Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Sects

SWP Crisis: Sectarianship, A User’s Guide.

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As soon as this Pub

Sectarianship, A User’s Guide.

“In one of the unpublished notebooks of Rilke there is an unpublished phrase….‘If you’re not one up (Biztleisch) you’re one down (Roteleisch).’”

Stephen Potter. Lifemanship.

As the SWP heads towards the March 10th Special Conference, feelings are running high. Public reticence by the opposition In Defence of Our Party faction (IDOP) has not stemmed the flood of allegations of sexual abuse, or the intensity of inner-SWP conflict. Unhelpful contributions, without the best interests of the SWP at heart, appear on the Internet, exploiting this newfangled device to spread their poison.

Yet there were happier times on the left. An epoch, now dimly remembered, when Alex Callinicos could play croquet with Tony Cliff, on grandfather Lord Acton’s lawn. House-guest Gerry Healy would hit in the face anybody who got in the way of the ball. Other luminaries of the left, from Peter Taaffe, Tariq Ali, to Sean Matgamma, would often pop over for a pleasant weekend.

It is no coincidence that the classic guide to the British Workers’ movement, ‘As soon as this Pub closes’ appeared during this period. It instructed a generation. It may need updating (no reference to the Weekly Worker, Permanent Revolution, the Anti-Capitalist Initiative, to start with) but it remains a monument.

Is all this to be lost amongst more sordid revelations and fisticuffs?

There are signs that something of the spirit of those glory years has not gone away. Comrade Dave Dudley remains active. Splintered Sunrise/Soviet Goon Boy has proved himself (there is no higher praise) a worthy successor to ‘As soon as’. By describing the SWP Treasurer as a master of Father Crilly economics, Andy Newman has tapped into this rich vein

As the SWP falls into the sear yellow leaf comrades must defend this, the British ‘sectarian tradition’.

(Below: Extracts fromSectarianship.’ Tendance Coatesy. 2013)

Sectarianship Basics.

What is a Sectarian? “You, you and (especially) you”. That is the answer. But there is another reply. It is to be found in the practice and unceasing struggle of accredited Sectarians, licensed to be so named. We are a large group, and a growing one, formed at our Ipswich ‘Centre’ (123 full-timers). Our graduates have been active in the SWP battles and indeed elsewhere.

Stephen Potter is, as we say, “our look me up to”. He defined Sectarianship (which he called ‘Lifemanship’ pre- our  epistemological break) as “how to make the member of another faction feel that something has gone wrong.”

Some think the purpose of factional fights is win a sect’s ‘line’.

But the true Sectarian, with or without rudeness, is out for another goal. Such a trained individual is able to make the other person – or ‘class enemy’ – feel ‘one-down’ (Roteleisch, also a term used by the Frankfurt School and the Platypus Society).  That somehow She or He may be prey to serious political errors.

Our other master is James P. Cannon. Some might have heard tales that the founder of the American Socialist Workers Party (not to be confused with the above SWP) was the type who spent his life telling people how he’d got one over on his enemy of the moment. That, and the fact that after his death his party has ended up as a New York Real Estate company with 30 members, could lead to the conclusion that he could not be trusted in telling a child how to tie its shoe laces correctly.

We disagree. Cannon was highly skilled in Sectarianship. He remarked in the History of American Trotskyism (1944) that, “when it is a question of fighting for some political idea, Trotskyists can stay awake longer and speak longer and more frequently than people of any other political type.”

How true.

Cannon knew a sectarian when he saw one, often in the most surprising places. In 1930 he waged a “bitter fight” against admitting somebody to the New York Branch on the justifiable grounds that we wore a corduroy suit, had long hair and sported a “trick moustache”. That the man later became an Oehlerite proves Cannon’s worth.

The Trotskyist leader fought such “weaklings”, “traitorous gangs” “labour skates” for so long that he developed an unerring talent. Talking of later in the 1930s Cannon described his one-time allies in the US Socialist Party as follows, “They were inexperienced and untested. They were ignorant, untalented, petty-minded, weak, cowardly and vain. And they had other faults too.”

