SWP: Party members write full narrative of Comrade Delta rape case

SWP members angry about the Comrade Delta case have contacted SU and asked us to publish this article. It was due to appear in one of the party’s ‘pre-conference bulletins‘, which are documents for members to argue and debate issues before the annual conference.

This year, the party’s leadership has done something highly unusual: They’ve been censoring these contributions. They’re removed paragraphs and, earlier in the year, refused to carry certain articles altogether. This is all related to accusations of rape and sexual harrassment against a former leading member. A large number of party members have left or are likely to leave, because the party leadership (plus an undeclared ‘secret’ faction) seems bent on destroying it rather than accept that they really have let these women down. With another SWP member alleging that she was raped and the same bad method being used to deal with it (as well as the person making the complaint being told not to talk about her experiences) this issue is far from resolved, no matter how many times the SWP’s leaders claim to have drawn a line under it.

The document below appears in full, as it was sent to us. It is a complete narrative of the story, and it shows that the leadership has done everything it can to avoid dealing with the issue – allowing bullying to run unchecked, driving hundreds of people out, and worse than all of that, doing nothing at all to help the women at the centre of these events. When you realise that party members have spent £thousands to help send Comrade Delta to university after he stepped down from his SWP job, you realise just how rotten these people’s politics and morals are. The SWP always appeals to people not to make these documents public, to “protect” people. But what we’ve seen this year is that ‘confidentiality’ and ‘privacy’ have been used not to protect political discussions and people’s jobs, but to make sure that party members don’t have access to information, and that those who want people to know what’s happened to them are forced to keep quiet.

Moving forward means acknowledging mistakes and holding our leadership to account

by Simon F (Birmingham), Viv S & Rita M (Hackney)

This document is a narrative of the events leading up to and following a Disputes Committee (DC) hearing in October 2012 in which Comrade W accused a then CC member (M) of rape. We do not go into the detail of the case here but focus on the mishandling of the situation by the CC and their deliberate campaign of misinformation and intimidation, supported by a layer of leading comrades, once the case became known in the wider party. In producing this narrative we hope to elucidate the issues needing redress before the party can move forward.

Before the hearing

At Marxism 2010 two woman comrades (Sadia J and Donna G) approached former CC member Viv S to discuss a serious allegation regarding sexual harassment involving the then national secretary (M) and a young woman comrade (W). This allegation surrounded incidents that had occurred a year earlier.

The two comrades discussed the incidents with Viv and, on behalf of comrade W, asked if she would approach the CC and ask for their intervention. At this stage comrade W stated that she did not feel emotionally able to take part in a formal dispute hearing.

Viv raised the issue with Charlie K that evening. Charlie was the CC member whose department Viv worked in. He took the matter extremely seriously and said as the CC was about to enter into the post Marxism international meeting that he would meet with Alex C to discuss how to proceed. Viv asked Charlie to confirm what steps were going to be taken to resolve the situation and to keep her informed. She asked Charlie to agree that neither M nor the CC would be told the identity of the women who had come forward on behalf of comrade W. He agreed.

Charlie informed Viv within 24 hours that he and Alex had confronted M on the Tuesday following Marxism and that he had denied any knowledge of comrade W’s claims. In the days that followed Charlie informed Viv that the CC had asked Hannah D to meet comrade W to find out more about her situation and what resolution she was seeking. At the meeting comrade W disclosed a great deal of information including details of text messages from M to her. Sadia attended the meeting at comrade W’s request.

Following this meeting Charlie and Hannah were sent to comrade W’s district by the CC to meet with comrade W to discuss what resolution she wanted. Again Sadia attended the meeting at comrade W’s request. At the meeting Charlie apologised on behalf of M and stated that M’s position would be reviewed. She was told that she could go to the DC at any point should she wish to.

Looking back, we think it was a great burden to put on comrade W. She was making accusations of sexual harassment at the very least. Yet the CC abdicated all responsibility and made her entirely responsible for deciding the political outcome of the situation. She was clearly emotionally distressed and unable to think through how she wanted the situation resolved beyond saying that she needed M to leave her alone and to stop being the national face of the SWP. In retrospect, we recognize it would have been helpful with comrade W’s consent to have approached the DC rather than the CC, especially considering the case was concerning a CC member.

The day after M was confronted, Sadia and Donna began to receive telephone calls from Weyman B who left messages demanding that they return his calls. When Donna answered, Weyman told her he knew that they were the two comrades who had come forward and he was angry with them for doing so. He declared, “nothing is hermetically sealed” and “I know all about your plans and your little meeting with Viv”. Weyman met her and accused her of being a traitor and told her she was wrong to approach Viv and should have spoken to him instead. Sadia spoke to Viv and Hannah and asked why their names had been exposed. Hannah confirmed that the CC had not discussed who had come forward to report the case and immediately reported the situation to Alex C asking for an explanation as to the leak and that Weyman be confronted. Additionally, Viv reported Weyman to Charlie who said he would raise the matter. We have as yet still not received any information regarding how the information was disclosed, and Weyman has not apologised for his behaviour.

Following this Weyman led a sustained campaign of bullying against Donna, who was working for UAF at the time. She was later sacked from her role in UAF which she felt was a result of coming forward to raise comrade W’s case. Donna took Weyman to the Disputes Committee the following year – a case she lost and which led her to leave the SWP.

Unfortunately, comrade W pulled further and further away from the party and during the pre-conference period and in autumn 2010 she resigned because, although M would no longer be national secretary, he would remain on the CC. She felt she could not continue to be a member while M was on the leadership. She described her distress at receiving bulk party emails signed by him, or being invited to events he was due to speak at.

In the run up to the 2011 conference it became clear that some comrades were already organising to defend M and had been informed about the case, even though the case was confidential. They set about undermining comrades W, Sadia and her partner Simon F who was the district organiser in W’s district at the time. Pete J, a member in comrade W’s district, went as far as to question why Sadia and Simon were still in communication with comrade W.

The conference in 2011 was one of the lowest points in our party’s history. Alex C introduced the CC slate. When it came to the question of M’s position he used the words “sexual harassment” to describe the complaint raised against M. However, Alex started his introduction by referring to the postings on Socialist Unity, thus posing the situation as a matter of party loyalty and unity against a scurrilous attack by sectarians. For many people this is what initially registered, not the question of “sexual harassment”. Alex also fudged the issue of whether M had been moved from his post as national secretary because of the sexual harassment charge, claiming that while the CC had promised to look in to M’s role, M was tired of being national secretary and wanted to return to the industrial department – implying it was his choice.

M was allowed to stand up and make a grandstanding speech, under the disguise of responding to sectarian attacks by Socialist Unity, while comrades clapped and stamped their feet. The issue of women’s oppression was dismissed and undermined. Instead of a serious discussion of M’s role, the session degenerated in to a cheerleading session in which a leading member, who conference had been told was accused of sexual harassment, made himself out to be a victim and received a standing ovation by people who claim to stand against women’s oppression. Comrade W had no voice and no chance to correct this one sided account of events.

We had no idea that this would take place and were shocked and unsure of how to respond. Sadia spoke to stop the question of W being swept aside. She did so in a careful and considered way yet she was attacked by many leading members for doing so. A leading comrade told her partner Simon that she should be shot for making the contribution. Helen S climbed over chairs to confront her stating “how dare you make a contribution like that without giving anyone the chance to come back on it” – despite herself having made a contribution in defence of M in the same discussion. She was later forced to apologise by a member of the CC although she still told the comrade she thought her contribution was wrong.

A number of members contacted Alex C and Pat S that evening to ask for clarity and demanding that the situation be addressed at the conference the following day. A statement was made which, while attempting to address the problems caused the previous day, was unable to address the damage done by M being allowed to grandstand at the conference.

In Autumn 2011 comrade W re-joined the party because, as she told the DC later, she did not believe that there was anywhere else a revolutionary socialist could turn if they wanted to be active. In the interim, Sadia and Simon had kept in touch with her. She had been through a course of counselling to deal with what had happened to her. In the months that followed comrade W was given further confidence by the party’s brilliant handling of the political discussion surrounding the Assange case. As a result she felt more strongly than ever that she wanted to come forward and resolve her case and felt she could trust the party’s structures to handle it seriously.

In September 2012 she asked Sadia to speak to Hannah and inform her that she wanted to take out a disputes case against M and that she was accusing him of rape. It took a very long time and a great deal of courage for comrade W to reach this point. Hannah advised her to contact Pat S immediately. Comrade W asked Sadia to be her advocate and to speak to comrades on her behalf. Sadia phoned Pat and Charlie the following day to inform them.

As soon as the calls were made to Pat and Charlie things began to move towards a DC hearing. In the run up to the hearing there were numerous problems:

    1. Comrade W was not contacted by the CC to be told that M had been suspended pending the hearing, so was anxious that he may come to her district or confront her.
    2. She was not told that when she sent her statement to the DC it would forwarded to M.
    3. She was told that she would not have access to M’s statement, which meant that he was able to prepare his defence while she had no knowledge of what he would say against her.
    4. She was not advised as to who his witnesses were or what their statements contained – yet M had access to her list of witnesses and statements.

Pat tried to make the process as painless for comrade W as possible. She was told beforehand about who would be sitting on the panel and was asked if there was anyone that she did not want involved. She asked that Rose C be removed as she had knowledge of the case and had been approached for advice by Sadia and Simon as a DC member, yet had failed to provide any support or guidance. Comrade W did not know anyone else on the panel – it was starkly clear that this was not a committee of her peers. Pat also phoned comrade W to talk her through the procedures and ask if there was anything that could be done to make her feel comfortable. But none of these actions could make up for the hearing itself and the fallout thereafter.

The hearing

We were asked to arrive at the venue at 10am that morning in October 2012. We were told that the committee would have a discussion and they would then call comrade W when they were ready. Over 4 hours later, we were still waiting. This took its toll on W. There did not seem to be any regard for the fact that the long wait would be highly stressful for her. She kept pacing the room wondering what was happening.

Esme C read out the legal definition of rape – saying that this would be the DC benchmark. At no point was there any sense that the DC was ill equipped to attempt to make a judgement on a rape allegation.

The initial questions following comrade W’s evidence were agreed between the committee and asked by Pat alone, at comrade W’s request. The questions initially focused on trying to establish the facts and clarify dates.

It was following M’s evidence the questioning become inappropriate and at times reactionary – the questions were asked by individual panel members rather than through Pat.

Comrade W was given no warning about the nature of the questions. She had not seen M’s statement or been able to hear what his witnesses were saying. The questions ranged from a supposed relationship she had had with an older comrade in her district to asking why she had gone for a drink with M and about her previous boyfriends, with specific people named and whether the relationships had been full sexual relationships.

Rita sat through the hearing with comrade W offering support and intervention when she became distressed. Rita confronted the panel over the inappropriate questioning, noting that questions about previous or other sexual or personal relationships were irrelevant to whether M had raped comrade W.

Comrade W was also continuously asked if she had been “in a relationship” with M, and this was asked of her witnesses too. There did not seem to be an understanding that rape can occur within relationships and therefore that this line of questioning was inappropriate and ignorant. She was also asked about an incident with M which she had tried to forget . Comrade W became very upset and left the room in tears saying that they thought she was a “slut who asked for it”. Rita made the point that people who had suffered this kind of trauma did not always remember in a linear manner and that this form of questioning was not helpful.

The hearing took place over two days and comrade W was left waiting for hours on end while the DC deliberated. The verdict was delivered at 10pm on the Sunday night, just before we had to leave the venue. There was no explanation as to how it was reached, no offer of support or guidance, no clarity on how she was meant to handle the outcome. The verdict was simply that the accusation of rape was unproven and a statement would follow in a few days. It took over three weeks.

After the hearing:

1. Another woman comes forward:

Following the hearing a second woman (comrade X) came forward having heard about comrade W’s case. She met initially with Viv having heard about her role in comrade W’s case. Viv suggested that she meet with Pat to raise her allegations.
Comrade X met with Pat to discuss her own complaint against the same comrade, M. She said that she would like to give evidence on behalf of comrade W and herself in a reconvened hearing. M was called on to answer the case.

Following a full day hearing, she was simply told that her evidence was not relevant. She was given no advice or support and the allegations she raised were simply ignored. Considering that she was accusing M of sexual harassment, it seems utterly irresponsible for the DC and CC to simply pretend that this information did not matter. If any member brings a charge of sexual harassment against another, especially a full time employee and leading comrade, the leadership should out of political prudence and principle take action to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

X also faced inappropriate questioning by some members of the DC. CC member Amy L asked if she had misconstrued M’s approaches as he was a friendly man who often bought her coffee, while DC elected member Maxine B asked her about her drinking habits.

2. Political undermining, bullying and intimidation of comrades involved in the hearings:

Comrade W’s treatment following the hearing is nothing short of shameful. In her district she was simply ignored as if she ceased to exist. When she did see members and tried to talk to them, her experience was one of abuse and bullying. Geoff D informed her “It is not appropriate for me to speak to you”, while Bridget P who confronted her on the street near her home called her “a silly girl” stating that 14 year olds get groomed not 19 year olds.

Comrades also accused her of going to the Daily Mail when the story was leaked, despite comrade W’s clear distress at the press coverage and fear of exposure. Some comrades even arranged meetings in the café area at comrade W’s workplace, despite her having asked them not to do so. This caused her great distress and considering the number of cafés in the city was cruel. Charlie, when confronted with this, argued it was not fair to the comrades to ask them to meet elsewhere, despite W’s distress – part of his argument was that it would appear that W’s allegations were true if he intervened. After repeated complaints the CC were forced to intervene and stop the comrades meeting there. There were even reports that she was a member of another political organization and in league with former members deliberately trying to smash the SWP.

Each attack on comrade W and her supporters was reported to the CC but there was no intervention to calm the situation down and no consideration of how to support W’s continued political activity. There was no consideration for the fallout in the district – rumour and gossip were allowed rather than political clarity.

At the same time, it became clear that there was a concerted effort to undermine Simon and Sadia for supporting comrade W. Many district members stopped answering their calls and refused to work with them on building the district appeal event which they were organising. It was clear that undermining the credibility of the people supporting comrade W was more important than building the party. The new district organiser also ignored them and they felt undermined at meetings. It was only following repeated complaints by local comrades that the CC was forced to intervene – and again this had no effect to resolve the situation.

In addition, in the weeks that followed the hearing it became clear that a faction had emerged within the CC and the party to defend and exonerate M. Leading members like Weyman B, Amy L, Judith O, Helen S, Doug M, Maxine B, Rhetta M, Mark K, Roddy S, Paul H and Rahul P to name a few led the campaign. Following the first conference in 2013, Anna G even launched a financial appeal for M, sending emails around asking for donations.

The lies spread included accusations that we were in collusion with the state to destroy the party, that W was a women scorned because M broke up with her, that it was just a relationship that ended badly even though W had made clear no relationship had occurred, and politically we were labeled autonomist feminists with a secret agenda to undermine democratic centralism and the Leninist tradition.

We sent numerous emails to the CC asking for the lies and slanders to be acted on. Numerous comrades sent personal emails to the CC following being told these lies personally by CC members and leading comrades or after witnessing bullying in branches and districts first hand. The CC did nothing.

Charlie did however find it appropriate to ring and question Sadia, who had most closely supported W, and to email her threatening her and the rest of W’s witnesses with disciplinary action should we discuss the case with anyone. And while the CC failed to intervene, they allowed M to continue his work and even refused to act when M spoke at a UAF rally in Waltham Forest while suspended.

3. Blocking our democratic rights:

The CC took extraordinary steps to block our democratic right to challenge the DC report and to gain clarity on the outcome of the hearing.

Comrade W supported by the four comrades involved in the DC hearing as her witnesses and support informed the CC of their intention to challenge the hearing outcome. We asked on numerous occasions how we should do so, and sought clarity with both the CC and DC on what information could be raised with comrades within the boundaries of confidentiality. We approached Charlie and the CC on numerous occasions requesting that a solution be sought so that the situation could be resolved. The CC at no point met with any of us to try and resolve it. Viv wrote to the CC as a former CC member asking for intervention – no intervention was forthcoming.

In order to ensure that a full, informed debate took place at conference, we asked the CC to allow us to submit a short motion to conference for the DC session asking for a DC commission to be established and a review of procedures for rape and sexual harassment cases. Charlie and Shaun D from the conference arrangements committee informed us that we would be not be allowed to do so because we had not passed the motion through a relevant party structure. This is despite the fact that we had been told not to discuss the case under threat of discipline which made it impossible to raise in a branch. We asked the CC to reconsider this position and to allow us to put forward a motion. The CC refused to allow us to put forward a motion.

Finally, in desperation and in an attempt to end the rumors going round the party, which were already causing serious political damage, we submitted a statement to IB1 for conference 2013 simply clarifying why we were challenging the DC outcome. In it we made explicit W’s request that she did not want a second hearing or the outcome of the case revisited. Comrade W felt unable to take part in a second hearing following the emotional trauma of the first and because she felt betrayed by the process. At best we hoped we could learn from the mistakes made, and end the culture of bullying and intimidation. In the document put forward to the IB we asked for conference to demand an investigation into the practice of the DC and to set procedures should future cases of a similar nature arise. The CC refused to print it.

As a result, we formed a faction of 30 comrades to ensure our right to put forward the statement. The CC refused to allow us to form a faction. The statement is below at the end of this document.

Throughout the pre-conference period the CC and the M faction organised across districts to stop us being allowed to go to conference. Despite conference being the only place where challenges to the DC can be brought, attempts were made to exclude us. We were all active comrades who had in three of our four cases worked for the party until quite recently and were leading district members who had been to every conference throughout most of our party membership. Yet in our aggregates we were called liars for not discussing the case or the challenge in our districts and this was used as an argument to stop us going to conference. We were accused of having ulterior political motives. The CC members in these aggregates did not defend our rights to go to conference and challenge the DC. The lies about our motives were allowed to continue – that we were driven by a political agenda and wanted to challenge perspectives rather than simply wanting to ensure that mistakes which could
destroy our party’s reputation for fighting women’s oppression were addressed.

Moving forward

We believe comrades should know the position of comrade W: she has been severely damaged by the mishandling of the case and the fallout which followed. She came forward to the CC and DC trusting that her organisation would behave in a principled fashion. She has been hounded, isolated and ostracised. As a result, she has left the SWP and feels she has no choice but to leave the city she lives and studies in because she cannot bear constantly seeing or being afraid of seeing the comrades who have played a role in making her life so difficult.

The aim of producing this narrative is to ensure that comrades are fully informed about the extent of the errors made so that we can learn the lessons we need to in order to move forward. We recognize that errors go hand in hand with being revolutionaries. We demand that our members throw themselves into action, making decisions in the process which could be flawed. However, we also expect that a revolutionary socialist party should thrive by being able to acknowledge mistakes, discussing why and how they occurred, addressing them to ensure as far as possible that they are not repeated and if necessary holding one another to account. An atmosphere should be fostered which encourages debate and deepens our democratic structures to allow this to take place.

The DC Commission report goes some way to recognising the errors made and suggests significant improvements for future cases. This must be implemented. Ironically, most of the suggestions we submitted to the Commission, which comrades were blocked from seeing by the CC, have been belatedly incorporated.

But there are steps still remaining which need to be taken before we can move forward: we need a discussion across the party on how we went so wrong, and we believe that our leadership must be held to account for their actions and errors which have led to hundreds of resignations and an erosion of our politics and standing on women’s oppression.
We also believe that without a public acknowledgement of these mistakes – including an apology to both women for the distress, bullying and delays – the party cannot recover and rebuild.

We have remained members throughout this appalling period because of our commitment to building and broadening the revolutionary socialist tradition – not simply out of blind loyalty to organisation. We have spent decades between us building the SWP, proudly fighting to make it a party that people want to join. As such, we believe it right that we have tried to stay and fight to correct the errors made, which if allowed to continue will turn the organization into an irrelevant sect with a once proud record on women’s oppression left lying in tatters.

Below is the statement regarding the formation of a faction sent to the CC on 2 January 2013. The faction was formed as a last resort following the CC’s refusal to either allow us to put a motion to conference with proposals for reforming DC processes or to circulate a statement clarifying the nature of our challenge. The CC denied us the right to form a faction.

Initial statement sent to CC on 2 January 2013 regarding Dispute Committee challenge at conference

Since six comrades announced their intention to challenge the Disputes Committee (DC) in IB3 their motivations have been subjected to a significant amount of misinformation. Our request to circulate a statement clarifying matters has thus far not been accepted by the Central Committee (CC) and we have been denied the right by the Conference Arrangements Committee to put forward a motion during the DC session at conference. The six complainants have therefore sought the signatures of 30 comrades to circulate this statement in the interests of transparency and clarity.

Should the CC turn down this request, then this statement will form a faction.

