Friday, 19 October 2012


Watch out! He's behind you!
According to Wikipedia, 'entryism' is a political strategy in which an organisation or state encourages its members or supporters to join another, usually larger organisation in an attempt to expand influence and expand their ideas and program. In situations where the organization being "entered" is hostile to entrism, the entrists may engage in a degree of subterfuge to hide the fact that they are an organisation in their own right. In some cases the alleged entryists perceive themselves as supporters of a newspaper and not members of an organization. While Marxists argue that entryism flows from the "demands of the class struggle", others allege it is more akin to infiltration.
Entryism does not involve dissolving the small organisation into the larger one. Entryism is often carried out in secrecy and often in organisations run on Leninist lines. The strategy of entryism is as old as politics itself.

I am interested in entryism because I am working on a novel in which the protagonist - a woman of a similar age and interests to myself  - decides to infiltrate a university department with a view to expose the covert political bias which, contrary to all traditions of academic objectivity, underlies the teaching and reading matter of the course.

My first real life experience of 'entryism' was in the Edward Heath 'Who governs Britain'? General Election campaign of February 1974. I had very recently moved into the house that was to be the family home for 35 years, in Chelsea. The constituency was traditionally Conservative, but I did not like Ted Heath - I had met him while working as a journalist in south Wales some years before - I did not share his enthusiasm for the European project, known misleadingly as the Common Market and so I decided to join the south Stanley (our ward) campaign team lobbying for the Liberal candidate, whose name was confusingly similar to the Conservative candidate's. We were a fairly small group living in a very limited geographical area. One of our number, we began to realise, suffered from some sort of undefined learning difficulty - he was what would now be known as 'vulnerable'. Another was a very impressive chap always very well turned out in a conventional suit compared to the rest of us who were pretty typical of late twenty/early thirtysomething Chelsea residents in those days - dungarees, cords and various other casual outfits. Our candidate, who was an alcoholic restaurateur, duly went down to an ignominious defeat at the polls. We, the Liberal campaigning team, met at a local pub to drink to our defeat and to go our separate ways. Once the drinks were in, the young man in the suit tapped his glass and said: 'I think it only right to tell you that I have been working with this group as part of my training'. Yes, he had been using us as an exercise, he claimed for the Foreign Office - but perhaps he meant MI6 or MI5. He left the pub and we never saw him again in our little neck of the woods. 

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