I’ll Cry if I Want to

perryman-jan2013

Following up ‘Crawling from the Wreckage’, Mark Perryman provides his own back-history to suggest the need for accounts of life inside and outside the Left if we are to remake what our politics have become.

In an earlier post, Crawling From The Wreckage, I suggested that in the process of mapping out a space for the Outside Left it is vital to find the means to have an honest and open account of the journey which has take so many of us outside the organised Left, or the experiences which explained why we never attracted to being a part a closed membership organisation to define our politics at all. This may appear too tentative for those who desire the thrill of the rush headlong towards another chapter of reorganising the chairs on the deck of the good ship Socialist Titanic, but I prefer this mood of doubt and uncertainty that is required in the cause of meaningful renewal.

This isn’t a case of establishing a left culture of the confessional for the sake of it, although the maxim ‘the personal is political’ should retain its vitality and relevance today as much as when it was first coined over 30 years ago by socialist feminists dissatisfied by and alienated from Left organisation and practice. One contributor to the Crawling from the Wreckage discussion, Alan Gibbons, illustrated extremely well how in providing an autobiographical account, we can begin to map a different future. Andy Newman has also quoted Alan’s contribution in his own recent post Explaining the SWP Paradox, yet Alan’s contribution is so poignant to the issues, it is worth quoting again in full;

I joined the SWP in 1974. I left in the mid ninety nineties. I worked on Socialist Worker for a time. I was a member of the National Committee for many years. Most of the experience was positive. I was around at the start of the Right to Work Campaign, the Anti Nazi League and Rock Against Racism. I can still look back with pride on those years. I was a shop steward in a factory in the north west when we broke the 10% pay freeze, winning our members a 16% pay rise. I was President of Knowsley NUT. The SWP taught me working class history and fired me with a conviction that women’s liberation, internationalism and anti racism were at the heart of the fight for socialism.
Over time I started to become disenchanted with some elements of the organisation’s practice. On a number of occasions I excused things I thought were inexcusable, but never anything like the alleged events that have emerged recently.

After being harried for some years as a ‘syndicalist’ and becoming the victim of some very underhand, unpleasant and dishonest behaviour I hung on because I subscribed to most of what the SWP was saying. It wasn’t exactly ‘my party right or wrong’, but it wasn’t far off. Eventually that became untenable and I quit. My resignation letter featured two issues: party democracy and unrealistic perspectives.

Like a lot of other exes, I did not stop being a socialist just because I left an organisation. I have a great affection for much of the party’s tradition and am close friends with many SWP members. I find myself looking on aghast at recent developments however. I am now an independent socialist and a prominent library and anti cuts campaigner. I am in a party of one and there are disagreements! I work with SWP members, Socialist Party members, Respect, Counterfire and Labour Party members and others, but mainly with people in no party, trade union and community activists and ordinary members of the public who want to save what is left of the public services.
What strikes me is that much of the Left is demoralised and inactive. I organised the 200-delegate Campaign for the Book conference. How many organised socialists attended? None, but it was successful. I helped organise the Speak up for Libraries lobby of parliament. How many organised socialists attended? None, but it was successful. I helped organise the SUFL conference. How many organised socialists attended? Two, and yes, it was a success.

So why am I posting this comment even though I find the tone of much of the debate gloating and distasteful? It is because many of the best people in the Left are in the SWP, the SP, Respect and other grouplets and often keep a watching brief on this forum. It is also because I now feel that the baleful legacy of a a distorted concept of party and democratic centralism is making them ever more passive, hog-tied or irrelevant or both.

Tony Mulhearn’s candidacy in Liverpool was very creditable. He got a decent vote, beat the Tory and I spoke at a 450 strong rally. Events like this, Galloway’s victory in Bradford and others can be part of the recovery of the Left but no one grouping can insist on its papal superiority. That idea is redundant. If a Left outside the Labour Party is to be rebuilt it has to be democratic, principled and open. It has to tolerate difference without being paralysed by division. It has to conduct itself in a way that is consistent with a desire to achieve women’s liberation and socialism. A creative regroupment of the Left is essential and overdue. I haven’t given up hope that it can happen. Like thousands of others I would not touch any kind of party membership card with a bargepole at the moment but, given the right circumstances, I would energetically throw myself into a new formation that is capable of learning from the past.

I would only add that the account Alan provides, while it is framed by his experience inside and outside of one organisation, IS/SWP, retells a story that connects to life in and out of so many other organisations, and none. This is what provides the poignancy.

