In Defence of Our Party: timidity in the face of provocations
We publish a report of the caucus of the SWP's opposition faction, and the disappointingly soft approach they look to be taking in the struggles to come
Keeping quiet is no use
We publish below a report, by comrade Rob Owen, of the first caucus of the Socialist Workers Party's In Defence of Our Party faction (IDOP), which took place on Sunday.
Unfortunately, it appears that the faction has adopted a 'softly softly' approach, aiming to reach an amicable resolution of the current crisis through a 'reasonable' approach to the Central Committee. "We are committed to maintaining as good a relationship as possible with the CC," Owen writes. The comrades also voted to cease all public criticism of the CC on the internet.
The obvious problem with this approach is that the CC is committed to being 'unreasonable', and continues to throw smears at the oppositionists, and intimidate the 'disloyal'. CC members even staged an idiotic stunt at the faction meeting itself, taking Tony Cliff's widow Chanie Rosenberg along in an unsuccessful attempt to gain entry by means of the quasi-divine aura that the Gluckstein-Rosenberg clan may still have in the minds of SWPers (there is an elliptical reference to this incident in Owen's report).
Timidity in the face of all this is inadequate - IDOP needs to gear up for war, not some kind of 'sensible compromise'.
In Defence of Our Party caucus: report
The fraction caucus yesterday was attended by over 150 faction members from across the country. There was a lively debate around what the faction’s more developed positions on a number of issues should be. There was also a discussion running through the day about how we conduct ourselves in such a way as to hold the party together and seek to win comrades to our point of view.
The first session stressed the importance of the SWP and why we are committed to saving the party and minimising the loss of members. Comrades also addressed the reasons why the disputes committee case with Comrade X has provoked such a large crisis. Contributions touched on the political nature of decisions about any comrade’s responsibilities in the Party, the need for action over proposals for the disputes committee, and our record over oppression being damaged by this issue hanging over us. There was also discussion on some of the wider questions about democracy and internal culture highlighted by the crisis. The document by Jim W, Hannah D and Rob O was adopted.
The discussion on the disputes committee gave comrades a real chance to discuss how the disputes process could be improved in such cases. Comrades also spoke making it clear why the faction opposes the use of terms like 'rape apologist' or 'rape denier' which should have no place in the debate. The caucus heard a number of comrades speak and the committee will be amending the document put forward by Pat S that was circulated for discussion before the caucus in the light of various amendments from fraction members.
A motion to include the reinstatement of the four comrades as a demand in the faction statement was voted down by the meeting. Speakers for and against the motion said that they personally opposed the expulsions and would support challenging them at national Conference when the disputes committee report is formally heard.
The session on students went through the problems that have arisen post-conference for the student fraction as a result of the DC case. After contributions from students around the country the document submitted by Amy G and Mark B was accepted.
The discussion on the internet was a contested, but fraternal, debate on the role of the internet. It was agreed in a near unanimous vote to stop the commentary on blogs and Facebook and use the channels opened up by the faction to conduct the argument internally within the party.
Contributions by Ian B and Shanice M closed the caucus on a positive message stressing the best elements of the SWP and what there is to fight for.
Documents will be circulated by the committee which will meet early this week.
The strategy now:
The caucus unanimously agreed to move forward as one united faction around a strategy of trying to win the Party to a sensible position over our key points. It was agreed that to do this meant conducting ourselves in a political way and being careful not to get drawn into the very confrontation approach some comrades supporting the CC have adopted.
- Where not already running, we need faction caucuses in every district to start to coordinate work
- We need district ring rounds aiming to pull as many people as possible towards our position
- We need to draw up lists ahead of the aggregates of who is going and who will support us, focusing on meeting and discussing with comrades where we think there is some chance of pulling them towards supporting some of our positions
- Detailed discussion on who, and how many, candidates IDOOP will stand for conference based on the amount of support we have locally.
- Invite speaker in via fraction committee for the extended contribution at aggregate if would help in your area. We have to try to give 3 days’ notice to CC on who this will be.
- We will need to pass motions through branches to for discussion at conference. The committee will be producing motions and we’d recommend that these are the ones we try to get through as many branches as possible.
Sunday’s meeting was a caucus to establish the political ground for the faction. A vote on whether to open the meeting to comrades outside the faction upheld the original decision that this would not be helpful in allowing the faction to clarify its views. The CC had been informed of this in advance. It was, therefore, surprising that some supporters of the CC’s position since conference arrived at the caucus with the expectation they could attend.
The discussion with these comrades was polite and they respected the decision of the faction that it was to be a closed caucus.
We are committed to holding meetings open to the whole party and the newly elected faction committee will begin the process of planning these events. If Districts want to hold their own please be aware these must be publicised by the national office. This is best done via the faction committee.
The meeting elected the following comrades on to the faction committee to coordinate this work nationally.
- Pat S – Camden
- Hannah D - Euston
- Jamie W – Tower hamlets
- Jim W - Euston
- Amy G – Cambridge
- Rosie W – Sheffield North
- Ian A – Bury and Prestwich
- Arnie J – UEL SWSS / Newham
- Rob O – Croydon
- Neil D – Edinburgh
- Colin W – Hackney
- Laura J – Waltham Forest
- Ciara S – QMU SWSS / Tower hamlets
- Mike G – Glasgow
- Pete G – Hackney
- Robin B – Euston / LSE
- Sam J – Leytonstone
- Shanice M – KCL SWSS / Euston
- China M – Brent and Harrow
- Brian P – Leeds
Meeting the CC
There was also a short meeting with members of the CC and the conference arrangements committee on Saturday. Pat S, Colin W and Rob O attended on behalf of the faction. This was just a meeting to clarify the rights of the faction. The CC made a number of proposals most of which were acceptable and some of which we requested small changes to. We expect the CC to approach us with whether these changes have been accepted early this week.
We are committed to maintaining as good a relationship as possible with the CC through these meetings and hope to reach an agreement that is fair to everyone concerned.
on behalf of the faction committee