Turning Points, or the Closing of Windows of Opportunities?

Mark Perryman argues that after the SWP car crash we need to review why the Outside Left’s turning points have invariably turned instead into the closing down of windows of opportunity

Evan Smith raises the question on his Hatful of History blog whether the SWP fallout will prove to be a turning point for the British Far Left. Before any kind of assessment of that possibility it might be useful to track back via some other previous potential turning points, or what from the outset I would more modestly term ‘windows of opportunity.’

One might be the decision in 1991 of the CPGB to dissolve itself. Even at the end this remained the biggest organisation of the Outside Left; this surely opened up the space for something to replace it. Yet despite the best efforts of the CPB to perpetuate the British Communist tradition, it remains today considerably smaller than the CPGB at its dissolution, around 2500 members compared to the CPB’s not much more than 1,000,, and far far smaller than the CPGB a decade prior to the end, when it could still boast well over 10,000 members and a well-staffed and resourced party infrastructure.

In an entirely different way the SWP sought to replace the CPGB as the dominant organisation to the left of Labour. It has grown intermittently yet the evidence of the recent fallout suggests a membership also smaller than the CPGB at the end. Perhaps the biggest testament though to the SWP mini-me CP aspirations was the Stop the War Coalition of 2001-2003, a hugely successful campaign in terms of mass mobilisation, initiated and staffed by the SWP, and while they would never describe it as such, a truly Popular Front. Yet StWC’s success is also testament to the SWP’s failure: despite the role it played in the campaign no sustainable growth of the SWP itself and since StWC no other initiatives it has taken have come anywhere close in terms of size or influence.

Another was the 1994 break with Labour by Arthur Scargill to form the Socialist Labour Party. Ten years after the miners strike Arthur wasn’t yet damaged goods. He was able to locate the SLP in amongst a generation shaped by the strike and disaffected by Labour’s forward march to the right. It is difficult now, 17 years on, to assess what kind of social weight Arthur would have had in the mining communities of his native Yorkshire but surely a campaign focussed on winning council seats by standing ex-miner experienced campaigners could have resulted in sweeping regional gains and created the basis for something bigger. But the long haul of local politics didn’t appeal and the quick-fix of building a national party from scratch around one individual was pursued instead, to eventual ignominy.

The SSP breakthrough to win an extraordinary six MSPs in 2003 was a window of opportunity not just for the Scottish Left but the entire British Left too, made possible not only by the careful building of a politics beyond their figurehead Tommy Sheridan but also the PR system used to for elections to the Scottish Parliament. Yet this was short-lived, the implosion, whatever the various rights and wrongs, destroying almost all the gains made. A similar story of Respect, with the two incredible election victories of George Galloway – first Bethnal Green and Bow in 2005 and then again, against all the odds in Bradford West 2011. Neither however turned into anything like the generalised breakthrough, or anything resembling it, that many believed at the time could follow. In 2005 surely the reason for this was that after Labour expelled George from the party not a single one of Labour’s anti-war MPs followed him out of the party, nor many councillors or members either. And in 2011 all the joy and hope of the ‘Bradford Spring’ was sacrificed via a series of fallouts arising from George’s choice of words to describe the bedroom etiquette of Julian Assange. The rights and wrongs of George, Tommy Sheridan & Arthur Scargill’s behaviour is less of a concern here; they have been covered extensively elsewhere. Nor am I necessarily suggesting a pattern. But it is surely uncontroversial to state that neither the SLP, SSP or Respect have fulfilled anything like their expectations. And it is legitimate to point out that all three were in many ways moulded round the personality of their ‘star’ leader at the expense of much else that resembled a party identity.

And so the SWP. What kind of turning point does the fallout represent?

Firstly, this is an organisation that lost in a catastrophically short period of time those who had been central to its formation and evolution. Whatever their strengths and weaknesses, to lose Tony Cliff, Duncan Hallas, Paul Foot and Chris Harman meant the regeneration of the entire party leadership and ideological guides in short order.

Secondly, this is an organisation used to being fairly homogeneous which has suffered a whole series of increasingly bigger splits in the past four or five years. The Respect fallout of 2007 meant they cast off their major project of the previous 4 years along with a decent chunk of activists and leading members. A short while later those responsible for leading the SWP in this period into Respect , then out of it, setting up a new electoral vehicle, found themselves forced into a minority in their own party and eventually out of it. ‘Twists and turns’ doesn’t do this exercise justice! The consequence: a second damaging split, this time taking out two of the SWP’s most prominent members, Lindsey German and John Rees along with a further layer of activists, an entirely different bunch to those who left the SWP to stick with Respect.

Philosophy football plateThe outcome of both has been that the SWP no longer has influence inside Respect and next to no relationship with Respect’s still very prominent MP, George Galloway. In fact since the Assange broadcast they have taken an overtly hostile attitude towards him. In terms of Counterfire, the SWP now has to cope with a group offering a not entirely dissimilar political mix. This it can probably endure, but what is more damaging is the loss of almost any SWP influence in the Stop the War Coalition, and even more seriously Counterfire’s ability to launch new campaigns with considerable trade union and broader support that the SWP either are marginal to or actively choose not to involve themselves in, because of Counterfire, Namely Coalition of Resistance and The People’s Assembly Against Austerity. Counterfire has also imaginatively and successfully launched the Emily Wilding Davison Memorial Campaign. Once again the SWP seems to have chosen to absent itself, tho’ it is entirely possible Counterfire wouldn’t have welcomed their involvement with open arms either. Whatever the background an activism-based SWP finds itself inactive on an increasing number of initiatives for reasons of its own choosing, never mind the worth of the campaign. And in Scotland, Chris Bambery’s Counterfire-alingned International Socialist Group were behind the successful launch of the Radical Independence Conference with the SWP left looking on from the sidelines. Apart from those originating from Counterfire there are other initiatves too that, knowing it cannot control, the SWP treats with hostility, such as Owen Jones’s call for a co-operative left and a similar call from former member Mark Steel, or just ignores hoping presumably they might go away, such as the increasingly impressive efforts of the Left Unity group. Maybe neither the People’s Assembly nor Left Unity will come to anything, but if they do the SWP will be left dangerously exposed as too busy looking after its own interest yo be bothered.

Finally, the launch of the International Socialist Network therefore represents the third split from the SWP in the space of a little over 5 years. Each one taking members out in different directions for differing reasons. This must be at the very least disorientating if not demoralising for those who remain. The problem the new network faces is the same as for Counterfire: hamstrung by the perhaps natural inclination to defend the tradition from whence they came, this acts as a barrier to connect to anything new. There is a strictly limited audience for an SWP-in-exile and given the financial and organisational resources the original version retains, the real thing will always win this battle.

What is all the more potent about the latest split is that it is characterised by a generational break. The students have so far been central and if they jump with with those leaving this will give it numbers and organisation on campus. The two most prominent figures, Richard Seymour and China Miéville, are not tainted by any time at all in SWP leadership positions. The dissent of the opposition is founded on a critique of how the SWP, and a wider Leninist left, operates. And lastly because of the particular nature of this fallout, the issue of political practice, they might not use the word, the prefigurative, is paramount. All of this adds up to a considerable potential to appeal beyond their immediate milieu and context. It is this more than anything else which will determine whether a turning point becomes a window of opportunity, or as usually happened on the Left we end up slamming that same window shut in our own faces..

123 comments on “Turning Points, or the Closing of Windows of Opportunities?

  1. daggi on said:

    Yet despite the best efforts of the CPB to perpetuate the British Communist tradition, it remains today considerably smaller than the CPGB at its dissolution, around 2500 members compared to the CPB’s not much more than 1,000,, and far far smaller than the CPGB a decade prior to the end, when it could still boast well over 10,000 members and a well-staffed and resourced party infrastructure.

    The points here are surely that the (as I see it) implied suggestion that at least some of those who stayed in the CPGB to the bitter/celebratory end might have gone over to the CPB ignores that the CPGB at the end certainly wasn’t communist in any sense I can tell, apart from maybe holding together a certain layer or people who were (once) part of a particular political tradition; and that the “well staffed” party apparatus was certainly not purely funded by its members, but from abroad, in particular when (e.g. in the early 1980s) the Morning Star was still factually part of the CPGB and the bulk of copies were ordered and paid for by foreign governments and where (around the time of the splits in the CPGB) a cover price rise of 1p or 2p per copy could literally bring in a guaranteed additional hundreds of thousands of pounds without having to worry about whether a price-rise might lose sales at home, as these were (financially) not as significant.

  2. Mark P on said:

    Daggi

    I don’t disagree with either point. But I don;t think this invalidates my point either.

    Very few of those left in the CPGB at the end would have decamped to the CPB. But after becoming the effective stand alone British Communist Party the CPB hasn’t grown much. Nor did the SWP as the biggest other group at the time grow bigger by being in that position either.

    As for the Morning Star. The Soviet subsidy has been replaced by the Anita Halpin bequest. Its still a hugely impressive achievenent of the CPB to keep the Morning Star going but frankly impossible without the Halpins’ largesse.

    Mark P

  3. Daggi reproduces, almost unconsciously I hope, the Cold War analysis of the Communist Party as sustained from abroad.
    Anyone who worked in its apparatus will tell you that its full timers spent a disproportionate amount of time raising their wages in a time before direct debits and monthly pay was common. I still have my early party cards with 52 blank spaces for the weekly stamp.
    It is many decades since the Morning Star could count on any number of bulk sales abroad yet the paper survived and goes from strength to strength sustained not by Moscow gold but by its deep roots in the working class movement and by the efforts of communists (a group rather larger than the CPB membership but increasingly found within it.)
    It is true that the Communist Party is rather smaller than it used to be but it is scrupulously honest about its size and funding and publishes this information – something others might consider doing. It goes with a political culture that allows quite substantial differences to be resolved politically without cataclysmic breakdowns and for the conclusions of political debate to be tested in practice.
    People should try this approach.

