Saturday, 14 November 2009

Now to spend more time on politics...

I was expelled from the Socialist Workers Party today, following my disputes committee hearing in Newcastle this afternoon. I joined the SWP in October 1992, shortly after my 14th birthday, and have been a member without interruption since then.

I have been suspended from the SWP for the last few weeks. The basis of the expulsion is, incredibly, ‘factionalising’. The Central Committee’s case that I was guilty of ‘factional behaviour’ rested on two private emails between members.

My suspension, disputes committee hearing and now expulsion are, fundamentally, political affairs. They stemmed from a series of political and strategic differences that have opened up within the Socialist Workers Party since about a year ago.

Instead of addressing these differences through open and democratic discussion – in a tolerant and respectful atmosphere – the national and local leaderships of the SWP chose to turn them into a disciplinary matter. Rather than engage in principled and political debate they embarked on a course of personal vilification, principally but not exclusively focused on me.

Is this what democracy looks like?

At a series of internal SWP meetings in Tyneside, a small number of members adopted an extremely hostile attitude to me and conducted discussion in an unpleasant and personalised manner. When a number of us raised concerns with the National Secretary about this conduct he unequivocally backed the most dogmatic leadership supporters. He excused even the worst excesses of their behaviour.

The situation was made worse in September when the individual most responsible for the personal vilification, and suppression of debate, was appointed full-time district organiser. This was against the wishes of many local members (including some who, politically, support the leadership). He set out to crush any internal criticism. He also continued to re-orient the party away from political and practical engagement with others on the left and in the movements, towards an increasingly sectarian ‘Party first’ model.

The Central Committee refused to countenance even the mildest of criticism of the new organiser, and instead attacked those members who dared to speak out against the mounting authoritarianism. The CC’s insistence on persisting with my disputes committee – in the face of growing evidence demonstrating that I had done nothing wrong – was a clear sign of its position.

I was suspended on the same day - 13 October - that the Central Committee was notified of a formal temporary faction, Left Platform, which I had helped initiate. The suspension was timed to prevent me participating in pre-conference debates. It followed the suspensions of two other supporters of Left Platform four days earlier. We were all accused of ‘factionalising’, an absurd charge in the circumstances.

Political perspectives

As I noted above, the use of disciplinary proceedings (on the back of a sustained campaign of slander against me) has been motivated by differences over political perspectives and strategy. The CC failed to produce a single scrap of evidence showing misconduct on my part, exposing the politically motivated nature of the whole vilification campaign. Leading members, at national and local levels, have simply been unwilling to tolerate the criticisms levelled by some of us.

Tony, my closest comrade in Tyneside, and I articulated our views in a lengthy document last December. We wrote an article for a SWP internal bulletin in April, and I wrote a contribution to another bulletin in May (these were the two internal bulletins produced in the run up to the SWP’s Democracy Commission conference). A number of positions have remained consistent for us, placing us in opposition to the trajectory of the SWP leadership.

The perspectives document of Left Platform offers the best and most up to date explanation available. In summary, there are three crucial issues: the SWP’s response to the recession, the relationship between the SWP and Stop the War, and the question of how to build the SWP in an era of frenetic campaigning activity.

The economic crisis has not triggered a significant revival in class struggle. There have been green shoots of resistance, but no generalised fightback. It is vital that socialists relate to the industrial resistance – strikes, occupations etc – that does take place. SWP activists have done this with a degree of success, and will continue to do so.

But this obviously isn’t enough. The crisis has been not merely economic but political and ideological too. It is essential that socialists respond to the crisis in all its dimensions, operating in a political not syndicalist manner. Yet the SWP leadership has shifted away from what we call a ‘political upturn’ perspective, adopted in the aftermath of the Seattle demonstrations and then 9/11, and therefore weakened our capacity for generating a dynamic political response to the crisis.

The abandoning of the political upturn stance – which acknowledged that political radicalisation, evident in anti-capitalism and the anti-war movement, outstripped any industrial revival – has been accompanied by an abandonment of the united front method. The banal ‘turn to the class’ – a phrase justifying the downplaying of the movements and a lowering of the political level we function at – is thus accompanied by a ‘turn to the party’. This appeals to conservative elements inside the SWP, who believe the united front orientation ‘went too far’ and we now need to focus on ‘branch building’.

