In defence of the SWP


1:09 pm - February 19th 2010

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contribution by Richard Seymour

Last Saturday, I had the unusual experience of sharing a room with Ken Livingstone, Margaret Hodge MP, Weyman Bennett, Martin Smith, Dawn Butler MP, student union organisers, and a spate of union leaders. The occasion was the annual conference of Unite Against Fascism.

By Wednesday, I was reading Laurie Penny’s outburst, in her brief pay-off to the recent split within the Socialist Workers’ Party, that: “The SWP has been at the forefront of every attempt to scupper cohesion on the left over the past decade.”

If you haven’t noticed the incongruity as yet, allow me to explain. Unite Against Fascism is a broad coalition against fascism that is a remarkably successful example of “cohesion on the left”. Far from scuppering this enterprise, the SWP is involved in running it, promoting it, and campaigning for it.

Joint Secretary Weyman Bennett is just one of many SWP members who have burned rubber to make this coalition work. A number of speakers at last week’s conference, Margaret Hodge included, paid tribute to him. If this were an anomaly, I could perhaps understand Penny’s argument. But it is not.

Allow me to mention two other major campaigns of the “past decade” that would appear to undermine Penny’s case. Defend Council Housing is one such, a broad left-wing campaign to resist the privatization of housing stock and ensure that the words ‘affordable housing’ mean something. On its national committee sit members of the Labour Party, trade unionists and SWP members. Until recently, one of its most charismatic and effective organisers was the late Alan Walter, a proud SWP member.

Another such, perhaps the most high profile campaign of the last decade, was the Stop the War Coalition, which brought together Labour party members, CNDers, members of various far left groups, and – once again – SWP members in a leading role.

This isn’t a boast. We are a small party, and our ability to influence events in any given campaign is limited. But we are, it must be conceded, disproportionately active in such campaigns, relative to our size. And for such a small party, and one that is highly unattractive in Penny’s view, we do find a fair number of our activists ending up with leading roles because of their proven abilities and commitment.

She says: “sectarianism has crippled progress on the left since the formation of Respect in 2004, and has prevented any genuine electoral alternative to the three central parties from forming.” It seems odd that Penny, a supporter of the Labour party, would be remotely interested in an alternative to the ‘three central parties’.

More to the point, she seems not to have grasped that Respect arose precisely out of an attempt to build such an alternative, that it was a more successful attempt than any equivalent enterprise in a generation if not longer, and that if some on the Left chose to keep their distance from the start, this was hardly the fault of the SWP, which was at the centre of trying to build a much broader coalition than that which eventually emerged.

If there is sectarianism on the British left, as there avowedly is, it did not begin in 2004, and it was not caused by the emergence of Respect.

I would not myself take claims made in the resignations letter in the heat of a split as gospel. Divorces are messy, and both parties usually say things they may come to regret.

But to be clear, what the dearly departed actually claim is that the SWP has behaved in a sectarian fashion in one instance. In fact, they contend that this marks a break with previous practise. Do these claims, even if they were true, really support the idea that the SWP has been trying to “scupper” unity on the Left?

SWP members are willing to accept serious flack and criticism from the Left. We’re not infallible, we have made mistakes, and we’re open to learning from experience. And even if you don’t agree with the lessons that we draw, it doesn’t matter.

We don’t make it a condition of unity that you agree with us, or even like us very much. But it would help if, when we’re actually trying to help build unity in the most urgent situations, such as the struggle against fascism, others on the Left don’t try to undermine that unity with spurious and ungrounded attacks on those they disagree with.

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Richard Seymour blogs at leninology

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Reader comments


Far from scuppering this enterprise, the SWP is involved in running it, promoting it, and campaigning for it.

You say “involved in”, many others say “hijacking”.

It doesn’t matter whether the movement is hijacked, what matters is that many of those that would like to be involved perceive the movements mentioned (especially Stop The War) as being tainted and dominated by the SWP, and don’t get involved because they perceive the organisations as either being little more than SWP fronts or believe that even if that’s not what they are now, that’s what they’ll become.

Self fulfilling prophecies, naturally, but them’s the breaks.

Swappy campaigns work best when the party line is ambigious – for example stop the war coalition brought together a broad spectrum of war critics, but on the flipside it acted in ways contrary to the ideas of most on the left, for example it sided with the homophobic, sexist, theocratic Muslim Association of Britian.

Respect brought a lot of the left who were unhappy about the labour party, and stood against pro-war candidates (like at the time Oona King) – but again it was happy to side with anti-Semitic voices in order to push through a popular campaign among peculiar allies – including very unsavory characters on the Islamic far right.

I’m not with Nick Cohen on a lot of his attempts to denigrate the left, but the SWP – by and lareg, not everybody – are a kind of cohort of scriptwriters for Cohen. He exaggerates the left, but his book What’s Left did not exaggerate the Swappy central committee. And this is stuff they have in print. Having been a member of the SWP in a previous time I’ve had many conversations with people bending over backwards to justify the actions of the Taliban – much in the same vein as is detailed in this letter published by Sunny a while ago [http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/5582].

I’m happy for the SWP to dissolve in to thin air.

You know the only thing I’ve noticed about the SWP lately? The SWP logo plastered all over the ‘Who killed Ian Tomlinson?’ placards on the memorial march in his honour.

Tasteful, that was.

Oh, and the huge Stop The War banner which dominated that march, and probably led to most people who saw the memorial march pass thinking that it was a Stop The War protest rather than a memorial march. Which makes it interesting to find out that STW is essentially a SWP gig too.

Basically, from my fairly external viewpoint, the SWP have given me the impression of being slightly unpleasant opportunists with a strong marketing arm.

It doesn’t matter whether the movement is hijacked, what matters is that many of those that would like to be involved perceive the movements mentioned (especially Stop The War) as being tainted and dominated by the SWP, and don’t get involved because they perceive the organisations as either being little more than SWP fronts

There’s an immediate problem with such arguments. It is that they bear the hallmark of precisely the kind of sectarianism that Laurie Penny was complaining about. If one refuses to engage in any movement involving the SWP, then one is elevating one’s own paranoia above the success of the movement itself. Anyone who thinks and behaves like that needs to reconsider. Even Denis MacShane doesn’t think act like that, and he hates the Trots. Margaret Hodge doesn’t either, and you can be sure she isn’t a fan of the far left. Why not take a leaf out of their book?

You know the only thing I’ve noticed about the SWP lately? The SWP logo plastered all over the ‘Who killed Ian Tomlinson?’ placards on the memorial march in his honour.

This isn’t a reasonable thing to complain about. The SWP produces its own placards, pays for them, and takes them to demonstrations on every possible variety of theme. Naturally, those placards advertise the fact that the SWP produced them and is present at the demo. No one is being forced to carry one.

Which makes it interesting to find out that STW is essentially a SWP gig too.

I’m afraid you’ve just pulled that one out of your hat. No one has said that STW is a “SWP gig”. Tony Benn wouldn’t be happy with that claim, nor would Andrew Murray, Kate Hudson, or the unions backing the coalition. One could go on, but the basic point is that the SWP is a minority within the StWC, and is happy to remain so. If Stop the War brought a banner along, I assume the aim was to show that the coalition was supporting the campaign to bring his killers to justice. But this has no bearing on the SWP’s alleged role in ‘scuppering’ left cohesion for the past decade.

“If there is sectarianism on the British left, as there avowedly is, it did not begin in 2004, and it was not caused by the emergence of Respect.’

Um…I never said it was. Respect could have been a fantastic project, had it worked. Unfortunately, infighting ensured that a coherent coalition never stood a chance, and the SWP needs to take some responsibility for that.

And I’ve noticed that any attempt to in *ANY* way criticise the SWP is construed as an ‘attack’. In fact, that article wasn’t an attack on the SWP -it wasn’t even *about* the SWPl. It was about our attitude to cohesion on the left in general.

Please, for god’s sake, grow up and try to countenance the idea that progressive politics isn’t all about you guys?

In other all about me news: I’m not a Labour supporter, never have been, please stop referring to me as such, or, yknow, just do some research before making wild claims.

Oh, also –

‘The Stop the War Coalition, which brought together Labour party members, CNDers, members of various far left groups, and – once again – SWP members in a leading role. ‘

SWP members like Lindsey German? Who just resigned because you guys tried to stop her from speaking at a Stop The War meeting? For fuck’s sake.

I’m afraid you’ve just pulled that one out of your hat. No one has said that STW is a “SWP gig”. Tony Benn wouldn’t be happy with that claim, nor would Andrew Murray, Kate Hudson, or the unions backing the coalition

I’m not sure I buy this. One of the things that annoyed me about the STW events were that the same poeple from Respect and SWP were speaking all the time – without any attempt to broaden the agenda and bring in the centre-left, who were also hugely anti-war but did not want to get caught up in Galloway, Lindsey German’s, the MAB’s or any other Islamist agenda.

Carl up there is right – you guys went too far and turned off the centre left. That’s why they stopped coming to the marches and that’s why the energy dissipated.

Um…I never said it was. Respect could have been a fantastic project, had it worked. Unfortunately, infighting ensured that a coherent coalition never stood a chance, and the SWP needs to take some responsibility for that.

What you did say was that sectarianism had dogged the British left since the foundation of Respect, thus implying that a casual or dependent relationship. I am quite happy to accept that the SWP made mistakes during the split in 2007, though it wasn’t *single-handedly* responsible for that. What I object to is a demonological approach which reduces the real problems of the British left to the machinations of the SWP. We aren’t perfect, but we are doing our best within our limited means.

And I’ve noticed that any attempt to in *ANY* way criticise the SWP is construed as an ‘attack’. In fact, that article wasn’t an attack on the SWP -it wasn’t even *about* the SWPl. It was about our attitude to cohesion on the left in general.

So, to be clear, saying that the SWP has been “at the forefront of every attempt to scupper cohesion on the left over the past decade” isn’t an attack? An article based on several statements culled from a resignation letter by people departing from the SWP, making several very unfair claims about the SWP’s role in the left, and resulting in several rather bigoted tirades against the SWP in the comments, in which you said that you were happy to see the SWP go through this split, is in no way “about” the SWP? I don’t think that’s an honest claim to make. Surely it would be more becoming to acknowledge that you are at the very least hyperbolic in several of your substantive claims?

