SWP – Where We Stand

Editorial Note: We are advised by the person who sent it to us that the following is not an internal SWP document, it has been distributed beyond the ranks of the membership. 

by John Rees

Many people have asked me in recent weeks what are the politics behind the current argument in the SWP. The debate is currently focussed on what happened in Respect.

Many of us were deeply involved with the Respect project, and felt a great deal of disappointment at its outcome. We all deserve a full examination of this experience. But this is not what we are getting in the pre-conference period. And the debate concerns a lot more than Respect and most comrades have been given no information about these wider disagreements.

I have always hesitated to take these arguments beyond the Central Committee. I remember from the internal fights in the 1970s that such debates can be damaging as well as enlightening. But I now think that we have no choice but to initiate a full and wideranging debate in the SWP. This document deals with the following key issues.

1 There is a serious debate to be had about the experience of Respect. But this
should be an informed political discussion not a personalised blame-game that
distorts both the facts and the general lessons that can be drawn from our recent electoral work.

2 The personalised and restricted nature of the discussion so far obscures the fact that four Central Committee members (Lindsey German, Chris Nineham, Chris Bambery and I) have raised a number of issues that have resulted in sharp disagreements on the CC over the last year. These are: recruitment to the party, the SWP’s slow response to the recession and the CC majority’s failure to support the Charter.

3 The nature of leadership in our party. This is now being contested by a number of comrades, including those who support Neil Davidson’s document in Internal Bulletin 3, but also by some CC members.

I’d like now to look at these issues in turn.

The context of the debate

The crisis in the SWP is the most serious for many years. There are many issues in this
debate. But one aspect of the debate, the crisis in Respect, is being handled in a
personalised and destructive way. The decision to remove me from the CC slate for
conference has not been argued in political terms. It was taken so late in the preconference discussion period that there could be no written discussion on the reasons for this decision.

The CC majority has since rejected the proposal of Chris Bambery and Chris Nineham
that it should produce an additional bulletin to allow for this discussion before Christmas.
This document attempts to discuss some of the political differences that have arisen in the
last year. It also examines what actually happened in Respect and answers some of the
charges against those of us involved in it. Finally, it examines wider problems in the
party and it attempts to take up some of the points made in Neil Davidson’s document
‘Leadership, membership and democracy in the revolutionary party’ in Internal Bulletin
#3.

The immediate problem has been that despite the fact that all important decisions taken
during the Respect crisis were agreed, argued out and defended collectively by the
Central Committee, the majority of the CC have since decided to respond to disquiet in
the party by personalising the issues rather than continuing to discuss and argue them out in a serious way.

But there are deeper, underlying issues that have contributed to the crisis. First the
weakness of our recruitment and, second, a failure to convince a large enough section of
the party of the importance of the various united fronts we have been involved in since
Seattle. In the process what has also emerged is a more general move away the traditional style of leadership in a Leninist party.

Taken together these problems have generated a sense of paralysis in the party that has
meant that we have been unable to respond with anything like our usual decisiveness and
élan to the worst economic crisis since the 1930’s.

The Respect crisis

The demise of Respect led to disorientation and disappointment in the party. Many
people put a great deal into building it and hoped that it would be a genuine left
alternative to Labour. The split not only meant that both sides failed to create that
alternative and for many that hope is now more distant. The CC document deals with a
number of the more general points about how the project went wrong. Here I want to add
my own views and to explain the actions that I took.

Firstly, Respect was always a coalition involving forces that came together in the antiwar
movement. Much of the left including the Communist Party of Britain abstained
from the beginning, as did other left Labour MPs. So we were left with George Galloway,
a talented and high profile anti-war campaigner but one whose record historically was not
on the hard left of Labour; radicalised Muslims; a number of other activists radicalised by
the war and disenchanted with Labour, and the far left, predominantly ourselves.

This coalition worked relatively well for the first two years and reached a high point with
the election of Galloway in 2005. But things began to go wrong after that, largely as the
result of the pressures of electoralism. Political differences in Tower Hamlets and
Birmingham especially turned into acrimonious disputes over questions such as selection
of candidates. But these arguments were about much more than tactical decisions made
by local or national comrades.

They expressed two very different approaches to building Respect that became
increasingly polarised: on the one hand our comrades and our allies tried to pull it
leftwards by emphasising trade union work and OFFU, attempting to broaden Respect
generally and by campaigning over issues such as LGBT and women’s rights. On the
other a growing opportunist strand increasingly prioritised electoral success at almost any
cost. This strengthening of the right took place against the ebbing of the very strong anti
war sentiment. The events of 7/7 also had a profoundly demoralising effect on sections of
the Muslim community.

As we tacked left tensions grew. And once Gordon Brown made his (eventually abortive)
run for an early general election in the late summer of 2007 it became clear that George
Galloway was not going to wait for the London mayoral election before he struck.

It is sometimes said by CC members that they knew nothing of these tensions. That is
simply untrue; they were repeatedly brought to the CC. And in early 2007 an NC was
devoted to the emerging problems and the strategy of tacking left was discussed. Kevin
Ovenden and Nick Wrack both made coded defences of the status quo in Respect. Kevin
Ovenden argued we couldn’t move beyond the ‘three-legged stool’ of the SWP plus
Galloway plus radicalised Muslims and was criticised by other comrades, notably Charlie
Kimber.

We also attempted to strengthen the Respect office politically and asked two comrades,
one now on the CC and one a former CC member to take on the work. Both refused for
different reasons, and maybe we should have tried harder to find other people to work
there. In my speech on Strategy and Tactics to 400 people at Marxism 2007 I placed
heavy emphasis on the need for a revolutionary party to be able to act independently of
its allies and flagged up the problems in Respect as fully as was possible in a public
forum. It is therefore obviously the case that the CC recognised a series of political
problems and tried to address them.

This political account of the history of Respect has been presented before. No doubt it
can be added to. Unfortunately at the moment it appears that in some circles it is being
abandoned. To reduce the complex history of the very real successes and the
demoralising demise of Respect to the failures of one comrade is doing a disservice to
everyone who was involved or wants to learn from the experience.

But the real question before the party now is how we handle this reverse. First let us
gauge the dimensions of the reverse. It is a reverse in one area of the SWP’s work and it
is a reverse for the left, not for the whole working class. It cannot be compared, for
instance, to the defeat of the 1984-85 miners strike.

Nevertheless, for the SWP, it is a serious issue. There are two possible ways we could go.
We can handle it as we did the decline and eventual closure of the ANL in the late 1970s
and early 1980s. As the threat of the Nazis receded we gradually, though not without
argument, altered the focus of our activity and kept with us many who had joined the
SWP as a result of the ANL’s activity. We were then in the best position to resume action
on this front when, year’s later, it became necessary. Or we can go the way of the
Militant after they led the anti-poll tax campaign~internal recrimination, splits and
decline.

It would be better if we laid aside the whole framework of personal recrimination and
focussed on the emerging political debate in the SWP, much of which is not about what
happened in Respect. But to do this we must address some issues repeatedly raised by the
CC majority either in public debate or as part of a whispering campaign.

The first is the issue of accountability. Of course every member and especially CC
members have to be accountable. In general CC members are accountable given the high
visibility of their work, and rightly so. However, there has never been an area of party
work that has undergone such scrutiny as the Respect work. The CC, or sub committees
of it, met daily or several times a week during the Respect crisis. It is certainly true that if
other areas of work were subject to the same detailed investigation there would be many
things that could be questioned. And it is worth repeating that the Central Committee
agreed all the substantive decisions that were made. The question is thus raised why have
the CC majority chosen to focus on this issue when they know that there are wider
political differences at stake that have been debated at the CC across the last 12 months?

The central question raised in discussions about my accountability is the OFFU cheque.
But the issue of the OFFU cheque was supposed to have been resolved at last year’s
conference, when I apologised to the whole conference. It is being deliberately used a
year later to renew a factional attack on the CC minority. I apologised for not having
looked at the background of the cheque more carefully and for only reporting it to Alex
Callinicos, Chris Bambery and Lindsey German (the sub-group of the CC who were
involved in the discussions with Galloway) rather than the whole CC.

It should however be recalled that after the first meeting with Galloway where he raised
this issue there was a report back meeting held at ULU on the following Friday evening
which was attended by hundreds of SWP members. Alex Callinicos gave the report of the
meeting with Galloway. He reported the cheque issue as a ‘minor financial issue of the
sort that always arises in faction fights.’ When the PFI element of the argument was
introduced into the discussion by Galloway’s press officer in a later letter Alex described
this as ‘just more psychological warfare from Galloway’. At no time did he think it
sufficiently important to report it to the whole CC himself or to revise his account given
to the SWP members meeting.

But contrast treatment of the OFFU cheque with another donation made to a united front
earlier this year. UAF received a £75,000 cheque from the singer Morrissey in the run up
to the LMHR Carnival. This was never reported to the CC. Morrissey was at that time
embroiled in the court case arising from the NME’s accusation that he had made racist
remarks during an interview with an NME journalist. The donor of the OFFU cheque got
nothing in return for his money~no publicity, no soft-peddling on PFI. But Morrissey did
get something for his money~anti-racist credentials during a court case in which he was
accused of racism.

Should we have accepted this cheque? We were never given the chance to discuss it.
Earlier money for the Carnival from the NME might also be an issue for debate. The
NME is published by IPC, a firm with an anti-union record. Moreover it also publishes
Nuts and Loaded. The former’s advertising slogan was ‘The best boobs in Britain, get
them every week’. Should we have taken the money?

My view is that if the only way of saving the Carnival was to take the money, then we
should have done. We are not moralists but Marxists for whom the advance of the
struggle sometimes requires difficult compromises. After all, Lenin accepted the help of
the German state in the midst of war to return to Russia even though he was accused of
being a German spy ever after.

What is objectionable is that those who took this money, didn’t report it to the CC, and
then attack the decision over the OFFU cheque. The only difference in these cases is that
Galloway cynically used the OFFU cheque and reported it to a state body in order to
destroy OFFU and embarrass the SWP. The CC majority should have said this, while
acknowledging the mistake. Instead they divided their own leadership over an issue that
had no bearing on the split in Respect since Galloway only used the issue after the split
had happened.

The other major episode cited in the debate is the Left Alternative NC in early September
at which Lindsey German, Chris Bambery and I resigned. Martin Smith has claimed we
‘blew up’ the NC and that our plans were unknown to the rest of the CC. This is untrue. It
was agreed some weeks previously with a sub committee of the CC that none of us would
stay on the NC since we all took collective responsibility for what had happened. We
assumed that this would be communicated to the rest of the CC, since we had also given
up responsibility for the work. I personally raised at three successive CC’s that someone
needed to take responsibility for the LA, although we were then accused of not
sufficiently preparing for the meeting.

We did not ‘blow up’ the meeting. It would always going to be a difficult meeting
because many people on the committee, especially the non-members but also some
members, did not agree with the decision. What was needed was a recognition that
actions by the party leadership were not popular among some Left Alternative members
and a degree of patient argument was needed to win those people over.

As in the case of the OFFU cheque, these events were debated in a highly confrontational
manner at the party NC. The majority produced a resolution saying that I was no longer
responsible for electoral work (a resolution which had already been agreed some time
before by the whole CC). The minority was told that no resolution would be put before
the NC. An hour before the meeting we were told that there would be a resolution and we
were not given the opportunity to put our names to it. We were then baited when we
argued, truthfully, that we had no disagreement with it, as it was in fact a CC document
previously circulated to the SWP members on the Left Alternative NC at my specific
request.

However traumatic that meeting was, we were told by Martin Smith and others that it
would be the end of the matter. Alex Callinicos said in the meeting itself that there was
no question of this episode bringing in to question my membership of the Central
Committee. Far from being the end of the affair, the NC became the launch pad for a
series of lies. First that Lindsey never told CC members about her resignation plans and,
second, that Lindsey, Chris and I broke party discipline even though the one other CC
member at the Left Alternative NC meeting, Charlie Kimber, has clearly stated that there
was no breach of discipline.

We are also told that the CC minority ‘want to continue electoral work’. This is a
continuing accusation despite the fact that in my resignation speech to the Left
Alternative NC I said that: ‘there will be no opening for a left of Labour electoral project
at least until after the next general election’. This was exactly in line with the original
assessment that he gave at the Left Alternative NC on June 28th and which is recorded in
the minutes of that meeting:

‘John Rees, National Secretary, delivered a report on the recent defections of the  councillors and opened a discussion on our direction for the future.
It was agreed that we need to adapt as an organisation to the changing political climate and concentrate on grass roots campaigns as opposed to a top-down approach.

There was agreement that we could not work in the same way as the immediate past but that our role in campaigns should be as a unifying factor that provides a wider political argument and in the wider political movements as providing links via some activities and newsletters.

It was noted that the political situation outside of London is different and more positive. It was agreed that we assemble work around the Charter.’

This is precisely the formulation still be used by the rest of the CC. But the CC majority
need to invent a difference on this issue to justify their attacks on the CC minority.
If we are to have a full assessment of the Respect experience we have to look at the
whole context as well as the series of tactical decisions made. In this light we should
acknowledge the present difficulties of those who stayed in Respect: George Galloway is
clearly moving back towards Labour, witness his endorsement not just of Ken
Livingstone but of the candidates in the Glasgow East and Glenrothes elections. It looks
extremely unlikely that he will contest Poplar and Limehouse in the next election,
Respect having come third behind Labour and the Tories in a recent by election in Tower
Hamlets. Alan Thornett’s group have now produced a document arguing that they have to
try to pull Respect to the left _ exactly the argument that the SWP put in the past. This is
further evidence that the tensions in Respect were not about individuals but about
politics.

There has been a personalising of the argument to an extent unprecedented inside the
party. The CC majority claim that I am the problem and they are happy to continue with
Lindsey German, Chris Nineham and Chris Bambery on the CC. Yet they know that all
four of us have held the same political positions throughout this crisis. We are already
hearing that some CC members are telling people that they want others of us removed
from the CC. Of course this will be denied. But then Alex Callinicos solemnly promised
the last NC that the resolution over electoral work and my removal from the work had
nothing to do with trying to get me off the CC and that he would personally oppose such
a move. Comrades will judge for themselves how to take his more recent assurances.

How the division began: the first argument over recruitment

The first serious division on the CC was not over the crisis in Respect. But immediately
after the Respect split last November there was a discussion on the CC about SWP
recruitment. It seemed obvious to us that party recruitment was lower than it should be
and that the end of the Respect project and the interregnum in the ‘war on terror’ meant
that we could launch full scale a recruitment campaign.

Lindsey German produced a paper for the CC suggesting this and that another worker
should be appointed to assist Martin Smith in recruitment (see Appendix 1). The reaction
from Martin Smith was instantaneous: he refused to discuss the idea with Lindsey and
attacked her so forcefully at the CC that Alex Callinicos, the chair of the CC, later
apologised for not having stopped this attack. Lindsey withdrew the proposal over
recruitment. Two weeks later Martin Smith launched the attack over the OFFU cheque.
Why was recruitment such an important and explosive issue? The lack of party growth
stands behind much of the discontent in the SWP at the moment. The question behind the
questions is ‘Why have we not grown as much as we should have done through the
period of the anti-globalisation and anti-war movements?’

The SWP has thrown itself into these movements, led many of them, and gained
enormous respect. We have recruited from among the best activists in the movements and
there is no doubt we would now be much a smaller and older organisation had we not
taken this turn. However it is also true that recruitment has not fully matched
expectations. Why?

There is part of the explanation that is objective: the nature of the radicalisation that has
taken place. This has largely been a deep seated (but nevertheless mostly) political
reaction to neo-liberalism and war. And in Britain at least, the lack of a real specifically
class dimension, the decay of the Labour left and the level of industrial struggle made the
argument for socialism and the power of the working class less obvious than would
otherwise be the case.

Nevertheless, even within this limitation we should have grown more. On reflection it
appears we made a double error in the course of the last 10 years. Firstly we did not insist
that every SWP member should fight to build the united fronts. Secondly we did not
party-build systematically enough while we were involved in the united front. These are,
of course, contradictory aims and therefore hard to combine in practice. But we could
have done better than we did.

To understand what is necessary, lets look at these two propositions more carefully. First,
the turn to the united fronts in the 1990s, especially forcefully after 1999. The eruption of
this phase of struggle came after a long 20-year period of stability in the SWP. The basic
branch structure and propaganda orientation established in the early 1980s was still in
place. Of course we had been involved in struggles and united front activity during this
period as well~but not on the scale, duration or in the same depth as we were after 1999.
When we helped create Globalise Resistance, the Stop the War Coalition and Respect we
largely adopted a method of charging forward with those comrades who were willing to
move. The demands of the time were great and time was short. We argued a perspective,
largely accepted by the party, and fought to make as much progress in building these
mass campaigns as we could. But a significant section of the membership, while not
openly or effectively opposing the perspective, remained rooted in the old party
structures and habits of mind. They felt uncomfortable with the party’s evolution, critical
of a ‘move away from Leninism’ and so on.

Over time this produced a differential experience among party members. Some
understanding the needs and challenges of the united front, others unhappy that the SWP
seemed to be forgetting the truths of revolutionary socialism as they had been taught
them in an earlier phase of the struggle. This gap mattered less as we rushed forward and
encountered no reverses. But it has cost us a great deal when we encountered a problem
in Respect. Too many people encountered this as an external threat caused by the specific
behaviour of comrades in this area of work rather than as a problem that we were all
engaged in and had to solve collectively.

We should have done more to win these comrades to active involvement in the united
front so that we all shared the view that we needed to party build through the united front
and not in opposition to it.

But these comrades also had a point. The SWP should have found ways of recruiting
more effectively from the movements. But this error cannot be blamed only on those
comrades who were most centrally involved in Stop the War. There is always a division
of labour in the party, and that applies to the leadership as well. We attempted to continue
to play a central role in party building long after the united fronts began. Lindsey German
and I continued to edit Socialist Review and the ISJ respectively until 2004 _ several
years after we began Stop the War. The truth is that there has not been single minded and
systematic attention to recruitment. That is the responsibility of the whole leadership.
The recruitment figures given in Internal Bulletin 1 show some success but they do not
tell us about party growth because they only tell us about those who have joined not those
who have left. Retention is the vital issue here. But because of the permanent financial
crisis in the SWP retention is primarily addressed by the CC majority as a question of
paying direct debit. This is not necessarily a sign of active engagement in the party. A
member can pay a direct debit and be just as passive and inactive as those who do not.
The retention issue is not being addressed politically by strategy of actively engaging
members in both the work of the united fronts and the party.

The recruitment issue was, as we have seen, the origin of the first major conflict on the
CC last November~not the Respect crisis. The weakness of recruitment~alongside the
leaderships handling of events~has been a major reason why the split in Respect has
turned into a crisis for the SWP. It has contributed to a sense of paralysis in the party.
Even now recruitment takes place at sporadically organised rallies rather than at monthly
public meetings. Such regular recruitment meetings would act as a focus for branches and
improve the flow of new recruits, making the branches more habitable for new and old
comrades alike. In the past Socialist Worker would have been used as a bridge pulling
people from the movements into recruitment events, interviewing new members,
reporting on recruitment rallies. But for the paper to act in this way it has to have
something more than the current rate of recruitment to report.

The result of not following this course is that the party structure and the active
membership are in a worse condition than at any time since the early 1980s. Preconference
aggregates involved perhaps a sixth of the membership. It is unlikely that total
branch attendance is any greater on average. There is a division in the membership and
the active membership is in crisis.

The apparatus of the party has increased its weight in relation to the membership. The
full-timers now often substitute for an active membership rather than being given a
strategy to develop an active membership. This has, in the recent debate, created a
bullying and intimidatory atmosphere where the apparatus of the party plays a far larger
role in the internal debate than it has done in the past when the membership was more
active and party structures better attended. The recruitment crisis has also become a
financial crisis as the membership cannot sustain the apparatus inherited from a previous
era.

The majority of the leadership have reacted to this crisis by blaming it all on the reverse
in Respect~generating an atmosphere in which any united front is now being viewed with
suspicion by some sections of the membership. This view is not being effectively
countered by a divided leadership and is being encouraged by some sections of the
leadership.

This situation has had its impact on the SWPs response to the recession that has been late
in general and especially hesitant on the question of the united front.

The recession and the confusion in the SWP leadership
The current economic crisis did not begin with the collapse of Lehman Brothers in
September 2008. It was obvious at least from the collapse Northern Rock a year ago.
There is no theoretical agreement on the CC about the likely depth and length of the
recession. In the course of attacking me for saying that the SWP had been late in
responding to the recession Chris Harman told the last NC that we had no idea how deep
the recession would be on the very day that Lehman Brothers collapsed. Just a day later
Martin Smith opened a joint CC and local organisers meeting with the words ‘we’ve been
late on the recession.’ In the Manchester pre-conference aggregate Alex Callinicos
admitted that he had been late in seeing the depth of the recession because he did not
want to seem like one of those Marxists who are always claiming there is going to be a
crisis of capitalism.

The division in the CC that began over the double crisis over weak recruitment and
Respect, widened by the response to the OFFU cheque, has impeded our response to the
recession. When Lindsey German and I first raised the issue of the Charter in May it was
rejected by the CC. When it was eventually won Martin Smith introduced it to the NC as
a petition, but had to retreat under criticism from the floor from comrades who saw in it
much greater potential.

This attitude towards the Charter still persists. The lines of division are slightly different
to those over Respect but they have still badly hampered our ability to respond to the
unrolling economic crisis. Despite the fact that the Charter has been the most successful
form of united front response to the recession the SWP did not prioritise the recent
Charter/UCU rally with Tony Benn, as Charlie Kimber admitted. The result was the
almost impossible to achieve audience of just 120 for a Benn rally.

For a substantial period of the summer and autumn this confusion took another form: the
John McDonnell/PCS initiative Public Sector not Private Profit was run by the CC as a
possible response to the recession. In the discussion at the CC on this issue we pointed
out that this initiative, though having the advantage of some union support, was slow and
controlled by forces hostile to the SWP, notably McDonnell’s office. The Charter was in
some ways as broad and it was faster to move and it allowed the SWP to play a leading
role, we argued. Nevertheless SWP members had to go through months of organising
PSNPP meetings before Martin Smith finally announced at the autumn Party Council that
PSNPP was ‘too slow’ to respond to the recession. Since then this initiative has been
unceremoniously dropped without discussion or debate.

