New SWP Faction Declared: in Defence of Our Party

‘In Defence of Our Party’

The undersigned comrades are declaring a faction within the SWP constitution to argue for a rejection of some CC and NC decisions taken since our conference closed on 6 January 2013. We believe these decisions have exacerbated the crisis facing the party following the Disputes Committee report at conference. We fear that the CC’s approach to this crisis, and in particular its hostile attitude to the legitimate concerns of student comrades, could easily precipitate a split. We believe a split would be a devastating outcome for our organisation, one that could seriously threaten its long-term viability.

The CC is stating that “the case is closed” and should not be further discussed. We do not want to reopen or discuss the case. The issues arising from it do need addressing, however, as our members face questions and attacks from those outside the party. The party has been damaged internally, in our relationships with those we want and need to work with, and in our international tendency. We have faced hostile attacks from the right-wing press and need to find meaningful practical ways of achieving a united defence of the party.

It is clear that comrades on all sides of the present debate are discussing it in various combinations and using a variety of media, both online and through the internal circulation of documents. It would be better to bring these discussions inside the party’s democratic structures, within a framework that is open and facilitates participation. A faction can help clarify the political arguments in this way – far better than the current situation, which is in danger of spiralling out of control and further damaging the party.

We are for the unity of the party – and for instituting a change of course that will facilitate that unity.

We stand for the following:

1. Recognition that discipline in a revolutionary party is political – not administrative – and fundamentally a matter of conviction. This means that if contentious decisions are taken that do not have overwhelming support, the leadership cannot simply demand loyalty but needs to try to win the membership politically to its position over a period of time. However unhappy many members are about the actions of some comrades on all sides of the debate, prioritising disciplinary action over political resolution will only increase the damage to the party.

2. Recognition that comrades need time and space to honestly debate the issues we currently face if we are to reach a political resolution that has the overwhelming support of members. False polarisation and caricature will only obscure this process, and should have no place in our tradition.

3. Recognition that feminists are not our enemies, but potential allies. Feminists challenge the oppression of women. While some have few concerns beyond this, fighting oppression leads many more to reject society as a whole. It is crucial that we debate with these people about what politics can bring real social change, and that we defend strategies based on the central role of the working class. Sometimes we will be able to agree with those who identify themselves as feminists; at others, sharp but comradely disagreement will be necessary. Whatever our disagreements, they will not prevent us taking united action against women’s oppression.

4. Implementation of a number of immediate measures to alleviate the current crisis:
a) An acknowledgement by the Central Committee of the widely held concerns within our organization and internationally in our tendency, and in the wider labour movement, about the handling of the dispute, and an assurance that we are taking steps to learn from this criticism and address problems.
b) A review of Disputes Committee (DC) procedures in relation to cases involving allegations of rape and sexual harassment. Sufficient time should be allocated at the next conference to discuss ways in which the DC and its procedures can be strengthened, with space also allowed for votes on proposals brought forward by branches and the leadership.
c) X to stand down from any paid or representative roles in our party or united front work for the foreseeable future.
d) No disciplinary action against those comrades who have publicly expressed concerns over the DC’s conduct and findings.
e) Full support for the comrades who made the complaints. Zero tolerance of any attempt to undermine them and others who have raised criticisms of the DC report. Action to ensure they do not suffer any detriment in the party because of the position they have taken. An end to the punishment of party workers who have expressed concerns over the dispute.

Why A Faction?
It is not part of our tradition to give rule-mongering priority over the principles and spirit of democratic centralism. In this instance, the creation of a faction is not only politically helpful, but is also within our rules.

Factions are an important part of the democracy of the SWP. Section 10 of the SWP Constitution reads:

If a group of party members disagrees with a specific party policy, or a decision taken by a leading committee of the party, they may form a faction by producing a joint statement signed by at least 30 members of the party.

A faction will be given reasonable facilities to argue its point of view and distribute its documents. These must be circulated through the National Office, to ensure that all members have the chance to consider them.

Debate continues until the party at a Special or Annual Conference reaches a decision on the disputed question. Permanent or secret factions are not allowed.

However, factions are unusual in the history of the SWP, and it is particularly unusual for one to be formed so soon after a party conference. It would not be appropriate for a group of comrades to form a faction simply because they disagreed with one or more decisions taken at conference. It is not part of our political tradition to try to keep revisiting decisions until we get ones we like.

We accept the decisions taken at conference. None of the concerns listed above involve overturning these decisions. They relate to a failure on the part of the CC and the NC to provide an adequate response to the questions being asked of the party by its own members and supporters since conference. The CC motion passed by NC condemns comrades who have made their concerns public yet limits the scope for internal debate. It accepts the need to review DC procedures, but imposesunnecessary limits on the remit of this review. It provides disciplinary rather than political solutions. It offers no clarity on the role of X, which is in danger of exacerbating unnecessary divisions. It offers no view on attempts to undermine the women who made the complaints or those who opposed the DC report.

We aim to conduct an argument within the party so that these concerns are addressed by the next SWP conference, whether a special conference or the next annual conference. In line with the SWP constitution we will dissolve the faction at the end of the next conference.

Signed by 10 NC members (Jamie W, Dan S, Sara B, Ian A, Amy G, Laura J, Jim W, Colin W, Chaz S and Jelena T),
3 ex-CC members (Mark B, Hannah D and Ray M)
and 51 other SWP members, including Pat S, Ian B, Colin B, Mike G, Willie B, Charlie H, Megan T, Alison L, Dave R, Viv S, Rob O, Sadia J, Simon F, Gill G, Bunny L, Roderick C and Matt C.

168 comments on “New SWP Faction Declared: in Defence of Our Party

  1. With good will on all sides (a big ask) this could provide a basis for negotiation.

    I would point out, however, that point 4c in the “what we stand for” bit is not really compatible with “We accept the decisions taken at conference. None of the concerns listed above involve overturning these decisions”…

  2. This list of luminaries will pose a few problems for the CC and their ‘ever so humble’ followers. It does not appear to contain any of the Seymourites, so is this a 2nd faction? It’s going to be a nervous weekend in the Vauxhall Bunker

  3. john Penney on said:

    A brave act by so many , obviously long-term , SWP members. I’m afraid I’d put good money on your days in the SWP now being rather limited. However the huge wave of current and ex SWP member discussion and examination of the IS/SWP organisational and political tradition/history carried out right across the blogosphere since this long-festering internal and external crisis exploded, suggests that there is much more wrong with the SWP than a dispute about the rape investigation/whitewash.

    As so many genuine socialists both inside and outside the SWP have commented, the poisonous insider ruling claque aspect of SWP inner organisational control goes right back to Cliff’s obsessive control freakery in the much more open and internally democratic IS days (when I myself witnessed an awful lot of the same undemocratic elite claque stalinoid leadership behaviour 1971 to 81, that has lead to the current crisis).

    At present, much as the current new faction members might want to deny it, the SWP is heading way down the sad old WRP route into complete cultishness and unlimited opportunism (as has been all too clear since the Stop The War craziness vis a vis Muslim Fundamentalism). Only if there is a major purge of the existing LEADERSHIP of the SWP and its replacement by democratic-minded new blood leaders, subject to regular replacement, an abandonment of the ruling claque ensuring “slate” election system, and a much greater willingness to tolerate internal factional debate, can the SWP once again make itself attractive to masses of potential new recruits. Otherwise, it’ll take quite a while as the SWP dies by painful stages, but die it will.

    Maybe its just time for all organisations wedded to the old semi religious dogmas and authoritarian organisational practices of Trotsky/Leninism to fall into that good old dustbin of organisational history – so we can all spend our time building a real radical socialist fightback to the ever-growing capitalist crisis via something more organisationally and ideologically dynamic , open, and having the potential to recruit and influence serious numbers of working class people ?

  4. John there was no “stop the war craziness vis a vis Muslim fundamentalism”, except insofar as Stop the War provided a brilliant antidote to the craziness about Muslim fundamentalism.

  5. JFK, it’s interesting that there’s no sign of Richard Seymour etc. It has to have been a deliberate decision.

    My take is that a lot of people feel that Seymour etc. have gone right over the top and put a lot of people off. There have been lots of accusations of the Seymour side acting like “NUS faction types”. I could be wrong, but I suspect the purpose of this faction is to be the serious force that hopes to draw Richard and his fellow oppositionists in to a more “measured” type of opposition.

    But it’s still a hard document – it still calls for X to be removed from the pay of the party, for example.

  6. Jellytot on said:

    @3As so many genuine socialists both inside and outside the SWP have commented, the poisonous insider ruling claque aspect of SWP inner organisational control goes right back to Cliff’s obsessive control freakery

    The problem for them though was that they never managed to find a replacement for Cliff’s undoubted leadership talents, skills and charisma.

    As their talented people (literally) died off they were never effectively replaced by quality materiel and given their internal structure, that places so much stock in good and clear leadership, that resulted in an organisational circle that couldn’t be squared.

    Mistakes became more frequent and decline guaranteed. The cracks could only be papered over for so long. They require root-and-branch reform in order to survive let alone prosper.

  7. Manzil on said:

    Tony Collins: I could be wrong, but I suspect the purpose of this faction is to be the serious force that hopes to draw Richard and his fellow oppositionists in to a more “measured” type of opposition.

    If it’s represented by outright sectarian bullies like ex-full-timer ‘Bunny L’, whose behaviour in Kent has led to many horror stories, the chances of this faction being ‘serious’ or ‘measured’ are nil.

  8. Manzil on said:

    Jellytot: The problem for them though was that they never managed to find a replacement for Cliff’s undoubted leadership talents, skills and charisma.

    I personally groan whenever he’s invoked in this dispute – his writings are utterly tedious; but then again I never met the man, there must have been something he had going for him.

  9. Jellytot on said:

    @10there must have been something he had going for him.

    Cliff was effective in the small world in which he operated. He did seem to command personal loyalty and respect from his followers.

  10. Who is X ? Not the same person as Delta ?

    X (Chi) is the 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet. Just saying.

    (No, I think it is the same person.)

  11. Manzil on said:

    Jellytot:
    @10there must have been something he had going for him.

    Cliff was effective in the small world in which he operated. He did seem to command personal loyalty and respect from his followers.

    I suppose that’s true of most socialist groups. They’re small enough that charismatic authority is sufficient for leadership. (Not meant to be a dig at anyone.)

  12. prianikoff on said:

    The fact that Seymour’s group are publishing new material on their blog just after the NC, indicates that they’ve decided to provoke a showdown.
    Similarly, by declaring a faction just after a Conference, the new group are in flagrant violation of SWP rules.
    So something has to give.

    I can’t see expulsions working.
    The leadership’s majority is too narrow and the oppositional material far too widely distributed for that.
    Why destroy the SWP to defend “Delta”- a contentious figure at the best of times?

    He ought to be removed from all leadership responsibilities.

    However, I don’t see the Seymour-Mieville group offering a real political alternative.
    They’re literati, not organizers.

    Seymour has been flirting with various academic Marxist ideologues, such as Althusser and Poulantzas.
    Which indicates that his support for Syriza comes from a standpoint of liquidation into left-Social Democracy.
    Getting this issue right is the most central question the European left faces.

  13. Who needs Eastenders?- As a spectator sport this is fascinating to watch unravel, first the students and now a chunk of the middle cadre, including of I’m not mistaken Pat Stack who was chair of the disputed Disputes Committee and the only vote not in favour of its findings.

    Just goes to show there is a democratic base impulse in even the most Stalinist of Trotskist organisations.

  14. prianikoff on said:

    Meanwhile Jemima Khan has distanced herself from Julian Assange in the New Statesman.
    The multi-millionairess, who stood bail for him is an Associate Editor of the magazine.
    Another Assange critic at NS, Laurie Penny is quite posh too.
    She attended Brighton College, the Sunday Times “Independent School of the Year 2011″
    (senior school fees 6,274-11,500 per year).
    Would GBS and the Webbs have approved?

  15. Francisco Ascaso on said:

    Manzil: If it’s represented by outright sectarian bullies like ex-full-timer ‘Bunny L’, whose behaviour in Kent has led to many horror stories, the chances of this faction being ‘serious’ or ‘measured’ are nil.

    I know Bunny from her time in Oxford. I found her a bit blunt, but quite a bit less sectarian than one or two other swappies I’ve known. Didn’t realise she’d been a full-timer, and I haven’t heard any horror stories. What’s she been accused of?

  16. Jara Handala on said:

    Crikey!

    The list is presumably in some sort of seniority (as it isn’t alphabetical), NC, then ex-CC, then 51 others.

    And who start the 51, not ordered alphabetically by either personal name or surname? Are the first four:

    Pat Slack (current chair of the Disputes Cttee., who heard the cases last year, & was re-elected with the other 8 by the National Conference?)
    Colin Barker
    Ian Birchall
    Mike Gonzalez

    If this is indeed true that is a great shock.

    Its effect may swing it.

  17. prianikoff on said:

    “even the most Stalinist of Trotskist (sic) organisations”

    That sort of statement should be reserved for the CiF section of the Grauniad. Stalinists killed revolutionaries.

  18. Manzil on said:

    prianikoff: Seymour has been flirting with various academic Marxist ideologues, such as Althusser and Poulantzas.
    Which indicates that his support for Syriza comes from a standpoint of liquidation into left-Social Democracy.
    Getting this issue right is the most central question the European left faces.

    But as Seymour et al are not proposing the “liquidation into left-Social Democracy” of the SWP (the prospects for which being in any case significantly less-developed), and having no control over their allies (whether ‘liquidated’ like Marx21 or independent like the SEK), while in theoretical terms this may be a vital question to grapple with, it is immaterial with regard to the specific case of the SWP crisis.

    Callinicos’s permanent majority is not the buffer holding back the SWP’s liquidation. The current leaders all happily went along with John Rees in Respect. They offer merely ossification, which is not a viable alternative simply because it maintains the organisational independence of the SWP.

  19. Manzil: If it’s represented by outright sectarian bullies like ex-full-timer ‘Bunny L’, whose behaviour in Kent has led to many horror stories, the chances of this faction being ‘serious’ or ‘measured’ are nil.

    People can change. The thing about self-referential organisations is that they can lead good people to behave badly. Put them in a different context, and the old bad habits wither away.

  20. That’s funny. Just today one of the signatories told me that I was wrong to say that discussion was being discouraged and SWSS members were being bullied.
    What they really hate is their business being talked about outside of the party. It drives them wild.

  21. prianikoff,

    Oh lighten up comrade, as you well know the first Bolshevik comrade killed by in the Red Army by his own side was on the orders of Comrade Trotsky- to encourage les autres.

    I was referring to the CC understanding of inner party democracy, which as we have seen is more hard line than the CPGBs- as was.

  22. Jara Handala on said:

    Pete Shield,

    Thanx so much for that, Pete.

    It includes Cathy Porter (translator of Kollantai & regular ‘Marxism’ speaker) & Dave Renton (historian).

