Ah, the British Left, What We Do to Ourselves

The following article by Mark Steel was written for the SWP’s Pre-conference Internal Bulletin (IB). It has now appeared on the Urban 75 site, so I reproduce it here. I would not have published it without Mark’s permission before it  had entered the public domain.

[Editorial note – the Urban 75 article had an extra final line that did not appear in the version published in the SWP’s IB. I publish here without that extra line]

mark-steel.jpgWhen I joined the SWP in 1978 I was instantly impressed by so many aspects of its ideas and methods. But one of the most decisive sides to its character was its honesty. We were proud of what we could achieve and what we could influence, but wary of the exaggerations. In particular, Tony Cliff exhibited an almost impudent scepticism towards any stories that appeared too glorious to be true. But one result of this outlook was that every success reported, no matter how apparently tiny, was genuine and a source of enormous pride.

How desperately we need a return to that honesty today. For by whatever criteria you wish to use, our party has shrunk to a shadow of the size it was even a few years ago. In many areas where the SWP once represented a chaotic pump of activity that connected with all that was vibrant, energetic and rebellious in the city, now the meetings are tiny, bereft of anyone under forty and attended out of duty. Not many years ago, in most towns you were never far from a line of hastily slapped-up Socialist Worker posters, so they were almost an accepted part of any city centre, and there must be people who supposed the council was obliged to ensure they stayed up, on grounds of maintaining local heritage. But you’d have to conduct a diligent search now to find anything of the sort.

A few years ago, almost any campaign or labour movement event in a medium-sized town would include a Socialist Worker presence. But over the last eighteen months, of the many such events I’ve attended and spoken at, hardly any has been blessed with anyone visibly from the SWP, or for that matter Respect.

To give just a few of many possible examples: recently I was invited to speak at the conference of the campaigning student group People and Planet. It was an inspiring event, around 500 radicalised students discussing issues such as privatisation, global warming and AIDS, always with a view of how to campaign most effectively against the profiteering attitudes that are inflicted onto these matters. The conference was in Central London on a Sunday, but as far as I could see there was no one there from the SWP at all.

In July of this year I spoke at the annual protest known as ‘Independence from America Day’ outside the American base at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire. It was a vibrant and colourful affair, crackling with enthusiasm, and received widespread coverage including a long item on Yorkshire TV news. But no SWP.

On Sunday 23rd September there was a magnificent event at the Hammersmith Odeon (which I refuse to call the ‘Carling Apollo’), organised by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade. Although it holds three thousand five-hundred it was sold out a week in advance, and the whole place buzzed throughout the evening with the spirit of rebellion.

But it did so without the presence of the SWP or Respect, at all, in any way whatsoever. The previous weekend, incidentally, there had been a London-wide meeting of SWP members to discuss the future of Respect, which 250 people turned up to. It’s a shame half a dozen of them couldn’t get to Hammersmith to discuss the future of Respect or the SWP with the three thousand five-hundred.

In the spring of 2006 I did a tour of theatres in Britain, performing my show on the French Revolution, in over forty towns, to a total of around twelve thousand people. (I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that any member should be obliged to watch it, but it’s probably fair to say the audience it attracts includes the type of person who may be interested in something we have to say). So before the tour began I spoke at length to members of the Central Committee, on four separate occasions, about how the SWP could benefit from this, and they decided there should be Respect stalls at each venue. I arranged that for each venue there would be as many free tickets as needed, made available for Respect supporters, so that it could be used as a social event, as well as a means for publicising Respect with leaflets or anything else the branches liked. At not one venue did a single person turn up to do this.

In fact the only places where there was any Socialist Worker presence at all was Leicester (4 comrades), Windsor (one on her own) and a contingent of about twenty from Portsmouth, who sold Socialist Worker and distributed leaflets.

This isn’t an artistic luvvie strop about people not coming to my thought-provoking hilarious show, nor is it a complaint about lazy comrades failing to take up an opportunity. It’s simply an indication of how far the party has shrunk. These examples aren’t one-off failures of planning, they’re typical and not exceptions. There may be areas that have resisted the trend, but the overall decline is inescapable.

But the most disturbing side to the SWP’s decline has been the refusal to acknowledge this trend is taking place at all. For some time we were told there were ten thousand members, although this was a patently absurd figure. This number seems to have been revised downwards, which leaves two possibilities, either that the original figure was wrong or we’ve suddenly lost thousands of members, either one of which should merit a thorough discussion. But far from having one, anyone who has raised the issue has been derided.

(My personal low point in trying to address this problem came after a weekend in which I did two nights in Central London, where again no Socialist Worker stall or paper sellers were present despite 600 people attending each night. So I asked a Central committee member how he squared this with his claim we were rapidly growing. And he replied “It just goes to show there’s so much going on these days we can’t cover everything.”)

And so the problem becomes compounded. Tenacious comrades have tried to maintain branches that barely function, often with little success, then receive circulars telling them we’re in the midst of unprecedented opportunities and are generally thriving. But when your efforts result in little reward, to hear a series of super-optimistic claims about how well we’re doing isn’t inspiring, it’s depressing. Because either we’re being deceived, or it means everyone else is achieving success except you. The gap between the rhetoric and the reality has left countless comrades feeling it must be them that’s failing. If only they were more organised, or understood the perspective better, they’d be enjoying successes such as those they’re being told about. And so we arrive at the remarkable outcome in which the party designed to embolden socialists, to make them feel stronger and more capable of intervening in daily conflicts, makes them feel helpless and demoralised.

So what has happened to make the most thoughtful, dynamic and persistent socialist organisation of recent times behave in this way? This may seem an unusual phrase to offer in the internal bulletin but I don’t know. There’s certainly a widespread revulsion throughout society against the war, and against the reverence towards big business that dominates every aspect of modern life. But there’s also an enormous confusion amongst most of the people repelled by the warriors and profiteers as to what can be done about them. In these circumstances the triumphalist tone of the SWP throughout recent times may have been misjudged. It’s also possible the collapse of the Soviet Union fifteen years ago has had a greater global impact on socialist ideas than we anticipated. It may be that we over-estimated the revival of the organised labour movement, and the left in general has shrivelled. The difficulties in maintaining our organisation may be down to these reasons, or maybe something else, but our response has been to deny the problems altogether.

This attitude also appears to have transformed the tone in which the SWP operates. In recent years I’ve heard leading members dismiss other long-standing dedicated members who have contradicted them, by resorting to the ugliest vitriol, as if they’re auditioning for a revolutionary version of Eastenders. Maybe this passes for ‘robust debate’, but the result is that anyone else feeling uneasy about the ideas they’re asked to adhere to feels reticent about expressing themselves, and likely to drift away altogether.

To give just two examples of the damage caused by this lack of debate, firstly, following the extraordinary episode of George Galloway’s nightly exploits on Celebrity Big Brother, anyone associated with Respect faced a barrage of taunting or abuse from those around them. I don’t know of a single Respect supporter who came through that time unscathed, as many people who were sympathetic to George and the coalition felt let down, and withdrew their support. In those circumstances you might assume there would be a national discussion on how to deal with this, but instead there was none. Indeed the National Secretary of Respect, a leading SWP member, appeared on Newsnight to repeat the somewhat flimsy claim that the Big Brother escapade had been worthwhile because it had earned Respect a good deal of publicity.

The irony is that many of the same people who are now angrily reciting the reasons for why we must distance ourselves from George Galloway, were then refusing to allow any discussion on why he should be even questioned. By making this point I’m not trying to take sides on the current dispute around Respect, but simply to illustrate how deep the culture of resisting discussion has come.

Secondly, the Stop the War Coalition began as a magnificent example of how the ideas of the SWP can influence a movement in the most exhiliarating fashion. But as the massive anti-war march receded into the past, relating to those people who went on it became more complex.

The most typical attitude seemed to be that while no one regretted going on the march, they couldn’t see that it had made any difference. But instead of analysing how to address this sentiment, the SWP seemed to repeat the tone that suited the frenetic weeks before the war. Every march and protest was depicted as a triumph. And there was no acknowledgement of the process in which Stop the War meetings and rallies became smaller, and almost devoid of anyone under forty.

This method of dealing with problems also seems to inform our relationships with activists from outside the SWP at national level.

Whether in the Socialist Alliance, Stop the War, or Respect, we seem destined to land ourselves in acrimonious disputes. And the growing list of people who’ve selflessly committed themselves to a project alongside us, only to later lament that they feel betrayed and humiliated is one that, shall we say, needs addressing. I even found myself questioned at one point by the Central Committee, because after speaking at a number of Scottish Socialist Party events they considered I had become ‘Too friendly’ with Tommy Sheridan.

Retaining an enthusiasm for the activity of a campaign, and this must apply even more for a party, depends on a constant assessment of the question ‘Are my actions making a difference’? As socialists we have to try and take a long-term view on that question. A meeting may not rattle the ruling class, but if it inspires one new person to read about our history or participate in future activities it qualifies as making a difference. If we ourselves feel educated by the experiences of others who were there, it’s made a difference. We’ll tolerate sitting through pointless meetings, or participating in chaotic organisational disasters in which rooms are double-booked, pamphlets are locked in boots of cars and speakers don’t turn up because they’ve been sent to the wrong city, because that’s all part of the process. And we’ll tolerate the party unravelling in certain ways, if there’s an honest discussion about how to stitch it back together. But when the project appears to be collapsing, when the sturdiest of comrades desert in their hundreds, and there’s no attempt to raise the issue of why, the answer to whether our presence makes a difference is transformed.

And that transformation becomes even more pertinent when around us there are a number of exciting movements, young and bubbling with passion and hope, and eager to embrace discussion with an open attitude that may welcome a socialist input, if only we could present it by making it as far as Hammersmith.

For twenty-five years I felt that being a member of the SWP immeasurably strengthened my ability to argue socialist ideas, and campaign on the issues that anyone who dares to call themselves a socialist should care about. It was an organisation that existed to inspire, enthuse and educate, to convey a brilliant set of analysis about the role of the working class, the nature of the Soviet Union and so on, but in such a way that every member could apply those ideas in order to intervene against the vast injustices of our planet. As such the SWP made many many people feel immensely proud of the tiny but vital contribution we all made. Not a moment of it was wasted.

But there is now a large contingent, of people who were inspired for many years by their membership of the SWP, and who still act as socialists with courage and imagination, who have not become tired or cynical, but have dropped out of the party either formally or in all but name. Unless we radically address the decline we’ve fallen into, and transform the culture that has up until now resisted such a process, the SWP will become a group that few people with the sense of drive, imagination and purpose essential to change the world will be attracted to in the long term.

188 comments on “Ah, the British Left, What We Do to Ourselves

  1. I think Mark’s analysis is spot on. My experience of SWP activity in Scunthorpe ties in completely with the comments made in Mark’s contribution to the IB. it does tend to get a bit depressing when we have a STW meeting of 10 people and think we’ve done really well, only to read party notes waxing lyrical over the potential for huge gaing to be made!

    It seems comrades that the ‘sectarians’ may have had a point all along about the CC!! Since the way John Molyneux was treated at conference it is becoming more and more clear that under current conditions the stick needs to be bent towards party democracy and retention and education of new comrades.

  2. Hiya Martin

    Good to here from someone in Scunthorpe. My granddad used to be in the CP there, (but operated as an entrist in the Labour Party) and he was an AEU convenor in the steel works.

    If we want a comparison of how far the left have fallen, when my mum was at school in Scunthorpe in the 1940s there were 27 members of the Young Communist League in her school alone!

  3. I too, like Martin, am glad Mark wrote the article (though it does unfortunately contain more than the odd factual error). However, (unlike some) I also respect the fact that Mark wrote it in an internal bulletin, and so think discussion of it among SWP members should remain, well, internal to the SWP…

  4. I repeat: I would not have published it without Mark’s permission before it had entered the public domain.

    but … stable door, horse, bolted.

  5. ” . . . .In recent years I’ve heard leading members dismiss other long-standing dedicated members who have contradicted them, by resorting to the ugliest vitriol, as if they’re auditioning for a revolutionary version of Eastenders. Maybe this passes for ‘robust debate’, but the result is that anyone else feeling uneasy about the ideas they’re asked to adhere to feels reticent about expressing themselves, and likely to drift away altogether.”

    A fascinating read and I love the comedy of Mark Steel as much as the most ardent SWPer, but surely he’s playing it for laughs when he suggests above that this ugly side of the SWP is only a recent phenemenon?

    Mike P on another thread on this blog has already mentioned the character assassination of Harry Wicks that was part of the IS faction fight in the seventies between the Cliffites and what became the Workers League, and some of us well remember the documents that were produced in the 90s by the short lived International Socialist Group (Andy Wilson’s group) that gave chapter and verse of how members who fell out of step with this week’s turn by the SWP leadership were marginalised and frozen out. There are many other examples.

    The fact that many of us are chuckling away at the SWP’s current crisis – and it is a crisis, long term they’re a phuked, IMHO – cannot simply be attributed to sectarianism or dismissed as petty jealousy ‘cos for so long they were the big fish in a very small pond. It’s because we all had our brushes with their thuggishness and the authoritarianism of their methods and Party culture down the years. I think it’s written in the organisation’s DNA.

    They were and are political operators who’ve been turned over by another political operator who they thought they could use and control. They’ve since found out that they can’t, but they won’t learn from it.

    It’s not just Respect that’s gone south. If the SWP thinks things are bad now, guaranteed that a year from now the SWP will be a shadow of its current self. I predict that a sizeable chunk of its long term cadre who are currently staying on-message out of Party loyalty that goes back years will drift away and drop out over the coming months.

  6. JJMurphy on said:

    This is evidence that, contrary to myth, vigorous debate is present in the SWP. The danger is people like Mark and others in the SWP will feel inhibited from contributing frank and critical contributions to the SWP’s political debate if they know that the internal arguments of loyal party members are to be kicked around on an anti-SWP site like this. Still I don’t suppose that bothers you, Andy. Any stick to beat a dog!

  7. Surely Darren is playing it for laughs when he suggests that internal fights in other political organisations are any the less ugly. Reformist as much as revolutionary ones.

  8. Larry R on said:

    I’m pleased that this has reached the net – well done U75 and Socialist Unity etc etc for republishing it.

    I’m one of the many ex-members of the SWP who feel addressed by Mark Steels article. Yes, if we were all still in the SWP this could remain an ‘internal’ discussion. But thousands of us have left over the past few years, yet remain committed socialists. So it has to be a wider discussion.

    Marks analysis rings true to me. In my small Lancashire city there was an SWP/IS presence since the late 1960’s. Likewise in the University – the two groups in Uni and town built and sustained each other. I joined in the 1980’s. By the early 1990’s there were about 20 activists, all aged between 18-25 in our branch. The Town centre and estates were covered in SWP and united front posters (ANL, Anti-Poll Tax, Trade Union etc). Saturday paper sales dominated the town centre, along with movement stalls also helped by the SWP. Every single left event – from trades unions, to environment, to community issues, to international solidarity had participation from us. Now thats all gone. There is no SWP branch at all.

    I’m still in contact with many of those ex-members here and around the country. They all left in the past few years. Why this decline? Weve just had the biggest mass movement in British history aginst the war. This is what we were waiting and preparing for! Of course there are objective reasons why its been hard to fight and build as well – and Mark has outlined some. And yes, the parties perspectives were often misjudged – ‘the 1990’s being the 1930’s in slow motion’ etc etc.

    But they usually left, like me, over minor disagreements – but felt the party had no room for discussing or resolving these. There was the line, handed down from the CC by full-timers, employed and appointed by the CC. If you didnt like the latest turn, or for some reason the ‘centre’ or full timers didnt like you, then you were marginalised and ended up dropping out.

    The party lacks the right internal culture for sustaining mass membership. The CC always feels it can loose what it imagines are the ‘old, burnt out and cynical’ members, bypassing them in favour of the new, fresh young recruits. And then it spits out the next generation, after it has fucked them around.

    Anyway, I’ve gotta go out and leaflet for a demo now, so bye for now.

  9. dan Wright on said:

    good to see a contribution from mark Steel. I look forward to reading the full IB, which any SWP member can right in, and then discussing it at my local branch meeting where we all know who each other are and can have a frank discussion in private about how to take the fight for socialism forward…time for me to do some work…

  10. michael on said:

    A key problem with the SWP’s analysis is that they do not appear to understand that there are number of important processes to be gone through before inequality, anti-war feeling and disillusionment with New Labour will be translated into sustained political activity among significant numbers of new recruits.

    These issues, while providing some opportunities for revolutionary socialists to recruit small numbers of new supporters, will not lead to a generalised openness to socialist ideas until they become generally politicised ie. until they reveal themselves to be obviously issues of a class nature that are open to being successfully challenged and changed.

    The revolutionary left is too small to secure this politicisation by itself – it will probably require a generalised economic/political crisis that shocks new layers of potential activists into questioning their sense of cynicism and powerlessness.

    Until that happens the revolutionary left should focus on building on its strengths (be they in particular workplaces, union branches or local communities) and stop indulging in hyper-optimistic and completely unreal speculations about what is likely to happen in the near future. Such hyper-optimism only serves to exhaust and disorientate existing supporters, while alienating potential supporters because the rhetoric is so obviously divorced from any recognisable reality.

    A good study of what circumstances can lead to the generalised politicisation of class relations is ‘Social Inequality and Class Radicalism in France and Britain’ by Duncan Gallie.

  11. Johng,

    Even the extract from Mark Steel article that I cut and pasted above – and which I have issues with – suggests that there is a culture within the SWP that doesn’t brook any sort of dissent within its ranks that in some way is perceived as contradicting the political perspective of the party leadership.

    I didn’t get the impression from Mark Steel’s article that this mentality was peculiar to the current wranglings within the SWP. He writes that this internal intolerant culture has been visible in “recent years”. I’d suggest the last 25 years.

  12. martin ohr on said:

    Larry (lawrence R, were you at lancaster university during 89-93? If so I was with you on many of the activities you desribe, baliff busting on the marsh estate, the uni occupation, our ‘national’ demo (where paul foot spoke) etc. Although I remember swss and the town swp to number something less than the numbers you quote, it waws true the the swp were active (and a constant source of irritation to the right in the student union and labour party) everywhere.

    One thing I clearly recall was a willingness to debate politics and work together with the rest of the left though which had been lacking from the swp since the pull-out from socialist alliance.

  13. Peter M on said:

    Maybe the SWP don’t want to be associated with such a crap comendian. Ever thought of that?

  14. #8 Hi Larry, I am one of those people from Lancaster SWSS and SWP in the late 80s early 90s- in fact you recruited me back then. Although I dropped out of the SWP some 10 years ago, I have always remained generally sympathetic towards the party- (its ideas more than its regime, it must be said) as a member of the Socialist Alliance and, later, a Respect semi-supporter. So, it is with much sadness I learn that Lancaster SWP no longer exists!

    What you say is interesting, however, as we generally had an ultra-tolerant internal culture back then (where does Darren get the idea the SWP was so intolerant 25 years ago?) – existing, we thought, outside the reach of The Centre. So much so that I was one of those who bemoaned the fact we never had a centrally appointed full timer who would come up and ‘organise’ us and make sure certain comrades toed the line…

    Perhaps I got my wish, in absentia?

  15. #12 Blimey! now Martin Ohr pops up- something of a reunion!
    Larry’s right about the numbers- I just jotted the names of 18 active SWSS / SWP members from then on the back of an envelope.

    Martin says;
    “true the the swp were active (and a constant source of irritation to the right in the student union and labour party) everywhere.
    One thing I clearly recall was a willingness to debate politics and work together with the rest of the left”

    Not only that but I recall we were actually invited to Labour Club meetings by the left to help politicise it- as a counterweight to the right.

    It cannot be denied that at that time the SWP had a real pull in student politics at least and we were able to recruit some of the best activists (and some crap ones like myself) from around both Labour Club and from the anarcho-green swamp.

  16. Not sure how that’s I remember things Martin. During the occupation the SWP fulltimer did his damned-best to avoid any kind of debate with SO.

  17. From Belfast

    Some good points raised by Mark in the article, that I can nod in agreement with –

    Including –

    ‘But there is now a large contingent, of people who were inspired for many years by their membership of the SWP, and who still act as socialists with courage and imagination, who have not become tired or cynical, but have dropped out of the party either formally or in all but name.’

    Sound point –

    Here is a link to my ‘Parting Article’ I had written – from a ex Belfast SWP perspective, for those interested .

    Link – http://www.phoblacht.net/dc15112g.html

    Indeed on leaving the once termed Belfast SWP it was like leaving a family and a whole life behind, so I can understand how difficult it is to move on, if no change can be effected. Indeed they where, at one time my social friends, Political Comrades, my family -indeed a very large Part of my life.

    Yet I had to leave given some of the reasons articulated both through this linked article – and throughout The Socialist Unity site, in which I have engaged.

    Yet, despite the loss, I realised that change could be effected {as that is why I am involved I Politics for}, hopefully working with them, but nevertheless could still be effected without them, if they sought to work ways of old amongst that of anew –

    Indeed, when they did so, they where simply side stepped, as the Movement moved on- as recorded on my online Diary —

  18. Have to say that in this short piece Steel speaks eloquently to a lot of us who still share the majority of the party’s politics but for various reasons find it hard to contemplate rejoining.

  19. “Maybe the SWP don’t want to be associated with such a crap comendian. Ever thought of that?”

    I would be suspicious of who was behind comments like this. I doubt it is anyone in the SWP.

  20. On #21. I don’t think Mark was making a point about basic principles or even perspectives. He was writing about honesty and a more open culture. Personally I don’t think there’s another group to match the analysis of the swp. But that’s not the point he’s addressing is it?

  21. #13
    Peter M from Weekly Worker?

    Bollocks about Mark Steel not being funny. ‘It’s Not A Runner Bean’ and ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’ are both wonderfully funny books.

    What’s the alternative? John O’Farrell?

