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Posts Tagged ‘Democratic Centralism

SWP Crisis: Central Committee Motion – Yet More Years for the Locust?

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SWP Central Committee Party Museum.

“The SWP is the paradigm of the worst possible application of democratic centralism and a reductio ad absurdum of Lenin’s politics. The supposedly key role of the revolutionary party has become the whole object of the exercise. The only measure of revolutionary advance is the membership figures – never mind the quality feel the width. Presumably, the workers are assigned the role of foot soldiers in the revolution, the vanguard will be there to lead them in the sweet by and by. In this scheme there is no need to recruit workers now, they might spoil the autocratic anarchy of clique leadership.”

Jim Higgins. More Years for the Locust. 1997.

International Socialism posts this on the SWP Central Committee’s response to the Party’s growing dissent.

That the scandal of its ‘kangaroo Court’  is not going away can be seen in today’s Observer.

Nick Cohen writes,

The SWP’s crisis began when a woman member alleged that a senior figure in the party had raped her. The SWP refused to name this hero of the proletarian vanguard; unlike the “bourgeois courts”, revolutionary socialists hide the identity of alleged rapists. Nor did it call the police. Instead, it sent the man it called “Comrade Delta” to the SWP’s disputes committee. The seven “judges” had no independent evidence – how could they when they were a bunch of Trots rather than a competent court? Nor were they impartial. They knew the “accused”. They valued the “leading role” he had played in the party. And they acquitted him.

Friends of the woman say she feels “completely betrayed“. Party loyalists have increased her despair by whispering that she was a conniving harlot.

That’s the way it is on the far left. The hierarchical party always has the potential to become a rapist’s playground. Consider the predator’s opportunities. The rank and file has to obey the party line without question. The leaders of political cults, like their religious counterparts, increase their power by fostering paranoia. Members can trust no one outside the party, especially the police and judiciary. The SWP says that Comrade Delta’s alleged victim was free to go to the police and chose not to, but party dogma insists that justice is impossible in bourgeois courts. Only when it’s too late do women learn that the alternative disciplinary system of Marxist-Leninists exists to control them and let the leaders do as they please. The parallels with the Catholic church are too obvious for me to labour.

Anna Chen saw the misogyny up close. She stopped working as a comic and poet in the early 2000s to devote every waking hour slaving for the Socialist Alliance, Stop the War and other SWP front organisations. “Because the revolution comes first, human beings are just disposable,” she told me. “I was struck by how sexless and ugly the leading men in the SWP were. But they always had women. If you slept with one of them, they promoted you. It was as basic as that.”

The rest of the article is on the Observer site.

The Socialist Workers Party Central Committee is considering the whole affair today (Sunday).

The  motion it presents to the meeting reads:

Central Committee

1) The SWP stands out on the left by the fact that it has a history of
genuine democratic debate without permanent factionalism. We have
developed democratic and accountable structures from our branches,
elected district committees, the national committee and disputes
committee, central committee, party councils and conference. In the
recent period these structures were re-examined and strengthened by
the work of the SWP democracy commission. We have full confidence in
these structures and the method of democratic centralism.

2) This newly elected National Committee notes that the commission on
“What sort of Party do we need?” that set out the democratic
principles for guiding our current practice was approved by 239 votes
to 91 by annual conference in January 2013.

3) At the core of democratic centralism lies the understanding that we
have full and honest debate among comrades in order to reach decisions
followed by united action to implement and argue for those decisions.

4) We therefore condemn the actions of those members who have
circumvented these principles by campaigning to overturn conference
decisions outside the structures of the party, using blogs and the
bourgeois media. Many of these contributions have been characterised
by the use of slurs, abuse and un-comradely language that seem
designed to stop serious debate and make joint work impossible, as
well as damaging the party’s reputation.

5) This undermining of our democracy should stop forthwith. We
reaffirm the right of the Central Committee to impose disciplinary
measures for violation of our democratic constitution.

6) Many of these contributions have been fuelled by the outcome of the
Disputes Committee report to conference. This NC affirms its belief in
the integrity of the comrades on the DC and of the investigation they
conducted. We note the DC was re-elected without challenge at the
January 2013 conference. The DC report was approved by conference and
the case concerned must be regarded as closed.

7) This NC notes that immediately following the original DC hearing of
this particular case, information about it was leaked to people, some
hostile, outside the party. This helped fuel rumours and
misinformation about the DC within the party. This NC also notes the
disgraceful covert recording of the DC session at conference and the
appearance of a transcript on a site hostile to the party in addition
to the reports and debates in public blogs and internet forums
regarding these internal party arguments.

8) This has created difficulties for any future DC hearing. Therefore
it is in this light that the NC thinks it sensible to consider these
issues, in particular:

i) how the future confidentiality of DC proceedings can be safeguarded
ii) how future findings of the DC should be reported to the party

These issues should be considered by a body composed of four members
elected from the National Committee today, two from the Disputes
Committee and one by the Central Committee. It will report to a
subsequent meeting of the NC.

9) The NC supports the right of the CC, in consultation with the
Conference Arrangements Committee, to set out a reasonable deadline
for calls for a special conference. We do not believe that it can be
acceptable for such calls to be collected together over a period of
several months. This would institutionalise a practice of constantly
presenting motions to our branch meetings. The NC agrees that the
deadline for the recent calls for a special conference was 1 February.

10) We believe that underlying many of the recent debates in and
around the party lie a series of vital political questions where we
need to seek urgently to assert, develop and win our political
tradition. Some of the key debates include:

a) The changing nature of the working class.

b) Lenin’s conception of the party, and its relevance in the 21st century.

c) Oppression and capitalism.

d) The trade union bureaucracy and the rank and file.

e) The radical left, the united front and the SWP.

11) The CC and NC are strongly committed to leading and facilitating
extensive discussion and debate around such issues in every forum of
the party. This requires a serious, systematic and urgent effort in
all our publications, through branch and district meetings, wider
party events such as Marxism and through educationals and day schools.

Central Committee

As Jim  Higgins wrote,

An organisation like the SWP can continue to exist despite its sectarianism and behaving, outside its own ranks, like a gatecrasher sneering at the hosts but nicking anything that is not screwed down. It will go on so long as a few conditions are met. That its printshop continues to generate sufficient profit from its commercial work to subsidise the party press and contribute toward the full time wage bill. The apparatchiks, in their turn, will organise the subscription return and ensure a reasonable recruitment rate at least equalling the membership attrition. Long ago the SWP established a policy of minimum debate that is now so firmly embedded as to be part of the tradition. Dissent is stamped on and the norms of revolutionary justice ignored.

The Central Committee is uniquely qualified to pronounce on anything and everything, containing as it does that renaissance man, that Marxist Leonardo Da Vinci, Chris Harman. Not long ago he pronounced, ex-cathedra, as it were, on the question of anthropology and now that is the line, although why the SWP should require a line on anthropology is beyond me. The anthropologist member of the SWP – there could even be more than one of them – who accepts the modern academic wisdom on the subject, now contradicted by Harman, is under a vow of silence on his own specialisation.

One recalls Lysenko, who, at Joe Stalin’s command, stood Darwin on his head, inducing genetic changes in plants over a few generations by altering their environment. Thus he claimed he could grow winter wheat and tomatoes north of the Arctic circle. Nobody was ever allowed close enough to actually examine his plants – for all I know they were made of plastic. Eventually he was shuffled off into early retirement, but not before he had ended the careers of a number of more conventional geneticists. The SWP’s cultural climate is strangely reminiscent of those halcyon days when Zhdanov wielded the cultural hatchet for Joe Stalin, a triumphant outing for philistinism.

There’s no Print Shop and no Harman.

But we know that an attempt to create a cultural journal by SWP members not that long ago foundered on the same Zhdanovian reefs.

The money must still be coming from somewhere.

The basic pattern of SWP politics and its operations that  Higgins outlined  remains unchanged (as we know all too well in Ipswich).

At the moment further comment is unnecessary.

But Socialist Unity has published other motions.

Most seem to be baying for the blood of the opposition.

“Motion two: Sue Caldwell

This National Committee agrees to censure those comrades, including Richard Seymour who have repeatedly and publicly criticised decisions made at Conference 2012. The SWP provides many opportunities for comrades to raise disagreements and discussion in a comradely and constructive way.

We are a democratic centralist organisation which means that having arrived at a decision we carry it out in a united manner. A very small group of comrades are attempting to operate in a way that amounts to a permanent faction by encouraging others to agitate against decisions that have been made. Most members are outraged to see attacks on our Party in the right wing press using ammunition provided by our own comrades, most of which consists of factual inaccuracies. The refusal of these comrades to accept decisions made by Conference is shameful and an insult to the Conference delegates. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew Coates

February 3, 2013 at 12:23 pm

SWP Internal Crisis: Sir Roderick Glossop Writes.

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Sage Speaks on SWP Crisis.

Perry Anderson, Bingo Little, George Galloway, Bertie Wooster, these are just some of the leading figures of the workers’ movement that Sir Roderick Glossop, and ‘noted nerve specialist’  has had on his ‘couch’, so to speak.

He lends his unique insights into the present crisis in the SWP.

” Yes, this “democratic centralism” that reigns in the SWP . ”

The sage turns and stares at the near-by looking-glass.

“All this is mirror stage.”

He cites a SWP text, justifying the expulsion of four people for talking on Facebook together,

“Such behaviour trampled on our democracy and is contrary to our constitution. Therefore, in order to defend our democracy, we expelled four people.”

“In my day we also we too knew how to deal with those who denied the Will of the People!”

Sir Glossop listened to a speech from  SWP leading figure, John Curtis (Saxmundham Branch).

What did he think of the SWP Central Committee’s East Anglian Key Man’s thoughts that the entire local labour movement was run by a ruthless clique out to get him?

He paused.

“The  John, we were certain he would be there now.

A very bright boy, could count to 9 on his webbed feet.

He strangled fourteen cats you know.

That meerkat, it was such a pretty little creature, ….but not as Curtis thought, as a hamburger.”

Written by Andrew Coates

January 6, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Democratic Centralism. Origins of the Slate System.

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This is a Guest Post by  Dave Parks

The article below is from karlmarx.net. Some key points briefly – the slate
system was NOT operated by the Bolsheviks or even the early Communist Party –
it was introduced in 1921 along with the ban on factions and this was
 two years prior to Stalin first getting control of the party. This was then
combined with the massive expansion of the CC so that it could be filled with
 loyalists – that way bureaucratically outnumbering any opposition. The slate
system was introduced into the Trotskyist movement in 1950 by Gerry Healy –
he was also having problems with the awkward squad(s) at the time. the rest as
they say is history … all of today’s sects have a slate system.

 Dave Parks

On to Victory!
With the Slate: On to Victory!

 A link to the article The Origin of the ‘Slate System’: here.

The Importance of this article and the issues Dave raises are fundamental to any balance-sheet of the democratic Marxist left. Starting with the nature of democracy.

Pat Byrne   March 2010

The Origin of the ‘Slate System’ used in elections for the leadership of Leninist Groups.

The leadership-recommended slate system for internal elections to the national leadership is used in most Leninist groups. It is not a natural system arising from the workers own experiences and democratic instincts but something artificially imported into the workers movement. In theory, the slate system can be used to recommend a list that consciously includes a good balance of talents and personalities. In practice, it gives the existing leadership a tremendous advantage in elections and experience has shown that it has allowed leaders to secure their continuous re-election along with a body of like-minded and loyal followers.


Let’s examine how the ‘slate system’ arose. As the Leninist movement supposedly bases itself on the example of the Bolshevik Party, we need to start our process of discovery here. The following information comes mainly from a study made on how Communist Party internal elections were carried out in Revolutionary Russia. The study, ‘The Evolution of Leadership Selection In The Central Committee 1917-1927’, was written by the well-known sovietologist and academic Robert V. Daniels who drew most of his information from the official records of Bolshevik and CPSU party congresses. His essay was published in a fairly obscure academic study of Russian Officialdom which covered Russian society from the 17th to the 20th centuries. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Andrew Coates

April 3, 2010 at 10:21 am