I joined the Socialist Workers Party at their Marxism summer school in July 2005. It was around the time of Make Poverty History and the G8 protests and I had come to realise that the solution was getting rid of capitalism - and that’s what the SWP said they were for. Having become very politicised and impatient to do more than individual activism, I was convinced of the need to join the party, to become part of a bigger whole.
But in the SWP there was never any hint that the members contributed to what the group did or said. It was just decreed from the central office in London that we in the York branch should turn over all our efforts to building Respect. We did not have any branch meetings, discussions or paper sales, only monthly public meetings. Although the branch claimed to have a dozen members, most people had been burnt out by the Stop the War movement, and in any case being a member was very passive. Just being a paper member of the Great Revolutionary Party was doing your bit.
Furthermore, there was no connection between our everyday activity and the idea of working-class revolution. Their explanations didn’t ring true with what I understood about Marxism. One comrade said that since we’re not in a revolutionary period, we don’t need to talk about it how to build for one, which is how they rationalised the not-very-left-wing, not-very-working-class Respect. They claimed that this fitted with Trotsky’s conception of the united front, but having recently read his stuff on Germany that didn’t really ring true for me.
However, I met an AWL comrade and got involved in No Sweat... At first the “anti-imperialism” of the SWP, seeing something progressive about terrorism and excusing 7/7, had made me wary of the AWL. But the AWLers I met were serious trade unionists, serious about working class politics, even at a time when everyone tells you that Marxism is dead. In contrast the SWP claimed that the AWL were too “orthodox” in following Marx, whereas in fact “everything had changed” since 9/11 and everything had to be re-evaluated, an idea which I never accepted.
Here was an organisation where being a member wasn’t a passive thing, a group which stood for consistent working class politics. After four months in and around the SWP, I decided to join Workers’ Liberty.