Exit stage left

AVPS has the big scoop, in that longstanding SWP leader Lindsey German has resigned her membership. What we have to go on is this email exchange between Lindsey and SWP General Secretary Harry Worth:

Dear Lindsey,
On behalf of the CC, we are repeating our request that you don’t speak at the disputed StW meeting in Newcastle tonight [Wednesday 10th February]. We expect you, like all SWP members, to respect our decisions.
We also think that it is imperative that you meet with members of the CC at the earliest possible opportunity. Could you please give us some dates when you are free.
Martin Smith (SWP National Secretary)

Dear Martin,
I asked Judith whether I would be subject to disciplinary action if I went to Newcastle. Your reply is ambiguous on this question. Could you please clarify. The STW meeting is not disputed, as you put it. It was agreed at two Tyneside STW steering committees, despite our comrades raising why I was going to the meeting. I therefore think your request is misplaced.

Dear Lindsey,
We have already made our decision very clear to you. If you ignore our request we reserve the right to respond as we see fit.

Dear Martin,
It is clear from your reply that your request is in fact an instruction not to speak in Newcastle tonight at the Stop the War meeting.
I regard such a course of action as damaging both to the party and STW. The meeting is properly constituted as evidenced by two sets of minutes of steering committee. There is no good reason for me to withdraw and none that I could possibly justify to STW members locally or nationally.
I have always tried to prevent internal disputes from damaging the movement. I feel that you have brought these disputes into STW and that is unacceptable.
It is therefore with the greatest regret that I am resigning from the SWP. This is a very hard decision for me. I joined more than 37 years ago and have always been committed to building it, which in my view meant relating to the wider movement.
I was on the CC for 30 years, edited the Review for 20 and played a major role in the movement and party building. My respect and affection for many party members remains, and my commitment to socialism as ever. I hope to continue working with them in the wider movement.
Lindsey German

I acknowledge receipt of your resignation and have amended our records accordingly.
Please note it is your responsibility to inform your bank to close your Direct Debit/Standing Order.
Martin Smith (SWP National Secretary)

This is obviously very big news. Not only was Lindsey a fixture of the national leadership for decades, she was also one of the two political heirs named by Cliff to ensure the party stayed true to his vision – the other being the late Chris Harman. It’s obviously an enormous shock, but what does it mean?

On the immediate issue, one thing that isn’t clear is how this went down at the centre. If the CC had been determined to get rid of Lindsey, she walked right into a trap. If, in the post-conference period, they had been thinking of playing nice with the Reesites in London – and I’d heard chatter to that effect – then it is possible that Yunus has fucked the dog rather brutally.

Let’s go over the Tyneside situation briefly[1], because personalities do come into this. I know a lot of party members who respect and even admire Yunus for the struggles he’s led and the personal shit he’s been through, but who don’t actually like him very much. Though I don’t know him well – I’ve bumped into him from time to time – that would be my position too, and I’ve said quite a few times in informal conversation that, while Yunus would be a fine addition to the industrial department or the paper, the idea of him holding a position of authority over other comrades fills me with absolute horror. It isn’t surprising that the North East became an opposition stronghold.

To tease this out a little more, factional lineups are never quite straightforward. Some of the most swivel-eyed Reesites of two or three years ago have become the most vitriolic anti-Reesites of today. On the other hand, there were quite a few people in the Left Platform who were not personal worshippers at the shrine of the Power Couple, but just happened to agree with them. This included, for instance, people whose centre of activity was Stop The War, and who did feel that the leadership was winding STW down. The concentration of minority supporters in STW, including its national leadership, raised the possibility that it could become, or be seen by the majority as, what in Maoist parlance would be called a factional headquarters. Certainly, the North East organiser (who, not so long ago, would have regarded criticism of Lindsey German or John Rees as a serious disciplinary offence) appears to have treated it as such.

So, on the formal question of discipline, Lindsey disobeyed a direct instruction from the General Secretary, which in SWP terms didn’t leave her a leg to stand on. From a political point of view though, instructing the STW convenor not to attend an STW event because the people organising it were no longer members of the SWP (although they were members in good standing until very recently) does not look very good, and is not made more attractive by the fact that Lindsey herself would have been quite prepared to use that sort of pretext against dissidents in the past.

Which brings us to the schadenfreude issue. Lots of people don’t like Lindsey. In particular, lots of ex-members don’t like Lindsey, because the number of expulsions she was involved in runs easily into three figures. It wasn’t entirely unknown for Lindsey to instigate somebody’s expulsion at CC level, then sit on the Control Commission that would confirm the expulsion. Those with long enough memories will recall Lindsey’s role in the closure of Women’s Voice, where she operated as Cliff’s battering ram, being sent on a tour of the branches to make sure they voted the right way. (If they voted the wrong way they’d be rewarded with a return visit.) In that instance, she managed to browbeat the SWP Gay Group into voting for the closure of WV, only to be closed down themselves immediately afterwards. At the centre, she had a reputation for extreme personal hostility to anyone who crossed her. So we’re not talking about an innocent abroad here.

On the other hand… let me make it clear that I don’t bear a personal animus against Lindsey. She has never done me wrong. The same goes for John Rees, who, on the few occasions I’ve had to deal with him, has been unfailingly friendly and helpful. The reservations I have about them – and have expressed about them from time to time – relate to their political track record and modus operandi, their lapses of judgement and accounts I’ve had from people whose judgement I trust and who have experienced them at closer quarters than myself.

Personalities do matter, though. When members of the British CC would visit their colonial franchise in Ireland, it would be widely remarked on that, while Lord Callinicos would always stay in a nice hotel and eat in a nice restaurant, Lindsey and John would stay in someone’s spare room and eat at a greasy spoon. Small things like that matter. And they also matter in a negative way, in that John’s increasing reputation for arrogance counted against him at least as much as the mistakes that were charged against him.

On the purely personal level, I’m distant enough from Lindsey not to have terribly strong feelings about that aspect of it. There are plenty of people who will have valued the contribution she’s made over the years, and I can understand that; there are plenty more people who will feel that what goes around comes around, and I can understand that; I suppose I partake a bit of both. (I leave aside the apparatchiks whose response to each and every departure is “good riddance”.) But there is a political aspect that concerns me more.

During the recent factional discussion, one point that I thought was terribly important to make – and a few comrades did so on the blogs – was that there were two tasks. One was to sort out the political questions that were tied up in the factional dispute. From the outside, I can understand that it must have looked like a completely apolitical bunfight, with only differences of nuance between the sides. But that’s not entirely the case. The different perspectives were inchoate and not very clearly expressed, but they were there. To recap, the reason I wasn’t hugely sympathetic to the Left Platform was that it seemed to me to have a very broad voluntarist streak, and I’ve believed for a long time that the SWP needed to get its voluntarism under control. The CC’s response to this, I believe, was seriously weakened by its terror of the opposition branding it “conservative”. Notwithstanding its own voluntarist streak and its teenage industrial perspectives in particular, there’s no question that the CC was putting forward a consolidation perspective. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and it accounts to a large extent for the new regime’s popularity with cadres whose heads were spinning after a decade of bold and decisive leadership.

But, having said that, there was an arguably more important task, which was to democratise the party, and in particular to get rid of this habit of using disciplinary measures to short-circuit political differences. Another stumbling block was the party membership – there are those who honestly seem to believe the SWP’s internal democracy is nothing short of perfection, and there are many more who have been trained up to regard discussions of how you organise as sectarian, introverted and apolitical. On the contrary, the regime question is a political question of the first order. Not least because, if you have a democratic regime it’s much easier to correct mistakes. See Rosa Luxemburg on how the mistakes of a real movement are worth more than the pronouncements of the wisest Central Committee.

The thing leftists from other traditions tend to pick up on is the SWP’s constitutional ban on permanent factions and secret factions, especially the former. Now, I think these rules suck, and that they’re more trouble than they’re worth. The ban on permanent factions was IIRC brought in after the party dispensed with the services of John O’Mahoney – if you want to know what a disruptive minority is really like, ask somebody who was around back then – and has remained in force ever since. My view is that factions, even loyal and disciplined ones, are a pain in the hole, but restricting the rights of minorities is actually damaging to the party in terms of the chill it casts on open discussion. Then there’s the rule against secret factions, which is meant to be an anti-entrist measure – although it didn’t stop those two fascists in Manchester. Nobody of course will actually defend the existence of a secret faction. But the rule is wide open to abuse from the leadership – see, for instance, the squadist purge – and means that, if the CC say you’re a faction, then you are.[2] However, we have to reconcile ourselves to the fact that the vast majority of SWP members support these rules.

This is not to say that there’s no democracy in the SWP, or opportunities for dissent. You can do that without factions – when Progressive Labor split from the faction-ridden CPUSA, they decided right at the outset that they weren’t going to have factions, they were going to have criticism and self-criticism. (PL of course may not be the happiest precedent.) You can state your case in branch meetings, get delegated to Party Council or stand for the NC, raise concerns in your industrial fraction and what have you. There’s also a sort of informal democracy that you’ll notice on the fringes of the SWP conference rather than in the formal sessions, where comrades will compare notes from their areas (are the BNP a problem where you are, have you been managing to integrate students, what was your experience in the postal dispute) and share thoughts on where the party is going. The spread of electronic communications makes this much easier to do.

And yet, this informal democracy is radically disconnected from the formal democracy, which is the enlightened despotism of the CC (two contested elections in thirty years), and a layer of district organisers who function as feudal fiefs in their areas. The commission structure at conference means members aren’t used to proposing motions or taking votes. So initiative from below, when it happens, is usually a matter of someone having a bright idea and persuading the hierarchy it’s worth a try. Not an easy matter when discussion is institutionally rigged in favour of the leadership.

Now, there is no organisational quick fix that can solve these problems. (Talk to Socialist Party members, for instance, and they’ll probably moan to you about the ridiculous number of committees and working groups in the SP. It’s a contrast to the SWP’s back-of-an-envelope style, but different is not necessarily better.) As Chris Harman said a year or so back, it’s more a matter of culture than structures. I am, though, cautiously optimistic about the outworkings of the Democracy Commission, which is at least a baby step in the right direction.

But here’s the conundrum. The Left Platform may actually have had more success winning cadre to its position had it not had the Dynamic Duo leading it. For John and Lindsey to have opposed the Democracy Commission was an own goal of enormous proportions. (Not just in terms of the DC itself. John’s defenestration was popular because the CC sold it on the basis that nobody was above accountability; he hasn’t shown many signs of being chastened by the experience.) Beyond that, when it came to the organisational complaints of sharp practice during the pre-conference discussion, the CC could simply point to Lindsey and John having been involved in similar jiggery-pokery for years. One could also point out, when they called for imagination and flair, that during their dominance of the party only those within the magic circle were allowed to show imagination and flair. (When I hear that phrase, I always think of someone else who was praised for having imagination and flair, and helping to make STW the success it was. Where is she now, I wonder?)

You’ll sense that there’s a but coming, and indeed there is. When Catholic historians write about the Inquisition, they’ll often point out that the Inquisition’s standards of due legal process were actually quite advanced for the time, that only a minority of prisoners were tortured and that the level of executions was far below the death toll in Protestant Europe – from roaming amateur witchfinders in Germany, say, or state-sponsored religious persecution in England. This is almost certainly true, but you don’t justify something that was morally wrong by saying that someone else did more of it. And the current SWP leadership (which is the old leadership minus John and Lindsey) does not automatically become virtuous because of the excesses of the old regime (in which they were all enthusiastic participants).

