Sexism in the SWP and Respect

One of the most disingenuous aspects of Chris Harman’s document about the crisis in Respect, is his discussion of alleged sexism in Tower Hamlets.

As Chris Harman writes:

One very disturbing feature of this meeting was the attitude of Galloway’s supporters towards women members of Respect. Rania Khan, at 25 the youngest councillor, recalls:
We had about 50 women that night and they had valid membership cards but they were not allowed to take part. It was raining and cold outside and they had small children with them, and someone who was close to the council group leaders said to one of the women queuing up outside, “My wife doesn’t come, why are you here?”[22]
This was not the first time such attitudes had been displayed towards to Respect members, and particularly young women. Lufta Begum says that Respect council group leader Abjol Miah “shouted at me”. Paul McGarr says, “Some of the young Muslim women have been repeatedly insulted and bullied.” He adds that he does not see this as a particular characteristic of Muslim men—it was how women would have been treated by Labour officials in the mining village he grew up in 40 years ago. The point, however, is that the left have always sought to resist such behaviour.

Now there are a number of things that need to be said about this.

Firstly, the excellent observation from Louis Proyect about the use of “hearsay evidence” as atrocity stories. Who committed the alleged offence? “someone who was close to the council group leaders”. Who was the victim: “one of the women queuing up outside”. Forgive me if I am not totally convinced.

Secondly, let us look at this: “Lufta Begum says that Respect council group leader Abjol Miah “shouted at me”. Paul McGarr says, “Some of the young Muslim women have been repeatedly insulted and bullied.””

Harman says: “The point, however, is that the left have always sought to resist such behaviour.”

Let us look at what happened in Bristol two years ago. Three comrades resigned from the SWP, Ann Thomas, Paulette North and Richard Tucker over the gross sexism in Bristol District SWP, and the way the SWP at a national level refused to do anything about it.

Ann Thomas is an extremely well respected comrade in Bristol. A former left-wing Labour Party councillor, who resigned from Labour when they implemented the Poll Tax, and shortly after she joined the SWP, which she then worked to build for sixteen years. Paulette North was another long term SWP cadre, who was the lead candidate for Respect in the South West region in the 2004 Euro elections. Richard Tucker is also a long term SWP member.

The issue they left over was SWP leading member in Bristol, Pete W, repeatedly shouting, insulting and bullying the women members. Jo Benefield, who was herself being shouted at by Pete W confronted him about how such sexist behaviour is unacceptable in a socialist organisation.

Unbelievably, Pete W complained to the SWP’s internal disciplinary committee about Jo Benefield. Let Ann Thomas take up the story herself:

“Yes, I and Paulette left and so did Richard Tucker. We were all disgusted with the way the SWP handled Jo’s complaint – actually she tackled Pete directly about the way he treated women, particularly Paulette and me and Jo, and it was Pete who went to the party to complain about Jo criticising him!! Remarkable. Pete would always resent any political interference by me in the College where we both work. The party dragged it out for so long and punished Jo too! Pat Stack and Martin Smith chose to believe pete over Jo and me and Paulette. I left January 2006 while it was still going on because of their contempt for us.

“Just because an organisation says it’s against sexism doesn’t mean it doesn’t behave in a discriminatory way. It’s OK if you agree with everything the party says, then you can speak out, but if you want to disagree then you’re seen as ‘difficult’ or not really ‘one of us’. Consequently many of the women are tolerated, but the men always dominate the meetings in Bristol. Look at the way Jo was portrayed as ‘hysterical.’  The night of the coup [in Respect] the speakers were all men with the women as silent partners.”

Eventually a disciplinary hearing to discuss sexism involved only four men, who talked to Jo Benefield, and they sided with Pete W, for the good of unity within the SWP. Can you imagine any other labour movement organisation that would hold a hearing about complaints of sexism, with no women on panel? If an employer tried that, the union would have them for breakfast.

There are of course much worse examples of sexist behaviour from leading comrades in the SWP being tolerated, and it takes a certain chutzpah from Chris Harman to bring the can-opener too close to that can of worms.

So within their own organisation there is actually firm evidence of sexist behaviour, shouting at bullying of women, and the SWP has colluded with the sexists and not backed the women.

A well respected woman member of the SWP wrote in the first SWP pre-conferecne Internal bulletin:

“The record of Tower Hamlets is far from perfect but it points to some success in encouraging women to take up leading roles. The male candidate who did go on to win the Shadwell by-election had Maggie Falsaw as his elections agent. The Respect councillors group appointed Eileen Short as their political advisor, In the last London Council election 18 of the 48 candidates were women, 38%. In neighbouring Newham, which the Central Committee describes as a model Respect organisation only 14 of the 61 candidates were women, 23%.

“If the comrades felt that the sexism at the July selection meeting was something more sinister than the usual discussions they should have not waited for months and then simply raised the situation at an internal SWP meeting. The elected officers in Tower Hamlets Respect could have brought the problem up at many different meetings, both local and national. We undermine our ability to influence the direction of Respect if we demonise members as rightwing, sexist or homophobic, or even communalist,, the same language as used by the Islamophobes.”

So the interesting thing, is that whatever they claim now, the SWP did not seek to argue against alleged sexism within Respect, until they could use this charge as a factional football.

There is a political reason for this. As Alex Callinicos wrote right at the beginning of the Respect adventure:

“Respect is a coalition—a federal organisation that individuals can join and to which organisations can affiliate while preserving their autonomy. The programme, while principled, is relatively minimal, meaning that Respect is a pluralistic organisation in which diverse viewpoints coexist. This structure is critical if the existing forces within Respect are to have the breathing space they need to work together, but even more so if others— particularly wider sections of the trade union movement—are to be drawn in.”

Now there is an inherent problem with this type of structure, because it potentially freezes the political character of each component, without any dynamic towards convergence. As the SWP preserves its own political and organisational autonomy, it symmetrically has to respect the organisational and political autonomy of everyone else. This is precisely the worst type of structure for debating through any tricky issues like personal sexism and seeking to hold people accountable.

244 comments on “Sexism in the SWP and Respect

  1. Andy you write…

    “This is precisely the worst type of structure for debating through any tricky issues .”

    And you are the expert on the best type of debating structures. Gaining privileged access to a document not for public consumption and then releasing bits in dribs and drabs selectively depending on how the debate is moving.

    Is this what’s called ‘Socialist Unity’?

    It’s not as if you are aiming fire at the capitalists. You are supposed to be hosting a debate between participants on the left.

    Yet your attitude is basically, ‘it’s my blog and I’ll input what I like and leave out what I like’.

    In fact I tried to get back to you on this issue a couple of days ago but you closed the thread!

    Again, how can you accuse others of being manipulative and selective when you hardly have clean hands yourself?

  2. I’d just like to say that I have no way of knowing whether anything Andy has said is true or not. But its also true that if SWP members are accused of sexism for not knowing about these things or saying anything about it, why does Andy do nothing or say nothing about what is alleged to have happened in Tower Hamlets Respect?

    If I was to follow this method of argument I might reproduce the quote below and ask how many times Andy changes his political perspectives a month. But of course I’m not like that:

    In a fascinating discussion of the short comings of SW cultural reviewing on Splintered:

    “At least next week Yuri’s documentary is from pakistan, a country that must almost be the modern SWP’s ideal, what with all those Madrassas, and devout Muslims.”

    Strange.

  3. RedRaph on said:

    Why dont we let Harman publish his work and then publish a coherent reply and close the book there?

  4. Yet another selective quote from Chris Harman’s document.

    Andy if you have any integrity you’ll reproduce the whole document (obviously it would have been much better to show Chris the courtesy of waiting for him to publish it), I suspect it’s rather convincing that’s why this black propoganda effort has been employed on it.

  5. Andy,

    Will you be calling a ceasefire for Xmas?

    How about you publish nothing from 20th December to 2nd January? To cover the muslim, christian and atheist holy days and thereby respecting the sensibiulities of the readers of this blog.

  6. Oh John, you must be going for the troll of the year award with that rapid reaction rebuttal, heading the debate off away from the SWP. I was teasing on splintered’s blog about the way the SWP have suddenly become so keen on selling SW outside mosques, etc. Often with no real cultural or political nuance.

    Note that the quote from me doesn’t criticise Muslims, or working with Muslims, and you will note that ever since Respect was launched I have praised that aspect of Respect. My own long term political involvement working with the MOsques and the Muslim community on anti-racist and anti-deportation campaigns goes back more than twelve years. Even when we were the Socialist Allaince, in 2001 in Swindon we had a public meeting jointly with the Islamic association about palestine. when Martin Wicks shared a platform with Azim Tamimi, with 150 mainly Muslims in the audience. I am indeed company secretarty of an advice charity in Swindon that is a spin off from the Islamic association.

    I also incidently work with Christian groups in the peace movement and over palestinian solidarity. And until his tragic death the able chair of our quite successful STWC group was a Church of England vicar. I’m sometimes surprised that the SWP notice the radicalising effect of the war on Muslims, but have not noticed the similar effect on many Christians – particularly over Palestine. One of our key collaborators over Palestine work is a devout catholic woman, and last year the churches organised a brillinat 300 strong PSC meeting in Cheltenham.

  7. Raphie

    Harman can publish whenever he wants. I choose to respond to it in parts in order to deal with the factual errors wiithout the response becoming of book length.

  8. JOhn

    You say you don’t know if this is true.

    I can ask the women concerned to e-mail you, would you like that?

    Three respected women comrades with more that sixty years SWP membership between them complaining about sexism, but the SWP backed the man.

  9. Andy: don’t go getting poor old Johng confused with facts and the like.

    I think the most telling point in your piece is that if Tower Hamlets was supposed to be a cesspit of sexism and homophobia, why was no action taken by the Tower Hamlets committee? Why was this never raised at the Respect National Council? It simply does not stack up.

  10. Martin

    That would be an uncharitable interpretation. Ii there has been sexism in respect then two things need to happen:

    i) there needs to be open political discussion within Respect about womens’ oppression and how to combat it.
    ii) any specific instances of sexism need to be raised through Respect’s official structures, and if necessary disciplinary measures need to be taken.

    In fact the SWP has blocked Respoect having an internal political life in most of the country where these sort of issues can be debated, and people can be educated about sexism, and their responsibility too tackle it.

    And the SWP did not themselves raise the issue of sexism through respect’s structures. None of the problems they now rasie were ever brought up by them on the National Council.

    It is clearly hypocritical for the SWP to use sexism as a stick to beat up Respect, when they themselves condone it within their own organisation.

  11. Andy, I don’t believe in putting individuals on trial on blogs, particularly when the reason for doing so is simply to pursue a faction fight (ie directly responding to complaints what went on in TH Respect). This is not the behaviour of people who take sexism seriously, and it really is becoming a bit bizarre.

  12. Look – I will tell you the truth about something.

    In my own familly there was collusion and hyprocrisy, deceit and self deceit to cover up child sex abuse. I hate double standards, and people lying. it actually causes me a problem that I really hate lying, even the necessary white lies that are social lubrication.

    I am the last person in the world who would ever minimise sexist behaviour nor would I ever use the issue for political point scoring.

    The SWP really do have skeletons on their cupboards, and it makes me feel very powerless that without the women concerend being prepared to speak out, and even though there is a layer of senior people who know what I am talking about, that nothing will be done.

    What harman has done here is use alleged sexism as a stick to beat up TH Respect. If there is sexism we need to deal with it, not use it as factional ammunition.

    I only raise Bristol SWP beacsue harman precislsy did raise the alleged problems there just as a factional football.

  13. “Andy, I don’t believe in putting individuals on trial on blogs…” Sure, Johng. You’ve done nothing like that have you.

  14. Andy,

    I am genuinely perplexed, why do you close down debates that are tit-for-tat slanging matches only to reopen new ones?

  15. JM

    Do you really think there is no issue of substance to address here?

    It is not my fault that the SWP comrades commenting here don’t seem to care about Paulette North and Ann Thomas being effectivley forced out the party by sexism

    If you want the women involved to e-mail you I will arrange it. You don’t have to believe me.

  16. #15

    JOhn Game: “This is not the behaviour of people who take sexism seriously”

    So bringing actual sexist behaviour into the public light is “not the behaviour of people who take sexism seriously”, but keeping quiet about it (and much worse) for the sake of the party is OK?

  17. BTW John

    You said you have no way of knowing whether what i am saying is true or not.

    I have given you a way., I will ask the women to e-mail you, or they could phone you if you give me your number. They are prepared to talk about thhe sexist way they were treated by the SWP

    Do you want to find out?

  18. Johng: you’ve declared Kevin Ovenden guilty while refusing to acknoweldge when you’ve got basic facts wrong. At first it just seemed like overenthusiasm for the SWP CC. Now you just come across as thoroughly dishonest, given your refusal to face facts.

  19. No Andy. To raise these issues in a tit-for-tat way in the course of a faction fight I don’t believe demonstrates seriousness about the issues (why are you raising this now?). And I don’t see why saying so should lead to further charges of sexism, or belief that comrades ‘don’t care’ about individuals ‘being forced out of the SWP for sexism’. Added to this is the bizarre attempt to suggest that if its true that women were abused queuing up for the meeting this is somehow the fault of the SWP for having ‘prevented’ an internal life in Respect. You raise the parrallel with workplaces, and I know of no situation were it would be regarded as legitimate to carry on as you are. If your motivations are serious you should reconsider your own methods.

  20. I have not declared Kevin ‘Guilty’ of anything. I disagree with the stance that he took and don’t accept his rationalisation of that stance. That happens in politics. Its called disagreement.

  21. JOhn

    I repeat. If there is evidence of sexism in Respect, then it needs to be addressed, I have repeatedly said that. repsect Renwal needs to seriously demonstrate that it is a party that welcomes the participation and equality of women

    I agree with you though JOhn that it was deplorable for Chris harman to raise these issues in a tit-for-tat way in the course of a faction fight I also believe it demonstrates non-seriousness from Harman about the issues (why is he raising this now?).

  22. Johng: you’ve declared that he is guilty of breaking from the SWP’s politics. You’ve declared that he has become more right wing than the four breakaway councillors in Tower Hamlets. You’ve declared that he turned up to a meeting with a handwritten list of names – which was taken as conspiratorial behaviour. You’ve accused him and Rob Hoveman of being part of a witch hunt against the SWP. And on it goes. These are not disagreements, John. These are repeated claims of guilt.

  23. Anyway, the main point remains: there was no attempt by the SWP to raise these issues or to deal with them at the time. So either they decided to brush it under the carpet or the level of sexism was nothing like as bad as what they are making it out to be now. Either way, Chris Harman has a monumental cheek wagging his finger about now.

  24. He raised it because it was one of the issues raised by our councilers and many of our members directly involved, I would imagine. And again, at this stage, this is a discussion of an internal document (ie its a draft), which you are selectively leaking so no one but you reading this can know the full context of the discussion anyway. Imagine what a deranged idiot people would take me for if I was to repeatedly trawl the blog reproducing statements about ‘the SWP loving Pakistan’ etc, and use this as serious evidence of anything much at all about you (perhaps on a daily basis on a special blog called ‘the real socialist unity’ devoted to discussion of SUN’s crimes against the movement). The fact that mixed in with this kind of ridiculousness your raising quite serious allegations about individuals merely adds to the strangeness of it all. Again, I’m sure you are serious about what your doing, but you should think a bit about how your doing it.

  25. alan james on said:

    what sort of site is this that seems obsessed with the so called crimes of the SWP. For god’s sake wake up and smell the coffee. Whatever the differences the SWP are not the enemy- i mean karen reismann, ynus backsh, and others are under attack and you just appear to me to whip up a very unhealthy anti SWP hysteria. I am not a member of the SWP but find that by and large they play a positive role in stuff I do politically. No this doesn’t mean I agree with everything or that sometimes they can annoy me but the balance sheet overall is very positive. This site called unity seems to be run by people who have a pathological hatred toward the revolutionary left.
    don’t have a clue about Bristol but this trial by personal attack. I mean to start naming people and accusations is below the belt. I don’t think it is true that the SWP condone sexism inside their organisation in a systematic way. What appears to have happend in respect in Tower Hamlets is sexism not of one incident by one individual but systematic exclusion of bengali women in the democratic process. This should worry anybody becasuse this seems to be backed up by the direct experience of amny begali women but this is then dismissed because its not politically expedient. I am afriad this site is a real den of trot bashers. Time to give it a rest i think.

    merry xmas

  26. Concerned socialist on said:

    You really are a nasty piece of work, Andy. How many hits did your cesspool of a blog have during the short period when you were trying to post about something other than the EVIL SWP? Not many, judging from the comments (or, rather, lack of comments). Better to get back to attacking the socialists, eh?

  27. Kevin Murphy on said:

    Andy: “One of the most disingenuous aspects of Chris Harman’s document about the crisis in Respect, is his discussion of alleged sexism in Tower Hamlets.”

    Well the Weekly Train Wreck claimed there were only a few women among the 150 at RR Abjol Miah nomination meeting on November 25. How could this possibly happened if Miah’s TH organization was indeed inclusive? Who is being disingeuous here Andy?

    http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/699/respect.htm

  28. Nas,

    I believe that Kevin has broken with the politics of the SWP. I believe that Kevin is now to the right of the four councilers (fairly obviously given that I believe this is a left/right split). And I also believe writing letters to local newspapers describing the SWP as a ‘small sect’ trying to ‘hijack’ Respect is both a misrepresentation of the situation and a shift to the right and indeed, witch hunting.

    But these are the substance of the disagreement are’nt they? And its what the whole argument is actually about. I have at the same time always tried not to be personal about it. My understanding of my own political tradition is that it is perfectly normal to suggest that someone has been ‘pulled’ by the arena of their main activity. Its not a question about ‘guilt’. I think he’s politically mistaken. But I’ve never been someone who gets tremendously irate about people who move politically away from the tradition. It is a bit irritating to see someone so close to the organisation rubbishing it repeatedly of course, but these things pass. I’m pretty sure Kevin’s rather irritated as well.

  29. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Johng

    How, exactly, am I to the right of Lutfa Begum? You’ll have to do better than “I believe you are because you are on the right wing of a left/right split”.

    These four councillors, of course, would all be committed to a standpoint of revolutionary Marxism. They’d all be be turning up to events such as the RMT’s protest yesterday over the privatisation of the East London Line.

