This blog seems to have attracted a few views over the last several days. With Nelson Mandela close to death, perhaps it was inevitable. It was also inevitable that many people would remember the Tories’ attitude to Nelson Mandela and their support for South Africa’s apartheid regime during the 1980s. Many also recall that the Federation of Conservative Students (FCS) proudly wore ‘Hang Mandela’ T-shirts and referred to him as a ‘terrorist’ while they, not only supported the continuation of apartheid, but also gave their support to the Pinochet regime and the Nicaraguan Contras, a terrorist group that was financed by arms sales to Iran.
I was reading this article in The Independent when I spotted this:
Harry Phibbs, a Hammersmith councillor who was then prominent in the FCS, says: “A group of people at Warwick University made stickers that were a parody of the stickers people were wearing saying ‘Free Nelson Mandela and all ANC prisoners’, which said ‘Hang Nelson Mandela and all ANC terrorists’.
“The motive was to disrupt the conference of the National Union of Students [NUS]. It was never proposed by the FCS officially. I suspect that it wasn’t even a view really held by the people who produced that sticker. It was a rather immature way to stir things up.”
A couple of things: first, he claims that the ‘Hang Mandela’ T-shirts were ‘parodies’. Now that the FCS is dead and has been reincarnated as the Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF), it was only inevitable that Phibbs would employ the ‘youthful hi-jinks’ get out clause. There was nothing parodic about these people wearing T-shirts that demanded Mandela be hanged. They meant every single word of it. Second, he claims that this view “wasn’t even a view really held by the people who produced that sticker. It was a rather immature way to stir things up”. This is what The Cat refers to as the ‘Jeremy Clarkson defence’. The “it was all just a joke, honest” line, cuts no ice. We only have Phibbs’s word that the FCS were just being, er, playful and frankly his word is schmutz at Nowhere Towers.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council is now home to former FCSers, some of them have gone on to join the YBF, even though they are no longer young. Some, like Aidan Burley, have become MPs and achieved notoriety through their boorish, oafish right-wing predilections for a certain kind of attire and their hateful denunciations of tolerance and equality .
Here, Phibbs reminisces about the good old days of the FCS. Perhaps the strongest indication of the FCS’s support for authoritarian regimes comes from Foghorn himself, when he writes:
Under the new regime campaigns took place in solidarity with those fighting Communism around the world, whether Eastern European dissidents or groups fighting civil wars in Africa and Central America. A shocking policy was adopted in support of a students loans scheme. The battle of ideas was fought for freedom and the free market, against socialism and state control.
Remember, authoritarian regimes are fine as long as they’re ‘anti-communist’. Right-wing terrorists are transformed into ‘freedom fighters’ on account of their anti-communism, and Pinochet’s and Suharto’s atrocities are casually waved away as mere inconveniences. Sometimes right-wingers will try and engage in a pissing contest by claiming that the Left has been more responsible for the deaths of millions more and will even try and aggregate Hitler’s atrocities with that number. The groups the FCS supported on the African continent were UNITA in Angola and RENAMO in Mozambique. The latter organization was founded in Ian Smith’s Rhodesia and supported by South Africa.
At the end of the article, he signs off by telling us:
Harry Phibbs is a journalist.
I can think of loads of things to call him and ‘journalist’ isn’t one of them. Cabinet Member for Propaganda is probably closer to the mark. Oh hang on, he’s no longer in that position but he still churns out propaganda on the Council’s behalf on Conservative Home, where he is the “the local government editor”. It tells us:
While he is not an anarchist, Harry is strongly on the libertarian/ classical liberal wing of the Conservative Party.
No! Really? Remember what I said about ‘classical liberals’? He also writes propaganda for the local Tory blog; the deceptively titled ‘Residents First’.
Here’s an interesting article from Suzanne Moore in yesterday’s Guardian. Naturally, the article has attracted knuckledraggers repeating the usual mush but they never dare to mention the atrocious apartheid years. I wonder why?