socialist workers party

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arf
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Nov 29 2007 01:01
socialist workers party

okay so i know how dumb i am sometimes so please refrain from those kind of comments if possible! this may be basic 101 stuff to you all but still.

so yeh, the socialist workers party, who are they really and why are they so disliked? i came across an article by them and didnt think much of it either way, but i wondered what they're about, and i figured i might be better off asking you lot than just reading their public statement.

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Tacks
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Nov 29 2007 01:07

which country?

arf
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Nov 29 2007 01:10

britain, sorry.

ronan
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Nov 29 2007 01:47

in ireland they're dislilked not so much for their politics as for their cynical brand of opportunism. they're obsessed with recruiting which means that they form loads of Lowest Common Denominator front groups in order to attract newbies, if other people oppose them politically within these groups they waste no time in shafting them. (it's not really fair to separate this carry on from their politics, entryism is a trotskyist tactic and authoritarianism and general dickheadery is pretty crucial to leninism)

as far as i'm aware the SWP in Britain share many of these traits, the Respect debacle is an hilarious example of a front organisation going dreadfully awry.

IrrationallyAngry
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Nov 29 2007 02:31

Actually Ronan, setting up front groups has nothing to do with "entryism". The latter is a term used to describe the practice of a smaller group of revolutionaries joining a mass reformist party and working within it. The SWP hasn't been entryist in decades. "Authoritarianism" is a contentless anarchist swearword. Dickheadery... well as far as the SWP is concerned I can't really argue with you there.

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cantdocartwheels
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Nov 29 2007 09:08

The SWP is the bggest left party i the UK, it happens to be trotskyist broadly speaking. People dislike them for a variety of reasons. The main reason as has been outlined before is their opportunism, certainly in my experience of the anti-war movement its that whcih most pissed me off, Put bluntly they didn't like tje fact that they didn't control the local anti-war group, despite the fact that the main reason for this was the fact that half their local membership had left when the SWP fucked over the socialist alliance. As a result we got all sorts of sectarian shit from them, including somene coming and setting up a ''rival'' peace stall rght next to ours in town, which was proper loony shite and also attempts to bankrupt the local peace group by putting on a coach 15 minutes before ours arrived so that everyone waiting for our coach piled into theirs which cost us a few hundred quid.

The opportunism is in all honesty its just what your going to expect from the largest party, i mean back whn the CP was the largest left party out there before the collapse of the soviet union they were acting in much the same way, although the SWP do take it to so weird levels, delibertaly collpasing the socialist alliance simply because they couldn't fully take it over is perhaps the best example of the way this opportunism gets out of control to a level that is entrely self destructive.

The other reason people dislike them is the sheer lack of political education they possess, now if you gave a chat with a member of a leninst party whose over 25, they'll give you a good arguement, partly because they're older but also partly because they are used to a political climate where you actually debate issues and argue for ''socialism'' in its braodest sense, even if you have a convoluted idea of what that means. If you try argueing with the average SWP member its liek argueing with a 12 year old, last time i did i got back comments like ''everyone in kronstadt was middle class'' and ''supporting the england team is nationalist except when they're playing against israel'' to mention just a few within the general diatribe of sit politics and pro-palestine whinging. This abject lack of any political education combined with their macchiavellian means the SWP's turnover of membership is vast with thousands of young people joining and leaving within a few years, leading to a lot of people ending up ''quitting politics'' at the end of it.

Mike Harman
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Nov 29 2007 11:06
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supporting the england team is nationalist except when they're playing against israel

OMFG!

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madashell
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Nov 29 2007 11:28
IrrationallyAngry wrote:
"Authoritarianism" is a contentless anarchist swearword.

lulz

Mike Harman
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Nov 29 2007 11:35

Ahh the old days.

arf
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Nov 29 2007 12:30

thanks, particularly to cantdocartwheels. madashell - thats all a bit weird isnt it.

this may be a really dumb question, but does the "workers" part of their name mean they only represent people who have 'proper jobs'? it feels exclusive to me. also, i was checking their newspaper site for keywords of stuff that im interested in/bothered by, like for example on "rape", and the only time since 2005 theyve mentioned that, that i could see, was when david cameron did. so it seemed like they were forced to talk about it briefly just because he had, rather than because it was something they were bothered about. i got a similar impression when i looked for articles on mental health and disability. so are they mainly just a party that responds to other parties policies rather than having much to say for themselves in the first place?