The confessional in my view also needs to ecumenical to be effective. ‘The ecumenical Left’ is something deeper than simply being non-sectarian which is usually organisation and framed by convenience in one sort of front or not. The ‘ecumenical’ is about being wilfully open to a variety of ideologies and traditions of the Left, and sometimes beyond too. Combine this with a confessional practice and the words and the values seem almost foreign to being on the left, what does this tell us? But however difficult this process is worth having, not to indulge in point-scoring, revisiting often arcane, at best, historical differences, exploring our political navels disconnected from any kind of wider picture. Rather we must remember that while the numbers who exit the organised left to find a place like Alan that is anything-but-a-wilderness are reasonably significant in the smallish world we occupy, most Left Outsiders have never been ‘insiders’ at all, ever, so we tell and learn from those tales in order perhaps to understand why.

Last year I wrote a chapter in a collection After The Party subtitled ‘Reflections on Life Since the CPGB.” My piece was like Alan Gibbon’s an attempt to understand what those years of membership of an organisation meant, what good remained from them, what was bad too, the activism I found after leaving, how these experiences helped shape what I still hope will become a Better Left, on the Outside but making a difference.

The chapter The Revolution is Just a T-shirt Away is now available, with thanks to the publisher Lawrence & Wishart, free as a download here.

The piece isn’t definitive, none of these kinds of contributions could claim to be, nor is there a single template, but I do hope as the Crawling From The Wreckage began to suggest might become possible it can offer as an encouragement to others to contribute their experiences and in a similar spirit of helpful and honest intent. Open-ended but with some kind of purpose in sight.

51 comments on “I’ll Cry if I Want to

  1. history tells us things on said:

    I noitice Lorna Reith is one if the contibutors to the book, if it is the same L/R, she was CEO of the Disability Alliance which was completely co-opted by N7L and the emerging corporate lords of poverty such as Serco, etc and which utimately helped facilitate N/L’S brutal welfare reforms. One recalls that at a LP Conference a while ago, the ‘disability hub’ was sponsered by the above mentions multi-national.

    bit of a trajectory?

  2. Mark P on said:

    I can’t answer for the other contributors, tho’ yes it is the same Lorna Reith. Each contributed their own experience, it wasn’t a collective effort.

    I’m simply providing mine as a contribution towards this ida that by retelling thee experiences we may begin to piece together what a better Left might look lke. Without that process then its deckchairs and the good ship Titanic time I fear whatever group, or none, we’re exiting from.

    Mark P

  3. history tells us things on said:

    I didn’t want to be churlish in what is an important debate, but many disabled people are very bitter about the D/A’s role in welfare reform and this was an obvious space to raise it.

  4. Mark P on said:

    Not churlish in the least!

    I was simply pointing out that I hold no brief for Lorna’s contribution and the various authors simply told their own tale and drew their own conclusions. Perhaps needless to say mine differed from Lorna’s in large part.

    Mark P

  5. Nadia Chern on said:

    I remember growing up and becoming politically active in London. After the 1987 stock market crash, left parties would hold public meetings under the slogan ‘Preparing for Power’. It was deluded but worked in some sense as propaganda to attract small numbers.

    The problem I have with Mark P’s analysis is the notion that the grave crisis of the last few years in capitalism should somehow have led to advances for the left. This strikes me as a highly subjective position without a clear precursor in historical terms.

    If we analyzed the crisis that led to the Great Depression, we do not see the left making advances for some time. In Britain, the CP shrank in the first 2 years and only began to reemerge after 1931. You can see similar patterns across Europe where the crisis precipitated a shift rightwards initially then the left recovered after some time. The Crash of 1929 was a far more convulsive shock with immediately dramatic consequences compared to today. The situation moved quicker than it will today, partly due to the power of state intervention in the banking system.

    In every great historic crisis, the left does not initially move forward or grab the political agenda. This is even more evident in this decade as the working class movement has been atrophied more than in the rest of Europe. Therefore the comparison with Greece may be useful in propaganda terms (just as it was with the Arab Spring) but has little real value in practical terms at present.

    There seems a failure to recognize these problems.

  6. Mark P on said:

    Nada

    Thanks. I think you can separate out the two analyses.

    Firstly the period which I have suggested previously were favourable for the growth of the Outside Left was actually 197-2010 for the most part pre the economic crisis? I actually believe the situation now is considerably less favourable. 1997-2010 was a period of a genuine mass movement, massive disaffection from Labour with some hundreds of thousands exoting the party leftwards and a small electoral breakthrough by Respect.

