Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Caught Fibbing

I've only just got round to reading the SWP's Pre-Conference Bulletin and this sentence from the Central Committee's 'Building the Party' spiel sprang out like a frog on a trampoline. Recalling the Lindsey Oil Refinery strikes early on in the year, our unknown scribbler writes
... the SWP was right to make a political stand against the slogan 'British Jobs for British Workers' adopted by sections of construction workers. We started out in a minority on this question but we won over serious sections of the working class. [Emphasis mine]
Oh really? Funny, I remember the Socialist Party getting stuck into the dispute and turning it away from dodgy, nationalist slogans. And what was the SWP doing? Tailing the bourgeois press and portraying the 'BJ4BW' slogan as the defining feature of the dispute. Meanwhile the antics of its keyboard warriors who interpreted the equivocal position of non-support as a green light to denounce the strikers as racists did the SWP's wider reputation in the labour movement no good at all.

It's just sad and a little bit pathetic that so-called revolutionaries feel the need to tell fibs to their own members.


skidmarx said...

Keep licking that toad. I recall SP members denying that noone was raising said slogan, when it would have taken raising Goebbels from the dead to have invented all the BJ4BW placards or the workers complaining about Gordon Brown just on that issue.

Meanwhile the antics of its keyboard warriors who interpreted the equivocal position of non-support as a green light to denounce the strikers as racists
Care to provide some examples. As I recall the SWP internetsies might have called the slogan racist(is it not?) may have objected to slurs on the Italian and other foreign workers (is that wrong?) but dissing the strikers as racists isn't quite the way I recall it. Put some quotes up and I'll try to find a slimy excuse for a different interpreation to yours.

Clearly there is a wide divergence in analysis of the dispute. But calling them a fibber band really isn't that helpful.

By the way, I can't get into Solomon's Mindfield anymore. Maybe your constant links have brought it down. This article doesn't help with your claim to be serious.

P said...

'those that back these strikes are playing with fire'

swp statement on the strikes.



Dave Semple said...

Skidmarx, even if everything you've said is correct, the hyperbole alone in the SWP conference document should be enough to make anyone with a brain wince. Not to mention being obviously nonsense.

As for SP members 'denying that noone was raising said slogan' [sic], Phil and I and plenty of other bloggers aligned with the SP were among those leading fullthroated defences of the Lindsey workers, under whatever slogan they were using.

It says something that an SP member was elected to the strike committee, and that the BNP were turned away from the picket lines by the workers.

(Incidentally, if you can't get into Solomon's Mindfield, Clare might have taken it down following her expulsion from the SWP)

Phil BC said...

Nice try at muddying the waters, Skidders.

But the point remains. The SWP were totally at sea over Lindsey. In the words of Sir Alan, "they hadn't got a bloody clue". Everyone on the left knows this, so why does the CC feel the need to tell fibs to its own members? It just makes them look stupid and dishonest.

On a side point, despite your spirited defence of the SWP, I understand you've not been a SWP member for some time. Care to share why?

Re Solomon's Mindfield, it's still up and Clare's plenty busy. You can view her blog here.

Anonymous said...

The Lindsey Strikes were one of a series of recent low points for the SWP. The 'playing with fire' statement shows just how out of touch they are.

The only other left group who took a battier position was Workers Power.

Simon said...

"The only other left group who took a battier position was Workers Power."

I'm pretty sure IBT and AWL took an equally batty position.

Phil BC said...

Yes ... didn't some in the AWL (not all, I recall most comrades had a sensible position) try picketing Unite's HQ? And The Commune turned up as the counter demo? Beautiful.

nationofduncan said...

Yes ... didn't some in the AWL (not all, I recall most comrades had a sensible position) try picketing Unite's HQ? And The Commune turned up as the counter demo? Beautiful.

The whole business involving about three people if I recall rightly. From three different organisations. I'm sure the workers at Lindsey appreciated the gesture.

Another one of the UK left's finest hours.

Phil BC said...

If this stuff didn't make me laugh I'd be in a pool of my own tears, despairing at the infantile state of the socialist movement in this country.

