SWP “Leader” physically assaults CPGB Member at Marxism

July 9, 2007 at 8:47 am (left, stalinism, SWP, TWP, Uncategorized, wild man)

I have just been made aware of this story as posted on the CPGB website. Surely everyone on the left can condemn this type of thuggery on the part of the SWP regardless of their differences with the CPGB. Perhaps we should start a campaign letting the SWP know that this is not acceptable behavior inside the workers movement.

Condemn Physical Assaults on This Year’s Marxism! 

On July 7, the second full day of this year’s Marxism, SWP national organiser Martin Smith physically assaulted Communist Party comrade, Simon D. The attack occurred while our comrade was waiting for the session on ‘Organising for fighting unions’ to begin.

Simon was a member of the SWP for three years up to 2006, when he was suddenly expelled (by phone!) for “bringing the party into disrepute” – the catch-all charge loved by bureaucrats everywhere. In fact, all he was ‘guilty’ of was raising some criticisms and questions publicly and reporting on his blog – verbatum – the words of leading SWPers at a Respect meeting in Tower Hamlets. At the comrade’s appeal, led by Pat Stack and where Martin Smith gave ‘evidence’, he was not given any specific examples of his alleged crimes. He was subjected to a show trial with no pretence of allowing the comrade a fair hearing and then was simply turfed out.

In the following weeks, comrade Simon attended a Camden SWP public meeting on Respect. Incredibly, the next day Martin Smith left a message on the comrade’s phone telling him that he was henceforth “not allowed to go to any SWP events”. Smith also said he had written to the party organiser in comrade Simon’s area to let them know this. Comrade Simon texted back pointing out that it was advertised as an SWP public meeting and surely, as a member of the public, he was entitled to go. The response came back: “When you are expelled from the [SWP], that means you are not allowed to attend any SWP event, public meeting, Marxism, period.”

To make this crass exclusion official, Smith sent through a letter a few weeks later that put this in black and white: “an expelled member of the SWP cannot attend SWP public events (that includes Marxism/rallies/public meetings)” (Weekly Worker June 8 2006).

The fact is that comrade Simon has attended SWP meetings since – despite threats. Indeed, how many people at this year’s Marxism were once expelled from the SWP? Applied consistently, this would see the exclusion of hundreds of comrades on the left of the working class movement who have been in that organisation and fallen foul of its crass bureaucratic regime.

Clearly Smith is personally slighted because his foul role in the comrade’s crude show trial and expulsion was publicly exposed by the Weekly Worker. This is clearly what prompted Smith to aggressively approach comrade Simon, to demand his ticket to the whole event be returned and to physically attack him. He was wrestled to the floor, sustaining bruising, abrasions and back strain. A second SWPer then joined in and they started to go through our prone comrade’s pockets to take his Marxism ticket.

This is a foul and cowardly act. In their sect, SWP leaders are used to wielding accountable power, they treat the ‘party’ and the wider movement almost as their own property. Disgustingly, when Simon was expelled, Pat Stack told him “You’re now not going to have any life on the left – your activist days are over”. Who the hell do these people think they are? Since when have they been in charge of our common movement? Since when has it been their prerogative to decide who is a working class partisan and who is not?

However, this Stack comment and the attack on Simon reveal the foul, anti-Marxist mindset of people who treat their own members as little more than paper-selling and leaflet-distributing machines. And ordinary SWPers are the people who should really be disturbed by the physical assault at this year’s Marxism.

After all, the likes of the thug Smith cannot shut up comrade Simon or – even more frustratingly for him – the Weekly Worker itself. We will feature this story next week to make sure that Martin Smith is exposed for the anti-democratic goon that he is and that this information is widely disseminated in the movement in this country and internationally.

SWPers have no such outlet, of course. We can brush off these sorts of crude incidents; Martin Smith’s reputation will take the really bad bruising here. But comrades of the SWP – if you tolerate this despicable culture in your ranks, what about when you develop differences, what about when you want to criticise and hold your leaders to account?