  4. daggi on said:

    Mark P:
    Daggi

    But after becoming the effective stand alone British Communist Party the CPB hasn’t grown much.

    That’s hardly a surprise though, is it? The mysterious charms of “official communism” were even less visible post-soviet bloc collapse/overthrow than they were pre-1990, no?

    And even if there might have been a number of young activists, who were somehow attracted to something like a “CPB orbit”, I would have expected those CPB members, even those who remained active post-1990, to have been, at least in the final decade of the last century, to have been depressed and hardly likely to attract or give out any “bliss was it in that dawn to be alive” feeling which could make their organisation a welcome place for the new.

    On the other hand, I was recently informed that a Maoist sect has started attracting some ‘youth’ in the UK, so anything is possible.

  5. Mark P: The Soviet subsidy has been replaced by the Anita Halpin bequest. Its still a hugely impressive achievenent of the CPB to keep the Morning Star going but frankly impossible without the Halpins’ largesse.

    Mark, this is simply not true. Keeping the paper going and the recurring costs of running the paper are met from sales, donations and appeals. The paper is constantly on a financial cliff.

  6. daggi on said:

    daggi: to have been depressed and hardly likely to attract or give out any “bliss was it in that dawn to be alive” feeling which could make their organisation a welcome place for the new.

    Incidentally this is based on my own observations in that period, when some CPB members tried to recruit me, when I was a cocky youth. They didn’t seem happy with their organisation. I couldn’t really tell what the point of their organisation was (it seemed based on nostalgia on the fights with the “Euros”, and Wapping) – and I was broadly sympathetic.

  7. Nick Wright: The mysterious charms of “official communism”

    Since the dismantling of European socialism we have seen Communists in government in Brazil, Italy, Cyprus, West Bengal, Kerala, Tripura, Venezuela, Nepal, South Africa; solid or rising communist votes in the Czech Republic and France, Portugal, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Byelorussia, Chile etc etc.
    Perhaps you could point out where other left forces are experiencing somethin comparable on a global scale.

  8. Nick Wright: Since the dismantling of European socialism we have seen Communists in government in Brazil, Italy, Cyprus, West Bengal, Kerala, Tripura, Venezuela, Nepal, South Africa; solid or rising communist votes in the Czech Republic and France, Portugal, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Byelorussia, Chile etc etc.

    It might also be worth mentioning China, Vietnam and Cuba.

  9. daggi on said:

    Andy Newman,

    People’s Korea (or does the Morning Star no longer use this ‘cute’ term for North Korea/DPRK)? Not that the government there, as far as I know, still describes itself as communist, though.

    Nick also forgot Transnistria.

    Cyprus? Interesting. A very good record that government had. For the banks.

  10. Mark P on said:

    Well I suppose we’re at least dealing with my ‘windows’ in chronological order.

    Of course ’89 it could be argued toxified the ‘Communist’ label. That was the core reason after all the CPGB dissolloved itself. However except for adherents of a Leftist version of Anglo-excptionalism this doesn’t explain the much better survival rates post 89 of other Communist Parties across Western Europe.

    However you again miss the broader point. No other organised left group despite proclamations to the contrary, from the SWP in particular, grew in size with the CPGB gone to replace its hegemonic role to the left of Labour, then or since.

    On the Morning Star, Ilm sorry I thought Anita Halpin had donated substantial sums from her multi-milion bequest yo help keep the Morning Star going or is that just a rumour?

    Again the lrger point remains, keeping the Morning Star going is a major credit to the CPB, and somethiong other left groups should look on with a degree of awe. As to whether it should be a website instead… I’ll leave that to others to argue, but please save it for another thread!

    Mark

  11. daggi on said:

    Nick Wright: Perhaps you could point out where other left forces are experiencing somethin comparable on a global scale.

    Perhaps you could point out the “charms” of these communists in government and how their record will help your current recruit and grow in members and in influence in the UK? It’s a serious point, I’m not trying to be ‘amusing’.

    The KPÖ also do pretty well in one region of Austria, and what about the PDS/Die Linke in regional power in Berlin and in much of the former eastern Germany. You can’t mention Cyprus and not mention the record of the PDS.

  12. daggi on said:

    Mark P: Again the lrger point remains, keeping the Morning Star going is a major credit to the CPB, and somethiong other left groups should look on with a degree of awe.

    Never mind the website, what about the actual contents of the publication? I think the Star might have more of a future if it stopped trying to be a 1970s Daily Mirror-light and became something more like the German ‘junge Welt’.

  13. daggi: People’s Korea (or does the Morning Star no longer use this ‘cute’ term for North Korea/DPRK)? Not that the government there, as far as I know, still describes itself as communist.

    It is clear not only that North Korea no longer uses the name communist,but the Juche political philosophy of Military First and Self Reliance has effectively transformed it into a national security state, with no similarity to, and no affinity with the socialist movement.

  14. daggi on said:

    Andy Newman,

    When I used to read the Star, Juche was the ideology of North Korea, but it was still “People’s Korea” and its government was portrayed as one being run by ‘comrades’. When did the interpretation change?

  15. Mark P on said:

    Goodish debate so far. Anybody care to address the other ‘windows’ and their slamming shit in our faces by ,ostly our own hands?

    Wouldn’t want the thread to be dominated by oly one brand of left-nostalgists.

    Nick W by the way has an excellent point. Like it or not acros the world CPs ‘punch aboive their weight’ to use Owen’s memorable phrase on the SWP at an entirely different magnitude. Forecasts of CPs universal extinction post 89 have proved wide of the mark. While healthy Trotskyist parties post 89 would be far harder to pinpoint, and those that there are have largely reinvented themselves as something else (Bloco in Portugal). The two most sucessful non Communist outside Lefts Syrizia, come from a Eurocommnist background, and the Dutch Socialist Party, ex Maoist I believe?

    Answers on this please?

    Mark P

  16. daggi: When I used to readthe Star, Juche was the ideology of North Korea, but it was still “People’s Korea” and its government was portrayed as one being run by ‘comrades’. When did the interpretation change?

    I am not a spokesperson for the Morning Star, or indeed anyone except myself. it is technically true that North Korea is styled the Democratic People’s Republic still. MOre accurately it could be referred to as the “Militarised Republic of Korea”

  17. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    Andy Newman: Juche political philosophy of Military First and Self Reliance

    The “philosophy” of the military as the leading force of society over and above all else (including the working class) is actually called Songun: Juche is the self reliance bit.

  18. daggi: The KPÖ also do pretty well in one region of Austria,

    A very interesting example from Daggi.
    The KPO with its rather ‘eurocommunist’ orientation does pretty badly in most of Austria. But in Styria its dissident and impeccably hard line local organisation gets 6.32% and in Graz over 20%.
    Its complicated.

  19. Viv Willis on said:

    No mention in an otherwise excellent piece of the what was the Socialist Alliance. A
    t the 2000 election had around a 100 candidates. What were the machinations which caused it collapse? The SA disappeared an then up-popped respect; why did the SA disappear ?

  20. majikthise on said:

    I’ve suggested before that youth interested in building an alternative to capitalism need to go right back to the beginning: the classic works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Connolly and Luxemburg.

    Read them in the original, worker-accessible versions, rather than through the twisted academic misinterpretations that abound, then sit and discuss how those praxicians would have applied their ideas in the current situation.

    Then test these theories through intervention in the actual struggle.

    Review the history of the movement locally and internationally, look at it’s greatest successes and greatest betrayals.

    Consider what led to these results using critical and creative intelligence. Come back together, discuss what they have learned, and gradually build theory and practice from the ground up, rather than handed down by the clay-footed abusive all-knowing ‘gurus’ of the left.

    Real leadership begins with humility and openness to learning.

  21. Mark P: Of course ’89 it could be argued toxified the ‘Communist’ label. That was the core reason after all the CPGB dissolloved itself. However except for adherents of a Leftist version of Anglo-excptionalism this doesn’t explain the much better survival rates post 89 of other Communist Parties across Western Europe.

    The CPs outside the eastern bloc in general, sure, especially in southern Europe. But for comparison to Britain, it would be more interesting to look at Germany, the Benelux and Scandinavia.

    I don’t know the exact history in all those countries, but consider the CP of the Netherlands. Much like the CPGB, it did not just suffer a split or a rebranding, but it was dismantled from the inside. In the CPN case: a party organisation, daily paper, offices, assets, all gone.

    It is one thing for a party to suffer faction fights and splits, it’s a different matter when you’re basically left empty-handed. In the Dutch case, I think even the name of the CPN or anything too similar to it can’t be used any more (certainly under electoral law). This is of course a quite deliberate salting of the earth: it’s not just a matter of revisionist leaders disbanding the party, but also trying to make sure that the party will never exist again.

    The CPGB case is quite similar, although they have at least still got the daily, and the name of the party is recognisable enough. The point is that for parties like these, it is very hard to recover from that sort of thing. It seems to me that in both cases, the successor parties are being patient and deliberate, even if it means not jumping on a different bandwagon with flashy signs every week, SWP-style. Of course that brings in sneering from the rest of the left, but that shouldn’t be too much of a worry.

    It is a misconception to think that people only joined the official CPs because of some strange allure of “actually existing socialism” that outsiders could never understand, and that the lack of this presence is the reason that these parties don’t flourish. Young people join for all sorts of different reasons, and of course the internet makes it possible for anyone to search for “communism” or “communist party” and find contact info.

  22. Mark P on said:

    Thanks Viv.

