Order prevails in Vauxhall

Professor Callinicos is pleased at the conference's outcome

Professor Callinicos is pleased at the conference’s outcome

“Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”

HL Mencken

And so it is that the rigged conference has taken place, the leadership has secured its victory (though it may well be a Pyrrhic victory) and the opposition has been crushed. Rage and despair will be the natural reactions; however, it’s a good time to pause a moment and take stock.

The leadership is morally bankrupt

Let’s be blunt. The most pressing issue facing the SWP is simply this – is it a safe place? On the face of things, no; on the face of things, the majority of delegates today don’t think that is at all important.

To recap, this starts off with the allegation of sexual harassment made against “Delta”, the then national secretary of the party, in 2010. Comrade W took her complaint to the Central Committee, the result of which was Delta having to accept a demotion. Although the SWP grapevine is quite efficient, this was all that most comrades knew – that Delta had had an affair which ended badly, and he had behaved inappropriately. At the time the talk wasn’t of rape; at the time, people outside the district didn’t know just how young Comrade W was – that this case involved someone who was effectively a schoolgirl. However, the very fact that Delta – basically the leader of the party at that point – was forced to take a demotion indicated that those people in the leadership who knew the details knew that things weren’t right. They knew Delta had misbehaved badly. They can hardly deny it now, though that won’t stop them trying.

And then there was the 2011 conference. Where Delta – demoted, but still on the CC – gave a cringeworthy ten-minute speech in his own justification, followed by a (highly orchestrated) standing ovation, complete with clapping and chanting. A lot of comrades didn’t like that. Equally, and even without knowing all the details, they didn’t like the hectoring of Comrade W’s supporters that took place that year. This is important background – things were bad before we knew this was a rape complaint.

Which brings us to the Disputes Committee. With the best will in the world, and even assuming that DC members could put aside any unconscious bias (not necessarily an assumption that outsiders would be willing to make), the DC is simply not competent to hold a quasi-criminal hearing into an allegation of rape. It doesn’t dispose of any forensic resources, isn’t composed of legal professionals… and, perhaps more importantly, can’t impose any sanctions beyond expulsion. The Chinese Communist Party can lock up Bo Xilai; the SWP Disputes Committee doesn’t have any such powers at its disposal, thankfully. If a woman comrade makes an allegation of rape, the DC should gently explain that they aren’t in a position to hold a rape investigation, and should encourage her to go to a rape crisis centre and/or the police. The DC, as something analogous to a professional ethics body, is only competent to rule on whether or not an individual is fit to be a member of the party, or at least to hold a leading role in it.

One further point: it isn’t a punishment to not be a member of the leadership. The party chooses who is an appropriate individual to represent it. This needs restating for the benefit of those comrades who seem to believe in a Divine Right of Delta.

Well, the DC made its decision, and this was accepted (just) by conference. Two things, though, are important. The first is that Comrade W, who had expressed a desire to speak to conference, not only was not allowed to do so, but was not even allowed to enter the hall and listen. This is a pretty appalling way to treat a vulnerable young woman who has already been bullied for making a complaint against a leader of the party. The second point is that the vote was incredibly close – roughly 51% yes to 45% no, with 4% indicating an abstention and many delegates simply sitting on their hands in shock.  The “majority” for accepting the DC report was actually one of less than two in five delegates. And this was in a context where no amendments or supplementary motions were accepted – delegates were simply allowed a straight up-and-down vote where they could either accept or reject the DC report in its entirety. Not very impressive.

And that’s before taking into account this weekend’s revelations about a further case involving a woman comrade who was beaten and raped by her district organiser. If anything, the news report understates how bad that case was. What is true is that the organiser, having been found guilty by the DC, was expelled for two years. Two years. That’s the same penalty that was handed out to the Facebook Four for an online discussion about how inadequately the party was handling the Delta case; a discussion where they decided not to form a faction and, in a Kafkaesque twist, were expelled for “factionalism”. Hell, Andy Wilson was expelled for life for proposing to set up a cultural magazine. What sort of organisation has such skewed priorities?

The obvious answer is, an organisation which feels that the ends justify the means absolutely; that in the cause of the socialist revolution (or at least maintaining the current leadership in their positions of power; the CC doesn’t distinguish the two) the only thing that matters is the preservation of authority. If Delta is a good organiser who is crucial to the perspective, he must be protected – nay, even restored to the CC as soon as they can get away with it. Most of the doubts about his behaviour – say, whether it is appropriate for the leader of the party to use his position to try it on with teenage girls – are ruled out of court as “bourgeois morality”. And the victims in all this are simply collateral damage.

It’s the logical end of a process of dehumanisation, of chewing people up and spitting them out. I once remonstrated – quite mildly in retrospect – with a senior CC member about the party’s habit of losing good people by way of the apparat’s casual use of bullying and slander to get their way. “You have to understand,” he explained, “it’s unfortunate, but some people just couldn’t carry the perspective.” I wish I’d had the nerve at the time to tell him what an utter [redacted] he was. But then, we didn’t know then what we know now.

The leadership is politically weak

This is the context for the rebellion in the ranks, and it’s been heartening to see so many comrades saying that this is something they can’t possibly defend. Indeed, the fact that the mishandling of the rape complaint is indefensible is itself demonstrated by the fact that the leadership and their proxies haven’t even tried to defend it. The most “substantial” justification from the CC is Professor Callinicos’ Socialist Review article, which merely refers, opaquely and in passing, to a “difficult disciplinary case”, before going on to discuss how the SWP’s Leninism is being threatened by reformist and movementist currents, the former represented by TV’s Owen Jones (here Alex reveals the little-known fact that young master Jones is a member of the Labour Party) and the latter by former SWP CC member “Donny Mayo”, who has since thrown in his lot with Counterfire and is therefore a proxy target for John Rees, the party’s current numero uno Emmanuel Goldstein figure. (Paul D’Amato has a good response here, perhaps a better one than the article deserves.)

