The Socialist Workers Party is not my party. It has not been since former national secretary Chris Bambery had me unconstitutionally expelled without going to the trouble of having it ratified by central committee colleagues Chris Harman, Lindsey German, John Rees, possibly Julie Waterson. God knows how many others he managed to keep out of the loop; all of them I suspect. How Chris Bambery managed to accumulate so much power into his hands is something I cannot comment on. Why he abused that power is a matter for speculation. That is something I certainly could comment on since I’m pretty sure I know the answer to that one. But I don’t think I’m minded to get side tracked down that particular alley today. Anyway,….
Although the SWP is no longer my party, I nevertheless retain a great deal of affection for it. I am proud of the years I spent as a member. I am eternally grateful to Chris Harman, to John Molyneux and others for teaching me the Marxist method. While my politics have matured, courtesy of experience, reading, coming into contact with other groups within the far left – my perspectives will remain forever coloured by those formative years.
What is more, I really do not need fond memories of the SWP (affection, pride and gratitude) to help me choose a side when it comes to the unfolding crisis surrounding the SWP.
A significant activist group within the workers’ movement is being threatened by a witch-hunt by the capitalist state, by the bourgeois media, aided and abetted by sectarians so blinded by bitterness towards the SWP that they happily dance to the tune of the capitalist state.
In the light of all this, I would like to offer a set of proposals. I hope they will be deemed constructive by all partisans of the SWP, even if not all of them will be acceptable to everyone.
The first point to make is that no SWP member can afford to underestimate the seriousness of what is at stake. The supporters of the capitalist state are trying to destroy the party, just as they destroyed the Scottish Socialist Party. The capitalist class were scared that the SSP would continue to go from strength to strength: 3,000 members in a country with a tenth the population of England, an affiliated trade union (RMT), sufficient electoral support to capture six seats in the Scottish Parliament.
The capitalist class is in an absolute shambles across the United Kingdom today as it is throughout the entire globe. Our rulers can hardly be confident that Ed Miliband and his Shadow Cabinet of Blairites will inspire those decamping in droves from both coalition parties.
One Nation Toryism, and the sabotage of public sector strikes to defend wages, jobs, conditions, pensions and services may win the hearts and minds of the employing class and their megaphones in the broadcast and print media. Even so, growing alienation within the labour movement can, at best, lead to a short-lived stepping stone to a constitutional crisis. Such a crisis is inevitable as the entire political establishment exposes the full extent of its bankruptcy, left, right and center.
Nigel Farage’s UKIP may not capture many seats under a first-past-the-post general election. But they have come too far to do anything less than further scuppering the prospects of a majority Tory government – not that Cameron’s shower need a lot of help do do that.
Nick Clegg’s Lib Dem fig-leaf spontaneously combusted virtually from day one of the coalition government, like a cross between Count Dracula and Mr Bean.
TUSC may or may not be able to capture the radical protest vote anytime soon. Either way, there will certainly be sufficient abstentions in the next round of elections to further undermine the legitimacy of any capitalist government imposing the deeply unpopular priorities of the richest one percent.
There will be mass struggles in Britain before too long, including political strikes. Our rulers desperately need to undermine any potential socialist pole of attraction in either the electoral or industrial arena. The SWP has to be smashed to pieces if at all possible. And that is where the latest crisis comes in.
Enemies of socialists are frothing at the mouth at the prospect of destroying the SWP. The enemies of the party are crawling out of the woodwork to play their part. A significant section of the SWP is determined to act as a fifth column, with Richard Seymour the standard bearer for this Trojan Horse Tendency, cheered to the rafters by every sectarian in Britain and across the world.
Richard Seymour wants nothing less than a twelve months long protracted and debilitating civil war. He wants to march his supporters up to the top of the hill to rain down slings and arrows of outrageous bullshit, engaging in a witch hunt masterminded by village idiots with blazing pitchforks, stabbing to death anyone with the audacity to argue for due process, for daring to demand that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, arguing that maybe the capitalist state hasn’t abandoned employing people to infiltrate the SWP as they did the IRA, the Black Panthers, the Bolsheviks, and just about every single radical organisation that has ever been set up to challenge the priorities of the capitalist state.
The state is far from oblivious to the potential to wreck havoc inside the left by making false allegations about sex crimes or pretty much any crime you care to mention. Just because some people get away with crimes no socialist can condone, that doesn’t prove that any individual allegation is necessarily legitimate. Far too often we simply do not know, and it helps no one to pretend that we do or that we do not care.
But the enemies of the SWP do not give a fuck. Any stick will do to help the British state frame any member of the SWP. Such sectarians doing the dirty work of the capitalist state are beneath contempt. They are twisted and bitter and best avoided at all costs. Such people have seized on an incident hoping no one will notice that there is not a shred of evidence of guilt. Richard Seymour and all his supporters do not care about guilt or innocence, only the fact of an accusation.