‘Respect brought a lot of the left who were unhappy about the labour party, and stood against pro-war candidates (like at the time Oona King) – but again it was happy to side with anti-Semitic voices in order to push through a popular campaign among peculiar allies – including very unsavory characters on the Islamic far right.’

Precisely. Respect’s highjacking the anti-war movement undermined the movement more effectively than even the BNP’s half-arsed attempts.

The smeering of protestors as ‘apologists for Islamism’ wouldn’t have been possible without fucking ‘Respect’.

I remember the vicious sniping against the LibDems and Charles Kennedy throughout 2003.

Here we had the only parliamentary group and mainstream party compact against the Iraq war, and the SWP and Galloway thought nothing better than ranting at any occasion about the fictional notion that the LibDems were allegedly pro-war or not anti-war enough, whatever that may be.

Often Charles Kennedy’s words “I’m yet to be convinced…” at the Feb 2003 London demo were used as an excuse to burn bridges with a wider anti-war constituency.

In tactical terms the SWP have been the Steve McLaren of politics.

#9 It wasn’t just that they went too far – they sometimes refused to go far enough if ideas hadn’t come from them. I remember a StW meeting in the city I was living in at the time where I – as a Labour Party member! – was proposing a way of taking direct action to shut down the city for a day – and SWP people in the local group quickly spoke against it & shut down discussion on the idea. Presumably because the proposal hadn’t come from them and hadn’t been sanctioned by their own party.

And UAF may include people who aren’t SWP just as StW did, but it is sectarian in that it is absolutely terrible at working with other anti-fascist groups.

In other all about me news: I’m not a Labour supporter, never have been, please stop referring to me as such, or, yknow, just do some research before making wild claims.

I’m happy to accept that I may have been mistaken on that point.

SWP members like Lindsey German? Who just resigned because you guys tried to stop her from speaking at a Stop The War meeting? For fuck’s sake.

That’s not the reason Lindsey resigned. She was asked not to attend a meeting which local activists maintained was disputed – but this could have been resolved in discussions, as was made clear in the published e-mail exchange. More to the point, it’s irrelevant to the broader point – that the SWP has played an active and productive role in StWC without using it to harm left cohesion, as you claim has been our hallmark for a decade.

UAF? They’re pretty useless aren’t they?

“Another such, perhaps the most high profile campaign of the last decade, was the Stop the War Coalition, which brought together Labour party members, CNDers, members of various far left groups, and – once again – SWP members in a leading role.”

They certainly had a leading role and they put a lot of hard work into it – especially at the beginning. But my experience was that, over time, their determination to pursue their own agenda (in particular broadening it out from Iraq to include more complex issues such as Palestine) and shout down anyone who didn’t agree with it alienated a lot of people and eventually ensured Stop the War became another coalition of the usual suspects. And that’s been my experience of the SWP in general.

I’m not sure I buy this. One of the things that annoyed me about the STW events were that the same poeple from Respect and SWP were speaking all the time – without any attempt to broaden the agenda and bring in the centre-left, who were also hugely anti-war but did not want to get caught up in Galloway, Lindsey German’s, the MAB’s or any other Islamist agenda.

But the SWP is in a minority at all levels of the StWC, so if that mistake was made, it was made by the whole leadership and by extension the delegated membership of the StWC. Moreover, can you be sure that the fact that elements of the centre-left stopped being involved in Stop the War activity is really the fault of some deliberate effort by the StWC to exclude them?

18. J Alfred Prufrock

I think Carl @2 nails what bothers most a lot of people (myself included) about the SWP, the cosying up to the homophobes and misogynists in the MAB amongst others. Moving in with the Islamists was the worst move the far-left could have made (and has always, always confused the hell out of me – didn’t Marx say something about opium…?)

Oh and it’s a bit off-putting, to say the least, to go to a UAF demo and have Socialist Worker thrust at you from every direction. Same goes for STW.

heir determination to pursue their own agenda (in particular broadening it out from Iraq to include more complex issues such as Palestine) and shout down anyone who didn’t agree with it alienated a lot of people and eventually ensured Stop the War became another coalition of the usual suspects.

It always included issues such as Palestine, and some of its largest protests – extending well beyond ‘the usual suspects’ – have been over the question of Israeli aggression. Moreover, I don’t think the Palestine issue was just forced through by the SWP, nor could it have been.

Incidentally, just on a broader point of the StWC’s fate, while there has been considerable enervation in the StWC over the years, I think it is fair to say that it is still capable of drawing in and working alongside a very broad milieu that can’t be reduced to the ‘usual suspects’. I’m thinking of initiatives around MFAW, Ben Griffin, Joe Glenton, etc, as well as its continued ability to coordinate larger outings such as over Operation Cast Lead.

I’m a non-SWP UAF supporter and (because I’m now self-employed) ex-trades unionist. I must say I used to find the SWP very annoying. We would organise union events only to have the usual SWPers turn up and try to hijack them. That kind of behaviour gets noticed, it certainly pissed me off. More like parasitism than unifying political action.

I’ve been more impressed recently by the number of SWPers who turn out to anti-fascist events when my labour party friends suddenly find something else to do. I’ll give them credit for not worrying about the possibility of a bit of rough-and-tumble.

I’m afraid you’ve just pulled that one out of your hat. No one has said that STW is a “SWP gig”.

I pulled it out of the article: “SWP members in a leading role”

UAF? They’re pretty useless aren’t they?

Errm not really. They’ve been highly effective in leading against the EDL. Don’t see anyone else standing up to that task. Do you?

But the SWP is in a minority at all levels of the StWC, so if that mistake was made, it was made by the whole leadership and by extension the delegated membership of the StWC.

Richard I wasn’t at those meetings but the blame is still there. The over-whelming presence of SWP organising for those events gave me the impression the SWP was to blame. Either way – that energy dissipated and all of us who wanted to take revenge for being led into war were rudderless. ‘Decents’ on one side and hanging out with the MAB nutjobs on the other.

I’ve made the same accusation against Muslim groups too: they allowed the MAB to dominate and managed to rally some really nutty elements. But the point still stands. Someone has to take blame for why the anti-war movement went nowhere. Who do you think should take the blame?

lenin, you’re trying it on here, what is this, “a get with the people” campaign from the CC in a desparate attempt to shore up support for your disintegrating sect ?

When are you going to realise that your cheerleading for the liked of Hezbollah and your disastrous alliance with Galloway will not be easily forgotten or forgiven. Until the SWP decisively and openly admits its faults in allying with Islamic reactionaries and the gruesome Galloway you will get nowhere.

Also its one thing being against the war in Iraq but being equally against the campaign against the Taliban will get you nowhere with the Centre-Left, and your attempts to characterise the war in Afghanistan as “imperialist” are nauseating to most people.

Oh, and:

This isn’t a reasonable thing to complain about. The SWP produces its own placards […]. Naturally, those placards advertise […]

If you think it’s unreasonable to view advertising at a memorial march as distasteful, then I think that’s probably confirmed my opinion of the SWP.

I pulled it out of the article: “SWP members in a leading role”

Er, Denny. “SWP members in a leading role” = “SWP members in a leading role”. “SWP gig” = “SWP gig”. “SWP members in a leading role” ? “SWP gig”.

Anyone buying Richard’s ‘not us, guvnor’ nonsense should consider rereading Mike Marqusee’s 2003 essay on democracy and the left (http://www.mikemarqusee.com/?p=41). His description of the SWP’s “flagrant ethical relativism” is still spot-on.

Someone has to take blame for why the anti-war movement went nowhere. Who do you think should take the blame?

Labour :)

well said lenin,
and lets not forget the right to work campaign. A brilliant initiative.

when workers go on the strike the swp will always be there to help. all the labour party does is stick the boot in.

“Someone has to take blame for why the anti-war movement went nowhere. Who do you think should take the blame?”

Is this right? The anti-war movement didn’t succeed in stopping the Iraq war, but it is now absolutely inconceivable that the British government would get involved in any similar war for the foreseeable future, and public opinion is now overwhelmingly of the view that the war was a disaster.

What would success have looked like, if this is failure?

lenin: ‘SWP gig’ = ‘event or organisation in which the SWP had a leading role’ – okay?

As I said, I’m an external observer. I don’t know what’s going on with your internal politics, and I know little about how ‘The Left’ views you, although this comment thread is proving educational. All I know is that in the original article, you said the SWP was leading STW, so that made it an SWP gig from my naive point of view.

To be honest, this seems to me to be a really trivial semantic point to quibble on, but perhaps the internal or inter-organisational politics stuff make the distinction important.

One repeated point of criticism of the SWP in this thread is the willingness to work with MAB in Stop the War, and with former MAB members in Respect. This is fair enough, as I didn’t write my piece to foreclose all criticisms of the SWP. From my perspective, this is one of those issues on which we have a legitimate disagreement. The point is that such disagreements do not license a refusal to work together on other matters, on the part of either party.

I was and am strongly against the war, and attended demonstrations. However, I was turned off such events by the way that what should have been a single-message march, to stop the war in Iraq, became a multi-message one, with the Israel-Palestine issue especially strongly pushed (largely by SWP people, IIRC). I mean, I have as many problems with the way that Israel operates as anyone else, but if I want to protest against that, I’ll go to a dedicated event, OK? Stop trying to use my attendance at an anti-Iraq war demo to push an anti-Israel agenda.

That made me really angry at the time, and still does, when I recall it.

All I know is that in the original article, you said the SWP was leading STW, so that made it an SWP gig from my naive point of view.

There’s a huge difference between individual SWP members being elected to some leading roles (a minority, I remind you), and the SWP running StW as a ‘gig’ (which collapses a broad coalition into one small, far left party) or ‘leading’ the coalition (which implies that the party, as a whole and singlehandedly, controlled coalition policy). No one in the StWC would thank you for such a characterisation. And it makes a difference in this argument, because if you want to criticise a StWC policy you can’t just assume that the policy in question originated from the SWP.

What would success have looked like, if this is failure?

An active campaign to get rid of Labour MPs who led us into the war. Thankfully, the expenses scandal and other coups have gotten us rid of the biggest cheerleaders – but the anti-war crowd hasn’t exercised much influence in the way that anti-war Democrats did in the US.

@ 31. lenin

I do hope this is why you didn’t reply to my comment #2 – most of my criticism is true and indefensible

Or at least the Labour hierarchy who fed us all that crap.