  22. paulm I mean the total body of work of leading swpers down the years. To my mind it’s some of the best marxism around and not really matched by any other organisation. But compelling as it is there’s something very compelling about the issues raised by Mark Steel.

  23. I deleted a comment by Keir which was just a cut and paste from another thread. There is no point in spreading excatly the same discussion across two threads.

  24. There is an Alternative –

    And it starts, with the Questioning, Discussion and Debate that is happening here.

    I remember shortly after that period {in my point and link above}, and as founding member, and still Chair of the Anti Racism Movement, when it was around that time that I became {a founding member} – Chair of MPH Northern Ireland –

    Link to History of MPH and SWP workings within such, {for those interested -throughout here}

    Link – http://davycarlin.allotherplaces.org/?m=200706

    With that, we {grassroots activists} again started creating a momentum {That lead to both the largest such Anti poverty Demo, various other actions, and inspired and organised the largest such mobilisation across to such a demo – in total thousands of citizens and activists attended and rallied}

    Yet the reason I say this is that I found {with another New Movement emerging} that the SWP still had not learnt, and at the time I had wrote, again, of activists concerns. With once again stating that if they carried on like this that they would loose ever more of that ever dwindling support of the local Movement, {due to many concerns raised within this and other threads} – which they constantly ignored.

    Yet as they continually lose members, support and influence in England, will they now Change?

    {As a leadership}

    That is the question, and if they did, I believe it will not be because they will want to, but because they will have to – due to the growing losses of the above.

    Indeed I genuinely hope that they do change, as I have long stated, and still know, that they hold many good and genuine activists and Comrades.

  25. While we are being trivial about Lancaster. Is Andy Makin still there? he was the one who first recruited me to the SWP in February 1978, when he lived in bath.

  26. Hey, Andy, I thought Tories had a lot to offer the Left if they could bring us votes? Strange democracy on this site your offering if you delete peoples posts!!!

  27. SWP veterans 4 truth on said:

    People usually join the SWP because they are social misfits who need a cause to believe in to give their life some meaning, and it’s comfortable to have a strict doctrine to fall back on in times of uncertainty. They are often recruited during a time in their lives when they feel isolated and away from their family, such as when at university or moving to an unfamilar part of the country. It’s the same with all types of extremism.

  28. what’s laughable about Andy and his fans is this……..Mark Steel appears to be wanting a higher profile and bigger SWP than it is currently.. would like SW and RESPECT at his gigs etc.. I am sure Andy would hate this prospect but anything to attackt he SWP.
    Now Andy anything to say about assualts on socialists? and sexist drivel from GG?

  29. VictorS on said:

    I’m glad there are such a number of ex-members of the SWP on here who recognise the problems with the lack of a democratic internal regime, the methods of personal intimidation, the contrary-Mary jumping from movement to movement, dishonesty and general Stakhanovism of the organisation and on and on. What Mark wrote really struck a nerve to this ex-member.

    I would also agree that despite this, I also still – three years after officially having left the tendency (six years after having effectively left) – find the overall analysis better than most other stuff out there. I became a socialist in the early nineties, having grown up in the cold-war eighties, and the ‘neither Washington nor Moscow’ line just always made sense to me. It was so logical. Even today, the understanding of the need to stand up to Islamophobia is absolutely bang on, even as many in the rest of the left get confused on this issue. I still buy the ISJ and am regularly impressed by the nuanced argument – the analysis of Venezuela for example is some of the only discourse out there that isn’t either sycophantic to Chavez nor rabidly anti-Chavez (I’m thinking here 4th Int vs. Workers’ Liberty). So there’s good stuff there, and dammit, yes, there have been and still are some fine activists in the organisation. I’m very proud indeed of so much we did.

    But why did we all here have to wait until outside the organisation to say anything about it? From the beginning I had had nagging questions about slates, and the personal intimidation, and the loony, loony paper sales, and the absurd schizophrenia swinging from polyanna-ish optimism when talking about demos and picket lines to chicken-little catastrophism when talking about the economy, and many other misgivings besides, but I never said anything. None of us did. Why were we so intimidated – us, who would fearlessly take on an employer or neo-nazi – or, heck, even more intimidating – our own much-loved-but-maybe-slightly-more-conservative family members, but who would be as timid as the runts of a litter of hamsters within our own allegedly democratic organisation?

    I know there will be people in the SWP right now who will be running around vociferously putting out the new, current line but who in their own head know it’s absolute lunacy. And still they’ll continue to put out the line.

    Stop it, comrades. You know this is all a grand, grand foolishness. Put up a fucking fight for once, unlike I ever did.

  30. What is the alternative? I think there’s lots of grounds for optimism, although unfortunately not for the futures of either of the Respects. The demise of the SWP, not their disappearance, but their sharp decline, means that they can no longer hegemonise the left in the way even of recent years. As a result we can begin the much needed discussion about the way forward.
    For me that starts with an assessment of the period. At the Historical Materialism conference last weekend, Harman re-iterated his assertion that the world economy was stagnant, nothing had changed since the 70s etc.etc.etc. clearly this is rubbish. The reason for the marginalisation of the left is because of the defeats of the 1970s/80s and the revival of capitalism with the collapse of Stalinism.
    Once we’ve begun to honestly re-assess the objective reasons for the decline of the left i.e. begun to understand the world as it is, the we can decide how to change it.
    On that, I think we do need to look at how the left works together far more broadly than just saying we need to unite in some new party. There’s no mood for that at the moment and recent history has shown it just doesn’t work. But that doesn’t mean the left can’t unite in action, we need much more open and co-operative attitude towards united fronts, union factions etc. and even elections.
    If we can establish a new culture of working together where we can and then concretely discussing a socialist project for this period then maybe out of all that we can build a new socialist organisation.
    Mark Steel has at least asked most of the right questions.

  31. Mark Steel appears to be wanting a higher profile and bigger SWP than it is currently.. would like SW and RESPECT at his gigs etc.. I am sure Andy would hate this prospect

    Are you? Why?

    If you honestly believe Andy is motivated by hatred of the SWP, could you do us all a favour and find some evidence?

  32. Davy Carlin, what you say puts a finger on the nature of the problem, though not quite in the way you intended, I think. We can all say how good certain activities and campaigns were around what usually get called ‘single issue’. The organisational problems of such campaigns are minimal compared to the problems of trying to run a political organisation that campaigns, responds to events and develops theory. In all the articles, blogs, threads, posts etc, I haven’t seen one coherent outline of what an alternative socialist organisation should look like (or should I say structured like?) if it isn’t to be more or less along the lines of the SWP. I see plenty of calls for openness and attacks on the CC etc etc. If people got fed up in their branch meetings or whatever, why couldn’t they raise these as discussion points within the organisation? What stopped you? If you didn’t like this or that delegate, why didn’t you put up someone else or yourself? If you think it was the structure that prevented you, what alternative structure would have allowed for this? I ask all these questions coming from the standpoint of someone who belongs to nothing but reads this discussions going round and round without anyone (it seems to me) coming to terms with the problem

    Mark Steel’s criticisms could all be true bt actually have nothing to do with the SWP. I know that sounds contradictory but gimme a mo. It could be that we are in a time of a big turn down for socialist ideas. Yes, people are prepared to turn up to single issue days, festivals, book shows etc etc. yes, I do think people are keen to hear alternative ideas to NuLab stuff. But it really doesn’t follow that the same people can be won over to socialist ideas which involve a particular kind of coherence which, as Mark suggests, may have got unbearably sullied by Stalinism and/or may also appear as too neat, too doctrinal, too packaged in an atmosphere that isn’t geared into that kind of consciousness. I can think of my own grown up kids who are quite wired into single issues (there it is again!) but wouldn’t touch the whole package with a barge pole. Their consciousness is much more fragmented than that,and they much prefer the pick n mix approach to ideas, action, ideology etc. This, I think, is only a reflection of the kind of socio political world we are in, it is very much pick and mix. Even the reforms the likes of us campaigned for in the sixties have been turned into pick and mix modules so that the democratic control we campaigned for (from a totalising ideological perspective) has been watered down into a kind of ‘market’ democracy. So, Mark may be completely right but completely wrong about the cause. May be. I didn’t say ‘is’!

  33. I would say, to identify the problem is progress – even if we do not yet know all the answers. Personally I don’t know what the new socialist organisation would look like either. But I’m convinced that if we can work out the political priorities for the period, in other words, what is the period and how can we best fight for socialist politics in it, then we can work out the best organisational form to suit that fight.
    To begin from the design for the organisation needed, without first establishing what is the political basis for that organisation seems to be turning things on their head to me.

  34. The fulltimer was at Manchester Univ, I think moved to London and perhaps Liverpool. Public school (Westminster) boy called Mark. I debated him at Lancaster on “Do we need a rev party” The answer was yes, jsut not your’s.

    What strikes me is that a layer of SWPers, like many before them have, gone through a period of working in an project broader than the usual party-building mo, and gone native. I think theyt call it liquidationist. The IMG/ISG have a particualarly good record on this.

    In terms of analysis the SWp has been wrong on the LP, wrong on the Miners’ Strike, ditto Bosnia, Kosovo, women’s oppression, the co-called united front of a special type (actually a front organisation) and wrong on Galloway.

    Next

  35. billj, we can all claim that this or that is the cart and this or that is the horse. If you say ‘we’ have to work out the political priorities, I can ask who is ‘we’? Any ‘we’ that is going to sit down and work out political priorities is already some kind of organisation and, in my experience, will fall apart in about three seconds unless there is an organisation through which people can express ideas, theory, plans for action etc etc. I can’t distinguish here the disagreements people are having with personnel and disagreements people are having with structure..

  36. A healthy socialist organisation would look nothing like the SWP. It would encourage debate and learning, condem bullying and physical intimidation and not seek to dominate every campaign it gets involed in, or alternatively not try to set up rival fronts to split the left.

    It would not come across like a left wing version of the Guardian.

  37. When Trotsky (hate to drag him into it, but hell y’know) was discussing what was the basis for the bloc of four, if they were to form a new party in 1934 (or so), he said they needed to unite around agreement on the tasks of the day and relevent history, i.e. on what socialists should fight for now and for example the lessons of the rise of fascism in that case. Not on whether or not it was correct to stay in the CP until 1933, or a party should have been formed earlier or what not.
    I think its a useful guide to what we need to do now.
    First decide what are the tasks of socialists today – which presumes of course that we know what the world is today – and second agree on relevent history, which for me means going through a list of bad positions taken over the previous several decades is a futile exercise – unless they have purchase on the present. So for example on Palestine/Israel for example, which is an obvious dividing line of socialists from non-socialists.

  38. Yes.
    But even in the case of say a generally reactionary group like the AWL, while clearly they couldn’t join a socialist party, then there is no reason why they couldn’t participate in united fronts and other campaigns, in those instances where there reactionary politics didn’t go directly against the goals of the campaign.

  39. we need a broad, democratic and inclusive socialist party. such a party could attract the thousands of ex-swp members to it, as well as many thousands of other socialists from various backgrounds.

    such a party, with the correct inclusive and fraternal approach, as well as a clear socialist, class based programme, could win some trade union backing fairly quickly. it could become a pole of attraction for hundreds of thousands

    the question is of course how we can establish and build such a party…

    in such a broad party revolutionary socialists would be able to talk to immeasurably more people than they do currently. in the future, they would also be able to intervene in a real living party of the working class.

    the danger is that many of those disillusioned with the swp cc and their party regime will drop out of politics or move to the right. i very much hope they don’t.

    forwards to a new mass working class socialist party!

    karl s

    http://www.foranewleftparty.blogspot.com

  40. But this begs the question, what is a clear socialist programme?
    Personally I don’t think you’ll find much agreement on that, and frankly after the experience of Respect, the SSP and SA I think if there was any chance that the unions would support a new party, i.e. the RMT or whoever, that chance has gone.
    So that begs the question how do we go forward, if we can’t agree on a programme and the unions won’t form a party?
    In my view we need to start a broad and open discussion around the nature of the period and the tasks of socialists, look at where concretely we can co-operate, i.e. as in the CWU against the deal and then through a process of collaboration maybe at the end there will be the possibility for forming a new party.
    But even if there isn’t at least we will have a much clearer view of the political differences on the left and a better and stronger culture of co-operation and joint work.

  41. That process does not include WP/PR types moving their “full programme” and then, when inevitably they fail to win, denouncing it is as reformsit,centrist, etc.

    BTW, your line on the middle east would mean msot of the USFI, the SP and many others are not socialists. Ever wonder why your group’s never had more members than the local neighbourhood watch scheme Bill?

  42. Larry R on said:

    Michael Rosen asked ‘what’s the alternative’. (Hi Michael). That’s the very question which kept me inside the SWP all those years!

    Even when I joined, I had in my head Carly Simon’s 1977 Bond film theme song (Spy who loved me), you know, the one that goes:
    “Nobody does it better, sometimes I wish they would!”
    🙂

    One comment at one years SWP party conference always rings true. It went something like – ‘we can’t judge the SWP by comparison with other left groups. Instead the SWP has to be measured against the objective tasks of the class struggle’. Of course the SWP can be loads better than all the odd little sects, or the amorphous mass of non-aligned socialists and single issue campaigners (like me now). But how does it measure against current tasks?

    That’s what disturbs me about the current Respect debate: SWP members defend the party by pointing to how crap Galloway and others have behaved, or how incoherent the ‘Respect Renewal’ grouping will be. All true and fine. But it diverts us from looking at the blunders made by the SWP CC in response to the August Galloway letter. And it diverts us from asking what sort of SWP could have been the centre of a broad left regroupment and the beginnings of a viable counter-hegemonic alliance to the left of labour.

    The SWP could not control Respect through force of numbers or through its full-timer command and control structure (what it believes to be ‘democratic centralism’). It had to allow Respect to develop its own internal culture, and be prepared to operate within it as a minority, leading through Marxist argument, not dictat. It could not run respect as the SWP’s electoral front (called a ‘United Front of a Special Kind’).

    This needed a shift away from the party culture the SWP had been developing for decades. It could not make that shift.

    The problem with the SWP is an inevitable result of its survival mechanisms over 40 years. The way the Central Committee reproduces itself by a ‘political nepotism’ (slate system), and the way it maintains control over the rest of the party have almost been necessary to survive in difficult times over decades, avoiding spits etc. But 40 years is along time to survive, and provides a rich ground for pathologies to develop. The Bolsheviks were founded in 1903, experienced a revolutionary upheaval in 1905, then a period of retreat, before eventually taking power in 1917. That’s 14 years. The IS/SWP became a small ‘mass’ force in 1968, experienced some big workers uprisings in the 1970’s, and then retreated under the understanding there was a ‘downturn’. The downturn was always a far too linear conception; suggesting one day there would be a miraculous ‘upturn’. It was not so simple. The SWP survived, treading water, while the working class has been defeated and then restructured globally, and British political life significantly transformed. The SWP adopted bad habits to survive, and can not now break from them. But it would be a tragedy if it were to disintegrate. It would not automatically be replaced by anything better, but its activists cast to the 4 winds, and Marxist ideas yet further weakened. But this disaster will not be avoided by any of us uncritically clinging to the SWP CC’s self-justifications.

    But yes, let’s now turn this blog discussion into something positive. Let’s begin to map out the alternatives, finding better forms of socialist practice for the 21st Century. Perhaps even now, with the thousands of socialists, SWP members and ex-members, supporters, fellow-travellers etc reading this blog, we can have a chance – even call a gathering, write position papers, share experiences. I’ve got a few positive ideas, critiques and proposals – I’ll add them later – I’m sure we all have.

  43. Aright Michael,

    Having been Belfast Secretary, ‘Northern {Ireland} Secretary, and member of the Irish PC {CC} – and IST {‘Delegate’} all the points you have raised, answers can be found through out and within all those links I have Provided – in detail.

    This on Parties ‘Ways of ‘workings {packing meetings, formula politics, etc etc}, the structures of Parties within Campaigns, Movements etc. Experiences of those structures and of ‘Democracy and ‘ Accountability within such ‘Revolutionary Parties, {to their members}and how a ‘Controlling Culture of ‘Leaders, Full -timers, Organisers etc, {who many have little roots in the Class or Unions}, makes it nay on impossible to effect real change, etc -and what I think now etc, for the way forward –

    But I will say that on the core of your points that my issue is not about a said Revolutionary Party per say, but more about how it works with Socialists, Anarchists, Libertarians, Progressives etc, with broader Campaigns -Accountability – Democracy and so forth

    One more Brief Link – – – http://www.phoblacht.net/DC23090610g.html

    Here u will find a few more issue I had raised

    Yet as I said, I believe -‘it starts, with the Questioning, Discussion and Debate that is happening here.

    And in doing so, as I have a ready done, I have learnt much from various activists and Comrades on this site in such engagement –

    Yes, it is but a small beginning, but Nevertheless, I believe it is a positive beginning

  44. good questions.

    a new party could come from the unions, or it cold be that the left, or sections of it, form a new party that then attracts union support in the future. or it could even be something else that i’ve not thought of yet! individuals and campaigns and mass strugles could produce something. so it’s pretty complicated really.

    as for programme, then it’s obvious that all sides will have to negotiate and agree to a compromise programme. they can all still propagate their own ideas. a programme of class struggle, of key demands that take up the key issues of the day, plus some kind of agreement that the party stands for the creation of a socialist society based on a democratic planned economy would be a good starting basis. it’s vital that a new party doesn’t join with the capitalist parties at any level of government and that it opposes cuts, closures, war etc. etc.

    the programme of a new party, assuming that it attracts various forces to it (which is necessary in the first place), will start out under-developed and slightly vague! it wont be a full blooded revolutionary programme, unless vast sections of the left and the unions all suddenly agree on it! the first programme should be seen as a work in progress and it will develop and change as the party builds and shifts in different directions.

    anyway, like i said, i don’t have the answers. i do argue strongly that a party is necessary to bring together socialists and wider laters of the working class, oppressed groups, youth and so on, in order to organise, discuss and debate ideas, to give confidence and support to all those who are fighting back, and ultimately to struggle for power. the unions and the forces on the left need to urgently address the lack of a working class politial voice and launch a new party.

    anyway sorry if that doesn’t answer your questions but like i said i dont’ have the set piece answers that maybe you’d like.

    best wishes,

    karl s

    http://www.foranewleftparty.blogspot.com

  45. Agree Larry, I don’t see any reason why if we have an honest debate over the next months, why socialists can’t begin to work out a correct understanding of the world situation and develop where they can work together.
    As for the size issue Paul. If it was a choice of dumping the rights of the Palestinians or uniting with you lot, frankly its not really a choice.

  46. Why dont the SWP, when the commercial break comes round go and phone John( its My Party) Rees, and see if he has immigrated, as we are so concerned about not seeing or hearing from him. Tell him its all water under the bridge and we cannot wait to see what he has up his sleeve for all us plebians at the weekend. Somehow he could conjure up a disappearing trick and continue to be not seen, many in his party will be glad to see him performing that act. Then again its the SWP they could collectively disappear in solidarity. Good riddance

  47. Larry R on said:

    There is one great irony I have noticed in the history of the IS/SWP.
    After 1968, Cliff centralised the IS. It became ‘Leninist’. He justified this by arguing that to fight the ruling class you had to find symmetry with it. So we should centralise to fight a centralised system.

    But at the same time, 1968 marked the beginnings of a change, from State monopoly capitalism and ‘Fordism’ to globalising neoloberalism. The old state centralised form of capitalist rule was breaking up. Instead, capitalism began adopting and appropriate some of the ‘hippy’, ‘libertarian’ ethos of the ‘spirit of 68’, and began to globalise and to an extent decentralise. It moved to new forms of ‘governance’, ruling people through their own individualised participation and consumerist desire (Loads of books about this sort of shift. See for example the ‘The New Spirit of Capitalism’ by Boltanski and Chiapello.)

    So the newly centralised, ‘Leninised’ International Socialists began already to look old fashioned. The IS had been born from the libertarian social movements of 68, but then adopted a form of organisation suited to the early twentieth century period of state monopoly capital. At the same time, it was leapfrogged by a capitalism that was appropriating the zeitgeist Cliffs IS was rejecting! So no symmetry of struggle there!

    So a new generation of militants were bound to find the ‘authoritarian’ regime of the IS/SWP repulsive. (Yet the IS had been one of the most libertarian of Marxist groups). So maybe if we are to find a new pattern of socialist organisation, we can see it before our eyes. The medium through which we are communicating provides a clue. You are not reading a newspaper edited by a central committee, for instance!

    (Of course, I am feeling my way forward tentatively here, with ideas only half-baked, but for me its a start)

  48. Larry R on said:

    Can the person posting here as ‘Larry’ (eg post 51)please add another initial to their name or somthing, so that you are not confused with me?)

  49. I’m not “you lot” Bill, as well you know, and haven’t been for many years.

    Of course you’re right, it’s not all about size: however the fact that you can argue that anyone who believes Israel has a right to exist, is not a socialist, expalins why WP/PR has never been able to break out of its small group mentality. I remember your lot turning up to the founding conference of the Chinese Solidarity Committee and moving a resolution containing your full Marxist programme. You got a few votes and were never really seen again.

    The SWP (Mark who I mentioned earlier suggested the name outisde the Chinse Embassy one evening) had agreed to participate, but their interest fell away almost immediately other leftists got involved. United group of an invisible type I guess.

  50. Larry R on said:

    Another Irony of the IS/SWP’s history was Cliff’s decision to launch the SWP in 1977. Cliff had always derided groups like the WRP for proclaiming themselves THE party. He said the International Socialists were not THE party, but forerunners to it, just one possible source. A real party of the advance workers, or a Socialist Workers Party would be the result of the tens of thousands of socialist shop stewards and rank and file militants coming together to lead the class. It could not be proclaimed overnight by a group of revolutionaries.

    Yet this is precisely what cliff then did in 1977. And instead of the launching of a new force, bringing new currents together, it turned out to merely be a rebranding exercise. The IS merely renamed itself the SWP.