There is a principle here, in terms of the democratisation process, which is not abrogated by the process having been opposed by some of the people currently receiving the rough end of the pineapple. One recalls a story Tariq Ali tells about some old caliph in Baghdad – this would be during the great flowering of Islamic thought – who decreed that Free Thought and Reason would be the guiding forces of Baghdad, and he would execute anyone who didn’t agree.

Which leads me back to Harry Worth. Perusal of the emails will reveal that Harry is an extraordinarily rude fucker, but we all knew that. As for Lindsey, I’m not all that interested in whether she retains her membership of the SWP. But you can despair of the SWP’s inability to tolerate dissent without necessarily sympathising with those who dissent. And you can think it curious that a Trotskyist group, that supposedly is made up of the most rebellious members of society, seems to aspire to monolithism in its organisation. Finally, though I doubt that Harry would understand the principled reasons behind this, let me finish on a pragmatic point. Expulsions, and resignations under conditions that seem like constructive expulsions, look bad. They almost always look bad. Unless the expellee is transparently guilty of something pretty fucking outrageous, most people will automatically sympathise with the expellee. When you’re trying to rebuild your reputation with the broader left, including people who John and Lindsey fucked over, you really don’t want to reinforce the reputation you already have for chewing people up and spitting them out.

[1] Alex has more on the local background. He has his own axe to grind, of course, so you take that under advisement if you wish.

[2] Now is not the time to get into the SWP’s disciplinary system, but I think this is a nice summary: “Clevinger was guilty, of course, or he would not have been accused, and since the only way to prove it was to find him guilty, it was their patriotic duty to do so.” Joseph Heller, Catch-22.


  1. Martyn said,

    February 11, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Iagoda, Yezhov, Beria, German

    • ejh said,

      February 12, 2010 at 2:44 pm

      God, I missed this before. My word, there’s no shortage of perspective in discussions like this.

  2. February 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    North country scene:
    A hundred leagues locked in ice,
    A thousand leagues of whirling snow.
    Both sides of the Hadrian’s Wall
    One single white immensity.
    The Tyne’s swift current
    Is stilled from end to end.
    The mountains dance like silver snakes
    And the highlands charge like wax-hued elephants,
    Vying with heaven in stature.
    On a fine day, the land,
    Clad in white, adorned in red,
    Grows more enchanting.

  3. robert said,

    February 11, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Extraordinary way to treat someone with decades of service to the party. If this is the way they deal with Lindsey what can lesser mortals expect. Doesn’t augur well for the regime of Democratic Martinism…

    • Darren said,

      February 11, 2010 at 6:19 pm

      “Democratic Martinism . . . “

      Ooh, I like that.

  4. johng said,

    February 11, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    A couple of points. On the issue of much of the faction coming from STW. Its true that many came from those who work in the STW office. If you look at SWP members who sustain STW on the ground (and many still play that role) almost none (bar Newcastle) are left faction people and most are (oh horror!) trade unionists, sometimes even (oh double horror!!) union conveners. You may recall some rather tasteless jokes I made many moons ago about full timers which were sadly misunderstood. ahem. There is a bit of a birds eye (as opposed to worms eye) view of things going on here. On the issue of a supposedly ‘juvenile’ industrial perspective: Andy Newman is a nice enough chap but he can be wrong. The RTW conference was by all accounts highly successful, and at the same time flowed out of those industrial perspectives. On SUN one saw left platform people busy denouncing it as ‘tired’, ‘anachronistic’ etc, etc. Which whilst I’m sure you would have never caught Lyndsey or John saying anything so silly, is something of a ‘line’ with this group, repeated any time the Party does anything at all (particularly connected with trade unions: when attempts were being made to set up meetings concerning migrant workers I remember hearing that such meetings were not worth attending because they would be full of ‘boring old trade unionists’. If you live with this day in day out it becomes a bit…boring. On Newcastle: I think its a huge assumption to imagine that this was ‘provoked’ by the organiser or the centre. Left Platform remind me of the title of that Victorian novel: ‘He knew he was right’. I just had a rather gobsmacking exchange were I was informed by Luna17 that decisions are not made at conferences but on the stage of history. Try dealing with a whole branch parroting this kind of gibberish and lets see how long it is before even splintered sunrise decides, ‘its time to get the guns out’. Which brings me on to the context of these exchanges (which obviously I know nothing about it detail). Its been clear for sometime now that a section of the leadership was determined to operate a kind of scorched earth policy. Note, even to the last, Lyndsey’s claim that she had always believed in working in broad movements the implicit claim once more being recycled that the SWP does’nt. Its also been clear to many of us for some time that something like a split was being orchestrated, certainly a split mentality being developed amongst sections of left platform members. Newcastle was one centre of this, and these were loyal and disciplined members of Lyndsey’s faction who resigned. Its been clear to many of us that long term the leaders of this faction had no intention of remaining in the organisation. This draining situation has now been with us for as long two years (perhaps longer). SWP members at STW would loftily declaim that a ‘split would be premature’ etc, etc. This has been a very protracted end game. The very ease with which Lyndsey went, suggests to me that she picked her moment rather then the other way about. I find complaints about Martin’s ‘rudeness’ here almost funny (not almost actually). The upside of this (if there is an upside) is that work in STW will no longer be overshadowed by an internal faction fight. My feeling is that Lyndsey and Jphn had developed over the years a very different understanding of what socialists ought to be doing from the majority of the party. And whilst these different understandings don’t preclude co-operation in the broader movement, they became pretty bloody poisenous internally. It is sad when people who have been long standing members of an organisation leave it. But it happens. People change their priorities and of course, organisations change as well. Its just unfortunate that good will had long since been exhausted by the protracted and damaging nature of these arguments which seemed to most of us incredibly destructive. And, incidently, it does interest me that this exchange was leaked. How ironic when one recalls the fulminations from certain people about the behaviour of Kevin and Rob. Now I did’nt agree then with Kevin’s and Rob’s decisions and actions. But how much less serious is the issue which Lyndsey jumped over. And, as I recall, it took Kevin quite some time to ‘spill the beans’ as it were. This was instant. Its not what goes round comes around so much as don’t be so naive.

    • ejh said,

      February 11, 2010 at 3:15 pm

      Blimey, has a tax on paragraphing been introduced?

      This is obviously very big news.

      Isn’t this in the sense that Mansfield Town are a big team?

      Incidentally, the dog-brutally bit sounds awfully like a recent entry in the Encyclopedia of Decency…..

      • splinteredsunrise said,

        February 11, 2010 at 5:10 pm

        If you’re going to steal, steal from someone good. Malky will in turn have lifted it from somewhere, but where I can’t recall.

  5. johng said,

    February 11, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Comrades, matters are not resolved by paragraphs but on the stage of history. This is precisely the kind of tired, bureacratic and above all, boring old trade unionist mentality that is holding us back.

  6. lenin said,

    February 11, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    This is a very interesting and useful post (the cliched line about ‘teenage’ industrial perspectives notwithstanding), but the talk of a ‘constructive expulsion’ strikes me as very improbable. For one, I have reason to believe that there was an intention by supporters of the Left Platform to split following conference if they were unable to win their position. In addition, the specific issue over which Lindsey chose to resign is actually notable for its relative insignificance. The matter could easily have been resolved in discussions, and it wouldn’t have done serious damage for Lindsey to give that one meeting a miss. It just looks like the beginning of a split by members of the minority. I hope I’m wrong, but how likely is that? The pope may have a direct line to God, but I’ve got a direct to someone who knows someone who knows someone who heard something. Which is the better basis for a claim to infallibility?

    As for Martin Smith’s tone in his penultimate e-mail. Yeah, this stuff matters – politeness is important, and we should all mind our fucking manners, especially johng – but it didn’t really deserve the histrionically aghast responses that it has received on some of the blogs, even before the subsequent e-mail was revealed.

    • Neil said,

      February 11, 2010 at 4:49 pm

      You actually think that e-mail makes Martin look better?!?!

      Dear oh dear Richard.

      • lenin said,

        February 11, 2010 at 4:57 pm

        It was never a question of how Martin ‘looks’ to you. That’s not even an issue, to be honest. No offense.

      • Neil said,

        February 11, 2010 at 5:09 pm

        None taken Richard.

      • splinteredsunrise said,

        February 11, 2010 at 5:14 pm

        If I was being charitable to Martin, I’d admire his restraint in just being terse to Lindsey instead of getting stuck in. As you know, I don’t have a dog in the faction fight; but not having a dog entered never stopped me enjoying Crufts.

    • February 11, 2010 at 5:15 pm

      The subsequent email, if anyone hasn’t seen it, is the following. I must say it reads rather more like a self-exculpatory exercise than an object lesson in sincerity.

      Dear Lindsey,

      I am responding to your letter of resignation you sent to me earlier today (my earlier acknowledgment was required for legal/banking purposes).

      On behalf of the CC I would like to say that we regret very much your decision to leave the SWP. We are very surprised that you regarded this matter as a resignation issue.

      As we made clear to you in our correspondence we felt the disagreements could have been resolved at a meeting between you and ourselves.

      The question of disciplinary action was brought into the discussion by you, not by us. Your resignation is your personal choice and was not forced on you or demanded by the Central Committee.

      I would also like to assure you that we will continue to build the Stop the War Coalition and where possible work with you in a constructive and positive way.

      Martin Smith (SWP National Secretary)

      • Danny said,

        February 11, 2010 at 9:04 pm

        I never got a letter like that for legal/banking reasons when I resigned – I didnt even get an acknowledgement!

        I’ll be speaking to my solicitor now..

  7. johng said,

    February 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    Lenin I’ve told you once and I’ll you again: Fuck off.

    In the meantime I have to say I find all this victimology pathetic. I’m sorry, yes, yes, it makes me sound really dreadful but really. Come on. Everyone involved in this knows exactly what the score is, and that exchange does’nt look like an occassion for meaningless pleasentries. And incidently one of the things that really infuriates me is this endless whispering campaign about Yunis. I don’t know the comrade personally but there are things about it which are really disgraceful. And aside from anything else, having some familiarity with the modus operandi of left platform it really is a big stretch to imagine that any of them had to be ‘provoked’.

  8. Neil said,

    February 11, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Yunus’ reputation for thuggery in the movement is matched only by his buffoonery. I cannot imagine what sort of drugs the SWP CC were on when they decided to make him a district fulltimer.

    I well remember the disbelieving but delighted reaction of SP North East comrades when they heard Yunus had been appointed SWP pro-counsel. I believe there was a pool running to see how long it would take him to wreck the region.

    • ejh said,

      February 11, 2010 at 5:07 pm

      Neil, I know there’s no preview function on WordPress, but do you ever read over your comments to ask yourself whether they might show you in a worse light than whoever you’re criticising?

  9. johng said,

    February 11, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    ejh: quite.

  10. Bill Burns said,

    February 11, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    If Catholic apologists are saying the death toll of the witch hunt was lower in Catholic Europe than in Protestant Europe due to the evils of “roving amateur witchfinders” they are lying or ignorant. If you focus on the Mediterranean, where the Inquisition was dominant, this is true. However, what apologists for the Church always leave out is Catholic Germany, particularly the ecclesiastical principalities of the Holy Roman Empire such as Bamberg. In those places the secular and ecclesiastic justice systems were united, and as a result there was virtually no way for an accused witch to escape. About three hundred witches were executed in Bamberg between 1616 and 1618, more dead witches than England would see in decades. About six hundred more died in Bamberg between 1626 and 1630, and what stopped it wasn’t the Inquisition, but the Imperial Diet. And this is just one principality.

