard-left Trotskyist group that infiltrated the Labour Party in the 1970s and '80s. Militant was formed in the late '60s and seems to have pursued entryist goals since the early '70s, for a while gaining control of the National Organisation of Labour Students, student wing of the Labour Party. A series of inquiries from 1975 by the press and the Labour Party found that they had violated the Labour Party constitution by running an organisation within the party and promoting their own candidates. However, they had done nothing very unusual because in practice Labour had always had a range of sub-organisations such as the right-wing Manifesto Group (later Labour Solidarity) and the leftist Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. The Labour Party leadership took no serious action against Militant for a long time until in 1983 the first Militant member was expelled, and under the leadership of Neil Kinnock they slowly rooted out subversives.
Militant were most successful in Liverpool in the 1980s, where council leader John Hamilton and deputy Derek Hatton (widely seen as the power behind the throne) pursued aggressively leftist policies, refusing to implement cuts to balance the council budget. Instead they cancelled planned redundancies, froze rents, and launched a program of housebuilding. Things got increasingly crazy when they sent out redundancy notices to every council employee; they claimed it was just a negotiation technique in their funding battle, but the image of council officers traversing the city in taxis giving people their notices became part of '80s British folklore — especially given that it happened under a hard-left Labour administration, the sort of leaders who, as Kinnock famously noted, traditionally opposed such actions on the part of Conservative governments. The Labour Party eventually took action, expelling Militant members, but the decisive action was taken by the district auditor who had the power to suspend or expel council officials who violated rules.
At its peak, Militant had 8,000 members in Labour, and 3 MPs: Pat Wall, Terry Fields, and Dave Nellist. Militant split from Labour in 1991 and continued as a separate organisation, later changing its name to the Socialist Party in England and Wales, now part of the Trades Union and Socialist Coalition, while Scottish Militant Labour eventually joined the Scottish Socialist Party (whose leader Tommy Sheridan was ex-Militant).
Supporters of UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn were accused of entryism with the suspicion that he was an evil far-leftist being pushed into the Labour leadership by external forces such as the Trades Union and Socialist Coalition or the Green Party. Corbyn was elected through a primary in which anyone who paid a modest supporters' fee could vote, an arrangement which makes it easy for non-Labour supporters to influence the vote. The Labour Party's vetting process found 100 former Green Party candidates had tried to sign up. Michael Crick estimated at most 5000-10000 entryists from the Left (probably mostly Greens), and 5000 right-wing disruptors in an electorate of 400,000, which is a sizeable number but far too little to affect the result.
There are similar claims about entryists infecting Momentum, the grassroots organisation formed to support Corbyn, although Momentum took action in early 2016 to prevent far-left entryists.
TERFs vs. transgender feminists
Trans-exclusionary radical feminists, or TERFs, have been known to accuse trans women of entryism when they get involved in the feminist movement, arguing that they are invading women's spaces by "pretending" to be female.
Paedophile Information Exchange
Shortly after its founding in 1974, the Paedophile Information Exchange, a British pedophile advocacy group that campaigned for "children's sexuality", infiltrated the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL, now known as Liberty), one of the UK's leading human rights organizations, and pushed it to adopt a stance in favor of legalizing child pornography and lowering the age of consent to ten. The PIE was granted official affiliate status with the NCCL in 1975, and in 1977 PIE founder Tom O'Carroll gave a speech at the NCCL's spring conference condemning anti-pedophilia "smears" from the press. The rights of the PIE became a cause celebre for free speech activists in the '70s, as PIE leaders butted heads with university officials over the right to give speeches on campus. In 1983, following the arrest of multiple PIE members on charges of raping children, the NCCL expelled all open pedophiles from its ranks, and in 2013 Shami Chakrabarti, the head of Liberty, issued a formal apology on behalf of the organization for defending pedophilia. The PIE also attempted to infiltrate the burgeoning gay rights movement of the '70s, associating itself with the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and claiming that the causes of gay rights and paedophile rights were linked by the greater cause of sexual liberation.
