What German’s Resignation Tells Us

In the big scheme of things, the resignation of Lindsey German from the SWP is not important. However, given that the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) still has some social weight in the British left, and given the “Leninist “organisational paradigm it follows is still advocated by many beyond its ranks, mutatis mutandis, then the issues it raises are worth pursuing.

Firstly, the issue concerns the relationship between an SWP member, in this case Lindsey German, elected by the conference of the Stop the War Coalition as their national convenor, and accountable to the officers group of the STWC. Most people outside the SWP would expect that the individual in such a position ( while guided by the SWP’s general politics and maybe advised by her political party) would be primarily accountable to the collegiate decision making of the STWC who had elected her as convenor, and indeed that any attempt by the SWP to micro-manage her work within the STWC would be unacceptable; and indeed poisonous to long term trust and relationship building, because it would imply that the SWP regarded the STWC as a front to be manipulated, rather than a coalition of equals.

Well at a formal level, of course the convenor of the STWC is accountable to the STWC, and should not be a marionette of the SWP. However, we should not mistake formality for reality. The culture and tradition of the SWP would expect Lindsey German to follow the SWP’s dictates. The fact that this was not previously an issue was because Lindsey German was senior enough in the SWP to be above such direction.

This has always been the case since Cliff’s “turn to Lenin”. Recall that back in 1975 a large part of the IS’s industrial cadre were expelled because they would not renege on an agreement to back a broad left candidate whom they had decided democratically to endorse in collaboration with the wider left. It was considered an expellable offence, even back then, for them to refuse to back the latest hare-brained wheeze, (the silly decision to back an IS candidate against the broad left) a decision that they had not even been allowed to be involved in making.

Rather more prosaically, the reason I personally left the SWP was when John Rees told me that as a National Executive member of the Socialist Alliance, (to which position I had been elected by SA conference, and on the basis that I was secretary of one of the most successful Socialist Alliance branches) that I was not allowed to disagree with him; and that I simply had to back his decisions, without even being consulted. Recently of course Jane Loftus, president of the CWU trade union, was placed in the same position and had to resign from the SWP.

I remember being telephoned by Lindsey German immediately after the war on Iraq starting, to tell me that I should overrule the democratic decision of the Swindon Stop the War Coalition, a decision voted on by 50 diverse people, and that instead of backing the national demonstration at RAF Fairford, less than ten miles away (which on the day had 10000 people there), we had to go to London instead. I ignored her, because the decision couldn’t have been changed even had I wanted to, but the point is that the SWP has long considered it permissible and indeed standard practice to direct the work of its comrades in other campaigns, even if that subverts the democracy of the other campaigns and organisations.

It is naïve and disingenuous for some people to think that the SWP CC’s instructions to Lindsey German on how to behave in the STWC are somehow a new departure; all that is novel in the situation is that Lindsey German is now at factional loggerheads with the SWP leadership, and so the SWP and she may have different ideas. This view also overlooks the instrumental view of political alliances that John Rees and Lindsey German learned from Tony Cliff.

Cliff was a wheeler-dealer, utterly charming when you were useful to him, utterly ruthless and impersonal when he saw you as an obstacle; and given the mercurial changes of perspective he was inclined to, then you couldn’t predict your downfall coming! John and Lindsey have the same approach, but neither of them have the genuine charm of Cliff, nor his remarkable ability to maintain people’s personal affection even after he had shafted you.

Part of the dilemma for the Left Platform in the SWP is that Rees and German have done over too many people, and their personal arrogance, (and in the case of John Rees, alpha male swagger and Healy like expectations), has meant they have few friends. Given that a number of Left platform supporters come from small towns where the STWC work has been continued as a high priority, it may be that much of the support for the platform has been from comrades who are genuinely concerned by what they see as deprioritisation of anti-war work by the SWP, rather than from any particular affection for Rees’s theories of leadership. In Tyneside, personality cashes with the SWP’s less than personable North East full-timer may also be a major factor.

But the other side of the coin is ability of the power couple to turn on the charm and personability when it is in their interests. Of course Lindsey German would be sweetness and light at the national committee and officers group meetings of the STWC. Did this mean that the SWP were not playing the STWC for factional advantage? The answer to that is in places like Manchester and Oxford where the SWP have openly manipulated STWC for factional gain over long periods.

The idea that Martin Smith and the CC were playing factional silly buggers by seeking to prevent Lindsey German going to Newcastle is of course entirely plausible. But it is equally plausible that Lindsey German indeed was using the Newcastle STWC meeting for factional purposes within the SWP. (Incidently, the best way to ensure that STWC does run risk of being damaged by the factional disputes in the SWP would be for third parties in STWC to take Lindsey German’s side, as if she is a wronged innocent; or to think that SWP game playing in the STWC is a new development.)

Recall that it was John Rees and Lindsey German at the centre of forcing a split in Respect; and a large part of their motivation was that to accede to George Galloway’s request that the incompetent Rees be removed from the position of National Secretary of Respect would have weakened Rees’s standing within the SWP.

The instruction to Kevin Ovenden and Rob Hoverman that they resign from George Galloway’s employ was a factional move that would have potentially wrecked Galloway’s ability to perform as an MP, and also irrevocably broken down trust, as the SWP leadership were presumably hoping that Galloway would be driven out of Respect. Not only was this sordid manoeuvre done solely in order to preserve John Rees’s self-aggrandised position within the SWP, but the entire SWP leadership, and most of the membership went along with it.

So it is ridiculous for Lindsey German and her supporters to claim now that she wouldn’t play factional games with the STWC. She has an entire lifetime of previous factional history, not least the acrimonious and destructive vendetta she launched when closing down Womens’ Voice in marginalising comrades who disagreed with her.

There is also the question of the SWP being a voluntary association with its own rules and traditions. Now I personally wouldn’t want to be a member of an organisation that expelled people for setting up a cultural event like Mutiny, or that directed members where they can and cannot go to speak. But it is not unreasonable for the SWP CC to expect members who have voluntarily submitted to the party’s discipline to obey the rules. Lindsey German can hardy say she doesn’t understand the SWP’s culture and traditions. This is especially the case where the CC has a reasonable apprehension that there is a hidden agenda that threatens the stability of the SWP.

But the big issue that is raised here is whether this model of political organisation can ever be effective in advancing radical social change. There is an inherent contradiction between trying to unite in one party the widest number of self-confident and assertive activists and leaders, and at the same time seeking to reduce those self-confident activists into being cannon fodder for a centralised organisation that has its own institutional biases. The result is that the SWP is less than the sum of its parts; as it under-utilises the talents and potential influence of its members; while an internal culture of deference and self-denial, provides a perfect culture for bullying and rudeness to flourish.

The Democracy Commission and the recognition of the flaws of the Rees/German style of leadership is a good start. But if all the SWP achieves is jumping from the Rees frying pan into the Smith fire, then they are little better off.

There are very real dangers in allowing political questions to be settled by expulsions and bureaucratic manoeuvres, because it simply reinforces the disempowerment of the membership compared to the full timer apparatus and the Central Committee.

Why do I care? Well it is partly because having sent past decades building the SWP, I have a residual personal interest; but more importantly, the SWP still represents a significant number of socialist activists who are an asset to the movement; I hope that they can overcome their problems and find a way to play a more constructive role.

145 comments on “What German’s Resignation Tells Us

  1. Some interesting points here, but, just, lest people forget: Lyndsey resigned because she refused to discuss political differences between herself and the CC which had nothing to do with StW. It was Lyndsey who attempted to use her position in StW to excuse herself from attending any such discussion. She was looking for an excuse to resign. She had to manufactor one.

    On more substantive points: there may be arguments about the precise relationship between members of a political organisation and their leaders who may be elected into positions which involve other responsibilities (the history of the Labour Party is rife with this sort of thing lets not forget). But I really don’t want to be a member of an organisation where those who are elected into positions in the movement feel they have no duty to discuss things or explain their behaviour if asked to do so.

    I don’t really see what would be the point in being in such an organisation.

  2. Excuse me cheekily playing the ingenue here, but exactly what does this phrase mean:

    “and in the case of John Rees, alpha male swagger and Healy like expectations”

    What was it that Healy was known for again?

  3. 1) Hope the SWP recover and reorientate themselves – for all their faults we need different active socialist organisations to make up a healthy left. Good luck to them.

    2) I wouldn’t join (or rejoin) them. I never want to be placed under the command of that ridiculous party machine, the CC and crazy full timer apparatus again! A decade ago I left as they sabotaged my own activism and destroyed the small student group I had built with some ill informed, half-baked and crude notions of ‘discipline’. Never again!

    3) I will work with them in building united fronts, but will always be suspicious that the good activists on the ground I may be working with may one day receive some silly orders to shut down the united front or whatever as their leaders have another ‘turn’. They will never have my trust. You just have to work with all-sorts, including the SWP, to build the movement.

    4) Whoever leads the SWP – Cliff, Rees, German or Smith – and whatever its perspectives, there will always be these nightmare dynamics.

  4. I don’t have any real problems with the concept of Democratic Centralism but when comrades are so far up their own arses and that they think are Lenin’s chosen ones – then the democratic part of Democratic Centralism is forgotten for the interests of the individual’s vanity and sense of power.

  5. There is the potential for an interesting and important discussion out of this that relates to everyone on the left who is in both a political oganization/party – whether SWP, SP, Greens, Respect, etc – and involved in coalition or union work. How does one juggle and sustain multiple accountabilities, for instance? Andy noted on another thread that while Lindsey wasn’t the SWP representative on the StWC steering committee she is in no small part there because she brought the SWP to the table, as it were. That implies a two-way street if the members of a political party aren’t simply to be chess pieces or currency to buy one’s way into the leadership of coalitions and unions. Of course, that doesn’t solve the complex problem of how that accountability is organized and implemented. And that, it seems to me, is the nub.

    Or this could be another thread that lists the SWP’s faults with varying degrees of vituperativeness and bile, followed by defenses of the SWPs methods. Maybe a few personal insults and some sectarian point-scoring.

    My bet is on the latter…

  6. Well Barry, I hope your concluding fourth point is wrong.

    But more widely, there is something bugging me about this whole argument. Its almost as if the SWP is imagined as somehow external to StW aside from three people elected onto the steering cmmtee.

    I had an interesting discussion the other night where myself and another comrade went through, just off the top of our heads, who was central to sustaining local StW groups who happened to be in the SWP.

    There was quite a long list of them. And almost none of them were in left platform. And these people are not simply ‘activists’ (I really am beginning to dislike this word when used in contrast to leadership).

