Proposed SPGB statement on SWP 2013

April 2024 Forums General discussion Proposed SPGB statement on SWP 2013

  • This topic has 59 replies, 12 voices, and was last updated 11 years ago by ALB.
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  • #91829

    Here is the text of a leaflet being printed today for distribution at SWP meetings:Open Letter to the SWPFellow workers,We have heard of recent expulsions, resignations, allegations of unjust procedure and internal dissent in the Socialist Workers Party. We are surprised by the scale of recent events rather than the occurrence of the events themselves. We have heard regularly over recent years of expulsions, resignations, allegations of unjust procedure and internal dissent. Some commentators are calling the events in 2013 ‘the SWP spring’.Not all of you may be familiar with our organisation, The Socialist Party of Great Britain, but we are the longest existing socialist party in the country.We would like to appeal to all independent-minded freethinking workers and (by way of comparison) explain some of our most important principles of organising of which we are very proud.Movements and Owen JonesIrrespective of membership numbers, we don’t believe political criticism is necessarily sectarian.A sect is a group that, unlike a party, believes itself unaccountable to anything broader than the sect.If parties are accountable and seek to represent everyone not just a vanguard of ‘advanced workers’, then we believe a “socialist network” aimed at political power is unnecessary.A sect is a group that, although it may have open recruitment, nevertheless treats non-initiates only as potential recruits or avowed enemies.A cult is a group that, worse than a sect, denies validity of any reference from wider society.We oppose secrecy, all our business meetings are public, all business meetings are minuted and published for the working-class to inspect.This includes our annual conference, which this year is from 29 March to 30 March.Central Committees and Richard SeymourSWP practice is a departure from recognisably democratic practice, such as we have in our trade unions.We have never expelled any member without a democratic vote of the membership.All our members have an equal say in directly deciding our policy, our Executive committee cannot put motions to conferenceWe're not anarchists espousing the tyranny of structurelessness, we believe in majority decisions. We also believe that majority decisions should bind all our activity (we're not autonomists), but we won't bully members into activity either.We believe these ordinary labour movement practices contrast favourably when compared to the Socialist Workers Party.Sexism and Laurie PennyWe oppose sexism and believe women should feel equally as safe as men at party events.We call out sexism even if comrades are otherwise ‘good socialists’.We do not consider allegations of rape a matter for a political party to hear and judge.Democratic Centralism and LeninWe are not federalist and we centralise administrative functions for effectivity, but not political decisions.The rules governing members' conduct are like those of any democratic free association, to protect members and the democratic process from abuse.Our unity of purpose is achieved through an emphasis on conscious understanding of the case for socialism by any prospective member.The politically privileged will not share their privilege willingly, this goes for the SWP Central Committee too. Democracy is built, not granted.An organisation wishing to establish socialism, which is based on people's direct democratic control of the society and its resources can only achieve this goal by organising itself in a democratic manner. Likewise; regardless of its alleged 'socialist aspirations', a political party that is based on a hierarchical structure with an overly powerful central committee is doomed to achieve a hierarchical society with a privileged party elite. We believe that this unity between communist theory with practice and democratic means with ends is vital for the socialist movement, as Marx so aptly put it 'the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class', not we would add the work of a centrally controlled vanguard.Yours for socialism,The Socialist PartyP.S.Further information on our organisation, as well as a list of upcoming events (including our 2013 summer school 12 July to 14 July), can be found on our website:http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/March 2013 

    #91830
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Looks as if the media are already ganging up to put the boot into the SWP to co-incide with their special conference on Sunday:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21706292

    #91831
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Just as a point of interest. If you have membership applications from Leninists will they be required to renounce Lenin before being allowed in the party? I just can't see that happening. 

    #91832

    They'd be treated like any applicant member:

    Party Policy wrote:
    Anyone who agrees with the principles and object of the Socialist Party can apply for membership.

    If they apply through the membership dept. they will be asked

    Membership questionaire wrote:
    Why do socialists maintain that democratic methods such as parliamentary elections, must be used to capture political power for the achievment of socialism?

    http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/membership-applicationSo, they wouldn't be asked to recant, but they would be asked to commit to a democratic revolutionary process, without leaders.

    #91833
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    Young Master Smeet wrote:
     So, they wouldn't be asked to recant, but they would be asked to commit to a democratic revolutionary process, without leaders.

     This is not the reply I have received when I have asked the same  question in the past. For eaxample:  "Of the others you mention, the Stalinist Scargill, the Labourite Galloway, the Trotskyist Tariq – i will grant you there would be great scepticism of their Form A  to join the party and it would be reasonable to question them fully about their ideas and opinions they have voiced in the past and to ask if they still  hold that their  previous political views to be correct and valid.  Regardless of the publicity such personalities would undoubtably bring to the party. Even John Lennon may have had his application rejected on the grounds of his support for Irish nationalism although we can all understand and sympathise with the anger he expresses about the Bloody Sunday massacre but really,  is recommending repatriation for the Ulster unionists a socialist answer??!!" Which is the SPGB's position? 

