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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
last thing the left needs is yet another left sect. We can do better
than that. In every crisis, opportunities arise.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 -
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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).
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.
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
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
practical consequences of opportunism, discussed so appropriately by
reported in the media (see, for example,
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.”
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.
he would like to debate this point with me. But hold on! I am an
Israeli citizen ...
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
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
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.
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?
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?
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.
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!
Platypus Affiliated Society
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
need a clean break - a new politics with new ideas. The Trade
Unionist and Socialist Coalition has both.
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.
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.
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
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.