Instead of contributing to discussion and explaining his differences with the majority of the AWL on questions of Islamism, the definition of Islamophobia, and imperialism, Patrick Smith has decided to resign from the AWL, publishing a resignation letter on the website of the Weekly Worker group.
The Weekly Worker group has a record, both historical and recent, of shameless lying, particularly against AWL. At a meeting on Saturday 14 September, the Weekly Worker group attempted to have AWL banned from the Socialist Platform of Left Unity. They claimed that we supported the US's planned bombing of Syria. They were impervious to the fact that the issue of Solidarity on sale at the meeting contained an article on Syria with the headline: “Against US bombs”. (See here for a report of that meeting.)
Given this valiant refusal to be moved by such things as objective facts, comrades should stock up on salt before reading anything the Weekly Worker has to say, or anything published in its pages, about other groups on the left.
At no point in the debate has there been any suggestion of the sort which Patrick alleges, that members should “lie about what they think”. As the e-list debate which Patrick has made public shows, there was a range of views inside the AWL about the article and the issues. Those will be reflected in the ongoing discussion.
The account given in Patrick Smith's resignation letter of the conduct of the debate inside Workers' Liberty about the controversy surrounding the 2006 introduction to Workers' Liberty 3/1 bears very little relation to the truth.
The AWL Executive Committee's response to the controversy was not a move to end debate. The EC recommended, and Patrick accepted, time set aside at AWL conference to debate the issues. The initial EC statement was a sharp retort to critics, particularly those, like Workers' Power, with a dreadful record of accommodation to political Islam. It was a defence of our organisation and its work against allegations of “racism” on the pretext of particular readings (in our view, misreadings) of 118 words in a 2,657-word article from 2006 which no-one read at the time as saying what it's now interpreted as saying.
At no point was there any attempt to prevent Patrick from expressing his view. Yes, comrades attempted to persuade him to withdraw his motion — because they thought it was wrong to base a debate on a last-minute motion of large and unclear scope. Coming under “sustained pressure” from people who disagree with you - i.e. having them discuss with you and try to persuade you - is part of a democratic culture. There was never any question that, if Patrick was not persuaded, he would be bureaucratically prevented from putting his views to conference.
The format for the debate at conference, where time was set aside to discuss the controversy regardless of the outcome of the vote on whether to accept Patrick's motion as an emergency, was agreed in consultation with Patrick on the night before conference. He was given extra time to speak in that debate. Everyone who wanted to speak to criticise the article had time to do so. When the debate concluded, Patrick apologised to comrades including Daniel Randall for not having withdrawn the motion, agreeing that a snap vote on a politically wide-reaching text was not, after all, the best way to carry on discussion around the issues he wished to raise.
The aim of that session at conference was not to end discussion on the issues, but to begin it — in a more structured way, both internally and in our public press. Patrick himself was asked to write an article on Islamophobia for Solidarity in which he could have further expounded his views. He agreed to do that. As recently as Monday 28 October, Patrick was giving comrades assurances that his article would be forthcoming.
He has decided to evade further discussion. That's his choice. We will continue to discuss and to be active on the policies decided at AWL conference.