Crawling from the Wreckage

This is a guest post by Mark Perryman

On the eve of the carcrash of last weekend’s SWP conference, which has consumed all the anger and energy of a small fragment of the British Left for the past week , Alex Snowdon of Counterfire posted an assessment of the state of the ‘Revolutionary Left’ on his blog here. I hold no brief for Counterfire, they do some things with a degree of flair and imagination, other things not so well and I’m personally unfamiliar with the backhistory of the key figures involved. Nevertheless I would cite Alex’s piece as an interesting and thought-provoking piece, reflective too of a recent online debate at the Socialist Unity Website. Unfortunately by and large though this isn’t being reflected in any kind of wider, more organic discussion, the reasons for that I’ll return to at the end of this contribution below.

Since the Socialist Unity and Alex Snowdon piece’s appeared the SWP fallout has erupted of course. Within a small circle this is of some considerable import, but beyond? Laurie Penny’s excellent New Statesman piece points to some potential broader ramifications for Left practice, reminiscent of the Beyond The Fragments debate of over thirty years ago. Spookily the book is being reissued in an updated edition in March of this year by Merlin Press perhaps now to be read by a new generation of Left activists with fresh interest.

Richard Seymour’s equally excellent post on his blog is of interest to non-SWP members for different reasons. It is internally focussed yet reveals the basic problem with enforcing Democratic Centralism short of a party holding state power. Without the full force of the state to wield this Leninist-inclined structure depends on a high degree of collective self-discipline, which has immense strengths when it holds but once that ‘spell’ is broken is shattered entirely. Richard is boldly asserting the right to dissent from a majority decision because he believes that this particular majority decision was corrupted. Either he will be part of forming a new majority, agree to abide by the former majority’s decision, be expelled or leave. There is no other end game, he and the SWP must know that.

Both Laurie and Richard’s contributions hint at the broader debate that perhaps should be taking place and this is where Alex Snowdon”s piece is most useful as a beginning

Some brief points then in response to Alex.

Firstly on issues on terminology. I assume by ‘revolutionary left’ Alex means mainly a Trotskyist influenced left , I would also include the Communist Party and its off-shoots, Respect and other outside Left formations. Where does the Labour Left fit in? And the Red-Greens in the Green Party?

Secondly, the European dimension. In Greece the Left are doing very well, with good results in France and Holland too. In all three countries though the Far Right are also doing very well. In Germany and Italy the Left is facing significant setbacks. In the Irish Republic, Spain and Portugal the position is stagnation at best. In Scotland there are new signs of hope with the two SNP MSPs now standing as independents but the legacy of the SSP implosion remains.

It is vital to learn from these experiences across Europe but it is wrong to generalise and even more wrong to only listen to those there who share your own tendency’s viewpoint at home. Any Left grouping here that engaged seriously with the European Left would be a significant step forward.

Beyond Europe advances in Latin America remains key, the Arab Spring in the balance. Internationalism will be shaped by both, the practical lessons for the home Left however are less clear.

Now to Alex’s notes on the ‘Revolutionary Left’

I take it he would include the SWP, SP, Counterfire, AWL, Socialist Resistance. We might add the CPB and Respect.

These can count membership numbers in hundreds, the SWP in thousands. There are other groups but these are mainly in the tens of members.

None of this list are enjoying anything resembling dynamic growth. Most do at least one or two things of some importance , eg The Marxism Festival, Coalition of Resistance, The Morning Star, winning in Bradford West. None have anything resembling a significant footprint in society nor a local base of any great measure either (that might develop in Bradford for Respect but not much sign of it yet).

Beyond the parameters of this list the Green Party isn’t making much of a breakthrough and with Labour shamefully announcing it is to prioritise targeting Caroline Lucas’s seat has a real fight on to hold on to its MP. The Greens though can claim some kind of local base, Brighton, Norwich and elsewhere. However despite the efforts of ‘Green Left’ ,the Red-Green element is scarcely visible, and mostly The Green Party appeals to voters as a left-wing Liberal-Democrat Party (I don’t mean that as an insult, more a shorthand electoral characterisation).

Inside Labour Compass has a strong media profile and does some interesting things. But its version of pluralism looks mainly rightwards, to left-wing Lib Dems, most recently here and it hasn’t the activist base that the impressively large size, numbering tens of thousands, of the Compass email subscription list might indicate it would be able to boast. The more orthodox Labour Left depends on a declining and ageing group of MPs which is most unlikely to either grow or be renewed. Neither Compass nor the Labour Hard Left have any kind of meaningful strategy to shift Labour Leftwards.

For those who don’t join up to any such group, the web is full of sites and blogs to gravitate towards, or indeed set one up yourself if the fancy takes you. But, including Red Pepper, few have any kind of life outside online contributions and none have any sort of social footprint.

The latter is made the more severe, and is partially caused by, the lack of any mass movement, certainly on the scale and with the roots of Stop the War, The Miners Strike, The Poll Tax, CND or Anti Nazi League. We cannot simply wish that lack out of existence, we have to address the reasons.

UK Uncut remains incrediby dynamic and creative but has been fatally wounded by the March 2011 criminalisation of protest at the Fortnum & Masons action and elsewhere. Student protest has to date proved transitory, the marketisation of HE threatens to consumerise educaton and it is unclear if any resistance wll take shape rather than doleful resignation, from staff and students. Occupy has come and gone, it also remains unclear whether what is left reaches far beyond a pre-existing milieu of diract actionists, brave yet socially marginal.

Where does this leave us? With a left-wing audience, bigger and less tied to Labour than ever before. But neither the ideas and forms of either Alex’s ‘revolutionary left’ nor my broader definition, appeal to many of this constituency.

It is remarkably difficult to develop a dialogue between contesting experiences, some of which are fiercely competitive and shaped by fallouts, splits and expulsions but this is a vital process which must also engage with those on the Outside Left yet entirely disconnected from the organised, parties of the Left’s. A broader, outsider, dissident leftism is much bigger and broader than the combined membership of all these small groups added together. Yet our aspirations are shaped for a Left we’d like to be part of are inevitably affected by these experiences of an organised left we’re not part of. Its called a dialectic. It is unlikely, in fact impossible, that a single group could construct such a process but without one it is hard to see a better Left emerging.

Which returns me to the SWP fallout. In the past week I have had two lengthy conversations, one with a current (and in terms of the party conference, a dissident) SWP member and one ex. The conversations were open-ended, enriched by their experience and opinions, and will remain confidential. I’ve never made any bones of my respect for some of what the SWP does at its best and my deep-seated criticism of much else. I’ve never been a member, and as a ‘Euro’ in my long past CP days might have been regarded almost as a hostile element, a wobbly reformist perhaps would have been the nicest way of putting it. None of this infected our conversations. We need a practice that gets past the petty-squabbles, the name-calling, the arcane historic point-scoring. We need a space where instead of trying in the first instance to build a party we simply have a conversation about how we arrived in this place, the twists and turns on the way, the lessons learned, the better Left most of us want to be part of.

If we can begin to detect the recognition that such a conversation, however difficult, is key then that would at least be a start towards establishing how.

485 comments on “Crawling from the Wreckage

  1. Mark P on said:

    Thanks Jay

    The Leeds SWSS statement is another piece of the jigsaw.

    The point I was making in shorthand about Democratic Centralism relates to this, and Richard Seymour’s statement too.

    Democratic Centralism when a party lacks any effective power over its members (hence my reference to state power) apart from expulsion relies on an extraordinary degree of collective self-discipline. Most critics of latterday Leninism see this as a weakness, but of course when all abide by the demand for self-discipline it can also make for highly effective organisation, an ‘interventionist party’ to coin a phrase.

    Once though that self-discipline is shattered, as Richard and Leeds SWSS’s statements appear to indicate is happening in the SWP the entire ‘spell’ is broken, probably never to be restored. And the ability to break that spell via horizontal communication is multiplied via the internet of course.

    The SWP might choose to expel itself out of existence but what kind of victory would that represent? But if the opposition cannot form a new majority, likewise, where does their refusal to submit to party discipline on this issue leave them on others?

    Its an ugly spat. For the spectators it can only leave us pondering what kind of Left would we want to be part of?

    Mark P

  2. This episode made me reflect on my experiences of the SWP, and others, over the last 30 years or so, and it’s damning of the left’s political culture. I remember the appalling bullying behaviour of numerous SWP leading members towards other left groups: the incidents of violence at Marxism; the anything-goes MO of the SWP’s leading organiser in the North East. And the way Militant intimidated others on the left, all endorsed by their leadership. I’ve also been pushed up against the wall and threatened by Labour MPs, and know the terrible behaviour by now leading LP figures, in the student movement.

    And I could never work out why so many thought this was acceptable, by people calling themselves socialists. I remember a pub game we played: would you want to live in a country run by the SWP/Militant/CP? No thanks.

  3. lone nut on said:

    “And I could never work out why so many thought this was acceptable, by people calling themselves socialists. I remember a pub game we played: would you want to live in a country run by the SWP/Militant/CP? No thanks”.
    Whereas I am sure all of us have fond memories of the charming behaviour of AWL members, and couldn’t wait to live in a country presided over by Sean Matgamna and Tom Rigby.

  4. Mark P: what kind of Left would we want to be part of?

    That is the main question at hand and there must be generations of people who still consider themselves to be ‘socialists’ or ‘on the left’ who are not active as the ‘left’ that currently exists is not the kind of left they want to be part of. I’m not just referring to ex-SWP members or ex-members of other ‘trotskyist’ groups, I am referring to ex-Labour Party, ex-CP and so on. When is this discussion going to happen that is so desperately needed? I fear that we are not there yet.

  5. Mark P on said:

    Daggi

    You’re so right. This is the conversation that needs to commence, between all those who now feel themselves without the home they once could safely call the ‘Left’.

    No we’re not there yet. But rather than being suckered into either the sheer awfulness of the SWP’s carc-crash of a conference or the self satisfaction of point-scoring maybe, just maybe, these events could be the kind of catalyst required for a space where such a conversation might erupt? Here’s hoping.

    Mark P

  6. lone nut,

    Not all AWLers were charmers, but I don’t remember the type of behaviour, which was common place on much of the far left, being a feature of SO/AWL. Either way the substantive point remains.

  7. pmg:
    lone nut,

    Not all AWLers were charmers, but I don’t remember the type of behaviour, which was common place on much of the far left, being a feature of SO/AWL.Either way the substantive point remains.

    No, leading AWL members just call for people to be shot and threaten violence on public forums.

    To wit:

    ‘You lot are witch-hunting scum, and appear to be in the pay of (or, if not, offering your services free iof charge to) the right wing of the labour movement. You will be hunted down and punished, I personally promise.’

    ‘Absolutely hilarious, Nooman. If you want a punch-up any time, just get in touch. I promise not to have you shot on sight, although that’s what you deserve. Stalinist scum.’

    ‘Nooman = stooge of Assad. Should be shot on sight.’

  8. Colin Piper on said:

    Even as a long-time critic, one might even say enemy, of the SWP, these events are self-evidently extremely sad. Before I try and make a few general observations I feel obligated to introduce myself.

    I have been a socialist all my life and joined the Labour Party as a young man because I thought it was the right thing to do, I left 25 years later for precisely the same reason. The election of Tony Blair as leader was my rubicon, or should I say theirs.

    In the meantime I had discovered Marxism, joined Militant and spent the 80′s as a ‘full-timer’. I agree with Mark that it would be useful for all of us on the left to honestly discuss the limited influence we have in Britain at the moment and the generally low level of support shown for socialist candidates in elections but I am rather more optimistic than him as regards the future.

    My father was a minister of religion in one of the smaller non-conformist christian churches. It has long been an interest of mine that the church and the left share a prediliction for splitting themselves into a myriad tiny factions and have often wondered if there was a common cause. I understand, though I am ashamedly ignorant on the subject, that Islam is similarly riven with splits.

    I wonder if part of the cause is a failure to differentiate between core beliefs and ‘optional extras’ (bear with me patient reader, this is relevant I think). Suppose, for the purposes of this post, that Jesus existed and the Bible represents the only real record we have of his words and deeds. Jesus never mentions homosexuality once and neither is it mentioned in the ten commandments. It strikes me therefore that ones attitude to it is not a core belief of Christianity and yet the church continues to tear itself apart on the issue.

    I was a member of Militant when it split over its attitude to the Labour Party. Entryism was only ever a tactic proposed by Trotsky to some of his supporters in some countries in specific circumstances, but it had now assumed the status of a core belief. Friends of mine at the time suggested that members should be free to follow both tactics, stay inside the Labour Party or leave, but they were ignored.

    What has this got to do with the SWP situation? I obviously completely agree with their reluctance to involve the state but surely they could see that this was an exceptional circumstance that required an exceptional solution. Democratic Centralism isn’t a core belief of socialists either but opposition to violence against women surely is.

    Democratic centralism was once described to me as “the politics of the picket line”. I think that cleverly encapsulates its strengths and weaknesses. Strikes and revolutionary uprisings demand a different organisational structure to the norm and I think that part of the left’s inability to grow more substantially as a result of the current political and economic situation is the effect of their structures – structures that clearly failed the SWP in this case.

    I think there are other reasons for these interminable splits, that the left and the church have in common, but I suspect I have gone on long enough. If you passionately believe in the ‘second coming’, or socialism in “five, ten or fifteen years” as the late Ted Grant oft repeated 40 years ago, then you are bound to get frustrated and angry and look for shortcuts. The SWP’s history is littered with them I’m afraid.

    I said I was optimistic however, so I will finish by saying why. The old Labour Party grew out of struggle and so will the new. I am not a fortune teller and have no idea exactly how and when this will happen, but it will happen. Working class people are fighting back against this onslaught, they have no choice, and they will draw political conclusions. I suspect that the current leaders of the Socialist Party, Socialist Workers Party et. al. will be simply passed by as a new generation takes up the banners of the old.

  9. Linda Kronstadt on said:

    Those who are striking heroic poses now that someone else has blown the whistle: what did they know and when did they know it?

  10. Mark P on said:

    I’ll ignore the point-scorers, we just need to get beyond that, it is attractive to o one apatt from those doing the name calling.

    Thanks Colin. Look this isn’t a call for a confessional Left. But the kind of conversation shaed experiences is a process teards building a spsce on the Outside Left that is a happy and attractive place. The more people chip in with the kind of accounts Colin provides the more the process might take shape.

    Thanks Jack Ford. That piece you link to is excellent, formed out of the US experience but just the kind of practical-confessiomal I’m trying to describe.

    To be effective any such process of course needs to reach out to those who have never, would never, be part of any such organisational degeneration. But in making that connection a confidence builds that a left practice that has repelled, ending up in this latest version of its own carcrash, is finished, for good.

    Mark P

  11. Mark P: This is the conversation that needs to commence

    Tomorrow, a few ten-thousand people in Berlin will trapse in the light slow and freezing temperatures to the gravestones of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebnkecht. They will either (the vast majority) be quite old, probably inactive yet still card-carrying and paid-up members of the Left Party (ex-PDS, ex-SED) and will go by themselves, leave a red carnation bought at the nearest tubestation where the local florist has a year’s turnover in the day, bow at a slightly perverse “Memorial to the Socialists” which includes many graves of people who ran the GDR for decades, as well as Luxemburg and Liebknecht, and leave their flowers amongst the wreaths, some of which will come from organisations who glorify Stalin and Mao, or from organisations of ex-Stasi officers, and so on. Early in the morning the leadership of the Left Party will leave a wreath or two and then quickly disappear, before the demonstration (mentioned in the next paragraph) turns up.

    A smaller amount of people, generally younger, though probably as a whole, over 40, will demonstrate along the former Stalinallee to the cemetery and pay their respects somehow whilst there, probably without taking part in any kind of flower-leaving ceremony. The demonstration will, as every year in the last 14 years I have noticed it (in person or on the television/in the press) be led by people and visually dominated by those carrying banners of Stalin and Mao (and Marx, Lenin, Engels, Luxemburg, Liebknecht), USSR flags, GDR flags. A few will wear the uniforms of the former GDR state youth movement, the Free German Youth (FDJ) and carry their flags. The FDJ will be present outside the cemetery with a large “Gulaschkanone” (a huge kind of trailer used to serve soup), formerly used by the GDR army, selling a plate of warming food for a few Euros. Other stands will sell photocopied pictures of Stalin, books by Mao. Of course, there will be a few trotskyists, there will be Maoists, there will be a few other stands, maybe in solidarity with Cuba and so on. There will be a stand from the ex-Stasi employees, from ex-GDR army high brass and so on. The Left Party may be present in some way.

    A fair number of people have understandably said “we’re not marching with them” and have decided to hold their own memorial-demonstration tomorrow, away from the “memorial to the socialists” and Walter and Lotte Ulbricht’s grave and will instead go to the place on the Landwehrkanal in western Berlin where the bodies were dumped after the Freikorps had finished with them.

    But the people organising this demonstration are not ideal. They are mainly social democrats (from the SPD and associated organisatiosn, not from the Left Party, along with the Left Party youth section) who fail to have any understanding that it was their comrades who had Luxemburg and Liebknecht murdered. They gloss over the nasty parts of their own history while (in hindsight, to some extent correctly) state why they don’t want to get within spitting distance, if not within 10 miles, of “the Stalinists” in the east of the city.

    (There is also a pacifist and Green Party memorial/meeting at the same place which has taken place since the mid 1980s, but that is irrelevant here, as they do not want to talk about socialism at all, unlike the social democrats mentioned above).

    So what to do? Demonstrate with those who on the whole seem – that is the visual impression – to want the USSR, the GDR, the Berlin Wall, the one-party state, Mao and Stalin back, in a bizarre time-warp, have seemingly few problems with their own ‘political tradition’ at all, and on other days, some of them at least, might join in an “Al-Quds march”? Or go with those who think everything’s fine, basically, have no problems with their own political tradition at all, and just needs to be tampered with a bit, maybe with a Tobin tax or slightly higher taxes on the rich, and, of course, a SPD government, ideally with them as MPs (and on other days might march about behind NATO flags)?

    Or stay at home, saying, again “the first lot will probably die out soon, but the second lot…, a plague on all their houses, neither grouping has very much to do with the idea of a future society I want or imagine or how to get there” – or go, and feel sick at this lot (whichever lot) being “the left”.

    About a decade ago 100,000 people would turn up at the grave, regardless of the weather. Last year it was probably about a tenth of that number. Where are the rest, and why aren’t they there any more?

  12. redcogs on said:

    Has a thread been removed? i’m sure i saw an interesting one that had close to 1000 posts discussing the SWP Delta situation?

    Has someone threatened legal action or something?

  13. Mark P on said:

    Thanks Daggi.

    I couldn’t possibly offer any answers from over here to over there.

    But any better Left I want to be part of would, for the first time in a generation, engage positively and honestly wit the European Left. Not through the prism of ‘sister tendencies’ so we are only told what confirms our own politics. Not to graft another’s model on to our own ignoring the differences. But rather as a natural part of its day-to-day practice to be informed by these various experiences across Europe of the Outside Left Parties, in almost every case even in the worst conditions of decline, with a stronger social footprint than we could claim for decades.

    So thanks for you contribution, Enjoy, as much as you can, the march tomorrow, whoever you decide to stand next to!

    Mark P

  14. Manzil on said:

    Emailed earlier this evening apparently. Forwarded for the edification of the left:

    Charlie K:
    Dear comrade

    There has been a series of attacks on the Socialist Workers Party in the media and by assorted bloggers. They concern the party’s handling of serious allegations against a leading member and the arguments (partly arising from the case) leading up to and during our recent conference.

    This was an internal matter and we had promised full confidentiality to all involved. So we strongly condemn the publication of a transcript of a closed session of the conference discussing this case. The transcript was publicised against the wishes of the complainant herself.

    The attacks are a travesty of the truth. We live in what remains a profoundly sexist society, as is shown by the sex abuse scandals and cover-ups in mainstream institutions such as the BBC and the police.

    However, the SWP is not an institution of capitalist society but fights for the overthrow of the system. Our party has a proud tradition of fighting for women’s liberation, as is shown, for example, by our consistent campaigning over the decades to defend abortion, and by our criticism of George Galloway for his remarks about the Julian Assange rape accusations.

    Reflecting this tradition, our internal structures seek to promote women to leading roles and deal rigorously with any action by any member that is harmful or disrespectful of women.

    It is in the context of this commitment that we took allegations against a leading member of the party very seriously.

    Unlike the BBC or any other establishment body faced with such an allegation an investigation into this complaint immediately was set in place.

    The complainant made the choice not to go to the police, who are notorious for their systemic failure to defend women. Instead she asked for her complaint to be heard by the body within the SWP charged with dealing with disciplinary cases, the Disputes Committee. We respected that choice.

    The Disputes Committee is a body of experienced members who had been unanimously elected by the previous conference. The attacks on it as a ‘sharia court’ are little short of racism.

    After a lengthy and thorough hearing, the Disputes Committee did not uphold the accusations and decided to take no disciplinary action.

    Five of the seven members hearing the case were women, and one has experience as a rape counsellor. These included two members of the Central Committee, the elected leadership body of the SWP. Its members (who are always a minority on the DC) work with the DC to ensure the political integrity of the party, and to ensure the concerns and decisions of the DC are fed into the CC’s work.

    At all times great efforts were taken to support the complainant.

    Had the Disputes Committee believed that the accused person was guilty, it would have expelled him from the SWP immediately.

    The case was discussed at length at a session of our conference, which voted to accept the report and overwhelmingly re-elected the Disputes Committee. Far from being a cover up this sort of open discussion shows that our procedures and elected bodies are accountable to our membership.

    If this case had been raised within a trade union or any other organisation there would be no question that the matter should be treated with complete confidentiality. This basic principle should also apply in this case.

    As far we are concerned, this case is closed. This is not a ‘cover up’. It is a determination to reflect the decision of our conference. We believe that both parties to the case should have their right to confidentiality and their right as members in good standing respected.

  15. Colin Piper: The old Labour Party grew out of struggle and so will the new.

    This is the absolute key point. It is the level of mass struggle, and with it consciousness, which determines the need, viability, and sustainability of any counter-hegemonic formation or party at any given period. If it is to have any hope of gaining traction it can never be the product of the desire of a few embittered, hopeful, well intentioned, committed or idealistic (take your pick) activists whose motivation is largely, but by no means solely, to be part of something. It can’t just be a sanctuary or a defence against reality for those involved. Rather it must be rooted in reality.

    Labour emerged from the mass struggles of its day, the SSP drew its legitimacy and relevancy from the mass struggle against the Poll Tax, while Respect grew out of the antiwar movement. It is also a fact that both the SSP and Respect suffered a dip in fortunes, expressed in damaging internecine faction fights, when the mass struggles and consciousness that accompanied their respective formations and successes receded.

    These lessons, hard though they may be, cannot be ignored.

  16. Mark P: whoever you decide to stand next to!

    I’m with the 90,000 who don’t bother any more. I regret it, but it’s less depressing than going.

  17. Mark P on said:

    Manzil. Thanks. Where this leaves those who resolutely refuse to accept the decisions of a conference majority in a Democratic Centralist organisation remains unclear. The ‘genie’ can hardly be put back in the bottle though Democratoc Centralism provides little or no space for the kind of open revolt Richard Seymour, for all the right rasons, has been calling for.

    John. You are of course absolutely correct. However there is perhaps a relatonship. Despite the conditions for resistance there is no mass movement of any sorts against the Con-Dem onslaught. At the same time the Outside Left is in a precipitively weak state, its fractiousness more unattractive than any organisational strengths it might retain. Meanwile the Labour Left is mostly ineffectual, Respect moving backwards fast, the Greens not making the kind of breakthrough Caroline Lucas’s election might have been expected to deliver.

    Mark P

  18. Mark P: However there is perhaps a relatonship.

    Yes, indeed. I think the key is getting the relationship right in a dialectical sense. For me groups such as the SWP place the subjective factor at the start of this relationship, when it belongs at the end, as the organic culmination of objective conditions. The reason why this is so vital is that it informs either correct or incorrect praxis.

    The danger of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time is that it leads to demoralisation. There is no doubt that in the current climate you would think the fortunes of the left would never be so favourable. Yet we’re nowhere.

    This could be the price paid for past failures, splits, and factionalism, along with the rightward trajectory of Labour, leading to mass disengagement from politics and apathy.

    I don’t know about you, but I get the sense that people are still at the stage of suffering in silence, seeking individual solutions to the attacks they are under by a government that feels emboldened due to the lack of opposition. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be resistance on a more substantive scale in the future.

    The Tottenham riots of 2011 I think are a harbinger of what’s coming down the track. Without a viable, coherent and organised left it will be ugly, incoherent and messy. But as the saying goes politics abhors a vacuum.

  19. Mark P on said:

    I’m not sure if its actually posted by himself but in a comical development Charlie Kimber, SWP National Secretary’s Democratic Centralist diktat has been posted as a commebt on Lenin’s Tomb as a ‘comment’ on Richard Seymour’s rebellion post.

    Ignore the edict, as Richard Seymour and many others presumably will, and I’m afraid the fiction that Democraric Centralism operates any more in the SWP will be patently obvious. The collctive self-discipline entirely deconstructed. Comrade Kimber doesn’t quite get it, does he?

    Mark P

  20. Richard S on said:

    Good call Mark.

    It strikes me that there maybe many more ex-members of Left organisations, than current members of Left organisations.

    A wealth of experience, good, bad and jaded.

    I’d rather have something that I can participate in, rather than have to ‘Join’. One of the positives of UK Uncut actions.

    What kind of organisation/network/affiliation helps bind this constituencey together a critical question.

    Personally, I don’t have a clue

  21. Mark P on said:

    Admitting e’re starting wih a clean sheet, and that we want for starters is a space we can participate in. Thats doesn’t sound like to me as too bad a couple of starting points.

    Mark P

  22. Richard S: I’d rather have something that I can participate in, rather than have to ‘Join’.

    But then you have to deal with the “tyranny of structurelessness” – and as someone who’s had to deal with supposed “anarchists” in campaign organisations without any democratic structures, I can tell you, that’s not much fun either – unless you just want to be a bag-carrier and do what you’re told (or do nothing).

  23. Mark P on said:

    Daggi. I don’t entirely disagree, but the headlong rush towards the formalities of organisation and structure before even the most basic kind of dialogue has taken place is no way to start this long-awaited process either.

    Mark P

  24. Mark P,

    Yes, I agree. But if people just want to “do stuff” – which is understandable – and not really want to decide what it is they do, and how, and why, then they might as well just join some kind of so-called “democratic” centralist organisation like the SWP and carry those placards. The SWP could be “fun” but with exactly the same structures and methods. Would it be better? All in all, no.

  25. John,

    I presume that’s Jim D and it’s coarse language, but not the same as the Stalinist machine-style politic behaviour that the Militant/SWP have promoted for decades. They were akin to cults with the same speaking styles, affected accents and religious fervour.

    I have to say it did for me in the late 90s – I had one SWP stitchup too many – and I try to do good things in other ways now. What a shame we don’t have a pluralist, democratic, and critical-thinking socialist culture on the UK left. It can only be when the SWP falls apart and their ex-members start to understand how to behave, that we can see progress.

  26. Richard S on said:

    Daggi

    I’m well aware of the “tyranny of structurelessness” as well. But after 20 plus years in the SWP, then Respect, leaving when Salma resigned, I’m not going to leap into the next ready formed organisation.

    I’m happy as member of FC United at present, (and there’s a surprising number of lefties on those terraces) and maybe there’s more to be explored in the ideas and notions of cooperatives

  27. daggi,

    As I said, it was a bit of pub chat after a demo, probably after being shouted a for being a Zionist, or for being middle class.

    That said I don’t think anyone expected a fair trial from the SWP/MIlitant. The ISG probably, and Labour Briefing.

  28. Mark P on said:

    Pmg.

    “What a shame we don’t have a pluralist, democratic, and critical-thinking socialist culture on the UK left.”

    Thats a pretty good description of a Better Left.

    ” It can only be when the SWP falls apart and their ex-members start to understand how to behave, that we can see progress.”

    Don’t entirely agree. The SWP carcrash is in part a catalyst. Yet the fallout is symptomatic of a much broader malaise and recognising that is pretty crucial if any outcome is to be of significance.

    Daggi. Good question. Part of a Better Left engaging on a day-to-day basis with the European Left would be finding out! My sense is that the Outside Left across Europe is so much bigger than what we have here so there is at least the possibility of a diversity of forms that provides spaces for this kind of Better Left to exist, even when they are not in the majority.

    Mark P

  29. jack ford on said:

    One thing is absolutely clear from the Lenin’s Tomb thread and that is that even the reformers believe that their party is somehow above the law. They regard the very idea of going to the police as anathema. If Richard and his people are forced to split from the SWP and form a new outfit I don’t believe anyone should join it as long as they have that mindset.

  30. Mark P,

    My point was that for any positive political groups to come out of the SWP, they will have to think deeply about how socialists behave.

  31. Mark P on said:

    pmg. I don’t disagree. All I’m suggesting is that any kind of rethinking to be of much consequence will need to be much broader than simply ex-SWPers.

    Mark P

  32. I joined the SWP in 1974. I left in the mid ninety nineties. I worked on Socialist Worker for a time. I was a member of the National Committee for many years. Most of the experience was positive. I was around at the start of the Right to Work Campaign, the Anti Nazi League and Rock Against Racism. I can still look back with pride on those years. I was a shop steward in a factory in the north west when we broke the 10% pay freeze, winning our members a 16% pay rise. I was President of Knowsley NUT. The SWP taught me working class history and fired me with a conviction that women’s liberation, internationalism and anti racism were at the heart of the fight for socialism.
    Over time I started to become disenchanted with some elements of the organisation’s practice. On a number of occasions I excused things I thought were inexcusable, but never anything like the alleged events that have emerged recently.
    After being harried for some years as a ‘syndicalist’ and becoming the victim of some very underhand, unpleasant and dishonest behaviour I hung on because I subscribed to most of what the SWP was saying. It wasn’t exactly ‘my party right or wrong’, but it wasn’t far off. Eventually that became untenable and I quit. My resignation letter featured two issues: party democracy and unrealistic perspectives.
    Like a lot of other exes, I did not stop being a socialist just because I left an organisation. I have a great affection for much of the party’s tradition and am close friends with many SWP members. I find myself looking on aghast at recent developments however. I am now an independent socialist and a prominent library and anti cuts campaigner. I am in a party of one and there are disagreements! I work with SWP members, Socialist Party members, Respect, Counterfire and Labour Party members and others, but mainly with people in no party, trade union and community activists and ordinary members of the public who want to save what is left of the public services.
    What strikes me is that much of the Left is demoralised and inactive. I organised the 200-delegate Campaign for the Book conference. How many organised socialists attended? None, but it was successful. I helped organise the Speak up for Libraries lobby of parliament. How many organised socialists attended? None, but it was successful. I helped organise the SUFL conference. How many organised socialists attended? Two, and yes, it was a success.
    So why am I posting this comment even though I find the tone of much of the debate gloating and distasteful? It is because many of the best people in the Left are in the SWP, the SP, Respect and other grouplets and often keep a watching brief on this forum. It is also because I now feel that the baleful legacy of a a distorted concept of party and democratic centralism is making them ever more passive, hog-tied or irrelevant or both.
    Tony Mulhearn’s candidacy in Liverpool was very creditable. He got a decent vote, beat the Tory and I spoke at a 450 strong rally. Events like this, Galloway’s victory in Bradford and others can be part of the recovery of the Left but no one grouping can insist on its papal superiority. That idea is redundant. If a Left outside the Labour Party is to be rebuilt it has to be democratic, principled and open. It has to tolerate difference without being paralysed by division. It has to conduct itself in a way that is consistent with a desire to achieve women’s liberation and socialism. A creative regroupment of the Left is essential and overdue. I haven’t given up hope that it can happen. Like thousands of others I would not touch any kind of party membership card with a bargepole at the moment but, given the right circumstances, I would energetically throw myself into a new formation that is capable of learning from the past.

  33. Uncle Albert on said:

    #3: “I’ve also been pushed up against the wall and threatened by Labour MPs”

    Goodness! Who would of thought they had it in them?!

  34. Manzil on said:

    Very interesting comments throughout so far.

    Colin and John’s remarks about struggle are I think crucial to this discussion. Obviously it would be easier to just say, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if people [or in this case, the Left] were nicer?’ But outside of a bit of pub banter, philosophising, although important, won’t necessarily get us very far. Not to go all retro, but I’ll quote the old man: we should endeavour to ‘express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes’.

    Reviewing the Left in the recent past, I think we can say there have been serious and varied attempts to make intellectual progress in the post-Soviet, neoliberal, globalised age – to adapt to and interpret new realities. I think the internet has helped this process, and is in the process of breaking down some of the last ideological shibboleths of ‘a long time ago in a socialism far far away’, such as (some of) the Left’s… unique interpretation of the merits and universality of ‘democratic centralism’.

    That is, I believe that (politically organised) socialists have attempted to maintain a coherent, militant expression of the interests of the labour movement, often under incredibly difficult circumstances.

    But has it actually expressed the class struggle as it has unfolded? I think too often the habit has been to reformulate and reinterpret according to socialist schematics which are quite simply outdated.

    Rather than polarisation and mass immiseration we have seen the expansion of massive intermediate strata, and the marginalisation of the ranks of the deprived and excluded. This has allowed the elite to universalise a sectional project to restructure society in the aftermath of ‘actually existing socialism’. We have perhaps under-emphasised the need for a popularisation of a common-sense alternative vision appropriate to a period where the Left cannot depend on the concentrations of manual (semi-)skilled workers to foster an almost automatic sense of class identity and interest.

    We have a Left often more at home on campuses than council estates. Our strongholds in the public sector have abdicated the leadership of the working class as a whole – peripheral struggles have been abandoned and the ruling class allowed to paint the extraordinary potential power of the trade unions as antithetical to the interests of the mass of the (objectively proletarian) population.

    Yet we have opportunities to educate, agitate and organise that were unknown in previous periods. That we have not done so highlights either an unwillingness or inability to adapt.

    The case of the SWP is particularly instructive. Its highest impacts over the last decade were in the anti-war and anti-racist movements, where they reflected real and serious struggles. It is not accidental that this latest crisis has come at a time of withdrawal from connections to class struggle where they exist.

    Whether over benefit cuts and workfare, student protests, mass unemployment, tax avoidance etc. there are serious struggles occurring. The Left is good at mobilising, and articulating clearly the interests behind, such struggles. But inevitably without a generalised political argument, such movements subside and lead to demoralisation and demobilisation. We all have lives to live. It is fucking difficult to have to start from scratch when each particular injustice breaks out.

    Unity and democracy are not catchphrases, they are the means of banking the memory of ‘the most advanced and resolute section’ of the working class, and allow us to take these movements happening under our eyes and to actually make them conscious of themselves.

    This may come across as a bit rambling, a bit too close to, ‘We can’t we all just get along’. But does anyone seriously think there are insurmountable political obstacles to a united front of the overwhelming majority of the Left’s ‘human material’? Unity in a vacuum is neither here nor there, but as a means of engaging with people and pushing our influence to the limits, it is qualitatively transformative, helping to normalise opposition to a social system that has for a long time been delegitimised as out of bounds.

    Returning to the man himself: we should not form a separate party; we have no interests separate and apart from the working class as a whole. The practise and mindset of separation, i.e. sectarianism, surely highlights that we are vulnerable to becoming detached from the interests of the labour movement.

    Has anyone here read Ursula K. LeGuinn’s The Dispossessed? Classic bit of utopian fiction. Anyway, thought I’d end this rambling comment with a passage I’ve always liked, to emphasise my criticisms are sincerely not meant to be anything but an honest plea for us to all do better: ‘We know that there is no help for us but from one another, that no hand will save us if we do not reach out our hand.’

    Alternatively, there’s that Shaun of the Dead scene where they quote a Bertrand Russell beer mat on the redemptive power of cooperation. Pick your potato, basically, but let’s stop playing silly buggers, yeah?

  35. secret factioneer,

    A movement where people are allowed to hold different views, and that’s seen as a healthy thing. Where we don’t pack small meetings to get a small organisational advantage; where ideas are treated seriously and not as factional advertising campaigns.

  36. Stephen on said:

    To be frank some of these issues are at least as much psychological as political.

    You won’t move very far towards socialism if the primary building blocks are organisations where people are expected to leave their critical faculties at the door on the way in.

    (I’d cite the conference transcript and Charlie Kimber’s Cardinal Ratzinger impersonation posted above as evidence that this IS what is expected)

    the far left resemble millenarian sects more than anything else … and the more they are explicitly revolutionary in their self image, the more deluded and cult like they seem.

    Of course building a rigid and disciplined formation which can be a working class vanguard capable of leading the class towards… christ i’m losing the will to live already.

    I’m really not in a position to say whether Democratic Centralism was the right thing to do in pre revolutionary russia … but I do know that if it is the theological justification for the SWP acqauintance I met while he was out selling the paper today saying “can’t talk about it, really i can’t”. Then it is not appropriate for the UK in 21st century. (Wee hint guys, you are not an underground trying to avoid capture – you are paper sellers in Stockton and Motherwell, shop stewards in hospitals and offices)

    And I know it sounds heretical… but really perhaps a wee bit less activism, a wee bit less shouting through megaphones and a wee bit more quiet reflection, wouldn’t go amiss.

  37. John: Yes, indeed. I think the key is getting the relationship right in a dialectical sense. For me groups such as the SWP place the subjective factor at the start of this relationship, when it belongs at the end, as the organic culmination of objective conditions. The reason why this is so vital is that it informs either correct or incorrect praxis.

    And yet this is part of the problem.

    As I have just posted over at the RevForum:

    If you read the attempts that have been made so far by comrades (here and elsewhere) to account for this you will struggle long and hard, and to no avail, to find a class analysis why this sort of thing keeps happening. Comrades blame this or that foible or personality defect of that or this comrade, or this or that party structure. If we only had a different CC, or shiny new democratic structures, everything would be hunky dory. If only the climate in the party were more open and democratic….

    Do we argue this with respect to anything else? If only we had a different President, different Senators or MPs! Or, maybe a new constitution with proportional representation allowing us to elect members to Congress, yada yada.

    But this is an endemic feature right across our movement, and has been for generations, just as it surfaces right across capitalist society, too. In which case, we need a new, class-based, materialist explanation as to why it keeps happening, or it will keep on happening.

    I think I have found part of the answer:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2009_02.htm

    That essay is rather long. I have summarised some of its key points here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/Summary_of_Essay_Nine-Part-02.htm

    http://www.revforum.com/showthread.php?1613-Crisis-in-the-UK-SWP&p=7531#post7531

  38. Graham Day on said:

    Manzil: Kimble: If this case had been raised within a trade union or any other organisation there would be no question that the matter should be treated with complete confidentiality.