That’s the real lesson from this new SWP assault on political opponents and it is one SWPers themselves should really take to heart.

40 Comments

  1. voltaires_priest said,

    Good old SWP – some things never change. They’ve been at it for years at Marxism, sending “handlers” over to deal with people from other groups who offer dissenting views, screaming in people’s faces when they disagree, and physical assualts from time to time as well. That’s notwithstanding all the usual crap over picking friendly floor speakers from sifted speaker slips, etc.

    Shower of shite, so they are.

  2. Simon B said,

    Report of Nihilism ’07 From Urban 75:

    “The funniest bit was when one of the RESPECT councillors read out a note handed to her by Lindsey German. She obviously thought it was an announcement and started reading out ‘only pick SWP and RESPECT members’ and then stopped and said, ‘oh, that obviously wasn’t meant to be an announcement.'”

  3. Will said,

    Har har Simon.

    Got a link to that online?

    We need a rebuttal from John Game!

  4. Simon B said,

    Will,

    http://www.urban75.net/vbulletin/showpost.php?p=6197235&postcount=10

    You need to be registered at Urban 75 to see it though.

  5. stroppybird said,

    Simon

    Shame its not on youtube !

  6. Andy Newman said,

    It is worth pointing out another disturbing tactic.

    Someone post a comment on the SU site falsley claiming he was being censored, and alleging this was racism by me.
    http://www.socialistunity.com/?p=491#comment-3229

    “AN is denying me the right to debate because I am an Arab. He has refused to publish any of my replies to his condesending post.”

    In fact Walid from Beirut had submitted that comment from the IP address of the SWP national office in London. No comments from him had been censored ot altered, and if he is in fact called Walid or has ever been to Beirut I will eat Jim Denham’s boxer shorts.

  7. modernityblog said,

    Andy,

    clearly, some in the SWP feel threatened by the Socialist Unity blog!

    Your article on Atzmon probably hit a nerve, perhaps you should cover the roots of Soviet anti-zionism, that would be interesting and probably infuriate the SWP leadership

  8. Will said,

    There’s no chance of AN writing anything on Soviet anti-Zionism — he’s an adherent of the same fucking thing himself.

  9. Andy Newman said,

    Actually I am quite interested in writing the article that Modernity has suggested, though not to infuriate the SWP leadeship, but as part of my thinking through of the question of national identity and the national question. the other difficulatly is finding source materials that are not completely biased one way or another!

    personally i think the evential answer to Palestine/Israel lies in the ideas elaborated by Otto Bauer, that within a single state there can be recognistion of national identites and nationalities who can have their own safeguards and elected institutions

  10. Lobby Ludd said,

    I was down the pub the other night. Christ on a bike , you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife – Marxism 2007 this, Marxism 2007 that.

    We, of course, agreed that violence has no place in the workers’ movement. But, it all hinged on whether the CPGB had been deliberately provocative a la the Sparts, or whether this was another example of the SWP’s Stalinist attempted domination of political culture.

    In the end, after a vigorous exchange of ideas we agreed, and documented:

    1) The Guinness was a bit dodgy.

    2) We weren’t there at the time.

    3) Some people have a ‘hit me face’.

    4) The advance of the working class had been put back by several moments.

    5) We had nothing better to do.

  11. modernityblog said,

    AN wrote:

    the other difficulatly is finding source materials that are not completely biased one way or another!

    surely biased Soviet sources make the job easier, you take those sources then compare them with reality and pick out the themes and how they relate to wider historical issues, is there a common thread from the policies of pre-revolutionary Russia? if so, when is it used and under what circumstances?

    I’d start bv finding out who are leading the historical scholars on Soviet anti-Zionism and what particular aspects are debated nowadays amongst historians or political scientists

    I hope that helps

  12. Andy Newman said,

    I will look into it Modernity, but I am not an academic with endless time or access to libraries.

    It is an interesting topic though.

