SWP Purges Dissidents

News has just broken that long term SWP members Kevin Ovenden and Rob Hoverman, have been expelled from the party, along with Nick Wrack. Nick joined the SWP three years ago and was a former editor of the Militant newspaper, so he is also an experienced, long term socialist.

The expulsions followed an ultimatum to Nick that he should turn down the position of Respect national organiser or resign from the SWP. A similar ultimatum was given to Rob and Kev that they should stop working in George Galloway’s office, or leave the SWP.

These three comrades have been internally critical of the SWP Central Committee’s handling of Respect, but have been very disciplined by not airing that criticism outside the ranks of the SWP. There still remain critics of the CC’s position within the SWP, including some very well known comrades, but the expulsions are obvioulsy a shot over their bows as well.

The strategy towards Respect from the SWP is increasingly bizarre . On the one hand, they have been telling members this a left/right divide, that Galloway and Salma are pandering to communalism, are anti-trade union, etc. On the other hand, they have been desperate to avoid any public exchanges about these same issues.

At the last National Council of Respect the SWP were forced to concede to the feeling of the meeting that in order to rebuild trust in the workings of the National Officer (i.e. John Rees) Respect needed to appoint a national organiser. The suggestion from George Galloway and Victoria Brittain (who is not particularly close to George Galloway) was Nick Wrack. The feeling of the meeting was that Nick was a good compromise candidate as he was an SWP member with a high profile role, he has the necessary abilities, and there was general trust in him on all sides that he would play a constructive role. There was no suggestion in the meeting that John Rees’s position as National Secretary would be lessened in any way.

Most National Council members thought this was a positive way forward.

But the SWP’s response was extraordinary. They give Nick an ultimatum – either he withdraw from accepting the post or resign from SWP. He then refused to do either and was expelled. This was followed by similar moves against Rob and Kev, who have both been extremely loyal long term members of the SWP

It is difficult to see the dynamic driving SWP as being anything other than protecting John Rees’s reputation inside the SWP itself (he can’t be seen to have messed up and even the mildest criticisms are apparently unacceptable.)

As Nick Bird recently reported about the Party Council, the SWP leadership are now involved in scare-mongering to their own membership about a left/right divide, and plots to ‘subordinate’ the SWP inside Respect. For goodness sake, how can this be a left/right battle when the SWP are desperate to prevent one of their own members having the job?

Of course in reality the SWP’s behaviour is increasingly exposing that they are only interested in control, If they really thought this was a left/right battle for Respect then they would be openly arguing that positioon publicly and seeking to win the argument with Respect’s broader membership. But instead they are only arguing it internally within the SWP, and are using organisational rather than political means to try to maintain control.

It also shows that the SWP are not interested in a genuinely broad alliance. A majority of non-SWP members have now signed a letter supporting Nick Wrack (including Glyn Robbins who had earlier expressed interest in standing himself.) The fact that an SWP member of the standing of Jerry Hicks (a former Amicus convenor in Rolls Royce) is backing Nick disproves the argument put by John Rees argument to the SWP’s Party Council that George & Salma are isolated on the National Council.

How can any one take seriously the claim by the SWP that they are interested in Respect being part of a broader left realignment, if John Rees cannot even deal with long standing SWP members like Rob Ovenden, Kevin Ovenden, Nick Wrack and Ger Francis, without using disciplinary measures?

If the SWP cannot even tolerate the minor differences that they have with the most consistently anti-imperialist MP in the country and the most high profile left wing Muslim in country, then how can they work with any other activists who think for themselves?

With regard to Respect, the SWP exaggerates their own importance to the project. They are not indispensable. The organisation has built a genuine electoral base in a few places around the country, and the control culture of the SWP has actually held Respect back from growing, both politically and organisationally.

But there is another important issue. The SWP has now expelled three prominent internal critics in a purge in order to try to maintain the prestige of the Central Committee, and to prevent a real debate within the SWP about whether the CC’s line is correct. For those SWP members inclined to beleive the CC’s position, ask yourself that if Rob, Kev, Ger and Nick can be expelled for tactical differences, then how confident are you that in the future you won’t have tactical differences with the CC? Do you want to be part of an organisation where any questioning of the line is met by expulsions and purges?

The history of left politics is littered with failed projects where all-knowing and infallible leaderships have used bureaucratic means to discipline the members, and tell them what to think. But when debate and dissent is stopped then it allows the organisation to build a self-delusional understanding of the world. This is what happened to the WRP.

Unless the membership of the SWP tales responsibility and starts thinking for itself about the debates within Respect, then there is a real danger that the SWP will become a sect like organisation like the WRP, and may even share its fate.

The current line of the Central Committee is disastrous for Respect, and disastrous for the SWP, and seemingly is more motivated by maintaining the prestige of the CC than moving left politics forward.

241 comments on “SWP Purges Dissidents

  1. Regarding Nick Wrack. I have always been amazed how he made the political transition from Militant to the SWP. Politically you couldnt get two different strands of Trotskyism. Its surprising the effect splits and factional infighting can have on individuals.

    Have you any information on the John Molyneux spat from a couple of years ago? Or is he politically ‘on song’ again?

  2. left unity on said:

    ‘For goodness sake, how can this be a left/right battle when the SWP are desperate to prevent one of their own members having the job?’

    Neat summary.

  3. I’ve been informed Kev and Rob were expelled because they wrote a letter to the CC explaining they wouldn’t adhere to party democracy (as was voted on and passed overwhelmingly at party council) not that they would stop working for GG.

  4. I don’t want to see the SWP go to pieces – I think it would be a blow to Respect and the left in England. However, it’s worth noting that many people join the SWP because it’s the only game in town.

    And tim, I thought you’d promised to fuck off?

  5. nice bit of loyalist spinning you’ve brought into there johnnyrook. just think through the argument for a few seconds and you’ll see how dumb that is.

  6. andy, you do yourself no favours allowing a smearer like tim the freedom to post here. let him roam around harry’s place, where they don’t notice the smell so much. they’re laughing at you for giving him such an open platform.

  7. The Left continues limping along its way having shot itself in the foot yet again. Nothing quite like a bit of in-fighting to weaken our position. We should be capitalising on disaffection with the Labour Party within the CWU. Striking postman and women are understandably disillusioned with the traditional Labour affiliation and are openly questioning where the political levy goes. Squabbling does nothing to promote either Respect or the SWP as an alternative beneficiary.

  8. left unity on said:

    Johnnyrook’s explanation is inaccurate on both scores. The sooner said letter is in the public domain; the sooner that red herring will be dispensed with. It is remarkable however that SWP members could even suggest that it is perfectly acceptable to expel someone for just allegedly saying ‘they wouldn’t adhere to party democracy’ rather than on actual evidence of them breaking party discipline. Thought crime is back in vogue it appears. I would be Interested to know what’s the explanation given for Nick Wrack’s expulsion.

  9. point – If I’d been wrong about Hoveman you’d have,well a point.

    Study Galloways form.
    Its time to check whether there’s been any new tranches of Respect members registered.
    Around the East London Mosque may be a good point to start.

  10. This isn’t the place for discussion of these issues, but I do think I should respond to this:

    they wrote a letter to the CC explaining they wouldn’t adhere to party democracy

    Aside from this having nothing to do with it, I know Kev a bit and feel fairly certain that he wouldn’t be so ridiculous as to say “I’m not adhering to party democracy, so nyaah”. The arguments are a great more complicated than this, and I think anyone who knows the issues has a responsibility not to spread horseshit like this. Kev, Rob & Nick are all excellent activists, regardless of any of the issues here, and don’t deserve to be the topic of infantile anathema like this.

  11. martin ohr on said:

    Lenin, if you know the issues then why don’t you clear it up for everyone by explaining what they are instead of throwing your weight around on here and basically telling everyone to shut up.

  12. “If the SWP cannot even tolerate the minor differences that they have with the most consistently anti-imperialist MP in the country and the most high profile left wing Muslim in country, then how can they work with any other activists who think for themselves?”

    Let’s think about that ….the point is the SWP cannot tolerate minor differences such as they are where the reputation of one of the high command is being challenged ,directly or indirectly.Let’s face it there is no real democracy within the SWP, the high command is not accountable to the membership, never has been never will be.

    I dont want to wish further division on ‘the left’ but when the murky machinations of such an overbearing force such as the SWP, serve to continually try to dominate and control, hinder, divide and sabotage attempts at genuine unity whether within the anti war or anti globalisation movements,the Scottish Socialist party, Socialist Alliance or Respect, one has to wonder whether they are more a block and hindrance,eg towards the creation of a new Left party,than any kind of help.

    I have long come to the conclusion that the SWP is something the Left can do without.The more people who leave, and many are,the better and start thinking for themselves.The break up of the SWP is to be welcomed and its a very very sad admission of some to say that it is the only show in town. Well, what a shower! This situation opens up great possibilities for a genuine realignment and renewal of the Left not the reverse.

    The SWP ,Militant and Stalinism and many of the other myriad of Left sects have routinely alienated many many people from getting involved in Socialist and left wing politics because their funadmentally undemocratic way of operating.

    Unless people on the Left get this into their thick skulls once and for all…we will never never get anywhere if we are not fundamentally democratic, accountable and transparent, in theory and practice.

  13. Lenin doesn’t know the issues.
    I sent him a message an hour ago and he popped up on here.
    And he certainly hasn’t got the balls to debate anything.

  14. Swappie on said:

    I think that informing the party that you are not going to adhere to Party Democracy is a perfectly decent organisational reason for expulsion in any democratically centralist organisation. It’s part and parcel with membership.

    Not that I agree with everything that’s going on.

  15. martin ohr on said:

    Swappie, I agree, if you state that your not going to abide by party decisions then you’r effectively resigning anyway.

    However that suggests that there is no democratic vehicle to challenge central committee decisionsi fyou beleive them to be wrong, presumably the central committee is responsible for day-to-day decision making but it subordinate to an elected national committee of activists/organisers who are subordinate to conference/agm and the possibility of special meetings.

  16. Lenin said: “Kev, Rob & Nick are all excellent activists, regardless of any of the issues here, and don’t deserve to be the topic of infantile anathema like this. [namely that “they wrote a letter to the CC explaining they wouldn’t adhere to party democracy”, as johnnyrook alleged in Comment 3]

    Kev, Rob & Nick? Who are they? Never heard of them.

    Lenin said: “This isn’t the place for discussion of these issues, but I do think I should respond …”

    “These issues” certainly can’t be discussed at meetings of the two organisations concerned any more, under pain of expulsion (note to any over-eager cadres: I’m not actually discussing the issues here, so calm down)

    Anyway, don’t be so weak-kneed. Once the purge is finished, we’ll be rapier-sharp and fighting-fit for lesser matters such as the postal dispute.

  17. cameron on said:

    That SWP members, like Lenny, are posting already on the expulsions demonstrates how the internet might play havoc with the Central Committee’s plan to control the debate inside the party.

  18. left unity on said:

    Swappie: If your post is meant as some observation on models of democratic centralism, lets agree to disagree. Within the context of these expulsions, I agree with Lenin , its ‘horseshit ‘, and only serves to divert from the real issues that need to be discussed.

    Babeuf: ‘Once the purge is finished, we’ll be rapier-sharp and fighting-fit for lesser matters such as the postal dispute.’

    I will presume you are either drunk or disillusional. Either way, anybody who thinks the SWP are going to emerge stronger by pursuing this madness needs their head examined.

  19. Ian Donovan on said:

    “Lenin, if you know the issues then why don’t you clear it up for everyone by explaining what they are instead of throwing your weight around on here and basically telling everyone to shut up.”

    Martin Ohr, habitual scribbler of incoherent garbage for the Alliance for White Liberty, thus backs up the racist provocateur Tim in baiting those who stick up for pro-Respect, pro-democracy dissidents in the SWP.

    Tim, of course, wants to be an MI5 asset, but the spooks are understandably not too keen on rat-boy wankers inclined to spray semen over their painstakingly assembled files.

    Quite amusing also to see Cameron Richards trying to smarm over this, since the Weekly Worker was only recently calling for the SWP to expel Respect supporters from its ranks. Well, now the expulsions have started, comrades, you should be cheering!

    What do the above three individuals/trends have in common? They are all Islamophobic witchhunters, and have nothing whatsoever to say to the SWP’s pro-Respect democratic opposition.

  20. Babeuf (me): ‘Once the purge is finished, we’ll be rapier-sharp and fighting-fit for lesser matters such as the postal dispute.’

    To which Left Unity replied: “I will presume you are either drunk or disillusional. Either way, anybody who thinks the SWP are going to emerge stronger by pursuing this madness needs their head examined.”

    “Disillusional” I may be, drunk I’m not.

    But I’ll have to “presume you are drunk” yourself if you can’t detect sarcasm when it’s as heavy-handed as that. Anyway, can’t stay around here for idle chit-chat. I’m too busy hunting down crypto-Gallowayite communalist homophobes. Like swappie “Not that I agree with everything that’s going on.” (Comment 18). Tut-tut. You’re history, comrade!

  21. martin ohr on said:

    Ian, fair comment if you think I scribble garbage. As for the rest is just plain abuse, I’m neither a racist nor an islamaphobic witchhunter, nor is the awl -of which I am a member- some sort of white supremacist organisation as you seem keen to imply.

    You just make yourself seem more ridiculous than ever to accuse anyone who disagrees with you of being a racist and I hope no-one takes your rant above seriously.

    Ian you routinely describe all your policital enemies (which over the years you’ve made many with many organisations you’ve been a member of and flounced out of, and the many sudden political shifts you’ve made, not to mention the hundreds of people you’ve insulted, threeatend and probably worse.) as racists, scabs, islamaphobes etc to the extent that those words have probably ceased to carry any meaning for you.

    Just to make it clear, I have no idea who ‘Tim’ is or what is motives can possibly be but since he never writes anything political there is nothing that I can agree or disagree with – he appears to be some sort of anti-galloway troll, but who knows really. I have never endorsed anything he’s written.

    CPGB – I think weekly workers recent rants for the membership of the swp to start high-profile expulsions is nonsense on so many levels it is difficult to know where to start. The right course of action is to patiently persuade swpers that the course they have followed for the last 2 years was wrong but it’s still not too late to put it right.

  22. The procedure is interesting. As I understand the thing, comrades can be expelled from the SWP by the decision of officers such as the National Secretary. In other socialist currents neither the officers nor the leadership have the final say. It’s left to a “control commission” of well regarded comrades who are not on the serving leadership. This allows dissenters the right of appeal and we all remember what Rosa Luxemburg said about freedom of the dissenter.
    Call it Stalinism, call it Healeyism but let’s not pretend it’s anything resembling working class democracy.

  23. Ian Donovan on said:

    “You just make yourself seem more ridiculous than ever to accuse anyone who disagrees with you of being a racist and I hope no-one takes your rant above seriously.”

    Coming from an outfit whose spokespeople regularly describe the SWP and George Galloway as anti-semitic and fascistic, this is a bit rich. The rest of Ohr’s post is as libellous in a personal sense as anything produced by Tim … what more can I say?

    Supposedly I’ve insulted and threatened … and probably worse ‘hundreds’ of people. I think he’s probably confusing me with Jim Denham or Sean Matgamna. Which would be worrying, except that Martin, as I originally said, does tend to be somewhat incoherent;-)

  24. Lobby Ludd on said:

    As a very side issue, Tim, it is not that anyone “hasn’t got the balls to debate anything”. It’s just that you are not worth the bother.

    You are like the person at the back of the melee saying “come on if your hard enough”, safe in the knowledge you won’t be heard.

  25. martin ohr on said:

    Ian, tell me in what way I have been racist, or islamaphobic ever, anywhere?

    Tell me what in my post was libellous and I will withdraw it.

  26. cameron on said:

    You say the nicest things Ian. Cheering? No, but a vindication of the prediction that the Respect project would come to haunt the SWP. Nothing more, nothing less.

  27. left unity on said:

    Babeuf, apologies. It’s getting late.

    I sympathise with Ian Donovan in that this thread is being distorted by those more motivated by hostility towards both Respect and the SWP. Post somewhere else. I agree with a much earlier post from Charlie Marks about it being a blow to the left in England if the SWP politically degenerate. In light off the fact they are ever more entrenching themselves in their hostility towards both internal and external critics, it seems to me that the most constructive thing that could now happen would be if their disagreements could be conducted in as open, transparent and fraternal way as possible. The internal, behind the scenes maneuvering only serves to create confusion, demoralize, and deepen mistrust inside Respect and especially the SWP. The forthcoming Respect conference provides an opportunity. Let the SWP come out publicly with their real position and lets have the argument. It will be healthier all round, whatever the outcome, than the current situation.

  28. This is the best news I have heard in a long while: the British left is that much cleaner. Let’s hope that honest SWP’ers now learn the lessons of their dalliance with Islamism and the shyster Galloway.

  29. babeuf on said:

    Left Unity said: “Babeuf, apologies. It’s getting late.”

    That’s OK – it gave me a laugh. I thought you were probably too tired or (understandably) too angry to notice how I’d flagged the sarcasm.

    LU: “open, transparent and fraternal” etc.

    A worthy hope, but increasingly a forlorn one. Conference, after all, depends on who has control over the selection of most delegates. If these three … um, crypto-Gallowayite wreckers are expelled at the national level, I don’t think you have to exercise your imagination too much to work out what’s going on at the local level.

  30. “That SWP members, like Lenny, are posting already on the expulsions demonstrates how the internet might play havoc with the Central Committee’s plan to control the debate inside the party.”

    Exactly I should have shut the hell up :/

  31. babeuf on said:

    tim, Ohr, and now Denham all coming to crow. It’s difficult having a discussion in the midst of such a stink.

  32. babeuf on said:

    johnnyrook: “Exactly I should have shut the hell up :/”

    Damn right. You’re expelled!

    Next!

  33. Lets not forget that Ger Francis, Kevin Ovenden and Rob Hoveman are all products of the SWP leadership and each have some considerable responsibility for the actions of their former organisation. They are not political virgins or young naifs. Like Nick Wrack they are, or would like to think they are, shrewd political activists who want to move politics to the left.

    In part they are then responsible for the lack of a democratic culture within the SWP. They have so to speak denied themselves the opportunity to fight for their own views within the SWP by means of apealing to their fellow members in Internal Bulletins and/or at membership aggregates. As for the possibility of forming a faction why heaven forfend!

    But in point of fact the democratic culture once a part of the old IS politics was scrapped long before the ex-cdes even joined the SWP. They are then victims of the SWP’s rotten internal regime as much as they were once instruments of it.

    What they are not is revolutionary socialists or else they would not so easily have abandoned the project of constructing a revolutionary party. And that is important as there is a left versus right element to this dismal dispute.

    The problem is that the ‘left’ has willingly gagged itself and will not or cannot speak out against the Rees-German cliques turn towards Respect the populist coalition in the first place. Perhaps the only thing that might encourage this morally weak left is a rise in workers self activity. One can only hope that in such circumstances tghey would indeed dump the Rees-German clique which has done so much damage to the chances of the SWP playing a positive role in the struggle for a revolutionary workers party.

  34. “In part they are then responsible for the lack of a democratic culture within the SWP. They have so to speak denied themselves the opportunity to fight for their own views within the SWP by means of apealing to their fellow members in Internal Bulletins and/or at membership aggregates. As for the possibility of forming a faction why heaven forfend!”

    Excellent point, Mike.

  35. Tony Greenstein on said:

    ‘For whatever a man shall sow, that shall he reap.’ or words to that effect.

    There is I guess a certain irony in two out of three of those expelled being hoist on his own petard. I don’t know the third, but Nick Wrack and Rob Hoveman certainly did their master’s bidding in wrecking the Socialist Alliance. Clearly they both had their own rewards – Wrack as Chair of Respect and Hoveman a sinecure with Galloway. Don’t wish to get carried away with the biblical quotations but such as the wages of sin!

    Leaving aside the merits of Respect itself, though I’ve always viewed it as hopelessly flawed, communalist in its approach, undemocratic etc. and thus merely awaiting the disaster that is currently visiting it, what are the conclusions to be drawn from the present imbroglio? What are the common factors in the this second example of the SWP forming ‘united fronts of a special kind’ and what lessons do they hold for the Left? These and in particular the latter are the key questions for socialists.

    Jim Denham, Martin Orr & any other AWL members can crow, but in reality members of a pro-war sect have very little to crow about having departed from the shores of socialism some time ago. They also got it hopelessly wrong in focussing on Galloway as a particularly evil character at the time of the destruction of the SA. In fact Galloway was little different to many others on the Labour left like Benn or Bob Wareing. It is a fact of life that labour party lefts seem to feel the need to identify with third world opponents of the West or sundry dictators – be it Saddam Hussein or Milosovic.

    The real question it seems to me is one of democracy. The inability of most of the far-left to accept that if you can’t allow thoroughgoing democracy within one’s own organisation, then one is hardly likely to achieve a society which is thoroughly democratic, as socialism/communism must surely be. The SWP is a particularly bad example, as it has a self-electing oligarchy, grouped around Rees and one or two other minor stars, which devours its own.

    To give but a small example. In SW a couple of weeks ago Callinicos wrote an article signalling an SWP retreat from pushing for an Academic Boycott of Israel. In the article he stated that even anti-Zionists like Noam Chomsky opposed the boycott. I sent in an e-mail, confident in the knowledge it had no chance of being published, just for the record, pointing out that Chomsky has never claimed to be an anti-Zionist and that he would consider himself a Zionist of the Judah Magnes, bi-national variety. Of course I’m sure the letter hasn’t been published though I haven’t checked (if anyone says it has I’ll eat my hat) and advising Prof. Callinicos to learn something about the subject he is writing about.

    Yet if say the Guardian or Independent publish something which is factually wrong then they have mechanisms by which they are corrected. It is a sad commentary on the state of the left when bourgeois democratic newspapers are more democratic than those of the far-left. The only exception to this being Weekly Worker. AWL have a record every bit as bad as the SWP when it comes to expulsions. Indeed the expulsions of the Thornett/WSL group took place after a majority of the group opposed Matgamna’s position on the Malvinas/Falklands War in favour of revolutionary defeatism.

    All this is doubly tragic because the SWP is the largest far-left group without which the left would undoubtedly be weaker given that it is the backbone of most anti-war groups. Yet I suspect that these expulsions are by no means the end of the matter and, given the SWP’s commitment to it, there will be further repercussions within the SWP.

    Tony Greenstein

  36. night-owl on said:

    Mike, backed by Darren said “In part they [the Respect Three] are then responsible for the lack of a democratic culture within the SWP. They have so to speak denied themselves the opportunity to fight for their own views within the SWP by means of apealing to their fellow members in Internal Bulletins and/or at membership aggregates. As for the possibility of forming a faction why heaven forfend!”

    Come off it! The internal bulletins only appear in the run-up to conference, and factions can only be formed in the same short period. In practice, the CC can censor the internal bulletins if anything too critical is sent in. The right to form a faction hasn’t been exercised since the mid 80s, and if members don’t even have the right to free comment in the bulletins these days, can you imagine them being allowed in practice to form a faction now? For all we know, the Respect Three might have been planning to exercise precisely that right, but were expelled before they could do so.