None of this is particularly germane to the issue in hand – the party’s disastrous mishandling of the disciplinary case Alex wants to gloss over – but it has provided a useful script for the CC’s supporters. If you read through the monstrous pre-conference bulletin, the contributions of CC supporters are notable for completely avoiding the issue and banging on instead about Leninism!!!, and how the opposition have deviated from it. This is our 1903 moment, they declare, when the Bolsheviks have to split with the Mensheviks. Quite what the Delta case has to do with Leninism is anyone’s guess, but the obvious conclusion is that this is a way of dignifying a fairly insubstantial argument. There’s also the unintentionally hilarious argument that the opposition want to exchange the SWP’s tried-and-tested way of doing things for the model of Syriza, which of course is so much less successful than the SWP.

Indeed, there is a pronounced tone of brittle defensiveness all the way through the discussion. The same has been true in party meetings. The 1980s generation, the backbone of the CC’s support, have dusted off their polemics about building our ideological defences to keep us from sinking into the swamp. In particular, this means acting as if thirty-year-old arguments over Women’s Voice are the last word on feminism; the idea that if you don’t agree with Sharon Smith’s articles it’s at least worth engaging with them seems to have completely passed them by. Better to deploy the bell, book and candle.

But actually, most of this is really sub-political. It amounts to the CC yelling “Respect our authoritah!” and then deploying every trick in the book to win the vote.

It begins with CC members – Callinicos, Kimber, Bradley et al – touring the branches and lying through their teeth to the members. This, sad to say, is not unexpected. We’ve also seen Party Notes turned into a factional publication, without of course offering any sort of right of reply.

There has been the punishment of party workers – Hannah Dee, one of the few leading members to command genuine respect and affection from the rank and file, was unceremoniously dumped from the CC purely for disagreeing with how the rape allegation was handled, and then found that her employment with the party had been terminated. There have been reports of bullying at the centre; the student office either is not communicating with SWSS groups or has ceased to function altogether.[1]

We’ve seen, in the pre-conference discussion, CC supporters openly referring to the opposition as scabs and narks. As for Donny Gluckstein’s ramblings about MI5, it pains me to get Yiddish on his ass, but he’s a shonda to his father.

There’s been the practice of winner-takes-all delegate selection, where if the CC loyalists had a bare majority in a district, they scooped 100% of the delegates from that district. Particular Stakhanovite exertions were observed in Glasgow and Sheffield, and one hopes the CC appreciates the efforts of Dave “The Hatchet” Sherry and Mad Maxine Bowler. Dave and Maxine, incidentally, sit on the Disputes Committee, which is supposed to protect party members from the arbitrary use of power by leading comrades.

And then there was that little stunt at the faction caucus, when a posse of CC members and hangers-on appeared to demand entrance. It was, apparently, unheard of for a faction to have a closed meeting. Let’s leave aside the fact that at the January conference, the CC held a “supporters’ meeting” which excluded oppositionists, and even one member of the CC’s own election slate. Let’s leave aside the likelihood that they intended to disrupt the caucus. The shocking thing was the appearance of Chanie Rosenberg and Anna Gluckstein, the founder of the party’s nonagenarian widow and his daughter:

annaglucksteinfb

It’s hard to think of a tactic more apolitical than this. The only possible reason for bringing Chanie along was to dare the opposition to close the door on the Mother of the Party. One is inevitably driven to think of Stalin wheeling out the elderly Krupskaya to lend himself moral authority; and it does a tremendous disservice to the memory of Cliff, who really despised the whole idea of personality cults, let alone a cult of his family.

A leadership that deploys tactics like this is a leadership that has no confidence in its ability to win an actual argument. It is hard to disagree with Ian B’s assessment that:

I have the impression of a very weak leadership panicking but unable to break out of a purely defensive stance… The CC fought like cats at conference to retain the leadership, but do not seem to be offering any way forward.

Eppur si muove

If there’s been one thing that’s characterised the CC’s response over recent weeks, it’s been the reversion to technophobia. From Callinicos talking about the “dark side of the internet” – as if socialists who disagree with Alex Callinicos are on a moral level with 411 scammers – to the repeated insistence in pre-conference aggregates that “the blog” was the source of the party crisis. The latter is a clear case of shooting the messenger, and is more than a little reminiscent of Cardinal Law declaring a fatwa against the Boston Globe. It’s also rather funny in that the opposition have been very disciplined online in the pre-conference period, while CC loyalists have been extremely prolific (if not very convincing) in their online appearances.

It strikes me, again, that the SWP leadership don’t get the digital revolution at all. They still have a commandist model based on a not very accurate apprehension of what the Bolsheviks were doing a century ago, with an omniscient Central Committee and a paper that pronounces “the line”. On the contrary, the internet is corrosive of all hierarchies; it points the way towards a style of organising that is much less vertical and much more horizontal (and not in the Skegness rally sense); that we now live in a world where activists are both hyperconnected and can share information instantaneously. Above all, it means the party can’t keep its dirty little secrets to itself the way it used to.

The positive side of this – and the thing that drove the CC absolutely nuts – was that a very large element of the party membership (a) exercised its critical faculties and (b) self-organised. The comrades of the IDOOP faction didn’t wait for the CC to graciously grant them permission to organise; they did it. This is still a way of thinking that is alien to the SWP leadership, and probably has been since the late Pete Sedgwick departed.

It’s also true that the rape case – awful as that has been – has become a lightning rod for all sorts of other submerged issues. There are many people in the SWP who are sick of being lied to, being bullied, being treated as cannon fodder for the permanent leadership’s Ponzi schemes. The older ones remember when the party was better – hell, they remember that the IS of forty years ago was a good deal larger and more influential than the SWP of today. They also realise how toxic this situation is, and how it’s tarnishing Cliff’s legacy. The younger ones are of a generation that doesn’t accept authority without question.

What next? I certainly don’t have any quick and easy answers. If the good comrades aren’t to be lost to politics entirely, we will need to go through a long process of thinking, writing and discussing. What is clear, though, is that the SWP’s discredited leadership has no way forward. Even if it maintains control of the apparatus, its future will be that of Sheila Torrance’s rump WRP, which inherited enough assets from Healy to still have a sort of zombie existence nearly thirty years later. But Alex – remember your glory days, for you will never fly so high again.

