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

Linda Rogers: Can the SWP deal with rape allegations?

Rape Crisis BannerThere are a small number of arguments being put forward by the CC and loyalists which relate to the specifics of how they dealt with the rape allegation. I attempt here to set out some of the points that I have used to challenge these arguments. My first point will always be that the party should never have attempted to conduct a rape investigation and I stand by that.

However, I also believe it is crucial that we take on some of the arguments that we are facing. This composition has come about as the result of the input (on this blog and in discussions) of many comrades. I don’t take credit for the ideas here. They have been developed through debate and discussion – exactly in the way that thought and ideas should develop in our party. Nor do I put these forward as a blue print. They are intended to help comrades deal with the arguments, and I hope that comrades will comment on and challenge this post so that we can continue to develop our thought.

One of my usual experiences is not so much an argument as an incredulous face pulling exercise that seems to go on whenever I ask “would the DC have investigated a murder?” The expression on the faces of these opponents says it all “why on earth would you equate rape with murder?” But I think these faces tell a more complex story “why on earth would you equate this allegation of rape with murder”.

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Open letter to SWP CC from trade union activists

We draw the attention of comrades to this letter:

We are all union activists who work with SWP members in our union branches, in the various democratic bodies in our unions and in the wider union movement. Some of us have SWP members in our workplaces, some of us participate in SWP led campaigns or vote for SWP members in elections. Many of us, whatever our politics, recognise that our SWP comrades can be relied on to speak up for our class and union members’ interests, to be at the forefront of campaigns, to turn up on picket lines, and to support those of us who are victimised for our union activities.

For these reasons, we have not been able to ignore the recent crisis in the SWP. We have been concerned, and at times appalled, as we have heard about complaints being swept under the carpet in 2011, disciplinary committees including close friends of the accused, women quizzed about irrelevant details of their behaviour and drinking habits, SWP members instantly dismissed for discussing these matters, while another member who has been the subject of complaints continues to represent SWP campaigns, and the revelation that the word ‘feminist’ is used as an insult within the party.

No one is saying that other left organisations have an unblemished record when it comes to dealing with sexism, sexual harrassment, or sexual assault, but the SWP Central Committee now appear to be ignoring the many voices both inside and outside their party who are telling them that they have got it badly wrong. Instead, Alex Callinicos wrote an article that avoided all mention of the women involved, and dismissed accusations of harrassment, and worse, as “gossip”. It is clear that the CC are not listening to the significant number of members who are expressing their dismay at recent events.

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Advice for comrades feeling the heat from the CC and its full-time organisers

In the face of the unprecedented opposition within our party to the Central Committee, its shocking handling of the rape allegation against a leading member, its attempts to force through a post-conference pretence that all is settled, and its continuing bullish defence of undemocratic methods and ongoing attempts to silence dissent, the Central Committee and its full-time organisers have started to move against those of us demanding an accounting in the party.

Comrades around the country have been summoned to meetings on their own, or at best with one fellow member to accompany them. In these meetings they have been accused of all manner of attacks on "forty years of British Leninism", and recantations, confessions and apologies have been demanded, along with suggestions that they leave if they cannot toe 'the line'.

Don't be intimidated. It's our party. You are not alone, much as the CC may wish to make you feel isolated.

Here are some suggestions for comrades in these situations:

DON'T go alone to one of these meetings. If "invited", accept, and tell the CC member or organiser the names of three other comrades who will be coming with you. Stick to your guns on this.

DO take notes during the meeting and reject any demand that you should not.

DON'T agree to anything - tell whoever is disciplining you that you will go away, discuss their points with other comrades, and respond later.

DO tell other comrades before and after the meeting that it will be happening. We have NOTHING to hide from other members and from the class.

DON'T apologise for standing up to them and for fighting for our party.

DO tell us, here at the IS blog of any incidents of bullying and / or intimidation. Any threats, any suggestion of disciplinary sanctions - tell the party, the party needs to know what is going on.

Do please consider sharing any concerns or uncertainties arising from such meetings with the sympathetic comrades posting at this blog - feel free to email us

Kris Stewart
Andy Godfrey
Hannah Elsisi
Gareth Dale
China Mieville
Andy Lawson
Richard Seymour
Alex Anievas
Adam Marks
Jamie Pitman

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Jules Alford: Reflections on 2011 SWP conference

SWPAs the crisis engulfing the SWP continues to unfold it seems the significance of the 2011 SWP conference and the ‘special session’ (we call it that for want of a better term) devoted to an informal complaint made by a young female comrade against the leading party member later dubbed Delta, becomes increasingly apparent. Yes you read that right, this issue first arose two years ago in 2011.

It was at this ‘special session’ that the allegations made by a young female comrade (later known as comrade W) first became ‘public’. That is ‘public’ after a fashion because at the time the complaint remained an informal complaint and was therefore not forwarded to the Disputes Committee; and because at the time no one spoke of rape or sexual assault, while the subject of sexual harassment was only coquetted with in the most euphemistic fashion. When the conference ended most party delegates were still in the dark as to the nature of allegation against Delta.

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Is Zinovievism finished? A reply to Alex Callinicos

Alex CallinicosAlex Callinicos’ article on the crisis in the SWP purports to be a defence of Leninism in the face of a ‘flood of attacks’ – by which Alex means the crisis that has engulfed the party over the mishandled investigation of allegations of rape and sexual harassment against a Central Committee member.

The piece does nothing of the sort, but is rather an encapsulation of the flaws that have brought us to this pass. It is clearly intended as an opening salvo in the CC’s response to the growing opposition within the party. In particular it draws on the long tradition of dealing with dissent over particular issues by means of the absurd implication that that dissent is an attack on the heritage of the October revolution, accompanied by an airy dismissal of the actual facts. This maneouvre assumes the following equivalences: that ‘revolutionary party’ means the model of democratic centralism adopted by the SWP in the 1970s; that this model replicates that of the Bolsheviks in 1917 and the decisions of the current leadership therefore embody the legitimacy of that revolution, which we can expect to be replicated in the conditions of the UK in the 21st century.This is pure substitutionalism – and on its own measure of providing strong interventionist leadership, is a complete failure.

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Letter to the SWP

A letter from sympathetic socialists, who have a history of working with the party, addresses the crisis:

SWPThe ongoing crisis in the Socialist Workers’ Party – precipitated by the handling of rape allegations against a senior party member – has raised fundamental questions about democracy, power and sexism in the organisations and culture of the left. We believe that the way in which the central committee of the SWP has handled the situation, and its lack of a reasonable response to the legitimate protests voiced by many of its own members, as well as others on the left, point to issues that cannot simply be swept under the rug.

We have all previously participated in events and initiatives promoted by the SWP, including the annual Marxism festival, or written for its publications. We continue to value the commitment and work of many SWP members as trades unionists, activists and comrades. Nonetheless, we can no longer in good conscience participate in SWP publications and platforms until the party recognises and seriously addresses the legitimate criticisms of its handling of this case and the ensuing crisis.

Greg Albo, Abbie Bakan, Jairus Banaji, Gail Day, Steve Edwards, Nadine El-Enany, Phil Gasper, Peter Hallward, Adam Hanieh, Owen Hatherley, Paul Kellogg, Brian Kelly, Conor Kostick, Robert Knox, Thomas Marois, David McNally, Adam Morton, James Murphy, Kevin Murphy, Ilan Pappé, Charles Post, Nina Power, Gregory Schwartz, Peter Thomas, Alberto Toscano, Thomas Walpole, Jeffery Webber, Rafeef Ziadah

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