    In any case, they fought for their views at the London SWP meeting on Respect held in early September, and more recently at the SWP Party Council. (The majority decision at Party Council, by the way, was only as democratic as the procedures used locally to select delegates:-)

    You don’t say that they should have backed down when they were presented with the ultimatums in order to live to fight another day, so what else could they have done? They stood their ground when the time came. They were expelled for doing so.

    But I’m sure people will listen if anyone has any constructive ideas on how to get round these obstacles.

  37. Gordon on said:

    So Richard ‘Lenin’ Seymour has decided to break with the SWP. His chums have been expelled for acts of gross indiscipline and Richard is far too sentimental a creature to let such ‘injustices’ pass without comment.

    Some revolutionary.

  38. Well, we were waiting for the San Andreas Fault to go and here it comes.

    Mike and Tony Greenstein both put the case well regarding Nick Wrack and Rob Hoveman – it’s a falling out among thieves. Kevin Ovendon always struck me as decent although, like a lot of others, he did stay mute when others tried to pull them back from disaster.

    But Wrack and Hoveman were proactive in this mess from the start. The fact that Hoveman, who was extremely personally close to Rees and German, has been expelled demonstrates how deeply damaging their policies have been.

    Rees and German have gratuitously screwed over everyone around them in ever-decreasing circles until there’s only them left. Well done, comrades. I hope you feel great standing in the rubble. Admire your handiwork – it’s all yours.

  39. Night-Owl,

    I think you misunderstood Mike’s point.

    They were party to an internal top-down political culture that has chewed them out and spat them out. I have less sympathy for them than poor sod who was expelled from the SWP for posting comments on Urban 75 a while back.

    Does this mean that Respect/SWP has finally jumped the shark?

  40. I apologise for giving anyone here the impression that I was interested in the delusional banter, puerile Kremlinology, infantile anathema, and outright fabrication that usually passes for debate in discussions like this. I admit I do sometimes wonder to myself: “who on earth do they think is listening? Do they have any idea how ridiculous and ineffectual they look when railing against the evil SWP and its works? Does this endless sequence of petty carping and cavilling and sneering actually produce a single interesting thought, much less a single serious discussion?” On the whole, however, I have nothing to declare but my contempt.

  41. Gordon on said:

    You’ve now got a problem, Richard. You came onto this forum last night – no one forced you – and publicly defended three men who have just been expelled from the SWP.

    “Kev, Rob & Nick are all excellent activists, regardless of any of the issues here…”

    You are obviouly upset. You’ve revealed your hand. There’s no point in waking up this morning and trying to cover your tracks with a smokesceen of florid bile – it’s all here in black and white.

  42. I think John Rees will be calling in wee Richard for a little chat. Can we expect a humiliating public Private Eye-style apology:

    “In recent days, Lenin’s Tomb may have given the impression that Kevin Ovenden and Rob Hoverman and Nick Wrack are good comrades, excellent activists and reliable revolutionaries who have been hashly dealt with the ageing and increasingly delusional leadership of the SWP.

    We now realise that in fact Ovenden, Hoverman and Wrack are splitters, egotists and communalists who can have no place in a serious Marxist party. We apologise for any confusion.

  43. Tim

    As you know we run a fairly tolerant regime here in terms of comments, but there are peope here trying to have a serious debate. Basically we have all got the point of what you are trying to say now, and unless you have something constructive to add to the discussion then I will delete future comments from you in this thread.

  44. Ian Donovan on said:

    “You say the nicest things Ian. Cheering? No, but a vindication of the prediction that the Respect project would come to haunt the SWP. Nothing more, nothing less.”

    More to the point is that the Respect project offers the means to a progressive resolution of the flaws that mar the SWP. The creation of a genuine, broad party of the progressive, anti-imperialist left. Which necessarily excludes those who have sought to destroy the Respect project by their denunciation of its best features – its support for the Iraqi resistance, its defence of Iran, its drawing of progressive elements from the Muslim population in this country into a broad left movement for the first time. And the fact is that the CPGB has publicly called for Respect supporters to be expelled from the SWP – it should be cheering at this purge. As I pointed out earlier, the CPGB is horny for an Islamophobic purge.

  45. Alex Nichols on said:

    One question that hasn’t been answered is why exactly the SWP leadership would want to oppose having Nick Wrack as National Organiser, since it would have meant having an SWP’er underwriting an SWP’er in the two main organisational roles.
    I can only presume that they’re intent on disrupting the decision to create the post entirely. Which seems to indicate that they may be gearing up for a bigger battle about the future of Respect, with the possibility that they may actually want to split the organisation.

    I remain to be convinced that any of the expelled SWP oppositionists are representative of a trend towards workers democracy in Respect.
    It seems to me that Galloway has never exactly been an exponent of Workers Democracy, as is evidenced by his failure to support any working class opponents of the Iraqi regime in the past, his tail-ending of Iliescu’s government in Rumania, his failure to abide by a workers representative on a workers wage and his attempts to promote himself as an individual in the media. Salma Yaqoob may be “left-wing”, but I’ve not noticed her actually explicitly state that she’s a socialist.
    So falling in behind their attempts to “democratise” and “organisationally solidify” Respect, doesn’t guarantee that the outcome will actually be a socialist organisation.

    My guess is that the CPB may well be showing renewed interest – in the past probably restrained because of the history of the Iraqi CP’s treatment at the hand of the Baathists and Galloways role in working closely with them. They could yet provide some footsoldiers to replace the SWP members on the ground, alongside Galloway and Yaqoob’s supporters in Bethnal Green and Birmingham.

    It has to be said that the SWP leadership have cocked up big time here – to lose on National Organiser is unfortunate, to lose four of them is downright inept!

  46. left unity on said:

    The real issue for those genuinely interested in a left-of-labour party is the current direction of SWP strategy inside Respect, and whether it helps or hinders that project. The role of SWP members in the anti-war movement, its contribution to providing that movement with an organizational spine, embedding it in anti-imperialism and steeling it against anti-Muslim racism, its role in the foundation of Respect, all point the positive role they have played and still can. But how this argument is conducted is critical to future direction, and right now, it is being conducted very badly.

    Responding to the quite moderate criticisms of George Galloway to certain internal Respect practices in the hysterical manner it has done, was exactly the wrong reaction. The SWP are not above criticism, and SWP comrades need to chill a bit if some gets dished out. Portraying those expressing some criticisms are being part of a right-wing, anti trade union, electoralist pandering bloc was not much help either! This is not to say there are no potential pitfalls in Respects current development. Unfortunately the process of understanding the very real electoral pressures we face in our strongest areas have been undermined by ignorant and slanderous allegations of ‘communalism’.

    If Respect is facing the spectre of right-wing communalism (or whatever formulation you want to use), surely the SWP have a responsibility to state so openly inside Respect, to substantiate, and to argue alternative strategies. It would be much healthier if this were to take place. So far they have not done this, Why? Because underlying all of this is a lack of confidence to say to the external world what they can get away with saying behind closed doors inside the SWP. I have to agree with Andy that it appears that what is driving the dynamic of SWP tactics in this situation is a desire to protect the reputation of sections of the SWP leadership. It is hard to see anything else in the ridiculous nature of the charges being levelled, and the absence of any evidence to substantiate them being produced.

    If this manner of politics goes unchallenged, or if it is dealt with by disciplinary manners, it is the SWP that will emerge from all of this most damaged. SWP members should see the debate now not as being about the direction of Respect, but about the soul of the SWP.

  47. But I do want to respond to Richard Seymour who wrote:

    ” apologise for giving anyone here the impression that I was interested in the delusional banter, puerile Kremlinology, infantile anathema, and outright fabrication that usually passes for debate in discussions like this. I admit I do sometimes wonder to myself: “who on earth do they think is listening? Do they have any idea how ridiculous and ineffectual they look when railing against the evil SWP and its works? Does this endless sequence of petty carping and cavilling and sneering actually produce a single interesting thought, much less a single serious discussion?” On the whole, however, I a single interesting thought, much less a single serious discussion a single interesting thought, much less a single serious discussion. On the whole, however, I have nothing to declare but my contempt.”

    You see Richard, any genuine debate must involve people we don’t agree with, and part of the difficulty that the SWP have created for themselves is that they have anathematised debate with socialists outside their ranks.

    Now obviously it is a bit messy that the debate attracts Jim Denham and the AWL, or right wing trolls like Tim. It is also inevitable that sincere socialists who disagreed with Respect for strategic or tactical reasons are going to put their tuppence in now, which might seem a distraction to some. But people are intelligent enough to give appropriate weight or otherwise to contributions to the debate.

    And, the reason why discussion of the SWP often descends into Kremlinology is because the internal debate within the SWP is usually so absent, hidden or coded.

    There are real political issues here about the potential for Respect, either spiralling in on itself under the control of the SWP CC (The John Rees position), or playing a constructive role in reconfiguring the English left by reaching outwards (the Salma Yaqoob position).

    Within that context it is not irrelevant that the SWP have expelled these comrades, because it shows that the mechanism of seeking to control Respect through bureaucratic means, which is the problem with John Rees’s approach to Respect, is also the way the CC is seeking to control debate within the SWP.

    What is revealed is that the CC actually see the SWP as belonging to them, and even members who have been very close to that inner circle are dispensible for maintaining the prestige of the inner clique.

    Now Richard, you can complain about us debating this, and sneer that we are all beneath you in level of debate (after all the comments section of Lenin’s Tomb is so much more insightful), but are you sure that the left outside the SWP are incapable of producing “a single interesting thought, much less a single serious discussion”

    The trouble is that by you saying quite openly that you “have nothing to declare but … contempt” for us debating this, then you are exhibiting exactly the same sort of high handedness that the SWP CC have shown. This is a systematic problem, because the SWP like to think of themselves as the “leadership” with all the wisdom. But in reality the SWP is smaller, older, less embedded in the working class, and less well respected than it has been for years. Perhaps you should try listening to others for a change.

  48. Adam J, asks: “What is the source for this story?”

    Well in the best traditions of journalism I am not going to tell you.

    But it is true.

  49. “I apologise for giving anyone here the impression that I was interested in the delusional banter, puerile Kremlinology, infantile anathema, and outright fabrication that usually passes for debate in discussions like this. I admit I do sometimes wonder to myself: “who on earth do they think is listening? Do they have any idea how ridiculous and ineffectual they look when railing against the evil SWP and its works? Does this endless sequence of petty carping and cavilling and sneering actually produce a single interesting thought, much less a single serious discussion?” On the whole, however, I have nothing to declare but my contempt.

    Comment by lenin — 15 October, 2007 @ 7:40 am”

    Is the 7.40am comment from the real Lenny? I’m not sure. I think someone might be shit stirring.

    Someone as smart as Lenny knows that quite a few people inside and out the SWP are reading this blog with interest.

  50. Dearie me, all those idiots crowing over “Lenny going against his beloved SWP” sound exactly like the wingnuts over on merkin blogs giggling over how “Obama” sounds a lot like “Osama”. And like those morons, they disrupt any serious discussion they’ve latched themselves onto. It really isn’t censorship to throw these bums out. If they want to wreck, let them do that in their own blogs and comment threads, not here.

  51. Alex – yes, the question that hasn’t really been addressed (after 50+ comments) is… er… what’s going on. Ovenden and Hoverman expelled for working with Galloway; Wrack expelled for standing for the Organiser post, whose creation Rees & German had agreed to… I can’t see that any of it makes any sense unless the SWP leadership is determined to a) leave RESPECT b) split RESPECT c) wreck RESPECT or d) some combination of the above. These certainly don’t look like the actions of an organisation preparing to operate as a minority current within a broader party – or even preparing to operate within a broader party on terms which might at some point in the future reduce them to a minority current.

  52. No Darren, Lenin is indeed Lenin – although I’m sure he wishes to hell he hadn’t posted here last night. Doubting the SWP leadership in public is not clever politics.

  53. Sorry Martin – you don’t see any significance to Richard Seymour, the SWP’s pet blogger, coming onto the Socialist Unity site to publicly defend three comrades who have just been expelled from the SWP? You don’t think this is evidence of deep confusion in the ranks of the SWP? You don’t think we should talk about it?

  54. Look, I know that I responded to Richard myself, but I really think it would be a shame if this discussion got side-tracked onto the least importnat aspect of it- what Richard Seymour thinks about it. Don’t mistake blog-land with real life.

  55. Andy:

    “And, the reason why discussion of the SWP often descends into Kremlinology is because the internal debate within the SWP is usually so absent, hidden or coded.”

    Having shitstirrers like Jim Denham or trolls like Tim doesn’t help. Discussing the SWP is difficult enough already, what with their own secrecy and the pervasive hostility towards them from the rest of the socialist sects.

  56. Lacan:

    all Lenny said was “don’t spread dumb shit about people who are good lefties”. That’s not significant, that’s just common sense. He didn’t say anything about whether their expulsion was unjustified or not, or the reasons behind it.

  57. Martin, we all what he said – and what he meant. He’s upset.

    Has anyone got an up-to-date assessment of the balance of forces for next month’s showdown? Will Galloway turn up with an army?

  58. Andy,

    Your comparison between the SWP and WRP is right and wrong. It’s not a possible future scenario – The SWP has resembled the WRP for donkeys years. The latest bloodletting is all about the small clique that controls the SWP trying to protect one of its own – Rees. The last thing that shower wants is democratic debate and its commitment to Marxism is just bullshit for the membership. Like an earlier contributor the best thing that could happen would be for those parasites to destroy their own organisation and the genuine Marxists left in the SWP to join a proper Left wing organisation.

  59. Alex Nichols on said:

    #55 “the prestige of the inner clique.”

    Yes, I think there is a strong element of that and I’ve heard it anecdotally from someone with over 30 years membership of the organisation and very close to someone who’s written for International Socialism for even longer. It related to a fairly innocuous incident, but she felt that there “the inner clique” like to stay aloof from the wider membership and don’t like having their politics challenged. Not that this is exactly a new problem in the IS/SWP, or even exclusive to it, or even the left (to remove some ammo from the rightist trolls)

  60. Martin

    I know what you are arguing has an element of truth, but the best way of dealing with trolls is to ignore them, then they get bored and go away.

  61. Ian Donovan on said:

    “I can’t see that any of it makes any sense unless the SWP leadership is determined to a) leave RESPECT b) split RESPECT c) wreck RESPECT or d) some combination of the above.”

    I actually doubt that they know themselves. At the local level, many of their best activists are deeply involved in RESPECT and see it as a very good thing. The expelled three are probably the tip of a very large iceberg in terms of the non-sectarian practice of many activists at ground level. There is respect for the leadership of the party among activists, but there is also massive confusion since the SWP core has to disavow in public what they are saying in private. The party council is not, from my observation, genuinely representative of feeling at the base of the party. They could not simply split away from Respect – if they did, many activists would simply not comprehend this and would be unlikely to follow.

    The problem is that the SWP have acted in partial contradiction with their (often, not always) sectarian history. They have helped create an organisation with a real social base and broader political life (albeit uneven), that they can no longer control. I dont think this is a death moment in terms of the Respect project. Something new is struggling to be born here. The expelled cadres are people capable themselves of leading an organisation, along with the other non-SWP Respect cadre from a variety of backgrounds.

  62. Alex Nichols on said:

    #67 “the best thing that could happen would be for those parasites to destroy their own organisation and the genuine Marxists left in the SWP to join a proper Left wing organisation.”

    Unless you’re in a position to define that, both organisationally and politically, you’re just acting as another pointless disruptive troll.

  63. I think Ian is correct here that the SWP CC don’t know themselves what to do about respect.

    From their own point of view they are the socialist core, who have the best understanding and the best leadership capabilities, and they are therefore protecting their own authority, somewhat regardless of the cost.

  64. martin ohr on said:

    Andy,

    It think it is naive to suggest that the CC don’t know what they are doing when they are acting in such a decisive manner, surely they are preparing the ground for a split with respect and attempting to limit losses by cutting of a chunk of the cadre. It’s not ‘regardless of the cost’ rather lose some members up front to protect the greater chunk of members -ie a careful calculation

  65. Andy – I think The SWP leadership has expelled the three ‘dissidents’ not for what they’ve done but for what they might do.

    I don’t think Rees and co are yet willing to dump Respect but they want the freedom of manouevre to do so if Galloway gets the upper hand. At that key point many grassroots SWP members (who have build up relationships within Respect at a local level and are deeply committed to the project) will be extrememly reluctant to leave Respect. In order to be able to move the SWP membership out, en bloc, the CC needs to act now to delegitimise those people who might act as figureheads for a ‘stay-and-fight’ tendency within the SWP.

    If the SWP emerges intact from Respect then it will be weakened but viable but if there is a significant loss of membership to a post-SWP Respect then the judgement of the leadership will be open to question as never before.

  66. Stop the press, SWP central committee behave like Stalinist bureaucrats, earth shattering info LOL. Leave Galloway and the SWP to it, they deserve each other. Those who joined Respect, unless they were brain dead new what type of people they were dealing with, so please no crocodile tears.

    Move on get over it and help build a new left, one that has no truck with mockney central committees who operated along democratic centralist to perpetuate their own power base.

  67. Stuart King on said:

    Here’s a post I put on Liam’s blog but its relevant to this debate.

    Well, it wasn’t long ago that Liam was promising us “sweetness and light” in Respect, and I pointed out this was to do with the possibility of an imminent election. Now no election and the bloodletting starts.

    Anyone who understands the bureaucratic nature of the SWP knows that it cannot tolerate differences in its own organisation, or worse criticism of its leaders. This makes it extremely difficult for it to work in its so-called “special united fronts”, it either has to control them or leave them.

    In the Socialist Alliance and in Respect SWP members not only worked co-operatively with other left forces but listened to arguments, because it was possible to have debates and discussions not allowed in the SWP. This always leads to differences in the SWP. In a democratic centralist organisation these differences could be argued out, in the bureaucratic centralist SWP people are just expelled. (You can find a longer analysis of Respect and the SA in Permanent Revolution 6).

    In fact far from sweetness and light we are heading for a mighty bust up in Respect as the SWP fights to continue to dominate it, and Galloway’s allies fight to prevent it. There is no way John Rees will be knocked off his perch, rather he will take the SWP and fly the coop.

    ps Doesn’t anyone go to sleep on this site or go to work the following day! Cdes appear to be suffering from insomnia or OCD (or both?).

  68. The fact that someone like Galloway is now seen as the sole hope of the left, along with certain others with their left-bashing history and absence of socalist credentials, illustrates just how degenerated all this has become.

    No anti-abortion, luxury-loving chancer who sucks up to bullies is going to do anything positive for the movement. In one vivid televisual example all saw Galloway sit cravenly while his rottweiller pal laid into a black woman with “black don’t crack, you lot just go a bit dusty on top”, accused her of being a whore, and himself intimidated the other young people on the programme. In the wider world, people came, they saw, they were repulsed.

    Can we get out of this “either/or” mindset set and say “neither Galloway nor Rees, but International Socialism”. Although we’re more in need of International Rescue right now. At least you can see those strings.

  69. “Can we get out of this “either/or” mindset set and say “neither Galloway nor Rees, but International Socialism”. Although we’re more in need of International Rescue right now. At least you can see those strings”.

    Madam Miaow: LOL. Damn right as well.

    Also, why do people defend Galloway so much? If this is the Left’s last best chance then I will stick with the LP.

    His speeches are moralistic and religiously pious yet hypocritically he’s on telly with parasitical socialites. The only time his constituents see him is probably on telly.

    And for one last time, lesbian and gay rights, women rights, supporting a woman’s right to choose. These are basic demands that the Left should understand that they are integral to fighting for socialism.

    Not some bland and lame afterthought (I am sorry but the Respect manifesto on these issues is utterly unbelievably inadequate). Actually, the Labour Left is constantly slagged off but believe me the Feminists4John McDonnell manifesto was bloody fantastic and something the Left could attempt to emulate. We were sharp on these issues unlike Respect who seems to think women and L&G rights are an afterthought, some lame afterthought.

    Mick is correct on democratic centralism and his take on Galloway/Rees/Respect. I think the rigid adherence to Leninism (I actually think Lenin would be spinning in his tomb!) is so destructive, controlling, cult like, alpha male orientated, and leads to eventual degeneration and implosion. It is a recipe for disaster.
    And a lot of embittered and burnt-out comrades who come to distrust the Left and all it stands for.

    Comrades, this isn’t 1917 all over again, storming the Winter Palace, and am sorry to tell you, but you are not the Bolshevik Party mark 2…

    Wake-up from your own arrogance and watch how the Left gets smaller and weaker. Not attractive in the least to join. So ditch the strategies that underpin these groups (I know, old habits die hard). ‘Cos if the Left is to survive then we need new strategies.

  70. Ian Donovan on said:

    “Also, why do people defend Galloway so much?”

    Perhaps because he’s the only internal opponent of a criminal war waged by the leaders of your party that those leaders felt was dangerous enough to expel.

    “Not attractive in the least to join.”

    Just about sums up my view of the Labour Left, to be frank. You stay in a party led by mass murderers and union-smashers, if that’s what you’re into. I’m not.

  71. I think Mick’s point is worth considering:
    “Move on get over it and help build a new left, one that has no truck with mockney central committees who operated along democratic centralist to perpetuate their own power base.”

    From the current fractures, given the current disputes in th epost and those offing in other areas, we need a wide ranging debate and most of all practical co-operation on the ground to deliver solidarity to include, the SWP, those expelled and thiose who have left of their own accord, the Labour left, Respect more generrally and otrher worker militants and activists who can be drawn in to a real united front that can deliver action and have open, fraternal and honest debates.

    Perhpas th emost important priorities are to support the formation of a rank and file movement in th eunions, particularly the CWU but also local trade union rank and file bodies to fight the pay freeze and draw in support form other campaigns, whether against deportations, privatisations, such as the Karen Reissmann strike in Manchester, cuts or housing campaigns.

    We need to learn and grow from th emistakes of the past.

  72. “And for one last time, lesbian and gay rights, women rights, supporting a woman’s right to choose. These are basic demands that the Left should understand that they are integral to fighting for socialism.”

    I remember as a young working class man arguing against these rights when I first came into contact with the left. But gradually after much debate I came to accept them and this liberated my life. When I hear members of Respect running around the houses trying to avoid supporting what are some of the basic building blocks of human freedom my heart sinks; and all to satisfy the prejudices of religious bigots.

    Not least because I believe there are thousands if not millions of young muslims, who like I have support the oppression of women etc due to tradition and thus could be convinced that supporting these basic freedoms was a good thing.

  73. Ian: Galloway…dangerous? There are other Labour Lefties who are anti-war/anti-imperalist and also have very good track records on other issues . Have a look at Galloway’s appalling voting record other than on the war and have a look at it now. So would you that to committed Socialists and to trade unionism such, are John McD, Jeremy Corbyn, Alan Simpson and so on …..

    It is the usual and utter boring defensive line from comrades about the LP. I have tried to explain the Labour left strategy re LP but nobody is really listening except to throw the usual insults. Funny enough, labour lefties do indeed feel like dissidents in the party.