This is a reluctant faction. All comrades who are signatories to this statement share an enormous pride in the politics and record of our party; including our party’s commitment to fighting for women’s liberation, and our location of that struggle firmly within our fight for socialism.

Our concerns are specific but significant ones around the handling of complaints of serious sexual misconduct within the party. We ask for:

The DC report to be rejected not with the aim of re-opening one specific case, but to mark the fact that sharp changes need to be made in the way we deal with such cases in the future.

The newly elected DC be tasked with discussing how to improve the handling of allegations of a sexual nature in the future, taking on board the following proposals:

Proposals for improving the working of the Disputes Committee

1. Comrades making an accusation should be made aware of the DC’s procedures, and be kept informed of the progress of the case.
2. Everyone involved in the case must have equal access to information (unless issues of confidentiality require otherwise).
3. The DC should consider what support comrades involved in cases may need.
4. As far as possible the DC members involved in a case must not be closely associated with either party to the complaint, and should this be the case, the DC must use its power to co-opt members.
5. The DC must seek to ensure that witnesses are not placed under unnecessary stress (with recognition of the personal and distressing nature of evidence that may be given).
6. Comrades making a complaint of sexual misconduct should not be asked about other personal relationships or their sexual or social behaviour.
7. The DC must explain to all comrades involved how it has reached its decision, and also explain to comrades what they can say about the case.
8. Comrades involved in a dispute must abide by party discipline.
9. Neither party to a complaint should be the subject of denigration or wilful misinformation.

Our concerns

We disagree with aspects of the DC’s handling of a dispute considered by it in 2012, and also with a number of CC decisions regarding the case. We do not wish to re-open this case, nor to create damaging divisions within the party. There are, however, lessons to be learned. Our objective is solely to improve the handling of similar cases in the future.

The DC formally heard serious allegations of a sexual nature. We believe that the handling of this case and the unsupportive approach taken towards the woman involved call the report into question. A second comrade made allegations (against the same comrade) which were also of a sexual nature. We believe the DC’s decision not to report on the accusation from the second woman to be wrong. Additionally, the manner in which the second accusation has been reported to party meetings and the lack of clarity about why the woman comrade was moved from her party job has allowed comrades to draw misleading conclusions about the allegation, including whether it had even been made.

The handling of the issue by the CC following the DC hearing has compounded many of the problems. The decision to release a statement to the National Committee rather than the report itself opened a discussion on extremely limited information. Entirely misleading information has been circulated by some comrades about the motives or behaviour of the two women who made the original complaints, and about the motives of comrades who are seeking to challenge the DC report. Our concerns include the summary nature of the expulsion of four comrades in the pre-conference period. This approach has been unnecessarily divisive, and has hindered our collective ability to resolve a difficult situation in the best interests of the party.

Within the wider organisation, comrades have been left to draw political conclusions based on partial information at best, and gossip at worst. Neither is helpful. Our view is that mistakes have been made. The solution is for conference to guide the CC in reaching a positive outcome that prevents these mistakes recurring. Adopting the above proposals will help facilitate this process. An honest discussion and a shared way forward is the best route to ensuring a strong and united party.

Finally, for clarity: this challenge to the Disputes Committee report is a specific ‘stand-alone’ issue. Our shared view is that this stands apart from any wider discussions taking place at conference, and must be dealt with separately.

225 comments on “SWP: Party members write full narrative of Comrade Delta rape case

  1. This really is a quite extraordinary document, and what strikes me is the utter lack of human decency by the SWP leadership throughout this

  2. Feodor on said:

    Utter lack of any kind of common sense too, Andy. Not only did they completely fail the young lady involved, the ‘Delta Removals’ campaign shows that the soon-to-be-Dr Delta is going to struggle to ever live this down. He might be innocent, after all–none of us are in a position to pass authoritative judgement either way, but the stench of a cover-up will mean a presumption of guilt is going to follow him to his grave.

    The SWP leaders have themselves and themselves alone to blame for the absolute mess they’ve created–and they seem intent on digging themselves into an even deeper hole!

  3. Andy from Brum on said:

    You might or might not have been sent this by SWP members, but have you got permission from the authors to put this up? Probably not, (in one case I know you haven’t) but I’m sure that you will be anxious to scupper any chance that the SWP actually might resolve its rows.

  4. I’d happily sacrifice a few individuals to build socialism. Maybe the ex-SWP brigade should have thought about that before they launched themselves off into political obscurity.

  5. Tha
    Adam Ford,

    That document makes reference to the question of public safety of those on the campus.

    I’m glad someone has finally raised that point.

    Does a victim of rape not have some responsibility to prevent a rapist carrying out further attacks?

    And does that responsibility not outweigh any party loyalty or general animus towards the bourgeois state?

    Why haven’t the victim(s) reported the attacks to the police?

  6. Andy from Brum: You might or might not have been sent this by SWP members, but have you got permission from the authors to put this up? Probably not, (in one case I know you haven’t) but I’m sure that you will be anxious to scupper any chance that the SWP actually might resolve its rows.

    Isn’t it funny that that’s the only thing you’ve got to say about this, Andy. As if somehow, the vital issue of consent to publish is somehow more important than consent to sex.

    There are people who have spent so much time only dealing with peripheral issues such as this. They probably imagine they’re doing some good. But trust me, Andy – when people read the document and see that “Andy from Brum” had only one thing to say about it, they will draw a conclusion about your priorities that you won’t like.

    And of course, you’ve decided that you know all about my motives, which is odd cos if you did, you would know what I said when I published IB1 – that I think we should offer the SWP opposition our full solidarity.

    So, what do we have: all you cared about enough to say was that you didn’t think we had permission to publish a document.

    Whatever happened to something that should be at the core of SWP politics, Andy? Namely that there are no discussions that are secret from the class?

    I don’t know what side of the argument you’re on. But given that the only thing you felt it was important to talk about wasn’t the rape, wasn’t the investigation, wasn’t the fact that a comrade has been driven from her home town, wasn’t the allegations of bullying, wasn’t the story of people being sacked – no, the fact that all you’re bothered about is whether we had consent to pubish, should give you pause for thought.

  7. Andy from Brum: I’m sure that you will be anxious to scupper any chance that the SWP actually might resolve its rows.

    Can you explain how refusing to publish this document by the CC helped the SWP to “resolve its rows”.

    I have no good will to the SWP, and I think the left would be stronger if it disbanded, but given that the issue here is the cover up of an alleged rape, and the harrassment of a woman who complained, then I think that there is a clear public interest in publishing to warn people that the SWP is not a safe place for women or vulnerable people, and that labour movement campaigns which include SWP members might be best to consider a risk assessment

  8. Dear Anon, a rape victim has no responsibility to do anything but look after herself as best she can. It is not her job to deal with the police. Having been a rape victim by a man who sent on to stalk me, I did go to the police, a long time ago, precisely because i thought i should in order to help others, i can tell you it was the most awful experience in which i was continually accused of having done something to attract his attention and repeatedly accused of knowing him, having led him on etc. You do not have the right to tell someone who has been raped how they should respond to it–in reape cases least of all as it is all about loss of control and consent

  9. Chris: Maybe the ex-SWP brigade should have thought about that before they launched themselves off into political obscurity.

    I didn’t spot this before.

    Chris, readers might not be aware, tends to post the most absurd ultra-left nonsense. Devoid of any connection to actual activity or actual chances of achieving anything, Chris tends to be about as pompous as you can get.

    But I thought this comment was worth quoting. This is the sort of nonsense you get when someone is completely detatched from real politics, real theory, real activity. Yes, when hundreds of people decide that their party is no longer fit for purpose and that there’s no point in staying and fighting, Chris’s only comment is about how they’ll go into “political obscurity”.

    The ‘comrade Delta’ crisis has exposed so many people who claim to be socialists. Some of them have disgusting politics over sexual consent, but there’s a whole chunk of them for whom activism is just a game. To them, the fact that this was spurred on by a rape and a botched investigation doesn’t matter. To them, what matters is this magic word, “socialism”. Well Chris, you can keep playing your silly Socialism games – the actual movement deserves better.

  10. Anna Banana on said:

    anon:
    Tha
    Adam Ford,

    That document makes reference to the question of public safety of those on the campus.

    I’m glad someone has finally raised that point.

    Does a victim of rape not have some responsibility to prevent a rapist carrying out further attacks?

    And does that responsibility not outweigh any party loyalty or general animus towards the bourgeois state?

    Why haven’t the victim(s) reported the attacks to the police?

    Most rapes go unreported because the survivors are oftentimes not believed, this comrade though she had a better chance of justice with the SWP. She was wrong. The rape culture appears to be worse than dealing with law enforcement. Regardless, only 6% of rape cases end in a conviction, it is practically legal. Women know this, and when choosing to report, we have to bear this in mind.
    Survivors themselves have no responsibility to warn others, they have enough to deal with, and in this case several party members and outsiders warned the wider left.

  11. Andy from Brum on said:

    Tony you asked me which side I was on. I told you – I’ve been in the swp opposition all along. And it would seem I am a sanctimonious troll. Ludicrous.

  12. Andy from Brum on said:

    to Andy Newman. The cc published a version with names removed and (I think) one paragraph deleted. its in IB2 so people will be able to look and check for themselves. Or maybe this reply will also be called the work of a ‘sanctimonious troll’.

  13. anon,

    “Anon” – I’ll respect your anonymity, but I have to point out, you have posted around 10 messages on here asking why the victims of these rapes haven’t been to the police. That’s all you’ve said. You’ve placed the entire responsibility onto the women.

    It’s a bizarre, moralistic position to take. I deleted all of those comments because you posted again and again, “have they been to the police yet?” – there’s something very odd when someone spends so much time placing all the responsibility onto the victim. It’s similar to the other two posters I’ve responded to: your only interest in this issue is to keep making the point that the women have some kind of duty.

  14. As with the anon above, I’m a rape victim who actually went to the police. They were some of the many people who slagged me off, denigrated me etc and their ‘investigation’ i.e. siding with the man concerned and chums because he was more powerful than me, took not only 8 months of my life for them to do nothing but have a go at me and frighten him for half an hour before admitting to him that they were further friends to him,but a further 8 years where I struggled to get over the events they compounded.

    In a fair world victims would have a duty to go to the police. W and X actually did do all they could to protect other women by reporting it to the perpetrator’s organisation. But the police actually work against protecting women by letting perpetrators claim they were exonerated, as cases aren’t usually brought to court, due to jurors being known to blame victims. So it’s decided cases are ‘unlikely to lead to a prosecution.’

    As to the people who wrote the document, I imagine they want as many people as they can know about the lies told etc. To me, our only duty lies to the rape and sexual abuse victims. These women have either lost their jobs or had to start their own lives all over again. We have to expose this sex offender so he can’t rape again. So yes, it is in the public interest.

  15. Jellytot on said:

    Andy Newman:
    I have no good will to the SWP, and I think the left would be stronger if it disbanded,

    Absolutely – a depressing aspect during the past year have been those who are on the correct side of the argument and who are fully against the SWP leadership’s appalling actions but keep trotting out the old canard, “The Left in Britain and internationally who be oh-so poorer if the SWP no longer existed”

    No it f*cking wouldn’t!

    This is just “Gerry Healy and the WRP” all over again with different actors.

    Even by its own logic the SWP is no longer fit for purpose (and almost certainly never was). The sooner it collapses entirely and just goes away the better.

  16. oh and also in the party’s interest, because members are supposed to be voting at aggregates soon, when the truth of what’s happened has still been being hid from them and many misleading lies been spread, so they can’t make fully informed decisions.

  17. Andy from Brum. Fuck’s sake, will you people drop the passive-aggressive bleating? I didn’t delete your comment, Andy will have had his own reasons for deleting it. It takes him a lot to delete things, so I trust his judgement.

    But when you post a shitty accusation like “I’m sure that you will be anxious to scupper any chance that the SWP actually might resolve its rows”, don’t be surprised when the people who run a blog decide you’re not welcome. You made a shitty assumption, and as I said, the only thing you felt it was important to post was about consent to publish – people are going to notice things like that, and they’re gonna draw conclusions. Oh, and you posted a shitty dig at our honesty.

    So, Andy from Brum, you’ve not got much love coming from us. You clearly think we’re 1-dimensional caricatures, and that we only post things for the nefarious reasons you ascribe to us. But as I said, had you bothered to spend a short time looking at what I’ve said on here recently, you will have seen an entirely different picture. But it wouldn’t fit with your world view, which is why you didn’t do it.

    It might be hard for you to accept, but we get a big number of SWP members contacting us and asking us to publish things. Those people are socialists, they’re marxists, they’re revolutionaries. Given the way you decided to approach this issue, you seem to think that the sort of people who send us documents are just out to damage the party. I would suggest that your critical thinking skills need sharpening. The people who have given us things to publish are the sort of people the movement needs more of.

    Obviously, none of the SU people will give away any information about the people who write to us – but believe me, they’re serious about their politics, they believed that the SWP was the best place for socialists to organise in, and they wanted the party to deal with the Delta case properly. The fact that so many SWP members now talk to outsiders, send us documents and ask us to help, should tell you something about the degeneration of the party’s democracy and politics.

    Now, with your accusations and sneering, I’m not inclined to spend any more time on you. If you do feel like you have more to say, you’re welcome to say it. But please try doing so with a bit less sneering and a lot less passive/aggression.

  18. Feodor on said:

    Anna Banana:
    Most rapes go unreported because the survivors are oftentimes not believed … only 6% of rape cases end in a conviction…

    This is an imp. fact to consider when trying to work out the SWP leadership’s mindset.

    Afaik, the whole case was she said/he said, albeit with more than one she. Few bookies would give odds against ‘Delta’ if he’d had to face a day in court. Indeed, a good argument can be made that his shenanigans–legal and/or illegal–would have raised more eyebrows among the SWP’s rank and file, it’s ‘creeping feminists’ esp.

    Thus, I don’t think non-reporting was necessarily done to cover-up. Rather, I suspect the leadership’s handling of the issue had more to do with their fundamental paranoia regarding ‘outsiders’. A police investigation surrounding any aspect of party life is simply intolerable as far as they’re concerned. Yet in trying to keep the outside world out, they’ve focused more eyes on the party, in about as damaging a way as possible.

    Watching them is like watching a car wreck in slow motion. They’re too hard-headed, and by now too compromised, to say those three soothing words: ‘We fucked up!’ They’d rather see the party burn than admit they are fallible. And all the while, they still proclaim themselves ‘materialists’. Life is rich in irony…

  19. Andy from Brum on said:

    Tony – you didn’t delete my comment – fair enough, how am I to know the workings of your site? I assumed that as you posted the original article you were also the deleter, which made your action in raising a question as to where I stand then deleting the answer seem bizarre. But you aren’t the deleter. In terms of what you publish, if the authors of an article don’t want it published I think you should respect that. It wouldn’t be hard to make contact via facebook. But you haven’t. As for motives, Andy has made it clear he wants the SWP to disappear, so its hardly defensive to think that might be part of the motivation for what gets published.

  20. oooh: oh and also in the party’s interest, because members are supposed to be voting at aggregates soon, when the truth of what’s happened has still been being hid from them and many misleading lies been spread, so they can’t make fully informed decisions.

    ‘Oooh’, that’s a great point. One thing that keeps coming up in the party, almost always from loyalists, is this idea that people shouldn’t post oppositional things on blogs, shouldn’t share links on Facebook etc.

    It’s something that has become stronger in the pre-conference period – in Party Notes, the thing they concentrated most on when the latest rape case became public was the fact that people were linking to “hostile” websites.

    If the SWP’s democracy was working properly, I’d have sympathy with that. But it’s not working. In fact if I was in the party right now and people started arguing that members shouldn’t link to other websites or discuss things publically, I’d argue strongly against.

    Ideally, party members would have access to the full facts, even with confidentiality being respected – you could discuss large amounts of the Delta case without ever knowing details of who was involved. People would be able to hear both sides of the case. But look at what’s happened with the new rape allegation (there’s a link in my intro to this post): Once again, the victim was asked inappropriate questions, once again she was made to feel like she was in the wrong; once again she was not taken seriously, once again her story was twisted and distorted when it was told to others.

    But no SWP members know about this. None of them need to know the details of the incident. What they need to be able to judge is, how has the DC acted? How did the leadership act? How does the victim feel? As socialists, they will want to be assured that the victim was treated in the absolute best way possible.

    But because these things are kept secret, SWP members won’t have access to that side of the issue. The party instructed the rape victim not to talk to anyone about her experiences! The secrecy was more important than her well-being.

    It’s hard to argue that SWP members should link to content from websites that may be hostile to the party, of course. But the main thing is, SWP members aren’t clamouring for the gory details of assaults. They are reading and linking to things because they do not feel the leadership is giving them access to the information they do need. How can they be sure that the DC is functioning properly, in the absence of information about how the victim feels?

    How can they decide if the CC slate is fit for purpose if the CC is making sure that even the procedure details of cases is kept secret? How can the average SWP member trust in the full-time apparatus, given that at least half the reason for the crisis is the fact that an undeclared faction, supported by a chunk of the CC, made sure that the second case wasn’t heard?

    If democratic centralism is working properly, SWP members would be confident that when they hear reports at branch meetings, they’re being given all the facts they need. Democracy must be participatory – people need to know all the issues surrounding the stuff they’re discussing and arguing.

    It’s just a horrible fact that these mechanisms have broken down inside the SWP. People have been forced to turn to outside sources to get even the basic facts of what’s happened. If I was in the SWP right now, I would actually argue that it’s the duty of serious party members to go wherever they need to go in order to find the facts – and I would trust those members to have good enough analytical skills that they know when they’re getting good information or bad.

  21. Simon F on said:

    I am one of the authors of the posted article.

    I am very unhappy that you made no effort to contact myself or the other authors to see if we would be happy for you to post it. I am very unhappy that you have posted the article .I wrote this article for an internal debate within my party, not for this site to post.

    I strongly request that you remove the article and allow myself and my co authors to continue our discussions within our party. If we had wanted to post the article we would have used a blog that we chose ourselves, we decided that it was better to email our comrades with the article. I have no idea how you got the article, but you clearly have no real interest in what I am my co authors are trying to achievewithin the SWP.

    Please remove this article

    Simon.

  22. #20 The SWP leadership do of course claim that they suggested to the alleged victim that she may wish to go to the Police and deny that she was dissuaded.

    Of course, as suggested on a much older thread on this subject, it’s difficult to imagine any real encouragement to do so given the general tenor of what the SWP have to say about the Police, whether in relation to rape allegations or otherwise.

  23. The irony of course is that so much of the narrative about going to the Police is that you will be asked inappropriate questions about your personal life. At least if the matter does go to trial you can hopefully guarantee that the jury won’t have contain colleagues and friends of the accused.

  24. Simon F: I am very unhappy that you made no effort to contact myself or the other authors to see if we would be happy for you to post it

    I am not prepared to enter into a debate about who we did or did not discuss our decision to publish with.

    Simon F: I am very unhappy that you have posted the article

    whatever

    Simon F: I wrote this article for an internal debate within my party, not for this site to post.

    get over yourself, if it were published in the SWP’s ” internal bulletin”, it would be all over the web anyway.

    Simon F: I strongly request that you remove the article and allow myself and my co authors to continue our discussions within our party. If we had wanted to post the article we would have used a blog that we chose ourselves, we decided that it was better to email our comrades with the article. I have no idea how you got the article, but you clearly have no real interest in what I am my co authors are trying to achievewithin the SWP.

    Come off it, the SWP is a cult that is an unsafe place for women and vulnerable people, there is a clear public interest in our publishing this document, whether or not you intended it for publication by us. There is no question of journalistic ethic involved here.

  25. Chris:
    I’d happily sacrifice a few individuals to build socialism.

    This is one of the problems with the SWP. If someone is deemed useful to the cause, they’re defended at all costs. If they’re not useful, despite the SWP claiming to support the oppressed, they’re not valued. This of course is the attitude of the gulags etc, that people are only worth keeping alive as long as they’re useful. Personally, nothing would lead me to defend the indefensible. People younger than me/more politically correct have a ‘calling out’ culture where in theory regardless of who does something they deem unacceptable, they will speak out against it. I think this is one of the reasons a lot of youngsters left to form the ISN. I think it’s a good attitude to take to discrimination, abuse etc.

  26. Simon F:
    we decided that it was better to email our comrades with the article.I have no idea how you got the article, but you clearly have no real interest in what I am my co authors are trying to achieve within the SWP.

    Simon- putting this here will ensure more comrades in the SWP read it than otherwise would have done. Most won’t have read the whole IB, many won’t have read your article. Only those in the faction have read the uncensored version, and within the faction you are preaching to the completely converted. This doc needs to be circulated as widely as possibly amongst comrades for us to hopefully swing a few votes at aggregates by people actually knowing what’s been going on.

  27. Andy I’m sure if I was in Simon F’s position I would demand that you withdrew the post. It would be illogical for him not to do so.

