Socialist Workers Party (UK)
|Socialist Workers Party|
The SWP likes this fist symbol. It likes to kick fascist arse - unless that fascist arse is brown.
“USSR bad, America bad, Socialism good.”
“Grab the latest Socialist Worker your ticket to the absolute truth, only 80p.”
The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is the largest far-left party in Great Britain. It is rumoured to have at least 1000 members. Critics have argued that most of its members are middle-class students, despite the fact that its leaders are not students (they are ex-students). Many critics also say that if one is a first-year university student, it is compulsory to join the SWP.  The SWP is keen to stress the fact that it has two members who are working class. 
The SWP has participated in (or ‘taken over’, or ‘infiltrated’) a number of campaigns such as the Stop the War Coalition, Respect, Rock against Racism and Students against Paying Fees Although We Can Afford It. 
The SWP has an ‘industrial department’ which hands out obscure books by Trotsky and Rosa Luxemberg to unions members and also informs them as to how misinformed they are. The SWP also incorporates the Socialist Workers' Student Society, which is actually made up of the whole of the SWP (except for the ex-students who are now its leaders). Such societies run weekly meetings such as ‘How to master the cockney accent’, ‘How to pretend that one’s parents aren’t rich’ and ‘How to memorise the party line’. 
The SWP publishes its weekly newspaper, Socialist Worker, which is said to be read by as many as twenty people.  The newspaper includes in-depth analyses of vital political issues (e.g., ‘How can we get more members?’) as well as many photos of SWP students and Islamists raising their fists (in the style of the SWP logo) and getting angry at some demonstration or other at some thing or other. The Socialist Review is a more technical and academic publication from the SWP and is said to be read by no one.
The leadership is formed by a Central Committee and a National Committee, as in the Soviet model.  People who agree with the Central Committee, on everything, can elect the Central Committee at the National Conference. As of 2009, the members of the Central Committee include Chris Bambery, Alex Callinicos, Chris Harman and John ‘I’m Working Class’ Rees (who has a ‘working class background’ and is from Glasgow). Chris Harman and Alex Callinicos (one of a middle-class background, the other is an aristocrat) have been in the Party for a long time and have sold literally over a 100 books to people who like reading books written by the leaders of the SWP.
The National Committee consists of 50 members elected annually at National Conference. You can only elect members who agree with the Central Committee. At least four party councils a year are to be arranged by the Central Committee, at which people who agree with each other can meet up with other people and then agree with each other. At these councils two delegates from each branch, as long as they agree with the leader of the branch and the Central Committee, can put their hands in the air as the need arises.
Other prominent members include John Molyneux, Rob Owen and Pat Stack. None of these figures are known to people outside the SWP (or its far-left rivals), but they are known to the people who know them. Rob Owen, for example, is well-known at his local branch meetings.
The Socialist Review Group
The origins of the SWP lie in the formation of the Socialist Review Group (‘SRG’, to those who like the letters ‘S’, ‘R’ and ‘G’), which held its founding conference in 1950. The group initially had eight members  It was formed around Tony Cliff's (no relation to Cliff or Blair, neither of whom were ever members) analysis of Russia as ‘a bureaucratic state capitalist regime’  and was expelled from the Revolutionary Communist Party.  Three very boring but revolutionary documents formed the theoretical basis of the group: The Stalinist Nature of the Dialectal Synthesis of the Hegelian Triadic Monad and two others which are also about political stuff.
The large size of the group meant that they adopted a position of working in the Labour Party in order to reach an audience of over eight and recruit a few curious bystanders.
Through campaigning with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (though the SRG believed that there could be a revolutionary and class-conscious use of the nuclear bomb) and the new Labour Party youth movement, the Young Socialists, the Socialist Review Group was able to review things in a socialist kind-of-a-way and was able to recruit among the new generation of activists. By 1964 it had a membership of 10, one of whom was a genuine cockney geezer.
Labour Worker and International Socialism Group
1968 saw the IS heavily involved in the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign. Its prime purpose was to send the Vietnamese copies of their paper and free t-shirts (with their logo emblazoned on the front). It is also contemplated helping other yellow resistance movements to enable them to get the Israelis out of the far east.
In addition, according to a group historian, ‘The IS position was always one of conditional support for the IRA, and other bad boys with guns, in their fight against imperialism.’ The ‘condition’ was that the IRA should not blowup any members of the IS, though it could blowup other far-left parties if it felt the need.
In January 1977, IS was renamed ‘the Socialist Workers Party’ because it had a sexier ring to it. Also, the inclusion of the word ‘workers’ told everyone precisely what the Party was: a party of middle-class former students and lecturers at the London School of Economics..
