Wednesday 12 June 2013

The Newspaper and Form

This is a guest post by Procne
This piece is intended as a set of reflections on the future of ‘the paper’.
Walter Benjamin once wrote that the newspaper is the ‘scene of the limitless debasement of the word’. Taken seriously, this insight poses a problem for those who wish to use the newspaper – or, say, a blog – as a tool of political organisation and intervention. Leon Trotsky suggested one possible problem with the form in an article on ‘The Newspaper and its Readers’ published in Pravda in 1923. He complained that ‘in some of our newspapers [plural], you get the impression that when the comrades in charge of this department submit fresh cables […], they have completely forgotten what they put in yesterday. […] Each wire looks like some sort of chance fragment.’ Far from being a means to achieve a holistic, or total, analysis of the political conjuncture, the unmediated, disjointed nature of the news-items (‘information’) and their usurpation of older forms of narration, such as storytelling, constitute a reification of experience. This is why, for Benjamin, the newspaper represents the ‘increasing atrophy’ of experience: ‘[t]he principles of journalistic information (newness, brevity, clarity, and, above all, lack of connection between the individual news items) contribute as much to this as does the layout of the pages and the style of writing.’
Without wanting to sound otiose, I have sometimes wondered whether current or past editors of a newspaper such as Socialist Worker have ever seriously grappled with the problem of theform of the newspaper. It is not enough simply to keep churning out articles, treating form as an empty vessel. Form imposes certain serious restrictions and limitations, not only on what can be said, but on how it can be said. This is important because propaganda must be persuasive if it is to be effective. Producing effective propaganda, one might conclude, will require at least some basic familiarity with linguistic matters such as rhetoric, style and idiom, even before the ostensibly weightier matters of content and ‘substance’ enter the frame. Someone will doubtless soon pipe up to the effect that the relationship between form and content is dialectical, rather than simply dualistic, but this must be shown, rather than simply told.
What has been most notable about the proliferation of blogs and online commentary in the recent months is that it has become impossible not to relinquish the illusion of monolithic central authority. There is not one line; instead, there are many voices. This is why Charlie Kimber always manifests what might be dubbed a Chinese sneer whenever he is obliged to mention ‘the blogs’. One might recall Mikhail Bakhtin’s writings on the novelistic discourse which mobilise the concept of polyglossia by way of a subterranean riposte to the monoglossia of the Stalinist bureaucracy. The blogosphere is undeniably polyglossic. One blog leads to another, which leads to another. The conversation is many-sided and multi-faceted. A total picture of the situation begins to emerge only in the corner of one’s eye, amidst a kaleidoscopic array of paragraphs which cascade one on top of the other in a waterfall of prose (some of which is stylish, some of which is not).
I hope, then, that I may be forgiven a brief digression before returning to more serious analysis. Emmanuel Kazakevich is a mostly forgotten Soviet novelist. In his 1961 short story,The Blue Notebook (1961), he offers a fictional reconstruction of Lenin’s experience of exile on the Karelian isthmus, situated between the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga in north-western Russia. Hiding in a rural barn, guarded by a comrade, Lenin requests that his comrade’s sons make frequent visits to a nearby town in order to collect a large number of different newspapers. Kazakevich goes to the trouble of elucidating:
Each of the boys had his regular list. Sasha bought the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik papers: Rabochaya Gazeta, Izvestia Petrogradskogo Sovieta, Novaya Zhizn, Volya Naroda,Yedinstvo, Zemlya I Volya, Izvestia Vserossiiskogo Sovieta Krestyanskikh Deputatov and Dyelo Naroda. It was Kondraty’s job to buy the Bolshevik papers and magazines: Proletarskoye Dyelo, the Moscow Sotsial-Demokrat, Rabotnitsa and whatever else he could find. Seryozha bought the Black-Hundreds’ and ‘yellow’ press: Zhivoye Slovo, Novoye Vremya, Novaya Rus,Purishkevich’s Narodny Tribun, and others. In addition, Kondraty had to buy the bourgeois papers: the Petrograd Rech, Dyen, Russkaya Volga and Birzheviye Vedomosti and the Moscow newspapers Utro Rossii, Russkiye Vedomosti and Russkoye Slovo.
There is a lot to read here, week by week, and Lenin, of course, reads all of this wordy stuff with a voracious appetite. He gobbles it up, unafraid and undaunted. Lenin is the antithesis of Oblomov – the anti-hero of Ivan Goncharov’s eponymous novel – who is utterly withdrawn from the sphere of immediacy epitomised by the newspaper. Oblomov responds to his friend Stolz’s encouragement to take a more active interest in the world as follows: ‘Do you expect me to load myself every day with a fresh supply of world news and then to shout about it all week till it runs out?’ Oblomov, being a fine specimen of mid-nineteenth-century Russia’s dissolute aristocracy, would rather lounge around in bed for most of the morning, perhaps considering the possibility of breakfast at about midday. He is a finely drawn individual specimen of a more general type – the proverbial lazy-bones, whom we have all encountered, perhaps embodied, at one time or another. (George Osborne might like to take note that there was no welfare state in nineteenth-century Russia). Lenin polemicised relentlessly against the Oblomovs.