    None of them would be interested in taking the £13,000 stipend that comes with being leader of the opposition on Tower Hamlets council.

    All of them would repudiate slanders that a fellow Respect councillor had come round to their house and beaten them up.

    All of them would be happy to go on a float at the gay pride demonstration.

    And so on.

    But it’s so clear that you don’t care remotely about the facts. Instead we get hackish nostrums.

    I happened across an article by the sorely missed Duncan Hallas the other day. It appeared 22 years ago and he was commenting on what happens when when a refusal to face reality is taken to the extreme by a revolutionary group.

    You end up with “a tragic waste of the efforts and sacrifices of many well-intentioned revolutionaries and a most salutary warning about the dangers of mistaking wishes for reality, of false perspectives uncorrected by experience, of virulent sectarianism and political dishonesty”.

  30. Step back from all the filth and the fury, hot air and indignation.

    If there is sexism in Tower hamlets Respect, then it needs to be handled politically. However, the SWP never raised the issue within Respect, and have only recently started to talk about it during a faction fight.

    Now, either that means the level of sexism wasn’t that bad really, or they don’t take sexism serioulsy.

    Why is it perfectly acceptavle for Chris harman to rasie questioons of alleged sexism in Tower hamlets Respect, but not OK for me to raise sexism in Bristol SWP, that the party colluded in.

    When Chris harman criticised alleged sexism in respect (and this extract is the same as the document has already been publised, so get off your high horse about that), we didn’t get frothing at the mouth attacks on Harman from the SWP hacks saying he shouldn’t have raised it.

    Alan james above compalin about Pete W being named for shouting at women comrades, but was quite happy when Harman made the same accusation against Abjol Miah.

    There is something very unpleasant that accusations against an Asian Muslim man are regarded as self-evidently plausible, ,but accusations against a white socialist are evidence with being obsessed with the SWP, etc.

  31. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Andy

    Abjol Miah made exactly the point at the Respect National Council that if there were allegations of homophobia, sexism or other unacceptable behaviour then not only should they be investigated seriously by the Tower Hamlets committee and the member(s) spoken to, but, in addition, there should be “educational work” in the brancy over these issues.

    He fleshed this out by explaining how the perceptions of some older members in Tower Hamlets had been challenged and their ideas changed through the course of discussion and experience at different meetings and activities.

    Abjol described exactly the right approach to take – and it’s one that he and others of us have followed. Many SWP members would recognise that way of working.

    Unfortunately, some in Tower Hamlets have been driven towards a position of factional moralising, in which their has been systematic demonisation of individuals. The abuse and slanders heaped on Abjol Miah are utterly scandalous.

    SWP intellectuals, with zero direct experience of the issues concerned and who are totally ignorant of the people they are traducing, should be utterly ashamed of themselves.

  32. OH – this got delted by mitake:

    Concerned socialist #31:

    “You really are a nasty piece of work, Andy. How many hits did your cesspool of a blog have during the short period when you were trying to post about something other than the EVIL SWP?”

    So far this month;

    1/12/2007 Saturday 3,859
    2/12/2007 Sunday 4,308
    3/12/2007 Monday 4,992
    4/12/2007 Tuesday 4,213
    5/12/2007 Wednesday 5,052
    6/12/2007 Thursday 5,281
    7/12/2007 Friday 4,998
    8/12/2007 Saturday 3,990
    9/12/2007 Sunday 4,113
    10/12/2007 Monday 5,136
    11/12/2007 Tuesday 5,322
    12/12/2007 Wednesday 5,881
    13/12/2007 Thursday 5,276
    62421 Unique Visits

  33. #36

    Thanks for that Kevin

    Abjol Miah comes over as a very impressive politician, and is clearly left wing. It is utterley scandallous the way nhis name has become bandied around by people attacking Respect Renewal as if Abjol is some sort of reactionary.

  34. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Andy

    Yes, and now we have Chris Harman using the sordid methods of guilt by association: Abjol used to be in a religious group, that group is connected to another politico-religious group, which is reactionary on the Indian subcontinent, ergo Abjol is of a piece with the war criminals of 1971.

    It’s execrable, particularly from Harman, who ought to know better. Is anyone in the SWP asking the leadership why they are pumping this out while at the same time promoting the Cairo conference, which will have at it representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood.

  35. Yes Kev

    I hadn’t though that, but it is true that Jamaat are no worse than the Muslim brotherhood, so to rasie a past association with Jamaat as somehow eveidence of something dodgy is an amazing double standard.

    It is interesting to see that the Labour Party Pakistan, which takes a much firmer stance towards secularism and against political Islam than the SWP, has just entered a pro-democracy coalition including Jamaat-i-Islami.

    Even in Pakistan today Jammat are not simply a uncomplicatedly reactionary force.

    And if people are going to be judged by associations that they had years ago, we are really straying into dangerous territory.

  36. I have’nt been ‘traducing’ anyone and I my understanding of ‘left/right’ has to do with distinctions recognised by the main players themselves.

  37. Well if someone is described as ‘Old Labour’ I tend to think of them as to the right of those who see themselves as to the left of Labour. I imagine they see people who self identify as revolutionary socialists as to the left of them. This does’nt mean that I don’t want to work with people who describe themselves as Old Labour. Nor does it mean that splits of the kind we’ve seen are inevitable. But it can generate tensions and where I differ with you, is that I think in the particular circumstances of this split (largely a function of a lack of progress) its this that fueled the dispute. But we’ve been over and over this.

  38. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Johng

    Can you, for once, give some evidence for your assertion that I am to the right of Lutfa Begum and the other three councillors?

  39. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Johng

    “if someone is described as ‘Old Labour’ I tend to think of them as to the right of those who see themselves as to the left of Labour”. Passive constuctions, extreme subjectivism, and logical fallacies. Give it up. Just try answering some factual points.

  40. JOhn G, on the allged left/right nature of the split:

    Chris harman says:

    Arguments also took place within the newly elected Respect group on the council. Four councillors, including Respect’s first elected councillor, trade unionist Oliur Rahman, and its two women councillors, objected to what they saw as right wing positions taken by the majority of the group, and the failure of this majority to use their positions to agitate and campaign for Respect’s positions.

    But in the SWP’s IB#1, Rob Hoveman said (and this was of course written when he was an SWP member)

    Indeed, the only policy dispute of real substance that I know of within the council group over a policy position was over our attitude to the selection of a white, male chief executive. On that issue half of the councillors, including the two councillors who have joined the SWP, did express opposition to the position taken by council leader Abjol Miah, but largely on the grounds that they did not want to offend the chief executive or alienate white voters. To my mind, that puts them on the right wing of this particular argument against the much derided Abjol Miah.

    The communalist allegation seems to be based on the claim that Abjol opposed the appointment of a white male as council chief executive on £185,000 per year on the grounds the person was concerned was white … The claim is just a slur. Abjol objected to the new chief executive on the grounds that a better qualified Black woman and Pakistani man were passed over for the post and that only one of 27 council officers receiving over £100,000 remuneration per annum was from a British Minority Ethnic community.

    Azmal Hussain must be the first Brick Lane restaurateur to provide 300 free meals to pickets (to CWU pickets in the postal dispute), at the behest of SWP members. Our councillors have been on picket lines, having had no prior trade union experience in some cases, and the leader and deputy leader of the group joined a message of support for the Metronet workers, to give just a couple of examples, again as a result of the encouragement of SWP members.

    So come on JOhn, what are the policy issues that everyone recognises as left/right ones???

  41. Its also true incidently that the Ja’amat in Pakistan are not at all the same as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood, as with Political Islam in the rest of that region,always had a very different relationship to politics then in Pakistan or Bangladesh (in Pakistan for example not only was its support always miniscule by comparison with similar currents in the Middle East, but it tended to be closely associated with pro-American military dictatorships). Its a very different history. It is true now that this situation has shifted somewhat due to the US turn in the war on terror. But we’re not really talking about the same kinds of organisation.

    None of this is to say that these are not also contradictory formations, or indeed that association with them in Britain means the same as association with them in Pakistan, but it is true that where an insufficiant pole of attraction exists in the form of a mass movement to the left, the inevitable political differences can become sharpened. This is no different really from what I said about Old Labour.

    The most exciting thing about the anti-war movement was the breaking through of the old networks of patronage which had sustained the old clientist Labour machine. That there will be a temptation to fall back on these methods if political breakthroughs slow up is no big surprise, and is a possibility which was always recognised. In the same way that it was recognised that it was ultimately the failings of the movement as a whole if people were not drawn leftwards. Nothing sinister about that general understanding. It should be basic for Socialists.

  42. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Andy

    This is another example of Harman totally embarassing himself. Of course, none other than Oli Rahman claimed there were no major policy differences when he and the others split from the Respect group.

    I don’t know why comrades such as Johng and Harman don’t just leave this tawdry hackery to those who bear direct responsibility for the mishandling of the SWP in Respect. One of their problems, as is obvious, is that they just don’t have a clue what they are talking about.

  43. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    And now it must be clear to everyone that Johng’s MO is to throw out some half-backed accusations and then refuse all requests for him to back them up with facts.

  44. John, well done for having diverted discussion away from Chris Harman’s double standard, and the sexism in the SWP.

    Do you want me to get the women comrades in Bristol to contact you?

    You are of course talking rubbish in #48, when you say that there is no similarity between the Brotherhood and Jamaat.

    You say this is becasue Jamaat have been close to US backed dictatorship, but the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has been closely associated with the pro-American dictatorship in Saudi Arabia, Jordan (and Syria in the early years before the UAR). The Muslim Brotherhood was also only a small minority current during the Nasser era. Indeed as Said Ramadan (son of the former leader of the brotherhood) conceded in an interview in Cairo in 2001, the Brotherhood only survived becasue it was the only legal political party in JOrdan, and was the beneficiary of huge American financial aid.

    The brotherhood also committed crimes of political violence against the left, and general terrorism to undermine Nasser, including terrorist bombings on trains.

    It is very hard to find a satisfactory distinction between Jamaat and the Muslim Brotherhood, unless your are engaging in intellectual gymnastics to square the circle that the SWP CC are right to demonise jamaat, but love up to the Brotherhood.

  45. John

    You have made accuations.

    You have said that Kevin and Rob are to the right of the four rebel councillors.

    This does strike me as exceedingly unlikley, so I am waiting for your proof.

    But when challenged you repsond in a passive-aggressive way with oblique and vague formaulations that are hard to follow, and then say how strange you find it all.

  46. red eck on said:

    Bringing it back to the discussion on sexism. I am appalled to hear the way the CC dealt with Pete W. The risk with any small group is that its opaque nature can hide abuses. When I was in the SWP, I could remember not knowing who to vote for at the last SWP conference for the CC and NC elections. I recognised the usual, but as for the rest, I had no idea.
    There seems to be an inbuilt segregation in the SWP with the CC at the centre. I always found it unusual that the SWSS group would hold their own caucus prior before joining the rest of the SWP members for the same meeting. As a result, I never new any of their concerns, arguments, or even their names!
    It is a point worth making because, it would seem, that nobody outside Bristol knew about Ann and Paulette, the CC could simply back Pete W and bury the issue, without having to deal with the embarassment of discilping Pete W.

  47. I am astonished that Harman can write:

    “One very disturbing feature of this meeting was the attitude of Galloway’s supporters towards women members of Respect. …The point, however, is that the left have always sought to resist such behaviour. …”

    This is simply untrue.

    I spoke to a number of the CC and senior members about the sexism and discrimination I’d experienced for several years in “The Party”, and wrote to several, but none of them would take it further. One senior member laughed when I said I wanted to take it to the Control Commission and he, not unsympathetically, explained to me the practical purpose of that body. That is: to instill discipline for the lower orders, not to see justice done.

    I did ask Rees more than once what I’d done to deserve the dehumanising treatment they were meting out. Had I done anything personally or politically to offend anyone? All he could blurt was that my behaviour on all counts was “exemplary”.

    Was it because I wasn’t on the “fuck circuit”? Senior members, including one senior woman of long standing who was close to Cliff, seemed to think this was a distinct possibility. They know it happens but they won’t deal with it.

    You come into the movement with the aim of advancing it. You end up submerged in the shit of strangers.

  48. RedRaph on said:

    Sexism on The Revotionary Left

    #55 addresses a real problem that I’ve seen in the far left for over 30 years. The male using his position of power in the party/movemnet to have sexual relations with women who are often in long term relationhips themselves. Everybody knows it is going but does nothing. It’s a reflection of the power relationship we see in capitalist society. It was always worse in the SWP as they saw women’s oppression linked to economic and class issues and refused to see that all women were oppressed no matter their class.

  49. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Andy

    I don’t think we’ll be getting anything approaching an answer from Johng. Meanwhile, it’s very early days. I’d venture that he and Harman are going to be very surprised where their “left councillors” end up – and rather quickly I’d say.

    But by then I don’t think we’ll be hearing that much about the four paragons of socialism.

  50. Yes Kevin.
    We all know where they’re going.
    Official Opposition beckons.

    In the meantime
    Be careful with the spiv.
    You know you’re not really in the loop,but
    as one of Galloways previous Parliamentary staff learnt.

    1.Dont carry cash for George.
    2.Stay away from the paper shredder,even when instructed by George.
    3.If George is going to make accounts disappear,don’t let him pin it on you.

  51. >>> In what sense are any of the four councillors revolutionary socialists?

    Kevin, this is rich coming from the author of a letter to the ELA containing such choice morsels of renegacy as

    “a fundamental division has occurred in the Respect between the leadership of a very small organisation called the Socialist Workers Party and almost everyone else in the party”

    and: “The SWP has also sowed the seeds of division which have seen four Tower Hamlets councillors turn their backs on Respect after trying to stage a coup against the democratically-elected group leader”

    or: “If they had any principles, they would stand as SWP candidates. But they know they would get no votes.”

  52. the SWP and its clones elsewhere have a kind of tactical approach when they are confronted with sexism, if it suits them, they attack it, if not (like in cases of sexism in the own organisation when high or middle ranking members are involved, as it was the case around seven years ago in the German SWP clone “Linksruck”), they try to hide the whole thing … unfortunately, this is the way in which not only the SWP but many socialist organisations do deal with sexism or internal patriarchal structures

  53. the SWP are not the enemy- i mean karen reismann, ynus backsh, and others are under attack and you just appear to me to whip up a very unhealthy anti SWP hysteria

    Glass houses alert. So far in the month of December, there have been six posts about Karen Reissmann’s situation on this blog and five on Neil Williams’s Renewal-aligned RESPECT UK blog. Incidentally, neither Seymour nor Snowball has even mentioned her in that time.

  54. A comment on the “left/right split”: SWP supporters seem to be denouncing RR for having people to the right of revolutionary marxism within its ranks.

    Isn’t that the whole point of a broad, left-wing party?

    If they consider it a virtue of Respect(SWP) that there are very few people to the right of the SWP in that organisation, then I would suggest it is doomed.

  55. Madam Miaow: “They know it happens but they won’t deal with it. You come into the movement with the aim of advancing it. You end up submerged in the shit of strangers”….

    Madam Miaow hits the nail on the head, people know but don’t want to do anything. And as socialists, we should ask ourselves why? Why are peoples experiences of oppression and such as sexism ignored, dismissed, slapped-down, ignored. Instead of an open and honest investigation and support, it’s put-up and shut-up.

    And again, oppression is only observed when there’s
    something to gain usually for opportunistic reasons not ‘cos it is doing the right thing standing shoulder to shoulder with the oppressed.

    The more I hear, esp. womens experiences of the Left, I kinda think we are no better than capitalism. But hey, at least you know where you are with capitalism and you don’t have these illusions about comradeship, support and solidarity.

  56. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Syme

    >>>

    So, what exactly are the revolutionary credentials of the four Respect Independent councillors?

    It’s not a difficult question; I’m not asking for you to answer the Reimann hypothesis.

    >>>

  57. Andy replies to Stuart “It is hardly priviliged access. Chris harman can publish the entire document whenever he wants.”

    Actually, he cannot. He is bound by collective responsibility. If his CC colleagues vote for the document to be kept in-house (as far as is possible given it’s being leaked by Galloway’s poisonous entryists in the SWP), Harman cannot publish this text. Clearly many CC members will be embarrased by Harman’s text. Callinicos, for example, tends to be quoted a lot by those who damn Harman. On communalism and now on the lack of accountability of Respect’s leadership. Harman’s article should be printed in full. Unfortunately, Harman by no means has majority support within the present central committee. I would not be surprised to discover that Callinicos is livid at the recent changes.He may want to work with dissidents like Julie Waterson to push through a purge of the existing central committee, or else to prepare a split that will then join Galloway’s Fan Club. Other who went along with the new line may not accept that it is only a holding position. The new line has to be changed. Unfortunately, some of the quotes provided from Harman’s article attempt to defend the existing line as compatible with the old one. It is not. Unless Harman and the ret of his supporters within the central committee and beyond accept this, then they are making it easier for Waterson’s supporters to either recapture a majority of the central committee, or else to drag a substantial section of the party’s activists out of the party and into Galloway’s orbit.

  58. A comment on the “left/right split”: SWP supporters seem to be denouncing RR for having people to the right of revolutionary marxism within its ranks.

    Well no, they seem to be saying that it’s true. Which it is.

  59. Was it not true before the split? Was Respect only made up of revolutionaries?

    I mean, I know Lindsey German recently seemed proud when she said that most of Respect’s finances came from SWP members, but isn’t the idea of a left-of-Labour coalition that it’s, er, a coalition to the left of Labour, as opposed to a coalition of revolutionaries?

  60. It’s also part of the definition of a united front, as PhilW says.

    Incidentally, I know Tom doesn’t speak for anyone but himself, but I was amused by his reference to Galloway’s poisonous entryists in the SWP. Of course, any SWP member found to be a Gallowegian entryist should be expelled immediately, and all party members known to have associated with such unreliable elements should be called to account and kept under observation. It’s the only way to deal with these witch-hunters.

  61. Yes it was. No it wasn’t.

    The third question is a bit more problematic, but a superficial “yes it is” isn’t a bad place to start.