Some of the practical confusion about the Charter has now resulted in theoretical
confusion about the Charter and the united front in general. The current International
Socialism doesn’t actually name the Charter but it is clear that this it is the intended target
of this passage: ‘Struggles will arise over wages, housing, fuel poverty, the health
service, against racism and war. Inevitably many of these will break out when people
least expect them. There cannot be a single plan, drawn up in advance, on how to react.
What will matter will be the capacity to respond pragmatically to movements and
struggles that arise locally or nationally…’ (p.11)

Now of course there will be unforeseen struggles and of course we will have to relate to
them and attempt to influence them. But the recession is well underway and we know
some of the issues that concern people. We should be already developing tools (like the
Charter but not exclusively the Charter) that seek to provide a political focus for
resistance and to organise protest.

It is simply not a perspective to say ‘something will turn up’. Politics is always
unpredictable. But this should not prevent us from developing a perspective even if we
have to change it (or even abandon it) at a later date. To do anything else is simply
‘tailism’ as the Bolsheviks used to call it. It leaves us disarmed in the face of initiatives
taken by other political forces, often smaller than us, who are not content to ‘wait and
see’.

There are undoubtedly great opportunities for socialist propaganda at the moment. But
our perspectives cannot be reduced to propaganda only. It was regrettable that at the
mini-Marxism in early December Alex Callinicos’ final rally speech did just this. In front
of a the biggest left audience any of us will address for many months Alex effectively
made a number of good points about the failures of capitalism, the desirability of
socialism and the need to join the SWP. But he did not mention the Stop the War
Coalition, The Charter or any other united front. Neither did he mention the mobilisation
against the G20 or the anti NATO protest next April, the major mobilisations of the
coming months.

Surely there can be little useful argument designed to prove that an adequate
revolutionary strategy in the recession is only combined of two elements: propaganda for
socialism on the one hand and reacting to the spontaneous struggles of the class on the
other~no matter how essential both of these must also be in a total strategic response to
the crisis.

We cannot go into the most serious economic crisis in a generation with a response only
based on propaganda and reacting after the event to resistance as it arises. We have also
to work with others to try and generate resistance and to shape it politically as it emerges.
Besides which our Charter is not the only one out there. John McDonnell has one. So do
the Morning Star. It is not a choice between our version of the Charter and no charter. It’s
a choice between our vision of the Charter and a poorer, less political, less dynamic
version led by someone else. There is, as ever, a premium on speed of reaction. Had we
not formed the Stop the War Coalition then others would have protested against the war
with less adequate, less broad and less effective forms of organisation. It is always thus.
Leadership and democracy

The fundamental problem of the leadership in the SWP is not the constitution of the
party, as Neil Davidson argues and as the CC majority seems to partially have accepted.
Frankly the constitution is a very general document that has remained unchanged while
the real structure of the party and the relationship between its parts has altered
considerably. We need to look beneath the words and study the real active relationship
between the party and its leadership.

The main problem has already been addressed: we have not grown as quickly as we
should have done. There is no general culture of recruitment and the leadership has not
fought hard enough to construct it. We have made some quantative advances in
recruitment levels (as you would hope given the political climate) but there is no
centralised, systematic prioritising of this issue. There is an ‘increased emphasis’ on
recruitment~but not a recruitment campaign. The recruitment meetings are, as we have
said, too sporadic. Recruitment is not regularly discussed at party committees, lists of the
next ten recruits are not drawn up and the visits arranged. There are not recruitment
campaigns carried in all the party publications. It is not the second item in Party Notes
every week~and nor could it be because there is not enough going on to report.

This simple fact reflects itself in every area of party life. Why should long-standing party
members go to branches that don’t have new people at them? Why should they do
educational meetings if there aren’t new people to listen? Too many branches are small in
size and become places where people who have been doing the same things for years
discuss the party routine. Lack of recruitment means lack of energy feeding into the party
from the mass movements.

Moreover, the financial crisis (itself a product of lack of recruitment) means that a huge
internal engine is necessarily devoted to raising money rather than raising the number of
members.

This problem has been discussed at the CC and was the original cause of the split on the
CC. Some of us raised the model of recruitment that Cliff used to speak about. This was
that we would push out and recruit in large numbers even if we then lost some people.
Cliff used to say, ‘if we recruit 2,000 and lose 1,000 at least we will have kept 1,000. If
we didn’t aim to recruit 2,000 we will only get 250’.

Cliff’s method in this was right. To do anything in the party the leadership must, in a
certain sense, exaggerate. You have to overcome the natural inertia that exists in any
organisation. Organisations have set patterns of work inherited from the past, ways of
doing things, tried and tested methods that were developed and set in place for good
reason. People have jobs, homes, lives around which political activity has to be fitted in.
If you want organisations and the people who compose them to change they must be
political convinced, motivated and the inertia within them has to be counteracted. You
have to ‘bend the stick’.

The majority of the CC has now specifically and consciously set this method aside. Their
claim that it is ‘too divisive’, ‘too argumentative’, risks ‘alienating people’ and is ‘too
polemical’. Arguing too determinedly is seen as not ‘treating every member as golddust’.
Now, of course, this method can be over-used. Necessary exaggeration can tip over into
the kind of fantasy perspective that has sometimes gripped some of the left sects. And
‘bending the stick’ can exaggerate an error~as we did with the ‘punk paper’ at the height
of the ANL mobilisations in the 1970s.

But properly used it is indispensable. There is simply no other effective way of leading a
revolutionary party (at any level) than identifying the key link in the objective situation,
prioritising it, polemiscing to get the party to prioritise it and arguing through this
necessity with other members.

The alternative is what we are too often getting from the CC majority now~a confusing
mush of different perspectives with no prioritisation or consistency over time. This is the
‘buffet lunch’ approach to leadership~come whenever you like and take a bit of whatever
takes your fancy. Organisers and branches are bombarded with a series of demands from
the centre that override priorities even when they are given by the CC.

The outbreak of the recession has made this weakness all the clearer. It has raised
confusion to the level of theory. It is clear that these divisions on the CC are only allowed
to surface as if they are about the Respect crisis. The CC majority are using the
understandable disquiet that a reverse causes in the party to try and remove and
intimidate those on the CC who have a different notion of leadership. It is convenient for
them to centre the attack on me because I was most closely involved with Respect but it
is aimed at Lindsey German, Chris Nineham and Chris Bambery as well.

The SWP is now at a turning point. If the entire leadership group associated with the Stop
the War Coalition is removed or silenced it will send the message to SWP members and
to the whole left that we are in full scale retreat from united front work. This process is
already underway. While some CC members have been stressing the continued centrality
of the Stop the War Coalition, Alex Callinicos told the South London aggregate that ‘Its
clear that Stop the War will be less important in the future.’ The divisions on the CC are
already undermining the Charter. Chris Harman told the Bristol aggregate that the
Charter is ‘a national united front that we don’t have’ and insisted that the SWP is
isolated in its response to the recession. This will be a self-fulfilling prophecy if one
rejects the Charter where Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn, Larry Elliot, Paul Mason, Sally
Hunt, Tony Kearns, Caroline Lucas and many others do work with us.

But even more seriously it will mark a transition from one kind of leadership to another.
This is not the conventional issue for an argument inside a revolutionary organisation but
it could not be more important.

If the ‘steady as she goes’ method takes hold, as it has done in other left organisations,
then a slow decline into a shrivelled caricature of the former state of the organisation is
likely.

But if we recover the polemical and dynamic methods of leadership at every level, meet
the challenges of the recession head on, redouble our efforts to recruit from the
radicalisation around us, we can emerge stronger than we have ever been. Splitting the
leadership over electoral work, which is in any case and rightly a secondary concern at
present, and persisting in this split is a massive diversion from this central task.

In reply to Neil Davidson
I do not agree with much of Neil Davidson’s argument but it does at least raise important
issues. Chris Harman has made a reply widely circulated at his request by other
comrades. I agree with many of the historical and theoretical points that Chris makes in
criticism of Neil. But he agrees with many of Neil’s most immediate proposals on party
democracy. I believe that this is a dangerous course on which the CC majority has
embarked for purely pragmatic reasons. Like the decision to divide the leadership over
the OFFU cheque it is being made to conciliate critics not for principled reasons.
An independent critical examination of his document may therefore help us.

Neil argues that from 1968 to the present the SWP has failed to grow as much as it might
have done because it has failed to be precise about the nature and purposes of the united
fronts it which it has been engaged and because its democratic structures have impeded
its ability to react correctly to events.

Specifically Neil believes that we have incorrectly designated the attempts at building
new radical parties as united fronts and that this has contributed to the reverses that have
taken place in our electoral work. Finally, Neil suggests that if there were a less
professional leadership that included those who hold down jobs and which was drawn
from different parts of the country we would be more able to deal with these issues. He is
more generally critical of a ‘top down’ and anti-democratic culture of debate in the SWP
that closes off necessary discussion prematurely.

Neil is at pains to insist that he wishes to focus on the subjective barriers to recruitment
and that he is suspicious of explanations that stress limits imposed by objective
conditions. Thus he quotes George Lukacs to the effect that what we should focus on is
the gap between what seems objectively possible for a revolutionary party in any given
period and what it actually achieves, accounting for any discrepancy with an explanation
that focuses on what we might do to close that gap.

I agree, but the relevant timescale is not the entire period from 1968 but the more recent
period since the rise of the anti-globalisation movement in 1999. Let’s first look at why I
think Neil’s timescale is wrong and then say where the problem he refers to has come
from.

It is surely not credible to claim that the main barriers to growth over a 40-year period are
subjective.

This period has after all encompassed an enormous worldwide radicalisation and upsurge
in industrial struggle after 1968, the defeat of that wave of struggle, the onset of neoliberalism
and a global offensive against the gains of the upturn, the destruction of the
state capitalist regimes in Eastern Europe and Russia, the emergence of a radical antineoliberal
mood and the growth of a mass, global anti-war movement.

It is demonstrably the case the fortunes of the whole left, and of the SWP, were related to
these events. Indeed it might be an equally if not more valuable task to compare our
fortunes with those of other currents on the left. In other words, why not ask the question:
given the same objective conditions how did the SWP fare in comparison with other
organisations on the left?

A brief overview might conclude something like this: in the upturn we did well emerging
as the most important organisation to the left of the CP. As the upturn turned to downturn
and the far-left was attracted into the Labour Party by the rise of Bennism we survived
better than most, although this was not apparent until the collapse of Bennism. While
Bennism lasted other forces, including the Militant, looked more prominent than we did.
We only finally emerged as the most significant left of Labour organisation with the dual
collapse of Bennism in the second half of the 1980s as Kinnock finished off the Labour
left and the demise of the CP after the revolutions of 1989. It is however worth noting
that we underestimated the effect that the damage done to the rest of the left would have
on us While the revolutions clarified arguments among the left they also brought into
question for many the whole project of building a socialist party.

The left’s crisis evaporated a wider environment in which socialist ideas were current and
therefore made the case for socialism harder to make to newly radicalised audiences in
the movements that arose in the 1990s and after. This is one of the reasons why
autonomist and anarchist ideas made a return during the birth of the anti-capitalist
movement.

Neil is right, however, to highlight the one big subjective error that we made in this
period: the ultra left attitude to the Poll Tax in Scotland. This cost us a leadership role in
the anti-poll tax campaign, gave Militant an extra lease of life, allowed the disastrous
condemnation of the anti-poll tax rioters by the movement’s Militant leadership in 1991
and, in the longer term, assisted in allowing Tommy Sheridan and the former Militant
cadre to a lot us a subordinate position in the SSP. There are few more dramatic
demonstrations of the cost of sectarianism in our history.

There were, of course, other errors. We took a long time to adjust to the downturn. In the
Miners Strike we zig-zagged over the correct forms of solidarity and the right slogans to
raise in different phases of the strike. But none of these made a substantial difference to
the size or standing of the SWP in the longer run.

This example points to a better way of assessing our subjective errors: we have to look at
what is possible within each phase of the struggle, noting of course how success or failure
in one phase impacts on successive phases. It we don’t do this then trans-historical
explanations begin to creep in~here the classical traditions definition of the united front
and the SWP constitution.

Neil Davidson’s document wishes to narrow almost to vanishing point our definition of
the united front. But first lets step away from definitions for a moment and state directly
the relationship we wish to have with reformists, leaders as well as rank and file
members. Surely it is this: we wish to co-operate in specific fields of action while
retaining the independence of our revolutionary politics and organisation.

The most widely applicable definition of this experience would seem to be the united
front, but it would smell as sweet by any other name. I used the term ‘united front of a
special kind’ in the debate with the SSP. I used it because in the united front it is quite
clear that revolutionaries retain their political and organisational independence. This
allowed us to contrast this form of co-operation with the model of the SSP that requires
the dissolution of separate revolutionary organisation. This is still the model that the LCR
is about to adopt in France where it is due to dissolve itself into the New Anti-Capitalist
Party. I still think that SSP-LCR model is a mistake and that the virtue of the united front
definition is that it underlines the continued organisational independence of the
revolutionary party.

Now Neil doesn’t say a lot about the SSP. In fact he says more about It’s a Wonderful
Life. But I assume that he acknowledges that this form of the radical left party generated
all the same problems as Respect and ended in at least as damaging a split. It seems
therefore that the ‘new party’ formula is no more of a defence against failure than the
united front approach.

So the problem remains: how do we build a wider political formation without losing the
identity of a revolutionary party? It seems to me that limiting the classical tradition’s
approach to the united front will not help us here. Trotsky’s examples (actually most of
the quotations in the Charter article in the IB are from the Comintern theses which
Trotsky wrote but which Lenin and the rest of the Comintern supported) may not be
perfect. But creatively applied their general approach remains valid because they reflect
the underlying structure of uneven consciousness in the working class.

Neil reminds us of the valuable remarks made by Cliff about the decay of reformist
organisation and the problems this creates for a united front of the classical kind. And he
is right to remind us also of Duncan Hallas’ injunction that we must act in ‘spirit of the
united front’. But it seems odd to recall these sentiments and then to insist on an even
more restrictive notion of the united front than that found in the Comintern. The point, for
me, about both Respect and the Charter in their different ways was that they were a
creative adaptation of the general united front approach. But perhaps Neil didn’t mean
that we should be quite that creative!

So if it’s not an incorrect theoretical approach to the united front that is at the root of our
difficulties will they perhaps be resolved by altering our constitution? The CC propose
setting up a ‘democracy commission’ meeting once a month, but I doubt this will prove
to be a solution.

I’m sure there are valuable improvements that could be made to the party constitution and
to party democracy. The important thing is to find ways of increasing our political clarity
by involving more comrades in discussion of and participation in our political strategy.
Crucially this involves strengthening the branches, the basic democratic unit of the party.
As well as recruiting, this means getting members back to the branches by making them
places where politics is discussed in the context of activity, where we develop
explanations of events but also discuss and organise the broadest possible campaigning
activity.

It also means diminishing the weight of the apparatus and its abuse of the existing
democratic structures. It is obvious for instance that the current delegate entitlement,
where there are sometimes more people elected to conference than there are people in the
room to elect them, needs to be reformed. But these sorts of proposals should be brought
directly before conference.

But a semi-permanent ‘democracy commission’, especially at a time when the CC has
been weakened, will become a House of Lords for the SWP that will review the work of
the CC either formally or informally. It will be resonator for the kind of factionalism that
we have seen in the current debate and it will be a step towards the kind of semiprofessional
CC that Neil desires.

This will be another step away from the clear and decisive leadership the party really
needs. To get that political clarity is the essential thing, not organisational reform. I hope
this document will assist in developing that clarity.

Appendix 1. Lindsey German’s recruitment document, November 2007. Opposed by Martin Smith.

Appendix 2: Chris Bambery’s Letter to Alex Callincos, July 2008

234 comments on “SWP – Where We Stand

  1. Andy – as far as I’m concerned it’s an internal document and I’m not interested in discussing its content here.

    Why do you do this? Is it to discourage people in the SWP from sharing their thoughts in anything other than a tightly controlled environment? Because that’s certainly part of the effect. Well done.

  2. KrisS debate within revolutionary groups ought to be open to the radical public as was always the case until a Zinovievite view of ‘democratic centralism became the norm. Its healthy for the group and the class.

    Heck reading this document is causing me to consider applying for membership of the SWP! Rees is correct that organisational reform will not drag the SWP out of its current malaise but rejecting Rees and his rotten politics strikes me as a good first step.

  3. It might or might not be “healthy for the group and the class” to have such debates as there might be in public. That could be worth talking about, sometime.

    It’s a world away from what Andy’s doing here, and I don’t believe that you aren’t aware of that.

  4. To KrisS and any others who think this should not be discussed.

    The SWP tries to model itself after the best aspects of the bolsheviks and other mass communist parties of that time period, yet keeping the debate in private is exactly the *opposite* of what the bolsheviks would have done. Please read and re-read your socialist history. At their best the bolshevik papers would regularly debate serious issues in their daily papers.

  5. Yeah. Shame you don’t bother to engage with what I actually said. Still, enjoy yourselves anyway.

  6. KrisS do you think that when the various factions of the RSDLP publicized the positions of their rivals that they did not intend to pursue factional goals? Such my seemingly naive friend is a constant of revolutionary politics. Which is an additional reason for having the maximum debate in public.

  7. There is nothing in Rees’ document that suggests he has written it for anyone other than the membership of the SWP.
    Andy’s ‘friend of a friend gave me this’ is just nonsense. Be honest with yourself.

  8. Why are the SWP so shit scared about debating politics and perspectives outside of their own organisation?

  9. Andy is nothing to do with revolutionary politics in general and specifically nothing to do with the SWP, except that he spends some time and effort attacking the party. Andy posts such internal documents as come to him (and of course, by the nature of their having come to him, they have been distributed outside the party) which he feels he can use as part of those attacks.

    His blog (yeah yeah, the collective yawn yawn whatever) doesn’t strike me as a great place for SWP comrades to discuss these issues. Of course it is a great place for gossip and innuendo, and I’m sure you will fill your boots, no matter what I say.

  10. KrisS does his sterling work for the SWP once again by trying to make sure no one actually discusses the party, its politics or its impact on the movement.

  11. I think the Davidson material looks really interesting with its call for a more bottom up SWP, the SWP is of great interest to everyone on the left and I don’t think what John Rees says here is particularly secret or shocking.

    I would be interested in reading the Davidson article if it is something he is prepared to put in the public domain.

    My thoughts here http://another-green-world.blogspot.com/2008/12/bottom-up-democratic-socialist-workers.html

  12. This is circulating through various local campaign lists including SWP and none SWP members, put out there by Rees supporters. It is not an internal document and has not been circulated by the SWP national office. So how about discussing its politics?

  13. Well I have already explained why I won’t be discussing the content of Andy’s post here. But, for the hard of reading such as Nas – I’m not interested in being part of Andy’s attacks on the SWP.

  14. So lemme get this straight. The CC is divided, with the majority faction looking to return to the traditional concept of a revolutionary party and abandon united front work. The minority faction (including Rees and German) want to continue to push united front work, specifically the People Before Profit charter.

    Neil Davidson belongs to the majority faction. His document (which I haven’t read) seems to criticise projects such as Respect and the PBP charter as badly thought out idea which don’t fit the classic definition of a united front. He proposes that the SWP should sort itself out as a party, creating a more democratic structure with a semi-professional CC. Rees is against this, and argues that the SWP should continue with united front work such as the charter with a decisive leadership and stronger ideological clarity.

    Yes? No? What do people think about this?

  15. Kris – we get it. You’re not partipating. Fine. Others of us are. Ok?

    Personally, I find Rees’s a dishonest argument which is dangerous for the CC majority. They’ll need to hit back hard. It’s difficult to see this resulting in anything other than the departure of the minority and whatever supporters they can get.

  16. Nas #17: “Personally, I find Rees’s a dishonest argument …

    No, that can’t possibly be.

    Mark P, if you’re around, could you make me this tour T-shirt?

    JR Tour 1999-2009

    Anti-cap movement — Globalise Resistance
    Socialist Alliance
    Scottish Socialist Party
    European Social Forum
    Anti Nazi League
    Respect
    SWP
    RIP

  17. Interesting that Rees says ‘there will be no opening for a left of Labour electoral project at least until after the next general election’. Non-SWP members of Left Alternative and Solidarity might want to think about where that leaves them.

    Individual members of left electoral parties or united fronts always seem to get ignored by the revolutionary parties which ‘build’ them. If you don’t join one of these sects you have no voice, if you do join you just get sucked into faction fights against the other sects. It’s all thoroughly depressing.

  18. Halshall on said:

    Are there any serious political comments on Ree’s article?
    That is what he seems to want to encourage.

    He asks to not be the fall guy for the shortcomings of the SWP CC, plus seeming to invite their wrath.
    Clearly there’s some positioning here, seeking support from a wider audience than the SWP. The essential line of it’s all GG’s fault for the Respect debacle hasn’t changed, no matter how unsustainable it is.
    The rest is revealing in that the extent of both the recruitment and retention crisis is both admitted and discussed, (although noticably no figures are given).

    The question of the lack of internal party democracy being a factor is somewhat avoided by saying you cannot substitute form for content, ie: you have to respond to situation as they arise by combining both agreed strategy (united front work, planned recruitment and induction of new members), with tactics ( dealing with the unpredictable by decisive leadership ( ‘stick-bending’ ), otherwise the membership will not respond quickly to changing situations in the struggle.

    Does this really address Neil Davidson’s arguments?
    Without sight of said article in IB 3 how can we say?
    Although I can understand why JR can’t put it on link here.

  19. What Rees, Harman, German, Davidson et al still cant see is that the crisis in the SWP is symptomatic of the collapse, decay and complete irrelevance of Marxist-Leninist/Trotskyist organisations generally. It’s over. Bolshevism is dead. Leadership fetishists are childish and pathetic. Long live libertarian socialism.

  20. Futurecast on said:

    It seems possible that the January conference for the SWP in 2009 will either mark the beginning of a new era, or mark its death knell (a catastrophic split).

    I admit now openly: if the SWP splits next January I see no choice but to resign my membership and membership to any left organisation or united front until we find a way out of the brain cancer of sectarianism and blame games (and no the solution isn’t to join the fucking scum that is New Labour. Or Respect Renewal or AWL or the Socialist Society of Stamp Collecting etc).

    In a time when the politics of the world can very logically push people to the left, when capitalism is in the biggest crisis in living memory: the organised left look ready to eat each other. We cannot be cannibal socialists.

  21. I must say I agree with Kevin Williamson.

    For the establishment of a genuinely democratic, mass membership, left wing party, without the interference of any of the sects which have torn apart previous efforts. We need to leave the detritus of the 20th century behind us and develop socialist ideas fit for a 21st century world.

