Couple of misgivings about the SWP central committee’s response to the resignations:

  • Finally, we take seriously any claims of harassment or intimidation in the party, whoever they are directed against. At no point, contrary to claims online, has the CC said that either of the complainants are “police spies” or “MI5 agents”. Anyone making such claims would be utterly absurd. Nor do we toss around claims that people are “drifting into bourgeois feminism or autonomism” as a substitute for substantive argument. We are, however, committed to continue the important debates about the nature of the contemporary working class, the tasks of Leninists in the 21st century, the new currents of feminism, and so on.
  • We have, over the past year, sometimes been reluctant to respond to specific claims circulating about the SWP, primarily because of our concerns about confidentiality. But we are always happy to answer the concerns and listen to the advice of those we work with in the movement on these matters.

These paragraphs come from the SWP Central Committee’s press release about the resignations, dated 20 December 2013: http://www.swp.org.uk/content/central-committee-statement-20-december-2013

On the whole this is an excellent statement. It strikes the right tone in not wanting to fight fire with fire, sectarianism with more of the same. I agree with most of it. That said, I have a couple of misgivings.

Firstly, the comments on autonomism and feminism could have been better drafted. I think I know what is being said, but only by reading between the lines. There should have been a clear addressing of the issues that divides those who have left the SWP from those who decided to abide by majority votes. Autonomism and feminism are clearly two of the defining characteristics of what has gone, and the SWP is a lot healthier for the loss of those who have traded in Marxist politics for this anti-Marxist politics. Possibly spelling this out too clearly might have made the document a very different kind of document. It would have become polemical in a way that would make an anti-sectarian tone out of place. Working with those who have walked away is one thing. That is most certainly to be recommended, and it does the central committee great credit that they focused on this. Comrades who have resigned from the SWP who seriously want to unite on the issues of the day, in the day to day struggle of all the exploited and oppressed need to have olive branches extended to them. Such comrades are an invaluable resource for the party, and they will prove key in exposing sectarians in their midst. If comrades want unity, then that is fantastic, notwithstanding disagreement on the issues that lead to their resignation.  But that is entirely different to pretending that the politics of the two groups are harmonious and fit like a glove. That is not the case, and cannot be the case until they relearn (or learn for the first time) the ABC of Marxist politics.

There is the issue of MI5. Again, this passage has been extraordinarily badly drafted. It is unclear what is being said here. This can’t help the situation. What is being said? Are we being asked to believe that there are no police spies in the SWP and anyone who dares to suggest has lost touch with reality? Jesus Christ? How low an opinion of the competence of the Socialist Workers Party must the central committee have if they think MI5 etc don’t feel threatened enough to send in police spies? So, that can’t be it. Is the central committee saying that they have successfully vetted every SWP member and managed to identify and weed out all the spies? I doubt they have the resources to do that. Or is it just the two women in question who have been vetted? What checks were made? How intrusive were they? Were illegal means used to prove they were not police spies? Clearly Comrade X is suggesting that the SWP central committee has hacked her email account to discover if she is a police spy, although she has done this without a shred of evidence. And her supporters have mangled the words of the central committee’s supporters into meaning something different from what was said. She and her supporters are implying that an acceptance that the central committee has no idea if her email was hacked into proves they must have knowledge that is has been hacked. These people are utterly impervious to even normal logic, nevermind the dialectical materialist method defended by Trotsky and Chris Harman, the very same method that Ian Birchall has long argued was an invention of Josef Stalin: http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/birchall/1982/12/dialectics.htm

Comrade X and her friends ‘prove’ they are not police spies by giving their solemn word of honour. Yeah, that’ll work. Clearly no police spy would dream of lying if asked a direct question as to whether they are now or have ever been a police spy. That is sarcasm, btw.

Are the accusers police spies? How the hell would I know? I know absolutely nothing about these people. However, the central committee has made a serious mistake by refusing to explore in concrete terms the reasons why false allegations would have been made. This has always been a problem, and continues to be a problem to this day. It is a problem that is not going to go away.

