Forwarded from Ernie Tate (SWP regroupment)

nigel_irritable mmcdon at
Tue Jun 5 15:00:37 MDT 2001

> From: Einde O'Callaghan <einde.ocallaghan at>
> To: marxist digest <marxism at>
> Subject: Re: Forwarded from Ernie Tate (SWP regroupment)
> Date: 04 June 2001 22:26

> > The recent split with the ISO in the US poses some interesting
> > On the evidence available, it seems that the SWP s characterisation of
> > ISO as sectarian is correct. But the manner of their ejection from the
> > was bizarre. In effect, the ISO was thrown out of the International
> > Socialists tendency by decision of the SWP central committee. The SWP
> > off relations with the ISO, and by virtue of that an international
> > was consummated. Obviously, who is in and who is out of the IST is
> > by the SWP itself. At the same time, Callinicos says the IST is not a
> > democratic centralist formation, each national group is autonomous.
> > Autonomous, but not exactly equal in terms of rights.
> >

> Having just returned from the Rosa-Luxemburg-Tage congress of Linksruck,
> th Germ organisation of teh IST, I'd like to correct the impression
> givewn by this paragraph.
> At the moment Linksruck has not decided it's position on the split
> between on the one hand the SWP (Britain) and the SEKb (Greece) and the
> ISO (US) on the other. Alex Callinicos attended the congress and gave a
> talk explaining the SWP's position. A membrer of the ISO also attended
> and gave their version of the conflict.
> Since the split was announced it has been discussed informally within
> Linksruck and this was the opening of an open debate within the
> organisation about what our attitude to the ISO and the split should be.
> In the discussion a wide range of positions were presented, some of them
> quite critical of the way the split has been handled and at the moment
> it's by no means certain what the outcome of the discussion will be -
> certainly it's not a foregone conclusion that Linksruck will follow the
> SWP "line".

The leadership of the Irish SWP decided to support the British SWP and
break off contact with the ISO almost immediately. Without a debate amongst
the membership. Without distributing the ISO's documents. In fact, without
even telling the membership about the controversy until the break had been
made. I could be snide about it, but this kind of thing is too important
for sectarian point scoring.

> One thing was, however, clear from the discussion at this meeting and at
> all the other meetings over the weekend - none of the comrades actually
> supports the analysis of and approach to the anti-capitalist movement
> put forward by the ISO.

I don't know what the situation with regard to anti-capitalism is in
Germany, but the attitude taken by the Irish SWP is ludicrous. They seem to
have decided that, if they pretend hard enough that there is a wave of
anti-capitalist sentiment washing over the country, then it will become a
reality. Further, they regard anyone pointing out that the anti-capitalist
swing here has so far been very small as being hostile to the
anti-capitalist movement.

The May Day protests were a case in point. They put a lot of work into
them. A lot of
work. Not only that, they got more free publicity from the right wing press
than any demonstration in Dublin which I've ever heard of. Everybody in the
city knew there was going to be a demonstration. And what did they get?
own membership, the usual half dozen anarchists, Socialist Party activists,
handful of people brought by each of the charity activists scheduled to
some interested tourists, loads of media people hoping somebody would break
something... and that's it. 200 people. At most thirty of whom were not
in or around the various left groups. And those thirty were instantly
under everybodies leaflets.

Then what happened? There was another meeting later on, with a similar but
slightly smaller crowd. We were treated to dull, vacuous, liberal shite
charity activist speakers. As if that wasn't bad enough we heard two things
over and over again from the SWP...

1) "This has been a fabulous demonstration" - chanted like a mantra,
the self-evident crapness of the demonstration. Anyone else would have come
the conclusion that the "anti-capitalist mood" doesn't yet have much
in Dublin - but not the SWP. They've decided that the test for an
is how well it adapts to this "mood", and if there isn't a mood yet, then
they'll just have to pretend that there is and adapt anyway.

2) "The most important thing over the next few weeks is to mobilise for
This was a blindingly stupid sentiment, even in comparison to the first one
above. Genoa is indeed a vitally important demonstration. But throwing
everything into getting a couple of busloads of Irish people the length of
continental Europe is one of the most idiotic ideas I've heard in a long
Why not spend months organising to send a couple of busloads to a
in Algeria too? It wouldn't be much further away! And this during
run up to the Nice Referendum! How often do people in Ireland get the
chance to
stick a spanner in the works of global capital? Yet what was the SWP's
priority? Get an extra busload of people to Genoa. Perhaps even get a
or two from their buses. That kind of adventurism is only possible for an
organisation with no support and no responsibilities - and it makes me
absolutely furious!

I'm not ranting at you out of sectarian bile. I'm just frustrated at the
priorities of the SWP. The Nice Referendum is going to be quite close. On
this issue, the SWP, despite its lack of an organic base in local
communities or the unions could have played a really important role. Its
fairly large activist base and its experience and skill at converting
complex issues into strong and simple propaganda could have enabled it to
have a valuable impact. Instead a demonstration on the far side of Europe
came first. And that is difficult to take.

> Finally on the question of regroupment: In my opinion we are entering
> (or perhaps have already entered) a period in which there will be a
> radical shake-up of the movement in general and where re-groupment of
> revolutionary socialists on both a national and international scale is
> both possible and positively desirable. What constellations will emerge
> out of this process is something that it's impossible to predict at this
> point in time.

I'd mostly agree with this.

> On thing, however, that the SWP and the IST has never believed is that
> the IST would be the one and only basis for a new revolutionary
> international. Our position has rather been that a new revolutionary
> international would emerge out of large-scale struggles in several
> countries. We are witnessing a rising movement now on a world scale, a
> movement whose breadth and depth was expected by none of us. Out of this
> movement could emerge the core around which the new international would
> crystallise.

I'll have to give this last part some thought before responding.

Is mise le meas,
Brian Cahill

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