The Anti-Nowhere League and Rock against Racism
A campaign in which the SWP had a significant role at this time (c. 1979) was the Anti-Nowhere League (ANL). As the name suggests, the aim of this organisation was to fight the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, right-wing unions, left-wing unions (the ones which weren’t sufficiently Trotskyite), men in leather pants and the consumers of figs from Israel. A key turning point came when, on August 13, 1977, thousands of anti-fascists, including large numbers of local black youths (some SWP members had never seen a black person before), attempted to stop the National Front from marching through Lewisham. This was largely successful. However, the SWP was bitterly disappointed by the fact that no black men, thereafter, joined the party. At the time, according to Julian Quinton-Smith, ‘there were no black-type members of the SWP’. 
In response to Eric Clapton's public support for Enoch Powell, Rock Against Racism was set up in close collaboration with the ANL. Chris Harman, looking back, said that ‘it was clearly the case that Eric Clapton didn’t know how hip it could be to patronise the Black Man’. And ‘wasn’t it the case that some black people are quite good at doing the blues – which is what Clapton was doing, wasn’t it?’ One band involved with Rock Against Racism was The Clash (especially Joe Strummer, who found revolutionary socialism while attending public school with other members of the SWP). By 1981, the National Front had fragmented and the campaign was wound up. The SWP said, at the time, that ‘this was the case because no one really needed the NF because everybody, except our Party and brown and black people, was racist anyway’.
The early 1990s, for many on the far left, was a period of demoralisation and disorientation due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Activists in the SWP argued that even though Stalin murdered 50 million or more of his fellow Russians, including workers and socialists, ‘at least he wasn’t an American and a supporter of capitalist democracy’. The SWP said that ‘Uncle Joe was a indeed a fool, but his heart was in the right place’. They argued that ‘if only Stalin had read Tony Cliff’s Trotsky, he would himself have become a Trotskyite and probably joined the SWP (had he still been alive)’. Despite the sympathy for Soviet communism (i.e. that ‘at least it wasn’t a capitalist democracy’), its demise was, according to the SWP (that is, according to Tony Cliff), a vindication of its long-held analysis that the Soviet Union was a ‘state capitalist’ society. What is ‘state capitalism’? No one really knows except Tony Cliff, and he is dead. Nevertheless, for those who like all things cabalistic and esoteric, chapter seven of Tony Cliff’s book, Please Make Me Leader, argues that ‘the transition from state capitalism to multinational capitalism is neither a step forward nor a step backwards, but a step sidewards’. Apparently, the only person who understands this theory is the one who wrote it, Tony Cliff. Other followers of the guru, Tony Cliff, those of whom sat by his side for three years at a time, could see its power, but not its meaning. In any case, one vital point could always be extracted from the arcana: the working class was still being exploited by someone!
In 1997, despite being highly opposed to Tony Blair's policies, they called for a vote for the Labour Party. The idea was to vote for a Party that the SWP knew ‘would not last very long’, primarily because of the 10th or 11th ‘deadly capitalist crisis’ that year, as forcasted by the Marxist Futurology Office. Thus it advised people to become entrists in the Labour Party, despite the fact that the SWP never indulged in entrism at the official level. John Rees, a leader of the SWP (who has a ‘working-class background’), hoped that the working class would suffer more so that they would then embrace the SWP. Or, as John Rees (who is from a ‘working-class background’) put it: ‘In the mid-term the ‘sado-monetarist’ [sic] strategy followed by the Labour government will clash increasingly with a working class movement which has drawn hope and confidence from its electoral victory over the Tories.’
Recently the SWP was involved in Respect (formed in 2003). SWP leaders and members realised that brown and extreme middle-class Islamists had a lot in common with the SWP’s middle class, white and very-angry membership. The Islamists had even borrowed a certain amount of Trotskyite cliches from the SWP. Later, around three days after its formation, a degree of factionalism soon occurred in Respect. The SWP argued that this is a necessary factor of all Islamo-Trotskyite politics and was once called ‘permanent revolution’.
The MP George Galloway, a full-time exhibitionist, helped in the forming of Respect. Galloway is well known for liking Arabs a lot (he married one – no, not Saddam) and also for wanting to destroy capitalism and all things Western (i.e., non-Arabic). His love for all things Arabic was shown when he met Saddam Hussein and committed a public act of fellatio on him in order to smooth Arab-West relations (which have been very bad since all Arab countries realised just how shit their countries were).
