Letters

Alpha-male SWP

The debate so far around ‘comrade Delta’ on the left, including the pages of the Weekly Worker, appears to focus on democracy and bureaucratic centralism, as if these were the causes of the problems the Socialist Workers Party now faces.

Admittedly questions of democracy, factional rights and a questioning attitude to the leadership are important. My contention, however, is that the allegations made against comrade Delta would never have arisen if the SWP had taken on board the writings of Engels in his book, The origin of the family, private property and the state.

It was over 20 years ago that sex-strike theory, as developed by Chris Knight in his Blood relations, presented the idea that sexual conflict and sexual politics, not class conflict, is the source of our human origins. This was debated at the SWP’s Marxism at the time, followed a year later by the closure of debate by those at the top of the organisation (see Camilla Power’s letter, Weekly Worker January 17). This included a complete rejection of the theory in Chris Harman’s review of Blood relations.

In pre-human society, classes did not exist and the only conflicts were those between the sexes. It was only during the epoch of the ultimate sexual conflict, the human revolution, that equality, language and culture flowered. What was overcome was the overthrow of the primate family and the establishment of group living in a collective. Women also established rules that ownership of their bodies was collectivised in themselves and their male kin, not their husbands.

So for over 20 years there has been available a theory of our human origins which has been rejected by the SWP. It appears that the SWP would rather eschew science and theoretical work for dogmatism and worn-out formulas (up until recently it stated that human labour creates all wealth in society). This is reflected in the SWP crisis that is now facing the leadership, as it attempts a fire-fighting operation to dampen down the flames of democracy.

However, the crisis was not caused by a minor issue, as John Bridge seems to think in his podcast of February 17. Democracy and female liberation from the yoke of patriarchy go hand in hand. If there is any sign that democracy is failing, it is the way that society treats the female sex. From the human revolution until the Neolithic revolution, humans were communist, egalitarian and revolutionary. This is how we became human - a culture of reverse dominance, the overcoming of alpha-male primate dominance. It was a Darwinian solution to the problem of increasing encephalisation. Instead of the female sex beholden to male proclivities, there was a female revolution. In effect they said, ‘Enough!’

With the rise of farming there was a counterrevolution, private property, hierarchy, delayed return systems, power structures and systems of control. In effect it was a return to the period prior to the human revolution. What is required now is another revolution, with once again women at the front. This is no minor issue. If we want to create societies of the future, then the organisations that we create now, the way we conduct ourselves, should reflect that vision. Those who defend comrade Delta, those who say that what happens in our party organisations is a manifestation of wider society, that because we are living in this society with all the shit that comes with it, nothing can be done, are making excuses.

We aspire to something better, to be the embodiment of the society of the future. To set an example, to absorb the best that society has to offer: its science and its culture. As communists we should not compromise on our principles. However, this is not the case with the SWP - time and time again it kowtows to the latest fads, tails the latest Occupy. It does not build, but destroys.

Having not taken on board the lessons of sex-strike theory, it appears that the SWP’s culture reflects a pre-revolutionary period of alpha-male dominance. Women in the SWP should demand openness, democracy, the right to be heard, and link up with working class women wherever they work. Their work should not kowtow to bourgeois feminism, raunch culture or the latest fad. Was it not in Respect that the SWP aligned itself with reactionary forces that worked against the interests of women? Now it is stifling dissent, and in the comrade Delta case marginalising the accuser.

Women’s solidarity can only be achieved on the basis of overcoming male insecurities, so that men accept it. The SWP’s version of feminism and the capitalist upholding of the nuclear family are two sides of the same coin: they both prevent women coming together in solidarity.

Simon Wells
London

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Opportunities

With the start of the SWP district aggregates, it is becoming ever more clear that the central committee’s supporters are going all guns blazing to ensure that In Defence of Our Party faction members do not make it to the special conference. So much for the central committee wanting to unite the organisation.