  62. The final paragraph of Andy’s article suggests that he wants to ban organised groups within Galloway’s “broad” party. However, this atomisation of the membership only reinforces the continuation of the leadership. It will not work. ISG members will not tollerate it. They would either leave (which I expect them to do relatively quickly) or else they will join with others in a series of ad hoc, unofficial organised groups. They will lie to the leadership about their lack of preparation before branch meetings, conference, national councils. Witchhunts are inevitable in such a regime. Having said this, it is important for organisations with significant weight within a broad party or campaign to loosen up. The SWP have always had a problem with this, and they now have an opportunity to change. Now that the non-SWP members in Respect have been further reduced, the only way to hold on to what is left is to make their votes count. That must mean incorporating them into decision making, rather than the SWP members caucusing prior to votes. This would allow Callinicos and Harman, Waterson and all the rest of Galloway’s fellow travellers to make their case. Harman will win these debates by political means, by persuasion. Others should be free to form themselves into groups to fight for their position. However, at the end of debates, when votes have been taken, the leading members have to be bound by the decisions. And that is what was wrong with Respect in the past, and remains a problem with Respect Renewal. Galloway can use his Daily Record to appeal for the vote of the most disgusting sexist pigs, and the paper of his party say nothing about this: it is a private matter! Galloway can vote to deny women control over their own fertility, and Respect Renewal say they oppose this, but support Galloway’s right as a private individual to impose his religious fanatasicsm on others! Andy prints a post of those who support the decriminalisation of prostitution, which is laudible. However, Galloway won’t be bound by this either. The SWP cannot stand for elections in it’s own name; they cannot ignore elections in a non-revolutionary period; they cannot support New Labour nor any other bourgeois party. They need to become a component part of a broad workers’ party. However, this broad party cannot be based on liberal pluralism that allows the leadership to do what they want.

  63. In post 34 Ovenden wrote “I happened across an article by the sorely missed Duncan Hallas the other day. It appeared 22 years ago and he was commenting on what happens when when a refusal to face reality is taken to the extreme by a revolutionary group.”

    For the record Duncan Hallas is on the record as opposing electoral alliances between the SWP and smaller socialist groups back in the late 1970s. A reading of his article on this topic makes it very clear indeed that he would have opposed the Respect project as an act of treachery to the need to openly build a revolutionary tendency within the working class.

  64. I dont think theres an argument about entryism when people could join on the night Miah was selected.
    OK I know it was sewn up before hand but still…

  65. Unity Is Strength on said:

    I’ve seldom experienced homophobia in the SWP and when it has happened (a couple of times in last 18 years) then it has been from newer members of the SWP who have not yet understood why this is politically divisive. My experience has been that comrades have always stood by me and have argued against homophobia when ever it occurs. Considering that the oppression of gays is an aspect of women’s oppression that comes out of the role of the family in capitalism I would imagine that if sexism is rife in the SWP then I doubt whether other comrades would have challenged homophobia as they have done.

    Kevin, you accuse the CC of drifting rightwards so you agree that it’s possible for revolutionary socialists to get it wrong then? Why then can’t you accept that johng has a point that on the issue of Respect you have drifted rightwards by throwing your lot in with Galloway who has split from Respect and set up an undemocratically elected alternative. You are also throwing your lot in with the sectarians who operate on this blog. Do you see the undemocratic manner in which they operate by posting selective information from an unpublished document by Harman as something a socialist should indulge in?

  66. Ger Francis on said:

    This characterisation of George, Salma, Ken Loach & co as representing a shift to the right is ultra-left nonsense. Their politics have not changed one iota from the foundation of Respect to now. The only shift is from the SWP who have taken a sectarian lurch, repeating the kind of slanders about communalist practice and religious fundamentalist currents inside Respect one normally associates with the pro war ‘left’, as they try to find cover for their control freakery.

  67. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Kieran

    No one could join on the night that Abjol Miah was selected as PPC for Bethnal Green & Bow. The membership records were checked properly and efficiently by means of a team of three and a lap top. (Incidentally, all this was done without creating the atmosphere of passport control at Terminal Three at Heathrow, which unfortunately had often been a source of friction before.)

    UiS – I’ve not suggested that the SWP is being “right wing”, and the rest of your argument doesn’t make sense.

  68. Unity Is Strength on said:

    @ #80 But you are accusing the CC of acting in a sectarian fashion. In expelling comrades who disagreed with them like an unaccountable Stalinist bureaucracy. If that’s not accusing the SWP of a lurch to the right then what is?

    If you don’t want to answer the rest of the issues I raise by characterising them as not making sense then that’s your choice.

  69. Anyway – enough of the SWP trolls. The double standard over sexism Andy highlighed in the post raises some important issues.

  70. Unity Is Strength on said:

    @ 82 No, it just shows an unscrupulous smear campaign worthy of The SUN newspaper. The fact that you support this shows how low you’re prepared to sink to attack fellow socialists.

  71. UiS (#83), you talk about “unscrupulous smears”, but as Andy has already said:

    You say you don’t know if this is true. I can ask the women concerned to e-mail you, would you like that? Three respected women comrades with more that sixty years SWP membership between them complaining about sexism, but the SWP backed the man.

    We are talking about real people here, who can write their own testimonies and contact people about them, not the fictions or untraceable people who inhabit smears.

    Either

    1. you know what happed in Bristol, or about the all-male disciplinary committee, and are dishonestly denying it (by accusing Andy of propagating a “smear”)

    2. or you don’t know what happened in Bristol, or about the all-male disciplinary committee, but are pretending you do (by accusing Andy of propagating a “smear”)

    Of course, what you really mean is that the discussion of real events that are embarrassing to the SWP leadership are by definition to be called “smears”.

    I personally arranged for two people to be removed from SWP lists: one a new and active member whose verbal harassment had been complained about several times by women members; the other was on the membership list but had let his subs lapse – his behaviour included both verbal and physical harassment and yelling of threats on being “rejected”. So it is possible to have charges of sexism taken seriously within the SWP, but unfortunately not when the sexist behaviour comes from senior members, as the testimonies of the three Bristol women and from Anna C (#55) demonstrate.

    To paraphrase you, the fact that you insist on calling embarrassing facts “smears” shows how low you’re prepared to sink to defend fellow apparatchiki.

  72. Unity Is Strength on said:

    @ 84 The SWP takes sexism in the party very seriously. Unless Andy publishes the whole details of what went on in Bristol and the opinions of everyone involved then it’s very difficult to assess what actually happened. But if you’re a sectarian hack like you then Andy just has to post anything that is anti-SWP and you accept it without evidence. Just like you accept the selective snippets from Harman that he feeds you.

    If that’s not sinking into the selective and disingenuous reporting that the Sun uses to smear its opponents then I don’t know what is. If you want to carry out a witchhunt just like the Murdoch press then be my guest but it paints a very tawdry picture of your ethics and judgement.

    If, as Andy claims, it was an all male disciplinary committee are you claiming that male socialists aren’t able to judge whether a comrade has been sexist or not? That would be like me, a gay man, claiming that only gay comrades can challenge homophobia. As socialists we don’t pander to identity politics in the SWP but we do work very successfully with many different types of people and encourage them to join the SWP.

    Using your logic I shouldn’t even be in the SWP because it must be homophobic because it’s comprised of mainly heterosexual people just like society and every other political organisation on the left. How can the SWP understand homophobia let along fight it being mainly comprised of heterosexuals?

    I left the ghetto of identity politics a long time ago so it’s sad to see it being used to justify more SWP bashing.

  73. UiS (#85): The SWP takes sexism in the party very seriously.

    As I said in #84 (with personal experience to back it up), this is true where the sexism comes from members who are new or marginal to the Party, but where it occurs higher up the ranks, the evidence points to a very different conclusion.

    UiS again: But if you’re a sectarian hack like you then Andy just has to post anything that is anti-SWP and you accept it without evidence. Just like you accept the selective snippets from Harman that he feeds you.

    Another delicate flower from UiS’s upside-down world. Chis Harman had very little to do with the Respect fiasco, but he’s decided to wade in now with a Socialist Review article and now this letter which has been in circulation before Andy obtained it. As a member of RR, Andy took exception to the unsubstantiated and very shaky-looking stories that Harman was using against RR. Accordingly, Andy took one clear example of sexism within the SWP, providing the kind of detail that Harman sidestepped, and used it not as part of a random gunfight with the SWP but to show specifically that sexism is being used by Harman (and UiS etc) selectively and hypocritically, as a stick to beat opponents with.

    Andy was also making the point (again ignored by UiS) that if, for the sake of argument, we assume that the patterns of sexism in TH were serious, why was the “evidence” never discussed, and instead stored up until a time when it could be used against opponents. Either way, we see an SWP leadership which does not take a principled approach towards sexism, but drops it or takes it up according to what is tactically useful at any juncture.

    Anna C (#55) provide more evidence of sexist behaviour laughingly dismissed, this time from the very top of the Party. But it wouldn’t matter how many examples were produced, with hard evidence to back them up. This would only be grist to UiS’s mill, and in his upside-down fashion, he’d portray the SWP as victim, and denounce the embarrasing evidence as sectarian slurs.

  74. In a way, UiS wins either way. We can leave his lies unrefuted, or we can spend hours refuting, either as a substitute for activism, or by taking less sleep (in my case).

    Here’s UiS (#85) again:If, as Andy claims, it was an all male disciplinary committee are you claiming that male socialists aren’t able to judge whether a comrade has been sexist or not? … Using your logic I shouldn’t even be in the SWP because it must be homophobic because it’s comprised of mainly heterosexual people just like society and every other political organisation on the left. … I left the ghetto of identity politics a long time ago so it’s sad to see it being used to justify more SWP bashing.

    My rejection of identity politics is summed up in this excellent article:

    http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=311

    I trust UiS would still agree with it even though the author, Sharon Smith, was expelled from the IST a few years ago.

    My point (and presumably Andy’s) about the disciplinary committee was not only that it was all male, but secondly, and more importantly, that it was convened specifically to consider the disciplining of those who had reported sexist behaviour, rather than the person who had been accused of the sexist behaviour, and then, thirdly, it preferred to close ranks around the male cadre accused rather than call the cadre to account.

    Of course, if UiS takes it as axiomatic that there is no sexism in the hierarchy of the SWP, then the all-male composition of the disciplinary panel is neither here nor there. And UiS could have gone on to say that the panel wasn’t meeting to discuss sexism, but to discuss the fact that three women had dared to complain about the behaviour of a member who was more senior than them (but for anyone not trapped in UiS’s way of thinking, that only strengthens the case on the other side).

    Look, UiS, there have been hundreds of e-mails circulating in the RR camp out of your view, and they say remarkably little about the SWP. If the SWP abandons its ambition to smash RR and leaves matters alone so that we can see which conception of Respect will work, then we’ll instantly stop having these skirmishes on the web. Unfortunately, I know the SWP too well to have any real hope of this. The SWP has the turnover and expenses of a medium-sized firm; earlier this year, if not before, the CC calculated that this could not be sustained if the SWP immersed itself deeper in Respect, or if it left behind an intact Respect. This is the reasoning behind the split and the continuing war of words. My guess is there’ll be a Christmas cease-fire, and then everything will erupt again over the Preston candidacy (the lies about Jerry Hicks’s statement at the time of the Bristol split already show where that’s heading).

  75. “If, as Andy claims, it was an all male disciplinary committee are you claiming that male socialists aren’t able to judge whether a comrade has been sexist or not? That would be like me, a gay man, claiming that only gay comrades can challenge homophobia. As socialists we don’t pander to identity politics in the SWP but we do work very successfully with many different types of people and encourage them to join the SWP.”

    Blowing smoke.

    I would say that it is vital for men to accept that they cannot fully comprehend what it is like to live under the type of oppression women face, just as it is vital for straight people to accept that they can have no real idea what it is like to have to completely hide your sexuality or to be unable to talk about someone you love for fear of violence, simply cos that person is of the same gender. Doesn’t mean we can’t try to understand it, but the day we say “yes, as a socialist I am as qualified as a victim of oppression to understand their oppression” is the day we become… oh, hang on. You’re already there.

    Surely the starting point for supposed revolutionaries is to say “all of us are fucked up under capitalism, so just cos I think I understand oppression, doesn’t make it so, and my first job is to listen to the opinions of the victims of oppression” – self-analysis and self-criticism are paramount, otherwise why are we bothering to encourage the self-organisation of the class? We may as well run it ourselves!

    I wouldn’t argue for token representation of women on a disciplinary committee (duh). But I would say that you’d be very stupid not to include an experienced woman party member, able to articulate women’s experiences in a way that men will never be able to, on a disciplinary panel.

    But, UiS, you’re just blowing smoke. You know full well that ideally, women would be on panels where issues of behaviour towards women are being discussed. And you know full well that no one is arguing that men aren’t capable of dealing with these issues, but that it’s simply better to include people with relevant experience.

    “Using your logic I shouldn’t even be in the SWP because it must be homophobic because it’s comprised of mainly heterosexual people just like society and every other political organisation on the left. How can the SWP understand homophobia let along fight it being mainly comprised of heterosexuals?”

    No. That’s the type of twisted logic you’ve been using all along, you inept troll.

    No one else uses such distortions and fabrications – just sectarians like you. You should be thoroughly embarrassed, although I suspect that you are calmly and rationally deciding just how much of a diverting troll to be in each thread, as opposed to honestly wanting political debate. Like Richard Seymour and his lies about Galloway and the media (and his “thank fuck I don’t have to defend this shit anymore”), you expose yourself as just another unprincipled sectarian, who puts loyalty to the party over and above everything else (including honest debate).

    But you won’t even have the guts to post under your own name, so you can’t really be taken seriously when you lie about people and then accuse them of witch-hunts.

  76. I agree with what you say babeuf and do indeed wonder why now the issue of TH and sexism has been brought up and not before. Again, it smacks of rank opportunism and double-standards. This isn’t a principled discussion by Harman it is a cynical manoeuvre and that is disgraceful for socialists to be pandering to this kind of behaviour.

    Also it is also to have representation of women, for example, on a disciplinary committee. It also shows that people who experience oppression should be involved in the discussion making. And actually, as a woman, I would feel intimidated by going to a male-only disciplinary committee. For example, power relationships? This is not about identity politics it is about power and oppression. There’s a difference.

  77. #90 Thanks, Louise. There’s likely to be an RR Women’s Day some time in the spring – this time to stir things up and not just repeat pious lines disconnected from immediate realities. You’d be welcome to come along (without having to endorse RR in the least – you could say whatever you want).

    #91 Voltaire’s Priest – well why bother reading or commenting then? That’s what most such fights seem like to outsiders who don’t have to work out for themselves which side is telling the truth or behaving honourably (or if there isn’t black and white, then at least which side is a lighter shade of grey). There’s no reason why this should be of interest to many beyond the limits of the two Respects. But you can’t expect the RR side simply to lie down and die. We want to emerge with a viable organisation at the end of all this, even if that will be dissolved into something larger further down the line.

  78. Surely the test of the new organisations will be practical rather then mutual viputeration on blogs. The strategy of producing atrocity story after atrocity story, and warning that unless the SWP will play ball, there’ll be more to come, does’nt seem likely to yield anything, other then making ‘outsiders’, who presumably are the bulk of the prospective audiences for both sides, recoil in horror. Its well enough known what both sides think will happen to the other. Most SWP members believe that RR will degenerate into a sectarian beargarden. Most RR people believe that the SWP will degenerate into an isolated sect, and that non-renewal Respect will simply be a reflection of this. But these beliefs on either side are unlikely to play a big role in the growth of either organisation. If these tactics play a central role for either side its pretty certain that both groups are finished as viable political entities.

  79. John, when the SWP turned up at a Respect meeting the other night (not only were they welcomed in, they were allowed to sell papers etc., unlike their treatment of us, taking our leaflets and refusing to allow us to speak at their student conference), we said the same thing to them. We said that we know we’ll be working together, that it’s action that matters, that “the divorce has happened, so move on”, so what’s the point of coming to a meeting purely to stand up and tell us we’re the splitters etc?

    The SWP people who spoke were among the good ones, and clearly knew in their hearts that having just heard every Respect speaker condemn the treatment of Michael Gavan, we’re all on the same side.

    So why did they come to the meeting to appeal for unity, when we’ve said all along, fuck this nonsense and let’s all work together. As Kevin Ovenden said at the meeting, “if you want unity, tell John Rees”.

    Sadly, a key Newham SWP member is going round telling people that a Respect councillor is supporting the sacking of Michael Gavan.

    So maybe we’ve got some way to go yet.

    When I go to an RMT demo and all the SWP people (except the tube workers) refuse to look me in the eye, when the Socialist Worker reporter tells a Renewal member she’s not allowed to be in the photo he’s taking of the demo – despite her being a key Tower Hamlets resident and housing campaigner – and that same person refuses to even acknowledge me when I walk past him in a pub, when the SWP’s Respect people in Tower Hamlets refuse to even publicise a fundraiser we put on for the victims of the Bangladesh cyclone, I figure we’ve got quite a way to go.

    But at least you acknowledge that both sides will be tested in action, not words. How you explain all of the above, I’d be interested to hear.

    “warning that unless the SWP will play ball, there’ll be more to come”

    I think that until you people can sit up and realise that among your leadership you have a man who is willing to use private information to try to drag his enemies through the mud (not just Linda Smith, but his open and willing assistance of the BBC’s attempts to link Galloway with violence), you are not in a position to play the victim.

  80. Another issue about sexism – it was only when Alex Callinicos described Jerry Hicks in macho terms but portrayed Jo Benefield as weak (and called her “hysterical”, clearly not for the first time judging from the piece above) that I finally realised just how easy it is even for good socialists (including me; realising I’ve not analysed my own language usage very well) to slip into sexism.

    It should just be a policy among decent socialist men – if you want to describe a woman’s behaviour, check whether you’re falling into misogynistic traps.

    Jo Benefield was “hysterical” only in the way that George Galloway is “hysterical”.

    Except that we don’t call George Galloway “hysterical” when he speaks. We call him firely, passionate, angry. When Jo Benefield stood up to make an angry speech, she’s “hysterical”.

    It should be a badge of pride for socialists to have some self-awareness, to accept that just cos we know about the muck of ages doesn’t mean we ain’t got none clinging to us. Not to say “yeah I know about women’s oppression, now stop being so hysterical”.

  81. It serves some parties’ purpose to dismiss the experience of those us us who fell into the orbit of the SWP as “atrocity stories” rather than take an honest look at how we operate and relate, and see how we can work together to change for the better.

    Harman has recently raised the issue of sexism in in the public domain. But instead of examining how this works throughout the left, including in his own group, he uses it to attack others, making claims about their own purity that are untrue. It is therefore valid to comment on it.

    One way in which sexism and discrimination flourishes is for it to be ignored at best, or when desperate, to attack those kicking up about it.

    If this is the norm you wish to see in your organisations, then fine. Be up front about it. Let potential recruits fully understand the nature of your culture. But don’t say one thing during recruitment, do the opposite, and then expect us to put up with it.

  82. Thank goodness no-one has ever accused the Socialist Unity blog of being ‘hysterical’. However, since it descended into factionalism and abandoned any pretence to ‘Socialist Unity’, it has clearly become something of a joke…

  83. Exactly Madam Miaow- and I’d echo what Tony says as well.

    The “muck of ages” question is really whether we can claim to be totally free from sexism – I’m not sure I’ve never said anything out of line, but at least I’m aware of it. But we should have long since got past the idea that membership of the elect removes all your sin.

    It’s even worse when you have multiple layers of hypocrisy, like puritanical campaigns being wages as a way of browbeating the rank and file, while sections of the hierarchy behave more like a swingers’ club. And of course it all tends to come back to who’s got power over whom. No, they don’t own us.

  84. I don’t have any problem with the idea that we’re all infected with the ‘muck of ages’ and that we all need to be self aware about it. Nor do I have any problem with the idea of taking seriously allegations about sexism. I do have a problem with people claiming that they’re raising these issues as part of an on-going faction fight, and that they’ll drop them when the other side behaves. I don’t think thats serious about either sexism or politics (I’m referring here to Babeuf’s post). The factional nature of this is bought out by the way that allegations made by those on the other side of this dispute are dismissed without even any expression of concern, and indeed the sole reason for raising other allegations, is to trivialise discussion of these other discussions.

    Constant repetition of the mantra that when the SWP negotiates, this will stop, are one reason why some people see this as a smear campaign.

    TonyC raises the question of people not ‘looking him in the eye’. Well, people are pretty furious at the moment. I don’t think thats a huge surprise.

  85. Ger Francis on said:

    In the interests of shifting tone, I want to address some points raised by Kevin Murphy in post 30.

    Kevin posits that because there were ‘only a few women among the 150 at RR Abjol Miah’s nomination meeting on November 25’ this suggests ‘Miah’s TH organization’ is at least non-welcoming, if not downright hostile, to female involvement.

    I am not on the ground in TH so I am not going to comment one way or the other on the specifics there. I do think however is impossible to make such inferences on the basis of one meeting and I suspect the dynamics in TH around the involvement of Muslim women will be very similar to those in Birmingham

    Our experience in Birmingham, where we have a formidable capacity to reach and involve women from the Muslim community, is that female attendance at meetings can often vary for a variety of reasons. One factor that is critical is whether Muslim women Respect members are proactive in inviting other Muslim women to meetings. Why? Because politics in Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities traditionally have been very much a male preserve. Women are more likely to attend meetings if they are encouraged to do so by other women, and they will feel more comfortable about attending if they feel other women will also be in attendance.

    Another factor in encouraging attendance, for some, will be ‘women only’ seating which gives women the choice to sit seperatly if they so choose, (which is somewhat different to the ‘forced segregation’ slur that gets thrown at us). Salma explained this well an article she wrote for the International Socialism Journal:

    ‘The fact that many Muslim women expected and preferred such an arrangement escaped the intellectual grasp of some people, who thought that this was more evidence of enforced sexism and patriarchy, just as some of them could not accept that wearing a headscarf might actually be a choice exercised by Muslim women, and not forced upon them by men and an unjust religion….Not having interacted with Muslims as a community, the sight of some men and women sitting separately may have been an unusual one. However, instead of seeking to understand it and contextualising it in terms of other people’s experiences and culture, some people were quick to condemn and judge behaviour that was not completely their own norm.’

    http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=4&issue=100

    Our experience is that the most effective of our campaigning with Muslim women takes place in women only settings, thus creating a dynamic of political organizing which takes place in its own settings and on its own terms. But this does not necessarily translate into women attending public meetings. Where this influence does translate is behind the scenes among family and friends, in fundraising, in canvassing and in influencing our vote. Groups of Muslim women canvassers targeting other women at home with children during the daytime, has been critical in our campaigning and is without precedent in Birmingham politics.

    Even with the best will in the world there are cultural barriers which will limit our male Muslim Respect members from encouraging Muslim women to attend. In Birmingham many of our Muslim men would feel awarkward about ringing Muslim women to involve them in activities and some, both male and female, would regard such contact as inappropriate. It is normally the preferred option all round if women take that role.

    The conclusions are obvious. While overall Respect has been path breaking in challenging gender barriers inside the Muslim community, (Salma goes into this in more detail in a forthcoming issue of Feminist Review), there is never ending work in overcoming these barriers. Respect women members have accumulated rich experience in this terrain from which new strategies can be tried and tested.

  86. JOhn I have repeatedly said that any Sexism that does exist in TH Respect should be dealt with in a political way. If any of the allegations are true then that is a matter for concern

    You will note above that Kev says Abjol Miah has argued the same thing, and Abjol can point to concrete successes in changing the attitudes.

    Yet given that Chris Harman (!!!!) rasied the issue of sexism when the SWP comrades had not raised it previoulsy within Respect’s structures then it is self evidently a factional move on his part, rather than part of a systematic opposition ot sexism.

    In actual fact, there has been a consistent double standard where new or “difficult” members have alleged sexism used against them; while leading members are often sexist, and in one or two cases very inappropriate behaviour has been covered up.

    It is you acually, and Unity is Strength, who exhibit no concern abut what heppned in Bristol.

  87. I would’nt have any problem at all with what Ger said. However I think these things can vary from place to place and time and time and there probably should not be set rules.

    In terms of Andy’s contribution it seems to consist in attempting to argue that Chris Harman is not allowed to discuss sexism and that not responding to allegations of sexism in the blogsphere is evidence of ‘not being concerned’.

    I’m uninterested in THAT kind of a discussion about sexism.

  88. Andy,

    For me the problem comes back to your decision to release snippets of an unpublished document to suit your purposes.

    I don’t really know how these things work, whether Harman had distributed the draft to selected peers for feedback before possibly making changes. It’s certainly not for release at the moment.

    Secondly, I’ve no idea what the document is called, what the scope of it is and how your extracts fit into its overall pattern.

    All this necessarily limits its use on discussing sexism.

    As far as your Bristol example is concerned, I have no knowledge about this whatsoever and so I can’t comment. As you say, there was machinery used to look in to it but clearly a decision was made and you, along with others, were unhappy with the outcome. I don’t know the facts or how the overall decision was arrived at, so no comment.

    As regards Tower Hamlets and Respect, well this is where I’d like to know more about the scope of the draft.

    For me, the crux of the matter is whether the left accepts a degree of failure, four years into the Respect project. Respect was born out of the anti-war movement but was not explcitly socaialist or even anti-capitalist in its orientation. At least that’s how I felt.

    There was always a need for socialists to recruit and win people on the basis of arguments but there was no guarantee that this would happen successfully. There was always the danger that Respect could simply become a vehicle for opportunists, people from the business community, people with chauvanistic attitudes, people who use political parties for their own ends to indulge in Tamany Hall politics and treat Respect as just any other party.

    At some pont an assessment would have to be made on relative success or failure. And at some point an assessment would have to be made about whether the best known figure, Galloway, is working with or against these tendencies.

    But my problem is that I don’t have a clue about what other aspects the draft goes into, what the various sub headings are etc. I suspect the reference to chauvanistic or sexist attitudes in Tower Hamlets is part of a general comment on how the politics in Respect has drifted away from what socialists had originally intended it to be. It would be perfectly in order for Harman to raise some of these issies as part of an overall analysis.

    But as I say, I am largely guessing as you are simply releasing bits of an unpublished draft and choosing your own context, not respecting that of the author.

  89. Ger – that’s a really useful contribution. It’s so easy to be infected by ultra-left thinking (that’s not a dig at any group, implicit or otherwise, it’s just a fact), seeing things only in the framework of “unless you act in X way, you are not reaching up to *our* level”. It’s useful to be reminded of how things can actually work on the ground.

    It’s already given me some ideas about what we need to do in Tower Hamlets.

    “TonyC raises the question of people not ‘looking him in the eye’. Well, people are pretty furious at the moment. I don’t think thats a huge surprise.”

    John, I suspect that me, Kev, Rob etc. have more reason to be furious than most, given the collectively shabby treatment we’ve received (mine minor by comparison, but still shocking to receive such treatment from the vanguard of the class).

    But I’m still trying to say “hi” to everyone. I’m still inviting people out for a beer. I’ve not lied to people, even when they’ve lied to me. And I’ve not lied about them, even when they’ve lied about me. And I wouldn’t be trying to stop them appearing in photos of a demonstration, neither would I refuse to report on the good things they were doing, which is what they’re doing to Salma et al.

    I think the real reason they won’t even look me in the eye is pure embarrassment. I saw it with Kev, before the smears started – we knew back then that a campaign of lies and smears was about to start against him when all the full timers stopped even looking him in the eye. A sure sign that they will no longer be acting honestly.

    For a central committee member (one of 7-8 full timers at a small RMT demo) to refuse to look me, Kev, Rob etc in the eye – it’s the height of cowardice, and these people have no right to lead a revolutionary party. (But then, that same CC member scribbled his name on our “sign up to volunteer here” sheet at the RR conference and gave his girlfriend’s email address – not very honest, is he.)

    If these people believe they are ignoring us cos they are “furious”, I suggest they have a read of this.

  90. “For a central committee member (one of 7-8 full timers at a small RMT demo) to refuse to look me, Kev, Rob etc in the eye – it’s the height of cowardice, and these people have no right to lead a revolutionary party”

    Thats a bit OTT don’t you think Tony. Or rather, its the kind of thing you say over a pint with your mates, hardly the subject for on-line splurges and generalisations about whose got the right to lead a revolutionary party or not.

    I think its bound to be awkward. This is the worst kind of thing I’ve ever seen happen on the left in my life time.

    Its the problem with this medium overall. It leads all of us to say entirely ridiculous things.

  91. Oh and Tony, I don’t regard the CC as ‘the vanguard of the class’. I regard the CC as being selected on the basis of being good organisers of an attempt to make the SWP a political hub for that vanguard. Which is not the same thing. Nevertheless, not looking someone in the eye on a demo, I don’t regard as an automatic disqualification from the post.

    I also think, more seriously though, that you might be underestimating quite how furious quite a wide layer of people are. If your on one side of a dispute you can sometimes lose track of that. I’m in no such danger because for reasons unclear even to me, I come onto this site quite often.

  92. John: you might be underestimating quite how furious quite a wide layer of people are

    Is there a level of anger at which it becomes acceptable to lie to people & spread lies about them?

    More to the point, I think you may be underestimating the patience, goodwill and absence of malice towards most SWP members which is current on the Renewal side. I think what Tony says – I wouldn’t be trying to stop them appearing in photos of a demonstration, neither would I refuse to report on the good things they were doing – is typical. Looking at the blogs, you could be forgiven for thinking Karen Reissmann was in the Renewal faction; her fight certainly gets a lot more coverage here than on the Tomb.

  93. *100: “And of course it all tends to come back to who’s got power over whom. No, they don’t own us.”

    We know that but they don’t, Splintered. It was amazing to see how they appropriate other people’s labour for their own personal use.

  94. Kevin Ovenden,

    >>> So, what exactly are the revolutionary credentials of the four Respect Independent councillors?

    I never raised the issue of the councilors being revolutionaries, that was someone else. Clearly your revolutionary credentials stretching back a number of years are to your credit. But I don’t think you can run on past achievements, professing to be a revolutionary when you abandon the revolutionary organisation of which you have been a member for many years on the basis of a disagreement with the leadership over the question of building Respect.

    When you were asked to resign from Galloway’s office, did you attempt to explain to George that under the situation you needed to relinquish your post in order to take the argument about Respect into the party, form a pre-conference faction and attempt to win the argument? Why did Nick Wrack not explain to those who had put him forward for the role of National Organiser that under the circumstances it would be better for him to pass up the role until the discussion within the party had been resolved? This is the point where the handful of decent lefties and crowds of sectarian lunatics with whom you’ve shacked up in Renewal can decry the “russian dolls” but I’m assuming you still accept the need for a democratic-centralist, revolutionary organisation. What were you hoping to achieve in terms of building a revolutionary organisation by walking away from the SWP without even fighting for your position within the organisation? Do you see Respect Renewal as being the organisation from which you will be able to build an alternative current?

    I spoke to a lot of people in the week after your expulsion who were concerned about it – after they had read that letter that you and Rob sent in to the ELA, the concern had more than dried up. It seems that if you were really concerned about Respect hanging together that you would have worked to diffuse the tensions, accepted party discipline whilst making it clear to all that you intended to fight for your position. You’d have had a lot more respect from SWP comrades had you taken this approach rather than running into the arms of Galloway, not speaking up against his vile attacks on Leninists, the SWP and individual SWP comrades in the Tower Hamlets committee meeting, writing letters attacking the SWP to the ELA, sitting at the top table of a conference where speaker after speaker denounced the SWP, whilst Galloway decried those who have remained in the original Respect as ‘juvenile dwarves’. Do you have a t-shirt with “fuck off, fuck off the lot of you” on it? Do you approve of Galloway’s scabby, cross-class resort to the Electoral Commission to hammer John Rees and your ex-comrades?

    I think that you made a real tactical error in not remaining in the party and trying to split the membership by winning them in argument rather than helping to forment a situation where you felt SWP comrades should have come running over to Renewal because Galloway, Salma et al had upped sticks. The fact that the SWP has remained solid other than a few resignations will no doubt make it easier for you to write off the party and push ahead with your attacks on the SWP but it leaves Renewal a weak force on the ground. I think that in your heart of hearts you know that Renewal without the SWP will pull you further and further from the realms of revolutionary socialism. What is your position on supporting the pro-scab, pro-Ian Blair Ken Livingstone for Mayor? Do you think it would be “sectarian” to support a pro-working class socialist like Lindsey German against the the man who thinks that the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes isn’t a sackable offence and that Ian Blair going would be great for “the terrorists”? Renewal’s future, without the support of the SWP, will be even more bound up with opportunism and electoralism.

    By the way, for my part, I’m happy to admit that if the description of the way in which allegations of sexism in Bristol were dealt with are true then they were clearly mishandled and I’m happy to raise this with comrades in the centre (I don’t work there nor am I on the CC before anyone asks). Clearly the sexism that exists in society is reflected even in the vanguard and it is important to rectify this at every opportunity. Will Renewal now explain what their position is on the way that some female Respect members have been treated at Respect meetings, will they address the situation or will they continue to pass it off as hearsay and by extension accuse the people who have witnessed it (such as Jackie Turner, for example) of being SWP liars etc.

  95. Unity Is Strength on said:

    @ 107 In what way does a CC member not looking you in the eye have anything to do with leading a revolutionary party? I find that hysterical in a funny ha ha way (better make that clear just in case you decide to accuse me of calling you hysterical.)

    I’d cheerfully blank you if I passed you on the street or saw you in a pub considering the way you’ve behaved on this blog. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t work with you politically against the real enemy – the ruling class (remember them?)

    What next, a SWP organiser borrowed my pen and never gave it back so they must all be a bunch of thieves. Get a grip.

    @ 88 So who the hell is tonyc? I know you think you’re a legend in your own lunch time but there are a multitide of people called tony with a surname beginning with c on the internet. Even if you used your full name, which I advise you against as we’re always being warned about identity theft on the internet, you’d still be just as anonymous as I am so don’t play that card. When, during the existance of BBS and the internet has it been blog etiquette to use your name? Another of your red herrings quashed.

  96. Phil I don’t think people have been lied about or lies been spread round about them. If this or that detail has been got wrong, its unclear to me that this is the result of ‘lies’. I also don’t think anybody cares very much about what is or is not posted on Lenin’s Tomb in relationship to this dispute. And I’m under no illusions about what some people in RR are capable of. As previously said, I turn up here quite often, and I don’t think pure bile of the kind seen here has been seen on the British left in many a moon. It brings nothing but discredit to all of us. Can anyone remember anything like it?

  97. Unity Is Strength on said:

    @ 113 syme, that is an excellent post. It nails every one of the lies used to attack the SWP and seriously undermines Kevin’s belief that he was acting in the interests of the working class in order to build a left opposition to labour.

    It’s a lesson to all socialists that we can’t rest on our laurels and hope to win a political arguement because of past achievements. Every new situation tests our politics. Perhaps Galloway’s influence affected his judgement.

  98. Syme.

    Harman’s document has been circulated around the international left, beyond the scope of just the IST groups, so it is not just a draft being released for peer review. It is politically a finished document, otherwise it would not have been circulated so widely.

    The question is this. If it is the case that the SWP were worried about the fact that other components of Respect would drift to the right, then why did it insist on a coalition structure that minimised both accountability and inhibited any tendency towards political convergence?

    Also why were the concerns not raised through the structures of Respect until they became factionally useful for the SWP?

    And I can certainly assure the comrades that lies about me were spread around after I left the SWP.

  99. *114 UIS “What next, a SWP organiser borrowed my pen and never gave it back so they must all be a bunch of thieves.”

    No, but now that you raise the subject, they did steal my full-time labour over several years and never paid wages they owed me. Not sure if that’s strictly on-topic as sexism, but thieving from your workers is presumably in the same ball park.

  100. The coalition structure precisely fits a situation where there is enough agreement to begin building an electoral alternative but not enough agreement to bind togeather everyone in a single membership structure. That coalitional logic is the way every single genuine mass electoral organisation on the left ever came into being. Watching this row unfold on SUN over the last few months makes the alternative look like a nightmare. These issues were raised when these issues deepened to the point of political split, and we’re working out what to do next (as you are).

