The SWP / IS tradition
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"The miners' strike is an extreme example of what we in the Socialist Workers Party have called the 'downturn' in the movement."
Tony Cliff, Socialist Worker, 14th April 1984
Material for an AWL day school, November/ December 2005, and other stuff on the political differences between AWL and SWP.
Download all the stuff for the dayschool as pdf (570 Kb), or read individual items below.
"AWL vs SWP" day school, November/ December 2005
Discussion points for the day school
1. Transitional programme vs fake ultra-leftism
There have been two reports into Birmingham schools; one commissioned by Birmingham Council, written by Ian Kershaw, a former Head Teacher from Coventry, the other by Peter Clarke, former counter-terrorism chief at the Met.
Mike Fenwick reviews The Prophet's Children, Travels on the American Left
Keep the UN out of Bosnia (Adie Kemp)
Unfair to Serge (Tony Dale)
Any questions please? (Jack Milton)
The right side of armed struggle (John McAnulty)
Revolutionary History (Sam Levy)
A Workers' Liberty Symposium
The experience of the left (Intro)
"A slow peeling away of illusions" (Andy Wilson)
Since about 1987, and until recently, the standard SWP line has been to support any force clashing with the USA as “anti-imperialist”.
The battles in Syria since 2011 have put that line into question; and the current clash between ISIS on one side, and the US, Iranian, Syrian, and Iraqi governments on the other, even more so. The SWP does not back ISIS.
Twenty years ago Trotsky was assassinated. The best tribute one can pay to this great revolutionary, who so despised all cant, would be a critical study of some of his ideas. We offer the following study of one problem he so brilliantly posed as a very young man, a problem that plagued him for the rest of his life, and that is still with us: the problem of the relation between party and class, and the danger of the former substituting for the latter.
The right and Iraq
The USA and most other big-power governments (including China, which has huge oil interests in Iraq) have followed a Saudi call for “a national conciliation government” in Iraq.
Vladimir Putin’s Russia has confined itself to saying: “We warned long ago that the affair that the Americans and the Britons stirred up there [in Iraq] wouldn’t end well”.
The US has got a pledge from Maliki to form a new government by 1 July, but may resign itself to Maliki heading it.
Why we joined IS (November 1968)
In the 22 May council elections, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is making a big effort to stand 561 candidates. In the European elections on the same day, No2EU will field 46 candidates in seven regions. The Left Unity group is standing only 12 council candidates across the country.
TUSC is an electoral alliance mainly of the Socialist Party and the leadership of the RMT union. It also involves the Independent Socialist Network and the Socialist Workers’ Party. Its platform is pretty much limited to opposing cuts.
About 120 attended the Saturday of the political weekend organised on 29-30 March by RS21, the most recent splinter from the SWP. On Sunday there were 50 at the start, and 70 by the end. According to RS21 treasurer Ruth Lorimer, RS21 has about 200 members.
A few of us from AWL attended. There were also a few from ISN (the group which split from the SWP in early 2013), and of course people interested in or close to RS21 but not members. No other left groups chose to attend.
Members of the National Union of Teachers will strike on Wednesday 26 March.
Talks with the Department of Education are ongoing, but the government has made it very clear that these talks will not deal with the issues at the heart of the teachers’ dispute. They will only discuss the implementation of policies, including the raising of the retirement age to 69, the end of final salary pensions, and the end of automatic annual pay progression.
This year is the thirtieth anniversary of the great miners' strike. A new book by Workers’ Liberty, out this week, tells the story of how working-class communities fought a Tory ruling-class government. But how did the left conduct itself?
The Labour Party, led then by the former "soft left" Neil Kinnock, refused to indict the government and brand its activities for the vicious class war they were.
A selection of writings on the International Socialist/Socialist Worker's Party tradition.
The experience of the left p26
The campaign now spreading in some parts of the student movement for the SWP to be banned from campuses should be opposed. We should defend freedom of political expression and debate on campuses.
