The most laughable, preposterous and irrelevant left-wing faction fight … ever

January 29, 2014 at 9:21 pm (Beyond parody, comedy, ex-SWP, fantasy, gloating, good honest filth, James P. Cannon, jerk, Jim D, middle class, perversity, political groups, Pornography, Racism, strange situations, surrealism, wankers)

I was going to put a question-mark at the end of that headline, but on reflection decided not to. I think we can be unequivocal about this.

When I was a callow young Trotskyist and James P. Cannon fan, older, more experienced comrades told me that Cannon’s organisation, the American SWP (no relation to the Brit group of the same name) had gone off the rails very badly in the 1950’s, when Cannon began to take a back seat and handed the reins over to lesser figures like Joseph Hansen. Evidence of this petty bourgeois degeneration, I was told, was a ludicrous faction fight over the question of women’s cosmetics that threatened to tear the SWP apart. In the end, good ol’ James P. came out of semi-retirement to bang heads together and tell Hansen and the comrades to get a grip and stop arguing about such irrelevant nonsense. Anyway, that’s how I remember being told about it.

As you can imagine, I never (until now) took the trouble to investigate the matter in any detail, but if you’re interested, quite a good account is given here, and you can even read some of the contemporaneous internal documents here, if you scroll down to No. A-23, October 1954. On the other hand, like myself when I was first told about the Great Cosmetics Faction Fight (GCFF), you may feel that life’s too short…

The point being, that I’ve always carried round in the back of my mind a vague recollection of the GCFF as a prime example of petty bourgeois leftist irrelevance, and probably the most ridiculous and laughable left-group factional dispute of all time.

Until now.

The recent row within the International Socialist Network, resulting in the resignations of some of its most prominent members, makes the SWP’s GCFF look quite down to earth and sensible. If you ever wanted an example of why serious, socialist-inclined working class people all too often regard the far left as a bunch of irrelevant, posturing tossers, this is it. Don’t ask me what it’s all about, or what “race play” is. Comrade Coatesy gives some helpful background here and here. More detail for the serious connoisseur (aka “more discerning customer” wink, wink, reaching under the counter) here and here.

I’ll simply add, for now, that this preposterous business does appear to be genuine (rather than, as some might reasonably suspect, an exercise in sitautionist performance art and/or anti-left political satire) and is also one of those rather pleasing situations in which no-one in their right mind cares who wins: both sides are unspeakably awful self-righteous jerks. Actually, the ISN majority strike me as, if anything, even worse than Seymour, Miéville and their friend “Magpie” – if that’s possible. Still, it’s hard not to endulge in just a little schadenfreude at the discomfiture of Richard “Partially Contingent” Seymour, a character who’s made a minor career out of sub-Althussarian pretentiousness and “anathematising” others on the left for their real or imagined transgressions against “intersectionality“, and now falls victim to it himself.

Those who live by intersectionality, die by intersectionality.

Or, as Seymour himself put it in his seminal postgraduate thesis  Patriarchy and the capitalist state:

“My suggestion is that as an analytic, patriarchy must be treated as one type of the more general phenomena of gender projects which in certain conjunctures form gender formations. What is a gender formation? I am drawing a direct analogy with Omi and Winant’s conception of racial formations, which comprises “the sociohistorical process by which racial categories are created, inhabited, transformed, and destroyed … historically situated projects in which human bodies and social structures are represented and organized.” This is connected “to the evolution of hegemony, the way in which society is organized and ruled,” in the sense that racial projects are linked up with wider repertoires of hegemonic practices, either enabling or disrupting the formation of broad ruling or resistant alliances. A gender formation would thus be a ’sociohistorical process’ in which gender categories are ‘created, inhabited, transformed, and destroyed’ through the interplay and struggle of rival gender projects. From my perspective, this has the advantage of grasping the relational, partially contingent and partially representational nature of gendered forms of power, and providing a means by which patriarchy can indeed be grasped in relation to historical materialism.”


  1. Howard Fuller said,

  2. The most laughable, preposterous and irrelevant left-wing faction fight … ever | OzHouse said,

    […] Jan 29 2014 by admin […]

  3. RosieB said,

    This whole incident has led to very happy ribaldry on the social networks.

  4. Robin Carmody said,

    Sacha Baron Cohen is an arsehole who set British pop culture back by decades. (That’s the only link I’m even going to attempt even a brief, terse comment on.)

    But Seymour, really. Does he honestly think the Islamists he so loves – and whose opponents from within Islam he calls “Uncle Toms” – would give one second of consideration to that sort of tract if they had anything resembling power?

    • RosieB said,

      Totally agree about Sacha Baron Cohen.

  5. R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    At one level it is indeed hilarious – at another its enough to make you weep.

    This is us – ‘the left’ – in 2014: utterly broken, bankrupt and arguing amongst ourselves over incomprehensible trivialities.

  6. Jim Denham said,

    • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      Bah anti-communist propaganda probably funded by the Congress for Cultural Freedom (which actually wouldn’t surprise me….).

      Bubble cars however always cheer me up.

