- Category: SWSS Groups
- Published on Monday, 29 April 2013
- Written by Richard Seymour
‘How do you recognise a dissident Marxist? This term is used to refer to people who did not treat their socialism as an inherited canon of knowledge, but at each moment were willing to think their politics anew.’
It is with a great deal of disappointment and a slight sense of demoralisation that the University of Manchester Socialist Worker Student Society would like to make public our decision to disaffiliate from the SWP, with those of us who were members of the organisation now resigning. Many of our reasons for this will come as no surprise to those who have followed the party’s fortunes in recent months and do not need in depth explanation. Yet at the risk of sounding self-indulgent we would like to take this opportunity to make a few basic points both relating to why we are leaving and what we plan to do next.
It goes without saying that the recent mishandling of allegations of rape and sexual harassment against a leading comrade have weighed extremely heavily on our decision. Nothing further needs to be said on the case itself. Those in the know will be aware of places online where they can find much better informed opinions than any we could offer.
The crisis that followed and the leadership’s insistence on untenable ‘lines’ have caused irreparable damage to our student work. Our own group has lost hardened activists who had cut their teeth in countless struggles and who found in our tradition the articulation of their own revolutionary thoughts. There is nothing we can say that could possibly better articulate the permanent damage done to SWSS nationally than the walkout of over 100 delegates at NUS conference as our candidate for VPHE - a loyal supporter of the Central Committee - took to the podium (http://forgetoday.com/news/nus-conference-2013/mass-walk-out-at-nus-conference-following-denial-of-rape-apology/). That this situation was not repeated when an ex-faction member spoke shows that we have reputations inside the student movement as principled activists, forged over years of struggle. In the public statement we released during the fall-out of the original conference we stated that we would not allow our record to be ‘undermined by forces inside our own party’. The thought of comrade Evans addressing a hall of empty seats proves this is exactly what has happened.
This alone would obviously not be cause to leave the SWP. That decision can only be taken if the party is no longer the most viable vehicle to reach our end goal of a mass revolutionary organisation in Britain. We have reached the conclusion that the Socialist Workers Party no longer has that potential. We’re not in a position to provide a list of reasons for this, not least because we might not completely agree in our own SWSS group and secondly because we are yet to have a proper opportunity to openly discuss this. We look forward to using the coming period to attempt to figure out just what has gone so wrong (the problems of the party evidently go deeper than its disputes committee procedures). Genuine clarity around these questions will be achieved through open debate and the ability to test ideas out in the movement, not through resignation letters.
However, we can at least make two brief points on what we plan to do next: firstly we will echo the recent calls for left realignment being heard across the labour movement. The British far left has a habit of cyclical degeneration and a paranoid lust for ideological purity that has to be overcome with the utmost urgency if it is to be able to offer a genuine alternative to austerity. We have no desire to build the Party of Socialist Workers. Nor the Workers’ Party of Socialists. We will be arguing for, as a comrade outside of the SWP has put it, ‘a rejuvenation of the left that goes beyond building the sects’. We have no shortage of ideas for the shape this might take and look forward to sharing these with anyone who’ll listen.
Secondly we would like to introduce a point that has thus far been omitted from most reflections on the crisis in the party. For all those who have left the organisation, we would urge you to consider the political necessity of working with ‘CC loyalists’ again. There is barely a campaign or trade union one can be active in without coming across SWP members and we are prepared to work alongside any we might encounter. To refuse to work with them out of grudges either personal or political would weaken any future activism on our behalf. This is not to say we will forget our disagreements but rather continue to fraternally argue that the party has run its course.
To conclude, Trotsky started anew when he realised the Third International was lost. It is with no small degree of an inflated sense of self-importance that we loosely equate our position now with his. Admittedly we are yet to be exiled from the country but no analogy is perfect. We look forward to continuing to build for the socialist future of humanity and now, with much more spare time on our hands, we welcome anyone who would like to discuss how we go about getting there.
The Marxists formerly known as University of Manchester Socialist Worker Student Society