You foolish lackeys, your order is built on sand…

[1] To be scrupulously fair, Mark Bergfeld’s resignation may have caused some disruption to the student office, and someone will have to be co-opted to the CC to take his place. Perhaps Martin Smith would be available.

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72 Comments

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72 responses to “Order prevails in Vauxhall

  1. Pingback: SWP crisis: who is saying what « Jim Jepps

  2. Robert

    The SWP is clearly a dead duck. The CC will retain control of the financial assets which is probably their main concern but what’s left of the party will degenerate into an irrelevant cult. The unions won’t want to touch them with a bargepole and I doubt they’ll be able to recruit on campus the way they used to since any student can discover this scandal by typing SWP into Google. What I don’t get is why Delta is worth destroying the party for. Maybe he knows where the bodies are buried and that’s why the CC daren’t cut him loose.

  3. Richard Estes

    “It strikes me, again, that the SWP leadership don’t get the digital revolution at all.”

    I first started using the Internet in 1994 and it was obvious back then that it was going to be socially transformative. Of course, having no tech background, I, like a lot of other people, confused AOL with the Net, but I soon got over that. The fact that the SWP CC still can’t figure it out is nothing less than rank incompetence.

  4. Hi SGB. I’d like to repost this on Socialist Unity to give it a wider hearing. Would that be ok?

  5. Fred

    Delta? Well, I doubt he is being kept for his wit or HR skills. He knows where too many bodies and bank accounts are buried to be sent quietly into that good night.
    Hopefully this will be a case of the rats staying on the sinking ship and those with a soul manning the life boats.

  6. uplandtrout

    Reblogged this on Grumpy Old Trot and commented:
    Nailed!

  7. Thanks – cross-posted this on Socialist Unity without comment 🙂

  8. Harrry Monro

    An excellent post, with a couple of minor disagreements. I haven’t seen Chanie in action in a few years, but I think she is capable of making up her own mind without the help of the never very sharp Anna. If things have change then apologies, but I just think we have to say Chanie has lost her political way. Of course the CC would have lapped up her offer to slap the opposition. On a bigger question, sorry I defend the right of teenagers to pick the partners of their choice, even if they are old toads. I do always cringe when I see wrinklies hanging around socially with people young enough to be their grandchildren; but I emphasize teenagers can join revolutionary organizations, organize strikes and I’m afraid go out with idiots. The problem surely arises from the harassment and what followed?
    Finally the only big contradiction in your post in my mind. You say a Party can only rule on who is a member and who is not. It cannot deal with allegations of sexual harassment or rape. However without investigating the allegations how can it decide who is fit to be a member. Rape Crisis centers don’t deal with “did this happen”, they support people who come to them as victims of rape (and yes any complainant about sexual violence should be advised to seek expert help in coping with the experience). Are you really suggesting the only way for a Party to decide is advise an accuser to go to the fucking cops, and wait on them and the equally appalling CPS to rule (I know you are not, but there are plenty of idiots out there who do take this line). So a person (not necessarily a comrade) comes to a Party with an accusation about a member, a Party has to investigate it. A Party is not some fantasy CSI, it can’t in most cases prove who is an police agent, who robbed Party funds, who raped someone; as you rightly point out. All it should do is rule on fitness for membership, and it should do so with the utmost rigor, as you say, to show everyone that anti-social elements have no place in a Party. Your currant position appears to either be abstentionism in the face of contested accusations, or a belief that the state is a neutral body in cases of (just?) sexual violence.
    As an ex-SWP member I await the split with pleasure, a chance to rebuild the politics of our tradition. However I doubt that will bring comfort the comrades so horribly betrayed by their own Party.
    As the Callinicos group, I can’t imagine some reformist politicians or union leaders will have any problem working with them when it suits them, and at the same others will use all this to assert all revolutionaries are rape cults and should be treated with disdain.
    Harry Monro

  9. Recently ex member

    A disturbing element of the story that came to light over the weekend is that the DC reserved judgement on the rape allegation even though it appears there was a lot of evidence to substantiate the allegation.

    Conclusion: the Disputes Committee only finds men innocent of rape, it reserves judgement otherwise.

  10. I’m enthused at this break-up actually. I met a great SWP member – oppositionist – at Alfie Meadows’ trial, and discussed anti-fascist work in East Anglia and Cambridge, Marxism and music, the unions. We had no need of a “line” from the centre to sort out what needs to be done. I am looking forward to more political networking of this nature. I was in the SWP 1979-2009, although pretty inactive towards the end.

  11. Bob

    Tony Cliff himself is a shonda. A sexist pig and a screaming control freak, his legacy is fucking worthless.

  12. Has anyone written the dystopian novel in which Callinicos and co. are governing the country rather than a far left sect? If not, someone should. It will be terrifying.

  13. PaulJ

    Do you think it appropriate in a blog article exposing what was very likely rape and sexual abuse to post this?

    “I wish I’d had the nerve at the time to tell him what an utter cunt he was.”

    So, is it appropriate to use a word for female genitalia as an abusive term?

    Isn’t the use of such language in fact *part* of the problem of sexism on the far-left?

      • This is rather a side point but, is it such a big deal? I mean, I frequently refer to dickheads as, well, dickheads or dicks, sometimes assholes, depending on my mood. I would never refer to a woman as a “dick” coz it just seems anatomically wrong (though, strangely, douche is usually reserved for men). And I would definitely never use “bitch” – I defer to asshole when in doubt. Perhaps this is a British thing. The “c” word is one of those words that rarely gets used in North America (except in Spanish). And while I’m being a bit tongue in cheek I am honestly asking a question.

      • Yeah, it’s probably something that doesn’t translate. Not an epithet I would ever direct at an actual woman, though.

  14. I don’t think it is worth SWP members and supporters bothering to reply to this sectarian diatribe – trying to apply logical arguments in internet discussions on these matters really is a labour of sisyphus – though I would say to anyone who is taken in by any of the gross misrepresentations of recent SWP history outlined in the account above to please go and talk to any SWP members you know in the real world about them – there is more chance of a constructive and honest dialogue about these issues face to face with people rather than online.

    That said I think it might be good if at least someone on this thread challenges Soviet Goon Boy over his use of sexist language (‘I wish I’d had the nerve at the time to tell him what an utter **** he was’). Using derogatory sexist language while trying to lecture the SWP on women’s liberation – is that not the whiff of hypocrisy I can detect here? Mind you, I guess many people find it hard to detect hypocrisy amidst the overwhelming smell of bullshit emanating from much of the ‘left blogosphere’ about the SWP at the moment…

    • Kronsteen

      One day, the supporters of the CC will come with an actual argument.

      Not name-calling, not trying to muddy the waters with peripheral issues, not guilt by association – a substantive, logical argument from checkable facts.

      After months, all we have is Callinicos on “the dark side of the internet”, Donny Gluckstein on “MI5″…and Snowball on how ‘cunt’ is sexist but ‘bullshit’ isn’t.

    • Stephen

      Snowball, Any time I have asked any SWP members I’ve been told something along the lines of ” I can’t talk about it – this is very difficult for us , but I can’t talk about it” and/or “It’s an internal party matter and I won’t / can’t talk about it”. I know otherpeople have have met the same response. Perhaps you could clarify any innacuracies about how the SWP deals with rape allegations in the above article?

    • Snowball, do you even know what “sectarian” means? I’m getting tired of seeing this word bandied about so much by people on the left. Perhaps you mean “sarcastic”, perhaps you mean “stuff I disagree with”. But in no way, by no definition, can this article be described as “sectarian”. It’s like people throwing the word “fascist” around to mean “people trying to tell me what I should do”.

      And part of the problem of the vote at yesterday’s special conference is, none of you who supported the CC now have any right to take others to task for “sexist language”. You clearly can’t see it, but there’s a very, very strong feeling out there among activists that the SWP as a party has no right to speak of such things now. You can call that sectarian if you like; I just hope that the atrocious actions of the party’s leaders and its hackish loyalists don’t infect the wider movement. I’m sure you’ll blame everyone but the party if people no longer want to work with, or support, you.

      • Serge's Dirge

        You like the arguments and hyperbole, but can’t see the forest through the trees.

        The SWP will remain, develop and grow. This ‘faction’, with their plethora of ‘complaints’ which don’t sit comfortably together at all, will rage and fall apart.

    • Phil

      Using derogatory sexist language while trying to lecture the SWP on women’s liberation

      Get over yourself. The word in question and its equivalents mean different things in different languages; in Spanish it’s an exclamation of surprise or disappointment, in French it’s a very mild expletive denoting somebody self-indulgent & irritating (the rough equivalent of the US ‘a**hole’). In US English the c-word is a strong and aggressive insult to women specifically – essentially reducing the woman to a body-part – whereas in British English it’s a strong and aggressive insult to somebody (usually male) who the speaker really doesn’t like, generally because they’re both unreliable and smug about it; as a friend put it to me, the word denotes “the kind of person who’d rob you and then laugh in your face”.

      In US usage it certainly is “derogatory sexist language”, no question about it. In its British (and Irish) usage I’m not so sure; it seems more like the standard approach of attaching negative connotations to a body-part people don’t talk about in polite company (cf. a**e, p***k, b*****ks etc). I think it should be avoided – it does cause offence, and there’s always the possibility that somebody will hear it as being sexist, after the US usage. It’s probably not a slang term we’ll be using much after the socialist-feminist revolution, either, and there’s no harm being prefigurative. (Or will we be using it *more*, as there won’t be any suspicion of gendered oppression involved? These are deep waters, Gromit.) But seizing on it as an example of “derogatory sexist language” strikes me as showing a rather shallow understanding of what sexist language is, not to mention a rather opportunistic (and selective) approach to the question.

      • Phil, to save me copying and pasting, it’d be excellent if you could post the same comment in the cross-posted article thread on SU (click the link in my name for direct, google-friendly access) – Andy did edit the piece to remove the word, but a few people made the same arguments on SU, and your response is brilliant. *sigh your responses always are.

      • PaulaJ

        Phil:

        “whereas in British English it’s a strong and aggressive insult to somebody (usually male) who the speaker really doesn’t like, generally because they’re both unreliable and smug about it; as a friend put it to me, the word denotes “the kind of person who’d rob you and then laugh in your face”.”

        Who’s trying to minimise the use of sexist language, now, eh, Phil?

        This term is certainly, by etymology and use, a word for female genitalia, howsoever allegedly similar words (that you say are employed in other languages) are used — which words might be translated into English by using the offending word. But that no more means they have the same connotation than it means that the French word ‘coup’ has the same connotation as f*ck’, even though the latter is often used as a translation of the former.

        We have enough apologists for the use of sexist language in the left; which is one reason why our image is now almost rock bottom.

        One would hope that (male) comrades wouldn’t help perpetuate and /or exacerbate this problem.

      • PaulJ

        I’m sorry, and ‘a’ crept into my name when I signed off on this:

        Phil:

        “whereas in British English it’s a strong and aggressive insult to somebody (usually male) who the speaker really doesn’t like, generally because they’re both unreliable and smug about it; as a friend put it to me, the word denotes “the kind of person who’d rob you and then laugh in your face”.”

        Who’s trying to minimise the use of sexist language, now, eh, Phil?

        This term is certainly, by etymology and use, a word for female genitalia, howsoever words that you say are employed in other languages are used (which words might be translated into English by using the offending word, but that no more means they have the same connotation than it means that the French word ‘coup’ has the same connotation as f*ck’, even though the latter is used as a translation of the former).

        We have enough apologists for the use of sexist language on the left; which is why our image is now almost rock bottom.

        One would hope that comrades wouldn’t help perpetuate and /or exacerbate this.

    • Darren Cahil

      @Snowball.
      “I don’t think it is worth SWP members and supporters bothering to reply to this sectarian diatribe.”

      And yet you’re replying, contradiction much?

