SWP thought police

Issue two of Welsh Socialist Voice/Llais Sosialaidd Cymru is now out. With articles on Palestine, the anti-war campaign and the Socialist Alliance trade union conference supplementing a variety of reports on local issues and campaigns, it is pleasing to note that WSV has the potential to serve as a much needed rallying cry for the Welsh Socialist Alliance. After healthy sales for the first issue, one would have expected universal praise for this venture and hearty congratulations to the editorial team. Unfortunately, this has not proved the case and the new publication has been castigated by some comrades. At the WSA national council, meeting in Cardiff on April 21, criticism came from the largest bloc in the alliance, the Socialist Workers Party. Although many SWP members have welcomed the arrival of WSV and been enthusiastic in selling it, clearly the new publication has enraged some of the supposed leading lights in the principality. None more so than the SWP's full-timer in Wales. In a series of some rather expletive-ridden interventions and interruptions, the comrade tore into WSV, describing issue one as a "disgrace". This was apparently because the headline of the first issue ran with the Mittal affair and not with the campaign against the war. A valid criticism maybe, but not one to get worked up about - given that this was the first outing for WSV. In any case, as a CPGB member pointed out, the SWP representative on the editorial team had argued for the SA trade union conference to be given star billing on the front page. Clearly, SWP members need to communicate with each other more effectively. One would have thought that the Palestinian front page headline for issue two would have been more to the SWP's liking. Unfortunately, not so. According to another SWPer, the article committed the heinous crime of putting the number of marchers on the Palestinian demonstration in London on April 13 at only 20,000 - and not the 100,000 reported in Socialist Worker. One awaits with some apprehension the reaction to the headline in issue three. Not content with these snipes, another SWPer chose to announce that there was a secret "political agenda" behind WSV. Without coming out with it clearly, the comrade meant the spectre of nationalism and the evil influence of Cymru Goch. Once again, there is a certain amount of truth in criticisms of CG input disproportional to its presence in the alliance, but not one that should be made by the SWP. That some members of CG have shown enthusiasm for WSV (though not of late for the WSA itself) is to be welcomed. It has filled a vacuum in the paper which was created by the indifference of the SWP to the publication at its inception and compounded by the Socialist Party's indifference to the WSA as a whole. Rather than simply branding WSV 'nationalist', it is more accurate to describe the publication as combining a nationalist and socialist orientation - ie, it is left nationalist, a Welsh version of Scottish Socialist Voice. Nothing more, nothing less. Is that really surprising to anyone? The WSA consciously decided to organise separately from the Socialist Alliance in England. But the SWP seems to think you can have separatist organisation without separatist politics. You cannot have it both ways, comrades. The WSA was modelled on the experience of the Scottish Socialist Alliance. But Cymru Goch is an easier target than Tommy Sheridan, the latter being above criticism. In fact CG are the most consistent advocates of Sheridan's politics in the WSA. This is a fact that should not be lost on comrades in the SWP, who are not prepared to fight this left nationalism in Scotland. They should not demonise CG or other left nationalist contributors who have shown enthusiasm for WSV. Not content with these criticisms, the condemnation by some SWPers (not all) continued. Poor distribution (untrue) was used as an excuse for poor sales in certain branches, whilst the SWP secretary of the WSA accused the editorial team of acting as a clique, having apparently excluded one of the editorial team - "a low paid black worker" - from editorial discussions because he did not have access to the internet. One is at a loss to think why the colour of this comrade's skin is important, unless one wants to make the accusation of racism amongst the rest of the editorial team. When SWPers then heard that a member of the CPGB had submitted an article on the euro for issue three, this was too much for them to take. The SWP full-timer insisted that there should be no discussion in the pages of WSV. Instead, its job should just be to issue a 'line' to workers. This is truly bewildering. It implies for a start that the WSA has a 'line' on many issues, when patently we do not - eg, Palestine, the euro, the national question, etc. But it is more than simply that. When even the Stalinist Morning Star can have faintly interesting debates in its pages (for example, about the Socialist Alliance), what do we have to fear? One is afraid the answer lies in the fact that the left has not broken out of its old habit of conducting its arguments behind closed doors, behind the backs of the working class. Any dissent in public is taken to be a sign of weakness rather than a sign of strength. Even more amusing is the view that workers are not interested in reading about controversies - it implies that they have no role in the resolution of disputes. One non-aligned comrade at the meeting made the rather good point that Scottish Socialist Voice includes debates about Europe in its pages. I look forward to SSV being criticised for this deviation. Of course, the SWP would not dare publicly! An article by Alex Callinicos in the April issue of Socialist Review is titled 'Unity in diversity'. Their follows an explanation of why he opposes the creation of a broad socialist party in England and Wales (note: he does not use the word 'parties'). If we are meant to celebrate this 'unity in diversity', then let us do so in the pages of WSV. If, on the other hand, comrades want to hide it, why are they in an alliance with other socialists? Surely not to impose their line on every page of every issue of WSV? Yet this is what some comrades in the SWP would like to happen. Better still, instead of unity in diversity, let us have diversity in unity. But perhaps this difference in emphasis would be lost on the SWP thought police. Cameron Richards