  13. modernityblog said,

    me neither, Andy, but as a working class book lover I think if you’re going to do a job it is best to see how experts in that field do it first, and it normally shortens the task and clarifies the debate

    I’ll bet there are a few specialist bibliographies on the topic, I see if I can find them

  14. Will said,

    Of course in my earlier comment what I meant was… AN would only be capable of ‘writing something that would be a completely distorted picture of ‘Soviet ant-Zionism’ and utterly lacking in critique of Soviet-anti-Zionism’ — ergo — AN will write how it was and is great, and is beyond crtiticism — an apology for Soviet anti-Semitism in other words. Being the Stalinist he is…

  15. Andy Newman said,

    Will there has been a bit of a shift here. Anti-simitism is not the same thing as anti-Zionism.

    I admit that the USSR was anti-Semitic, for reasins related to Russian chauvenism, but also the more common marxist failing of refusing to recognise the validity of national identity, and therefore Jewish national identity.

    But the USSR’s anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism, indeed partly comes from geo-political motives.

  16. Will said,

    I understand all that Andy.

    Anti-semitism is not the same thing as anti-Zionism. Yes.

    But it can be.

    The point is not that the charge of “anti-Semitism” should never be made: some people deserve it. Nor must it always be made with trepidation: some people obviously deserve it. Nor must anti-Zionists be thought immune to the charge: too many of them are guilty. Nor should Jews be permitted without challenge to exploit their Jewish “credentials” while pandering to Arab/Muslim anti-Semites.

    I also accept that the simple equation of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism can be wrong. And when it is wrong it should be pointed out that it is wrong.

    Have I made myself clear?

  17. Andy Newman said,

    Yes – that is clear.

    My point is that the more interesting article is about USSR’s anti-Semitism, where it came from, and whether the theorectical weaknesses that left the CPSU open to Russian chauvinism also opeeate in other left currents.

    I am not particularly interested in where the USSR’s anti-Zionism came from, which I think is a less contentious subject.

  18. Clive said,

    relevant well-researched article (on USSR anti-‘Zionism’) here: http://www.workersliberty.org/node/1748
    (and follow link for part 2)

  19. Will said,

    Clive — just out of interest…who is the author of that?

    Just curious — haven’t read it yet.

  20. Andy Newman said,

    I am not at all sure that article advances our understanding one jot.

  21. Darren said,

    Back to Martin Smith acting like a bullying thug.

    I don’t think it helped matters that Smith has a bit of form with Weekly Worker:
    Mr Smith Goes To Bedfordshire

  22. Andy Newman said,

    It seems to me that the expulsion of Eric Carras was justifiable.

    Surely the SWP do have a right to expel people who have entirely different politics from them?

  23. Darren said,

    AN,

    I think it was more in the manner in which Mr Smith conducted the ‘interview’, and how Karas was expelled.

    ” . . . entirely different politics from them?”

    Was that really the case? He developed criticisms of the politics of the organisation whilst a member. It’s not as if he joined the organisation as an entryist with the expressed intention of kicking against it from the get go.

    I think that a certain leeway should be afforded to people who have developed criticisms of organisation’s theory and/or practice whilst a member of that organisation. Re-reading the piece from the WW, it didn’t strike me that Karas was developing criticisms of then current SWP policies that would automatically result in his casting out from the membership.

    Of course, in many cases there will be cases where it’s self apparent that there will be a parting of the ways politically, but this didn’t appear to be the case.

    But I don’t want to get away from the original point that the leadership of the SWP have a longstanding tendency to act in a heavy handed manner, and the Karas case is just another pathetic example of this.

    Does it really have to be restated that if elements within the SWP act like this when they are just a two-bob outfit, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of us if they were ever in a postion of real authority?

  24. Will said,

    Well said that man Darren.

    also: “A second SWPer then joined in and they started to go through our prone comrade’s pockets to take his Marxism ticket.”

    so you can add theft to the charges a s well.

    Stiil waiting for a Gameboy rebuttal!

    He must be waiting to hear what ‘the line’ is on this.

