The SWP; rape, opportunism, power and ideology..how the SWP ended up working in Tower Hamlets with fascists, war criminals and those who carried out mass rape in Bangladesh

In August 2012  I blogged about how there was a difference between the Leninist Left and the anarchists as regards rape, and arguing it was due to their different attitude to power

” Most of the far-Left have never got what power is. Following Lenin they are happy to be submissive to party and hierarchy and allow lack for consent in their parties and even bullying and coercion in their political lives. This has been exposed time and again. And this is the tradition Galloway comes from. Of male dominated hierarchical organisations. To them the finer points of power relationships have no interest. the means justifies the ends.”

Apart from some justified criticism of certain parts of the post, that e.g. Galloway was more of a maverick Stalinist than representative of the Trotskyite far Left, and that Lenin can be interpreted in different ways, which is a debate, I stand by the most of it.

And the accusation stands even more clearly today as the Socialist Workers Party explodes with its own sex scandal.
And I am an interested party. I sold and supported SW from 1977 through to 1985. I never signed a membership card as I was always too much of an anarchist, but I saw them then, and now, as the most important revolutionary party in the UK. They were fresh back in the early 7ts. Capable of supporting and responding to new movements with a healthy internal democracy. But following the failure of the French ’68 movement, which they decided was due to the lack of a Leninist Party, went from a open, socialist movement backwards, imho, to a crass orthodox Leninism that has reached it’s nadir in the Comrade Delta debacle. The SWP was set up in 1977, at the same time as they expelled Womens Voice their womens section, and shut down their rank and file industrial groups, as they could not control them.

And I continue to work with members of the SWP. I trust that fundamentally they want a better society, though not one that I want. And I want to continue to work with these individuals. But something has to change. It was clear for many years, even decades, that any possibility of this party leading the working class, as it hoped to do, to the creation of a better society was, and is, less than zero. And it is equally clear to me that this is due to its bizarrely adhesion to a 19thC politics of putchism, most clearly identified with Lenin and his Bolshevik parties taking of power in Russia in October 1917 [ though see e.g. http://www.unkant.com/2012/12/ian-land-swp-vs-lenin.html ] and its descent into abject opportunism.

The SWP desperately attempt to justify this insane position even when their tiny party has attracted no more than, currently, 2,500 fee paying members, in a country of 60 million people!  And today that party is in melt down over the accusations of a young woman between the age of 17 and 19, Comrade W, against the then, 46 year old, day to day party leader, Martin Smith, or Comrade Delta.

I won’t go into detail as that is all over the internet at;  internationalsocialismuk.blogspot.co.uk/

http://sovietgoonboy.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/the-age-gap-and-why-it-matters/

Socialist Unity, not a blog I generally much favour http://socialistunity.com/gotcha/#.US0gzFf282g

and by the CPGB  http://cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/944/swp-why-i-am-resigning

and e.g. by ex members like Anna Chen  http://madammiaow.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/swp-meltdown-blogging-filth-spoiling.html

and Cath Elliot http://toomuchtosayformyself.com/2013/02/22/unison-women-the-swp-and-the-vote-to-support-rape-victims/

But the bad, botched, unthinking and opportunist way the SWP have treated the allegations,  and defended the accused rapist and the parties structures against the accuser and her supporters, has made the issue one about  the whole modus operandi of the SWP, not just the specifics of the allegation. The party has split into two 500 person factions, one apparently obliviously obedient to the hierarchy, one reforming and a smaller more radical faction.

But what none, none, of these factions or blogs have identified though is that this whole saga is symptomatic of the whole MO of the SWP for many decades now, that comes from the crass opportunism that is integral to crass Leninism, the idea they are the one and only revolutionary party and they have only to recruit more numbers and then they will be able to lead the rest of us simple souls to the promised land, that is at the heart of the SWP, and the consequent out of touch leadership and a obidient rank and file.
[ eta 9/3/13 I have touched upon the idea before that much Leftism still goes back to the forms of an Abrahamic evangelism and millenarianism .. John14:6 ” Jesus [SWP,SP, etc etc ] answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father [socialism] except through me.” ]

Instead of slowly, steadily, concretely, building a movement from the base, workplace and trade union work [actually the one thing they do well], building social centres, sports clubs, local newspapers, tenants and community groups, a mass movement like that of the old German KPD, that in my time around the SWP I was always told was the ambition, they have spent the last 30 years flitting, yo-yoing, flip flopping from struggle to struggle, dropping one campaign for another, opportunistically chasing recruitment opportunities. And worse they strangled, tragically, the life blood out of so many in an arrogant belief that only they had the correct answers, or to dominate so as to show they were the group people should join. It hasn’t worked has it??