    But my second point, which I stress in this contribution and previously in ‘Crawling from the Wreckage’ is diffeent and not predicated on the first. That there exists a substantial, if diminished Outside Left, many are outsiders fom organisations they’ve exited or been forced out from, many more are outsiders never having joined any group. If this audience is to become part of a better Left we need a process. And I have characterised this as mixing the confessional with the ecumenical, arguing that these are values and prctices largely alien to pre-existing Left organisational practice.

    Both demand engaging with the tentative, the uncertainty, privilege humility, require risk-taking and open-ness.

    None of this requires you agree with my former point, which in any case characterised 1997-2010 as the moment of opportunity not 2008-2013.

    Hope this is helpful.

    Mark P

  7. Mark P,

    I get the feeling,Mark, that what you’re basically arguing for is a “back to basics” approach to socialist politics ? If so, then I would agree. I’d like to see fewer of these different particular “tendencies” and a more general articulation of socialist principles of commitment to public ownership, preservation of the welfare state , committments to full employment and containment of the detrimental effects of the market economy. Pretty general, I know, but the detail can be worked out by bigger minds than mine. A party that can put this type of platform forward is one that many of the disaffected in the general population, along with the already politicised, can coalesce around and build momentum.

  8. Omar: Mark P, I get the feeling,Mark, that what you’re basically arguing for is a “back to basics” approach to socialist politics ? If so, then I would agree. I’d like to see fewer of these different particular “tendencies” and a more general articulation of socialist principles of commitment to public ownership, preservation of the welfare state , committments to full employment and containment of the detrimental effects of the market economy. Pretty general, I know, but the detail can be worked out by bigger minds than mine. A party that can put this type of platform forward is one that many of the disaffected in the general population, along with the already politicised, can coalesce around and build momentum.

    I accept your sincerity, Omar, but also there is a contradiction here. There is a yearning to break from the decades old practices of the Left, combined with a call for more of the same – the description of socialist principles as “commitment to public ownership, preservation of the welfare state , committments to full employment and containment of the detrimental effects of the market economy”. Both the need for a “party” and the main elements of it’s programme are assumed as being completely axiomatic. I don’t accept these preconceptions. I don’t want “preservation of the welfare state”, I want the state’s abolition. I don’t want “containment of the detrimental effects of the market economy”, I want the market economy to be replaced by communism. I don’t believe that the kind of programme you outline can inspire anybody outside the existing Left – rather, the acceptance of the idea that these things constitute the limit of what is possible is likely to demoralize. This is exactly the approach which has failed over the years.

    To map out the way forward the “back to basics” approach has to be real, with no preconceptions. We need to discuss, analyse, and understand every aspect of the human condition in the modern world. Then, perhaps, we can develop a strategy which really can resonate with people’s real lived experiences.

  9. Manzil on said:

    I think Omar and Zaid are in their own way complicating what should be a very simple matter when it comes to unity. The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles…

    If you (broadly) accept this, it’s just a question of: which side are you on?

    Unity in action shouldn’t presuppose ideological conformity, whether of the ‘revolutionary’ or the ‘broad left’ stripe. I don’t think getting people to accept ‘the welfare state’ or ‘the state’s abolition’ is necessary from the perspective of either position, or indeed realisable.

    Don’t cross a picket line. Don’t make things worse for the working class. Don’t surrender the principle of independent socialist/workers’ organisation. These are principles which have real, practical effects.

    Talking about whether we want communism or just a social market economy, however, doesn’t.

    Let’s discuss that when the entire national left can’t all fit into Friends’ Meeting House.

  10. Nadia Chern on said:

    Yes, very helpful, Mark. One of the most interesting issues is that while periods of crisis may not be favourable to the ‘outside’ left as such, they do usually augur well for Labour governments as 1929 showed.

    As far as 1997-2010 is concerned, I am not convinced it was a period when the left should have advanced. If we understand the circumstances in which the Stop the War Coalition was originally launched in Oxford in 1999, it was based upon a recognition from its organizers that the supposed ‘end of the honeymoon’ for the Labour government would not come from public sector unions in some dramatic confrontation but would come from a split in Labour ranks as a result of foreign adventures.

    While the political movement against war advanced to a degree which mostly overwhelmed the existing left and ruined some of the pretensions to be mass leaders, the industrial situation continued to work against the left as union density and membership retreated and organization collapsed.