  22. I never thought I’d say this, but John Rees talks a lot of sense. He’s got a pretty coherent idea of how to make united front work & party recruitment work together, & a very clear idea of what recruitment actually means (or should mean). I wish him luck (something else I never thought I’d say) – by the sound of it, the SWP hasn’t got much of a future if it goes the CC majority’s way.

  23. #18
    Madam Miaow: Yeah, I too would like a t-shirt (and as being active in the Socialist Alliance and watched the collapse in dismay!). Frankly they would sell as it sums up the dead hand of democratic centralism, top-down leadership along with the cult of the leader mentality.

    I kinda sympathise with Kevin Williamson (and very rarely do)as I believe the revo left likes to see itself as more of a relevance than it is. In the scheme of things, it amounts to sod all. And just witnessing how various trot groupings behave is shocking and how that impacts on members, many who end up burnt out and damaged by the experiences. Not a great advertisement as the alternative to capitalism! I think socialists have to move beyond democratic centralism and the ‘cult of the leader’ mentality. You know, open transparent and democratic where people can discuss ideas openly without the fear of not following the line. It would build a healthier cadre and healthier tradition. Though I would still consider myself as a Marxist sympathetic to Trotskyism but I hate what it has become and along with the distortions.

    #22
    Futurecast: “the organised left look ready to eat each other. We cannot be cannibal socialists”.

    Please…comrade, I hope you are being figurative as opposed to literal….If not, ok pass the condiments..

    And yeah Jon, at #24, I sympathise with what you say as so many political projects have been screwed up by trot groups desperate to run the damn show as opposed to working in alliance.

    “Socialist Society of Stamp Collecting”

    Futurecast: Really? Got any further details might give them a whirl… 🙂

  24. Well this fight is between those who tried to build a left electoral alternative but failed due to their own incompetence, and those who don’t even want to try. The former is marginally preferable, I guess.

  25. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    Firstly, I’m not sure Andy should have given in to the temptation to publish this. Not because it may or may not be an internal document (as comrades have said the secrecy stuff is not part of original Marxist tradition). Rather, I note that on another blog (Splintered sunrise I think) he had said that he would not publish any stuff because it is impossible for us to positively influence the debate and think he was right in this

    To quote: “I have been told from a couple of sources that something interesting is going on. But I have deliberately not tried to find out more, because any hint of associatin with SU blog would be counterproductive.” – yes Andy it is!

    Secondly, (disregarding my fist line of thought) people shouldn’t make the mistake of being for Reess against CC or other way around.

    There are massive contradictions in the argument taking place in the SWP.
    1) CC says Rees isn’t that great at being a national secutary of a broad organisation – in this they are correct.
    2) CC says Rees didn’t obey party discipline – hmm … if party diktat was more coherent I might have more (then 0) sympathy for cc here.
    3) CC wants the SWP to be (probably only slightly) more internally democratic – I’m with the CC and against Rees and his stick bending on this.
    4) Rees (and faction) still hold on to the desire that a broad party is needed, the CC are putting more of a lean towards RETURN TO REVOLUTIONARY PARTY BUILDING – here Rees (and German et al) represent the more positive line.

    Number (4) is important and shouldn’t be ignored.

    Yes Ress did a lot to help ensure the split happened because he did not want to give up any power. And for this we all distrust him.

    However, his vision of the SWP continuing to look outwards towards a wider general political grouping is FAR more positive then the Smith return to party building and single issue united founts line.

    So (with a heavy hart) I say DEFEND REES against witch hunt.

  26. #29 I agree with your analysis, but given that Rees is only marginally preferable to the majority faction I wonder why we should jump to his aid. As a more general point, perhaps those of us who have been burned by working with the SWP should leave them be. I don’t think the SWP has much of a future whoever wins this fight.

  27. Irish Mark P on said:

    Nas: What lists (local campaign lists) was this circulated on? I’m trying to work out whether it was deliberately put online by supporters of the writer or whether it was leaked.

  28. Respect Rump on said:

    What’s happened to Cllr Abjol Miah? After hearing how the nasty nasty SWP refused to give him a big enough platform, & how brilliant he was, his absence is notable. I haven’t seen his speaking tour scedule for Respect Rump.

  29. #33 How about addressing the serious issues provked by this post, rather than behaving like a child?

  30. Respect Rump on said:

    So how many public meetings has Cllr Miah given for Respect Rump across Britain? We were told he was a damn fine man, a true red lefty, and been denied a platform ‘cos of nasty SWP. So now the SWP are off the scene, when were the last public meetings of Miah in Brum, Swindon, Mancs and elsewhere? What does the leader of the left in Tower Hamlets (AbjolMiah4MP) have to say about the economic crisis? It’s all very well for the lefties to draft fine conferences about ‘freezin’ that mutha’ but if our boy in power ain’t fighting for the left wing programme where’s it at?

  31. Kris – you’re not partipating, as you’ve told us several times.

    Joseph – I sympathise, but don’t you think a Rees victory would destroy the SWP and leave what was left as purely his fiefdom? The only points where Rees hits home against the majority are where he prettifies or airbrushes out his own role.

  32. MoreMediaNonsense on said:

    Doesn’t anyone here recoil at this :

    “We are not moralists but Marxists for whom the advance of the struggle sometimes requires difficult compromises.” ?

  33. frenetic on said:

    ‘I must say I agree with Kevin Williamson.

    For the establishment of a genuinely democratic, mass membership, left wing party, without the interference of any of the sects which have torn apart previous efforts. We need to leave the detritus of the 20th century behind us and develop socialist ideas fit for a 21st century world.’

    Amen to that!, reading this article it comes across like a ‘strengths and weaknesses’ document that a marketing man would use to undermine the opposition, how ridiculous, that they see other parts of the left as competitors, then again i have always thought the SWP use big business techniques, such as ‘brands’, eg, GR, etc.

  34. We are all Alexandros on said:

    This looks like an internal document, and you should not be circulating it. Perhaps it is flattering to the SWP that outsiders are so interested in such things, but you should not do it. It is suspect when the Weekly Worker engage in the practice, and it is suspect here as well.

  35. FC – you’re right, there’s nothing to be gained from petty point-scoring here. Apologies for my being unable to control myself. I hope to find somewhere worthwhile to talk about these things with you sometime. All the best.

  36. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    In reply to frenetic comment no. 40, Sect this, sect that – what a load of crap.

    SWP has a shit load of political problems: best summed up by Rees’s line (in the article above) that “I used the term ‘united front of a special kind’ in the debate with the SSP. I used it because in the united front it is quite
    clear that revolutionaries retain their political and organisational independence. ” – i.e. we want to have our cake (a revo’ party) and eat it (the broad radical party) – no acknowledgement of the truth that this isn’t possible. You end up with two competing parties and the contradictions of this tare everything apart – this is what happened in the Respect split.

    Also it has a massive lack of real democracy, as some members are now acknowledging.

    However, neither of these things make it a ‘sect’, whatever the fuck that is supposed to mean. Calling it a sect is just lazy argument. The Labour party has worse politics (by ten zillion miles) then the SWP and has far less democracy. Is it a sect? No. The term is useless posturing.

  37. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    Nas comment 38 – “I sympathise, but don’t you think a Rees victory would destroy the SWP and leave what was left as purely his fiefdom? The only points where Rees hits home against the majority are where he prettifies or airbrushes out his own role.”

    I don’t think Rees has a snowballs chance in hell of winning this fight if by that you mean taking control of SWP. Even if he successfully fights eviction from CC clan he will be part of minority tendency on it.

    I agree with you that his article is largely bullshit – with some scary sounding anti-democratic stuff about Leninism, stick bending and STRONG leadership. However – if the CC majority get away with scapegoating Rees completely they are likely to also be able to get away with there push towards PARTY, PARTY, PARTY.

    On paper it might seem that there isn’t so much difference between the sides – neither want to get involved in general political unity right now – however (and I think the stuff around the charter reveals this) I’m convinced Smith et al really do offer a more insular model for the SWP and that would be a let down for all of us

  38. I think that this document is revealing about Rees’s attitude to the united front. He can’t conceive of any other type of alliance and therefore has to put Respect and the SSP (and presumably also the Socialist Alliance, although he strangely doesn’t discuss that experience at all) into that category. This categorisation then dictates how the SWP must behave: it limits their level of commitment, makes them view it as temporary or episodic and means they will tend to view that section of the leadership that isn’t themselves as potential betrayers. That, after all is the traditional, comintern view of the united front. Rees adds a new formulation which compounds the SWP difficulties when confronted with new parties to the left of the traditional workers’ parties:

    “we did not party-build systematically enough while we were involved in the united front. These are,of course, contradictory aims and therefore hard to combine in practice”.

    I don’t think there is necessarily a contradiction between building a left-of-labour party and building a revolutionary organisation.

    His attitude to the united front is also shown by the discussion of the donations to UAF and LMHR: in both cases he seems to suggest that any decisions on these were entirely in the hands of the SWP. Finally, his attitude to the Charter seems to be determined by the fact that is is something that the SWP has more control over than the initiative by John McDonnell, not what objective role these various bodies might play in the class struggle:

    “In the discussion at the CC on this issue we pointed out that this initiative, though having the advantage of some union support, was slow and controlled by forces hostile to the SWP, notably McDonnell’s office. The Charter was in some ways as broad and it was faster to move and it allowed the SWP to play a leading role, we argued.”

    The re-writing of the history of the Respect split, with the SWP as the consistent defenders of left positions against some rightward-moving tendencies, is rather half-hearted and therefore not convincing. Basically, I think they pissed off when the stopped getting their way. That IS consistent with the approach expounded in this rather a-political document.

  39. re: the tee shirt. JR never had a platform from Globalise Resistance. I joined GR because although it was run by people in the SWP they seemed to have more sense and humanity than most of the others.

    That Guy Taylor, such a nice lad!

  40. #43 Sect n. A group of people forming a distinct unit within a larger group by virtue of certain refinements or distinctions of belief or practice… A faction united by common interests or beliefs.

    The ‘sects’ under discussion here are revolutionary socialist organisations who organise in a centralist manner and demand ideological unity within the party. The ‘larger group’ in this instance is the wider socialist/labour movement, especially when considered in the context of united front work.

    The SWP are not the only example of a sect or even the worst, but surely you would agree that they fit the description above. The Labour party for all its faults contains a much wider range of political viewpoints within it, from the McDonnellites to the Blairites, and so could not be considered a sect by the definition above.

  41. Rees’s piece does hightlight the paralysed state of the organisation, post split. Something some of us ex-members are more than aware of and I might add, his role in taking the organisation to that place.

    So for example in Greater Manchester where the TIF and congestion charge referendum has been taking place over the last 2 weeks. Where over 1 million were being balloted. This one comment by a Manchester SWP member on Lenin’s blog says it all.

    “In Manchester the SWP decided to recommend a NO vote. We did not actively campaign, but we did have many discussions about it. Many comrades who were originally for a YES vote were won to a NO vote as the reality sunk in. This was common experience across the city.”

    So on this major issue, they just had a chat amongst themselves.

  42. bitter and twisted on said:

    Respect Rump (rr) #36 sounds as bitter and twisted as jj/ll and clearly does not live in Tower Hamlets. This week’s lead letter in the East London Advertiser is from Councillor Miah attacking the Olympics as a corporate bean feast and last week there was a half page article on Miah attacking the Tories for Islamophobia. I daresay he has not called for armed insurrection but he does not seem to be doing too badly. But back to the point of this thread.

    Up until now the “CC minority” has been on the defensive but this document marks their fightback. Clever to put it out on th email because it will reach more people more quickly than the Internal Bulletin, only available at a price at branch meetings many don’t go to in order to prevent it getting on tot he blogs. The fact is if you stick a controversial document on an email, it will go way beyond the emails it was originally intended for, something Rees’s gang will have known for certain.

    All sorts of rubbish will be put out about the importance of secrecy against the enemies of revolution. The reality is the security services, if they are at all interested will have much more information about the SWP than most SWP CC members will have. The SWP CC’s obsession with secrecy is only about ensuring that the members inside and their competitors and detractors outside don’t get to know what’s really going on amongst the tiny number of people who make the big decisions and that the latter are never held accountable by their poor bloody infantry.

    It seems to me there are a couple of important points made in this document of self-justification. The first is that those who have voted to dump Rees knew what he was up to and were complicit in it. Maybe they didn’t like what he was up to, although there is no evidence of this, and were too cowardly to do anything or maybe they thought he was right and the scales have now fallen from their eyes.

    The second is that Rees and German represent the more dynamic end of the leadership who would ruthlessly bend the stick wherever they think it should be bent.

    But Joseph #29 is wrong to think that Rees and German’s apparent support for the united front against the majority is a reason to side with them. The majority are realistic enough to understand that the SWP’s current standing is rock bottom and therefore it’s right for them to show a bit of humility. Rees’s crowing about the Charter being so successful is absurd and contradicted by the size of the Benn meeting. This is of course a direct product of the Respect debacle for which he has prime responsibility alongside Lindsey German, as he would never do anything without her agreement.

    Rees’s conception of the united front as ultimately nothing more than a device to recruit members is shown by his ludicrous justification for his polarising antics in Respect which in the end brought about the split. He was determined to invent a left/right split when there wasn’t one in order to get members, even reintroducing the “shibboleth” of LGBT rights to try to provoke a reaction from the Muslims (which it didn’t).

    The fact the SWP has lost a lot more members than it gained through the split demonstrates the idiocy of Rees’s perspective and makes German’s claims in the November 2007 CC paper look ridiculous from whatever point of view you take. Whether the SWP CC has a better perspective however is very questionable and I agree with JFK #51 that this growing internal battle is going to be paralysing and destructive for the morale and membership of the SWP.

  43. I think its good that this stuff is out in the open too.
    But what a boring read!
    Here we have Rees fighting for his political life, presumably preparing for a split it looks like with German, Bamberry and Nineham and all he can waffle on about is internal nonsense, with his principle complaint that the party hasn’t grown enough.
    What a sect like attitude. Doesn’t that really say it all?
    Nothing about how the party relates to the working class; the key priorities for socialists in the unions, how we are going to fight the BNP, what if anything his perspective for the recession is, instead there’s just a load of moaning about how hard done by he’s been and how undemocratic and cruel the leadership are. Like he hasn’t done that himself a hundred times before.
    Of course its never pleasant being on the recieving end and that doesn’t make it ok, but if he really is preparing for a split I suggest he gets a whole load more political and quick.
    What someone said one time on the CC isn’t going to matter a whole lot when he’s in the big, cold world outside.

  44. “I have always hesitated to take these arguments beyond the Central Committee . . .”

    Christ, did he really write that? Speaks fucking volumes.

    How do you spell substitutionism again?

  45. The Vengence of History on said:

    As somebody who until now had no time for Rees i have to say his document is at least a useful start

    It does remind me of some of the stuff which came ot of “line of March” and the esrliest post maoist parties in the US. Which I suspose means that though this is not a formal rejection on his part of ML politics it is a defacto one which in the short and medium term may be not a bad thing

    Oddly however i have never been convinced that respect and similar are united fromst rther they are popular ones. I think we perhsps should moved beyond the nonenclature of the thirties if we wish to reach a leage group of poeople

    Or rather we must acdept that the trotskyist band of sociliams is gone. Not helpful really.

  46. The Vengence of History on said:

    Oh yes and please people should we not always remeber the dangers of voluntarism

  47. Is there any chance of posting Neil Davidson’s document. I admit I am no longer a member of the SWP but I would be very interested to read this.

    “Cliff’s method in this was right. To do anything in the party the leadership must, in a certain sense exaggerate. ”

    Is it any wonder they have a problem with recruitment or that members such as myself left. I am not at all gloating about this but the SWP needs a theoretical clearout and the membership to exert some authority over the leadership, maybe this is the opportunity.

  48. ” This has, in the recent debate, created a bullying and intimidatory atmosphere where the apparatus of the party plays a far larger
    role in the internal debate than it has done in the past”

    This struck me as precisely the method used to corral members into supporting the ridiculous ‘witchhunt’ petition in the autumn of 2007.

    An example of a irony bypass operation if ever there was

  49. Joseph Kisolo on said:

    bitter and twisted says – “But Joseph #29 is wrong to think that Rees and German’s apparent support for the united front against the majority is a reason to side with them. The majority are realistic enough to understand that the SWP’s current standing is rock bottom and therefore it’s right for them to show a bit of humility. Rees’s crowing about the Charter being so successful is absurd and contradicted by the size of the Benn meeting.”

    As I said before, things are complicated. Rees did bad no doubt about it. Rees’s conception of UFSK is unworkable except ultimalty as an SWP smash and grap – true though bare in mind CC majority don’t have a better,more open conception. However, we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that the stitch up of Rees is a good thing.

    True Rees may have a hyper-inflated, and undemocratic, view of the success of the ‘charter’. But rather then representing positive humility the CC majorities pessimism about the possibility of building a broad and generalised political fight back represents a negative – return to party building exercise.

    Of course, it doesn’t really matter whether we support the scapegoat of Rees of oppose it. In fact most SWP members who may be reading this blog are likely to do the exact opposite of anything they associate with this blog. (which is why Andy was right in his (now abandoned) original plan not to publish anything on split).

    The glimmer of hope is that there is a possibility that this fracarse might lead to a more internally democratic SWP. While this is far from a certain outcome it is one that would not be at all possible if SWP were the true sect some mistakenly believe it to be, rather then just the very broken party of very good activists it is.

    If this happens then it won’t nessisarly mean that the SWP will deal better with others in the immediate future but it the long term it will.

  50. Dickie Ticker on said:

    The SWP, a hopeless sect of parasitic, middle class ‘radicals’ that have acted as the unofficial police of the Labour Party for as long as anyone can remember; they’ve done more to sabotage live social movements than the combined efforts of the British secret State and the bureaucratic CPGP combined.

    They truly are the kiss of death. If they really want to help they should just fuck off and leave the rest of us to get on with it. Nobody wants their ‘leadership’ and nobody needs their ridiculous paper sellers.

    Remember the old adage: “You keep an eye on the filth and I’ll keep an eye on the Trots.”

    It’s never been more true…

  51. No one is listening to this
    no one cares about the end of the SWP (nobody cared about the end of WRP or Militant)

    The Trot Left (4th International) as it was established is dead

    the only way forward is Marxism

  52. Dickie Ticker on said:

    # 61, Yeah, but whose kind of Marxism. Pol Pot’s, Christopher Hill’s, Lenin’s..?

    We had better start again. Right from first principles. We should have the balls to admit that Lenin destroyed every last vestige of socialism in the Soviet Union, wiping out factory councils (Draft Decree of Nov 3)and replacing workers control with the Supreme Council of the National Economy.

    We might then consider the problem created by the value of contemporary Lennist ideology to intellectuals in times of social crisis. It offers middle class radicals the possibility of State power, priviliege, prestiege and control. In quieter perions many so called ‘revolutionary communists’ simply find the transition to neo-con or new labour orthodoxy more profitable, but display the the same authoritarian contempt towards the people.

    This is why so many now equate ‘socialism’ with a group of authoritarian technocrats simply substituting themselves for the old bourgeoise. The SWP are a perfect example. And who wants that..?

    If Marxism and socialism doesn’t mean direct workers control by freely associated producers, then it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a scam.

  53. Joseph: #59

    “In fact most SWP members who may be reading this blog are likely to do the exact opposite of anything they associate with this blog. (which is why Andy was right in his (now abandoned) original plan not to publish anything on split).”

    Grow up JOseph,

    Firtsly,I have still made no comment on the current argument in the SWP, I have published a document from john Rees, where he speaks in his own words.

    Actually, the reputation of the SWP is enhanced to the outside world by there being an obviously serious debate within it.

    Secondly, I have a much higher opinion of SWP members than you do, if you think they are so lightly swayed.

  54. I’m by no means a fan of the SWP but this gloating by so called “libertarian socialists” is symptomatic of their complete and utter irrelevance.
    “What Rees, Harman, German, Davidson et al still cant see is that the crisis in the SWP is symptomatic of the collapse, decay and complete irrelevance of Marxist-Leninist/Trotskyist organisations generally. It’s over. Bolshevism is dead. Leadership fetishists are childish and pathetic. Long live libertarian socialism”

    Firstly as I’m a member of the Socialist Party I can tell you this not syptomatic of the collapse and decay of Marxist-Leninist/Trotskyist organizations. In fact the recent economic crisis has given us a new lease of life and our recent recruitment figures make for very happy reading indeed. As for “complete irrelevance” okay maybe the last 15 or 16 years haven’t been the best for Trotskyists generally but at least we have been relevant ANL?, poll tax campaign? do they suggest irrelevancy?. And mark my words we will be relevant again.

    Now as for leadership fetishes etc can you tell me how the working can ever win without a leadership? what do we spontaneously organize when we need to?. Or is it a idea good to have people around who have dedicated their lives to struggle and have the organizational experience and a consistent programme. I really like you to tell me because i’ve yet to hear a good explanation of how any movement can succeed without a strong leadership.

    Now one accusation that is always hurled at us from “libertarian socialists” (read ultra-lefts) is that we are all hopeless sectarians. Well maybe you should try looking in your own back yard before you make such claims, yes trotskyism has a less than perfect record when it comes to sectarianism but at least we are trying through various initiatives, in the Socialist Parties case CNWP, NSSN and the SWP in their own misguided way have at least turned away from their former ultra-leftism and have begun to take part in electoral initiatives (even if they have been totally cack-handed about it). Within libetarian socialism you a have number of competing traditions anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalsim, four or five different borgist sects, four or five different luxemburgist sects, impossiblists and so on. And please tell me what have the combined efforts of these libertarian sects ever achieved. Just remember before you criticize people that you shouldn’t throw stones if you live in a glass house.

    So the truth is for all your glorying in the misfortunes of another organization, while the Trotskyist tradition the world over is slowly but surely recovering from the disorientation and decline that has marked the last 20 or so years your tradition remains what it always has been. Still born.

  55. Paul C wrote:

    ” . . .five different borgist sects”

    There was actually six series in the Star Trek franchise if you count the animated series from ’73-’74.

    And yes I am taking the piss. You’re a would-be vanguardist. You bring it on yourself.

    PS – The Bordigists were/are the biggest would-be vanguardists of them all. You should know that.

  56. Dickie Ticker on said:

    It’s all over Paul c. Get over it.

    Incidentally, the SWP certainly contributed to the Anti-Poll Tax movement. They thoroughly screwed it! I can still recall the dozens of meetings essentially destroyed by SWP attempts to gain strategic control of steering groups; committees; etc.