My point is that Obama won over Clinton in no small part to his initial anti-war stance. Here, the decision to go to war is still held in the Labour government as the right thing to do because they know there’s no fallout from continuing to toe the line.

@Jo You are obviously completely unaware of the fact that involvement by Western pro-Israel governments in wars against Middle Eastern countries with lots of Muslims, is intertwined with the conflict between Israel and another Muslim Middle Eastern country.

…your attempts to characterise the war in Afghanistan as “imperialist” are nauseating to most people.

Yeah, whenever I’m down at the pub, t’lads are always laying into Alex Callinicos’s latest missive. As if “most people” are even aware of what the SWP’s line is.

Someone has to take blame for why the anti-war movement went nowhere. Who do you think should take the blame?

I think it’s unfair to say the antiwar movement ‘went nowhere’, and I think that it’s a kind of voluntarist mistake to assume that any problems with such a movement must be the fault of its leadership. However, it’s appropriate to review strategy and what we did wrong. That’s why it’s fair enough for us to disagree over the inclusion of MAB etc. It’s also appropriate to ask, if the SWP were in fact mistaken, why others went along with those mistakes.

Btw, I see someone linked to Mike Marqusee’s piece above. While I think the generality and passion of his criticisms are overstated, and while I would hesitate to embrace most of his conclusions, I do think SWP members would be receptive to re-evaluating how we worked in that period. In fact, that sort of re-evaluation is precisely what we have been trying to undertake.

@MrBenn, of course I’m not, but thanks for patronising me. Nor am I unaware of the history of Iraq, with mostly arbitrary British borderlines drawn decades ago contributing directly to internal conflict to Ba’athist dominance to the rise of Saddam to blah blah blah. Of course the Middle East is a massively complex place and everything is intertwined – history, language, ethnicity, religion, money, oil, cultures, land rights etc etc etc.

But.

In 2003, the Iraq War was an *imminent* threat. It *could* and should have been stopped. The most – most! – important thing was to convey that message to our “leaders”, and to the country/international community as a whole. Anything which diluted that message (such as calling for a two-state solution for Palestinians/calling the Israelis nasty names) worked against the immediate aim of, y’know, STOPPING THE WAR.

Of course it is vital to secure a fair solution for Palestinians after decades of suffering, but hey, it ain’t gonna happen overnight. And say it did! Say the Israeli/Palestinian/US etc leadership saw pictures of anti-Isael placards from the London demo, and miraculously thought: “My god! They’re right! Let’s make peace!” That would be wonderful (albeit incredibly unlikely), but would it have stopped the Iraq war? Er, no. Therefore it’s a distraction at best, and downright harmful at worst, as it contributed to many people’s leaving the STW movement’s events.

“Therefore it’s a distraction at best, and downright harmful at worst, as it contributed to many people’s leaving the STW movement’s events”

Did it, though? Do you have any evidence to this effect, or is it pure conjecture?

How would an SWP government deal with the fact that lots of people live in horrid tower blocks while others live in nice big houses in Surrey and Hampshire?

Of course it is vital to secure a fair solution for Palestinians after decades of suffering, but hey, it ain’t gonna happen overnight. And say it did! Say the Israeli/Palestinian/US etc leadership saw pictures of anti-Isael placards from the London demo, and miraculously thought: “My god! They’re right! Let’s make peace!” That would be wonderful (albeit incredibly unlikely), but would it have stopped the Iraq war?

I have to say, the idea that the placards were intended to galvanise the leaderships of Israel, US and the PLO into saying what they had already publicly said since Oslo is a bit odd. Almost as odd as the idea that the burden of responsibility for a peaceful settlement sits equally on the shoulders of those three parties. But the point of raising Palestine in this context was that Israel’s aggression against the Palestinians was part and parcel of US aggression in the Middle East. Throughout 2002, when StWC was developing into the mass movement that it became, there was an extraordinarily vicious assault by Sharon on the West Bank taking place. It would have been absurd and hypocritical to oppose a future assault on Iraq without at least noticing that Israel was doing to the Palestinians what the US was about to do to Iraq. Moreover, the British left bears a particular burden of historical responsibility for Palestine, having done little to oppose the British Mandate and having largely supported the Zionist colonial project. We owed a debt to the Palestinians and only belatedly and partially discharged it.

I didn’t notice antiwar demonstrations dramatically contracting as a result of the Palestine issue being raised, btw.

“An active campaign to get rid of Labour MPs who led us into the war. Thankfully, the expenses scandal and other coups have gotten us rid of the biggest cheerleaders – but the anti-war crowd hasn’t exercised much influence in the way that anti-war Democrats did in the US.”

Really?

Anti-war Democrats succeeded in getting rid of a total of 0 Democratic Senators who voted for the war, in 2004 they picked two senators who voted for the war as their presidential and veep ticket, and currently one of the senators who voted for the war is Vice President and another is Secretary of State.

Many more Labour MPs lost their seats as a result of voting for the Iraq war than Dems.

The SWP are communists. They might consider themselves democrats but they are still communists. Communism, democratic or not, is extremely illiberal, relying on extensive state coercion to re-order society.

I have yet to receive a satisfactory explanation as to why making common cause with Far Left groups is some way acceptable while making common cause with Far Right groups is not. The Tories would simply not be having this sort of discussion with the BNP.

The Far Left may not be racists but you are fooling yourselves if you believe an SWP government would not be extremely authoritarian. How else are they going to completely abolish private property and inequality? Even Labour in 1983 would never dare go as far as this lot.

#23

i think that very many people do see the war in afghanistan as imperialist, they may not use that word but they know it is about the objectives of american power.

it makes me laugh that liberals still defend it when a glance at anything brzezinski’s written over the last thirty years will tell you that its about american geopolitical control in eurasia

47. J Alfred Prufrock

@46

Yeah but there’s a fine line between legitimate criticism of the Afghan war as imperialist and bending over backwards to excuse the Taliban and other “insurgents”. It never used to be like this, the Left used to loathe religious fanaticists instead of cosying up to them.

you can loathe the taliban whilst realising that they are a product of afghanistans horrible history. A history of imperialist states using it as proxy for their schemas. They represent social forces in afghanistan that cant be wished or bombed away. They can only be defeated internally their political opponents, by the foot soldiers of the movement and the next generation realising that taliban politics are not in their interests. All american bombing and satrapy will do is convince many that the taliban do offer an alternative to foreign domination and cultural humiliation.

I ain’t got no time for the SWP but Alan Walters did good work with Defend Council Housing and was a council tenant himself.

I knew him when he was an anarchist squatter with hair down to his chest.

I think this debate beautifully demonstrates the troubes of the Left, as discussed in another thread. While righties are happy to defend privilege and enrich the already the wealthy the Left complicates everything so much it loses sight of the very point it was trying to make and alienates its natural allies and supporters.

Keep It Simple! Sophistication breeds sophistry a la Blair and the Third Way.

Sophistication breeds sophistry a la Blair and the Third Way.

You think the canon of Third Way thinking is *sophisticated*? Can I interest you in a gold-brick machine?

Nope, I think it was sophistry throughout. Stop being so dense. My point was how everyone fell for it.

I suppose its always worth reminding oneself that elections are lost, not won. Everyone wanted to believe Blair had some new idea.

“In 2003, the Iraq War was an *imminent* threat. It *could* and should have been stopped. The most – most! – important thing was to convey that message to our “leaders”, and to the country/international community as a whole. Anything which diluted that message (such as calling for a two-state solution for Palestinians/calling the Israelis nasty names) worked against the immediate aim of, y’know, STOPPING THE WAR.”

But the Iraq war was being prosecuted under the rubric of the war on terror, which the Israelis had already scuttled underneath to justify their policy toward the Palestinians since the concept of a ‘war on terror’ is so plastic it can be applied to any counter-insurgency, no matter how legitimate the insurgency, and moreover allows for such counter-insurgency policies to be stitched together in a concerted global effort.

The stepped up Israeli aggression of the early 2000s and the US’s moves into the mideast were part of a strategy to better hegemonize the region. Choosing to be blind to this is to concede to Blair et al.’s disingenuous framing of the situation.

In terms of the efficacy of the movement, I can only decry the bizarre notion that it was some kind of ‘failure’ – what were you expecting, the Paris Commune? It was the largest simultaneous mass registration of opposition in the history of the human race, and who knows what kind of processes the show of numbers arrested – judging by Blair’s testimony to Chilcot, it’s clear the persistent reports during the period of factions of the US/UK establishment favouring extension of the war to Iran were true, so who knows what kind of mess we’d be in without it.

Finally, to return to the Palestine question, the mobilisations by STWC over Lebanon 2006 and Cast Lead were very successful, and moreover don’t forget the contribution of Lebanon to Blair being pushed to resign.

But the Iraq war was being prosecuted under the rubric of the war on terror, which the Israelis had already scuttled underneath to justify their policy toward the Palestinians

Exactly.

“The SWP are communists. They might consider themselves democrats but they are still communists. Communism, democratic or not, is extremely illiberal, relying on extensive state coercion to re-order society. ”

It could be argued that the coercion required from the state in this manner is no more illiberal than the coercion from the state under a capitalist system. Gramsci and such noted that there would be a need for such forceful coercion in times of crisi – how is this any different from, say, wartime Britain?

Besides this, it is acceptable to ally with the far-left rather than the far-right because the far-left generally are not conducting a campaign of hate politics (and no, anti-capitalism doesn’t count in this). And I say this as no great fan of the SWP (although I should note that socialists need to work together if we are to further the goals of socialism).

On the article: the problem is that really the issue’s being skirted around here by swatting at miscellanea. The problem is that the SWP does tend to take an overbearing approach, and struggles to work with other left groups unless it’s basically taking a leading role (in all fairness, the TUSC is very encouraging in this regard and does suggest that the SWP are starting to get out of this rut even with the unpleasantess regarding German; I’m keen to see how it goes). This is why there’s such a mistrust of the SWP.

I’m not sure how to fix that, and honestly I’m bewildered as to where to start when erstwhile comrades such as Richard defend treating the SWP logo like a production watermark. Perhaps all groups on the left just need to take a step back and start treating socialist organisation as an end, rather than a means; comrades shouldn’t do things just so they can claim them as an accomplishment for their party.

