Archive for the ‘SWP’ Category
SWP Predicts End of Tories if Brexit Comes.
It’s probably hard to make a good speech when you’re uncomfortable with the message you’re communicating.
That’s why Jeremy Corbyn made such a dull and uninspiring presentation launching Labour’s pro-European Union (EU) campaign last week.
The SWP National Secretary has his own unique theory as to why Corbyn calls for a Remain Vote:
It turned out the way to make Corbyn back the EU was to elect him Labour leader. He compromised to keep at least some of the right vaguely on side.
The reappointment of Pat McFadden as shadow minister for Europe was seen as the first victory for Labour’s right under Corbyn’s leadership. The announcement that the party would campaign to stay in the EU followed.
McFadden eventually resigned, but was replaced with another strongly pro-EU figure.
Kimber accuses Corbyn of being pivotal in moblising the ‘Remain’ vote.
If Corbyn backed Leave, it is highly likely that the vote would be to break from the EU. Polls suggest that Corbyn is far more trusted on the issue than Tories on either side.
His support would banish completely the myth that only the right wants to exit. He would particularly appeal to young people who presently see the EU as a left wing project.
In place of any argument about workers’ rights, social Europe, or internationalism, or whatever the SWP used to dredge up as ‘principled’ reasons to stand for Little Britain, Kimber places this centre stage
Corbyn insists a Leave vote would boost the right. But with the political feeling in Britain at the moment it is more likely it would see Cameron’s resignation, turmoil in the Tory party, the loss of their parliamentary majority and an early election. This offers the hope of the end of the Tories before 2020, surely something to be grasped.
In other words, don’t vote just against Europe, but to get rid of the Tories….by replacing Cameron by a more right-wing anti-European Tory.
One can imagine the SWP National Committee…..
The comrades are respectfully silent.
Kimber is gazing into the dialectical crystal ball.
The Leave side has won!
The Organiser sees movement, a hideous Tory party, a gnashing of teeth, resignations, fights, disarray, messages of international support to Socialist Worker.
A new regime, perhaps of the hardest of hard rights.
Outrage, strikes, divisions: the regime falls.
Kimber continues his divination. An election, which will….. – here the prophecy grows dark: only the shifting shapes of masses of workers and protesters can be seen.
There’s a glimmer….
2,000, perhaps 200,000 thousand copies of Socialist Worker sold!
Lowestoft recruits ten new members!
The comrades smile: the Seer of Socialism has Seen!
In French this is known as la politique du pire: the worse the better.
After the exalted visions the SWP cannot resist a sharp, but more mundane, attack on Barack Obama.
Chief SWP theoretician Alex Callinicos finely analyses the speech of the Monarch of the global Empire,
Obama’s intervention stops anyone pretending any longer that they haven’t noticed where global capitalist interests are lining up. The Emperor himself has told them in words of one syllable that Brexit will harm his empire.
Meanwhile the Carnival of Reaction from the Leave camp continues:
NIGEL Farage has given his most rousing speech to date by declaring that a vote for Brexit will become Britain’s Independence Day.
The Scorpion and the Frog: a Model Fable Taught in SWP Cadre schools.
Last September the SWP issued this statement,
The Socialist Workers Party congratulates Jeremy Corbyn on becoming Labour party leader.
His success is a clear sign of the feeling against austerity, racism and war. His victory is an utter rejection of the warmongering and veneration of big business that were the hallmarks of the Tony Blair eras.
We look forward to continuing to work with Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters against the disastrous Tory policies that threaten to destroy key public services, deepen poverty, whip up racism and plunge British armed forces into more imperialist wars.
SWP national secretary Charlie Kimber said, “Jeremy Corbyn’s victory is a boost to everyone who hates austerity and racism. It comes as tens of thousands of people across Britain are marching to say ‘Refugees are welcome’. Jeremy Corbyn’s rallies have seen large and enthusiastic audiences come to cheer a socialist message. Those people must become a movement in the streets and the workplaces that can block and then remove this Tory government.”
Careful observers will have noticed the sting in the tail, “we need a movement independent of Labour.”
The SWP’s Charlie Kimber’ writes today in Socialist Worker on the faults of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
It he has not called on people to demonstrate—probably because he does not want to upset the pessimistic and timid steel unions.