    We await with baited breath the pronouncement delivered from the Cent. Comm.!

  25. modernityblog said,

    JohnG,

    could you please explain this sorry incidence and provide some context?

  26. Jules said,

    It seems that its not only SWP leaders that are feeling a bit frisky. Darren look what your erstwhile comrades are getting up to. It must be the time of the year.

    ———-

    “Motion 10 (Easton & Bissett) BIRT the full minutes of of the
    24 June special meeting be circulated to Branches and members
    who normally received them by post, that discussion be omitted
    from the minutes posted online, and that a notice be inserted
    in those minutes indicating that the full minutes are available
    on request.”

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/spintcom/message/6600

    Which seems to be referring to this…

    “with recent dsevelopments and other members
    including one who would in my opinion, almost certainally taken a
    beating, if other decent comrades had not been there to stick up for
    him. This and the threatning phone calls to at least 2 other members
    made me reconsider and take things a bit more seriously, as i don’t
    frighten easily, but at the same time, do not believe in getting
    involved with personal violence or with risking my safety by putting
    myself in harm’s way.”

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/spintcom/message/6548 c

    and this

    “Be it resolved that Central London Branch deplores in
    the strongest possible terms the actions of Lawrie
    against Smith on 6 June and reaffirms that threats and
    intimidation are not the socialist approach to solving
    problems. Be it further resolved that the Branch
    recognises Lawrie’s strong socialist convictions and
    expresses its approval and gratitude for his many
    months of hard work for the Party. Be it further
    resolved that the Branch calls upon Lawrie to affirm
    that his behaviour to Smith was a lapse in judgment
    aggravated by the consumption of alcohol, to apologise
    to the Branch and the entire Party, and to endeavour
    that such incidents will not recur. (Carried 4–0–1)”

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/spintcom/message/6596

  27. Andy Newman said,

    With regard to Eric Carras.

    This was all in the context of a protracted RDG campaign within Bedfordshire Socialist Alliance where the RDG were attempting to force their own ultra-left programme on the SA.

    I don’t defend the manner of his expulsion, but Ii suspect Eric is not the naif he presents himself as.

  28. Darren said,

    Yep Jules, I’ve seen it. It’s not something that is being covered up behind closed doors.

    Sorry sad business, but they’ve sought to deal with it as quickly as possible. Calling a Special Meeting of the Executive Committee to try and sort matters out before it got any worse.

    I got the impression that it was personalised animosity that has got way out of hand. Not justifying it . . . just calling it as I see it from a few thousand miles away.

    Maybe you can see parallels with Martin Smith’s ‘friskiness’ with the young CPGB’er. I
    don’t myself.

  29. modernityblog said,

    Darren,

    do the Socialist Party always host their internal dialogues on a public server such as Yahoo, which is potentially open to all and sundry?

    wouldn’t it have been better for them to set up their own secure server? A home ADSL link and PC would suffice

    anyone on Yahoo with admin privs can thru the whole of the SP internal discussions, not that they probably would, unless suffering from insomnia, but still

  30. Darren said,

    Modernity,

    In answer to your question, the three discussion lists that the SPGB currently have are all on yahoo. All three lists can be accessed by non-members, but only Party members are able to post messages to the list. (There is also the WSM Forum which is open to both WSMers and non-WSM’ers).

    I think the argument is that as both our business and public meetings are open to non-members to attend – the working class have been known to queue up weeks in advance a la first day ot Wimbledon – that same access should also be extended to our discussion lists.

  31. modernityblog said,

    ha ha Darren, the working classes at Wimbledon, oh what a joker you are,

    OK, I see your point, I am glad that the SPGB doesn’t share the Left’s “normal” paranoid attitudes 🙂

  32. Will said,

    But anyway — getting back to the SWP thuggishness.

    Any ‘line’ from them yet?