    Thanx again. The CPGB, (albeit PCC), does a service to all.

    That list carries great authority.

    But it is a little disingenuous coz they missed out in their Constitution quote that legal factions can only exist in the 3 months before either a National or Special Conference – which isn’t now. Or, perhaps, not just yet.

  23. Manzil on said:

    Francisco Ascaso: I know Bunny from her time in Oxford. I found her a bit blunt, but quite a bit less sectarian than one or two other swappies I’ve known. Didn’t realise she’d been a full-timer, and I haven’t heard any horror stories. What’s she been accused of?

    She has displayed an extremely sectarian attitude towards efforts to build up trades councils in Kent and the Medway area, being incredibly rude and belligerent towards anyone who isn’t in the SWP, and insisting – despite the SWP’s weak position in the local trade unions, and its main activists’ quite frankly total lack of any practical organising (or, for that matter, people) skills – on ‘taking the lead’ and then immediately lapsing into inactivity or bungling basic tasks, but taking umbrage at any criticisms or suggestions that others might assist or even do a better job themselves etc. etc.

    The mixture of outright incompetence and an explicitly ‘SWP First’ attitude she and her comrades have displayed, not only in trades councils and anti-cuts activities but even during the strikes over the last couple years, have been an absolute eye-opener as to how bloody backward some ‘socialists’ are.

    If she’s one of the less sectarian ones, you have nothing but my sympathies. I have friends who have to deal with her regularly, and she is nothing but a thoroughly anti-social bully.

  24. Manzil on said:

    Andy Newman: People can change. The thing about self-referential organisations is that they can lead good people to behave badly. Put them in a different context, and the old bad habits wither away.

    I don’t know anything about her behaviour within the SWP, only how destructive she’s been within the local labour movement – and I don’t think you blame that on “self-referential organisations”.

  25. Manzil on said:

    Jara Handala: It includes Cathy Porter (translator of Kollantai & regular ‘Marxism’ speaker) & Dave Renton (historian).

    Thanx again. The CPGB, (albeit PCC), does a service to all.

    That list carries great authority.

    It does. It also includes some like Myers and Radford who’ve been nothing but apologists for the CC up until now. As Tony C says at #5, I think (perhaps like the ‘Democratic Centralist’ faction?) this is an attempt to appear like the reasonable middle between two equally extreme wings – as though Seymour and Mieville’s real crime has been TOO MUCH criticism of the leadership!

  26. Manzil: The current leaders all happily went along with John Rees in Respect.

    Well yes and no. They allowed Rees to do his thing, but they were also happy for the majority of the SWP to be outside the Socialist Alliance, and then outside Respect.

  27. Manzil: Dave Renton (historian).

    to be more accurate, he is a barrister. He represented Dave Smith( case backed by UCATT) in the Landmark blacklisting case Smith v Carillion last yeat

  28. prianikoff on said:

    PeteShield@25 “lighten up”

    As in “lighten up”, while I spew another slander at you?

  29. Manzil on said:

    #33. True. But that’s just an indictment of their confused strategy, not a defence of the idea the firm hand of Callinicos is the only thing standing between the SWP and capitulation to the forces of darkness.

    And your quote in #34. That wasn’t me!

  30. Manzil: I don’t think you blame that on “self-referential organisations”.

    well, what I have observed is that both the SWP and SP have been prepared to behaves like complete arses, effectively wrecking other peoples’ political projects that they find inconventient; and still feel virtuous because their frame of reference is to their own group interests

  31. Manzil on said:

    Andy Newman: well, what I have observed is that both the SWP and SP have been prepared to behaves like complete arses, effectively wrecking other peoples’ political projects that they find inconventient; and still feel virtuous because their frame of reference is to their own group interests

    And I’ve ‘observed’ an equal number of people in both the SWP and SP who have done nothing of the sort, and are amongst the most hard-working and sincere advocates of socialist politics that you can find.

    Put it this way. The number of lazy-bastard Labour Party time-servers, wannabe careerists, and apologists for whatever the national and local party machinery want, that I’ve encountered beggars belief.

    Do I suggest that in any way discounts the massive contribution of an equally large number of Labour Party members to the trade union movement and to socialism? Of course not.

    You completely absolve people of personal responsibility by attaching their own stupid behaviour to the innate characteristics of a political organisation. Groups are the sum of their parts and no more. Change their individual practice, you change the group.

  32. prianikoff on said:

    #36 Apart from getting about 8 hours last night, I’ve been doing Union Work almost non-stop for the past 24 hours – a pleasant relief from some of the more hyper-active wank-tanks on this blog.

  33. Manzil on said:

    #40. And after all that you ran back online to catch up with us all? “You like me, you really like me!”

  34. Manzil: If she’s one of the less sectarian ones, you have nothing but my sympathies. I have friends who have to deal with her regularly, and she is nothing but a thoroughly anti-social bully.

    There are a few seriously sectarian hacks on the list; but it all depends how much they are prepared to rethink. If their project is to “save the SWP” minus the current leadership, but broadly on the same model, then they will fail.

    If they actually use their talents to start re-examining what the tasks of socialist organisation is in the 21st Century, then it could be interesting.

  35. Manzil on said:

    Great, now prianikoff deleted his comment I was replying to at (now) #40, and I look bloody mental.

  36. Manzil: Put it this way. The number of lazy-bastard Labour Party time-servers, wannabe careerists, and apologists for whatever the national and local party machinery want, that I’ve encountered beggars belief.
    Do I suggest that in any way discounts the massive contribution of an equally large number of Labour Party members to the trade union movement and to socialism? Of course not.

    But it would be a valid criticism of the Labour Party how careerists can dominate, and why the left fails to make its weight count. there are institutional and political factors at work that stringly influence how people do politics, and what sort of politcs prevails.

    Manzil: Groups are the sum of their parts and no more. Change their individual practice, you change the group.

    you know better than that.

  37. Ross Bradshaw on said:

    # Andy is not wrong, at least about the SWP… the odd person in Nottingham might dimly remember the Ronald Thomas Defence Campaign, in support of a young black man who’d been racially attacked, defended himself and was arrested and charged while the racists were let free. There was a local campaign involving many groups from MPs to Black churches (Ronald was a Christian) and some detailed legal work on the case. It became a cause celebre about the inaction of the local racial equality council and various other issues came out. The SWP played no significant role in the campaign until one of their senior people locally thought it would be a spiffing idea to directly give the jury members in Ronald’s trial leaflets about the case. Being the main named contact for the support group I was duly arrested at my work and hauled before the judge for contempt of court. Thanks SWP. To my amusement the police were embarrassed to be arresting me, knowing that it was some “SWP tosser” (their words) who’d got me into this position and got them to waste their time on trivia. Ronald and I were both found to be not guilty (though both got a stupid lecture from the judge about our future behaviour!) but it did not do the SWP much good within the black community in Nottingham at the time.

  38. Andy Newman: well, what I have observed is that both the SWP and SP have been prepared to behaves like complete arses, effectively wrecking other peoples’ political projects that they find inconventient; and still feel virtuous because their frame of reference is to their own group interests

    Yes you can see that very clearly in the ULA debacle in Ireland. Its the level of righteous self delusion that really stands out. Reality has little purchase.

  39. Manzil: an equal number of people in both the SWP and SP who have done nothing of the sort, and are amongst the most hard-working and sincere advocates of socialist politics that you can find.

    Yeah but when push comes to shove, it was the organisations that made the decisions, it was the SP who threw a hand grenade into the Socialist Allaince, and wrecked the NSSN; it was the SWP who blew up the rest of the Socialisdt Allaince, and then Respect., and the “most hard-working and sincere advocates of socialist politics ” either participated in the wrecking, or watched on, incapable of stopping the juggernaut

  40. Manzil on said:

    Andy Newman: If they actually use their talents to start re-examining what the tasks of socialist organisation is in the 21st Century, then it could be interesting.

    True. If there were a fundamental re-think, there are significant layers still scattered about in all sorts of groups (or none) that could potentially contribute (and some sections that definitively shouldn’t). But so long as people remain divided into a dozen identical-but opposing-factions, and are encouraged to think in terms of a ‘group interest’ synonymous with the class interest, it’ll be hard going.

    That said, if ‘re-examining’ is all they do, I can see it replicating the Counterfire school of website, cafe and conference management. Debate is good but it’s not an end in itself. The debates on here about the left needing a ‘space for discussions’ bring me out in a cold sweat they’re so circular.

    The opposition needs to be re-embedded into the labour movement, orientated towards the actual struggles of the working class as they’re happening now. There are obvious organic links, as shown by the fact trade union and left activists have signed letters imploring the SWP to rethink. If they respond to the SWP’s introspective isolation by simply exaggerating the drift from real life, they’re buggered.

  41. Manzil on said:

    Andy Newman: Yeah but when push comes to shove, it was the organisations that made the decisions, it was the SP who threw a hand grenade into the Socialist Allaince, and wrecked the NSSN; it was the SWP who blew up the rest of the Socialisdt Allaince, and then Respect., and the “most hard-working and sincere advocates of socialist politics ” either participated in the wrecking, or watched on, incapable of stopping the juggernaut

    Some of them probably did, but you’re just smearing with a broad brush that – interestingly – become a whole lot more selective when applied to your own party membership.

    More to the point, unless there is a viable alternative that people can actually sign up to, then your approach is offering people – what, exactly? Complete and total inactivity? Great. Under those circumstances, I can see why the Stuarts of the SWP are so keen to preserve what they still have.

    Basically, you seem to be coming at this from one ‘factional’ position, rather than an honest attempt at helping the left transcend factionalism altogether.

  42. My interpretation of this is the declaration of this faction has two purposes:

    1. To pull the Central Committee from the brink as the disciplinary road will wreck the organization especially among students (the lifeblood of the party).

    2. To bring those students back into the fold of acceptance of the basic principle of democratic centralism without clear association with the Callinicos line. This would be to prevent a mass exodus from the party.

    The problem is that it is the last roll of the dice and is equally likely to precipitate a split rather than a reconciliation.

    If the CC accepts its demands then the CC loses all authority. It has already had its political authority challenged but will now lose it constituional/legalistic authority and its disciplinary hegemony in the organization.

    The ignoring of the convention around the formation of factions in the SWP can only indicate their belief that this represents an extraordinary and grave moment.

  43. Manzil on said:

    Andy Newman: But it would be a valid criticism of the Labour Party how careerists can dominate, and why the left fails to make its weight count. there are institutional and political factors at work that stringly influence how people do politics, and what sort of politcs prevails.

    you know better than that.

    Yet that ‘valid criticism’ doesn’t mean you’ve up and left, does it? Because people who actually want to be a positive force in politics and especially the labour movement act within extraordinary and sometimes insurmountable constraints – the opportunities available to them are not unlimited or created through force of will. Politics is a collective endeavour and so ultimately, to be effective, it depends on large groups of people coming to the same sort of conclusions and working together.

    And that requires us to be patient and considerate of others, rather than demanding that X is the uniform solution that everyone must follow, hup! two-three-four!

  44. Eric Edge on said:

    Hmm, I don’t want to be too negative about this but perhaps the name of this faction should be changed to The Seymour-Penny-Jones Triumvirate?

  45. Chris,

    I think that is a very fair analysis, it seems to be the middle cadre, and in many cases the backbone of the organisation, that is trying to save the CC from itself.

    The reaction from the leadership in the next few days will really determine what sort of SWP survives.

    Optimism of the will, pessimism of the intellect would seem appropriate.

  46. Manzil: become a whole lot more selective when applied to your own party membership.

    No, the Labour Party is itself an arena of struggle, so your the analogy fall down.

    Manzil: More to the point, unless there is a viable alternative that people can actually sign up to, thediffn your approach is offering people – what, exactly?

    I don’t have an answer to that; for some people, (particularly middle aged branch secretaries in the GMB!), probably the most effective form of political activity is working in the Labour Party. It won’t suit everyone

    Generally, I think all socialists need to be working through unions, and if done responsibly, then UNITE’s community membership might be a route for some who might otherwise find it difficult.

  47. Eric Edge: I’m sorry, but the crisis in the SWP is a case of Bad vs Evil.
    Posted by Eric Edge

    A sophisticated and well-argued analysis there from Mr Edge. It reminds me of the review NME did of the Yes album ‘Close To The Edge’ when it came out all those years ago. The review simply read – ‘And the sooner they fall off it, the better’. It’s still not too late to take their advice Eric…

  48. Francisco Ascaso on said:

    Manzil:

    If she’s one of the less sectarian ones, you have nothing but my sympathies. I have friends who have to deal with her regularly, and she is nothing but a thoroughly anti-social bully.

    One SWP member told me that I was the biggest sectarian he’d ever met. Why? Because I’d said that, in my view, the Dear Leader (AC) wasn’t the most engaging speaker I’d heard.

    Returning to Bunny, I do recognise the “‘SWP First’ attitude” you mention but isn’t that par for the course for a swappie? I have a sneaking regard for that attitude if I’m honest: they firmly believe they are the guardians of the one true way, and act accordingly. :)

  49. Cdn Obsrvr on said:

    Jara Handala: But it is a little disingenuous coz they missed out in their Constitution quote that legal factions can only exist in the 3 months before either a National or Special Conference – which isn’t now. Or, perhaps, not just yet.

    As an observer, I’ve seen this 3 month period for factions mentioned several times in discussions of this conflict — but don’t see it in the SWP constitution. The faction document above quotes all of section 10. The three month pre-conference discussion period is distinct from this. The faction appears perfectly constitutional and authorized until the next party conference deals with its issues. That may be an incentive for a special conference to resolve matters — if all sides can manage to act in good faith.

  50. Manzil on said:

    #60 Francisco Ascaso. Haha. I get your point, but it’s a lot harder to have any respect for that attitude when the guardians of the one true way keep getting in the way.

    Andy Newman: No, the Labour Party is itself an arena of struggle,so your the analogy fall down.

    I don’t have an answer to that; for some people, (particularly middle aged branch secretaries in the GMB!), probably the most effective form of political activity is working in the Labour Party. It won’t suit everyone

    Generally, I think all socialists need to be working through unions, and if done responsibly, then UNITE’s community membership might be a route for some who might otherwise find it difficult.

    The left groups may not be an arena of struggle, but they are instruments for that struggle. Or at least reservoirs of considerable experience and potential for a broad left-wing movement that shouldn’t be dismissed if we’re to break out of the bitter, sectarian clusterfuck© we happen to enjoy presently.

    It’s fine that you don’t have an answer. I don’t think I have an answer. But it would be nice if you’d accept that, for some people, it makes more sense to try and salvage something from the existing left, than to engage in a ‘struggle’ within the confines of the Labour Party, which is by its very nature is glacial in speed and ultimately privileges those in senior positions in their local parties and unions.