    I’m not sure I would cite the Socalist Alliance as a ‘Wndow of Opportunity’ on a par with the others. Of course it is only hindsight but it was the transformation of that option in the main into Respect that secured impressive Parliamentary by-election results, Leicester and Birminghan in partcular, the East London and Birmingham council seats and most of all George’s seat in 2005. This amounts to a genuine window of opportunity, could the SA poont to anything on this scale?

    A more serious omission is perhaps the RMT and FBU both breaking with Labour. Neither cose to align themselves with Respect, though some support was given to the SSP. If they had backed Respect and got involved how might that have changed Respect’s prospects as a window of opportunity in either 2005 or 2011? Likewise PCS has never affliated to Labour yet it is looking at standing anti-cuts candidates, again istrad of in 2005 or 2011 bcking Respect. How might that have changed the prospects of the ‘window’?

    Mark P

  23. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    Nick Wright,

    My understanding is that a great deal of the KPOe’s success in Graz is due to the popularity of Ernst Kaltenegger.

  24. daggi on said:

    Nick Wright: But in Styria its dissident and impeccably hard line local organisation gets 6.32% and in Graz over 20%.

    I think it’s got a lot to do with a personal vote for the same candidate over decades (who retired a few years ago), along with their advice surgeries (which I assume are something politicians don’t usually do in Austria (or in Germany)), as well as their elected representative(s) only taking something like a “workers’ wage” (though the KPÖ might not put it like that), the rest going into a fund used to help constituents in need. “Left-wing charity” perhaps, but it seems to go down well.

    In similar news, the DKP (German CP) has just voted at its conference last week for a new, politically more ‘hard line’/’traditionalist’, but when it comes to activity somewhat more dynamic/modern, leader. Pre-conference, there were many mentions of a forthcoming split – it’s not clear what’s going to happen now. The idea that there was even an opposition candidate (for any position) was frowned upon (but that is the case in all German political parties, and trade unions as well).

  25. dick: It is a misconception to think that people only joined the official CPs because of some strange allure of “actually existing socialism” that outsiders could never understand, and that the lack of this presence is the reason that these parties don’t flourish.

    No, but the belief that there was a thriving, growing socialist bloc out there, and that communists had a practical, “actually existing” alternative to capitalism was very important to all communist parties, not least ones like the CPGB which could never get much of a foothold in parliaments or councils in their own countries. It didn’t make much difference whether “existing socialism” was sometimes criticised (eurocommunism) or always presented in the most glowing terms (orthodox communism). It existed, it represented an alternative, and we communists saw ourselves as part of that world-historic movement. This was probably the most important difference between the communists and the Trots – the communists had a distinct vision of the society to be built after the “revolution”, whatever form it took, whereas the Trots could only offer “revolution” and, after that, “more revolution”.

    The collapse and disintegration of the CPGB was part and parcel of the collapse and disintegration of the system it had formerly believed was destined to replace capitalism. I would only set it alongside the current problems of the SWP in the “first time as tragedy, second time as farce” sense.

  26. dick, comment nr 21: “consider the CP of the Netherlands. Much like the CPGB, it did not just suffer a split or a rebranding, but it was dismantled from the inside. In the CPN case: a party organisation, daily paper, offices, assets, all gone.” Not quite. The CPN fused with three other parliamentary left groups to form green Left. But it DID split in the process, old-style Communists forming the New Communist Party of the Netherlands, which is still around, though small. It managed to suffer a split itself whcich reslted in another mini-party: the United (!) Communist Party. They have small electoral base, and even some councillors, I believe, in the northeast of the country.

  27. Mark P on said:

    Thanks Francis. I think that most helpful.

    The other way of applying post Berlin Wall to these closed windows of opportunity is that without the Soviet Bloc to critique and variously categorise as a core part of their differentiated identity the Trotskyist groups struggled to fimd a new rationale for their existence.

    That would fom a broader narrative to the short history of defeats I’ve outlined. It is another pointer to the need for any turning point type outcome from the SWP car crash to go beyond any defence of the international socialist traditon as this was a tradition so centrally defined precisely by such a categorisation.

    Mark P

  28. Francis King: the belief that there was a thriving, growing socialist bloc out there, and that communists had a practical, “actually existing” alternative to capitalism was very important to all communist parties, not least ones like the CPGB which could never get much of a foothold in parliaments or councils in their own countries

    Francis is correct. The existence of the Socialist bloc was clearly important for communists, and still is despite the difficulties these remaining countries face with the vastly changed balance of power.

    The notion of a programme for winning power, made concrete by the existence of these states, was also something that distinguished communist parties.

    However, there were other factors shaping political consciousness in the decades before the dismantling of the Soviet system – factors which made the communist approach highly credible.

    The world seemed to be moving. Following the Cuban revolution Vietnam defeated the US; fascism was defeated in Portugal, Greece and Spain. Zimbabwe was liberated; Mozambique, Angola and Guinea Bissau achieved independence. The socialist countries had achieved substantial growth rates. Capitalism dominated Latin America only through US-backed military dictatorships, Western economies were displaying signs of economic and political crisis and the working class movement was clocking up big victories while all kinds of new social forces were entering struggle in new ways.

    In Britain, for instance, the miners won several big pay awards, trade union power based on an alliance of sections of the official leadership and the unofficial movement was able to defeat attempts by both Labour and Tory governments to shackle the unions and even free imprisoned militants. Shop floor power was a real force.

    The 1989/1990 turn created a political crisis for communists but a terminal one for eurocommunism.

  29. Nick Wright: The 1989/1990 turn created a political crisis for communists but a terminal one for eurocommunism.

    Absolutely. Although eurocommunism, as a political expression of gradual disillusionment among communists, was always liable to lead eventually to non-communist positions, the failure of perestroika cut the ground away from it entirely. Eurocommunists had called for the democratisation of socialism, the results of Gorbachev’s attempt to deliver it were not what they had expected. In one respect the unwitting architect of eurocommunism, with its belief in the reformability of East European socialism, was L I Brezhnev: by invading Czechoslovakia in 1968 and cutting short the Dubcek reforms, the Soviet leadership allowed one of those “if only” myths to develop among reform-minded Western communists.

  30. That is what I was implying, Nick, if we accept that the sole guarantor of Czechoslovak “socialism” was always the political monopoly of the Czechoslovak CP.

  31. Cliff Moore on said:

    Viv Willis: No mention in an otherwise excellent piece of the what was the Socialist Alliance. A
    t the 2000 election had around a 100 candidates. What were the machinations which caused it collapse?

    Yes – as one that was there at the time and had the tee-shirt I would love to know the answer too!

  32. Jellytot on said:

    @16it is technically true that North Korea is styled the Democratic People’s Republic still. MOre accurately it could be referred to as the “Militarised Republic of Korea”

    It could also be described as “The Extortionist Republic of Korea”

    Its bad behaviour has been successful in wringing aid and resources from its neighbours.

  33. Thanks for the mention Mark (and thanks to all the visitors to my blog – even the detractors). Your analysis of the looming crisis of the SWP over the last decade is very interesting and I think that the short-term possibilities that you have outlined for the British far left are quite accurate.

    Hopefully by the time that our book is out (early 2014 at this stage), we will be able to look at this episode in the left’s history and make some more sense of it!

  34. Mark P on said:

    I wouldn’t be so certain of the otal extinction of the Eurocommunist position. The critique of Leninist practice was a central tenet of Eurocommunism, the failure of those patties that have clung to such practices, the alienayoon of those outside of them, the dissent from those within, tstament to its enduring relevance. And Syrizia of course grew out of this tradition too. As did Rifondazione which for a period was enjoying considerable success.

    I would stress I’m not clinging to the old just for the sake of it but in understanding the failure of these windows of opportunity we need to recognise the fragments of the old that could yet contribute to them being opened.

    Mark P

  35. Mark P:
    Thanks Viv.

    I’m not sure I would cite the Socalist Alliance as a ‘Wndow of Opportunity’ on a par with the others. Of course it is only hindsight but it was the transformation of that option in the main into Respect that secured impressive Parliamentary by-election results, Leicester and Birminghan in partcular, the East London and Birmingham council seats and most of all George’s seat in 2005. This amounts to a genuine window of opportunity, could the SA poont to anything on this scale?

    A more serious omission is perhaps the RMT and FBU both breaking with Labour. Neither cose to align themselves with Respect, though some support was given to the SSP. If they had backed Respect and got involved how might that have changed Respect’s prospects as a window of opportunity in either 2005 or 2011? Likewise PCS has never affliated to Labour yet it is looking at standing anti-cuts candidates, again istrad of in 2005 or 2011 bcking Respect. How mightthat have changed the prospects of the ‘window’?

    Mark P

    Mark. Only the FBU broke with Labour. The RMT were kicked out for supporting SSP candidates .

  36. Re the disintegration of the SA – I think Liz Davies resignation letter explained that SWP control-freakery made cohabitation with them difficult.

    The IDOOP faction’s experience in the run up to the conference were at least slightly reminiscent of the SWP ruthless campaign for complete domination of the Welsh Socialist Alliance. Unfortunately the experience led me to conclude that genuine and long term cooperation with the SWP is impossible. Hopefully I was wrong.

  37. peter storm,

    I know that, that’s why I mentioned successor parties. But the liquidation of the old CPN meant that many of its basic workings were gone.

    The NCPN, by the way, was not a split formed during the merger. It was actually formed out of 1) The VCN, who had already split off in the early 80s when the CPN officially ditched marxism-leninism and 2) Sections of the CPN that did not want to go along with the merger. Just to be a bit more pedantic. 🙂

    Obviously I agree with Nick and Francis about the role and prestige of the worldwide movement in general, but I do not think it explains or defines all the fortunes and misfortunes of the CPs. I can imagine that things like the liberation of Vietnam would have been inspiring to anyone already in the sphere of the CPs, but surely outside of that, there was still just the usual anti-communist hysteria surrounding Prague, the stagnation under Brezhnev, and, as of 1979, Afghanistan.

    In the end, it was the communist parties themselves (limiting myself to CPGB and CPN for now) who, long before the fall of the wall and long before their own disbandment, already set out on the road towards disbandment. I do agree that “The 1989/1990 turn created a political crisis for communists but a terminal one for eurocommunism”.

  38. Harsanyi_Janos: The “philosophy” of the military as the leading force of society over and above all else (including the working class) is actually called Songun: Juche is the self reliance bit.

    I stand corrected

  39. I think it’s the level they’ve been at all along (room cancellations etc, etc).

  40. jim mclean:
    Not sure what thread to put this on but someone just tweeted

    So the #SWP has bought the URL http://www.internationalsocialistnetwork.org.ukfor 2 years and several others to ‘stop’ the IS Network. Is that the level we’re at?

    I also think it shows the incompetence of a group of the seemingly internet-savvy if they can’t even bother to register some domain names as one of the very first things they do. It’s not as if this is an unexpected move.

  41. Mark P: I wouldn’t be so certain of the total extinction of the Eurocommunist position.

    It evolved – in several different directions. But a “eurocommunist position” today, outside the context of the world communist movement as it existed up to 1989-91 is just another form of radical socialism. There is no longer anything distinctly “communist” about it, even if some of its practitioners still cling to the name.

    That said, there is very little distinctly “communist” about a lot of the parties that still proudly use the name. Some of the stuff the KPRF comes out with reads like a mixture of Mary Whitehouse and the Black Hundreds. There is more than one form of ideological degeneration.

  42. Mark P on said:

    I’m not arguing a Marxist counterfactual history tho’ its kinda fun I s’pose. What if the CPGB hadn’t woulnd itself up and shamelessly given away its still considerable assets to keep the hapless remnant of Charter 88 going, now known as the entirely ineffectual ‘Unlock Democracy’.

    Thats the fun bit. More seriously a series of windows opportunity 1991-2013 with the sequentially slamming of windows shut in our faces, mostly by our own hands. Any kind of pattern or lessons learnt?

    The bulk of the SWP oppositionalists seems to have decided to stay in and fight. I suspect this episode is by no means over. The SWP damaged but not fatally, facing at least two organisations pitched in the same space more or less it used to occupy on its own. But the SWP has the name, the resouces and the infrastructure, it won’t give up that space easily. Fighting from within, for now, would seem to be the best option.

    But theres also a need for the bigger picture. Most on the Outside Left aren’t in any kind of organisation, the lot of ’em are of declining appeal. Does that matter?

    Mark P

  43. Forever Delayed on said:

    Given that in the DPRK the position as head of state and leader of the party is apparently hereditary (Kim Il Sung -> Kim Jong Il -> Kim Jong Un) is North Korea even really a republic?

  44. Eurocommunism as a movement is pretty much dead, surely, although I suppose you could apply the label to the present-day PCE, PCF, Rifondazione and PdCI and the like.

    What’s more important nowadays is the “development” of the Party of the European left, with some nominally communist parties, and some parties that have explicitly dropped the label of communism. The fact that they both uphold the same political approach shows that the question of party names is pretty much cosmetic now.

    The legacy of eurocommunism is liquidation and disunity.

  45. dick: Eurocommunism as a movement is pretty much dead, surely, although I suppose you could apply the label to the present-day PCE, PCF, Rifondazione and PdCI and the like.

    In all of these organizations the stark realities of 21st century capitalism produce a crisis for reformist programmes that both fail to offer a coherent strategy for the working class movement today and a credible programme for achieving working class political power and a socialist state.
    The very rapid decline of Rifondazione is a clear example of what can happen if a party lacks this clarity (and especially if it is a faction-ridden contest with a host of incompatible tendencies).
    However, by and large, these parties in Europe all retain quite strong bases in the working class and all have powerful currents struggling to find a way out of the decades of defeat.
    The Party of the European Left expresses an ideological concession to imperialism, a repudiation of the goal of socialism and is an entity wholly sustained by EU patronage and subsidy.
    It is a pole of attraction for a very wide spectrum of people who think there is a magic key to political advance that evades the decisive confrontation with their own ruling class and state.

  46. paul fauvet on said:

    It comes as a pleasant surprise to find myself agreeing with Nick Wright. He is certainly correct to argue that the CPGB, of which we were both members in the 1970s and 80s, was not some foreign implant dependent on Moscow Gold.

    Party officials were not in receipt of vast largesse from eastern Europe (unless you count cheap holidays in the GDR), but lived modestly on low wages. Most of the Party’s funds came from the fundraising activities of its members (both of the pro-Soviet group and of the Eurocommunists). We spent a lot of both our money and of our time in supporting the CPGB – and I don’t regret any of it.

    More important, people didn’t join the party because of its ties to the Soviet Union. By the 1970s, it was quite the reverse. I, and many others recruited from the student movement, would never have joined the CPGB had it not condemned the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.

    Here, of course, I part company with Nick. The reason the party continued to have significant influence throughout the 1970s and early 80s was precisely that it no longer slavishly followed a pro-Soviet line.

    Why did young militants join the CPGB? Probably because they saw it as effective in their particular area of influence. I joined largely because of the party’s commitment to the liberation movements of southern Africa. No doubt others joined, because of the party’s trade union or student work.

    As for Daggi’s claim that the CPGB “wasn’t communist” at the end, I would strongly disagree. The fact that the communism we espoused no longer looked like the Soviet or Chinese model, and was certainly not Leninist, does not give him the right to say we weren’t communists.

    I considered myself a communist then, and I still do. The type of communism espoused by the Czech party in the Prague Spring offered some hope, and its crushing was perhaps a real turning point for European communism. Francis thinks that’s just an “if only” myth, and Nick suggests that Dubcek’s reforms would have led to the restoration of capitalism two decades earlier than actually happened.

    I can’t prove that “socialism with a human face” was a real possibility, but neither can Nick prove that it wasn’t. We can, however, see what really did happen in eastern Europe after the Warsaw Pact invasion, and it is very bleak. That “really existing socialism” crumbled with scarcely a shot being fired suggests those regimes had lost all legitimacy.

    Perhaps there would have been a different outcome if Dubcek’s Communist Party (genuinely popular at the time) had been allowed to continue along its chosen path.

  47. Nick Wright,

    It’s true that the parties mentioned all have some sort of organised working-class base, and who knows, at some point maybe they can find a way out.

    Thankfully it’s not all misery, considering the ongoign efforts to regroup on the international level, for instance in the conferences initiated by the KKE. But it is incomplete as long as massive communist parties in other European countries remain at a distance.

    The difference with the past is that there is no true “centre” any more. Some parties (again thinking of the Greeks) are more proactive, and there is a lot to be learned from them. But other than that, the main point is to keep in touch, exchange experiences, listen to each other, respect national peculiarities, and move on from there. Something that a large part of the rest of the far-left with all their little cod “internationals” will never understand.

  48. Mark P on said:

    It is however extemely unlikely that the international communist movement is likely to inspire a change of fortunes of the British outside left whih would leave the CPB at the centre of things left of Labour in the way that the CPGB, whatever its faults, was, and long after 1956 too.

    Of course the SWP, SLP, Respect haven’t filled that gap either. The SSP arguably did electorally at least in Scotland for a period, certainly more than the SWP, SLP or Respect could ever claim to have done in England.

    Mark P

  49. Paul Fauvet is quite right to see 1968 and the intervention in Czechoslovakia as a turning point.
    I was in Prague in the July (the invasion took place on 20 August as I was coming back from the World Youth festival in Sofia).

    Although sympathetic to what they were saying before hand – and based on earlier visits – I thought the Czech party had lost it. I was very surprised as the illusions people had about life in the West (and about the intentions of the NATO countries) and even more surprised by the open advocacy of capitalist property relations by party members.

    I suspect that ‘socialism with a human face’ – if we mean by that a socialist economic system existing exclusively on consensual relations and without an apparatus to maintain a monopoly of working class power – is not a real possibility so long as powerful states with a monopoly of bourgeois power remain in existence.

    Of course things can be well ordered (as for instance the DDR and the CSSR mostly was) or they can be buggered up (as Romania often was) but the simple fact is that without decisive support from the main sections of the working class buttressed by an effective state machine any kind of socialist regime is seriously threatened.

    There was not decisive support for these regimes among their populations and there was a very serious failure of will even on the part of people who had few illusions about the nature of the threats to socialism. The people in the party and security apparatuses of these countries with whom I have discussed this are pretty clear that it was precisely the most experienced and clear sighted communists who understood that an armed defence of the system was neither possible nor desirable. That is why there was so little violence.

  50. Barrie Wood on said:

    In the talk of left-of-Labour parties, you forget to include the rise of the Greens. 13K members and an excellent MP. The philosophical basis of the party is committed to social justice in tandem with ecological rescue. Sure, some councillors have been pro-cuts and some not. But the positions held are left of Labour AND democratic AND the eco-socialist Green Left current at times very influential. My local party is like the vegan wing of the Lib Dems – so contradictions abound.

  51. daggi (its a woman's name, btw) on said:

    paul fauvet: As for Daggi’s claim that the CPGB “wasn’t communist” at the end, I would strongly disagree. The fact that the communism we espoused no longer looked like the Soviet or Chinese model, and was certainly not Leninist, does not give him the right to say we weren’t communists.

    A question: was the Democratic Left a communist organisation? Was the New Politics Network a communist organisation? When did the CPGB stop being communist? At the second when it dissolved, I mean, changed its name, to become something very different?