    The result has been huge unevenness in the willingness of working class communities to pitch to the left or to express discontent with Labour. This unevenness and the lack of community profile that the atrophy of the left has delivered is something that will need address and long term planning to overcome.

    Thinking through the organizational issue, it can work two ways in the light of this analysis. It can either be seen as an acceptance of the root weakness of the left or it can produce a pressure for more dialogue and forward thinking which I think would be very fruitful.

  11. Zaid: We need to discuss, analyse, and understand every aspect of the human condition in the modern world.

    With all due respect,Zaid, discussion and analysis has been taking place for decades and the result is shrinkage, not expansion, of socialist ideas within the mainstream political sphere. Additionally, it is not about what “you” want, but about the needs of the working class. I’ve seen plenty of the “professional” activist-types over the years, and while they have their place, their particularism and occasionally hectoring tone when trying to shape the outcomes of the rare discussions they actually have with ordinary folks, usually results in the latter rolling their eyes and walking away.

  12. Mark I want to start from a slightly different place.
    As you know AN and I have some words on the other original post and there are good reasons for this.
    Newman is quite open that he is happy if this site helps cause as much damage to the SWP (& AWL) as possible. That is one position.
    At the other end there are the SWP ‘loyalists’ and I can understand Tony Collins response to them at his post #420.
    Then there are those who are following Lenin’s tomb. At the moment I don’t see any significant wish on their part to undertake a full accounting of SWP theory and practice over the last decade or more. Again at the moment and unfortunately those comrades have a very limited perspective on what changes they might want to see in the SWP. But inevitably the situation with many SWP members will be very fluid for weeka and months ahead, and having made a minor break with their CC, if they are to be open to persuasion in any way, then aiding the destruction of their organisation, and then trumpeting it, is highly counterproductive. Therefore the suggestions you make about our individual and collective experiences may help them locate themselves in a life outside the SWP.
    My first involvement in far left politics was as a supporter of the SLL YS. However my first active engagement in active politics was with the IS in 1968 at about the same time as many other students. My partner and I built an IS branch in North Manchester from scratch. I lasted until 1977 but left when the IS transformed itself into the SWP, somewhat burnt out. I was a member of the Labour Party for many years after 1979 and was a NALGO convenor.
    I think it would be useful for the current members of the SWP to read Jim Higgins account of that period in his ‘More Years of the Locust’. http://www.marxists.org/archive/higgins/1997/locust/index.htm
    If they are not sure who Jim was he was one of the most erudite and charismatic working class militants I have had the pleasure to meet. If they read the book they will find that the current machinations of the CC to engineer a majority at the recent conference are not new but have been a feature of the organisation for decades.
    What is positive about the IS Tradition dates from the early days with the stress on the working class as the agent for change. IS originally maintained that focus when many around the far left were investing their faith and trust in the Little Red Book, Guavarist 3rd world romanticism or the labour movement bureaucracy.

  13. Mark P on said:

    OK a few responses.

    Omar, Zad and Mazil am I suggesting ‘back to basics’

    Kind of but quite the sort you suggest. Maybe I’d call it more a proposal of modest means. I don’t want to crate the illusion that there is one all-embracing socialist tendency and if we only all recognised that instad of the proverbial 57 brands the Left would be a happier place. Rather Ilm suggeting that a sensible first step is o have a space where the experiences that have shaped an outsider left can be discissed openly and honestly, with no answers decided upon before we even begin, in order to reimagine what a better Left might look like.

    Until we find that space and start this conversation I fear these discussions sound like my worst nightmare of deckchairs being rearranged and the good ship Socialist Titanic.

    Tigger

    Yes it is important to account for different histories within the Left traditoon and how a majoritarian culture became established whih forced so many on to the Outside. But I wouldn’t narrow any such discussion simply to the SWP, then or now. Though comrades from that organisaton may want to, and that is their absolute right, those self-same problems exist other groups, traditions and none. Thats why so many of us feel we’re on the Outside, some even when they’re on the inside! Obviously today, this week, many are focussing on the carcrash that thr SWP conference turned into, and for many this will be the catalyst but if we restrict the conversation in this way we would be limiting the opportunity significantly.

    Hope this is helpful.