A Corbyn-backed call for protests in Port Talbot and Scunthorpe could have put tens of thousands on the streets.
It could have given confidence to steel workers to launch militant resistance.
Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell have called for some sort of temporary steel nationalisation.
But their vision is to nurture the plants back to health and speedily hand them back to private firms—with all that means for jobs and pay.
Labour will not come out in support of the junior doctors’ strikes.
John McDonnell does as an individual, and attended picket lines. But Labour’s official position is just to criticise the Tories, regret the events that have led to strikes and demand proper negotiations.
Constrained by the opposition of Labour MPs, and anxious to preserve “party unity”, Corbyn makes concessions to the right. Corbyn and McDonnell did not call for people to take to the streets last weekend when Cameron faced calls to resign.
Kimber sagely notes,
Our main task is to build resistance alongside Corbyn supporters, whether they’re in the Labour Party or not. At the same time we have to debate how Labour won’t be able to challenge austerity, racism and capitalism effectively.
To point out effectively the errors of their ways and to further build ‘resistance’ alongside Labour Party Corbyn people and other members an important method is to stand candidates against the party in the May local elections.
The left alternative to Labour is small. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), which the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) supports, will be running some 300 candidates in the councils.
They will show up the faultlines in Labour’ politics,
It wants to highlight the need to fight the Tory cuts and Labour’s failure to do so..
The SWP will not stand against anybody who agrees with their political line.
Care has been taken to avoid standing against any councillor who is pledged to vote against all cuts or supports Corbyn.
But they warn to be on guard against backsliding:
Of course, deciding not to stand against a candidate doesn’t mean being responsible for what they do in the future.
There follows some kindly advice to Labour’s mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan.
Oddly they do not back the SWP’s former best friend, George Galloway. Instead they call for a vote for Khan.
SWP: Assad and Putin Supporters Welcome.
Today Socialist Worker publishes an account of the complexities of the Syrian civil war.
Alex Callinicos notes,
The Syrian war is a complex, many-sided conflict, pitting against each other domestic forces that are increasingly defined in confessional and sectarian terms. These are backed by outside regional and global powers for their own interests. The secular democratic impulse of the original 2011 risings survives only weakly.
He then observes.
Moreover, various currents in the Western left have their sympathies with different sides in the war.
In seeking ‘unity’ in the anti-war ‘movement’ (that is protests) he retreats into the 1st World War ‘revolutionary defeatist” bunker when it comes to his conclusion.
The moral of this is that the anti-war movement should stay out of all the different powers’ geopolitical schemes and the spurious arguments used to justify them.
Our task is to mobilise against the US-led military campaign in the Middle East and our own government’s participation. This broad stand can gain the support of Syrians opposed to the bombings.
This doesn’t mean that people who back Russia, or even Assad, have no place in the anti-war movement. Others on the British left have used their presence at anti-war rallies as a reason for not supporting the Stop the War Coalition.
This is a bad mistake. We should accept that we have different takes on the Syrian struggle, but still work together.
Socialist Worker stands strongly with the Syrian Revolution and its original promise. But we won’t forget that the main enemy is at home, and we’ll unite with all who want to mobilise against it.
How the inclusion in the anti-war movement of those opposed to what Callinicos describes as the Syrian Revolution – that is backers of Assad – works out is beyond rational comprehension.
This reasoning could mean that anybody fighting for the defeat of the ‘main enemy’ – ‘at home’ – is welcome in the anti-war movement.
Now in fact there is no real modern equivalent of this ‘defeatism’ since nobody is arguing the Patriotic case for defending the ‘Nation’ – the UK – against ‘its’ enemies.
There is, in other words, no parallel to the left patriotic ‘defencists’ of the Great War, or to those arguing (rightly) to defend their countries against Nazi occupation.
Trotsky, who is apparently an authority in these affairs, said in 1939,
“… Defeatism is the class policy of the proletariat, which even during a war sees the main enemy at home, within its particular imperialist country. Patriotism, on the other hand, is a policy which locates the main enemy outside one’s own country. The idea of defeatism signifies in reality the following: conducting an irreconcilable revolutionary struggle against one’s own bourgeoisie as the main enemy, without being deterred by the fact that this struggle may result in the defeat of one’s own government; given a revolutionary movement the defeat of one’s own government is a lesser evil. Lenin did not say nor did he wish to say anything else. There cannot even be talk of any other kind of ‘aid’ to defeat.”
