Proposed SPGB statement on SWP 2013

May 2024 Forums General discussion Proposed SPGB statement on SWP 2013

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  • #81791
    jondwhite
    Participant

    Here is a proposed SPGB statement on the SWP in 2013, please discuss and make suggestions

    SPGB EC on SWP

    SPGB EC notes reports of SWP (UK).

    1. Arbitrarily expelling four members who were expressing political disagreement immediately prior to conference.
    2. Further allegations of procedural impropriety arising from central committee privilege.
    3. Subsequent resignations including of one journalist after the allegations have been made public outside the SWP.
    4. Subsequent statements of concern by SWP members short of resignation following a report from conference becoming public outside the SWP.

    The SPGB asserts the norms of the labour movement for over a century.

    1. Members can speak freely and action detrimental decided as democratically as possible.
    2. Democracy means all members should participate in determining policy. Privileged positions should be elected (cf. SWP Rule 5 and SPGB Rule 12-16).
    3. Activity should be democratic and decided by the majority. Anarchist criticism of tyranny of the majority is wrong and leads to tyranny of structurelessness. Activity or inactivity should be voluntary (cf. SWP Rule 5 and SPGB Rule 26). Voluntarism is not autonomism.

    SPGB concludes – our unique contributions.

    1. The SWP tradition (its policies determined by the CC) is distinguished by organisational norms contrary to the labour movement and its best interests.
    2. Secrecy under the guise of security is characteristic of a sect not a party (no matter number of members) (cf. SWP Rule 10).
    3. Likewise, the party has a responsibility to hear political complaints openly from within and workers outside the party without prejudice. This is especially the case for complaints against those in privileged positions (cf. SWP Rule 7 and SPGB Rule 29-31).

    We don’t recruit at any political cost, but we do run the SPGB in order to emancipate workers. Come to our next meeting or engage with us.

    #91800
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    I'd drop reference to the journalist…why single out one profession. An appendix should be added detailing the specific rules you cite. "voluntarism is not autonomism" – bit jargonese to be easily understood i think Anyways i agree that the party should take th opportunity to make an agreed statement about the party organisation and its internal democracy but widen it so that although using the SWP as a springboard, it includes other Trots out , and not just the anarchist alternative

    #91801
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I don't like the term "privileged position" in relation to us. Since our Rules 12-16 concern the EC and Party Officers, a better term would be "positions of responsibility". Also Rules 29-31 are not about complainsts against members elected to responsible positions. Indeed, Rule 31 gives the EC the power to charge an individual member. The protection against abuse lies in the fact that the EC only lays the charge while it is the general membership who act as the jury and decide. Since Rule 26 (on Party Polls) has nothing to do with the voluntary participation of members in Party activity, this means that all the references to our Rulebook are either misleading or irrelevant. So I think we should drop them.And if we are going to mention the SWP's Rules I think we should quote them or provide an internet reference to them.I agree with Alan that we need a more general statement contrasting the difference between the Leninist "democratic centralism" of the SWP and others with the democratic structure we have (and some early trade unions had). Section III of this document could provide the basis for such a statement:http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/education/study-guides/where-swp-coming

    #91802
    ALB
    Keymaster

    To see how criticism of the SWP's self-styled "democratic centralism" applies to other such organisations, look at the constitution of the "Alliance for Workers Liberty" here:http://archive.workersliberty.org/resources/constitution.htmlOther Leninist organisations are criticising the SWP for not applying "democratic centralism" properly. Our criticism is more fundamental: we are critcising "democratic centralism" as such.The AWL constitution clearly spells out what "democratic centralism" means in practice — a hierarchical organisation dominated by its leaders.

    Quote:
    To be effective, our organisation must be democratic; geared to the maximum clarity of politics; and able to respond promptly to events and opportunities with all its strength, through disciplined implementation of the decisions of the elected and accountable committees which provide political leadership.(emphasis added)

    Below the "leadership", there are two levels of membership: "candidates" and "activists":

    Quote:
    Members will normally be admitted as candidates, to go through six months of education, training and disciplined activity before being admitted as full activists. A branch or fraction may, at the end of six months, extend the candidate period if it judges that the above requirements have not been fulfilled adequately. In such a case the candidate has the right to appeal to the Executive Committee. Candidates do not have the right to vote in the AWL.