    And even in the most precipitous circumstances, the Labour Party is not going to be the leading voice for socialism, and I am not prepared to accept that our starting-point for rethinking socialist politics has to be abandoning socialism outright. I think the place of socialists, even if ultimately they view socialism as essentially coming through the mass organisations that exist, is to work for an independent socialist organisation. And if people aren’t doing that, they can at least act in a supportive way to those who are, who haven’t actually had a go at you or done anything to you personally.

    Reformism will sort itself out. It has the money and traditions and the loyalty of millions; it isn’t going anywhere because we take our eyes off it and try and build something halfway-decent. If Miliband isn’t installed in Downing Street, it won’t be the fault of the left.

    I don’t mean to suggest that a new left ‘project’ or whatever will instantaneously succeed, but it can be a pole of attraction which, over time, could lead the way, and I think it’s right to try and build that, not to chase after the think-tank wankers and wannabe MPs picking up after them like some mad babysitter. Let them figure out how to moderate and simplify and compromise on behalf of capital all by themselves – you can’t wrestle with a wind shock, you just have to change the wind.

    And when it comes down to it, if you don’t argue for socialism, there’s never going to be popular support for a broad socialist movement. You dismissed my comments about groups just being their constituent elements; but I’ll take it further and say that’s all society itself is. Constrained by interest and habit and so on, absolutely, but fundamentally determined by our own agency. As in, of course you can’t ignore the power of institutional leverage, but we’ll never get anywhere if we ignore the task of actually getting people to agree that a socialist view makes sense and is worth doing something about.

    I agree that the trade unions need to be central to any socialist response (especially if they can reach out to a new generation of workers in retail and services, and the masses of people who are unemployed, retired, disabled etc.). That’s whether we get our act together or not. The question of specifically political organisation can run concurrent to that ongoing broad cooperation within the labour movement.

    TL;DR: I’m just a Buffalo Soldier in the heart of America / Stolen from Africa, brought to America / Said he was fighting on arrival, fighting for survival / Said he was a Buffalo Soldier win the war for America.

  51. Anysayer on said:

    Socialist Party has been very quiet throughout this crisis. Some may say too quiet. Do they have something similar to hide?

  52. Manzil on said:

    Anysayer:
    Socialist Party has been very quiet throughout this crisis. Some may say too quiet. Do they have something similar to hide?

    Yes, I was tried and found not guilty of the Rwandan genocide.

    “Some may say too quiet.” Some may say? Honestly. You, Anysayer. You’re saying it.

  53. I learnt a lot about dealing with managers in a large organisation from being in the SWP. Namely, the leadership don’t know what’s really happening on the ground and it’s all about making yourself look good. I don’t like it, but the skills have come in useful over the years.

    We live in a capitalist society and the SWP is as much a reflection of our society as we all are, which affects everything we do and think.

    This isn’t an attempt to defend or attack them, but I think it’s important to understand that we won’t get a perfect socialist party under capitalism, just as none of us will be perfect socialists. We strive to achieve a better society (well I like to believe that most people who read this blog do) and this means challenging ourselves as individuals. The same is also probably true of parties and they might need to recognise that.

  54. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Post 63 says “Socialist Party has been very quiet throughout this crisis. Some may say too quiet. Do they have something similar to hide?”

    Well poster 63, and Andy Newman before that, and the Labour leaning newspaper columnists today and before that, likes to tar the Left with one brush and shout a plague on all your houses. The Socialist party has nothing to hide poster 63, in fact your statement is as vacuous and superficial as your name Anysayer!

    The whole crisis of the SWP, that in reality began more than half a decade ago is caused by their mistaken politic and method, strategy and organisational outlook to the building of a party that believes in the socialist transformation of society. The reality is the Socialist Party is more concerned in campaigning and fighting the austerity programme and the cuts that are being carried out by on the one hand the Condem Government and on the other by Local Council specifically Labour Councils; and I may add as I live in Scotland the SNP government as well. The Socialist Party also believes in campaigning for and building a new organisation for working class representation and at the same time creating a party for the socialist transformation of society. That may be tedious and boring, as Mr Newman and others like to trumpet on this blog, but that is more important than the machinations of a Left organisation. Or I may say the continual repetition of gossip on the internet, the reality is it can be left to this blog and the CPGB and other to do that..

    Whether the Socialist Party says something or not about the fluid internal crisis of the SWP you will find out about it one way or another because someone will post it somewhere. And it will very likely be me on this blog, if I am allowed. Nevertheless, Anysayer, if you want to really know what the Socialist Party say about the SWP just go onto our website and go on to the link Socialism and Left Unity by Peter Taaffe and read his critique of the SWP.

  55. Manzil: But it would be nice if you’d accept that, for some people, it makes more sense to try and salvage something from the existing left, than to engage in a ‘struggle’ within the confines of the Labour Party, which is by its very nature is glacial in speed and ultimately privileges those in senior positions in their local parties and unions.

    I do accept that. The Labour Party makes sense for me. I don’t say it has to work for you

  56. Graham Day on said:

    Andy Newman, though people should consider, if you can’t win the argument with Labour Party members, how much do you think you’ll achieve? (Which doesn’t mandate involvement in the LP, but the hostility shown by sum – not necessarily Manzil – isn’t very productive).

  57. Manzil on said:

    #66. I don’t know about you Jimmy, but we’ve been chatting about the SWP in our area. It’s hard not to. Especially when we’re supposed to work with them in TUSC and the like, and when half of our members have SWPers in their workplaces or unions. Doesn’t mean we’ve been campaigning any the less.

    You seem like a much more clued-in member than me, so I don’t suppose you know about the SP national committee discussing the SWP? I heard from several people they’d basically dismissed the opposition as not worth trying to recruit, which sadly implies they share the SWP leadership’s view of them as dilettante students who are just wobbly on socialism (not to mention it’s a bit of a narrow perspective to address the crisis from). Not seen anything on paper, mind.

    At least Socialist Resistance have taken the opportunity to discuss how socialism relates to democracy, feminism and so forth. Although perhaps we’ll be doing that at SP conference? Here’s hoping.

    Andy Newman,

    Fair enough. (Where’s the fun in that though? How am I supposed to argue?)

  58. Manzil on said:

    Graham Day:
    Andy Newman, though people should consider, if you can’t win the argument with Labour Party members, how much do you think you’ll achieve? (Which doesn’t mandate involvement in the LP, but the hostility shown by sum – not necessarily Manzil – isn’t very productive).

    I suppose it depends in what context you’re talking. One of my best friends is solid Labour, and through the pressure of events, especially since the 2010 election, the 2011 demos and strikes, and through discussion and debate in various meetings and conferences and suchlike, has gone steadily to the Left – is strongly LRC and involved with Socialist Appeal, for instance.

    But in the context of local elections, people he feels quite comradely towards in the local SP, SWP and so on are basically wreckers, despite his own criticisms of Labour locally. Equally while I don’t share the SP’s ultra-left idea that Labour is just a ‘bourgeois party’ (I mean in all honesty, neither does it… they don’t say that the Lib Dems are vulnerable to working-class pressure, after all!) I have nothing but contempt for the councillors being led by the nose by the officers, decimating people’s services.

    Now he and I can both happily be involved in supporting people on strike, or in individual anti-cuts stuff, or Keep Our NHS Public, or whatever: that doesn’t require us to agree in everything or even be in the same organisation. It just recognises that on a very elementary ‘don’t cross a picket line’ sense, our strategy is the same, it’s just our tactics are different.

    You can be angry at a comrade, but I don’t think you can hate them.

  59. Seed The Levy on said:

    Well poster 63, and Andy Newman before that, and the Labour leaning newspaper columnists today and before that, likes to tar the Left with one brush and shout a plague on all your houses. The Socialist party has nothing to hide poster 63, in fact your statement is as vacuous and superficial as your name Anysayer!

    Jimmy Haddow,
    Oh really? It’s just I could have sworn I heard something about a very prominent trade unionist and Socialist Party member who is facing similar accusations. Funny that.

  60. Seed The Levy:
    Oh really? It’s just I could have sworn I heard something about a very prominent trade unionist and Socialist Party member who is facing similar accusations. Funny that.

    As someone who’d quite like to know if that’s the case, do you actually have any evidence of that, or should I just dismiss it as bollocks?

    I’m not saying it couldn’t happen – in fact I personally know of one former SP member who was jailed for child pornography offences, and who was involved in the party at the time of his arrest.

    He was tried and convicted by a court, though, rather than the Socialist Party.

    So if there is someone facing “similar accusations”, is it the same sort of situation (which while incredibly sad, is just life/people being shit) or whether you’re saying the SP is setting up its own trials?

  61. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Andy Newman: well, what I have observed is that both the SWP and SP have been prepared to behaves like complete arses, effectively wrecking other peoples’ political projects that they find inconventient; and still feel virtuous because their frame of reference is to their own group interests

    But you too are attempting to claim virtue with the success of your own pet poltical projects as your frame of reference. You supported a constitution for the Socialist Alliance that you knew the SP wouldn’t support. They hadn’t signed up for that. You can hardly hold them responsible for wallking when they didn’t agree with your project. It’s not as though they did it to spite you. The problem would appear to be that you didn’t foresee that the SP walking would wreck that political project. I can understand the SWP’s motives, but what were you thinking Mr. Newman?

    Your allies of that period have now become your enemies and you are now spending your time pursuing them in the most bitter and obsessive way. I think it is actually to the credit of groups like the SP and the CPB that they have better things to do than meddle in this mess.

    Now I’m all for left unity, but would I want to be in a one member one vote unitary party with Mr. Newman, the SWP, CPGB, CPB and many of the posters on this blog? Well no I wouldn’t. I’m sure there are issues we would agree on, but not enough of them to be in such a party. We don’t have left unity because the left doesn’t agree even on a major political issues such as the EU or whether to vote labour in elections. Political projects that don’t accept that are going to end in tears. Sad, maybe but it’s a fact of life.

  62. The best of luck to this faction and all comrades in the SWP who are trying to seriously address this issue.

  63. Nick Fredman on said:

    Andy Newman: the Labour Party is itself an arena of struggle

    Well I think the Victorian Socialist Party and other Marxist groups which entered the Australian Labor Party around 1900 said much the same thing. I don’t know if surveying the current Labor government they’d think the century plus of effort worth it.

    >>for some people, (particularly middle aged branch secretaries in the GMB!), probably the most effective form of political activity is working in the Labour Party<<

    I've got some sympathy for the argument that the most useful form of political activity, or maybe more specifically whether it's justifiable to be in a labor party, is contextual. When I was active on a university in the Sydney suburbs in the early 90s the Labor students were frankly cynical hacks. One leading Sydney Labor student of the time has been in more recent years a key apparatchik in the New South Wales ALP, an organisation mired in corruption, more and more eye-popping revelations about which are coming out daily (my sister is a lawyer in the anti-corruption commission which is currently dragging in former state Labor ministers and other spivs; unfortunately though she's much more disciplined about leaks than these SWP wimps and I have to rely on the mass media like everyone else). I can't see any point in being party of such milieux except personal gain at the expense of one's soul. There's one person from my student cohort who's currently an ALP member playing a good role, as the NSW secretary of the Australian Services Union which has recently fought an innovative equal pay campaign for child-care workers and other good stuff: but at uni she was the leading Australian Democrat and involved in progressive campaigns.

    There was some contrast in the small university town with a counter-cultural history that I lived in from 1997-2009 (Lismore, also distinguished by its roundabouts, as I understand is Swindon). There: the small number of Labor students were generally shepherded in the right direction by us (the only far left group); the couple of Labor activists in the uni staff union were the most progressive and political, after the couple of us; the Labor mayor from 2004 said some good things at a number of rallies such as strongly criticising the Labor government over equal marriage rights; the Labor branch appeared to play a useful subsidiary co-ordinating role in the 2005-07 campaign against the former conservative government's anti-union, anti-worker laws (and the campaign there was less diverted into uncritically pro-Labor electoralism in the election year of 2007 than in the big smoke); the Labor mayor and councillors appear to be playing a good role in the current massive campaign against CSG mining in the area; and so on.

    But … Whether such branches have any effect on the broader party besides worthy resolutions that are ignored is another question (the Labor government has totally trashed its party's conference resolutions on refugees for one thing). And Labor ranks and Labor-led unions have across the board wasted the considerable momentum and grass-roots organising of the campaign against the previous government's anti-union laws, and meekly accepted the succeeding Labor government retaining much of these laws (including more restrictions on the right to strike than the previous government brought in in 1996 if not quite as bad as those brought in in 2005).

    I know Australia is a different place and has a different history, but the arguments and ideologies are pretty much the same. And Andy, in response to a comment somewhere, it would behoove you to learn about the Labor government of 1983-1996, as I think it's been said a number of times that Blair was much influenced by Hawke and Keating, the Labor leaders of that time.

  64. Jara H: ‘But it is a little disingenuous coz they missed out in their Constitution quote that legal factions can only exist in the 3 months before either a National or Special Conference – which isn’t now.’

    People *assume* this… but it is *not* what the constitution says – there is actually no stipulation about when a faction is formed, only that they disband after the following conference, whether special or annual. This is the entire section:

    ‘(10) Factions

    If a group of party members disagrees with a specific party policy, or a decision taken by a leading committee of the party, they may form a faction by producing a joint statement signed by at least 30 members of the party.

    A faction will be given reasonable facilities to argue its point of view and distribute its documents. These must be circulated through the National Office, to ensure that all members have the chance to consider them. Debate continues until the party at a Special or Annual Conference reaches a decision on the disputed question. Permanent or secret factions are not allowed.’

  65. Manzil:

    ‘It does. It also includes some like Myers and Radford who’ve been nothing but apologists for the CC up until now.’

    Sorry, and who are you?? Putting aside whether it’s in good taste to make such personal comment from behind a pseudonym about people who are nothing close to being public figures, both these assessments are so hilariously inaccurate I can only conclude that you are being inventive or dishonest.

  66. Memory of the party on said:

    Good luck to the oppos. It is a winnable fight. The nc was always a Pyrrhic victory. Some of the oppos have been right Stalinist witchhunters in their time. Gonzalez is particularly odious and chameleon-like. Still you can only piss with the cock you’ve got and there’s some very decent comrades in the ranks notably cb.

  67. Jara Handala on said:

    Cdn Obsrvr,

    #61, 7:30pm

    Thanks, Stuart. And apologies to you and everyone else for thinking SWP factions are only permissible in the 3 months before an Annual or Special Conference. It’s a crucial point, & I should have read the Constitution as carefully as Stuart did.

    I would like your opinion on these 2 matters:

    (1) Section 10 (cited in the SU comment) ends saying permanent factions are forbidden. Do you think that a 99% ‘permanent’ faction is within the rules, i.e. it forms to change a policy or decision, loses at Conference, dissolves for a short period, then effectively re-forms in opposition to the same or similar new policy or decision? That’s allowed, isn’t it?

    (2) I find it strange that this single policy or single decision focus, each in the singular, is called a faction. In the history of Marxist organisation the word ‘faction’ almost always (perhaps always) refers to a political position that calls for a lot more than the SWP actually permits.