    So in a way, Ian, you are also maintaining that we are ickle sheep who follow the line. Mmmmm. Labour CND, Labour Against the War, McD campaign and there are committed socialists who are trade unionists (like myself and others) who see your comments and think “keep Respect”.

    Defend Galloway all you like though you never criticise his lousy attendance record and voting record, his views on women and abortion, and capitulation to religion. Fine you stick with that by keeping your mouth shut.

    But if I ever leave the LP I want to join a group that is Socialist and secular.

    Oh, and just finally, is Galloway supporting or even speaking at the National Rally for the Trade Union Freedom Bill….on Thursday afternoon/early evening? It is on the events bit of the Respect website but nowt else.

    I will be attending the event as a T&G/Unite member and will look out for the Gorgeous One….

    http://www.unitedcampaign.org.uk/rally.html#finalcall

  74. Adam J on said:

    The Labour Left strategy towards creating socialism is similar to King Canute’s strategy to stopping the tide.

    Let’s reclaim the Labour Party, I’m off to see Waiting for Godot . . .

  75. Yeah Mick, think that is a good point …”Not least because I believe there are thousands if not millions of young muslims, who like I have support the oppression of women etc due to tradition and thus could be convinced that supporting these basic freedoms was a good thing”.

    But isn’t it precisely about breaking with religious ideology through debate etc. as opposed to capitulation?

    And Jason, I think we do need to learn from our past mistakes if the Left is ever to grow.

  76. Ian Donovan on said:

    Seems to me that Mick has just swapped anti-gay prejudice for anti-Muslim prejudice. Presumably, if Mick were able to meet his younger self he would have told himself to fuck off and come back only when he could satisfy his own current prejudices about who exactly should be allowed to be involved in left-wing politics. I find this history also a bit hard to believe since I understand that he was in his younger days an pretty hard-line Stalinist, in the days when such types believed that homosexuality was manifestation of bourgeois decadence. Wise up Mick, you sound just like a disillusioned ex-Stalinist that sees rampant Stalinism everywhere he looks on the left. We’re not all like your former self that you hate so much!

    It might also be noted that today there is a bourgeois consensus in support of gay rights -there are even openly gay members of the Tory shadow cabinet, for gods sake. So its not exactly difficult today to stand up for gay rights! Whereas it is socially acceptable to abuse Muslims in the manner that used to be reserved for Jews in the days when anti-semitism was a mainstream, respectable prejudice. Today anti-Muslim prejudice plays a similar role. And speaking of prejudice, I think Mick’s characterisation of Respect’s Muslim supporters as ‘religious bigots’ is a prime example of that.

  77. Mick: “When I hear members of Respect running around the houses trying to avoid supporting what are some of the basic building blocks of human freedom my heart sinks; and all to satisfy the prejudices of religious bigots. ”

    The thing is here, that the problem has been the SWP’s control culture.

    There are many Muslim membes of the Lib Dems, Labour or Plaid Cymru for example who accept the broadly prgressive nature of their parties positions on gay rights, abortion, etc.

    There is no reason to suppose that Respect, which has sunk deeper roots into these disadvantaged communities than the left have ever managed before, could not have had an inclusive debate among the membership, as part of the process of building local organisation, building alliances with other campsings in their areas, etc.

    And it is a complete misrepresentation to claim the the Muslim members of Respect are religious bigots.

    What has happened is that the SWP’s vision of Resepct as a coalition )that freezes for ever in stasis the relationships and politics of its component parts) has prevented the sort of organic growth that would enable the whole membership to develop and grow together.

    What we have here is a complete red herring, again and again, from supporters of the Labour Left. Louise writes: “Feminists4John McDonnell manifesto was bloody fantastic and something the Left could attempt to emulate” And now that John McDonnell is Prime Minister we will see that fully enacted?

    We can all make marvellous manifestos that no-one reads. The question is how we move the whole political context leftwards to our mutual benefit.

    And I don’t think that Madam Miaow is correct that this is an either/or choice. If it was just Galloway or the SWP, arguiung over who continues to lead respect, then there would be nothing to get involved with.

    But instead the argument is about whether we can create an inclusive progressive organisation that seeks to have a positive engagement with all strands of left leaning political opinion, and where there is genuine membership participation and empowerment. If the stranglehold of the SWP is broken, then the result will not be Galloway replacing them, even if he wanted to (and I am sure he doesn’t) Galloway doesn’t have an organisation that could play the role the SWP plays now in Respect. The result will be an organisation without centralised control, but which has at the same time sunk deep roots and built an electoral base.

    That means recognising that Respect is not the finished article, but is an important building block for reconfiguring the left.

  78. Ian Donovan on said:

    I’m afraid Louise, that debate is a two-way street. I’m not going to lose any sleep over your hostility to Respect, since you obviously prefer the Labour Party and can square garnering support for its overwhelmingly anti-working class, pro-war MP’s and councillors with your left-wing conscience. That is your political choice.

  79. Ian wrote:
    “Seems to me that Mick has just swapped anti-gay prejudice for anti-Muslim prejudice. Presumably, if Mick were able to meet his younger self he would have told himself to —- off and come back only when he could satisfy his own current prejudices about who exactly should be allowed to be involved in left-wing politics. ”

    To my reading, Ian, I think you have misunderstood Mick’s point. We should be seeking to draw in all sorts of activists into the antiwar movement, class struggle politics, and other cmaopigns through the united front.

    Mick’s point as I read it was that of course we should undetrtake united front work with people who may hold anti-gay views (such as his younger self) and challenge them- not avoid challenging them to hold together a fragile and unprincinpled political alliance. It is operfectly feasible to co-operate with people of differnt views- however we shoiuld not blur the differences but debate them openly and honestly whilst continuing to work together.

    In this I agree largely with Andy when he writes:
    “an inclusive debate among the membership, as part of the process of building local organisation, building alliances with other campaigns in their areas, etc. ”

    However, I think this needs to be much wider than what may be left of Respect after the latest rounds and those to come.

  80. Louise: “I have tried to explain the Labour left strategy re LP ”

    Well we are all none the wiser, that is the trouble.

    At the very least, why don’t you all become councillors? It isn’t hard the LP are desperate for candidates? And a hundred more labout left councillors could perhaps gain a voice in the mainstream politicall debate. Over the last two or three years I have been approached more than once to become a Labour councillor, and even suggested to me that within a year I could lead the Labour group on the council.

    Currently McD is arguing, and this is sensible, that the question of what party people are in is less importnat than what they do, and the current task is to network people in campaigns, without obssessing about structures.

    So far so good, but there is nothing about that strategy that requires you to be a LP member.

    Having agreed with Madam Miaow that politics shouldn’t be about either/or choices, Louise immediatley tries to polarise the debate into either Respect or the labour left.

    And as I have pinted out before, Eric Heffer was no better on the abortion issue that George Galloway, but in his day he was the most impressive of all labour left MPs – why didn’t the comrades who make such a hoo-hah about George’s personal religious and ethical beliefs try to stop Heffer being their own left leadership candidate for the labour party? Or is it becasue the abortion issue is just any stick to beat a dog? And why didn’t they make the same amount of fuss about galloway’s views when he was a Labour MP?

    This would be one thing if the LP left had a strategy that could in any way make progress, but even John Mcdonnell is admitting that the paths of influence within the LP are effectivley closed off to the left. So it really is despertaion to keep referring to the good records of a dwindling band of left MPs, when a number of them are stepping down at the next election, or may lose their seats, and where there are no new left MPs able to jump through Millbank’s selectioon procedures.

    A good case in point, is Christine Shawcroft, who consistently tops the poll in the NEC elections, but cannot get selected for a winnable seat. And even were she selected, there is every reason to beleive that Millbank would intervene and stop her, as they did with Mmark Seddon and Liz Davies. The Labour left are living off their historically accumulated capital, noot making any new progress. That is fine, as far as it goes, but it is very tedious to have it held up as an example.

  81. Ian Donovan on said:

    “And as I have pinted out before, Eric Heffer was no better on the abortion issue that George Galloway, but in his day he was the most impressive of all labour left MPs – why didn’t the comrades who make such a hoo-hah about George’s personal religious and ethical beliefs try to stop Heffer being their own left leadership candidate for the labour party? Or is it becasue the abortion issue is just any stick to beat a dog? And why didn’t they make the same amount of fuss about galloway’s views when he was a Labour MP?”

    Indeed. When Eric Heffer died at the beginning of the 1990s, Socialist Organiser (predecessor of the AWL) wrote that he was “the nearest thing there is to a Socialist Organiser MP”. That’s virtually an exact quote. They weren’t worried by his anti-abortion views, evidently. There have always been a minority of people on the left who disagree with abortion on misguided ethical grounds, sometimes derived from religion. It is hostility to Galloway because of his activity around Middle Eastern questions that drives this stuff, not any principle.

  82. “Having agreed with Madam Miaow that politics shouldn’t be about either/or choices, Louise immediatley tries to polarise the debate into either Respect or the labour left.”

    Well, the choice between the Labour Left and Respect. Yep, I’d go for the Labour Left, Sorry comrade, but that’s the way it goes….
    Oh, I have tried to explain my position on the Labour Left (have a look at other debates around Respect where I have tried to explain the “line”). And it is repeating myself, just look at previous debates. Or were you actually reading what I was saying or understanding what I said.

    I knew the Heffer debate would come into it. But many Respectables have said on platforms they were anti-abortion. Roy Hattersley made anti-abortion comments and guess what….. LP members picketed his surgery… shocking eh?

    Listen to Galloway at the Al Quds demo on You Tube and if that doesn’t you worry you then there’s no hope….

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=n28hJS6-JFo

    Like I said if I were to leave the LP I want to join a socialist, secular grouping that supports Liberation politics… Basic demands, comrades!

  83. Meanwhile, why attack Galloway on abortion rights as a leftwing Labourite when in your own party you got Opus fecking Dei members? Get your own house in order first before lecturing others on their commitment to gay rights, abortion and feminism.

  84. Mmmmm. Bit touchy there comrade, hitting raw nerves are we? Martin are you talking about the Labour Left there re abortion, L&G rights, abortion and feminism…. Cos ya know, the Labour Left is pretty damn good on those issues.

    I think you mean the Labour right-wing… and funny enough, Labour Lefties have attacked Ruth Kelly’s adherence to Opius Dei.

    Unlike Respect we do speak out. Oh, and frankly, isn’t it sad the Labour Left seems a better place to go as opposed to the Labour alternative, Respect..? You like to tell how crap we are but you are supposedly the better way forward, leading by example. The left alternative who should know better….

    Oh dear

  85. Lousie, why don’t you just stay in the LP, and stop making this debate about yourself? You say: ” I were to leave the LP I want to join a socialist, secular grouping that supports Liberation politics… Basic demands, comrades!”

    Now as a matter of fact the Labour Party doesn’t even support the secularisation of the British state, and continues to support the Church of England being the established church, and the head of state being the head of the church – so how “secular” is the labour party? Of course this is all a red herring. Respect actually is a secular organisation, so unless you are asking for religious people to be excluded from membership then what is the point you are making? but as Martin points out the Labour Party doesn’t exclude religious people, and indeed often selects male Muslim candidates itself.

    Nor of course does the LP support liberation movements. To make this a “basic demand” is a bit odd. You are free to join or not join any organisation, but do we make “demands” upon political organisation that we don’t join? You continually blow smoke that respect is not committed to women’s rights, gay rigts, etc. But it simply isnt true.

    Galloway’s speech at the Al Quds demo is brilliant.

  86. The point is though that socialists ought ot clearly criticise Galloway or anyone else who has such reactionary beliefs.

    It doesn’t mean it’s impossible to support a candidate but such support is aimed at levering the working clas sinto action, inot stregthening an organisation of class struggle for example.

    We shouldn’t get into a tit-for-tat another boring debate about either left Labour or Respect (actually both have major flaws) or even something else but try ot organsie now where possible in united fronts around practical questions- e.g. solidairty with the Karen Reissmann strike (http://www.reinstate-karen.org/, http://www.labournet.net/default.asp#nhs ), solidarity with the unofficial postal strikes and other campaigns and also where possible setting up a more co-ordinated co-operation between left groups, to draw in working class activists and militants to debate possible ways forward- perhaps including standing candidates in elections, supporting candidates of struggle such as Bob Wareing and other deselected Labour MPs and so on.

    We can agree to disagree on some matters but we should nto pretend we agree when we don’t or say of some things that these should not be seen as shibboleths or make unprincipled compromises.

  87. So, what was Socialist Alliance then? It had socialist demands (including secularism). I left the LP to join it and I know others who did.

    I am probably am the only Labour Leftie on this thread and for me, the Labour Left sounds more accomodating than Respect. I am not trying to polarise the debate between the LP and Respect or anything else. just think comrades have too much blind faith in Galloway.

  88. There’s a much bigger question than the relative merits of RESPECT and the Labour Left, which is what happens if RESPECT goes under. To put it another way, which is the worse outcome for the Left in England – successful RESPECT or failed RESPECT? I’m no friend of the SWP and have never thought RESPECT was a good idea, but I think for the project to fail now would be bad news for all of us. What’s more, I think there’s a chance that what comes out of the current crisis will be a more coherent organisation with a clearer identity, not to mention a healthier relationship with the SWP and other groups. I think that possibility and that danger are far more important than anything that can be said about Galloway.

  89. It is worth watching the speech by Galloway to the al Quds rally, addressing a mainly Muslim audience, which causes Louise so much concern.
    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=n28hJS6-JFo

    The speech starts by praising Che Guevara, and includes an analysis of the role of imperialism in the Middle East, and especially the role of the pro-Western Kingdoms.
    Galloway – condemns the leaders of the Arab word for their hypocrisy, living the high life, visiting bordellos and yet presiding over misery in their own countries. And he condemns them for being belly dancers to Western imperialism, not as a condemnation of belly dancing, he mentions belly dancing becouse it is a traditional dance of the region, and the rulers of that region dance for the imperialists.
    It has been a long term criticism by socialists of the right that they are religious hypocrites, piously praying on Sunday while impoverishing the poor. yet when he turns the same criticism on Muslim leaders Louise condemns him for it!
    Galloway slams into the most reactionary Islamic rulers in the world, in Riyadh and Kuwait, and praises everyone who fights for liberty.

    He then uses those mainstays of Koranic recitation: “Fidel is our leader, Che Guevara is our leader, Hugo Chavez is our leader”

    One of the criticisms of Galloway is that he allegedly panders to conservative Muslim opinion. But to use Al Quds day to praise the example of Che Guevara, and promote the idea that Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro are the leaders of the anti-imperialist movement is hardly “communalist” politics.

    Galloway is clearly making a speech that will polarize between the left and right among the Muslim community. Exactly the thing critics of Respect say that it doesn’t do.

  90. JJMurphy on said:

    I’ve been lurking around this site a bit recently but not so far commented. Also living abroad I am not involved in British left politics. Still a few observations.
    1. Assuming Andy’s revelations are accurate it seems a bit odd to headline the thread “purge of dissenters”. For over three decades the SWP has practised a form of democratic centralism based in spirit on the Bolshevik idea that a member is one who accepts the discipline of the party and works under the direction of the leading bodies.
    Your account of the dispute and expulsions hangs not on the alleged “dissidence” of the comrades but there apparent decision not to remain under the discipline of the party. If that is indeed so, it would appear that they have put themselves outside the party. You can argue this is a right or wrong course of action for them to have taken but it is not the same as being “purged” for disagreeing.
    2. Andy is an individual who can flit in and out of organisations as his mood takes him, but those who join a party like the SWP do so understanding that they cannot just act as individuals but must harmonise their activities with the decisions of the party. As I say this is not new. I believe the forerunners of the SWP had a long debate in the 1960s (nearly 40 years ago!) and opted for democratic centralism. The current version, with a three month pre-conference discussion period dates from the 1970s in my personal knowledge.
    3. I believe Trotsky once noted that internal regime of a revolutionary party is not a timeless formula but a “derived quantity”—dependent on the conditions that obtain at any particular time. The paralyzing experience of permanent factions and tendencies on the outside work of various Trotskyist groups led the IS/SWP to determine a particular balance of internal discussion and debate and discipline that they imagined optimised the effectiveness of a group of a few thousand seeking to build real influence in the movement—part of the shift from the propaganda group conception of simply sharpening the ideological knifes and effectively abstaining from serious outside work. These are questions on which it is perfectly respectable to have differing opinions and no doubt adjustments with progress of the movement and the party are appropriate. But what cannot be denied is that the SWP sees itself building in the Leninist tradition. If one rejects that tradition the SWP is not the appropriate party to join.
    4. Part of the Leninist tradition is that it is necessary to build a party of revolutionaries and only revolutionaries. This is controversial in the broader movement but remains a bedrock of SWP politics. (I think from Cliff onward SWP opinion is that “THE revolutionary party” is a question not solved by proclamation but by history. This of course does not absolve those who accept this view of the responsibility of seeking to build the party.).
    5. I note that Andy (and others) reject the notion of democratic centralism. That is their privilege but it scarcely behoves such people to tell those who do accept DC what is the appropriate implementation of it.
    6. I note also that Andy (and others) reject the relevance of the revolutionary/reformist distinction. This is again their privilege. However for those who take seriously the “lessons of October” it is an important issue. From this point of view the SWP preference for a “United Front of a Special Type” is perfectly explicable. They wish to maintain their revolutionary party organisation and identity while playing an important part in building a formation that can be a home for those disgusted by Labour’s betrayals. To simply say we must all dissolve ourselves into a formation which is neither revolutionary nor reformist is, from the SWP point of view, to abandon one the main raison d’etres of the party.
    7. On the current situation I am not at all well informed. But my gut instinct tells me that an attempt is being made to break away and assimilate some of the SWP members around some of the prominent figures of Respect and their largely electoralist preoccupations. These figures of course would prefer to take these people’s energy without their SWP entanglements. The SWP has shown that it is enthusiastic about electoral activity by Respect but not at the price of losing all semblance of a socialist component. No doubt people will agree and disagree about what compromises are necessary and where to draw lines but something of this appears to be coming to a head as far as I can see.
    8. The SWP seldom expels members. For the past twenty or thirty years most of these have been concerned with unacceptable behaviour, rather than more obviously political differences. I remember the split of the seventies, which was essentially on growing political differences but the occasion for which was the refusal of a group to disband factional activity in defiance of a conference decision. I won’t rehash old disputes. The point is a painful parting of the ways occurred, embittered by factional dispute that had raged for over a year. There is no doubt in my mind that SWP would not now exist (whether you think that a good or bad thing) had not that factional situation not been put an end to.
    9. I thought the comments to Lenin’s Tomb to the effect that expressions of respect and friendship for those who appear (according to this blog’s reports) to have been expelled would be interpreted as disloyalty to the SWP and warrant disciplinary action itself. Nonsense. A political parting of the ways is seldom lacking in sadness for former comrades. Neither does it follow that one cannot express respect and friendship for those who one must part company with. I can perfectly well understand the angry response to the vulgar baiting that some of the posters here contributed.
    Anyway these are my thoughts from afar. I am not always near an internet link so you will forgive me if I don’t post follow ups particularly as SWP bashing seems to be such a favourite activity hereabouts.

  91. JJMurphy:

    “Andy is an individual who can flit in and out of organisations as his mood takes him”
    In fact I was a member of the SWP between 1978 and 1980, and between 1986 and 2004. I was a member of the Labour Party between 1974 and 1978, and between 1980 and 1986. I was a member of the Socialist Alliance from when the SWP decided to join it until the death of that organisation. Hardly flitting.

    The current version, with a three month pre-conference discussion period
    I don’t have a copy of the SWp constitution to hand, but I am sure it is not three months, and please note that contributions to the INternal Bulletin can be edited by the CC if they are too critical, or (as in the case of John Molyneux’s criticisms a couple of years back) held back until the last IB, to hinder debate.

    Your account of the dispute and expulsions hangs not on the alleged “dissidence” of the comrades but there apparent decision not to remain under the discipline of the party.
    In fact what has hapened is that somewhat arbitrary and non-sensical demands have been made on the comrades, in order to provide a pretext for their expulsion. The expulsion is therefore really for disagreeing. Why is it so urgent that these members should give up their jobs?

    On the current situation I am not at all well informed. But my gut instinct tells me that an attempt is being made to break away and assimilate some of the SWP members around some of the prominent figures of Respect and their largely electoralist preoccupations. These figures of course would prefer to take these people’s energy without their SWP entanglements. The SWP has shown that it is enthusiastic about electoral activity by Respect but not at the price of losing all semblance of a socialist component. No doubt people will agree and disagree about what compromises are necessary and where to draw lines but something of this appears to be coming to a head as far as I can see.

    I wonder how useful an analysis is when it is based upon the “gut instinct” of someone living in another country, with no detailed knowledge of the events? BUt thanks for coming over to express your opinion that the SWP CC must be right anyway ;o)

  92. Galloway makes the claim that Jerusalem is in the hands of foreigners.
    All of Jerusalem.
    Jews = Foreigners in Jerusalem.
    Illiterate ahistorical and rancid.

  93. JJMurphy on said:

    Andy
    Sorry I broke my promise and did respond thus:
    Me: “Andy is an individual who can flit in and out of organisations as his mood takes him”
    Andy: “In fact I was a member of the SWP between 1978 and 1980, and between 1986 and 2004.”
    Me: Exactly.
    Me again: “Your account of the dispute and expulsions hangs not on the alleged “dissidence” of the comrades but there apparent decision not to remain under the discipline of the party.”
    Andy: “In fact what has hapened is that somewhat arbitrary and non-sensical demands have been made on the comrades, in order to provide a pretext for their expulsion. The expulsion is therefore really for disagreeing. Why is it so urgent that these members should give up their jobs?”
    Me: As I understand it an angry letter from GG attacking by implication the SWP, an attempt to ditch JR has been made and a number of manoeuvres are taking place for some sort of “crunch”. For the SWP to instruct its members who are officers of Respect to act in certain ways would not be unexpected in these circumstances. From the opinion follows the action. If things are as you have reported, the unwillingness of SWP members to follow instructions which they felt they could not in conscience follow may well be honourable (if mistaken) but would not be consistent with continued SWP membership. When SWP members elect a leadership they have a right to expect that the leadership will ensure all members in responsible positions will “sing from the same hymn-sheet”.
    Andy:”I wonder how useful an analysis is if it is based upon the “gut insticnt” of someone living in another country, with nt detailed knowledge of the events? BUt thanks for coming over to express your opinion that the SWP CC muct be right anyway ;o)”
    Me: I at least indicated the limits of my knowledge so all could decide if my opinion was worth anything. How much of what is discussed here rises above the level of gossip?
    BTW Why is it so amusing that it deserves a smiley that someone should argue that there might be merit in what the position of the SWP CC, has it to be taken as a matter of faith hereabouts that whatever they do they must be wrong?

  94. And I would add to that:

    The paralyzing experience of permanent factions and tendencies on the outside work of various Trotskyist groups

    Of course, under the present setup you have one permanent faction.