    Its their existence which gave the SWP the kudos which made it possible for Lyndsey and others to play the role they did in StW. The same of course was true of John’s role in Respect.

    Whether they like it or not they were elected into their positions on the basis of that kind of Kudos. I think the problems with Respect (its very unclear to me that there are ‘problems’ in this respect with StW: its just that Lyndsey has decided not to be a member of the SWP anymore), was that there was not far more discussion within the SWP of the implications of the shift. I believe Andy Newman has referred to the consequent drift as revealing an ‘undertheorising’.

    I think this is not disconnected from a notion of democratic accountability. The reason I can’t go along with Andy’s more general account, is not primarily because it undermines a particular Leninist model, but because it implies that in our united front work there should be less and not more democratic accountability inside the SWP (Andy probably does’nt realise this but its one implication of his argument).

    I think this has got to be wrong. If there had been more democratic accountability inside the SWP at the time of Respect I don’t think there would not have been political tensions. But I don’t think either the result would have been as utterly ridiculous as it actually was.

  7. “when comrades are so far up their own arses and that they think are Lenin’s chosen ones” – this is a hilarious mixed-metaphor. Are Lenin’s chosen one’s to be found up the arses of certain comrades, like a prize at the bottom of a cereal box? Would anyone want to claim such a prize?

  8. Really funny post from an SWP member in the thread on this matter at Lenin’s tomb. Seymour has removed the relevent names for legal reasons:

    Posted by florence durrant

    Open your eyes
    “I find the most significant contribution on this thread the one by Andrew Murray. The SWP is continuing to damage its standing in the movement.”

    Some of us were born with our eyes opened. Now. I am going to call a spade a spade. When I joined the SWP, I did not know Martin Smith from Adam. The only time Martin spoke to me was when I complained about the sexual harrassment that I experienced from [deleted]. He turned round to me and said, “If someone offers you sex, that is not prostitution as she did not ask for money.” I went home and threw up
    I was told to be part of the Kent district a few weeks after joining the SWP and [deleted] lives in Canterbury and I live in Gravesend which is 32 miles away from Canterbury. No one in the Party bothered to find out how difficult it was to get from my work place in central London to Canterbury after an 8 hour shift for district meetings. All they were bothered about was that I attend branch meetings in Medway which is 7 miles from my home and Canterbury for district meetings which is 32 miles away from my home. I work 5 days a week and from those 5 days I pay my subs. The 2 day week-end I was expected to go to Gillingham for a paper sale. My travel card is between Gravesend and London, a train ticket to Gillingham is £4, and to Canterbury is £15. I did this religiously for 3 years, because not even Martin Smith or any CC member talked politics to me. Those who talked to me talked about sex. Those who did not talk to me about sex made up stories about me.

    When [deleted] sexually harrassed me in Porte Alegro in front of [deleted] and [deleted], he got a pat on his back and went on to speak at meetings that I had organised with comrades from the Dutch world and Korea.
    When he did the same in Caracus the following year, [deleted] told him off. He went on to do the same in Cairo infront of [deleted] and [deleted] and both of these leading comrades gave a blind eye.
    When I asked [deleted] whether I could attend one of their meetings at the office a few years ago after a demo at Heathrow where I and other comrades got kettled by the police to a point where I nearly wet myself, he said “No, these meetings are for only those who work in the National office.”

    I am not happy that Lindsey has left the way she has. But we need women in leadership who are there not to protect their boyfriends, partners or husbands, but revolutionary leaders to take on the capitalist system, not hound innocent people who join the Party. My Party membership was accidental and I did not deserve the crap that I have put up with whilst Lindsey and other CC comrades promote their own individual agendas. It is no tragedy that Lindsey has resigned from the SWP. What is a tragedy is that she did not play her role as a leading feminist and CC member prefering witch hunting and exclusion of those she felt threatened by. Anything to the contrary is unfounded.

    I also agree with XY on netword resistance. I always find it amusing that those who are in the leadership cannot see the need of networking outside their little comfort zone. So, the rank and file build a meeting, a 1000 people attend and a speaker from the national office comes and speaks. Is that network? Of course not. Network is what I did when I left my comfort zone of middle class/liberal friends when I joined the SWP, i.e. with people that I had nothing in common with except Marx’s ideology of emancipation of the working class by the working class.

    I am proud to say that I have finally got respect from my old friends who thought I joined the SWP for sex. This is because I have been asexual since joining the SWP for the simple reason that there was no one in the SWP who understood my background and my reason of joining the SWP. And it is not because members of the SWP are not capable of understanding, but it is because they were fast asleep and hero worshiping the likes of Lindsey and others in the CC. Now that we are all beginning to open our eyes, there is no point in blaming Martin Smith, Alex Callinicos, Chris Bambery, Lindsey German, John Rees and others, because all these people were friends whilst all of them were asleep as members of the CC. This is part of waking up whereby some will fall by the wayside and others will open their eyes and fight for survival. It is called Sod’s law for this reason.

  9. Interesting to hear Andy’s account of the expulsion of the industrial cadre (mainly around Birmingham) in the 1970’s.

    People have so many stories to tell. I was reminiscing the other night with other former comrades about the 1990’s. I shudder to think of how we put up with such ridiculous leadership.

    Does anyone else remember when Bambery as National Organiser developed an obsession for maps?

    Party notes for months went on about the need for maps to be produced by each branch showing where each paper buying contact lived. And we had to send them into the centre! And at the Party Conference he just ranted for ages about the fact that half the branches still hadn’t produced these maps. People just looked embarrassed.

    WTF was that all about? What kind of crazy panoptical fantasy of control or whatever was he engaging in? Why the f**k would the CC need such maps? Who would need them apart from someone new doing that ‘paper round’? At the same conference Bambery suddenly made the call to recruit ‘500 more students by xmas’ (this was in November!). WTF? What was his mental health like?

    I got so demoralised. Could we recruit that many? Was the fact that it was impossible to reach that target down to our inadequacies and lack of commitment?

    Our branch was in a relatively geographically isolated place. When I read the weekly party notes I felt awful sometimes. It seemed that the party was doing well everywhere except for our branch which was shrinking not growing. Years later, it turns out that the whole party was shrinking then, in the late 1990’s, and our branch was actually doing relatively well! But we had no horizontal communications, we had only the vertical link with the centre, who gave us an unrealistic view.

    Never again … (shudders) …

  10. Problem with having David T in this discussion is that he makes me feel like closing ranks with the most odious SWP full timer and the party machine when faced with his qualitatively worse politics! (David T and Harry’s place rejoice in imperialism, war and Islamophobic racism).

  11. David T on said:

    It is lucky that we’re posting on a site that values free speech, where you’re allowed lyingly to call me a racist, and Andy is allowed to compare John Rees to Gerry Healy!

  12. “The Exile has more on David S. Toube’s hypocrisy here.”

    The Exile, or Exile Ken as he is known, admits to having dinner with BNP organiser Mick Treacy, who was the coordinator for the BNP’s role in the Oldham riots, to talk over a possible red/brown alliance party. That is who Neil Clark’s best blogging pal is.

  13. I wonder why David T, a neo-liberal privateer and arch Islamophobe, would attempt to dig dirt on John Rees who organised against Islamophobia and privatisation. Answers on a postcard please.

  14. David T on said:

    Rees is apparently “Healy like”

    Nobody has ever accused me of being “Healy like”

    But then, I am happily married.

  15. David T on said:

    Oh, and sneer all you want about me and my job – this site is run by a man whose employers are key partners and suppliers of the IDF!

  16. #18

    what have my employers got to do with anything?

    David, you are obvioulsy desperately clutching at straws in your macCarthyite campiagn to damage those whose politics you disagree with.

  17. what have my employers got to do with anything?

    Andy, if you read a few posts up, you will note it was not David T that started making political points by using people’s personal circumstances. David T was merely responding to this.

  18. “I wonder why David T, a neo-liberal privateer and arch Islamophobe, would attempt to dig dirt on John Rees who organised against Islamophobia and privatisation. Answers on a postcard please.”

    I would add ED D to that conundrum also.

    This has been one of the notable outcomes of German’s resignation, all those pro imperialists have been getting over excited.

  19. If you had only just answered what “Healy like” meant this silly nonsense could have been avoided. People died needlessly.

  20. This has been one of the notable outcomes of German’s resignation, all those pro imperialists have been getting over excited.

    Not really. No mention of it on HP until today. It’s mainly Andy and the other Galloway Respect people that seem to be getting a kick out of it and settling old scores.

  21. David T on said:

    I do think that SWP members SHOULD be allowed to have sex. But only with each other.

    This is only fair and proper.

  22. jock mctrousers on said:

    Well, that’s a very demanding and competitive job David T’s got. Just think of all the hours he must put in to keep it. And he still finds time to be on the internet round the clock. What devotion! Of course, it might be that his ‘job’ is not his real job, and his wage comes from another source – you can think of some obvious ‘sources’ yourself.

    As for Ed D – well, at least we can be reasonably sure that no-one would consider him value for money.

  23. “Not really. No mention of it on HP until today. It’s mainly Andy and the other Galloway Respect people that seem to be getting a kick out of it and settling old scores.”

    Actually that’s a fair point. I did piss myself when I read your comment, it does show they are human though.

  24. This problem of the “party” dictating to the member elected to an external body is a perennial one on the Marxist left. In my opinion, the party should dictate to the elected individual, be they a councillor, MSP, MP or Convenor of the Stop the War Coalition. However, it is the political line to follow that should be dictated. It seems to me that it is ridiculous to order someone to not attend a meeting of their the organisation to the leadership of which they have been elected.

    Another thing that seems clear to me is that German was looking for an excuse to resign.

  25. In answer to the thread topic I think it tells us that Lindsey isn’t happy with the political strategy of the SWP as voted on by the majority of members and has decided to resign. It’s a shame but leading members have left the SWP in the past over disagreements about political strategy. If it tells us anything it’s that political organisations adapt in relation to circumstances and some members agree with this and others don’t. Lindsey has every right to disagree but not continue to organise opposition after a majority of members have been agreed on a strategy. She knows this is the policy of the SWP.

