Forwarded from Ernie Tate (SWP regroupment)

Einde O'Callaghan einde.ocallaghan at
Wed Jun 6 15:24:04 MDT 2001

Johannes Schneider wrote:
> Einde O'Callaghan wrote:
> >
> > 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".
> >
> > 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.
> >
> Einde,
> this paragraph in some way contradicts the two preceding ones. If noone
> shares the the ISO position, why not siding with the SWP? To be honest, I
> really do not understand the core of the conflict. I do not see how a split
> is justified.
Hi Johannes,

There is a significant group of comrades who would agree with your last
sentence and this is why they are reluctant to follow the position of
the SWP. As far as the differences between the SWP and the ISO go, I
think it's to do with their appreciation of the anti-capitalist movement
and the approach to working in and around it that follows from this

As I understand it the ISO considers the anti-capitalist movement (which
AIUI they designate as anti-corporatist) to be just one among many, and
that the perspective for the future isn't significantly different from
that on which they've been operating for the last few years.

For the SWP the new movement signifies a dramatic political shift, which
demands a dramatic change in ways of working in and around the movements
that are arising. In particular the SWP is of the opinion that a
strategic orientation on this movement is necessary and that it can't be
a case of "business as usual". New possibilities and a newly radicalised
layer with a generalised critique of capitalism demand a different way
of operating from the preceding period, which we characterised as a
period of "political downturn".

During the downturn the general pressure was for revolutionaries and
radicals either to move to the right and to accommodate to the existing
structures (a stratum which we designated, as you point out below, as
the "swamp") or to splinter into ever more isolated campaigns against
this or that nasty aspect of the system (this was often associated with
forms of identity politics).

Interestingly enough, the strongest opposition to the split with the ISO
comes from what one comrade has called the most "Seattlist" section of
Linksruck, people who call everything into question about our previous
practice. These people are about as far away from the ISO in the
question of political discipline as it is possible to be and still be a
member of an organisation.

> > 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.
> >
> Since both of us live in Germany I would like to hear from you what this
> means in concrete for Germany. When I was a member of the SAG people only
> talked with contempt about the rest of the lest as the 'swamp'. But times
> are changing, aren't they?
Times are indeed changing. The designation "swamp" was, at least
originally, a designation of the lack of clear-cut politics and a
tendency to accommodate to pressures from the right. We tried to steer
way from this type of politics by a return to political "basics". In the
case of the SAG, because it was a small organisation without deep roots,
this led to a certain "isolationism" - which was often made into a
virtue. And in the course a political designation was often used simply
as a sort of political swearword.

>From the mid-1980s attempts were made to break this pattern, but only
with very limited success. The establishment of Linksruck and the
eventual dissolution of the SAG was part of the process of political
renewal which was necessary to intervene effectively. A new organisation
was necessary because the old one was prone to ossification and it was
necessary to break old habits of working.

I believe that this process has been largely successful and means that
we are in a position to operate effectively *as part of* the newly
emerging movement. But to do so properly and to contribute to the growth
and strengthening of this movement we will need to change ourselves even
more and throw off old ways of working. One of these is to get rid of
tendencies towards sectarianism which are remnants of the old way of
working during the "downturn" and which are now a hindrance to effective
participation in the movement.

Practically, we are trying to build for the largest possible
mobilisation for the G8 meeting in Genoa, 20-22 July. Here in Chemnitz
we have helped to set up a campaign group to do so which involves
representatives from a number of trade unions, the PDS, former members
of the GDR opposition, Third World campaigners, peace activists and
ourselves. We're trying to widen the basis of the campaign and to get
more people actively involved.

Our intention is to try to bring the "spirit of Genoa", the imaginative
forms of protest being thrown up in the new movement, back into the
various local campaigns and initiatives against unemployment, against
welfare cuts, against racism, against environmental degradation, for
refugee and immigrant rights, for more social facilities, for more
nurseries etc. etc.

I hope this goes some way to answering your question. If you have any
more specific questions feel free to contact me off-list.


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