    Mark P

  14. Pingback: Mark Perryman on the British left since the end of the CPGB | Hatful of History

  15. tigger: If they are not sure who Jim was he was one of the most erudite and charismatic working class militants I have had the pleasure to meet. If they read the book they will find that the current machinations of the CC to engineer a majority at the recent conference are not new but have been a feature of the organisation for decades.

    Socialist Platform published a quite useful slim volume of Jim Higgins’s writings in 2005, called “Speak ONe MOre Time”, that is worth getting your hands on.

  16. tigger: As you know AN and I have some words on the other original post and there are good reasons for this.
    Newman is quite open that he is happy if this site helps cause as much damage to the SWP (& AWL) as possible. That is one position.

    I think you underestimate the degree of moral pressure, threats, slanderous rumours & character assassination, attempted bullying and bureaucratic manouverings in the real world, that SWP and AWL members have sought to apply over the years to silence and discedit me and this site. This has included threats of physicial violence, and from the SWP on more than one occassion crude attempts to use libel laws to prevent true stories appearing.

    Richard Seymour and the SWP both trying to clumsily discredit me by implying I am a racist, nd seek to delegitimise the debate here is just the latest. Of course Seymour himself seems to be using this incident as a job application for leaving the SWP and joining the liberal establishment, which explains his cack handed approach of opening up Lenin Tomb for releatively light weight articles by disgruntled SWP members, while himself courting expulsion. Meanwhile, we should notice that despite seeking to cast himself as the hero of the hour, he seems to admit to personally knowing that the SWP was carrying out an internal rape inquiry since September or October 2012, but he only objected AFTER it was already in the public domain

    Actually, despite all that, I have worked to keep this as a relatively open platform where all the left can debate (except permananent Revolution, AWL, Workers Power, who have tried to bore everyone to death in the past). The broad left orientation of SU means it has a wider readership, and reaches parts of the movement, that the far left doesn’t usual reach.

    Psychologically it is absolutely necessary to let them know that I will not be silenced, and that the more they try to intimidate me, the more outspoken I will be.

  17. Mark P on said:

    Thanks Andy

    I remember hearing Jim Higgins speak years ago and felt the politucs of the Far Left he described were significantly different to what we have become used to today.Of course to some considrrable tent they were the product of their imes, not only post -68 but also the era of the 1972 and 1974 miners strikes and all they represented.

    There is a good new post on Lenin’s Tomb that also explores the Is tradition and heritage >

    http://www.leninology.com/2013/01/some-thoughts-of-is-theory.html

    On Andy’s second point. Its a very long time since I’ve had to go through the sheer awfulness that he describes. I can well remeber on a number of occasions individuals coming on here to threaten quite casually Andy with violence, and the abuse has often reached a quite appalling scale.

    So its perhaps easier for me to adopt a ‘lighter touch’ than Andy often does but I make no apologies for my pick n mixism, a source of strength in my view not weakness. And I would go further to situate the ecumenical as a core value in any better Left. Not the organisational convenience of non-sectariamism but to be open to a variety of ideas and traditions as a point of principle. Of course this requires those who prefer the ferocity of debate framed by ‘my party right or wrong’ type loyalty-systems to go elsewhere.

    Mark P

  18. Andy Newman: Of course Seymour himself seems to be using this incident as a job application for leaving the SWP and joining the liberal establishment, which explains his cack handed approach of opening up Lenin Tomb for releatively light weight articles by disgruntled SWP members, while himself courting expulsion.

    Yes its as clear as day. Presumably the brighter members of the SWP can see this too.

  19. SA I don’t particularly want to be dragged into the inner-workings of the SWP carcrash but here’s a few questions to ponder

    Does the fact that almost all the public voices against the SWP Conference decision-making process have been young members reveal the weakness or strength of their opposition? And what does it tell us that long-standing and older members well known for their oppositional views have remained so far almost entirely silent?

    In the absence of that kind of support which perhaps Richard Seymour was expecting what should he conclude, and do, and others like him?

    Mark P

    Mark P

  20. Richard is intelligent enough to know that he will need to continue courting the liberal media, and he is using this issue not to change the party but to change people’s perceptions of him. Good luck to him – he’s never been a collective kind of guy, and he’s got good enough written politics (as opposed to lived politics) to put out good solid left-wing stuff for years to come. But people shouldn’t be under any illusion that he wants to save the party. He’s been on his way out for a while. He’s using his blog for the right reasons – to ensure he can make a living in future.

  21. Mark P: Does the fact that almost all the public voices against the SWP Conference decision-making process have been young members reveal the weakness or strength of their opposition? And what does it tell us that long-standing and older members well known for their oppositional views have remained so far almost entirely silent?

