As is well known in the SWP, there is a National Committee meeting today, Sunday 3 February. It is not current practice in the party for motions to be published in advance. We had decided to conform to this norm (while not agreeing with it) in the interests of party unity. However, others clearly did not agree with us and the motions to today's meeting have been published elsewhere on the web. We do not believe there is any further purpose in holding this information back from members who read this blog, and we therefore publish below the Central Committee (CC) motion to today's meeting.
We do not know – we are not allowed to know – if this resolution has the support of each and every member of the CC. We do know, from discussions with CC comrades, that there is significant disquiet and concern about direction in which the party in currently being led. We call on comrades within the CC to speak openly and freely about their misgivings.
It is not our ambition here to respond in detail to each point made in this motion. But we do make the following observations:
There has been no full and honest debate within our party over the way allegations of rape and sexual harassment against a leading member have been dealt with – and voting that there has been will not ever make it so. This issue has been grossly mishandled from the very beginning, the CC has not been open and honest with the party and it is clear that the party is not happy with what has happened. No matter how many times the CC decrees that this matter is closed, it is not and it will not be unless and until there has been an honest accounting within the party, in full view of the class.
The threats to expel members, for insisting that allegations of rape and sexual harassment be dealt with properly and for insisting on democratic norms, will not intimidate us.
The invention of deadlines and the post-facto endorsement of them, is not within our rules and we do not recognise the CC's authority to make such an arbitrary pronouncement. At least 10 branches have so far demanded a special conference and as we add to this number we will insist that the party honour that call.
As we have repeatedly argued, we consider the issues raised and the CC's failures to be those of principle, accountability and democracy. But even in purely strategic terms, given that we are now in unprecedented crisis, are losing members, alienating comrades, being shunned by increasing numbers of close allies in the unions, movements, academia and our own international tendency, it is clear that this astonishingly arrogant refusal to take any responsibility and attempt to control matters by bureaucratic clampdown will also utterly fail to improve the situation members face on the ground.
The CC's motion reads:
1) The SWP stands out on the left by the fact that it has a history of
genuine democratic debate without permanent factionalism. We have
developed democratic and accountable structures from our branches,
elected district committees, the national committee and disputes
committee, central committee, party councils and conference. In the
recent period these structures were re-examined and strengthened by
the work of the SWP democracy commission. We have full confidence in
these structures and the method of democratic centralism.
2) This newly elected National Committee notes that the commission on
“What sort of Party do we need?” that set out the democratic
principles for guiding our current practice was approved by 239 votes
to 91 by annual conference in January 2013.
3) At the core of democratic centralism lies the understanding that we
have full and honest debate among comrades in order to reach decisions
followed by united action to implement and argue for those decisions.
4) We therefore condemn the actions of those members who have
circumvented these principles by campaigning to overturn conference
decisions outside the structures of the party, using blogs and the
bourgeois media. Many of these contributions have been characterised
by the use of slurs, abuse and un-comradely language that seem
designed to stop serious debate and make joint work impossible, as
well as damaging the party's reputation.
5) This undermining of our democracy should stop forthwith. We
reaffirm the right of the Central Committee to impose disciplinary
measures for violation of our democratic constitution.
6) Many of these contributions have been fuelled by the outcome of the
Disputes Committee report to conference. This NC affirms its belief in
the integrity of the comrades on the DC and of the investigation they
conducted. We note the DC was re-elected without challenge at the
January 2013 conference. The DC report was approved by conference and
the case concerned must be regarded as closed.
7) This NC notes that immediately following the original DC hearing of
this particular case, information about it was leaked to people, some
hostile, outside the party. This helped fuel rumours and
misinformation about the DC within the party. This NC also notes the
disgraceful covert recording of the DC session at conference and the
appearance of a transcript on a site hostile to the party in addition
to the reports and debates in public blogs and internet forums
regarding these internal party arguments.
8) This has created difficulties for any future DC hearing. Therefore
it is in this light that the NC thinks it sensible to consider these
issues, in particular:
i) how the future confidentiality of DC proceedings can be safeguarded
ii) how future findings of the DC should be reported to the party
These issues should be considered by a body composed of four members
elected from the National Committee today, two from the Disputes
Committee and one by the Central Committee. It will report to a
subsequent meeting of the NC.
9) The NC supports the right of the CC, in consultation with the
Conference Arrangements Committee, to set out a reasonable deadline
for calls for a special conference. We do not believe that it can be
acceptable for such calls to be collected together over a period of
several months. This would institutionalise a practice of constantly
presenting motions to our branch meetings. The NC agrees that the
deadline for the recent calls for a special conference was 1 February.
10) We believe that underlying many of the recent debates in and
around the party lie a series of vital political questions where we
need to seek urgently to assert, develop and win our political
tradition. Some of the key debates include:
a) The changing nature of the working class.
b) Lenin’s conception of the party, and its relevance in the 21st century.
c) Oppression and capitalism.
d) The trade union bureaucracy and the rank and file.
e) The radical left, the united front and the SWP.
11) The CC and NC are strongly committed to leading and facilitating
extensive discussion and debate around such issues in every forum of
the party. This requires a serious, systematic and urgent effort in
all our publications, through branch and district meetings, wider
party events such as Marxism and through educationals and day schools.