    • ejh said,

      February 11, 2010 at 5:27 pm

      But is it actually proper to extrapolate from Bamburg? (Shades of the Lancet debate here.)

      • Northside Socialist said,

        February 11, 2010 at 10:28 pm

        Please note, I’m not a Catholic apologist, but an atheist socialist history student. If you’ve started sectarian body counts, how about this for the Irish (if you must, mostly Irish Catholic) death toll from the English Civil War or War of the Three Kingdoms if you prefer. Not sure why you would to start this argument, when others appear to be focusing on other issues…..and don’t get me started on the famine……now searches for Celtic shirt at bottom of the wash basket…..


        “This phase of the war was by far the most costly in terms of civilian loss of life. The combination of warfare, famine and plague caused a huge mortality among the Irish population. William Petty estimated (in the Down Survey) that the death toll of the wars in Ireland since 1641 was over 618,000 people, or about 40% of the country’s pre-war population. Of these, he estimated that over 400,000 were Catholics, 167,000 killed directly by war or famine and the remainder by war-related disease.[20]”

  11. Neil said,

    February 11, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Well I suppose you could take the view what I said is worse than instructing a comrade not to carry out duties that are part and parcel of a role they have been elected to by STW, thereby making their position in the party they have been a member of for 30 years untenable.

    That’s a pretty warped perspective mind you.

    • ejh said,

      February 11, 2010 at 5:34 pm

      It’s perhaps a self-awareness question rather than a political one…

      • Neil said,

        February 11, 2010 at 5:38 pm

        Perhaps, although no one has been forced out of their organization by me or my words, so again it’s a question of perspective, no?

      • ejh said,

        February 11, 2010 at 5:44 pm

        Possibly. My view is that many people are put off left politics by people who allow themselves a highly aggressive style on the grounds that they are obviously in the right. Which is kind of a perspective thing.

  12. skidmarx said,

    February 11, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Perhaps a different Harry is the model:
    Did he fire six comrades or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?

  13. Neil said,

    February 11, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    indeed it is ejh. My perspective would be that people are put off left politcs because certain organizations import their undemocratic and high handed methods into the wider movement. Martin Smitha insruction to LG being a perfect case in point.

  14. johng said,

    February 11, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    I don’t really understand what is highhanded about the existing CC of a DC organisation asking a member to have a discussion with them before taking a particular course of action, and the discussion becoming a bit sharpish when the said comrade refuses to do so. Its the latter which might be thought to be high handed by some people.

    • skidmarx said,

      February 11, 2010 at 6:17 pm

      Because it’s the SWP you fool, and everything you do is a sign of your Stalinism/crisis/lack of understanding of the needs of the wider movement.

    • Mark P said,

      February 11, 2010 at 8:58 pm


      I don’t think that there was any particular personal high handedness towards German. My only concern is that the SWP CC were apparently ordering the Convenor of Stop the War to snub a Stop the War branch because the people running the branch were squabbling with the local SWP.

      I don’t think that’s an appropriate way to use their authority over one of their members. I mean German was elected as an SWP member, and everyone knows that means that the SWP will exercise a certain guidance over her political approach, but at the same time Stop the War is meant to be more than just a bigger fiefdom for the SWP leadership. I think that the SWP would be well advised not to start messing Stop the War branches about over their faction fight and I’d be a bit concerned that the stage may now be set for the SWP to start bickering with their former faction over who runs the show in StW.

      If another organisation emerges from what looks at this point to be a small and slow-motion split, are the SWP likely to be willing to allow its members to take up multiple StW officer positions? That’s a serious question by the way, not a rhetorical one.

      • Alex Snowdon said,

        February 11, 2010 at 9:49 pm

        I sympathise with your comments. I should clarify two things, however. First, ex-SWP members aren’t ‘running the branch’ – there’s a range of people who are regularly active or attend organising meetings, including never-been-SWP members in all the main officer roles. Secondly, none of us have been ‘squabbling’ with the local SWP leadership – they’ve been attempting to squabble and everyone else has done their best to studiously ignoring their sabotage tactics.

  15. harry monro said,

    February 11, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    The crocodile tears of non members for LG are rich, perhaps some of you will invite her and JR to join your groups; please do.
    I think the CC showed extreme stupidity in expelling people for engaging in factionalism with ultra-dynamic duo, but without expelling them; it was unfair to discipline the disciples and not their leaders.
    They both should have been out after last year’s conference, JR for his behaviour in Respect and LG for her undisciplined behaviour in the pre-conference period last year. The CC’s liberalism towards them was just that, liberalism.
    I’m not actually too worried about the Women’s Voice battles (everyone was throwing shit), there were at least politics involved in all that, but what was unforgivable was the way she and hacks around her fucked over a number of good comrades over the years for the most petty reasons. However nobody here mentions what the other one is up to, if he remains in the Party it leads me to all sorts of speculation.

  16. johng said,

    February 11, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    The other thing is that whilst its new news, in some ways its old news. Its not as if we have’nt been in a position for some time now where these political differences had become so stalemated (despite one group being in a tiny minority) as to have produced the sense of seperate organisations. Whats really remarkable to me is the speed with which this was leaked, who it was leaked to, where it ended up (on the military families against the war website no less). Talk about bringing factional differences into the movement. It really is fairly discreditable which ever way you look at it.

    • Mark P said,

      February 11, 2010 at 9:07 pm

      Actually, the recent difficulties suffered by the IMT organisation provide something of a contrast to the SWP’s travails in that regard. The IMT being the Trotskyist international led by Alan Woods and dedicated to entryism.

      While the curious could all but watch the SWP’s dispute in realtime, the IMT managed to have two large factional rows which went on for months without anybody outside of their organisation having the slightest hint that something was going on until just as a split culminated. I don’t know how they managed that, to be honest. Particularly as one of the rows dragged in a large number of their sections around the world.

      On the credit side for the SWP, the most they are going to lose is a few dozen people. I suspect that the world’s greatest living Marxist polymath would settle for less privacy but smaller splits right about now.

      • splinteredsunrise said,

        February 11, 2010 at 9:16 pm

        I find the IMT’s stuff curiously compelling, especially with the references to “Hugo Chavez and Alan Woods” as if they were a well-known double act. Alan doesn’t go in much for false modesty, does he?

      • Mark P said,

        February 12, 2010 at 12:44 pm

        No, it’s safe to say that one flaw nobody has ever accused Alan of is unnecessarily hiding his light under a bushel. He is, by all accounts, an extremely talented individual but his talent is outweighed by his arrogance and self-regard.

        The tone of IMT material regularly cracks me up. They share with George Galloway a style which seems to take it for granted that at all times they are addressing a rally of 100,000 people. “There is no such thing as too much bombast” is, I would guess, bolded and underlined as point 1 on their editorial style sheet.

        They also don’t go in much for admitting setbacks. In the last 18 months they’ve lost almost half their entire membership in two catastrophic splits. Between the two events they have published precisely three sentences on the subject.

  17. robert said,

    February 11, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    Yes this free flow of information on the internet really jams the CC gears doesn’t it?

    Listen, comrades, it aint 1917, you are not the Bolshevik Party # 2, no storming of the Winter Palace, the revolution isn’t around the corner, so quit the party discipline, top-down education, adherence to the scriptures of Lenin and democratic centralism.

  18. johng said,

    February 11, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    I’m afraid your talking to the wrong people Robert. Try telling that to Left Platform members. They are on the stage of history and have no need to abide by democratic decisions.

    But given that a claim was made that attempts had been made to keep internal fights out of stop the war, its rather remarkable that within just a few hours the exchange was on military families against the war isn’t it? And what might the motivation be for that exactly? Do you believe that Military Families against the war are tremendously interested in arguments between leading members of a trotskyist organisation about what meeting to go to?

    I was sad about Lyndsey’s behaviour two years ago (as well as angry it must be said). Now I’m just angry. The sheer dishonesty and skullduggery involved is breathtaking.

  19. johng said,

    February 11, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Its also true that its very wierd that a Newcastle branch, set up and ran by left platform members, (who also ran a parrallel SWP branch) who all resigned en masse, having been disciplined members of a supposedly dissolved faction, then invite Lyndsey to speak (still an SWP member in a leading position). I mean. Again. Come on. There are other Stop the War speakers (plenty of them).

    • Alex Snowdon said,

      February 11, 2010 at 9:44 pm

      Lindsey G is convenor of Stop the War nationally – there’s nothing remotely odd about her speaking at a local Stop the War public meeting. She was invited by the group, not by us ex-SWP members personally, and only after Rose Gentle and Clare Glenton were approached (and turned out to be unavailable). Peter Brierly (whose soldier son Shaun was killed in Iraq) was supposed to also be speaking, but withdrew on Tuesday.

      Tyneside StW was not ‘set up and ran by left platform members’. It goes back to the autumn of 2001 and has a healthy tradition of non-sectarian working and collective decision-making. Neither Tony or I have any of the 3 elected officer roles – the convenor, secretary and treasurer are all people who have never been SWP members.

      • redbedhead said,

        February 12, 2010 at 1:54 am

        I don’t for one minute think that someone with Lindsay’s record in the organization would just resign over something as minor as being requested to not speak at what would certainly be a smallish meeting. Given that 8 people locally had just resigned from the party and that the correspondence went up on the internet within hours – at most – it stinks to high heaven. It’s been blindingly obvious that a split perspective was developing and being prepared for a long time. The fact that the day after conference the next Mutiny event was announced with a poster design, etc. and went up online. The fact that the Counterfire website still exists but is just in a locked state, ready to go (I was getting RSS feeds in my google reader throughout January). Now, people can do whatever they want, the SWP is a voluntary organization – but it’s hypocritical to behave in this way and then beat one’s brow that anybody could possibly think that faction members would be doing anything fishy or to demand discipline according to the party constitution.
        And the stuff about Martin’s “tone” is so stupid and schoolyard it’s just pathetic.

      • ejh said,

        February 12, 2010 at 9:02 am

        I was in Newcastle in 2001 and part of StW, and my recollection is that it was a combination of Christian groups and leftists. I don’t know if Newcastle and Tyneside would be the same thing here though.

  20. splinteredsunrise said,

    February 11, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    I say again, it’s a voluntary association with a set of rules. You may think the rules are stupid, or even go to conference and try to change them (good luck with that), but Lindsey of all people knows the rules, because she’s enforced them on enough miscreants over the years. And one rule is that if you disobey a direct order from Jazz Club you can’t retain your membership very long.

    So in formal terms she doesn’t have a leg to stand on. I’m more concerned though with how the politics plays out. If I were on the CC I’d have been tempted to keep feeding her rope. I do think the erstwhile Left Platform is on a different trajectory, and we’ll see where that takes those who are no longer members. But if Martin is doing the rounds of TUSC or the Convention of the Left or what have you, presenting himself as the smiling non-sectarian face of the SWP, he’s got rather a lot to live down. And an culture of monolithism internally does tend to go hand in hand with a culture of shafting your allies, and potential allies know this.

