Sunday, 12 January 2014

Additions to the "57 Varieties"

After a brief Christmas respite, a number of former members of the Socialist Workers Party have re-entered the fray under new names and new banners.....

The first to be declared were the Portsmouth Socialist Network. Former SWP hack Gareth Edwards posted:

Yesterday a number of Portsmouth comrades who left the SWP over the past nine months met to discuss how we plan to organise in 2014. There were 10 people in the room while another 4 sent apologies. By unanimous vote we agreed to form the Portsmouth Socialist Network.

None of us have followed identical political trajectories over the past year. Some of us had left in March (a few joining the ISN), some had left over the course of the summer after participating in the Fault Lines blog, others stayed inside the SWP until December. Yet all of us remain revolutionaries. All of us remain committed to the idea of socialism from below. It is crystal clear that we need to be working together as a single group.

Constituting ourselves in this way enables us to invite people to something we put on, it means we can approach other groups and propose joint activity, it means we can go to picket lines and offer our collective solidarity. It doesn’t preclude people having membership of, for instance, the ISN or ACI, and it would allow us at some point in the future to affiliate to a new *national*organisation if we so wished.

We are all agreed that the formation of a new revolutionary organisation must be the central, strategic long-term goal. What that organisation should look like is another matter entirely. We will all, no doubt, have drawn a variety of organisational conclusions from our time within the SWP, and it would be surprising if we were to all agree on what a new organisation should look like. To which I say, “Good!” For too long we have been part of a party that treats the questioning of organisational form with a mixture of contempt and distrust. Let’s debate the options, experiment, learn from what works and what doesn’t.

But. At some stage *all* of the people who have left the SWP in the past twelve months (and, indeed, those who left earlier) need to sit in the same room and discuss in an honest and comradely way what we are going to do. There is something in the region of 700 people in search of a new political home. A political landscape that looks like an explosion of Scrabble tiles is unlikely to appeal to them or anyone else for that matter. The opportunity to forge something new is the one thing we can salvage from this miserable period but without a degree of unity and trust amongst those who have left we run the risk of many hundreds of activists drifting away from revolutionary socialism altogether.

No longer "Socialism in one country" but one port it would seem.

Not to be outdone a small group of SWP members in Kent, who took a small print shop with them have established their own group and published a newspaper called Solidarity, which would confuse the masses a wee bit if they came across the other Solidarity published by the long standing Alliance for Workers Liberty. 


The founding statement of Kent International Socialists contains "fighting talk":

A large number of members have resigned from the Socialist Workers Party in east Kent. We are leaving over the failure of the organisation's national leading bodies to handle the accusations of sexual predation against a former member and National Secretary in line with the party's politics on fighting women's oppression.

We are proud of our time in the party. Locally we have a history going back decades. We have been key activists in the fight against council house sell offs, closure of A&E departments and led many successful battles to drive the Nazi National Front and BNP from our streets. Further, we were at the centre of raising solidarity for the Kent Miners in their epic fight against Thatcher's Tories. We campaigned against the Poll Tax in the 1990's and the Bedroom Tax in 2013. Ten years ago we were among those that mobilised thousands of Kent people to march on the historic anti war demonstrations.

We are not leaving the field of battle, but will be fighting under a new banner.

We hope to launch, with others, a new organisation in east Kent that returns to the politics that once informed our old party. It will be based on the tradition of socialism from below, international solidarity and a liberating interpretation of Marxism that sees workers' revolution as the key to the emancipation of all mankind.

Socialism in one County?

Last, but by no means least is the biggest of the new organisations and boy have they chosen a long winded name. Welcome to Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century (RS21?). This group with some 130 members has taken over the name of the pre-existing website of the same name which you can find here:

Socialism in one sentence?

How long these groups will last is not clear. The first of the breakaway groups the International Socialist Network is already falling apart in internal squabbles.

Meanwhile readers may be interested in a forthcoming book, Against the grain: the British Far Left since 1956 by Evan Smith and Matthew Worley, due for publication in April May this year by Manchester University Press.

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