I believe all the current members of the CC are brilliant fighters, each in their own unique and valuable way. I have seen no evidence of a CC cover up and I accept their word. I do have specific reservations about one or two on the CC: that is not surprising, and not important; no one is perfect, including me etc. I also believe that there is tremendous talent in the membership of the organisation. I am thankful to the party for introducing me to some of these comrades and also for educating me in the politics of the IS tradition.
I understand the need for unity within the party and that this allows for a united CC to roll out whatever policies we have agreed on and therefore, I also agree that permanent factions cannot be tolerated as this will hamper the ability of the party to focus on what is important given current political conditions.
So what is wrong?
The problem has arisen around the Disputes Committee, but, having thought about the reasons why the sad difficulties arose, I think the stresses that built up leading to the crash stem from the particular way we currently elect the leadership. There are a number of different ways this could be addressed, but that’s not really what I want to talk about here.
Comrades naturally, because they believe in the organisation, want to be loyal to the leadership and to the party. I myself want to do this and have done so throughout my two dozen years in the party. I have disagreed with the party direction from time to time, but I have always continued trying to build the party and to sell the paper etc. When I have a vote, I loyally vote for the party, for the CC position. And, outside the party I always argue passionately for our politics and tradition.
A party, with a clear unified message, is a strong party. And we work to try to build such a party. Comrades intuitively feel this is a strength of the SWP and loyally vote for CC positions and CC slates. But building for strength and flexibility is not necessarily a straightforward task. There is a difficult path for the CC to tread to maximise strength and flexibility.
I think the system of electing the CC (by slate) has meant that any error by any individual CC member can tar the whole CC (perhaps in the view of the CC members as well as those in the know), because of the joint responsibility conferred by those elections. There will be a temptation for the CC to close ranks to maintain unity and strength and also to maintain secrecy on any problematic issues. What has been a strength under normal circumstances becomes rigid and brittle, and a source of weakness, under conditions of stress of the kind we have seen lately. The CC may feel they must hang together or hang separately. Rigid loyalty to the CC of the kind expressed by some comrades, during most periods a strong support, can in more difficult periods become its opposite.
To me, admittedly without any detailed knowledge of the recent cases under dispute, but from the only vantage point I have, it seems that this rigidity and brittleness has been extended to the DC. Clearly, the DC fractured this year. The abuse of the power of the party exhibited by the 2013 DC Report Back is evidence, for me, of this weakness. Anybody can make a mistake, but it must be owned up to for any healing to commence.
I was extremely saddened when the overwhelming majority of the 2013 SWP conference did not vote for a clear apology to two women comrades subjected not only to the original misconduct they had reported and complained about but also to further abuse from the party apparatus. Why didn’t the comrades want to apologise? They didn’t want to? I don’t believe them! I believe they voted to be seen to be 'loyal'. Voting under the present system is a loyalty test. And of course, comrades want to be seen as loyal.
The party has been weakened this year, not because of the faction, but because of the way the leadership and apparatus has related to the party given the internal crisis.
It wouldn't be such a problem if it looked as though there is possibility of changing the situation.
I voted for the faction slate, even though I have never signed up to any faction, because there was no alternative. I could have continued to vote loyal, but my heart wasn't in it given the options available. I actually thought that the combination of comrades on the CC slate was probably a better combination than the faction slate. However, the fact that they were bound to one another because of the slate, made that choice wrong for the reasons given above. I suppose it was a protest vote.
I could have decided to stay in the party, beavering away from below, disregarding the type of leadership we have, and that is what I almost decided to do, but I have decided that would probably be wrong and would be, given the seeming intransigence locked in to the democratic structures of the party, simply wasting time.
So, because I cannot see any possibility of the change I think is necessary happening here any time soon, and because I don't want work in an organisation where I may be thought of as disloyal, and because I feel, after nearly a quarter of a century fighting for and with the party, that my time and energy might now be better spent elsewhere, I quit.