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Now What?


The SWP’s hastily convened “special conference” had one purpose – to crush internal opposition. The CC’s calling one with only one month’s discussion period and one IB was plainly aimed not only at stampeding the membership into endorsement of its positions on the rape allegation but also at reaffirming the closing down of factional activity.

Sending members of Tony Cliff’s family to what they knew was a closed opposition meeting and then denouncing this, as unheard of disrespect was a truly grotesque provocation. If a faction cannot hold closed meetings for its members it does not really have faction rights at all. The CC effectively demands a monopoly of secret meetings and factional organisation for itself.

The means the leadership chose included packing aggregate meetings with long inactive but “loyalist” members, giving opposition speakers only six minutes, where ‘loyalists’ were given much longer, shouting them down, and refusing them a number of delegates in proportion to their support in the aggregates.

By such means an opposition that has around half the actual party membership was reduced to about a quarter of the delegates. In the conference itself there was, it appears, little or no attempt to give proportional time or numbers to the opposition speakers.

But the conference was illegitimate without any of this bureaucratic abomination. It had scarcely a month’s preparation, only one Internal Bulletin, and was limited to one short day. It seems they also used the conference to close the “weaknesses” in the constitution, which had allowed the opposition to form a faction after the conference and that required the “emergency” conference to put a stop to it.

After the conference the IDOOP faction decided to dissolve but to attempt to continue the discussion in the party. Over sixty former members of the Democratic Renewal tendency issued a statement saying they were resigning. We think both decisions were wrong: one in principle and the other tactically.

Of course we cannot fully appreciate the abuse heaped on the comrades or, as they perceive it, the hopelessness of continuing the struggle within the party. The IDOOP majority decision is clearly the worst – i.e. to abandon an organised struggle. Either they will have to pipe down in a big way or they will be picked off for secret factionalism.

The Democratic Renewal comrades understandably realised that they – as the most consistently principled and uncompromising fighters against the CC’s disgraceful actions – were marked for rapid expulsion like the four who were expelled in December (who have been “re-expelled” three times since including by two conferences. Surely worth a medal being struck (with four bars).

Nevertheless, with due respect we think it was wrong to resign and save the leadership the onerous task of letting loose the “lynch mobs” apparently favoured by Alex Callinicos. He will now no doubt have the effrontery to claim the CC had no intention of visiting such repression on them and the resignations simply show the “intellectuals” were just dilettantes in flight from the class struggle.

The leadership now believes that it has securely slammed the door on democracy. But in the age of the internet and social media they may find it crashes back in through the windows with the leadership’s next self-inflicted blunder. Given the remarkable ineptness with which they have tackled this that blunder may not be long in coming.

And this next mistake – whether a flesh wound or the final nail in the coffin – will be a direct consequence of the leadership trying to navigate the perspectival minefield which their opportunist methods lead them into.

One issue that never came to the fore in the struggle was the inept and unprincipled policies the SWP is operating a in the present conjuncture of the class struggle.

Richard Seymour has pointed out that SWP conferences are rarely if ever the place where major policies are initiated or changed or major positions of the party adopted.

The party’s tactics are seriously wrong in the present critical phase of the anticuts struggle. They combine sectarianism with opportunism. Sectarian because building an organisation – Unite the Resistance – which (along with its rivals CoR, NSSM,) is an unnecessary and wasteful duplication of effort and a harmful division of the forces needed to defeat an unpopular Coalition. Opportunist because like all UtR’s rivals it is tied hand and foot to maintaining a bloc with the left union bureaucracy and therefore prevented from pursuing a strategy based on direct action, rank and file democracy and class independence

Behind it all lies the SWP’s lack of a programme, that is a long-term revolutionary strategy that should underlie all tactics and organisational forms, enabling the membership to judge how principled or unprincipled their leadership’s polices and actions are.

The Democratic Renewal comrades must act quickly to regroup their forces and agree their next steps. We offer our advice as a contribution to the wider debate on left unity and revolutionary regroupment.

Found an organisation on a basic programme of action for the coming months- the key issues of class struggle and organised with really democratic centralism. You will obviously seek all means to relate to those oppositionists remaining in the SWP. If you open up a discussion on the fundamental questions behind the SWP’s lack of internal democracy, how its theory on women’s liberation matches up to its practice, its confused “united front of a special type” and class struggle policies zigzagging between flattering the union bureaucracy and sectarian self- isolation.

Thanks to blogs and social media such a serious and democratic discussion will have a powerful impact on the SWP members, when the witch-hunting has subsided. Such drunken orgies of “loyalty” invariably leave a terrible hangover and doubtless many people will leave in the months to come. You can attract them by (a) showing a powerful non-sectarian and non-opportunist intervention in the upcoming struggles and (b) by a serious high quality political discussion on the sort of party we need.

All socialists should aim to take part in those discussions in a loyal and honest way.

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2 Responses to Now What?

  1. Helen Charles

    March 24, 2013 at 12:16 am

    I totally agree on your analysis of what happened inthe S.W.P…..as an ex member I was not overly surprised to how this has all been dealt with…but am quite shocked as well….so they did actually ask such questions….thay are not any better than a bourgeios(my spelling might be bad being slightly dislexic sory)court ..infact she might of fared better!!…..I do agree that this could of been investigated correctly as you point out.within a organisation.I wish I had had that option…not with the S.W.P. though. One of my main reasons for not going to the police (this was the mid 8o’s ) was the fact that the guy who raped me was black…I had and have a diverse groupof friends of all nationalities……at the time we knew of 2 black guys who had died one in police custody one beaten to death in our home towm…..so I rest my case..an alternative would of …good…….

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

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