SWP's sudden call for a General Strike (1992)

Submitted by dalcassian on 8 February, 2017 - 1:23 Author: Sean Matgamna

make a grievous mistake — a
bizarre, strange, almost inex-
plicable mistake. Suddenly —
without warning, preparation, or
reasoned argument — it launched a
campaign for an all-out general
One day the SWP was obsessive-
ly going on — as for a decade it
has gone on — about tbe "down-
turn" in tbe working class move-s
ment — and the next day they were
calling for a general strike!
The Tories announced the immi-
nent closure of 31 pits, and were
greeted by a tremendous cry of
protest. But even before the inspir-
ing but limited trade union demon-
strations in London on October 22
and 26, tbe SWP had decided
overnight, that the downturn was
over and that — miraculously —
we were close to the very crest of
an upturn in working class
strength, combativity and militan-
cy. Now, Socialist Worker insisted
the next step hatf to be an all-out
general strike!
No explanation was offered
except that "the mood had
changed". In fact the main change
was in the mood of the SWP's
None of this made sense, as we
argued at length in Socialist
Organiser. It was all arbitrary and
subjective. The labour movement
was only beginning to revive. Even
a Trotskyist TUC would not call
an all-out general strike in these
circumstances. It would call a
series of limited, exploratory
actions, link up trade union strug-
gles, and then see.
In the week after the great Octo-
ber demos, it became apparent to
tbe leaders of the SWP that they
had made a mistake. Admit it? Oh
no! They merely put the "General
Strike" in smaller print. On the 7
February demo on their placards
read: "Sack Major, not the min-
ers!" Down at the bottom, in small-
er letters, was the call for a
general strike.
Now, every person and every
organisation makes mistakes. The
only way you can be sure you will
never make a mistake is to die.
In politics, mistakes are
inevitable. Serious people learn
from their mistakes. So do serious
organisations. The others — like
the SWP — fall victim to their own
It seems that Tony Cliff, whose
brainstorm this ridiculous lurch
was, only got it through the all-
powerful Central Committee by
one vote (4-3), and that there was
widespread resistance amongst
SWP members to "the turn". Since
the SWP is not a democratic
organisation, but a sort of piety-
fuelled cult in politics, then struc-
tured, democratic dissent or debate
was not possible. But you can not
entirely suppress politics, even in a
heavily depoliticised organisation
like the one Pope Tony the First
has built.
Discussions — necessarily secret
and undercover discussion — broke
out. Political pontiffs must claim
infalliability. They can not allow
discussion, especially discussion of
their mistakes. And thus they have
now 'had to' start to expel long-
time members for "secret faction-
alism" — people like long-time
Party leaders Phil Taylor and
Maureen Watson and others.
Much better than the quasi-Stal-
inist organisational structures of
the SWP is a democratic organisa-
tion like the Alliance for Workers'
Liberty. An organisation able to
discuss tbe issues, and able when
necessary to face up to its mistakes
in a way that educates and devel-
ops its members.
The SWP proclaims itself "the
revolutionary party". It is not a
party but a futile sect subject to
the political whims and vagaries of
Cliff and his coterie, who now seem
to have lost their ability to tell
what political time of the day it is.
Socialist Organiser end 1992

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