Should I rejoin the SWP? Would they have me?

Chris_Harman SWPRichard Seymour

Should I rejoin the SWP? That is a question I am seriously asking myself. Would they let me join? I cannot say for certain but I suspect I would be allowed to join. Before I applied I would like everyone to know why I am in two minds.

While Richard Seymour and his friends in Chris Bambery’s ISG, Andy Newman’s Capitalist Disunity NarkSquad, and Phil Burton-Cartledge’s Stoke Labour Party predict a collapse of the Socialist Workers Party, I predict the opposite. I detect a witch hunt that is likely to be exposed as a witch hunt involving elements of the state and this could backfire on those behind it. If police spies can be identified as having played a key role in all this, then that will show the SWP in an exceedingly good light: the warm glow of a victim. That in turn will attract not just sympathy, but admiration. They will have turned the tables on the real criminals, managing to identify and purge the enemies not merely of themselves, but of every democrat. Regardless of whether or not actual police spies are identified (I have my fingers cross), Richard Seymour’s fan club has acted as a thoroughly wretched parasite, sapping the energy of the SWP. What that means is that not if, but when they are purged, the entire party will feel liberated. Let those bastards piss off and annoy some other group. Phil Burton-Cartledge’s Stoke Labour Party wants that shower? Fine. Let them go to drink champagne with Lord Peter Mandelson’s mates. Andy Newman wants to add them to his collection of deluded apologists for The Pope who covers up industrial scale child sex abuse, then that’s fine too. If Andy Newman wants Richard Seymour to help him advocate the sending of Gary McKinnon to the USA to face a miscarriage of justice, then that is the problem of the poor Labour Party members. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Liberating the SWP from Mark Bergfeld’s wretched politics vis-a-vis ‘feminism’ would be a wonderful thing. There is nothing wrong with all those who claim to be feminist per se. Many simply use the term as a description of anyone who defends women’s liberation and gender equality. Marxists defend that. But Mark Bergfeld’s attitude towards the human rights of half the population of humanity is anathema to genuine democracy and civil liberties.

Women have sons. They have fathers, and brothers. Women have other people in their lives who are burdened with a Y-chromosome. Women do not want to see any innocent man victimized. It is outrageous for anyone to think it is a good thing for women to deny justice to men. Only the guilty should be punished. No collective punishment for men or anyone else. I shouldn’t even have to say any of this, but the students who have formed the polemical battering ram of Richard Seymour’s fan club do need to have the ABC of democracy explained to them.

Liberating the SWP from Richard Seymour’s fan club is a wonderful thing: it is wonderful because the students who have organised around him think it is progressive to inflict a collective punishment on all men to make us pay for the specific crimes of individual men; it is wonderful because they deny us all the presumption of innocence; it is wonderful because they are nasty and ignorant enemies of Lenin’s democratic centralism. I just wish it hadn’t taken the SWP loyalists so long to sort this problem out.

Pat Stack and a very large number of those who have formed a faction alongside him to capitulate to Richard Seymour to protect him from the legitimate wrath of party loyalists have lost their way. However, many of the comrades in Pat’s faction used to know this stuff. Out of respect to  the invaluable contributions these people have made to building the Socialist Workers Party over decades, they have earnt the right to be helped to find their way back. They deserve to be won back to the genuine international socialist tradition defended by Rosa Luxemburg, the tradition which has her defend the party of Lenin and Trotsky against all the reformists and centrists who scabbed on the Russian Revolution within and outwith the Tsarist empire.

I’d like to turn to something else now. I’d like to look at this struggle by loyalists to save the soul of the SWP from a different perspective, not as an alternative to anything I’ve said, but to flesh it out, examining another aspect of the same problem.

I am genuinely worried that a successful purge of Richard Seymour’s fan club could attract the wrong kind of activists, those who will thrive in an atmosphere of permanent heresy-hunting. I think that is a real danger, a danger that could be exploited by agents of the state wanting to incite comrades against each other when the real differences are trivial, blowing everything out of proportion. Surrendering to such heresy-hunting would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The central committee should agree to revisit the relationship of minorities and majorities. I believe this is quite a complex question and just because neither of today’s factions have offered a positive alternative to the status quo, that doesn’t mean the existing regime is perfect.

I am worried that there is a real danger of comrades closing down the kind of debate that the SWP is going to need in order not simply to survive this artificial crisis, but to start to grow once again, to take advantage of the inevitable massive growth of industrial action and other forms of class struggle.

If I am holding back from applying to rejoin the SWP, one of the reasons is that I do not believe the SWP can do what is necessary on its own. My loyalties today lie more with TUSC  than with the SWP. I say that because I want to see the growing together of the SWP and the SP. Sometimes, on some issues, I am closer to one of these groups; sometimes I am closer to the other. I am also sometimes supportive of something neither of these parties support.

If I was to rejoin the SWP, I would not want to form any kind of faction. I would, however, want to raise questions over all sorts of things. The SWP needs to allow such differences to be expressed within the organisation – provided they are raised by loyalists who do not deliberately try to flout majority decisions, a la Richard Seymour.

Ways can be found to allow the legitimate rights of majorities and of minorities. Exploring this will stop more than a few handfuls of sectarians splitting off in the wake of the cleansing of the party of Richard Seymour’s parasites.

Exploring how to create democratic mechanisms for defending the legitimate rights of minorities and majorities to the benefit of the party as a whole will not merely stop the fracturing of some long standing comrades. This is going to prove absolutely key to opening the gates of the party when the political climate for growth makes that possible. Preparations for such an influx of radical activists is needed between now and next conference. That would undermine all the sectarian bullshit that Richard Seymour and co will use to try to make the SWP repellant to potential young activists.

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