    It really can’t be said enough: no trade union or other organisation would take it upon themselves to investigate and adjudicate on a charge of rape. That’s the issue here, the institutional arrogance, which seems to be shared fully by the so-called “opposition”, that an organisation like the SWP (or the WRP, or the CPB, or the Labour Party, or the Tory Party, or the RSPB, or the local chess club) is capable of taking on that responsibility. There’s really no room on “the left” for people who think like that.

  39. •Charlie got in touch and told me there were a few omissions in his original email. He asked me to put out this correction -

    Dear comrade (mug)

    There has been a series of attacks on the Socialist Workers Party in the media and by assorted bloggers (which have shown us up for the control freaks we are). They concern the party’s handling of serious allegations against a leading member (sex fiend) and the arguments (partly arising from the case) leading up to and during our recent conference.

    This was an internal matter (as all our rape cases are) and we had promised full confidentiality to all involved (to cover it up). So we strongly condemn the publication of a transcript of a closed session of the conference discussing this case (next time, we’ll search you all). The transcript was publicised against the wishes of the complainant herself (Alex, please remind her about this).

    The attacks are a travesty (or summing-up, Alex check which word is correct) of the truth. We live in what remains a profoundly sexist society (which does have its good points), as is shown by the sex abuse scandals and cover-ups in mainstream institutions such as the BBC and the police (and we can teach them a few more lessons).

    However, the SWP is not an institution of capitalist society but fights for the overthrow of the system (so me and my mates will be in charge). Our party has a proud tradition of fighting for women’s liberation (the CC makes damn sure they’re liberated) especially, as is shown, for example, by our consistent campaigning over the decades to defend abortion (Christ, just as well, we’ve only got so much dosh), and by our criticism of George Galloway for his remarks about the Julian Assange rape accusations(Got you back, George!).

    Reflecting this tradition, our internal structures seek to promote women to leading roles (upon payment in kind) and deal rigorously with any action by any member (oh, er missus) that is harmful or disrespectful of women(HA HA HA).

    It is in the context of this commitment that we took allegations against a leading member of the party very seriously (HA HA HA HA. Christ Alex, that was the hardest part to write with a straight face).

    Unlike the BBC or any other establishment body faced with such an allegation an investigation into this complaint immediately was set in place (yeh, cos Delta and us all were in the pub at the time).

    The complainant made the choice not to go to the police (she would not have dared), who are notorious for their systemic failure to defend women (but not as bad as us). Instead she asked (was told) for her complaint to be heard by the body within the SWP charged with dealing with disciplinary cases, the Disputes Committee. We respected that choice (order).

    The Disputes Committee is a body of experienced members who had been unanimously elected by the previous conference (no choice, Comrades). The attacks on it as a ‘sharia court’ are little short of racism (thank fuck, a smokescreen).

    After a lengthy and thorough hearing, the Disputes Committee did not uphold the accusations and decided to take no disciplinary action (shock, horror!).

    Five of the seven members hearing the case were women, and one has experience as a rape counsellor (thank fuck again, a fig leaf). These included two members of the Central Committee, the elected leadership body of the SWP (like North Korea). Its members (who are always a minority on the DC) work with the DC to ensure the political integrity of the party, and to ensure the concerns and decisions of the DC are fed into the CC’s work (of WATCHING AND CONTROLLING WHAT YOU THINK).

    At all times great efforts were taken to support (shaft and undermine) the complainant.

    Had the Disputes Committee believed that the accused person was guilty (as if), it would have expelled him from the SWP immediately (HA HA HA).

    The case was discussed at length at a session of our conference (time for a snooze), which voted to accept the report and overwhelmingly re-elected the Disputes Committee (no choice again as I said) . Far from being a cover up this sort of open discussion shows that our procedures and elected bodies are accountable to our membership (oh dear,dear,dear. At this point I’ll have to stop for a moment or I’ll wet myself).

    If this case had been raised within a trade union or any other organisation there would be no question that the matter should be treated with complete confidentiality (after going to the proper authorities). This basic principle should also apply in this case (shut up, you bastards, he’s a mate, he didn’t mean no harm, she’s a slapper).

    As far we are concerned, this case is closed (Oi! Once more! Shut up you bastards! Alex tell them to shut up). This is a ‘cover up’(you bet it is). It is a determination to reflect the decision of our(me and my mates’) conference. We believe that both parties to the case should have their right to confidentiality and their right as members in good standing respected (except that lying slapper).

    Charlie Kimber
    SWP National Secretary

    Glad to be of assistance, Charlie.
    o
    o 1

  40. I think the tone of the discussion here is excellent and constructive, but I would like to respond to a couple of my own:

    I am a member of a democratic centralist organisation (SP), and I don’t think it’s entirely fair to conflate the version practiced by the SWP with all interpretations of the concept. I certainly don’t believe that banning permanent factions or expelling members for discussing the formation of a faction, for example, and I certainly think it has nothing to do with ruling on rape allegations. Most importantly, I believe that democratic centralism can only function effectively if there is good quality horizontal communication between branches, a climate in which political disagreements can be aired without fear of reprisal, and a culture of mutual respect. I don’t think that the problems that the SWP are having equate to a refutation of democratic centralism, personally. I appreciate others will have differences, and that any organisational structures must evolve to meet the changing material situation, that is natural, but a system which prioritises as principle the maximum democracy in debate and the maximum unity in action has many commendable strengths and works well within my own organisation.

    I don’t however think that democratic centralism will be a feature of building a wider left base however, and I think its pretty clear the only way that can be done is on a federalist basis. We’re all aware there is no ‘one’ fully fledged revolutionary party, but a range of currents and tendencies within the radical left, none of whom have a right to assume leadership. Colin was exactly right that new movements are borne out of struggle; I actually believe that it’s very clear that process is in motion.

    Anyway, bit rambling, but yeah, “dem cent”, not everyone likes the SWP version.

  41. Sam,

    But Sam, the SP isn’t a ‘party’, it’s a small left group, which hasn’t publicly accounted for its own history, views other left groups as ‘the middle class sects’ and pretends that they are ‘the Marxists in the labour movement’.

  42. Jellytot on said:

    Alan Gibbons

    Characteristically Intellegent and interesting contribution at #38 and who could not feel sympathy with this part of it:

    Like thousands of others I would not touch any kind of party membership card with a bargepole at the moment but, given the right circumstances, I would energetically throw myself into a new formation that is capable of learning from the past.

    Manzil

    But does anyone seriously think there are insurmountable political obstacles to a united front of the overwhelming majority of the Left’s ‘human material’?

    The insurmountable political obstacle is the fact that any ‘front’ at the moment would be composed of groups with their own narrow sectional interests, own culture, own leaderships and own disciplines. Sure they might ‘get on’ for a few months or years but at the first bump in the road the organisational contradictions come to the fore and it falls apart.

    Added to that is the need for the largest groups on the Left to dispense with Revolution or some kind of Communist society in Britain as the ultimate goal; this truly incredible idea can only produce warped, distorted and ultmately fractious political forms in a society that seems configured never to realise it.

    Political organisations of that stripe seem to resemble religious cults awaiting The Rapture than groups at ease with themselves and grounded in political and social reality.

    It all needs to wither on the vine before anything worthwhile can be built anew in terms of organisation.

  43. Sam,

    Also SP, and while I agree on some points – my experience of its ‘democratic centralism’ is of a different order than what seems to be accepted in the SWP – I do think emphasising it as an ideal exaggerates the tendency towards the problems which this crisis is demonstrating in its most extreme form. (I don’t think ‘federalism’ is a solution either – surely in this context it just means a ‘sectarianism ceasefire’ between the leaders of each group. At best, it’s second-best – to real unity. But that’s another discussion.)

    When it works, ‘democratic centralism’ is just synonymous with democracy as it is popularly understood anyway – we debate, we vote, the winning side takes the lead in implementing it. The democracy of an activist political organisation is obviously different from that of a representative institution. We needn’t theorise that. Now, whether the minority join in or not is entirely up to them. Democratic centralism seems to be a label for the attempt to make their cooperation seem natural and automatic. We are currently seeing how unthinking self-discipline can be worse than indiscipline!

    That said, the SP’s culture seems quite relaxed and ‘normal’ (a repeated criticism seems to be that it is boring!) and I value that compared to the hyperactivity many socialists seems to enjoy.

    Graham Day,

    Agree about ‘institutional arrogance’ – especially since the blog linked to here is run by one of the democratic opposition, and seems to view the SWP before this episode as basically healthy.

    I can’t help thinking this is a result of a particular ‘lifestyle’-centred conception of politics, wherein involvement in ‘the party’ has taken on an unusually predominant role in people’s lives. Stephen’s comment has a ring of truth to it. The left (of all stripes) does seem to have its fair share of, to put it politely, people I’d rather not spend my free time with, let alone trust to run the country. Now this is unavoidable in any largeish group. But they bloody well shouldn’t be in charge!

  44. Correct Linus on said:

    I was a member of a dem cen group in the US that collapsed some 20 years ago. Writing after on the way ahead, I used this quote from Raymond Williams:

    “A sharing socialism is the only probable and hopeful direction. Limited and chastened by disappointments and failures, some socialists, including some socialist leaders, back away from the challenge. Yet, against the odds, there are many signs of a more general resilience, learned more from ourselves under pressure than simply from ideas. In this sense we can face the future as we really get to know ourselves in the present: a confidence in ourselves that is always our leading resource.” (New Socialist, May 1985)

  45. Jellytot,

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a front any more than you. It would only strengthen rather than circumvent the tendency towards bureaucracy – a ‘European Union’ of the far left, if you will. But that doesn’t weaken the case for left unity, it only confirms it: the present situation is so crap anything short of a total break with the current model would probably kill off its own solution!!

    And as for socialism as an ideal, we’ll just have to agree to disagree – I don’t think we’re divided and in crisis because many of us continue to advocate abolition of private property in the means of production. But I don’t think disagreement on that is really relevant to the task at hand. In practice the commitment to revolution, in the style of underground professionals in tsarist Russia, is entirely rhetorical. The SWP, SP, CP etc. are only relevant to the labour movement when they participate in it in ways not dissimilar to ‘reformists’. When they work in the class on the existing political level of the class.

  46. Graham Day on said:

    Manzil: Now this is unavoidable in any largeish group.

    Depends on your definition of “largeish”. IMO none of the organisations mentioned above are anything other than tiny. Even the Labour Party would only scrape “largeish” by historical standards.

  47. BrokenWindow on said:

    Jellytot: It all needs to wither on the vine before anything worthwhile can be built anew in terms of organisation.

    It has;the Left is extinct but hopefully a new generation will learn from some of its more attractive qualities,of which there are many,and leave behind…well all this shit above.But the game IS over.

  48. @ pmg

    “But Sam, the SP isn’t a ‘party’, it’s a small left group, which hasn’t publicly accounted for its own history, views other left groups as ‘the middle class sects’ and pretends that they are ‘the Marxists in the labour movement’.”

    I specifically said there is no revolutionary party in Britain, and that the organisations that there are closer to currents and tendencies than parties in the way that most people understand them. Incidentally we put out quite a lot of material on our history, and yes we do view ourselves as Marxists within the Labour movement, though that in no way means that we think that everyone outside the SP is a middle-class sect. I don’t particularly understand your response and I don’t think you’ve acknowledged the spirit of what I was saying.

    @ Manzil

    I’m not trying to paint dem cent as ideal in all situations, and it needs to be reflexive. But I also think that probably what you mean by “real unity” is where we all agree, and if that ever happens (unlikely) it will be as a result of democratic debate. Neither is federalist organisation an organisational fix-all, but it is the only way for groups to come together and work constructively. Just to emphasise also, I think organisational structures will only ever be as good as the culture members create and maintain, and I think that is a factor in our coming across a bit more “normal” as you say.

  49. Stephen on said:

    Manzil: In practice the commitment to revolution, in the style of underground professionals in tsarist Russia, is entirely rhetorical.

    In PRACTICE yes… but not in their own heads or the groupthink they indulge in … or the belief that their individual grouping IS, or is on the cusp of becoming , or when the circumstances arise etc, the vanguard (the practice of the SP of designating themselves as “the marxists ” when saying “we” would be more acccurate has already been alluded to)

    Manzil: The SWP, SP, CP etc. are only relevant to the labour movement when they participate in it in ways not dissimilar to ‘reformists’. When they work in the class on the existing political level of the class.

    Absolutely…the problem is that delusions about their own wisdom and role often make that v difficult.

  50. Manzil on said:

    @ Sam #56 – Nothing I disagree with there in principle! But I don’t think debate should be limited to the leading components of socialist groups, which is what federalism seems to imply. That’s all.

    @ Graham #54 – They’re large enough to pick up a broad spectrum of personalities, was my point.

    Stephen: In PRACTICE yes… but not in their own heads orthe groupthink they indulge in … or the belief that their individual grouping IS, or is on the cusp of becoming , or when the circumstances arise etc, the vanguard (the practice of the SP of designating themselves as “the marxists ”when saying “we” would be more acccurate has already been alluded to)

    That is a problem. On the other hand, I’m one of ‘them’. I don’t believe I engage in this sort of behaviour. I know many others don’t either. Sam, above, hasn’t done so. It doesn’t have to be like that.

  51. The Socialist Party don’t refer to themselves as “the Marxists” any more and haven’t done so in a long time.
    That all went out with the Militant and in retrospect the practice probably wasn’t a good idea at the time.

  52. Graham Day on said:

    Manzil: They’re large enough to pick up a broad spectrum of personalities, was my point.

    The “broad spectrum of personalities” aren’t really interested in politics…

  53. Jellytot on said:

    Manzil

    The SWP, SP, CP etc. are only relevant to the labour movement when they participate in it in ways not dissimilar to ‘reformists’. When they work in the class on the existing political level of the class.

    I agree so shouldn’t they draw the correct conclusions from that?

  54. Feodor on said:

    As I’ve said elsewhere, and as others have also pointed out, we face two problems, minimal and maximal if you like: (1) a disconnection from the ‘bread and butter’ issues of working people; (2) the failure to formulate a viable and attractive alternative to the status quo – btw, this doesn’t necessarily have to be communism in the abstract, it can be a concrete idea of of a combative social partnership. I don’t pretend to know how to resolve these problems, but if it’s to gain popular currency, the resolution must relate to pre-existing frames of reference – obscure, quasi-scholarly jargon and references to the tomes of dead Russians is never going to gain wide appeal. But simple English which draws upon examples which everyone can relate to, now that might be able to resonate with a broad social constituency – namely, workers, youth, minority groups and intellectuals.

    I also like the idea of some kind of pluralist forum in which we can open up lines of dialogue and share experiences from a range of political traditions, without the kind of activist hyper-activity that seems to characterise much of the (far-)left. I suspect I’m like a number of young people of left-wing inclination in that I’ve never had the opportunity of working in a unionised job and, moreover, am not attracted to the far-left grouplets that operate in my area. This leaves us isolated, and we really need to come up with ways in which older, more experienced comrades can share their wisdom – I love coming here and reading the discussions precisely because that’s what SU provides. But internet discussions still fall well short of the kind of encouragement and confidence younger socialists gain from personal contact with older comrades. There is a wealth of knowledge that remains untapped, imo.

    It also strikes me that there are more socialists outside the existing socialist parties than inside them, as well as many people (young and old) who could quite easily be attracted to some kind of left-of-labour party/group – though I suspect, esp. among older people with more commitments, the demands currently placed on socialist cadre are fundamentally unappealing; they want to be part of something, have an input in it, but without subordinating their whole lives to it as is expected of a full-time politico. And last but by no means least, there are many good people like Manzil inside the established groups who nevertheless remain unconvinced by the dominant ‘we are the one and only true representative of the working class’ narrative, who are members in spite of the leadership not because of it, and who would be crucial in any new formation both in terms of providing experience and leadership.

    But, no new formation – as I think the recent past has shown – will ever work if the existing party’s are allowed to join as parties – whether they want to call themselves ‘tendencies’, ‘factions’ or whatever. Inevitably, they will fall out with each other, try to take over the new formation and, ultimately, alienate and marginalise the independents. Moreover, whether they admit it or not, in theory the goal is always to one day lead the mass base of the reformist organisation away from the ‘right-wing’ leadership – though in reality it pretty much always results in wrecking the new formation before it has even got close to having a mass base.

    Any new formation must therefore demand that people join as individuals and that former sectarian interests are left at the door. Yet I fear that even if this were the case, the far-left groups would nevertheless still practice some kind of deep entryism, which would inevitably produce the types of results – i.e. failure – we’re all familiar with. In essence, then, for any new formation to work, it will need to turn the current far-left strategy back on itself: the rank and file of the far left groups needs to be won away from its leaders and brought into a pluralistic fold.

    However, I must admit, I have little optimism that any of this can ever work (in the short- to mid-term at least), which greatly saddens me because, given how little the status quo appeals to me, the result is that I’ll just end up an independent and isolated socialist for ever – or, do what I really don’t want to do, and join the Labour Party. :(

    There is a basis on which we can unite, there are a number of core beliefs that we can all support, but the institutional hurdles in the way of this are at present too much even for a society of Colin Jacksons. At some point there has to be a groundswell of opinion that recognises the status quo is, frankly, pathetic and counter-productive. Until this happens, we will never create organisations that hundreds of thousands of people will feel happy to join and campaign for, organisations they are willing to believe in. Surely this isn’t impossible.

  55. Feodor on said:

    To late to edit, just want to add: …though in reality it pretty much always results in wrecking the new formation before it has even got close to having a mass base. Fundamentally, their main commitment and loyalty will never be to the new formation, but to their pre-existing group.

  56. David Ruaune:
    Rosa Lichtenstein,

    Oh my God what have I done?

    Lost your memory, perhaps?

    Chill Daivd, I was here, reading this stuff, long before you summoned me (usually, comrades have to say my name three times).

    I was going to comment sooner or later. All you did was make it sooner.

    I do not want to derail this thread (even if I were allowed to do it!), since this is far too serious an issue.

  57. Mark P on said:

    Responding to what is proving to be on the whole quite a worthwhile discussion.

    Alan Gibbon’s contribution @ 38 should simply be read over, and over again. It is outstanding. Here it is in case you missed it >

    “I joined the SWP in 1974. I left in the mid ninety nineties. I worked on Socialist Worker for a time. I was a member of the National Committee for many years. Most of the experience was positive. I was around at the start of the Right to Work Campaign, the Anti Nazi League and Rock Against Racism. I can still look back with pride on those years. I was a shop steward in a factory in the north west when we broke the 10% pay freeze, winning our members a 16% pay rise. I was President of Knowsley NUT. The SWP taught me working class history and fired me with a conviction that women’s liberation, internationalism and anti racism were at the heart of the fight for socialism.
    Over time I started to become disenchanted with some elements of the organisation’s practice. On a number of occasions I excused things I thought were inexcusable, but never anything like the alleged events that have emerged recently.
    After being harried for some years as a ‘syndicalist’ and becoming the victim of some very underhand, unpleasant and dishonest behaviour I hung on because I subscribed to most of what the SWP was saying. It wasn’t exactly ‘my party right or wrong’, but it wasn’t far off. Eventually that became untenable and I quit. My resignation letter featured two issues: party democracy and unrealistic perspectives.
    Like a lot of other exes, I did not stop being a socialist just because I left an organisation. I have a great affection for much of the party’s tradition and am close friends with many SWP members. I find myself looking on aghast at recent developments however. I am now an independent socialist and a prominent library and anti cuts campaigner. I am in a party of one and there are disagreements! I work with SWP members, Socialist Party members, Respect, Counterfire and Labour Party members and others, but mainly with people in no party, trade union and community activists and ordinary members of the public who want to save what is left of the public services.
    What strikes me is that much of the Left is demoralised and inactive. I organised the 200-delegate Campaign for the Book conference. How many organised socialists attended? None, but it was successful. I helped organise the Speak up for Libraries lobby of parliament. How many organised socialists attended? None, but it was successful. I helped organise the SUFL conference. How many organised socialists attended? Two, and yes, it was a success.
    So why am I posting this comment even though I find the tone of much of the debate gloating and distasteful? It is because many of the best people in the Left are in the SWP, the SP, Respect and other grouplets and often keep a watching brief on this forum. It is also because I now feel that the baleful legacy of a a distorted concept of party and democratic centralism is making them ever more passive, hog-tied or irrelevant or both.
    Tony Mulhearn’s candidacy in Liverpool was very creditable. He got a decent vote, beat the Tory and I spoke at a 450 strong rally. Events like this, Galloway’s victory in Bradford and others can be part of the recovery of the Left but no one grouping can insist on its papal superiority. That idea is redundant. If a Left outside the Labour Party is to be rebuilt it has to be democratic, principled and open. It has to tolerate difference without being paralysed by division. It has to conduct itself in a way that is consistent with a desire to achieve women’s liberation and socialism. A creative regroupment of the Left is essential and overdue. I haven’t given up hope that it can happen. Like thousands of others I would not touch any kind of party membership card with a bargepole at the moment but, given the right circumstances, I would energetically throw myself into a new formation that is capable of learning from the past.”

    This isn’t about Alan being a bit of a mini-celeb. Its the practical consequences of a confessional left. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, who could write a similar piece on leaving this or that organisation of the Left, or their life outside the organised Left despite their membership of it.

    Thats the conversation which is required, finding the space to have it, a catalyst to any process of renewal. Crucially this must involve a new generation of activists who perhaps feel more alienated by the practice of the Left than any previous generation.

    On Democratic Centralism. Its not about the theory, or how one group interprets it vs another. Thats a soul-less argument. It is the recognition that it depends on group self-discipline. Its strength but weakness too. When Richard Seymour at Lenin’s Tomb issues a comprehensive rebuttal of a Central Committee edict within hours of receiving it and goes public too, then either he will find him outside of his party very quickly, he will be allowed to organise but only if he succeeds in forming a new majority, or democratic centralism has been abandoned by the SWP. There is no other way.

    See Richard’s very well-argued response here > http://www.leninology.com/2013/01/a-reply-to-central-committee.html

    Feodor @ 62 makes some excellent points. The main audience for any kind of renewal is of course outside all of the organised groups, the SWP car-crash is simply a catalyst because of its sheer awfulness. But a ‘new fomation’ is too far too grand a statement in my view, starying a conversation would do me for now and there’s no better beginning to that than Alan Gibbons’ post. Thanks Alan.

    Mark P

  58. Seymour “Lenin” describes the SWP central committee as insane and mentions “sectioning” in an article which begins with

    Just as a rule of thumb: if you are a political leadership and have to say “this is not a ‘cover up’”, I would venture that you are in a crisis.

    continues with

    This has been a cover-up from start to finish. This has been, more generally, an attempt to treat members like morons from start to finish. And now, this utterly exploded pack of lies is being wheeled out in a bid to persuade members to willingly look like idiots in front of everyone they’re trying to work with.

    and

    [The CC] can offer no lead to members beyond thrusting them out into that ‘real world’ they are all completely insulated from, and telling them to make bullshitters out of themselves.

    and concludes with

    The SWP’s leadership, at this point, is not located in the Central Committee. It is located in the sane members trying to fight this disgrace.

    i.e. the Central Committee of the SWP are insane.

    http://www.leninology.com/2013/01/a-reply-to-central-committee.html

  59. Mark P on said:

    Thanks Rosa and David, its a decent discussion at the mo’, if we head off into the hinterland of the off-topic that doesn’t help.

    Hoping more will contribute along the lines of Alan’s comment?

    Mark P

  60. Not surprised but shocked non the less. on said:

    Counterfire was founded and is run by John Rees and Lyndsay German, two recently ex SWP CC members.

    In their time they were just as bad/arrogant/undemocratic etc. The crazy culture was as much a feature of their leadership as it is under the present bunch – and Lyndsay’s treatment of Mike Marqesee (an attempt at public humiliation through Socialist Review, of which she was the editor) after mild ctitisism of the SWP leadership of STW showed her hand, to her eternal shame.

    There’s more, much more, which could be listed demonstrating the inevitable course of any ship captained by these two bullies (including Rees’s own slimey behaviour around women and disastrous role as top dog in Respect — which led to their exit from the SWP). But don’t be surprised when a ship that apparently flies a pirate flag hoists the red ensign and hangs any real pirates who may have climbed aboard.

    That’s enough from me. Teeny tiny screen which is annoying to finger type on and a bad taste in my mouth thinking about this crew. But sadly I’ve had that for years.

  61. Leninology Sectioned of the IV. International,

    I think Richard Seymour’s resort to language about mental distress is doubly unfortunate. Firstly stigmatising mental distress, but secondly failing to deal with the self referential world that an institution like the sWP creates around itself, where reality defying beliefs are reinforced by collective ethos.

    Richard does not challenge the Messianic ambitions of the SWP, nor does he fundamentally challenge the idea that the SWP were competent to investigate rape.

  62. Mark P on said:

    Not Surprised…

    As I make it clear in my intro I hold no brief for Counterfire. I don’t know the backhistory particilusrly well of those involved. Like most on the Left they certainly have done some good things, and no doubt some bad.

    Thats not the point. Alex’s piece is a decent and realistic appraisal of the ‘revolutionary Left’. It was written before the carcrash that the SWP conference became.

    My view is that any discussion of the awfukness of that fallout has to be connectd to a broadrer conversation. That means forsaking the name-calling, the petty squabbles, the arcane turning of history into a catalogue of cheapish point-scoring. No group can do this on its own, most who in taking part would turn such a conversation into something worthwhile will be outside of all the pre-existing conversations. All will be need to be willing to stretch the boundaries of one-paryy loyalty.

    In that spirit a Better Left may take shape. Without it we stay in the different holes we’ve found ourselves in.

    Alan Gibbons @38 shows how such a conversation can begin. Any takers?

    Mark P

  63. BrokenWindow on said:

    Alan Gibbon’s story could almost act as a template for ten thousand others;more recently it reminded me of Mark Steel’s who clearly agonised over leaving the SWP for some time while desperately trying to use his stand-up as a base location for paper sales and not even getting a co-ordinated recognition for that. There is never a single case of ‘well done,thanks for all your effort over the years’. For Steel,who was heading towards his own personal catastrophe – a divorce with a young family – the reaction of the party to his leaving must have been emotional.
    I make this point because emotions in all shapes and sizes can be counter-productive in a debate like that if hurt parties hit the keyboard at a moment’s frustration or slight. The internet has heralded in a new wave of confessional which taps directly into the narcissistic fault-line of our individualistic culture. Lenin never had to deal with the internet.

    Feodorer’s excellent point is a good-enough description of what faces the pary outside a party. If you head-counted ‘socialist partyless’ you’d probably have the biggest membership of any party in the country,where members are active socialists working in jobs that reflect their principles rather than as merchant bankers who call themselves socialists-at-heart. The groundswell will come,it has to,because what lies ahead for the working and middle classes,let’s not be churlish here,is a gruesome,criminal heist on the resources families rely on just to get by. Internationally we see genuine fight-back taking place. Here,where the conservatism of an old imperial nation and the far-left – in their archaic traditions – still stifles momentum. The unions are too weak from a multitude of factors,like Labour they are deeply bourgeoise,in outlook and interest.In essence,New Labour did not make any errors – a line trotted out here often in various guises – but strategically implemented its own hegemonic project,a fuck-fest with neoliberalism. There is no third way unless you want a party molded/moulded by Neoliberal values which are fundamentally inhumane. Any seeming sign that Labour has found heart and will therefore care/share more,in principle,is merely marketing. It cares more for the city and defence industries (and will kill you for this privilege)than it does for working people. As for the unions who could have led a successful campaign against the scurge of PFI or education privatisation but bottled it, getting caught up in a hair-spliiting argument over what PFI policies to accept,begging its master to accept its grovelling logic rather than using the base-hatred of PFI across the UK.

    The long game is fraught with danger but the 21st Century demands a new form of party and it already exists outside the labels of the three and the far-left. But not one mounted on the identity politics of Respect or Lenin’s vanguard. It will come from the people,NOT the party egos. It will take time but the other choice – a technocratic uber-rational totalitarian party,the seeds of which are in New Labour and the ConDems – is too stark,too anti-human,too destrtuctive,for the human spirit to care for. Dialogue is vital,sectarian temper-tantrums best done down The Abert. Hang overs only last a day. This stuff posted doesn’t.

  64. Not surprised but shocked non the less. on said:

    Yes Mark, I’m not trying to start a bun fight. Merely answer your point “I hold no brief for Counterfire, they do some things with a degree of flair and imagination, other things not so well and I’m personally unfamiliar with the backhistory of the key figures involved” and therefore counsel caution.

    The sorry state of affairs (Kimber, Gibbons et al) didn’t appear from nowhere. I too am seeking a revolutionary change in the culture of left organisations. Sometimes revolutions involve chopping a few heads off at the top. So with great respect I reserve the right to criticise the glorious leader(s).

    But I meant no harm to you. And the screen is too small for subtle debate.

    Fraternally, etc.

  65. Not Surprised…

    Thanks. Thats just the kind of fruitful exchange this debate deserves.

    BrokenWindow…

    10,000 versions of Alan Gibbon’s excellent piece? That wuld be some read! Tho’ jut a few hundred, starting in tens on here and elsewhere would provide a solid foundation.

    But its not about dismissing the emotional/confessional, nor elevating it to some unchallengeable fount of wisdom. Its somewhere in between. Renewal requires a space where we can honestly learn from the past, and understand where we are(‘nt) now in terms of an active, vibrant Outside Left.

    As for new forms. I’m in for the long haul, and have been fpr some time. so I have no wish to assume preconditions for an formation of the future. I still believe allowing ourselves the time to patiently create a space for such a conversation is the best possible beginning.

    Mark P

  66. secret factioneer on said:

    pmg: A movement where people are allowed to hold different views, and that’s seen as a healthy thing. Where we don’t pack small meetings to get a small organisational advantage; where ideas are treated seriously and not as factional advertising campaigns.

    There’s different and there’s different though, right? I mean, you’d presumably expect some generally agreed principles?

  67. Re: the ‘confessionals’ (however interesting they undoubtedly are), on first reading BrokenWindow’s comment that “It will come from the people, NOT the party egos”, I took a bit of offence (aren’t the bulk of people involved in socialist politics part of ‘the people’?). Certainly, banking the likelihood of a successful new left on the exclusion of the existing left seems a bit of a non-starter. I don’t believe an idealisation of ‘rank-and-filism’, or expectations of spontaneous radicalisation, are particularly helpful.

    That said, compared to the many long apologies for past misdeeds and occasional ‘a pox on both your houses’ statements we seem to get in these discussions, perhaps it is better wholly new layers of people are drawn into this discussion, such that the influence of the left’s ‘hard core’ is diminished. All I’d say though, as with movements like Stop the War or on a smaller scale UK Uncut, when new groups of people begin to take action, it never occurs in isolation from the existing activist left – nor should it, for those layers have been extraordinarily helpful (but also, equally often, damaging) to assisting those struggles. So a conversation within the existing left is necessary, if you want its influence to be positive.

    @ Jellytot #61

    Well, no. Acknowledging the virtual monopoly of ‘reformist’ ideas doesn’t automatically invalidate the idea that substantive change often relies on non-institutional channels, and that the problems we face are systemic and rooted in the political economy of class society; that indeed the structures of society are instrumentally and structurally incapable of expressing, outside of periods of considerable upheaval and popular organisation, the interests of the broad mass of people etc. Asking socialists to not be socialists because you find socialism offensive, as a precondition for cooperation, is as absurd as our essentially confessional sects demanding people believe they are ‘the revolutionary party’.

    I just don’t think these differences matter: “In the middle of the fight, we learn how we must fight”.

  68. Yes, just to clarify, the reason I set out a -hopefully honest and non-egotistical- timeline of my own experience of the largest left group in the UK was to set out part of the balance sheet of what there is outside New Labour. We have undertaken some good work, but are now very marginalised indeed. We have to preserve what is worthwhile and be prepared to think creatively and jettison what isn’t. When we talk of a debate about regrouping the Left, it has to be a generous one which places the needs of the millions being battered by the economic storm ahead of any local, sectional and sectish interests which are the legacy of an often unappealing past.

  69. another swp member on said:

    Are you saying the womnan should be forced to go to the police against her wishes. She did not want to go and also asked for the transcript to be taken down from this site. But you aren’t interested in what she wants are you.

  70. jack ford on said:

    Andy Newman:
    Leninology Sectioned of the IV. International,

    I think Richard Seymour’s resort to language about mental distress is doubly unfortunate.Firstly stigmatising mental distress,but secondly failing to deal with the self referential world that an institution like the sWP creates around itself,where reality defying beliefs are reinforced by collective ethos.

    Quite. I’m bipolar and I certainly didn’t appreciate it.

    We need to remember, that when political movements to fight rampant injustice get organized, they tend to attract a lot of disturbed and marginal people who look to these movements to fill an empty hole in their souls.

    A sect of the Church of the Latter Day Bolsheviks as undemocratic and authoritarian as the SWP will always have a tendency to degenerate into a cult. Abuse of women and kangaroo courts are standard procedure for a cult as is the manipulation of vulnerable personalities. Outfits like this can do permanent damage to those who may already have mental issues.

  71. [Tony comment: Stuart, if you are going to keep trying to spam these threads with your obsessive, thread-derailing attacks on Andy Newman, you are going to be held in moderation. It's been clear to me what you've been up to, which is why I've been blocking your "contributions". I think you've got more important things to deal with right now than to find things to throw at Andy.]

  72. I know it’s a small thing, but can you keep this thread clear of the details of the DC stuff; there are good contributions here, and everyone is welcome to make one – please save your comments about how bad Andy Newman is for the many other threads where people have been telling him how bad he is.

  73. Heather Downs on said:

    another swp member,

    good point. but one that has been lost in a debate about the history and internal structures of every left group in the postWW2 West.

    This seems more interesting, familiar and comfortable territory for many contributors.

    Other issues are relevent, but are still just that -’other issues’. The thing some of us want to discuss is sexual violence and sexism in the culture and politics of the Left.

  74. Andy Newman: I think Richard Seymour’s resort to language about mental distress is doubly unfortunate. Firstly stigmatising mental distress…

    Seriously,Andy?

  75. “Are you saying the womnan should be forced to go to the police against her wishes. She did not want to go and also asked for the transcript to be taken down from this site. But you aren’t interested in what she wants are you.”

    If the claim is rape, fucking yes! If nothing else but to stop future victims! I remember in the Michael Jackson case the parents were willing to settle out of court and take the money, their kid had been abused, they said, and yet they didn’t want a criminal investigation!!! So let the future victims go to hell!!!

    “The thing some of us want to discuss is sexual violence and sexism in the culture and politics of the Left.”

    Well go ahead then!

  76. I can see a new cult like narrative developing-if you tell us about an assault or a rape but are not prepared to go to the police we will report it to the police even if you dont want us to- so you better keep quiet in the first place

    sandy

  77. secret factioneer,

    A movement I think implies a broad range of views from social democratic to revolutionary. I was the later from about being a youth until about five years ago – I’m 50 this year – and now the idea of a socialist revolution in this country so wide of the mark.

    The other thing of course is at the heart of this discussion is politics, not organisational cultures. For me most of the far left has been hopeless and continues to be so, not the least the SWP’s combination of syndicalsim and anti-imperialist zig-zags. And there’s the rub…

  78. Sandy,

    I think the problem comes when you think the appropriate place to take a rape claim to is not the police but the cental committee of a cult! In fact if that is your attitude, why not keep quiet in the first place?

  79. pmg – don’t have some wet dream that this is a left attack on anti imperialism. You have reminded me that there are worse things about the left than the SWP, those pro imperialist cults, such as the AWL spring to mind here.

  80. 88# But if the member cant go to the police because she is illegal or wanted by the state for some reason you are giving bullies carte blanche within socialist organizations to carry on their behavior towards vulnerable individuals. Go to the police or shut up is not a socialist response to serious criminal anti social offenses committed within socialist groups.

    sandy

  81. Much of this discussion has concerned the way the left is constituted, its organisational characteristics and peculiarities of behaviour. The strategic aim of a socialist movement is almost forgotten and where remembered seems strangely lifeless and abstract as if it is beyond our lifetimes.
    This may be realistic take on the situation. Having cashed in my final salary related pension contribution in the 1970s in order to acquire a mortgage (in the hopeful belief that the timely arrival of socialism would relieve me of the need to guarantee a decent pension) I am, nowadays, inclined to take the long view.
    Nevertheless, without a compelling vision of what working class power would look like and without a vision of how we might get there within our lifetimes and, stripped of revolutionary rhetoric, much of what passes for theory or analysis in this discussion is a rerun of the old reformist idea that the final goal is nothing the movement everything.
    The imperative that compels Britain’s left wing groups to fetishize ideological difference and then express them as organisational conflict or schism is very unattractive to most people and those it does attract are precisely the people with whom you want to spend as little time with as possible.
    It is a perverse expression of the market mentality that compels product differentiation in order to maximise visibility.
    In a welcome step away from this Mark Perryman sensibly appeals for a conversation about the existential problem of a left divorced from a mass base even when critical to the existence of mass movements like Stop the War etc.
    The current crisis engulfing the SWP has produced a focus on that organisation’s rather perverse internal regime, and inevitably, a reaction against anything that smacks of order, discipline and centralisation.
    There is a danger in this. Organisational unity does not preclude differences of opinion even on profound theoretical questions. A failure to explore these differences in a way that contributes to the development of a shared ideological standpoint and revolutionary strategy does. But in day-to-day politics, organisational unity about concrete tasks is vital.
    Mark makes the point that many left wing organisations do one thing or another rather well. The corollary to this is that none of them do everything or even much that the current situation requires and none can be convincingly imagined as possessing, even in embryonic form, the characteristics of a hegemonic party of the exploited and oppressed.
    It may be that the explanation for the way the SWP’s rather grandly named central committee has dealt with this latest crisis arises from a threat to their collective survival and the continuity of their leadership. (This may well be well founded given the attrition rate over recent years). It is certainly expressed in language that suggests a delusional state about the actual role of the organisation in contemporary politics.
    But, and this is a big but, we have to face the fact that for a while and in very particular circumstances the SWP was a valuable, even essential, factor in building the antiwar movement when no other organisation was able or willing to deploy the necessary human resources. This is something that reflects well on both its leadership, apparatus and activists.

  82. and…

    As the great man once said: ‘… after the correct political line has been laid down, organizational work decides everything, including the fate of the political line itself, its success or failure.’