  28. Simon F: I strongly request that you remove the article and allow myself and my co authors to continue our discussions within our party.

    You see this is very problematic, and you know it. There have been a number of alleged incidents of rape and sexual assault in your organisation, and a clear pattern as your German sister organisation faced the same problems, and dealt with it in the same scandalous way some several years ago. There is in fact a ore general pattern in the Leninist cults, as we saw with not only the WRP in this country, but the appalling defense of Mark Curtis, by the American SWP.

    Questions of rape and sexual assault, as a question of public policy, are not private matters that can be appropriately handled within a closed community like the SWP. This would be the case even were the SWP hermetically sealed away from the rest of society, but as it is SWP members are active in campaigns and unions alongside other activists, and continue to try to recruit. The leadership heirarchy within the SWP is very susceptible to abuse of power, and inappropriately predatory sexual behaviour.

    However much you try to make this a private or internal matter, it is a question of legitimate wider interest in not only the Labour movement, but also wider society.

    To be honest, the only realistic exit strategy for the SWP is to wind up the organisation, IMO.

  29. Vanya: I’m sure if I was in Simon F’s position I would demand that you withdrew the post. It would be illogical for him not to do so.

    Quite so, and also if you were in my position you would reply to Simon in the terms that I have

    🙂

  30. On the decision to post:

    I always believed that SWP debates and documents should be published. When I started to get close to the party, I was told stuff about how the party believed there should be nothing hidden from the class. That’s such an appealing concept – that we so strongly believe in our own politics, and we so strongly believe that we can lead people, that we don’t hide anything from them. All debates and arguments should be in full view of the working class. We hope to lead them, so we won’t hide anything from them.

    But as soon as you join the party, you find out that everything is secret.

    Do SWP members know that there was a massive corporation tax bill that became due when they sold the print shop a few years ago? No, they don’t – cos the party leadership decided it was embarrassing and, given that they were gonna have to launch a second annual appeal to cover the cost, it would be better not to tell people what the reason was.

    Yup – the party had its members running round collecting money, but wouldn’t even tell them why they were doing it. The party keeps everything secret even from its own members. And it keeps all its political debates secret from those outside the party.

    We have to stop this nonsense.

    Simon, you wanted that document printed and distributed to every party member, which as we all accept often means people who have never paid a penny in subs. What’s becoming more and more clear is that the idea of “a member”, and therefore someone who is entitled to read the documents, is pretty arbitrary. In one IB contribution, it turned out that only 1/3 of the registered members were actually members.

    What I’m saying is that “published in an IB” is a meaningless distinction of privacy. There’s nothing private about an IB. Give a party member your phone number and email address and, depending upon how rubbish the organiser is, you’ll be officially registered as “a member” and be entitled to get the IBs.

    So, it’s arbitray who gets to read these “private” documents. Second to that is the point I made at the start. There is no debate that is so important that it must be hidden from the class.

    And even if we change that to “most debates should be held in front of the class”, surely no one can agree that this case should be secret.

    What we end up with, then, is an arbitrary reason for asking us to take the article down. Why is it that someone who’s signed up once, never paid a penny and never been to a meeting can read it, but we can’t?

    I have to be honest and say, the fact that people are offended by a socialist blog publishing this document speaks to a disdain for others on the left. That’s what is really going on here. A belief that the rest of the left is full of enemies is now so deeply ingrained in the party, people actually feel that the only reason anyone might want to publish it is to harm the SWP.

    Simon, you said it yourself. You made an assumption about me, one that is fundamentally wrong. You made the same mistake as Andy from Brum – you had the SWP’s sectarian blinkers on when you say what you said.

    I want the opposition to win. What I know for certain is that many, many members won’t have seen the IB, won’t know the arguments and won’t know the full story. Even though you’ve decided to adopt a narrative of “Tony published this document to harm the SWP”, I’ve done the opposition a service.

    Andy Newman has a different view to me. So that complicates things for you: Andy believes the SWP is not a safe place for women. As someone who thinks that, doesn’t he have some kind of moral duty to publish things like this?

    I disagree with him. I’ve published the article because too many SWP members still don’t have the full facts or access to them.

    When I’d urge you to do Simon is to stop and analyse why you had those instinctive responses. Your immediate belief was that I’m trying to do something harmful. But you got it fundamentally wrong. People inside the party need to start asking why the hell they don’t publish these documents. The opposition has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change all these political habits, to stop the secrecy, to stop viewing the whole of the rest of the left as enemies.

    You’ve shown in your post that you still believe those things.

    We’re not going to take the article down. Andy, cos he believes the SWP is an unsafe place for women. Me, cos I believe that all debates should be held in full view of the working class.

    There aren’t really any arguments against either – and we can’t take on trust that people would’ve chosen to publish elsewhere. Our experience of secrecy and bureaucracy is that it always tends towards secrecy. We have to push back against it, always.

    One last thing: So many SWP members have contacted us to thank us for busting this whole thing open. SU is in the awkward position of having published things people wanted kept secret, and being despised for doing so – but we’ve done the right thing and we’ll continue to do the right thing.

  31. One of Simon’s motivations for strongly objecting, is that otherwise he might be blamed and targeted; standard practice.

  32. Tony Collins: So many SWP members have contacted us to thank us for busting this whole thing open. SU is in the awkward position of having published things people wanted kept secret, and being despised for doing so – but we’ve done the right thing and we’ll continue to do the right thing.

    Yes, this is worth repeating.

    If it were not for SU publishing things that people preferred we would not publish, then either none of this would have come out, or alternatively, the information would have come out partially and self-servingly from Weekly Worker, whichwould have discredited the information.

    Although SWP members indulge in the conceit that I am a “sectarian” and this is a “sectarian website”, I have no interest at all in fishing in the same pool as the SWP. I am a GMB branch secretary and a prospective parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party, I have no other political axes to grind, and as such there is no self-serving agenda in us publishing this stuff.

  33. brianthedog on said:

    Well done Andy and Tony for publishing the sorry SWP rape case as it has help to lift the lid on this rotten organisation.

    Although I think that they were and probably still are some decent people in the organisation I think the left in Britain would be better off it would just hurry up and die. The leadership however seem intent in prolonging a long and slow torturous death.

    I hope you have got plenty of coffee on the go for the next few days and weeks as the blinked moonies in the SWP are sent to come on here and try to defend the indefensible.

    Also what happen to the previous SWP ‘minister of information’ who earlier in the year was tasked with maintaining the official leadership line 24/7 on SU?

  34. Alan Ji on said:

    Hmm.

    The extra details show a sustained course of action to marginalise and verbally abuse. bully and manipulate against the complainant and the people who present themselves as supporting her personally and her right to be heard.

    Still there are people who think that Trotskyism is different from Stalinism.

  35. Andy from Brum,

    The motives of Andy Newman or Tony Collins are hardly the issue here, and in fact don’t matter at all.

    Whatever damage has been done to the SWP has been done by the Central Committee/DC/pro-CC faction, and by them alone. THEY are the ones who have destroyed the party and betrayed its supposed principles and other members. Above all, they have betrayed ‘W’ and ‘X’, and shown that they do not take rape and sexual harassment seriously when the accused is one of their own. And they are still doing all this.

    As for this being an internal document, its subject is not an internal matter. People who come in contact with the SWP have a right to know what the party is really like. What is the purpose of insisting that things be kept internal, or of the systematic dishonesty within the party? Who have they tried to keep this information from? Clue: It isn’t the state.

  36. Alan Ji,

    The behaviour of the CC et al has been absolutely shameful and there is no possible excuse for it. I’m not sure how that logically leads to your conclusion. Depends what you mean by “Trotskyism”, I guess.

  37. Marxist Lennonist on said:

    Vanya:
    Andy I’m sure if I was in Simon F’s position I would demand that you withdrew the post. It would be illogical for him not to do so.

    Indeed, and this applies whether or not he actually wants it to be taken down =)

  38. From wikipedia- ‘Trotskyists argue that the “Stalinist USSR” was not socialist (and not communist), but a bureaucratised degenerated workers’ state — that is, a non-capitalist state in which exploitation is controlled by a ruling caste which, although not owning the means of production and not constituting a social class in its own right, accrued benefits and privileges at the expense of the working class.’ Sound familiar? Totalitarian repression of differing opinions, purges, paranoia, and perks for those at the top.

  39. Marxist Lennonist on said:

    Chris:
    I’d happily sacrifice a few individuals to build socialism. Maybe the ex-SWP brigade should have thought about that before they launched themselves off into political obscurity.

    So this is what Cliff’s “most anti-Stalinist group on the left” has come to?! This is literally the same argument as used by apologists for the worst crimes of Stalinism, “you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs” and all that, and you’re making it rather more bluntly than they, let alone today’s official communists, often would. The difference is that while the 30s were a tragedy, the idea that your brittle little cult is the only viable group on the left is utterly farcical. Even on the British left almost any other of the various currents, for all their differences with each other, are currently doing better than your hapless CC; while the real hope for the left currently in the world is in the rise and rise of democratic socialism Latin America, of which the SWP is one of the biggest critics. You remind me of Anjem Choudhry invoking his followers to “reject the falsehood of all else” tbh

  40. Marxist Lennonist:
    oooh,

    Great minds think alike it seems!

    Yes lol, the sad thing is this deciding some people are more useful (more equal?) and more worth defending than others is part of the problem in the SWP.

  41. oooh,

    I would imagine most of us here (including you) probably don’t need to be introduced to Trotskyism by a flawed wikipedia article. The point is that:

    1) ‘Trotskyism’, like most political terminology, is used and misused by different people to mean various different things, and
    2) the collapse of the SWP does not in any way discredit Trotsky or others’ left-wing critique and opposition to ‘Stalinism’.

  42. That’s not what I was saying, I was simply saying that the Trotskyist SWP have proven themselves to be to all intents and purposes Stalinist etc, as the other person I think was saying. You didn’t seem to understand what s/he was saying, which is why I went back to basics. Also I don’t mind wikipedia as I don’t claim to be an expert.:)

  43. We have a problem in common: the belief that a certain person/s are dangerous, particularly to vulnerable people they have access to through their active role in a political group. Another thing in common is that the person I am on about is also a swp ‘member’ who also has strong links to the unions, and whose MO of bullying, intimidation and lies is well known and widespread, but nobody with the authority to do something about this person and friends will do anything.

  44. Tony was right to publish this article as it gives a real insight of the inner workings of the SWP; I believe it is the duty of all organisations on the left or that claim to be fighting for the ordinary man to be actively removing sexual parasites or fake activists from the organisation, the behaviour of the CC and DC in this matter was a disgusting display of bourgeoisie elitism, is this not the very thing all left groups proclaim to be fighting against, scumbags abusing their power to better themselves or organisation, I think it is hard enough to keep up the moral and good fight against the oppressive regime without alienating the very people who support the fight, all information should have be open and transparent, this will ensure that people or members will see that whatever issue arises in the future will be dealt with in the correct manner allowing no room for bullying or intimidation, I feel sorry for the genuine activists that joined the SWP to make a difference, where does all this leave them?

  45. karmickameleon on said:

    oooh,

    One of Simon’s motivations for strongly objecting, is that otherwise he might be blamed and targeted; standard practice.

    Fair point. But I also think that much praise is due to Simon F and others who have steadfastly stood by W and, in so doing, have put at risk friendships and even jobs. The fact that these people are still fighting in the SWP and are supported by others in the opposition seriously undermines the contention that it is a cult. This is not to say that if the opposition is defeated and many leave (or are expelled?), the SWP will not move in the direction of sectdom. However, at the moment the dye is not cast and – as Tony Collins has stated very well – socialists in the wider movement should give the SWP opposition our full support, which IMO means giving credit when and where it is due.

  46. karmickameleon: The fact that these people are still fighting in the SWP and are supported by others in the opposition seriously undermines the contention that it is a cult.

    Not really, I discussed this at length before:
    http://socialistunity.com/swp-explaining-the-paradox/

    The SWP has been a small but important part of political life in the UK for some decades; not least in the valuable role they played in launching the Stop the War Coalition. Their present behaviour will strike many as cultish, but this conflicts with the experience that many SWP members are well grounded and capable activists, who have good relationships with others outside their group, and play a constructive role in the labour and other progressive social movements. How can we explain the paradox? The SWP is not a cult, but sometimes behaves like one.

    I think part of the problem of discussing cult like behaviour is that the language is so value laden. Some of this has been deliberate, for example, discussion of “thought reform” models in professional psychiatry in the 1950s was partially informed by the idea that unwilling converts could be inducted and converted to Communism. This cold war model unfortunately dominates the sensationalist outlook of “On the Edge, Political Cults Right and Left” by Dennis Tourish and Tim Wohlforth; and can be summarized as a delegitimizing technique to isolate political radicals as “weird people who believe crazy stuff”

    That is why professionals, sociologists, social-anthropologits, psychologists and psychiatrists prefer to use the value neutral terminology of New Religious Movements (NRM) with the confusing caveat that some NRMs are not religions!

    Nor should we accept any necessary permanence or validity of the current organisation or ideology of mainstream society, just because it is mainstream.

    Pattison and Ness in their paper “New Religious Movements in Perspective” refer to a useful definition of religion (and correspondingly to secular belief-oriented organizations).

    “A religion is to be found where persons take it for granted that their own ethos corresponds to the meaning of the Cosmos” Applying this definition … we recognize three analytical dimensions: 1) the creation of an ethos , 2) a process of cosmization, and 3) the reification of ethos with cosmos.

    The relationships between ideology, ethos and belief is complex. Some cults become the mainstream ideology of society, and recast social ethos in so doing. some organized belief systems act as mainstream religion in one part of the world, but act as a sect in other parts of the world (the difference in practice of the Church of the Latter Day Saints in Utah, compared to the practice of the same organisation in the Baptist dominated Southern USA is interesting)

    Some taxonomy may help, where a mainstream religion or political movement to an extent posseses the virtue of verdicality (truth correspondence) between the belief groups ethos (their habitual character and behaviour), and their social cosmos ( the society they live in).

    The language of sects and cults developed in mediaeval religious discourse, and has been adopted by ethnographers and sociologists, but it unnecessarily pejorative.

    A sect may be regarded as a variant of the mainstream politcs or religion; and sect members may live in both the mainstream cosmos, and participate in the ethos of their group, depsite the fact that there is tension; and lack of verdicality. For example, someone who beleived themselves to be a Bolshevik revolutionary in twenty-first century Britain, could function effectively in most situations, but their political practice is orthogonal to the social and political institutions of our society, which will limit their political effectiveness outside of short term radical campaigns; and there will be a tension between their big ambitions and the groups limited achievements.

    A cult seeks to resolve this lack of verdicality by limiting their interaction with mainstream society. This can be dramatic, such as the migration of the Pilgrim fathers to the Americas. Or it can be undramatic, where cult members simply immerse themselves more and more in the routine and ritual of their religious or political observance.

    There are a number of very well grounded SWP members, who combine the basic politics of the organisation with a fairly active engagement in mainstream trade union and outwards looking campaigning activity. There is also, however, a bureaucratic core to the SWP, of the CC and full time organisers, and there is also a large layer of lay members of the SWP whose politics activity is all “party building” – paper sales, meetings, the contrived hot-house debates about theory, packing meetings of front organisations, etc.

    Harker’s testimony suggests the operation of quite a complex social interaction of an immanent cult within a sect; and it is the tendency towards cultishness from the bureaucracy that creates the bullying culture, and the haughty arrogance of those whose authority is entirely self-referential from within the SWP. Richard Seymour, the SWP’s celebrity blogger confirms this insulation from outside society: “[the CC] can offer no lead to members beyond thrusting them out into that ‘real world’ they are all completely insulated from” (emphasis in the original)

    Now prior to the Internet, SWP branches were not in contact with one another, and lots of dedicated SWP members (let us put them in the sect category) suspected that something was wrong, but beleived that the problems were local to them, and overall the rest of the party was healthy. Particularly in small towns, SWP branches had limited contact with the bureaucracy, and usually liked it that way; and were more able to develop as a relatively healthy affinity group within the wider labour movement. This was also true of some of the industrial fractions.

    What is more, the SWP’s strong point historically was presenting itself as a dissident focus to an actually existing labour movement. In the absence of a strong trade union movement, a CP, and Labour left, the SWP found itself forced into the responsibility of leadership in Stop the War, the Socialist Alliance and then Respect.

    This is the point where the sect/cult dynamic became poisonous; where the cultists like Chris Harman, Martin Smith, and Alex Callinicos resisted the moves that could have allowed the SWP to potentially break out of the sect ghetto, and enter more mainstream politics. (Of course this is a vast simplification, and some of those like Rees who did embrace the change had some rather unfortunate personality traits that came from the cultish milieu of the SWP centre)

    That is why I do think that the bureaucratic core of the SWP acts as a cult, despite the fact that there may be good things about the SWP, and it has many hundreds of good active members, who themselves are semi-detached and weary of the bureaucracy.

  47. daniel young on said:

    Andy Newman,

    And Andrew did you!s not have a dig early about, these monsters and the Party that they represent.

    State Socialist!s are like profits apologist bastards, to be ridiculed.Eh!.

  48. karmickameleon:
    oooh,

    Fair point. But I also think that much praise is due to Simon F and others who have steadfastly stood by W and,in so doing, have put at risk friendships and even jobs. The fact that these people are still fightingin the SWP and are supported by others in the opposition seriously undermines the contention that it is a cult.

    It is a fantastic document Simon etc have made. That there is an opposition however doesn’t mean it’s not a cult. What happens is that free speech is used as an aid to and cover for capricious dicipline. People are allowed to say numerous things (although some parts of it were still vehemently censored) but when the leadership wants to it will use minor things people have done against them, for instance the people who were thrown out for having a facebook conversation, which it was claimed was a ‘permanent faction’ so expelled. This allows the SWP to say free discussion is allowed whilst at the same time actively censoring documents, and expelling whoever is the current target. It’s quite clever, really.

  49. Stephen Marks on said:

    oooh:
    That’s not what I was saying, I was simply saying that the Trotskyist SWP have proven themselves to be to all intents and purposes Stalinist etc, as the other person I think was saying.You didn’t seem to understand what s/he was saying, which is why I went back to basics.Also I don’t mind wikipedia as I don’t claim to be an expert.:)

    ‘The worst Jesuits are the Protestant Jesuits’.

  50. karmickameleon on said:

    oooh,

    It is a fantastic document Simon etc have made. That there is an opposition however doesn’t mean it’s not a cult. What happens is that free speech is used as an aid to and cover for capricious dicipline.

    Their document was indeed excellent and necessary. But what is just as important is the unstinting and courageous support they have given to W. As an ex-member of the SWP (like so many others contributing to this blog!) Simon et al make me proud to have once been a member; while the leadership make me thoroughly ashamed to have been one.

    Of course, the current debate inside the SWP is taking place within the bureaucratic parameters imposed by the leadership, which is part of the whole problem of a democratic deficit in that organisation. But that doesn’t make it a cult. I’m not aware of cults having a lively and very vocal opposition which, to break through the bureaucratic constraints imposed on debate,, has frequently made use of social media and blogs such as this one.

  51. karmickameleon on said:

    Andy Newman,

    The SWP has been a small but important part of political life in the UK for some decades; not least in the valuable role they played in launching the Stop the War Coalition. Their present behaviour will strike many as cultish, but this conflicts with the experience that many SWP members are well grounded and capable activists, who have good relationships with others outside their group, and play a constructive role in the labour and other progressive social movements. How can we explain the paradox? The SWP is not a cult, but sometimes behaves like one.

    Thanks for reproducing your earlier post, which I had in fact read when first published. I would broadly agree with the paragraph quoted above. The SWP is not a cult, but it (most especially the leadership) certainly sometimes behaves like one. Anyone who has any doubts on that question should read or reread Simon et al’s grim account of events.

    However, where we part company is when you say:

    I have no good will to the SWP, and I think the left would be stronger if it disbanded

    Now this makes a lot of sense from your perspective in the Labour Party. But for those of us who have no faith in that party and seek to build an alternative to social democracy (People’s Assembly and Left Unity in the UK, Syriza, Front de Gauche etc elsewhere), it is clear that a collapse or disbanding of the SWP would represent a significant weakening of the Left outside the LP. For that reason, we support the opposition since only if apologies are publicly given to the two (or more) women who have been treated so badly and (crucially) if the party is able to democratise itself, will the SWP be able to play a positive role in that process.

    How likely is this? Not very as things stand, but in the meantime keep posting the dissident voices. I’m sure there is more to come…

  52. #57 On the contrary,

    There have been 5 signifcant attempts to build a left alternative to Labour in the last 2 decades. The SWP boycotted the SLP, undemocratically wound up the Socialist Alliances, nearly destroyed Respect, only work in TUSC when it’s one of their members or someone they want to recruit who’s standing and Left Unity is largely made up of one or other of the groups that has split from them in recent years.