    Oh this is such an interesting point, regarding the dynamic of the group.

    The central core weakness of Tourish and Wohlforth’s book which describes left groups as cults is that it is based upon the flawed Cold War era research of Lifton (1961), and which ascribes a dynamic of the older more experienced members converting and inducting the newer members.

    However, Richardson (1989) writing for the American Psychiatric Association’s committee of Psychiatry and Religion, turns this on its head.

    (Let us not get hung up about the fact psychiatrists have been involved in this debate, as there is no implication of illness. in fact people like Richardson and Galanter are involved to de-medicalise the debate, and refute the idea that membership of groups outwith mainstream ideology have any greater affinity with mental distress than the general population. In fact the work by Pattison and Ness stresses non-conformity of groups from the mainstream, as a social good )

    Richardson talks of non-conformist groups attracting “active seekers”, who then rapidly conform to role expectations to gain acceptance in the group; but despite their seeming strong identification, can just as rapidly leave. It is this constant churn of new recruits which, according to Richardson, reinforces the reification of the group’s collective purpose for the older experienced members, and reinforces the charismatic authority of the leadership group, as delivering on the group’s purpose. Turning Lifton on its head – it is the new recruits who seek out membership because they actively want to identify with the group; and it is their ready adoption of the group ethos which reinforces the group-think of the established elders.

    How does this play in the SWP? Seemingly most of the young rebels are people whose political activity revolves around the axis of the SWP’s own routine, and “party building”. They cannot take control of the SWP, both because there is no institutional and constitutional way that can be achieved, but more because the SWP “belongs” to those who are the trustees of the physical and financial assets. So they will be expelled or leave; but without the infrastructure that the SWP provides, their political activity will require a complete paradigmic reevaluation; and do they have the experience or leadership to do that?

    The loss of the newer members will demoralize the older members outside the bureaucratic core, and they will probably drift away. For those involved in trade union and community campaigning, after a brief trauma they will realise they are better off.

    But the older code of the bureaucracy, who will still have the money, and the SWP’s name; they will just continue, as a much smaller, more cultish rump.

  22. Mark P: Does the fact that almost all the public voices against the SWP Conference decision-making process have been young members reveal the weakness or strength of their opposition?

    Neither?

    Just that not having been through the meat grinder of the far left for as long as older comrades means they’re less likely to hesitate over concerns criticism may wreck the party.

    Because if your experience of left-wing organisation is the state of the left as it exists today (whether SWP, SP, CP etc.) then why would you value it enough to compromise your principles?

  23. Andy

    Sharply put. I guess the follow-on question is does this have any wider significance for an Outside Left. By the way I consider that organisationally lahe numbers of left activists in the Labour Party are effectively outsiders too – so feel free to comment from your own experience!

    For what its worth my view is that the SWP carcrash is simply one of a range of episodes that illustrate a culture that is deeply offputting and in the event demoralising for some many of this Outside Left, so while the detail can be fascinating in its sheer awfulness its thos broader process that is of far greater import.

    Mark P

  24. Mark P: By the way I consider that organisationally lahe numbers of left activists in the Labour Party are effectively outsiders too – so feel free to comment from your own experience!

    I didn’t quite understand the questin due the typo: lahe ???

  25. Interesting points to ponder Mark P and from where I sit it looks like this.

    The younger group can certainly make the running in this for as long as it lasts and the CC cannot expel them all in this climate. But really this sort of revolt has to have an objective presumably a recall conference and a new CC. That might or might not result in a culture change.

    As for members of longstanding I think they want the party to come through in one piece, after all its been their life. But they likely are prepared to see a new CC and a recall conference with ritual sacrafice of those responsible for the shambles. They will let the younger members do the heavy lifting having themselves survived the endless purges of the past.

    As for Seymour I think Tony at .22 has it right. Also had the msm not picked this up I think he would not have moved. He after all has known the story better than most for a considerable time. Some of the younger members probably misread his motivation and which audience he was addressing. As such I don’t think support from party stalwarts featured as a major part of his thinking.

    The big issue in all this will be control of livings and assets and in that respect the CC holds the cards and can be expected to fight ferociously to keep them. That said the prof’ is now very exposed on the whole ‘duty of care’ remit and might find the pressure irrestible.

    I write the foregoing with no animus to SWP members many of whom I have liked well over the years. Nor have I particular insider knowledge its just what I think.

