"Ian A" is apparently a leading member of the SWP's Unite trade union faction.
Statement on the removal of Ian A from Manchester SWP District Committee
On Tuesday 23 July a district meeting of SWP comrades in Manchester voted 30 - 17 with 2 abstentions in support of a slate removing Ian A from the District Committee.
The decision flies in the face of everything the Central Committee have said (which Amy Leather, one of two CC members present, underlined in her introduction to the meeting) about needing a united party to move forward and build the coming struggles.
The vote was taken in the absence of any real debate with no notice given that there would be a vote and with just two two-minute contributions allowed for each side. Some comrades had clearly organised to close down discussion. Many comrades were denied the opportunity to speak and, despite much protest, the Chair closed the meeting with 10 minutes to spare, going completely against our tradition of allowing important debates to run over time. Such behaviour besmirches our standing as a democratic centralist organisation. There is no precedent in over forty years of Manchester SWP district aggregates for such behaviour, behaviour which we have learned to expect from trade union bureaucrats but up till now has been unknown inside the SWP.
In what limited discussion there was, much was made of Ian’s involvement in the organisation of a “secret”, “permanent” faction.
We reject these descriptions. We, along with others in the district and nationally, have been involved in discussions with comrades who share concerns about where our organisation is heading. We will continue to meet and discuss, not permanently, but only until the problems at hand are resolved. We have not lied about this, and we will not apologise for this. As Ian says in his article Reflections of an Oppositionist1: “If you believed that the party was being seriously damaged by a group of comrades putting one man above the party’s political principles, would you keep quiet because of any set of rules? Would you really put the constitution above socialist principles? Would you want to be in a party of comrades that would?” It was also argued that Ian’s presence on the District Committee was disruptive, preventing it from working properly. This is simply the opposite of the truth. There are no examples of Ian disrupting the committee. On the contrary, his contributions have been consistently constructive.
The decision to remove Ian is a factional move by a group of comrades who are determined to drive out any opposition from the party. They do so in the hope that this will make the problems facing the party disappear. It will not. The problems facing the party – the loss of hundreds of members and the potential loss of hundreds more; the almost complete collapse of our student organisation; a massive loss of trust in the leadership of the party (from both within the party and without) – will not go away by cleansing the leading organs of the party of comrades who raise concerns. These problems will only be resolved by an honest admission of, and a concerted effort to fix, the mistakes that were made in the mishandling of allegations of rape and sexual harassment against a leading member, and a thorough accounting of why these mistakes were not corrected quickly and how this has led to the biggest crisis the SWP has ever faced.
Ian is a comrade who has devoted years of his life to building the SWP in Manchester, has served many years on our DC, and is a leading comrade nationally who has led four strikes in the last ten years at his private sector workplace. In removing Ian from the DC, comrades in Manchester have shown that they are willing to use the body as a factional tool to dampen down debate and criticism, rather than an instrument of class struggle.
This is a disgraceful degeneration of our politics. Our CC has made very much of their “interventionist” approach to leadership in recent months, and yet the CC members present had precisely nothing to say of the completely undemocratic mode of operating that we saw from some Manchester comrades.
We reaffirm our commitment to work with comrades to build the working class and revolutionary movement in Manchester and beyond. Sadly, some comrades in Manchester have shown that they hold their factional interests above those of the class. We write this statement in the hope that it will illuminate the damaging behaviour of some sections of the party and the terrible degeneration of the party’s politics and practice. We implore comrades to engage with the concerns held by many in the party, including ourselves, rather than use bureaucratic methods to try and shut down debate. This approach will not lead to a more united and healthy party. Quite the opposite.
Ian A Geoff B Chris E Rick L
(Geoff B and Rick L currently serve on Manchester’s DC. Chris E and Ian A were suspended from DC in an earlier vote, in their absence, without prior notification, based on a partial email trail of dubious origin that purported to show involvement in ‘factional’ activity. Chris E decided not to put his name forward for re-election.)
More to come no doubt!