Britain is turning into the Eastern Bloc

On TV, on social media and in the workplace, Britons feel they cannot openly speak the truth.

William Clouston


Something dawned on me the other day – public debate in Britain is eerily like what I experienced behind the Iron Curtain in the 1980s.

I went to Warsaw in 1987. A friend had decided, after graduating in Britain, to study urban design at the city’s university. Given the brutality of Warsaw’s Soviet-style architecture, this might have seemed a curious choice. But he was also a dissident and a fervent supporter of the Solidarity movement, and he hoped to see his country free itself from Soviet control. Despite Poland being in a state of post-martial law, I accepted the invitation to visit him.

On arrival, I was warned to be careful about what I said. I took it for granted that my foreigner’s guest room at the university was bugged. I accepted the special paperwork that was required if I wished to travel outside the radius of the city, requiring many rubber stamps. I also accepted, on leaving the country, a party official taking my last remaining US dollars as a bribe after I mistakenly got on the wrong train to the West (my actual 11am train had already mysteriously left at 9am).

Recent food shortages made it clear that the Soviet system was crumbling. Most Poles profoundly resented communism. And yet these truths could not be uttered publicly. An entire population was subdued.

Polish friends carefully explained to me that the truth during this period came in three different varieties. First, there was ‘Pravda-truth’. This was a species of ‘truth’ published in official newspapers and broadcast on radio and television. It was blatant state propaganda designed to control and demoralise people. It was false and no Poles believed it – not even the ones who produced it.

Secondly, there was ‘workplace truth’. These were things fellow citizens said to each other in factories, hospitals, shops and other places of employment. Workplace truth was closer to the truth, but people still had to be careful. Colleagues sometimes could be trusted, but not always.

Finally, there was what Poles called ‘dinner-table truth’, which were the things people said at home with family or very close friends. This was the real truth.

I remember being puzzled at such a complex system of truths and half-truths, public truths and private ones. It seemed almost unintelligible to someone living in the West which, at that time, enjoyed relatively free speech. Poles knew what was true and what was untrue and had devised a system to accommodate both things in their lives.

Thirty-five years on, Eastern Europe and the UK appear to have swapped places. I first saw glimpses of this after the 2016 Brexit vote, when Leave-supporting friends in academia said they were too scared openly to endorse a view held by 52 per cent of the electorate. They feared being socially ostracised, condemned as racists or sacked from their jobs.

This sounded too familiar. As progressives wage a relentless culture war against free expression, I think it’s worth directly comparing our situation to 1980s Poland.

Our state broadcaster is a purveyor of its own type of Pravda-truth. Far from being impartial, the BBC is staffed overwhelmingly by people holding liberal outlooks, and its coverage of the recent Black Lives Matter moral panic has been woeful.

Academic research that suggests there is no racial disparity in US police shootings (even from lofty institutions such as Harvard) is ignored by the corporation. Instead, it pumps out inflammatory headlines such as ‘Why do US cops keep killing unarmed black men?’. Failing to appraise the research around US police violence is reckless, statistically naive, dishonest, and likely has an ulterior political motive. Like the propagandists in 1980s Poland, those inside the BBC must know the real truth. But instead, they publish a form of Pravda-truth.

Another similarity to Eastern Bloc Poland is the climate of fear and suspicion. In the workplace, many British people are at risk of being ostracised, denied promotions and even of losing their jobs outright if they dare express views that run contrary to the Pravda-truth of progressivism. How can we call ourselves a free society if we fear sincerely expressing our convictions to our friends and colleagues?

This brings us to the question of how we should respond to the rise of Pravda-truth. In the 1980s, Poles resisted stoically, often resorting to humour. Metaphor and sarcasm were frequently and creatively used as truth-bearers, and jokes were used to expose the ridiculousness of the official narrative.

In the UK, I think we can expect more and more people to start ridiculing the establishment’s duplicitousness and hypocrisy. When the BBC described protests that left 35 officers injured as being ‘largely peaceful’, many non-ideologues responded with parody and sarcasm. Such humour allows us concisely to signal to each other that we are not alone in our doubts and disbelief.

However, I think it would be even better to be more direct. We must defend our right to free speech by asserting this right more forcefully, by speaking the truth openly and publicly. Many of us fear speaking out precisely because we feel alone and isolated, which has allowed the forceful minority of hyper-progressives to dominate our public discourse. The most potent way to disempower them is to show to those around you that decent, level-headed people do not need to play the game of Pravda-truth.­­­

William Clouston is leader of the Social Democratic Party.