    If they had been raised earlier we would have split earlier. The significance and depth of these splits was always going to be mediated by the speed with which other forces were pulled in. If they’re not you end up either with a sectarian play ground or on the other hand a sect with broad politics. Unfortunately not enough other forces were pulled in and Respect 1 fell apart.

    Now we have the ludicrous situation where as Brown falls apart we’re all having to clear up our own mess rather then attack his. There seems to be an enourmous amount of self righteous indignation about which leads precisely nowhere.

  101. Unity Is Strength on said:

    @ 117 How do you know any of this Andy? Did you have the courtesy to ask Harmans permission to post this document? How can you claim that its circulation to socialists outside the SWP wasn’t an attempt at a peer review? We’ll never know because you haven’t verified any of the accusations you’ve made on this blog.

    You’ve made huge assumptions about this document in order to perpetuate your SWP witchhunt. You may believe that this was not your intention but others both in and outside the SWP will judge that you have not acted in a fraternal way.

  102. What is most worrying is this.

    A thread about sexism has been effectively hijacked to discuss other issues. while comrades have minimised or ignored the real experience that women have raised.

    Look at the testimony of Anna C (#55) that has been ignored perhaps becuase it is too close to the bone, or because the whispering campaign against Anna has made her a non-person? John game even joked about having her killed on another thread.

    This is what Anna said

    Was it because I wasn’t on the “fuck circuit”? Senior members, including one senior woman of long standing who was close to Cliff, seemed to think this was a distinct possibility. They know it happens but they won’t deal with it.

    Now a lot of us know the truth of what she is referring to here, and a lot of us know about some other pretty dreadful stuff that has been convered up by the party over the years

    So don’t give me this sanctimonious shit about how the SWP takes sexism seriously.

  103. #120

    Harman writing a document packed full of deliberate lies, and rasing the temperature, along with frankly islamophobic smears is hardly fraternal in the first place.

  104. It does seem likely that its quite a good article though. If it really had been distributed that widely one would have expected it to be leaked by those hostile to the SWP. That it has’nt been and that Andy won’t publish it in full suggests that it provides a persuasive framework of analyses, of what to most people is simply bewildering.

  105. John Game the killer of women. Of course this thread is entirely fraternal, balenced and simply concerned with the issue of sexism. Pull the other one Andy.

  106. No JOhn, the political argument is the same weak self-justifying United Fronyt of a Special Type, combined with ex-post facto rationalisations.

    My problem with it is that it is literally packed full of untrue statements, distortions of fact, and smears, and there needs to be a tedious refuting of the lies before the politics can be addressed.

    I am not publishing it becasue the SWP can publich their own documents

  107. Unity Is Strength on said:

    @ 118 Madam Miaow, I suggest you post your real name otherwise tonyc will get mad and call you a coward.

    As for your assertions that you didn’t get paid for full-time labour you gave the SWP well I can only suggest that you post the details of this issue so we can confirm your accusation and then contact the CC. It seems strange that you worked full-time for the party for years and weren’t paid wages owed. You should have taken them to an employment tribunal.

  108. Ho Ho JOhn

    It is very funny isn’t it. To joke about the victims of sexism. Minimisinig and diminishing their experience becasue they are inconvenient to the Party.

    I think you should take what Anna says seriouly, she is the canary in the coal mine.

  109. Unity is Strngth

    Try to keep up, Madam Miaow is Anna C, and you know as well as I do what she is referring to. Her work was not directly for the party, but for the Socialist Allaince, Stop the War and MWAW.

  110. So the conclusion to all this is.
    Tim is an obsessive, who does nothing but think about george galloway

  111. Unity Is Strength on said:

    @ 121 Being gay I probably didn’t fit the requirements of the CC’s so-called “fuck circuit” or perhaps I wasn’t pretty enough. I did have quite a few mutually agreeable fucks with comrades over the years – some of whom did not identify as gay but who’s counting? I even shagged a fulltime member so presumably I’ve done quite well in climbing up this so-called “fuck circuit” to the upper eschelons. If only some unidentified woman comrade had told me what Anna was told then I might have made a career out of pimping myself to the CC. Isn’t that what all us SWP members are doing in our end of the world love sect?

    Andy you’ve descended from accusations of sexism in the SWP to so-called “fuck circuits”. What next, the CC’s SM dungeons where comrades were chained up and used as sex slaves? The extent to which you are willing to sink is pitiable. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so dispicable.

  112. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Syem

    A “cross-class resort to the Electoral Commission “… that would be the one that Elane Graham-Leigh under the instruction of John Rees wanted to be part of, except that the approach had already been because the chair, vice-chair and MP in Respect were not prepared to be delayed any longer in doing what was necessary to protect the organisation. (It still might be protected: you seem to assume that that the Electoral Commission will find against us.)

    Secondly: you’re upset that I and Rob responded forcefully to the propaganda offensive agaisnt George Galloway and the majority of councillors in Tower Hamlets – get over it.

    Thirdly, Lindsey German isn’t going to stand for London mayor. You must know this. You’re fairly smart, and the dogs in the street know what’s happening. She didn’t turn up to the RMT protest on Thursday (prime place to be if you were running on her platform); there’s been zero press operation from her “campaign” over the last couple of weeks when a lot of politics is happening in London (actually, you have to go back to Rob Hoveman’s and a person who shall remain nameless’s efforts to find success from that quarter); it’ll cost a lot of money to stand for mayor and everyone knows money is tight – especially in Vauxhall; Lindsey must know that if she were to stand she would get a humiliatingly small vote (no one in Newham who can deliver will campaign for her).

    Finally, I guess you, just like four SWP comrades in Newham two nights ago, have sunk into that terrible place where you lose sight of political reality. The position of Lindsey German and George Galloway in April, May, June, July and August of this year was that we should transfer to Livingstone and, further, that it was an open question whether it would be better to stand for mayor or to stand down in favour of Livingstone in order to advance the left and beat Johnson.

    In London there is now a disturbing tendency for SWP members to attempt a false polarisation over the GLA and London mayor election.

    Syme, just nip over and ask Chris Bambery: he knows that Lindsey German isn’t standing for London mayor.

  113. John:

    If this or that detail has been got wrong, its unclear to me that this is the result of ‘lies’.

    Perhaps you could contact Tony C offline. He seems very clear on this point; he may be wrong (any of us may be wrong), but I don’t see any reason to start from the assumption that he is wrong.

    I also don’t think anybody cares very much about what is or is not posted on Lenin’s Tomb in relationship to this dispute.

    You’ve misread my comment – I never said anything about the Tomb’s postings on this dispute. My point was that, according to people I have no reason to distrust, RR partisans are been blanked, smeared and written out of the record by RESPECT-SWP loyalists. Your response to this was to say, in effect, what did we expect – people are angry.

    Hence what I actually wrote in the comment you responded to, which was that a lot of us have got pretty angry during this dispute, but the levels of sectarian animosity we’re hearing about seem to be strictly one-way. For example, Andy and Neil Williams aren’t ignoring Karen Reissmann’s fight, despite being on the RR side.

  114. Oddly Andy you have not mentioned any of the ‘lies’ in Chris Harman’s document. Unless of course your referring to allegations that women were told that they should stay at home when they turned up to a meeting. Are you stating that this is a ‘lie’? I’m unclear on this point.

  115. Unity Is Strength on said:

    @ 128 So Madam Miaow is Anna C. Wow! That really clears things up. Out of all the Anna C’s on the internet who is this Anna C?

    You claim that Anna didn’t work full-time for the SWP but for those other political organisations that had their own elected leadership running them. I assume Anna needs to discuss wages owed with these organisations then. The STWC is still going so perhaps they can help for a start?

  116. #134

    John

    the document is packed full of factual errors, I will publish a more detailed rebuttal of the factual errors in due course.

    The dishonesty comes from he fact that the counter-factual statements have already been refuted time and time again, but Harman just goes back to the original falsle claims.

    I regard it as a political weakness that the SWP’s best effort at a political justification can only be made to stand up by relying on falsehoods.

    I think this is what Callinicos described as a “regressive problem shift” in his quite good little book on Trotskyism, where in ordet to continue to defend a false theory, you have to reject parts of your own prvioulsy ocrrect analysis. this is clearly what is going on with harman and Smith starting to talk about communalism, etc, when the SWP had a proud and good record about standing up to that sort of nonsense itself, up until a few months ago.

  117. Unity is Strngth

    Well as you can find out Anna’s full name just by clicking on the URL on her comment, Ii take your studied ignorance to be a ploy.

    it is also utterly disingenuous to play stupid over the relationship between SWP members working full time for other united front campaigns.

  118. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Johng

    You really have become a joke. For a couple of years most of your political activity has been posting on blogs (you told me that a few months ago). Now, you’re popping up here trolling for Rees. Be clear, John, others will eventually dump him: the damage caused by his mishandling of this whole area of work is so great. You and Meaders and Bat and Seymour will be left high and dry, because you go into pixel defending this rubbish.

    So… back to the issue of sexism…

  119. Phil have you been reading the same blog I have? Blanking people and being a bit unfriendly is hardly on a par with what goes on here. Perhaps people have been socialised into believing that rubbishing socialists in the SWP is perfectly acceptable behaviour. Its not the case though that people in the SWP have. Socialists of any stripe have an obligation to defend people being witch hunted by the right in the trade union movement. On the other hand, though it would be very big of people, being chummy with people otherwise viciously attacking you in the most personalised, apolitical manner imaginable is not an obligation. Especially not when one suspects that the reason they’re doing this is because they believe that unless they damage us they can’t succede. It does make it a bit of a zero sum game really.

  120. But Andy you have not pointed to any falsehoods or demonstrated that the SWP is going back on its analyses. To do that you’d have to analyse the whole thing. You can’t do that. So instead you engage in increasingly desperate personal attacks on people (I see Kevin’s joined in as well).

  121. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Andy

    The tragedy is that they are not Harman’s factual errors. He’s just regurgitated what he’s been told by Rees, German and others. He probably puts store by McGarr, given the time they worked together on Socialist Worker, but McGarr is inactive in Tower Hamlets Respect – the same is true for Doherty and McGlaughlin who co-worte the loyalist IB article.

    I have always maintained a high regard for Chris Harman – including when he was removed as editor of Socialist Worker nearly three years ago as part of the reconfiguring of the leadership around Rees and German.

    (At this point comrades such as Johng might howl and even hit the keyboard, but you know that all this is true because it was ubiquitous conversation in the party among those of us who had been around for about 20 years.)

    I have never regarded Harman as a “dribbling uncle in the corner” – the words of one CC member describing the dismissive attitude of others on the CC to Harman.

    There are several omrades in the SWP who know that this fits the picture that they have seen directly. You should do something about it.

  122. “@ 128 So Madam Miaow is Anna C. Wow! That really clears things up. Out of all the Anna C’s on the internet who is this Anna C?”

    So who is Unity is Strength? You can trace Madam Miaow/Anna by clicking on her URL. But Unity, who are you? If you so interested in finding out who people are then drop your anonymity. Or have I missed something along the way?

    Oh and btw re women being involved in all structures (#85). You would want women on that disciplinary committee as it would make a difference but would also shift the power relationships and that is nowt to do with identity politics. It is utterly disasterous to have a male-dominated committee.

    Or put it another way, if you turned up to, say, an employment tribunal and discovered it was all employers on the panel. How would you feel? For start, it would be unfair and unjust. And it would skew the findings.

    I mean, even the bourgeois state allows representation for the worker. But when it comes to us (socialists) it means being judged by our peers and people who are oppressed are involved in the decision makings.

    It is about giving a voice to the oppressed when things get real and if that’s not what the Left is about then I dunno what it is about!

  123. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    “Socialists of any stripe have an obligation to defend people being witch hunted by the right in the trade union movement.”

    Alright, John Game, you got me with this one. This is the last time. Go and tell John Rees that. Go and tell him and Lindsey German, who is repeating it, that he’s witch-hunting a leading female trade unionist in London.

    Of course you won’t do this. Instead, you’ll avoid reality and pop up here trying to provoke. It’s incredibly sad, John. You used to run around commenting on Harry’s Place, but at least that might be justified as engaging with the enemy. Now you’ve ended up doing this. Risible and no longer deserving of a response.

  124. *126 UIS “You should have taken them to an employment tribunal.”

    Never was a truer word spoken.

    If you follow my link to my blog you can find out who I am, thanks for asking, but who are the anonymice?

    I joined the left in good faith after a year and a half of intensive persuasion, and was led to believe I was bringing in my skills for the advancement of the movement, not a bunch of little pashas.

    They complained the media never took any notice of them. Using what I’d learned from the publicists who’d worked on my shows, I sorted it. New Labour had been marching to war since the Kosovo/Serbia conflict and I thought this was important.

    It is a scandal that at Rees’s behest, the entire anti-war STWC and 2000/2001 SA press operations, bar a few bits of stationery and phone calls, were built and paid for by one unemployed individual, on my credit cards while I was going deeper and deeper into debt, from 9/11 until they finally got Burgin on board. Even then, I ended up getting the national coverage for a warm-up event the weekend before the big demo, and when Burgin told me they desperately needed press officers and Rees banned me out of personal pique, I still ended up organising an ITN TV crew to follow Bianca Jagger and some American students on the day of the big march in February 2003.

    I didn’t even mind certain parties taking credit. I didn’t expect thanks but I certainly did not expect to have wages withheld; to be whacked in the face by an LSA-balloon weilding Rees at the SA Millbank press launch; to have him view the result of my labour, not as something that belonged to the movement, but as something personally in his gift to bestow upon an intimate, not on the basis of her doing any work, but because she was … well, “intimate”, once he thought there was status attached to the role; to see him sabotage and undo all the good work done on the SA and waste all those skills, knowledge and data accumulated over several years.

    This isn’t just damage done to me; it is damage done to your socialist movement.

    I did what it said on the packet. They most certainly did not.

  125. Some of the most despicable bullying and backbiting I have witnessed has been within the ghetto of far left politics.
    It is surely incredible that even in the 21st century the CC of the biggest far left group in the UK is totally male dominated? With women rarely even making up a third of the highest leadership body. I would suggest that this suggests a party that does not take women’s liberation seriously. Personally, I think the whole SWP concept of the “Central Committee” is flawed and if I were a member would suggest it be based with a larger group known as a “steering committee” to concretely establish that is a body accountable to the membership.
    While positive discrimination should only be a temporary measure to re-adjust things, before the split the SSP got it right I think in insisting that all leadership and committee bodies had a 50/50 gender split.
    This issue of sexism within the left is one that is very important, though I don’t think that it is fair to single out the SWP. One major criticism of both Respect and the SWP is that they do virtually no concrete campaigning around challenging the surge of sexism in 21st Century Britian that takes place in the absence of a mass women’s movement.
    In South Wales, where I live, while having very little time for the politics of nationalism, I have been impressed that Plaid Cymru have a strong female leadership (though in the North the party seems male dominated) with many prominent women. They have a rule that prioritises women heading the lists in elections for assembly seats. However, I wouldn’t look at things with rosetinted spectacles – a friend of mine who is a leading activist in the Women’s section bitterly complained of the sexism that she experienced and the male chauvinism prevalent in sections of Plaid!
    I have never personally witnessed overt or explicit sexism within the SWP but when I was in the organisation many female comrades believed (and indeed I myself believe) that there was a problem with sexism.
    For example, I spoke to at least 3 or 4 women who were SWP members in a relationship with male SWP members who spoke of being treated continually as “wives”, and mentioned party members calling up and always asking to speak to the male despite both being active members. I also heard the local organisation described as operating like a “boys club” by two female members, Similar experiences related to me were of women being rarely asked to give meetings, women who worked extremely hard in both the local branch and united front campaigns being treated as second-class branch levels by male chauvinist fulltimers.
    I also personally witnessed middle aged men bullying and patronising young women in an unacceptable way.

  126. As we come out of this, Michael, we will all be able to reflect on what has happened. But sotto voce sardonic quips are not going to help anyone.

    The left is in trouble. It’s weaker now that 25 years ago. That’s the issue I think we should address.

  127. 113. Very good. Syme has hit the nail on the head in relation to Ovenden, Hoverman and Wrack:

    “When you were asked to resign from Galloway’s office, did you attempt to explain to George that under the situation you needed to relinquish your post in order to take the argument about Respect into the party, form a pre-conference faction and attempt to win the argument? Why did Nick Wrack not explain to those who had put him forward for the role of National Organiser that under the circumstances it would be better for him to pass up the role until the discussion within the party had been resolved? This is the point where the handful of decent lefties and crowds of sectarian lunatics with whom you’ve shacked up in Renewal can decry the “russian dolls” but I’m assuming you still accept the need for a democratic-centralist, revolutionary organisation. What were you hoping to achieve in terms of building a revolutionary organisation by walking away from the SWP without even fighting for your position within the organisation?”

    EXACTLY. They failed to fight for their position within the SWP during its PRE-CONFERENCE DISCUSSION PERIOD. They had every opportunity to struggle for their viewpoint, in an orderly way, in the run up to an SWP annual conference where the matter could have been resolved by a vote. Their decision not to do this so in such a context is astonishing. Instead, they chose to ignore the democratically agreed position of their party leading body, the CC, and break ranks–creating havoc and a catastrophic split in Respect. Their decision obliged the SWP to apply party discipline. Some people on this blog appear to reject democratic-centralism. I do not. Even the SWP-hating CPGB grudgingly accepted this point:

    “Nevertheless it does seem that the SWP leadership assertion – ‘the three comrades have not been expelled because they disagreed with the central committee. It is because they failed to accept party discipline and worked against the nationally agreed SWP line’ – is accurate, at least in formal terms.

    So the response to the expulsions by the pro-Respect soft left – liberal outrage – is, to say the least, misplaced. For example, Andy Newman of the Socialist Unity website asks rhetorically: “Do you want to be part of an organisation where any questioning of the line is met by expulsions and purges?

    Well, no, but on this occasion it seems clear that all three had indeed refused to abide by SWP discipline.”

    Full article: http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/693/swp.htm

    The three comrades have managed to evade and treat with contempt not one, but TWO annual conferences in the space of a few months: the SWP conference in January and the Respect annual conference. The damage that their course of action has caused has been appalling.

    Surely, it would have been better to wait until January and the decsiison of the SWP conference?