      ” trying to apply logical arguments in internet discussions on these matters really is a labour of sisyphus”

      How about Socialist Worker then? Wait, we couldn’t have critical letters in SW now could we? Opening up to criticism, that’s a no, no, everyone agrees. To sum that up in a word, petty!

      “though I would say to anyone who is taken in by any of the gross misrepresentations of recent SWP history outlined in the account above…”

      There’s nothing stopping you refuting what is said, on the blog, in SW letters, ect.

      “please go and talk to any SWP members you know in the real world about them”

      They can also do that, it’s not an issue of either or. Besides which, whilst it may be correct to point out that we can talk face to face to a member in the real world, I expect the member will have a scripted parallel universe answer.

      ” there is more chance of a constructive and honest dialogue about these issues face to face with people rather than online.”

      But not in the ‘revolutionary paper’, you, like the Bolsheviks when they have intense polemics, arguments in pamphlets ect.

      I’m not going to dispute most of the last paragraph, (the last sentence I’ll get to in a bit) only he did retract it, implying that he admits a mistake, has the SWP leadership ever heard of that in its recent history? I think you know the answer, it’s just that you don’t have the courage to admit it to yourself, better to lie to yourself then.

      “the overwhelming smell of bullshit emanating from much of the ‘left blogosphere’ about the SWP at the moment…”

      Sweeping statements do not equal the truth.

  15. Pingback: Obsolete Leninism: the Left-Wing Alternative. | Tendance Coatesy

  16. PaulJ

    Snowball, *I* did.

    But, I regret an excellent comrade like you assisting the CC sweep all this under the carpet.

    The fact that you won’t/can’t take SBG on says it all.

  17. I don’t think it is worth SWP members and supporters bothering to reply to this sectarian diatribe – trying to apply logical arguments in internet discussions on these matters really is a labour of sisyphus – though I would say to anyone who is taken in by any of the gross misrepresentations of recent SWP history outlined in the account above to please go and talk to any SWP members you know in the real world about them – there is more chance of a constructive and honest dialogue about these issues face to face with people rather than online.

    Well, I’m over here in the USA and don’t have much opportunity to have a dialogue with SWP’ers face to face. The problem for Callinicos is that his party is dealing with a PR disaster that is most certainly terminal. He relies on a broad network of international notables at places like NLR, Historical Materialism, et al to provide the credentials he needs to invite celebrities like Zizek to speak at conferences and to lend the impression that the SWP really matters. Those days are over. As Goon Boy has pointed out most eloquently, the failure of the SWP to defend itself outside of its own ranks is the biggest blow to its own credibility. For example, the Marxism list that I moderate has 1470 subscribers and probably 3 times as many lurkers who read the archives. It has been receiving damning material on the SWP on a daily basis, including a link to this article. I can’t say that any good would have come out of an SWP’er defending the gang at the top, however. Such a person would have been ostracized if not flamed out of his underwear. (I say “his” advisedly.

    • PaulJ

      My friend Rosa gets the same feeling when she tries to attack dialectics over at your blog, Louis.

    • Mr. Proyect, I believe you reside in South Florida. Well I live in North Florida and was kind of associated with SWP in the last dozen years of the last century. I am no “groupie” of the SWP CC and have criticised them in print, but I do recognize a rerun of Bakhunin when I see it. I would be delighted to meet up with you somewhere mutual. Downtown Disney perhaps (Rainforest Cafe is great). Alternatively, you could go for a swim in the nearest alligator infested lake. I didn’t realize that history was changed by academic conferences of left intellectuals. Thought it was the actions of masses that changed the world. I’m sure your blog will move more masses in this century than the much maligned SWP!. FOAD

  18. David Ellis

    Nice stuff. The SWP is now finished and that is a good thing. State-capitalism and all that jazz was pure Cold War opportunism and this sect did indeed become a sort of defacto part of the labour movement bureaucracy’s division of labour. Unfortunately the opposition to the CC was being led not by revolutionaries but by people on their way out of revolutionary politics real or imagined. They were more Shirley Williams that Rosa Luxembourg. There will now be hundreds of ex-SWPers running around the labour movement seeking places in the bureaucracy proper and blaming Leninism as if Lenin ever roamed around the labour movement in the manner of an SWPer. The world does not need any more Andy Newmans.

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  20. Johnboy

    Snowball (a man who would never knowingly have an opinion in the slightest bit divergent from whatever the CC is saying at any given time) in case you haven’t seen it here’s what David McNally (on Richard S’s facebook) had to say about your shamefully slavish Cc line-toeing blogpost on women’s liberation. You really have to wake up and see how isolated and despised you loyalists are.

    “This post is dogmatism pure and simple. There is nothing in it of Marx’s spirit of critical-scientific inquiry. It is designed to dust off old nostrums, crude in their own day, as if they retain timeless validity. There is a complete failure to critically engage with past SWP analyses, never mind to actually develop revolutionary theory. The pot-shots at those who seek to critically probe the limits of the SWP “tradition” on women’s oppression are, frankly, a joke. Let’s consider just one aspect of that tradition, the claim that “Revolutionary Marxists differ from all other people who stand for women’s liberation in one important respect. We do not believe women’s oppression is something that has always existed – either because of the biological differences between the sexes or because of something inherent in the male psyche” (Chris Harman, 1984). Problem: I can name dozens of quite serious Marxist-feminists/socialist-feminists who also reject both of these propositions. So, either the statement is demonstrably false, or the SWP tradition needs to acknowledge that the likes of Lise Vogel, Martha Gimenez, Johanna Brenner, Sue Ferguson and many others belong to the revolutionary Marxist camp. In either case, the politically responsible and theoretically serious thing would then be to read them and engage their analyses, rather than misrepresent them while retreating to the trenches of dogmatism.”

    Dogmatism pure and simple. Sums you up.