Picture by: Getty.

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3rd August 2020 at 11:35 pm

‘The truth’ being defined by anything the author of this article thinks, of course.

Sue Scumstain

3rd August 2020 at 8:32 pm

Spiked’s core problem remains:

The fevered daydream that the average Brit wants to spend her evenings in a debating chamber, quoting 17th century philosophers, fighting the elites and damning her husband and sister in-law for indulging in logical fallacies.

That and “taking back control”.

‘300 more years of these angry debates and working class revolt and we can create a utopia here in Essex, Kylie – trust me. Cod and chips will be cheaper too.”

Zammo McTrotsky

29th July 2020 at 8:54 pm

Yep Spiked managed two decent articles and now it’s back to their stupid culture war rubbish. Here is some total rubbish: “academic research that suggests there is no racial disparity in US police shootings”. Oh yeah? Where’s that then? There is research which controls for other variables, thus attempting to justify the factual racial disparity that no-one serious disputes. But the article pretends that the BBC (which typically does not refer much to the main body of academic research on police shootings, let alone some crank minority report, which, if anyone cares to read it’s conclusion, explicitly says that it adds sweet FA of empirical value to any discussion, but goes ahead to blame black Americans for getting in the way of police bullets anyway.) is remiss in it’s duty to us by not reporting this tat. Utter runny shite.

Jeremy Bonington-Jagworth

3rd August 2020 at 10:36 pm

Brilliant satirical re-statement of the dinner table truth for public Pravda consumption.

As we all know twice as many whites as blacks are shot by cops, though of course there are more than twice as many whites as blacks, but that’s still a lot of white deaths that don’t even get a mention in the mainstream media, including Tony Timpa, killed by a BLACK cop in almost identical circumstances to George Floyd, and Justine Damond, an innocent woman WAITING FOR POLICE ASSISTANCE, shot repeatedly for no apparent reason by a black cop.

Though admittedly Justine did feature in BLM “protests”:

They demanded the RELEASE of her murderer!!!

Also 50% more white men are shot per white arrest for violence than black men are shot per black arrests for violence.

But perhaps you think all those black on black murders, including of actual not 16 year old gansta, children, are actually committed by white cops sneaking into black ‘hoods in blackface?!

John Sinclair

28th July 2020 at 6:42 pm

I agree with the sentiment here but when I listen to the Spiked podcasts on Youtube I rarely if ever get through one without hearing one of the panel deriding some anti-vaxer “idiots” or right wing “racists” or whatever who turn out to be ordinary people who, God forbid, simply have different life experiences, knowledge bases etc and subsequently opinions different from those on the panel.

John Reic

28th July 2020 at 6:03 pm

Gerry Mander the comments aren’t pre moderated??

John Pretty

29th July 2020 at 10:21 pm

They do sometimes. I speak from experience.


28th July 2020 at 1:54 pm

The project seems to be well on its way, as far as I can tell. Soon, no pets (because they can now catch and transmit covid, allegedly); no normal breathing (face must be covered and therefore dehumanised outdoors – and quite often indoors – at all times); no holidays; no freedom of thought or speech (for fear of being “cancelled” or losing your livelihood); extra taxes after 40 (if you want someone to clean your backside in old age – being taxed every which way your entire working life) and mandatory vaccinations. Muzzled, silenced, drugged, fleeced, told what to think. Did I miss anything?

Sue Scumstain

3rd August 2020 at 8:50 pm

You missed Brexit meaning English working class people have less freedom of movement but this loss of freedom of movement is promoted as a good thing.

And plans to get working class Brits to work in the fields (“no university for you, Tommy”) under threat of sanctions and destitution.

Jeremy Bonington-Jagworth

3rd August 2020 at 10:41 pm

Just wait till it’s your turn.

And all the intelligentsia, academics, spectacle wearers, and other useful idiot fellow travellers, are sent to the (killing) fields for re-education by our “Anti”-Fa and BLM Red Guard Cultural Revolutionaries!

michael savell

28th July 2020 at 12:11 pm

“Britons cannot openly speak the truth”—of course they can’t-purely and simply because they don’t know the truth and I doubt very much if any of our masters and mistresses do either,. so we are a disjointed,uninformed society marching into oblivion,one way or another.If you happen to be a white male you know that everybody else has got it in for you and that progressively groups of elites are working to bring you down ,so,short of taking up your cudgel you need to find a leader who is less devious that those who at present suck up to those elites with the vain hope that they alone will be spared.

