Thursday, 14 October 2010

Norwich SWP Resignations

Just when you thought the dust had settled after the bulk resignation of Socialist Workers Party members in Doncaster, news reaches me of another flutter of departures from their ranks. A trio of comrades have resigned from the Norwich organisation, and I reproduce their letter below. Their arguments reveal the three ex-members (whose full names I've omitted) were ill at ease with the SWP's response to the coalition's round of cuts. This reflects wider debates concerning the SWP's Right to Work campaign. Comrades who've been round the far left block a few times are well aware of the SWP's habit of setting up party fronts for any issue that seems like a goer, and justifiably many activists are weary.

That said, I do think a couple of claims made in the letter are slightly off. The SWP
should have approached other existing groups and campaigns with a view to building something united, but they cannot be blamed for not tapping into the wide but diffuse anger out there. The fact is the labour movement and class consciousness is where it is. We can work to change and build it up into a force that can present a systematic challenge to capital, but it's a long and drawn out process. It demands patience and consistent work by the most conscious and active parts of the labour movement. No left group, not even the SWP, can jump over and short circuit this development. I also think the comrades' boosterism for the Coalition of Resistance smacks of hyperbole - for all its faults the RtW campaign has mobilised the largest demonstration against the cuts so far.

Do these resignations mean much? It demonstrates that Counterfire's positions - whatever one thinks of them - still exercise an influence in some sections of the SWP. It makes you wonder how many others could make a similar move over the coming months.


To Martin,

After many weeks of deliberation we have come to the conclusion that we must leave the SWP. This decision has not been a light one, but we feel that the choices taken by the Central Committee in regards to the events in Doncaster have highlighted a deeper problem with the party’s leadership and perspective. Furthermore, we believe the strategy taken around the recession has been misguided, and that the SWP is unfortunately incapable of leading a consistent fightback against the incoming austerity measures.

The impact of the party’s failure to create a genuine united front against the recession and the incoming austerity cannot be underestimated. The limited success of Right to Work and its inability to tap into the huge levels of anger against the class nature of the austerity measures (around bankers bonuses etc) and crucially to develop as more than a ‘party front’ we believe reflects a much wider political problem within the party. The inward-looking approach of the organisation that has led to the unwillingness to build a genuine united front has also manifested itself in some significant tactical errors (for example, its response to anger over bankers bonuses and its relegation of Stop the War). This has led us to believe that these are more than a series of unfortunate mistakes, and that this perspective is a product of a deeper conservatism within layers of the party; a conservatism that we believe can no longer be overcome.

More recently we believe that the response to the Coalition of Resistance, which has tapped into an unforeseen level of anger, is a perfect example of the party putting its aims before the needs of the class. We feel this is further evidence of the inherent weaknesses within the SWP.

We are grateful that the SWP has given us the opportunity to work with some of the best activists in the class, however we feel that we can no longer be the best activists, and be honest with the class, working within the SWP.


Norwich SWP/University of East Anglia SWSS

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

It never ends for the good conmrades does it? I hoped this would be over when the counterfire lot jumped. The SWP has had enough trouble without this. Chairman Martin won't be happy

Roobin said...

One of the three signataries lives in Doncaster and was a Left Platform member if my memory serves me. Honestly, this issue couldn't be more ephemeral to most SWP members, at least the ones I know. You never know, one day the SWP may be overthrown in the light of the golden dawn of socialism.

That's the object, right? The SWP are the enemy?

Lawrence Shaw said...

I'm afraid these three are woefully optimistic about the real levels of anger. If anything, the middle classes are more angry as things stand.

I saw more anger in Stoke around the fairly trifling issue of the elected Mayor than I have about the cuts. That's not to say it wont change, but it is playground stuff to say there is some kind of revolutionary fervour out there at the minute.

Duncan said...

That's the object, right? The SWP are the enemy?

Definitely what Phil was getting at Roobin, well done for a non-hysterical response.

Anonymous said...

What was Phil getting at? I don't think Phil wants to see the SWP overthrown he just wants to stir some shit. But this is still a terribly small minded, sectarian and pointless post. No doubt the defence will be mounted that this issue is of vital importance to the international working class and the masses that visit this site need to be kept abreast of these events blah blah blah those of us not obsessed with the internal matters of other left organisations will see it for what it is.
In the old days people like Phil used to put it all in a leaflet and hand it out to bemused demonstrators hooray for the internet.

