Tuesday, March 12, 2013
On resigning from the SWP posted by Richard Seymour
As of 9pm this evening, I was no longer a member of the Socialist Workers' Party. I have resigned from the party with an initial 71 others. Further resignations are afoot. This explanation, for me, sums it up:
"We are not prepared to accept or abide by the decisions of the special conference. The conference is a bureaucratic victory which will only lead to the demise of the SWP. The reputation of the SWP in the movement is irreparably damaged as a result of the handling of these complaints by the Disputes Committee and the leadership’s determination to protect one member rather than to develop a clear perspective on rape and consent."
I will be writing a lot about what has happened: there is much to say. (It may surprise certain party members to read this, but I have actually been quite disciplined in the two months since I first wrote about the crisis in the SWP. I have held a lot back.) For now, I just want to say a few things.
First, I think the party is over. However, many members will stay on in the organisation and attempt to fight, even within the constraints of post-conference 'discipline', for a change in the party. These are among the most talented, committed and active people in the group. Some people weirdly think the current Central Committee is somehow irreplaceable. I think you could put together any random collection of people from the faction, in any number or combination, and they'd make a better leadership. (This isn't to damn them with faint praise.) Their decision to stay on and continue to fight, though I believe it to be mistaken, is very brave given the climate in some parts of the party now. Some members have already put up with months of abuse and stupidity: just off the top of my head, I can think of the insanely arrogant, self-serving statement by Sheffield apparatchiks that was included with the internal bulletin, slagging off the student members for their feminist deviations. Those same wised up hacks are already cracking knuckles and laying down arbitrary rules. People who are ready to stick it out in this context have my complete respect, even if not my full agreement. I stress this because some people outside the organisation, who don't understand what's happening, will rush to assume that every member who doesn't leave is tainted, agrees with everything that has happened, and so on. Don't make that assumption.
Second, in stark contrast, one is dispirited by the complete moral and intellectual degeneration in some quarters that has been occasioned by this crisis. The hacks, of course, surprise no one, because they have no moral or intellectual standards. Master dialecticians, they can defend any barbarity to their own satisfaction. They're still telling themselves, no doubt, that all this stuff about rape and sexual harassment is a pack of lies dreamed up to hurt the party: by MI5 agents, Bamberyites, Poulantzians, whoever. They're telling themselves right now that we can always grow more students, and that this whole thing has been caused by a hard minority of malcontents, the Sino-Seymourite conspiracy. But some seemingly normal party members, where they haven't simply started to sound like Scientologists, have begun to make arguments that should shame any socialist. And then there are those party sages who had a reputation for probity. John Molyneux! What happened to this man? His letter to SWP members about this crisis, eventually used as the basis for a motion to be submitted to the National Council, was stunning for its capitulation to bureaucratic irrationality.
Thirdly, one is simply astounded by how inadequate, corrupt, stupid, narrow-mindedly bureaucratic and delusional the leadership of the SWP has proven to be. It is not just that having covered up serious sexual allegations, and so disastrously failed at least two female comrades, they can admit no fault. It is not just the absurd, scholastic, apolitical explanations they give for doing so, or the tragic retreat into bunkered dogma that has accompanied this. It is not just that they lie with impunity. It is not just that they ducked a real debate, with their absurd rules limiting faction speakers at aggregates, and their gerrymandering of conference. It is not just that even now many of them are desperate to get the accused back into the leadership as soon as can conveniently be arranged. It is not just that their response to the most recent allegations by a female ex-member was to effectively dismiss her as a liar, without investigating further. It is that, having done a Jonestown, they think they've just triumphed.
Finally, as much as I admire and respect all of those who have fought for the party's soul from within, I also want to register my gratitude to those in the International Socialist tendency who supported the fight, and also to those outside the party whose solidarity has been genuine, and who have - despite real differences with the SWP - taken a principled position without using this simply to bash the party. I include 'the likes of' Laurie Penny and Owen Jones in the latter, despite their movementist, reformist or feminist deviations.