    I am trying to understand what you mean.

  52. Mark P: I’m not sure I would cite the Socalist Alliance as a ‘Wndow of Opportunity’ on a par with the others. Of course it is only hindsight but it was the transformation of that option in the main into Respect that secured impressive Parliamentary by-election results, Leicester and Birminghan in partcular, the East London and Birmingham council seats and most of all George’s seat in 2005. This amounts to a genuine window of opportunity, could the SA poont to anything on this scale?

    I think you underestimate its potential in other ways.

    There is some consideable literature about sub-cultural groups, and their relationship with the mainstream; often anthropological to do with the spread of religions.

    It is a characteristic of much of the British left that it has adopted the paradigm of several competing sects, some of whom are on the dynamic path to being cults, or have cultishness immanent within them.

    There is nothing necessarily perjorative in being a cult or a sect, it is language that derives from madiaeval religious life. A sect is a variant of the religious mainstream but residing in the same social and cultural context as the dominant form, and a cult seeks to create its own isolation from the mainstream

    The thing is these are not static categories, a sect can replace the mainstream, and more interestingly, cults can be forced by circumstances to reenter the miinstream- the most obvious example is the way verious competing religious cult communities in north America were forced to interact with each other, in the process developing the new ideology of nationalism.

    The potential of the SA was that it brought all the sects and cults into a shared project, and what is more, the dynamic of that project was electoral, which provided a healthy dose of the real world, and created a poterntial of creating a dialogue with a social constiurency outwith the cults themselves. The potential existed in two areas, i) that the electoral space was inherently left social democratic not “revolutionary”; and ii) the SA had the potential of being the core of the anti-war movement.

    As it was, and I have some insight as a participant, the rival cult and sect dynamics asserted themselves and the English far left did not deserve to succeeed.

    I think this was an opportunity to outgrow the legacy of cultishness, and enormous blame should attach to Chris harman and Peter Taafe in particular, who for different reasons willed it to fail.

  53. Andy Newman: Chris harman and Peter Taafe i

    Very perceptive point. It is not just that these individuals both exemplify a singularly unattractive political style but rather, that both represent(ed) tendencies within their organisations that privilege dogma over experience.
    The fault lines in the SWP are on open display. Those in the SP are more masked and many of its activists, those with serious responsibilities in the movement and experience of mass leadership, pay only a formal and superficial respect to the great leaders verities.

    Hence the supressed air of anxiety in the leadership cabal and the occasional attempt to send members of the praetorian guard to run interference.

  54. Mark P on said:

    Daggi

    I’m not sure exactoy the point you are making. At the tail end of 1989 the CPGB remained a sizeable organisation, if memory serves 5000+ members, and had just had one of its best debates in years on the Manifesto for New Times, a watered down version of the original adopted at the ’89 Congress.

    Democratic Left held on to about half of that menbership for the ensuing two years but the game immediately post 89 was already up and there wasn’t the energy to keep things going.

    But you consistently miss the bigger point, as does Nick Wright of the CPB. Neither his orthodox Communist Party has grown with the CPGB out of the picture to muddy the waters , nor have any of the Trotskyist groups come anywhere close to recreating the kind of impact CP was able to exert even in its end days. The one exception I would suggrst was the SWP’s launch and stewardship of StWC yet it failed ro grow significantly as a result.

    Andy

    Surely the SA faled because of the involvement and domiance by the SWP , SP and like groups. If the SA had been able to pull in a much bigger and broader group it had a chance, but launched by these groups with a built in defence of their self-interest it was doomed to fail from the start.

    This is the key for any kind of formation of the Outside Left, find the ways and means to relate to the broad audience of the left-inclined yet disaffected bypassing the very organisation who have disaffected them in the first place.

    Mark P

  55. Mark P: At the tail end of 1989 the CPGB remained a sizeable organisation, if memory serves 5000+ members, and had just had one of its best debates in years on the Manifesto for New Times, a watered down version of the original adopted at the ’89 Congress.

    Mark
    We all like to hang on to the sunlit memories of our glorious youth but my recollection of the demise of the CPGB, as a member of the dissident London District committee (led by Kate Hudson and Andrew Murray), was that the debate which culminated in the dreary Manifesto for New Times was a conversation to which no one was listening. If there were 5000 members left nationally they were politically divided.

    The swift collapse of the rump Democratic Left – which swiftly abandoned working class politics – demonstrated that Euro-communism was, for most of its adherents, a way out of socialist politics.
    There are a handful of what we might call ‘left eurocommunists’ still playing a role and, for the most part, a good thing too.

    It is true that none of the organisations that played a part in the launch and stewardship of the anti war movement has grown significantly. The SWP certainly played a very important part in making things happen on the ground and its, mostly departed, leadership at the time were distinguished by their willingness to abandon a sectarian style and by their willingness to work in harmony with other forces. It is this which allowed the movement to maintain its breath and appeal.
    I suspect that it was this very turn which sowed the seeds of its recurring schisms.

    I make no claims that the Communist party has grown very much. Rather it has concentrated on developing its analysis of capitalism in our era, replacing its veteran cadre with younger people and rebuilding its influence in the trade union movement.

    These are not insignificant achievement but I think the most compelling is the avoidance of millenarian illusions, the development of an open political culture and a stable organisation with good links with revolutionary forces in the world.

  56. Andy Newman: I think this was an opportunity to outgrow the legacy of cultishness, and enormous blame should attach to Chris harman and Peter Taafe in particular, who for different reasons willed it to fail.

    Or a less conspiratorial and more common-sense explanation might be the decision to hand effective control of the SA to the SWP CC, something I believe you supported at the time, or at the very least didn’t oppose.

    Nick Wright: Those in the SP are more masked and many of its activists, those with serious responsibilities in the movement and experience of mass leadership, pay only a formal and superficial respect to the great leaders verities.

    Again, a more simple explanation might be that the relationship between the SP leadership and it’s leading trade union cadre is more collegiate than left organisations you may be familiar with? That the SP has a culture where the leadership respects the ability of the trade union cadre to make the correct decisions as it relates to their workplace and union and the union cadre have confidence in the abilities of the leadership?
    Perhaps you could point to some specific examples of SP trade unionists who “pay only a formal and superficial respect to the great leaders verities.”

    Nick Wright: Hence the supressed air of anxiety in the leadership cabal and the occasional attempt to send members of the praetorian guard to run interference.

    No need to be coy Nick. Any particular instances you can point to?

  57. Mark P: The one exception I would suggrst was the SWP’s launch and stewardship of StWC yet it failed ro grow significantly as a result.

    Becasue the SWP, both in terms of its organisational structure, and its politics could not relate to relatively shallow level of politicisation of Stop the War. In Scotland, the SSP, much more confident at populist electoral politics, was able to do better (for a while). This is why the SA represented a solution to the paradox, espeically given the discredit that Blair had brought the labour Party into. There was a left social democratic space that was anti-war and thereofre potentially anti-imperialist – and the left decided not to try to fill it.

    Dennis Tourish, in his new book on leadership, which is rather better than his previous one on political cults, discusses the inherent problem of an ideologically homogenous sect (in his argument the 1985 era Militant) experiencing the opportunity of proportionately large growth.

    Any new influx of members would not have sufficient loyalty to the managerial layer in the sect, nor to its distinctive ideological positions of difference. For those whose life has been structured around a conservative routine within the small bureaucracy, this would be very unsettling; especially when they self-justify their own institutional interests with a Messianic conceit about the importance of their organisation, and its shards of insight.

    We can see how Chris Harman, in particular did, put up a serious rear guard action to prevent the SWP from taking the opportunity to break out of the old paradigm and that this was a break on the Rees/ German faction of the leadership. The paradox is that the part of the SWP leadership at the time most prepared to take the risk of changing and collaborating was simultaneously those who had the most developed theory of charismatic leadership, derived from Lucaks. So now Counterfire strike me as an organisation of exiled princes selling flapjacks.

    Mark P: Surely the SA faled because of the involvement and domiance by the SWP , SP and like groups. If the SA had been able to pull in a much bigger and broader group it had a chance, but launched by these groups with a built in defence of their self-interest it was doomed to fail from the start.

    Yes, i agree, but the logical conclusion is that the SWP, SP and other left groups are actually an impediment to the broader socialist movement. Again, we enter the world of paradox where the nature of these groups makes them dynamic and effective up to a point and without them the short term organising capacity of the left would be weaker; but over the longer haul, their self interest becomes an impediment not only to their own growth, but to the health of the movement.

    Mark P: This is the key for any kind of formation of the Outside Left, find the ways and means to relate to the broad audience of the left-inclined yet disaffected bypassing the very organisation who have disaffected them in the first place.

    It is not so easy, becasue part of these organisations being bypassed, also requires their mystique being tarnished a little. This is another area where the SA actually did play a transitional role, of a number of former SWP members like myself, Anna Chen, Jim Jepps taking to the Internet; and it was the prior existance of that small layer of bloggers which helped to ensure that the SWP were not able to roll over George galloway, leading to a further layer of SWP members, going into Respect.

    The point that Nick Wright made elsewhere was that the tasks for the left in the present period, made a split in the SWP inevitable.

    I haven’t read his argument, but I think that particularly the exertion of a unipolar Imperial centre in Washington, which raised the issue of state sovereignty as a key defensive battelground for the left, was an area where the SWP were torn, simultaneously feeling an instinctive draw to the anti-war, anti-imperialist pole; but equally pulled by ultra-left third-campist arguments, which condede ground to liberal imperialism and humanitraian intervention.

    Equally, in the unions at the moment, cod-leftists calls for rank and file action completely misses what is reallly going on; and puts them supporting the estimable but completely wrong Jerry Hicks, against the clear strategic bext choice, Len McCluskey in UNITE.