    This problem was soon to be compounded. For next, Cliff proclaimed that there was a ‘downturn’ in class struggle. This meant that the newly proclaimed SWP had to retreat to survive. It had to close down the rank and file movements, women’s voice and the Anti-Nazi League. It had to retreat into a fighting propaganda group. So the SWP as a genuine party of advanced workers leading the class struggle was in effect stillborn. Instead we had to make ‘concrete propaganda’ and recruit in ones and twos. Again, this was another milestone in the birth of today’s problematic party regime.

  51. Friend, larry is my name and I have no difficulty with it. However being an old navvy with no formal education. I shall concede to your intellectual needs to be recognised on this blog, if you donate £10 to Respect Renewal

  52. Alex Nichols on said:

    # 56 Rather like you “Tim/Kevin Oven Done” the Imran Stunt was a fake operation to build a fake opposition.
    But you’ve been a very silly boy with the e-mails haven’t you. You’ve been clocked my son.

  53. VictorS on said:

    When I was in the Party, somebody with my sort of thinking at the moment would have been called a ‘movementist’, but honestly, now I think that’s where it’s at. There’s no lack of left-wing activity on the ground (with the -key- exception of the unions), and the openness and pluralism there is precisely what we need. The party was supposed to be the vehicle through which the ‘memory of the class’ continued to serve as a reference for future struggles, but why can’t the movement itself serve this same function? It’s not as if people outside a party have no knowledge of working class history. Far from it. On the other hand, left regroupment has succeeded elsewhere in Europe very handsomely so far, if one takes the long view (in NL, PT, FR, DK, DE, ES, etc). But even here, the models have been more pluralist.

    I’m flailing about here, but I’ve had enough of parties, I think – certainly of the old type. I’d like to see an organisation, I think I could comfortably call it, with the creativity and horizontalism of much of the global justice movement, allied with the organisational nous and political savvy of far-left parties on their best days. I’d like to see an organisation that isn’t petrified of other ideas, of the internet, of direct action, of clever Greenpeace-style campaigning, heck – of decent graphic design. Jeez, we are fossils compared to even your average web-savvy, documentary-making, youtube-uploading Christian Aid-type NGO.

    Globalise Resistance very briefly took off for a while because people thought this was exactly the above type of organisation. What killed it was that people realised very quickly it was just another front for the SWP and left. But something like that – that’s what I’d really love to see.

  54. Teddy Boy on said:

    Dear Bloggers,

    Its with reluctance that I have to change my real name Larry, to Teddy Boy just to suit the egocentricity of Larry R. I have had the name of Larry for 66 years. Anyway you may say it will disassociate my good name with his blethering of how to save the SWP and I bet he is a John Rees Groupie. He is abusing my good name

  55. Alex Nichols on said:

    # 60

    I am not and have never been in Respect, Ovenchip.

    Of course Jamaat are on the right in Pakistan. The workers and peasants need to organise a General Strike to drive out he military and fight for a programme of socialism, which Jamaat won’t support.

    Maybe if you could in anyway prove you were a Socialist and in favour of Socialist Unity, I might be able to take you seriously.

  56. Alex Nichols on said:

    # 5 “Mike P on another thread on this blog has already mentioned the character assassination of Harry Wicks that was part of the IS faction fight in the seventies”

    Yes I well remember a particular meeting where Paul Holborrow made an unpleasant attack on Harry after he’d accused the leadership of “taking the workers’ pennies” while expelling the industrial workers in Birmingham and shutting down the rank and file papers.

    After that and the formation of the SWP, the role of branches and the freedom of debate in them was severely curtailed. However, harking back to the libertarian period doesn’t provide the answer.

    What was implemented in the SWP was a caricature of democratic centralism. To a large measure designed to prevent a repeat of the situation between 1968-1975, where a whole series of factions emerged, but the political differences couldn’t be resolved.

    What the SWP primarily lacks is effective local branches at the base of the organization,an end to “confetti” membership drives and a leadership willing to live with a certain amount of differences and debate, but able to take the organisation forward politically.

    Whether it can recover from the current mess is debatable, but clearly the issues of its sectarianism needs to be addressed if that’s to be possible.

  57. georgier on said:

    I am not currently a member of Respect I resigned over the CBB and other issues. However second thoughts. Despite the continued presence of GG Respect Renewal now stands a better chance of leading to a realignment on the left than the previous version for the simple reason that the SWP, as a bloc, no longer want to be part.

    This is not to have a gratuitous snipe at the SWP. The organisation has made a contribution to building socialism not based upon top down bureaucratic manipulation. A central position was that the creation of a socialist society must be the action of a self conscious working class acting for itself. The revolutionary party acts as the memory and repository of the natural leaders of the class. Cliff, Kidron and others made contributions to Marxist theory and practice over many decades. All of this is given and is a legacy of the positive contribution the IS tradition gave to the left.

    BUT that has degenerated slowly over the years, Larry now teddyboy, correctly locates this in the mid 1970s and the propositions that led to the formation of the SWP. In another post elsewhere I referred to Hallas’ article on the SLL of 1969. The rationale which informed Cliff in the 1970s is the same that were the fundamental flaws in the SLL. It is necessary to highlight that the SWP leadership’s method of working leaves almost no room, in the longer term, for constructive working with others. At the same time GG status as a celeb politician is also a major issue which the new RR will have to face at some stage.

    It is the unprincipled actions of the SWP over the last 10 weeks have precipitated a split and it is significant that almost all the non aligned lefts have sided with GG. The response to the initial paper tabled at the end of August by the SWP was to say the least prickly. It very soon escalated into the “left v right” fiction, the “communalists v socialists” and then the alleged “witch hunt of the SWP”. All these have been refuted in a reasoned way on this and other blogs.

    I was struck by something Andy said on another post
    “Because that debate is a political one, then a number of us find ourselves basically on the same page, who have previously been on different sides in various past controversies, or who come from different political histories.”
    The crisis in Respect has now become a crisis for the SWP big time. I am struck by the significant decrease in SWP sniping as the crisis increases. It this symptomatic that there is some debate taking place albeit within the circumscribed terms allowed in the SWP. It needed to happen and the way events are turning out there could be significant gains for the broader left.

    A task for RR will be a need to reach to the various other currents which at the moment lack a coherent sense of direction. That should be among the priorities for this coming weekend alongside consolidation of the new organisation.

  58. Surely the article should be called ‘Ah, the SWP, what we do to oursleves and others’ seeing as Mark Steel is primarily addressing his present and past involvement in the SWP.

    For the first time in a long time I have read the comments here and have felt genuinely interested in following the discussion.

    Why is that? Because unusually on the subject of the SWP there has been a genuinely constructive discussion and “HONESTY” about it’s problems as presented by mainly former members, primarily the blockage of discussion and debate ie democratic practice

    Sadly, what has been missing from all too many present SWPers is that same preparedness to be honest and anaylse the internal as well as the external problems that exist within the party, which in time contributed in some ways to people leaving the party.

    It is both very healthy and very necessary for this discussion to be taking place.

    Any Socialist or Left party that is serious about it’s politics,it’s potential and maintaining it’s existence has got to take account of why people leave,just as they should endeavour to find out why people dont join it in the first place.

    What was particularly interesting about MARK STEEL’s article was the recognitiom that there is a thriving number of political movements and issues going on out there to which the SWP is not part and more revealing exists without the perceived interference of the SWP.

    What has been sadly lacking with much of the British Left for over 25 years is a lack of vision and an inability to adapt and change. It has, through force of circumstance, particularly in the 80’s been predominatly reactive.It has not been prepared to simply take stock, a deep breath, of the circumstances and be honest and realistic about the period we are living as well as the society we live in.

    Where have any new ideas come from?

    The Scottish Socialist party in my view was a fresh development and had great potential until the Sheridan fiasco burst on the scene.The struggle continues.

    What do ‘we’ all mean by Socialism? That there are still more or less 57 different varieties of socialism,leaves most people just perplexed and confused. It’s not an easy decision for people to make to become an active socialist and all that that entails…pain, sacrifice, frustration, struggle.

    But then we only have to look at events in Venezuela to see how situations can change. Moreover, fundamental to its development is the “redefinition of Socialism” and the huge emphasis on the importantce and vitality of deepened and expanded democracy..popular power and workers struggle.We cant afford to ignore this.

    Living in Britain is clearly very different and most people have much greater security in terms of jobs,houses, mortgages, wealth and investments with a myriad of other distractions from the political situation.

    Why should they surrender all that they have for another ideology, which has no guarantee of success, cant reassure people how they would live in a Socialist society, what standard of living they would have, what sort of an economy it would be? Only that they have to stay and struggle.

    How do you win people to Socialist ideas and to become committed to fighting for Socialism?

    Suffice to say that I am not saying we(socialists) shouldnt continue the struggle for Socialism but that we need to be aware of what we are struggling for exactly and need to be able to convey a coherent meaningful vision to as many people as possible in as creative and imaginative way as is possible using all the talents and forms of media at our disposal.

    What’s more we need to recognise that Socialism in one country is not sustainable just as GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE presents us with limited options about what our socialist vision can be and whatever it is to be, it has to be first and foremost SUSTAINABLE.

    While I am optimistic and hopeful about political developments throughout Latin America, in particular in Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.Our solidarity is nevertheless greatly needed.

    We do all however face the hellish prospect of a more insane and emboldened united imperialist attack on Iran.

    We are fast turning into a police state……as the British state continues to batten down the hatches in anticipation of such an attack, of which it is very much a part,it is very clearly trying to shut down dissent and resistance.

    An attack on Iran does once again provide a huge opportunity of involving many people, locally, nationally and internationally in coordinated anti war activity and in a similar way GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE is simply something no socialist, however they define themselves can afford to simlpy ignore, just as no country, politician, society, community or individual can afford to ignore or deny.

    In the face of such adversarial situations lies huge potential for the struggle for socialism, if we choose to be much more honest and realistic.If we can more clearly define or redefine what SOCIALISM means and what could it achieve whilst recognising that the struggle has to be achievable.

  59. Larry R on said:

    Yes Georgier (post 65) – there is a history to how the SWP has evolved that makes long term collaboration with other forces on the left a problem. This is a generic problem of Trotskyist and far left sects/groups.

    It always struck me that a massive shift in the SWP’s whole way of operating was required when it joined the Socialist Alliance – a shift that was never properly understood by the SWP itself. Thus the SA, the SSP and Respect could not flourish unless the SWP changed and managed to overcome its history.

    Btw …I am still called Larry R! It is another poster also called Larry but who argues a quite different position who has now called himself Teddy Boy.(Cheers Teddy Boy/Larry! – thanks for letting me gratify my pretentious pseudo-intellectual ego! But you and I do argue different political positions, so its best to avoid confusion somehow. Nice one)

    Andy N -Bulletin boards can often have a better debating format where people have to log in under a fixed identity. That would help sort out a lot of confusion. I don’t like the guy called Tim calling himself ‘Kevin Oven Done’ on here, or anyone posting under multiple identities.

  60. The East is Red on said:

    All these have been refuted in a reasoned way on this and other blogs.

    Reasoned? Dear god. I’ve seen more reason on display in a room full of half-starved wolverines. And it is an odd version of “refutation” that, far too often, mindlessly repeats a series of pretty-sounding cliches, unable to answer any of the serious political questions facing the Left because they presume the answer is predetermined to be “whatever the SWP isn’t doing”. The (hopelessly undertheorised) leap from opposing GG, to fulsome support, for example, is a symptom of this.

    It is quite obvious that regular contributors here have absolutely zero idea about what has been happening in Tower Hamlets in the last few weeks. That actually saddens me: it is just about possible some of those less obsesseed with hunt-the-swuppie would realise that the bought votes, the sexism, and the flagrant disregard of any democratic process or structures are not acceptable in an organisation “of the left”.

    Still, up to you, comrades: if the “analysis” pushed here is correct, how can you explain the successful public meeting Tower Hamlets Respect held in Bromley-by-Bow on Monday night, with an 80-strong audience from across the different local communities? (http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=13552) How is it that the best of our councillors are on the Left side, not yours? How is it that serious former Labour figures like Kumar Murshid are on the side of the Left, not yours?

  61. Larry R on said:

    Listen ‘East is Red’ – it is not surprising that the SWP can get a meeting of 80 people together in the East End by mass leafleting estates. Well done. Good work. Please keep on reminding us of this great victory. You have used it now in post for several days! But one medium sized successful local meeting does not excuse the SWP CC for its massive tactical blunders in not preventing the split in Respect. Yes – in my small town we can also organise a mass meeting based in a locality, as can many others groups of activists up and down the country. Your meeting does not prove anything, but well done anyway.

    The crucial task is can you build a long term broad left party without alienating your allies?

    And yes, I think the 4 councillors you have got allied to the SWP may be better than some of the other Respect councillors. Please, treat them well! Although I’m sure there is political unevenness on both sides – as exemplified by the attempted deal with the Lib Dems by your 4 councillors!

    But you are ignoring the very real problems the SWP has. Unfortunately you are only whistling in the dark. I too would like to be convinced that everything is fine and dandy. Yes, by all means keep your spirits up – if thats what you need.

  62. I agree with Paris about the need to relook where we are and with Larry R about the sect like character of the left groups, that was certainly my experience of Workers Power. But I don’t think that was the main reason for its decline, not that I imagine anyone is particularly interested in that, but it does reflect on the rest of the left, as their mistake isn’t really any different from that of the SWP and SP for that matter. And it was essentially political.
    After all the left certainly isn’t much worse than it was in the 1970s/80s and yet it is utterly marginalised? How come?
    Either we believe that is a fault of ourselves, which it can’t be (mainly!), or we have to explain how the world has changed to have marginalised the left.
    And the obvious explanation is the defeats of the workers movement in the 1970s/80s, the collapse of “communism”, and the growth of the world economy over the last two decades.
    The point of understanding the world is in order to change it, but that doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility to understand it in the first place.
    So we need to begin from the changes to the objective situation, have a serious assessment of the forces available to the left, and then consider how we can best fight for socialism in this very difficult situation.
    Workers Power in insisting that capitalism remained stagnant as in the 1970s/80s were merely repeating the same line as the SWP and the SP.
    Their organisational degeneration followed from exactly the same bureaucratic impetus as that of the SWP. Reading the bizarre stuff being issued by their CC, is like a really weird deja vu.
    A precondition for the rebuilding of the left is addressing this absolutely fundamental mistake.
    Once we’ve done that then we can look at what politics we need now to rebuild the workers movement and what forms of organisation follow on from that.
    I don’t think we have to pretend we have all the answers at the outset.
    As for your remarks Paul. I don’t know what you’re on about. I don’t know anything about you apart from you usually swear at me on web boards and claim that you’re not a member of the AWL while defending them to the death.
    Excuse me for not keeping up with your membership status.

  63. Michael Rosen asked what is the alternative?

    Well Michael remember all those right wingers who asked that question about socialism?

    Ultimately the taunt would often boil down to “why don’t you go back to Russia?”.

    Good socialists have never fallen for the false logic of the argument. Just because something doesn’t currently exist doesn’t mean we can’t create it out of the seeds around us. You can’t be a socialist in the first place if you allow this false dichotomy between a present you criticise and a future that doesn’t yet exist.

    So I suggest we consider what an alternative might look like and then look around ourselves and gather together the best elements, the seeds, in the situation we find ourselves in in order best to build such an alternative.

    1. An organisation that fully recognises not just the right to have different viewpoints but to express them and organise around them freely and without pressure or vilification.

    2. An organisation where those who do disagree with others learn to do so in a comradely fashion that acknowledges the legitimacy of difference and debate

    3. An organisation that gives such confidence to those in a minority about the substance of the commitment to pluralism and democracy that they don’t simply tolerate the majority viewpoint but consciously understand why an essential part of the debate is implementing the majority position so that it can be tested out in practice. If it is a bad position that is the best way to prove it.

    3. An organisation that cherishes pluralism because it is the best guarantee of the right line – always allowing a criticism and a testing out of any given theory is the best and most scientific approach to developing policy. Lines should be tested out in practice, challenged, criticised and be subject to change.

    4. An organisation should be as horizontal as possible. Not only does mean no power imbalance between “leadership” and membgership because the former are fully accountable, transparent in their actions and policies and easily challenged and replaceable. But the aim at the base is to build an “organisation of leaders” – where everyone has a role in developing policy, in taking responsiblity, in organising. An organisation where individual members are developed and utilised to their maximum potential. Not an organisation where one small group developes the ideas and hands them out to a larger mass who act as leaflet, meeting and demo fodder.

    5. The organisation understands that it’s only chance of success in winning support and influence and growing is by earning the respect of the wider left and working class. It cannot be proclaimed.

    6. The organisation understands that accordingly at best it can pose itself as only one strand, one element of the solution. Not THE party.

    7. The organisation in turn relates to all others on the left – including individuals and groups with which it might have substantial disagreement on the basis of equality, respect and collaboration. This is irrespective of size. History proves that those in the right have on occasionally been in a very small minority.

    8. At all times political methods are relied on to win political arguments – both internally and externally – rather than numbers, packing, discipline, favours, isolationism, intimidation or psychological or group pressure.

    9. An organisation that all times understands at all levels that it has much to learn – from its own mistakes, from the mistakes of other groups, from history, from international experience and from the working class and oppressed communities it claims to wish to represent.

    10. An organisation that asks questions as well as answering them.

    etc etc

    add more detail here.

  64. The East is Red on said:

    it is not surprising that the SWP can get a meeting of 80 people together in the East End by mass leafleting estates. Well done. Good work. Please keep on reminding us of this great victory. You have used it now in post for several days!

    Two days posting, I think. And leafletting one estate. I use it as an example because it rather exposes the risible nonsense being pushed by some here that what has occurred in Tower Hamlets is an “SWP vs. Muslim” or “SWP vs. Bengali” split. It is clearly nothing of the sort (check the meeting photos, for instance). And if we had seriously alienated our allies, we simply could not have moblised as we did: if you’ve built a public meeting recently, you’ll know that you need others on board to get anywhere. Anyone else reading this will be aware of that.

    Moreover, you don’t get a meeting as representative of the borough and as lively with only SWP members there. (Would that it were otherwise… but it’s not.) You don’t get random Respect supporters turning up to voice their concerns when only the SWP are mobilising for a meeting. You don’t pull together something like that when you’ve made the kind of catastrophic errors GG’s merry band accuse us of making.

    I mention the councillors because it is a little odd, all things considered, that if the SWP is so bad and so wrong, someone like Oli or Rania would be taking their side in an argument. They’re not stupid people, not by a long chalk, and some attention should be paid as to why they are on the Left side in Tower Hamlets, rather than the Right. (For your information, as Oli has now repeatedly and publicly said – there was never going to be a “coalition” with the Lib Dems. High time that smear was laid to rest, don’t you think?)

    So the meeting’s indicative. What it says to me is that, first, GG and his little helpers have made a serious miscalculation in Tower Hamlets about the nature of their support; and second, that the SWP’s analysis of the situation, and of how to build, is broadly correct. The coming months will see who is right: those standing in the best labour movement traditions of the East End, to build a new left; or those playing up to the clientelism the Labour Party has relied on for so many years. That’s the actually existing choice in Tower Hamlets now.

  65. Hi Bill J – (post 70) yes I am quite interested in your groups analysis of ‘long waves’ (You are in ‘Permanent Revolution, right?). I’ve been exploring kondratiev and also the bourgeois economist Schumpeter for my work. I have been surprised at the growth of capitalism in recent years, and have also been trying to understand how the system survived the crisis of the late 60’s and early 70’s. But I would not want to confidently proclaim we are in a long upswing of growth and a new regime of accumulation and techno-economic paradigm etc. (Although that may help explain the current state of class struggle). The truth is, I don’t really know – there is a big financial crisis as well etc.

    But new thinking is definately required. Another poster here on this thread recently wrote about the importance of climate change. Yes, we also need to update and transform Marxism more thoroughly to address our epochs ecological crisis. I quite like the ‘ecosocialist’ turn by ‘Socialist Resistance’ in this respect.

  66. Ger Francis on said:

    East is Red. I do condemn the actions in TH. Chuck that Rees bloke out, I say. Organising break-away factions, taping of meetings and the like. What kind of carry-on is that for a national secretary? And bring back Labour party methods! Now there’s a group of people who know how to organize a witch-hunt. Oh. And calm down about your meeting. It was a fantastic success. I take it all back.

  67. Yes I’m in PR, our idea of long waves is based on Mandel however more here
    http://www.permanentrevolution.net/?view=entry&entry=313

    Basically what it boils down to is that with the collapse of the centrally planned Stalinist economies, the capitalists gained as mass of means of production (cities, roads, ports etc) that was transformed into fixed capital at zero cost. In addition the world’s working class that could be exploited by capital doubled. The third world was opened up to direct exploitation and the defeats of the 1970s/80s consolidated by the defeat of “communism”.
    All this has the effect of lowering the organic composition of capital world wide, raising surplus value and hence restoring the rate of profit. This explains why there’s been no recession in the UK for 15 years and only one mild one in the US since 1992.
    Certainly there’s a financial crisis, long waves don’t abolish disproportions, but what’s intersting about I think is (so far!) capitalism’s ability to ride out the storm.
    Anyway we wouldn’t pretend we’ve exhausted the subject, though we do think we’ve got the basics right. And it appears that an increasing number of fairly well know Marxist economists, most notably Fred Moseley, but also Jim Kincaid (ex-IS) and Pete Green (ex-SWP) agree with us. Not that I’m sure we can claim any credit for that.
    Whether or not there’s a long wave, unless we can explain the depth of capitalist expansion with the collapse of Stalinism we cannot explain the objective reason for the left’s isolation.
    And if we can’t do that, we can’t develop tactics to overcome it.
    Hence all the nonsense that Mark Steel describes.

  68. To be fair, if this “Ger Francis” fella is indicative of what the SWP has been up to recently, it isn’t a big surprise that they’ve pissed people off.