As for the SWP, it seems people are making a common set of mistakes:

i. treating an organisation as a monolith
ii. ignoring that it will have internal debates, that its positions will change and develop
iii. ‘associative thinking’, ie. argument by contamination – ‘the swp has touched this, ergo its a front, fictitious, etc.
iv. reproduced cold war red scare tropes, which usually cluster on the idea that the party is some crude political maximiser and it and all its members are just instrumentalising in everything they do (‘invasion of the body snatchers’) – that SWP members have no genuine beliefs, no rational justifications for joining or wanting to sell the paper or to argue for certain positions – they’re just dupe robots, sociopaths under the bed.

This is the paranoid style at its worst and grossly unfair to people who have chosen to put in a lot of their own time to something they have decided to join because they believe in it – but then I guess it does have the ‘nice’ side effect of rendering all the ideas and practices of the SWP inadmissible in advance, so you don’t have to ever actually intellectually engage with them, attempt to understand them, or (heaven forbid) get into a position were you may have to concede arguments…

Oh no, here we go again.

Laurie’s original piece raises some quite important points that can’t be just dismissed with a wave of the hand. If there’s a problem with it, I think it’s because she’s taking experiences of the feminist movement (which she knows very well) and applying them to the SWP (which she doesn’t). There are similarities of course, but they certainly don’t map neatly. There are persistent problems of destructive (and self-destructive) actions on the left that need to be addressed. Trouble is, the left isn’t very good at reflecting on its deficiencies.

Richard knows this, and while he’s doing a sterling job defending the SWP’s record he is sharp enough and honest enough to admit that the party’s track record is not unproblematic. I have no particular brief for the SWP, but they are (in general, not all the time) a bit less inclined to do the Chief Wiggum act these days.

They also have an admirable record of rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in, even if they sometimes do make a balls of things. I have much less patience for the kind of people who like to fantasise about their ideal antiwar movement – apparently one with no Trots or Muslims involved – but who were much too busy to, y’know, do anything themselves.

58. J Alfred Prufrock

@56

apparently one with no Trots or Muslims involved

Nice try – no-one is saying that Muslims should be excluded from the debate (or Trots for that matter, although why they wish to align themselves with an authoritarian wannabe dictator beats me), merely that standing shoulder to shoulder with anti-Semitic, homophobic, women-hating religious nutjobs might not be the best course of action and might be a teensy bit off-putting. Don’t dress this up as Islamophobia (I’m reminded of whenever anyone criticises Israel shouts of “anti-Semite!” abound, and they’re just as ridiculous).

‘It could be argued that the coercion required from the state in this manner is no more illiberal than the coercion from the state under a capitalist system.’

Not by a rational mind.

‘Gramsci and such noted that there would be a need for such forceful coercion in times of crisi – how is this any different from, say, wartime Britain?’

I think the clue might be in the word ‘wartime’.

“I think the clue might be in the word ‘wartime’.”
And on the flipside, the clue’s in the ‘times of crisis’ part. Gramsci is no different to most Western leaders in the regard that both wanted where possible to expand a cultural hegemony peacefully, but enforce it where necessary.

My point is, communism does not require by nature (although perhaps differently by practice) such a coercion any more than capitalism, and for liberals to refuse to work with communists on those grounds doesn’t make sense.

‘My point is, communism does not require by nature (although perhaps differently by practice) such a coercion any more than capitalism, and for liberals to refuse to work with communists on those grounds doesn’t make sense.’

it depends on how you define ‘communism’. If you define it simply as an economic system – the *end* which is promissed – then no, it doesn’t necessarily imply coersion. However in practice it always goes hand in hand with a revolutionary *means* of transforming capitalism which then becomes an *end* in itself. I don’t recall any ‘communist’ country ever declaring the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ obsolete, job done, without reverting to capitalism.

The means matters: you can’t create democracy from authoritarianism. The end lies latent in the means.

#12 “Often Charles Kennedy’s words “I’m yet to be convinced…” at the Feb 2003 London demo were used as an excuse to burn bridges with a wider anti-war constituency.”

You may not have noticed, but Charles managed to burn those bridges quite nicely as soon as the invasion happened – “There is nothing unpatriotic about having questioned the basis for this war but supporting our armed forces now battle is engaged.'”

So once it actually mattered, they didn’t actually oppose it. Like being a principled vegetarian between bacon sandwiches.

It is rather interesting to contrast Mr Seymour’s posts in this thread, which have been cogent and well argued, with some of the others. Especially given that it is often the SWP who are portrayed as being the ones with a screw or two loose.

SplinteredSunrise:

‘If there’s a problem with it, I think it’s because she’s taking experiences of the feminist movement (which she knows very well) and applying them to the SWP (which she doesn’t).’

This I’m happy to concede in part. Rather than applying my experiences in the feminist movement to the SWP, however, I was applying them to the far left in general :)

Richard, the chances of effecting change through a revolution are vanishingly small, but it can be made incrementally by the left as a whole. You need liberals to empower you, in much the same way the fascists need the softer right. You don’t have to love them.

The problem with broadening STW to become yet another Israel-bashing front is that it becomes yet another Israel-bashing front. It becomes just another face of the same old agenda. And as Jo pointed out to you, and you ignored because you cannot see this or any other issue outside the frame of your ideology, many people who would have been a source of empowerment to you are less comfortable with anti-Israelism than they are with the tighter antiwar message. They are particularly less comfortable when they see the leaders of events they are supporting platforming with flatout antisemites. I mean, is this truly that difficult to understand? People recognise that supporting a cause empowers that cause, and while they may be comfortable with empowering the cause of ending war in Iraq, they may not be so comfortable with empowering antisemitism.

This is how you guys come across to less committed types. You seem to be fiercely doctrinaire and exclusive. And when an event seems to be propelled by SWP, it seems that joining it is signing up to every item of a particular agenda, not all of which is going to have broad appeal. This is actually the message that commenters here are conveying to you. You don’t hear it though. You continue not to see that you can build coalitions on the left on particular issues, but you cannot get everyone to sign up to a whole raft of issues, and your (perceived) desire to punish ideological slippage leaves you appearing as unattractive partners to those who occupy other spaces on the left side of the political spectrum.

@ Dr. Zen

I never lose my fascination with those who characterize opposition to the Zionist colonial project in Palestine with “anti-semitism”.

Mike @ 62

You may not have noticed, but Charles managed to burn those bridges quite nicely as soon as the invasion happened – “There is nothing unpatriotic about having questioned the basis for this war but supporting our armed forces now battle is engaged.’”

So once it actually mattered, they didn’t actually oppose it. Like being a principled vegetarian between bacon sandwiches.

Oh bollocks, what a ridiculous line.

Once a war has actually started and troops are engaged, it’s very difficult to pull out and stop it. Which is why Kennedy, and other opponents, instead switched their concentration to critiquing the conduct of the war and the occupation, and specifically it’s lack of planning.

There’s this thing called reality. Sometimes, politicians have to acknowledge that the Govt has done something stupid, but it’s too late to stop it.

Attacking someone for a realistic appraisal of a situation is an interesting approach, but it’s also a bloody stupid one. Feel free to continue in the belief that a perfect world solution can be created regardless of circumstance though.

I’m an anarchist and fairly viscerally hostile to Trotskyism, but I have no experience whatsoever with the British SWP or their internal politics, aside from being a fairly regular reader (if not necessarily agreer) of lenin’s, so I won’t comment on the debates that started this thread. (I do have some experience with a single US SWP-er in person back when I with the IWW; one other in electronic form, later on; and I’m now a regular synopsizer of books from Pathfinder Press (the US SWP press). The first was a loon, the second was reasonable, and the books are usually interesting, often valuable, even when I have my disagreements with them. So I won’t speak to the US SWP, with only that anecdotal evidence.

But I have to say that lenin is 100% correct that Palestine should have been included in the STW marches. Anything else would have been reprehensible and would have abandoned any sincere anti-imperialist analysis of US policy in the Middle East. If it were up to me, I would have scheduled anti-Saudi, anti-Jordan, anti-Egypt speeches as well, since those regimes are also part and parcel, but I recognize that the immediacy of the situation w/ Palestine, then and now, gives it quite a bit of priority.

Would those insisting that Palestine should have been out of the STW marches agree that people against US bombings in Pakistan shouldn’t bring that issue up at anti-Afghan war rallies?

If the SWP really was the only ones pushing for justice for the Palestinians, which I rather doubt, than they were right.

I’m a trade union rep who’s been narked on many a march by the SWP, and StW, shouting slogans that aren’t relevant to the issue at hand. If I’m marching during a day of industrial action I’d rather not be in the company of people shouting about stopping a war. Get your own bleedin’ march.

Having said that, SWP folk are some of the most committed and active I know. I count many among my friends and respect them. UAF would be a shadow of itself if it weren’t for the SWP. It would be nice if the SWP stopped hijacking other peoples’ events though.

‘I’m a trade union rep who’s been narked on many a march by the SWP, and StW, shouting slogans that aren’t relevant to the issue at hand. If I’m marching during a day of industrial action I’d rather not be in the company of people shouting about stopping a war. Get your own bleedin’ march.’

Also, not a good idea to stand outside the BBC waving a Stop the War banner in protest against Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time.

“Once a war has actually started and troops are engaged, it’s very difficult to pull out and stop it. Which is why Kennedy, and other opponents, instead switched their concentration to critiquing the conduct of the war and the occupation, and specifically it’s lack of planning”
-MatGB

So am I to understand that had the assault on Iraq gone “perfectly” then their earlier objections (if we may call them thus) would have melted away? I wonder how history would have judged say, a German high official modifying his principled moral objections to the Third Reich’s conduct of the Second World War as conditions evolved over time? No serious objections (given “reality”) to the quick conquest of Poland but gnashing of teeth over the difficulties at Stalingrad (such horrid planning).

A few points. Firstly I thought this thread would turn into a car-crash but it’s been surprisingly civil.

A point made above by Splintered Sunrise:
Richard knows this, and while he’s doing a sterling job defending the SWP’s record he is sharp enough and honest enough to admit that the party’s track record is not unproblematic. I have no particular brief for the SWP, but they are (in general, not all the time) a bit less inclined to do the Chief Wiggum act these days.

They also have an admirable record of rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in, even if they sometimes do make a balls of things. I have much less patience for the kind of people who like to fantasise about their ideal antiwar movement – apparently one with no Trots or Muslims involved – but who were much too busy to, y’know, do anything themselves.

I agree with both points, but as J Alfred Prufrock points out at #47 – the SWPers got into bed with people they didn’t know so well.