Now, if you have ever made bold to hawk a newspaper such as Socialist Worker in one of the main streets of the town where you live, you will not have failed to notice that many hundreds of people walk past you as if you were a ghost. They see you as having loaded yourself with a fresh supply of world news and they note, with varying degrees of interest and indifference that you are shouting about it for at least part of the week. The Oblomovian response to this type of activity is not an uncommon one. It is not just that these people are lazy, or busy, or that they have other things on their mind. Some may be lazy, or busy, or just engrossed in the marathon of conspicuous consumption, but many others will walk past because they already know, without having to take the trouble to read it, precisely what the newspaper will contain. The actual content will change from week to week, but it is the same basic, wordy stuff. Can you honestly claim to remember the detail of what was printed in Socialist Worker in the third week of May in 1999 in the same way that you might recall a particular moment in a novel, say, or a poem? One wonders whether the stalwarts of the Central Committee have spent much time reading novels. I suspect not. So we are back to Benjamin again: the newspaper is the scene of the limitless debasement of the word. The propaganda is ineffective because it fails to provoke the curiosity of its intended readership.
Yes, yes, yes, I know what you will say, thou staunch loyalist thou. Of course, there are people who buy it. It's a brave old world out there, so we don't need to talk about all this internal shit. We shouldn't pause for thought or reflection because we must march onwards, ever onwards, into the radiant future of struggle. Of course, there are empirically verifiable exceptions which could be cited with wild gesturing arms in order to refute the general line of my argument. We have the statistical reminders that 50 papers were sold on Friday in the Potemkin village near Glaisdale, whilst an even more impressive 75 papers were sold in the space of an hour by the multi-storey car-park in Slough: ‘Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough!/ It isn’t fit for humans now.’ The number-crunchers hope to be able to measure the effectiveness of our propaganda with reference to a set of figures, as if the number of papers sold on a demonstration were some kind of revolutionary dipstick. There is a grain of truth in this, for sure, but a relentless focus on this kind of bad positivism becomes a fetish which only serves to avoid the real questions and problems. The trees conceal the woods and ‘life is dragged along on the triumphal automobile of the united statisticians’, whose myopia is truly pitiable. 
It is true: the revolutionary newspaper can indeed invoke the fleeting curiosity of a not-insignificant portion of the population – and this is important because it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is important to persist with the form (even as particular ‘brands’ may come and go). The problem is that this curiosity is far more ephemeral than it should be, given the moral, ethical, political and social issues to which the said paper sets out to address itself. So who are these fleeting readers? To where do these people go? To what houses, flats, cubicles and cottages? How is their curiosity to be not only excited, but sustained and turned into a more durable kind of political commitment? Perhaps, just perhaps, the answer might lie with the kind of language that is used. I am not sure the editors of Socialist Worker have answers to these questions, because I doubt very much whether they are questions that have ever been seriously considered, except fleetingly and ephemerally.    
This problem exists just as much for the editors of and contributors to newspapers like The Socialist, Socialist Resistance, The Weekly Worker, Socialist Appeal, Solidarity, or whichever socialist newspaper you care to name. As I have mentioned at the outset, the problem is with the form of the newspaper, rather than with any particular instance of the form. But let’s be ‘concrete’ for a moment: if you have ever sold Socialist Worker, you can perhaps engage in quick thought experiment: imagine the attitude that you assume when you pass by one of those lonely doppelgangers in, let us say, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, or the Socialist Party. The paper s/he is selling is not a saleable commodity in your eyes, nor, indeed, is it something you would touch with a proverbial barge-pole. This, then, is the attitude assumed by the vast majority of passers-by when they see you selling Socialist Worker. Perhaps, if you can begin properly to empathise with the experience of such a passer-by we might begin collectively to address the problem of how we, as an historically situated gathering of revolutionary militants, might actually go about relating to the contemporary working class. Therein lies the distance between a vanguard of a few thousand revolutionaries and a mass party.
Curioser and curioser: so why did Lenin read all those newspapers? and have the cadres of the SWP been trained in a similar fashion? Socialist Worker, in the colloquial idiom of the party rank-and-file, takes the definite article: it is not a paper, one amongst many; it is The Paper. ‘Do you want a copy of the paper?’ This phrase must have become so ubiquitous on demonstrations and picket-lines that, eventually, it spawned a parody. Radicalised students at one of the London universities began printing and distributing a news-bulletin wittily entitledThe Paper, in an ironic tribute to the panoply of socialist organs, each of which makes its own claim to exclusivity and uniqueness. But ideological hegemony is a difficult thing to achieve, even in the small world of the revolutionary left in Britain. Very few members of the SWP will take the trouble to consult the newspaper of other left-wing organisations; some will consult the bourgeois and pro=capitalist press; a handful might make the effort to read the publications of the BNP and its splinter-groups, as well as those of the EDL and the NF. Many more will simply take the line from the paper. After all, there is only so much time in the day: some hours must be spent in labour, eating and sleeping. But this is no way to train a cadre, and so we are back to Oblomov. The paper’s readers are deaf to the polyglossic, which is a problem, because the world is infinitely more complex than the paper allows for. One sometimes wonders whether socialists can truly learn that dialectics necessitates antagonism, polemic and the forcing through of contradictions, if their print-culture produces nothing but a relentless monotone.   
So, where do we go from here? Let us start by taking a lesson from one of our Egyptian co-thinkers.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