    I suggest an organisation allowing members the most freedom would permit, as a minimum, these kinds of formation arising from the members without the prior permission of any party body:

    (a) coming together to discuss a matter of common interest, it being one that isn’t directed towards changing a policy or decision;

    (b) an association trying to change a policy or decision, & usually not trying to replace any post-holder (call it a tendency);

    (c) raising the stakes, a group trying to replace post-holders, usually the whole damn lot (call this a faction).

    It would seem associations (a) & (c) are forbidden in the SWP which seems silly, to put it mildly.

    I would appreciate comments from you all.

  68. Jara Handala on said:

    A-C:
    We live in a capitalist society and the SWP is as much a reflection of our society as we all are, which affects everything we do and think.

    #65, 9:04pm

    Thanx for your comment.

    Interestingly the SWP National Secretary, Cde. Kimber, denied this in his “this case is closed” statement on behalf of the CC, ‘Response to Attacks on the SWP’, 14 Jan, at http://www.swp.org.uk/14/01/2013/response-attacks-swp

    There he says, “the SWP is not an institution of capitalist society”.

    I analysed this delusion in point (6) of my long comment, #317, 7:59am, 7 Feb http://www.socialistunity.com/swp-leadership-fracturing-under-the-pressure/

  69. @78. Actually, you’re right – they’re not public figures, I take it back. My comment was based on the gossiping of a couple of SWP friends in the area, which is also unfair.

    (Although if they are inaccurate descriptions, you have some serious backstabbing going on!)

    EasternHemisphere: We don’t have left unity because the left doesn’t agree even on a major political issues such as the EU or whether to vote labour in elections. Political projects that don’t accept that are going to end in tears. Sad, maybe but it’s a fact of life.

    I don’t think that’s the case. I’ve disagree on some pretty fundamental things with every party I’ve ever been a member of – just over… different things in each case. What’s the solution, to stay in a group small enough that we’re completely ideologically homogeneous but achieve naff all?

  70. brainwash on said:

    #79 –

    “Still you can only piss with the cock you’ve got”

    I am going to try to use this in conversation!

  71. Karl Stewart on said:

    I’ve been told there are 300 members in this faction and 80 in the ‘renewal’ platform.

    (A strong start, but still only a small proportion of the whole organisation’s 10,000 members though!)

  72. Jara Handala on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    Official figures (official as in Soviet ‘official’) as of 25 Oct 2012:

    registered members = 7597
    paying “a regular sub” = 32% [so that's 2431]

    source: CC, ‘Building the Party’, Pre-Conf. Bulletin #2, Nov 2012, p.5

    No definition of ‘regular’. Maybe Stuart can tell us.

  73. “It is not part of our political tradition to try to keep revisiting decisions until we get ones we like.”

    Except democracy is the right of minorities to be able to try and become majorities (or revisit decisions, which is saying the same thing a different way) so maybe, just maybe, such a tradition is part of the problem…

  74. Democratic Renewal is the grouping around Seymour, Mieville, the expelled members and the original oppositionists. This is part of their response to the declaration of the new faction:

    “We welcome the formation of a faction which recognises the widespread discontent within the party. We declare our intention to join immediately, and invite others to do so.”

    Their intention is to become a ‘platform’ within the new ‘faction’.

    Full statement here: http://internationalsocialismuk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/statement-of-democratic-renewal-platform.html

  75. It looks like the CC have called a special conference! However, the Dem. Renewal platform have this to say about the timescale (full text here http://internationalsocialismuk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/a-brief-note-on-ccs-call-for-special.html):

    Having claimed that the opposition to the Central Committee’s current strategy and perspective is limited to a tiny minority, the leadership of the party has been compelled to acknowledge the seriousness and depth of the crisis that they are in. Their acknowledgment of the faction, setting aside the astoundingly misjudged tone of said acknowledgment (about which more later), is a small sign that they at last recognise reality.

    Even so, the response is characteristic of the ham-fisted, bureaucratic short-cuts that they have deployed throughout this debacle. The CC’s response calls a special conference on 10th March, just over four weeks from now. We want a special conference. But this is, in fact, a manoeuvre of exactly the same type as the arbitrary deadline imposed on motions for a special conference prior to the National Committee. Its purpose is approximately the same: to drastically curtail the period of debate. Article 4 of the party constitution states: “Three months before each Conference the Central Committee opens a special pre-conference discussion in the organisation.” Accordingly, we have called for, and continue to call for, “a full pre-conference period”. It is the right of members to a full period of discussion, and the need for it is obvious. If the most profound crisis in the history of the party does not require an unhurried, serious, in-depth debate, then what does?

    We urge members to reject yet another arbitrary deadline, and demand their full constitutional rights. We also urge members to send a clear signal of opposition by joining the faction if they have not done so and, if they agree with us, joining the platform.

  76. I’ve written a short piece on my blog about this new development for anyone who might be interested. If you click on my name it should take you there…

  77. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Manzil: I don’t think that’s the case. I’ve disagree on some pretty fundamental things with every party I’ve ever been a member of – just over… different things in each case. What’s the solution, to stay in a group small enough that we’re completely ideologically homogeneous but achieve naff all?
    Yeah, you’re a member of the Socialist Party putting forward what are basically the ideas of the CPGB. The Socialist Party is a savvy and mature enough organisation not to overreact, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. You have to convince people to support your ideas, discipline without real political agreement isn’t going to achieve very much. But do you really think some party of the whole left with some people voting labour, some people refusing to support them, some people backing the EU, some people calling for a pull out, some people backing Hicks, some people backing McCluskey is practical or the way to go? It is a lot more than historical issues that divides us. Personally I believe an honest recognition of differences, a serious rather than cynical attitude towards ideas and motives, regroupment where there is real agreement, united front where agreement is more limited and electoral agrements and possibly a federal party, are the only realistic way forward. Abstract calls to unity appear to achieve little except to intensify sectarian frictions and achieve exactly the opposite of what they are intended to achieve, disunity. Perhaps a recognition that we don’t agree, rather than constantly looking for ulterior motives of the leadership and insulting the people who follow them as sheep, might actually be a sounder basis for a real and lasting unity.

  78. Feodor on said:

    EasternHemisphere:
    …do you really think some party of the whole left with some people voting labour, some people refusing to support them, some people backing the EU, some people calling for a pull out, some people backing Hicks, some people backing McCluskey is practical or the way to go?

    Is this not how most (all?) democratic political parties work – broad, pluralistic organisations united by a set of vague principles. Why should the ‘left’ be any different? And moreover, what historical precedents are there for ideologically monolithic groups transforming themselves into functioning mass parties?

  79. Jara Handala on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    The Central Cttee. report, Nov 2012, also gave recruitment & membership figures 2008-2012 (to 25 Oct 2012).

    Interestingly, & not surprisingly, they didn’t give the ‘leakage’ figures, those going in the other direction thru the revolving door. But obviously the 2 sets of nos. give enuf to work that out & a few other things out (remember, 2012 is to 25 Oct):

    ………………..2008…..2009…..2010…2011….2012

    1 Jan…………………….6155…..6417…6587….7127… a
    +………………1021….1184…..1062…1176……750… b
    -…………………………..922…….892…..636……280… c
    31 Dec………..6155….6417…..6587…7127….7597… d

    leakage (%)______________15______13_____10_______4… c/a
    the door (%)__________+128___+119___+185__+268… b/c
    volatility (%)_____________34______30_____28______15… (b+c)/a

    (In preview the figures were in columns; how it turns out in the post only the Philosopher King could know.)

    So I worked out:
    (a) the no. who left each year – had to assume no new member left the year they joined;
    (b) as a proportion, those leaving compared with the no. on 1 Jan (leakage);
    (c) as a proportion, new members compared with those leaving (the comings & goings, so it deserves to be called ‘the door’);
    (d) the degree of change in the year (volatility).

    So what can we say?

    First, remarks on the improbable figures & patterns:

    (1) Recruitment rate hardly changes but those leaving present a strange pattern: they fall year-on-year, with 2012 projected to be perhaps only one-third of those leaving in 2009. Is that plausible? Is that the experience of readers? Or, & this is pure speculation, coz of flat recruitment there has been a change of policy, the dialectical transformation of a policy into its opposite, from a culling policy to an anti-culling policy, keeping the nominal on the books to boost the membership figure (at this point Me Ol’ China & Angry Raging Richard would give us a Gogol quote from ‘Dead Souls’). As a creative policy it energises the members with an illusion of growth, it shows the magnificent job the permanent Callinicos faction is doing managing, controlling the sharpest tool of the class (or is it in the class?).

    (2) So what other strange effects could a change in culling policy largely cause? Well, look at leakage (its inverse is retention). Another continuous fall, from 15% to a projected 4% in 2012. That’s an almost fourfold improvement, from 1 in 7 members leaving in 2009 to only 1 in 26 last year. With this kind of retention rate the SWP Human Resources managers will be up for an award from the Chartered Institute for Personnel & Development. But maybe instead the members will get there first & thrust into their hands a bouquet of barbed wire. But horror of horrors, what the hell is that commotion? The ceremonial mark of a handover of power is being disrupted by the raiding Red Renewal squad, trained by The Comrade himself, & now they are showering the permanent Callinicos faction with those said bouquets of barbed wire. Sometimes politics can be messy, direct, immediate, visceral.

    (3) And what about the door? Well, in a way it’s been a history of ‘shut that door’! Or at least in stopping members leaving. More come in than go out each & every year: in 2009
    the factor was a mere quarter; that for 2012 is projected to be more than two-and-a-half! Has a plan been overfulfilled? We will only find out when the secret party archives are opened up after the storming of the citadel.

    (4) Now volatility, the extent to which members at the start of the year see people coming & going, see what a busy place the SWP is. Well, in 2009 the equivalent of a third of those on 1 Jan either joined or left the party. Quite high, really. But it calmed a lil, before plummeting in 2012. The body is cooling, falling blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, ossifying processes are working their effects, the energy level is falling, it’s as if the body is tired. Then the Disputes Committee. Rumours. Hell breaks loose. And it’s not just Angry Raging Richard.

    Other remarks:

    (5) My focus has been on a possible anti-culling policy to cut the number of leavers, a procedure under the control of the apparatus, not the members. The members don’t experience keeping a tick by a name, or seeing the red pen hover, only to move away. But it is the members who welcome new people into the fold. This they experience. And although recruitment has bumped along, 2012 was projected to take a lil dip, down from an average 1100 for the four years 2008-11 to a 900 for 2012. That’s almost a 20% drop. The members would have been aware of this.

    (6) But don’t despair. The anti-culling policy works its magic. Despite flat recruitment, membership is way up, rising every year, with 2012 due to be perhaps 25% more than 2008. That’s Olympian, like winning the Revo Soc World Cup. Bring on 2016. Have it!

    (7) As I’ve noted, recruitment has been flat. Despite the flurry of activity, over the last 5 years the SWP has been recruiting at the rate of 2.5 comrades a day, that’s almost 18 a week. 18. 18 new comrades a week out of almost 45 million people in England & Wales over the age of 18 (2011 Census). That’s the scale of the task the millenarians have set themselves. As I said in a previous post, not for nothing did James & Glaberman & others call their outfit ‘Facing Reality’.

    (8) To turn to another matter, bureaucratic, the ruler in the office. SWP HQ seems to be in a state of paralysis. The last ‘Party Notes’ is dated Monday, 28 Jan. Since then both the National Cttee. & the Central Cttee. have met. And the wider membership has organised, self-organised, not waiting for the elected leadership to tell them what to do. Knowing that emancipation can only ever be self-emancipation, each one of them has acted with moral courage & fulfilled their duty as a member to protect the party from this disastrous course set by the permanent Callinicos faction.

    Despite this, the functionaries at HQ can’t even write an A4 sheet & post it as ‘”Party Notes”, 4 Feb’. Perhaps even two more, one to tell the members a CC-member has resigned, another that a faction has been declared to the National Secretary.

    It makes one wonder what Comrade Kimber does all day. Maybe tending his plants on his window sill. His favourite analogy for the multitude already won to the biggest small mass party in the world. Each leaf a single comrade. But I thought in the tradition it was something to do with gold dust? Well no, not these days. True, dust can be blown away, but where’s the fun in that? Twist it off! Have it! Can always get a new plant. There’s 45 million leaves out there, after all.

    Gold dust? The Finland Station oration? April Theses: who reads theses these days? Swiss Toni’s distant Palestinian relative & his 1960 cry for socialist transparency? Out in the open, in the light of day, in the open press, non-party workers putting pressure on us all, on the leaders, on the apparatus, on the party? You’r’ ‘aving a larf, int’ya? This is 2013. The members can learn of the latest developments from the party bureaucrats when the National Secretary is ready. Socialist transparency!

    (9) Final point. For people like Stuart this section of the Central Cttee.’s report, the figures, is a source of great pride. But it’s hubris, plain & simple. An elementary application of a critical faculty has rolled this little ball down the hill towards the permanent Callinicos faction. (They’re making their way back from Gravesend, the Philosopher King, Professor Dark Side, with his deck-chair, the coterie holding it aloft, having just tested his Cnut-like powers. He’s somewhat disappointed. But he’ll fathom the dialectical processes & pen a new piece in ‘Socialist Review’.)

    The rulers in the offices have really lost the high ground now. If they had developed a cadre of critical thinkers they might have found some way to preserve themselves coz the membership would have sent them warning signals a long time ago, keeping them in check. Instead they have misjudged Conference & the mood of the party, acted with crass arrogance, & now they will reap what they sowed. Maybe Ian Kershaw will write another two-volume tome. Maybe.

  80. Manzil on said:

    EasternHemisphere,

    Putting forward the ideas of the CPGB? Oooh, scary. I’d like a single broad socialist party, constituting pretty much the bulk of the existing left, and hopefully a lot more than that. I’d have thought that’s a bit different then the Weekly Worker’s ‘unity of the Marxists’ line, but either case would represents a better position than the de facto isolationism we’re currently engaged in.

    Do you not think it’s a bit odd that every group’s ‘official’ views are so specific and unchanging that we can assign people to them whatever the issue? Or that you think it’s OK to say the SP is “mature enough not to overreact”? Over people voicing an idea? Like I’ve done something wrong?

    In my view, homogeneity of views precludes the possibilities of a mass party. So long as people support the agreed position in their public actions, I don’t see the big deal. If I said I understood people voting Labour in 2015, rather than for whatever derisory vote TUSC will get, does that put me beyond the pale?

    Let’s take one of the examples of differences you mentioned, over Unite.

    The thing is, I know lots of people in the SP who like (and will probably vote for) Jerry Hicks. The fact they first learned the party endorsed McCluskey on the SP website, enjoying no involvement in deciding that process, makes the uniform defence of that position a bit creepy. Likewise, I know for a fact there are SWPers who are completely bemused by the split with the United Left and the denunciation of McCluskey.

