Chairman Martin defeats the counter-revolutionary liquidationist clique

t057607a

It will take some time for reliable details to emerge of last weekend’s SWP conference, and it won’t be several months before it becomes clear exactly what direction the organisation is heading in. And yet, the first chapter has been closed with the removal of the erstwhile CC minority.

The mechanics of the thing are fairly simple. The CC majority had proposed a slate for the new CC, which was the outgoing membership minus John Rees. The minority had an alternative slate – the outgoing CC including Rees. It quickly became clear that the minority had very little support. Therefore Lindsey German, longstanding CC stalwart and Rees’ other half, announced that she would not serve on a Rees-less CC and neither would Chris Nineham. (I must say, it was considerate of her to resign on Chris’ behalf.) And so it is that fourteen are now eleven, the previous CC majority plus Chris Bambery, who is a broken reed now in any case.

This at least clarifies things. In principle, of course, I think the minority should be represented on the CC according to their proportionate support, but that seems to be thin on the ground. It also gets us some distance past the personal question, focused around Rees’ position. This discussion, particularly from within the CC, was remarkably apolitical in tone. Alex Callinicos produces a laundry list of Rees’ personal failings; Lindsey German replies that the whole leadership supported his actions, so it’s unfair to single out poor ‘ickle John. Both have some justice on their side, but neither really gears up to a political critique of the other. Which is not surprising, because an honest accounting of the last five years (not to go any further back) would cause massive damage to the myth of CC infallibility.

There is a further important point, which is worked out at some length in the SU discussion, in terms of Stop the War and the fact that the Gang of Three are all quartered there. If the invasion of Gaza wasn’t going on at the minute, this wouldn’t matter so much, but at the moment StW has to be central to any practical socialist activity. As things stand, there are already dispiriting stories coming out of StW. There is a question mark over whether the SWP are prepared to tolerate George Galloway or Salma Yaqoob playing a prominent role in a movement where they are serious assets – one might argue that there’s personal history there, but if John and Lindsey can’t put that aside, they shouldn’t be doing mass work.. Equally disturbing are reports of StW playing silly buggers with the MAB – whatever you may think of the MAB’s politics, they are absolutely crucial people at a time when young Muslims are getting very het up, and when StW’s own Muslim network, instead of coming into its own about now, is practically dormant. The latter may have something to do with the StW Muslim network being headed up by Chris Nineham. At this point the attentive reader will scratch her head and say, “Hold on, I didn’t know Chris Nineham was a Muslim.” Which is correct and demonstrates both that the party can’t find a tame Muslim ally and that those Asian party members who happen to have Muslim names aren’t lining up to be the token. Finally, one may remark on Lindsey’s crass reference to “white socialists”. I don’t believe for a second that Lindsey is racist – just that she’s completely lacking in empathy or sensitivity – but this is a bit of a liability if you want to lead a movement full of Asians.

All this should concern SWP maximum leader Martin Smith, although he’s been tolerant of similar tomfoolery in other movements in the past. What may concern him more is the possibility of the Gang of Three, unwilling to accept their demotion lying down, using StW as a factional headquarters. But the leadership is in a cleft stick here – as the three are elected officers of StW, although they hold those positions by virtue of their positions in the SWP, they can’t simply be removed by the SWP. The CC could, I suppose, instruct them to resign, but Martin and his compañeros will have to think carefully about whether that’s a question they want to ask.

On a more positive note, it has been agreed that the democracy commission will be set up and will report to a special conference in the summer. Presumably the Loyal Opposition will be incorporated into this process – and so they should, because they have made the most cogent points, and because a “democracy commission” stacked full of apparatchiks who think there’s nothing wrong with party democracy would be somewhat lacking in credibility. In this we can see the enlightened despots at the top assuming a Gorbachev (or perhaps János Kádár) role – on a pragmatic level, the old commandist structures aren’t working, and they want to increase enthusiasm and initiative in the ranks without losing control of the process. But in fact, if they are serious Marxists, they really shouldn’t fear losing control of the process. If you ease the draconian aspect of the regime, things will flow, and will necessarily do so in unpredictable ways. There are plenty of people who have something to say, and who are willing to say it if they think they’ll get a hearing. If you won’t get a hearing, there’s not much point.

