The SWP / IS tradition
Some on the left seem to have decided that the size of the leaked BNP membership list is bad news for the fascists.
“A weak divided party exposed”, the Socialist Party headline tells us: the list “makes it clear that the BNP is a relatively small party... with just over 3,000 members classed as activists, it is welcome news that the BNP has capitalised so little on the enormous anger against New Labour, Tories and Lib Dems that exists.”
The Socialist Workers Party has three members on the NEC as part of the Left Unity slate – Sue Bond, one of the National Vice Presidents, Andy Reid, and Paul Williams.
Paul Williams is a serious trade union militant who AWL supporters suspect was placed on the NEC slate to stiffen the backbone of the SWP NEC members (for instance the then SWP NEC members, including Sue Bond, had supported the calling off the planned jobs, pay and pensions strike in 2005).
Seedbed of Today's Revolutionary Left
1959 seemed to mark a nadir for the radical left in Britain. The Tories had just won the third general election in a row. The right wing was triumphant in the Labour Party.
Download the pamphlet here as pdf (2 MB).
Then, however, the Labour leaders decided to launch an official movement. And a big movement developed for nuclear disarmament.
Rent-an-SWPer... at a price
Crestfallen though the SWP is these days, it still seems to be trying to pull something pretty outrageous in Stoke.
Student Respect, or in other words Socialist Workers’ Party students, are organising a conference for a “democratic, campaigning student movement” at the School of Oriental and African Studies on Saturday 1 November.
Report from The Convention of the Left, meeting in Manchester in parallel to Labour’s conference (20-24 September).
Though the organisers had successfully argued against a debate on links between the unions and Labour, the question of political perspectives for the unions ran through many of the contributions to the trade union session.
The new ten point People Before Profit “charter” sheds more than a little light on how the Socialist Workers Party views its role in the growing economic crisis and the role it expects the wider labour movement to play.
About one hundred student activists attended the Student Stop the War meeting on 6 September — not a bad turn out, but unfortunately that was the best thing about the meeting.
Most of those present were from various socialist groups with the SWP — who organised the event — in abundance. The politics promoted by the SWP were very far from socialist, and the meeting failed to develop any real strategy for action.
Of a two hour meeting, seventy minutes were taken up by speeches from the top table — not much time for discussing anything.
The 'Left Alternative' members bulletin on 10 September reported:
Class struggle in the Middle East
The Socialist Workers Party’s behaviour at last Saturday’s [16 August 2008] protest against the British National Party’s Red White and Blue festival was spectacularly crass. But nothing they did was odder than the text of the petition they were circulating to gather contact names.
Using Love Music Hate Racism as a party front, their petition’s second bullet point reads: “[The BNP] deny the holocaust where thousands of LGBT people, trade unionists and disabled people were slaughtered.”
No mention of the main victims of the Holocaust, the Jews.
Something about the SWP’s recent behaviour smacks of more than the usual sectarianism. Desperation might be closer to the mark
Over the last year ‘the Revolutionary Party’ has experienced one setback after another. The split with George Galloway, the collapse of Respect, the more than dismal showing for the “Left List” in the London elections and a raft of resignations must have hit them hard. Further resignations and disputes may well follow.
At the demonstration against the fascist BNP's "Red, White, and Blue" festival in Codnor, Derbyshire, on 16 August, the SWP was circulating a contact sheet.
The document (attached) described itself as a "petition", though it had spaces only for names, not signatures, and the text directly above the name/ address/ details blanks was "Join UAF". Then at the bottom it said "return to Love Music Hate Racism", but identified itself as "initiated by Socialist Worker".
Dear Comrade Cliff,
You admitted in last week's Socialist Worker that the SWP and the ANL made mistakes in relation to Brick Lane on September 24th.
Arabesques, he once turned in Cliff's rodeo,
Who now sits ad absurdom reductio!
See him fret, see him fume,
Watch him preen and presume:
George Bush’s visit to London on 15 June was an opportunity for socialists to take advantage of large scale opposition to the actions of the American and British governments’ both abroad and at home. Unfortunately, the demonstration held by the Stop the War Coalition was as politically vacant as previous ones. Instead of highlighting wider issues of global capitalism, the only subject on the agenda was the war in Iraq. The demo was embarrassingly small; only about 2,000 strong. The speakers were of an equally disappointing character.