Hal Draper.The Myth of Lenin’s “Revolutionary Defeatism”
There is no domestic British ‘revolutionary movement’.
A more rational left position today would be to start not from an abstract “Syrian Revolution”.
It is with the wishes of the democratic left forces on the ground such as the ‘Kurdish nationalist’ (Callinicos’s expression) PKK and its Syrian allies, not to mention Syrian democratic movements. It would be to support the cause of human rights expressed by the suffering peoples of Syria and Iraq.
How the ruin of Cameron, however much one would wish it for domestic reasons, can be compared to the aims of those battling the genociders of Daesh to see them and the other Islamist killers eliminated, is a trick of which groups like the SWP alone have the secret.
It is hard to see how any ‘unity’ could come about between those in the UK who wish for support for these groups in their just struggle, yet oppose British intervention in its present shape, can be made on the basis of a wish to see ‘our’ UK government’ beaten.
The SWP have a morally bankrupt stand.
To say the least.
Jihadist Movement has “spirit of internationalism” of International Brigades Says Stop the War Coalition Stalwart.
Internationalist Solidarity Says Stop the War’s Matt Carr.
The Stop the War Coalition publishes this on Hilary Benn’s speech on their site:
Groundhog day in Syria as Mr Benn goes bombing. Matt Carr.
Much of the article is unexceptional, and barely reasoned, ranting against Bombing Syria by a cut-price Mark Steel.
Mat Carr also does a pratfall.
To evoke the international brigades in support of Cameron’s bombing campaign requires real audacity, bad faith, and an indifference to history or the political realities of the 21st century. Benn does not even seem to realize that the jihadist movement that ultimately spawned Daesh is far closer to the spirit of internationalism and solidarity that drove the International Brigades than Cameron’s bombing campaign – except that the international jihad takes the form of solidarity with oppressed Muslims, rather than the working class or the socialist revolution.
This use of the blood of our martyred comrades of the Brigadas Internacionales to promote ‘understanding’ of Daesh is a hallmark of a certain ‘left’, from George Monbiot, other Guardian writers, to Socialist Worker.
On his Blog Carr states under Interests that “I’m currently researching a book about General Sherman’s March to the Sea during the American Civil War and its influence on American military strategies and tactics.”
I remain unclear what groundhogs are and what they have to do with Syria and the internationalism of the genociders of Daesh.
But General Sherman freed slaves on his march to the sea.
The only walk to the ocean most people would like to witness on Carr’s part is one which ends with him lying ten fathoms deep.
If the Stop the War Coalition publishes this material can they wonder that there are calls to shun them?
The Aftermath of Friday: for a Left Politics against Islamism.
“Croire que la religion dans laquelle on a été élevé est fort bonne et pratiquer tous les vices qu’elle défend sont des choses extrêmement compatibles, aussi bien dans le grand monde que par le peuple.”
To believe that the religion in which one has been brought up in is kind and practice every evil that it forbids are two very compatible things, amongst the highest ranks as much as within the masses.
Pierre Bayle. Pensées sur la comète, 1682
To watch, to listen, as the slaughters in Paris unfolded, to read and to think, as they sank in, was to be overcome by sadness and fellow-feeling. As witnesses told their stories, still shaking, the dignity of the survivors stood out. Fluctuat nec mergitur! Paris is shaken but has not sunk.
These are moments of high emotions. Love, solidarity, loathing and compassion. For yesterday reason was, rightly, the slave of the passions. Today and tomorrow we have to cast a colder light on what has happened and what should happen.
That ISIS, the Islamic State, Daesh, was prepared to murder is not news. Their killings in Iraq, in Syria, in Africa, and now in Beirut – scene of a tragedy shortly before Friday, and Paris, are present in the minds of millions. ISIS joins, as Hannah Arendt described totalitarian parties, these “secret societies established in broad daylight’.” (1) Modern media have made that daylight darker.
