Friday, February 12, 2010

Lindsey German's resignation from the SWP

I was busy working some other material (forthcoming), but this is all over the internet now, in glorious drool-spattered hypertext, so I might as well dip my oar in. As of yesterday, several blogs hosted the partial leak of an e-mail exchange between Lindsey German, former member of the SWP central committee and current convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, and Martin Smith, the national organiser of the SWP. The e-mails were leaked to the 'Military Families Against the War' mailing list by a member of the SWP. My view is that he would not have acted in such a way unless he was specifically asked to. The exchange culminated with Lindsey German resigning her membership of the SWP after some 37 years. The occasion for this was that she was asked, as a leading member of the SWP and an elected member of the National Council, not to speak at a meeting of a branch of the Stop the War Coalition in Tyneside.

I will not get bogged down in ephemera, but suffice to say I do not believe that this was a resigning matter. It was a local dispute that would have been easily resolved through further discussion, which was also made quite clear in the e-mail exchange. It would have done no damage to the StWC or its local branch for Lindsey to have withdrawn this once, until the matter was settled. And Lindsey, as a former central committee member, would be well used to the expectation that members accept the decisions of its elected bodies. I see no good reason for Lindsey to have declined to meet with members of the CC, and to have instead tendered her resignation. Of course I lack the psychic prowess of some of my online cohorts, but it is my view that the resignation was intended for some time.

It is no secret that differences in perspective opened up in the SWP last year between the majority and a minority faction called the Left Platform. This was a faction led by Lindsey German among others. Among its supporters was the SWP member who leaked a redacted version of the e-mail exchange containing Lindsey's resignation. The issues were debated at conference, and voted on. The Left Platform accepted that it was defeated, and agreed to wind up its faction and support the agreed strategy. Since then, a number of supporters of the Left Platform have resigned their membership of the SWP, and Lindsey is the latest of these. They evidently believe that their differences with the current agreed perspective of the party make it impossible for them to remain in the party. That is unfortunate. The party has been committed to including them in future discussions and decision-making. They have been fully represented in internal party bulletins, and at conference. Lindsey herself was elected to the National Council at conference, and indeed would have remained on the central committee had she not opted to withdraw last year. Whatever their ongoing disagreements, then, these members would have continued to have a voice within the SWP.

I am sorry to hear that it has come to this, and particularly that a comrade of such standing as Lindsey has left us, but I am cautiously optimistic that the current orientation of the SWP is the right one and that the loss of a relatively small number of members is unlikely to detract from that.

Update: No surprises here.