Tuesday January 01 2013
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Another faction forms in the SWP

Read the founding statement of the 'Democratic Centralism' faction here.

How the Central Committee might prefer things

In the conviction that debates between Marxists should be held in the open and not hidden away, we publish below the statement released by the second temporary faction to be formed in the run up to the SWP's annual conference, with the supporting signatures of forty comrades at present.

Like the statement of the 'Democratic Opposition' faction, this was circulated to SWP members by CC member Charlie Kimber, with his usual fair and balanced introduction:

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Here is a statement from the Democratic Centralism faction. It makes allegations, particularly about the treatment of individuals, which I would strongly contest and regard as wholly inaccurate. Conference will hear the debate on such matters. I should also reiterate that the CC's statement to the National Committee was not a "partial report" from the Disputes Committee. That report is delivered by the Disputes Committee to conference and to conference alone.

Charlie Kimber , SWP national secretary

Statement: Democratic Centralism Faction

We are constituting a formal faction and will dissolve at the end of conference. We feel events in the party make this necessary. If you want to support, join or discuss our statement please contact us at Turn on JavaScript! We will be arranging meetings at conference open to those who support our statement.

Background

The revolutionary left faces a difficult time in the UK . While we have anticipated and analysed the development of the crisis, the resistance at home is well short of the level we need.  Since the rise of the student movement, mass TUC demonstration on March 26th and the June 30th and November 30th strikes, working class resistance has not recovered from serious setbacks, despite the large demonstration on October 20th.  We were right to put our efforts into coordinating a response in the unions and ensuring we were the last to leave the battlefield. We were too small for our challenges to the right or left bureaucracy to make a decisive difference as they retreated from the pensions fight despite the successes of initiatives like UTR.

These difficulties inevitably impact on the party, exposing our strengths and weaknesses.  It has also shown the difference between the recent experience of political radicalisation among younger activists and the experience of comrades with a length of experience in the trade union struggle.  If we are to develop as a party we need to cohere these into a medium term strategy for resistance and a long term strategy for building and renewing a revolutionary cadre.

We can be proud that the SWP is today by a long distance the best starting point for building a mass revolutionary party in the UK .  But the SWP is not the "finished article" - we have a long way to go in terms of size, roots and development.
We have followed recent developments in the party with growing concern.  Arguments have been allowed to develop in a fashion that has polarised the party along almost generational lines. That the CC has allowed the situation to develop in this way amounts to a crisis of leadership.

Internal Democracy

Many comrades, particularly younger ones, are not entirely happy with our current internal democracy.  Some of this will undoubtedly arise from questioning elements of democratic centralism, distrust of leadership, or the search for some organisational short-cut to faster growth of the party and of resistance.  But some of it will also arise from real shortcomings between our current way of working and the problems comrades face in their activity.
The tone and content of the responses to articles by Ruth and Paris in IB2 were unhelpful.  The main significance of their articles was in reflecting and seeking to grapple with the wider unease about our internal democracy, rather than their specific content.  For the CC or comrades to imply that our current practice is the only model of democratic centralism is wrong, politically crude and falsely polarising.  If the authors of the responses intended to educate members on democratic centralism then a far more engaged and political approach was required.  Instead the main message being given by these responses to all the comrades with concerns is that they aren't being listened to or engaged with.

It is our view that some of the concerns comrades have are legitimate and should be engaged with to consolidate our understanding of democratic centralism today.  However changes can only be decided upon within the context of a wider assessment of the state of the party and the tasks ahead of us.

Expulsions before conference

We oppose the expulsion of four comrades on the allegation of organising a “secret faction” - a Facebook conversation.
It is clear many comrades on all sides, including members of our elected leadership, have been discussing concerns and how best to take the party forward to conference beyond.

It is perfectly normal and acceptable for comrades to talk about party business outside of "official" party meetings. Comrades have always learned a lot from discussions in pubs and cafes, after meetings and paper sales, on the phone or round people’s houses.
The party cannot operate properly if we allow an atmosphere to develop where even a significant minority of comrades feel they cannot talk freely to each other without fear of expulsion.

Whether or not the expulsions could be technically justified, handling the issue in this way shows a lack of political confidence on the part of the CC in dealing with the issues at conference.

The expulsions raised tensions around already difficult issues, increasing the likelihood of people being avoidably lost to the party, particularly given that two of the four expelled had advocated changes to party democracy in the Internal Bulletins.

Disputes Committee

The Disputes Committee hearing surrounding a leading member of the party is now known to comrades.  Conference must consider the Disputes Committee report and any challenge to it independently from any other factional argument.

However, the fallout from the CC's handling of the situation raises questions surrounding leadership in the party. The CC decision to only release a partial report to the NC allowed a period for damaging rumour and speculation to spread around the organisation. The treatment (including removing her from a post in the party centre) of a full time worker who reported issues, raises serious questions too.

It is important that the party deals with these wider issues but does not allow them to cloud comrades’ right for Disputes Committee cases to be heard independently of any wider arguments or factional considerations.

What We Hope To Achieve

We are organising as a faction to undercut the danger that conference becomes falsely polarised along lines determined by the CC's expulsion of four comrades and the "Democratic Opposition" faction created in reaction to this.

The party faces a number of serious political and organisational issues which need to be dealt with constructively and politically at conference.  It will do the party little good if the result of conference is that the CC and a loyal cadre "smashes" the "Democratic Opposition" and large numbers of our young cadre leave the party or become passive or cynical.

We want to politically defend democratic centralism while being open to discussion about weaknesses in how the party currently operates and how we might do better at overcome them.  We oppose any unreasoning and apolitical defence of the status quo, especially through bureaucratic means.

We stand as a loyal opposition aiming to defend and extend the party's understanding and application of revolutionary leadership.

Rob O
Croydon
Robin B
LSE
Ian A
Manchester
Stephen E
Brixton
Alys Z
Lewisham
Rick L
Manchester
Andy C
Manchester
Paul B
Tottenham
Matt C
Lewisham
Daniel G
Manchester
Lovedeep S
Slough
Ian B
East London
Sarah C
West London
Soren G
Goldsmiths
Lois C
Brixton
Jamie W
Goldsmiths
Ru M
Tooting
Rebbeca S
East London
Pete G
Hackney
Patrick W
Tower Hamlets
Ross S
Central London
Dan S
Essex Uni
Tom R
Bristol
Stacey W
Brighton
Sarah Y
Brighton
Steve H
Tower hamlets
Stephen M
Brighton
Bill P
Walthamstow
Brian P
Leeds
Gareth E
Portsmouth
Simon M
Huddersfield
Paddy U
Brighton
Pete S
Leeds
Willie B
Edinburgh
Bunny La R
Kent
Sundara J
Birmingham
Neil D
Edinburgh
Amy G
Cambridge
Dom W
Liverpool
Alex S
Ealing

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