    • Phil said,

      February 11, 2010 at 11:40 pm

      an culture of monolithism internally does tend to go hand in hand with a culture of shafting your allies, and potential allies know this

      This is why I’m not persuaded by the current line from johng and “lenin” – “they were nothing but trouble and now we’ve got rid of them, that’s a good thing isn’t it?” Solitudinem faciunt et pacem appellant.

      As for the ‘different trajectory’, these things have a habit of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies – just as people who get expelled from left-wing parties have a habit of turning out to have been right-wing deviationists all along. The “Mutiny” initiative sounds like a small good thing; I think it’s a great shame it wasn’t allowed to stay an SWP initiative, both for Mutiny and for the SWP.

      • lenin said,

        February 12, 2010 at 8:46 am

        This is why I’m not persuaded by the current line from johng and “lenin” – “they were nothing but trouble and now we’ve got rid of them, that’s a good thing isn’t it?”

        But that isn’t my ‘line’, and it isn’t what happened. Lindsey resigned, over a rather insignificant matter. Members have put up with far more arguably difficult decisions in the past. Lindsey knows this. She wasn’t gotten rid of. She was voted onto the NC, and would have been on the CC had she not withdrawn. The party has shown by every possible means that it intended to keep the supporters of the Left Platform included at every level of decision-making. Lindsey resigned because she always intended to, and members of the Left Platform have resigned because they always intended to. These e-mails were leaked because they were intended to be leaked, by an SWP member who supported the Left Platform. By focusing on your disagreements with the SWP’s model, you are missing the point: Lindsey doesn’t disagree with the norms of democratic centralism, and it has no bearing on her decision to resign. You are missing the more important issue of the perspectives on organisation and strategy that have motivated the resignations of a number of members of the SWP. That’s the critical issue here.

      • ejh said,

        February 12, 2010 at 9:03 am

        Solitudinem faciunt et pacem appellant

        This is what we want

      • Andy said,

        February 12, 2010 at 11:45 am

        lenin: and it isn’t what happened

        Precisely. It’s strange watching so many people who, from their own experience, should easily be able to see what is actually happening here, turning Lindsey’s resignation into a.n.other story about SWP monolithism.

        After all these years I find it odd too that she should resign over such a trivial matter, without even speaking to the CC, as they had offered to do. It’s almost as if that’s what she had intended all along, having lost the argument at conference.

      • andy newman said,

        February 12, 2010 at 8:26 pm

        “Solitudinem faciunt et pacem appellant”

        Isn’t that from Tacitus, describing the aftermath of Agricola’s victory over the Britons at the battle of Mons Graupius?

        IIRC no one knows exactly where that took place, but Newcastle is as good a bet as anywhere

  21. Bill Burns said,

    February 11, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Northside Socialist,

    Like the original post, I’m talking about witches, not death generally. However, if you want to go death generally, I suggest that you not forget the very Catholic Spanish Empire in America.

    • Bill Burns said,

      February 11, 2010 at 10:56 pm

      On second thought, I don’t want to get into a contest comparing the blood-soaked record of Protestantism against the blood-soaked record of Catholicism. SS made an error about the witch hunt, I tried to correct it, leave it at that.

      • splinteredsunrise said,

        February 11, 2010 at 11:35 pm

        Well, I was specifically thinking about the Roman Inquisition – those Bavarians are really sui generis. But let’s not get into that sort of to-and-fro.

      • Northside Socialist said,

        February 14, 2010 at 8:58 pm

        Fair enough, sometimes the use of the word Catholic in certain parts of the world is seen as an synonym for Irish, so using phrases like Catholic apologist can be interpreted to mean something different from what is intended…….

  22. Liam said,

    February 11, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Last night I went along to a cultural event organised by some recently departed SWP members which seemed to be an attempt to mix poetry, politics and freethinking. It was rather good.


  23. February 12, 2010 at 6:44 am

    […] There’s a good piece about the Greek situation over on Lenin’s Tomb, and the comments are awash with further insight (those which aren’t verbal bouquets tossed upon the shrine of Lindsay German, the People’s Princess. For a comprehensive and balanced take on that story, check out Splintered Sunrise.) […]

  24. Madam Miaow said,

    February 12, 2010 at 10:41 am

    A sharp entertaining analysis, Splinty.

    The point wasn’t that I was outside the magic circle — Rees very much wanted me in the magic circle, hence my writing for the ISJ, for example. Silly me to assume this was about talent and principle. Woe betide you if you don’t fancy the alphas.

    When I changed boyfriends and the new one (who I’m still with) didn’t hail from their parts, I was curious as to why Lindsey took me into the debugged room at SWP HQ to quiz me at length on my new beau. Article commissions for the party publications stopped, I was put on secretarial duties as a proofie, used as their trolley-dolly instead of speaking on my specialities (culture) and generally treated like a certain outstandingly talented woman in the Historical Materialism group who’s been largely buried by the party elite. That Lindsey and her bf don’t like lack of blind adoration even one little bit and any outshining must be dealt with. They want “new blood” like Dracula does.

    And in similar vein to the Cosa Nostra, you have have to “make your bones” in the organisation by doing over other leftists (I can think of one example where I think it’s about time apologies were given to Steve Godward and some comradely healing done — c’mon, guys and gals, you can do it). When Rees demanded I do over Dave Osler, Paul Mason and Greg Tucker I did what any socialist should do and laughed. Oh dear, if only I’d realised that people with delusions of grandeur really don’t ike that.

    Anyhow I carried on putting STW in the public eye, going into debt doing this full-time (I bet most people don’t know that I personally paid for all the press work during Kosovo, the SA and after 911 on my credit cards because they were too useless to even issue a press release, let alone organise a press conference, until they got some Johnny-Come-Lately to flab up the works) and still did a load of press for the big Feb 2003 demo (getting ITN to follow Bianca Jagger and the Americans Against The War on the demo, f’rinstance) despite Rees trying to ban me. Nothing like putting your ego before the movement. Flair and imagination is what they apply to you before they wield their big chopper.

    • ejh said,

      February 12, 2010 at 3:06 pm

      Yeah, but see – when I read this sort of thing, I think all right, but how does that fit together? How is it possible to one the one hand, be treated as a trolley dolly, and yet on the other hand spend every penny you’ve got on the people who are apparently doing this? A reply might be “well, we’ve all behaved like fools in our time”, and so we have – but it’s hard to match that with the picture of somebody being sufficiently independent-minded tand principled as to defy instructions from a CC member. And yet at the same time, meek enough to accept demotion to a secretarial role.

      It’s really hard to see why you didn’t pack it in rather faster than you did. Do you think the fact that you didn’t – despite these contradictions – suggests a lack of judgement in any way? And when you write about it, do you think it fair to detect an element of anger with yourself for displaying such a lack?

      • Madam Miaow said,

        February 12, 2010 at 3:26 pm

        True, ejh. As I’ve often said, I’m more angry with myself for trusting the leadership for so long. My bad.

        In mitigation, it did take them 18 months to sign me up with promises that it was bottom up socialism they practised (not shafted up the wrong ‘un). And I did believe their perspective that after Blair got in we had a ten year or so period in which to get a strong movement in shape and that’s what was important. When I did want to leave, the argument was always “it’s politics not personalities”, “think about the bigger pricture”, and that I should stay no matter what. (And they were pleased I was giving them what no-one else had done: a public profile. It’s all very well having great events but it was always business as usual with no wider awareness in the class.)

        Current and former members will recognise the arguments: everything was for the good of the party, etc, etc. They needed proofies, they needed someone presentable to look after outside speakers at Marxism (my predecessor had been Cecilia Prosper), they needed chairs at the sessions. It’s only in hindsight that you realise you’ve been slowly stripped of your political identity and own voice.

        Should comrades be penalised for believing them? If that is the case — caveat comrade — then perhaps potential members should be warned about this when being recruited. A health warning would be a good idea.

      • WorldbyStorm said,

        February 13, 2010 at 4:54 pm

        ejh, I was a party which held a position at the time on the North which I disagreed with to a greater and greater extent for the best part of a decade. I then joined another party which held an even more extreme line. And stayed there a couple of years. Why? Because I felt that on the ground they operated as good socialists and so on. I raised funds, sold newspapers, canvassed (for someone who even at the time I had almost no time for) etc. It’s remarkably easy to ignore aspects of both the big and little picture when one can justify it for the party, the cause, socialism… whatever. All to easy. And that was in parties that were – from the best I can judge – a lot less intense than the SWP (which isn’t intended as an insult, just an observation). So MM’s narrative rings all too true to my ears and the length of time she took to come to certain conclusions sounds actually quite rapid to me.

      • Lobby Ludd said,

        February 14, 2010 at 12:52 am

        I’m sorry EJH, but I think you are badly mistaken. If somebody is doing something they passionately believe in they may well tolerate unacceptable behaviour from others, up to a point. What that point is differs between people.

      • ejh said,

        February 14, 2010 at 8:31 am

        I think you and WbS may have missed that I already accepted those points “we’ve all behaved like fools in our time”. However, as said, it does raise questions of judgement, and that’s the point which I often like to raise when discussing these narratives. Like it or not, if it takes you years – whether that be rapid compared to others, or not – to see something which you later feel is self-evidently wrong and shocking, then the question a shrewd observer is likely to ask is – well, by your own account, it shouldn’t have, should it?

        Which doesn’t matter in a number of ways, because of course we all do stupid things and we can’t turn back the clock. But if seems to me that – if one has found oneself to have been a fool, and to have been made a fool of, for years – while it’s quite human to be angry, a better, wiser response might be something a little more rueful and a little more thoughtful than is typical in this cases. Realising that we’re all of us really quite foolish and none of us really know all that much is, I think, at least a partial antidote to all sorts of anger and bitterness, and it doesn’t necessarily hurt when it comes to political analysis, either.

        One specific point:

        If somebody is doing something they passionately believe in they may well tolerate unacceptable behaviour from others, up to a point.

        Well yes, but here we have somebody both doing that (in all sorts of ways) and resolutely not doing that (re: Tucker). Which is OK, it’s not to doubt the narrative, and I can think of plenty of examples in my own life of my behaving one way one day and the opposite the next. But you know, that just demonstrates that I’m quite as capable of foolishness as everybody else.

      • Madam Miaow said,

        February 14, 2010 at 10:07 am

        ejh: “… if it takes you years – whether that be rapid compared to others, or not – to see something which you later feel is self-evidently wrong and shocking, then the question a shrewd observer is likely to ask is – well, by your own account, it shouldn’t have, should it?”

        Yep, I shouldn’t have worn that short skirt up that dark alley. I got what was coming to me.

        What do we learn from this?

        1) That the left is so debased that political principle is seen as suspicious and negative rather than the norm?

        2) That you can’t trust their assurances and promises and, if you do, then more fool you?

        3) That “solidarity” and “comradeship” have been bled of all meaning?

        Caveat comrade. This is not a healthy state to be in at a time like this.

    • ejh said,

      February 14, 2010 at 10:11 am

      Reading back, that’s perhaps a little less coherent than I might have wished (perhaps because it transgressed the rule “never post before you’ve had your coffee”). Can I try again?

      Over the last ten years or so I’ve come across a lot of, for want of a better term, “ex-member narratives”, partly from people who were in far left organisations, partly from people who are now on the Decent Left and wish to discuss (and condemn) the further left as a whole. It’s fair to say that, by and large, I don’t find them very illuminating (though there are exceptions) which is a shame because very often they’re written by interesting people who should have interesting things to say.