  21. Pingback: A Profound Crisis inside the British SWP: Order prevails in Vauxhall | Soviet Goon Boy | Tomás Ó Flatharta

  22. I’m new to this blog and there are about 500 references and allusions that I don’t get. Why are you ‘Soviet goon boy’? What does this mean? Why are you anonymous but presumably loads of people know who you are? (note: I’m not asking who you are). Having read back through some of your previous posts and the comments about faction fighting (not this recent awful episode) don’t these represent a hopeless waste of time? As I’ve said elsewhere, I remain completely unconvinced that the post-war period has been right for trying to create this kind of party in the space left of Labour. I think there are two main reasons for that: the social consciousness in that space is so divided and weak that the best that can be managed are campaigns; most of the personnel available or willing to work in that space are not as good as they think they are with all the consequences of sounding triumphalist, blinkered, pompous, overblown and hypercorrect. Part of my reasons for saying this come out of a genuine feeling of regret. I have tried to work with what I’ve thought were the ‘best’ campaigns for most of my life. The part stems from a grinding sense of deja vu that comes from having had parents who were in the CPGB from 1935-1957 and could, if asked, talk about that time, or their take on politics in the day to day. I now know a tiny bit more of the circumstances surrounding the present case but the micro-politics surrounding the various comings and goings , unitings and disunitings during and since the anti-Iraq war campaign have eluded me. One further irony: I have the sense that we are about to move into a period in which ‘whose side are you on?’ is going to apply to past and present factions and splits surrounding the SWP and hardly ever on who opposes capitalism and who supports it. To put that matter into perspective: when it finally became OK on the left to call Stalinism Stalinism, the question was: are you prepared to work with ‘apologists for Stalinism’? When the WRP broke up, there was talk about whether people were prepared to work with apologists for the WRP’s sex and violence cult? Since Blair, people have asked: is it/was it OK to work with MPs who had voted for the Iraq War? Now once again, people will ask is it OK to work with people who supported the Central Committee’s line in this affair? What do I make of all this? That the space left-of-labour is as full of people who have screwed up, compromised on crucial principles, not seen the wood for the trees, supported where they/we should have stopped supporting. I include myself in much of this even though I have acted not according to any one’s party rules, but according to what I felt I had understood and approved of. The problem there is that I have increasingly felt glad that I haven’t spent a lifetime immersed in the tangled detail of who did or did not follow this or that absolutely crucial line. There must be a way of translating marxism into action but sure as hell we haven’t found it yet.

    • Phil

      Michael – “Soviet Goon Boy” used to run a blog called “Splintered Sunrise”; many of us ‘know’ him from there (although ‘know’ is a relative term; I’ve no idea what his name is & only a vague idea of his age, nationality, collar size etc). I don’t think the blog title means anything; there’s an unrelated blog called “The Kremlin Stooge”, named after an insult used against the writer, & he mentioned that “Soviet goon boy” was another example.

      The point about divisions on the Left is important. When I was younger and more active, I was in a group whose members included ex-IS people (ex- as in expelled), ex-IMGers, ex-WRPers and one ex-Spart. You’d never have known. I still had reservations about working with CPers, but that wasn’t about the dungeons of the Cheka so much as their dreadful right-wing politics. I don’t think this week’s divisions are going to matter very much when there’s real work to be done; when you get down to it, I don’t think there are many people who would walk off a picket line if they realised Charlie Kimber was there too. But the SWP as a party has lost a great deal of credibility, which is going to affect its ability to take a leading role in broad (and united) fronts. I tend to think this is a good thing in itself – a bit more working and a bit less leading will be good for the soul.

  23. Robert

    Snowball and the rest of the sheep clearly have no idea just how bad this looks to normal people with a conscience. The SWP will be shunned by the unions, students and the rest of the movement. To quote Tallyrand their behaviour is worse than a crime, it’s a mistake.

  24. Pinkie

    OK Michael, but how do you feel about the way that the CC of the SWP has acted recently, and for instance in the last few years? It is not good enough to shrug your shoulders and say that worst has happened and better can be done.

  25. Pinkie, why do you think I knew what the CC was doing? I have never even known who is on the CC! My relationship with the SWP has been with individuals who have on occasions asked me if I would speak at meetings or write articles. Quite a few times, things I’ve written weren’t printed.. Sometimes, I haven’t even known whether the person asking me was in the SWP or not or in another left organisation eg NUT meetings. That’s what it’s like if you’re not in a party.

  26. re ‘recently’ – right from the off, I thought that the CC and the DC were not appropriate people or groups or institutions to handle this matter. Why they thought they were is wrapped with their view of democratic centralism (not mine). Mistakenly, I guessed that they would get to that position themselves. I’m wrong about most things re left organisations, partly because I have never accepted that that’s the way to run things, and partly because it gets so like the Borgias I lose interest. However, I’ve tried to keep a sense of the bigger picture beyond what the committees and factions and splits are doing. I’ve probably been wrong about that too.

  27. Since everyone asked me so nicely (for example, accusing me of being a ‘sexist’ for using the word ‘bullshit’) I have come back for a brief response. I do admit to feeling a bit like Michael Corleone in Godfather III: ‘Everytime I try to get out – they pull me back in’.

    David McNally may be right in finding me guilty of ‘dogmatism pure and simple’ in my blog post challenging the idea of ‘male privilege’ – I certainly should have made it clearer that my blog post was not and never claimed to be some kind of new theoretical synthesis of the latest Marxist thinking on the question of women’s liberation. Rather it was an attempt to simply draw people’s attention to the fact that, rather than take on trust Richard Seymour’s view that the old polemics by Marxists in International Socialism from the 1980s were outdated, people could now go and read them and judge for themselves whether any of their arguments still retain any validity today as the articles themselves were now online. However, while not trying to ‘dust off these polemics’ as the latest and last word in Marxist theory on feminism, I would still maintain that Marxists today can learn more from reading the likes of Chris Harman, Sheila McGregor and Lindsey German writing on women’s liberation in International Socialism journal in the 1980s than from Richard Seymour writing a blog post on ‘male privilege’ in 2013. Perhaps by daring to question Seymour in this manner I have fatally departed from ‘Marx’s spirit of critical-scientific inquiry’. However, I would like to think that I am at least still in keeping with Marx’s spirit in the sense that he always had a healthy suspicion of pretentious eclecticism from self-proclaimed ‘intellectuals’, even those on the left. As for Soviet Goon Boy’s idea that ‘if you don’t agree with Sharon Smith’s articles it’s at least worth engaging with them’ – well my post was an attempt at an ‘engagement’ with them – admittedly not a full one – though doubtless, however, there will be more articles in the likes of Socialist Review and the ISJ that do engage with Smith’s arguments properly. However, ‘engagement’ surely does not have to mean ‘agreement’…