On theory

This is a guest post by J. R. Hartley

The recent developments of the SWP and Socialist Worker websites have been mixed blessings for those of us who have long been critical of the party’s online presence,. For years we have argued that we need to up our game in terms of the internet, pushing for more resources, calling for the formation of commissions to make best use of the undoubted and untapped talents of so many comrades. Time and again we have been not only denied but denounced: traduced as cyber utopians who sought to abolish the paper and forgo true revolutionary activity. So three cheers for progress, I guess.

The makeover of the SW site is remarkable for the simple fact that it now appears to be worse than before – no mean feat given how it looked previously. While some neat touches have been added (such as the ‘tag’ and ‘popular’ tabs on the right-hand sidebar) the website looks half-baked, as though a beta version had been launched long before the finished version was ready to launch.

Far more interesting is the newly expanded “Theory” part of the main party website. After years of apparently randomly selected articles being highlighted in a decidedly haphazard fashion – almost as though my nan had wandered onto the site and absent-mindedly left them around with no rhyme or reason – the section finally adopted a systematic and organised approach. Clicking on the tab takes you to links for 246 books, articles and pamphlets, split into 38 categories such as “Economic Theory”, “Religion”, “Culture” and “The Fight Against Fascism”.

In many ways it is a highly useful resource even if it does duplicate links that are available in other places – most notably the monumental labour of love that is the Marxist Internet Archive. Treated as a suggested reading list it will doubtless be of value to anyone stumbling across revolutionary politics for the first time and experienced comrades alike, and collates some of the finest pieces of Marxist writing from the past 150 years or more.

But the “Theory” section, as initially launched, perhaps reveals more about the state of the party than one might expect. Not least it adds to the feeling that the party is old, reliant on the political capital of theories that were once indispensable, but now less relevant. Before I raise these points, however, I feel it’s necessary to state that I see the reading of Lenin, Trotsky, Cliff, Harman et al as being of huge importance. Let me say from the outset: I actively encourage comrades, old and young alike, to read (and re-read) the classics from the Marxist tradition. These are not only works with invaluable analysis and insight – the best examples also show how to effectively communicate the ideas of socialism and revolution to a mass audience. Any list of theoretical resources must carry these works. It is just a sad sign of the times that anyone raising concerns and criticisms feels the need to pre-empt the inevitable, unthinking rebuttals that pass for debate inside the organisation these days.

On social media some have already pointed out some of the notable omissions, for instance the comparative lack of Paul Foot; the complete absence of Widgery and Sedgewick. As S Wells said in this post: “There is no danger of any reader inadvertently being guided to the publications of the party’s more libertarian (and livelier) past.” No doubt some of you have already compiled mental lists of works you feel deserving of inclusion. Comrades, I would suggest, should be contacting the centre with recommendations at every opportunity.