  33. twp77 said,

    Stuart King from PR posted this on their website:

    “Outside I found the ‘Festival of Resistance to SWP Bureaucratism’ otherwise known as ‘all the other left groups running stalls at Marxism’ in uproar. A member of the CPGB had been pounced upon by SWP national organiser, Martin Smith, and a few bruisers at a session on “fighting unions”, a meeting given a whole new meaning by the incident. The guy was an ex-member of the SWP who had recently been expelled and had been given a 399 year ban on ever darkening the door of an SWP public meeting again. Within the hour the CPGB were giving out a leaflet “Condemn physical assault at Marxism!” replete with hideous pictures of bruises and equally hideous pictures of Martin Smith, and promising a double page spread in next weeks Weekly Worker. It was just like old times at Marxism with the AWL being thrown down stairs.

    But in all seriousness, the tendency to thuggish behaviour on the part of sections of the SWP leaders is always alarming. Are they really that afraid of criticism and debate? Have they learnt nothing from the development of bureaucratism and thuggishness in the Russian CP under Stalin in the 1920s, where the banning of factions inexorably led to the suppression, and finally physical liquidation of the revolutionaries? If this is the ‘socialism from below’ and the ‘democratic organisation’ that the SWP spout on about, we’d better watch our backs.”

  34. Mark P said,

    Andy, the RDG are loons but I think you are doing both them and every independent who was in Bedfordshire Socialist Alliance but not the SWP a bit of a disservice. Beds SA saw a prolonged dispute between the SWP on the one hand… and everyone else on the other.

    The RDG were certainly pushing their politics but the fact is that they had managed to convince a majority of the local alliance of bits of those politics (how they managed that I can’t imagine). The core dispute was less about the RDG’s peculiar views and more about the SWP unwillingness to allow the local alliance any life of its own. The SWP dealt with the problem essentially by sabotaging the local alliance, eventually taking control and soon shutting the thing down.

    Putting the boot into a couple of people in their own organisation who were against what they were doing was almost a side issue.

  35. Boogski said,

    Have they learnt nothing from the development of bureaucratism and thuggishness in the Russian CP under Stalin in the 1920s, where the banning of factions inexorably led to the suppression, and finally physical liquidation of the revolutionaries?

    It would be amusing if it weren’t so pathetic and, as history clearly demonstrates, so potentially dangerous.

    Maybe the only thing wrong with Communism is…Communists. 😀

  36. southpawpunchisafuckingwanker said,

    I don’t know why I bother commenting on these reformist scum blogs. Perhaps in the hope that you will realise that my position is the only correct revolutionary position.

    This is just liberal bourgeois reformist backsliding. There is nothing wrong with violence as a strategy to liqidate the enemies of the working class.

    What we need is more revolutionaries willing to take up the AK-47 and fight in the streets in Britain, not worry about scuffles between politically misguided comrades.

    Its not to late to join me, your dear leader.

    Join SPURT before its to late.

  37. Darren said,

    Boogski wrote:

    “Maybe the only thing wrong with Communism is…Communists.”

    To paraphrase the French bloke with the lazy eye: “Hell is other party members.’ 😉

  38. zurizurowski said,

    Hi Shirazsocialist – sorry to necro this 3 years old entry, but thuggery occurred at this year’s Marxism too.

    You can find our report at http://www.cpgb.org.uk/article.php?article_id=1004007

    or for a slightly extended remix of the story look it up on my blog:

    http://zuriz.wordpress.com/http://zuriz.wordpress.com/

    Feel free to repost it if you wish.

    Cheers
    Zuri

  39. zurizurowski said,

    Hi Shirazsocialist – sorry to necro this 3 years old entry, but thuggery occurred at this year’s Marxism too.

    http://zuriz.wordpress.com/2010/07/08/thuggery-at-the-swps-%E2%80%98marxism2010%E2%80%99/

    Feel free to repost it if you wish.

    Best,
    Zuri

  40. Comrades Not Victims | lucien at twenty-four said,

    […] as a leading campaigner against racism (although even this earlier period was not without controversy) as well as a perceptive and erudite commentator on popular culture – including […]

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