      Among the characteristics these narratives tend to share are:

      (a) a large element of personal anger ;
      (b) a large element of “flipping”, by which I mean that whereas previously the Party (or the Left) was always right, well-motivated, unfairly accused and slandered, it’s now always wrong, always ill-motivated and all accusations against it are to be believed.

      Neither of these characteristics are always present, but I’m sure people recognise the picture I’m painting.

      Now, as far as personal anger is concerned, I think this is surely understandable- nearly everybody who leaves far Left (or just Left) politics is angry about it for some while and to some extent. I certainly was. The longer one has been involved – and bear in mind that the nature of it is that you work really hard and pass up all sorts of personal opportunities in order to be slagged off by all and sundry while achieving next to nothing – the more one is likely to feel that one has squandered a large part of one’s life, been lied to and done things which one should not. This is quite a combination. I once described this aspect of ex-member narratives, on here, as something like “pull up a chair, buddy, and I’ll spend several hours talking to you about my ex-wife”, and I meant it: the psychological parallel is reasonably apt.

      Trouble is, though, that personal anger is a really bad basis for discussing anything thoughtfully. Probably the worst there is. It often makes it almost impossibly hard to employ any perspective, or, indeed, to accept it in others: and that’s why white turns into black, plus into minus, comrades into enemies, and people who don’t agree with you are seen as acting on the enemies’ behalf. Which brings me back to what I said about “flipping”.

      Another thing I’ve found, in these narratives, or rather in discussions about people’s former organisations, is that to a large degree they resemble the thing which they’re condemning. There’s really no shortage at all of dogmatism, factionalism, ranting, haranguing, demanding of condemnations and other intolerant rhetorical practices. There’s also a noticeable shortage of ethical scruple (for instance the persistent publication and discussion of other people’s private documents and correspondence, which I consider a genuinely reprehensible business, not to say a creepy one). This is the point at which I like to make myself unpopular by suggesting that very often people have changed their allegiances, but not, really, their habits. They don’t seem to behave any better than the people they’re describing, though of course they can’t see this, precisely because they’ve maintained the habit of considering themselves the righteous people who are dealing with an enemy, and of course when one thinks that, one may permit oneself all sorts of ethical lapses.

      It’s my view that it would be much better if people would step back, perhaps a very long way, to get some perspective (engaging daily in factional arguments on the internet is not, perhaps, the most obvious way to go about this) and to consider if what is needed is not, perhaps, just a change of parties, or of lines, or even of organisational practices, but an entire review of the way one thinks and behaves: the acquisition of better habits, the renunciation of certainty, the refusal of the role of the self-appointed inquisitor.

      None of this has to be connected with the membership or non-membership of any particular party, nor agreement or disagreement with any particular view. But it does have to be connected, more than connected, with the examination of oneself, with asking oneself very seriously whether the problem was not (or rather, not only) the organisation to which one used to belong, a problem resolved by leaving it, but rather the habits one acquired there, or brought with oneself in their first place. And this is not, once one is able to let certain things go, such a very hard thing to do.

      • Madam Miaow said,

        February 14, 2010 at 10:50 am

        Very little of this applies to my case, ejh — I did no flipping and was open about what I expected from a genuine left party from the start. Hence my agreeing to join only after a lengthy wooing process.

        I’ve answered your other points above. You seem to be spending a disproportionate amount of wordage finding fault in me for being trusting and none on the abuse of power which has damaged, not only individuals, but the movement.

        It is members’ strength of commitment that keeps them in and is cynically used against them by the little pashas heading the organisations. Isn’t it time to end the manipulation? Is it so difficult to say, “This behaviour is wrong”?

        I also note with amusement that comrades would rather stick needles in their eyes than acknowledge the positive usefulness of my input into the left.

      • WorldbyStorm said,

        February 14, 2010 at 12:55 pm

        I think that’s true for some ejh, but for myself I hold no grudge at all against the WP. Nor do I have one against the Democratic Left (Irish version), but I have less time for what they did, not because I think they were so and so’s but because I believe they were self-deceiving (most obviously as regards their line on the North). Nor did I subsequently attempt to diss either group or feel any need to do so. In fact I’d think that in some ways.

        But then it was very much my choice in both circumstances and if I’d been expelled that would presumably have generated a different dynamic.

        I don’t want to speak for MM, but it does seem that while your calls for a reasonable response aren’t unreasonable in themselves they do tend to very slightly evade the power relationships at work inside political formations which we see time and again… the use of diktat, peer pressure, etc against individuals who are considerably less powerful and able to resist or endure such pressures. And such behaviours are in and of themselves rather problematic.

      • ejh said,

        February 15, 2010 at 12:25 pm

        You seem to be spending a disproportionate amount of wordage finding fault in me for being trusting and none on the abuse of power which has damaged, not only individuals, but the movement.

        Naw, I’m trying to point out that we have rather more power to affect how we think and act, in the future, than we do to affect the practices of political organisations which we’ve found to be dysfunctional. Once we realise that – and realise that the game of why-aren’t-you-talking-about-this-rather-than-that is half the problem – then it does us a genuine power of good. Because otherwise we spend a very disproportionate amount of wordage and time in factional shouting matches. I’ve seen people spend years and years doing this – having the same shouting matches with the same people on the same websites – and it does strike me, very powerfully, that the people who engage in this are in a trap which they would be better off escaping from, regardless of what wrongs have been done to them.

      • Madam Miaow said,

        February 15, 2010 at 3:36 pm

        What is it with the royal “we”, ejh?

        Yep, move along, nuthin’ to see. We are drawing a line and moving on. You still here?

      • ejh said,

        February 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm

        I wonder if you occasionally overdo your liking for rhetorically characterising other people’s views. It doesn’t always help in getting over your own.

      • Madam Miaow said,

        February 21, 2010 at 5:44 pm

        That’s me, ejh. The Rhetorical Characteriser. “This time it’s personal.”

      • ejh said,

        February 21, 2010 at 5:48 pm

        You’ll probably want to use a Z if it’s going to sell to the Americans.

      • Madam Miaow said,

        February 21, 2010 at 8:17 pm

        Some of us aren’t for sale, ejh. Something your recent dearly departed mates at the SWP/LP have problems comprehending.

      • ejh said,

        February 21, 2010 at 8:39 pm

        And so it goes, onwards and anywhere but upwards.

      • splinteredsunrise said,

        February 21, 2010 at 9:50 pm

        Justin, have you an actual point you want to make beyond world-weary eye-rolling? Because this is a comrade who made a big contribution to the movement, was very badly treated by the movement, and is absolutely fed up with getting the “nothing to see here guv” treatment.

      • splinteredsunrise said,

        February 21, 2010 at 9:50 pm

        Justin, have you an actual point you want to make beyond world-weary eye-rolling? Because this is a comrade who made a big contribution to the movement, was very badly treated by the movement, and is absolutely fed up with getting the “nothing to see here guv” treatment. And I can’t blame her at all.

  25. Liam said,

    February 12, 2010 at 11:12 am

    “Do over Greg Tucker”? How and why?

    • Madam Miaow said,

      February 12, 2010 at 11:54 am

      Liam, on the day of the Selby crash 28th Feb 2001 I received an excited early morning phone call from Rees telling me this had happened. As the assumption was that this crash was a straight-forward Railtrack screw-up, we needed to get a press release out. I’d already been working about 16 hours a day as the sole acting LSA (2000) and SA press officer (with Mike Marqusee writing most of the press releases), on this occasion organising press for our launch the next day, so he said he’d get his other girlfriend to write it. It came in later in the day and I managed to attend to it at 6:30pm.

      When I began to format it I realised it wasn’t clear what was being said. It was written as a long quote from Greg, one of our most prominent (L)SA candidates, but it was confused. Facts were emerging about the crash that threw it into a different light from what we had assumed in the morning. I finally rang Greg and asked him to clarify some of the statements. He then said that he didn’t like putting out press releases on the day of a crash as you don’t know all the circumstances, so we agreed that we’d delay it until we knew more, meaning later that evening or the next day when we were sure of our facts.

      So I emailed Rees explaining this, copying in the gf and Greg . I then got a hostile “don’t you know who I am” email from gf listing her writing credits. Rees phoned me and pressured me to send the release as was, even though it was damaging to Greg and to our credibility with the media. He said, “You should have sent it. I’m CC and what I say goes.” When I questioned the tone of gf’s email he said, “She probably thought her time was being wasted”. As she hadn’t done a stroke for the SA press operation thus far and I was the unpaid full-time press officer doing the same workload as the Countryside Alliance’s six full-time press officers, I thought his argument was not coming from a place of political principle.

      As it happened, Greg’s instinct and mine were correct: the crash was in fact caused by some berk driving his Land Rover onto the line. Had we sent the original release we would have looked like idiots and this would have been further ammo for certain elements in the right-wing national press who were out to get Greg. I saw my political duty as promoting and protecting socialists and not to act as anybody’s personal hatchet woman. Of course, this just made me more of a target for Rees and his little helpers.

      If you want to see the full exchange and the original release, ask Splinty for my email address.

  26. February 12, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Very important analysis – congrats.

    Yes non-Swoppies (particularly those who have been Mandel FI, and us Pabloites) do focus on the stuff about factions – I have writtten about this at length and no doubt others have.

    But there is another dimension – much of the left resents being ‘told’ what to do, whether by the SWP or, say, the Socialist Party. Authority is won by serious long-term activity, not something to be assumed. And when there’s as many changes of lines and priorities as we see in the SWP it is in a pretty eroded state.

    For those with even longer memories I first saw Lindsey German assume ‘authority’ during the Campaign in solidarity with the Portuguese Revolution. I

    I was very young at the time but had worked as a helper (from the IMG) for the Portuguese Workers’ Co-ordinating Committee (a group originally set up with T & G support to organise Lustaphone workers in Central London). They began the campaign but suddenly the likes of German became ‘experts’ on Portugal and took the ‘lead’.

    My comrades did not like this. Nor did I.

    Naturally the campaign got quickly dropped with the Revolution went out of the window.

    This pattern of behaviour is something we’ve seen time and time again.

    • Darren said,

      February 12, 2010 at 6:41 pm

      How the mighty have fallen.

      No, not Lindsay German’s resignation; Lenny penning a piece on his blog about a little local difficulty concerning the SWP so soon after it happening.

      Funny times.

      (That leading SWPer all those years ago who bemoaned the internet and its nefarious effect on the organisation really was onto something. 🙂

  27. chris y said,

    February 12, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    God, the SWP is a nasty little sect. Back in the 80s I twice(!) witnessed Cde Callinicos having to apologise for the crass behaviour of his comrades towards independent militants in public arenas. Clearly he’s now too exalted to trouble himself with such trivia, but the tendency to cynical self-aggrandisement and troublemaking seems to have abated not at all. The McLennan era CP repeated as farce.

  28. February 12, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    […] those interested Socialist Unity, Splintered Sunrise and the SWP’s own Richard Seymour have gigabytes of discussion on the topic.  Madam Miaow, […]

  29. robert said,

    February 12, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Meanwhile back at the ranch…


  30. Alex Snowdon said,

    February 12, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Lindsey’s now explained, in some detail, the background to her decision to resign – it can be read over at my place.