The form of “banning” varies: tipping over and physically destroying SWP stalls; insisting that SWP members either absent themselves from campaigns or agree to not have SWP materials on them; or banning the SWP from booking or using rooms in students’ unions.
Many responses from the left to the Ukraine crisis have ignored, sidestepped, or downplayed the right to self-determination of the Ukrainian people.
Some union branches which previously nominated SWP members as left candidates in union elections have not done so this year.
The motive is to register a protest against the SWP’s 18 months or so of crass mishandling of charges of sexual harassment and then rape against a leading organiser.
Some of those refusing to nominate explain that in the actual vote between an SWPer and a right-winger, they will vote for the SWPer. The refusal to nominate is intended as a gesture of reprimand.
Five three-quarter truths, piled one on top of another to reach a conclusion, make a conclusion which is only three-quarters times three-quarters times... true. Or 24% true. Or three-quarters false.
Example: the SWP's current argument on "work, class, and resistance", as developed in a day school sponsored by the SWP's International Socialism Journal in London on 8 February.
The SWP enounces five three-quarter truths:
1. The working class is a whole. It is not two separate segments with a wall between. There is no separate "precariat" class.
Published in 1984, Tony Cliff’s book Class Struggle and Women’s Liberation set out the SWP’s theory on women’s oppression and how to fight it.
This was a couple of years after the SWP had shut down its inconveniently independent ‘Women’s Voice’ paper and organisation, and Cliff’s cliched tale of “good” revolutionaries putting the class struggle first and “bad” bourgeois/radical feminists was clearly aimed at members of his own party.
A call to activists quitting the SWP to discuss seriously with others on the left, including AWL.
Dave Renton, one of the well-known figures in the new wave of people who have quit the SWP after its December 2013 conference (NWSQ for short), sets his aim for 2014 as "the regroupment of the best of the Cliffite diaspora, and then (with luck) contributing to that bolder, braver left of which we can be just a constituent part".
At the Second Congress of the Communist International, in the debate on the national and colonial question, just after his book Imperialism had been translated into German and French, Lenin warned delegates they should “establish concrete facts and to proceed from concrete realities, not abstract postulates”.
In the few days since the SWP's annual conference (13-15 December) there has been a flurry of public resignations by members of the Rebuilding the Party faction, including SWP old-timer Ian Birchall (here), the authorised biographer of SWP founder Tony Cliff.
At least twice in early December, anarchist students at Sussex University have carried out physical attacks on Socialist Workers Party stalls.
Sussex Autonomous Students (sussexasn.tumblr.com) report: “A few days ago the SWP turned up to one of the Sussex 5 Solidarity demos. They brought a mass of placards and papers, which they proceeded to distribute from the obligatory stall. We binned their placards, turned over their stall and burnt their papers.”
This is slightly different from the version published in the printed paper.
The Socialist Workers' Party national conference being held in mid-December will result in yet another split. This is the only rational conclusion to draw from a reading of the SWP pre-conference Internal Bulletins.
According to a Statement for Our Revolutionary Party, signed by nearly a hundred members:
“Comrades who continue to belong to a permanent faction (i.e. the oppositional Rebuilding the Party (RtP) faction, formed in September) should be expelled to ensure that they do not damage and undermine our Party.” (IB1, p.20)
The Unite union’s defeat by Ineos at the Grangemouth oil refinery and petrochemicals plant in Scotland merits serious analysis and discussion by socialist organisations. We need to understand what happened and draw appropriate lessons in order to minimise the risk of such defeats in future.
Much of the left press has been desperate to spin a narrative of a militant workforce champing at the bit to take radical action, but being held back (and, ultimately, stitched up and sold out) by a capitulatory bureaucracy.
A culture of trying to ban people you don’t like is edging into the student left.
Administrative exclusions are fairly common on the right wing of the student movement. Right-wing or “apolitical” student union officers will often find excuses for shutting down left-wing meetings and activity; but they won’t call them bans.
It is on the student left that a culture of banning, more openly proclaimed as what it is, is starting to develop. Such bans are usually aimed not against right-wingers, but against others on the left.