That's it. He's gone. The "indispensable comrade", Martin Smith has - according to a slew of internet rumour and gossip - bit the bullet and resigned from the SWP. His resignation letter is yet to do the rounds, but you don't need to borrow Ted Grant's science of perspectives to predict what it's going to say. A lengthy preamble extolling the virtues of the SWP as the only successor to Lenin's heritage. The wonderful work it has carried in the anti-fascist movement, the unions and in anti-cuts campaigns will merit a mention. If he's really cheeky a line or two will celebrate the SWP's democratic traditions (as if saying it enough will make it true). And then the meat to the self-congratulatory gravy. Martin Smith will protest his innocence against the charges made by 'W' and 'X', but, "with a heavy heart", has come to the conclusion that it would be best for the SWP's tattered image if he stood down.
Of course, for outsiders and SWP-watchers it didn't have to be this way. But the cult of the non-personality surrounding the SWP's hapless central committee, the hackish deference shown and expected of the middle layer of full-time cadre, and the complete absence of proper mechanisms of accountability sort of made inevitable the damage the SWP has inflicted on itself.
But there are three quick points I'd like to raise. First, you don't need to be steeped in materialist dialectics to understand that this could simultaneously be and not be a resignation. Comrades have time and again pointed out that "Brother" Smith knows where the bodies are buried. He has a handle on the tangled web of shell companies and fronts the SWP uses to store its cash. He's the one who has the key relationships with useful folk-to-know in the trade union movement. And, of course, he's a paid employee of Unite Against Fascism. So, the subs may stop, but will the services rendered? I'm going to err on the side of doubt on that one.
Second, it does get the SWP out of a bind. There have got to be a few central committee members breathing a sigh of relief. After all, if the alleged perpetrator of two serious assaults is now outside the party, can revolutionary justice be served when the "defendant" has altogether avoided the Disputes Committee? Something tells me that it is highly unlikely the outstanding complaint against 'Delta' will ever be heard.
And lastly, is this resignation permanent or a body swerve? Is Smith going to seek a return to the fold after a decent interval of, say, a couple of years? And if he does, can he expect yet another foot stamping ovation by the dwindling party faithful?
Photo credit: Mark Kerrison