Alan said...

as soon as the cat got out of the bag that it was not somekind of nationalist Strike the media was fuck off as well.
And here for the great revolutionaries thinkers on the far left to think on,as soon as my work mates found out (as one put it" **** mob ")SP was leading the strike the party pofile when throw the roof .
But i think we ALL got bigger fish to fry now.

Anonymous said...

I visited Staythorpe during the dispute, the SWP didn't turn up for the first few protests but once their leadership decided that they would support the workers in dispute against their employers the SWP started sending paper sellers to the protests. Actions do often speak louder than words and this boycott says a lot for the SWP position on the issue.

The various statements by left groups on Lynsey were important as they defined the various groups on the left and the SWP were found seriously wanting! Wasn't it the reason the RMT didn't want them involved in the discussions about the euro elections?

skidmarx said...

Phil BC - I still don't see any evidence for your claim that SWP keyboard warriors denounced the strikers as racists. The last comment includes an admission that the SWP did come to support the dispute.
Dave Semple's line "under whatever slogan they were using" is an admission that BJ4BW did feature as a slogan.
Paul from Coventry - at most the plaing with fire quote might provide some evidence that the SWP was equivocal, it certainly doesn't indicate that anyone from the SWP denounced the strikers as racists.

More generally there are certain conditions that should be satified before you accuse the SWP of lying to its members. Primary among them is to show that what is being said is not an honestly held position,you may think it doesn't reflect reality, but to support an accusation of fibbing you should be able to show that the SWP leadership doesn't believe it. Secondarily the implication is that the membership of the SWP are sheep who are being fooled by a Machiavellian leadership.

I believe that Permanent Revolution had much the same position as the SWP on the strikes. I'm willing to be corrected on this.

If you don't like what you read in purloined internal bulletins, you don't have to read them, or splutter over them. It may be legitmate for you to point out to the SWP that you think they should be holding all their discussions in public, but it is not your business to insist that they do so. When the Militant was in the Labour Party, SWP members didn't go round telling anyone who would listen that you were really the RSL practising entryism, even though we all knew well that this was the case, and I think you should return the courtesy.

I don't particularly care to share personal details because of the way they are used to engage in personal vilification. But since you ask so nicely, I left because I didn't feel I was contributing at the time and had other things to do with my life, not because I had any political differences, and so tended to keep a default position that the SWP was right in its approach. A couple of years ago when I heard that a couple of my old comrades from Oxford branch had been expelled I found it important to investigate why, as although they and the SWP might both be wrong, they certainly couldn't both be right. I do feel that to maintain a poltical consistency it is important to belong to a serious revolutionary party, but I'm still not at a stage in my life where I wish to do that personally.

Andrew Coates said...

Maybe I am wrong, but does anyone remember the SWP turning anyone's ear on this issue, let alone winning anybody to whatever they were saying (which I barely remember0.

Callum said...

You may well be right in your criticisms of the Party's claims about its performance during and after the disputes. You may be right in claiming that its claims are extravagant and not in line with the facts.

But, then again, it's so depresing to see a usually intelligent socialist blogger engaging in the cheap, immature nonsense about "so-called revolutionaries".

What is the urge being communicated here? Isn't it the same petty, childish sectarianism you are constantly moaning about in your fine blog?

The SWP is clearly, even if you disagree with its ideas and conduct, as I know you do, a revolutionary socialist party. Or, at the very least, a party of revolutionary socialists.

The fact that you feel the need to insert a pathetic "so-called" before the word revolutionary signals that you are not quite as immune from sectarian pandering as perhaps you like to tell yourself.

The SWP does have a history of overstating its influence.

It is also true that other sections of the far-left have a history of behaving quite appallingly when it comes to their relationship with the biggest group of socialists in Britain.

andy newman said...

Martin Smith accepted as factually accurate the claim in the ACAS report that Italaian contractors were being paid the same as Britsh workers.

Even though ACAS admitted that they had not actually researched this, and were simply taking IREM's world for it.

GMB officials who attempted to speak to IREM in Sicilly were given the run aropund, and we beleive that what was actually happening was that the Italian workers were on the m=lump, and not paying tax or national insurance in any country, and that even then, their gross pay was less than britsh workers net pay.

