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Submitted by AWL on Fri, 15/07/2011 - 01:16

Hi "Yosser". I find it a bit weird that you want to call out AWLers by name in your obscure and entirely unverifiable recollections, but hide behind a pseudonym on our website. Oh well.

It seems to me that what your post amounts to is as follows:

* Daniel Randall was rude to me once
* The SP is really big and the AWL is really small.

This is always what it comes back to with the SP. As anecdotal reminiscences seem to be your preferred mode of operation, I'll recall the debate I had with an SPer in which he said something along the lines of "we do more stalls, sell more papers and run more meetings than you: you're irrelevant". You can choose to believe that or not, but it fits pretty well alongside the line of "argument" you've adopted here. The question isn't whether you have more shop stewards than us, sell more papers than us, or even have more members than us; the question is what those shop stewards are doing, what those papers are saying, and what project those members are fighting to build.

The synagogue my parents belong to also has more members than the AWL; maybe that also demonstrates the absolutely irrefutable validity of Judaism as a worldview over the worldview of the AWL. Or maybe it doesn't and size isn't everything. As you also seem to be fond of grandiose historical analogies that draw comparisons between your own organisation in the current conditions and people doing a much better job in much harder times, let's remind ourselves that in the 1930s the Trotskyists in Germany and Spain were an absolutely tiny, insignificant, practically powerless force. Maybe the Stalinists were right then after all, "Yosser"? Or maybe not.

The general arrogance that contends that merely being bigger must make you right is breathtaking, but I think it also masks a basic lack of seriousness towards political ideas. The impression it gives is that you are insufficiently concerned with political ideas to conduct this exchange on that terrain, preferring instead to essentially repeat "we are big, you are small" over and over again. The side-swipe about AWLers all being privately-educated toffs with access to "mummy and daddy's libraries" confirms this; aside from being manifestly untrue with regards to the class background of most AWLers, the whole thing relies on the idea that serious Marxist theory is something you can only access if you're middle-class and privately-educated. This is the worst kind of snobbery. What you're basically saying here, "Yosser", is that workers either cannot access, are somehow incapable of accessing, or are not interested in accessing, books and theory.

Of course there's an issue of class privilege when it comes to education and having the time/resources to do lots and lots of reading. But there's also a very proud tradition in the working class in this country that shows that this privilege can be subverted and that workers can access and take ownership over the big ideas, and that workers can do this independently (i.e. it's not the case that workers are only capable of developing basic class consciousness, joining the SP and then having our hands held through the process of being given an "education" by the party). The political level of the SP's paper - dumbed-down, lowest-common-denominator stuff that talks to workers as if they're incapable of understanding anything beyond the absolute basics ("bosses exploit workers" was a headline once, I believe) - tends to bear out the idea that the SP doesn't have a very high opinion of workers' ability to deal with big ideas. But as I say, that's all just an impression; please prove me wrong and actually respond politically (on Libya, on the PCS, on the class character of the USSR, on why it was right to back the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, on why Liverpool council was heroic, on "the third camp"... on anything you like really).

The debate at UEL you refer to was a long time ago and I don't remember it particularly well. From what I do remember I honestly do not recall it being anything like you describe.On the quotes you attribute to me, you can take or leave the swearing but if I did indeed say those things then I would certainly defend my characterisation of the 2006 PCS pensions deal, the acceptance of which your comrades helped engineer, as "a sell out".

If your recollections about the structuring and chairing of the debate are true, and my recollections are mistaken, I can only apologise. It is not our usual practise to give speakers representing a minority position less time to respond - in fact our culture is to do the opposite and give them longer if they are significantly outnumbered by AWL members. If this didn't happen it was a mistake on our part; again, I apologise.

To suggest, however, that this anecdotal recollection is some kind of trump card on the question of whether the SP, after having written several thousand words of polemic against us, should feel under any obligation to have an actual public debate seems ridiculous. And ultimately we must return to the question of why, if we are indeed so irrelevant, Taaffe bothered in the first place. What he wrote was hardly the lazy action of an elephant swatting away a fly as he would have us believe; it was two rambling polemics that took in not only Libya but the PCS and what Sean Matgamna did in 1966. A bizarre amount of energy to expend on an "irrelevant sect". Why, for that matter, did you bother posting your piece here, "Yosser"? It's hardly on the short side. Shouldn't someone like you, a former (perhaps current; I don't know) full-timer for a big, important organisation like the Socialist Party with a real base and implantation in the working class have better things to do with their time than debate with an "irrelevant sect" like us?


Daniel Randall (rude, apparently)

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