The united front depends upon revolutionaries being willing to work constructively with others, attempting to shape strategy and tactics in wider movements of resistance, and gaining a larger audience for revolutionary socialist ideas in this context. The failure to build any united front response to the crisis has resulted in two parallel phenomena: accommodation to more right-wing forces, and a lapse into ultra-Left sectarianism.

This was illustrated by the Brighton demo on 27 September, which was far too small: built as ‘Rage Against Labour’ (dictionary definition ultra-leftism) one minute, promoted as a moderate protest led by the union bureaucracies the next (accommodating to the right). What was missing was any united front operation worth the name, which would have enabled the SWP to initiate a far bigger mobilisation and laid the basis for a stronger Left in the longer term. As a result the Right to Work Campaign has remained a SWP front.

Stop the War is the best experience we have of utilising united front strategy successfully. Despite this – and regardless of the deepening crisis around Afghanistan – the SWP leadership has systematically downplayed Stop the War as a political priority. It has wrongly juxtaposed it to the economic crisis, suggesting it is somehow an either/or choice for mobilising, when we should be pursuing both vigorously and finding ways to connect them.

Stop the War is not only politically central, due to the integral place of the ‘war on terror’ in contemporary capitalism (and the crisis of the system), but on a purely pragmatic level it offers a large pool of highly political and radical activists. The movement is simultaneously broad and radical, its activist core being generally anti-imperialist. Its protests and meetings are still amongst the largest political events to take place in this country.

Finally, the issue of party building is shaped decisively by the factors already outlined. The currently dominant idea – that we need to re-focus on ‘branch building’ after a period of emphasising united front work – is a misguided view shaped by broader political perspectives. It is influenced by a combination of two ideas: we should respond to the economic crisis as the SWP, without also initiating broader formations, and it’s time to retreat from routine participation in Stop the War.

This approach is evidently not working, judging by recruitment figures, branch meeting attendances, etc. Instead we ought to be re-committing to the united front method and applying it to the crisis as well as the war. In this context we can build the SWP.

That means adapting some of the ways in which we do things, being more creative and flexible. We have to transform how we use online tools, develop more imaginative formats for public meetings, and focus far more on organising interventions in campaigns during our branch meetings.

It also means a concerted push for recruitment – not as an increasingly isolated party, juxtaposing itself to the movements, but as an interventionist organisation comprised of the best activists. The crisis of capitalism, the ’long war’ and the growth of the BNP demand a response from the Left better than that which we have seen so far.


  1. I think the left needs to build a slightly less control freaky political culture if it is too advance, the Greens and Respect seem to be making some gentle progess towards left unity.

    Its a shame that the SWP cannot accomodate a little more difference amongst its members.

    I am still not convinced that currents exist in the SWP who are willing to learn from Latin America where social movements have led to the creation of a contradictory but increasingly strong socialist movement (s).

    Any way I am sorry to hear your news!

  2. Congratulations on getting thrown out, now it's time to go, have a shower, and come back to the real world.

    (Although I am signed up to the North East Newsletter, I want to go to Copenhagen so I could always just get incredibly high to damage my brain cells and become a SWP member for the duration)

  3. Sorry to hear this comrade.

    Solidarity from Soas.

  4. It is a bad new. I have posted in my blog (
    Solidarity from Spain.

  5. For what it's worth Alex (not much right now I'm sure), I'm sorry it's worked out this way. I've been very much on the periphery over this and didn't feel it was something I was involved enough in to weigh in on, and I certainly don't intend to start now; but I for one am sorry to lose you. I'll still be reading the blog, I'm sure.

  6. It is absolutely no wonder that nobody trusts the SWP any more. The sad death of Chris Harman will only make things worse, I expect. The SWP seems to have created an entire generation of activists who are very good at organising, shouting and browbeating, but appear to have very little political understanding.

  7. Reading this at first I thought you were in Cambridge because almost the same thing is happening there.

    It's sad to see that things are only getting worse. Here's one I made earlier:

  8. Shame you've chosen not to put the real reason why you were expelled, but this post confirms how utterly dishonest and untrustworthy you are

  9. "Shame you've chosen not to put the real reason why you were expelled, but this post confirms how utterly dishonest and untrustworthy you are"


  10. ...Not sure I'd trust someone called Watermelon.