    And their ‘Leninist’ strategy for dealing with the Poll Tax? “We call on the Labour Party and Trade Union Leadership to end this iniquitous tax, etc..” Farcical, yet depressingly predictable.

    But of course, every Trot is a Lenin in his own mind. As he bludgeons bewildered listeners from the podium he somehow contrives to see himself as the Great Leader we’ve all been waiting for. The tragedy is that nobody is listening and nobody cares. The louder they scream the funnier it gets.

    Paul C confuses new life with morbid agitation.

  57. Rees recommends recruitment drives, rebuilding the branches, using the paper as a, “bridge”, avoiding, “propagandism” and suggesting that he continue making best picks for United Front work.

    Tony Cliff: “Rees is our conductor!”

    Music: “We’re here because, we’re here because…”

  58. Dickie Ticker, why don’t you try answering some of the questions I have asked you, if we are as irrelevant as yo make then how explain victories, though short term ones, such as the destruction of the NF in the late/early 08s led by the SWP? and the defeat of the poll tax and the down fall of thatcher of after a campaign led by Militant? how can any movement succeed without leadership? how can your tendency start throwing round accusations of sectarianism when you have so many irrelevant sects (and these really are sects, we may thousands you lo rarely break out of double figures) floating around yourself? and when have workers ever made gains long term or short by following the programme of your tendency?
    Try answering the questions this time, rather than making some snooty remarks about a spelling mistake and making rather poor attempts to discredit with crap psychology. If it’s over for Leninists (which it isn’t) then it never started for libertarians.

  59. Dickie Ticker on said:

    Paul C,

    This is hilarious: “the defeat of the Poll Tax and the downfall of Thatcher after a campaign led by Militant(?)”

    Surely, you’re just having a laugh with this?

    What next? The defeat of George Bush and the downfall of Halliburton as a result of the SWP’s revolutionary campaign in the SOAS?

    This stuff doesn’t even rise to the level of farce.

  60. So I take it like Dareen you are a member of the SPGB the do nothing revolutionaries. Not really worth talking you is it as i won’t get a grown up response will I?. For an ageing sect you sure are immature.

  61. Dickie Ticker on said:

    What have those bloody ‘Libertarian Socialists’ ever done for us?

    Not much, just the anti-globalisation movement, the IWW, the direct action movement against militarism, the roads protests, factory occupations, the shop stewards movement, the anti GM campaign, the international solidarity movements, and an insurrection in Greece this weekend!

    Still, we can’t compare to the SWP’s proud record of recruitment in local government and paper selling!

  62. chris clark on said:

    Ah! The biter bit.Things were only starting to go wrong in 1999? Rees must have been going around with his head up his arse. The period of 94-97 saw the party being battered from pillar to post due to the wrong “30s in slow motion” theory and the silly practice of splitting the branches till they were so small that they became to all intents and purposes impractical.Anyone who spoke out about this was shot down in flames.I stood against the leadership line at an extrordinary aggregate in April 95 at the Halkevi in Hackney the result was 61 against me 19 for me and 36 abstentions(23 people in the hall either worked at the printshop/centre or were partners of). Count it up! 116 + the chair=117 comrades at a meeting on a Tuesday night at 6:00! By Rees own admission 120 people at the public meeting with Benn.What a decline! The district public meeting in Hackney after the a nnouncement of the pit closures programme in Autumn 92 had 250 people there,in 93 these bi-monthly meetings had a minimum of 150 attending,in the Summer of 92 there was 54 at a meeting of Hackney North,54 at a branch meeting FFS! The last party meeting Iwent to was the North London district meeting in May 2002,21 people there. That period 94-97 saw trouble in Hackney district,N.London S.London W.London Bristol Kent Leeds Manchester and Glasgow districts, these are the ones I know about.In my considered and erudite opinion I reckon the party lost about 1/4 of its membership and 1/3 of its influence in this period.I dont know what Rees was doing when all this was going on,must have had his United Front of a special kind blinkers on.

  63. Don’t be like that, Paul C.

    Grown up response? Last political meeting I went to was a CWI meeting in late October.

    What was the revolutionary leninist vanguard – all seven of them – telling the class on a cold windy night in Brooklyn?

    Vote Nader, and build an organisation involving Sheehan and McKinney. Left populism that’s not so popular.

    The vanguard. The smartest guys in the room.

    “Aging sect”?

    Mmm, maybe you should look at your leadership the next time you’re at a Party aggregate. Taaffe, Walsh, Doyle and the rest. Not exactly spring chickens. But apparently still your brightest and best. 😉

  64. Does Rees German Nineham etc

    Get paid for doing a job with the SWP and the Stop the War
    Also do they get expenses for all there Joly’s?
    me’thinks that they need the SWP more that the SWP need them.

    Good farewell song for Rees
    I Did It My Way

  65. herbal stuff on said:

    Wow, this comment section filled itself with shit fast.

    I think Rees has really identified the problems facing the SWP which originates with Seattle. A section of the party, represented by the CC minority, threw itself into the post-Seattle movements fighting to shape them and build them. The majority of the CC and another section of the membership was pulled along by the momentum of such movements. Finally, another section was stuck in the organizational routines of the 1980s and 1990s. The party bent the stick towards engaging the movements but in doing so allowed its internal regime (and therefore, recruitment) to be neglected. The stick needs to be bent in the other direction, and Rees (and German) understand this. The reverses in Respect and the slowing down of the once enormous anti-war movement have caused the majority of the CC to blame the failure in Respect, and thus Rees, for the lack of recruitment and paralysis in response to the crisis (still a better response than other groups). I don’t know what exactly has gone on to cause this and Rees doesn’t explain. Now it seems as those who recognize that nothing has in fact gone wrong in the general sense, but that recruitment and party-building suffered when the stick was bent to the movements. Now that things have slowed down, with some reverses and we’re at a new massive economic conjuncture, there is a moment where the SWP now has to assess the situation and shift gears – and it is causing a big debate and dredging up disagreements over how the past decade has played out and why. It’s a genuine political debate that has taken an unfortunate personal turn – which is often what happens anyway – but Rees is making a real attempt, and accurate attempt in my mind, at assessing the situation accurately and pointing a way forward.

  66. twisted and bitter on said:

    Chris Clark #73 is quite right about the rot going back further than 1999. In fact, Rees is right when he identifies the disastrous ultra-left line over the poll tax. It’s been pretty grim ever since.

    The poll tax line was enthusiastically and ruthlessly promoted by the idiot Bambery as National Secretary, as were all the other ridiculous twists and turns in the 90s – including most bizarre of all the complete abolition of the branches.

    No single event marked more strongly the complete contempt the CC had for the members than that. Exactly how was there to be any internal democracy, even in form rather than substance, without branches for members to attend. But this is all of a piece with the arrogant elitism of a leadership which believes that it and no-one else is able to analyse the situation and work out exactly what must be done.

    That is the basic premiss of the “stick bending” style of leadership Rees urges a return to. Time and again though the leadership has demonstrated it is more in touch with its own fantasies than with reality.

    The irony of all this is that Martin Smith is clearly the target of Rees’s splitters document. That’s why it goes on an on about recruitment and the role of the national office and apparatus and failures in this department. Oh it was so much better under Bambery – not. The completely talentless thug Bambery is now in charge of the paper which has never been worse, even compared to the punk paper period.

    As for whether or not this document should have appeared on this blog, it is again an attitude of the most extraordinary arrogance for SWP members to claim this is merely an internal matter for the SWP.

    If the SWP was a sect living on the Mull of Kintyre they might have a point. But in fact it’s an organisation which has claimed, correctly for a period, to be the largest and most influential on the left of Labour. Rees’s political crimes are no doubt many but none is greater than the decision, wholeheartedly supported by all of the CC members now attacking him and his gang, to destroy the most successful left of Labour electoral initiative for 60 years. What they think and what they do is therefore a matter for all of the serious left.

    Incidentally, conspicuous by its absence from Rees’s document is any analysis of the disastrous Left List adventure or indeed of how they all came to such a wrong judgement about the four councillors (you know the three that went to New Labour and one to the Tories). One of them, Oliur Rahman, came to the support of the Tory candidate for Poplar and Limehouse, Tim Archer, when Abjol Miah savaged the latter the other day over blatant Islamophobia. Perhaps the always unstable Rahman is thinking of changing parties again.

  67. red mole on said:

    12 months ago Mark Steel described (admittedly in not very constructive fashion) what he saw as the decline of the SWP’s strength and influence in recent years. For this he was taken to task by the SWP leadership. John Rees now acknowledges that the SWP is going through a period of crisis which he dates back 10 years (interesting to note, just before Cliff’s death).

    Many visitors to this website may welcome Rees’s candour, but feel less comfortable with his solutions : stronger, more decisive leadership; a willingness to ‘bend the stick’; a greater focus on party recruitment; and his perverse insistence that the Charter is a form of United Front. And this is precisely the nub of Neil Davidson’s argument in the article commented on by Rees. The Cliffite approach advocated by Rees, while it has its strengths, ultimately has acted – and will continue to act – as a barrier to party growth :

    “Why would activists looking for a party to take them beyond trade unionism, single-issue or community campaigning subject themselves to an internal regime which is less democratic than those to which they already belong ?

    “The party is organised as a small, revolutionary group wuth structures and procedures which make it difficult to become anything other than a small revolutionary group. The potential problems were identified even before the Leninist turn was complete. In April 1975 John Molyneux complained in this very bulletin of what members regarded as ‘the high-handed and undemocratic way in which certain important decisions are taken’ leading to ‘disunity, bitterness and splits’. He also proposed an explanation : ‘the crucial factor I believe is the lack of an established tradition of organised political debate at all levels of the organisation. The branches discuss politics and debate issues, of course, but not in a way that systematically relates to the central strategic concerns of the group and so can contribute to the taking of important decisions. They cannot do this because they are not sufficiently informed on the strategic plans of the leadership or, more importantly, on the reasoning behind differences within the leadership.'”

  68. not so funny on said:

    #79 John Gray is a right wing scumbag who defends all things New Labour and works for one of the worst housing associations New Labour has encouraged its council tenants to trasfer to. His sense of humour is so good he has produced a Xmas card allegedly coming from Trotsky’s assassin. He is sick, not funny. But then I guess you knew that.

  69. But there are deeper, underlying issues that have contributed to the crisis. First the
    weakness of our recruitment and, second, a failure to convince a large enough section of
    the party of the importance of the various united fronts we have been involved in since
    Seattle
    .

    I think that does hit the nub, from what I’ve seen a great many SWP supporters quietly walked way from Respect and the front work. That Rees later says more effort should have been made to get them involved (make them be involved) misses the point that they didn’t want to be, that it was a split in the making.

    As someone above points out, the tone of the discussion of fronts is one of ownership, and the idea is that teh CC should control everything – the idea that the Party could carry out different types of activity and pursue different projects at ocne seems beyond the conception of the idea of central control.

    Overall, from a Trainspotter point of view,t his doc could turn out to be of some lasting historical significance, right up there with the various boks that came out of the fall of the WRP…

  70. prianikoff on said:

    Neil Davidson reported by John Rees says the SWP

    “have incorrectly designated the attempts at building new radical parties as united fronts and that this has contributed to the reverses that have
    taken place in our electoral work. Finally, Neil suggests that if there were a less professional leadership that included those who hold down jobs and which was drawn
    from different parts of the country we would be more able to deal with these issues.”

    Obviously the point about a “less professional leadership” is a self-serving one by Rees.
    But having a leadership mainly composed of ex-student full timers is virtually guaranteed to produce political errors.
    Both ultra-leftist ones and a tendency to be insulated from members, branches and regions.
    The hyper centralised nature of the SWP and lack of branch democracy is one of the reasons its got into a mess.

    This is nothing to do with any argument against Democratic Centralism, the Leninist theory of organisation or any of the usual hobby horses of the reformist left.
    What the SWP has been practising doesn’t represent such a form of organisation.

    The SWP made a political mistake in theorising the “United Front of a Special Type”.
    United fronts are political alliances of seperate organisations with different programmes, around specific tasks.
    The classic case being the United Front against Fascism.

    In the case of the Socialist Alliance and Respect, this was misapplied to forming an organisation putting forward a common programme in elections.
    Given the composition of the Socialist Alliance, there was some possibility that it could act as a vehicle for regroupment of the revolutionary left.
    But what began to emerge was a political bloc, with a tendency to accommodate to reformism, by censoring political positions which it was thought would exclude the Labour Left.
    A similar process had occurred in the SSP in Scotland, except the accommodation was mainly towards the SNP.
    In neither case did the expected mass split occur.

    The SWP adopted a low profile in these organisations and deepened the orientation on the formation of Respect.
    Given that it was not putting forward any clear alternative programme, it tended to dominate through force of numbers and administrative means.
    When Respect achieved limited local successes, the electoralist-reformist wing wanted to build an organisation entirely distinct from the SWP
    It’s not suprising that the SWP reacted bureaucratically and lost its full timers most involved in building Respect.
    This was simply the “United Front of a Special Type” taken to its logical conclusion.

    In fact, the political differences between the two sides were not that great because the SWP’s own politics (never fully Marxist) had been affected by the whole process too.
    Local branches were being undermined in favour of rootless campaign branches and with them the possibility of local discussion and restraint on the leadership.
    Hence the SWP was wrong-footed by the economic crisis, just as the other half of Respect was.
    Chris Harman was at first quite non-committal, later adopting stronger positions as the reality of the situation became apparent.
    On the other side, Galloway resorted to Keynesian arguments for lowering interest rates and other nostrums from the arsenal of the Labour left.
    Since interest rates are now predicted to be zero within 6 months, these are fairly redundant demands.
    There’s no real indication that either organisation has digested the implications of this new period.

    In fact the onset of recession calls into question the whole approach of putting forward watered down compromise programmes.
    There is an increasing necessity for a clear Action programme which challenges private ownership and offers workers in struggle the tools to fight succesfully.
    It’s no longer a question of making propaganda for socialism, but of making socialist demands relevant to local and national struggles.
    As the events in Greece show, the issue of government can be raised very quickly in such a situation.

    To argue that loose, federalist political formations,with watered-down politics will be up to dealing with such a period is not tenable.
    Left pacts on elections are one thing – and these could include the Labour Left – but political liquidation is another.

  71. last one out turn off the light

    the only grouping that truely had any influence outside the traditional role of the Communist Party was Militant and its success was being in the Labour Party, they would never have secured the platform for houses in liverpool (excellent) Anti Poll Tax (excellent). name one thing after expulsion from the Labour Party that the Socialist party can point to ….or any other other ultra left sect…except sell each other papers, split and expel any opponents

    What ever the future its not anything the WRP or SWP built upon

  72. Re 83 .Most of the houses in Speke (dymchurch) built during the militants time have been knocked down, the estate was a disaster. Not Socialist advance but municipal reformism.

  73. Anonymous on said:

    You’re all living in a fantasy world where minute differences in left policy actually matter. They don’t – what matters is building up counter-hegemony in a time where despite global recession it barely exists.

    Forget orthodoxies – if any of you are familiar with materialism you should know that it’s about responding to the specific socio-historical circumstances you find yourselves in.

    No matter what your stripe, you’re deservedly a laughing stock if you think bitterly arguing amongst a small group of people is going to do anything to advance socialism. What needs to happen is an appeal to people’s everyday circumstances – making left politics seem relevant by showing directly how it *is* relevant in every area of life. And this doesn’t mean recruiting people to parties for the membership fees – it needs a far wider and concerted effort than that.

  74. I found it a well-considered and thoughtful explanation for Rees’ political strategy and actions – whatever anyone else says it is largely honest (though nothing really on the problems inside the Socialist Alliance, that, to cite but one, Madame Miaow knows all about).

    If poor old Rees and Germain are hungry and workless there’s always a place for them in the Workers’ United Front (led by Tendance Coatesy).

    Mind you I don’t think will find it easy to adjust to the new pole that’s rising on the European left (apart, that is, from the Besancenot one), notably the French Parti de Gauche’s Appeal for the European Elections. Hard-line secularists…

  75. pregethwr on said:

    75 hits the nail on the head. Rees and German (neither part of the SWP trust fund brigade) have neither any other income apart from the party nor any prospect of gaining an alternative income (people in their 50s with no skills and no work experience don’t walk into jobs).

    The stakes for them are pretty high here, they need to cause a split with enough members coming with them to continue to pay their mortgage.

  76. Karen Elliot on said:

    When Rees proposes his defense of ‘stick bending’ he manages to cut to the heart of the argument now taking place in the SWP. In the early 90s some of us in the SWP (the short-lived ‘IS Group’) proposed arguments for internal democracy that mirror what is currently being said outside the CC, sharing a similar scope and arriving at almost identical conclusions. Those arguments necessarily had to address the practice of stick bending, beloved by Rees, as it perfectly encapsulates the problem in the SWP, since the idea of ‘stick bending’ can only be based on a model that divides the party membership neatly in two – those at the top, able to process all of the facts and come to appropriate conclusions, and those outside the leadership who are fit only to swallow their predigested conclusions in the form of exaggerated analyses and calls to action (the dreaded ‘current perspective’).
    Here, in plain view, is Ree’s basic model of the world:

    “If you want organisations and the people who compose them to change they must be political convinced, motivated and the inertia within them has to be counteracted. You have to ‘bend the stick’.”

    In other words, the membership are essentially inert and must be driven hither and yon by ‘bending the stick’. Those doing the bending, being full-time, professional revolutionaries, do not themselves require such methods to be applied to them as they, through study and experience, have managed to rise above sectional interests to see the terrain as a whole (no, honestly – stop laughing at ‘the back of the class’!.) At no point does Rees consider the possibility that the leadership are just as likely to go seriously astray: I have never heard any of the CC speculate seriously about what kind of stick the membership might avail themselves of in order to beat the leadership into line when required. Within the SWP, until the last few months at least, that question has not seriously been asked for many decades (imho, since the ‘turn to Lenin’.)
    The result of Rees’s model of party leadership is that those outside the leadership are denied the opportunity to think practically for themselves within the party, since they will only be judged by how loud they were in supporting this or that ‘bent’ instruction from ‘the center’. Historically, those that have enthusiastically obeyed the line are regarded as loyal and capable, whereas anyone who disagrees is treated simply as ‘a barrier to growth’: and since growth of the party is what the game is all about, then it’s trivially easy to justify the rough and ready treatment of critics since they are destroying the vital ‘possibilities for growth’ outlined in the perspective. Disagreement itself is seen as inherently problematic, which is why SWP members to this day have a horror of any kind of factionalism, since they believe that it necessarily tears revolutionary groups apart and that the only way to guarantee progress is through exercising a kind of bogus military discipline – the troops being marched around in step according to orders barked from the center. From a management point of view (and, let’s face it, this is essentially a managerial perspective) critics are always basically mutineers, since they are a barrier to fulfilling quotas, and so must be removed just as company management might by fiat simply sack those who are not on board with company policy (if, like members of the SWP, they have no way of defending themselves against such attacks, that is.)
    The result is a party where meaningful debate can only happen at the highest levels, and issues can only be resolved there – normally by occasional CC coups against this or that individual who is then obliged to fade into the background without causing a fuss. Of course (apparently contrary to what I said earlier) ‘debate’ as such can take place anywhere in the SWP, and often does. The point is that it is not integrated into party life in any meaningful way, and therefore becomes almost a matter of conscience (or, sometimes, style and reputation.)
    I remember debates with Rees at Marxism in the late 80s and early 90s about the philosophy of consciousness that underpins Leninist practice. The details don’t matter, but suffice to say that not only did his position amount to a defense of an elitist idea of party leadership, but his methods of debate themselves turned out to be perfect models of his lopsided attitude to the rest of the party (he could spend months, even years arguing a certain position only to reverse it in a moment when, eg., it turned out that Chris Harman took a different view.) Of course, few if any will care about what Rees had to say back then about ‘Lukacs and Class Consciousness’ or ‘The Dialectics of Nature’, but to watch the way he handled himself in those debates as he jostled to make a name for himself as a party intellectual was fascinating in a ghastly sort of way, as it was to see a man who had no scruples about the way he operated.
    While his document addresses a few issues where he imagines he might get some support from this or that disgruntled section of the membership, at heart it’s a conservative appeal to the leadership and the party to return to the balmy days of old where the CC maintained collective responsibility and covered one anothers’ backs and in which he and his cohorts would be allowed to continue to ‘exaggerate’ and ‘bend the stick’ to their hearts content, knowing that they would remain immune from systematic criticism. My guess is that it’s now too late for him to pull that off – the genie is out of the bottle and has started flying around the room shitting on his leather bound notebooks while chucking the crockery around.
    For those here who want to imagine that Rees et al are defending the idea of an open SWP, ready to work with others, against a troglodyte majority who want to drag the party back into the bunker, I’d say that is a fundamental mistake. Rees and German were certainly prime movers in the SWP’s turn outwards, but what Rees is defending here is not the turn per se, but his right as a CC member to be able to run such interventions as he sees fit, insulated from criticism (and displaying ‘energetic leadership’.) In other words, he is defending the old concept of party leadership which he originally used to navigate his way toward influence, and which he now hopes can be deployed to keep him in a job.
    Specifically, he is defending these ideas against those who instead want to draw the appropriate conclusions from their attempt to turn outward – in other words, those who believe that if the SWP are to turn successfully outward toward new social forces and political currents they will have to abandon the leadership model of old, since it is that model which allowed Rees to blow up all the bridges behind him in a fit of pique as he yanked the SWP out of Respect. After all, the collapse started when his abilities were questioned within the Respect leadership and the CC decided that to criticise him was to criticise the SWP as such. His basic argument is a defense of that position: as a leader he should be allowed to ‘exaggerate’ and ‘bend the stick’ as he likes, and it is churlish of the rest of the CC to turn on him for doing what, until recently, had been commonly considered by them to be his right as a CC member.
    The IS Group I mentioned argued in the early 90s that the Labour Party was in the early stages of a process of dissolving as a party of the working class, and that the SWP should prepare to work with others on the left (admittedly we got a bit too excited about Scargill’s SP), but that to do this successfully would mean making the SWP a properly democratic party. As a matter of fact, a lot of our collective hostility to the leadership stemmed from our individual interactions with John Rees as it became apparent not only how he operated but also the extent to which the party’s notion of leadership allowed him to do this. At the time this was almost universally considered to be a entirely abstract argument. Now, more than ten years down the line, perhaps the issue has finally become sufficiently concrete (ie. perilous) for the SWP at last to do something about it. It seems to me that the correct issues are being raised at last. The question is – do the remaining members have the will and energy to address it systematically?
    On a side note, I understand that Rees is about to write a book on Milton. I do hope that he manages to learn something from the experience.