  69. The East is Red on said:

    Bloody hell – Knodratieff! Funny thing: according to Alan Freeman, passing on an anecdote from Nick Stern (no less), Alan Greenspan himself is a firm believer in Kondratieff waves. He told Stern that he was going to launch the fifth Kondratieff wave in the internet bubble. Anyway, as you were.

  70. The East is Red on said:

    Amm…from reading his article, very much like Mark Steel I’d say.

    Oh, now that’s below the belt. Poor old Mark.

    …no answers, then?

  71. Cheers Piers (post 71) – your 10 points on an what a new socialist alternative might look like sounds attractive. Of course another point would be such a socialist movement would have to be dynamic, outward looking and being able to gain enough of a critical mass (numerical and social weight) to make a real difference at crucial moments of the class struggle. This last point was why I favoured the SWP for many years, as it sometimes looked like it could do this.

  72. Larry R #79

    Well of course I agree with you.

    There is no point in all this unless you do something.

    But – taking up Mark Steel’s criticisms and Michael Rosen’s question – is there another way of building a large organisation that can act together and really make a difference?

    What I suggest is that we can’t simply accept the limitations of what currently is. Particularly because the SWP used to be so much better in the past, it’s own history proves this is not the correct approach.

    The problem with the SWP is that it has, over time, increasingly counterposed “acting together and making a difference” to a vibrant, democratic internal culture. I don’t see why you can’t have both.

    The latter will attract more people, keep them, allow them to contribute more, help ensure a better political line, develope higher quality political leaderships, generate mechanisms for more readily correcting mistakes etc.

  73. Tim – I presume you cut and paste this from newsnight website or something, yes? It would be polite if you just provided a link for us to follow, rather than this whole text. Also, it would be nice if you would provide us with this information in the right place i.e in the context of a debate over Galloway. On this thread we appear to be discussing other things. Cheers.

  74. Piers – exactly – as you say we need not counterpoise “acting together and making a difference” to a vibrant, democratic internal culture. We can have both, and in the long term, it would make such a socialist formation sustainable. So where do we begin? 🙂

  75. Bill,

    Your Mo is to use offensive language on the AWL board and get hurt when someone does it back.

  76. Piers, your collection of points are interesting but they are not organisational. They are about good intentions. I repeat, what is the shape of the organisation, how is it (tautologically speaking) organised? what is the relationship between branches, regions, national conference(s), central committee(s), full timers, publicly elected representatives etc etc.? what is the system of delegation/representation within the organisation? A lot of people here seem sure that they know what’s wrong with this or that organisation and seem to know, like piers, what kinds of things they’d prefer but no one seems to want to say outright what the constitution of such an organisation would look like. Billj thinks that you have to get the policies together first, but I think that is false deferment: if you get a group of people together, you need to know what kind of attachment they have to working out policy or you get the situation that I’ve sat through far too often where people want to contribute to a discussion but who have no commitment to the organisation and then bugger off after having their say.Anyone, (as we’re doing here) can talk without responsibility for the decision made on the basis of what people have discussed. Any organisation has to write that in. I’m not saying there is no alternative, but merely noting that people here (perhaps they’re doing it elsewhere) aren’t exactly being eloquent about what is this mythical other/new left organisation that can and will do better…and how?

  77. Tony Greenstein on said:

    What is most depressing are the comments of Snowball, JJ Murphy & Dan Wright. Instead of responding to what Mark Steel says – about inflation of numbers, refusal to ever make an honest assessment of the situation, intimidation of more inexperienced comrades, inability to work alongside anyone for very long, the declining numbers and the switch from defending every last twitch of Galloway to attacking his very existence – what do they say? All this and more must remain ‘private’ to the SWP.

    Firstly the implosion which has kicked this off in Respect is anything but private, so a refusal to discuss appears to be an inability to discuss, at least without fear of getting the line wrong or wires crossed. But secondly and most importantly, a debate about the future of the socialist left, because that is what the debate is about, is anything but private. Socialism is nothing if it doesn’t stand for democracy and openness. Socialism cannot be built by a clique or a self-perpetuating clique or claque under the name of ‘democratic’ centralism.

    Ok there’s the crap one-liners about how Mark Steel is a bad comedian (presumably criticising the CC transforms your humerous qualities from good to bad!) or the fact that he’d just like SWP members to turn up to his shows, except he gave the example of having arranged Respect stalls at them, but this is almost a psychological inability to face up to the truth.

    I was expelled in 1972/3 from IS, when IS effectively closed down another united front (we didn’t have the special kind uf’s) called the Anti-Internment League. I voted against the party line at an open meeting of the AIL and was expelled at the age of 19. Despite that I later worked closely with SWP comrades in Brighton in the Anti Nazi League, being Secretary for 3 years, when we gradually education the local NF into understanding why they wouldn’t control the streets or their back gardens for that matter.

    I work today in the local Sussex Action 4 Peace with SWP members, despite quite heated arguments about things like Hopi and Islamaphobia (I doubt we’ll hear too much about the latter now!).

    It is the inability of SWP members or supporters on this thread even to attempt to come to terms with the arguments that is indicative of the malaise affecting the organisation. Why is it that the SWP, after it turned to working with other socialists in a broader front after 1997, viz. the Socialist Alliance, did they feel the need to take it over and destroy it? Why the need to do the same to Respect? There was and is an obvious contradiction. You can’t have a party within a party. Either you adopt the SSP model of groups only selling within the wider group, Respect in this case, or else you will inevitably have a contradiction between building the SA/Respect or the SWP. It cannot be other.

    Sectarianism on the trotskyist left has deep roots, not least in the inability to affect society. It has an almost instinctive reaction to an issue such as mass protests outside G8/Euro summits etc., and that was Globalised Resistance. The anarchists led these things and the SWP was trailing behind. And what now?

    Some people have talked about the inability of the SWP, and the rest of the left, to theorise seriously about a situation where capitalism has ridden out crises and has fine tuned its methods since a retreat from the gold standard was its only fiscal measure. Things like the disappearance of the industrial proletariat as we knew it – miners, car workers, shipyard workers etc. The working class could only have a revolutionary potential if they worked together under conditions of exploitation and thus could go beyond a trade union consciousness. Today this has gone, but the same slogans and perspectives remain.

    It seems as if members of the SWP are merely repeating lines they learnt long ago but have long since given up believing in. It is almost a parody of party functionaries in the Stalinist countries who mouthed Marx’s slogans whilst knowing that it was all coming to an end. The SWP is in severe crisis. Their leadership have been show, clearly and demonstrably, not to have told the truth to its own members, let alone anyone else. Proudly proclaiming we organised a meeting of 80 people is neither here nor there. I can remember when Paul Foot’s meetings in Brighton were packed to overflowing.

    If SWP members can’t seriously challenge their own CC and demand the right to democratic debate throughout the year, to a healthy internal democracy and a serious evaluation of what has gone wrong, then how will they ever challenge the citadels of capitalism?

  78. JJMurphy on said:

    While everyone is throwing in their desiderata, I think we need a starting point: Do we need a revolutionary party? This is obviously part of the broader question: Reform or Revolution?
    I say this because all of the significant systemic challenges to capitalism that have involved masses of working people and poor that I can think of have had a crunch point where reformists faced revolutionaries, *not* as allies but as opponents.
    Therefore this is not just a strategic question—it is *the* strategic question above all others. At the end of the day human liberation (and a lot else besides) is not conceivable without working class revolution, and reformism, as an ideology, functions (no doubt contradictorily) to promote some version of the status quo.
    I note that there is not agreement among the various ex-SWPers and others contributing to this thread, whatever their other more superficial agreements, on this essential idea.
    It follows that if you are a revolutionary socialist you are committed to building, at whatever pace is possible and through whatever opportunities are available, a revolutionary party. If you are not, in what way does it make any sense to say you are working to prepare the way that a revolution might be successful?
    I will happily (well rather unhappily) grant that we are not in a revolutionary situation or anything remotely like it in most of the world. I do not expect a crunch point in these parts anytime soon (although revolutionaries have famously been caught by surprise in the past).
    A revolutionary minority must in a revolutionary situation seek to convince the majority of workers that the reformists parties are not with them in seeking their liberation. (Of course I understand this is a complicated dialectic involving the experiences of masses of people as different parties are put to the test.)
    Of course a party with no history, no experience and which hadn’t had the opportunity to sink roots and lead struggles would be unlikely to be able to rise to the challenge. So even if the question of revolution is not for today, the question of building a revolutionary party is.
    Under circumstances where the question of working class power is not immediately posed the emphasis is on participating in the partial struggle, working with allies that don’t one’s revolutionary outlook, etc, etc. That is the *method* of the united front.
    That the SWP has taken this thinking seriously and tried to put it into practise is really the problem as far as many of the contributors here are concerned.
    By doing all the vulgar things that those who believe they have risen above decry (asking people to join, paper sales, promoting an “optimism of the will”) they have an organisation of a real but controversial number of thousands. They elect their leadership, decide upon a course of action and to the extent that they can get their members to do it, act together to put their decisions into practise. They have taken decisions in the past about their internal regime which they reckon will make them most effective in building. As a result they have something.
    Can anyone point to any evidence that any revolutionary organisation of substance in today’s circumstances would not be and do these things or something very similar?
    The response that we don’t need a revolutionary party obviously won’t connect to those who follow the reason I have given so far. Indeed the argument with those people is far deeper than a question of tactics and is something of a ghost of Hamlet in these threads.
    The question of handling internal disagreement is also instructive. When I was a young member of IS —many years ago—a cadre of the IMG sought to “poach” me for their organisation. I asked about the factions in the IMG. He replied, “Do you see any you like?” Factionalism essentially paralysed the IMG and played a very large part in preventing it break from the sectarianism that bedevils small group politics. Though now living abroad, I note the successors to the IMG are now effectively blocking with the right in Respect, as are those who have retreated from revolutionary politics whose posts figure some profligately here. What cannot be won by magnitude of supporters must be done by partial leaks, tendentious rumour, etc. This is not pluralism but unprincipled blocking.
    If the SWP dissolves into a broader party it is no longer engaged in building a revolutionary party, no longer has the freedom to act independently. Everybody knows that the SWP (as well as the IMG’s successors, the SP or any of the other grouplets) would simply maintain their organisation secretly in such a situation.
    In the case of Respect, the SWP has said from the word go, that it preferred therefore to work with others in a (principally electoral) United Front. Had Respect been of the SSP sort, the problems would not have gone away, but merely been expressed in different ways.
    The problem for the “independent” socialists is the SWP’s relative size. Where matters it judges to be of great importance are at stake it will seek to win a vote. Nobody who is serious about his or her politics would do anything else. To read what the SWP’s critics write here you would think they believe that an SWPers vote should count as only a half or third of anyone else’s.
    Behind all the unctuous talk of what a tragedy it would be if the SWP collapsed, its opponents who characterise themselves as Marxists, are forced to at least partially define themselves in opposition to the SWP, in virtue of the modest success of the SWP in building an organisation that throws a long shadow. I imagine this is frustrating, but it leads to the attitude that a reverse for the SWP must be a good thing because it created more space for us. Hence the unprincipled manoeuvres.
    Clearly the creation of a pole to the left of Labour has figured high in the SWP’s thinking and actions, but not on *any* terms. The SWP stood by Galloway, not only when he was under attack from the right, but also when he was under attack of Big Brother, worker’s wage, etc., why? Because a figure moving from right to left, even if they leave much to be desired, is infinitely preferable to someone moving in the opposite direction, because of some perceived grievance or other. And, more important, it likely to act as an encouragement to others to do the same.
    That’s in the past. Galloway, and his “independent” allies have set off on another course. The SWP are seeking to salvage whatever they can from the wreckage while still looking for some break to the left from NewLabour.
    No doubt the SWP IB has criticism. No doubt all sorts of things could be done differently. Those will be discussed and decided upon at their conference. No party commited to the principles the SWP is could act in any other way. No doubt debate will be vigorous and no doubt some people will say silly or hurtful things. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. But it’s the members who vote delegates and the delegates who decide. No doubt the members, delegates or not, will want an account of how events have played out. The unspoken assumption of the army of ex’s here that they are all sheep and can be put of with bluster is arrogant condescension. How dare you imagine that loyal SWP members are any less thinking or serious than yourselves.
    That, at any rate, is how I see things.

  79. #84 I think you dismiss Piers’s points a bit too quickly – they’re not all about good intentions. 1 and 4 in particular:

    1. An organisation that fully recognises not just the right to have different viewpoints but to express them and organise around them freely and without pressure or vilification.

    4. An organisation should be as horizontal as possible. Not only does mean no power imbalance between “leadership” and membership because the former are fully accountable, transparent in their actions and policies and easily challenged and replaceable. But the aim at the base is to build an “organisation of leaders” – where everyone has a role in developing policy, in taking responsiblity, in organising.

    I think that’s a good start.

  80. georgier on said:

    I am mightily impressed with the depth and thought that has gone into the blogs on this article. The level of debate, avoiding the obvious spoilers, has been both reasoned and at a comradely level.

    Michael (post 35 and 84) There is not a Recipe book and I think your response is disininguous. The nature and structure of the organisation will depend on a series of objective factors which we cannot know at this stage. Piers contribution it seems to me attempted to provide a framework what a RR restructured organisaton would look like and the principles it should embrace and one I would agree with.

    I have posted that there is an issue with accountability and Piers ‘model’ addresses this. I am still not at all sure what your real concerns are. ??

  81. georgier on said:

    Greenstein
    I remember you at an IS social event in Windemere Terrace Liverpool, 1972 standing outside that shouting onto a megaphone “This is a police raid” an the comrades burning all the memberships and contact records foe Merseysoide IS
    Holier than you or what

  82. Paulm, it really doesn’t matter what the AWL and PR and WP and the SP and the SWP and RESPECT etc etc think of each other as to 99.999% of the working class they are all totally irrelevant. What’s important for socialists is facing reality and trying to form a way forward. Most of the left is in cloud cuckoo land at the moment.

    Chris Harman tells us we are going through a downturn which has been going on for 35 years!! Now I’m not being funny but you wouldn’t have to be a marxist economist to have a look around the world and realise what total and utter rubbish that is. But if you do look at the figures you’ll find not only booming profit rates but also see that production of steel, oil, gas, coal etc are booming, which is a reflection of the boom that is going on in the world economy. But if we are told that the system is in crisis and that we’re in a great period for socialism and revolutionaries then no wonder the left is in the mess it’s in now. And it’s not just the SWP. Workers Power say we’re in a “pre-revolutionary period”, the Socialist Party say that “In the next few years, the unfolding of economic crises will shatter the idea that capitalism is a ‘successful’ system”.

    Seriously, it’s totally detached from reality. And if socialists aren’t dealing with reality then obviously demoralisation is gonna kick in when totally unrealistic expectations aren’t met. And that means that short cuts like RESPECT can’t work.

  83. JJMurphy #86

    The question is though is what we mean by being a revolutionary.

    I believe that we need a root and branch transformation of society that involves the irreversible and total political, ideological and organisational defeat of the boss class.

    To get there from where we are now, requires a huge change in the political context; and when we get there we need a mass party, and that mass party must contain the mechanism by which those who wish to overthrow capitalism for good have the opportunity to democratically win the leadership, so that the mass party can carry out that task.

    How it may happen, we have no real idea. Who would have predicted Chavez.

    Building a mass party that fills the space vacated by social democracy, and which permits revolutionary marxists to operate within it may be the best route for both both moving the politicall context to the left, buildig working class confidence and class consciousness; and also provide the most fruitful context for the ideas of marxism to find an audience.

    So the question need not coounterpose revolutionary group, and mass party. the revolutionary group can be part of the mass party. BUt too do so, it has to commit itself to the long haul within such a party, and also be prepared to let the mass party have its own life.

  84. Dan #92

    BUt for many of us, the strategy of broad parties is not a short cut, but a long haul, precsiely becasue we do beleive that there is a relativley stable cappitalist system, low levels of class conscisousness, and that the working class has suffered terrible ideological, political and organisational defeats.

  85. georgier on said:

    Andy
    Precisely so
    The individual recruitment, paper sales target model is not the way to grow in the circumstances you rightly descibe. Ditto the hyperobole which the SWP is prone to as is GG unfortunately at times. Mark Steels article demonstrates very well the effect that this has at the level of the individual member.

    I think there is a need for openness in organisational terms and for maximum solidarity by the left not only at the RR conference but in future.

  86. Canadien on said:

    Dan – “But if you do look at the figures you’ll find not only booming profit rates but also see that production of steel, oil, gas, coal etc are booming, which is a reflection of the boom that is going on in the world economy.”

    Um, the US economy is in the process of tanking if you look at the numbers. Doesn’t mean it’s the apocalypse but there are some massive contradictions building – the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market (leading to the collapse of the housing market) are just the tip of the iceberg. The US dollar is in free-fall, partly as a continuation of a long-term trend, partly as a result of weakness in manufacturing, an over-supply of greenbacks and partly as deliberate policy to reverse the long-standing problem of the balance of trade deficit. But underlying a lot of this is a massive build up of debt in the US economy that’s been propping up the rest of the world – not only in sub-primes, but also in government debt, which broke the $9 trillion mark (they just raised the debt ceiling to almost $10 trillion). Since the Asian crash in ’97, the tech bubble in ’99 and 9/11, the US has been propping things up by pumping massive debt dollars into the economy. In the last year of Clinton the deficit was $18 billion. It is now $650 billion. Who knows how long this situation can last or how much debt they can pile on (it’s now taking up 20 cents of every dollar of US government expenditure – that’s double what Canada pays – at a time when pensions are about to take a big hit). It may be 10 years – it may be sooner. They may manage to let the US decline somewhat smoothly – or not. But the system is not stable and it is this kind of thing that Harman is pointing to.

  87. Canadien #96

    That sounds remarkably similar to the argument in Chris Harman’s book “Explaining the Crisis” written twenty years ago.

    I think Permanent revolution’s argument is reasonable, especially taking into account the expansion of capitalism into the former Comecon countries, and the growth of China as a market economy.

  88. Canadien on said:

    Sadly, I’ve never actually read Explaining the Crisis. My bad. But, in any case, the massive rise in US debt began around 1983 (I was procrastinating doing my real work and looked this stuff up about a week ago). It levelled off during Clinton – go welfare cuts, go! – and then spiked off the board since Bush (the other neo-con slogan is “debt doesn’t matter”). In 85-87 they let the dollar fall big time, which reversed the balance of payments deficit for a number of years but also led (some argue) to Black Monday in 1987 and ultimately to the recession that hit in the early 90s.

    The question of China and the NICs are certainly a factor but for two things – 1) they still account for less than 15% of the world economy combined (the US is over 20% still, I believe) and the Chinese depend a great deal upon the US market to move their goods. There’s also a speculative boom in China right now distorting the economy big time.

    Will it blow. Who knows? I’m not a betting man myself so all I’m willing to say for certain is that the US is in long term relative decline, which is leading to pressure to use their military superiority (see Iraq) and which will create a bumpy internal ride. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything good for our side and it doesn’t necessarily mean some kind of catastrophic collapse (in fact, given all the mediating bodies like the Fed, I highly doubt it). What’s more, I damn well hope not. I live next door and I’ve got bills to pay.

  89. Canadien on said:

    I should also say viz China that there has been a sort of virtuous circle between China and the US wherein US consumers buy up Chinese goods using debt and the Chinese oblige the splurge by buying up US debt. Of course, given how much Chinese cash is now in US currency it becomes a problem when the US dollar drops as it is doing (there is talk of oil pricing switching to Euros). The Chinese are faced with the prospect of writing off the value of all that stuff they once sold to the Americans or dumping US dollars and fucking the US market because the cost of Chinese goods will rise. That’s why some US policy bigwigs went over to China earlier this month. This also comes after the US was earlier this year trying to pressure the Chinese to let their currency float and the Chinese were making threatening noises about selling US dollars.

  90. JJMurphy on said:

    Andy, At least you had the forbearance not to indulge in the glib sarcasm that my previous posts provoked.
    But:
    1: Respect was weakened by the failure of any Labour MPs to come across. I know in the official discourse of SU this is put down to SWP “control freakery” without for a moment acknowledging that it was precisely the SWP influence that prevent the importation of every “revolutionary” phrasemonger’s demand that would have made the creation of a broad Left-of-Labour formation impossible. The SWP had “shed its principles”; “moved to the right”; “crossed the class line” etc, etc.
    The voting slate system was introduced *precisely* to ensure a balance and to reduce the preponderance of the SWP. If any of the Labour Lefts had found even the faintest of backbones and come across these measures would not have been necessary. Pluralism is not a function of thought, its is a function of numbers and the description of Respect as an alliance of GG, SWP and Muslim activists had more than a grain of truth. This was a good start, but needed wider forces to make the breakthrough. The excuse of the presence of the SWP was a good alibi for those who didn’t want to move. The ability of the SWP to act independently was not therefore something that inhibited the development of Respect. We must look, therefore somewhere else.
    Neither can fact that the SWP “turned Respect off and on”. If Respect depended on the SWP like a life support machine, as this line of argument implies, then it really was thin gruel. In any case other activists became more or less active as their motivation rose and fell—why should the SWP be judged by a different criterion?
    2 A long term mass party containing both revolutionaries and reformists? Well who can say? Do you believe the preponderance of the Labour bureaucracy in social democratic type parties is an accident? I don’t. Neither is it *just* their ability to manoeuvre and the power of their office that creates the political culture of these parties. It is not a question of constitutional arrangements either. (BTW they nearly all had revolutionaries in them at various times, often with a safeguarded constitutional positions) In a period of relative stability the Right rests on the average consciousness and passivity of the majority of members. That’s surely how Benn was defeated, Militant purged, Neo-Liberalism embraced, etc, etc.
    In the long run a party expresses a political outlook, (not quite a “programme”). In the short run, when everything is in movement, it can change hugely. But for the long haul, it is either one thing or the other. The question of entrism is entirely other.
    Andy: “that mass party must contain the mechanism by which those who wish to overthrow capitalism for good have the opportunity to democratically win the leadership.”
    Me: And by what mechanism are committed “Old Labour” reformists who control a party, who are every bit as committed to their strategy as revolutionaries are to theirs, going to be restrained from preventing such a change of leadership? Do you know of any examples?
    I know we have unbridgeable differences in our interpretation of recent events in Respect, but even a foremost LeftLabour figure like GG showed his, shall we say, conditional attachment to constitutional niceties when the gloves came off. Can we expect anything else “in the long haul”?.
    None of what I say precludes the necessity of working with, in a variety of ways and through various means, reformists, especially at a time when the contours of consciousness are moving. I am not saying, for my part, that I take any pleasure in the split in Respect.