    It is the mechanical application of this, in conditions where the organisation is not so deeply rooted in working class life, that produces the kind of bizarre behaviour that so much of the British left is capable of.
    When the political line is wrong an organisational unity is still necessary in order to collectively assimilate experience and modify the line. Sharing life experiences of millions is probably a better guarantee of realism and commonsense.
    My sense is that it was precisely the experience, highly rewarding in human terms and effective politically, of working in coalition that produced a profound political crisis within the SWP when the logic of such an approach implicitly contradicted the deeply sectarian style embodied in the dominant strand in that organisation’s tradition and showed up the flaws in the entire superstructure of ideas erected on the dodgy foundations of its distinct ideological position.
    I am not confident that the SWP as an organisation can survive this except as a much diminished, even more sectarian and isolated shadow of itself.

  83. 92

    Expelled from the party is what the SWP have said (as far as i know).

    I dont think anyone is suggesting anything else nor should they

    The complainer would know that this was the only real sanction available

    John- you are saying that if the complainer wont go to the police the party will ignore the complaint?

    sandy

  84. sandy: ohn- you are saying that if the complainer wont go to the police the party will ignore the complaint?

    I’m saying the party should have gone to the police.

  85. John

    And we should remember that the state may at some point in the future make certain socialist parties illegal. So going to the police would not even be an option in that situation

    sandy

  86. sandy: Even if the complainer explicitly said that she did not want that?

    You’re setting up a false and simplistic paradigm, Sandy, one which fails to take into account how people within cults are vulnerable to the pervading group dynamic.

    If you’ve ever been a member of a sect, as I have, you’ll know how on a psychological level they operate on the basis of an alternate reality, replete with their own language, mores, values, hierarchy, and culture. We don’t know the details and it is futile to speculate, but I’m not prepared to believe that the actions of any member of a cult in this situation is absent of huge psychological pressure and dread of being outcast and losing the embrace of what is for many in these organisations a de facto surrogate family.

  87. sandy: And we should remember that the state may at some point in the future make certain socialist parties illegal.

    You’re living in a fantasy world.

  88. Huerta Lazenby on said:

    John: sandy: And we should remember that the state may at some point in the future make certain socialist parties illegal.

    You’re living in a fantasy world.

    Well if they felt that they (the pseudosocialist parties) were indeed “rape cults” the state would be right

  89. Marko,

    Marko, I’ll let the AWL answer for themselves. My point is that there is a political crisis of the left. as well an organisational one. For me the SWP are the best example of that. I don’t expect people to agree, but I do hope a real debate can be had. Unlearning the decades of leadership be Rees et al and the current SWPers will take a long time.

  90. Perhaps I missed it, but has anyone here or anywhere else posed an alternative to ‘democratic centralism’ as a structure for a left of Labour grouping – in this very time and place?

    Reason I ask: a) I’ve never been a great fan of dc.
    b) Contradictorially (!) I have seen plenty of positive consequences from the outside eg mobilisation, development of theory etc
    c) it’s not much point proving over and over that dc is the only or the best constitution/structure etc when clearly it’s not a structure that breeds great success in the here and now (and in all the heres, thens and nows of, say, post-war UK).
    d) or those who are deeply sceptical of dc, do you have alternatives in mind?
    e) when I direct that question to myself (which I’ve done since I was about 16 ie for 50 years) I have two answers i)no ii) perhaps now and here is not the place or time to be trying.

    In case ii) seems absurd, it was the standpoint of IS before it turned into the SWP and I guess it’s the standpoint of Counterfire but I haven’t asked.

    Hope people will see this as constructive. It is meant that way.

  91. prianikoff on said:

    Article :-”…the basic problem with enforcing Democratic Centralism short of a party holding state power…”

    Blimey! Are you suggesting that this would even be desireable?

    One of the main problems with “actually existing socialism” i.e. Stalinism, was the identity of party and state.
    This meant that when the political authority of the CP was challenged, it led to a challenge to state property too.
    Whereas, if the ownership of the economy had been vested in genuine mass organisations, such as cooperatives and unions,
    there would have been deeper support for collective ownership.

    i.e. Self administration at every level would have strengthened support for socialism.
    The role of centralised party, should if anything, diminish as a mature socialism develops.

    Quite of lot of these issues were first discussed by Trotsky in 1923, in his pamphlet the “New Course”, when he was still a member of the Soviet leadership.
    One telling quote:-
    “If there is today a serious danger to the unity or at the very least to the unanimity of the party, it is unbridled bureaucratism.”

  92. John: You’re setting up a false and simplistic paradigm, Sandy, one which fails to take into account how people within cults are vulnerable to the pervading group dynamic.

    If you’ve ever been a member of a sect, as I have, you’ll know how on a psychological level they operate on the basis of an alternate reality, replete with their own language, mores, values, hierarchy, and culture. We don’t know the details and it is futile to speculate, but I’m not prepared to believe that the actions of any member of a cult in this situation is absent of huge psychological pressure and dread of being outcast and losing the embrace of what is for many in these organisations a de facto surrogate family.

    As if the ideologues of the status quo don’t do this! Or even those of the soft left, here, don’t, too.

  93. prianikoff on said:

    “….ramifications for Left practice, reminiscent of the Beyond The Fragments debate”

    The left obviously missed its chance when Big Flame didn’t become the largest organisation on the British left!

  94. prianikoff, but this stills poses the ‘from here to there’ question. What is the best organisation to get from here to the point at which power in a socialist society would be held that way?

  95. prianikoff on said:

    Oh, I do think there needs to be a democratic centralist party alright. Note, Party is qualified by two words.

  96. comment 111,

    I think what he/she means is that if these ‘cults’ are pre destined to become rape centres then the state has a right to take an active interest. Or in other words, no cult should remain unchecked.

    Looking at the current hysteria around rape claims and sexual politics in general, one way of destroying a movement would be to make rape allegations. I suspect with Assange, this was the case.

    But as John says earlier, if all these ‘cults’ made it the policy that any rape claims would be taken to the police, that would sort the problem and show the ‘cult’ were being responsible.

  97. Jay Blackwood on said:

    Freedom of debate and freedom of factions was a feature of dem centralism for much of its history within the Bolshevik party. Factions were proscribed and debate suppressed at the end of the Russian civil war. Part of the problem with DC is that it’s open to so many different interpretations – inc. the bureaucratic take on it promoted in the SWP. The best book on the subject is Marcel Liebman’s Leninism Under Lenin – out of print but easily available 2nd hand on the web. It lifted the scales from my eyes after being brought up on the distorted interpretation of DC championed by Cliff, Harman and the like.

  98. Stephen on said:

    Marko: But as John says earlier, if all these ‘cults’ made it the policy that any rape claims would be taken to the police, that would sort the problem and show the ‘cult’ were being responsible.

    as oppossed to believing that trying to be CSI 4th International is, or ever could be a legitimate excercise…

    Not that i’d defend democratic centralism but it’s more the (admittedly related) ideas around the vanguard party that are the more isolating and damaging.

  99. Andy Newman,

    I think Richard Seymour is trying to say the methods and responses to the crisis in the SWP are enough to drive people (including himself) mad – i.e. through their denial that anything is wrong, denial that there is a ‘cover up’.

    But otherwise the main problem is that he seems to be positioning himself as the ‘new leadership’ without dealing with any of the actual problems of his party, while continuing to peddle the nonsense that until now, everything was fine in SWP-land.

    A series of articles once many years ago in the AWL magazine, a ‘symposium’ on the ‘IS tradition’ with contributions from all sorts of ex-SWPers and ISers who long moved on showed this very well, I think, regardless of what anyone thinks of the AWL. http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2011/04/27/swp-tradition-symposium

  100. Michael Rosen asks the right questions.
    My view is that democratic centralism is an organisational principle of general applicability and particular importance to the working class in capitalist society (or confronting the class enemy) where the working class possesses only its unity and organisation in the face of the power of the capitalist class and the capitalist state.
    One way to test the theory is to put it into practice.
    Take the first principles, widest discussion plus unity in action.
    Imagine a situation in which a trade union is resisting damaging changes to the pension scheme. A series of strikes produces concessions and the union leadership comes to the settled view that this is the best that can be obtained given the current balance of power.
    The leadership unanimously agrees a recommendation to accept.
    A couple of EC members consult their party leadership and are told that they should abandon their support for the recommendation and campaign against it with the union’s membership.
    One interpretation places the decision-making machinery of the party above that of the union and makes the implementation of its line mandatory.
    This actually happened in PCS during the pensions dispute and resulted in one SWPer (well respected and liked in her own right) making an embarrassing and humiliating about turn while the other, a rather talented and effective trade unionist ¬leaving the SWP. The SWP was damaged and its reputation tarnished while the overall unity of the union and its leadership was weakened. In acting in this manner the SWP also encouraged the idea that collective dissuasions are not binding which thus opens the door for right-wingers to campaign against industrial action.
    Another interpretation obliges the party members to abide by the collective decision making system of the union and makes that mandatory on party members and a breach of this principle a breach the obligations of party membership.
    It is not difficult to see which interpretation adds to unity and organisation and is likely to add to the party’s reputation.

    Democratic centralism is a principle that relates to the concrete circumstances faced by the working class. In conditions of relative stability when the issue is a struggle of the division between profits and wages the political tasks of the party are ideological – analysing capitalism in its development and making the case for socialism whilst acting to build up the combatively and organisational strength of the working class. Not acting as a substitute for the mass organisations of the class itself.

  101. jack ford on said:

    What the SWP should have done

    a)Immediately suspend Delta without prejudice

    b)TAKE LEGAL ADVICE

    c)Refer W to Rape Crisis and urge her to report to the police assure her that she will have full support of the party if she does

    d)If she still can’t face the idea of going to the police sorry the party had a duty to report it to the cops anyway. There’s a duty to bring a possible rapist to justice in order to protect other potential victims.

    e)Once the police investigation had taken its course you then have a DC inquiry and decide whether to expel Delta.

    If they’d done this the scandal would not have destroyed the party. As it is this episode will almost certainly kill off the SWP and as far as I’m concerned it deserves to die off.

    These pocket Bolsheviks clearly believe they’re somehow above the law. That was clear in the way they handled JR’s dodgy cheque. That was bad enough to to treat a rape allegation in this way is mind boggling.

  102. @83

    “Other issues are relevent, but are still just that -’other issues’. The thing some of us want to discuss is sexual violence and sexism in the culture and politics of the Left.”

    Heather, spot on!

    This is also the legacy of workerism, everything else is immaterial… “It’s all about the class”… The final transformative force would be class but in the meantime you face every form of oppression. Lenin’s “festivals of the oppressed). The number of times I have heard women’s liberation will happen once the revolution happens… kinda, “Hey babe, wait for the revolution”…

    Feminism is also seen as some dirty word on the Left, which is so strange as certainly part of my own political makeup is based on feminism. It is casually rejected as “bourgeois” or “academic”, this is all a nonsense as there have been plenty working class women struggles (who have influenced by feminism). Many on the Left totally (wrongly) dismiss a whole body of work and a whole bloody movement. Just to locate oppression in terms of capitalism is wrong. People organise in autonomously … that will make the revolution.

    And indeed… to build the struggle, it is integral to have these discussions regards to behaviour on the left, that includes individual responsibility as well as collective responsibility.

    I wrote this in 2005, ” If you stifle debate within your organisation and only use a top-down method of education then isn’t it any wonder sexism and unequal relationships between men and women exist on the Left. I used to feel shocked at some of the sexist behaviour. I believed ‘they should know better’ but nothing really shocks me any more..”

    http://www.thefword.org.uk/features/2005/08/left_behind

  103. prianikoff: One of the main problems with “actually existing socialism” i.e. Stalinism, was the identity of party and state.
    This meant that when the political authority of the CP was challenged, it led to a challenge to state property too.

    You can turn this on its head.
    When the party actually carries enough weight to command the loyalty of the working class then the party state relationship is not necessarily called into question even when state power itself is challenged. examples Soviet Union in relation to the nazi threat, Cuba facing Bay of Pigs invasion, Vietnam facing US bombardment
    The working class state is necessarily an instrument of class repression – ie it represses capitalist class relations by defending the social ownership of production, distribution and exchange. Thus the socialist state is essentially coercive in relation to challenges to its monopoly of power and force.
    It is difficult to see how relations between class and socialist state could be envisaged except through the agency of party institutions unless you think that the working class spontaneously assumes and exercises power.
    If this is the case I would like to hear of examples.
    The big problem for critics of what usually attracts the appellation Stalinism on these pages is the absence of any actual examples of socialism except the actually existing ones. Some of which no long actually exist for the compelling reason that their parties lost the confidence of their working class.

  104. prianikoff on said:

    #115 “Like in Yugoslavia? Or like the SEO model in China?”

    Not exactly what I was arguing for.
    Perhaps more useful to those arguing for a peaceful convergence between socialism and capitalism,
    like the Eurocommunists did.

    #121
    Neither the Paris Commune, nor the Petrograd Soviet were run by one party.

  105. another swp member: She did not want to go and also asked for the transcript to be taken down from this site. But you aren’t interested in what she wants are you.

    I think that you are exhibiting a simply appalling lack of personal integrity here.

    You are referring to the possibility that the complainant woman, W, might have contacted me to ask for the transcript to be taken down.

    Had that happened then I might be bound by ethics and requests for confidentiality not to reveal the content of any such discussion; and not to reveal that it had taken place.

    So people must conclude that either you are scandalously making up something to discredit me;

    Or that you are scandalously referring to a privite correspondence, abusing privilaged infomration that you might have, that I cannot respond to.

    In my view – and I have consulted a number of feminist women for advice – it was correct to publish the transcript in the public interest.

    Clearly the supporters of the complainant woman, W, within the SWP (and I will not be drawn into speculation of whether I know what W’s own position is or not) beleive that the rape allegations should properly have been dealt with within the SWP.

    we could even speculate that a vulnerable woman who had been raped might be surrounded by some false friends, who might advise her with half an eye to the interests of the SWP. Let us not forget that the culture of the SWP regardig the police, is to “drive the police off our streets and estates”. We could even speculate that the editorial position of Socialist Worker, regarding its attitude to the police, is not unconnected to the closeness between the Socialist Worker editor, and the accused Comrade Delta.

    They are wrong, and on public policy grounds, those who have been informed of, or who suspect, a serious crime like rape, have an obligation to involve the police.

    Only if you have the delusion that the interests of your organisation place it, and its members outwith the rule of law, can you sustain the belief that rape is an internal matter.

  106. Dave Harker on said:

    Alan Gibbons’ contribution has encouraged me to write a bit about my experience as an ex-SWPer who lasted 25 years and then gave up.

    I started work in Manchester in 1972, became active in my union branch, and joined the Labour Party where I lived – in a rural constituency that had never had a Labour MP. I was elected as ward secretary and we worked bloody hard in two elections in 1974, but then the failed candidate told me he was going to leave us and take a cushy job in Yorkshire, so I showed him the door and left the party.

    I joined IS in summer 1975, and hadn’t a clue what was going on, though I recall overhearing the Manchester full-timer telling some comrades to stop a cheque to Liverpool comrades for their books. (I later discovered that I joined in the middle of a massive faction fight and that Cliff’s faction managed to establish a regime based on a slate for electing a CC which guaranteed a self-perpetuating oligarchy.) I was never ambitious in IS or the SWP, and didn’t take the self-appointed hacks and parrots seriously, but I sold the paper, recruited a few members, tried (but failed) to build a branch at work and where I lived, built for the Right to Work Campaign and other SWP initiatives, organised buses to Anti Nazi League events in London, tried to organise the SWP contingent on Manchester Trades Council and built Miners’ Support Groups at work and in Buxton. My only brief conversation with Cliff ended by him informing me that an idea I had had about retaining working-class members ‘wasn’t in the Leninist tradition’. In the 1990s I supplied Bookmarks with thousands of secondhand socialist books and I and another Manchester comrade built the biggest-ever SWP district bookstall. However, by 2000 my day job had made me ill, so I had to retire, and the SWP was going nowhere, locally and nationally, so I quietly walked away.

    Around 2007 I attended a meeting of Manchester Trades Council. Afterwards, the SWP Secretary invited me to join the SWP District Committee, but I was not a member, had no intention of rejoining and could not take an unelected position. He was substituting for the delegates and SWP members at an Olympic standard, and looked absolutely knackered, so I felt sorry for him, and I suggested that he find a replacement. He chose a younger woman who had recently left the SWP. My union branch elected me as their delegate and she, myself and a few others got stuck in.

    I intended going back to live in the NE, so in 2008 I helped to organise the unaligned North East Shop Stewards’ Network. Several NE veterans and I wrote ‘The Flying Pickets’, and the Des Warren Trust and I paid for it to be printed, but we let the SWP bookshop Bookmarks keep all the proceeds. In 2009, NESSN suffered from an ‘absconding Treasurer’ – an ambitious young SPer – but after our Treasurer exposed this, leading SPers in London launched a vicious campaign against the elected NESSN Committee. We remained stubbornly unaligned, so Tyneside SP and SWP hacks formed a momentary united front and packed an ordinary NESSN meeting. They and several others had no elected union positions, and so no right to vote, and some were not even in the email network; but they all pretended that it was an AGM and tried to vote me out, because the Committee had declined to advertise their front organisations on http://www.nessn.org.uk – our modestly successful website. However, we were re-elected at the next AGM and there are now almost 300 activists in NESSN. We have been central to organising Workers’ Memorial Day and other events, and we have revived County Durham TUC, along with a few unsectarian SWPers and SPers.

    By 2010, several MTUC delegates, including ex-SWPers and SPers, were tired of income deriving from union members’ subs being used as a piggy bank for SWP front organisations, especially after a fellow-traveller asked us to give £100 to ‘Socialist Worker’ because it had ‘nothing to do with the SWP’. At the 2011 AGM, the hard-working ex-SWP woman comrade stood for Secretary, but thirteen non-delegates and a few SWP delegates and fellow travellers among the 30 or so people present voted for the SWP Secretary to carry on. It took the Treasurer – a Labour Party member – several months to find out what had happened, and he was also very concerned at the state of previous accounts. At the 2012 AGM, the SWP Secretary and one fellow-traveller ‘stood down’, and the former Treasurer and two ex-SWPers were elected as officers, but an SWP-led smear campaign against us began immediately. Last summer, when I took responsibility for running the MTUC website – http://www.manchestertuc.org – I found yet another can of SWP worms, but the site is currently averaging 50,000 hits a month, and the ‘shtraggle’ continues.

    Cliff’s mid-1970s books on Lenin virtually ignored the underground party workers who did all the hard work and took all the risks in Russia, and he was silent about the unprincipled methods that a few émigré Bolshevik intellectuals used in faction fights, yet the Bolsheviks’ ‘democratic centralism’ was far more democratic than that of the SWP CC from 1977 to 2013.

    So I agree wholeheartedly with Alan. The Hopeless Left organisations have had their day, but let’s hope that the principled members salvage themselves, one way or another. Meanwhile, the Homeless Left is enormous, and it’s high time that we began building at least a temporary shelter.

  107. HarpyMarx: And indeed… to build the struggle, it is integral to have these discussions regards to behaviour on the left, that includes individual responsibility as well as collective responsibility.

    I think it is certainly important to argue for individual and collective responsibility, and I think that by and large the trade unions, and in fact the Labour Party, are in advance of public opinion when it comes to advancing and consoilidating womens’ rights.

    The issue is why are the radcial left groups seemingly adept at verbal lip-service to womens rights, while in practice being sometimes crudely patriarchal?

    What i am arguing in this current debate is that the whole concept of a vanguard party in the sense that organisations like the SWP, SP, and AWL conceive it, is one that creates a sense of messianic self importance to their group, and that creates power heirarchies within their organisation that are entirely self-referential. As Richard Seymour observes, the SWP leadership insulates itself from the real world.

    This is a culture where unequal power relationships are highly likely to lead to sexual abuse and the charismatic cult of the party is highly likely to lead to cover ups. Let us remember that in the history of the SWP, Comrade Delta is not even the first SWP CC member accused of sexual assault, although the allegations were more effectively buried by the SWP in the 1980s.

    However, in discussing how these type of parties create a self-referential culture where patriarchal power relations can paradoxically be even harder to challenge than in the social and political mainstream; it is not enough to just oppose sexism; it also opens the door to a discussion of whether these type of parties are even fit for purpose within their own terms of reference.

    The argument “you will be alright after the revolution, babe” would always be wrong, but it would be more understandable if you were actually standing shouldder to shoulder on the barricades of an immanent relvolution that might deliver womens’ liberation. In the context where the “revolutionary” groups are simply propaganda sects then the Millenarian pretentions do nothing but protect their own internal power heirarchies, and that will reinforce sexism, regardless of their subjective intentions.

    A debate thereofre of what sort of socialist organisation we actually need is one which may strip the “revolutionary” groups of the charisma of destiny which they assume, and which has inhibited women from coming forwards and speaking up because they have feared it would “damage the party”

  108. Pingback: North East Shop Stewards Network » Blog Archive » Time for the Homeless Left to get organised

  109. jack ford: Outfits like this can do permanent damage to those who may already have mental issues.

    As an aside, on the issue of cults and mental distress, actually the evidence from psychiatric professionals is that mental health within cults is no worse than in mainstream society. (most research obviousy focussed on New religious Movements)

    It has been a very contentious area, where the anti-Cult movement particularly in the USA, but also in the UK, has propagated a number of myths, some of which have been informed by cold-war propaganda about the power of coercive persuasion on unwilling subjects, and partly due to a rather unreflective assumption that mainstream society is rational and fair, and only an irrational or “crazy” person would join a cult.

    In fact the whole language is loaded, because some historical cults go on to become the mainstream ideology of society; the whole of the English colonisation of North America was originally founded by religious cultists for example.

  110. Heather Downs on said:

    Marko,

    please read my posts at 106 & 107 to get some idea why many of us would consider that a misguided approach

    women have extremely good reasons for not reporting rape which is why only about 10-15% do so

  111. stuart on said:

    I would argue that the Democratic Centralist model is most certainly indicated for the SWP at this present juncture. The party is being attacked through the capitalist media, effectively its right to operate its own complaints procedure is under attack, this really amounts to an attack on left-wing organisation with a nasty racist twist- the comparison with sharia law bringing the Muslim community into the picture. What is therefore needed is a united response by party members- as opposed to a fragmentation that favours our enemy- to most effectively counter an assault by the bourgeois press.

  112. Mark P on said:

    Sorry been out so only now catching up with the contributions.

    The one I’d pick out, apols to others, is Nick Wright’s @ 93

    Of course the alternative vision, utopian or otherwise, is important. But right now that’s less of a problem, and the arguments over ‘actually existing socialism’ too have an endearingly nostalgic tone about them as well.

    Rather as Nick also puts it;

    “In a welcome step away from this Mark Perryman sensibly appeals for a conversation about the existential problem of a left divorced from a mass base even when critical to the existence of mass movements like Stop the War etc.”

    Absolutely, though I’m not sure the problem is ‘existential’ it feels all too vivid and real too. It is a conversation that is about the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’ of the vision.

    NIck also comments on democratic centralism.

    “Organisational unity does not preclude differences of opinion even on profound theoretical questions. A failure to explore these differences in a way that contributes to the development of a shared ideological standpoint and revolutionary strategy does. But in day-to-day politics, organisational unity about concrete tasks is vital.”

    This is a good characterisation of DC and asking members to abide by majority decisions even when they disagree is hardly a revolutionary maxim, the Whipping system in Parliament isn’t all that different. Rather the key is to discuss how this collective self-disciplne emerges and what it tels us about the organisation when it breaks down, as it has patently done so, for now at any rate, in the SWP. My point about democratic centralism and state power is a simple one, if the collective self-discipline breaks down then what are the organisation’s means to police dissent?

    The final extrct from NIck Wright I’d quote is this;

    “Mark makes the point that many left wing organisations do one thing or another rather well. The corollary to this is that none of them do everything or even much that the current situation requires and none can be convincingly imagined as possessing, even in embryonic form, the characteristics of a hegemonic party of the exploited and oppressed.”

    Thats absolutely the view I suggest of tens of thousands who identify in some form or another with the Outside Left but don’t join any of the small griups in the milieu. Identifying some of the good and best practices, and shaping these to the means of providing a space for the kind of conversation I have described would be a decent start.

    Mark P

  113. Heather Downs,
    Heather, thanks for posting those interesting articles. But i dont think they address the issue at hand.

    In tis case the woman complaining she had been raped did report the rape, the issue id that she felt the SWP were a more appropriate authority yo deal with it than the police

  114. Graham Day on said:

    Andy Newman,

    And it seems she was encouraged in that belief by the SWP, when they should have been supporting her in going to the proper authorities.

  115. Dave Harker on said:

    Correction to 124:

    ‘the hard-working ex-SWP woman comrade stood for Secretary’ should be ‘the hard-working ex-SWP woman comrade stood for President, but thirteen non-delegates and a few SWP delegates and fellow travellers among the 30 or so people present voted for the SWP fellow-traveller to carry on.’

  116. Graham Day,

    That seems to be the case. Possibly opening the SWP up yo accusations of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

    What worries me is that the opposition within the SWP seems to not understand that the police should have been involved.

    And for all the transparent diversion of “shaia” – if it hadn’t been for me publishing the transcript, would Richard Seymoir have spoken out.

  117. Feodor on said:

    The whole debate on democratic centralism seems rather inane to me.

    As if any of the democratic centralist organisations ever set their line through mass discussion and debate: it’s almost always delivered from on high, with the rank and file rarely exerting any significant influence – they approve or reject positions already arrived at, but play a minimal role in their actual formulation.

    This model has its advantages when organising in a repressive environment – indeed the Leninist cadre model really comes into its own in these conditions, which is hardly surprising given its origins.

    But it has never built a genuinely mass party in any democratic society. By and large, the successful European CPs either managed to place themselves on top of a foundation social democracy had already built (e.g. the KPD), or arose from the legacy of partisan struggle (e.g. the PCI). Only in the second case did democratic centralism have any benefits, though this situation’s not going to replicate itself any time soon.

    What we need, is to instead replicate the models of early social democracy – oh the horror! We need to accept a plurality of views, methods and activities, regional and local differences in outlook and implementation, numerous ‘power centres’, etc., all loosely bound together by a set of basic principles – no racism, sexism, etc. – and based on organisation in local communities on the bread and butter issues affecting those communities. This is the only basis on which to create a confident, outward-looking party in a democratic society, one which is capable of attracting mass support.

    Any party that goes over the critical mass needed to become a mass party, will not function healthily as a democratic centralist org – there will simply be too many people to consult, and the leadership will inevitably end up setting the line without the memberships input, with, at best, the memberships’ role reduced to ratification at annual conferences. But conversely, given the unique historical conditions – namely, two world wars and the Russian revolution – that enabled the CPs to become mass parties in some places, I very much doubt any contemporary democratic centralist org will ever go beyond the critical mass needed to even become a mass party.

    I have no idea why people living in modern democracies are still so wedded to the idea of ‘democratic centralism’. When has it ever achieved anything in such a society? Indeed in this respect, the histories of the various fourth internationals are even more instructive than those of the old CPs. Yet for some reason after more than half a century of consistent failure, they keep doing the same thing!

    Without wishing to cause any offence to anyone with mental problems, I think Einstein was bang on the money when he said ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. Strangely enough, ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’ also seems the definition of Trotskyism…

  118. stuart: I would argue that the Democratic Centralist model is most certainly indicated for the SWP at this present juncture.

    Stuart, you fail to understand that a healthy functioning internal party regime, democratic centralist in character, would entail a response that protected the vital interests of the party as a whole.
    In this particular case protecting the rights of the complainant above those of the high official accused of the offence would have protected, even enhanced, the reputation of the party.
    What this inept, even inhuman treatment of the complainant has done has tarnished the image for a whole strata of people, even a whole generation, who remain impervious to the kinds of political and ideological assault to which the SWP is most obviously vulnerable.
    No individual, and certainly not the group interests of a leading committee, or the general desirability of leadership continuity should be put above the interests of the party as a whole.
    It is a sign of political immaturity, and more generally of a divorce from reality, to plead before this blog’s readership, a special dispensation on the grounds that the party, and the functioning of democratic centralism, is under assault.
    It just aint so.

  119. stuart on said:

    Andy Newman:
    the issue id that she felt the SWP were a more appropriate authority yo deal with it than the police

    Should we not defend the right of complainants not to go to the police?

  120. Huerta Lazenby on said:

    stuart: Should we not defend the right of complainants not to go to the police?

    Well it would be of great concern in any political organisation left or otherwise if a member felt they would not have the support of that organisation is they went to the police

    In the UK at least with only circa 15% of cases being report it would be tragic if a member of the SWP did not do so

  121. Andy Newman: if it hadn’t been for me publishing the transcript, would Richard Seymoir have spoken out.

    Probably not, but once it hit the msm it would ill behoove a Guardian columnist to hold his gob. Hence his spleen is reserved for you and the Indo journo.

    Once you recieved the transcript it was inevitable that this story would out – whether you published or not someone would have.

    This is my first comment on this issue but its been clear to me from the begining that conspiracy to pervert the course of justice charges could be forthcoming.

    There will be a lot to more go through before its over.

  122. Feodor: As if any of the democratic centralist organisations ever set their line through mass discussion and debate: it’s almost always delivered from on high, with the rank and file rarely exerting any significant influence – they approve or reject positions already arrived at, but play a minimal role in their actual formulation.

    You have to exclude the Communist Party from this. In its present incarnation it sailed through a sharp and evenly matched difference of opinion over electoral strategy with its political and organisational unity strengthened and its its leadership intact even though the top leadership were defeated.

  123. stuart on said:

    Huerta Lazenby: Well it would be of great concern in any political organisation left or otherwise if a member felt they would not have the support of that organisation is they went to the police

    That’s not what I was asking.

  124. Feodor: Any party that goes over the critical mass needed to become a mass party, will not function healthily as a democratic centralist org – there will simply be too many people to consult, and the leadership will inevitably end up setting the line without the memberships input, with, at best, the memberships’ role reduced to ratification at annual conferences.

    I think this uses an imperfect conception ‘mass party’. A party with revolutionary goals surely has to be big, but more important is its mass influence. The tasks of a party of working class power, in non revolutionary conditions, is all about preparation. Even when contesting elections or running local government, or leading mass organisations the key thing is the engagement of the mass of the working people in the creation and exercise of popular power in ways that challenge the dictatorship of capital.
    In such circumstances it is impossible, and undesirable, to insist on monolithic unity on every detail of local policy but it is essential that the general line, the broad strategy is agreed.
    The important thing is a political culture that permits, even encourages, critical thought and positive feedback from particular experiences.

  125. jack ford on said:

    Feodor,

    Agree about social democracy

    In his book The Time of my Life Denis Healeyh quotes Lesjek Kolawski as follows

    “The trouble with the social democratic ideal is that it does not stock and does not sell any of the exciting ideological commodities which various totalitarian movements…offer dream hungry youth. It has no prescription for the total salvation of mankind… Democratic Socialism requires, in addition to commitment to a number of basic values, hard knowledge and rational calculation…It is an obstinate will to erode by inches the conditions which produce avoidable suffering, oppression, hunger, wars, racial and national hatred, insatiable greed…”

    Maybe the Cold War term “totalitarianism” is unfortunate (Kolawski was a Polish exile from dictatorship) but the rest of this statement is spot on.

    Healy goes on to say “This is not an ignoble vision. It will do far more to help real people living in the real world today and tomorrow than all the cloudy rhetoric of systematic ideologies, or the tidy blueprints of academic theorists”

    Healy had his faults but it is more than likely that had he been Labour leader in the early Eighties rather than Foot (a good man but not prime minister material) Thatcherism might have been cut short.

    Quite a few of the worst Blairite bully boys in Labour graduated from far left groups. The economic ideology may have changed but their authoritarianism continued.

  126. I have just reached my hotel in a sleety Carlisle and picked up Michael Rosen’s comment about democratic centralism. I too am pretty agnostic about the concept. Lenin’s formulation “freedom of discussion, unity of action” seems sound in formal terms. Whether it has any lasting legacy is up for discussion. All too often it has meant a brief faction then expulsion of the opposition.
    What do we need right here, right now? I would say we need a left of Labour organisation which is activist in practice, open, enquiring and democratic in its internal life, sharply breaking from the toy Bolshevism that has led to the dominance of monsters like Gerry Healy and to grotesque fractures such have been discussed on these pages, a practice that has meant the Left has failed to grow in circumstances that have looked favourable.
    In practice the form of democratic centralism we have seen in Trotskyist groups whose internal life has sometimes been distorted by isolation during their history has led to a caricature of the idea with full timers playing a disproportionate role in controlling debate.
    The real issue is what is the balance of democracy and centralism in a left organisation? It is an issue in the left groups. The SWP recently had a comission to examine it.
    I do not pretend to be anything more than an individual activist who wants to build a left organisation we can be proud of out of the current mess. That means democracy, respect, thorough debate, clear expectations of conduct and the rigorous accountability of elected officers has to be paramount. Real grievances should be debated until the vast majority of members and supporters feel there is something like a convincing resolution. I would say also, though this may be anathema to some that if there was a local meeting at which there was a 60:40 victory for one side of the argument, that balance should be reflected in the delegates sent to conference. An organisation should be able to have sharp disagreements without expulsions except in the most extreme circumstances. Against such a yardstick today’s Left looks shoddy.
    Another term I dislike is ‘bending the stick.’ It can be an excuse for unexplained U-turns. If we are to emphasise anything in the formula democratic centralism however, in current circumstances it would have to be democracy.

  127. Dave Harker on said:

    ‘Bending the stick’ was Cliff’s translation. As I understand it, the correct translation would be ‘bending the twig’ – i.e. while it’s still alive – to encourage growth in a slightly different direction without killing the plant.

  128. Mark P on said:

    Democratic Centralism has both its strengths and weaknesses.

    But it is entirely dependent on collective self-discipline carved out of faith (a term I don’t use perjoratively).

    The faith may be in a number of different subjects. A collective interpretation of a particularist ideology, a historical tradition, a leadership, fellow members.

    This faith permits the suspension of ongoing free debate and openly expressed differences of opinion outside of agreed time periods when this is permitted. Communication must largely be vertical, mainly top to bottom, sometimes bottom to top, hardly ever horizontal because this would alow the formation of factions in all but name.

    Once this faith is shattered nothing very much can be done to police the disssent short of expulsions, more likely in most instances those who no longer have the faith demaned of them simply drift away as thousands have from the various left groups who use democratic centralism over the past twenty years or so. This is a major factor in their failure to grow, democratic centralism demands a degree of faith in an organisation that few are able to maintain for any length of time.

    Of course an organisation could simply expel itself out of existence. When those who refuse to accept the party line become a critical mass that is the sorry future as the Democratic Centralist structure makes it very difficult for a new majority to be formed, it certainly privileges the pre-existing leadership.

    Mark P

  129. David Ruaune on said:

    Michael Rosen: Perhaps I missed it, but has anyone here or anywhere else posed an alternative to ‘democratic centralism’ as a structure for a left of Labour grouping – in this very time and place?

    Michael, you seem to have things the wrong way around; you want other people to explain to you how we should all organize. But you are a member of a party which claims to have the answers. You are also quite a prominent member (I think you are listed on Wikipedia as such.) Your job is, therefore, to either defend your party or to make valid criticisms. I saw your facebook page earlier today, and you at least acknowledged the shitstorm with a link to (I think) Seymour’s article, but you said nothing about it, not even in the comments. Nothing. Molyneux has said nothing. Birchall said nothing. Leeds Swss … hats off! (It’s my own ex-swss as well!)

  130. I would call it shared conviction rather than faith, but I take your point. As I say, I care about seeing a thriving left. If democratic centralism means more of the same where a rigidly conformist full time apparatus polices the membership then we don’t need it. I would suggest that if a genuine and serious debate about the future of the Left is going to develop then nothing should be seen is set in stone about the the practice of the last few decades. The Left can point to some successes out of proportion with its size: the Anti Nazi League, the poll tax campaign, the Stop the War campaign. Have these mobilisations resulted in any genuine lasting and durable implantation of the Left? I’m afraid not. It has to be discussed why not. The lessons have to be learned. Then maybe left organisations can handle incidents such as the one which triggered this whole debate with integrity and humanity and not a squalid clumsiness that discredits it.

  131. This was posted on one of the many blogs discussing the issue:

    ‘You still are in absolute denial about the necessity of police intervention in this case. What the heck you mean “if the woman decided not to go to the police”. Do you know how much pressure she has been under since 2010? Do you know she was told by good comrades/hard comrades, that if she goes to police, the police will abuse the opportunity to collect the HQ’s computers and thousands of people will be exposed, jobs will be lost and party will be destroyed. Do you understand how she has been surrounded by seeming supporters just to make sure she does not go to the police and as we speak she is being fully guided as going to police will destroy not only the party but the overall class. Do not give us that bullshit line again please which itself is produced right on top of the bureacratic echelon . Second, you enjoyed your fantasy for the last two years of this ideal militant heaven just because you did not know enough. Ignorance is bliss. Just to a search on the net. Allegation of sexual abuse is not new to the party, search for Bristol 2004 and see who got expelled, man or the woman? Also, many of your comrades knew about these allegations since 2010 and all of them kept quiet. Ask around and see whether any of them, even one, every tried to inquire into it deeper. Where the hell was anyone’s critical sense? Because everyone is programmed to accept the party line and does not even notice, to think about a case they need to know both sides of the argument, and no one wanted to know more about that woman. The heads have been under the sand for too, too long already.’

    http://nathan-akehurst.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/notes-on-swp-crisis.html

  132. Michael isn’t in the SWP. But actually even if someone is, I think right now it’s not right to be giving purity tests to SWP members. Everyone should be thinking about how we build the left. If someone is in the party and would like input from people outside the party, go ahead and give it to them without saying they’ve got to justify themselves – it might help everyone.

  133. David Ruaune on said:

    Let me remind people that on 3 January 2011, Michael Rosen, on this very website, declared -

    I don’t want to discuss this in public, but I’ve heard that Martin Smith was having an affair with Bruce Forsyth. Don’t tell anyone, keep it under wraps but if people would like to discuss it, I won’t stand in their way. I think it could turn out to be of great significance to the…er…movement…

    Posted by Michael Rosen 3 January, 2011 at 2:00 am

    Very witty, Wilde, very witty.

  134. David Ruaune, you or I may not believe in coincidences, no matter how macabre or unfortunate, but hand on heart, i hadn’t't heard anything at all about this episode until I read Richard Seymour’s blog a couple of days ago. You seem keen on picking a fight with me. Nice.

  135. stuart on said:

    Nick Wright,

    If you accuse me of defending inhuman treatment then we have no meaningful dialogue. What do you think about the attacks on the party by the bourgeois press, including the racist connotations?

