Tuesday, 29 January 2013

From a "scratch to gangrene", the impending demise of the SWP

A sign of the seriousness with which the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party is finally taking towards the internal crisis that has exploded in their faces over the "comrade Delta" affair is illustrated in a lengthy feature article by Alex Callinicos that has been published on-line in advance of the publication of the SWP magazine Socialist Review.

Callinicos rises to the defence of "Leninism" (or at least the SWP's version of it) with a polemic against Independent columnist Owen Jones who has written at length about the demise of "the era of the SWP and its kind". The other target of his venom are the attacks on the SWP that have sprung up all over the left as a result of the "internal arguments" that are raging inside his "party".

The fact is that despite his protestations many on the left and the wider trade union movement, let alone critics within the SWP itself do now view the organisation with more suspicion than ever before. The fact that many members, particularly the student wing of the SWP now see their own organisation as "toxic" is unsurprising. His critics inside the SWP are demanding change, but seem unsure that the party is itself capable of change for the better.

The most disturbing piece of his of article revolves around what he calls "the dark side of the internet". Whilst describing the net as "liberating" he and the rest of the SWP leadership have been telling their members to stay away from it as a distraction from building the party, though more likely to try & keep his membership away from other ideas and open criticism of the SWP. Even more so in the current climate.

Callinicos alludes to the use of the "bourgeois courts" and argues that the "revolutionaries" (that is in this case the SWP) do not have the resources to use these and their "principles" prevent them from doing so anyway.  It is more likely that the SWP leadership would not use  law courts to stop criticism of the party because the whole episode would escalate even more out of control  than it is now.

Articles that have appeared in The Independent and the New Statesman have pointed out that the SWP "punches above its' weight" something I would phrase differently as having "undue influence", particularly in the trade unions. For example in my own union PCS the SWP have a couple of NEC members and hold one of the Vice President posts (Sue Bond). The General Secretary Mark Serwotka whilst not a member has appeared regularly at their rallies and meetings though is politically astute enough to realise that probably isn't wise at the moment.

In Unite, the SWP are backing Jerry Hicks against incumbent General Secretary Len McCluskey. Ironically Hicks was expelled from the SWP and will more than likely find their support problematic in the current climate. The SWP also take part in the Trade Union & Socialist Coalition which is mainly run  by the rival Socialist Party (ex-Militant) outfit. They've kept silent about the whole affair until now but like others may be forced by events to publically break with the SWP as this open letter shows:

The SWP is clearly in terminal decline and though won't disappear overnight the growing refusal of other "comrades" on the far left to work with it means the "brand" is doomed to failure. I for one will shed no tears over the demise of this dangerous little cult.

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