This association between civil libertarians and pedophile rights groups can be understood in the context of British and European culture in the '70s. The sexual revolution had broken down many taboos pertaining to sexuality, new research was exposing the unfounded and often hysterical assumptions underlying those taboos, and same-sex relations had just been decriminalized in the UK in 1967 and still had double standards associated with them (namely, the age of consent for gay sex was 21 vs. 16 for straight sex). In this environment, pedophiles had room to openly challenge the narrative asserting that sexual relations between adults and children were intrinsically harmful and abusive; after all, if the moralists and censors were wrong about gay sex, then what else were they wrong about? Later research into and scandals involving pedophilia and child sexual abuse, of course, would lay bare the inherently unequal power dynamics between adults and children, particularly children's lack of mental development and the fact that most predatory pedophiles either abuse their own sons and daughters or otherwise target children under their care (such as with abuse committed by teachers and priests). As a result, many sexuality researchers now believe that children cannot properly consent to sex, and that sexual relations between adults and children are inherently coercive and thus should be considered sexual assault.
Chinese Communist Party
During China's Warlord Era, the Chinese Communist Party and the nationalist Kuomintang government created the First United Front against the warlords running amok across the nation. On the CCP's end, a key motivation was the hope that they would be able to infiltrate and influence the Kuomintang. In 1927, the Kuomintang got wise to what was happening and expelled all communists from the government, a move that started the Chinese Civil War.
On the right
One example of claimed entryism in the right is of David Orchard, a protectionist conservative who allegedly infiltrated the Progressive Conservative Party in Canada with the intention of changing its free trade policies. Anti-abortion activists are alleged to have infiltrated the centrist Liberal Party of Canada in the past. However, evidence for organised entryism in either of these cases is scant (an unsourced section on a Wikipedia page, to be precise).
Free State Project
The FSP's goals are to have 20,000 libertarians move to New Hampshire and, by virtue of being very politically active, influence politics there.
Similarly, Christian Exodus was an attempt to influence the politics of a US state, in this case turning South Carolina into a religious right paradise. They seem to have mostly given up on their plan, though; their web page is all but dead and little more than a collection of photo galleries of various sites they own, only one of which is located in South Carolina.
Augustus Sol Invictus
Because when you need your political stories to be just a bit wackier, you turn to Florida.
In 2015-16, an Orlando attorney, Thelemite, and unhinged neo-fascist named Augustus Sol Invictus (yes, he actually changed his legal name in 2013 to a Latin phrase meaning "majestic unconquered sun") waged an entryist campaign against the Libertarian Party of Florida in order to claim their ballot line for the 2016 US Senate race. Recruiting neo-fascists and white nationalists into the party to support his campaign, he prompted the state party chairman to resign in protest when the executive committee refused to disavow him and deny him their ballot line. In the end, Libertarian Party members who opposed Invictus' candidacy (i.e. just about all of them other than Invictus and his recruits) found some random nobody to run against him in the primary — and that nobody, a 31-year-old computer programmer and Iraq War veteran named Paul Stanton who barely even campaigned, wound up winning the primary with 73.5% of the vote simply on account of him being "not the raving lunatic who admitted to drinking a goat's blood". Invictus' reaction was to whine on Facebook.
In the late 20th century, nativist activists waged a long, and ultimately failed, attempt to get the Sierra Club, one of the US' leading environmental organizations, to adopt a strong anti-immigration stance. It started in 1968 when the Sierra Club published Paul R. Ehrlich's book The Population Bomb, arguing that overpopulation was a looming threat to the environment and that the United States, in order to prevent the degradation of its natural resources, needed to take steps to limit its population, including sharp restrictions on immigration. This book led a number of anti-immigrant activists to start aligning with the Sierra Club, most notably John Tanton, who chaired the organization's National Population Committee from 1971 to '75 and would go on to become one of the leading figures in the US' anti-immigration movement. Efforts to effect policy kicked off in earnest in the '80s, when activists led by Ehrlich's wife Anne (an uncredited co-author of The Population Bomb) led a push to get the Sierra Club to support "population stabilization", and in 1988 the organization's Population Committee and Conservation Coordinating Committee made a statement calling for the restriction of immigration to the US. The effort ended in 1996 when a firm majority of the Sierra Club's membership voted to take a neutral position on immigration, though pressure groups continued to exist until 2004, when a far more overt entryist campaign led by the Federation for American Immigration Reform attracted the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center and was defeated by an even more decisive vote. Today, the Sierra Club supports a generally pro-immigrant policy, including a legal pathway to citizenship and various environmental justice projects.