    3.Andy: “How it may happen, we have no real idea. Who would have predicted Chavez” Chavez is a big question. The influence of mass movements on a leftward moving figure like Chavez is indeed interesting. I am not an anarchist, but I, like many a Leninist, believe that the question of leaders is in the capacity to act as a catalyst to the masses gaining consciousness of their own strength and the possibility of moving beyond those who might once have awakened them to consciousness. Naturally therefore they will need organisational forms which permit them to move independently of their current leaders.
    We are going to do no favours to anybody, or indeed ourselves, if we abandon the distinction between revolution and reformism to be replaced with vague formulas and hope for everybody to act in a gentlemanly way.

  91. Larry R on said:

    Comrades! I have to more suggestions before I sleep! Zzzzz 🙂

    One issue here is also about the vexed question of a ‘programme’. The other is about the ecological question. These are interlinked.

    A programme would obviously help us relate today’s questions – of defence against capitalist offensives, fighting for reforms and building a broad left of labour formation – to the longer term questions of the overthrow of capitalism.

    Now the SWP has always correctly stood against fetishising a programme in the way some doctrinaire orthodox Trotskyists have done. These latter had substituted a ‘transitional programme’ for a living mass party, of trained and flexible cadre. And of course, as we all know, the Bolsheviks had to change their programme to make the revolution. So a revolution cannot be programmed like some pre-determined code!

    But at the same time, a programme may still be a necessary ingredient – if not a sufficient one. It lays out in a transparent way a set of political idea to unite people around. The SWP has its general ‘where we stand’ in its paper – but this is abstract – it does not link revolutionary strategy with immediate tactics. So its absence can get us in a confusing mess.

    In its absence its difficult to see how to connect todays battle – like the fight to build somthing like Respect – with the long term struggle against capitalism. We have a divorce between the ‘minimum programme’ (Respect manifesto) and ‘Maximum programme’ (Where we stand). Instead the answer becomes simply recruitment to the SWP through the electoral ‘united front’. (It is the opposite mistake to those who substitute programme for party). And it also therefore leads to the disaster of bureaucratic leadership instead of political leadership within Respect.

    This question of a programme is particularly relevant and urgent when it comes to the question of ecological crisis and climate change. We can not simply make the usual agitation and propaganda campaign on climate change – i.e. a few meetings and demo’s – and then through this recruit to the SWP (or any other rev left group) – and then wait for the ‘upturn’ in workers struggles to one day solve the crisis.

    We need a series of specific class demands that address the climate crisis that empower people through action, and point the way to a post-capitalist solution. In other words, from now on a central dynamic of the class struggle involves how human society reacts to the climate crisis.

    Economistic and syndicalist politics will not do. The political questions must come first.

  92. After refering to Chris Harman’s book “Explaining the Crisis”, Andy wrote: “I think Permanent revolution’s argument is reasonable, especially taking into account the expansion of capitalism into the former Comecon countries, and the growth of China as a market economy.”

    However, the aforementioned Chris Harman does not accept that the Comecon countries were not already capitalist, and his explanation for this featured prominently in “Explaining the Crisis”. Andy, at what point did you abandon the state capitalist theory? Or did you never accept it in the first place? Did you simply defend the theory because a full-timer asked you to? Or maybe you never accepted it. If that is the case, exactly how forceful were you in trying to rescue your comrades from what you took to be a profoundly mistaken idea?

    As this is my first comment on Mark Steel’s internal bulletin contribution, I would like to say a few things.

    Firstly, I agree with the SWP members who argue that Mark had the right to say what he said and have it discussed by loyal comrades. I do not accept the Weekly Worker’s attitude towards the alleged unhealthiness of party’s debating such matters internally, then reaching their conclusions and expecting their comrades to go out into the outside world with a united position. However, the appearance of this document on this blog and elsehwere means that it will be discussed by others. While I accept the right of the SWP comrades here to discuss what Mark says internally, now that it is being discussed externally, they may as well listen to what their supporters outwith the SWP think about it. As someone who has backed the SWP central committees handling of most of today’s crisis, I hope I have earnt some brownie points with the best SWP members. If that is the case, then I hope they will take a different attitude towards Mark’s intervention than they have to the interventions of Nick Wrack, Nick Bird and co. Whereas Wrack was expelled not for holding minority views, but for defying party discipline, Mark tried to make his case loyally. It is not his fault that Wrack’s co-thinkers leak contributions that they think is damaging to the SWP central committee. The latter are simply going to have to learn to get used to such leaks until disruptive entryists are located and shown the door.

    Every bit as important, as someone who supports the SWP leadership on what it is doing in the context of the current split in Respect, I think Mark’s contribution contains much that the SWP rank and file and the central committee should welcome. Mark is merely echoing much that John Molyneux argued a couple of year’s ago. Unless John Molyneux’s suggestions are taken up in the wake of the current crisis, then the party will implode WRP-style. It is clearly untrue to suggest that the SWP does not have problems that have contributed to today’s crisis. John and Mark make their case well. However, John is as enthusiastic about the latest turn in the SWP, and Mark is expresses no fixed view. The reality is that the lack of vigour and dynamism Mark refers to has been caused by a mistaken attitude towards the united front. If I have any serious problems with the central committee’s line today it is that they claim that their perspectives of the last four years were correct and their current perspectives are every bit as correct. Like those who have resigned from the SWP, those who have been expelled and those who have lined up with Respect Renewal, I don’t think this is a sustainable position. Sooner or later, the SWP is going to have to chose. Either they were right in the past (as Nick Wrack argues) or they are right today, as I would maintain. If the SWP is going to get through this crisis for Respect and for it’s own organisation, then it is important that those who feel there has been insufficient debate in the party (loyal comrades like Mark) feel able to make this case, and demand changes. If their appeals for greater internal democracy falls on deaf ears, then their will be more defections, or simple withdrawal of much needed activists. The fact that Mark has been allowed to make his critical commentary before the rest of the SWP membership by the central committee is a very healthy sign. Mark’s contribution IS constructive. He should not be pillaried for what he has argued. Nor should he be held in any way responsible for the fact that his critical comments have been leaked.

  93. Larry R on said:

    JJMurphy – yes – of course the SWPs political culture was not the only problem for Respect – there was also the objective situation – the low level of industrial struggle and class consciousness, the absence of any significant shift from the ranks of organised labour or the labour party. As I wrote earlier:

    “Respect undoubtedly had problems. The political radicalisation creating a left of labour space in the UK had unfolded unevenly. It was most intense amongst the Muslim working class and petty-bourgeoisie, because this radicalisation had been catalysed primarily by the war. This lead to the chance of an electoral breakthrough first in Muslim areas. But class polarisation had not fully developed within these communities, leading to sections of the Muslim community enlisted to Respect en-bloc, and lead by petty-bourgeois radical elements who are now the majority of its councillors.

    At its best, the SWP usually admits to problems like these, but says that they are not the main problem of the moment, but should be corrected later. Thus they may have been right to make tactical compromises to launch Respect, but could later alter course, with a slight change of tack.

    But this has not happened. Instead of changing tack, they have thrown their toys out of the pram – had a massive binge and lost all their important and hard one allies. They have not had a nuanced hand on the tiller, but have in effect sunk the whole project.”

    For the rest see my comments on Callinicos – http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=975

    But yes – the key question is how much is building a broad left formation a mere tactic or a strategy?

    If it is a tactic – then the SWP should try to take advantage of the crisis of working class representation created by the new labour project and get itself a few revolutionaries in council chambers and hopefully in parliament. An electoral alliance might help provide a temporary vehicle to do this. As Lenin said, get on any dunghill if it gives you a platform. And a few revolutionary socialist elected representatives can win the leadership of millions should a profound crisis shake society and make a real difference. The problem with Respect then was that only Michael Lavallette in Preston got this far. In East London, comrades Rees and German etc unfortunately did not get elected, but Galloway and other more opportunistic elements did. (This ‘Respect as tactic’ view also connects to a perspective that the crisis of working class representation may be a short term one). Also in this perspective, the SWP remains unchanged, as an autonomous unit making a temporary alliance.

    On the other hand, if building a broad left formation is a strategy, then it takes more long term work, patience, diplomacy and a different kind of relationship between revolutionaries and others than the SWP was prepared to do. It assumes the crisis of working class representation is profound and long term, and that revolutionaries will build a counter-hegemonic alliance to fill the gap.

    Part of the problem was I think the SWP went into this unclear about these questions, and does not have a culture where these things are discussed.

  94. Canadien on said:

    LarryR – “a different kind of relationship between revolutionaries and others than the SWP was prepared to do.”

    It is refreshing to see on here someone with a nuanced perspective on things, who doesn’t simply scream about the “crimes” of the SWP. I think the difficulty here is that there are two narratives as to what happened and it is a murky situation getting murkier – as inevitably happens in faction fights when everyone grasps for proof of their superiority. It can be difficult to separate out the larger issues from the trench warfare.

    But the question I have is this: if the SWP is primarily to blame – even though we understand the role of “objective factors”, why now? I mean the SWP bent over backwards to accommodate and maintain unity – voting down revolutionary phrase-mongering, as jjMurphy calls it, and defending Galloway from attacks both right and left – based upon an understanding of his importance as a symbol and tribune. The SWP campaigned for people with whom they not only disagreed but also who they felt won in a shabby way against candidates more to their liking.
    If it’s all the SWP when did this sudden reversal take place from conciliators and unifiers (remember when Yaqoob and Loach wanted to publicly denounce Galloway and probably split Respect?) to sectarians and ultra-leftists? I think if we’re honest we’ll see that it wasn’t so simple. No doubt small, and not so small, events built up and frustrations stacked upon each other – from both sides. We need to tease from these small events a general pattern of why the two sides were moving in different directions such that it reached this impasse.
    I look at the things I’ve been reading over the last couple years and it seems clear to me that there was the growth of a new way of operating inside Respect in its strongest areas – TH and B’ham. None of the specifics probably seemed so big at the time and were no doubt responses that grew out of the situation – with the failure of a large break from Labour, some people fell back upon old habits of electoralism. Without the pressure from below arising out of a left-of-Labour radicalization that sought a new electoral expression – some people accepted that the key thing was to use what seemed the logical tools at hand – raw numbers exceeded politics in the calculation. I don’t doubt that sometimes the SWP comrades could have over-reacted and dealt with the situation in less than productive ways. Shit happens, we’re all human – you assess, correct it, and move on.

    But the question is one of overall trends – which side is moving away from a radical and grassroots model of Respect, which side is moving towards a model based upon not rocking the boat of the current forces and personalities within the “community” in order to get out the vote that seems a sure thing. And in assessing those general patterns, rather than the he said/she said stuff, which is just distraction, which side do you generally support?

  95. If Respect depended on the SWP like a life support machine, as this line of argument implies, then it really was thin gruel.

    But the weakness of RESPECT outside the SWP and the dominance of the SWP aren’t two separate criticisms. This is very much the argument of the Respect Party Platform – RESPECT was weak because it wasn’t built as a party, by recruitment, consistently visible activism and the development of democratic structures.

  96. Teddy Boy on said:

    I have not been imbued with an intense philosophical view as Larry R and the many who visit this blog. As a Respect “Renewal” member I only want my working class aspirations to be represented properly and not to be treated as voting fodder for covert sectarianism.The SWP have shown they will resort to the mentality of a Shankhill Road gang of thugs masquerading as protectors.
    The have as far as I am concerned breached good faith, good conduct and the rule book. It cannot be allowed Again I ask John Rees why does he thinks he is above accountability. Does he think SWP grand standing at the weekend will hoodwink everyone and save his face. You could not make it up He is the idiot and he has turned the SWP into a circus of clowns

  97. keithcopley on said:

    Reading this article was a strangely emotional experience, as it echoes many of the things I have felt about the SWP for a long time and because its honesty is such a breath of fresh air.

    When I first joined the SWP, over 25 years ago, it was in a smallish branch outside London. Most of us were under the age of twenty, ludicrously enthusiastic and hyper-active selling the paper, going on Right to Work marches, producing bulletins for local workplaces etc etc. Everyone seemed to be able to remain a committed and ‘loyal’ party member whilst maintaining a healthy scepticism about the ‘leadership.’

    After a period of inactivity I got involved again in London in the mid ’90s, but noticed a different culture developing within the organisation. There were indeed a seemingly endless succession of ‘false dawns’ promised, over-inflated claims of growth, and sometimes comically ridiculous directives from the centre to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities supposedly out there. But more importantly, there seemed a distinct lack of critical assessment going on at the grassroots.

    However, the way the SWP leadership has behaved over the crisis in Respect is the first time I’ve found myself feeling both angry with and ashamed of the organisation. The sheer hyperbolic nonsense of the ‘anti-witch hunt’ campaign is embarassing and seems purely designed to prevent SWP members from properly addressing what has happened, and what questions need to be asked about the role of the party in these events. We’re left with two wings of Respect, one that will not have the valuable input that the largst socialist grouping in Britain could and should bring to it, and the other very little more than a front for a party that, tragically, seems to have managed to alienate itself from the vast majority of the non-SWP left.

    At least, if Mark Steele’s article is anything to go by, the culture of deference to the centre is now being broken. I still happen to think that the British left needs the SWP. But the SWP needs to change.

  98. Not to sure what happened there – Could u delete my unfinished comment above please

    It is a good discussion,

    For me I have raised all points in relation to organisational aspects of workings together, both through past experiences and how I believe we can go forward, this within all links above provided

    For me I believe that those involved {on the’ Left} in Politics for the long haul are about effecting change. These are beginnings, within such debate and discussion about how best to work together – but also it is about effecting real change within our own local communities and Unions. Of course each of use has our local issues at hand to deal with, but ways of workings can be similar

    For example we have the Past as in Belfast – http://www.indymedia.ie/article/84215

    Again of local trade Union issue I would advocate the Rank and File strategy

    Link – http://www.phoblacht.net/nipsastrategydc.html

    Unity of course is at times hard to bring about. Indeed I remember one of my first times organising with someone {from across the Walled Divided in the Shankill Road} – and within my local Community {on the Falls} around the Fire Fighters strike.

    The March itself had seen Police at either side and behind, openly carrying machine guns, and I had thought then, is this what it is to be like to bring Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter together.

    Yet, within campaigns and such working class struggle I had found that much could be broke down, and I had found over time such can be the case with many on the left who at times seem to see each other as the enemy rather than anything else

    Yet if many of the points can begin to be addressed as held within these debates and discussions -who knows

    Well. For me I have made my points, but I will follow the discussion from afar with interest

    Signing off

    In Solidarity

    Davy carlin

  99. Just on Harman and explaining the crisis.
    Harman obviously (as a state capitalist) regards all the ex-centrally planned economies of the Stalinist states as capitalist before 1990. For example he says;

    “As capitalism ages, it finds it more and more difficult to overcome the pressures leading to stagnation and deepening crises. Its efforts to do so involve measures that are in themselves increasingly devastating to the system and those who live in it….as the system came to fill the whole globe…each factor became less useful to the system and more destructive in its side effects.”

    For a longer review see here
    http://www.permanentrevolution.net/?view=entry&entry=1239

    Remember Harman believes this book, written in the early 1980s, is basically an accurate description of world capitalism today.
    It does I think illustrate the extent to which the SWP (and WP, SP etc) are living in fantasy land when it comes to their analysis of the world.
    In response to Michael and the question of organisation, I am certainly not saying that we should wait to get organised until we’ve worked out the politics. I think we can begin working together now, not I’m afraid through the various broad party projects, although certainly with people in them, as I don’t accept the premise that in order to work together or with “broader” layers then socialists have to give up the public fight for their beliefs, but I think we should resist the temptation to develop a schema before we know how we’re going to work together.
    I think we’ll learn the form of organisation through experience and if I’m honest the idea of the “party” is so discredited by the various carryings on of the left over the last ten years, it must stress the voluntary and democratic sides of the formula if its going to influence anyone.
    There is no mood amongst radical youth, to be bossed around by some self important apparattchik.
    The formula of democratic centralism, meant different things at different times, according to the political tasks of the moment at the present it needs to emphasise democracy over centralism.
    The key is we need to explain the world, define our political tasks and the organisational methods, united fronts, parties, etc. will follow from the assessment of the politics.
    With the SWP’s present crisis you see the exact opposite method. First they talk about the organisation. The politics don’t even get a look in. And then they fall apart.
    It’s not surprising its completely the wrong way round.

  100. It is true as Larry R describes that the SWP went intio resepct with an unclear understadning of how working in a broader group would work, and the under-theorised “United Front of a special type” coudl unfortunatley mean all things to all comrades.

    The paradox of Respect is best understood in its origin which from the SWP’s point of view was a compromise that everyine could buy into. Those most committed to left regroupment could celebrate it as a broadening and deepening of the Socialist Allaince, those hostile or ambivelent about regroupment could be satisfied that Respect was much more under the SWP’s control than the SA was.

    And in a sense – and this was my objection from day one to the way Respect was launched – they were to blame for their own prepondence in Respect as they took very few of the SA’s membership with them into Respect – effectively dissipating 1000 activists, most of whom solid activists. The mistake of the SWP and ISG who backked them was to seek to close down the SA and thus force people into Respect. And when combined with the lack of nuance n how it was implemeneted on the ground (SWP members who had never been active in the SA turning up for the first time to SA meeitngs to outvote the memebrship to close ot down) caused big bad feeling (and I know at least one memebr of the ISG who resigned from them over their suport for this way of working).

    The political problem was that the SWP did not allow the idea of Resepct to be won over a period of time, through cooperation, trust building and coonvergence. We put a very nuanced proposal to the SA special conference, saying that local SA branches should be able to decide to stand in the 2004 local elections if they wanted, but had to support Respect in the Euro elections. This excluded the sectarian anti-Respect position, but would also have given the SA activists time to grow to trust the SA. this was voted down by the SWP at conference.

    That is why in some ways the weakness of Respect now is a continuation of the same political approach that the SWP had in the SA. And that is because the organisational question is in fact a political one.

    Nor it must be daid is the SWP unique, the ISG supported them. And we are beginning to see signs of the Socialist Party behaving in the same way in the national shop stewards network.

  101. Canadien, your analysis does seem similar to Harman. You say that things could go on “maybe 10 years”. Chris Harman made an even bolder assertion saying that “there will be pre-revolutionary situations in the next 100 years”. Sorry but when you hedge your bets that much your analysis becomes almost meaningless. Permanent Revolution wouldn’t dispute that the situation could be different in 10 years but that’s not a very good analysis of where we’re at now. As for the US economy tanking I’ll copy and paste this post from another site:

    “The IMF predicted on the back of the credit crunch that US growth would slow in the third quarter and that growth in 2007 in the US would slow for the year to 1.9%. In fact growth accelerated through the third quarter and is expected to be revised upwards to nearly 5% in Q3, meaning that even if there were no growth in the final quarter (highly unlikely given early estimates of the growth of exports, levels of wages and unemployment and overall profitability) then the annual estimate would already surpass the IMF’s expected figure. UK corporate profitability for example is at its highest level since at least 1965 (when the figures start). Certainly the credit crunch and the sub-prime crisis in the US has caused a major recession in housing, but even then this has been counterbalanced by a growth of non-residential investment. Of course this is all at one level speculation and could be wrong, but personally I don’t expect a recession and even if one did occur rates of profit remain at a level which imply it would not be a major one. That’s not to say that the business cycle doesn’t continue to operate, but that would imply that growth will accelerate up to 2010 before a down turn in the early years of the next decade.

    But we’ll know soon enough anyway.”

  102. Interesting as the debate about the economy is, it is a bit off topic. I think the Permament Revolution comrades have made their point, and provided links for where people can follow their analsysis.

    So perhaps we could leave that debate to another day.

  103. Tony greenstein wrote “I was expelled in 1972/3 from IS, when IS effectively closed down another united front (we didn’t have the special kind uf’s) called the Anti-Internment League. I voted against the party line at an open meeting of the AIL and was expelled at the age of 19.”

    There is a small problem with the above in that it is not true. In fact TG was expelled,as the record shows, for disruptive behaviour. That said it is clear that having flouted the groups discipline publically the leadership of IS would have been justified in expelling him for that reason. Only they didn’t despite his claims.

    Now this may be a minor point, though it speaks to TG’s veracity or lack of veracity, but it also reveals the deep animosity some former members of both IS/SWP to the very idea of building a revlutionary organisation. For such people, whose natural home was the foetid swamp of the Labour Left (rip), will seize upon any stick to attack those whop speak up for the revolutionary project as a result of their deep rooted animosity to the good sde of the SWP. That is to say such people, all too often petty bourgeois cynics, loathe the effort made by SWP to link current struggles to the struggle for workers power itself becuause at bottom they are opposed to the latter.

  104. A very thought provoking piece by Mark Steele.

    Perhaps this a long overdue re-enactment of the Emperor’s New Clothes. The most telling point he makes is about honsety and inflated figures. I think this is only marginally connected with the current RESPECT crisis. Let’s face it, if Galloway and co cannot face down an under performing SWP at a conference then RENEWAL, and the elements within it, needs to look at themselves.