Mike Harman
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Nov 29 2007 12:36
arf wrote:

this may be a really dumb question, but does the "workers" part of their name mean they only represent people who have 'proper jobs'?

No they love students, and religious small businessmen.

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so are they mainly just a party that responds to other parties policies rather than having much to say for themselves in the first place?

Yes, but not just parties, anything they think they can get their mucky fingers into.

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Nov 29 2007 14:15
arf wrote:
It feels exclusive to me. also, i was checking their newspaper site for keywords of stuff that im interested in/bothered by, like for example on "rape", and the only time since 2005 theyve mentioned that, that i could see, was when david cameron did. so it seemed like they were forced to talk about it briefly just because he had, rather than because it was something they were bothered about. i got a similar impression when i looked for articles on mental health and disability.

um, so?

how does that lead to:

Quote:
so are they mainly just a party that responds to other parties policies rather than having much to say for themselves in the first place?

It is also untrue. The paper and the Party are not purely reactive at all, very proactive in their shitty ways. I mean they ran an electoral party that competed in elections (and even one a seat). That is hardly commentary from the sidelines.

Mike Harman
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Nov 29 2007 14:19
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The paper and the Party are not purely reactive at all, very proactive in their shitty ways. I mean they ran an electoral party that competed in elections (and even one a seat). That is hardly commentary from the sidelines

Not that I care, but wasn't that reactive to the Socialist Alliance etc.?

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Nov 29 2007 14:26

i meant RESTECPA

it's reactive in some ways, but it hardly has them pegged as commentators a la spiked online or some tiny trpt group.

arf
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Nov 29 2007 14:32
Tacks wrote:
um, so?

so, how am i supposed to work out whether they care about this stuff?

Mike Harman
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Nov 29 2007 14:44
Tacks wrote:
i meant RESTECPA

it's reactive in some ways, but it hardly has them pegged as commentators a la spiked online or some tiny trpt group.

So did I. Big activisty reactive groups are still reactive.

Mike Harman
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Nov 29 2007 14:45
arf wrote:
Tacks wrote:
um, so?

so, how am i supposed to work out whether they care about this stuff?

Ask them?

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Tacks
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Nov 29 2007 14:47
arf wrote:
Tacks wrote:
um, so?

so, how am i supposed to work out whether they care about this stuff?

well, if you searched this site i'm not sure you'd find much on rape or mental health in its articles. Do we conclude they do not care about such issues?

FWIW the SWP will have written and had a position on everything from playdough to Bart Simpson, so yes they care about rape and mental health.

perhaps look at their mag as well as paper.

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Nov 29 2007 14:49
Mike Harman wrote:
Tacks wrote:
i meant RESTECPA

it's reactive in some ways, but it hardly has them pegged as commentators a la spiked online or some tiny trpt group.

So did I. Big activisty reactive groups are still reactive.

Hmmph.

You win this day catch.

But this isn't over! Not by a long way!

wink

arf
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Nov 29 2007 14:51
Mike Harman wrote:
arf wrote:
Tacks wrote:
um, so?

so, how am i supposed to work out whether they care about this stuff?

Ask them?

mebbe i will. i asked you lot first cos its good to get outside opinions.

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Nov 29 2007 14:57

ask if you must but they'd be a shit vehicle for whatever you were interested in.

So it wouldn't matter.

IMHO.

knightrose
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Nov 29 2007 17:18

The problem with the SWP is their politics. They stand for the radical reform of capitalism into a form based on state control.

magnifico
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Nov 29 2007 18:23

our local swp certainly don't seem to be interested in mental health, we (we being every other socialist in town pretty much) do stalls, leafleting etc against cuts in it and they're not interested at all, i presume because they know they couldn't control our group.

on the other hand Karen Reissman who has been sacked for criticising cuts and privatisation of mental health services and whose colleagues are currently on indefinite strike in manchester in support of her is an swp member.

swp activists i've worked with in the past when i lived in warwickshire were great and did a lot of good stuff, cooperating with others etc.

so basically i'd say they have many good individuals/branches and many shit sectarian ones. overall as an organisation in terms of aims etc i'd agree with knightrose, but i wouldn't preclude working with them purely on that basis.

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madashell
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Nov 29 2007 18:38
magnifico wrote:
our local swp certainly don't seem to be interested in mental health, we (we being every other socialist in town pretty much) do stalls, leafleting etc against cuts in it and they're not interested at all, i presume because they know they couldn't control our group.

on the other hand Karen Reissman who has been sacked for criticising cuts and privatisation of mental health services and whose colleagues are currently on indefinite strike in manchester in support of her is an swp member.

swp activists i've worked with in the past when i lived in warwickshire were great and did a lot of good stuff, cooperating with others etc.

so basically i'd say they have many good individuals/branches and many shit sectarian ones. overall as an organisation in terms of aims etc i'd agree with knightrose, but i wouldn't preclude working with them purely on that basis.

I'd be pretty wary of working with the SWP at the level of a branch or the organisation as a whole, myself. The branches are pretty well controlled from the centre, so if the CC takes a line on something, they'll probably go with it, possibly to the detriment of something you're organising. Individuals within the SWP are another matter altogether, like you say.

rebelworker
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Nov 29 2007 19:51

Sad to say I was a member of the SWP affiliate here for a few years (this has everything to do with the absolute uselessness of anarchists at the time..)

There may be many good people in the org, but it dosnt matter, the direction and politics of the group are tightly controlled from the middle, with many members of the group not even knowing how things are decided, everything just falls from the sky (central comittee). Even the Candain groups leadership gets its direction from the British central com.

Its all about recruitment, their political stands are largely defined by which marginalised group could be recruited (muslim leaders, serbs ect...). Anything after that s just a slightly updated re hashing of Trotsky's crap, without a serrious class struggle bend that some other trot groups have...

All in all a good boot camp in organising, they hold regular meetings, produce regular publications, go to demos as a group, all the things that put them in touch with people, unfortunately they dont know what to do with them once they have them other than sell more newspapers...

I would be vary weary of working with them...

arf
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Nov 29 2007 20:58
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There may be many good people in the org, but it dosnt matter, the direction and politics of the group are tightly controlled from the middle, with many members of the group not even knowing how things are decided, everything just falls from the sky (central comittee).

thank you rebelworker, that closes the subject for me. thanks everyone for responding.

Dundee_United
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Nov 30 2007 12:54
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"Authoritarianism" is a contentless anarchist swearword.

While I'd be mostly inclined to agree with you I'm interested to know why you'd say that?

The SWP

To answer your question Arf, the SWP and their politics are the result of an ideological split within the fourth international. Tony Cliff and Max Schachtman disagreed with Trotsky over the nature of the Stalinist regimes. Cliff and Schachtman argued that they were not deformed workers states. Cliff argued that they were state capitalist, whereas Schachtman argued that they were bureaucratic collectivist in nature. Both dissidents from the fourth international owe a lot to each other in their analysis, but this is not generally held to be the case by the proponents of either of their theories.

Cliff went on to form the International Socialists, which starting from a membership of less than 100, quickly grew to be around 3000. They are probably still not radically far off this many today. As the name implies the International Socialist, whose British section is the SWP, is an international, with a presence in dozens of countries. Their main section however is in the UK, and in most countries they are seen as a British organisation.

The SWP is not a Trotskyst organisation, although it shares certain things in common, and its origins are in Trotskysm. It is 'Cliffite'. Cliff's argument that the Soviet and Stalinist bureaucracies were state capitalist, led the SWP to cheer on the collapse of the Soviet Union, and to support West more or less in the cold war. That is very distinctly not an orthodox Trotskyst opinion.

Cliff also disagreed with democratic centralism - stating that the SWP was "not a democratic centralist organisation, but a centralist one". This difference has meant that the SWP is pretty famous for being completely undemocratic in nature, with senior party cadres in effect carrying out their political maneouvrings in a vacuum, outside of control by the party membership. It often also leads the SWP to take hilarious stances on various local questions, because members in places outside of the gaze of the London based leadership are given orders from the all powerful London based central committee and expected to carry them out under pain of expulsion, with no recourse to debate about the appropriateness of any given action in the local context.

Because of this centralist nature the SWP does not make any great effort to develop the skills and knowledge base of the party membership. Because they rely on orders from the centre to decide their policies in local and national campaigns, and because they are substantively large enough to maintain a political economy of scale in practice they prefer to burn their membership out in campaigns, or through frustration at the lack of control members exercise on policy, rather than address this poor level of internal education, because the party is able to recruit rapidly through its series of front groups and campaigns. They push their members very hard and this means they can exercise influence beyond their size. The average stay in the party however is around 6 months. Those who stay longer from observation tend to be extreme loyalists who respond well to orders.

This centralisation though also means that the madder schemes of the central committee members become national and international policy without question.

The SWP's recent drive to recruit disenfranchised Muslims in the wake of the war on terror has seen the leadership of the SWP move away from any vestiges of Leninist ideology and adopt positions similar to Stalinist sects like the RCG. In a recent speech leading party member Lindsey German called on the party to "Drop the shibboleths of socialism," which apparently have prevented Muslims from joining the SWP. She was refering to the SWP's attempts to ensure that Respect took a monarchist [yes!] and various pro-Islam positions. This kind of ideological meltdown has seen leading SWP members convert to Islam [yes!] and has seen the party. It has seen the SWP politically embrace right-wing nationalist movements, and religious fanatics as allies. There has been a wave of recent expulsions among those who have questioned the expediency of this current course of the party in the light of falling membership numbers.

The SWP is definitely here to stay however. They are significant political actor but they are notably very very difficult to work with. Their central control and fetishised 'ruthlessness' leads them to be a very disruptive influence in campaigns or in political fronts, but you are bound to encounter them in one way or another. Their new members are probably new to politics, a bit wide eyed and gawpy, and their longer standing members are completely readable and largely very flat characters who will follow party orders without question.

Their trade union presence however is substantially less than it once was, and is concentrated largely in social work and academia. They play no active role in residents groups. Their political work is combined largely to campaigns.

It would be worth listing all the campaigns which are either controlled by them or in which they exercise influence. Off the top of my head...

"Fighting Unions"
Stop the War
Defend Council Housing
Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
Various Palestine solidarity campaigns
Globalise Resistance (dunno if you'll hear much about them anymore)

There will be more. Just brain drawn a blank.

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Devrim
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Nov 30 2007 13:08
Dundee_United wrote:
Cliff's argument that the Soviet and Stalinist bureaucracies were state capitalist, led the SWP to cheer on the collapse of the Soviet Union, and to support West more or less in the cold war.

I think that you are completely wrong on this one. I have heard that Schachtman's group did this. I don't know how true it is, but the UK SWP didn't.

Devrim

baboon
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Nov 30 2007 13:47

I think on all the major issues during the cold war the SWP generally supported the anti-American line, Vietnam for example. In some respects they represented an anti-US sentiment that existed and still exists within the British bourgeosie. Though on one occasion I remember in the late seventies in an East African war, the SWP changed sides as the Russian bloc changed its "support". I don't think they 'cheered on the collapse of the Soviet Union'. I think they were just as surprised by this collapse (89) as the rest of the bourgeosie

knightrose
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Nov 30 2007 14:53
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the rest of the bourgeosie

baboon makes the key point here. The SWP are not potential friends or allies. They are not an organisation we can possibly work with. They are a pro-capitalist organisation. We really need to sharpen up our arguments when dealing with them - simply complaining about authoritarianism or going on about Kronstadt misses the point.

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Steven.
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Nov 30 2007 14:58
knightrose wrote:
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the rest of the bourgeosie

baboon makes the key point here. The SWP are not potential friends or allies. They are not an organisation we can possibly work with. They are a pro-capitalist organisation. We really need to sharpen up our arguments when dealing with them - simply complaining about authoritarianism or going on about Kronstadt misses the point.

Yes - the main thing is how they act now. Which is a bureaucratic left wing of capitalism. For example, in big struggles they organise with slogans like "TUC - Call a general strike!" and make calls for unions to call official strikes when huge wildcat strikes are already ongoing. They call for power to be in the hands of bureaucrats, not workers themselves.

there was a good 90s pamplet i recently - Carry on Recruiting! (Why the SWP Dumped the 'Downturn' in a 'Dash for Growth') by Trotwatch - which chronicles this very well. would be good to get it scanned in here...