  26. SA: the CC cannot expel them all in this climate.

    They don’t have to. They just have to hold their nerve, and let the opposition blow itself out. Many will rapidly become frustrated and leave, I suspect.

    Remember, the CC hold the cards that they need, they have the assets, and control the payroll.

    They also act as “gatekeeper” to decide who can and who cannot continue in the SWP

  27. Andy Newman,

    Andy
    I think I can understand where you are coming from and the sheer awfulness of so called comrades acting in such a vindictive way. I dont believe I have experienced quite that level of abuse apart from the frequent abusive rantings of the SLL.

    The tactical point I was making was that while the SWP is in such a state of flux there may be many current SWP comrades who are caught between loyalty to the organisation and disillusion at the actions of the CC. The fear as always is that the outcome will be an inquiry of some sort that concludes this was the work of a few bad apples and that really all is sound with the organisation subject to some tinkering. What I tried to suggest with the reference to Higgins appraisal of the IS in the period I was a member is that the current practice is pretty much endemic since at least the mid 70s. Indeed when the IS declared itself to be the SWP it turned its back on the real world and drifted into the sectarian abyss.

    Thanks for the Higgins reference.

  28. Sorry Andy, corrected now >

    “By the way I consider that organisationally large numbers of left activists in the Labour Party are effectively outsiders too – so feel free to comment from your own experience!”

    The pont I;m making is that remaking any kind of Outside Left is a much broader canvass than simply the SWP carcrash.

    SA , likewise

    There is a tendency to indulge in SWPology (ref: Kremlinology), the sherr awfulness of this particularly compelling and almost irresisible to speculate on. However its is merely the latest in a number of potential catalysts towards what I consider a far more vital process. For the outsiders of the Left to address and articulate our experiences of dissatisfactiion, to have a shared conversation and begin to unpick not only the reasons why we find ourselves on the outside looking in but the shape of something to come that we might want to call our political home.

    Hope thats helpful

    Mark P

  29. Andy Newman: They don’t have to. They just have to hold their nerve, and let the opposition blow itself out. Many will rapidly become frustrated and leave, I suspect.

    Yes I see that, its what I was implying with ‘in this climate’.

    The big problem for the CC is where this might go next outwith the SWP. In those circumstances their gatekeeper role becomes moot.

    I’m also put in mind of the Milie split where the members knew nowt till the leadership began denouncing each other. Will the CC hold together in your view?

  30. SA: Will the CC hold together in your view?

    Or rephrasing that question, because the others have little weight, will Calinicos continue to back Martin Smith and Judith Orr?

    It depends what happens next. if there is any police involvement, then the whole thing may go out of their hands.

    I have no inside knowledge, but if external actors get involved it will be each person for themselves I suspect. If not, then they will hang together rather than hang seperately.

  31. tigger on said:

    Mark P,

    Mark
    I see where you are coming from – obviously the current focus is the SWP and that is inevitably so.

    What is interesting in the debate on both postings you originated is the relative lack of references to Militant implosion and the Socialist Alliance experience. I also think it is worth looking at the Big Flame experience if any reader can identify the strenghts and weaknesses of an organisation which appeared to be more open than most to the class struggle from below and to promoting a positive role for women in the group.

    That may smack too much of syndicalism but aren’t these currents worth exploring in terms of the ingenuity and imagination that some of the anarcho syndicalist groups can bring to the table?

    A good starting point? That the world is divided into classes with mutually incompatible interests and that we are unequivocally on the side of the majority, the working class. That the job of socialists is to advance the interests of the class. That there is a need for a party to articulate those interest – is that a precondition? That the party is implanted in the class with all its disparate elements but ultimately one common interest.

    I dont think at this stage we should be talking about rejecting this or that and I completely agree that there are Outside Lefts within the LP

    Sorry just rambling

  32. Mark P: “By the way I consider that organisationally large numbers of left activists in the Labour Party are effectively outsiders too – so feel free to comment from your own experience!”

    I don’t feel like an outsider at all. I stood as a council candidate last year, I am chair of the local capaign forum, and trade union liaison officer sitting on the CLP EC, and convenor of the local TULO. I have good personal relationships with most party members, whether they are from left, right or centre.

    The left in the party has the very valuable CLASS think tank now, and of course JOn Tricket is on the shadow cabinet, so the left is at least at the table.

    That is a different question from whether the left is punching its weight in terms of infleunce on policy and selections. Where currently we are not.