Then there was a ‘schism’ within Respect. However, not all things were that good. The group Left List was formed from this split. Then the Left List split into the Far-Left Split, the Left Split, the Right Split and the Banana Split. Apparently, the main area of contention was the third sentence of paragraph two in the chapter ‘Should I Go to Mexico?’ in Trotsky’s seminal book, How to Kick Capitalist Ass.
The SWP’s Clever Stuff
Duncan Hallas, a founding member of the IS, predecessor of the SWP, the TCP, the OCD, the ARC, and the FUK, wrote: ‘The founders of the group saw themselves as mainstream Trotskyists, differing on important questions from the dominant group in the International, such as ‘Are shoes really right wing?’ and ‘Is that a full stop or a comma in the final line of Trotsky’s Manifesto?’.
Because it sees itself as Trotskyist, the SWP describes itself as a ‘revolutionary socialist party’, rather than as a ‘socialist revolutionary party’, or a ‘socialist party of revolutionaries’, as other parties ‘mistakenly’ do. The SWP stands in the ‘tradition’ of Leon Trotsky. It is compulsory for all members of the SWP to attend the Church of Leon once a week, as well as to read at least ten thousand words of his ‘glorious’ words each day . In addition, one must bow when one uses the name ‘Trotsky’ and finish with the utterance, ‘Praise be His name’. The SWP also shares many of the political positions of Trotskyist groups, a tradition rooted in Marxism and Leninism.  In common with other Trotskyists, the SWP defends the body of ideas codified, fuck-long back, by the first four Congresses of the Communist International and the founding Congress of the Fourth International of Leon Trotsky in 1938.  The Congress of 1937 was not as good as the one of 1938. However, some experts on this say that the Congress of 1939 was even better than that of 1938. 
The SWP maintains an opposition to what it terms ‘substitutionist strategies’. What the Christ does that mean? This is the idea that social forces other than the proletariat, such as the SWP and its members, may substitute for the proletariat in the struggle for a socialist society. 
An extremely open way of recruitment – the SWP is extremely easy to join. One only has to give its leaders and members money, then one automatically becomes a member. The students who do join do not tend to stay long, usually for three years (the length of their degree course). However, a few students stay on longer, or at least untill they join their parents’ firm. The rest who do stay are by then delegates or leaders of the Party.
The SWP has been criticised by some in the direct action, anti-capitalist and anarchist movements for its perceived attempts to manipulate them for its own ends. SWP activists argue that although all these groups are different from the Party, it is still the case that ‘we all, basically, still want to kick some capitalist ass’. The ‘anarchist wants to blow up the Stock Exchange, and we want to create a Gulag for capitalists on the Isle of Man – what’s the difference?’ They say that ‘deep down all these groups are Trotskyite in nature, they just do know that yet’. The SWP denies these ‘manipulations’ and says ‘it simply tells them what to do, when to do it, and how to do it’. Apart from that, the SWP is a ‘hands off policy’.
The SWP, which has at least 1000 members, tends to promote the view that the reliance on direct action by small groups is ‘elitist’, and instead favours ‘mass mobilisations and strikes’ which are made up of the masses and run by the ‘vanguard’ elite that is the SWP.
The SWP has also been accused of being overly accommodating to the allegedly reactionary concerns of some practising Muslims. It denies this. The SWP says that although it does accept that brown men have the right to lock their wives in the bedroom and/or kitchen, they do not have the right to sow their vaginas up (unless this operation is voluntary). In addition, its anti-Zionist stance has been accused of being anti-Semitic. The SWP denies this accusation and argues that it ‘has been spread by Jewish scum’. As for gay rights, they argue that ‘they accept that homosexuality is OK for the Islington Set’, but go on to say that ‘it may not be right for the Brown Man’. The SWP are also suspicious of gay activists because all of them, apparently, are ‘Zionists’.
The SWP has also caused controversy by supporting the elements of the Iraqi insurgency. It was also rumoured that it was contemplating endorsing the group Paedophiles Against the Government as well as Serial Killers Against Capitalism. The SWP, therefore, supports Hezbollah and all the other Islamic groups which blow American, European and Israeli soldiers to pieces. Its support is ‘unconditional but critical’. This means that it will support Hezbollah and Hamas even if they have blown up an infant school in Israel, but only as long as they can give the bombers as few dirty looks at the next Hezbollah-SWP dinner party. The SWP also contemplated supporting Timothy McVeigh’s bombing campaign until they realised that he is both American and white.
There has also been criticism and debate in, around and outside the party about its perceived failure to intervene in, or be a visible part of, many popular front movements. The SWP says that it will join any popular front movement as long as they display its banners and uphold the dictats of the Central Committee (which, they argue, ‘is perfectly fair and indeed democratic’). Some commentators also criticise the SWP for being sectarian. The SWP responds by saying that ‘just because all local branch members share the same enormous bed, use the same condoms and masturbate one another, that does not mean it is a sectarian party’. Nevertheless, the SWP has, for example, started campaigning on climate change in the past decade because it says that Trotsky was himself a Green and also smoked a lot of dope. It was also involved in the Anti-Nazi League but, it is said, attempted to change it into the Anti-Everything League. The SWP argued that these organisations didn’t need to be Trotskyist in nature as long as the members read at least one book a week by Trotsky or a SWP member. The SWP was also accused of being ‘opportunist’ with these organisation but it argued that ‘it only wanted to bring about the Revolution’ (which just happened to be lead by the SWP). They denied using them as front organisations because it was plain to see, from the banners and posters such groups used, that the SWP was running the show.
Members of other socialist political parties, and ex-members of the SWP, often claim that it is undemocratic. The SWP’s Central Committee has told all its members that it is fully democratic and it will not allow any claims to the contrary. Those who deny the democratic nature of the SWP are told to leave.
The SWP also says that it can work with other groups, ‘as long as these groups agree with all SWP policy and theory’. And ‘anything else is open to free debate’. It is also said that the SWP aims to seize control of united fronts and control them, such as the Stop the War Coalition. The SWP responds by saying that ‘the people who say such things only do so because they disagree with us’. Either that, or ‘they are working for the Zionist Party of Barnsley or the extreme right- wing Snooker Players Union’. The SWP says that it is organised, very tightly and strictly, as a ‘democratic centralist organisation’ (see the work of Lewis Carrol and recent work on the Cretan Liar). Conference delegates are elected by party branches which are run people who go to the Conferences and uphold the dogmas of the Central Committee. Branches can select any delegate they like, as long as he or she agrees with the branch leader, who attends all conferences and upholds the Central Committee line, and also follows the dictats of the Party hierarchy. Thus there is said to be much room for debate of other views, as long as the debater does not become a branch leader or delegate. The delegate then has much room to debate at Conference, as long as he only accepts the Central Committee’s directives. Thus the SWP is a democratic party which also believes in extreme centralism.
Because of all this, some leftists, and all the non-leftists who know about them, surprisingly accuse the SWP of being centrist. SWP members who say this are immediately thrown out of the Party. Those outside the Party who say this are ‘Islamophobes’, ‘Zionists’ and other words with the suffix ‘ist’ on the end.
It is also said that the SWP ‘vacillates between revolution and reform’. That is, the SWP believes in revolution only when it is the SWP that is leading it. And it believes in reform only if that reform is ‘the complete abolishion of Parliamentary capitalist democracy’. Others have said that the SWP believes in revolution only before breakfast, perhaps up to eight of them, and reform when it is feeling a little sleepy. Small left-wing groups (the ‘sub-atomic left’), such as Permanent Revolution (UK) and Workers Power, argue that the programme of the Respect coalition is reformist because it does not believe that all capitalists should be burnt at the stake and that nuclear weapons are never acceptable - ‘not even in a bona fide revolution!’.
Many left-wing pundits argue that the SWP is not as revolutionary as Workers Power. And that Workers Power is not as revolutionary as Permanent Revolution (UK). However, the SWP itself claims that ‘it is more revolutionary than both these parties put together’ and is ‘prepared for a punch-up with both parties to prove it’.
- That is, if the Greens and Islamists wont have you.
- Both of whem clean the homes of the SWP leadership.
- The punky rock band The Clash was said to have lent the Party a bob or two in the early 1980s.
- Islamists, for some reason, are good at this.
- Although ten of the twenty actually write the newspaper.
- As can be seen in the background, the SWP now uses only Arabic at its conferences.
- Though the SWP says that they are not based on the Soviet model.
- Which is quite large for a far-left group.
- Trotskyite grammarians didn’t like those double adjectives, but Tony did.
- Which was itself expelled from the Communist Party, which was itself expelled from the Party, which was itself expelled from Stalin’s office.
- Today there are at least 10.
- Delivered in an accent that is part Mockney, part high-pitch rant.
- Marx, as student members of the SWP often tell non-members, liked to spend all his days at the British Library and then finish off by going ‘down’t pub’ to meet up with his fellow cockneys… Or did he spend time in the pub, with other cockneys, and then go to do his work at the British Library?
- For those interested in historical political minutiae, get a nerd to dig out a dusty book for you.
- It is said, by some Leninist historians, to have included a pretty decent light show at the end.
- The details of this family dispute are tedious and so will be of great interest to other far-left groups.