    The SWP has shown that it is enthusiastic about electoral activity by Respect but not at the price of losing all semblance of a socialist component.

    Yes, but its socialism has been for internal consumption. It hasn’t been a “socialist component” of Respect in an operative sense.

    The SWP seldom expels members. For the past twenty or thirty years most of these have been concerned with unacceptable behaviour, rather than more obviously political differences.

    Formal expulsion procedures are rarely gone through, which is not the same thing. Many members who find themselves out of favour have their existence in the SWP made impossible and are pressured into resigning, which amounts to expulsion in practical terms. And surely you are aware of how “unacceptable behaviour” (and I’m thinking in particular of “sexual harassment”) is used to frame up dissenters.

    Neither does it follow that one cannot express respect and friendship for those who one must part company with.

    Hahaha…

  95. JJ Murphy

    I find it bizarre that you take the fact that I was not in the SWP for six years, but then stayed in it for a further 18 years after that as flitting in and out! I left the SWP in 1980, for two reasons: i) the organisation (and this is rarely discusssed) went into crisis in around 1979 and branches closed all over the place, including mine. ii) I though the SWP were incorrect not to join the Labour party in 1980. I have no real desire to rehash the debates in the British left about the wisdom or otherwise of entry owrk in the Labour Party, but it shows a bizarre reading of my political past to say that 18years of continuous membership of the SWP is part of “flitting in and out”

    You say: “Why is it so amusing that it deserves a smiley that someone should argue that there might be merit in what the position of the SWP CC”

    Only because the only person defending the position of the SWP’s CC is someone who admits no real knoweldge of the events, and who is arguing it based upon an assumption of teir correctness.

    This goes back to the point that the SWP are arguing one thing among themselves about Respect, and yet another thing publicly in Respect. If they really thought this was a left/right battle for Respect, then surely they should be openly trying to win over the wider membership of Respect by openly arguing their position?

  96. Splintered Sunrise:Many members who find themselves out of favour have their existence in the SWP made impossible and are pressured into resigning, which amounts to expulsion in practical terms.

    Indeed – when i disagreed with a tactical decision of the SWP on the Socialist Alliance national executive, and had the temerity to argue that position at an SA exec meeting, I received quite a bit of intimidation, including phone calls to my work from John rees, and very hostile e-mails, and I decided it was easier to leave.

    Splintered Sunrise: And surely you are aware of how “unacceptable behaviour” (and I’m thinking in particular of “sexual harassment”) is used to frame up dissenters.

    Again indeed, I am sure most of us old lags can think of people this happened to.

  97. The problem with the SWP is simple: grassroots activists/cadre: largely good, decent folk, judging by my own experiences. The Central Committee/leadership: needs to be put against a wall. Not just because they’re bastards, but because they’re stuck in a rut bastards unable to look beyond their self interest and with routines rusted shut in the early eighties, at best.

    Louise at 94: it doesn’t matter how decent a stance the Labour left has on any subject, since it’s your party’s rightwing that dictates policy. All your lot is doing is providing cover.

    If you were outside the Labour party you’d still not be setting policy of course, but at the very least you would no longer be providing excuses for people to vote Tory light.

  98. Connie on said:

    Given that the SWP is now under serious scrutiny I’d be interested in knowing who people think are the real string-pullers and leaders within the organisation. Since the demise of Cliff there has been a collective leadership but, as always, some are more equal than others.

  99. JJMurphy on said:

    Andy
    My point about individuals flitting was more geared at expressing the discipline required of members. Your own out-and-in of SWP, and now I hear Respect is entirely secondary.
    You post: “Indeed – when i disagreed with a tactical decision of the SWP on the Socialist Alliance national executive, and had the temerity to argue that position at an SA exec meeting, I received quite a bit of intimidation, including phone calls to my work from John rees, and very hostile e-mails, and I decided it was easier to leave.”
    Me: But surely you understood from your 18 uninterupted years of membership of the SWP that a member of a democratic centralist organisation does not disagree publicly with the line of the party, tactical or otherwise, especially not in a responsible position like SA exec. I wonder how your comrades at the time felt when pursuing the line of the organisation they found your actions undermining them? Despite this it seems you were not expelled but received nasty emails and phone calls. Not quite the gulag, eh?
    Also you pooh-pooh my suggestion of what prominent figures in the Respect are trying to achieve by detaching some SWP activists. Do you seriously doubt this? Martin Wisse expresses the idea: SWPers are good eggs if we can only get them away from the nast CC.
    Splintered Sunrise: Anyone can bandy around gossip like that. Have you a political argument to make?

  100. JJMurphy

    But surely you understood from your 18 uninterupted years of membership of the SWP that a member of a democratic centralist organisation does not disagree publicly with the line of the party, tactical or otherwise, especially not in a responsible position like SA exec.

    But why ever not? The fact that this has become an accepted part of the culture of the SWP doesn’t make it correct.

    Unless you accept the idea that the membership have a great deal of experience themselves, and can make their own judgements and contribute to decision making then you narrow the potential wisdom of the SWP to a handful of individuals, most of whom spend their entire political life talking to other SWP members.

    The tactical decision I objected to was one made by leading SWP members who were not active in local SA groups, and did not have their ear to the ground. There was no prior consultation or caucus within the SWP members on the exec where we would have an opportunity to discuss this, we were just there as voting fodder to implement Ree’s wisdom.

    I never claimed to be expelled, I pointed out that many SWP members, especially those who have been around the blocks, know waht happens to dissenters and find it easier to leave.

  101. “Mick’s point as I read it was that of course we should undertake united front work with people who may hold anti-gay views (such as his younger self) and challenge them- not avoid challenging them to hold together a fragile and unprincipled political alliance. It is perfectly feasible to cooperate with people of differnt views- however we should not blur the differences but debate them openly and honestly whilst continuing to work together.”

    Jason
    Thanks for making my point, whilst I have a soft spot for Ian I had no wish to engage in an endless argument with him. The fact is just as back when I was a teenager the white working class was not a homogenous lump in which we were all anti gay and women’s rights, nor are those communities in which a majority adhere to the muslim faith. What is common today as it was back when I was a kid, is that these communities are culturally conservative.

    Thus it is only when real debate takes place that our differing cultures can engage with each other. For example I have Turkish friends who observe Ramadan[zan], however when we are out by ourselves we may engage in a drink together. Life is complicated.

    Indeed as to my own community who I believed were terribly prejudiced against gays the exact opposite turned out to be true. If one puts a little thought into this it cannot be otherwise as the same percentage of working class people are likely to be gay as middle class people, or dare I say it those who adhere to the islamic faith. Funny old world but a lot less complicated than those on a power trip make it out to be, whether they be politicos, or christian and muslim preachers.

    The trouble with George is he sees politics as a top down process, thus he is bound to bend the knee to power centers within the islamic communities, whether they are progressive or reactionary matters little to him, it is what they can do for him that counts. This is the main reason why, knowing his track record in the middle east I wanted nothing to do with respect.

  102. It’s not a question of gossip. It’s a question of an organisational culture with which I’m extremely familiar at first hand. And it may be centralist, but it sure isn’t democratically centralist.

    For example, people being pressured to leave: you’re correct when you say that formal expulsion is rare. But I’m sure you know that it can be made extremely difficult for you to function as a member, when, say, half the people in your branch suddenly stop speaking to you, or fulltimers slander you behind your back, or bogus disciplinary issues are raised when you’ve never been undisciplined. And note that public disagreement doesn’t have to enter into this. I only ever expressed disagreements internally, and that didn’t stop me getting the rough end of the pineapple.

  103. Not quite the gulag, JJ, but when Rees whacked me in the face with a balloon at the SA Millbank launch after I’d drummed up a load of press including a BBC news unit, that was probably the time for me to go. But I hung on in the hope that we could make things better with reasoned debate.

    They thieved wages they’d promised so I ended up subsidising the anti-war press operation am still in debt, but I hung on. I was banned from working the press for the big march despite my setting up media relations and Johnny-Come-Lately Burgin telling me they were desperate for press officers. I managed to do my bit by getting national press coverage for the north London footie match between American and Iraqi students as a media warm-up the previous weekend, and getting a TV crew to accompany Bianca Jagger and the American students on the big Feb march.

    And many more examples where they put their own egoes and self-interest before the politics. Activists should not end up having to work around their obstructions. Just whose side are they on?

    They couldn’t care less about the movement, only themselves. If only they’d sod off and get another hobby.

  104. mark perryman on said:

    Three simple points.

    1. The SWP’s control culture has now executed a purge of dissenters of influence. What every Respect member who still thinks John Rees and his colleagues are fit and proper persons to lead a left-of-Labour Party is that left in control, how long before they start purging Respect members who have a smidgin of disagreement with them, their lomgstanding attempt to marginalise Salma Yaqoob in the organisation following a tactical difference of opinion sugests that purges wouldn’t be very long delayed with the SWP left in control

    2. The SWP project is pure and simple, a ‘united front of a special type’ in their hands amoints to the SWP and those that entirely agree with them, they haven’t even the beginnings of a grasp of the politics of pluralism.

    3. The project of a left-of-Labour party founded on the extra-parliamentary principles of pluralist politics, participative democracy and prefigurative practice are rapidly taking shape within Respect as an alternative to the SWP control culture. It might surprise some, myself included, that such an alternative would develop so quickly within Respect but it has and now is not the time to pull back and seek to co-exist with the SWP purger tendency. WE have to push at the boundaries of this debate, the SWP have shown their only response is to expel loyal comrades, our response should be to articulate and deepen the project for a left-of-Labour party.

  105. What is really important is to orinetate outwards towards the class struggle- e.g. post strike, campaigns against privatisation, climate change, asylum etc- and see how many people can be drawn into a new political project.

    In my opinion, it should be seen as something much wider than Respect and its fall-outs.

  106. At the risk of personalising this, I want to go back to JJMurphy, and his question of me flitting in and out of organisations

    He says: “My point about individuals flitting was more geared at expressing the discipline required of members. Your own out-and-in of SWP, and now I hear Respect is entirely secondary.”

    What JJMurphey is trying to do is cast doubt on me as an individual, as if I am some sort of dilettante, because 27 years ago , when I was 19 years old I left the SWP, and 21 years ago I rejoined it. ( one wonders how JJMurphy would descibe the long absence of Duncan hallas who left Cliff’s side sometime in the mid 1950s and didn’t rejoin until 1968)

    This is only a very low key example of the way the SWP loyalist machine starts a whispering campaign about people who question the line of the CC.

    Now let us assume that the tactical difference I had with the SWP was one where I was correct (and I was, and was on the side of many independents on the national exec). Now why was I on the SA exec? Partly becasue the SWP asked me to be on the slate, but that was itself becasue my local SA branch was consistently getting some of the best electorall reults of the organisation (11% and 12% in local elections) and we had a good vibrant and inclusive branch. So I was on the SA exec becasue I had experience of how to build the SA, and work with other socialists outside the SWP.

    So when a tactical issue came up, where John Rees (who has never been in a local branch, and no real experience of life except as a SWP full timer) made a decision that I felt was clearly wrong. Accrding to JJMurphy “discipline” requires that I vote to accept a decision that would be deeply damaging to the SA, despite the fact that there was no caucus or debate about it first, no opportunity to question Rees’s tactic, and no opportunity to put forward my own judgement, based upon experience at the coalface?

  107. bill j on said:

    JJ Murphy sums up bureaucratic centralism quite well;

    ” But surely you understood from your 18 uninterupted years of membership of the SWP that a member of a democratic centralist organisation does not disagree publicly with the line of the party, tactical or otherwise, especially not in a responsible position like SA exec.”

    Whereas Lenin of course, (to name but one notable example) repeatedly disagreed publicly with the line of the party, in 1907 on the issue of boycottism and in 1917 on the issue of defencism and socialist revolution. What’s more in April 1917 he threatened to resign from the CC in order to use his rights as an ordinary member to campaign against its policy. I think this quote sums his position up quite well:

    ““The principle of democratic centralism and autonomy for local organisations implies universal and full freedom to criticise so long as this does not disturb the unity of a definite action. . . criticism within the limits of the principles of the party programme must be quite free . . . not only at a party meetings but also at public meetings.”

    Comparing the two versions its clear how far the SWP are from democratic centralism. Such bureaucratic organisations are no way forward for the left, as I can testify to from another recent experience, having been expelled by another bureaucratic organisation – Workers Power.
    But the trouble is the pro-Respect wing are really no way forward either, notwithstanding the fact that they are no on the sharp end of bureaucratic and undemocratic measures.
    Perhaps this will make them think. But Respect is anyway holed beneath the water, even if the ex-SWPers, plus GG take over the organisation at the forthcoming conference, it has no real future – it is too ideologically incoherent and anyway its unclear what GGs intentions are for the long term.

  108. Although I have my differences with the SWP, I know though that they hold many good and genuine activists. It is though the internal culture of little real democracy, little real open debate, and with the ‘All knowing CC or PC {who believe they can do little wrong} – that such is bound to happen. In tandem, I have found that their Dogmatic, Bureaucratic, Authoritarian and Formula politics, will attract and then hold a certain type of activist – But, again, I have found that for those, who really want to effect change and who move on to think and understand for themselves – well, they to will move on.

    Indeed the SWP’s real internal workings as shown again, while all good in rhetoric have moved on little in reality – and therefore I believe will continue to be looked upon with suspicion and receive little support at certain local levels, by those who see still their continuum of actions.

    This is a shame as they do some good work, but it takes little vision to see that it comes also from a small committee that changes little – and all the dangers that that can bring.

    {Some of the issues and concerns I raise can be found through and within my link attached within my Diary link etc}

  109. I’m sorry to see this situation develop. Any left formation in trouble is problematic. But, frankly this gulf between ‘full-timers’ and presumably ordinary members etc, is something I’m completely unacquainted with even in the WP in the old days. Is this specific to the SWP?

    As for people being in or out of political formations, well if someone spends many consecutive years in a party then it strikes me that they’re far from dilettantes.

  110. Lobby Ludd on said:

    “So when a tactical issue came up, where John Rees (who has never been in a local branch, and no real experience of life except as a SWP full timer) made a decision that I felt was clearly wrong.”

    That to me sums up much of what is wrong on the left – ‘leaders’ who have lead nothing.

    That’s how leadership cliques work, they revel in the success of others and distance themselves from the failures of their own politics.

  111. Halshall on said:

    When you look at it, if all this wrangling leads to the break up of Respect (and maybe the SWP); then where will it get the ‘left’?
    Will we be back to the ‘conference in a phone box mentality’ of my grandfather’s day? convincing no-one that we are nothing but a bunch of sad cranks, with little connection with workers?

  112. I share some of Halshall’s fears and frustrations but the answer has to be- no. At least we should fight for it to be- no.

    Let’s start again and have a real solidarity movement of a united fornt kid to draw in working class activists against privatisation and attacks on pay and conditons, in support of the post workers, against racism, imperialist war and all th eother attacks on the working class.

    The left certainly needs to get out of its sect-like mentality and be more outward looking

  113. If it’s any comfort, “lenny” and comrades: I was expelled from the SWP (actually, is forerunner, the IS), with a personal letter from Jim Nichol, in 1975: I soon got over it. And now, thirty two years later, oh! how I laugh…

    The fucking bastards, what a bunch of fucking swine the sods I’ll get even with them even if it’s the last thing I ever do the fucking sods fuck them the bastards they’ll pay for this, no-one does this to me, Nichol you swine, I’ll get you for this, one day I’ll have you at my mercy and then you’ll pay, and you’ll regret it for the rest of your miserable days, you toss-pot, i’ll expose and humiliate you you piece of shit, I’ll make you pay…etc, etc…

    As I said, comrades: you get over it. Given time.

  114. BTW – although it was a while back in this thread, I think I was a bit to personal in my criticism of Louise on comment #95, and I apologise.

    I wouldn’t want Louise to stop commenting here. Not only is it good to have a divsity of opinions, and she is one of the few labour patyu members to post here, but we also don’t get enough women joining the debate.

    So sorry Lousie

    No hard feelings i hope

    :o)

  115. I just deleted a comment from Tim

    I promised i would delete comments from Tim in this thread unless they were constructive, and his latest offering was yet another bit of right wing trolling.

  116. “So sorry Lousie”

    Yeah, but stop spelling it like that. 🙂

    Good to see we can disagree and still have respect for each other. I think it’s important to hear what Louise is saying as she is a LP member who actually bothers to post here. There must be lots of good activists like her who want better but are repelled by what they see.

  117. Tony Greenstein on said:

    I’m sorry that Ian Donovan should make such a crass comparison between Eric Heffer and Galloway. Heffer never boasted about his views on abortion, it was for him a purely personal matter, much the same as Dennis Canavan. It was well known that he was a staunch member of the CoE.

    But having interviewed him in the late 80’s I can definitely say that he was far better than anything the AWL aspire to be. He was a committed working class socialist who quoted Marx and saw anti-imperialism as integral to working class politics – be it Ireland or Palestine. He resigned after 1982 from Labour Friends of Israel and when I interviewed him he described himself as anti-Zionist.

    Ian is also naively entitled to see Respect as all sunny uplands. However an organisation is, to a large extent, defined by its birth pangs. And Respect’s were destruction of the socialist alliance and lack of democracy plus a communal approach to the Muslim community. It is no accident that having become the vehicle for a section of the Muslim business community to get elected (rather than a vehicle for the SWP to get their members elected) that there has been a falling out.

    Respect is doomed. The question is whether anything can be salvaged from the embers.

  118. Phew, 131 posts and I still can’t work out what this is *really* about. My own potted analysis of the SWP’s recent history:

    1. Doing quite well in the mid 1990s – lots of functioning branches, confident mood, reaching out to a wider layer – reports at the time spoke of 10,000 members.

    2. And then this weird turn about ‘getting rid of branches’ (or making them so small they were meaningless).

    3. And then the anti-capitalist movement – being on the same platforms as Jubilee 2000, Drop the Debt and so on. What was striking about this period was how the SWP becaming vague when it should have been highly politically charged.

    I will never forget Chris Harman speaking at one of the anti-cap meetings and NOT mentioning the working class. Or Bambery ranting and raving about how angry he was (yes, he really was Mr Angry); the party really didn’t need to be the angry wing of the anti-cap movement – it needed to be the political wing.

    4. And then the anti-war movement – which did see an enormous demo and lots of meetings (although never the same amount of direct action a la the anti-poll tax movement).

    What is so bizarre about this is the singular inability in the past 10 years of the party to grow. In the miserable depths of the early 1980s we couldn’t even dream of an *anti-capitalism* movement – let alone experience such a thing.

    I can’t help feeling that just when the party should have opened the doors and invited people to join wholesale – maintaining principled revolutionary politics (and ratching up the socialist rhetoric – I’ve also found people liked it at union meetings and so forth – at what point do we start talking about taking over the workplaces and organising society for need not greed? The day before the revolution? Two days before? Why not now? The left really need a slogan like ‘out and proud to be a communist’)

    … it hopped into an uncritical *electoral* alliance with an ex-Labour MP. For a while it was impossible to make any criticism of such a move or any of the personalities involved. Now it seems, defending such a move leads to expulsions. You know, Kevin Ovenden and Rob Hoveman didn’t just go and work in the Respect Office – they were encouraged to do so. Confused? Well I must confess I am; and to be honest shocked at this latest development. (Cue endless sectarians listing atrocities and disgraces of the last 50 years zzzzzzzzzz yawn).

    I do not understand where the current CC of the SWP are trying to take this or what their end game is. It’s pure speculation to see how they will continue to work with Respect (no pun intended) but following the recent debates around the SWP and Respect, by expelling two leading comrades (one on the editorial of International Socialism Journal), the CC haven’t exactly suggested they want to work within Respect to take it forward. They really are in danger of being in an alliance – with themselves.

    But what of the SWP itself? More fool you if you think the demise of the SWP will be good for the left in Britain; it will demoralise and disorientate a very wide layer of people. (And bad news for SWP bashers – it will probably survive this crisis).

    But most of the members I have any contact with are very defensive and already seem to be creaking with all the contradictions they have to deal with (they often snap rather than debate). In some parts of the country the organisation seems to have already disintegrated. There is no sign of long term growth; there is no sign of a new cadre being developed with roots in the class and a theoretical understanding of Marxism, Lenin, Luxemburg, Gramsci et al. Correct me if I’m wrong but I can’t believe paper sales and recruitment and *retention* of members is increasing. And I can’t see the current leadership developing a strategy out of this that will make such things happen.

    What a tragedy this turning into. The history of the left in Britain in the past 10 years could have been so different. The objective conditions for the growth of revolutionary socialist ideas are there; there’s plenty of bright people with good ideas of a better society. We didn’t need to have a left with a culture of control, dominated by a very small number of people, backed up by ‘full time organisers’, watching out for ‘deviations from the line’.

    And by the way – I support the principles of democratic centralism – but the reality is that everything people have said here about the over personalised, abusive and aggresive behaviour rings true. The analogy I always think of is the workplace and the union branch. I’ve also found people in both who I didn’t like much or didn’t agree with their politics – but in the real world if you don’t want the management to turn you over every day you must learn to work together with a very wide range of personalities and opinion. And it can be done by being patient, accepting you make mistakes, listening to people and finding common ground. It cannot be done by arm twisting and bullying.

    I can only hope that the dismissive comments by SWP members on here are trying to put a brave face on some quite disturbing events. Hopefully there is at this moment some serious debate going on within the SWP as to where next. Because if the only debate about the direction SWP is outside the SWP it is in very bad shape indeed.

  119. Ian Donovan on said:

    Actually, Respect’s ‘birth pangs’ were the Iraq war and the expulsion of only one particularly outspoken MP from the party that waged that war, and a ferocious state witchhunt against that individual. Regarding the Socialist Alliance, this was an organisation a whole section of which was utterly opposed to any alliance with that comrade and supported the witchhunt. Which made it impossible for the Socialist Alliance to stay in one piece and build any kind of alliance with Galloway.

    The Socialist Alliance was politically doomed when Marcus Strom of the CPGB sucessfully led a fight to keep Martin Thomas of the AWL, which supported the Daily Telegraph witchhunt against George Galloway, on the SA executive against an SWP proposal to remove him. Marcus won his victory – he kept a class traitor and pro-imperialist witchhunter (and his organisation) on the SA executive and thus issued a big ‘fuck you’ to GG right in the middle of the witchhunt.

    Actually, one self-criticism of my own role in that period is that, while I fought against the CPGB’s echoing of the Galloway witchhunt in terms of what they published in WW, and forced them to backtrack, I did not at the time spot the significance of this act by Strom till it was much too late to do anything about it. Thus by omission, I suppose I can say that indirectly I bear some of the blame for rendering the SA a dead duck in political terms. I doubt Tony wants to hear that kind of self-criticism, however. For all his bluster, he prefers Matgamna to Galloway.

    His preference for Heffer, whom Socialist Organiser wet their knickers about, is very subjective. I was never fond of Heffer … he was too fond of advocating sanctions against the Soviet bloc – he was quite a Cold Warrior, in his little way. His religious credentials served him well there, I recall. Not suprising then that the AWL liked him – they flirted with him as they now flirt with the ‘decent left’.