Others might point to the relatively small amount of debate that gets flagged up. Only rarely do we stumble across articles written as replies to other people in the tradition: the debate between Harman and Kidron from the late-1970s, Choonara and Davidson discussing permanent revolution, the three way argument around the question of art and alienation. More links to debates would be most helpful. Surprisingly, given the questions raised recently, the debate from the mid-1980s on the question of whether working class men benefit from the oppression of working class women for instance is missing. Re-reading the theoretical disagreements between Harman, Callinicos and Hallas on the issue of base and superstructure makes you realise how important open debate is to our political tradition. Far from being staid and unchanging it becomes a constantly evolving theory, reacting and developing, growing through constant discussion.

Yet what strikes me most about the new Theory section is how many of the links take you to pieces written before 2000. Of the 246 pieces only 81 – less than a third - were written in the last thirteen years.  Much of these are to be commended (sections on disability, Latin America); some are specific to recent events (austerity, Arab spring). But there is not one single article written since the start of the new millennium listed in the sections on the Labour Party and Reformism, Leninism and the Party, The State, Trotsky(ism), or Alienation. Only one post-2000 article is linked to in the each of the following sections: The Working Class, Trade Unions and Strikes, Revolutionary Lives, Imperialism, or Students.

How can this be? Is there nothing that can be added to our understanding of the Labour Party after the years of Blair and Brown? Or did we fail to produce a piece that was of sufficient quality so as to be included in our section of must-see theoretical articles? However good John Molyneux’s Marxism and the Party may be, are we really to believe that the arguments it contains are beyond re-appraisal? In the context of sustained neo-liberal assaults, how can it be that Chris Harman’s article, Workers of the World, written in 2002 is the most recent piece we link to in the section entitled ‘The Working Class’?

Obviously the recommended pieces within the ‘Theory’ section do not exhaust the contributions made by party members to theoretical debate, historical investigation or revolutionary activity. They are, rather, the select and chosen few. And that they were chosen, while others were left on the shelf, says a lot about our organisation. Looking through that theory section one is left inspired by what the IS legacy represents but also increasingly, painfully aware that the world moved on. Has the living, breathing tradition of the International Socialists really so little to say on these matters since the start of the new millennium, or are we so certain to the point of complacency in our belief that all such questions were resolved long ago, never more to be the subject of enquiry, discussion and, where necessary, revision?

J. R. Hartley

Sunday 26 May 2013

A response from a “passionate”

This is a guest post by Hebe

The crisis in the SWP has left comrades in an impossible situation. The faction fight polarised the party, split it into two camps and has now driven at least 400 out of the organisation.  For some this has raised fundamental questions about the party very suddenly, for others it has been a much longer process. The situation is not ideal and there is no solution not fraught with difficulties. This article is an attempt to address questions that have been put to those who believe it is not possible to win back the SWP.

What do we want?

Comrades on all sides of the argument in the SWP in theory share one aim – the need for a mass revolutionary party capable of seizing power.  It is perhaps worth setting out what our vision of that party would be. It must be committed to the idea of socialism from below, understand the centrality of the working class and have an uncompromising stand against oppression. It must be explicitly revolutionary socialist and open to discussion about how its ideas can be renewed - in its publications, relationship with those around it and internal life. Importantly it must be able to face up to and analyse the changing world around it. These are prerequisites to being truly democratic centralist in more than name only.

The crisis has posed many questions that different comrades are trying to address and answer. What is the shape of the working class today? What is the role of a revolutionary organisation today? How do we apply democratic centralism today? How do we understand the radical left and united fronts? How can we update our politics on oppression? All of these questions should be debated out as openly as possible in the party, its publications and within the wider left.  This is not about abandoning the IS tradition but applying it to a changing world and synthesizing the best new insights into our view of the world and how to change it.

Can these debates be resolved in the SWP?

A majority of comrades in and around IDOOP shared these questions and a sense that together we could develop answers.  The faction meetings demonstrated a depth of politics and debate and gave many faith the SWP could be renewed.  For those isolated in their localities it was a breath of fresh air and sustained them through a rough time in the party’s recent history.  But we also saw the opposing side of the SWP mobilised around an abstract loyalty to the leadership.

This section of the party aimed to resolve the crisis not through political discussion but through appeals to loyalty. Any criticism was treated as a threat by those that had broken from or did not understand our tradition. Mike Gonzales’ recent article, ‘Who will teach the teachers?’ addresses the resonance this found with a layer of card carrying members who bolstered the most conservative elements of the party.

