Posts Tagged ‘SWP’
Gives Seymour a Ticking off.
In the latest International Socialism SWP theoretician Alex Callinicos assesses Grangemouth.
The dispute at the Grangemouth oil refining and chemicals complex in Scotland,was the union face up to one of the nastiest bosses in the UK,Jim Ratcliffe.
In a frank interview in Le Monde 16.12.13. (without parallel in the mainstream British Press), Ratcliffe poured scorn on trade unions, British workers, high European taxes, European social welfare charges, and the fact that people resisted his closure plans.
He remarked that in America or China nobody would even think of fighting the proposal to shut down a loss-making plant.
Defeating the company run by such an individual, backed by the Coalition, the enitre business world, and most of the media, would take more than Grangemouth
Callinicos imposes his Party’s way of looking at this industrial dispute.
I lost interest in this account when the learned Professor began talking about UNITE as a union “which centralised power in the hands of the general secretary.”
Not that I know of: UNITE is a “member led” union.
This was pure bravado,
But, as Jerry Hicks’s impressive performance in last year’s election for the Unite general secretaryship showed, a significant minority of activists are open to taking a more militant stance. Unite the Resistance has an important role to play in gathering these activists together and enabling them to fight more effectively, sometimes in alliance with left-wing officials, sometimes independently of them.
Hicks, as vain as the leader of his Party, Respect, is unable to gauge political reality.
He discredited himself during the Grangemouth dispute by slagging off UNITE to the Murdoch press.
Sources indicate Unite the Resistance seems to have died a death, and the SWP is presently engaged in its latest frantic front, Stand up to UKIP.
Still there are some gems in this article – about comrade Richard Seymour.
Richard Seymour, who, since breaking with the SWP last spring, has been working overtime to widen the gap separating him from revolutionary politics.
Seymour is apparently guilty of seeing UNITE’s side of the story.
Indeed he is culpable of worse,
Seymour’s apologia for McCluskey implies a fatalistic approach to history. For all his extravagances and ambiguities, Slavoj Zizek is much closer to a genuine revolutionary Marxist approach when he says that “authentic politics” is “the art of the impossible-it changes the very parameters of what is considered ‘possible’ in the existing constellation.
Now Callinicos then mounts a defence of “impossibilism”,. That is a matter of testing the limits of the possible.
Or, we would suggest, making impossible demands in the hope that your small Party will snaffle up recruits from those who fall for them.
Callincios – probably rightly – notes of the group Seymour is now part of, Left Unity, will “struggle” to get a hearing.
But one wonder who will hear this?
It is in any case important that the SWP will survive this crisis. The Gadarene rush by much of the radical left to find excuses for McCluskey underlines the necessity of sustaining an organisation that simultaneously works in a non-sectarian way with other forces on the left and bases itself on clear revolutionary Marxist principles. Indeed there is a strong sense in which Grangemouth settles the debate between Rooksby and Blackledge over whether there is a practical difference between left reformism and revolutionary social.
Even fewer is our guess.
Though this “non-sectarian” article in the same journal (Once more on left reformism)which attacks everybody on the left, from The People’s Assembly, Counterfire, the International Socialist Group and the International Socialist Network, Left Unity, Syriza, Die Linke, the Front de Gauche, Richard Seymour (“ innocent of any sense either of how social movements are terrains of struggle”), and, j’en passe, does indeed claim that, “To work with people to our right is an elementary and fundamental aspect of revolutionary politics…”
Now, the ‘Seymour’ who appears in the pages of the ISJ may occasionally say fragments of things that I have said, but otherwise any resemblance to a real person is almost entirely coincidental. That ‘Seymour’, it has been suggested to me, is a manifestation of the unconscious. Against this, corrections and clarifications are futile. Still, just this once, for demonstrative purposes, I will state a bit of the obvious.
You know, it really doesn’t take a professor of politics at Kings to remind me that the class struggle is a war. Nor even that Thatcher instituted neoliberalism through brutal class and social warfare. One is not – how do you mammals say? – ‘thick’. I even wrote something about this for a small quarterly journal once.