  136. David Ruaune on said:

    Tony Collins,

    If they say they’ve had it wrong, okay – but just pretending nothing’s happened wont cut the ice – not with me, anyway, alas. Yes, I am bitter, but it’s only a bit of verbal. But as Blake says, “Opposition is True Friendship”. Okay Tony you’re probably right.

  137. Mark P: democratic centralism demands a degree of faith in an organisation that few are able to maintain for any length of time.

    Not faith but reason.
    It is not democratic centralism itself but a politics that does not correspond with reality or with the needs of the hour.
    An internal regime that demands the suspension of reason and common sense, or which cultivates a sense of otherness that sets a group apart from normal society, will inevitably demand faith and will equally inevitably lose those who demand reason.

  138. David – I guess all I’m really saying is, there’s a time and a place. There’s some profound thinking going on in the SWP right now, and it would benefit the whole movement if people had the space to do that thinking, as well as the co-operation of others. You’ll have seen how much bitterness I feel about the dreadful behaviour of so many SWP members, but there’s something we can’t deny: We could drive people into deep sectarianism right now, or we could just stick around and give our views. I totally agree with what you said – I don’t want people pretending nothing’s happened. And at some point, all of those people should go to Kevin Ovenden and Rob Hoveman and personally apologise for what they put those two through.

    But that’s the small stuff right now.

  139. David Ruaune on said:

    Hi Michael – I always assumed you were SWP! (wanna join?) I think I should apologise; I had you lumped in with prominent SWP people of some talent who would kind of ignorantly accept the SWP’s reality whilst being the human face.
    But if I was led to assume you were such, it must be YOUR FAULT!
    Love an kisses no I’m not running a number on you.

  140. David Ruaune,

    To be fair David while you were perhaps too flippant there is a point to drawing attention to the SWP ‘s tactic of deploying celebrity non members to give an aura of liberalism, while bullying the rank and file lay members.

    Perhaps for the best of intentions Michael has bern happy to.play that role

  141. Tony Collins: Kevin Ovenden and Rob Hoveman

    I presume then that in their leading positions when SWP members or since they never “put people through” anything nasty or worth apologising for? Hm…

  142. stuart,

    Stuart, this nonsense about racist connotations is such a transparent use of a diversionary tactic that you should be embarrassed.

    Look at the wise words that Socialist Worker itself used in describing the cover up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, where diversinary tactics included the spin that it was gossip motivated by anti-catholics out to attack the church.

  143. Jay Blackwood on said:

    Tony Collins: There’s some profound thinking going on in the SWP right now, and it would benefit the whole movement if people had the space to do that thinking, as well as the co-operation of others.

    Well said. There’s a world of difference between baiting party members and sympathisers, or choosing instead to help facilitate a genuine re-evaluation.

  144. Jay Blackwood,

    But equally those in the SWP who have sought to bully us away from discussing the culture of sexism do have to make some reappraisal.

    Those for example still seeking to use false allegations that I am a racist because of the indy quote about Sharia, in order to delegitimise me.

    Or perhaps those who are publically oppositional now only because it is in the public domain yet still condemn me for publishing the transcript.

  145. jack ford on said:

    Nick Wright: Not faith but reason.
    It is not democratic centralism itself but a politics that does not correspond with reality or with the needs of the hour.
    An internal regime that demands the suspension of reason and common sense, or which cultivates a sense of otherness that sets a group apart from normal society, will inevitably demand faith and will equally inevitably lose those who demand reason.

    Absolutely.

    it’s important to get a good clear sense of how self-deception works. I suspect most of us have had the experience of arguing themselves into believing, at least for a short time, something that they knew was not true. It’s a fascinating study in the corruption of the intellect. To start with, much more often than not, questions of the truth of the belief in question are ignored or actively evaded; what matters is that accepting the false belief will bring practical benefits, or please another person, or identify the believer with an admirable person or group.

    As the false belief is affirmed in public and expressed in action, though, the critical space required to accept the belief publicly without believing it inwardly trickles away. The cognitive dissonance that comes from affirming and enacting a belief without believing it is hard to bear, and the more the belief is affirmed and enacted, the more painful the dissonance becomes. One way out of the dissonance is to abandon the false belief, but social pressures often make that a costly and embarrassing step; the other option, to make yourself believe that the false belief is true, routinely comes with equally substantial social rewards. It’s not surprising that a significant number of people make that latter choice.

    Once it’s made, though, the pathologies of repressed disbelief unfold in predictable ways. The believer becomes brittle and defensive about the false belief, affirming it loudly and publicly, and taking on the familiar social role of the strident true believer. Elaborate arguments for the truth of the false belief take on an ever larger role in their mental life; if books of such arguments exist, you can count on finding them on their bookshelves, while their willingness to encounter differing views—not even opposing ones, but simply those that are not identical to the cherished false belief—drops like a rock.

    Convincing the rest of the world of the truth of the false belief becomes a central concern, since every new convert to the false belief helps shore up the believer’s self-imposed conviction that the false belief really is true. Onto those who refuse to be converted, meanwhile, the believer projects not only their own unspoken doubts, but the bad faith and hypocrisy that surrounds those doubts. Thus, in the mind of the believer, the unbeliever gets turned into a caricature of everything the believer can’t stand in themselves, and serves by turns as a straw man, a scapegoat, and the supposed cause of everything evil in the world.

    How this trajectory ends is determined by the nature of the false belief itself, or more precisely by the relation between the false belief and the world of objective fact. If the belief does not require the world to behave in a way that it manifestly doesn’t, it’s entirely possible for believers to spend the rest of their lives loudly proclaiming the truth of a belief they know is false, and hating those people who reject the belief for openly speaking the truth the believers are unwilling to utter, without going further into oughtright psychopathology. It’s when the false belief makes specific, falsifiable claims about the way the world works that problems crop up; the more central these claims are to the belief system, and the more obviously and repeatedly the claims are falsified, the more difficult those problems become.

    The most productive way to cope with those problems is to abandon the false belief, and of course a good many people do that after a sufficiently forceful disconfirmation. Much less productive is the option of doubling down on the belief system, insisting on its truth in the face of any amount of evidence, and following it out to its logical conclusions no matter how horrific those happen to be.

  146. Feodor on said:

    Nick Wright: You have to exclude the Communist Party from this.

    The CP(B) or CPGB?

    In respect of the former, that its membership did not vote to join Respect, even though the General Secretary and editor of the Morning Star were in favour, has always struck me as a strong indication of a healthy internal democratic culture, irrespective of whether you think the decision reached was the right one or not.

    Nevertheless, I seriously doubt that this could be maintained alongside massive membership growth.

    Nick Wright: ‘I think this uses an imperfect conception ‘mass party’…’

    You’re just talking in circles Nick, offering platitudes and tautologies.

    Obviously a party needs to have many more supporters than members to be a ‘mass party’, but it still needs to have thousands of members, hundreds of thousands even, to qualify as such. And frankly, I fail to see how any party which had, say, 100,000 members, could agree upon and enforce a/the ‘general line’ – a ‘broad strategy’ is rather different from a specific political line.

    I challenge you to find one mass political party which has managed to maintain this level of agreement over a sustained period of time. Modern parties in democratic societies have to be broad churches, else they’ll remain insignificant, and certainly won’t develop and sustain ‘a political culture that permits, even encourages, critical thought and positive feedback from particular experiences.’

    @#144, Jack Ford, thanks for the quote. I agree, it’s less glamorous, but at the same time far more honest and sensible to talk about and actually make small, incremental improvements in peoples’ lives. In a way, as there’s next to no chance of a revolution in this country, those on the far-left have become the Bernsteins, building the movement for the movement’s sake, whereas the social-democrats actually have a concrete aim in mind, even though it falls well short of ‘the total salvation of mankind’.*

    *Do people still not see the obvious link between the culmination of history in Marx’s eyes and Christian theology’s ideas of the Kingdom of Heaven being realised on Earth. The man was a profound thinker, but he wasn’t a fucking prophet. People really need to move beyond some of his schemas.

  147. Jellytot on said:

    Tony Collins

    There’s some profound thinking going on in the SWP right now, and it would benefit the whole movement if people had the space to do that thinking, as well as the co-operation of others.

    If would be good to think that profound exchange of ideas could take place within that group without malice, factioneering, lies, gossip and assorted forms of backstabbing…..although on past experience? :-(

    Still, let’s live in hope.

  148. Jay Blackwood on said:

    Michael Rosen: Non-member puts up open-ended suggestion for discussion about alternatives to DC

    Michael, one valid response – which I think someone touched on earlier – is to pose the question the other way around. In other words, what is it about DC that recommends itself to you as an organisational form in the 21st century in the bourgeois democracies? One of the problems I think is that – rather like Christianity! – DC can mean different things to different people, because it changed so radically in different periods (eg see my post above about DC under Lenin, which for most of its life facilitated permanent factions and open debate in the public party press).

  149. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    The amount of criticism about so-called “Democratic Centralism” on this thread is quite dazzling, but I wonder if those who are disparaging the concept can give a definition of democratic centralism to see if they know what it is. And on a point of interest I would not characterise the SWP as a Democratic Centralist structured organisation but more a bureaucratic centralist group and from that point of view I think it disqualifies the

  150. David Ruaune on said:

    Andy Newman,

    That’s right – I was honestly m

    Andy Newman: To be fair David while you were perhaps too flippant there is a point to drawing attention to the SWP ‘s tactic of deploying celebrity non members to give an aura of liberalism, while bullying the rank and file lay members.

    Perhaps for the best of intentions Michael has bern happy to play that role

    I agree. I was honestly mistaken about his membership.

  151. Manzil on said:

    jack ford,

    Presumably, according to this schema, the far left is to blame for the Labour Party’s capitulation to neoliberalism under Blair, and the right wing of the party are the true ‘democratic socialists’?

    There is a difference between measured critique and extreme zig-zags, buffeted along by events. You are in danger of the latter when you abandon the idea that it is the duty of the left to actually represent the concrete interests of the working class – secret factioneer’s point at #76 is spot on. We’re talking about respect and cooperation within the traditions of the left, surely, not with people who are definitively in the other camp. Otherwise you end up on the wrong side of the struggle – see the degeneration of various reform communists into supporting the outright liquidation of a socialist politics.

    Healey made things worse for workers. He capitulated to the basic strategic motivations of Thatcherism – the abandonment of socialism at home and support for imperialism abroad. The ideas and methodology of Healey’s brand of right-wing Labourism cannot be a tool for those engaged in this discussion.

    I strongly agree with Feodor at #135. We must accept the unique situation in the labour movement after 1917 no longer carries any objective basis in the structure of global capitalism. The ‘official’ socialists of the Second International, the idea of a conscious and broad socialist party, synonymous with the most ‘solidaristic’ sections of the labour movement, rather than a self-appointed cadre, is the model to draw on. Or to put it more bluntly, people should stop thinking of themselves as somehow superior to or separate from the everybody else, whether others on the left or the labour movement generally.

  152. So – the key question is what kind of organisation do we need – closely related to question of strategic orientation.
    But first, in this first post, I want to dismiss a particularly outlandish and unhelpful meme that has surfaced in this discussion: Someone mentioned ‘rape cult’. This is absurd language. I have known the SWP fairly well for around 25 years, and although I left the party over a decade ago, I have often worked with them in united fronts since, and am both a critic of them and collaborator with them (as I am with many tendencies in the movement).
    In this time there have of course been examples of sexually oppressive behavior by men in the party – including sometimes long established and in one case a prominent party member. In every case I experienced, as soon as the Central Committee received notification, the offending male quickly found themselves out of the party, one way or another. My experience of the SWP has always been of groups of confident women comrades leading local class struggles wherever I have lived. There is a culture of resistance to sexism. Of course, sexism exist everywhere in class society, and so we find sexually oppressive acts and behavior in many social movements not just in socialist groups – in green movements, in peace movements, in Occupy camps. And you find women and men challenging this.
    Therefore, this crisis is not some issue confined to the SWPs critics. One of the main features here is that the whole SWP is shocked and stunned by what has happened (or huge sections of them are). This crisis goes right to their very centre. This case seems to break from the norms of the SWP. ‘Comrade Delta’ seems to have been treated differently to other cases where male party members have been accused of sexually oppressive behavior. It is a slap in the face for thousands of women and men in the party. It betrays all their hard work. It comes at a time when the party leadership has been unable to formulate a strategy to lead the movement, and when the left in general has failed to develop and grow from the systemic crisis of capitalism or its current austerity offensive. The authority of the Central Committee within the party was already weakened by recent crisis and splits, around Respect and Counterfire, with many of the CCs most well known leading figures now outside, in other organisations.

    Now, a whole series of questions flow from this. One is about the over-centralised but under-democratised form of democratic centralism that has become ossified within the SWP, as it stabilised into a self-reproducing machine over the 40 year period since the last great capitalist crisis. Now that forty year historical period is over and all the institutions of society – including its institutionalised revolutionaries, will have their crises. If we are to move forward, in this new period of struggle – we will need new forms of socialist organisation. So good to have the discussion here. I’ll add my tuppenceworth on this later, I hope. Now time for housework :(

  153. David Ruaune on said:

    There may be a need for a good lead article on “Is there a future for Democratic Centralism?” or somesuch, as part of (but not the whole of) the ahem ahem rather lively discussions in which the far left is now involved – which are, love it or hate it, here. Within the discussion following the article, some ideas may solidify. I don’t want to write it, by the way.

  154. jack ford on said:

    #175 There’s no question that it is the duty of the left to actually represent the concrete interests of the working class and not capitulate to neoliberalism as New Labour did and I accept that Healy was not ideal – I said he had his faults. However the tradition he represented was an authentic social democracy that could have defeated Thatcherism. When the far left entryists played a key role in defeating his bid for the leadership it was a Pyrrhic victory.

    The old social democratic Labour party was still worth fighting for as late as the 1992. In my view the battle wasn’t lost until 1994 and the death of John Smith whereupon the Blair Brown Mandy axis took over.

    All ancient history now of couse and a healthy outside Labour left is extremely important now as then.

    But we still also need a inside left in Ed Miliband’s Labour party.

  155. Non-member puts up open-ended suggestion for discussion about alternatives to DC. Result: slack crap about non-member.

    Non-member, as always Michael, sees only what he wants to see. Just as he only saw what he wanted to see during and after the Respect split.

  156. SWP (ex) Loyalist on said:

    Michael – you are being asked, here and elsewhere, to explain where you stand on the issues under discussion. As a high-profile supporter of the SWP, albeit not a member, I think you have a responsibility to do so.

    My suspicion is that you agree with the Opposition but are worried about upsetting the current leaders. Richard Seymour has, in the past, exhibited the same lack of bottle but has now found the courage to speak truth unto power. As you say, he is risking expulsion.

    Saving and renewing the Party is a worthy endeavour. What have you got to lose?

  157. I agree with Barry Kade that there is a very false picture of the SWP being painted by some people for their own reasons. I am critical of aspects of the organisation now and parts of its tradition as I have made clear. However, in my time the instances of sexist behaviour were far outweighed by the string of impressive women organisers who developed through the organisation’s activities. I don’t want to list a string of people here, but the late Julie Waterson is one example and one of a legion of such fighters.

  158. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Sorry but on post 174 something happened to miss the last few words of the last sentence. Here is the last sentance in full:

    ” And on a point of interest I would not characterise the SWP as a Democratic Centralist structured organisation but more a bureaucratic centralist group and from that point of view I think it disqualifies the argument against the concept of democratic centralism.”

  159. neprimerimye on said:

    The following post is not from me, neprimerimye, but from my friend and fellow member of the Board of Revolutionary History. I would like to make it clear that whatever position I might hold with regard to the situation in the SWP I regard Andy Newmans actions as an attempt to destroy a socialist organisation.

    Since people have expressed an interest in the Serbian IST I must tell you that Dragan Plavšić and Andreja Živković were the two most talented SWP comrades who, as visiting editors, helped produce a really excellent issue of Revolutionary History Vol.8 No.3 entitled the Balkan Socialist Tradition and the Balkan Federation, 1871-1915. They are the only two members of the Serbian IST or rather ex-IST whom I know. I have below a list of the contents of this issue, well worth reading I may add. All the translations are in English for the first time. If you feel somewhat demoralised by what is going on I strongly recommend you to buy and read this to deepen your understanding of socialist history in the Balkans while taking a break from bitter personal divisions.

    I do not wish to make any comment on the dispute in the SWP, the Editorial Board of RH contains members of the SWP but they may be on different sides.
    Ted Crawford
    Balkan Socialist Tradition and the Balkan Federation, 1871-1915

    I: The Origins of the Balkan Socialist Tradition: Between Populism and Marxism
    Dragan Plavšić, Introduction
    Svetozar Marković, Serbia in the East
    Svetozar Marković, Slav Austria and Serb Unity
    Hristo Botev, On Discord Among the Balkan Peoples
    II: Marxism and the Eastern Question: Challenging the Orthodoxy 1896-97
    Dragan Plavšić, Introduction
    Rosa Luxemburg, Social Democracy and the National Struggles in Turkey
    Wilhelm Liebknecht, Statement
    Karl Kautsky, The Eastern Question and Social Democracy
    Wilhelm Liebknecht, Crete and Social Democracy
    Eduard Bernstein, Crete and the Russian Danger
    Christian Rakovsky, The Eastern Question and the International Socialist Party
    III: Bulgarian Socialism and the Macedonian National Liberation Movement, 1903-08
    Andreja Živković, Introduction
    Dimo Hadzhi Dimov and Dimitûr Mirazchiev, After Ilinden
    Dimitûr Blagoev, On the Macedonian Question
    A Gorov, Once Again on the Macedonian Question
    IV: The Revolution in Turkey and the Balkan Federation
    Andreja Živković, Introduction
    Christian Rakovsky, The Turkish Revolution
    Dimitûr Blagoev, The Revolution in Turkey and Social Democracy
    Dimo Hadzhi Dimov, Our Political Standpoint
    The Balkan Federation and the Workers
    The Nationalist Struggles and Socialism
    Andreja Živković, Introduction
    Christian Rakovsky, The Turkish Revolution
    Dimitûr Blagoev, The Revolution in Turkey and Social Democracy
    Dimo Hadzhi Dimov, Our Political Standpoint
    The Balkan Federation and the Workers
    The Nationalist Struggles and Socialism
    V: The Annexation of Bosnia by Austria-Hungary in 1908
    Dragan Plavšić, Introduction
    Otto Bauer, Austria’s Foreign Policy and Social Democracy
    Dimitrije Tucović, Austria-Hungary in the Balkans
    Dimitrije Tucović, German Socialism and the Russian Danger
    Arbeiter-Zeitung, War?
    Dimitrije Tucović, What We Say
    Dimitrije Tucović and Karl Renner, Debate on Bosnia
    VI: The Balkan Federation and Balkan Social Democracy
    Andreja Živković, Introduction
    Karl Kautsky, The National Tasks of Socialists Among the Balkan Slavs
    Resolution of the First Balkan Social Democratic Conference
    Dimitrije Tucović, The First Balkan Social Democratic Conference
    Christian Rakovsky, Towards a Balkan Entente
    Dimitûr Blagoev, Political Prospects
    Christian Rakovsky, The Balkan Confederation and the Turkish-Bulgarian Defensive Alliance
    Dimitûr Blagoev, The Balkan Conference and the Balkan Federation
    VII: The Balkan Wars of 1912-13 and the Balkan Federation
    Dragan Plavšić, Introduction
    Christian Rakovsky, Manifesto of the Socialists of Turkey and the Balkans
    Triša Kaclerović, Memoirs of the First Balkan War
    Hristo Kabakchiev, From Victory to Defeat
    Dimitrije Tucović, Serbia and Albania
    VIII: The First World War and the Balkan Federation
    Dragan Plavšić, Introduction
    Dragiša Lapčević, Against War
    Dušan Popović, Serbian Social Democracy in the War
    The Second Balkan Social Democratic Conference — Manifesto
    The Second Balkan Social Democratic Conference — Discussion

  160. Andy Newman:

    Those for example still seeking to use false allegations that I am a racist because of the indy quote about Sharia, in order to delegitimise me.

    I’m not saying you are racist but the bourgeois press to whom you spoke will spin it that way whilst at the same time bashing the left.

  161. SWP (ex) Loyalist, a) I don’t think anyone is that bothered about what I might think about eg party organisation as I’ve never belonged to a political party. b) I don’t feel like commenting on the alleged crime etc because the net is full of contradictory reports and comments – and I’d be out of my depth on all the legality of the episode and commenting on it. Not sure why so many people feel so free to comment on it anyway. c) I thought I made my position clear re organisation at #103 .I’ve never been a fan of dc – my parents left the cpgb over it. I accept that it enables mobilisation and development of theory. I conceded that this presents me with a contradiction. I tried to develop another train of thought: even if dc is ‘right’ it may not be right here and now given balance of class forces and level of left activity. The old structure of IS appealed to me more. None of this is a secret. I’ve often said this whenever anyone has asked me. I rarely meet anyone who agrees with me about this anyway.

  162. Barry Kade,

    It is not true that comrade delta was treated differently, during the 1980s similar allegations against an equally senior CC member were suppressed with a woman CC member bullying a young woman into silence- for the good of the party

  163. Feodor: Obviously a party needs to have many more supporters than members to be a ‘mass party’, but it still needs to have thousands of members, hundreds of thousands even, to qualify as such. And frankly, I fail to see how any party which had, say, 100,000 members, could agree upon and enforce a/the ‘general line’ – a ‘broad strategy’ is rather different from a specific political line.

    If a party needs to ‘enforce’ a line then it hardly meets the criteria for being a democratic centralist organisation.
    Leadership depends on willing consent and that, in turn depends on a political culture that is genuinely open in the sense that the experiences of the working class, as a whole, are reflected in party discussion.
    It is undoubtedly hard to envisage a transition from our present state to one where millions of workers are in movement against the established order but then again we are hardly at the state where the ruling class cannot rule in the old way and the working class is unwilling to be ruled in the old way.
    At such a crisis point the boundaries between a general or strategic line and a particular political line becomes less easy to discern. One leads to the other.
    The more deeply established a tradition of mass engagement exists the more easy it is to envisage such a situation.
    The reason why this discussion seems academic is because of the disconnect between the bulk of the working people and socialist organisations.
    On the relations between class and mass party here is a large body of experience in the communist movement to draw on – particular how easy it is to lose that organic relationship and mass membership. Italy, France and Spain show how it can melt away. Portugal and Greece, India, Brazil and South Africa show how it can be retained and grow even in very difficult circumstances.
    Indonesia.
    These situations, each very different, concern parties with memberships that are of a different order to the kind we have in Britain. Even in Britain, within living experience – the Communist Party could draw on more than a thousand branches in working class communities and scores of factory branches.
    It is astounding that a discussion about the principles of revolutionary organisation could take place using as an exemplar the pathological example of a small organisation characaterised mainly by a bizarre ideology, a large transitory membership and a very low level of penetration in working class communities when there is a wealth of experience in the wide, wide world.
    Very British. Very insular.

  164. neprimerimye,

    “I would like to make it clear that whatever position I might hold with regard to the situation in the SWP I regard Andy Newmans actions as an attempt to destroy a socialist organisation.”

    A bit silly since the political personality ‘Andy Newman’ is himself a product of the SWP, like so many others who have reacted to its deformations and political irrationalities by spinning off in many, often mutually incompatible directions.

    Andy Newman’s politics on many things are awful. But blaming him for the possibly terminal crisis of the SWP is like blaming the straw for breaking the camel’s back, and ignoring the rest of the mountains of ill-advised and useless baggage it was carrying.

    A subjective and foolish response.

  165. another swp member on said:

    You say its irrelevant that the woman has asked Socialist Unity site for the transcript to taken down and also said she did not want to go to the police . Take the transcript down she asked this site to do it .. interesting how you think that its ok to ignore what W wants !
    Heather Downs,

  166. David Ruaune on said:

    Andy Newman:
    Barry Kade,

    It is not true that comrade delta was treated differently, during the 1980s similar allegations against an equally senior CC member were suppressed with a woman CC member bullying a young woman into silence- for the good of the party

    Was it about Chris Harman “doin’ the squid”?

  167. Andy Newman:

    It is not true that comrade delta was treated differently, during the 1980s similar allegations against an equally senior CC member were suppressed with a woman CC member bullying a young woman into silence- for the good of the party

    But how would you ever be satisfied? If the SWP did nothing you would say ‘cover up’. If they investigated and found not proven you would say they shouldn’t have investigated. If they investigated and expelled you would say they are sacrificing only one bad apple.

  168. Andy Newman,

    So we need to come to a balanced assessment here – what was their organisational norm, their practice and culture when it comes to combatting sexually oppressive behavior between comrades? I do not think it is correct to suggest, as some seem to, that sexual oppression, and passive acquiescence to it, is the norm in the SWP, or the left. You may provide some other troubling examples, Andy. But these examples flout the organisations tacit and explicit norms, they don’t exemplify them. This is why the CCs and the DCs mishandling of this case is so shocking for many otherwise loyal party members and activists. Its why the question split their conference in half, in an unprecedented way. It flouts their party norms, and what they have come to expect. You miss a great deal, if you fail to understand this. This crisis could be transformational, and used to reform and develop the revolutionary socialist left – not to destroy it.

  169. David Ruaune on said:

    Barry Kade: But these examples flout the organisations tacit and explicit norms, they don’t exemplify them.

    They exemplify the cocksucking attitude to power within the SWP – deference to wanky full-timers, etc.

  170. In order to
    David Ruaune,

    David – I agree with your substantive point here – that this is a problem of power-inequalities between comrades. The SWP CC and full-timer apparatus is too powerful in relation to ‘the members’ , the parties hardworking grassroots activists. This makes the party less effective as an organising tool for socialists, blocking grassroots creative practice and initiative, and its generalisation and horizontal spread. Power inequalities also become locations where abuse goes unchallenged.

    But comrade – to challenge sexual opression we have to take care with our metaphors, that these don’t reinforce sexual oppression, gender-power and homophobia ourselves. Therefore to use the word ‘cocksucking’ to represent submission to power is an unhelpful metaphor, and risks invoking homophobic or heteronormative cultural resonances.

  171. SWP (ex) Loyalist on said:

    The stories about Chris Harman circulated for years without anyone feeling the need to address them seriously. It was all a bit ‘ha, ha – what a perve!’

    I refuse to believe that I’m the only one on here who heard it.

  172. David Ruaune on said:

    Barry Kade,

    Yr probably right, Barry. I’m not anti-gay. Should “wanker” be discouraged, since it seems judgmental upon those who auto-eroticize?

  173. Graham Day on said:

    Barry Kade: This is why the CCs and the DCs mishandling of this case is so shocking for many otherwise loyal party members and activists. Its why the question split their conference in half, in an unprecedented way.

    The SWP conference may have been split, but there’s no evidence either in the transcript or subsequently that the members are split on the actual substantive point, which is that the SWP had no right to adjudicate on an allegation of rape.

    Unless and until they recognise that they’re not above the law (and the norms of acceptable behaviour) there’s really no hope for them.

  174. David Ruaune on said:

    SWP (ex) Loyalist: I refuse to believe that I’m the only one on here who heard it.

    No – you are not. I too was frustrated about the lack of information, but it is only on Socialist Unity, as far as I can gather, that you even get smirky hints regarding Harman.

  175. Jimmy Haddow:
    The amount of criticism about so-called “Democratic Centralism” on this thread is quite dazzling, but I wonder if those who are disparaging the concept can give a definition of democratic centralism to see if they know what it is. And on a point of interestI would not characterise the SWP as a Democratic Centralist structured organisation but more a bureaucratic centralist group and from that point of view I think it disqualifies the argument against the concept of democratic centralism.

    It’s amazing that, despite not agreeing on anything else, the defenders of democratic centralism can nevertheless still all agree to uphold this tortured piece of logic. Everyone else who’s tried to implement this practice has got it wrong, they claim, only my group has got it right and therefore no one else can be used as an example.

    Do they not see how absurd a defence this is?

    In any case, the standard shorthand is freedom to discuss a policy or stance, which is then voted on with the majority position being the practice pursued thereafter. All the various proponents will offer some such formulation, and it’s more than reasonable to take their claims of being a democratic centralist organisation at face-value. Indeed, even if one accepts implementation may not always be perfect, all groups share the same starting point, which makes the argument that everyone else has got it wrong even less credible.

    After all, what good is a basic organisational principle that can only be correctly implemented by a select few groups, despite a myriad of organisations attempting to put it into practice? Moreover, one can barely discern any substantive differences between the various groups, esp. in terms of achieving anything. Surely if you have the key to organisational success, implement it correctly, yet still fail to out-compete those that do it incorrectly, you’re secret ingredient can’t be all that great.

    Nick Wright: ‘If a party needs to ‘enforce’ a line then it hardly meets the criteria for being a democratic centralist organisation.’

    Perhaps. And on issues related to, e.g., historical interpretation, I’m sure democratic centralist organisations could have a plurality of opinion – though this rarely seems the case.

    But when it comes to the here and now, ‘unity in action’ does need to be enforced, whether directly or indirectly.

    A democratic centralist organisation would have great trouble incorporating, say, one branch which wants to get involved in campaign X and another which opposes campaign X, or at least thinks it a waste of time. Sooner or later, a specific position will need to be enforced – this is the very essence of ‘unity in action’.

    However the flexibility that would enable persons in locality A to campaign for say a left-wing Labour councillor, while persons in locality B put up their own candidate, is rarely achieved without having to resort to theoretical zig-zagging. The implicit assumption of democratic centralism is that there is one correct strategy, when in reality there are always a number of courses, often of reasonably equal merit.

    I can, e.g., go to the shop by foot, bike or car. Each way has its benefits and drawbacks, but none are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Yet the democratic centralist method would inevitably promote one method above all others. And while as a general rule of thumb it may make sense under a specific set of national conditions to support riding a bike to the shop, if my particular circumstance is such that I don’t even have a bike, ‘unity in action’ is not going to do me much good!

    Nick Wright: ‘It is astounding that a discussion about the principles of revolutionary organisation could take place using as an exemplar the pathological example of a small organisation characaterised mainly by a bizarre ideology, a large transitory membership and a very low level of penetration in working class communities when there is a wealth of experience in the wide, wide world.’

    I’ve certainly not limited my critique to an analysis of the SWP alone. Indeed one of my main points is that the specific historical conditions that enabled democratic centralist organisations, in the form of the old Communist Parties, to flourish into mass parties, are largely irrelevant to modern day Britain.

    You may see that as ‘Very British. Very insular.’ But it beggars belief that the examples you highlight to suggest the relevance of the concept to modern Britain include countries where these parties developed in conditions of illegality, anti-fascist struggle and/or civil war. I’ve already stated the Leninist cadre model is well-suited to such situations, what I dispute is that it has any relevance to us in the here and now.

    And granted, the old CPGB was significant and punched much above its weight, yet it was always the poor relation of its international siblings and its success, moreover, was in large part conditioned by the prestige and support of the former USSR. As that waned, so did the CP. And now that it’s gone, the CP’s more or less dead in all but name.

  176. It’s worth pointing that, in western and southern Europe, the British left over the past two decades has been almost unique in its inability to build a new left-reformist national party. RESPECT and the SSP are as close as we’ve come, but they’re both regional groups.

    Now, without doubt the new European left-wing parties have their problems, but part of the problem with them is the entryists preference for chucking their toys out of the pram and leaving as soon as things don’t go their way, or refusing to engage in the first place. The democratic centralist mindset seems to mean that these people simply cannot accept that they and their policies will not always be dominant.

  177. redscribe,

    I am sorry but I think that is the case over the last month or so as well as the attack on the AWL.

    I wish to add that when I first saw the title of this post I was very suspicious. I thought that Mark P was too close to the moderators of this site but I read it and the debate that has taken place here has been positive in places.

    One point I want to make is to emphasise one particular set of points regarding the SWP tradition. A number of contributors have disparaged the traditions of the SWP but that is wrong but unfortunately there is a gulf between the theory and the practice of the SWP since 1977. Fundamentally the Socialist Review group and the IS before the SWP emphasised that the creation of a socialist society must be the act of a ‘self conscious’ working class. That is so fundamental that it shone out from all the other competing socialist organisations in the 1960s and 1970s. So IS rejected the substitutionism of the ’3rd worldists’ and focussed on the need for the organisation to develop roots in the class.

    Later it deviated from that position and turned into itself and developed a very deformed form of DC.

  178. I think Feodor, Mark P and everyone else on this thread should be honest and explain what they understand democratic centralism to mean if they’re determined to give it a kicking. By all means critique a means of organisation and by all means propose new ones, but so far the argument seems to be “We don’t have a huge revolutionary party numbering tens of thousands and the SWP are in trouble so it’s obvious democratic centralism doesn’t work”.

    Feodor:

    “It’s amazing that, despite not agreeing on anything else, the defenders of democratic centralism can nevertheless still all agree to uphold this tortured piece of logic. Everyone else who’s tried to implement this practice has got it wrong, they claim, only my group has got it right and therefore no one else can be used as an example.

    Do they not see how absurd a defence this is?”

    No, not everyone else. Just the SWP. Who said anyone else got it wrong? It’s not complicated.

    Feodor: “The implicit assumption of democratic centralism is that there is one correct strategy, when in reality there are always a number of courses, often of reasonably equal merit.”

    Eh? No it doesn’t. Dem Cent is a method of organising and debating, it doesn’t at all dictate the number of perspectives put forward or the conclusions of that debate.

    Mark P: “…the basic problem with enforcing Democratic Centralism short of a party holding state power. Without the full force of the state to wield this Leninist-inclined structure depends on a high degree of collective self-discipline, which has immense strengths when it holds but once that ‘spell’ is broken is shattered entirely. ”

    What does this mean Mark? ANY party structure, or organisational structure, requires collective self-discipline to abide by it’s own rules. That’s true of every political party in the country, from the BNP to Labour. You’re
    justifying your criticism on the basis that dem cent requires collective self discipline, but this is the case for all organisational structures;
    ANY and ALL structures will fail if the wrong culture spreads through an
    organisation.

    Jimmy Haddow is perfectly correct to say that those who wish to turn this thread into a discussion on democratic centralism should do us all the service of explaining exactly what the straw man in their heads looks like before they tear it down. It’s got nothing to do with expelling people for factionalising, investigating heinous crimes internally or suppressing information.

    PS Just to go back to the state power thing: I don’t think dem cent should ever be backed up by state power (which Mark suggests is the only way in which it could work) that would not make sense and would be potentially a dangerous tactic.

  179. jack ford on said:

    Graham Day: The SWP conference may have been split, but there’s no evidence either in the transcript or subsequently that the members are split on the actual substantive point, which is that the SWP had no right to adjudicate on an allegation of rape.

    Unless and until they recognise that they’re not above the law (and the norms of acceptable behaviour) there’s really no hope for them.

    Bingo this is exactly right.

  180. RedRuffLemur on said:

    Syndicalism, squadism, rankandfile-ism, trade union cretinism, miserabilism, federalism, communalism, electoralism, feminism, creeping feminism, bourgeois feminism, factionalism, ultra-leftism, rightism, centrism, movementism, black nationalism, sectariansim – please add your own personal favourites – a non-exhaustive list of just some of the supposedly scientific words banded about by the SWP leadership to characterise members they wished to discredit at that time. Kites have been flown, sticks have been bent, but names can never hurt us – but sometimes they do – excellent socialists leave – potentially excellent initiatives are wrecked.

    In 1974 I was part of a (legal) faction in IS arguing for the re-opening of its democratic structures. They had been nailed down on a strict need to know basis because of supposed state infiltration – from that series of debates the new NC eventually emerged. And the NC of the SWP in the late 70s & early 80s was genuinely seen as the space for the members to speak – to learn from each other, and to inform the CC & leadership. It was not all toeing-the-line and gaining cadre points. It was a place for serious discussion. The members were all by-and-large leaders in their own workplaces/trade unions/communities & had day-to-day living experience to offer. There were real differences. Women’s Voice. Scottish independence. The punk paper. The extent of the downturn. It was not perfect by any means but we did feel very distant from the CP, jokingly characterised as a mushroom, because the members were kept in the dark and had shit poured over them. Of course there were internal criticisms but this attempt at democratic centralism seemed to have some merit and to work. Whether or not it is an appropriate structure for today is a moot point.

    I am not sure that the current SWP can be said to have discredited democratic centralism because I do no believe that it is any longer a democratic centralist organisation even though the leadership profess it to be. It is purely a centralist party with the line handed down from on high from a self-perpetuating bureaucratic elite. The membership often swallow & regurgitate the line unthinkingly and sometimes absurdly. For example in all seriousness I was told by an SWP comrade that Respect was only interested in elections while the Left Alternative were a campaigning force for all things socialist when he was looking straight at three issues of the Respect tabloid newspaper which did not mention elections & just the one election leaflet that LA had managed to produce. A surreal denial of reality – but because this was the line it had to be said.

    I am terribly shocked by the current tragedy in the SWP. Many comrades must be going through agonising times. But perhaps at last some honest accounting may be on the agenda. Some of the public posts and blogs are indicative of a real quest for change. Of course it is up to the SWP membership to put their house in order possibly through a recall conference and fresh elections.

    And as for the bigger picture? The UK Left will always have differences, many of us come from very different traditions – but we all know where the big lines are drawn, and which side of those very important lines we are all on – a bit of humility, a bit of grace, the ability to admit mistakes and a lot of honesty might see us through to emerge stronger. But this is going to be bumpy ride.

  181. One of the most curious things about the SWPs ‘democratic centralism’ is that at the moment they seem to refuse to do anything useful with it!

    The whole point of joining and building a centralised body of socialists is that by acting in concert around a common strategy and series of strategic interventions we can supposedly have a positive impact on the direction of the class struggle.

    But the SWP CC give us no useful central direction. Instead their modus operandi exhibits the tendency to tail the existing struggle and accompany this with abstract propaganda for the revolutionary party. This does not require democratic centralism, but bureaucratic conformity.

    For example: They failed to seize the moment with mass united front response when the UK anti-cuts movement first exploded around Osbournes budget statement in October 2010. Although thousands took to the streets in towns and cities across the country, we had to wait six months for the TUC to take the initiative, with the first national anti-cuts demo not until March 2011. The elementary task of bringing a nucleus of tens of thousands together onto the streets of the capital is exactly what the correct sort of united front initiative a party the size of the SWP could precipitate. And this has often been their practice – especially with the anti-war movement. Thus they surrendered the initiative to the TUC on the one hand, and Occupy on the other.

