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.
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