The Middle East is now, it is observed, the site of “phantom states” in large parts of Syria and Iraq. Not only ISIS but also al-Nusra are trying to build Islamic disciplinary regimes grounded on the Sharia. For the Islamic State religious governance is combined with, Weiss and Hassan claim, a “remarkably successful war economy”, with oil revenue supplemented by other contraband. They regulate and control prices. But it is the operation of their Sharia commissions that are at the heart of the machinery. The murder or enslavement of all who refuse to convert or bow to their form of Islam is only one side of their operation. Detailed rules for administrative and daily life are issued. The population is placed in a “Panoptican” of religious Gaolers. (2)
State capitalism to neo-liberalism?
The left has tended to look at ISIS in terms of the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq. Patrick Cockburn, with field knowledge, has described the “takeover of Iraq by a Shia government, an event which began a process at the heart of the present conflicts, between those supporting this branch of Islam and the Sunnites. A quasi-official article by Anne Alexander in the Socialist Workers Party’s journal, International Socialism, follows this. She talks of the transition from Arab nationalist (‘Baathist’) “state capitalism to neoliberalism”. Daesh appeared in the post-occupation chaos made worse by economic plundering, and above all because of the Iraqi Maliki – Shiite dominated – government (‘sectarian state’) tolerated/or encouraged death squads against Sunnis and opponents. The crushing of Islamic ‘reformism’ by authoritarian government during the Arab Spring, above all in Syria itself, destroyed an alternative. In these conditions ISIS, an elitist guerrilla force, began its march towards the Caliphate, outflanking even Al-Qaeda. (3)
The SWP speaks of the “counter-revolution”. In fact one ‘Islamic reformist’ movement, once hailed as a counterpart to European Christian Democracy, predating and largely unaffected by the Arab movements, has consolidated its power: Erdogan’s AKP. With Turkey in mind it is to be wondered just how any self-declared “non-sectarian” form of Islamism, however apparently ‘democratic’, is when put to the test of political power. In Tunisia concern that Ennahda would follow the same path helped remove the Islamists from power – in a country where democratic freedoms remains relatively unrestricted The Syrian anti-Assad movement in 2011 indeed had non-sectarian and democratic parts. They not longer feature with any weight on the battlefield.
Alexander makes much of the view that Marxists do not consider that ideas have a “life of their own”. But the most important “social content” of all the groups she considers is their ‘sectarianism’, the growing violent division between Shiites and the Sunnites. It would be hard-going to find any uniform class explanation that could cover the vast regions this affects, from Pakistan to Lebanon, from Iran to the Gulf to Yemen. To discover the effects of imperialist interventions in the murderous acts of Islamists in Bangladesh and Nigeria, or the tyranny portrayed in the film Timbuktu would be equally ambitious. How Boko Haram is a product of the failure of ‘state capitalism’, that is ‘socialist’ nationalism, or Third Worldism, is also of interest.
A Utopian Disciplinary Machine.
If we consider that ideology is a “lived relationship” we might begin by considering at least some of the views of Tom Holland. He traces one of the sources of Daesh to do-it-yourself interpretations of the Qur’an. Abandoning the fruitless effort to assert that they are not “real Muslims” Holland suggests that the Jihadists offer, in their terms, citations always to hand, their readings of scripture. We could say that the administrative apparatus of the Islamic State, from its bureaucratic eyes of god, to those eager to inflict the Hudud punishments, is a utopian disciplinary machine. Whether its version of Islam ever had any element of kindness is beyond the point. That it competes with others, including Al-Nusra’s own blood-strained contraption, and the Assad regime’s bringers of death, indicates that it is far from established. (4)
One of the main problems is not to frame the Islamic state within class oppression and exploitation. ISIS is clearly a bourgeois state, based on an exploitative war economy, and social oppression. The difficulty is that its appearance represents more than a “phantom” at the margins of already dislocated countries, or in the heart of the Syrian civil war, poised not only against Assad but against one of the few rays of hope in the region, the battling Kurdish forces and their allies. The Islamic state has attracted support in Europe, and elsewhere, from the Maghreb to further afield, as Paris so sadly indicates. And it appears to cut right across the view that the world had seen the last of totalitarian attempts to create sweeping tyrannies that crushed the life out of millions.
