Upon what class does Richard Seymour base himself? It is not the working class. Richard is a petty bourgeois intellectual and his base of support within the Socialist Workers Party rests primarily upon students. This could not be more important to an understanding of what this ‘crisis’ boils down to.
Trotsky explained when he launched the defense of democratic centralism within the American Socialist Workers Party (documents collected in In Defense of Marxism) that those who appealed beyond the Leninist Party, to non-party elements hostile to the party, had abandoned the working class perspective. They had pitched their tent inside the camp of the petty bourgeoisie. These people were declassed and, as such, had abdicated Marxist politics. These people detest the collective discipline that comes naturally to the working class. Unlike the petty bourgeoisie, workers derive their strength from unity in the struggle, just as they do from working as part of a team on the factory floor. Cooperation is what students learn to the extent they attach themselves to the struggle of the working class. But during their days as students, their fate rests on competition, not cooperation, competing for good grades: that is the way they further their own interests, getting well paid jobs.
Students have the potential to engage in progressive struggles. Indeed, they have greater potential than most groups of workers do at certain points in time, often with even greater grievances, ones that spark explosions of anger that feed back into the working class struggle as happened, for example, in May 1968 in France. However, the class position of students always sets limits to what they can achieve. It strikes me that the ‘crisis’ surrounding the SWP today is related to these limitations of students. It strikes me that Richard Seymour and his cheer leaders are cynically exploiting these limitations.
Richard Seymour dresses up the limitations of students as positively democratic rather than what they in fact are: anarchistic nonsense. Richard Seymour takes a leaf out of Bakunin’s book by championing the classic indiscipline of students, focusing it into a battering ram to smash to pieces the democratic centralism that Lenin argued for, that Trotsky, Harman and Cliff argued for. Democratic centralism is indispensable to working class self-emancipation. Richard insists on surrendering socialist organisation in order to champion the broad church, pro-capitalist alternatives of Alex Salmond and Ed Miliband. That is what is at stake here.
Trotsky was scathing of those who brought middle class indiscipline into the American Socialist Workers Party. These petty bourgeois elements fed themselves on rumours, on tittle tattle about leading party members. Sound familiar? Trotsky pointed out that the Marxist party is not a debating society. It is a tool for making the working class conscious of its role as the subject-object of history, as the source of all value, as the class which, in emancipating itself, cannot but emancipate all of humanity.The party does all the above by means of education, agitation and organisation. It is a part of the class that simultaneously teaches and learns lessons from participation in the never-ending class struggle. The prize for this dialectical interaction with the non-revolutionary masses is growth, is the strengthening of sinews, the creation of new networks of supporters, of fellow-travelers, of comrades who will prove the next generation of the best activists. Such a project is unthinkable without acting as the tribune of all the oppressed, for everybody’s legitimate democratic rights.
While united fronts with non-Marxist groups within the working class is indispensable (as are united fronts with all oppressed groups regardless of their class), that is not at all the same as surrendering the collective organisation of the Leninist party to the enemies of the party. That is what’ liquidationism’ is all about. And that is precisely what Richard Seymour is demanding: the self-destruction of a democratic centralist organisation.
Richard Seymour finds support within some of the SWP’s students. This is every bit as significant as was the fact that (as Trotsky recognised) support for James Burnam within the American SWP was overwhelmingly petty bourgeois, as I tried to explain here: https://derekthomas2010.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/a-petty-bourgeois-opposition-in-the-socialist-workers-party-from-james-burnham-to-richard-seymour/
Whatever else students are, they are not proletarians. And, let’s face facts comrades, many students have been arguing for some pretty appallingly right-wing things in the last few years. Many SWP members have been echoing these right-wing politics. I have to say I am not all that surprised to find that members of the SWP are being accused of rape given the fact that some members of the party have been so negligent vis-a-vis adopting a correct approach to the allegations against Julian Assange and George Galloway.
I have been critical of many of Assange’s supporters, not least Galloway. Here are a couple of examples: https://derekthomas2010.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/george-galloway-is-innocent-of-being-a-rape-apologist/ https://derekthomas2010.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/with-friends-like-the-international-socialist-group-assange-doesnt-need-enemies/. However, there has been an attrocious attitude by sections of the left to the rights of the accused when it comes to rape. What we find in the SWP today was an accident waiting to happen.
Richard Seymour’s fan club protest at an alleged critique of ‘feminism’ by many SWP members. That suits me just fine. Many who describe themselves as ‘feminists’ are simply using this term as a synonym for supporters of women’s liberation and gender equality. By such a definition, count me in. However, the term is also used in a very different way by many. And Marxists utterly reject these so-called ‘feminists’.
I have been denounced as a rape apologist by idiots on the left. These people are beneath contempt. I have not a shred of respect for these liars. If they are ‘feminists’, then count me out. These people are to be found in all genders, just as Marxists are to be found in all genders, with Rosa Luxemburg one of the greatest who ever lived. The so-called ‘feminists’ who I have a problem with are those who prioritise raising the percentages of female company directors, or five star generals who preside over the exploitation of the wage slaves (of both sexes), and send young men and women to their deaths, while murdering men, women and children for the ‘crime’ of living under a tyrant.
SWP members who don’t care about a man being falsely accused of a sex crime or any other crime, then rotting in jail for years to be gang raped by psychopaths, then driven to suicide to put an end to a Kafkaesque nightmare are beneath contempt. ‘Feminism’ that supports such a hell is the mortal enemy of every Marxist who has ever lived. No democrat would touch such ‘feminism’ with a bargepole. Such ‘feminism’ is an afront to women everywhere. For SWP members to champion a ‘feminism’ where sisters, mothers, daughters, girlfriends and aunts shed tears as their sons, brothers, fathers and nephews are tortured to death in prison on a daily basis for a crime they never committed… These people need to be named and shamed and tossed out of the Socialist Workers Party. They are a cancer in the SWP. Richard Seymour is such a cancer.
Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Richard Seymour’s friends do not believe that. They want to hound people in order to destroy the Socialist Workers Party. Their ‘feminism’ is merely an excuse to destroy a socialist pole of attraction needed today more than ever before. We need to prepare for the class struggles that all Marxists know are inevitable whether the United Kingdom is inside or outside of the European Union.
Struggles are coming to Britain, the same kind we see in Greece today. Mass political strikes, the rise of the extra-parliamentary right a la Golden Dawn, preparations for a government of unelected technocrats, Ramsey McDonald type national governments, as a stepping stone to other – even more unrepresentative – forms of government: police state, military coups.
Richard Seymour wants the SWP to pin its colours to the mast of the anti-Marxist politics of Alex Salmond and Ed Milband. That is not what the SWP needs. The SWP needs TUSC. TUSC has to use elections to surf the tsunami of class struggles that we know are on the way. TUSC has to transform itself into the UKIP of the left, the sooner the better. That is possible. That is necessary. But it will be impossible if the SWP was to surrender to Richard Seymour’s ‘feminist’ witch hunt based on politically illiterate petty bourgeois elements.