Socialist Workers Party: Comrade ‘X’ resigns

This article has been re-posted from Phil’s site, A Very Public Sociologist.

Socialist Worker burningThe below comes from ‘Comrade X’, the woman who, like ‘Comrade W’ made a sexual assault complaint to the SWP’s Dispute Commission about the alleged behaviour of a former leading member. Again, it is worth reiterating that “Delta” has never had charges brought against him and is entitled to the presumption of innocence like anyone else. The scandal, the putrescent stench has always been about the appalling handling of those allegations and hounding of alleged sexual abuse survivors by active SWP’ers. As you can see from X’s resignation note (original here via Ciara Squires), her experience too is of being bullied, harassed and smeared. What a disgusting bunch.

I’m glad to hear that now SWP conference has closed, those few decent socialists who’ve remained are packing their bags and bidding farewell. Good. A slow, painful fade into the footnotes of labour movement history now awaits the SWP, a decline that cannot come soon enough.

There are many reasons I am resigning after the events of the last twelve months, you can read some of them in my Internal Bulletin piece. I will give only one reason here: a member of the DC claimed at the SWP national conference this weekend that my email account might have been hacked but they were confident that the Central Committee was not responsible. How is it possible that this hasn’t generated outrage? When told that the woman who brought a complaint of sexual harassment has had her email account hacked and one of the emails used as evidence in her case deleted, most SWP members seem content that it is OK because the CC did not personally do it.

This typifies the problems of the past 12 months. There has been no political will to resolve any of the issues in a principled way. There is no political will to demand that the person who gave the CC hacked emails should have to conclusively prove how they got the emails or be expelled. Instead at every stage smoke and mirrors have been deployed to manoeuvre to win votes and political positions. In the process I have been sacked, bullied, smeared and marginalised but this has been tolerated to prevent Martin’s supporters from leaving and to avoid the CC accounting for their mistakes.

What of the apology? I do not accept as adequate or sincere an apology fought for and said through gritted teeth. I first found out that the CC regretted my hurt and distress when I read about it in their motion. No-one has met with me to communicate it personally. In tragic fashion I have had to speak to a motion to fight for an apology for myself. For months I was told no apology is necessary. Is it any wonder that I am unconvinced by the apology at conference?

A sincere apology would have political consequences. It would require those who have bullied and smeared to face some sanction. Instead the party leadership continue to argue that there is parity between the slandering and smearing of women who have brought allegations of rape and sexual harassment and people, angry at the handling of a rape allegation, calling Alex Callinicos a “wanker”. A comrade who called someone an “idiot” faced disciplinary sanction, while those who claimed I was a police spy have faced none. That this is now the official party position is reason enough to leave.

The potential for a meaningful renewal of the SWP has dwindled. The last 12 months have polarised and entrenched positions. Debate is now refracted through the prism of a bitter faction fight. Too many people have left and continue to leave. For any organisation to remain dynamic and relevant there needs to be a high level of debate and discussion in order to develop the theory and practice necessary to relate to the real world. This crisis has not caused all the problems in the SWP but it has smothered the possibility that the SWP can develop into a serious revolutionary party.

I am not an MI5 agent, so I am leaving to rebuild the revolutionary left in Britain. This will be a process of years not months but for now I leave proud of my time in the SWP, deeply saddened that this is the endpoint and a little excited at the fresh air I can now breathe.

Update Ever behind the curve, “we aren’t rape apologists unless we believe that women always tell the truth – and guess what, some women and children lie” got a round of applause in yesterday’s session. Stay classy, SWP.

434 comments on “Socialist Workers Party: Comrade ‘X’ resigns

  1. I don’t understand the point being made in the last paragraph. Could someone explain. Genuine.

  2. karmickameleon on said:

    The last para of X’s very dignified resignation letter refers to lies circulated by Delta supporters that her allegations and those of W may well have been instigated by M15. But as we are witnessing the SWP is quite capable of autodestructing on its own…
    The update refers to a quote from an SWP Loyalist at the conference this weekend.
    Watch this space for more horror stories.

  3. #2 Thanks, but again, I dont understand the point being made either by the person being quoted or the person doing the quoting.

  4. People may want to compare the apology from the SWP to the piss take apology in the “SWP Post Conference Bulletin” (written a week ago due to th predictability of the SWP (or a CC leaker/CC’s emails hacked………..???).
    Also, some advice from Facing Reality to the CC last week about what an apology is and what a non-apology apology is, in “Sorry seems to be the hardest word“.
    Facing Reality is now resigning from SWP blogging and moving on to bigger things.
    But just remember, while some of on the left may laugh,sneer, cheer, or physically attack the SWP, to most people in the “real world” where I live, all the left are the same and we are all tarnished by what the SWP has done.
    We all need to look at how we can learn to do better.

  5. Vanya are you talking about the “update” bit? That’s from Phil as well. I actually couldn’t work out the logic until I inverted it – basically if women tell the truth, then the party is a party of rape apologists.

    The person doesn’t believe the party is a party of rape apologists, and therefore the logic is that women and children lie (and it can only relate to accusations of rape, otherwise why raise it?) and because of these lies, the SWP clearly aren’t rape apologists.

    I’m not sure if I’ve explained that properly.

  6. Ian Birchall has resigned

    http://grimanddim.org/political-writings/2013-letter-of-resignation/

    To the National Secretary,

    SWP:

    Dear Charlie,

    It is with very great sadness that I have decided to resign my membership of the SWP.

    It is over fifty years since I first joined the International Socialists. As Cliff used to say, it takes many streams to make a river, and I have never seen the organisation as more than one stream among many – but for fifty years it was my stream, the context in which I made my small contribution to the socialist cause.

    During those fifty years there has been a great deal to be proud of. Cliff’s theory of state capitalism and the body of ideas deriving from it focussed our politics on the self-activity of the working class and rejected the notion that socialism is defined by state ownership. Our initiation of the Anti-Nazi League played a major role in blocking the rise of the far right in Britain. Our intervention in the miners’ strikes, the campaign against the poll tax, and the Stop The War movement was highly creditable. Equally important has been the role played by many hundreds of SWP members in keeping trade unionism alive in their workplaces and in animating local campaigns in defence of workers’ rights, against cuts, and against racism, sexism and war. The Marxism events and Bookmarks publications have done a very valuable job of disseminating socialist ideas. If I had died last year I should have died happy to have been a party member.

    Unfortunately the events of the last year have changed everything. The monstrously irresponsible and self-indulgent conduct of a former leading member was bad enough. But far worse was the failure of the party leadership to deal flexibly and intelligently with the situation. The Central Committee has been at best obstinate and short-sighted, at worst grossly dishonest. The revolutionary organisation is a means to the end of socialist transformation, but for members of our self-selecting leadership it has become an end in itself.

    As a result we have lost several hundred good activists, our student work has been badly harmed and our relations with our periphery have been seriously damaged. Last year’s Marxism was the smallest for many years. Good comrades have been treated shamefully, apparently with CC approval. In fifty years membership I have not seen a crisis remotely comparable to the one we are now going through. We are urged to be “outward-looking” and to commit ourselves to activity in the “real world”. Most of us would like nothing better, but when the leadership has broken down all relations of trust, effective action becomes impossible.

    The Central Committee bears a heavy responsibility for this situation, and that they should seek re-election en bloc reveals an arrogance that disqualifies them as a leadership. As senior CC member, Alex Callinicos bears a particularly heavy responsibility. (When a dog bites me I don’t blame the animal; I blame the owner that failed to keep it on a lead.) It is a small personal tragedy that his cowardice and dishonesty over the last year will overshadow forty years’ work as a significant Marxist theoretician.

    I make no apology for “factionalising”. Without the activities of the opposition faction, the few small improvements made would not have happened. The existence of a vigorous opposition inspired by the best traditions of the SWP has gone some small way to saving the party’s honour. Unfortunately we were not able to achieve more. I fear the damage is now irreversible. But I sincerely hope you can prove me wrong, since the SWP’s descent into irrelevance will weaken the whole left. I shall observe with interest whether those who have been most vocal in demanding expulsions are equally committed to rebuilding their damaged organisation.

    Given my age and health, I do not intend to join any other organisation. I continue to regard most (sadly I cannot say all) SWP members as my comrades, who share the same socialist goals and Marxist analyses that I believe in. I will, within the limits of my capacities, cooperate with the SWP and with any other genuine revolutionary socialist currents. I know there are many comrades who will remain in the SWP because they are hoping for a change in the party’s democratic culture; they have my solidarity but I do not share their stamina or their faith. I hope that there will eventually be a revolutionary regroupment which draws on the best traditions of the SWP but avoids its weaknesses.

    I have no desire to engage in further public criticism of the SWP, and, having stated the reasons for my resignation, I hope and intend to refrain from further polemics.

    In comradeship,

    Ian Birchall

  7. karmickameleon on said:

    Tony Collins,
    Message for Ian Birchall:
    You and the other oppositionists have played a very honourable role over the past year. Obviously, and with the benefit of hindsight, you made mistakes (accepting the rigged March conference was clearly one). But more importantly you have kept alive all that was best in the IS/SWP tradition in a period in which the leadership has betrayed those principles. Hopefully, others will pick up the baton in the near future. In meantime keep writing and enjoy your lovely grand daughter!

  8. I’m sure that this post will fill with ‘good ridance to the SWP’ type comments, to the ‘shame, once had many good people and ideas, made good interventionss, once a vibrant party of the left’ etc at about the rate of 3 to 1.

    So let me get my crack in now: it’s tragic that something that draw so many able people, inspired them to give considerable portions of their lives has come to this squalid end.

  9. More resignations…..Dear Charlie,

    It is with sadness that tonight I resign from the Socialist Workers Party after many years both in Leeds (and for the past seven years ) in Bristol, where I have worked hard to build the Party. I have been proud to be a comrade, and of all our achievements , but the crisis in the past year has seen uncomradely and undemocratic action, with sackings, bullying and isolation.of comrades who spoke out about the Disputes Committee process.

    I had hoped that this conference would make a serious attempt to acknowlege and rectify the mistakes made, apologise sincerely to the women at the heart of the crisis and that we could move forward in unity. Sadly it would appear that is not possible with a CC based on intransigence.

    I remain a Revolutionary Socialist committed to liberation from oppression but can not work within this organisation. I offer my solidarity to all my comrades .

    Linda Nunns
    Bristol

    Dear Charlie,
    I am writing tonight to resign from the Socialist Workers Party. I am a revolutionary socialist who has viewed all the events since 2010 with alarm. It is not just the defence of rape by the upper echelons of the party, but also the very fact that their is an upper echelon in the SWP. As a blue collar worker without a university education I have always struggled to be accepted in the intellectualised atmosphere of the party. I do not think that anyone who joins should have to smash through a political/intellectual glass ceiling, but we do. In so many ways the SWP mirrors the society we aim to bring down. There is class and privilege in the party, that much was obvious to me from early on, I fought to smash it down, but like any other structure the hierarchy clings to power, at a national or local level.
    Time and again I approached the party to complain of poor comradeship, zero support and poor organisation in Bristol, at least four times I was fobbed off the rest ignored. Once at a meeting in my own home I and the Secretary of UAF in Bristol, were silenced in our criticism of comrades, as it was felt that important funds from the NUT would be held back. To our knowledge those funds never materialised. Our local campaigns were jeopardized for the sake of national money, to prop up National UAF. For all these years as a good comrade I kept my mouth shut, or had it shut for me.
    I can be brutal with language, I recognise Boss-like behaviour when I see it and I see it in the Party. You are the bosses, people like me, who trail around doing what we are instructed, are the workers; who are then smashed for showing a flicker of initiative. Worst of all are the unelected, self appointed, middle managers who have a position due to their seniority, a woeful parody of the bosses and managers we are trying to remove. I have a simple rule; anything that we resist at work, we should resist in our own organisation.
    This in turn brings me to the immediate events around Martin Smith. This whole series of events has been spread over three years, not one and we have long been aware of the allegations facing Martin Smith. Again as a trade union rep with experience of discipline and how workers are treated, abused and oppressed, it was stunning to see the same behaviour occurring in the SWP and from comrades who have also been long serving Trade Unionists. It goes with the territory to stand up for the oppressed, not to be the oppressor. I was shocked to hear how the Disputes Committee had harassed the woman comrade who had been abused, any half competent trade union official would have stopped a meeting like that and any half decent revolutionary would never conduct a meeting like that.
    I was proud to vote against the CC at the January 2013 conference and have paid the price in Bristol ever since. I believe in a revolutionary socialist party, your SWP is not it. You have had successes, yet as the Tories move further to the right and Labour clings to their coat tails and the Lib Dems face wipe-out the SWP is dragged further and further into the resulting vacuum. We need to resist all temptation, on the one hand to oppress other humans and on the other, to be drawn into the movement in the way you are doing through Unite the Resistance, amongst other campaigns. As revolutionaries we should always be firmly rooted in our place on the left and never over stretch into the movement. There are limits.
    I trust you can see that my reasons for resignation are not purely based on the exploits of Martin Smith. I feel too many concessions are made to movementism and there is a lack of understanding of how we operate in United Fronts. Too many comrades can talk the talk, yet when they walk the walk it is to the beat of the Labour Party drum.
    I have stayed in the SWP hoping that I could be a part of changing our structures from within. The democracy commission was a carve up and so too have been all the conferences and structures since. A former comrade in Bristol always used to tell me “Jaz, there are talkers and do-ers”, Charlie, I must report the talkers have won. The party is taking on the appearance of a retirement home where old bigoted ideals will be savoured as you talk over what would have been if those “upstart students and no good women hadn’t come along and spoilt it all”.
    I too hoped the latest conference would make a serious attempt to acknowledge and rectify the mistakes you and the CC made. I hoped you would have the guts to apologise sincerely to the women at the heart of your crisis and that we could all move forward in unity. That is not possible with a CC based on intransigence. That means I have to leave.
    I will end by quoting a comrade from Bristol who has tonight also resigned; “I remain a Revolutionary Socialist committed to liberation from oppression, but can not work within this organisation. I offer my solidarity to all my comrades.”
    Justin “Jaz” Thomas

  10. Uncle Albert on said:

    Sam64: it’s tragic that something that draw so many able people, inspired them to give considerable portions of their lives has come to this squalid end.

    I’m trying to think of an established U.K. left political party of which this cannot be said. Certainly, more than any other, it can be said of the Labour Party.

  11. Cailean on said:

    See to be honest, having just watched “the Happy Lands” on BBC2 Scotland tonight, it really shows what a laughable situation this thread throws up.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p01jgv34/The_Happy_Lands/

    It’s the General Strike 1926 – only seven years after the slaughter of the trenches, miners unions lead the country against savage austerity cuts handed to the nation by a Liberal-Conservative government.

    Set in the village of Carhill Scotland, in the heart of the Fife coalfields, we follow the journey of one mining community as they are pushed inevitably towards a labour conflict with the Kingdom Coal Company in a seven-month-long lock-out.

    ‘Not a penny off the pay, not a minute on the day’ is the chant as the coal company demand longer hours for less pay. The intimate portrayal of three families show the human consequences of an impersonal economics. The coal company practically owns the village and is colluding with government forces to keep the ‘red threat’ under control.

    Standing up for their rights inspires national support and galvanizes a defiant spirit of the time. Faith forged through suffering grows and though the strike fails, the seed of a political awakening is sown. Inspired by true stories from local families in Fife, the Happy Lands follows the journey of law-abiding citizens who become law-breakers in a heroic battle against the state. It’s never a good time to stand up for your rights – but it’s always the right time.”

    These people and communities fought for their lives, many of whom were Communist Party members and paid dearly for it.

    Compared to this, the current debacle with the SWP doesn’t even register as a serious event.
    Is this what the Ultra Left has been reduced to?

  12. Vanya: I don’t understand the point being made in the last paragraph. Could someone explain. Genuine.

    Phil can answer for himself, but I do find this problematic, especially the fact that it drew applause:

    Ever behind the curve, “we aren’t rape apologists unless we believe that women always tell the truth – and guess what, some women and children lie” got a round of applause in yesterday’s session. Stay classy, SWP.

    This is effectively a denial that rape apologism exists, but conflating it with the presumption of innocence; and also by drawing attention to the fact that women and children might lie, without balancing this with an acknowledgement not only than men might lie, but also that rape is predicated upon attititudes of male entitlement.

    The issue with the cases of X and W claiming alleged rape by Comrade Delta was that the process was one predicated upon institutional self-preservation, not justice.

    The implication of the statement, in its deleivered context, is that the SWP did notthing wrong becasue X and W may have lied. Now of course the truth or otherwise has never been tested by any competent inquiry or tribunal, so the statemeny becomes that the SWP has no obigation to treat a particular accuation seriously of not only rape, but gross abuse of power by a man in a position of leadership authority over a much younger woman, becasue of the general acknowledgment that some women might lie.

    Of course the mention of children lying is al the worse because the alleged victim was only 17 when the 50 year old Martin Smith, a man with a position of authrity over her began his alleged abuse.

  13. Another letter…and an email…
    Dear Charlie,

    It is with deep sadness that I am writing to resign from the SWP.

    For three years a handful of us, growing to an impressive 400-500, have tried to resolve the appalling handling of the two disputes cases. In this time it became clear that the CC chose to cover up rather than address their and the DCs mistakes or confront Martin’s behaviour.

    Despite countless opportunities to resolve the situation, the CC chose to allow sexist, uncomradely and undemocratic behaviour from CC members and Smith supporters, including condoning lies that the women were spurned lovers and/or politically motivated.

    This process has lead to the degeneration of our politics on women’s oppression and has destroyed the small steps we took under the Democracy Commission to open up party democracy. One of the brightest generations of student revolutionaries has been squandered and with it our ability to rejuvenate the party.

    I stayed in the party this year with the hope that if enough comrades were made aware of the situation, they would demand it be rectified. I stayed to win some kind of justice for the two women comrades so badly treated, and because I believed that the SWP was worth fighting for. I do not want to leave, but I cannot simply continue to remain in an organisation which is being destroyed by a leadership who, out of fear of tackling political and organisational weaknesses, are trampling our core principles and compounding mistakes at the cost of political clarity and direction.

    Viv Smith

    Dear Charlie,

    I’m just ringing you up by email, as it’s the method you prefer to use when you expel comrades, so I thought it would be the appropriate method for my resignation.

    Cheers
    Tony Walker

  14. Genuinely don’t know if it’s heartening to watch so many SWP members stick two fingers up to the CC and its apologists on Facebook, Twitter etc, or depressing as hell that they’ve had to.

    The worst situation would be if all these principled socialists (well, just decent human beings) give up in despair, yet somehow the SWP rump stumbled on, zombie-like, within its toe-holds in the labour movement, antagonising and complicating the efforts of other socialists. Hopefully the dispersed fragments of the various oppositions will condense and reorganise over the next few weeks.

    As for the SWP, if it was a person, wouldn’t now be the time for an intervention or a restraining order?

  15. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: Ever behind the curve, “we aren’t rape apologists unless we believe that women always tell the truth – and guess what, some women and children lie” got a round of applause in yesterday’s session. Stay classy, SWP.

    Like Vanya I had to read and re-read this before I could even make it make any sense. I have to agree with Andy on this one. This quote (if of course its accurate) is an attempt to conflate separate issues and thereby obfuscate/obscure the real issues. And that these SWP people/persons resort to this kind of conflation would kind of suggest that some indeed are apologists. That some/many (?) found the need to applaud such a speech sums it up. And why mention children?

    Just as an aside this item forced me to do some research. Obviously there are many pitfalls with assessing the true extent of rape and false allegations of rape, not least the fact that the police often don’t take women seriously, however a recent CPS report 2011/2012 showed that it thought there was enough evidence to prosecute 5,651 cases of rape. In the same period it thought there was enough evidence to prosecute 35 cases of false allegation. That’s (if my maths is right) a half of one percent. Given that we know that rape is under-reported and under -pursued the percentage is likely to be even smaller.

  16. i am not an swp supporter but as far as i can see the swp does not seem to be having any problems continueing to function unless other people have different expierences the swps active membership appears to be much the same as it always was in the few years since this has being going on, maybe swp will dissapear but i think it will take years and if it happens it will most likely be the whole trotskyist movement that vanishes not just the swp.

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

  18. Karl Stewart on said:

    james?:
    i am not an swp supporter but as far as i can see the swp does not seem to be having any problems continueing to function unless other people have different expierences the swps active membershipappears to be much the same as it always was

    I’m not in the SWP either, so like you, I can only view the effect of this from the outside and my impression is very different to yours James.

    While, the paper is still being produced each week, there certainly appear to me to be a lot fewer SWP activists out and about than there were a year or two ago.

    And the numbers attending their public events are about half of what they were.

    Slightly over half of their members (who expressed an opinion) signed up to the opposition faction IDOOP back in March and a large chunk of these people left after the March conference – many of whom went on to set up the IS Network.

    Of those IDOOP supporters who stayed. In after March, many of these people appear to be leaving now.

    So if you take the total numbers who supported the IDOOP faction back in the Spring – 540 – it’s a fair assumption that many, if not most of these people either are or will soon be out of the SWP.

    So this would leave a remaining membership made up of those who backed the CC faction in the spring – 512 – plus perhaps a couple of hundred at most who either didn’t back the CC faction but have decided to stay in or who, for whatever reason, decided to abstain from this internal debate completely.

    So it’s very difficult to see how a party with 600-700 members can possibly sustain the same levels of activity of last year’s party of perhaps 1,100-1,200 members.

  19. Jellytot on said:

    The SWP are finished and good riddance to them. They’ll be no phoenix rising from these ashes.

    The one bright spark is that Leninism/Trotskyism will finally be ditched on the Left and it will dawn on some people that the whole notion of Revolution is a practical impossibility in Britain. I have always thought that a lot of this dysfunctionality arises from these central conceit. When you beleive that your group is the preordained liberator of mankind, bizarre shit can happen.

    Anyway, this is a good, recent summary from Neil Davidson:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRQLH1M7WQQ

    Tony Collins: Ian Birchall has resigned

    Maybe they’ll start accusing Ian of being MI5?!

    “we aren’t rape apologists unless we believe that women always tell the truth – and guess what, some women and children lie” got a round of applause in yesterday’s session.

    Ughh…..No doubt from the same crew who foot-stomped and cheered Martin Smith a few years back. Genuinely disgusting.

  20. Jellytot on said:

    Karl Stewart: While, the paper is still being produced each week, there certainly appear to me to be a lot fewer SWP activists out and about than there were a year or two ago.

    The quality of production of the online SW (which was fairly good a few years back) has plummeted over the past year. It’s real ‘bargain basement’ stuff now and, I’d guess, as the result of the departure of journalists/contributors and the drying up of funds.

  21. Cailean on said:

    The one bright spark is that Leninism/Trotskyism will finally be ditched on the Left

    I find it remarkable that anyone equates Leninism with Trotskyism as though they were equal in integrity! Lenin was most kind to Trotsky “when he came on board, finally” for the sake of the wider peace (let’s remember Mandela’s example), but Trotsky was no Leninist by nature:
    Judas Trotsky’s Blush of Shame

    PS I’m not wanting to get into “dead Russian” wars – its the death of usefulness and the life-blood Left sectarians, but facts are facts. Trotskyism is not Leninism by any leap of the imagination.

  22. Cailean on said:

    Cailean,

    But I should have said, without a doubt, that there are a very many wonderful genuine people involved in these movements.

    I’m sorry not to have pointed out that obvious fact in the post above! 🙂

  23. #24 Cue a load of equally irrelevant quotes from Lenin to prove the exact opposite. Context is everything.

  24. The Rebuilding the Party opposition faction in the SWP decided to dissolve itself at its closing meeting on Sunday 15 December, in line with conference wishes. At that meeting comrades discussed and voted on the future of this website, which was set up by SWP opposition supporters prior to Rebuilding the Party being formed. The faction voted to hand over control of the website to those comrades who had now decided to leave the party. This is a notice to that effect.

    http://revolutionarysocialism.tumblr.com/

  25. Jellytot: …the whole notion of Revolution is a practical impossibility in Britain. I have always thought that a lot of this dysfunctionality arises from these central conceit.

    There’s something really cringe-worthy about the confessions of faith tacked onto the end of most of these resignations:

    ‘I am not an MI5 agent, so I am leaving to rebuild the revolutionary left in Britain.’

    ‘I hope that there will eventually be a revolutionary regroupment which draws on the best traditions of the SWP but avoids its weaknesses.’

    ‘I remain a Revolutionary Socialist committed to liberation from oppression but can not work within this organisation.’

    ‘I am writing tonight to resign from the Socialist Workers Party. I am a revolutionary socialist who has viewed all the events since 2010 with alarm … I believe in a revolutionary socialist party, your SWP is not it.’

    You see, people are not leaving because the SWP is not fit for purpose, because it remains in its political ghetto and has squandered opportunities to leave. No, people are leaving the SWP because it does not match their expectations of revolutionary purity. That the violations of purity were in this case so egregious should not detract from the fact that the SWP opposition has showed few signs of good political sense. They may as well be divided over the question of the USSR’s ‘true nature’, because for all the talk, there is no evidence the SWP opposition has moved beyond the regurgitation of well-worn ideological platitudes, towards some kind of serious analysis of the problems faced by the British left of today. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, the SWP opposition’s leading light is Richard Seymour–a man who seems to have carved a name out for himself based on nothing more than combining pseudo-Marxist/new left banality with an impressive vocabulary (or more likely, a good thesaurus).

    History repeats itself: first as tragedy, then as farce … and then finally, as the SWP! 😉

  26. Jellytot on said:

    Feodor: No, people are leaving the SWP because it does not match their expectations of revolutionary purity.

    I think we should cut them a bit of slack.

    They should be congratulated on making the biggest step and making the actual break (especially Mr. Birchall who has been in 50 years!!). It can be a tough thing to do as you are leaving well established political, personal and social networks. Once outside an “hothouse” atmosphere of such an organisation, and it’s continual, mantra-like reinforcement, it’s common for the mind to repair itself.

    Deprogramming is a marathon not a sprint.

  27. Jellytot: it will dawn on some people that the whole notion of Revolution is a practical impossibility in Britain.

    This is the crux of the argument. Let me put three propositions:
    a) In the decades ahead human civilisation faces grave threats from climate change, nuclear confrontation, the rise of the far left etc. To avert these threats we need a radical change in the way human society is organised, towards a society based on cooperation and a much greater degree of equality;
    b) to achieve such change will require, not the action of a minority of professional politicians, but much broader forms of mass action, based primarily on the victims of existing society, the exploited and oppressed;
    c) such change cannot be achieved merely through the existing political structures (e.g. parliament) but will have to overspill those structures and transform them.
    That is the minimal case on the basis of which I would describe myself as a revolutionary socialist. How much of that case do you disagree with?

  28. Roger Carberry on said:

    I think Ian meant to say
    ….a) In the decades ahead human civilisation faces grave threats from climate change, nuclear confrontation, the rise of the far right etc before anyone gets excited

  29. Feodor, can you please explain why your posts are, in effect, anonymous? What you say may or may not be true/significant/to the point but surely there’s a problem if they come to us anonymously. Ian Birchall – and others like him – make statements on the Facebook, twitter and sites like SU, which can be related to their pasts, what things they’ve done or written. Andy and some others here (eg Nick Wright) live and die by their non-anonymity. Hurrah for that. They refer to what they have or haven’t done and people can make their own minds up about what sort of political trajectory that adds up to. I’m beginning to think that real internet debate needs that non-anonymity.

  30. #34 I disagree.

    I don’t know about Feodor but I have reasons for remaining anonymous for the purposes of this blog (although there are those who either know for certain who I am because I trust them enough to let them know or because I provide sufficient information about myself for some people to work it out for themselves), and I therefore realise that for the reasons you outline, some of what I say will be treated by some with less seriousness than if I used my real name (not that I am a particularly important individual in any case).And it also means that I try to limit personal attacks on named individuals.

  31. Michael Rosen,

    Firstly, there’s the issue of employment, both present and future. I’ve been told at work that the company (which I won’t name) checks on its employees online and will fire us for criticising them in any way on Facebook, etc. In the building industry you’ve actually got blacklists. So it’s within the realm of possibility that identifying yourself as a socialist or, perhaps more importantly, a trade unionist could have significant consequences.

    Secondly, for rank & file members or activists, are we really any less anonymous to you for using our real names?

  32. Jellytot on said:

    Michael Rosen: I’m beginning to think that real internet debate needs that non-anonymity.

    I don’t think it particularly matters and I don’t think it affects debate to any great extent.

    Unless, of course, the “anons” are engaging in something particularly abusive, incendiary, threatening or libellous…..and tends to be rare here.

    This Blog permits people to post anonymously (it could chose not to) and the reasons people do so are myriad. Their reasons should be respected, or if not, at least tolerated.

  33. My feeling is that naming ourselves online diminishes the likelihood of people making statements that they don’t really, really believe in, diminishes the chances of just saying stuff to see if it provokes others (‘trolling’?) and no matter how unknown a person thinks they might be, they are known to their immediate circle of family, friends and colleagues and this in itself prevents you from making stuff up. As part of that, if you have skeletons in your cupboard, if a thread gets anywhere near your skeletons, you will be unlikely to dive in and claim some kind of purity or certainty about the matter.

    In relation to this SWP matter, I think this is particularly important and relevant. We are all entitled to ask of others (and of ourselves) questions like: what would you have done? what organisation has behaved better or would have behaved better? etc etc. Some people – either for themselves or on behalf of their organisations – might be able to say, ‘me’, or ‘us’, ‘yes, we do know better’ and if they name themselves we can evaluate that. If it’s anonymous – a person can say anything about being better, knowing better or doing better. And we have no means of checking or testing that.

    I’m not going to the barricades over this and I understand people’s reasons for being anonymous. All I can say is that I’ve started to value named people’s contributions more than non-named even if I fundamentally disagree with the named or agree with the non-named. If you get me…

  34. Ian Birchall: In the decades ahead human civilisation faces grave threats from climate change, nuclear confrontation, the rise of the far left etc. To avert these threats we need a radical change in the way human society is organised, towards a society based on cooperation and a much greater degree of equality;

    Ian, I assume you made a mistake here when you included the ‘rise of the far left’ as one of the grave threats faced by civilization.

    Ian Birchall: to achieve such change will require, not the action of a minority of professional politicians, but much broader forms of mass action, based primarily on the victims of existing society, the exploited and oppressed;

    This is where I find the SWP/Cliffite analysis beyond belief. It’s always been a source of curiosity to me how many members of the SWP – and indeed now former members – are clearly intelligent people with a tremendous grasp on things, or most things anyway, yet when it comes to their core belief in revolution they sound just like members of any millenarian cult. I really don’t mean this as an insult, it is merely my own observation gained after being around the SWP and listening to its members both at meetings and in private conversations.

    Ian, your unfailing belief that revolution is both the solution and inevitable in Britain and across the developed world is one you held 50 years ago when you first joined what became the SWP. Is the fact that it hasn’t occurred in those 50 years done anything to shake or even colour this belief at all? Surely on the level of empiricism you would at least have begun to ask yourself if perhaps your analysis was skewed, based on a misreading and misinterpretation of history, class consciousness, and society.

    Don’t you agree that Marx was right going backwards but wrong forwards – given that his prognosis of revolution taking root in the advanced industrialised economies in Europe proved false? And don’t you agree that the Bolsheviks too, in their belief that the Russian Revolution would be the catalyst for world revolution, were proved wrong?

    I just find it curious that 50 years spent following the same politics, driven by the same core belief, without success would appear not to have prompted any re-evaluation of those politics and your core belief in revolutionary transformation. Of course, it is more than likely that you have reflected on your politics and come to the conclusion that there is no evidence or reasons to alter them. In that case, what is it that makes you so sure that the problems faced by society in the developed world – the undeveloped world, as history has shown, is a different matter entirely – will and can only be solved by revolution?

    For me the underlying failure of Tony Cliff’s and the SWP’s analysis is the premium they place in the subjective factor of political activity over objective conditions. It has always seemed to me to be a refusal to deal with the world as is in favour of an idealised treatment of working class people combined with the romanticisation of revolution.

    I am seriously curious to know what has sustained you in your core belief in revolutionary transformation over 50 years.

  35. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Ian Birchall can answer for himself, but I would say NATO/Wall Street/Brussels/Riyadh themselves believe in revolution – it’s just that for them revolution means regime change in the world favourable to their interests, at a time when their own interests are under threat.

  36. Karl Stewart on said:

    Ian Birchall,
    John,

    I don’t think a debate posed in terms of “reform versus revolution” is particularly helpful.

    The key for us is to stress matters of policy – I.e. full employment, housing for all, access to quality free education, health, and accessible transport etc, and he fullest possible mass participation in decision making – and to collectively fight for them.

    It’s my view that we’ve got to push as hard as we can through mass democratic means for these aims, but also be prepared to resist undemocratic forces trying to stop us.

    It’s the achievement of real improvements to people’s lives that must be our primary focus, and on these fundamentals, Ian and John would (I assume) agree.

    The question of how we collectively organise to achieve progressive change is hugely important, but secondary to the main purpose.

    And here is where I feel parties of the “leninist” type have failed, where they have elevated organisational method to a primary principle.

  37. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    http://en.alalam.ir/news/1545721

    Τhis is the British ruling class, and its cohorts abroad, trying to channel potentially revolutionary energy for its own purposes. The world is unstable – even Britain. But ruling classes often try to harness that instability.

  38. Karl Stewart: I don’t think a debate posed in terms of “reform versus revolution” is particularly helpful.

    Karl, you’ve succeeded in reducing what I thought was a serious and considered comment into something else entirely.

    Read my comment again. I am seriously and fraternally curious as to what sustains people such as Ian in their core belief in revolutionary transformation of society as the only means of achieving social and economic justice.

    I wasn’t trying to be cheeky or insulting or in any way disrespectful. I once considered myself a revolutionary socialist, but after a process of re-evaluation and consideration I changed my views. Ian clearly hasn’t, which is why I was curious. What in his analysis brings him to a different conclusion than me? It’s a serious question.

  39. Just to elaborate on my last comment. Ian is of course under no obligation to answer or respond. This is not a court. I was merely articulating a question I have long been pondering without the presumption of virtue or lack thereof on the part of anyone involved.

  40. John Grimshaw on said:

    John: Ian, your unfailing belief that revolution is both the solution and inevitable in Britain

    I welcome this debate John and I see that you are being sincere. I can’t speak for Ian obviously, although I may have more in common with him for obvious reasons. I have checked Ian’s earlier contribution and I can see no implication of “inevitable”. As a revolutionary I see nothing as being “inevitable”.

    John: given that his prognosis of revolution taking root in the advanced industrialised economies in Europe proved false? And don’t you agree that the Bolsheviks too, in their belief that the Russian Revolution would be the catalyst for world revolution, were proved wrong?

    John can you explain why you think this proved “false”. There were many revolutions in Europe in the nineteenth century. So based on this past experience why were the Bolsheviks wrong in assuming that the Russian Revolution could be a catalyst? Furthermore as you know there were serious debates about precisely this within RSDP. Its also historically true that for a brief period the Russian Revolution was a real catalyst in Europe and elsewhere and, depending on your politics, for much longer in different ways.

