John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

How did Communist parties handle issues of internal discipline and democracy in Lenin’s time? The recent intense discussion within the British Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) and beyond has heard claims that the SWP rests on the traditions of democratic centralism inherited from the Bolsheviks.

John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Some extended thoughts about Stephanie Bottrill, the woman who committed suicide because of the bedroom tax.

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the killing of Blair Peach by the police. David Renton looks back at Blair Peach’s life as a poet, trade unionist and committed antifascist

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Bunny La Roche of RS21 on Nigel Farage's visit to Kent

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Financial Appeal

We're up and running! An appeal for funds to kickstart the IS Network

Financial Appeal

When is a conference not a conference?

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SWPWhatever else one does at it, at a conference, one confers. That's definitional. The clue is in the name. One compares views, one consults, discusses.

What kind of animal, then, is the meeting that the CC have called for 10 March? A sermon? A fingerwag? It pleases them to call it a 'one-day special conference', but whatever they intend it to be, a conference is not it.

One might expect a CC that have presided over and by their own actions, errors and intransigence precipitated the worst crisis ever to face the SWP, an unprecedented uprising of anger among previously loyal members, to display a modicum of humility or concern. A sense that there are lessons to be learned. A willingness to listen. But in a favoured formulation of the CC's most withering polemicist, not a bit of it.

We know this is not intended to be a 'conference' in any meaningful sense because they have told us. They've been perfectly explicit. The meeting's purpose is not to discuss or confer, but to 'draw a line', 'to reaffirm the decisions of January's conference and the NC'. As far as they are concerned, the outcome of this 'conference' is a given: the role, therefore, of attendees is to swallow what they are given to eat. The alternative is that the CC, with pontifical infallibility, already know exactly how the discussion will end. From that point of view, who needs a full preconference discussion? They will be happy to know that a vacancy has just opened up in Rome for people with such gifts. But not everyone is as smart as the CC – give the rest of us a chance.

Even from an entirely cynical point of view, one might expect the CC, given the catastrophic situation they have wrought, to express a willingness at least to listen, even if they had no intention of actually doing so. But no. Whatever else they can be accused of, no one can say, on this issue at least, that they dissemble. They are explicitly clear that they do not intend to engage with any arguments.

This overweening self-righteous arrogance still staggers. SWP members deserve leaders who listen to them, as ours have made clear they will not.

 

The CC assert that they have “not sought to stifle arguments. That accusation is laughable after the last four months.” By implication, they claim credit for the fact that there has been and continues to be a growing chorus of disapproval of their actions and methods. In a sense, they are correct. By expelling four comrades before conference and suppressing a legitimate faction, they provoked the most raucous debate in the party’s history. True also, by effectively issuing gagging orders in conference report-backs and in Party Notes, then leaving members hanging out to dry when the controversy went public, they incited the vocal dissidence of hundreds of members now organised in a faction. If they want to claim credit for the last four months, they are welcome to it.

The CC may attempt to split the opposition. There are, of course, differences among us: some comrades may disagree with some of the Democracy Renewal Platform’s opinions and approach. We are eager to discuss such issues in comradely fashion. But in case the CC attempt to instrumentalise any such legitimate debates and try to turn some against others, we urge comrades to consider the light in which the CC holds *all* of us.