[Marxism] John Rees statement on divisions in British SWP

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Dec 14 10:14:21 MST 2008

14 December, 2008 SWP - WHERE WE STAND

Editorial Note: We are advised by the person who sent it to us that 
the following is not an internal SWP document, it has been 
distributed beyond the ranks of the membership.

by John Rees

Many people have asked me in recent weeks what are the politics 
behind the current argument in the SWP. The debate is currently 
focussed on what happened in Respect. Many of us were deeply involved 
with the Respect project, and felt a great deal of disappointment at 
its outcome. We all deserve a full examination of this experience. 
But this is not what we are getting in the pre-conference period. And 
the debate concerns a lot more than Respect and most comrades have 
been given no information about these wider disagreements.

I have always hesitated to take these arguments beyond the Central 
Committee. I remember from the internal fights in the 1970s that such 
debates can be damaging as well as enlightening. But I now think that 
we have no choice but to initiate a full and wideranging debate in 
the SWP. This document deals with the following key issues.

1 There is a serious debate to be had about the experience of 
Respect. But this should be an informed political discussion not a 
personalised blame-game that distorts both the facts and the general 
lessons that can be drawn from our recent electoral work.

2 The personalised and restricted nature of the discussion so far 
obscures the fact that four Central Committee members (Lindsey 
German, Chris Nineham, Chris Bambery and I) have raised a number of 
issues that have resulted in sharp disagreements on the CC over the 
last year. These are: recruitment to the party, the SWP's slow 
response to the recession and the CC majority's failure to support the Charter.

3 The nature of leadership in our party. This is now being contested 
by a number of comrades, including those who support Neil Davidson's 
document in Internal Bulletin 3, but also by some CC members.

I'd like now to look at these issues in turn.

The context of the debate

The crisis in the SWP is the most serious for many years. There are 
many issues in this debate. But one aspect of the debate, the crisis 
in Respect, is being handled in a personalised and destructive way. 
The decision to remove me from the CC slate for conference has not 
been argued in political terms. It was taken so late in the 
preconference discussion period that there could be no written 
discussion on the reasons for this decision.

The CC majority has since rejected the proposal of Chris Bambery and 
Chris Nineham that it should produce an additional bulletin to allow 
for this discussion before Christmas. This document attempts to 
discuss some of the political differences that have arisen in the 
last year. It also examines what actually happened in Respect and 
answers some of the charges against those of us involved in it. 
Finally, it examines wider problems in the party and it attempts to 
take up some of the points made in Neil Davidson's document 
'Leadership, membership and democracy in the revolutionary party' in 
Internal Bulletin #3.

The immediate problem has been that despite the fact that all 
important decisions taken during the Respect crisis were agreed, 
argued out and defended collectively by the Central Committee, the 
majority of the CC have since decided to respond to disquiet in the 
party by personalising the issues rather than continuing to discuss 
and argue them out in a serious way.

But there are deeper, underlying issues that have contributed to the 
crisis. First the weakness of our recruitment and, second, a failure 
to convince a large enough section of the party of the importance of 
the various united fronts we have been involved in since Seattle. In 
the process what has also emerged is a more general move away the 
traditional style of leadership in a Leninist party.

Taken together these problems have generated a sense of paralysis in 
the party that has meant that we have been unable to respond with 
anything like our usual decisiveness and élan to the worst economic 
crisis since the 1930's.

full: http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=3169

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