    The united front they did try to launch – ‘Right To Work’ – was the wrong tool, its appeal as a campaign against job losses was far too narrow to coordinate the wider resistance that was emerging to the cuts, with the central ideological questions around public versus private, and of the defense of the welfare state forming the issues of the day.
    This lack of initiative reflects what is in many ways a the weakness of a virtue, or one of the strong points of the SWPs core ideas – of not ‘substituting’ themselves for the self-activity of the working class. For the SWP (as for Marx), the ‘emancipation of the working class must be conquered by the workers themselves’, not by the actions of activists. All well and good. But what happens when the level of workplace resistance is low, when their is no rank and file to take the initiative?
    And the working class, of course, was never just found in the workplaces or trades unions, and exists in communities and elsewhere across society. The SWP made the mistake during the anti-poll tax revolt of trying to focus it on trades union action in council workplaces to not collect the tax. This was either a propagandistic line or reflected Cliff’s and the then CCs lack of the ability to make a realistic appraisal of the capacities of town hall union branches. But when community resistance took off, combining mass and militant street action with non-payment and resistance to the bailiffs and courts – the SWP enthusiastically swung its line around and threw themselves into these tactics. We need to remember the power of nationally coordinated community working class action we achieved with the anti-poll tax federation.
    Now this time around, at least we have had a couple of one day coordinated strikes. And the SWP, along with lots more non-affiliated and broader-left activists did manage to help make this happen in some of the smaller unions where democratic structures permitted. But of course, N30 also involved a (temporary) shift well beyond the influence of socialist activists – the decision of the UNISON leadership to go for it, for that one day. And then socialist activist left in the unions, including the SWP, were ineffective in preventing the subsequent retreat led by Unison, leading to the dissipation of the national pensions action short of victory.
    The generalized nature of the austerity offensive means that highly politicised forms of resistance keep flaring up in towns and cities – by no united front body on any scale has attempted to give these any national coherence. UKuncut has called some days of action outside tax-dodging high street corporations. There has been some actions called by ‘Right to Work’ around corporations exploiting free labour by the unemployed with workfare – and these did have success. But it would take a nationally networked body of socialist activists of several thousand, (like the SWP) who each had roots in local anti-cuts groups that can bring together tens of thousands more, to really make an impact.
    Of course, their ‘ex-leadership’ especially John Rees and Lindsey German now around Counterfire, made this point as their main factional point in their final battle within the SWP, and ever since through counterfire. Therefore, it was almost impossible for Martin Smith’s led CC to contemplate launching the mass anti-cuts united front that the movement needed to act as an alternative pole of attraction to the TUC general council within the movement. The tiny forces around ‘counterfire’ were able to get a conference of 1000 to launch the ‘Coalition of Resistance’ in Nov 2010. But we needed a mass demo on the streets of London that month, much more than a conference. Surely, if a tiny group of a few dozen and their allies can get a conference of 1000 in those first explosive months of the struggle, then imagine what could an organisation of several thousand, like the SWP have could done, using its roots in the wider movement? This was a time when anti-cuts groups were springing up everywhere, looking for a focus, and when the students and youth from colleges and schools were also briefly exploding onto the streets. Instead, the SWP fumbled around with right to work conferences and waited for the TUC. Of course it tried to lead the students struggle with the EAN – but it did not have a strategy to bring the whole movement, of all the affected sections of the working classes and other popular classes together on the streets that autumn. And such a physical act would be the necessary foundation for the political act of developing a counter-hegemonic bloc around an anti-austerity programme. Instead they tail the struggle and make abstract propaganda about building the revolutionary party. So this ‘democratic centralism’ isnt even used to get unity in action. It’s more often used to police the membership. As some people are saying: ‘There needs to be a revolution within the revolutionary party’.

  182. Graham Day on said:

    Barry Kade: There needs to be a revolution within the revolutionary party

    That’s a concession to their conceit. In the real world, they’re rather irrelevant and seem to think they’re above the law. They’re certainly not “the revolutionary party”.

  183. Feodor on said:

    Sam:
    I think Feodor, Mark P and everyone else on this thread should be honest and explain what they understand democratic centralism to mean if they’re determined to give it a kicking.

    People have already said what they mean, Sam. In fact, I did so in the post of mine you quote, in direct response to Jimmy’s request. Evidently you don’t find the brevity required of a blog discussion adequate, but we’re not going to co-author a monograph just to please you and Jimmy!

    Above, in the aforementioned post I wrote, ‘the standard shorthand [definition of democratic centralism] is freedom to discuss a policy or stance, which is then voted on with the majority position being the practice pursued thereafter.’ Or even shorter: freedom of discussion, unity and centralism in action.

    I would add to this that the goal is to create a tightly-organised and disciplined cadre of professional revolutionaries, the self-appointed vanguard who act as the brain and memory of the working class, capable of directly intervening in its struggles in order to inject socialist consciousness, because ‘[the] history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness’ (Lenin). Moreover, the consciousness is seen as coming from without, from the bourgeois-socialist intelligentsia.

    Now, leaving aside the merits of this argument in the abstract, time and again the concrete result of this world-view appears to be the creation of groups that see themselves as above the working class, as its leaders in waiting, the sole repository of knowledge and truth. And all the other groups that lay claim to this mantle are, by definition, considered false pretenders.

    You inquire as to who else has got it wrong, as if the entire history of the Leninist left isn’t filled with examples of one group accusing the other of apostasy. I don’t know what specific group you identify with, but Jimmy, for instance, would doubtless just as easily decry the Moscow-affiliated CPs as not being ‘proper’ democratic centralists as he does the SWP – alongside every other tradition that isn’t his own. And I’m sorry, but I just don’t find this kind of squirming intellectually credible.

    Lastly, and Nick Wright (post 142) unconsciously confirms this in his critique of my ‘imperfect conception [of the] ‘mass party’’, the goal of the self-appointed vanguard is never to win a mass of members capable of forming a pluralistic base that will hold the leadership to account. Instead, the small elite group of professional revolutionaries aim to win a multitude of supporters. Followers who have next to no direct or indirect input in the formulation of the party line, never mind in the formulation of public policy if or when the Leninist group ever comes to power.

    If you cannot see how such a structure, one which privileges hierarchy and top-down elite command in this manner, consistently produces unaccountable bureaucratic control, then that is your problem. But the relationship between the structure and the result is patently obviously to pretty much everyone bar the small, dwindling bands of Leninist ‘revolutionaries’. Indeed in this context I’d advise you all to have another read of jack ford’s brilliantly thought-provoking comment (post 168) on the nature of self-deception.

    And in anticipation of your response, a couple of points: trade unions are not political parties, thus their modus operandi is necessarily different; we are not in a revolutionary situation or a period of illegality where this kind of quasi-military formation excels, nor are we likely to be in one any time soon; and finally, we do not hold state power, which would necessitate collective cabinet responsibility, though not among all elected representatives, never mind rank-and-file members – therefore, there is little justification for this type of formation in contemporary Britain, and you are kidding yourself if you think there is.

    So, Sam, these are my cards, now what are yours?

  184. Mark P on said:

    OK a couple of responses.

    I didn’t give democraric centralism a ‘kicking’. I carefully pointed out that it can produce a highly effective organisation.

    It isn’t the structure of Democratic Centralism that should be the issue, that surely is uncontroversial, abiding by majority vote decisions. It is the forces that produce the discipline to mantain the structure. I characterise this as faith, Nick Wright calle it reason, Alan Gibbons a shared belief. Theres not a lot of difference between all three.

    The pount is that faith/reason/belief geberates a self-discipine to abide by Democratic Centralism. Short of expulision there is no other meaningful sanction, faith/reason/belief means you continue even if you are in a minority because you still subscribe o being part of the larger group. Most who disagree simply drop out, thee are voluntary organisations after all.

    This then links to Alan Gibbon’s most important broader point. The Far Left have been central to major movements far larger than themselves. The SWP could point to the Anti-Nazi League and Stop the War, the Militant Ani Poll Tax, CPGB the CND. We can be propiertorial about these things but that seems a fairly even handed checklist, others can add more.

    Alan then adds that none of these groups have enjoyed either dynamic or sustainable growth as a result. This is where Democratic Centralism fits in, not the structure but the culture it helps generate. It is not the only reason, its part of a bigger picture, that despite such mass movement achievements the vast majority of an Outside Left are not drawn to these groups and there is nothing else resembling a space to call home for the Outside Left either.

    ‘.

    Mark P

  185. neprimerimye: I regard Andy Newmans actions as an attempt to destroy a socialist organisation.

    “Gwendolyn Fairfax: In an occasion of this kind it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one’s mind, it becomes a pleasure.”

    Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Ernest

  186. I wish to add that when I first saw the title of this post I was very suspicious. I thought that Mark P was too close to the moderators of this site but I read it and the debate that has taken place here has been positive in places.

    tigger, you don’t understand what we’re trying to do here. The problem is, there is a certain way of seeing any discussion of the far left that’s started by someone who isn’t a part of it. He must by definition be an enemy and we must therefore believe he’s trying to destroy the left.

    Actually, if I’m honest, I think Andy’s AWL article was too personal and not political enough – I think they have managed to cause serious damage to the parts of the union movement they’re a part of, and that didn’t come through in Andy’s article properly – but that’s just a personal disagreement between allies and friends. But the whole point on this site is that it’s here for discussion about everything on the left, for good and bad. There’s a filter that we put on – I used to do it when I read this site as an SWP member – where you just fail to spot how much good is said about different parts of the far left on this site.

    And indeed, you never stop to comment on all the positive, “unity” stories we promote. That’s not an attack on you – it’s an observation that your comments tend to be of the “you guys are damaging the left” variety that’s common on the far left. What’s interesting is that even when we publish stories by the far left on how to build the left, not one SWP member, and not one of the other people who attack this site, ever stop to comment on it.

    I do think that it’s cos of the training we receive on the far left. Again, look at my own experience. I was a moderator on Lenin’s Tomb, and as soon as the Respect row started happening I wrote to Meadway, Seymour, Bat and others to say “I will not do any moderation on any Respect thread, cos I know we’re on different sides”. That didn’t stop Richard banning me from the site without even speaking to me; it didn’t stop me being treated like an enemy from the moment I backed the other side. It didn’t stop Bat immediately forwarding private emails I’d sent to them, on to the CC.

    That’s what happens on the far left. We sort of have these instinctive reactions. You can see glimpses of this all over the net right now, with SWP members openly attacking each other, something I’ve not seen ever. There’s a cult-like hatred of people who used to be allies.

    What it does, of course, is sustains itself. Cos the result of all the treatment by SWP members of dissidents in 2007 and 2008 is an enormous amount of hatred and distrust. That is part of the calculation: Make it so that once someone is outside, you can never take them seriously again, lest they convince you of the justness of their cause.

    I dunno. All I know is, if you thought even for one second that there was anything to be suspicious about with Mark’s post, you’ve completely got this site, its editors and contributors, wrong. And that means you should reflect on *why* you got it wrong.

    Cos me and Mark Perryman are on the same side. Me and Andy are on the same side. Me and John are on the same side. And so are me and just about everyone who hasn’t tried to actually destroy my activism and credibility. Loads of us are engaged in serious discussions right now about what we do next. The only demands are being made is that people leave their baggage at the door. And that includes me.

  187. Barry Kade: As some people are saying: ‘There needs to be a revolution within the revolutionary party’.

    Firstly it is an absolute nonsense to describe a relatively marginal propaganda group that sells newspapers as a “revolutionary party”,

    Secondly, there is no indication that the SWP rebels have substantively broken with the aspects of ther politics that led them into this disaster. For example, Richard Seymour now admits that he knew that the alegations were actualy about rape for several months, but still kept quiet, only speaking up when it was already in the public domain. Richard Seymour also continues with the deceitful and personally morally bankrupt method of lying about opponents to delegitimise them, eg implying that I am a racist; and they still cling to the Messianic delusion that the SWP is a “revolutionary party” competent to investigate rape. It is absolutely absurd that the SWP opposition still have not ackowledged that the proper response would have to have gone to the police.

    Thirdly, there is a delusion that it is possible for the rebels to take over the SWP. How would that work? Even if there was a recall conference and a new majority, the finaincial and physical assets of the SWP belong to the trustees, who are the current leadership. Do you think they will hand them over just becasue they lose a conference vote.

  188. Andy Newman: Generally the culture in the swp was no worse than society at large, and there were good anti sexist activists

    Actually, I have been thnking about this, and I think this assessment is too generous. While the sort of egregious institutional sexism we see in the attampt to deal with allegations of rape “in house” may be exceptional, and while generally most SWP activits are anti-sexist, and there are some impressive women activists; it is also true that over the years I have seen several examples of sexism tolerated that would not be accepted in a trade union, or even by many capitalist employers.

  189. The stories about Chris Harman circulated for years without anyone feeling the need to address them seriously. It was all a bit ‘ha, ha – what a perve!’

    I refuse to believe that I’m the only one on here who heard it.

    You’re not the only one, but as per my message above, the attitude on one side is that we outsiders only raise it in order to damage the SWP. Maybe we actually do it cos we want people to live the politics they espouse.

    One thing that is never said on the far left is, “we’re just as messed up by society as everyone else”. So, yes, John Rees is insecure enough to need to dominate everything. And yes, Martin Smith has such a massive ego that he believes that bullying is the right way to go. And all of us in the party have tried to block and wreck the initiatives of other left groups. And when people lead the SWP, of course they are gonna become bureaucratised and stultified unless there is a strong democratic and active culture at all levels of the party, cos that’s how society works under class divisions and under this shit consciousness we’re all full of.

    But we can’t admit it. The thing that really pushed me out of the SWP was, we had such a good theory about how union leaders and full-timers worked, but we refused to apply it to ourselves. Surely, fucking surely, a self-perpetuating leadership, and a full-time machinery chosen by that same leadership, is gonna end up acting exactly the same way as the union bureaucracy? Surely that is ABC marxism?

    But we can’t admit it. We can’t stop and apply the same standards to ourselves as we apply to the outside world.

    I remember saying “the first duty of an SWP member is to be able to fight against his own leadership” or something similar. I also remember being laughed at for it. But it’s the truth: if you can’t fight and change your own leadership when you think they’re wrong, then you have no right to think you can lead the class. No right at all. It’s a conceit anyway.

    There has been plenty of sexual abuse in the SWP cos the SWP exists in a society constructed on oppression. That doesn’t mean we excuse it. That doesn’t mean we shrug our shoulders. What it means is, as marxists we’re really honest about it when we see it.

    The reason the Disputes Committee felt able to judge on this person’s behaviour is because they cannot judge themselves by the standards of the society they live in (they felt they were beyond mere bias, even unconscious bias). But it’s the first thing you have to do. You have to really check yourself, cos you’re not immune from sexism and ego and insecurity and other forms of behaviour that have been fed into you since you were born. Why do we think we’re above it, just cos of what we believe?

    A true group of marxists would be checking themselves constantly. It would be a reflex. It doesn’t have to control your life. You don’t have to set up a confessional. You just question the behaviours in the society around you and try your fucking hardest not to replicate them or build them in to the structure of your organisation.

    The Respect split would never have happened if the SWP had been full of people who adopted marxist practice, instead of just believing marxist theory. Go back to what I said on here during the split: Real marxists wouldn’t smear, real marxists wouldn’t post what absolute nasty pieces of work in the SWP kept posting on here. Real marxists wouldn’t have gone round to tube workers making claims about my mental health. And real marxists wouldn’t have put up with it, not for one second. Real marxists wouldn’t have treated people like this over the decades – I’m well aware that I’m just one bruised ex-member among tens of thousands.

    There have been rapes committed inside the SWP. That says nothing about the SWP. It should be uncontroversial – society gives men such privilege. What is controversial is, how should marxists act when it happens? And on that, the entire far left has failed again and again.

    We see how this kind of works in smaller form when people make idiotic sexist comments, like Galloway’s rape comments. We should’ve had mechanisms to pull people into line. Except, part of what makes Galloway such an amazing leader is his total unwilingness to be subject to collective discipline. And that is another example of male privilege. The unwillingness to be told off by your peers is a feature of society. And no one in the SWP can really have a go about that, cos you’ve put up with too much similar behaviour in your own party.

    The point? If we’re marxists, we should be marxists. It’s not good enough to quote from a book. There’s a method to this – concrete material analysis of our environment, peer group, economic situation and pressures. It’s not hard, in theory.

    But it seems like it’s almost impossible in practice.

  190. SWP (ex) Loyalist: The stories about Chris Harman circulated for years without anyone feeling the need to address them seriously. It was all a bit ‘ha, ha – what a perve!’
    I refuse to believe that I’m the only one on here who heard it.

    Quite so.

    In the 1980s a woman CC member sucessfully bullied at least one woman from complaining even within the SWP about sexual assault; saying it would be “used against the party”, and that it was just one of the unfortunate things that happens, becasue of the way sexuality is distorted under capitalism.

    Obviously I won’t name her, but she is still in the SWP, but no longer on the CC.

  191. Andy:

    “Do you think they will hand them over just because they lose a conference vote?”

    Change this to:

    “Do you think the capitalist class will hand their wealth over just because we elect a Labour Government?”

    I’m with you on that!

  192. A bit silly since the political personality ‘Andy Newman’ is himself a product of the SWP

    I think it will be hilarious when we do the big reveal: Andy Newman is actually an artificial intelligence created by programming in all the bad experiences people have ever had in the SWP.

  193. another swp member: You say its irrelevant that the woman has asked Socialist Unity site for the transcript to taken down and also said she did not want to go to the police . Take the transcript down she asked this site to do it .. interesting how you think that its ok to ignore what W wants !

    You are simply an appalling person, seemingly with no personal integrity whatsoever. You are either lying or betraying confidences in order to score cheap political points, in a desperate attempt to blow a smokescreen around the attempt to cover up a possible rape by your “party’s” leadership

    I have already answered you, yet you are still repeating this same point. Have you no conscience at all? This is how I replied to this same point before:

    Andy Newman: You are referring to the possibility that the complainant woman, W, might have contacted me to ask for the transcript to be taken down.
    Had that happened then I might be bound by ethics and requests for confidentiality not to reveal the content of any such discussion; and not to reveal that it had taken place.
    So people must conclude that either you are scandalously making up something to discredit me;
    Or that you are scandalously referring to a privite correspondence, abusing privilaged infomration that you might have, that I cannot respond to.
    In my view – and I have consulted a number of feminist women for advice – it was correct to publish the transcript in the public interest.
    Clearly the supporters of the complainant woman, W, within the SWP (and I will not be drawn into speculation of whether I know what W’s own position is or not) beleive that the rape allegations should properly have been dealt with within the SWP.
    we could even speculate that a vulnerable woman who had been raped might be surrounded by some false friends, who might advise her with half an eye to the interests of the SWP. Let us not forget that the culture of the SWP regardig the police, is to “drive the police off our streets and estates”. We could even speculate that the editorial position of Socialist Worker, regarding its attitude to the police, is not unconnected to the closeness between the Socialist Worker editor, and the accused Comrade Delta.
    They are wrong, and on public policy grounds, those who have been informed of, or who suspect, a serious crime like rape, have an obligation to involve the police.

  194. Sam: Jimmy Haddow is perfectly correct to say that those who wish to turn this thread into a discussion on democratic centralism should do us all the service of explaining exactly what the straw man in their heads looks like before they tear it down. It’s got nothing to do with expelling people for factionalising, investigating heinous crimes internally or suppressing information.

    I suppose the challenge here is from an SP member seeking to distance themselves from the car-wreck of the SWP. A sensible ambition, but does their own interpreteation of democratic centralism stand up to scrutiny.

    Worth reading Phil Hearse ; http://links.org.au/node/149

    The methods of the leadership
    A very long document could be written outlining horror stories about the internal functioning of the SP and the behaviour of its leaders. But the important thing is not the quirks of personalities, but structures and norms of functioning that allow political ostracism and bullying to go unchallenged, and indeed to be accepted as normal. The central problem is a conception of leadership which sees it as the work of a couple of “philosopher kings” with a bevy of acolytes around them, rather than an attempt to construct a genuine team leadership, capable of mutual support and mutual criticism.

    Constructing a team leadership in a revolutionary organisation means trying to integrate into a collective people with different skills, perspectives and emphases. It means that there will inevitably be secondary—and occasionally major—differences of opinion among members of the team. This is systematically avoided in the SP.

    The executive committee for a long period was Taaffe, Walsh and the department heads. Now in some circumstances, department heads will be important people to integrate into a team leadership. But to do it solely that way means to construct a management committee rather than a political committee. The result is an executive of people many of whom are rewarded for selfless loyalty rather than put there for political reasons. The further result is that Taaffe, who chairs every meeting and summarises every point, and Walsh, will 999 times out of 1000 get their way on the EC. When there is not a unanimous vote on the EC, as happened with newspaper editor Nick Wrack over the name change and head of political education Margaret Creear on several issues, there is an explosion.

    In the event of differences, Taaffe and Walsh resort to politically brutal methods. The ones I would identify as most blatantly politically immoral are the “kitchen sink” method, political ostracism and the political purge.

    The kitchen sink method is the use of any political argument, about any matter whatever, which happened at any conceivable time in the past, to discredit opponents. Thus, for example, Lynn Walsh, in 1996, in an “information report” on differences in the US section at the national committee, launched a tirade against John Throne, including allegations about what he had done while an international full-timer years ago and when he was in Ireland. These matters were totally irrelevant to the discussion in hand, about which most people present had no information, and when John Throne himself was not present to reply. This in an “information report” with no discussion scheduled! (The most bankrupt argument of this session, one used regularly against opponents was, “We received many complaints about him and had to intervene regularly to defend his position”. This poses the question: if he was such a terrible person, why the hell did you “repeatedly” intervene to defend his position?)

    Nick Wrack got the same treatment from Taaffe when he resigned as newspaper editor, and Dave Cotterill got the same, apparently, during the expulsions in Merseyside. These are not the methods of loyal debate but of political gangsterism.

    Ostracism is the fate of anyone who raises differences; this is especially true for full-timers working at the centre. Paid a pittance, full-timers are particularly vulnerable to the methods of gossip, innuendo and intrigue used by the occupants of the EC corridor, because to raise differences immediately puts you in conflict with other staff members and puts your job in question.

    The political purge is the throwing out of full-timers, on any pretext, who have real or imagined differences. Thus the newspaper staff was purged in early 1995 because a majority of the staff supported the conception of a popular, highly agitational, campaigning paper of the type pioneered by Dave Cotterill when he was editor. The issue is not who was right and who was wrong; the issue is whether it is correct to deal with such differences, not by political discussion, but by throwing people out—on the excuse of financial difficulties, the oldest trick in the book. The opportunity for political clarification was lost; the lesson learned was, “Don’t have an argument with Taaffe and Walsh or you will be out on your ear”.

    All this is a pretty unseemly story, and probably a depressingly familiar one to people from some other Trotskyist traditions. Many more examples of these methods in the SP could be outlined. The whole notion of leadership embodied in these methods is fundamentally flawed. A sectarian notion of leadership goes hand in hand with a sectarian notion of the party. As Trotsky noted, the sectarians routinely erect tin-pot dictatorships in their own ranks.

  195. Tony Collins,

    “I think it will be hilarious when we do the big reveal: Andy Newman is actually an artificial intelligence created by programming in all the bad experiences people have ever had in the SWP.”

    :)

  196. Mark P on said:

    Couple more responses.

    Tony Collins @ 214 refers to ‘sides’. Not because I disagree with very much of what Tony Collins says but more as a point of principle and practice I wouldn’t use the term ‘side’. I prefer, for want of a better word, the ecumenical left. Most of us pick n mix, having the good sense to applaud and support the good things done whatever the organisation or individual doing them, and not the bad things. Alan Gibbons makes a similar point too.

    Andy Newman @ 222 responds to the question of defining Democratic Centralism. Earlier in the discussion Nick Wright used the term ‘existentialist’ I would apply this to the task of definition. It really isn’t about the structure and particular rules, it is the culture that people choose voluntarily to subscribe to, the self-discipline this demands and what happens when this is no longer provided.

    The ‘Democratic Centralist’ debate is about whether the degree of organisational loyalty Democratic Centralism demands helps a broader ecumenical left develop, or hinders it. My feeling is it helps the particularisms of the small group but not beyond.

    Mark P

  197. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    I wish to give a political explanation to some comments on the question of why a socialist organisation should have a political and organisational structure of democratic centralism, rather than a network style organisation as some contributors seem to be suggesting.

    I believe that the starting point for a political organisation that considers this present society needs to be changed into a socialist society, which is the essence of what marks it fundamentally different to other political parties and organisations, is not its method of organisation, but its socialist programme. I personally stand for the socialist transformation of society carried out by the taking of power by the working class; and I believe that the organisation I belong to, the Socialist Party/CWI also stands for that purpose.

    Nevertheless a political organisation that believes in, and works towards, the socialist transformation of society should have a far higher degree of political unity and a greater degree of centralism than say a new workers’ party that has all different shades of Left political opinion, from reformist through to revolutionary, in it and has a federated style of running the party.. Yet the exact radio between democracy and centralism cannot be predetermined but is, as Leon Trotsky puts it, a mobile balance.

    But why must there be a need for a specific socialist party that actually goes forward with the working class to transform society? Well this flows from the position of the working class as it has developed, and continues to develop, in capitalist society. The capitalist class from the dawn of its rule has skilfully learned to play on social divisions to preserve its rule. A socialist party is designed to overcome these divisions and to unite the working class for common objectives, which is the struggle against capitalism, its eventual overthrow and its replacement with a socialist society.

    The need for a centralised party flows from the tasks which confronts the working class in the present epoch. The ruling class has concentrated in its hands not just the means of production, and just under 500 multinational companies worldwide dominate, control over 85% of, most of the production, distribution and exchange of the world’s goods, but also enormous methods of ideological and repressive production against any organised protest. The centralisation and concentration of capital which, in my humble opinion, have been taken to unparalleled lengths in the 21st century means that the overthrow of the ruling class is inconceivable without a centralised party, both nationally and internationally, to unifying the working class and acting decisively against the inevitable attempts at capitalist counter-revolution when the working class attempt to change society.

    So in my opinion a Party that believes in the socialist transformation of society is combat organisation not a debating club, or debating circle, which I find many contributors here want it to be. A socialist party must be thoroughly democratic, democracy is like oxygen which keeps the Party body politic alive. Without the full freedom of discussion, genuine, comradely and fraternal debate within the Party it would be incapable of correctly arming its members with an understanding of the perspectives of the existing circumstances in society; and the programme and demands upon which it is necessary to intervene in the class struggle.

    For that reason it is not possible in a socialist organisation to have an attitude towards forms of organisation which are once and for all. It is necessary at some stages to emphasise the need for democracy, discussion, debate, factions and so on, which may be lengthier than normal when there are extreme situations so that every facet of the issue(s) are aired. But at some stage following the debate it is therefore necessary to proceed to taking a decision and action, to a degree of centralism, to a period of implementing outcomes. What prevails at each juncture – the democratic or the centralist aspect – depends upon the concrete situation. Truth is concrete; this is the most important law of the dialectic, the mobile balance between democracy and centralism cannot be established in advance but only on the basis of discussion and estimation of the concrete situation by the members, both leadership and rank and file.

    The reality is a socialist party is an active organism that is active in the real capitalist world and not from text books, or the cyber world. It develops in the struggle with outside obstacles and inner contradictions and the administration of a socialist party does not fall from the sky ready-made but is formed in the struggle against capitalism. A political perspectives and strategy predominates over the party management which is discussed in local, regional and national party meetings. The reality is only a correct political policy for the socialist transformation of society can guarantee a health party regime. Nevertheless, this does not automatically mean that if a Party has a correct programme that its organisational methods will be correct. That is the issue for debate and discussion as to what emphasis should be given to democracy or centralism depending upon different situations. A formula for democratic centralism must, as you might expect, find different expressions in the parties of different countries and in different stages of development of one and the same party.

    The point is, to paraphrase Trotsky, democracy and centralism does not find themselves in an inflexible ratio to one another. Everything depends on the concrete circumstances, on the political situation in the country, on the strength of the party and its experience, on the political and theoretical level of its members and on the authority which the leadership has succeeded in winning. No leadership can function correctly in a vacuum but only via an interrelation with the membership who in turn test the party’s programme and ideas out via their day-to-day experiences in the workplace, communities, on public activity and so on. That is one of the reasons I am so active because I am not a ‘drawing room socialist’.

    Finally Feodor says in post 211 “but Jimmy, for instance, would doubtless just as easily decry the Moscow-affiliated CPs as not being ‘proper’ democratic centralists as he does the SWP – alongside every other tradition that isn’t his own. And I’m sorry, but I just don’t find this kind of squirming intellectually credible.”
    There is a certain element of truth to that statement! But the issues of the subjective and objective degeneration of the Communist Party, and the 3rd International, post-Lenin into a bureaucratic centralist organisation are quite a lengthy subject to contend with. On the question of the present debacle in the SWP has their root with their mistaken notion about how internal democracy works within a Marxist socialist organisation and goes back decades which has resulted in the bullying, and insensitive, tactics and attitude of the SWP leadership. And yes Feodor to contrast that to the Militant/Socialist Party/CWI understanding of democratic centralism you only need to look on the CWI website and go on to the documents on ‘Marxistnet’ to see the ferocious polemics that have taken place over the past 30 years in the CWI and there has been no expulsions from our organisation for political dissent.

  198. Andy Newman: over the years I have seen several examples of sexism tolerated that would not be accepted in a trade union, or even by many capitalist employers.

    And by the way, racism.

    I was truly shocked to hear Moira Nolan when she was national student organiser describe BME members of the SWP as “the darkies”, but no one chalenged her.

    I suppose we were meant to think it was “ironic”, but as she is a white woman, it was not her privilege to indulge in such a “joke”.

  199. Karl Stewart on said:

    Is it being alleged that the SWP leadership prevented this complainant from reporting her allegation to the police?

    If this is not what is being alleged, then isn’t the only alternative is that the complainant decided for herself not to report her allegation to the police?

    So if this was her decision, then are people arguing that this decision should not have been accepted as representing her true wishes on the matter?

    If one doesn’t accept someone else’s expression of intent as representing their own decision, then one is effectively doubting that person’s ability to make up their own mind.

    So, if one accepts that this was the decision of this person and that this person is capable of making their own decisions, then in that situation, as Stuart has been asking, what then should the SWP leadership have done?

    Should they then have handed over private information to the police about two members of their own party, contrary to the expressed stated wishes of the complainant? (If her expressed wishes indeed were as has been stated.)

    I’m not convinced that, in such a scenario, that handing this matter to the police would necessarily have been the right decision.

    In this scenario, having not handed the matter to the police, the remaining choices are to take no action or to hold an internal investigation.

    In such a circumstance, was the SWP leadership wrong to undertake an internal investigation?

    An argument has been put forward on here that an internal investigation could compromise a potential criminal enquiry.

    But if a complainant will not give a statement to the police, then it’s difficult to see how a criminal enquiry could proceed in any case.

    If this is so, then the choices facing the SWP leadership on this appear to have been either an internal investigation or no action.

  200. John Grimshaw on said:

    I note with some sadness that the Times on Sunday produced an article about this matter yesterday largely based on information gleened from the Independent and other left blog sites, I would guess. In it the Times accused the SWP of using a ‘”kangaroo court” to investiigate rape allegations against one of its members instead of taking matters to the police.’ It goes on to point out that “last year George Galloway…provoked fury when he downplayed the rape allegations that had been made agains…Julian Assange.” Later for the benefit of those reading their breakfast Times in their home counties villas who are a little unclear who Galloway or the SWP are it says, “The SWP…is best known for its presence on university campuses and was pivotal (sic) in setting up the Stop the War Coalition against the invasion of Iraq in 2003.”

    I would like to return to this sorry matter in more detail later as I have to go out, but its not difficult to see what the Times is driving at here is it and it won’t just be the SWP that gets it in the neck.

  201. Jimmy Haddow: The point is, to paraphrase Trotsky, democracy and centralism does not find themselves in an inflexible ratio to one another. Everything depends on the concrete circumstances, on the political situation in the country, on the strength of the party and its experience, on the political and theoretical level of its members and on the authority which the leadership has succeeded in winning.

    blah blah blah

  202. Karl the issue is, suddenly we believe that indivduals will make decisions without being influenced in any way, just cos they’re SWP members.

    Some years ago, a driver on my line had a “near miss”. At the time, our depot was being filmed for that “The Tube” programme. The manager who dealt with it said he hoped to convince the driver to continue driving and to allow himself to be filmed.

    The driver agreed.

    The programme clearly showed that he was in no fit state to drive. It was a horrible dereliction of duty by the manager. But the response was “he told us he was fine”. It took a long time to get them to understand that issues of trauma can fundamentally affect how people make decisions about their own future.

    Decisions are never made free of context. Never. There will be a million different things on someone’s mind when they think about whether to go to the police or not.

    Yes, we must respect the victim’s decision. But we can’t pretend that the person was somehow unique as a human, and able to make an entirely objective, unbiased assessment of the issues. No one can.

    Inside the party, whether you are consciously told it or not, the idea of reporting a senior party figure to the police is awful. It hands them to our “enemies”. It exposes us to the state. All that bullshit. That doesn’t even need to be *said* to the victim.

    Again, back to my job. The recession hasn’t cost any train driver jobs, but there has been a massive, measurable decline in people’s willingness to fight against unsafe practices. No one has said “think yourself lucky to have a job, and just swallow the unsafe thing they’ve told you to do”. Our consciousness is shaped by all sorts of exposure to risk and context. Those drivers who used to be militant are no longer militant, without anyone threatening their jobs.

    We know all this in the outside world. So we have to know it inside left-wing parties. There is no way that issues of party loyalty weren’t on people’s minds. And above that, loyalty to the idea of the revolutionary party and to comradeship. The idea, for example, that even if someone commits rape, we don’t want them dealt with by the capitalist system of justice cos that might not make the victim feel that justice has been achieved. Might be right, might be wrong – but it’s on people’s minds.

    Now, all of that is abstract – that’s just the stuff that drives your unconscious processes. Add to that the fact that people have alleged that the victim was told lots of things about how this should be dealt with, and you can see that a decision not to go to the police would have been made in response to a lot of internal and external pressures.

    The issue is that the mentality inside the party demands the kind of psychological contortions necessary to believe that going to the police is the last thing you should do. It’s the same impulse that means no one has reported the party for the various financial wrongdoings, data protection breaches, leaks, and a myriad other things that you would report an employer for.

    What the answer is, I don’t know. But putting the person in the position of being judged by people who can’t even see that they themselves are also covered in the muck of society, like we all are, was the worst thing that could’ve been done.

  203. Note to admin. Please can I be allowed to post. I am not to the absolute best of my knowledge breaking any house rules. I do not abuse other posters, nor will I. I am not deluded enough to believe that my posts are in any way remotely earth shattering so I cannot in all honesty understand why I am being blocked. I am not nor have I ever been in any leading position within the SWP and cannot therefore be in any way directly responsible for whatever you may not like about the party. I post in good faith at all times and in the spirit of what I regard as open and honest debate. Please can I rejoin the debate within being impeded by moderation?

  204. 227#

    Karl

    I think you are right on this. If she does not want to go to the police the organisation cant just refuse to investigate the matter if she requests it. There can be lots of valid reasons why she did not want to go the police. It is a difficult situation but the complaint just cant be ignored or you give carte blanc to bullies.

    The central problem in the SWP is the lack of any real internal democracy and a self perpetuating leadership clique. This allows all sort of anti socialist rubbish to “flourish”. Either the SWP will undergo a democratic renewal or it will wither into a small irrelevant cult. In the form that it has existed for 30 years plus it is not viable and does not deserve to exist.

    sandy

  205. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    #14 – I actually took part in the Liebknecht-Luxemburg march in Berlin – in fact, it is the third time I have done so. It was not obviously smaller (or larger) than the previous marches I have attended. There are attempts to fragment it, of course, with rightward-moving Die Linke politicians preferring to miss the march, while other elements prefer to go to the Landwehr Canal, where Luxemburg (not Liebknecht) was killed and thrown in the canal. But fragmentation of the left is both a fact of life and something the state undoubtedly encourages. In Germany, where the left does have this big march (there is no UK equivalent) you get efforts to break the protest up into several smaller and less effective ones. In Britain there is no big march to break up, so different tactics are used, like making secret recordings of meetings, transcribing them and then firing them off at the first hostile blog or media outlet that will take them.

  206. Tony Collins: The issue is that the mentality inside the party demands the kind of psychological contortions necessary to believe that going to the police is the last thing you should do.

    What Socialist Worker wrote, 13th August 2011

    http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=25685

    The last thing we need is a state with more ways of attacking ordinary people. The police are the enemy of everyone who want to see a more just, fair society.

    It is the actions of the police that marginalise and criminalise so many.

    It is the endless stop and search that thousands of mostly young, mostly black people face across Britain, the wholesale harassment of communities.

    We should drive the police out of our estates and off our streets.

    Would it be unfair to observe that the editor of Socialist Worker is in a personal relationship with Comrade Delta, and that this was written after the alleged incident that comrade delta is accused of

  207. Stuart – you are always welcome to join the debate. What you’re not allowed to do is take your frustrations about what’s going on out on Andy Newman. Drop the stuff you’ve continually tried to post over the last few days and I’ll happily remove you from the moderation filter.

  208. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    John Grimshaw: I note with some sadness that the Times on Sunday produced an article about this matter yesterday largely based on information gleened from the Independent and other left blog sites, I would guess. In it the Times accused the SWP of using a ‘”kangaroo court” to investiigate rape allegations against one of its members instead of taking matters to the police.’ It goes on to point out that “last year George Galloway…provoked fury when he downplayed the rape allegations that had been made agains…Julian Assange.” Later for the benefit of those reading their breakfast Times in their home counties villas who are a little unclear who Galloway or the SWP are it says, “The SWP…is best known for its presence on university campuses and was pivotal (sic) in setting up the Stop the War Coalition against the invasion of Iraq in 2003.” I would like to return to this sorry matter in more detail later as I have to go out, but its not difficult to see what the Times is driving at here is it and it won’t just be the SWP that gets it in the neck.

    Of course. Andy Newman and Jellytot, on an earlier thread that has apparently been deleted, ridiculed those who think the state would bother with the SWP, but I am not so sure, for reasons I don’t have time to set out in this post but may return to later on. But there is bigger game out there than the SWP, certainly.

    Peter Tatchell in Battle for Bermondsey, details the hate campaign he was subjected to in the run-up to the 1983 by-election but adds that his media assailants always had more important fish to fry – ie. attacking Labour. Attacking Tatchell himself was just a means to an end.

    I think Newman has opened up the left to attack, although perhaps this is an unintended consequence.

  209. Mark Victorystooge: It was not obviously smaller (or larger) than the previous marches I have attended.

    I attended on a number of occasions around the beginning of the 2000s. Even then, the bourgeois press were forced to announce around 100,000 turnout. Maybe not on “the demo”, which was always a minority affair, but in total across the day at the cemetery. This time again was around a tenth of that. There might well be a connection between that and the PDS/Left Party running the city of Berlin together with the SPD and losing in total numbers half of their voters to apathy/not voting over the course of a couple of parliamentary terms.