    John: It has always seemed to me to be a refusal to deal with the world as is in favour of an idealised treatment of working class people combined with the romanticisation of revolution.

    To me this is confused. People who who critique revolutionaries by saying “refusal to deal with as is” or “it’ll never happen here” (as Jellytot does) are usually hiding another agenda. Social Democrats ( in the modern sense) presumably want to change some things, so are they refusing to deal with the world as is? Who said that revolutionaries have to be “romantic” about the working class? Or is this a sub text for saying the working class are stupid? Or more likely not suitable to be agents of change? I don’t think you mean this but you take my point. Revolutions (especially if they are not followed through) can be hell. No romance there.

  41. Karl Stewart on said:

    John: Karl, you’ve succeeded in reducing what I thought was a serious and considered comment into something else entirely.

    I don’t think I’ve done that John. You were essentially stating that you’re in favour of reform (or non-revolutionary change) and asking Ian why he’s in favour of revolutionary change.

    To me, those two positions are leading to a “reform versus revolution” debate and my contribution was an attempt to argue that this is something of a false polarity.

    Here’s an example. If, as a result of an effective mass campaign, the government was pressurised to the extent that it decided to legislate the compulsory introduction of the Living Wage across the economy, then I very much doubt that Ian would oppose this ‘reform’.

    To give an opposite scenario, if a radical left-wing government were elected into power and set about implementing a progressive socialist programme and right-wing extra-parliamentary forces tried to frustrate this, perhaps even to the extent of trying to undemocratically remove this elected government from power, then I doubt you’d oppose attempts by the left to fight this – through organised collective physical force if necessary.

  42. John Grimshaw,

    Perhaps I should have qualified my original comment with the word ‘successful’. You are certainly correct to the extent that 1917 sent a revolutionary shockwave throughout Europe in its aftermath, inspiring serious if shortlived attempts at emulating it, particularly in Germany and Hungary. But they failed. Trotsky later asserted that their failure compared to the success of the Russian Revolution was the Bolsheviks themselves – the lack of a Bolshevik Party in the case of the former and its existence in the latter. This to me is overly simplistic, again the elevation of the subjective factor above any other.

    And, yes, the RR struck terror into the hearts of the european ruling classes, though in the case of Germany and Italy the result was the emergence of fascism.

    The progressive consequence of 1917 however was the ability of the organised working classes to win significant concessions, esp after WW2, so when looked at as part of an historical process it takes on added significance.

    But the unintended consequence of this, imo, has been to negate the need for revolution. Marx was wrong when he predicted the sustained and inevitable immiseration and pauperisation of the European working classes under capitalism. The emergence of Social Democracy and mixed market economies after his time made it so.

    I certainly don’t consider working class people to be stupid. On the contrary, I think it more insulting to view them as revolutionaries in waiting. The concept of the self activity of the working class and the vanguard party are antithetical rather than complementary, as far as I can see.

    Revolutions are every bit as pregnant with the potential for regression as progression. This is why revolution as an end in itself, as espoused by many I’ve encountered in my time, cannot be taken seriously. But even those, such as Ian, who view it as the means I do feel are guilty of minimising the self evident perils attached to the reality.

  43. John: Marx was wrong when he predicted the sustained and inevitable immiseration and pauperisation of the European working classes under capitalism.

    There’s a strong case (made by Ernest Mandel, among others) that Marx didn’t actually predict that, except in early works before he had formulated his own wage theory as presented in ‘Wages, Price, and Profit’ and in Capital.

    A great deal of confusion has been brought about by the conflation of revolution with insurrection and violent seizure of power.

    Surely we are agreed that there can be a social revolution without mass armed insurrection, and even within (while changing) the existing constitution? John (presumably) would agree with the claim that there’s a revolution going in Venezuela.

    Now of course Venezuela is a very different different society from Britain, but one can imagine something happening here more analogous to that than to Russia. (It’s probably best not to imagine it in too much detail, because imagining the end of the monarchy is, as, we’ve recently been reminded, illegal.)

  44. My previous interjection was very blunt; I can see why it annoyed some. Perhaps I should have restrained my language a little, but I stand by the point–there really is something cringe-worthy about the cargo-cult unanimity of the language used. I don’t see how including my name and address adds or subtracts from this, at least in any way that is substantive. As others have pointed out, not all of us are independently wealthy literati, who have the luxury of free speech without consequences for our present or future employment.

    Ian Birchall: That is the minimal case on the basis of which I would describe myself as a revolutionary socialist. How much of that case do you disagree with?

    The problem is, Ian, it’s so vague as to make agreeing or disagreeing largely symbolic. Fifty years of political experience and the best you can manage is to list some things you oppose, without offering any kind of serious answer to the question of what political remedies can be applied. You may as well have said I’m a revolutionary socialist because I believe in revolutionary socialism. Great. But what does that mean in terms of purposeful political action? How can young socialists like myself, still trying to figure things out, look at such statements and not find in them a barren wasteland–the foundations of another far-left sect rather than a genuinely vibrant and popular political movement?

    I’m not meaning to be excessively rude. I’ve read some of your historical writing and think you’re an intelligent chap. But these are merely ideological platitudes, designed to insulate people from complex political realities. People talk of building and re-building, but wtf are they building? Do they even know themselves?

    Circa 1956, E P Thompson accused CPGBers of living in ‘a smug little world of their own creation’. Arguably, most of the British left has been living in such a world for most of the past century. These very public resignations smack of such smugness, of self-reverence and self-absorption, regardless of the credit these people deserve for leaving a party most sensible people had already determined was quite rotten.

  45. Ken MacLeod,

    Great points, Ken. But as I mentioned in my original comment on this theme, nations of the undeveloped world exist under different material conditions than those of the developed while of course connected as a consequence of uneven and combined development.

    Deepening the social and economic contradictions in Venezuela, I think you might agree, is its status as a major oil producer in N America’s so called backyard.

    The process underway in Venezuela, and a lesser extent in that region, has to understood in this context, I feel.

  46. Karl Stewart: I don’t think a debate posed in terms of “reform versus revolution” is particularly helpful.

    It is something of a false dichotomy. But note, John nor anyone else are presenting themselves as ‘reformist socialists’. Plenty of people are presenting themselves as ‘revolutionary socialists’, however. And it seems worth asking what they actually mean by this, esp. as most Marxists outside the Fourth International tradition came to the conclusion that this was something of a false dichotomy long ago.

    Does not the SWP deride ‘The British Road to Socialism’ as ‘reformism’? Does it not claim Labour is just another ‘capitalist’ party? And that ‘actually existing socialism’ was actually state-managed capitalism? The debate takes place on crude intellectual terrain because the SWP outlook is just that: crude, catchphrase-driven, pseudo-academic posturing.

  47. Karl Stewart on said:

    Feodor,
    Hi Feodor, I’m glad you mentioned the CP’s British Road to Socialism programme, because I think. BRS straddles this apparent “reformist/
    revolutionary” divide.
    It was the result of serious work by communists who analysed the specific conditions of the UK and creatively applied socialist principles to this reality.

  48. Karl Stewart: It was the result of serious work by communists who analysed the specific conditions of the UK…

    I’ll refrain from quoting Thompson again, though he had a good quip about it being the Russian road done in English. Afaik, its Russian connections and a lack of consultation with the CPGB rank-and-file significantly undermined a programme which I agree was a serious attempt to come up with a viable, long-term socialist strategy for Britain, in a form relatively free of ideological baggage and flexible enough to withstand the test of time.

    The CPGB left a tradition which can be mined for many gems–a couple of years ago it seemed to me as if the SP was trying to recreate the NUWM, e.g. The shame is how easily other groups dismiss the CPGB without trying to learn from its history, while not contributing even a tenth of what the CPGB did. We need a left led by men like Pollitt, Horner and Hannington, not by the likes of Ted Grant and Tony Cliff, nor even a Palme Dutt.

  49. John: Ian clearly hasn’t, which is why I was curious. What in his analysis brings him to a different conclusion than me? It’s a serious question.

    Sorry for delay in responding. I’ve had a lot of correspondence to deal with. Obviously it would take whole books to cover the qurestion adequately. What i was trying to do in my necessarily “vague” (Feodor) summary was to set out a minimal argument without using Marxist terminology.
    I think capitalism both causes enormous suffering (war, growing inequality) and threatens the very destruction of civilisation within a few decades. (It’ll outlive me, but I have grandchildren.) I don’t think capitalism can solve its problems – it is oriented to short-term profit against long-term solutions.
    And I don’t think social democracy can solve them either. I’ve lived through every Labour government since 1945, and I draw two conclusions – each Labour government is more right-wing than its predecessors and the Labour left continues to get weaker and less ambitious. In some ways the Labour right in the 1960s (Crosland) was more radically egalitarian than the Labour left are today.
    So what is left? Luxemburg’s choice of socialism or barbarism. Now I actually think barbarism is a lot more likely than socialism – I certainly don’t think revolution is inevitable or even probable. It would be easy enough to simply give up. But while there is still a one-in-five or even a one-in-ten chance of the radical change we need, i will do what I can to work towards it. I don’t romanticise the working class but nor do I write it off.
    Because one of the lessons of history is that things sometimes change very rapidly and unexpectedly. I remember April 1968 – the Powell speech and workers striking and demonstrating in his support, and how gloomy and depressed we all felt. Then came the French May and seven years leading up to the Portuguese revolution, when revolutionary change did seem on the agenda.
    I don’t think history has exhauted its store of surprises, In the meanwhile i largely agree (for once) with Karl Stewart – I will work for any reforms that benefit the exploited and oppressed, especially if such campaigns encourage the self-confidence and self-activity of the oppressed.
    Note that I have said nothing about “Leninism”. I think Lenin was a great revolutionary for his time, and i think the study of history can inspire and illuminate. But I certainly don’t beleive that there is any codified set of ideas which can be deduced from Lenin and which offer a way forward.
    That’s the best I can answer.

  50. Ian Birchall,

    Thanks for taking time to respond, Ian. I won’t respond, as you’ve explained your position quite clearly. I may disagree with it but this doesn’t mean I can’t respect your commitment and dedication over decades of political activity.

    Cheers.

  51. Rich squince on said:

    Being in the periphery of the world there is not much we can do. However we need to throw our grain of sand the right way. Here we oppose austerity, stand up to racism, oppose imperialistic wars and interventions.simple.there are many other oppressions to oppose. But I believe, this where so much of the left has a lot to re think. We have to recognise Venezuela for the amazing political inspiration it gives for 21st century socialism … China for economic inspiration, an alternative to imperialism and the only net contributor to reducing world poverty, 600 million out of absolute poverty solely due to china.. So we need to oppose western threats,lies, interventions in to both countries and learn and reflect. Investment not austerity is the manifestly successful policy of china, serious economics and accessible here http://ablog.typepad.com/keytrendsinglobalisation/2013/11/china-world-poverty.html

  52. Ian Birchall: In some ways the Labour right in the 1960s (Crosland) was more radically egalitarian than the Labour left are today.

    We could argue that Crosland was more radical that the Labour left of his own generation , who Crosland himself described as more socially conservative than a convocation of Bishops.

    It is therefore worth questioning whether “left” and “right” are meaningful categories when discussing differencies between diverse political strategies

  53. Rich squince on said:

    In discussing the British left, it’s achievements, failings and limitations I I should add that the recent honoring on Mandela also highlighted two elements of the international revolutionary movement that the left should give due course to recognising and likewise honoring: the role of Cuba in the world and also of Sinn Fein in Ireland in political terms showing what has been achieved and can be achieved by dedicated leaderships in the face of imperialism eg http://www.socialistaction.net/International/International-Politics/Mandela-tributes-show-links-between-the-national-liberation-struggles-in-South-Africa-and-Ireland.html

  54. Rich squince on said:

    As Gerry Adams said , as quoted above :

    He will continue to inspire. He will continue in death as he did while alive to encourage oppressed peoples everywhere
    And in that way his legacy will live on.
    You don’t have to be a Nelson Mandela, you don’t have to be a Madiba, we only have to do the small things we can do to make things better for those who suffer from injustice, for those who are deprived, for those who don’t have freedom.
    If we all did that in a small way then those heroes like he would not have to do the big things that they have had to do.

  55. Andy Newman: It is therefore worth questioning whether “left” and “right” are meaningful categories when discussing differencies between diverse political strategies

    This can only be true if the distinction between striving to win state power for the working class and not doing so is regarded as unimportant.

  56. PAT STACK QUITS SWP

    I’ve been shooting in the dark too long

    When something’s not right it’s wrong

    Dear Charlie Next May I would have been in the SWP for 40 years. In my 39 years in the IS/SWP, 20 of those working full time for the organisation, there were of course many ups and downs. But I was always sure that this was my political home. I was chosen to be our representative on the NUS executive, became a full-timer, got elected onto the Central Committee, on which I served for 12 years. I look back on that time as an honour made all the greater by having worked alongside the likes of Tony Cliff, Duncan Hallas, Chris Harman and Paul Foot. However after a year of shooting in the dark trying to put right a wrong, I feel I have been brought to
    a crossroads. The SWP’s failure to
    deal with the dispute arising from the complaint of the two women against the former national secretary, its failure to correct the errors that arose from that dispute, and the complete lack of honest accounting as to what went wrong, have all brought me to this point. The leadership had so many opportunities to do the right thing, to make decisions that would save the SWP from a huge cost to its reputation and huge loss of membership. It remains a source of heartbreak and bewilderment for me that you failed so badly at every turn. Leaderships can only be judged on what they have done, what results they have achieved. W
    hatever way we look at it, this leadership failed to deal with the issue that lies at the heart of the biggest crisis the SWP ever faced.

    If the problem were exclusively one of failed leadership I might just still be considering my continued membership. Sadly it is clear that for a large section of the loyal membership, a short-
    sighted “defence of the party” has overridden every other consider
    ation, including
    principles, and furthermore for them “defence of the party” has become synonymous with “defence of the leadership”.

    The full horror of this was exemplified at conference by the standing ovation for Maxine’s
    disputes committee report, followed by the complete lack of response to the revelations of dispute committee members C and J (neither of them faction members) that Maxine and the majority on the disputes committee had indeed blocked the second case from being heard.

    Those who gave the standing ovation for Maxine

    about a third of the conference

    long ago decided that the two women were lying, either for factional reasons or because they were stooges of the state. They decided this way despite having no reliable knowledge of either case.

    It is laughable to pretend this group of people has not broken fundamentally
    with our principles over women’s liberation.

    In the light of this I feel I have no choice but to resign from the SWP. I do so with much sadness. I do so, however, in the company of many others alongside whom I have fought and who, like me, now feel they have to move on. They have been outstanding examples of how to fight for what is right in very difficult circumstances, and I stand by them with pride.

    I know that in doing so I am saying goodbye to something that has been a huge part of almost my entire adult life. I am also saying goodbye to those members of the faction who will choose to stay inside the SWP. I would say to them: we fought an honourable fight together, we did the right thing, we defended principle rather than organisation. So never ever apologise for what you have done this past year. I know you think the SWP can still be changed. I think you are wrong, but wish you every success in your efforts.

    I am further saying goodbye to many comrades who despite their horror at the behaviour of
    the IDOOM “ultras” (the undeclared faction committed to defending the former national secretary at all costs), didn’t join our faction. A number of them have contacted me asking
    me not to leave, to stay and to try to prevent the party being taken over by those representing this sectarian distortion of our traditions. I hate having to tell them I am going, but I fear they are fighting a losing fight. I will always regard them as comrades and hope to see them in the struggles of the future.

    For myself, I remain a committed revolutionary, a champion of socialism from below, and a believer in revolutionary organisation. I am just sad that the vehicle I chose to travel on has hit the buffers, and angry that some of those still on it have betrayed everything it once stood for.

    Pat Stack

  57. Jellytot on said:

    Nick: PAT STACK QUITS SWP

    Yet another major blow for them but not entirely surprising – He was the only Control Commission member to come out of the initial “investigation” with any grace and he was one of the few leading Swappies I that I had any time for on a personal level – The others being Julie Waterson and Hallas.

  58. Have a lot of respect for Pat Stack and his resignation will have a great impact. The attacks by the Tories on our class are increasing. Soon many people will be destitute. We must re- unite to fight these attacks. All socialists need to identify a common programme to which we can all agree and campaign on urgently.

  59. When I was at Essex in the early 80s Pat Stack was the leading SWP member who would come fromLondon to supervise the activities, and speak at the meetings of, the SWSS group, so this brings home to me how much of a mess they are in.

    I was never a member. In fact I was in the Labour Club. Btw the NOLS ‘enforcer ‘ who use to attend every so often was a certain now disgraced former MP for a Greater Manchester contituency who seemed pretty obnoxious even then.

  60. Kimberley on said:

    Pat Stack,

    thank you for your note. Please remember that it is your own responsibility to contact your bank in order to cancel any standing order you may have with the party.

    Charlie ‘Blimey’ Kimberley
    SWP National Secretary

  61. Kimberley on said:

    Why do they bother annoying “me” with their long-winded, self-justifying emails? Do they seriously think “I” read them?
    Just cancel the standing orders and don’t turn up for a meeting ever again. Whatever they do, it doesn’t mean the membership figures will go down. Haven’t they understood anything?
    Yours
    “Blimey” Charlie

  62. richard K on said:

    It is worth thinking about Reform or Revolution. One doesn’t have to accept any particular version of revolutionary socialism to agree with Ian B. I became a revolutionary over 50 years ago not because of hyper-optimism or adherence to any particular dogmatic principle but for two reasons which I think remain relevant.
    The first is that, as Ian B points out, Reformism hasn’t worked in its own terms. Most reformist parties have almost stopped advocating real reforms – i.e. ones that shift the balance of power and wealth towards the exploited and oppressed. What is more we are seeing so-called centre-right governments here and elsewhere systematically undoing those reforms that were made over 60 years ago. Only something that actually and permanently deprives the major holders of capitalist wealth of their power can prevent this happening. This is revolution.
    Secondly one of the key elements of any society I want to see is mass participation by ordinary workers both in running that society and in shaping it. This cannot be done from above by politicians. Mass participation in social transformation is a revolution.

  63. #66 “Reformism hasn’t worked in its own terms.”

    But according to the SWP tradition neither has revolution.

    The Bolshevik revolution was apparently defeated in a matter of 10 years, and they have dismissed the results of every revolution that has taken place ever since then,.

  64. (TW)
    An SWP loyalist has posted something really quite disturbing on Urban75. It shows you exactly what sort of thing the loyalists are thinking:

    ‘MS’ below is Martin Smith.

    Call me a hard old bastard but you only need to look at the musings of much of the opposition on Facebook this last year about women’s voice, the changing working class and the rest to know that a break was in the offing. The horrible, horrible shit we’ve had because MS had some very bad sex was only the catalyst. It was always going to happen.

    That’s the voice of a loyalist SWP member. He sees it entirely as a matter of Martin Smith having “very bad sex”.

    Absolutely disgusting – and this guy isn’t even an IDOOMer. He’s just a blind loyalist. Imagine that – this is what the automatic loyalists are saying, publically, on websites accessible to anyone. What are they saying in private?

  65. So it seems that virtually anyone capable of independent thought or putting, as Pat S says, ‘principle above leadership’ has decided enough is enough. Still, never mind as that still leaves towering intellects like Amy Leather, Weyman Bennett and the other personality free zone hacks that have just been self-selected onto the CC to get on with relating-to-the-real-world-and-stop-all-this-internal-shit. Led, of course by the steel-like Bolshevik hand of arrogant upper class twit of the year Callinicos. Good luck with that.

    The thing is, the leadership ‘loyalist’ quoted in the post above no doubt reacted on cue with indignant horror to Galloway’s remarks about the Assange rape allegations. He (or she) is happy to parrot the same sort of thing now, of course. The reason is, and there’s no nice way to put it, they’re morons. They’ve made that embarrassing error of mistaking blind, obedient idiocy for Leninism. Sadly, a recurring problem for left-wing organisations, it would seem.

  66. Karl Stewart on said:

    jack,
    One should be extremely wary of drawing comparisons with Assange. There was no allegation of rape against Assange. Just a statement by someone claiming, in her own words, to have had a consensual, in her own words, sexual encounter with Assange.

  67. Darren redstar on said:

    Shocked by the loyalists:
    (TW)

    An SWP loyalist has posted something really quite disturbing on Urban75. It shows you exactly what sort of thing the loyalists are thinking:

    ‘MS’ below is Martin Smith.

    That’s the voice of a loyalist SWP member. He sees it entirely as a matter of Martin Smith having “very bad sex”.

    Absolutely disgusting – and this guy isn’t even an IDOOMer. He’s just a blind loyalist. Imagine that – this is what the automatic loyalists are saying, publically, on websites accessible to anyone. What are they saying in private?

    “Blind loyalist” bollocks!, up to a few weeks ago he was a member of andy newmans own Swindon Labour Party branch. He joined the SWP to defend this shit!

  68. Karl Stewart: One should be extremely wary of drawing comparisons with Assange. There was no allegation of rape against Assange. Just a statement by someone claiming, in her own words, to have had a consensual, in her own words, sexual encounter with Assange.

    The point is, when Galloway chose to describe the events as ‘bad sexual etiquette’ , the SWP went ballistic. Socialist Worker announced that “Julian Assange must face rape charges…rape accusations should never be trivialised or brushed aside” SWSS put out a statement that “We, like many others in the student movement, were disgusted and appalled by the comments made about rape in connection with the Julian Assange case by Tony Benn, George Galloway, and others” and declared that “We all want – and need – a student movement that challenges rape apologism wherever it is raised,”

    If the moron who posted the comments about MS is in the SWP, presumably they will now expel him without further ado.

  69. Karl Stewart:
    jack,
    One should be extremely wary of drawing comparisons with Assange. There was no allegation of rape against Assange.Just a statement by someone claiming, in her own words, to have had a consensual, in her own words, sexual encounter with Assange.

    I think there were allegations of rape against Assange.

    http://www.theguardian.com/media/2010/dec/17/julian-assange-sweden

    There does however seem to be some variation in what constitutes rape in different jurisdictions.

    And I think that might be an issue also in the Comrade Delta case.

  70. Karl Stewart on said:

    jack,

    I see what you’re trying to say there Jack. It’ll be interesting to see whether what remains of the SWP does take any action against this person.

    Regarding Galloway’s comments (back in 2012) on the statement purporting to come from a woman making claims of a consensual sexual encounter with Assange that the Swedish police decided to publish – Galloway’s comments on this statement were absolutely 100 per cent spot on.

    Galloway made the absolutely correct point that, if every single word in that statement was true, then this was not an allegation of rape.

    Yes various people on the UK left – including the SWP (who were by no means the worst in this instance) and, the leaders of the club for rich teenagers that’s known as the NUS, and even a couple of high-media profile former Respect Party members and another high-media-profile Labour leftist and several others – , th disgraced themselves at that time by supporting the CIA’s smear campaign against Assange and joined the attacks on Galloway for telling the truth.

    It was an utterly a shameful episode, from which Galloway is one of very few people to emerge with his head held high.

    There is absolutely no connection between that and the internal implosion of the SWP.

  71. I don’t think there’s been any link to an account of the SWP conference last w/e on SU. Here’s one. It has a scales falling from the eyes moment from, you sense, a hitherto committed and active member over decades; a feature of successive ‘My bloody God (as the great Cliff used to say), now is the time to get out with little or no further ado’ resignation letters/accounts posted since the SWP crisis broke 12 months ago.

    The other piece worth looking at is Dave Renton’s resignation letter. The most disturbing claim is that many of the delegates had really very little knowledge about the whole Martin Smith case. They made no independent attempt to find out about the case at all. Their – and in the scheme of things we’re talking about really tiny numbers – thinking (sic) was along the lines of ‘We need a revolutionary party to lead the working class, the SWP is the revolutionary party, we must defend the revolutionary party, support the leadership, vote for the leadership, end of’. This contrasts it seems from those who knew all along about the rape allegations (or at least found) out), but decided that Martin Smith was to be defended at all costs or even celebrated. Obviously, a blind faith mentality also contrasts to that of the now vanquished opposition.

    For me, amongst the millions of words written, the piece in February 2013 by a blogger calling himself Soviet Goon Boy on the whole organisational and internal culture of the SWP has been the single most damning post on the whole debacle. She/he sets out in forensic detail how the ‘revolutionary party’ is run by clique, nepotism, patronage and favour with scarcely a hint of democracy or even meritocracy. It provides the context for, if not a rape culture, then how a leading member was able to ‘carry on’ the way the way he did – nobody says that there wasn’t serial sexual harassment – followed by denial, cover up, botched internal investigation, a staggering lack of sympathy i.e. sheer cruelty, unaccountability, bullying, manipulation and lies. Oh, and according to the report of the conference, sneering arrogance, a nice aristocratic twist from guess who?

  72. ex-swp sheffieldgreen on said:

    Pat is one of the few SWP members that i have time for – i know he has taken part in several ‘control commisions’ over the years including one that i was involved in – however he is a decent bloke who has, obviously, overcome obstacles in his life. He was an ordinary bloke who, despite everything, was usually on the right side. One thing is sure – the SWP is dead and Left unity and TUSC are stillborn, even if people don’t agree with me and join Green Party(and Green left) then please abandon the socialist left, and of course the pro-war, pro-privatisation ‘labour party’ – i think better be independent than sign up to any of the so called left alternatives.

  73. Darren redstar: “Blind loyalist” bollocks!, up to a few weeks ago he was a member of andy newmans own Swindon Labour Party branch. He joined the SWP to defend this shit!

    Well yes and no, someone claiming to have been a member of the Labour Party in Swindon has indeed been posting on Urban75 under the name bolshieboy.

    I have checked into this and there are various factual inconsistencies, which mean I am absolutely certain that this is someone who has created an entirely false persona; he almost certainly does not come from Swindon, and has no connection with the Labour Party in that town.

    It is certaibly completely untrue that he could possibly be in the same Labour Party branch as me, as South Swindon does not have a branch structure, and has open GC meetings instead.

  74. Karl Stewart on said:

    anon: There does however seem to be some variation in what constitutes rape in different jurisdictions.

    The normal definition of what constitutes rape isn’t difficult to define and is pretty much universally accepted by any reasonable person – ‘no’ never means ‘yes’ and non-consensual sex is always rape.

    If the only question is whether consent was or was not given, then therefore, if the statement linked to below is true, then the individual making the statement is claiming to have had a consensual sexual encounter with Assange.

    http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2012/09/anna-ardins-police-statement/

    And that’s what Galloway said – and he was completely correct.

  75. Peter Hine on said:

    Andy Newman,

    A genuine question, how many people turn out for these GC meetings? And is this meeting where you determine what Labour Party policy will be?

  76. Peter Hine,

    I suppose about 30 people go to GC meetings, and about 10 people go to EC meetings.

    With regard to policy decisions for the CLP itself , then yes the GC would make decisions, but remember the policy making scope of a CLP is anyway limited.

    This is necessarily the case, as there are two CLPs in the town, so policy making for the Labour Group on the council reflects a process involving both CLPs, the Labour group of councillors and the unions, the process overseen by the Local Campoagn Forum, of which I am chair.

  77. Karl Stewart on said:

    An interesting comment on this from the GS of the CP Rob Griffiths in a Morning Star article looking back at the political year.

    “…On the far left in Britain, the biggest news in 2013 has been the continuing implosion of the Socialist Workers Party. Its mishandling of rape and sexual harassment allegations against a leading party member – and of the consequent revolt – reflected an internal regime which is deeply undemocratic, inflexible and dictatorial. This is ironic, considering that the SWP established itself as the biggest force on the far left primarily on the basis of “anti-Stalinism” and trade union “rank and file-ism,”…”

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-b837-A-mixed-year-for-the-left-in-Britain#.Url0HElFDmI

  78. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    I don’t know. Some of his points are valid – for example, Richard Seymour is clearly moving to the right. And Snowball probably feels a need to counter the idea that everyone is leaving the SWP.

  79. I’m not sure how relevant this is, but Facing Reality has produced a Festive Quiz that should give everyone a much needed New Year laugh at the lunacy of some of the antics of Leninist Parties. Though I’ve already been threatened with execution on facebook, as I’ve offended the SWP, the SP, SR, SPGB, the AWL, Workers Power, Workers Hammer,Workers Hamster, Spanner the ISN, the ISG,
    CPGB, NCP, RCG,RCP, RCP(M-L) and Counterfire. Twice.
    There is a virtual prize for entrants who do really well.

  80. Jellytot on said:

    Sam64:

    At the risk of being boring:

    http://sovietgoonboy.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/this-is-the-way-the-party-ends-not-with-a-bang-but-with-a-whimper/

    Ahhh…beat me to it…I was gonna link to this.

    Good article (as always) from the Goonboy. This, in particular, caught my attention:

    Smith continues to have a base in the SWP, and even though he’s not a member, could pull strings if he feels like it. His long-term partner is still on the CC. Several other CC members, and many full-timers, are tied to him by personal loyalty. This is the core of the IDOOM* faction which continues to regard him as the king across the water, and would restore him tomorrow if they were strong enough.

    * “In Defence Of Our Martin”

    A couple of points: With those who can think for themselves (Stack, Birchall, Renton etc.) now mostly gone, and membership numbers severely depleted, the Smith faction will be stronger, therefore, could 2014 herald the return of ‘The Delta’ in his hand-clapping, foot-stomping triumph ?!

    Stranger things have happened (and are happening) in what’s left of that party.

    Also how can we be sure that Smith did actually leave the party? Whose word do we have on this? People involved aren’t above lying, surely?

  81. jim mclean on said:

    Question? What is the estimated membership of the SWP these days. Most pessimistic and most optimistic.

  82. Jellytot on said:

    jim mclean:

    Question? What is the estimated membership of the SWP these days. Most pessimistic and most optimistic.

    ‘Lord Acton’ was claiming 7,000 a few years back (which is an utter joke as they have claimed that number every year from since I can remember).

    I reckon they had about 1,600 this time last year, down to about 1,000 now.

    These numbers I would estimate as ‘real’ activists/members who go to branch meetings, attend paper sales etc.. They do have a layer who do nothing except pay subs, receive party publications and may turn up to Marxism and the odd social once year.

    I don’t think numbers matter much though as they are a throughly broken, toxic brand. What they have been through you just don’t really recover from.

  83. Karl Stewart on said:

    jim mclean:
    Question? What is the estimated membership of the SWP these days. Most pessimistic and most optimistic.

    In the run-up to their Spring 2013 recall conference, 540 SWP members signed up to the “opposition” IDOOP Faction and 512 SWP members signed up in support of the “loyalist” Pro-CC Faction.
    So at that time, we know that there were 1,052 concious members.
    A few hundred members then left after the Spring 2013 recall conference and a few hundred more left after the December 2013 conference.
    So I’d estimate the SWP membership now is probably around 500 or so.

  84. Karmickameleon on said:

    Karl Stewart: In the run-up to their Spring 2013 recall conference, 540 SWP members signed up to the “opposition” IDOOP Faction and 512 SWP members signed up in support of the “loyalist” Pro-CC Faction.
    So at that time, we know that there were 1,052 concious members.
    A few hundred members then left after the Spring 2013 recall conference and a few hundred more left after the December 2013 conference.
    So I’d estimate the SWP membership now is probably around 500 or so.

    Your calculation of 500 appears to assume that all the active (or “conscious” as you put it) members signed up to either the IDOOP document or the Loyalist one. This was not the case as a fairly significant chunk of the membership signed neither.
    I would suggest that a more realistic estimation would be the following. More of less 1,000 members attended the aggregates before the last conference in December. Given the importance of the aggregates as regards the selection of delegates, one can fairly reasonably assume that these people represent the active membership of the party (ie the members who might be expected to do something on a fairly regular basis). If we subtract from this figure the 200 or so RtP oppositionists who have already resigned or will be resigning soon, this gives us something like 800 active members.

  85. Karl Stewart on said:

    Karmickameleon: Your calculation appears to assume that all the active (or “conscious” as you put it) members signed up to either the IDOOP document or the Loyalist one.

    Yes, fair point – it’s perfectly possible that the numbers signing the respective “pro” and “anti” faction statements were themselves exaggerated. And the true current membership figure could well be lower than 500.

  86. If estimates are going to be made on this, it’d be worth also speculating on the demographic of the remaining membership. One of the things highlighted in, I think, Dave Renton’s report on the conference is the ageing profile of the delegates, i.e. the membership given the inflated number attending in a cynical attempt to ensure CC majorities.

    Nothing wrong with being ‘old’ of course! I’m speaking as someone who turns 50 this year. However, Renton indicates an institutionalised mentality that passively voted through CC resolutions, a product of decades of obedience. Meanwhile the coverage I’ve seen suggests it’s predominately younger SWP members that have left in droves, students leading the way, who weren’t prepared to put up with anymore bullshit from Lord Acton and co.

    Doesn’t bode well for the future. Hold on, there is no future for the SWP! Enough said and I’m not going to comment on the whole wretched matter in 2014, NY’s resolution!

  87. Re SWP membership figures, at the risk of repeating myself (since around the millennium), I saw the printouts in 1997/8 when Pat S asked me to work on the annual appeal. This involved working off the print-out list and phoning round to get outstanding subs, and asking for donations. What quickly became clear was that the lists were hopeless. As I wrote on UK Left Network and then SU many moons ago, multiple inclusions with minute differences such as “John Smith”, “J Smith”, “Mr Jo Smith”, “Joanna Smith” etc for the same person, meant that in some districts, phantom members were running at 5 to 1.

    Then there were the poor people who would scream at you, “I keep telling you to take me off your effing list” because no-one ever did. For years in some instances.

    The figure of 10,000 given by National Organiser Chris Bambery at the time was wildly out. I estmimated the true figure was under 2,000 and I reported back to Pat and other senior SWP, offering to clean up the numbers.

    They wouldn’t let me do this but I assumed they would get this done somehow and soon. When it became clear they were sticking to their claim of 10,000 I started to challenge this practice, eventually going public in the left from around 2001 after the lies and destructive behaviour hit a critical mass for me with the gratuitous smashing up of the SA.

    The release of the loyalty list a few years back, where we all saw they could only muster slightly over a thousand signatures just confirmed what I’d been saying.

    They dropped their fantasy figure to 7,000 but they KNEW this was a crock. They had it in black and white. For a party that says you must never lie to the class, this was in such bad faith that none of the catastrophic developments since then have surprised me in the least. Shocked, maybe, but surprised, never.

    So, Karl, yes. I think below 500 is a strong possibility.

  88. Karmickameleon on said:

    Anna Chen: They dropped their fantasy figure to 7,000 but they KNEW this was a crock. They had it in black and white. For a party that says you must never lie to the class, this was in such bad faith that none of the catastrophic developments since then have surprised me in the least. Shocked, maybe, but surprised, never.

    So, Karl, yes. I think below 500 is a strong possibility.

    Most commentators on this blog (and, in fact, many SWP members) would agree that the party’s membership figures are grossly inflated. However, I think we should avoid the temptation to bend the stick too much in the other direction (if you’ll excuse the expression!)