Willingness to accept managements arguments in prefernece to the arguments of the unions and the strikers was a low point.

One GMB official opinied to me that it has set back the SWP's inflence for a generation

Anonymous said...

What exactly do you think is a fib? That the SWP was in a minority in rejecting the slogan? Or that the slogan was widespread?
In the early days of the first LOR strike I remember SP members online basically denying that the slogan had any currency. Now I can't work out whether the SP line is (a) the slogan wasn't widespread or (b) the slogan was but was knocked back by the SP.
Certainly the SWP at the start was in a minority in warning against it, and we'll warn against such stuff again, no matter what Andy Newman's mates in the GMB officialdom think.
And do you have anything substantial to say about the rest of a large bulletin representing the debates of an organisation which is actually larger than the one you're in? Beyond calling us 'so-called revolutionaries' that is.

Midland swp member

skidmarx said...

Being stalked by the scab Newman is one reason I'm reluctant to provide too much in the way of personal details. I hope your comrades don't ever face losing their jobs because of his hatred of the left in the way he has been trying to do with an SWP comrade recently.
The attitude of the CGIL is recorded here:

Later in the thread PhilW makes this point:
I’m pleased that the discussion here has got a lot more civilised: it’s a belated recognition that the issues in this dispute were and are not simple and the results probably contradictory. For me, it is still not clear whether this was a victorious struggle for trades union rights or for bigoted reactionary nationalism, or a mixture of the two. I presume there will be a similar mix of interpretations in the wider working class.

Perhaps you might like to follow his example. You might think that using the childish word "fib" softens what you say, as calling someone an illegitimate cub sounds less harsh than calling them a lion bastard, but that requires a generous interpretation of what you say, which you are certainly not pre-reciprocating.Perhaps it is right to argue about the differences you have with the SWP rather than cheer about the points of agreement. But it does seem that this is another effort to construct an obstacle against co-operation between your organisation and the SWP , by going along with the line of others in No2EU that the differences over LOR mean that co-operation with the SWP is not a priority. And I think that's a shame.

If you want any proofreading for your thesis let me know.

Neil said...

Skidders: "Phil BC - I still don't see any evidence for your claim that SWP keyboard warriors denounced the strikers as racists."

What about this?

Initially Seymour had a headline saying "the wildcat strikes are not racist." Then he ammends the article after being told the line by Smith & Co. with a strikethrough the not so it reads "the wildcat strikes are racist"

I attended the SWP's front Right to Work conference where one SWP contributor got up and said about the Lindsey strikers "You couldn't tell the difference between the BNP and the strikers"

Also Skidmarx you should apologise to Andy Newman for calling him a scab immediately.

skidmarx said...

Neil, on your last point,why? If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...He tried to lose an SWP member his job because he didn't like what he'd said on Newman's blog. It seemed like an accurate term to use of him.I could go on about the personal abuse he has subjected me and others to, despite promises not to repeat his behaviour, but I'd rather get back to talking about politics.

Actually the piece you quote from Lenin's Tomb still reads in praise of what the Phil BC was saying at the time. What you want to quote is the update:

Even so, the closest it comes to saying the strikers are racists is:
Thus, this horrible slogan is not only the single most prominent one on the picket lines, it is actually becoming an official line of trade unionists who have in the past been an ally of anti-racists. Moreover, the arguments of some of the shop stewards supporting the strike are disgusting. This is how one Unite shop steward put it: "I'm a victim, you are a victim, there are thousands in this country that are victims to this discrimination, this victimisation of the British worker."
And it's still a long way away. Quoting a racist comment by a shop steward,and pointing out that the BJ4BW slogan was prominent on the picket lines is not even close. I think it is good that the SP helped to turn the strike in a more positive direction, but burying your head in the sand and pretending these aspects of the dispute didn't exist, and attacking the SWP for pointing them out is not good.

skidmarx said...

Further, saying the strikes are racist is not the same as denouncing the strikers as racists.

The Right To Work quote is a bit more problematic, though to nit-pick that was an SWP member in the real world, not a "keyboard warrior".But again the point is that if the strikers are raising BJ4BW and similar slogans it may be hard to tell the difference between them and actual racists, the answer to this is not to bury your head in the sand and pretend it's not happening.

