|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Monday, January 14, 2013
The panel that investigated the complaint and exonerated the accused was made up of five women and two men, most of whom had worked closely with the accused and all of whom had known him for years. As is painfully clear from the transcript, they all took their duty to be impartial with the utmost seriousness, despite its manifest impossibility. Why they nevertheless went ahead with the investigation is difficult to explain, at least in terms that make sense to anyone on the outside.
The debacle has now gone mainstream. It turns out that earlier outrage over how the case was being handled lies behind the formation of two declared opposition factions in the run-up to the conference. We learn that China Mieville, the well-known writer and a long-term party member, is aghast. The high-profile SWP blogger and author Richard Seymour is in open revolt. These and others have saved their own honour. Whether they can save that of their party remains to be seen.
The SWP has made plenty of enemies over the years, some of them on the left. I'm not among them, despite my often stated disagreement with much that the party thinks and does. All the more vehemently, then, should I say that this latest development leaves me sick. It was through the SWP's precursor that I made my first acquaintance with Marxism. The organisation's journal from the 60s and 70s shows an engagement with the real world that was, shall we say, not always obvious in some other parts of the left particularly at the time. I soon found my way, for better or worse, to a different tradition (and then another again). When the latter collapsed around me, and the world continued to burn, I joined the SWP for a couple of years in the early 90s. I made my disagreement with some of the party's most cherished verities clear before, during, and after my membership, and these disagreements have only deepened since. Never once did I face anything but argument. Others have had less happy experiences with the SWP. Its internal life and its way of relating to broader movements have left all too many people with lasting grudges. Maybe I was just lucky. Twenty years later, I still know, like, and respect people I met back then. I hope some of them are fighting against the disaster their party's leadership has brought down on their heads. Unless that fight succeeds, the party is done for.