Faction in exile

Gary Salisbury reviews 'Democracy and the SWP' by British and German IS Groups

THIS IS the first publication of the newly formed International Socialist Group and the Group for International Socialism in Germany. The ISG consists of ex-Socialist Workers Party members and is led by Andy Wilson who was expelled from the SWP.

The pamphlet is critical of the SWP’s internal regime, citing the fact that it bullies its members into following its line through what is described as Tony Cliff’s ‘stick-bending’. They say this top-down method of organisation has been responsible for many of the leadership’s mistakes of late. The disastrous underestimation of community-based campaigns against the poll tax is just one of the examples given.

Many of the inner struggles described here have been hidden from the SWP’s rank and file.

The International Socialist Group however does not really differ much politically from the SWP. It retains a loyalty to the theories of state capitalism, deflected permanent revolution and the permanent arms economy. The only qualitative difference is over the theory of what it calls ‘party and class’.

Unfortunately this leaves the ISG as nothing more than a faction of the SWP in exile. Unless the ISG is able to draw a link between the inadequacies of SWP politics and the bureaucratic centralist party regime, then it will not get very far.

Just as ‘official communists’ built bureaucratic centralism in the CPGB with each twist and turn of the Soviet leadership, a bureaucratic centralism was built in the SWP, with the aim of spreading misinformation to members just in case it lost them to a rival group. While I was a member of the SWP the Party Notes described the CPGB as Stalinist leftovers and similar untruths are used against others, including no doubt the ISG.

So where next for the ISG and for that matter the SWP? The SWP will inevitably ‘Carry on recruiting!’ (Did they make that film yet?). But a future for the ISG is harder. Either it becomes a sect continually firing salvos at the SWP in a futile attempt to win it to its point of view. Or it takes the step that I and other ex-SWPers have taken recently in joining the fight to reforge the Communist Party of Great Britain.

This pamphlet is recommended to all comrades, especially SWP members.

Gary Salisbury

Former branch secretary, Stevenage SWP