And I'll go back to the point that you may (and obviously do) disagree with the SWP about the dispute, to accuse the SWP of lying to its members, you should be able to demonstrate that they are knowingly peddling an untruth. And there has been no attempt to do that.[Either to knowingly lie to the members or you showing that they are doing so]

Phil BC said...

I suspected this might turn into a mini-monster. SWP-related posts usually do. Anyway, it's good to see SWP comrades and supporters coming in to bat for their organisation. It's a marked change from back in the day when nary a Swppy could be found.

Firstly Skidders, this whole debate demonstrates how important it is for comrades to think about how they frame their ideas. Perhaps my memory is muddled with some of the crap I was reading from screeching lefty liberal types elsewhere at the time. But if memory serves SWP comrades didn't acquit themselves particularly well either in the Socialist Unity comments box or over at Lenin's Tomb (sadly, the comments for the latter have long since been erased). The point is it was easy to muddle the two up because the dividing line between left liberals and SWP'ers online appeared to be very fine indeed.

And it seems even now you are still peddling the mistaken analysis that racism was the central dynamic of the dispute. It wasn't. It was certainly pregnant with all manner of confused and reactionary ideas - how could it be otherwise after 30 years of defeat and labour movement retreats? But what was more important - so it proved - was the class dynamic. Had it been primarily about race and nation, the SP comrades who were present and *took on* nationalist arguments and sentiments on the picket wouldn't have made much headway, would they?

Phil BC said...

Callum, it's my blog and I'll be snarky if I want to.

Yes, I do regard the SWP and its members as revolutionaries and comrades. But it's no secret that, for what it's worth, I don't regard it as well as I did a few years go for reasons you can find buried in the archives.

So when I find out the central committee are bullshitting its members in the pre-conference bulletin over the stance the SWP took toward the Lindsey dispute and, yes, taking credit for work done turning the dispute away from nationalist to internationalist demands - work which was done by another organisation with a completely different (and, as it turns out, correct) understanding of the dispute, I reserve the right to take the piss any way I see fit.

Phil BC said...

Btw Skidders, I'll thank you to take back your claim about Andy. If one of your comrades is stupid enough to fill his Twitter feed full of SWP material under his real name, allow himself to appear in Socialist Worker under his real name, but then whinge and moan when he's denied the right to abuse opponents in the labour movement anonymously, well that's just tough shit. Perhaps the incident will make him think a little before he starts ranting in future.

skidmarx said...

Said comrade disagreed about the Twitter feed. If the post on SUN was not desined to cause said comrade to lose his job, refreshed as it was with a couple of comments from Newman with said comrades name, what was it doing there? And what term would you prefer for Newman's behaviour? He has plenty of form of using abuse and exposure of realworld identities to try and force the SWP-sympathetic off his blog,including a whole raft of attempts against myself, albeit nothing as blatant as this.

It's good that SP members took on the racist and nationalist ideas. But there seems to be an attempt to pretend that there played no part in the dispute.

Perhaps you should strikethrough "fibbing" and replace with "disagree with me".

P said...

We will have to agree to disagree then whether the SWP are consciously lying or not. However, would you agree that they are misrepresenting what happened?

This from Socialist Review
''The strikes at the Lindsey Oil Refinery would not have spread to over 20 other sites without the conscious organisation by people on the ground. And the strikes would not have generated the unity needed to win had socialists and others not contested and largely sidelined the "British jobs for British workers" slogans which were prominent in the first round of construction disputes'

Are they claiming credit for the strikes spreading? When they talk of 'socialists' who are they talking about? If they are talking about the SP then they should say so. I asked a SWP member this and he thought they were talking about the SP. However, I think a lot of readers and indeed misinformed SWP members would think that they are bigging up their own role.

Oh and just re read the statement it goes on
'It’s right to fight for jobs and against wage-cutting. It’s right to take on the poisonous system of sub-contracting that is used to make workers compete against each other.

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. ' (actually whatever the swp believe, the strike WAS doing what you said it wasn't)

all the best