But Callinicos’s last sentence is puzzling, in that it suggests he isn’t at all puzzled by my last sentence. He gets exactly what I’m talking about. Outbursts of struggle are not in themselves sufficient to shift the balance of forces in favour of the working class or the left; you have to work on building up the infrastructure, the material conditions in which outbursts of struggle will have more chance of success. This is actually made clear in the cited article from The Exchange, in the paragraphs immediately following those quoted, in which I say, among other things: “We need to begin a process of reconstructing class capacities, articulated with an equivalent process of rebuilding the left’s political capacities.”
Not that opaque, surely? And is the point in any way rebutted or qualified by stating (whether accurately or not) that the relative importance and effect of these conditions can “only be tested in struggle”?
If not, then the reason for the feint, and the non-sequitur, ought surely to be obvious.
If anybody can make much sense of the last sentence (or indeed most of this) please contact a very large dictionary. We assume it was quickly translated from the original Etruscan.
SWP With Plymouth Islamic Society.
A PROTEST against a speaker specialising in Islamism and counter-extremism has taken place at Plymouth University tonight.
Around 30 people gathered to show their anger at Sheikh Dr Usama Husan giving a lecture at the uni.
It comes after he failed to condemn an image from the online cartoon ‘Jesus and Mo’ showing Jesus and Mohammed saying ‘hey’ and ‘how ya doin’ to each other.
Dr Hasan is a senior researcher in Islamic Studies at Quilliam was speaking at the Jill Craigie cinema tonight on the topic of Islam and democracy in the wake of the Arab Spring.
The University cites Dr Hasan as a trained imam and a scientist with a PhD, MA and MSc from the Universities of Cambridge and London, and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Around 30 people from the university’s Plymouth Islamic Society protested at the event as he had not condemned the actions of Quilliam co-founder Maajid Nawaz, a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn who retweeted the controversial image.
They gathered peacefully in the lobby area of the Roland Levinsky building ahead of Dr Hasan’s arrival. A few ‘boos’ were heard as he entered the lectured theatre. Plymouth Herald.
Hat-Tip Howie’s Corner.
Bob Pitt then entered the fray after reports of the SWP participation in the Muslim protest became public knowledge,
It is true that the Plymouth University demonstration “came after” Usama Hasan failed to condemn Maajid Nawaz’s tweet of a “Jesus and Mo” cartoon. But it is misleading to suggest that this was the sole reason for the protest.
First of all, the objection is not simply to the one cartoon but to the entire “Jesus and Mo” series which, as the online petition against Nawaz points out, “contains many highly offensive images of Jesus and Muhammad including homo-erotic scenes of them in bed together, being at bars together drinking alcohol using foul language, and reading pornographic magazines”. The petition further objects to the swearing and abuse with which Nawaz responded to his critics.
As the Quilliam Foundation NOT welcome in Plymouth Facebook page makes clear, the objection to Usama Hasan’s appearance in Plymouth was also wider than a complaint about a single cartoon. The organisers of the demonstration opposed Quilliam for having promoted the far-right extremists “Tommy Robinson” and Kevin Carroll, and for having “provided lists to the govt of alleged extremist sympathisers which included the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Safety Forum and even the Islam Channel”.
Plymouth University ISoc also condemned a cartoon tweeted by Usama Hasan himself, which trivialised domestic violence. They were joined by Fawcett Plymouth, who wrote to Plymouth University calling for the cancellation of the event at which Hasan was to speak.
The organisers’ appeal for support for the demonstration concluded: “We do not want the QF in Plymouth, they are a danger to community cohesion and peaceful relationships that exist here between the mainstream Muslim as well as diverse communities.”
The Islamists explained that,
“Join us in protesting and leafleting against the Quilliam Foundation appearing at Plymouth University. The Quilliam Foundation have been invited to speak and we strongly object. The QF founder tweeted on 12th January offensive caricatures of the Prophets Mohammed and Isa (Jesus), peace be upon them.
They claim to be a moderate Muslim group but have welcomed right wing extremist Tommy Robinson and Steve Carroll from the racist English Defence League. QF is a think tank that has received over £1million from the government. In return they have provided lists to the govt of alleged extremist sympathisers which included the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Safety Forum and even the Islam Channel.
We do not want the QF in Plymouth, they are a danger to community cohesion and peaceful relationships that exist here between the mainstream Muslim as well as diverse communities. We urge you to turn up and help us protest and leaflet to let people know what QF really stand for which is fuelling Islamaphobia and harming community relationships, and that they are not welcome here in Plymouth. This event has been organised by both local Muslims and non Muslims.