  120. Let me be clear the SWP contains many good valuable and honest comrades. But they are constantly hamstrung by a leadership that steers away from an orientation on the working class in favour of ever more hopeless campaigns which trickle out like a stream of piss in a desert.

    Part of the problem is the lack of a democratic culture within the SWP. Contrary to the claims of night owl in post 41 there is no real possibility of factions forming within the group if only because debate is conducted on terms set by the misleadership who can act to subvert any opposition should they so wish. Moreover the selection, not election, of delegates to national party gatherings such as conference and party council, is to some considerable degree organised y the appointed fulltimers who can and do split and reform brances in order to prevent individuals from being delegated.

    All opf the above and I could go into more detail if needed is contrary to the practices of the Bolsheviks, the Comintern in its revolutionary period and of the FI prior to its political degeneration post-1948. And that is the traditon the SWP farcically claims!

  121. “What a tragedy this turning into. The history of the left in Britain in the past 10 years could have been so different. The objective conditions for the growth of revolutionary socialist ideas are there; there’s plenty of bright people with good ideas of a better society. We didn’t need to have a left with a culture of control, dominated by a very small number of people, backed up by ‘full time organisers’, watching out for ‘deviations from the line’.”

    Danyb, I dont know which planet you’ve been living on in the last few years…………but I just dont quite see the logic of your argument about the objective conditions for revolutionary socialist ideas are here,there,where? Are you serious or seriously deluded? When since did the SWP ever explain their vision of such a future?

    “The left really need a slogan like ‘out and proud to be a communist’”
    Are you serious??????????

    You seem to have just woken up to what the SWP is really about,they are and always have been immersed in a “culture of control,dominated by a very small number of people..” ,which is why so many activists give them such a wide berth.

    “The left really need a slogan like ‘out and proud to be a communist’”
    Are you serious????????

    You say you support “democratic centralism”. What does this mean?

    Yes, of course, things could have been different but look what the SWP did to the Socialist Alliance and actually look at what they are doing to Respect.

    The SWP may be good at producing placards, getting a weekly paper out,producing Socialist review, all of which are quite lauadable but the overall net effect of the way they operate simply serves to destroy, damage, poison working relationshhips based on trust and solidarity.

    It all comes back to what exactly you define as Socialist.There are many active Socialists who want no truck with the way the SWP operate nor Blue Labour,neither the SLP nor the CPB.

    It really is time for a serious re-examination on the Left,a time for new ideas and new strategies.The aim is to win support for Socialism.
    So lets start defining exactly what really mean,what we really want and how we are going to get there.

  122. night-owl on said:

    Mike said “Part of the problem is the lack of a democratic culture within the SWP. Contrary to the claims of night owl in post 41 there is no real possibility of factions forming within the group …”

    I thought that’s exactly what I was trying to argue, Mike. Either you’ve misunderstood, or we’re getting into microscopically subtle nuances.

    Perhaps you’re worried that in the rush to squash smears against Wrack, Ovenden and Hoveman (please people: not “Hoverman”!) I was at risk of lionising them. If that’s what’s bothering you then, I agree with you that none of the three were martyrs for democracy, and yes, they played their roles in maintaining an undemocratic culture within Respect in the past. But then so did Galloway.

    For all that, their actions have in different ways weakened the grip of a bureaucratic machine which none of us want to see maintaining its control any longer. They’re to be applauded for that – not because they’re saviours from on high.

  123. night-owl on said:

    Mike, since you’ve raised the issue again, I was going to say more on the subject of factions and what the three expelled members might otherwise have done, but I think “Lacan” (#74) has already covered this so well that I’ll reproduce the relevant sentences from his/her post:

    “I think The SWP leadership has expelled the three ‘dissidents’ not for what they’ve done but for what they might do. I don’t think Rees and co are yet willing to dump Respect but they want the freedom of manouevre to do so if Galloway gets the upper hand. At that key point many grassroots SWP members (who have build up relationships within Respect at a local level and are deeply committed to the project) will be extrememly reluctant to leave Respect. In order to be able to move the SWP membership out, en bloc, the CC needs to act now to delegitimise those people who might act as figureheads for a ’stay-and-fight’ tendency within the SWP.”

    On all the available information, I can’t imagine a more plausible analysis. If this is correct, then the balance of delegates at the Respect Conference will decide the future for both Respect and the SWP.

  124. Like J Murphy, I am also presently out of the country and so a little detached from things, most of my knowledge of all this is being gleaned from the internet and email. I, too, have been a longstanding member of the SWP, including periods of inactivity as well as hyper-activity, for nearly thirty years.

    I agree with much of what dannyb had to say in his post. I was in fairly large branch in the 90s, which the CC decided to fragment. The point is, most everybody knew this would be disasterous. And yet, hardly anyone raised an objection. We went along with it and, hey guess what, it was disasterous, and we lost a couple of fairly new members in the process, both of them local trade unionists. Then came the frankly bizarre decision to effectively stop selling Socialist Worker, which would be sold in newsagents!! Long standing members in particular were uneasy or downright angry about this, but either went along with it or simply dropped out, along with many others sick and tired of the false dawns continually promised by the CC and its functionaries.

    You see, J Murphy, its all fine and good to talk about democratic centralsm, but the central problem is this: democratic centralism, if it is to be democratic and not just centralist, requires a number of things – an active membership, able and willing to show a high degree of local initiative, a connection to and an implantation in the working class movemnt, and above all a lively and vibrnt democratic culture within the organisation. So, the leadership can take crazy fucked up decisions, but they are then held accountable. The problem, this does not happen within the SWP. An internal culture has been allowed to develop where disagreeing with the latest CC line in an SWP meeting is like farting in church while the Vicar is speaking. I agree with Molyneux when he said that this culture developed due to the retreats and isolation of the left in the 80s – people becme very defensive.

    Respect is far from perfect, but it is a concrete example of left realignment, and if this project fails, and if the SWP disintegrates into a sectarian rump in the process, it will be severe blow to the left. What many critics of Respect (not all, I should add) offer as an alternative amounts to no more than sectarian naval-gazing, and that is really depressing.

    SWP members need, to use the rather macho imagery others here have emloyed, to ‘find their balls’ and speak out gainst these expulsions. But further, they need to realise that ‘maintaining revolutionary party organisation’ will amount to fuck all if it is at the expense of the wider movement. As for ‘electoral preoccupations’, in the British political context there is no getting round the fact that a viable left organisation must also be one that actually wins elections, or at leasts contests them as a serious force. Yes, there are dangers of being dragged to the right in that process, but right now a far greater danger is not taking that process seriously – and not building the pluraistic alliances needed to realise it. The SWP should be concentrating on being a left force within Respect that people do…well, respect, one that connects serious electoral work with building a base in local communities and workplaces etc. Easier said than done I know, but there are examples we can draw from. As a first step, it should reverse these expulsions immediately.

  125. What Dennis writes is very understandable:

    “Respect is far from perfect, but it is a concrete example of left realignment, and if this project fails, and if the SWP disintegrates into a sectarian rump in the process, it will be severe blow to the left. What many critics of Respect (not all, I should add) offer as an alternative amounts to no more than sectarian naval-gazing, and that is really depressing.”

    Outside of the SW and Respect there’s only a very small left- the largest component is probably the SP who seem to have their own hermetically sealed sect (at least that’s how it can appear from the outside) and then a few small groups- I’m in one of them http://www.permanentrevolution.net but am perfectly prepared to admit that the left is tiny and outside the SWP really titchy.

    This needs to change. Perhaps, Dennis is partly right that there needs to be a struggle in the SWP over this- however, I think that in the longer term however painful it is there has to be a real brak from th ekind of sectarin politics that has bedevilled th eleft and a re-engagement with the class struggle and a re-creation and re-elaboration of what it means to be a revolutionary socialist.

    I think danyb in post 133 put it very well, at least about the control frakery of the SW CC and the embarassing and disorinentating u-turns.

    He may overstate the case when he writes:
    “The objective conditions for the growth of revolutionary socialist ideas are there; there’s plenty of bright people with good ideas of a better society. ”

    I think that may be true to some extent- revolutionary ideas are obviously far from the norm and in many people’s eyes have been completely discredited. The left needs to deal with that- but not by jettisoning the revolutionary politics but by reconnecting it with people’s lives, ditching th ejargon but maintaining the vision of a society run from the base by the working class.

    If a small group of socialists can show in practice that we can build meaningful campaigns and solidarity and show in practice that we are not control freaks I think there probably is a small objective base for the growth of revolutionary socilaist ideas and out of this new debates, new growth and renewed confidence in the left and the working class can grow.

  126. Alex Nichols on said:

    There’s a classic case of political bipolar disorder going on in the debate between Louise Feminsta and Ian Donovan.
    It reflects on the political flaws in the organisations they come from.
    The wing of the former IMG that went into Labour Briefing never understood the purpose of working in the Labour Party.
    So rebounding from her experience of being directed into the Socialist Alliance, she describes herself as a “Labour lefty” and promotes the left MP’s politics without criticism.

    Donovan, the ex-Spart, comes from an organisation which never placed any importance on working in mass organisations of the working class and never regarded “Left Wing Communism” as a guide.
    Hence he denounces all involvement with Labour in moralising terms and judges the fate of the Socialist Alliance on the basis of the participation of one individidual and one small group that had very little influence in local groups and national meetings.
    Did Social Democracy in the 1920’s, which capitulated on August 4th 1914 and killed Liebknecht and Luxemburg, have any cleaner hands than the Blairites today?

    The reality is, that neither the Labour left, nor Respect are “doomed”, but neither are adequate to the tasks they face.

    The SWP has been on a liquidationist course for some time, mainly because it doesn’t have the politics to deal with people who actually take less sectarian positions on important issues than itself.
    As I said a few weeks ago, it’s very vulnerable on the issues of Cuba and Venezuela, where Galloway is adopting more positive positions.
    Because it hasn’t dealt with these issues properly, it’s in danger of losing some high level cadre to an organisation which has yet to declare itself Socialist.
    That will create some serious issues for SWP’ers who are deeply embedded in Respect, such as Lavalette and its other councillors.

    Decimating the local branches and failing to educate the membership to operate as autonomous marxists are the gravest mistakes that the leadership has made and they will rue them.
    If I were a member, I would be asking some serious questions about the internal functioning of the organisation and demanding changes at the top.

  127. Ian Donovan on said:

    “Did Social Democracy in the 1920’s, which capitulated on August 4th 1914 and killed Liebknecht and Luxemburg, have any cleaner hands than the Blairites today?”

    Actually, the German SPD that incubated the killers of Luxemburg and Liebknect was formally Marxist in its political phraseology, formally stood for the abolition of capitalism, a verbal committment which it did not abandon until the Bad Godesburg convention in 1958. New Labour today, however, stands for ‘the rigours of competition and the market’ which is incorporated into the replacement Clause IV adopted in 1995 to replace the old clause put there at the inititative of Sydney and Beatrice Webb in 1918. So it is not Marxism, or even Fabian socialism, but Thatcherism, which is written into the constitution of today’s Labour Party.

    Does this mean that old-style social democracy, with its formal committment to socialism of some sort, had ‘cleaner hands’? Not really. It does mean, however, that old type social democracy had a contradiction within it between what it formally stood for and what it actually did in practice in terms of supporting capitalism in office. Since this formal comittment to socialism derived from the aspirations of its working class base, one could say that old social democracy had a class contradiction within it.

    Today, the Labour Party is doctrinally Thatcherite, and the remnants of its working class base are reduced to ‘feeding the hand that bites it’ to use a much coined phrase. The dogs in the street know that the Labour Party stands for war and privatisation, and is a party of the rich and corrupt. “Left-wing Communism” was written when Labour was an up-and-coming party that seriously claimed to stand for socialism and appeared as the workers champion, albiet in a parliamentary reformist framework. If such a bourgeois workers party existed today, then we would take the same broad attitude to it that Lenin took. But it doesn’t – instead we have a social-liberal party that is openly anti-working class, that in government wages openly predatory wars that do not even pretend to be for ‘national defence’ or other comforting illusions, and which attacks trade unions in the name of open support for capitalism. The truth for Marxists is concrete and time-specific, not abstract and timeless.

  128. All this sycophantic rubbish about the benefits of the SWP.

    It is to be celebrated by all genuine democratic socialists that the strains and stresses are starting to tell and the (dis-)organisation of the SWP is in a stage of disintegration. Revolutionary Socialist my arse? As for democratic process.The SWP doesnt have a shred of democracy in its body. And as for ‘its soul’ as some refer to ..give us a break…’SOUL’..it doesnt have one and never did.

    People go on about its ‘numbers’ and ‘ influence’ but what do these mean? I maintain it couldnt have tried harder to alienate as many people as it has done over the years, from getting involved in Left wing politics through its thuggish ways of operating and suppression of genine debate and discussion.How many people go through its mindless turnstile? What is the SWP turnover? Do they ever consider why the lose so many activists?

    Yes,’numbers’ to pack meetings.What is gained merely contempt of the SWP on the part of those who are thankfully not part of the so called “Socialist” organisation..sorry….”Revolutionary Socialist”. With Socialist friends like the SWP who needs enemies. The SWP discredits Socialism. Will they ever learn?

    ‘Influence’..yes, to try to control and impose what it wants whether in the anti war movement, the anti capitalist movement ,in Respect(surely a joke!) or wherever. Young and older activists are sick and tired of the SWP.It blocks the growth and development of discussion and debate, ideas and unity. It poisons organisations and struggles. It alienates rather than attracts.It burns out rather than nourishes and sustains.

    Why are so many commentators trying to put a brave face of the situation and making out the Left will be all the weaker? The fragmantation within the SWP and Respect is happening before our eyes. FACT .Something is distinctly rotten in the kingdom and it STINKS!!

    Well,if something is not founded on solid foundations, clear principles and democratic process,accountable and transparent, then it will not succeeed. Fact. The SWP are a unprincipled grubby bunch of carpet baggers of the worst kind and fully deserve the mess they have put themselves in.

    Their wrecking antics within the Socialist Alliance and their complete foolishnees and utter stupidity in supporting Tommy Sheridan and his appalling saga within the Scottish Socialist party are there for al to see. Remember what happened to Seve Goddard in Birmingham. The list is endless.

    Why anyone in their right mind should want to join, I dont know but I accept there are many ‘decent’ (albeit seriously misguided) activists involved within the organisation. Well,if they genuinely believe that democratic process is vitaly important,then this is the time for them to break as an orgnised body from the party and help create something better.

    Let this be a lesson and wake up call for all those who may be wanting to build a new Left party.There is a mountain of evidence available on how “not” to build a such a party.The choices are available. Unless it is done correctly,with solid foundations, clearly agreed on principles,healthy internal debate and discussion,transparent and accountable democratic process etc etc the Left will become a complete irrelevance. Fact.

    The potential for constructive and positive dialogue and realignment of the Left is all the more considerable.The crisis within New(Blue) Labour’s neo-liberal capitalist model continues apace, the massive crisis of political representation and participation becomes more acute by the day,as does the onset of global climate chaos.The present system is not sustainable, politically, economically, and ecologically.

    Without wanting to make any assumptions about the present political inclinations of the 200,000 members of the Labour party who have left New Labour since 1997,the 4 million Labour voters that New Labour has lost since 1997,the thousands of activists the SWP,Militant,and unrepentant Stalinists and other have alienated and lost through abuse and burnout,the hundreds of thousands of Public Sector trade unionists in struggle,hacked off with New Labour and the wholly corrupt trade union hierarchy, the millions of people who are so alienated from the political system such that they dont even vote (for what?) and of course………………………………… there is the increasing number of people who are turning to support the racist fascism of the BNP who see the disarray on the Left and the huge gaping vaccuum. Nihilistic street and gang violence and thuggery are on the rise…..

    A new Left party is needed now more than ever! Lets get it right because we simply cant afford not to.

  129. Halshall on said:

    Yes p, but if we have to start again from a zero base, for how long will we have to wait ?
    Far, far better to save what’s best in Respect and the SWP and proceed to build from there; which means for all those delegates to the coming conference(SWP and non-SWP) who want to move Respect forward, to bring the warring factions together and build a better organization(more democratic and clearly defined as left reformist with socialist leanings*).
    *[Most workers want some vision of left reformism, however distorted, but revolution is certainly not on their agenda.]
    If that fails then Respect is sunk, and the SWP severely damaged if not broken.
    Like I said, we can go back to the ‘revolutionary party in a phone box’ mentality: ie:- nowhere: zero, seriously deludedville; or build from the crossroads where we are at.
    If there is a hard-line faction in the SWP leadership that expects to be able to carry on with Respect much as it was before the present crisis it has to be taught a sound lesson from the conference floor, with binding resolutions to back up conference dissent.
    If you feel that the moment for that has passed, (and I clearly hope it’s not) then you can give up any hope of filling any signficant gap on the ‘left’ of the political scene.
    Halshall

  130. Davy Carlin on said:

    This comment was number 145, then deleted. {If to be deleted again please tell me why at my contact address of carlindavid@hotmail.com, as so I can ammend if I am breaking any ‘rules of the site – Kind Regards, Davy Carlin.

    A few Thoughts, from Belfast

    Having been a long standing SWP member in Belfast, there was a difference, in that we where almost autonomous from the SWP leadership, {and did not have their renowned ways of working} – as we had come from a few people in a room, and mainly student agitation and economism through to eventually four branches in Belfast – and standing against ‘local Imperialism’ – and working within communities and trade unions

    With this came a democratic openness and respect both for and from other activists and organisations, and this came from within both working class Catholic and Protestant communities.

    Indeed the very fact, for some of us, that there was no fear or contradiction of visibly standing against ‘Local Imperialism, and against Orange marches through Catholic areas {and our fair share of cracked skulls}, collusion, shoot to kill, plastic bullets issues, prisoners issues etc., while standing with an engaging with Protestant communities, gained us even more respect and solidarity.

    As for oneself, I had found many had feared to take on the National Question

    Indeed such ways of working, respect gained, and solidarity forthcoming, had lead to mass and historic mobilisations of Catholic Protestant an dissenter – {and some linked below.}

    Where did this change –

    well it was when we where at the fore that the SWP CC, {unelected to us in Ireland} thought they knew best}, and so as is historical repetitive it is through their various means and ‘control over some leaderships and individuals that they sought to impose their renowned ways of working, {and it is the case that those that they cannot control they just get rid of, that’s if they have not already seen no alternative but to leave themselves} – and the ways of working that was set out to be imposed was that of the dogmatic, down your throat, undemocratic, formula type politics etc etc etc –

    And so with the way of ‘workings they are renowned for, this was slowly driven into some of the once Belfast SWP, and with that, seen a number of activists leaving – and with this combined, had seen its downfall – although those who did not bow to that way of working, continued and continue still to have that support and solidarity within the wider Movement .

    And so with that they have returned back again to a few people in a room, and to one branch, back to student agitation and that same economism – but under that control.

    A lesson that the SWP should take on board here.

    Another lesson from this is that a one fit solution does not fit all locally, and also for some activist’s, they will eventually become tired of the amazing political somersaults with little debate, and then through time seeing it attempted to be airbrushed out of history.

    Indeed if one seeks to ‘hold be the memory of the working class and then attempts to air brush out mistakes then not only is this betrayal to the working class but also those mistakes will happen again and again.

    Indeed, for us locally at the time, it was not party before class but the party with and throughout the class, that had seen such local growth.

    For the SWP, I see therefore that they have not changed, and this is unfortunate. Yet I believe they cannot, given they way they seek to work.

    For the left I believe we need to continue to build our roots in the unions and our communities, as it is there that real change will begin.

    A few links {for those interested} that takes on some of the points raised through out this thread.

    The Belfast Anti War Movement –

    {1 Part 1,2 and three http://www.phoblacht.net/DC23090610g.html

    The Belfast Anti Racism Movement-

    1}The Anti Racism Network, In the Beginning,

    http://lark.phoblacht.net/arndcint.html

    2}8 years in the Belfast SWP – a fraternal parting, and the ARN, now a Anti Racist Movement – – – http://www.phoblacht.net/dc15112g.html

    Rank and File Trade Unionist

    1} NIPSA, the most important workers struggle in Northern Ireland in twenty years. – http://www.phoblacht.net/nipsastrategydc.html

    Davy Carlin – Belfast

  131. Stuart King on said:

    There certainly is a crisis in the SWP and Respect but we are not going to learn lessons and move forward with the bouts of “SWP’ophobia” shown by ‘p’ in post 144.

    JJMurphy is clearly a bit of an apologist for the regime that exists in the SWP. He says in his post 101 “The paralysing experience of permanent factions and tendencies on the outside work of various Trotskyist groups led the IS/SWP to determine a particular balance of internal discussion and debate and discipline that they imagined optimised the effectiveness of a group of a few thousand …” This is not true – it was the development of critical tendencies and factions INSIDE the SWP in the early 1970s that led to the closing down of democratic norms in the party.

    I joined IS in 1969 and was expelled as secretary of the Left Faction of the SWP in 1975. The Trotskyist Tendency (Matgamna grouping) had already been got rid of in 1972 and with it all tendencies were banned. The “Right Faction” (David Yaffe) was expelled in 73/74, the Left Faction in 1975 followed quickly by the entire IS Opposition (Jim Higgins/John Palmer et al). Several hundred comrades were expelled in this period, including most of the industrial worker base in the midlands. It signaled not the development of a system of democratic centralism to “optimize the effectiveness of the group” but a systematic closing down of means of criticising and correcting mistakes of the leadership.

    Tendencies and factions in revolutionary organizations tend to come together when the members feel, as a result of their everyday work in the class struggle, that what they are arguing (the line of the group) has little resonance or is just plain wrong. Many felt this in IS/SWP in the 1970s in albeit in different ways. The method that Cliff, Harman et al chose to deal with this problem was to suppress it. And it started the establishment of a bureaucratic centralist regime where a leadership (and its perspectives) were insulated from the members. (This regime was further consolidated in the 1980s, when another series of oppositions, on closing Womens Voice, abandoning rank and file organizations were driven out).

    A similar situation exists today. According to the SWP’s perspectives, we are in a period of deep crisis (“1930s in slow motion”) a massive upsurge of international struggle (post Seattle anti-capitalist movement) and Respect should be hoovering in the masses disaffected from Labour (hundreds of thousands we were told from the anti war movement alone). None of this reflects reality. The crisis in Respect (the Galloway document) has only come about because the organisation is failing. The SWP leadership cannot allow an open discussion in its ranks because their whole perspective would be open to criticism and doubt – even worse would be to allow organised dissent (tendencies and factions) where like minded comrades in the SWP could hold meetings together and discuss/refine their critiques and develop new analysis and policies. In a bureaucratic centralist party changes have to come from the top – with the CC in closed discussion coming up with a new line which is then transmitted to the members – and those on the wrong side of the new turn normally get the chop.

    The crisis in the SWP/Respect does open up the opportunities for a discussion and re-evaluation if comrades are willing to take it. Perhaps expelled, dissident, critical, members of the SWP should set up “socialist forums” to have the discussion they are not allowed to have inside the SWP open them up to other “sane” leftists (and lets be honest there is a lot of insanity around on the far left as it gets ever more detached from the workers movement).

