Why are good socialists to be found in Pat Stack’s faction?

Chris_Harman SWP

I would vote in support of the CC’s position unamended and that of all their supporters, and against pretty much all the motions of the opposition. That is what I would do if I was a member of the SWP who was a delegate to Saturday’s special conference. However, that does not mean that I would be uninterested in amendments proposed to heal the wounds in the party. I would even like the CC to discuss amendments with Pat Stack that will defuse tensions, if such a thing is possible. I think it is possible. I say that because I think some good socialists have chosen to focus on what they believe to be errors on the part of the CC and blown them up out of all proportion, landing themselves in a faction with an inevitable split dynamic which they must surely regret.

I want to stress that I would vote as I have outlined even if there were no amendments to the CC’s motions that were acceptable to them. In the real world, as distinct from that of Athusserian ‘Theory’ with a capital T, we often find ourselves choosing between two inadequate propositions and choose the one that is slightly marred by uncrossed Ts or undotted Is. Better that than turning one’s back on much needed nutrition and life-saving penicillin, to, instead, swallow a barrel of poison.

There is a problem with the position that the CC is trying to defend. I think it is a problem that will have lead good socialists into the opposition camp because they exaggerate its signficance when balanced against every other factor in this equation. As I say, even without any amendments to the CC position, I recommend everyone votes for it. Nevertheless, all CC loyalists need to at least weigh up this part of the equation, because as it stand it is unbalanced.

The CC and DC can say that the allegations are deemed unproven. That means that Pat Stack and all the decent members in his faction are wrong to insist on any kind of disciplinary action against the individual who has been found guilty of nothing. Despite my criticisms of how the CC are handling this particular aspect of the problem, Pat Stack is not proposing anything better. If the individual was to suffer discipline despite no evidence being found to substantiate the allegation, that would be a green light to the bourgeois media and the bourgeois state to get involved. The SWP CC would, in such circumstances, be throwing him to the wolves despite having found not a shred of evidence. The SWP CC would, if Pat Stack got his way, be betraying someone who could be entirely innocent. That is one reason why Pat Stack’s faction does not have a leg to stand on, notwithstanding their being able to identify a problem with the CC’s position because that too, as it stands, is problematic.

Surely it is not beyond the wit of the CC and Pat Stack to return to this problem and see if a compromise can be reached, one that limits any split to those around Richard Seymour and those students who are unapologetically opposed to Lenin’s democratic centralism and the basic Marxist recognition that the bourgeois state is the an organisation that ultimately boils down to special bodies of armed men (and women) whose role is to protect the parasites who bleed wage slaves by means of surplus value extraction?

Pat Stack’s ‘solution’ to the crisis in the SWP is no solution at all. Even where Pat’s faction identifies a real problem with the CC’s position, their alternative would make matters worse. So what is the problem with the CC position? I see one. And I do think it won’t disappear even if the CC and their supporters win every single vote on Saturday. But how it plays itself out in the future depends entirely on others. Unless there are amendments that strengthen the CC’s motions and those of other CC loyalists, the problem is likely to return eventually.

The problem as I see it is that both the individual accused and the accusers are told both have been cleared. This cannot be right. If the accusers have been telling the truth then if the SWP won’t take matters any further the victims (since this hypothesis is based on assuming they are genuine victims) have an absolute right to do so as individuals, and that means going to the police. If they do that there would be nothing the SWP could do to undermine that police investigation given that the party (including the special conference) had accepted that there were no black marks against these party members. What this means is that the existing situation is far from stable.

If the accusers have not been lying then the SWP will be relying on actual victims ignoring a serious crime out of loyalty to the party. That surely is too much for the party to ask of victims. If they do ask the police to investigate, and if it turns out they had been telling the truth all along, then the party could be in serious trouble. The individuals must have the right to go to the police if they really are victims. And there is nothing that the SWP special conference can do to take away that right. Any internal investigation by the SWP DC either had to come down on one side or the other or else it had to accept it was unfit to investigate such an allegation.

It is pointless to say that the party should not have investigated this particular case unless it was going to come down on one side or the other, which would have to lead to expulsion of one side or the other. We are where we are, and we need to move on from here, rather than where we would be had mistakes not been made. However, the CC could accept (and should do this on Saturday, in my ‘humble’ opinion) that this situation can never be repeated again. Never!

It is not possible for the DC to investigate such accusations in the future and to then ask both sides to carry on as if nothing has happened. If the CC wins every vote on Saturday based on such a perspective it may stop a split because Pat Stack and co remember what majority votes mean inside Leninist parties, abide by them, deciding instead to fight on to fix the problem left behind by these unamended CC positions. However, a problem would remain and continue to pose a long-term problem for every member of the SWP.

In my ‘humble’ opinion.

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