In Defence of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty Against ‘Socialist’ ‘Unity’.
Socialist Unity, no doubt in response to dramatically falling readership figures, has just published a bilious attack on the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL).
The article is clearly a labour of love, crafted over the long idle hours of a Swindon GMB Webmaster.
His main source of information is the no doubt up-to-the-minute, “John Sullivan “As soon as this pub closes, the British Left Explained” 1988.
We are in all in favour of Blogs devoting time to Leftist Trainspotting.
In this vein we post a response – since Andy Newman has decided not to go for “ideological capitulation to the self-image by which Western liberalism promotes itself” and has censored my reply (Newman censors all the time, poor lamb).
Newman observes that the AWL, in its various forms (Socialist Organiser, Workers’ Fight and so on) is, we learn, a Trotskyist group – “among the most hard-line”. That “the AWL has followed a unique path of courting every other Trotskyist group, merging, and then acrimoniously splitting, taking handful of converts won through the sharp polemics.
a strategy modelled on the work of the veteran American Trotskyist James Cannon as described in a collection of his essays “The Struggle for a Proletarian Party” [Resistance Books, 2001], and is a practice known as the “French Turn”, following advice from Trotsky to his followers in France in 1934 to join the mass Socialist Party / SFIO (equivalent to the British Labour Party), and take over its youth wing. The French Trotskyists agitated against the Socialist Party forming a joint front with the Radical Party to oppose fascism, and then used this as a pretext to split the SFIO, thus creating an acrimonious and divisive faction fight that diverted energy away from the urgent struggle against fascism.
which manifests itself as being completely charming and grooming potential converts, or appearing as model members of organisations they are seeking to enter; and then once they have built a relationship, they deliberately exacerbate a climate of tension and polemic to either force potential converts to choose whether to join or leave the cult, or to split organisations they have joined, hopefully taking some recruits with them.
The author explains that, “One area where the AWL has nevertheless been consistent is their extreme hostility to the socialist countries (my emphasis) and anyone who sees any merit in them.
Newman, despite this unargued claim about ‘socialist’ countries is prepared to derive some of the AWL’s faults from the ‘Leninist’ party internal regime and its fierce disputes,
J. Arch Getty argues how internal bulletins and statements from the Bolshevik leadership were carefully drafted, with the expectation that exact phrases and careful linguistic constructions would be analysed and used, shaping both action, and a shared perception of reality within the group. Competing theories and texts were therefore hard to assimilate or compromise with; and a particular aspect of Leninist thought is the creation of symbolic categories of opponents, who are demonised, often through the use of apocryphal “atrocity stories” .
consciously replicated by the AWL, whose documents stress the virtue of fierce polemic, and require all members to participate in perpetual political education classes. Their documents clearly give a messianic significance to such training as being of world-historic significance in perpetuating what they believe are the only ideas that can lead to human liberation.
He then compares the AWL to a cult, by listing various aspects of “coercive persuasion” (repetition of ideas, entrapment, weakening of members’ critical faculties).
When a combination of these techniques is employed then group consciousness subsumes individual will; one of the manifestations is that individual personalities converge towards the group norm. Cordón stresses that these techniques work on anyone, and not just the stupid or weak willed. Therefore cult members can appear highly intelligent and impressively socially adept, and yet their loyalty to the group overrides moral norms of how they behave to people outside the group.
There is some truth in this description of the AWL – as it would apply to any single small left group and factions within any party in the political spectrum.
In passing I note the worst I’ve heard of Sean Matgamna is that he can be overbearing.
Outside of his small circle Newman is a political innocent but even he should know that Politics are based on strong affective ties, that small groups tends to attract new recruits by ‘love bombing’, and that when people agree with what the group says they tend always to weaken their critical faculties.
As Newman does towards his hero, George Galloway – no matter how tarnished he is.
They also tend to ‘hate’ their enemies.
Newman can only expressed hatred towards comrade Jim Denham and -in what can only be called witch-hunting – beloved comrade Janine Booth.
He accuses the AWL of “dissembling.”
This was recently on the Socialist Unity site.
In polling conducted at the weekend, the Respect candidate in the Rotherham by-election, Yvonne Ridley, has the lead over Labour.Polling conducted in the Croydon North by-election suggests that Lee Jasper, the Respect candidate, is now neck and neck with the Labour Party to win the constituency. This overturns a Labour majority of over 16,000 at the last general election. This is nothing short of astounding and is testament to the excellent campaign team, candidate and brilliant policies we have.
I come from a very different European left tradition to the AWL.
In contrast to the large swathe of the British Trotskyist left that is influenced by James Canon, I am influenced by his Nemesis, Michel Rapitis (‘Pablo’).
From first premises the Tendance is not in agreement with the ‘Canon strategy’ , nor for that matter with Pablo’s own brief excursion into ‘deep entrism’.
The AWL’s past can be discussed in these terms or more directly by the experience of groups that have engaged in ‘unity’ with them, from the WSL, Briefing to the Weekly Worker.
These have not been, in many people’s view, happy times.
I would prefer to look at a contemporary real process of left unity: the French left united in the Front de Gauche – Communists, Ecologists, Trotskyists, Left Socialists and Republicans.
Socialist Unity has largely ignored this development because it does not fit into its own template.
In that kind of unity, the AWL, the Weekly Worker and the left that engages in “Western liberalism”, that is free and open debate, are welcome.
Not the mean-spirited Andy Newman.
His treament of the AWL is indeed is a sign of the total commitment of a sectarian zealot.
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