    Karl pointed out that 500 + members signed the pro-CC document before the special conference early last year. Since they are ultra-loyalists, one can assume (at least for the time being) that they still remain members. A significant sector did not sign either Loyalist or IDOOP document. What’s more, we know that some of those who put their name to the latter still remain in the SWP to carry on their hopeless fight to democratise the party (or perhaps, sadly, because they have nowhere else to go). So the current membership figure must be higher than 500. This is borne out by the calculation I made in an earlier post based on the numbers of those attending district aggregates (1000) before the most recent conference and those who have subsequently resigned or are likely to do so soon (200 ish).

    Does all this debate about numbers matter? Not really, as the SWP is clearly in terminal decline as a result of its handling of the Delta scandal and other reasons which Anna has very well highlighed in her excellent blog. However, the SWP is not going to disappear overnight à la WRP and playing down the numbers might lead one to err in that direction. What is more likely is a gradual descent into sectdom, with an ageing membership and an inability to replace those who retire or die with fresh blood.

  89. I agree with Karmickamelion in terms of the number crunching, but think that things might move a bit faster. I may be guilty of wishful thinking, but –
    If the SWP loses the layer of decent, interesting, varied people, and the party becomes, for want of a better term, hackified, it will not be able to bring people in. The party has in the past relied upon the goodwill of decent, interesting, but weak people to have any attractiveness to non-members. They have lost much of that layer recently (It goes back years, but there’s been an acceleration recently).
    The apparatchiks will have fewer people to look down on and control. This will cause psychological problems for them, creating a tendency for them to turn on each other.
    So I think it”s quite possible that the SWP might fall apart in dialectical jumps downwards over the next year, rather than a linear slow decline.

  90. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Even if the SWP disintegrated, who would benefit? The Labour Party is very right-wing, even if Andy Newman has found a berth in it, and other left groups are not very appealing.

  91. Karmickameleon on said:

    David Ruaune makes a very valid point when he says:

    David Ruaune: The apparatchiks will have fewer people to look down on and control. This will cause psychological problems for them, creating a tendency for them to turn on each other.
    So I think it”s quite possible that the SWP might fall apart in dialectical jumps downwards over the next year, rather than a linear slow decline.

    Given that the past year has seen the biggest crisis in the history of the SWP, one suspects that the leadership will be eager to avoid any further splits. However, as David says, the apparachiks might well turn on one another and, if one examines the history of splits in the CC over the past few years, that is a real possibility. Should this occur one might very well witness a faster implosion of the SWP.

    BTW. I said in my earlier post that the WRP “disappeared overnight”. Vanya – quite correctly -picked me up on this. What I meant was that it very rapidly ceased to be a cohesive political force (two competing fractions of the group with their own version of the paper, followed by a rapid fragmentation as a result of further splits).

    Mark Victorystooge: Unlike some contributors to this website, I don’t celebrate the demise of the SWP as I consider that it weakens the left as a whole. But one has to face facts: given the events of the past year, the SWP is beyond reform. I can only echo Ian Birchall’s words when he said in this letter of resignation: “I hope that there will eventually be a revolutionary regroupment which draws on the best traditions of the SWP but avoids its weaknesses.”

  92. Karl Stewart on said:

    Karmickameleon: Karl pointed out that 500 + members signed the pro-CC document before the special conference early last year.

    The CC claimed 512 supporters at that time Karmick (in the period leading up to their , although there were question marks over the authenticity of some of those ‘signatories’. It’s not impossible that this claim of ‘500 plus’ supporters by the CC may have been exaggerated – they do have form in this respect!

    The opposition claimed 540 supporters

  93. Jellytot on said:

    Karmickameleon: Given that the past year has seen the biggest crisis in the history of the SWP, one suspects that the leadership will be eager to avoid any further splits.

    If Martin Smith rejoins the CC then fresh ruptures beckon – he still has support in the Party, beleive it or not – If (and when) that happens I wouldn’t be surprised if Kimber and/or Callinicos jump.

    David Ruaune: If the SWP loses the layer of decent, interesting, varied people, and the party becomes, for want of a better term, hackified, it will not be able to bring people in.

    That happened years/decades ago. It’s been “hackified” for ages. IMO it’s never recovered from the dying off of the ‘gurus’ (Cliff/Hallas/Foot). The replacements just couldn’t cut it; that allied with deep structural changes in the Class/Labour Movement/wider Left.

    Mark Victorystooge:

    Even if the SWP disintegrated, who would benefit? The Labour Party is very right-wing, even if Andy Newman has found a berth in it, and other left groups are not very appealing.

    That’s plenty of life and much to do outside the Ultra-Left – Many people get a real sense of liberation and release after leaving these sects.

  94. Many people get a real sense of liberation and release after leaving these sects.

    Not ‘alf mate! 🙂

  95. Karmickameleon on said:

    Jellytot: If Martin Smith rejoins the CC then fresh ruptures beckon – he still has support in the Party, beleive it or not – If (and when) that happens I wouldn’t be surprised if Kimber and/or Callinicos jump.

    While stranger things have happened, it is surely highly unlikely that Delta would ever rejoin the SWP, let alone the CC. Firstly, as a result of the SWP’s horribly flawed quasi-judicial process, he will (rightly or wrongly) always have a cloud hanging over his head and very few in the wider socialist movement will believe that he isn’t guilty in the case of Comrade W. Secondly, the fact that the Disputes Committee found in the Comrade X case that he has a case to answer would mean that, should he reapply to become a member, he would have to appear before the DC to answer the accusations against him. Incidentally, this is why his supporters on the CC fought so hard to stop the latter case from happening.

    That said, it’s true that he still has support in the party, including 5 or 6 on the CC, which means that he might attempt to pull strings from afar. More likely though, is that this undeclared faction will function increasingly independently of him. Whatever the case, I would agree that they will make life difficult for Callinicos and Kimber.

  96. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Jellytot: If Martin Smith rejoins the CC then fresh ruptures beckon – he still has support in the Party, beleive it or not – If (and when) that happens I wouldn’t be surprised if Kimber and/or Callinicos jump.

    That happened years/decades ago. It’s been “hackified” for ages. IMO it’s never recovered from the dying off of the ‘gurus’ (Cliff/Hallas/Foot). The replacements just couldn’t cut it; that allied with deep structural changes in the Class/Labour Movement/wider Left.

    That’s plenty of life and much to do outside the Ultra-Left – Many people get a real sense of liberation and release after leaving these sects.

    Some people no doubt do – and some people no doubt do as part of a process of moving to the political right, which is often what self-interest dictates, as much as any feeling of “liberation”. Some people arguably abandon better parts of themselves when they do so, like idealism and a capacity for self-sacrifice, which are not traits I associate with mainstream politics in which cynicism and self-interest tend to dominate.

    At a tangent, I have also found myself musing as to whether Newman, for example, would follow up a rape allegation if it involved a Labour MP. He could hardly turn it into a crusade against “Leninist cults”, and it might damage any career ambitions he might cherish in the Labour Party, but perfectly mainstream politicians, not “cultists”, can be and are sexual predators.

  97. Karl Stewart on said:

    Apols, last night’s comment of mine at (106) was posted in error and doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    The point I was making was that the figures of 512 pro-CC and 540 pro-IDOOP were the figures claimed by the respective factions in the run-up to the SWP’s 2013 spring recall conference.

    So firstly, an important point there is that – on the basis of claimed support – the IDOOP oppositionists actually won the vote among the membership as a whole.

    And the other main point is that the total membership at that time was certainly no more than 1,052, (and most probably not as many as that).
    Had there been more real, actually existing members they would have been on one of the lists.
    This was an organisation that did not do underestimation. And this was an organisation that did not tolerate abstentionism.

    Anna Chen up at post (100) makes an important point when she reminds us of the numbers of actual members the SWP had back in 2007 when they did their membership petition against Galloway. And this was before the departures of Counterfire and the ISG.

    Given the above, I’d say the current estimate of around 500 remaining is, if anything, perhaps an over-estimate.

    Anyway, looking more broadly, the big problem that these type of command-structure organisations had, and why they failed, was that that strictly disciplined organisational method simply made no real sense – it was totally out of kilter with real life as lived by normal people.

  98. Jellytot on said:

    Karmickameleon: Secondly, the fact that the Disputes Committee found in the Comrade X case that he has a case to answer would mean that, should he reapply to become a member, he would have to appear before the DC to answer the accusations against him.

    With ‘Comrade X’ leaving the SWP (see title of this post) all internal procedures have come to a halt and the CC can argue that the matter is concluded – they are not duty bound to investigate matters involving (now) ex-members. Therfore, Smith could rejoin without having to appear before anything. At least, that’s how I understand it.

    Also, I don’t completely buy into this notion that Smith actually left the SWP. Something was leaked (deliberately?) on the internet last year to this effect but I have seen no resignation letter transcript and none of the main ‘actors’ have said anything formally. If there is something out there then please link to it.

    Smith is now a mature student at a university where a leading and high-profile SWP member is a professor(I’m not stating that these two things are connected but it is noteworthy) and there was a rumour circulating that monies were raised within the Party to fund his course, which may or may not be accurate but it wouldn’t surprise me.

    I would go as far to state that Smith is still umbilicallly linked to the Party and I would not be at all surprised to see his formal return – He was a loud-mouth, enforcer and could whip up the troops – The SWP may feel it still needs these qualities in the absence of anybody else willing or able to fulfill those roles.

    I guess we’ll see.

  99. Karmickameleon on said:

    Jellytot: Also, I don’t completely buy into this notion that Smith actually left the SWP. Something was leaked (deliberately?) on the internet last year to this effect but I have seen no resignation letter transcript and none of the main ‘actors’ have said anything formally.

    A letter of resignation, other than “I hereby resign” was impossible in Smith’s case. Why? Imagine you had been accused of a serious case of sexual harassment in your workplace/party/trade union (similar to that of Comrade X), BUT you were innocent of the accusations made against you. Wouldn’t you do everything possible to clear your name, starting by appearing before the tribunal organised to hear your case? I certainly would. However, Smith chose to resign a couple of weeks before his scheduled appearance before the DC. That really says it all for me. What could he have said in a hypothetical letter of resignation? I’m no angel, but I’m not guilty of sexually harassing X.? In that case, we would have all said unison: So if you claim you’re innocent, why the hell did you resign and avoid putting your case to the DC?

  100. Jellytot on said:

    Karmickameleon: What could he have said in a hypothetical letter of resignation?

    Smith’s (or anybody else’s) resignation letter needn’t have convoluted explanations or justifications contained within it. It could simply have read something like,

    Dear Charlie,

    I hereby resign my membership of the Socialist Workers Party with immediate effect.

    Yours

    XXXXX

    P.S. I will be responsible for cancelling any standing orders and subscriptions

    That would have been enough and to my knowledge nothing like this has been made public. Where is the evidence he ever resigned?

  101. Jellytot – you say “That happened years/decades ago. It’s been “hackified” for ages.”
    But over the years, people left in ones or twos. I did also say –
    “(It goes back years, but there’s been an acceleration recently)”
    So there has been a long process of degeneration, okay, but my point is that recently that process has been moving in jumps, and might over the next year continue to move in jumps. Quantity into quality, comrade.

  102. Karl Stewart’s comments (post 112) says more about his own prejudices than it does about the SWP.

    While a claimed membership of 7000 is way off the real figures,(especially in terms of “active” members) he’s “living in a dream world” if he thinks all the members signed up to one faction or another. I certainly didn’t and wasn’t active enough myself (where is this “command structure organisation Karl) to make a commitment until I witnessed how much the parties culture and particularly the CC’s behaviour had degenerated in the lead up to the last conference. There are probably hundreds of other members who, for their own reasons, chose not to formally align themselves with a faction.

    If somebody wants to take the trouble you could compare the list of comrades that have added there names to resignation lists online to the original opposition faction lists. I’m sure you would find names of resigning members that had not appeared on the IDOOP faction list. BTW anyone that has the time and inclination to carry out this exercise would be, in Karl’s words “totally out of kilter with real life as lived by normal people”.

    For over 30 years I would have described myself either as a member or supporter of the SWP (probably still 1 of the 7000 because it’s about 5 years since I paid subs and re-registered). I don’t do that any more because it’s actions have been indefensible. I hope that it can be replaced by something better and not simply the subject of lazy speculation and gossip.

  103. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    I had the impression in 2004-5 that the SWP was already a good deal smaller than it was in the early 1990s, which was something of a high-water mark.

    Incidentally, its Greek version behaves in a very similar way to the SWP of the 1990s and its newspaper even has the tomato-red name title that Socialist Worker long had but later abandoned.

  104. Karl Stewart on said:

    Reggie,
    “Reggie” the fantasy “7,000” claim isn’t even funny it’s actually deeply troubling that it’s still being said in spite of all the public evidence to the contrary.

  105. Reggie: Karl Stewart’s comments (post 112) says more about his own prejudices than it does about the SWP.

    ‘Reggie’, Karl’s comment is a good approximation though. Organisers went all-out to get people to sign up, so you can say that these figures represent a pretty good approximation. No one would say that everyone signed on to a faction, but it’s not a big leap of imagination to say that the vast majority were contacted and did sign up in some form.

    That’s why there has been this horrid spectacle of older white men suddenly reactivating their membership just to defend the CC’s terrible treatment of comrades X and W. The party has been all-out contacting people who have stayed on their membership levels for decades.

    The thing that you didn’t comment on was Anna’s comment about 2007, something I’ve raised tons of times: During the Respect split, when the CC’s behaviour was just as bullying, just as deceitful but had the support of the majority of members (who happily went along with really fucking disgraceful treatment of people who opposed them, including physical assaults, theft, removal from positions in the movement etc.), the entire party apparatus went into action to get signatures on the “stop the witch hunt” petition.

    Everyone was doing it, phoning and visiting people inside and out of the party. Even Lenin’s Tomb started pushing it.

    How many signatures did they get? At a maximum, it was 1400. And that included a large number of people who weren’t party members but who allowed themselves to be deluded into believing that we were witch hunting the SWP. There were a few hundred of them at least; for example, everyone who came into day-to-day contact with SWP trade union branch secs in east London were persuaded that the SWP was being witch hunted.

    So, at a time when pretty much the whole SWP was united in bleating that they were the victims of a witch hunt, when every organiser did ring round after ring round, when the full-time staff of both Respect and the SWP were calling and writing to everyone they knew, the most they could convinced to sign – a signature which could be given over the phone or by email, so requiring no effort) was 1400, of whom 2-300 were not SWP members.

    That’s 1,100-1,200 people. That’s the maximum number of SWP members who could be contacted and agreed “yes you can use my name”.

    So, even if Karl is wrong, the Respect ‘loyalty pledge’ from 2007 is pretty good to get figures from. Let’s be generous and say the maximum contactable membership in 2007 was 1200.

    Since then, a chunk of people left or stopped their subs cos of the Respect split, followed by the split off of the ISG and Counterfire – and yeah, even though the SWP replaces its numbers, it has been in a steep intellectual and cultural decline, with the number of talented members who have left not being replaced. And earlier this year around 4-500 people left, followed by around 200 now.

    Add that to the natural churn of membership, and I don’t think Karl’s figures are off the mark

  106. Mark Victorystooge: At a tangent, I have also found myself musing as to whether Newman, for example, would follow up a rape allegation if it involved a Labour MP.

    Wow, aren’t you brave, posting such obnoxious shit from behind the shelter of your fake name.

  107. Jellytot: Smith’s (or anybody else’s) resignation letter needn’t have convoluted explanations or justifications contained within it. It could simply have read something like,

    The party never publishes resignation letters; people leak their own, or they leak ones from their enemies. There’s absolutely no way Charlie or any of Martin Smith’s supporters would’ve sent around his resignation email – they would consider it beneath them to do that. They would see no gain from doing so. Their entire attitude has been “fuck you” from the start – so, they would say that no one has any need to see his resignation letter except the CC, cos if anyone doesn’t believe it they can fuck off.

  108. sergio on said:

    Tony Collins,

    I have no idea how many members the SWP has, but I can say with absolute certainty that they are a thousand times more effective than the do nothing prattling tossers posting here.
    I have long admired the SWP, but never been a member for reasons which are irrelevant to politics, but the late Paul Foot accuractely described the people posting here as NANAs – non-aligned, non-active sectarians, which I think is over-generous

  109. Karl Stewart on said:

    The really wierd thing about this “7,000” lie is that the leadership know it’s a lie and the membership know it’s a lie and yet each pretends to the other that they believe it.
    This really is bizarre behaviour.

  110. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Tony Collins: Wow, aren’t you brave, posting such obnoxious shit from behind the shelter of your fake name.

    Well, I have no ambition to be a “Labour Party backstairs crawler” (a useful George Orwell phrase to describe a mainstream party that was a lot healthier in his day than in Newman’s – and Orwell was not Eric Blair’s name either). So I don’t need to use my real name.

    I was pepper-gassed at an anti-austerity protest in Athens last night – in fact here this kind of thing is almost routine – let’s just say that I save my personal courage for things other than Internet identities.

    The day that Newman goes after a Labour politician with the same hidden-tape recorder zeal with which he went after the SWP, perhaps I will retract my “obnoxious sh*t”, but otherwise the question remains open.

  111. Karl Stewart on said:

    sergio,
    And here’s “Reggie’s” mate “Sergio” with an equally convincing “I’m not an SWP member, but I think they’re absolutely brilliant…”

  112. sergio on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    There are good reasons why I can’t be an SWP member, one of which is that I don’t live in Britain. Why not deal with my substantive point. You are do-nothing sectarian

  113. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    On the subject of Greek protests, I was arrested on four separate occasions last year. On one occasion a Syriza member of parliament practically threw herself on the police car I and a (Turkish) comrade had been bundled into in a (vain) attempt to stop us from being arrested. This was an interesting sign of how powerless elected representatives can be in a bourgeois democracy when the police get involved. My experience of Cardinal Newman’s party is that, if one of its MPs had seen me or others being arrested at a protest in Britain, he or she might even have cheered the police on. But between the Cardinal Newmans and the Martin Smiths, the British left isn’t even worth buying pepper gas to repress…

  114. Karmickameleon on said:

    Tony Collins,

    Actually, Tony, I don’t see the need to engage in insults whether one uses a pseudonym or not. If one has disagreements with Andy Newman (as I do, eg Labour Party, China..) one should take them up politically rather than engaging in gratuitous insults. The same should be true for other contributors to the website.
    BTW, whatever my disagreements with Andy (and less so with you), you have both played a valuable role in exposing the SWP leadership’s cover up in the Delta scandal.

  115. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    #130 – “Taking something up politically” has a somewhat different meaning out here in Greece, and indeed further east. I have read Internet exchanges between Turkish fascists and Kurdish nationalists in which the former offer to dig up the latter’s dead ancestors to engage in sexual congress with their bones, and the latter say things about dead Turkish leaders which gave the Turkish government a pretext to block Youtube access to inhabitants of Turkey.

  116. Karmickameleon: Actually, Tony, I don’t see the need to engage in insults whether one uses a pseudonym or not.

    Well I don’t mind what people call “robust debate”, but the main point is, I don’t think people would start insinuating that Andy might look the other way if a rape allegation was made in his own party, if they weren’t using a false name.

    I’m always happy for people to post under pseudonyms, unless they use that as a way of attacking people. I think it’s really obnoxious and shit for someone to sit behind a false name and make such insinuations about Andy.

  117. Mark Victorystooge: perhaps I will retract my “obnoxious sh*t”, but otherwise the question remains open.

    No, the question doesn’t “remain open”. It is a snide, sneering obnoxious bit of rubbish posted from behind the comfort of a false name. I don’t care what you have to say about what you do in public – you’re a fake name, no one who posts under a fake name can ever expect to be believed, for obvious reasons.

    What I don’t like is the fact that you wouldn’t ever have made such a comment if you were accountable under your real name. You and me both know it. Your ability to come up with such bullshit and to pronounce from on high about Andy’s alleged motives comes from the fact that no one can hold you accountable for your words.

  118. sergio: I have no idea how many members the SWP has, but I can say with absolute certainty that they are a thousand times more effective than the do nothing prattling tossers posting here.

    Hang on, didn’t you just post calling someone else a “sectarian”? Your post was the very essence of sectarianism. You know nothing about how much people on this site do. What we don’t do is cover up rape allegations, and we don’t bully people out of our organisations, and we don’t accuse people who disagree with us of being mentally ill.

    The reason Karl sneered back at your comment is, you are another person who pronounces from on high with assumptions about what other people do, but in reality you know nothing. You have no clue about what people do. And given that a fair number of us have been in the SWP until recently, it’s bizarre that you are clearly implying that the moment you leave the SWP, you cease to be active.

    If you want to actually make a post with any real meat to it, go right ahead. But the idea that it’s Karl who’s a sectarian while you’re the one who made a post with “substantive” points in it, is just laughable. For a start, loads of us post under our own names and if you took as much time to look as you did to sneer, you might find out that we’re far more active than a lot of SWP members.

    But unlike you, we don’t sit here comparing our levels of activity to those of other groups. What we do know is, we try to be honest about our motives; we don’t cover up our failures. And we won’t have anything to do with an organisation that treats women as badly as the SWP has in the last few years, or that does so much to smash up dissent (including deliberately smashing up the student work directly after the 2013 conference). Plenty of “activity” there, and all of it negative.

  119. sergio on said:

    Tony Collins,

    I didn’t mention sectarianism. Qui s’excuse, s’accuse.
    I notice you don’t actually explain what you you do, and how you’re so much more effective than the SWP.

  120. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    I picked up a hatred of the Labour Party after some bruising experiences at the time of the poll tax, and the truth is I have been taking it out on Newman. After taking some time for reflection, you are right, I shouldn’t jab at anyone like that from behind a pseudonym. The Internet does not bring out my best side, so I am taking a break from this and other discussion lists, as I am bordering on the edge of being a troll. And for what? I have no involvement now with British politics in any case.

  121. Karl Stewart on said:

    sergio: You are do-nothing sectarian

    And proud of it!

    And you “Sergio” are a pathetic coward hiding behind a fake ID.

  122. sergio: I didn’t mention sectarianism. Qui s’excuse, s’accuse.

    Um, yes you did. You called Karl a “do-nothing sectarian”.

    sergio: I notice you don’t actually explain what you you do, and how you’re so much more effective than the SWP.

    Wow, you old-school SWP people just don’t realise what horrible people you are, do you?

    See, I don’t feel the need to make lists of what I do, to someone hiding behind a pseudonym. Do you honestly think you have the right to that?

    You are the one throwing around accusations, claiming that everyone who posts on here is doing nothing.

    Seriously, you encapsulate the entire problem of the SWP mentality. You may not be living in the UK, but you’re an old SWP type, sneering down at anyone who isn’t in the party.

    The other thing is, anyone who wants to can read all about what I’ve done and do. I don’t hide it, I discuss it openly. It’s not down to me to give you pointers to old posts or discussions.

    I would urge you to really try and think about how shitty your attitude is, but you people are of a type: You look down on everyone else, and no matter what we do or say, you’ll insist that the party that has covered up rape allegations and bullied the women who made claims of rape and sexual harrassment out of the party, is still better than any of us.

    Wrong. You are typical of the problem.

  123. Karmickameleon on said:

    Mark Victorystooge,

    That you apologise is very commendable. Not many people do that after writing something they shouldn’t have. Anyway, enjoy your break from blogs and forums – there’s a lot more to life than the Labour Party and the SWP! See you back here in the future.

  124. #139 I agree. It’s to be commended, and a bit more of it would improve the quality of internet debate no end.

    And for every bit of (what I consider to be) ultra left /ultra stalinist silliness Mark posts on here he provides plenty of interesting stuff that I for one probably wouldn’t learn elsewhere so I hope his break isn’t for very long.

  125. Jellytot on said:

    sergio: many members the SWP…..are a thousand times more effective

    Well, in the past few years they’ve certainly been effective at something…..leaving their party for the most past, while the leadership have run it onto the rocks.

    I wouldn’t too annoyed though Sergio – 2013 was a big year for commentary but as the SWP shrinks, and gets less and less important in the small pond that is the British Ultra-Left, there will be less and less coverage. I mean, the WRP was spoken about everywhere during their crisis but hardly warrant a mention now – people express surprise that they still exist – that’s what lies in store for the SWP.

    sergio: the do nothing prattling tossers posting here.

    yeah, whateva!

  126. Karl Stewart on said:

    Karmickameleon: That you apologise is very commendable.

    Vanya: I agree. It’s to be commended, and a bit more of it would improve the quality of internet debate no end.

    I disagree, there’s way too much apologising and sensitivity on this site nowadays and it’s nowhere near as lively here as it used to be.

    That’s why it’s good to see old-school SWs like “Sergio” and “Reggie” on here – they might talk crap, but at least they come and have a go!

  127. “I disagree, there’s way too much apologising and sensitivity on this site nowadays and it’s nowhere near as lively here as it used to be.”

    Fuck off you Krushchevite knobhead!

  128. Sergio, comment 128: “You are do-nothing sectarian”.

    Sergio, comment 135: “I didn’t mention sectarianism.”

    Comment superfluous, I would think.

  129. sergio on said:

    Peter Storm,

    Yes, I did mention sectarianism, and promptly forgot I did. I have short-term memory problems.
    However that doesn’t mean posters here aren’t do-nothing sectarians. I notice that nobody replied by saying what they do, nor by showing how they contribute to build a revolutionary party
    I notice also that posters continue to insist I am a SWP member, though I made it clear that I am a long-term admirer, but not a member.
    Is that because you think it’s a convenient smear

  130. sergio: I have short-term memory problems.

    and a few others, I think. Personally, I’ve had a bit of a politically-active renaissance last year – very active in Stockport against the bedroom tax, relating of necessity to SWP members, (in the real world, outside Stockport Asda, marching, etc. – photos of some of this are on my Facebook page, which should be open to anyone). The ones I’ve regularly been dealing with are quite okay. Over the last few years, I’ve also marched against the war on Iraq. However, I absolutely condemn the leadership of the SWP. and have done so over the last year, during the same time-span as increased political activity. This crap of activity versus criticism is abhorrent, an utterly false dichotomy to save bad leaders’ arses. The two things can be combined, like walking and chewing gum. The assumption on the part of SWP CC supporters that anyone against them is only a keyboard warrior is nonsense, though I agree with the chap who told you to fuck off for demanding what activity he’d done this week.
    Basically, Sergio, I think you are a piece of human rubbish.

  131. Etonian Rumanian (old skool) on said:

    Jellytot, Wed. teatime (or early supper for those infirmed that day):

    Also, I don’t completely buy into this notion that Smith actually left the SWP. Something was leaked (deliberately?) on the internet last year to this effect but I have seen no resignation letter transcript and none of the main ‘actors’ have said anything formally. If there is something out there then please link to it.

    “[. . .] the charges of serious sexual misconduct laid against a leading party member (who resigned from the SWP in July).”
    Messrs. CK & AC, opening para. of ‘Can we move forward? A reply to Wolfreys and others’, ISJ, 140, 18Oct13 (online version of ISJ only)
    http://isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=932&issue=140

  132. Etonian Rumanian (old skool) on said:

    Karmickameleon:
    Recent CC member (Ray M?) resigns from the SWP:

    http://cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/online-only/swp-resignation-of-recent-cc-member

    The reluctant behaviour of this CC member has a parallel, 30 years before, in that of Barry Sheppard, at the very centre of things when the American SWP of Jack Barnes underwent a purge so thoroughgoing that it included members in their 70s, comrades of Dobbs & Cannon, who had been to the forefront of the most militant workplace struggles of the 1930s:

    “Barry explains that the fear of being expelled after spending your political life in the SWP is why many longtime members, like Barry, did not stand up to the new policies and one-man rule.”
    (Malik Miah, ‘Invaluable History, Important Lessons from Barry Sheppard’, 5Jul12)
    http://swphistory.com/2012/07/05/invaluable-history-important-lessons-from-barry-sheppard/

    John Riddell also explained his own silence when Barnes announced a transformation of the party’s culture, namely that members would no longer be able to get together & put their own resolutions to conference:

    “As a guest at the gathering and non-member of the SWP, I felt it proper to keep silent. But I had another motivation as well. If I had spoken up, it would likely have meant the end of the Comintern publishing project, which I thought had the potential to popularize a political model more inclusive and democratic than that of the SWP. In addition, as a member and former leader of the Canadian sister organization, I felt an obligation to support those now carrying the burden of leadership, and they were aligned with the SWP majority. Inadequate as they may have been, my motivations give insight into the political culture at that time.”
    (John Riddell, ‘Causes of a Socialist Collapse: The US SWP 1976-83’, endnote 6, 13Jul12)
    http://swphistory.com/2012/07/13/causes-of-a-socialist-collapse-the-u-s-swp-1976-83/

    What Riddell says more generally of that period has been experienced within the British SWP:

    “When unmistakable danger signs appeared, members who harboured doubts kept silent, because of a habit of consent, a desire to give the leadership the benefit of the doubt, and a fear of isolation within the party ranks.”

    Riddell also makes these remarks about the degenerative process that can indeed be applied to the British SWP & others:

    “In Marxist politics, it means that a small group that achieves excellence in one or another respect will tend to lose these characteristics over time, unless its strong points are reinforced through immersion in broad social struggles.

    “The ‘mean’ – that is, the profile of the average small Marxist group – includes these features:
    A conviction that the small group, and it alone, represents the historic interests of the working class.
    A high ideological fence separating members from the ideas and discussions of the broader Marxist movement.
    A hostile relationship to other Marxist currents.
    A haughty attitude to social movements: the group’s interventions, when they occur, focus on self-promotion and recruitment.
    An internal discipline aimed not at fending off blows of the class enemy but at restricting discussion and keeping the members in line.
    A conservative approach to Marxist doctrine, aptly summarized by Marx in 1868: ‘The sect sees the justification for its existence and its “point of honour” not in what it has in common with the class movement but in the particular shibboleth which distinguishes it from it.'”

    Welcome to the future, welcome to a reinvigorated advocacy of the IS tradition over the coming years.

  133. John Grimshaw on said:

    Karl Stewart: I bet you’re probably a revolutionary fugitive eh?

    I suspect that matters are as usual more mundane than this. In fact comrade Sergio has already supplied the answer to this conundrum. Maybe he can’t remember his real name?

  134. Sergio, you miss the point. The issue regulars on this blog gave with those who comment under a pseudonym is when they abuse anonymity or expect to be taken as serious ly as someone who can be held to account for what they say.

    And the allegation that people whose views you don’t agree with are inactive is simply pathetic and in your case ironically given one of your comments, highly sectarian.

  135. Karmickameleon on said:

    Etonian Rumanian (old skool): “When unmistakable danger signs appeared, members who harboured doubts kept silent, because of a habit of consent, a desire to give the leadership the benefit of the doubt, and a fear of isolation within the party ranks.”

    Riddell also makes these remarks about the degenerative process that can indeed be applied to the British SWP & others:

    Some interesting parallels here. Although one shouldn’t push the comparison between the US/British SWP too far: Callinicos/Kimber certainly aren’t cult figures à la Barnes!. That said, on Riddell’s checklist of features tending towards sect-like degeneration, the current British SWP would, in my opinion, score pretty high.
    So, yes, “welcome to the future” (I would say ‘already manifest in the present’)

  136. John Grimshaw on said:

    Manzil: I always suspected certain commenters were more a case of Waitrose Unity. :P

    Indeed. I wonder when the next conference of WU will be held. Although Manzil you should be aware that there is currently a crisis brewing in WHQ. Since their invention of the “My Waitrose” loyalty card which entitles bearers to a free cup of coffee and a free newspaper (not the Times) standard model staid middle class Waitrose comrade-shoppers have been complaining on mass to the HQ. They have become perturbed by the numbers of ordinary-comrade shoppers who can be seen “…pushing their trollies round the store with their bellies whilst drinking coffee and texting” (sic). One commentator from Barry (yes I know? – must be the Cardiff branch) has apparently decided not to shop at Waitrose any longer as it has been so contaminated with ordinary level comrade shoppers that it is just like any other supermarket now. 🙂

  137. jim mclean on said:

    I worked for cash in hand in John Lewis’s Sloane Square when I was roughing it in London, full of bossy bastards, Waitrose will be the same I presume.

  138. #157 And another thing Sergio. I sympathise with your short term memory problems ,particularly as my mother suffered from Alzheimers for years before she eventually passed away last year.

    But the best way to deal with such problems while they are not too severe is to write things down and save them. Like you did when you made the comment on here that someone pulled you about.

  139. Karl Stewart on said:

    Karmickameleon:

    Recent CC member (Ray M?) resigns from the SWP:

    http://cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/online-only/swp-resignation-of-recent-cc-member

    This link seems to indicate that the earlier estimate of around 500 remaining “SWP” members may well have been fairly accurate at the end of 2013.

    (But it could now be dropping below that figure with the New Year leavers.)

    If all the 2013 resignees (is that a word?) and the en bloc 2014 resignees could now form a unified organisation, then this could be twice the size of the remaining rump “SWP” organisation.

    But I expect it’s more likely that they’ll form five or six separate new groups and dissipate.

  140. Karmickameleon on said:

    Karl Stewart: If all the 2013 resignees (is that a word?) and the en bloc 2014 resignees could now form a unified organisation, then this could be twice the size of the remaining rump “SWP” organisation.

    And if all the ex-members of IS/SWP (recent and way back) should come together to form a new organisation, we’d probably have the biggest party in the country!! But that would include some pretty disparate people….

  141. Karl Stewart on said:

    Karmickameleon,
    The thing is, the people who left this year and last year have all seemed to me to have in common some kind of stated desire to continue what they describe as “the IS tradition” by which I assume they mean they agree pretty much with the ideology and the general political position, but they want this without the increasingly authoritarian internal commmand structure.

    I get the impression from what I’ve seen, heard, read by those who haven’t yet left that they feel the 2013/14 leavers are just not politically serious and are leaving so they can take a break from the work.

    So the question for the 2013/14 leavers is, are they politically serious? Do they genuinely want a democratic and non-command structured, non-authoritarian version of the party they left?

    If they are serious, then they seem to have the potential numbers to give this a go.

    If they’re not serious, then they’ll just gradually dwindle away, splinter further and/or drift out of active politics.

  142. sergio,

    Are you trying to imply that the SWP either is a “revolutionary party” or is “contributing to building” one? You’re a funny guy. The only thing the CC and its supporters have been “effective” at recently is disgracing and wrecking the party and reducing it to the level of the Sparts, IE: A crazy little sect, politically irrelevant, and despised by anyone who actually is aware of their existence, possibly dangerous to its own members but certainly not to capitalism.

  143. Karmickameleon on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    Don’t get me wrong. I really do hope that those who have left can form a new organisation within the IS tradition. The problem is defining what exactly that means in the world of today. I guess all those who have left share a common conception of “socialism from below” and, given what has happened over the past year or more, a commitment to paying much more than lip service to feminism and democracy. But that’s a rather diffuse basis on which to build a new organisation – although it’s OK for starters.
    The experience of the ISN does not bode well as it would appear to have lost half its membership, including many of its young members. However, those RtPers who have resigned more recently from the SWP include a good chunk of the party’s “cadre” and with years of experience behind them. From what I gather, a good number of them are very serious about giving a new organisation a go. It ain’t going to be easy, but it would be a bright spot in an otherwise depressing political landscape if they were able to get something off the ground and win back at least some of those young people (and others not so young) who left the SWP disgusted with the handling of the Delta scandal(s).

