[Marxism] Alex Callinicos responds to Owen Jones

DCQ davecq at yahoo.com
Mon Jan 28 14:49:13 MST 2013

Oh for fuck's sake. What a ridiculous series of evasions, strawmen, irrelevancies, and horseshit. "You see, we had to ask that woman about her slutty boozing habits because of, you know, Lenin and all that."

And the outright lie--that the issue was resolved by an overwhelming vote in support of the CC in an open and vigorous debate--just boggles the mind. Is he not aware that we can see the vote count ourselves? Or that we know how debate was stifled prior to the conference by crude expulsions? Or does his delusion really run that deep?

But my favorite line has got to be:

> One thing the entire business has reminded us of is the dark side of the Internet.

Does he even comprehend what a reactionary ass he sounds like? The leading edge of the global movement against oppression embraces the internet and social media. They don't cluck their tongues at it like sour old schoolmarms tsk-tsking at that newfangled rock-n-roll music. (If he really thinks Richard's blog is "the dark side of the Internet," he is even more sheltered than I would have guessed.)

> Enormously liberating though the net is, it has long been known that it allows salacious gossip to be spread and perpetuated - unless the victim has the money and the lawyers to stop it. Unlike celebrities, small revolutionary organisations don't have these resources, and their principles stop them from trying to settle political arguments in the bourgeois courts.

In other words, "I would love to sue this lot using reactionary British libel law for having the gall to question me, but I'm above that...though I might not be if I had the cash." It's also interesting to note this "bourgeois courts" idea raising its head again. I don't know where it comes from, but the idea that revolutionaries shouldn't use the courts at all is just bizarre. How many important rights have been won or defended or expanded in the courts? (Roe v Wade anyone...though mentioning that does put me at risk of being called a feminist, I suppose.) It coincides eerily with the whole cultish frame of mind that got the SWP in this position in the first place: i.e., that a leading member accused of raping a woman shouldn't face criminal charges (a court system that overwhelmingly favors coming to the same conclusions the CC/DC did.)

I'll say it clearly here: If Smith was innocent--and I must say I highly doubt it--he should have demanded his day in court, to bring the charges into the open and have them decided in full view. (And if there are any revolutionary principles here, it would be that the defendant would absolutely refuse to engage in any of the sexist blame-the-victim tactics.) *That* is how to defeat gossip and smear campaigns--*if* you have nothing to hide, that is.

> Moreover, in this case a few individuals, some well known, others not, have used blogs and social media to launch a campaign within the SWP. Yet they themselves, for all their hotly proclaimed love of democracy, are accountable to no one for these actions. They offer an unappetising lesson in what happens when power is exercised without responsibility. 

Methinks he doth protest too much.

Interesting to note that this argument implies no member should have any voice outside approved party publications. The SWP CC has been fine with Richard and China using the available means (blogs, social media, etc.) to promote the party up till now. Only when they are critical does Alex wag his finger about how they are "unaccountable." (And for that matter, what precise "power" are the opposition exercising? The ability to sign up for a blog?)

> When "Mayo" and his like renounce Leninist politics and uncritically embrace the movements they are evading these problems. They are equally shifty when it comes to confronting the biggest problem facing the progress of resistance to austerity in Britain - the role of the trade union leaders in blocking strike action. Like Jones, "Mayo" and his co-thinkers are backing McCluskey on the grounds that he "is no bureaucrat". Neither they nor Jones are offering an alternative to the dominant forces inside the British workers' movement.

So if you oppose the CC, you're either an anarchist or a reformist. But the opposition's position is precisely that there are concrete and real steps that are possible--and necessary--to take to be more democratic and effective, on "Leninist" terms (though not in the distorted and narrow way the CC interprets that term) without becoming a sparkle-fingered autonomist or a club-footed reformist. The SWP's version of Leninism was set up (rightly or wrongly is besides the point) precisely when the movements of the early 60s and 70s began to decline. If a revolutionary organization must adapt to changing circumstances, why on earth should the SWP be saddled with a 40-year-old structure? Is there no way to improve the organization? Has it attained structural perfection, only sullied by the (very) occasional imperfect individual? 

> United fronts
> But maybe the SWP is just too hopelessly sectarian to provide the basis of this alternative. Yet Jones pays us a curious if back-handed tribute: "The SWP has long punched above its weight. It formed the basis of the organisation behind the Stop The War Coalition, for example, which - almost exactly a decade go - mobilised up to two million people to take to the streets against the impending Iraqi bloodbath. Even as they repelled other activists with sectarianism and aggressive recruitment drives, they helped drive crucial movements such as Unite Against Fascism, which recently organised a huge demonstration in Walthamstow that humiliated the racist English Defence League."
> So the SWP is awful, but it has played a crucial role in the most important movements of the past decade. How can this contradiction be resolved? In reality we are committed to the politics of the united front. In other words, we will work, in a principled and comradely way, with political forces well to our right to build the broadest and strongest action for common if limited objectives - for example, against the "war on terror" or the Nazis. We have followed the same practice in Unite the Resistance, an important alliance of activists and trade union officials to campaign for strikes against the coalition.

We in the USA can provide another answer: like the SWP, the WWP/PSL was a major player in the ANSWER anti-war coalition that mobilized hundreds of thousands of people, *despite* being little more than a few dozen sectarian cultists. How can this contradiction be resolved? Bureaucratic maneuvering coupled with undoubted efficiency at knowing how to get a demo permit. (Thought: why is it ok for the SWP to get march permits, but not ok to use the court system? What level of bourgeois government must we not participate in?) While the latter is good (or at least a necessity), the former is, yes, toxic.

> Moreover, what our critics dislike most about us - how we organise ourselves - is crucial to our ability, as Jones puts it, to punch above our weight. Our version of democratic centralism comes down to two things. First, decisions must be debated fully, but once they have been taken, by majority vote, they are binding on all members. This is necessary if we are to test our ideas in action.

The denial of reality here is almost pathological. Alex, the contention is that this was *not* debated fully (and if only those decisions that are debated fully are valid, then this is neither valid nor binding). And furthermore, the contention is that the CC's perspective of "Members should vote to approve the DC's findings because that will lead the party forward and impress everyone with our revolutionary methods and commitment to taking women's issues seriously" has failed. Immediately. Obviously. Spectacularly.

(Note: the idea that comrades can vote to change someone's mind is, obviously, nuts. Actions taken by a democratic decision to which one adheres despite one's opposition might change someone's mind, if proven better in practice than the alternative (though proving something is better than a hypothetical is never going to be a certain proposition, which is why a revolutionary leadership must be humble and open to criticism at all times). But the idea that people must stop disagreeing with you because of a vote is insane.))

The most galling aspect of this is his failure to mention anything about sexism, women's liberation, and/or rape, probably because he doesn't think it's relevant. Despicable.


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