    A socialist left that can’t acknowledge the real differences within its presently constituted groups obviously isn’t going to be able to handle differences between them.

    Calls for unity aren’t ‘abstract’ if you believe disunity hampers our ability to organise, given the limited resources available to us, and perpetuates a culture that is afraid of difference. As I do.

    I’ve heard the ‘honest recognition of differences’ line a lot, but in practice it seems to be a justification for continuing on with the same old shit. Let’s honestly recognise our differences (and perpetuate them by mechanical means), whoop-de-doo. The class doesn’t give care about our differences. We shouldn’t allow them to preclude long-term cooperation, either.

  81. I’m with Feodor and Manzil on this. Why should a left party have a position on who should be leader of a trade union?

  82. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Feodor: s this not how most (all?) democratic political parties work – broad, pluralistic organisations united by a set of vague principles. Why should the ‘left’ be any different? And moreover, what historical precedents are there for ideologically monolithic groups transforming themselves into functioning mass parties?

    Look at the context of my argument. As I posted before some sort of broad workers with a federal structure is, I believe, the way forward for the left. What I don’t support is, for example, the constitution voted through the Socialist Alliance by the SWP and allies replete with its slate system. Neither do I think the ideas of people like the CPGB who call for some big “Marxist” party, on the basis of course of the CPGB’s program, are anything but an exercise in fantasy. I don’t believe any project to unite predominantly existing left activists/propaganda groups is going to result in anything other than more splits and squabbles.

  83. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Manzil: The thing is, I know lots of people in the SP who like (and will probably vote for) Jerry Hicks. The fact they first learned the party endorsed McCluskey on the SP website, enjoying no involvement in deciding that process, makes the uniform defence of that position a bit creepy. Likewise, I know for a fact there are SWPers who are completely bemused by the split with the United Left and the denunciation of McCluskey.

    Now I have never actually been a member of the Socialist Party, but I know enough to call bullshit on this. Are you saying that they don’t have a caucus of their members in Unite? That their activists didn’t participate in discussions in the United Left? That their decision to support McCluskey was simply imposed by the top with little or no discussion with party members in the union? I very much doubt that. They may have some relatively new members who back Hicks. I doubt there are many of them.

    I’ll take your word for it that you are just a new recruit who doesn’t understand the nature of the organisation he has joined, rather than one of the ‘spies’ the CPGB likes to run in other leftist groups. Suffice to say we disagree about what Marxist organisation should be and do.

  84. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Manzil “Calls for unity aren’t ‘abstract’ if you believe disunity hampers our ability to organise, given the limited resources available to us, and perpetuates a culture that is afraid of difference. As I do.”

    Organize to do what? Support a particular electoral candidate? If we can agree on one then fine. If all we can do is produce an abstract propaganda and we can’t even agree whether we support of oppose the EU then that kind of unity isn’t really going to get us very far. Yes, I’m for “unity.” It’s a grand word. The question is with who and to do what? I’m not afraid of difference. Far from it. It’s just I don’t regard the differences that do exist as trivial.

  85. #102/3/4 EasternHemisphere.

    Well I always wanted to be a spy as a child, but never for the Weekly Worker.

    So my options are intentional duplicity, or a naive misunderstanding as to the (presumably permanent, unchangeable) “nature of the organisation”? I couldn’t just, maybe, disagree?

    Calling bullshit on what? That there are SP members who like and support Hicks? You honestly think there aren’t a diversity of views, simply because Peter Taaffe met with McCluskey and agreed to support him – this, I imagine, from a mixture of genuine agreement, old ties between McCluskey and the Militant, a desire to put the boot in to the SWP via their preferred man Hicks, and a natural unwillingness not to crash and burn out of United Left and lose their relatively larger support amongst Unite’s official layers.

    I’m sure that Unite SP members did take part in discussions within UL, but a belief that the endorsement was ultimately anything but top-down shows a remarkable willingness to take the self-descriptions of the left groups’ practice at face value. It’s not particularly controversial: the ideas of democratic centralism mean that people are used to trusting the outlook of the centre.

    It is indeed obvious that we disagree on the role of a Marxist party. For one, I don’t particularly see the need for an exclusively ‘Leninist’ or ‘Trotskyist’ formation. I would, however, have no problem with unity between such formations, or their cooperation with the wider Left. There will undoubtedly be people like yourself who don’t want that, and that’s fine. But I think you’ll doom yourself to irrelevance. And I hope, if such a realignment did happen and prove its success, you would be prepared to swallow your concerns and abandon the idea differences must be formally expressed via organisational division.

    A broad workers’ party with a federal structure would be great. But this is not going to happen, not short of a significant break with the Labour Party, especially from within the organised working class. That only a minority of UNISON’s existing members, and an even smaller number of its new members, join the affiliated political fund, has not led to a serious call for an independent workers’ party. You can’t will a mass party into existence. I don’t understand the idea that TUSC or a ‘mass workers’ party’ is somehow achievable when even the SP accept that a broad socialist consciousness is absent.

    In light of that, I think that a broad and consciously non-sectarian socialist party, albeit a small one and accepting of its own limitations, built from within the radicalised minority of the trade union and community activists, is an achievable and worthwhile prospect.

  86. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Manzil,

    Manzil: Calling bullshit on what? That there are SP members who like and support Hicks? You honestly think there aren’t a diversity of views, simply because Peter Taaffe met with McCluskey and agreed to support him – this, I imagine, from a mixture of genuine agreement, old ties between McCluskey and the Militant, a desire to put the boot in to the SWP via their preferred man Hicks, and a natural unwillingness not to crash and burn out of United Left and lose their relatively larger support amongst Unite’s official layers.

    I’m sure that Unite SP members did take part in discussions within UL, but a belief that the endorsement was ultimately anything but top-down shows a remarkable willingness to take the self-descriptions of the left groups’ practice at face value. It’s not particularly controversial: the ideas of democratic centralism mean that people are used to trusting the outlook of the centre.

    What you are saying Manzil is that the Socialist Party doesn’t have a functioning caucus of union members in Unite discussing current union issues, including whether to support McCluskey’s second run. Now unless their Unite caucus has suddenly vanished very recently then I know that isn’t true. Sure there may be individuals who like Hicks and there are others who I know for a fact think the guy is a plonker. Personal likes really don’t come into it. I don’t believe that the decision to support McCluskey was taken at a meeting between him and Taaffe. That was a bit of political theatre. McCluskey knew full well the SP was going to support him before that meeting, and Taaffe was using the meeting to boost the SP profile and prestige in the union. It’s you not me who is taking the pronouncements of “left groups” at face value here.

    I don’t think anyone who knows their key activists in the union and has seen them work in Unite would be under any illusion that they were going to support Hicks this time around. And to be fair to them that doesn’t come from a desire to “stick it to the SWP” as you seem think. Now yes, I’ll take your word for it that there are individual members of the party who I suspect have not been involved in their caucus, or maybe not even particularly active in the union and who may vote for Hicks. I just doubt there are very many of them.

    As to your views on the kind of party that is needed, well good luck with that one. It’s not going to happen, not in the form that you envisage.

  87. Manzil: In light of that, I think that a broad and consciously non-sectarian socialist party, albeit a small one and accepting of its own limitations, built from within the radicalised minority of the trade union and community activists, is an achievable and worthwhile prospect.

    Absolutely, and I think your arguments here and in a couple of your earlier comments are spot-on. There is absolutely NO reasoned, logical justification for why the rev left prefers to exist in a series of tiny groupuscules. We all know how we got to this position – each of the big egos in the post-WWII Trotskyist movement wanted their own personal franchise. The kind of “non-sectarian socialist party” you argue for, hopefully with many of the members of the current rev left on board (and not operating on fishing/wrecking expeditions) would represent a historic step forward.

  88. I think what Manzil is arguing is what many of us on the Left have been arguing for sometime, pluralist, transparent, grass-roots based non-sectarian, democratic socialist movement in essence what you need to build is the class struggle left-wing. You need a system that has access to ideas and debates, that essentially leads to growth. Not stymie debate, factions and tendencies. It’s about building a movement, unity and alliance not about loyalty or building your own trot group. One activist once told some trot group trying to take over their grass roots campaigning group, “It’s never about doing the right thing with you people, there’s always a bill at the end of the day”…

  89. EasternHemisphere on said:

    jay blackwood: We all know how we got to this position – each of the big egos in the post-WWII Trotskyist movement wanted their own personal franchise.

    Oh, the big egos and dumb sheep who follow them view of the world. With such a cynical view of “raw material” for your new party I wouldn’t rate your chances of success very highly. I’m not denying there are/were big egos. Its just there really were differences of opinion about the way to build, how to organise etc.. The people involved in those disagreements, were, by and large not completely cynical and genuinely believed they had answers. EP Thompson’s comment about the enormous condescension of posterity comes to mind here.

    I may disagree with people like Andy Newman, but there is at least a certain realism to his position of backing Labour. The idea that you are going to build some kind of non-sectarian socialist party from uniting existing members of the revolutionary left and other existing left activists really is a case of wishful thinking. I can’t think of anywhere that this kind of strategy has actually succeeded. The usual result is temporary enthusiasm, disagreements at the first sign of a set back, splits followed by increased bitterness, and recriminations.

  90. EasternHemisphere on said:

    EasternHemisphere: I think what Manzil is arguing is what many of us on the Left have been arguing for sometime, pluralist, transparent, grass-roots based non-sectarian, democratic socialist movement in essence what you need to build is the class struggle left-wing.

    Well instead of lecturing those of us on the revolutionary left who are think your views are facile why don’t you go ahead and build such a party? There are plenty of groups and individuals who have views like yours, who profess to stand for such a party. Go ahead and unite with them and build it. That’s the best way you will convince us doubters.

  91. Lewisham Left Lawyer on said:

    I’m a member of Unite and a SP member, though certainly not at the “tops” of the Unite caucus. I don’t feel a line was imposed without discussion in the caucus and party. Views were canvassed by email and discussions. If there are Unite members in the SP who didn’t get an email asking for their view, have they made sure that the caucus organisers have their details?

    And there is no contradiction between respecting Jerry Hicks and liking his record of fighting, and feeling that on balance a vote for McClusky is best for the left within the union and for the union itself, for all that he is wrong on the Labour Party in our view. It is a tactical issue of building the movement, not just asking which candidate’s programme is closest to one’s own on paper.

  92. EasternHemisphere: …some sort of broad workers [party?] with a federal structure is, I believe, the way forward for the left.

    For someone who says ‘The idea that you are going to build some kind of non-sectarian socialist party from uniting existing members of the revolutionary left and other existing left activists really is a case of wishful thinking’ – your position seems doubly strange.

    First, how is what you propose not also ‘wishful thinking’?

    Second, you seem not to realise that a political party and a political federation are two rather different things.

    I think it’s quite telling that many on the left will only countenance the idea of a pluralistic party as long as certain tendencies are given a firm institutional basis – i.e., made into permanent, autonomous factions. Imo, that they prefer to be a ‘party within a party’, rather than individual members or tendencies who try to win over other members, speaks volumes about their approach: the unified party is never the end in itself, it is only a means to another end – namely, building the ‘party within a party’, often by subterfuge.

    And while such a mentality persists, the lack of identification with the basic aims of the unified party itself, means they will inevitably be a disruptive and destructive influence when they can’t get their way. Which is typically why such attempts come to grief, with the party’s within the party splitting off and continuing in their earlier form, as if nothing much had happened or changed – a legitimate view when you consider their starting point is not to invest in the project itself, but to instead act as a parasite towards it.

    Contrast that with the tendencies inside major political parties: sure, they can be disruptive, but because their fundamental point of identification is with the party itself, because they don’t consider leaving a viable option, they rarely act in a truly destructive manner.

    The various sects of the far left talk a good game when it comes to democracy and unity, but there is little in their political traditions that suggests they have much experience of or commitment to either. With this basic fact obscured by layers upon layers of rather hackneyed phrase-mongering.

  93. @ Lewisham. My point was there are a multiplicity of views within the SP, which EH seemed to be denying by alleging that differences between the socialist groups (on account of their positions on Unite etc.) precluded being in the same organisation. How could this possibly be the case, if differences already exist within the groups? I’m also saying diversity even within the left groups is typically presented bureaucratically as a uniform position, and that is unhealthy.

    For instance, I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying this openly under my own name, because of the likely hassle I’d get over it (debate within the party being fine, but outside it considered a bit OTT).

    As to EH’s comment, no, I did not say there was no Unite caucus. I said that I believe there were a variety of reasons the SP nationally came down behind McCluskey, and that it’s mad to think the centre was not decisive in that – and I would add, whatever debate occurred, likely happened (as much SP activity does) through informal channels. Which I don’t particularly regard as terribly democratic. (In fact, looking back, Lewisham LL seems to confirm this – canvassing via email?)

    And as I say, the fact that to a man, SP members are now defending the line on Unite – even those who are in UNISON or PCS and would had have no involvement in the any such caucus or that of the United Left – comes off as remarkably odd. Now it so happens in this case I will be supporting McCluskey myself, but that if it had been the other way, and the SP supported Hicks, presumably I would be supposed to do likewise, and in fact defend it politically rather than just say ‘we have collectively decided to support X, and I respect that’? The madness of 21st century Leninism…

    @ Jay / Harpy. I agree with both of your comments, but when it comes to the perspective represented by EH, and there are many supporters of it in the SP unfortunately – they include some of my closest friends – you’re onto a bit of a loser trying to convince them. Look at the hostility you provoked with a call for non-sectarianism. Dismissed as just the unity of activists etc.

    The SP has restored much of its size subsequent to the low point of 2000ish, but it still remains incredibly small, especially given the tremendous opportunities offered by first the failures of the last Labour government, and more recently the financial crisis. So it’s a bit rich for defenders of the status quo to argue as though they’re the realistic camp, whereas supporters of socialist unity are merely frivolous tourists on the left getting in the way of the groupuscules’ massive strides forwards…

    Currently I know that the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party, and Socialist Resistance all meet regularly where I am – and, although I don’t know their habits, are in regular touch with members of the Communist Party via the trades council. Occasionally there are TUSC meetings as well. So we all meet. (In places almost a throwing distance from one another.) Separately. Although sometimes, at least in the case of the SP and SWP, we’ve actually used the same venue – but on different days, of course (although the same time – viva 7.30pm Official Socialist Meeting Times!). Just think of us all there, carefully keeping out of each other’s way. Isn’t that just an image to inspire pride and confidence amongst the workers!

  94. #111 why is it necessary for the SP members of Unite, let alone the party as a whole, to have a common position on whether to vote for Jerry H or Len Mc? Surely people should be trusted to use their judgement?

    I used to go along with all that stuff once. Now it just adds to my understanding of why so many people are ultimately suspicious of left groups.