  26. onewhoknowsonewhoknows on said:

    Oh dear! It looks like it is down to me to mention a subjective factor in all this. [CONTENT DELETED] However given the recent events in the NE her attending that meeting was highly provocative and the CC would have had no choice but to discipline her.
    As for the portrayal of Martin Smith as the devil incarnate I worked with him a few times and found him A1 in his political work but more importantly when he was the Tower Hamlets organiser I had close friends among the comrades in his district and the opinions of him were high.As for democracy he was the only one who had an election for the newly installed District Committees which were appointed elsewhere.
    Oh! and Barry Kade,I remember it well mate!F**king maps I was at that meeting it was cringeworthy,which reminds me is their anything that Bumberry will not do to keep his job.

  27. Tawfiq Chahboune on said:

    It would have explained so much, but rereading Ed D’s post, Florence Durrant was in the SWP, not Ed D. What a pity. Everything would have slotted so nicely into place.

  28. jsmithson on said:

    I haven’t been a member of the US ISO for a long time – but I knew the leadership well. They have very normal married lives. None of the strange crap you see in the UK SWP.

  29. Armchair on said:

    #32 Imo public discussion of people’s private lives (whoever they are) is obnoxious enough when the gutter press do it. I hope this comment gets deleted and you should be ashamed of yourself.

  30. David Ellis on said:

    David T: Your odious Sun-like drooling for unfounded salacious gossip about Rees on this thread is truely disgusting. I’m sure, or I very much hope, that in comparing Rees with Healy Andy was alluding to his leadership style and not to the existence of any kind of sexual scandal remotely comprable with the Healy affair. Crawl back under your rock. Or is this the start of a genuine witch hunt whipped up by an unholy alliance of the new SWP CC, Andy Newman and the pro-war Zionist David T. Say it isn’t so Andy.

    Personally, now that Lyndsey has left the SWP, and Rees will surely follow shortly, that they will explore the possibilities of once again participating in the building of Respect this time on an exemplary basis which they might be able to achieve absent the personality distorting affects of the bureaucratised sect.

  31. David T on said:

    “David T: Your odious Sun-like drooling for unfounded salacious gossip about Rees on this thread is truely disgusting.”

    No, what you’re hearing from me is raucous unrestrained laughter.

    From what I can make out from the posts above, the Sun-like drooling is more John Rees’ style!

  32. Tawfiq Chahboune on said:

    Usually, I don’t post on threads dealing with neo-Bolsheviks falling out with other neo-Bolsheviks, but I am a little surprised by David Ellis writing: “Personally, now that Lyndsey has left the SWP, and Rees will surely follow shortly, that they will explore the possibilities of once again participating in the building of Respect this time on an exemplary basis which they might be able to achieve absent the personality distorting affects of the bureaucratised sect.”

    Not that Respect is worth saving (GG’s behaviour and attitudes are not that different from that of Rees or German), but what makes you think German and Rees, given decades of behaviour to the contrary, are capable of working “on an exemplary basis”?

  33. ” an unholy alliance of the new SWP CC, Andy Newman and the pro-war Zionist David T.Say it isn’t so Andy.”

    sorry to disappoint, Martin Smith had us all round to tea last weekend, and we sealed our unholly and unnatural alliance by slaughtering a goat and drinking its blood at midnight to the strains of a Marilyn Manson LP being played backwards.

    Prince Phillip had been invited, but he had a prior engagement.

    David t and I are now committed to running away together and forming a civil partnership.

  34. David Ellis on said:

    #38 `. . . but what makes you think German and Rees, given decades of behaviour to the contrary, are capable of working “on an exemplary basis”?’

    I think I said. Outside of the distorting influence of the bureaucratised sect it is more than possible that they are capable of exemplary work. What about the request at #35 Andy? Will you act on it?

  35. David Ellis on said:

    #41 `try and keep up.’

    Sorry don’t get it. Keep up in the sense that you weren’t joking at #39 or keep up that you agree with comments such as that at #32?

  36. Tawfiq Chahboune on said:

    “Outside of the distorting influence of the bureaucratised sect it is more than possible that they are capable of exemplary work.”

    David, they were the “distorting influence of the bureaucratised sect”! If they could at least point to any attempts at softening the SWP while they were the big cheeses, fine. But all they’ve shown is complete contempt for democracy, activists and the wider Left.

    German is nearly 50 and Rees in his mid-fifties. Their whole political lives have been wedded to a Leninist, even Stalinist, style of leadership and politics. Not that I have a dog in this race, but I wouldn’t take the risk. I saw enough of their behaviour in the Socialist Alliance.

    I’ve said this a number of times in the past and I’ll say it every time I mention the SWP: the most committed, brilliant and intelligent socialist activists I have ever met are in the SWP. And I don’t know why they waste their time with a leadership who despise them.

  37. David Ellis on said:

    Tawfiq: I haven’t said they will only that they might. Obviously the pull of the sect is strong even for those no longer in it. Marxism is such a powerful tool that obviously people are tempted to abuse it.

  38. David T on said:

    “sorry to disappoint, Martin Smith had us all round to tea last weekend, and we sealed our unholly and unnatural alliance by slaughtering a goat and drinking its blood at midnight to the strains of a Marilyn Manson LP being played backwards.”

    Marilyn Manson??

    MARILYN MANSON????!!!!

    You do know that both Martin Smith and I are dyed in the wool MORRISSEY fans:

    http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=9735

    http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=10241

  39. Tawfiq Chahboune on said:

    Sorry, I meant 60, if wikipedia is to be believed.

    That’s four decades of Leninism hardwired into her brain. But now she’s seen the light, but only after being forced to resign. Hallelujah! When televangelists claim they have been reformed, we snigger at all the sympathy they arouse. When a Leninist has been forced to resign, I suggest that the same sniggers may be appropriate.

  40. From the oriinal post, I agree absolutely :

    “But the big issue that is raised here is whether this model of political organisation can ever be effective in advancing radical social change.

    There is an inherent contradiction between trying to unite in one party the widest number of self-confident and assertive activists and leaders, and at the same time seeking to reduce those self-confident activists into being cannon fodder for a centralised organisation that has its own institutional biases.

    The result is that the SWP is less than the sum of its parts”

  41. “The answer to that is in places like Manchester and Oxford where the SWP have openly manipulated STWC for factional gain over long periods.”

    Please don’t post about things you have no experience or understanding of (other than factional gossip). It is needlessly damaging and undermines your credibility.

  42. #52, who says I have no experience?

    Oxford is just up the road, anfd the SWP’s factional behaviour in Manchester STWC is so infamous that the man in the moon knows about it.

  43. On the record of oxford, this is the otwn where the SWP needlessly split the STW coalition in town, so that there was town wide organisation for everyne execpt the SWP, and an “East oxford” STWC that only included the SWP; the purpose of the latter organisation being only so that the SWP could call STWC events without having to consult anyone else, and be able to recruit students direct the the SWP.

  44. Actually there was a Oxford north group as well. In fact there were in reality several anti war groups of various stripe. There was no split, a number of groups and activists just walked away or decided to try and work with and around the central group after a disputed meeting over the election of a steering committee. Given that your description can only come from one source and you were not at any of the relevant meetings I suggest you stick to things you know about.

  45. #56

    “Given that your description can only come from one source “

    well as you know I have a large number of sources in Oxford peace movement, having actively cooperated with them over several events around RAF Brize Norton and RAF fairford, so the funny thing is, I don’t have just one source; it is pretty much the consensus view of a large number of peace activists from Oxfordshie from diverse and different political traditions.

    Indeed ironically, my sources are also from the SWP, far from not having been at any of the meetings; I was a member at the time and in attendence at the SWP district aggregate immediately after the split happened, becasue the SWP CC asked me and Jonathan neale to go there, due to the almighty sectarian cock-up that the Oxford SWp comrades had got themselves into, and to try to inject some sense into what was widely seen in the wider SWP as a branch of idiots. IIRC, some Oxford SWP numpties were even asking that an SWP member who had opposed splitting the Oxford STWC should be expelled!!

  46. #49

    Well martin smith has written some crap over the years, but i just read the article david T linked to, and surely no one of sound judgement could beleive this:

    “There is no denying the fact that Morrissey is a talented and hugely influential artist”

    Morriesey is whiney, adolescent self indulgence at its very best.

  47. That the SWP is led by a man who likes Morrissey is by far the most disturbing revelation to emerge in recent days. What next? Will speakers be standing up at Marxism denouncing opera as a bourgeouis art form? The mind boggles…

  48. Your report is inaccurate on every level. There was no ‘split’. No comrade asked for anybody to be expelled for opposing a split, instead at the aggregate there was a debate about aggressive emails being sent by a then member and about what to do about a large STWC meeting that had elected a steering committee and then was ruled out of order after the meeting by the existing committee. The comrade sending the emails was later expelled for far a more serious reason. The coalition groups continued to work together and EOSTW helped organise numerous coaches and meetings and ultimately helped keep a student group going. I hope the rest of your recollections, sources and information are more accurate. I frankly can’t see what the movement has to gain by your comments.

  49. Shingles on said:

    Andy,in your article you refer to “The Democracy Commission”, what is this or is it a SWP joke?

    You really have to laugh though as the wholly abusive and dyfunctional internal affairs of the SWP are so ridiculously predictable and inevitable and are completely and utterly entirely of it´s own stupid making.

    The most recent events concerning Lindsey German´s resignation from the SWP only serve to confirm what most socialists and those on the Left outside of the SWP and many others interested in Socialist ideas think about the SWP and prove why they never ever want to get too close to the SWP inner workings and why many dont want to touch it with a barge pole.

    While I will admit that the party has the ability to produce some worthy activists and is capabnle of successfully publisizing and good organising some types of events it is nevertheless the case that it is very difficult to “trust” anyone in the SWP as the party has been so adept at systematically wrecking any kind of sustainable Left unity project over the last few years.

    Whether this idea of a “democracy commission” is anymore than a VERY POOR joke reamins to be seen but I really dont see how the SWP is capable of any real “democratic change”, as it is a bit like a psycho path…incapable of any real insight into it´s own actions and is largely lacking in any real human warmth and feeling or sensitivity in it´s abusive relationship to human beings.

    Not much there to do with “Socialism” in my view.

    Never have been able to grasp any kind of Socialist vision from the SWP other than what it is or appears to be….a suposedly ” revolutionairty socialist????” gang show run by a group of wholly ruthless mixed up head fuckers who use and abuse others as canon fodder as it suits their misguided authoritarian thinking.

    Unless, there is a complete an utter revolt by the rank and file and base of the party against the errant and endless stupidities of the wholly anul and inept SWP party leadership over decades, which has resulted in the decline of ther number of party activists, the expulsion of hundreds, the complete and utter reckless and wasteful burn out ,disillusionment and alienation from Left politics of ever more thousands of activists.

