More on the SWP alleged rape crisis

SWPYou will recall that Socialist Unity previously published a near verbatim transcript of the session at the SWP conference in January which discussed the now notorious attempted cover up of allegations of rape by a leading male SWP leader, to whom we attributed the moniker “Comrade Delta”.

The failings of the SWP’s Kangaroo court which exonerated Comrade Delta received widespread press coverage, in the Guardian, Daily Mail, and the Independent. It subsequently emerged that the young woman, W, making the allegations against Comrade Delta was only 17 when their “relationship” began. Comrade Delta himself was around 50 years old, and in a position of authority over her; representing a clear imbalance of power.

The transcript showed that W was not the only woman who had made allegations against Delta.

A member of staff of the SWP, referred to as X, had also made a complaint, but the SWP made procedural excuses to minimise this embarrassing fact. This was X’s contribution at the SWP conference debate:

KAREN: The next speaker will be X.

(Note – X was named in the conference and spoke openly, however I am not naming her in this transcript)

X: Some comrades will already know that I’m the second woman who’s come forward as part of the dispute, and it’s me that’s been removed from my position in the (removed) department. I wanted to say that I’d been a district organiser for (removed) years and I hope people will respect that I wouldn’t come forward lightly.

I want to start by reiterating what Candy said – that this isn’t a trial, comrades won’t get to hear both sides of the story, so you’re never going to be in a position to decide who you believe. However, comrades can take a position on whether the process you think has been adequate.

I also want to add that I think it’s entirely disingenuous that leading members have denied that there is a second complaint. My evidence was effectively a second complaint, but because of the experience of the first case I’m unwilling to have it heard by the current disputes committee as a separate dispute. I don’t accept the account given that they’re not aware of the substance of my complaint – it’s the same as the account that I’d given in the first place.

I want to just quickly outline why I think there were problems with the way the dispute was conducted. First I think the composition of the disputes committee was problematic. Viv has mentioned that five of the seven were former or current CC members, most of the people have close or long term working relationships and in some cases friendships with the accused, and while I don’t for a second question the personal integrity of the individual comrades, when it comes down to, as they said, whose version of events you’re most likely to believe, I do think it creates an unfair bias in this case.

And I want to reiterate – it’s not an attack on the comrades’ integrity, or as the CC argued in their statement, about questioning the comrades’ ability to apply our politics on women’s oppresion. (inaudible)

I believe the nature of the investigation was fundamentally flawed. The accused was able to see my evidence four days in advance of any questioning to prepare his defence. I was not made aware of the evidence the accused brought to contradict the case, so I had no opportunity to challenge his testimony. I was still denied the right to even basic details of his response – whether he’s denied it ever happened, given a different version of events. None of my witnesses were called. I was never cross-questioned following the accused’s evidence.

Obviously there are instances where people may come forward with malicious intent, so it’s right to investigate claims. However in our tradition we argue that women do not come forward lightly in cases like these. We should start from that belief and attempt to substantiate the woman’s complaint. U don’t believe that the DC in my case shows this to have happened.

Finally – (voice breaks) in my opinion the worst part was the nature of some of the questioning. I was asked if it was fair to say I liked to have a drink. That’s all I need to say on the matter.
Just very quickly, I’m running out of time, but I just wanted to address – because the question of my job has been raised by the factions, to avoid any confusion, I wanted to address this. It is true that I did initially resign. (inaudible) Charlie rightly refused to accept my resignation on the basis that I shouldn’t be punished for bringing forward a complaint. Within days of the hearing I asked to be allowed to return to work, but in many meetings and appeals to the central committee I was repeatedly told that I’d disrupt the harmony of the office.

The worst part and the most stressful part of this is the motivations that have been ascribed to people coming forward. We’ve had accusations of the state – (Karen calls time)
(Applause)

X did in fact put in a further formal complaint about Comrade Delta, after the January 2013 SWP conference. I understand though, that the SWP Central Committee has decided that the disputes committee will not now hear the complaint made by X against Delta until the new year, in 2014.

The significance is that X was removed from her job in the SWP office after being a witness for “W” because the SWP National Secretary, Charlie Kimber, allegedly said that her continued presence would “disrupt the harmony of the office”. She was asked when complaining of sexual harassment “is it fair to say you like a drink?”. Quite contrary to how you would expect a woman complaining of sexual harassment to properly be treated, attempts have been made to isolate, silence and discredit her.

My sources tell me that Sheila M, a disputes commitee member who led the discussion off at SWP conference in January, has now submitted a motion to an emergency SWP National Committee (called at 4 days’ notice) opposing the decision not to hear X’s case.

Rumours abound that some SWP disputes committee members have been censured by their own union branches for their roles in the dispute last year, and we could  speculate that this has brought some external pressure to bear on leading SWP members.

It is hard to avoid the suspicion that the SWP have decided to postpone hearing X’s case until 2014 because the Central Committee are hoping this will drive X out the party, which would mean they would never have to hear her case, and they can maintain Delta has only had one complaint made against him; thus assisting his political rehabilitation.