    On promotion to "activist", members are required to, among other things:

    Quote:
    2. Engage in regular political activity under the discipline of the organisation;4. Sell the literature of the AWL regularly;

    They have to ask "leave of absence" if they can't do this for some reason:

    Quote:
    A member suffering from illness or other distress may be granted a total or partial leave of absence from activity for up to two months; but the leave of absence must be ratified in writing by the Executive Committee, and the activist must continue to pay financial contributions to the AWL.

    If they stop selling the AWL's paper without this permission, then they are in trouble:

    Quote:
    Where activists have become inactive or failed to meet their commitments to the AWL without adequate cause such as illness, and there is no dispute about this fact, branches, fractions, or appropriate committees may lapse them from membership with no more formality than a week's written notice. Activists who allege invalid lapsing may appeal to the National Committee.

    They can even be fined:

    Quote:
    Branches, fractions, and appropriate elected committees may impose fines or reprimands for lesser breaches of discipline. Any activist has the right to defend himself or herself before a decision on disciplinary action is taken on him or her, except in the case of fines for absence or suspensions where the AWL's security or integrity are at risk.

    As to branches and "fractions" (AWL members boring from within other organisations), they can elect their own organisers but these are responsible to the leadership not to those who elected them:

    Quote:
    Each branch or fraction shall elect an organiser and other officers. The organiser is responsible to the AWL and is subject to the political and administrative supervision of its leading committees for the functioning of the branch or fraction and for ensuring that AWL policy is carried out.

    They can even give orders to those who elected them:

    Quote:
    Branch or fraction organisers can give binding instructions to activists in their areas on all day today matters.

    But if they step out of line the leadership can remove them and replace them with someone of their choice::

    Quote:
    The Executive Committee and the National Committee have the right in extreme cases, and after written notice and a fair hearing, to remove branch or fraction organisers from their posts and impose replacements.

    What self-respecting person would want to be a member of such an organisation? I think this means that we are not going to get anywhere with current members of these organisations, and that we'd do better to direct any efforts in this direction towards their ex-members. Perhaps, then, any statement on the current SWP situation should adopt the "we told you so" approach.

    #91803
    Ken Red L
    Participant

     Most interesting details about the AWL. I am not sure you can write off all current members of democratic centralist parties as having no self respect and aim purely at ex-members. The shifts that are happening within the SWP would suggest that quite a few current members are about to become ex. A "we told you so" approach may appear sanctimonious.I am attracted towards a more general critique that the kind of abuse of power that appears to have taken place in the SWP, and the inability to resolve it satisfactorily, is inevitable in a structurally abusive democratic centralist party model. Put simply, when a party is designed to abuse its members it is hardly surprising that it cannot resolve this kind of behaviour satisfactorily.

    #91804
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    jondwhite wrote:
     Likewise, the party has a responsibility to hear political complaints openly from within and workers outside the party without prejudice. This is especially the case for complaints against those in privileged positions (cf. SWP Rule 7 and SPGB Rule 29-31). 

    Complaints are not allowed on the SPGB forum even from it own members. Attempts are being used now to keep complaints secret.So that is rather hypocritical. SPGB needs to get off its high horse and get its own house in order. TOGW

    #91805
    Ed
    Participant
    alanjjohnstone wrote:
    I'd drop reference to the journalist…why single out one profession.

    Exactly it sounds as though the journalist is of greater importance or worth than any other member.

    ALB wrote:
    I don't like the term "privileged position" in relation to us.