Look, no one is objecting to organising the marches along with Muslim groups, but I get the feeling you folks didn’t really know the fractious politics of the Muslim groups and once that started coming out – a massive civil war broke out as people started digging their heels in.

At one point Richard was constantly having goes at me ,and vice versa, on the issue. Now of course I think the situation has moved too far in the other direction, with people churning out Islamists from every bed.

But the point is – the anti-war organisers made a series of blunders that made most people look at them as some SWP/MAP alliance that they increasingly got turned off from.
And Jo isn’t the only one to say that – a lot of my friends and I also stopped going for the same reason. You ended up listening to the same stump speeches by bloody George Galloway and some MAB/MCB twat who didn’t know civil liberties and feminism if it hit them in the face. Ergo – the feminists, trade unionists and centre-lefties got turned off.

Other criticisms have also been made of how the SWP likes to own all events it takes part in (I cant comment, I’ve not been affected by it) or likes to go heavy on the branding. I think those are legitimate criticisms that need to be taken into account.

But I think this comment above is spot on by Dr Zen:

This is how you guys come across to less committed types. You seem to be fiercely doctrinaire and exclusive. And when an event seems to be propelled by SWP, it seems that joining it is signing up to every item of a particular agenda, not all of which is going to have broad appeal. This is actually the message that commenters here are conveying to you.

Yes and yes.

But if we are to look forward: this is the important bit:

Richard, the chances of effecting change through a revolution are vanishingly small, but it can be made incrementally by the left as a whole. You need liberals to empower you, in much the same way the fascists need the softer right. You don’t have to love them.

I keep saying this to hard-lefties to no avail.

The revolution ain’t happening tomorrow. In fact the country has moved right-wing on economic issues while we’re too busy fucking fighting.

Once the Tories come into power it’ll be frightening to see how organised and disciplined they will be.

And I don’t mean the govt – I actually mean grassroots Tories who will exert the sort of influence on Cameron that the Left could never exert on Tony Blair.

This is the argument I’m trying to make in the Mission statement series on LC – it’s time the left stopped in-fighting, got a bit more cohesive, accepted mistakes were made, and think about the fights of the future.

We need the people who roll up their sleeves, we need the workers, the agitators, the students, the feminists, environmentalists and even… (shock horror!) meeja types like myself who will fight for and defend the left in the media. There should be space for all types of people to contribute in different ways.

Also – MatGB at #67 is spot on. Sometimes it isn’t just a matter of what you want but also what is realistically doable given the circumstances.

Lastly, apologies if I sound like I want everyone to sit around and sing khumbaya. It’s one of those days.

I have to disagree @22 with the idea that UAF have ”been highly effective in leading against the EDL.”

I don’t think that the EDL should be countered in that way ….. with shouts of ”nazi scum off our streets” and winding up local muslim lads to the point of violence.

Silent protests and a bit of handing out of leaflets and just talking to people would be better IMO, and would’t look so middle class and studenty.

Outside the BBC when Griffin was on Question Time it looks like they are just being a pain in the arse, and wasting police time and resources.
”Police protect the nazis” the chant as they surge against the police. And ”shame on you” (to the police). Shame on them for that behavior I think.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpXfR5uPRbI
See @ 2 minutes in.

And finally, I don’t think it was right to try to get Simone Clarke sacked from her job as a ballet dancer because she had been outed as a BNP member.
http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/article.php?article_id=10483

75. Golden Gordon

I’m not with Nick Cohen on a lot of his attempts to denigrate the left, but the SWP – by and lareg, not everybody – are a kind of cohort of scriptwriters for Cohen. He exaggerates the left, but his book What’s Left did not exaggerate the Swappy central committee. And this is stuff they have in print. Having been a member of the SWP in a previous time I’ve had many conversations with people bending over backwards to justify the actions of the Taliban – much in the same vein as is detailed in this letter published by Sunny a while ago [http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/5582].
Spot on

I’m happy for the SWP to dissolve in to thin air.
I’m not because elements will creep back the Labour Party and this will be birthday present and Christmas present rolled into one for conservative agent provocateurs like Cohen and Bright

76. Golden Gordon

Silent protests and a bit of handing out of leaflets and just talking to people would be better IMO, and would’t look so middle class and studenty.

You right but humour is better tool.

77. Hoping not hating

StWC excluded Hands Off the People of Iran, which is run by left-wing Iranian opposition activists, on the SWP/Respect’s insistence because it would upset their jihadist allies who worship the Ayatollahs. The SWP made a Faustian pact with some religious fascists that alienated the prorgressive left and fractured the anti-war movement.

Now it is imposing its methods on anti-fascist activism in UAF and alienating a whole load of genuine grassroots non-left people who just want to resist the BNP in their communities. We used to get the embarrassing SWP goons turn up waving placards and screaming abuse under a UAF banner, only to piss off back to the safety of their university campus – that was the extent of their involvement in anti-fascist activism in my community. Instead, many people decided to excluse the SWP-run UAF and instead work with the more sensible Hope not Hate, which the SWP also bullied out of the UAF just as it bullied HOPI out of th StWC. Leading SWP members should be excluded from running any progressive coalition because they have demonstrated they are untrustworthy, divisive and destructive.

I don’t care who I work with. I’d work with Trots or Tories, provided they are united in a single aim and not pushing their agenda. It isn’t jealousy or sectarianism that gets people’s backs up, it’s the dictatorial nature of the SWP exerting itself over others. But the SWP are simply unwilling to listen to anyone else or regard partners outside their organisation as equals. Fuck them. We don’t have to take their shit. If the SWP dies off, I and many others will dance on its grave. The sooner it dies, the easier it will be to build a unifying anti-fascist force that can challenge the BNP. They need to die off pretty soon because in Barking there is a very real danger that Nick Griffin will be elected.

Sunny H @72:
the anti-war organisers made a series of blunders that made most people look at them as some SWP/MAP alliance
Other criticisms have also been made of how the SWP likes to own all events it takes part in
Aren’t these somewhat mutually exclusive? I realise you’re not making the second point, but would it be fair to say that the SWP is damned if it does, and damned if it doesn’t?

A quick thought on this thread from someone who is not even in Britian, let alone the SWP.
A lot of people seem to be saying that they would prefer it if the SWP were not involved in a whole series of the campaigns, on the grounds that they disagree with one or another of the SWP’s positions, or their approach to the campaign.
It’s valid to criticise the approach of groups to campaigns, and it’s valid to criticise the positions those groups take within campaigns. However the immediate question that springs to mind is has there been other campaigns in the last few years more (both numerically and politically) successful than the stop the war coalition or unite against fascism etc that have not involved the SWP?
The logical conclusion of the arguments against the SWP is that they should withdraw from all movements. Would these movements be more successful without their involvement? are there any examples in recent years?
A lot of the posts here have claimed that it has been the SWP that has destroyed or seriously damaged movements, and I can’t for the life of me think of a movement in Britain that proves as much, but I’m a long way away from England. If it’s simply that people disagree with the positions they have put within the campaigns then, like every campaign, it will come down to who can win the argument and hence the vote. If you can’t win the vote then it’s idiotic to demand that your political foes withdraw from the campaign, as that would mean the majority of the campaign withdrawing.

80. Hoping not hating

John: It is not because of the SWP that a movement is large, it is despite the SWP. The SWP will latch on parasitically to anything that is succeeding and bleed it dry. In my community, a diverse group of residents – including faith groups, residents association types, etc – got together to oppose the BNP. It was succeeding, then the SWP/UAF turned up with their own brand of politics, confrontational style and shouty people who cast aspersions on anyone they deemed too middle-class. They did their crazy placard stuff in our town, which was completely out of character with the community, and the BNP was delighted and used it to take on the mantle of a group bullied by the Marxist elite just for being patriotic and all that crap. As a result, the SWP/UAF was quietly excluded and not invited to any more meetings, although some non-SWP members of UAF from the town continued to be involved in an INCLUSIVE campaign run by all sorts of people. We organised with the help of Hope not Hate, who were supportive not domineering, and we’ve successfully and quietly and without the usual SWP hue and cry and egg-throwing managed to get three BNP councillors democratically voted out of office. Anti-fascist activism is much better off, in my opinion, without SWP involvement. That should be a lesson to everyone – don’t let SWPers take roles simply because they talk a lot and have the time, get people from the community involved.

Part of the criticism of the SWP seems to be disingenuous and motivated by a desire to undermine a (relatively) successful rival (the crude anti-SWP /UAF sectarianism of Hoping not Hating especially). Another part seems to come from people who have basic disagreements with the SWP’s politics but don’t have the arguments to counter them, so resort to superficial criticism of methods or individual conduct.

It seems to me that the real problem comes from the fact that the SWP, unlike many of the smaller political sects, engages with the real world and tries to work with real political forces who share only a part of its analysis. It’s a lot easier to engage in pure political propaganda for socialism or for an ideal progamme. Or you can take part in solidarity work and so-called ‘single issue’ movements (anti-war, Palestine, antiracist, anticlimate change or whatever) without trying to convince people that these issues are all linked and that the only ultimate solution is radical system change, That way you don’t make any enemies, but nothing fundamentally changes either.

Genuine revolutionary socialists, as opposed to the sectarians in the strict sense of the word, try to build and work through united fronts (to use the Trotskyist jargon) whenever possible, because it doesn’t believe in preaching only to the converted, and knows that they are too weak to shift the balance of forces in the short term on their own. But it also has a long-term objective, which is overthrowing the capitalist system and replacing it with one wholly owned and controlled by ordinary working people. They also know that persuading people of the latter is far easier when you are fighting side-by-side with them, rather than just holding meetings or writing articles containing all the ‘revealed’ Marxist truth.

In united front work it’s extraordinarily difficult to get the balance right, and very easy to make mistakes, either through over enthusiasm or excessive caution. So it’s interesting that the SWP is often criticised (from the right) for raising ‘irrelevant’ political issues in ‘single issue’ campaigns, when of course it’s not hard to see that several issues are linked, and that the problem cannot be solved by partial measures. At the same time it is criticised (from the ultra-left) for inviting New Labour ministers, LibDem MPs, conservative TU leaders or religious leaders who have reactionary ideas on certain subjects, or for watering down its socialist programme (witness the debate in Respect about ‘socialism’ versus ‘reformist demands’).

