Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

SWP: Callinicos and Kimber, “They’re all out of step but us”.

with 5 comments

Building Unite the Resistance to Expose the Left Misleaders. 

The SWP has responded….

The politics of the SWP crisis.

Charlie Kimber and Alex Callinicos.

The article begins, “For almost a year the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) has been seized by deep division. It has not stopped us acting as a revolutionary organisation. We have had successes and recruited hundreds of new members. The trade union conferences saw some of the biggest party fringe meetings ever and near-record sales of Socialist Worker.”

I continue for the many (very many) who have stopped at this point and skip to the next paragraph.

“But none of that is to underestimate the shock we have suffered or the damage inflicted, as hundreds of members resigned from the SWP.”

For those interested in a serious in-depth discussion on the “specific issues that sparked this process” read (while you can) the just published Alex Callinicos, Charlie Kimber and the investigation of rape. (Hat-Tip AC).

The present piece will concentrate on what lies behind what the Author of the article summarises as,

The strategy behind Callinicos and Kimber’s piece is to blame everyone but themselves for the crisis in the SWP: Michael Rosen, Lindsey German, John Rees, George Galloway, John McDonell, Jeremy Corbyn and many others get criticised by name for their failures of revolutionary nerve.

Very true.

Amongst the gems we have this, ” Respect was too small and too narrow. The International Socialist Network is at fault. They note the “disgraceful attacks that Seymour and his ilk were making on the rest of the party.” Their former comrades German and Rees, “Counterfire has become little more than decorative coverage for the efforts by Len McCluskey,  the general secretary of Unite, to rebuild the Labour left.”

The SWP’s present analysis will no doubt please Len McClusky, and Counterfire, leading forces in the People’s Assembly,

a rank and file to the left of the union leaders does still exist, although not as an organised movement. It was reflected in the 36 percent of the vote won by Jerry Hicks in the Unite general secretary election against Len McCluskey, one of the most left wing leaders. It was seen in the votes at the trade union conferences this year where a substantial minority of a third or more wanted to go much further than the union leaders proposed. It made itself felt in the warm reception at the local and national People’s Assemblies for criticism of the trade union and Labour leaders’ lack of action.


This is the primary layer that Unite the Resistance seeks to pull together and organise into more solid networks of solidarity and political understanding.

In other words the SWP, through its front organisation, Unite the Resistance, intends to use the People’s Assembly’s meetings as pools from which to build their own organisation.

Expect “criticisms” (we are only too familiar with how they are delivered)  of “trade unions” and Labour” leaders at every People’s Assembly event.

But then, naturally, “Ultra-left sectarians never have any problem about denouncing trade union bureaucrats such as McCluskey. But, by counterposing abstract programmes to living movements, they ensure there is no interaction between them and activists influenced by reformism but open to the arguments of revolutionaries.”

Is the SWP’s way?

Not so!

A successful party must seek to chart a clear way forward, and to develop alternatives to capitalist explanations of the world, but crucially it must also raise the level of confidence and struggle by the working class. Ultimately a revolutionary party is about providing the leadership that can enable the working class to conquer state power-in its own country and internationally.

We will be interested to see what “living movement” can be resurrected from the SWP, ready to “conquer state power”.

And how their front organisation’s actions will raise anybody’s  “confidence” apart from their own.


Written by Andrew Coates

October 8, 2013 at 11:47 am

5 Responses

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  1. Any evidence of this in the Suffolk People’s Assembly, Andrew?

    Paul Simon

    October 8, 2013 at 12:07 pm

  2. There is an Ipswich Unite the Resistance group.

    It held a meeting in the evening on the day of the recent teachers’ rally.

    Look on the bright side: we can say the SWP have no sense of humour when you see their front organisation’s title?

    Andrew Coates

    October 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm

  3. Unite the Resistance is one of my many spoofs


    October 8, 2013 at 7:39 pm

  4. From what I’ve been told by a dissident SWPer, Martin Smith is still lurking in the background (literally so, on a recent anti-fascist demonstration, where I’ve been informed he ran things via his mobile telephone), and the new leadership of the party — elected by the very undemocratic method of voting for or against entire lists of candidates — is very much made up of his pals.

    My own feeling is that the SWP leadership, although shaken by the manner in which the Smith affair has whacked the party, especially the youngsters and students, will not take stock of the party’s disastrous course since the death of Tony Cliff. Although I feel that he was losing touch of political reality towards the end, he nonetheless had a pretty good feel for guiding the party without straying too far from its tradition and without doing too much damage to it as a result of the consequences of his ‘iron whim’. Cliff probably might have used and abused the Socialist Alliance in a similar way as the SWP did after his death; but Respect? Would he actually have junked the Socialist Alliance in order to form a lash-up of the most unprincipled type with political opportunists, Muslim groups whose politics remained a mystery and outright pork-barrellers who used Respect solely to advance their local political careers, and by diluting standard left-wing demands in order to cobble together something with religious obscurantists? I very much doubt it.

    Respect was a disaster, and even where it has had successes in elections, this has often led to embarrassment, such as with half of Galloway’s pronouncements. The SWP gained next to nothing: several senior cadres stayed with it when the SWP decided to drop the project; several more senior cadres split off to form a Respect Mark II in Counterfire. And how many recruits did Respect bring in? Very few, I wager.

    From what I’ve read — and I admit that it is not a great proportion of the vast array of material — neither the remaining somewhat depleted party nor the sundry split-off outfits — have subjected the Respect fiasco nor the related matters, most importantly the SWP’s acceptance of the ideology of official multiculturalism (no group critical of this would start anything like Respect) to any form of critique, despite the challenge that all this poses to class-based politics. Other things have been discussed, such as rank-and-filism, Women’s Voice and so on, but not Respect.

    Finally, the crisis of the SWP, following on from crises in and collapses of various other such groups, does raise the question of what sort of organisational forms socialists should try to develop. Tightly-knit parties seem always to turn in on themselves and explode or implode; loose assemblages fray at the edges until nothing is left; single-issue campaigns can be effective, but are necessarily limited — but with what can we replace them?

    Dr Paul

    October 8, 2013 at 8:14 pm

  5. I very much agree about their, and others’, failure to deal with the political disaster that was Respect.

    Kimber and Callinicos skirt around this, calling it “too narrow” and don’t even have the courage to talk about a pipsqueak like Galloway.

    There is no political analysis of the problems you mention Paul.

    Andrew Coates

    October 9, 2013 at 11:36 am

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