    Entirely agree, I suggest position of responsibility

    #91806
    jondwhite
    Participant

    A journalist is singled out because he was a full-time journalist for Socialist Worker and the most high-profile resignation – perhaps this should be specified?If references to rules are kept (not always an easy task to relate one rulebook to another), an appendix of rules will be attached.Autonomism is the main slur the Central Committee are now regularly using against members arguing for greater democracy. It falsely counterposes the characterisation of "do what you want" (autonomism) with "an interventionist party" (democratic centralism). The statement is principally aimed at SWP members or recent resignees.The statement is intended to be concise (five minute read) and not structured like an article.The Central Committee are also trying to quell dissent externally by villifying the critics, impugning some sort of malign intentions accusing the Democratic Opposition of being operated by secret external groups. AlsoResponding to attacks on the partyA series of attacks on the party have appeared over the last few days – many in newspapers which are the sworn enemies of women’s liberation and workers’ rights. For this reason, I think it will be more effective for us to put things in a statement in a measured way – specific to whats happened recently, to members with doubts and carefully reassessing their politics. If we're more dismissive in tone than specific then readers may feel the right to be equally dismissive in return.

    #91807
    HollyHead
    Participant

    Here are some suggested amendments to the “Proposed SPGB statement on SWP 2013” : Sorry comrades but I have had to remove this posting because it contained "strike through" text and footnotes which cannot be reproduced using the forum software. I will send my suggested amendments by off forum email to anyone interested.

    #91808
    Ed
    Participant
    jondwhite wrote:
    A journalist is singled out because he was a full-time journalist for Socialist Worker and the most high-profile resignation – perhaps this should be specified?

    I think singling out one member due to their perceived high profile sends the wrong message. That some members are more equal than others. It shouldn't be specified at all.

    #91809
    jondwhite
    Participant

    The Swedish section of the IMT split recentlyhttp://foreningensocialisten.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/founding-statement-and-constitution-of-the-socialist-network/#more-489Like "the commune" in britain and others they seem to leap straight from democratic centralism to pure autonomism.To make the case for pure democracy against autonomism, I think a generalised critique of democratic centralism will make us look like autonomists. Whereas saying "voluntarism is not autonomism" and a comparative reference to rules will be more effective.

    #91810
    jondwhite
    Participant

    Should the statement include anything on the matter coming before the SWP disputes committee at all (rather than the police)?

    #91811
    jondwhite
    Participant

    How not to handle complaintshttp://internationalsocialismuk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/reflections-on-2011-swp-conference-by.html Instead the ‘special session’ initially derived its notoriety from the standing ovation, foot stamping and the chant of “the workers united will never be defeated!” that Delta received from a significant section of the assembled delegates after he was allowed to make a speech in a session supposedly meant to address the fallout of the informal complaint made against him. Two years later comrade W, badly let down by the party’s internal disputes process, would demand a similar opportunity to address an SWP conference but would be denied by the CC.  This is not to suggest that this is how a formal or informal complaint should have been dealt with but simply to note that such a demand appears to have been a desperate demand to be seen and heard when the flawed Disputes Committee process let comrade W down and compounded the failures of the CC stretching back two years. … There was another aspect to the notoriety the 2011 SWP conference acquired.  That was the fact that a few party comrades were foolish enough to deny that comrade Delta ever received a standing ovation in the ‘special session’. Some of those comrades claimed to have been present. Perhaps they were. But whether they are repressing their memories or drawing a discreet veil over things, such disavowals can only corrupt.  Revolutionary socialists cannot afford to play fast and loose with the truth. The oppressed and exploited need the truth, however unpleasant. The militants and cadre of a revolutionary socialist organization must tell the truth, not just to party members, but also those they struggle alongside and seek to win. It is not always easy or expedient to do so.  For example, many in the party would like to pretend that this crisis is all the fault of the bourgeois media.  But we can be grateful to a militant teacher whom I know, who in his letter to the National Secretary excoriated this myth.  He told the truth, that the party leadership was “delusional”, and did us all a small service. We were anxious that the issue be dealt with openly, transparently and that comrade Delta be treated no more favourably than any other party member simply because he was a leading member.  We were also concerned about the damage to the party’s reputation if this did not happen. We agreed that I would speak to Charlie Kimber (the National Secretary replacing Delta) about our concerns. I spoke to Kimber privately on the Saturday of conference shortly before the ‘special session’ took place (I did not know it was scheduled until Kimber told me so). I talked of my concern at the rumours circulating though I did not know the nature of the allegations. Kimber interrupted me and said he could not divulge their exact nature. I said I understood but that I wanted a reassurance that comrade Delta would not receive special treatment because he was a leading party member. Kimber assured me this would not happen and that a ‘special session’ would follow shortly that would address the concerns of comrades. I said OK and shook hands and stepped away. That was it, short and brisk. Five minutes later back inside the conference as delegates returned from a break to retake their seats I saw Delta and Kimber sharing a joke at the side of the conference stage. To say that I and the comrade accompanying were disturbed would be an understatement. As a result of the informal complaint against him, Delta stepped down from, or was removed from, his post as National Secretary.  But he remained on the CC.  Delta informed us all that he was “happy as a pig in shit” to be returning to the Industrial department where he had always been happiest.

