[Marxism] Slates, Factions, and the British SWP

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jan 4 04:11:55 MST 2013

Slates, Factions, and the British SWP
by Pham Binh on January 3, 2013

The British Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is in the midst of another 
internal crisis. Four members were expelled on questionable grounds and 
now there are two factions, the Democratic Opposition  and the 
Democratic Centralism faction (hopefully Richard Seymour is among them), 
both of whom are defending the four. The recent formation of the 
Democratic Centralism faction by a minority on the Central Committee is 
particularly significant as it could have sufficient support at the 
conference to overturn the expulsions.

The underlying issue in the dispute is the SWP’s internal regime, 
specifically how it elects its Central Committee (CC). Like almost all 
Trotskyist groups, the SWP uses what is best described as a closed slate 
system. A slate system means a ticket of names is voted on as a single 
bloc. In and of itself, there is nothing untoward or undemocratic about 
a slate system. However, in the living context of the SWP, it is 
untoward and undemocratic. From a rank-and-file members’ perspective, 
any attempt to hold a single CC member accountable by removing them 
would require coming up with an entirely new leadership, usually upwards 
of a dozen people, since existing CC members will decline nomination as 
part of a rival slate (hence why the system is “closed”). Leading cadre 
outside the CC are usually appointed to their positions by the CC, so 
the likelihood of them accepting a position on an opposition slate is 
close to zero. Inevitably, the CC puts forward itself (sometimes with a 
few personnel changes) as a slate for re-election at the SWP’s annual 
convention. All of these factors acting in concert ensure that the CC’s 
slate is the only one convention delegates vote on in an open show of 
hands, aye or nay. Only once in the SWP’s history has there been a 
competitive election for the CC between slates at a party convention.

full: http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=4268

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