In 1950s and 1960s New York there flourished a political cult which claimed that it — and it alone — had the answer to all political, philosophical and economic questions. Its adherents, most famously Alan Greenspan, called themselves objectivists and maintained that their guru, the Russian émigré novelist Ayn Rand, was the living embodiment of reason. Those not agreeing with objectivism's conclusions — support for unfettered capitalism, radical individualism and dogmatic atheism — were either evil or stupid, they maintained.
Today in London another political cult is thriving. It too claims to embody reason and shares some of the assumptions of the objectivists. This group too believes that reason is under attack from the uninitiated hordes and that human potential is being denigrated by hostile anti-rationalist ideologies. There are two striking differences — the latter-day cult's origins are to be found on the Trotskyist Left not the individualist Right and its founder is not a best-selling novelist but a Marxist professor of sociology based at the University of Kent at Canterbury.
Frank Furedi was born in postwar Hungary, leaving for Canada with his parents after the 1956 uprising. Unlike most Hungarian exiles, the young Furedi was drawn to hard-Left politics, especially after moving to the UK to pursue his graduate studies. He completed his doctorate on the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya.
Furedi moved through various Trotskyist organisations until, finding that none quite fitted the bill, he founded his own — the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). This new group argued that its many rivals on the Marxist Left were too willing to collaborate with the hard Left of the Labour Party. Furedi, often using his nom-de-guerre Frank Richards, had no time for bourgeois politics even when represented by Tony Benn. Furedi thought other Marxists of the 1970s were much too soft on imperialism and insufficiently supportive of Irish republicanism.