Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

SWP: Fighting the Socialist Party, Ipswich Trades Council, and the “Dangerous” Left.

with 10 comments


“Old, Decaying but Still Dangerous Sectarian Left”, says SWP.

Ipswich Trade Unionists, principally from the Trades Council, set up an anti-cuts campaign with other activists across the county in October 2010 (Here).

This body, the Suffolk Coalition For Public Services, has organised numerous protests.

It has been at the forefront of opposition to  Tory-run Suffolk County Council’s cuts and privatisations.

In November 2010 a march of around 1,000 people was held in Ipswich. It was attended  not only by the trades unions and  concerned members of the public, but by the Labour and Green parties as well as socialist groups.

Labour supporter and Councillor Alasdair Ross commented at the time “the march was made up of, council workers, their families, Labour Party members, unions (FBU, UNITE, Unison, CWU, NUT and others) and students.”

In January 2011 the Coalition worked closely with the organisers to support a protest against the Suffolk Library Service being hiving-off and cuts in its funding. This attracted over 1,000 demonstrators (Here).

On November the 30th that year the Coalition and Trades Council organised a rally and march in Ipswich, with as many attending, over government threats to public sector pensions.

The Suffolk Coalition has held numerous smaller protests outside County Hall  to protest against County Council cuts. We have held countless Street stalls, collected signatures for petitions, and have carried out house-to-house leafleting.

What is Ipswich Trades Council?

Ipswich Trades Council is, like all Trades Councils, the local lay wing of the Trades Union Congress.

Its job is to carry out the TUC’s policies – bringing them into the community – and to help voice the views of local trade unions.

The Trades Council has organised street stalls in Ipswich publicising  the major TUC London demonstrations (2011,2012) in defence of Pensions and against austerity.

This is not its only function.

A particular job is to help bring unions together through solidarity in their disputes.

At the January meeting of the Trades Council the Postal Worker’s’ Union (CWU) brought up their campaign against  plans to shut the Ipswich Sorting Office were brought up. From NAPO we heard of their opposition to  plans to privatise the Probation Service.

As the public face of the TUC it operates democratically, and its minutes are a public record,

This is evidently not the view of the SWP as the following illustrates:

Socialist Workers Party. Pre-Conference Bulletin 2 November 2012 (Here).

Building a Branch From Scratch.

John Curtis begins by announcing that the SWP has now set up an Ipswich Branch, with 4 members.

They sell the paper (sometimes) in Ipswich on a Saturdays,

Their main activity has been to set up a ‘Unite the Resistance’ group.

This campaign, we know from Socialist Worker has as its objective to ,

Support resistance to all the attacks on working people”. This includes a range of protests, pushing for more strikes and campaigning for the TUC to call a general strike.

How have Ipswich SWP followed this objective?

Having even a small branch has enabled us to have an intervention around the anti-austerity movement. Our work around Unite the Resistance has begun to shake up the entire left in Ipswich. For decades the Socialist Party have dominated the left  primarily through its control of the Trades Council which has acted as its de facto industrial arm.

This is plainly untrue.

Ipswich TUC is the arm of the …TUC.

There are more members of the Labour Party on the Trades Council than the Socialist Party.

Many delegates are simply members of trade unions, and no political party at all.

Few, I suspect, would accuse Andrew Coates of being a supporter of the Socialist Party.

No matter.

What matters is….

Curtis really does not like the Ipswich Socialist Party.

Not at all.

He accuses them of having done nothing for the last ten years and, worse…

For the last 10 years they have been chewing the fat of their accumulated work by living on their past reputations – there is no SP branch in Ipswich or visible presence. The two members (now one as one died) never get their paper out at any meeting and all their work is done through the TU movement or Trades Council. Outside these structures they are a dead force but a living, breathing obstacle within them.

The ‘one who died’ was Roger MacKay, President of Ipswich Trades Council.

Roger was greatly respected in Ipswich, and the national labour movement. He was the main force in organising the protests outlined above.