Contrary to what I’ve argued in these letter pages previously, what’s unfolding is the emergence of two distinct organisations: one calling itself SWP (CC) and the other SWP (IDOP). At the last count, both claim 500 supporters (so much for 7,000 members). Clearly the organisation is split right down the middle. For all the faults of Tony Cliff, the founder of the International Socialist tradition, he apparently always ensured that an opposition was present at conference to create a facade of internal debate.

No, it seems that CC supporters are still blind as to what is unfolding in the organisation, sowing their own illusions in the structures and perspectives set by the leadership. The question on many lips, though, will be, ‘What happens after conference?’ Faction members can either keep quiet until the autumn, with the opening of a new pre-conference period, or continue putting forward an opposition base. Either way, it’s highly unlikely they will be successful. The CC will be hoping for the largest possible endorsement of its plans as a means to crush and potentially split the opposition.

The SWP is near dead and on the way to going the same way as Gerry Healy’s Workers Revolutionary Party, but that does not mean faction members should just jump ship. Nor should they loyally stay put. If expulsions follow, faction members should leave en masse and call a national emergency meeting to coordinate the fight for something better. What form that takes is largely dependent on the support they are able to garner from the likes of the CPGB, but also Workers Power, the Anti-Capitalist Initiative, Workers’ Liberty, etc, etc. For all our disagreements - and there are many - we’ve got more in common.

The last thing the left needs is yet another left sect. We can do better than that. In every crisis, opportunities arise.

Anti Capitalist
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No defence

 The organised opposition in the SWP, the ‘Defence’ faction, has turned inwards, agreeing not to talk publicly, and that is to be regretted, not least because I think it fatally harms their attempt to improve their organisation.

I have taken an interest in the SWP crisis, and the prescriptive principle I apply here, as ever, is that action should be substantively rational, so when participating in the crisis of a rev-soc organisation we shouldn’t lose sight of the imperative that we always have to struggle in a healthy way for our ultimate aim, the more decent life that has historically been termed socialism or communism. Health requires transparent airing of party differences in public, because workers and their allies deserve to know what is happening. Moreover, being transparent is even more of an imperative if you are faced by a leadership controlling a bureaucratically centralist organisation like the SWP.

The tone was set by the inaugural Defence faction meeting when it agreed “in a near unanimous vote to stop the commentary on blogs and Facebook and use the channels opened up by the faction to conduct the argument internally within the party” (Rob Owen’s summary on behalf of the faction committee, February 18, sent to all faction members - and the world). Another document, the unsigned and undated ‘Internet’, put Socialist Unity blog in the same camp as the Daily Mail: “hostile sources that aim to destroy the party”. As if.

Even so, the leaks have continued, not least to the Weekly Worker, but importantly the Democratic Renewal Platform blog has been abandoned. Defence have been very polite, but not gracious enough to stand up for the SWP constitution, which makes the pre-conference discussion a mandatory three months (article 4). The ‘lynchers’ have correctly taken this timidity as a sign of weakness, and are structuring the district aggregates, where conference delegates are elected, giving the two central committee speakers 45 minutes, but Defence only six minutes.

The response by the Defence faction committee is nothing less than a humiliation: “Comrades in the aggregate should propose votes are taken on two changes - firstly to give the faction speaker the right of reply, and secondly to give a longer introduction.” Comrades, if equality is good enough for the workers, it’s good enough for you! What is wrong with you all? First the CC discarding the constitution, then this. But there’s no surprise: they had you sussed - unfortunately.

The Defence strategy of splendid isolation and being nice has had three deadly effects: they have struggled less effectively; it has emboldened their opponents, the Lynch Mob faction (undeclared); and all this isn’t healthy for the rest of the labour and socialist movement, not least knowing that it seems lambs are being quietly put to the slaughter.

Important in explaining this readiness to turn inwards is party loyalty. It is clear that in Britain today there is an unhealthy, intense rivalry between professed rev-soc groups - in a phrase, destructive sectarianism - so, and this is more pronounced in younger comrades, when someone joins a group they soon learn what distinguishes them from all the others, and they develop an antipathy towards their competitors, even viewing them as enemies rather than opponents - it’s pretty much off the radar to see them as allies, let alone fellow comrades. So a group loyalty is continually engendered and in the case of the SWP this is grandiosed as party loyalty, elevating the member to being part of something with an exalted quality.

A final point. When the stalwart defender of the Lynch Mob faction on Socialist Unity blog, ‘stuart’, got banned, people were no longer being kept on their toes, so the quality of comments went down, as did my interest in contributing. We all too readily forget there is much virtue in the liberal opposition to censorship, for it supports conditions more conducive to rational argument, to pushing people to improve what they say, to letting people freely change their minds and to giving us all a better chance to recognise what the facts are.

The SWP has had five weeks of excitement and, in whatever constrained way, the beginnings of letting a hundred flowers bloom, of letting a hundred schools contend. Maybe Defence members will try again within the SWP, but in a more efficacious way; or maybe if they are forced out or find it unbearable they can take part in creating a lively, joyous rev-soc organisation, preferably fusing with other groups, something that it would be a pleasure to join. Not easy, but what is?

Jara Handala
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CP opportunism

Reading Jack Conrad’s overview of the essentials of “the kind of principles and politics outlined in the Communist manifesto, Erfurt programme and Parti Ouvrier” reminded me of endless discussions in Communist Party meetings 60 years ago (‘Broad bad, mass good’, February 21).

I was an active member of the Young Communist League and prospective party candidate for Battersea borough council. Party policy regarding religion was a frequent issue; the British road to socialism had just been launched; for the first time since the war, travel to Europe was becoming easy for working class youngsters, many of whom were going abroad for the first time, attending the Stalinist-organised, biennial ‘youth festivals’ held in communist capitals: Prague, Budapest, East Berlin, Bucharest, Warsaw, Moscow, etc (I attended three of them).

Religion was always a touchy question in the party ranks; although few Christians were members in Britain, extraordinary efforts were made to recruit god-worshippers to popular-front bodies, revolving around the ‘broad peace movement’. As local YCL secretary in 1955, I visited two church fellowships in Balham and Battersea, seeking applicants to join our peace group headed for the Warsaw youth festival! As with Canon Collins in the later Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the party press gave much publicity to prominent Christian fellow travellers, making them figureheads of the ‘popular movement’. National and international festival committees brought together contacts (and friendships) between British youngsters and contemporaries in France and Italy - two countries where thousands of Catholics were persuaded there was no contradiction between their religious allegiance and membership of the Communist Party.

Coincidentally, while reading Jack’s article, I received an email from an old Australian comrade, with a spoof ‘job vacancy’ advertisement. Headed ‘Pontiff’, the advert describes a “Rome-based” job, involving “extensive travel”. The employer “urgently seeks a spiritual leader”, a “dogmatic individual with a flair for ignoring empirical evidence” and notes that “Experience covering up sexual abuse scandal being highly desirable”. In conclusion, the applicant is warned that the “Holy See is not an equal opportunities employer”.

I don’t know the source of this spoof - but it’s good fun and, in a few words, making some important points. Amazingly, the thought that immediately sprang to mind as I read it was that in the early 1950s, had I distributed a leaflet like that, I would have faced severe party discipline. Incredibly, thousands of us rank-and-file members had positioned ourselves in a ridiculous position - studying ‘Marxism’ and class struggle at party seminars, while emphatically declaring, on public platforms, that Winston Churchill was a ‘progressive Tory’ and the Dean of Canterbury would play an important ideological role in the future ‘socialist Britain’; how did we manage to reconcile such contradictory beliefs - an (almost instinctive) revulsion for religion, which we transformed, intellectually, into an ‘ally’ in the battle for working class power. We used to publicly declare we were “putting Marxism into practice”!