Incidentally, and just to stretch the Gorbachev analogy, it’ll be interesting to see if any of this glasnost filters through into the international franchises. Kieran Allen and his satraps have never really shown any interest in reforming their outfit, indeed they have usually given the impression that its only faults were a) it wasn’t big enough and b) occasionally you get someone who dares to disagree with the Great White Chief. On the other hand, they might be forced to pay lip service to the brave new happenings in the metropolis.

Big Brother update: It’s still pretty dull, with a distinct lack of fireworks. Apart from the possibility, however remote, of Tommy Sheridan impersonating a household pet, there are now two things I’m waiting for. The first is whether Ulrika will finally crack up. The second is the question of who, in the absence of Lucy, is going to take on misogynistic bully Coolio. It’s more than a little embarrassing when you have two right-on socialist blokes in the house yet, to date, the Tory-supporting Page Three girl has displayed bigger balls than either of them. Perhaps they have forgotten how Gallows blotted his copybook by sucking up to Dennis Rodman. Or perhaps it’s just that, the British left being what it is, they don’t see misogynistic bullying as at all remarkable behaviour.

18 Comments

  1. Binh said,

    January 13, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    Did they really call it a commission? Sounds like whitewash to me.

  2. Harrods is burning said,

    January 13, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    The question isn’t really whether Molyneux and Davidson-ites will be incorporated onto the democracy commission, the question is whether they got elected (10/14 positions were elected – 4 to be chosen by CC). My sense is that it was the better comrades who stood and the hacks avoided it like the plague. The counting was due to finish tonight – I imagine the results will beonline somewhere soon.

  3. Mike said,

    January 13, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    They had little choice really given that an entire layer of cadre are in near revolt. The failure of Respect and the actions of Rees have produced a deep disquiet in the ranks. Exemplified by the documents signed by Molyneaux and Davidson. Things may be on the move…

  4. Nick said,

    January 14, 2009 at 1:55 am

    Hmm. Tommy Sheridan and misogynist bully in the same sentence. now why does that seem familiar?

  5. Graculus said,

    January 14, 2009 at 9:17 am

    What’s this about SWP playing ‘silly buggers’ with the MAB?

  6. skidmarx said,

    January 14, 2009 at 11:10 am

    1. Binh – Did you consider waiting for the commission to report before declaring it a whitewash?

    “Chris Bambery, who is a broken reed now in any case.”
    Hmmm.

    “What may concern him more is the possibility of the Gang of Three, unwilling to accept their demotion lying down, using StW as a factional headquarters.”
    He must be shitting in his (enormous) pants. Have you considered the possibility that ther is less to this than meets the eye, that the SWP has changed some personnel because it thinks they made some tactical mistakes, and the experience has generally made the party a little more concerned about its internal democracy?

  7. End of an era said,

    January 14, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    skidmarx is touching in his ability to see things in ways that others don’t. When Galloway wrote a mild letter implicitly criticising John Rees Skidmarx insisted there was more to it than met the eye. Now when the SWP CC sack John Rees for the same faults there is ‘less to this than meets the eye’. Bless.

  8. Doug said,

    January 14, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Yes, what it is to be a complete hack.

