New UK Study Examines Links Between Far-Left Ideology and Violence

By Kevin McCandless | August 15, 2019 | 7:29pm EDT
(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

London ( – Ahead of a landmark report being prepared for the British government on extremism, researchers here have warned of a potential wave of violence inspired by the radical left.

The Commission for Countering Extremism was established by the government to provide independent recommendations to the Home Secretary on how to deal with political extremism. It is due to submit those recommendations next month.

As part of its work, it recently published a study on left wing attitudes, based on mathematical analysis of surveys of hundreds of British citizens.

They were divided into two general groups – the first comprised people who described themselves as very left-wing, and the second was made up of people from across the political spectrum.

Respondents were asked if they agreed with a series of "revolutionary" statements such as “Capitalism is bad and must be destroyed.”

They were also asked separately whether they sympathized with bombing or other acts of political violence.

The study authors – academics from King's College London, the University of London and the University of Bristol – “found an individual’s agreement with revolutionary workerist ideas to provide a strong and highly statistically significant indicator of the likelihood that he or she will sympathize with one or more forms of violent extremism.”

They wrote that “sectarian groups” on the far-left in Britain have no capability or desire for terrorist acts now, but that their study showed their ideas could contribute towards violence in the future.

“While political violence is now relatively rare in Britain,” they wrote, “our findings suggest that opportunities may exist for political entrepreneurs to radicalize those open to revolutionary workerism and ‘anti-imperialism.’”

Dr. Daniel Allington of King's College, one of the authors, said in a statement that unlike groups on the far-right, “revolutionary socialist groups do not promote violence directly,” but that their ideas could justify violence.

He clarified that he wasn’t suggesting, for example, that arguing for more funding for the National Health Service – as many on the left do – would lead to terrorism.

What he was referring to, Allington said, was “the idea that a revolution would solve our problems.”

The Commission for Countering Extremism, which is described by its head as “the most extensive national conversation” on the subject ever held, has commissioned reports from nearly 30 academics.

They include studies on Islamic and far-right extremism, repeatedly described by the government as the top danger facing Britain.

Commission members have also toured Britain to speak to citizens, consulted dozens of experts, and have receive almost 3,000 responses in a public consultation process launched last November.

The commission say report authors work separately, and their conclusions are not necessarily shared by the body as a whole.

However, in a speech last month, lead commissioner Sara Khan said the commission has found that extremism “isn’t confined to one race, one religion or political ideology.”

“In 2019 the threat is broad,” she said. “It’s severe and we need to keep up.”

Last month Policy Exchange, a conservative-oriented think tank, released a report criticizing Extinction Rebellion, an environmental mass-action group that has garnered headlines in Britain over the last year.

Extinction Rebellion publicly promotes civil disobedience as a way to alert the public to what it views as the looming ecological collapse of the planet.

Last November, hundreds of Extinction Rebellion protesters blocked five bridges across the Thames River, and for several days in April, protestors occupied several streets in central London.

The Policy Exchange report said the group rejects capitalism and will not settle for limited environmental solutions, but instead is trying to change society completely.

After the report’s release, Extinction Rebellion hit back, saying in a statement, “We are concerned that those pushing for ‘business as usual’ to continue are sending the planet hurtling towards record levels of heating.”

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