    What the example of the SWP and how it works(or not as the case may be) is , is a good example of what those socialists and those on the Left urgently working towrds Socialist unity really does “not” need if it is to genuinely rise to the challenge of overcoming it´s present critical condition and parlous state and actually to become relevant by learning from it´s myriad mistakes continually exemplified by the SWP modus operandi and learns to find constructive ways of uniting around a “viable” and well thought through political strategy and creating a popular vision of 21st Socialism.

    It really is a bitter and twisted rich mix of truth and hypocrysy for Lindsey German, given her past involvement in wrecking Left unity projects, to say what she says at the end of in her resignation address, that:

    “It is a critical time for the left, which in my view (and in the view of many other people across the left spectrum) has failed to rise to the challenges posed by the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. The left enters this election weak and divided. The lengthy downturn in class struggle and 13 years of new Labour has taken its toll. The danger for the left is that it becomes a reenactment society. Too much time is spent in nostalgia for the 70s rather than relating to the working class as it actually is, and the concerns that people have.

    There are real questions about why the left has been unable to relate to mass movements like the anti war movement without it causing a crisis. There are also questions why at the first setback it retreats to a comfort zone which often cuts it off from the wider movement.

    I am very proud of what socialists have achieved in the movements, and especially in STW which is still centrally important politically. I am also proud to be a socialist and have always thought that socialists have to organise and be part of a wider movement. How we do that in the 21st century is an urgent question for us all, if we are not to face the threat of barbarism”.

    A little more time and there maybe some deeper insight afoot…one has to live in hope of human beings being capable of change or what else is there to look forward to?

  50. Another9 on said:

    ‘Indeed ironically, my sources are also from the SWP, far from not having been at any of the meetings; I was a member at the time and in attendence at the SWP district aggregate immediately after the split happened, becasue the SWP CC asked me and Jonathan neale to go there, due to the almighty sectarian cock-up that the Oxford SWp comrades had got themselves into, and to try to inject some sense into what was widely seen in the wider SWP as a branch of idiots. IIRC, some Oxford SWP numpties were even asking that an SWP member who had opposed splitting the Oxford STWC should be expelled!!’

    Andy – are these people still Oxford SWP; the current crowd in the branch seem so innocuous that it would seem hard to believe its the same individuals! And at present, from what I’ve heard, what’s left of Oxford StW, much has been commandeered by one of the more esoteric (and quite possibly the tiniest) nano-groups: the self-styled, two-man-and-a-dog ‘Communist Corresponding Society’. A friend told me they turn up to demonstrations in Oxford with a bare placard with nothing but a picture of Karl Marx on it, and proceeded to hand out leaflets with a completely unedited, uncommented excerpt on the economic crisis… written by Engels in the 1870s!

  51. Another9 on said:

    ‘“There is no denying the fact that Morrissey is a talented and hugely influential artist”

    Morriesey is whiney, adolescent self indulgence at its very best.’

    SCANDEL! Andy, you have the occassional interesting piece on politics but lets keep it at that!

    ‘That the SWP is led by a man who likes Morrissey is by far the most disturbing revelation to emerge in recent days. What next? Will speakers be standing up at Marxism denouncing opera as a bourgeouis art form? The mind boggles…’

    There was an apparently very interesting talk on classical music at last Marxism. Istvan Meszarov’s daughter (Susie, I think?) is quite a well know viola (again, I think!) player and recently joined the SWP, and if I remeber she was playing as part of the session. So it would appear that you don’t have to be a philistine to be a wicked, sectarian Leninist monster!

  52. #60

    “No comrade asked for anybody to be expelled for opposing a split, instead at the aggregate there was a debate about aggressive emails being sent by a then member and about what to do about a large STWC meeting that had elected a steering committee and then was ruled out of order after the meeting by the existing committee”

    well that is the most disingenuous form of weasel words designed to obscure the fact that some comrades wanted to expel an SWP member because he had raised concerns about the sectarian way Oxford SWP had failed to work with other peace activists in the town.

    Does this sound like a model realtionship: “a large STWC meeting that had elected a steering committee and then was ruled out of order after the meeting by the existing committee”

    or is this not actually an admission that you royally fucked up.

  53. #62

    And at present, from what I’ve heard, what’s left of Oxford StW, much has been commandeered by one of the more esoteric (and quite possibly the tiniest) nano-groups: the self-styled, two-man-and-a-dog ‘Communist Corresponding Society’. A friend told me they turn up to demonstrations in Oxford with a bare placard with nothing but a picture of Karl Marx on it, and proceeded to hand out leaflets with a completely unedited, uncommented excerpt on the economic crisis… written by Engels in the 1870s!

    i have a shrewd idea who you might be referring to, a comrade who couldn’t john Harpal Brar’s CPGB(ML) because he doesn’t consider them sufficiently supportive of the historical legacy of the USSR.

    Suffice to say the events I refer to were all long ago.

  54. I can only repeat that there was no discussion about ‘expelling’ a comrade for opposing a ‘split’, a comrade who was new to the branch wanted a debate about expulsion because they were shocked by the aggressive tone of emails being sent by a member. No one wanted to pursue this at the time

    You account is simply wrong, not to mention self aggrandising.

  55. Another9 on said:

    ‘Suffice to say the events I refer to were all long ago.’

    For sure. I just had some unlikely images in my head!

    ‘i have a shrewd idea who you might be referring to, a comrade who couldn’t john Harpal Brar’s CPGB(ML) because he doesn’t consider them sufficiently supportive of the historical legacy of the USSR.’

    Really?! My god, they’ve kept that quiet – that must take some real doing! (My father had the displeasure to be taught by Cde Brar once; he said it was awful and as a fellow-traveler to IS every meeting, social or academic, felt like a minuature show-trial). That might explain a couple of peculiar comments. (They’re a duo you know. I’m sure anyone with any idea of what goes on in Oxford though would know who they are…)

  56. Tawfiq Chahboune on said:

    Andy: “Morrissey is whiney, adolescent self indulgence at its very best.”

    That, I must say, is far too generous. Morrissey is quite simply the worst artist this country has ever produced. He’s so bloody awful he makes Madness and Billy Bragg look good.

  57. “who couldn’t john Harpal Brar’s CPGB”

    phew, i don’t mean they tried and were not allowed.

    I don’t want to start another hare running

    I mean their politics are so out there, that they would find the CPGB(ML) a bit liberal.

  58. David Hillman on said:

    Well now no-one wants to commandeer Oxford Stop The War and we’ve elected a steering commitee in which all can work together in a comradely fashion. It comes from need!

  59. #66

    “a comrade who was new to the branch wanted a debate about expulsion because they were shocked by the aggressive tone of emails being sent by a member. No one wanted to pursue this at the time”

    no this simply isn’t true.

    the discussion about expulsion came from an expereinced comrade, who had been in the party for several years, and it was only after Jonatahan neale spoke against it that the matter was dropped.

    there is nothing self aggrandising about my account. The CC called an aggregate meeting to discuss your fuck up, and specifically invited us from swindon, because our experience of building a broad and inclusive coalition was much better than yours.

    Given that you hide behind a psedonym, and I put my reputation on the line, people can judge who is more relaible; especially as you deny there was a split with the following disingenuous account:

    “a large STWC meeting that had elected a steering committee and then was ruled out of order after the meeting by the existing committee”

    “There was no split, a number of groups and activists just walked away or decided to try and work with and around the central group after a disputed meeting over the election of a steering committee. “

    Anyone with any expereince of working with the SWP, or indeed of the far left generally, will see your description as just one factional view point describing a split, and your weasel words are pretty good evidence that the SWP were indeed behind it.

  60. SWP for beginners:

    Regurgitated but unexamined basic texts + language incomprehensible to the people they purport to represet + cast iron certainty + endless paper selling + (constant inflow of raw recruits – constant outflow of now bruised and no longer quite so raw recruits) = recurring division.

  61. Maria Harfitt on said:

    There does seem to be an inherent contradiction within the party – to on the one hand be very active: turn up to branch meetings, do paper sales (workplace +street), recruit and organise, – but on the other hand to be intellectually passive ie debate and discuss at meetings but only within a certain parameter: you are obliged to KNOW what Lenin/Marx/Trotsky/Gramsci et al may have said about issues today but on a fairly mechanistic level – so as to support’the line’.
    This is in orderthat you can then ‘have the argument’ with those to be recruited & this follows for most of the activity. But it can make for quite formulaic and sterile ‘debates’ at times, and I can quite see how some comrades tire of this.

  62. Ok , so let us recap, because “G”‘s account is interesting in illustrating how the self-referential cult mentality works in denial, in the more brainwashed and sad SWP members.

    i criticised Oxford SWP for their long term sectarian approach to the STWC; at which point an anonymous numptie, “G”, pops up and says i don’t know what i am talking about. In fact I know several of the people involved through long term anti-war work, and was at the SWp aggregate that discussed their fuck up.

    Peicing together what “G” himself concedes happens confirms my account:

    Oxford STW was a broad based coalition organisd across the whole town, and was not controlled by the SWP.

    The SWP had some tactical disagreements (IIRC this was about the value of demonstrations as opposed to public meetings). Somethig that could easily have been resolved through diplomacy and patience.

    Oxford SWP organised an unconstitutinal and packed meeting that overtirned the elected committe and replaced it with SWP members and their close allies.

    the existing committe refsued to accept this, and so the SWP go off in a huff and form their own STW groups that have no one in them except themselves.

    One long term SWP member wr ote a number of sharp e-mails and complained to the CC about this stupidity.

    An aggregate was called, where Jonatahan neale was asked to go ebacsue he was based partially in Oxford, and we were invited to come from Swindon to inject some ballast into proceedings given the political instability and sectarianism of the Oxford comrades

    the agregate was laregly a farce where other long term SWP members wanted the person who had objected to their game playing expelled. Jonathan neale talked them out of it.

    (The political level of Oxford SWp at the time can be gathered by a member I was speaking to afterwards in the pub, who told me he had been in the SWP for a years and that he wasn’t in a union, becasue he didn’t need to be as his boss was very nice)

    None of this is substantiallly contradicted by “G”, and indeed in impoetnat respects his account conforms mine: so we must conclude that my statement “in places like … Oxford … the SWP have openly manipulated STWC for factional gain over long periods.” is substantually accurate.

    So when at #60, “G” asks “I frankly can’t see what the movement has to gain by your comments.”

    the answer is not to trust Oxford SWP further than you can throw them, and clearly the movement gains by people not having their fingers burnt through being in contact with dishonest and disfunctional cultists like “G”.

