This is a guest post by AB, PB, H, S and BJ
The Central Committee are in denial, willingly ignoring an exodus of 200-300 members, deluding themselves eternally with membership figures of 6000 whilst refusing to acknowledge a crisis tearing our party apart. Julie Sherry’s article in the Guardian blissfully pronounces the party’s excellence in handling the now infamous disputes case. In reality the opposite is true. The CC’s dogmatism in its success has led to a spiralling crisis of their own making, meaning the SWP is rapidly degenerating at a crucial moment in the reinvigoration of the fight back against austerity.
The advent of the Bedroom Tax has sparked widespread anger against the Tory government, demonstrations have spread the length of the country and the campaign continues to grow. The Bedroom Tax could potentially be the catalyst for a wider movement to topple Cameron. Alongside this, the occupation of Sussex University against privatization on campus lasted over a month and included a demonstration of over 1,000 students and workers. Our intervention in both campaigns is now marred; on a Bedroom Tax demo in Glasgow a member of the party was heckled with chants of “rape apologists” from demonstrators when speaking. These women were visibly seen to be pushed by members of SWP stewarding the demo. At Sussex the SWSS group, historically the biggest in the country, was the first to disband. This news was met with loud cheers from inside the occupation. The CC remains oblivious, pretending their actions have no repercussions in the class.
The CC is failing to offer any leadership to its members, leaving its loyal supporters pedalling the line of the downturn, battening down the hatches and defending the party at all costs - this line bears no relation to the upturn we see in the outside world. The Left is also realigning itself; Ken Loach’s call for Left Unity has seen thousands sign up to the appeal, The International Socialist Network has begun opening a wide scoping debate on the direction of the revolutionary left. Again, the CC will not present answers as to how we relate to this changing milieu of the left and a continued sectarianism to all but “our comrades” (including those responsible for building the organisation who have now left).
The farcical National Student Meeting offered another insight to the party’s lack of direction, offering no coherent strategy in how to move forward as an organisation and no way of operating at the National Union of Students conference which was to take place within a month. SWSS's record of operating in NUS had been something we prided ourselves in, particularly in 2012 winning the most number of block votes in both higher and further education, winning votes for a national demo and a national FE walkout.
This year was, sadly, very different. Our relationships on the National Executive Committee had become strained in the light of the revelations regarding comrade delta meaning the Labour (NOLS) lackies, who have for so long run the NUS, were more hostile than they had been the year before. As well as this our opposition around the no platforming of George Galloway was now being used against us. Our relationships with other left groups, namely National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and Student Broad Left, had also changed; while SBL were very much on side with the opposition and supported our candidate, (even for the sake of comradeship supporting the party’s apologist to an extent) some members of NCAFC chose to make it clear they disagreed with oppositionist members decisions to stay. As well as a lack of support within the mechanics itself, the membership of NUS voted fairly resoundingly against of delegation to conference to the extent that our delegation was a third of its size compared to 2012 and were all known oppositionists. Adding to this the CC’s decision to withdraw a comrade who may very well have won the position due to their opinion of - and position in - the faction fight made an almost indefensible position completely so.
It was to no surprise the NUS’s opinion of the loyalists and opposition was reflected in their share of votes; the loyalists received 0.02% of the vote, the oppositionists 26%. More remarkably was the way in which the NOLS used the crisis to attack the left. Overtly, they organised a walkout during the loyalist’s speech which resulted in around 200 people walking out. Covertly, they moved on a divided and weak left to push through one of the most right-wing executives and policies seen for years.
Comrades, we must be clear that when we are weak, the left is. We did not ‘punch above our weight’ because the CC said so, but because we were respected as activists and as principled individuals who would never surrender in argument. NUS conference showed that when we lack conviction in the line, we lose that.
Perhaps one of the saddest things to come out of the SWP’s self-immolation is the fate of Marxism. The jewel in the party’s previously bright crown is not condemned to be the SWP talking to the SWP in a slightly bigger room. Such a travesty must not be accepted. Marxism’s establishment as the left’s biggest festival has meant a sustained respect, even outside the Marxist left, for the SWP. With incidents like John McDonnell’s refusal to even acknowledge the party, instead opting to announce his withdrawal from the festival through Twitter, it shows the contempt with which the party is now treated with.
If we are to drag ourselves out of this crisis the decisive action must be taken now, waiting until January is not an option and if we continue to do so we will win only a shadow of our former organisation. Now is the time for people to openly dissent against the CC. They are destroying our organization. If you are not willing to take the fight now then it is time for us to leave as soon as possible, letting the party become the sect it will inevitably will be, if they carry on the current course.
Of course, if the position we outline here is incorrect and the leadership's actions are completely defensible to the class, pulling people towards our ideas, then it is the CC’s job to prove it. If comrade delta is an exonerated member of the party, then surely the comrade should be doing regular meetings and should certainly be down to do a meeting at Marxism (they are after all a talented orator). Yet the CC shies away from this, a blatant contradiction between their words and their actions, showing their critics that they are not confident in defending their actions
The SWP will continue deteriorating as long as the leadership’s arrogant ignorance persists.
Annoyed Badger, Proletarian Bagel, Howard, Steerpike and Bleeding Jug.