Steve Bird

1st August 2020 at 8:33 am

Elites? Who are these elites of which you speak? People raised in schools such as Eton to lead the likes of the UK. Tory party MPs who sit as Cabinet members. Policy advisors like Munira Mirza. These are the elites and they do give two hoots for you or anyone else

Steve Roberts

28th July 2020 at 8:50 am

Free speech, unequivocal and for all regardless of subject matter is the demand we need to make which Spiked has pioneered. It is the fundamental freedom we have that provides a foundation upon which all freedoms are built, any restriction is a denial of our freedom however it is attempted to be justified.
We are living in a period of the most serious draconian state denials of freedoms and not just of free speech, it is “justified” as a response to a virus, an irrational,disproportionate and destructive path has been taken by the state, it has been relatively unopposed and our freedoms destroyed and continuing to be so.
Giving away, or accepting that freedoms can be denied by the state is a most dangerous and serious matter, rarely are the precedents that are set ever removed, they remain to be used as and when necessary by the state and establishment more generally.
This is not conspirational, it has happened and is continuig to be so, while it was not the reason for the madness the elites have unleashed, that is another matter, there is absolutely no doubt that the opportuniies that have been created to impose further restriction and denials of freedoms on a huge swathe of social and political issues is being increasingly and gleefully taken by the elites.
So Mr Clouston where were you as the establishment unleashed these draconian attacks on our freedoms during the last few months ? Or do you believe they were “justified”, or perhaps , like many others you are only now starting to be critical of some aspects, like overreach, while still allowing the elites to win the moral high ground which they are now pursuing with fervour.
And as the leader of a political party do you unequivocally defend free speech which is so vital ? Or like many social conservatives do you want to accept limits determined by your particular political outlook, that places you entirely in the camp as those you claim to oppose.
Let’s have some clarity here, are you a defender of freedoms and free speech in particular or not because ” The most potent way to disempower them is to show to those around you that decent, level-headed people do not need to play the game of Pravda-truth.­­” is just an equivocating lack of principle.

Gerry Mander

28th July 2020 at 8:22 am

This is all very well, but this journal pre-moderates comments, especially any about a certain group of people.

Ray Diator

28th July 2020 at 11:50 am

I pointed out a basic simple honest fact about some colonisers in the Middle East, but it never appeared

Brandy Cluster

28th July 2020 at 2:40 pm

Absolutely correct. Part of the problem or part of the solution?

a watson

28th July 2020 at 7:42 am

Where is there a place to discuss and debate openly? The major political parties stifle debate and dissent through being strictly policed, especially at a local level and in London. The media and political parties are not democratically representative of the ordinary electorate. Speak out, if you are dissenting, male, white or ‘uneducated’ working class, and you had better be careful. England famous for free speech and democracy? That has been destroyed and gone. How and by whom?


28th July 2020 at 2:04 pm

By the Left, which has successfully infiltrated our courts, educational establishments (from the ground up), civil service, unions, police…

Brandy Cluster

28th July 2020 at 2:41 pm

Repression and regression is in their DNA, just like the Polish situation.

Gordon Al Gopher

28th July 2020 at 1:52 am

Sometimes I think the BBC are just a bit thick. They have this complete inability to do anything subtly. They can’t even pretend to be woke with any subtlety.

I’ve just watched McMafia and really enjoyed it. But wtf were they doing giving Katya a black boyfriend and not making any attempt to have a storyline about it? He was in loads of scenes and had almost no lines. There were two episodes in which he said absolutely nothing and then in the third his only line was “Hi I’m Femi” and that was it for the rest of the episode – it was so blatantly the token black character, there just for the aesthetics.

The first episode of Bodyguard was even worse. A female sniper, terrorist, train driver, head of met police, head of counter terrorism. It was ridiculous and completely out of touch with reality just to make themselves look a bit more ‘woke’.

The BBC is embarrassing.

a watson

28th July 2020 at 9:45 am

Disappearing up it’s own backside.

Steve Bird

1st August 2020 at 8:35 am

Get writing. The BBC is always looking for good content.

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