Anonymous said...

The SWP are the Enemy, Sectarianism is the enemy, Opportunism is the Enemy, Economism is the enemy, Dishonesty about your politics is the enemy Bureaucratic Centralism is the Enemy, and the SWP is the embodiment of all that is wrong with Marxists in the UK and beyond.

It is a core group of ideological monkeys determined to see the world and the class fit into their terms, surrounded by a gaggle of paper selling dolts who may as well be handing out the Metro! and out and out headbangers who should really be sedated. The SWP has never done anything to advance the cause!, it merely feathers its own nest, a parasite that sucks up chews degenerates and dis-illusions many young comrades who could otherwise become top quality working class politicians.

Charlie Pottins said...

Once again all this talk of "tapping into" levels of discontent - these people don't start with how the working class can raise itself and fight, but with which outfit can ride it.
It's like sales people switching from one company to another, and extolling the new product.
Not that I'm blaming them, it is the limited training they have had. And no real change of thinking.
After experiences going back to the Socialist Alliance, all we heard with the onset of crisis was the need for a broad movement. All agreed. And each set up their own. That's why you will get resistance, alright - but not just of the Con Dem cuts.

Eddie Truman said...

I think Phil was engaging in the honourable pastime of leftist trainspotting which vested interests like to dismiss as shit stirring but isn't.
The issues around gauging the mood around cuts and making tactical decisions is important territory for the left though.

Ed said...

"Anonymous said...
The SWP are the Enemy, Sectarianism is the enemy, Opportunism is the Enemy, Economism is the enemy, Dishonesty about your politics is the enemy Bureaucratic Centralism is the Enemy, and the SWP is the embodiment of all that is wrong with Marxists in the UK and beyond.

It is a core group of ideological monkeys determined to see the world and the class fit into their terms, surrounded by a gaggle of paper selling dolts who may as well be handing out the Metro! and out and out headbangers who should really be sedated. The SWP has never done anything to advance the cause!, it merely feathers its own nest, a parasite that sucks up chews degenerates and dis-illusions many young comrades who could otherwise become top quality working class politicians."

" Bureaucratic Centralism" a Jack Conrad phrase, must be CPGB member and Weekly Worker reader

Anonymous said...

The SWP in NORWICH?! hahaha.

Anonymous said...

Ed


How do you account for Gramsci's use of the term Bureaucratic Centralism?

Did he miraculously pick up a copy of the Weakly Worker in Prison?

Sachin Sharma said...

Pre conference period when discussion is actually allowed. What a ridiculous time to break ranks.

Bah

modernity said...

I think what is strange, is that the SWP has held together this long.

What is it now?

33+ years, and in all that time they've had a few successes (ANL, RtWC (first time around) and StWC).

Even if we judge them by their own low standards (building a political party, influencing the working class, etc) then the SWP haven't really been too successful. Historically speaking...over 33 years...

Sure enough, they are bigger than some Trot grouplets, but that's not saying much, and the SWP ain't as big as they once were....

Phil said...

Sachin does make a good point. But then again trying to make head way in a bureaucratic centralist organisation is like wading through cement. If the comrades genuinely believe the SWP is pursuing the wrong strategy they may feel it worth their while to pursue the alternative.

Roobin and anonymous are completely blind to the contempt in which their outfit is held be large sections of the labour movement. Their wounded tone at being faced with a criticism of their organisation is suggestive of a religious cult than anything approaching a Marxist organisation.

And yes, if being opposed to the SWP hijacking campaigns, splitting them apart and subordinating the aims of a movement to their own narrow paper selling and recruitment interests then please count me as one. The stakes now are too high for the SWP's childish antics.

Roobin said...

"Roobin and anonymous are completely blind to the contempt in which their outfit is held be large sections of the labour movement."

So the SWP is/isn't the enemy. Some people seem to think so. C'est la vie, I say. Meanwhile:

"It [the letter] demonstrates that Counterfire's positions - whatever one thinks of them - still exercise an influence in some sections of the SWP."

Is round hairy cobblers, errant speculation at best.

"It makes you wonder how many others could make a similar move over the coming months."

At worst it's wishful thinking (see above). In my opinion it's highly unlikely, but HERE'S HOPING! Say hi to Luna 17 for me.

skidmarx said...

Remember comrades: place your rifles on the shoulders of the right-wing press to fire at the SWP.