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

IS Network: Statement on the Fault Lines blog

Over the course of the last week there has been another important development within the Socialist Workers Party.

The Fault Lines blog, set up by "a group of comrades in the SWP who opposed the leadership's handling of the crisis that enveloped the organisation", represents the third wave of opposition to the SWP Central Committee's disastrous course of action over the past six months. It further indicates that the crisis the leadership so desperately tried to claim was over is instead deepening.

This can only be seen as a positive development by those who are dedicated to the rejuvenation of the International Socialist tradition and the struggle for a democratic, revolutionary organisation of the working class. We take seriously any initiative within the SWP that seeks to fight the bureaucratic and sectarian Central Committee - whose actions have left it with no legitimacy to hold leadership within any organisation, let alone one claiming to be the revolutionary party of the working class.

In this spirit we would like to extend our solidarity to all those within the organisation fighting in the best interests of our movement and tradition.

IS Network Steering Committee

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Resignations from Sheffield SWP

SWP Central Committee,

SWPWe are hereby resigning our memberships of the SWP. We’re sure you've read enough of these by now to realise that we're all going for similar reasons, but we’re going to explain once more in the hope that at some point you'll realise what you're doing to this organisation and do something to rectify it.

Some of us have been in the SWP for many years, others have been members since the student movement of 2010. This may not seem long to those of you who have been in for decades, and perhaps you will think you can just recruit new students when they arrive on campus, but once upon a time we believe the line was that every member was 'gold dust'. It's a shame that this no longer seems to be the case.

We are resigning because we cannot defend the catastrophe you have created. We considered waiting until next conference and proposing a slate with none of you on it, but we have come to realise that this would make no difference. You have killed a once brilliant organisation. The SWP’s reputation is in tatters, no credible anti-sexist will touch us with a barge pole, and the degeneration in the conduct of debate over the few weeks has been soul-destroying. You ought to write a thank you letter to the original 30 comrades who formed the IDOOP faction, for they are responsible for at least 540 members remaining in the organisation since National Committee. Those 540 were the most inspirational, principled, determined, brilliant comrades you will ever have the pleasure of working alongside, and you should be fighting with every core of your being to ensure that any who remain stay inside the organisation. You could learn a lot from them.

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Keith Watermelon: The SWP Central Committee breaks its silence

Well, kind of.

Julie Sherry in The GuardianIn this article in the Guardian, Julie Sherry of the CC comments in public for the first time.

However, it's a case of smoke and mirrors. None of the substantive criticisms of the SWP's handling of this matter are responded to in any meaningful sense. In particular, the following questions remain unanswered (and I'm sure there are many more):

  1. Why was it considered acceptable for Delta to be investigated by a panel of his mates (including his ex-girlfriend)?
  2. Why were the two women who brought complaints questioned in a sexist way, about drinking habits and past relationships?
  3. Why was Delta given weeks of access to Comrade W's evidence before being questioned, yet she still hasn't seen his?
  4. Why does anyone think it's acceptable for a national secretary in his late 40s to abuse his position to start affairs with teenage new members?
  5. Why have critical SWP members been bullied, slandered and ostracised by the party leadership and its loyal supporters?
  6. Why were 4 comrades expelled just before conference when all they did was discuss their concerns regarding this matter privately with other comrades?
  7. Why did the SWP think it could investigate a rape?
  8. Why did the CC get the recent conference to pass a motion asserting 'Delta's right to a political life in the swp'?
  9. Why were the women who brought complaints slandered as liars by party full-timers?
  10. Why was 2011 SWP Conference not told of the allegation that had been made against Delta?
  11. Why was the other woman, who brought a sexual harassment complaint against Delta, removed from her job working for the SWP after making her complaint?
  12. What about the other rape investigation into a full-timer, discussed by Solomon Hughes here?

Sherry claims that:

"Everyone, rightly, took this issue extremely seriously, in line with our commitment to fighting for women's liberation. This is a world away from the culture of cover-up in organisations like the Catholic church, the BBC and the Liberal Democrats."

However, no explanation as to how the SWP's approach differs from that in these other organisations is mentioned. Indeed, the case referred to by Solomon Hughes is highly reminiscent of a priest being moved to a new parish when they've abused their position. One might also mention that Sherry's Dad was a member of the Disputes Committee in question - so has something of an undeclared interest.

Sherry claims that Laurie Penny's remark that "For some men on the left, it seems, feminism is just a petty bourgeois distraction from the real fight" is "highly offensive to SWP members, particularly to women members who have been at the forefront of fighting sexism." Offensive maybe, but it's hard to see how it can be an attack on women when it's directed against sexist men. It also happens to be true. At a recent SWP meeting, a former CC member was heard to explain that "the SWP doesn't agree with feminism because the Communards (Paris Commune) were killed by women". With this kind of nonsense floating around, it's difficult to see how anyone can claim the SWP doesn't have a problem.

In short, woeful. This fools nobody, and serves as nothing more than political spin. It certainly offers no hope or help to those SWP members who have stayed in the organisation but continue to take a principled position regarding this affair and the treatment of these women. Rather, it indicates a leadership that continues to put it's own interests above those of both party and class, and as such is utterly inadequate.

This post reflects the views of the author - Keith Watermelon - only.

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A new network

The crisis that has engulfed and dishonoured the SWP should not be allowed to obscure the best aspects of the International Socialist tradition. We are committed to building and maintaining that tradition, as part of a strong and principled Left. As a first step, we invite those on the left who have been galvanised by the crisis to join the International Socialist Network by emailing the IS Network.

The discussion list, and this blog, will be an initial platform for announcements and discussion of theory, politics, and forthcoming events - details of which will soon follow.

We welcome those who feel they have no choice but to leave the SWP, those who are committed to staying and fighting for change within the party, as well as all who wish to be part of a healthy International Socialist tradition in Britain.

Join us in renewing that tradition


In solidarity,
International Socialist Network

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When is a conference not a conference?

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.

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The Central Committee's motion to today's National Committee meeting

SWPAs is well known in the SWP, there is a National Committee meeting today, Sunday 3 February. It is not current practice in the party for motions to be published in advance. We had decided to conform to this norm (while not agreeing with it) in the interests of party unity. However, others clearly did not agree with us and the motions to today's meeting have been published elsewhere on the web. We do not believe there is any further purpose in holding this information back from members who read this blog, and we therefore publish below the Central Committee (CC) motion to today's meeting.

We do not know – we are not allowed to know – if this resolution has the support of each and every member of the CC. We do know, from discussions with CC comrades, that there is significant disquiet and concern about direction in which the party in currently being led. We call on comrades within the CC to speak openly and freely about their misgivings.

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