  33. Mark P on said:

    Sorry just catching up

    Tigger. Yes theres a wide variety of experiences worth sharing. But I wouldn’t even restrict it to organisations. What I’m pitching for I guess are all those who are in and around the Left, yet consider themselves ‘outsiders’ when it comes to the question of organisation. The process is about accounting for that alienation.

    Andy. Thats an impressive checklist. Of course its not for me to know the detail of your personal political circumstances but all I’d say is that from everything I’ve read by you and what I know of you is that in terms of the Labour Party your politics and practice are hardly of the mainstream, or to put it another way I can’t see you being shortlisted for a safe seat in the near future. ‘Outsider’ in this sense is not being used perjoratively!

    Hope this is helpful, and possibly even sensible?!

    Mark P

  34. Mark P: I can’t see you being shortlisted for a safe seat in the near future

    I have no ambition to be an MP, but I am sure I could get selected for a safe council seat if that were my ambition; I certainly stood in a winnable seat last year, and got 940 votes.

  35. Mark P on said:

    Andy Thanks.

    One of the errors of my view of the various strands of the Labour Left, from Compass to the LRC, is to have any meanifully obvious towards either CLPs or local councils. Of course the politucs of ‘socialism in one CLP and/or council’ are both flawed and subject to centralised control by the Labour centre. But spaces and oopportunities remain to develop a different kind of Labour Party in some plces from below. Indeed with the number of council candidates required it would be darn dificult for Labour to block all their selections. But neither Compass nor LRC or all points in-between seem much interested.

    So where there are decent Labour councillors, as there no doubt are all over the country, they are perhaps as much outsiders as anywhere else, even in Wiltshire?

    Mark P

  36. Mark P: One of the errors of my view of the various strands of the Labour Left, from Compass to the LRC, is to have any meanifully obvious towards either CLPs or local councils.

    Correct. That is why in real terms, CLPD has arguably a greater proportionate influence compared to its size because it addresses practicalities.

    Participation in the Labour Party has to acknowledge it is an electoral party, and seek to gain and maintain a footprint among the elected representatives. Infleunce at the level of policy and ideas requires a footprint in the PLP and shadow cabinent, to be credible to the unions, this is ABC stuff, but sadly often overlooked.

    Also, party members need to be active in winning elections for all Labour candidates, not just the ones they like.

  37. Mark P: So where there are decent Labour councillors, as there no doubt are all over the country, they are perhaps as much outsiders as anywhere else, even in Wiltshire?

    the trouble is that councillors cannot have greater power than the current constitutional powers of councils allow. There are many good left and centre left councillors, but they have to do the best they can within the rules of the game they are playing.

  38. Mark P on said:

    Andy

    Agree with just about everything you say there, it at least amounts to some kind of strategy inside Labour, one quite bizarrely virtually ignored by both Compass and LRC.

    My only difference is that while a wholesale defiance of Govt policy at local govt levels is to all intents impractical I would say there is more scope for Labour Local Councils to do so something different, to represent what a Left-led society might look like. Some of this would inevitably be tokenistic but would at least offer the footprint of an alternative.

    And I’d suggest the same should apply to CLPs too.

    A proper Outside Left should offer a home too for those insiders also seeking to build a better Left in these practically effective ways.

    Mark P

  39. Mark P,

    Agreed. There is much to do. Of course I live in Labours weakest region so there is less scope
    But the “winning labour’ group in Yorkshire seem to have a made a good start

  40. My current project BTW is trying to build a local lving wage campaign. To include councillors, unions campaign groups, third sector, church and faith groups and employers.

  41. Andy Newman,

    If you need help getting in touch with local faith groups contact Church Action on Poverty http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/

    I used to be their living wage campaign coordinator and go to meetings of the fair pay network on their behalf (also worth contacting http://www.fairpaynetwork.org/ )

    It is really useful for local living wage campaigns to have the involvement of religious groups and figures. (Although it can catch people off guard, I spoke at a Bolton trades council event to launch the local campaign and the local MP David Crausby came up to me afterwards and said he assumed I would be an elderly, conservative vicar not a communist!)

  42. Mark P on said:

    Andy

    Could you post some material either by, or about, the ‘Winning Labour’ group in Yorkshire, sounds interesting!

    Nick and George W

    Would be great to hear what yoir Communist Vicars think of my suggestion of a Left cultural renewal founded on a practice mixing the confessional with the ecumenical!

    Mark P