    The left is split everywhere. My point was: if we want a new kind of left, different to what has gone before, we have to think about what came beforehand and whether we (and the mass non-party of ex-/inactive lefties) want to repeat it all over again. And whether most people in society want some kind of repeat of it.

    While Andy Newman clearly has a soft spot for the GDR, the idea that that kind of society is something any siginificant proportion of the left (or of society in general) want to happen again – for them, personally – is not a serious one.

    But, again, in Berlin yesterday, the impression given was one of “we want the GDR back” (or worse) vs. “everything’s fine, just vote SPD”.

    Would not most of the party of old lefties – and people we would want to ‘win’ – quite rightly say “f*** off all of you”.

    (By the way, I did pop down in the afternoon to have a look at the stalls and the wreaths. I did not, however, buy a badly-photocopied A3 portrait of Stalin. I did not buy Maoist literature. I didn’t join any of the parties, parliamentary or otherwise, present.)

    And of course the German left has squabbles like this. Linksruck, as mentioned elsewhere, had a similar kind of ‘difficulty’ in 2001 (2002, 2003?) or so – played out across the (then new) internet, incidentally, on one or two ‘discussion’ websites and Indymedia. I am also aware that one of the tiny German ‘Mandelite’ organisations had an alleged rape issue – repeated rape, over years, between two members who were in a long-term membership. I have no idea if the female comrade went to the police, but it wasn’t ‘covered up’ and there was a long discussion in their press over feminism, treatment of women in society and in the left, rape and so on. This must have been around the same time, 2000, 2001.

  210. Feodor: Lastly, and Nick Wright (post 142) unconsciously confirms this in his critique of my ‘imperfect conception [of the] ‘mass party’’, the goal of the self-appointed vanguard is never to win a mass of members capable of forming a pluralistic base that will hold the leadership to account. Instead, the small elite group of professional revolutionaries aim to win a multitude of supporters. Followers who have next to no direct or indirect input in the formulation of the party line, never mind in the formulation of public policy if or when the Leninist group ever comes to power.

    On the contrary, the goal of a vanguard (‘self-appointed’ vanguard is a negation) is much wider than simply winning members, even supporters, but rather to play its part in the creation of a society in which the administration of things is the property and business of the whole people.
    This discussion proceeds as if the the whole point is to create a perfectly formed revolutionary party with all its essential characteristics in place save only the growth necessary to take its anointed r ole in the revolutionary process.
    It is precisely such a conceit that has led the SWP into this present morass (and which incidentally informs the idiocies which disfigure Jimmy Haddow’s often quite well-judged contributions).
    I think we can be quite sure that in any prospective transition to socialism a mass party of the British working class will look very little like those which presently contend for the title.
    ‘The formulation of the party line’ – as Feodor puts it – cannot be a unilinear process but itself must draw on the widest range of experiences and play back into its application in practice. This really does require a party genuinely rooted in the masses in such a way that not only does the life experiences of millions inform the analysis of the party but the party is able to shape the actions of the masses.

  211. Andy Newman: Thus, for example, Lynn Walsh, in 1996, in an “information report” on differences in the US section at the national committee, launched a tirade against John Throne, including allegations about what he had done while an international full-timer years ago and when he was in Ireland. These matters were totally irrelevant to the discussion in hand, about which most people present had no information, and when John Throne himself was not present to reply.

    “JT was later removed from his position as international secretary and “exiled” to the USA as a result of his manoeuvres and impermissible conduct, especially in Ireland. But to this day, all information concerning this scandalous affair has been suppressed and kept from the membership, including the IEC It is a fact that from 1985 to the Summer of 1991, JT was not permitted any contact with the Irish section, either in person, by writing or by telephone. He was not even allowed to attend the Irish Commission at the IEC. These facts can serve to illustrate the serious nature of his violation of the norms of revolutionary conduct. This is all well known to the IS, yet today JT is one of the main spokesperson of the IS majority faction internationally. This despite the fact that the campaign to remove him In 1985 was orchestrated and led by PT and PH (N Ireland).”

    Against bureaucratic centralism by Ted Grant and Alan Woods (1992)
    http://tinyurl.com/a66bp2n

    I used to be close to Militant during the Anti-Poll Tax Campaign and bought the above pamphlet during the Socialist Appeal split. Seeing Phil Hearse’s article (above) reminded me of the curious passage above about “JT”. What was the “serious nature of his violation of revolutionary conduct” that led to his “exile” to the USA.

    The accusation that it was later used against him after a falling out with Lynn Walsh means it must have been pretty bad in their eyes.

    Also, for some reason I wasn’t able to find this on the “Socialist Appeal” web-site under their “Our history” section. For those members of that group or the “Socialist Party” it might make make for interesting reading as to what Mssrs. Grant and Woods had to say about “Democratic Centralism” in Militant at the time of the split.

  212. jack ford on said:

    There’s no question that the right wing media will pounce on this scandal with glee but that is a consequence of the SWP’s disgraceful handling of a rape allegation. It’s no use blaming Andy. Once someone was prepared to leak the transcript if it hadn’t been published here it would have appeared somewhere else.

    As for whether the SWP_should have reported the allegations to the police my view is that they had an absolute duty to do so even if the claimant herself couldn’t bring herself to go to the police directly. That may sound harsh but a) there is a public safety issue in bringing a possible rapist to justice in order to protect potential future victims and b) quite apart from the ethics the appearance of a cover up was always liable to blow up in the party’s face and do massive damage to the party. If she had decided to retract the allegations maybe that would be different but otherwise in a situation like that you go to the cops.

    I come back to Sinn Fein. Following a major scandal of sexual abuse in a leading republican family their policy is now that any memeber suspected of sexual assault is immediately suspended without prejudice and the matter reported to the statutory authorities. And this is a party with a real revolutionary history that until recently had very good reason to be hostile to the state.

    Even supposing the criminal law can meaningfully be described as “bourgeois” there have been huge advances made in the handling of rape by the police and the courts in the last few decades. This isn’t the Seventies. The protections afforded by the “bourgeois” courts are light years ahead of any intenal committee of a small far left party.

    Even if you have a paranoid belief that the state is out to destroy your organisation handling a rape allegation like this is crazy and plays straight into the hands of the Right.

  213. jack ford on said:

    Actually scratch that you report even if she retracts. In an organisation like that if someone is prepared to come forward with an allegation as serious as rape and then retracts it’s almost certainly because she’s come under pressure. The only safe thing to do both to protect future potential victims and the party is to report.

  214. jack ford: As for whether the SWP_should have reported the allegations to the police my view is that they had an absolute duty to do so even if the claimant herself couldn’t bring herself to go to the police directly.

    That’s a betrayal of trust that can be experienced as a violation of rights.

  215. 242#
    “The only safe thing to do both to protect future potential victims and the party is to report”

    In that case victim may decide to keep quiet- particularly if they are illegal or wanted by the state for some reason. So the abuse can continue it would seem.

    There are many good reason why the complainer might not want to go to the police. For instance it may even be the case that the victims does not want the offender jailed but wants to make sure that it does not happen again to her or anyone else

    sandy

  216. stockwellpete on said:

    RedRuffLemur:

    In 1974 I was part of a (legal) faction in IS arguing for the re-opening of its democratic structures. They had been nailed down on a strict need to know basis because of supposed state infiltration – from that series of debates the new NC eventually emerged. And the NC of the SWP in the late 70s & early 80s was genuinely seen as the space for the members to speak – to learn from each other, and to inform the CC & leadership. It was not all toeing-the-line and gaining cadre points. It was a place for serious discussion. The members were all by-and-large leaders in their own workplaces/trade unions/communities & had day-to-day living experience to offer. There were real differences. Women’s Voice. Scottish independence. The punk paper. The extent of the downturn . . .

    . . . I am not sure that the current SWP can be said to have discredited democratic centralism because I do no believe that it is any longer a democratic centralist organisation even though the leadership profess it to be. It is purely a centralist party with the line handed down from on high from a self-perpetuating bureaucratic elite.

    Yes, I agree very much with your two points here.

    I do remember participating in open debates in the SWP in the 1970s about ways in which democracy could be strengthened in the party (by electing another body, the Party Council that could modify the decisions of the CC and National Committee if necessary, if I recall correctly). So we certainly didn’t think that things were perfect then but they were obviously a lot more healthier than the situation inside the SWP now.

    For me though, the main reason for the bureaucratic degeneration of the SWP has to be the period of defeat that the working class has gone through since the late 1970s. Of course, the increasingly narrow version of party democracy championed by the Cliff-ites since that time has clearly acclerated this degeneration, but I do feel that even if the SWP had had the most pristine and wonderful version of democratic centralism in 1979 then they would still be very much like the wretched organisation that we have to deal with today.

    The detail that has really stood out for me in all this though is the way in which it has been reported that some leading SWP members have been using the word “feminist” as a term of insult in the current fiasco. Those of us who were supporters of Women’s Voice way back in the day will still remember how that feels!

    The truth is, if we do want to build an organisation based on a “new” type of socialist politics in the coming period, then it does need to be a socialism with the feminism put back into it – and right at the centre too. The slogan – “the personal is political” needs to be rehabilitated, particularly in the broader sense of how all of us on the left relate to, and treat one another. That is an important part of the struggle for socialism as far as I am concerned.

  217. Stephen on said:

    Mark Victorystooge: I think Newman has opened up the left to attack, although perhaps this is an unintended consequence.

    The people who opened up the left to attack were the SWP with their delusional belief that commitment to scientific socialism bestowed capability in forensic science.

    Cde Newman has exposed a scandal. The SWP shot themselves in the foot, and quite possibly the head…lets not think there is any merit whatsoever in shooting the messenger.

  218. There two basic position in the discussion

    1) Those who see the root of the problem as the lack of any real internal democracy within the SWP

    2) those who see the essence of the problem as the failure by the SWP to involve the police as soon as the complaint was made to it by the member- a referral to the police that should have been made irrespective of the wishes of the complainer.

    In my view only viewpoint one is within the best traditions of the socialist movement

    sandy

  219. Stephen: The people who opened up the left to attack were the SWP with their delusional belief that commitment to scientific socialism bestowed capability in forensic science.

    Nobody is claiming a ‘capability in forensic science’. The SWP simply honoured a request to take up a complaint through its established structures. The response of those of us on the left is to defend the right of socialist organisations to operate their own internal procedures in the face of the predictable smears from the capitalist press such as reference to sharia court with all the racist implications.

  220. daggi: While Andy Newman clearly has a soft spot for the GDR, the idea that that kind of society is something any siginificant proportion of the left (or of society in general) want to happen again – for them, personally – is not a serious one.

    Not realy. The thing about the DDR is that is a very well documented and analysed example of actually existing socialism, and alngside Czechoslovakia, one of only two to have been an already industrialised society to a significant extent.

    Czechoslovakia is not so interesting me, as I don’t know the language, and because the politics there were much more particular based upon specific nationalist politics.

    It is clear that the history and development of the DDR was much more complex than cold-war accounts from either side.

  221. sandy: There two basic position in the discussion

    You miss out a third strand, that self-referential organisations where there are inequalities of power are a breeding ground for sexual abuse; and Messianic organisations with an overestimation of the historical necessity of their charismatic organisations continued health make it hard for members to involve outside powers, like the police.

    You continually downplay the patriarchal aspect of unequal power

  222. Andy Newman: You continually downplay the patriarchal aspect of unequal power

    No- I see real internal democracy as the way to combat it. Not the police
    sandy

  223. sandy: For instance it may even be the case that the victims does not want the offender jailed but wants to make sure that it does not happen again to her or anyone else

    How would being expelled from the SWP prevent a possible rapist from doing it again? Is the SWP competent to cary out that risk assessment? There would be no entry on the sex offenders register, there would be no professional assessment, there would be nothing to warn other women, no process of rehabilitation and no scrutiny by the probation service.

  224. daggi,

    I understand that we cannot hope to win the battle of ideas with a public that associates us with Maoist type nutters who deny any problems in former socialist countries-expect perhaps their revisionism!

    But to completely write off the positive aspects of states such as the DDR and to refuse to critically, but constructively, examine what went wrong and learn from mistakes seems to be mistaken for anyone wanting socialism in Britain today.

  225. 252# If there was a real risk that the offender might attack strangers i think there is more of an argument for going to the police but if we are talking about the abuse of power within the organization or within the left in general i think expulsion would stop that and make it clear such behavior is not tolerated.

    sandy

  226. stuart on said:

    Andy Newman,

    If someone told you they had been raped but did not want to involve the police would you be prepared to betray the trust they placed in you and violate their rights by going to the police against their will?

  227. jack ford: Actually scratch that you report even if she retracts. In an organisation like that if someone is prepared to come forward with an allegation as serious as rape and then retracts it’s almost certainly because she’s come under pressure. The only safe thing to do both to protect future potential victims and the party is to report.

    Jack, following the logic of this there doesn’t seem to be any basis for allowing victims to exercise any choice at all. A friend tells you she’s been raped? Take it to the police, whatever her misgivings.

    I don’t think your position allows for the reality that the vast majority of victims choose not to report. I can’t help feeling your approach would result in more victims keeping their experiences entirely to themselves – already quite a significant proportion, according to research.

    Incidentally, Sinn Fein’s (new) policy – at least as you describe it – could be perceived more as a means of protecting the party than providing support to the victims of rape. Do you think it will make victims more likely to give voice to their experiences?

    Note: none of the above is intended by me to minimise the godawful mess that the SWP CC have made of this situation.

  228. stuart: If someone told you they had been raped but did not want to involve the police would you be prepared to betray the trust they placed in you and violate their rights by going to the police against their will?

    If someone confided in a friend that they had been raped, I hope the friend would help the victim access independent rape crisis advice, and let the experts talk her through the advantages of reporting to the police.

    If someone reports rape to a private organisation formally complaining that an officer of the organisation has assaulted them, then that private organisation should immediately take independent legal advise; and should not pretend that they were competent to handle the complaint in house. They should refer the complainant to independent rape crisis councillors, but also advise her that it was in everyone’ best interests to involve the police; and that they had no choice themselves other than to go to the police, as they have a public duty so to do.

    Where a private organisation would be on very dangerous legal ground would be if subsequent to the fact of the alleged rape, and after the complainant had already aproached them, then a person with a close personal relatinship to the person accused, were to publish this in a paper she edits, knowing it would be read by the complainant, and everyone in her immediate social circles:

    Socialist Worker, 13th August 2011
    http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=25685

    The last thing we need is a state with more ways of attacking ordinary people. The police are the enemy of everyone who want to see a more just, fair society.
    It is the actions of the police that marginalise and criminalise so many.
    It is the endless stop and search that thousands of mostly young, mostly black people face across Britain, the wholesale harassment of communities.
    We should drive the police out of our estates and off our streets.

    This might be regarded as creating a persuasive culture within the organisation that might reinforce the reluctance of someone to go to the police.

  229. Stephen on said:

    stuart: to defend the right of socialist organisations to operate their own internal procedures

    When it comes to allegations of serious (five years to life) criminality. There is no such right.

    Would it have been OK for the Conservative Party, or a Homing Pigeon Society to investigate whether a rape had taken place?

  230. Stephen on said:

    sandy: No- I see real internal democracy as the way to combat it. Not the police

    So Sandy… if the SWP Disputes cttee had concluded that a rape HAD taken place. What should they have done? How should ‘internal democracy’ deal with a dangerous criminal?

  231. stuart on said:

    Stephen,

    If the complainant doesn’t want to go to the police but asks the organisation to investigate the complaint, the organisation can either investigate it or it can do nothing.

  232. stuart: The SWP simply honoured a request to take up a complaint through its established structures.

    How can you defend the fact that when similar complaints were made about Chris Harman in the 1980s, the SWP CC persuaded the woman complaining to not even make an internal complaint within the SWP.

  233. stuart on said:

    Andy Newman,

    Okay, so basically you would abuse the rights and expressed wishes of someone who tells you in confidence that she’s been abused. Thanks for clearing that up. And you are seriously suggesting that something written in the context of police harrassment of youths which led to social explosions across parts of the country can be held responsible for preventing an alleged rape victim from reporting?

  234. sandy,

    “…it may even be the case that the victims does not want the offender jailed but wants to make sure that it does not happen again to her or anyone else ”

    The problem with that position is that “anyone else” outside the organisation in question would not be protected from a possible sexual assault. A police investigation would be more likely to prevent or deter another sexual assault in the outside community by the alleged rapist.

  235. sandy:
    252# If there was a real risk that the offender might attack strangers i think there is more of an argument for going to the police but if we are talking about the abuse of power within the organization or within the left in general i think expulsion would stop that and make it clear such behavior is not tolerated.

    sandy

    So I presume that the alleged perpetrator’s alleged offence would then be publicised within the organisation? How widely further than that in order to protect ‘strangers’?

    By strangers do you mean random women who he may happen to pounce on on a dark night, or those he may get into a relationship with, casual or otherwise in the future?

    And how would the party go about making such a risk assessment?

    I suppose the method used by the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (a heroine created btw by someone who was a member of a trotskyist party, albeit with a more democratic traddition than the SWP) could help in respect of the latter.

    Should they instruct a forensic psychologist?

    And to look at the question from the point of view of the alleged perpetrator, is it right that the type of trial that an organisation of this type is capable of carrying out is sufficient for someone to be labelled as a rapist to a significant number of people?

    stuart: Nobody is claiming a ‘capability in forensic science’. The SWP simply honoured a request to take up a complaint through its established structures. The response of those of us on the left is to defend the right of socialist organisations to operate their own internal procedures in the face of the predictable smears from the capitalist press such as reference to sharia court with all the racist implications.

    a) There is a wide body of opinion among both muslims and non-muslims that within this country sharia law is an appropriate alternative method of solving legal disputes to the English or Scottish legal systems.

    There is of course very little demand or support for the idea that it should be introduced for criminal matters, which makes the analogy innacurate and unhelpful.

    b) There are many millions of people throughout the world (including this country) who either live under sharia law or wish to do so.

    Therefore, using the term only has racist connotations if it is used in the context of wishing to disparage those (mainly non-white) people on the basis of their ethnicity.

    A separate question from that of whether you actually have a negative position on sharia law per se.

  236. 260

    expulsion would be the sanction

    Up to the complainer if she wants to go the police. There should be no suggestion that doing so is against the interests of the party etc

    sandy

  237. stuart on said:

    Andy Newman: How can you defend the fact that when similar complaints were made about Chris Harman in the 1980s, the SWP CC persuaded the woman complaining to not even make an internal complaint within the SWP.

    I know absolutely nothing about this whatsoever.

  238. I know absolutely nothing about this whatsoever.

    Don’t you see that as a problem? If you don’t know, it’s because you’ve chosen not to know.

  239. stuart: you are seriously suggesting that something written in the context of police harrassment of youths which led to social explosions across parts of the country can be held responsible for preventing an alleged rape victim from reporting?

    Let us look what Socialist Worker wrote:

    The police are the enemy of everyone who want to see a more just, fair society.
    It is the actions of the police that marginalise and criminalise so many.
    We should drive the police out of our estates and off our streets.

    You don’t have to be a genius to see that if this the editorial line of SW, then that will influence the likelihood of an SWP member reprting a crime, especially infleuncing the more impressionable or inexperienced members, and especially reinforcing the idea that the SWP needs protection from the state.

  240. Vanya: And to look at the question from the point of view of the alleged perpetrator, is it right that the type of trial that an organisation of this type is capable of carrying out is sufficient for someone to be labelled as a rapist to a significant number of people?

    Anyone falsely accused could take legal action to clear their name if they so wished. However events around the SSP suggests that this should be avoided if possible. But it is up to the individuals concerned. I dont think we can simply say to victims of sexual assault etc go to the police or shut up. It may be that they cant go to the police- illegal workers etc

    sandy

  241. Vanya: And to look at the question from the point of view of the alleged perpetrator, is it right that the type of trial that an organisation of this type is capable of carrying out is sufficient for someone to be labelled as a rapist to a significant number of people?

    Quite so, there is a very real prospect that a consensus will arise that the flawed internal investigation implies that comrade delta must be guilty, overturning the presumption of innocence that he should be protected by. He has been denied the opportunity to clear his name.

  242. sandy: It may be that they cant go to the police- illegal workers etc

    Let us shoot that fox before the hounds get the scent.

    No-one has suggested that in this case W is somehow a fugitive herself. In any event, are you suggesting that people in the UK without proper residency papers should be fair game for rapists? If not the police then who will protect them?

  243. stuart on said:

    Vanya,

    Are you comfortable with how the press associated a hostile report against a left-wing organisation with sharia courts which I’m afraid happen to be a particular target of racists?

  244. stuart: And you are seriously suggesting that something written in the context of police harrassment of youths which led to social explosions across parts of the country can be held responsible for preventing an alleged rape victim from reporting?

    I can’t answer for Andy, but I can’t see how, when the SWP (like most of the far left) has little else to say about the role of the Police, it is possible to imagine why a positive suggestion that the Police be involved in anything would not be treated negatively.

    That’s what happens when you deal with the question of the Police essentially on the basis of ‘ACAB’. That sentiment is understandable from the point of view of many communities and many young people who are utterly alienated from the Police (an alienation I accept btw is largely the fault of the Police themselves- I don’t know how many have seen the story about Stephen Lawrence’s brother for example).

    I well recall a couple of discussions on here on this issue and equally recall the lack of any attempt by so many contributors to approach the issue of the Police and criminal justice with anything approaching the level of sophistication it requires, particualarly from those aspiring to take over the running of the country from the ruling class and create an alternative state power.

  245. I well recall a couple of discussions on here on this issue and equally recall the lack of any attempt by so many contributors to approach the issue of the Police and criminal justice with anything approaching the level of sophistication it requires, particualarly from those aspiring to take over the running of the country from the ruling class and create an alternative state power.

    We couldn’t get anywhere. I think I was one of the major contributors to that debate, trying to get “what do you do tomorrow?” out of people. There is simply no reflection of the reality ot the existence of police and the criminal justice systems, which is where you get the “drive the police off our streets” being put in a socialist newspaper during a time in which the far right is way stronger than the far left.

    So much of the far left is just incapable of having a sensible discussion about the actually existing world. It has no answers for people in the here and now.

  246. stuart on said:

    Andy Newman: >You don’t have to be a genius to see that if this the editorial line of SW, then that will influence the likelihood of an SWP member reprting a crime, especially infleuncing the more impressionable or inexperienced members, and especially reinforcing the idea that the SWP needs protection from the state.

    Left-wing organisations do have criticisms of the police, that is widely known. But you are clearly so determined to ‘prove’ that the SWP prevented an alleged victim from going to the police you are losing any sense of objectivity. Your conclusion would seem to be that a left-wing party would have to report a case to the police, even if against the expressed wishes of the complainant, otherwise the political criticisms will be used as evidence that pressure was applied in order to achieve a cover-up.

  247. sandy: Anyone falsely accused could take legal action to clear their name if they so wished.

    Yes Sandy, I don’t know how it works in Scotland, but in England and Wales an action for defamation is one of the most expensive forms of litigation you can engage in. There is no legal aid, unless you can establish malice, and if you lose you are also responsible for paying the other side’s costs.

    Has it never occured to you that most people who sue for defamation have quite a lot of money already, or the backing of others who do.

  248. Andy Newman: Let us shoot that fox before the hounds get the scent.

    No-one has suggested that in this case W is somehow a fugitive herself. I

    Yes but we are not simply discussing the individual case ( I dont have the knowledge about that case to comment about the individual circumstances) but the general point about what a socialist organization should do re complaints from members about the activities of other members which concern matters of serious anti social activity. You position is that the organization should say-go to the police- we wont deal with such a matter or, even worse, we will go to the police if you mention it to us even if you dont want us to. This could provide, in practice, a license to assault to any bully in the organization

    sandy

  249. stuart: the press associated a hostile report against a left-wing organisation

    What they were reporting was actually a transcript of part of your own conference.

    Perhaps you need some self-reflection on why a transcript of your own party’s conference proceedings is seen as hostile to the interests of your organisation.

    Is it not becasue the transcript revealed that the SWP was behaving in a way that is widely considered unaccetable, and if the issues were not so serious would have exposed you to ridicule for the comic opera pretensions.

  250. stockwellpete on said:

    Thinking about all this I am wondering what comrades think Martin Smith should do now? Should he stand down from all leadership positions immediately (e.g. UAF)? Should he “self-suspend” himself from political activities until this is sorted out? If he regards himself as innocent of the allegation, then perhaps he should go to the police himself (now that it is an international story)? Or should he just carry on as normal? Maybe that is what he is going to try to do?

    Obviously he should be considered “innocent until proven guilty” but what responsibilities does he have now to help resolve this situation?

  251. stuart: Left-wing organisations do have criticisms of the police

    oh come on, this is what you published:

    “The police are the enemy of everyone who want to see a more just, fair society….We should drive the police out of our estates and off our streets.”

    This goes beyond “criticsms” of the police, and into fantasy land.

    How can you not agree that seeing the police as “the enemy” would dissuade someone from going to them to report a crime.

    Do you have no misgivings that this was written AFTER the alleged rape, AFTER the complainant had approached the SWP, and the editor is someone with an intimate personal relationship with the accused.

  252. stuart on said:

    Andy Newman,

    The press report did not in any way treat the transcript objectively, quite predictably certain selected parts were given prominence. I even believe the article contained factual errors as has been noted by a poster on here a couple of days ago.

  253. Vanya: Yes Sandy, I don’t know how it works in Scotland, but in England and Wales an action for defamation is one of the most expensive forms of litigation you can engage in. There is no legal aid, unless you can establish malice, and if you lose you are also responsible for paying the other side’s costs.

    yes legal aid in Scotland can be granted. But what is your point? We know the law is biased in favour of the rich. This is not news.
    People without money or connections get a raw deal. You dont need a legal eduction to know that.

    Are you saying that socialist organizations should refuse to accept complaints from members about sexual assault by other members because the alleged perpetrator will not get a fair hearing? In effect telling victims -Go to the police or shut up.

    sandy

  254. stockwellpete: perhaps he should go to the police himself

    That probably would be the best action, but perhaps opens another can of worms of whether what has happened could be considered a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, especially if the rumours of pressure on W not to go to the police have any substance

  255. stuart on said:

    Andy Newman,

    You actually sound like a lawyer desperate to present a case. Your attempt to make the association in the way that you do, I have to say, I just find bizarre.

  256. sandy: You position is that the organization should say-go to the police- we wont deal with such a matter or, even worse, we will go to the police if you mention it to us even if you dont want us to. This could provide, in practice, a license to assault to any bully in the organization

    Only in a fantasy land does an organisatin which discourages members from going to the police prvide them with more protection

  257. Michael&#a32;Rosen: I was hoping that someone would come up with an alternative to dc.

    Thanks for trying to push the discussion back onto the rails.

    Actually, I think that in current political context the pluralism of the Labour Party worked prior to the Blairite reforms is not a bad model, where members are free to pursue their own political paths, provided they support the party in elections.

  258. I have had enough of this silly tit for tat about the SWP and the rape investigation. I will delete further comments if they are solely focussed on that, or on my decision to publish the transcript.

  259. sandy,

    What I’m saying generally, as have other commentators, is that private organisations are not equipped to investigate rape allegations.

    Specifically I am also saying that an organisation that has a go at doing so as has happened here, and has shown itself to be incapable of abiding by elementary principles of natural justice, is in danger either of exonerating a real perpetrator or failing to give a fair hearing to an alleged perpetrator who is then labelled as a rapist, with no effective legal remedy to clear their name (unless they have a few bob).

    For the avoidance of doubt, I am making no specific statement of belief or fact as to the guilt or innocence of any actual person in this or other situations.

  260. Jellytot on said:

    @289I was hoping that someone would come up with an alternative to dc.

    I don’t think such a body could realistically be dispensed with in a Party like the SWP without them throwing overboard the fundamentals of what they’re about. Even after this current crisis has run its course I still think they’ll basically be the same – only smaller. You’d hope that they’d regard all this as a ‘teachable moment’ but what often marks groups like this out is there lack of ability to learn from things like this.

    What they need to do is decide exactly what the control commission is able to adjudicate on and what it cannot. Serious criminal matters would be an obvious example of the latter.

  261. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Post 289 says “I was hoping that someone would come up with an alternative to dc.”

    So what is your alternative to democratic centralism? And why do you not join a political party that believes in the socialist transformation of society and that uses democratic centralism to advocate your alternative? Any other action is just superfluous rhetoric!

    Post 291 says “Actually, I think that in current political context the pluralism of the Labour Party worked prior to the Blairite reforms is not a bad model, where members are free to pursue their own political paths, provided they support the party in elections.”

    One of the view times I would agree with you Mr Newman. During the 1980s I campaigned for Rod Fitch in Brighton, Dave Nellist in Coventry and Cherie Booth/Blair in Margate, my CLP, at elections and as well as selling the Militant at Party meetings and at other political events without the pro-capitalist dictatorial centralism of the Labour Party now. Back to applying for jobs.

  262. stuart on said:

    Andy Newman: Thanks for trying to push the discussion back onto the rails.

    Actually, I think that in current political context the pluralism of the Labour Party worked prior to the Blairite reforms is not a bad model, where members are free to pursue their own political paths, provided they support the party in elections.

    What do you think of the Militant explulsions?

  263. Andy Newman: It is clear that the history and development of the DDR was much more complex than cold-war accounts from either side.

    Certainly. But it was a process “from above”, with, in particular at the beginning, a fair amount of opportunism (ex-Nazis swapping their party allegiances without any explanation and continuing their careers as if nothing had changed), and, in any case, from Ulbricht, in the 1960s onwards, the main aim was to emulate West German society when it came to standards of living, consumerism etc., without the economic or industrial prerequisitions existing for it (and as opposed to getting loads of cash from the Marshall Plan, the GDR was basically robbed for reperations by the USSR). This followed under Honecker and led to bankruptcy – economic bankruptcy following political bankruptcy.

    Despite the fact that many people in Germany . east and west – are very unhappy about today’s society and ‘the system’, even in the east, there are very, very few who ‘want the GDR back’. (But *they* are *still* over-represented amongst ‘the left’, and it is something the left’s enemies are very happy to go on about).

    My point it: what is the left, what kind of society do we want? Is it ‘the same as before’ or something else, something better. Until the left stops trying to repeat history as farce and/or tragedy and grabbing old books as manuals as what to do – manuals published in Czarist Russia, the Weimar republic, or in China – manuals that are objectively discredited through experience, that left will be going nowhere. And rightly so. The danger is that the right will fill that gap, with their discredited manuals, but their ‘experience’ was such a long time ago that very few will personally remember it.

  264. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    I should not do two things at once: on post 294 I said “One of the view times I would agree with you Mr Newman.” It should have read One of the few times I would agree with Mr Newman. Sorry.

    Post 295, Now that Stuart is controversial, considering I was expelled 20 years ago next month for bring the Labour Party into disrepute by actively campaigning against the Poll Tax. The bringing the Party into disrepute was because I was jailed for non-payment and being part of Militant; but the beginning of that took place 30 years ago before the 1983 General Election when the Militant Editorial Board was expelled. We said at the time it would not stop at the expulsion of the Editorial Board but if it was not impeded that other Labour Lefts would be expelled and then the progressive socialist policies would be expelled until…….. We ended up with the capitalist Labour Party we have today.

  265. Andy Newman: Actually, I think that in current political context the pluralism of the Labour Party worked prior to the Blairite reforms is not a bad model, where members are free to pursue their own political paths, provided they support the party in elections.

    A federal Labour Party based on the unions and affiliated socialist societies/parties and co-ops could (in fact did) contain a very wide range of views all constrained by the obligation (the flip side of the right to affiliate) to support Labour candidates in elections.
    If the selection of candidates was really a process that was genuinely open then it is hard to see how any group aspiring to represent the working people of this country would not want to participate on this basis.
    This is the best model for the political representation of working people in a relatively stable capitaist society.
    It embodies a very basic level of collective working – the agreement to support without preconditions all Labour candidates.
    However, not since the 1920′s has there been such a situation inside the Labour Party. The organisational and political grip the right has on the Labour Party followed largely from the defeat of the General Strike in 1926 and was only really challenged in a post WW2 Labour conference when a resolution by the engineering union to permit the (re)affiliation of the Communist Party was narrowly defeated.
    However desirable such an arrangement might be it aint going to happen any time soon. As the SDP schism showed, the right will split when its domination over policy and candidiate selection is challenged.
    There is a real chance that, based on union initiatives, a left revival is possible inside the labour Party. This is a wholly desirable thing in itself.
    However, only an incorrible optimist with a complete lack of historical memory would suppose that this, of itself, will open the way to working class political power.

  266. jack ford on said:

    #296 Daggi, I think people have to face the fact that 1917 has very little relevance to twenty first century socialism. The key lesson of the tragic twentieth century is that socialism always needs to be based on democracy and the rule of law neither of which existed in “actually existing socialism” Otherwise you risk horrors like the Gulag and the Stalinist Terror.

    There is the further problem that a command economy of the Soviet type where the state owns the entire means of production and prices are fixed across the entire economy doesn’t work or rather it does up to a point but is massively inefficient. It can developed a backward peasant economy like Tsarist Russia from Third World to Second world levels by developing heavy industry and a powerful military but in terms of capital input to output it was still hugely inefficient even in the decades of high growth. Once challenged with producing consumer goods of the quality and quantity of the First World it hit the buffers.

    Therefore Socialism also needs to be reconciled with some kind of market economy.

    That doesn’t mean that you cant have flexible price controls of some kind such as a minimum wage and rent controls that prevent employers, landlords and moneylenders from making extortionate profits as opposed to resonable profits. It does mean that price congtrols have to be used with caution and be in tune with economic reality or they may do more good than harm.

    Lenin never gave all power to the Soviets, the elected councils and cooperatives of the working class. He gave all power to his party.

    The most advanced socialist societies that have ever existed are the Scandinavian social democracies. Sweden was hit by a banking crisis in the early Nineties the results of which together with the political turn to the right after the fall of the Berlin Wall has meant that even Sweden is no longer what it was. But that model, which the Swedish social democrats in their heydey used to call market socialism is the most convincing concrete achievement that the Left can point to at this point in history.

    Germany and Scandinavia unlike our UK have the huge advantage of proportional representation which means there is scope for a radical socialist party strongly influence by Marxism to challage the mainstream social democrats when they threaten to move too far to the right and do a New Labour. Under FPTP Labour can ignore the poor and the working class because it believes they have nowhere else to go. With PR such an attitude becomes a losing transaction as it can lose them as many or more votes on the left as they gain on the right. That is the single biggest reason in my view why Germany and Scandinavia are so far ahead of Britain which has become a bastion of coservatism. I’m sure you have your problems over there but some of us in this country are SO jealous of you.

  267. jack ford on said:

    #296 Daggi, Bollocks another typo Meant price controls if clumsily applied can do more harm than good.

    As regards consumer debt I believe no moneylender should be allowed to charge interest higher than a fixed percentage above the base rate set by a country’s central bank over the lifetime of the debt. That would protect the value of the moneylender’s debt since the base rate goes up with inflation but would protect vulnerable people from debt slavery. In the UK we have a legal loan shark called Wonga that charges obscene levels of interest. It is extraodinary that they are allowed to get away with it and they should be stopped. This would be a huge vote winner in my view. To be fair to the dear old Labour Party there’ an MP called Stella Creasy who’s been campaigning on this issue.

  268. jack ford: Lenin never gave all power to the Soviets, the elected councils and cooperatives of the working class. He gave all power to his party.

    And how did Lenin get this power to give away?

  269. Nick Wright: It is not often you see so many right wing ideas about the GDRin one piece.

    Ever heard of the slogan “Überholen ohne einzuholen” and what it meant in practice?

  270. daggi: But it was a process “from above”, with, in particular at the beginning, a fair amount of opportunism (ex-Nazis swapping their party allegiances without any explanation and continuing their careers as if nothing had changed),

    It is hard to see how the DDR could have been built in any way except “from above”, Auferstanden aus Ruinen was a real situation.

    Also the degree of continuity with the Nazi state you suggest is simply not representtaive of the real historical process.

  271. Nick Wright,

    That article is from 2004. Research on social attitudes is a lot more detailed since then, and/or those attitudes have changed. I would argue that “Ostalgia” is largely irrelevant now.

  272. Andy Newman: It is hard to see how the DDR could have been built in any way except “from above”, Auferstanden aus Ruinen was a real situation

    But if you are for “socialism from below” – you may well not be – as opposed to a benevolent leader or army changing the system – it was a problem from the start.

    I agree, there was no other way. The FRG got the system the western allies wanted, the GDR got the system the USSR wanted.

  273. daggi,

    jack ford,

    I think another reason for the lack of popular support for the socialist left is the ambiguity that some have in attacking both social democracy and socialism that existed and proposing another system without any real explanation of what this is. There is this culture to always be apologetic and feel it appropriate to always go into great detail criticising previous manifestations of socialism.

    think it’s better to propose an updated ‘socialism that existed’ one that has learnt from the experience and will emulate its successes and has learned from the mistakes. To be critcally constructive. Lets be honest nothing will ever be perfect. You always see people on the left who feel it necessary to attack the mistakes of socialism, but when do you ever see the right feel the need to apologise for fascism or imperialism? Rarely and they downplay it when they do.

  274. jack ford: The key lesson of the tragic twentieth century is that socialism always needs to be based on democracy and the rule of law neither of which existed in “actually existing socialism”

    You reveal a schematic and very shallow understanding of the role of specific and concrete material conditions in the development of any social system, much less a socialist one struggling to overcome both the inauspicious foundations upon which it was trying to develop, plus the huge external pressure exerted against it by a hostile, advanced, and entrenched capitalist world.

    If only it were so simple.

  275. jack ford,

    I don’t know that the Soviet model is truly finished, as there is plenty to be learned from it still though there are plenty of others here with greater knowledge of that than me. A basic first step for a socialist party of the (near) future that would have resonance with the majority of voters is nationalisation of banks and lending, utilities and transport and spending on infrastucture. The Chinese model also offers some useful tools in controlling the detrimental effects of the market on the economy. My hope is that as the advances in manufacturing technology continue, so-called “replicator” technology, which enables the quick manufacture of goods from software templates, will eliminate the need for market driven manufacturing. Still a long way to go before that happens, and it does raise many questions about the nature of “labour” itself, but it may put the means of production back into the public spere.

  276. daggi: I agree, there was no other way.

    Well in politics, that is a very big admission.

