“Once Tiberius is dead I, Sejanus, will rule as Emperor in Rome”

Via Luna17, here’s what we’d all been waiting for:

We are writing to resign from the Socialist Workers Party. We do this with great sadness but the events of recent weeks leave us with little choice.

The immediate reason for our resignation is the attempt by the Central Committee to stop Lindsey German, the convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, from speaking at a Stop the War meeting in Newcastle. This demand was justified by the claim that the meeting was ‘disputed’ or bogus. In fact, it was a properly constituted Stop the War public meeting, agreed at two consecutive Tyneside steering committees. Two SWP members tried to block the meeting because it clashed with a party branch meeting. The Stop the War meeting was a success, but was boycotted by the local SWP. The Central Committee demanded that Lindsey should not go to the meeting and ‘reserved the right’ to take disciplinary action if she attended.

Such sectarian behaviour does enormous damage to the standing of the party in the movement. Unfortunately, it fits into what is now a well-established pattern.
For many years, the SWP has played a dynamic role in the development of mass movements in Britain. The party made an important contribution to the great anti-capitalist mobilisations at the start of the decade, it threw itself into the Stop the War Coalition and was central to the Respect electoral project. These achievements were dependent on an open, non-sectarian approach to joint work with others on the left and a systematic commitment to building the movements.

The SWP leadership has abandoned this approach. The task of building broad, political opposition in every area to the disasters created by neoliberalism and war is now subordinated to short term party building. We believe this undermines both the movements and the prospects of building an open and effective revolutionary current in the British working class.

The most glaring mistake has been the SWP’s refusal to engage with others in shaping a broad left response to the recession, clearly the most pressing task facing the left. Even valuable recent initiatives, like the Right to Work campaign, have minimised the involvement of Labour MPs, union leaders and others who have the capability to mobilise beyond the traditional left.

An authoritarian internal regime has developed as a result of this change in direction. In the run up to the recent party conference, four members of the Left Platform opposition were disciplined, three of them expelled. Since the conference, four of the remaining student comrades at the School of Oriental and African studies in London have been effectively pushed out of the party. A comrade in Newcastle was given an ultimatum to resign from a key position in the local movement in January. He resigned from the party and 10 comrades left in protest at his treatment. The use of disciplinary methods to ‘win’ arguments is completely foreign to the traditions to the SWP and should have no place in the socialist movement.

For these reasons we are now submitting our resignations. We do not do so lightly and we will of course remain active socialists and revolutionaries. We all joined the party because we felt it would make us more effective. Sadly, we now feel that is no longer the case. We have, however, enormous respect for the many fine comrades in the SWP and we regard it as essential to continue to work with SWP members in the unions and campaigns, since we all share a broad agreement on the need to confront recession, war and fascism. We remain convinced of the need for revolutionary socialist organisation. In fact, the need for a radical political alternative and resistance on a massive scale has rarely been more urgent.’

And there follow the names of 42 resigning members, plus the additional endorsement of 18 who had previously resigned.

My first reaction to this was: holy piss. My second reaction was: holy piss. But now it’s been an hour or two, so here are a few disorganised thoughts.

I’d been expecting something like this, but not quite so soon. And the list is a bit longer than I’d been expecting, too. Time and attrition being what they are, a good lot of the names mean nothing to me, except that I seem to detect a bias towards comrades in provincial towns where Stop the War has been the consistent focus of activity. There are a couple of people I wouldn’t have expected; conversely, a couple I might have expected aren’t there. Nor is this the detritus of the party. Leaving aside for the moment the three former CC members, Neil F is a thoroughly good bloke with a fully functioning brain. Ady C has been one of the party’s most skilled propagandists, and is a known whiz with new media. There are a few others I recognise as genuine assets to whichever organisation has them.

Now, I hate to take a cynical tone, but the sentences

An authoritarian internal regime has developed as a result of this change in direction.

and

The use of disciplinary methods to ‘win’ arguments is completely foreign to the traditions to the SWP and should have no place in the socialist movement.

immediately leap out at the reader and provoke the reaction “Oh yeah?” Without wanting to go over the regime that the former Power Couple presided over, with the enthusiastic support of most of the current leadership… it is wondrous to behold, how the strict disciplinarian can become a born-again democrat when the boot is on the other foot.