Cannon’s skills were put to good use in the 1950s. He linked up with Gerry Healy and Pierre Lambert in that decade’s struggle against Pabloite liquidationism and its “spineless lackeys” engaged on “cadre-wrecking” expeditions on his home turf. The SWP leader left his imprint on a golden moment in the history of Sectarianship and of International Trotskyism.

The current (UK) SWP leadership has much to learn from Cannon who also said, “Party membership implies the obligation of 100% loyalty to the organisation, the rejection of all agents of other, hostile groups in its ranks, and intolerance of divided loyalties in general.” (The Struggle for a Proletarian Party. 1943) If only IDOP would listen and confine itself to sectarian – and cromulent – opuscules against Christopher Hitchens!

Sectarianship Praxis.

One can but hope to emulate the masters.

This seems a daunting task.

But it is not so!

Let us take a simple example.

Somebody who has signed the SWP ‘loyalty pledge’ is holding forth. She or He has got going on the numbers of Socialist Workers sold by the branch (normally exaggerated by a factor of three), and that the local workers were gagging for a General Strike.

Here we recommend Stephen Potter’s Canterbury Block.

Quietly add, “Absolutely it’s very encouraging, but not in the (add name of workplace).”

Since the SWPer is unlikely to know more about this workplace than its name, she or he is caught off guard. The flow is interrupted. An element of unease is introduced. Others may be encouraged to speak up, and point out that the call for a General Strike has had fewer echoes amongst the masses than Posadist’s programme for interplanetary socialism.

“But not in..” is a useful tool ….

Written by Andrew Coates

February 28, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Green Party Begins to Lose its Grip.

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Mirroring the worst excesses of left wing sects?

From our good friends at Socialist Unity.

Reinstate the Bromsgrove One – Rectify the Anomaly Soon!
By Abu Jamal

As the Green Party of England and Wales gathers in Nottingham for it Spring Conference featuring the 40th Anniversary of the Founding of the Party, one person who will be not attending this event is Mark France.

Mark a longstanding Labour Movement and Socialist Activist who joined the Green Party in June 2010 was Expelled by a decision of the Green Party Regional Council at a meeting held on the Weekend of 2nd/3rd February 2012.

Mark was never given any clear indication of what charges were laid against him or provided with any evidence or documentation relating to these charges. Mark was not able to provide any defence. There was no hearing in which Mark was able to participate in nor was he able to present any defence. Mark was given no clear indication of the Disciplinary Process despite numerous unanswered attempts to clarify this with Green Party Officers.

To and insult to a series of injuries Mark was not even informed of the outcome of this Disciplinary Process until after he protested loudly via social media at his mistreatment. When he finally [19th February] received a special delivery letter from the party

For a political party of the Left with an avowed Republican Socialist Feminist, Caroline Lucas as the Green Party MP in Westminster, the treatment of Mark France seems to make a mockery of the Green Party rally cry ‘Fair is Worth Fighting For!’

The article continues,

At the same Green Party Regional Council meeting on the 3rd of February another longstanding activist from Cardiff, Anne Greasby, was also expelled from the party. Her ‘crimes’ seemed to centre on public criticism of Pippa Barlotti the Leader of the tiny semi-autonomous Green Party in Wales.

In Mark’s case, some jokey comments made on this website over two years ago were apparently used to accuse Mark of “promoting violent revolution under the banner of the Green Party” this reason for his expulsion was given to a London Federation of Green Parties meeting by a member of the GPRC.

If the “Libertarian” Green Party is capable of mirroring the worst excesses of left wing sects then something deeply disturbing is affecting the political culture in England. Finding the source of this undemocratic culture of control is something that all socialists need to address. Defence of the victims of this culture is part of rebuilding a genuine spirit of social solidarity.

More details of this sorry tale and the Greens’ “Dispute Resolution Committee”.