Now clearly trying to resolve such contradictions in the interest of building the broadest possible movement, but one that is also effective, is going to involve you in all sorts of situations where errors are possible and you will lose friends. How to build an antiwar movement without involving Muslim groups, some of whom (not all) may have opinions you don’t share ? It’s been tried here in France, which is why we don’t have an antiwar movement. How to build an antifascist movement which takes into account both the anger and frustration of black and Muslim youth, and the genuine antiracism of middle-class, liberal, Christian or pacifist groups ?

In such a situation, when things go wrong or the movement declines, a group like the SWP will be attacked from all sides, in a sort of unholy alliance from right and left.

Of course, this is not to say that there aren’t problems with the SWP’s approach. Sometimes form is as important as content. For example, there is nothing wrong in my opinion with selling papers, advertising your presence or trying to recruit to your organisation, as long as you’re also doing the legwork of building the united front, canvassing, turning out to meetings on cold winter evenings on housing estates etc. Personally I don’t see the point of a political organisation that doesn’t do these things. You join a political organisation because you believe it has correct (but certainly not all the correct) answers to the problems we are facing, so you go out and try to convince others to join you.

But of course it does matter how you do things, and anybody (myself included) who is convinced he is right on a particular issue, or on the overall analysis, has a tendency to ignore other people’s feelings or doubts. Which is why I think debates such as these are important, as long as they don’t degenerate into slanging matches.

To those who are complaining about the presence of SWP placards at protests – that was one (among many) of the reasons I joined back in the late 1990s. As a student I began attending protests and looking for a political home, and noticed the presence of SWP members and placards. It showed me that they were (are) well organised, committed and serious. This was at a time when I considered myself to be an anarchist and was pretty hostile to leninism, but it was one thing that certainly impressed me and it certainly didn’t cross my mind that they were trying to hijack anything or that they should be excluded. Surely the point of any protest is to mobilise the biggest number of people and the widest spectrum of forces possible (barring fascists of course) – it seems pretty childish and disingenuous to criticise the SWP for mobilising its members and providing placards at its own expense. I can’t help thinking it is not much more than sour grapes on the part of people who are themselves more interested in dominating things and who have difficulty tolerating differing opinions, but that is just, like, my opinion.

I think it is also rather silly to accuse the SWP of hijacking or “latching on” to any movements it is involved in. Most of these movements have had SWP involvement from the start, particularly the Anti Nazi League (as was), UAF and Stop the War Coalition. My argument above applies here too.

Colin Falconer @81

What he said!

“Once a war has actually started and troops are engaged, it’s very difficult to pull out and stop it. Which is why Kennedy, and other opponents, instead switched their concentration to critiquing the conduct of the war and the occupation, and specifically it’s lack of planning”
-MatGB

I’m not a military man, but I don’t see why it would be so difficult – most troops these days go into battle in vehicles equipped with radio, or even have their own communications headsets, so it should be fairly easy to pass on the order to retreat. If they were engaged in a heavy firefight then they must be able to withdraw in a defensive posture, but the Iraqi armed forces had already been pulverised by the 1991 war and the intermittent aerial bombardment since then. For the reasons above it is even easier to withdraw aircraft from battle. Maybe it would have been difficult, but that is no reason not to do something if it is the right thing to do. Imagine the effect if Kennedy had used his position to call for a general strike against the war while it was going on – it would have caused a political earthquake in Britain, and if it had led to the immediate withdrawal of UK troops it would have seriously scuppered the whole war on terror. Which would have been a very good thing in my opinion.

The third paragraph of my earlier post got grammaticllay mangled (by me) so here is the correct version :

// Genuine revolutionary socialists, as opposed to the sectarians in the strict sense of the word, try to build and work through united fronts (to use the Trotskyist jargon) whenever possible, because they don’t believe in preaching only to the converted, and know that they are too weak to shift the balance of forces in the short term on their own. But they also have a long-term objective, which is overthrowing the capitalist system and replacing it with one wholly owned and controlled by ordinary working people. They also know that persuading people of the latter is far easier when you are fighting side-by-side with them, rather than just holding meetings or writing articles containing all the ‘revealed’ Marxist truth. //

23. MoreMediaNonsense:
“Also its one thing being against the war in Iraq but being equally against the campaign against the Taliban will get you nowhere with the Centre-Left, and your attempts to characterise the war in Afghanistan as “imperialist” are nauseating to most people.”

The Stop the War Coalition was set up in September 2001 to protest against the looming “War on Terror” in general, but in particular against the invasion of Afghanistan that autumn. In the first two months of its existence, it organised, in conjunction with CND, two marches against the invasion, both of which were enormous by the standards of the time (50,000 and 100,000 respectively). At the time Iraq was hardly being mentioned by anyone, although it was certainly at the back of the minds of many of us at the time. The occupation of Afghanistan certainly got eclipsed by Iraq for a few years, but Stop the War consistently raised the issue throughout this time. Global public opinion has consistently opposed keeping troops in Afghanistan for at least the last three years (see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_public_opinion_on_the_war_in_Afghanistan and here: http://pewglobal.org/database/?indicator=9&survey=8&response=Keep%20troops%20in%20Afghanistan&mode=chart). Perhaps most people don’t think of it in terms of being “imperialist” or not, but I suspect most of them would not find the idea nauseating, especially in the light of the lamentably corrupt Karzai puppet government, and the fact that the the resistance/insurgency/taliban (please choose term to taste) seems to be gaining strength and spreading to new areas of the country. In fact I suspect many people would find it nauseating that there are people who do NOT describe this slaughter as nauseating.

One other thing – you seem to imply that opposition to the war in Afghanistan means support for the Taliban. Does this mean that opposition to the war in Iraq meant support for Saddam, or al-Qaida in Iraq? No I didn’t think so.

Ben @ 84

Oh, it would be physically possible to withdraw all troop having crossed the line, and given the state of technology, it would be possible to do so without too many casualties.

Then what?

I took the principle, at the time, that Hussein was an evil vicious tyrant, but that a war to “liberate” Iraq was badly timed, being justified for the wrong reasons, and being done by the wrong people. I opposed the war on those grounds.

I acknowledge there are those that oppose all wars regardless, a position I can respect but disagree with, and there are those who actually thought Hussein was a good ruler (“I salute your indefatigability” or whatever it was Gorgeous said).

If you’re in one of those two broad camps, this point won’t resonate, but for me, the invasion was a bad idea, badly planned and badly timed. But once it had actually happened, a withdrawal would give Hussein victory over “The West”, and he could have claimed leadership of the anti-western elements across the arab/muslim world.

Going in, then withdrawing, would have been far far worse. I don’t think we should have gone in, and supported Charles in the stance he took. I think he explained it badly, but there are always going to be those, especially it seems in the SWP supporting elements, who will never, ever, want to credit anyone else with having a valid position that on their side on a given issue.

If “our side” is always against war, ever, or support Hussein as someone standing up to imperialism, or whatever, then CK was never on it. And neither was I.

But he (and I) was opposed to the war, and to misrepresent him in any way as favouring it is blatently not true.

Rojo @ 68

If you are talking about the actual American SWP, it is not directly related to the British SWP. The closest organisation to the British SWP tradition in the USA at the moment is the International Socialist Organisation (ISO) which until about 11 years ago was the sister organisation of the British SWP in the USA. The two had disagreements and split, and in the meantime I believe there was a looser grouping called “Left Turn” in the US which maintained links with the British SWP. I have also heard rumours that the ISO and SWP (UK) are talking to each other again. The SWP (USA) was set up in the 1930s and hence predates the entire SWP (UK) – tendency, although they both come from trotskyist roots they have different lineages and analysis. For further information please watch “The Life of Brian”.

There are a few new visitors on this thread yesterday/today, mainly in defence of the SWP. It would be interesting to note whether they revisit to discuss other topics…

The SWP is mercenary in its use of popular campaigns to promote itself rather than the cause. Groups like the Anti Nazi League did not die because there were no UK Nazis; they died because the SWP had no utility for them. Nazis reformed in new organisations that did not appear on the street; they met clandestinely and made letter bombs to post to Jews. The SWP’s simplistic analysis was that pushing Nazis off the streets became an ANL success.

There will be analogies in anti war campaigns and trades union disputes; the SWP disappear when there is nothing in it for them.

Inevitably, there will be more wars, different Nazis and union disputes. Equally inevitably, there will be a campaign group in opposition. Historically, campaign groups have been led by the SWP and/or CPGB (showing my age), and they have held their arms open to any sympathiser; this boosts the numbers on petitions and marches in the early days; then they close in and eliminate independent thinkers by boredom and procedure; a few red carpet muppets fail to comprehend that the organisation has been hijacked.

WE do not have to repeat the past.

@62 Mike: “You may not have noticed, but Charles managed to burn those bridges quite nicely as soon as the invasion happened…”

Try a different analogy: my boss told me to do something which is really stupid; I could resign and my role will be replaced by somebody with less knowledge; so I’ll do the job, because the consequences are worse otherwise.

MatGB @ 87

I do not think that Charles Kennedy supported the war, and genuinely believe he saw things as you have explained. I’m sorry if my comments have indicated otherwise, but I don’t think they have.

Fair enough we probably had differing reasons to oppose the war, but then that is the whole point of having a united front/coalition, as it enabled us to take collective action on an issue we agreed on, even though we probably disagree on many or indeed most other things.

However I believe his course of action once the war began was mistaken, and think he, being the leader of the third largest party in the UK, was in the position of being able to continue uncompromising opposition and of seriously undermining the war effort, had he and his party wanted to. Such action may well have saved countless lives and given the UK more prestige than a thousand victorious wars could bring. I think at the time there would have been at least a significant minority of the UK population who would have supported strikes or mass direct action or something along those lines – perhaps that is wishful thinking on my part but we will never know now.

For the record I don’t think I fall into either of the two camps you describe – of course like any human being I think that all war is bad, but I realise that in some limited circumstances (for example self defence or national liberation) it can be necessary. And I don’t think that Saddam was a good ruler – in fact I think very few people did, not even Galloway. In fact he was protesting against Saddam around about the same time that Donald Rumsfeld was visiting him to sell him chemical weapons and intelligence to support his war with Iran, which brings me to one of the main reasons I opposed the war – if it was about liberating Iraq why did we support him before 1990, and why not “liberate” Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Palestine while we’re at it? Because it had nothing to do with promoting democracy, and everything to do with extending western, and particularly US, dominance of an oil rich region. That’s my opinion in a nutshell, but of course I could go into a lot more detail on why “we” should stop interfering with other countries and get our own house in order (and on how to define “we”) but I fear I may end up spending all evening typing this!