    I say that with no particular brief for all of those groups, merely to make a point.

    In reality the SWP generally has a better relationship with the Labour left than with those outside.

    In the case of Syriza, their Greek section is one of the far left groups who don’t participate, qnd I don’t think they’re in FdG in France either.

    The extent to which SWP members play a positive role in campaigns and struggles is related to their quality as activists. Their membership of the SWP is either an irrelevance or a hinderance/ nuisance.

    The moment someone you thought was a really good activist with a lot of sense starts selling Socialist Worker at a meeting where at least half the others present are doing the same- positive?

  53. karmickameleon: Their document was indeed excellent and necessary. But what is just as important is the unstinting and courageous support they have given to W.

    Yes, I see the two as manifestations of the same thing. They are defending W by correctly describing her experience of harrassment etc and denouncing it.

    I don’t see the SWP’s tactics as not those of a cult, because cults use many tactics, some unique. The pretense of open and welcome debate is one of their particular tactics. In fact people they don’t like are routinely expelled etc for saying things they don’t like. This is only set to deepen as the friends of the CC have put forwards a motion that criticising comrades on blogs shouldn’t be allowed. Blogs aren’t encouraged, but neither is complete internal debate, as can be seen by how much Simon etc were initially forbidden from forming a faction saying the disagreements they had with the actions of the disputes commitee.

  54. karmickameleon on said:

    Vanya: The moment someone you thought was a really good activist with a lot of sense starts selling Socialist Worker at a meeting where at least half the others present are doing the same- positive?

    But how can someone you thought was a good activist with a lot of sense be transformed into something else as soon as they start selling SW? Might it not be the case that selling the paper (and therefore discussing and debating with readers) helps them to be good activists? Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater (bureaucratic or otherwise)!

  55. karmickameleon: But how can someone you thought was a good activist with a lot of sense be transformed into something else as soon as they start selling SW? Might it not be the case that selling the paper (and therefore discussing and debating with readers) helps them to be good activists? Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater (bureaucratic or otherwise)!

    Because it’s hijacking other movements to recruit, showing one of some’s SWP members main reasons to get involved in anything. I was going to a demo not directly relating to socialism, where I didn’t know the organisers/participants, and the SWP were wanting me to put up posters for their events, and sell the paper. I can think of few things more embarrassing/calculated to annoy, and if I did that at someone else’s demo, they would be right to tell me not to and not being impressed with me.

    As to non-anonymously selling it at work, that would be totally cringe.

  56. #60 It doesn’t necessarily transform them into something else, but it certainly doesn’t help.

    As for the baby and the bathwater, I simply reject the idea that a paper like Socialist Worker or an organisation such as the SWP have a useful role to play.

    Struggles and campaigns are useful to the SWP, not the other way round.

    All this stuff about being in solidarity with the opposition leaves me a little cold. I respect people who put human decency before loyalty to the self serving leadership of a useless sect, but I don’t respect them either for maintaining their membership of it or leaving it only to try and replicate it elsewhere.

  57. Feodor on said:

    oooh:
    The pretense of open and welcome debate is one of [the SWP’s] particular tactics.

    History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce: the feted ‘Stalin’ Constitution appeared more or less simultaneous with the show trials.

    It is … ironic, paradoxical, baffling–take your pick, that while most big-C Communists moved on from Stalinism a long time ago, their occasional apologetics having more to do with a sense of loyalty/identity* than to an actual desire to defend Stalinist methods long dispensed with; Trotskyists, some of the loudest critics of Stalinism, have nevertheless aped many of its defining features–cults of the great leader/theoretician, Third period ultra-leftism (mixed with a good dose of right opportunism), bureaucratic rather than democratic methods, repression of dissent, intimidation of dissenters, etc.

    Trotskyism is the Nietzsche of interwar Communism: to contemporaries it seemed so different, with the advantage of greater historical distance we can see that it was very much a reflection of the times in which it emerged. Trotsky signed his own political death warrant when he declared the party ‘always right’–no ‘Stalinist’ would have objected to that sentiment.

    *Wanting to be iconoclastic is doubtless another reason.

  58. Menshevik Abstentionist on said:

    JN: 2) the collapse of the SWP does not in any way discredit Trotsky or others’ left-wing critique and opposition to ‘Stalinism’.

    No, but it does show that all Leninist forms of political organising are utterly anachronistic in 21st century European liberal democracies. It is not merely the willingness to torment a teenager for daring to bring the Party leadership into disrepute, it’s the absurd notion that the Party can censor and control the flow of information as if it’s still 1923 and they control the telegraph exchanges and printing presses.

  59. I can appreciate that the document’s authors might prefer if it were not on this site. However, assuming that the prominent SWP member called Weyman who “met her and accused her of being a traitor” is the one who has been in the habit of tuning up in places and appointing himself the leader of the local anti-racist mobilisation, his behaviour is of concern outside the SWP. It really is shocking that anyone’s response to a woman’s claim that she has been raped should be to call those trying to support her a “traitor”. It’s beyond shocking. It’s vile and contemptible.

    These people have used the money and numbers of the SWP to give themselves an influence in the wider movement. Anyone capable of reacting like that deserves to be a pariah rather than a leader.

  60. Feodor on said:

    Andy Newman:
    The pattern of behaviour across these “leninist” groups is really disturbing…

    The stuff about Unite’s ‘leverage squad’s’ doorstepping the families of various bosses, if true, is another quite disturbing example of intimidation. It seems entirely counter-productive in terms of winning public sympathy for union members’ interests. It also shows that, to be fair, questionable behaviour is not the sole preserve of the Leninist left.

  61. Richard on said:

    I do wonder whether there should be some facility where ex-members can claim a refund on the Subs they paid over the years.
    Rather similar to being able to claim compensation for being missold PPI

    That could lead to situation where you get spam text messages along the lines:

    CLAIM NOW. Miss sold idea that SWP was socialist organisation defending Womens Rights. Text FFS to claim rebate on subs paid + recieve complementary commemorative Paste Table

  62. I found this topic by accident and from an outsiders view personally I think this is really damaging for the SWP. Anybody looking the the extremes of politics would now look to the far right and find bigots and racists and on the far left find rapists and rape apologists and frankly believe they were as worse as each other!

    As for those who’ve left the SWP, of the one’s I’ve met they seem to have become more prominent in other political fields than when they were SWP members, so not really joining a political wilderness. If anything I have seen efforts to ostracise SWP members, its not in the line of the Unison witch hunts with the Socialist party but still noticeable.

  63. Numerous other groups / movements now have said they can’t work with those SWP members that think the leadership’s actions are ok. Some have said they won’t work with people who choose to be in such an organisation at all. So yes, it is the SWP, and hopefully also the Socialist Party, who condone a member beating his partner, that are in the political wilderness.

  64. Menshevik Abstentionist: all Leninist forms of political organising are utterly anachronistic in 21st century European liberal democracies.

    It is a conceit of marginal ultra left groups to describe their distinctive and often different organisational fetishes as ‘Leninist’. Critics of these groups, and refugees from them, do rational debate a disservice when they flatter the conceit.

    The peculiar internal regime that developed in the SWP has its origins in the progressive decoupling from political reality that inevitably overtakes any political organisation that combines a programmatic commitment to the goal of working class political power with a marginal connection with the agency that alone can achieve about that goal.

    If the SWP was populated in its decisive majority with workers in the core industries, transport, manufacturing, energy, steel, power etc its political approach would still define it as sectarian. This is not to say that working class parties are immune from sectarianism but deep roots in the working class is a powerful corrective.

    Actually, some of the more experienced and mature trade unionists in the SWP seem to be sticking with the organisation while the exodus seems to be substantially made up of its student periphery leaving rather sooner in their academic career than is customary.

    Maybe this is simple loyalty and habit. Maybe the old guard think the present regime will be deposed or at least decapitated. Certainly the good professor would be unlikely to survive a conference vote that permitted a level of discrimination between candidates and even so is, as I understand, the target of some sophisticated manoeuvring.

    Perhaps the political maturity of an organisation can be judged by the way in which it handles sharp disagreement on political questions. As the successive waves of SWP bloodletting get less and less centred on political questions and more on the behaviour of the regime itself the organisation gets even more detached from the real world.

    The latest attempt to cobble together a new political formation on the left, Left Unity, meets in a short while. A one level we can hope that it achieves its objective in providing an organisational framework for the very many unaffiliated left wingers who are seeking a more congenial home. The way in which every parasitic sect has latched on to the project doesn’t give much hope but it has some canny operators in its founding group.

    Whatever its new adherents are fleeing from it is not Leninism. As its goal seems to be a more equitable settlement within the framework of welfare capitalism and the European Union they wont have much need of it.

    The question was put nicely in the first serious critique of the Left Unity project:
    “The experience of Leninism is the story of the world’s first successful socialist revolution, of working-class state power, of the construction, defence and ultimate disintegration of world socialism in the twentieth century, of parties which led masses in the struggle against capitalism, fascism and imperialism, and of millions who died on the battlefields and in the dungeons of the bourgeoisie as partisans of a world movement for a communist future, all with its historic achievements and imposing crimes and errors. 

    To imagine that anything can be added to the analysis of this experience (essential for any serious socialist organisation) by studying the goings-on in small and marginal groups mainly peopled by the petty-bourgeois is merely testimony to the capacity of some of the left to depart from the real world into their own self-referential Truman Show. 

    Pace Professor Callinicos, there is absolutely nothing that can be adduced for or against Leninism from the arguments inside the SWP, any more than the results obtained by the Large Hadron Collider need verifying by observing the Duracell Bunny.

    http://21centurymanifesto.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/left-unity/

  65. Jellytot on said:

    Liam: However, assuming that the prominent SWP member called Weyman who “met her and accused her of being a traitor” is the one who has been in the habit of tuning up in places and appointing himself the leader of the local anti-racist mobilisation, his behaviour is of concern outside the SWP.

    He doesn’t appoint himself. Since the departure of his pal Delta he is essentially the public face of UAF and the non-SWP component of the UAF, for some reason I can’t fathom, seem to be OK with that. It is with the wider UAF’s agreement and support that he “turns up to and attempts to lead anti-racist mobilisations”.

    He has always struck me as a complete and utter Party hack; a mediocrity who has managed to wangle himself into the upper echelons of the SWP and owes his relative prominence purely to that fact. I would have been stunned if he had stuck up for the woman concerned. That would have taken ethics , guts and a keen mind.

    At meetings he just regurgitates Colin Sparks’s 1980 pamphlet on Fascism and slags off other anti-fascist campaigns. There is no originality and precious little depth there.

  66. Nick Wright,

    When the conversations take place about what is or might be the best kind of ‘left of labour’ organisation, I rarely see an analysis based on a reflection both of the past and of the present. That’s to say, there may or may not be conclusions to be drawn from Paris, Russia, Germany, Vienna etc but none of these observations should be separate from what life looks like now. Far too often I see past historical moments bolted on to the present. This strikes me as absurd. In linguistics, there is the idea of the ‘substrate’ the population who speak a language prior to the arrival of another. The creole that emerges is of course an amalgam of what arrives and what was there (the substrate). This strikes me as quite a good starting point for any discussion about what is or might be a good left organisation. What is the substrate now? How is it organised (or not)? What are its main features? etc etc.

  67. karmickameleon on said:

    Vanya: Struggles and campaigns are useful to the SWP, not the other way round.

    Yet as Andy Newman (no friend of the SWP, I’m sure you’ll agree!) said not so long ago:

    The SWP has been a small but important part of political life in the UK for some decades; not least in the valuable role they played in launching the Stop the War Coalition. Their present behaviour will strike many as cultish, but this conflicts with the experience that many SWP members are well grounded and capable activists, who have good relationships with others outside their group, and play a constructive role in the labour and other progressive social movements.

    (my highlights)

    Surely that role can be replicated in the future IF (and it’s a very big IF) the opposition can win its battle for a full public apology to the women comrades who have been treated so appallingly and achieve a thorough democratisation of party’s structures. The people you do not respect for maintaining their membership of the SWP are currently putting up that fight and deserve the support of socialists in the wider movement. In fact it was Tony Collins who put it much more eloquently than I can manage when he said after posting IB1:

    There are good, solid people inside the organisation fighting for it, and our best bet is to give those people solidarity and support rather than just demanding that they do the same thing we all did (leave!) – they’re not stupid, they are conscious of the poor likelihood of winning this fight. In order to win against a CC that has proved it will tell any lie, carry out any level of bullying and intimidation, and lose any politics in order to win, they would have to wage a relentless fight against their own comrades. It’s something they’ve not been able to do, but it doesn’t make them any less worthy of our support.

  68. Michael Rosen: The creole that emerges is of course an amalgam of what arrives and what was there (the substrate). This strikes me as quite a good starting point for any discussion about what is or might be a good left organisation. What is the substrate now? How is it organised (or not)? What are its main features? etc etc.

    This is a good way of thinking about politics and class.
    What does life look like now? What kind of language would connect working class people to an effective politics?

    Quite a lot of of rather good people see some virtue in working with the Labour Party. I say working with rather than simply joining since I picked up a good friend of mine – a key national trade union official – on his language. When he speaks of the Labour Party, of which he is a loyal if highly critical member, he speaks of ‘them’. When he speaks of West Ham he speaks of ‘us’.

    Pronouns signify values. When he talks of the people he works with in groups like UK Uncut it is ‘we’.

    The efforts of the workers at Grangemouth to combine political and industrial action are another expression of this as is Unite’s attempts to effect a strategic convergence between what we used to think of as the industrial and political wings but which now appear to be the appendages of different birds

    Similarly there many rather good people who see little virtue in working with Labour but who find themselves in a variety of marginal organisations with varying degrees of distance from the actual working class.

    As a graphic designer I understand the substrate to be the material base upon which an image is impressed or to which it is transferred. Too mechanical and not as good an analogy as that drawn from linguistics but perhaps one that is a better fit for the kind of rhetorical stance that much of the ‘political left’ adopts when addressing the working class.

    The working class in Britain today is not exactly like the working class of a generation ago and a new discussion about how the class structure is changing would be a useful starting point in resolving the strategic questions that are posed by the crisis of working class poliytical representation.
    http://21centurymanifesto.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/the-crisis-of-political-representation-in-the-labour-movement/

  69. Jellytot on said:

    JN: People who come in contact with the SWP have a right to know what the party is really like.

    Especially young women.

  70. karmickameleon:Surely that role can be replicated in the future IF (and it’s a very big IF) the opposition can win its battle for a full public apology to the women comrades who have been treated so appallingly and achieve a thorough democratisation of party’s structures.

    Unless the SWP changes its attitude to women, what’s to stop it happening all over again (as it has at least a couple of other times? So an apology to a couple of the several victims isn’t enough, these are not isolated incidents in left-wing circles, or indeed in this society. If ‘working’ men’s treatment of women is continually downplayed and we’re told ‘don’t look over there, look over here!’ Class trumps all, it doesn’t matter if some old sicko is raping a barely legal girl in the back row while Alex Callinicos is talking about the class- ssssh listen and learn, and think of working men. How dare you consider anything/anyone else, you scab.

  71. Cailean on said:

    There’s some rather silly “oh they’re as bad as the ‘Stalinists'” slanders above.

    For one thing, the term “Stalinist” is an attempt to demonise anyone in modern Communist Parties, usually with the full force of Cold War McCarthyism propaganda behind them. This purposely ignores the reality of CP’s such as the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), who give helpful analysis of the many strengths and the failures of the experience of building Socialism in the most trying of times Britain’s Road to Socialism, and to learn from that experience in the future.

    One of the things I’ve been taught as a member of the Communist Party is to have integrity.
    – try to get the broadest coalition possible in campaigns
    – reject the ultra-left “if we can’t control it, destroy it” mantra
    – don’t try and be predatory in recruiting or hoodwinking members of other left groups
    – have integrity – imagine you are just an ordinary person with honest values, not some crazy self-perpetuating cult

    If most people saw what passes for the majority of “the far Left” in this country, they would run a mile, and quite rightly so.

    And it pains me to see/hear of this bastardization of Left politics/decent manners being called “Leninist”. That couldn’t be further from the truth! It is an affront to Lenin’s name, both as a “brand” and just as importantly, as a theoretician.

    Sorry, hope I’m not being too negative. I can only speak from my experience in Scotland, where the ultra-left ripped itself apart and tossed aside many working class voters. Today they parade a bizarre politics of frustration pact whereby they realise they each get 1% of the vote, but the corporation tax lowering SNP will deliver a Soviet Scotland (within the neo-liberal EU and a written EU constitution against nationalizing anything, in NATO, with the Queen as Head of State & no democratic control over the currency).

    How “Leninist” indeed!

  72. lone nut on said:

    As a matter of interest, I wonder if anybody can provide examples of “Stalinist” organizations where cultures of sexual abuse/harassment are tolerated and fostered at the highest levels (as in the WRP/SSP/SWP, and everybody knows that similar examples can be given from all the other Trotskyist sects)? I suspect it’s something to do with the cult of “youth” encouraged by Trotsky, initially in search of layers “uncorrupted” by Stalinism or social democracy, but subsequently an end in itself.

  73. karmickameleon on said:

    oooh: Unless the SWP changes its attitude to women, what’s to stop it happening all over again

    Given all that has happened, a “reformed” SWP, would certainly need to prove that it can be a safe place for women. For starters, that would entail a public apology to the women concerned. It would also require a thorough and transparent investigation into what has gone wrong (and not just tinkering with the DC). If the SWP is unable to do this, it will carry stigma of these cases forever and may well become the sect/cult that (erroneously in my opinion) various contributors to this blog believe it to be now.

  74. On the subject of women and the SWP, does anyone have a breakdown of the respective gender breakdown of the oposition factions and the loyalists?

    The reason I ask is that a substantial proportion of the leading figure who are implicated in the Comrade Delta affair are clearly women.

    Then again, when I used to be involved with assisting people in complaints against police officers, I had occasion to represent 2 female victims of rape who were apallingly treated in spite of the advances that have been made in recent years. The officers in both cases were also women.

  75. lone nut,

    Hostage to fortune that one. Someone will tell the story of Harry Pollitt’s friend Rose. It didn’t involve the same kind of accusations going on in the SWP but she was finished off in and around the Comintern and Harry’s role in the matter was none too good, I believe.

  76. lone nut on said:

    Michael Rosen,

    Yes, it didn’t involve quite the same accusations, nor indeed any accusations of rape or sexual harassment at all. “In the early 1920s Harry Pollitt fell in love with Rose Cohen, and proposed marriage – on her account, several times, and on his exuberant and perhaps exaggerated account fourteen times. They never lost their affection for each other… . http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/TUpollitt.htm
    Somehow that doesn’t remind me of the case of comrade Delta at all, but hey, as Gerry Healy would have said, what kind of a world would it be if we all thought the same.

  77. Do we assume that the stories about Beria were all made up?

    I don’t think anyone could be criticised for describing him as a Stalinist.

  78. Andy Newman,

    Perhaps that correction shout also be applied to post number 7 ‘But given that the only thing you felt it was important to talk about wasn’t the rape’

    I mean obviously we all know what happened but there are bourgeois niceties like presumption of innocence to be observed. These things are important for a man in your position.

  79. Feodor on said:

    Manzil:
    So you wouldn’t be up for a bit of bossnapping then?

    Haha, nope. I can understand the aim, but the tactic seems one that will only alienate large numbers of people. See Question Time last night e.g., they talked about the ‘leverage squads’ rather than the actual dispute. Thought the young journalist lady–from Gay Times, I think–was spot on when she said such actions tarnish a noble cause.

    As for Stalinism and rape, Beria is also the only one I can think of. Brecht once spoke of Comintern agents who, like the commercial traveller, ‘make love with other things on their mind’. The binding of sex and revolution occured in the 1960s. Interwar Communists wouldn’t have engaged in Delta-like behaviour for the simple reason that they were serious revolutionaries, involved in serious politics. Like Lenin, they mostly thought sex a distraction–though a few notable Communist leaders had mistresses (Thalmann, e.g.). Moreover, Thorez’s first wife and first son–Maurice Thorez Jr.–ended up living with Eugen Fried, while Thorez co-habited with Jeanette Versmeersch–that they had to explain that one to the Comintern says something about the level of prudishness.

    With Pollitt and Cohen, Pollitt was in love with her in the twenties–said he asked her to marry him over ten times, but she said no every time! She married a Russian Comintern rep instead, then went to live in the USSR. She took up Soviet citizenship; then first her husband, then her, fell victim to the purges. On this, there was a wall of silence in regard to the outside world. Yet archive material shows that Pollitt made strong protests to the Soviets, to the point that they are rumoured to have thought about replacing him–the CPGB politburo, to a man, is said to have stood behind Pollitt. During ‘de-Stalinisation’, Pollitt again took up the Cohen issue–I believe it was Pollitt who got hold of and then personally delivered the details of her death to Cohen’s family in Britain. It’s a story that says something about Pollitt’s servility, but also his sense of principal. Few other high-ranking Stalinist ‘leaders’ in Europe are known to have made such strong protests. Yet while Pollitt was doing this behind closed doors, in public he was calling the show trials ‘a triumph for the history of progress’! (Kevin Morgan’s biography of Pollitt is my main source for all this.)

