Reject Richard Seymour’s proposals lock, stock and barrel.
As a matter of urgency, carry out an eduction about the meaning of democratic centralism and why it is an indispensable lever for liberating humanity from capitalist exploitation and economic chaos, not to mention guaranteeing that every member acts as a tribune of all the oppressed in the here and now. Those incapable of defending the concept of proletarian collective self-discipline, preferring instead middle class ego-centrism, are not eligible for membership of the SWP.
Carry out education about the issue of due process, natural justice, the presumption of innocent until proven guilty. Those incapable of defending that basic democratic principle are not eligible for membership of the SWP. All those members who have dragged the name of a member of the party through the mud without a shred of evidence have written their resignation letter from the party. End of.
Accept that in the future when there is any dispute between members as to whether a sexual encounter was consensual or not, the party should leave it to the two parties to sort out, with external authorities should either of them choose to do that; clearly there is nothing the party can do to help here. Accept that the attempt to do this which has lead to so many problems, while well intentioned, hasn’t helped clarify anything. Refuse to take sides on this particular case and leave it to the state to intervene if either of the parties wants to bring in outside forces, which would necessarily have to include the right of either to sue for libel or slander for false allegations of sexual assault, something which could be pursued extensively across the left: Richard Seymour and Andy Newman being the tip of an iceberg of volcanic bullshit. I don’t see what possible alternative there is but for the party to walk away from such disputes in the future.
Expose the role of those who have cooperated with the enemies of socialism, the Socialist Workers Party and individual comrades in order to destroy the party. Take appropriate disciplinary action to protect the integrity of the organisation to stop Richard Seymour’s fifth columnists in their united front with hostile forces to smash the party to pieces, threatening to use the capitalist state as one of their weapons, which is what some of Richard Seymour’s friends have boasted they intend to do on Andy Newman’s blog.
Reject any idea of a recall conference. Those incapable of accepting the slate system had their chance. Had they been unwilling to accept votes at conference, they should have withdrawn from the contest, not demanded the vote rerun until they get the result they want. Votes were taken and majorities have to be accepted. If Richard Seymour isn’t prepared to accept a majority, he knows what he can do. Since Richard knows his outrageous indiscipline will inevitably lead to expulsion, I predict he will resign prematurely, long before the extent of his crimes against the party are exposed before the entire membership. Luckily a great deal of what he did is on his blog, and even the crap he tried to flush when he had second thoughts got caught in Andy Newman’s screen captures and hopefully all of it was caught by SWP loyalists. No party would tolerate what he has done. He is finished, as are all his loyal lieutenants who have tended to be even more careless than Richard.
While there should be no recall conference, I strongly recommend an immediate recognition by the central committee of the need for a debate on the democratic structures, with votes to be taken on how future conferences should be run and how leaderships should be elected. Don’t forget that Lenin went from a handful of supporters in 1899 to a workers government by 1917. If Lenin could manage that, then why do so many of his followers spend our lives moving from such hope to old age and death leaving to our grandchildren revolutionary organisations little bigger (or even smaller) than those we joined when we were young men and women? Let’s examine what kind of democratic centralist organisation we need. I have a set of proposals that I would like the party to consider alongside lots of alternatives, including the status quo.
I don’t think the slate system can be defended given the extent of discontent with the majority leadership. Too many critics. Don’t push everyone out of the party. Give them hope of winning influence, which necessarily means letting them win representation on leadership bodies in accordance with how much support they can muster within the party. This is the only way to stop discontent (of which there is clearly quite a lot) leading to resignations and the setting up of alternative sectarian projects after a brief period of sectarian factionalism. It doesn’t have to be that way. Bending is the way to stop the SWP fragmenting. Changes are needed so we leave a legacy to our children and grandchildren, even if we don’t ourselves live to see the socialist dawn.
The way to stop an explosion of faction fighting is to allow comrades to let off steam. Legitimate expressions of difference of opinion should be allowed. Comrades must be free to discuss their differences with the majority opinion, with the hope of winning the argument. Let people with truly awful ideas have a certain amount of freedom to express them. Then their comrades can have a word with them. Every now and then a youthful comrade will come up with outside the box thinking that will astonish everyone, reminding the old guard that they are not the fount of all wisdom. On other occasions, experience will help the youth learn what they have missed. A dialectical exchange of ideas and experiences will help everyone, help them in the struggle, help them recruit fresh blood. Sectarians will join but they can be watched. If they refuse to learn, then they can be shown the door.