    But there are important issues for the SWP. I think the danger would be to over react and decide that all perspectives a wrong. This is not true. The SWP has been pretty accurate in observing the ‘new imperialism’ and the conflicts that inevitably flow from that. Further, they have not predicted either inevitable economic meltdown or inevitable working class upsurge.

    For my part, there are obvious problems. Steele hints at one such problem in looking at the collapse of the Soviet Union. I first became attracted to SWP in the late 1980s as I felt they had been proven correct all along with state capitalism. Despite this, I feel all socialists have been sunk in the same ship, it matters not that SWP had sharp analysis. Whenever I speak to people in general, their line is that socialism ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall. State Capitalist analysis counts for little. Promoting oneself as socialist is difficult under these historical circumstances.

    Secondly, the anti-war marches. It could have been presumed that marches after Feb 2003 could have been bigger. I suspect that after the war started too many people of liberal persausion felt that troops had some necessary ‘peace keeping’ role. The nature of the insurgency looked confusing and anti-imperialism was squeezed out.

    Then there is the approach to single issue ‘movements’. This is all fine and the post Seattle period was inspiring but the SWP (correctly) say that the central factor is working class organisation and combativity. If this is not strong then attatchment to movements is self limiting.

    But Steele’s main gripe is about honesty and inflation of figures. This is what really needs addressing. It’s not healthy but I can kind of see why this is done.

    To state the obvious, the SWP exists within capitalism and is prone to adopt the negative features of capitalism. So we have the division of labour between full timers and members who have heavy work commitments and all the pressures that entails. Like any capitalist firm, the SWP ends up trying to ‘brand’ its own product by bigging up ‘achievements’ real or imagined. There is a target culture where where people feel compelled to recruit people on paper to get brownie points. For a party that needs to ‘sell’ or recruit, there is a temptation to over state the possibilties. How can we entice people in with a depressing sales pitch? We need to preach vibrancy, opportunities etc. This can sink into a blame culture and people made to feel inadequate. This should be familiar to anyone working in a capitalist firm. Unfortunately the SWP is not immune to all this.

    The problem is I suspect many join the SWP through dislike of capitalism only to be alienated by the lowest of capitalist type prctices. I’m sure most don’t leave because they suddenly embrace neo-liberalism.

    And so on to another good point made by Mark namely the Big Brother debacle. In the recent SWP CC document where the party gives its account of the crisis, it is stated that the ‘line’ was to admit that CBB was a stupid decision by GG but that it is not in the same league as bombing Iraq and Afghanistan. IMO that is just about passable. But as Mark says, that is not what John Rees said on TV. For some reason Rees felt under pressure to put the ridiculous Galloway line about ‘good publicity’. This runs counter to the SWP official position. It seems that Rees buckled under pressure to create unity with GG for the greater good. This contradiction has now found wider expression in the current RESPECT debate.

    So I feel the SWP has a dfficult square to circle. I don’t think anything too drastic should follow. The bottom line is honesty and an understanding of the pressures people are under, the viscious circle of recruiting under false optimism only to demoralise the recruits later and a fear of being honest lest nobody wants to join.

  105. It’s interesting to read all the comments here from an outsider’s perspective. And by an outsider I mean someone who is not a member of any left-wing political party and who has no intention of joining one.

    I wonder how long it will take for those who still operate inside left-wing political parties to realise that the majority of working people in Scotland, England and Wales are no longer interested in traditional left-wing political parties, “reformist” or “revolutionary” or otherwise.

    Use any criteria you want and the above statement will stand up to scrutiny: membership of political parties, applications of people to join political parties, numbers of people voting, sales of political parties newspapers, etc.

    Progressive politics in the 21st century is moving beyong traditional left-wing political parties into less rigid, less centralised, and more fluid forms of organisation and activism.

    It would be wishful thinking to believe that an upturn in strikes, class struggle, or a new war, or any other factor that leads to heightened political awareness is going to reverse that process.

    In Argentina, in December 2001 and in its aftermath, we saw a harbinger of the future in the radicalisation that followed the economic meltdown caused by the failures of IMF-induced neo-liberalism. A rebellion by workers and communities which exploded and by-passed leftist political parties because the people found more effective ways to organise in the workplace and in communities. Political parties were even banned from some of the workers councils and community councils that were formed then, not out of any sectarian ideological intent out because they were seen (correctly IMO) as counter-productive negative forces who sought to control movements, lead movements, and bring fractious organisational conflict into what were horizontal co-operative forms of organisation.

    The many forms of struggle will always vary according to time and place, this is self-evident, but here in Scotland, like England, the left are flogging dead horses trying to unite the old left into new leftist political parties.

    If the left could stop for a moment and study the history of political parties – as a social phenomena – they may realise that they came into being at certain juncture of history, and for a specific purpose, namely in the fight of the bourgeoisie to topple the old feudal order.

    Political parties, especially those that followed the French Jacobins – in purpose, ideology and philosophy – I’m thinking of Lenin and the Bolsheviks in particular – were thoroughly bourgeois in structure, outlook and internalised psychology: i.e. centralised (and therefore) elitist organisations with essentially middle-class educated leaders hoping to use the broad mass of working people as a social battering ram to propel themselves into power. Just as the Jacobins used the sans-culottes for their own ends, the Bolsheviks used the workers and peasants.

    Even the terms left and right originate from the struggle between bourgeoisie and theold feudal powers and have little to do with the aspirations and self-organisation of working people.

    The idea of political parties has little overlap with Karl Marx’s fundamental liberationist premise that the task of the liberation of working people is that of the working people alone. Which is why the SWP and all the other leftist political parties – ALL of themled by middle-class intellectuals – are a social phenomena whose time has now passed.

    That’s not to say that all progressive or leftist political parties will take an elitist or middle class form. It’s possible, likely and maybe even desirable, that new political formations will arise out of necessity; organised horizontally rather than vertically, that seek not to lead working people but to work selflessly to facilitate the self-organisation and creative activity of working people OUTSIDE the ranks of political parties. This may seem a contradiction in itself, and that is correct, for it is the necessary contradictory interaction of synthesis and anti-synthesis.

    Democracy is the greatest of all creative arts. It is unfinsihed business. Traditional leftist political parties impede that creativity.

  106. #113

    Mike I don’t want to get into a discussion about Tony’s expulsion, an issue over which I am blessed with total ignorance.

    BUt you are correct to point out that there are several different types of criticism of the SWP.

    One of which was summed up well by matthew caygill some years ago, that he just wanted a nicer SWP. More democratic, less boosterism, and more humble.

    There are other such as myself who are broadly sympathetic to the SWP, but think it has lost its way, and in particular no longer has a clear idea of what its own strategic role is, this is particularly clear over the broad party issue, and over trade unions. the theoy seems to be left in books on the shelf, and the CC is travelling light in terms of real politics (though they can write about Jazz or dialectics, they can’t explain how they see the strategic role of the SWP). I think the SWP need to remian intact, but have a theoretcial reapprasial, be much less organisationally conservative, and step to the right (in the sense that Higgins/Palmer/Hallas would have accepted that they were to the right of Cliff in the 1970s) – that is realisgn themselves to be better relate to the working class militants, and be much more realistic about their real level of influence.

    There are others who are hostile to the SWP becasue they have a differnt conception of socialism or politics altogether.

  107. keithcopley wrote in post 107 above “After a period of inactivity I got involved again in London in the mid ’90s, but noticed a different culture developing within the organisation. There were indeed a seemingly endless succession of ‘false dawns’ promised, over-inflated claims of growth, and sometimes comically ridiculous directives from the centre to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities supposedly out there. But more importantly, there seemed a distinct lack of critical assessment going on at the grassroots.”

    This is very true the first such false dawn came as early as 1988 and eventually petered as fulltimers and the new recruits grew tired. One problem that is observable in that episode and in other later false dawns is the clear phenemna of the centre arguing that massive gains can be made and then, when the gains are not made blaming the membership! The result has been the loss of experienced organisers, cadres and new recruits as they are encouraged to ever higher laevels of activity and then experience the depression induced by failure to meet artificial targets set by the centre. Any flltimer who grows critical of this process, who develops ideas of her/his own or simply fails to toe the line is sacked. For example most of the socalled Young Turks of the early 1990’s were sacked eventually leaving the group as the Andy Wilson led ISG detailed in its pamphlets.

    One problem that militated against such problems being dscussed in the SWP was the internal culture as many ex-members have detailed here and elsewhere in recent weeks. Certainly there is a lot of discussion in and around the group but fr the most prt it consists of how to implement a line deceided by the CC and selected friends behind closed doors. This has resulted in the steady loss of cadre and a decline in the quality of current cadre who are now unsused and unable to conduct arguments at a political/theoretical level except when the centre has already decreed the line for them to follow.

    Well this time the collapse of the centres false dawn has led to a series of former loyalists voicing criticisms of the lack of a democratic culture within the group and/or voicing criticisms of the centres actions with regard to the Respect project. If these comrades still want to participate in the building of a revolutionary socialist workers party it is essential that they do not leave to join Galloways ragtag army of petty bourgeois chancers and renegades. The comrades now have a chance to hold the misleadership of the SWP responsible for their actions and should take advantage of the opportunity and remove those members of the CC wh foisted this daft project on them. Sack Rees and German!

  108. I actually thought that John Rees handled the Big Brother crisis really well in the media, as I recall it was Salma Yaqoob on Question Time who said that BB was fantastic publicity!

    John Rees was in a difficult position, much of the attacks on Galloway were because he was an anti-imperialist left wing politician. If Boris Johnson went on BB would there have been the same hysteria from the media.

    If John Rees had attacked Galloway publicly it would have opened the floodgates and been damaging to Respect. People would have said “even his own party are attacking him”. I think he chose a policy of “damage limitation”.

    Rees tried to use the media interviews offered over the BB fiasco as a platform to talk about Respect’s policies on privatisation, the NHS, the Iraq War etc. and also to describe Galloway’s role as an antiwar politician. In the interviews I saw him give, he consistently deflected discussion away from the specific of Galloway on BB towards Respect’s pro-working class policies.

    Where I part company from the SWP leadership is when Galloway came out of the house they refused to seize the opportunity to make Galloway be more accountable

  109. Mike: # 117 – “the first such false dawn came as early as 1988 ” known as the New Mood

    Mainly charcterised by an obscure strike by “100 manchester nurses”, and the fact that you had to beleive in the new mood in order to see see its effect on the movement. I was 100% won to this perspective, and became a moralistic arsehole for quite a while!

  110. ‘Where I part company from the SWP leadership is when Galloway came out of the house they refused to seize the opportunity to make Galloway be more accountable’

    Failed to try, or failed to win it with him?

  111. I remember the ‘new mood’ as well. I also remember the atmosphere in the movement after the defeat of the miners strike. The late 1980’s were not like the mid-1980’s in this respect. Its also true that the period of the war was not like the period that immediately proceeded it. The period now is not identical to the period of the huge demonstrations against the war etc.

    If Andy turned into a moralistic arsehole he perhaps ought to be a bit more careful about that tendency in the present as well as self critical about his behaviour in the past. etc.

  112. reply to #120:

    They not only “failed to try” – they did the opposite. It was Salma Yaqoob who made the attempt, but they voted her down on the NC.

  113. *122

    yeah I know about the NC, but do we know if they tried on an informal level? I am not making a point merely speculating.

  114. I think there is a strange cloud of unreality going on here. The raw numbers of people who can give the time and effort to left-of-labour politics is what? ten thousand? Twenty thousand? Yes, many more will mobilise on single issue campaigns but I don’t mean them here. So for the best part of the last fifty years of politics we’re talking about a kind of shuffling and reshuffling around of a max of some twenty thousand people. (obviously not the same people, that includes ‘exchange’ of personnel through death (!), newcomers, leavers, joiners, rejoiners etc. )

    Now, the next calculation is what realistically can this number of people actually do? They don’t all agree with each other, many of them don’t want to work with each other. When people here say, ‘we’ can build this or that, what do they mean? Who with? How many? With what effect? Why pretend that the tiny numbers of people we’re talking about can or will do more than it can?

    I have lived through the time of the decline, fall and collapse of the old CP, the rise of left groupings, the emergence of the SWP as the largest grouping within this twenty thousand and seen many, many other groups saying that the SWP has got it wrong whilst not succeeding in getting larger themselves.

    This may not be anyone’s or any group’s fault. Surely there are reasons as to why talk of socialism, marxism etc is difficult and they may have very little to do with what the various groups or people or committees are saying and doing. As has already been said by me and others here, and indeed Mark Steele, we know that hundreds of thousands of people will be on ‘our’ side on single issue campaigns over eg anti-racism, anti-war, specific wage or conditions disputes. It’s the joined-up stuff that they don’t want in the present time. I really think it is pointless to keep imagining that there is some special kind of tinkering with what this or that group should do that will provide the magic formula that can turn these hundreds of thousands into some kind of mass party IN THE PRESENT TIME. All you can do is to have an organisation capable of producing theory, helping and initiating the single issue campaigns, keeping up the production of books, newspapers, leaflets, being productive about ways of creating alliances. That in itself requires immense effort and self-sacrifice and of course people get tired and disillusioned. I really don’t think that is necessarily or even mainly the fault of the organisation(s). It derives much more importantly from the outlook of people in the present time in this country. This is not to write them off, it is not to give up on socialist ideas, or the prospect of creating a better society. Precisely the opposite. It’s holding to those hopes but being realistic and patient about them. We live here in a time when capitalism appears to deliver the majority of people a reasonable standard of living. The fact that in order to do so it needs to wage wars and wreck the planet doesn’t impact all the time or necessarily very deeply – YET. Things will change. What is going on is not sustainable forever. What is important is to keep the ideas and activity going. The exact form of that activity is less important than the act of doing it. To imagine that the exact form and finding the exact form is the answer to the present impasse, is I’m sure, an illusion.

  115. Johng, do you feel lied to now that the official story has come out about the SWP’s negotiations to split from Respect? I haven’t seen your response to this.

  116. Oh I feel utterly betrayed and floppy like a broken Russian doll etc, etc. Jesus wept.

    My perspective is a bit shorter then Mike Rosen’s but he makes sensible and sane observations which is refreshing.

    However the whole discussion of the ancient ‘new mood’ perspective got me thinking. It was of course the moment when in the SWP we sensed that the hegenomy of Thatcherism on ordinary people, as opposed to established political parties was breaking up. It was a mood and not a movement. Perspectives involve giving a framework for activists to think through the contingent problems and opportunities they are confronted with in an organised and non-contingent way.

    Having such a framework is a neccessary but no means sufficiant pre-condition for political movements to operate effectively. The idea of a ‘new mood’ attempted to conduct an argument amongst activists both that the cloud was lifting and the limitations of that cloud lift, and then provide a context within which our activity could be judged and assessed. The great poll tax revolt (in which we got some things wrong and some things right) arguably contained both the strengths and weaknesses reflected in that over-all analyses of the period and then pushed it further along.

    As the 90’s progressed the formulation ‘political upturn without an industrial upturn’ reflected a similar framework which attempted in the same way to set out a framework which understood the combination of opportunities and limitations we saw in the movement. The political upturn continued to accelerate with a number of ideological shifts and movements which would have been simply unimaginable in the 1980’s until the great explosion around the anti-war movement. Our orientation around Respect was a perfectly logical outcome of this general analyses.

    Of course having a general analyses is no barrier to making mistakes, but perhaps one reason why many activists are rather reluctant to jump on the anti-SWP bandwagon is that, whatever the mistakes, those general frameworks have tended to be more right then others and more conducive to sensible politics then many other groups. They’ve consequently played a real role in the real world, a role which cannot be reduced to the mistakes which undoubtably were committed.

    Thats why I think whilst I agree with Mike’s general point about the surreal quality of small groups of people savaging each other about their respective failures to overthrow capitalism or on the other hand halt Imperialist wars, I also think his earlier point about ‘whats the alternative’ is rather important too. Not just in terms of numbers but in terms of general analyses of the situation, sometimes a useful tool for many who are not even members.

    People can be very furious with this or that mistake without therefore wishing such a compass to suddenly cease to exist. This will no doubt provoke hoots of derision but I think its true for many people beyond this blog.

  117. I was politically inactive and when the Socialist Alliance began here in Australia I did the right thing and signed on when it was formed but another electoral exercise wasn’t of much consequence I thought. But when there arose motion in the SA to move toward new broad multi tendency socialist party mode I was engaged and embedded myself in that struggle.

    Now we’re five years on.

    So if I can offer a few observations:

    (1) it’s not what you say, its’ what you do. The politics we’re taught is one that is very ideological and programatic. Of course you have to be — thats’ the business of Marxism. But you set a trap because you can easily fetishize programmatic questions as though the struggle you’ve engaged in is about achieving the best of all possible, the purist and most relevant of programs. The long term propaganda role of all the socialist parties feeds into and tends to default to this perspective. So in a real sense, party building can easily become an exercise in setting shibboleths — of being right (because you say so) or just trying to be as a matter of course.But the real knack is doing stuff, working with other people on campaigns and the like. Jerry Rubin and the Yippies were right — the catch cry is : Do it!Thats’ the test of any program regardless of how revolutionary it calls itself. Most of the Marxian affiliates of the SA insisted that questions of program had to be resolved before advancing toward broader activity in any great shared way or to a higher level of formal organisational structure. Thats’ not true at all. You work together at those tasks you agree on and on those task you can. That way you build trust, confidence and mutual respect while opening up ways to discuss political perspectives and sort those out. In the SA there are , I guess, two core consensual agreements that hold the exercise together for the moment: that the aspirational perspective is socialist and that this party holds the promise and means to draw together and ‘organise’ all of those who identify as socialist and want to do stuff.Similarly if we cannot deliver the politics we commit to — no amount of phrase mongering is going to save the SA. We’re judged on what we do and achieve.It’s about winning respect by doing things we set out to do.

    (2)It’s about partnerships. I apologize for the rather odd term as its not common political cant — but I think it is apt.So much of the SA’s activity is orchestrated through networking.It’s very dialectical in that sense. But what enriches the doing is the sort of ongoing partnerships we have engineered between various sectors — among trade unionists, indigenous activists,migrant groups and the like. If you like, these aren’t ‘interventions’ in the way I know the term or the way I’m used to ‘intervening.’. It isn’t smash and grab politics but something sustained and ongoing because the process is one of trying to be inclusive rather than simply propagandistic. You’d be surprized how different the interaction can be. I guess this is what “organic” amounts to — a sort of each way identification. Thats’ the main interaction because it isn’t simply another united front exercise — even one of a ‘special kind’. This is a conscious party project and it has a different dynamic.

    (3)Format and formula isn’t everything. I think the SA went through a period straight after deciding to move into new party mode of trying to do this structurally — of creating a party by organisational means as though it was a template exercise.Of course, in terms of democracy and accountability and leadership you need to do that. But it would be a mistake to think that structure is all. I think we later learnt that it is all about generating forums and means that members can relate comfortably to . So branch meetings aren’t the be all and end all of that. They’re the base form but a lot more is happening beyond that because people will relate to the enterprise variously . You need to be considerate of where people are at because you have to deal with a range of activity levels and preferences. Nonetheless, some confusion can set in because this is not simply an electoral exercise.Branch life in the Greens here is vitalized only around election times and wanes into a doldrum at other times. The SA isn’t like that. Thats’ the clincher, the cultural difference. Nor is it a cadre driven Marxist party with all the accompanying sense of urgency and commitment that fosters . So there’s a lot of nuance to deal with. There’s a challenge there that needs to be negotiated if you want to draw the membership into activity in a time of relative quiescence. So when we monitor how well we’re going — it’s not just the question of paper membership or votes(not that they’ve been high), but what degree that membership is engaged with the party in some form. Thats’ the key marker.This point is relevant to the whole question of ‘social democracy’ I think as the game is to broaden the extra parliamentary engagement by rooting the SA’s politics on the street rather than be so focused on the ballot box. Our cruel advantage — and it is an advantage in hindsight — is that we haven’t broken through electorally yet. Doing it tough has its own rewards.

    (4)Growth, commitment and buoyancy are uneven. The irony of the SA is that it has had its most marked branch building success in regional centres. The enterprise has transcended the inner city left milieu and fostered groups of socialists in cities that may not have experienced the like before or for some time. Where other left orgs exist in capital city centres, the SA certainly grows and takes root but its status is complicated by most of the rest of the far left’s distancing from the enterprise so that they try to treat it as just another left outfit fulfilling another pseudo party niche.It is also in inner city areas that the Greens are strongest. Nonetheless it was the SA as a unity — of the various left orgs –project that first caught the imagination in that urban milieu. It also follows that those who make up SA branches across the country come from very different backgrounds so the political experiences and confidence to do stuff is going to vary. But the SA doesn’t work centrally so much as cooperatively (ie: the partnerships I was referring to)– and that’s the way you learn to work with one another exploring the ways and means of doing politics together.So far no branch has gone ‘feral’ and taken us down a wrong path politically although that could certainly happen as no controlling or regulatory mechanisms are in place. We don’t even have an expulsion clause and the only limit to who can join is a proscription on electoral offenders which was imposed on us for party registration purposes.

