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SWP: The Continuing Crisis

The student wing of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is the Socialist Workers Student Society (SWSS). In practice there is not an iota of difference between the policies of the SWP and the policies of SWSS.  John R, in the comments section, has brought to my attention a blog post at Grumpy Old Trot. Leeds University SWSS have denounced the party leadership. I copy their statement in full below which originally appeared on Facebook:

Leeds University SWSS Statement:

Leeds University SWSS condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the recent handling of very serious accusations against a leading member of the SWP Central Committee. We are also extremely disappointed that SWP national conference voted to ratify the decision and process of the Disputes Committee responsible for the investigation.

As many people will have seen from the recent leaked transcript of SWP conference, the conduct of the Disputes Committee fell far short of what should be expected in a socialist organisation committed to ending women’s oppression. Questions regarding sexual history and drinking patterns would be rightly condemned as sexist if asked within a bourgeois court of law – it is therefore completely unacceptable that socialists should consider this a reasonable line of questioning. Coupled with the effective sacking from the SWP national office of one of the women that brought forward the accusation, and the expulsions of four comrades for attempting to ensure the issue was dealt with, the whole behaviour of the party’s leading bodies suggest a worrying departure from the best practices and traditions of our movement.

What has also has been deeply worrying is the attitude that has been taken towards younger members and students raising legitimate concerns. It seems an atmosphere of intimidation has been allowed to develop in which young members are viewed with suspicion and treated as such. Accusations of ‘autonomism’ and ‘feminism’ (not that feminist should be an insult!) have done nothing to clarify political positions, instead create a culture where members feel unable to raise disagreements. It seems this paranoid approach has extended to the national office, where full-time workers with disagreements over the Dispute Committee proceedings have been moved department under the pretext of “factionalising” amongst students, or worse removed from their position entirely. This kind of internal culture is opposite of the kind which should exist within a healthy revolutionary organisation.

Leeds University SWSS would like to re-affirm its commitment to fighting sexism within society and its desire to continue to work alongside activists, feminists and militant anti-sexists in that struggle. There is a global movement developing that is challenging the sexist, rape-apologist culture of capitalist society and the economic system that underpins it. We believe revolutionary socialists should be proud to take a leading role in that fight.

They will not be the only ones. The Party leaders have never previously faced such an open rebellion. They do not know what to do. I suspect even among the loyalists, they are looking for people to blame for the complete and utter mess in which they have found themselves.

A problem that the SWP has, which is worth mentioning is their arrogance. They have used their size to take control of left wing organisations and squeeze out others. The supercilious stance and sneering attitude of SWP members to others on the left, has meant they are despised by many. But in a Machiavellian way, they appear to be of the opinion that it is better to be feared than loved. Such an attitude might work when the party is domineering on the far-left, but it comes at a price: the party is now in trouble and they lack friends to whom they can turn. Apart from the Party loyalists, there doesn’t seem to be anything like a swathe of sympathy for the SWP leadership. In fact, the opposite is the case.

The best thing that the Germans might have given the world is the word schadenfreude. This word can be used to describe the feeling of not just myself, but also that of many on the left about the SWP leadership’s current troubles.