  7. R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    It has also generated one of the most entertaining pieces of old fashioned hyper-sectarian Trot invective I’ve read in ages:

    Particularly like:

    Using the building blocks of the Avakianites and their rabid anti-sex, anti-porn campaigns, moral policing appears to be the order of the day. The pseudo-left (from the ISN to their mother organization and countless others who prostrate on the altar of movementist politics) seeks to build a church of purity, not authentically concerned with questions of women’s and sexual liberation. Instead of focusing their crosshairs on breaking tradition’s fetters and putting forward a radical rupture with the bourgeois state’s claims regarding sexual normalcy and virtue, they instead capitulate to this brutal capitalist system and all the atrocities this entails. There’s a reason an article on the Lenin’s Tomb blog titled The point of intersection doesn’t mention the working class, let alone proletarian revolution or how to build a party to contribute to the process of distilling political program in the interest of making it happen. What’s most touching is Seymour’s recent book Unhitched, which lambasts the late Christopher Hitchens for all of his capitulations to imperialism and bourgeois ideology, all the while Seymour literally kisses his footsteps one by one on the same path to accepting the brutal capitalist present and instead casting a veil of liberal ignorance over the contradictions. There is no consistency to either ideologue, with both having waved goodbye to any semblance of critical analysis, in favor of dancing to the tune of the day. However, at least Hithchens is granted the reprieve of death. We do not currently know how much further Seymour will slide into the swamp in the realm of the living.

    Sound and fury signifying nothing…..

  8. Andrew Coates said,

    “as an analytic,”

    I always knew Seymour was an “AS-A”.

    Mind you the rest of the “discursive formation” forms a worthy companion piece to the genial type who writes, “Instead of focusing their crosshairs on breaking tradition’s fetters and putting forward a radical rupture with the bourgeois state’s claims regarding sexual normalcy and virtue, they instead capitulate to this brutal capitalist system and all the atrocities this entails.”

    Now I’m the kind of person who likes nothing better than to curl up with a copy of Lire le Capital, or Lacan’s Écrits.

    But I can’t be arsed to read *this* all the way through…..

  9. R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    Also that Russian plutocrat’s concubine’s pretentious racist porno-chair picture must surely count as one of the most successful trolls of all time.

    How could she have imagined that it would destroy the future vanguard party of the British proletariat?

  10. Lamia said,

    Witchfinder General accidentally sets fire to himself.

    This is amusing enough, but it is also a reminder than in a real communist state, Seymour is the kind of stupid but malevolent and dangerous person who would first enact then eventually fall victim to the most brutal behaviour. And there would be no ‘safe’ word.

    If he had the power, he would cheerfully kill anyone here or elswhere who disagreed with or offended him. Remember that before pitying the idiot for what is a surreal embarassment but no real harm.

    • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      Yeah right….

      • Lamia said,

        If you have an actual point, make it.

      • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

        Well this is a Trotskyist (i.e. at least small-c communist) website and you are dropping in to tell us that ‘real communist states’ are run by stupid, malevolent and dangerous people who cheerfully kill anyone who disagree or offend them – which is kind of trolling.

        (This is not inviting an argument about that proposition as I’ve been there and done that dozens of times in the last 4 decades and have no desire to repeat the experience – which in the end almost invariably turn upon what logicians call the No True Scotsman argument rather than actual history).

        And if you were actually familiar with Comrade Seymour the utter absurdity of him (or any organisation in which he has a significant role) wielding political power in any way, shape or form would be self-evident.

  11. Lamia said,

    Firstly, this bills itself as a socialist website. There are a number of other commentators here who I am familiar with who are clearly not Trotsykists. I think you may be projecting your own indefensible Trotskyism onto others.

    “This is not inviting an argument about that proposition…”

    Then don’t make a claim your can’t substantiate.

    Secondly, I am perfectly aware of who Richard Seymour is and what he espouses. consdiering the sheer bloodthrirsty hatred he espouses for groups as unremarkable as soldiers’ wives and the women’s institute, the fact that he is no position to exercise political power has no earing on whether or not he is the kind of person who would happily kill his political opponents if he had the chance. He would. That in turn is germane to whether or not he deserves an ounce of sympathy for falling victim to the sort of witch hunt he has attempted against others time and again.

    But well done for sticking for your comrade trot. You are all scumbags.

    • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      Interesting that my expressing utter contempt for someone counts as sticking up for them.

      And you are literally stating that Richard Seymour would if you gave him the opportunity personally kill people purely because he disagrees with them.

      That is just ridiculous – the man is the very definition of a paper tiger.

      As I should add are we all.

      So attack Seymour for what he is (FFS look at the material he supplies) and not for what he is so palpably isn’t.

      This is a perpetual student incomprehensibly gabbling away about intersectionality – not some incipient Stalin or Yagoda.

  12. bLLLeRelglg OCmOMmcenneartayut said,

    Even though Lamia is a paranoid, laughable fool do not feel sorry for him. If he or any other HP Sauce dwelling piece of human excrement had any sort of power they would happily round up and gas every muslim and communist residing in Britain. For the record, when I become labour dictator of Britain (a week on thursday I recon) I will make sure that not a single cockroach or maggot from HP Sauce will be spared.

    • Lamia said,

      Every Communist or Muslim government ever has discriminated against or murdered its opponents or minorities. You are mistaken in projecting your own thirst for blood onto your democratic opponents. But then with a political heritage like yours, you must find it painful or even impossible to think in terms of equal rights, democratically limited terms of office etc.

      • bLLLeRelglg OCmOMmcenneartayut said,

        Whatever Breivik Boy.

      • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

        ‘Communist OR Muslim’, ‘discriminated against OR murdered’ ‘its opponents OR minorities’.

        You are not even trying to present an argument are you.

        Anyway over to Big Bird:

      • Vigdis Rødgrød said,

        Why does Lamia keep doing it to h/self?

        That ‘knockout’ argument proves nothing but the counter-revolutionary Stalin was as bad as Stalin was.

        Lamia prefers the freedom of the most incarcerated population in the world, the freedom pf Monsanto terminator seeds, the freedom of slave labourers making cheap disposable consumer goods for rich westerners. Lamia LOVES freedom.

  13. Lamia said,

    Pitiful stuff. You can’t even properly punctuate your one line mud-slinging.

    • bLLLeRelglg OCmOMmcenneartayut said,

      you’re not worth the effort Rohm.

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