  128. I would be interested in concrete practical steps for how Respect and the SWP could challege sexism within it’s own ranks and within society

  129. Perhaps, Nas, my ‘sotto voce sardonic quips’ (I’ve never been so complimented in all my life) address the very problem you mention. I’m 61, I’ve seen all this before. The script was written decades ago.

  130. #Eh… Chris Edwards? They were expelled during the pre-conference period. An SWP friend of mine says this has not happened in is experience – 40 years. Now, back to the issue of sexism…

  131. “now back to sexism” – as if that’s what this post was about. Laughable, utterly laughable.

    I’m sure there is sexism in the SWP, and I’m not sure that it is always dealt with well. I’d be interested, as Adam J says, in what others think the SWP can and should do about that.

    Does anyone from Galloway’s group have anything to say about the specifics which Andy quotes Harman (selectively) as referring to?

  132. One thing that I have noticed is that much of the campaigning that the SWP and Respect do on women’s liberation tends towards abstract propaganda rather than relating to concrete campaigns and issues. Of course, this is partly because of the decline of social movements around these issues and it is difficult for a small organisation to spearhead these things. But I think that the SWP would do well to see the issue of women’s liberation as a key campaigning focus, alongside opposing privatisation, imperialist war, climate destabilisation, racism and raising awareness of the processes in Latin America

  133. Yes, and I stopped beating my wife last week, before you asked.

    I don’t know about the situation. As described here, it sounds pretty bad, and worthy of condemnation. I’m afraid that after recent weeks I have a pretty negative view of much that is posted on this site by the Galloway group, finding that much of it is disingenuous at best. But the allegations are serious and I wouldn’t want to dismiss them out of hand just because Andy puts them forward.

  134. KrisS, I understand your point. Say you have a branch of a socialist organisation with only a small number of members it is difficult for you to organise around every issue without spreading yourself too thin. In my own locale their are all kinds of things that arise that I wish we could spearhead campaigns on, but at present we don’t have the numbers of activists to make an intervention or are reduced to shrill denunciations of injustice without the back-up and credibility of a mass movement behind us
    Some socialist women I have met often complain that they feel that a major part of their experience in capitalist society of opression is not being addressed by mainstream far left organisations.

  135. I’ve had the same experience, and I wouldn’t argue with what has been said on that score. I just don’t quite see how you can make a general point about women’s oppression into a campaigning issue. I guess what you could do is give some more emphasis to those real struggles which bring questions of women’s opression into play. It does seem, for example, that there may be some work to do around the issue of abortion rights in the near future. Putting serious resources into that is something that would make sense to me.

  136. Ok, KrisS. I accept you view things here from a certain standpoint. So, what are you going to do to confront what you acknowledge at least might be a problem over sexim in the Bristol SWP.

    You see, if you do nothing, you’ll be just like Johng – a hypocritical hack.

    So… let’s get to the bottom of this, Kriss. There’re accusations of sexist behaviour in a left wing group. What should we do, Kriss?

  137. Another thing I have noticed about all revolutionary socialist organisations in the West is that the fossilised middle aged male leadership that seems fairly static. I mean things aren’t as bad as Cuba with Fidel, but . . .
    Good to see that the LCR have a prominent spokesperson who is under 30 in Olivier Besancenot.
    It’s strange when you see the left of 1968 that all the leaders seem to be under 30, but in today’s left and social movements the leadership are all over 50.

  138. What, exactly, is the “fuck circuit”? Can someone spell out what they’re talking about here because one interpretation has got very nasty implications which go way beyond arguments about institutionalised sexism.

    Andy says “a lot of us know the truth of what she is referring to here, and a lot of us know about some other pretty dreadful stuff that has been covered up by the party over the years”

    Maybe I’m naive and didn’t get invited to the right parties but 20 years in the SWP including 5 in the national office and I don’t know the “truth of what she is referring to here”. I’d like to hear what Kevin and Rob think about these allegations.

    You really have to substantiate this sort of thing if you’re going to allege it. At the moment I’m on the outside looking in at this disaster in despair at both sides, but this sort of talk makes RR look more like a sewer than a viable political alternative despite any political sympathy I might have.

  139. Nas – # 161

    I think “hack” would be a misnomer for me, as it goes. But I wouldn’t claim to be the one person in the world without any issues around hypocisy.

    There’s a difference, I think, in what one could do as a member, and what one could do as someone who has made a conscious and deliberate decision not to be a member. Having been a member of the SWP only briefly, 20 years ago, I’d have more questions on the subject for those who have been members more recently, including some of those contributing here.

    When deciding what, if anything, to do about anything, you make all sorts of judgements and choices, don’t you? About a particular issue’s substance and importance, about your own motivation, about the likelihood or otherwise of your intervention having any effect, or being part of a greater mobilisation which might have some effect.

    If one were to judge that the particular issue (and I assume you mean the SWP and Bristol, rather than Respect and Tower Hamlets, since you seem unwilling to comment on that subject, for your own reasons which you haven’t explained here) as one of substance, as an example of poor conduct by the SWP, and as an issue being worthy of putting some time and effort into, then you would have to decide whether your aim would be to attack the SWP and try to break people from its influence, or to encourage the SWP to improve its practice.

    It’s very clear to me that Andy takes the first line. I can’t imagine that I would. But it’s pretty obvious that the second line is much more difficult to accomplish, especially while remaining a non-member. you might like to think of that as a long-winded way of saying “I don’t no”. I’d be interested in any suggestions though.

  140. “I would be interested in concrete practical steps for how Respect and the SWP could challege sexism within it’s own ranks and within society”

    Adam: Firstly, listen to what women have to say about their own experiences of sexism without it being ignored, dismissed and minimised, ‘cos in reality that’s what happens.

    Secondly, take these issues seriously and in good faith as opposed to indulging in opportunism. A systematic and principled outlook regarding oppression and being seen to challenge, not just oppression in wider society, but on the Left as well. And if someone challenges and criticises any kind of sexist behaviour or discusses their own experiences of sexism on the left, on blogs, for example, the level of defensiveness and hostility shown is shocking. I have been around for over 20 yrs (and thought I had seen it all!) it appals me just how low people go when being dismissive and oppressive.

    Thirdly, supporting socialist feminist initiatives and encouraging debates around feminism, cos like it or not, feminism should be integral to socialism. One practical solution is to be supportive of self-organisation and autonomy. Before anyone argues, it is ideologically different to separatism!

    Finally, I think the Left isn’t accomodating and there is an ingrained sexism that isn’t being challenged (instead you get defensiveness and hostility esp. around feminism)and partly this is due to a weak and fragmented state of the left and a patchy feminist movement. And old gains that were won now have to be re-stated and argued for all over again.

    And maybe this is a general point but it impacts on the lack of women participating on lefty blogs but there is a worrying trend towards macho attack-dog style “discussion” that pours scorn on engaging in debate and reduces everything to a war of words. It achieves nothing and puts people, I am sure, off and not just women as it is not inclusive and treating people with any equality.

  141. I woudl agree wholeheartedly with Louise when she says “partly this is due to a weak and fragmented state of the left”.

  142. Thank you Adam J for pointing out MM’s post and thank you MM for pointing out the error of my ways. I have commented about it on MM’s blog. (I realise this is completely irrelevant to the line of this thread, so apologies for temporarily hijacking it but I thought I ought to thank the people concerned.)

  143. “Thank you Adam J for pointing out MM’s post and thank you MM for pointing out the error of my ways. I have commented about it on MM’s blog. (I realise this is completely irrelevant to the line of this thread, so apologies for temporarily hijacking it but I thought I ought to thank the people concerned.)”

    Socialist Unity in action . . . it warms the heart!

  144. Blanking people and being a bit unfriendly is hardly on a par with what goes on here.

    Don’t be ridiculous. What goes on here is ones and zeroes – being slightly less friendly than usual, to someone you’re actually face to face with, has far more effect than what you read on a blog. But that’s a secondary point.

    Perhaps people have been socialised into believing that rubbishing socialists in the SWP is perfectly acceptable behaviour.

    The main point is that nobody, but nobody, is “rubbishing socialists in the SWP“. I don’t know what it’s going to take to get this point across. The worst that this blog is doing is failing to make allowances for socialists who are in the SWP: where they deserve to be criticised – for sexism, for authoritarianism, for lying, for failures of judgment – then they get criticised, openly and publicly, regardless of the damage which this criticism might do to the SWP and hence to the movement. Fortunately most members of the SWP don’t deserve criticism on these grounds, so the broader damage should be fairly minimal.

    Socialists of any stripe have an obligation to defend people being witch hunted by the right in the trade union movement.

    People like SWP member Karen Reissmann, for example? As I’ve said in two separate comments, this blog and Neil Williams’ blog have been in the forefront of blog comment on Reissmann’s fight – and rightly so. Or were you thinking of some other trade unionist who’s being witch-hunted by the right, and who RR are failing to defend? Who, specifically?

  145. The main point is that nobody, but nobody, is “rubbishing socialists in the SWP“. I don’t know what it’s going to take to get this point across.

    It’s going to take not doing it, I’d suggest.

  146. yes krisS. Phil seems a decent enough bloke but I’m increasingly mystified by people saying ‘well show me some evidence of a witch hunt then’ etc, etc. When I mentioned socialists having an obligation to defend people being witch hunted in trade unions I simply meant that any organisation claiming to be socialist in some way would HAVE to defend quite a lot of SWP members simply in order to be credible. Its hardly helpful to them though, that aside from this, every other line written implies that they are members of a mad sectarian cult that has its own secret agenda, and god knows what else. And its not very surprising that most SWP members aren’t falling over themselves to be friendly with those who do claim such things. Particularly if the most virulent of these people are people who were members of the same organisation until the day before yesterday. Its all a bit eecky really.

  147. In that case we’ll have to agree on what would constitute not doing it. What’s openly being asked for is that people in and around RR stop attacking people because they’re in the SWP, but that’s absurd – it’s patently obvious that people in and around RR aren’t attacking people because they’re in the SWP. I think what’s really being asked for is that RR refrains from criticising people whenever those people are in the SWP, which is a very different proposition.

  148. Not relevant to the current thread, but ANDY who edits this blog has consistently argued that Respect should not stand in Wales and Welsh socialists should join Plaid.
    I have already reported on the leader of Plaid coming out in favour of new nuclear power stations being built in Wales, Plaid’s slavish support for £16 billion being spent on a huge privatised UK military academy at St Athan’s in Wales to train the latest recruits from Britain and the world to fight in the War on Terror.
    But I just wondered if ANDY is aware that the biggest school closure programme in Wales is being carried out by a Plaid Cymru controlled council? This has really showed up Plaid’s true neo-liberal colours with three of their own councillor’s resigning over the issue in North Wales, as two former leaders of the party, Lord Dafydd Ellis Thomas and Dafydd Iwan (the guitar twanging bigot and current President of Plaid) denounce those who oppose the massive school closure programme as “middle class, pie-in-the-sky liberals with no understanding of how to operate in the constrains of the budget”.
    Meanwhile Adam Price MP issues colonialist calls for Iraq to be partitioned and puts forward an economic strategy for rebuilding Wales based on taxbreaks to multinationals.
    And ANDY thinks that socialists should join this party!

  149. # 172

    Thing is, what you say is “patently obvious”ly not happening, is exactly what I think is happening. which leaves us…nowhere, really. A total waste of time discussion to have.

  150. It’s no secret that many people have problems with the way the SWP is run and has been run for some time. It’s no secret that many people are highly critical of the current SWP leadership, and consequently tend to disagree with people who support the current SWP leadership.

    That doesn’t add up to ‘rubbishing socialists in the SWP’, and nor does it add up to a ‘witch hunt’. I know there are good socialist activists in the SWP, so does Andy and so does Tony C; we know we’re going to have to work together in the future, and we don’t want to make that any harder than it has to be.

    I mean, come on – surely the minimum definition of a witch-hunt would be that any member of the witch-hunted group would be either reviled and called on to renounce the group? And surely it’s obvious, even to John G, that that’s not happening?

  151. This has really showed up Plaid’s true neo-liberal colours with three of their own councillor’s resigning over the issue in North Wales

    Clearly, it’s also shown that there’s a significant left opposition within Plaid, so talk of their ‘true colours’ is a bit simplistic. But yes, this is bad news.

  152. Does there ever come a point for you where you have said the same thing enough times to appreciate that the people you’re talking to are not going to agree with you? Or do you always think that if you just say it one more time, then surely they will change their minds?

  153. Oh so we’re being reviled for some other reason then? Actually I was told that those who ‘openly’ and ‘consiously’ supported the SWP leadership were the real target of attack. I have been open but many people who know me may have doubts about my consiousness. Nevertheless know doubt I’ll give that a go when the glorious day of vindication comes round for the gang of four. Don’t think it’ll do me much good though.

  154. Phil,

    The councillors who resigned are not actually particularly leftwing, one of them Seimon Glyn got in a lot of trouble over some bigoted comments he made about English people he made a while back. This is an example of Plaid in power. A Plaid controlled council is carrying out the biggest school closure programme in the whole of Wales.

    You can get an idea of how significant the Plaid-“Left” are from the fact that only ONE elected representative of Plaid in the whole of Wales has been prepared to speak out against £16 billion being spent on the Military Academy! Indeed one Plaid AM who describes herself as a socialist actually declined to support the campaign against the St Athan’s Military Academy. (I should note that Cllr. Ray Holmes and Cllr. Salma Yaqoob have signed a statement opposing the UK Military Academy being built in South Wales)

  155. Phil,
    What do you think about the President of Plaid denouncing those who oppose neoliberal cuts as “middle class liberals”?

    And this is the party that ANDY thinks I should join!?!?

  156. Kris – I think what I’m doing is giving you the opportunity to persuade me. If you’re not interested in trying, fair enough.

  157. Anonymous while away from work on said:

    Going back -briefly- to the points actually raised by Andy:

    Of course it’s right that sexism is rampant in the SWP. When I joined that party years ago, one of the first meetings I had hoped to attend had to be cancelled, as one of the main activists in our area was in the process of being expelled by his fellow comrades for the violence they had seen him inflict on his partner. Comrades felt they couldn’t meet until the issue had been investigated.

    It’s also true that comrades in that party have no real sense of how to deal with the issues; and one of the reasons why people find it so difficulty is because (I imagine I will surprise no-one who’s had to get through them locally in their workplace or union) the issues themselves are difficult. Like in the example I just gave: when does suspicion become knowledge; what gives a member of a party the right to expel another member; who declared anyone judge and jury?

    That’s only to take the most extreme example – the issues aren’t any easies when they are comrades hoarding porn or student Marxists covering their rooms in images cut out from Nuts or Loaded. Those sorts of issue happen constantly in the SWP, as they do in other left parties, and in unions and workplaces.

    But if Andy doesn’t understand why this particular member of a potential floating audience finds it hard to see him as anything other than a born-again-sectarian, then it’s worth thinking whether the arguments he cites in Bristol are any answer to the points Harman makes about what’s happened in the last two years in Respect.

    Because what Harman seems to be saying, and my owne experience tells me that he’s right, is that Respect in Birmingham and Tower Hamlets had stopped being the party of the young Muslim women who organised the anti-war demos, and had before this summer become something slightly but noticeably different. Something older and something more male.

    Now you could say as I guess some people in Renewal would that such a degeneration didn’t take place, or that if it had begun, the best guarantee against it continuing was the figure of Salma Yacoob.

    Or, you could say, more honestly, that the real problem is that the energy had gone out of the Stop the War movement: by 2004 or 2005 those young women didn’t exist any longer as an organised force, no-one was speaking for them.

    But to say that the row in Bristol shows that Harman has no real interest in the issues or is raising them purely after the event now – is unfair and daft.

    It’s unfair because Harman doesn’t appear to have been involved in the Bristol row in any way at all. And it’s daft, because intellectually it’s exactly the same sort of behaviour (“I don’t like your arguments, so I’m going to talk about something different instead”) which most of the Renewal people here claim to find objectionable when they see it done by the various ostensibly pro-SWP trolls.

  158. Non-SWP Respect socialist on said:

    I have nothing new to say on the subject. You are not going to be persuaded. And neither am I.

  159. Ger Francis on said:

    Denham’s bag carrier with the pretentious name, Voltaires Priest, cuts a pathetic figure. He is the epitome of a non-entity. I don’t think I have ever heard him open his mouth once at any public forum I have attended in my entire time in Birmingham. Apparently he feels more comfortable hiding behind a pseudonym and computer screen than engaging in real life class politics. In fairness, maybe he has never quite got over the fact that himself and Father Jack got the political shit kicked out of them for their pro-imperialist war mongering in the Brum anti-war movement. Such warm memories. It must gall that while the Alliance for White Liberty were treated with the pariah status they deserve, out of that movement has emerged two Respect councilors and the most left-wing figure in the city.

    Get over it and crawl back to Harry’s Place where you belong.

  160. It is fascinating to read Adam J’s comments regarding sexism in Cardiff SWP. His remarks concerning bullying in left wing groups are similarly fascinating. The imbalance of a male dominated SWP leadership is another problem Adam has touched upon. His solutions to these problems are pretty pathetic however.

    I’m not sure however that cloning Lindsey German or bringing Julie Waterson back onto the CC will make the leadership more female oriented or will do away with the problem of bullying. Adam’s admiration for Plaid Cymru with regard to this issue is innovative as he would appear to find the number of women on Plaids leadership as more important than the actions of that party in carrying out cuts when they control local councils. No doubt Adam dislikes the detrimental effect such cuts have on both female and male workers.

    More generally Adam is right in saying that bullying is a problem within the left. But its not just men bullying women or older comrades bullying younger ones. The real problem is that the SWP is dominated by a system of cliqueism which leads to the development of IN and OUT groups. With the result that OUT groups, in particular those individuals perceived the leaders of out groups, are systematically bullied by the members of the in groups.

    Actually I would argue that Adams real problem with the SWP, he has claimed variously to have left or to have been expelled, arises from his understandable frustration at his perception of inept fulltimers ruining work he was deeply involved with. That feeling of Adams may or may not be justified, I’m guessing that to some degree at least it is justified, but meant that Adam was seen as being a problem to be dealt with despite his high level of activism. In other words Adam was seen as belonging to an out group due to his criticism of the local leadership. The clique principle of organisation explains the rest of his story.

