- Category: International
- Published on Sunday, 27 January 2013
- Written by Conor Kostick
The crisis in the UK Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is of international significance and the issues raised by it are of such concern that I have no hesitation in offering this statement on the matter, even though my affiliation is to the Irish SWP. We are all part of an international tradition that will suffer from the fallout of a serious political mistake by the leadership of the UK SWP and especially here in Ireland, where any issue related to institutional cover-ups of sex crimes has enormous public resonance.
It is not necessary to know the details of the particular case that has triggered this crisis to appreciate how deeply mistaken has been the approach of the CC. All one needs to know is that when a leading member of the party was accused of rape, the party allowed comrades who knew him and who had worked with him for decades to decide what the SWP response would be. No amount of appeals to the revolutionary integrity of those on the DC can undo this fact and this shocking display of ignorance of best practice in the labour movement (and indeed, wider society).
A supporter of the UK SWP rang me to attempt to persuade me that all was in order at SWP conference. His arguments included these two points: that it was not practical to find a group of comrades who did not know the accused, and that the DC had been elected before this allegation arose. I assume these points are being repeated in the UK. They do not stand up.
Firstly, of course it was possible to find a DC willing to look into the question of expelling Delta who did not know him (this is a criminal matter, and the only judgement the SWP has the right to make on it is whether Delta is fit to be a member of the party). Comrades could have been brought in from abroad, or the assistance of someone from the labour movement outside the party with no axe to grind and experience in these matters could have been sought.
Secondly, to persist in judging this issue with a compromised DC, because they had been elected at the previous conference, is bureaucratic pedantry. What would the party have done if – as they should have – the individuals on the DC had declared themselves unfit to investigate someone they knew so well? A new DC would have had to be formed and the correctness of this initative, like all SWP initiatives, would have been judged at the subsequent conference.
So, a serious mistake was made. When I talk of a ‘mistake’, I am speaking the language of politics, not morals, although I share the instinctive repugnance at how this matter was handled of all those who have expressed their outrage at the trauma inflicted on the woman concerned. Since interventionist politics are an art, albeit one guided by theory, all revolutionary parties make mistakes. But in a healthy revolutionary party, the mistakes are quickly addressed and lessons are collectively learned for the future.
In this case, however, it is obvious from the various reports coming in and their own published responses that the CC would clearly prefer to smash the party against the judgement of absolutely everyone outside its ranks than admit the mistake. All political mistakes do damage, but the CC and their supporters are massively downplaying the impact of this one.
One of the fundamental divisions between Marx’s theory of revolution and its predecessors was the sentiment that revolutionaries should not be conspiratorial and should never knowingly publish lies. Our strategy for undermining capitalist control of the media is to rely on the fact that the truth is on our side. In their efforts to deny their mistake, the CC have been lying to the party and that is inexcusable. The events of the 2011 conference surrounding Delta were a lie and now we read CC and SWSS reports of party successes that are equally lies. No longer do SWP members and branches rely on a centrally controlled Party Notes or newspaper to inform them, so it is politically foolish as well as an affront to the Marxist tradition to talk of warm receptions and positive experiences when they are not true. This behaviour is unforgiveable in a revolutionary leadership.
Both for this reason and the horrible-to-witness bureacratic measures attempting to stifle the opposition, I am inspired to write this statement expressing my full solidarity with those trying restore the reputation of the SWP as an imporant ally for those wanting to fight oppression.
I hope you win your recall conference, that you defeat those who have lied to you, and that you elect a leadership more worthy of the tradition in which the party stands.