  63. “how how the cult mentality works in denial, in the more brainwashed and sad SWP members.”

    But since you say that you and Jonathon N were sent to rectify the situation isn’t that rather evidence that Oxford was, in fact, an exception – a place where comrades were way off-base and that the national organization was behaving entirely constructively to correct a sectarian error – rather than anything to do with “brainwashing” or “cult mentality”? Unless you meant that you and JN were the cult enforcers – which I doubt is your point – all that your argument points out in this case is that the SWP is like other organizations in having an unevenness and that it tries to rectify that.
    I’m not trying to be a prat, by the way, I’m just confused about how this point fits into the larger discussion since it seems to contradict the idea that the centre shouldn’t act to direct interventions when necessary…

  64. David Hillman on said:

    I must admit this is entertaining, but enough already. It’s time to move on and work together. I really think we can.

  65. Prinkipo Exile on said:

    I remember the time, over 30 years ago, when the Oxford SWP walked out of the local anti fascist committee on the grounds that it didn’t support their position of no platform “by any means necessary” in favour of a Young Liberal position of no platform “wherever possible”. They denounced this as a capitulation to “bourgeois liberalism”.

    Three months later they were back organising an anti nazi league meeting with a local vicar on the instructions of the CC. Plus ca change …

  66. You lose me with statements like this though

    “the answer is not to trust Oxford SWP further than you can throw them, and clearly the movement gains by people not having their fingers burnt through being in contact with dishonest and disfunctional cultists like “G”.

    You and G just seem to be re-enacting the man with the stick/mad dog thing again, it takes the thread away from the interesting contradiction you picked up in the original post

  67. Dirty Red Bandana on said:

    Well, this is fun, isn’t it? G makes some serious and utterly wrong allegations in his comments about Oxford.

    1. Oxford Stop the War Coalition was established on 24th March 1999 by a small group of SWP members with the support of CND. It held a meeting of 150 people that led to an open steering committee that included the Green Party and the Quakers. The ‘organizer’, comrade C, was at the time an SWP member who is now a national officer in a rival organization. You will not read about this in the anthology purporting to give the history of the STWC for reasons of ego and political disagreement. However, you will find comrade C’s letter to the Guardian in the first week of April that announced the Coalition and led to offering advice on forming anti-war groups across the country.

    2. In September 2001, an attempt was made to split the Oxford coalition by the Quakers and CND, in essence to remove the two individuals who led the steering committee, both mentioned elliptically in the above exchange (and I profoundly diagree with Andy’s assessment of one of them who has huge political worth and experience, notably being the national leader of Youth CND in the mid-1980s).

    3. The SWP had not been involved in the Coalition apart from C. When the September split occurred, the SWP refused to back C and went with the meditation guru who manufactured the split. It came to nought with prayers, ‘soul exercises’ and quiet ‘witness’ moments.

    4. The Oxford Coalition gained in strength (a famous 600 strong meeting in Oxford Town Hall that witnessed a spat between C, Chelsea Clinton and her armed guards for instance) but without the active input of the Oxford SWP and relations between ‘G’, a player in the sectarian trajectory, and C became extremely tense with terse emails both ways.

    5. A factional battle between C and the rest of Oxford SWP occurred which the Central Committee publicly refused to take sides on. There were aggressive emails on both sides, with some particularly abusive from someone whose name began with G, who seemed to think of himself as a lecturer on Trotskyist tracts without the reading.

    6. In late 2001, Oxford SWP decided to mount a putsch in the Coalition, enlisting people outside the SWP to help them vote out C as organizer. There had been secret caucuses and mobilization through a whispering campaign. They actually lost the vote, despite mobilizing 15 people and C missing the meeting (childcare, if I remember his explanation correctly). At this point, C considered himself publicly expelled and refused to accept the discipline of the SWP any longer.

    7. The response of Oxford SWP was to split the Coalition and create East Oxford STWC that was the SWP and one or two odd characters with no broad base. The main town Coalition continued to function very well with a broadening base of support that led to the 5,000 strong demonstration of late 2002 against the Iraq war (a demonstration that was threatened with a ban). One very notable success was the steering committee’s approach to Oxford PSC, which led to a collaboration that brought the biggest demonstration for the Palestinians (over the Jenin massacre) that any could remember. The goodwill between the groups was a major strategic development in the city. The East Oxford STWC died of its own narrowness quite quickly hence the bitterness expressed towards C.

    8. C was never expelled. He walked away from the SWP in 2001 and never considered going back. He recently was surprised to discover that an aggregate had taken place on the evening of his son’s birth (late 2002) that he knew nothing about. It was Andy Newman that informed him of this, if my recollection is correct. It was at this meeting that the threat of expulsion had been raised against a comrade that had left a year before, having been sickened by the public and private conduct of Oxford SWP. It is a testament to Oxford SWP that they were not even aware that he had left.

    9. The significance is that the proportionately largest Coalition in the country was put through a ruinous sectarian mangle by the SWP yet managed to survive and prosper, led now by a group of activists that the SWP has nothing to do with. C found that he was faced with building a broad based organization with sophisticated and serious activists with enormous experience, while the SWP was frankly hopeless in the city and treated in this manner by those activists.

    10. The Oxford Coalition continued to act independently of the national leadership and took many initiatives of its own, including the organization of school students into the first effective anti-war school strike. The so-called Brar supporter was the instrumental force in making this astonishing event occur. He remains an outstanding political activist and leading force in the Oxford Coalition (11 years of work in this one organization to his credit).

  68. Dirty Red Bandana on said:

    Danny, I hope you can see Andy’s point now. It is the very contradiction that the thread is about. Sorry for the delay in participating.

  69. “This is in orderthat you can then ‘have the argument’ with those to be recruited & this follows for most of the activity. But it can make for quite formulaic and sterile ‘debates’ at times, and I can quite see how some comrades tire of this.”

    This is like an FBI caricature of US communists in the 1950’s. I don’t know what pod you’ve sprung from but the branch I’m in bears no relation to this. I’ve never come across any branch like this. It’s these condescending stereotypes about left activists (not just in the SWP) that does the left no favours. I shall now return to my pod until the CC decides to activate me.

  70. #79
    “2. In September 2001, an attempt was made to split the Oxford coalition by the Quakers and CND,”

    Knowing the Quakers,I am still laughing at the picture of them being splitters. Give over Bandane for fuck sake.

    The whole drive of the SWP is to be “serial splitters” and the use divide and rule tactics is there to be seen.
    Everything in the labour movement that they touch turn to stone.

    I would ascertain, STWC’s should be in a period of evolving membership requirement, as it is plain as the nose on your face the SWP antics are causing its decline.

  71. “The whole drive of the SWP is to be “serial splitters” and the use divide and rule tactics is there to be seen.
    Everything in the labour movement that they touch turn to stone.”

    this is one of the more moronic contributions, which is saying a lot. The bile towards the SWP is really a sign that it contributors are mainly people obsessed with others on the far left and do sweet fa. The same people time and time again writing their little diatribes wetting themselves with joy that a member of the SWP has left.

    Of course all that the SWP touches turn to stone, well give us your alternative, where should we go. The reality is the rest of the left are not in great shape. The SWP yes with faults is attempting to do something, the right to work conference, STWC, UAF, DCH and a whole host of local campaigns have significant SWP input. The SWP has a history of trying to build broad based united fronts- lets lok at Stwc- it has (Had) 4 members on a national cttee elected at its conference out of a total of 52 (I think thats right). So the SWP controls this with just a tiny amount of members according some idiots on the site. It is simply you hate the SWP.

  72. The mantra of the SWP on the blogs is every criticism on them is unfair.

    I do not believe the SWP have any credibility, or they soon lose it in the labour or progressive movement.My view is once again reaffirmed by the their and German’s infighting for the spoils of the STWC. Thank gooness for leaked emails, alerting us.

    You have got one thing correct. I belong to the ever growing large group that hate the SWP cc’s divide and rule diktats.

  73. Smith’s Mr Bean with a nasty streak impression on Newsnight really of sums up our/my hate of the zealot sect called SWP.

  74. “Smith’s Mr Bean with a nasty streak impression on Newsnight really of sums up our/my hate of the zealot sect called SWP.”

    Is that really the best u can do?

    I personally reserve my hatred for the ruling class, racism, imperialism etc.

  75. So the hard work by 20 odd SWP activists over years, relentlessly flyposing, leafleting, building meetings, holding endless public stalls, involving a wide range of people, booking coaches, raising money for coaches, winning union backing, working perfectly well with a wide range of groups and organisations, engaging with the mosque and local shop owners etc etc is reduced by DRB to nothing, just his supposed brilliance 2001-3. Despite his complete non involvement post 2003. Despite the large meetings and demo turnouts that happened without him. Despite his knowledge simply being based on gossip from individuals he is friendly with. Maybe ego mania can take the hit here rather than socialist organisation.

  76. #80

    “(and I profoundly diagree with Andy’s assessment of one of them who has huge political worth and experience, notably being the national leader of Youth CND in the mid-1980s).”

    This is a far criticism of me here. The individual in question is a very valuable comrade and expereinced activist that I do have a lot of respect for.

    Notwithstanding the eccentricity of some of his wider political beliefs, which I was being a bit flippant about.

  77. #79

    Danny

    “You and G just seem to be re-enacting the man with the stick/mad dog thing again, it takes the thread away from the interesting contradiction you picked up in the original post”

    #75

    RBH

    “all that your argument points out in this case is that the SWP is like other organizations in having an unevenness and that it tries to rectify that.
    I’m not trying to be a prat, by the way, I’m just confused about how this point fits into the larger discussion since it seems to contradict the idea that the centre shouldn’t act to direct interventions when necessary…”

    These are both good points.

    And Redbedhead is correct that the SWP’s centre tried to intervene in the situation in Oxford, but without taking sides or giving a clear lead; there is an element of tragedy that the flaws of the SWP’s method are often perceived by the more astute members of the SWP, who then face a labour of sisyphus trying to correct problems, while the institutional bias keeps resurrecting them.

