Sunday, 15 November 2009

Rightward pressures and unaccountability

Jane Loftus, Socialist Workers Party member, is on the national executive of the Communication Workers Union (CWU). An executive meeting on Thursday 5 November agreed unanimously - yes, unanimously - to call off the planned national postal workers' strikes. Jane Loftus voted for the deal, therefore defying the Socialist Workers Party line as well as selling CWU members short by effectively caving in to Royal Mail.

As yet there has been no comment - even in internal Party communications - by the SWP leadership. I knew about this breaking of party discipline on Friday 6, i.e. the day after it happened, but have remained silent as a matter of SWP loyalty. I even restrained from referring to the issue during my disciplinary hearing yesterday, even though the double standards are glaring. Loftus is from the conservative wing of the SWP - cosying up to the union bureaucracy - and I, by contrast, am a supporter of the party's Left Platform which the leadership is determined to defeat.

As I was expelled yesterday, it is now possible to speak out. On Friday 6 November I referred to the Loftus capitulation obliquely on this blog, by posting a piece about the dangers of even the most left-wing union militants being pulled to the right by the pressures of the union bureaucracy. She is part of a layer inside the SWP who champion an increasingly apolitcal and syndicalist 'turn to the class' position.

This re-orientation involves a shift away from serious involvement in anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist currents, which were so central to the SWP for a number of years. Interestingly, the SWP's second pre-conference bulletin (circulated this weekend) includes analysis from the Central Committee that seems to confirm it is now on board with this new perspective.

It's always vital for socialists to relate to the class struggle in all its forms, and the unions (however weakened) remain highly important. But the new orientation exaggerates the supposed industrial revival while downplaying the importance of building social movements, including Stop the War. It fails, also, to successfully make the connections between them.

Crucially, the lack of any attempt to initiate a significant broad-based response to the economic crisis has left the SWP floundering. The party is, as a consequence, having to merely intervene in struggles as the SWP (selling papers, etc) or through hastily convened front operations. At the same time it is highly vulnerable to pressures from the right, as it has no real counterweight. Hence the Loftus vote and the SWP leadership's apparent compliance.

The alternative is to reach out and genuinely strive to work with a wide range of people - inside the unions, yes, but crucially also beyond - in long-term, consistent united fronts that confront the problems of capitalist crisis. This means operating in a fundamentally politcal way, not just focusing on the overtly economic aspects of the crisis, and in so doing create the conditions for left wing renewal.


  1. she didnt vote for the deal, she was chairing the session. she didnt vote on it at all because she was chair. but she didnt resign as chair which would have been the most principled thing to do

  2. This is not the first time. She's ducked the issues before, and guess what? The SWP did sweet FA.

  3. My understanding is that the SWP leadership has now acknowledged, correctly, that Loftus needs to be expelled. I'm not sure why there's been such a delay, but there we go. The Central Committee has, incidentally, stated that Loftus did indeed vote for the compromise deal.

  4. "I'm not sure why there's been such a delay" Presumably to give her a chance to change her mind. I think this is whats called the manufacturing of differences. Usual in faction fights when nothing is, as it turns out, quite what it seems. Its also worth noting that in London rank and file postal workers were involved in calling for the strike to be put back on. Guess which organisation was involved with many of those putting foward this demand. There won't be any mention of this here, presumably because it does not fit the pre-prepared script. Kind of like SUN in reverse. Although Andy to his credit does actually report it.