  31. robert said,

    February 12, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Statement from Herself here


  32. old labour said,

    February 13, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Could I suggest Ronnie Corbett as a new nickname for Callinicos? The similarity in delivery and physical appearance is uncanny

  33. FlyingRodent said,

    February 13, 2010 at 12:24 am

    Well, I’m the kind of guy far left parties might’ve attracted if I’d been an adult in the seventies rather than being born in ’77, but I have to say that this thread might as well have been written in Sanskrit for all the sense I can make of it.

    It looks like a bit of a cavalcade of total bastards, to the naked eye. I mean, you know, sales, folks. Marketing and that.

    • ejh said,

      February 13, 2010 at 9:12 am

      I do tend to think there’s a large element of something-we-did-in-the-Seventies about Trotskyism, albeit I did mine in the Eighties. Then again I never listened to Never Mind The Bollocks until 1983.

      I suppose on this scheme that the interminable “debates” that still go on would be something like the people who still go and see the UK Subs.

      • splinteredsunrise said,

        February 13, 2010 at 4:25 pm

        Speak for yourself. I still go and see Hawkwind.

      • WorldbyStorm said,

        February 13, 2010 at 4:44 pm

        And you’re a better man for it!

  34. raptores orbis said,

    February 13, 2010 at 12:32 am

    The ‘ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appelant’ quote is indeed from Tacitus, in the history of his father-in-law, Agricola.

    But it’s not after the battle of Mons Graupius, it’s before. They are the words Tacitus gives to the Caledonian king Calgacus in what is one of the finest rhetorical attacks on empire ever written.

    As for German claiming to have tried to keep factional divisions out of the movement, particularly StW: go tell it to the marines, as the fellow she twice invokes in her statement used to say.

    But the same hypocrisy is evident with Martin
    Smith. They both have been happy to use positions in the movement to factionalise against those they fell out with, which soon became one another.

    I think the charges of hypocrisy from each of the opposing sides against the other are, frankly, hypocritical.

    ‘…quos non oriens non occidens satiaverit.’

    • ejh said,

      February 13, 2010 at 1:08 pm

      It’s a breeze in English, by the way (my Latin’s not remotely up to it although I did manage to translate haec domus domus orationis est on a church wall the other day). The speech setting out the benefits of imperialism is also very good indeed.

      I was on Bennachie, not too far from Huntly, last May and they reckoned it was a likely site of Mons Graupius. But they probably would.

      • ejh said,

        February 13, 2010 at 1:10 pm

        Incidentally, Calcagus (or rather Tacitus) wasn’t kidding about the desert. Apparently the Roman conquest of Gaul wiped out about a quarter of the population.

  35. harpymarx said,

    February 13, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    I think Madam Miaow’s comments, for me, really expose how appalling the Left can be. She put her political energy into building a movement only to discover that it was all based on personalities not politics. And for MM’s it was to a great personal, financial and political cost. And people should recognise that especially as she has put so much into the movement and for what? The left should be about solidarity, support and comradeship not denigrating and shafting members.

    That for me is biggest shame that so many groups shaft their own members who have been willing to put the energy and time into building the movement, it is like you are treated contempt. And what further appals me is the way these leaderships operate, it is, essentially, the cult of the leader. I believe that the likes of Lindsey German is a victim of her own political and cynical methods.

    What also concerns me is that these ‘leaders’ of trot groups put their own ambitions first while subordinating the class struggle. Here’s me thinking that it’s all about building for the struggle not about the personal ambitions of the ‘leaders’. And all these underhand methods and behaviour discredit the whole left, while former members like MM have paid the price needlessly due to behaviour of the leadership. The left loses dynamic and vibrant people who get burnt out and shafted….and that’s the biggest shame!

    Oh, and I recall many years ago when I was seeing a SWPer I ended up getting a lecture from two SWPers about how it was wrong I was seeing a SWPer, how dare I!! My crime? Well, I belonged to another trot group and they saw that as wrong. I saw it as bloody creepy that an org. can dictate who you can/can’t see…. Still amazes me now that they had the bloody cheek and audacity to question me. Who the hell are they!

  36. February 13, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    This page and the comments above read like a far left version of Groundhog Day: we have been here many times, and not just in the UK, and not just when the working class are in retreat.

    Time and again we see accusations of abuse, slander, whispering campaigns, anti-democratic and autocratic CCs…

    And this will continue, while we witness another 100 years of almost total failure, with yet more defeats, splits and then more defeats (because we are hopelessly divided).

    With such a fragmented left to contend with, the ruling class are laughing all the way to their next attack on our side.

    I have tried to say why this is so, and what must be done to help prevent it, here:


  37. johng said,

    February 13, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Oh Rosa, if only it was so easy…

  38. Phil said,

    February 13, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    I believe that the likes of Lindsey German is a victim of her own political and cynical methods.

    Absolutely – I’m not suggesting LG is some sort of innocent victim of the Stalinist machinations. But the comparison cuts both ways. If what you didn’t like about the Rees/German period was all the voluntaristic decisively-led great leaps forward, Martin Smith is going to be a breath of fresh air. If what you didn’t like was the authoritarianism and organisational sharp practice, perhaps less so.

  39. robert said,

    February 13, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Martin Smith will struggle to form alliances with the rest of the left after the SWPs track record. Let’s see:

    Socialist Alliance
    SSP split
    Left List fiasco

    Maybe they think they can blame it all on Lindsey and JR and move on. But JR has a point when he protests that the CC was a party to all his decisions.

  40. johng said,

    February 14, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Well he has a bit of a point. But a) for various reasons its a very disengenuous point and b) our actual practice is very different. Incidently its noteworthy that the only thing of substance the left platform are saying now is that they are the victim of sharp practice (as well as bitter complaints that the organisation has ‘changed’). I can remember thinking about last year that what they were trying to do to the SWP what they did in Respect. I don’t actually think the model of swings and rounabouts is the correct one. It is an attempt to break from a model of politics which recalls for me what the IS used to criticise in orthodox trotskyism. If theory does’nt fit reality so much the worse for reality. I think this is also largely true of their account of their own treatment. They hated the democracy commission and all that it represented but thought ‘hey-democracy is popular, lets use it as a slogan’. It did’nt work.

  41. johng said,

    February 14, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Although of course they’re having a last go of it on the blogs. As SS correctly noted this is bound to have a bit of a resonance for a time. But I can’t be the only person to find it astonishing that a comrade of Lyndsey’s experiance can imagine that fifteen minutes of fame on Socialist Unity is really a substitute for political strategy. Nothing personal Andy :).

    • andy newman said,

      February 16, 2010 at 2:28 pm


      Alex Snowdon leaked the news of her resignation to Phil at AVPS, not to me.

      • redbedhead said,

        February 16, 2010 at 2:59 pm

        I’ll bet you’re now regretting that you didn’t send him a card and cookies for Xmas.

      • johng said,

        February 16, 2010 at 3:48 pm

        yeah and I wasn’t being ironic with the ‘no offences’ Andy. I mean its hardly the fault of SUN that someone who resigned from the SWP is doing everything possible to try and create a firefight between the SWP and StW. Strange that they picked a very public sociologist (again, no offence). I recall real sectarian bile when we first mooted the idea that we had to take the SP seriously. Unprincipled blocs thy name is left platform

  42. Andy Wilson said,

    February 14, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    “I can remember thinking about last year that what they were trying to do to the SWP what they did in Respect.”

    JohnG, are you saying that the LP leadership, as they did with Respect, are creating a schism based, in theory, on sharp political differences but driven in reality largely by their personal interests, status, etc, and then claiming that they are being witchunted and that all the rules have suddenly been changed and the ground is moving beneath them? I wonder why they think they will succeed with this approach any better this time around.

    It’s weird though to see people who ridiculed this manouvre when it was deployed against Respect now falling head over heel for it once it is used by the same people instead againt the SWP (eg. those deplore the ‘witchunting’ of German and Rees.) The Left Platform are no more being witchunted within the SWP than the SWP were witchunted within Respect, whatever real differences existed. The common factor is the public undermining of John Rees – leading to widescale spitting-of-the-dummy, ersatz persecution complex and accusations of political backsliding and infamy on the part of others. There’s nothing new about this method – it is politics viewed from an entirely egocentric point of view such that if the hero is moved sideways a little it seems from his point of view that the very heavens are moving around him. Healey also had flair for that sort of thing.

  43. johng said,

    February 14, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    You might say that Andy, I couldn’t possibly comment.,,, (although actually I do).

  44. robert said,

    February 14, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Theres also the issue of people supporting the line from JR during the Respect crisis when it was transparent nonsense but turning on JR and Lyndsey now they’re out of favour. The Party is always right, whoever happens to sit on the CC…

  45. Phil said,

    February 14, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    It’s weird though to see people who ridiculed this manouvre when it was deployed against Respect now falling head over heel for it once it is used by the same people instead againt the SWP (eg. those deplore the ‘witchunting’ of German and Rees.)

    Has anyone deplored the “witch-hunting” of German and Rees? I mean, it’d be very neat if they had, but I’m not sure I’ve seen it. My position is more that Smith seems to be undoing some of the problems Rees created but entrenching others – including the tendency to take a fairly short way with dissenters.

  46. Nas said,

    February 14, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    johng: if you’re saying the SWP behaviour and outlandish, victimhood claims at the time if the Respect split were the work of a character, John Rees, who may be likened to Gerry Healey, then I hope that position is shared far and wide in the SWP.

    Certain consequences flow therefrom, however. And autocratic behaviour by the current leadership will prevent them being followed through.

    Hence, I fear this will simply get worse.

  47. harry monro said,

    February 14, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Ah Nas what do you “fear” that we SWPers will harm ourselves, destroy our Party? Thanks for the concern, if I believed one word of it. All this bollocks and advice has absolutely nil affect on the Party, nor I suspect on the faction that does not exist. It clearly delights outsiders so please enjoy yourselfs while the Spring Cleaning continues. However the reality is that most comrades see the departure of Lindsey as a good thing, if they weren’t clear about that at the time on Conference they are now thanks to her little email fandango. The only question is, is Wolfie going to jump now or is he going to manipulate a “crisis” like Lindsey to better entertains those who openly despise the Party. The CC should save him the trouble and expel him. By the way JohnG congrats, how you manage to wade through the river of hypocrisy at places like Socialist Unity to try and patiently (well sometimes) explain things to the wind-up merchants I don’t know how you do it: good luck to you.

  48. Nas said,

    February 14, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    Harry Monro (it’s so tempting to move those last five letters around a little): I’m sure most comrades are happy to see the back of Lindsey German. But the same most comrades were happy to support her, the leadership line in the Respect split, the Left List and the current leadership, which fought for all of that madness.

    Don’t you see a problem? Those of us who would like to see something rescued from the SWP experience certainly do.

    Close your mind, if you please. Just as you did when we warned of the damage the SWP would do to itself and the movement by following the line it did over the Respect split.

    You ought to thank us, in fact. We helped alert you to the methods of Rees and German. But those methods weren’t only theirs. And they live on. Now’s the time to abandon them and to face political reality.

  49. Liam said,

    February 14, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    Is anyone else unsettled by Harpymarx’s and Madame Miaow’s accounts of what happened to real people in the real world or is that just collateral damage?