This should be read with the following:

Why I resigned from the Green Party

Joseph Healy, a founder member of the Green Left. 2012.

The battle lines became obvious over the issue of local government budgets and cuts at the GPEW conference in spring 2011. At that point the Greens had not yet taken control of Brighton, but it was clearly on the mind of the party leadership.

An amendment was put to an anti-cuts policy motion by Green Left and some of the Young Greens. It called for local Green councils to fight the cuts and to defy the government by setting an illegal ‘needs budget’. Councillors were dragooned by the leadership to speak against it and finally it was defeated by just 3 votes.

For many of us this was the writing on the wall and a sign that should the Greens take Brighton, they would implement the cuts. It led to a real fall in morale among many of us on the left of the party.

Painfully aware of the impact of any cuts budget in Brighton on the national party’s reputation and on its relationship with the wider anti-cuts movement, as well as the new political movements such as Occupy, I supported a motion calling for a last minute debate with a Green councillor from Brighton on the budget there. The motion fell and the majority abstained, prepared to accept any decision reached by the Brighton councillors.

It was now clear to me that the iceberg was fast approaching the SS Green Brighton, with its consequent impact on the reputation of the Green Party nationally. The collision happened when the cuts budget was passed at the end of February. However, the budget passed was even worse than predicted and was the Labour-Tory version, which the Greens swallowed whole in order to remain in office.

A few days later at the party’s national conference, despite vigorous objections from Green Left, the party voted to support the Brighton decision. Pragmatism had defeated principle, realpolitik triumphed over radicalism.

I resigned on the same day.

Healy adds this on  how the Greens Treat dissent. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew Coates

February 22, 2013 at 12:59 pm

SWP Central Committee Votes for ‘Discipline'; Left Union Activists Warn of Consequences.

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The SWP crisis will not go away.

Despite a Kremlin style clampdown on news we hear that at the 50 strong SWP  National Committee last Sunday there were only 8 votes against the Central Committee  motion.

Well-known activist  Mark Bergfield has resigned from the CC.

Unless information to the contrary magically appears this means that these sections of the resolution will come into effect:

4) We therefore condemn the actions of those members who have circumvented these principles by campaigning to overturn conference decisions outside the structures of the party, using blogs and the bourgeois media. Many of these contributions have been characterised by the use of slurs, abuse and un-comradely language that seem designed to stop serious debate and make joint work impossible, as well as damaging the party’s reputation.

5) This undermining of our democracy should stop forthwith. We reaffirm the right of the Central Committee to impose disciplinary measures for violation of our democratic constitution.

Now we would think it normal, in a political party of the left, for the Central Committee to make public  their decisions.

Apparently not.

No information, as far as anybody seems aware,  is yet public.

There are, of course, precedents on the far-left  for this furtive secrecy.

In 2010 it came out that the French group, Lutte Ouvrière , had kept the death of its founder and leader, Robert Barcia, alias Hardy, to itself for over a year

Meanwhile this is arousing interest.

Open Letter to the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers Party from Union Activists. 


We are all union activists who work with SWP members in our union branches, in the various democratic bodies in our unions and in the wider union movement. Some of us have SWP members in our workplaces, some of us participate in SWP led campaigns or vote for SWP members in elections. Many of us, whatever our politics, recognise that our SWP comrades can be relied on to speak up for our class and union members’ interests, to be at the forefront of campaigns, to turn up on picket lines, and to support those of us who are victimised for our union activities. *

For these reasons, we have not been able to ignore the recent crisis in the SWP. We have been concerned, and at times appalled, as we have heard about complaints being swept under the carpet in 2011, disciplinary committees including close friends of the accused, women quizzed about irrelevant details of their behaviour and drinking habits, SWP members instantly dismissed for discussing these matters, while another member who has been the subject of complaints continues to represent SWP campaigns, and the revelation that the word ‘feminist’ is used as an insult within the party.