    Those left inside Respect (like Andy Newman) need to discuss whether it is right to sacrifice principles in order to build a broad (primarily electoral) front. For example not to argue against all immigration controls and for the right of free working class movement from country to country? To be represented by an MP who is even at this moment organising with pro-Lifers in Parliament to restrict a women’s right to choose on abortion even further? Those left in the SWP need to question the future of the party – can you oust an entrenched bureaucratic leadership, if so how? Is there a connection between this type of organization and its wrong perspectives and politics, and if so how do you discuss it and develop your own positions?

    And this opportunity will not last for long – the purge is coming and those on the wrong side will be scattered to the winds if not organised – and clinging onto Respect won’t do it. Respect, whatever “optimists” like Andy Newman think, is following the road of the SSP – time instead to get the lifeboats ready!

  132. Here’s my two pennies worth from my blog;

    As anyone who follows the blogland niche the revolutionary left has carved out for itself knows by now, the Socialist Workers’ Party has expelled three leading and well known cadre from their organisation. According to the chatter over at Socialist Unity and Liam MacUaid, their “crime” was to take the SWP’s Respect turn a little too seriously. It seems when the SWP makes a strategic decision its members shouldn’t really throw themselves wholeheartedly into that particular struggle, despite being exhorted to do so by Socialist Worker and Party Notes.

    The SU comments box on the expulsions have been overflowing with analysis and speculation, and of course you can expect the Weekly Worker to add much grist to the mill this Thursday. But you needn’t be Mystic Meg to have seen this coming. Any attempt at building a broad left alternative that can reach beyond the confines of the sect ghetto must have democracy, accountability and openness at its heart, nor should any of its component parts hide or water down their politics. Unfortunately for the SWP, this is how it’s not gone about building Respect, and now their inept leadership are reaping the whirlwind of their folly.

    ‘Lacan’s’ contribution at SU blog (msg#74) notes “in order to be able to move the SWP membership out, en bloc, the CC needs to act now to delegitimise those people who might act as figureheads for a ’stay-and-fight’ tendency within the SWP”. Unfortunately for the SWP their beheading of this opposition is far from neat. Not only have the three expelled comrades in question, Nick Wrack, Kevin Ovenden, and Rob Hoveman ‘gone native’, but whole swathes of the SWP’s activist base has as well. In Birmingham for example, despite the controversy over local candidate selection, Respect has built very real roots among some of the most oppressed sections of our class – and those who put in a good deal of the work are, (often experienced and long-standing) members of the SWP. It would be difficult to believe the SWP could disengage with Respect without tearing apart its organisation in the second city. Similar observations could be made concerning Michael Lavalette in Preston, and would also no doubt apply to the couple of Respect councillors that have since been recruited directly to the SWP.

    Whether the SWP stays or goes remains to be seen. But what of the non-SWP component of Respect? Again, the SWP faces a bind. Long gone are the days when irksome critics could be expelled from the organisation and fade into obscurity. Now it is faced with the situation whereby every disciplinary measure, every expulsion, strengthens the hand of Galloway and anyone else who wants Respect to evolve away from the stunted on-off united front “of a special type”. But herein lies the problem. It was Galloway who tore down the wallpaper and exposed the cracks, but his critique of the SWP’s stewardship – though in many ways correct – are fundamentally about centralising Respect under his and his allies control. All that really unites the group around Galloway and Yaqoob with the pro-democracy independents, and the loose network around Socialist Unity is opposition to the SWP’s control-freakery. If you subtract it from the equation, what have you left? Two groups with competing and opposed visions for Respect. Nevertheless, comrades are quite rightly taking the opportunity afforded by the schism to put forward an attractive, democratic alternative.

    What does this mean for those of us outside? It reconfirms for all of us who are wary of the SWP that once again its leadership cannot be trusted to work with other socialists in a comradely and cooperative way. Again, it shows its main preoccupation is preserving its organisational, as opposed to political, integrity. This is hardly news for anyone who’s been around the left for a while, but it might be a bit much for those SWP comrades left high and dry by the turn away from Respect. That good socialist activists are likely to drop out because of this debacle is something no one on the left should be celebrating.

    But what of comrades with no relationship to Respect? What of those of us on the Labour left, the Socialist Party, the 57 varieties, and of no fixed abode? If the SWP turns inwards and goes down a petty, ultra-left ‘ourselves alone’ road, in the struggles ahead it could play a more counter-productive role than it does at the moment, as more and more of its interventions are subordinated to the need to build ‘The Party’. This is a recipe for an annoying headache all round. It is also possible the Stop the War Coalition could come unstuck – don’t be too surprised if the October 27 conference sees some SWP/Galloway shadow boxing.

    Then there’s the question of a new party. If over the next few years more unions start breaking organisationally from Labour and joining those already outside its formal structures, the need for a political voice is ever more starkly posed. Chances are Respect will feed into this process in some way, as will the far left and some of the Labour left, but a question mark hangs over the SWP. They could hinder the process, or stand aloof from it, but judging by Respect’s balance sheet, the least likely outcome would be for it to engage constructively.

  133. That is intersting Stuart (#146), it should be remembered that after the IS expelled Higgins and Palmer they actually stopped the R&F groups from meeting for a year or so, so they were prepared to extend the factioanlism so far that they undermined their own work, rather than lose control.

    I think a key point here is that the IS has one long term strateic persepctive, that the shop stewards movement could become conscious and grow over into a revolutionary vanguard, with the IS acting as a catalyst.

    After the brief hubris of the launch of the SWP, and belief there would be massive and fast growth, there was the slow retreat into the “downturn” bunker, and the perspective essentially became waiting for things to become better.

    The difficulty is that now things have got better, the SWP have not clerly articulated idea of what they are for – or rather they think they would know how to conduct an insurrection if they had mass influence, but have no idea how to get there from where they are now.

  134. “There certainly is a crisis in the SWP and Respect but we are not going to learn lessons and move forward with the bouts of “SWP’ophobia” shown by ‘p’ in post 144.”

    While I’m flattered that you should deign to quote me ,your comment actually says absolutely nothing. Thw wholly arrogant and dismissive tone of you comments speaks volumes about your politics and there lies a large part of the problem.

    It’s not a question of ‘SWP ophobia’,which is a new one on me, whatever that may mean.

    It’s a question of how “left” groups,primarliy THE SWP in this instance, operate and alienate those both within and those without the Left and set back any real progressive advance for Left politics, time and time again.

    Perhaps this discussion page is best left to former members of the SWP to talk amongst themselves, rant and rave about the splits within the splits within the splits etc etc ….yaaaaaawn! They are the only ones who seem to understand what eachother are talking about.Ever thought about therapy?

    Learning lessons and gaining insight,changing modes of behaviour………..now there’s an earth shattering thought!

    Step one. The idea of Socialist Revolution in Britain = Delusional thought.

    Step two. Building a revolutionary workers party to achieve such a Socialist Revolution = Highly delusional

    Required sad solitary individauls,will provide very lonely existence possibly in need of a social life and help.Then join Workers Power and or Permanent Revolution. Now is it possible to be in both without anyone noticing?

  135. Sorry Andy(148) can you run that one by me again

    “The difficulty is that now things have got better, the SWP have not clerly articulated idea of what they are for – or rather they think they would know how to conduct an insurrection if they had mass influence, but have no idea how to get there from where they are now”

  136. It’s a measure of how bad things have been on the left in recent times that this single thread on this one forum has seen such an outpouring. There is a real desire for constructive discussion. We are at a crucial juncture.

    All roads lead to the Respect conference. I have problems with Galloway too extensive to explain here but in his struggle against the dead hand of the SWP CC he is wearing the white hat. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it’s showdown time.

    All socialists – including those who have, up to now, decided to stand aloof from the Respect project – must recognise that a serious opportunity is now arising. The leadership of the SWP is in danger of losing control not just of Respect but of large sections of its activist base. That is why previously loyal cadres are now being purged. It is a calculated risk; the lesser of two evils from the perspective of Rees and co.

    We should be honest. Only Galloway could have created this situation. No one else on the left has the prestige or the sheer chutzpah to speak over the heads of the CC to the rank and file of the SWP and invite them to build a mass party outwith the control of their erstwhile masters.

    I’m going to stick my neck right out here. I have long believed that embedded within the hierarchy of the SWP are individuals who are agents of the British government. Their function is to attract those with revolutionary potential and drain off that talent into activity that offers emotional release but does not threaten the state. ‘Democratic centralism’ has become a rationalisation for tight top-down control. The SWP’s participation in the Respect project was, in part, an attempt to guide it away from a genuinely revolutionary path and also a device for extending the state’s influence over, and observation of, the most alienated and dangerous section of the working class – Muslims.

    Now the whole strategy is in severe danger of coming unstuck. Respect has, for all its shortcomings, taken on a life of its own and is growing roots in communities up and down the land. It is radicalising people in a way not seen for years. Here is a real opportunity to develop a new kind of left politics; pluralist, democratic and rooted in contemporary working class experience. We may be about to discover that it’s all right to disagree about things while remaining together in the broader struggle.

    That is what some people are shit scared of and George Galloway is the man they know they have to stop, right now. That’s why all socialists should back him at the Respect conference.

  137. left unity on said:

    Is Respect ‘following the road of the SSP’? I think there are important differences. The most obvious is that the SSP imploded in the most high profile and least transparently political manner possible. The vast majority of those looking from the outside in did not see the issues as anything other than being ensconced around allegations about the behaviour of Tommy Sheridan.

    The terms of the debate inside Respect is rapidly shaping up to be a very clear political choice about what kind of organisation Respect should be.

    On the one hand there is Salma Yaqoob’s vision of Respect as a non sectarian, left-of-Labour party, that seeks to engage with the widest swathes of left/progressive opinion in order to strengthen the totality of the left’s influence. An internal culture that is genuinely pluralistic, democratic and at ease with political difference is therefore fundamental. This vision is whole heartily endorsed by the overwhelmingly majority of the non-SWP members, and some SWP members, in the leadership.

    On the other hand there is the SWP ‘vision’, which apparently does not seem to stretch beyond the worst caricature of control freakery, and increasingly is designed solely to bolster their own influence. The tensions that have now come to the surface are the culmination of over two years of frustration with this behaviour. Unable to build a real social base from which they can derive their influence and authority, the SWP are reduced to bureaucratic manoeuvring instead.

    The shenanigans by the Officers group last night to block Nick Wrack from taking up National Organiser post to conference is remarkable only for the message of blatant contempt which it sends to NC members. John Rees writes: ‘The idea of an interim appointment had only arisen in the context of an imminent general election and since this is now not a factor it was felt that we might usefully spend a little more time over this important decision.’ Of course, what he leaves out is that the fundamental reason NC members wanted Nick in post had very little to do with the general election and had everything to do with the breakdown in trust in the workings of the National Secretary.

    I expect a desperate attempt by the SWP to stack conference with its own members as ‘delegates’ from moribund or non-existent student branches, for them to have a majority on that basis and give Rees some pretence of a reinforced mandate. Increasingly however the more their sectarian behaviour is exposed, the more the politics at the core of this comes out, the quicker the sands will shift beneath their feet.

  138. Ian Donovan on said:

    “I’m going to stick my neck right out here. I have long believed that embedded within the hierarchy of the SWP are individuals who are agents of the British government. Their function is to attract those with revolutionary potential and drain off that talent into activity that offers emotional release but does not threaten the state. ‘Democratic centralism’ has become a rationalisation for tight top-down control. The SWP’s participation in the Respect project was, in part, an attempt to guide it away from a genuinely revolutionary path and also a device for extending the state’s influence over, and observation of, the most alienated and dangerous section of the working class – Muslims.”

    I really wish you hadn’t said that. It will allow you to be portrayed as a bit crazy, like 9/11-truthers and the like. It is not only wrong, it doesn’t explain why the SWP’s control freakery is not unique to the SWP, but fairly standard practice among Trotskyist groups of many different types, large and small. You want other examples? Here’s one from a much smaller group and political tradition rather distant from the SWP. But the parallels are nevertheless striking.

    http://www.bolshevik.org/ETB/Rtj.html

    This is a generic phenomenon, a morbid product of political isolation and the Cold War period when the left developed as sects, preserving socialism and keeping the faith in difficult circumstances, and was easy prey to sectarian ossification. It needs to be explained *politically* in order to overcome it, not explained as the result of the work of state agents and the like. Such ‘explanations’ are in fact the hallmark of the very worst manifestations of the kind of thing we are trying to overcome, such as the WRP (who often explained their political setbacks and failures as the work of state agents). This is a trap we must resolutely refuse to fall into.

  139. Davy Carlin on said:

    Some very valid points, since my last post at 147. Indeed some points made I have long visioned – and I have long come to understand.

  140. Ian Donovan on said:

    By the way, though, the rest of Lacan’s contribution, apart from the silly paragraph, is pretty damned good.

  141. Fair enough, Ian. I certainly can’t prove my assertions, although the circumstantial evidence over the years is stronger than you might think. In any case, my analysis stands regardless of whether the leadership of SWP contains individuals who are state assets or merely people who are hopelessly addicted to bureaucratic control.

  142. P back at #150, you (not unreasonably) asked that I clarify my opaque remark: “The difficulty is that now things have got better, the SWP have not clerly articulated idea of what they are for – or rather they think they would know how to conduct an insurrection if they had mass influence, but have no idea how to get there from where they are now”

    What I mean is that the SWP have a model of themselves based upon being the Bolsheviks of 1917 (ignoring the fact that not only are they a parody of the Bolsheviks, but also the British society is much more complex and mediated than russia and 1917, and we will never see that type of situation here). So they are clear of their long term role (however delusional it is) and many of the leaders clearly see themsleves as significant historical figures (but who now remembers former big fish in the WRP pond like Cyril Smith or Cliff Slaughter).

    But the SW as a whole has no strategic understanding of how they build a mass party startig from where they are now. They have polemicised against the idea of a broad socialist party on the basis that they believe it is indispensible to have seperate organisations for “reformists” and “revolutinaries”, but this seems to be based as much on institutional self interest as a thought out strategy.

    I think people misunderstand me when I dispute the idea that the distinction between reform and revolution is useful. But this is becasue I think that a thorough going socialist transforamtion of society, particularly in a developed western society like Britain, will only be the culmination of a progressive and escalating process of reform, postponing a final showdown with the capitalists until we have won over much of civil society to our project.

    the trouble with soi-dissant revolutionaries, is that in my experience having the “correct line” on Krondstadt cuts no ice whatsoever when it comes to the real class struggle

  143. bill j on said:

    I think that this is an important opportunity for the left to reassess where it has been going wrong over the last 10 years.
    The SWP will inevitably split from Respect, or Respect will split from the SWP either before or at conference. I don’t really think it makes much difference which way the votes stack up – neither side can tolerate being controlled by the other – hence they will have to go their separate ways.
    Staying in Respect will not be a particularly appetising prospect for the non-SWP or ex-SWP left in. GG will have unfettered rule, as will his favoured bloc of mainly Muslim small business associates.
    Being in the SWP will be interesting, if not much fun either.The leaderships line has been confounded by reality. Not only do they continue to assert that the world economy is stagnant and the crisis around the corner – but the tactics they developed to deal with this situation have been decisively refuted by reality.
    On their own terms they are a total failure.
    Why so?
    And here we need to avoid glib solutions, tactical differences – we voted the wrong way here and there – or we should have done this or that – we need to have a much more thorough going reexamination of the entire lefts perspective since the collapse of Stalinism – and also its understanding of revolutionary and socialist politics which have been effectively abandoned bit by bit over the last 10 years as a hindrance standing in the way of …whatever opportunist turn is dreamt up by the leadership. (and btw this isn’t an endorsement of WP’s shouty version of revolutionary politics which are just a sectarian version of the same opportunist method) i.e. a refusal to look at the actual situation and develop principled revolutionary and socialist politics towards it.

  144. Andy said:

    “There are many Muslim membes of the Lib Dems, Labour or Plaid Cymru for example who accept the broadly prgressive nature of their parties positions on gay rights, abortion, etc.”

    There’s an important factual error there, Andy. The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru don’t have positions on gay rights or abortion. These issues are recognised as being matters of conscience not party policy. Indeed I cannot imagine that Muslims, RC, Evangelicals would tolerate any change in the status quo so that any one of these mainstream parties adopted say a binding pro-abortion position – that would amount to an insistence that believers abjure their religion, which as I said would be intolerable. It would also amount to electoral suicide, so I can’t imagine any mainstream party would be foolhardy enough to abandon the present sensible arrangement.

    There are of course a small number of extremists who do think that there is no place for Muslims and Roman Catholics in the Labour Party and that Muslim and Roman Catholic politicians should be discriminated against. But they are without any discernible influence.

  145. Well Red maria, you are clearly wrong – the Labour government has since 1997 introduced the following legislation in favour of gay rights: abolished all sexual offences that related to homosexuality, introduced civil partnerships for same-sex couples giving equal rights with heterosexual marriage, made discrimination in the workplace and goods & services illegal.

    This is beacsue the Labour party as a whole has a broadly progressive view and accepts a concensus in favour of gay rights

  146. the digger on said:

    Andy or left unity have I missed something, the following is from the Respect National Committee statment of 22 September

    f) Overhaul our procedures for recruiting to paid posts in the organisation so that all posts are advertised within Respect, appointed through a shortlisting and interview process overseen by a panel approved by the National Council, meet our equal opportunities aims, and are compatible with the best employment practice.

  147. There will obviously be a lot of soul searching but I think there are genuine opportunities ahead to re-orinetate the left, to think about ways we can work together without necessarily having to agree on everything to begin with, being more poutwardly orinetated to campaigns and the working class, consider standing candidates or backing candiadtes e.g. RMT in the GLA, CWU strikers, trade unionists fighting privatisation etc.

  148. I’m afraid it is you who is wrong, Andy. You referred in your comment to the Labour Party and others having positions on abortion and gay rights. They don’t. These are recognised as matters for individual consciences. The Labour government since 1997 has introduced a number of measures relating to gay rights, some good, some not so good. But on all these MPs have either been allowed a free vote or their rebellion has been tacitly tolerated by the whips.

  149. One or two of you write as if you think this is a problem only for the SWP, or even that it is a recent phenomenon.

    This problem has afflicted the Marxist left since at least the 1850s.
    As far as I can determine, other than Tourish and Wohlforth’s work, few have attempted to analyse this phenomenon (psychologically or sociologically) –-, but no one has even so much as asked what the theoretical and/or ideological causes of our propensity to split, expel and control are, why our side is so fragmented (and thus so ineffectual) — and thus why workers ignore us in their tens of millions.

    I think I have hit upon part of the reason:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2009_02.htm

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2009_01.htm

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%20010_01.htm

  150. Alex Nichols on said:

    #156 #157 Anything’s possible, but then so did the Bolshevik party. (State Duma member Malinovsky – subsequently shot) Perhaps that Yvonne Ridley’s a state asset too? Is anyone seriously going to use this sort of speculation as a basis for deciding a political line.
    Re. Donovan’s points on the L.P. No one’s disputing New Labour was a qualitative move to the right, but that doesn’t deal with the question of the Labour left, the continued links between the LP and Union bureaucracies and quite simply it’s history. So therefore, the idea of a united front is still applicable, contrary to what some people have said vis-a-vis the BNP issue, even if not necessarily on the terms dictated by the LP.
    The people who say otherwise are just engaging in the politics of shallow moral outrage.

  151. Jamaat and the Muslim Brotherhood certainly have a position on Gay rights and Abortion.
    They will be the power after the SWP go

  152. RedRaph on said:

    The comment in quoutes are true. I was a hospital worker in the low pay dispute in the late 70s. After the dispute I was sacked for changing shifts without permission. The union official told me prior to my appeal that he get my job back if I promised to beahave and there would be a full-time job in the union in the future. Years later I found out a leading SWP worker had sopped me to management to get me the sack. In the early 80s he was invloved in a scandal with a leading woman rint union official involving the misapropriation of funds. He left the country in a hurry. He had previously turned up in a teachers strike and had another affair with a memeber of the provos during the hunger stikes when he suddenly became active in the Troops Out movemetg. Many years later he reappeared after teaching in Saudi and was readmitted into the SWP! He became active in the PSC to watch possible terrorist sympathsisers. He jumped into the STW as it grew in size. You only hav to look at the role the SWP played in the SSP to see that they used the NOW story to split the first real threat to capitalim from outside the social democracy and Stalinism no matter how flawed the project was. The SWP act like a sponge soacking up people who are being radilcalised and acting as a safety valve. In the 70/80s there strategy was to isolate radical workers from the rest of the class by pursuing an ultra lft line. They tried to control anti-globalisation movement through GR but failed because raical youth had moved on from socialism to anarchistic methods of organising. They controlled and strangled the STW movement, derailing it down a parliamentary prssure road. 2m people have vecome a few thousand in a matter of years. Respect was to be used to control radicallising youth, monitor and contraol and stop them becoming terrosits. They’ve run that down as well. I have friends who were in the provos and they had double agnetgs in MI5. They confirmed that the SWP was controlled at the highest level by MI5 agents who sought to set strategy and policy. Thousands of genuine socialits have gone through or are still in the SWP. The best that we can hope is that the SWP disintegrates and as many as possible SWP members stay in respect no matter what GG motivation for the attack on the SWP may be. Other socialits are attracted to Respect and we begin the building of a genuine Socilaist party that is democratic and open and in a tradition outside Stalinism and Social democracy.

  153. Has my earlier post been deleted?

    One or two of you write as if you think this is a problem only for the SWP, or even that it is a recent phenomenon.

    This problem has afflicted the Marxist left since at least the 1850s.
    As far as I can determine, other than Tourish and Wohlforth’s work, few have attempted to analyse this phenomenon (psychologically or sociologically) –, but no one has even so much as asked what the theoretical and/or ideological causes of our propensity to split, expel and control are, why our side is so fragmented (and thus so ineffectual) — and thus why workers ignore us in their tens of millions.

    I think I have hit upon part of the reason:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2009_02.htm

  154. cameron on said:

    Rubbish Rosa. Whatever, disagreements you might have with Rees et al about dialectics, you are otherwise an apologist for the control freakery of the SWP CC.

  155. Regarding point #170.

    No posts have been deleted. It is possible that if you posted something that had a lot of internet links in it then it may automatically have been treated as spam.

  156. Red maria

    Not only are you totally worng, but this is a tedious mistake you are making.

    Something cannot be party policy in a more significant way than it being actually enacted by that party in government.

    You are confusing the question of whether the party has policy, with the question of whether they allow their members to take an individual ethical opt out of that policy.

    To stick with the example of the Labour party, they clearly have policy towards removing or minimising legal disrimination against same sex relationships, and there cannot be greater eveidence of that than the fact they have changed the law accordingly. What is more these were government bils. the act that they may not have imposed a three line whip to allow opt outs for religiously inclined people is neither here nor there.