  144. Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool) on said:

    JN:
    Meanwhile, the Labour Party panders to right-wing racist hysteria rather than oppose it. Again.

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jan/10/stop-eu-citizens-travelling-uk-work-labour

    Guess Labour are hurtling into a race to the bottom – but I thought they were against the economic liberal freedom to race to the bottom? Suppose it gets trumped if they have to prove, yet again, their patriotism in defending ‘their’ workers. An inter-imperialist war would really show how serious they are in wanting to be state managers & the leader of the nation.

    Seems someone in the country can be arsed to do something – & do it in a hurry.

  145. Karl – to be thoroughly pedantic, someone who actively resigns should be a “resigner”, while someone who is “resigned” by another person or body should be a “resignee”. It may well be that both categories can be found among the latest wave of ex-SWP-members.

  146. Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool) on said:

    Karmickameleon:
    Recent CC member (Ray M?) resigns from the SWP:

    http://cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/online-only/swp-resignation-of-recent-cc-member

    Gary ‘Lefty Trainspotter’ Lineker has just announced the Own-Goal-Quote-of-the-Week contenders, all taken from the latest ‘Dear Charlie’ letter doing the rounds. I think you’ll agree with Gary, we really are spoilt for choice:

    A. “I will not post this statement on Facebook as I don’t want to contribute to the anti-party feeding frenzy”
    B. “I have come to the conclusion that it’s not now possible for the SWP to be reformed in a way that will allow it to recover from the latest crisis.”
    C. “Even at this early stage MS’s supporters were putting the interests of MS and his supporters before a principled treatment of W’s complaint or the interests of the party. This factional behaviour remains an ongoing problem for those seeking to reform the SWP.”
    D. “We had to battle with MS’s supporters to postpone the publication of the CC slate until the DC had reached its verdict. MS’s supporters were anxious to have it published with his name on the slate.”
    E. “four minority CC members including me refused to stand on a slate which included MS. He then withdrew his name and the CC unanimously agreed a slate not including him.”
    F. “However, MS’s supporters seemed to want a price for MS’s removal from the CC slate. Comrade X who had given evidence to the DC was not allowed to return to a position in the national office.”
    G. ” I believe that moving Comrade X fell short of how we would expect any woman to be treated in any workplace. Party workers accept low pay and long hours because of their commitment to the organisation, but the party’s standards in dealing with sex discrimination against them should be higher than we would fight for in any other workplace.”
    H. “This was now the 2nd incident where evidence was provided of Weyman agitating against the CC being brought to the National Secretary’s attention. Once again no action was taken against Weyman.”
    I. “Life as a minority on the CC was extremely tough. It’s difficult to describe the pressure but each week we were each faced with factionally motivated attacks whose aim was to demoralise and divide us. In this environment we did fight hard to try and protect the party’s wider interests but we also made some mistakes.”
    J. “The CC minority argued that we should inform the NC of our differences and ask them to intervene in line with recommendations from the Democracy Commission. When we raised this on the CC we came under tremendous pressure not to involve the NC or inform the party cadre.”
    K. “The only written information provided to NC members was a letter from MS giving his version of the circumstances of his removal from the CC slate and including the untrue claim that the DC had found him ‘not guilty’. NC members were encouraged to use this misleading letter in their report backs. The NC was misinformed about the dispute and encouraged to misinform the rest of the party.”
    L. “[Facebook Four, we] mistakenly fought to limit the number of expulsions rather than oppose them outright. We did succeed in reducing the number of expulsions to four; however, each expulsion was a travesty.”
    M. “It was clear even at this stage that there was one law for MS’s supporters who had been openly factionalising without any sanction and another for comrades having a private discussion about the possibility of organising a faction on Facebook.”
    N. “it’s unlikely that a full and honest accounting will be held. To do so would seriously undermine the positions of many existing members of the CC. Just like the Respect crisis and its aftermath, the CC will acknowledge that mistakes were made without detailing what they were. Comrades will be expected once again to move on and build the next initiative with yet further depleted forces.”
    O. “The January 2013 conference voted to support the CC majority slate. This was after my censure was reported to conference in terms that were simply untrue. Conference was told that I had been agitating for NC members to vote against the CC. This was untrue and wasn’t mentioned in the written censure. Conference was deliberately misinformed.”
    P. “MS’s supporters interpreted the DC vote as having ‘exonerated’ MS. Amy was arguing this line to party workers within days of the conference ending.”
    Q. “The national conference had unanimously passed the CC’s student perspective. Within a week of this vote the new CC overturned the democratically agreed perspectives and set about taking on and replacing the student leadership.”
    R. “When Jo came into the Student Office and one of the student organisers asked her why they were driving the students out she told him that this was revenge.”
    S. “The real problem is not the issues being raised by comrades but that there are no democratic mechanisms to raise these issues or to make comrades operating within UAF accountable. There is no UAF fraction. The party’s UAF operation is controlled by MS’s supporters and any move to assert democratic control has been blocked.”
    T. “My partner and I discovered that we had been moved out of our branch and the North London district into Hackney district when my IB1 contribution had my branch changed to ‘Hackney district’. We were in effect without a branch in a new district . . . I raised this with the National Secretary at the Manchester demonstration and he agreed to resolve it. A few days later, I turned up at my branch where a vote was being held to find that the district organiser had a copy of the branch list and that both my partner and I remained off the list and unable to participate.”
    U. “At the Dorset aggregate Weyman claimed that MS had been ‘driven out of the party’.”
    V. “the statement apologising to all who had suffered at the hands of the disputes process. This attempt at apologising to everyone draws an ‘equivalence’ between the hurt and distress of the two women and everyone else. This additional apology can also be interpreted to include an apology to MS.”
    W. “the attempted standing ovation for Maxine as she sought to use this year’s DC report to undermine Comrade X”
    X. “We have had the most disastrous year in our party’s history”
    Y. “the scope for democratic renewal looks remote if not impossible. The party has damaged its reputation, probably beyond repair.”
    Z. “after the comrades’ success at the recent Unite sector conferences in forcing McCluskey to admit that Grangemouth was a defeat that should never be repeated, the refusal to report this means that I am no longer comfortable selling the paper when it subordinates a key issue for our class to a factional agenda.”
    AA. “I believe that if this undeclared faction is not isolated and politically defeated then the SWP will never recover. However, following the losses of the last year I believe the forces to defeat them no longer exist.”

    Entries on a postcard please to the SU Editorial Office. No point sending an email as someone, allegedly close to the CC, may hack you.

    Just your 1-2-3, & there’s no tiebreaker this week. Although it’s a toughie this time round, instead, if need be, a co-opted Disputes Cttee will sit, Maxine ‘Who You Looking At?’ Bowler, Jo ‘Well Ard’ Cardwell, Judith ‘Hectoring’ Orr, & Our Amy. Again, if need be, they may invite you in for a quiet word. Don’t be shy, you haven’t heard what the prizes are yet.

    First up is a guided tour of Martin Towers, including a visit to the often-opened basement. Optional is really getting into the spirit of things & wearing your uniform of choice: Yagoda, Yezhov, or the fetching Beria number. Second prize is a guided tour of a campus up norf, one off the beaten track, personally conducted by The Eye of the Storm. You don’t want to hear about the third prize. So all this is another incentive to get things right, be in the vanguard, & be the real winner, numero uno.

    And, oh yes, don’t forget to draw a line under your answers.

  147. Karl Stewart on said:

    Karmickameleon:
    Karl Stewart:
    The experience of the ISN does not bode well as it would appear to have lost half its membership, including many of its young members.

    Yes those resignations from ISN helped the SWP’s pro-CC faction in their fight against the December oppositionists.

    The pro-CC faction were able to point to the ISN resignations and say: “Look we told you these oppositionists were not serious and there’s the proof.”

    I get the impression from outside that some in the ISN wanted it to be politically serious but others saw it just as a mutual support group for traumatised ex-SWPers, existing simply for the benefit of themselves.

    Do the 2013/14 leavers want to make a meaningful contribution to left-wing politics?
    Or do they just want to be a leftish facebook club?

  148. Karmickameleon on said:

    JN,

    True. But the reality is a little more complex than that. There has always been in IS/SWP a tension between what has been called the leadership’s “organised distrust” of the membership and many of the members’ scepticism of orders from high and the hacks who unquestioningly implemented those dictates. This tension meant that some serious errors were able to be corrected before it was too late e.g. the initial position during the Miners’ Strike, the Poll Tax … It also meant that those members who didn’t buy the line that Respect was a united front of a new type simply didn’t get involved in it. So it’s not altogether black and white. However, the Delta sexual harassment/rape scandal has clearly revealed a major underlying problem in the democratic functioning of the SWP. I would say that it’s pretty clear that those who have left have very much taken this on board. Let’s see if they can do better.

  149. #174 Their historical point of reference is the Bolshevik revolution and the government that it brought to power up until the mid/late 20s. I wonder how many people living through that period felt that they were experiencing ‘socialism from below’?

    There is a fundamental contradiction between one and the other which cannot be resolved. I’ve said before that I’m pleased that the SWP leadership have not got away with trying to cover up this scandal, and I’m pleased to see so many of the membership expressing in word and deed their revulsion at the whole business. But if the result is a number of smaller groups all attempting to build another party replicating the same fundamentally flawed politics then all I can do is refer to the first few paragraphs of the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (I won’t cut and paste, it’s readilly availible online).

  150. Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool) on said:

    Vanya:
    #176
    attempting to build another party replicating the same fundamentally flawed politics

    To make the meaning of your point a little clearer, which socialist politics – the fundamentally unflawed ones – do you think should be supported in Britain on the 12th of January, 2014? More accurately, what is the fundamentally unflawed socialist strategy that’s needed?

  151. #177

    Apologies in advance for flipancy.

    If someone wanted to travel to Australia without the benefit of an airliner, I would be unsure of the best way to advise them to do it.

    That wouldn’t stop me advising them to avoid trying to do it by rubber dinghy via the North Pole.

  152. Karmickameleon on said:

    Vanya: Their historical point of reference is the Bolshevik revolution and the government that it brought to power up until the mid/late 20s. I wonder how many people living through that period felt that they were experiencing ‘socialism from below’?

    I guess that’s a rhetorical question as there’s no way we can know the answer to it, even more so in a context of civil war, imperialist intervention, famine, massive economic disruption, dispersion of the working class etc. However, I would offer to you a quote from Victor Serge:

    “It is often said that ‘the germ of all Stalinism was in Bolshevism at its beginning’. Well, I have no objection. Only, Bolshevism also contained many other germs, a mass of other germs, and those who lived through the enthusiasm of the first years of the first victorious socialist revolution ought not to forget it. To judge the living man by the death germs which the autopsy reveals in the corpse – and which he may have carried in him since his birth – is that very sensible?”
    ― Victor Serge, From Lenin to Stalin

    I would also suggest that there are other historical and historic points of reference for the self-activity of the working class: Spain 1936. Hungary 1956, France 1968, Chile 1972, Portugal 1974 …….. (fill the gap with your own suggestions)

  153. Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool) on said:

    Vanya:
    #177

    Apologies in advance for flipancy.

    Nothing to apologise for, & I don’t think you’re being flippant, just evasive – which is your prerogative.

    But after Bernstein & a century-and-a-third your response remains part of the problem humanity faces. Meanwhile the world, including its warming, moves on.

  154. Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool): But after Bernstein & a century-and-a-third

    I take by that you refer to the failure of reformist social democracy to deliver us from capitalism.

    Not really relevant to a discussion with me because I don’t promote that route either.

    .

  155. #180: I don’t think Vanya is being evasive with the airline metaphor. I read it as: even if I do no know which road is the right one, is no reason to remain silent if I see someone taking a road that I know to be wrong. It isn’t evasive to say “the politics of the SWP are fundamentally flawed”, even if you don’t have better ones to offer. To return to the travel metaphor: when you are lost at sea, that is no reason to set sails Back to the Cliffs…

  156. Karl Stewart on said:

    Is anyone else struck by how profoundly unrevolutionary the “revolutionary opposition” have been?

    They behaved in an exemplary constitutional manner, did everything strictly according to “the rules” while their opponents. Paid no heed whatsoever to their own rules and foccussed solely on winning.

    The opposition won a majority of party members to their position, yet they meekly accepted the leadership faction’s transparent gerrymandering of the pre-conference delegate selection process and of the conferences themselves.

    The “revolutionary opposition” made no attempt to seize control of the party apparatus and meekly accepted the pro-leadership faction’s complete ownership and control of all the leading bodies, publications, assets etc.

  157. Karmickameleon on said:

    “We wish to announce the birth of Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century.”

    The name of the new organisation of those who have recently left the SWP. And yes, I don’t like the name either. But I wish them all the very best in their endeavour.

  158. Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool) on said:

    Vanya: #181

    I take by that you refer to the failure of reformist social democracy to deliver us from capitalism.

    Not really relevant to a discussion with me because I don’t promote that route either.

    Obviously I mentioned Bernstein & set the clock running in the 1880s as that is when an organised working class faced its first adversarial socialist strategic question, how to cope with comprehensive anti-socialist laws. My point concerned the history of the organised working class & the socialist strategy question, & so on the scale of the world, not that of a chatroom & the views of a few people – in fact I have, & had, no way of knowing what you think of the olde German.

    Rejecting both ‘the movement is everything’ & some unidentified SWP ‘fundamentally flawed politics’ is one thing, but to offer something positive is something else. I was interested in whether you had something in mind, & in repeating your negative it made your reply evasive because you might indeed have some ideas & suggestions.

    Maybe SU’s cagoule maker (#182) is right & you weren’t being evasive. I only asked out of interest, not least because what we need more than anything is positive ideas to come out of justified criticisms. And Britain has had a particularly poor record in generating socialist strategic ideas.

  159. lone nut on said:

    “I guess that’s a rhetorical question as there’s no way we can know the answer to it, even more so in a context of civil war, imperialist intervention, famine, massive economic disruption, dispersion of the working class etc.”
    How many of those aspects were “context” and how many a direct consequence of the Bolshevik seizure of power? In any case, reeling off a list of how terrible things were under the one government in history you positively identify with is hardly likely to entice workers in Britain today to attempt to replicate the experience. The quote from Serge is typical of the kind of comforting nursery food bromides Cliffites are fond of – do you not think the installation of a dictatorship which proclaims itself “unrestricted by any laws” is a tad unlikely to end up unhappily?
    “Spain 1936. Hungary 1956, France 1968, Chile 1972, Portugal 1974 …….. (fill the gap with your own suggestions)”
    There aren’t any other suggestions. That basically represents the standard Trotskyist litany, and only one of them, France in 1968, is remotely relevant to the situation in an advanced bourgeois democracy in western Europe today. And the sum total of dual power in May-June 68 was the fact that the (“Stalinist” of course) CGT took responsibility for the distribution of milk and petrol in Nantes. Oh mighty thing!

  160. Feodor on said:

    Peter Storm: To return to the travel metaphor: when you are lost at sea, that is no reason to set sails Back to the Cliffs

    Haha. Cracking. Whether intended or not.

  161. Manzil on said:

    Vanya: Their historical point of reference is the Bolshevik revolution and the government that it brought to power up until the mid/late 20s.

    Bolshevism may be a point of reference, but is it really a guide to action?

    The SWP may claim the Bolshevik mantle but, even before the rape crisis, their organisation and their politics bore little resemblance to the Russian model – except perhaps as the farce following the tragedy.

    In a sense this is a positive thing; I have never seen them call for unrestrained dictatorship in the here-and-now, whatever their rose-tinted views of the Soviet government pre-1928. But it is also true in a negative sense. The modern British left lacks the seriousness, sense of purpose and social weight common to the Russian revolutionaries even at their lowest ebb (or that enjoyed by their British allies).

    And even if they jettisoned their studious loyalty to the Cliff-approved history of Russian socialism, the SWP would likely remain a profoundly weak force within the labour movement, and a total irrelevance to politics more broadly.

    I don’t think the dogmatic adherence to the ‘IS tradition’ is the cause of their failures, any more than the flaws of other traditions lie in their own ideological shortcomings.

    The fact that the SWP consists of a relatively privileged stratum of workers and young people (okay, I’ll say it: the fact it’s so bloody middle-class), that it generally consists of people on their way to careers in the public sector and the professionalised labour bureaucracy, is probably more responsible for its impotence to the class struggle, than the party’s particular historical interpretation of the utterly alien conditions which produced the October revolution.

    But yeah. More seriously, we lack the airliner. The dinghies are a tolerable, if pointless distraction in its absence.

    Get thinking, Vanya. I’m expecting a flawless strategy by next weekend.

  162. Karmickameleon on said:

    lone nut: And the sum total of dual power in May-June 68 was the fact that the (“Stalinist” of course) CGT took responsibility for the distribution of milk and petrol in Nantes.

    From Wikipedia (so as to avoid a dreaded Trotskyist source!):

    In the following days, workers began occupying factories, starting with a sit-down strike at the Sud Aviation plant near the city of Nantes on 14 May, then another strike at a Renault parts plant near Rouen, which spread to the Renault manufacturing complexes at Flins in the Seine Valley and the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt. Workers had occupied roughly fifty factories by 16 May, and 200,000 were on strike by 17 May. That figure snowballed to two million workers on strike the following day and then ten million, or roughly two-thirds of the French workforce, on strike the following week.
    These strikes were not led by the union movement; on the contrary, the CGT tried to contain this spontaneous outbreak of militancy by channeling it into a struggle for higher wages and other economic demands. Workers put forward a broader, more political and more radical agenda, demanding the ousting of the government and President de Gaulle and attempting, in some cases, to run their factories.

  163. Karl Stewart needs to actually read a my comment #118 before his ridiculous comment#127.
    Is he here just for a wind up?

  164. Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool): I only asked out of interest, not least because what we need more than anything is positive ideas to come out of justified criticisms. And Britain has had a particularly poor record in generating socialist strategic ideas.

    Fair point. I’ll get back to you asap. Sadly not by Manzil’s deadline however.

  165. Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool) on said:

    Vanya,

    Nothing personal meant, just the benefits of sharing ideas. For example, in Britain the extensive work of the Canadians Gindin & Panitch hasn’t had the hearing & consideration it deserves. You probably know the former was the right-hand man of the Canadian Prez of the United Auto Workers & Canadian Auto Workers for a few decades, whereas Panitch was one of Manzil’s middle class workers. There’s a lot out there that doesn’t get discussed that much, & we’re all left ploughing the same olde furrow – downhill & increasingly steeper. Maybe a relevant SU thread will be opened up one day – SU could even ask them to write a think-piece.

  166. Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool) on said:

    JN:
    Meanwhile, the Labour Party panders to right-wing racist hysteria rather than oppose it. Again.

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jan/10/stop-eu-citizens-travelling-uk-work-labour

    Part of playing the panda is to make sure the great British publick, especially the workers & the floaters, are never in danger of getting confused, of mistaking a patriotic national socialist for a cosmopolitan international socialist:
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/12/labour-tougher-eu-benefit-restrictions

    Rachel Reeves

    Ra-ra-ra rachel reeves is really earning brownie points on this one. At 34 plently of time to garner support as leader of a super-duper-friendly national business party, albeit with international connections.

    Wonder what nationalist treat we’ll be fed on the 14th? Maybe http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/14/well-ard-labour-outukip-ukip-with-higher-tax-rates-for-foreign-workers

  167. Karl Stewart on said:

    Karmickameleon:
    “We wish to announce the birth of Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century.”
    The name of the new organisation of those who have recently left the SWP. And yes, I don’t like the name either.

    An appalling name and a thoroughly depressing decision not to unite with the ISN – both of which indicate a desire for self-indulgent irrelevance.

  168. lone nut on said:

    Karmickameleon,

    Yes, that a lot of workers went on strike in France in May-June 68 is not at issue. The point is that none of this yielded so much as a functioning strike coordination committee at a city wide or regional level, let alone any soviets or organs of dual power. So raising this experience as an example of “workers’ self-activity” comparable to Petrograd in 1917 is simply misleading.

  169. Manzil on said:

    Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool):
    Vanya,
    For example, in Britain the extensive work of the Canadians Gindin & Panitch hasn’t had the hearing & consideration it deserves.

    Eh? By the standards of the left, they’re plastered all over the place.

    They’ve jointly edited how many of the last Socialist Registers, Panitch’s books are (relatively) well-known, the left press semi-regularly deals with them.

    The problem is that it’s, quite literally, all academic. The best, most flawless socialist strategy in the world is irrelevant if the only people aware of and engaged with it are other would-be ‘theorists’.

    That popular disconnect from political analysis and debate is more damaging than the particular inadequacies of a specific theory, was my point.

    (5 days now, Vanya.)

  170. Manzil on said:

    Karl Stewart: An appalling name and a thoroughly depressing decision not to unite with the ISN – both of which indicate a desire for self-indulgent irrelevance.

    Maybe they’re just not particularly enthused by the prospect of leafleting for the Left Unity Party to bemused shoppers outside Tesco, or whatever strategy the ISN depressingly bumbles towards.

    In which case they may feel that the elongated rah rah revolutionary self labelling will make them anathema to Socialist Ressistance and the rest of the broad left appreciation society, sparing them an awkward “it’s not you, it’s me” conversation with their fellow ex-SWPers.

    Someone mentioned in the discussion on Ian Bone how Class War was so much more attractive a label than the alphabetti spaghetti of the other micro groups. RSit21C is probably a good example of how not to do it.

  171. Manzil: RSit21C is probably a good example of how not to do it.

    Because he’s too polite to do it himself, can I just share another commenter’s observation that RSit21C / Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century is easily shortened to RSit (arse-it), which handily references the “Bloody hell, what do we do now?” “Oh I don’t know, whatever…” attitude that seems to drive many of the SWP refugees.

  172. Feodor on said:

    Manzil: That popular disconnect from political analysis and debate is more damaging than the particular inadequacies of a specific theory, was my point.

    I think you’re quite right here. And of course the corollary of a popular disconnect is often that the theorists and their theories get ever more remote from anything of substance.

    I’d also add that while people will often speculate over what kind of organisation is needed, rarely does the question of what this organisation plans to do get addressed. ‘Socialism’ is not a political programme. I think if we had a common, feasible programme, which allowed a certain amount of room for interpretation and debate, matters of organisation would (mostly) work themselves out in practice.

    The question is: do most British socialists have any serious ambitions towards ever holding state power? I find it hard to answer that one in the affirmative.

  173. George Hallam on said:

    Feodor: I’d also add that while people will often speculate over what kind of organisation is needed, rarely does the question of what this organisation plans to do get addressed. ‘Socialism’ is not a political programme. I think if we had a common, feasible programme, which allowed a certain amount of room for interpretation and debate, matters of organisation would (mostly) work themselves out in practice.

    Lewisham People Before Profit will be publishing the latest version of its manifesto soon.

    Appropriatly for a local party it addresses local problems but most of these relate to national issues (for example: privatisation, unemployment, housing, inequality, the environment) so it is a political programme. The policies are concrete and feasible, given the necessary level of popular mobilisation.

    It’s not a ‘socialist’ programme but some readers of this site will find there are things that they can agree with.

    It’s a naïve domestic manifesto without any breeding, but I think you’ll be amused by its presumption.

  174. Manzil on said:

    Feodor: The question is: do most British socialists have any serious ambitions towards ever holding state power? I find it hard to answer that one in the affirmative.

    I think there are programmes, they’re simply muddled and inexpertly proposed.

    There are things that governments can do, structural reforms which pose implicit challenges to class power – the expansion of the state’s role in the economy; more direct participation in public administration itself, and the imposition of democratic restrictions on the existing state; increases to the social wage, whether in terms of direct money payments or the subsiding of services; the strengthening of the institutions through which the working class acts as a collective entity.

    The problem is that in lieu of widespread dissemination of socialist attitudes and ideas, none of these policies are inherently ‘socialistic’. As with the bailout and part-nationalisation of the financial sector, agents matter: a top-down programme that is separate from the labour movement is easily incorporated by the present system, because, well, adaptation to threats is what systems do: that’s how they become systems.

    The absence of an organisation, of a visible and coherent socialist party in the country as a whole, is what allows (what should be) the basic minimum programme of any socialist government (say, the nationalisation of the banks) to be co-opted used to prop up the status quo.

    Perhaps it’s something of a “the chicken or the egg” dilemma? Programmes seem irrelevant when separate from a movement to breathe life into them; but feck is it hard to establish the latter in a period of total programmatic confusion.

    Not to mention that, whatever the specifics of a political programme, without a high degree of political understanding and activity amongst working people, individual reforms, however well-intentioned, aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

    For instance:

    The repeal of the anti-union laws? Sure that would be useful, but with a sectional and conservative outlook dominating much of the trade unions, and with such a great disconnect between most people and the labour movement, repealing a few laws isn’t going to revolutionise the situation.

    Opening up the state to greater participation by working people? Well what happens so long as socialist political and industrial strength remains so weak – the professionalised political system, not to mention the entrenched civil administration, aren’t going to stand by and wait for people to challenge the traditional system; they’re going to mould it to their own interests. Everyone remember Gordon Brown’s “citizens’ juries”? The same goes for extending public ownership.

    I understand that most socialists in Britain have serious antipathy for the record of social democracy and social liberalism. But that shouldn’t mean an unconditional aversion to the notion of ‘getting your hands dirty’ and seriously thinking about how best to maximise the strength of what remains of the movements aware of and committed to class-struggle. The failures of the social democratic and labour parties wasn’t winning popular support and building up their organisational muscle; it was crap politics – surrendering their politics to improve the former.

    And just to keep banging on: I agree that the ISN and so probably don’t have any serious ambition to wield state power, but even if they did, the fact they exist within an unrepresentative subculture generally isolated from most people’s experience of how capitalism and politics works is probably more of an impediment.

    (LOL jk vote TUSC)

  175. Manzil on said:

    George Hallam: Lewisham People Before Profit will be publishing the latest version of its manifesto soon.

    Does it have a branch on the south coast? Southampton Lewisham People Before Profit?

  176. George Hallam on said:

    Manzil: Does it have a branch on the south coast? Southampton Lewisham People Before Profit?

    Not yet, but read the manifesto when it comes out and, if you like it, feel free to set up a branch.

    If you did set up a branch you would be autonomious, so we wouldn’t want to tell you what to do. However, you would probably need to adapt it to the needs of your area.

    This would mean a bit of research but this really pays off. Your chances of conecting with people improve dramatically if you can talk in concrete terms rather than generalities. (I’m sure you know this but a surprising number of people don’t seem to have cottoned on.)

    Also, could I suggest that if you go ahead you call it “Southampton People Before Profit”?

  177. Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool) on said:

    Manzil: #197

    Maybe they’re just not particularly enthused by the prospect of leafleting for the Left Unity Party

    The Palestine section would like to point out, purely in the interest of accuracy, that our organisation is not the Left Unity Party but Left Unity. The former suggested name only got 47 votes at Founding Conference, & was decisively rejected by members, no doubt as it was seen as a revisionist partyist deviation from electoralist movementism:

    “The result of the ballot at our Founding Conference on the name of our new party was as follows. This means we will be ‘Left Unity’ as a new radical force on the left in the UK.

    We are ‘Left Unity’ a new political force on the left.
    Result of party name:
    Left Unity Party 47
    Left Party 122
    Left Unity 188
    Democratic Voice 44

    Second ballot
    Left Party 139
    Left Unity 235”
    http://leftunity.org/left-unity-a-new-radical-politcal-party-of-the-left/

    One more mistake like that & security officers of the Lefty Trainspotter Club, fresh graduates from the Banda-Healy Gentlemen’s Training Skool, will be popping round to confiscate your check-off book & membership card, which as you’ll see in the small print says that like a British Rail ticket they remain the property of the Lefty Trainspotter Club. You have been warned.

    Manzil: #196

    Eh? By the standards of the left, they’re plastered all over the place.

    [. . .]

    The problem is that it’s, quite literally, all academic. The best, most flawless socialist strategy in the world is irrelevant if the only people aware of and engaged with it are other would-be ‘theorists’.

    I was referring not to their political economy writings but their ideas on socialist strategy for today, which don’t get much of an airing. The blindingly obvious is that the first step is drastically improving worker & community self-organisation (their abilitiy to act, their practical capacities). One institutional suggestion Gindin has is this:

    “Working only on union issues – even if militantly – and focusing on changing the leadership is not enough because of the inherent sectionalism of unions I raised earlier. On the other hand, calling for a party has its own limits because the depth of the defeat of the Left has been as profound as that of labor. This poses the question of an ‘intermediate’ organization or set of regional assemblies that introduces a new layer of politics: one that stands between mass movements and unions centered on a specific group or issue and political parties focused on taking state power and transforming capitalism.”
    https://www.jacobinmag.com/2013/02/sam-gindin-on-the-crisis-in-american-labor/
    http://lbo-news.com/2012/06/18/sam-gindin-on-the-crisis-in-labor/ audio & transcript (mainly on unions)

    Far from warranting the pejorative & often self-abusing ‘academic’ some of their ideas were enacted in a small way in their hometown, Toronto:
    http://www.workersassembly.ca/

    The website shows how partial this has been, but peeps can but try – or die (or pen tomes, carbuncles, & mice).

    The Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly predated the People’s Assembly Against Austerity in Britain by a number of years, & for all I know may have inspired in a teeny-weeny way the Nineham-German-Rees Gang of Three paper tiger running dogs clique – just to get into this new spirit of the 21st Century with Chinese Characteristics. (Although it may be a Brit leftist version of Dieterich-Chávez-Correa-Morales Thought http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism_of_the_21st_century.)

  178. Manzil on said:

    I will try to do better in future, comrade Etonian Roumanian. Left Unity party it is.
    😛

    I remember reading Sam Gindin’s article in last year’s Socialist Register on workers’ assemblies and intermediate institutions. It made good points. Whether the People’s Assemblies Against Austerity could approximate the role he sets out for such assemblies, I’m not so sure about.

    I don’t mean to denigrate academics. SR ’13 focused on socialist strategy and was a very rewarding read.

    But unless activists are actually oriented towards and guided by these people (and strong enough to be capable of actually influencing events!), or alternatively unless the latter just happen to be describing processes which are already under way amongst the working class regardless of what the left thinks, then there is a serious risk that even good ideas remain dead ideas.

    George Hallam: Also, could I suggest that if you go ahead you call it “Southampton People Before Profit”?

    I was thinking more alone the lines of a ‘Democrats Abroad’ situation. The Hampshire wing of LPBP. But at a push I could learn to live with ‘South (of) Lewisham People Before Profit’.

    In any case, I will be sure to have a look at your manifesto.

  179. Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool) on said:

    Manzil,

    The Palestine section of Left Unity salutes you, Comrade Manzil!

    By the way, have you got any splitters round your way? Anyone we should ‘visit’? The Palestine detachment of the graduates from the Banda-Healy Gentlemen’s Training Skool are very experienced & in great demand. Contact us thru Head Office, c/o the Burgin-Hudson-Conway undeclared sub-faction.

    The word on the street is that the south coast has quite a few deviationists, proto-splitters as it were, needing to be nipped in the bud. The Security Office had a report that a certain comrade was going around Southampton town centre trying to give away copies of ‘Unity Left’, a poorly produced broadsheet propagating a sectarian sarcastic line. Could be a splitter-in-motion. Any news on this would be greatly appreciated.

  180. Feodor on said:

    Manzil: I think there are programmes, they’re simply muddled and inexpertly proposed.

    UKIP are doing ok, despite an obviously ‘muddled and inexpertly proposed’ programme. The reason? Imo, quite simple: parts of their msg strongly resonates with certain groups of voters, including it seems a significant minority of working people.

    Ok, so the media has helped UKIP establish itself. But does not the Guardian or Mirror play a similar role to that of the Mail in laying possibly receptive foundations among the public? Why can’t any left group manage to formulate a msg which resonates with people not already leftie anoraks?

    George et al. in Lewisham show there is potential on a local level, that left/socialist ideas can be synthesised with everyday issues in a format that can appeal to ‘ordinary’ people. This is hardly surprising. That other left groups cannot match this feat is, and imo part of the problem is the retreat into long theoretical digressions of the sort you engaged in.

    The whole tone is defeatist, primarily because you set the bar impossibly high. But put simply, I’d much prefer a situation where, e.g., at the start of the financial crisis the left was able to put forward a coherent economic programme, elements of the programme then being adopted–and distorted–by the gov., with some economic recovery occurring as a result; than the present situation, where the approach of the left basically reduces itself to: oppose, demonstrate, protest until we get a Labour gov., then oppose, demonstrate and protest some more, without any particular aim in mind because, heaven forbid, if something was proposed it might be implemented in fashion somewhat less than ideal.

    The British left has really mastered the art of understanding its uselessness in terms of a meta-historical narrative. It would be better served confronting its own intellectual and political bankruptcy without Marxian comfort-blankets. (E.g., it was less ‘the balance of class forces’ that led to the SWP’s degeneration over the past two decades: they failed to recruit and retain cadre because of their arrogant, aggressive and destructive behaviour, crappy, outdated organisational structure/culture and complete lack of vision.)

  181. Manzil on said:

    Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool),

    But is there a Palestinian branch of Lewisham People Before Profit?

    Feodor,

    I don’t think the comparison with UKIP is valid, for precisely the reasons you skirt over: the entire political system is set up for them to succeed. The simplistic, scapegoating politics that UKIP represents, and which feeds on the reactionary ‘common sense’ established by all the major political parties and newspapers on these ‘safe’ targets (on migrants, claimants, Europe etc.) , has no left-wing equivalent.

    It would be a surprise if UKIP weren’t succeeding, given the depths of people’s disenchantment with the political system.

    Is the problem with the left that it thinks too much (defeatist theoretical digressions) or that it doesn’t think at all (oppose, demonstrate, protest)? You condemn people for ‘lack of vision’ then sneer about Marxian comfort-blankets.

    George and his fellow LPBPers are, I’m sure, demonstrating some good political lessons. The question is whether they are applicable elsewhere, and if so, why they haven’t been thus far. On this subject, although it may be fun for you to endlessly bash the left as hopelessly shit, the pros or cons of particular socialist groups are really quite irrelevant. They have the strength to ensure neither the success nor the failure of a genuinely alternative politics, nor in many cases even to contribute to it.

    In this sense, ‘meta-historical narratives’ may be crucial to understanding just why there has been such a disintegration in the traditional communities of solidarity which supported and reproduced labour movement politics in the past.

  182. Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool) on said:

    Feodor: #209

    part of the problem is the retreat into long theoretical digressions

    Most Gracious Comrade Manzil can speak for him or herself, but what you said quoted above is more than a little troubling.

    I don’t know what you mean by ‘theory’. If you mean more abstract matters I would say you are mistaken. Ignoring more confining particulars (so-called concreteness) gives one a chance to better understand processes not tied down to certain times & places. That can give us foresight.

