Saturday 8 October 2016

Jeremy Corbyn and the SWP

The Socialist Workers Party. Remember them? Famed, if that's the right word, for shameless opportunism, wrecking tactics, and poncing off movements they did little to build, they perhaps owned the worst reputation of any organisation on the far left. And that was before evidence of covering up a rape complaint, the hounding of one of the women concerned, and testimony of an abusive culture emerged. In short, anyone who remained a member of the SWP after all this came out must have a seriously twisted view of what socialist politics is about.

Since this news broke, different parts of the labour and radical movement have treated the SWP differently. Seeing as they still haven't openly and honestly accounted for their disgusting behaviour, I'm of the view of shunning them, actively avoiding them, and making it clear they're nothing but pariahs is the best way of dealing with them. Zero tolerance of sexual violence in our movement means zero tolerance of those who alibi and brush it under the carpet. Others believe in attacking SWP stalls, which in my opinion is self-indulgent and narcissistic. Nevertheless, the SWP have soldiered on trying to rebuild their battered reputation, which is a labour of Sisyphus every time a new recruit or contact Googles the party's history.

As a Leninist outfit, the SWP has long worked behind the scenes in a number of front groups. Set up an organisation dedicated to a particular issue, campaign, and draw people into the party by being the "best builders" of "the movement". One area the SWP have always placed much emphasis is anti-fascist and anti-racist work. Since the success of the Anti-Nazi League in the late 70s and its resurrection in the 90s, the transformation of the ANL into Unite Against Fascism in the early 00s, and foundation of Love Music Hate Racism and Stand Up to UKIP, this has been a fertile seam for party recruitment. And, to show fairness to the SWP's record, it has played an essential role in mobilising protests against the likes of the BNP, the English Defence League, and latterly the occasional real world manifestation of the Britain First Facebook group. That isn't to say there aren't problems with the various approaches to anti-fascism the SWP and its fronts employ, but that's a separate debate.

Fast forward to now. Obviously, in light of the Brexit vote and Theresa May's wrexit speech, the increase in reported hate crime since June, and the continuing exploitation of race and immigration by politicians of the right and the ostensible left, racism is all set to become more of a football. Therefore this weekend's Stand Up to Racism conference is timely and potentially important. The one problem, however, is despite having a steering committee staffed with the great and the good of the labour movement, its co-convenors are Weyman Bennett of the SWP and Sabby Dhalu, also of SWP UAF. In other words, these are the folks who do the organising, book the speakers, decide the format, and "suggest" the content while the "name" officers (here) front it up. Having been invited to speak, Owen Jones was one of several to turn SUTR down on account of the SWP's involvement. Reportedly, Jeremy Corbyn did the same thing on the same grounds.

And yet the Labour leader turned up anyway.

Disappointing isn't the right word. A phrase full of expletives would perhaps about cover it. And so much for upping his game. Perhaps Jeremy thought that it was important to speak at an anti-racist event by an organisation presided over by Diane Abbott because, well, not doing so might have been interpreted as a snub within days of her appointment. Perhaps he thought it was important to be seen speaking out against racism and bigotry, and this was a convenient platform to do so from. I don't know, and chances are you don't either. But from his point of view, it's so incredibly stupid and reckless.

Jeremy has a commanding bedrock of support in the party, but there is a tension between two broad wings within this base. There's the sweep of reluctant Corbynists, Labour lefties, and others who want to get on with the business of building a broad based movement with the potential of taking Labour to power. On the other, there's the wave of very enthusiastic Corbyn supporters who tend to be totally fresh to politics but unwavering in their loyalty to Jeremy because of the ideas he represents. Mixed in here too are a few old hands whose politics are principled but allergic to adapting them to the concrete situation. Whether he intended to or not, Jeremy today provided cover for the SWP. He affirmed them as a legitimate part of our movement. And for a chunk of his support, especially those who've encountered the SWP (and that would be a good proportion of his seasoned extra-parliamentary activist milieu), this is the sort of thing disconnect and distrust is made of. Especially given the vile nature of the allegations at the centre of the SWP's cover up. And this could serve to prise apart the coalition of the left his leadership rests on.

If the spiking of Clive Lewis's conference speech and his subsequent move from shadowing defence was the first crack in the Jez monolith, this could well be the second.

Correction 10/10: According to his staff, Jeremy was originally booked to do an event in Scotland that clashed with Saturday's conference was cancelled, and so apologies were sent accordingly. When this was cancelled he elected to speak at SUTR. He did not pull out and then go as suggested here. Nevertheless, the rest of the piece remains the case. He knows well who the SWP are, and he also knows what they've done


Howard Fuller said...