    The difficulties lie with Cliff’s theoretical model of leadership which underplays the necessity of long term relationship building and collegiate responsibility with other political forces; and which therefore views other political actots in an instrumenatl way, viewing them as either assets or obstacles t the immediate task, which the SWP is deemed uniquely priviliaged to decide upon. In the hands of Cliff, and within the orbit of the SWP’s own politics he could cary this off; but those without Cliff’s charm and persuasiveness; and in contexts away from the voluntary discipline of the SWP, it comes over as a sense of arrogant entitlement, and machaivelian manouvering

    The SWP has always had a tension between its commendable attempt to involve wider forces and get things moving, and those who value “party building” and who are inclined to organisational short cuts to maintain control, as well as deep sectarianism. However, the full time structure, and the institutional interest of maintaining membership and cash inflow always favours a tilt towards party building when push comes to shove.

  78. Arch try and keep to the Swindon Rambler’s very good article, especially the first para, second sentence:

    “However, given that the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) still has some social weight in the British left, and given the “Leninist “organisational paradigm it follows is still advocated by many beyond its ranks, mutatis mutandis, then the issues it raises are worth pursuing”.

    I totally concede that the SWP need to change.

    This can be only be done by painful realisation by their rank and file that the cc is not for change and the machiavellian main principle of divide and rules, is the only application they endorse with plenty of stick and no carrots.

    I, like most other are not just looking in, removed from the continual self defeating maelstrom of their cc that is a destructive on the whole left and damageing tothe hegemonic aspirations of The Stop The War Coalition.

  79. What German’s resignation tells us

    Arch try and keep to the Swindon Rambler’s very good article, especially the first para, second sentence:

    “However, given that the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) still has some social weight in the British left, and given the “Leninist “organisational paradigm it follows is still advocated by many beyond its ranks, mutatis mutandis, then the issues it raises are worth pursuing”.

    I totally concede that the SWP need to change.

    This can be only be done by painful realisation by their rank and file that the cc is not for change and the machiavellian main principle of divide and rules, is the only application they endorse with plenty of stick and no carrots.

    I, like most other are not just looking in, removed from the continual self defeating maelstrom of their cc that is a destructive on the whole left and damageing tothe hegemonic aspirations of The Stop The War Coalition.

  80. Andy the duplication was caused by a pop up saying I had already said that but the post did not appear on the blog.

    #91 I am a rabid partisan not a non partisan

  81. The other relvent aspect of this discussion about Oxfrd, is that the mindset of seeking to micromanage and direct comrades who are actve in other organisations and campaigns is not limited to the leading bodies of the SWP, but is something that branches feel they have a right to do, often on the basis of no personal involevent in the campaign or knowledge of the detailed issues – this is what i am reffering to as cultish behaviour

  82. lunatic 13 on said:

    ‘Tynesides less than personable full time organiser’ and you would know that by how ?
    Oh yes by what Alex ‘call me your leader’ Snowdon says or Gary ‘ I had this fit bird in me taxi once’ Duncan
    Empty vessels make most noise and sadly those on Tyneside who do the least and have no standing amongst workers and have no record of leading real struggles seem however to have most time to post on their ‘ego’ blogs
    Perhaps a little more time spent actually relating to workers may help but that would be sooo beneath them.
    Is it any wonder Snowdon is known as John Rees’s mini-me all he needs now is the Biggles flying jacket and a cheque from the middle east

  83. #96

    “‘Tynesides less than personable full time organiser’ and you would know that by how ?
    Oh yes by what Alex ‘call me your leader’ Snowdon says or Gary ‘ I had this fit bird in me taxi once’ Duncan
    Empty vessels make most noise ”

    What a biazrre thing to say. After 20 years in the SWP myself, I do have some idea of what the current full timer in Newcastle is like; and I am able to make my own judegments about his strengths and weaknesses.

    The idea that I get my infrmation from Alex Snowden is risible; especaly as I am arguing something quite different from him, that the events in the NE may well not be so much “big politics”, but a personality clash.

  84. #96 ‘and have no standing amongst workers’

    I really hate the objectification of quite self-suffient rational people into arbitary categories that do not signify anything apart from some dead misunderstood theory.

    Offensive and patronising.

  85. Dirty Red Bandana on said:

    I agree with Andy here. The desire to control (rather than micro manage) organizations that the local SWP had no involvement with (in March 1999, four SWP members were involved but this was not the case afterwards) and had ruined relations with through extraordinarily poor analysis and tactics in 2001-2 was clear. G’s post rather sums up the problem of their view of the world – actually Oxford SWP were even pretty dreadful at the activities that he believes built the movement.

    LarryN – the Quakers were a surprise force in the Coalition in 1999 and very welcome, despite the differences in world view. In September 2001, elders had instructed the Quaker on the steering committee to stop working with comrade C as he was SWP and considered ‘too militant’. The backdrop was that CND and a few nastier sectarians wanted to weaken SWP input and the Quakers went with this and split the Coalition at a 250 strong meeting. The attitude of CND derived from a serious tactical mistake made by C in 1999 that marginalized CND unnecessarily. He said it was his biggest regret about the early development of the Coalition.

    G – a strange thing that people get jobs outside Oxford and move away, huh? Not that this happened to anyone else, of course. Btw, you will find that the same person you disparage led a national strike in 2005 (rather like his earlier days) but always refused to join Respect because the SWP was involved.

  86. Andy my view on democratic centralism as I recall, if you are a member of an organisation outside the party. You must keep as much as possible to the party line.

    As far as I can see German did not stray from it.
    Anyone can see Smith strayed from that established principle of collective responsibility. He must be cultish.

  87. Paper Tigger on said:

    @80: ” 9. The significance is that the proportionately largest Coalition in the country was put through a ruinous sectarian mangle by the SWP yet managed to survive and prosper, led now by a group of activists that the SWP has nothing to do with.”

    A pretty thorough and comprehensive post, DRB. Echoes of Birmingham STWC, also one of the biggest and most vibrant branches.

    @84: “The bile towards the SWP is really a sign that it contributors are mainly people obsessed with others on the far left and do sweet fa. ”

    Hacks R Us R Atitagain

    LarryN – “Everything in the labour movement that they touch turn to stone”

    Stone? Methinks you are too kind.

  88. I know you will fall out your highchair when I say I am a member of the Religious Society of Friends.

    Elders do not instruct friends, our meetings are consensual. Happy landing and eternal peace be upon you

  89. I think even the Vatican may find the SWP methods a little authoritarian. In comparision they have ‘excommunicated’ considerably less members despite being 10 million times the size of the SWP.

    And they did take Castro back after all.

  90. Andy – your argument about the theoretical bases of the SWP’s “failure” seems to have two foundations:

    1) “The difficulties lie with Cliff’s theoretical model of leadership which underplays the necessity of long term relationship building and collegiate responsibility with other political forces; and which therefore views other political actots in an instrumenatl way, viewing them as either assets or obstacles t the immediate task, which the SWP is deemed uniquely priviliaged to decide upon.”

    and

    2) “The SWP has always had a tension between its commendable attempt to involve wider forces and get things moving, and those who value “party building” and who are inclined to organisational short cuts to maintain control, as well as deep sectarianism. However, the full time structure, and the institutional interest of maintaining membership and cash inflow always favours a tilt towards party building when push comes to shove.”

    Now, as to 1), it’s been a while since I read any Cliff but its certainly true that he placed a priority on the ability to tack and turn as was required by a given context. And he placed an emphasis on “bending the stick” or “seizing the key link” in his analysis of Lenin’s leadership. That never struck me as being in contradiction with the need for long term work amongst people who had different politics – though it is certainly true in my own experience in Canada that we had to learn exactly how to do that through making a lot of fuck-ups as we tried to re-orient the group towards activist politics in the early-90s (and, of course, we still screw things up and fight about how to be effective, etc.).
    As for it implying an “instrumentalist” approach – there is some truth to this insofar as comrades are permanent strategists trying to expand the influence of revolutionary politics, win wider layers to particular perspectives, etc. But here there’s two ways one can approach the question – the first is the way that you suggest, which is manipulation but there’s also a way that is about trying to win the people around you to a particular perspective through discussion and debate and then moving on it where there is a sufficient critical mass of support (or not when you discover that there isn’t). That this assumes comrades believe that they know what is right doesn’t bother me – everyone operates on the assumption that they know what is right, including knowing that it is right to learn from others, which should be a significant part of the equation. If some people are know-it-alls or unconvincing or manipulative that doesn’t negate the validity of the method, it just means some people (including some aggregates of people) do it badly.

    2) Institutional bias. Well, every organization has a bias towards not dissolving and thus maintaining some internal resource basis to continue. But this has always been conceived, in my memory, as being connected to building the movements and being relevant – ie. that the membership will grow and pay dues only where the organization proves that it is relevant to struggles in the outside world. Of course this is only a necessary and not a sufficient condition for growth – as the debates in the SWP of late have suggested (amongst other things).

    I don’t want to give the impression that there is nothing wrong with the SWP or groups in the IS tradition. Believe me, as a former paid organizer, I shudder at the thought of the many mistakes I made. But these have, rather than being rooted in some original sin or foundational problem, been the result of individual failures, having the wrong perspective or not knowing how to implement it. Where I’ve seen people get it right, they’ve done brilliant work.
    Anyway – I’m going on at length here but I don’t think either of these problems that you raise are evident in the present discussion viz. LG. The argument is precisely about the need to do long term, detailed work as the basis for united front work (vs. the kind of “bold and imaginative” leadership that can sometimes work but is often contemptuous of such detailed grassroots work) – along with building up the democratic structures of the organization (to hold bold and imaginative leaders to account, amongst other things). It seems that the contentious issue is the CC’s relationship to Lindsey’s work as a StW convenor and how to negotiate simultaneous and potentially conflicting dynamics of accountability.

  91. #105

    Well redbedhead, there is agulf between the written wrd and the living social practice, and wth regard to Cliff’s politics, consider what a lucky escape you had by Cliff not having a passport!

    so when you say

    “That never struck me as being in contradiction with the need for long term work amongst people who had different politics ”

    that may be true if those ideas are taken at face vaue on the rinted page, but that the living breathing Cliff left his own legacy, which was a culture of short termism, and get rich quick schemes; and a ruthless attitude to other people, combined of course with his chancer’s charm.

    I don’t think the probems are insummountable, but the first step towards overcoming them is to recognise that there is an element of truth in the criticism that non-members make of the SWP

  92. #97

    Well, there’s an obvious possible explanation of why “lunatic13” may be taking that criticism quite so personally… Occam’s Razor and all. (Even if that isn’t the case, the high level of apolitical personal abuse he’s spewing says something about the current culture of the SWP in the NE. And I think it’s fair to say their NE organiser has to have played a role in that).