Within the ranks of the SWP, this will probably lead to some demoralisation but rather more widespread relief that the former minority is out from under the party’s feet. At least from the opinions I’d been canvassing, though some people understood that the democratisation process might require giving the oppositionists some slack – or at least giving them a considerable amount of rope – there was also a view expressed that these guys were on a split trajectory and so there was nothing to be gained from allowing them to hang around any longer. The comrades’ willingness to go in for organisational expediency to resolve a political problem remains something that has to be dealt with.

Moreover, let us recall the record of the three CC members at the core of this. These guys’ track record involves the smashing up of Birmingham STWC; the abrupt closure of the Socialist Alliance; the split in Respect; the dodgy OFFU cheque; the stoating success story that was the Left List; and on top of that, they opposed the Democracy Commission that, for all its weaknesses, was rightly very popular with party members. With a rap sheet like that, I would have thought it would take an absolute moron to make the former Left Platform look like the wronged parties, although the General Secretary and the North East organiser seem to be making a fair stab at it. One may also bear in mind Jazz Club’s letter to the troops explaining Lindsey’s departure, which quite openly signals that action will be taken against anyone suspected of “factionalism”, a charge so sweeping it’s almost impossible to be acquitted of it.

Look, as I keep saying, I don’t have a dog in this fight. My misgivings about the former LP are to do with the very broad voluntarist streak they’ve expressed and continue to, with all of Lindsey’s references to stick-bending, grabbing the vital link in the chain, and the small cog moving the big cog. These are all perfectly within the canonical Cliff tradition, but they’re all things that are problematic to say the least, and become even more so when combined with an elitist concept of leadership. On the other hand, the current leadership – which includes most of the former leadership that was complicit in the aforementioned rap sheet – is not unproblematic in itself.

Everyone makes mistakes, but the key question is whether you can learn from your mistakes. Some mea culpas would be nice, some bridge-building with people who’ve been done wrong, but at the very least an indication that the course has been corrected. John Rees would have much more moral authority today if he’d gone away, reflected on the things that he’d got wrong – regardless of how many other people shared the blame – and come back with a self-criticism. I’m not John’s biggest fan by any means, but I know that if he got past his ego and turned his mind to an honest account of what went wrong, he has the ability to produce something really worthwhile.

Nor does this absolve the other side. I was greatly encouraged by Chris Harman’s intervention around democratisation, because Chris understood that the problem was not simply one of structures, much less personnel, but of a deferential and top-down culture that positively encouraged arbitrary and hare-brained wheezes at CC level. This was true under Cliff, and it has been true since. The implication of what Chris was saying was to call for a cultural revolution in the SWP, and I would feel much more confident about the party’s future if he was still around. The Democracy Commission’s work is a step in the right direction, as long as it is a first step rather than a final one; and there are certain recent developments, such as a lionising of fulltimers, that are a little worrying. Party members who thought they had put bold and decisive leadership behind them had better watch out, lest they find themselves subject to more of the same, just from a slightly different cast of bold and decisive leaders. One doesn’t wish to compare Martin Smith to Joe Stalin, but there were a lot of Bolsheviks quite happy to see the back of Zinoviev’s bold and decisive leadership.

As for the splitters, time will tell. They have enough critical mass in terms of numbers to sustain a smallish organisation – perhaps of the magnitude of Socialist Resistance or the AWL – and enough of a pool of talent to do their tasks well, provided they set themselves sensible tasks. And thereby hangs a question. The perspectives of the Left Platform, to the extent that they made sense, made sense if you could marshall a couple of thousand people to carry them out. A perspective of hyperactivists running around the movements being brilliant will not work with sixty or seventy people – scale alone would force you to be more modest. But now their trajectory will be theirs to set, and the divergence won’t be long in making itself apparent.

Rud eile: I couldn’t let the day’s other resignation go unmarked, so here’s wishing good luck to AVPS as he ventures into the badlands of social democracy.

56 Comments

  1. johng said,

    February 16, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    “rather than a final one; and there are certain recent developments, such as a lionising of fulltimers, that are a little worrying”

    eh?

