Credit where credit’s due, I tip my hat to the Weekly Worker for publishing the relevant section of the SWP’s Party Notes dealing with the mini-purge (thanks for the tip, Cameron). Let the CC speak:
Last weekend 3 SWP members – Rob Hoveman, Kevin Ovenden and Nick Wrack were expelled from the SWP.
Kevin and Rob
Kevin and Rob are SWP members working for George Galloway. However, recently this situation has become increasingly difficult. The party leadership has come to believe that it was impossible to have two comrades working for someone who has openly attacked the SWP in recent months. This was a position several leading members of the SWP articulated at the recent Party Council. Also over the last year there have been a number of meetings between the CC and Rob and Kevin.
At these meetings the CC raised major concerns with the way both these comrades worked in Respect. We believe that they were more concerned with promoting George Galloway’s line in Respect than the SWP’s position.
More seriously, they have denounced the SWP to individuals and organisations outside the Party.
Two members of the CC met with Kevin and Rob last week, they were asked to resign their posts in George Galloway’s office. Kevin and Rob have subsequently written to the CC refusing to stop working for George Galloway despite the party’s concerns.
The recent Respect NC voted to create a new position of National Officer. The SWP believed that the post was created to undermine Respect National Secretary John Rees. However, after some changes to the way the post was defined, the SWP agreed to setting up of the post. George Galloway then suggested that Nick did the job. Nick said he would seek various people’s opinions.
The SWP made it clear that we didn’t think Nick should accept the job because he had publicly disagreed with the line being put by the party about Respect. This would have created confusion in the Respect national office. Nick met with two members of the CC and agreed to accept party discipline and not take the post. Several days later his name was put forward by a member of International Socialist Group for the post. When asked, Nick refused to withdraw his name saying he had changed his mind and now wanted his name to go forward.
Despite a further meeting with two members of the CC and several phone calls, Nick refused to withdraw from standing for the post. There are occasions when the CC may ask a comrade not to take a post, perhaps a full time trade union position, or promotion to a job that puts someone in an untenable position. Nick was therefore expelled because he refused to work under the direction of the SWP leadership and reneged on the agreement he made with the CC.
It is important to make one thing clear, the three comrades have not been expelled because they disagreed with the Central Committee. It is because they failed to accept Party discipline and worked against the nationally agreed SWP line.
Expelling comrades is not something the CC does lightly, but in all three cases we felt we had no choice.
Even if we assume this to be the gospel truth (pay your money and take your choice), there are at least four points worth making – firstly, Kevin and Rob were working as aides in Galloway’s office. Evidently the CC felt that no party member could hold such a position. Now, if you were George Galloway, and the SWP ordered your staff to resign their jobs, would you take that as a sign that the SWP leadership intend to act in a constructive way?
Secondly, Nick Wrack. As Andy points out, Nick – a member of the SWP but one who was known to have some sympathy with the Galloway-Yaqoob stance on the way forward for Respect – was an obvious compromise candidate for the position of interim National Organiser, a post that the NC created precisely because of the breakdown in relations between the National Secretary (Rees) and, oh, just about everybody else – and that the SWP delegates to the NC voted in favour of. Now we hear (I await details with baited breath) that the SWP majority on the Respect officers’ group, aware that they would lose an NC vote, have decided that an interim NO is no longer necessary. Does this look like playing silly buggers or not?
Thirdly, the CC write that the expellees “worked against the nationally agreed SWP line“. Agreed by whom?
Finally, I note the admission that the SWP is going out with all guns blazing to defend Rees personally. The line is still being sold that an attack on Rees is an attack on the SWP, despite George making it clear that his problems were with Rees personally. Why wouldn’t the SWP CC agree to replace Rees with another SWP member? Do they not realise that unlike the SWP where you have a permanent leadership whose members get moved around once in a while, if they fail to carry the day at the Respect conference, Rees could be out on his arse? Returning to my previous comments on prestige and pecking order, I think it’s possible that at least one or two Machiavellians would have considered this.