Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Socialist Party, censorship and….Howie's Corner?

A lot of interest is being shown in the new blog Marx returns from the grave, run by a dissident member of the Socialist Party. One of the reasons for this is simply it is quite unusual for anyone in the SP to be so public about their internal disagreements. In a recent post Bruce actually states he has now been banned from the Socialist Party  Face Book page, unusual in that it is a closed members only forum. He says:

It appears that my ban from the Socialist Party Facebook page has been made permanent on particularly spurious grounds including that this blog, and my contributions on the page, have not kept ‘’within limits’’ of comradely discussion. Just exactly what is meant by the term ‘’within limits’’ is not defined at all. Basically this is an excuse for outright censorship because chief censor Ben Robinson doesn’t like my blog or the fact that I have publicly criticised him directly. He certainly doesn’t like the fact that discussions on the page are actually winning people over to a Marxist position and Ben and other full timers haven’t got the ability to meet the arguments politically  so are resorting to bureaucratic measures to keep the ideas of Marxism from interested subscribers to the page. This will fail politically of course and just increase interest in my blog. I will be continuing a campaign for reinstatement. So I welcome messages in support of my reinstatement being sent to Ben Robinson and now onto something a bit more important than comrade Robinson.
 In a further development he complains about the "censorship" of a book written by an ex-member of the party:

I am still awaiting the publication on any public forum of the CWI of the book review I wrote on Mick Brooks’  generally excellent Capitalist Crisis: Theory and Practice which has received very good reviews practically  everywhere on the left.
This is on the banned book list of the CWI which the leadership don’t want anyone to read unless they are members  of the inner sanctum who are deemed qualified to issue judgement on Marxist literature. I gave a copy of my review to Philip Stott about a month ago but it hasn’t appeared anywhere.
In the CWI no views but those of  the orthodox  ‘’anything can be the cause of capitalist crisis’’ can publicly appear. Unlike the Bolshevik party, which the CWI pretends to model itself on, members are regarded to be so stupid by the leadership that they are unable to use their critical faculties to decide on the worthiness of a book or not?
Peter Taaffe has denounced the book as being full of ‘’blunders’’ which is pretty awesome from somebody who can’t tell the difference between the importance of the rate and the mass of profit but what else is new? 
I'm not convinced that lack of interest or perhaps just ignoring this work is quite the censorship that Bruce suggests, but given the context of the on-going dispute he is having with the party Grandees it certainly could be seen in that light by some.

The Socialist Party (like its less than legitimate rival, the Socialist Workers Party) pursues a line of politics based ostensibly on Leninism, though many commentators of late have referred to the Zinoviest origins of their political "norms". Zinoviev of course was a trusted disciple of Lenin in any case, as was Trotsky whose writings and  life they follow on an almost religious basis. Both these groups (and the other groupscules in the myopic world of Trotskyism) are inherently authoritarian and despite their constant calls for socialism are seemingly unable to co-operate on any kind of basis that could even be defined as "socialist".

This combined with their out of date and isolated view of the world (plus a very large sprinkling of arrogance) has led to their groups becoming more like cults than anything that resembles a modern political party. Their language, reliance on icons (in particular dead Russians and a couple of long deceased Germans) and the quotations from the "holy texts" of Marxism-Leninism is quite off-putting the majority of even the working class that they claim to be the (self-proclaimed) vanguard of. Nevertheless they find ways of exerting an influence out of all proportion to that which their tiny numbers would suggest.

Hiding behind "useful idiots"

The PCS union is an obvious place where the SP through an alliance of Lenin's "useful idiots" known as Left Unity allows them to control the largest civil service union. This brings me  neatly to the connection of censorship by the comrades and this blog.

Last year I received a phone call from John McInally, PCS Vice President and Socialist Party "fixer" who wanted me to desist with my criticisms of the union leadership on my e-mails which covered a variety of union related matters including exposing what I saw (and still see) as the misuse of PCS. In particular I raised (continuing) concerns about the connections of leading members of the union and the SP front organisations like the Trade Union & Socialist Coalition (TUSC), the National Shop Stewards Movement (NSSN) and the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign.

Under pressure from the Socialist Party, Mark Serwotka entered the fray with the first of three letters demanding I cease sending e-mails criticising the union that led to a widespread debate in PCS. I responded thus:

I do not believe that Francis Maude and his staff were ever readers of anything I have ever put out and I sent out material to reps and members to show my critics where the Government actually get their information from. That is the Trade Union Reform Campaign (run by a Tory MP) and Conservative Home (financed by Lord Ashcroft). There are a couple of other sources that Ministers probably use.

Now Mark Serwotka has written to me saying he has "received complaints" about my e-mails, demanding I cease sending e-mails as it risks PCS facility time and tries to scapegoat me as if I'm responsible for the problems PCS face.

I have written to him demanding to know who has made a complaint and their reasons for doing so but I don't trust him to provide all the evidence I require. I certainly do not respond to anonymous complaints. Even Management afford me more rights than Mr Serwotka. The only time they ever pulled me up over e-mails was to tell me not to promote the recent TUC demonstration (which I duly undertook), but I knew where the complaint had come from and who made it. No action was taken.

He is demanding a "written assurance" that I cease sending out what he calls my "objectionable views" (that is to say my disagreement with the way he runs the union) immediately.

I have two choices. To be silent or to stand up against what some would consider bullying.

Let's be clear. PCS has now reached its weakest point  in a decade of Mark Serwotka and the Socialist Party's misuse of PCS. Relations with the Government are at an all-time low due to their inability to negotiate. Serwotka and McInally actually seek confrontation for purely political purposes. They stood aside from negotiations over pensions, launched a campaign to turn PCS into more of a political party ending a key policy of political neutrality, led a campaign for an (illegal) General Strike and are now facing the consequences of their politically and partisan actions.

The unions facilities are being cut shortly. Mark Serwotka, John McInally and their followers have created the situation that has allowed this to happen. I will not be "scapegoated for their incompetence.

I received a lot of support from ordinary members of PCS of which this response from Alec in Balham was typical fare:

Keep up the good work. Everyone is entitled to freedom of expression. Didn't PCS threaten to take action at the time of the Olympics. I would have thought that is what prompted  the government to start looking at facility time.

This debate raged by e-mail for several weeks until with the threat of disciplinary action for expressing an opinion was a real danger, I agreed with Serwotka to get my own computer.

Censorship backfires

The irony is that not only is my e-mail list still going, its' got a lot larger and I set up my own blog, Howie's Corner which has allowed both myself and some of my co-thinkers in PCS to expand an audience for opposition to the far left. Additionally I am now able to cover a much wider range of issues and establish a whole new audience.

Whilst this blog isn't breaking any records, the readership is at a respectable level and has developed links with Harry's Place which has a similar outlook to me, LabourStart which runs excellent on-line campaigns in defence of trade unionists world wide and Trade Unions Linking Israel & Palestine which campaigns to bring trade unionists on both sides of the divide together for a genuine peaceful solution to the on-going conflict.

Censorship by the Socialist Party in PCS has backfired big time as it should. Free speech is essential and I will continue to campaign against the political extremists who threaten democracy whether they come from the far-left, far-right or religious fanatics.

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