SWP’s Serbian section splits from IST

Grumpy Old Trot

We write to resign from the Socialist Workers Party and the International Socialist Tendency. We disagree with the leadership; it is taking us in the wrong direction.

From its foundation in early 2008, Marks21 orientated towards the politics of the IST. So it is with deep regret that we have decided to resign.

Some of our current members have been members of the SWP since the 1990s and are proud of the work they did with the party to oppose imperialist intervention in the Balkans and pose the Balkan Socialist Federation as the alternative to the nationalist wars of the local ruling classes. The anti-war work around the Kosovo War was a precursor of the Stop the War Coalition, the party’s most important united front initiative of the 2000s.

Regrettably, the recent turn in the SWP’s politics away from the united front approach makes it impossible for us to continue in the IST. While the Tendency is not run on the basis of democratic centralism, and we respect the work of many of its sections, it is clear the mistakes of the SWP carry enormous symbolic weight. The SWP is the leading political force in the Tendency.

The successes of the the Left Party in Germany, Left Front in France, the Left Bloc in Portugal, the United Left Alliance in Ireland, and, most spectacularly, Syriza in Greece, where the prospect of a united left government terrified the capitalist ruling classes of the European Union, are clear evidence of the opportunities a united front approach offers revolutionaries today.

Instead, the SWP defended the New Anti-Capitalist Party’s refusal to join the Left Front in France and Antarsya’s refusal to join Syriza. This is a recipe for sectarian isolation; it is not revolutionary good sense. Working with these parties carries real dangers, but not doing so carries still greater dangers. The rise of the far right Golden Dawn in Greece should be a warning to us all. The IST has a proud record of fighting fascism and racism but it should also be fighting for a united left alternative to the system that breeds fascism.

Similarly, the SWP’s effective withdrawal from the Stop the War Coalition has damaged its anti-imperialist credibility in Britain and in the Middle East. In the case of Syria, there has been a clear tendency to downplay the role of imperialist intrigue, the key question in imperialist Britain given the Libyan fiasco.

It is clear that the SWP has over-reacted to the failure of Respect, the left electoral coalition that grew out of the anti-war movement. Since then, the SWP has retreated to a sectarian comfort zone based on orthodox party-building, abstract propaganda and an economistic emphasis on industrial struggle.

This sectarian approach has resulted in a stifling party culture and regime. Contrary to the traditions of the IST, new ideas and methods are often rejected to uphold existing tradition. Emphasising the limitations of the internet as a tool for revolutionaries at a time of ‘Facebook Revolutions’ and international ‘Occupy’ movements is a case in point.

The scandal involving allegations of rape and sexual harassment against a member of the party’s Central Committee has shocked and angered us. It has exposed the dangers of the current turn. The fact that a full-time party worker was not allowed to continue in her post for raising similar complaints of sexual harassment against the said CC member speaks volumes, as do the expulsions of comrades who raised their voices against the leadership’s handling of the matter. This is conduct that reflects bourgeois management techniques, not the revolutionary socialist struggle for women’s liberation.

We resign, but we will continue to apply classical Marxism to the realities of our times and build a new left in Serbia, in the spirit of the IS. We will work with others on the left, whether or not they are members of the IST, whenever and wherever we believe this will advance the interests of the working class and the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.

31 comments on “SWP’s Serbian section splits from IST

  1. prianikoff on said:

    This is the first time I even knew there was a “Serbian section” of the IST!
    Most of their political criticisms are right though, as is their condemnation of bureaucratic expulsions.
    (I’m still condemning the expulsion of the IS Opposition in the mid 1970’s!)

    Not sure that resignation’s the right step though.
    Trying to “defend the tradition” you’ve just split from , while being outside of it, is usually a failure.
    Better to stay in and fight for the time being.
    Meanwhile, I’d have thought that the ISO provides a superior pole of attraction.
    Longer term, there needs to be regroupment in a new international tendency.
    By itself , supporting United Fronts isn’t enough.

  2. Memory of the class, haha on said:

    How many members does “Marks21″ have?

