Lenny vs Laurie

February 20, 2010 at 2:23 pm (anonymous, left, trotskyism, voltairespriest)

On a more substantive note, and possibly one of wider interest, two posts over at Liberal Conspiracy debate out the role of organised Marxist groups and the wider left. Firstly, regular LC contributor Laurie Penny puts a case for the prosecution, in particular criticising the fractious and sectarian ways of working which exist in many of the left groups. She takes the SWP as an example:

The SWP has been at the forefront of every attempt to scupper cohesion on the left over the past decade, gaining themselves a reputation for petty squabbling that, for many, overshadows their valuable work in opposing the Iraq war and propelling the anti-capitalist mobilisations of the start of the decade.

Lenny of the Tomb takes the opportunity to offer a defence on the same site, and I’d have to say it’s one of his better efforts. I do, however, think he has slightly missed Laurie’s point – I read her post as a call for pluralism in politics and unity in action on the left, and not as a simple attack on the SWP.

It’s worth reading Seymour’s whole post, but a crucial paragraph is this:

This isn’t a boast. We are a small party, and our ability to influence events in any given campaign is limited. But we are, it must be conceded, disproportionately active in such campaigns, relative to our size. And for such a small party, and one that is highly unattractive in Penny’s view, we do find a fair number of our activists ending up with leading roles because of their proven abilities and commitment.

It will undoubtedly grate with many who have had bad experiences with the SWP in the past, that Seymour details the SWP’s role in various wider campaigns in this way. However, substitute “SWP” with “left groups in general” throughout his post. It’s a fact that without the organised left’s ability to devote time and resources to building campaigns, those campaigns would either collapse or else exist on a much smaller scale. This statement could equally as easily apply to the SWP, Socialist Party, AWL, CPGB and others in various contexts, whether that be the ANL, HOPI, Defend Council Housing, or many, many other campaigns which have existed on a national or local level. For that ability to profile and build movements, surely, we should at least be a little glad of the groups’ existence.

I am not a member of any organised left group, but I’m nevertheless glad that they exist and I hope that they continue to remain a feature of the UK’s political landscape in the future. I also favour debate, discussion and disagreement within and between campaigns and organisations, even as the main thrust of a campaign or movement is driven home in unity. In that sense, I suspect, I agree with both Seymour and Penny even as they disagree with each other.


  1. present imperative said,

    bad experiences with the SWP in the past and the present

  2. skidmarx said,

    Present imperative – I followed the link to
    and got the message
    Page not found

    are you perhaps trying to follow the example in the post of not making intepmerate sectarian attacks on the SWP, or are you just incompetent? And less interested in anti-fascism than bashing the left?

  3. voltairespriest said,

    I think the link’s missing a couple of letters, by the looks of it.

  4. present imperative said,

    It was the AWL put ‘smart’ quotes in the URL, the incompetence is theirs:


    SWP/UAF: ‘Comrades! The fascists have been sighted. Go the other way and shout a bit.’

  5. Rosie said,

    present imperative:-

    I did turn up at the rally in Edinburgh, which I thought had a good turnout with all sorts of people attending. I’ve read the article you’ve linked to and it explains how when I was googling to find out where and when protesters were meeting I got conflicting times and venues.

    I quote from your article:-

    “Although two double-decker buses were used to ship them out, the SDLers numbered less than fifty – most of the seats on the buses were taken up by ordinary police and riot police.”

    So, with all due respect to everyone who organised and turned up to this event, is it worth all the effort to arrange counter demonstrations against such a small number? The EDL is significant in England but the SDL are a fragment, aren’t they?

  6. present imperative said,

    is it worth all the effort to arrange counter demonstrations against such a small number?

    So how many fascist thugs are acceptable? Next time a kid ends up on a slab because they did not meet the skin colour/religion/sexuality ‘requirements’ for Scotland, you can go round and explain to the parents that the fascists are only a fragment and as such, not really worth the bother.

    The simple rule of thumb: if you see two actions advertised, go to the one which isn’t being run by UAF/SWP.

  7. Rosie said,

    That’s me telt! Anyway, I understand the SDL is not Scottish but imports from England – is that right?

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