    There are too many corpses and broken bodies & hopes to think that leaders & tradition can ever suffice. Since Bacon (Eggs’ bro) we’ve recognised that a scientific approach is our best chance to learn. We can spurn it, but we, & others, pay the deleterious consequences. There are no guarantees in what we do, but to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

  183. Feodor on said:

    Manzil: I don’t think the comparison with UKIP is valid … the entire political system is set up for them to succeed.

    Really? Most commentators consider the first-past-the-post system a big hurdle for minor parties to negotiate. The best shorthand for judging ‘success’ is numbers of elected representatives. In Parliament, UKIP have none. If this is a system ‘set up for them to succeed’, it’s either not fit for purpose or UKIP are throwing away certain victory.

    It’s also worth noting that nationalist parties have never done that well in Britain. The ‘entire system’ seems weighted towards the traditional establishment right rather than the populist right.

    The simplistic, scapegoating politics that UKIP represents … has no left-wing equivalent.

    Really, really? Did you miss the for the 99%, against the 1% stuff? What was that, complex social theory? Or ‘simplistic, scapegoating politics’?

    I also note many people were rather enamoured by Russell Brand’s waffle. If you’re saying the idea rich elites cause a myriad of social problems has no traction, then I’ve no idea where you’re coming from … Monaco, perhaps? 😉

    Is the problem with the left that it thinks too much (defeatist theoretical digressions) or that it doesn’t think at all (oppose, demonstrate, protest)?

    Lack of introspection is a natural corollary of arrogance. [Edit: I thought Manzil said the left thinks too much *of itself*–dismiss this comment, I’ll reply below.)

    You condemn people for ‘lack of vision’ then sneer about Marxian comfort-blankets.

    Obviously. It’s hard to see anything when your head’s stuck under the covers.

    … the pros or cons of particular socialist groups are really quite irrelevant.

    Irrelevant, really? So you’re basically saying what people do doesn’t matter, it’s the social and historical ‘forces’ which determine everything.

    ‘History’ does nothing, my friend, it possesses no immense wealth, wages no battles. It is man, real, living man who does all that, who possesses and fights. History is not a person apart, using man to achieve its own aims: history is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims–and the differences between particular individuals and groups thus has a big impact on how that activity manifests itself.

    Etonian Roumanian, the point is straightforward enough: we have nothing–absolutely sweet fuck all–to offer in terms of policy, except the canard it’ll all be alright when socialism arrives. Yet rather than address this, people prefer to talk about Spain in 1936, Hungary in 1956, how the fall of the USSR altered the balance of class forces … blah blah fucking blah.

    This is not proper ‘theory’, nor is it a ‘scientific approach’–if it is, it’s the equivalent of telling people the problems of quantum physics find resolution in Newton. To my eyes, it just seems like a lot of people who don’t have anything much to say about the present, trying their hands at history/nostalgia instead. And what’s more, despite a zillion and one articles on the Bolsheviks, Spanish revolution etc., we still don’t seem to have any ideas and we’ve certainly not learnt very much.

    But, you know, the ‘system’ is rigged against us, the ‘forces’ don’t favour us and the right ‘conditions’ for the implementation of our superb–but very well concealed–ideas just never seem to prevail. To be a socialist…

  184. Feodor on said:

    Does the left think too much or too little? My recurring point is that it thinks a lot–just not about anything useful. Knowing what happened in Petrograd in 1917 isn’t going to help you develop an economic programme for modern Britain.

  185. lone nut on said:

    Karmickameleon,

    “Not comparable of course, but certainly another historical reference point”.
    In what useful sense? Nothing on the scale of May 68 has ever happened in France subsequently, and nothing comparable has happened in any other European country over the past 45 years. So it’s a rather dated reference point, and referring back to an upsurge taking place at the heart of the post war boom provides little useful guidance for a socialist strategy in neoliberal Europe with a much weakened organised workers’ movement. It’s even debatable whether we could regard France in 1968 as a stable bourgeois democracy – Lipset’s “Political Man” published in 1959, classifies France as a semi-autocracy along with the likes of Mexico and Brazil, and Edmund Wilson’s comment that the atmosphere in Paris in 1963 reminded him of Moscow in 1936, while exaggerated, captures some of the flavour of the early Gaullist period. As to possible outcomes in May-June 68, we now know that when de Gaulle flew to meet the generals they gave him a simple message – they would not intervene so long as the PCF did not call for the revolutionary overthrow of the government. The PCF leadership would undoubtedly have been aware of this, and of the fact that had they succumbed to the demands raised by the far left the likely outcome would have been a coup by forces much to the right of de Gaulle.

  186. Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool) on said:

    Feodor: #212

    nationalist parties have never done that well in Britain.

    What are Labour & the Tories if not nationalist parties? They promote perceived British national interest: they are nationalist parties, as are the Gaullists, the CDU, the SPD, Forza Italia, & those nice Nordic social democrats, SAP, the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Sweden. None is internationalist, all are nationalist.

    Feodor: # ditto

    we have nothing–absolutely sweet fuck all–to offer in terms of policy, except the canard it’ll all be alright when socialism arrives.

    [. . .] we still don’t seem to have any ideas and we’ve certainly not learnt very much.

    Just to help the discussion move along, who’s the “we”?

    (Let me say, for decades I’ve argued against the voluntarist magical thinking pervasive in the international ‘far left’: that it’ll be all right on the night; that above all else it’s a Q of leadership; that just under the surface the class is raring to go, just held back by the recidivist betrayers; that a perpetual interest in participatory decision-making by the great majority of people is achievable; that the withering away of state organisations is likely to happen; . . . one could go on. Obviously I agree that many issues of any Marxist perspective have hardly been thought about in any systematic way. And to think, all those Masters & PhD’s in the last 40 years.)

    Feodor: #213

    Does the left think too much or too little? My recurring point is that it thinks a lot–just not about anything useful. Knowing what happened in Petrograd in 1917 isn’t going to help you develop an economic programme for modern Britain.

    If peeps aren’t to think this is a red herring, & wonder why you’ve thrown it in, who has been arguing such a thing? (Or were you fishing on the weekend & caught too many?)

  187. Feodor on said:

    1) By that standard it’s hard to think of a party that isn’t ‘nationalist’. And thus do words become useless.

    2) British left, socialists in Britain, type of folks who read SU–take your pick.

    3) Oh, come on. Most of the British far left was and perhaps remains mesmerised by Soviet Communism and welded to the idea of a Bolshevik-type party [and that includes those now leaving the SWP, the topic under general discussion–ed.]. Is–and has it ever been–that important? Funny thing is, the Soviets and their main British acolytes eventually developed a programme which suggests not.

  188. Karl Stewart on said:

    Feodor, I agree with many of your points. But do your criticisms of the left lead you to any positive suggestions?

  189. Karl Stewart on said:

    For example, I note your point about UKIP’s success. But the conclusions some on the left are drawing from that – that we should develop a “UKIP of the left” with “left-wing” anti-immigration policies – is in my opinion profoundly mistaken.

    And it’s clearly a good thing that people are just no longer prepared to tolerate the anachronistic command-type structure of much of the marxist left.
    But to over compensate by setting up “do-what-you-like-anything-goes” type organisations – such as Left Unity, ISN and this “RS21” – makes the very concept of “organisation” pretty pointless.

    So yes of course we on the left need to learn lessons from our own shortcomings – but let’s not ditch political principles and let’s not lose sight of organisational basics. .

  190. Feodor on said:

    Karl Stewart: Feodor, I agree with many of your points. But do your criticisms of the left lead you to any positive suggestions?

    Maybe. But they entail recognising a few (possibly ‘negative’) realities:

    1) If a viable, independent left formation was to arise post-crisis, it would have by now. I can’t see how anything useful is going emerge in time for the next general election. If socialists want to exert some influence, they’re going to have to look elsewhere, to existing formations.

    2) Labour and Unite seem the obvious choices. A well-thought out socialist programme could have some influence over their members, leaders and supporters. A Labour gov. of some form is certainly the only realistic alternative to a Conservative gov. in some form. But what point is a Labour gov. if it follows Tory policies?

    3) Well, here is the problem–and it is one socialists should be better able to help with: At present, is there really a coherent economic alternative? Granted, I think there’s a reasonable idea of the general changes that need to be made–rebalance the economy back towards manufacture, greater distribution of wealth, firmer regulation, etc. But it’s the mechanics and specifics that people seem light on.

    In particular, I don’t think there’s necessarily an obvious answer to where investment and fiscal stimulus is going to come from. Borrowing, printing money and/or taxation can only be done up to an extent. If people think a programme of public works could work, we need to start saying what works–an ambitious idea, like a HS2 someone actually wants, would be good. But we also need ideas for how to kickstart pvt sector investment and recovery. (Lots of people charge the pvt sector has significant savings it is not investing, but I’d be interested to know how much of those ‘savings’ are comprised of inventory, because until old products are sold new ones won’t be made.)

    Imo the further globalisation of the world economy means simple parallels with the 30’s have problems. Is there not a risk, e.g., stimulus programmes could unintentionally end-up stimulating foreign manufacture more than your own? I don’t think my grasp of these issues is at all good; I’m doing my best to educate myself. But if better economic minds than mine put their heads together, and if they could devise an alternative economic strategy capable of popularisation, that I think would be a hugely positive development.

    Because if we can’t credibly say what we’d do different–and how we’d manage to do it, I don’t think British socialists should expect much more than the public’s derision.

  191. Feodor on said:

    PS., another ‘negative’ reality: I don’t think ‘tax the rich’ is the obvious solution some would say it is. It would lead to problems of capital flight and underinvestment. Indeed, to my mind an interesting way to boost the economy might be lowering corporate taxes and interest rates but raising land taxes as well as those on luxury goods.

  192. Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool) on said:

    Feodor

    Feodor, you said the “we” were “British left, socialists in Britain, type of folks who read SU–take your pick” (#216), then in answer to Karl (#221) your economic suggestions didn’t have any socialist or proto-socialist content, they would simply adjust the UK capitalist economy to presumably make more profit & increase GDP (significantly you don’t speak of reducing unemployment at any point – or of planning, be it participatory or by command from state managers).

    You also didn’t say what the aim or aims of this “alternative economic strategy” would be. From what you said one can only presume that it is to make capital in the UK more competitive; that makes you a capitalist moderniser, not a socialist of any shade. And when you say “stimulus programmes could unintentionally end-up stimulating foreign manufacture more than your own”, your capitalist moderniser guise presents itself as a nationalist one – I thought a basic of socialist ideas was the unity of the working class, not the unity of a national working class with its employers? Your talk of “foreign manufacture” in contrast to “your own” shows that your viewpoint is that of a British national capitalist, not that of a worker who happens to be a UK citizen. But that is your choice. All I ask is that you don’t confuse it with you being a socialist.

    Your train of thought was purely technocratic, nothing to do with workers & ‘their hardworking families’. Your words leave me at a loss as to why you identify with ‘the left’ or socialism.

    I say all this not to score points but to clarify. We all deal with huge problems with very limited knowledge; unlike many who like to give the impression they have profundity & deep knowledge you should be commended for saying what is true for all of us, that we are all learning. And we learn most from one another when we are courteous, & that is how it has been in this thread, which is good.

  193. Feodor on said:

    I uphold a broad definition of socialism, probably too broad for most peoples’ tastes. What I like to do is start from the beginning, with what is possible and what can be done, not at the end, with what my ideal social order would be.

    I didn’t provide a long list of economic measures, because to me the first hurdle we need to confront is the investment problem. I wouldn’t have thought that it needed to be said that to reduce unemployment and improve the standard of living GDP growth is needed–or that saying so ‘makes [me] a capitalist moderniser’. I always thought the socialist who likes the economy to flat-line was a Tory myth!? Like your use of the word ‘nationalist’, your rejection of national economic policies is rather inane. What is the point of stimulus if it doesn’t affect what it is supposed to affect, but something else instead? How long would a democratically-elected socialist government last if its economic policies were not benefiting–or at least not adversely affecting–a substantial cross-section of the population? I can’t really tell whether your ‘workerism’ is genuine or for affect. I don’t really see the point of discussing workers’ management and/or central planning when neither of those appear remotely plausible options in the short- to medium-term. I don’t see how any socialist economic strategy for a modern economy could work if it failed to take classes other than the working into account, and it’s certainly the case that during economic crises the working class tends to be weaker and more in need of allies.

    Thus, we arrive at the crux of the problem: I’m interested in what can realistically be achieved in the here and now; you value an abstract ideal and denounce everything that falls short of your particular schematic as heresy. I couldn’t care less what that makes you or what it makes me. Have the term ‘socialist’ if you like. It won’t be enough to distract from the underlying nihilism of your politics, of a politics that a priori dismisses everything as shit and pointless.

    Is this what people consider ‘providing the class with answers’?

  194. Feodor: What I like to do is start from the beginning, with what is possible and what can be done, not at the end, with what my ideal social order would be.

    Our problem to today is that if we start with even the most modest list of things we want done, which we think could be done we find that the obstacles to this are insurmountable within the existing parameters of political action.
    We want a war stopped. Hardly possible, as Iraq showed, unless our rulers are divided over the question, as Syria showed.
    We want decent public services and infrastructure. Hardly possible except and unless we are prepared to sign up to onerous and ultimately self defeating PFI deals.
    We want public utilities and transport to be retired to public ownership. Not unless at least one party is prepared to breach the neo-liberal consensus and defy the EU and its treaties.
    We want the bankers and bi business to bear the costs of the crisis that they caused. See above.

    It seems that not much is possible within the existing order.
    Perhaps our slogan should be
    Be impossible, demand the reasonable!

  195. Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool) on said:

    Feodor,
    #224

    1) “your rejection of national economic policies is rather inane”: I never commented on either the desirability or unavoidability of such a thing, so it’s not clear why you said this.

    2) “your ‘workerism’”: what do you mean, what have I said that could justify this label?

    3) “the crux of the problem: I’m interested in what can realistically be achieved in the here and now”: as I asked, what are your aims, what do you want achieved?

    4) “you value an abstract ideal and denounce everything that falls short of your particular schematic as heresy”: why do you say that? Just to help me & any other reader, would you please quote something I have said to that effect.

    5) “the underlying nihilism of your politics”: again, why do you say that? And again, please quote something I have said.

    6) “your politics, [. . .] a politics that a priori dismisses everything as shit and pointless”: ditto, as #4 & 5.

    7) You’ve been abusive in talking of nihilism, shit & pointlessness. I have said nothing to deserve that. I hope you can refrain from such talk.

    8) Please respect people by addressing what they say, not what you may want them to say.

  196. Manzil on said:

    Feodor: a politics that a priori dismisses everything as shit and pointless.

    Irony overload.

    You want a “well-thought out socialist programme” to influence an incoming Labour government, yet highlight no likely source for such a programme, nor how it is to influence the party. Even the mild shifts in Labour attitudes have essentially been driven from above, through the humdrum tactical manoeuvring of the parliamentary leadership. Unite’s strategy to accelerate the break with ‘New Labour’ has encountered serious obstacles, with Falkirk showing how easily the Blairite ultras can bounce Labour into a demagogic attack on the trade unions. Opportunities for influencing the party seem quite remote.

    Not to mention, flogging a ‘socialist programme’ consisting of lowering corporation taxes to ‘kick-start private sector investment’ seems a rather unnecessary duplication of effort: it happens to be the policy of the existing government.

    Concerning UKIP: Evidently the mainstream parties have no direct interest in an electorally successful UKIP (or indeed, any party; they are competitors, after all). And to this extent UKIP has been ‘unsuccessful’. However I thought it quite plain that this was not my point: as a cultural phenomenon, a marker of the state of political thought, the massively disproportionate success of UKIP’s ‘right populism’ has occurred precisely because it is the exaggerated, if unintended, logical conclusion to the policies and attitudes adopted by the bulk of the political elite. I am genuinely surprised you feel it is controversial to note that UKIP feeds off the political mainstream.

    Feodor: So you’re basically saying what people do doesn’t matter, it’s the social and historical ‘forces’ which determine everything.

    No, I’m not. I said the pros and cons of small socialist groups are irrelevant precisely because they’re too small (in numbers, resources, influence etc.) to influence anything. Address the arguments people make, rather than the caricatures you conjure up.

  197. Feodor on said:

    Nick Wright: It seems that not much is possible within the existing order.

    I don’t agree with that; your premises are assumed more than they are demonstrated.

    Could not Britain have joined France, Germany et al. in 2001? Could we not also look at how other nations seem to produce viable and effective public-private partnerships yet we get the shambles that is PFI? Nationalising transport and utilities seems less feasible, I’ll accept that. But note, Britain is a stickler for playing by EU free trade rules British governments tend to be strong advocates of–British shipbuilding was decimated for this reason, while the Germans simply ignore EU rules on this because they think shipbuilding a strategically imp. industry. Finally, it would be nice if they bore all the costs, but can they? Sure, higher rates of taxation on business and high-earners would help, but there is a point of diminishing returns, and to my mind the best way to deal with the costs of the crisis is to return the economy to a vibrant state, so that growth itself renders those costs less of a problem. As long as the economy is growing faster than the debt, there shouldn’t be a problem … right? As I noted above, there might even be a case for making ‘landlords’ carry the burden, as they could finance public spending programmes without significantly decreasing private capital investment.

    There’s more room manoeuvre than you think. But if you’re right, that not much is possible, what’s the alternative? Wait for the right conditions to materialise a la Second International orthodox Marxism? The next general election seems too imp. for our response to be, well, in 20 years time we might have a movement that could do something. But that seems the inevitable result of refusing to engage with politics as is.

    Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool): Please respect people by addressing what they say, not what you may want them to say.

    That’s a bit rich! You should check your own house is in order before casting aspersions. I can’t see that you’ve contributed anything to this discussion except pedantry and inane digressions. You certainly haven’t dealt with the substance of my argument, that there’s little point talking about building a movement when no one has a clue what that movement would do if it ever achieved state power. Do you think people are stupid? That significant numbers of people can be duped into supporting a political movement that has no actual policies? At least the old CP could say they’d do it like in the USSR, could offer something tangible.

    As for this:

    Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool): You’ve been abusive in talking of nihilism, shit & pointlessness. I have said nothing to deserve that. I hope you can refrain from such talk.

    …pull the other one. In what alternate universe does saying your views are nihilistic and defeatist count as a personal attack, while ‘[you’re] a capitalist moderniser, not a socialist of any shade’, ‘your viewpoint is that of a British national capitalist’ and ‘Your train of thought was purely technocratic’ remain perfectly valid political criticisms? Take your crocodile tears elsewhere.

    Manzil: You want a “well-thought out socialist programme” to influence an incoming Labour government, yet highlight no likely source for such a programme, nor how it is to influence the party.

    You can’t count on me for all the answers, esp. to questions not yet raised! 😉

    I prefer to walk before I can run, however. Lets try and formulate some good ideas, then try to put them into practice. There’s not much point in thinking about the latter until the former is sorted, though in the age of the internet distributing it easily and widely should pose few problems. Shockingly, I’d even argue that how well the ideas were received would depend mostly on how coherent they are. There is a sizeable constituency waiting to hear a credible economic alternative. If the British Left can’t formulate one in time for the next election, it really isn’t fit for purpose. (We’ve had since 2008 ffs!)

    As for the source, I’ve already said, better economic minds than mine. There used to be many highly-competent socialist economists. Are there none left whose brains we can pick? (Or no neo-Keynesians from whose work we can pilfer!?) Surely I can’t be the only person who thinks political currents need to have economic programmes…?

    Not to mention, flogging a ‘socialist programme’ consisting of lowering corporation taxes to ‘kick-start private sector investment’ seems a rather unnecessary duplication of effort: it happens to be the policy of the existing government.

    I wrote: ‘…to my mind an interesting way to boost the economy might be lowering corporate taxes and interest rates but raising land taxes as well as those on luxury goods.’ To quote your good self, Manzil: ‘Address the arguments people make, rather than the caricatures you conjure up.’

    PS. Do you know why standard economic theory favours low corporate taxes rates during a crisis, and do you have a critique of what seems a reasonably sound thesis, or are you just throwing mud hoping some will stick? Because I’m interested in a serious intellectual discussion on these matters, one in which I’ll happily admit my limitations. I could care less for a flame war, I’ve got better things to do.

    I am genuinely surprised you feel it is controversial to note that UKIP feeds off the political mainstream.

    Again, your reading comprehension leaves something to be desired. If you re-read what I wrote, it was merely the simple point that if there is a right-leaning ‘political mainstream’ an–as political science folks like to say–‘insurgent party’ like UKIP can feed off, there is also a left-leaning ‘political mainstream’ that a left populist party could potentially feed off (and in other countries does feed off). Yet the British left seems almost unique in its failure to do so, all the while rationalising its failure by reference to some meta-historical factor or another. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because there’s nothing much underpinning the rhetoric. It’s political hot air and people see it as just that, which is why the British left remains small and ineffectual.

    (And before you get carried away, I don’t envisage a left populist party employing anti-immigrant rhetoric, more crude ‘rich versus poor’ rhetoric.)

  198. Etonian Roumanian (very olde skool) on said:

    Feodor,

    Perhaps it’s best if you are left with your phantoms, given that you choose to give rational discussion, evidenced argument, & courtesy, a wide berth.

    Have a nice evening.

  199. Feodor: There’s more room manoeuvre than you think.

    I agree. There is more room to manoeuvre, even within the EU, as Germany, France and others with either effective investment strategies or dirigiste industrial policies have demonstrated.
    But with Britain’s economy (and its translantic ruling class) dependent on a parasitic finance sector and wedded to the export of capital and Labour’s leadership bound into the neo liberal orthodoxy any realistic strategy for political advance cannot depend exlusiovely on a change of government.

    Which is why the People’s Assembly movement offers a practical and productive way to begin to change the political landscape.

    There are credible strategies for a Labour movement to follow and for the unions and popular movements to press upon a Labour Party and prospective government.
    The people’s Assembly movement has a simple set of demands that already are the consensus position of most trade unions and the TUC.

    The Manifesto Press givaway book Building an economy for the people 
    An alternative economic and political strategy for 21st Century Britain brings this together.
    http://www.manifestopress.org.uk

  200. Feodor on said:

    I’ve read a few chapters, Nick. It’s very good. Pension funds seems one of the more novel ways of providing the necessary capital for public investment programmes. Community investment schemes possibly represent another. One question on the idea of a public investment banking sector: why not just have the Bank of England do this? You could even capitalise it quickly through selling gov. bonds at rates that attract wealthy investors, if that’s not counter-productive. (If the economy grew enough before they matured it would be ok, I think…!?) Also, while green technologies represent an important sector for gov. investment, to rebuild manufacture–and to some extent emulating the German economy–help (favourable rates, loans, etc.) should be specifically given to British-based SME’s which aim to employ skilled labour producing high-quality, durable goods both for domestic and export markets. Quite the opposite of a race to the bottom: a race to manufacture the best. And of course good products=good wages. If they are part- or fully-employee owned companies then even better. Finally, my only criticism, it needs to be shorter and more pointed to work as a programme. But I’d definitely agree it represents a ‘credible strategy’. (Not the first time folks associated with the CPGB tradition have provided that for everyone else!)

  201. Karl Stewart on said:

    Some excellent points Nick. The People’s Assembly movement is articulating the progressive economic and political strategy that we need at this time.

    And it’s a tribute to the hard work of those behind the PA initiative to see the support it has been winning across the TU movement.

    But how can this progressive agenda move from the trade union conference agenda pad out there among the general public?

    Are there any plans for a “People’s Assembly” electoral intervention?

  202. Before Feodor defended himself on this point I was going to do so for him. Lowering corporation tax would indeed be a reactionary position in the absence of an alternative method of taxation that would hit the rich.

    However, combining it with a land tax (let alone one on luxury items-depending on how these were to be defined-) could be such an alternative, although I would also suggest that it would need to be combined with reducing income tax for lower earners, as inevitably landlords would attempt to pass on the cost of paying such a tax to tenants by raisng rents.

    I’m not 100% sure of how workable or effective it would be, but I do know that it is a policy with a long history of support from some on the left, including the main economic commentator in the Morning Star..

  203. Nick Wright on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    I cannot imagine anything more likely, at this stage, to disrupt the unity of the Peoples Assembly movement than for it to be diverted into an electoral vehicle

  204. #234 I agree. Making an intervention into the election (assuming the anti democratic lobbying legislation doesn’t prevent it) is another thing however.

  205. #234 I agree. Making an intervention into the election (assuming the anti democratic lobbying legislation doesn’t prevent it) is another thing however.

  206. Karl Stewart on said:

    Breaking news…Socialist Worker bosses sack their subs

    Shocking splash header in the latest SW: “Licenced to kill”

    And it gets worse…
    ‘After Duggan case, cops are Licenced to Kill
    A jury’s conclusion that Mark Duggan was “lawfully killed” when he was gunned down by cops shows that the police have a license to kill.’
    (http://socialistworker.co.uk/)

    Was their chief sub an oppositionist???

  207. Feodor on said:

    Vanya: …including the main economic commentator in the Morning Star.

    Thanks for the recondite fact–and the opportunity to use my new word for the day! 😉

    My thinking is actually influenced by some older CPGB publications. In the immediate postwar period, Pollitt, Klugmann et al. were arguing that luxury consumption should be suppressed, with the focus on essential goods and services instead. Pollitt would often note that a Britain of ‘craftsmen with generations of skill behind them’ could achieve great things. I don’t know if that store of human capital is once what it was. In many respects, I don’t think it’s simply a question of creating skilled manufacturing jobs, because it also seems a significant proportion of the workforce will need to be trained to do those jobs. Indeed, the loss of manufacturing skill and knowledge since the Thatcher years will possibly be harder to remedy than the loss of the industries themselves. It may well take a generation for this to correct itself.

    Pollitt et al. didn’t say much on corporate tax, from memory anyway. I don’t see any point in making it into a sacred issue. At dif. points in the business cycle it makes sense that dif. tax rates will affect productivity in dif. ways. If lower corporate tax rates result in higher wages and stronger industries, then, provided the state was still able to raise the funds it needs, I can’t see why anyone would object. Lowering corporate tax at times of crisis is also probably the best way of helping businesses turn the corner without them either having to make significant lay-offs and/or wage cuts. Though I think it’s a mistake to think that it could act as a proper stimulus in and of itself, it’s obvious cutting corporate tax helps lower prices and return businesses to profitability.

    The flexible/sticky wages and prices issue in a recession is actually really interesting. I’d love to know if anyone has any novel arguments about whether it would be possible to make both more responsive to profits/growth, in a way that would be ultimately beneficial to wage-earners by giving them better job security and shortening recessions without deflating real wages too much. Though I haven’t got high hopes such issues can be discussed in a mature manner here, we need a good understanding on this to combat those who see zero-hours contracts as the best/only solution.

    Lastly, a flat tax on space, with regional variations and certain exemptions for pensioners, children, disabled, etc., might be a good idea (it might just as much be one of those silly schemes that only works in the head!). Basically, the more space you have at your disposal–whether indoor or outdoor–the more tax you pay. All those huge country homes which people live in yet can’t afford to heat, complete with unused rooms and massive grounds, would soon find better uses. There would be an obvious incentive for people to only use the space they need, though for such a policy to work the market for other ‘spaces’ would need to be a buyer’s market, else you’ll get a bedroom tax type situation. A space tax could also be manipulated, of course, to make investment opportunities in certain regions esp. favourable. In turn this might help rebalance the economy away from the south.

  208. #239 Surely a land tax would need to be more complex than simply adding up the total amount of space?

    Wouldn’t the value of land would need to be assessed as well as the quantity?

    Btw the person I referred to is Jerry Jones, whose stuff may be available from the MS.

  209. Feodor on said:

    Good point. That’s why I mentioned regional variations–‘space’ in Newcastle would have to be cheaper than ‘space’ in London, e.g. So there would have to be some kind of mechanism for determining relative values. But are there significant variations of land value within localities, not related to what has been built on the land but to the quality of the land itself? I can see why this could be the case with land in areas of natural beauty, at the waterfront, etc. But I figure it’s something that could be sorted relatively easily with a banding system. It seems unlikely you’d have, e.g., three houses of the same size, in the same street, which are built on land which significantly differs in value. Or am I missing something?

    And thanks for the reference, I’ll have to check out some of his stuff.

  210. Feodor on said:

    PS. The point of a ‘space tax’ would be twofold: make best use of available space; encourage more economic activity in areas where there is low activity. Because this involves variation in tax rates across regions, it was a mistake on my part to call it a ‘flat tax’, which evidently it is the exact opposite of!

  211. Feodor: Or am I missing something?

    Quality of agricultural land in terms of potential yield, suitability for grazing/ particular crops? Whether land suitable for building due to subsidence etc? Flooding issues?

  212. Feodor on said:

    I think a good banding system could take most of that into account. In my head, I expect land of similar quality to be mostly clustered together. But if there were big differences within a small locality the whole system would probably become too complex to operate. Time for me to brush-up on my geological knowledge… 😛

  213. Feodor on said:

    PS. Nick and others, you may be interested in this graph, showing UK housing completion rates between 1950 and 2010, by sector: http://mainlymacro.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/cutting-public-investment-has.html (sry, don’t know how to embed an image)

    I found it fascinating. Big question in my mind is the capital formerly used to build social housing, what is it being used for now? Is it being invested in similarly essential goods and services? Or luxury products?

  214. Karl Stewart: So where does it go from here Nick?

    This is a fledgling movement, admittedly with big successes but with a huge and yet unrealised potential.
    We can answer that question when every town and village, every neighbourhood and college, every factory depot and office has a People’s Assembly and when there is a mass movement powerful enough to shape the political process.

    This is not a simple arithmetical progression. At every stage in the growth of a popular movement the geometry of power changes.
    Every step which strengthens the unity of working people to act in their class interests contributes to that process. Every step which threatens that unity in action, such as for instance, moves to jump stages or impose demands which cannot command united support and which threatens that unity should be resisted.

  215. Karl Stewart on said:

    Nick Wright,
    I don’t understand why a limited electoral intervention, standing “PA” candidates perhaps in this year’s Euro-elections would necessarily be either divisive or diversionary.

    Granted they might not win seats, but it would surely help to get the progressive economic and policial alternative message across – and it could even help to build links with progressives in other parts of Europe.

    I certainly think it’s a far more productive use of our time than the “left-UKIP” No2EU platform – that is a divisive and diversionary initiative.

  216. Stephen on said:

    Karl Stewart: I don’t understand why a limited electoral intervention, standing “PA” candidates perhaps in this year’s Euro-elections would necessarily be either divisive or diversionary.

    Aside from the shift of effort into arguing about doing it – then where to stand, then how to pick the candidates and then dealing with the fact that all of the LP affiliated TU’s currently supportive would immediately end their involvement. But apart from that…

  217. Any comments on the light the Rennard case throws on the SWP’s disastrous handling of Delta? I’m particularly interested in how organisations should pursue serious allegations that are not being handled by the criminal justice system.

  218. Karl Stewart on said:

    Stephen,
    Yes that’s a fair point Stephen, maybe even not standing candidates as such, but seeking formal endorsement from Labour candidates for People’s Assembly policies?

    That would be another form of electoral intervention, and raising the popular profil of the campaign – perhaps that’s what Vanya was getting at in his post at (235)

  219. Karl Stewart: perhaps that’s what Vanya was getting at in his post at (235)

    In a way. I was thinking more of the PA canvassing the views of electoral candidates and publicising which ones have policies that coincide with those of the PA. Caroline Lucas supports the PA doesn’t she? And I’m sure many of not most Plaid candidates would fall within the PA’s political ambit. And let’s not forget that Scottish chap with a constituency in West Yorkshire.

  220. Karl Stewart: I don’t understand why a limited electoral intervention, standing “PA” candidates perhaps in this year’s Euro-elections would necessarily be either divisive or diversionary.

    Karl, yes you do. Imagine, for instance, how the leadership of a Labour Party affiliated trade union, for example the CWU, would react to being asked at this stage to support a candidate standing against one of its sponsored candidates, and calculate how much damage this would do to the prospects of actively involving the union and its members in People’s assembly activities.

    Contrast this to the immensely more productive potential of a strategy in which CWU branches were invited to put People’s Assembly policy points, which in the main are already CWU policies, to candidates in each constituency.

    Of course, this would raise very important questions, not least, the fidelity of labour candidates to the policies unions and the PA want to press on them. One of them, to which you allude, in your provocative presentation of the No2EU, Yes to Workers Rights initiative, is the ways in which Britain’s membership of the European Union underpins neo-liberal policies.

    It is precisely because of the persistence of illusions about ‘social’ Europe – and the potential to effect changes within in the strait jacket of the EU – held by some trade unionists (of both social democratic and trotskyite persuasion) that the No2EU, Yes to Workers Rights campaign is so necessary to ensure that electors have an opportunity oppose this central strategy of the banks and big business without siding with the UKIP reactionaries.

    But you know this perfectly well.

  221. #244 Yes, assuming it would be a good idea in principle, moving from principle to practical application would require a great deal of work.

  222. Nick Wright: Imagine, for instance, how the leadership of a Labour Party affiliated trade union, for example the CWU, would react to being asked at this stage to support a candidate standing against one of its sponsored candidates, and calculate how much damage this would do to the prospects of actively involving the union and its members in People’s assembly activities.
    Contrast this to the immensely more productive potential of a strategy in which CWU branches were invited to put People’s Assembly policy points, which in the main are already CWU policies, to candidates in each constituency.

    Karl can answer for himself Nick, but I think he’s already conceded this point.

    On No2EU, the problem as I see it is that the concept of a socialist opposition to the EU is understood by such a tiny section of the population that your message will be entirely drowned out as it was in the last EU elections. Premising an anti-austerity message primarally on an anti-EU platform will be seen as an irrelevance. And at the end of the day if leaving the EU is the primary goal, why dilute the level of support by standing separately from others who have this goal? There won’t be a separate box on the referendum ballot paper to express your differences will there?

    And if the reality is (as I believe) that the primary task at the moment is to promote the anti-austerity message, together with other progressive policies, which is presumably why you don’t associate with UKIP, then that should inform the weight you give to posing the question of opposition to the EU.

  223. Vanya: And at the end of the day if leaving the EU is the primary goal, why dilute the level of support by standing separately from others who have this goal? There won’t be a separate box on the referendum ballot paper to express your differences will there?

    Actually, at one level the primary goal is state power for the working class. Something that is totally incompatible with an European Union constituted as the instrument of neo-liberalism and buttressed by NATO membership, that in extremes permits ‘collective’ military intervention into the internal affairs of member states.

    I don’t think ‘leaving the EU’ is anticipated as the unproblematic end result of this endeavour for the forces expressed either by UKIP or expressed through Cameron’s manoeuvres. This is more about lowering the constraints imposed on British capital and labour costs by the German hegemony over the operation of markets. (As German wages levels have been declining towards EU norms their relatively high labour productivity based on higher levels of investment and lower levels of capital export still gives them a competitive advantage).
    Even the remnants of ‘social Europe’ are too much for these people.