Some observations from Workers Power here:

http://www.workerspower.com/index.php?id=47,2279,0,0,1,0

Is this a parody of a Soviet apparatchik?

Heh, Ben, I think in answering you I may’ve vented a bit of frustration with others in the thread (and previously on this site and elsewhere) who perpetually trot out the “he supported the war once it started” line and then say things like “you should vote for us, we’re genuinely anti-war, the Lib Dems were just lying” (that’s not a copy and paste from the Green party website, but it’s close enough). So apologies.

I think, overall, we’re in agreement with our opposition; I personally supported the intervention in Afghanistan, despite it being led by Bush, simply because I’d been arguing we should’ve been supporting the opposition forces for ages–destabilising a country like that and funding a long, vicious civil war may’ve been good realpolitik during the Cold War (I’m not convinced), but leaving them to it afterwards was just wrong.

I think though that it is wishful thinking on your part, and I’m also not sure that Kennedy would’ve been in a position to do as you suggest anyway–it would’ve been an incredibly brave thing for a party leader to do, and very very risky; regretably, the whole party wasn’t fully behind him on the issue anyway, there’re still those who thought deposing Hussein was worth it.

I’d’ve rather kept the forces in reserve to both press the issue fully in Afghanistan, which remains a mess, and to be able to react to other problems if/when they came up–we could, and I think should, have been in a position to help in Burma when the hurricane hit a few years back, but all our resources were tied up elsewhere.

Ah well, c’est la vie. All we can hope now is we learn from the mistakes made. The track record of UK politics is that this won’t happen, but there’s always a chance.

Tom. No, sorry, no parody, Richard is 100% serious in his post. The wonder of this site is it opens your mind to other worldviews. This, however, is one I still can’t quite understand.

@Charlieman

“Groups like the Anti Nazi League did not die because there were no UK Nazis; they died because the SWP had no utility for them. Nazis reformed in new organisations that did not appear on the street; they met clandestinely and made letter bombs to post to Jews. The SWP’s simplistic analysis was that pushing Nazis off the streets became an ANL success.”

I think you actually manage to make several political mistakes in a single sentence. If the ANL “died” as you say because the SWP decided to prioritise other activities, then it clearly no longer had any mass base. It’s not that the ANL no longer had any “utility” for the SWP, but that – temporarily at least – there was no basis for the sort of mass actions that the ANL was set up to organise. .

As you say, the Nazis reformed, and a section of their supporters decided to engage in clandestine and violent activity. The SWP always said that, if the Nazis suffered a defeat on the streets and in elections, there was a danger of this happening. And in any case, the fact that they had lost a battle did not mean that the threat had disappeared or that they wouldn’t be capable of staging a comeback, given for example a new economic crisis. The ANL could only deal with the symptoms – as long as the underlying causes (poverty, crisis, racism – in short, capitalism) existed the threat of fascism remained real.

So yes, pushing the Nazis off the streets was an ANL success. And no, this does not in any way justify the idea that the SWP had a simplistic analysis. And the SWP continued to argue against and expose racism whenever it reared its head, adapting its analysis to new situations (the rise of islamophobia, for example).

Of course, this doesn’t mean that mistakes weren’t made. Launching or supporting united front campaigns is a matter of timing and using scarce human and financial priorities. But the idea that the success or failure of united front campaigns is determined by what the SWP decides at a particular moment in time not only hugely exaggerates the strength and importance of the SWP, it also smacks of conspiracy theory.

96. Hoping not hating

“Part of the criticism of the SWP seems to be disingenuous and motivated by a desire to undermine a (relatively) successful rival (the crude anti-SWP /UAF sectarianism of Hoping not Hating especially).”

That’s crap. I am not a member of any rival group of the SWP. I couldn’t care less about these ideological movements. I just think that people should work together and not seek to dominate. All the SWP knows is how to dominate and it really pisses people off. Everyone outside the SWP, ie 99.9% of the population, knows this. They are not interested in a meta-analysis that invariably involves debating the Russian revolution and the nuances of Karl Marx or the rest of them. When you are dealing with a community resisting fascists, the last thing many people are interested in is having a lecture on revolutionary socialism and the Nth Socialist International. It just doesn’t work in the real world, because in the real world people don’t view themselves as revolutionary agents but people with problems they are trying to work out. And maybe, if you chat with them about your ideas instead of lecture, they might be won over. But if you are just trying to run the show for a revolutionary cause, it is the best way to break unity and alienate people. As far as I am concerned, I prefer to be on the margins of organisation, help out where I can and do my bit, but I’m fucked if I’m going to have a party political moron tell me what to believe and what to do, as the SWP does. And really, that’s how normal people feel.

In my town, we have an Alliance for Green Socialism group and while I’m not interested in joining them, they are trying to get people engaged without lecturing at them through their democratic forum. The have hold a debate on privatisation of the local health service and people put forward their views, which are respected and a motion is agreed. No-one is asked to join or sign up to their ideology and people who disagree respect each other without rancour. It is quite different from any meeting I’ve had where the SWP determine who speaks and what motion is carried. It is a conversation, instead of a party line being set down. If you cannot understand where the SWP is going wrong, then you are socially inept like the SWPers and you will get nowhere.

You know, it is not just rivalry that drives people to hate the SWP, there is substance to it. If the SWP does not respect people who disagree with it, it does not deserve respect. As I said, there were some Iranian leftists who tried to join the StWC and they were refused because it upset the SWP’s Islamic extremist allies, even though those leftists opposed war against Iran. I think that says everything about the SWP and its fronts. And I won’t get involved in anything tainted by those bastards.

#96 strikes a chord. I’ve been in meetings where people saying very sensible things have been shouted down purely because they’re Socialist Party rather than Socialist Workers Party. I know this behaviour isn’t restricted to the SWP though.

Speaking as a relative newbie to all this I’m staggered that people who agree on so much can spend so much time arguing over so little.

Where’s the bigger picture? Isn’t there an anti-fasch, anti-privatisation, anti-war struggle to be getting on with?

98. Hoping not hating

Dave P: It’s a case of in one ear and out the other with the SWP lot. Is there any point saying anything to them? They’ll do what they want regardless of what anyone else thinks, so the best thing to do is keep them at arm’s length. The trouble is that people have been lazy enough to let the SWP run things and then when it’s too late find that the SWP has gutted and bled dry any useful group for its own benefit. The trick is to keep it local, keep it tolerant and keep it broad based. That way, we can resist all the bad stuff: war, fascism, job losses, etc.

Hoping not hating, as I said earlier in this comment thread I do actually like, and admire, pretty much all of the SWP folk I’ve met. Most of the activism I’ve been involved in has been helped, rather than hindered, by their involvement. I just wish the organisation itself would chill out a bit.

100. Hoping not hating

Dave P: Whenever I’ve spoken to SWPers, I get the kind of sinking feeling I get when a salesman is pressuring me into buying double-glazing. My initial interest is being pounded to death by a hard-sell revolutionary theory and my boredom is soon followed by irritation, until I just walk away. As I say, I like to just muck in with things rather than do committees and hierarchies. As soon as it becomes a front or a party line I have to follow, I walk away. I’ve not met anyone who has addressed a meeting as an SWP member who has not bored and irritated me with their party political broadcast.

Did you see the Tower Blocks of Commons when that BNP councillor started lecturing at a meeting of council tenants campaigning to have their block of flats demolished? The guy started shouting “I’m telling you as it is, I am telling you the truth, listen to me.” The BNP councillor was behaving exactly like an SWP official. The tenants eventually kicked him out of the meeting saying they hated his politics and wanted people to listen to them, not shout at them. The LibDem MP Mark Oaten helped organise the meeting and while my view of him has been dim, it was refreshing to see him let the people get on with things, not even intervening when the fascist was shouting. That’s the politics I like, not some shouty party moron. Politics should be about facilitating and empowering, not demanding and leading. Is this making any sense?

Aye, it’s making sense to me. I must say though that I don’t find individual SWPers to be too heavy, but that could be because I generally meet them through union activity where, I suppose, we’ve got other things to be discussing. It possibly helps that, upon being introduced to SWPers, I start the conversation by pointing out I ain’t a member, I ain’t joining and I ain’t going to be buying their bloody paper. I think that gets things off to an appropriate start.

That was a smashing TV moment. I almost got goosebumps. Not quite but it was close.

102. Hoping not hating

I guess now that the SWP has retreated it can lick its wounds and contemplate exactly why it gets so much criticism and maybe much of the criticism is not simply down to sectarianism but reflects the frustrations and unease of people outside that party. If there was less control freakery and ideology pushing, people would not be so bothered. This is not an argument about ideology or what Trotsky meant and what Lenin intended. On the whole, people are not arguing with the SWP on these points. It is largely their undemocratic tactics as a party that really get people’s backs up and their refusal to take on board what people like me and you say. The recent splits within Respect and now the SWP are also about the SWP as a party organisation, not its ideology. How do you get it through to them? I don’t think you can. They don’t want to listen. So the answer is, sadly for your SWP friends who may be far more genuine than their leaders, is to exclude the SWP entirely and/or not get involved in organisations they have any degree of control over. We can do anti-fascist activism without the SWP-controlled UAF around and in my community we’ve done this very successfully and the BNP is being beaten back by the people who know the community with none of the rent-a-mob around.

It seems to me that the real problem comes from the fact that the SWP, unlike many of the smaller political sects, engages with the real world and tries to work with real political forces who share only a part of its analysis. It’s a lot easier to engage in pure political propaganda for socialism or for an ideal progamme. Or you can take part in solidarity work and so-called ’single issue’ movements (anti-war, Palestine, antiracist, anticlimate change or whatever) without trying to convince people that these issues are all linked and that the only ultimate solution is radical system change,

That sounds vrey worthy on paper, but it is unfortunately not linked to this thing called reality. If the big STW march was really about the interconnectedness of all things Middle East, I’d have expected to see some plackards declaring things like “Britain – You Screwed Up the Mandate!”, or “Retract the Balfour Declaration!”. Or at least “Stop Military Aid to Israel”. Instead I spent the march sandwiched between those hideous posters of dead babies and a group of youths shouting “Deth to the Jews!” into a megaphone (in Arabic, so as not to upset the nice Oxford CND ladies behind us).

