There’s a spectre haunting Richard Seymour: Chris Harman

Chris_Harman SWP

“Paul Levi’s wholly negative criticism which indicated no sense of solidarity with the party and which exasperated the comrades more by its tone than its contents, diverted attention from the most important aspects of the problem…. What did Levi accomplish? A cruel mangling of the party.”

That quote comes from Chris Harman’s The Lost Revolution [pg 217], who was quoting from Clara Zetkin’s Memoirs of Lenin. Chris Harman commented on Levi’s ‘cruel mangling of the party’ thus: “For Lenin, this left no choice but to discipline Levi – although he hoped that Levi would rejoin the party after a six-month period of disciplined behavior outside of it.” [Chris Harman, The Lost Revolution, pg 217]

‘Cruel mangling of the party’? Ring any bells, comrade Seymour?

SWP special conference, 10 March

THE CENTRAL Committee has called a special party conference for Sunday 10 March. A statement explaining this decision was sent to all members on Saturday. If you did not receive it, please email to receive a copy.

It is summarised here:

1. The SWP has seen an unprecedented amount of debate and discussion over the last four months. Throughout this process the majority of the party has backed the Central Committee and rejected the attacks on the party’s record and its leadership. But a minority has refused to accept a closure of the matters discussed. The latest example is the declaration of a faction, outside the pre-conference period.

2. The faction document contests issues discussed at the recent national conference and specifically repudiates the National Committee of 3 February which rejected central elements of the faction document by 39 votes to eight.

3. The faction document has nothing to say about the economic crisis and the fightback, the battle against racism and fascism, the union bureaucracy and the rank and file, Unite the Resistance, anti-imperialism, building the SWP – or much else. Presumably the faction supporters think the party is getting all of that right.

4. The CC does not accept the right to form factions outside the three month pre-conference discussion period. Such factions open the door to permanent factions and permanent oppositions, making it impossible to unite and intervene effectively.

5. The CC rejects the specific demands of the faction document. We do not believe the DC process was fundamentally flawed or dealt with the complaint in a manner that besmirched our record of fighting for women’s liberation. The complaint was a very serious matter which was treated with great care.

We reject the implication that the SWP’s present CC, or the CC in place in the run up to conference, would allow any comrade who brings a complaint forward to be vilified.

We do not agree with driving a comrade from political life “for the forseeable future” when the DC decided no complaints were proven against him and no disciplinary action should be taken against him.

6. The CC has not sought to stifle arguments. There have been no expulsions since conference despite behaviour which is unaccountable, undemocratic and against the principles of democratic centralism.

But despite this the CC did not have, nor does it have, plans for “mass expulsions”. We seek to win comrades politically while (as the NC agreed) we reserve the right to use disciplinary action against those who wilfully and repeatedly flout party discipline.

7. It is not controversial that feminism can be part of a process that leads people into struggle and towards a Marxist understanding of the world. We are always on the side of feminists against oppression. But we are also for winning women, and men, to a revolutionary socialist view, not adapting to a different view..

8. Serious divisions have been created in our party. Sometimes genuine concerns have been preyed upon by a small minority of comrades who want a wholly different sort of party. A debilitating process of relentless internally-focused debate has gone on for weeks. The NC last weekend made clear that this must come to an end.

9. The fight against brutal austerity and against racism, and the need for a socialist alternative cannot be sidelined while we look inwards. The party is not shunned or isolated. The danger is it isolates itself by not pushing out.

10. The CC has opposed the demand for a special conference, and those that agitated for one failed to win enough branches to call one. But we cannot go on as we are. Therefore, to establish absolute clarity and to draw a line that nobody serious can claim to ignore, the CC calls a one-day special conference for Sunday 10 March.

The conference will be to reaffirm the decisions of January’s conference and the NC, resolve recent debates, clarify some elements of the constitution and move the party forwards. There will be aggregates over the next three weeks and an internal bulletin. Pre-conference discussion takes place in these aggregates, not branch meetings. Delegates will be elected on the same basis as the last party conference. Factions can be formed in the normal manner.

11. We believe all the decisions of the last conference and this special conference are binding, unlike those of our critics who believe they are binding unless they disagree with them. The special conference must be the final word. We demand factions accept that – in practice, not words.

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