They posted a video clip of an elderly Swuppie selling Socialist Worker – here.
We certainly do not endorse the activities of the Quilliam Foundation.
But the nub of the matter is that the protest was sparked off by the Jesus and Mo cartoons.
I would like to see the Jesus and Mo Cartoons but Suffolk Library blocks the site – in effect bowing to the Islamist demands for censorship.
This is what came up when I tried to go on the Jesus and Mo blog.
Access to the page:… has been prevented for the following reason:Blocked site: jesusandmo.netYou are seeing this error because what you attempted to access appears to contain, or is
labeled as containing, material that is contrary to the Library’s Acceptable Use Policy.
Shed no Light during SWP Shadow.
The Shadow over Ipswich, Part Two.
“No sluggish tide congenial to the glooms –
This, as it frothed by, might have been a bath
For the fiend’s glowing hoof to see the wrath
Of its black eddy bespate with flakes and spumes.”
During the winter of 2013-14 officials of the Eastern Region Soviet made a hidden investigation of certain incidents in the ancient Suffolk seaport, Ipswich. The public have yet to learn of what transpired when a series of raids by the People’s Militia, were followed by the demolition of a vast meeting room of the “Order of the C’l’ff” in Fore Street, near the town’s waterfront.
Attentive followers of Facebook and Twitter wondered at the prodigious number of resignations from the ‘Order of C’l’ff’ and its charitable wing, the Soc’l’st W’rk’rs P’r’t’y. There were allegations about obnoxious behaviour and a ‘cult’ of the Old Ones. One Blog, known for its willingness to repeat slanders, hinted at worse to come. That the ‘Order’ issued repeated attacks on (unnamed) “slurs of the Internet” only heightened people’s curiosity.
But they really knew very little, for wide salt marshes, forty kilometres wide, and crossable only via an irregular causeway, keep Ipswich isolated from the rest of the world.
It was I who fled frantically out of Ipswich in the early morning hours of December the 2nd 2013. It was my frightened appeals that brought the Eastern Region Soviet to act. It is time now to tell of those few dreadful hours in that ill-rumoured and evilly shadowed seaport of death and blasphemous abnormality, and the doings of the Order of C’l’ff.
I had often heard of Ipswich, as I live there. Down by Fore Street lie buildings of departed grandeur. As an amateur antiquarian I would often stroll down there, on the way to Poseidon Quay. Many of the habitations are abandoned; others house 99p shops and pay-day loan offices. But towards the road’s end is (or was) a huge building, resembling a Masonic Hall. A faded legend, ‘Esoteric Order of C’l’ff’ was written on its front.
There had been rumours of strange goings on inside this Temple. One day I saw an old man lingering in the street, plainly destitute. He asked me for a sub. I gave him a two-litre bottle of white cider and a tin of Carlsberg Special.
After a few healthy sips he began to talk, and the Order seemed to be his favourite subject.
“That’s whar it all begun – the cursed place of all wickedness, war the deep waters comes up in thar cellars.”
“Never was nobody like Cde Curtis. Heh heh! I kin mind him a-tellen bout furren ideologies, an’ callin’ all the folks stupid for goin’ to Trades Council meetin’, an’ backin’ UNITE. He git a better leader, Hicks war his name. Sed his boi would lick McClusky. Shew us thar Sunday Times and Hicks war all ‘ver her pages. Sed if we worshiped C’l’ff we’d get rewards like that.”
Here the old man faltered, mumbled, and lapsed into a moody and apprehensive silence.
I rushed to the Eagle Street grog shop and bought some more tinnies of Special Brew.
I handed them over and he gurgled one swiftly down.
“There were 23 of ‘em as joined. Well, bor, you’d as seed them in her purple robes all outsider the Temple. One, we calls it Sideshow, had harr as red as blood. Then a’night we hars the sounds within…”
“Iä! Iä! C’l’ff fhtagn! C’ll’n’c’s fhtagan! K’m’r fhtagan! Ph’nglui mglw’naf h C’l’ff! R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn…”
“Oi went to library and looked to a-readin’ the mad Arabist Al-Harmoon’s Necronomicon. They sed that Cde Curtis war only folks as looked at her befor’.”