    If it is anything like the German “section of the IST” with the same name (“Marx21″) I suspect firstly that it doesn’t operate openly as a/”the” “revolutionary party” but does what it seems to, strangely, describe here as “united front politics” – i.e. fairly deep entryism in a left-ish social democratic largeish party.

    Considering recent developments, it may well be worth pointing out, as an aside, that “Linksruck”, the entryist (in the German SPD and its youth section) organisation which was part of the IST, set up by Cliff to clear out his (apparently) old, tired, yet politically educated and very experienced German comrades, experienced major difficulties and basically collapsed in late 2001 over allegations of sexual assault and rape made against a leading member.

    These are touched upon in the comments here
    http://de.indymedia.org/2001/12/12640.shtml
    (“aber eine Organisation,die einen Vergewaltiger in ihrer Führung behält und das Opfer über Jahre verhöhnt”)

    The organisation which was officially little more than a “newspaper with supporters” (and not listed in SWP publications as an IST section etc.) gradually dissolved and was then relaunched as a “magazine with supporters” (many of which are bag-carriers for Left Party politicians, or Left Party parlimentarians themselves), mainly doing entryism in the Left Party’s student grouping, which doesn’t – any more – describe itself as socialist (despite being called the “Socialist-Democratic Student Organisation).

    This blog article also mentions it – the “bunny parties” sound very much like a “fuck circuit”, and then there’s the violence used by German IST members against other leftists e.g. from the CWI.

    “Bekannt ist auch ein Vergewaltigungsfall in den eigenen Reihen Anfang der 1990er in Hamburg, der von der Hamburger Führung gedeckt wurde, sowie die „Bunny-Partys“ führender Kader mit weiblichen Jungmitgliedern in München Mitte/ Ende der 1990er. (Gefunden in einem Eintrag zu „Linksruck“ auf wilkipedia, der vor einiger Zeit wieder gelöscht wurde.)”

    http://overdose.blogsport.de/2007/05/07/linksparteiler_innen-gegen-zionistenschweine/

  3. prianikoff,

    So the number of “likes” means the same as the number of members, is that what you are suggesting? Interesting concept of membership of a supposedly Leninist political grouping.

    I note that their website seems to be down.

  4. prianikoff on said:

    Not suggesting anything, just confirming that they’re not the figment of the imagination of a grumpy old trot in Bristol.
    Out of interest, who would you support in Serbia?

  5. Surely eventually the SWP will have to issue some kind of public statement in regard to the rape allegations, particularly since a section of the IST has now cited them in a statement of resignation?

  6. prianikoff,

    I’m not very aufait with Serbian politics of any kind, unfortunately. I know though that the presence of a certain number of facebook “likes” can be bought for a tiny sum :)

    Oh, and the latest item on that facebook page is a photograph of a demo where some of the placards are against rape…

  7. prianikoff on said:

    Yes, it’s a protest outside the Indian embassy in Belgrade , which also condemned rapes in Serbia. So evidently there’s a small activist organisation linked to the IST there.
    Strangely though, none of their published material uses the Cyrillic alphabet.

  8. Jay Blackwood on said:

    prianikoff: Not suggesting anything, just confirming that they’re not the figment of the imagination of a grumpy old trot in Bristol.

    Thanks Prianikoff, and you’re right – my imagination is quite lively, but it tends to go in slightly more gothic directions…

  9. “not the revolutionary socialist struggle for women’s liberation.”

    Women’s liberation will come naturally with socialism. Therefore feminism in its conventional (bourgeois) form is unnecessary.

  10. @Chris

    “Women’s liberation will come naturally with socialism. Therefore feminism in its conventional (bourgeois) form is unnecessary.”

    I think that’s a potentially dangerous oversimplification, don’t you?

  11. Royall on said:

    Strangely though, none of their published material uses the Cyrillic alphabet.

    That’s fine. Wikipedia:
    “Serbo-Croatian is the only European language with active digraphia, using both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets.”

  12. jim mclean on said:

    Chris:
    “not the revolutionary socialist struggle for women’s liberation.”

    Women’s liberation will come naturally with socialism. Therefore feminism in its conventional (bourgeois) form is unnecessary.

    Until then we male comrades can think with our balls, cool. From the PLP letter mentioned in another thread. An attack on the women who opposed the promotion and defense of a known rapist within that party.

    “Feminism, a bourgeois philosophy, disregards the class nature of sexism. Anti-sexist struggles must reject it, because it divides the working class by blaming male workers and shunning them from anti-sexist struggles. This all-class unity for women sets us up for fascism by mobilizing women against their own class interests.”

    Lie back and think of Marx one assumes.

  13. Gazza's Chicken & chips surprise on said:

    The Serbian IS group seem to be injecting a voice of sanity and politics into this debacle, ( noting the retreat from United front activity and into splendid isolation)

    Its rather similar to the role of the Aotearoa/New Zealand IS group in 2007 around the Respect split, though its has to be said that Daphne L’s open letter to the SWP CC wasn’t written with public dissemination in mind. But then this first time the SWP got a major new one ripped by the clever trickery of the interweb.

    I should imagine there might be a few in the International Franchise thinking that Head Office in London is a few Ferrero Rocher short of a full ambassador’s reception

  14. Gazza's Chicken & chips surprise: The Serbian IS group seem to be injecting a voice of sanity and politics into this debacle, ( noting the retreat from United front activity and into splendid isolation)

    Shutting up shop and producing a small-circulation magazine that officially has is affiliated to no organisation and engaging in deep entryism has nothing to do with “united front activity” and quite a bit to do with “isolation” (being isolated in the first place, and remaining isolated due to officially not existing.

    Of course, controlling stuff behind the scenes with your mates from the Trot Sealed Knot Society while few other people know what is going on is also “isolation”, but presumably it is judged as being “successful”, personally and *maybe* politically. Ask Socialist Action.

  15. Marxist Lenonist on said:

    “Out of interest, who would you support in Serbia?”

    Any Titoists still out there?

  16. Marxist Lenonist,

    I know one in Germany. But he has afaik only contact to a Bosnian group (who are multi-ethnic, multi language, multi-alphabet, etc.) which has some kind of links to the CWI.

  17. Jellytot on said:

    @18Gone National now – a middle class dip

    Given the pool that the Party recruits from this will worry them more than if it appeared in The Mirror!

  18. jim mclean on said:

    Marxist Lenonist,

    Not so much Titoist but remember pub debates on whether Tito or Castro was the true leader of the non aligned nations in the 60’s. I was in the Castro camp but now have little time for the whole nation state concept. This statement also shows that if you drink in the wrong pubs as a youth your life is all but ruined. :-(

  19. #13 Possibly the use of the latin alphabet reflects a rejection of. Serb nationalism and if they had a Croat section they would make banners using the cyrillic?

  20. Interesting discussion, without the ranting on many blogsites over this disaster.
    Over twenty years in IS/SWP taught how hard it is to deal with the inter-personal issues inside an organisation that exists to challenge the bourgeois right to rule. Particularly when class struggle is at a low ebb, and relating to this can be demoralising .
    My view is that the issue triggering the split etc. should have been a matter for the state *first*.
    Party discipline of perpetrator should then be based on the outcome.

  21. Jay Blackwood on said:

    IS_75: My view is that the issue triggering the split etc. should have been a matter for the state *first*.
    Party discipline of perpetrator should then be based on the outcome.

    Very well put, I think you’re right.

  22. neprimerimye on said:

    Since people have expressed an interest in the Serbian IST I must tell you that Dragan Plavšić and Andreja Živković were the two most talented SWP comrades who, as visiting editors, helped produce a really excellent issue of Revolutionary History Vol.8 No.3 entitled the Balkan Socialist Tradition and the Balkan Federation, 1871-1915. They are the only two members of the Serbian IST or rather ex-IST whom I know. I have below a list of the contents of this issue, well worth reading I may add. All the translations are in English for the first time. If you feel somewhat demoralised by what is going on I strongly recommend you to buy and read this to deepen your understanding of socialist history in the Balkans while taking a break from bitter personal divisions.

    I do not wish to make any comment on the dispute in the SWP, the Editorial Board of RH contains members of the SWP but they may be on different sides.
    Ted Crawford
    Balkan Socialist Tradition and the Balkan Federation, 1871-1915

    I: The Origins of the Balkan Socialist Tradition: Between Populism and Marxism
    Dragan Plavšić, Introduction
    Svetozar Marković, Serbia in the East
    Svetozar Marković, Slav Austria and Serb Unity
    Hristo Botev, On Discord Among the Balkan Peoples
    II: Marxism and the Eastern Question: Challenging the Orthodoxy 1896-97
    Dragan Plavšić, Introduction
    Rosa Luxemburg, Social Democracy and the National Struggles in Turkey
    Wilhelm Liebknecht, Statement
    Karl Kautsky, The Eastern Question and Social Democracy
    Wilhelm Liebknecht, Crete and Social Democracy
    Eduard Bernstein, Crete and the Russian Danger
    Christian Rakovsky, The Eastern Question and the International Socialist Party
    III: Bulgarian Socialism and the Macedonian National Liberation Movement, 1903-08
    Andreja Živković, Introduction
    Dimo Hadzhi Dimov and Dimitûr Mirazchiev, After Ilinden
    Dimitûr Blagoev, On the Macedonian Question
    A Gorov, Once Again on the Macedonian Question
    IV: The Revolution in Turkey and the Balkan Federation
    Andreja Živković, Introduction
    Christian Rakovsky, The Turkish Revolution
    Dimitûr Blagoev, The Revolution in Turkey and Social Democracy
    Dimo Hadzhi Dimov, Our Political Standpoint
    The Balkan Federation and the Workers
    The Nationalist Struggles and Socialism
    Andreja Živković, Introduction
    Christian Rakovsky, The Turkish Revolution
    Dimitûr Blagoev, The Revolution in Turkey and Social Democracy
    Dimo Hadzhi Dimov, Our Political Standpoint
    The Balkan Federation and the Workers
    The Nationalist Struggles and Socialism
    V: The Annexation of Bosnia by Austria-Hungary in 1908
    Dragan Plavšić, Introduction
    Otto Bauer, Austria’s Foreign Policy and Social Democracy
    Dimitrije Tucović, Austria-Hungary in the Balkans
    Dimitrije Tucović, German Socialism and the Russian Danger
    Arbeiter-Zeitung, War?
    Dimitrije Tucović, What We Say
    Dimitrije Tucović and Karl Renner, Debate on Bosnia
    VI: The Balkan Federation and Balkan Social Democracy
    Andreja Živković, Introduction
    Karl Kautsky, The National Tasks of Socialists Among the Balkan Slavs
    Resolution of the First Balkan Social Democratic Conference
    Dimitrije Tucović, The First Balkan Social Democratic Conference
    Christian Rakovsky, Towards a Balkan Entente
    Dimitûr Blagoev, Political Prospects
    Christian Rakovsky, The Balkan Confederation and the Turkish-Bulgarian Defensive Alliance
    Dimitûr Blagoev, The Balkan Conference and the Balkan Federation
    VII: The Balkan Wars of 1912-13 and the Balkan Federation
    Dragan Plavšić, Introduction
    Christian Rakovsky, Manifesto of the Socialists of Turkey and the Balkans
    Triša Kaclerović, Memoirs of the First Balkan War
    Hristo Kabakchiev, From Victory to Defeat
    Dimitrije Tucović, Serbia and Albania
    VIII: The First World War and the Balkan Federation
    Dragan Plavšić, Introduction
    Dragiša Lapčević, Against War
    Dušan Popović, Serbian Social Democracy in the War
    The Second Balkan Social Democratic Conference — Manifesto
    The Second Balkan Social Democratic Conference — Discussion

  23. anticapitalista on said:

    neprimerimye – I know some of the comrades from the Serbian Marks21 group (though not very well, though I was a joint speaker at a meeting in Thessaloniki with a comrade from Serbia on the issue of the Balkans/Macedonia) and remember Dragan Plavšić telling me about his work on the Balkan Socialist Tradition at Marxism events in Athens. Certainly a very talented group of young revolutionaries, though I would strongly disagree with their position on SYRIZA and ANTARSYA

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