  58. Nick Wright: The SWP certainly played a very important part in making things happen on the ground and its, mostly departed, leadership at the time were distinguished by their willingness to abandon a sectarian style and by their willingness to work in harmony with other forces. It is this which allowed the movement to maintain its breath and appeal.
    I suspect that it was this very turn which sowed the seeds of its recurring schisms.

    Exactly so; and another part of that was the ability of the SWP to draw upon accumulated political capital that it had developed in the previous two decades.

    One of the big prblems for the SWP now, is that it is tired, old and depleted out in the rereal world; and truning inwards, as all the signs suggest, to concentrate on ideological purification is the welll trodden path to cult oblivion.

  59. Neil: That the SP has a culture where the leadership respects the ability of the trade union cadre to make the correct decisions as it relates to their workplace and union and the union cadre have confidence in the abilities of the leadership?

    Neil, the internal life of the SP is well documented, from many estimable people who have passed through your ranks. I know it is stretching the common sense meaning of the word Charisma to breaking point, but Peter taafe, General Secretary since 1964, does have many characteristics of a charismatic leader in a cult.

    Having recently watched the speech on you tube by taafe at your recent conference, it was full of such cult attributes as quoting authorative leaders to support even banal points, making prognoses that are immune to falsification, and littering the speech with speciialist vocuabulary which demarks the insiders from the outsiders.

    Time and again, the SP has acted to put its own sect interests ahead of the broader interests of the movement.

  60. Andy Newman,

    So you can’t provide any specifics at all can you? Just generalities and your own personal prejudices about a style of speaking.

    You can’t explain glaring facts that contradict your cult paradigm:

    You can’t explain how leading members of the PCS can remain public members of a ‘cult’.

    You can’t explain how the ideas and methods of that ‘cult’ played a crucial role in winning that union from the right wing (before people get excited I’m not saying it was the only reason the PCS left defeated the right wing)

    You can’t explain how elected Labour MP’s of the calibre of Terry Fields, Pat Wall or Dave Nellist were happy to take political direction from ‘a cult’.

    You can’t explain how the ideas of ‘a cult’ were able to consistently win elections in Britain’s 5th largest city.

    You can’t explain how when the Scottish section of ‘a cult’ decided they no longer wanted to organise themselves in a fashion central to that ‘cult’ (i.e. as a revolutionary party) the leadership of that ‘cult’ never sought to take any sort of administrative measures against these ‘heretics’ at all (and of course the Scottish members of this ‘cult’ didn’t take any administrative action against the minority of the ‘cult’ who disagreed with them either). Instead they engaged in a long process of discussion and debate.

  61. Andrew Grace on said:

    As well as 1989 and other issues I made the following list after reading this discussion;- just noted down as points and not intended as any kind of document.

    The effect of the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1968 on the Communist parties.

    The onset of the Cold War within 2 years of the end of the Second World War. The Cold War (a deadly hot war for many millions of the world’s people) directed vast resources against socialist movements throughout the world. This includes the media and advertising industries as well as State organisations.

    The threat of nuclear war.

    Massive conventional warfare and blockade against Communists and some national liberation movements.

    The movement of politics towards single issues campaigning and away from a politics for the working classes.

    The defeat of the miner’s strike, widespread deindustrialisation and the shift of mass manufacturing and some primary production out of the UK. Following this the further expansion of the City as a world centre for financial services to an extent where manufacturing has taken a smaller share of total UK production.

    The consumption in the UK of low cost commodities made overseas by workers on lower wages.

    With the advent of consumer credit culture the freezing of real wages has to some extent been masked. This process has been ongoing since the 1970s and only now is being threatened due to the rising real costs of production and the falling value of wages. Especially the real decline in wages as a proportion of GDP.

    The misuse of the benefits system by UK governments to support systemic unemployment and a low-wage economy.

    The way in which consumerism has become a big part of UK economics involving the use of goods and ideas (including political ideas) and life-style and protest. The rise of the Service sectors. This has influenced the composition of the ‘outside Left’ in the UK as socialist thought has been moved from politics into philosophy.

    The presentation and consumption of the self.

    New media technologies.

    Ecological and environmental issues and challenges and the need for a communist ethic for nature conservation and habitat and environmental restoration.

    The deliberate conflation of economic class with social class, hence disguising the wage-relation and the intense domination of private property over and against the British proletariat.

    The cultural denigration of work and the worker and the glorification of wealth.

  62. Neil: So you can’t provide any specifics at all can you? Just generalities and your own personal prejudices about a style of speaking.

    Don’t worry mate, I can back it all up. But even St george only killed one dragon at a time

    🙂

    I disagree with Tourish’s charectarisation of the SP as a cult, for an number of reasons, that i have already alluded to elsewhere. There is a theoretical objection that Tourish does not develop a taxonomy distinguishing between mainstream organisations and beleif systems, cults and sects; and he perjoratively has an implicit understanding of cults as “crazy people who beleive weird stuff”, whereas my own definition is more about how an organisation with a distinctive beleif system outsdie the mainstream maintains its relationship with “the real world”, by which I mean the dominant ethos of society.

    For me, the SP is a sect, not a cult; and further more, I think that both sects and cults can be “good things”, people can be happy as members, they increase cultural diversity, they may engage in charity or progressive political action; all good. What is more, I do not preclude in particular historical circumstances a sect, or even a cult, becomming the government. that is certainly what happened in Utah. And you could argue that the Leninist project of building a transformative ideological paradigm to replace the existing ethos, as part and parcel of transforming social relations is inherentlly a plan for replacing the mainstream ideology and ethos with a previously marginal one. A sect comes to power, and transforms its society to become compatible with its own beleifs.

    As such a discussion of cults and sects is possibly value neutral.

    However, cults and sects do have particular well reseached internal dynamics; and I think that the definition of a cult immanent in a sect does fit the SP, from the quite wide reading I have done about expereinces described by ex-members; and some reasearch I have read about current members.

    With regard to Taafe’s “speaking style”, it is not a question of technique but content.

    Another problem I have with Tourish is his relying on the cold war theories of Lifton, sadly given a further boost by the populist book “Brainwashing” by Kathleed taylor, with the suggestion that any transformative ideas from outwith the mainstream are inherently dangerous.

    I am happy to elaborate at length about the SP, but it is a project for another day.

  63. Neil,

    While I have your attention.

    Do you have a link to anything serious from the SP, explaining what we might call their theory of social change? How does the SP see its won immediate activity leading to a socialist society? I know you see the need for a “revolution” but how would that come about? What sort of government would come out of it? And how would it relate to the rest of the world?

  64. Andy Newman:
    Neil,
    Do you have a link to anything serious from the SP, explaining what we might call their theory of social change?

    Are you actually inviting me to post Socialist Party links on the blog? I’d got the impression that upset certain people on this blog? 🙂

    I don’t think there is a specific article solely devoted to a general theory of social change. What we do have are articles dealing with programmatic demands in specific countries that the CWI operates, I’m thinking particularly Greece, where the question of state power is discussed.

    It’s late now and I’m busy all day tomorrow but if you’re still interested I’ll dig up links to those articles and write a few bridging paragraphs?

  65. Irish Mark P on said:

    Andy,

    “he perjoratively has an implicit understanding of cults as “crazy people who beleive weird stuff”, whereas my own definition is more about how an organisation with a distinctive beleif system outsdie the mainstream maintains its relationship with “the real world”, by which I mean the dominant ethos of society.”

    Given that his “implicit understanding” would be one that is widely shared, using the same term to mean something idiosyncratic is almost guaranteed to produce more heat than light. Everybody reading is likely to assume quite seriously pejorative intent of that sort, whether they are minded to agree with you, to disagree or to be actively offended.

    If you are serious about elaborating some theory about how organisations with “distinctive world views” manage their relationships with “the dominant ethos in society”, it would be much more useful to do so without importing terms which will be understood by those reading to also carry a very strongly dismissive and hostile message. Indeed one that tends to pathologise the people you are talking about. If on the other hand your goal is chiefly to delegitimise and undermine the organisations you are describing, then of course the use of that terminology makes perfect sense.

    It’s difficult to read your disavowal of the immediately understandable content of terms you insist on using without assuming at least a degree of disingenuity.

  66. Neil: You can’t explain how leading members of the PCS can remain public members of a ‘cult’.

    I am not as critical of people in groups like the SWP and the SP as some people in this discussion. This may be because of spending my time in a political milieu that is, to put it as gently as possible, rooted in victories as well as defeats; in a grand narrative rather than narrow scholasticism but still is capable of doing some very daft things.
    I don’t for a moment think the SP is a cult (the SWP may be turning into one but I think this sort of categorisation actually blunts political criticism). But calling on the reputations of the very many excellent comrades in PCS, or dedicated people like Dave Nellist simply won’t do.
    There is a sclerosis at the heart (and head) of the SP and a self deceiving discourse around the CWI franchise that sits uneasily with the work that these people do in the real world.

  67. Mark P on said:

    Two overdue responses.

    Nick Wright

    Yes we all look back over the years with degree of self-jutification. However the debate on ‘New Time’; both in Marxism Today post 1988 and then when it became the ‘manifesto’ to replace the British Road to Socialism had a considerable reach both in and outside of the CP. The tragedy was it all came too late, overwhelmed first by the Tiannemen Square massacre and then the fall of the Berlin Wall. Whatever your assessment of eother can you think of a worst possible tme to renew the CP?

    Yes it is estimable that the CPB has renewed its membership and leadership since 1989, but moving on from replacing the old guard is proving to be more difficult. In that you are hardly unique and simply surviving is some considerable achievement.

