I’ve been reading the SWP pre-conference bulletins, and a most fascinating read they are too. I’ll probably come back to them at greater length once I get the time.
However, a few quick observations are in order. Firstly, I was deeply unimpressed by the contributions from the CC. Their public statements haven’t inspired much confidence, but what the membership are being given – well, I’ll just say that, if you are inclined to take what Martin Smith says as gospel truth, then you’re almost certainly the kind of person BA Baracus would refer to as a foo. In fact, he might even be moved to call you a crazy sucka and pity your foolishness.
There are, as one might expect, quite a number of sharp criticisms of the CC. Most of these raise extremely pertinent questions, hearteningly so in fact, and a couple cast serious doubt on the competence of the CC as evidenced by its record over the last few years. What is fascinating for me is the names appended to the articles. I had been on the lookout for several long-time cadre who I personally know to be critical of the CC, but they don’t appear, perhaps because they were obvious suspects. But some of those coming out of the closet as oppositionists now are people I would have categorised in the past as sycophants and apparatchiks – in fact, one of the CC’s harshest critics is a comrade I used to view as a Stalinoid maniac. Isn’t it wonderful what a faction fight can do for people?
The competence question, though, is the great unanswered question. Unanswered because the answer might be a tricky one for the band of brothers and sisters on the CC. To put it another way, if Rees was working for a capitalist corporation, or even a contestant on The Apprentice, he would have been shown the door long ago.
This is where you feel the lack of Cliff. Whether Cliff would have allowed things to come to this pass is a moot question – what’s more to the point is that, even if he had, he’d have found a fall guy and Rees would have been busted down to the ranks ages ago. But of course, that isn’t how things work in the post-Cliff collegiate leadership. Look at Prof Callinicos. He probably can’t shoulder all the blame for the loss of most of the international tendency – the splits of the mid-90s owed much to Cliff’s brainstorms, and it was of course the old man himself who declared war on the ISO – but it’s instructive that Alex remains in situ.
The truth is that there is no one person with the authority to act as hatchet-man. Such is the balance of forces, and the federalisation of the CC into separate fiefdoms, that you would need a split down the middle of the CC for the Sheriff to be put in real jeopardy. Take Chris Harman, who I rate as easily the best brain in the SWP, and whose close acolytes have been keeping a very low profile of late. The problem is that Chris, after decades of being Cliff’s whipping boy on the CC, still has to show evidence that he has a spine to back up that brain. The more aggressive people on the CC, on the other hand, aren’t known as the sharpest political thinkers. And, whatever the undoubted talent there, not one of them has impressed me in recent years as a tactician of real substance.
Is it any wonder George has run rings around these bozos?