  80. Feodor on said:

    Cailean, I think your post (#78) confirms my point earlier (#63): big-C Communists–i.e. people who are often labelled ‘tankies’, ‘Stalinists’, etc.–actually moved on from Stalinism long ago. As a political tradition, however, Trotskyism has never really developed beyond the interewar years; its mindset is still rooted in the debates of these years and does not take into account seminal developments in Communist history and thought. Polycentrism, national roads, Eurocommunism, etc.–Trotskyists generally dismiss all this, yet these perspectives grew out of the real experiences of a living, breathing political tradition, which held state power in a third of the world and had mass parties in many other countries.

    Yet what’s the point in analysing reality when there’s ultra-left posturing that needs doing?

  81. Feodor: I can understand the aim, but the tactic seems one that will only alienate large numbers of people. See Question Time last night e.g., they talked about the ‘leverage squads’ rather than the actual dispute. Thought the young journalist lady–from Gay Times, I think–was spot on when she said such actions tarnish a noble cause.

    If it was about tailoring our actions to ensure we don’t alienate people there would be no trade union movement in the first place and the working class would have continued to appeal to the kindness, mercy, and sense of noblesse oblige of their ‘betters’ for their well being. Rather than fight we would have adopted the tactic of supplication and submission which Dickens chronicled.

    We need more leverage squads not less and to hell with those alienated by them. The extent to which the Right is winning and dominating the battle of ideas is evidenced in the way that even people on the Left has succumbed to the view that the struggle for jobs, conditions, pensions, and communities must be waged within the moral universe of our enemies, the bosses and their political bag carriers.

  82. Feodor on said:

    John:
    We need more leverage squads not less and to hell with those alienated by them.

    Kinda defeats the object when some of those alienated are those you are trying to win support from.

    I don’t see how shouting a people’s kids and calling their parents ‘evil’ wins the ‘battle of ideas’. It’s hardly a viable programme for a left-wing gov. Tbh, if that’s the best we can do, it merely exemplifies the poverty of contemporary left-wing thought–stunts and theatrics over real substance and direction.

  83. Graham Day on said:

    Feodor: I don’t see how shouting a people’s kids and calling their parents ‘evil’ wins the ‘battle of ideas’.

    So you uncritically accept the Daily Mail’s version of events?

  84. Feodor: I don’t see how shouting a people’s kids and calling their parents ‘evil’ wins the ‘battle of ideas’.

    I think Graham nails the problem with this line perfectly. It is as I said in my original comment evidence of the extent to which the Right currently dominates the narrative on these issues that even people on the Left unthinkingly parrot the same line.

    But there’s a more important point to be made. This isn’t some game in which losing is an option for the men and their families. Those who take the view that protesting outside the homes of directors responsible for attacking jobs, livelihoods and communities are the bullies, and the directors the victims, need to take stock.

    The ones being threatened are the workers, their families and their children, who lacking anything like the power and resources of these faceless directors, all them wealthy beyond the ken of the vast majority of people, and who understand that their only chance is to come together in solidarity and exert the power of the collective.

    What do you expect them to do? Go cap in hand to these rich sociopaths and beg for mercy?

  85. Are ‘leverage squads’ not a bit ultra leftist?

    Possibly even infantile?

    And why wasn’t Ian Bone invited?

  86. Feodor on said:

    Graham Day: So you uncritically accept the Daily Mail’s version of events?

    The first time I commented on this, I wrote:

    ‘The stuff about Unite’s “leverage squad’s” doorstepping the families of various bosses, if true, is another quite disturbing example of intimidation.’

    I stand by both the judgement and qualifier. I’m not aware anyone has countered the Mail’s allegations. Are they false?

    John:
    What do you expect them to do? Go cap in hand to these rich sociopaths and beg for mercy?

    No. But the choice is not go cap in hand or turn up on the doorstep with flyers and taunts. There are other strategies. That strikes me as the more important point–that the actions pursued were counter-productive and damaged the union’s case.

    The point is the union and their members are the victims, while the bosses behaved like bullies. That is a point which carries great moral force. Carelessly surrendering this ground through a few ill-advised–and ultimately pointless–direct actions seems counter-productive to me on a tactical level, never mind the ethical issues.

    Socialism can appeal to both people’s humanity and their hatred. I think we stand a better chance if we focus on the former.

  87. Feodor on said:

    @#73, Michael–good point. Just wanted to provide the extra details on Pollitt, because they are interesting. It’s to his great credit that despite the strong pressures of ideology, he still retained a sense of moral independence. He was at least troubled by these things, even if he didn’t speak openly about them. How many SWP apparatchiks are able to even say that?

  88. Feodor,

    Of course Pollitt did also oppose the 1939 ‘imperialist war’ analysis and had to step down. I heard him speak when I was about 5. My parents were attending the ‘Party Congress’ in St Pancras Town Hall – or at least my father was (!) and my mum brought me there to pick him up. When I walked in with her, she said, ‘that’s Harold Pollitt’. When we went round the Geoffrye museum I had a museum trail thing to fill in and I wanted to put ‘Harry Pollitt’ in the section marked, fill in the name of someone famous. Red diaper or what?!

  89. Manzil on said:

    Feodor,

    I think Grangemouth shows the limits of (shall we call it) ‘moral force socialism’ rather clearly, when bereft of an agent able to mobilise and focus that force within the political sphere.

    There are many people who we should (or need) to win the support of, who are taken in by the right-wing press. Either its outright lies, or the constant refocusing of attention i.e. the issue isn’t Ineos threatening to destroy an entire community, it’s what these workers did in response, etc. But the people who are susceptible to this whataboutery are likely outwith the influence of the labour movement to begin with, and will remain so, as long as their attitude towards politics and the organised working class is mediated via the mass media.

    I hadn’t heard about this ‘leverage squad’ business. A quick glance at the Daily Hurrah story shows that this ‘squad’ constituted leafleting, putting up posters, and protesting outside directors’ homes. While I can see the latter being a bit iffy depending on the protesters’ conduct, surely it’s obvious that the Daily Heil’s (puns are witty, so sod off) interpretation is going to describe that conduct in the most negative way possible. Thus it’s a ‘mob’ and a ‘squad’, all very ‘sinister’ etc. The story is even replete with frightened children.

    Well, who gives a shit. As though the ruling class would be remotely more sympathetic were Unite to have pleaded for leniency. And people who depend on its media would have received just such a hostile, skewed view of the dispute, leverage squads or no.

    We can debate the merits of particular tactics, although I think that generally we should give people on the ground the benefit of the doubt. But we should be careful not to provide left cover for the establishment narrative which doesn’t care about whether the children of Grangemouth workers have been upset by the stress and anxiety undoubtedly brought into their homes by the prospect of imminent impoverishment. Theirs are crocodile tears. It is quite explicit what their political agenda is – the DM story repeats Tory calls for a reopening of the Labour ‘inquiry’ into the trade union movement, an invitation at which the scabby right of the party will no doubt jump to exploit.

  90. lone nut:
    As a matter of interest, I wonder if anybody can provide examples of “Stalinist” organizations where cultures of sexual abuse/harassment are tolerated and fostered at the highest levels (as in the WRP/SSP/SWP, and everybody knows that similar examples can be given from all the other Trotskyist sects)? I suspect it’s something to do with the cult of “youth” encouraged by Trotsky, initially in search of layers “uncorrupted” by Stalinism or social democracy, but subsequently an end in itself.

    To be fair, similar examples can be found in every society and culture. Look at the years of silence about Jimmy Saville etc. And a recent study it was found that a quarter of men are rapists, at least in some cultures. Over 99% of sexual crime is by men. Judging from my own personal sample of about 40 men, 1 in 10 men are rapists. The reason is a sense of entitlement fostered by society, the media etc, and rape is more widespread the more there are no legal consequences that are enforced (the same as here to an extent.) http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/10/asia-pacific-rape-survey In some countries, women who don’t let their husbands penetrate them whenever they want, can be beaten and this is seen as reasonable. Even here, it’s seen as a woman’s duty.

    In left circles the only difference is it’s a bit more shocking to hear people come out with rape myths etc.

  91. Vanya:

    Then again, when I used to be involved with assisting people in complaints against police officers, I had occasion to represent 2 female victims of rape who were apallingly treated in spite of the advances that have been made in recent years. The officers in both cases were also women.

    Yes it’s not uncommon- to the extent of girlfriends lying to defend rapist partners etc. Women are brought up to please, and men run these organisations, so the pro-man line is the party line, it can even hurt women’s careers to defend victims, and certainly their standing or reception in the organization.

  92. oooh,

    ‘Judging from my own personal sample of about 40 men, 1 in 10 men are rapists.’

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who is a bit puzzled by the methodology.

    Though I tend to be suspicious of any 1 in 10 statistic.

    Have we established that all the SWP rapes did actually take place? Because I seem to have missed that part of the chronology.

  93. Feodor on said:

    Haha Michael, that’s a cracking story. Do you remember much of him speaking? From everything I’ve read, he was a wonderful orator. I really like his writing style, too: complex ideas articulated in as simple a language as possible, so that (in Pollitt’s phrase) ‘one would have to be a real dunderhead not to have understood’.

    On the 1939 ‘phoney war’, have you ever come across the book About Turn? Its transcripts of the CC meetings where Pollitt and Dutt square off. To have been a fly on the wall! You can sense the tension from the words alone. Dutt comes off looking terrible–loads of implied threats and veiled accusations towards Pollitt. Pollitt, in his own common sense way, demolishes Dutt’s dialectical wizardry.

  94. Feodor on said:

    Manzil:
    But we should be careful not to provide left cover for the establishment narrative which doesn’t care about whether the children of Grangemouth workers have been upset by the stress and anxiety undoubtedly brought into their homes by the prospect of imminent impoverishment… the DM story repeats Tory calls for a reopening of the Labour ‘inquiry’ into the trade union movement, an invitation at which the scabby right of the party will no doubt jump to exploit.

    Exactly! Unite have given their enemies a stick to beat them with. It was an own goal. For people aren’t talking about ‘the children of Grangemouth workers’, but the treatment of the Grangemouth bosses families.

    The attitude if you don’t like what we do, then tough, is psychologically appealing. But politically speaking, esp. when your a marginal political force without many allies, it strikes me as suicide.

    My point seems confirmed by the fact that no objections have actually pointed to what was beneficial about the strategy. Instead, the general jist of the counters is the bosses do worse, so there. That’s not political analysis: it’s ethical justification.

  95. ‘Judging from my own personal sample of about 40 men, 1 in 10 men are rapists.’

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who is a bit puzzled by the methodology.

    It’s an erm, experiential study, not claimed to be ‘exhaustive’ or scientific.:) I define rape as penetration when the victim doesn’t want it, but does it through coercion etc. This is very common in heterosexual partnerships.

    Have we established that all the SWP rapes did actually take place?Because I seem to have missed that part of the chronology.

    It was decided by the SWP he had ‘a case to answer’ about the second case, which of course makes the 1st more likely. Anyway, I believe the women. False allegations of rape are actually rarer than for other crimes, so statistically more likely the women are telling the truth than frequently lying (which is a rape myth.) In everyday society people form opinions based on the balance of probability. Though Martin Smith is welcome to sue me if he wants to. He already got me suspended for the night on Twitter simply for asking if he now regrets going along to the trial of a Liverpool paedophile ring a few years ago to support them.

  96. Feodor: Yet archive material shows that Pollitt made strong protests to the Soviets, to the point that they are rumoured to have thought about replacing him–the CPGB politburo, to a man, is said to have stood behind Pollitt.

    More or less all the leading British communists in the 1930s knew Rose Cohen and Petrovsky, and often used to visit them at home on trips to Moscow. After Cohen and Petrovsky were arrested, several CPGB figures in Moscow were asked, presumably through the Comintern apparatus, to detail their own connections with the arrestees, and their reports are held in the Pollitt personal file in the former Central Party Archive in Moscow. I read these reports through a few weeks back, and am happy to say that they did not contain anything likely further to incriminate Cohen or Petrovsky. The suggestion that British communist leaders were in some way culpable for the actions of the Soviet political police in this case is entirely without foundation.

  97. Manzil on said:

    Feodor: Exactly! Unite have given their enemies a stick to beat them with. It was an own goal. For people aren’t talking about ‘the children of Grangemouth workers’, but the treatment of the Grangemouth bosses families.

    The attitude if you don’t like what we do, then tough, is psychologically appealing. But politically speaking, esp. when your a marginal political force without many allies, it strikes me as suicide.

    My point seems confirmed by the fact that no objections have actually pointed to what was beneficial about the strategy. Instead, the general jist of the counters is the bosses do worse, so there. That’s not political analysis: it’s ethical justification.

    My point was, that there will always be a stick with which to beat them. Even when there is no stick, there will be a stick.

    Had Grangemouth’s workers come out of this confrontation ahead, we would likely think nothing of the press and Tory hate campaign surrounding these ‘squads’. It would just be the usual suspects doing their best to knock organised labour. And the workers did not lose because of those demonstrations. So to regard this as a central lesson of the dispute is at best a distraction.

    As I said before, I think we should be extremely hesitant to criticise people forced to actually make these decisions. Certainly even if we are critical, it should be in a comradely sense, a case of how to do it better next time, based on how to best strengthen the labour movement, and not because we are afraid of what the Mail or David Cameron has to say about Unite.

    People who come out of this regarding Unite as the enemy were not our allies before, and will not be the next time, no?

    As to the strategy itself, I don’t have anything against trade unionists putting a human face on the forces fighting a vicious class war. The leaflets, posters, even the demonstrations. I genuinely do not see anything wrong with it. You may disagree. But it is at best a peripheral issue – as is what people are talking about.

    Grangemouth wasn’t won or lost because of what was apparently discussed on Question Time. Wider issues relating to job security, collective bargaining, democratic control of the economy etc are necessarily questions of the movement relating to public opinion and negotiating the public sphere, but an industrial dispute itself – certainly this one – is not.

    Let’s assume the leverage squads were an ‘own goal’. What should Grangemouth’s workforce and Unite have done differently? Would anything have actually changed how this played out?

  98. George Hallam on said:

    Manzil: My point was, that there will always be a stick with which to beat them.

    I’m not a Lefty, but that seems right.

  99. lone nut on said:

    ” The suggestion that British communist leaders were in some way culpable for the actions of the Soviet political police in this case is entirely without foundation”
    And the suggestion that the possibility that Pollitt did not perhaps do enough to save the life of a woman he loved and to whom he had always behaved with the utmost chivalry – out of loyalty to a wider cause – is comparable to the circumstances of the case of comrade Delta is utterly wrong-headed. And no, Michael Rosen, I have no idea where you think you’re going with this…

  100. oooh,

    To me, the meaning of the line “Still there are people who think that Trotskyism is different from Stalinism” is ambiguous. Like I said, it depends what is meant by “Trotskyism”.

    Certainly the leadership of the SWP has discredited the party and betrayed the principles it claims to stand for, much as the CP or Labour have done in the past (though obviously on a much smaller scale due to its lack of significant political power). However, it is exactly that: a betrayal of Socialist (or ‘Trotskyist’) principles rather than an adherence to them. Of course, regarding the treatment of ‘W’ and other women, much of it is so basically wrong it isn’t even about being a good Socialist so much as just trying to be a half-decent human.

  101. Jellytot: Especially young women.

    Well, exactly. Would the authors of the above article, as members of the SWP, be willing to recruit someone, say a young female student, into the party without mentioning any of this to them? I suspect not. Therefore, it needs to be public.

    More generally, people have a right to know what a party is like (as far as possible) before joining it.

  102. lone nut,

    The question re Rose Cohen is what the CPGB was saying to its members in the 1940s and 50s about what happened to their comrades. Or put another way, did my parents know about her and what happened to her? Nope. Why not?

  103. lone nut on said:

    Michael Rosen,

    and my initial question, in relation to which you raised the question of Harry and Rose, was whether any “Stalinist” formation (in a bourgeois democracy, since it is only in such contexts that they might be compared with Trotskyist formations – I have no doubt that Beria was indeed a rapist, and that the context of a one party dictatorship makes sexual and other forms of harassment inevitable, which is why i oppose such dictatorships in either their Trotskyist or Stalinist incarnations) – had encouraged/defended a culture of systematic sexual harassment at leadership levels. If it’s simply a question of concealing things from the membership and lying to them, the SWP would, given its longevity and relatively large size, probably hold the world record at that level – as has been pointed out, even in 1956 the CPGB managed a more honest and democratic exchange of opinions than has ever occurred in any Cliffite organisation.

  104. oooh: Anyway, I believe the women. False allegations of rape are actually rarer than for other crimes, so statistically more likely the women are telling the truth than frequently lying (which is a rape myth.) In everyday society people form opinions based on the balance of probability.

    Just out of interest, do you accept that the burden of proof for a criminal conviction for rape should be the same as for other crimes? Or do you think that women should automatically be believed when they make an allegation of rape?

    Genuine questions.

    Also, do you think that someone called Oooh could be the subject of litigation for defamation?

  105. >Vanya writes:-
    : Just out of interest, do you accept that the burden of proof for a criminal conviction for rape should be the same as for other crimes? Or do you think that women should automatically be believed when they make an allegation of rape?

    For other crimes, people are automatically believed by those hearing of it. For instance for assault (of one man by another), theft etc, no-one as a knee-jerk response has ‘aaah it’s probably a lie’ the press don’t make a big thing of people who lie about these crimes etc. Of course in a legal context the burden of proof should be the same, but at the moment it isn’t; rapists routinely get off to an extent even the director of prosecutions considers excessive, because jurors belief rape myths- she was drunk so it wasn’t rape, they were partners so it wasn’t rape etc.

    <quote.
    Also, do you think that someone called Oooh could be the subject of litigation for defamation?

    Martin and chums would have to contact the site and demand my IP address or something, then they could probably find out my real name. But I doubt he’d want everything about him revealed in court, with reporters etc there.

  106. oooh: For other crimes, people are automatically believed by those hearing of it. For instance for assault (of one man by another), theft etc, no-one as a knee-jerk response has ‘aaah it’s probably a lie’ the press don’t make a big thing of people who lie about these crimes etc.

    Nicely sidestepped.

  107. Vanya: Nicely sidestepped.

    Not really. What I’m saying is yes, of course the burden of proof for a conviction/believing the victim should be the same as for other crimes. Currently, it’s not, it’s grotesquely higher, as even the CPS itself admits.

  108. #123 By ‘believing’ you presumably mean in the non legal everyday context? If so, good and thanks for the clarification.

  109. I think there was another instance but am asleep now so will find it tomorrow. Women tried to pass a motion saying the union would support and believe women who are raped, and some of the SWP tried to sink the motion, because they took it personally 🙂

  110. lone nut,

    I think we’re talking at slightly cross-purpose. The point I’m trying to make is that for ordinary people in the CPGB, the behaviour of their leadership distressed many of them as various aspects of the way they had behaved started to emerge. No, the CPGB’s leadership was not responsible for the purges, the gulag or the death of Rose Cohen. That’s beyond debate. The issue is whether they told the membership what they knew. They didn’t. So, if they didn’t, why didn’t they? Was it a matter of personal reticence or caution, was it a ‘cultural’ matter or was it built into the structure of the Communist Parties, that when ‘difficult’ or ‘unwelcome’ matters emerged, the membership couldn’t be trusted with knowing what the leadership knew? Or what? And whatever one comes up with, how might that help us in the building of any kind of decent socialist organisation of the future?

  111. #125 Sorry, I think I misunderstood.

    My own view is that if someone makes an allegation of rape, the criminal justice system should have a responsibility to ensure that the allegation is treated seriously and investigated in such a way as to be effective, to show due respect to the accuser without prejudice to her alleged ‘character’, ‘lifestyle’ etc.

    People outside the criminal justice system who are aware of the allegations should feel free to keep an open mind, to believe or disblieve the accuser, so long as their belief is not based on prejudices (such as the accuer is white and the accused black, or the accuser is known to be ‘ promiscuous’ or that so many men are rapists and women never make up these allegations so he must be guilty).

  112. yes the problem is people don’t, and far from being supported women who are raped are often shunned by friends and organisations who don’t believe them, even those they expect to believe and support them, which is a real shock.

    My opinion isn’t so many men are rapists so it must be true, but just statistically, lying about this is rare and one of the prejudices you mention is that women are liars. Mentioning that rape is and rape myths are common was to say that the SWP isn’t uniquely awful (though we should expect much more and I bet Labour for instance would’ve dealt with it a little better.)