    Andy N

    Well tarnishing the SWP’s reputation is something they seem all too incapable of doing themselves without any help from anybody else. I get a sense that even prior to the car crash things ere starting to move on beyond the kind of control they were able to exert in the past. Firsyly they already had Counterfire operating on their patch, launching iniatiatives that had a degree of success that they wouldn’t touch with a bargepole, if the Peoples Assembly is a success thats going to add to their problems. And more importantly there is now a generational problem, the likes of Occupy and Slutwalk may come and go but they represent a layer of activists outside of the SWP’s orbit and likely to be of increasing influence. Owen Jones and Laurie Penny personify this in media terms but it goes far wider and deeper than that.

    Mark P

  68. Irish Mark P,

    Mine is not an idiosyncratic usage of the words cults and sects. But quite common in the professional field dealing with what are less perjoratively sometimes called new religious movements NRM.

    The point here is that there is a lot of ethnographic, sociological and psychological research that does help to understand how small counter-cultural groups work.

    As materialists surely we should recognise how institutional interests, power and influence operate in the left; as well as in other institutions

  69. But, Andy, if you want genuine debate with members of the groups the term
    ‘Small counter-cultural groups’ may be a better place to start than ‘cult’ or ‘sect’. Although I can also enjoy the irony of SPers not appreciating the ‘sect’ lable.

  70. I suspect that ‘socialism with a human face’ – if we mean by that a socialist economic system existing exclusively on consensual relations and without an apparatus to maintain a monopoly of working class power – is not a real possibility so long as powerful states with a monopoly of bourgeois power remain in existence.

    I think it’s more a matter of political education – and growing up under actually-existing socialism, particularly in its later forms, was not a good political education.

    I remember a friend pointing out, circa 1990, that the Czech and Hungarian comrades appeared to have achieved everything we’d spent so long fighting for – they had social ownership, universal welfare and planned provision of goods and services, and they had freedom of speech and democratic elections! He was joking, of course – the moment when the former Eastern Bloc nations enjoyed the benefits of Western democracy and those of a.-e. s. was a very brief one indeed. (Another memory from around the same time – somebody mentioned a contemporary campaign to protect maternity leave to a Polish comrade. She said the post-Communist government was attacking women’s rights in the same way – they wanted to cut maternity leave from four years to two.)

    The moment that the Warsaw Pact nations introduced political freedom and civil liberties, the same people on the Right who had been denouncing them as authoritarian and undemocratic shifted to denouncing them as illiberal and economically backward, in the same tones and without missing a beat. If you were moving towards democracy, you had to be moving towards capitalism. The trouble was – coming back to my point about political education – that assumption was shared very widely, not least in those countries. If you grow up under Kadar’s or Honecker’s socialism, you don’t know what socialism is – or rather, you do know what it is and you don’t see anything good about it.

    Coming back to the OP, I think the evaporation of the old CP is the best precedent for what’s happening to the SWP now – or rather, what’s been happening since 2007. The leadership has won the battle, but activists everywhere are going to be wondering if they’ve got the stomach to go on fighting the war. The formation of the ISN might be good news, as long as they don’t spend too long licking their wounds. But the real impetus is going to come from outside the Trot groups, and I suspect the form it takes isn’t going to be determined by them either.

  71. Jota: Andy, if you want genuine debate with members of the groups the term
    ‘Small counter-cultural groups’ may be a better place to start than ‘cult’ or ‘sect’. Although I can also enjoy the irony of SPers not appreciating the ‘sect’ lable.

    It is a long job, gradually introducing the terms sect and cult into the debate, but it is for their own good in the long run.

  72. Phil: If you grow up under Kadar’s or Honecker’s socialism, you don’t know what socialism is – or rather, you do know what it is and you don’t see anything good about it.

    There was a significant constituency in the old DDR that did want to continue as before, but they were hampered by two factors; i) the moral conservatism of the SED leadership, who just didn’t get what the whole fuss was about (see Walter Grossmith’s book for details of the conversations he had with SED leaders at the time); and Kohl’s unleashing of a “colour revolution” to isolate and intimidate socialists, while at the same time sowing unrealistsic illusions on the prosperity that the Wende would bring.

    Sinn and Sinn’s detailed book on the economic transformation is facsinating as it described both the incompetance and willful vandalism with which the East’s economy was unnecessarily dismanteled

  73. Andy Newman: i) the moral conservatism of the SED leadership, who just didn’t get what the whole fuss was about (see Walter Grossmith’s book for details of the conversations he had with SED leaders at the time);

    Any link? Google doesn’t seem to find anything, although maybe it’s a spelling thing.

  74. Morning Star reader on said:

    Is Andy’s reference meant to be to Victor Grossman, an ex-US soldier who stayed behind after WW2 and lived in the GDR? A fascinating man.
    Incidentally, I see that former GDR head of state Hans Modrow (now a communist in Die Linke) is one of the speakers at this year’s Marx Oration at Highgate Cemetery, Sunday March 17 at 2pm.

  75. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    Andy Newman: Sinn and Sinn’s detailed book on the economic transformation is facsinating as it described both the incompetance and willful vandalism with which the East’s economy was unnecessarily dismanteled

    Which book is that? I’ve read some of Hans-Werner Sinn’s criticisms of the operation of the Treuhand – is that the same Sinn? If so who is the other; and what’s the title?

  76. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    If its Hans-Werner Sinn, two of his main criticisms — that I have read — of the post-reunification economic policy was that the DDR Mark should never have been converted at 1:1 parity to the Mark, and that wages in the former DDR should never have been raised so quickly to those of the western Laender.

  77. Morning Star reader on said:

    Daggi (86), you may be right, but a friend heard him speak in Britain a year or two ago, and Modrow referred to himself as a communist or a marxist (not sure which!) on that occasion. Sunday’s event is organised by the Marx Memorial Library and supported by the CPB.

  78. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    daggi,

    He no longer refers to himself as a communist; however, he has urged die Linke to not become a second social democratic party and to “recall its roots” — presumably in the SED.

  79. I thought Socialist Unity readers might be interested in my review of the new biography of the CPGB’s Industrial Organiser from the 1960s and 1970s, Bert Ramelson, by Roger Seifert and Tom Sibley, which was featured on the IHR’s Reviews in History site. I have linked to it from my blog here: http://hatfulofhistory.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/review-of-revolutionary-communist-at-work-a-political-biography-of-bert-ramelson/

    Seifert and Sibley have also responded to my review, which can be seen on the same site.

    On a related note, I think looking at the CPGB’s schisms that started to form in the 1970s is also beneficial for this discussion of turning points and the direction of the left. One of the primary reasons for the schisms manifesting in the mid-1970s was that the momentum of the labour movement, into which the CPGB had heavily invested their efforts, seemed to stall after Labour’s second 1974 electoral victory and the imposition of the ‘Social Contract’. This required a major rethink for all of those on the left. In many ways, could we think of 1974 as a turning point for the British left?

  80. Harsanyi_Janos,

    But that is something you will hear from the vast majority of Die Linke politicians (from the east, at least), especially as it’s the general election this year – though I suspect that Modrow, unlike most of his comrades, does actually mean it. He certainly wasn’t a fan of the GDR system as it had developed and ended up, he isn’t just a SED nostalgist (and there are a few of those, as well). “The party’s roots” could equally mean the KPD, or the SPD pre-German revolution.

    You shouldn’t forget though that Die Linke is not *just* a renamed PDS. It really only exists on the national political stage these days thanks to those SPD members who left to form the WASG which merged with the PDS.

  81. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    daggi,

    Those are good points; however, my impression of Die Linke is that — with the exception of a personal vote in Saarland for Oskar — there is not a great deal of substance to it in the “western” Laender. At least in terms of electoral support and membership.

  82. Evan,

    Interesting review and links to further debates about the book. Although it seems to me to be purely political, those against the CP politically arguing that its role was more marginal and negative (overfocusing on tiny mistakes while ignoring the huge successes) and those pro-CP arguing that it was more significant and positive.

    Whatever the details, that period demonstrates that the left had an influence and organisation within the labour movement that has never been repeated. For me it vindicates the CP’s broad left strategy and our experience since highlights the fact that the sectarian left are utterly incapable of building anything like the situation that then existed.

  83. Jumpstart: The Economic Unification of Germany” Gerlinde Sinn and Hans-Werner Sinn. Cracking book.

    Crossing the River: A Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War and Life in East Germany” Victor Grossman

  84. Evan
    You write
    ” As Industrial Organiser from 1965 to 1977, Ramelson oversaw the Party’s ‘broad left’ strategy, which outlined that the primary focus of the CPGB was to attempt to seek influence in the trade union movement by obtaining leadership positions with the unions and promote alliances with other leaders of the labour movement who were on the Labour left.”

    This misses the point completely about the Communist Party strategy which was to move even wider sections of the working class into action using shop steward power and factory organisation allied with ‘unofficial’ structures (largely co-ordinated through the LCDTU) to influence (compel) official trade union action and effect changes in leadership.
    To the extent that the latter was successful (the limits of which were demarcated by the breach with Scanlon and Jones) the strategy worked but the essential element was workplace organisation and political leadership at factory level.

  85. Alan Ji on said:

    The first electoral test for Scargill’s Little Party was the byelection in Hemsworth. That’s Hemsworth, in the heart of the Yorkshire coalfield, at the time and for many years before Labour’s safest seat. I was there one evening and the first voter to mention SLP said he’d hoped it was their candidate knocking; he’d intended to hit her (or so he said). The SLP were flyposting; hardly the actions of people who expect to get lots of votes.

    Mark Perryman’s comments about running Miners show a failure to understand change in the coalfields. Of course mines continued to be the core of the old economy until they closed; but the notion that the NUM was still remotely the biggest union in those areas by 1984 is a delusion.