    #91812
    jondwhite
    Participant

    Sounds like a public safety information video buthttp://internationalsocialismuk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/advice-for-comrades-feeling-heat-from.htmlIn the face of the unprecedented opposition within [SWP] to the [SWP] Central Committee, its shocking handling of the rape allegation against a leading member, its attempts to force through a post-conference pretence that all is settled, and its continuing bullish defence of undemocratic methods and ongoing attempts to silence dissent, the Central Committee and its full-time organisers have started to move against those of us demanding an accounting in the party.  Comrades around the country have been summoned to meetings on their own, or at best with one fellow member to accompany them.  In these meetings they have been accused of all manner of attacks on "forty years of British Leninism", and recantations, confessions and apologies have been demanded, along with suggestions that they leave if they cannot toe 'the line'.  Don't be intimidated. It's our party. You are not alone, much as the CC may wish to make you feel isolated.  Here are some suggestions for comrades in these situations:  DON'T go alone to one of these meetings. If "invited", accept, and tell the CC member or organiser the names of three other comrades who will be coming with you. Stick to your guns on this.  DO take notes during the meeting and reject any demand that you should not.  DON'T agree to anything – tell whoever is disciplining you that you will go away, discuss their points with other comrades, and respond later.  DO tell other comrades before and after the meeting that it will be happening. We have NOTHING to hide from other members and from the class.  DON'T apologise for standing up to them and for fighting for our party.  DO tell us, here at the IS blog of any incidents of bullying and / or intimidation. Any threats, any suggestion of disciplinary sanctions – tell the party, the party needs to know what is going on.

    #91813
    ALB
    Keymaster

    SWP members put themselves in this position of being summoned to explain themselves because in joining the SWP they accept a constitution which says that a member:

    Quote:
    works within and under the direction of the appropriate party bodies.

    and

    Quote:
    Subject to the sovereignty of Conference, decisions taken by the Central Committee (CC), National Committee (NC) and Party Council are binding on caucuses, districts and branches, and individual members.

    In other words, they agree to be foot soldiers carrying out the orders of "higher-ups" in the organisation.If we are going to issue a statement on the SWP's present troubles it is on its undemocratic nature that we should concentrate. Here, for instance, is how, according to Rule 5 of its Constitution, its supreme body, the Central Committee, is "elected":

    Quote:
    The CC consists of members elected by Conference according to the following procedure:The outgoing Central Committee selects and circulates a provisional slate for the new CC at the beginning of the period of pre-Conference discussion. This is then discussed at the district aggregates where comrades can propose alternative slates.At the Conference the outgoing CC proposes a final slate (which may have been changed as a result of the pre-Conference discussion). This slate, along with any other that is supported by a minimum of five delegates, is discussed and voted on by Conference.

    No trade union has such an undemocratic constitution. As the draft statement proposed by JonD at the beginning of this thread puts it, the SWP's "organisational norms" go against "the norms of the labour movement for over a century" and are "contrary to the labour movement and its best interests".

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