  77. I think they must be well aware that the split boat has already left the harbour. The moment anyone in a Trotskyist group is accused of preparing to split – see Alex Callinicos at the CC – then they had better be ready to get expelled.
    It follows as naturally as night and day. Or day and night (depending on your perspective).
    Unfortunately, reading Rees intermidable rambling it looks like he still hasn’t got his head round that fact, and his political fight is entirely devoted to errors around “recruitment”, and other tedious inner party business.
    Its all yesterday’s news.
    Get with the programme John, if you can’t come up with something more political than that, you may as well drop out altogether.
    (Although if the best support you can must is German, Bamberry and Nineham, heaven help!)

  78. Karl Stewart on said:

    It’s difficult from John Rees’s document to work out exactly what the politics of all this are, apart from Mr Rees being keen to establish that the current problems are not his fault.
    But, as far as the question of whether internal SWP debates should take place in public, I’d say that I can’t see why this should be thought of as a problem – provided, of course, that the security of individuals is not compromised.
    If Socialist Worker featured a real political debate over the way forward for the party, then that would be of interest right across the UK left and would reflect well on the SWP.
    As an example, when I was in the Communist Party, the debate over whether or not to participate in the Respect Party was featured in the pages of the Morning Star, with senior party members taking opposing positions. This led to a special congress, at which the issue was thoroughly debated and then decided on and did not cause a split in the ranks.
    My view at the time was that making this discussion public reflected well on the party and showed to the rest of the left that the Communist Party was not afraid of honestly addressing, debating and dealing with serious issues of the day.
    I hope that, rather than holding a secret discussion followed by a bitter split would be disastrous not just for the SWP but for the rest of the left too.

  79. Karl Stewart on said:

    …oops, last sentence didn’t really make sense did it?
    What I meant to say was: “I hope, rather than holding a secret discussion followed by a bitter split which would be disastrous not just for the SWP but for the rest of the left too, that the SWP will openly debate its internal differences in a similar vein.”

  80. In post #73 ‘chris clark’ lists a series of SWP districts that lost members and/or experienced internal fights in the period 94-97. To that list he needs to at least three other districts to my certain knowledge. Something was clearly brewing within the ranks of the group and had the leadership responded by listening and atempting to fathom what was disturbing the members a better result might have been had. Instead a large series of quits took place, a far smaller series of expulsions and even split of much of two branches to the above mentioned ISG.

    Now it is true that Karens post #89 above has merits but its wrong to suggest that the SWP got into deep do-do due to a lack of philosophical foundations. The RSDLP had rubbish philosophy but a faction of it led a social revolution! Far more importantly the RSDLP had a revolutionary program, which they would junk elements of when they proved outmoded, and deep roots within the proletarian class. The SWP by contrast has fought shy of adopting a program, for both good and bad reasons but that position is now a shibboleth not a principle as such, and long ago lost its slender toehold within the proletariat. Had a consistent orientation been maintained on building the group while building the wider workers movement, the meaning least it be forgot of the United Front, then this might not have led to the current malaise but the ‘leadership’ chose to build by Cliffs method of short cuts while lacking his inspired genius for such short term tactical turns. Davidson has the merit of coming close to this truth.

    As the ISG inherited much from the SWP and knew little of the IS tradition, in my opinion, it too reproduced many of the weaknesses of the SWP. With the twist that its leading figures or figure, did not know in what direction to take the grouplet. Resulting eventually in its disintegration. Mind those helpful souls at the weakly wanker were no help.

  81. KE:

    “Historically, those that have enthusiastically obeyed the line are regarded as loyal and capable, whereas anyone who disagrees is treated simply as ‘a barrier to growth’: and since growth of the party is what the game is all about, then it’s trivially easy to justify the rough and ready treatment of critics since they are destroying the vital ‘possibilities for growth’ outlined in the perspective. Disagreement itself is seen as inherently problematic…”

    Which, oddly enough, rather neatly describes the reception I received here from you and others (and right across the internet from comrades all over the planet). This strongly suggests this is not just an SWP problem, but one shared by the vast majority of Marxist parties/sects/individuals. One only has to look at the history of Trotskyism, for instance, to see similar things happening all the time; the same kind of accusations, bickering, lying, petty personal feuds repackaged as ‘political differences’. And the same lament from bystanders who never ask fundamental questions: why is this an endemic feature of the far left? And has this got anything to do with the class origin of most leading Marxists, and the theory they have imposed on the movement?

    Until this is addressed, it will continue to happen — as I warned last year.

    I might as well have been speaking to the cat…

  82. I look forward to seeing your skit with skit with Bruno Brux on some Sky3 nostalgia show.

    ‘When left goes wrong’

    MRD

  83. Bill Scott on said:

    To sum up and save you reading through 8000+ words of stultifyingly dull and self serving verbal diarrhoea. John Rees explanation of all that’s gone wrong in the SWP, Respect and the SSP – “Bad boys did it and ran away!”.

    I’m with Kev and Jon – how about constructing a socialism fit for the 21st century rather than continuing with anti-democratic (in all senses) elitism? Here’s hoping that the SWP does split. Who knows, the parts may add up to more than the sum.

  84. I find what John Rees has written in the second paragraph completely and utterly damning really. He tells us . . .

    “I have always hesitated to take these arguments beyond the Central Committee. I remember from the internal fights in the 1970s that such debates can be damaging as well as enlightening. But I now think that we have no choice but to initiate a full and wideranging debate in the SWP.”

    So for thirty years he has been opposed to democratic centralism! For thirty years he has not been a Leninist! For thirty years he has supported a bureaucratic centralist internal regime that has persecuted anyone who has had the temerity to disagree!

    And now, because it is his turn to go in the mangle, he wants a full and wide-ranging debate. Bloody hypocrite!

    Btw, comradely greetings to all former ISG comrades. I was never a member of your group but I did meet up with some of you in south London at one point and I do remember your excellent publications. About fifteen years ahead of our time, weren’t we? Ha-ha-ha!!

  85. Karen Elliot on said:

    94: its wrong to suggest that the SWP got into deep do-do due to a lack of philosophical foundations.

    Do you know… that is the very reason why I’ve never suggested such and thing and why I’ve never believed it either. It is also the reason why the IS Group, eg., proposed changes to the SWP constitution to allow greater democracy without ever once, to my knowledge, arguing that the solution might also involve a series of meetings to study Hegel’s Logic.

    “As the ISG… knew little of the IS tradition”

    nb. it was called the ‘IS Group’ and not, eg., the ‘International Socialists Group’ because the argument was that something of great value in the original ‘IS’ was being frittered away. To say that we ‘knew little’ of that tradition is absurd and insulting. What you really mean is that you now disagree with our positive estimation of the tradtion – but that’s a different matter. It’s true that none of the leading figures in the IS Group had been around long enough to have, eg., been a member the IS in the 60s – but such considerations have never for a moment prevented anyone on the left from gobbing off about, eg., ‘the lessons of 1917’, so I think we are all basically in the same boat on this one.

    “its leading figures or figure, did not know in what direction to take the grouplet”

    That is a fundamental error: it was not that we didn’t know where to go next but rather that none of us had any ambition to form a pissant little sub-Trotskyist group and spend the rest of our lives whining from the sidelines that, if only the world would listen to us, man’s common lot of woe might finally be lifted. I for one did not want the responsibility of dragging a group of excellent comrades into that particular quagmire. To professional revolutionaries that attitude, of course, is sacrilegious. But we, on the other hand, didn’t care too much for ‘professional revolutionaries’ anyway.

    My own reasoning was that we had run into conflict with the SWP and, instead of just pissing off to nurse our wounds and cry into our beer, as people mostly do, we should organise to put our case and oppose the way that the SWP were developing, laying down a marker – but also that, once we had made a reasonable effort to do so, we should cease fire. Of course we were courted by all and sundry but, fortunately people like Matgamna and John Bridge sensed immediately that we weren’t interested in a place on their grotty editorial boards or promises of eternal factional rights, and their courtship of us ended as quickly as it began.

    We made our case (over several years of leafletting, holding fringe meetings at Marxism, etc.) and then collectively fucked off. That left the individuals concerned free to continue as they saw fit, but the IS Group had no ambitions to become another groupescule sat in the corner of the sand pit eternally yanking the cord on our own voice box, like some broken Trotskyist Action Man doll (see Planes, Trains and Automobiles for details).

    I for one left organised party politics then, since the only tradition I had any interest in had made it abundantly clear that I was banned from membership of that tradition for life, and have showed no interest in relenting. After that I tried to get involved with things like, eg., the ANL but, surprisingly, it didn’t matter how many times I sent of a membership form and subs, no one ever contacted me 😉

  86. Red Bob the Red Journo on said:

    I know for a fact that on thousands of council estates, hundreds of thousands of working class kids are pulling their collective hairs out about the sudden demise of the SWP.

    I saw some teenagers outside of the dole office yesterday and I stopped to chat to them. “I can’t believe this” Tracey told me.

    “I’ve hardly enough cash to go to the coffee shop and get a decent, ethical Columbian coffee and allergy-free pastry.

    “My boy friend is looking at doing a twelve month stretch at a young offenders institution for punching some old granny in the kidneys, and then this, our only hope, the mighty working class SWP does this to itself and implodes.

    “I kept asking myself ‘why am I not being recruited’ and all the time, it was because I was
    living on a shitty council estate speaking English and ignoring the church and not joining some internationalist coalition of snotty middle class school kids and Militant Islamists.

    “I must be scum. Mr Smith is absolutely right. It’s up to me to find the SWP not visa vera.”

    Poor kid. Her boy friend’s looking at doing a bit of hard labour and she’s not even up the duff yet.

  87. end of an era on said:

    What a profoundly dishonest argument from Rees. At no point does he address his own failures or that of the CC as a whole until the last few months and then it’s all put down to nasty Galloway and Kevin Ovenden and his three-legged stool.

    Post the Respect split he then points his fire obliquely at Martin Smith who had opposed Lindsey’s recruitment new policy.

    It is note worthy at this point to remind readers that Lindsey thought the Respect split had done the SWP membership some good, with old members rejoining in solidarity and new members joining as well – I wonder if she actually thought this was happening based on evidence or was it just another case of wishful thinking in the same way as she thought she’s win a seat on the GLA? Perhaps it was simply that they could openly recruit their allies like Elaine Grahan-Leigh rather than pretend they were still ‘independents’.

    It is, of course, some irony that Lindsey suggested another full time worker to work alongside Martin to push recruitment. Wasn’t it Galloway’s call for a national organiser to work alongside Rees that led to the SWP ‘going nuclear’ and Nick Wrack’s agreement to take the position for four weeks that led to his expulsion? I can see why Smith would see this as a full frontal attack on his position at the centre.

    But with the exception of a whinge about the OFFU cheque (which amounts to “I only took £5000 you took £75,000”) the rest fails to get to grips with the long term decline in the membership and influence of the SWP under the leadership from the early 1990s onwards including, the crazy ‘slow motion’ perspectives, Bambery’s triumphant Maoist tour of the country in 2002 after the general election shutting down branches to ‘let a thousand flowers bloom’, the shutting of the Socialist Alliance almost immediately afterwards, and so on and so on. Their own re-writing of history to make them utterly indespensible to the rest of the left from Stop the War to anti-fascist work allows them to ignore the damage they have left in their wake – even when things have gone well for a while.

    So I hope that they give Rees, German and Bambery a good kicking (I’ve never seen the point of Chris Nineham so I don’t care what they do to him. I last saw him selling Stop the War badges on the Manchester Labour conference demo so I know he’s got the potential to make a moderately good street trader). But then I’d like them to tootle off quietly somewhere are have a good long hard look at themselves – and possibly see whether the rest of the shower that supposedly lead them are any better. A quiet moment of self-reflection (a year or two would do) and then begin to re-build with a little humility – and a lot more honesty.

    In the meantime the rest of the left can continue to work alongside and with the many good activists within the SWP but without the obsessional need for some of them to control everything under the guise of ‘united front work’.

    Perhaps I’m bending the stick. But I’m sure Rees will approve of the method if not the perspective.

  88. Karen Elliot on said:

    #102: Greetings to you too, Pete.

    Note however, that not only is Rees a hypocrite but he has broken the golden rule by going public. His ambition now cannot seriously be to win over the rest of the SWP: consider the fact that, by going public, he must know that he will face a force 10 shit storm since the main grudge against him from many members is precisely that, through all the stupid, outrageous things he has done in recent years they have kept their mouths shut and tried their best to defend him anyway. Now that he has broken discipline there is no reason from them not to finally unleash the full force of the resentment they must surely feel against him for making them look such numpties in public. Who can blame them?

    He has clearly decided to risk splitting the party and drag it down with him. To that extent he is now a dead man…. nothing that anyone says now can change that. He is also clearly trying to drag other the other, minority CC members into the fray with him. Presumably German is willing. Perhaps the CC will draw the obvious conclusion and drop her too from the CC? or are they keeping here on board to prove that Rees’s sacking isn’t political but due purely to his personal failings… in which case it is quite cunning of him to insist that the whole matter is political and that, if he’s guilty, they are too, inviting the CC to take them down as well. I wonder if the rest of them will thank him for that? Bambery has better instincts for survival and will surely now tuck his tail right up his own arse and go fully into reverse while begging for mercy. As for Chris Nineham, I neither know nor care… although I would like to take this rare opportunity to say that he was completely crap when he was a drummer in my brother’s indie band, The June Brides. Since them I have always thought of him as someone best suited to only ever dancing to other people’s tunes.

  89. Karen – totally agree about Nineham. He’s been a cipher for Rees an German for years. I think end of an era has it right. Anyone who cares about the future of the SWP must hope for the biggest defeat possible for Rees. The numpties left in charge are certainly a problem, as is the internal culture. But none of that can be addressed if Rees and German are allowed any role.

  90. Karen Elliot on said:

    #107: He isn’t in that picture, since they dropped him before they became successful. But you can just about make him out here, in a publicity shot from when they were still called International Rescue – predictably, he’s the one standing at the back. Any June Brides devotees will be glad to hear that they are reforming in order to play at my forthcoming birthday party (guaranteed half price admission for anyone who can show an old IS Group membership card.)

    Now, let us return to the subject of struggles of biblical proportions.

  91. green socialist on said:

    I just hope that decent SWP members don’t give up on the struggle, even if they find a political home outside the Party?
    I left the SWP to spend more time on Politics myself, to misquote Tony Benn.

  92. Rees says ‘the one big subjective error that we made cost us a leadership role in
    the anti-poll tax campaign,’
    Surely, the poll tax and Magaret Thatcher were finished off by the anti-poll tax campaign, under Militant leadership. So what advantage for the working-class would the SWP leadership have been?
    However, the SWP have the leadership of Stop the War Coalition, but British troops are still in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  93. Dem O'Cracy on said:

    Interesting posts comrades. Have observed the SWP, worked with thoroughly decent
    activists over the years. Early political memory: – reading SW as ‘fresher’ student in the 1980s – labour voting working class background etc etc, met with confident marxist types…..feeling intimidated by the apparent coherence of their ideas..

    But as time went/goes on, doesn’t it strike you how patronising it all was/is? ie the fact that Rees et al have, actually never properly worked anywhere [as far as I know], let alone tried to organise, in any workplace whatsoever?

    And they take themselves so damn seriously! What – precisely what – have they ever led “the working class” in this country, into/out of anything? “Jack something” is an expression that springs to mind.

    But….all said and done, we need to recognise that the SWP has provided a context, whereby left-leaning, however naive, young people [like myself] met marxist ideas before discovering a richer and mature [and complicated] dynamic within the Labour movement and the broader Left.

    For what it’s worth, my moment of realisation about the SWP came way back in the 1990s, when at the Marxism event, Julie Waterson pronounced how Arthur Scargill should have been “clapped in irons” [rather than “clapped” at an earlier, ie SWP rally]. My jaw really did nearly clang on the University of London floor – one of those moments, y’know…]

    forwards comrades.

    DOC

  94. #109 Karen – no disrespect to the June Brides and sorry to go a bit off topic – but is that the same Phil Wilson on the bill who recently covered the Faust song “It’s a rainy day sunshine girl”? It’s been an ipod favourite of mine for a couple of months now.

  95. Stuart King on said:

    I think Karen perfectly sums up the contribution of the ISG “We made our case (over several years of leafletting, holding fringe meetings at Marxism, etc.) and then collectively fucked off.” One wonders what would have happened if Lenin had had the same attitude after the split with the mensheviks.

    I watched the same thing happen with the IS Opposition in the mid-1970s – expelled as a very big faction of IS, led by Jim Higgins, Roger Protz et al and as the Workers League it collapsed in a year. It is the problem if you think the tradition is marvelous only it has been perverted by a bad leadership – why would anyone want to listen to the little echo when they can join the real party?

    The Bolsheviks in contrast went on to analyse politically what was wrong with menshevism and finally understood what was rotten in the whole International. They went to the political roots of the problem because they were serious revolutionaries, unlike Karen who obviously prefers to pontificate from the sidelines.

    John Rees and his coming split/expulsion group will face the same problem. They think the SWP politics are fine, it just all went wrong when they fell out of favour with the leadership. I suspect they wont even have the political will to do a bit of leafletting for a few years before they “collectively fuck off” – into left academia perhaps?

  96. Where would we be without the wisdom of sanctimonious revolution? Where would we be if Lenin… oh please.

  97. Somebody covered “It’s a rainy day sunshine girl”?

    Andy – seeing the Faust pages URL I was just about to ask if you knew Andy Wilson… never mind. Did you ever find Faust Party 7?

  98. Karen Elliot on said:

    SERIOUSLY OFF TOPIC

    #114: Liam – yes, the very same Phil Wilson. I’m currently pushing him to play his version at his next gig.
    #117: Phil – Andy says (ahem) that he is still trying to solve the riddle of Faust Party 7, but with no luck so far. He is, however, about to pass the question on to the people on the Faust mailing list, which he encourages you to join, so that the two of you can discuss it there. Also, btw, several others have already covered ‘It’s a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl’.
    #118: Darren – yep,
    that’s Nineham alright.

  99. Andy number two on said:

    Well Rees’ document at least tries to politically analyse the problems, albeit from only one point of view. It is miles better than the pseudo intellectual rubbish that the ‘SWP intellectuals’ come up with – twisting theories and history to justify the latest U-turn. Food for thought all round I would say. I look forward to Alex Callinocos’ learned explanation in International Socialism of how the SWP were right all along.

  100. Karen wrote in post #103 “Do you know… that is the very reason why I’ve never suggested such and thing and why I’ve never believed it either. It is also the reason why the IS Group, eg., proposed changes to the SWP constitution to allow greater democracy without ever once, to my knowledge, arguing that the solution might also involve a series of meetings to study Hegel’s Logic.”

    Fair point Karen but it did seem, at the time from talking with members of the IS Group that they felt that a major reason for the problems of the SWP was its philosophical positions. Good idea thoug holding a series of meetings on Hegel.

    “To say that we ‘knew little’ of that tradition is absurd and insulting. What you really mean is that you now disagree with our positive estimation of the tradtion – but that’s a different matter.”

    My remark was not intended as an insult and I stand by it. Frankly I felt at the time and do now that you understood the IS tradition very much as it was portrayed by the leadership of the group in the early 1970s. A position best summed up by Hallas who once remarked that IS was the Trotskyism of today A rather Spartish remark.

    My own feeling today is that the IS tradition was a partial continuation and partial break with Orthodox Trotskyism which itself had the same relationship with the Comintern. For me the IS tradition and experience was positive in that it orientated on the class as such doig its best for a long time to reject substitutionism. But like all forms of Trotskyism was flawed as it originated, despite the efforts of LDT, from a single faction of the Comintern and did not seek to revivify the insights of all those factions of the Comintern that stood on the concept of the self emancipation of the proletariat. I wish I had been so clear at the time.

    “That is a fundamental error: it was not that we didn’t know where to go next but rather that none of us had any ambition to form a pissant little sub-Trotskyist group and spend the rest of our lives whining from the sidelines that, if only the world would listen to us, man’s common lot of woe might finally be lifted. I for one did not want the responsibility of dragging a group of excellent comrades into that particular quagmire. To professional revolutionaries that attitude, of course, is sacrilegious. But we, on the other hand, didn’t care too much for ‘professional revolutionaries’ anyway.”

    Fair enough. Although from talking to AW at the time I never formed that impression.

    “My own reasoning was that… once we had made a reasonable effort to do so, we should cease fire.”

    I never felt that was a choice. To retreat into a purely private life that is. But it is a choice I respect from those who make it.

    “I for one left organised party politics then, since the only tradition I had any interest in had made it abundantly clear that I was banned from membership of that tradition for life.”

    In fact you were expelled from the SWP as was I. And nobody has the authority or right to expell either of us from the IS traditiion however one might evaluate it. And like you it was made very difficult for me to be active politically, in some ways more so perhaps, but in the end it did not prevent me remaining active. Indeed, although I was less enamoured, I too was interested in the SLP when it developed and played what was, one trusts, a positive role in one of the most electorally successful branches as its secretary. In fact it was a joy to work with that little group despite our deep disagreements on many questions.

  101. Stuart King in #115 “I watched the same thing happen with the IS Opposition in the mid-1970s – expelled as a very big faction of IS, led by Jim Higgins, Roger Protz et al and as the Workers League it collapsed in a year. It is the problem if you think the tradition is marvelous only it has been perverted by a bad leadership – why would anyone want to listen to the little echo when they can join the real party?”

    But the Workers League did not collapse due to its failure to grasp that the problems of the IS tradition went deeper than the role of Cliff and his leadership did it? It collapsed due to a lack of an agreed perspective and in practice a collapse of nerve by sections of its leadership who thought that tactics correct for the period 1965-1975 could still operate as well in the late 1970s. The SWP, to its credit and the credit of Cliff, adapted to changed circumstance even if in the process they lost something integral to their earlier project.

    And what has been your project since those days Stuart? Why only to build the ‘real party’ you think LDT was leading at the time of his death. A brave effort and one that has split much ink but has to date resulted in a very small group since your own still recent split.

  102. Karen Elliot on said:

    “it did not prevent me remaining active”

    I congratulate you wholeheartedly on remaining ‘active’, whatever that means. I do ask myself, though, what gives people the confidence that their ‘activity’ is necessarily useful or productive… or are we expected to admire it simply for the fact of it’s existence? As ‘showing willing’? I mean, some forms of ‘activity’ are just pseudo-activity, designed to give the appearance of productive engagement but in fact more akin to ritual dancing, and arguably of no benefit to the working class. I have no idea at all whether this applies to you, I merely point out that ‘activity’ is about as worthy in it’s own right as, say, ‘movement’.