The reality is that Israel/Palestine ot the British Left is what abortion is to the American right – a quasy-religious article of abhorrence, with anyone falling on the “wrong” side and failing to declare the correct level of objection being classified as an enemy. I remember back in 2001, there were these A4 posters plastered all over Oxford, pleading “Don’t Bomb Bosnia” and in a little inset at the bottom “Free Palestine”. The breakup of Yugoslavia and the post-intifada oppression of the Palestinians is causally related only in the sense that Israelis and Serbs breathe the same air, so we may as well protest both by holding our breath until we’re blue in the face. But this lack of logic never seemed to bother anyone much.

As an aside, this “it’s all awfully complicated donchuknow, you couldn’t possibly have a valid opinion about it, we’re the guardians of understanding what really goes on in the Middle East” doesn’t do the far left any favours either.

104. Hoping not hating

MarinaS: The SWP doesn’t try to create a causal link between different issues with statements such as “Don’t bomb Iran! Stop privatisation!” or “Free Palestine! Save the NHS!” Actually, these are not SWP slogans, but similar placards are waved on demonstrations just to muddy the issues we’re campaigning on. But none of this really matters to me. I’m quite happy to have people shouting whatever progressive slogans they want (“death to the Jews” is certainly not progressive and anyone shouting this should be thrown out – preferably with a hard and well-aimed punch in the chops and a good shove onto the pavement). The issue for me is not their slogans or their politics, but their actions with regards to people outside their party. That is what really upsets people. If they can just learn, for once, to take on board this criticism and when they get stuck into a campaign stay there for the long-haul and not exclude people, impose their agenda and ideas or use it as a recruiting forum, then no-one would have a great problem with them.

Really, among the far-left, there isn’t a great deal of bitchiness. There is disagreement, but not hatred. They are even able to get along with some Labour, LibDem and Green party activists when there is a common agenda. The exception is the SWP. And the SWP have to ask themselves why.

@95 Colin Falconer: “But the idea that the success or failure of united front campaigns is determined by what the SWP decides at a particular moment in time not only hugely exaggerates the strength and importance of the SWP, it also smacks of conspiracy theory.”

My argument has always been that the SWP is opportunistic rather than idealistic when selecting which campaigns to support. I agree that the SWP does not necessarily determine the fate of united front campaigns. The SWP gets stuck in at the beginning when a campaign looks like it will have mass support and bullies its way into dominance. And when the attendance at meetings reduces to SWP supporters and their unconvertible foes, they stop going. In the interim period the SWP eliminates all but the most robust by their bullying tactics.

Sticking it out against the SWP requires a cadre spirit that is absent from most political campaigners.

And it isn’t “conspiracy theory”. Conspiracy theory requires that a large number of people remain silent following their hypothetical covert operation. Ex-SWP members are not silent.

hoping not hating “and the swp have to ask themselves why?”
should the swp really spend it’s time wondering why people like this don’t like them? i suggest HNH goes back to trying to set up their impotent, apolitical, “community” (whatever that means) anti-fash group, and leave the real work to others.
it seems a lot of the hatred for the swp comes from bitter middle class liberals and others who would prefer every movement to reflect their front room after the latest wine party. this means no swp, fellowtravellers, muslims or anyone who consistently opposes imperialism instead of giving politically correct lip service to being against the war in iraq, while supporting the “good war”.
should different slogans be raised? hmmm, not if you want keep things narrow (probably for the purpose of controlling it yourself), and certainly not if you want to generalise politics. we should just let gay people fight for their rights, black for theirs, women have their own struggle, anti-war activists stuck to talking about the war, and whoever’s left can fight the bnp. cos at the end of the day, to link these struggles leads to one unavoidable conclusion – there is a common thread, namely capitalism. but ofcourse we don’t want to rock the posh coffee table too much, do we?
finally, all those placards are for beating you liberals round t’head with, cos after reading this rubbish it’s clear you need some sense knocking in to you.

“2 million on the streets means nothing cos of all those bloody placards and muslims!”

gracchus: I think that we all understand a bit more about the SWP. Thank you.

108. Hoping not hating

“i suggest HNH goes back to trying to set up their impotent, apolitical, “community” (whatever that means) anti-fash group, and leave the real work to others.”

How patronising, but typically SWP. Our community-level action involving all parties, all faith groups (Christians, Muslims and Jews working together) and individuals (many of them are members of the proletariat!) has managed to defeat three BNP councillors in the past year. Not one egg has been thrown, not one placard waved in people’s faces, not one mob organised and not one SWPer has provided their professional revolutionary services. Sorry if the success hasn’t brought forward the date of the forthcoming revolution, but some people have their minds on getting things done and achieving tangible gains instead of ramming an agenda down others’ throats. If that makes them ‘apolitical’ in your view (really, they are just not adopting your revolutionary strategies), then you’ll have to put up with it.

“finally, all those placards are for beating you liberals round t’head with, cos after reading this rubbish it’s clear you need some sense knocking in to you.”

Aha, the SWPer’s trademark tantrum against liberal conspirators and middle-class wine drinkers followed by silly half-hearted threats, which we all know you won’t carry out. Tell me, have you always been comfortable with everything central command has instructed you to do? Do you have a mind of your own, or are you a party political moron?

“when workers go on the strike the swp will always be there to help.”

Pull the other one. Remember the Lindsey strike? I recall the SWP parroting the line spewed by Labour, the EU and the employers. The SWP were useless during the miners’ strike too. A bunch of wanna-be islamists made up almost entirely of poly dropouts and low level civil servants.

Bill this is supposed to be a forum for serious debate, yet you insert one complete fabrication and make three completely unfounded and frankly silly allegations.

Assuming for the sake of argument that you are capable of using google, I suggest you search Socialist Worker for coverage of the Lindsey strike and you might find things like this: http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=18354

Are you seriously saying that this is parroting the line of Labour, the EU and the employers? Please remember we are referring to planet Earth before you reply to that.

As for the other allegations:

Completely useless during the miner’s strike? I’m afraid I was knee high to a grasshopper at the time so can’t comment, so please provide some evidence of this. If it helps you wikipedia has an outline of the concept of evidence here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence

A bunch of wannabe islamists? You mean because we oppose imperialist slaughter abroad and the scapegoating of ethnic minorities at home?

Made up almost entirely of poly dropouts and low level civil servants? So have you done a comprehensive sociological study of the SWP membership then?

By all means oppose and disagree with the SWP, but if you are doing so in a public forum it might help to put forward some reasoned assertions backed up by facts – i.e. present some real arguments. The ill conceived playground twaddle that you are displaying suggests a rather juvenile inability to deal with this, if not fraustration that you have lost the argument.

111. Hoping not hating

The UAF, which is controlled by the SWP for its own agenda, has supported the Iranian government-run Qods Day protests in London. UAF placards are paraded at demonstrations that have nothing to do with opposing fascism and everything to do with the SWP’s support for foreign fascist governments. What does it say to Jewish people who are targetted by antisemites in Britain when the UAF aligns with a government that supports the eradication of Israel, a state whose existence is supported by nearly all Jews? That’s why normal, ordinary people cannot join the UAF or any other SWP front. There’s never a debate, never a consensus, never a compromise, only the SWP’s interests count in SWP fronts. The UAF is already a failure because it is poisoned by the SWP.

Ben,

The following is a quote from a socialist worker article published at the time of the strike. I think it does little to support the claim that “when workers go on the strike the swp will always be there to help.”

“It’s right to demand that everyone is paid the proper rate for the job and that there’s no undercutting of national agreements. And we need militant action, including unofficial action, to win these demands. But these strikes are not doing that – whatever some of those involved believe. ”

http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=17004

113. Green Greenie

http://socialistresistance.org/?p=844

Good constructive critique of the SWP’s role in UAF from one of the most principled and least sectarian groups on the far left.

“A bunch of wannabe islamists?”

Lindsey German’s :shibboleths”,snuggling up to the MAB nutters, chanting Allahu Akhbar at rallies and the “We are all Hezbollah” business. Enough for you?

“chanting Allahu Akhbar at rallies”

I think you might want to check your sources on that. That’s a complete lie.

@Futurecast

Sorry old chap — I’ve heard your “cadres” doing just that at the Gaza protest.

117. frank ward

hear, hear.
I’m 58 years old and have heard little else but carping criticism from leftist sectarians and assorted ultra-leftists and anarchists whingeing about the SWP. In most cases, these same individuals have done little themselves for the benefit of the working class, preferring to plough their own barren furrow.
In fact my experience both inside and out of the SWP over 40 years is that it has tried at every opportunity to create a united left and has never sought to undermine efforts towards it.
Mistakes have been made along the way and some able members have themselves been sometimes alienated, but overall the SWP has remained a positive and essential bulwark for socialism.
And during the last miserable decades of defeat it has managed to survive and lead many important struggles.
The SWP can be proud of its history.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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    RT @pickledpolitics: 'In defence of the SWP' @leninology replies to @pennyred on whether the SWP still matters. http://bit.ly/bglRPr

  5. andrew

    Liberal Conspiracy » In defence of the SWP: Liberal Conspiracy. In defence of the SWP http://bit.ly/bglRPr · Jamie… http://bit.ly/9aJ632

  6. Liberal Conspiracy

    In defence of the SWP http://bit.ly/bglRPr

  7. JamieSW

    RT @pickledpolitics: 'In defence of the SWP' @leninology replies to @pennyred on whether the SWP still matters. http://bit.ly/bglRPr

  8. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by libcon: In defence of the SWP http://bit.ly/bglRPr

  9. Lenny vs Laurie « Shiraz Socialist

    […] of the Tomb takes the opportunity to offer a defence on the same site, and I’d have to say it’s one of his better efforts. I do, however, […]

  10. 3arabawy BookMarx 02/21/2010 (a.m.) « 3arabawy

    […] Liberal Conspiracy » In defence of the SWP […]

  11. Meascra na mblaganna « Splintered Sunrise

    […] Laurie Penny opinionates on destructive behaviour on the left, while that nice wee man Mr L Tombs responds with a defence of the SWP. Neither piece is unproblematic if you really want to pick at the […]

  12. >>Nostalgia For Infinity - Plurality is strength

    […] a comment thread over at Liberal Conspiracy, this remark from Sunny Hundal: We need the people who roll up their […]





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