Incidently, the American socialist James Cannon once quipped that people always have two reasons for what they do: the good reason and the real reason. According to the always well informed “Soviet Goon Boy“, the ostensible reason given by the SWP for calling such a hurried National Commitee meeting, is to to discuss the fact that a new oppositionist website has been set up. If you beleive that, then I wonder if you would be interested in a very sound business proposition to buy the Sydney Opera House from me?

91 comments on “More on the SWP alleged rape crisis

  1. The suggestion that the emergency NC meeting has been called to discuss revolutionarysocialism.tumblr.com was not that of Soviet Goon Boy, but of Charlie Kimber in his email to NC members. Of course I am sure that discussing this site really equates to how do the party bureaucracy best stamp out dissent. It will be interesting to see what will come from this meeting. Results? Minutes? A transcript?

  2. karlshayne on said:

    i should imagine that those behind the new website will be told to remove it… and then they will have to knuckle under or be expelled…

  3. Pingback: SWP crisis: who is saying what « Jim Jepps

  4. Graham on said:

    What has happened to the Fault Lines blog ? Post’s there have stopped while the new tumblr blog has taken off. Is it not the same group of disaffected party members involved in both ?

  5. “My sources tell me that Sheila M, a disputes commitee member who led the discussion off at SWP conference in January, has now submitted a motion to an emergency SWP National Committee (called at 4 days’ notice) opposing the decision not to hear X’s case.” The same Sheila M that bullied comrade X, isolated her and called her a liar to her face in branch meetings. And of course signed the CC statement. The hacks are now trying to redeem themselves – too late.

  6. JB: The hacks are now trying to redeem themselves – too late.

    I don’t think that Sheila has enough principles to even think about redeeming herself. If she’s doing this, it’ll be purely for some kind of trade-off – either to make herself look better in her branch or her union, or cos it’s a way to trap someone else.

    She’s got a long history of acting as an apologist for male abusers of women in the party; if she’s appearing to change sides, it’s just that – an appearance. Something else will be going on behind the scenes.

  7. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    #8&9 It seems to me the “good reason and real reason” quip applies to the postponement of X’s case as much as to the calling of this NC meeting. While the real reason is undoubtedly to try and drive her out the party in the meantime, and perhaps also hope that the whole issue will have blown over by then (as if!), the given reason seems to me likely (I have no inside knowledge, it just seems obvious) to be around the “review” of the DC and to not have her case heard by the same people who exonerated Delta once before, and were re-elected in January. I think she initially didn’t make a formal complaint as she very understandably has no confidence in the current DC. So Sheila’s move could be just as much about railroading her complaint through this body of Delta’s mates, given the “vote of confidence” it’s received, than about any kind of redemption. Whether it could return the same verdict again though, and what would happen if it did, is a high stakes game. But if they tried to throw the indispensable man under a bus, I don’t think he’d go quietly either, so it looks like more interesting times ahead…

  8. Tim Vanhoof on said:

    You do wonder what magic power “Delta”, a pal of anti-semites like Gilad Atzmon, has that the SWP leaders are willing to rip their organisation to shreds in order to protect him.

  9. Manzil on said:

    Has the SWP offered an ‘official’ explanation for why they have postponed the investigation?

  10. Sam64 on said:

    Meanwhile the SWP gears up for its show piece Marxism next week. You can be sure that when Callinicos speaks on Leninism in 21st Century (top of the bill Saturday night) there won’t be even a hint of anything so sordid. How would he put it… Olympian remove perhaps?

    But the subtext will be to the diminished party faithful: toe the bloody CC line!

  11. Sam64 on said:

    Meanwhile the SWP gears up for its show piece Marxism next week. You can be sure that when Callinicos speaks on Leninism in 21st Century (top of the bill Saturday night) there won’t be even a hint of anything so sordid. How would he put it… Olympian remove perhaps?

    But the subtext will be to the diminished party faithful: toe the bloody CC line!

  12. sandy on said:

    http://revolutionarysocialism.tumblr.com/

    Statement on the SWP crisis

    To add your name to this statement email revolutionarysocialism@gmx.com

    The SWP’s National Committee met on Sunday 7 July 2013 and voted by 26-6 to suspend four comrades and make wider moves to shut down any organised opposition to the party leadership. This move is a smokescreen. It is a deliberate attempt by the leadership to escalate the crisis rather than address the critical problems facing the party.

    The state of the party today testifies to the poor quality of the Central Committee’s political judgement. At each stage since the complaints of sexual predation against Martin Smith first came to light, the CC has decided upon actions that have exacerbated the situation and deepened the polarisation within our organisation.

    Over 400 people have resigned their party membership since January. Attendance at the Marxism festival looks set to be half that of last year. Significant sections of the left are boycotting the event in horror at the leadership’s actions. The overwhelming majority of our student members have left, and there is no strategy to rectify this situation. Over 15 party workers have resigned their positions since January – or been sacked.

    continues

  13. Jara Handala on said:

    sandy,

    Thanx for the copy, Sandy.

    A number of things struck me:

    1) In Star Trek fashion, this SWP statement has boldly gone where no other has gone before, putting a human name on the force known as Delta.