  95. Manzil…. Lol! Indeed 7:30pm is the “official” opening time for meetings ending at “last orders” or just in time.

    Never ceases to amaze me how hostile or defensive comrades can get. In order for the left to grow then it needs to be open as opposed to closed off. Is it because they see change as a threat? I am active in the LRC which works with organisations and individuals etc. in a unified way.

    Again, why the defensiveness is it because they aren’t confident with their politics? How can they have political credibility operating in this political mentality? You need to be open, exchange ideas, transparent and so on. Why the fear?

  96. EasternHemisphere: Oh, the big egos and dumb sheep who follow them view of the world.

    Tellingly, you’re the one who talks about “dumb sheep”. That’s not what I said, nor is it what I meant. Frankly, whatever type of “party” you try and build you won’t get anywhere with an attitude like the one on display here. It’s just the kind of unprovoked hostility that puts people off engaging with any left organisations…

  97. HarpyMarx: Never ceases to amaze me how hostile or defensive comrades can get.

    It’s one of the highlights of being on the left really isn’t it? That’s why we keep attracting so many new people… ;o)

  98. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Manzil you say you are a Socialist Party member. You do seem to have a large number of queries and qualms on the question of a number of issues concerning the strategies and politics of the Socialist Party. Which in itself is not a bad thing? When I first joined the Militant Tendency in May/June 1980 I was told by the branch secretary that always have that 1% doubt so that you can question everything that is taking place within the Militant and CWI in relation to its programme, strategy and tactics. But that questioning was always done within the branch, the district aggregates and other forums within the Militant. Now let us be clear here I am no clone of the Socialist Party and a bit of a pain in the arse and I question everything to clarify within my own mind how the best possible way to achieve unity of the working class to actually change this corrupt capitalist system into a more equitable society. But I have always done that through the structures of the Militant/Socialist Party.

    So I would like to suggest that rather than taking your angst and reservations into the internet about the programme and tactics of the Socialist Party, maybe you should sit down with the National Committee member or a leading full-timer and discuss your political, theoretical and tactical doubts about the way the Socialist Party is developing its programme. Rather than pick the brains of people who are, quite frankly, hostile to the ideas of Marxism/Trotskyism, the socialist transformation of society and specifically the Socialist Party.

    Actually Manzil do they actually know of your scepticisms? You say your handle is a nom de plume so if someone from your area reads your doubts they will not know who you are and would not be able to clarify the various political consideration and nuance that is needed to build a political organisation that will be with the working class to change society. To paraphrase Leon Trotsky a socialist organisation is like an orchestra in which each instrument expresses its own voice in order to blend unobtrusively into the harmony which is thus created. That can only be done if each instrument can understand the whole score.

  99. jay blackwood: It’s one of the highlights of being on the left really isn’t it? That’s why we keep attracting so many new people… ;o)

    SHUT YOUR ****ING FACE YOU ****ING **** **** WITH SPOONS ON. :)

    One potential advantage to the SWP-precipitated crisis in the prevailing left model is that, hopefully, the arsey call to just ‘go off and build one’ might actually provoke such a response, rather than people waiting for the left groups to sort their shit out. It’s not like it would be wishful thinking without an objective basis – the confluence of “permanent austerity” spreading its effects, radicalisation amongst a core of the labour movement, the inevitable capitulation of Labour etc. offers just such a foundation to build on.

  100. Jimmy Haddow: So I would like to suggest that rather than taking your angst and reservations into the internet about the programme and tactics of the Socialist Party, maybe you should sit down with the National Committee member or a leading full-timer and discuss your political, theoretical and tactical doubts about the way the Socialist Party is developing its programme..

    Michael Parkinson: How do you react when someone says, “Boss, you’re doing it wrong?”

    Brian Clough: Well, I ask him how *he* thinks it ought to be done. And then we get down to it, and we talk about it for twenty minutes, and then we decide that I was right.

  101. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Post 115 says “why is it necessary for the SP members of Unite, let alone the party as a whole, to have a common position on whether to vote for Jerry H or Len Mc? Surely people should be trusted to use their judgement? I used to go along with all that stuff once. Now it just adds to my understanding of why so many people are ultimately suspicious of left groups.”

    So I take it Vanya you will not be campaigning for Jerry Hick and you will stop posting things on this blog that promotes him Brother Hicks in any way and let Unite members trust their own judgement.

  102. #121. Spot on Jay.

    @ Jimmy Haddow.

    I’m quite open in my disagreements. The problem is that nothing ever changes. I get the same line from the full-timers as Eastern Hemisphere in these comments – reaffirmation of an “honest recognition of differences”, whether between the SP and X, or within the SP itself (i.e. the SP and myself!), that somehow always ends up with the long-standing comrades getting their way.

    If I have to have a discussion that starts with ‘when I joined the Militant’ one more time…

    I don’t consider it acceptable to regard discussing things with people who are not SP members as somehow inappropriate. I’m quite open about my politics and will happily argue the toss with whomever – why should that change because I join the SP? It’s not a secret society.

    The fact you characterise what I think have been fairly reasonable and political criticisms on my part as “angst and reservations” shows how threatened some people feel when their shibboleths are criticised.

    Might only ‘internal’ criticism be considered fine because you know it won’t amount to anything?

    The fact you say that openly discussing differences – which I reiterate, I happily and regularly do – would allow the official line to be ‘clarified’ strikes me as remarkably similar to the SWP leadership’s explicit call for a special conference to rubber-stamp their previous one’s decisions.

    And enough of the bloody Trotsky invocations.

    I also think it’s absurd to characterise everyone who comments on this website as hostile to socialist politics. If you honestly think that, why do you bother commenting here with your big blocs of text about the one true way forward for socialism? I don’t imagine you do the same on LabourList…!

    Basically I find your whole approach to this off-putting and thoroughly alien to what I expect of the socialist movement. It’s just lucky my experiences with the SP in person have generally been altogether better than with SP members on this site, or I’d be thoroughly disillusioned.

  103. Jay “It’s one of the highlights of being on the left really isn’t it? That’s why we keep attracting so many new people… ;o)”

    Er, yes… Unfortunately nobody told me that when I was 16 that this is how good it gets on the Left…

    “To paraphrase Leon Trotsky a socialist organisation is like an orchestra in which each instrument expresses its own voice in order to blend unobtrusively into the harmony which is thus created. That can only be done if each instrument can understand the whole score.”

    Good for Leon! Why don’t you just say, Manzil… know your place!

  104. Jimmy H – if the new workers party you advocate ever comes into being would you expect the same approach to expressing political differences that you’ve just put to Manzil?

  105. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Manzil my post was given in the comradeliest and fraternal way as possible within the medium we are in; which is not the best medium for detailed explanations of very complicated subjects and issues. Clearly that is not how you have taken it. I disagree with your comments in post 123, and elsewhere for that matter, but it is clear you are unwilling to take guidance from an older comrade who does not sit on his laurels, but is still very active in the socialist movement and learning the experiences of today, not just yesterday, for the benefits of himself and the working class and building a socialist organisation that at some stage will hopefully help the working class to carry out the socialist transformation of society. That is why I joined, and am still involved in, the CWI. If you do not want that, hell there is nothing I can do about that!

  106. EasternHemisphere on said:

    jay blackwood,

    Feodor: I think it’s quite telling that many on the left will only countenance the idea of a pluralistic party as long as certain tendencies are given a firm institutional basis – i.e., made into permanent, autonomous factions. Imo, that they prefer to be a ‘party within a party’, rather than individual members or tendencies who try to win over other members, speaks volumes about their approach: the unified party is never the end in itself, it is only a means to another end – namely, building the ‘party within a party’, often by subterfuge.

    Well yeah you seem to have just confirmed what I’m saying here. The existing left doesn’t agree about enough to form the kind of party that you are suggesting. Where have we heard this “party within a party” stuff before? This is basically a call to wind up your existing groups and line up behind our new leaders. This way of thinking is part of the problem not the solution. And to be quite honest your problems will not be limited to Trotskyists. As we know George Galloway and the likes of Salma Yaqoob and Kate Hudson recently found how difficult it is to ignore quite different views of the world co-existing within the same leftist organisation.

    Vanya: #111 why is it necessary for the SP members of Unite, let alone the party as a whole, to have a common position on whether to vote for Jerry H or Len Mc? Surely people should be trusted to use their judgement?

    I used to go along with all that stuff once. Now it just adds to my understanding of why so many people are ultimately suspicious of left groups.

    Why is it necessary for the United Left to take a position on the Unite GS election? Aren’t they being evil Leninist sectarians by excluding the SWP for backing Hicks? No I don’t think so. You join an organisation, if it is to mean anything you need to abide by common decisions on practical questions such as which candidates to back. I respect the opinions of those who want to support Hicks, but you can’t expect to sit in an organisation like UL, vote when it decides who to back, and then just go off and do your own thing. If people go off and form their own Grass Roots Left, I don’t have a big problem with that, but please don’t lecture others about their sectarianism and spout platitudes about, “if only we could all get together.”

    Should leftist groups take positions on an internal union matter? Well, I’d say they can hardly be indifferent to the result of a GS election in the country’s largest union. Now I do believe that a leftist organisation that doesn’t respect the autonomy of its activists in the union concerned and that imposes a line on them from its centre really isn’t going to develop much of a union base and will quite rightly be distrusted by activists.

    Manzil: I would add, whatever debate occurred, likely happened (as much SP activity does) through informal channels. Which I don’t particularly regard as terribly democratic. (In fact, looking back, Lewisham LL seems to confirm this – canvassing via email?)

    I doubt there is a single organisation, political or trade union, where a good part of the discussion does not occur through informal channels. If a decision has to be quickly I don’t see anything wrong in principle by canvassing opinion via e-mail etc. Obviously if something is highly contentious that’s not going to cut it. People though who expect perfection from their organisations are going to be constantly disappointed.

  107. EasternHemisphere: Why is it necessary for the United Left to take a position on the Unite GS election? Aren’t they being evil Leninist sectarians by excluding the SWP for backing Hicks?

    I’m not a member of the United Left, although I am a member of Unite and on the left. One of the reasons I am not is that I don’t think bodies outside of the official structure of a union should exercise discipline on how people should vote inside unions. It’s an attack on union democracy in my opinion. That doesn’t mean I don’t think people should be allowed to caucus, but decisions people make should be down to their own views or down to a mandate from members who elect them.

    I voted for Hicks last time and this time I will probably vote for McCluskey. Nothing to do with what my party might say or any self=selected caucus.

    And if a political party wants to tell me how to vote in my union (or a campaign for that matter) unless it’s on a very basic point of the party’s ethos or programme I simply won’t join.

    It seems that you can’t actually explain why a party should tell it’s members who to vote for. It just goes without saying? Well no it doesn’t.

  108. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Manzil: I’m quite open in my disagreements. The problem is that nothing ever changes. I get the same line from the full-timers as Eastern Hemisphere in these comments – reaffirmation of an “honest recognition of differences”, whether between the SP and X, or within the SP itself (i.e. the SP and myself!), that somehow always ends up with the long-standing comrades getting their way.
    Well you’ve been in the party for what did you say, four months, and you haven’t convinced them yet! Well, who’d have thought that. Look you are a non-Trotskyist who has joined a Trotskyist organisation with a view to convincing them to abandon their Trotskyism. I expect that they are tolerating your idiosyncrasies while trying to convince you to abandon your non-Trotskyism. Whoever wins out in the end, and my bet is on neither side, it is probably going to take more than a few months to resolve itself. Despite the fact that Jimmy has a propensity to shoot himself in the foot and is probably not he best advocate of his political position on this forum, I do at least understand where he is coming from. Some of us have heard these calls for abstract unity many times before and it never seems to end very well.

  109. Vanya: It seems that you can’t actually explain why a party should tell it’s members who to vote for.

    In a union election I mean.

  110. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Vanya,

    Vanya: And if a political party wants to tell me how to vote in my union (or a campaign for that matter) unless it’s on a very basic point of the party’s ethos or programme I simply won’t join.

    Again you’ve proved my point. See, we can’t even agree on how broad left organisations should operate in a union. And since Vanya makes a principle of the non-interference of political groups in trade unions I don’t see how any long-lasting political work together is possible. Maybe it would be limited to common involvement in single issue campaigns, but that is about it. The point is that as soon as a concrete question arises, talk of left unity becomes so much vacuous tosh. I’m not opposed to unity far from it. I just think this talk needs to come down from the clouds connect to concrete reality and get real. Let’s be concrete acknowledge our real differences of opinion and examine the kind of cooperation that our very real differences do not preclude.

  111. #129 What point have I proved?

    If you want to be in a party that has a line on everything then join one. And everone else who feels that way can join one as well (although not the same one of course).

    I prefer to be in party that takes positions on the bare minimum.

    I take it you don’t intend to explain why a party needs to tell its members who to vote for in the gs election?

  112. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Vanya: I take it you don’t intend to explain why a party needs to tell its members who to vote for in the gs election?

    Well if your conception of a party is purely to stand candidates in elections then it doesn’t need to. If you believe, as I do, that part of the role of revolutionary organisation is to help the process of transforming unions into fighting organisations, then sure it should. It should be getting involved in broad lefts and its members should be fighting to get the best possible candidates elected to office. That is hardly something unique to Trotskyism either. Throughout its existence the CP would openly support candidates for union elections. Thank goodness for that too, somebody needed to get rid of the likes of Arthur Deakin. Of course as I said before, that should be decided upon by the caucus of party activists in the union, and a party leadership should only infringe on their autonomy in the most exceptional of circumstances. In other words the party supports its activists in the union with the resources at their disposal. Meanwhile the capitalist press are using all of their resources to back the most tame and cooperative union leaders. I don’t think the left should abstain from commenting on and taking sides in union elections. As far as telling you who to vote for goes, that would be pretty pointless. Trying to persuade you on the other hand with rational argument, well I don’t see anything wrong with that. It might be difficult if you view it as an infringement of your union’s autonomy.

  113. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Post 129 says “Despite the fact that Jimmy has a propensity to shoot himself in the foot”.

    Yes my feet is really sore EasternHemisphere from all the shots on them I have made here in cyberland, but the reality is in the real world when I am campaigning on Socialist Party stalls and/or at meetings, and so on, having discussion with ordinary working people about the programme and strategy and tactics to tackle the British and world economic crisis there is a different attitude altogether. Now I spent the majority of my time talking to more people outside the cyberworld, rather than in this small self-selecting elitist world.

  114. #133 We clearly have different concepts of what type of party is required. I don’t want to build a ‘revolutionary’ organisation as you call it.

    I do appreciate however that your idea of how to function in the unions is a bit more democratic and grounded in therl world than some others.

  115. @ EasternHemisphere.

    First I was a CPGB spy, now I’m just a non-Trotskyist. The horror!

    It’s not about defending “Trotskyism”, you utter hysteric.

    How is it anti-Trotskyist to argue within the SP for it to support greater cooperation, or at least exchange, with other ‘Trotskyists’ like the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Resistance etc. You can disagree with that, but do you see how utterly petty it is to denounce it as a violation of some core political principle?