The idea that religion had become a private matter between believers and their god had won wide acceptance over the years. This did not mean that faith had evaporated. It related to the principle that the Divine no longer ruled the public domain. In Britain multi-culturalism was based on the idea that one of the pillars of multiculturalism was that religious groups ‘communities’ would be protected as part of civil society, with political clout, but not a decisive say in politics. In frame the secular assimilationist state, laïcité, distanced politics from religion. Yet as Kenan Malik notes, neither country has been successful in removing all support for the Jihadists. (Observer. 15.11.15)
Marcel Gauchet has set out the influential view that in the latest turn of secularism, this “pluraliste-identaire-minoritaire” model, behind the apaprent divergence between the two types outlined above, is becoming universal. Serious efforts to impose religion had retreated to the margins, becoming an attempt to escape society, not dominate it. (5)
Yet now the religious flame that burned right through counties seems to have returned. In the face of Islamic both militant secularism and the fuzziest multiculturalism met something which is truly ‘Other’. Daesh is not a classical ‘totalitarian’ movement. There is no ‘Egocrat’ representing the People as One. But the concept of an embracing Ummah, functions as if it were the European far-right’s Volk, or Race. No difference from the Word and no division, religious, social or political, within the ‘Community’ is permitted. The ideology is far from free-floating: it has a material shape in a state machine “capturing” territory and suffocating populations, pulverising and condensing class conflicts. There is no room for pluralism, different identities, or minorities. The impure have to be subdued, converted, enslaved, or exterminated. Postmodernist leftists were accustomed to claim that Orientalism, including the ‘rationalist’ Marxist and Enlightenment left made Islam into the Other. Now we have something hard and really Other, in the….Orient. (6)
This is, as they say, a limit point. Daesh fights more against Islamic heresy than against anything else. But it is plain as a pikestaff that no form of state where the Shariah, which by its principles denies equal rights to all, starting with women, and non-believers, rules, is compatible with human rights and the ‘divisive’ labour movement.
Absolute Opposition to Islamism.
The mood remains sombre. For Malik we should be “celebrating diversity while treating everyone as citizens, rather than as belonging to particular communities.” This are good principles. Nobody should exaggerate. We should not lose our nerve. The Islamic far-right, no more than the much more influential European xenophobic and racist parties, is not in a position to put millions to the sword. But Islamism, taken state form, is not just a problem for the Middle East. It is, as Daesh, is the object of armed intervention, from Russia, from the US, from France from – still in debate – the UK. How can these conflicts be settled by bombing? Will there be more atrocities in Europe? What will happen if those who have joined the Daesh Einsatzgruppen return? It is a political issue for us all. If only some of the previous sentences are true, the first principle the left should work with is: absolute opposition to the political-religion of Islamism and support for the left and liberal forces opposing them on the ground.
- Page 376 The Origins of Totalitarianism. Hannah Arendt. André Deutsch. 1986 (1951) She developed the point, “Secret societies also form hierarchies according to degrees of ‘initiation’ regulate the life of their members according to a secret and fictitious assumption which makes everything look as though it were something else, adopt a strategy of consistent lying to deceive the no initiated external masses, demand unquestioning obedience from their members who are held together by allegiance to a frequently unknown and always mysterious leader, who himself is surrounded by the half-initiated who form a ‘buffer area’ against the hostile profane world.”(Page 376) They are “based on absolute hostility to the surrounding world, is very different from the ordinary parties; tendency to divide people into those who belong and those who don’t.”(Page 377).
- ISIS Inside the Army of Terror. Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan. Regan Arts. 2015. Archive of Islamic State Administrative Documents.
- The Rise of Islamic State. ISIS and the new Sunni Revolution. Patrick Cockbrun. 2015. ISIS and counter-revolution: towards a Marxist analysis Anne Alexander. International Socialism.. 2015. No 125.
- Tom Holland: We must not deny the religious roots of Islamic State. New Statesman 15.3.15.
- La Religion dans la démocratie. Marcel Gauchet. Folio. 1998.
- On totalitarianism: Un homme en trop. Réflexions sur l’Archipel du Goulag. Claude Lefort. Belin edition. 2015. (Original 1974). This picture of the state is a very brief synthesis of the ideas of Mille plateaux.Gilles Deleuze et Félix Guattari. 1980. Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la Prison. Michel Foucault. 1975 and L’État, le pouvoir, le socialisme.Nicos Polunatzas. 1978.
- The answer is a global human resistance to Islamism.
Ger Francis (recent picture).
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
For reasons that escape me Socialist Unity has chosen to publish this by Andy Newman: St Crispin’s Day.