    SWP loyalists might want to ask themselves why the LP are concentrating so much fire on this individual. Because, in my view, it’s utterly cynical. They’ve recognised he’s a weak link in the SWP chain. And it’s a lot easier to go for someone who is quite so unpopular, for reasons entirely to do with his personal character, not his politics. Particuarly when the person in question isn’t well equipped with the skills he’d need to defend himself. (The comment about workers made me laugh. Yeah, most NE workers who’ve met him think he’s a cock as well, frankly).

    Why are we being so coy, out of interest? Is there anybody in this thread who doesn’t know the name of this unamed “NE SWP organiser”?

  93. Since everyone here is recounting their experiences of working with (or in) the SWP here is my twopennth worth.

    My closest collaboration with the SWP was in the Socialist Alliance. I resigned from the Labour Party (in which I was a Branch Secretary for seven years and a Campaign Group and Labour Briefing supporter) after being convinced by the aguments of close comrades, including fellow ex-Labour leftists, Mike Marqusee and Liz Davis (who was SA Chair). This was a big step. It was certainly not intended as one towards joining the SWP (as some of them seemed to think).

    I was the election agent for SA candidate Peter Leech in the 2001 by-election in Ipswich – the first by-election in that Parliament.

    Having frequently worked closely with the SWP (believe me this goes back a long time) I found this was rather different to being part of the same ‘party’ (SA). Bluntly put, after the withdrawal of the Socialist Party, there were no countervailing organisations locally inside the SA.

    Leech was very much ‘in charge’, or to put it another way impervious to any advice from anyone else. Believe me seven years as a Branch secretary of the Labour Party (with a fusion between two central wards, the biggest in the town, at that time with up to 400 members)gives you a better feel of local politics than selling SW.

    But, nothing I, or indeed any other local trade unionists/non-SWPers were involved, could suggest, counted. One of Leech’s escapades, as his enthusiasm mounted, was to organise and book a public meeting to take place in a couple of days immediately *after* a relatively successful event (about eighty people) at which Paul Foot spoke. In a couple of days following this, Lindsey German and Liz Davis were due to speak in a room that could hold an audience of a couple of hundred.

    At the Foot meeting Hoveman approached me about this event. He clearly saw the madness of this idea. I stated that I had already pointed this out to Leech. He assured me that his comade would ‘listen’ to his advice.

    He did.

    My experience was one of continuous hysterical – unrealistic – activism on the SWP’s part. I have long known this to some extent but the closer you get to them the more blatent their lack of political judgement is. I made a restrained report to the SA leadership, which Liz brought up. But it obviously would have had little effect.

    And then there was Liz and Mike’s contretemps with the SWP in the Socialist Alliance.

    We shall never know who leaked that to Tribune.

    Shall we.

  94. Good points Redbedhead. At this point I’d confess an error of mine. One of the exchanges I had on here which I genuinely do regret was an exchange with Kevin Ovendon. I made the point that I thought he had been pulled by his work with Galloway. He was rather outraged by this and asked why I imagined that people on the CC could not be equally ‘pulled’. In retrospect the second part of what he said was wholly correct. But I also remember a discussion I had about the time of the split with someone who was politically in agreement with the stance Kevin took. I agreed that it was a fairly rum do, but added that I felt the key problem was that a closer eye was’nt kept on those comrades at the sharp end of our UF work. Taking on board Kevin’s critique of my assumptions, I still think that the unintegrated nature of our intervention here had a lot to do with both the fragmented and the arbitrary nature of our response to the crisis. And here I would repeat what seems to me to be fundementally in error in Andy’s analyses. That what it actually implies, whether he realises it or not, is that there should be less and not more accountability of leading members of an organisation, ie less democracy. I would re-iterate that if there had been more accountability both of the CC to the membership, and of members of the CC to each other, it is very doubtful that the crisis would have taken the form it did. Aside from anything else, contrary to the assumptions of many posting here (as well as the basic assumptions of most Left Platform members) most SWP members are not idiots. Here it has to be said that what I found most disquieting about the responses of many who ended up joining Respect was that they appeared to share this kind of an attitude. Whats changed in my outlook is where I put ultimate responsibility for these kinds of attitudes.

  95. #109

    “That what it actually implies, whether he realises it or not, is that there should be less and not more accountability of leading members of an organisation, ie less democracy.”

    *sigh*, you only think that becasue you have an instrumental view of democracy. accountability is not the same thing as being told what to do.

    People need to be be trusted to follow the broad priorities and politics of the organisatuion that they are voluntarily a member of, without anyone needing to control their activity in the interests of “the party”, and second guess their judgements on every tactical issue.

    Resect and the SW fell art not becasue f lack of accountability of Rees, but becasue the SWP never theorised its reationship with Respect, and had a manipulative view of how non-SW members shoudl be treated in Respect.

  96. Andy, in my view I think its absolutely true that comrades need to be trusted to follow broad priorities and politics of the organisation. My argument about the crisis three years ago is that if you look at the comrades who were’nt so trustworthy in that respect they were in, er, rather unlikely places. Which was a bit bewildering at the time. For a certainty if the arguments that had been going on privately on the CC had been known to NC members (and if they had been openly discussed at Party Council) and the membership had been trusted with the contested issues, there would have been no chance of most of what unfolded actually unfolding. I do trust the comrades. The problem is that for too long many in the leadership didn’t. That to me is what lies at the route of it. Theorisation is something that could only have happened on the basis of such open discussion. The instrumental approach grew out of the patterns of operation associated with this lack of trust. Its why I think, fundementally, the discussions about DC etc are important. The business with Rees is not personal. He was politically, most associated with this view of politics.

  97. “Whats changed in my outlook is where I put ultimate responsibility for these kinds of attitudes.”

    Has this change occurred because someone has resigned? Will you change your views again in the future depending on who is inside or outside the SWP?

  98. er no, what changed my attitude was the debates of the last two years both inside and outside the organisation. What kinds of things changes your attitudes to stuff?

  99. Andy – “Well redbedhead, there is agulf between the written wrd and the living social practice, and wth regard to Cliff’s politics, consider what a lucky escape you had by Cliff not having a passport!”

    Well, Cliff never visited but he did make a pretty decisive intervention with a very incisive letter that “bent the stick” as it were. That, I think, was a key part in turning the IS outwards and towards a more activist orientation. Not to say we didn’t cock up its implementation in a number of ways that were wholly our fault (and I take my share of the blame here) but his intervention was, overall, a productive one.
    That’s not to say that Cliff didn’t have his weaknesses. His tendency to “fall in love” – another way of him seizing the key link – was damaging in the long term viz the relationship with the ISO. When the debates arose – about their different (sectarian in my view) orientation – it was handled poorly, in part because the ISO hadn’t changed, it was just that Seattle had made painfully obvious to the Brits what we had seen for some time. And so I think it caught the yanks off guard and from being the “golden boy” they were now on the sharp end of polemic. I think the debates were muddled by this.
    All of which is to say that one’s greatest strengths are also one’s greatest weaknesses.

  100. “one’s greatest strengths are also one’s greatest weaknesses”

    Tends to be true of most of us. Which makes things complicated.

    Also on this business of trusting comrades: Can I once again just remind folk that Lyndsey gave as the pretext of her refusal to discuss her relationship with Left Platform comrades in Newcastle with the CC that it would abrogate her responsibility to StW. She did this in email contributions which she clearly fully intended to publish subsequently. As they were by those same very comrades. It is therefore not at all the case that what was involved was a lack of trust in Lyndsey’s ability to carry out her duties in relationship to the broad coalition in keeping with the broad perspectives of the organisation. The question was whether she could be trusted in relationship to the SWP itself. Andy has himself mentioned this in a context which leads me to believe that he was’nt really convinced that she could have been! Now I understand that this is all very irritating to those who work with us in StW, and its particularly annoying that Lyndsey’s response seems to be to stir this particular pot for all she’s worth. But it really has little to do with the interesting questions raised by Andy in relationship to collegial working etc. I understand the common sense linkage of this with the crisis in Respect. But I don’t think its the same kind of thing at all. Lyndsey was not even asked to resign let alone expelled, and the discussion she published was about an argument about how to ensure factional differences did not damage our relationship with StW, not the other way about.

  101. er no, what changed my attitude was the debates of the last two years both inside and outside the organisation.

    So you definitely have not changed your mind just because someone has now left your party? That’s good to know.

    I did not think you were somebody who is influenced by who happens to be in your gang at what time, and simply sees their role as to crap on people outside the tent.

  102. johng – those are important points and distinctions to make, I think viz Respect and StW with regards to LG.

    “one’s greatest strengths are also one’s greatest weaknesses”

    Tends to be true of most of us. Which makes things complicated.

    I forgot to mention that this no longer applies to me. I’ve read Rosa and decided to opt out of dialectics. I am now unproblematically pristine and perfect.

  103. No Aspen. Nor am I the kind of person who makes instant judgements about people simply on the basis that they’re in an organisation I’m not in.

  104. David T on said:

    “Resect and the SW fell art not becasue f lack of accountability of Rees, but becasue the SWP never theorised its reationship with Respect, and had a manipulative view of how non-SW members shoudl be treated in Respect.”

    Surely they fell out because

    (a) the SWP wants to control everything it touches, but couldn’t even get its members selected in winnable seats

    (b) Jamaat-e-Islami is composed of (in the words of the SWP) “businessmen” who are rather better at working bureaucracies, fiddling procedures, and stacking meetings than the anaemic SWP.

    Jamaat-e-Islami was always going to win this battle. I said so, repeatedly!

    (And I was right!)

  105. No Aspen. Nor am I the kind of person who makes instant judgements about people simply on the basis that they’re in an organisation I’m not in

    I know this, of course, but others might accidentally get that false impression. They might say that you suddenly realised there was always something wrong with Galloway after he split from you, and now you suddenly realise there was always something wrong with Lindsey German after she leaves you.

    Someone less familiar with you might conclude that you’re nothing more than a party hack who uses a lot of waffle to justify what in fact is a rather crude position.

  106. Well as it isn’t true that I suddenly thought Galloway was different after he resigned (and have said that I didn’t all through the last three years) or that I suddenly think the kind of position associated with Left Platform was wrong (having both argued this inside and outside the organisation for the same kind of period) it really does seem, Aspen, that the boot is on the other foot. Are you a ski-ing resort incidently, or just someone whose happily fluctuating politics neccessitates the use of fictional handles?

  107. #122 “Well as it isn’t true that I suddenly thought Galloway was different after he resigned”

    what did Galloway resign from???