    Actually existing socialism was flawed becasue it occured in specific historical conditions, and where socialists were grappliing with unforeseen problems, and the real complexities of government, where as Harold McMillan said you have to respond to “events dear boy, events”

    The governmnt of the DDR had very significant achievements to be proud of, alongside failures of vision, paranoia, and decreasing popular legitimacy. It is a great irony that in its final years the DDR was establishing an ethos of respect for the rule of law, and it was entirely to the SED leaderships credit that they did not turn to the Panzers once the streets were filled with protesters

  277. George W,

    The difference though is that fascism and imperialism are based on preserving the existing social system on the basis that it is the best we’re going to get.

    To justify the struggle and sacrifice necessary to achieve socialism it is necessary to convince people that it is achievable and worth the effort. The fact that such societies as the DDR existed in modern industrial countries is a double edged sword.

    Those mistakes’ were pretty serious and include the death and incarcertation of millions (in the USSR) of innocent people. If we’re going to identify those societies as in any representing socialism we need to acknowledge the full horror while explaining, contexualising and showing how we would do our best to stop it from happening again.

  278. stuart on said:

    Tony Collins: Don’t you see that as a problem? If you don’t know, it’s because you’ve chosen not to know.

    I can not and will not debate this alleged case, about which I know nothing, on a blog.

  279. Vanya: Those mistakes’ were pretty serious and include the death and incarcertation of millions (in the USSR) of innocent people.

    Though of course liberal democracy in Britain was likewise founded upon the atrocity of colonialism, slavery and imperialism.

  280. #310

    I agree that it’s not so simple. You can’t always get what you want

    But the problem with the model that arose from the Bolshevik revolution was that the lack of the rule of law was based to a large extent on the fact that the founders of the soviet sate did not accept the concept as valid.

  281. #215 But it’s a bit difficult to promote a new system by defending it on the basis that it’s mo better than the alternative.

    It’s not even as if those milliions were all bloodthirsty hyenas of the old regime is it?

  282. tigger on said:

    Tony Collins,

    Tony (& MarkP) if you thought I was having a dig at MarkP personally you are quite wrong and if it came across that way then I apologise. I found the article interesting and timely and in many ways reminiscent of the debates around ‘Beyond the Fragments’ in the late 70s. In addition it has provoked some serious and very positive contributions (# 11 Colin Piper, 38 Alan Gibbons, 41 Manzil, 48 Sam etc etc)

    My main concern was – Do SU mean it? Are you serious? I think it was you Tony who posted an article in a similar vein about a year ago asking for some open accounting of what is happening to the left. But on 7 December SU posted “Gotcha – debate about sexism emerges in the SWP” which included a lot of tittle tattle. This was then followed up by the dreadful AWL article, that drove even your usual SU supporterr cde Ovenden to write in rebuke.

    Tony, Mark P encourage us to have an open approach and I applaud your reflection. I think all of us who have been active over many years and then have leave/get expelled or whatever have a very ambivalent attitude to the organisations in which we invest so much time and effort. I can say that it took me a long time to get the SWP out of my system. I am not a pop psychologist but I sometimes get the feeling cde Newman is still going through that process.

    You comment that at the moment over the web
    “There’s a cult-like hatred of people who used to be allies.”
    I think that is precisely because of the investment cdes have made and which is falling apart. We saw a similar tendency in the SLL/WRP to all dissidents so history repeats itself but more than farce this time I think.

    The main point I was making is that some comrades have questioned the comments from Leninblog that we must not lose the best traditions of the SWP and I agree. I will come back to that but in a spirit of comradeship thank you for posting this and for the generally very positive way the debate has been handled.

  283. Jellytot on said:

    @311A basic first step for a socialist party of the (near) future that would have resonance with the majority of voters is nationalisation of banks and lending, utilities and transport and spending on infrastucture.

    @313To justify the struggle and sacrifice necessary to achieve socialism it is necessary to convince people that it is achievable and worth the effort.

    I think you’re putting the cart before the horse.

    Instead of attempting to instill lofty ideals about a future socialist society and the merits and demerits of historical models, I think we just need a simple “win” at the moment. Any win! Losing can became a habit and it needs reversing. I think we have to go back to basics pretty much.

    There has essentially been a litany of defeat over the past 20 or so years and this cannot be help but have a corrosive effect on notions of solidarity and whether resistance is even desirable or possible amongst the mass of people. This has given the Government the confidence to roll-back the Welfare State.

  284. Of course. All I’m saying is that capitalists rarely ever even acknowledge their crimes but the left seem to be obsessed with the past mistakes of socialists and bring it up whenever possible.

    Real existing socialism for all its problems and mistakes were specific socities existing in exceptional circumstances. The left should see them as something to build upon, to learn from the mistakes-I posted the CPB’s analysis on another thread. But ultimately to celebrate and propose to recreate the successes in our 21st century context.

    It’s a Kop out to take the old third way approach. Socialism as it existed in the twentieth century needs a critical analysis that incorporates the various manifestations today in Cuba…etc

    Essentially lets try not to put our own side down so much cus the opposition never does.

  285. George W: There is this culture to always be apologetic and feel it appropriate to always go into great detail criticising previous manifestations of socialism.

    At the same time there is always the culture to do exactly the opposite. Is that not problematic, to say the least?

  286. Vanya: But the problem with the model that arose from the Bolshevik revolution was that the lack of the rule of law was based to a large extent on the fact that the founders of the soviet sate did not accept the concept as valid.

    I’m not sure I agree with this entirely. The Soviet Union operated under a de facto state of emergency from the implementation of the Red Terror right throughout the life of its existence, until it collapsed. This state of emergency differed in severity at given periods, and there’s no doubt it was exploited under Stalin, but the existential threat to the Soviet Union’s existence, either from without as a consequence of military attack, embargo, etc., or within due to the corrosive influence of capitalism, was both real and exaggerated.

    The inability or failure to satisfy the population’s growing demand for consumer goods in line with their increased prosperity, allied to the paranoia which existed within the upper echelons of the Party and state apparatus over its preservation, led to a sclerotic and rigid bureaucracy.

    This was both a strength and weakness of Soviet society – strength when it came to industrial development, repelling Nazi invasion – weakness when it came to fully harnessing and unleashing the creative potential of its people.

    I think the absence of favourable material conditions at the state’s formation placed it on a path that while not inevitable was well nigh unavoidable – namely an emphasis on the centralisation and conformity required to drag a semi-feudal society into modernity in such a short space of time while dealing with the threat posed by capitalist encirclement.

  287. Jellytot,

    I would argue that what I and others are advocating are not that radical or controversial to the average voter and it is the lack of political courage within the parties entrusted with upholding their interests that has led to the general apathy toward politics and the advance of neo-liberalism. Sound social democratic policies, of the old-school variety, combined with strong leadership would go a long way toward reinvigorating political participation and left-wing politics .

  288. daggi,

    Of course as I said we don’t want to be associated with crazied Maoists..etc but a critical, constructive engagement, not a constant state of being on the back foot fuelling anti-communist propaganda and obscuring the crimes of capitalism-imperialism-fascism.

    Again just for the benefit of discussion. Assesing the collapse of the Soviet Union by the CPB:

    http://communist-party.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=345&Itemid=53

    Or as in the BRS:

    “Russia and the other countries of the Soviet Union were transformed from semi-feudal, semi-capitalist monarchist dictatorships into modern societies with near-full employment, universally free education and healthcare, affordable housing for all, extensive and cheap public transport, impressive scientific and cultural facilities, rights for women and degrees of self-government for formerly oppressed nationalities.
    But the struggle to survive and to build socialism in the face of powerful external as well as internal enemies also led to distortions in society that might otherwise have been avoided. In particular, a bureaucratic-command system of economic and political rule became entrenched. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the trade unions became integrated into the apparatus of the state, eroding working class and popular democracy. Marxism-Leninism was used dogmatically to justify the status quo rather than make objective assessments of it.
    At times, and in the late 1930s in particular, severe violations of socialist democracy and law occurred. Large numbers of people innocent of subversion or sabotage were persecuted, imprisoned and executed. This aided the world-wide campaign of lies and distortions aimed at the Soviet Union, the international communist movement and the concept of socialism.”

  289. Andy Newman: self-referential organisations where there are inequalities of power are a breeding ground for sexual abuse;

    Not sure what you are claiming here – or if this is a balanced appraisal of the situation. Sexually oppressive behavior occurs across a number of situations. Its not helpful to make lurid (and tabloid friendly) claims of a ‘special case’ on the revolutionary left, due to some cult-like behavior or mission. To try to generate this sensationalist media meme is to do a disservice to women and their experiences of oppression across society. Women I know have experienced rape in a number of situations – in relationships with men in a number of different sub-cultures and sectors of society. For example, some of these incidences of oppression occurred in the punk-rock scene (back in the day). Would Andy like to help develop more lurid special case scenarios here, perhaps about punk rape? These sort of dangerous discursive constructions feed into media mythologies and obscure the ‘normality’ of rape within heteronornmative gender relations and their convergences with power and property.

    Furthermore, Andy is presenting a one sided caricature of the SWP and the left that ignores the powerfull anti-sexist culture that is also an undeniable feature of the SWP. For those who are encountering the SWP for the first time through this minor media storm, they will have a very different picture of the SWP than the thousands of independent activists and SU readers like me, who have direct experience. I cannot picture the SWP without thinking of the many comrades I worked with, women who would not tolerate sexual oppression. And there were the many dozen women comrades who were full timers – who whatever else I might criticize them for (high-handed and crude imposition of top-down directives) sexism, or concessions to sexually oppressive behavior is not one of them. So more interesting than Andy’s clumsy and tabloid-friendly one-dimensional characterizations would be an analysis of how this powerful culture of anti-sexism can also coexist with authoritarian power-relations and examples of sexual oppression. Such an analysis might also help us to reform the far left, so that its strong instincts towards radical equality – in all spheres including gender and political structures – can be strengthened.

  290. John,

    The specific point I’m making (and have mede before but don’t have the sources to hand) is that Lenin and Trotsky both stated their essential disagreement with the conceppt of the rule of law. I understand their motivation, but they were wrong.

    I don’t challenge what you say about tbe conditions from the outset that existed following the Bolshevik revolution.

  291. Barry Kade,

    “So more interesting than Andy’s clumsy and tabloid-friendly one-dimensional characterizations would be an analysis of how this powerful culture of anti-sexism can also coexist with authoritarian power-relations and examples of sexual oppression. Such an analysis might also help us to reform the far left, so that its strong instincts towards radical equality – in all spheres including gender and political structures – can be strengthened.”
    Isn’t Andy suggesting that it is precisely because of these authoritarian structures that the powerful, anti-sexist culture has been overwhelmed ,in this and other instances, within the SWP?

  292. Uncle Albert on said:

    Andy Newman: quoting from Socialist Worker paper: “We should drive the police out of our estates and off our streets.”

    Would it be unfair to observe that the editor of Socialist Worker is in a personal relationship with Comrade Delta, and that this was written after the alleged incident that comrade delta is accused of

    Policy explained, I’d say.

  293. Vanya,

    Sure, but I always took this it mean ‘bourgeois’ law. There’s no doubt that there was a massive gulf between concept and reality when it came to the Soviet Union and its development. It was never the utopia outlined by Lenin in State and Revolution. Nor was it ever anything like Trotsky envisaged. This was largely due to them both viewing the Russian Revolution and the formation of the Soviet Union as the first stage of a worldwide revolution. It failed to happen. The result was Stalin.

  294. stuart on said:

    Jimmy Haddow:

    Post 295, Now that Stuart is controversial, considering I was expelled 20 years ago next month for bring the Labour Party into disrepute by actively campaigning against the Poll Tax.

    Yes, the Labour party ‘model’ is I’m afraid one where principled socialists will be fought against rather than encouraged- not to be forgotten in this discussion.

  295. Omar – but often the anti-sexist culture prevails. Are we talking exceptions, rules – or something more complex. But you can’t grasp this with simplistic caricatures. The SWP is / was not a cult. It may exhibits cult-like behavior as part of its dynamic – but its members practice means being rooted in the world – in unions, campaigns, where some sort of contact with reality and other views is required. They live in society, amidst friends and family relationships, not on communes or compounds.

  296. Jellytot on said:

    @325Would Andy like to help develop more lurid special case scenarios here, perhaps about punk rape?

    The recent events are not a special case. There is a history of predatory behaviour and an exploitative dynamic in some groups. I once witnessed a rather clumsy and emabarrassing (although not illegal) example myself.

    What’s ‘special’ about them, if anything, is the welcome degree of exposure they are receiving – a byproduct of a more enlighted reporting culture and the ease of immediate communication through the internet.

    If all this coverage stops an activist being mistreated in future, through potential absuers being more circumspect, then surely all this has to be a good thing?

  297. Jellytot on said:

    Omar

    I would argue that what I and others are advocating are not that radical or controversial to the average voter and it is the lack of political courage within the parties entrusted with upholding their interests that has led to the general apathy toward politics and the advance of neo-liberalism. Sound social democratic policies, of the old-school variety, combined with strong leadership would go a long way toward reinvigorating political participation and left-wing politics .

    So we’re back to: “If only Labour/TUC were more Left Wing”.

    Yes, that would be a great thing. All I’m stating is that I doubt it will occur until our side start ratcheting up a few big and confidence building wins in society.

  298. Barry Kade,

    Their members are rooted in the real world and yet critical faculties,for most of the membership at least, seem to have gone astray during these incidents. So, clearly, something was impeding them. Is it unreasonable to suggest that the structure of the party/cult/whatever might be the reason?

  299. Jellytot,

    And what I’m saying is those wins won’t come until you can articulate a clear, distinct ideological vision that emphasises the class-nature of the political divide, especially in relation to the relatively recent development of neo-liberalism. Focus group and consensus politics is not the way to achieve this.

  300. John,

    I think they took it further than that. I’ll get back to you when I’m sure.
    stuart,

    stuart,

    I think you’re onfusing political postition with organisational structure.

    In fact the Labour Party tightened organisationally as it moved further to the right.

  301. Manzil on said:

    George W: Real existing socialism for all its problems and mistakes were specific socities existing in exceptional circumstances… It’s a Kop out to take the old third way approach. Socialism as it existed in the twentieth century needs a critical analysis that incorporates the various manifestations today in Cuba…etc

    Not to mention, socialism would always be realised in ‘exceptional’ circumstances. There will never be a clean slate on which to build anew, nor could socialism ever take place worldwide simultaneously. Its development will be radically influenced by the nature of the ‘actually existing capitalism’ it emerges out of, and by the likely hostile reaction of imperialism to any emerging post-capitalist entity.

    ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if…’ utopian constructions are no help. Swedish social democracy or Denis Healey’s Labourism failed more completely than did Soviet socialism: because they capitulated utterly despite the moderation, the essential decency and humanism of their vision, whereas the USSR had to be forcibly dismantled, despite the lack of conscious support for it from the workers at the decisive hour.

    The question is, what ascendant forces within our societies right now are pointing towards the possibility of socialism? There are massive productive resources available despite the effects of capital’s ongoing global investment strike, multinationals concentrated in the ‘triad’ dominate the world economy and are themselves tied together by a (historically bankrupt) international financial system.

    In these factors, the evidence of socialism’s continuing relevance and viability is all around us; it screams out of every dysfunction and decomposition in the present system. In a condition of systemic and sustained capitalist crisis, to place our hopes on a failed (and unrepeatable) compromise, or to reject the lessons of ‘real socialism’ for some abstract, pure experiment, is lunacy.

  302. stuart on said:

    Vanya:

    I think you’re onfusing political postition with organisational structure.

    In fact the Labour Party tightened organisationally as it moved further to the right.

    Their structure has always preserved the dominance of the anti-socialist elements.

  303. jack ford on said:

    Manzil,

    I don’t think the “capitulation” of Swedish social democracy is in the same category as the total collapse of the Soviet Union. Social democracy in Sweden isn’t dead. Workers rights and welfare rights in Sweden are still a socialist paradise compared with what the working class has in either Russia or Britain.

  304. jack ford on said:

    John,

    Hi John

    You’re right of course that to judge the Soviet Union you need to contextualise it.

    Just came across this in Chomsky’s “Propaganda and the Public Mind” published by South End Press pp 179 which you may find useful.

    Quote:
    A book came out called “The Black Book of Communism” which is about the huge crimes of communism. We have to have the courage at last to face these crimes, previously ignored, as the new millennium opens, that’s the general drift, with only slight exaggeration. We have to have the courage at last to face these crimes, previously ignored, as the new millennium opens, that’s the general drift, with only slight exaggeration. The “Black Book” gives the shocking figure of 100 million deaths attributable to communism. Let’s say its right. Let’s not argue about the numbers.

    The worst example of the killing, the biggest component of this alleged 100 million is the Chinese famine around 1958 to 1960. Maybe thirty million died in the famine… Sen [an eminent Indian economist] studied that and he points out although India used to have plenty of famines under the British, it hasn’t had famines like that since independence. So there was never a famine in India since the early 1950s in which huge numbers of people die as they did in China. Sen gives plausible reasons for it. He says this is related to India’s specific forms of socio-economic, political, and ideological development.

    India is more or less democratic. It has a free press. Information comes back from the bottom to the top, and if there are signs of a famine, the central authorities will know about it and there will be a protest about it. In China no information gets back to the centre and any protest will be smashed so you get huge famines. These are crimes of communism, traceable to the nature of the system.

    That’ s HALF of what Sen says. The other half of this inquiry, which somehow escapes notice, has to do with another comparison. He says China in the late 1940s began to institute rural public health and educational programs as well as other programs orientated toward the mass of the population. India, on the other hand, plays the game by our rules, and it didn’t do any of this. And there are consequences for example in mortality rates. These started to decline sharply in China from around 1950 until 1979. Then they stopped declining and started going up slightly. That was the period of the reforms. During the totalitarian period, from 1950 to about 1979 mortality rates declined. They declined in India too, but much more slowly than in China up to 1979

    Sen then says, suppose you measure the number of extra deaths in India resulting annually from not carrying out these Maoist style programs or others for the benefit of the population, what you would call reforms if the term wasn’t so ideological. He estimates close to four million extra deaths every year in India, which means that, as he puts it, every eight years in India the number of skeletons in the closet is the same as in China’s moment of shame, the famine. If you look at the whole period, it’s about 100 million extra deaths in India alone after the democratic capitalist period enters.

    Unquote.

    This is staggering. I fell out of my chair when I read it.

    It means that the lack of an effective welfare state in India during the Cold War years indirectly caused as many deaths as can be ascribed to Communism during the entire twentieth century.

    And that’s just India.

    When conservatives and right wing liberals try to lecture us about the horrors of Communism we should throw this fact in their teeth from now on.

    I believe something in the order of 190 000 Indian farmers have committed suicide since 1991 when the free market reforms began, driven off the land by debt and agribusiness. Is it any wonder that there is now a Maoist insurgency raging across rural India?

    How many Americans have died because the interests of the US private insurance industry and the Republican’s hatred of paying taxes has overruled the right to life of the poor? Quite a few.

    Capitalism without welfare is a killer literally. Over the course of the twentieth century it caused immeasurably more suffering that communism ever did. Many of us would argue that the communist bloc consisted of Stalinist regimes that were not communist or socialist in the true sense of the word at all. But we don’t even need to get into that. We can simply say that one lesson of the twentieth century is that socialism always needs to be based upon democracy and the rule of law but another vital lesson is that market fundamentalism is the greatest threat to the world. That was true in the last century and it’s true now.

    Another example would be to look at global warming denial by the fossil fuel industry and it’s ideological hirelings in the media. The consequences are potentially catastrophic even in purely financial terms because of hits to the insurance industry by extreme weather events

  305. Manzil on said:

    jack ford:
    I don’t think the “capitulation” of Swedish social democracy is in the same category as the total collapse of the Soviet Union. Social democracy in Sweden isn’t dead. Workers rights and welfare rights in Sweden are still a socialist paradise compared with what the working class has in either Russia or Britain.

    And is completely inapplicable, in Russia, Britain etc.

    There are specific reasons why the Swedish model was possible – and even then, it was ruled by the same economic laws as the rest of the capitalist world, and has since suffered from systematic counter-reforms due to global events. Just as the post-war settlement in Britain was the product of a particular conjuncture which we cannot reproduce through force of will. These examples are no panacea.

    You are approaching this from a perspective which is completely abstracted from the actual nature of contemporary capitalism. The Scandinavian welfare states may be useful tools for left-wing propaganda, but insofar as political practice is concerned, I don’t see the relevance.

    Rather than bowing to whichever social forces appear to dominate the world at present, we should focus on which are ascendant. Immanent within the global political economy is the potential for a democratic, co-operative economic model utterly distinct from ‘capitalism with a human face’. Capitalism is pregnant with all the technical foundations for socialism and the social forces which can realise it.

    A political model divorced from the material conditions, predicated on an idealised ‘good society’ or an ahistorical comparative analysis, is a useful tool for creating socialists, but not socialism.

  306. Barry Kade: The SWP is / was not a cult. It may exhibits cult-like behavior as part of its dynamic – but its members practice means being rooted in the world – in unions, campaigns, where some sort of contact with reality and other views is required. They live in society, amidst friends and family relationships, not on communes or compounds.

    Omar: Their members are rooted in the real world and yet critical faculties,for most of the membership at least, seem to have gone astray during these incidents.

    Good point Barry.

    I think part of the problem of discussing cult like behaviour is that the language is so value laden. That is why profesionals, sociologists, social-anthropologits, psychologists and psychiatrists prefer top refer to New Religious Movements (NRM) with the confusing caveat that some NRMs are not religions!

    Nor should we accept any necessary permanence or validity of the current organisation or ideology of mainstream society, just because it is mainstream.

    The relationships between ideology, ethos and belief is complex. Some cults become the mainstream ideology of society, and recast social ethos in so doing. some organised beleif systems act as mainstream religion in one part of the world, but act as a sect in other parts of the world (the difference in practice of the Church of the Latter Day Saints in UTah, compared to the practice of the same organisation in the Baptist doiminated Southern USA is interesting)

    Some taxonomy may help, where a mainstream religion or political movement to an extent posseses the virtue of verdicality between the belief groups ethos (their habitual character and behaviour), and their social cosmos ( the society they live in).

    The language of sects and cults developed in mediaeval religious discource, and has been adopted by ethnographers and sociologists, but it unnecessarily perjorative.

    A sect may be regarded as a variant of the mainstream politcs or religion; and sect members may live in both the mainstream cosmos, and participate in the etjhos of their group, depsite the fact that there is tension; and lack of verdicality. For example, someone who beleived themselves to be a Bolshevik revolutionary in twenty-first century Britain, could function effectively in most situations, but their political practice is orthogonal to the social and political institutions of our society, which will limit their political effectiveness outside of short term radical campaigns; and there will be a tension between their big ambitions and the groups limite acheivements.

    A cult seeks to resolve this lack of verdicality by limiting their interaction with mainstream society. This can be dramatic, such as the migration of the Pilgrim fathers to the Americas. Or it can be undramatic, where cult members simply immerse themselves more and more in the routine and ritual of their religious or political observance.

    Now if you look at the very interesting testimony above from Alan Gibbons, and Dave Harker, (and my experience was very similar), there are a number of very well grounded SWP members, who combine the basic politics of the organisation with a fairly active engagement in mainstream trade union and outwards looking campaigning activity. There is also, however, a bureaucratic core to the SWP, of the CC and full time organisers, and there is also a large layer of lay members of the SWP whose politics activity is all “party building” – paper sales, meetings, the contrived hot-house debates about theory, packing meetings of front organisations, etc.

    There is quite a complex social interaction of an immanent cult within a sect; and it is the tendency towards cultishness from the bureaucracy that creates the bullying and culture,and the haughty arrogance.

    Now prior to the Internet, SWP branches were not in contact with one another, and lots of dedicated SWP members (let us put them in the sect catagory) suspected that something was wrong, but beleived that the problems were local to them, and overall the rest of the party was healthy. Particularly in small towns, SWP branches had limited contact with the bureaucracy, and usually liked it that way; and were more able to develop as a relatively heathy affinity group within the wider labour movement. This was also true of some of the industrial fractions.

    What is more, the SWP’s strong point historicaly was presenting itself as a dissident focus to an actually existing labour movement. In the absence of a strong trade union movement, a CP, and Labour left, the SWP found itself forced into the responsibility of leadership in Stop the War, the Socialist Alliance and then Respect.

    This is the point where the sect/cult dynamic became poisonous; where the cultists like Chris Harman, Martin Smith, and Alex Callinicos resisted the moves that could have allowed the SWP to potentially break out of the sect ghetto, and enter more mainstream politics. (Of course this is a vast simplification, and some of those like Rees who did embrace the change had some rather unfortunate personality traits that came from the cultish milieu of the SWP centre)

    That is why I do think that the bureaucratic core of the SWP acys as a cult, despite the fact that there are many good things about the SWP, and it has many hundreds of good active members, who themselves are semi0detached and weary of the buraeucracy.

  307. Omar: Isn’t Andy suggesting that it is precisely because of these authoritarian structures that the powerful, anti-sexist culture has been overwhelmed ,in this and other instances, within the SWP?

    Quite so.

  308. jack ford: The worst example of the killing, the biggest component of this alleged 100 million is the Chinese famine around 1958 to 1960. Maybe thirty million died in the famine

    I strongly recommend “Demystifying the Chinese Economy” by Justin Yifu Lin to read a very persuasive account of how the famine was precipiated by good intentioned but flawed policies.

  309. tigger: But on 7 December SU posted “Gotcha – debate about sexism emerges in the SWP” which included a lot of tittle tattle. This was then followed up by the dreadful AWL article, that drove even your usual SU supporterr cde Ovenden to write in rebuke.

    Well I think that events have shown that it wasn’t tittle tattle, though at the time I knew that chickens were coming home to roost about sexis, I didn’t know how serious it was.

    With regard to the AWL unlike organisations lik ethe SWP and SP, the AWL actually are cultists whose participation in the broader labour movement is disruptive, mendacious and malignant. I would like to see AWL members democraticaly voted out of every position they hold in the trade unions, and my article hopefully might contribute to that. I have since writing that article had the opportunity to read a number of internal AWL documents, that confirm the underhand and cultist way the orient to infiltrate certain unions.

  310. tigger: I can say that it took me a long time to get the SWP out of my system. I am not a pop psychologist but I sometimes get the feeling cde Newman is still going through that process.

    Not really. when I refused orders as a Socialist Alliance national exec member from JOhn Rees, i was told the SWP would destroy me politically, and drive me out the movement.

    Since then the SWP have twice threatened me with libel for publishing true stories that merely reflect politcal disagreement with them.

    I have also been subject to all sorts of lies and abuse from SWP members on this blog, and a whispering campaign against me in the real world, saying that I am “obsessed”, etc.

    The cultish way the SWP have tried to damage my reputation over the last 10 years is the reason I am not particularly upset to see them in crisis; I am not too exercised by the time I was in the SWP, which broadly I enjoyed, and learned a lot from.

  311. tigger: The main point I was making is that some comrades have questioned the comments from Leninblog that we must not lose the best traditions of the SWP and I agree.

    I agree too. The SWP did a fantastic job in launching the Stop the War campaign in particular, and the way they maintained it so long as a broad coalition that was both anti-imperialist but also engaged with the political mainstream is a lasting credit to them.

  312. stockwellpete on said:

    andy newman: I agree too. The SWP did a fantastic job in launching the Stop the War campaign in particular, and the way they maintained it so long as a broad coalition that was both anti-imperialist but also engaged with the political mainstream is a lasting credit to them.

    Hmm . . . I still wonder where we might be now if the STWC had been launched through the initiative of the Socialist Alliance.

  313. andy newman,

    As I said on the AWL thread today, I read the same article in the late 80s, which was written by right wing Labour Students at the time of the expulsion of a number of SO members from the LP.

    It’s a shocking piece of work and doesn’t reflect in the slightest my dozen or so years in the AWL/SO, several of which was spent working in the SO office.

  314. John: Hopefully when the history of this episode is written due credit is accorded to Andy Newman for being the first to break the story.

    </

    But perhaps not for coining "Comrade Delta"!

  315. andy newman,

    I think my level of support for the IS tradition may go somewhat deeper than yours though clearly I recognise the contribution on the STWC.

    I will come back to it tomorrow but the Socialist Review/IS kept alive the emphasis on the working class as the agent for change in our society.

  316. I suspect one, almost immediate, fallout of the “SWP crisis” – regardless of whether there’s a leadership change or not – will be to stop the ridiculous practice of handing out membership cards to all and sundry and introducing some kind of candidate membership, as well as clearing out the membership lists of drop-outs or those who contribute money but little else (of course, the headline membership will remain 10,000).

    The largely apolitical nature of a lot of the stuff being written my members about the “crisis” on the net, many of which can’t surely have been members for very long / or are by their own admission inactive and play no role in ‘their’ organisation but still pay subs makes this likely – and quite possibly healthy for SWP internal democracy.

    It’s all well and good the leadership using (for decades) “raw youth” against the “old guard”, but when they get too gobby for their own good – HELLO INTERNET AND MODERN COMMUNICATION METHODS – and back up that gob with actions, I suspect they will want to put a stop to it sharpish.

  317. andy newman: I have also been subject to all sorts of lies and abuse from SWP members on this blog, and a whispering campaign against me in the real world, saying that I am “obsessed”, etc.

    Snap, and from you and many others here, too. Odd that…

  318. tigger: the Socialist Review/IS kept alive the emphasis on the working class as the agent for change in our society.

    But that is simply an article of faith, based upon treating Marx’s writings as holy scripture, and has in practice led to the SW being disruptive and sectarian in not giving solidarity to actully existing socialist governments, and post-colonial governments.

  319. daggi: stoping the ridiculous practice of handing out membership cards to all and sundry and introducing some kind of candidate membership

    I don’t think that people joining the SWP is going to be an issue bothering them for a while

  320. Andy Newman: But that is simply an article of faith, based upon treating Marx’s writings as holy scripture….

    I beg to differ. It is in fact based on an analysis of the economic and politcal power of the working class. You might disagree with this analysis — that is, of course, up to you — but to pretend it is based on a scriptural approach to Marx is as misguided as would be the claim that post-Newtonian physics is based on a scriptural reading of ‘Principia’.

  321. Andy, your comment #342 on cult, sect, and the varying kinds of SWP membership participation clarifies a lot and rings very true indeed. It helps to explain why people have such genuinely different experiences of the SWP, even when they have been members. It might worth expanding into a post, even a short one.

  322. Rosa Lichtenstein: It is in fact based on an analysis of the economic and politcal power of the working class.

    It is largely based upon uncritical acceptance of Marx’s “analysis of the economic and politcal power of the working class ” as it stood in Europe 150 years ago.

    It signally fails to account for developments since then, such as the consolidation of the nation state as the primary form of political entity, and the concomitant rise of national consciousness as the dominant form of collective self identity; it doesn’t account for globalisation of production , it doesn’t account for multi-national companies, it doesn’t account for the decline in a common culture of working class life, the rise of the new middle classes and the social stratification, and the concomitant decline in class consciousness.

    It is an article of faith

  323. Andy Newman,

    “..such as the consolidation of the nation state as the primary form of political entity, and the concomitant rise of national consciousness as the dominant form of collective self identity;”

    “it doesn’t account for globalisation of production , it doesn’t account for multi-national companies,”

    Hm, does it not seem to be an ‘article of faith’ that the list of factors Andy Newman gives as reasons for writing off the working class as a revolutoinary force are of one piece.

    In reality, in material terms, the two sets of factors I cite above on his list are in flagrant contradiction to each other.

    They are examples of the contradictions of capitalism par excellence. Capital is rooted in the nation-state, that is a fact. But objectively, the productive forces it creates render the nation-state an anachronism. But yet again, it is incapable of abolishing the same nation-state and genuinely internationalising politics to match the fact that productive forces have outgrown the nation-state massively. This contradiction led to two world wars already; the same basic contradiction is currently convulsing the European Union; ultimately if capitalism is not destroyed it is highly likely to lead to another world war at some future point.

  324. tigger on said:

    andy newman,

    Sorry but both that specific article and the one on the AWL were unpleasant and in the case of the AWL were little more than the pop psychology and not engaged with the politics of the AWL. i want to be clear I have seen some of the comments that e.g. Jim Denham uses in debate and they are pretty foul but a serious socialist response should be above that and address their politics.

    On the SWP Gotcha. First we all know what the phrase refers to and it sounds a lot like revenge. Furhter and I quote from the article
    “Other comrades have spoken of the “fuck circuit” surrounding Central Committee members, who have favoured their sexual partners for promotion within the SWP, and who have marginalised women who refuse their advances. It is not clear to me whether these behaviours have been transferred over to the new Counterfire organisation.”

    Honest reporting cmon ????

    PS: you may or may not know that the person who coined the phrase Gotcha was Wendy Henry who was in the Manchester branch of the International Socialists (forerunner of the SWP) at the same time as I was
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendy_Henry
    tittle tattle or fair comment?

    BTW you dont need to put me on moderation I said I would post postiviely but it was Cde Newman who decided to up the anti

  325. tigger – sorry, your comment got squashed up in moderation. Jim Denham is considered so poisonous across the internet, that WordPress’s automatic spam filters now tend to mark any comment with his name in it as spam. It was a genuine mistake that I didn’t spot it – pretty much all sudden moderation happens automatically, waiting for us to check it. Some times – actually, very rarely – we put people into automatic moderation for all their posts for a while, but that hasn’t haoppened with you. I really appreciated your reply to my post, I just haven’t had time to reply.

    I’ve adjusted the time on the comment so it’s now more recent and can be read by people who might otherwise miss it.

  326. Andy Newman: It is largely based upon uncritical acceptance of Marx’s “analysis of the economic and politcal power of the working class ” as it stood in Europe 150 years ago.
    It signally fails to account for developments since then, such as the consolidation of the nation state as the primary form of political entity, and the concomitant rise of national consciousness as the dominant form of collective self identity; it doesn’t account for globalisation of production , it doesn’t account for multi-national companies, it doesn’t account for the decline in a common culture of working class life, the rise of the new middle classes and the social stratification, and the concomitant decline in class consciousness.
    It is an article of faith

    Not so, all of above have been factored into Marxist accounts of the centrality of the working class. You might not like, or agree with, the development of Marxist theory in this regard over the last 100 years or so — again that is up to you — but that is a separate issue.

    It now seems that your constant refrain ‘article of faiht’ is itself more like an article of faith, since it isn’t based on what has actually developed in Marxist theory.

  327. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Stephen: The people who opened up the left to attack were the SWP with their delusional belief that commitment to scientific socialism bestowed capability in forensic science.

    Cde Newman has exposed a scandal. The SWP shot themselves in the foot, and quite possiblythe head…lets not think there is any merit whatsoever in shooting the messenger.

    When I first became involved in the left in the 1980s, ie. not long after the miners’ strike, it was pretty much taken for granted that anyone taking a clandestine recording of a left meeting, esp. a sensitive one, was likely to be working for the state in some capacity. Whereas to do that nowadays is apparently to be the noblest of “whistleblowers”, and, heaven forbid, there cannot be the slightest suspicion that this is typical state asset behaviour.

    I can’t help but see this as yet another sign of the left’s decay.

    As to “shooting the messenger” – the “messenger” did not have to publish the transcript, and did not have to talk to the bourgeois press, who of course put their own “sharia law” spin on it and are now looking to see who else can be taken out (Galloway, perhaps?)

  328. Mark Victorystooge: and are now looking to see who else can be taken out (Galloway, perhaps?)

    Let’s not forget that the SWP, the organisation you stoutly defend, have previously joined in attempts to ‘take out’ Galloway themselves.

  329. Mark Victorystooge
    ,

    “When I first became involved in the left in the 1980s, ie. not long after the miners’ strike, it was pretty much taken for granted that anyone taking a clandestine recording of a left meeting, esp. a sensitive one, was likely to be working for the state in some capacity.”

    Sure, they would have to have had access to minaturised tape-recorders and the like that only the state could provide. Now anyone who has a smartphone with a voice recorder can do it.

    Then again, it was not feasible then to be able to whip out a phone camera and film the cops killing people, as happened with Ian Tomlinson. If Blair Peach’s murder had been filmed that way the cops would have also been in deep shit, but it was not remotely feasible then.

    Times change, technology changes, possibilities change. Both the state and non-state forces face new problems in terms of what they can get away with.

  330. lone nut on said:

    “heaven forbid, there cannot be the slightest suspicion that this is typical state asset behaviour”.
    Wasn’t it your previous line that the SWP had become so cravenly pro-imperialist that it presented no danger whatsoever to the state (your explanation of this, like your explanation for everything, was state infiltration). Why would the state now be interested in bringing about the downfall of a leadership that it had probably installed and which was rendering it such devoted service?

  331. Andy Newman: Though of course liberal democracy in Britain was likewise founded upon the atrocity of colonialism, slavery and imperialism.

    Whilst China’s model of communism hasn’t stopped it from supporting French imperialism in Africa.

  332. Uncle Albert on said:

    lone nut: Why would the state now be interested in bringing about the downfall of a leadership that it had probably installed and which was rendering it such devoted service?

    A problem remains though – how will the SWP leadership maintain their destructive role without a compliant membership? Probably they’ll cut and run, after divvying-out the assets between themselves.

  333. stockwellpete on said:

    stockwellpete:

    For me though, the main reason for the bureaucratic degeneration of the SWP has to be the period of defeat that the working class has gone through since the late 1970s. Of course, the increasingly narrow version of party democracy championed by the Cliff-ites since that time has clearly acclerated this degeneration, but I do feel that even if the SWP had had the most pristine and wonderful version of democratic centralism in 1979 then they would still be very much like the wretched organisation that we have to deal with today.

    The detail that has really stood out for me in all this though is the way in which it has been reported that some leading SWP members have been using the word “feminist” as a term of insult in the current fiasco. Those of us who were supporters of Women’s Voice way back in the day will still remember how that feels!

    The truth is, if we do want to build an organisation based on a “new” type of socialist politics in the coming period, then it does need to be a socialism with the feminism put back into it – and right at the centre too. The slogan – “the personal is political” needs to be rehabilitated, particularly in the broader sense of how all of us on the left relate to, and treat one another. That is an important part of the struggle for socialism as far as I am concerned.

    Just to develop my own point a bit more, I was looking at the contributions to the guest posts over at “the Tomb” and a comrade called “Graham Cee” posted some stuff about feminism and women’s liberation (from the States). It included this link to a talk by Sharon Smith last year which really kicks the SWP into touch on some of these questions. It runs for about half an hour and is well worth listening to . . .

    http://wearemany.org/a/2012/06/marxism-and-womens-liberation

  334. Stephen on said:

    Mark Victorystooge: I can’t help but see this as yet another sign of the left’s decay

    …so it is EXPOSING the cover up of a rape allegation that is a sign of decay, rather than the cover up of a rape allegation.