    No2EU, Yes to Workers Rights is an initiative designed to demonstrate, within the inevitable constraints imposed by the election system and the balance of forces, that opposition to austerity policies divorced from active opposition to the role of the EU neo-liberal project is an exercise in self deception.

    There is an interesting discussion in French left wing circles about the way in which the weakening of its EU critical stance by the PCF and the forces it led (particularly the CGT) opened the door to the Front national.

    We should have the same discussion.

  224. Nick Wright: Actually, at one level the primary goal is state power for the working class. Something that is totally incompatible with an European Union constituted as the instrument of neo-liberalism and buttressed by NATO membership, that in extremes permits ‘collective’ military intervention into the internal affairs of member states.

    Whereas if Britain wasn’t in the EU the British ruling class would sit back and allow the working class to take state power?

    I have to say I’m a bit bemused by this talk about state power in any event, as it makes me question what analysis of the character of the period we are living through people have.

    And I would be interested in the discussion in France that you refer to. But I question the extent of its relevance here, given the respective size of the far right or the left of social democratic left in the two countries.

    Just as I question those in Britain who admire Syriza in Greece (leaving aside whether they are right or wrong in doing so) who think that it can be replicated here.

  225. Vanya: Whereas if Britain wasn’t in the EU the British ruling class would sit back and allow the working class to take state power?
    I have to say I’m a bit bemused by this talk about state power in any event, as it makes me question what analysis of the character of the period we are living through people have.

    I don’t think it should be necessary – even on this website – to apologise for suggesting that how we struggle for the immediate interests of the working class might be somehow bound up with the goal of assuming state power.

    It is sensible to assume that ruling classes will use whatever mechanisms they have at their disposal to defend their grip on state power. It is equally sensible to work on the principle that any interim measures to weaken the power of the most powerful sections of that class might have a beneficial effect on both the pursuit of our immediate interests and our higher goal.

    All of which touches on the touching belief of Syriza’s fans here that Greece could escape the domination of German capital whilst remaining in the Eurozone and within the EU.

  226. Karl Stewart on said:

    Nick Wright,
    Vanya,
    Some excellent points, following on from Stephen’s earlier post, explaining further why it’s a bad idea to stand ‘PA’ candidates – point taken, and having given this some thought I quite agree.
    And also some strong arguments setting out why it’s a far better idea to seek endorsement from TU-backed candidates for ‘PA’ policies and positions – I quite agree with this too.

    Nick, you disagree with my ‘left-UKIP’ characterisation of No2EU and of course you have a point, if one looks in detail at No2EU’s non-EU-related policies in comparison to UKIP’s non-EU-related policies.

    But from personal experience, most voters only hear the ‘NoEU’ part of the message.
    When I was assisting with Nick Wrack’s No2EU south London candidature in 2009 for example, most members of the public I spoke while out campaigning asked me if I was UKIP.
    This came up in most of the conversations I had with people. Sometimes, even after I said: “No, we’re No2EU – Yes to democracy” some people would still say they thought I was UKIP, or part of UKIP in some way.
    One irony was an elderly woman who listened to me and then said: “What we need around here is the Communist Party back again – my husband used to be in it.”
    I also recall a conversation I had with a group of Polish builders, who told me they agreed with all of our workers’ rights policies, “but we love the EU, because we get work”.

    Nick, people who primarily oppose the EU already have a party to vote for that exists primarily in opposition to the EU – it’s UKIP.

    No2EU will once again achieve a derisory vote and will once again pointlessly alienate the rest of the left, and will once again just confuse and bemuse the few voters who their campaigners speak to.

    It’s just such a great pity that the main political driving force behind the excellent People’s Assembly initiative will be wasting time and energy this year on this nonsense.

  227. Karl Stewart: But from personal experience, most voters only hear the ‘NoEU’ part of the message.

    You are right that, in the absence of a powerful campaign from the Labour movement and the left on the relationship between EU membership and neo-liberal policies that voters will not quickly appreciate that not all criticisms of the EU come from the standpoint of UKIP. All the more important therefore to make the No2EU yes to Workers Rights campaign even more vigorous.

    Essentially you are arguing that an existing low level of political and class consciousness means we should try not to contest the illusions that exist on the back of these low levels.

    I know the concept of a vanguard party is unfashionable in some circles but such a conscious abandonment of the impulse to thought and action is rare.

    Life is full of paradoxes. A group of Polish workers, from a country that has seen unemployment grow from 9.7% in 2010 to 10.1% in 2012 (and youth unemployment grow from negligible under socialism to 23.7% in 2010 and 27.5% in 2012), are happy that the freedom of foreign capital to move to Poland (and thus destroy Polish industry) comes with their freedom to migrate to Britain to work at rates lower than would have obtained if this freedom of movement did not exist.

    Alex Gordon of the RMT has written a very good review of John Foster’s excellent new pamphlet entitled Why exiting the EU is the key to combating austerity.

    http://21centurymanifesto.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/why-eu-exit-is-the-key-to-combating-austerity/

  228. Karl Stewart on said:

    Thanks for the link Nick. An informative, if depressing, read.

    I see Alex Gordon criticises both the People’s Assembly and the People’s Charter for being insufficiently anti-EU!

    As a former member and still a supporter and huge admirer of the Communist Party, I just hope they can avoid being damaged by this reactionary xenophobic nonsense.

  229. Karl Stewart: I see Alex Gordon criticises both the People’s Assembly and the People’s Charter for being insufficiently anti-EU!

    Alex Gordon is both an extremely able trade union leader and exceptionally well informed about European politics in general and the EU (something different altogether) in particular. His critique of the failure of the labour and progressive movement, as a whole, to connect its analysis of austerity with the EU dimension to the imposition of neo-liberal policies is rather more profound than the insight that it might be “insufficiently anti-EU”.

    I think, Karl, that you may have allowed yourself to assimilate the assiduously promoted media discourse that conflates criticism of the European Union with ‘anti-Europeanism’.

    It may be that in constructing a broad-based campaign, such as the People’s Charter and the people’s assembly, that allies might agree to focus on what they agree about rather than any areas of dispute. This is good politics.

    Nevertheless, I think our democratic traditions in the Labour movement are sufficiently robust for a lively debate to be conducted alongside united action.

    One point that Alex makes concerns the progressive dissolution of illusions about a ‘social’ European Union in the countries where this has been more central to Labour movement orthodoxy and where the influence of Catholic ‘social’ thinking has had more purchase than in Britain.

    It pays us to look carefully at places where illusions about the EU and a failure to tackle the deep structural problems that are worsened by capitalist economic integration lead to labour and socialist passivity.

    In Italy, for instance, part of the demagogic appeal of Grillo (with his oddly fascistic outriders), lies in his one sided hostility to the relationship of Italy’s corrupt elite with the EU. In France the rise of the Front national is aided by its colonisation of the anti EU discourse and the failure of large sections of the left to connect its anti austerity campaigning with a credible set of alternative policies.

    In Britain we need to take the argument to the people who, because of their daily experiences, are vulnerable to UKIP and BNP propaganda. (In this respect Owen Jones has developed a particularly effective approach to these people elements of which should be incorporated into local campaigning everywhere).

    Silence and passivity on these issues is a gift to the right.

  230. Karl Stewart on said:

    Nick, whatever Alex Gordon’s many other qualities (I’ve met him a couple of times and he seems a decent enough, likeable guy) he does indeed criticise both the People’s Assembly and the People’s Charter for being insufficiently anti-EU in the article which you link to.

    The People’s Assembly is criticised for not inviting anti-EU speakers to address its events as guest speakers and the People’s Charter is criticised for not mentioning the EU.

    On the more general point, both you and your fellow left-anti-EU campaigners share a common misunderstanding as to the position of the left as a whole and the labour movement in general.

    Nck, the left as a whole and the labour movement in general isn’t “failing to campaign for EU withdrawal'” the movement just doesn’t agree with you in principle on this issue. Only one UK trade union advocates EU withdrawal.

    What the essential argument comes down to is that, in principle, all else being equal, the unification of different nations and the abolition of national borders and boundaries is fundamentally a progressive step.

    And the concept of the “defence of the nation state” is, in principle, fundamentally a reactionary position.

    EU withdrawal was popular on the left back when there was a political division between the capitalist and socialist camps – at that time of course opposition to the capitalist EU was the correct position, because weakening the EU meant weakening the anti-socialist camp. on the right of the political spectrum.

    But that is not today’s reality.

    Today, EU withdrawal is only popular on the political right. Among the xenophobes and racists and also it’s a popular policy among those who see the EU as an exercise in social democracy and who would remove all existing workers’ rights.

    Your No2EU campaign chooses to make common cause with these people and chooses to reject the rest of the left, and to reject the virtually unanimous view of the trade union movement.

  231. Karl Stewart: Today, EU withdrawal is only popular on the political right. Among the xenophobes and racists and also it’s a popular policy among those who see the EU as an exercise in social democracy and who would remove all existing workers’ rights.

    Your No2EU campaign chooses to make common cause with these people and chooses to reject the rest of the left, and to reject the virtually unanimous view of the trade union movement.

    Absolutely correct.

  232. Karl Stewart,

    Karl, you say that “EU withdrawal is only popular on the political right.”
    According to You Gov polling “Most of the time, the voters who want to leave the EU comfortably outnumber those who want to stay in.”

    The YouGov’s poll, conducted on April 21-22, put the margin at 43-35%. They say “This eight point gap is actually lower than normal: in recent years the margin has normally been 15-20 points. And the bad news for those who want the UK to remain in the EU is that the gap currently seems to have been widening again”.

    Unless you think that the entire working class, and all progressive opinion, falls into the smaller section of people who support EU membership you have to accept that this issue is not resolved by name calling or the casual use of simple categories.

    Thus, if I was to accuse those in the Labour movement who support Britain’s continued membership of the EU of making common cause with a right wing political spectrum that has run from Oswald Mosley’s European Movement, through the pro-NATO tendency in the trade unions, right wing social democracy, big business, the banks, the US State Department, Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet, the CBI, Tony Blair and the entire spectrum of ‘respectable’ political opinion you might think that I was avoiding discussion of the substantive issues at stake.

    It is because you deploy this kind of specious argument in relation to labour movement and left wing critics of the EU that I think you are avoiding concrete discussion of the issues.

    Abstract slogans like “the unification of different nations and the abolition of national borders and boundaries is fundamentally a progressive step” or the “defence of the nation state” is, in principle, fundamentally a reactionary position” simply won’t do.

    It would be wearisome to rehearse the arguments best summed up in Lenin’s telling phrase that a “Socialist” United States of Europe would be either impossible or reactionary but it seems to me that people who think that conducting struggle on the terrain of EU membership offers the best prospects for the winning the goal of working class power should at least sketch out how this might be done.

    If, on the other hand, they are content with arguing that, given the subaltern position of the working class in Britain and other European countries, that the prospects for defending marginal gains are better within the existing power relations as enshrined in the institutions of the EU then they should at least accept that they are reformists.

    Andy Newman, in his reposting of the TULRO petition above, at least, advances some reasons why withdrawal from the EU might threaten the ways in which some of our employment conditions are presently enshrined in law.

    If we are prepared to accept this as defining the limits of our discussion then we have to weigh in the balance the changing framework of European law.

    This is the ground on which a reasonable discussion can be conducted. For example, it has been argued that the Viking and Laval cases plot EU law on the right to strike at the same place as English domestic law over 100 years ago.
    http://www.ier.org.uk/sites/ier.org.uk/files/The%20Draft%20Monti%2011%20Regulatioin%20by%20Keith%20Ewing%20March%202012.pdf

    Karl, you assert that “EU withdrawal was popular on the left back when there was a political division between the capitalist and socialist camps – at that time of course opposition to the capitalist EU was the correct position, because weakening the EU meant weakening the anti-socialist camp.”

    The spectrum in favour of Common Market membership was narrower at the time of the original referendum than today’s opinion in favour of EU membership. The relative balance of power between the working class and its c lass enemies was much more favourable not least because of the existence of the Soviet Union and the socialist countries.The power of the monopolies and the finance sector was at a lower level, political and class consciousness at a higher level.

    Thus it eludes me as why people on the left think that with the dismantling of working class power, at both state level and in the capitalist countries, with big business and the banks able to shape the apparatus of class domination more freely than ever that our prospects of advance are better on their chosen terrain.

  233. George Hallam on said:

    Karl Stewart: What the essential argument comes down to is that, in principle, all else being equal, the unification of different nations and the abolition of national borders and boundaries is fundamentally a progressive step.

    This is archetypal ‘Left’ method of reasoning: don’t bother with analysing the way things are, start from abstract principles and proceed to a conclusion.

    This approach to the world is perpetuated by a self-reinforcing combination of ignorance and arrogance. On the one hand, Leftist are often so ill-informed that they don’t realise how wrong they are and this confirms their conceit that they are right. On the other hand, their conceit that they are right is so strong that even when they know fine that they are short of information they don’t consider this relevant.

  234. Nick Wright: given the subaltern position of the working class in Britain and other European countries, that the prospects for defending marginal gains are better within the existing power relations as enshrined in the institutions of the EU

    Not the language I would have chosen, but that is indeed the position of most trade unions in Britain, and I believe is the correct position for socialists to take who are interested in defending and advancing the interests of ordinary working people within actually existing conditions.

  235. If the EU wasn’t about creating a Federal Capitalist United States of Europe with one nation at its head (Germany), then the two previous attempts wouldn’t have occurred (WW1 and 2) and this would have been the first and final attempt by the big corporate businesses. But it isn’t and just like everything else it resembles what went on in the past. The economic genocide programme adopted, promoted and implemented by all the wings of the corporate neoliberal parties in Greece show in a dramatic fashion both the end of bourgeois democracy but also of basic bourgeois democratic rights. The govt runs on Executive Decrees (22 so far) not requiring even basic parliamentary democracy, strikes are banned ( allowed to start and then police-state measures send out individual papers threatening immediate sacking with police knocking on strikers doors) and electronic seizures of bank accounts are to be the norm (Cyprus style).

    The EU is unravelling at the seams only because the more it centralises the more unstuck and unhinged it becomes calling 70% youth unemployment and 40% adult unemployment a… ‘success story’. We have an EU where German ‘surpluses’ are to be defended at all costs even whilst the whole roadshow comes crumbling down in the periphery, for the ultimate aim for the whole of the EU is a non-unionised tax free maquila so beloved of the large transnational corporations that rule the world, wages and conditions to match Chinas, whilst the actual EU expands all the way to Afghanistan…

  236. Andy Newman,
    Let us start with where we agree. We are within the EU and, over the piece, the framework of law and regulation that governs relations between the working class and the capitalist class, most especially employment law, is increasingly enshrined in what we can call the “European” legal framework .

    Within this framework we do our best as an organised labour movement to compel these institutions to take decisions and make judgement that benefit working people. This involves lobbying, campaigning, trade union organisation at European level, electoral work and legal challenges.

    For those who are content with this as the extent of their ambitions the question is whether this terrain provides the most favourable conditions for these struggles.

    I would argue that there are real limits to what can be done, that such decision-making that takes place formally within these EU institutions is largely impermeable to popular pressure, is almost exclusively located behind closed doors in bilateral and multilateral discussions between representatives of the governments of the constituent states and is, in the final instance, and often in the first, subject to the decisive influence of the banks and big business.

    This not to say that we should not take every opportunity – consistent with mobilising mass action and raising the level of political consciousness – within this framework but rather that we should not be content with this and should recognise that the relative weight of the labour movement in EU counsels is small and reducing.

    Supporters of Britain’s continued membership of the EU – and those who think our class interests are best served by this – need to explain why the dominant sections of capital, big business, the banks, the United States, the CBI a swell as the most class collaborationist sections of the Labour movement and social democracy want the same set of conditions as they.

    For those sections of the Labour movement whose ambitions rise above an accommodation with the the existing relations of production even the struggle to satisfy our immediate demands is aided by raising as sharply as possible the demand that these battles be fought out on terrain more favourable to the domestic, continental and global balance of forces.

    To put it another way, is it easier for the working class movement to put pressure on a British government and parliament or the EU?

  237. Feodor on said:

    I’m relatively indifferent over the EU, though I wouldn’t support leaving unless leaving could be shown to entail definite benefits. I certainly don’t find a Britain taken out by Cameron–or even worse, Farage–an appealing prospect. ‘Bonfire of employment rights’ is a quite apt description, imo. Neither would reorientate the British economy either towards the old Commonwealth (which was the old anti-EU labour position, right?) or the emerging economies. Both would follow a policy which increased Britain’s dependence on the US.

    That being said, I can see there being a perfectly sensible case for saying that, if the Euro countries embark on ever closer political and economic union, as the UK isn’t going to join the Euro, full membership of the EU might be a little pointless, perhaps even counter-productive, with British objections holding up processes that would otherwise go relatively smoothly. With that in mind, Andy et al., do you think there’d be a need for a rethink of the position held by most trade unionists in this country? Perhaps support for Britain becoming an ‘associate member’ rather than a full member (this might well be what is proposed in the next EU Constitution, due for release around 2017)?

    PS. Everyone here is seemingly of the opinion that EU law prohibits certain policies. However, many Eurosceptics are of the opinion all that needs to be done is for Parliament to pass bills which include the phrase ‘notwithstanding the European Communities Act of 1972’. The bill would hold-up in British courts, as it was passed by a sovereign parliament. The problems it would provoke would be on the European level, but even then they’re not insurmountable, as long as a little common sense diplomacy and horse-trading is engaged in (admittedly something British elites seem very bad at).

    Not all rules are enshrined in stone: some can be bent, others broken. And when all is said and done, what penalties could the EU actually impose without provoking a significant public backlash both in Britain and on the continent?

  238. Karl Stewart on said:

    George Hallam,
    To state that the unification of nation states and the abolition of borders and national boundaries is fundamentally a progressive step if one is a straightforward, unremarkable and uncontroversial statement of opinion George.

    It’s strange that you should be surprised, offended even, to read such an opinion on a socialist website, frequented by people some of whom believe in communist ideas. Because this is an ABC principle of communism George.

    What is surprising is that other contributors who say they believe in communist ideas actually seem to disagree with this ABC principle.

  239. Karl Stewart: the unification of nation states and the abolition of borders and national boundaries is fundamentally a progressive step

    Whether this is, in the short to medium term, is dependent on a whole number of other factors.

    For example you yourself Karl have argued vociferously on this blog against the creation of a unitary state in Palestine/ Israel (I quote that example not to suggest that I agree or disagree btw).

  240. Karl Stewart on said:

    Vanya,
    In my opinion, (whoops, there I go again GeorgeH, I’m “arrogantly” and “conceitedly” voicing an opinion!). The unification of nations and the abolition of borders and boundaries is, in principle, a progressive step Vanya.

    With regard to the Israel/Palestine issue. My view is one of opposition to the extreme zionist notion of a “Greater Israel” yes.

  241. #278 So whether it’s progressive in reality is dependent on the situation. Because otherwise the Anschluss of Austria and Germany, the annexation of the Sudetenland or for that matter the absorption of Poland into Russia, Austria and Prussia would all have been progressive. As for the reunification of Germany after the collapse of the Berlin Wall…

  242. Karl Stewart on said:

    Vanya,
    …errrm…so you’re comparing the EU to the occupation of the Sudentenland…errrm…have you been smoking those funny fags again Van?

  243. #280 No Karl, I was referring to your assertion that the unification of nations and getting rid of borders is in principle progressive, and pointing out that whether it is or not is dependent on the circumstances.

    That’s why you don’t agree with it in the case of Israel and Palestine because you see it as the creation of a Greater Israel. Others support it because they see it as the only way to achieve true justice and statehood for the Palestinian people.

    The Sudeten example was in reflection not very good because that merely altered the borders between 2 existing states.

  244. #280 /2 Btw I think we should have any further discussion on this on the new EU related thread- less confusing and time consuming.

  245. Nick Wright: Life is full of paradoxes. A group of Polish workers, from a country that has seen unemployment grow from 9.7% in 2010 to 10.1% in 2012 (and youth unemployment grow from negligible under socialism to 23.7% in 2010 and 27.5% in 2012), are happy that the freedom of foreign capital to move to Poland (and thus destroy Polish industry) comes with their freedom to migrate to Britain to work at rates lower than would have obtained if this freedom of movement did not exist

    All of this was happening before EU entry and worse. The Polish economy was opened, deindustrialised and privatised for nearly 15 years before it joined the EU. In 2003 unemployment stood at around 18% and growth was stagnant. After joining it has remained in this position of dependency but received significant structural funds (the only real investment that has taken place in the country’s infrastructure for over 1/4 century) and workers have been able to move and work in western europe. If Poland were to leave the EU it would be in the same dependent relationship with the stronger western economies but with no EU funds and closed labour borders. Protectionism may seem like a nice idea from a little englander perspective, but even the most patriotic Poles can see how this will not be of benefit to them.

  246. Jellytot on said:

    Uncle Albert: He doesn’t name the Party but writes: “It turned out to be a knocking shop for geeks.”

    To be fair, that could be anyone of ’em 🙂

  247. Jellytot on said:

    Uncle Albert: He doesn’t name the Party but writes: “It turned out to be a knocking shop for geeks.”

    To be fair, that could be anyone of ’em 🙂

  248. Gavin: The Polish economy was opened, deindustrialised and privatised for nearly 15 years before it joined the EU. In 2003 unemployment stood at around 18% and growth was stagnant. After joining it has remained in this position of dependency but received significant structural funds (the only real investment that has taken place in the country’s infrastructure for over 1/4 century) and workers have been able to move and work in western europe. If Poland were to leave the EU it would be in the same dependent relationship with the stronger western economies but with no EU funds and closed labour borders. Protectionism may seem like a nice idea from a little englander perspective, but even the most patriotic Poles can see how this will not be of benefit to them

    It is undoubtedly true that before it could be integrated into the EU that Poland was required to be deindustrialised and privatised. Along with its socialised industry went the guarantee of full employment etc. Thus Polish workers are now free to seek work in the rest of the EU in labour market condition shaped by ECJ decisions that enshrine the right of employers to pay them at lower rates than existing workers obtain.
    http://www.ier.org.uk/system/files/Decisions+of+the+ECJ+and+implications+for+UK+laws_0.pdf

    Poland is a big economy with the remains of a powerful industry and an extensive, if highly inefficient privately owned agriculture. For most of their history the Polish people have striven hard for national independence. It is hard to see it as still dependent on the EU if it were free to construct alternatives to the neo-liberal diktat.
    I wonder if the hosts of unemployed and migrant Polish workers think protectionism (=job security) would not be of benefit.

    Polish workers have paid a big price for their illusions about capitalism.

  249. George Hallam on said:

    Nick Wright: Polish workers have paid a big price for their illusions about capitalism.

    Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.

  250. Nick Wright: I wonder if the hosts of unemployed and migrant Polish workers think protectionism (=job security) would not be of benefit.

    Polish workers have paid a big price for their illusions about capitalism

    Well haven’t we all!! I have no argument that the EU has helped to impose neo-liberalism on Poland. But this is one factor and protectionism in Poland would not lead to more job security (what is this capitalism in one country?). During the depression of the 1930s Poland faced the realities of protectionism from the West and its GDP fell by over 20% in 3 years (UK fell by less than 6%). Support for EU membership in Poland is around 75%, down from 90% before the economic crisis started.

  251. The most significant aspect of the EU question for Poland today is surely the obligation, at some time, to join the eurozone. At present, the relatively low price of the zloty is an important factor in keeping Polish manufactures internationally competitive. Once Poland abandons the zloty, will Poland have many internationally competitive exports – apart from workers?

  252. George Hallam on said:

    Gavin: I have no argument that the EU has helped to impose neo-liberalism on Poland. But this is one factor and protectionism in Poland would not lead to more job security (what is this capitalism in one country?).

    What is your objection to capitalism in one country? Up until the early 19th century that was the only sort of capitalism.

    Gavin: During the depression of the 1930s Poland faced the realities of protectionism from the West and its GDP fell by over 20% in 3 years (UK fell by less than 6%).

    So protectionism in Britain did lead to more job security than would have otherwise been the case.

  253. Karmickameleon on said:

    Sam64,

    An unconfirmed rumour that Kimber has resigned as National Secretary has been circulating on Facebook for a couple of days.

  254. George Hallam: So protectionism in Britain did lead to more job security than would have otherwise been the case.

    If by that you mean that protectionism is more beneficial to the working classes of the wealthier capitalist countries then you’d be right, which kinda explains why the EU is more popular in Poland than Britain. But I don’t believe the British working class would be better off than it is now if it left the EU anyway.

    George Hallam: What is your objection to capitalism in one country? Up until the early 19th century that was the only sort of capitalism.

    Yes but this is the 21st century and even a social democratic strategy has to recognise how productive forces have developed since this time. And in any case the benefits enjoyed by the working classes in countries such as Britain were gained through imperialist expansion abroad, not some cosy localised capitalism driven by the invention of the spinning jenny. There are no such surpluses available in Britain anymore let alone poorer countries such as Poland.

    Francis King: The most significant aspect of the EU question for Poland today is surely the obligation, at some time, to join the eurozone.

    This is indeed a serious issue and joining the eurozone as it is currently set up would be destructive for the Polish economy. The reason that Poland has been the only EU country not enter a recession since the outbreak of the crisis is EU funds coming in that allowed it to raise public investment; movement of labour and being able to remain competitive with eurozone economies through a devaluation of its currency. The Polish foreign minister announced just today that the aim is to join the eurozone as soon as they can (http://euobserver.com/political/122808) although they are unable to set any realistic date. The reason is that it would need to go to a referendum and over the past 5 years support for eurozone entry has declined from around 80% to 30%.

  255. Gavin: The reason that Poland has been the only EU country not enter a recession since the outbreak of the crisis is EU funds coming in that allowed it to raise public investment; movement of labour and being able to remain competitive with eurozone economies through a devaluation of its currency. The Polish foreign minister announced just today that the aim is to join the eurozone as soon as they can (http://euobserver.com/political/122808) although they are unable to set any realistic date. The reason is that it would need to go to a referendum and over the past 5 years support for eurozone entry has declined from around 80% to 30%.

    Gavin
    You make a powerful case for Poland to stay clear of the Euro and disentangle as quickly as possible from the EU. Raising public investment has been achieved partly through conditional EU funds (best described as paving the way for German capital) and partly by depressing social expenditure and consumption through the tax regime and poverty wages. Hence the export of (cheap see above) labour.

    Poles are not daft, they have no wish to become the captive market even though that buffoon Lech Wałęsa wants to form a single state with Germany.

    Perhaps Poland should look to its own resources and its full range of neighbours if it wants a balanced economy freed of shock therapies and forced neo-liberal policies. After all one historical study says this:
    ‘POLAND’S ECONOMIC GROWTH was favoured by relatively rich natural resources for both agriculture and industry. Eastern Europe’s largest producer of food, Poland based its sizeable and varied industrial sector on ample coal supplies that made it the world’s fourth largest coal producer in the 1970s. The most productive industries, such as equipment manufacturing and food processing, were built on the country’s coal and soil resources, respectively, and energy supply still depended almost entirely on coal in the early 1990s.’

    It is not often that a communist can draw on a CIA analysis.

  256. Nick if you are proposing a socialist bloc of the countries of CEE then of course let go. But this is not the issue at hand. Rather, it’s between a neo-liberal capitalism inside or outside the EU and noone from the left or right raises the issue of leaving the EU at the moment in Poland. The reason it has more truck inside Britain is that some want to stop any small redistribution of wealth through structural funds etc that exists within the EU and close their borders to labour from abroad (BJ4BW). There is nothing progressive in this

  257. Gavin: some want to stop any small redistribution of wealth through structural funds etc that exists within the EU and close their borders to labour from abroad (BJ4BW). There is nothing progressive in this

    How precisely is it progressive for us to affect a pose of studied neutrality over what form neo-liberal domination takes whilst welcoming measures (structural funds) that are the battering ram of capital; and mobility of labour (which is designed to lower the price of labour power).

    It is paradox that the labour movement, which exists to raise the price of labour power, is led by people who think that accepting the optimum conditions for lowering it is a sensible strategy.

  258. George Hallam on said:

    Gavin: Yes but this is the 21st century and even a social democratic strategy has to recognise how productive forces have developed since this time.

    This may be so, but I’m not a social democrat, I’m not even part of the Left.

    Gavin: the benefits enjoyed by the working classes in countries such as Britain were gained through imperialist expansion abroad, not some cosy localised capitalism driven by the invention of the spinning jenny.

    Yes, India provided a great market. But it’s not just ‘productive forces’ that have developed since the 18th century; so has population.

    At the end of the 17th century it was estimated the population of England and Wales was about 5 1/2 million. The population of Scotland was about 1 million. The population of London was about 600,000.

    In the mid 18th century the population of Britain was about 6 1/2 million. In the late 18th century it grew rapidly and by 1801 it was over 9 million. The population of London was almost 1 million.
    http://www.localhistories.org/population.html

    In 1801 the land was still being enclosed (there were almost 2,000 Enclosure Acts between 1793 and 1815). So the numbers of people involved in the capitalist economy was even smaller.

    Interesting, it was just at this time (the wars with France) that England was cut off from European markets. Britain became more self sufficient and yet the economy developed??? How could that be??

  259. George Hallam: I’m not even part of the Left.

    Remind me with reference to your own political views and your own definition of what the Left is why you say that George.

    I often say I’m not a saddo who’s always on blogs and social messaging, but my friends and family just laugh when I do.

  260. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: Remind me with reference to your own political views and your own definition of what the Left is why you say that George.

    It’s all about approach. There is no common core of ideas or policies that distinguish those on ‘The Left’ from others (aka ‘normal people’). The difference lies in:
    a) the moral fervour with which positions are held.
    b) the desire to define oneself in relation to the world rather than to change it.

    I don’t fit in with this.

    Having said this on Tuesday I was publically denounced by a member of the AWL for being “ultra left” for saying that health campaigners should not trust the Board of the new Lewisham and Greenwich Health Trust.

    I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed that my accuser stopped short of calling me a Trotskyite. Still, ‘Ultra Left’ is quite impressive, don’t you think? Does the fact that the label was given to me by the AWL mean that it doesn’t really count?

  261. George Hallam: Does the fact that the label was given to me by the AWL mean that it doesn’t really count?

    If posing rhetorical questions is a qualifying characteristic then you are already a ‘left’.

  262. George Hallam: There is no common core of ideas or policies that distinguish those on ‘The Left’ from others (aka ‘normal people’).

    Or in other words the Left doesn’t actually exist and therefore it’s not that you aren’t part of it, as nobody could be…

    George Hallam: The difference lies in:
    a) the moral fervour with which positions are held.
    b) the desire to define oneself in relation to the world rather than to change it.

    But it does exist insofar as it describes a group of people who you don’t want to identify with.

    Defining reality on the basis of your ideas about things rather than how things actually are.

    That definitely is a feature of so much of the left and one of the reasons I sometimes feel embarrassed about being part of it. But I take the view that it’s a bit like friends and families- you can choose the former but not the latter.

  263. stephen marks on said:

    George Hallam,
    a] England was not ‘cut off’ from European markets during the wars with France since trade between countries at war
    was actually the norm in the C18, and anyway not all of Europe was controlled by France.
    b] British capitalism did not develop on the basis of self-sufficiency but on the basis of capital accumulated globally through the slave trade and the profits of plantation economy, through the looting of Bengal etc. Indeed ‘national’ capitalism has never existed. It has always been a global system. Read for example ‘How Europe underdeveloped Africa’ by Walter Rodney.

  264. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: George Hallam: There is no common core of ideas or policies that distinguish those on ‘The Left’ from others (aka ‘normal people’).

    Or in other words the Left doesn’t actually exist and therefore it’s not that you aren’t part of it, as nobody could be…

    All you needed to do is read what was there and, just for a moment, supress your prejudices.

    I never said that the Left didn’t exist. I merely said that it didn’t exist in form that most people imagine it exists: as a common set of political ideas or policies.

    Start doing some Venn diagrams; you’ll soon find that there is no common ground.

    Try Ken Livingstone and George Galloway, or Ted Grant and Tony Cliff (you can probably know the names of people who are living). Then swop them around and see what you get.

    Another thing to do is think about George Orwell. He is widely regarded as the patron saint of the Left. Look at the positions he took. Yes, he changed his mind quite bit. That is exactly my point: he held, consecutively, mutually exclusive position on a number of key issues without ever ceasing to be a man of the Left.

    “Ah!”, you may say, “but you are out of date. These days George Orwell’s reputation is shot. He is no longer regarded as a ‘Left’.”

    It may be so that I am out of date, but if George Orwell is currently out of favour it hardly strengthens the case for ‘Left’ being defined it terms a set of ideas.

  265. George Hallam on said:

    stephen marks: a] England was not ‘cut off’ from European markets during the wars with France since trade between countries at war
    was actually the norm in the C18, and anyway not all of Europe was controlled by France.

    So there was no reason for corn imports to Britain to be reduced?

    To be sure, there was trade , but it was hazardous because there was a war on. I don’t have the figures, but from memory significant numbers of ship and their cargoes were seized by both sides every year. Thousands of ships were laid up in harbour for fear of being taken. The French came off very badly, even coastal trade was practically impossible. All these depredations increased costs and therefore changed the balance of advantage between imported and domestically produced goods.

    You comment is a good example of left prejudices trumping facts.

  266. George Hallam on said:

    stephen marks: British capitalism did not develop on the basis of self-sufficiency but on the basis of capital accumulated globally through the slave trade and the profits of plantation economy, through the looting of Bengal etc.

    Yes, India was very important for the British economic development, especially the industrial revolution.

    However, the Battle of Plassey was in June 1757. I think that England already had a capitalist economy by then. Even Scotland had a big enough capitalist sector to give Adam Smith some ideas.

  267. #311 No George. The term “left” is political in the context people use it on fora like this (ie political ones) so if it doesn’t exist as a common set of political ideas and policies then it doesn’t really exist at all. In fact you do put forward an argument that would be quite compelling for the idea that it doesn’t exist at all, but that’s not what you are saying apparently. So what you do is create is a huge circle.

    I have long suspected that his is just your way of setting yourself apart from a group of people you feel intellectually superior to, seeming to say much but in reality saying nothing at all.

    You refuse to define the left because if you did you would have to accept that you are part of it.

  268. George Hallam on said:

    stephen marks: ‘national’ capitalism has never existed. It has always been a global system.

    Sure, British capitalism was part of a global system; it just wasn’t part of a global capitalist system.

    The clue is in terms like “slavery”, “trade” and “looting”.

  269. #314 Frequent references, disparaging or otherwise, to something you can’t define, is strange behaviour for someone who is obviously very intelligent.

  270. Feodor on said:

    Vanya: I often say I’m not a saddo who’s always on blogs and social messaging, but my friends and family just laugh when I do.

    Haha. That put a smile on my face. If it’s any consultation, among other saddos, you seem a pretty cool guy! 😉

    Re. the question of what is and isn’t ‘left’: you’re unlikely to have a productive discussion if–as it seems is the case–you hold that the concept of ‘the left’ must have an objective and absolute meaning which we could draw a circle around (a la a Venn diagram), without any kind of relative and subjective measures affecting that meaning.

