The leadership of the SWP has a serious problem on its hands. Richard Seymour notes that the leadership have told the members that there will be no further discussion of the rape and sexual harassment allegation against the accused senior party member. This might be a sensible ploy if everyone were to stick to the party line, but it was also fanciful that this would be the case. It has now been demonstrated to be a disastrous policy by the devastating resignation letter of Tom Walker and Richard Seymour’s blog post, the latter of which, as Gene notes, should lead to his expulsion for defiance. These will not be the only critiques of the leadership by rebellious members as more surely have to come.
If the leadership, and the members who act as lickspittle running dogs of the leadership, retain their stance of not discussing it further then this means that the abundance of published material will be attacks on the party with no real published defence. Rank and file party members (“ordinary” is not a term suitable for the description of any member of the SWP) including all those who were not at conference will be seeing these attacks on the party. The conclusion to be drawn, irrespective of the guilt of “Comrade Delta,” is that the leadership will look weak. The only tool that the leadership can use is expulsion, because, as I have previously mentioned, they have no guns to shoot dissenters.
Leaving the party and setting up a new revolutionary party, aimed at violently overthrowing parliamentary democracy, will not be the dissenters ideal for a simple reason: money. Despite being anti capitalist, revolutionary socialist parties need money to print newspapers, placards for demonstrations as well for other things which notably includes the salaries of party full time workers – or at least the for ones who need a salary. The SWP is alleged to have quite a bit of money and hence if the dissenters can win control of the party then they win control of the party assets. The party might also have the benefit of legacies that have been left to it. Expelled members cannot win this control; those who can are dissenters who remain within the party: a secret faction. They have to do this by kicking out the current Central Committee. This can only be done at a conference. While they have only just had a conference, Trot party mechanisms often allow for a recall conference. This is exactly what Richard Seymour has proposed in a comment to his own blog post.
Tom Walker, explicitly, and Richard Seymour, implicitly, are suggesting that rank and file members unhappy with the leadership contact them. Those who do contact them will be deemed by the SWP leadership guilty of secret factionalism, in itself grounds for expulsion. That is, of course, if the leaders know which members are acting in such a disloyal fashion. (I do not believe the SWP CC has yet installed a torture chamber so that it can force a confession from the contemptible Seymour of the names all members who might contact him.) So the leadership will have a choice: either mass expulsions or being forced to fight once again to retain their leadership. Neither option will be attractive. But the major point I wish to get across is that this will largely be a control for party assets as well as other disputes. For what it is worth, my view on this point is shared by David Oslser.
But we should not be under any illusions: the dissenters and the loyalists are all truly odious. After spending more than five minutes with any of them, one feels compelled to go and have a good scrub in the shower.
There is one thing that doesn’t change on the far left, and that is that adherents to far left ideology spend vast proportions of their time arguing against and denouncing others on the far left whose ideological positions are slightly different to their own. A good example is that Andy Newman of Socialist Unity spoke to The Independent about the SWP crisis. They reported:
Mr Newman likened the SWP’s disciplinary hearing to an extrajudicial “sharia” system or the much criticised investigations by the Roman Catholic church into clerical abuse that bypassed reporting allegations to the authorities.
Seymour commented at the end of his blog post:
The Independent….uses the phrase “socialist sharia court”…. I would urge people to think carefully about who wants to use the sort of language deployed in the Independent article. I think the answer is, “racists”.
The implication is clear: Richard Seymour is denouncing Andy Newman as a racist. Let the battles on the far left continue!