Roger’s  funeral last year was attended by hundreds.

But Curtis sees the SWP’s main aim as fighting the Socialist Party.

Concerned at the continued influence of the SP and their sectarian friends in the Trades Council’s own anti cuts  campaign( there is an almost patriarchal attitude from the still heavily SP influenced Trades Council that every TU issue or anti cuts campaign has to be led by them) we decided to move fast and build for a UTR meeting for four days after the 20th October.

Accusing a woman of having a ‘patriarchal attitude” is unusual, but I let this drop.

In 3 days we booked a room, designed and had delivered 1000 leaflets and arranged for a broad platform of speakers – leader of the Labour Group on Suffolk Council, a Labour Ipswich Borough councillor (and in Ipswich the Labour council build council houses), the CWU’s Eastern Regional secretary, Ipswich NUT President and a PCS member (only the last is a comrade)!

At the meeting Curtis is reported (from numerous attendees) of having screamed at anybody he disagreed with. He accused a Labour Party member and another trade unionist of being “wreckers”., and the Secretary of the Trades Council of being “spineless” (he has used that word for me as well).

Curtis in fact is well-known for harassing people he disagrees with.

The Labour councillors present were not impressed when this went on at a public meeting.

He notes,

Disgracefully, the Trades Council refused to back the UTR meeting ( our allies and comrade on the TC were away at the last TC meeting) after a nasty ex- IMG member, working in cahoots with the SP, denounced UTR as an SWP front.

It is not difficult to guess who this “nasty ex-IMG member” is.

Curtis ends with some boasting.

The SWP is pushing at an open door in Ipswich. In just one month we have established regular Saturday sales, a monthly branch meeting that acts as a focal point  for socialist politics beyond the membership and rattled the cages of an old, decaying but still dangerous sectarian left. If we continue as we have started there are no reasons for thinking that Ipswich SWP will fail in firmly implanting itself amongst the working class.

John (East Anglia & Norwich).

This remains to be seen.

It is unfortunate if Curtis’ behaviour is presented by the SWP as a ‘model’.

It will be interesting to see if others follow,or have followed, his method of “building a branch”.



10 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. An interesting and frankly depressing article…you dangerous sectarian!!! ;o)


    February 1, 2013 at 12:29 pm

  2. The self delusion and disconnect from reality of the SWP is often shocking, but unfortunately never surprising. The name ‘Unite the Resistance’ does have a pleasant irony to it though.


    February 1, 2013 at 2:22 pm

  3. Nick I could not agree more.

    We knew about Curtis (and a lot more than is written here).

    He has posted a comment in a similar vein on this Blog.

    But it was only in the last couple of days that we heard that he had actually written this, to Central Committee approval (?), and got published in their Party Notes before the SWP Conference.

    Andrew Coates

    February 1, 2013 at 4:55 pm

  4. One wonders what the political disagreements are that the SWP has, since they seem to stuff their platform. This is unfortunately too typical of a sect that has divorced itself from reality. We too work more closely with the SP than SWP because they are at least consistent and reliable rather than jumping around from issue to issue

    tonyg greenstein

    February 1, 2013 at 7:54 pm

  5. Its all numbers.

    In a branch of 40 or better 400 members there will be multiple strong personalities and obnoxious self-aggrandising fantasists will be kept in check.

    With a ‘branch’ of 4 claiming to represent the whole working class a character like Curtis will flourish and be able to impose his own fantastic version of reality.

    And in publishing this the ‘central committee’ are acting like any bourgeois manager does when compiling his annual report – picking out success stories that reinforce the desired narrative and burying any bad stuff like – Oh I don’t know – another senior member being accused of raping the comrades?

  6. Roger, I agree.

    But the Comrade Delta case is a disgrace that will not go away.

    It lets the enemies of the left have a field day,

    The Daily Mail today (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2272231/A-hands-Thats-Socialist-Workers-Party-cleared-comrade-rape.html?ito=feeds-newsxml#axzz2Jjnv5TWl) has this lengthy report.