    Anyway, there are some interesting questions about accountability to different organisations, some of which are of course covered under rule. I never post here anything about events within the GMB because there is a rule against in, and I respect the rules of the organisation I am a member of.

    In many cases, trade union activists end up delegated to meetings on behalf of their union, and are morally obliged to put forward their union’s policy, not their own personal one; hence my voting against the Peoples Charter at last SW TUC cnference.

    My view is only in exceptional circumstances should a political organisation seek to steer its members working in other organisations; but equally political organisatiosn should not feel the need to defend every action by their members.

    The SWP did not need to “control” john rees within Respect; it was sufficient that when George galloway’s astute letter highlighting the problems was written, ,the SWP could have stepped back and considred whether George might have a poinrt, and take the best interest of the whole movement as thier guide, rather that doing what they did, which was ultimatey to bet the farm on backing JOhn Rees’s own facional interest, which was not unconnected to him mainatinaing his prestige within the SWP. To an extent the SWP CC closed ranks to protect one of their own, to the detriment of the SWp as well as respect.

  108. If the Tyneside SWP organiser is who I think it is ,it seems odd that ‘socialists’ should attack someone who has been victimised by his employer,witch hunted by his union and targetted by the BNP and is very well thought of by NHS/UNISON workers around my area
    And if I’m not mistaken didn’t Galloway speak highly of him.
    Seems the only people he’s not popular with is bosses,bigots and the Left Platform

  109. Andy don’t entirely disagree with your last paragraph. Or that such things are wrong. And no of course Galloway didn’t resign. I became confused responding to someone in Aspen. As you do.

  110. God Aspen you are tiresome. Given that I have done quite frequently and quite openly, its surely not beyond the bounds of possibility that I might do so again. Incidently Aspen, is it concievable that you could engage in serious political discussion? Or is this just something your incapable of?

  111. Actually could someone help me out here? Is Aspen a right wing troll off HP or just a bit of an idiot? Tone is so important and I want to get it right.

  112. God Aspen you are tiresome. Given that I have done quite frequently and quite openly

    You have?

  113. “My view is only in exceptional circumstances should a political organisation seek to steer its members working in other organisations; but equally political organisatiosn should not feel the need to defend every action by their members.”

    I think this is true in the sense that a political organization should be focused on providing diktat on a day to day basis. But I do think, on the other hand, that when important political questions are posed that members should be held accountable to the party’s policies and perspectives otherwise this will undermine the whole party. This seems to have been the argument with Jane Loftus, for instance. Her position viz the strike was untenable given the orientation of rank and file SWP members of the CWU and would have undermined their position. It seems to have been relatively amicably agreed that it was untenable but that she accepted the settlement and therefore resigned. I would also say that in this case, it was reasonable – given circumstances – to seek clarification and to prevent factionalism from invading the StWC.
    The difficulty is that often it is a judgment call and, of course, people make mistakes. But you don’t want a situation, such as happens in Labour or the NDP, where elected MPs are not accountable to the party, which worked to get them elected, and whose policies were the basis for getting them elected. I remember well, for instance, when the NDP were elected in Ontario – on very high hopes (never having had an NDP government in the province before). The first thing that the new premier, Bob Rae, said in his victory speech was that he was the Premier of all the people of Ontario – not the premier of the NDP. Some time later they screwed over the workers of Ontario and nearly destroyed the NDP – 15 years later and it’s never recovered.

  114. Sorry – first sentence should read: “I think this is true in the sense that a political organization SHOULDN’T be focused on providing diktat on a day to day basis.”

  115. “42 more resignations including John Rees.”

    Why am I not surprised by this latest move by the LP. They’ve been looking for an excuse to resign. I doubt it’s a coincidence that Lindsey had a road to Damascus conversion into a STW convener first and an SWP comrade second over this issue. Especially when she would never have countenanced this excuse for not meeting the CC from any other comrade in a position of responsibility while she was on the CC.

  116. Andy Wilson on said:

    #129: “You have?”

    JohnG – no one will believe you are capable of independent thought until the day we hear you openly call for the CULLING OF YOUR OWN CC. Anything less is just dodging the issue. And regarding the Respect fall-out it is no use your providing explanations unless you first REPENT. Us politically inclusive types may get a bad press, but we do have standards.

  117. The issue here is that Lindsey German was the elected convenor of STW – what it should tell the rest of us is that members of the SWP should not be voted into positions in the wider movements because the SWP believe they have power over their members.

  118. Billy Bell on said:

    Read the lists of those who resigned all I can say is who ?
    Its ironic that ’10’ members apparently resigned over Tony Dowling being asked to meet the local party members about his position as Secretary of the effectively defunct and discredited NEESN a body with no relationship to the NSSN on account of the crazy behaviour of its former sec who refused to resign when he lost a vote of no confidence.
    Ironic in that not one of the ‘members’ had ever actually been to a NESSN meeting and only one of them was a steward 3
    As dear old Lenin put it ‘better fewer but better’
    The wilderness awaits

  119. Now it IS beginning to look like it might be meltdown (didn’t this morning), if one SWP faction (the smaller) chooses the Stop The War Coalition as the battleground.

  120. #62
    “And at present, from what I’ve heard, what’s left of Oxford StW, much has been commandeered by one of the more esoteric (and quite possibly the tiniest) nano-groups: the self-styled, two-man-and-a-dog ‘Communist Corresponding Society’. ”

    Now that the hoopla’s died down let me respond. I’ll let the individuals behind the CCS respond if they wish, I’m sure they are reading this (although apparently the meetings are currently attracting considerable numbers)

    However, as far as Oxford STW is concerned though this is simply not true. The two members concerned remain involved with Oxford STW as do many others. However, the CCS is a totally seperate venture from OSTW. Our numbers in STW have actually been growing over the last couple of years.

    I was not in Oxford in 1999 when it was initially formed but since that time Oxford STW has become and remains to this day a viable force in the region. As David Hillman #70 stated a new steering commitee was recently elected (myself included). The strength of Oxford STW comes from the fact that it’s remained a broad based coalition which welcomes members from all or no political parties. Any seed of sectarianism whether at a local or national level has always been rejected immediately. That remains the case now as much as ever. I think any elements who are this way inclined have long realised this and keep away. We actively work as a COALITION and indeed some of our biggest success have been joint ventures with other like minded organisations such as CND or the PSC.

    The new 12 person steering committee comprises a varied and dynamic group of individuals representative of a number of local organisations (but no political parties) who are willing to put in the hard work to make things happen.

  121. Ok, I assume that nobody is still reading this thread. But as some of the discussion has involved events in my local area, I may as well say something. I suspect I know who “Dirty Red Bandana” is, as well as “G”. I think I can hazard a guess at “Andy Newman” too. I’m less sure about “Another9” but I have my suspicions…

    Here in Oxford we have built a very broad, inclusive, and effective antiwar campaign i.e. the Oxford Stop the War Coalition. The need to maintain the breadth of the campaign necessitates a certain level of diplomacy, and I am not about to start criticising any individual or group, or comment on events from the past. However, I do commend DRB on his near photographic memory.

    I can briefly report that last week we held an excellent public meeting, addressed by Andrew Murray and Jeremy Corbyn, plus a local speaker. Jeremy was kind enough to begin his remarks with a tribute to the work of the local coalition, and commended us for launching Oxford STW two years before the founding of the national coalition. The meeting was attended by 70 people, which comrades may not think is very many, but is not bad for a place the size of Oxford. We also elected a new steering committee, which now has representation from pretty much all sections of the movement.

    On another point that has been raised, I am also involved in “one of the more esoteric (and quite possibly the tiniest) nano-groups: the self-styled, two-man-and-a-dog ‘Communist Corresponding Society’”. Well, being amused is fair enough I suppose. But Andy, I confess to being a little baffled by comments such as:

    “…a comrade who couldn’t john Harpal Brar’s CPGB(ML) because he doesn’t consider them sufficiently supportive of the historical legacy of the USSR.”

    “Notwithstanding the eccentricity of some of his wider political beliefs”

    I think I know who you are talking about, but could you perhaps elaborate or say what these remarks are based on? Is there anything this comrade has ever said or written to which you are referring?

    Yes the CCS is a small organisation. We have a branch in Oxford, a branch in Birmingham, and individuals dotted around the place. However, size is not everything. If anybody is interested, they can see our outline manifesto:

    http://www.communistcorrespondingsociety.org/OutMan.htm

    In Oxford we have a series of three public meetings over the next three weeks, focussing on the current political situation and prospects. The details are:

    Thur 25 Feb 2010, 7.30 to 9.00pm
    THE STRANGE STABILITY OF CAPITALISM IN THE WEST
    The Mitre (upstairs meeting room), corner of High St and Turl St

    Thur 04 March 2010, 7.30 to 9.00pm
    NO WAY TO SAY GOODBYE: THE STATE OF THE LEFT TODAY
    The Mitre (upstairs meeting room), corner of High St and Turl St

    Thur 11 March 2010, 7.30 to 9.00pm
    ELECTION 2010: A GUIDE FOR THE DISILLUSIONED
    Oxford Town Hall, St Aldates

    Everybody is welcome to come and participate.

  122. CORRECTION

    In post 141 above, I claimed:

    “I’m less sure about “Another9″ but I have my suspicions…”

    In fact, I now believe I have no idea who he/she is. Apologies.

  123. Dirty Red Bandana on said:

    Magnificent work as ever, Zaid and Mike. The stability and broad range of the Oxford Stop the War Coalition is a testament to the intelligence of the core group that have held it together for 11 years now, especially Zaid’s unstinting work. It is remarkable that you have achieved this.

    On the CCS, I would say that it echoes the thinking of many Marxists at this moment. There are very good grounds to believe that the left inspired by the Russian Revolution has run its course and the influence of Marxism is now marginal in a way it has not been since before 1917. The political analysis, the reasons for this marginalization and the forms of organization that Marxists develop as a result needs some thought. The CCS is one of the groups attempting this process of making Marxism relevant to the 21st century and I certainly follow its development with interest.

    The word that comes to me suggests that the CCS has been holding large debates in Oxford University in the last few months, which augurs well for the left.

  124. I certainly endorse Dirty Red Bandan’s positive assessment of the Oxford STWC, which has acheived a great deal in terms of continuity, inclusivity and activity,

    Much of the credit for which is owed to Zaid.

  125. MrAnswer on said:

    To answer the Healy question (a few months later) YEP John Rees was known as John Grease because of his slimey behaviour around women.

    bit late but glad to be of assistance.