    (5)Engines need engineers. This is the clincher. I don’t believe a viable new party project that is much more than electoralist is possible without the conscious input of an ongoing cadre force which aspires to lead that project. The SA here is being lead by the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP) in partnership with others and the DSP fuels the engine room of the exercise. I think thats’ self evident. Without that commitment I doubt that the SA could sustain a standalone existence in the context of the Greens juggernaut and the present boycott from the rest of the far left. I think the SSP needed the ISM too — not only to drive it but also to avail it of political capital resources such as newspapers and the like. But the SA is very much more than the “DSP rebadged” as the SA’s opponents would have it. What the DSP has done is advance the exercise and protect it by consciously trying to foster and relate to the above factors I mentioned. I began my SA engagement thinking that it was all functionalism: build it and they will come.It’s not that easy.Someone has to mind the store….and consciously plan the next move. While these exercises are in their infancy that sort of leadership has to be grown in everyday political struggle. The challenge is also to ‘grow’ your own ‘organic’ leadership within the formation itself and cultivate it so that it reflects the political variety of the exercise. Thats’ the process we are trying to foster by getting more layers in the party to take responsibility for it. In a time of relative limited political buoyancy this isn’t straightforward. However, one of the debates we had was that the party’s leadership had to be real and not formal. It was no good formalising a leadership which did not take responsibility for the project as was the case to some degree when all affiliated organisations were automatically represented on our national body or when people could be elected to lead on the basis of being ‘aligned” or “not aligned’ alone. We’re still working through these issues and the SA’s future strength and ability to confidently campaign depends on its ability to create or foster a leadership which has real authority and represents the broad complexity and depth of the exercise. And that quest will ,by its nature, be ongoing .

    (6) Leninism rules, OK! With all the talk about reformism and the like in regard to these broad parties — my journey in the SA has meant a major rediscovery of Leninism. This is what it’s all about: a confidence in your line of march and your politics which is tested in everyday struggle. As Lenin was keen to point out with some help from Napoleon– s’engage et puis on voit’ (start fighting and then see). I find it amazing how it can be argued that these formations threaten the revolutionists’ surety and raise the spectre of liquidating your politics. If you cannot seed these formations with your ideas and struggle perspectives how can you ever hope to do that outside of them? This is real engagement that requires much more than being propagandist.Of course if you set out to create a reformist swill then you will set out to also drown in it. But if your quest is more considered, transitional and tactical in regard to your revolutionary aims then you maybe signing on to a lot of headaches but its is also the transitional step to where you want to advance to.The working class under capitalism doesn’t need another do gooder would be reforming party with a few progressive policies to its name.It’s not about that or simply trying to be relevant by paring down your own politics. Why put in effort to do that? What we want to create is a socialist party which has the capacity both qualitatively and quantitavely to grow so that capitalism can be over thrown. So in that sense the SA is an ideological exercise — a red banner in the wind — which also harbours, among other elements, a revolutionary pole. So theres’ this other ideological tug mixed up with the rest of the aggregation. And who prevails –with what politics — will be determined in the everyday struggle itself within and outside the party.. As I say, this isn’t politics for cowards or for doctrinal socialists.Nor are we playing at being the Webbs or fostering a re-incarnation of the Fabians. It’s about proving in everyday activity that the whole revolutionary socialist package is the way forward. This isn’t the manifesto way of proceeding, of course. It’s not about setting up shop and saying: hey! We’re over here! Come join us! It’;as about revolutionists and others — yes even ‘reformists’ — working it out within these party formations.I think the German example tells us a lot, even that new broad party’s name: The Left.Of course how you organise the revolutionists in these formations is another question, and here the DSP has maintained its own party structures and routines for the time being. Should they be dissolved and merged completely into the broader party entity– as happened with the Scottish ISM and the United Left in the SSP — I don’t know. Thats’ an aspiration. I don’t think it’s a principle. There may be tactical considerations as to why you should or shouldn’t at any particular juncture– but ultimately how that issue pans out depends on the progress of the party project overall. It seems to me, as Andy has pointed out here, that the key question is whether (and when )these projects can grow their own cadre. For me, the cadre question is the clincher –and ultimately that’s the Leninism question. Thats’ why I rejoined the DSP. And other SAer’s who have done the same will tell you its because the DSP was the keenest, the most hard working and most dedicated builders of the SA as a regroupment project. In fact the partnership with the DSP is the key partnership among the many that make up the SA.

  118. Andy@110 says:

    “Nor it must be daid is the SWP unique, the ISG supported them. And we are beginning to see signs of the Socialist Party behaving in the same way in the national shop stewards network.”

    Off topic I know, but this is the first I’ve heard about it. Care to elaborate?

  119. Dave #129

    Very interesting. I think that what “Leninism” has come to mean in Britain is a synonym for the Healy/Grant/Cliff model of organisation.

    For me the key point is that the broad parties need to be both a coalition building exercise is moving the political context to the left; and also a transitional form of organisation where the class struggle left have space to defend their ideas with the aim of moving the whole party forwards.

    The transitional nature of the organistaion becomes more importnat if we find ourselves winning reforms that are challemnging for cpaitalism to accomodate. Oone of the tings that is inspring about Chavez, is the way the process of revolution continues ot move forward and deepen its popular support, at the same time that Chavez is avoiding a show down with the boss class, all the time strengthening the war of position, and postponing the war of manouevre.

  120. The Irish Mark P on said:

    Out of curiousity Andy, what were the couple of paragraphs at the centre of the dispute about?

  121. To begin with the conclusion of Michael Rosen’s post;
    “What is important is to keep the ideas and activity going. The exact form of that activity is less important than the act of doing it. To imagine that the exact form and finding the exact form is the answer to the present impasse, is I’m sure, an illusion.”

    I think this does sum up our task an important extent. We need first of all to understand the world in order to decide what we should do and then decide the organisational form, appropriate, i.e. the form that best facilitates us to carry out what we need to do.
    So all the organisational schemas, broad party, Socialist Alliance SWP, “Leninist Party” etc. all put the cart before the horse. They define the type of organisational form, irrespective of the political task.
    This exactly inverts what we need to do.
    We need to decide what are the politics we need to fight for now and then determine the best form of organisation to do it.
    Ultimately I believe that will be a revolutionary party, but clearly such is the level of distrust and antipathy between the left (for perfectly reasonable reasons in most instances) its completely unrealistic to believe that people are going to unite in a “broad” or any other type of party, if that is a precondition for united activity.
    It is a barrier to politics not the means to expedite it.
    So let’s decide what we need to do, in as concrete terms as possible, and then decide how we can best work together to achieve those ends, whatever they may be.

  122. Michael Rosen, 15th November:

    what is the shape of the organisation, how is it (tautologically speaking) organised? what is the relationship between branches, regions, national conference(s), central committee(s), full timers, publicly elected representatives etc etc.? what is the system of delegation/representation within the organisation? A lot of people here seem sure that they know what’s wrong with this or that organisation and seem to know, like piers, what kinds of things they’d prefer but no one seems to want to say outright what the constitution of such an organisation would look like.

    Michael Rosen, 16th November:

    What is important is to keep the ideas and activity going. The exact form of that activity is less important than the act of doing it. To imagine that the exact form and finding the exact form is the answer to the present impasse, is I’m sure, an illusion.

    (Just to clarify, I agree with Michael.)

  123. Some remarks in response to Johng’s posts above.

    “the whole discussion of the ancient ‘new mood’ perspective got me thinking. It was of course the moment when in the SWP we sensed that the hegenomy of Thatcherism on ordinary people, as opposed to established political parties was breaking up. It was a mood and not a movement. Perspectives involve giving a framework for activists to think through the contingent problems and opportunities they are confronted with in an organised and non-contingent way.”

    Yes John it was “a mood and not a movement” the problem being that the SWP CC decided that this indefinable mood was the occasion to send the group into hyperactivity with the expectation of making serious gains. And when the expected gains failed to materialise the fulltimers and membership were blamed and the misleadership abnegatedtheir responsibility for a perspective that had proven t be false.

    “The great poll tax revolt (in which we got some things wrong and some things right) arguably contained both the strengths and weaknesses reflected in that over-all analyses of the period and then pushed it further along.”

    Actually, lets be hionest, the SWP faled to nderstand the mood in the class with regard to the Pol tax and turned t ding the kind of cmmunity work the Milllies had been engaged in for months at rather a late stage. Even where the SWP line was correct, in my opinion, it was inoperable as with the ‘don’t collect’ slogan.

    “As the 90’s progressed the formulation ‘political upturn without an industrial upturn’ reflected a similar framework which attempted in the same way to set out a framework which understood the combination of opportunities and limitations we saw in the movement. The political upturn continued to accelerate with a number of ideological shifts and movements which would have been simply unimaginable in the 1980’s until the great explosion around the anti-war movement. Our orientation around Respect was a perfectly logical outcome of this general analyses.”

    No the orientation towards a populist party such as respect des not flow logically from the idea that the class was slowly recovering from the defeats f the 80’s and early 90’s. Rather it was a strategy, not a tactic as with genuine workers united fronts, that did not place the class at its centre and placed a premium on the demobilising method of electoralism.

    “Of course having a general analyses is no barrier to making mistakes, but perhaps one reason why many activists are rather reluctant to jump on the anti-SWP bandwagon is that, whatever the mistakes, those general frameworks have tended to be more right then others and more conducive to sensible politics then many other groups. They’ve consequently played a real role in the real world, a role which cannot be reduced to the mistakes which undoubtably were committed.”

    Not so, the SWP has played a minor role in the real world because of the vaccuum of larger players and the low level of class struggle that enables small groups to appear more influential than they actually are. As for the SWP’s perspectives they have been no better and no wrse than those of many of its competitors. Which is always true in politics as perspectives are always falsified, to some extent, by reality. Nothing wrong with that and ahealthy leadership would take stock and correct the curse of the group they lead. But not the SWP’s CC they regularly cme up with false perspectives and clever tactics that turn to dust befre ther eyes and then they hope the members forget and move on to the next crackpot scheme. This time however sizeable layers of old SWP cadre are asking what has gne wrong and are questioning the ability of no-hopers such as Rees and German to lead the organisation.

    Socialists out of Respect Now!

    Sack Rees and German!

  124. David Ellis on said:

    The collapse of the Soviet Union was a monumental disaster for the international working class which reinvigorated US imperialism and saw the return of, after so many decades, Russian imperialism (the weakest link in the chain once again).

    However, every cloud has a silver lining and in this case it was that with the demise of the Soviet Union went the demise of international state-sponsored centrism and its distorting effect on the labour movement.

    All this passes the SWP by. Their Cold War slogan `neither Washington nor Moscow etc’ itself marked them out as a centrist outfit pandering to and suffering from good old fashioned English empiricism. Of course, unlike the various CPs the SWP was not state-sponsored centrism but was the result of the post-War degeneration of the Fourth International under the pressures of first Trotsky’s death and then the Cold War. The SWP is perhaps the last of the post-War centrist outfits to enter crisis but it was inevitable that it would.

    No doubt centrism has and will emerge in new forms appropriate to the age and cling on in scaled down versions of its old form but Mark Steel is making a tentative but good attempt to escape its clutches in this article. He will however need to go right back and look at everything root and branch with a critical glare if he wants to escape centrism, remain active and take some good comrades with him. Good luck.

  125. Jonathan E. Tipton on said:

    Blimey! I don’t know what shocks me most: the number of ex-students at Lancaster University contributing, or an SWP stalwart, like Mark Steel, biting the hand that has fed him for so long.

    The SWP was, I believe, always controlled by a small, largely unasailable elite – I think most members realise this on some level, whatever they say – it is just a matter of how long you can ignore this before you reach the final personality clash with representatives of this elite which leads to so many members leaving.

    In my case it was a particularly bullying SWP full-timer who, despite my six years of activism, said I had a ‘political problem’, and, worse, said my academic interest and study of Asian religion and philosophy was ‘inconsistent with my socialist activities’. This individual is now, apparently, the chair for Unite Against Fascism in Swansea. Therefore, I am often cynical about the supportive stance towards the muslim community of the Respect coalition (of which I am broadly supportive), in which leading SWP members are key personages; I feel, in their case at least, this unfortunately smacks of political opportunism.

    All the best,

    Jonathan Tipton
    Lancaster University 1994-97.

  126. David Ellis on said:

    Yes, the crimes of Stalinism were indeed monumental disasters culminating in the collapse.

  127. Kevin E on said:

    Mark makes some interesting points. The culture in the SWP needs addressing by SWP members. I am not in it – so it is up to their membership. However, if one believes u are the vanguard, ahead of the class plus democratic centralism can I believe to developing an elitist view. All of this can run counter to raising internal concerns and as we have seen expulsions to those not with the programme.

    All this may refer to the lefty small organisations. For the left to build we all have to keep working with others. Off topic but the recent Times article on the Lost White Boys which related to white working class children losing out in life chances and education is just on other area that the left needs to address in the UK.

  128. Yes the restoration of capitalism. That means an economy based upon commodity production and the law of value, not one based on central planning.
    State capitalism has come back to bite the SWP. Their false characterisation of the ex-Stalinist states, means they are unable to account for the new period of gobalisation which arose after their collapse. Instead, they insist, most vocally in the shape of Harman himself, that nothing has really changed since the 1970s.
    This delusional nonsense is important for the bureaucracy as it gives them a stick to beat the membership with. After all, if there really are the opportunities of the 1970s today, then it must be the subjective failings of the membership which is responsible for the organisations decline.
    Of course this is not the case. The Left is no worse qualitatively today than it was then. What has changed is the objective situation – not the subjective one.
    So for socialists to begin to grapple with what they do now, then they need to first of all understand the world, in order that they can decide what to do about it.

  129. darren redstar on said:

    Just to keep banging an old drum;
    Andy wrote:
    “And in a sense – and this was my objection from day one to the way Respect was launched – they were to blame for their own prepondence in Respect as they took very few of the SA’s membership with them into Respect – effectively dissipating 1000 activists, most of whom solid activists. The mistake of the SWP and ISG who backked them was to seek to close down the SA and thus force people into Respect. And when combined with the lack of nuance n how it was implemeneted on the ground (SWP members who had never been active in the SA turning up for the first time to SA meeitngs to outvote the memebrship to close ot down) caused big bad feeling (and I know at least one memebr of the ISG who resigned from them over their suport for this way of working).”

    andy, who wrote and moved the resolution that the SWP used to close down the SA?

  130. Canadien on said:

    Oh god, this debate has now become like reading an article in Workers Vampire/Hammer – “And in 1960 the third-campist Cliffites failed the test of international working class solidarity when they didn’t support the (fill in the blank)…”

    And anyone who hasn’t studied in detail every decision made by every group in the IST – but most especially those of the SWP – is clearly another example of how the SWP CC systematically under-educates its cadre so as to keep them dependent upon their misleadership. It’s a narrative straight out of a James Bond movie, with the SWP in the role of Dr. No or better yet, Blofeld – petting the cat while plotting the takeover of the planet.
    “Do you expect me to submit to your latest opportunist turn?”
    “No, Mr. Proletarian. I expect you to die. Boo ha ha.”

  131. Whatever Canadien, any excuse not to discuss the issues eh?
    No it was not socialist before capitalism was restored. The key point is not in my view the exact definition, that is a historical question given that these states no longer exist. The key point is it was not capitalist and therefore when capitalism was restored, this not only had a huge ideological effect, the defeat of “communism” but a huge economic one as well, the extension of the world market into these states, doubling of the size of the working class who could be exploited by capital etc.
    By denying these states were non-capitalist before 1990, Harman justifies the notion that nothing has really changed to the world economy since then.
    And hence the bureaucracy of the SWP use this as a stick to beat the membership with and an excuse for whatever opportunist twist and turn they come up with next.

  132. anticapitalista on said:

    so if it wasn’t socialist and it wasn’t capitalist, what was it? And was it ‘progressive’ viz-a-viz capitalism/socialism?

  133. Hi Jonathon T (post no.138)

    Long time no see. So you left the party as well, eh? Join the club! (its huge). Full timer trouble? Making comrades full-timers does often bring out the worst in people! There must have a special handbook for it!

    You go on to say about Mark steels IB piece “Mark Steel, biting the hand that has fed him for so long” – well I’m not sure if thats the case. Probably the hand that feeds Mark is the Independant, the BBC and his comedy career. Which is why, with this fame and popularity he can be more confident in voicing what many comrades still in the party think and feel about developments. Nice one Mark.

    Anyway …see ya later.

  134. Bill J wrote “Yes the restoration of capitalism. That means an economy based upon commodity production and the law of value, not one based on central planning.”

    Now this is all well and good but let us remember that lenin was of the opinion that According to Bill J, if I read his post correctly, the economy of Russia only ceased to be capitalist with the development of a ‘planned economy’. In plain langauge under Lenin and Trotsky Russia was capitalist and only became non-capitalist with the triumph of Stalins Five Year Plan! An understanding of Stalinism I can only describe as idiotic.

    Certainly there are major problems with the SWP’s perspectives today but they are not directly connected to any ideas Chris Harman has about political economy. For the good reason that the SWP, collectively led contrary to Bills earllier assertion, does not derive its practice from its theoretical understanding of capitalism. Rather theory is used post facto to justify whatever hallucinatory rubbish Rees and German dream up.

  135. Canadien on said:

    #147 – “Whatever Canadien, any excuse not to discuss the issues eh?”

    Aw, get a sense of humour, you big palooka.

  136. Re the debate on the post soviet world economy and current perspectives:

    I think you can still have an analysis of the old USSR as ‘State Capitalist’ and also see that the situation post USSR has got worse for the ex-Soviet Union’s working classes and for the world left.

    Similarly, Thatcher and Blair’s neoliberal attacks on British welfare state capitalism have been a defeat for the working class in Britain – but that does not mean before then that Britain was socialist, any more than Russia!

    I understood state capitalism to be a global phase of capitalist development that reached its zenith in the mid 20th century. So the basic trend Bukharin et al saw as towards ‘state monopoly capitalism’ was by the mid century seen in many countries – Hitler’s Germany, Atlee’s Britain, Roosevelt’s New Deal America, Nasser’s Egypt – as well as Stalin’s Russia, etc.

    The contradiction between the ever more collective forces of production versus their private appropriation, that Marx had seen as driving towards socialism, resulted in an epochal state mediated compromise.

    The forces of production had grown so colossal and interconnected, the units of capital larger and more centralised, so that the ruling class as a collective (i.e. the state) had to take collective responsibility for running and planning them. (A related factor was the strength of the organised working class within nationally organised state capitalism). Competition between rival firms became ever more supplanted by competition between nation states, hence WW1, WW2 and the Cold War.

    Plenty of academic sociologists notice this, and point to similar basic features. Some called it ‘organised capitalism’ (Lash & Urry). Others called it ‘Fordism’ (Boyer etc).

    But the basic feature was of a nationally organised capitalism which had to provide concessions to nationally organised working classes. These working classes were gaining in strength and forcing more egalitarian measures on capitalism throughout the 1960’s, so that by the crisis of 1973, the capitalists had to organise the counter attack. That was what became neo-liberal globalisation.

    The break up of welfare states and nationally organised regimes of accumulation gave a great impetus to a new phase of capitalist growth, and has tipped the balance of class forces against us. We will hopefully regain power – through the globalisation of working class resistance.

    None of this should mean a nostalgia for the often brutal nationally organised regimes of the state capitalisms.

  137. Jonathan T. on said:

    To Larry R. (in response to post 138).

    Wotcha, matey! You’re right, long time no see.

    I’ve heard you are now a bit of a mover-and-shaker now in Lancaster University’s Sociology Dept., fair play to you.

    Yeah, left the party some years ago – although I still have a certain association with it, since their are still people who are members who I personally admire and respect, even if I don’t always agree with them. For example, Mike Lavalette, the Preston Respect councillor, is as hard working as any SWP full-timer I have ever known, and a throughly decent human being, too.

    Anyway, if you want to catch up to fill in the gaps in our respective lives, say the word and I’ll flick you an e-mail at your university address – if that is acceptable.

    Regards,

    Jonathan T(ipton).

  138. Andy #131
    ” I think that what “Leninism” has come to mean in Britain is a synonym for the Healy/Grant/Cliff model of organisation.”

    That may be so and I fear that in this debate there’s an attempt to blame it as the cause of the fracas in Respect or to explain the nature of the SWP. Underlying that perhaps too is a game of “our Leninism —or our democratic centralism — is better than yours.” So I gotta say that Leninism is still the elephant in the room and it still very relevant to analysing Chavez’s achievements as it is to forging new party formations. And if we were to say, it’s archaic or dangerous — then we’d close off a major source of inspiration and method.It’s like a capitalist saying, “Fooey! I’m not gonna study business management. I’ll wing it to my first million.”

    This is where being doctrinal can be a handicap and I guess I’m suffering from that a tad by talking up “Leninism” as though thats’ self evident research. But when you come to the challenge of party creation and building and the work that party does — it seems to me that you have to engineer the way you organize to fit what you set out to do. It’s customized — boutique party building.. Over time your immediate requirements will change of course, so any one formulation isn’t going to suit all occasions.Nothing is set in stone(and thats’ a problem with the synonymous ‘model’ — the assumption of rigidity).

    For example: a doctrinal propagandist party formation will organise itself and its work as a doctrinal propagandist party doesn’t have to do much in way of reach out except labor at being right . It’s a bunker view of politics especially in a context where the revolutionary left have been so isolated within the working class.It’s about holding the line and sustaining a patented version of revolutionary continuity.

    And if “Leninism” can be characterised as a Healy/Grant/Cliff synonym then real social and political forces have moulded it that way just as in the halcyon days of Stalinism, the communist parties’ methods had identifiable roots , causes and ‘form’.

    So if these new party prospects are real concrete opportunities to break out of that syndrome how do we preserve that continuity and translate the focused political activity that these outfits are/were capable of into this new situation? Setting up Chinese walls by imposing “united front’ schema on them won’t help much either.

    But if I ask the question: how is a leadership in these new party formations to be created? Thats’ a Lenin “What is to be done? ‘ type question. Just as how this party should organise its work is or how you very broadly discuss out what you want to do next — then do it. Whether you decide to address that via Hugo Chavez rather than Vladimir Lenin, won’t necessarily change the answers you arrive at either. The core requirement is to tackle a very challenging reality and overcome any penchant for schematism.

    Our problem is to scale down any Chavez example or Bolshevik inspiration to suit the Tower Hamlets or Bondi when we’re not the elected government of the day or on the cusp of state power.

