The SWP: adulation for Corbyn, abstentionism towards Labour

July 10, 2017 at 7:22 pm (Europe, fantasy, labour party, political groups, posted by JD, reformism, revolution, sectarianism, SWP, wankers)

Image result for picture SWP Marxism 2017

By Martin Thomas (this piece also appears on the Workers Liberty website under the title SWP: fifth wheel of Corbynism?)

There were about 500 at the opening rally of the SWP’s “Marxism” summer event in London on 6 July. That’s fewer than in some previous years, I think, and older – about a third grey or white-haired.

Nevertheless, enough not to sneeze at, and the closing rally on 9 July was near 1000.

The worrying thing was more the politics. Most of the opening rally was given over to speakers, some eloquent, from the Parts cleaners’ dispute, the LSE cleaners’ dispute, the Grenfell Tower campaign, the Scottish further education lecturers’ dispute, and the campaign about Edson da Costa’s death in custody.

Two speakers had the job of presenting the SWP’s political purpose.

Gerry Carroll, a “People before Profit” member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, made a speech most of which could have come from Sinn Fein. Carroll’s first criticism of the DUP was about its demurral on an Irish Language Act. (Although the Irish language already has status in Northern Ireland from the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, and the DUP is willing to boost that status with a new law so long as it also boosts Ulster Scots, a language spoken by a tiny minority of Unionists).

The difference from Sinn Fein was that Carroll denied that the Brexit vote of 23 June 2016 had strengthened the Tories.

Alex Callinicos, the main leader of the SWP, took up the same theme. In fact, he said, Britain has moved “sharply” left, and the right has suffered a “devastating defeat”. The vote for Brexit was a product of squeezed real wages and growing class antagonisms.

(Huh? Tories and Ukipers voted for Brexit to show adherence to working-class struggle? So why did the big majority of left-minded people vote against Brexit?)

Callinicos’s basis for that claim was the 8 June election result. He ignored the Tories’ high poll ratings from July 2016 to May 2017.

Yes, the boost to the right from the Brexit vote was not infinitely durable and powerful. Theresa May’s hubristic election campaign, and the vigorous Labour manifesto, undid it, though arguably more by mobilising left-minded people who had previously not voted than by shifting people from right to left.

Callinicos made no criticism of Corbyn’s politics. He specifically endorsed Corbyn’s current stand on Brexit, and said that the only “valid” reason for worrying about the Brexit vote was the status of EU citizens currently living in Britain. (So free movement for those people’s friends, families, and neighbours to come to work or study in Britain – or for British young people to work or study in Europe – doesn’t matter?)

He further praised Corbyn’s speech on the Manchester bombings, hearing only that Corbyn had blamed the bombings on the UK’s support for “the USA’s war to dominate the Middle East”. In fact Corbyn, rightly, was much further from the simplistic “blowback” theory than that; and in fact, much of Corbyn’s speech was an implied call for more spending on the police.

Anyway, Callinicos praised Corbyn on those issues. He saw no need to raise any programmatic difference with Corbyn. Public ownership of the banks? None of that.

Callinicos still thought there was a role for the SWP. A left reformist government will be thwarted by “unelected centres of power” unless there are demonstrations and strikes. And the SWP favours demonstrations and strikes. QED.

The closing rally was more polished. Islamist Moazzam Begg (see here and here) gave a smooth liberal speech, getting a standing ovation both before and after.

Brid Smith from the Irish SWP spoke, and Amy Leather made the final speech. (Since 2016 Leather has been joint national secretary of the SWP with Charlie Kimber; at the time of the “Delta” scandal in 2013-4, she was an oppositionist, criticising Kimber and Callinicos for being too “soft” and apologetic in response).

Leather’s speech was better crafted than Callinicos’s, and she did (though briefly) mention opposition to capitalism, support for socialism, and support for open borders. But her basic argument was the same as Callinicos’s: Corbyn is doing what needs to be done in politics, but the SWP has a role in stirring up the strikes and demonstrations required to support him.

There is, if not the great general shift to the left which Callinicos claimed, a new mobilisation of a new left-wing political generation. Socialists should be in among that new generation (which means being active in the Labour Party and Young Labour, not standing on the sidelines like the SWP).

And our prime duty is to help new people organise and also to develop and debate politically to regroup around a socialist programme which goes beyond the redistributive measures in the Labour manifesto to establish a cooperative commonwealth with an internationalist perspective.

1 Comment

  1. rotzeichen said,

    Shiraz is not a socialist site, but a right wing propaganda sheet spewing out hearsay and gossip as though it were fact.

    The labour Party has over 600,000 members, how many does the SWP have and how will it in any way influence the Labour Party with long standing members such as myself?

    The question I would put to those reading this bilge and Shiraz itself, is who is paying for this site, why are so many contributions on here so hostile to the Labour Party, and where is the so called socialism?

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