    Now I do have some real sympathy with Adams crappy experience of the SWPs cliqueism and bullying. But in the past he has taken part in at least one bullying campaign himself and that in conjunction with one of the fulltimers he now denounces as being rubbish. Indeed if anybody wishes to dig through the archives of Urban75 they will find ample evidence of Adam and the former fulltimer in question hurling smears at me despite a total lack of personal knowledge of events in Adans case and the testimony of other named individuals that the smears were lies.

    Indeed smears of sex crimes have been used against a number of SWP members deemed to belong to out groups. For example this tactic was attempted and rapidly abandoned for use against Andy Wilson at Marxism many years ago. And all this despite rumours of sexual harassment and manipulation circulating in the SWP with respect (sic) to male ‘leading members’ of the SWP for many long years.

    To conclude there certainly is a problem with sexism in the SWP and that at leadership level to. But there is a greater problem in the lack of basic human solidarity within the group that far transcends that problem. The essence of which can be found in the leaderships self identification with the party and in turn their fetishisation of the party form in the struggle for a classless society.

  161. Having posted above on the subject of bullying on the left it was with real disgust that I read Grr Francis post 187 in which he refers to the AWL as the Alliance for WHITE Liberty.

    I hold no brief for the dodgy pro-Zionist views of the AWL and disagree with its militants on many issues but this kind of baiting is exactly the kind of bullying that we need to drive out of the socialist movement and of left wing blogs.

    I can but hope that Grr, when he sobers up in the morning, will withdraw his remarks or failing that Andy will delete the offensive comments.

  162. Ger Francis on said:

    I certainly will not apologise (and I am stone cold sober). ‘Bullying’ is the very least pro-war anti-Muslim bigots should expect.

  163. Ger Francis on said:

    195: By exposure, debate and political marginalisation actually. Very effective tools which you experienced first hand and the left in the city is much the better for it. Always best for working class solidarity to expose the pro-imperialist anti-Muslim bigots who dress themselves up as ‘socialists’.

  164. Ger Francis on said:

    Whatever. In the meantime we continue to build something real in Birmingham. And you will continue to be a complete irrelevance.

  165. Ger Francis on said:

    Yes, you are right, the 15 minutes or so it took me to compose these few email exchanges is far more than any member of the Alliance for White Liberty deserves.

  166. non-biodegradable Respect unicyclist on said:

    May I say from all of us: “A big welcome back to you, non-SWP Respect socialist”. We missed you terribly.

    non-SWP Respect Socialist (#184) said: I have nothing new to say on the subject. You are not going to be persuaded. And neither am I.

    And what a comeback!

  167. Non-aware of Cookie Capabilities on said:

    Yeah, but it was good that he admitted that he posts here under two different names (non-SWP blah blah and KrisS).

  168. Alex Nichols on said:

    #165 Louise “…old gains that were won now have to be re-stated and argued for all over again. ”

    You over-idealise the alleged gains that were won in the past.

    I’ve been around the left since 1970 and every single argument you’ve raised was being had from that time onwards, but the various forms of feminism, including the radical feminists, autonomous feminists, socialist feminists and various permutations thereof, always had flawed ideas and political methods, some of which had disastrous consequences.

    The problem being that there is no such thing as a supra-class feminism, just as there is no such thing as supra-class nationalism, or supra-class democracy.
    So all of these attempts to hybridise a political ideology inevitably fail. At worst they fail spectacularly and disastrously when the people promoting them fail to make the distinction between “power relationships” within revolutionary groups and the “power relationships” in capitalist society, at the root of which is the ownership of the means of production.

    They fail spectacularly, because once you fail to make that distinction, you actually fail to understand what is at the root of opressive social relations of all kinds you lose any objective basis for making political decisions.
    Take the elephant in the room not being discussed in this thread – the question of abortion rights.

    Actually, this is one of the issues on which Socialist Feminists achieved a major breakthrough in achieving Trade Union support.

    Leonora Lloyd, who was the daughter of the veteran Trotskyist Charlie Van Gelderen and others in the 70’s IMG, initiated the National Abortion Campaign and played a major role in defending abortion rights against attacks by the right wing organisation SPUC. This led to a TUC backed demonstration of 100,000 on the issue.

    20 years ago, it would have been inconceivable for Socialist Resistance, which is derived from that organisation, to be publishing a newspaper for an organisation set up by an anti-Abortion MP.

    Yet George Galloway’s record on this is absolutely clear cut. But it’s never once been mentioned in this thread!

    All we get is the politics of innuendo, which is one of the shittiest parts of the heritage of the former IMG that should be flushed down the tube where it belongs.
    You should ought to be ashamed of yourself Louise, for defending that kind of crap and totally ignoring the issue of Abortion rights.

    I can only assume this is some kind of opportunist bet on the future of Respect Renewal.

    I’d also like to point out that we in the 1970’s I.S. actually faced far greater problems, because we got our hands dirty and recruited scores of workers, but we didn’t descend into the dirty infighting exhibited in this thread. Consequently personal relationships were not destroyed and these sorts of issues could be dealt with in a comradely way, something noticeably lacking from this site at present.

  169. # 202-4

    You got me bang to rights guv. I used to post as Non-SWP Respect Socialist, then I stopped doing so, and started using my name instead, because people seemed to get very upset about that sort of thing, for some reason. I don’t think I’ve ever posted on here in the way you have in those posts, deliberately obscuring your usual posting identity.

    # 205

    I did mention abortion (#159), in what I thought started as a reasonably promising exchange with Adam J, but it seems to have got derailed again, which is a shame.

  170. Alex: “You should ought to be ashamed of yourself Louise, for defending that kind of crap and totally ignoring the issue of Abortion rights”.

    I should be ashamed of myself? Well Alex, I support a woman’s right to choose and have always. Funnily enough comrade, where were you when there was a conference a month or so ago supporting global abortion when the anti-abortionists turned up? Did you turn up to show your solidarity by counter-demonstrating against the anti-abortionists? Nope, I don’t think you did.

    I am no supporter of Respect Renewal and am a Labour leftie. Again, I support a woman’s right to choose. And don’t lecture me on the abortion rights struggle, I know it.
    When I wrote about gains being lost I meant over feminism and autonomy. And funily enough, your hostile response really says it all about your views on feminism and don’t blind me with the science. And really, the good old days of the 1970s…do me a favour. Who is being idealist now, comrade?

  171. Alex: “At worst they fail spectacularly and disastrously when the people promoting them fail to make the distinction between “power relationships” within revolutionary groups and the “power relationships” in capitalist society, at the root of which is the ownership of the means of production”

    So Alex, lets look at the crude logic above, would you say it is worse, for example, for a worker to be beaten up on a picket line by a cop than say a woman beaten up by her trot boyfriend? If I am incorrect, supply examples.

    Because obviously, with your arguments, being exposed to violence, for example, in wider society is worse than say being exposed to violence on the revo left. That’s the impression I have got from your comment.

  172. I see both Madam Miaow and Lousiefeminista have been coralled into RR by the other side in the hope that that might render their criticisms of the SWP less credible.

    – on a par with the assumption that people who’ve put in years of hard work as loyal members of the SWP in the past are now simply knee-jerk “sectarians” with no motive other than an irrational desire to damage the SWP.

    “It’s because they hate our values”, as someone said.

  173. #208 Madam Miaow at least is being corralled by people in RR to attack the SWP from somewhere, which if those claims aren’t unsubstantiated, looks like the gutter.

    Andy said “a lot of us know the truth of what she is referring to here, and a lot of us know about some other pretty dreadful stuff that has been covered up by the party over the years” when she talked about a “fuck circuit”.

    Do you agree with that Babeuf? Kevin? Rob?

  174. If George Galloway was determined to restrict abortion rights regardless of his position as Respect’s MP, why did he not vote cast his vote for these two bills?

    Termination of Pregnancy – 31 Oct 2006 – Division No. 329
    I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to reduce the time limit for legal termination of pregnancy from 24 to 21 weeks; to introduce a cooling off period after the first point of contact with a medical practitioner about a termination; to require the provision of counselling about the medical risk of, and about matters relating to, termination and carrying a pregnancy to term as a condition of informed consent to termination; to enable the time period from the end of the cooling off period to the date of termination to be reduced; and for connected purposes.

    and

    Bill Presented — Termination of Pregnancy (Counselling and Miscellaneous Provisions) – 5 Jun 2007 – Division No. 131
    I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require counselling of a pregnant woman as a condition of her consent to termination of her pregnancy; to require the pregnant woman to see a registered medical practitioner prior to receiving counselling; to introduce a minimum period of 7 days following counselling before registered medical practitioners may certify an opinion referred to in section 1(1) of the Abortion Act 1967; to require the forms used for certifying and giving notice of the reason for termination of a pregnancy to state risk to the physical and mental health of the pregnant woman as separate grounds for abortion; and for connected purposes.

    These were his two opportunities during his time as a Respect MP to use his vote to restrict abortion rights. By contrast, when he was a Labour, rather than a Respect MP, he voted against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill (19 Dec 2000 – Division No. 12)

  175. “I see both Madam Miaow and Lousiefeminista have been coralled into RR by the other side in the hope that that might render their criticisms of the SWP less credible”…

    Yeah babeuf, I agree with that.
    Our criticisms are not seen as valid or worthwhile or treated as equals, their “logic” dictates us as RR sympathisers. Rather than looking at their own personal behaviour and the sexism entrenched within the whole revo left (SWP and so on)they choose the easy option by dismissing us by attacking credibility.

  176. And here is a summary of current Islamic practice around the world in the area of abortion:

    The Hanafi school (predominant in Turkey, the Middle East and Central Asia) allows abortions to take place principally until day 120; some jurists restrict this provision to “good cause”, e.g. if the mother is still nursing an infant and fears that her milk may run out during the new pregnancy. In aborting up to day 120, the woman commits a mere moral transgression, not a crime. The Shafi school (Southeast Asia, southern Arabia, parts of East Africa) allows abortions to be performed up to day 120. For the Maliki school (prevalent in North and Black Africa) an abortion is permissible with the consent of both parents up to day 40; it is no longer allowed after that. For the Hanbali school (predominant in Saudi Arabia and United Arabic Emirates) abortions are principally prohibited from day 40 onward.

    Exceptions are made in some countries if the life of the mother is endangered, based on Surah 2.233: “A mother should not be made to suffer because of her child.” As a result, abortion is possible for health reasons up to day 90 according to a number of scholars.

    So there is nothing comparable in Islam to the Catholic Church’s blanket ban on abortion. If the critics of RR who like toying with the word “communalist” think that discussion supportive of abortion rights will be banned in RR, they’re mistaken.

  177. M said: #208 Madam Miaow at least is being corralled by people in RR to attack the SWP from somewhere, which if those claims aren’t unsubstantiated, looks like the gutter.

    I see. So she needed some male “sectarian” help to find this site, and some male “sectarian” promptings to mention her abysmal treatment by John Rees in a discussion where that was relevant.

    Her case is very well known, M. Your threats about it being “unsubstantiated” are empty.

    Do you agree with that Babeuf? Kevin? Rob?

    As for that “circuit”, I’ve no personal knowledge of it. You’ll have to confirm that with Madame Miaow when and if she comes back to this comments box. But since substantiation of that allegation would involve naming names, you’d be likely to perform an about turn, and accuse her of witch-hunting socialists. Maybe you’d prefer to deal with the matter off-line in that case; she may be willing to assist in this.

  178. #215 This doesn’t sound well coming from someone like you who equivocates over imperialism. Give me Galloway’s record of activism over your carping from the sidelines any day.

    But in any case, I’ve given you the hard facts already. Don’t pretend the vote from 2000 counts against the argument I was making, since I provided that information for you myself. The point, I’ll reapeat, was that he changed his actions when he became a Respect MP.

    Yeah, of course it would have been even better if he went further and cast a vote against the two bills in Oct 2006 and June 2007, but we’re perfectly capable of making tactical assessments.

    I’m considering writing a review of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days for the January Respect newspaper (if you’re interested in abortion rights and keep up to date, I think you’ll know what that is). I don’t expect to encounter any editorial objections.

  179. Alex Nichols on said:

    # 207 Louise: “So Alex, lets look at the crude logic above, would you say it is worse, for example, for a worker to be beaten up on a picket line by a cop than say a woman beaten up by her trot boyfriend?
    If I am incorrect, supply examples.
    Because obviously, with your arguments, being exposed to violence, for example, in wider society is worse than say being exposed to violence on the revo left. That’s the impression I have got from your comment.”

    You may think my logic’s crude, but so’s real life. The situation is just not that clear cut , and there’s certainly a difference between interpersonal violence and the violence of the state, which has the power to kill millions of people in a systematic and organised way, if it needs to preserve class rule.

    Here’s one small example:-

    When I was arrested on the Grunwick picket line, there was a woman police officer on the bus who was actively attacking a male youth next to me, while he was being restrained by a male cop.

    The youth responded by calling her a bitch. Not exactly a clear-cut issue from the point of view of abstract morality, but fairly clear cut from the point of view of the class struggle.

    I’ve also known miners who were capable of being very violent; not only when fighting the police, but to each other, or when finding their wife in bed with another man. Just one punch can do a lot of damage.

    But depending on the gravity of the situation, I and women comrades I’ve known, would have worked with them, and even tried to recruit them to a socialist organisation, hopefully the women too.

    Of course I wouldn’t condone someone beating up their girlfriend, or someone who was pathologically a threat to women.

    In that situation, I’d defend their right to use the state to protect themselves, even the capitalist state, because there may be no other recourse.

    re. the Abortion question, I wasn’t casting doubts on your credentials, or trying to claim any my own were superior on the question, just pointing out the double standards involved in keeping quiet on the issue on *this* site, in *this* thread.

    This is all rather tangential to the actual point I was making anyway.

  180. #216

    “I see. So she needed some male “sectarian” help to find this site, and some male “sectarian” promptings to mention her abysmal treatment by John Rees in a discussion where that was relevant.”

    I said nothing about sectarians. I said nothing about her needing male help. That’s a very impressive interpretation of what I didn’t say. Where on earth did you get that from? You just made it up.

    “Her case is very well known, M. Your threats about it being “unsubstantiated” are empty.”

    Threats? Who or what am I threatening exactly? You’ve made something else up now. Her case about being deposed as the SA press officer are well known. I was pretty appalled by it at the time. Maybe I should have said something but if Rob was also appalled, he didn’t say so either. But I didn’t see any allegations at the time about a “fuck circuit” which is the specific allegation she made here and to which I’m referring. Andy backed her up by saying “a lot of us know the truth of what she is referring to here”. Well I don’t, you don’t, and I’m trying to establish whether anyone else does.

    “But since substantiation of that allegation would involve naming names”

    We know who she’s talking about, that much is clear… “because she was … well, “intimate””.

    “you’d be likely to perform an about turn, and accuse her of witch-hunting socialists.”

    I’m impressed with your powers of prediction. Again, you’re making things up. It doesn’t impress.

    “Maybe you’d prefer to deal with the matter off-line in that case; she may be willing to assist in this.”

    She chose to raise it online and Andy chose to back her up in very clear terms. Why should it go offline when challenged?

  181. Alex Nichols: re. the Abortion question, I was … just pointing out the double standards involved in keeping quiet on the issue on *this* site, in *this* thread.

    Quiet about it? Well, it wasn’t the topic of the thread, but if it so worries you, here goes:

    PRO-CHOICE – DON’T TURN THE CLOCK BACK

    FREE ABORTION ON DEMAND

    KEEP YOUR ROSARIES OUT OF MY OVARIES

    IF YOU CUT OFF MY CHOICE, CAN I CUT OFF YOURS?

    A WOMB OF MY OWN

    WOMEN’S HEALTH, NOT CORPORATE WEALTH

    MORNING-AFTER PILL OVER THE COUNTER

    The next one’s a bit ultra-left admittedly. An RCG member uses it as her signature on another web forum. I wouldn’t advise it for demos, but it gave me a smile:

    ABORT CHRISTIAN BABIES

  182. One of the main people Madame Miaow had a problem with was Nick Wrack who is in Respect Renewal.. has she or anyone else in the know bothered to point this (very inconvenient detail) out? I’m guessing not!

    http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Politics/Chen.html

    “Who’s been putting the dick into diktat? Who put the rank in rank and file?

    After 18 years of Tory rule, many leftists less than thrilled by a Labour Party galloping rightwards in its pursuit of discredited Conservative policies joined the far Left to support the socialist cause. In pressing for a left-of-Labour alternative, the Socialist Workers Party deservedly made itself a pole of attraction, and hitching up with the fledgling Socialist Alliance in the 2000 London mayoral elections provided a welcome boost for both organisations.

    After a highly promising start, it’s clear the far Left is now such a basket case it’s amazing no-one issues public health warnings. Not so much Darkness At Noon as Carry On Comrade; I haven’t seen so much backstabbing, treachery and naked personal ambition since Dallas came off the air. This is a world which provides leaders rather than leadership and where, as they say, your opponents may be in front of you but your enemies are behind you.

    SA chair Nick Wrack’s recent Tribune article claiming business as usual at the SA coalface was headlined, ‘We’re still alive and kicking’. Kicking who, Nick? New Labour? The far Right? Nope, looks like the membership to me, comrade.

    But then Nick should know. As an independent member of the SA executive committee who made chair once fellow lawyer Liz Davies had been manoeuvred out under mysterious circumstances, he has presided over the destruction of the best chance of revival the Left has had in years..”

  183. babeuf: “But since substantiation of that allegation would involve naming names, you’d be likely to perform an about turn, and accuse her of witch-hunting socialists.”

    Yeah babeuf, I think that’s correct, it is a no-win situation. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

  184. Louise’s predictive abilities seem to rival Babeuf’s. Can we stick to what I’ve said rather than imagining what I might say? I promise not to accuse anyone of witch-hunting socialists or calling them sectarian.

  185. Grr Francis wrote in post 190 “‘Bullying’ is the very least pro-war anti-Muslim bigots should expect.”

    This is quite clearly a threat of physical violence time for Grr to be removed from this blog for a cooling down period Andy?

  186. #222 M, you said (#208): Madam Miaow at least is being corralled by people in RR to attack the SWP from somewhere

    which tells us that you don’t think she could have found her way here by herself, nor that she would have any motive in rehearsing her case here for her own reasons.