The practical consequences of opportunism, discussed so appropriately by Jack Conrad.

Bob Potter
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Worse than

As reported in the media (see, for example, www.itv.com/news/update/2013-02-21/galloway-storms-out-of-debate-with-israeli-citizen), Mr George Galloway walked out of a student debate in Oxford when he discovered that his Zionist opponent was an Israeli citizen: “I don’t recognise Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis.”

Note that the reason he gave for refusing to debate with his would-be opponent is not the fact that the latter is a Zionist - indeed, he had knowingly agreed to the debate on this very basis - but that he is an Israeli citizen. Presumably, this refusal would stupidly extend also to the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Arabs. Alternatively, Mr Galloway would have to choose his interlocutors according to their ethnicity. That would be far worse than stupid.

Perhaps he would like to debate this point with me. But hold on! I am an Israeli citizen ...

Moshé Machover
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Nota bene

James Turley seems to distinguish between regarding bourgeois society as a whole and the Social Democratic Party of Germany and Second International in the crisis of World War I as exhibiting what Lukács called the problem of ‘reification’, as if the workers’ movement were somehow apart from bourgeois society (Letters, February 21).

Has the dialectic been ruled out of court? No self-contradictions and no need for self-overcoming transformations in the history of Marxism? The subtitle of Lukács’s book History and class consciousness was Studies in Marxist dialectics. Turley doesn’t consider that it just as well could have been called Studies in the dialectics of Marxism. For Hegelian and thus Marxist dialectics is not extrinsic to its object, but rather critically reflexive of it: how to understand history from within the process of historical development?

At stake here is not ‘historical relativism’, but rather the dialectics of history: was Marxism historically subject to self-contradiction? Turley appears to dismiss this possibility, where this was Lukács’s central concern in History and class consciousness. Like many readers, Turley sunders the two parts of Lukács’s title, ‘history’ and ‘class-consciousness’, rather than regarding their intrinsic interrelation for Marxists: ‘class-consciousness’ is consciousness of history, especially of its dialectical contradictions. Marxism was part of the history it sought to understand - and change.

Turley simultaneously condemns Lukács for Hegelianism and tries to defend Lukács against my characterisation of History and class consciousness’s essential Hegelianism! Is there no dialectic of theory and practice in the history of Marxism worth considering? Or are we left only with the standards of historicism for regarding the history of Marxism? Is there no place for what Hegel called “philosophical history” in Turley’s consideration of the history of Marxism?

This is not a matter of some supposed wilful “procrustean” (mis)interpretation of historical Marxism, but rather of finding the ‘red thread’ that links Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky, Lukács and Adorno (among others): that is, the immanent dialectical critique of the workers’ movement for socialism, including the critical self-reflection of Marxism, or Marxism’s dreaded Hegelianism, which Turley seems eager to cut, in favour of the standards of pre-Kantian, pre-critical, naive bourgeois thought, long after its innocence was lost - in the late 18th century. Why?

Or worse: Althusserian anti-Hegelianism - not merely sub-bourgeois, but avowedly pre-Socratic! An exemplary case of regression in the history of Marxism. Just as - and indeed owing to - Heidegger’s anti-bourgeois regression in the history of philosophy. In Turley’s view the reactionary anti-bourgeois character of Heidegger’s philosophy would not be the expression of the reactionary anti-bourgeois politics of Nazism that Heidegger joined or the regression of bourgeois society in fascism, but somehow apart from it. Indeed, we may not be able to fully understand the historical moment of Hitler’s Mein Kampf in the present - history does grant some small mercies! But Hitler was not merely wrongheaded: millions joined Nazism for some reason, not simply for lack of reason! But I thought we were discussing not the right, but the left, and Marxism in particular.

Lenin warned in his Testament that the leading Bolshevik theorist, Bukharin, perhaps never “understood dialectics”, and so could not quite be considered as “fully Marxist”. The leading Bolshevik theorist! This was in the same year as the writing of Lukács’s History and class consciousness. Neither Lukács’s critique of the historic crisis of Marxism nor Lenin’s warning about the legacy of Bolshevism was heeded. Nota bene!