    #91834
    steve colborn
    Participant

    Best of luck OGW on getting a straight answer. Does not appear to be the situation at the moment! Convoluted nonsense appears to be the only game in town. Steve.

    #91835
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    From reading about this dispute what has struck me is the multi-tier membership structure of the SWP, with constant reference to its student and younger  members, its full-time workers, and old-timer  IS veterans. Even Richard  Seymour appears to accept this as taken.( BTW to me he is a student albeit phd, or has he now completed it and now Dr. Seymour and he is also a youngster to boot)

    #91836
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    A straight answer? If those above mentioned individuals applied to the branch I was in, I would be asking if they still held to their KNOWN previous political positions. In the case of an ex-SWPer applying, our differences of politics and organisation would be pointed out to ensure he understood we were not alike so he knew fully in advance of joining.   As for the written application we have no other method of ascertaining the sincerity of the answers to the questions but to accept them. Only from the new member's activities and statements would we tell if they retain non-socialist, no I go further in the case of leadership and nationalism,  anti-socialist, ideas. Did I understand 100% every aspect of the socialist case when I joined? No, just the basics and formal and informal discussions and reading more and more of the party literature formed my education. In regards to ex-SWPers joining there is a question on other parties and if they stand for socialism. If the applicant said he thought some were socialist such as the SWP then of course it would lead to further correspondence before membership is granted or refused. Can I have differences with other members over interpretations of various issues such as Lenin. I think so. I regard him as a victim of circumstances as I do Chavez. As I do Luxemburg. Do I regard non-party members such as Mattick and Bookchin as socialists?  Yes. Would I accept their membership forms if they still held to all their political opinions – No. Are there religious socialists. Yes. Would I accept someone with religious views as a member. No. My whole approach is based upon my own somewhat heretical view that the SPGB will not be the main vehicle to socialism but simply a contributory organisation to some future mass movement that cannot be defined except in the broadest fashion. Those we do not allow as members may still remain comrades in the struggle for socialism. Socialists are not clones but there is a kinship…why else was the SLP called political cousins

    #91837
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    Apologies for the inherent sexism in assuming "he"

    #91838
    ALB
    Keymaster
    alanjjohnstone wrote:
    Socialists are not clones but there is a kinship…why else was the SLP called political  cousins

    Before anyone gets the wrong end of the stick and uses it to prod us, Alan is of course talking about the SLP of America which was in the "impossibilist" tradition (eg no minumum programme of reforms, not anti-electoral), not the Scargill Labour Party.  Rest assured, Arthur Scargill, the Leninist-Stalinist, has not suddenly become our political cousin!

    #91839

    The precise rule is:

    Rulebook wrote:
    Any person desiring membership shall sign the application form signifying acceptance of the object and principles of the Party. Such application shall be lodged with the Branch Secretary, whose duty it shall be to place same before the next business meeting (to which the applicant shall be invited) for consideration. After examination of the applicant, a majority shall decide, subject to ratification by the Executive Committee.

    http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/party-rules-amended-conference-2009As per the online questionaire, any applicant will be asked questions to make sure they support the policies and principles of the socialist party.  A specific recantation would not be necessary, but an acceptance of our policies would be.Obviously, the precise examination varies from branch to branch.  The questions, though, both online or in person, would be such that someone holding Leninist views could not acceptably answer.

    #91840
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    So what is the Party's position? Does 'Leninist Scarghill' have to recant but leninist SWP applicant does not? Or,  do all applicants receive the same treatment. Or is it down to the individual SPGB'r? I would expect a Party Candidate to know this.Adam, it is not a matter of 'using it to prod you with' but if that is your answer to my enquiry……You do not think discrimination is important, that much I have learned of late. I would think it very important that EVERYONE is invited to join the party not just Leninist SWPrs. By the way,  my elected  representative Ather Scarghil did not have his opponents executed so don't exaggerate:) He was elected by a massive majority and spoke the words the majority of miners thought. He was unable to organise for socialism because the miners didn't want socailism.

    #91841

    I don't honestly know how I can be much clearer, I've cited our application policy and our rulebook, in contrast to a comment received from some member sometime. All applicants are asked to agree to our non-Leninist policies and principles. Maybe if someone has been been known to espouse a particular position they might be specifically asked about it, just to be clear, because the application process is as much about letting them know where we stand as it is finding their views out; but the bottom line is anyone is welcome to apply, and will be allowed in if they agree with our non-Leninist policies and principles.

    #91842
    jondwhite
    Participant

    As strange as it may sound, I don't think Lenin is that big a deal for many SWPers.

    #91843
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    Young Master Smeet wrote:
    I don't honestly know how I can be much clearer, I've cited our application policy and our rulebook, in contrast to a comment received from some member sometime. All applicants are asked to agree to our non-Leninist policies and principles. Maybe if someone has been been known to espouse a particular position they might be specifically asked about it, just to be clear, because the application process is as much about letting them know where we stand as it is finding their views out; but the bottom line is anyone is welcome to apply, and will be allowed in if they agree with our non-Leninist policies and principles.

     Yes, that has always been the case. Thanks for clarification

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