These are bad times for the Socialist Action group. Not only did the defeat of Ken Livingstone mean the loss of their sinecures at City Hall, their front group “Student Broad Left” has now almost disappeared. In an attempt to shore up their position, SA have hit out at their erstwhile allies in the SWP.
The 21 June Socialist Worker, an issue geared for the SWP’s anti-BNP demo in London, was full of establishment anti-fascism, claiming that the BNP are not a “respectable” party and calling for an apolitical cross-class front against fascism. To this end, the paper included an article about the “hidden story” of West Indian people fighting for the Allies in World War Two, as “revealed” by a new Imperial War Museum exhibition.
Unite against Fascism (UAF), the SWP-run anti-fascist coalition backed by several unions, called their first national demonstration in a long time on Saturday 21 June in central London. But the demonstration, organised at only just over a month's notice, was very small, with less than 3,000 people.
"As in private life one distinguishes between what a man thinks and says of himself and what he really is and does, still more in historical struggles must one distinguish the phrases and fancies of the parties from their real organism and their real interests, their conception of themselves from their reality."
Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.
An AWL postal worker reports on a dinner engagement with Tony Cliff (1998).
The split between the SWP and Galloway-sycophants in Respect has politically destabilised and reduced both sides. Destabilised in the sense that the SWP was presented with the problem of sticking to its perspective of building a populist alternative to New Labour whilst the Galloway faction lost its best organisers and activists. Reduced in the sense that both sides fared miserably in the recent London elections.
The Left List's explanation of the results of Thursday's elections strongly suggests that the SWP is stubbornly refusing to learn the lessons or even face reality. We can only hope that some of its more thoughtful members will notice that their emperors have neither clothes nor answers, and will call them to account and/or join with others in renewing and reorienting socialism.
Over on Stroppyblog, Janine warns of a gloomy result in the London elections and picks apart how we got into this state; and looks at the Left List's response.
On 23 April, the Guardian published a letter from the three Tower Hamlets Respect councillors linked to the SWP, Oliur Rahman, Rania Khan and Lufta Begum, which denounces the “extremist” views of Islamist organisations like al-Muhajiroun, calls on the government to “stop” them and requests a meeting with Tower Hamlets police to discuss the issue. (See www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/apr/23/uksecurity.bbc)
For the first time in its history, the annual conference of the National Union of Teachers debated a motion submitted by LGBT teachers from their own conference. The motion, entitled “International Homophobia and Transphobia” condemned the current levels of anti-LGBT bigotry in Britain and the rising tide of militant right-wing attacks on LGBT people and Pride demonstrations around the world. Poland, Russia, Israel and Iran were among the places singled out for mention.
For the first time in its history, the annual conference of the National Union of Teachers debated a motion submitted by LGBT teachers from their own conference. The motion, entitled "International Homophobia and Transphobia" condemned the current levels of anti-LGBT bigotry in Britain and the rising tide of militant right-wing attacks on LGBT people and Pride demonstrations around the world. Poland, Russia, Israel and Iran were among the places singled out for mention.
March 17 1968. 20,000 gather in Trafalgar Square for a rally and march to the US Embassy in protest against the US war in Vietnam. The Square is full of the flags of the National Liberation Front (the “Vietcong”), who, only weeks previously had launched the Tet Offensive that had taken a largely rural guerilla war into the cities of Vietnam, getting as far as the gates of the US Embassy in the capital Saigon. Someone throws red dye into the fountains to symbolise the blood shed in the war.
Respect Renewal MP George Galloway has been far from sympathetic to the case of Mehdi Kazemi, instead choosing to spew homophobic bile and defend the Iranian regime. Showing his complete contempt for human rights and democracy, he has levelled the ridiculous accusation that people campaigning against the deportation of Mehdi Kazemi are “the pink contingent of imperialism” — even though the protests are against our own government.
“Red” Ken Livingstone’s campaign for re-election is being supported with a high profile statement signed by... trade union militants? left activists? anti-cuts campaigners? No, instead we have a statement of the great and good, launched by that oh so radical organisation Compass.