Chris Cutrone
Platypus Affiliated Society

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First time

It is hardly surprising that people no longer trust establishment politicians. Not only do their parties all say much the same thing: their leaders try to cover up any abuses of their power.

Within the last four days we have seen: further evidence that the economic policies of this Conservative/Lib Dem government have failed; no alternative put forward by Labour; a leading Liberal Democrat accused of totally inappropriate behaviour towards women party members; and the leader of the Lib Dems - deputy prime minister Nick Clegg - denying claims of a cover-up over the alleged inappropriate behaviour.

There are a number of conclusions we can draw. Clearly this government’s policies are not working, and there is no credible opposition to it. Last Friday, Britain’s economic credibility suffered a humiliating blow when Moody’s - one of the world’s top rating agencies - announced it was downgrading Britain’s creditworthiness from AAA to AA1, marking the first time in the UK’s history that it has had a less than perfect rating.

On the same day, parliament’s own public accounts committee announced that, despite costing billions of pounds, the government’s flagship work programme only got 3.6% of the long-term unemployed off benefits and into secure work in its first 14 months.

Public spending cuts are not needed and will not work. These events prove us right. So what does the main established opposition do? We only have to look locally to Coventry to see that it is doing nothing to oppose these policies. Coventry’s Labour council will this week vote through £61 million of cuts, decimating local services and cutting 800 jobs. Labour councillors will not oppose these Con-Dem cuts, even though they hit the poor disproportionately hard. Not a single Labour MP or councillor was seen on a march on Saturday in Coventry to pledge their support for the campaign against the cuts, or to speak out against their devastating impact.

Now, on top of all this, we have the allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women by leading Liberal Democrat Lord Rennard. First, Nick Clegg states he didn’t know about these allegations until just before Channel 4 News broadcast them on Thursday February 21. A couple of days later he admitted to being made aware in 2008 of “indirect and non-specific concerns” about inappropriate behaviour towards women by the peer. In fact, we know of five allegations that were made against Lord Rennard between 2003 and 2008. Furthermore, we now know that just before the last general election in 2010, Clegg’s office received emailed questions about these five allegations. So why has he tried to cover all this up?

We need a clean break - a new politics with new ideas. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition has both.

Pete McLaren
Rugby Tusc

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Big brother

Newcastle council’s controversial leader, Nick Forbes, has been accused of using Big Brother bullying-style tactics after a protestor was arrested following a short exchange with the council leader at the end of the city’s largest anti-cuts protest on February 16.

‘Don’ Macdonald, a Newcastle-based youth worker, had helped to organise the 1,500-strong demonstration against cuts to play, youth, library and leisure services. At the end of the demonstration he approached the Labour leader and told him that he had sold out the city. Six hours later, at 10 o’clock at night, Don was arrested at his home. Don, who was alone with his six-year-old child at the time of his arrest, was taken to North Tyneside Area Command HQ, where he was offered a fixed-penalty notice under section 5 of the Public Order Act for behaviour “likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress”. He was released at 2.30 in the morning. He is strongly contesting the allegations and has rejected the offer of a fixed-penalty notice.

Don said: “In a democracy, elected representatives should be prepared to listen to the concerns of residents. I can’t believe that Nick Forbes got the police to knock on my door late at night and drag me from my family for expressing my opinions. Free speech is not harassment!”

Nick Forbes has caused controversy over the scale of cuts in Newcastle and has recently been accused of hiding away from constituents and limiting their access to him. In the last couple of weeks he has turned off his Twitter account, not turned up to meetings and avoided residents’ forums, where people want to complain about the cuts. Now we’re not even allowed to talk to him in the street! Forbes is using the police in a crude and desperate attempt to intimidate opposition to his nasty cuts programme.

Defence Campaign
Newcastle

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