    Indeed, whether it exists or not, it seems logical to presume that for ‘a left’ to exist, there must also be ‘a right’. Neither camp would be static and unchanging and moreover, arguably, the core beliefs of each camp are most easily understood by discovering which core beliefs of the other camp are rejected. (Imo such a method indicates the contemporary ‘left’ and ‘right’ have more in common than was previously the case–there are relatively few major dividing lines, which perhaps explains something about the blandness of contemporary politics.)

  271. John Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam: Interesting, it was just at this time (the wars with France) that England was cut off from European markets. Britain became more self sufficient and yet the economy developed??? How could that be??

    Britain is a nation of shopkeepers?

  272. George Hallam on said:

    John Grimshaw: Britain is a nation of shopkeepers?

    Shopping areas like Cheapside and Oxford Street flourished. Sophie de la Roche, a German visitor to London in 1786 wrote:

    We strolled up and down lovely Oxford Street this evening, for some goods look more attractive by artificial light…First one passes a watchmaker’s, then a silk or fan store, now a silversmiths, a china or glass shop. Just as alluring are the confectioners and fruiterers, where, behind the handsome glass windows, pyramids of pineapples, figs, grapes, oranges and all manner of fruits are on show.

    https://lovelyoldtree.wordpress.com/2008/12/07/shopping-in-18th-century-london/

    I don’t have the numbers for the period.

    For the end of the 17th century the pioneer statistician Gregory King estimated that there were about 40,000 shopkeepers in England and Wales.

  273. John Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam: Yes, India was very important for the British economic development, especially the industrial revolution.

    However, the Battle of Plassey was in June 1757. I think that England already had a capitalist economy by then. Even Scotland had a big enough capitalist sector to give Adam Smith some ideas.

    I was under the impression George that the standard view of both contemporary capitalists and Marxists was that capitalism kicked in, in western Europe some time in the sixteenth century. Although possibly earlier in some geographically cases. This early form sometimes known as merchant capitalism was then replaced by industrial capitalism in say 1800 or maybe a bit earlier in England and Scotland. I think Napoleon’s iconic and insulting quote was behind the times. Its also possible that there issues with this generalised theory. By the way which French wars are you referring to? Presumably those against Napoleon as opposed to those in the mid eighteenth century or the campaigns of Marlborough or the Field of the Cloth of Gold? 🙂

  274. John Grimshaw: I was under the impression George that the standard view of both contemporary capitalists and Marxists was that capitalism kicked in, in western Europe some time in the sixteenth century. Although possibly earlier in some geographically cases. This early form sometimes known as merchant capitalism was then replaced by industrial capitalism in say 1800 or maybe a bit earlier in England and Scotland. I think Napoleon’s iconic and insulting quote was behind the times. Its also possible that there issues with this generalised theory. By the way which French wars are you referring to? Presumably those against Napoleon as opposed to those in the mid eighteenth century or the campaigns of Marlborough or the Field of the Cloth of Gold? :)

    That certainly was what I was taught. (I mean at uni, not by the economics guru of a ‘left’ group George).

  275. George Hallam on said:

    John Grimshaw: By the way which French wars are you referring to? Presumably those against Napoleon as opposed to those in the mid eighteenth century or the campaigns of Marlborough

    I was thinking of the former. Apart from the Peace of Amiens March 1802 – May 1803 Britain was at war with France until from 1 February 1793 until May 1814. Bonaparte’s coup d’état wasn’t until 1799 so one can’t really call them the Napoleonic Wars.

    Before Britain and France were at war with during the American War of Independence (1776–1783).
    Before that there was the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), not to mention the War of the League of Augsburg (1688–1697).

  276. #312 I missed this

    ‘You comment is a good example of left prejudices trumping facts.’

    Prejudices are preconceived ideas aren’t they George?

  277. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: ‘You comment is a good example of left prejudices trumping facts.’
    Prejudices are preconceived ideas aren’t they George?

    Yes. Reality is being twisted and chopped to fit a homily.

  278. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: That certainly was what I was taught. (I mean at uni,

    I don’t know which “uni” you went to but doubt that this is what you were taught. It may be what you remember from that time, but that is not the same thing.

    The problem with students is that they don’t do the reading so they only absorb a fraction of what they are taught.

  279. #325 I don’t envy you the weight of all that intelectual superiority you carry around George. Perhaps you could use some of it to provide your definition of the ‘left.’

  280. John Grimshaw on said:

    Vanya,

    If I understand correctly Vanya ( and no doubt I will be corrected if I don’t) George is trying to use the wars of the period 1793-1815 (? – why 1814 George?) to justify his contemporary criticism of the EU i.e. Britain can survive independently of Europe as “we” have done in the past. A bit like corporal punishment i.e. it never did me any harm.

  281. John Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam: I don’t know which “uni” you went to but doubt that this is what you were taught. It may be what you remember from that time, but that is not the same thing.

    The problem with students is that they don’t do the reading so they only absorb a fraction of what they are taught.

    George I did A level Economics and history at my bog standard Comprehensive and whilst most of it was taken up with Keynes, Friedmann, the Russian revolution and world wars we did indeed study merchant capitalism and industrial capitalism.

  282. John Grimshaw on said:

    Vanya: Perhaps you could use some of it to provide your definition of the ‘left.’

    And here is good old Wikipedia for you George!

    “In left-right politics, left-wing politics are political positions or activities that accept or support social equality, often in opposition to social hierarchy and social inequality.[1][2][3][4] It typically involves a concern for those in society who are perceived as disadvantaged relative to others and an assumption that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished.[3]

    The political terms Left and Right were coined during the French Revolution (1789–1799), referring to the seating arrangement in the Estates General: those who sat on the left generally opposed the monarchy and supported the revolution, including the creation of a republic and secularization,[5] while those on the right were supportive of the traditional institutions of the Old Regime. Use of the term “Left” became more prominent after the restoration of the French monarchy in 1815 when it was applied to the “Independents”.[6]

    The term was later applied to a number of movements, especially republicanism during the French Revolution, socialism,[7] communism, and anarchism.[8] Beginning in the last half of the Twentieth Century, the phrase left-wing has been used to describe an ever widening family of movements,[9] including the civil rights movement, anti-war movements, and environmental movements,[10][11] and finally being extended to entire parties, including the Democratic Party in the United States and the Labour Party in the United Kingdom.[12][13][14] In two party systems, the terms “left” and “right” are now sometimes used as labels for the two parties, with one party designated as the “left” and the other “right”, even when neither party is “left-wing” in the original sense of being opposed to the ruling class.”

  283. #327 I’m not sure how the position of Britain with regard to Europe in that era is applicable today from an economic position in any case, but I think that’s what he’s saying.

    #328 I think that jibe was aimed at me.

    #329 Yes, I was going to quote wiki as well, but I suspected I’d be met with some clever clogs stuff about wiki rather than an answer to the substantive question.

    As I suggested, George does actually put forward what would be a convincing argument for the “left” not actually existing at all. But he doesn’t seem to want to take the logic of what he’s saying to its proper conclusion. In the absence of any explanation from him, I can only conclude that it’s to set himself apart from people he doesn’t want to be associated with. After all, he’s quite prepared to define others as part of it, whether they have self defined as such or not. In fact, he seems to use the term with the same lack of scientific definition as others use the term “Stalinist”.

  284. George Hallam on said:

    John Grimshaw: If I understand correctly Vanya ( and no doubt I will be corrected if I don’t)

    I’m glad that you have prepared yourself.

    John Grimshaw: George is trying to use the wars of the period 1793-1815 (? – why 1814 George?) to justify his contemporary criticism of the EU i.e. Britain can survive independently of Europe as “we” have done in the past.

    No, I’m not.

    The UK’s ability to survive and, indeed, prosper outside the EU is not dependant on how the UK economy managed during the Sturm und Drang of the Eighteen and early Nineteenth centuries.

    My comments about the latter period were to show that the development of what might be called ‘capitalism’ took place within national boundaries. Yes, there was trade between countries. Yes, it was important in the growth of certain industries (e.g. frame knitting). But this trade did not depend on the simultaneous development of ‘capitalist’ forms in the partner countries. Rather the reverse was true. Britain gained enormously from trading with non-capitalist counties.

    There is a vast literature to support everything I’m saying here.

    It strikes me that the criticisms I’ve encountered stem from a worry that the very concept of “capitalism in one country” will encourage nationalism. Since nationalism is a Bad Thing it must be opposed by denying that such a thing is possible, not just today but even.

    Personally, I’m more concerned with historically accuracy than I am with political correctness, hence my posts.

    Why 1793-1814 and not 1793-1815?

    This was for the sake of combining brevity and accuracy. I’d already mentioned the Peace of Amiens. The Treaty of Paris was at the end of May 1814. It seemed tedious to mention the events of 1815.

    Napoleon landed in France on 1 March 1815. Before he reached Paris (20 March) Austria, Great Britain, Prussia and Russia had him an outlaw.

    As every schoolboy used to know, Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo on 18 June and surrendered three days later. The second restoration of King Louis XVIII took place on 8 July 1815.

    I’ve really no idea how much “The Hundred Days” (actually 111 days) disrupted Anglo-French trade. I doubt if it significantly damaged British trade with the rest of Europe.

    I hope you find this a satisfactory explanation. No doubt Vanya will interpret it as an exercise in showing off.

    Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. Matthew 7:6

  285. George Hallam: No doubt Vanya will interpret it as an exercise in showing off.

    Not at all.

    I have no problem with people using knowledge to educate others and to enhance the quality of debate.

  286. George Hallam on said:

    John Grimshaw: Beginning in the last half of the Twentieth Century, the phrase left-wing has been used to describe an ever widening family of movements,[9] including the civil rights movement, anti-war movements, and environmental movements,[10][11] and finally being extended to entire parties, including the Democratic Party in the United States and the Labour Party in the United Kingdom

    And that is the nub of the problem.

    ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ are relative terms. That works well enough when a one issue dominates politics; in other words when politics is one dimensional(e.g. monarchy or republic?) . The distinction loses meaning when more other issues come into play. Reducing even a two-dimensional world to one dimension distorts things enormously, just think how bad it gets when politics involves three or four dimensions.

    If you examine how people actually talk then they often use the term ‘left-wing’ in a relative way, as in “he/she is quite ‘left-wing”. But it can also be very specific as in “he/she is quite ‘left-wing on such-and-such an issue“.

    When you examine how self-defined lefts use the term what “he/she is quite ‘left-wing on such-and-such an issue” translates as:

    “This person agrees with me [and the person I’m speaking to] about this issue” or “This person is a possible ally on this issue”.

    However, there is another usage that is more problematic, i.e. ‘The Left’. This assumes that there is some collective entity standing above the set of people referred to as ‘left-wing’. This is a category mistake, it is misplaced concreteness.

    We talk about philosophers but not ‘The Philosophy’ because we recognise that there is nothing that philosophers agree on.

  287. #333 But George, you say all this and then use the term “the left” to define other people. And then you fail to define what the “left” actually is in your view.

    If it exists, surely you can define it.

  288. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: #333 But George, you say all this and then use the term “the left” to define other people. And then you fail to define what the “left” actually is in your view.
    If it exists, surely you can define it.

    You are mistaken.
    It’s easy enough to point to things that are generally recognised as members of a set and to things that aren’t. It’s a lot harder to devise a definition that includes all the things you want in while excluding the things you don’t. Often the result is not very informative, e.g. man is an upright featherless biped.

    It’s difficult with natural kinds (like metals and minerals). Social constructs (e.g. Lefties) are going to be much more problematic.
    As commonly used ‘The Left’ includes people who are committed to revolution as the only possible route to significant social change and those who think that revolution is a really bad idea. Some think that ownership is a key issues, others think that it is besides the point.
    I think that the key to understanding this woolly concept is the failure and isolation of would-be revolutionaries in the UK. To avoid utter hopeless and despair such people look for people they realise haven’t committed themselves to fundamental change but look as if that might.
    Of course there are other takes on ‘The Left’. A few years ago Martin Kettle as good as nominated Campbell-Bannerman as the greatest ‘Left’ prime minister of the Twentieth Century http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2005/nov/05/past.politicalcolumnists.

    So is Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in or out of your version of ‘The Left’? I’d love to know.

  289. #335 No Gerge, I refuse wholeheartedly to provide my definition of the left unless you either provide your own (including why you consider yourself not to be part of it), or concede that by the logic of your argument it does not exist as a meaning ful concept. It’s bizarre, considering the way you throw the term around as an insult, that you find it difficult to do this.

  290. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: #335 No Gerge, I refuse wholeheartedly to provide my definition of the left unless you either provide your own

    If you read my post you would see I did provide a definition:

    George Hallam: I think that the key to understanding this woolly concept is the failure and isolation of would-be revolutionaries in the UK. To avoid utter hopeless and despair such people look for people they realise haven’t committed themselves to fundamental change but look as if that might.

    The reason I don’t include myself is that I don’t think these would-be revolutionaries are to trusted to do anything but sell newspapers that people don’t read.

  291. #337 That was a definition?

    Sorry, I missed it because for someone of your intelligence that is utterly pathetic. As I suspected, a meaningless insult.

  292. Feodor on said:

    ‘The Left’, collective noun, definition courtesy of George Hallam.

    ‘The Left’ includes:
    1) people who believe in revolution but are not very serious about it;
    2) people who wish to see progressive reforms but oppose revolution;
    3) people who make vague sounds about wanting some kind of change but are not really committed to anything in particular.

    Synonyms: revolutionaries, Trotskyites, social democrats, reformists, hippies, bleeding-heart brigade.

    Antonyms: the Right, George Hallam.

  293. George Hallam on said:

    Feodor: ‘The Left’ includes:
    1) people who believe in revolution but are not very serious about it;
    2) people who wish to see progressive reforms but oppose revolution;
    3) people who make vague sounds about wanting some kind of change but are not really committed to anything in particular.
    Synonyms: revolutionaries, Trotskyites, social democrats, reformists, hippies, bleeding-heart brigade.
    Antonyms: the Right, George Hallam.

    Thank you.

    Perhaps other will be able to improve on this but, for the moment, I think that just about sums it up.

  294. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: #337 That was a definition?
    Sorry, I missed it because for someone of your intelligence that is utterly pathetic. As I suspected, a meaningless insult.

    Not really, we have just got our wires crossed a bit. I have no personal antagonism towards you.

    From your posts I suspect that we agree on a number of things.

    The PBP’s manifesto will be out next month. Read it and perhaps you will see that we can find a basis for action even if we disagree about labels.

    I’d sign off saying “Peace and Love” but that would be going too far.

    TTFN

    George

  295. Uncle Albert on said:

    George Hallam: The PBP’s manifesto will be out next month.

    Splendid news.

    Slightly related:

    I’m delighted to see that Dr Louise Irvine, chairwoman of the successful Save Lewisham A & E campaign, is standing for the National Health Action Party in the EU elections, London constituency.

    Now more than ever we need a credible alternative to the LibLabCon.

    http://www.standard.co.uk/news/health/gp-who-helped-stop-lewisham-hospitals-ae-being-axed-will-stand-in-european-election-9079677.html

  296. George Hallam: Thank you.

    I thought you’d like it. When I was doing it, I looked up a dictionary definition of ‘the Left’, you’ll appreciate the ambiguity: ‘the complex of individuals or organized groups advocating liberal reform or revolutionary change in the social, political, or economic order’. Not even an and/or. Haha!

    In all fairness/honesty George, you come off as someone who thinks they’re sitting on a good hand, and if anything in contemporary Britain contains the seeds of something new, of something which might define or transgress whatever is or isn’t ‘the Left’, then it’s PBP. It will be interesting to read the Manifesto.

    Out of interest, what kind of launch are you planning?

  297. #341-2 I didn’t necessarily take that as a personal insult.

    The issues I have are:

    (a) There are many people who are not deserving of the contempt you appear to have for those who fall into the definition provided by Feodor who self define as left. Of course many are, and I have not been backward in coming forward to express that myself.

    (b) You have on a number of occsaions chosen to describe people who have commentated on here as left because there is something they have sais you disagree with but with no other apparent reason to believe that they fall into one of those categories. The term might as well be an alternative to numbskull or dickhead for that matter.

    (c) For the overwhelming majority of people who think in terms of left and right in politics (and it seems to me that this is the most useful criteria when using any political term, if it’s to be used at all) you yourself, on the basis precisely of your support for LPBP, would be considered part of it.

    As I’ve said, it could be that the term left embraces such a wide spectrum as to be of little use or even to calli into question whether the left actually exists. That would be an argument I could go along with.

  298. George Hallam on said:

    Feodor: In all fairness/honesty George, you come off as someone who thinks they’re sitting on a good hand,

    Okay, I come across as irritatingly smug.

    Feodor: and if anything in contemporary Britain contains the seeds of something new, of something which might define or transgress whatever is or isn’t ‘the Left’, then it’s PBP.

    Clearly, a lot of PBP members are left-wing in the ambiguously way you describe in #339. That doesn’t mean that they agree with one another OR that they disagree with those who don’t accept the ‘left-wing’ label. The trick, if that’s the right word, has been to concentrate on concrete issues that we can, not just agree on but, act together on.

    We have been lucky enough in Lewisham to have some very good activists and it’s been through our activities that we have been able to connect with people (8 per cent of the population describe themselves as “fairly left-wing” and only 2 per cent as “very left-wing”). Our activity based approach explains how we have been able to win votes without being fixated on elections.

    I not sure how we will do in May, but if we can continue in the way we have then we will win at some point. That will be the start of a new stage.

    Feodor: It will be interesting to read the Manifesto.
    Out of interest, what kind of launch are you planning?

    Sorry, for security reasons I can’t tell you.

  299. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: For the overwhelming majority of people who think in terms of left and right in politics (and it seems to me that this is the most useful criteria when using any political term, if it’s to be used at all) you yourself, on the basis precisely of your support for LPBP, would be considered part of it.

    Popular understanding of ‘left’ and ‘right’ is not quite as prevalent as seem to think.

    One in four people answered “don’t know” when asked to classify the main political parties on a ‘left-right’ scale (YouGov survey in June 2009 http://cdn.yougov.com/today_uk_import/YG-Archives-pol-ch4news-EUelectionsVoting-090608.pdf)

    The same proportion (24 per cent) didn’t know where they themselves stood on a ‘left-right’ scale.

    This was a very big survey (over 32,000) so the results can’t be dismissed as a sampling error.

    I will give you that 76 percent is a health majority, but it’s not quite as overwhelming as seem to think.

  300. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: you yourself, on the basis precisely of your support for LPBP, would be considered part of it.

    A local member of the SP recently described LPBP as “a party of shopkeepers”. This was not intended as a complement. I have also been described as “a bag-carrier for the Labour Party”.
    On the other hand, a member of the AWL described me as “ultra left”.

    Of course, nobody judges themselves by other people’s opinion of them.

  301. George Hallam: but it’s not quite as overwhelming as seem to think.

    My mother, who was an English teacher, would certainly have taken you up on that phraseology. How can there be degrees of “overwhelming”? 🙂

    Point taken however. I think we are beginning to understand one another on this issue.

    All you now have to do is concede that you are part of the left, if it indeed exists.

  302. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: I think we are beginning to understand one another on this issue.

    If you can see that my argument isn’t just about annoying you then we are making progress.

    Vanya: All you now have to do is concede that you are part of the left, if it indeed exists.

    I’d love to please you but I just don’t fit. Think of how one might fit the square root of minus one into the set of real numbers: it just doesn’t work.

  303. Jellytot on said:

    Karmickameleon: An unconfirmed rumour that (Charlie) Kimber has resigned as National Secretary has been circulating on Facebook for a couple of days.

    Any update on this or was it a baseless rumour?

  304. George Hallam: I’d love to please you but I just don’t fit.

    If you construct a personal definition of the left in such a way that it doesn’t include yourself then I’m sure that you don’t.

    But there’s that old saying, if it swims like a duck, walks like a duck and it quacks…

  305. George Hallam: If you can see that my argument isn’t just about annoying you then we are making progress.

    No George, I’ve always understood that you were intent on annoying far more people than just me 🙂

  306. I’ve just picked up a pamphlet which some people writing here may know. It’s ‘Communist Party, 25th Congress Report, Hammersmith Town Hall, April 19-22, 1957′ The reason why I bought it (from Oxfam!) is because this was the breaking point for my parents. The reason why they left was not because of Hungary (written about in the opening comments in this pamphlet), but because of the section called ”Inner-Party Democracy’. Anyone who has read the SWP party bulletins might find it interesting, if not uncanny, just how much of it reads as a pre-run of what’s been said and done over the last few months.

    For the moment, I don’t quite know what to make of it, as a I piece together a mix of my personal memories of my parents, what happened to the CP, what has happened with IS-SWP and the present situation for those who think of themselves as ‘left of Labour’. (I fully understand that some people who write here do not see themselves that way…)

  307. George Hallam: I’d love to please you but I just don’t fit.

    Every post by George on this site confirms just how much a part of the British left he is. Indeed, he is an exemplar of its most defining characteristics

  308. Michael Rosen:
    I’ve just picked up a pamphlet which some people writing here may know. It’s ‘Communist Party, 25th Congress Report, Hammersmith Town Hall, April 19-22, 1957′ The reason why I bought it (from Oxfam!) is because this was the breaking point for my parents. The reason why they left was not because of Hungary (written about in the opening comments in this pamphlet), but because of the section called ”Inner-Party Democracy’. Anyone who has read the SWP party bulletins might find it interesting, if not uncanny, just how much of it reads as a pre-run of what’s been said and done over the last few months.

    For the moment, I don’t quite know what to make of it, as a I piece together a mix of my personal memories of my parents, what happened to the CP, what has happened with IS-SWP and the present situation for those who think of themselves as ‘left of Labour’. (I fully understand that some people who write here do not see themselves that way…)

    Oh come off it Mike – everyone’s had enough time to read up on stuff, so this “I came across something in a charity bookshop and thought it might have some connection with my present crisis – if only I could figure out what…” is such utter tripe and clearly charlatan, it wont even fly in a kids’ book. Write a book about a caterpillar that’s got a dog’s head. A big book with pictures.

  309. Michael Rosen:
    I’ve just picked up a pamphlet which some people writing here may know. It’s ‘Communist Party, 25th Congress Report, Hammersmith Town Hall, April 19-22, 1957′ The reason why I bought it (from Oxfam!) is because this was the breaking point for my parents. The reason why they left was not because of Hungary (written about in the opening comments in this pamphlet), but because of the section called ”Inner-Party Democracy’. Anyone who has read the SWP party bulletins might find it interesting, if not uncanny, just how much of it reads as a pre-run of what’s been said and done over the last few months.

    For the moment, I don’t quite know what to make of it, as a I piece together a mix of my personal memories of my parents, what happened to the CP, what has happened with IS-SWP and the present situation for those who think of themselves as ‘left of Labour’. (I fully understand that some people who write here do not see themselves that way…)

    Oh come off it Mike – everyone’s had enough time to read up on stuff, so this “I came across something in a charity bookshop and thought it might have some connection with my present crisis – if only I could figure out what…” is such utter tripe and clearly charlatan, it wont even fly in a kids’ book. Write a book about a caterpillar that’s got a dog’s head. A big book with pictures.

  310. Karl Stewart on said:

    Michael Rosen,
    Evan,
    I’m not sure I agree that 1956 was a terminal setback for the CP. It grew in membership and influence after that period and was probably at its historical height in the early 1970s.

  311. Evan,

    This account of what went on in the Communist Party is an accurate survey of what was published in the party press and elsewhere. As a useful or accurate account of what was actually happening it is about as informative as a captains log is of what is going on in the ocean’s depths.

    I suspect that this approach is no more useful in understanding what went on in the SWP or what is currently dissolving the Socialist Party from within.

    It is nonsense to suggest that the decay and dismantling of ‘actually existing socialism’ was not a central reason for the CPGB’s loss of its sense of mission, internal cohesion, ideological stability and organisational strength. But neither can the equally objective facts about the dismantling of Britain’s industrial base be discounted.

    The source of the CPGB’s influence lay in its effective presence in pits, building sites, factories, transport depots, docks, print, engineering and vehicle building (and to an extent in education, local government and the civil service and other white collar jobs); and as the earlier layers of experienced militants gained office at middle and even high levels of the trade union movement there existed, for a short period, a particularly productive interlude.

    The source of its disintegration lay in the dissolution of it references in real life.

    A pale reflection of this is also true of the SWP and trotskyism generally. The credibility of the SWP’s market differentiation strategy –’state capitalism’ theory – reflected in the SWP’s expectation (shared with most trotskyites) that the dismantling of the socialist bloc and the political defeat of the communist movement would remove an obstacle to revolutionary advance, foundered on the real life experience of millions that post 1989 they really were living in a different system.

    One thing that strikes me is that wherever revolutionaty movements are making progress in the world it is when they act like traditional communist parties and wherever trotskyites retain a connection with the real world it is when they stop acting like traditional trotskyites. 😉

  312. Nick Wright: A pale reflection of this is also true of the SWP and trotskyism generally. The credibility of the SWP’s market differentiation strategy –’state capitalism’ theory – reflected in the SWP’s expectation (shared with most trotskyites) that the dismantling of the socialist bloc and the political defeat of the communist movement would remove an obstacle to revolutionary advance, foundered on the real life experience of millions that post 1989 they really were living in a different system.

    One thing that strikes me is that wherever revolutionaty movements are making progress in the world it is when they act like traditional communist parties and wherever trotskyites retain a connection with the real world it is when they stop acting like traditional trotskyites.

    I’d agree that the majority of Trotskyism incorrectly saw the collapse of the systems in Eastern Europe as being progressive. But then so did most of the CPs, including most of those ruling in those countries themselves that actively helped to create capitalism and get a share of its spoils. This supports Trotsky’s theory of the bureaucracy that he believed included pro-capitalist forces as well as Bolsheviks. Lets not totally rewrite history comrade.

  313. David Ruaune,

    Hello David. I don’t think I know you, I don’t know why you a) are giving me the ‘come off it Mike’ treatment b) think that the best way to talk to me about these things is to send me off to write about a caterpillar with a dog’s head with big pictures.

    However, I gather from your tone that you think a)I’m lying when I say that I have just come across the pamphlet and b) people who write for children are not entitled to take part in discussions about socialism.

    OK – a) I can assure you this is the first time I have come across this leaflet. I have a collection of my parents’ CP leaflets which I often read and think about. This one is not amongst them. Yes I have read discussions about this era in the light of what’s happened chez the SWP but I didn’t see this booklet mentioned. That might be for two reasons: a) I am an idiot b) I do stuff other than read about the CP and the SWP.

    b) Writing books for children is an interesting and absorbing thing to do. That’s because children are human beings. I know that there is a theory that the only people who do it are suffering from regression or some kind of predatory colonising-of-childhood impulse. Can I suggest that if you want a discussion about that, you start a thread or open a discussion about it, rather than mixing it up in a discussion about the SWP, CP or anything else? Even better, why not come along to one of the classes we’ll be running from September onwards at Goldsmiths on the MA in Children’s Literature where you can talk to us about caterpillars with dogs’ heads with big pictures?

  314. Nick Wright: revolutionaty movements are making progress in the world it is when they act like traditional communist parties

    Venezuela? Cuba? Nicaragua? China?

  315. Evan,

    Describing the events of 1956-57 as a ‘Hungary’ moment or some such, rather squashes two events into one. This is exemplified by my parents who were pro-Soviet invasion and anti-the party’s Inner Democracy report. In other words, though the two matters are intensely intertwined eg the latter came about largely as a result of unhappiness following the lack of discussion over the Kruschev congress (and all that it implied about how the CPGB had behaved), it raised all sorts of questions that were, in their own way, ‘stand-alone’.

    Of course it is absurd to make analogies between the state of world communism circa 1956 and the SWP in the UK in 2013, but that’s not actually the point. The point is that the Minority Report (which I haven’t yet been able to read – I was hoping that David Ruane would find it for me), seems to have focused on questions about what shape a Left party could or should take. The response by the CPGB was to explain why that this was not possible and politically wrong.

    The analogy question is about this. A Left party throws up a minority view of how the party itself should run. The Left party produces a response as to why the minority is wrong. Many members of the minority leave.

    Many of the accusations made by the Minority overlap with accusations made by minorities within the SWP. Some of the responses made by the CP ‘Inner-Party report’ overlap with the responses made by the leadership of the SWP.

    Open-ended question: is there anything at all that might be learned about this (not the Hungary analogy)?

  316. Andrew Grace on said:

    Michael, there is a link here to a Wikipedia entry for Dunbar’s number. Robin Dunbar is an evolutionary anthropologist and some of his work is on optimal human group sizes. It is also interesting to look at your question from the point of view of Systems Theory. There are a lot of links here as well which I have just come upon. I was reading a paper in Monthly Review on ‘Marx’s Metabolic Rift’ -now, there is a scientific theory going back through ecology and related disciplines which ties in with some of the Soviet researchers. There are important threads which tie up with issues discussed on the Green Party in Brighton and the limits of party politics as a means to effect progressive changes. The human brain itself is an evolved system and language and memory have a lot of work to do when we are in group situations. Perhaps systems research will help us to work on ways of making progressive politics more effective.
    I see this with the blog on the Brighton refuse strike. Basically the real problem is that commodity capitalism produces mountains of refuse. The disposal is hidden from profit and people feel powerless confronted with the need for physical changes to our systems. When the strike took place – like the ‘winter of discontent’ we are forced to see the real nature of our production and consumption economy and just how wasteful and inefficient it is.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar's_number

  317. Andrew Grace: Basically the real problem is that commodity capitalism produces mountains of refuse.

    If I was a striking binman that would certainly be the biggest problem in my mind.

  318. Michael Rosen,

    Fair comment really and a bit of touche – It just struck me at the time as though you were connecting something in your parents’ past about serious crises within the communist movement with the current crisis within the SWP. Tragedy / Farce is first that comes to mind, but my “Oh come off it” is because anyone already knows about this sort of bent-ness – it’s not as though you come across some papers that make you start to think that maybe … Though it might make a good novel, to be honest. I just thought that it was a phony romanticisation / sentimentalisation of issues which are stark-staring obvious.

    Like the one about the seagulls coming inland, and a discarded kebab is a crab, and the pavement is the shore.

  319. Michael Rosen: Many of the accusations made by the Minority overlap with accusations made by minorities within the SWP. Some of the responses made by the CP ‘Inner-Party report’ overlap with the responses made by the leadership of the SWP.

    This is the rub, and while I have some empathy with NIck Wright’s exasperation at the comparison between a mas international movement governing large parts of the world, with the goings on in a small propaganda group, there is a shared endeavour in the Leninist exercise of what we might call “truth building”, the exercise of creating a cumpolsory ideological paradigm within the group.

    The first time tragedy second time farce aspect assets itself in that the official communist movement, for good or ill, was seeking to replace the ideology and social organisation of entires nations, while the SWP were perpetuating the authority and marginal privilages and status of the inner circle of a millenarian cult, tolerated as part of the flotsam and jetsam of individualist lifestyle choice in a liberal democracy, and whose political practice is almost entirely orthogonal to the actual mechanisms of power and influence. Paradoxically of course that very orthogonality, combined with their usually inwards facing organisational skills, occasionally allow them moments of wider influence when a single issue campaign knocks politics out of its established rut, like the Iraq war, but the SWP themselves, when faced with the reality that consolidating influence requires them to abandon their sillier conceits, retreat back to the margins.

  320. Karl Stewart on said:

    Andy Newman: the comparison between a mass international movement governing large parts of the world, with the goings on in a small propaganda group,

    As well as falling on that count, the claim that 2013 represents the SWP’s terminal decline in the same way that 1956 represented the CP’s terminal decline also fails when one considers the historical evidence that the CP didn’t go into terminal decline after 1956.

    According to the CP’s own website, in 1973, party membership was still rising and stood at over 29,000 at the end of that year, but declined from that point on, although it was still over 20,000 at the end of the 1970s.

    By comparison with earlier periods (again according to the same source, the membership figure at the end of the 1970s was still above the membership figure at the end of the 1930s).

    So the notion that 1956 was some kind of ‘terminal decline’ point for the CP is not borne out by the facts.

  321. Andy Newman: Paradoxically of course that very orthogonality, combined with their usually inwards facing organisational skills, occasionally allow them moments of wider influence when a single issue campaign knocks politics out of its established rut, like the Iraq war, but the SWP themselves, when faced with the reality that consolidating influence requires them to abandon their sillier conceits, retreat back to the margins.

    I wouldn’t write off the SWP immediately. A couple of weeks in the north of Ireland is enough to convince anyone of the persistence of the institutional forms in which ideas, no matter how millenarian, are expressed and how they live long after their material basis has vanished. As my surprisingly materialist father-in-law, the reverend doctor, would point out as we passed yet another schismatic breakaway from the Presbyterian church in our travels around his country.

    The British left is littered with the equivalent of these ‘wee huts’ by the roadside.

    I know a good number of people who found the SWP a useful framework in which to carry out political activity. For most the organisation’s official ideology functioned like an umbrella – it was brought out occasionally but mostly remained redundant and remote from the necessities of daily political life.

    But in marketing terms Cliff was a magnificent – constantly reinventing his brand. The brilliance of his market differentiation lay in the great advantage ‘state capitalist’ theory plays in allowing a radical, even a ‘revolutionary’ rhetoric to be combined with various kinds of rather prosaic activity without having to explain, understand or defend any actual revolutionary process or endeavour, or take responsibility.

    Those elements who have departed the SWP and who were able to abandon the ‘sillier conceits’ of the organisation in favour of a continuing engagement with the mass movement seem to have survived quite well.

    I think it instructive that the latest episode in the SWP’s disintegration is played out with hardly any reference to its defining ideological position and that the further disintegration of its fragments is around issues and language that would baffle most people.

  322. Nick Wright: But in marketing terms Cliff was a magnificent – constantly reinventing his brand. The brilliance of his market differentiation lay in the great advantage ‘state capitalist’ theory plays in allowing a radical, even a ‘revolutionary’ rhetoric to be combined with various kinds of rather prosaic activity without having to explain, understand or defend any actual revolutionary process or endeavour, or take responsibility.

    Indeed, the constant oppositionism meant that radical sounding politics could be expounded without ever taking responsibility for any positions arising out of political reality, even the mundane compromises necessary in trade unions, or the choices taken by Labour councils or governments.

  323. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman: Indeed, the constant oppositionism meant that radical sounding politics could be expounded without ever taking responsibility for any positions arising out of political reality, even the mundane compromises necessary in trade unions, or the choices taken by Labour councils or governments.

    Ahh! Andy this is immature.

  324. Karl Stewart,

    Do you have a link to those membership figures from the CP? The organisation files of the CPGB kept at the People’s History Museum show that membership fell by around 8,000 after 1956, then recovered by 1964, but then declined from 1964 onwards.