    It’s delusion in parallel with the one about a “space to the left of Labour”. That space is no bigger than the people who think they are in it.

  86. Mark P on said:

    Alan

    Thanks for the info on Hemsworth thats helpful. I wasn’t eulogising the SLP, anything but. I do suspect though that a highly targeted and localised campaign to win council seats might have give the SLP some kind of momentum. Outside Yorkshire admittedly but remember Respect won a council seat in the former coalfield area of Shirebrook.

    Mark P

  87. Alan Ji on said:

    The Christian People’s Alliance won two Parish Council seats in Rotherham. Lots of independents won Council seats in Barnsley and Doncaster. All gone and most forgotten.

  88. #98 The flyposting may have been by the CPGB who flooded (bearin in mind their tiny resources) the constituency. I went to Hemsworth myself on a few occasions during the by-election, and I don’t remember flyposting going on. I also remember that we wanted to win (and bizarrely enoughthought we might).

  89. Vanya: I went to Hemsworth myself on a few occasions during the by-election, and I don’t remember flyposting going on. I also remember that we wanted to win (and bizarrely enoughthought we might).

    The SLP stood against Jon Tricket! FFS, nothing could better exemplify the silliness of the SLP project.

    Not a personal dig, just a reflection on the sorrows an lack of wisdom that have afflicted us all

  90. #102 I don’t accept that in the context of the situation as it existed in 1996-7 that the project was at all silly.

    It had plenty of potential, wrecked by a combination of the vanities of professional independent lefties who refused to get involved and set up a rival project instead, by the disruption of sections of the far left and the abstentionism of others. Combined of course with Scargill’s tendency to arrogance and paranoia (not entirely unreasonable having said that).

    In retrospect we didn’t realise that the process of turning Labour into another bosses party under Blair would falter.
    And I suggest that many others didn’t either.

    Not having a personal dig Andy but what were you doing at the time?

    I

  91. Vanya: I don’t accept that in the context of the situation as it existed in 1996-7 that the project was at all silly.

    well let us set aside the language of silliness for one moment, and accept that the broad project may have had some sensible basis; nevertheless, silliness is often in the detail, for example which Labour candidates to challenge.

    Standing against Jon Trickett, already known as a prominent figure on the left, and a working class candidate ( a gas fitter) showed a lack of nuance, at very least.

    Of course it is easy for me to say this with the benefit of hindsight. If you had won, then I would be saying how silly of Jon Trickett to have stood against the SLP.

  92. Alan Ji: It’s delusion in parallel with the one about a “space to the left of Labour”. That space is no bigger than the people who think they are in it.

    The space to the left of labour is mostly occupied by people who are in the Labour party, vote for it or would vote for it if it was a more left wing or at least articulated workjng class interests.
    There is an interesting phenomena that when, in local elections, the local Labour party is absent or cocks up the nomination and there is a communist candidate (or other left winger) such candidates score vote markedly higher votes than usual.
    The interesting factor in electoral politics, and something which is a problem for party managers, is the rise in UKIP’s vote.
    If the Tory hegemony is permanently broken on the right there may develop a situation where the Tories would prefer a form of proportional representation or preference voting.
    This is something labour’s right fear because any form of proportional representation forces parties to play to their core vote and/or compromise with other forces.

  93. Nick Wright: This is something labour’s right fear because any form of proportional representation forces parties to play to their core vote and/or compromise with other forces.

    PR is also opposed by a significant section of the left in the party as well, it should be acknowleged

  94. Sections of the left in the Labour Party and the trade unions fear PR because they calculate that Labour chances of forming a government are stronger under a system where parties can triumph in parliamentary elections without a majority of voters supporting them.
    This is a legitimate standpoint…for people who see the end of goal of working class politics to be a Labour government under capitalism

  95. Dave Harker on said:

    Problems of ‘Leninism’ first time round: 1.

    In 1902, Nicholas Bauman, the Moscow Iskra agent, was arrested in Kiev and banished. He had an affair with Klavidia Prikhodko, a married social democrat, and she became pregnant. After Bauman escaped, another banished social democrat circulated a cartoon, which reportedly showed the Virgin Mary asking who her baby resembled, and Prikhodko committed suicide. In spring 1903, her husband demanded justice for Bauman’s conduct from the Iskra editorial board. Vladimir Ulyanov saw it as a personal affair, and Iuly Tsederbaum, Vera Zasulich and Alexander Potresov denounced his ‘amorality’; but when Ulyanov threatened to publicise the issue, and Georgy Plekhanov supported him, they backed off.

  96. Lawrence Shaw on said:

    Very late on this.

    Has any work been done on the Independent Working Class Association? ( http://www.iwca.info/?page_id=1000 )
    I ask as I remember this had some councillors in Oxford at one point at the height of Blairism and possibly some other areas. As I recall it had some dodgy positions, but if anyone has more knowledge I’d be interested in knowing more.

    On the Morning Star, I understand it is indeed true to say the reason your voice of peace and socialism is brought to you in full colour is because of the Halpin bequest. But that money was limited to be used structural investment on the paper’s production – not on wages for the pesky staff!

    On another point, I don’t think it is fair for the SP to be put in the same box as the SWP – particularly in terms of trade union organising. My experience was that trade union activity was largely left in the hands of those members involved in those unions with very little interference other than some generalised guidance when invited.

    I think the more pertinent question for the SP is to seriously explain why it has lost its elected representatives in recent years, great figures in Lewisham and Coventry as Neil has mentioned. It quite simply cannot all be down to “anti-Tory government default-pro-Labour” reaction. There has to be something wrong with the organisational model that their existing seats could not be won again. Lack of bodies on the ground? Exasperation at lack of organisational growth of a wider opposition by the electorate? Lack of brand recognition as the names kept changing?

    I do think the failure of the SA (for reasons already stated and rehearsed) may well have been the biggest intentional failure of the wider Outside Left which has hamstrung the cause of Outside Left electoral chances for at least a decade. The SA started life by receiving some really decent vote chunks and had a decent back-story for the many people left alienated by Blair who described themselves as socialist. Had it persisted with genuine support from all elements involved I feel it not beyond the realm of possibility that it would have returned several dozen councillors by 2008 and the time of the financial crash when the non-Labour left were proved largely right about the failure of finance capital it had been predicting for years previous.

    Instead it was allowed to crash on the rocks and sink with no trace without any fight at all.

    Was it allowed to crash because those involved knew that success would mean their ideas would be tested out? Did they perhaps not really want a left social-democratic party to succeed as it would mean compromising their revolutionary cred?

    It is, after all, easier to stand in elections one every four years slagging off the Labour Party knowing there is zero chance of being elected and called to account, and then blame your abject failure on the fact everyone is still voting for the Labour Party.

  97. David Ruaune: Hi Dave! Glad to see you’re still alive you’re looking like a saint. Cannot make head or tail of your comments though; whatever you’re on, I want some.

    I think he was just being awkward by skipping the first verse:

    Come all you young fellows who histories are pennin’,
    I’ll tell you the tale of young Vladimir Lenin…

    Not sure how it goes after that.

  98. Dave Harker on said:

    Dave Ruane

    Yes I’m alive, but not for long now.

    The point of that bit of history is that anyone who seeks to wrap themselves in the mantle of ‘Leninism’ needs to understand that he was no saint, and I might add that the term ‘Leninism’ was invented by people who became Mensheviks as a term of abuse for the ‘dark side’ of what Lenin did.

  99. John Grimshaw on said:

    #115 Hi Dave Harker and Dave Ruane. I may be being a bit thick here but what justice” should there be for what was presumably a consensual relationship?

  100. Dave Harker on said:

    John Grimshaw

    Ulyanov and Plekhanov managed to cover up the vicious attack by a so-called ‘social democrat’ on the woman who had committed suicide, and the others bottled it.

    Could there by a parallel with recent events amongst so-called ‘revolutionaries’?

  101. Dave – yeah, the more I think about it, the more this whole thing of “our tradition” sounds weird. It’s not something a scientist would say.
    Dave and John – this should now link to my website, which no-one goes to anyway, so you can go there and take your trousers off and say hi.

  102. John Grimshaw on said:

    Dave Harker:
    John Grimshaw

    Ulyanov and Plekhanov managed to cover up the vicious attack by a so-called ‘social democrat’ on the woman who had committed suicide, and the others bottled it.

    Could there by a parallel with recent events amongst so-called ‘revolutionaries’?

    Maybe Dave, but that wasnt clear from your initial post. 🙂

  103. EasternHemisphere on said:

    Dave Harker: Ulyanov and Plekhanov managed to cover up the vicious attack by a so-called ‘social democrat’ on the woman who had committed suicide, and the others bottled it.

    Could there by a parallel with recent events amongst so-called ‘revolutionaries’?

    I’m pretty surprised that I haven’t seen a reference on a forum discussing the SWP affair to the allegation that Engels raped Moses Hess’ wife. Why stop at the fashionably “easy target” of Lenin and Leninism? If you want want to divide the socialist movement into goodies and baddies on this basis why not draw the line between the younger and older Marx with the “mechanical materialist” sexual predator Engels on the wrong side. That way we get dismiss the whole tradition of Marxist Social Democracy as well as Leninism. It leaves the new men and women of the Marxist humanists as the only goodies left standing. And all you anarchists who think this is solely about power better shut up because some of your goings on historically make the latest revelations about twister and baby oil at SWP parties look tame. Please excuse my cynicism about this kind of theorising. The SWP have handled this case really badly. It has shown a lot of terrible things about their regime. Nobody has yet made a plausible case, in my view, that it has much to do with any ism apart from sexism and possible brain-dead bureaucratism.

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