[Marxism] WHY I DECIDED TO MAINTAIN MY PARTICIPATION IN THE SWP’S MARXISM 2013

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed May 8 07:55:21 MDT 2013


On 5/8/13 2:42 AM, Gilbert Achcar wrote:
> WHY I DECIDED TO MAINTAIN MY PARTICIPATION IN THE SWP’S *MARXISM 2013*
>
> Gilbert Achcar
>
> The campaign against the SWP is taking a regrettable turn. It now includes
> attempts at intimidating those participating in Marxism 2013, including
> myself, into withdrawing from the conference. The SWP is being described as
> a “socialist rapist party” and taking part in the conference as an “apology
> of rapism”.

You can call the SWP whatever you want but the fact is that a key leader 
of the party was protected from the consequences of the most brutal act 
of violence against women.

> Whatever one thinks of the crisis in the SWP and the behaviour of its
> leadership, such terms applied to a whole party ­– the largest on the
> British radical left – and to the open forum that the party organizes each
> year are outrageous. They reveal the regrettable persistence of a certain
> mindset on the left, a mindset the origin of which is known all too well
> and for which anathemas and excommunication are substitutes for political
> fight.

Nobody advocates "anathema and excommunication", as if that term 
applied. Instead, it is a reaction by some leading figures on the left 
to refrain from accepting invitations to speak at their Summer Carnival 
of Marxism because of the failure of the SWP leadership to clean up its 
act. "Anathema and excommunication" would instead describe what happened 
to the Trotskyist movement for most of the 30s through the 50s when it 
was routinely blocked from joining social movements, trade unions, etc. 
by a hegemonic Communist Party.

> I do not recall any such attitude towards innumerable left parties the
> leaderships of which are guilty of much worse than what the SWP is accused
> of. To give but one example, I have accepted in the past invitations by the
> French Communist Party to their annual Fête de l’Humanité, as do regularly
> countless intellectual and activists who are deeply critical of that party.
> Had I regarded participating in such open forums as an endorsement of the
> party’s political, organisational or ethical record, which I deem to be
> incomparably worse than that of the SWP in all respects, I would have never
> accepted. Instead, I regarded my participation as an opportunity to engage
> with the public who attend such events, be they party members or
> non-members, and defend my own views, which differ from those of the party.
> No one ever blamed me for that.

This is a bogus analogy. The CP in France was not responsible for 
repression in the USSR. By the 1960s the CP's in capitalist countries 
had evolved into social democratic type formations whose connection to 
the Moscow Trials, etc. mostly consisted of a refusal to disavow their 
own history. If the French CP, on the other hand, was as tiny as the SWP 
and had a record of 9 rape investigations on its record, that might be 
another story.

>
> I do firmly believe that the crisis in the SWP is a worrying symptom of a
> deeply-rooted problem pertaining to a vitiated conception and form of
> organisation. Regrettably, a few of the SWP’s opponents worldwide are
> taking this same vitiated tradition to extremes in the way they practice
> SWP-bashing. It is high time for the radical left to get rid entirely of
> that tradition if it is ever to regenerate.
>
> 8 May 2013


Sorry, Gilbert, the "tradition" we need to get rid of is thuggery on the 
left. When a minority faction in the SWP was formed to clean house, its 
members were shouted down and threatened with violence. Meanwhile, Alex 
Callinicos--author of 27 books, speculated that "lynch mobs" might arise 
if the minority refused to abide by the rules shoved down its throat by 
an anti-democratic majority. If that is the kind of gathering you want 
to attend, be my guest.

>
> APPENDIX
>
> For the record, I am publishing the comment I made in private on a
> statement that was sent to me on 26 January by the friends (no SWP members)
> who authored it, with a request to sign it. The statement is below,
> followed with my own comment.
>
> *The ongoing crisis in the Socialist Workers’ Party – precipitated by the
> handling of rape allegations against a senior party member – has raised
> fundamental questions about democracy, power and sexism in the
> organisations and culture of the left. We believe that the way in which the
> central committee of the SWP has handled the situation, and its lack of a
> reasonable response to the legitimate protests voiced by many of its own
> members, as well as others on the left, point to issues that cannot simply
> be swept under the rug.*
>
> *We have all previously participated in events and initiatives promoted by
> the SWP, including the annual Marxism festival, or written for its
> publications. We continue to value the commitment and work of many SWP
> members as trades unionists, activists and comrades. Nonetheless, we can no
> longer in good conscience participate in SWP publications and platforms
> until the party recognises and seriously addresses the legitimate
> criticisms of its handling of this case and the ensuing crisis.*
>
> *My comment on 26 January*
>
> *There are two reasons why I can’t sign. Both are in the second paragraph.*
>
> *I have no problem with the first. With the second, my key reservation is
> that I don’t think one should mix Marxism, which is an open forum, with the
> SWP line. If one had told me that participating in Marxism meant an
> endorsement of the SWP’s line and practices, I would have never taken part
> in it. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense in my view to say that because one
> disapproves of the way the SWP handled this whole affair, one won’t attend
> Marxism any longer. Moreover, one should not appear as taking sides
> directly in the crisis itself. What we should be interested in is not
> substituting ourselves to a commission of inquiry or a tribunal of the
> left, but drawing the general lessons of the crisis. To give an ultimatum
> of this kind won’t help in the least; it will only increase the tension. I
> don’t think that a break-up of the SWP would be in the interest of the left
> in the UK and beyond.*
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