    M said: Her case about being deposed as the SA press officer are well known. I was pretty appalled by it at the time. Maybe I should have said something …

    OK, I respect that admission. What interests me is why you felt you couldn’t say something and whether an organisation that makes you feel unable to speak out can really have long-term ambitions to win the trust and leadership of the working class. If not, you’ll need to do something to change it, and then I would wish you the best.

    M said: Maybe I should have said something but if Rob was also appalled, he didn’t say so either.

    To the best of my knowledge, this is correct, and far from wanting to sweep this under the carpet, I’m happy that you mention it, since I think various people in RR with a history need to address these matters openly and full-square, otherwise the same patterns of behaviour can re-emerge.

  187. Two women on the sexism thread and both are flamed. How stupid do you have to be not to see how this is the perfect illustration of the different ways sexism works and power asserts itself?

    Being of a somewhat revolutionary bent, I am not docile, I am not submissive, I am not servile. I never asked for Rees’s patronage, or even his approval, let alone to be appointed to the editorial board of the Socialist Review or any of the numerous tasks he and the CC had me doing while they had wages and I was sinking into debt.

    I don’t think he ever understood that suddenly telling me that the CC had made me the SWP Press Officer with no discussion with me, that I was to be the CC’s coolie labour, their in-house publicist, their creature, and devote my life to getting their mugs in the media was not flattering. It was not an honour. He’d have had me giving them pedicures next. You may consider them favours – I consider them merely drudgery when my own creative work had a more pressing claim to my time and energy.

    I’m sorry that respectfully declining his “gifts” brought out his inner bunny-boiler. My sense of self is not best enhanced by being ripped off, cut off from my creative outlets, abused by his acolytes, set up as whipping-girl for Girlfriend No 2, because when someone has their boot in my face, my inclination is to rip it off at the root.

    But that’s revolutionaries for you.

  188. “#222 M, you said (#208): Madam Miaow at least is being corralled by people in RR to attack the SWP from somewhere which tells us that you don’t think she could have found her way here by herself, nor that she would have any motive in rehearsing her case here for her own reasons.”

    I used the word corralled because you did in the previous post. That’s all. It was an admittedly clumsy rhetorical device. I meant it in the sense of her arguments being corralled for the purpose of attacking SWP practice. Which is why Andy waded in with his completely unsupported accusations.

    “What interests me is why you felt you couldn’t say something and whether an organisation that makes you feel unable to speak out can really have long-term ambitions to win the trust and leadership of the working class.”

    Well, that interests me too. I got massively pissed off with the way some decisions were made a while back and it’s why I should feel some affinity with RR (although unorganised revolutionaries in a broader party is never anything I had in mind).

    Reading some of the garbage posted here makes that very very hard, though.

  189. No Anna that is not revolutionaries that is John Rees. JR being backed by a clique of sycophants who cling to him and Lindsey German as their ticket to revolutionary glory. Its an invalid ticket and about to get cancelled.

    The real problem is that bad behaviours, including sexism and racism, have been long condoned by the leading cliques within the SWP if those behaviours are exhibited by those I referred to above as members of in groups. But the same behaviours are used as smears against members of out groups whether or not the accused individuals are guilty of not.

    So for me the real problem in the SWP is not the sexism of some of its leaders but the lack of contact with the working class, a majority female class I note, that has led to the cliqueism that enables such behaviours to take root.

  190. Alex Nichols on said:

    # 229 Miaow: On simple trade union grounds, I’d suggest you take them to an industrial tribunal and claim your lost wages. The worst that can happen is that they lose your lose a few thousand with interest.

    I’ve defended a woman union member who was passed over for a job because a “younger, prettier” model interested the boss, and won compensation, so I don’t see that the SWP should be immune. (not that I’m suggesting you’re not young or pretty)

    BTW: Beware of taking method acting too seriously.

  191. Alex Nichols on said:

    223 Babeuf (abortion rights)

    “it wasn’t the topic of the thread, but if it so worries you”

    Shouldn’t it worry you?

    After all, if you plan to implant yourself further into the “Muslim Community”, the issue is going to come up whether you like it, or not.

    And I would have thought gaining some control over reproductive rights was actually fairly central to the gains westernised women have been able to make since the 70’s, whereas that’s far from true amongst many Muslims.

    So the implication, that I’m somehow using this topic for opportunist reasons, or that it’s irrelevant to the thread is one that I reject. As to the slogans, I think you may have to tone them down a bit for use outside blogLand.

  192. M said (#230): Reading some of the garbage posted here makes that very very hard, though.

    Madame Miaow is at nobody’s beck and call, and is very well able to defend her previous comments, so you can address further enquiries towards her. It was inevitable, given the events of September-November, that a lot of things that had previously been suppressed or consigned to the margins are suddenly piling up. It affects both sides of this dispute – we have to deal with it since we can’t drive the internet genie back into the bottle.

    I can’t quite work out who you are, M (I’m not criticising your anonymity), but you may indeed want to work out a modus vivendi. So do I, but I think that at this stage, it’ll happen at the local level, and will be driven by events (renewed CWU strikes by February over pensions?). Web forums are the least likely place for this to emerge just now.

    M said (#230): Well, that interests me too. I got massively pissed off with the way some decisions were made a while back and it’s why I should feel some affinity with RR (although unorganised revolutionaries in a broader party is never anything I had in mind).

    Look, M, from some of the things you’re saying, I think we have too much common ground and don’t want to continue a row. I’ll watch your future posts with interest. “Unorganised revolutionaries in a broader party” wouldn’t have been my choice a couple of months ago, but we can’t always act in circumstances of our own choosing.

  193. “Two women on the sexism thread and both are flamed. How stupid do you have to be not to see how this is the perfect illustration of the different ways sexism works and power asserts itself?”

    1. Why do you assume everyone is male apart from you and Louise?

    2. Maybe you are being flamed because you are both quite annoying rather than anything to do with your gender?

  194. M #230

    With regard to my “unsupported accusations”.

    I have said as much as I can say. Some quite bad things happened and were covered up. The incidents I actually know about all happened a long time ago, but the comrades involved are still around. Unless the people involved, or the people who knew and covered up speak, then I can add no more details. Nor will i say more about it.

    Mike sums it up really well here though

    The real problem is that bad behaviours, including sexism and racism, have been long condoned by the leading cliques within the SWP if those behaviours are exhibited by those I referred to above as members of in groups. But the same behaviours are used as smears against members of out groups whether or not the accused individuals are guilty of not.

  195. #238 OK, Red Maria, I admit I have a reprehensible soft spot for various ultra-left slogans and actions (that doesn’t mean I’m tempted by them).

    The context for “abort Christian babies” is really the US, where people at the receiving end of attacks on abortion clinics, staff and patients understandably want to let off steam (that still doesn’t mean I think it’s tactically wise).

    There’s no parallel that comes to mind in the Muslim world, and as I’ve said already, Islam doesn’t share the outright banning of abortion that’s to be found in sections of Christianity.

    Anyway, there’s a strong element of the absurd to this which trumps all of the above, but you seem oblivious to this: in what sense exactly can a foetus be called “Christian”? Do you think it could be determined by an ultrasound scan?

    Maybe you were thinking of this:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=401773&in_page_id=1770

    But I can recommend some humour therapy clinics that might benefit you, if you’d like that.

  196. Alex Nichols on said:

    #232 Just to add something on the question of using industrial tribunals against a union, or a left wing employer.

    I’d only see this as legitimate on very exceptional grounds and on the condition that the sum that can be awarded can’t be used to bankrupt such an organisation.
    Under those circumstances and those alone, it might be a legitimate avenue for resolving a dispute, but ideally it shouldn’t have to be resorted to.

    Regarding the issues that Anna Chen has been raising, she would probably be out of time for lodging the case anyway.

    I’ve no doubt elements in the state are at work trying to heighten disputes on the left, as we know they were against Scargill, the Militant, probably in the WRP bust-up and no doubt in the SSP split.

    Of course, Mi5 itself is heavily infiltrated by various foreign intelligence services and international terrorists and on the verge of an internal civil war.
    Gordon Brown is probably very concerned about the threats to his government and should take action against the coup plotters as soon as possible. A united front would be on offer Gordon, just pick up the phone and nationalise Northern Rock!

  197. Phil from Lancs on said:

    At number 37 there is a claim for a lot of visits to this website. However:
    1. The people who actually contribute are a small group of regulars.
    2. No doubt in many cases the same people are visiting the site several times a day.
    3. I’ll wager that many visitors in recent weeks are SWP members like myself (over 30 years in the party) who are just morbidly curious to see what the latest vitriol is that is being thrown at us by sectarians and embittered ex-members whose political priority seems to be to slag off the SWP.
    People like me are not impressed by your website (to say the least) because we know from personal experience that neither the SWP nor its leaders are a bunch of villains, but just (fallible) people doing their best to build a Boshevik-type party in difficult circumstances. The picture painted of the SWP by most of the contributors to this website is so false that it would make me laugh if it didn’t make me angry.
    Incidentally, over the years I’ve noticed a phenomenon that is a sort of reverse version of the old adage that there is no one so painfully dedicated as a new convert. It’s a difficult job sustaining an organisation over the decades, and many people inevitably drop out for a variety of personal and political reasons. Fair enough. But in some cases people seem to rationalise their new position outside the party by persuading themselves (and others) that the party was really quite a dreadful organisation that they were right to leave.
    By writing this I’ve broken a promise I made to myself not to reply to the sectarianism on this website. But this will be my only contribution.

  198. Babeuf,
    I think you would benefit immensely from visiting a humour therapy clinic yourself. Possibly one which specialises in the more er, tasteful end of the trade, rather than jokes about lashing Christian babies.
    I have a feeling that your understanding of Islamic teaching on the sanctity of life is as clumsy as your attempt at humour, not taking into account the difference between direct and intentional abortion and abortion to prevent maternal mortality, say. Certainly according to Dr Majid Katme, who I think knows more about Islam and abortion than you do, all human life is sacred in Islam from conception to natural death.

  199. “Just out of interest, would Babeuf snigger at the slogan “abort Moslem babies”?”

    FALSE MORAL EQUIVALENCE KLAXON

  200. @241 – the problem, Phil, is that your contribution is entirely empty, contains no evidence for your assertions, and seeks only to cause more bitterness.

    I freely admit that things get heated in here. They always do on blogs, where discussion doesn’t happen in real time.

    But sadly, as soon as I see someone claiming to just be passing through but then talking about “false” pictures being painted, while asserting that we think the SWP is lead by “villains”, I realise that once again, another person isn’t interested in honest debate, just in sneering, while claiming some kind of superiority by stating that they aren’t really supposed to be commenting here at all.

  201. Red Maria (#242): I think you would benefit immensely from visiting a humour therapy clinic yourself. Possibly one which specialises in the more er, tasteful end of the trade …

    I’ll leave good taste to more austere souls like yourself.

    Red Maria (#242): I have a feeling that your understanding of Islamic teaching on the sanctity of life is as clumsy as your attempt at humour

    My humour I’ll leave for others to judge, but I’ve never posed as an expert on Islamic teaching or practice, contrary to your suggestion. That’s precisely why I gave an Islamic source in my relevant comment (#114) instead of offering my own opinion. Additionally, Islamic teaching and practice vary, so there’s little point in citing just one authority to back up your case (although what that might be beyond mere factional point scoring remains unclear to me).

  202. I have been very reluctant to comment here or on Liams site as everytime myslef, or Tami, have raised issues about sexism or Galloway we have been more or less told we have double standards or that the SWP are hypocrites (which they are of course as they did nothing )or why didnt we say anything before. I am not in the SWP and never have been. I have also been critical of Galloway before the split .

    RR people such as Andy and Liam said that RR would now be more open and democratic and accountable and so , naively, I asked questions only to be met with defensiveness.

    So thats why I am reluctant to comment.

    I have though decided to as I am interested in Andy’s view about the behaviour of some of the men here. Andy has made it clear he feels my blog is one of the very worst for intimidation and that I collude with bullies and so have double standards.

    Given that I expect he will dismiss what I will now say.

    But anyway, here goes. Andy if you have a principled view about bullying how come you are allowing Ger to come out with threatening and abusive comments? It shouldn’t matter who he says them to , and I know you don;t have time for volty or Jim. Thats not the point, its thuggish.

    Also I believe another commentator, who is in RR, has allegedly actually hit a woman. Is it ok as he is on ‘your side’.

    Andy, do you also have double standards ?

    I expect I will be dismissed , stuff about the SWP blah blah blah.

    But hey, surprise me. Lets see the new accountable RR in practice, able to look at its self critically.
    Oh and before you go on about the LP, yes, its crap. If there was anything better outside I would join, as would many others. And yes, I do have higher standards of the left outside.Looking at the debate here though RR does not seem particualry welcoming as an option.

  203. oh and the last time I debated with one of your commentators, Ian Donovan, over at Dave’s site, he called me a CIA whore. So i’ll wait with interest at the choice insult he can come up with this time .

  204. Stroppy

    The “debate” here is often hardly a debate. What happens is that there is a sustained campaign of distruptive comments by SWP supporters, and then the disussion become hijacked around the axis they create.

    Actually I am not particularly happy about ger’s comment, which I think was a bit too abusive, but I think Jim and Alan and making a meal of it for their own political motives. I didn’t in any way read it as a threat of physical violence, but it was a too rude.

    I didn’t take it up at the time because I was away from the PC looking after my children. The moment has now passed, so there is nothing that can be done.

    Actually I have deleted a few comments from RR supporters, and cautioned people on both sides of the debate to calm it down at various times.

  205. Volty,

    Ger would have been reproached for that, but the moderators were away at the time.

    I think it was too strong, but I do not beleive Ger meant it literally. Nor I suspect do you, but it gives you another opportunity for shit strirring, so i expect you are happy.

  206. stroppy – this place doesn’t come across as very welcoming, that much is true. I hope Andy gets round to responding to the rest of your post sometime.

  207. Andy
    I do find it interesting that you seem to be a lot more lenient on ‘bullying ‘ on your site.

    Oh and not everyone is in the SWP who is being critical.

    You seem to be quite happy to delete ‘when the moment has passed’ at other times.

    So does it depend who is attacked? you comment about volty and denham, would you have responded differently if it had not been them?

    Surely thuggish behaviour is thuggish behaviour regardless.

    And how do you know he does not mean it re the threats ?

    Still Ger and others on here who are threatening are your RR comrades . I just thought you might practice a bit more openness.

  208. Thanks Kriss

    I don’t really want to get caught up in an argument here. It really is not welcoming and im sorry about that because it used to be.

  209. I’m afraid that’s not good enough, aandy: I reapeat: why do you tolerate, on this blog or in Respect renewal, a man who IS ON RECORD as issuing physical threats to his political opponents? See comments nos 190 and 194, above (it’s not as though you even have to look very far); This guy is a disgrace. You should disown him – now – for your own good!

  210. “What happens is that there is a sustained campaign of distruptive comments by SWP supporters, and then the disussion become hijacked around the axis they create. ”

    Andy it is NOT just SWP supporters. Tami has been dismissed when she has commented here.Can’t you listen to the issues instead of seeing it all as some SWP plot all the time. I have no tome whatsover for the SWP, but the issues are not just about them and it would be good if they were addressed rather than point scoring.

    Also this is not a justification for abusive comments.Or is being wound up an excuse for thuggishness, violence or abuse ?

  211. Waterloo Sunset on said:

    Andy, considering you’ve previously said that Ger:

    was and is a political thug. He has played a disastrous role in both Birmingham Stop the war Coalition, and the Socialist Alliance, as has been fully documented by Sue Blackwell and Rumy Hassan. Ger polarised the left in Birmingham, using bureaucratic manoeuvres and allegedly even physical intimidation, to exclude those, like Steve Godward, who were regarded as “unhelpful” to the implementation of every wheeze that came from London.

    shouldn’t you take potential threats from him a bit more seriously? Or are you arguing that he’s an entirely different person then he was eleven months ago?

  212. Stroppy

    I am struggling to be honest with moderating an extremely bad humoured and high volume discussion. this is particularly the case as there has been a sustained campaign to disrupt the site by SWP supporters.

    I am reluctant to bring in pre-moderation, so some stuff gets past me. Sometimes the other contributers to this blog help with moderating, and I am grateful for that, but mainly it falls upon me.

    If I had seen it earlier i would probably have deleted Ger’s comment. But there is no point in deleting it now, because it has been responded to.

    With regard to the rest of your comment, which the gleefuly disruptive KrisS want me to respond to. If you think there is a political issue that Respect Renewal needs to address, then raise it formally.

  213. Waterloo Sunset

    You must realise that its ok to be thuggish if its directed at people you disagree with on the left .

    How do RR expect to be taken seriously if they condone bullying and thuggish behaviour from their members.

  214. “With regard to the rest of your comment, which the gleefuly disruptive KrisS want me to respond to. If you think there is a political issue that Respect Renewal needs to address, then raise it formally.”

    oh FFS stop using the SWP as an excuse for bad behaviour and abuse!!

    You know the comrades I have alluded to. Its up to RR to gets its house in order. Prove you are open and accountable. Don’t turn a blind eye to thuggishness just because people are now in your group. Thats no better than the SWP.

  215. Waterloo Sunset.

    Oh well done. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to uncover that I have been highly critical of several comrades in Respect renewal in the past.

    This includes the methods used to deal with the problems of Islamophobia and sectarianism in Birmingham STW and the Socialist Alllaince. I have always tought that Ger and Salma were politically on the correct side in that dispute, but there was an abuse of process.

    But equally the abuse of process was based upon following the political methods of the SWP that Ger has clearly broken from.

    Despite my ill chosen words eleven months ago about alleged physical intimidation, those allegations actually came from Jim Denham, about whom i have learned a lot more in the intervening period, and whose testiminy I now consider utterly worthless.

  216. C’mon, Andy: you’re now defending a sub-political thug and hooliogan (Ger Francis), who even the SWP expelled for his hooliganism and hostility to Iraqi and Iranian socialists when they came into conflict with islamists…you acnnot continue to cover-up for this piece of reactionary scum!

  217. Jim

    I would consider being called “reactionary scum” a compliment from your lips.

    The AWL are a cancer in the labour movement, and you personaly are the most malignant part of that cancer.