    It is revealing that Soviet Goon Boy has not come back on the very good point made by Harry Munro above: ‘Are you really suggesting the only way for a Party to decide is advise an accuser to go to the fucking cops, and wait on them and the equally appalling CPS to rule …?… Your current position appears to either be abstentionism in the face of contested accusations, or a belief that the state is a neutral body in cases of (just?) sexual violence’. I really don’t see how the SWP could have handled this differently, given the accused did not want to go to the cops (as is her right). If the SWP had just abstained and refused to look into the case, then we would (rightly) have been accused of not taking the accused seriously.

    It is simply false to say that ‘the majority of delegates’ to SWP special conference ‘don’t think’ questions arising relating to how we handled this disputes case are ‘at all important’. People should go and read the actual CC motion that was passed at Sunday’s special conference, where they will see that the SWP has voted to elect (and indeed did elect) a committee that will review how we handle future dispute cases of this nature – and they will report at some point in the future on their findings and recommendations. So it is not the case that the SWP doesn’t think there are not things we could do better in future in relation to such cases – indeed, we explicitly recognised that we do need to re-examine our processes to check they are ‘fit for purpose’.

    As for a ‘Divine Right of Delta’ – and the idea that he is going to be ‘restored to the CC as soon as they can get away with it’. This seems to me to very highly unlikely, given the history of the SWP. Soviet Goon Boy specialises in a kind of Kremlinology of the SWP – how many times in the Party’s history has someone come off the CC and then come back on at a later date? Indeed, can you give any examples of this happening in the past?

    I am not going to challenge everything that is problematic about Soviet Goon Boy’s piece – for example his patronising and ageist attack on Chanie Rosenberg – though it is good he has now redacted his use of sexist language. I agree with him that the SWP ‘will need to go through a long process of thinking, writing and discussing’ about many of the issues arising from all of this – that is what the SWP is committed to doing in our meetings, publications, Marxism 2013 etc. Whether the current SWP leadership has a way forward or not remains to be seen – but its strategy remains one of turning outwards towards continuing to help defend the working class from the Tory attacks and cuts and working to bring this morally bankrupt and politically weak Tory government down. That it seems to me is a far more healthy activity for all socialists to engage in than endlessly obsessing, gossiping and speculating over the internal matters of the SWP online.

    • I really don’t see how the SWP could have handled this differently, given the accused did not want to go to the cops (as is her right)

      Frankly, you should read more blogs. This one, to start with: Can the SWP deal with rape allegations?.

    • Harry Monro

      Seriously, Sheila M and LG, I’m fucking laughing out load. They lifted parts of arguments from all sorts of crap sources (scattering a few quotes from dead ancestors) including a fair bit of moralist crap about sex work and censorship from the Dworkin wing of feminism; anded the speech/article with “no working man benefits” and that was it. There wer comrades in debates that had lot more interesting things to say, even ones I disagreed with, but those two hacks! I urge you Snowball go join counterfire they deserve you.
      One of the stupidest parts of this was that while we apparently ignored a whole body of work we might have learnt from, even through criticism: we constantly promoted not socialist (yes not just non marxist) bourgoius fad books about the situation of today. Only to have to denouce said author a couple of years later when their next crap book came out.
      Still you still have Judith O and Delta to develop LG’s and Sheila’s insights into women’s oppression.

  28. Linda Rogers post (cited by Phil immediately above) strikes me as an important document in this whole debate. ‘DC or Cops’ is a false dichotomy and doesn’t represent the limits of what was possible. Another way of looking at it, of course, is to ask yourself what would you or I do if a person came to you and said that they had been raped or attacked and if, as here, they named the attacker who you knew? Would it have been the same or different from the way the CC behaved? If the same, why? If different, why? Anything that elevates the ‘organisation’ above the level of what we might do in a caring, honest face to face encounter is always going to be very dubious and likely to have awful consequences in the long run.

  29. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt

    I suspect ‘Soviet Goon Boy’ is related to ‘Sonic Boom Boy.’ Splintered likes his music.

  30. Darren Cahil

    ‘People should go and read the actual CC motion that was passed at Sunday’s special conference, where they will see that the SWP has voted to elect (and indeed did elect) a committee that will review how we handle future dispute cases of this nature – and they will report at some point in the future on their findings and recommendations. So it is not the case that the SWP doesn’t think there are not things we could do better in future in relation to such cases – indeed, we explicitly recognised that we do need to re-examine our processes to check they are ‘fit for purpose’’.

    So they’ll be an ‘enquiry’ to distract some people and placate many others with the illusion that things will change, we hear this all the time in bourgeois politics. It’s designed to calm things down and make people thinks there will be change and not do anything at all.

  31. David Ellis

    The wages of opportunism is disintegration. The SWP and its forerunners was a Cold War sect that revised its Marxism to fit its opportunism. To gain populist Brownie points it eschewed the defence of the Soviet Union against imperialism in favour of the non-theory of state capitalism which is no more than a populist adaptation to empiricism and petit bourgeois prejudice. When the Soviet Union collapsed the SWP uncritically cheer-led the `democratic’ counter-revolution that saw the upper layers of the venal Stalinist bureaucracy transform themselves into a new Russian imperialist ruling class with the help of the US, the EU, the Russian Mafia, and a burgeoning national capitalist class unleashed by Gorbachev. Never once did it occur to them to elucidate an independent working class policy for political revolution to drive out the bureaucracy and of course with the Cold War over the SWP were rendered pointless not to mention, as their Marxism was never more than skin deep, rudderless. Soon without the ability to dominate their foot soldiers ideologically they were reduced to an exclusive reliance on bureaucratic fiat resulting in an entirely self-serving CC with nothing to check its behaviour ending in the most revolting abuses of power. Now the SWP has gone the way of all flesh but entirely un-mourned. It is one of the three big centrist bureaucratised Cold War sects who instead of using their Marxism to understand the world adapted it to suit their self-serving purposes that have now explosively fragmented apart. Even in the boom years their propaganda was not good and in the post Cold War world they were simply reactionary operating a divide and rule policy from below preventing the emergence of a new Marxist leadership ironically complementing the Stalinism it was supposed to oppose.