The SWP leadership should not have got involved in this case, but shit happens and we can’t turn back time. When it became clear to everyone that there was no way to settle who was lying a conundrum lead to a crisis. I could have predicted this. Everyone should have been able to predict it. It was not credible to ask the two people involved in this case to carry on as though nothing had happened. I still have no idea how the central committee expected to resolve that dilemma. Their naivety here is like that of a scientist who determines to plunge beyond the event horizon of a black hole and responds to a question about how to get back out again with, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” This long-drawn-out party crisis was the inevitable consequence of getting involved in this dispute between two individuals with no witnesses and no offer of any evidence: he said, she said. Now that Comrade X has resigned from the party, and all her supporters have walked off into the sunset with her out of solidarity, this key aspect of the problem has resolved itself. But hardly satisfactorily. Not perfectly. This will always leave a bad taste in the mouth of all SWP loyalists. Lessons have to be learned.

The SWP central committee and the rank and file have to accept that false allegations of such sex crimes is not something made lightly. What kind of individual opts for that? This is key in explaining why Pat Stack’s group found such traction within the party. People lie. Men and women lie. There are many kinds of lies. White lies. Some lies are forgivable. Some are self serving, the kind that make us ashamed, but we cut corners and hope we don’t get caught. Some lies we tell children, such as Santa Clause, tooth fairy, etc. Jokes tend not to be documentaries, even when the comedian insists it really is a true story. Drama is lies. Novels are too. We may find ourselves being diplomatic. No, your bum doesn’t look big in that. No, I was not faking it. No, it is not too small. We may lie to a victim of a serious accident about how badly he/she is injured, because if they know the truth they may lose the will to try to live long enough for the paramedics to turn up. If a psychopath armed with a chainsaw asks where someone is, we might feel no anxiety about lying to save someone’s life. Maybe we don’t hate those who lied to Nazis searching for Jews or resistance fighters hiding in an attic. Refusal to answer irrelevant questions about an individual’s sex life, for example, despite being threatened with contempt of court after having sworn to tell the ‘whole’ truth… Lies of omission? They are also a type of lie. Lying, if only by omission, to get a job by not explaining at the job interview that you intend to help organize employees into strong trade unions to defend health and safety, decent wages and conditions, decent public services… doing all this regardless of the consequences for the profitability of the employer… I hope we can tell the difference between different types of lies. What about making false allegations of sexual violence? What kind of person does that? In my opinion lying about something like that is an indication of a very serious psychological problem. Not many people (men or women) are going to put themselves through an investigation based on a false account of what was in fact consensual sex. Other things being equal, we won’t jump to the conclusion that the accuser is making it up. Why would we. However, in a court case it may turn out that that is indeed what has happened, and an innocent man may have had his name dragged through the mud. Only a jury could determine this. I know I can’t.

Are there any other explanations as to why someone would make such false allegations? Yes, there most certainly are. Honey traps. MI5 etc would not think twice about deploying a spy to frame a leading member of the SWP or any other Marxist party. I can’t believe I need to point this out. It is so obvious. But the central committee statement seems to be ruling this out a priori. Why? This makes no sense to me. If Comrade X brings charges against the man she is accusing, then she would be asked under oath about why she might have invented this story. Any associations she has with British Intelligence at any level would inevitably be explored. I don’t know what would come of such lines of questioning. I have no evidence one way or the other. However, given the role of Bob Lambert’s Special Branch undercover unit being responsible for deploying agents 90% of whose members engaged in state rape… If Comrade X ever was in the pay of British Intelligence this is bound to come out under cross examination. Any handler, including political masters, going all the way up to Home Secretary Theresa May and Prime Minister David Cameron would face scrutiny if it turns out that they have any role in this. The central committee statement seems to rule out this as even a possibility. That strikes me as throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There is a difference between saying a honey trap may not be involved here and saying it cannot possibly be the key to this witch hunt. Any SWP loyalist who rules out a honey trap is not thinking clearly. They are surrendering what may be the party’s trump card.

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