    A show of hands! That’s how the Socialist Workers Party cleared a comrade of rape

    Female party member made claims against full-time party activist
    Dispute was heard by party’s ‘disputes committee’, decisions of which need to be ratified at annual conference
    Five of the panel’s members had previously worked alongside the accused
    SWP insists victim herself chose not to involve the police

    It ends with,

    “It would be almost impossible to find a more damning critique of the ‘amateur justice’ dished out by a party which is supposed to promote women’s rights.

    The bottom line?

    The allegations of both these women have not been properly determined, because the ‘verdicts’ of the party’s disputes committee are utterly meaningless.

    We already know one of those who ‘investigated’ the rape allegation: Candy Udwin. She once worked as a medical receptionist.

    The other members of the disputes committee were: Maxine Bowler, 54, from Sheffield, a community worker who once had a review of a play about Mary Shelly published in Socialist Worker online; Esme Choonara, 50, author of a Rebels’s Guide To Trotsky and a London Ambulance Service employee; Amy Leather, 37, from Manchester, a regular contributor to the Socialist Worker newspaper who was involved in the protest camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral; Londoner Pat Stack, chair of the appeals committee that overseas expulsions from the SWP; and, finally, Rhetta Moran, also from Manchester, trained rape counsellor and founder of a refugees’ charity.

    All have either refused to comment about the controversy or have not yet responded to written requests to be interviewed.

    The partner of Comrade Delta shut the door when a Mail reporter called at the accused comrade’s address this week.

    Tom Walker, a journalist on the party’s Socialist Worker newspaper, has resigned over the rape case row. He has now published his reasons for doing so online.

    ‘The disputes committee — and by extension the entire mess that followed — should simply never have happened,’ he wrote.

    ‘To be honest, it is nothing short of incredible that it was allowed to go ahead. What right does the party have to organise its very own “kangaroo court” investigation and judgment over such serious allegations against a leading member? None whatsoever.

    Andrew Coates

    February 2, 2013 at 12:05 pm

  7. Hang on a moment. I do not know any of the individuals involved in this post about the Ipswich left, but it might be worth noting the context in which this article by John C was written, and who he was writing for. He was writing it for an internal SWP pre-conference bulletin – not for a public audience. The CC did not publish it because they agreed with all of it necessarily – they published it because any member of the SWP has a right to write whatever they like in an internal bulletin and the CC has to publish it. Its part of the collective democracy of the organisation.

    The only reason you are able to read and quote from it is because this confidential document – written only for SWP members – was leaked to the CPGB – who seem to have published it on their site – without the permission of either the individual comrade involved or the SWP itself. It is dishonest to quote from such a document on your site for your own purposes without even explaining this elementary fact – and indeed also republishing it and discussing it your blog is in fact an attack on the democracy of the SWP. Should members of the SWP – or any organisation of the labour movement – have the right to discuss internal party matters among themselves – or not? You accuse the SWP of ‘sectarianism’ – but the phrase glass houses and throwing stones comes to mind here.


    February 2, 2013 at 4:34 pm

  8. Snowball, you seem to think that the SWP’s Democratic Centralism applies to non-members.

    If there is not yet a law against posting what SWP people say “among themselves” perhaps you should suggest one.

    Andrew Coates

    February 3, 2013 at 11:56 am

  9. A beautiful typo from the Mail : “Londoner Pat Stack, chair of the appeals committee that OVERSEAS expulsions from the SWP”. Is that the same as “offshoring”?


    February 10, 2013 at 8:35 pm

  10. I am sorry to see that Roger McKay has passed on from this life. For whatever disagreements one could have had in ideology, he was the most committed of men who passionately gave his time money and energy to his hometown and beyond. Without him and a small, hardy band of othersbased around the TGWU and Suffolk NUT in the late eighties and early nineties there would be no Trades Council in Ipswich today. I am genuinely sorry to have read of his death.

    Fucking Baa Baa Bolsheviks.

    Willouby Burrell

    December 17, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: