Yesterday was the long awaited SWP Special Conference. One can recall that the Disputes Committee of the party had formed what can only be described as a kangaroo court. It exonerated one of its senior members of rape and sexual abuse of a young female teenage member of the party. The investigators, judges and the jury were mates of the accused. Uproar ensued. Factions were formed. Oppositionists in the party created a blog denouncing the party. The Special Conference was called.
The day before the conference Shiv Malik and Nick Cohen wrote an article for the Guardian exposing a further rape allegation in the SWP. It was claimed that the whole thing was covered up and that the young woman who made the allegatoion has been “warned” against speaking about the internal hearing.
The actual arguments at Trot conferences do not really matter. The side with the most delegates could stand up and sing an out of tune rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” and they would win.
According to one commentator, by the morning of the conference, the main opposition signed up 540 members whereas the Central Committee signed up 512 members to their respective platforms. Even allowing for what is likely to be no more than a small percentage of members who were not successfully pressured into signing up to one or the other platform, some might add the two figures and come up with a membership figure for the party of not much more than 1,000. The problem with this methodology is that those using it would not be using an SWP Central Committee calculator. If they were, they would know that 540 members +512 members = 7,000 members.
If it were one person, one vote, the Central Committee would have lost. But one person, one vote is far too bourgeois for the SWP. They have what Trotskyists call “democratic centralism.” The details of how this works are not relevant, what is relevant is that the Central Committee were in a position to use it to their advantage to ensure they had approximately 400 delegates to the oppositionists 140. The technical term for this is a carve out. The CC therefore won all the major votes.
What really mattered for the 400, according to one report, was not how the party had handled an allegation of rape of a teenage party member by a Central Committee member, but that Richard Seymour and China Miéville had started a blog. Priorities! On the subject of priorities, Soviet Goon Boy has made an apt observation:
[T]he organiser [accused in the new rape case], having been found guilty by the [SWP Disputes Committee], was expelled for two years. Two years. That’s the same penalty that was handed out to the Facebook Four for an online discussion about how inadequately the party was handling the [earlier allegation]; a discussion where they decided not to form a faction and, in a Kafkaesque twist, were expelled for “factionalism”. Hell, Andy Wilson was expelled for life for proposing to set up a cultural magazine.
Richard Seymour, a leading oppositionist with an interesting vocabulary, expressed the following sentiments on his Facebook page: “disgust, nausea, contempt, rage.” Andy Lawson (who also uses the name Keith Watermelon) has been a SWP member for over ten years. (I wonder if he was ever awarded a Stakhanovite Prize for paper sales). Last night he resigned from the party categorically stating in his resignation note, “The SWP is not a safe place for women.”
Why do I declare this a “Wonderful SWP result”? It is certainly not because I support the SWP or their position on feminism, or their handling of rape allegations, or anything about them, but because it is a faster way to the destruction of the party. Had the oppositionsists won, they would be crowing for years as to how it meant that the party was democratic and debates could legitimately be had within the party. It wouldn’t be true. Richard Seymour calls himself “Lenin” on line. If anyone wants to know how best to do away with opposition, one could look at what Lenin did with the Constituent Assembly in 1918. One does not have to read what the Bolsheviks did in 1918, one can look at what the SWP CC did at yesterday’s Special Conference. Their actions will no doubt create two, three, many Andy Lawsons. How can the oppositionsists remain in such a party? Whether they are expelled or whether they leave, the SWP will surely be a lot smaller. The party is on a path to self destruction. Speed the day!