    2) There’s an important ambiguity in this paragraph near the end of the statement:

    “The leadership’s first reaction was to deny that a second woman had come forward. Then they turned to delaying tactics, stringing the complaint out for over four months with a series of contradictory excuses. The disputes committee twice refused to hear the case. Under pressure they [DC or “the leadership”, i.e. the CC or CC majority?] have now offered a hearing, subject to certain conditions, and [“the leadership” or the DC?] are presenting this as an adequate resolution to the whole issue.” (my interpolations)

    3) “We demand the following immediate measures . . . open up the pre-conference discussion period now”.

    As the Californian guru would say, we need to heal, we need to talk, we need to share our concerns. Let “the leadership” seize this chance to unleash the healing powers within the Socialist Workers Party, & show to the world, yes, we can!

    4) The final sentences (no pun intended):

    “We refuse to fall silent and allow the leadership to continue on a course that will destroy our party. We urge the central committee to step back before it is too late.”

    Everyone knows it’s a case of full steam ahead.

    5) All this, especially Ian Birchall’s thoughtful piece on the accursed blog last Thursday, has a certain relevance for my organisation, the International Socialist Network. Last night I applied the politics of his article by opening a thread on our Public Forum with a detailed post which covers the 3 sub-headings of ‘Socialist Unity’, politics, culture, debate, asking, ‘SWP Takes a New Turn – What Can Our ISN Learn From It, & How?':
    http://forum.internationalsocialistnetwork.com/thread/253/swp-takes-new-turn-learn

    Finally, Mr Newman, & perhaps others, may be pleased to see I had to suggest to Mr Proyect that his appraisal of the ‘political analysis’ of the ISO (USA) & ISN may not be as rosy as he might like to think:
    http://louisproyect.org/2013/07/07/the-isos-multiple-personalities/

  14. Jara Handala on said:

    Tony Collins,

    Well, thinking about all this, in the deep way it deserves, perhaps this is all part of the plan: Ian will now, no doubt, buy a ticket. This is how the monetary deficit can start to outpace the democratic deficit. It’s win-win.

    But I suspect a higher power behind all this. This couldn’t just come out of the Citadel. No. I think stuart has been flown in as a trouble-shooter, a caped crusader as it were. This has stuart’s paws all over it. In all likelihood he’ll be giving a replacement talk at ‘Marxism’. Perhaps ‘Staying Loyal: No-One Said Making Omelettes Was Painless’.

    The Mekon was reputed to have said every defection makes us stronger. But we need to use some lateral thinking to get a sense of the size of stuart’s brain.

    But to return to your information. These are the mugshots of the famous:
    http://www.marxismfestival.org.uk/speakers.htm

    Had Mr Birchall graced that page? I would suggest the most pressure to stay at home will be applied to Paul LeBlanc (ISO) & Gilbert Achcar (if not a member, aligned with the Fourth International that includes Britain’s Socialist Resistance). Then there’s Ralph Darlington, Sean Sayers (but he likes to debate, & Kent U is out of term now), & perhaps Andy Durgan.

    Besides Ian B, 6 other speakers happen to have signed yesterday’s letter: Megan T, Neil D, Mike G, Dave R, Hannah D, & Postman Pat.

    But for stuart & the others it’s nice to see that the authentic touch will be delivered by Our Man From Dublin, ‘What Is the Real IS Tradition?’.

    If stuart doesn’t take over from Ian B then maybe what’s his face can perhaps rope in his pal Gilad – that’s if there’s any of the twisted natural fibre left in the Citadel’s warehouse.

    The “Closing Rally” is after lunch next Monday, & should be a sight to behold. It’s led by First Secretary Kimber. However, I think the programming clerk at the Citadel may be losing their job: immediately before lunch, so before Komrade Kimber arises to speak, Ms Brown, who may be a vet, speaks on ‘After the Horsemeat Scandal’. Butchery, adulteration, & scandal, indeed, & in deed.

  15. So the new thing doing the rounds is that a certain set of renowned party siblings have been asking members to donate £10 a month to fund Delta’s Masters degree. He has also been asked to talk at three branch meetings recently. His rehabilitation is in full swing. The sooner the oppositionists depart the better. This stuff is just beyond grotesque.

  16. Blimey – ULU giving the SWP a bit of a kicking here http://www.ulu.co.uk/news/index.php?page=article&news_id=376413

    ————

    ‘Marxism’ is the annual summer school event of the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP). This year, part of the event is scheduled to take place inside the ULU building on Malet Street.

    The SWP booked its rooms at full commercial rate (around £17,000) through the ULU conferencing department, over which we have no direct oversight. We are now putting in place measures to ensure that democratically elected officers have powers over ULU conference bookings in future.

    Given the actions of the SWP in the past year, we feel that it is necessary to make our position clear that as elected officers – like many others in the student movement – see the SWP’s handling of recent rape allegations against a senior member as a despicable act of denial, nepotism and sexism.

