Owen Jones strikes me as genuine in wanting class unity and the overthrow of capitalism. He does not accept democratic centralism. That’s okay. The SWP have to engage with non-party members and few of them will never even have heard the justification for democratic centralism. And those that have do have every right to remain unpersuaded by it.
What Leninists need is time. We need time to debate. We do that after having locked arms with them on the picket lines, marching alongside them, striking together. We need united fronts for at least three reasons:
We need united fronts to help our class taste the fruits of small victories which they will get by means of the most powerful united fronts because unity is strength.
We also need united fronts because with the eating comes the appetite: if we can win so much with a little unity, what might we achieve if we united on a much more consistent basis? That is the question we want our class to ask itself.
Leninists have to prove in practice that we are the real champions of consistent working class unity and of every struggle for all democratic rights of all the oppressed. In the process of such struggles, we earn the right to win the ear of our less revolutionary critics. And that brings me to Owen Jones.
I hold out the belief that he is recruitable in the long terms. Few would agree with me. He would be in the forefront of that group. Even if he is secretly hedging his bets, it would not be in his political interests to concede this; he’d be in bigger trouble with Ed Miliband’s Shadow Cabinet, offered a one-way ticket out of the Labour Party if he discussed joining TUSC for example, which is clearly not even an option until our vote improves.
Owen Jones couldn’t accept, even as a long term possibility, that he might think of joining the likes of TUSC. Nevertheless, he and socialists like him (considerably to the right of him in fact) can be won to the idea of voting for TUSC (admittedly in the privacy of the polling booth), and for defending the rights of the SWP and the rest of the Leninists to participation in broad democratic struggles.
What if Owen Jones still thinks a lot of what Richard Seymour is saying is true? That all depends on how the debate goes. I know he had a terrible position on Julian Assange. But people do change their minds. Many of those who fell for the Mensheviks and SR’s witch hunt against Lenin, Trotsky and the rest of the Bolsheviks as German agents during July 1917 were convinced within a few weeks that this was a lie from start to finish.
This latest set of smears about the SWP will also be exposed in time. We just need to buy ourselves some time. Even if Owen Jones does not wake up to this as fast as some others probably will, that does not mean he will join in any bid by sectarians to have the SWP CC loyalists (who Richard Seymour’s friends dismiss as the “500 pieces of shit”!) sacked and victimised by the trade unions as well as by the employers. That is the wretched state of affairs these McCartheyites swindlers have got themselves into.
There is no reason to believe that Owen Jones will march shoulder to shoulder with these sectarians into such a toxic swamp. There is no reason to believe he will call for the no-platforming of SWP members in the colleges, trade unions or anywhere else.
At any rate, there is no reason to believe that Owen Jones is recruitable by Richard Seymour’s witch hunters unless sectarian overreaction on the part of some SWP loyalists pushes him in that direction. Do not do that!
One last point. Is it possible that I am being too generous to Owen Jones? Perhaps I am. Maybe he will behave as badly as others predict. Even if that turns out to be the case, it remains in the interest of the SWP to explore the possibility that that is a mistaken hypothesis. We are the defenders of unity. We have no option but to work on the basis that Owen Jones meant what he said about the enemy of socialists being capitalism, not each other.
Over to you, Owen.