    As for our conflicting opinions the IS tradition, that is for others to decide. But as for our knowledge of the tradition, I’ll simply say that the ISG at least circulated articles by a whole series of ex-IS members, most of whom were hostile to the leadership’s ‘official’ view of the IS. For similar reasons we were also the first to publish Jim Higgins’ history of the SWP, ‘More Years for the Locust’. And most of us had read the same critiques of the tradition as you, as well as hearing that critique directly from others. I don’t think that you have any great advantage here. Face it – you simply disagree. You once considered yourself part of the IS tradition but, when it regurgitated you, you decided to move on, as is your right. But don’t pretend that the IS Group collectively ‘knew little of’ the IS tradition… it makes you sound like a pompous ass.

  103. “Fair point Karen but it did seem, at the time from talking with members of the IS Group that they felt that a major reason for the problems of the SWP was its philosophical positions…”

    Despite the CC’s ‘official history,’ that Rees reinforces in his article above, the SWP, at the time of the IS Group was growing! (it’s partly why Rees’ prescriptions for change sound like they’ve been torn out of a District Aggregate cheat-sheet from 1987…).

    You couldn’t, in those circumstances, hold a Marxism fringe meeting entitled, “Why John Rees’ Instincts Suck!” But, looking back, we should’ve.

    Philosophy, ahem, played a major part in Andy Wilson’s downfall because it was an endless irritant to a certain pairing on the SWP’s Central Committee. Lyndz didn’t like ‘im because he smoked cigarettes and failed to evince appropriate deference in her orbit, Rees saw the debates about science, and later Lukacs as a mechanism for;

    a) Learning a bit about things like y’ mathematics and such (although I’m sure I’m being over-generous there).
    b) Hoisting his flag as *the* Party intellectual.

    Meetings at Marxism, over several years, on all of the above, had Rees steadfastly banging out the elitist shite you can see in the piece up top. Then pooof!, in a flash of light, or rather a two-inch column by Chris Harman, he finally “saw” why materialism might have a few consequences that had been spotted by Engels a few years previous.

    There were quite a few supporters of Andy’s position, while he was a member, then the organiser in Liverpool and through to his eventual expulsion.

    So, yeah, “philosophy” was a convenient demerit badge that the CC could pin on the IS Group – abstract, failing to understand the imperatives that came with a, “1930s in slow motion,” perspective etc.

    But there this:

    The first leaflet given out on the steps of Marxism, after Andy’s expulsion, wouldn’t permit a Rizla paper between the *concrete* calls for Party democracy and the structures proposed by Neil Davidson.

    Finally, Rees’ inclusion of his bezzie mates in his defendants brief, gives every SWP member worth their salt a slate that needs to be completely removed from anything remotely to do with socialist work. Forever.

    PS. Shouldn’t he be expelled for a, “breach of party discipline,” or is he the only member of the Party permitted to engage in ‘factionalism’?

  104. Irish Mark P on said:

    No: 106

    Karen Elliot argues that Rees has “broken the golden rule” by going public. But is there any evidence for that, beyond the fact that the document has been leaked?

    There are, relatively speaking, a lot of people in the SWP. Internal documents leak out quite regularly, particularly when some portion of the membership is disgruntled. This document does not read like something written for an external audience and it isn’t as if the Rees faction has set up its own website or even has people openly arguing for it’s view externally. It also hasn’t been followed by a stream of other articles, which we might expect if this really was a decision to go public.

    I can’t think why Rees would “go public” at this point, unless it’s already become clear that the debate is over and he is to be allowed no access to internal channels. If that was the case, and he was “going public” on that basis the document would be full of the gory details of victimisation. As it is there’s just a complaint in passing about the CC majority refusing to produce an extra discussion bulletin. Even if the minority had already decided on a split, they would have more to gain by fighting their corner internally until the SWP conference. This leak means that much of the remaining discussion will be dominated by allegations or insinuations of disloyalty, not something that helps Rees.

    The likelihood is that this was leaked by someone else in the SWP, a disgruntled member perhaps or an over enthusiastic supporter of Rees.

  105. erlingb on said:

    Personally, I’m irked by the way Rees speaks of Stop the War Coalition as if it was he and Lindsay’s small business. But of course the mentality of the sectarian and the small businessperson are similar, with all due respect to hard-working shopkeepers everywhere.

  106. erlingb on said:

    Perhaps this j’accuse by Rees can be made into a pamphlet. Let’s brainstorm some titles. A couple options would be: ‘The case for anarchism and/or libertarian socialism’, ‘Everything you always wanted to know about sects, but were afraid to ask for fear of being bored to tears’, ‘The joylessness of sects’, ‘The most humourless and unconvincing 8000 words of prose in the English language’….

  107. the control commission on said:

    Ress and those members of the Gang of Four behind the circulation of this document are certainly in very serious breach of discipline. Not because it’s gone outside the party, although that was inevitable as soon as it was circulated on email. But because its circulation has not been authorised. Its circulation has depended on members who support Rees etc or don’t support the CC majority. As such, it represents factional behaviour without a formal faction having been declared. People have been expelled for a lot less.

    Word has it that the Gang of Four maybe be Two rather than Four though. Bambery, at least and true to form, appears to be trying to make his piece with the majority to try to hang on to some sort of job and income.

    Rees and German are apparently shocked at how little support they have in the party, showing just how removed from reality they have become. Rees’s document is a desperate attempt to muster up some support, presumably anticipating the inevitable split. That’s why the document tries to show them as the true heirs to Cliff.

    The majority’s weakness is that they have shafted Rees without a full democratic debate and in a manipulative manner. Their indictment of him is very limited and partial. The reasons for this are obvious. They cannot criticise him for what he is really guilty of, the incredibly stupid and counter-productive destruction of Respect, because they supported him every step of the way on this, as Professor Callinicos stated so emphatically at the beginning of September 2007.

  108. Karen in post #123

    “I do ask myself, though, what gives people the confidence that their ‘activity’ is necessarily useful or productive… or are we expected to admire it simply for the fact of it’s existence?”

    Whatever errors I’ve committed, there have been many, whatever the failures in my work, again there have been many, I always derived massive confidence from the Marxism I learnt in my early days in the SWP. I’m sorry that others lost that confidence but thats where we differ.

    And flying a flag, rather forlornly I thought at the time, for socialism in the 97 election was good positive work. Work you too ought to have engaged in had you acted on your own enthusiasm for the SLP. But I guess a lack of ‘confidence’ cannot but lead to dropping out of activity.

    “As for our conflicting opinions the IS tradition, that is for others to decide. But as for our knowledge of the tradition, I’ll simply say that the ISG at least circulated articles by a whole series of ex-IS members, most of whom were hostile to the leadership’s ‘official’ view of the IS.”

    To its credit and one of the reasons why i contacted the ISG.

    “You once considered yourself part of the IS tradition but, when it regurgitated you, you decided to move on, as is your right.”

    I thought I made it clear in my last post that I still base my politics on the IS tradition and strongly identify with it. I’m simply more critical of it and of aspects of its inheritance from the FI.

    One last point. You refer to the ISG as ‘we’. But do you mean the London ISG that clustered around AW? Or do you mean the larger, looser, collection of comrades in Wolverhampton and elsewhere? I only ask as the latter certainly did not seem to share your views, either then or now, and I remain in contact with some of them, about the role of the ISG being, shall we say, temporary.

  109. Dustin the Turkey on said:

    Forgive me if someone has asked this before, but: does John Rees have a career outside the SWP? I mean, supposing his Battle for the Soul of the Party(tm) fails; is the next step wanking for coins on the Embankment?

  110. Cynical observer on said:

    #128 – The Weekly Worker has made a regular practice of publishing leaked documents, thus giving the “disgruntled” an outlet for harming the organisations they supposedly belong to. More recently, blogs such as this one provide a similar outlet.

    Another side to the relative size of the SWP, besides the possibility that it includes the disaffected, is that its membership almost certainly includes state agents, who may also have a motive to purloin documents and arrange for their publication in an attempt to do maximum harm.

  111. This reads more like a resignation letter than the opening shots in a factional struggle for the heart and soul of a party. I wonder if Rees is acting in concert with the ISO and has already been offered something by them.

    Where is the marxist analysis? How, in Ress’s opinion is the conservative majority capitulating to class pressures? Why did his own intervention in Respect end so badly for the organisation (especially important to know if you intend to repeat the experience ad infinitum). It all comes across as just a difference of opinion which, in fact is what it is.

    The question before the SWP leadership is not `how shall we advance class consciousness and the working class struggle’ but `how shall we maintain the party machine on the basis of a rapidly declining membership’

    Old guard – put the membership on direct debit and hope for the best;

    Rees – No, the pips are squeeking. That is why they are leaving. Reach out for a bit and get more paying members to cover the shortfall.

    Old guard – OK give it a try.

    Rees – Damn, I keep losing control (and members).

    Old guard – your tactics have lost us even more members therefore we must now down size. You are `it’ as your `plans’ have back fired.

    Rees – you were never properly behind my tactics but why should I pay when we all agreed.

    Old guard – because.

  112. Karen Elliot on said:

    #134: “You refer to the ISG as ‘we’. But do you mean the London ISG”

    No – I was using the royal ‘we’.

    I apologise for misunderstanding your attitude to the IS. Regarding those members of the ISG who might have wanted to continue, there was no reason for them not to have done so. I look forward to hearing the Wolverhampton ISG version of events, though I’m not convinced of the benefit of fighting a zombie faction fight on this thread among the ex-members of a defunct organisation.

    The fact is that the ISG position was broadly that of the current SWP opposition, and it’s origins lay in a dispute with, primarily, John Rees. To that extent it was uncannily prescient. Having said that, the big difference is that the ISG had a clear shot at goal as they had mostly been expelled or resigned from the SWP and therefore were not obliged to pull their punches. Any current opposition will be somewhat hamstrung by the fact that they have all publicly supported the SWP position during the Respect split. Therefore, although they are developing an analysis of party democracy, etc., which overlaps with the ISG, they are going to be pulled into all sorts of compromises in order win limited reforms and concessions from the CC. But that’s all in the game, of course, and I wish them every success.

    #135: “does John Rees have a career outside the SWP”

    He has a career as a public intellectual, publishing books like his Algebra of Revolution, which even the Socratic Alex Callinicos described (ironically?) as ‘a godsend’, if I remember correctly. It’s a big seller too – for example, one anti-dialectical contributor to this very thread has already worn out several copies by repeatedly throwing them at his bedroom walls and slowly dissolving the bindings in the spittle he emits while reading it. I myself have got through two copies – the first I threw away simply because of the utter tedium of reading it. Then, recently, I got another copy in order to write a review but then, once again, gave up in utter despair at the effort involved in wading through his tedious, baby-talking style. For instance – did you know about Kant that “the citizens of Koenigsburg set their watches by the professor’s appearance for his daily afternoon walk?” The book is full of such insights.

    #136: Darren, thanks for asking that question. It has given me yet another feeble excuse to link to this splendid plate, courtesy of Gustav Dore.

    Finally, looking at the online version of Rees’ book I notice in the introduction that he pays tribute to one of his lecturers, Steve Bosworth, in words that I find especially poignant and which reflect my own attitude to Rees himself:

    “We did not agree, but, in the way of the dialectic, I learned a great deal”

  113. #139 The fact is that the ISG position was broadly that of the current SWP opposition, and it’s origins lay in a dispute with, primarily, John Rees. To that extent it was uncannily prescient.

    Had there been an interwebpipe available to them, instead of the cumbersome leaflet, pamphlet, book productions, it would have been a lot easier to reach (and publish) wider layers of the SWP’s membership and audience.

    Rees was a staunch opponent of the internet, for years. Claiming, along with assorted robots, that it was “undemocratic” (note: not that it was unsecure, simply that it was undemocratic).

    It led toward elitism, with only a few ‘boffins’ capable of mastering the enormously complex Apple Macintosh.

    This argument didn’t seem to impede his fondness for multi-million dollar typesetting systems and printing presses when it came to his, and Lyndz’, vanity publishing project: Redwords.

    Now, I see from his article above, that one of the components of his transitional program is to have a computer and swivel chair at the Centre.

    Oh, how we laughed!

  114. chris clark on said:

    #94 I posted under my real name as this Rees rubbish must be challenged.Under normal circumstances I would not comment on these matters but Rees has effectively put his perspectives into the public domain so must be answered in the same.Rees attempts to rewrite party history by ignoring the decline of the party and the internal struggles and friction of that period in the 90s. Need further proof? In93 Ihad a conversation in the canteen at the centre with the person whose job it was to compile the figures on S.W. The weekly sale was 26000,up from 18000 before the Miners struggles over the pit closures programme in Autumn 92.An increase of 8000,in last years IB the weekly sale was stated as being 8700.The increase in this period(under a year)was almost what the total sale is now! What a decline! Rees mentions the word crisis,too f**king right comrades!! Rees perspective that there was some sort of original sin committed in 1999 has gone beyond the absurd,it is bizarre.

  115. KE:

    “for example, one anti-dialectical contributor to this very thread has already worn out several copies by repeatedly throwing them at her bedroom walls and slowly dissolving the bindings in the spittle he emits while reading it. I myself have got through two copies”

    [Incorrect pronoun corrected.]

    Still making stuff up about me, I see. Ever considered a career writing WMD dossiers?

    Since I treat comrades’ work with slightly more respect than you seem to, I am still on my first copy, and it’s still in good condition.

  116. Clara Monaco on said:

    #142

    Hi Rosa! Can we join forces? I’m a humourless self-important non-entity internet drag artist will philosophical pretensions as well!

    Perhaps we can attempt to insert our own badly worked out philosophical diatribes into every discussion of questionable relevance?

    Then we can walk down the prom looking like real ladies, you know? And keep our copies of John Rees’s magnum opus absolutely pristine! Ooohhh, lovely, this is like revolutionary politics by Matt Lucas and David Walliams!

    Yours pointlessly

    Clara Monaco

  117. Karen Elliot on said:

    You don’t have to have an illusions regarding the internet to see that the SWP leadership’s attitude is hilarious. They distrust anything which allows lateral communication (ie. any communication that they can’t vet). But how, for example, can you enforce a ban on unsanctioned inter-party communication once people have an internet connection? Instead of trying to understand the internet and turn it to their advantage they try to use their diminishing power to prevent anyone from pursuing it’s implications (a bit like the recording industry?)

    Rumour has it that the high-ups still aren’t terribly keen on even the militantly pro-SWP Tomb. Just think… members discussing issues among themselves when they should leave that to the CC and concentrate on paper sales instead! Shocking…

    The elitism argument (‘only the middle class can connect to the internet’) always struck me as especially fine – God alone knows what they would have thought of Lenin writing books on the agrarian question in Russia when so few of the peasants involved could read. I mean, surely Lenin’s muddled thinking on this question is a scandal that the official history of the movement has simply covered up? Still, at least Lenin always went through the proper channels. He was a stickler for that sort of thing.

  118. skidmarx on said:

    “But how, for example, can you enforce a ban on unsanctioned inter-party communication once people have an internet connection?”

    Well if you have a disciplined party members are willing to keep in-party discussion in-party even if they have an internet connection.Note the lack of SWP contributors to this thread.
    Rumour has it when people talk about rumours it’s because they have no facts.

  119. Karen Elliot on said:

    #143: Jesus, it comes to something when you are berated on a socialist web site for being confused about your sexual identity.

    It’s absolutely true that I am a ‘self-important non-entity’, but we have rights too. As for being ‘humourless’ – fuck off, you spanner-faced troll.

  120. Clara Monaco on said:

    SWP members have the right to be involved in a full collective discussion of all this. The Agenda for discussion should be:

    a)The Respect Split and the question of the relationship between the revolutionary party and the broad left formation.

    b)the problems of party structure, leadership, participation and democracy. The problems inherited from decades of survival and growth routines. How to lessen the substitutionalist tendencies of its fulltimer apparatus? How to regenerate leadership by a grassroots cadre, fully engaged in struggles and party life? How to lead a party through ideas more than fiat implemented by fulltimers?

    c)Responding to recession and global capitalist crisis.

    The deepest ever crisis inside the SWP of recent years coincides with the onset of capitalisms deepest and most profound crisis of recent years. We must remake a ‘new SWP’ built around addressing this crisis. The unrest in Greece and the victorious factory occupation in the USA both point to the potential for the resurgence of working class politics. We too could find ourselves amid such struggles in the next period. This raises the question of implantation and growth of the party. But also may raise the question of programme – what set of demands can be raised now to articulate working class resistance? What is the ‘programme for working class self defence against capitalist recession’? How does this defensive programme also prepare for the ability to suddenly move forward onto the offensive – to move beyond itself? How does the party make this programme of demands concrete through a series of united fronts – around defending homes, jobs etc? How does the party build both these united fronts and itself?

    Yes, it would be better to collectively discuss this aganda in branches and pre-conference aggregates, and inside a series of pre-conference Internal Bulletins. But the way the crisis has been handled – maybe the whole accumulated party culture – precludes this. So at least we have the internet.

  121. Green Socialist on said:

    Love the use of the term “Gang of 4” who’s Mrs Mao? – John Rees in drag or Lindsay German?
    Looks like the SWP will shatter into many tiny pieces.
    Its what happens with such a top down organisation when the leadership falls apart these is no-one there to take its place.
    What worked for Lenin in 1917 might not work in 2008, its the way the SWP are organised and structured.

  122. official secrets act on said:

    #145 Perhaps Skidmarx could tell us why it is so important to keep these discussions in the SWP secret from the rest of the left. The actions of the SWP havve had profound consequences for the left as a whole in the past. Whether that will ever be the case again remains to be seen. But it only seems right that if an organisation has such effects, its debates should be open to all those who are going to be affected, so they can make up their minds what attitude to take to aforementioned organisation and its initiatives. Or is this just too liberal for you?

  123. …Or is this just too liberal for you?

    Way too liberal!

    The best form of response to capitalism’s crisis is to thrash out a new perspective over a series of dinner parties at John & Lyndz’ place!

    Invite a few “younger” comrades over, and fill their heads with the necessity of ‘hardness’, ‘vigour’, ‘verve’ and ‘dash’, when encountering the ne’erdowells “outside”.

    Far better!

  124. Cheeky Monkey on said:

    RE #149
    Surely we should make up our minds about what attitude to take towards organisations and their initiatives based on what they say and do, not the contents of the discussions through which they decide what to say or do?

    Unless of course your attitude to an organisation is that you want to intervene in its internal discussions to promote disunity and encourage splits, rather than to work with it, warts and all.

  125. Karen Elliot on said:

    #145 Someone called ‘skidmarx’ perhaps shouldn’t be so boastful about not doing their dirty laundering in public.

  126. Dora Kaplan on said:

    My God what a bunch of wankers the Trots are – I can still remember Tommy Sheridan promising to pass the names of demonstrators who got out of control on anti-poll tax actions to the Police- or should I refer to the Old Bill in the preferred nomenclature of the SWP: ‘workers in blue!’
    I can still remember the SWP attempting to dilute the entire movment into a series of resolution steering groups associated with the Labour Party.

    And yet these pathetic, paper selling middle class student idiots claim that they ‘destroyed’ the Poll Tax and Thatcher.

    No wonder Alex Mangos on a bummer!

  127. Clara Monaco on said:

    Oh – Karen at post # 146 re my post #143…

    Karen dearest… my already tired and wilted wit was aimed at Ms Lichtenstein – who is entirely humourless – not your good self, whose musings regularly make my gusset gush.

    Yours,

    Clara

  128. Clara:

    “Hi Rosa! Can we join forces? I’m a humourless self-important non-entity internet drag artist will philosophical pretensions as well!!

    Ah, another lying dialectician. Is there any other sort?

    “Perhaps we can attempt to insert our own badly worked out philosophical diatribes into every discussion of questionable relevance?”

    Yours might, but care to prove that mine fit into that category?

    “Then we can walk down the prom looking like real ladies, you know? And keep our copies of John Rees’s magnum opus absolutely pristine! Ooohhh, lovely, this is like revolutionary politics by Matt Lucas and David Walliams!”

    Don’t give up your day job.

  129. skidmarx on said:

    #147 “The Agenda for discussion should be:
    a)The Respect Split”

    Nice to know that someone can tell the SWP what it is important they discuss.

    #149 ” Perhaps Skidmarx could tell us why it is so important to keep these discussions in the SWP secret”

    I don’t think it’s that important. I can see virtue in the argument that in a hostile capitalist world there is a sense in making it easy for comrades to talk frankly, and sometimes it may help if that’s not done for the benfit of every Tom, Dick and Harry. But it’s none of your business. Maybe more openness would benefit the party, but that’s their business.

    #153 I disagree with what you say but will defend your right to crack funny jokes.

    #154 I think you’re very confused.

  130. Clara Monaco on said:

    Re post # 157

    Yes, my sweet Ms Lichtenstein, that’s my experience too! Dieticians do lie!

    I placed myself under the guidance of a very eminent practitioner of this alleged profession over the summer in Monte Carlo – and now I can barely squeeze in my riding jodhpurs!

    I blame that L Ron Hubbard character! They’ll be no more Dianetics on our CC!

    That nice Professor Mango has told me all about his friend Louis from France who has had an epistemological break – the poor thing. Probably due to his dietician as well. No wonder that Mr. Rees has such a foul reputation!

    Now, Rosa dear, are we still on for tea tomorrow afternoon?

  131. Karl Stewart on said:

    Yes “Cheeky Monkey,” what organisations say and do are important criteria for making up our minds as to what we think of them, but so too is their attitude towards their own membership and whether or not the organisation is internally democratic.
    Secretive discussions in which members are under strict orders not to talk outside the ranks under threat of disciplinary action only serve to create an impression – or further reinforce existing impressions – of a top-down military-style internal regime.
    Is that a good thing for the SWP?

  132. Karen Elliot on said:

    #158 “See what I mean?”

    Dear Clara,

    absolutely. I apologise unreservedly. I sent my ‘spanner-faced troll’ post then immediately read yours at #147 – a model of lucidity which made me realise immediately that my wires were badly crossed.

    The problem may be because i have simply blanked Rosa from my mind ever since, on an earlier thread, I told her to ‘get in the box’, and that she wouldn’t be allowed out until she asked, nice and politely – and that, in the meantime, all right-thinking people would simply ignore her. She fucked off then. I wonder if, once reminded of the facts, she might do so again? Or beg forgiveness? Who knows… it’s all so complicated.