    The handling of the dispute around these allegations has exposed something much deeper that needs to be challenged. During the recent dispute, the SWP leadership has responded to criticism on an issue of women’s rights by calling its critics “feminists”, as if that was something bad. Criticism of the SWP leadership has been silenced and suppressed at every turn.

    We recognise that not everyone in the SWP agrees with the behaviour of its leadership. However, given that the SWP is an organisation in which there is little scope for organised internal dissent, allowing the event to continue with no public intervention would be tantamount to complicity in the situation.

    It would be wrong for the SWP to use its muscle to shut down debate and escape accountability for its actions. We think that student activists should actively confront the SWP over these issues at Marxism 2013.

    There can be no business as usual in these circumstances.

    • ULU Officers and other student activists will be attending the event in order to challenge the conduct of the SWP on the issues outlined above.

    • We will be holding meetings in parallel with the summer school inside the ULU Building, which will be open to all attendees and students. The content of these meetings will be determined by the ULU Women’s Officer and feminist activists across London. 

    _______________________________________________________

    ULU is currently putting together a series of workshops running in parallel during the weekend. Our main meeting in parallel with ‘Marxism 2013’ will take place on Sunday at 1pm in room 2A. It will be a space for discussion among student and leftwing activists. All are welcome.

    The student movement, the left and women’s liberation. How can we fight sexism in our movement?

    The shameful events inside the SWP, along with other recent incidents in the left and the labour movement, pose the questions of fighting sexism and women’s oppression not only in society but in our own organisations. What do these events mean? How can we make sure that the student movement and the broader left is not only a safe space but also a credible and effective force for in the fight for women’s liberation?

    Speakers will include feminists from the student and labour movements.
      

  17. Vanya on said:

    #26 Yes. I thought I knew all the hundreds of reasons not to go to Marxism, and can proudly boast that although I bought my first copy of Socialist Worker in early 1977 at the age of 14 (the headline said: Grunwicks, The Workers United Will Never Be Defeated), I have never attended.

    But now there’s a whole load of new reasons. Incredible.

  18. Sam64 on said:

    Looking back there always ‘problems’. But it was once a vibrant event, pulling 8000 plus socialists. Even this year there are a few interesting looking meetings. Sheila Coleman on Hillsborough for instance.

    But now, grim.

  19. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    Tony Collins,

    Blimey indeed! However ULU is now effectively an AWL front (as well as having one of the nastiest “professional” bureaucracies in the whole student movement, here hilariously denounced by their nominal political bosses as SWP enablers), so will the ULU sabs will have their own agenda of course =( I wish I was there to organise a pro-Assange, anti-Delta fringe meeting, THAT would be interesting!

  20. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    Sam64,

    Yes to be fair even this year Tommy Sheridan is speaking, and he’s always a credit to whatever platform he’s on. Unless he’s pulled out too; don’t think he has, but with even a swathe of party speakers doing so in the latest ruck, it may be something for him to consider…

  21. Following the farce of the CC convening half of the 50-strong National Committee to rubber-stamp its decision to suspend 4 members (and writing to members saying “CC members and other leading NC members insisted that political differences need to be addressed through political argument, not through expulsions or administrative measures”, a sentence which was directly followed by one saying “Four comrades were suspended from membership pending an investigation”), the party has backed down and lifted the suspensions.

    And the opposition realises what an important victory this is. The opposition website has now made a few serious demands of the CC – they’re not meekly thanking the ruling faction for being nice, they’re waging a serious fight. They’re gonna have to – we’re at a stage where the most dynamic, positive, marxist thinkers and activists in the party are all on the opposition side, and the clique which runs things is entirely dependent upon lies and bullying to get their own way.

    Among other things, the statement from the 4 un-suspended members says

    The CC still has not addressed the political questions the crisis has raised. The party is still in a potentially terminal crisis. And it is clear that a resolution to this situation is beyond the ability of the current leadership. We therefore demand:

    ● that the case by a second woman against Martin Smith is immediately, transparently and effectively resolved.
    ● that the pre-conference discussion period is opened immediately to let an urgently needed democratic debate occur through official party channels.
    ● that the leadership and all other members cease the attempts to silence, sideline and vilify the opposition within the party.

  22. I wonder if John Molyneux will give you a talk at Marxism on “Leninism and Freedom of Speech”.
    Molyneux, meet dustbin of history; dustbin of history, meet Molyneux.
    But credit to Ian Birchall.

  23. Wow, they’re really losing it. This is a statement put out a short while ago by the CC

    Statement from the Central Committee

    Comrades in the opposition faction have responded to last night’s statement from the CC with a vitriolic assault. They have underlined their desire to harm the party, not to make it more effective.

    The working class in Britain faces an enormous onslaught.

    Internationally the situation in Egypt, Turkey, Brazil and elsewhere shows the crucial need for revolutionary organisation.

    The stakes for socialists are very high. The future of the SWP is not to be treated as a game or a trivial matter. But that is what the faction is doing.

    At the weekend the SWP’s National Committee (NC), the party’s main elected leadership body, met. It discussed serious information that had been sent to the SWP Central Committee regarding factional activity.

    The information included the plans of a sub-faction within the main faction who were preparing a split in the party.