    • Mark P said,

      February 16, 2010 at 9:11 pm

      He’s referring to some of the stuff in the internal bulletins about showing proper respect to fulltimers. I think it was in with the democracy commission stuff.

  2. johng said,

    February 16, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    “I’m not John’s biggest fan by any means, but I know that if he got past his ego and turned his mind to an honest account of what went wrong, he has the ability to produce something really worthwhile”

    That actually made me laugh out loud. Go on. Ring him up and tell him this. I dare’s you.

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      February 16, 2010 at 9:58 pm

      I am sorely tempted. It might be as much fun as standing up in a Callinicos meeting and saying “Now Alex, you’re an intelligent man…”

  3. Mark P said,

    February 16, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    One interesting thing is how ineffectual all of that debate seems to have been – on both sides. There were 62 signatories to the Left Platform, plus a probably supporter who was expelled before the document. There are 60 resignations from the SWP, plus three who were expelled in total. Neither side seems to have made any inroads at all into the support of the other side.

    The next issue is what sort of organisation they form, something I suspect we’ll find out fairly quickly.

    Down the road, the flashpoint is likely to be in the “united fronts”, particularly in StW. How likely is Chairman Martin to accept a small rival left group holding three of the officer’s roles in StW in the medium term?

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      February 16, 2010 at 10:04 pm

      They aren’t without allies in StW. But as you know, the first rule of Socialist Action is that you do not talk about Socialist Action; and the attitude of the others in the StW hierarchy is anyone’s guess.

      Locally, you may be interested to know that the Real SWP has been out in the city centre on Saturdays on a regular basis, while the real SWP seems to have little substance beyond Donal’s ability to put up posters. But the splitters are still being very coy and the official party is still doing a Chief Wiggum act, so the politics are as unclear as ever. If there are any.

    • redbedhead said,

      February 16, 2010 at 11:35 pm

      I think it likely reflects the fact that they were a disciplined faction a long time before the official conference period opened. They had already separated in spirit, which made it impossible to shift them. And the people not part of that grouping were frustrated by the fact that there was a (not so) hidden faction refusing to implement the agreed perspective and mucking about with the beginnings of separate organization – Counterfire, Mutiny, etc. Made it unlikely that LP could shift anybody towards them either. I think before the ink was even dry on the internal bulletins that the die was cast, and the fact that Counterfire was operating again as early as the beginning of January is an indication of that. The fix, as they say, was in…

      • splinteredsunrise said,

        February 17, 2010 at 12:25 am

        Or the contingency plan. You’ll no doubt remember the big faction fight in Canada. Very rarely does anyone come out of these things looking good.

      • redbedhead said,

        February 17, 2010 at 1:37 am

        I try to forget the faction fight in Canada. It’s been 15 years and I still go over it sometimes and wonder what could have been done differently. As it happens, I think our side made a number of stupid mistakes prior to the fight. But the fight itself was something of a premature ejaculation – the faction submitted their document and demanded the membership lists and debates. We refused the lists, obviously, and set about organizing debates (even though our conference had only been 6 weeks earlier and they’d obviously been meeting secretly for months). But before even the first debate could occur they had put out a new publication and disaffiliated a campus club, affiliating to the new magazine – effectively resigning a majority of their group. They didn’t even show up to the first debate. And that, as they say, was that. Over and done with in just under two weeks, I think. (Of course then the aftershocks carried on for quite some time – probably even to this day to some extent).

  4. Dave O said,

    February 16, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    The second rule of Socialist Action is that you DO NOT talk about Socialist Actdion. If someone says stop, goes limp, taps out, they have been listening to John Ross for too long …

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      February 17, 2010 at 12:27 am

      There’s also a gap in the market for bold and decisive leaders since Redmond snuffed it. Not that SA were ever short of bold and decisive leaders, it’s just the followers they lacked.

  5. POUM said,

    February 17, 2010 at 12:16 am

    “there was also a view expressed that these guys were on a split trajectory and so there was nothing to be gained from allowing them to hang around any longer”. The swp was happy to allow them to hang around. A lot of the commentary that has come about since Lindsey resigned seems to overlook the fact that she, and the rest of the LP, resigned from the party- they weren’t expelled. It has been expected among swp members that the LP was on its way out of the party since before the pre-conference period, but generally accepted that so long as they dissolved their faction they were welcome to remain. This clearly did not happen, and they manufactured an excuse to play the victims.

