Wednesday, 17 February 2010

'Every member is gold dust'

Penny Hicks, a longstanding SWP activist in Manchester, is one of those who resigned yesterday. She was the dissenting voice on the SWP disputes committee that decided to expel me last November. For January's annual party conference she prepared a 'minority report' on my case, but was barred from attending the conference (despite having attended with observer status in previous years). This is her personal letter of resignation, which I publish here because I think it captures a number of key factors behind why so many dedicated activists feel it is necessary to leave the SWP.

Dear Martin

A revolutionary party can make political mistakes, or take the wrong direction or fail to grasp the potential of a situation. The key to the success of the SWP has been its ability to take an honest look at itself and to put things right carrying the majority ‘leading from the front’, whilst taking care to continue to persuade and encourage those unsure or disagreeing.

I feel the SWP is on the wrong track and I do not recognise the current approach as the methodology of the serious outward looking revolutionary party I have been a member of.

Of most concern to me is the change in culture and behaviour in the party emanating from the CC, some of its paid organisers and some national committee members.

What has echoed down the 35 years of my membership has been ‘every member is gold dust’, translated operationally that means showing respect, taking disagreements seriously and behaving with honesty and integrity to each other. Above all - actually caring about our members when they seem to be having difficulty with supporting party activity or with membership.

This culture is being steadily eradicated. Erroneous procedural rules are being invented to meet a political end. Defensive knee jerk reactions are informing decisions and a cavalier atmosphere is prevailing. It would be easy to place this at the door of the national secretary but the entire CC is accountable.

The latest issue of correspondence re Lindsey German’s resignation for me simply encapsulated the disrespectful way her resignation from the CC was handled together with those of John Rees and Chris Nineham. To simply write off the years of contribution is not a way I would treat any of my life time friends and/or comrades or expect to be treated myself. The secretary’s comment that the SWP would seek to work constructively with the Convener of the Stop the War Coalition ‘where possible’ is high handed to say the least. The SWP had gained respect as the only serious party on the left because it has always sought to work constructively in a united front; it is an obligation on revolutionaries to make constructive work possible.

Please terminate my membership and be assured I understand the legal banking obligations.

Penny Hicks


  1. Like many of those who left the party in earlier 'last straw' moments, I certainly didn't feel like "gold dust" even back then, in the alleged golden age. But its always possible things have got worse. Well, heres to hoping things improve.

    Here is my take on the potential of the left platform and the swp post split:

  2. I like just how stinging the last sentence is..."be assured I understand the legal banking obligations." Harsh.

  3. Thanks for those ideas - I've added a comment on your post.

    Stinging final sentence, yes. I'm aware lots of those who have just resigned were genuinely disgusted by the National Sec's response to Lindsey's resignation. I suspect Penny - herself a member of 35 years' standing - was one of them.

  4. Someone on the left17 February 2010 at 12:29

    Just a couple points to make.

    The left platform seem to be a bit dillusional, in the sense that they think they are that different from the CC. This sort of behaviour has been prevailant within the SWP (and many other Leninist groups) for years.

    'The SWP had gained respect as the only serious party on the left'
    There has not been a serious party on the left for a very very long time. Lets be realistic, the socialist movement is a joke at the moment, and im including the anarchist tendencies in this too.

    Until we actually wake up assess things properly, we're all going to be marginilised factions, that have no relevance to the working class. And I fail to see how this new faction has anywhere near the correct analysis.

  5. Where is the politics or theoretical differences between the minority Left Platform and the rest of us who wishes to stay in the SWP?

    Is a personality clash with Martin and Lindsey/John really the true root of oppression, war; and class division in Modern Britain?

    Would you have stayed in the party if you had won your factional position?

    Is this what democracy really look like - dictatorship of minority over the majority? By leaving this is what you support in political practice.

  6. In defence of Penny - a reply to 'anonymous'

    If you don't know the theoretical differences between LP and 'the rest' you're hardly in a position to comment are you?
    If you did know the differences you would also know that this amounts to something a little more than 'personality clash'.

    ...and if you knew Penny you would also know that over 35 years of membership, she has always been outspoken, and at times in a minority, without ever feeling compelled to leave the Party. This is as true of her impressive trade union history, where she has often risked her own position in leading industrial disputes as it is of her party membership.

    Perhaps you should read her letter again and consider what a shame it is for the party to lose a comrade with so much political integrity and valuable experience.

  7. My point is a more generalised point to all who left this week around the demise of the Left Platform Faction issues. Unfortunately Luna 17 decided not to let comments on his pervious post listing all who left. Why is Luna 17 not allowing comments on the resign post.

    An example of your vision for democracy Alex S? Shutdown comment when the going gets tough.

    Dave G I do know Penny and think it is a shame she decided to leave the SWP around the most non-political or theoretical split in the history of left-wing faction fighting. The majority of us in the SWP gave the faction time to explain it position. We listened, heard, and made our decision.

    Since the Left Faction did not have any clear political or theoretical differences suggesting that the root of the Left faction is a personality clash between the current CC and ex-CC members has more theoretical basis than any Left Platform document produced.

    Penny's contribution to the movement and the party is appreciated. Giving her class fighting credentials it is a tragedy she leaves the party around such a weak set of issue's as those manifested in the Left Platform Faction and post-conference faction fighting.

  8. "Where is the politics or theoretical differences between the minority Left Platform and the rest of us who wishes to stay in the SWP?"

    The difference is simple - working in and with 'the movements' rather than paying lip-service. This is pretty fundamental and not a 'weak set of issues.'

    The instruction to Lindsey not to speak at a Stop the War Coalition meeting demonstrated the petty-minded culmination of this strategy.

    And, btw Anonymous, there has been no 'factionfighting.'

  9. I refer to the last sentence (and the tenor of the rest)of your previous post.......

    How patronising can you get?

    If there was any doubt in Alex's mind as to whether or not to shut comment on the original letter I doubt if there is now. If I was him I'd shut this one down too.