  133. 159. But it’s none of your business. Maybe more openness would benefit the party, but that’s their business.

    Are they buiding a pork pie franchise?

    Or attempting to seize state power at some point*?

    There’s some irony in insisting on clandestine communication when the content revolves around democracy / transparency, no?

    *with ‘appropriate’ working class support, natch.

  134. skidmarx on said:

    “Are they buiding a pork pie franchise?
    Or attempting to seize state power at some point*?”

    Probably the latter.

    “There’s some irony in insisting on clandestine communication when the content revolves around democracy / transparency, no?”

    No.And I’d tend to say internal or private rather than clandestine.And then you say “Aha! Isn’t there some irony in insisting on private communication when attempting to abolish private property in a socialist revolution (when there is appropriate working-class support for the idea)? And the answer is no again.

  135. Dickie Ticker on said:

    Dora Kaplan’s correct, both Steve Nally and Tommy Sheridan went on TV to denounce anyone who fought the police or otherwise misbehaved on demos, and threatened to ‘name names.’

    Sheridan’s APTF courted middle class respectability and patronised a few Labour MPs. They were horrified by any hint of illegality during public actions against the tax.

    Personally, I can remember Sheridan’s TV appearance.

  136. KE:

    “The problem may be because i have simply blanked Rosa from my mind ever since, on an earlier thread, I told her to ‘get in the box’, and that she wouldn’t be allowed out until she asked, nice and politely – and that, in the meantime, all right-thinking people would simply ignore her. She fucked off then. I wonder if, once reminded of the facts, she might do so again? Or beg forgiveness? Who knows… it’s all so complicated.”

    I ‘f*cked off’ because Andy Newman told me to desist under pain of being banned.

    And we both know why you rolled out your rather pathetic ‘box’ — you can’t cope with my arguments.

    So, you now just sulk.

    Nip over to RevLeft, and put me in my place, if you can…

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/philosophy-f33/index.html

  137. Dr Clara Monaco on said:

    My Dear Mr Skidmarx (@ # 164 etc), do you not think it would be a good thing if the SWP actually had a political culture within it whereby its members could properly account for its recent errors in a theoretically meaninful way?

    And do this as part of developing an understanding of the current crisis period of capitalism and a strategic socialist response?

    Coz what we are witnessing now are the failure of the party pre-conference procedures – aggregates, bulletins etc, to provide this space. And this is all happening during the limited pre-conference moment where it is theoretically permissible to have such a debate!

    You go on about the need to keep these debates ‘internal’ – but the actual internal mechanisms of the SWP are being bypassed! The CC is split – but there is no debate about the different scenarios and strategies that revolutionary Marxists might wish to contemplate and debate together!

    If not now – then when?

    Yours,

    Clara

  138. And then you say “Aha! Isn’t there some irony in insisting on private communication when attempting to abolish private property in a socialist revolution…

    Can we take this offline, I’m feeling a tad exposed?

    Clara has my coordinates, if not my heart!

  139. Dickie Ticker on said:

    Yeah, maybe Skidmarx will elucidate the usual Trotskyist theoretical and strategic response to social crisis and popular ferment: sell papers and grass on working people to the filth.

    It’s what the SWP does best.

  140. frenetic on said:

    ‘Sheridan’s APTF courted middle class respectability and patronised a few Labour MPs. They were horrified by any hint of illegality during public actions against the tax.’

    Maybe so, but give TS and Militant their due, but they then went on to do sterling work in Scotland, against the bailiffs taking poll tax repossessions, etc, can’t remember the correct term…

  141. Dickie Ticker on said:

    Agreed, Strategist, but by then the usual reliance on the ‘trade union leadership’ and Labour councillors was cleary bankcrupt.
    Events in Trafalgar Square, and the broader campaign of physical resistance to baliffs and collection officials forced the changes. As usual, the Vanguard were firmly at the rear…

  142. Dickie Ticker on said:

    Agreed, frenetic, but by then the usual reliance on the ‘trade union leadership’ and Labour councillors was cleary bankcrupt.
    Events in Trafalgar Square, and the broader campaign of physical resistance to baliffs and collection officials forced the changes. As usual, the Vanguard were firmly at the rear…

  143. Talk about selective memory. Paying lip service to left principles and doing the opposite has unfortunately become the MO of certain parties in The Party and it looks like not a damn thing has changed.

  144. Making an omelette on said:

    So who are the spooks on the SWP’s CC? What do you all think? It’s not such a daft question you know.

  145. Karen in post #139

    “Regarding those members of the ISG who might have wanted to continue, there was no reason for them not to have done so. I look forward to hearing the Wolverhampton ISG version of events, though I’m not convinced of the benefit of fighting a zombie faction fight on this thread among the ex-members of a defunct organisation.”

    Fair enough. For those who do there was the inevitable commentary in WW at the time. My point however is that those supporters of the ISG outside London were not party to any decision that the ISG would be wound up once it had stated its case. Nor did they know of any such decision. If in fact such a decision was ever made. Frankly I think you gave up on the need for a revolutionary organisation and retired. Which is your right.

    “The fact is that the ISG position was broadly that of the current SWP opposition, and it’s origins lay in a dispute with, primarily, John Rees. To that extent it was uncannily prescient. Having said that, the big difference is that the ISG had a clear shot at goal as they had mostly been expelled or resigned from the SWP and therefore were not obliged to pull their punches. Any current opposition will be somewhat hamstrung by the fact that they have all publicly supported the SWP position during the Respect split. Therefore, although they are developing an analysis of party democracy, etc., which overlaps with the ISG, they are going to be pulled into all sorts of compromises in order win limited reforms and concessions from the CC.”

    You totally misread events in the SWP. Rees is now the opposition and already defeated in fact. Those elements calling for greater internal democracy are supporters of the majority faction of Martin Smith. That the polemic is left to comrades such as Chris Harman is telling I think.

  146. Karen Elliot on said:

    #177 Mike: it is you who misreads the situation. What is happening in the SWP is not simply a matter of majority vs. minority CC factions. The division on the CC has merely been the catalyst for a wider debate among (significant sections of) the rank and file. You lazily assume that their response will be inevitably be to support one or other faction (Smith v. Rees), whereas in fact some of the members (Neil Davidson, et al) are taking an independent position which involves thoroughgoing criticism of both sides, attempting (ahem) a ‘360° review of the SWPs ‘actually existing’ theory of party and class, the practice of the leadership, and an explanation of how the members had forced into a supine position. The question is not simply whether Rees has made disastrous mistakes – that is pretty much a premise of the debate – but rather;

    1) why did the CC not see this and deal with it? why, indeed, did they continue to provide cover for Rees long after they themselves had become aware of what was happening?
    2) how is it that the rank and file were reduced to watching the car crash in slow motion, with no way to help it correct course? In other words, how did it happen that the membership of the SWP had no force the leadership to correct course, and steer the party away from an obvious, impending disaster?

    Naturally the supporters of that platform will have to navigate their way through the CC split and will take sides on certain issues (as they should), but it is not inevitable that they will limit themselves to taking sides. In fact, the signs are that they want to go significantly further in overhauling party structures than either side of the debate at the top table.

    As to the outcome, we shall see – I rather think that is now in the hands of those who support Neil Davidson’s platform, as I think they have enough clout to begin to make significant changes…. How far dare they go, given that all around them will bewail the dangers of a split and overreaction?

    So, while Rees may be ‘in opposition’ to the CC majority, he is not the opposition. He may or may not create a split (he has very few supporters – the alarming thing is that he has any supporters at all, given the history), but for me that is not the issue.

    One of the problems with the debate here is that people seem too easily inclined to fall into the trap of accepting Rees’s presentation of the situation – that it is a matter of his, Bambery and German’s outward looking perspective vs. the insular instincts of the majority. That leads to the absurdity of people on another SU thread saying that they support the minority on the question of united front work and the majority on the question of party democracy, as if you could rebuild the SWP by cobbling together elements from both sides of the CC debate. The real solution and the real debate lie elsewhere, outside the CC.

  147. Dear Koba on said:

    It is worth pointing out how high the stakes are for the SWP, as can be evidecned from a number of the contributions from ex-members here.

    An organisation that combined the core political principles of the IS traditioon with an open and democratic internal political culture would be a much more attractive organisation that could recruit and retain members.

    Accepting either the CC majority of CC minority positions would in contrast lock the SWP into accelerating decline.

  148. #178: 1) why did the CC not see this and deal with it? why, indeed, did they continue to provide cover for Rees long after they themselves had become aware of what was happening?
    2) how is it that the rank and file were reduced to watching the car crash in slow motion, with no way to help it correct course? In other words, how did it happen that the membership of the SWP had no force the leadership to correct course, and steer the party away from an obvious, impending disaster?

    Yup.

    … people seem too easily inclined to fall into the trap of accepting Rees’s presentation of the situation – that it is a matter of his, Bambery and German’s outward looking perspective vs. the insular instincts of the majority. That leads to the absurdity of people on another SU thread saying that they support the minority on the question of united front work and the majority on the question of party democracy …

    That is worrying. I know that socialists are supposed to move among the people as fish move in the water. But, puh-leaze, can we have an attention span longer than a goldfish?

    (Yeah, I know, socialists should be of the people, not separate, but my point still stands.)

  149. Karen at 178 you say “That leads to the absurdity of people on another SU thread saying that they support the minority on the question of united front work and the majority on the question of party democracy, as if you could rebuild the SWP by cobbling together elements from both sides of the CC debate.”

    But then you agree with Koba “An organisation that combined the core political principles of the IS traditioon with an open and democratic internal political culture would be a much more attractive organisation that could recruit and retain members.”

    Isn’t there a contradiction here (butt-out Rosa, before you start!)?

    Just because we don’t believe either ‘faction’ is sincere in its adherence to, respectively, democracy or working constructively with wider layers (united frontism) doesn’t mean that an actual platform within the SWP based on precisely these two planks would not be a positive development.

  150. RobM #182: Just because we don’t believe either ‘faction’ is sincere in its adherence to, respectively, democracy or working constructively with wider layers (united frontism) doesn’t mean that an actual platform within the SWP based on precisely these two planks would not be a positive development.

    It would be thick as two planks and not at all positive if it’s yet more lip service paid by the very characters who got us into this mess.

    And, actually, the sincerity aspect isn’t an add-on luxury, it’s at the heart of a healthy movement. Why should working class people go along with yet more lies and the lying liars who tell them?

  151. Karen Elliot on said:

    #182 Rob, it isn’t a contradiction in principle to combine elements of different platforms, but it is a mistake in this case, because it assumes that;

    CC Minority = openness
    CC Majority = democracy

    neither of which is really true. The ‘openness’ Rees aspires to is simply him heading some cobbled together alliance. The ‘democracy’ the rest of the CC represent is just enough to forestall revolt and keep them in their sinecures.

    Neither coin is unalloyed.

  152. I agree Kaz (and Madame M)- the CC, both factions, are mendacious, self-serving and not to be trusted. That is simply an axiom.

    However, that does not mean that ‘healthy’ elements within the SWP, who wish to fight a corner, could not develop a synthesis of ‘openness’ and ‘democracy’ in the space which is now opening up. Ultimately, this would mean calling the CCs bluff and exposing them for their hypocrisy, of course, but the way to do this is surely to call for concrete immediate steps to ‘democratise’ the SWP whilst at the same time, perhaps, developing a strategy for ‘openness’…

  153. I find John Rees’s document fascinating from a dramatic and psychological point of view rather than a political one. In ‘The Case of Comrade Tulayev’ we get to see how different characters react when faced with the bullet: the naive, the cynical, the deluded, the clear sighted, etc. Here – and this is of course very impressionistic – I feel the document reveals the confused and hurt state of mind of the former bureaucrat. He is far too familiar with the machine to fool himself that he has any hope, but he has to go through the motions, now and again clutching at straws. But there is no real belief in this document. No sense that even in defeat he can rally a following to re-emerge in the future. For that we would need to see sharp and insightful formulations about the new (and very promising) phase of history we are entering. Just imagine for a moment the kind of document Trotsky would have written under similar circumstances.
    Instead, it seems to me that JR wants to achieve two goals by emailing this document. One, to make it as painful as possible for the CC majority by widening the cost of removing him from the CC to include LG, CN and CB. My guess though – like that of Karen Eliot – is that the others, especially CB, will decline to join John in his fall.
    Secondly, I think he feels particularly bitter towards AC and wants to do as much as he can (not very much at all) to undermine him. I was stuck by this section:’Alex Callinicos solemnly promised the last NC that the resolution over electoral work and my removal from the work had nothing to do with trying to get me off the CC and that he would personally oppose such a move.’
    When I joined the SWP I felt deep loyalty to those who had lifted my horizons and were dedicated to ending exploitation and injustice. I’d have risked my life for Duncan or Cliff had it come to that. And although that sounds a bit immature, in genuine revolutionary situation with a healthy revolutionary party, that’s how it should be. To use the word ‘comrade’ said Alexandra Kollantoi at the time of the October Revolution, meant you had a very deep and powerful bond with the person you addressed in such a way.
    But risk my life for Rees? Ugh. Not since I saw through him at a Marxism event in the late 1980s. Although lots of SWP members are probably distraught at the CC split, for me it is exciting as it holds out the possibility of an SWP leadership in the future being worthy of the term ‘comrade.’

  154. 186. Horza, that, “solemn promise,” section does stick out!

    My “impressions,” are that the rest of the CC (LG and CN excepted) are running distancing operations at full throttle.

    I feel mildly sorry for Callinicos, he doesn’t possess an ounce of factional ‘technique,’ and I would, therefore, bet good money on him coming out of this, unfairly, as the one on the CC with most egg on face (along with ‘solemn promises’, there’s some fairly clear evidence that he’d provided theoretical cover for so much of Rees’ bullying).

    The good news is that Rees is a god-awful organiser (in the SWP sense). The idea that he has any kind of “base” in the Party, outside of a handful of particularly odd groupies is a fantastic, to say the least. He is the architypical model for ‘piss-up’ meet ‘brewery’ jokes. Many managerial types fall in this catastrophic fashion, once the “infrastructure” no longer responds to the old push/pull pneumatics from the top.

    Nothing new there. Which is why your steer back toward, “The Case of Comrade Tulayev” was also spot on…

  155. #187 — while Callincos may not have an ounce of factional “technique”, he has orchestrated many factional battles and splits as Commissar of the IST’s satelite groupscules.

    The horribly anti-democratic and top-down regime that is now officially acknowledged inside the SWP is mirrored in the SWP’s relations with the rest of the IST. With but one of Callinicos’s phone calls SWP satelite groups across the globe are expected to change perspectives, politics, and organizational policies on the spot. Failure to do so will result in forced splits or expulsion from the IST.

  156. Karen Elliot post #178

    “Mike: it is you who misreads the situation. What is happening in the SWP is not simply a matter of majority vs. minority CC factions. The division on the CC has merely been the catalyst for a wider debate among (significant sections of) the rank and file. You lazily assume that their response will be inevitably be to support one or other faction (Smith v. Rees), whereas in fact some of the members (Neil Davidson, et al) are taking an independent position which involves thoroughgoing criticism of both sides, attempting (ahem) a ‘360° review of the SWPs ‘actually existing’ theory of party and class, the practice of the leadership, and an explanation of how the members had forced into a supine position.”

    Karen I assume nothing of the kind. In fact the situation is even more nuanced than you suggest albeit less clear than you suggest. For not only do we have comrades looking to support Davidsons radical critique of the SWPs practice and internal democracy but we also have John Molyneux supplying a somewhat less radical critique that still stands as being more radical than the positions espoused by the CC majority in the form of Chris Harman. But supporters of both comrades will rally to the CC majority and will not present alternative slates for the CC to Conference to the best of my knowledge. They act then as tendencies within the CC majority.

    The CC majority and minority are not yet clear cut as Rees indicates is the case with the positions adopted by members of that august body in respect of the silly charter they sometimes push. A deeper differentiation is still to develop and will do so as debate unfolds. What may happen is that debate ends once Rees is liquidated. That would be a great shame.

    “As to the outcome, we shall see – I rather think that is now in the hands of those who support Neil Davidson’s platform, as I think they have enough clout to begin to make significant changes…. How far dare they go, given that all around them will bewail the dangers of a split and overreaction?”

    But is that so? Are Davidson and any supporters acting as a body? For that is what you suggest they are doing. If indeed they are acting as a body then I very much doubt that they would want to totally break with the past and quite rightly so as there is nothing to be gained by constantly refighting old disputes. The key task is to reform the group in order to push out into the organised working class and radicalising youth.

    “So, while Rees may be ‘in opposition’ to the CC majority, he is not the opposition.”

    He is not the entire opposition but it is his head that now appears on the standard of the openly opportunist faction. He is its leader, figurehead and in large part its creator.

    “One of the problems with the debate here is that people seem too easily inclined to fall into the trap of accepting Rees’s presentation of the situation – that it is a matter of his, Bambery and German’s outward looking perspective vs. the insular instincts of the majority. That leads to the absurdity of people on another SU thread saying that they support the minority on the question of united front work and the majority on the question of party democracy, as if you could rebuild the SWP by cobbling together elements from both sides of the CC debate. The real solution and the real debate lie elsewhere, outside the CC.”

    I agree. But the real solution does not lie outside the CC but outside the SWP The real solution lies in the SWP making a turn to the class. But that in turn requires the elimination of gross opportunists like Rees and the victory of the CC majority and hopefully a greater voice for supporters of the views expressed by John Molyneux and, most of all, Neil Davidson.

  157. Mike @ 190: What may happen is that debate ends once Rees is liquidated. That would be a great shame…

    Too true!

    The ‘glimmer of hope,’ however, is that Rees’ removal puts LG and Bambery out in the cold, thus removing the key “cultural architects,” of the rotten internal regime that’s held for so long. Harman and other members of the CC, now running distance, cannot come out of this unharmed even if ‘debate ends’. “The Project,” was fronted by Rees, but they all know, we all know, how much cover was supplied by the rest of them (think: Harman’s analysis of the Respect split in the ISJ, for example).

    And, in a way, it’s unsurprising that the ‘opposition’ clusters around a few “star” members (ND, Molyneux, Seymour etc.). There hasn’t been a tradition, or, ahem, a cadre built in the party that knows anything other than waiting for a new textual missile to be launched into the debate. It’s anybody’s guess as to whether the launch site is going to be Hackney, Edinburgh or Sheffield… So yeah, there’s no formal body, or network, to ‘the opposition’ as such. It’s an important weakness.

    But the common thread in both Molyneux’s and Davidson’s articles is that the SWP is essentially rudderless. And, that to get any reliable bearings there needs to be a framework of openness. Two good stepping stones toward having a group that can turn out (back) to the working class.

  158. Insider on said:

    # 187. Callinicos is as bad as any of them in terms of being factionalist, elitist, not understand the working class (other than in the most abstract of senses), deliberately misrepresenting the views of opponents, driving out ‘oppostionists’ and so on.

  159. 187. I hear ya.

    The international groups affiliated with the SWP have extremely high regard for him too, I understand 😉

    (sorry Mango, you already made that point at 109)…

    But there is a ‘being determines consciousness’ side to all this, don’t you think? I mean given what I remember of Alex, and what I’ve seen (today) from Harman, I can’t for the life of me imagine either one of them performing in the same way without an “infrastructure” to feed decisions down the pipe.

    Without it, they may actually improve (he said with a face reminiscent of the boy’s first encounter with ET)…

  160. Adamski on said:

    “Cliff’s method in this was right. To do anything in the party the leadership must, in a certain sense, exaggerate. You have to overcome the natural inertia that exists in any organisation.”

    Perhaps a variant on the great Stanislaw Lec (not to be confused with the equally great Stanislaw Lem) and his dictum that, “Sometimes something worth doing is worth overdoing.”

  161. 195 comments and counting on this thread. and still nobody has addressed the concrete question that is truly preoccupying the collective mind of the working class when it comes to matters relating to John Rees and his fight for the Cliffite soul of the Socialist Workers Party: Where is the John Rees YouTube Downfall video?

    The masses are waiting with baited breath.

  162. end of an era on said:

    “Callincos may not have an ounce of factional “technique”” which is of course why he resorts to distortions when faced with a difficulty – rather than try and win round the opposing side. Remember his ridiculous response to Mark Steel’s IB document last year – where he outlined some of the problems of SWP activity, etc in terms far milder than being used by the CC today. Was he thanked for his candour – No, the good professor jumped in with two feet and rhetorical bovver boots kicking.

    Now Alex has at least one bare-faced lie (unless Martin Smith is lying to Alex – oh the tangled web….) in his response to Rees. It’s a hostage to fortune that the best factionalist wouldn’t fall for. Unless, that is, he’s got that one over on Martin and is using it to sharpen his factional scalple. Oh, what a moral maze this may turn out to be.

  163. what seems to me is that whatever some of you wish the SWP is going still be around. I have come to the view that this debate inside the SWP which is starting and this is a good thing involve all the members of the organisation will vastly imoprove the party. I think there needs to be an internal change of culture but as if not more importantly a real look at the strengths and weaknesses of the workers movement inside this crisis as it now stands. I can’t see that doing anything but good myself. It will improve the SWP greatly.

    Now since all these attacks are coming from RR memebrs and supporters. Some salient points on their prediciment.
    The national Wollies campaign appears to exist so far (on the eve of closure) of 2 stalls in the whole of the UK. It points to Andy being right in at least one thing. That is that RR has no national presence save except Galloway, the vast majority of branches are moribund and tiny, he of course blames the ISR for much of this etc etc.
    Now internally there is no debate: a friend of mine who I have remained in contact with since the split described the conference as really a rally which was small and did not discuss any serious issues or anything likely to lead to debate. He had thought the issue of supporting New Labour in by elections would have been discussed and was pissed off it wasn’t even mentioned. He wondered what the hell the ISR whom he is probably the closest too were doing keeping their mouths shut. His view is the RR is starting unravel and has an internal regime which is basically a PR machine for Galloway. He did feel however that Manchester had done some good work. He thought the cllr in East London basically didn’t seem to do a lot and certainly none stood out in terms of mobilising the local community to fight.
    He said there was also disquiet in his local branch as Salma had repeatdly refused to do sany sort of meeting for them as she was too busy and then is seen on a govt quango hob knobbing with the great and the good. Once again there appeared no debate on this at RR conference. A pretty depressing picture. One last tit bit this member of RR laughed when I asked wether there was an active branch in Swindon!!