    The SWP is an open democratic party with no history of the kind of factional organisation outside our conference period that has wrecked much of the left.

    But we now know that a number of members have been organising on this factional model for months.

    After a long discussion the NC voted both to oppose this factional organisation and to support the suspensions of four people who were involved in setting up a bank account to fund a split from the SWP.

    In response, the four suspended members gave assurances that the bank account that had been set up to fund a split had been shut down, and that there was not going to be agitation for a split.

    Pete G, for example, told the CC, “I am not paying into any bank account to fund a split. I am not agitating for a split.”

    Søren G also said, “I am not agitating for a split from the SWP” as well as stating that he was not paying into any such account.

    Hanif L said he wasn’t paying into an account and pointed to how he had increased his subs to the party.

    Of course under normal circumstances the four would have remained suspended and could have been expelled.

    However after months of difficult debates and arguments in the party, and with Marxism just a few days away, CC members felt it was necessary to take their assurances in good faith and to try to unify the organisation.

    In the hours since the lifting of the suspensions the four have issued a statement that shows not the slightest recognition that their behaviour was wrong.

    It states that the lifting of the suspensions – rather than being a move towards unity – is proof of “bureaucratic manoeuvre” and that attempts are being made to “shutdown opposition”.

    This last claim is a little ironic after a number of faction members said they were withdrawing from meetings at Marxism 2013 that the organisers had invited them to speak at!

    The four seem to have learnt nothing.

    They are clearly not interested in joint work and would rather put factional activity ahead of the unity of the organisation.

    Do these comrades really think their methods help to build a serious Marxist party or to strengthen the fightback against austerity?

    The SWP is not a debating society. It is a revolutionary organisation with a long history of serious work in the movement.

    We repeat our call for the end of all factional activity and for the faction to take down its website.

    It seems that for some people the “cut and thrust” of factional intrigue is far more important than building working class resistance to austerity.

    Such people are arrogantly irresponsible.

    At Marxism 2013 we intend to take up all the political issues recently raised in our organisation as part of the wider debates in our movement. There is a big audience at Marxism, including many non-members of the SWP, who want answers to the major political questions we face.

    We are not prepared to see the SWP wrecked by those who put their faction before the party and the working class.

    Central Committee, 10 July 2013

  24. Vanya on said:

    #32 I gave the piece you linked to a quick look.

    I also clicked on the piece you quoted to from Rakovsky written in 1928.

    Now unless there’s some irony there that has gone miles over my head, I find the fact that you think an article by an obscure (to the overwhelming mass of people) revolutionary who was involved in the excercise of state power over a country with a population of 10s of millions (in opposition at various times or not) 85 years ago can have any relevance whatsoever to what you are engaged in today, to be evidence that, while you clearly have a vastly better attitude to how to treat complaints of rape from your female members than the orgainsation you are leaving, you equally clearly are no more rooted on panet earth than them.

    I only come into contact with the SWP in the bedroom tax campaign and to be honest that’s my only interest in them. I will shed no tears if they fall apart as a result of this shite they have created, but I don’t relish the proliferation of loads more 1917 re-enactment societies with a more ‘nuanced’ attitude to leninism.

    It just looks like the more things change the more they stay the same.

  25. Unity,

    Yo ‘Unity’ – I’m convinced you’re the person who used to post here as “Prinkipo Exile”. Is that you? It’s just that you posted as “anon” a few weeks ago and said something that struck me as Prinkipo-y

  26. Manzil on said:

    Unity: an alternative is being formed

    It blatantly isn’t, though.

    A quasi-revolutionary ginger group for a non-existent left party is being discussed by three incredibly small political sects.

    It’s a somewhat interesting development, where it constitutes a break with the established traditions of the far left. But the John Rees split shows that the SWP ‘model’ (top-down coalition-building, dependence on the special insights of particular individuals, etc) is ultimately more dependent on the networking skills, reputation and tactical savvy of the leadership than the quality of the activist membership.

    The ISN milieu seem to have been partially unconditioned from the SWP orthodoxy, due to the viciousness and stupidity of the SWP leadership (resulting in their echoing the SR obsession with formal democratic scruples).

    If, however, an ‘alternative’ SWP is what the ISN and co. seek, they are distinctly lacking those resources which made the Counterfire project viable, or which continues to keep the leaking SWP rump marginally afloat. Nor would any Left Unity-based party inherit such links, which the ISN-ACI-SR regroupment initiative could exploit.

    They may very well be saying some interesting things. But insofar as it comes to actually relating themselves to the workers’ movement as it exists, and moving the left forward from its present abyss, they seem no great advance on the status quo, except to the extent they are driving a nail into the SWP coffin, and thus clearing the way for subsequent efforts.

