[Marxism] China Mieville and Richard Seymour respond to a critic

Louis Proyect 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

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