  164. external bulletin on said:

    “Now Alex has at least one bare-faced lie (unless Martin Smith is lying to Alex – oh the tangled web….) in his response to Rees. It’s a hostage to fortune that the best factionalist wouldn’t fall for. Unless, that is, he’s got that one over on Martin and is using it to sharpen his factional scalple. Oh, what a moral maze this may turn out to be.”

    I didn’t quite follow that – what did you mean?

  165. florence durrant on said:

    Thanks for this John. I am grateful that you have taken this step of informing all of us who are in the Party about what is happening. If ever there are destructive forces in any organisation, the worst is when comrades or colleagues discuss issues pertaining to an individual behind their back. Some of us joined the Party because we want to work with comrades who are prepared to debate important matters in public and keep comrades informed of issues that pertain to them personaly. You have given me confidence in the Party. Most important, I appreciate the fact that you took the trouble to ask me about me when we went to the Cairo Conference. Have a lovely rest and be reassured that the outcome of this will be best for the Party, not for individuals. All your work in RESPECT and Stop the War is admirable. All mistakes made in the process are part of building something from scratch. We learn more from them than from the any textbook.

  166. Post #191 “But the common thread in both Molyneux’s and Davidson’s articles is that the SWP is essentially rudderless. And, that to get any reliable bearings there needs to be a framework of openness. Two good stepping stones toward having a group that can turn out (back) to the working class.”

    Too true and this is in part due to the fetishisation by IS of its lack of a formal program. Without such a referent internal debate begins and ends in something of a vaccuum. The trouble with formal programs, such as that of the Conradite cpgb, is that unless embodied in something of substance they are meaningless.

  167. Karen Elliot on said:

    #202: Duncan Hallas quote, on Cliff: “That man really knows how to beat an idea to death”

  168. end of an era on said:

    Sorry, External Bulletin.

    I was refering to Alex’s assertion that Martin Smith didn’t know about the dodgy cheque until December 2007.

    “The fact of the donation was reported to the CC on 5 September, but – because they were on holiday – Weyman Bennett, Judith Orr, and Martin Smith only found out in December”

    Either Alex knows this isn’t true and is telling a lie or Martin Smith has told Alex this and he is telling an untruth unwittingly (dropped in it by Martin) or they both know this isn’t true and have both decided that Martin’s supposed ignorance is a good factional device.

  169. anticapitalista on said:

    #189 “… Failure to do so will result in forced splits or expulsion from the IST”

    So why hasn’t the Greek section been expelled yet? Apparently, according to a couple of posters here, they are ‘treated with nothing but contempt’. (I think it was Nas who claimed it)

    The Greek SEK has had a few disagreements with the IST over the years, but still remains within the tendency.

  170. end of an era on said:

    Of course the good Proffessor has his own reasons for circumpection here. The CC document passed at the September 30th SWP meeting reads:-

    “Eventually a meeting was held on 4 September between SWP representatives (John Rees, Lindsey German, Alex Callinicos & Chris Bambery), George Galloway, Salma Yaqoob, Ger Francis, Abjol Miah, Linda Smith and Glyn Robbins.

    “It is important to say that at this meeting we made it clear we were happy to discuss and come to consensus on the three proposals George concludes his letter with – and that remains the case.

    “That, however, was not what the meeting centred on. This was not an argument or discussion about how best to build Respect. In a 30 minute introduction George discussed his proposals for five minutes and then the rest on attacking John Rees.”

    Now what Alex, John, Lindsey and Mr Angry knew, was that much of the 25 minutes ‘attacking John Rees’ was actually a discussion about this dodgy old cheque business.

    But the wise three monkeys chose to ignore the stupidity of Rees and cover for him over the next few months. That Rees – and Elaine Graham-Leigh – should have resigned over this at the time is, it appears, obvious to everyone now. But at the time the CC backed Rees to the hilt – including supporting Rees and EGL’s own document (also passed on 30th September) that they knew contained a lie about OFFU finances.

    That they use the cheque now to condemn Rees after defending and covering for him shows a level of hypocrisy that is simply breath-taking.

  171. Passing Leftie on said:

    I predict three things will happen come January:

    1) The SWP decides (is “vote” to naive?) to cease electoral activities, and to become a pressure group. New campaigns for human rights, minimum wage, and environmental issues to form the backbone of support campaigns for left/(g/G)reen candidates.

    2) Those members who wish to maintain an electoral pressure for June, or later, approach existing socialist/far left groups (be they Respect, Socalist Alliance, or others) to form a new party, or to fight under an existing name

    3) “Left List” to be de-registered from the Register of Political Parties.

  172. End of an era: absolutely right. And, of course, Smith was told about the cheque. It’s going to take an awful lot of cognitive dissonance for the SWP rank and file to hold on to the idea that it was right to sack Rees over the dubaious cheque – per Molyneux – but it was wrong for Galloway to raise the issue privately with the SWP as an example of Rees’s recklessness.

  173. florence durrant on said:

    end of era – thanks. Lindsey said as well “Even under the evil capitalist system, no one is tried twice for the same crime.” I was there when John Rees defended George Galloway for his humiliating Big Brother stunt. Every SWP comrade I spoke to wanted out with George. I supported John for the simple reason of keeping our unity in building RESPECT. Even Salma Yaqoob wanted George out.
    I was also there when Alex Callinicos defended John Rees after the attack by George. I never knew the ins and outs, I just went with my gut instinct and respect that I have for John Rees given my experience with George. If all this criticism and ultimate explusion of John from the CC is about a simple cheque, I find this hypocrisy simply breath-taking!
    I work in a profession where mistakes that cost a life are made and people admit their mistakes and learn from them. This blame culture never saves anyone, leave alone its negative effect when building an organisation like the SWP, scapegoating for a collective mistake by using one person is destructive to the person used as a scapegoat and to the organisation as a whole and witch-hunting others is simple pure evil.
    There is no where in the SWP “what we stand for” that condons such kind of behaviour, and as far as am concerned, no one is above others in an organisation like the SWP. Unless of course there are worse mistakes that John Rees did and denied doing them until investigated and found guilty of doing and denying, I find all this argument childish given the amount of political turmoil we are facing. I would have thought unity at this stage of our politics was more paramount and that our struggle was central in building a united front having learnt from our mistakes, rather than wasting all this time and resources on a mistake that was admitted and dealt with.

  174. Florence: does that mean you are supporting John Rees against the attempt to remove him from the leadership of the SWP? If so, I understand your position, but I don’t see that many people going along with it.

  175. re: 207

    A prediction I would make that if the SWP want to rebuild any credibilty in the new year they need to have a very honest assessment not of the just Respect and the last few months but of about the last 30 years. It’s extraordinary that in all that time they they have never grown beyond 5000 ‘members’ – and at the moment seem to be actually declining. But they have such a strange organisational culture that it seems difficult to see where that assessment and honesty will come from.

    Meanwhile, I note from the front page of today’s Financial Times that people in Iceland have been talking fondly of the Bolsheviks, the French Revolution and the need for the return of the guillotine.

    Perhaps it will be events in the real world that will revive the left in 2009 – rather than the ponderous and frankly dishonest droning of the higher echelons of the SWP.

  176. external bulletin on said:

    “Even Salma Yaqoob wanted George out.”

    No she didn’t. Are you deliberately giving out false information, or do you genuinely believe this? She wanted George to be criticised for what he did.

    The point about it is, if you’ve been going along thinking Salma wanted George out, you need to ask why you’ve had that disinformation.

    “I was also there when Alex Callinicos defended John Rees after the attack by George.”

    What attack is this?

    Have you read George’s letter, the one that started all this? If not, you really should read it now – and then ask, how did it get from that, to it being called “an attack” on Rees, to people saying that Galloway was responsible for wrecking Respect? How did it get from that to JohnG saying “looks like a witch hunt to me” last year?

  177. end of an era on said:

    Florence,

    There is just one small problem with all this cheque business – and that is that the people who should have known, who could have been asked to make the decision over something so obviously risky were the National Council of Respect. They were never told – in fact they were lied to about this in the document by Rees and his personal banker Elaine Graham-Leigh.

    I can only assume that this lying continued after the split for when the officers of the SWP side of Respect met on 11th December it was the first item on the agenda.

    The minute reads:-

    1. OFFU Donation
    There was a report by John detailing the events that led up to the recent story in the East London Advertiser about the donation to OFFU. The situation was discussed with members on the OFFU committee. It was agreed that Respect had acted correctly in the situation and it was further agreed that a letter be drafted to the OFFU Committee explaining our actions in recommending that the donation from the foreign donor be given to OFFU.”

    It seems to have taken from August to the SWP Conference in January for anyone in the leadership to have realised there was a mistake here – and not just any old slip up but a ‘resigning’ matter according to the sage of Portmouth. In my book that leaves the entire leaderhsip culpable. We are told that Weyman missed the September 5th CC so knew nothing about the cheque until December. So we are led to belive that a CC member, whose organisation was facing a ‘mortal threat’ failed to find out the full truth behind Galloway’s complaints until the cheque hit the Press – despite subsequent CC meetings and being tasked to take the fight to the Renewal Conference on 17th along with the apparently unknowing Martin Smith and Michael Bradley. It says a lot about both internal communication on the CC and Weyman’s conception of ‘leadership’. None of it great I’m afraid.

    But, you are right, scapegoating Rees when they all should have known better isn’t really the very endearing.

  178. florence durrant on said:

    Nas – No I am not attempting anything – I am however enquiring as to why something like a mistake that turns out to have been dealt with and known by the rest of the CC in SWP is being blamed squarely on John. It would not make any difference for me whether John remains in the CC or not. I am just an ordinary member of the SWP who wants debates like this open to all so that we can also make up our own minds. Its called open-ness and justice.

    Salma Yaqoob did not just want George criticised, she wanted George expelled. But that is of no relevance because the unity that we wanted then is dead and gone.

    Alex spoke at our SWP National meeting that we held in London following the attack on John Rees by George Galloway.

    I might read George Galloway’s letter at some stage. At this moment such information is of no relevance to me. Put it this way, I have moved far away from the ashes of RESPECT the unity that we tried to build and I am not going to be part of anything like it.
    Having been at the forefront of RESPECT and like many people spending a lot of time and money in both subs and campaigning, I feel strongly that those we held in trust let us down – be it George or John or anyone else for that matter. Its a tragic mistake that RESPECT split and failed. However, these things do happen in life as you know. My argument is that we learn from them rather than dwell on them. More so comrades bringing the mistakes up months later and blaming individuals for it. This does not solve anything especially in this current environment when people are losing jobs, houses, their entire livelihood, wars raging in the Middle East, third world countries pulverized with war, hunger, disease etc. As a member of the SWP, I rather see myself in the bigger picture of the International socialist, hence have refrained from the internal politics both in the SWP and RESPECT.
    I don’t do personal politics and it will make no difference to my relationship with John Rees whether he remains in the CC or not. I just value him as a comrade because I find him easy to talk to and I respect and appreciate his contributions in my longterm political education since joining the SWP in 2003.

  179. “I might read George Galloway’s letter at some stage. At this moment such information is of no relevance to me”

    so after 16 months you’ve still not read GG’s letter, that explains your breathtaking naivety,

    I suggest you read it Flo before you post any further and then tell us whether you think this was worth busting up RESPECT

  180. Bill Bo Baggins on said:

    ‘Its a tragic mistake that RESPECT split and failed. However, these things do happen in life as you know’

    You know, these things just like happen, like rain, having a bird shit on you, like flatulence,

    ‘My argument is that we learn from them rather than dwell on them’

    It would appear you fail on both counts of your own arguments

    Go towards the light Florence

  181. external bulletin on said:

    “Salma Yaqoob did not just want George criticised, she wanted George expelled. But that is of no relevance because the unity that we wanted then is dead and gone.”

    You are absolutely and completely wrong, Florrence. Why are you insisting on spreading this misinformation, and where are you getting it from?

    “Alex spoke at our SWP National meeting that we held in London following the attack on John Rees by George Galloway.”

    What attack was that?

    If you’re going to express opinions on matters of fact, surely you should at least have taken the time by now to read George’s letter – the one, after all, that was used to destroy the unity that you claim to have wanted.

    Why were you so willing to just believe everything you were told without once examining the evidence?

    It’s this lack of critical thinking that allows you to keep talking of George’s “attack” on John Rees – you’ve not read the letter so you have no idea at all what it said. So why do you keep calling it an “attack”?

    I’m happy to have disagreement – but for you to be a member of the vanguard party, the party that claims it can lead the class, and for you to just swallow whole the line of the leadership without any independent examination of the evidence – don’t you think you owe more to the class than that?

    The end point is, the information you’re relying on has come from John Rees and Alex Callinicos. You’re defending John, but it is him who claimed this was an attack, and it was him who Alex is now saying was unaccountable in his Respect work.

    If you think Salma wanted George expelled, maybe it’s worth spending some time asking why you’ve been given such incorrect information, and what John Rees’s role in that was.

    And it really is worth you reading Galloway’s letter, instead of dismissing it. That letter is blamed for starting all of this – “this” now leading to the tearing up of the CC of the SWP. It has reached right inside your own party.

  182. Crusty the on said:

    “I find him easy to talk to and I respect and appreciate his contributions”

    They said the same of Dr Shipman

  183. external bulletin on said:

    John Rees is easy to talk to and political discussions with him can be really interesting.

    Dr. Shipman, however, really had quite a bad line on the post-Seattle anti-capitalist movement, and he didn’t know how to make a good cup of tea.

    Rees wins hands down.

  184. Ger Francis on said:

    ‘Salma Yaqoob did not just want George criticised, she wanted George expelled.’ That statement is completely untrue.

    Your admission that as an SWP member you had not even read the letter which kicked all of this off is as astonishing as it is depressing. Please, do yourself a favour, read George’s letter with its very understated criticisms of Rees, then read the IB article by Callinicos and compare his criticisms of Rees, then take a pause, and have a think…

  185. “The end point is, the information you’re relying on has come from John Rees and Alex Callinicos. You’re defending John, but it is him who claimed this was an attack, and it was him who Alex is now saying was unaccountable in his Respect work.”

    No it wasn’t, it was the whole of the SWP CC including the members who claim Galloway tried to remove SWP influence in Respect. That’s why only a couple of comrades who worked with Galloway have left. You neglect to mention Galloway wanting to put Nick Wrack in place. And the electoral maneuver by Galloway’s supporters in TH to limit SWP influence. But don’t let reality get in the way of a flogging a dead horse.

  186. Ger and external: you know, I guess Florence is far from alone inside the SWP in not having read Galloway’s letter. I just hope that this current internal crisis means that they will stop putting their fingers in their ears and pretending that those who are being roundly denounced for proceding by “innuendo”, “inflation” and “turning localised disagreements” into “systematic differences” were somehow the fountain of truth.

  187. A rare moment of truth from Ray at #221.

    In response to the argument that JOhn Rees “was unaccountable in his Respect work.”

    Ray admits: “No it wasn’t, it was the whole of the SWP CC”

  188. Ray – Lindsey German told the Respect National Council on 29 September that she accepted that George Galloway’s letter was “not a right wing attack on the SWP”, “though a lot of SWP members see it that way”. But you’re right – with Rees and German in the van did tell the SWP membership that it was an attack on the SWP. The problem for them, and for you Ray, is that everything that Galloway raised in his letter and in his meeting with the SWP where he raised his anger and dismay over the Offu cheque, has been vindicated by… none other than Alex Callinicos above.

    As for putting Nick Wrack alongside Rees 1) the SWP agreed at the 29 September Respect NC to accept a national organiser working alongside Rees 2) Galloway and, separately and independently, Victoria Brittain proposed Nick Wrack, an SWP member, to work alongside Rees. Only in the twisted world conjured up by Rees could the appointment of a second SWP member to a position of authority in Respect be regarded as an attempt to diminish the influence of the SWP. It might have limited the one man rule of one John Rees, but that is a different matter, isn’t it. And I imagine there are quite a lot of people in the SWP now who wish that in various ways the one man rule of of Rees had been curtailed.

    So much did Galloway want to limit SWP influence in Tower Hamlets that he asked and SWP member to be his election agent for Poplar and Limehouse.

    Look, Ray. The entire narrative spun by Rees, with the backing, however reluctant and coerced as it now seems to be, of the majority of the SWP Central Committee is falling apart. The more this comes under scrutiny. The more it will vanish. The quicker that happens, the better for the SWP and everyone who would like to have a trusting working relationship with it.

  189. florence durrant on said:

    Go towards the light florence – thanks for that I will try that Bill.

    esternal bulletin – Fine if I was misled about Salma – I withdraw that and leave where it is as it does not make any difference to me. As for Dr Shipman, he murdered innocent people and as a nurse who works with GPs his crimes should not be taken lightly.

    I have read many books written by John Rees, just as I have read many books written by Tony Cliff, Alex Callinicos and others – that is what I mean by political education.

    I am in this debate to find out what exactly happened with the cheque, not what happened with the split in RESPECT. end of era has answered that question for me. Job done to perfection as usual and goodbye to you all.

  190. Florence: ok. But don’t limit your reading. Try, f’rinstance, Antonio Gramsci. He it was who said, “The truth is revolutionary.”

  191. florence durrant on said:

    Nas – I’ve read Antonio Gramci’s diaries and am happy with that – reading is what I do best and am going on a pilgrimage to Sardinia in 2009 in memory of Gramci just as I went to Cuba in 1997 in memory of Che.

  192. I hope you get the answers, you’re looking for, Florence. And you, along with the rest of the SWP membership, deserve some answers from your leaders.

  193. The sad thing is none of you Gallowayites want to accept that Respect is over and no one in the SWP blames Rees or anyone on the CC for its demise.

    Spin all you like but it won’t change history or save your dwindling organisation. If you spent as much time trying to reverse the the fate of your own organisation instead of obsessing over the SWP then perhaps you might achieve something useful but I doubt it. A sectarian leopard doesn’t change it’s spots.

  194. end of an era on said:

    “no one in the SWP blames Rees or anyone on the CC for its demise.”

    If that’s true ray then we’ve all still a long way to go. The trouble, Raymond, is the more the CC knife each other the more the truth about their own roles in the whole sorry affair will come out into the open.

    I don’t expect you to think critically about what happened – you’ve shown no desire or ability to do it so far – but thankfully there are SWP members who acknowledge the role of Rees in the break-up of Respect and I suspect that that number will grow – but if it doesn’t then no one will want to be in ‘left 0f labour’ organisation with you again – even when your CC deem the ‘objective circumstances’ permit such a formation.

  195. end of an era: people like Ray are proud that they can take part in destroying an intiative of the left and, when new facts (or at any rate new confirmation of certain facts) come to light can stick their heads in the sand and say they are simply not interested. That doesn’t bode well for the new period of openness and self-criticism that is supposed to be opening up in the SWP. Actually, I think Ray doesn’t speak for as many SWP members as he claims. In fact, I have good grounds for believing that he doesn’t.

  196. Bill Bo Baggins on said:

    Ray, perhaps you could stick your fingers in your ears and go, ‘la,la,la, not listening

    Oh hang on a minute..

  197. end of an era on said:

    What’s lovely about our friend Raymond is that he’s still posting the same sweet nonsense a year later – not seeming to realise that the world -including much of the CC of the SWP have moved on.

    Here are just a few of his remarks from December 2007 (posting under his previous incarnation of Unity is Strength)

    About the OFFU cheque – early days

    “If you have information about this affair that confirm Rees’s guilt then I suggest you send it in to the electorial commission or whatever body investigates election fraud.”

    “The rest of us will treat this issue like we treat all other witchhunts against the left – we will defend our comrade (whether they are in the SWP or not) and wait for the evidence that proves innocence or guilt.”

    Then again

    “You can post any article you like but please be specific in your comments about what Rees has done wrong and show evidence to prove his guilt rather than refering back to this news report as if it’s cast iron evidence.

    “This is just the sort of trial by press strategy used against Scargill and Galloway by the establishment. That’s why it’s sectarian and dispicable.”

    [but in this case entirely true]

    “Even if Rees had known it was donated by a Tory business man, which there is no evidence he did nor that it was, why would it be any different from Marx accepting donations from that filthy capitalist Engels to promote socialism?”

    [send that one to Rees – good historical analysis Raymondo – but it get’s better.]

    “Andy how do you know that Rees has made a so-called “stupid decision”? This is your spin on a report in a capitalist newspaper. The fact that you are not able to suspend your judgement about this case until the facts are proven demonstrates that you have a sectarian and partisan agenda. A socialist would wait for the evidence to be gathered and the case to be heard before pronouncing judgement on his fellow comrades. Until that time the act of solidarity with those accused is always paramount for a socialist.”

    [so trusting raymond – but Alex, Lindsey, Chris and Martin all knew it was true – pity they didn’t tell you]

    “This principle helped end the miscarriage’s of justice against the Birmingham Six, Winston Silcott the Guildford 4.”

    [priceless – Rees as victim of miscarriage of justice]

    “At the end of the day this bitter campaign to discredit Rees will simply expose Galloway and all those who have engaged in this sustained attack on Rees for the sectarian’s that they are.”

    [you can add the good Prof and his CC chums to the list of sectarians now, can’t you Ray?]

    Now later it begins to dawn on the SWP that there may be a problem. Here’s how Ray responds to emerging facts.

    “So JR made a mistake. Boo hoo! He didn’t lie to SWP members. He used the money to fund OFFU because he thought he could.”

    [oops, yes he did]

    “Why you think members of the SWP are going to be outraged by a Rees making a mistake.”

    [because they should have been and generally were]

    “Even though Rees apologised this is not good enough for the sectarians. This is because nothing that Rees and the SWP do can ever please them. We are divided by political strategy and there is no getting around this.”

    [Mmmm, can we send that quote to the Good Professor as your opening defence -just change SWP for Lindsey ]

    “As for accepting capitalist cash to fund a left opposition I recall that Lenin allowed capitalism to flourish in a limited way after the revolution in order to fund the workers state. It’s not the capitalists cash that’s necessarily the problem it’s whether it is completely under the control of socialists that decides how it is spent.”

    [I’m sure Prof. Alex agrees – after all Lenin often took cash from the private sector in order to pay for badly organised conferences.]

    Sorry to bore some of you but this trip down Raymond Lane may just enlighten you to the quality of his insight. I’m glad, at last, thatthe rest of the SWP have cottoned on – at least in part – to the problem of the dodgy old Dubai cheque. Ray still has a way to go I’m thinking.

  198. Hello there! Do you know if they make any plugins to safeguard against hackers? I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on. Any suggestions?