    How is it anti-Trotskyist to question the efficacy of emphasising “paper candidates” under the TUSC banner? (Christ, even I was asked to stand!) Where in the Transitional Programme did the great Leon Trotsky declare that up is down, black is white, and that standing for miserly votes in English local government elections is – contrary to, you know, common sense – actually really inspiring and empowering, indeed it is actually the core task of the world party of socialist revolution?

    Woe is me! How I have sinned to question this so. The problem is you confuse basic political principles and a realistic assessment of tactics. Socialist classics are not a bloody A-Z handbook; I don’t have a read over them to know which pair of socks to put on in the morning.

    @ Jimmy Haddow.

    Your ‘I am the only person who ever actually meets any real people, you lot spend 23 hours a day online’ shtick gets a little tiresome, and is blatantly nonsense. I’ve heard that line from right-wing Labour hacks and it didn’t wash then, either. And I mean, you happily believe that a megaphone is a good way to chat to people; I’m not exactly trusting your judgement of what’s normal.

    You say that your comment was offered in a fraternal spirit… and then immediately assume that I don’t want the ‘socialist transformation of society’ because I disagree with certain aspects of how the left organises (or as you terrifyingly put it, I am “unwilling to take guidance” i.e. agree that you are right and I am wrong)? Do you see how that might be considered a little off-putting?

  116. Vanya: We clearly have different concepts of what type of party is required. I don’t want to build a ‘revolutionary’ organisation as you call it.

    You’d bloody love my revolutionary organisation and you know it.

  117. Lewisham Left Lawyer on said:

    Manzil: Please accept my apologies if my comment came across the wrong way. I was genuinely aiming to explain for the benefit of this debate how the decision to back McClusky was made. Most of the commentors on this site are genuine about the debates, and I was trying to inform.

    Feodor: it is reasonable that anyone, or any group acting collectively, with a concern about how to take the left and workers’ struggles forward will take a view regarding union elections, just as much as parliamentary elections, especially in a union with the size and weight of Unite. Arguably, the outcome of such an election can have as much, sometimes more, significance as a parliamentary or council election.

    Of course discussions mix the formal and informal. How could it be otherwise. In a snap election, such as currently in Unite, the informal may have to predominate given the need for speed (more so when the election is called shortly before Xmas).

    And in a party the centre, or leadership, or equivalent (depending on the type of party ) will be involved in those discussions. They should – emphasise should – have the overview that synthesises with the on the ground experience of individual activists to inform the discussion. So we can say “we have come to a collective decision and I respect that”. Nothing wrong there.

    Last but not least, I agree that an argument starting “Trotsky/Lenin/Engels/Marx said, so it follows that…” is fatuous. Marxism isn’t brought down on tablets from the mountain.

  118. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Manzil, Like the Lewisham Left Lawyer I apologies that I made you feel so aggrieved when I explain that my present experiences and past life experiences in the context of the objective world we live as a means to inform, educate and agitate for a better world. I am a very open person, even though I may thrash about like a bull in a china shop, and will discuss social science, whether it is Marxist, Weberian or Durkheimite, and/ or politics to anyone who will listen. But the major part of my political practice has been a member of Militant/SP and it would be difficult to deny that. Just as much it is difficult to deny my academic qualification that I achieved as a mature person, but certain people related to the work programme consider I should not advertised them because it will put employers off. Now I must get back to my job applications or A4e will complain to the DWP saying I am not doing enough.

  119. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Manzil: It’s not about defending “Trotskyism”, you utter hysteric.

    Well if you hadn’t chosen to use a word there that was so dripping with misogynistic inferences I’d probably thrown the insult right back at you. But you did so I won’t.

    Just to remind you that you posted earlier in this thread

    Manzil: It is indeed obvious that we disagree on the role of a Marxist party. For one, I don’t particularly see the need for an exclusively ‘Leninist’ or ‘Trotskyist’ formation.

    Quite frankly if you don’t see the need for an exclusively “Leninist” or “Trotskyist” formation then you are not a Trotskyist. It doesn’t make you a bad person and I’m sure there are plenty of other people here who are not Trotksyists either and would agree with you. But what seems pretty pointless to me to join an organisation that does identify as Trotskyist and then spend your time whinging on internet forums that after four months you haven’t converted them to a very different view of the world.

    The reason I’m giving you stick here is because I’ve heard this kind of thing before, especially from the likes of the CPGB, and most of the time it is either naive or disingenuous. Now as far as people claiming to be Trotskyists, such as the SP, SWP or Socialist Resistance go, are you proposing that they should have discussions with a view to fusion? That would at least be principled if they could agree on a common program and approach to work. However, as I’ve said before I think there are way too many real differences for that to be feasible. What does that leave? Well it leaves some kind of loose electoral alliance such as TUSC in which all three groups are working. Now if the forces were there you might be able to get something like Syriza in the future. Although realistically if you were going to involve those three groups then you are going to have to tolerate faction rights, and allow them to distribute their material inside and outside the party. No complaining like Feodor did earlier about a “party within a party.” So if you actually want to engage with people in your own party, and as I said before I’m not a member of the SP so I really don’t give a damn whether you do or not, I suggest you make your calls for unity in a more concrete manner and don’t be quite so dismissive of their objections.

  120. EasternHemisphere: Well if you hadn’t chosen to use a word there that was so dripping with misogynistic inferences I’d probably thrown the insult right back at you. But you did so I won’t.

    Oh honestly, fuck off.

    It’s amusing that your approach to this topic has been so skewed towards the worst interpretation of other people’s views, that I can just copy and paste what someone else had to say to you in similar circumstances, rather than bother replying (in this case, (Jay, #117)):

    “That’s not what I said, nor is it what I meant. Frankly, whatever type of “party” you try and build you won’t get anywhere with an attitude like the one on display here.”

    ONCE AGAIN, my views may not be orthodox enough for you to qualify as Trotskyist – that’s neither here nor there (and what the hell does that even mean, in the England of 2013?!) – but the actual criticisms I have levelled do not require the SP to stop being ‘Trotskyist’, like you so ludicrously allege.

    Trotskyists believe in a ‘Trotskyist formation’. Great! How does that remotely relate to whether it can be part of a broader left formation? How do you explain decades of work within the Labour Party? The SP’s participation in the Socialist Alliance? The worldwide participation of ‘Trotskyist’ formations within a whole slew of social democratic, communist and other left ventures?

    I’m not telling the SP or anyone else not to be Trotskyist. I’m saying it’s absurd that you’ve made a shibboleth of your Trotskyism, especially when an ideologically pure ‘revolutionary party’ is so obviously disconnected from the actual immediate needs of the labour movement.

    “Spend your time whinging on internet forums”! There’s that classic fear and hatred of discussion again that makes the left so attractive! I’m surprised you and Jimmy have any time to condescend to people on here, so busy must you be storming the barricades…

    If all the SP did was sit around talking about the theory of permanent revolution and waiting for the glorious day, you’re right, it would be absurd to join them when not a fully paid-up believer. But in actual fact 90% of its activity is identical to people who would identify as Labour or just independent socialists – organising around the everyday issues which confront working-class people, and agitating for socialism. Not the socialism of you, to be fair. I notice the Trotskyist stuff drops away on the stall.

    No, this insistence on a rigidly “Leninist” or “Trotskyist” splendid isolation seems more to do with people keeping their little social spheres untainted by the hoi polloi, those who are uninitiated into the Byzantine far left, (or god forbid, other socialists!), than it does with the left’s actual political activity.

  121. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Manzil: Trotskyists believe in a ‘Trotskyist formation’. Great! How does that remotely relate to whether it can be part of a broader left formation? How do you explain decades of work within the Labour Party? The SP’s participation in the Socialist Alliance? The worldwide participation of ‘Trotskyist’ formations within a whole slew of social democratic, communist and other left ventures?

    Sorry this is just confusing things and doesn’t take the discussion forward at all. When the SP was Militant and functioning within the Labour did it wind up its organisation? No it didn’t. It functioned as quite a distinct Marxist group within that party. Most of the Trotskyist groups within Syriza more or less maintained their existing organisation. That is the issue here, not whether or not they functioned within a wider group. I’m certainly not in favour of isolation splendid or otherwise. If you think I am distorting your position please explain exactly what it is. Quite frankly it looks to me like you are consciously avoiding clarifying it, so let me give you another chance.

    1. You are in favour of a broader left organisation, how broad, what kind of program? I take it from what you said earlier you are not proposing some kind of Marxist unity.
    2. What kind of organisational structure would the party you are proposing have? Would it be a democratic centralist party? Would groups have the right to function within the party. Would it be a federal structure like the early Labour Party? Would it be one person one vote? Would it allow union affiliations?
    3. What do you think the Socialist Party should do on entering your proposed party. Should it for example dissolve its existing organisation into the party or should it continue to function in the broader party pretty much as it does now.
    4. How do you think the Socialist Party should go about promoting the formation of such a party?

    If you have anything concrete to say in answer these questions we may yet have a fruitful discussion. If you are going to throw around insults waffle on about orthodoxy, sectarianism, splendid isolation, or the Byzantine Left, well forget it. As to your freedom to whinge on the internet, please don’t try to play the forum martyr. I’m hardly trying to deny you that, just pointing out that it probably isn’t going to achieve very much.

  122. The problem for any sp members who might want to operate as part or a syriza type organisation is Ihat their Greek co-thinkers don’t operate in the actual syriza. One of the things that makes me sceptical about the sp’s call for a new workers’ party is the question of how much divergence from their specific programme they would tolerate before they split from it.

    To me these problems are more about attitude and ethos rather than structures.

  123. #EH.

    Jimmy Haddow said I should take it up with the SP. I said I had, but as I’m obviously in a minority, I choose to discuss it here. You then said this was whingeing. So basically you’d like me to just be quiet.

    So your issue is with the word ‘formation’? OK, let me clarify: I do not believe Trotskyists should be in an organisation consisting solely of Trotskyists; they should however obviously be free to organise as Trotskyists within an organisation consisting of more than just Trotskyists.

    Incidentally, I’m getting to the point where reading the word ‘Trotskyism’ has lost all meaning.

    1. I said I’m for not for unity of JUST Marxists, there is a difference. Happy for the Marxist left to be all in it together, just not forming “a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties” and all that jazz. I don’t think it’s necessary to be prescriptive on its programme, surely that would be the first tasks of a truly democratic party; but a broad minimum like the SA or Respect would (should?) be inoffensive.

    2. I don’t believe in democratic centralism; I don’t believe in ‘federalism’ (at least as a principle; it seems to be a curious sacred cow of British exceptionalism that privileges the existing ‘leaders’…). Yes, individual membership would be fine (like, you know, the Socialist Party!), and open factions. Probably not much call for union affiliations (like, again, the Socialist Party).

    3. Well I don’t think it will, so it’s a bit academic. The CWI left the Irish ULA, the French CWI left the NPA, the Greek CWI isn’t even in Antarsya let alone Syriza. I think is a broad realignment of the left is to happen, it will consist of parts of the existing left, but not the formal apparatus of the sects.*

    *(For the sake of argument: I don’t think the SP should operate “as it does now” even by itself, so I’d rather it didn’t within a broader formation. Or it’d probably end up like the Socialist Alliance all over again. Not up to me though, is it? As this has made apparent, I must be the worst SP member in the country.)

    4. Trying, would be a start. Rather than settling into the comfort of ‘honest recognition of differences’, the actual effect of which is ignoring anyone else exists.

    I would like to ask your own views: how you see the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of socialist politics as currently practised by the “Trotskyist” groups? It does seem a bit unfair that, other than to deny you are in the SP, you’ve not actually put forward a positive case for the status quo – which is surely necessary, given its ongoing failure to make any serious headway.

    That being said, I really don’t imagine there is going to be anything fruitful about this “discussion”, what with you alleging misogyny, whinging, naivety, CPGB-inspired duplicity(!) and all the rest, which isn’t martyrdom, just an honest description of your attitude.

  124. Vanya:
    The problem for any sp members who might want to operate as part or a syriza type organisation is Ihat their Greek co-thinkers don’t operate in the actual syriza. One of the things that makes me sceptical about the sp’s call for a new workers’ party is the question of howmuch divergence from their specific programme they would tolerate before they split from it.

    To me theseproblems are more about attitude and ethos rather than structures.

    Curiously enough, a friend of mine in the SP (you know you’re reading this, you lurking git) argued that the SP could itself become a mass party akin to Syriza under the pressure of events.

    Now even if there was a serious, if limited, break with Labourism, I don’t think the attitude of the various socialist groups is exactly conducive to bringing on board large numbers of people who are inevitably going to be even more offensive to Jimmy and EH’s Trotskyist model than me.

  125. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Quite frankly Manzil you are distorting what I have said and putting words in my mouth and are attributing things to me that I have not said. I also would like to remind you, even though you do not like me reminding you about my history, I have been involved in numerous mass actions and struggles in the years I have been involved in the Party and helped to build united front organisation with large numbers of workers and their families, as well as the Militant/SP. The two are not mutually exclusive. As is the progressing to the development of a new workers’ political formation on the one hand, which had been the democratically discussed Party’s political strategy long before you joined the Party, and the building of the Socialist Party on the other. In Britain at this objective, and subjective, stage the development of an organisation of Left Unity is pie in the sky, it is not on the cards. Maybe at some time in the future when the objective conditions allow it, but not at the moment, then it can be discussed more concretely.

  126. EasternHemisphere, #127: you’re just talking in circles, avoiding discussion of the points I raised.

    If you really want to build Trotskyist ‘fighting organisations’, why don’t don’t you just build your own instead of trying to transform the existing bodies which do not have this as their aim? Why join bodies that you feel no commitment towards, which you wish only to disrupt? The ‘creative destruction’ of modern Trotskyism, perhaps…?

    Moreover, given their own deep entryist pedigree, the irony of an SP member moaning about ‘non-Trotskyists’ infiltrating their party is delicious – though no doubt the irony will be lost on this comrades.

    Jimmy Haddow – you’re an incredibly patronising person, and nowhere near clever enough to warrant or excuse such behaviour.

    Manzil – you must have the patience of a saint to be in a party with people like EH and JH.

    Lewisham Left Lawyer, #139: I don’t deny that it may be preferable to at times take an official position on a subject. I just think this is not always necessary, and moreover, shouldn’t be the basis for deep and lasting division. On balance, I think a certain amount of dissent in the ranks is far more beneficial than the uniformity of party automatons.

    Think also of an internal leadership election. Such elections often divide political groups, sometimes in a quite bitter fashion, and not everyone will be happy with the outcome. Yet despite this, they seem to benefit the overall health of the body and rarely lead to lasting division and splits. In fact, eventually, the losing camp will come to support the winners, because they recognise that there was proper democratic debate which resulted in a fair election, but that, this time, they lost, fair and square.