Meanwhile the only remaining other member of Socialist Unity’s band of brothers John Wight, has published this stirring call to arms,
What we have seen take place is nothing less than a feral and unhinged scream from the swamp of reaction that resides in our culture, where every crank with a computer resides, consumed with bitterness and untreated angst, much of it in the form of self loathing over their own inadequacies and lack of talent – not to mention in some cases a jump from the extreme left to extreme right of the political spectrum, with all the psychological dysfunction such a metamorphosis describes.
So feral, so extreme has been this motley crew of first rate second rate men (and women) in their biblical denunciations of Seumas Milne, they make the McCarthy witchhunts seem like child’s play by comparison.
Wight ends this call to muster behind Milne with this remark,
“Ridicule is the tribute paid to the genius by the mediocrities.”
We learn that Corbyn has taken upon himself to appoint another genius to his team, who is, surely no-coincidence, a former Socialist Unity contributor (Telegraph – Thanks Jim…).
It can also be revealed that Mr Corbyn has employed a key aide to the disgraced former mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman. Ger Francis, Rahman’s former political adviser, worked for Mr Corbyn at the Commons, a member of Mr Corbyn’s Westminster office confirmed last week. “He worked here on the leadership campaign,” she said.
Mr Francis moved to work for Mr Corbyn after Rahman was disbarred from office in April. An election court found the mayor guilty of “corrupt and illegal practices” including vote-rigging, bribery and lying that his Labour opponent was a racist. The judge, Richard Mawrey QC, said Rahman had run a “ruthless and dishonest” campaign which “drove a coach and horses” through electoral law.
Mr Francis, one of Rahman’s highly-controversial twelve political appointees, was at the heart of the mayor’s personal machine which saw millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash channelled to personal allies and Muslim groups in return for political support.
He is a former member of the Trotskyite Socialist Workers’ Party who was expelled from the SWP in 2007 for being too extreme. He then became an organiser for George Galloway’s far-Left Respect party and was agent for the party’s then leader, Salma Yaqoob, at the 2010 elections in Birmingham. He joined Rahman after the collapse of Respect and Ms Yaqoob’s resignation as leader.
This is what Ger said on what he intended to do in Respect (from, surprise, surprise, Socialist Unity March 2008).
Our contribution to the international class struggle starts with the work we do to undermine British imperialism. In this context, the significance of the developments that have taken place around Respect, under the leadership of George Galloway and Salma Yaqoob, should not be underestimated. The demands made by Respect would probably have been accommodated by left social democracy in previous generations, but they have been given backbone by a resolute anti-imperialism, anti-racism and a critique of capitalism. This is the correct political orientation for mass politics.
Francis is particularly hated by Iranian and other exiles from Islamist countries for the role he played in Birmingham back in 2001-2 – preventing these democratic secular socialists from expressing their views in the Stop the War Campaign.
You can read about Francis’s activities in this text by respected comrades Sue Blackwell and Rehan Hafeez – the pseudonym of a greatly valued Iranian activist I have had close contact with (WHY WE WERE RIGHT TO LEAVE THE SWP).
On 4th April 2002, Rehan Hafeez (SWP member of 16 years’ standing) and Sue Blackwell (SWP member of 19 years’ standing) sent a joint letter of resignation to the Central Committee of the SWP. Our letter was sent by Recorded Delivery and we had expected some sort of response from the CC. Of course we didn’t expect them to take all our allegations at face value, but we did hope that they would at least investigate them. However, we never received a reply in any form whatsoever – not even an acknowledgement of our resignations. The only contact from the Centre was a couple of months later when we each received a phone call from the Membership Office enquiring why our subs had stopped! (Sue took great pleasure in answering that at some length to the poor sod at the end of the phone).
We therefore decided to post our letters on the web along with related documents, so that people can judge for themselves whether we made the right decision. Since we posted them in 2003, we have received dozens of supportive e-mails from others who have left the SWP under similar circumstances, and remarkably also from people who are still in the SWP suffering the same kind of abuses but haven’t yet plucked up the courage to leave. (I call it “battered comrade syndrome”).