The question of whether any of these debates could be resolved at this conference should now be clear. We lost the faction fight not simply because of undemocratic manoeuvring but because we did not hold a majority in the organisation. The manner in which the “pro-Comrade Delta” faction asserted its victory sealed that defeat and in doing so closed down any chance of recovery. IDOOP comrades were not drawn back into the party but marginalised. The promised space for debates we hoped to have never materialised, replaced with an attempt to consolidate a distorted version of our tradition. Their side has hardened while ours has been devastated.

At the NC it was reported that at least 350 people had left the party. Contact work suggests the real figure is higher. Those left are largely holding on for lack of an alternative and few seriously believe we would be given a hearing in a future party debate. The consequence is that any process of clarification will not spread beyond those who were supportive of IDOOP, and the few remaining branches we have sway in. A serious analysis must see any faction fight further dividing the organisation on a terrain the opposition can’t hope to win. 

To change the direction of the party in future would require one of three things: 1) An opposition large enough to lead a credible fight. 2) A figure like Cliff or Harman with the personal standing to recognise and argue for a turn. 3) A section of those currently loyal to the CC to respond to events and challenge the leadership.  1 and 2 no longer exist and the third is unlikely for reasons I explore below.

How did were reach this point?

The strongest argument for remaining is that future events could force the party to turn outwards and revive the chance of rebuilding the SWP.  For that to happen the SWP would have to become part of a serious new struggle and win a generation of activists to its ranks. To do so would require a sharp turn away from the practices we are currently institutionalising.

For many in the organisation the crisis did not begin with the revelations of conference. The party’s response to it, while appalling, reflected a deeper malaise.  Comrades were called on to back the CC and disputes verdict not on its own grounds but because to challenge it meant challenging the authority of the leadership.  This flew in the face of good sense, but evasions and half-truths provided enough cover. The comrades mobilised were neither “rape apologists” nor part of a cover up - the rallying call was to defend “our tradition” and “our party” against all challengers.

Those that led the charge (on and off the CC) were in effect a faction lead to defend Comrade Delta but also a particular model of the party – one heavily shaped by the experience of the 1980s. Those in IDOOP were characterised as being soft on the movements by comrades with a model of the Party developed to survive the downturn.  This resonated with a layer of comrades caderised in the 80s who wished to see the party survive but had reduced their day to day relationship with it. Many also had roles in the public sector unions that have been at the centre of our recent perspectives.  This layer was able to pull behind it others with a substitutionist notion of party building and more who simply wished the crisis would blow over.

At the centre of this faction were comrades who had been mobilised to defeat the left platform a few years previously. That had been a faction fight that united them with younger elements in the party. However, they now moved to pressure a weak leadership into moving decisively against a section of the party shaped by the recent crisis of capitalism. This faction now reinforces the most sectarian elements of the leadership and is adjusting the party’s politics to justify a rapid sectarian turn. Their permanent war footing has created a self-fulfilling prophesy that those in IDOOP are on a route out of the party. Elements of the CC that recognised this were either not confident, or unable, to challenge the dynamic or those on the CC who encouraged it.

Some examples of this sectarianism include a one-sided hostile attitude to a revival of the Labour left; a failure to recognise the role revolutionaries could play within the People’s Assembly (in drawing out its real contradictions); a persistence with UtR despite its existence as a front group; a refusal to acknowledge that public sector strikes have not been a central site of struggle since the December sell out; turning necessities – such as the lack of speakers for Marxism – into virtues; a willingness to smash our student work to destroy the faction; a distortion of our politics on women’s liberation – I could go on.

All of this goes unchallenged as the CC and cadre need to keep things going after isolating many of those who have built the party over the past decade. Having reactivated a layer of comrades around a sectarian vision of the party they have now become trapped by it. The scale of the People’s Assembly demonstrates a centrality of politics and broad desire to mobilise that we set in opposition to abstract calls for a general strike. Left Unity demonstrates (in an ephemeral way) a desire for left of labour organisation that we are absent from.  Counterfire steal the best speakers associated with our summer festival and we down scale Marxism. 

Given all this it is unlikely that the majority will be willing to undergo the far more destabilising debate that a re-analysis of the shape of the working class today or the role of the revolutionary left in the current period would entail. The party has entrenched an internal culture of heresy-hunting where such arguments are a means of exposing comrades, not trying to understand changes in the world around us.

None of this is intended to paint a one-sided picture of the SWP. It will remain the largest group on the far left for years and continue to do much good work. To say the SWP is unlikely to be able to relate to new bursts of struggle is not to deny the positive role it will continue to play in many campaigns and unions, or its role in promoting basic socialist ideas and fighting fascism. It is to say that if you are committed to building the revolutionary left this is not enough. A genuinely revolutionary group has to seek to win over the most dynamic elements to the fight for socialism from below. It has to engage in a dialogue that attempts to understand new ideas and relate to them. It has to have a searching analysis of the balance of forces, its own resources and relationship to the struggle. On these three counts the SWP has failed.

The recent fight has accelerated a dynamic that has long existed. In doing so it has calcified distortions left over from the downturn and years of low struggle, as well as severing links with a generation shaped by the biggest crisis of capitalism in living memory. This generation had represented the best chance of renewing our organisation in years.

What now?

Our immediate task has to be to wage an open fight for ideas in the party.  The central question is the role of a revolutionary organisation and an assessment of the period we face.  Many other questions relate to this and comrades thinking and writing should be encouraged to put them into the public domain. The run up to Marxism provides a sense of urgency.  Comrades questioning the role of the party need to be armed with the viewpoints of others to enable a genuine debate to be tested. If we can’t contest the current orthodoxy at the SWP’s most important gathering than starting later will be untenable.

We also need to think whether a new organisation is needed.  Politics does not reward good intentions but ideas, organisation and timing.  To sleep walk into a split is a recipe for being blown to the four winds.  Those who call for political clarity are correct but this call obscures a more fundamental question. This is not a debate about when to break from the party but whether the party can be saved.  A faction fight might be desirable but to fight on the important questions would inevitably see us carved out. The pro-CC faction will not allow us a fair hearing and will divide and isolate the faction – a process which has already begun.  To charge into such a fight without clear aims will mean losing further waves of comrades to inactivity and demoralisation.

Our real debate is over the role of revolutionaries today. Our discussions across the country reveal a greater convergence then comrades might expect.  We are developing a vision of what a revolutionary party should look like based on the insights from the IS tradition and the experience of collective debate. To discuss what the SWP should be throws its degeneration into stark relief.

Comrades in the opposition hold a range of positions on what we should do.  All of them need to be subjected to a deeper analysis. One factor to look at is the current relationship we have with the party. How many oppositionists are still engaged enough with the party to participate in a credible faction fight? If we are to wait for an upturn in struggle where does that leave the majority of our support? Is it credible to think we can divide a weak CC that is trying to hold the party together? Most seriously, what is our assessment of the period and the future prospects of the SWP? 


Gold Dust

Dedicated to a Comrade having a hard time, politically and otherwise – you aren’t the only one.

The SWP has reached an impasse.
Members of the SWP now reject or question the accepted truths and commands.
The sense of forward advance that was once felt has now disappeared.
Hundreds now dissolved away by frustration anger and doubt, yes, more importantly however political differences and principles.

Stranded at a stand still, as the organisation galls down a dark, quite and solemn pace towards erasing the last 8 months of revolutionary despair which will have gripped, with an encompassing and stone cold blitz feeling felt among the many. The new, old, young, and experienced.

The disconnection, unfortunately, is almost now permanent. As the branches sway, panic and scramble onwards.  The busy-like nature of the weekly meeting, things to build, stalls to do, busy like, even more than ever - a quick succession of busy nothings.
And the irremovable glint in each’s eye, of the horrible scaring, of the entire integrity of that soul – politically, physical and mentally.
Withering of the strongest of the strong.
No brave face can mask it.
An open wound which refuses to heal. No matter time’s passing. The concomitant of the feeling remains; how could this have happened?

Searching for the determination; the root. Able to transcend from one to the next generation of fighters – the methods, the training, the thinking, the acting, the relating.

A Virus of Culture

A Virus - all soured, corrupted, mechanical, inadequate, unemotional, inhuman, and systematic.
It is what infects a comrade, the circles, the philosophy, the atmosphere, the living & then the breathing organ in which it paints us with its colours, strengths and vibrancies.
A culture must be constantly nurtured, paid meticulous attention to when sick, fostered, guided. - given the chance to lead – the opportunity to build – the ability to develop and evolve living revolutionary ideas, by looking on those that have come to past, and those who decay to their death.

Time is short, amplifying the most precious questions and prominent crisis which confronts us.
Questions, which are often visited. Chipped away at by the old comrade, who comes up against the metaphorical and physically gigantic concrete wall; too high to climb or destroy, by the efforts of a sole.
Rebounding the cycle of your own efforts, its own echo - no answer, no reply, nothing – despair, frustration, sorrow, confusion, anger, bitterness, isolation.
Death of the idea, and the hope which came with it.
To change something, anything, at this point, the worst point.

Consigned to the graveyard of once living ideas, one in which sorted to amass inspiration and militancy of those here, and yet to come.

A choking culture, selectivity, breeding animosity between those closest.
The questions, why them, not I, not us, not all?
The fostering of new comrades in preparation to join the circles of thought and the warring bands that shuffle, jostle and scuffle for weight, influence – and ultimately power.
It is a deep rooted problem. Engrained & inbuilt, a way of ‘things’ - Greying gold dust

As those pushed to the front, or proped up, often with little total understanding of their use in another’s means to the ends.
A percentile effect; of those of a generation, the many left to fall in between the gaps of the organisation, and the cracks in which spring from its virused culture: Lost revolutionaries, and with them; lost potential, a lost far future, but near. – Lost Gold Dust

The unappreciated, fighting to grow, completing the ‘dogs-work’, acting as the main mechanical cog, buried beneath the shiner, but smaller cogs, that overlap, overplaced and overlay it.
Yet never the time to spare or interest and encouragement given, to develop beyond your practical perfections, you’re fighting, for the sake of fighting strong, time passes and you’ve grown tired, as revolutionary enthusiasm stagnates, from the lack of care placed under you.
The same is no longer the same; it’s lost its meaning, as you repeat, repeat, and repeat, repeat.
The disconnection growing at each stroke of disarray and crisis – Exhausted Gold Dust

The excited, ever charged, with vigour and zeal to build the organ, they truly want and feel to succeed with every fibre, every thought, every feeling.
But bound to wonder for an answer, a sign – nothing.
Left to explore and wonder, search new possibilities, but alone.
As the organ stagnates, reclines, its pulse slowing, its tone fading, its resonance breaking.
If only, you dream. The organ was next to you, engaging, renewing, growing and living- off this new potential.
Instead rusting, squeaking, if not completely silent in all but words and symbols. As if an error, an incompatibility- Frustrated Gold Dust

Constantly fighting to remedy the immediate problems in the organ, to make a dent, but it regrows even thornier.
At what point will one be able to build as where one’s ambitions truly lay or seek?
Not Deviation, Marxism; living and growing
Relating and learning from people, who struggle to survive or live today.
Against replication, skewing and stretching past struggles to apply now.
The past, always important and a part of, but never the same, never inevitable, never guaranteed, never inherent- No blueprints.
Agency evolves, composition composites’ and compresses, relations react, feelings fester, tensions sinuating.

Many gone now, the organ in failure, decaying – now lays still; and will remain still, but still-borne cannot be what is made from its death.
A real culture different to before. Forged in genuine truth, encouragement, development, trust, confidence, freedom and thought, while free from slant, bias, personal benefit, factioneering and manoeuvre.
A real want for a culture which is breathing of the class, yet instead compromising for a simple plinth listings the organs norms, constructs, its policy – The extent of relations with the Gold Dust.
This must be and can only be created through the process of fighting through real democracy.
To free the embryonic potential inside of each and every separate particle of Gold Dust – Actualised Gold Dust

This culture must be fostered and encouraged through and for a maximum living Marxism. A culture of permanent inclusivity, flexibility and depthful discussion and debate and so much more – as to achieve a real vision, an organ that intertwines with class struggle, in practise, and further to liberate the successes and failures of prospects in which it is engaged in, openly and honestly.

As is an essential of vanguard’s memory. A memory of not purely words, but of reality – The class cannot be fooled, we can only fool ourselves. 
The memory learns from the experiences of all. Managing, filtering and disrupting this process forms cracks, gaps and seizures in this memory.

The infection grows.

Angel Jackson - FL Editor

Friday 24 May 2013

The Impact of their Actions

This is a guest post by AB, PB, H, S and BJ

The Central Committee are in denial, willingly ignoring an exodus of 200-300 members, deluding themselves eternally with membership figures of 6000 whilst refusing to acknowledge a crisis tearing our party apart. Julie Sherry’s article in the Guardian blissfully pronounces the party’s excellence in handling the now infamous disputes case. In reality the opposite is true.  The CC’s dogmatism in its success has led to a spiralling crisis of their own making, meaning the SWP is rapidly degenerating at a crucial moment in the reinvigoration of the fight back against austerity.

The advent of the Bedroom Tax has sparked widespread anger against the Tory government, demonstrations have spread the length of the country and the campaign continues to grow. The Bedroom Tax could potentially be the catalyst for a wider movement to topple Cameron. Alongside this, the occupation of Sussex University against privatization on campus lasted over a month and included a demonstration of over 1,000 students and workers. Our intervention in both campaigns is now marred; on a Bedroom Tax demo in Glasgow a member of the party was heckled with chants of “rape apologists” from demonstrators when speaking. These women were visibly seen to be pushed by members of SWP stewarding the demo. At Sussex the SWSS group, historically the biggest in the country, was the first to disband. This news was met with loud cheers from inside the occupation. The CC remains oblivious, pretending their actions have no repercussions in the class.

The CC is failing to offer any leadership to its members, leaving its loyal supporters pedalling the line of the downturn, battening down the hatches and defending the party at all costs - this line bears no relation to the upturn we see in the outside world. The Left is also realigning itself; Ken Loach’s call for Left Unity has seen thousands sign up to the appeal, The International Socialist Network has begun opening a wide scoping debate on the direction of the revolutionary left. Again, the CC will not present answers as to how we relate to this changing milieu of the left and a continued sectarianism to all but “our comrades” (including those responsible for building the organisation who have now left).

The farcical National Student Meeting offered another insight to the party’s lack of direction, offering no coherent strategy in how to move forward as an organisation and no way of operating at the National Union of Students conference which was to take place within a month. SWSS's record of operating in NUS had been something we prided ourselves in, particularly in  2012 winning the most number of block votes in both higher and further education, winning votes for a national demo and a national FE walkout.

This year was, sadly, very different. Our relationships on the National Executive Committee had become strained in the light of the revelations regarding comrade delta meaning the Labour (NOLS) lackies, who have for so long run the NUS, were more hostile than they had been the year before. As well as this our opposition around the no platforming of George Galloway was now being used against us. Our relationships with other left groups, namely National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and Student Broad Left, had also changed; while SBL were very much on side with the opposition and supported our candidate, (even for the sake of comradeship supporting the party’s apologist to an extent) some members of NCAFC chose to make it clear they disagreed with oppositionist members decisions to stay. As well as a lack of support within the mechanics itself, the membership of NUS voted fairly resoundingly against of delegation to conference to the extent that our delegation was a third of its size compared to 2012 and were all known oppositionists. Adding to this the CC’s decision to withdraw a comrade who may very well have won the position due to their opinion of - and position in - the faction fight made an almost indefensible position completely so.

It was to no surprise the NUS’s opinion of the loyalists and opposition was reflected in their share of votes; the loyalists received 0.02% of the vote, the oppositionists 26%. More remarkably was the way in which the NOLS used the crisis to attack the left. Overtly, they organised a walkout during the loyalist’s speech which resulted in around 200 people walking out. Covertly, they moved on a divided and weak left to push through one of the most right-wing executives and policies seen for years. 

Comrades, we must be clear that when we are weak, the left is. We did not ‘punch above our weight’ because the CC said so, but because we were respected as activists and as principled individuals who would never surrender in argument.  NUS conference showed that when we lack conviction in the line, we lose that.

Perhaps one of the saddest things to come out of the SWP’s self-immolation is the fate of Marxism. The jewel in the party’s previously bright crown is not condemned to be the SWP talking to the SWP in a slightly bigger room. Such a travesty must not be accepted. Marxism’s establishment as the left’s biggest festival has meant a sustained respect, even outside the Marxist left, for the SWP.  With incidents like John McDonnell’s refusal to even acknowledge the party, instead opting to announce his withdrawal from the festival through Twitter, it shows the contempt with which the party is now treated with.

If we are to drag ourselves out of this crisis the decisive action must be taken now, waiting until January is not an option and if we continue to do so we will win only a shadow of our former organisation. Now is the time for people to openly dissent against the CC. They are destroying our organization. If you are not willing to take the fight now then it is time for us to leave as soon as possible, letting the party become the sect it will inevitably will be, if they carry on the current course.

Of course, if the position we outline here is incorrect and the leadership's actions are completely defensible to the class, pulling people towards our ideas, then it is the CC’s job to prove it. If comrade delta is an exonerated member of the party, then surely the comrade should be doing regular meetings and should certainly be down to do a meeting at Marxism (they are after all a talented orator). Yet the CC shies away from this, a blatant contradiction between their words and their actions, showing their critics that they are not confident in defending their actions

The SWP will continue deteriorating as long as the leadership’s arrogant ignorance persists.

Annoyed Badger, Proletarian Bagel, Howard, Steerpike and Bleeding Jug.