  27. Vlad on said:

    Manzil,

    These would be fair comments, Manzil, if it were really true that we in ISN were out to create ‘an alternative SWP’. In fact, our project at the moment is far less hubristic and deluded than that. Unlike Counterfire or any number of other ex-SWP groupuscules, we in no way see ourselves as the vanguard party in germ or pretenders to the hollow crown that the SWP has worn for so long. We are simply a group of mainly ex-SWP members, informed to varying extents by ‘the IS tradition’ but also prepared to take seriously ideas from other sources including feminism, green politics and the more horizontal structures of the anti-capitalist movement in order to start to forge with others forms of revolutionary socialist organisation fit for purpose in the 21st century. I’m glad that you think we ‘may very well be saying some interesting things’. It’s true that we are at present above all a talking shop rather than active players in ‘relating … to the workers’ movement as it exists’. But please give us time. We think it’s necessary to sort our ideas and organisational forms out before we start rushing in like bulls in china shops and screw up in the way that the SWP and most other far-left groups have done so spectacularly and disastrously ever since the present crisis of capitalism began. We would welcome any help that you or others who share our ultimate goals can offer in that process.

  28. Vlad: informed to varying extents by ‘the IS tradition’ but also prepared to take seriously ideas from other sources including feminism, green politics and the more horizontal structures of the anti-capitalist movement in order to start to forge with others forms of revolutionary socialist organisation fit for purpose in the 21st century

    A more useful depatrure would be for you to reassess the knee jerk negative approach of the “IS tradition” with regard to actually existing socialist states in the past and present

  29. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: A more useful depatrure would be for you to reassess the knee jerk negative approach of the “IS tradition” with regard to actually existing socialist states in the past and present

    It seems to me that in order to do that they would have to define what is meant by socialism.

  30. Vanya on said:

    #47 Quite amusing, as undoubtedly would be the faces of certain people on reading it.

    However, I clicked on one of the articles linked to on the same page, on Left Unity and the role that people like yourselves should play, and came accross this:

    “Revolutionaries should attempt to be the ones who are always arguing for the most radical actions…”

    Now I know about taking quotes out of context so I’m hoping I’ve not done that.

    But it seems to me that what anyone involved in any kind of campaign or movement should do is examine any situation and apply to it, and advocate that others do the same, the most appropriate actions to that situation, taking everything into account.

    If revolutionaries are going to define themselves as such even if only partly on the basis of always being those arguing for the most radical action, (a) They will inevitably be arguing for wrong tactics on many occasions and this will partly be because, (b) there is always likely to be someone else trying to prove that they are the true revolutionary by arguing for something more radical. And (c) this is in effect the marriage of sectarianism and its supposed opposite, opportunism, because it becomes about taking a position in order to show how “revolutionary” you are rather than on the basis of the objective needs of the situation.

    Sometimes of course the actions proposed by people who take this line will coincide with those objective needs, but I would suggest that relying on that is little better than relying on a stopped clock to be right twice a day, because at least that’s predictable.

    And to me it suggests that breaking with undemocratic and in some cases oppressive modes of internal functioning, as those of you breaking with the SWP are clearly doing (and very positively I might add), is not sufficient to answer the question of what type of party is needed.

    Ironically I suspect this is another situation where Lenin might have agreed with me, although clearly I’m not invoking his authority given what I said earlier on this thread.

  31. Forever Delayed on said:

    always arguing for the most radical actions…”

    Isn’t that the very definition of ultra-leftism?

  32. Sam64 on said:

    An mature MA student who did not want to be named ( and not enjoying the sunshine judging by the fact that his face was covered) said that he had lost his voice and was unable to speak, but it was interesting being able to attend so many meetings and just listen.

    For once LOL is justified

  33. Vanya on said:

    Forever Delayed:
    always arguing for the most radical actions…”

    Isn’t that the very definition of ultra-leftism?

    Yes, I forgot to add that.

    As I said, I’m quoting what appears to be a document emanating from your current. And as I also said, I’m aware of the risk of quoting out of context, so I am happy to be corrected on either ground.

  34. Vanya: “Revolutionaries should attempt to be the ones who are always arguing for the most radical actions…”

    Now I know about taking quotes out of context so I’m hoping I’ve not done that.

    Well I very much think you are taking the quote out of context.

    The actual paragraph was this:

    When making scrambled eggs, many people think they’re saving time by using the microwave. But when you beat the eggs and add milk, you’re losing the richness that good scrambled eggs should be full of. For that reason, revolutionaries should attempt to be the ones who are always arguing for the most radical actions

  35. Vanya on said:

    #55 I’m too young to have been around then.

    Do you remember welfare orange juice and rosehip syrup? That was still around in the late 60s.

  36. Vanya,

    I was talking about Rose hip syrup only today. I occasionally crave it!

    The most tantalising childhood taste was the orange flavoured fizzy drink made of powdered pain killer called spring, which we had instead of calpol. It must have been addictive because I still miss it!

  37. jim mclean on said:

    We used to collect rosehips (itchycoos) and sell them to a local newsagent in the late 50’s. Unfortunately the market was undermined by cheap imports.

  38. jim mclean on said:

    Andy Newman,

    Gaitskell introduced prescription charges to fund the Korean war and address the growing concern of people being out their faces on prescribed drugs. What Bevan called
    “the ceaseless cascade of medicine which is pouring down British throats”.