  6. EddM said,

    February 17, 2010 at 12:22 am

    http://www.socialistaction.net/ Have they broken their rules?

  7. Andy Wilson said,

    February 17, 2010 at 1:01 am

    “they manufactured an excuse to play the victims”

    Indeed. Either we are expected to believe that in the few hours (48?) since Lindsey resigned a significant raft of SWP members have been so utterly appalled at her treatment that they have spontaneously contacted one another and, in that short period of time, their horror at her treatment coalesced into a protest letter and mass resignation. On the other hand you might think that this was long prepared and well organised, and is the logical outcome of recent party debates. The LP, imo, have every right to organise, but let’s not let them pretend that they were doing anything other than that.

    But why should such a schism be able to emerge around what most people outside of the SWP would consider as trivial political disagreements and matters of emphasis? The fact is that at the heart of recent debates was a coded dispute about the tenor of revolutionary leadership: whether it revolved around lightning decisions at the top that could rapidly galvanise and cohere political forces just in time to deliver a decisive breakthrough, or whether on the other hand such decisive leadership, while necessary, could only deliver if combined with the more difficult work of persuasion, network-building and the sheer grunt work of proving your politics in practice rather than by fiat (as if events were watched by an imaginary tribunal of Bolshevik saints who awarded points for effort). The Left Platform seem to believe that the majority approach lacks the appropriate urgency, while the majority drew the conclusion from the last decade that the LP hankering for get-rich schemes contradicted everything the IS tradition was supposed to embody.

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      February 17, 2010 at 1:39 am

      I remain to be convinced that the current regime isn’t in favour of lightning decisions and get rich quick schemes. They seem to be a little more circumspect, as well they might. But old habits die hard, or not at all.

    • Dan said,

      February 17, 2010 at 9:29 am

      Andy is broadly right I think (funny how people who used to do the same job as me keep popping up with insightful comments, Alan Gibbons is at it as well).

      I’d just add that there are some names on that list who I am very disappointed about. However, in their case it is hard to see that there is much more than personal loyalty at work, since they barely participated in any of the arguments, and, at least when I was still in the district, were not attending meetings in a way that could have counterbalanced what they were being told on the phone by certain people…

  8. POUM said,

    February 17, 2010 at 2:08 am

    “The LP, imo, have every right to organise, but let’s not let them pretend that they were doing anything other than that.”

    Exactly. What has happened in the swp lately is an example of one of the less impressive traditions of Trotskyism- if you plan on leaving an organization, don’t just quit, kick up a fuss and pretend you are being witch-hunted. When everyone starts to get annoyed with this act, and tells you to shut up, this is just further proof of their Stalinism and your martyrdom.

    Ps What’s Socialist Action, I feel like I’m missing something

  9. Dave Riley said,

    February 17, 2010 at 8:26 am

    SPLINTERED SUNRISE:“I couldn’t let the day’s other resignation go unmarked, so here’s wishing good luck to AVPS as he ventures into the badlands of social democracy….”

    OK. Coincidence? Or are we looking at a broader problem that the English far left — the quintessential sect zoo — has failed to/refuses to address? AND, as the general election appoaches, is there going to be more leaching out of the orgs &/or into the LP?

    • February 17, 2010 at 9:16 am

      I don’t think so. I don’t think the SP is anything like as unhealthy internally as the SWP. Comrades get disillusioned with the lack of progress and flee to the warmth of mainstream parties in the hope of reorienting them from the inside, it’s the nature of the beast. I respect Alien Versus Predator’s decision, but his rationale didn’t make much sense and I believe he’ll double back eventually.

    • Mark P said,

      February 17, 2010 at 11:45 am

      I’m not sure that the British far left can really be compared as a “sect zoo” when compared with the Australian far left. The Australians have managed to assemble a quite considerable number of small left groups, all operating on a similar order of magnitude, and all less than fond of each other – as opposed to the far left in Britain which has just two organisations which are very much larger than everybody else.