    Rosie Warren has written some interesting articles about the likelihood women/victims are telling the truth http://internationalsocialistnetwork.org/index.php/campaigns/135-rosie-warren-on-believing-women-who-allege-rape

  113. Andy Newman,

    NONE of this surprises me. This is an illuminating account, revealing the turmoil Comrade W was experiencing throughout, not just adhering to some rigid code. And it’s all the stronger for that. The pack at the top need to ask themselves just what socialist politics is for.

    Nuthin’ changes — except it gets worse the longer it goes on.

  114. Chris:
    I’d happily sacrifice a few individuals to build socialism.

    Actually, Chris, the striking aspect of the behaviour at the top is that, far from sacrificing individuals for socialism, they sacrifice individuals and socialism to their personal requirements, status, position and mates, paramours, etc, while claiming it’s for la causa. I’ll always remember senior member “SS” telling me, when I queried certain antiquated destructive practice, “ego will always have a part to play — so what?”

    Very socialist.

  115. Feodor on said:

    Francis, #111–I was trying to think where I’d heard your name, then realised you’re one of the editors of the book (About Turn) I mentioned! Haha. My compliments on the book, it’s an excellent resource–Monty Johnstone’s introduction is superb. I’ve been doing a little research on Pollitt myself. The reports from the Pollitt archive, did you have to go to Moscow to read them? Or are they available in the UK? (The main CPGB/Pollitt archive is in Manchester, right?)

    Manzil:
    Let’s assume the leverage squads were an ‘own goal’. What should Grangemouth’s workforce and Unite have done differently?

    Not scored an own goal? Losing one nil is better than losing two nil, if only because of goal difference…

    It was the involving of peoples families–esp. children–which, if true, for me crossed over an imaginary line. I dunno, just leaves a funny taste. The leaflets etc., if they think they can help, why not.

  116. oooh,

    The burden of proof is exactly the same. The difficulty is in the availability of evidence.

    The question is whether you lower the burden of proof to take that difficulty into account.

    oooh,

    ‘For other crimes, people are automatically believed by those hearing of it.’

    The difference being that assault, theft etc involves an act that’s rarely consented to. Rape involves intercourse which is an act which it is commonplace to consent to.

  117. Feodor – this was in Moscow, sorry to say. It was Pollitt’s personal file in the Comintern archive. I’m not researching that area myself, and have not done for almost 20 years. A colleague was looking at the file, and since the question is interesting and still live (QED), I took a look at what it contained. There was one rather unpleasant deposition about the whole Cohen/Petrovsky business written by an American communist, but the documents in the file by (if memory serves) Jimmy Shields, R Page Arnot and Bob Stewart from the CPGB all mention no grounds for suspicion. If I’d known this was going to come up 2 months later on this site, I’d have taken notes…

  118. Manzil on said:

    Feodor,

    Thankfully your tastebuds are not the determining factor here. 😛

    The only ‘own goal’ is derived from the fact the dispute was essentially lost. But the result was not down to that event. If it had been a success, quibbles about protesting at directors’ homes would be small potatoes, the usual complaining of the anti-union right; instead it has allow lots of, I’m sure, well meaning Captain Hondsights to have a pop at Unite as well, as though they could have delivered victory if only X hadn’t happened.

  119. JN: Well, exactly. Would the authors of the above article, as members of the SWP, be willing to recruit someone, say a young female student, into the party without mentioning any of this to them? I suspect not. Therefore, it needs to be public.

    I get it that the SWP’s CC wanted to keep this as an internal matter but I reckon a very large number of people outside the SWP know fully what has gone on within the SWP and it’s already very public.

    When I was younger I remember a Andy Newman and like most SWP members it’s easy to spot a member than a jehovah witness holding a copy of the watchtower, so it seems leaving is a rather public affair and I’d expect students know already.

  120. Feodor on said:

    Francis, that’s a shame. Thanks for the information anyway. You’re lucky to have such interesting colleagues!

    Manzil:
    The only ‘own goal’ is derived from the fact the dispute was essentially lost. But the result was not down to that event.

    No doubt. But perhaps it’s better to think of two things occurring simultaneously:

    1) An economic dispute, which given the relative weakness of the workers and their union, was liable to be lost no matter what. There are no doubt tactical points to be drawn from this, mainly relating to how the Grangemouth bosses so brazenly threatened closure and how unions in future disputes need to be prepared for this.

    2) A more general political angle, which extends beyond the dispute itself and the people involved. Here is where I think the own goal was scored. Imo, in today’s Britain, trade unions should be arguing they deserve to be consulted ‘from above’–they should play an important role in economic policy-making, because they are an important part of our civil society. They should not have to resort from pressure ‘from below’, as if we were still living in the 19th c.

    With the decline of the political left, many people focused their activism on union matters. This, imo, tends to lead towards an understandable ‘economism’. Yet what separates socialists from everyday trade unionists, is the bigger picture–the need to go beyond individual and isolated struggles, instead developing a policy for gov. Direct action is in many ways antithetical to this, imo anyway. What is needed is collective action, which channels the energies of–here comes a Dutt-ism–the broadest possible cross-section of the masses of workers, agricultural labourers, small farmers, strata of petit-bourgeois, sections of the intelligentsia and even the ‘progressive bourgeoisie’. That is what will produce the ‘revolution-isation’ of Britain!

  121. Jellytot on said:

    Chris:
    I’d happily sacrifice a few individuals to build socialism.

    But they ain’t building anything at the moment – let alone Socialism – The latest spat has lost them between a third and a half of their membership – many being their most active ones – and that was from an already declining base.

    However, the most serious crisis for them is the paucity of leadership – incredibly serious for a group that invests so much in the leadership principle. During the 70’s Parties like the SWP did attract some talented individuals who could be trusted to guide the Party in the years and decades ahead. With the effective collapse of revolutionary politics in countries like Britain all they’re left with are bland, self serving non-entities like Kimber, Callinicos, Thomas, Bennett and Orr etc. to fill the top slots. In any decent group types like this would be middle cadre at the most; not on the CC – this circle cannot be squared. All that beckons is terminal decline.

  122. #137 I sympathise with a great deal of what you say, but ironically in your eagerness to aspire to sophistication you are being too crude.

    The idea that there is a separation between ‘socialists and everyday trade unionists’ is particularly unfortunate.

    I also think you should reflect a bit on why there is a need to dwell so much on the rights and wrongs of the so called leverage squads. As should those who take a different view to yourself.

    Reflection, btw, is a solitary activity that requires no comunication with others.

    Personally I don’t think they exist, and if I thought they did I would d object very strongly to their existence, as strongly in fact as Simon F objected to his document being posted on this blog.

  123. Alan Ji on said:

    “JN on 1 November, 2013 at 9:23 pm said:

    oooh,

    To me, the meaning of the line “Still there are people who think that Trotskyism is different from Stalinism” is ambiguous. Like I said, it depends what is meant by “Trotskyism”.”

    After chucking that pebble in the pool, I avoided coming back in to read the debate maturing.

    Trotsky was the commend-in-chief of the Red Army . He bears a major responsibility for the civil war that created the Soviet Union and for all the horrors of Stalin, including his own murder.

  124. From the faction bulletin:- “The central committee has ruled AGAINST paying travel costs for faction speakers at aggregates. They haven’t explained this decision beyond saying it would be “inappropriate” for them to do so.

    So we are relying entirely on your donations to ensure the Rebuilding the Party case gets heard at aggregates this month.”

    Hmmm, democracy in action

  125. Cailean on said:

    #137

    Feodor: here comes a Dutt-ism–the broadest possible cross-section of the masses of workers, agricultural labourers, small farmers, strata of petit-bourgeois, sections of the intelligentsia and even the ‘progressive bourgeoisie’. That is what will produce the ‘revolution-isation’ of Britain!

    You cannae beat a good Dutt-ism like that! Tells it like it is. (Not that we make infallible gods of these people).
    Add to that being a decent, upright, honest, amiable and as normal as possible human being – as well as being on the Left (its not all mutually exclusive) – goes a long way! Kinda like just being grown up.

    Oh aye, and down with front groups and the entryist “control or destroy” methods too – the Left would be a much healthier place without them.
    Call me a “stalinist” for all the above.

  126. Cailean on said:

    Another quote springs to mind

    A good Communist has many dents in his helmet. And some of them are the work of the enemy.
    Bertolt Brecht

    I know I’ve had my fair share of dents in my tin hat from “our own side”, lets resolve to make many more dents in the enemies hard hats rather than our fellow leftists!

  127. The great quote (coming from a poem) about if the govt don’t like the people, it should elect a new one…etc…comes from Brecht’s manuscripts found after he died. He hadn’t published it in 1953 when he wrote it in response to the Berlin building workers’ strike.

  128. Feodor on said:

    Vanya:
    #137 I sympathise with a great deal of what you say, but ironically in your eagerness to aspire to sophistication you are being too crude.

    The idea that there is a separation between ‘socialists and everyday trade unionists’ is particularly unfortunate.

    I’m not sure I understand your criticism. Possibly my wording’s unclear, but I think you’re making a bit of strawman.

    The narrow ‘economist’ outlook that arises from bread-and-butter trade unionism is well-noted. It’s not esp. crude, certainly no cruder than any other circumstances make the man thesis. Similarly, it is widely recognised that there are contradictions between the struggle for beefsteak and the struggle to form a left/socialist government which must be worked out in practice. The problem is, since about 1991, no one’s bothered giving any thought to the latter–it’s not been on the horizon. Hence strategy, discussion, etc. is inevitably and understandly dominated by knowledge and experience of the former. This produces lopsided perspectives, imo anyway.

    After all, when was the last time any of the far left sectlets produced a serious programme concerning what they would do if they achieved state power? Most of the left doesn’t bother with this question at all. Struggle is simply glorified for the sake of struggle, like knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Yet you won’t get very far in politics by just saying what you oppose: you need to say what you propose. The modern left is rather short on hope, however. To me this seems a real problem, even if I lack the erudition necessary to properly identify this problem’s roots. 😉

    As for the liquidation squads, I didn’t intend to post so much on them. A debate sprung up after my first mention, it seems polite to respond. Any-whoo, off to reflect, see you in a couple of weeks…

  129. Manzil on said:

    Feodor:
    No doubt. But perhaps it’s better to think of two things occurring simultaneously:

    1) An economic dispute, which given the relative weakness of the workers and their union, was liable to be lost no matter what. There are no doubt tactical points to be drawn from this, mainly relating to how the Grangemouth bosses so brazenly threatened closure and how unions in future disputes need to be prepared for this.

    2) A more general political angle, which extends beyond the dispute itself and the people involved. Here is where I think the own goal was scored. Imo, in today’s Britain, trade unions should be arguing they deserve to be consulted ‘from above’–they should play an important role in economic policy-making, because they are an important part of our civil society. They should not have to resort from pressure ‘from below’, as if we were still living in the 19th c.

    With the decline of the political left, many people focused their activism on union matters. This, imo, tends to lead towards an understandable ‘economism’. Yet what separates socialists from everyday trade unionists, is the bigger picture–the need to go beyond individual and isolated struggles, instead developing a policy for gov. Direct action is in many ways antithetical to this, imo anyway. What is needed is collective action, which channels the energies of–here comes a Dutt-ism–the broadest possible cross-section of the masses of workers, agricultural labourers, small farmers, strata of petit-bourgeois, sections of the intelligentsia and even the ‘progressive bourgeoisie’. That is what will produce the ‘revolution-isation’ of Britain!

    I don’t quite get your meaning. Well I do, but I think we just view the world in very different ways.

    The ‘general political angle’ you suggest seems to veer far more towards the ‘economist’ trade union strategy than to the ‘bigger picture’ you regard as the particular contribution of socialists. It reflects a pluralist conception whereby labour is simply one sectional interest among many, a legitimate but merely a partial actor within the multiplicity of agencies which constitute ‘civil society’. In this I disagree.

    Further, as Vanya said, I don’t think you can separate out the socialist from the merely trade unionist, as though the latter is innately the property of moderates who regard the apolitical ‘professional association’ as the collective-bargaining ideal. Or, for that matter, separate the economic from the political. It all essentially comes back to the structure of class society. Conceding that point is the first step on the road to irrelevance, in my opinion. The bourgeois parties play bourgeois politics a lot better than us and always will.

    I certainly don’t agree that ‘direct action’ can be counter-posed to ‘collective action’ or that it is somehow detrimental to developing a socialist alternative. And I think the conception of politics as being manifested by separate, if overlapping, elite and subaltern domains remains a fundamentally accurate and helpful analysis, references to the 19th century notwithstanding.

    You can get the broadest possible movement if you are content with the shallowest possible programme. The question is, what would a movement capable of winning the support of ‘small farmers’ and ‘progressive bourgeois’ in the United Kingdom of 2013 actually be intent on achieving, or able to achieve.

    Very little, I would hazard to guess.

    The idea of cross-class alliances, whether posited as the popular front or new democracy, outside very exceptional circumstances and even then in only very partial ways, has always been something of a mirage. It is a propaganda tool of the left, a way of claiming the mantle of democracy, in societies where substantial non-proletarian strata were existent and more highly mobilised as collectivities than is the case today.

    The socialist, working-class left always remained the core of such alliances – nor should it be forgotten that the left acted on the assumption of its own, ongoing political and organisational independence, rather than liquidating into such a broad alliance or committing itself to an erroneous view of an objective ‘civil society’ in which to compete.

    The ‘middle class’ which serves as a bulwark for capitalist democracy is fundamentally proletarian. The idea of an alliance between its progressive wing and the labour movement, which represents the semi-official narrative of and justification for British Labourism, makes some sense, but in my opinion, talk of small farmers and the intelligentsia does not, even as a rhetorical manoeuvre.

    What the smeg any of this has to do with the Daily Mail’s attack on leverage squads is another matter entirely, I will happily admit, but I don’t think any of us is particularly offended at these discussions going off on irrelevant tangents. Basically your argument’s bad and you should feel bad. 😛

    Feodor: Struggle is simply glorified for the sake of struggle, like knowledge for the sake of knowledge.

    People defending their quality of life isn’t simply ‘struggle for the sake of struggle’ though. Unless you think that socialists involved in those struggles are just doing it for a jolly?

  130. Chris,

    Possibly they might know about it or quickly find out about it, but on the other hand they might have missed it because they don’t regularly read politics blogs and it won’t be the first or second thing that comes up when they google “Socialist Workers Party”, especially if the SWP continues to exist in a couple of years. I mean, I’d been a member of the SWP for several years and while I knew it had its flaws and that something was going on, I had no idea it could be as bad as it is. Because they routinely lie to and mislead their members.

    Also, assuming you’re the same ‘Chris’ who said he would “happily sacrifice a few individuals to build socialism”, that’s a totally false dichotomy. How many people will you attract to socialism if they know that they really don’t matter to you or your party; that you don’t actually care about them or people like them? And they will learn, because although everyone has contradictory consciousness and may have some stupid ideas, fundamentally WE ARE NOT STUPID. Sooner or later we will figure it out.

    Even if we never did, what kind of socialism could you build on that basis? Ever heard of equality and solidarity, two of the most fundamental principles of socialism?

  131. Feodor on said:

    Manzil: I don’t quite get your meaning. Well I do, but I think we just view the world in very different ways.

    QFT–this may descend into a dialogue of the deaf! 😉

    …a pluralist conception whereby labour is simply one sectional interest among many, a legitimate but merely a partial actor within the multiplicity of agencies which constitute ‘civil society’.

    Yes, I’m arguing for a form of social partnership. Seems to me the only realistic and realisable strategy in today’s political climate. The idea of ‘workers power’ as the sole basis of a left-win gov, in a society where manual workers are consistently decreasing in number, strikes me as anachronistic.

    Further, as Vanya said, I don’t think you can separate out the socialist from the merely trade unionist…

    No doubt. But Vanya was constructing a strawman. Do you really doubt that where your primary sphere of activity is has an important effect on your outlook? It’s the basic premise of Marx’s materialism ffs!

    I certainly don’t agree that ‘direct action’ can be counter-posed to ‘collective action’…

    In some ways it obviously can. Collective action: masses vote gov into power. Direct action: masses–or more usually small groups based in the masses–protest gov into power. That’s a simplification, because these things occur simultaneously. But it is silly to assume a priori that they are always in harmony, that there is never any contradiction.

    To use an historic example, the PCF was firmly of the opinion that too much labour unrest in 1936 would undermine the chances of a Popular Front gov. ‘You must know how to end a strike’, were Thorez’s famous words. I’m sure many people would dismiss Thorez as a Stalinist satrap, but personally I put more weight on the words of a serious political actor than a Tony Cliff or a Ted Grant.

    The question is, what would a movement capable of winning the support of ‘small farmers’ and ‘progressive bourgeois’ in the United Kingdom of 2013 actually be intent on achieving, or able to achieve.

    It could pass real legislation which aims to address real problems. That might be useful. Though the eternal waiting on the sidelines for the conditions to become ripe for the working-class seizure of power is another option…

    The idea of cross-class alliances, whether posited as the popular front or new democracy, outside very exceptional circumstances and even then in only very partial ways, has always been something of a mirage.

    Uh? Horseshit. Pretty much all left-wing parties ever–socialist, Communist, social-democrat, Green, etc.–have had a mixed social composition. Just like some workers don’t vote for ‘working-class’ parties. The ‘mirage’ is the kind of sociological determinism that ignores whole social groups because in theory its assumed their not open to being influenced. I find it particularly baffling that you think appealing to the intelligentsia is a non-starter: historically, intellectuals have shown great interest in left-wing ideas.

    People defending their quality of life isn’t simply ‘struggle for the sake of struggle’ though.

    Poor choice of words on my part. You know what I mean though. Its struggle mostly conducted from a narrow perspective, which does not look particularly far beyond the struggle itself. That’s not the fault of the people involved. Rather, it seems more a reflection of the fact that there are a lack of national organisations capable of linking these struggles together in some form of political programme. Unite and the LP seem the obvious vehicles for this, but he latter esp. has not been doing a sterling job.

  132. Alan Ji,

    So what was the alternative? What were the Bolsheviks meant to do, other than fight the civil war? Surrender to armed reaction? Passively allow the revolution to be defeated and the revolutionaries (and no doubt many others, especially Jews) to be slaughtered by the ‘Black Hundreds’? Let Russia be the prototype for fascism rather than Italy?

  133. Alan Ji,

    To be clear, that’s not to say Trotsky never did or said anything wrong. Just that fighting the civil war wasn’t it.

  134. #150 There is of course the argument that the Bolshevik seizure of power created the civil war in the form that it took, and thereby also created the need to fight it.

    I have no doubt which side it would have been necessary to take once the battle lines were drawn, but a great deal as to whether it was wise or necessary to take the action that created that need.

    What pisses me off are the arguments of those who think that the Bolshevik revolution was a great idea, but refuse to take responsibility for defending its whole legacy. If by 1926 it was a complete dead loss then it wasn’t a particularly good idea in my view. And my family weren’t Russian or Ukranian peasants.

    And ultimately that’s why I have limited sympathy for those who want to break with either the leadership of the SWP or the party itself but stick with its political legacy. Sorry, but Cliffite state capitalism is a useless and ludicrous theory.

    How can I take sriously people who told me in the early 90s that privatisation in the former USSR was a step sideways, while opposing it in Britain?

  135. Manzil on said:

    Feodor,

    If I start quoting and replying to every paragraph, the length of this discussion will exponentially increase, until we’re having about twenty, highly specific disputes simultaneously, and this will never end. So ‘scuse if I just focus on what I think our main areas of disagreement. 🙂

    You explicitly stand for social partnership. Fair enough. I think we could both agree that is an entirely alien conception from a socialist perspective. And I am a socialist. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing. I just think there is only so much point to us engaging on ‘big themes’ when we’re obviously not going to convince one another.

    Nevertheless, there are some points I do feel it is worthwhile to make:

    I don’t think ‘social partnership’ is feasible as a political project, or that it is worthwhile attempting to make it such. As an ideology it is the product of defeat, defeat in a class struggle you don’t appear to accept as extant. From my perspective, were the labour movement in a position to force such a partnership on the capitalist class, it would act from a vantage-point making such compromises unnecessary. In the only circumstances were it would be possible, it would be a step backward from what else is possible.

    Conflating “workers’ power” and manual workers is sloppy and a straw man of your own.

    Additionally, I did not say that leftist parties were sociologically homogeneous. I said that cross-class alliances between mass socialist organisations and other, distinctly non-proletarian strata, were always centred on the continued existence of the workers’ party independent of those. Subsuming ourselves within a broad front of these other groups, especially when, as in modern-day British society, these groupings are either numerically insignificant or entirely alienated from a progressive political agenda, makes no sense to me.