  139. golden oldie woman on said:

    Spot on Mark. Only we felt exactly the same after 10 years in the organisation in the 1970s. Bring back the ISO! The alternative, as Mike Rosen well knows, are all the organisations on the ground fighting a myriad of green, international left causes . The SWP predicted we would all go rightwards if we left, but many of us are still at confronting inequalities, capitalism and the abuse of power. Without the SWP we might have had an effective mass organisation against the war, like the old CND. In my experience the SWP (STW) doesn’t just burn people out, separate them from the messy world of everyday experience, and ordinary people, but actively undermines genuine grassroots based organistion. The other way this feed reminds me of the 1970s is that it is entirely male. Ever thought why that might be the case?

  140. David Ellis on said:

    Well said Golden Oldie Woman. I always thought that to join the SWP or indeed any of the `large’ post-War centrist formations was to leave politics. As Trotsky said, centrism acts as a barrier between the working class and marxism. In the SWP’s case that is not just metaphorical. At some demonstrations they would literally act as a barrier standing in front of you to prevent you distributing your literature whilst their own members were vitual hostages separated from the broader movement even whilst they appeared immersed in it. And the reason they were big enough to do that was not because they were correct and reflecting the objective situation but for the exact opposite reasons. They were the most wrong. They took the line of least resistance politically (neither washington nor moscow) which pandered to prejudices and made it easier to recruit the middle classes especially students. All they have achieved is to bring middle class prejudices into the working class movement and leave them unchanged. They were incapable of patient exemplary work and engaged only in smash and grab or takeover operations. For a hard-bitten `revolutionary’ outfit of many years standing their disingenuous claims to have been caught off guard by Galloway are comical and manipulative but, contradictorily, at the same time true.

    Here is a letter I found from 1997. I don’t know the writer unfortunately and it is a bit rambling but is relevantish I think:

    http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Index/Authors.html

  141. Grim and Dim on said:

    I am puzzled by David Ellis’s use of the term “centrism”. When it was coined by the Comintern it had a fairly clear meaning. There was a revolutionary Comintern, a reformist Second International, and various groups that oscillated between the two. Whichever side you were on the category made sense.

    Trotsky’s use was already more problematic, since the revolutionary current (the Fourth international) was so small, and the various “centrist” groupings were considerably larger. But it was still clear what he meant.

    Now if David Ellis believes the SWP is “centrist”, it must mean that it oscillates bewteen the reformist and revolutionary wings of the movement. But where is the revolutionary wing? Is it an organisation of which Cde Ellis a member? If so why does he not tell us what it is? Such coyness is utterly alien to the traditions of the Comintern and the FI.

    Or does it exist only inside Cde. Ellis’s head? It is a peculiar definition of centrism which would see the SWP as oscillating bwteen the Labour Party and the contents of Cde. Ellis’s head.

  142. I’ve often wondered about imaginary oscillations. Now all is revealed. Nice to see folk from the 1970’s explaining how they was right all along as well. All welcome here etc.

  143. David Ellis on said:

    Grim and Dim. Ha, ha. The idea of the SWP oscillating between me and the Labour Party. That’s quite funny. Unfortunately it is not I or my imaginary organisation. I think perhaps you are looking at the question a bit too formally. Zig Zagging is internal to the nature of centrism.

    By the way, I don’t want to give the impression that the break up of the SWP will bring me any great pleasure. Far from it. Many good people will be lost to revolutionary socialism mainly because of the absence of that revolutionary wing of which you speak. No I’m trying to be objective. Ideally the SWP would take this opportunity to reexamine everything as an organisation from the beginning but unfortunately these things do only seem to take place through splits or a series of splits and even then there is no guarantee.

  144. David Ellis, I’m amazed at the presumption that the SWP is about to ‘break up’. Do tell us more.

  145. Grim and Dim on said:

    I was simply suggesting that the term “centrism” may be an obstacle to concrete analysis of real problems rather than assisting it.

  146. Grim and Dim’s failure to recognise the importance of the term centrism is a sure sign of the most flagrant and unforgiveable opportunism. I have a strong urge to write a wildly important missive on the subject. But will resist the temptation and rely on the force of my imagination instead. Much relieved to hear that David is not imagining an imminant split merely excercising his powers to ensure that we would all have a correctly sombre attitude towards the thing, should it occur.

    I am about, with some anticipation, to examine further imaginary arguments about the possible withdrawel of analogies with the 1950’s Labour Party.

    Mainly though I’m waiting to hear from someone moderately sane about what happened at the conference, and what happened at the rally.

    Didn’t want to pack any meetings y’see.

  147. Yeah Dave Ellis, IS, SWP opposition to both Moscow and WAshington really hindered the working class from getting involved because the Soviet Union was sooooooo popular during the fifties and sixties. What?!!!! All that happened was the old CP was able to hang on to some militants and the ones I knew just used to look the other way when the Soviet Union was mentioned!

  148. oh come on Mike, all this anti-stalinism business is old hat these days. we’re moving foward into a post-leninist form of politics which involves non-sectarianism towards the peoples democracies, er, er….

    Actually that was a complete relapse into pointless sectarianism. But its saturday night and its been a long day…

  149. David Ellis on said:

    `Grim and Dim’s failure to recognise the importance of the term centrism is a sure sign of the most flagrant and unforgiveable opportunism.’

    I think that is overly harsh in the circumstances. Grim’s question was a good one I thought and I understand that some times theoretical matters can appear to get in the way of concrete analysis but that has been the problem with the SWP all along. Empiricism.

    Not sure what you’re saying in 165 but if it is a criticism of the SWP’s uncritical welcoming back of the former Eastern bloc states into the imperialist fold then I think you are on the right track.

    Thanks for pitching in.

  150. David Ellis on said:

    Michael,

    The point is the IS/SWP always take the line of least resistance. Their failure to defend the Soviet Union despite its Stalinist degeneration was the easy/opportunist route. They dumped Trotsky’s analysis and with it dialectical materialism as if you could go back to Lenin and ignore what had happened in between. When they use Trotsky at all it is in an eclectic fashion for opportunist reasons never explaining how Trotsky could be right about this and wrong about that i.e. showing where he was and was not using the Marxist method.

    Take jjohng’s advice there when he points out you ignore these things at your peril. How can you explain the current situation without relating it to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Yugoslav Wars, Chechnya, the rise of the neo-con in America and of Blairism in Britain and the current war in Iraq and so on and so forth. Everything is interconnected, theory will tell you that. Empiricism will not.

    Empiricism ultimately won’t tell you why the SWP has organised this split either and why it is with breathtaking wrecklessness putting a community in danger for its own narrow interests.

  151. Dr. “always so polite” (see below) Ray Wall has his own take on both Respect events on his blog.

    What a surreal day. The bit which was most surreal was vigorously clapping a speech by Tower Hamlets Councillor Rania Khan attacking me. It is polite to clap, even when one is being slated. Councillor Khan, who apologised to me to her credit, condemned Respect renewal for having ‘Derek Wall from the Green Party’ on the platform, she didn’t realise that I was to speak on the same platform as her about 20 minutes later. Very funny.

    and

    I don’t think either RESPECT is going to fly, although I would like to see Greens work with socialists, the socialists outside the Green Party are painfully divided, Socialist Party and Labour Representation Committee from the Labour Left had conferences as well today. At least I and other speakers at both conferences were able to flag up important work that all radicals could get involved with…solidarity with Venezuela, ‘building’ support for the climate change march on December 8th and the February 9th Trade Union Conference on climate change.

    Gave me two bites of the cherry to talk about all the things I talk about on this blog, gay and lesbian rights (‘I think we call them human rights’), radical green politics, the need for commons, green bits in Marx, liberal Islam.

    Difficult to judge and not for me to do, both conferences a couple of hundred, the RR seemed much more upbeat but clearly not just the SWP are in the other one. I don’t think that two RESPECTs will flourish but party politics for radicals in England is a tough game. Even in Scotland with the divisions between the Socialist Party and Solidarity and Green losses, politics looks a lot fresher, more radical and green.

    http://another-green-world.blogspot.com/2007/11/two-respect-conference-hear-dr-wall.html

  152. Anonymouse on said:

    Just to explain one comment from Mark Steel, i will post the very credible and 100% reliable explanation from M.S. about the refusal of Mark’s text for the first bulletin (because not knowing where your money comes from or what’s your most famous member status is perfectly normal).

    NB: Mark states that over the question of his membership, “something somewhere, is definitely not right”. The problem does not lie at the National Office but at Mark’s own failure to register as a member.
    Mark stopped paying subs to the SWP in November 2002 and last registered as a party member in 2003. All contact details on our data base were out of date and
    remain so.
    This was pointed out to Mark personally on a number of occasions and was raised by myself at the SWP National
    Conference in 2005 in a discussion on membership. After the conference Mark contacted me and said he would sort out
    the problem – he never did.
    The system for recording membership is simple and works. As Mark did not register he became an “unregistered member”. After a second year of remaining unregistered Mark’s membership lapsed. This process is to ensure that we
    do not write people off too quickly, but also so that we have an accurate as possible record of our actual membership.
    At some point after 2003 Mark restarted his subs, however because he had not re-registered, it was impossible for our system to link his payment to his name. It was only when Mark wanted to submit his document that the question of his membership was discussed. After this he supplied us with his bank details we were then able to establish that he had
    been paying subs and we could then link the payment to the person.
    It is a bit poor of Mark to imply that there has been any skulduggery regarding his membership.

    MS,

    National Secretary

  153. David Ellis on said:

    Hastily written long post: apologies.

    Congratulations to RR for surviving the SWPCC’s scorched earth policy not just intact but re-invigorated and politically strengthened.

    Behind all the bluster the split boils down to a difference in perspective. Perspectives on the general situation but also on the purposes and prospects of Respect. The centrist SWPCC misread the situation from the very beginning as is their want. If the situation calls for a zig they will invariably zag. They took the break amongst Muslim communities from New Labour as a sign of a more general working class disaffection and radicalisation. Respect was a band wagon that would transform the SWP into the mass, nationwide revolutionary party potentially overnight. The truth was somewhat more arcane. There were very particular reasons why the TH and other Muslim communities were suddenly open to electing a left of Labour MP. New Labour’s war in Iraq was putting these communities under intense pressure that wasn’t generally felt by others both from without but also from within. Their youth were radicalising but they were becoming potential fodder for Al Qaeda type outfits out of desperation. Not only that, but these groups were threatening to impose a particularly vicious form of Sharia law on these communities that they simply didn’t want but if they continued rubbing along with New Labour they were undoubtedly going to get – witness Finsbury – not to mention the intense police and fascist attention these communities would receive if they spawned a series of suicide bombers. It was bad enough already. George Galloway came along just in time for TH and vice versa. With his radical anti-war stance and principled anti-Zionism these communities were able to unite against both internal and external dangers. In that sense, Galloway and the TH Respect rank and file has done more to minimise terrorism in London and Britain than all the police forces, secret services, New Labour Home Secretaries and reactionary laws put together. In fact, those latter have done the opposite and managed to kill an innocent Brazilian on the way. That will sound hopelessly hyperbolic to some simply because they hate socialism far more than they hate Al Qaeda. After all, what care they if a few British youngsters take their own lives and sixty or seventy civilians with them? Not a lot. It’s all business as usual, gris to the mill, politically helpful. And the Al Qaeda cynics, well they get their `radicalising’ pogroms. Everybody’s happy except of course the hard pressed mainly working class Muslim communities.

    So, given that the perspective is not and cannot be one of transforming Respect into a nationwide mass alternative party to Labour in the near future, in the current situation, which can of course change rather quickly, then RR’s approach, to borrow from Peter Cook, must be the three Cs. Consolidation, consolidation, consolidation. Without the SWP who were undermining local building because of their bizarre, impatient, national perspective for the organization (really their organization), consolidation should now be easier. That is why, I think, people feel a bit liberated at the moment without that disruptive SWP monkey on their backs. Defending Muslim communities from fascist attacks and arguing for socialism but also getting involved in the day to day politics of communities such as funding for this nursery, fighting for that hospital etc will cement RR’s position amongst their core constituency but also eventually catch the eye of the wider working class. I don’t think RR will ever be the mass alternative party to Labour but I think it will be part of it, however it manifests, and will help to affect its formation. Personally I believe a general social movement of the working class will manifest itself firstly in the Labour Party.

    Having said all that about day to day gritty politics, it would be foolish to get bogged down on the question of GG’s accountability or otherwise. That would be to allow the departing organisation to set the agenda. Even whilst they were undermining him in his own constituency they were, or they would have been if they weren’t so useless, building their own organisation on the back of his national reputation in other parts of the country. They knew that his ability to pursue his anti-war agenda without the day to day problems of running a constituency office was a big plus for the wider movement or should have been if the wider movement didn’t for them = SWP. GG is like Respect’s PM in a sense and that is why the Muslim community of TH elected him. They needed more than a workaday constituency MP on this occasion. The RR ground troops can do the constituency work and I’m sure if GG ever has to be reigned in on certain points, without being pedantic, they will through their roots in the community have the power to do so. Galloway is there to be used so use him.

    As for the SWP, they really do need to indulge in some serious self-criticism, root and branch stuff, if they are to come out of this with any kind of future. When Galloway praised them so fulsomely that was like political gold but they have thrown it all away like they throw everything away. They are like the guy who wrote `How I Turned $25 million real estate into $10 cash’. The SWP don’t really want to build a mass party despite the fact that this split seems to be about that very perspective. This is in fact a very sectarian turn given that the objective situation isn’t going to give rise to mass revolutionary party in the immediate future. If it was they’d be going the other way.

  154. David Ellis on said:

    Yep, that’s what makes the actions of the CC and John Rees even more despicable. Users.

  155. Andy W / IS Group on said:

    The main problem in all this is not the leadership of the SWP but its membership, who are genuinely, scarily militant when it comes to fighting injustice in the world at large, but terrified of taking on their own leadership in order to establish even the most basic democratic norms within their party.

    The nature of SWP democracy was a hot topic for the IS Group of the mid-1990’s, who published a number of pamphlets on this theme, describing the nature of SWP democracy, the theory behind it, and what might be done to correct it.

    We also published Jim Higgins’ excellent history of the SWP ‘More Years for the Locust’.

    You can read some of these documents here:

    http://www.andyw.com/ow.asp?VariousEssays#preview

    I am making these documents available again because they seem to me to be entirely relevant to the debate that is taking place around the SWP and Respect.

  156. Blimey Andy

    Where have you been since then???

    BTW – do you still have any hard-copy versions of the locusts book left?

  157. Andy,

    Great minds etc. I just dropped Andy an email to ask him. Maybe Resistance can reprint it if it’s out of print.

    Duncan.

  158. “Where have you been since then???”

    oh, here and there 😉

    watching the debate around Respect, though, it is very difficult to resist intervening. This has been coming for a long time.

    When I was expelled I remember talking to Weekly Worker about what would happen when Cliff died – they predicted a collapse. I remember that we argued that Rees and German would effectively take control and drive the party god-knows-where…

    Whatever happened to Chris Harman? I am astounded at his silence.

  159. Well I was never taken with your critique that the problems with the SWP were based upon a theoretical error. I think the problems are more based upon institutional conservatism, and habits that have grown up on an ad hc basis. Indeed the actually existing SWP owes little to any a priori theorisation, and a lot to vested interests.

    Viewed in that way, Harman is not the architect of an intelligent but wrong view of the relationship between Party and Class poised to intenvene to save the party, but rather he is an oldish man who has given his life to playing second fiddle, and his life’s work is turning to ruin – in which case pschologically and politically he is in no position to intervene.

    The collegiate ldeadership since Cliff died also means there was no-one with the authority to be as ruthless as Cliff would have been in making someone fall on their sword. Though i did hear some VERY interesting gossip from someone who had recently been having a chat with one of the most senior SWP CC people that suggested Rees may be out soon.

  160. Hi Andy

    I have never thought that the problems the SWP have are ‘based on a theoretical error’. I do, however, think that theoretical clarity and historical accounting might help guide people in unpicking and reversing errors, whatever their cause. In short, my hope at the time of the IS Group was that some clarity over the issues involved would encourage people to be more vigilant in looking after their democratic rights within the party.

    Removing Rees would be a start, but for the SWP to revive would need wider changes, which, frankly, I do not believe anyone there has the courage to address. I have been astounded in recent years to see how the worst apparat types have been elevated into ‘the leadership’ – maybe everyone else just fell away. When I heard, eg., that Michael Bradley, Martin Smith, Moira Nolan and Candy Unwin were on the CC I choked on my breakfast.

    The SWP I was in would never have stooped to the kind of stunts the current CC have dragged them into (anyone for the Campaign Against People Exploitation?). I discuss the SWP with a fairly senior member who joined after I left, and the things he takes for granted I find simply staggering (the attitude to the Muslim community, to Galloway, the ‘united front of a special type’, ad nauseam.)

    I did think that Molyneux’s intervention was interesting – the first time for years that there has been even a sign of independent life in the party. I note, however, that Molyneux has taken an ultra-loyalist line since the implosion of Respect. In many ways I think that may be the purpose of Rees’s ‘left turn’ – to whip up the talk of a witch hunt in order to get the cdes to rally against hostile forces, and thereby shut down the debate over their ruinous policy that was just beginning to open.

    For the record, the ISG ten years ago began to argue the need to develop an electoral alternative to New Labour – of course we were denounced as ‘reformists’. The SWP since then seem to have lurched into a completely unprincipled alliance that has inevitably now gone awry. However, in the bigger picture they remain committed to building an electoral front to the left of (New) Labour. I wonder how they will do that now?

    I nearly cried with laughter watching a video of Rees at the Respect conference explaining the massive electoral pressures that had come to bear as a result of Respect’s huge successes… he, of course, being the main culprit when it came to making sure that, eg., Galloway was not accountable to the rest of Respect – that is precisely the unpricipled deal he lashed up to start with. How the hell can he act so surprised now? a complete and utter sham.

    Since I am putting my cards on the table, I think that the line that The Weekly Worker has taken from the start has been the correct one regarding the formation and history of Respect, through to the current debacle.

    re. your comments on Harman – I more or less agree, but I regret that someone so capable seems to have wrapped his hand in. I just get the feeling that he can’t possibly have agreed with the nonsense that the Rees / German axis has come up with. I realise that he has supported it in public, of course, and maybe I am just wrong about this.

    I note also that the horizontal communication enabled by the internet is an absolute disaster for the SWP’s type of centralism. For that we can all be grateful.

  161. Thanks for that Andy. A lasting legacy of the IS group is getting that excellent memoir out of Jim Higgins – which in itself did a great deal for demystifying Cliffism.

    It is amazing that Moira Nolan and Michael Bradley could ever be considered for the CC. It is hard to imagine what they possibly add.

  162. Tony Greenstein on said:

    Ah yes Windermere Terrace. Bought collectively by a group of IS members, mainly teachers, a large house that was eventually sold for a killing. What happened to people like Steve Emms, the full-timer, Nigel Varley and others? I was involved in work around schools and when our work conflicted with that of the R&F Teachers they threw a wobbly with Sean Doherty having to be restrained from attacking me physically.

    Oh and the incident with the megaphone is a nice one but resides entirely within the memory/fantasy of Georgier.

    I note that Georgier addresses me by my last name. Habits of the schoolmaster die hard.

    Tony Greenstein

    >>Greenstein
    I remember you at an IS social event in Windemere Terrace Liverpool, 1972 standing outside that shouting onto a megaphone “This is a police raid” an the comrades burning all the memberships and contact records foe Merseysoide IS
    Holier than you or what

    Comment by georgier — 16 November, 2007 @ 12:42 am

  163. Apologies for this rather late response to the posts above but family afairs have prevented by doing s before now.

    Actually I do believe that the moral and ethical standards in operation within the IS/SWP did decline between say the early 1970’s and the early 1990’s. Indeed all the evidence points to such a conclusion.

    Just as the evidence points to the conclusion that TG was, in fact, expelled for being disruptive. In any event his expulsion was justified by reason of his breaking group discipline in a public fashion as he freely acknowledges.

    Indeed I at the time of TG’s expulsion dissent from the line decided by the groups conference and executed by the CC was the right and privilige of all comrades. Examination of the, then regular, internal bulletins shows that this right was freely made use of by a wide variety of comrades. But not by TG who chose instead to flaunt group discipline thereby displaying his cntempt for the groups democracy.

    Good by the way to see Andy W commenting here. And if Andy N is interested I have a small cache of copies of the Higgins book.

  164. Tony Greenstein on said:

    Mike Pearn ignores the main point that I made, viz. that the accusation of being ‘disruptive’ is the kind of catch-all McCarthyite charge so loved by witch-hunters. As the person who was expelled, I am in a position to know exactly what happened. In fact the Branch initially refused to agree to an expulsion motion and the CC brought up their Industrial Organiser, one Roger Rosewell, to organise it.

    And what became of Rosewell you may ask? Well he became a paid official of Aims of Industry, a leader writer for the Daily Mail and Lady Shirley Porter’s bag carrier! An excellent example of a non-disruptive socialist in fact. I openly argued against the SWP position of discarding Irish work and closing down the Anti-Internment League because it was a concession to British imperialism. Lenin also appealed over the heads of the Bolshevik CC when he disagreed with them. There is no principle that you remain mute and silent in the fact of a turn to the right.

    But I notice Mike Pearn doesn’t repeat the previous allegation of lack of veracity. He prefers to pretend he never said it.

  165. #174 Andy W: I tried to leave you a message at your page (on open wiki), but the edit function is password protected, so I couldn’t.

    How can I leave you a message then?

  166. Andy N, cannot agree with you about Moira Nolan.

    You will not find a better fighter for socialist ideas anywhere on the planet.

    [I helped recruit her to the SWP, in a *very small* way…]

  167. IP Freely on said:

    “I repeat: I would not have published it without Mark’s permission before it had entered the public domain.

    but … stable door, horse, bolted.

    Comment by Andy — 15 November, 2007 @ 1:37 pm”

    Bullshit. That’s like saying it’s OK to buy a stereo you know has been knocked off.

    Keep up the ‘Unity’ work of promoting sectarian in-fighting.