  32. The SWP was never as cult-like as the Workers Revolutionary Party, but the recent SWP resignation statements show that it is going in that direction.

    Andy Lawson has said: ‘This is not the behaviour of a revolutionary party, it is the behaviour of a cult. I have no intention of remaining in a cult.’

    Meanwhile, Richard Seymour has compared some SWPers to ‘Scientologists’ and has even compared the recent SWP conference decision to ‘Jonestown’ (in that it was clearly suicidal for the party).

    So, how can revolutionaries organise without creating cults?

    Ex-WRP and Solidarity founder, Maurice Brinton raised this question many years ago in his classic article: ‘Suicide for Socialism’ (at lib com.org). There he made credible comparisons between Jim Jones’ socialist suicide cult and Gerry Healy’s WRP. Later, of course, it was revealed that Healy had been even more abusive than Brinton suspected.

    Other interesting articles on left cults can be found here: http://libcom.org/history/understanding-left-cults-swp-sp-spiked-wrp-reading-list

    Feminism has to be at the centre of any genuinely revolutionary project, e.g. see: http://libcom.org/history/‘feminism-dirty-word’-what-would-marx-engels-think-today-camilla-power-radical-anthropol

    … but so does anti-authoritarianism. As Marlene Dixon’s Democratic Workers Party showed, a ‘Marxist’ cult dominated by an authoritarian woman is no improvement over one dominated by men. See this interview with an ex-DWP member: http://www.newsreview.com/chico/power-of-cults/content?oid=31494

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  34. Robert

    After the uprising of the 17th June
    The Secretary of the Writer’s Union
    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
    Stating that the people
    Had forfeited the confidence of the government
    And could win it back only
    By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?

  35. Recently ex member

    The cruelest cut… the RCP express their solidarity with the CC.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/brendan-oneill/radical-left-feminists-_b_2848852.html

    • Any time I find I’m taking a really definite position on something there’s always a scintilla of doubt – just the faintest echo of a voice saying are you sure about this?

      That’s shut that up.

      • Recently ex member

        I joined the SWP in the late 80s. The contempt that the RCP were held in by everyone else on the left, I can’t imagine a loyalist who joined in that period not dying a little reading it.

  36. A woman who has been raped may not have the confidence to go to the police immediately. She may decide to go after a period of time or not at all. In any event she will spend decades replaying what happened to her and it will affect every part of her being. From the point of view of a socialist group the duty has to be to believe the woman otherwise you are effectively saying, as happened in this process, “you are a crazy liar”.

    The standard response of Delta’s defenders such as Snowball is “Quick. Look over there at the horrible Tories.” This sort of distraction technique works with upset four year olds but it is an insult to the integrity of comrades who feel that the message from the handling of rape allegations is that the woman can expect to be called a crazy liar and then ostracised. The Catholic Church has discovered that you can only get away with that strategy for a while.

    • Robert

      “this sort of distraction technique works with upset four year olds…”

      As Splinty said on Twitter recently the behaviour of some of these apparatchiks is like toddlers if that isn’t an insult to toddlers.

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  38. Meanwhile the order of the graveyard seems to be prevailing at Socialist Unity, which went down last night and hasn’t been up since. Apparently they have had DoS attacks before, so it wouldn’t be ludicrously paranoid to suspect foul play.

    • Oh, they’re back – and one of my angrier responses to the resident SWP troller “stuart” seems to have got lost when the site went down. Probably just as well. Meanwhile at Lenin’s Tomb, somebody called “mike” is saying he just doesn’t see what the fuss is all about, over and over again. It makes me wonder vaguely if there’s some sort of folk belief that if you don’t use an initial cap it doesn’t count as pretending to be someone you’re not – like the nutters who change their name to JOHN k! SMITH and think that means the government owes them money.

      • Phil, you might’ve got caught up in the spam filter and it might’ve been blocking your access – as far as I know, the site hasn’t gone down at all apart from 8 minutes today. Basically, as a result of the DoS attacks that we’ve faced sporadically but intensely since we published the transcript, I’ve really hardened security – this does sometimes mean people get blocked who shouldn’t be blocked. When it went down for 8 minutes today, any blocks were reset.

        Can you contact me at office@socialistunity.com and tell me if you’re having any trouble getting on from ANY device at all, and also please let me know when you posted the comment – I will see if I can find it.

        If the site seemed to go down at the very moment you posted your comment, then this is a sign that it’s caught you up in the spam filter and blocked you. It’s happened to a few people, and I keep a close eye on it – please get in touch and I can make sure you don’t lose access. You are always very welcome on SU Phil.

      • Thanks, Tony – I’ll let you know if it happens again. (I didn’t realise you had blocks that could stop people seeing the site at all.) I’m not bothered about the comment – it was only a reply to stuart, after all.

      • tonycollins526

        Phil – it’s security measure, not something aimed at trolls. It’s designed to lock down the site if it comes under attack. And for some reason, there have been lots of attacks from the Vauxhall area lately 🙂

        After I read your comment I did some tinkering and I’ve tried to abstract out some of the

        ** > Phil commented: “Thanks, Tony – I’ll let you know if it happens again. > (I didn’t realise you had blocks that could stop people seeing the site at > all.) I’m not bothered about the comment – it was only a reply to stuart, > after all.”

  39. Phil – it’s a severe security measure, not something that’s (generally) aimed at trolls. It’s designed to lock down the site if it comes under attack. And for some reason, there have been lots of attacks from the Vauxhall area lately 🙂