    The argument made John Callaghan, John McIlroy and Geoff Andrews, amongst others, is that membership figures alone don’t tell the story of the CP’s decline. The strength of the Party in the 1966-1974 period was sustained by union membership at the higher levels, while rank-and-file CP members in the trade unions declined from 1968 onwards. Callaghan and the others argue that after 1956, the membership of the Party didn’t replenish itself by attracting younger recruits. The YCL was already in decline by the mid-1960s and the average age of the CPGB got older and older. That is not to say that younger people didn’t join the CPGB, but not at rate to stave off declining numbers.

  325. Stephen on said:

    Nick Wright: I think it instructive that the latest episode in the SWP’s disintegration is played out with hardly any reference to its defining ideological position and that the further disintegration of its fragments is around issues and language that would baffle most people.

    I don’t doubt your main point – but the SWP are hardly the first group to go down this particular road …

    Didn’t the issue that actually did split the CPGB begin to crystalise around whether or not the BRS spoke of a “Broad democratic alliance” or an “anti monopoly alliance”?

    …not quite the arcana of the increasingly self referential ultra left I’ll concede.. but hardly pub talk either.

  326. Evan: Callaghan and the others argue that after 1956, the membership of the Party didn’t replenish itself by attracting younger recruits.

    Yes, and this would also be impacted by the relative vibrancy of British Trotskyism as an alternative pole of attraction in this period.

  327. Evan: The strength of the Party in the 1966-1974 period was sustained by union membership at the higher levels, while rank-and-file CP members in the trade unions declined from 1968 onwards.

    This is barely credible. Even if every member of every union leadership was a party member this would still be just a fraction of the party membership as a whole. This was a time when there were scores of factory and pit branches not all of whose members would even be shop stewards let alone leading trade unionists.

    My recollection was that the YCL was still growing in the mid to late 60s. Certainly my branch, Hornsey had over 100 members (and there were Cypriot Greek speaking and even Turkish groups as well. It was during this period that the YCL was able to organise substantial demonstrations on its own and raise big sums of money for the Vietcong.

    It is certainly true that despite quite substantial recruitment, that the numbers were not sufficient to fully compensate for the Cold War gap in membership but the reasons for decline are not reducible to numbers but to politics.

  328. Stephen: idn’t the issue that actually did split the CPGB begin to crystalise around whether or not the BRS spoke of a “Broad democratic alliance” or an “anti monopoly alliance”?

    …not quite the arcana of the increasingly self referential ultra left I’ll concede.. but hardly pub talk either.

    But still some way away from a dispute over the legitimacy of various kinds of sexual practice

  329. Nick Wright: This is barely credible. Even if every member of every union leadership was a party member this would still be just a fraction of the party membership as a whole. This was a time when there were scores of factory and pit branches not all of whose members would even be shop stewards let alone leading trade unionists.

    Well yes and no, if Evan is referring only to numerical strength, then your point would hold, but strength could also mean influence, where Evan’s point is perhaps correct?

    A number of factors such as the generation shift across the unions, combined with the removal of anti-union prohibitions in the TGWU, the dynamism and competance of Bert Ramelson, and the general industrial landscape meant that the combination of well placed TU leaders, and organised grass roots caucuses meant that the CP was at a high tide of trade union influence.

  330. Stephen,

    Formulae in the British Road to Socialism may have been one of the questions on which CPGB members disagreed, but the major and lasting fissure in the party after 1968 was opened by the Czechoslovak events of that year and the party leadership’s reaction to the Soviet intervention. The CPGB was a party of wider significance which divided over questions of wider significance – at least until its final collapse in its last five years or so. The same cannot be said of the Trotskyist groups or the issues over which they continually subdivided.

  331. Karl Stewart on said:

    Evan

    It’s on the CP site in the “CP – our history” section here:

    http://communist-party.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=13&Itemid=26

    They don’t give pre-1956 and post-1956 figures. The highest figure they quote is 45,000 immediately following the end of WWII.

    I’ve also heard that a significant number of members left the CP in 1956/57, but I’ve also heard people say that hese were the “softer” elements who’d joined when the CP became fashionable for a few years.

    Personally, I wouldn’t have much sympathy with people who’d turned a blind eye to the very worst excesses of high stalinism when it was actually happening, but then decided to leave when the CP started to go “out of fashion” as it started to develop a principled, communist critique of that period.

    But my personal views aside, the facts remain that the CP recovered completely from those resignations and became stronger and more influential within the labour movement after this period than they had ever been before.

  332. #380 I suspect a bit of clarity is required as to what constitutes the ‘higher levels’?

  333. Feodor on said:

    Karl Stewart: I’ve also heard that a significant number of members left the CP in 1956/57, but I’ve also heard people say that hese were the “softer” elements who’d joined when the CP became fashionable for a few years.

    From my own reading I know notable intellectuals were among the most prominent dissenters–E P Thompson is doubtless the best known example. These had been mostly attracted to the party since 1934. So not fair-weather types, esp. as they’d remained in the party after 1947. I think many of these people were first and foremost attracted to the CPGB’s anti-militarism–seeing tanks roll into Budapest was a bit of a shock!

    A bigger problem, at least from what I’ve read on the topic,* seems to have been the generational divide. Regardless of Soviet actions, the older generation of party members had a deep regard and affection for Pollitt and some of the other leaders. He was one of them and could invoke a past they shared. Conversely, when Pollitt started talking about penny-pamphlets and street-corner orators to a younger generation growing-up in a world of mass communication etc., he may as well have been speaking a foreign language. For better or worse, they weren’t bound together by the same kind of lived loyalties, and found it far easier to break with the party.

    In any case, I really doubt any one cap fits all. For the fully-Stalinised, monolithic beast that was the CPGB, actually seems to have attracted a reasonably ride range of people for a number of different reasons.

    *Among other things, I’d highly recommend Kevin Morgan’s biography of Pollitt, from which I’ve derived most of the above.

  334. Stephen: .. indeed

    I’m not trying to defend the SWP but is this the right way to present the isue?

    I don’t think there was any argument as to whether rape (alleged or otherwise) or sexual harassment are legitimate practices, but as to how allegations of either should be handled.

  335. Karl Stewart on said:

    Feodor,
    I don’t think the Soviet Union or the CP of that time was ever “anti-military” – Feodor!

    I think from what I’ve heard, read of the tragic Hungary 1956 events that the Soviet Union was reluctant to intervene but ultimately had little choice . There were reports of progroms and lynchings of communists and jews.
    The situation had some similiarities perhaps to the 1968 situation in Czechoslovakia and the 1979 intervention into Afghanistan. At those times, solid communists realised the necessity and backed the Soviet Union, however reluctantly and regretfully, while the faint hearts wobbled and/or lost their nerve completely.

  336. Feodor on said:

    Karl Stewart: I don’t think the Soviet Union or the CP of that time was ever “anti-military” – Feodor!

    I take your point, Karl. But if you were to do a survey of CPGB material for the two decades previous to ’56, e.g., you would find many pamphlets and articles thundering against war, militarism, etc. During the 30s, the CPGB presented itself as the party of peace. It opposed British rearmament and conscription, at least initially (though its policy was rather ambiguous on this, and understandably so). During the war (and unlike in ’56), Soviet actions were obviously defensive–even the partition of Poland was rationalised on these lines. After 1947, CPs everywhere promoted ‘Peace Movements’. The qualifier that in some situations Communists don’t oppose military action is kinda lost under the weight of all that. It may have been an illusion that the CPGB was ‘anti-militarist’, but it was an illusion partly of its own making, that was particularly useful as a means of attracting intellectual converts until the bubble burst in ’56.

  337. Andy Newman,

    It is possible that while the high tide of CP influence at the leadership level of the trade union movement was in the 70s its influence among the mass of workers, measured in ideological terms and political consciousness , may have been earlier – before the Cold War and the post-war boom which inevitably provided a basis for all kinds of social democratic illusions – eroded the connection between class consciousness and a socialist political consciousness.

  338. Feodor: *Among other things, I’d highly recommend Kevin Morgan’s biography of Pollitt, from which I’ve derived most of the above.

    Best to avoid academic studies of the CPGB. They are almost without exception fatally compromised by superficiality, over reliance on documentary sources, apologia from renegades and by anti communism of both right wing and ultra left variations. Better to read John Mahon’s much more authoritative account of Pollit’s life. He had the advantage of knowing him and living through the period.

  339. and yet, and yet, and yet….the thing that interested me about the discussion in the Congress Report of 1957 is that people are discussing, falling out and making decisions about whether to stay or leave not directly to do with the politics of the invasion of Hungary but to do with ‘inner-party democracy’. Whichever way you look at this, this was an argument about how best to organise (or be organised) in a Left of Labour socialist party. There is a 14 page ‘Minority Report’ written, I think, by people such as John Savile, EP Thompson and others which posits an organisational structure different from the one that the CP had at that moment. It was thrown out by a Party committee which was largely made up of full-timers. The people who left were described in extremely pejorative terms with predictions about them going off to make money or that their splitting was the result of them being ‘intellectuals’ etc etc.

    I would very much like to read this 14 page Minority Report. I gather that there’s a copy at the Salford Library (which I contribute to) but I’m hoping that there’s a copy in the Marx Memorial Library – a bit nearer to home as I’m not heading to Manchester for a while.

    In spite of David’s comments above (which are too clever-clever for me to understand), I am quite genuinely trying to disentangle my personal memories from the documentary evidence and from what I know of the present crisis in the SWP.

    On this last matter, again – I’m not so confident as some here to give some kind of definitive description of what the SWP did do, has done, is doing, might do in the future. I wasn’t a member (yawn yawn, yes I know you know) but of course I was around in campaigns where they were ever-present, wrote for SW and SR etc etc, so it’s difficult for me to see the wood from the trees. Jumping to pat conclusions and identikit explanations don’t really tell us very much, do they?

    Meanwhile, we have experienced the worst capitalist crisis since the 1930s, and yet our side has been unable to make many dents in the system. Some of the most effective, punchy writing I’ve read – with the widest appeal – is in the Daily Mirror. And I’m not saying that just because I’ve got an article in there today. But great articles on the naked class war being enacted by the Tories and pals, is not the same as taking action.

    I suspect that in two or five years time, this apparent lack of action is what we’ll be trying extremely hard to understand and explain. Is one of the causes that there was no fighting organisation around which had succeeded in winning the trust of large numbers of working people? Yes, I think so. But why? Not for lack of numbers of tiny left organisations claiming that they could and would win that trust. Indeed, in terms of a spectrum of marxisms, the left organisations pretty well cover the lot, don’t they? So if none of them could do it, then what’s the problem?

  340. Feodor on said:

    Nick Wright: Best to avoid academic studies of the CPGB. They are almost without exception fatally compromised by superficiality, over reliance on documentary sources, apologia from renegades and by anti communism of both right wing and ultra left variations. Better to read John Mahon’s much more authoritative account of Pollit’s life. He had the advantage of knowing him and living through the period.

    You’re a little harsh there Nick, on Morgan at least, who while a little ‘post-modern’ (i.e. ‘trendy’) in his lingo and approach, has done his homework and doesn’t come across as esp. anti-Communist in his views.* I’ve read parts of Mahon’s–much longer–biography, too. I agree you’ll find a lot of extra information and things like Pollitt objecting to the treatment of Rose Cohen are included (albeit in a well-hidden footnote). Morgan admits his own debt to Mahon’s research. But if you prefer 200 pages to 500, and if you want to see what documents formerly in the Soviet archives reveal about Pollitt, then Morgan’s for you. (Sounds like I’m on fucking commission!)

    *Morgan quotes renegades and enemies quite a lot, but generally speaking, the intention is to show that Pollitt was held in high regard across the political spectrum, and for my money that is one of better/more revealing aspects of the biography. Callaghan seems more representative of the things you list, esp. over-reliance on documents. Really annoying is that despite being engrossed in the documents, he still seems to make basic errors. (In his Documentary History of British Communism, e.g., the 1945 election and CPGB position is not dealt with at all adequately.)

    Out of interest, Nick, if you’ve read it, what do you think of Nina Fishman’s CPGB and trade unions? Her history includes far more oral testimony–Francis Beckett’s is the only other history of the CPGB that I’ve encountered in which a similar amount of oral evidence is used.

  341. Feodor on said:

    Feodor: [Callaghan’s] Documentary History of British Communism …

    Michael Rosen, just thought, you might find extracts from the report you’re looking for in this book if you’re struggling–there’s definitely stuff by Thompson and Saville from The Reasoner etc.

  342. Mark P on said:

    Michael.

    In 1978 the CPGB went through the inner-party democracy debate all over again. Once more a minority report was produced, and rejected. In essence it proposed a vision for a post-Leninist Communist Party. Almost all the critique, and forms, offered echo what the SWP ‘reformers’ have been arguing for in the past year or so, minus thank goodness the Marx-awful spectre of a leading member being accused of rape.

    If you haven’t got a copy and would like one email me, I’ll photocopy it and pop it in the post to you.

    Mark Perryman

    PS Saw the puppet show adaptation of ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ just after Xmas, bloomon brilliant!

  343. #399 No, I didn’t put that very well. Probably by trying to be too brief (and too clever). I’ll try again.

    My point is that, (a) Over time things change,

    (b) Leninism is a set of ideas, developed by a specific individual and his supporters/
    followers in a specific era of history, for the purpose of working towards communism,

    (c)Communism as a concept – a belief in a fundamental change to the basis of human
    society existed before Lenin did,

    (d) Hence there is no inevitability in the perpetual relevance or applicability (assuming
    there ever was either) of the ideas referred to in (b) for the achievement of (c).

    Unless of course the works of Lenin are to be treated as holy writ, which given his own fidelity to materialism would appear to be something of a contradiction in terms.

  344. Vanya,

    There’s always a need to keep marxism leninism updated by constantly applying its ideas to the specific events and broader economic and political circumstances of the day, to refuse to do this would leave you in the weird quasi religious dogma of certain maoist sects today.

    However, from the examples of groups taking this approach, such as the euro communists, once you go down the path of ‘Leninism is outdated’ you inevitably start adopting a reformist, liberal approach. They end up replacing class politics with all sorts of individualistic nonsense, policies such as to secure equality as part of an alternative economic programme-greater state intervention in the economy, nationalisation…etc, actions to secure such a government from imperialist attempts to overthrow it-regulation of the millionaire press, leaving NATO and the EU..etc, and the very live blood of such a government-raised political consciousness, popular support,disciplined mass organisations, demonstrations…etc are dismissed in favour of concentrating solely on campaigning for proportional representation for instance. (A good policy in itself but hardly a substitute for a communist party)

    I know that certainly doesn’t apply to yourself, but from what I can see of groups that have taken this approach it seems to be a terminal danger.

  345. Vanya,

    Perhaps it’s because he was a prominent Marxist theorist whose ideas actually helped to achieve a revolution, that is the reason for continued reverence toward him ?

  346. Omar: Perhaps it’s because he was a prominent Marxist theorist whose ideas actually helped to achieve a revolution

    The outcome of which however was not an unmitigated success, and the conceit that conditions in modern democratic society bear such a similarity that Lenin’s approach could be replicated leads to entirely mistaken orientation. Indeed you could plausibly argue that Abraham Lincoln is a better exemplar.

  347. Stephen on said:

    Vanya: I’m not trying to defend the SWP but is this the right way to present the isue?
    I don’t think there was any argument as to whether rape (alleged or otherwise) or sexual harassment are legitimate practices, but as to how allegations of either should be handled.

    It wasn’t the Comrade Delta allegations that Nick and I were discussing. Rather it was the split in the ISN who had split from the SWP this was over matters that are in themselves quite esoteric and discussed in a manner most people would struggle to follow. ( Although the parallels with Life of Brian would be all too obvious)

  348. #403 Fair enough. When/if I can be arsed I’ll have a look and then I’m sure all will become clear.

    #401/2 I’m not doubting the reverance with which Lenin is held by many people, and notwithstanding Andy’spoint which has a great deal of merit/truth, I understand why.

    My point is that I don’t see why the idea of a party now seeking to achieve the goals that Lenin was aiiming for in his time and circumstances having ideas and practices that could be referred to as ‘post leninist’ is a contradiction in terms.

    I’m sure that your comment wasnt an attempt to answer me on that point. I hope it wasn’t anyway.

  349. Karl Stewart on said:

    Vanya,
    I’m attracted to the argument you’re advancing there Vanya, that communism and “Leninism” are not co-dependent and that it’s perfectly possible for a communist party to be ‘post-leninist’.

    However, I think some of the opposition to your argument will, I expect, come from people whose past experience of proponents of ‘post-leninism’ have been advocates of moving to the right, of moving away from class politics, and of advocating a ‘do-as-you-please’ individualism as alternatives.

    I’d have to agree that such concerns are legitimate – so how do we move away from ‘leninism’ without falling into those mistakes?

  350. Andy Newman: The outcome of which however was not an unmitigated success, and the conceit that conditions in modern democratic society bear such a similarity that Lenin’s approach could be replicated leads to entirely mistaken orientation.

    Certainly, but the reasons for why the outcome was “not an unmitigated success” are still being argued over today. And one could very easily make the same criticism of modern “democratic society.” Are Marx’s ideas to be dispensed with using the same criteria ?

  351. This discussion about ‘leninism’ will go nowhere as long as it conflates the diverse political. organisational and ideological models of a world revolutionary working class movement over nine decades of successes and failures with the bureaucratic procedures of a minor group whose main distinction lies in the permanence of its leadership caste.

  352. Karl Stewart on said:

    Nick Wright,
    I completely agree with that point Nick.

    But I’d argue that it’s possible to say: “I believe in communist ideas, but I disagree with the organisational method advocated by Lenin” without dismissing every achievement of the communist movements of the past.

    Where I hesitate to give unqualified agreement to Vanya’s argument is my apprehension that it’s more often than not been the case that arguments against ‘Leninism’ have tended to go hand in hand with moving to the right and sometimes have been a cover for organisational liquidationism.

    We need to avoid that danger, while defending organisational integrity, and meaningful collective responsibility alongside vigorous democratic structures that promote lively internal argument and provide arenas for the open voicing of genuine disagreement.

  353. The thing about my argument is that it’s entirely algebraic. It’s not necessary to believe that ditching Leninism is a good thing or a bad thing, or even to take a view as to whether Leninism is the right term to use for either the SWP, the various mass Communist Parties that have existed or whatever.

    Perhaps I was just engaging in pedantry, but I simply couldn’t go along with Nick’s suggestion that the term “post-Leninist Communist Party” was a contradiction.

    Apart from anything else, there were active parties describing themselves as Communists while Lenin was alive and who rejected some of his core ideas. Again, I say this not to make a value judgement as to their disagreements (in fact I would probably have more sympathy with Vladimir Ilich than with them).

  354. Vanya: Perhaps I was just engaging in pedantry, but I simply couldn’t go along with Nick’s suggestion that the term “post-Leninist Communist Party” was a contradiction.

    Parties with the ‘communist’ appellation – when they abandon the goal of political power for the working class – cease to be communist in any meaningful sense. Leninism is not an unchanging set of precise organisational forms and procedures but the application of a method in the service of this aim.

    We can tease out all kinds of continuities under the broad definition of democratic centralism, aspirations towards for discipline, collective responsibility in leadership, full discussion and an obligation to participate in party life and activity but without the goal of socialism the distinction between reformist and revolutionary politics vanishes.

    In non-revolutionary stages it is an error to make a fetish of the ultimate goal (and a superficial take on the organisational forms that go with the proximity to taking state power) without grasping the connections that take us down the road. This is why combining audacity with realism is such a valuable characteristic in left wing politics.

  355. Nick Wright,

    It does in fact occur to me that I made the perhaps unwise decision to reply to a comment you had directed at someone else, MarkP, who like yourself and unlike me was once a member of the CPGB and has written on the subject.

    Perhaps it would be more helpful to know what he actually meant when he used the offending expression.

    Over to you Mark if you’re reading this and feel inclined to comment 🙂

  356. George Hallam on said:

    Nick Wright: In non-revolutionary stages it is an error to make a fetish of the ultimate goal (and a superficial take on the organisational forms that go with the proximity to taking state power) without grasping the connections that take us down the road. This is why combining audacity with realism is such a valuable characteristic in left wing politics.

    You seem to be sneaking in “combining audacity with realism” as a characteristic in left wing politics.

    What about the characteristic of combining timidity with wishful thinking?

  357. It’s a shame that an organisation that was so dynamic and active has went totally tits up. The leadership only have themselves to blame. When I was a member years ago it was great, the SWP were at the heart of every campaign and got a lot of respect from people who weren’t members or disagreed with the party. Quite a big chunk (in my area anyway) were working class and had proper jobs in industry. The rot set in with the party structure and the way full-timers wielded power.

    When I became a union rep (in a blue collar occupation) I was constantly pushed to go against the wishes of the members I represented. “Remember, you’re an SWP member first, trade unionist second” was a phrase I heard more than once. When we went on strike over a local issue the SWP tried to intervene, bullying SWP union reps and giving totally misinformed opinions and literature out, damaging our dispute and ultimately themselves. They reminded me of First World War generals, happy to send troops over the top to their deaths while sitting miles behind the lines. When one group of workers falls they move onto the next to satisfy their middle-class lust for power and influence. I wasn’t prepared to be a sheep to the SWP, sacrificing the jobs and career prospects of my comrades (real ones in a trade union and workplace, not pretend ones in the SWP) for a load of posh, academic strangers in London. We had enough shit from the management to deal with without having the SWP getting on our case to do things their way. Whatever happened to democracy? It was our conditions, industry, jobs and families we were fighting for, not theirs.

    I’ve watched the recent events with interest and the SWP top brass have turned into the very thing that they claim to fight against. The fact that so many good people have left must tell the top dogs something. It has always been said that the party is dominated by middle class intellectuals but I have to ask one thing: If they believe that the working class are the agents of change in this country, why don’t they actually get a fucking job in a factory and agitate there instead of sitting on their posh fat arses with their fat salaries back-slapping and nobbing impressionable teenagers?

  358. Jimmy: They reminded me of First World War generals, happy to send troops over the top to their deaths while sitting miles behind the lines. When one group of workers falls they move onto the next to satisfy their middle-class lust for power and influence.

    Where do I even start? Except to applaud and pledge to buy that man a drink if we ever meet.

  359. Anna Chen,

    Thanks Anna. I can be found at the Job Centre every other Thursday signing on. I’m on a blacklist you see for being a left wing union agitator. It’s what Tony Cliff called “Theory and Practice”, Callinicos and his Politburo spout the theory and get a nice university salary, we do the practice and end up with Jobseeker’s Allowance.

  360. Jimmy,

    Sorry to hear that, Jimmy. Their general MO has been to compromise people who are supposed to be comrades and activists. I think it all goes back to Nechayev.

  361. Replying to myself higher up (!), I now have the 14 page ‘Minority Report’ which was produced from within the Report on Inner-Party Democracy prior to the CPGB’s Congress of 1957. So, in effect there are three documents a) the Majority Report ii) the Minority Report and iii) the booklet that is the write-up of the 1957 Congress which includes a summary of the Majority and Minority Reports along with political summaries of where ‘we’ are at in 1957.

    For anyone interested in what possibilities there are for left of Labour organisation, many of the issues raised in these documents have been revisited many times since and of course are being revisited now.

    Several things occur to me:
    1. Why is this debate of 1957 comparatively so little known? (I include myself in this question, particularly as it’s the reason why my parents left the CP?
    2. Quite often CP members’ disgruntlement with the Party during this period are put down to ‘Hungary’ but in fact, the cluster of events stimulating disgruntlement are the Krushchev speech at the 20th Party Congress of 1956, the matter of ‘Inner-party democracy’, Hungary and Poland.
    3. The signatories to the Minority Report are not who I said they were. They are Peter Cadogan, Christopher Hill and Malcolm McEwen. Hill is known to hundreds of thousands of people – if not millions – as a historian, Cadogan was quite well known during CND days. I remember him speaking at meetings in the 60s and 70s. I once attended a meeting which he had called, calling for some kind of ‘new’ action of some kind, I forget which! Some kind of community-based thingy, as I remember. I don’t know anything about Malcolm McEwen.
    4. No one on the Left can make anyone else on the Left do anything but when people posit suggestions for how Left organisations might be constituted, or indeed what their objectives are, I would recommend a read of this material. I’m not saying this because I have a strong academic-fart tendency inside myself – though I do – but also because of how the Left should (in my view) inform itself of history, not only of ‘History’ but also of the history of itself. If nothing else, people reading the comments on the Minority Report made by the writers of the Majority Report and the speakers at the 1957 Congress will, I’m sure, find themselves having a bit of a chuckle on seeing the repetition of rhetoric and method that has cropped up over the last two years coming from parts of the leadership of the SWP. This may be trivial – ie people in positions of power and responsibility of any kind tend to resort to the same old crap to justify themselves. Or it may have a deeper significance in terms of telling us something about the fact that it’s this specific form of organisation that is throwing up very similar kinds of rhetoric.
    5. That’s about it for the time being.

  362. Karl Stewart: the 1968 situation in Czechoslovakia and the 1979 intervention into Afghanistan. At those times, solid communists realised the necessity and backed the Soviet Union, however reluctantly and regretfully, while the faint hearts wobbled and/or lost their nerve completely.

    I missed this. Of course the CPGB opposed the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia and it took 9 years for most of those who disagreed to leave and form the NCP. The others stayed until the bitter end, and most of those are as far as I can see are in the Labour Party now.

    Personally I think the CPGB were right. And if the reform process had begun throughout Eastern Europe when the socialist economies were stronger and US imperialism was in the process of being defeated in Vietnam, perhaps things would have panned out very differently.

    No more fanciful than believing that if the NUM had held a ballot in 1984 the miners might have won after all.

  363. Maybe the splitty (I can’t spell fissiperous) nature of the hard left should be taken as a virtue – in a way it shows the compatibility of a very individualist urge with a collectivist tendency; perhaps it will only be when every man (or woman, Dave) yeah or woman is master (or mistress, Dave) yeah or mistress of their own international organization that the revolution can commence.

  364. John Grimshaw on said:

    David Ruaune,

    Am I correct in thinking that the ISN (SWP split) have now split themselves over the correct position to be taken over/on Mrs Abramovich’s bondage black woman chair?

  365. Anna Chen,

    They are so far removed from the class it’s unreal. The true activists on the ground who’ve put in the time at work and cultivated relationships with real working class people must feel very cheated now. The whole of the left are guilty of this, they talk about working class people as if we’re totally thick and need leading by the hand by the noble party leadership as we don’t know what’s good for us. It doesn’t have to be this way. Someone should say:

    Get your heads out of your arses, stop spending all of your time yapping about long gone arguments beteween long dead revolutionaries and left groups in obscure foreign countries and go and talk to working class people. Real working class people here and now, they’re everywhere, you might have met one once on the train. You childhood nanny was probably one. Make yourself a member of a club that they frequent. A real club that involves stuff other than nit-picking about the Comintern and whether Lenin lead to Stalin. I don’t know, a pub quiz team, a 5 a side league or something like that. Here’s the real clincher though: Find out where they work and get something called an application for employment form. You’ll be surprised how much moaning about the government goes on at a workplace tea break. Contrary to popular belief working class people actually discuss politics at work, it’s not just Big Brother, X-Factor and Eastenders. If you get on a production line you have a captive audience of people to bounce socialist ideas off for a full 8 hours EVERY DAY. If daddy’s friends in management try to increase those 8 hours to 12 Bingo, you’ve got real socialism right there. What to do? Here’s a tip: If a workmate calls you love or comes out with a slightly sexist remark, don’t immediately spray them with mace, you’ll get your P45 and lose your opportunity to ingratiate yourself with their working class pals. Use something called a sensible conversation, you never know you might end up with a debate on women’s liberation. PS. Don’t seek advice from Martin Smith on this point, it could be counter productive and end up with you getting a good hiding.

    I sat back with great amusement once when a posh home counties student tried to lecture my dad about the miners’ strike. My Dad couldn’t get a word in edgeways with the student , if he was allowed to the arrogant little prick might have found out about my Dad going down the pit at 15, his 30+ years in the coal industry and all the picket lines he’s been part of. Absolute fuckwits some so-called socialists.

    It doesn’t have to be this way, during the ambulance dispute in the 80s a local SWSS group got a nervous ambulance man to their college to speak. It grew from there with trips to demos, collections, nights on the beer with their families, parties and a some socialist ideas got bounced around between people who were previously hostile. At the end all the SWSS group were presented with official dispute badges, a great honour and very moving.

    Whatever comes off all this SWP balls-up I hope the good people still around don’t get disillusioned and fade away. For the people cheering you can all go and fuck yourselves, next time you’re on a demo look at some of the union banners. There’s an old phrase that resonates today “An injury to one is an injury to all”.

    Peace and socialism.

  366. #424

    This bit tickled me:

    “They should count themselves lucky they haven’t been expelled’ – 

    It brought to mind a famous quote from Marx (Groucho that is) 🙂

  367. Anna Chen,

    I love this John Rees quote from your blog:

    “The cadre of the organisation gives it stability, durability, and effectiveness in the struggle. But this can also give rise to problems especially when the conditions of struggle change quickly. … This highlights an important point: cadre only remain cadre if they continue to relate correctly to the turning points in the struggle. If they do not, in spite of their accumulated knowledge and experience, they turn from an asset into a liability.”

    Does this mean that every single group of people who have taken part in an industrial dispute are a liability in their eyes once they’ve outlived their usefulness? I’ve never been on strike to overthrow the state or install a soviet. It’s always been about pay, conditions or management victimisation pure and simple. Most people are glad when it’s over, to get back to work and earn money again to feed their families, not to keep it going in isolation and slavishly follow Emperor Callinicos by committing financial and career hari-kari.

    It’s like Mein Kampf, Hitler was very guarded about his aims when initially speaking in public but it was all there in writing from the start. These power-hungry arseholes don’t deserve to be in charge of anything let alone people’s destinies. I hope the best elements and people from the SWP fiasco are born again into a new movement, free from Stalinist domination and sanction. Maybe they might even be led by people who are similar to themselves? Now that would be a novel idea for the current UK left.

    PS, you haven’t heard the last of the SWP top people, they’ll turn up in a couple of years on some government quango helping bosses to sack workers for refusing to take part in lip service diversity seminars.

  368. Jimmy: cadre only remain cadre if they continue to relate correctly to the turning points in the struggle

    And who is it who gets to decide those turning points capriciously and on a whim without consultation or debate? Is this healthy? Why has this situation been allowed to develop?

  369. john haylett on said:

    Michael Rosen: I don’t know anything about Malcolm McEwen.

    Michael,

    Malcolm was a Daily Worker journalist who, after leaving paper and party, became involved in environmental issues. He produced a book, The Greening of a Red, which I reviewed for the Morning Star and we struck up a friendly if brief correspondence in response to what he thought was a surprisingly sympathetic article.

  370. Anna Chen: And who is it who gets to decide those turning points capriciously and on a whim without consultation or debate? Is this healthy? Why has this situation been allowed to develop?

    The party hacks get to decide. They like to call it democratic centralism but aren’t too keen on the first bit. More accurate names would be oligarchy, autocracy, dictatorship, despotism, totalitarianism and patronisetheorkingclassism.

    All this fragmented left stuff depresses me. As I don’t have a public school/non-manual occupation comfort blanket to shield me from capitalism’s jackboot, I find myself wishing I’d never got involved in left-wing politics in the first place. I’d still be bottom of the heap but I wouldn’t worry as much about it and I’d know who the enemy was. I think we have as many, if not more enemies on our own side, it’s very confusing. No wonder so many working class people choose to bury their heads in the sand, until the left stop squabbling and get their act together the status quo will prevail. Ozzy Osbourne once said that he didn’t like going to AA meetings not because he didn’t want to get clean but because he found it counter productive. The Prince of Darkness said “It’s like losing your leg and then going in a room full of one legged men talking about how they lost their leg”. I feel the same way about socialist meetings, you get reminded of how much shit you’re in (usually by someone who will never be in that position) then a strategy is proposed that will never come to fruition and will be attacked by a million other tiny sectarian left-wing groups. I started off being like Che Guevara, full of energy and fire but now I’m more like Private Fraser from Dad’s Army.

    We’re doomed laddie, aye, doomed.

  371. John Grimshaw:
    David Ruaune,

    Oooh John, don’t bring my subtext out into the full light of play – I mean day.

    Am I correct in thinking that the ISN (SWP split) have now split themselves over the correct position to be taken over/on Mrs Abramovich’s bondage black woman chair?

  372. Vanya: Of course the CPGB opposed the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia and it took 9 years for most of those who disagreed to leave and form the NCP. The others stayed until the bitter end, and most of those are as far as I can see are in the Labour Party now.

    The first part of this is not correct. Support for the 1968 Warsaw Pact intervention was much more extensive than the few hundred people the NCP took when, many years later, they were spooked into splitting.
    By the time the NCP left the field of battle the issues were much more diverse than the specific question of whether military measures were sufficient or necessary to defend socialist property relations.

    It is certainly true that the Labour Party absorbed some people but I doubt it was the majority.

  373. Michael Rosen: If nothing else, people reading the comments on the Minority Report made by the writers of the Majority Report and the speakers at the 1957 Congress will, I’m sure, find themselves having a bit of a chuckle on seeing the repetition of rhetoric and method that has cropped up over the last two years coming from parts of the leadership of the SWP. This may be trivial – ie people in positions of power and responsibility of any kind tend to resort to the same old crap to justify themselves. Or it may have a deeper significance in terms of telling us something about the fact that it’s this specific form of organisation that is throwing up very similar kinds of rhetoric.

    There is slither of truth in this. But documentary accounts, speeches and congress proceeding are just the surface expression of quite complex processes going on below.

    Is it not likely that 1956 allowed some people, perhaps wearied by the difficulties of maintaining a spirit of revolutionary optimism through the Cold War, or finding their career prospects stalled by party membership, or simply having developed a different set of politics, took the opportunity to drop out.

    We should, perhaps, subject the accounts that these people give to scrutiny as well as looking at what they did next in politics.

    I am reluctant to dismiss every body who left the CP or exalt everyone who stayed. As a young YCLer in the early 60s I was assigned a more experienced mentor, who was very concerned to inoculate me against revisionism and thus instructed me at great length about the counter revolution in Hungary. To a 1960s teenager excited by Cuba, the Viet Cong and Yuri Gagarin what happened in 1956 might as well have happened in 1066.

    My super loyalist mentor climbed out of the factory and eventually turned into be a very right wing ETU official while the some of the people who left the party in our town and the factory, stayed very close and active in the labour movement.

    Communists in 1957, forty years after the Russian Revolution, and hardly a decade after the end of the war, were debating issues of global significance and profound importance to the working class movement. The CPGB in these years was a many thousands-strong, overwhelming working class, and battle-hardened party. organised in hundreds of basic organisations in factories, depots, pits, shipyards as well as in localities. Its leadership were defending a revolutionary tradition and an ideology, a way of organising and a system of loyalties tested in war, revolution and daily class struggle.

    The leadership of the SWP were defending a failure to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct.
    If the diligent can find some echoes in the language deployed in this disreputable endeavour last year it is unlikely to signify very much beyond the fact that, as Stalin argues in Marxism and Problems of Linguistics: “ the vocabulary of a language does not change in the way the superstructure does, that is, by abolishing the old and building something new”. 🙂