  39. Forever Delayed on said:

    Vanya,

    Do you know the title or address of this document you quote? I haven’t seen it, but I would suspect the author doesn’t mean “always arguing for the most radical actions…” in an absolute sense, but more the “most radical actions” that are realistically appropriate/possible in the given circumstances. Which is still, I think, a bad definition. As you say (and as Lenin and Trotsky argued at length) the “most radical action” is not “always” the correct one.

    Personally, I don’t think we should refer to ourselves as revolutionaries at all unless we are revolutionary in practice as well as theory, which no organisation in Britain genuinely is or realistically has opportunity to be under the existing circumstances. We are, at most, in favour of revolution as the necessary means to replace capitalism with Socialism, but we are not engaged in revolutionary struggle here and now, or even capable of it.

  40. Forever Delayed on said:

    Andy Newman,

    And what “actually existing socialist states” would those be? Socialism (let alone Communism) has not actually been achieved in any state, past or present. That’s not to say it’s impossible; there are concrete historical reasons for it in each case. It’s also not an insult to, say, Cuba, that it hasn’t achieved Socialism under impossible conditions (IE: a small island with an economy based on exporting sugar, faced with the unrelenting hostility of the US, etc).

  41. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    Forever Delayed,

    We can argue all day about whether Cuba, Venezuela etc have “achieved socialism”; in the fullest sense of the word, of course they haven’t. Would you at least admit they have socialist governments – and that the SWP tradition towards them is one of dog in the manger ultra-leftism?

  42. Forever Delayed on said:

    Marxist Lenonist,

    “Would you at least admit they have socialist governments?”

    That’s an interesting question, and one that I’m finding difficult to answer with a straight yes or no. A lot of their policies and actions have been Socialist, have benefited the working class and poor, have gone far enough for capitalists/imperialists to attempt to overthrow them. However, their economies are still at least partially capitalist, and therefore the governments have to compromise with and to some extent represent capitalist interests. If, as you say, Socialism has not been achieved “in it’s fullest sense”, then how far and in what ways has it been achieved? How much influence do the working class and the capitalists respectively have over the government? Maybe the question isn’t: is this government Socialist or not Socialist; but to what extent is it Socialist and to what extent is it able to be Socialist? As I said, it’s no insult to Cuba to say it hasn’t achieved Socialism in One Country.

    As for the SWP, I agree that the party has always been far too dismissive of the Cuban Revolution and the left-wing governments of Latin America. Whatever critiscisms can be made of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments, their immense achievements should also be acknowledged. Moreover, the current leadership of the SWP are in no position to critiscise anyone.

  43. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    Forever Delayed,

    “As for the SWP, I agree that the party has always been far too dismissive of the Cuban Revolution and the left-wing governments of Latin America. Whatever critiscisms can be made of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments, their immense achievements should also be acknowledged. Moreover, the current leadership of the SWP are in no position to critiscise anyone.”

    Well said =)

  44. Vanya on said:

    Forever Delayed,

    I’ve been trying to find the document I quoted from with embaraasing lack of success. I recall that it was about how revolutionaries should organise within broader left formations. If I come accross it again I’ll post a link, as clearly I should have done at the time.

  45. Jara Handala on said:

    facing Reality,

    Says it all, really, don’t disagree with a single word.

    Perhaps the best written statement penned by any SWP Central Cttee. Could make it into journalism textbooks as a lesson in keeping it sweet & short.

    The last word of Cde. Incognito?

  46. Perhaps my intervention in the meeting on Stephen Lawrence’s racist murder 20 years on at Marxism 2013 set the cat among the pigeons.

    I referred to the Channel 4 Dispatches/Guardian investigation into a Special Demonstration Squad (police) infiltrator into “the Militant Party united front Youth Against Racism in Europe” as the speaker put it (it was actually Militant Labour, previously the Militant Tendency and now the Socialist Party, but that’s nitpicking) who was trying to find dirt to smear Stephen Lawrence’s family. The YRE and another “Militant united front” Panther (of black and Asian people) organised the first demonstration to close down the British National Party HQ. I was in Militant Labour at the time and went on that demo.

    I had a copy of the new book “Undercover” by Guardian journalists Rob Evans and Paul Lewis in my bag and read out front page headlines “They steal identities, they break the law, they sleep with the enemy, the true story of Britain’s secret police”

    I also read part of a paragraph (at the start of page 16): “‘It was a shadowy section where people disappeared into a black hole for several years,’ recalls one officer who infiltrated the revolutionary Socialist Workers Party in the 1980s.”

    I also talked about a leader of the CWI (which links the Socialist Party to similar organisations around the world) who quoted half a sentence from an internal document during the debate around the setting up of the Scottish Socialist Party at the 1998 European School of the CWI (without naming him). I resigned shortly afterwards due to the position of the British and international organisations’ position on the SSP and since I felt, rightly or wrongly, that infiltrators had become dominant as we shrank in size (and preferred to inform others from the outside rather than get expelled).

