Believe me, I was tempted to frame these actions in terms of the 'SWP had it coming'. As much as anyone else, I followed the SWP's implosion with a mixture of amazement and revulsion. But there are limits, and our trot-troubling "comrades" have trampled over them. It's time to be blunt. The spate of violent acts by self-appointed vigilantes toward the SWP are ridiculous, stupid and narcissistic.
First things first, violence inside the labour movement is not on. You can dispute whether the SWP are a part of the movement or not, but I think it's quite clear they are. They organise in the trade unions, contribute to a variety of causes, and propagandise their idea of socialism. They are annoying, destructive and fast-becoming even more irrelevant, but part of our movement they remain. The labour movement isn't a sect with a set of principles one must sign up to upon joining - it's a movement of working people who collectively come together to prosecute their shared interests. As it reflects working people in general, it has all kinds in its ranks - including some who are far worse than the SWP. Yes, the SWP have repeatedly crossed a red line, and quite rightly are getting shunned by student organisations and other trade union activists.
So what exactly does attacking the SWP achieve? Are they going to get the message? Or, as is more likely, will it reinforce their siege mentality, compressing the bonds between SWP members even tighter, helping ensure that future abuse allegations are repressed in the name of party unity? And how is this "direct action" perceived by the wider world? How do you think SWP stalls getting set upon at labour movement events will be viewed by "outsiders"? Might it elicit some sympathy?
Ultimately, quite apart from this violence within the labour movement is a no because it depends on collectivism, of pulling together despite our differences. The actions of our vigilante mobs care nothing for this, of the fact that sometimes "normal" trade unionists have to collaborate with SWP activists in workplace activity, branch organisation and collective action. It's a self-indulgent attitude.
One shouldn't be surprised. I've talked about revolutionary identity politics and narcissism before. Because all variants of anarchism fetishise the individual (hence why their organisations break apart when but buffeted by a political breeze), they are especially susceptible to cults of indulgent hyper-activism, radical verbiage, show-boaty risk-taking, and putting performance before efficacy. Just like the SWP at its most ultra-left, in fact. Of course, not all anarchists so sin, but our Liverpudlian class warriors and their Sussex comrades certainly fell out of that mold.
They claim to be kicking against rape apologism, and object to the "trigger" potential the SWP's presence has on their campuses. Two quick things. Firstly, in the real world very few people have heard of the SWP nor their disgraceful behaviour. Secondly, balancing all probabilities out, witnessing violent confrontation is more likely to be a trigger than a few Trots shaking a can. Just stop and think. For someone who's survived abuse of some kind, are a succession of violent assaults on SWP stalls going to make them feel safer on campus? No, of course they bloody won't.
It's that sheer lack of thought that exposes our vigilantes as idiots full of their own indulgence. Yet what does this matter when you set it against the exhilaration of being mildly transgressive, of a simulacrum of the anarchist violence they've read about in Class War's Decade of Disorder. They display their trophies of a successful action on Facebook pages and blogs knowing there will never be any comeback, that the SWP will never call the police on them. It is radical identity work at play, a contrived and limited action in which there are no costs incurred for revolution points gained.
Our anarchist chums might be sincerely motivated by a vision of an alternative society, but attacking the SWP is a substitute for the hard graft of fighting for one.