But this opportunism reached its depths not just with the Comrade Delta debacle, but in the SWPs actions in Tower Hamlets over the last decade. The back-story; Following the invasion of Iraq, the mass outpouring of anger through Stop The War, led by the SWP, many saw an opportunity to, finally, create a party to the Left of (New) Labour. Many young Muslims and Islamist organisations had condemned the US-UK invasion as an attack on Muslim lands, when it was a simple imperialist resource grab. Opportunistically the SWP identified these groups as the base for a new radical Left party. Not only did they allow the lie that the war was an attack on Islam, as opposed to a simple war for oil, go unchallenged, they made allies of the far-Right of the communities in the UK of Muslim origin.
Nowhere in the UK was this so advanced as in Tower Hamlets with its large community of Bangladeshi origin. Yet in this project, that became RESPECT, the SWP made a conscious decision to ignore the history and politics of Bangladesh and it’s mirror in Tower Hamlets.
Bangladeshis came on mass as refugees to Tower Hamlets in the early 1970s ( some had been here for much longer as ‘Lascars’ or sailors) after Bangladeshis fought a secularist, nationalist war for Independence in 1971 again Pakistan, their then rulers. Millions died at the hands of the Pakistan Army and local Islamist death squads.
The Bangladeshi refugees who arrived in Tower Hamlets suffered dire racism and discriminations till they organised and fought both the racists, and drove them out of Brick Lane, and also the local racist council, and got, first, housing and then political representation. By 2001 the Bangladeshi community was established with significant political representation via the Labour Party, where the bulk of the Bangladeshi Left had ended up, though many socialists stayed outside.
In 2003 in the build up to the creation of RESPECT the SWP took a clear and disgraceful decision to bypass this, often secularist, Bangladeshi Leftist community and have RESPECT make an alliance with the very evangelical and extreme Islamist East London Mosque. Anger and disillusionment with the Labour govt and this dirty alliance delivered the Bethnal Green seat to George Galloway in 2005.

Innocuous that may sound but the East London Mosque is no ordinary Mosque. It is run by those who sided with the Pakistan govt and opposed Bangladeshi independance in 1971. Worse than that, it is affiliated to a political party in Bangladeshi called Jamaat e Islami which in 1971 operated death squads under the name of Al Badr which killed tens of thousands of socialists, academics, Bangladesh nationalists, women and used rape militarily. And worse the main man at the ELM, Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, is wanted as a war criminal in Bangladesh.
http://www.genocidebangladesh.org/?p=296  and  http://bit.ly/J1xEyC

Many of these people have recently been on trial which had brought a new young progressive mass movement onto the streets of Bangaldesh, called the Shahbag movement, bizareely clearly reported by the SWP here http://socialistworker.org/2013/02/14/new-struggles-in-south-asia  and opposed sectarian rioting by the fascist Jamaat Party

The ELM is incredibly divisive in the local community. Indeed many local Bangladeshis regard the Jamaat as a fascist party and consequently the ELM as fascist. see http://whitechapelanarchistgroup.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/unity-platform-against-racism-and-fascism/
That the SWP did not know this is of course not possible. So the SWP clearly made a conscious, opportunist, decision to ignore this history, to work with a group regarded as fascist by those Left wing Bangladeshis, and ignore those Left wing Bangladeshis, who fought the NF and BNP fascists in the 1970s and 1980s, who led militant squatting campaigns to secure rights to council housing, who secured political representation for the community.

Of course ten years later RESPECT is virtually dead, at least in Tower Hamlets. Opportunism never creates lasting organisation. Several RESPECT Cllrs, members of the SWP, actually joined the Tories!!  And there is no grassroots mass Left as there could have been if the SWP had chosen to build from the bottom.

So all in all, the case of Comrade Delta, of a Central Committee making decisions based on opportunism instead of politics and principle, is not that shocking, is in fact just one in a long line of opportunism above principle, opportunism above morals, opportunism above real politics, an opportunism that infects so much of the UK Left an opportunism that has to be erredicated if we are to create a better world.

 

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6 Responses to The SWP; rape, opportunism, power and ideology..how the SWP ended up working in Tower Hamlets with fascists, war criminals and those who carried out mass rape in Bangladesh

  1. Pingback: SWP crisis: who is saying what « Jim Jepps

  2. durruti02 says:

    eta My attention was drawn to this article by Chris Harman, ex leader of the SWP from ISJ Review Winter 2008, as part of an attack on Galloway and what became Counterfire .. he clearly says what I have said above .. but simply ignores that the SWP were utterly complicite in the whole disgrace
    “5. This is especially so since some of Galloway’s allies in the Islamic Forum of Europe have connections with the Bangladeshi group Jamaat-i-Islami. Founded in pre-Independence India, this group developed as a very tight knit politico-religious organisation in both West and East Pakistan. It was involved in the military suppression of the Bengali liberation movement in 1969, before developing separate Pakistani and Bangladeshi wings, both of which still use force to drive the left from university campuses. Until recently the Bangladeshi Jamaat was in government with the right wing National Party, while the Pakistani Jamaat has been part of the alliance that has governed in coalition with General Musharraf’s supporters in one province.”
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/harman/2008/xx/respect.htm#f5

  3. durruti02 says:

    I also forgot to add that this whole spectacle relates to the abandonnment of a core tenat of the old International Socialists, ” Neither Washington Nor Moscow but International Socialism”. This was emblazonned on all the Socialist Worker newspapers I used to sell and not suprisingly disappered sometime after the end of the Cold War, when it made little sense. But the SWP also junked the politics that lay beneath that slogan. Autonomy of the working class. And soon the SWP jumped into bed with the old Stalinist/Orthdox Trotskyist “Our Enemies Enemy is Our Friend” .. and this, the above is the bed they ended up in.

  4. Chris says:

    Thanks for an interesting article! Leaving aside the precise relationship of the SWP with feminism and with Islamic fundamentalism, readers may be interested to know that there is a wide-ranging theoretical debate about feminism and marxism continuing in the Weekly Worker:

    http://www.cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/953/women-and-liberation-is-feminism-a-dirty-word?

    http://www.cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/953/swp-and-feminism-rape-is-not-the-problem?

    http://cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/954/letters

    http://cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/955/letters

  5. Pingback: An infestation of SWP leeches | Revolting Pleb

  6. Pingback: The SWP, ‘united fronts’ and Tower Hamlets… | Revolting Pleb

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