    No, I am sure. I don't trust you

  11. 'Keith Watermelon':

    I have been suspended from the SWP for the last few weeks. The basis of the expulsion is, incredibly, ‘factionalising’. The Central Committee’s case that I was guilty of ‘factional behaviour’ rested on two private emails between members.

    Seems pretty clear, no? (Do you think baseless personal abuse helps debate? Can I call you a petty-minded wanker, then?)

  12. Madam Miaow - This is scarily similar to what happened and is still happening in Cambridge. The branch is totally divided and there is a clique of leadership loyalists who people find difficult to work with.(incidentally they were hardcore Reesites until Smith took over).
    They operate in a bureaucratic manner, carrying out the tasks of their bosses without question. No time for political debate. In fact there was a recent expulsion of a comrade for entirely spurious reasons. There is nothing in the way of politcal education, just recruit, petition and paper sale. Many of the more experienced members left in disgust.

    Watermelon - utterly dishonest and untrustworthy is exactly how the SWP are seen by the rest of the left (and non-left come to think of it). That is why they are in the sad state they are in now. Pathetic!

  13. well what is the real reason then keith

  14. Luna,
    It's horrible when people are expelled. I was pushed out of the party at the start of the decade, although I came back after 5 years, and have been enjoying politics in my district since.

    I don't agree with the Left Fraction, but if there's a vote at conference I will vote against any disciplinary measures taken against any of its members.

    I'm sorry to ask this but does the new organiser's surname begin with a B?

  15. Harrods:

    I always think it's best to hear the whole story before deciding on how you will vote.

    Do you not think that's what a jury should do?

  16. The new organiser's name does begin with a B. It's not surprising that you can guess who it is. It seems this person's reputation of bullying and intimidation has spread pretty far.

  17. I am sorry that you have been expelled, too many of my friends have been through the same experience, and it hurts to discover that the party that one has devoted so much time energy and commitment to turns out to the undemocratic autocratic monolith that critics always argued it was, and you spent so much time trying to refute.

  18. Keith Watermelon's been telling lies about Peter Tatchell for the last week or so, so Alex, you can expect more of the same.

    Your one-time best buddies and comrades will drag up any old nonsense and falsehoods to use them against you, you'd better prepare yourself.

  19. Hi Alex

    This sounds just awful. If you need any help with a “SWP Witch hunt defend the Three Campaign”. Then I’m your man...

  20. Since poor Keith Watermelon seems so confused, I will clarify. The chair of the SWP disputes committee told me after my hearing that I was expelled for "factionalising". This, constitutionally, is an offence deserving expulsion, but there's little agreement on what constitutes 'factional behaviour'.

    There is of course now a faction, which is allowed for the three months in the run up to January's annual conference. I've no idea how you are supposed to announce a pre-conference faction without some communication between members prior to the pre-conference period.

    But there we go. That's enough to get me expelled. And all on the basis of two flimsy emails, the origin of which the National Secretary refused to disclose. Central Committee supporter Jane Loftus, meanwhile, has still not been expelled 10 days after voting to support the compromise deal in the CWU. You'd almost think my expulsion was politically and factionally motivated.

  21. The same leadership in left platform that are now objecting to the current swp cc arguments are the same who expelled Kevin Ovenden Nick Wrack and Rob Hoveman before the party conference .Short memories - ! The ex members of the cc know very well that if they were still on the cc they would be doing the same- dodgy grounds really to be arguing on such flimsy politics. This is a bloc and not a faction. Yep agree with that but worse than that it seems to be increasingly about power and control all the aspects that made generations despise revolutionary politics. But the membership know and will fight for what real alteratives despite the leaders.

  22. A conundrum...

    How can a faction be formed without "factionalising"?

    And since it is impossible to form a faction without "factionalising", shouldn't all those who have formed the faction also be charged with "factionalising" and be likewise expelled???

  23. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  24. Any democracy commission worth its salt would have immediately recommended the local election (and recalling) of full-timers. The idea that they are appointed from top down (given we are not as the Bolsheviks were working in illegality) is appalling.

    But the problems go deeper. I was expelled as Secretary of the Left Faction in the wave of purges in the 1970s IS/SWP, expulsions that involved hundreds of members. Party hacks back then carried round copies of Cannon's Struggle for a Proletarian Party. The model of internal regime adopted by the Cliff/Harman leadership (discussion restricted to the leadership, banning of tendencies, restrictions on faction rights) owed a lot to Cannon's interpretation of Democratic Centralism, filtered as it was through Zinoviev. And it was given its own bureaucratic twist.

    It is a model of party building adopted across the left groups (including my own when I was in Workers Power) that has failed and is out of touch with the aspirations of genuine socialists and young people today; thus the shrinking and discrediting of the left. We have to think again and have a deep going discussion of party building in the 21st century. Otherwise we will just replicate yet more left sects built around no doubt talented but bureaucratic leaders.

    Stuart, Permanent Revolution

  25. This shows a total lack of grasping the politics within the district alex, how very sad. Firstly our new organiser take criticism from me regularly, and in fact our mutual respect has grown as a result. You on the other hand have actively refused from entering into politcal discussions with party members in the district including me instead choosing to write your feelings on here. I would hardly imagine you are too intimadated to talk to little ol me, so what s the deal huh? Secondly the c.c acted mostly on the districts criticism of you, of which the over whelming majority find you destructive in your actions and eronious in your arguements, which again I say you only seem to have on here or through selectively giving out faction documents.

    You also failed to mention aligning yourself with people who harrass and cause distress to many comrades and potential comrades. Which I am sure was politically motivated by you and others in the faction, which has been part of your downfall and rightly so.

    Also lastly in regards to your so called analysis of what tactics are working in the district, if you had actually side lined your own self importance for a moment and actually bothered to attend branch meeting you would see that the district has trippled in size and branch meetings in the last 4 months now top over twenty each week and paper sales are extremely successful.

    your attempts to undermine the party are useless, the party is coming into a new phase and will be better for it. I feel no remorse that 'comrades' such as yourself will not be involved in that process.

    good luck

  26. In response to Anon above: I'm in the unique position of having worked closely with both Alex's persecutors and, more recently, Alex himself. This enables me to form a truly objective opinion on Alex, the district leadership and the whole affair being discussed here.

    The Tyneside district is dominated by one central figure who is very close to the national leadership. Around him he has several longstanding comrades who rarely disagree with him even on minor issues, nevermind fundamentally.

    Beyond that conservative periphery there are other members who, much like me not that long ago, do not analyze the mechanics of the party. They prefer to take orders from those at the top assuming the elite knows what its doing.

    If a lie is repeated often enough it tends to be believed. And boy did I hear some whoppers while involved with Tyneside SWP! Though, of course, they were not perceived as falsehoods by me back then. For a long time I accepted Alex must be the devil incarnate, despite never hearing his version of the story.

    I was part of the outer periphery in the Newcastle branch and inclined to believe the words of the inner core. I never doubted them for a second. They must be correct, I would tell myself, because they were the inner core.

    But their bahaviour became increasingly bizarre. The district organiser was a law unto himself and no-one seemed to mind. He was out of control and everyone close to him turned a blind eye.

    This sparked curiosity in me and I decided I would see for myself what all the fuss was about. I decided I would hear, for the first time, the words of Satan himself. Yes, I met with Alex Snowdon.

    I have to tell you, I went equipped with crucifix and garlic and a big steak I'd carved from a table leg. I expected this demon to want my liver on his toast and my skin for a winter garment!

    Not so. The truth turned out to be the precise opposite of the propaganda I'd been subjected to. Alex Snowdon was the missing sanity of a branch gone utterly mental.

    Alex has restored my faith in socialism. He is not the devil at all. He is an angel compared to his tormentors. It is they who would be at home in hell!

    Angry Anonymous.

  27. I was involved with Tyneside SWP from about 2000/2001-2005, when I moved away for uni. I ended up leaving the party in 2008, for a variety of reasons. It's sad to see good comrades like you getting purged, but at the same time I think we need to move beyond failed dead-end sects like the SWP and start building a new working-class revolutionary movement, one without the pathological fear of debate and dissent that the SWP seems to have inherited from Stalinism, and I suppose that the more the SWP drives its best people away, the easier that task will become.

  28. Anonymous asked me:
    "I always think it's best to hear the whole story before deciding on how you will vote.
    Do you not think that's what a jury should do?"

    It depends what the accusation is. If I was a juror, there are some crimes where I would always vote that a person was innocent, no matter what the facts were - eg a charge of treason. Once you think about what the offence is and what the punishment is then in all circumstances a socialist should have nothing to do with it (even where the accusation is of a treason against a left-wing state)...

    I am not the only SWP member who thinks that a method dealing with internal critics by compulsion is stupid and counter-productive. Oddly enough I think the chair of our disputes committee would say exactly the same.

    As for comrade B; he is someone I like and admire, and I have gone to some lengths, to assist him with a matter in the past. Having said that, it should have been obvious to anyone that appointing him as organiser was like watching a car crash waiting to happen.

    Don't give up hope Luna, I'm not the only comrades who disagrees with the Left Fraction but wants you back in the party.

  29. 'It should have been obvious to anyone that appointing him as organiser was like watching a car crash waiting to happen'.

    Indeed. The awful thing is that various local members felt this too, but were completely ignored by the leadership. Concerns were raised before and after his appointment, including by people who categorically don't support the faction. All such concerns were dismissed outright. The only explanation is that the National Secretary was determined to smash any internal opposition, even if it tore a district apart.

  30. The Sunderland branch complained about the conduct of the district organiser directly to a member of the CC who was sent up to meet us.

    We listed sixteen points (agreed in group discussion beforehand) to said CC member.

    The CC member pretended to take down notes. He was in fact doodling on his notepad.

    He did not listen to a word we said. And after our long complaint he went ahead and justified every manic antic and bizarre occurence that involved the district organiser.

    It was then we realised that the district organiser was entirely unaccountable to anyone other than the CC, and the CC were not interested in bringing this person to account.

    We lost all faith in the party after that meeting and inevitably things went from bad to worse.

  31. Hi Alex

    I'm very sorry to hear about your expulsion.

    I'd like to strongly recommend a couple of articles by the Socialist Alternative group in Australia:

    The Respect fiasco in Britain


    Socialist Alternative and the ISO – Perspectives for Socialists

    I hope you find these useful and that they give you a broader insight into the problems in the SWP and IS Tendency in recent years.

    I'm happy to discuss these political questions privately if you'd like to email me off-site.

    Kind regards,

  32. "You also failed to mention aligning yourself with people who harrass and cause distress to many comrades and potential comrades..."

    Hahaha! Is this supposed to be irony on behalf of the organiser...?

  33. "...the district has trippled in size..."

    Shurely shome mishtake!

    Can we have some numbers please?

    Oh, hang on, Party Notes reported new recruits last month as... ONE!

    So, if the district has tripled in size by the addition of one member...

  34. Does that mean the members of the Newcastle branch of the SWP are only 0.333333 recurring human beings?

    Actually, that would explain a lot!

  35. "I am not the only SWP member who thinks that a method dealing with internal critics by compulsion is stupid and counter-productive."

    Amen to that.

  36. I personally do not trust the SWP. Just look at any left wing party that has split... the SWP are lurking somewhere in the background. I am very suspicious about the entire organisation. Good luck to them (if they can get the votes it would be good for democracy), I personally do not trust them. Their leadership cannot work with anyone, and I would not be suprised if this group is a front for a far more sinister cause.

  37. Hi Alex,

    Sorry to hear about your explution. I left the party during the Respect split because I didn't think I could honestly support the 'Witch hunt' stuff but I still believe the SWP does some good things and its sad when the machinations of undemocratic structure get in the way of that.

    I find myself in a funny position though as though I support your perspective about the SWP moving away from engagement in general left-polical unity (what you might call 'united fronts of special kind' or perhaps preferably 'left parties') - I think that it is an odd twist of fate that the people you are allied want both to push out put at the same time have tighter internal control! The kind of control you are now suffering at the hands of is the exactly the kind that Rees has argued for.

    I suppose one way to make sense of it is that the 'back to the party (plus unity in single issue campaigns that don't threaten the identity of the party as the [general agent for socialism])' are freer to 'bend the stick' (or at least look as if they are bending it) towards less strict structure because they aren't about to get involved in anything that threatens identity of party as THE one true agent for socialism. Those of you who see that we do need a broad political left grouping but still think (in line with your opponents) that the priority of the party is key are always going to have to argue for stricter structures because you want to swim in a bigger sea but are scared of fully embracing a broader radical ideal.

    The solution (I humbly suggest) is to abandon the idea that we need a sealed separate Marxist party and accept that we can organise more loosely as Marxists within a broader org' - keeping a some distinct identity but letting the broader org be the main tool for pushing for socialism (in practical terms: using the broad parties agitational propaganda over the Marxist currents when trying to reach the class etc.)

    Again I am saddened for you. I hope you don't feel my interpretation misrepresents your factions views to badly. peace.

  38. I agree somewhat with Joseph. I think we do indeed need to look at how we as Marxists connect with the wider movements and the class as a whole. Clearly the strategy of the SWP at this moment in time is not adequate and cannot be the way forward.

    I would be in favour of the creation of an organisation with Marxists at its core, but which was more in tune with current conditions and the variation of consciousness that exists in the working class.

    The SWP, of which I was a member until very recently, has lost its way. It is inward looking and unstable. The leadership is controlling and unaccountable and is lashing out at anyone who voices an oppositional opinion.

    I would not join the current model of the Socialist Workers Party even if they'd have me (which they won't). It has become a terrible caricature of the party it once was.

    The future, in my view, is not the SWP.

  39. I actually feel sorry for the local SWP having this individual imposed as their organiser, I don't know what the CC could be thinking, he must be the worst person when it comes to building united fronts and coalitions with potential allies... But maybe that fits the new turn inwards.

    In response to the last few comments. I think there does need to be effort put into building a broad and fighting working class movement, anchored in the workplaces and communities, ne capable of a multiplicity of tactics and strategies and one that is based on "what works" above and beyond fetishising old forms of organisation. However there will be a need for those who believe in revolutionary socialism to organise with each other to promote shared strategy and tactics and to counter the influence of elements within any broad movement that will seek to steer it in a dead end or implicitly reactionary direction.

  40. "A conundrum...

    How can a faction be formed without "factionalising"?"

    Because they are not at all the same thing. The right to form factions exists to allow full discussion of political differences inside an organisation the better to arrive at a correct perspective for the entire organisation. This is so whether permenant or temporary factions are the chosen vehicle of choice in a given organisation. Factionalising refers not to the virtues of the excercise of this right but the vices. These include attempts to wreak, split, and otherwise disrupt the internal life of an organisation. In my view such behaviours should not be tolerated in any circumstances or at any time. Having seen the disputed email in the course of our NC report back I have no doubt that the latter was involved. Such behaviour shows an utter contempt for democratic norms and accountability within an organisation and towards the entire membership. Quite what inspires such hubris is a mystery to me.

  41. Firstly, I'm astonished to learn the disputed emails were shared in not only National Committee on Sunday but in a local report back meeting. They were almost certainly obtained illegally, i.e. through hacking a member's email account, so this is playing with fire. They were not leaked - all the recipients of one message signed a statement confirming they had not leaked it.

    It also represents a plunge in the party's ethical standards. Is it really considered acceptable for the leadership to be accessing comrades' private emails, then using them as the basis for disciplinary procedures?

    Secondly, it is disgraceful that such sensitive evidence is being shared liberally amongst members. This is especially provocative because two other party members face disciplinary hearings this weekend, on the same charge and with the same evidence. Sharing the evidence around - just days ahead of their hearings - is liable to prejudice proceedings, to put it mildly (it also represents a gross invasion of privacy).

    Finally, there's a bizarre distinction being made by johng when he suggests 'factionalising' is different to forming a faction. There is zero evidence for the claim that anyone was wrecking, splitting or disrupting the SWP. It is depressing to consider that members having a different perspective to the leadership is regarded in this way.

  42. And it somehow does not surprise me that a faction which contains members who genuinely could see nothing wrong with the OFFU check business beyond the unfortunate circumstance of being found out (I can remember being utterly gobsmacked after an exchange with one erstwhile member of your faction who just couldn't get it), amongst other things, would find the ethical distinction between factions and factionalising 'bizarre'. I genuinely feel sorry that a number of activists of your quality have been so utterly disoriented politically that they can have so badly lost their way. For what its worth I don't see this as entirely your responsibility.

  43. To debate this issue without once directly raising the virus which is democratic centralism show how out of touch with reality all those who have posted above have become. Is it any wonder you meet in a phone box and only recruit one member a month.

    What free spirt or revolutionary would join a party that demands its members ask permission from the tops to form a faction; and if comrades refuse to adhere to this demand, expects the membership to tout on them.

    How sad and pathetic is that?

  44. those who believe in social and collective solutions rather then individual and private ones, a pre-condition of ordinary working class people governing themselves through their own institutions.

  45. I also think that telling lies about the Party turning away from United Front work when we are desperately trying to rebuild them is pretty unhelpful really. Its like someone stealing your clothes and then trying to get you charged for public indecency. Watery Keithermelon above displays the kind of debating tactics above, which our allies no doubt found so impressive.

    Can anyone explain to me why Linda Smith, someone who carried our water for eight years, hates us so much now? Its the comrades in the left platform who invent objective reasons for their subjective failures not the other way about. I am more and more reminded of the RCP though.

  46. johng - suggest you go *very* easy on the moralism about 'factionalism'. glass houses, stones, all that.

  47. Can johng please explain why, if the party is so concerned with building united fronts, the current Tyneside district organiser attempted to block the initiation of a Sunderland Stop the War group?

    Also, johng may want to elucidate on why, when two leading Sunderland SWP members attended a Tyneside Stop the War steering group meeting, the same district organiser rang them up and threatened them with the line, "I will go to the end degree with anyone who plays games."

    Aw, what a spoil sport - I do like the odd round of tiddlywinks!

  48. Possibly because he thinks that your trying to set up a parrallel organisation. Given that a campaign of villification against the district organiser seems par for the course, as well as villification of the party for retreating from united front work, I don't find this very surprising. But I don't know the in's and out's of whats going on in the north east so I can't really 'explain' a bunch of facts when I don't even know if they are true. As to 'moralism' about factionalism, I have no idea what is meant by this. Given the loyalty of comrades for more then two years of defending the mistakes of those at the core of the Left Faction I think all this is an blinkin' cheek really. And I'll think you'll find this is how most comrades see it.

  49. Johng has a very blinkered (by his own admission) and idealistic perception of the Tyneside district organiser. I'd be interested to know his opinion on the fact that Sunderland comrades, in a private meeting with a member of the CC, reeled off a list of sixteen complaints about said organiser only to have to listen to sixteen bizarre justifications from said CC member.

    And in response to his ridiculous claim that Sunderland comrades were involved in the setting up of a "parallel organisation" I have only one word - tiddlywinks!

  50. er no I never admitted to having a blinkered view of anything at all. I said I didn't know much about the north east district. I didn't say anything at all about the district organiser. I do think that this stream of innuendo and vilification is a disgrace though, and find no particular reason to believe any of it.

  51. Seeing is believing, John.

  52. Alex, everything is out in the open now and you have been shown to be dishonest about factionalising outside agreed time limits. I now understand why you have been expelled. I doubt that any comrade will now sympathise with your claim that you have been treated unfairly.

  53. Ray, you are presumably referring to yesterday's publication of the hacked emails as part of the third and final SWP pre-conference bulletin. Can you answer these 3 questions?

    1. Are you happy for the national leadership to access members' personal email accounts through hacking?
    2. Do you consider it acceptable for such illegal evidence to be used as the basis for expelling members?
    3. Do you regard it as OK for people's right to privacy to be trashed when those emails are circulated widely?

  54. There is not the slightest evidence of 'hacking' here, if you have any idea at all what the term means. My understanding is that a LP supporter gave her passwords to other people. If you do that, you simply can't complain of hacking. No hack was used - you simply gave your passwords away and the account was accessed with permission (permission being granted through the giving away of the passwords.)

  55. Suppose your ex-housemate still had a key and used that to enter your house and steal some of your stuff. Would that be OK? Of course it wouldn't. You would regard it as a disgusting abuse of trust and a betrayal.

    Attempting to justify the entering of a comrade's email account - then printing off emails and passing them on to the National Secretary - with such convoluted and silly excuses indicates an appalling plunge in ethical standards.

    It is even worse because these emails were then used to expel two of us, and were then published in an internal bulletin emailed to all members. Can this be interpreted as anything other than a gross invasion of privacy? Especially as it includes people's personal email addresses and has now been leaked on the internet.

  56. PART #1: In answer to your question: if I were plotting against my housemate and had the details of the plot lying on the breakfast table, I would change the key to the door. Similarly, if you are factionalising you should have the wits to use some level of security. If instead you give your passwords to others you are actually giving them permission to access your accounts - why else would you give them the passwords if that were not the case?

    My point, which you chose to ignore, is that it is neither 'hacking' nor is it illegal to access an account to which you have been given the password, therefore your claim throughout this episode that other members of the SWP indulged in 'illegal hacking' is simply a slander upon them.

    Now, it may be the case that some 'abuse of trust' took place, but to say that this amounts to 'an appalling plunge in ethical standards' comes across to the rest of the world as histrionic and hypocritical when coming from a supporter of John Rees, who saw no problem whatsoever in taking the OFFU cheque and lying to the world about it (until, that is, he was cornered like a rat - at which point he 'apologised' in the expectation that this would mean the matter would simply be forgotten about: it will not, and I think the vast majority of people will recognise where the real 'plunge in ethical standards' has taken place.)

  57. PART #2: Alex, if you want to play at being a hardened bolshevik faction leader ('delay, delay, delay!') you are going to have to do better than making inflated claims of victimhood, slandering your former comrades, and making debating society objections such as that any member has the right to launch a cultural-political initiative. On the latter point, it was made very clear to me when Lindsey German expelled me some time ago that the members of the SWP do *not* have the right to launch such initiatives unless they have the full backing of the CC (in which case, of course, the initiative could hardly be said to be independent - but that paradox is for Lindsey German to explain, not me.)

    Similarly, all the whining about party democracy comes across as completely dishonest coming from people who opposed the call for greater democracy in the SWP.

    Myself, I think that SWP members should have the right to launch cultural initiatives, and that opposition within the SWP should be given greater rights and more room to maneuver. However, I have earned the right to such a position by arguing for it consistently. Your faction, on the other hand, uses such arguments merely episodically, in the interests of your own faction, and has no interest in extending such democracy any further than your own leadership - as they have shown time and again over a period of more than a decade. In the case of the Left Platform leadership, it seems, it is a case of 'one rule for you, another rule for us'. That is why no one with any real experience of SWP and wider revolutionary politics will touch your faction with a bargepole.

    To any SWP members who might be tempted to support you out of sympathy for your 'rough treatment' I would point out that people received far worse treatment at the hands of your faction leadership over the years. In bourgeois ethics, of course, they say that 'two wrongs don't make a right', and so you should be treated with kid gloves even though your faction has never extended the same consideration to others. On the other hand, they also say 'fool me once, shame on you. fool me twice, shame on me' and, in that spirit, I think most SWP members can see precisely how disingenuous and dishonest the whole Left Platform argument is: John Rees et al have lied to the party in the past, they have no interest in party democracy, and, in power or in opposition, they approve of independent initiatives only when they serve their own cause (ie. characteristically, they approve on independence only inasmuch as it is dependent upon them).

    Why on earth do you think that anyone with an ounce of sense, or a modicum of knowledge about the history of the SWP and your faction leader's role in it, could possibly support you?

  58. Erm, I can't help thinking it's someone who dubs themselves 'The Grand Erector' who is playing at being a 'hardened bolshevik faction leader'.

    More seriously, it is disturbing to witness such apolitical and personalised conduct of the discussion. Vilifying John Rees for alleged past misdemeanours is a poor substitute for political engagement. It is also guilt by association, which seems to be all the rage inside the SWP at present but is really a very poor approach to debate.

    I think a lot of SWP members don't realise how appallingly bad this looks to non-members, who probably won't want to join a party where your private emails might be published in a document circulated to the entire party membership - yeah, I know, that's just me and my old-fashioned bourgeois ethics.

  59. 'The Grand Erector'=andy wilson presumably. he tried to set up a magazine 15 years ago that lindsey german didn't like and he's never gotten over it. boo hoo hoo.

    i doubt clare gave permission to open her email inbox. you need a login just to access the world-wide web on most uni accounts. if you then open someone's emails its like opening their post when your in their house. and then photocopying what you find and posting it to everyone you kno.