    I suspect most people outside of the SWP hall of mirrors would disagree.

  335. By the way Andy, it strikes me as rather odd that you are prepared to describe a commitment to the self-emancipation of the working class as an ‘article of faith’, partly because it is an out-dated 19th century idea, when you are quite happy to accept and defend a theory that goes back even further in the mists of time, to Ancient Hermeticism, Neo-Platonism and German Mysticism — namely dialectical materialism/’materialist dialectics’.

    http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/en/magee.htm

    If anything is an ‘article of faith’, *that is* — upside down or ‘the right way up’.

    What is more, you and several others here become very emotional and abusive when it is attacked by yours truly.

    Just like the genuine god-botherers, in fact.

    Odd that…

  336. tigger: a serious socialist response should be above that and address their politics.

    I was not interested in debating the AWL’s policy, I was interested in fucking them over.

    tigger: On the SWP Gotcha. First we all know what the phrase refers to and it sounds a lot like revenge.

    You bet. Politics is a contact sport,and the SWP tried to destroy my political reputation in the past; and frankly I’m not easily intimidated and I am not someone they should have messed with.

    :tigger: “Other comrades have spoken of the “fuck circuit” surrounding Central Committee members, who have favoured their sexual partners for promotion within the SWP, and who have marginalised women who refuse their advances. It is not clear to me whether these behaviours have been transferred over to the new Counterfire organisation.”
    Honest reporting cmon ????

    This is a serious political problem, not tittle tattle.
    see http://www.socialistunity.com/sexism-in-the-swp-and-respect/#comment-25836

    I am astonished that Harman can write:
    Cond Coun
    “One very disturbing feature of this meeting was the attitude of Galloway’s supporters towards women members of Respect. …The point, however, is that the left have always sought to resist such behaviour. …”
    This is simply untrue.
    I spoke to a number of the CC and senior members about the sexism and discrimination I’d experienced for several years in “The Party”, and wrote to several, but none of them would take it further. One senior member laughed when I said I wanted to take it to the Control Commission and he, not unsympathetically, explained to me the practical purpose of that body. That is: to instill discipline for the lower orders, not to see justice done.
    I did ask Rees more than once what I’d done to deserve the dehumanising treatment they were meting out. Had I done anything personally or politically to offend anyone? All he could blurt was that my behaviour on all counts was “exemplary”.
    Was it because I wasn’t on the “fuck circuit”? Senior members, including one senior woman of long standing who was close to Cliff, seemed to think this was a distinct possibility. They know it happens but they won’t deal with it.
    You come into the movement with the aim of advancing it. You end up submerged in the shit of strangers.

    Let us look at the quite good description of phenomenon from Second Council House of Virgo
    http://www.2ndcouncilhouse.co.uk/blog/2013/01/06/misogynists-and-the-left/

    Where men hold power within an organisation, power can be conferred to women through engaging in sexual relationships with them. When a prominent activist starts a relationship with a lesser known female activist, responsibilities and political favours can flow as a consequence. This leads to a consolidation of power, whereby indirect control is exercised over areas of work through the relationship, situating her activism within his own power base. This can be used as a lever to continue a relationship that woman wishes to leave. The end of the relationship mean the end of the female activist’s prominence as their former lover seeks to marginalise them within the organisation, while resentment at the perceived or real favours which have been granted lead people to overlook their political work.
    Within such an environment, the lovers of senior male members become promoted as the womens representatives of the organisation. Any suggestion of male domination is countered by pointing to such female activists. Yet the access that senior male party member have to their time through their relationship can be utilised to ensure that they do not challenge that male domination. Personal and political loyalties become entwined, and with both it is always the men who hold the upper hand.

    And in Wilson and Cresswell “New Religious Movements, Challenge and Response” Routledge 1999, Dr Elizabeth Puttick (who wrote Women in New Religions) the feminist author discusses the phenomenon where women can be encouraged to see power and prestige flowing from relationships from high status males within self-referential communities.

  337. ‘The second thing to understand is that anti-SWP sectarianism is a big problem in England.
    The dynamic is that a lot of people have a bad experience, and then it eats them up, and “exposing the SWP” becomes central to their politics This means that some of the opposition to the SWP was inward looking and destructive’

    (Andy Newman 2005)

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GreenLeft_discussion/message/14310

    ‘“I believe that the SWP think they’re outside the law,” he said. “It’s quite clear reading their account of what’s going on that they sort of see themselves as an alternative group in society that is not part of mainstream society. They think someone couldn’t or shouldn’t go to the police because it would damage the party.” Mr Newman likened the SWP’s disciplinary hearing to an extrajudicial “sharia” system’

    (Andy Newman from the Independant, 2013)

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/ranks-of-the-socialist-workers-party-are-split-over-handling-of-rape-allegation-8448429.html

  338. Pingback: After the fire… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution

  339. Pingback: SWP: EXPLAINING THE PARADOX | Socialist Unity

  340. stuart: andy newman: i was told the SWP would destroy me politically.

    You’ve done that all by yourself.

    I think the ‘shoot the messenger’ narrative is wearing a little thin. I disagree with Andy Newman on just about everything, but I believe he was right to publish the transcript and bring it into the public sphere.

    Anyway, just uploaded a blog post myself which attempts to grapple with some of the issues and relate it to my own time in the SWP. Specifically, to try and answer this question – “One of the most curious questions to arise from recent events in the SWP is this: How could a group of intelligent, experienced political organisers decide that they were competent to investigate and try a case of rape within their own party, using a panel of judges drawn from the ranks of the accused comrade’s close friends and colleagues?”

    You can find the blog post here -

    http://grumpyoldtrot.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/hubris/

  341. stuart: “exposing the SWP” becomes central to their politics

    Well clearly “exposing the SWP” is not central to my politics, as the broad left and Labour Party orientation of this blog shows, but I don’t mind giving you a good kicking while you are on the ground

  342. Jay Blackwood: I think the ‘shoot the messenger’ narrative is wearing a little thin. I disagree with Andy Newman on just about everything, but I believe he was right to publish the transcript and bring it into the public sphere.

    But the party were debating the issue and dissident voices were being heard. As you know the vote for the CC position was far from comfortable. Publishing the transcript led not unsurprisingly to the involvement with the bourgeois press, misleading articles, left bashing and racist smears.

  343. Andy Newman: I don’t think that people joining the SWP is going to be an issue bothering them for a while

    And who say’s he can’t do humour? Hahahaha.

  344. Manzil on said:

    Look not to be an arse, but can anyone explain to me what Rosa Lichtenstein is going on about?

  345. pmg: I read the same article in the late 80s, which was written by right wing Labour Students

    The NOLS articles were somewhat more amusing and less embittered. I remember them well. In fact, they were a fair introduction (in caricature form) of the politics of Socialist Organiser, written by people who were running their own secretive political sect (more secretive than most trot groupings, apart from Soc. Act. obviously) and bent on achieving positions of relative ‘power’ within the student movement and Labour Party..

  346. Steven Banks on said:

    If this scenario had taken place with the structures of the EDL or BNP how would the SWP have reacted? I don’t think i need to elaborate further on that point. At the very least the SWP gives the impression of being institutionally sexist, whether consciously or subconsciously.

  347. stuart: Publishing the transcript led not unsurprisingly to the involvement with the bourgeois press, misleading articles, left bashing and racist smears.

    true, you are thoroughy fucked over now. job done.

  348. stuart: But the party were debating the issue and dissident voices were being heard. As you know the vote for the CC position was far from comfortable. Publishing the transcript led not unsurprisingly to the involvement with the bourgeois press, misleading articles, left bashing and racist smears.

    So, Stuart, you don’t think the party should be subject to the same public scrutiny as any other organisation when there is a question of a crime being committed by one member against another ?

  349. Jellytot on said:

    @374A problem remains though – how will the SWP leadership maintain their destructive role without a compliant membership?

    Expel the non-compliant ones?

    @379I was not interested in debating the AWL’s policy, I was interested in fucking them over.

    :-)

    @379frankly I’m not easily intimidated and I am not someone they should have messed with.

    I think that’s pretty clear to all and sundry Andy!

  350. cliff foot,

    There is something sick and demeaning about people that have spent four years destroying somebody with an entirely fake quasi judicial process and innuendo coming on here and bleating ‘but what about the alleged victim?’

  351. Stephen on said:

    stuart: Publishing the transcript led not unsurprisingly to the involvement with the bourgeois press, misleading articles, left bashing and racist smears.

    ..or to put it another way .
    The cover up failed.

    A bad result for the sort of people who think that a bad headline for the SWP in the Indy or the Daily Wail (like there would ever be any other sort) is more important than trying to end a culture and practice that would cover up an allegation of rape? Certainly. But no more than they deserve.

  352. Manzil on said:

    stuart: But the party were debating the issue and dissident voices were being heard. As you know the vote for the CC position was far from comfortable. Publishing the transcript led not unsurprisingly to the involvement with the bourgeois press, misleading articles, left bashing and racist smears.

    Quite honestly I don’t see why it should be anyone’s principle concern whether the SWP were ‘debating the issue’ and allowing ‘dissident voices’.

    I object to the SWP’s presumption, seemingly shared by many oppositionists(!), that it is an appropriate forum to deal with this issue. I object to the fact it believes that, having gone ahead with the disputes committee ‘investigation’ and its acceptance by conference, that everyone should just move on.

    A party that behaves like this is poison as far as the development of the left is concerned.

    External pressure has been crucial to bringing this crisis to a head and not allowing it to fester as ‘just one of those things’. Dissemination of the transcript and other material was therefore fully justified. If the SWP is to be saved for socialist politics, then we should ensure what happens next is entirely open and subject to public view. Sunlight disinfects etc. If it can’t handle that, what use is it?

    And, if the party does go on ‘as usual’ rather than fundamentally transforming its culture and practice, widespread distribution of this information will ensure that many people who would otherwise be drawn into its orbit are not made vulnerable by associating with a party that behaves like this.

  353. cliff foot: is it true that you refused to take the transcript down, even after being asked to by W?

    I repeat what I said before. It is appallingly unethical behaviour of you to raise this

    Andy Newman: You are referring to the possibility that the complainant woman, W, might have contacted me to ask for the transcript to be taken down.

    Had that happened then I might be bound by ethics and requests for confidentiality not to reveal the content of any such discussion; and not to reveal that it had taken place.
    So people must conclude that either you are scandalously making up something to discredit me;
    Or that you are scandalously referring to a privite correspondence, abusing privilaged infomration that you might have, that I cannot respond to.

    In my view – and I have consulted a number of feminist women for advice – it was correct to publish the transcript in the public interest.

    Clearly the supporters of the complainant woman, W, within the SWP (and I will not be drawn into speculation of whether I know what W’s own position is or not) beleive that the rape allegations should properly have been dealt with within the SWP.

    we could even speculate that a vulnerable woman who had been raped might be surrounded by some false friends, who might advise her with half an eye to the interests of the SWP. Let us not forget that the culture of the SWP regardig the police, is to “drive the police off our streets and estates”. We could even speculate that the editorial position of Socialist Worker, regarding its attitude to the police, is not unconnected to the closeness between the Socialist Worker editor, and the accused Comrade Delta.

    They are wrong, and on public policy grounds, those who have been informed of, or who suspect, a serious crime like rape, have an obligation to involve the police.

  354. tigger on said:

    Andy Newman,

    I want to try to stay on topic here but really the posts, the way they are written and the language used, say more about you than the subjects.

  355. The current self inflicted crisis facing the SWP has been along time coming and hopefully others will contribute to the process of exposing how this car crash occurred via recounting their own lived experience of life as a member of the SWP [or any of the other 'british' leftie 'sectarian' groups]…
    This is perhaps a sort of premature ‘autopsy’ but to get to the underlying cause of the problem we need an understanding of anatomy.
    The SWP may not be dead yet but in the process of cutting it open to see for ourselves may well hasten its demise.
    As Mark Perryman said
    “We need a practice that gets past the petty-squabbles, the name-calling, the arcane historic point-scoring. We need a space where instead of trying in the first instance to build a party we simply have a conversation about how we arrived in this place, the twists and turns on the way, the lessons learned, the better Left most of us want to be part of.”
    Good luck to all comrades taking part in the discussions… Lets hope that 2013 sees a genuine and healthy regroupment and we can all begin again the march towards a Rendezvous of Victory… as the tombstone on CLR James in Trinidad states “”Times would pass, old empires would fall and new ones take their place, the relations of countries and the relations of classes had to change, before I discovered that it is not the quality of goods and utility which matters, but movement; not where you are or what you have, but where you have come from, where you are going, and the rate at which you are getting there.”

  356. Publishing the transcript led not unsurprisingly to the involvement with the bourgeois press, misleading articles, left bashing and racist smears.

    Stuart, and Cliff Foot: I’m not having this. I’ve said this before, none of you have any right to discuss things in those terms unless you can give us your word that you fought hard against the SWP CC’s leaking of info into the media, Lindsey German’s disgusting Islamophobic interview for Pink News, John Rees’s contact with Andrew Gilligan about Abjol Miah, Elaine Graham-Leigh’s letter to the Electoral Commission demanding that they investigate George Galloway’s finances, and a myriad other things that were done by the SWP in 2007 and 2008.

    You can’t discover morality and politics just because it suits you. You all sat back and allowed the bourgeois press to use Islamophobia when it came to Galloway and Respect in 2007, didn’t you. You did nothing. You had numerous party councils where maybe 2 people voted against the CC’s lines. You all did nothing. Richard Seymour published the “witch hunt petition” on his site. Richard Seymour published a fake “hate email”, with the commentary saying something like “someone obviously wants to shut him up”. You specifically allowed your party to create an atmosphere where “extremist Muslims” were blamed for violent acts (that never took place), and your members went round whipping up both Islamophobia and smears about Galloway being a homophobe.

    You didn’t do what Andy did here. What you did was quantitively and qualititively worse. Your party actively sought out Islamophobic journalists and websites in order to attack us. Your party went to the BBC to offer the story of Galloway and Respect. Your members posted on here threatening to reveal personal sexual information about George Galloway.

    You have no right to discuss things in these terms, ever. You have no credibility. You have no honesty.

    Publishing the transcript was a difficult decision. But what you guys tolerated, refused to act on, and even encouraged, in 2007 and 2008 was way, way worse: You tried to actually cause a witch-hunt, you tried to destroy people, deliberately and callously.

    And too many of us remember everything you did and said. Too many of us remember the “unity of purpose”, the lack of any dissent in the party. Too many of us witnessed the behaviour of people who are suddenly democrats and socialists in 2013.

    One more time: You don’t even have the right to enter the debate on the posting of the transcript, unless you can show that you took one single step to stop the CC from all the things it did in 2007 and 2008. The interview that Lindsey gave to Pink News was designed to bring out Islamophobia in gay people. Specifically designed for that. What did you do about it?

    If you did nothing, then don’t even post about the transcript.

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  358. Rather than me keep on stamping down on hypocrites, which isn’t really conducive to good debate, from now on I’m just going to delete comments by stuart and cliff foot that attempt to tell us that we’re bad people (that’s what our mums are for). Cos every single time you say that we did something wrong, I’m going to remind everyone of where all of this really started and just how much worse you tolerated and encouraged in 2007.

    And as much fun as that sounds, it’s not what I want from this site. But I’m not ever gonna let those people pretend to have the high ground here. What’s happening in the SWP right now is the direct result of the failure to hold the CC to account in 2007 and 2008. It’s the failure to counteract the lies and sectarianism.

    But, even as real and current as it is, it’s also boring and repetitive.

    So, I think I’m gonna just go ahead and delete any more nonsense. The debates on here have been so helpful for a lot of people, and I wanna keep it that way.

  359. skiver on said:

    for some reason a tranny theme is emerging from the internet left! One of the guest posts on LT seemed to be saying that leaving the T off LGBT was one of the indicators of SWP corrosion, then suddenly it all kicks off with Burchill / Moore / Penny! Is it like, one of those Lacanian things?

  360. stuart on said:

    Tony Collins: What’s happening in the SWP right now is the direct result of the failure to hold the CC to account in 2007 and 2008.

    Doesn’t the holding to account not explain the origins of Counterfire?

  361. tigger: I want to try to stay on topic here but really the posts, the way they are written and the language used, say more about you than the subjects.

    Oh boo hoo, don’t you love me anymore?

    That is a real shame because I only started this blog to make new friends.

  362. jack ford on said:

    stuart,

    Hi Stuart

    I’m sorry for some of the unkind things I said implying that the entire SWP is a cult. Having investigated it’s clear that the CC is rotten to the core but most of the membership are hardworking decent activists.

    For what it’s worth my view is that Richard and the reformers will find that a split is unavoidable and we can only hope that in the fullness of time the trustees will realise that SWP Renewal is the one to support.

    The real cultists on the CC deserve to all end up on the dole for this and possibly face charges of conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice.

    I think the SWP brand is tarnished beyond repair and you guys are going to need a new name.

    Can I suggest Renewal sets up an internet forum which enables members to send DMs to each other as with Twitter. That would enable members to communicate with each other horizontally and swap emails which would make it much harder for a corrupt bureaucracy to con the members about what’s really happening.

    Link to the forum from the Tomb would do the job.

    Good luck

    Jack Ford

  363. stuart on said:

    Stephen: A bad result for the sort of people who think that a bad headline for the SWP in the Indy or the Daily Wail (like there would ever be any other sort) is more important than trying to end a culture and practice that would cover up an allegation of rape?

    There was no attempt to cover up whatsover, but inevitably the press report will encourage readers to think just that.

  364. stuart on said:

    Omar: So, Stuart, you don’t think the party should be subject to the same public scrutiny as any other organisation when there is a question of a crime being committed by one member against another ?

    The complainant wasn’t asking for public scrutiny.

  365. Doesn’t the holding to account not explain the origins of Counterfire?

    I don’t think so – it was a false accounting, a scapegoating. As shit as John Rees was, he wasn’t responsible for everything. The dumping of Rees and German was an attempt not to deal with the real issue. But certainly it was used to show people that the party had “moved on”. One of our Muslim commenters on here has told the story of when the party had a stall outside a mosque and they tried to recruit him, and he said he would never join cos of what the SWP had done to Respect; the SWP member said “but John and Lindsey have left”.

    So, no I think the origins of Counterfire, whatever its strengths and weaknesses, are more about bruised egos and leadership tussles. Remember, while dumping Rees, the CC still maintained that the split in Respect was the right thing to do.

  366. stuart: There was no attempt to cover up whatsover, but inevitably the press report will encourage readers to think just that.

    It’s now public knowledge that party members were told that the issue was closed and there was to be no discussion about it – even in conference report-backs to branches. In the real world being told to keep silent about something potentially scandalous is what us ordinary people call ‘a cover up’…

  367. stuart on said:

    jack ford: Hi Stuart, I’m sorry for some of the unkind things I said implying that the entire SWP is a cult. Having investigated it’s clear that the CC is rotten to the core

    I’m not convinced that the CC acted in anything other than good faith.

  368. stuart on said:

    Tony Collins: Remember, while dumping Rees, the CC still maintained that the split in Respect was the right thing to do.

    It is my belief that Galloway turned against the SWP.

  369. It is my belief that Galloway turned against the SWP.

    This isn’t the time to go through the whole thing, but even your choice of language is wrong, I think. Remember, this all happened because Galloway wrote a detailed letter to Respect’s National Council which sharply criticised the SWP’s methods in Respect. That’s not really “turning against” – and the thing I kept saying again and again and again at the time was: If we’re marxists, we can handle this kind of debate, this kind of tension.

    But when Kevin Ovenden called Martin Smith to discuss the fact that the letter would be sent, Martin told him “the party will go nuclear if he sends the letter”. (I was sitting with Kevin and heard the conversation).

    So it was a sharp, but detailed and mild, set of criticisms – about the way the membership was managed, about the state of campaigning, about the prioritising etc. If you were to go back and read the letter now, you’d be shocked by how much you completely agree with it.

    The party did go nuclear. It acted in an extraordinarily right-wing way, it tried to destroy the organisation. The problem here is, you can’t deny any of this stuff now. There is masses of documantary evidence of just what the party did.

    An actual revolutionary party would’ve a) never let Respect get into the state it got into, and b) dealt with the political criticisms in a political way. Instead, we had people going round claiming that Galloway was a homophobe, and you had Alex Callinicos claiming that we were engaged in an attempt to completely destroy the SWP. And, as mentioned above, we had the most disgusting attenmpts at using racism to destroy Galloway and Respect.

    Absolutely Galloway turned against the SWP after weeks of really disgusting behaviour. But at the start, all he did was raise some criticisms which pretty much everyone will agree with if they read it now.

  370. stuart on said:

    Tony Collins,

    Yes, the subject has been debated at length before, however the nature of Galloway’s politics would mean that he would at some time move against the SWP if he felt it wasn’t serving his political purposes.

  371. Jellytot on said:

    @416The complainant wasn’t asking for public scrutiny.

    I’m sure that the majority on here have enormous empathy for ‘W’ and ‘X’. However, those on here with experience cannot say that we were surprised by all of this. Predatory and explotative behaviour is a boil that needs lancing.

    Publishing the Transcript was clearly in the public interest.

    @421he did was raise some criticisms which pretty much everyone will agree with if they read it now.

    Indeed. Galloway has been completely vindicated by subsequent events, especially the more recent ones.

    @412I’m so old, I thought you meant a radio for a moment.

    Me too. I’m suddenly wistful for Solid State.

  372. Yes, the subject has been debated at length before, however the nature of Galloway’s politics would mean that he would at some time move against the SWP if he felt it wasn’t serving his political purposes.

    But that has absolutely no relevance at all to the idea of the CC being held to account for its behaviour in 2007. It’s purely hypothetical. I was talking about actual events.

  373. stuart on said:

    Jay Blackwood: It’s now public knowledge that party members were told that the issue was closed and there was to be no discussion about it – …

    It would seem the most respectful response in view of the sensitive and personal subject matter.

  374. stuart on said:

    Jellytot: I’m sure that the majority on here have enormous empathy for ‘W’ and ‘X’..

    I’ve seen little evidence of that.

  375. I’ve seen little evidence of that.

    Agreed – both you and cliff foot, posting as SWP members, seem determined to use the issue to attack other people. Can’t you at least show some sympathy for them?

  376. stuart on said:

    Tony Collins:But that has absolutely no relevance at all to the idea of the CC being held to account for its behaviour in 2007.

    The role of the CC was debated, it is just that the conclusions would differ to yours.

  377. stuart: It would seem the most respectful response in view of the sensitive and personal subject matter.

    A direct quote from Vatican aide Cardinal José Saraiva Martins asking for a media blackout on Child Abuse scandals in Ireland?

  378. stuart: It would seem the most respectful response in view of the sensitive and personal subject matter.

    A direct quote from the BBC on why they pulled the Panormama special about Jimmy Saville?

  379. The role of the CC was debated, it is just that the conclusions would differ to yours.

    It really wasn’t debated. It really, really wasn’t.

    Anyway stuart, you seem to be spending more and more time saying less and less. Why not contribute to a serious discussion about how to rebuild the left?

  380. The key continuity between the events of 2007 and the current situation is the chosen method of ‘democracy’ and political organization. The question that the Respect split involved was whether it was correct to maintain a party within a party. One organized around democratic centralism whilst the other held to a broader political pluralism.

    Democratic centralism and how it is understood and used has returned as an issue in the most ugly terms.

  381. tigger on said:

    Andy Newman,

    Thanks for the replys – readers will be able to come to their judgement now about post 183 and your commitment to trying to reflect the values proposed by MarkP.

  382. jack ford on said:

    #379 Andy

    “And in Wilson and Cresswell “New Religious Movements, Challenge and Response” Routledge 1999, Dr Elizabeth Puttick (who wrote Women in New Religions) the feminist author discusses the phenomenon where women can be encouraged to see power and prestige flowing from relationships from high status males within self-referential communities”

    Indeed. It also happens all the time in the corporate financial world the ideology of which amounts to another fundamentalist religion.

    A similar dynamic developed in the US Ayn Rand cult. Ayn Rand managed to develop a relationship with Alan Greenspan himself.

  383. Mark P on said:

    Hi Tigger

    I couldn’t work out what your ref to post 183 was, were you approving or disapproving of the broad set of values I was proposing?

    Mark P

  384. jack ford on said:

    C,

    As far as democratic centralism is concerned my view is that it would be nothing like as destructive as the SWP if you had a meaningful democracy within the sect/party and a culture where bullyboys weren’t encouraged. But even in the more sensible sects/parties like the SP and CPB it is a handicap. It will certainly cause problems once you start to enter electoral politics and form a coalition with people outside your group as happened with Respect. #

    If the sects/parties confine themselves to selling socialist ideas and concentrate on single issue campaigns it might not be so much of a problem. But I believe the organised Outside Left should consign the whole thing to history.

  385. Mark P on said:

    Ta. Do have a look at my new “I’ll cry if I want to ” post and if you can contribute your own experiences.

    Mark

  386. stuart on said:

    Andy Newman: A direct quote from the BBC on why they pulled the Panormama special about Jimmy Saville?

    Do you mean Newsnight? The programme in which abuse victims were wanting to actually put their case but were then denied? I note a very good article in this weeks SW about how the police completely screwed up over the Savile affair. When the SWP are asked to investigate they do so.

  387. Stephen on said:

    stuart: When the SWP are asked to investigate they do so.

    Yes they get the alleged rapists pals to puzzle over whether or not he might have done it. Then as a body vote to endorse the opinion of the (ahem) investigators that, they didn’t let their long years of work and friendship with the alleged rapist impact on their view at all..

    It’s an approach that any people will find ‘revolutionary’ but not in the Marxist sense of the word.

  388. cliff foot,

    God you are thick as pig shit, Either your comrade is lying or she has scandalously broken a confidence about privileged information.

    Either of those things would br equally unethical.

    You people are behaving like unprincipled scum.

  389. Jellytot on said:

    @442I note a very good article in this weeks SW about how the police completely screwed up over the Savile affair.

    and I note nothing about this affair.

    But then again they waited ages to comment on the RESPECT eruptions back in ’07 so no surprise there.

  390. Howard Kirk on said:

    Andy Newman: o no surprise ther

    I wouldn’t be surprised – someone also suggested that on Urban 75. Of course, that anyone could think it might be really does show the democratic deficit of it’s warped version of DC.

  391. Howard Kirk on said:

    Whether it’s within a new party of the left or within broader campaigns one principle that should be asserted is the right to disagree without it getting personal – play the ball not the person.

    The degrees of anonymity and/or physical distance of the internet makes that less likely, and will always be difficult. Therefore, there needs to be a concerted effort which is lacking at present.

    If debate ends continuously ends up with someone being called a ???ist of some description, or being made to feel inadequate for saying something which might be disagreed with, then it’s a turn off for a lot of people who might want to get involved. Being politically active should be a positive social experience. It’s time to move on from stroppy activist template from the small far left parties and movement-ism & try and set an example of why we are different from the shit we have to put up with in general society.

    I’m not having a go at anyone on the thread here, as it’s a product of the existing state of the left, and elsewhere.

  392. SWP (ex) Loyalist on said:

    We’ll never get to the heart of the matter unless we are clear about the paramount concern of the key leaders onthe Central Committee: money. They have lived well for many years on the resources of the Party. They control the Party’s income and assets which represent a retirement plan for a number of the most powerful leaders.

    Anyone who aspires to oust them will, to paraphrase the ghastly Charlton Heston, have to prise the SWP from their cold dead hands.

  393. Steven Banks on said:

    I cannot see racism in a quote like “socialist Sharia court”. In essence the alliterative short hand conveys the concept that a case was held outside the established legal process; it is not an incitement to a Pogrom. Amazing how the SWP can see racism where it doesnt exist and yet does not see sexism and possibly worse when it is right in front of them…

    Of course rape cases are not held in Sharia courts, but i think the motives of the writer for the Independent are a lot more honourable than those who ask someone who says she has been raped about her sexual history and had she been drinking.

    Sharia courts have been around a while whilst this shabby affair by the SWP is hopefully a one off event. If i were a Muslim i would not want Sharia courts to be associated with this sub amateur effort, but nor would i want to go within a country mile of a modern day echo of a Stalanist show trial if i were a SWP member.

  394. David Ruaune on said:

    I wonder if the kicking out of Rees delayed the crisis of the SWP? I kind of expected this crisis but about two years ago – it’s been a slow train comin’; I think a lot of SWP (inc. Molyneux) thought, at that time, that the rot had been, at least, abated, or perhaps even reversed. Just a thought.

  395. jim mclean on said:

    Steven Banks,

    “Of course rape cases are not held in Sharia Courts”

    Not so, but unfortunately the British left are turning a blind eye to the subjugation of Muslim women worldwide. Secular Law must be promoted at all times but where the Patriarchal Shariah courts are in operation we must support those brave women who are training themselves in the law to counteract even the simple fact that a “man’s word is worth double that of a woman’s”. Religious courts of all kind should be shunned by the left, Islamic or Wee Free.

    http://www.countercurrents.org/sikand070210.htm
    http://islamicmyths.wordpress.com/2008/02/11/women-against-sharia-in-britain/
    http://ikwro.org.uk/campaigns/sharia-law-in-the-uk/

  396. David Ruaune on said:

    I don’t think the crisis in the SWP has been settled – still no Party Notes – it is possible for the CC to take it back. The difference from the past is that now, everyone has facebook pages, twitter, blogs (e.g. Seymour’s) – lots of power, and the best chance they’re ever gonna get – and if the revolutionaries do not rebel, and if they leave the democratic opposition out to dry, by their silence, they deserve to have their dreams pissed upon and thrown in their faces. And I don’t mean by me, I mean by their selves.

  397. Howard Kirk on said:

    strong>David Ruaune:
    I wonder if the kicking out of Rees delayed the crisis of the SWP? I kind of expected this crisis but about two years ago – it’s been a slow train comin’

    Slow Train Coming?

    Now it’s starting to look like it might be ‘Blood on the Tracks’ and ‘SWP Revisited’.

  398. Linda Kronstadt: Those who are striking heroic poses now that someone else has blown the whistle: what did they know and when did they know it?

    Mark P: I’ll ignore the point-scorers, we just need to get beyond that, it is attractive to no one apatt from those doing the name calling.

    I had missed this. I hope Mark P was not including Linda Krondstadt in the list of “point scorers”.

    The question is very pertinent, becasue at the heart of the issue relating to the internal inquiry into alleged rape, is the question of unequal power relations, and the tendency of a self-referential group to reinforce such unequal power relations, and exclude and marginalise those who protest, especialy women and black people (remember SWP leader Moira Nolan referring to BME members as “the darkies”), and those with a history of mental distress.

    The bullying and marginalisation relies upon two things: i) the sense of entitlement of those who hold charismatic authority within the group; and ii) the silence and effective collusion of those who keep quiet about it “for the sake of the party”.

    Linda Krondstadt is therefore asking exactly the right question.

    The “celebrity” members of the SWP (and non-member supporters, you don’t need hunt too far to finds bears in that category), who are effectively allowed much more leeway than any ordinary grunt member, and they allow the SWP to project an air of liberalism, and reach parts of polite society they would otherwise be excluded from. They provide a defensive wall so that if any less powerful member of the SWP who has been bullied or abused complains, then their complaint sounds inconsistent with the picture painted by the SWP’s celebrity cheer leaders and apologists.

    It is not point scoring to ask, who knew what and when?

    Richard Seymour is now in open outraged revolt. But he seemingly knew that the SWP was carrying out the travesty of an internal rape inquiry months before I did. Why did he not blow the whistle himself rather than waiting until AFTER it was already in the public domain?

    Laury Penny writes of the Socialist Worker journalist who resigned as being “brave and principled”? Really? He resigned AFTER knowing about it for months; and he condemned the fact that the news had leaked out. S he must effectively support the kangaroo court process, but he just disagreed with the outcome.

    There will no end to this matter until there is an honest accounting.

  399. Indeed, Andy. And the people who are making the most noise about the problems in the party still haven’t even had the integrity to say “and we did the same thing to our opponents in 2007″. “Keith Watermelon” is now bleating about the very stuff he said we were so wrong about in 2007, without making one single concession to the fact that the whole thing was so nasty and irreversibly destructive entirely because of people like him.

  400. Uncle Albert on said:

    SWP (ex) Loyalist: the paramount concern of the key leaders onthe Central Committee: money.

    They will use every opportunity to harvest names and details of dissidents. Expulsions will then follow – dissident non-members will be unable to lay claim to the assets.

  401. cliff foot:
    Still a non denial, denial,

    What a disgusting and immoral person you are.

    Had I received correspondence under the condition that it was to remain confidential, then I would be ethically bound not to talk about it, and not to speculate on whether I had such correspondence or not.

    I would have to respect that request for confidentiaity.

    If someone therefore says that I hve had such correspoendence, then there are only two alternatives, both revealing them to be unethical.

    either
    i) they do not know whether I had such correspodence and are lying
    or
    ii) they do know I had such correspondence, and they are scandalouly breaking a confidence, knowing I was asked not to reveal that it had taken place

    I have said clearly, I published becasue it was in the public interest to do so.

  402. cliff foot: as for hoping you’ve ruined someone’s life….

    I hope it applies to you too.

    Look, many of the most hackish SWP members have dedicated their entire lives to “building the party”, in some cases turning down more lucrative career paths, losing touch with old freinds, getting up at all hours to sell the paper outside factory gates. Thr whole social life has been about analysisng this or that twist of the line.

    All of this has felt justified because they were doing something important, building a revolutional party, that would lead a revolution and liberate humanity.

    Some of you, whose lives revolve about “party building ” activity may have few friends and contacts outside the SWP.

    Now you may be realising that the leadership have led you onto the rocks, the SWP is effectively over, and even if t survives as a rump, t will never play any important social role again, as previously half-sympathetic trade union leaders see you as a toxic brand, and MPs refuse to act as decoration for your various fronts.

    Some of you must be in a position of falling out with old freinds and comrades, and not knowing what to do with yourselves.

    NOw if that ruins you life, it is becasue you allowed your life to be taken over by a self-deluding cult. That isn’t my fault

    Welcome to the WRP

    Given the long years of threats, personal abuse and slanderous whispers from the SWP seeking to discredit me; I would have to have a heart of stone not to think all that is funny, and well deserved, as I watch the chickens coming home to roost.

  403. cliff foot on said:

    You published it as it fits in with your long stated agenda, of using any means to discredit the far left and individuals prominent around such.

  404. cliff foot,

    whatever.

    Almost everyone outside the SWP acknowledges the public interest of the story.

    What is going to happen now is that your brand will be so toxic, that your “united front” organisations will fall apart, and you will have no-where to go.

  405. Uncle Albert on said:

    Andy Newman: you will have no-where to go.

    That’s overly pessimistic, Andy. The C.C. will be will surely be able to organise something (extract from a contributor to Lenin’s Tomb:

    “A number of CC members are big fans of jazz music. Under their leadership over the past few years, the party has organised a number of (mostly loss-making) jazz gigs as fundraising events. Regardless of their own musical tastes, comrades were told they were disloyal if they didn’t purchase tickets.”

  406. stuart: You have done no such thing

    Good, there is life after the SWP, but there may not be life in it for a while.

    I (slightly) regret being so rude, but you should reflect on how much you and Cliff Foot (and others who get stopped by the spam filter) have felt entitled to just come on here and effectively unload your apolitical frustration out on me.

    It was the SWP CC who fucked up, you shouldn’t blame me for the inevitable scrutiny that came to you because of them

  407. stockwellpete on said:

    Tony Collins:
    And the people who are making the most noise about the problems in the party still haven’t even had the integrity to say “and we did the same thing to our opponents in 2007″. “Keith Watermelon” is now bleating about the very stuff he said we were so wrong about in 2007, without making one single concession to the fact that the whole thing was so nasty and irreversibly destructive entirely because of people like him.

    I find it astonishing what Cde Watermelon has written on Lenin’s Tomb. He says . . .

    “Rather than the present CC’s approach of slamming comrades with differing views as ‘feminists’, ‘syndicalists’, ‘autonomists’ etc; we should value and encourage differing strands of opinion within the party, as this will aid us in deciding how we should operate. Many of those committed to women’s liberation will at present be justifiably viewing the party, and the wider left, with some suspicion. In my view, the revolutionary left should be the natural home of feminism, and it is a great shame that the prospects for this risk being irreparably damaged if we do not change course.

    One of the first steps toward repairing this damage would also be to reinstate the Facebook Four, and open the gates of the party to many of those who have been expelled or forced out of the party by the CC and the various turns the party has made over the past 30-odd years (including a number of comrades who have resigned in the past couple of years in relation to the Comrade Delta incident). Our tradition is not one based on orthodoxy, and so those orthodoxies that have developed (such as our response to women’s liberation movements) must be vigorously challenged, and jettisoned if they are no longer useful to the class struggle as a whole.”

    Thirty years of expulsions to be rescinded!! A complete re-appraisal of the party’s approach to women’s liberation!! Blimey!! (I wish I had kept all my old copies of Women’s Voice now.) And another comrade from the SWP has written something on the Tomb about women’s liberation today.

    When Cde Watermelon comes on this website it is usually as a staunch supporter of everything the SWP is doing – but now he wants fundamental changes in the politics of the SWP and the way in which it conducts itself. Amazing!

  408. jack ford on said:

    The problem with ideology is that it blinds you to the consequences of your actions. But sooner or later reality will come to bite you in the arse. I think the penny is dropping for all but the most hardcore deluded cases still taking the Kool Aid like Comrade Stuart.

  409. swp member on said:

    Edinburgh branch of the SWP has passed a motion calling for an emergency conference, in accordance with paragraph 4 of the swp constitution. Short sharp motion. Absolute straight info. just got a text from a comrade up there.

  410. Zenobia on said:

    I have come late to this debate- I replied to a blog “The not so big society”, which I felt to be witshunting and rather gloating of the problems at SWP (I am not a member). I am pleased that these discussions are happening; though I have a sense of weariness, I left the SLL in 1971, because of their stance on the emerging womens movement. Big flame tried to have a different kind of organisation and incorporate lessons of feminism , not very sucessfully. As one of the comments above started “as a great man once said” -our history is patriarchal and so are our revolutionary movements (so far). My response to the immediate issue of the comrade’s rape is in my reply to Zrarthustra of the “Not so big society”. It seems to me that capitalism and the media and other forces of reaction have cottoned on to women as an issue- all the pseudo concern for women under Islam and the banning of headscarfs in France ( will it be compulsory to look like Jordan, here?); the use of a rape allegation against Assange, now the attack on the SWP. My friend and I were joking and wondering if we could start a rumour about rape in UKIP and see how far it would go.