  157. Ian Donovan on said:

    Re: Alex Nichols. Yes, the united front is applicable to those elements in the Labour Party who are prepared to support workers struggles. No-one ever said it wasn’t. There is no contradiction between that and polemicising against the Labour left for their support for neo-Thatcherite right wingers in elections, including against candidates to the left of Labour. We can support Left-wing Labour Party candidates in elections *and* make these criticisms. The united front is not a non-aggression pact where we just love up to the Labour left and refuse to criticise them.

  158. #171 cameron evidently still feels stung by Rosa’s recent criticisms on her site of an issue of WW that had the effect of heightening the seige mentality rather than widening the debate. In any case, things have moved on since then.

    Anyone who actually reads Rosa’s site (and thousands have) will find an unsparing analysis not just of the effects of “control freakery” but its causes, among them the manipulative use of Dialectics in various organisations to browbeat members and to paper over the cracks in the contradictory lurches of arbitrary leadership decisions.

    (Any resemblance to current events is purely coincidental)

  159. Ian Donovan on said:

    I have no idea whether or not Rosa L. is an apologist for the SWP or not. I would observe, however, that for the CPGB, anyone who gets in the way of their own particular sectarian and Islamophobic agenda will be so accused irrespective of whether such allegations are true, or not. What they fear most of all is that principled anti-imperialists will get their shit together and create a fully-fledged, open left-wing party that doesn’t share their capitulation to imperialism regarding anti-imperialist struggles in the Muslim world. Which would expose them for the phoneys that they are.

  160. Babeuf, when you say that thousands have read Rosa L’s work, the hit counter on her site suggests it is less than 350, but no matter.

    It is a highly idiosyncratic position being argued by Rosa, and a bit of a red herring I feel.

  161. Andy said (#179) “Babeuf, when you say that thousands have read Rosa L’s work, the hit counter on her site suggests it is less than 350, but no matter.”

    Andy, if you look at the main page of Rosa’s site:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/

    you’ll see that thousands have indeed been there. The page you’re looking at is only one section of one essay that hasn’t been up all that long.

    Andy continued “It is a highly idiosyncratic position being argued by Rosa, and a bit of a red herring I feel.”

    I agree that the most important arguments put forward at Rosa’s site are original, but that hardly seems like an automatic handicap as we stand here contemplating where a bunch of old ideas and routines have brought us. Granted, familiar ideas make for faster and easier reading, but I’m sure you won’t let that put you off.

  162. Rosa’s thingummy is briliant. It’s like MAD magazine for lefties. I got to the end of it (scrolling, not reading ,,, need … more … time) and it’s like magic mushrooms.

    I may not know my vacuoles from my pseudopods but I’ve turned my laptop through 180 degrees and I love the way you can write a computer essay in crayon.

    And there’s miles of it. Genius!

    BTW, I have read Tourish and he’s excellent.

  163. yes babeuf, it does look like it would repay reading and thinking about.

    Having skim read that page it did seem to be arguing against a straw man a lot of the time, and is somewhat weakened by not turning such an obviously very critical brain onto the fallacies of the state cap theory, so some ideas from the Cliffite tradition are still presented undigested

  164. Madame Miaow, thanks for that typically vacuous comment.

    I will, of course, bow to the obvious philosophical expertise of a Mad magazine reader any day…

    ———————————————–

    And Andy, I am trying to address issues that have been all but ignored by revolutionaries for 150 years. I could hardly do that it I published the same old banalities, could I?

    Anyone who can’t be bothered to plough through all the detail at my site can read a summary here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/Why%20I%20Oppose%20DM.htm

  165. Party notes says… pretty much nothing. There is no political content and the accusations levelled against the three are to put it mildly flimsy.

    They are accused of “publically disagreeing with the line” (Wrack) and “denouncing the SWP to individuals and organisations outside of the SWP” (Hoveman and Ovenden). But it seems that the SWP membership isn’t to be trusted with small details like what exactly any of them are supposed to have said, in what context and to whom.

  166. “Madame Miaow, thanks for that typically vacuous comment.”

    Me vacuole – you pseudopod.

    Rosa, why so spiky? I genuinely thought this was bonkers enough to be genius which is high praise from me, and I was planning to read it, especially as you reference Tourish. I forgot that you have to be literal on the left.

    A case of the shit hitting the fan. And there I was wondering why the workers aren’t flocking to our side.

  167. Madame Miaow, clearly you mistook my piss-taking for something else. Apologies if I was a little too ‘prickly’ sounding. 🙂

    Why do workers not flock to my site?

    I suspect they have learnt to distrust every one of us Marxists — I at least try to explain why.

    [By the way, I am working class, and a trade union rep (unpaid). I regulary ‘flock’ to my site…]

  168. Madam Miaow said “Rosa, why so spiky?”

    I always enjoy your comments, Madam Miaow (and always thought, from the other side of the fence, that the treatment you received in the SA was a terrible injustice), but you know your style can be quirky. Rosa, unfamiliar with your ways, read your compliment as abuse and reacted accordingly. I’m sure you can kiss and make up … maybe on stage? Good luck anyway with your new stand-up act.

  169. Rosa #187

    well there is a lot of good and thought provoking stuff there, so i am not being dismissive of it at all. But with regard to the straw man thing, I am not convinced that dialectical materialism is actually in practice as central to marxism as you argue.

    For example when you argue that Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin et al turned to studying the dialectic after defeats as a form of religious consolation (I paraphrase but i think not unfairly?) then it is worth pointing out that they had already made major contributions both to Marxist thought and working class politics before then.

    I am also highly unconvinced that there are in fact, or that we should accept, there being different schools of Marxism (the distinction between Stalinism,. Maoism, Trotskyism, etc, that you accept) Indeed, my own take is that it is this attempt to institutionalize organizational differences over strategic and tactical differences, and then claim they are due to distinct Weltanschauungen that is the root cause of sectarianism. I outline the bare bones of my position on this here: http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=288

    And although you are highly critical of dialectical materialism as being a question of almost religious faith, you yourself accept as a question seemingly of faith that Marx is correct in saying that the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class.

    But I think we are getting way of topic here!

  170. I’m sorry if you find it tedious, Andy but your argument should not go unchallenged. You said that the Labour Party and others had positions on abortion and gay rights. I pointed out that these in fact are recognised as matters of individual conscience, not binding party policy.
    If I get you correctly, the positions of the Labour Party are whatever a Labour government does. Therefore, I suppose, going to war in Iraq was Labour Party policy.
    It clearly is very much is here or there that MPs are allowed free votes or to rebel on such contentious issues, not least for the MPs themselves and the small number of people who are desirous of ending the current accomodation. Needless to say such latitude would not be allowed in say, the SWP (hence partly the mess it now finds itself in).

  171. Red maria #193

    It is only tedious becasue you state no evidence for your clearly contra-factual statements.

    Several (if not all) the measures promoting homosexual equality enacted by thre Labour government were either in the manifesto, or were approved by the national policy forum.

    As such they were Labour party policy.For example the 2001 Labour Party manifesto makes a commitment to end “discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation”.

    Surelly if it is in the manifesto even you accept it is policy?

    Yu also claim that the Lib Dems have no policy on gay rights but they have a specific section in their 2005 manifesto pledging support for gay rights.

    “we believe strongly in an individual’s right to live their lives as they see fit, without discrimination, with personal privacy, with equal rights in front of the law and the opportunities to make the best of their talents. This applies to a person’s sexuality and gender identity in the same way it does to their race, gender, or religion. The Liberal Democrats have been consistent in our application of these principles and are proud of our track record on issues relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.”

    The Lib Dem Liberal Democrat Policy Briefing 13: Freedom from Prejudice, January 2005 said:

    “[The] Liberal Democrats will pass an Equality Act to end all forms of discrimination including on the grounds of sexual orientation. Public bodies will have a positive duty to tackle inequality and discrimination against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people…The Act would not just apply to the public sector. It will end discrimination in the provision of goods and services. For example, currently, hotels can refuse to take a booking from a same sex couple. Under our equality Act, everyone will be treated equally.”

  172. Andy, thanks for those comments.

    “I am not convinced that dialectical materialism is actually in practice as central to marxism as you argue.”

    Well, every single prominent Marxist would disagree with you.

    But, my position is a little more subtle; I claim that this theory is indeed useless, but it only kicks in when the movement is in reverse (it is now, for example, making a return in SWP litertature — this ‘theory’ was re-discovered by Molyneux and Harman in the mid 1980s at the height of the ‘downturn’), as a form of quasi-‘god-seeking’ consolation.

    It also serves to insulate militant minds from the awful truth (that Dialectical Marxism is a long-term failure), by convincing comrades that since appearances ‘contradict’ underlying reality, in reality the movement is other than it seems, and is either a ringing success, or is about to become one (this sort of semi-permanent euphoria is particularly to be found in the small trotskyist sects) — hence all that talk of ‘crises’ everywhere.

    [It also allowed the communists (in the 1930s etc.) to justify 180 degree overnight twists and turns — and a host of other regressive moves.]

    “And although you are highly critical of dialectical materialism as being a question of almost religious faith, you yourself accept as a question seemingly of faith that Marx is correct in saying that the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class.”

    But that is based on ideas that are capable of being defended — so, it is not an ‘act of faith’.

    I agree this is off-topic, so I will say no more in reply to you on *that*.

  173. Dummy says thanks.

    This is post 199 – one more then bed, Stuart? Sorry, that’s not an invitation. It’s a comment on 195. I need sleep. Now.

  174. Post 200, Andy. Just staying up for that. So does that qualify me for a fetching “crypto-Gallowayite homophobic communalist” t-shirt?

    A medium one in red, please.

  175. Rosa – “every single prominent Marxist would disagree with you.”

    I’m used to that!

    What i think you fail to demonstrate to me (or from what I have seen so far) is that the self-assessment of the marxist grey-beards that their analysis is informed by the dialectic does actualy translate into dialectical philosphy informing their analysis, as opposed to them thinking it informs their analysis.

    If we put it another way, there are established traditions within the philosophy of science that debate how scientists select between theories to decide which ones are more truth approximate. Within the tradition of scientific realism, it is accepted that there is an independently existing reality, and that the currently accepted consensus of scientific opinions are broadly truth approximate, and this philospohical position can be defended by very sophisticated argument.

    However, very few owrking scientists are aware that this philospohical debate about how we decide what is true and what is not true is going on, nor would they be necesarily interested nor competant to participate within that debate.

    nevertheless it is not the philosophers, but the working scientists who have actually developed our approximate understanding of underlying physical reality.

    In the same way, for practical Marxism, the development of political positions and theories that are a guide to action for socialists do not necessarily derive from their philosophical understanding of how the process of change works.

    There are lots of other ways of thinking that accept that complex systems have emergent properties, and that appearances belie reality, etc. that are not reliant upon the dialectic or on any codified and sytematic philosophy, and i remain to be convinced that when various marxist thinkers refer to the dialectic that they are actually refering to something philospohically coherent and that they have thought out, rather it has just become a linguistic shorthand for practical politicians schooled in a certain self referential way of communicating.

  176. I should not have to cite any evidence for the long standing and well known arrangement that MPs in mainstream parties including the Labour Party have a free vote on matters of conscience!
    It’s all very well quoting from the Labour and Lib Dem manifestos but it is the nature of such documents to issue vague statements of grandiloquent purpose, which can be interpreted as broadly or as narrowly as any individual cares. The devil is in a bill’s detail. Taking the Sexual Orientation Regulations for example, the government could have said it had met its commitment to implement the Equality Act so as to be in line with the rest of Europe and ended discrimination in goods and services even if it had maintained exemptions for religious groups.
    Taken another way, it could be claimed that the Labour government still hasn’t met its manifesto commitment at all, since religious bodies can still, for example, refuse to marry gay couples.
    At any rate, a fair amount of leeway was given by whips to Labour MPs who felt that they couldn’t vote for the regulations. Contentious issues such as these aren’t treated in the same way as other government business. Labour MPs do guard free votes on matters of conscience jealously.

  177. Or to put that another way maria, you accept that you were completey wrong earlier, and I was correct in comment #174 when I argued:

    You are confusing the question of whether the party has policy, with the question of whether they allow their members to take an individual ethical opt out of that policy.

  178. Thanks for that Andy. I will not reply here since I do not want to derail this thread any more than I already have.

    Another time, another place…

    [I regularly post at RevLeft if you want to discuss this any further.]

  179. Nick Fredman on said:

    Just posted this on Liam’s blog. Seems relevant here too.

    Analysing sectarianism and bureaucratic behaviour within Marxist groups in terms of what appears to me to be a highly abstract and idiosyncratic critique of dialectics is not very persuasive. It tells us nothing about the wide disparity between parties and groups with regards to these failings. It’s much more likely these are *potential* failings that can be exacerbated in particular circumstances.

    A more concrete analysis in terms of isolation and political errors is much more useful, such as Peter Camejo’s of how the US SWP degenerated http://www.marxmail.org/camejo.html

  180. I will accept that I was wrong, Andy, if you agree that the Labour Party had a policy of cutting benefits to single parents in 1997 and going to war in Iraq in 2003.

  181. Nick Fredman on said:

    Rosa, I’ve read your arguments above, I just don’t agree with them. I don’t presume to lecture the Brit left from Australia (an atttitude that could be reciprocated by some over there, e.g. the SWP), but I concretly addressed the point you raised “but no one has even so much as asked what the theoretical and/or ideological causes of our propensity to split, expel and control”, by arguing that a piece like Camejo’s which concretly analyses like of sectarianism while making with a lot of broader historical and theoretical points, seems a lot more germane to your problems (which we’ve got plenty of too) than a polemic against dialectics. Dialecticians have help many differing political and organisational ideas, some have been vastly more bureaucratic and sectarian than others, so I see no correlation there.

    Whether studying dialectics has been symtomatic of periods of defeat is an interesting thesis, which I wouldn’t dismiss but I suspect it may be falsified by examples of post-revolutionary explosions of interest in theory including dialectics. I’m reminded of an article by George Novack, ‘Is Nature Dialectical?’, in which he reported on a 1961 Paris debate involving Sartre and other more orthodox Marxists. He contrasted the 6000 young people earnestly listening to that debate to the difficulties in getting anyone interested in anything in pragmatic, non-dialectical America, and accounted for this in terms of the much higher level of class struggle in France at that time and historically.

    Cheers, Nick.

  182. Nick:

    “Rosa, I’ve read your arguments above, I just don’t agree with them.”

    That’s like judging Marx after reading a few paragraphs of Kapital.

    And, I do not deny special factors (such as the one’s you mention). However, I present a strong case for blaming the mystical theory we imported from Hegel for some of our woes.

    And as for looking for examples of hightened interest in dialectics after revolutionary outburts, if 1917 is anything to go by, not only did this theory not feature in that revolution (there is no mention of it in the theses and resolutions of the Bolshevik CC over those crucial months, and it was largely absent from the 3rd International documents for another 3 or 4 years), there was a very strong movement after 1917 among party members to brand all of philosophy (including dialectics) as ruling-class ideology, with no part to play in scientific socialism — which, funnily enough, is a crude version of my thesis.

    It began to make a strong come-back (with the work of Deborin, etc) after 1925, when the movement started to go into reverse. Moreover, Engels ‘re-discovered’ this theory after the demise of the Chartists and the Paris Commune; Lenin did so after 1905; Trotsky after 1929 and his political isolation.

    And if you want to quote Novack, see what he had to say about Trotsky:

    “[O]ur discussion glided into the subject of philosophy…. We talked about the best ways of studying dialectical materialism, about Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, and about the theoretical backwardness of American radicalism. Trotsky brought forward the name of Max Eastman, who in various works had polemicized against dialectics as a worthless idealist hangover from the Hegelian heritage of Marxism.

    “He became tense and agitated. ‘Upon going back to the States,’ he urged, ‘you comrades must at once take up the struggle against Eastman’s distortion and repudiation of dialectical materialism. There is nothing more important than this….’

    “I was somewhat surprised at the vehemence of his argumentation on this matter at such a moment. As the principal defendant in absentia in the Moscow trials, and because of the dramatic circumstances of his voyage in exile, Trotsky then stood in the centre of international attention. He was fighting for his reputation, liberty, and life against the powerful government of Stalin, bent on his defamation and death. After having been imprisoned and gagged for months by the Norwegian authorities, he had been kept incommunicado for weeks aboard their tanker.

    “Yet on the first day after reunion with his cothinkers, he spent more than an hour explaining how important it was for a Marxist movement to have a correct philosophical method and to defend dialectical materialism against its opponents!” [Novack (1978), pp.169-70. Spelling changed to conform to UK English.]

    [You can find the references at my site, plus more evidence, in the Essay I linked to above.]

    His semi-religious fervour over this ‘theory’ is difficult to explain in any other way. This theory is an important source of consolation for our petty bourgeois comrades. ‘Being’ certainly determines their ‘consciousness’.

    By all means skip reading my essays — but do not, please, prejudge them without having read them.

  183. Rosa,

    You were a bit rude to Nick. I agree that your thesis does deserve thinking about, but at the same time you are not the first to present a reasoned critique of where “the theoretical and/or ideological causes of our propensity to split, expel and control” comes from, and Nick makes a good point about Camejo’s contribution.

    In my own samll way, I also have offered an alternative explanation, though rather less developed than yours: http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=288
    I think it is actually more plausible.

    And part of the difficulty of your critique, which makes it much less convincing to me, is that you don’t show how alleged philosophical deviations have actually impacted on the practice of the socialist parties, or even directly on their political theory.

    It does read a little bit like a factionally inspired hammer to break the Walnut of John Rees’ theoretical reputation :o)

  184. I think there a number of interesting points raised here. On the SWP, well as I said in some of my previous attached links {through number 121 and 146 I think it is now}. When I first joined the SWP in Belfast} it was about student agitation and economism, then the first call from London came to form Globalise Resistance, {and with that we seen marches in Belfast upon the Disney store, GAP store, McDonalds etc, to vent our anger at the ‘State – yet during that time ‘some of us still made sure to visibly protest and mobilise on ‘real issues against local Imperialism}

    For those interested here are three short recent articles I had written on the nature of such Imperialism {Belfast} – and its impact –

    Link – http://www.indymedia.ie/article/84215

    – then when I and others left – it was {and is now} back into that control, and thus back to that student agitation and economism – with the immediate call {coming from London} on my leaving, was to now form a ‘Global Justice Movement, this pushed through by its appointed organiser who was sent here – indeed all back to the ‘liberal activism – and indeed nothing to rock the states boat.

    And in tandem with this we had seen yet another local political somersault, and to stand in elections – again on a populist platform

    Yet this is the way it is, and some who come to our own understanding, will leave, and seek to work to effect real change elsewhere, while many more will drop out after their young anger has been vented, then there will be those who will always remain, as this type of organisation suits their needs.

    I have met many SWP ‘leaders, such as Tony Cliff, with a sound mind, as I have met John Rees – {as metioned above} and also the likes of Chris Bambery who I know many on this site disagree with me when I say that I found him at the time, sound enough {that was 7-8 years ago} – although I didn’t like his down you throat manner in the way he spoke to us, as if we where being chastised.

    Indeed the SWP do hold many decent and genuine activists across the globe, but it is the way it which they are directed that holds many problems. At the end of the day the SWP will remain and it will work the same as it always does. For me I have come to understand that within campaigns one should seek to work with all those who seek to push forward change, however minimum, and however difficult at times, yet on other matters where such are not onboard to then work with others.

    At the end of the day long term activist’s know the craic, and the only way I believe that the SWP, or any other such organisation cannot bully, or intimate, is when you as a person or grouping etc, win and hold the support and solidarity of your local working class community, rank and file trade union, the wider movement etc. There is change about in the air, and I believe it is coming to the benefit of those genuine activists who really want to effect change.

  185. Andy, apologies if I came across as ‘a bit rude’ with Nick, but after 25 years of this sort of off-the-cuff rejection from comrades like him, one does tend to get a little tetchy.

    I did read your account, and it is not actually a million miles away from my own.

    So, we needn’t think we are sat in totally different corners here.

    I will in fact be publishing a long Essay on similar topics of concern to the points you raised (it has already been written, but there are more important essays I need to post first), about scientific realism and Laudan (etc), in the next year or so.

    I cannot blame comrades, however, from steering clear of my work (whose published length now exceeeds one million words, and I am only about 50% of the way through); there are more pressing things for them to do than read seemingly endless essays on high theory.

    Nevertheless, at some point, comrades are going to have to address the issues I raise or risk another 150 years of failure. Which would, naturally, make all they do now a waste of time and effort.

    The Camejo account is interesting, but it in no way even *begins* to address the causes behind the failure of the *entire* Dialectical Marxist project from circa 1860 to the present day. I think, in that respect, even if I am wrong, my work is totally unique.

    On the other hand, if I am right, my work represents the biggest overhaul of Marxist Philosophy since the 1840s. Hence, I have had to go into such detail.

    I will say no more here on this.

  186. dwin pen cawod on said:

    As a former SWP member,the article has backed up the very reason i left the party in the first place. I experienced members openly arguing with each other over who was more socialist and who was more supportive of Respect. Also they were always trying to control everything that members did. They seemed more interested in having personal power and control rather than important socialist issues.And i doubt there support of respect.

  187. As a long time observer of SWP practice in three different countries (Ireland, Britain and Germany) the current falling out with Galloway et al and the alleged behaviour at Tower Hamlets Respect is unsurprisng.

    However the recent expulsions of three leading SWP members is not only surprising but shocking. There has been much debate by SWP members over whether Nick Wrack put himself out side the party by refusing to comply with the CC, while this is important I believe it is secondary to the fact that a party which claims to stand in the tradition of democratic centralism can arbitarily expel its members by fiat of the leadership.

    I’ll nail my colours to the mast (and probably get abuse) and let you all know I’m a member of the Socialist Party and the CWI. The treatment of Nick Wrack is a prime example of how the genuine ideas of democratic centralism have been brought into disrepute by the antics of people like the SWP leadership.

    Lets accept for the sake of argument that Wrack did violate party discipline. Is this grounds for immediate expulsion? Certainly not. If we accept the breach of dicipline was serious then at most he should have been suspended from membership pending appeal at an agreed upon date before an independent, democratically elected body of the party.

    This is the normal procedure in the SP for diciplinary matters and the appeals committee is elected by the members at the National Congress. The appeals committee does not include members of the Executive Committee of the party.
    I can only contrast the way Nick Wrack left the SP with his exit from the SWP. Despite serious political differences leading up to his departure from the SP at no time was there any question of disciplinary proceedings let alone expulsion from the party. A whole series of discussions were conducted with him and when that proved fruitless he resigned.

    I don’t say write this as an exercise in how brilliant the SP is, we have our faults as much as any human organisation. But if ordinary SWP members who I believe do want to build a free socialist society, think this is achievable by a party where their seems to be no mechanism of control over the leadership then they need to think again. Surely you must see what has happened to Wrack and co. is not an isolated incident?

  188. Alex Nichols on said:

    “If we accept the breach of dicipline was serious then at most he should have been suspended from membership pending appeal at an agreed upon date before an independent, democratically elected body of the party.”