    Of course, I know of no Trotskyist party that elects its leaders as mainstream parties do, and in all likelihood, given the internal regimes of the far-left, such contests would result in permanent division and multiple splits. Simply put, they just can’t do democracy – in no small part probably due to the apocalyptic life and death rhetoric that underpins most debate on the far-left, which makes it very difficult to ever re-engage with former adversaries.

  127. Jimmy Haddow:

    Or I may say the continual repetition of gossip on the internet, the reality is it can be left to this blog and the CPGB and other to do that..

    Whether the Socialist Party says something or not about the fluid internal crisis of the SWP you will find out about it one way or another because someone will post it somewhere.And it will very likely be me on this blog, if I am allowed.

    If Socialist Unity or the CPGB had been writing about “who is sleeping with who” in the SWP then that would be gossip.

    However…

    The SWP has tried to cover up the fact that a rape allegation was made against one of their leading members.

    The SWP has tried to cover up the fact that a group of the accused long-term colleagues were investigators, judge and jury in the case.

    The SWP has tried to cover up the fact that the Disputes Committee asked “W” her drinking habits, her past sexual relationships and made her feel like a slut who had asked for it.

    None of this is gossip – it is the uncovering of a scandal and those inside and outside of the SWP who have brought it to light deserve credit.

    As for those in the SWP who continue to defend their group’s handling of this matter, I notice they seem to be rather coy in their use of language.

    There is a strange reluctance to use the word “rape”.

    It is all about “Democratic Centalism”, how the DC have handled the case well and now attacks on the “filth” from the so-called opposition – let’s talk about any old crap except the fact that our DC thinks it ok to ask a woman who has made an allegation of rape about her sex life, drinking habits and make her feel like a slut.

    Oh, and you agree the CC were right to not allow her to speak to conference about this.

    Then, after all that, we have the fake concern for the complainant and her confidentiality! After she was branded a liar at the SWP conference.

    If the allegations that “W” has made are true then I hope she is as well as can be expected.

    As for the SWP leaders and their friends your brand is toxic. Type SWP into Google and you will find “rape” as one of the predictive words coming up after.

    It’s all you deserve.

  128. Jara Handala on said:

    Feodor,

    The four demands of the apocalypse?

    Socialism or barbarism!

    The death agony of capitalism!

    The objective conditions are ripe for socialist revolution, all that holds it back are the class collaborationist traitorous misleaders; with the struggle for the revolutionary leadership of the working class rests the future of humanity!

    Drive the police from the factories & the estates!

  129. prianikoff on said:

    Jimmy Haddow “Manzil you say you are a Socialist Party member.”

    I’ve been confused about that too.
    “Manzil” seems to be a Tandoori restaurant in Southampton.

  130. prianikoff:
    I’ve been confused about that too.
    “Manzil” seems to be a Tandoori restaurant in Southampton.

    It’s also the name of the Muslim tradition of reciting the entire Koran from beginning to end.

    And as far as I know is the name of two Indian restaurants in Southampton.

    Also, aww, prianikoff, have you been looking for me? You little stalker you. :)

  131. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Manzil,

    Manzil: Jimmy Haddow said I should take it up with the SP. I said I had, but as I’m obviously in a minority, I choose to discuss it here. You then said this was whingeing. So basically you’d like me to just be quiet.

    Far from it. I don’t want to shut you up, I want you to be clear and honest about your ideas. Rather than simply criticising others show us a positive alternative.

    Manzil: I don’t think it’s necessary to be prescriptive on its programme, surely that would be the first tasks of a truly democratic party; but a broad minimum like the SA or Respect would (should?) be inoffensive.

    Well with any such broad party a programme is bound to be a compromise. However, what kind of program would you support and push for, or don’t you have a particular view on that? Am I reading you right that the main thing is it should be democratic and non-sectarian? Its programme is secondary? You mention Respect, the obvious question is if you think that is the way to go why aren’t you a member of it? What do you think of Salma Yaqoob’s decision to quit over Galloway’s comments? Do you regard that as sectarianism too or do you think that a party should be broad enough to tolerate MPs who espouse rape apologism? You’ll probably get upset by the suggestion, but these are the kind of real issues that divide any actual, rather than imaginary attempt to unite the left. They are the difference between a serious approach and wishful thinking.

    Manzil: I think is a broad realignment of the left is to happen, it will consist of parts of the existing left, but not the formal apparatus of the sects.*

    *(For the sake of argument: I don’t think the SP should operate “as it does now” even by itself, so I’d rather it didn’t within a broader formation. Or it’d probably end up like the Socialist Alliance all over again. Not up to me though, is it? As this has made apparent, I must be the worst SP member in the country.)

    So basically you don’t really agree with the SP but you are working in it to try and split its rank and file from the apparatus and build some democratic and broad left party? Kind of like CPGB spies do except that they call for “Marxist” unity without saying who they regard as a Marxist? I kind of agree that you may be the worst SP member in the country.

    Feodor: If you really want to build Trotskyist ‘fighting organisations’, why don’t don’t you just build your own instead of trying to transform the existing bodies which do not have this as their aim? Why join bodies that you feel no commitment towards, which you wish only to disrupt? The ‘creative destruction’ of modern Trotskyism, perhaps…?

    I really don’t know what you are ranting on about here. You don’t like Trotskyists. You view Trotskyists fighting for their ideas as disruption. Fine. I can appreciate your position if you are at least consistent and don’t criticise them for leaving your pet projects like Respect or the Socialist Alliance. Of course the problem here is that neither would have come into existence in the first place without people who claimed to be Trotskyists.

    And Feodor, I am currently not a member of any political party. I was a member of Militant many years ago, before it became the Socialist Party. At the time I was not trying to split the Labour Party but actually believed it was possible to win the party as a whole to Marxist ideas. Feel free to view me as naive. The Labour Party, unlike a Trotskyist organisation did claim to be a broad church. No matter what you think about Trotskyists I really haven’t got much time for people who join an organisation with the sole intention of splitting it. As I said, I believe honesty about political differences is a prerequisite for unity. Where I am living pretty much the only Trotskyists who are relatively sane are the local USFI franchise. I’m friendly with them, but have too many issues with them to join and they know my issues and probably wouldn’t have me! I respect them for that too. It shows a certain seriousness about ideas. Right now my activity is pretty much limited to my union. If I did return to Britain I would probably join the Socialist Party, if Manzil’s views aren’t representative of the party that is and if they would have me.

  132. @EH.

    You got that I’m “working in [the SP] to try and split its rank and file from the apparatus”, from me saying I didn’t think the leaderships of the SP (or SWP or anyone else, for that matter), would ultimately be prepared to subordinate their group interests to that of the class? You don’t think that maybe I’m just determined to argue my corner, but realistic as to its likelihood? Now EH, do you remember what we were saying about you putting the very worst spin on people’s arguments?

    I mean, I could for instance return to this theme of your splendid isolation – sorry, “honesty about political differences” – given your story there to Ranty Comrade Feodor the Ranter (a trial nickname) about the USFI and whatnot. But I don’t make a habit of assuming things about people I don’t know.

    Speaking of positive alternatives, EH, I did happen to ask you some questions, which unfortunately I see you didn’t deign to answer. Which is fair enough. Although a whole new round of interrogation begins for me it seems, this time invoking “rape apologism”, all prefaced with some patronising guff about being “clear and honest”. Now, I think I’ve been quite patient in answering your questions. Apparently you don’t intend to share, but simply want me to justify myself to you, hostile stranger on the internet whose opinions I don’t respect. So I’m very sorry, but I’m not going to continue talking to you. :)

  133. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Manzil: You got that I’m “working in [the SP] to try and split its rank and file from the apparatus”, from me saying I didn’t think the leaderships of the SP (or SWP or anyone else, for that matter),

    I think from the quote what you are saying is quite clear. You regard the SP as a sect and its apparatus as an obstacle to the formation of the kind of party you want to see. Fine I’m sure there are many people who would agree with you, but they are at least consistent and members of organisations like, you know, Respect, an organisation that you cited as an example of the kind of party that you would like to see. Which begs the question of why you are a member of the Socialist Party and not Respect. I don’t know where you got the idea that I’m accusing you of being a rape apologist, but is it differences of opinion with Respect that explain your non-membership? If that is so then won’t you at least concede my original point that there is a lot more than egos and the material interests of full time apparatuses that keeps us apart. Like the fact that we really do have differences of opinion and those differences of opinion are not regarded as trivial by those who hold them. Start to get that and just maybe you’ll be able to play a more constructive roll in building a real unity. Of course it’s much easier to remain within your comfort zone and treat sharp polemic as hostility motivated by ill will to strangers.

    I’m sorry I can’t see questions that I haven’t answered. You maybe you mean the one about how I see the effectiveness of Trotskyist organisations? I have kind of answered that in passing though. That’s a difficult one because it really does depend on the organisation. They vary from as effective as can realistically be expected under the circumstances, to the completely nutty and suicidal. And believe me, since the break-up of the WRP most of the bigger groups in Britain are on the relatively sane end of the scale, even allowing for the SWP’s pretty appalling handling of the Delta case.

    As to my own isolation, well you may almost have a point there. Maybe I should try to do more than just union activities.

  134. @EH.

    The question was: “how you see the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of socialist politics as currently practised by the “Trotskyist” groups? [...] you’ve not actually put forward a positive case for the status quo – which is surely necessary, given its ongoing failure to make any serious headway.” Political affiliation for you seems to just be about an expression of individual identity akin to a hobby.

    I’ll also answer ‘in passing’: If Respect were active near me and I considered them the most effective proponent of the politics I espouse, I would be in Respect. I’m not particularly tribal. The fact they do not even exist as a branch remotely anywhere near me makes this rather academic. You may as well ask why I’m not a member of Plaid Cymru. As it is, supporting trade union and anti-cuts work is most effective through the Socialist Party. From your remark about USFI, you seem to consider that the minutiae of theory trumps considerations of how best to maximise your effectiveness. I disagree. Where there are arenas and vehicles for socialist, working-class struggle, I do my best to assist that.

    I’d hardly call my engagement with the SP retreating to a “comfort zone” – whereas that appears exactly what you recommend! A sterile impotence justified on strictly ideological grounds.

  135. Manzil: The question was: “how you see the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of socialist politics as currently practised by the “Trotskyist” groups? [...] you’ve not actually put forward a positive case for the status quo – which is surely necessary, given its ongoing failure to make any serious headway.” Political affiliation for you seems to just be about an expression of individual identity akin to a hobby.

    EXACTLY!

  136. Manzil, I have a lot of time for your political positions and attitude to the type of organisation you want to see built (no coincidence that you have positive things to say about Respect and I am a member).

    But what I don’t understand is exactly why, in the absence of a party locally that meets your criteria, you find it helpful to be a member of one that in so many ways doesn’t. In terms of practical work/ campaigning what exactly does membership of the SP give you that you wouldn’t have if you operated as an individual?

    No paper to sell? No pamphlets to push? No meeting with people to convince them that Trotsky was right in all his struggles with Stalin more than half a century ago including on the popular front (I notice that you aproved of the idea that WW2 was a peoples’ war against fascism) ? Nobody to piss off by helping pack meetings to get motions passed that you don’t agree with yourself.

    Obviously, as I said to someone else who took you up on this a while ago, the contradiction is your problem and nobody else’s and I genuinely have no desire to encourage someone to leave the SP so that they can join a party that isn’t active where they live. But I am curious.

  137. Vanya,

    A fair question, and I won’t deny I have doubts as to my decision.

    Exacerbated by the reaction I’m getting on here, from SP members and non-members alike!

    In terms of facilitating the dissemination of anti-capitalist views (which, in the absence of a coherent party-political project or a coordinated broad left movement in the unions capable of agitating for more direct resistance, is what socialist politics basically constitutes at the moment) – or in a more mundane sense, arranging public meetings or protests around the issue of threatened cuts in Southampton, for instance, or supporting the two anti-cuts councillors expelled from the Labour Party – the SP have generally played a prominent and I think positive role. I understand that’s a limited endorsement, but still.

    Being a member puts me in touch with people who I wouldn’t otherwise meet; being a postgrad currently (not allowed to work!), I’m not a member of a trade union – outside of Unite’s still embryonic community scheme, anyway. The SP is a kind of ready-made network of people who are committed and capable militants in their workplace. Given the limitations on my time, I can generally do more assisting them than I could striking out by myself. I don’t think a socialist can be an army of one.

    I don’t sell papers or pack meetings. (And only partially because I’d be absolutely crap at it.) If I was still a member of the Labour Party, I wouldn’t be canvassing for people who weren’t on the left, either. I think anyone who wants to make a difference has to compromise to an extent; it’s just that, at the present moment, whatever I do I’m going to have to compromise more than I would like.

    (On WW2 thing – yes, I do. I think Mandel’s book characterising it as a series of distinct struggles, forced into an uneasy relationship with one another on account of geopolitics, is broadly correct. But more than that, even within what he characterised as the ‘imperialist’ struggle, in say Britain, you have a divergence between the ruling-class programme of, essentially, defence of the empire, and a national-popular struggle against fascism and for democracy and social reform. But that’s another debate.)

    If I just joined Respect would you all get off my back? :P

  138. Helen Charles on said:

    Manzil,
    Sounds like a women after my own heart just joking!!!!!is it any wonder when you look at the cc. ex member but I am sad about all this ..something was going to happen one day though….I’m reading this I need the truth!! you see as my husband rightly points out umm you were never a longterm member …he was..etc and he knows where he can get the truth of all this sad affair…depends on whose truth eh…..but I want say that(evan to him)…..cause there is enough fall out going on….just to say I don’t believe it comes from the’o so very democratic centre’ ha ha !!!! try and take something positive away from this ..evan if you have to start again…..I always tryed to debate human nature and power and the inevitable and how can this be overcome …but |I was often shouted down….apparently…all socialista are democratic!!!!hard lesson I guess …don’t let this take away all the fights you have won..and if I come across ‘Bunny or anyone like her promise I will give her short shrift!!!!

  139. Jimmy Wilson on said:

    The Central Committee is undemocratic and aloof from the membership. If they can’t connect with SWP activists, what hope do you have in connecting with working-class people, the real agents of social change? I left the SWP a long time ago because as a shop steward I was sick of getting told what to do, playing college politics with my member’s jobs and livelihoods (now I’m not a Union rep my so-called friends in the SWP have melted away, funny that). If the SWP ever got power the Central Committe would make the Stasi seem tame. By covering up rape and turning a blind eye to some UK Muslims’ medieval beliefs in order to build UAF you have become the very thing you preach against. Sheridan blows it for the left in Scotland by failing to keep his cock in his pants, Galloway buys into his own hype & turns people off with his arrogance and now the SWP have decided to hit the self destruct. Meanwhile millions of working class people get shafted without any hope of political representation. I hope all the CC end up on workfare. They might finally get to meet some “workers” as the patronisng middle-class bastards like to call us.