  9. January 14, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    i’m looking forward to the revelation in one of the next issues of the SW about the Rees-German-Shehu group being secret agents of the USA, Blair, Galloway, Matgamna, the Pope and Taafe and the gang of three begging for mercy at the party tribunal … but the wise leadership will not accept their dishonest confessions and send them as ordinary SW sellers to remote places (Billericay, Afghanistan, Kansas, etc.) for life

  10. skidmarx said,

    January 14, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    7. You and your co-thinkers were suggesting that lots of members of the SWP would share you view of Galloway’s machinations and either leave or denounce Rees and steer the party to the dosgbody role in Respect that Galloway’s crew demanded.Nobody in the SWP bought that line.So it seems unavoidable that I come to suggest that End of an era seems touched in his ability to see things in ways that others don’t.

  11. skidmarx said,

    January 14, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    7. You and your co-thinkers were suggesting that lots of members of the SWP would share you view of Galloway’s machinations and either leave or denounce Rees and steer the party to the dosgbody role in Respect that Galloway’s crew demanded.Nobody in the SWP bought that line.So it seems unavoidable that I come to suggest that End of an era seems touched in his ability to see things in ways that others don’t.

  12. Spiteful said,

    January 14, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    9, I’d prefer the wise leadership to send them out as Big Issue sellers…

  13. January 15, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    @12, i think, selling the SW its much harder … for a Big Issue seller, many feel compassion and by a copy …

  14. Chris C said,

    January 15, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    This is a strange time and one that is incredibly complicated.

    The continuing failure of the majority faction to understand the strategic and tactical mistakes in their position on Respect suggests that they will have problems grasping the scale of what is currently taking place. By this, I mean the hand wringing about how they lost the middle ground in Respect without recognizing the false narratives of witch hunt and left/right split were the problem. There is also the functional assertion that the electoral space to the left of Labour has collapsed ‘for the time being’.

    Rubbing salt in for goods measure, we find a resurgence with greater radicalization of the very forces that gave birth to Respect which, it transpires, follow every utterance of Galloway as an icon of anti-imperialism (this is very clear when you leaflet mosques or give out Respect leaflets on demos). As a result, Respect is experiencing significant growth in some areas and finding a much greater ability to build strong new networks.

    This presents the possibility that Respect will be able to mount a credible electoral challenge at the General Election and may come out stronger than at any point since Galloway’s election in 2005.

    The economic depression, which is growing more frightening, is likely to haunt the Labour government sooner rather than later as every instrument used has failed and even the partial nationalizations are hostages to fortune (chief exec pay, repossessions, failure to offer credit to companies ). The new Welfare Bill is explosive.

    The SWP, in its ‘turn to the class’ (where have I heard that before? Very Third Period) and its highly dubious utterances on Muslims, communalism and the alleged retreat after the 7/7 bombings, has cut itself off from this radicalization and is distrusted. The result is likely to be another inquest into the relative failure of the party to significantly grow.

    The only salvation in this is the continued relevance of Stop the War but this now presents problems both in terms of the lack of trust and the officers that run it (what a terrible term to have to use for a mass movement).

    The challenging times have only started and history is not offering the historic leaders of our class much help.

  15. Fubsic said,

    January 15, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Post #14 “This presents the possibility that Respect will be able to mount a credible electoral challenge at the General Election and may come out stronger than at any point since Galloway’s election in 2005.”

    I rather like fantasy fiction but please don’t take it up as a profession dear heart.

  16. johng said,

    January 16, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    I’m unaware that there is any discussion of a ‘turn to the class’ in the SWP (partly because there never was a turn away). Its a bit much to be accused of third period stalinism on the basis of someones hunch about what the SWP ‘might’ be doing.

  17. Binh said,

    January 22, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Did you consider waiting for the commission to report before declaring it a whitewash?

    Did you read my comment before falsely accusing me of making a declaration? Apparently not.

    Commissions on X, Y, and Z are standard fare in bourgeois politics as a means for the Establishment to wash its hands in dry testimony and huge tomes of boring caveats. Hence my comment.

  18. skidmarx said,

    January 22, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Binh- the phrase ” Sounds like whitewash to me” sounded like a declaration. Is the SWP standard fare of Establishment bourgeois politics?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: