Outside Agitators in the Frozen Zone, and some brief thoughts on the SWP.

(Trigger warning for discussions related to rape)

I’ve not written anything on here for a while now. There’s a few different reasons for this, not least that I’ve just been a lot busier as a result of the upsurge of community campaigning in the last few weeks, especially around the bedroom tax.
But another big reason is that, as someone who often talks about the left, I didn’t really feel able to write anything without mentioning the ongoing SWP crisis, and I also didn’t know what I could say about it: it wouldn’t be possible to talk about it without discussing how utterly fucked the SWP’s organisational structures are, but I also really didn’t want to add my voice to all those trying to turn a discussion that has to be about patriarchy and sexual violence into a dry discussion of organisational forms. To talk about the SWP crisis without ever mentioning Leninism, or to reduce it to just being about Leninism, would be equally unhelpful. In particular, I felt really uncomfortable with the way that so much of the coverage consisted of equally anti-feminist rivals gloating over the demise of one of their competitors. As vile as the SWP leadership have shown themselves to be, I don’t think the Galloway fanboys who hosted that leaked transcript are much better, and the publication that carried Tom Walker’s brave and important letter of resignation also gave space to an unspeakably awful article arguing that “rape is not the problem”, and concluding that “far from being insufficiently feminist, the SWP has been too soft on feminism”. To write anything about the political situation on the left in the UK at the moment without mentioning the SWP would be to ignore the elephant in the room, but I felt like if I wrote anything substantial on the topic, I might accidentally say something that would give even the slightest bit of comfort to either the loyalists still defending the indefensible, or the Newman/Demarty misogynist boys’ club eagerly celebrating the fact that a rape had led to some difficulties for a political organisation that they disagree with.
Luckily, Mark Steel’s written a really good article on the subject, which manages to avoid the pitfalls of apologism on one side or gloating on the other, and addresses the fact that no-one’s hands are entirely clean when it comes to creating unhealthy political cultures. I can’t entirely endorse his political conclusions – in particular, I strongly suspect that the People’s Assembly he gets so enthusiastic about will just be another pointless exercise in getting people together in Central London to listen to some speeches by Tony Benn and Tariq Ali, then going home without making any meaningful contribution to ongoing local organising – but his central point is that “We can’t ensure that no one in our ranks will behave appallingly, but we can ensure that everyone is accountable, so that no one is allowed special protection because they have a place on a committee…
That movement will be the product of all who take part in it, and won’t be an end in itself to be protected no matter how it behaves, but a means to an end, which is a world less cruel, more exhilarating, less bullying and more fun, that it was when we found it.”
Which I think is a good enough point that I can’t really add anything to it.
Anyway, having got that out of the way, I don’t have much substantial to say today, but I just wanted to share this article from the recent uprising against police brutality and racism in New York. It’s worth a read, not just because the rebellion as a whole has been subjected to a bit of a media blackout, but also because it contains a serious attempt to think through the idea of “outside agitators”. The situation faced by radicals in the UK at the moment might seem a long way from riots against police murder in New York, but as the attempts by Labour to gain control of the Bedroom Tax revolt have shown, anyone arguing for effective tactics will be branded as an outside agitator by politicians and other professional managers of struggle in exactly the same way, so it’s worth thinking about how we’ll deal with these problems before they arise.

About nothingiseverlost

"The impulse to fight against work and management is immediately collective. As we fight against the conditions of our own lives, we see that other people are doing the same. To get anywhere we have to fight side by side. We begin to break down the divisions between us and prejudices, hierarchies, and nationalisms begin to be undermined. As we build trust and solidarity, we grow more daring and combative. More becomes possible. We get more organized, more confident, more disruptive and more powerful."
This entry was posted in Gender, Labour, Racism, Repression, The left and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Outside Agitators in the Frozen Zone, and some brief thoughts on the SWP.

  1. James says:

    Don’t usually leave stuff below the line any more (time-consuming hobby) but I have to say that this encapsulated my views on the issue better than pretty much anything else I’ve read on the topic (and I’ve read a lot).

    There are so many opportunist vultures circling, and as godawful as the CC is I’ve yet to be convinced that the most of them aren’t just hoping that their hierarchy will scoop up some new recruits.

    Obviously a top-down structure risks abuse. Obviously those claiming this dispute is just about Leninism are trying to erect a sideshow to distract from the human suffering (the rapes, the injustice, the systematic deception.)

    • Cheers. The other point that I probably should have made is that I have real problems with this “why didn’t she/they just go to the police?” narrative that seems to be really common among everyone from many of the most well-meaning observers to the most cynical. If a survivor wanted to go to the police, and they pressured her out of it, then that’s dreadful, but we can’t assume that anyone would automatically want to go, as if the huge problems with the police’s handling of rape disappear as soon as they become a useful stick to beat the SWP with. The bottom line is that she should have been supported in whatever decision she made, and if she wanted it to be dealt with by the organisation she was a member of rather than by the state that’s a legitimate decision. The fact that they fucked up the process so badly is the problem, not the fact that they didn’t just ignore her wishes and go straight to the police.

  2. Pingback: Another year for the locust: an attempt at a review of 2013 | Cautiously pessimistic

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