You worry about Corbyn turning up with the SWP? It's just one of the least of the problems we face with this complete fool of a man. He lives and breathes the life of the seventies student having never grown up or had to take responsibility for his actions.

His double standards range from refusing to condemn IRA violence, appearing on Press Tv and even thinking £20,000 "isn't much money. His movement is full of misogynistic and anti-Semitic bullies. He cannot be trusted to protect the people he claims to represent with his softness on terrorism and defence.

The old left has risen and attracted naive supporters who will burn out when they realise the man is a charlatan of the first degree.

Corbyn's movement is the most toxic movement since Mosley and needs to be stopped.

James Semple said...

I went to the inaugural meeting of Devon United last Tuesday and had a brief chat with someone describing himself as a machine politician. Labour, antiCorbyn and contemptuous of naive Corbynistas, such as myself, which he likened to new troops at the Somme. We might be numerous, but would soon be gone, and the hardened professionals would go on to victory.

It seems to me you are another such:far more interested in the fight than what we are fighting for. Strategy is important, but vision is too; and that balance is why we venerate Jeremy and flock to his banner. So what, you say. Well, elections are won by people who think like us, who discard party loyalty for a message. You dispise and ignore us at the peril of your career.

Paul Ewart said...

Standing up against racism at an event commemorating Cable Street sends out the right message as far as I'm concerned. The rest is tribal bullshit.

Phil said...

Exactly what pewartstoat said - I couldn't put it better. I know exactly what the SWP are, and I don't know how I could despise them more than I do. But what are they? Just a couple of hundred Stalinoid Trots - they mean nothing. This event, and the symbolism of this event just after the 80th anniversary of Cable St, is far bigger than the petty sectarianism of boycotting anything with the 'wrong' party involved. Also, for what it's worth, I think Clive Lewis is a great appointment at Business, and separating him from the Defence brief was the best move for all concerned.

jim mclean said...

Cable Street was a lifetime or two ago, the SWP undermining young Londoners fighting the racialised and reactionary system in which they live is the living present. The young do not share our history, a Cable St anniversary has a much relevance of Dockers For Enoch anniversary.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but the above posters are being incredibly naive about the utterly malignant rape cult that is the SWP. A hideous, zombie like contrapion that poisons and pollutes everything it touches.

It needs to be utterly extinguished from left wing politics forever.

And giving people like Howard Fuller reason to be smug is nothing to be proud about, either.

notjarvis said...

Biggest problem for me is that he (or his spokesperson) lied about going to the event.
It had been made clear to him that this might be seen as an endorsement of the despicable SWP.
His spokesperson assured those who asked he wasn't going.

Yet he went anyway.
This is not the action of an honest, strong, leader.

Anonymous said...

Surprised? Not in the slightest.

Corbyn is either a complete amateur with no grasp of the responsibilities of being a leader of a major political party, or just doesn't care about his image, or that of the party he leads when he associates with the likes of the SWP.

The man isn't fit to be our leader and will bring more shame - as well as certain electoral catastrophe - to us before his ignominious departure.


Chris said...

Howard Fuller is totally out of his mind,bordering on insanity. I guess a lifetimes support for a brutal, sadistic, racist and murderous state does that. Zionism is a poison, and Fuller is the poster boy.

The SWP is called a rape cult, believe me this says more about those making that dishonest and ridiculous accusation. Seriously how long are we going to allow this claptrap to pass unchallenged?

These people are demeaning the whole level of debate and perverting reason. It is almost impossible to have a rational conversation these days, I guess this is their objective!

The left have to stand up to the bullying and witch hunting of the Zionist pressure groups (I include the AWL here), the left have to be proud of their anti racism and anti imperialism.

Why should supporters of the Palestinians be on the defensive? In a normal and decent world those who justify the crimes committed against the Palestinians should be the ones ducking for cover.

Time to make the world normal and decent!

Ken said...

How can Jeremy Corbyn be expected to boycott Stand Up to Racism, whose President is Diane Abbott, his own Shadow Home Secretary? If you seriously think basic political hygiene requires shunning the SWP, and therefore any organisation that the SWP initiated and does the legwork for, then you should be arguing that all the respectable people among its chairs and vice-chairs, etc should resign and that any union or community support for Stand Up to Racism should be withdrawn.

Who would benefit from that? And would the purge stop with SUTR, or with the SWP for that matter?

Anonymous said...

Fuller is utterly hilarious. Most ordinary people would consider him just as much a swivel eyed monster as they would the SWP.

Anonymous said...

Ken - "Who would benefit from that?"

Everybody but the SWP rape apology scum.

"And would the purge stop with SUTR, or with the SWP for that matter?"

Yes. SUTR, SWP and other SWP fronts.

David Parry said...


'The man isn't fit to be our leader and will bring more shame - as well as certain electoral catastrophe - to us before his ignominious departure.

Except that general election outcomes are not primarily determined by leaders, but rather by events.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you whitewashing the National Front, BNP, EDL, UKIP etc, - not to mention the current Tory government. Always good when people make it clear that as far as they are concerned only white lives matter

Jim Denham said...

Chris, you wrote: "The left have to stand up to the bullying and witch hunting of the Zionist pressure groups (I include the AWL here), the left have to be proud of their anti racism and anti imperialism": care to explain what you mean by this nonsense? The AWL has been steadfast in its support for Palestinian rights, and for two states. So what the hell are you on about?

davidjc said...

Starmer has already tried to change the pro immigration stance. Or was he put there precisely to do so? Strange appointment either way.

Anonymous said...

The SWP are utter heroes for their treatment of the false rape garbage.

Hilarious to see the PC-Nazi-drones leave the party, waving their arms like Olive Oyl, screaming about "wape". Only true socialists are left in the SWP now, and that's the way it should be.

Phil said...

I love me some not-terribly-convincing trolling.

levi9909 said...

It's true Chris, Jim's right. AWL has always supported the Zionist idea of a state specially for the world's Jews based on colonial settlement, ethnic cleansing and segregationist laws and they've always supported the idea of another much smaller area to be reserved for the victims of the ethnic cleansing by way of redress for the Zionist thing. This is called the two state solution though it was called the Bantustan system when applied elsewhere. The AWL claims to support the two state solution knowing that either negotiations will go on forever or that whatever is left of Palestine after the Zionists have decided how much land they will be happy with will hardly amount to a state any more than the Palestinian Authority area or Gaza do now.

But of course this is off topic and just goes to show the extent to which the Zionists are trying to police the whole discourse on Zionism and the Palestinians among Labour supporters.

The topic is Corbyn's attendance at a rally perceived as a front/promo for the SWP. And this is the weird thing, under guidance from the Zionist Jon Lansman and his AWL (and JLM) cohorts, Corbyn has buckled to every false allegation of antisemitism and managed to alienate many Jewish and BAME supporters and activists in the process. Now he has managed to alienate those of us who are wise to the SWP. I tweeted earlier today that while you can't please all of the people all of the time, Jeremy Corbyn has managed to piss off just about everyone all at once.

Paul Ewart said...

Re Starmer and immigration: does it occur to anyone that he cocked up? Because he's to the right of the party, because he's respectable, because he's an heir apparent, such thoughts simply don't occur to our right-wing media. Watch the tape again, and it looks as though he made an error then spent the rest of the interview recovering from said error.

Bob said...

This article is just jaw-droppingly ignorant. Phil knows so little about the subject, he even thought Sabby Dhalu was a member of the SWP. Here's SUTR vice-president (and Owen Smith supporter) Steve Hart, who co-chaired Saturday's conference, answering the stupid accusation that SUTR is an SWP front.

Phil said...

So what? David Cameron is a patron of Unite Against Fascism, and the TUC have a large amount of input. But a SWP front it remains.

It is also clear SUTR is no different. The organisation was done by the SWP. It is the SWP that run SUTR groups around the country and did the mobilisation for Saturday.

Thing is Bob, you know this. Which makes your intervention entirely disingenuous.

Bob said...

As Steve Hart points out in his Labour List piece, SUTR is an outgrowth of UAF (of which Weyman Bennett and Sabby Dhalu are also co-convenors). UAF was the result of a merger between the Anti-Nazi League and the National Assembly Against Racism. I've campaigned with UAF for years. The SWP obviously has had a major input, but even when the SWP was much bigger than it is today, UAF was never an SWP front. Neither is SUTR. Do you really think a soft-left former Eurocommunist like Steve Hart would play a leading role in a front organisation for a far-left group whose politics he fundamentally rejects? It's just nonsense.

Paul Ewart said...

BCFG said...

We are getting to the point where support for the Palestinians is a criminal offence, which must have Fuller creaming his pants. Still that shouldn’t stop us denouncing the terrorist state of Israel.

The running dogs of imperialist apology (e.g. Jim Denham) are a unique breed really, despite the fact that their grovelling and servile support for every act of criminal insanity carried out by the imperialists has led to total disaster on almost every level they still think they can call others crazy, stupid or whatever. And they still think they have some authoritu to speak on the subject!

Any reasonable person would take time out to look at oneself and ask, “Where the hell did I go wrong”, “Maybe I should keep my trap shut more in future”, “Maybe I should listen to what those anti imperialists said, maybe I am the stupid one and not them”... but no still Jim Denham and the others pollute the airwaves with their pro imperialist garbage. Humble would never be an adjective thrown at this human garbage.

It probably says a lot about Western values that politicians, the commentariat, the servile apologists can moralise about the goings on in the Middle East even though the current chaos was entirely down to their insane and venal criminality and the stench of the corpses is still in the air.

They must believe that most people will not notice this, and maybe they are correct. I guess this is the chief role of the unfree media, a media thoroughly embedded in the status quo and fully in tune with the interests of the ‘elite’.

Ray Gaston said...

Don't think Sabby Dahlu is SWP Phil I think she is Socialist Action if UAF was a front it was a dual SA/SWP set up. I think SUTR is less so

Ed said...

Phil, I think part of the problem here was that when people started talking about ‘boycotting’ or ‘no platforming’ the SWP, they never really clarified what it would mean or where you would draw the line. The no platform concept used to be something that was just applied to the far right. If the SWP was really the same as the BNP or EDL, we’d have to freeze them out across the board: you wouldn’t work with BNP members in your trade union (indeed, you’d want the union to kick them out altogether); if the BNP were involved in organizing a demonstration, you wouldn’t go, and you wouldn’t share a platform with one of their members; if far-right activists tried to join a left demonstration as a bloc, the stewards would boot them off, by force if necessary. But I don’t think anyone believes the same logic should be applied to the SWP (if they do, I think they’re completely wrong: the idea of forcing SWP members off demonstrations or refusing to work with them in the unions full-stop just isn’t something that should be contemplated).

So the question is, where do you draw the line? How far does SWP involvement have to go before you boycott/no platform them? I can see a very good case for boycotting Marxism, because it’s clearly a showcase for the SWP, intended to recruit new members. Broad campaigning fronts around an issue like anti-racism are a grey area at the very least. I have no problem with people arguing that Corbyn made a mistake in attending the event last Saturday, but the absolutist condemnations that have been directed at him are quite unjustified; there were a lot of good, non-SWP people speaking on Saturday, and I’m not going to accuse them all of ‘condoning rape apologists’.

In particular, the condemnations from Owen Jones leave a bad taste in the mouth, because he really doesn’t have a leg to stand on here. He announced back in 2013 that he was boycotting the SWP from now on, but he continued to speak at Unite Against Fascism events for at least a couple of years after that; he spoke at their conference last year. When people challenged him about it, he said that it wasn’t just an SWP front and he wasn’t condoning the actions of their leadership by speaking. So if this is a high principle for him, it’s one that he’s only discovered in the last year, long after being made fully aware of the appalling way the SWP leadership handled that case. It might only be a principle he’s discovered in the last week, given that he was scheduled to speak at the SUTR event. In the light of that, for OJ to adopt such a self-righteous, finger-wagging tone in his comments really just stinks of hypocrisy; I have no problem with him saying that he’s changed his mind on this question and he thinks Corbyn should too, but to speak as if this was a crystal-clear principle that everyone should grasp right away is in contradiction with his own behaviour since 2013.

Basically, I think the people attacking Corbyn over this (the left-wing people, not the Labour right or the media, who don’t give a toss about any principles involved) need to recognize that they never gave a clear definition of what boycotting the SWP would mean and never built a consensus around that definition. They’ve been issuing ultimatums and condemnations as a substitute, but they need to make clear what it is that they expect people to sign up to. As a rule I think giving the SWP a cold shoulder is a good idea and I’d be very happy to see them wither on the vine in the face of a broader and better left-wing movement, but ‘no platform for the SWP’ poses some very basic problems that need to be teased out through discussion.

Tony said...

The SWP haters on here could have built their own anti-racist and anti-fascist organisations. They have not and contribute little or nothing to this vital task. If they ever did get off their backsides and build their own group it would be tiny: All Labour members would be barred, due to the war crimes of Tony Blair and others still in the Labour Party. Blair is directly complicit in the murder of many women in Iraq, Afghanistan etc. Occupation and other forces will also have raped many women. All Tories and Lib Dems would be barred for similar reasons. All supporters of Israel would be barred for crimes against Palestinians. All Muslims would be barred because of their religon's views on women.
There are groups like this on b

Tony said...

By the logic of the author, we must boycott all Labour members because of Tony Blair's war crimes. He is still in the party, unpunished, and responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of women in Afghanistan and Iraq. Strange that SWP haters on here have no sense of their own hypocracy.

Tony said...

And the anti-racist organisation that you have set up is called what?