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The SWP and Totalitarian Control

Yesterday I posted extracts of the transcript of the discussion about the Socialist Workers Party Disputes Committee report at the SWP conference. The key part of the report was a rape and sexual harassment allegation against a leading party member. The Disputes Committee concluded that the charges against the leading party member were not proven. The report of this committee was put to a vote and it only narrowly passed. The votes were 231 for, 209 against, and 18 abstentions. While it is a majority, it is hardly decisive. No doubt there are many party members still disgruntled.

The SWP is a Trotskyist party and that means they follow the lead of Leon Trotsky, the Butcher of Kronstadt. The founder of the SWP was the late Tony Cliff. In 1960 Cliff wrote an article, published in the party journal, International Socialism, where he quoted Trotsky’s words from 1924:

I know that one must not be right against the party. One can be right only with the party, and through the party, for history has no other road for being in the right. The English have a saying: “My country – right or wrong.” With far more historical justification we may say: my party – in certain concrete cases – right or wrong … And if the party adopts a decision which one or another of us thinks unjust, he will say: just or unjust it is my party, and I shall support the consequences of the decision to the end.

It is this viewpoint which forms the basis of membership of the party. Members have to support the party. While factions can be formed pre-conference, according to SWP rules, the factions must be dissolved post conference.  At that point in time, all party members must follow the party line. In advance of the SWP conference this weekend, there were two separate factions formed. Conference is now over. Darren Redstar commented yesterday below the line to the comments section:

I understand that only a day after conference ended, loyalty oaths are being demanded, and the leadership is seeking to reassert it’s control.

I suspect he is right. What else can they do?

The party and party leaders asserting control has been a feature of all totalitarian regimes. Of all totalitarian leaders, I suspect the way Saddam Hussein did it in 1979, was the most effective. (Watch the section 1:30 though 5:00)

The SWP certainly believe in violence; in fact, they glorify violence. For as Trotsky said in 1922:

Arguments to the effect that all violence, including revolutionary violence, is evil and that Communists therefore ought not to engage in ‘glorification’ of armed struggle and the revolutionary army, amount to a philosophy worthy of Quakers, Dukhobors and the old maids of the Salvation Army…. The means for emancipating the working people is revolutionary violence.

Unfortunately for Charlie Kimber, to the best of my knowledge, the SWP Central Committee does not have access to a cache of guns and cannot employ the efficient method of Saddam Hussein to obtain the loyalty and obedience of party members. This means that some members will no doubt continue to operate as a faction and a split must be likely. In the spirit of what I will call capitalist defeatism, I hope that both sides lose.