    Anyway, at the end of my speech, I just happened to mention Martin Smith alias Comrade Delta (implying that he too was an infiltrator). There were some calls of “Shame!” and someone didn’t think that this meeting was appropriate to mention him – but bearing in mind that he was employed by Unite Against Fascism, it was very relevant in my opinion…

  47. Karl Stewart on said:

    I must say he’s chosen the right time to do it – when all our regular contributors, like everyone on the left and indeed the whole nation is on tenterhooks over the impending Royal Birth.

  48. Karl Stewart: when all our regular contributors, like everyone on the left and indeed the whole nation is on tenterhooks over the impending Royal Birth.

    The best joke I have heard recently is that Kate Middleton was suprised to be going into labour, she thought she had just joined Unite.

    Karl Stewart:

    I must say he’s chosen the right time to do it – when all our regular contributors, like everyone on the left and indeed the whole nation is on tenterhooks over the impending Royal Birth.

  49. Jara Handala on said:

    Manzil,

    Our ISN lives a democratic deficit. Quite an eye-opener. Silly me for taking all that pluralism stuff to heart, the transparency of proceedings, the accountability of office-holders, the widest participation in decision-making, the need for an interested, attentive, scrutinising membership.

    Guess passivity is best, or expressions of conformity, perhaps the occasional boostering. Now where did I hear that before?

  50. Jara Handala on said:

    Manzil,

    Funny you should say that:

    “I have just read this thread for the first time, & I wish I had read it when it was being posted. It is striking in that it has proved remarkably prescient in important ways.” (me, 25 June)
    http://forum.internationalsocialistnetwork.com/thread/146/culture-hangover-swp

    “Another thread in this Public Forum, started at the very beginning of the ISN’s life, in March, wondered whether there was a cultural hangover from the SWP within the ISN. Is it a case of ‘you can take the lad or lass out of the SWP, but you can’t take the SWP out of them’? I have no reason to doubt the good intentions of those controlling our ISN, but there is a pile of evidence that it is more centralist than it need be. Last month our Website re-published Richard Kuper’s 1978 warning about centralism, ‘Organisation & Participation’. We need to re-read that – & change our practice.” (me, 7 July)
    http://forum.internationalsocialistnetwork.com/thread/253/swp-takes-new-turn-learn

    Guess my ban is a case of blaming the messenger for the message, the inconvenient truth. But as we know only too well, facts are obdurate, they don’t go away.

  51. Graham on said:

    JARA,
    since you seem to have so much free time on your hands to clog up political blogs with shite perhaps it’s time you set up your own. I look forward to ignoring it.

  52. Graham: since you seem to have so much free time on your hands to clog up political blogs with shite perhaps it’s time you set up your own.

    I enjoy Jara’s writing enormously, I think he needs to expand his topics of interest though

  53. Jara Handala on said:

    Andy Newman,

    You’re right: I have to let go of the brush, leave the bog behind, get into the living room, & open my eyes to the wider world.

  54. Omar on said:

    Manzil:

    Jara Handala,

    Ha! You can take the people out of the SWP, but you can’t take the SWP out of the people…? :D

    Richard Seymour seems to be pushing a more realistic line these days since escaping from the Deathstar. No doubt he’ll be charged with selling out soon enough.

  55. Manzil on said:

    Andy Newman: ??? tell me more.

    Jara appears to have earned the ire of other ISN members on their website, and been invited to bugger off – for taking seriously the ex-oppositionists’ calls for democracy, presumably. There appears to be a view that someone actually taking a sincere interest in the ISN might be grounds for suspicion. Including charges of being a spy for the Weekly Worker, someone calling for him to be banned, denials that he is actually a member etc.

    Socialism is serious business, evidently.

    He may offend the Grahams, but I would think Jara’s ability to actually produce highly readable contributions would be valued somewhat more on the left than those whose main effort within online discussions is to decry them as resulting from having ‘too much time’.

    Off with you Jara, back to the coal face. Go and break some rocks like a ruddy decent salt o’ the earth proper SO-sher-list and stop, like, thinking ‘n’ stuff.

    I trust everyone has visited Michael Rosen’s blog – he allows us insight into the terrifying mindset of a modern-day political thug (wherein abuse complainants are implied to have ‘fucked up’ by SWP ultras) by helpfully reproducing the criticisms of his recent open letter to the party.

  56. Have to say, from this outsider’s perspective, Jara’s contributions to the ISN website look like petty trolling rather than constructive criticism.

    What I am intrigued by, is the recent letter by the ‘Facebook 4′ to Charlie Kimber, among other things requesting re-admittance to the SWP… I know that they are aware that the chances of this being assented to or close to nil, but interesting that they make this statement while remaining ISN members (as I understand).

    While I think the ISN was a correct move, holding people exiting the SWP in organised socialist politics, I am yet to be convinced of its longevity. There are very clear tensions between different visions of what the group should be: external faction of the SWP; re-assessing but preserving the best of the IS tradition of organised revolutionary socialist politics; study circle before the next viable organisation comes to view; ‘new’ libertarian left…? As some seem to be realising, they can’t survive by ignoring this eclecticism for too long. The debates over whether to hire staff reflect this; but I think the above-mentioned letter is an interesting gloss on the situation as well.