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2014: year of revolutionary unity?

To say that 2013 was a bad year for the far left in Britain would surely win the prize for understatement. Two splits from the Socialist Workers Party, each of several hundred people, and the drift of many out of organised politics altogether have weakened the forces of the revolutionary socialist left to levels not seen for decades.


The shameful handling of the allegations by two women comrades against Martin Smith, one of the SWP’s top leaders, then the self-exposure by the leadership of the party’s lack of the most elementary democracy fatally discredited in the eyes of many the revolutionary and Leninist principles the SWP claimed to uphold.

All this came on top of a perceived failure of the far left groups to give an effective lead and means of organising the resistance, in particular by fracturing it into false united fronts (which were in fact “fronts” in the worst sense of the term – deceptive façades under the control of one or other of the socialist groups).

Such behaviour was as much opportunist as it was sectarian. Each of these fake fronts involved an uncritical bloc with trade union leaders who were (and are) obstructing an effective fightback against the austerity government.

In criticising the SWP and its actions – a necessary and courageous act by the SWP members who rebelled against the leadership – there was and remains a danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Certainly the bathwater was dirty and needed to go down the plughole.

Besides the impunity of top leaders for aggravated sexist behaviour, there was a constitution that did not allow women members to organise to expose or confront it. It also denied opponents of the leadership the right to form tendencies or factions to press for changes in policy or a change of leadership.

But the baby that should not be thrown out is the idea of an organisation, developing a political strategy and working in a disciplined way in the class struggle, with the goal of building a revolutionary party.

The collapse of the SWP as a revolutionary organisation at the heart of almost every significant episode of working class struggle stretching back decades is a terrible setback – whatever one’s criticism of their policies and however much the disgrace of its present leaders is thoroughly deserved.

A revolutionary organisation, even in its infancy, should proudly identify itself with Lenin and the Bolshevik party because its actual practice was as far apart as heaven and earth from that of the SWP and indeed a wide range of so-called Trotskyist organisations.

Real democratic centralism defends the freedom to criticise the leadership and organise to replace it. It is not only a way to ensure united action for a common strategy by the members, but above all a means to hold party leaders and spokespersons, journalists and elected representatives to policies democratically agreed by the membership.

Equally, the modern celebrity culture, which allows freedom of speech for academics, journalists and those with easy access to the media, but tends to silence ordinary members, is just as bad as one that only allows party bureaucrats to (mis)represent the organisation.

Towards unity

After many months of relative paralysis, a process of discussions on revolutionary regroupment, involving the International Socialist Network, Socialist Resistance, members of the Anticapitalist Initiative, Workers Power and others is beginning. Hopefully the comrades who left the SWP in December will join in too.

The aim is to hold a preliminary open conference in the spring. Discussions between representatives of the above tendencies need to work out an agenda of key topics.

Workers Power believes that the organisations should try to adopt a common action programme as a framework for joint activity and comradely discussion:

• Building a revolutionary pole in Left Unity and in the People’s Assemblies

• Building rank and file groups in the trade unions

• Launching a new paper dedicated to women’s liberation with an orientation to the working class

• Fighting fascism on an active, no platform basis

• Building solidarity campaigns to defend the revolutionary struggles in the Middle East and North Africa

• Building a revolutionary socialist organisation in Britain and internationally.

Within the context of this unity in action we should hold regular discussions and debates about our different traditions – their strengths and their weaknesses – and about the deeper questions of programme and organisation.

The project of The Exchange – a journal of debate and discussion among those involved in revolutionary regroupment – is important. If it can provide the scaffold for a real debate, which aims at the analysis and clarification of tactics and strategy, which can develop and enrich revolutionary Marxism, and which identifies obstacles to be rejected, then it will make a significant contribution to overcoming the isolation and confusion permeating revolutionary forces today.

No less important in a year which marks the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the First International is the question of international revolutionary regroupment. We should take an initiative or join any already underway to take the first steps towards laying the foundation of their successor.

Finally, the revolutionary civil war in Syria provides the sharpest example of the need for our organisations to develop closer working relationships. Defence of the revolution against both Assad and the rival imperialisms of East and West is a principle shared by all participants.

Where the majority of the far left has criminally slandered and abandoned the revolution, it falls to us to develop a real campaign for its practical and political defence against its enemies – starting here in Britain in the Stop the War Coalition.

The recent departure of another sizeable wave of SWP members – the so-called “Decembrists” – should in our view be warmly invited to participate in local, national and international regroupment. There are others too, who have expressed an interest in participating. So let’s be bold and make 2014 a year of developing revolutionary unity in Britain and beyond.

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One Response to 2014: year of revolutionary unity?

  1. Brian Carter

    January 3, 2015 at 11:33 am

    I am pleased to see there is a Conference being held to try and join forces to form a stronger united revolutionary group within the UK.

    That is great,but there is one thing which is rarely mentioned,& hasn’t been above in thew points you have outlined as the main things which will be discussed at the Conference.

    By far the most important thing is the tactics need to be far more revolutionary,in particular,our main focus should be,on different ideas being discussed of how we expose the Capitalist Medias lies about what Communism is.It is those lies which stops many of the general public from approaching us.

    I was a long time member of the SWP, although always more radical and revolutionary minded and spirited than most of their members,

    I always was more minded towards the International Communist Party who I joined for a short spell in the 80’s.

    I hesitated to leave them from the SWP at first because of their small membership and in the end left them too because I couldn’t see their 100 members at time having a chance to really build anything which would effect change in the UK.

    I have been in the political wilderness after dropping out of organised politics for over 20 years now,although I still regularly counter Capitalist misinformation about Communism online and try to educate the general public,

    I still firmly believe,that we have to take on the Capitalist Media,and hold debates about how we do that,

    allowing complete freedom of debate new ideas from any member on the floor,we’ll then come up with many different ways

    to stand up take on and embarrass the Capitalist Media,

    and how undemocratic of them it is that Real Revolutionaries are not allowed on Political Debate shows,yet we are automatically called insane by those who have never read a book on Trotsky or Communism,

    they’ve just believed what they were told.

    A real Revolutionary Organistion would stand up and take on the Capitalist Media,

    expose it’s lies about Communism,and expose how undemocratic it is,that you are not allowed on Political Debates,yet get slagged off with no right to reply,

    to try and stop the general public approaching us

    & expose how wrong it is and argue the point that a True Democracy would allow on Revolutionaries those who have always known that the Capitalist Super Rich effectively hold a blackmailing control over the Parliamentary Parties,hence,why there is not enough difference between the Major mainstream Parties.

    A Real Democracy would allow Revolutionaries on TV and not say you can only get on if you believe in & stand for the Present Parliamentary Super Rich Controlled System.

    It is the Media which dumbs down the general public and keeps them under the thumb.It is imperative we embarrass that Media, so the general public start to listen to the truth about Trotsky and what real Communism is and how it can be achieved.

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