Tony Dowling, a longstanding party activist, resigned from the Socialist Workers Party this morning. He was instructed by the local and national leaderships of the party to resign from the committee of the North East Shop Stewards Network (NESSN). The SWP has recently abandoned involvement in the NE network and insisted on Tony withdrawing from the committee and his role as Tyneside Secretary. Tony has, by resigning from the SWP and retaining his role in the NEESN, stressed his commitment to participation (as a revolutionary and a committed activist) in the wider working class movement.
The latest extraordinary attack by the SWP's Tyneside organiser - explicitly backed by the party's Central Committee - follows the letter of dissociation issued last November, which publicly declared that the SWP was distancing itself from Tony. That letter baffled many local activists, who viewed it as unjustified. It damaged the SWP's standing in the wider movement in the North East.
Here is Tony's resignation message:
As a lifelong revolutionary socialist & a member of the SWP for 18 years, I believe my loyalty is to the working class and, as the recent conference reiterated, “our starting point has to be our united front work.” Despite this, however, the district organiser, with the full support on the central committee has instructed me, “to resign from the NESSN committee with immediate effect.” This contradicts the spirit and traditions of the party I joined and cannot be justified politically. It is with regret, therefore, that I am resigning from the SWP.
Yours in solidarity,
Eight other members of the party's Tyneside district have this afternoon emailed Martin Smith, SWP National Secretary, to resign in solidarity with Tony. Their letter (see below) makes it clear that their decision reflects wider difficulties in the SWP. These include the undermining of democracy and a series of personal attacks, including expulsions.
Here is their letter:
Tony Dowling is a well-respected activist in both the trade union and anti-war movements in the North East, and has been a dedicated Party member since 1992. Last week he was instructed by the SWP district organiser to resign his position as Tyneside secretary of the North-East Shop Stewards’ Network (NESSN), and to resign from the NESSN committee. We understand that the district organiser has the full support of the central committee. This attempt to isolate and discredit Tony is the latest episode in a long campaign of vilification.
Tony rightly believes that his loyalty is to the working class and to the revolutionary politics he has always argued for. He has, as a result, and with regret, resigned from the Socialist Workers’ Party.
It is in solidarity with Tony that we are also resigning our membership of the SWP. We remain committed to the politics of the SWP’s tradition, and are determined to build a stronger revolutionary left in this country.
However, we are no longer at home in the SWP with its current leadership and direction. Our decision to resign is influenced by the serious differences of perspective and orientation that have opened up between the leadership and ourselves. We believe that the sustained campaign against Tony and other members of the Left Platform taken by some supporters of the central committee, including disciplinary measures, show a serious corrosion of democratic rights inside the SWP.
The problems are especially acute in our own district, where the conduct of our current district organiser has worsened the climate inside the local party. As long as he is the party’s full-time organiser, it will sadly be impossible for comrades with dissenting views to feel safe, confident, and able to discuss their differences in Party forums.
Despite these difficulties, we look forward to continuing to work constructively with SWP members, in a spirit of unity and common purpose, as part of broader campaigns. In the struggles against war, unemployment, public sector cuts, ecological destruction, fascism and much more, we have common enemies. We remain on the same side in seeking to change the world.
Yours in solidarity,
Will Bowman, Adam Cornell, David McAllister, Jack McGlen, Lindy Syson, Owen Taylor, Mark Tyers, Sonia Van De Bilt