Friday, November 22, 2013

"Total anarchy on the internet"

Richard from Coventry writes:

The freedom of individual comrades to write what they want where they want about anyone and anything in the party runs completely contrary to comrades’ freedom to be able to attend party meetings confident that they will not be shopped to their employer.  These two things cannot co-exist together. This is the proverbial line in the sand for me.  The party has to decide which way it is going to go. Every single employer I have been interviewed for has asked me directly or indirectly about my attitude to trade unionism. 
 If there is total anarchy on the internet, then they will have no need to ask, they will just need to internet search. Of course the movement will always be infiltrated by agents of the capitalist class or their state. But for these people to be effective they have to behave like good activists in the movement or the party and have to be careful what they publish lest it expose them. To be any good they have to behave like being a good Bolshevik. But if being a good Bolshevik means leaking everything to anybody, then we have done half their job for them.  It particularly concerns me that comrades are not taking on these arguments with our younger comrades or ex-members and instead are just irresponsibly bowing down to the individualism of the internet. If these young people follow the internet individualist route none of them will ever get a job in private sector multi-national capitalist companies whilst remaining leftwing.  
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The internet individualists’ in the opposition and amongst our ex-members are modelling behaviours to younger comrades which will come back to haunt them and us and which do a disservice to these young people and the movement. 
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I see debating via the email and the internet (as opposed to people posting articles on the internet) as an essentially individualistic approach to debate equivalent to postal ballots for strikes. The Tories implemented postal ballots for strikes for a reason. They believed correctly that individuals sat at home would be less likely to vote to fight the employing class than the same individual attending a collective meeting at work. In the mass meeting the vote is on what “we” do and a full debate can be had. At home it is a vote on what “I” do. Together workers feel more confident than sat on their own at home. 
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For the special conference Internal Bulletin Richard S and China M (along with other comrades) wrote an article titled “In defence of Blogging.” I wrote an article completely contrary to this called “Democracy, discipline and openness in the revolutionary party in the age of the internet”. I read theirs because I expected it to disagree with me and therefore I would learn something. Their article did make useful ideas about the different nature of engagement via the internet e.g. “consumers on social media are also themselves producers.” I expected the article would talk about how Facebook or blogging could be used to help people organise at work, raise issues etc. But it had absolutely nothing to say about the workplace. Think about this comrades. We have a group of people writing in our IB trying to persuade us that blogging is useful, and in making that attempt they have absolutely nothing to say about the relationship between the internet and the workplace. Not a word. Not a single thing. In fact the article reads as if no-one actually goes to a workplace –we’re all just individuals sat at home connected by the internet. This is not a criticism of these comrades. This is a criticism of us. I understand that Richard and China were in our organisation for approx. ten years each.  How can two intelligent articulate people be in our party for so long and fail to absorb one of the central tenants of our theory, namely that workers power most lies in the workplace? Or at the very least not understand how to relate that theory to their ideas? And remember Richard S was on the editorial board of our theoretical journal.  Does this group ever discuss the workplace? And we should be clear that the 200 comrades who resigned from either SWSS, the party or both the day after our special conference clearly did not have our politics. Again, this is our failing as well as theirs.  
Richard and China are not alone in this. I’ve analysed articles in three of our recent Internal Bulletins. I simply looked for how often mention was made of either Socialist Worker or the Revolutionary paper. I then also looked for how often mention was made of the workplace or words that could mean a workplace (e.g. office, school, hospital, factory, etc.) This is a very simplistic manual analysis of these IBs but I think it demonstrates how far movementism has forced our version of Leninism on the retreat in all parts of the party – whether they support the CC or not. ... It is not the case that every single article has to write about the paper or write about the workplace. But it is surely indicatively worrying that hardly any do this? By the way the number of pages in all these IBs (including 2011 before the crisis broke, and remember there were two IBs previous in 2011 to this one) shows the absolute lie that the party does not encourage debate or is not democratic. We’ve just been debating the wrong things. I have no solutions to our problems, except that in order to get solutions we need to correctly diagnose the problem, and then collectively we can address it. And that diagnosis is that the ideological impact of John and Lindsey on our party has not been resolved and has not been worked out. The debacle over the Disputes Committee is a symptom not a cause. Changing our structures will do nothing to solve this...