After more observations the letter continues,

While many of us welcome the recent open letter from academics and others who speak at SWP events, our message to you is different. We are not saying we won’t work with SWP members. That isn’t even an option, while we are in the same unions we will of course be working side by side. But, your members are right, it has changed things. We are dismayed, we are appalled, we feel uncomfortable round SWP members unless we know that like many of your members, they are equally appalled.

The letter concludes,

If the CC continue to respond by ignoring the issue or closing down debate, as well as losing some great activists, you are going to find your remaining members have a harder time organising, campaigning, and making connections with other union members, through no fault of their own, but through the fault of their Central Committee, who are putting them in an impossible position.

Fortunately there is still time to reconsider, and we hope that you do.

Signatories on site.

This letter is making waves.

Some people on the left have been saying they simply no longer want to work with the SWP – at all.

Meanwhile the Weekly Worker (Podcast) talks of the SWP preparing a purge – here.

This may explain the deathly silence from their leading internal opponents, as they await its coming.

Andy Newman, Witchfinder General: Does He Speak for the GMB?

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Andy Newman Prepares for Work.

Socialist Unity may have bitten often more than it chew.

It has indulged in what many people consider to be red-baiting of AWL member Janine Booth. She  is now London Transport rep on the RMT’s national executive. A great fault in Andy Newman’s eyes.

Andy Newman remarks that given that the,

AWL is deeply hostile to the politics of Bob Crow, then it is hard to see how productive relations between lay members and full-time officials can be maintained, when Janine is committed to writing leaflets that undermine officials who the AWL describe as bureaucrats, and by implication break confidences (telling you what the “bureaucrat” won’t).

In other words Newman insinuates that Janine Booth will break RMT rules regarding the confidential nature of union business. This is an extremely serious charge.

He goes into make this claim,

The AWL says that their aim in RMT is to “prioritise recruiting new AWL members”. Significantly this is regarded as more important than strengthening the union. To this aim in May 2011 they set up a Tube workers’ AWL branch that caucuses around introducing their controversial politics into RMT branches.

“We have prioritised political discussion in the branch, increasing our confidence to sell the paper to more and more people. Together, we discussed, wrote and moved an amendment on Libya to last month’s regional meeting. Although we lost the vote, we impressed some people by articulating clear, distinctive and thought-out views” [AWL expands on London Underground, http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2011/05/04/awl-expands-london-underground  ]

Most unions in Britain have smaller and larger alliances of left, centre, or right-wing activists who stand for election. The AWL takes part in some, and, apparently in this case, organises its members who work on the Tube around their own body.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

It is no secret.

Newman was able to find the AWL statements even from darkest Wiltshire.

But wait, London Underground workers have faced a long (very long – going back to the 1980s) campaign against them. Led by the Evening Standard.

Some of the flavour of this attack – which can be called a witch-hunt – is given last year in the same paper (Here).

The three men orchestrating the RMT union’s two weeks of strike action from behind the scenes can be named today.

Steve Hedley, Brian Munro and Pat Sikorski each have a long history of battling Tube managers and leading militant campaigns.

While RMT general secretary Bob Crow is the union’s public face, he is said to be backed by an even further-Left clique of activists.

Socialist Unity seems to think that they should make their own attack on a “far-left clique of activists”.

For a GMB Branch Secretary (Wiltshire and Swindon) – Andy Newman –  to red-bait Janine Booth in her capacity as a RMT official is a very serious breach of normal  union protocol.

Put simply, officials, including lay-officials, do not publicly attack other unions, including activists in other unions.

How does this work for the GMB?

The GMB is run democratically from the centre.

To illustrate how this happens one of its principles (from the GMB Rule Book)  is that “Members or branches must not issue any addresses or circulars without getting approval from the regional council, regional committee or Central Executive Council. Also, members must not make our business known to  unauthorised organisations, unofficial journals or the print media without getting approval. “

Is this latest attack on members of other unions known to the GMB?

We doubt it, as we have great respect for the union.

We wonder how Newman squares his Web activities with his duties to his own union.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 19, 2012 at 12:18 pm