Since they have no evidence as such, they descend into the gutter by means of character assassination. They resort to innuendo. They can’t frame him for the allegation, so they dredge out any rumour overheard in a pub that anyone thinks they might be able to remember. And if they can’t remember anything they probably just dream one up. Half of these sectarians haven’t even bothered to get back to me to respond to my questionaire about when they stopped beating their wives. I guess that means they’re still doing it.
Rumours spread on Andy Newman’s Socialist Unity Network blog is the type of thing that would be sub judice. How fortunate for the sectarians that the alleged victim has chosen not to report the alleged incident to the police. That means the sectarian witch hunt carries on regardless. These sectarians are not in the business of getting at the truth, merely smearing the SWP, to paralyse a competitor on the left, with the capitalist state the sole beneficiary from their rumour mongering. Stomach churning, isn’t it?
Richard Seymour hasn’t even tried to feign the kind of diplomatic facade that might trick decent and intelligent socialists. Richard Seymour wants to be expelled. He knows he will be portrayed as a martyr by the dregs who hang out around the Socialist Unity Network blog. But these people are not representative of the left, the genuine left, democrats who support natural justice.
Richard Seymour has blown it. A Seymourectomy can be carried out without too much trouble; the sooner the better in my opinion.
Richard Seymour’s rabble rousers inside the SWP will protest. But there is nothing that can be done about that. His cheerleaders are not socialists. They have infiltrated their way into the SWP and are not minded to learn any lessons.
The CC has to draw up a balance sheet about who it thinks is an asset to the party and who is less so. That, by the way, doesn’t constitute a threat. Every SWP rank and file member is free to draw up a list of which members of the SWP CC they want a chance to vote off the CC, factions being free to recommend slates with all their least favorite CC members bumped from their slate.
A substantial section of those who voted against the CC at conference are assets, the overwhelming majority are, in my humble opinion. The CC has to embrace them, extending olive branches at the first opportunity. The CC has to acknowledge that mistakes have been made. Humility would be much appreciated by those party members who have not bought into every crossed eye and dotted tea.
The CC needs to be self-critical. It needs to make positive gestures in the direction of their conference critics, accepting that the party will have to reexamine how to reinvigorate the party. If this is done, then the Richard Seymour tendency can be gotten rid of relatively painlessly and the crisis averted or at least defused with the least amount of collateral damage.
In the absence of holding out the prospect of the Democratic Centralist tendency’s criticisms being addressed, many of those who added their names to the faction are likely to leave the CC to their own devices, to walk away, to conduct entryism inside Labour alongside good socialists who’ve done that already (Owen Jones for example), join the Green Party or SNP, possibly to retire to private life, at best to throw themselves into one isolated aspect of political activity – trade unions, anti-fascism, peace, Palestine etc.. The SWP CC owe it to themselves to rescue good comrades from any of this when there is so much more these comrades are capable of.
I propose the CC agrees to hold a conference to discuss structures, including alternatives to both the slate system for electing the party’s leading bodies, and the potentially positive role of factions within the party. I anticipate some CC members will suggest this will distract comrades from every other issue. I think that is wrong.
When it comes to who to vote for to leadership bodies anyone obsessed by inward looking constitutional issues is likely not to feature high up the list in many single transferable vote ballot papers. Fully rounded activists will be deemed better branch representatives to conference and better candidates for leadership bodies. Every comrade will be capable of distinguishing who is a genuine socialist activist recruiting to the party from constitutional obsessives oblivious to everything incapable of offering them factional advantage.
Unless the slate system goes sooner rather than later, I suspect many of the best SWP members will drop away when the party needs them more than ever before. There doesn’t have to be a decision on any changes, merely a commitment to a debate, with all members free to discuss the pros and cons in the paper, magazine, journal, internal bulletin.
Members of the central committee should be free from collective responsibility to add their own ideas if they are persuaded by their comrades during the debate, and to vote accordingly.
I would even propose that, in order to facilitate this debate, there should be a change in the question of when factions can be formed: immediately, rather than in nine months time. An obvious proviso should be that everyone would be expected to place a relatively low priority on such factional work given everything else every member of the party has to be involved in.
Those who wanted to make the case for future central committees to be elected by proportional representation, with factions represented on leadership bodies in proportion to their support within the party, should be free to make the case more or less immediately. The alternative view could be made immediately too, and the members could decide. I think such a change will stop the haemoraging of maybe as many as half the party’s activists. Such a loss would play into the hands of those who want to destroy the party, since they would necessarily misrepesent a large level of defections as a comment on the crime that is alleged to have taken place without a shred of evidence.
What if Richard Seymour wants to form a faction? What kind of faction would he propose? He has made it abundantly clear what he wants, as has all his supporters, and it is the antithesis of democratic centralism: they want to deny natural justice to members of the party. They have to be shown the door. No ifs, no buts, end of story.
Everyone lining up to deny justice to the accused is beneath contempt. If these people have their way, then every male socialist may as well retire from political life today as all it is going to take to have every single one of us tossed in jail is for the state to hire a bunch of female Mark Stone Kennedy agent provocateurs to accuse us of rape. These people are neither socialists nor feminists. They are idiots.