    For instance, what is the concrete ‘intelligentsia’ of Britain today? Do you mean the academics and journalists, already overwhelmingly integrated into the labour movement? To the extent that a broad popular movement reaches out to these ‘intellectuals’, it is in actual fact just such a ‘mirage’: the substantive core of these layers are already firmly within ‘our’ camp. Talking about them as a separate social group is merely a way to offset erroneous notions resulting from the prevailing ‘common sense’ of British society e.g. that trade unionism means white male manual workers, or that people on ‘the left’ are fundamentally different from the lived experiences of ‘normal’ people etc.

    I don’t believe Vanya was misrepresenting you. You said that an emphasis on trade union activism had led to an economistic outlook on the left. But the search for a generalised, political strategy for the left has historically always been predicated on the existence of an ideology and an organisation that is independent from other ‘strata’. And that is what gives socialists within the labour movement their coherence: fidelity to a conception of politics rooted, however loosely, in recognition of class society and class struggle. I don’t think a ‘political’ approach can be contrasted with trade union activism insomuch as trade unionism is subject to competing politics. The dominant one in our movement, for instance, has been that of social partnership!

    Your understanding of ‘collective action’ may be where we’re coming unstuck. It is absurd to characterise mass protests as not an inherently collective act. So that example is obviously inadequate for contrasting direct from collective action. As for voting, outside of periods of extraordinary social polarisation and mobilisation, it is inherently passive. It is, to varying degrees, a reflection of the outcome of previous social conflict, not its driving force. To the extent that ‘collective action’, as you describe it, conflicts with ‘direct action’, I cannot see how it is useful to presume that the left should focus primarily on the former – particularly when our vehicles for doing so are in such considerable states of disrepair, owing to the atomisation of the working class and the deterioration in its traditional organisations.

  136. George Hallam on said:

    JN: Also, assuming you’re the same ‘Chris’ who said he would “happily sacrifice a few individuals to build socialism”, that’s a totally false dichotomy. How many people will you attract to socialism if they know that they really don’t matter to you or your party; that you don’t actually care about them or people like them? And they will learn, because although everyone has contradictory consciousness and may have some stupid ideas, fundamentally WE ARE NOT STUPID. Sooner or later we will figure it out.

    Rewind to a discussion in 1914:

    Also, assuming you’re the same ‘Herbert Kitchener’ who said he would “happily sacrifice a few hundred thousand individuals to defeat Germany”, that’s a totally false dichotomy. How many people will you attract to your New Army if they know that they really don’t matter to you or your army; that you don’t actually care about them or people like them? And they will learn, because although everyone has contradictory consciousness and may have some stupid ideas, fundamentally WE ARE NOT STUPID. Sooner or later we will figure it out.

  137. No wrong Chris, I think that Chris is most certainly a SWP member whereas I’m not. My posts are #69 and 136 and as I mentioned before I found the thread by accident when researching another issue which I found was tied into this issue and the unison witch hunt. This seems to have affected a lot of organisations like the NUS http://forgetoday.com/news/nus-conference-2013/mass-walk-out-at-nus-conference-following-denial-of-rape-apology/ that potential members would have probably got a wind of it. As for “happily sacrifice a few individuals to build socialism” that’s a most silly thing to say but unfortunately one I’ve heard from a few in the SWP camp.

  138. Vanya,

    Surely the class struggle, under the specific circumstances of the legacy of Tsarism and World War 1, created the Russian civil war? Could the February-October regime have survived any longer than it did without succumbing to one side or the other? Did the Bolsheviks really have much of a choice?

    And surely the difference between ‘Trotskyism’ and ‘Stalinism’ is precisely in how you interpret what is the “whole legacy” and what is the betrayal of the revolution? Trotsky didn’t claim that the revolution was “a dead loss”, but that there had been an at least partial counter-revolution in Russia, of which Stalin was the representative. Personally, following Trotsky and others, I think that the Russian revolution was essentially strangled in its cradle by the failure of the revolution elsewhere in the inter-war period.

    As for “state capitalism”, do you have a better explanation of the USSR under Stalin and his successors? It certainly wasn’t the Socialism that I think we’re aiming for. Trotsky’s phrase (which might have made sense in the 30’s, but certainly not in the 21st century), “degenerated workers’ state”, now merely begs the question: what has it degenerated into?

    And the collapse of the USSR: the SWP liked it because it seemed to prove them right, which is apparently all that matters. I think Tony Cliff’s point is inarguable though: if it was still a workers’ state then why didn’t the workers defend it? Were Russian workers exploited or weren’t they? Are Chinese and Vietnamese workers exploited under a red flag today, or are they not? All things considered, I’d rather work for Wal-Mart in Britain than for Apple in China.

  139. George Hallam on said:

    JN: As for “state capitalism”, do you have a better explanation of the USSR under Stalin and his successors?

    “state capitalism” is not an explanation, it’s a label. What the label refers to is debatable.

  140. George Hallam,

    So what point are you making? That we are stupid? Sure, the argument “sacrifice yourself for your country!” was made right across Europe and people fought and killed and died for it (remember that many of them we’re conscripted and faced execution for deserting), but many of them also sooner or later saw through it. Both during and after the war you had a whole wave of mutinies, strikes, and insurrections. Do I need to list them for you?

    Also, I would hope that socialism aims a little higher than appealing to blind prejudice and ignorance. The right will always do that better than we do.

  141. #157 ‘ I think that the Russian revolution was essentially strangled in its cradle by the failure of the revolution elsewhere in the inter-war period. ‘

    The October coup was premised and justified precisely on the likely succes of these revolutions. The reality is that those who believed that this was likely were profoundly wrong. Funnilly enough, Uncle Joe wasn’t one of them.

    So forgive me if I don’t see the ‘strangling of the other revolutions’ argument as a vindication of October, but if anything the complete opposite.

    And the idea that people who hold to that kind of logic should be seen as leaders by the working class would be terrifying if it wasn’t so farcical.

    Having said that, I think it was right to side with the red side in the civil war. And only to stop when that side was finally defeated I the early 90s.

    As for Britain and China, yes I would rather live in Britian myself, and wouldn’t let the guilt of living in a wealthy imperialist country rather than one of its former victims get in my way.

  142. Alan Ji on said:

    “JN on 3 November, 2013 at 6:13 pm said:
    So what was the alternative? What were the Bolsheviks meant to do, other than fight the civil war? ”

    Starting it by staging a coup against the infant democracy, only a few months after the revolution, was a really bad idea and an even worse action.

    One day I’m going to get a T shirt that says “Martov and Kautsky were right!”

  143. Feodor on said:

    Manzil, I’ll try likewise.

    1) The social partnership is not ‘entirely alien’ to a socialist perspective. Unless you’re saying, for instance, Bruno Kreisky and the Austrian Socialist Party aren’t ‘socialists’–which says more about your definition of socialism than anything else.

    2) I don’t know how the social partnership arises from ‘defeat’. Only Marxist logic can manage to argue that working-class organisations taking part in decision-making procedures they were previously excluded from represents a ‘defeat’. Maybe as an ideology it was a product of the successful national struggles against fascism and the desire for social peace that arose from them? That’s no doubt a debatable claim, but it is far more accurate nonetheless.

    3) ‘From my perspective, were the labour movement in a position to force such a partnership on the capitalist class, it would act from a vantage-point making such compromises unnecessary.’ Basically, then, its all or nothing for you. You see social conflict–my preferred term to class struggle–and see it as a means to an end where there will be no more social conflict. Conversely, I see social conflict as something that needs resolving, wish to see it resolved with a fair amount of social justice, but do not believe it possible to create a perfect world. In this respect our views are probably irreconcilable.

    4) Perhaps conflating manual workers with workers’ power is a strawman. But I remain to be convinced that Tesco’s cashiers will ever display the same levels of political consciousness as miners, e.g. It certainly seems that the decline of the manual working class in this country occurred more or less simultaneous with the retreat of workers’ power-type socialist consciousness.

    5) This ‘progressive political agenda’ you speak of. In what way is the working class any less alienated from it than other social groups? The two political currents that have made the biggest inroads in the British working classes over the last couple of years are UKIP and the EDL. The SWP still does really well in academia, by contrast. Make of that what you will! 😉

    5) …what is the concrete ‘intelligentsia’ of Britain today? People with expertise in making a good mix? Sorry, couldn’t resist. You make a good point about intellectuals already being in ‘our’ camp. But then again, if these people are already in ‘our’ camp, how is it so small and isolated?

    6) When you use the words left, socialist, etc., you should include the prefix Marxist. That it is possible to draw ideas from outside the Marxist tradition seems largely alien to your approach.

    7) The way I used collective and direct action is no doubt iconoclastic–it may even be ‘absurd’. I struggle however to think of a similarly succinct way to draw a distinction between largely autonomous and–from the big perspective–direction-less activity, and a concerted attempt to get millions of people to back a clear programme, like an election manifesto. The latter is much harder to achieve, but it is what needs to be achieved. More is achieved by a reforming left-wing gov in office than in the years of struggle that proceed it. They are linked, no doubt. But the problem is socialists have tended to glorify the struggle stage, then dissociate themselves from the governmental stage. It’s led to a failure to properly engage with and learn from past experiences, to the point that most socialists today aren’t actually interested in state power, and instead offer long-winded theoretical apologia for why all engagement in real world politics is pointless. Your post is a good example: you dismiss anything that could be feasibly achieved in the here and now, preferring instead to wait for the all-or-nothing end game. Your Marxism becomes a secular religion: like with religion, Marxist logic works as an opiate.

  144. Manzil on said:

    There really is very little room for productive dialogue, as you say.

    For instance, what, precisely, is ‘socialist’ about Bruno Kreisky, the FPO etc? I would think it quite plain that socialism, in the context of this discussion, is not referring to whatever mildly social democratic party you have a particular soft spot for, but an advocate of a fundamental change in the basis of society. That doesn’t require one to be a Marxist, but it does require some basic political honesty. Words should mean something – socialist should infer at the very least an ambition to achieve, you know, socialism. If you just mean whatever mildly more tolerant tweaks the overall balance of power in society will let you get away with introducing, then we’ve reduced the term of all substantive content.

    As to the ideology of ‘social partnership’, this is absolutely a product of the defeats of the traditional strongholds of the British labour movement; a particular expression of the strengthening of the right wing of the trade unions. If you simply mean the general idea of class collaboration and a mediated social peace, including the corporatist experiments of the post-war welfare state, then no, it was not a direct response to defeat; it was, however, ultimately defeated. Social partnership is an entirely hypothetical solution; it is no more realistic than full communism now. The conditions which allowed the partial incorporation of working-class interests into the polity are no longer applicable. Until that is addressed – how do you mobilise a movement capable of imposing it (unless the ‘progressive bourgeoisie’ is supposed to grant it out of the goodness of its heart?), and why won’t it fall apart all over again – talk of social partnership, when set against the backdrop of austerity and its resultant social convulsions and human misery, is so much fluff.

    As for UKIP and the EDL being the forces which made the biggest inroads into the working class… do you not think eight million votes for the Labour Party, in an election it lost, might reflect some degree of working-class political opinion?!

    I’m an ‘all or nothing’ believer in a ‘secular religion’. You’re basically a radical liberal who, when confronted with right-wing press attacks on a trade union, dithers and talks about small farmers and progressive bourgeois! I wish you all the luck in the world, but for all your talk about the 19th century, I genuinely believe it is your conception of politics (however fun it may be to pose as an iconoclast) which is unrealistic.

    Incidentally, I would love to know how I am suggesting that “engagement in real world politics is pointless”. Unless by ‘real world politics’ you mean seeking out a British Kreisky and ‘collectively’ voting for him to ‘revolutionise’ Britain?

  145. George Hallam on said:

    JN: So what point are you making? That we are stupid? Sure, the argument “sacrifice yourself for your country!” was made right across Europe and people fought and killed and died for it (remember that many of them we’re conscripted and faced execution for deserting), but many of them also sooner or later saw through it. Both during and after the war you had a whole wave of mutinies, strikes, and insurrections. Do I need to list them for you?

    I’m well aware of the history of what my parents called “the Great War” and that includes events outside Britain and the Empire.

    The point I was trying to make was that people can volunteer for self-sacrifice, even for a dubious cause. The best part of two and a half million men volunteered for Kitchener’s ‘New Army’. The Military Service Act was not introduced until January 1916.

    If that was so popular then it is possible that an appeal to make a series of lesser sacrifices for a more attractive cause might well succeed.

  146. Vanya,

    But strikes, mutinies, insurrections, and attempts at revolution were happening during and after World War 1, and could potentially have succeeded. In 1917 there was no way of knowing the outcome of events in 1918, 1919, etc. The choice was to take the chance and fight for the revolution there and then (Russia, 1917) and hope for the best elsewhere in the next few years, or alternatively surrender to the reaction. Without making the choice the Bolsheviks made, no revolution ever would have happened in the past or ever will happen in the future. “This is Rhodes; jump here” as Marx used to say.

    And Lenin, Trotsky, etc weren’t leaders of an otherwise passive working class. On the contrary, for all their intelligence and all their commitment, they were nothing without the revolutionary workers, soldiers, and peasants.

  147. Feodor on said:

    Manzil,

    …what, precisely, is ‘socialist’ about Bruno Kreisky, the FPO etc?

    They are part of a recognised socialist political tradition!? I’m dumbfounded by your question; by most of your response, tbh. You certainly show a fine command of Lenin’s language of political opprobrium, though.

    If ‘words should mean something’, Manzil, then the onus is on you to say why major socialist traditions are not socialist. You are right that your definition of socialism is not exclusively Marxist; it includes utopians, too. But any definition of socialism that excludes the dominant socialist political approach in Europe–‘reformism’–is quite pointless.

    And it’s the SPO. The FPO are a right-wing nationalist party.

    …a fundamental change in the basis of society.

    You don’t think western Europe and Scandinavia were ‘fundamentally changed’ after 1945? Is full-blown Communism–or Soviet-style dictatorship of the proletariat–the only things you would consider fundamental changes in the basis of society?

    …it was, however, ultimately defeated.

    You expect political solutions to last forever? That is rather naive.

    The conditions which allowed the partial incorporation of working-class interests into the polity are no longer applicable.

    I’m sure this makes sense to you. Of what ‘conditions’ do you speak?

    You’re basically a radical liberal…

    Haha, yes, I’m on the ‘left-wing of the bourgeoisie’, along with people like Leon Blum. It’s really quite embarrassing to watch you grasp at Third Period logic, Manzil.

  148. Manzil on said:

    ‘Third Period’? Oh, fuck off.

    And it’s a bit pathetic to grasp on an obvious typo, unless you genuinely think I assumed you were proposing that Haider was a socialist icon.

    There are no ‘reformists’ any more. The entire ‘official’ socialist tradition has abandoned any pretense of actually aiming for socialism. If you genuinely don’t believe that there have been qualitative changes to social democracy since Blum, we really should abandon this.

    As to the factors allowing for extensive concessions, you may find a cursory glance at the existence of large socialist states, and highly organised working class organisations in the West, somewhat enlightening. These pressures are absent.

    Please though, do tell me how we can all be Scandinavia. It’s been a while since I heard that one.

  149. George Hallam on said:

    Feodor: If ‘words should mean something’, Manzil, then the onus is on you to say why major socialist traditions are not socialist.

    Perhaps I can help.

    Try examining the statement “words should mean something”.

  150. Vanya:
    #157 ‘ Ithink that the Russian revolution was essentially strangled in its cradle by the failure of the revolution elsewhere in the inter-war period. ‘

    The October coup was premised and justified precisely on the likely succes of these revolutions. The reality is that those who believed that this was likely were profoundly wrong. Funnilly enough, Uncle Joe wasn’t one of them.

    So forgive me if I don’t see the ‘strangling of the other revolutions’ argument as a vindication of October, but if anything the complete opposite.

    And the idea that people who hold to that kind of logic should be seen as leaders by the working class would be terrifying if it wasn’t so farcical.

    Having said that, I think it was right to side with the red sidein the civil war. And only to stop when that side was finally defeated I the early 90s.

    As for Britain and China, yes I would rather live in Britian myself, and wouldn’t let the guilt of living in a wealthy imperialist country rather than one of its former victims get in my way.

    Vanya- are you sitill in the SWP? My attitude is entirely like yours on these issues, but the leadership of SWP’s view is completely the opposite. Whether you’re a member or not, do you think the SWP can ever be convinced to see sense on these issues?

    Do you still consider yourself to be a revolutionary (i.e. pro-revolution) socialist? I’m not sure if I do, especially looking at what’s happened in Egypt, it seems to usually end in civil war. This is another way the SWP is going wrong; dogma. As materialists/socialists in general, we need to look at the world and if our theories need adapting, we adapt them. This is the whole point; reality decides our ideology, not the other way round as with the establishment.

  151. Feodor on said:

    George Hallam:
    Try examining the statement “words should mean something”.

    Inverting a lesson of many years past, when I asked a teacher ‘can I go to the toilet’: Words do mean something, there’s no should about it? That’s the best I can do George. If I’m right, do I get a gold star? 😉

    Manzil,

    There are no ‘reformists’ any more.

    Says you. I’ve heard my local Labour MP describe herself as a socialist; maybe she’s the exception which proves your rule.

    The entire ‘official’ socialist tradition has abandoned any pretense of actually aiming for socialism.

    Whereas all Marxists still believe in the inevitable world revolution and triumph of the proletariat ushering in a classless society where there is no exploitation, division of labour or system of commerce, not to mention a ‘super-abundance’ of goodies produced by people who can work as a pilot in the morning, a brain surgeon in the afternoon and a chef in the evening?

    Maybe, just maybe, political approaches develop as a consequence of their application to real world problems. Just because people have abandoned your naive and idealistic conception of rapid and massive social transformation producing utopia, in light of the evidence regarding the far less appealing results of trying to put such an approach into practice, does not mean they are not socialists.* They’re not revolutionaries. You don’t have to be one to be the other.

    *Incidentally, this was the view taken by most Second International leaders in 1918, and it was the view most Third International leaders took in 1945. Have you ever wondered why these men, with years of experience and unflinching commitment, baulked at the moment when they could have unleashed revolution–aka civil war? Or do you just call them traitors and remain in your intellectual bubble, safe from the influence of historical experience?

    If you genuinely don’t believe that there have been qualitative changes to social democracy since Blum, we really should abandon this.

    If you genuinely believe there’s been no quantitative changes since the 1930s you’re lost.

    As to the factors allowing for extensive concessions…

    So concessions can be won if there are ‘highly-organised working class organisations’ like all the social-democratic parties you dismiss? I’ll agree with that. The reference to the USSR is a bit of a red herring though. Social democracy was riddled with problems from the mid-70s. The fall of the USSR exacerbated this, as it provided clear evidence of the kind of unforeseen and endemic problems inherent to state-planned economies. (Who’d have thunk it aye, they didn’t quite work as the textbook–or penny pamphlet–said!) The whole left, from Communism to right-wing social democracy, has yet to pose credible solutions to these problems, esp. the lack of dynamism in state-run economies. Part of the reason, I suspect, is that the socialist economies we know, were based on the example of war economies. Socialists never came up with an original working economic model in the first place. They simply jumped on the historical train, as they had a reasonably sound perception of where that train was going, at least in the short- to medium-term. After that, the route takes something of a detour and we arrive at an unexpected destination, and presently, everyone is now back standing on the station platform looking a little lost.

    These pressures are absent.

    So, in essence, until the Russians resurrect Communism, the left in Britain is fucked. A meta-historical excuse for constant failure. Men don’t make history, objective conditions do! Haha.

    …do tell me how we can all be Scandinavia.

    Maybe we should, but I doubt we can.

  152. George Hallam on said:

    anon: Do you still consider yourself to be a revolutionary (i.e. pro-revolution) socialist? I’m not sure if I do, especially looking at what’s happened in Egypt, it seems to usually end in civil war.

    Would you Adam and Eve it?

  153. Feodor on said:

    anon: As materialists/socialists in general, we need to look at the world and if our theories need adapting, we adapt them.This is the whole point; reality decides our ideology, not the other way round…

    Blasphemy, blasphemy. Traitor, opportunist, scoundrel. Police agent, lackey of finance capital, enemy of the revolutionary proletariat. You’re a disgrace.

  154. #170 I’ve never been in the SWP. I was involved in a series of small trotskyist groups until the mid 90s, but stopped considering myself as such not long after.

    The question of revolution versus reform is a complete abstraction, and the irony to me is that so many self proclaimed revolutionary socialists, the SWP in particular, have no interest in actual revolutionary processes in the world where socialism is on the agenda (their dismissal of Cuba and Venezuela being the most blatant).

  155. Feodor on said:

    Vanya:
    The question of revolution versus reform is a complete abstraction…

    Indeed, it’s always situational. What does it mean to be a revolutionary in today’s Britain, for instance?

