Thursday 15 October 2015

Guarding Against the Far Left

How do you strangle a potentially promising initiative before it's even properly launched? Have the Socialist Workers Party announce that they want to be involved. Well, we've got the new politics, so why shouldn't Labour Party members work with the SWP and what's left of British Trotskyism as we "encourage mass mobilisation for a more democratic, equal and decent society"?

There are extremely good reasons why the SWP and my erstwhile comrades should be told to sling their hook when they try and get involved. A passing acquaintance with them is all it takes to understand that they're fundamentally uninterested in building the wider labour movement, let alone the Labour Party - which is one of Momentum's explicit objectives. During the summer the SWP looked upon stormin' Corbyn with indifference and barely any comment. For the Socialist Party, because Labour was a "capitalist party" Jeremy couldn't possibly win and it was dead as far as socialist politics were concerned. The real alternative was (and of course, remains) the anti-cuts Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, an umbrella organisation whose name consists of more words than it got votes in the 2015 general election. Never mind, even the most blinkered of sects have to acknowledge political reality when it's thrusting its unmentionables in their faces, and so the self-declared vanguards of Britain's most advanced workers are scrambling to catch up to where tens of thousands of newly-politicised people are at.

At no point over the last 20 years have either organisation shown themselves anything other than interested in their narrow (and now, narrowing) party interests. Now is no different, except both are sharing a moment of existential despair. With 180,000 new members since the general election - the bulk of them on the left - as they like to put it, "for the next period" Labour is the pole of attraction. That means very slim pickings for them at the usual freshers' fayre stomping grounds. The announcement of Momentum gets them out of this sticky spot. A series of meetings and campaigns with the "fresh layers" that have conspicuously avoided their charms thus far? Instead of outside watching hundreds of people file up for Jezza's packed meetings, they now get to be inside? With overblown central committees and cadres of full-time activists to support, what putative Trotskyist outfit can resist the chance to top up the depleted fighting funds and offload a few more unread and unreadable journals? And, of course, that makes their involvement look utterly brazen, utterly cynical.

The comrades in these groups like to flatter themselves that the ire they inspire in other labour movement folk is because they have the "right ideas" and at all costs have to be stopped lest their views find a sympathetic hearing. It has absolutely nothing to do with their track record of undermining, dumping, and wrecking campaigns and actions at all. Nor the trail of thousands of broken and burned out activists their organisations trail everywhere they go.

And that especially applies to the SWP. It was but a short while ago this rancid organisation was hitting the headlines for its part in covering up very serious allegations of sexual assault and rape. If that wasn't bad enough, the accused - a long-standing key full-timer and member of the central committee - was exonerated by a panel of party members he'd worked with, socialised with, was friends with for decades. Could it get worse? Yes. Not only were the women who made the allegations subject to the sort of invasive questioning even DS Gene Hunt would find out of bounds, one survivor complained about harassment by party members. Instead of owning up and accounting for their appalling behaviour, the SWP swept the lot under the carpet. Nothing to see here, let's unite and fight the Tories. The SWP are little better than a cult with an opportunist, vampiric relationship to the labour movement. Unfortunately, it requires more than a sprinkle of holy water to make them evaporate.

The motives behind Momentum are laudable and it might work as a useful community organising tool. But ultimately, its success will rely on the work of established left Labour activists who share the leadership's view. But if that means opening themselves to running battles with the SP, SWP, and other cranky sects, well, most have better things to do with their time and are likely to concentrate on existing party/trade union/community activities. Momentum needs some proper thinking through to avoid time wasting and hijacking.


Anonymous said...

You voted against Corbyn and yet feel able to criticise others for not supporting Corbyn enough during the election? What a joke.

Pinkie said...

I wonder how many SWP people there are. How many branches, how many loose members at large? What can they do? Possibly be a pain in the arse, possibly get properly involved. They don't have the numbers.

Boffy said...

When Trotsky wrote his documents for the Third International, on the United Front, in the early 1920's, he wrote that it was only a tactic that was applicable in the peculiar conditions of the time, when the Labour Movement was more or less evenly split between the parties of the Second International and Third International, with the movement towards the latter.

Unless a revolutionary party had the support of around 40% of the workers, Trotsky argued, the UF was not applicable. Without that, the larger reformist party would have no reason to offer any kind of arrangement to the smaller party, and could just undertake all activity in its own name, with the latter having to just tag along.

Yet, the sects have monotonously droned on about creating UF's with all and sundry for the last 50 years, despite the fact that they have more like 0.40% support amongst workers, if they are lucky!

The LP, and Momentum should keep well clear of any kind of arrangement with them. If the LP or Momentum organises anti-fascist activities, support of strikes, the creation of TRA's, worker-co-ops in various spheres to oppose plant closures, or privatisations - the MU and Co-op have been doing some good work on this with Music Teachers - then if the SWP and others want to offer physical support, they can do so.

The just shouldn't expect to have any say on the basis on which such activity is undertaken. If they want that they should abandon their sects, and become conscientious members of the LP.

The Tory media who like to present everything in wholly black and white terms, and who are frequently assisted in that by the left sects, are already trying to present things in that way. For example, conservatives present the issue of the EU, as either opposition to austerity outside the EU, or an inevitable acceptance of austerity to stay in the EU. The WW's Eddie Ford, has also presented that as being the only set of options.

With Corbyn, they have tried to do the same thing. They have tried to present Corbyn as a 1980's Stalinoid, who's left politics necessarily involved him being anti-EU. They are assisted in that by the ronk nationalism that runs through the politics of organisations like the SWP, and SP - illustrated by No2EU and so on - and which the Tory media emphasise, by continually putting forward the even more ronk representatives of the Morning Star, as though they were in any way speaking for Corbyn and his supporters.

Dave Cohen said...

Sorry Pinkie, the SWP don't need numbers, it only ever takes one at a time to ruin it for the rest of us. I used to be very sympathetic to the SWP, but have been involved in three specific cases where a good solid left movement was being built, only to fall apart each time because some angry bloke with a personal agenda (always a bloke) came and told us all we were doing it wrong, and wouldn't stop fighting us until we abandoned what we were doing. I hope Momentum can keep them at bay but I fear they'll struggle.

Unknown said...

This piece is likely/mainly fair comment. I did stuff with SWP back in the day, including supporting the miners in soup kitchens and picket lines, tho was never a member. Each person I met back then was decent. I tend to avoid blanket judgements - the SWP - and prefer to address individuals. Some people pricks in everyday life, but most are decent and some are truly heroic. If we throw the SWP label over them all then they lose their humanity don't they? We just need to be wary of motives, as much the so called 'modernisers' like Byrne, Kendall, Mahmood, et al, but also hold open the possibility that any individual can make a huge, positive contribution.

Dave Cohen said...

That's a fair point Dave Conroy, I guess over time "SWP" has become a general term of abuse to describe the kind of misogynistic self-believing religiously Trotskyist guy who spoils it for the rest of us. Liz Kendall is a good case in point, I do believe she was the only candidate exploring ideas outside of the Westminster bubble (Corbyn and McDonnell continue to do economics by the Tory agenda) but she was forced further and further rightwards as Burnham and Cooper staked out their bland and pointless pitches for the centre ground.

Anonymous said...

But Dave the SWP didn't do miners support work, they called us "left wing oxfam" wasting our time during the "downturn". Even their half decent individuals were poisonous when they turned up to broad group events.

I have a similar concern about all the others who have suddenly decided that the absolute need for a left of labour alternative can wait for now, or be built upon, a sectarian turn to the Labour Party.


Chris said...

The SWP did nothing wrong in relation to the "rape" accusation. They have no duty to respond to accusations of criminal behaviour between members. That is the job of the police only.

They are idiots and I wish they didn't exist, but they were 100% in the right in that case. The bad guys are the wanky post-socialist likes of Tricky Dick Seymour. I wonder about their motives.

andyb said...

This is gripping stuff from Cooperista Phil who supported Yvette in the leadership election whilst the SP was welcoming from day one the anti-austerity challenge of Jeremy Corbyn.

In his article Phil states,

“Never mind, even the most blinkered of sects have to acknowledge political reality when it's thrusting its unmentionables in their faces, and so the self-declared vanguards of Britain's most advanced workers are scrambling to catch up to where tens of thousands of newly-politicised people are at.”

The reality is however that the SP has never ruled out the possibility of 'reclaiming' Labour for the working class but correctly thought it extremely unlikely.

For those who want to read what the Socialist Party actually said as far back as 2002 then checkout

Unknown said...

All I remember Anonymous is being invited along by the student SWP group, getting on the minibus each time and hiting the road. Maybe that specific bunch of folks were of the less 'theoretically' inclined.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

@Dave Cohen:
"because some angry bloke with a personal agenda (always a bloke) came and told us all we were doing it wrong, and wouldn't stop fighting us until we abandoned what we were doing."

Yeah: been there, got the scars. My impression, though, is it's no longer "always a bloke", and hasn't been for some time.

Moreover the "personal agenda" seems to come pre-processed and derivative; but always about "Me! Me! Me!" being the solution to the immediate issue (usually as a member of the management committee, or whatever, but not actually having to do anything).