      On the particular question Dave asks, the resignation of one SP member in Stoke and the smallish split from the SWP are entirely unrelated, with the people leaving over very different issues and heading in very different directions. Phil has drawn the – at this point rather idiosyncratic given that the Labour left is nearly extinct and the entryists are down to a couple of Socialist Appeal supporters who don’t even do actual entry work – conclusion that socialists should be in the Labour Party. I don’t think that it’s even remotely likely that Rees, German, Nineham et al will be washing up on the shores of New Labour any time soon.

  10. February 17, 2010 at 9:06 am

    after wracking Socialist alliance, SSP, Re(e)spect, etc., they are killing there own party, probably the highest level of continuity shown by SWPers during the last 20 years ;-)

  11. Dan said,

    February 17, 2010 at 9:31 am

    umm, anyone who’s been active in the left in NUS knows that Socialist Action exist. Student Broad Left, Student CND, Student PSC are all staffed by SA members.

  12. johng said,

    February 17, 2010 at 9:43 am

    I understood the joke you made about that passage in DC (I’ve been known to be a little caustic on the subject myself despite many of my best friends etc) but thats hardly evidence of a ‘tendency to lionise’ organisers. Its really just saying we should still have them and mantain some kind of organisational coherence (as opposed for example, ideas about districts electing them, rather then having them selected by the centre). I wouldn’t support the latter idea, although some would (its a bit like the debate about permenant factions).

    I have to say I see no evidence of the supposedly symmetrical development of Martin Smith, but I guess its not particularly persuasive to just argue about it. Certainly all the evidence suggests to me a shift away from the bad old practices, particularly in relationship to others. But I don’t put this down simply to Martin. I think there is a danger with taking the smoke and mirrors of left platform for fact.

    The seething resentment of Martin does play a role here (I can remember having to listen to endless diatribes about the democracy commission linked to quite incredible personalised hatred of the whole of the majority CC, which was clearly the product of the new group think in LP). He dared to disagree apparently.

  13. johng said,

    February 17, 2010 at 9:53 am

    I can remember one LPer proudly announcing that he called the new Respect ‘Celeb Respect’. I was profoundly uneasy about this kind of cavelier attitude to what was a serious split on the left which would have serious consequences not just for us and for them, but the whole of the movement. Today we have the curious situation of Celeb Respect without the Celebs.

  14. Chris Williams said,

    February 17, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    The resigners claim that the good, old, SWP used:

    “an open, non-sectarian approach to joint work with others on the left and a systematic commitment to building the movements.”

    So the splitters are still several million miles from Planet Reality, then.

  15. ger francis said,

    February 17, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    ‘These guys’ track record involves the smashing up of Birmingham STWC’

    Such a rose tinted view from afar. Those of us on the ground at the time saw things somewhat differently. In particular, we came to the view that it would not be possible to build an anti-war movement capable of engaging with the city’s large Muslim community if it was infected by an unholy mix of agnosticism on the West’s civilising mission in Afghanistan and ultra leftism towards people with religious ideas. That assessment was proven correct by subsequent events. And rather than ‘smashing up’ Birmingham STW, as you put it, Bham STW went on to have the largest mobilisation outside of London for the Feb 15th demo and the largest school student strike in the entire country preceding it.

    • February 18, 2010 at 11:56 am

      A rather contradictory account can be found here at Sue Blackwell, someone else on the ground:

      http://www.sue.be/politics/swp/

      I do remember that the new Brum STW regime under the ultimate dead hand of Rees couldn’t even muster coaches to the Bush protest when Dubbya hit town. The expellees had to organise them instead.

      Again, so much work of others appropriated by the Reesites at the time.

  16. johng said,

    February 17, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    I think if you combine Richard Seymours comment on the tomb with Andy Wilson’s comment on SUN you get a pretty balenced assessment, Richard:

    I don’t think “good riddance” is the right approach. Many members will be relieved that this is now all ‘over’, and I can’t imagine there will be many tears over this, but the SWP has just lost a sizeable chunk of big names and activists. The number resigning is a small percentage of the party’s membership and not that portion with deep roots in the organised labour movement, but this is still a serious split. And it arises from the wrong practises of the past, in which a decent-sized chunk of good activists were educated in a method of organisation that they now erroneously believe to be the essence of Leninism. We all defended this because of the successes we had during that period. But even when it started to produce serious problems, we still defended it – in part due to the vitiation of party structures that would have enabled a proper accounting of these problems. Only after some appalling mistakes did the party move. Putting all that right has predictably left a minority who were cultivated and promoted in the preceding period feeling as if they are an embattled vanguard defending the ‘real’ political heritage of the IS, hence the split. I’m not donning the hairshirt, but the appropriate response here is humility and a willingness to learn from our past mistakes.

    Andy Wilson:
    123: “Saying that, if an aspiring revolutionary party can’t even contain such small differences within its ranks”
    But these were not small differences. Ultimately what was at stake was whether the SWP wanted to continue being guided by the kind of politics that made the Respect split so pointlessly acrimonious and, frankly, disastrous. The vast majority decided that they didn’t and even went so far as to spit out some of their most senior and experienced members in order to put things back on track. I would have thought that on this blog of all places it might be recognised that this is excellent news.
    Looking through the list of those who have resigned I recognise only a few names that I know: one or two of them are people I like and respect, and who will no doubt be missed, but the majority are precisely those who were central, over a long period of time (going back way before Respect was launched) to establishing a quasi-militaristic command and control system of leadership within the SWP. As I’ve said elsewhere, they could get away with this so long as it remained simply a disease of the internal organs, as the overwhelming majority of SWP members are fiercely loyal, but this approach was bound to shatter in contact with the wider reality implied by the turn outwards (SA, Respect, etc). I would go as far as to say that the outcome was more or less inevitable. It was infinitely frustrating to watch as it happened, but now it is over it is good to see the party draw the right conclusions.
    Another point: while the SWP have just lost a few tens of people from the membership list it’s also likely that there will be a small but significant number of people who remained essentially loyal to the SWPs politics even though they were demoralised and/or marginalised by the Rees-German leadership. Those people will be delighted now that the root problem has been addressed. If they had simply drifted away from activity then it’s possible they will get involved again; if they resigned or had been expelled they may be applying to rejoin. I don’t say that this will involve huge numbers but there will certainly be a reflux. I already know of a couple of people that have rejoined or applied to rejoin as a result of these changes. If I were still in the SWP I would be dusting off my old contact and membership lists and heading off to have some serious discussions

  17. andy newman said,

    February 17, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I see the new group already have a web-site broadly in line with their conception of politics being based upon flaie and elan:

    http://www.spiked-online.com/

    • Harry Monro said,

      February 17, 2010 at 1:56 pm

      (Perhaps like Andy) I see the LP acting like the early RCP, basically emphasizing war and anti-imperialist issues to build among students: and without wishing to help them they could fill a niche. With LG gone we can only hope that SWSS groups aren’t propelled into aping their voluntarism, as happened in some collages during the period of RCP growth.
      One view professed by our critics is all Party members think alike, well in the interests of healthy debate let me say again, the Party is vastly improved by LG & JR leaving. I’m at a loss to know what the important theoretical works she has produced for the Party are? Her writing on women combines economic arguments about women’s lives that are mirrored in countless socialist and feminist books, and on sexuality she too often strays into the moralism that is more akin to US right wing feminists.
      Still again moralism of a traditional sort has deep roots, who can forget Cliff throwing a wobbly at Skegness when the Joan Collins Fan Club was on. For a brief moment I thought it was a set up, that Cliff was to embark on a new fund raising strategy for the Party and he was teaming up with Julian as a double act and we soon hear his dulcet tones on some ITV variety show “heckling” Julian whenever he appeared.
      Anyway now the split has occurred we have to work with the LP in campaigns etc, even if they continue with the victim act.
      Splinty, are the Real SWP just giving out leaflets or do they have a Paper yet? No organization can be truly derived from the Party if it does not have a Paper.

      • johng said,

        February 17, 2010 at 2:04 pm

        Papers are bad and wrong Harry. As are all the things the swp does even when they are good.

      • Andy Wilson said,

        February 17, 2010 at 2:08 pm

        I don’t remember this business of Cliff moralising about the Joan Collins Fan Club. What I do remember is standing at the bar with Andy Strouthous watching the show, both of us in tears of laughter and almost falling over with hysterics. Andy wasn’t very moralistic, as I recall.

      • andy newman said,

        February 17, 2010 at 4:06 pm

        Wel I for ne have forgtten this:

        who can forget Cliff throwing a wobbly at Skegness when the Joan Collins Fan Club was on.

        I was certainly there, somewhere near the front, but can’t remember Cliff iping up. What did he say?

      • chris y said,

        February 17, 2010 at 7:50 pm

        Papers, granddad? This, wot u r readin, is called the Internet, a series of tubes which you need to be aware of all its traditions. Do they have a facebook group?

      • harry monro said,

        February 17, 2010 at 9:52 pm

        Cliff was near the back to one side, all I could make out was load noises in a very distinct accent with some arm movement. Those closer to the scene had two interpretations (remember at the time I believed I was witnessing performance art and was drunk)
        1) Cliff objected because Julian was advancing a stereotype of all Gay men being Camp
        2) Cliff objected because Camp could be construed as being a reactionary portrayal of women
        people nearer to him were telling him to shut up and Julian thinking it was drunken crazy old man made some joke with got laughs but not for the reason he thought.
        Andy W, you proably couldn’t hear Cliff as Andy S was rehearsing his heckles for the later rendition of Short People
        PS a website may be acceptable these days as long as it called the Paper and you can round to contact houses and view it with them on their computer to discuss the latest Callinicos article

  18. johng said,

    February 17, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Yeah the spiked parrallel has been raised by a number of folk. will we be spending years thinking ‘what the HELL are THAT lot about?’. Not sure.

  19. andy newman said,

    February 17, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    “Andy wasn’t very moralistic, as I recall.”

    unless an innocent vegetarian strayed across his path, like a nut cutlet t the slaughter

  20. Andy Wilson said,

    February 17, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    “like a nut cutlet to the slaughter”

    I always found that rather endearing

  21. splinteredsunrise said,

    February 17, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    I’ve removed a comment above at the request of Martin Bright, as it was extremely defamatory. Robust discussion is one thing, but try and keep the head, everyone.

    • johng said,

      February 17, 2010 at 6:31 pm

      bloody hell what have i missed?

      Just had a thought: Spiked or wannabe SA?

      • splinteredsunrise said,

        February 17, 2010 at 10:27 pm

        As I believe I’ve written before, Spiked are not dissimilar to SA in their attitudes – remember, the Rossites always saw themselves as the brains trust of the left. Uncle Frank and the boys had the same elitism but with different preoccupations. And better hair.

        I don’t think LG and JR are in that territory, it’s just that I have an allergic reaction to talk of bending the stick and such like. I once asked a CC member whether a series of expulsions had been entirely necessary and he replied with the immortal phrase “Some people just couldn’t make the turn.” Charming.

        As for the vanishing comment, you haven’t missed anything. A lengthy comment some way up the line contained a passing reference to Martin Bright. I had a communication from Martin protesting that this was defamatory. On examination, it was, so it’s gone.

      • Mark P said,

        February 17, 2010 at 10:35 pm

        Well, both the Rossites and the Furedites have had something of an obsession with anti-imperialism. For both operations that was the part of their heritage that survived longest as a lot of the overtly socialist domestic politics faded.

      • splinteredsunrise said,

        February 17, 2010 at 11:14 pm

        Neither one my favourite group, to be honest. I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but Redmond was an unmitigated shit. It’s speculated that all the bile he’d accumulated over the years was what caused the cancer.

  22. Red Maria said,

    February 17, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Quoth Lindsey Lucifer: “Non serviam!”

  23. Ae fond kiss said,

    February 17, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    http://internationalsocialists.wordpress.com/

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      February 18, 2010 at 12:19 am

      Thanks. Interesting…

  24. graham said,

    February 18, 2010 at 2:35 am

    The RCP were utter scum who seemed to think carrying out physical attacks on other people on the Left was justified political activity. I’ve not much time for the Left platform but i hope whatever website/organisation they set up is nothing like the spiked motley crew.

    • NollaigO said,

      February 19, 2010 at 2:50 am

      The RCP were utter scum who seemed to think carrying out physical attacks on other people on the Left was justified political activity

      By RCP, do you mean the Yaffeites?

      Do you have sources for charges?