    I’m probably misremembering, but I seem to think Kautsky had a somewhat novel take on this. In short, revolution was the general progress and development of the socialist idea in the human consciousness; reform was the attempt to put the idea into practice, based on a realistic assessment of the current stage of economic and social development.

    Makes me think Russell Brand’s been reading Kautsky! 😉

  156. George Hallam on said:

    Feodor: Inverting a lesson of many years past, when I asked a teacher ‘can I go to the toilet’: Words do mean something, there’s no should about it? That’s the best I can do George. If I’m right, do I get a gold star?

    Words strain,
    Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
    Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
    Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
    Will not stay still.

    T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

    No, you don’t get a gold star.

  157. John Grimshaw on said:

    Feodor: Blasphemy, blasphemy. Traitor, opportunist, scoundrel. Police agent, lackey of finance capital, enemy of the revolutionary proletariat. You’re a disgrace.

    Sorry I’m struggling to keep up. You lot talk too much. Anyway…infamy, infamy, they’ve got it in for me.

  158. Feodor on said:

    George Hallam: No, you don’t get a gold star.

    I think I deserve one just for trying to engage with you. You’re a cryptic bugger, George. But yes, words do change their meanings. I don’t think that’s as much of a revelation as you think, though. Indeed my point–in response to Manzil–was that the living, breathing socialist tradition has changed and developed. I’ve managed to grasp that one without your help.

  159. George Hallam on said:

    Feodor: George Hallam: No, you don’t get a gold star.

    I think I deserve one just for trying to engage with you.

    All right, I’ll give you a red star for trying, but that’s my final offer.

  160. Feodor on said:

    Offer accepted. Red’s better than gold anyway; it’s a primary colour, at the vanguard of the spectrum!

  161. George Hallam on said:

    Feodor: yes, words do change their meanings. I don’t think that’s as much of a revelation as you think, though. Indeed my point–in response to Manzil–was that the living, breathing socialist tradition has changed and developed. I’ve managed to grasp that one without your help.

    I posted the following some time ago:

    “..in the socialistic state the instruments of all the production and distribution of wealth (that is, capital, the totality of instruments of production) in the completest sense the common property of the whole community, whose collective organization would on the one hand associate all the individual and separate labour-forces in social labour-groups (“collective labour”), and on the other would distribute the wealth produced by this social co-operation according to the proportion of work performed by each individual.”

    This is from the English edition of Dr. Alfred Schaffle’s ‘Quintessence of Socialism’ (1890)
    In about 1912 [Phillip] Snowden said he regarded this definition as acceptable to all socialists.

  162. George Hallam: Would you Adam and Eve it?

    I know all this is old news to a lot of you, you will have to forgive me as I’m quite new to this stuff. 🙂 People used to decry communism/socialism/revolution by saying it leads to totalitarianism, seems to me that it leads to civil war seems to be more frequent

    I could do with a ‘Socialists sects 101’ lol but don’t know if this is the right place to ask for links? Basically I -think- I like social democratic approaches, but I don’t like how those such as Labour also allow some capitalism (=£££ for their mates.) I don’t know what denomination that makes me,lol.

  163. Menshevik Abstentionist on said:

    George Hallam: If that was so popular then it is possible that an appeal to make a series of lesser sacrifices for a more attractive cause might well succeed.

    I’d rather take my chances with the Kaiser than with Comrade Delta, if you know what I mean…

  164. George Hallam on said:

    anon: People used to decry communism/socialism/revolution by saying it leads to totalitarianism, seems to me that it leads to civil war seems to be more frequent

    The time was when civil war regarded as an essential prerequisite of revolution not a unwanted consequence

    http://www.marx2mao.com/Lenin/RARG05.html

  165. Feodor on said:

    George Hallam:
    In about 1912 [Phillip] Snowden said he regarded this definition as acceptable to all socialists.

    Maybe it was. Tellingly, however, Snowden’s comment pre-dates any notable example of socialists holding state power. These experiences were humbling: they showed that trying to bring all production and distribution into common ownership–which has only ever really manifested itself as state ownership–is a little too ambitious a programme, and can cause some unintended, extremely damaging results.

    It’s a huge concession, but it seems ‘socialism’ must involve some kind of market mechanism and a certain amount of private ownership, as long as state ownership is the only way ‘common ownership’ can be manifested.

    There are neat definitions: and there are lived experiences. They rarely correspond.

  166. anon: I could do with a ‘Socialists sects 101′ lol but don’t know if this is the right place to ask for links?

    Although quite old, this pamphlet does somewhat caustically explain the history of much of the far left

    http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/critiques/sullivan/pub-index.html

    anon: People used to decry communism/socialism/revolution by saying it leads to totalitarianism, seems to me that it leads to civil war seems to be more frequent

    Yes, that seems to be the most frequent consequence of a break down of the rule of law, and a very strong argument for constitutionality.

  167. Jellytot on said:

    Vanya: the SWP in particular, have no interest in actual revolutionary processes in the world where socialism is on the agenda (their dismissal of Cuba and Venezuela being the most blatant).

    Yes. I always find it perplexing how they will start any article on either with something like, “Of course Socialists should defend Cuba/Venezuela against American Imperialism….” and then the rest of the piece will be a long diatribe on why the political systems in both countries are among the most god awful on Earth!

    With friends like that…….

  168. Jellytot,

    Cuba and Venezuela are better than most, but not perfect. I’d far rather have a Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro than a Tony Blair or David Cameron as president or prime minister. However, neither Cuba or Venezuela have yet achieved a perfect Socialism that’s beyond criticism. The British left are not currently in a position to be dismissive. What more do you want?

  169. Andy Newman,

    Firstly, you’re disgusted by the SWP but you’re a member of Labour, the party that invaded Afghanistan and Iraq with catastrophic consequences for the people of those countries. I honestly don’t understand that, except in a purely opportunistic sense.

    Secondly, “constitutionality” is a game set up like a casino so that the house/government/ruling class will almost always win. We live in a capitalist democracy, but with the emphasis heavily on capitalist at the expense of democracy. As, I think, you recently said yourself, the events at Grangemouth illustrate the balance of class power within this ‘democracy’. We are ruled by the rich, by the capitalists. Pounds and dollars count more than votes. That is not democratic. And if, against the odds, we win and elect a government that actually represents the working class, the ruling class change the rules and invite in the fascists or the army. And yes, they would do it here, just like they did in Chile, if it was necessary, and the monarchy would be the constitutional fig-leaf used to make it legal. Because they do not give a shit about us.

  170. #190. ‘ neither Cuba or Venezuela have yet achieved a perfect Socialism that’s beyond criticism. ‘

    Jimi Hendrix wasn’t perdect and beyond criticism, and neither was Alex Ferguson. I think we can agree though that one did at least aspire to playing the guitar and the other to managing a football team. A few of us might even say that they were quite good at what they did.

    ‘The British left are not currently in a position to be dismissive. What more do you want?’

    I can’t speak for Jellytot, but dor me that’s a good start to say the least.

    Unfortunately it’s not the approach ofn he people we were having a go at. The SWP are thw worst, but virtually the entire trotskyist left in Britain, with the excwption of any supporters of the USFI majority that might remain, are hostile to the Cuban government, and the same goes for Venezuela with the exception of the Grantites.

    Their erstwhile comrades in the CWI do of course now sell a very nice Che t-shirt, but I don’t think that represents a change in position on Cuba, although its a step forward from my days as a member when I was criticised for wearing a Che badge on the grounds that it was petit bourgeois.

  171. Jellytot,

    When I had contact with the SWP, and we are talking a few years back, they had developed their approach around an idea called ‘critical support’. It was a great wheeze that sounded leftist but basically meant 99% criticism and maybe at a push 1% support, so the SWP ‘supported’ the struggle against Apartheid but criticised the organisations involved in the struggle- there support mainly consisted of turning up at demos to sell newspapers, and attending AAM meetings to criticise the AAM, SACP, ANC, similarly for NSC, Troops Out, CND.

    It was an interesting type of niche marketing which they had perfected, the art of sounding revolutionary while not actually doing anything to aid the struggle, Indeed I always thought they effectively put sand in the wheels of the movement by clogging up meetings with introspective nit picking.

    Within the internal logic of party building I’m sure as a tactic it made sense, in terms of supporting the actual struggles involved it was an annoying distraction. I remember many a collective groan when some Brecht look alike, as was the in house style at the time, started off their contribution to a meeting “As a revolutionary socialist ….”

  172. John Grimshaw on said:

    Vanya,

    Fergie clearly wasn’t perfect otherwise he wouldn’t have managed the second best team in Greater Manchester. And he should’ve refused his knighthood. 🙂

    Actually unlike Jellytot I am not perplexed by the SWP’s position on Cuba and Venzuela. Its quite straight forwards really. They think that these two countries are representative of a different form of capitalism rather than a form of “actually existing” socialism (picked this phrase up from others on this blog) or a degenerate form of workers state or some kind of proto-socialism. Therefore they feel they have no need to defend them anymore than you would Britain under a Labour government. The reason why they labour the point is because they are dimly aware that lots of people don’t agree with them for various reasons and therefore its an uphill struggle. Also “state capitalism” used in this context is their “founders” baby so it probably has to be talked about a lot.

    Actually Vanya in my lifetime as an NUT activist there have been USFI members/influenced people in senior positions and they have been to Cuba (fact finding) on numerous occasions and the union has what I suppose you would consider very good positions on both these countries’ regimes. In other words I don’t know how exceptional these positions or debates about them are. The communist party members in the union would presumably also have a positive view of these states(?).

  173. They seem to go on more about Egypt or wherever the current revolution/civil war is. , and in an ideal world hoping the revolutionary wave will come over here. Basically it’s the idealisation of revolution.

  174. John Grimshaw: ctually Vanya in my lifetime as an NUT activist there have been USFI members/influenced people in senior positions and they have been to Cuba (fact finding) on numerous occasions and the union has what I suppose you would consider very good positions on both these countries’ regimes. In other words I don’t know how exceptional these positions or debates about them are. The communist party members in the union would presumably also have a positive view of these states(?).

    The NUT sponsored the Manifesto Press book
    The education revolution
    Cuba’s alternative to neoliberalism
    by Théodore H. MacDonald

    http://www.manifestopress.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2:the-education-revolution&catid=2:the-education-revolution-cubas-alternative-to-&Itemid=2

  175. George Hallam on said:

    Feodor: It’s a huge concession, but it seems ‘socialism’ must involve some kind of market mechanism and a certain amount of private ownership, as long as state ownership is the only way ‘common ownership’ can be manifested.

    There are neat definitions: and there are lived experiences. They rarely correspond.

    If your saying that definitions are no substitue for empirical investigation I’ll agree with you.

    However, in order to analyse and assimilate experience we need to be sensative to the way we use language least we trip ourselves up. Words are a tool of analysis and framing and re-framing defintions are part of the process of sharpening up our analysis.

    I don’t mean to teach you Lefties your business, but Marx made a useful distinction between a ‘mode of production’ and a ‘social formation’. If you used these concept then you could rewrite the first paragraph quoted above so that it wasn’t just an endorsement of neo-liberalism.

    Wer wird nicht einen Klopstock loben?
    Doch wird ihn jeder lesen? Nein.
    Wir wollen weniger erhoben
    Und fleißiger gelesen sein.

    “Who wouldn’t praise Klopstock,
    But would you read him? No.
    He would prefer less praise
    and more effort to understand him.

    I hope you will have gathered by now that while I am not part of ‘The Left’ I do oppose neo-liberalism (as I understand the term) and I nurture the hope (illusion?) that I can win some Lefties to join with me.

    ,”

  176. #197 George I’m increasingly unimpressed by your purported self-exclusion from the left. It’s not clever, just a rather unsuccesful attempt to appear more so than everyone else. Particularly sad given the volume of evidence that would otherwise back up that appearance.

  177. George Hallam: If you used these concept then you could rewrite the first paragraph quoted above so that it wasn’t just an endorsement of neo-liberalism.

    I get it. You’d prefer some long-winded, barely decipherable formula about a society whose basis was ‘collective ownership’, but which allowed room for a market mechanism and a certain amount of private ownership in its superstructure. Personally, I’d rather express myself in as simple and intelligible a way as is possible; if you want to ape the Althusser’s of this world, that’s your prerogative. Each to his own.

  178. George Hallam on said:

    Feodor: You’d prefer some long-winded, barely decipherable formula about a society whose basis was ‘collective ownership’, but which allowed room for a market mechanism and a certain amount of private ownership in its superstructure.

    No.

  179. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: George I’m increasingly unimpressed

    Leaving aside the interesting idea of being increasingly unimpressed, I wasn’t trying to impress you.

  180. George Hallam on said:

    John Grimshaw: To join what exactly?

    4.30pm “Stations of the Cuts” procession from Catford Town Hall

    from where we will wend our way to Eros House to highlight the housing crisis, continuing to Rushey Green Early Years centre to protest about the erosion of Lewisham’s provision for under 5s and the threat to close the remaining seven playclubs.
    Next is the Job Centre where we will protest about the workfare scheme and raise the demand for more long-term, skilled employment opportunities in Lewisham through bringing public services back into direct council control, a large scale programme of social housebuilding and council support for manufacturing here in Lewisham.

    A couple of hundred yards/metres further north brings 26th January demo
    us to Lewisham Hospital, threatened with downgrading and privatisation. Tens of thousands of people have been involved in the campaign to save the hospital and in the broader campaign to stop the privatisation of the NHS. There have also been various direct action stunts about the Private Finance Initiative – more info at SaveLondonNHS.org.uk

    Two of Lewisham’s fire stations are under threat from Boris Johnson – at Downham and at New Cross. We will be showing support for the Fire Brigades Union and the public campaign against the cuts as we pass Ladywell Fire Station.

    From there we will make our next focus Lewisham’s Libraries – five of which were planned for closure in 2011 and are running a severely reduced service with volunteers under a variety of managements. Only vigorous campaigning two years ago prevented these libraries from being closed altogether and the Labour Council and Conservative government have acted jointly to cut the service by over a third in Lewisham. We will also commemorate Connexions – one of the first services to be totally axed by the council in 2011. It used to give advice to school leavers and others on finding training courses.

    The procession will then continue to The Grassy Knoll, in the shadow of the empty Citibank tower, a reminder of the dominance of banking and the alleged reason for all these cuts. There will be a brazier for you to burn specially printed £1million notes and effigies of your favourite politicians responsible for the many attacks on working people. Here is a video of a test burning of David Cameron. Not perfect, but we now know how to make the rest of the effigies, with a strengthening stick and bamboo to support the legs and arms in case of high wind.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=14l5wtSZUNc#t=0

    For more see:

    http://www.carnivalagainstcuts.org.uk/

  181. Feodor: trying to bring all production and distribution into common ownership–which has only ever really manifested itself as state ownership–is a little too ambitious a programme, and can cause some unintended, extremely damaging results.

    It’s a huge concession, but it seems ‘socialism’ must involve some kind of market mechanism and a certain amount of private ownership, as long as state ownership is the only way ‘common ownership’ can be manifested.

    A couple of points on these remarks. Firstly, though clearly it was restricted in scope, significant aspects of the market continued in the USSR and the other 20th century socialist countries. Eg, workers were paid wages in exchange for their labour power, and consumer products were then bought with that money.

    There were also some very small scale private businesses allowed / encouraged to operate, for example collective farmers’ family plots & farmers’ markets.

    But beyond that, if you are arguing that considerably more operation of market forces, and more private ownership of the means of production, ‘must’ be involved under socialism, you need to make a case for that rather than just stating it.

  182. Noah: if you are arguing that considerably more operation of market forces, and more private ownership of the means of production, ‘must’ be involved under socialism, you need to make a case for that rather than just stating it.

    I recommend Justin Lin’s book, “Demystifying China’s Economy”

  183. John Grimshaw on said:

    道千乘之國,敬事而信,節用而愛人,使民以時。 If you would govern a state of a thousand chariots, you must pay strict attention to business, be true to your word, be economical in expenditure and love the people. You should use them according to the seasons.

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

  185. Andy Newman: I recommend Justin Lin’s book, “Demystifying China’s Economy”

    I haven’t read Lin’s book, but I have read the text of his lecture, and it contains some useful info and analysis alongside some of the standard economic cliches. However, although he mentions it, Lin skates over the issue of how technology (ie, production-related knowledge) has been & is obtained, & where from. This is an absolutely key issue, especially for countries outside the technologically advanced ‘triad’ of N. America, W. Europe and Japan etc.

    Lin remarks that the People’s Republic of China’s economic growth from 1952 to 1978 (ie, before the ‘opening up’) was a “respectable” 6.1% annually. Indeed that was a very respectable average, if slightly below the current rate of 7.2%.

    Unfortunately Lin, like most other commentators, fails to distinguish between (1) the appx 1949-60 period, during which China had access to relatively advanced technology (and trade) via the Soviet Union, and (2) the very different situation for the People’s Republic after 1961 when this very beneficial relationship with the USSR broke down, resulting in China feeling the full force of US-imposed technology and trade sanctions.

    While China was able to import technology, (eg machinery, plans, training & advice) from the USSR, its GDP growth was around 10% annually- as good or higher I think than the average since 1979.

    It was only in the late 1970s that the Chinese were able, by fair means and foul (eg, collaboration with the US against Vietnam and Afghanistan), to persuade the USA to start removing the main Western sanctions against it in terms of technology imports and goods exports.

    BTW. In the pre-1979 period, the Peoples Republic of China achieved immense strides in terms eg of literacy and education, free health care, sanitation and production and distribution of electricity. These provided a basis for subsequent economic achievements.

  186. Pingback: SWP Conference 2013 : The Not-Internal Bulletin 3 | Facing Reality

  187. Well, it looks like we’re all getting tird of the SWP crisis. Once, Hannah’s revelations would have led to many more responses on SU. Meanwhile, Facing Reality has the Not-Internal Bulletin 3 out, which may be the last of the SWP posts. Personally, I thought his last post on 1970sAustralian building workers fighting homophobia (amongst other things)was much better. But Jo’s a bit worried that Andy really won’t like the next post involving the origins of the DDR

  188. #194 ‘Fergie clearly wasn’t perfect otherwise he wouldn’t have managed the second best team in Greater Manchester. ‘

    Belated congrats to Sunderland for ditching their fascist manager, and more recent congrats for something else. Now what was that…erm?

    Btw on the subject of managers, what’s the betting Pellegrini’s gone by Christmas?

  189. To the person who posted as “Stuart” – an SWP member who displayed the most shocking levels of loyalty, including defending any lie told by the leadership:

    You said you would never post here again. So when you decided to go back on that today, you tried to post under a fake name, and you said that the accusations against ‘Comrade Delta’ were like “redneck lynch law mentality in the US deep south”.

    “Stuart”, I am not allowing your comment through. You could’ve attempted to post any number of times in the last year, but you didn’t. You could’ve expressed even the tiniest bit of solidarity with the women who said they were raped, but you didn’t.

    Instead, the only time you’ve posted, you’ve chosen to defend Martin Smith.

    Sorry, we don’t allow your kind of apologetics on here anymore.

  190. karmickameleon on said:

    Tony Collins,

    I certainly agree with the spirit of what you say and, as an ex-SWP member like you, I am just as appalled by the lies of the leadership and their supporters and their total absence of solidarity with the 2 (or more) women in rape and sexual harassment allegations . That said, I would have published Stuart’s comment. Why? Because it’s indicative of the perverse mindset of the undeclared IdooM faction. By their deeds (and words) they shall be known.

  191. Jara Handala on said:

    Richard #68, 31 Oct @ 6:14pm:
    I do wonder whether there should be some facility where ex-members can claim a refund on the Subs they paid over the years.
    Rather similar to being able to claim compensation for being missold PPI

    That could lead to situation where you get spam text messages along the lines:

    CLAIM NOW. Miss sold idea that SWP was socialist organisation defending Womens Rights. Text FFS to claim rebate on subs paid + recieve complementary commemorative Paste Table

    And all this time I have had a sneaky suspicion that Nectar points would one day find their purpose . . .

  192. karmickameleon on said:

    According to David Renton’s blog, the next SWP Not-so-internal-bulletin (IB3) will contain an article calling for Delta’s reinstatement. I look forward (in horror) to reading it on this website. How bad can things get?

  193. We should definitely complain about how late IB3 is coming out- too busy supporting possible rapists and so on to compile it it seems.:) I am supposed to get the IBs but don’t, so am reliant on this site for the gossip.

    To the person who said rape allegations are disbelieved more than theft ones because people commonly consent to sexual intercourse. Not consenting is very common too of course.

    This is assuming we buy ‘consent rhetoric’ in the first place, especially in a relationship where there’s an imbalance of power http://rootveg.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/consent-is-sexy-and-sexy-is-mandatory/

  194. “too busy supporting possible rapists”

    Or clearing the name of an innocent victim, yet another victim of Non consent rhetoric maybe?