Callinicos threatens "lynch mobs"
The CPGB has been sent a copy of an explosive account of a recent ISJ meeting
Bureaucratic fury, not righteous anger
report of a recent 'International Socialism Journal' meeting gives a
taste of the bullying, intimidating atmosphere that is building in
the Socialist Workers Party as the beleaguered central committee and
its supporters feel the crisis escalating out of control and take out their rage on the opposition and its legitimate concerns.
if the comments and general attitude the report attributes to the
likes of Alex Callinicos are accurate, it lends credence to the claims
from the Democratic Renewal comrades that aggressive, bullying behaviour towards oppositionists is widespread, including in some cases the threat of physical violence. (http://internationalsocialismuk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/stop-bullying.html).
methods - and the people who promote them as a means to resolve
between comrades - should have no place in the workers movement.
All comments in brackets etc. are those of the orignal author. The report begins below.
Callinicos led off:
are two types of group that are trying to change the party by fait
accompli. The first group seeks to create external pressures.
China, and I suspect Richard, encouraged Laurie Penny to write in the
Independent. The letter from Peter Thomas and co, and interventions
from ISO members, fit in here. PT and co are in part motivated by
legitimate concerns about the case, but also it reflects the
political ambitions of the Historical Materialism editorial board:
it’s a repeat of ‘NLR syndrome’—Perry Anderson sought to
profile himself as self-appointed generalissimo of the class
struggle; these HM editors see themselves in a similar light. The
ISO’s behaviour is particularly shocking: relations with them had
been improving, but now their behaviour is threatening to “destroy”
second group that are trying to change the party by fait accompli
is the faction that declared this week.. I’m shocked by this. They
have breached the long-standing principle that we do not have
one-day special conference on 10th March will provide a full
opportunity for discussion. It will be an opportunity to reaffirm the
decisions taken at the January conference. Whatever comes out of it
will have to be accepted by everyone. Anyone who doesn’t accept
“will attract the righteous anger of the bulk of party members.”
the start of the discussion, incidentally, Alex barked at Amy
Gilligan, insisting she stop taking notes. He, however, continued to
cheerfully fill his notebook with copious notes throughout the
meeting, as well as typing into his Blackberry. Alex tends to justify
this sort of double standard with the term ‘political morality.’
Which seems to mean: whoever is trusted by the CC can do as they
please, whoever is not, cannot. Are there echoes here of Gerry
Healey’s catchphrase, ‘revolutionary morality’?]
discussion kicked off with some comrades expressing their intense
Macgregor, for example. Paul Blackledge later on.
they were not angry either that the SWP has dealt with something as
important as sexual harassment with appalling ineptness (not to say a
cover up) or with the way the CC attempted to shut down the resulting
debate. Rather, they were furious at those of us who’ve been
“making a fuss” about such matters.
is “very angry”. We should not hold a special conference! We just
had a conference, at which the issues were “all” fully aired! The
present turmoil was started by party members. The SWP's reputation is
not in fact suffering damage in the ‘outside world.’
shared Sheila’s fury and directed some harsh words at the ISO.
Jenkins made some general and unsubstantiated allegations that
members of the faction were spreading lies and half-truths. He then
defended the CC’s behaviour over Jamie Woodcock, noting that the CC
had merely “suggested” that Jamie’s nomination be
rescinded—unaware that to even call this a half-truth would be
Hardy: Any damage to the party has been the result of “the
blogging”. She compared Richard Seymour to UCU leader Sally Hunt:
both seek to push debate out of the branches and conference (she
offered not a shred of evidence that Richard wishes to do this) and
onto “email voting” and internet discussion.
Choonara: Why are the students in revolt? Because we made a mistake
in 2011, when students joined around the Millbank etc movement. We
should have made a sharp turn toward SWP theory in the SWSS groups.
Barker: Defended his adherence to the faction, and insisted that
we’re an organisation that welcomes heterodoxy, one that has the
confidence to show tolerance toward comrades who take positions with
which most of us disagree.
were excellent contributions from Jamie, Simon Behrman and Neil
Davidson, repudiating the accusations against our faction. (In
Simon’s case though, he also took some swipes at those of in the
Dale: Disagrees with Sheila’s argument that nothing’s changed in
the outside world. First, it has. Generally, to the detriment of the
SWP’s reputation, but not simply that. For example, anarchist
friends of mine have congratulated us on the seriousness with which
we’ve approached the issue, and mentioned that they—who
experienced similar difficulties in dealing with sexual
harassment—have found our campaign inspiring. But even if the
outside world is oblivious, a special conference is still necessary,
due to the tumult in the organisation etc.
with Joseph Choonara who argued that the resolution to this cannot be
administrative but must be political and suggested these issues need
to be fought out at the conference, but also developed in the pages
of our publications over the next year or more.
has taken a swipe at Richard over his enthusiasm for Poulantzas, but
had not Callinicos himself been similarly enthusiastic for Althusser,
in the 1970s? Linked this to a point made by Neil: the party has to
be big enough to include the likes of David Widgery as well as Chris
Harman. Sheila’s warning—at the last ISJ meeting—that Neil’s
recent ‘revisionism’ on permanent revolution is an “attack on
the IS tradition” is an example of precisely the wrong approach to
“Richard Seymour is a friend of mine. But he never goes to
meetings. He and China think they’re above the rest of the party.”
She then went on to express her disgust at those of us who draw
comparisons between the SWP’s procedure for dealing with harassment
allegations and that of institutions, such as trade unions, “which
are part of capitalist society”—the implication being that the
SWP is not.
Dee: Spoke up strongly for ‘the students’. They’ve been
particularly attuned to issues of feminism, oppression etc. No wonder
it’s they who’ve been at the forefront in recent weeks.
Budd, to Alex: At the outset, you said that the point of the special
conference is “to reaffirm the decisions taken at conference.”
That’s surely the wrong way to go about it—to present it as a way
of rubberstamping decisions already taken. Surely it should be about
airing the points of contention fully. To this, Alex barked a surly
“That’s what you think!”
then summed up the session: The crisis has been driven from within
the party. Richard Seymour is the principal culprit. He is an
eclectic thinker; he grabs ideas from everywhere—including even Bob
Jessop!—and throws them into an “incoherent mess.”
Smith must be allowed to fully return to political activity. Hannah’s
analysis of the students is wrongheaded.
students are not some vanguard on issues of oppression, as she
implies; rather, they’ve lost their way as a result of our flawed
approach in 2011—as Joseph outlined. There’s no way a 3 month
discussion period before the special conference will be allowed. It
would “destroy” us. If party members refuse to accept the
legitimacy of the decisions taken at the special conference, “lynch
mobs” (his words) will be formed. [He didn’t say whether or not
he’d give a green light to such organisations.]