In our letter we complained about the packing of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition (BSTWC) meeting on 5th February 2002, where the SWP rode roughshod over the existing democratic procedures in order to kick Steve Godward out of his post as Vice-Chair of BSTWC and to end the practice of open committee meetings and regular elections. This event was exactly mirrored at the Birmingham Socialist Alliance AGM held on 1st July 2003, where – guess what – the SWP packed the meeting in order to kick Steve Godward out of his position as Chair, along with every other committee member who was not in the SWP, including Rehan who was voted out of his post as Press Officer.
One point we would mention: the texts of these letters make repeated reference to Ger Francis, the Birmingham SWP full-timer. Ger was finally sacked by the SWP around the time of the Party Conference in early November 2002, and we are confident that our complaints about him contributed in some measure to that welcome decision. However, it would be wrong to think that the problems began and ended with comrade Francis: he was the symptom, not the cause. After his replacement the SWP in Brum continued to behave in exactly the same sectarian, dishonest and undemocratic manner within the anti-war movement and the Socialist Alliance. The rot, as far as we can see, comes from the head: Ger was repeatedly backed by CC members such as Chris Bambery, Lindsey German and John Rees and those individuals have not changed their positions. We have seen no real improvement in the internal democracy of the SWP.
We also note that no explanation was given to the rank-and-file as to WHY Ger was sacked, and why at THAT PARTICULAR TIME given that complaints against him had been made since the beginning of 2002. Ger carried on behaving in the exactly the same way, still taking a leading role in the BSTW Coalition for instance, but nothing was done to stop this. We considered this to be further evidence of the contempt the leadership had for ordinary members. Eventually Ger was expelled from the party itself as part of the fall-out from the split in Respect in 2007, when he sided with the Salma Yaqoob / George Galloway faction after the SWP had apparently seen the light.
This is one text: Concerning Events in Birmingham Since the Autumn of 2001. There are many more on the site.
This account of some of the events backs up their account of Ger’s factionist pro-Islamist stand in Birmingham: STWC gravediggers. Steve Davis. (Weekly Worker. 9.1.03).
Here is Ger lauding Galloway (November 2009).
For those involved in Palestinian solidarity in Birmingham, its university has long felt like some weird Zionist outpost. For years Israeli apologists, through bureaucratic bullying and intimidation via the Student Union Guild, have been able to hinder and stifle debate.
George Galloway is simply the most eloquent advocate of the Palestinian cause in the English speaking world.
To follow Henry the V is a hard task.
But this is what Sue said about Ger when he was finally booted out of the SWP (here),
Sue sent this as an e-mail to various comrades on hearing in early November 2002 that Ger Francis, the cause of so much of her misery, had been sacked from his post as full-time organiser for the SWP in Birmingham. Steve Godward replied “well said brother Wordsworth”.
In hindsight, however, this proved to be overly optimistic. Ger Francis remained very much in the driving seat of the Bham Stop The War Coalition, the “clumsy desperation” continues with a vengeance and there are still plenty of “madding factions” needing to be tranquilised ….
By the way – I shouldn’t need to say this but I’ll say it anyway – I do not in any way condone or encourage acts of individual violence and I do not wish anyone dead, even my worst enemies. In any case my worst enemies are the governments of the USA, the UK and Israel, not anyone on the British left. The “rivers of blood” here are strictly metaphorical (and nothing to do with Enoch Powell either!)
… but the foremost of the band
As he approached, no salutation given
In the familiar language of the day,
Cried, “Robespierre is dead!” – nor was a doubt,
After strict question, left within my mind
That he and his supporters all were fallen.
Great was my transport, deep my gratitude
To everlasting Justice, by this fiat
Made manifest. “Come now, ye golden times,”
Said I forth-pouring on those open sands
A hymn of triumph: “as the morning comes
From out the bosom of the night, come ye:
Thus far our trust is verified; behold!
They who with clumsy desperation brought
A river of Blood, and preached that nothing else
Could cleanse the Augean stable, by the might
Of their own helper have been swept away;
Their madness stands declared and visible;
Elsewhere will safety now be sought, and earth
March firmly towards righteousness and peace.”
Then schemes I framed more calmly, when and how
The madding factions might be tranquilised,
And how through hardships manifold and long
The glorious renovation would proceed.
Thus interrupted by uneasy bursts
Of exultation, I pursued my way …
William Wordsworth, The Prelude, Book
It is, frankly, outrageous that Ger Francis should be working for any Labour MP.