      • February 19, 2010 at 2:59 am

        The Yaffeites were the RCG, and still are (“Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism”), amirite? The RCP are the crew who are now Spiked / Institute of Ideas.

  25. David Camfield said,

    February 18, 2010 at 2:42 am

    This is a tangent, but since Splintie raised the 1996 split in the Canadian IS and Redbedhead commented from his perspective I thought I’d comment from the perspective of the other side.

    The reason why the IS minority (the Political Reorientation Faction) conducted itself as it did was because it was impossible to have a genuine discussion of differences let alone openly initiate a tendency or faction under the internal regime that had taken shape after the 1994 convention with the full backing of the SWP CC. We came to the conclusion that under the circumstances it was impossible to change the IS from within.

    We also felt that going through a lengthy and bitter internal “debate” (I recall John Rees saying “debate means we hammer them until they give in” or words to that effect in Toronto in 1994) with the IS leadership and SWP CC under the existing regime would inevitably lead to members who had little stomach for vitriol and denunciation dropping out of socialist politics altogether and that members who continued to disagree with the leadership after the conference would inevitably be expelled and/or treated so badly that they would be forced to resign.

    Under such conditions it would have been very hard to pull together a new group and get on with what we wanted to do: try to do socialist politics differently, informed by the conclusions we had drawn about the political problems of the IS (which some of us had, regrettably, done our bit to create). So once the IS leadership refused to agree to the PRF’s demands for democratic and pluralist changes in the internal regime the PRF resigned en masse and went on to form the core of the New Socialist Group.

    This is written without bitterness — what the SWP and IS leaderships did forced me and others into self-critical rethinking of IST politics. I hope that more SWPers and ex-SWPers end up doing the same kind of thing.

  26. Liam said,

    February 18, 2010 at 7:52 am

    #25 “debate means we hammer them until they give in”

    As a non SWP member in Respect at the receiving end of that treatment a couple of times I can concur that it’s not pleasant. The amount of verbal violence was like nothing I’d ever experienced on the left or anywhere else. It felt like a physical beating. That’s not hyperbole.

    Even if you accepted the fantasy version of “Leninism” which underpinned it you had to ask yourself what useful purpose it served in an organisation like Respect? Sure it meant that you could try and prevent anyone from disagreeing with you in public ever again but the other side of the coin was that it created an atmosphere that was repellent to any critically minded non-aligned trade unionist or ex Labour party member who got to see it. Exactly the sort of people Respect was set up for.

    If this process of reflection has one positive outcome it should be a rejection of that methodology.

    • Red Maria said,

      February 18, 2010 at 7:24 pm

      As a non SWP member in Respect at the receiving end of that treatment a couple of times I can concur that it’s not pleasant. The amount of verbal violence was like nothing I’d ever experienced on the left or anywhere else. It felt like a physical beating. That’s not hyperbole.

      That’s interesting, Liam. Can you go into a bit more detail and give some examples of what you mean?

  27. NollaigO said,

    February 18, 2010 at 9:32 am

    http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/

    This is an analysis worth considering.

  28. February 18, 2010 at 10:35 am

    [...] SWP ausgetreten, die Austrittserklärung gibt es hier, Diskussion zum Thema auf Splintered Sunrise, hier ein Auszug aus der “Erklärung der 60″, welcher in Anbetracht der Geschichte der [...]

  29. chris y said,

    February 18, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Good spot, NollaigO.

    If the British SWP functioned like the Bolsheviks, you would see open debates between Lindsey German and the party leaders over antiwar perspectives in the party press.

    This. The rules of engagement that people like the SWP seem to regard as Bolshevik were imposed under conditions of civil war, where the physical extirpation of the party was a real possibility. They were normalised during the period that drove the Left Opposition out of the party. If the SWP comrades actually believe that prevailing conditions in Britain today are remotely comparable, they should consider seeing a doctor (to paraphrase Lenin).

    Until the left start behaving like politicians instead of conspirators, organised numbers will never rise above the low four figures. And that’s probably not entirely a bad thing.

  30. February 21, 2010 at 11:48 am

    [...] the majority he is for iron discipline, when he is in the minority he is against it“; “Once Tiberius is dead I, Sejanus, will rule as Emperor in Rome”; “It was the best times, it was the worst of times”….; United fronts or just [...]


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