[Marxism] China Mieville and Richard Seymour respond to a critic
lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 7 11:19:57 MST 2013
The Nick Grant to whom they are responding wrote a disgusting letter to
the ISO: http://socialistworker.org/2013/02/07/views-brief
On accusations of heresy
Enter Nick Grant, defending his leaders from the ravages of socialists
who disagree with them. His role, and that of others of his ilk, as a
bullhorn for CC insinuations is clear. The CC's traducing of its
internal critics in Party Notes consists of nudges: no names are given,
details are scant, hints are urgent but en passant. The CC wager that
the faithful, whose investment in 'official' positions is unshakable, as
libidinal as theoretical, eager for diktats to keep them safe from
nuance, will parse these nuggets. Thus here. We respond to Grant not
because he is an interesting figure in himself - he is not - but because
he is a function, a meat-exemplar of the worst kind of loyalism. We
argue not with Nick Grant, but with 'Nick Grant'.
'Nick Grant''s pugnacious if incoherent rhetoric involves barking
questions as if their implied answers are damning, whether or not they
are. We focus on his attacks on individuals, not least ourselves.
'Nick Grant''s accusations are rote. The SWP's external critics are
suddenly motivated by 'default abhorrence of bolshevism', their motives
questionable. This despite both figures so scowled at, Laurie Penny and
Owen Jones, having worked closely with the SWP, spoken at our
conferences and to our publications, never making any secrets of their
disagreements, but engaging in the kind of non-sectarian debate we could
hope would characterise disagreement on the left. Of the growing number
of our other critics in the trade union movement and among sympathetic
left-wing academics, 'Nick Grant' has nothing to say. They, presumably,
also have 'questionable motives'. This is, after all, a given: it needs
no proving. They disagree with the leadership who provide 'Nick Grant'
with his opinions. This is definitionally questionable. To cite their
disagreements with the CC is to invalidate them. Job done.
And us, internal critics? 'Nick Grant' imputes three positions to us,
and further, insists they suggest 'a pattern', though of quite what,
beyond that unconscionable disagreement with the CC, is unclear.
The heresies are as follows:
i) 'Political disagreement with conference decisions'
We confess, 'Nick Grant' has us bang to rights. It is indeed in the
nature of disagreeing with decisions made at a conference (and
elsewhere) that one disagrees with decisions made at a conference.
ii) 'A disenchantment with working-class agency in revolutionary strategy'.
In an epigoneal echo of the line of attack launched by the CC in Party
Notes, 'Nick Grant' suggests that because of our opposition to the
bullying top-down bureaucratic methods of the CC and its clique, we
(whose combined membership of the SWP runs to thirty years) have given
up on working-class self-emancipation. This contention demands to be
read symptomatically. It is, clearly, prima facie both insulting and
preposterous, yet 'Nick Grant' seems to expect it to be taken seriously.
This expectation bespeaks simultaneous political debasement and
self-aggrandisement. Its straw-person slander of opponents and the
fetishistic equation of CC decisions with working-class self-activity
should provoke nothing but embarrassed laughter.
iii) 'A very partial assessment - because they earn a living from it -
of the value of online "debate" and its organizational importance'
We do consider debate - or "debate" - a good thing, whether that debate
occurs online, offline, in branches, or anywhere. Unlike the CC, we
think a) serious, respectful, open-minded and far-reaching debate is not
only necessary but invaluable, and b) that the CC's internetophobia is a
pathetic absurdity, an online stable-door bolting while the
discussion-horse canters happily away. (Not only is the fact of online
discussion now a given; it is overwhelmingly a good thing. The
years-long sluggish and suspicious response of the CC to the internet,
exemplified by the embarrassing inadequacy of SWP websites and online
resources, is a political dereliction. But we digress.)
'Nick Grant' insultingly implies that our current opposition is
motivated by our wallets, though in fact neither of us 'earns a living'
from online debate (it is unclear what that would even mean).
There is perhaps a subsidiary implication: that we are effete literati
who swan about without getting our hands dirty and have no notion of
party building or proper actual honest sweat and toil. This has more
traction, not least because of its kernel of truth: we do both make a
living writing, and our milieu does include such things as book
launches. There is, of course, no contradiction between working as
writers and being committed revolutionary socialists.
We contend that the failure to apply our politics of women’s liberation,
evident in the cover-up of serious sexual allegations and the utterly
inappropriate questioning of the women making them – and notably
occluded in ‘Nick Grant’’s list of accusations – is the real source of
our crisis, as well as the symptom of a deeper crisis of party
democracy. We contend that the SWP is in profound crisis, is being
boycotted by comrades, haemorrhaging members, alienating our best young
activists, because of disgraceful and appalling dereliction of
leadership, of accountability, of sexual politics, of democracy, for
which the CC scandalously refuses to accept a scintilla of
responsibility. We contend this because that is what we, activists and
SWP members of many years' standing, see when we survey the political
terrain. If 'Nick Grant' disagrees, the onus is on him to prove that the
SWP is not in crisis, or even that it is but that the best way out is
the ostrich arrogance of the leadership. It is inadequate to do as he
does instead, to point out that we are writers, and to raise an eyebrow
as if to add so they would say that, wouldn't they?
- China Mieville & Richard Seymour
More information about the Marxism