From both sides
The Reform Party of the United States of America, created in 1995 by Ross Perot as a vehicle for his second Presidential run in 1996, took no stances on cultural issues or much of anything beyond Perot's producerist economic platform and cleaning up Washington. In theory, this would allow it to create as big a tent of voters as possible, but in practice, it allowed assorted cranks and fringe figures who saw Perot and the Reform Party as a vessel for their own worldview to try and pull the party their way. On the left, Social Therapy creator Fred Newman and New Alliance Party founder Lenora Fulani joined forces to take over the Reform Party's New York chapter, while on the right, Pat Buchanan tried to pull the national Reform Party in a religious right direction by encouraging his base of Christian conservatives to join. New Age kook John Hagelin also entered the fray once the "old guard" of Perot loyalists, seeing both Newman and Buchanan as flatly unacceptable and their efforts as hostile takeovers, sought a third option given that neither Perot nor Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura (the Reform Party's greatest political success story) were interested in running for President in 2000. The Reform Party convention in 2000, split between two mutually hostile entryist factions and those who wanted nothing to do with either of them, was a disaster that effectively destroyed the Reform Party as any sort of organized political force.
Islam in Europe
There are claims by those on the islamophobic right that Muslims are infiltrating British institutions to promote their religious ideas. Former Conservative minister Sayeeda Warsi has been accused of filling positions on Government bodies with radicals, although even her critics seem to stop short of accusing her of being an agent of the Global Islamic Conspiracy. Asian and Islamic media has been quick to pick holes in the story.
Communists in Judaism
Jews into... everything, really
According to some people, Jews have been secretly (and collectively) plotting to infiltrate almost every single position of power in the world for over 200 years.
- Why entrism is such a small part of Jeremy Corbyn’s rise, Michael Crick, Channel 4
- See the Wikipedia article on Entryism.
- Invasion of the Entryists, George Monbiot, The Guardian/monbiot.com, 2003
- See the Wikipedia article on Militant (Trotskyist group).
- Neil Kinnock - 'That Speech' ("I’ll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, outdated, misplaced, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council — a Labour council — hiring taxis to scuttle 'round a city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers!")
- Who, What, Why: What was Militant?, BBC, 28 May 2015
- The English city that wanted to 'break away' from the UK, BBC, 8 November 2014
- Labour leadership: 100 Green Party candidates have joined party in latest evidence of 'entryism', Andrew Grice, The Independent, 5 August 2015
- Momentum bans far-left activists after Labour moderates voice entryism fears, Ian Silvera, IB Times, 8 Feb 2016
- Ward, Roy. "Surf and TERFs: On Trans*-Exclusionary Radical Feminists." Vada Magazine, 30 May 2013 (recovered 5 May 2017).
- Tom de Castella and Tom Heyden. "How did the pro-paedophile group PIE exist openly for 10 years?" BBC News, 27 February 2014 (recovered 11 October 2018).
- Hope, Christopher. "Harriet Harman, Jack Dromey, Patricia Hewitt and the Paedophile Information Exchange." Daily Telegraph, 24 February 2014 (recovered 11 October 2018).
- Christian Exodus
- Romano, John. "Romano: Bizarre Senate candidate Augustus Sol Invictus fractures Florida's Libertarian Party." Tampa Bay Times, 7 October 2015 (recovered 29 March 2016).
- Ballotpedia: Paul Stanton
- Mock, Brentin. How the Sierra Club Learned to Love Immigration." Colorlines, 8 May 2013 (recovered 12 September 2018).
- , Andrew Gilligan, The Daily Telegraph, 22 Feb 2015
- #Entryism: Activist accuses Baroness Warsi of allowing radicals into Whitehall, UK Asian
- A bizarre case of entryism: the goings on at the Board of Deputies, Adloyada, March 15, 2012