    Absolutely correct. The way the SWP behaves has nothing to do with democratic centralism and constantly produces layers of alienated split-offs where people drift into the sort of amorphous worship of “pluralist politics” which ends up in a talking shop.

    Liam’s blog has some useful minutes he took at the committee meeting,with recorded votes. This would be standard practice in any trade union branch, regional committee or national body.

    I have a copy of the Minutes of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik party from October 1917, published by Pluto Press, with notes by one T.Cliff.

    It would be interesting to know whether ordinary SWP members will be able to examine the C.C minutes of the SWP where the decisions about the expulsions were taken. If not why not?

    Similar arguments apply to the practice of introducing slates at the last minute during meetings (that’s a criticism of Galloway’s supporters in this case)

    As well as packing conferences with recruits, issued with a party card the day before, who don’t know what the hell the arguments are all about.
    The SWP pulled this at the Socialist Alliance Conference where the SP walked out.
    I overheard someone near me moaning about the time it was taking and wanting to go shopping!

    This crap comes from the political traditions of Right wing labourites like Frankie Capello, or the school of Iosif Vissionarovich Djugashvilli.
    It’s got naff all to do with democratic centralism, Leninism, or anything that Comrade Bronstein stood for.

  189. Alex

    The meeting of TH Respect on Tuesday was clearly problematic, however Jackie Turner clearly said in her e-mail the previous saturday:

    “If you want to go to conference and haven’t yet let me know you need to do so by Tuesday.”

    Note that she didn’t provide any information about when or how slates could be submitted, and the meeting took place before 11:59 Tuedsay evening and was withing the deadline.

    It may well be non-ideal to introduce the slate like a rabbit from a hat, but you can only work withing the framework providdd by the branch officers.

    What is more notice of the meeting was sent by e-mail, which does not reach a majority of members, and there was a postal strike.

    The clearly democratic option is to have another branch meeting and let the members decide – fortunataly this is what the brncah committee voted to do on Thursday evening. but the SWp opposed it – preferring to stick with the result that went in their favour on tuesday night, but excluded the democratic will of the majority at the meeting to vote on an alternative slate.

  190. Alex Nichols on said:

    #217 Yes, the deliberately “minimalist” approach to rules works in favour of political manipulation and the SWP probably relied on that.
    Which is a situation that should never have been allowed to happen in the first place and could have been avoided by having properly published rules and statutes.

    The SWP will always try to avoid this on the grounds that *they* are the party and therefore such things need to be kept to a minimum in organisations like “Respect” and the “Socialist Alliance”

    But I’d be willing to bet that the internal workings of the C.C. and branches in the SWP are just as vague – for instance, how often are attendance and voting records published, which was standard practice in the I.S.?

    No wonder that serious trade unionists, who’ve got experience of holding positions and being delegates to union conferences generally wouldn’t touch the SWP with a bargepole!

  191. ‘Rosa L’ wrote “But, my position is a little more subtle; I claim that this theory is indeed useless, but it only kicks in when the movement is in reverse (it is now, for example, making a return in SWP litertature — this ‘theory’ was re-discovered by Molyneux and Harman in the mid 1980s at the height of the ‘downturn’), as a form of quasi-’god-seeking’ consolation.”

    The trouble with the above statement is that it is utter rubbish on the factual level. Both the Socialist Review Group and the International Socialists saw themselves as being marxists in terms of their philosophy. And various articles in theirpublic press prove this from all periods. For example I would cite essays run in International Socialism dealing with Korsch and Lukacs during what is now described as the ‘Upturn’.

    On this simple matter of fact ‘Rosa L’ is spouting nonsense. I suspect the same is true of ‘her’ refutation of dialectics.

  192. That is a very good point Mike, indeed the rediscovery of Lukacs was an important event in the development of the New Left, that certainly coincided not with defeat, ,but with growth and confidence.

    And Lukacs’s philosphy played an important role in breakking with more mechanical and reductionist interpreations of marxism. (you doon’t get the impressioon Ted Grant ever read “History and Class Consciousness” for example.

  193. “you don’t get the impression Ted Grant ever read “History and Class Consciousness” for example…”

    Er, no. That’s because he was too busy talking, or should I say declaiming with hand gestures, at great length in front of the mirror and then before delerious crowds, who’d listen to him hold forth for hours, literally hours. Women would faint when he rose his voice y’know. The man was a sex symbol, I tell you.

  194. “hand gestures, at great length in front of the mirror “

    One could make an off colour joke here about Grant’s reputation for solitary sex

  195. Andy, forgive me barging in again but I cannot allows this fabrication through unchallenged.

    Mike, you are going to have to do better than that, I am afraid.

    I did not say that Marxist were into Philosophy only in downturns, but that that dialectics ‘kicked in’ in downturns, and I left that suitably vague. But you think you know what I mean by this, and so you blunder in, making a public fool of yourself.

    Did you check my developed thesis at the links I provided? No, you just assumed, and then mouthed-off.

    As I said to another comrade, you are like someone who hears that Marx ‘believed’ in the ‘impoverishment of the working class’, but who points to a few well-to-do workers, and thinks he/she has refuted Marx.

    I did not say the SWP/IS were not interested in Philosophy, or in Lukacs etc, but in this particular theory — the sort of stuff that Chris Harman was on about in Socialist Review in 1988, or John Molyneux in Socialist Worker in 1984 (reprinted in his book):

    Harman, C. (1988), ‘To Be And Not To Be’, Socialist Review 108, pp.22-23.

    Molyneux, J. (1987), Arguments For Revolutionary Socialism (Bookmarks), pp.49-51.

    I’d like you to find an Essay/article that deals with dialectical materialism as a universal theory that appears in SWP/IS literature before these. Cliff does not go on about it, nor Hallas — Callinicos is dismissive (up until the 1990’s, and then he softens around the edges), and Ian Birchall rejects it:

    “The trouble with…[the ‘negation of the negation’ and a ‘dialectics of nature’ — RL] is that [they] oversimplif[y] and mystif[y]…. To derive the laws of dialectics from inanimate nature leads to denying the role of human agency in the historical process.” [Birchall (1982), pp.27-28.]

    Birchall, I. (1982), ‘The Whole Truth’, Socialist Review 49, pp.27-30.

    I am not on about Historical Materialism (with or without Hegel), but the cosmic version of dialectics — the full works, as it supposedly applies everywhere and at all times in the entire universe. If you focus on *that*, the correlations I mention are quite striking, for then, as a cosmic process it assumes quasi-religious proportions, and acts as a form of consolation for failed revolutionaries.

    But, you would know that had you bothered to check *even* the opening page of my site.

    For more details, go to Note 8 of this essay:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2009_02.htm

    In fact, this essay will give my full account (of this part of my thesis) — you do not have to read it, but then you need to stop making stuff up about my ideas if you have not read it.

  196. Alex Nichols on said:

    re #219-224

    I thought the issue of statutes, rules and their abuse was a lot more relevant than discussing Lukacs, Gramsci and self-abuse with “Rosa L”

    Some people seem to want to derail threads though….

  197. Alex Nichols on said:

    re #217 – The fullest description of events that’s appeared on Liam’s blog, entitled “On the other Hand” indicates that the real chain of events was rather different: –

    “Jackie said that the list she had prepared for the members meeting on Tuesday was the response from people to the email she sent out on 27th September and the letter sent on 2nd October to the 489 members who are not on the email list inviting nominations as delegates to the conference. The list she presented was the list of the people who had replied that they would like to stand as conference delegates.

    She said that the second list had been circulated one hour into the meeting. Although her name was also on the second list she had not been asked if she would like to be on it. A lot of the people on the list were not fully paid up members of Respect, some were difficult or impossible to identify as only one part of their name had been listed. The difference between the two lists is that everyone had the opportunity to be included in the first, but not in the second.”

    If this is accurate, it implies that Jackie Turner acted within the rules of the branch and Galloway’s supporters didn’t, either because they cocked it up procedurally, or weren’t happy with the situation that emerged last Tuesday.

    It’s also evident from Liam’s record, that the idea that Galloway doesn’t have an agenda to curtail the influence of the SWP in Respect is mistaken.

    As I’ve argued for some time, it’s difficult to see that his or Salma Yaqoob’s political positions are leading it towards the formation of a mass socialist party.

  198. Alex.

    The transcript is a factional document prepared by the John Rees camp. You will note that every word of George Galloway’s is included if it is derogatory to the SWP.

    The disgraceful behaviour of Shaun Doherty on the night, and equally polarising language is not included in the transcript.

    Even within this partisan account, George Galloway’s account of the Russian Dolls is a good summary of the actual situation.

    This is all in the context of the refusal on Tuesday night of the SWP to allow the members’ meeting to vote on a perfectly constitutional alternate list.

    I suggest you read “>Jackie Turner’s e-mail inviting nominations:

    You will note that there she says “by Tuesday” (whch includes at the meeting itself), not before Tuesday. And she provides no information about how, constitutionally, to submit an alternative slate.

    From: RespectTowerHamlets@yahoogroups.com> [mailto:RespectTowerHamlets@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Jackie Turner
    Sent: 13 October 2007 08:17
    To: RespectTowerHamlets@yahoogroups.com
    Subject: [RespectTowerHamlets] branch meeting and conference
    Hi All
    A final reminder that the TH RESPECT branch meeting on Tuesday at 7pm at Club Row, will elect delegates to conference on 17/18 November, and choose the resolutions that Tower Hamlets will send. If you want to go to conference and haven’t yet let me know you need to do so by Tuesday.
    We will also have Berlyne Hamilton, RESPECT GLA list candidate to speak to commemorate Black History Month.
    Please come
    All the best
    Jackie

    If you then look at the “>e-mail exchange on the Tower Hamlets discussion list, you will see that SWP member Cllr Ahmed Hussain agreed that the alternative list was constitutional.

    From: “Hussain Ahmed”
    > Date: Thu, 18 Oct 2007 11:34:40 +0100
    > Subject: RE: [RespectTowerHamlets] Report On Events
    > At Respect Members’ Meeting 16/10/07
    >
    > Hi Jahid,
    >
    > I have seen your e-mail just now and could not
    > resist replying. I totally agree to what you are
    > saying and you have a legitimate point as to the
    > time of closing (11:59) as mentioned! On this light
    > I would urge again for all parties to re-consider
    > other options and come up with a sensible list which
    > accommodates all and is also fairly balanced. And
    > you are right to say that all of us instead of
    > trying to prove ourselves right we should be
    > prepared to listen to others.
    >
    > I hope the committee can find a common ground and
    > draw up a balance list. I would also like to say
    > that I do not want to put my name on the list of
    > delegation and some one else can go instead of me.
    >
    > I will be attending the conference anyway, and
    > contribute as and when I feel it is needed
    >
    > Regards,
    >
    > Ahmed
    >
    >
    >
    > —–Original Message—–
    > From: RespectTowerHamlets@yahoogroups.com
    > [mailto:RespectTowerHamlets@yahoogroups.com]On
    > Behalf Of Jahid Ahmed
    > Sent: 17 October 2007 23:13
    > To: ‘Kambiz Boomla’;
    > RespectTowerHamlets@yahoogroups.com
    > Subject: RE: [RespectTowerHamlets] Report On Events
    > At Respect Members’ Meeting 16/10/07
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    >
    > Dear all,
    >
    >
    >
    > Just looking through my emails from Jackie (sent
    > last Saturday) I see that in her email she said “If
    > you want to go to the conference and haven’t yet let
    > me know you need to do so by Tuesday” (I’ve attached
    > the email further below). So that would mean Tuesday
    > 11:59pm? The same Tuesday we were having the meeting
    > at 7:30pm. Therefore, that would mean that Azmol’s
    > list is valid by the definition of the closing date
    > mentioned in the email (even if the list was brought
    > after the meeting!). So this talk about
    > constitutional this that and procedural this that
    > only makes us shoot ourselves in the foot!
    >
    >
    >
    > For God-sake, I want to know how we are going to
    > resolve this problem and bring about unity? I am
    > getting sick of people chucking emails continuously
    > saying “we are right and you are wrong”. This is
    > getting very childish. The only way I can see this
    > being resolved is if we carry on and take it to the
    > committee tomorrow (Thursday). This is probably even
    > a more of a compromise since by definition of a
    > deadline (Tuesday 11:59pm) the list is valid and
    > could have been voted on!
    >
    >
    >
    > Jahid

  199. What is Rosa Lichtenstein on about? I’ve never read such inpenetrable nonsense. The SWP really is lost in the cosmos with the cuckoos.

  200. P (#228), Rosa is trying to combat impenetrable nonsense on her website, and that means giving it some kind of exposition as well as knocking it down and kicking the hell out of it.

    If you haven’t come across the subject matter that’s under attack before, then I’m not surprised if you find it all “impenetrable nonsense”. You needn’t bother with Rosa’s site then, because it isn’t addressed to you, and she has no argument with you.

    Unfortunately, the impenetrable nonsense under attack is absorbed by a great many on the revolutionary left, in various organisations and around the world. If that’s astounding to you, P, then you have a healthy reaction. But given the fact that a great many activists on the left adhere to the impenetrable nonsense, I think you ought to agree that it should be combatted and no-one has done that with anything approaching Rosa’s thoroughness before.

    Given also that it has in the past been widely used by the leadership of revolutionary organisations to confuse or browbeat their members into accepting contradictory swings of policy, or analyses detached from reality. I think it’s of some importance to squash the nonsense so that at least this tool is removed from the hands of those who want to act in such a way.

  201. I’ve no intention of replying in detail to Rosa.L/Babeuf as their postings here are simply intended to advertise their web site andare clearly not intended to further this discussion. However I will make a couple of quick points.

    1/ Rosa L’s essays and comments here are obscure and vague. For example we are told that she is “not on about Historical Materialism (with or without Hegel), but the cosmic version of dialectics — the full works”. The meaning of which is opaque at best. Either Marxism is informed by the dialectical method or it is not. Marx seems to me to have been pretty clear that his method was dialectical and in the manner of many another revisionist Rosa L seems clear that dialectics needs to be edited out of Marxism.

    2/ Rosa L seems to be claiming that the SRG and IS did not accept the dialectical method, though his or her claims are dishonestly vague as I noted above, but this is simply untrue. Certainly no single essay or article can be brought forth asserting the dialectical method from the time of the foundation of the group to well intothe 1980s but this does not mean the group rejected the concept. Rather it was simply accepted that Marxism was based on the dialectical method as can be seen in a reading of Cliffs essay on Plekhanov for example.

  202. Steve X on said:

    I am very interested in the email sent by Jackie that said (allegedly) that nominations could be brought to the tuesday meeting: the one where the row about proceedure broke out.If she did say this it totally undermines the row about two weeks notice and all the defending by the SWP about what is constitutional. However, the bigger question still remains about what kind of party or coalition RESPECT is going to be. It seems to me Galloway has a different view of this to Rees and that it is likely to split. I think that the SWP know this and are drawing a line in the sand. On the one side is the very populism that they flirted with led by Galloway and on the Rees side,at long last , is an attempt at steering things to more working class and trade union isues.
    What does not help in all of this, as many have said, is the control freak nature of the SWP with its lack of internal democracy.All the extreme measures, I suspect could have been avoided if there had been more real debate from the beginning. I bet the menbers of the SWP are given a one sided account and are largely in the dark over this.If there is one lesson that needs to come out of this it is that there needs to be real open honest debate in the SWP. Did I see a flying pig?

  203. On the one side is the very populism that they flirted with led by Galloway

    Some flirtation.

    and on the Rees side,at long last , is an attempt at steering things to more working class and trade union isues.

    Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes – the Greeks in this case being the group who worked so hard to commit RESPECT to the reverse of the positions they’re now championing. In this case I think the forms are more important than the content.

  204. sheffielder on said:

    Hello all , i have read the many experiences of SWP membership and ex-membership with great interest. I was a SWP member for 10 years and worked in the Printshop for about 5 years, and can answer some of the questions about the Printshop and the SWP full-timers being discussed.In my experience it is certainly true that leaving the SWP results in excommunication from former friends and comrades , and certainly my own sanity , political commitment and honesty were called into question after i left ( i still had one or two friends left to tell me what was being said ). It is certainly true that there is a huge divide between the full-timers , especially CC members , and the foot soldiers. Whilst you might occasionally see a CC member selling Socialist Worker outside a public event this would never happen at less glamorous locations , but more importantly SWP CC members would never , and i mean never in 5 years , speak to shop floor workers or volunteers at the Centre/printshop. It is true that the CC members , many of whom have been in post for 20 years or more , have never cut their teeth in the organisation , have never had a real job , have never been a member of a Trade Union and have no idea of the real world. Some here have questioned whether the Printshop had 100 employees , but the political Centre and Printshop combined would have comfortably employed that many in its day. When i left it was over the SWP attitude to the Socialist Alliance , and i can see what has happened in the case of Ovenden and Hoveman because when you break out of the SWP’s closed world and meet real people it can be quite an eye-opener ! – for me it was this experience which gave me the impetus to break with them. Ironically it was Rob Hoveman who was sent to lean on me and others when he was full-timer for the Socialist Alliance , so there is a certain irony and satisfaction at his downfall. I would add that while it is rare for public expulsions from the SWP many just drift away, and also not many remain active in politics after their bitter experience. Ex-SWP is the biggest Party on the left in Britain , and remains an important section of the left too.

  205. Steve X on said:

    Very interesting Sheffielder,
    I agree largely with your perception. Your experiences certainly tally with mine and I too am in the largest party on the left: the EX SWP. Will they ever learn? I doubt it. The CC has no interest in listening to their membership and never had in my opinion. They come with their perspectives to aggregates and force them through the meetings; there always was an atmosphere of extreme dishonesty; which was set up in such a way that it was always hard to challenge. Until a real attempt is made to listen to the members on the ground and their genuine experiences there will be no real progress in building a party of any real size.

    It seems to me that someone in the centre gets a brainwave and the perspective is changed and all the members fall into line with the new outlook. They do this through loyalty and genuinely wanting to change things but are not encouraged to really think for themselves because no such culture exists in the party.

    John Molyneux’s perspective was kept out of the party a couple of years ago. Without going into too much detail, he was trying to urge caution because of the economic growth in Britain and encouraging a more realistic perspective than the one in the party which overestimated the mood of for growth. He was kicked into touch, of course, but had a very valid point and too his credit remains loyal.

    Take another example, the Religious hatred Bill, and an appalling piece of legislation, which could have trapped anyone from the left who opposed the State of Israel as promoting religious hatred. The SWP supported this to court the Muslim vote in Respect. This was going too far in the opinion of many in the SWP but the debate about this was minimal and all were expected to fall in line.

    Finally, the SWP, and I heard Rees say this recently, makes mistakes. True, they do and of course this could be forgiven if this was an honest statement about listening to members. The problem is that they only admit their mistakes when they want to, not when there is evidence that they have made them. They go on for years hyping everything up and getting people to run around like loyal foot soldiers from one brainwave to the next. The result of all this is that people get bunt out and leave the party. When will they learn? I doubt if they ever will!

  206. Just a genuine point of clarification about why SWP members become annoyed. Steve X explains the SWP’s position on the religous hatred legislation on the basis of ‘courting the Muslim vote’. Given the commitment of the SWP to fighting Islamophobia and the endless rows and arguments about this, is it not possible that there are genuinely difficult issues here about which socialists disagree? Steve doesn’t state this, but I would read his comment (and I’m being quite open about the subjective dimension of this) as implying a) that the SWP was never serious about fighting Islamophobia and/or b) that the only reason anybody would be would be to get the ‘muslim vote’.

    This kind of thinking is usually espoused by those who hold to the dominant communalism in this country. Obviously Steve X doesn’t but why does he argue like this?

  207. Good point John

    I personally was unhappy about the decision to support the religious hatred bill, but it was a very complex issue.

    Given that perhaps the most dominant form of hate behaviour at the moment is towards Muslims, and that some of that can evade the race relations act, due to Islam being a religion, then there are seriously good arguments why socialists should have supported the relgious hatred Act.

    No as it happens, there are also serious problems with the legislation as well, and on balance I think the correct thing would have been to oppose it, but it wasn’t a clear cut call, and certainly you could make a very sincere case on the basis of anti-racism for backing the bill.

    On the other issue though, Steve X’s description of how debate is conducted in the SWP will ring true for the thousands of activists who have been through the organisation.

    I laughed out loud at this description from Steve X: “someone in the centre gets a brainwave and the perspective is changed and all the members fall into line with the new outlook. “. We all know who that someone used to be! seven years after his death his personality still moulds the way the organisation works!

  208. Mike, you are once again showing your ignorance — you cannot expect me to summarise all seventeen essays at my site (now totalling over a million words) — so I cannot be anything other than vague here.

    Once again, you are like someone who rejects Marx based on reading one page of Kapital.

    “Either Marxism is informed by the dialectical method or it is not. Marx seems to me to have been pretty clear that his method was dialectical and in the manner of many another revisionist Rosa L seems clear that dialectics needs to be edited out of Marxism.”

    Ah, the good old ‘either-or’ of formal thinking… So,you accept formal logic. Good!

    But, as you should know, Marxists of various traditions have drawn a distinction between dialectics as applied to human history and when it is applied to nature. I happen to reject both, but my essays are mainly addressed to the latter.

    And, yes I do think it should be excised from Marxism — not only does this theory (applied to nature or society) not work (indeed, I would go further, it makes no sense at all), tested in practice, history has shown it to be at best false.

    “Rosa L seems to be claiming that the SRG and IS did not accept the dialectical method, though his or her claims are dishonestly vague as I noted above, but this is simply untrue. Certainly no single essay or article can be brought forth asserting the dialectical method from the time of the foundation of the group to well intothe 1980s but this does not mean the group rejected the concept. Rather it was simply accepted that Marxism was based on the dialectical method as can be seen in a reading of Cliffs essay on Plekhanov for example.”

    I claimed there were no essays/articles on the dialectics of nature (cosmic dialectics) in IS/SWP literature before 1985/1987.

    You have failed to prove otherwise.

    I did not claim that the dialectical method — merely cosmic dialectics — did not feature in IS/SWP theory until then. You have also failed to show otherwise.

    May I suggest you actually try to read what I say before you try to make a fool of yourself in public in future?

    Yet again: you do not have to read my work — but please refrain from ill-considered comments based on total ignorance of what I have said.

  209. P:

    “What is Rosa Lichtenstein on about? I’ve never read such inpenetrable nonsense. The SWP really is lost in the cosmos with the cuckoos.”

    1) Which word is causing you problems?

    2) I am not in the SWP.

  210. Len Mifive on said:

    This is the sort of piss-poor ‘debate’ that
    gives you lot the ‘amateur’ label; where is
    your sense of priorities?

  211. It’s often said that Australian politics is a couple of years behind the rest of the advanced capitalist world.

    Well in this case it’s about six months, it seems, as the DSP majority has just purged its minority (about 50 members out of 200 or so). The central difference was the Socialist Alliance, which the minority said was a failed experiment that had become a millstone around the neck of the DSP.

    The minority has set up a website at http://www.lpf.org.au/ Bob Gould’s comment is at http://ozleft.wordpress.com/2008/05/12/australian-dsp-divides/

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