    • splinteredsunrise said,

      February 14, 2010 at 11:40 pm

      It’s the sort of thing we shouldn’t be just overlooking as collateral damage. There’s such a thing as the idea that the left should set an example. I mean a good example, not the one we usually set.

    • WhereWereYou? said,

      February 18, 2010 at 11:41 am

      Apparently not. ‘Unsettled’ is a fairly mut
      ed response, Comrade Liam, but it’s still better than no response at all (which is what most players on this board have offered) or attempts to discredit Madam Miaow and defend the indefensible (take a bow — you know who you are).

      The name of the game is less ‘collateral damage’ than ‘business as usual.’ In other words, the same crappy office politics you’d find in any capitalist workplace (Rees as David Brent, anyone? Dated 90s goatee and all), and the first rule of office politics is ‘if you MUST show up your boss by doing a better job than he is, cover your tracks and make sure that nobody notices.’

      The second rule, by the way, is ‘do not succeed in a goal which was never meant to be actually achieved.’

      Madam Miaow broke both of those. The fact that hardly anyone on here (all the honourable exceptions honourably excepted and duly noted) is prepared to acknowledge the elephant in the room is merely one more indication of why the UK left has never looked more like a bunch of bald men (and women) fighting over a toothless comb.

  50. Dirty Red Bandana said,

    February 15, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Very disturbed indeed, Liam. There were rumours about women and I knew people that worked closely with Rees who noted that he persistently took credit for the work of others without really having a clue in terms of political organization. They also noted that he was unpleasant, sneering and abusive in committee meetings, which rather backed up my own experience of him.

    The points raised by Madam Miaow in relation to both women and the deliberate undermining of leading industrial militants reflect another part of the pattern that should not be forgotten. The highly destructive and almost compulsive ‘alpha male’ crap wrapped up in a carpet of claims to political authority (there is a history of this on the left as well).

    In my view, there was always an astonishingly wide gap between the claims to erudition or knowledge and the political practice. Harpymarx made me consider the issue again, realizing just how liberating it was to get away from the culture and ‘cultish’ behaviour that weighed so heavily.

    Dirty Red Bandana (or Judge 2,000 Years!)

  51. February 15, 2010 at 8:57 am


    “Oh Rosa, if only it was so easy…”

    1) Who said it was easy?

    2) You’d not know anyway, since you haven’t read my work. Still, that doesn’t stop you pontificating about it…

  52. Andy said,

    February 15, 2010 at 10:19 am

    I’ve read some of your work Rosa and you are damned right – it isn’t easy: I did learn that anti-dialectics are akin to Lily the Pinks’ medicinal compound (most efficacious in every case) so further study, albeit grueling, would presumably solve a hell of a lot of problems and get us out of this mess. If only I had the time to spare!

    On the bright side, while your oeuvre is far more confusing and obscure than anything penned by Hegel, you do have a nice line in spit-flecked invective and an original manner of transforming the aesthetics of the ‘green-ink rant to the letters page’ into valid HTML markup, which is exciting and original in its own way.

  53. johng said,

    February 15, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Both Robert and Nas are simply wrong. Robert because he imagines that the criticism of Lyndsey and John is simply the product of a change in the CC’s line. Its not. Its the other way about. Nas because he thinks there is something dictatorial or authoritarian about the way in which Left Platform has been treated. There is not. This is simply a claim they are making about themselves. At the height of this I actually recieved threats from prominant Left Platform members for daring to express myself on the internet. Don’t take the bizarre claims they make at face value. In terms of the rights and wrongs of the Respect split. Yes there were wrongs on the SWP side, and the growing realisation of this is what has gradually cooked left platforms goose (as well as producing quite a lot of criticism of the CC as a whole). But this does’nt mean that comrades neccessarily agree with every single thing Respect say about the split either. This seems very hard to understand for some but its true.

  54. redbedhead said,

    February 15, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Nas – if people made a mistake in following Lindsey and John it was rooted in the prestige that they built up as a result of getting it right – around the anti-war movement, around the launch of Respect. Frankly not unlike the political capital that GG built up. People make judgements and give trust based upon past practice – what else would you have them do?
    But, as has been argued repeatedly (and acted upon) in the SWP since – the withering of the party’s basic structures: branches, fractions, etc. meant that there were no clear mechanisms to properly clarify and confirm experiences through debate, hold leaders accountable. What SWP majority supporters have argued is that it was the perspective of rectifying this which generated opposition from the LP, who seemed contemptuous of party democracy – witness Alex Snowdon’s statement that decisions are not made at conferences but on the “stage of history”. And they were contemptuous of the detailed sort of work necessary to build relationships that provide the foundation for united front work. Instead it was all about big names and celebrities – again, witness LG’s contemptuous dismissal of the RtW conference as a “united front from below”, a reference to Third Period Stalinism that is utterly absurd (the Third Period Stalinists here in Canada went about trying to smash the “social fascist unions” with their own Red Unions).

    • Alex Snowdon said,

      February 16, 2010 at 1:00 am

      Can you give any evidence that I’ve said ‘decisions are not made at conferences but on the ‘stage of history’? Of course you can’t. So why should anyone believe anything you say? It is just a cheap slur, attempting to portray me as anti-democratic. Less of the assertion and distortion – more substantiated argument and integrity please.

      What I have said is that we traditionally assess the success (or otherwise) of decisions by reflecting on what happens in practice, not by voting at conference and thinking that settles it. Cliff didn’t win the argument about the downturn through conference resolutions – he was vindicated by what happened in reality in the early 80s and after.

      The correctness (or otherwise) of recent tactics and decisions by the SWP will be judged over coming years by reflecting critically on the real world. Assuming you have ‘won an argument’ because you got a majority at conference is appalling.

      • redbedhead said,

        February 16, 2010 at 1:22 am

        Alex, excuse me for paraphrasing you courtesy of johng. It’s true that what you exactly said wasn’t “stage of history”, which is more inflated and poetic than your actual quote – no doubt owing to johng’s sensitive artist’s soul – which went “Differences among revolutionaries are not resolved at conferences. They are resolved by history,” which amounts to the same thing, no?
        As for your claim that “Assuming you have ‘won an argument’ because you got a majority at conference is appalling”, I will only note that this contemptible majority is the “democratic” half of “democratic centralism.” And you can thus be said to have “won the argument” to implement one perspective over another. And while, ultimately it is the, ahem, stage of history that determines the correctness of decisions – it is only by reaching binding decisions through democratic processes that we can actually test perspectives, policies and tactics to see if the stage of history will be kind to them. You seem to have neglected that part with your bold and imaginative leadership that, presumably, has some sort of direct relationship with truth, absent the workers whose collective experience forms the material basis of history.

      • andy newman said,

        February 16, 2010 at 2:24 pm

        “he was vindicated by what happened in reality in the early 80s and after.”

        cue uproarious laughter

      • Andy Wilson said,

        February 16, 2010 at 3:19 pm

        While I disagree with you about many things Alex you are nevertheless right about Cliff. Having lost the argument about the downturn on the rickety and threadbare stage of SWP conference he constructively dismissed himself immediately, resigning all of his positions in the party in order to cuddle up more closely to his tiny praetorian guard of true believers while patiently awaiting the inevitable vindication of history…. THE ONLY JUDGMENT THAT COUNTS.

        This is the real Marxist tradition – nothing to do with the snivelling bureaucratism of the SWP majority and it’s humdrum routine of ‘party building’. You would NEVER have caught Cliff putting the party at the center of his strategy. Sir, we salute your steely resolution and your willingness to swim against the stream in the face of the whey-faced ditherers, the triflers and slack-jawed dilettantes of the majority. For a long time I have been secretly in awe of you but I can no longer keep these feelings to myself: you, sir, are a genuine fucking mensch, and an inspiration to all embryonic leaders of the working class. I’ve heard some people whisper behind your back that studying drama is not an ideal preparation for leadership, but I think you’ve shown, on the contrary, that it lends an appropriate panache and an air of derring-do to your every utterance, no matter how insignificant or mistaken they might be when taken in isolation.

      • Andy Wilson said,

        February 16, 2010 at 4:00 pm

        They don’t do humour

        Oh, come on John – Luna17’s site is hilarious

    • David Ellis said,

      February 16, 2010 at 5:27 pm

      `Nas – if people made a mistake in following Lindsey and John it was rooted in the prestige that they built up as a result of getting it right – around the anti-war movement, around the launch of Respect. Frankly not unlike the political capital that GG built up. People make judgements and give trust based upon past practice – what else would you have them do?’

      Utter hackery and undoubtedly all lies. There was no mistake. The CC made the decision to collapse Respect or at least assert its dominance and clear out its less supplicant partners. To those partners of course this action came as a shock and appeared totally arbitrary but no doubt it was all well prepared (though incompetently executed) in the upper reaches of the SWP. I wouldn’t mind betting that Rees and German were actually opposed to this course of action but under CC discipline when it was decided enthusiastically went along with it. Operation Wreckspect was very much something the current CC plotted.

      • Andy Wilson said,

        February 16, 2010 at 5:41 pm

        “I wouldn’t mind betting that Rees and German were actually opposed to this course of action but under CC discipline”

        David, you are an absolute HOOT!
        Just out of interest, do you walk into walls a lot?

    • David Ellis said,

      February 16, 2010 at 5:54 pm

      Andy: No, but I am hoping that now that Rees has resigned more intimate detail surrounding the Respect debacle will be made public.

  55. johng said,

    February 15, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Rosa-By easy I meant the idea of rejecting the idea that dialectics has anything to do with Marxism. This is easy enough to do. I don’t really think it solves anything whether or not your writings on the subject have any merit.

  56. John O'Neill said,

    February 15, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    The whole affair is but another example of the absence of democracy in that wonderful oximoron called democratic centralism. Hounding members out of a movement because they are a minority that disagree on tactics and you’re not a million miles from deciding that the minority are firstly anti party and concluding they are anti socialist. A slippery slope.

    I have little knowledge of the present ‘difficulties’ within the English SWP or even the mini split in Ireland (Belfast) but none seem to be about the commitment to socialism from either side as such, more about a realistic understanding of the current political landscape and the best approach to advance their Party.

  57. robert said,

    February 15, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    How not to advance their party…

    Regurgitated but unexamined basic texts + language incomprehensible to the people they purport to represet + cast iron certainty + endless paper selling + (constant inflow of raw recruits – constant outflow of now bruised and no longer quite so raw recruits) = recurring division.

    • johng said,

      February 16, 2010 at 3:49 pm

      Actually Robert you describe very well left platform positions. Just no paper selling though.

  58. redbedhead said,

    February 16, 2010 at 1:24 am

    “language incomprehensible to the people they purport to represet”

    ah, yes, those stupid, f***in workers who just don’t get them big words. The usual elitism masquerading as salt of the earth proletarianism.

  59. johng said,

    February 16, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Andy Wilson’s emphasis above recall the remark that ‘even the punctuation is mistaken’. A great satire. You have to be careful with left platform though. They don’t do humour.

  60. lenin said,

    February 16, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    And they’re off!


    Good luck to the comrades in their future endeavours. I foresee a new party very shortly in the offing.

    • Harry Monro said,

      February 16, 2010 at 6:40 pm

      Freedom for Tooting

      mind you I enjoyed Neil F’s books even when I thought he was sometimes wrong

    • redbedhead said,

      February 16, 2010 at 6:48 pm

      I don’t think you can use “party” for 60 people. Unless you’re very drunk and seeing triple. And your judgment has failed.

