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

Letter to the Central Committee

I am writing to express my condemnation of the process used by the leadership of the SWP to deal with an allegation of rape.  As the shop steward at Scottish Women's Aid I am horrified that the leadership of the SWP - of which I have been a member for 18 years - thought that it was in a position to investigate a serious crime such as rape. Would the DC have investigated a murder? I would guess not, but then what does that say about the level of seriousness with which the CC and DC treat rape?

The series of decisions made by the CC and the DC around the processes for dealing with this allegation of rape and their inability to either pull back from them when they started to go wrong, or to respond reasonably to criticism after the fact (despite access to a very clear analysis of what was wrong with the decisions made) indicate a real lack of understanding of rape, its definition and its consequences.

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Nora J: The SWP and Women's Liberation

Serious questions have been raised about our party over the matters of the disputes committee, conference, expulsions and internal democracy generally, which have also led to wider reflection on our traditions and theoretical approach. My experience of conference – during which I was a member of the democratic centralist faction – was extreme frustration and concern. In light of other discussions which have been taking place, I decided to submit some thoughts on the party’s approach to women’s liberation.

Firstly, despite this crisis, the SWP remains the best potential mechanism through which sexism and oppression of all types can be meaningfully fought in the interests of everyone. Reading Lindsay German and learning Marxist tradition are sure fire ways of getting a solid grounding in how it is that woman’s oppression came to exist, and continues to be propagated. But trends in feminist thought have developed in quantity and quality since the development of what continues to be the party’s ‘line’ on women’s liberation, which seems to have become frozen at the time Women’s Voice was dismantled. What women understood by the terms ‘feminism’ and ‘patriarchy’ thirty years ago was considerably different to what is understood by many women engaged in the movement today, and the continual rehashing of an outdated and reductive account of oppression at every meeting, rally and conference is serving to alienate good activists from Marxism and broader campaigns.

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Crisis in the SWP: what do socialists say?

Socialist WorkerMy intention in this article is to give an overview of how this crisis has developed inside the party, of what I believe to be its roots, and to hopefully go some way to proposing practical solutions to the very precarious position in which we now find ourselves.

I first became aware of the very serious nature of the allegations against Comrade Delta in late autumn 2012 (not long after they had been made); as a result of a number of comrades, most of whom I have known for several years, contacting me to express their understandable grave concern. It immediately became clear to me that the information comrades had been given at the 2011 SWP conference – that Comrade Delta had had an affair which had ended but that he had continued to hassle the woman (now referred to as Comrade W) afterwards – was quite seriously inaccurate. It adds insult to injury to recall that the session in which we were given this misleading information at the 2011 conference was turned into a kind of Delta love-in, culminating in a standing ovation for him (even at this stage it was effectively a standing ovation for having an affair) – but this demonstrates the effect that stage-managing a conference can have. Some party members resigned in protest at this time.

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Roobin: Some Thoughts on IS Theory

The Socialist Review Group, later the International Socialists and the Socialist Workers Party, was founded as a challenge to prevailing orthodoxies on the left around the world. The tendency’s three insights, the pillars of IS theory, were state capitalism, the permanent arms economy and deflected permanent revolution. They were summed up in the slogan, Neither Washington nor Moscow but International Socialism. Together they helped see the idea of socialism from below through the marginal years of the cold war and into the rebellion of the 60s and 70s.

The latter two pillars are no longer applicable and, in a world of near universal neo-liberalism, the theory of state capitalism, though still relevant in various debates, such as anti-imperialism, Bolivarianism and so on, is clearly not as potent as in the days of Actually Existing Socialism. It is not surprising (even before the current crisis) there has been discussion going on; what holds together the SWP today?

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For a New Leadership and a Renewed Party

There is currently a huge crisis playing itself out within the SWP, the party I have been a member of the past five years. Like many of us warned, this has now spread beyond our ranks into the national press, and has been even been picked up by our international affiliate groups in the International Socialist Tendency. Regardless of individual’s opinion on the details of this case, it can no longer be denied that this issue will create severe repercussions for the party. The CC have failed to lead and much of the membership is demanding an explanation. It is also a dead end to argue that this should stay within the party and we should simply draw a line under it. This is in the national press and silence and failure to recognise the problem would be political suicide with the very people we hope to work with, the movement.

I want to make clear straight away that I believe in the party and broadly support its political analysis, and that I am in no way suggesting the formation of yet another left wing group. By writing this I hope to rally comrades to stay within the party and change it for the better. Therefore I firmly believe that the best way of preserving all that we have achieved in the last few years is to be critical. Demonstrating that we are an organisation that can take on board its failures and change to remedy them, is the only way I believe we will restore our reputation in the eyes of the class. I am not going to reopen old cases, or go over the events of the last couple of months in this argument, but explain some of the political problems the party is suffering from, and how we go about remedying them. Add a comment

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A Reply to the Central Committee

Just as a rule of thumb: if you are a political leadership and have to say "this is not a 'cover up'", I would venture that you are in a crisis.

Yet it has taken a week of growing crisis in the SWP, which culminated in several unflattering news articles about the party, to have any kind of statement from the Central Committee. Members have been asked about this furore with increasing frequency, and given no lead other than to defend 'the line'. Those who try are making themselves look both idiotic and sinister, destroying their credibility as activists and party militants. They are undermining their own good work. Those maintaining a tactful silence, out of a sense of revolutionary propriety, are effectively locking themselves into a cell with the headbangers. Serious members, hard as nails people, long-standing cadres, are being pushed to the point of resigning. I urge people to stay, and to fight. But one hardly blames those who have had enough of the Kafkaesque nightmare, enough of listening to people spout demented gibberish in meetings and aggregates, enough of hearing the same lies repeated, enough of wildly tenuous historical analogies, enough of cheap realpolitik passed off as wisdom. How many times can you hear, "well I was at a paper sale this morning, and no one mentioned it" before you start thinking of having people sectioned?

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