He shuddered and pulled at the lager.
“The Order grewed and grewed. Central Committee moved to Ipswich and I seed C’ll’c’s and K’m’b’r all a lordly and strutin’. They selled the Soc’l’st W’rk’r every day on the Corn Hill and ain’t anybody who durst not buy a copy. The replaced Trades Council with Unite the ‘R’s’st’nc’, and all the old officers just vanished.”
“People o’ the Order as begun to change. Some sed they seed them a’swimin’ in the old harbour, going ‘wards the Orwell Island.”
“Seems like these Old Ones are some kinda gods, and they’s needs more than a-worshipin’. The haowlin’ night arter night from the Temple…them as had doubts bout Central Committee had ‘accidents’ jumping off Orwell Bridge…. there was violations….then some ordinary folks disappeared and they reckoned you could har the eldritch screams from Fore Street….but I ain’t telled you the wust!”
“Cde Curtis, can’t shet his eyes no more, an’ is all aout o’shape. I seed him bare-foot and his had nine webbed toes!”
The chap halted, glanced furtively around, and shambled off.
I informed the Eastern Region Soviet and the events recounted above took place.
But I was once a student sympathiser of the Soc’l’st W’rk’rs P’r’t’y.
At night I have frightful dreams. I met the Old One, C’l’ff under the sea. He lives in a phosphorescent palace of multiple terraces, surrounded by leprous corals. Cde. Curtis is at his right side, and looks at me sternly. C’l’ff tells me that I have to come for a “little talk”.
I took my slughorn….
I shall swim out to that brooding island in the River Orwell and dive down through black abysses to Cyclopean and many-columned Clifton, where in the Deep the Old Ones of the Soc’l’st W’rk’rs P’r’t’y dwell amidst wonder and glory.
A Greatly Respected Comrade.
Ian is one of the best writers and activists on the British left.
Recently his work on the review, Revolutionary History, notably European revolutionaries and Algerian independence 1954-1962 Revolutionary History Vol 16, No4: Ian Birchall (guest editor), has made a great contribution to the study of the movement. The related, Third World and After New Left Review 80, March-April 2013 is another illustration of his exemplary intellectual activity, informed by his deep knowledge of the French and European left in particular.
I have not read his biography of Tony Cliff but it was well received even by those critical of the founder of the SWP.
Before putting his heartfelt explanation for this decision I would like to add a personal note to illustrate Ian’s role on the left.
About ten years ago Ian and I had a lengthy polemic in the pages of What Next? on Islamism after the publication of my In Defence in Militant Secularism. Ian wrote, So What is Secularism? and this was followed by my A rely to Ian Birchall.
Unlike many on the left, and particularly many in the SWP, Ian was prepared to argue – properly – his views out with opponents.
Ian Birchall’s resignation is therefore something of great significance for the left.
It is perhaps a sign of the respect in which Ian is held that his critics, like myself, feel that we have to make our appreciation of him clear,
The events of the last year have changed everything. The monstrously irresponsible and self-indulgent conduct of a former leading member was bad enough. But far worse was the failure of the party leadership to deal flexibly and intelligently with the situation. The Central Committee has been at best obstinate and short-sighted, at worst grossly dishonest. The revolutionary organisation is a means to the end of socialist transformation, but for members of our self-selecting leadership it has become an end in itself.
As a result we have lost several hundred good activists, our student work has been badly harmed and our relations with our periphery have been seriously damaged. Last year’s Marxism was the smallest for many years. Good comrades have been treated shamefully, apparently with CC approval. In fifty years membership I have not seen a crisis remotely comparable to the one we are now going through. We are urged to be “outward-looking” and to commit ourselves to activity in the “real world”. Most of us would like nothing better, but when the leadership has broken down all relations of trust, effective action becomes impossible.
The Central Committee bears a heavy responsibility for this situation, and that they should seek re-election en bloc reveals an arrogance that disqualifies them as a leadership. As senior CC member, Alex Callinicos bears a particularly heavy responsibility. (When a dog bites me I don’t blame the animal; I blame the owner that failed to keep it on a lead.) It is a small personal tragedy that his cowardice and dishonesty over the last year will overshadow forty years’ work as a significant Marxist theoretician.
It is important to read the full letter.