  61. February 16, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    And so Jim Jones goes off to spend more time with his Flavor Aid.

  62. johng said,

    February 16, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    I want to make it absolutely clear that this is tasteless, unkind and vile. But I really hate hypocrisy. If you like Shakespearian analogies (and I DO) I am the Cordelia of the SWP:

    Christ somebody else be diplomatic and responsible. I’ve had it.

  63. February 16, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Can anyone explain why Andy Newman has turned into a Stalinist, and is deleting my posts at his blog?

    [I make about one post every three months!]

    • Neil said,

      February 17, 2010 at 5:27 pm

      Probably because Andy is a civic minded chap and wants to spare us all the tedium of listening to you.

  64. robert said,

    February 16, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    If its any consolation its not just the SWP having problems. AVPS has just resigned from the Socialist Party to join New Labour


  65. johng said,

    February 16, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    What problems?

  66. johng said,

    February 16, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Rosa it might well be because you are seeking to explain every argument with reference to the absence or presence of illusions in the dialectic. Occassionally people get a bit annoyed about this. Whilst I do indeed have my differences with Andy viz. the joys of nudist beaches in the DDR, I don’t actually believe that not wanting yet another argument about the world historical significance of dialectic or its absence, is NECCESSARILY an indication of Stalinism (complete or otherwise).

  67. February 17, 2010 at 2:13 am

    Mr G:

    “Rosa it might well be because you are seeking to explain every argument with reference to the absence or presence of illusions in the dialectic. Occassionally people get a bit annoyed about this. Whilst I do indeed have my differences with Andy viz. the joys of nudist beaches in the DDR, I don’t actually believe that not wanting yet another argument about the world historical significance of dialectic or its absence, is NECCESSARILY an indication of Stalinism (complete or otherwise).”

    Well, this comment could only have been made by someone who has read my essays or posts with his eyes no longer in their sockets, for I explicitly say, over and over, that this is precisely what I do *not* do.

    May I suggest therefore, Mr G, that you abandon the tactic you have so far adopted — that of passing comment on my ideas from a position of almost total ignorance — and either desist from sharing such worthless opinions with the good folks here, or that you at least attempt to inform yourself of my ideas before you expose your ignorance so publicly yet again?

    Just a final thought: six years ago, before the disaster of Respect and the Left List, I predicted (at Lenin’s Tomb) that you mystics could look forward to another 150 years of almost total failure unless you learnt the lessons of the past. The last six years of foul-ups suggest that you lot are quite intent on proving me right.

    I wish things were otherwise, but then you mystics refuse to be told.

    Wise up (some hope!); check this out:


    So, we still do not know why Andy is so scared of my ideas…

  68. johng said,

    February 17, 2010 at 10:27 am

    As I said Rosa, no-one is interested in either what you do or what you do not do, although I note with some amusement that you think that there cannot be any contradiction between what you think you are doing and what you are actually doing. That there can be is demonstrated by the fact that you think you are demolishing a mystical theory of politics when you are in fact creating a new one (and how grand it all is: stretching right back to the pre-socratics!). We’re just not interested Rosa.

  69. February 17, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Mr G:

    “As I said Rosa, no-one is interested in either what you do or what you do not do, although I note with some amusement that you think that there cannot be any contradiction between what you think you are doing and what you are actually doing. That there can be is demonstrated by the fact that you think you are demolishing a mystical theory of politics when you are in fact creating a new one (and how grand it all is: stretching right back to the pre-Socratics!). We’re just not interested Rosa.”

    Where did I say this, or even imply, it:

    “although I note with some amusement that you think that there cannot be any contradiction between what you think you are doing and what you are actually doing.”

    Given the fact that you have an impressively insecure grasp of logic, both formal and informal, and an equally tenuous grasp of your own ‘theory’, I think we can take anything you have to say on this topic with a pinch of non-dialectical salt.

    “That there can be is demonstrated by the fact that you think you are demolishing a mystical theory of politics when you are in fact creating a new one (and how grand it all is: stretching right back to the pre-Socratics!).”

    And why is this a contradiction?

    [I do not expect an answer to this, since, as I said, *you do not even understand your own ‘theory’*, still less my thesis.]

    However, it’s less than amusing that you are happy to see our movement experience another round of defeats, splits and failures while you keep your head well-and-truly in the sand.

    “As I said Rosa, no-one is interested in either what you do or what you do not do,”

    1) In fact, you did not say this.

    2) Unfortunately for you, plenty of comrades are interested in my ideas — that is, those who actually care to build a successful movement, unlike you.

    See you again in 6 years after another round of dialectically-inspired screw-ups…

  70. johng said,

    February 17, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Lets imagine that I have gangrene. A pretty serious problem I’m sure you’d agree. I am engaged in a discussion with some people who think what I need is a course of anti-biotics and others who believe an immediate amputation of a couple of limbs is neccessary. At this point someone called Rosa appears who has for the last couple of years been working on a theses suggesting that gangrene is caused by philosophically faulty ideas about the dialectic. I tell her that I’m not at all interested in her theses as it seems completely irrelevent. I am denounced for my ignorence and steered to a site which consists of endless repetive pre-ambles explaining the importance of rejecting the dialectic in order to avoid an endless history of amputations, but which never ever arrives at the point of the argument. As the pain in my limbs grows worse I scream ‘go away Rosa!’. Rosa triumphantly declares that I seem ‘content to suffer’.

    Has Rosa here made a logical error or is the problem simply one of extension?

  71. Andy Wilson said,

    February 17, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Or you could just imagine that you are a perfectly innocent lad, minding your own business, and every now and again some weird, boss-eyed flying mammal leaps on your back, seemingly at random, and starts gnawing at the base of your spine. Whichever works for you…

    • Neil said,

      February 17, 2010 at 10:53 pm

      I never write this on blogs but… LMAO

  72. February 17, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    I do not want to presume on the good will of this site’s owner, so I have replied to Mr G at my site, here:


    Anyone who wants to see this dogmatic bumbler taken down a peg or two should check the above out.

    I have also collected together five short essays where Mr G is given a well-deserved drubbing, here:


    Those with a weak constitution are advised to stay away…

  73. February 17, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Ah, Mr Wilson — the Left’s High Priest of abstract abuse, and little else — still too scared to take me on, I see.

    If you can summon up the courage — ha, some hope! — nip over to RevLeft and try to put me in my place.

    It’s about time someone did…


  74. February 17, 2010 at 11:00 pm


    “Probably because Andy is a civic minded chap and wants to spare us all the tedium of listening to you.”

    I fact, since I wiped the floor with him last year, he is loath to experience more of the same.

    That’s why I think he deleted it.

    Check these out:



    Not a pretty sight…

  75. johng said,

    February 18, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    god how strange.

  76. johng said,

    February 18, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Can anyone imagine what it would be like to be in an organisation run by Rosa? It would make the WRP seem like an engagingly open and democratic setup.

  77. johng said,

    February 18, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    I have to say I am deeply honoured after surveying the hermetic texts about me though. I’m impressed that a Dialectician like Rosa pays so much attention to me.

  78. February 18, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    As hard as I might try, not even I could do worse than you mystics…

    • Neil said,

      February 18, 2010 at 2:05 pm

      Just out of curiosity Rosa, what is your political background?

  79. johng said,

    February 18, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Used to be in the SWP I think. Perhaps an early casualty of being a bit too obsessed with JR’s errors? (easily done it should be said).

  80. February 18, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I used to be in the SWP, but no longer am. However, I agree 100% with their politics, and hope to re-join one day, *if they’ ll have me*.

    Of course, this makes the hostility and venom behind, say, JohnG’s attacks on me rather odd, since we agree with each other over 99.9% of our politics.

  81. February 18, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Mr G did not, of course, say this when he was defending John Rees against me at Lenin’s Tomb back in 2004:

    “Used to be in the SWP I think. Perhaps an early casualty of being a bit too obsessed with JR’s errors? (easily done it should be said).”

    In fact, I left the SWP in 1990, long before John (Rees) became a mystic, and big pal of Mr G.

    Comrades can find the links to Lenin’s Tomb. where this dissembler can be found lambasting me for *even thinking to question* the gospel truth of The Algebra of Revolution — which just goes to show that Stalinists aren’t the only ones to re-write history –, here:


  82. johng said,

    February 18, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    “long before John (Rees) became a mystic, and big pal of Mr G”

    Bloody revisionist.

    Can’t find the relevent quote in Rosas works on Mr G, but I would be rather surprised to find me referring approvingly to JR’s book- at any time.

  83. Andy Wilson said,

    February 18, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Hey Rosa, one small mystery that you might be able to clear up for me: given your penchant for multi-coloured, migraine inducing, unreadable web design, is there any particular reason that you don’t take advantage of the BLINK tag? I would have thought that its exemplary binary logic might tickle your fancy.

  84. February 18, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    MrG, considering you find it hard to read my posts, it’s no surprise you can’t find those links.

  85. February 18, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    High Priest of Abstract Abuse:

    “Hey Rosa, one small mystery that you might be able to clear up for me: given your penchant for multi-coloured, migraine inducing, unreadable web design, is there any particular reason that you don’t take advantage of the BLINK tag? I would have thought that its exemplary binary logic might tickle your fancy.”

    I thought that in your ‘Karen In the Community’ persona you said you were going to ignore me?

    It’s all the same to me if you have back-sassed like MrG here, but do make your mind up.

    In answer to your philosophically deep question: my colours are no more nor no less migraine-inducing than those found on many other left-wing sites, including SW, so why pick on me?

    Is it because that is the only intelligent thing you can think to say?

    I fear it is…:(

    And, unlike other flash-Harry’s on the net, I like to keep the technical aspects of my site to a bare minimum.

    Finally, what makes you think my logic is binary?

    Or, are you like other mystics, happy only when you make stuff up?

  86. Andy Wilson said,

    February 18, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Rosa, cut to the chase – the only thing I’m really interested in right now – where does JohnG defend The Algebra of Revolution? I am all ears.

    a tip: don’t defend the design of your site – it makes you look even sillier.

  87. February 18, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    High Priest of Abstract Abuse:

    “Rosa, cut to the chase – the only thing I’m really interested in right now – where does JohnG defend The Algebra of Revolution? I am all ears.”

    The links are in the essays I have collated at the above link. What do you want me to do? Show you how to click on a link?

    “a tip: don’t defend the design of your site – it makes you look even sillier.”

    Where have I defended its design? In fact, I often joke about it too.

  88. February 18, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    […] the SWP: Exit stage left, What German’s resignation tell us, SWP split: what now?, Splits in the Judean Peoples […]

  89. red_eck said,

    February 19, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    JohnG: “As I said Rosa, no-one is interested in either what you do or what you do not do,..”

    As the number of participants involved in far-left politics is dwindling and the take up of Marxism has all but gone in academia, would it not be worthwhile if Johng perhaps reconsiders some of the ‘traditional’ aspects of his ideas and beliefs? Johng is typical of nearly all Marxists. As your movement is diminishing, you have to now concede that it has failed as no-one no longer seems interested in either what you do or not do.

    Rosa’s advocacy of Marxism without Mysticism I believe is something that activists can benefit from. It allows our ideas to be universal and understood by everyone – or rather avoids the problem of ideas becoming impenetrable.

    You all should give Rosa’s views far more consideration as they identify one major fault of Marxism.

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 )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: