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Weekly Worker Article on the SP July 25, 2013

Posted by Garibaldy in Uncategorized.

Article here that people have asked to have a thread about.

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1. Garibaldy - July 25, 2013

I’ll be keeping a fairly tight rein on the comments here by the way

2. LeftAtTheCross - July 25, 2013

I don’t know, are people really interested in writing or reading about tribulations within the SP (or the SWP indeed)? It seems to go with the territory. The WW article is very interesting in a vaguely voyeuristic way, but maybe enough is enough.

Garibaldy - July 25, 2013

I did think hard about whether or not to put a thread up, but decided that a separate place for anyone who wanted to discuss this would allow other discussions on that open thread to take place unhindered.

revolutionaryprogramme - July 25, 2013

Given the weight of the SP in the Irish far left I would think this article is of perhaps more than just voyeuristic interest.

Particularly if it was to pre-figure a significant revolt against the SP’s curious blend of bureaucratic centralist organisational form and left-reformist practical political programme.

que - July 25, 2013

look its a fair article to put up and well simply because we’re all wondering how badly it will be taken in certain quarters doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be aired.
Airing also does not mean there is an anti SP agenda. The SP is like it or not probably the largest further left formation and the one with the most potential to grow. Its going to get analysis especially when 4 of its more senior members pull the plug. That’s not victimisation that’s the price tag of profile.

I think people should be very interested in the tribulations of these parties for two reasons:
(I) When seniors leave and detail what they believe are deep set problems holding back the party then people should at the least give it a hearing.
(2) Other parties also reference the low level of class consciousness or pursue near identical approaches to the SP. There may be others in parties who read the article and find it resonates with their thoughts and gives them confidence to argue their strategy for regeneration of the left.

que - July 25, 2013

or to put it more succinctly since the crisis the clock has started ticking for all parties (left and right). Pre-crisis achieving little was acceptable simply because the analysis said its going to be tough to do. Post crisis is the era when decades of theory says real progress should start. This is approaching a depression level crisis and when people say why is nothing happening then that’s something likely to be replicated across other formations and for some it means they’ll simply continue to fade away. So this is bigger than the SP.
All groups should regard it as due warning. In that context I look at the articles about on WSM and by Chekov as trying to answer the statement that ‘it was supposed to play out differently’ .

LeftAtTheCross - July 25, 2013

Que, it’s not that I think the SP should be let off the hook in terms of examination of the reasons behind the resignation of senior members, not at all. When I said enough is enough I meant that there can’t be too many people that are surprised at the content of that article, it’s almost to be expected, seeing the type of response that SP members put up here on CLR and elsewhere whenever there are questions about how they operate. We see the organisational culture expressed publicly, why would we expect better behaviour internally? In other words I wouldn’t share RP’s enthusiasm for using this in order to examine the SP in forensic detail, why bother? If they work in a way that only the likes of some of the SP contributors here can put up with over any prolonged timespan then what we’re seeing is an organisation that values nothing that I would associate with a future world that I’d want to live in or help work towards.

3. sonofstan - July 25, 2013

The SP is like it or not probably the largest further left formation

The article claims it has ‘about’ 100 actual/ active members.Is that true? Does that (still) make it the biggest? Honest questions.

RosencrantzisDead - July 25, 2013

I would have thought they had about double that number, but that is just a guess.

A national committee of 20 – 35 people does (if the article is accurate on this point) sound rather unwieldy given even this number of members.

Mark P - July 25, 2013

The article is from the Weekly Worker, and so is completely unreliable on questions of that nature. And indeed on questions of any nature.

One very minor part of that unreliability is to consistently claim that rival left organisations are smaller, often much smaller, than they actually are. Partly from a gratuitous desire to annoy, and partly as a way of fishing for more accurate information. Which I’m not going to gratify them by providing, other than to exclusively reveal that the SP is quite substantially larger than the figure given. Which will not come as a surprise to anyone active on the left here. Although, to answer the question put, even if the SP actually did shrink to that size, “somewhere over 100″ active members would still make it probably the biggest fragment of the socialist left.

That four members, who are all experienced and good activists but I suspect rather unlikely to make themselves the claim to be particularly “senior”, have resigned is unfortunate. I don’t agree with most of their reasoning (and the reasons aren’t uniform), but I wish them well and hope that they continue to contribute to the left here. That the loss of a whole four people will be treated as exciting and notable both by some here and on facebook (and no doubt in the Teacher’s Club) is something of an indictment of the state of the rest of the socialist left however.

RiD, makes an interesting point above about the size of the SP’s National Committee. I’ve said before here that the SP is notable for its love of large committees and its determination to eventually have more committees than it does members. For all that most of the socialist left outside our ranks seem to have strong opinions about the way in which we organise, few of our sometimes obsessional critics ever bother to grasp even rather obvious traits like this before expounding on what they imagine to be our culture or structure.

sonofstan - July 25, 2013

1) Why should it be a secret one way or the other as to how many members you (or any other ‘fragment of the socialist left) have?

2) Nobody is getting excited about 4 members resigning. What’s interesting is the account of how the party dealt with it,

Jolly Red Giant - July 26, 2013

1. The Socialist Party isn’t particularly secrative about its membership – but as Mark pointed out – the CPGB are fishing for information and members of the SP are not interested giving them titbits of information for them to do their usual ‘bending’ of the facts. I will state that the last time “somewhere over 100″ active members was in the early 1990s. Hell if the number was accurate my branch alone would have almost a fifth of the ‘active membership’.

2. What you are reading is not an account of how ‘the party dealt with it’ – you are reading an account of what the CPGB said was the way ‘the party dealt with it’ – that is nearly always two completely different things.

sonofstan - July 26, 2013

Even if it’s not accurate, it’s still ‘an account’. Neither you or Mark P. is doing much to dispel the impression given in the piece though. I still don’t see why, if the SP is ‘not particularly secretive’ you can’t just tell us how many members you have?

InAquaSanitas - July 26, 2013

If the WW article is wrong on that figure, than don’t be so mealy-mouthed and state the figure.

Sobriquet - July 26, 2013

“The article is from the Weekly Worker, and so is completely unreliable on questions of that nature. And indeed on questions of any nature.”

The author of the article is (i presume) a still current member of the SP. That isn’t something to be merely side-stepped by dint of it’s publication in the Weekly Worker (yes, admittedly the gossip rag of the left).

Interesting to note you don’t deal with the substantive points raised in the article in relation to party democracy, general approach and programme of the SP – instead focusing on the minor issue of party membership…

critical media review - August 12, 2013

Going back to the original topic I’ve seen correspondence sent by two of the resigning comrades at the end of June who both agreed to attend an aggregate meeting at the end of July as both were not in the city before. The next correspondence they received from the party was just days later on the second of July which informed them the meeting would take place on the following Sunday. There was no attempt to accommodate the comrades at all. As far as I am aware the leadership also knew a third comrade was unavailable. The fact that no effort at all was made to accommodate the comrades, the rushed nature of the meeting, when the leadership were aware comrades were not available smells of a stitch up and is pretty indefensible.

4. Logan - July 25, 2013

What exactly is the “slate system” in the elections?

Surely not every 20 or so members of the national Committee go forward as the one “slate” ?

Jolly Red Giant - July 26, 2013

The ‘slate system’ is a system used in some far left groups where the outgoing national committee would propose a slate of candidates for the incoming national committee and the members would vote either for or against the entire ‘slate’.

The Socialist Party does not elect its national committe by means of a ‘slate system’.

critical media review - July 26, 2013

So what is it called when the leadership put forward an entire group of candidates that are elected in a single vote jrg?

Jolly Red Giant - July 26, 2013

CMR – the Socialist Party does not elect its NC by use of the ‘slate system’.

revolutionaryprogramme - July 26, 2013

A couple of questions then

So how is the election done?

Why are these ex-members claiming otherwise?

critical media review - July 26, 2013

In Dublin West We used to have leadership recommended delegates to conference as well , just in case the single slate wasn’t quite enough to get over the leadership over the line.

critical media review - July 26, 2013

The Sp doesn’t have a slate system, only a practice where a single list of comrades recommended by the leadership are voted for at once by a single vote; without any individual putting forward any programme or voting records.

Jolly Red Giant - July 26, 2013

CMR – I really am not interested in getting into an argument about this with you – but the SP does not elect its NC by the method you describe.

critical media review - July 26, 2013

I do not wish to get in an argument either, I am describing the election process for every regional/national conference election I attended (possibly not 98 when there was a second slate?), If the practice has changed in the last two years since I left I would like to hear about the new system.

5. NC - July 25, 2013

Trotskyites split over the politics and programme for a “revolutionary party”? Surely par for the course at this stage folks.

Ed - July 26, 2013

Someone responds to a serious discussion about the way ahead for the radical left, the organisational forms that are appropriate for socialist groups etc. with some half-baked cliches about ‘Trotskyites’ and splits? Surely par for the course at this stage folks. You haven’t mentioned The Life of Brian yet, go on, you can do it.

6. critical media review - July 26, 2013

Wasn’t the article written by a member of the SP? Not by CPGB member. Seems you are not addressing the actual issues brought up by quite a few ex members(myself included).

pangur ban - July 26, 2013

‘CMR – I really am not interested in getting into an argument about this with you – but the SP does not elect its NC by the method you describe.’

So JRG how does the socialist party elect its national committee? And why would a number of experienced party members describe it as such?

7. Anne McShane - July 26, 2013

JGG and Mark P are extremely defensive and do not deal with the central questions raised. Instead they try to malign the writer because of the fact that he chose to publish in the Weekly Worker. I think it says everything that Craig Murphy chose to publish in that paper. It has a culture and history of open publication. Open being the operative word guys. If there are inaccuracies or untruths you have a right of reply. The unfortunate truth seems to be that you don’t want to answer the criticisms openly – and you support the SP leadership’s manoeuvres aimed at suppressing dissent. My view is that the SP membership should take courage from Craig Murphy’s stance and should rebel against the bureaucracy.

I stand for a united open democratic revolutionary party in Ireland. The membership of the SP should be involved in that. I had hoped the ULA would be a step in that direction but unfortunately the leaderships of the SWP and SP prevented that happening. Maybe the stand taken by Craig and the comrades who have resigned can represent another impetus to build this party and to have open debate and action among communists. I certainly want to be part of any new initiative,.

8. Henry Silke - July 26, 2013

An piece written back in January on the subject of the Irish left and structures


9. Henry Silke - July 26, 2013

Just a quick note, on re-reading the comments on the article above, an SP member Pat made the following comments:

“The point is that members of the Socialist Party find that the slate system works for us, in that the best leadership is usually elected, hence serving the purpose of a good electoral method. Until a time comes when any members feel that the best leadership hasn’t been elected, we’ll most likely continue to use that system.

Apart from the circular argument it shows that yet another member of the party (and one loyal to the leadership) maintained the party practiced a slate system.

revolutionaryprogramme - July 26, 2013


10. The Would-Be Revolution Devours Its Children | An Sionnach Fionn - July 27, 2013

[…] Party of Great Britain, examining the slow meltdown from within of the Socialist Party of Ireland (via Garibaldy at the CLR). In particular it highlights the organisation’s rigidly authoritarian party structure and the […]

11. Paddy Healy - July 28, 2013

Social media creates problems not only for autocratic states, but also for manipulative political groups

que - July 28, 2013

While also allowing a cold and critical eye to be cast over their political opponents and let the same question be asked of them?

Its all well and good to lash the Socialists but for what purpose. You and JRG seem convinced that the other is a huge enemy who must be defeated in order to advance the struggle. Hell thats the approach most left formations have taken for years and here we are living in a neo-liberal dominated world.

No problem here discussing the fruitless approach of the Socialist Party but then Paddy it must be fair to also say that your belief that there is any gain to be made by engaging in theoretical jousts demonstrating errors in thought that can be traced back to a time when Hitler and Churchill and Stalin were the leading political figures is also pointless.

12. El Marko - July 28, 2013

Jesus wept. The SP comrades are in serious denial here. As has been pointed out, this article was written by a SP member, not a fact bending CPGB piece based on hearsay. As to what the active membership of the SP is, it is certainly smaller than it was around 2008/2009 and based on being politically active in Dublin, the number of SP’ers you see around is a lot lower than what it used to be. Maybe they are keeping themselves to themselves, but otherwise there has definitely been some shrinkage.

That’s not really the important point though. What I find interesting is that every time there is a crisis in the SP, they 1. Deny there is a crisis. 2. Close ranks and try to prevent the crisis from being seen by the outside world. 3. Ignore the reasons for the crisis – keep on doing the thing that is the reason they are losing members and 4. sit safely in the belief that they are the ones with the correct ideas, passed down from Lenin and Trotsky by Ted Grant and Peter Taaffe, in the knowledge that the correct objective conditions will arrive sooner rather than later.

“Let’s go.” “We can’t.” “Why not?” “We’re waiting for Godot.”

Now the other reason this article and the events surrounding it are important, is that as long as the SP continue to operate in the manner that they do, they will have a negative impact on the left and the prospect of working class organisation. The turnover of members is staggering. They recruit, chew up and spit out members, many of whom are put off involvement in politics as a result. They also have a negative impact on campaigns they are involved in as they attempt to control or destroy anything that looks like it could be significant.

The message that SP members should heed is “change or perish”. Whichever option they take is fine with me.

sonofstan - July 28, 2013

‘You can take the mantle of revolutionary continuity from our cold dead hands’

‘That’ll work’

13. que - July 28, 2013

‘The message that SP members should heed is “change or perish”. Whichever option they take is fine with me.’

Who on the left can exclude themselves from that message?

El Marko - July 28, 2013

No one. Absolutely no one. The game has changed.

revolutionaryprogramme - July 28, 2013

How has the “game” changed?

Henry Silke - July 28, 2013

I think we may have excused the lack of progress etc due to the boom (objective conditions) before; now we see strategy of leaderships failing for other reasons (ie they were wrong). We also (and I think this is important) are in a place where self described revolutionaries and trotskyists were in the leading position and can’t blame reformists. Activists are asking questions and this is part of it.

Michael Carley - July 28, 2013

At Tolpuddle last weekend, I had a chat with a union general secretary who was telling me that the (UK) Labour party is the one with the chance of power, that if you divert your energies elsewhere you are choosing a decade at least of Tory rule, and so Labour is where you have to work. I am a member of the SP in England, and was one in Ireland (in your branch, Henry), but I found it very difficult to make a better argument.

In Ireland, in part because of the electoral system, it has been possible to support the SP, and others, in the realistic hope of putting forward a political position which offered a genuine alternative. If what you are saying is correct, and I have no good reason to say it’s not, there is no serious radical movement in Ireland: the left has failed to break through in electoral politics, and it has failed to lead an extra-parliamentary movement.

What is to be done?

Garibaldy - July 29, 2013

That’s a fine way with words you’ve got there Michael, though hard to disagree.

I think the starting point of the union general secretary is that even the worst New Labour government is a lot better than the best of the Tories. That’s pretty much the attitude I think of most left-wing people in Britain.

I think that that because society is more right wing in the south of Ireland there is no prospect of a purely Labour government, and given the evidence of the recent years of coalition government, that political activists there don’t have the same assumption that things would be better, if only marginally. I think there’s a question of the fundamental political analysis about the role of parliamentary politics and about all social democratic parties internationally of some of the formations of the Irish left in the Dáil that have to be considered here too in shaping attitudes towards whether any significant benefit is likely to be gained from parliament any time soon. I think the attitude of some people towards the trade unions, or at least their leaders, is also something that needs to be taken into account.

I guess what I’m saying is that substantial amounts of significant elements of the Irish left take a very different view about what is possible from the centre left or from working with the centre left than the equivalents in Britain (possibly with good cause). While some people think this difference makes it more likely that the further left will make a significant breakthrough because there is no real centre left alternative, it’s possible that this is one thing that needs worked on. Left activists may have to adjust their attitude towards what is likely to occur, and what type of work in things like unions needs to be done.

Then we’re onto the battle of ideas in the political and economic spheres, where the Irish left as a whole is failing pretty badly.

Such things are of course long term, and may need a shift in perspective among some.

14. D_D - July 29, 2013

“I think the starting point of the union general secretary is that even the worst New Labour government is a lot better than the best of the Tories. That’s pretty much the attitude I think of most left-wing people in Britain.”

True of a union general secretary – surprise, surprise – but not of a sizable minority, at least, of those to the left of Labour:


Michael Carley - July 29, 2013

The problem with Left Unity is that Ken Loach has openly said he wants it to be a `UKIP of the left’, i.e. a group whose radicalism, or appeal to radical instincts, forces the mainstream party to shift towards it.

Henry Silke - July 29, 2013

Hi Michael, great to hear from you ‘What is to be done?’ is a very good question and one that I don’t think is being asked. I think a key problem (but not only) is the structures of the left parties as they stand don’t allow for that kind of question or discussion, It’s more like ‘this is what is to be done’.
This is where the resignations from the SP are coming from. Its not only the four in the article, there’s been many more over the last two years (myself included), and it’s not for the psychological excuses put forward by the leadership, they have been and are for key political reasons. I have great admiration for the writer of this article who decided to stay on and go public like this.

Personally I think the left won’t move forward significantly without a multi-tendency organisation of some sort that openly discusses political positions, policy and strategy (and by discuss I mean where there are a number of options; not discuss an already made decision with no recourse for change). I’m not saying as some might infer that I think this is some magic cure to our ills, but I think it is a very basic first step that we won’t progress much further without, However I think there is a very big catch 22 in that where existing leaderships seem to still have grave difficulty with any challenge to their strategies (even from a positive perspective) and seem to be happier in unproblemic niches rather than working in wider political organisations. We are now left with no ULA, no cahwt but with two entirely separate front organisations which doesn’t make any sense to me outside sectarian motives.

que - August 5, 2013

‘Personally I think the left won’t move forward significantly without a multi-tendency organisation’

Does the left need a multi-tendency organisation. Would it not be better to have a left where people with similar view points can coalesce on that basis without needing to then have that in tendency form. Ie on some issues I’d be in your corner and for others i’d be in another corner without feeling constrained to have bought into a tendency on either issue.

Do organised tendencies not line up with the following joke which is apparently the best religious joke of all time and a personal favourite.
The point being is not the tendency approach a part of the problem – anything that formalises factions is going to lead to division without a strong ability to park issues amongst members.

light relief:

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

critical media review - August 5, 2013

I think that within a multi tendency party there is more room for debate/discussion etc and it would also need a good dose (if not majority) of independents. But a democratic party with good branch structures that allows tendencies is fine . I use the term ‘multi-tendency’ because I think it is a way of expressing ‘democratic and non sectarian’ without being overly pejorative. Henry.

Michael Carley - August 5, 2013

There’s another version:
An old revolutionary walks across the Brooklyn Bridge one day, and he sees man of a similar age standing on the edge, about to jump.

He runs over and says: “Stop. Don’t do it.”

“Why shouldn’t I?” he asks.

“Well, there’s so much to live for!”

“I’m just so depressed, I’ve been a communist all my life and the revolution seems as far away as ever”

“You’re a communist?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“I am as well!! Did you originally join the Communist Party USA?”


“Me too! Did you join the pro-Trotsky Communist League of America in 1928, which later merged with the American Workers Party to form the Workers Party of America in 1934?”


“Spooky, Me too! After the WPA was expelled from the Socialist Party of America in 1936 did you then go on to join the Socialist Workers Party USA and the Fourth International?”

“I did actually…”

“Me too! In the 1940 dispute did you side with Cannon or Shachtman?”


“Me too! In 1962 did you join Robertson’s opposition caucus, the Revolutionary Tendency?”


” Holy shit! And of course like me you were expelled and went on to join the International Communist League (Spartacist).”

“Well … that goes without saying!”

“In 1985 did you join the International Bolshevik Tendency who claimed that the Sparts have degenerated into an ‘obedience cult’?”

“No way!”

“Nah, me neither. In 1998 did you join the Internationalist Group after the Permanent Revolution Faction were expelled from the ICL?”

“Yeah! I can’t believe this! Maybe I won’t …”

“Die, counterrevolutionary scum!” his erstwhile saviour screams, and pushes him off the bridge.


You could probably rewrite it with Republican Congress, Stick, Provo, Irp, WP, DL, SP, SWP, DSP, etc.

Garibaldy - July 29, 2013

I suspect if you take the voting patterns of those to the left of Labour, a large majority would vote for them on the grounds mentioned, especially if you are talking about people who are not members of parties. It’s not quite as bad as America in terms of a two-horse race, but the same dynamic is at play.

The problem facing people trying to drive Labour to the left is in many respects a geographical one. In the Labour heartlands, there is no realistic challenger in most cases, and so Labour can afford to have majorities cut from say 18,000 to 8,000 if it means a better chance of winning marginal seats in the south-east that will ultimately decide who forms the government. That’s another problem with no easy solution.

daramcq - July 29, 2013

It would also seem to be a problem of the electoral system. Proportional Representation is more forgiving of political fragmentation then ‘First Past the Post’. I believe a speaker from Syriza commented that the threshold in the Greek electoral system is what pushed them towards unification:

15. Cass Flower (@cassflower) - August 3, 2013

Henry- there was an attempt at discussion of your important ILR article of January here – http://www.politicalworld.org/showthread.php?13600-quot-Structure-Democracy-and-the-Irish-Left-A-Call-for-Discussion-quot&highlight=Slate+System+socialist+party

The slate system, unless there is a short term reason for a party to adopt it as an emergency measure, is an expression of politics that is top down and lacks any confidence in the working class as a revolutionary class, or else that opposes social revolution. It is ant-dialectical, preventing the transformation into its opposite that is entailed in election of new leadership.

You are not going to get agreement on these things in a cross party grouping. If the existing parties of the Left are acting as a barrier to political development of the working class, and if that situation is entrenched through organisational and political blockages (like the SP “electoral” system) then a new organisation has to be formed.

Jolly Red Giant - August 4, 2013

The Socialist Party does not elect its NC using the slate system method outlined in this article’

Pangur ban - August 5, 2013

JRG, you are hilarious , always first to eloquently expound the correct line on everything , and all of a sudden you are reduced to surly monosyllables.

Does SIPO not ask how governing bodies of registered political parties are elected.

Jolly Red Giant - August 5, 2013

Yes it does – and if you want to find out how the Socialist Party elected their NC you can enquire from there. As I have repeatedly pointed out – it is not by the slate system outlined in the article by Henry or by CMR below and hasn’t been for many years.

To be honest – this entire debate is utter nonsense. How the Socialist Party elects its leadership is irrelevent to anyone except the membership of the Socialist Party and any Socialist Party member can propose changing it at any time. The fascination with this is really nothing more than naval gazing. Furthermore – as Nicky has already pointed out below (and I wouldn’t have bothered) – the entire basis for the WW article – that there was some form of subterfuge going on over how the meeting was conducted – is demonstrated to be utterly false. The article is nothing more than the typical tabloid nonsense that the WW is noted for on the far-left of the political spectrum. It is a non-story.

WorldbyStorm - August 5, 2013

Well, in fairness to the WW, no one has as of yet denied that there was an aggregate meeting called of the SP to discuss the resignation of four members. Quite the opposite. So in that respect it clearly was a significant enough event that the SP itself felt that a meeting was in order. And if it was important enough for the SP to do so then logically any additional interest is hardly navel gazing.

And in relation to the direct issue addressed in the comments immediately preceding this one, it’s hard to understand why the actual process of election – something that those on the left who might be interested in joining the SP, or just finding out more about it, or who campaign with SP members etc, and which formation has placed itself front and centre in the CAHWT would have an entirely reasonable curiosity about, must face such a wall of mystification as to precisely what is the process used.

revolutionaryprogramme - August 5, 2013

Except that this isn’t just about the slate system just as it wasn’t about the exact number of members.

It involves a much more systematic critique of the reality of the internal life of the SP.

The lack of substantive political discussion among the membership who are instead encouraged down the path of mind-numbing activism.

A relatively small organisation top-heavy with full-time functionaries.

A programmatic reformism in practice despite the revolutionary pretensions.

And these criticisms coming from a grouping that, so far, comprises somewhere between 5 and 10% of the membership.

16. Nicky O'Donnell - August 4, 2013

The author claims that the grassroots membership cannot contribute to the Party Paper and yet, almost every issue of the paper contains one or more articles written by comrades that are relatively new members of the Party, not on the NC or EC.

The claim that comrades did not have access to the resignation letters in advance of the meeting is also false. I read two of the letters before even travelling from Limerick to the Wynn. I am not on the NC, EC or even my BC.

17. critical media review - August 4, 2013

A list is chosen/recommended by the leadership and voted on in a single vote. If it has changed please stop being so cryptic and explain the changes.

18. Johnny Forty-Coats - August 5, 2013

Dear me! Whatever next? Four Catholic priests resigning because they’ve just discovered that their church discriminates against women perhaps?

What I find more intriguing than the content of the article is the fact that these shocking revelations were published in the journal of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Was the piece really too hot for any Irish publication to handle? Or was the author just trying to maximise the chance that Peter Taaffe and other members of SP’s English-based leadership might read it?

revolutionaryprogramme - August 5, 2013

My understanding of that is it is because the author is somewhat influenced by the ideas of the CPGB – at least in regard to their criticisms of the sect-like behaviour of much of the established left in Britain and here..

Jolly Red Giant - August 5, 2013

CPGB criticism of ‘sect-like’ behaviour – that must be the revelation of the millenium – and even more remarkable is that the comment was made by someone from the spartoid tradition.

critical media review - August 5, 2013

The article was written by a member of the socialist party, not of the CPGB, though I won’t imagine he will be one for much longer. The critiques of the 8 recent resigned members and those of us who resigned earlier are entirely from within the organisation. An organisation that puts itself as the vanguard and a leadership of same should be prepared for some discussion both within and outside the party, the fact is – as your own response clearly demonstrates – it is not, and that in a nutshell is the problem.

Jolly Red Giant - August 6, 2013

The Socialist Party and the members of the Socialist Party have absolutely no problem discussing politics, tactics, strategy, activity etc with anyone. The Socialist Party and its members have no problem discussing any issue internally. The problem arises when people – including those who recently left – don’t raise any issues within the Socialist Party and then leave and expect all the ‘issues’ they had to be dealt with in public.

If those who resigned had any political issue that was causing a problem or was an issue of concern for them – then they had a responsibility to the Socialist Party and to its membership to raise those issues within the Socialist Party and engage in a discussion with the membership. Whenever there has been an issue that I was concerned about I have raised it within the party structures – first in my branch – then if necessary with the NC and finally at the conference. These four individuals resigned – they, individually, raised some issues – the NC decided that even though it had no responsibility to do so, it would organise an aggregate meeting of its members for any member who wanted to attend to discuss the issues raised. The four individuals were invited to attend and put their views to those in attendance – they chose not to do so. They provided a statement that was circulated to those who attended. The meeting discussed the issues raised – it allowed the members to tease out issues of policy and strategy and the meeting was overall a success.

Now the WW – who spend their time doing nothing except trying to dig up gossip on other left groups – printed an article from an individual that RP has stated is ‘influenced’ by the CPGB. This individual wrote an article that was riddled with rubbish. He clear had not attended any branch meetings where the issues were previously discussed (as has been demonstrated by Nicky) – and despite ample opportunity he failed to open his mouth once at the aggregate meeting about all the ‘problems’ he had with what he perceived to be happening – instead he peddled some rubbish to the WW who grabbed it with their usual glee.

The entire issue is, in reality, a non-issue. People join the Socialist Party and other left organisations – and people leave. It is the nature of political organisations on the far-left. There is no ‘crisis’ – there is no ‘split’ – there is nothing more than an attempt by the WW to stir the sh*t as they do every week and then we have others with the odd chip on their shoulder deciding to jump on the bandwagon.

End of discussion.

critical media review - August 6, 2013

The structures nor culture do not – branches are not free to pass issues up the line. Motions cannot be passed by branches outside conference – I tried. No minutes are kept anywhere. The annual conference is the only opportunity to do anything which is once a year. The culture is well represented by the statement – ‘end of discussion’.

Jolly Red Giant - August 6, 2013

Just for clarification – I am not claiming that the four people who resigned did so on the basis that they wanted to raise whatever problems they had publicly. My understanding is that they decided to resign and simply leave things at that. The meeting was an internal party meeting and it was really none of the business of the WW. This non-issue has been manufactured by an individual and the WW – and it has been manufactured to my knowledge without the consent of the individuals involved or the Socialist Party.

Jolly Red Giant - August 6, 2013

CMR – I don’t know what ‘branch’ you were a member of but over the past 30 years I have been a member of several different branches and never had a problem proposing a motion and getting it acted on or getting issues of concern raised within the party structures – up to and including getting alternative documents distributed and attending other branch meetings to have the issues I wanted debated.

And – you are right – I really have no interest in furthering this nonsense discussion.

critical media review - August 6, 2013

Dublin west most recently but also Dublin central. JRG you can look at this in two ways, firstly 10 people (that I know of) have resigned in the last few years citing political and structural reasons (others of course have left informally). The party could consider these issues, reply and even see about opening up a dialogue and possibly implementing some sort of change. Or on the other hand you can continue to deny there is any issue at all, blame it all on ‘objective conditions’, ‘psychological problems’ and/or an ‘abandonment’ of THE revolutionary party.

With not so recent developments in ICT the old gate keeping strategies of controlling the party press are not an option anymore.

Finally I will point to how the WSM have dealt with their resignations which has led to some interesting literature

WorldbyStorm - August 6, 2013

A couple of thoughts. Firstly it wasn’t the WW which saw members leave or called an aggregate meeting on the same issue. Secondly given that this is an avowedly left wing site attempting to engage with issues of the left in Ireland and further afield it seems ironic to have someone tell people quite so insistently just what they should or should not be interested in as regards the left and events and aspects of same. The ‘consent’ of the SP or those individuals is an interesting way to put it, but it’s a bit of a stretch to argue somehow this constitutes an invasion of privacy when it’s about an open political organisation and its doings and were it in reference to any other party it is almost unthinkable that the same attitude would be applied by those in or outside the SP.

critical media review - August 6, 2013

BTW the numbers I cited above do not include Clare Daly and her supporters.

revolutionaryprogramme - August 6, 2013

JRG is no doubt correct in what he outlines in terms of the formal procedure for raising differences.

But the problem that SP members have is over the actual political culture of the SP that mitigates against any real possibility for raising differences.

The primary focus of SP internal life appears to be about organising never-ending activism for their members rather than giving any priority to substantive political discussion and debate to educate the membership and allow for reflection and feedback on the performance of the organisation by the whole membership to improve their interventions in the future.

Also there are no structures to allow for discussion among members horizontally across the organisation and any such attempts are discouraged. As JRG outlines it is a branch then upwards approach. If an SP member were to find themselves having doubts or concerns they would not have any idea if anyone else shared those doubts or concerns unless they happened to be in the same branch. As it currently stands they would have to formalise those doubts or concerns by proposing a motion up to the national committee. While that maintains a formal facade of democratic rights in reality it acts as a huge pressure on members not to rock the boat.

This is not the internal culture appropriate for a healthy revolutionary Marxist organisation. It might however be appropriate for a bureaucratic reformist organisation…

There is also an interesting element to this discussion so far in that the SP defenders have focused exclusively on the organisational aspects – where they can point to the formal rules as a defence – and have ignored the political/programmatic critique of the SP’s concrete reformist practice.

JRG and co would like to write this off as only a handful of people leaving which for the SP would not be a huge deal but the reality is of something more significant. My blog post on the article in WW was posted automatically to twitter. That garnered a response from another SPer who had also recently left around similar issues and who informed me that the number of resignations was actually closer to 10 and that they were in discussions as a grouping about how to go forward.

So what we have here is a left-moving split from the SP that amounts to something close to 10% of their real membership (not counting newer non-consoldiated members). What that might mean for the SP, and indeed the wider far left, is unclear but one thing is clear this is a major crisis for the SP.

Kevin Higgins - August 11, 2013

My blog post about the upcoming celebrations to mark Peter Taaffe’s 50 years as General Secretary of the CWI’s British section is here http://mentioningthewar.blogspot.ie/2013/07/celebrating-fifty-years-of-peter-taaffe.html

19. Phil - August 6, 2013

Another interesting article on the internal regime and politics of the SPI is by John McAnulty and can be found here:


20. Nicky O'Donnell - August 6, 2013


For someone to even suggest that the SP doesn’t make political discussion a priority is laughable, given the extremely low level of political development that occurs among other Irish left groups.

Political discussion take place in branches on a weekly basis, and there is a deliberate balance between Marxist Theory, International perspectives, Economics and other issues. I highly doubt that any other organisation prioritizes comrade development in the way that the SP does and one-to-one discussions can be held between new comrades or not so new comrades and more experienced members on a regular basis, on any topic they choose; theory, party structure or whatever.

Criticising the SP for not allowing for cross branch discussion is pretty desperate. How would you propose that this is feasible given logistical difficulties?. It isn’t really true in any case, as comrades from various branches are often invited to take part in central meetings/discussions on particular topics, e.g. Womens Rights, CAPTA or Youth work; whatever is an area that comrade is suited to.

Aside from the fact that 10 members (if that is how many have left recently) is not even close to 10% of the SP membership, you’ve ignored the fact that many people have also joined the SP recently either through Youth Work or through involvement in the anti-property tax campaign.

Also of the members that left, some left for reasons completely unrelated to that of the author of that article, such as grievances about not being selected as a local election candidate, which happens in the lead up to every election, in every single political organisation in the country.

Aside from a the long list of conspiracy theories listed in this thread, essentially the criticisms of the SP here in relation to its structure and programme (i.e. democratic centralism and the transitional programme) are of a Trtotskyist organisation, for being Trotskyist.

Ed - August 6, 2013

“…grievances about not being selected as a local election candidate, which happens in the lead up to every election, in every single political organisation in the country.”

Eh? Who would that be now? I remember a year or so ago that the SP’s election campaigns were being discussed on the CLR and a member of the SP said that candidate selection wasn’t so much a question of people wanting to run as of them being conscripted, which sounded fairly plausible, considering the workload and the likely rewards.

And I would have thought the SP prided itself on being very different from ‘every single political organisation in the country’ (I’m assuming that the WSM, SWP etc. are excluded from this and it’s FF, FG, Labour and SF that are being referred to—those parties have all been vehicles for ambitious, career-minded people; in the case of the first 3 that’s effectively all that they are; in fairness to the SP, nobody could be accused of joining it to feather their nests or further their careers, even if they get elected they won’t be taking the full salary).

revolutionaryprogramme - August 6, 2013


Well email lists or discussion forums would be fairly obvious ways of facilitating such discussion that wouldn’t cause any “logistical difficulties”. Though they may be problematic for a leadership seeking to keep control over the development of any heretical thought.

As regards what the split represents I deliberately excluded the newer non-consolidated members. Having been an active participant on the Irish left for a few years now I don’t see how the SP consolidated membership can be much more than 100 or so.

That experience includes working very closely with the SP in Cork over the last couple of years in the CAHWT and other campaigns. Assuming they are an accurate reflection of the organisation nationally I don’t see any particular evidence of the conscious comrade development you refer to – which is not to denigrate the commitment and motivation of the comrades concerned.

While comments on twitter are obviously not any kind of proof it does seem that there is some kind of ongoing, albeit perhaps only temporary, collaboration between these ex-SPers.

I would end by noting that the SP are neither Trotskyist in organisational culture nor in the program presented to the working class, at least not in the terms of what that meant when Trotsky himself was alive.

Nicky O'Donnell - August 6, 2013

Not that its particularly important, but you can have no real knowledge of the numbers of active membership of the SP from your position and the figure is quite deliberately an underestimation. Not everyone in the Party has an active involvement in the CAHWT for various reasons.

Online forums are a piss poor medium for political discussion and is no substitute for face to face discourse. In some cases members have difficulties attending the meetings but meeting days/times are adjusted to suit the majority. In my own circumstance where I recently moved quite a distance from my branch, I am phoned into the weekly discussion/meetings.

The “some kinds of going on” you’re talking about are a handful of ex-members that left for differing reasons trolling the party on social media, with a few others outside the Party adding to the noise levels. Hardly anything to write home about. All were encouraged at every opportunity to raise their issues internally and lacked the confidence to do so.

They do not even all agree with each other on the issues such as the slate or the establishment of the ROSA campaign, so to call this a “split” is completely disingenuous, especially when the Party openly allows the formation of factions and unlike the SWP does not impose time limits on them. If the members that left came together to form a “split” they would split from themselves as they wouldn’t even agree with each other.

revolutionaryprogramme - August 6, 2013

My comment about the CAHWT was to do with my understanding of the political culture of the SP as reflected in the comrades I worked with (why imply it was to do with assessing the size of SP membership?).

My assessment on the membership size of the SP is based on a much broader view of the activity of the SP, including attendance at your Socialism event in Dublin a few years ago.

I am not saying that online forums and email lists would be a substitute for face to face discussions (why imply that I did?) but they would supplement that and would provide a framework for horizontal discussion.

I know there is a mantra in the SP about any/all online discussion being “piss poor” but I can tell you from personal experience that this is not necessarily the case and to argue as such would tend to indicate a fear of something.

You seem fairly confident in projecting what will happen with these ex-SP comrades. Maybe you are right but this “there is nothing to worry about” approach isn’t fooling anyone.

Nicky O'Donnell - August 6, 2013


There ARE email lists and there are private facebook groups for sharing of information between branch members and close supporters of the Party. Sometimes some political discussion takes place on those pages but not in any great detail. This is best discussed in a proper group environment with everyone in attendance. Nothing to do with “fear” and everything to do with the practicalities of group discussions and the unnecessary added responsibility of maintaining an on-line forum, particularly considering the security issue of discussions taking place within a revolutionary party – future plans for campaigns of civil disobedience for example – falling into the wrong hands. It is precisely the opposite of your suggestion that disagreement is discouraged. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked to give my opinion from the day I joined the party, which is in stark contrast to the way discussions take place at meetings of other organisations I’ve attended, where the secretary chairs every meeting and delivers an hour long speech while the members silently worship at the alter the branch sec.

critical media review - August 6, 2013

That’s all fine as long as you agree with the strategy of the party leadership and don’t wish to do something the leadership disagree with, the culture changes somewhat from that point.

Jolly Red Giant - August 6, 2013

I was considering – against my better judgement – coming back on here and address the issue fo facebook etc and the impact it has on the work of revolutionary organisations – but Nicky has done a more than adequate job of dealing with it. The reality is that the internet – while being a useful tool in terms of providing information and instant communication – it is also counter-productive as it facilitates trolling when issues like this crop up.

RP keeps going on about ‘internal culture’ – without knowing anything about the ‘internal culture’ of the Socialist Party as he has never been a member. RP comes from a tradition of the spartoid factions and maybe his perception is clouded by his experiences of the faction fights within these splinters – I don’t know. What I do know is that he is taking all his ‘understanding’ of the internal life of the Socialist Party from a wide and disparate variety of a small number of former members who left for a variety of reasons – reasons that were rarely coherent. I could spend hours outlining all the different ways and means of the internal happenings of the Socialist Party but it would count for nought with RP because he starts from the premise that the Socialist Party is not a revolutionary organisation – is not a Trotskyist organisation – is not engaged in the political development (his poltical development) of its members etc etc etc. Maybe RP has the time to engage in this type of internet naval gazing – I don’t and I doubt any other member of the Socialist Party does either.

CMR – that may be your perception – from my perspective I disagree with you. There have been many times over the past 30 years where I have been in opposition to the leadership of the Socialist Party (and its not a monolith despite the suggestions here) – mostly I have been proved wrong in my assessments – occasionally I have been proved right and the leadership has implemented whatever has been the outcome of those discussions. Never – in the 30 years have I ever felt that my views were being dismised – never have I had any perception that the ‘culture’ changed when I raised issues – yes I have been involved in sharp debates but I have always respected those who oppsed my views because I always felt that they were opposing me in order to futher the interests of the Socialist Party and no matter how obscure or minimal my ‘issue’ might have been I always felt that it was dealt with in an appropriate fashion.

The Socialist Party is not perfect – it is made up of human beings that are not perfect. The membership of the Socialist Party has a responsibility to themselves and to the party to ensure that they and it works on addressing any inadequacies that exist. There actually has been a benefit from the current ‘issue’ of these resignations – and unintended one from the perspective of those who left – it has allowed the membership of the Socialist Party to assess the recent work of the party, discuss and debate what has worked and what hasn’t, develop the political understanding of the members on the role of a revolutionary party etc. The resignations pre-empted this discussion that was timetabled to happen anyway and in effect those who resigned actually removed themselves from these discussions by leaving. I sincerely hope that they remain in poltical activity – time will tell if it happens or not. However – the reality is that my branch alone has recruited more people in the recent period than the ‘number’ who have resigned.

I really don’t care who ‘leads’ the revolution as long as it is successful. I joined the Socialist Party 30 years ago because I believed it was the best vehicle available to work towards that objective. I am still a member of the Socialist Party because I believe it still offers the best vehicle to work towards that objective. Others can have different views and I respect that and have no problems working with anyone who wants to oppose austerity and capitalism. But don’t expect me (or other members of the Socialist Party) to continuously engage with the mountain out of the mole-hill that some would like to create from the occasional run of events for all far left groups.

revolutionaryprogramme - August 6, 2013

Sigh! – right back at you Nicky :-)

What you have described there are devices for engaging with close supporters to politically develop and integrate them to be ready for membership.

What I was talking about was discussion list and forums for between all SP members across geographical/branch boundaries. It is only by having such discussion that a revolutionary party is able to properly evaluate its political activity and make re-evaluations for future activity. It is also an important part of cadre training. It also importantly is the forum by which the comrades who may go on to create political tendencies and even factions within the revolutionary organisation can become aware of shared concerns.

This is a separate matter from technical security issues which would necessarily be kept off such discussion lists. If that is a reason being given by your leaders for not having such discussion lists and forums then it is a dubious one at best.

I am also not saying that the SP is a completely frigid cult without any political discussion and debate but in terms of the internal political culture of revolutionary Marxist organisations the SP falls well short in my understanding.

Of course this is only important to the extent that the SP pretends to be a revolutionary organisation of some sort. The program the SP presents to the working class is classic reformist rather than revolutionary socialist, being primarily concerned with objecting to the present mode of distribution, without critiquing, except in the most abstract terms, the underlying mode of production.

The crime of the SP is to take people new to socialist ideas and pedal it as revolutionary Marxism which is based on a quite different method of the most ruthless criticism – including of its own ideas and activity.

revolutionaryprogramme - August 6, 2013

JRG is correct to say I know nothing concrete about the details of the internal culture of the SP as I have never been a member.

My understanding is based on the stories I have been told by various ex-members of the CWI – both here and in Britain – which while all having their own nuances also all share a striking similarity when it comes to describing the real internal culture that comes into play for anyone, beyond a newbie, raising differences.

My understanding is also based on my interactions with current SP comrades in campaigns and private conversations. This has been particularly the case during the last couple of years when I have worked very closely with the SP in Cork within the CAHWT. What I see are hard-working committed comrades who clearly spend a large proportion of their political time on activism rather than political education. There is a marked reluctance to engage in substantive political discussion, almost a lack of interest in it as if they already have all the answers they are every likely to need or they are afraid of getting asked questions which are not covered by the SP stock answers. To the extent SP comrades develop politically beyond the initial level required for membership it seems to be almost accidental rather than consciously and collectively planned.

It is also true that I start from a premise that the SP is not a revolutionary organisation. But it is hard not to come to that conclusion if you are someone, like me, who starts from the question of program. The SP have been completely consistent in terms of the program they have presented to the working class in all my time in Ireland (as was the case with my experience of their British comrades) – it has been a left-reformist program. Those SP members with pretensions to being revolutionary Marxists in the Trotskyist tradition will claim this is the method of the Transitional Program when in fact Trotsky was absolutely explicit that this was not his method.

So my involvement in this discussion is aimed at any SP members reading this thread who have some doubts about either the internal structure or more importantly the reformist program. To let them know that the SP is not all there is in terms of those who claim to be revolutionary Marxists. That there are alternatives and they should seek them out and not drop out through disillusionment.

critical media review - August 6, 2013

JRG when I wrote the original article after reflection it was a fraternal document to discuss what I see as some key structural problems in the Irish left, I have no complaints about being treated with respect or impolitely and have plenty of time for the party. I had hoped to work with party members within the ULA and still hope to in the future. However I still think these are key problems. A very public sociologist blog has also recently written a superior piece on such issues in the uk. I would recommend people read it.

WorldbyStorm - August 6, 2013

JRG, can you point to one instance in the comments above of ‘trolling’ bar – perhaps NC? It appears your definition of ‘trolling’ is one where people differ from your interpretation or from some aspect or another of the SP. If there is no trolling taking place, or a vanishingly small amount of it (1 comment or so in a thread with multiple comments reaching up to forty or fifty at least) then I fail to see the validity of your statement.

And if there’s been no trolling then there’s no reason to act as if there has.

One huge problem to anyone reading this thread is the evident unwillingness of some to answer some fairly basic questions (for example, even now I’ve no clear idea as to the form of slate system used in the SP for internal elections, something that I would imagine is of interest to many of us and not for malicious reasons) and a sort of evasiveness on other issues.

That evasiveness is hugely problematic. As has been noted above we now live in a very different age to even a decade ago in terms of information. When someone won’t give a figure for a party membership but says it exceeds certain stated figures then a natural scepticism kicks in for obvious reasons. When we are told earnestly that the SP doesn’t have a slate system great lengths are taken to not actually tell people what system that suggests problems too. There’s far too much dependence upon demanding that people have to take stuff on trust rather than trusting them with the facts.

None of this is ‘navel-gazine’. Of course the SP can organise as it sees fit. But that doesn’t mean that how it organises should be a secret. These are matters of some importance to those who work around or with the SP. Not because one wants to knock it but because any organisation that seeks the support of citizens should operate in an open and transparent manner. And the matter of democracy enters this too.

Jolly Red Giant - August 6, 2013

WbS – I suggest that you re-read my comments – I was addressing the general issue of trolling on the internet – not claiming that it was happening on this thread.

As regards the mechanism for electing the leading bodies of the Socialist Party – again WbS – while you might be curious and my replying might satisfy your curiosity – it really is nobody’s business other than the membership of the Socialist Party. If you are so curious then stroll down to the Registrar of Political Parties and get a copy of the Socialist Party constitution.

I actually find it quite amusing that someone who comes for the WP/OSF tradition would actually argue that someone from the Socialist Party was being evasive about internal structures given the history of that organisation – its ties with a variety of Stalinist countries – the activities of its paramilitary wing and its various fundraising activities.

The Socialist Party is a revolutionary party – it operates on the basis of democratic centralism – it has its own structure and rules and every member is aware about how they operate and accept those rules as a condition of membership. As Nicky has pointed out already – there are positives and negatives about the use of online forums (and I utterly reject the nonsense that RP is talking about the use of email lists and discussion forums – they have nothing more than a minor role to play in the general scheme of organising a revolutionary party). However, neither me nor the Socialist Party has any interest in conforming to the dictates of individuals about how it should dispense information in an online environment.

Anyone who has a working relationship with the Socialist Party and is genuinely interested can have a discussion with any member of the Socialist Party about the politics and outlook of the Socialist Party. They will find Socialist Party members open and willing to discuss any aspect of the work of the Socialist Party. Socialist Party members operate in as open, democratic and inclusive fashion as possible in all their public work and there are a lot of activists who do trust the Socialist Party and respect the Socialist Party because of this – irrespective of what appears on facebook or blogs or anywhere else. But don’t expect members of the Socialist Party to engage with the nonsense written in the WW and engage in some sort of online cathartic experience about the internal workings of the Socialist Party simply to satisfy the curiosity of people with an anonymous online persona – not going to happen.

And by the way RP – I am sure all the droves of Socialist Party members who realise through their political experiences that the Socialist Party is not a revolutionary party and lacks the true method and approach of Trotsky and the Transitional Programme will be delighted to see your willingness to educate them in the appropriate fashion. Mind that you don’t get knocked down in the stampede.

Michael Carley - August 6, 2013

JRG: I’m not unsympathetic to the SP in Ireland or the UK (being a member of one and a former member of the other), but I find it a bit odd that a party does not put its constitution online, in the way that a trade union or other organization does.

You are quite right when you say that the SP `has its own structure and rules and every member is aware about how they operate and accept those rules as a condition of membership’, in the same way that any organization makes acceptance of the rules a condition of membership. The problem is that the SP is not a secret, or conspiratorial, organization; it is open, and democratic, and there should be no reason to keep the rules secret.

Jolly Red Giant - August 6, 2013

Michael – it doesn’t – anyone who wants to get the constitution can – if you think that the constitution should be on the website then suggest that it should happen – raise it at your local branch meeting – contact a member of the NC and ask them to raise it at the next NC meeting. Personally I wouldn’t have any problem with doing it. In the context of the current nonsense on this thread I am simply not satisfying some innate curiosity of certain online anonymous people that serves no political purpose.

Michael Carley - August 6, 2013

JRG: Do you not find it odd that with a bit of googling I can find the Provos’ Green Book (or something claiming to be it), and not the constitution of an open, lawful, political party?

WorldbyStorm - August 6, 2013

Where to start JRG? Where to start?

Let’s take the stuff about the WP. There’s nothing amusing about my points given I come from a background of membership of the WP. It’s precisely because I come from that background that I’m conscious of the dangers of evasion and secrecy. Unless you believe in some sort of political original sin where membership of a formation forever dooms one subsequently I’m troubled by your inability to see that – and surely that’s backed up in my posts on this site, my criticism of the WP in the past and indeed my criticism of other formations (though in passing it’s worth noting that in the General Secretary’s reports on the WP published at each AF the details of who was elected etc were clear and those AF’s were attended throughout the 1970s/1980s and 1990s by journalists).

And I think that danger of evasion and secrecy leads to the danger of elitism. In the contemporary period, particularly in bourgeois democratic societies, the idea political parties can operate in hermetically sealed gardens is absurd. Again, it requires that the working class take on trust their bona fides. Well, I suspect many of us will agree we’ve been burned by that in various contexts and we don’t want it to happen again.

It is entirely the SP’s business how it conducts its organisation, but it is very much the business of leftists and indeed all citizens that the processes are transparent, that those who are elected are elected openly and so on. And this isn’t about satisfying ‘anonymous online’ folk – of which by the way you are one too – but about answering to democratic norms as regards political behaviour. Even democratic centralism can be done entirely openly. And I’ll add I have no problem with the SP doing as it sees fit as long as it does so in an open way.

Otherwise, again, we are being asked to accept on trust processes we cannot actually evaluate. I don’t think given the history of the left, and indeed human structures and organisations more broadly, that’s a leap of faith I’m willing to take. I doubt many would in this day and age.

Jolly Red Giant - August 6, 2013

Secrecy might have existed in the WP/OSF – it doesn’t in the Socialist Party. The leadership of the Socialist Party is elected according to the rules of the Socialist Party (the mechanism for which is not the slate system outlined by others) and if you really want to find out how Socialist Party does it there is nothing stopping you.

Jolly Red Giant - August 6, 2013

Now – its been an interesting distraction from having to do the washing up – but I have to get the household chores done before I go to my local branch meeting where we will be discussing perspectives for the American economy, the role of party publications, a review of the current political situation in Ireland (with consideration of this media suggestion of the ship-jumpers from the LP forming a new party), a review of our local stalls and how they will be organised going forward, the branch activities for the coming week and any other issues that individual members may want to discuss.

critical media review - August 6, 2013

So to be clear myself and a number of ex comrades have cited the Sp slate system, at least one current comrade has publicly opposed it in the ww. Other current comrades have defended the slate system to myself and others (one two days ago). According to JRG the Sp does NOT use a slate system and all members are aware of the system used (apart from the aforementioned obviously). We can let the readers draw there own conclusions.

WorldbyStorm - August 6, 2013

JRG. No one is denying that there was secrecy in the WP. However elected positions were open for inspection. if I consult pages four and five of the WP General Secretary’s report from 1988 in the Archive it doesn’t merely list who members of the AC/CEC, EPC and EMC and other committees were but also listed the members of the AC/CEC and how often they’d attended. That’s a level of transparency which I think appropriate – particularly in a digital age.

By contrast we know nothing of the constitution of the SP, nor do we have any idea of elected positions inside it. So it would appear on the face of it that the WP was actually by some margin less secretive – at least on the political side – than the SP.

That doesn’t mean I would think I personally or any non-member should have any influence on the doings of the SP, who should be elected, or even how they should be elected – that’s entirely for the SP to determine. But in terms of organisation and elected positions I think that information is entirely appropriate.

There’s a broader issue, or number of issues, about the role of secrecy in political organisations, how that can lead to elitism and detachment, the impact that has on non-members and on members, what ‘revolutionary’ means in bourgeois democratic societies and so on. But that’s for another day.

21. sonofstan - August 6, 2013

I don’t know, are people really interested in writing or reading about tribulations within the SP (or the SWP indeed)? It seems to go with the territory. The WW article is very interesting in a vaguely voyeuristic way, but maybe enough is enough.

Comment #2 way up there…….:)

Jack Jameson - August 6, 2013

I’m interested because – for better or worse – the SP and SWP are of the Left and have been influential in the past to various degrees and may be so in the future.

How the SP/SWP conduct themselves must surely influence how others on the Left collaborate with them or not, never mind workers in struggle such as the bus drivers, etc, elections, or the campaign against austerity, water charges…

22. que - August 6, 2013

Reading the comments from Socialist Party members referring to membership I have been able to determine the following.
Let x = memberrship. Solve for x

We know that ‘Aside from the fact that 10 members (if that is how many have left recently) is not even close to 10% of the SP membership’ and that “somewhere over 100″ is the absolute bottom even if it had shrunk

if 10 members is not even close to 10% then lets say its 1%*. The upper limit of membership is therefore 1000, and the lower limit is 100.

I believe then the matter to be resolved. The membership is some where between (100, 1000].

And some here have the temerity to say this information isnt being shared.

* I left 10 = 1% to limit but it can be argued that as the % equivalent of 10 approaches 0.0% then membership tends towards infinity so that seemed reasonable if somewhat defeatist

WorldbyStorm - August 6, 2013

Excellent que! :)

Michael Carley - August 6, 2013

Also, note correct use of parentheses in `(10,100]’.

23. revolutionaryprogramme - August 6, 2013

JRG ” I utterly reject the nonsense that RP is talking about the use of email lists and discussion forums – they have nothing more than a minor role to play in the general scheme of organising a revolutionary party”

Which leaves us with the conundrum of how exactly political discussion between members across geographical/branch boundaries might occur.

All JRG has presented is the right of individual members to raise issues in their branch and then if not satisfied make motions to the NC.

A very nice formally democratic framework but totally at odds with the vibrant culture of political debate and discussion across all levels of the membership that would characterise a revolutionary Marxist, rather than bureaucratic reformist, organisation.

JRG is right about one thing – my experience in the IBT trained me to expect something quite different in these terms than what occurs (or perhaps better – doesn’t occur) in the SP.

24. Shay Guevara - August 7, 2013

“If you are so curious then stroll down to the Registrar of Political Parties and get a copy of the Socialist Party constitution” said Jollt Red Giant a little while back.

Well, no. To register a political party you have to satisfy the Registrar that your party has a constitution (and that you hold an annual conference) but that constitution isn’t actually included in the Register. All you’ll find there is name, emblem, address, officers authorised to endorse party election candidates, type of elections contested (general/local, etc), and European affiliations. So the Registrar has seen the SP’s constitution, but the public can’t.

To register a political party you need 300 members. If you only intend contesting local elections, you need 100. However, if you have a TD or an MEP you can bypass the requirement to have a minimum number of members.

The SP, SWP and PBPA are all registered as political parties. The SP has a TD and an MEP, so we can’t draw conclusions about their membership figures. But between 2007 and 2009 they had neither, so at that period they must have had 300 members. The PBPA has TD’s, so nothing to say about their membership figures, although they must have a constitution and annual conferences (and must have had 300 members before 2011). The SWP has no TD (not as such, their man being a PBPA candidate) so they must have 300 members.

Of course, this is all based on parties not telling fibs to the Registrar of Political Parties. Which I’m sure they would never dream of doing.

25. Paddy Healy - August 7, 2013

WUA is now a registered political party for Dail Elections
WUAG was registered for local elections only

26. revolutionaryprogramme - August 9, 2013

Anne McShane provides an overview of the the response to the publishing of the article and in particular the SP’s attempts to silence their critics – http://www.cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/974/cwi-ireland-attempt-to-silence-critics

revolutionaryprogramme - August 9, 2013

I have prefaced my posting of Anne’s article on my blog as follows:

As is to be expected from someone in the CPGB tradition this analysis focuses almost exclusively on the organisational deficiencies of the SP and it seems Anne thinks these are more important than any broader programmatic questions around the SP’s reformism in practice.

In all other aspects of their programme the CPGB believe in absolute flexibility – unlike with the organisational form which is the only “red-line” issue for them. Any other political principles, like working class independence, are merely aspirations which have no impact on their practical activity. This is particular so in the concrete case of working class independence where the CPGB have consistently given political support to EVERY instance of popular frontism they have been confronted with. I helped write the IBT leaflet “Why voting Liberal Democrat is not a tactic” (unfortunately not available online) which details these political capitulations on the CPGB’s supposed “principle” of working class independence.

When Anne does venture into this wider programmatic territory in the last paragraph I think she makes a mistake in arguing that the SP and SWP have “lurched to the right in their electoralism”. As far as I can see it is pretty much business as usual for both organisations.

As regards the specific issue of abortion that Anne refers to for the SP this is something that they have never been keen on including in material for local elections. However given that they have invested a fair amount of time and money in the new ROSA initiative aimed at young women I actually think it is more, rather than less, likely they might change that general approach this time around.

27. Anne McShane on the response to Criag Murphey’s article in Weekly Worker | revolutionaryprogramme - August 9, 2013

[…] ‘Not for the public domain’ Weekly Worker July 25.2. Ibid.3. http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/weekly-worker-article-on-the-sp.4. Ibid.5. […]

28. doctorfive - August 11, 2013
29. Kevin Higgins - August 11, 2013


By John Throne (Sean)

We had a piece on this blog yesterday congratulating Kshama Sawant on her campaign for Seattle City Council. Kshama is a member of Socialist Alternative, the US section of the Committee for a Workers’ International. I am a former member of the CWI spending 25 years of my life as a full timer for that organization. I first met the group in Northern Ireland in the 1970’s.

Myself and some other socialists, some who left the CWI and other groups voluntarily and others like me who were expelled or driven out, have drawn the conclusion that the failure of the left to build a serious revolutionary or left current within the working class is not entirely due to the objective conditions or false perspectives. I have come to the conclusion that the internal life of left/socialist groups (including the CWI of which I was a member) is seriously flawed. The leadership’s of these groups adamantly refuse to discuss in any serious way the internal life of these organizations, the mistakes we made, and how we came to this point and how we can correct the situation. And I know we made very serious errors.

I unconditionally supported and support the campaign of Kshama Sawant in Seattle despite my refusal to keep quiet about what I consider to be the incorrect internal life and the left sectarianism of the CWI, the organization to which she belongs.

I would also say that I have always said that I consider this incorrect internal life and left sectarianism applies to all the revolutionary left groups. I have had more emphasis on the CWI because that it the organization with which I have had the greatest experience and also because it was arguably the most successful of the revolutionary left groups for a period. It led the poll Tax struggle that was instrumental in bringing down Thatcher. It was the main force in the Liverpool City council struggle. It had a number of people elected in the Scottish and the English and Irish and European parliaments. Of the revolutionary left groups it has been amongst the most successful if not the most successful. But we need to have a balance.

I am presently writing a book on my political evolution. I discussed with most of the sizeable left groups after being involved in the Derry uprising in 1969. I joined the Militant, the British section of the CWI and was its first member in Southern Ireland and its first full timer in Ireland as a whole. We started out with about 6 or 7 members in 1970 and when I left Ireland to work internationally we had about 400.

I did not join the CWI by accident. I joined it for its good points. It had a generally correct worldview for the three decades following World War 2. This was crucial. However, in the course of events, it became apparent to me that this worldview, that capitalism was in crisis and was headed for a cataclysmic crisis and along with this, Stalinism was in turmoil and also headed for a major crisis amounting to a race between the political revolution in the East and the socialist revolution in the West, was not correct.

This is to put it mildly. It is also necessary for me to say and to emphasize that I share responsibility for the CWI developing this incorrect worldview and more responsibility than most other members as I was on the leading bodies of this organization.

The CWI argued that capitalism could not be returned to the Stalinist world as capitalism itself was in such an extreme crisis. Our argument was that the workers in the Stalinist world would rise up and establish democratic socialist societies and if the workers in the capitalist world had not already established democratic socialist societies these political revolutions in the East would spread the revolution to the West. In the 1980′s we spoke of 5 to 10 years to the world socialist revolution.

We were very, very wrong with this perspective. This major mistake in perspectives hit the CWI like a wrecking ball. And this is where the incorrect internal life came in. There had always been an incorrect internal life in the CWI. It was, as they all are, too top down with an aversion to genuine probing and internal debate and a ferocious opposition to factions. The internal life of the CWI was a break from the methods of the Bolsheviks in their healthy period where debate and factional struggle was the norm and setting up a faction was no crime against the revolutionary party. Trotsky wrote in 1935: “During the 17 years when Bolshevism arose, grew and gained strength and came to power factions were a legitimate part of Party life.” Trotsky talks about there even being factions inside factions in the Bolshevik Party. Engels wrote that internal conflict was the law of development of the revolutionary party. There were always factions and even factions within factions.

The internal life of the CWI was also a break with the norm of the Bolsheviks in their healthy period when all debate was public and available for all those interested to read. Some comrades have asked me where I was when this incorrect internal life was the norm and the comrades are entirely correct and justified in asking this question.

I made a major mistake over this period. The perspectives were being confirmed by events. The CWI was going from strength to strength. Issues such as internal life and left sectarianism did not seem to be problems. It was just a question of organizing and building on the existing ideas. But then the world changed. Capitalism was restored in the former Soviet Union, a development we categorically denied could happen. This development in the old Soviet Union, the rise of new technology and the boom that accompanied it in the west and the assault on the working class worldwide gave capitalism a new burst of energy.

Of course, capitalism remains in a major crisis and will enter a new economic crisis soon, and without doubt the crisis of climate change threatens life on the planet as we know it but for a while it appeared that capitalism had triumphed. The Wall Street Journal gloated in its editorial heading when Stalinism collapsed: “We Won.” Boasting that finally, the critics had come to realize how the “world really works.”

These mistaken perspectives we held in the CWI need not necessarily have had such a devastating affect on the group, major splits and a collapse in membership from around 14,000 to about 2,000, if the internal life had not been so unhealthy. This internal life was not accustomed to internal struggle and debate. What was needed was for the organization to be thrown open to the most democratic and public debate on the major mistakes made and why these had been made. Unfortunately the majority of the top leadership of the CWI did not take this road. They maintained the extremely damaging view that they had never made any mistakes or it was the other faction that had made the mistakes and by that time there were two major factions, both of which wanted to split to set up their own organization.

So the most undemocratic practices developed with full power. The leadership and its hangers on waged a war against any member or members that threatened their positions. Dirty maneuvers, slander and all sorts of personal attacks and lies were hurled against anyone who disagreed with them including expulsions and in the midst of this debacle the majority of the membership walked away. The incorrect internal life prevented the CWI membership from correcting the ideas and developing a new perspective and this was for amongst other reasons because the majority of the top leadership would not admit to making any mistakes, they saw themselves as teachers of the organization as opposed to being in a democratic interaction with the membership.

Some of us began to see this for what it was. We set up a faction in North America. Every lie that the top leadership of the CWI could think up was thrown at us and we were expelled and denied our right to appeal. The idea that the majority of the top leadership had made major mistakes, that we all had major mistakes had to be squelched at all costs.

But having said all this why did those of us like myself and Richard Mellor who also writes for this blog and was a CWI member and well known activist in the trade union movement join the CWI and not some other group? We did so because of its good qualities. Firstly, the CWI held correct perspectives up until the 1970′s. But also, and of extreme importance, is its orientation to the working class. That is its belief that only the working class could change society and it’s basing itself concretely on this position. Most left groups do not have an orientation to the working class. They have an orientation to the left petit bourgeois or the left liberal wing of the trade union bureaucracy. The CWI have never made this mistake. More than anything else this is why many others and myself joined the CWI. I am very pleased to see from afar that it looks as if the CWI has maintained this orientation. I see on the website the posters in Seattle with the emphasis on the $15.00 and hour minimum wage. I see in Minneapolis the emphasis on stopping an eviction. This is good.

I also see that when struggles develop such as the Bart and transit situation in the Bay Area that comrades such as Richard and myself maintain our orientation to the working class as a class and refuse to be silenced or to silence ourselves in the interests of some sort of alliance with the left groups and the left liberal bureaucracy. The orientation to the working class also helps maintain a successful struggle against ultra leftism, both in demands and methods of struggle.

For us the main issue therefore is the need to maintain an orientation to the working class. This means starting from the needs of and the consciousness of the working class and developing a program and demands based on taking this consciousness forward. The CWI is superior in this area. That is why people like myself joined it. In the past we did not capitulate to the idea that the students could change the world, we did not capitulate to the idea that the Provisional IRA and their methods could solve any of the problems in Ireland, we maintained our orientation to and belief in the working class. And we still do. This is and as far as I can see remains the great advantage of the CWI over other groups.

However and of course there is a however, and not only with regards to the internal life. By the way, on the issue of internal life, this is not irrelevant to the new members the CWI is getting, and the success of winning its new MP in Germany. The CWI just lost its two women MP’s in Ireland. I wonder has this new women MP in Germany met and discussed with the two former women CWI MP’s in Ireland. But this issue of internal life will come up the more the CWI grows and it will have to deal with it and explain what happened to its new members such as its candidates in Seattle and Minneapolis and other areas. This will create serious problems. The more the CWI grows the more different views will develop and the more the rigid incorrect internal life will come into conflict with this growth. The more splits and expulsions will take place unless the internal life is changed. This is why I think I am doing more to help the CWI in the long term than those members of the CWI who refuse to take up this issue of internal life. Members of the CWI who are conscientiously looking to the interests of that group should be fighting to change the internal life of that group.

There is the issue of a balanced and collective leadership. It is very good that the candidate in Seattle is a woman Comrade. It is very good that the new MP in Germany is a woman Comrade. But why have the most well-known and leading women MP Comrades in Ireland, Joan Collins and Clare Daly, former members of the CWI, not been able to stay in the CWI? I believe thare is a problem of insufficient attention being paid to the need to struggle against the special oppression of women in the CWI. Half the world’s factory workers today are women. This is an issue that will not go away. Then there is the issue of collective leadership. It is still, particularly in the older sections of the CWI the one-man band, (almost always a man) leadership. The leader of the CWI, Peter Taaffe has been in that position for 50 years. This is common with most of the left groups, a dominant male figure for decades. Comrades, it is not a healthy thing for any political organization to have the same leader for 50 years, it reflects an unhealthy internal life and this will not go away, especially in this new era of the new technology and social media.

And to the issue of left sectarianism. I get the impression that the work in Seattle and Minneapolis of the CWI there is moving away from the worst of the left sectarian attitudes in other sections. This is very welcome. But maybe there is some way still to go. We have contacted them and offered them our help on a number of occasions but we have never received and answer. But in both cities where they have candidates they do seem to be prepared to work in more of a united front way to get their people elected and to build a united front of struggle. If this is the case this is a very good and important development. I hope it continues and spreads to other areas.

However and back to another however. In Ireland the United Left Alliance was set up with either five or six members of parliament. It was a united front with some resources which gave hope to many tens of thousands of workers given the terrible betrayal of social democracy there. There were different groups which set up this alliance. A small local based group was the first to break this alliance and walk out. The second was the CWI section. It too, with its members of parliament walked out of the ULA, leaving it close to a broken weapon of struggle and leaving the tens of thousands of workers who had begun to look towards it very disillusioned. This was a left sectarian action and very damaging to the movement. So while there does seem to be a movement away from left sectarianism in Seattle and Minneapolis this does not seem to be the case in other sections. I hope I am wrong. For example in Europe now the CWI has three members of various parliaments, there are two ex members of the CWI in the Irish parliament, there are other left MP’s in Europe. A non left-sectarian approach would be to try and bring these forces together in a united front of struggle around concrete demands and in mass direct action struggles.

So these are some thoughts on the CWI and where it seems to be at now. I have much more in common with the CWI than other left groups due to its orientation to the working class, its struggle to have a dialogue with the working class not see itself as the teachers of the working class and how this helps it struggle against ultra leftism and its belief that it is only the working class that can change society.

As I have said before I would be prepared to rejoin the CWI but on a number of conditions: that free and open and public discussion would be allowed without slander and lies and expulsions and the denial of democratic rights. That it would be openly accepted that these false methods were used in the past, and that myself and any member would be able to state their views and that it was accepted that factions were a normal part of the building of a revolutionary organization.

The CWI and the left groups in general were never like the Bolsheviks in their healthy period. This will have to change if the revolutionary left are to become mass organizations. The larger they get the more pressure will arise for discussion and debate and unless the internal lives of these organizations can allow and facilitate this, then they will shatter once again into splinters or remain becalmed at best in stagnant pools. .
Visit us at:
Visit us at:

CMK - August 11, 2013

Why couldn’t he post it himself?

Kevin Higgins - August 11, 2013

He contacted me and said he was having difficulty doing so…

Jolly Red Giant - August 12, 2013

The only thing of note in the piece is the fact that Kshama Sawant secured 43,000 votes (over 35%) in the Seattle City Council Postiion 2 Primary and now faces a run-off election with incumbant and former Council President Richard Conlin. Kshama hammered prominent Amazon Executive (and Amazon money) Brian Carver into a distant third place.

The article has two sentences about Kshama and then regurgitates the same stuff that John Throne has been posting (repeatedly) for nearly 20 years.

Kevin Higgins - August 12, 2013

Well, there you go again. People can listen to this recording here and make up their minds. It’s obvious that John Throne, Dermot Connolly, Joan Collins, Clare Daly are wrong and Jolly Red Giant (courageously hiding away behind his pseudonym) is 100% correct in his ongoing defence of everything Kevin McLoughlin and Peter Taaffe do, say and think. Even when it’s the opposite of what they did said and thought yesterday. http://dublinopinion.com/2009/11/19/john-throne-on-the-cwi-and-expulsion/

john Throne - August 12, 2013

It would be nice to know with whom we are discussing but this so called Jolly Red Giant has been hiding behind this phony name now for years.

I will only make two comments. When it suited them the SP approached Mike Wallace to hire workers who were involved in a struggle. He was not the terrible person then they say he is now. Joe Higgins had the discussions with him

The second thing is that this Jolly Red Giant’s organization has been saying for years that I “embezzled” their word from their organization. This is repeated behind hands by their top full timers and many of their members to justify why they expelled me and refused me the right to appeal.

. This is a lie and they know it is a lie but they will not withdraw it. I spent decades in struggle against Stalinism and Social Democracy and neither of these organizations made this accusation against me. It took the CWI to sink to these depths. I am waiting to hear what this so called Jolly Red Giant has to say on this.

Please check our blog weknowwhatsup.blogspot.com for an article on the Seattle vote and the evolution of the CWI and its mistakes and my own mistakes when I was in that organization.

revolutionaryprogramme - August 12, 2013

I don’t want to get into a discussion about all the details of this falling out between left-reformists. But one thing that does strike me as particualrly odd is why John, and his fellow expellees, were not given the right to appeal as the CWI rules allow for.

I have only read a small amount of the material involved in this disupte but as far as I can see no-one from the CWI/SP has provided an explanation for why this did not happen in this case. As John points out in the interview linked above this was an expulsion which included one of the 6-person International Secretariat of the CWI. This would seem to make it even more important than usual that there be a full discussion, including the right to appeal to allow both sides to be presented properly.

Is JRG, mark p or any other SP/CWIer able to provide an explanation (or give a link to a relevent document making that explanation) of why their organisations own internal democratic rights were denied to these expelled comrades and that as a result there can have been no full and frank internal discussion about the reasons for those expulsions – including potentially the overturning of those expulsions?

30. Paddy Healy - August 12, 2013

While I have many strong disagreements with current and past positions of John Throne, this is a genuine contribution to a political discussion. This is to be contrasted with the contributions of JRG.
These consist of evading questions, denying allegations not made in order to confuse, correcting statements not made in order to imply that they were made, concealing information—in fact all the tricks commonly deployed by trade union bureaucrats. Is this a coincidence??
For example, in an earlier discussion I made the point : “In these organisations leaders are commonly in position for decades.”
JRG replied:
This is a run-of-the-mill dose of nonsense that regularly crops up when some people want of diss on left organisations.
Now John Throne confirms that Peter Taafe has been in place for 50 years!

31. Jim Monaghan - August 12, 2013

A slogan of the May events in 1968 was “Down with pedagogic gerontocracy”. Perhaps it could be replaced with Down with Leninist. gerontocracy

32. Jolly Red Giant - August 12, 2013

I am going to comment about this once and once only – the ‘debate’ about John Throne’s expulsion from the CWI has been done to death. The documents involved comprise a mountain of paper. John Throne keeps making repeated claims about the actions of the CWI and I will repeat the challange that I have made on several occasions in the past – if John Throne wants to prove his point then let him make ALL the documents and correspondence related to his expulsion available online where anyone who is interested can read them and make up their own minds.

John Throne and a small number of other members were expelled from the US section of the CWI nearly 20 years ago – the CWI dealt with all the related issues at that time – John Throne believes he was done an injustice (and he has every right to belive this if he wishes) – however, the CWI has moved on a long time ago whereas John Throne appears stuck in a time warp – he spends his days spouting on the internet about the ‘left sectarianism’ of the CWI and recounting his ‘history’ in the CWI. Take note – neither the CWI nor any of its members have any interest or intention of engaging with this issue..

For Paddy Healy – yes Peter Taaffe has been the general secretary of the CWI section in Engliand since the 1960s – it is not some conspiracy or secret despite what you imply. Now Paddy (I will repeat what I said before) – tell me how long you have been in a leadership position in the WUAG and the LWR before it?

Kevin Higgins - August 12, 2013

This is just waffle. No specifics. No details to back up the CWI leadership’s case. I teach creative writing class and it’s a cliche of the trade that a writer should always show rather than tell i.e. give examples, use images to get over what they are saying. In this comment ‘Jolly’ tries to tell John Throne to shut up, but does’t show us one reason to believe that ‘Jolly’ is anything but a leadership apologist. One thing: the CWI internet spokespeople, like to attack me for being a running dog and all that. Fair enough. But none of that works with John Throne, someone who has dedicated his life to what ‘Jolly’ would no doubt call the struggle.

revolutionaryprogramme - August 12, 2013

I have no doubt there are two sides to this case and perhaps I would even agree with the expulsion if I knew all the facts but how about the issue of due process according to the CWI’s own rules. Why weren’t the expelled members allowed exercise their right of appeal?

Kevin Higgins - August 13, 2013

There is no due process in the CWI. I know of one instance when a member wrote a detailed complaint to their Control Commission (this was the name of their ‘Disputes Committee’) in the U.K., demanding an investigation into some pretty serious matters. This was done on the advice of a member of the organisation’s E.C. here in Ireland. After a few months the comrade in question was summoned to 3-13 Hepscott Road and told, by two members of the Executive, that there would be no investigation and that he should be careful what he puts in writing.

john Throne - August 13, 2013

Our minority faction which was expelled without the right to appeal also called for the rank and file body which was elected to investigate disputes to be called to investigate our expulsion and the CWI refused to allow it to be called and this of rank and file body was not strong enough to stand up and call itself into session.

John Throne.

33. Paddy Healy - August 12, 2013

Unlike Peter Taafe, I have never bee a full time employee of a political organisation. Having dealt with Peter Taafe and all his contemporaries in other organisations in France and the UK, I was determined never to put myself in their power!

loughfinn@aol.com - August 12, 2013

If you look at the post on cedar lounge on the resignations from the CWI in Ireland you will see that so far there are 32 comments on this issue on this site. One person who calls himself or her self Jolly Red Giant and has been a slanderer for the CWI for years but refuses to identify themselves is the only voice trying to respond and he or she just throws abuse and evasions. In the last few months Clare Daly has resigned from the SP. Now four leading Irish members. There is a crisis in the Irish section of the CWI. It gets worse by the day as it refuses to openly discuss its mistakes and especially its false internal life. As I have said many times the CWI will go deeper and deeper into crisis unless it opens op to public discussion of its past including its mistakes. Those members of the CWI who shield it from this necessary exercise are doing the CWI a major major disservice. Look at the pattern, First the crisis with the SSP, then Liverpool, then a mass walking away of the membership, then the resignation of its most prominent woman MP in Ireland, now the resignations in Ireland. Against this the CWI will trumpet their winning of the left MP in German, I am glad, this is good, then they will trumpet their electoral success in Seattle, these are good and I am glad for them. But as I said the overall process is the descent into crisis over the last years and the present crisis in Ireland, these will have to be explained to the new members such as the German MP and the candidates in Seattle and Minneapolis. Try as they want the CWI if it is to avoid a deepening crisis has to open up and discuss its past mistakes and change its internal regime.


Visit us at: http://www.weknowwhatsup.blogspot.com http://laborsmilitantvoice.org

sonofstan - August 12, 2013

false internal life.

Or: ‘wrong life cannot be lived rightly’

34. Mark P - August 12, 2013

Was there a full moon recently?

revolutionaryprogramme - August 12, 2013

Simple question – why weren’t the expelled members allowed to exercise their right of appeal?

Mark P - August 12, 2013

What are you talking about now? I haven’t bothered to read most of the last few dozen comments on the basis that even I have better things to be doing than engaging with the individuals doing most of the talking.

Kevin Higgins - August 12, 2013

They why are you here? And in relation to the full moon comment; it is at least debatable who is more insane; those who’ve escaped the CWI or those still emotionally and intellectually imprisoned within it.

revolutionaryprogramme - August 12, 2013


There is a claim made by the expelled group that includes John Throne that they not allowed to appeal against their expulsions despite this being a right guaranteed to the membership of the CWI.

This claim does not appear to be disputed by anyone in the CWI and it would seem a fairly basic either or situation as opposed to the claims you sometimes hear about the validity of appeal procedures. In this case it seems that the expelled group were denied even the basic democratic right of due process to make that appeal.

It is not unreasonable therefore to ask why that was the case.

There are claims and counter-claims about the substance of the events surrounding the reasons for the expulsion and I am not asking about that but merely the issue of why they were not allowed to appeal.

Though of course the fact that the expelled were denied this basic right guaranteed to them by the rules of the CWI does not look good for the CWI in terms of their justification for the expulsions.

The sub-political interventions into this thread, which include completely ignoring this issue of the denial of the right to appeal, by you and JRG also don’t help in that regard.

Mark P - August 12, 2013

RP, this thread is a zoo, and I’m currently doing my best not to get involved in too many extended political arguments with its inmates.

To be blunt, precisely what process our sister organisation on another continent followed in booting out John and a couple of his mates twenty years ago is something I have no knowledge of. And I have about as much interest in engaging in a discussion with him about it as I have in reading a four volume Flemish language history of South Flandrian medieval heraldry. Or to be even more blunt: Don’t know, don’t care in the slightest.

No doubt you think that’s “subpolitical” too, rather than a sensible lack of interest in trivia, but fortunately, I don’t really care about that either. This means we can both continue on our way in perfect contentment: You can be pleased that you’ve demonstrated my lack of political seriousness to your satisfaction, and I can be pleased that I’ve avoided wasting any more of my not particularly valuable time dealing the obsessions of cranks.

revolutionaryprogramme - August 12, 2013


So you are arguing that the denial by the CWI of the basic right in Marxist organisations to due process and the right to appeal against a leadership decision to expel members is something you have no interest in and is an item of trivia only of interest to cranks.

Frankly this tells any reader of this thread a lot about what the internal political culture of the CWI must be like.

I would describe it as bureaucratic centralist and indeed this example of the denial of the right to appeal only reinforces that characterisation. As indeed does your reply that this is of no importance.

Also this was an expulsion that included one of the 6-person International Secretariat at the time – John Throne.

I would have assumed that this would indicate it was an issue of some importance to the entire international organisation rather than some minor provisional matter.

But of course your reply is not serious but rather your usual attempt to disrupt any attempt at serious discussion when it might expose any aspect of the reality of the internal life of the SP/CWI.


Mark P - August 12, 2013

Didn’t I promise you in the last sentence of my previous post that you could be pleased that you had demonstrated my lack of political seriousness to your own satisfaction? Now I’m off to fulfil the promise to myself in the second half of that sentence.

revolutionaryprogramme - August 12, 2013

So you choose to waste your “valuable time” by making another pointless post here instead of answering the simple question as to why the CWI didn’t give these expelled members, including one of their most central leaders, the right to appeal against their expulsions.

dilettante - August 13, 2013

In all fairness RP Mark P did say “not particularly valuable time”!

You’re right otherwise.

35. richotto - August 12, 2013

The way John Throne was treated could be an underlying factor in the resignations of Clare Daly, Joan Collins and others, to exit on their own terms as best as possible before some trumped up charge is produced.

Bob Smiles - August 12, 2013

Nobody is coming across as very clever here.

john Throne - August 12, 2013

I believe this is a thought out approach of the CWI. Anybody who seriously raises differences is treated so badly that they have to be very tough to stand up. Slanders, lies, intimidation denial of rights.

When I was fighting my expulsion and demanding my right to appeal I asked Joe Higgins for a discussion. I had recruited Joe Higgins to socialism and the Militant, now the SP. We had become friends. I said Joe I am not asking you to support my political positions all I am asking is that you support my right to appeal against my expulsion. His response? “I will do no such thing. You got yourself into this mess you can get yourself out of it.” This was an entirely unprincipled response. But of course if Joe Higgins had supported my right to appeal the leadership of the CWI would have gone after him with the same type of lies and slanders and driven him out. Joe was not tough enough to stand up. If he had not only would he have been the subject of the most vicious attacks but he would never have been a SP TD or MEP.

I remember standing outside a SP meeting in the North Star Hotel giving out flyers asking for my right to appeal. This caused a whole fuss. The then leaders got on the phone to London got their orders and refused to allow me into the meeting to appeal. It was an epiphany. I said to myself I will never help to build an organization with an internal life like this again.

The CWI then organized secret meetings of people from Ireland to come to the USA and lie about me. I knew nothing of these until years later. Until some people who were part of this themselves left or were driven out of the CWI. Some people from the US were brought to Ireland and told lies about me. I had no right to put my side of the story.

To make up for the loss in membership in the US when we were expelled the leadership of the CWI recruited a group which ran ads for prostitution in its paper. Yes ads for prostitution. This group was based in California and the IS of the CWI justified this by saying that this was just California. It was Lyn Walsh of the International Secretariat who came up with this brilliant principled justification. Needless to say this group did not last long in the CWI.

I am not in favor of all the good work done by the SP and CWI being lost. But if this is not to happen then there has to be a principled tough fighting opposition built within it and the internal regime fundamentally changed.

John Throne.

Bob Smiles - August 13, 2013

Ads for prostitution? Don’t be giving the SWP any ideas

workers republic - August 13, 2013

I had the honour of working with John in the defence of Free Derry in ’69. There is no doubt whatsoever that John is a principlened Revolutionary Socialist of absolute integrity. I am not a Trotskyist, I have no particular interest in the internal politics of SP/CWI, but abhor “dirty tricks”,
lies , and a total lack of internal democracy. Scientific Socialism must be based on facts not on lies! John was entitled to appeal his expulsion; that he was denied this, his right, reflects badly on the SP/CWI, but on his former comrades/”friends”.
Thanks John for giving an instructive insiders view of the lack of democracy in CWI.

ernal democracy. How can they be followers of Marx,
Scientific Socialism must be based on facts no

36. critical media review - August 12, 2013

Going back to the original topic I’ve seen correspondence sent by two of the resigning comrades at the end of June who both agreed to attend an aggregate meeting at the end of July as both were not in the city before. The next correspondence they received from the party was just days later on the second of July which informed them the meeting would take place on the following Sunday. There was no attempt to accommodate the comrades at all. As far as I am aware the leadership also knew a third comrade was unavailable. The fact that no effort at all was made to accommodate the comrades, the rushed nature of the meeting, when the leadership were aware comrades were not available smells of a stitch up and is pretty indefensible.

CMK - August 13, 2013

Yes, good idea. It’s morphed from a thread about voluntary resignations last month into one about a clearly disputed expulsion twenty years ago. On the point above, CMR, late July would not have been practicable to have an aggregate for reasons the individuals you refer to would clearly be aware of…………..???

It’s not reasonable to expect dozens of people to change long made arrangements to accommodate three others. The situation outlined above is more of a diary clash than anything else. The ‘rush’ could be explained by the fact that a development needed to be dealt with quickly and members given a chance to hear and discuss what was going on. The alternative is to leave it festering online and threads like this developing, filled, as this one is, with partial and ill-informed commentary from people who don’t have all of the necessary facts as well as those who have a political axe to grind with the SP and are seeking to make political capital out of a perceived ‘crisis’.

It shouldn’t be controversial that a political party moves internally and in its own time to to discuss critiques made by ex-members and, being ex-members, the individuals concerned can have no complaints if meetings, involving potentially dozens of others from across the country at the same time as there are other important events in the party ongoing, aren’t scheduled in a way that suits them.

I think it would be good if the resignation letters were published in full to allow more informed debate. This weekly worker piece cites parts of one of the letters but without the full context, and stripped of the editorialising that surrounds them in the article we’re discussing, it might give people commenting here a fuller picture. Obviously, it would unethical for the SP as a party to publish them, but there’s nothing stopping the individual’s concerned facilitating the debate by getting them out there, if they so chose.

critical media review - August 13, 2013

Not really as the ‘s agenda was changed to deal specifically with their resignations. It easily could have waited. Also the comrades had left on what they believed to be good terms as ‘strong supporters’ and it was only after the framing of the meeting that brought it out. It is not I believe unusual or ‘scraping the barrel’ to expect people who have put a huge amount of time and personal effort to be treated with a minimum of respect.

LD - August 13, 2013

What’s clear here is that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

The agenda wasn’t changed to deal specifically with the resignations. It was a discussion on the strategy and tactics of the Socialist Party. The only change was that it was opened up to all members to attend and the 4 comrades were invited to participate and raise their disagreements, if they wished.

You have absolutely no basis to claim that the 4 members were not treated with respect, at any time. They were.

You can try to sully the Socialist Party all you want, the fact remains that you can only wish your accusations were true. The Socialist Party is extremely democratic and how these members were treated throughout their time in the party and after they left, is a very good testament to that. Your mud doesn’t stick.

revolutionaryprogramme - August 13, 2013

LD – so you are saying that a normal (regular?) aggregate meeting to discuss strategy and tactics of the SP was opened up to ex-members who had left with varying levels of criticisms?

And that there was no special agenda item dealing with their criticisms?

LD - August 13, 2013

A discussion at the Socialist Party’s national committee on strategy and tactics was opened up to the membership. Given that the criticisms made by the 4 comrades fell under that heading they were invited to attend and given two 15 minute slots (for two or one of them) to outline their own views, with rights of reply.

They made no request for such a meeting, nor did any of them request any sort of discussion on whatever criticisms they had, quite the opposite in fact.

El Marko - August 13, 2013

“You have absolutely no basis to claim that the 4 members were not treated with respect, at any time. They were.”

Right, I was staying away from this discussion, but I have to step in here. It is an absolute falsehood that the four members were treated with respect. They were subject to the usual slanders that people face when leaving the organisation, and worse. Some of the reasons put forward by members of the party for one of the four’s resignation was downright sexist. When at least one of them met to discuss their resignation with the general secretary, the discussion was anything but political. This treatment of discontented members and former members is part of the reason that the SP is in crisis, and the more members who leave for the same reasons, the more difficult it will be to maintain the position that these reasons are false.

The jig is up folks. Change or perish.

LD - August 13, 2013

El Marko, also, obviously, has no basis for his claims, whatsoever. He’s going solely on wishful speculation and vague, disgusting rumours.

None of the things you’ve just said are true. They are lies. I know this because I was at the meeting and was involved in many discussion on this issue in the party.

Indeed you have no way of knowing either way. But you are someone who has a political axe to grind and would like to damage the Socialist Party if you can. It’s sad, really is.

critical media review - August 13, 2013

LD – You must think we are particularly stupid if you expect us to believe that. The agenda wasn’t changed? It was only opened up to aggregate, the resignees were asked to speak (spuriously as far as I can see) and Kevin gave a forty minute lead off on them. Remember the report on the meeting came from an SP member and no one has denied (until you) the substantive content of the article. In the last couple of days I have spoken to yet another comrade who has resigned (another long time member) who also agrees with the substantive nature of the article.

LD - August 13, 2013

How stupid I think you are is not the issue here, but I don’t expect you to believe anything – you want to believe that the Socialist Party is undemocratic and nothing will persuade you otherwise, even indisputable facts like the ones above.

“Nobody” has denied the content of hundreds, thousands of ridiculous articles written about the Socialist Party, that makes them all true by your logic. How convenient for you.

LD - August 13, 2013

This entire thread is a travesty and CMR’s post is really scraping the barrel.

When people resign from an organisation they are consciously also forfeiting any rights they had as members – which are many in the Socialist Party.

People who are not members have no automatic rights to attend any meetings of the party. The fact that they were given the right to attend and given the right to two 15 minute introductions to outline their views with rights of reply, makes it the exact opposite of a stitch up.

To correct your own distorted narrative above; A National Committee was organised for the beginning of July. After the 4 members resigned it was decided to open one of the discussions to the whole membership and the 4 comrades were also invited.

Of the 4 resignees, the leadership was aware that one would be out of the country and that one would be in Athlone. On that basis it was it was more than likely that 3 of the 4 would be able to attend – certainly if they felt strongly about whatever issues they had and wanted to be at a meeting they they could be discussed by members of the Socialist Party.

Of course they could have raised their disagreements before they left, only they know why they didn’t.

revolutionaryprogramme - August 13, 2013

LD – so can you answer the question as to why the expelled members of the group around John Throne were not allowed to appeal against their expulsion as per the rules of the CWI?

Jolly Red Giant - August 13, 2013

RP – you can keep banging on about this all you want – members of the Socialist Party will not engage because it has been done to death many times in the past 20 years and it is now ancient history. You will find the answers you want in the documents produced at the time – get John Throne to publish ALL the documents related to the disucssions and his expulsion – something that he has steadfastly failed to do.

john Throne - August 13, 2013

We the minority faction who were expelled published all the documents. We also gave them all to the CWI leadership to be distributed to the international. This leadership selected a few, said there were too many to distribute all and kept the membership in the dark. This Jolly Red Giant person uses his or her usual method of plain outright lying when the reality is indefensible. John Throne.

revolutionaryprogramme - August 13, 2013

I am not interested in all the details of this falling out between left-reformists but the denial of due process by refusing to allow the expelled members to appeal against that expulsion would tend to indicate that the bureaucratic functioning of your group is even worse than I had imagined.

The refusal by every CWI member who has posted in this thread to provide an answer, and Mark’s unbelievable response that such a denial of this basic democratic right is of no interest, only reinforces this.

This also has a contemporary relevance as it relates to the recent resignations and what appears to be their coming together in some kind of new grouping.

How you have responded to the issue of the denial of due process for this historical case of expulsions only adds weight to the contemporary claims about the nature of the internal life of the SP.

If the SP really were a healthy organisation with an open and democratic internal life it would be easy to brush all this aside.

Just provide a simple summary answer to the question instead of referring to documents that my quick google search would indicate are not available on the web.

El Marko - August 13, 2013

What is sad is that the comrades of the SP, can’t face criticism. It’s so sad that they delete their critics on social media.

My basis for my claims? I was told first hand by members of the SP, also by three of the famous four who are friends of mine and it tallies with my own experience and the experience of being in the party when others left and hearing them slandered first hand. My experience is the experience of many others who have left. Our stories are all so similar that it is bizarre that the SP continue to act in this way.

LD - August 13, 2013

Nobody was slandered or disrespected in any way by the Socialist Party. That’s the truth. You can believe what you want, I don’t care. All you have is hear-say, rumours and lies, coupled with your pre-existing gripe with the party.

You’re in good company with John Throne, Kevin Higgins et al. Good luck to you all, in whatever you do.

john Throne - August 13, 2013

In the late 1960′s and early 1970′s I had a fishing boat on the Swilly. I also did some poaching on the rivers Finn, Mourne and Foyle. I made a few shillings. I also did some smuggling. I am sure this is okay to say this now in the age of the EU and given the statute of limitations. I enjoyed the craic.

I moved to live in Dublin and went to work on the building sites. I was able to buy a house in Crumlin. By that time I had joined the Militant as its first member in the South and a couple of years later became its first full timer in Ireland as a whole. The London based leadership of the fledging international wanted somebody else but the Irish Comrades wanted me.

But I want to speak a little about lies and slandering. The Militant needed printing equipment. I sold my house in Crumlin and bought a smaller one in the Coombe and gave the left over money to the organization and with this we bought the printing equipment.

Some years later I left Ireland to work in the CWI and left the house in the Coombe to the Irish Militant to be used free of charge by one of its full timers. Then the faction fight broke out in the International and I sold the house in the Coombe and bought a one room studio apartment in Stratford in London and gave the left over money to the majority faction and to help build a fellow Comrades house in Sri Lanka which had been washed away in a storm.

I was back in Ireland a few months ago and a full timer of the now SP, incidently a full timer who has never met me nor I him, it is a him, was still, as the leadership of the CWI still does, was spreading the lie that I “embezzled” money from the CWI. “Embezzled” is their word. This is a lie and all the old members of the CWI know it is a lie. The leaderships of the CWI know this is a lie but they spread it behind their hands and let it be spread by innocent members. . In all my years of struggle with Social Democracy and Stalinism I was never accused of being financially dishonest. It took the CWI leadership to sink to this level.

The CWI had around 400 members in Ireland when I left in 1983. The objective situation was obviously very difficult and has to be taken into account when considering its collapse since. But the objective situation was not great when we went from about 10 members in 1970 to 400 in 1983. The collapse in membership is even more stark when considered against the background of having TD’s and even an MEP.

There is something seriously wrong with the CWI. I have made many points on this and I will not repeat them here. They are not confined to its left sectarianism and its false internal life. They include its program and strategy and tactics. I would like to comment on these later.

In the meantime I am interested as to how the CWI people who write on this list explain the basis for saying I stole money from the CWI and explain why they will not explain why I was denied my democratic right to appeal against my expulsion.

El Marko - August 13, 2013

Pre-existing gripe with the party? Listen mate, I left the party, the party didn’t leave me. In other words, it’s not me, it’s you. I know it must hurt to be rejected like that, but get over it. Life goes on, just don’t keep spreading lies and gossip about people.

“All you have is hear-say, rumours and lies.” So is everyone who leaves the organisation a liar? Let’s see, ten people left in recent months citing similar reasons, which were similar reasons to the ones previously cited by me and Henry, all of us were slandered in some way or other and heard about these slanders first hand from members of the party who were still friendly. The question you have to ask yourself is, are we all liars? Are we all deluded? Do we all have some gripe with the party – beyond political criticism? Or is it the party there is something wrong with?

The way you deal with what I said is particularly interesting. I apparently have “some gripe”. Is this how you categorise political criticism when it is leveled at your organisation. As a gripe? As something psychological and removed from my politics? What exactly is this gripe I have LD?

LD - August 13, 2013

El Marko, I don’t know you, I don’t want to know you, I don’t care about you one iota. I’m sure that’s the case for most, if not all members of the Socialist Party.

You made no political criticisms, you falsely accused the Socialist Party of slandering people. You don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s that simple. I’ve no desire to continue talking to you. You have a problem with the Socialist Party based entirely on your own paranoia – it’s your problem.

You are the one who spends his time reading and commenting about trivial gossip about the Socialist Party, not the other way around. So it is you, and Kevin Higgins, and John Throne, and Henry, who should move on with their lives.


37. Kevin Higgins - August 13, 2013

Indeed. People should ponder Mark P’s comment here “To be blunt, precisely what process our sister organisation on another continent followed in booting out John and a couple of his mates twenty years ago is something I have no knowledge of. And I have about as much interest in engaging in a discussion with him about it as I have in reading a four volume Flemish language history of South Flandrian medieval heraldry. Or to be even more blunt: Don’t know, don’t care in the slightest.” No doubt if the SP came to power, which admittedly is the stuff of dark fantasy, Mark P would be Attorney General. And we can all imagine the sort of justice that would mean.

Jim Monaghan - August 13, 2013

Kevin, the sentences would probably boring people to death.

sonofstan - August 13, 2013

I’d take Mark P. as AG over any of the other the ‘comrades’ on here in any position of influence whatever.

Kevin Higgins - August 13, 2013

Well, yes. That would be the harshest sentence. A step harsher than death.

38. Jim Monaghan - August 13, 2013
39. richotto - August 13, 2013

The exhibition of unabashed stonewalling here by SP leadership loyalists about the John Throne situation is truly breathtaking. When venturing out to comment at all it’s invariably something enigmatic, glib or sarcastic,hardly worth mentioning as a contribution. The only exception to this is when JRG says “the documents comprise a mountain of paper”. Come on, out with it then…if thats true? Somehow I doubt it. John Throne has no problem in being forthcoming about the facts. And the effort to treat him as some vaguely remembered member from ancient times is laughable. Anyone familiar with the left during his time in Ireland could only have appreciated his importance in bringing Militant Tendency to the position it enjoyed. This “non person” SP effort is a modern day version of the airbrushing of purged leadership figures from photos in Russia during the 1930s. If this is how they treat their own what kind of respect would be shown for anyone else if given the power?

WorldbyStorm - August 13, 2013

In fairness it is absurd to say it is the equivalent of the 1930s. No one is forced to join the SP, no one is forced to stay. There’s no bar on exit either. It’s an entirely voluntary organisation.

It’s more similar to me of a company who used to have a star sales rep who then left to go somewhere else and ever since there’s been gripes and complaints about how ’s/he wasn’t as good as people make out’ etcetera.

It’s also fair to point out that these events happened a long time ago, that again these are essentially voluntary organisations and therefore perceptions on both sides can be different without either being deceitful.

Finally, a bit of perspective. The SP has run into trouble in the past twenty-four months losing a TD and a number of members. But there’s no part of the Irish left that can be smug about its position at the moment. Everyone is in the doldrums (with the partial exception of SF, which, before there’s an howl of derision, I know not everyone shares my analysis of where they stand in relation to the left). The SP isn’t going to wink out of existence. I’d imagine it will be very much a going concern in a year, five or ten years time. And there’s a possibility that next year it might even increase its number of cllr’s. So given that, and given that if there’s ever going to be genuine cooperation on the Irish left in whatever form, whether platform party, campaigns or whatever we al have to work together let’s keep it as civil as possible.

We’re all going to meet up again and again and again. Let’s not burn bridges if at all possible. And let’s not see deceit or bad intentions at every turn either on any side.

40. El Marko - August 13, 2013

LD, You don’t know me? – so you’re saying you base all you know about me on hearsay, rumours and lies?

A couple of things – my criticism of the socialist party is “based entirely on (my) own paranoia”? How would you know, if you don’t know me? Over the last couple of years I’ve made numerous political criticisms of the party. If you haven’t heard them, it’s due to being sheltered from “alien ideas” within the organisation.

Of course, me being “paranoid”, is convenient, given the reasons for people leaving are often put down to “personal reasons” or health issues, with the added insinuation of these issues being of a mental nature. During my time in the party, I heard critics referred to as cranks or egotists, people who had caved to the pressures of bourgeois society. One woman was said to have left because she got romantically involved with an anarchist. The latter is very obviously sexist and is similar in nature to something that was said about one of the women who recently left the organisation.

If I were to outline all the political criticisms I have made of the SP over the last few years here, it would fall into the essay category. In brief, I agree with the points made about the internal regime of the organisation by the recent resignees. I’ve been making similar criticisms for a few years, as has Henry. I’ve recently written about the problems of electoralism in lookleft magazine and also the SP strategy for CAHWT in the most recent issue. I’ve mentioned other criticisms of the broad approach of both the SP and SWP in the trade unions in the most recent issue of the Irish Anarchist Review and on the WSM website and I debated the fiscal compact referendum against Paul Murphy at last year’s anarchist bookfair. I also raised criticisms of the SP’s program at the counter-summit.

The truth, however, has no importance for you LD, because it’s easier to claim that I’m a paranoid crank, that the comrades who resigned last month were influenced by an anarcho-anarcho mood and had all sorts of personal flaws and problems than to face up to the reality that the socialist party may be doing something wrong.

“When you’re a Trot, you’re a Trot all the way, from your first page of Marx, ’til the glorious day,
When you’re a Trot, you don’t mind what they say, for the truth is objective and you’ll never stray.”


LD - August 13, 2013

I didn’t say you had no political criticisms, I said you made no political criticisms. You made only false accusations – that don’t warrant further comment.

You’re an anarchist, which is fine, you shouldn’t be a member of the Socialist Party. But you being an anarchist doesn’t explain your intense hostility to the Socialist Party, that’s something else.

Now I know you weren’t expelled from the Socialist Party or forced out of the organisation in any way. So no injustice was done to you while a member, and it’s also the case that no injustice was done to you after you left. You left because you’re an anarchist, that’s how it is understood inside the party. That’s not a slander, it’s your choice of politics.

So the only explanation left for your seeming hatred of the Socialist Party is your own paranoia, what you think this organisation (that is indifferent to you, at best) says about you. Again, I suggest you move on with your life. We’re probably not worth it anyway.

El Marko - August 13, 2013

So the people who told me things that were said, and the younger comrades who unwittingly repeated them were just voices in my head? :\

Mark P - August 13, 2013

Jesus Mark, this stuff should really be beneath you. Someone told you that someone said something mean about you? Really? Would you like a hand with your cross?

There are a lot of people in the Socialist Party. And they say a lot of things. Is it possible that some of them think you are a wanker? Probably. I know that at least a few of think that I’m a wanker, and I’m still in the organisation. But by and large, as LD said, in general people in the party think you are a nice lad who developed a different political outlook and therefore joined a more appropriate organisation. Your regular facebook jibes in more recent times probably antagonise a few people occasionally, but as they are designed to antagonise, you can hardly complain about that.

41. Jolly Red Giant - August 13, 2013

To be honest the thread is really a load of nonsense and it would be better simply put to bed than dragged on for another couple of days or a week etc. I am sure when the next ‘crisis’ hits the Socialist Party it will be dragged up all over again.

Now I want to make a couple of general points on something that WbS has raised that people should take on board in the general scheme of what is being ‘debated’ here (as it is not really a debate). I will do that in a minute but first I want to address this nonsense from richotto:

This “non person” SP effort is a modern day version of the airbrushing of purged leadership figures from photos in Russia during the 1930s.

Let’s make something very clear – John Throne was one of the first members of the Militant in Ireland – he was the first full-time worker and in 1983 he left Ireland to go and work for the CWI. John Throne played an important role in the formative years of the Militant along with a number of other members of the Militant in building the Militant from nothing to being a significant and somewhat influential left-wing group by the time he left for London. He also played an important role in the CWI and the building of the US section of the CWI. No member of the Militant / Socialist Party would ever deny this. Neither would any member of the Socialist Party deny the stuff about John selling his house in Crumlin or in the Coombe and donating money to the Militant. These are facts. Over the past 30 years I have provided probably (in today’s money) several tens of thousands of euro to the Militant and Socialist Party. That is what left activists do if they are in a revolutionary party. Approx. 10 years after John Throne left Ireland he was expelled (with a small number of other members) from the US section of the CWI. I am not going to get into the reasons for this – as I have said they were debated to death. But irrespective of this no one from the Socialist Party has ever attempted to dismiss the role that John Throne played in the early years of the Militant.

John says the expelled members published all the documents maybe he can provide a link for the benefit of RP and anyone else who is interested. As an aside and contrary to what John claims – I read all the documents at the time despite the fact that I was not a member of any of the leading bodies of the CWI or the Socialist Party in Ireland. They were available to anyone who wanted to read them – most people didn’t because after the fifth or sixth round of documents because they got fed up of reading the same stuff over and over again.

I supported the decision of the large majority of the US membership of the CWI to expel John Throne – I believe it was the correct decision – and it is now part of the history of the CWI. The reality is that, despite any protestations that he makes, John Throne is openly hostile towards the CWI and regularly appears on internet forums attacking the CWI in general and members of the CWI in particular (he has reposted some of his comments about me here in other internet arenas). I have debated with John Throne in the past – I have no interest in going over the same ground again and again – everything that needs to be said has been. John in recent times now appears to insist on recounting his early history in the CWI on every left-wing internet forum where he thinks it will get an echo. Maybe it is part of the opening chapter of his autobiography. I doubt I will buy it when it is published.

Now to the more substantive point – from WbS

No one is forced to join the SP, no one is forced to stay. There’s no bar on exit either. It’s an entirely voluntary organisation.

This is absolutely correct. The Socialist Party and other left organisations are not like traditional establishment political parties. Where these parties are basically fan clubs of local TDs providing canvassing fodder at election time – left-wing parties are activist parties. It is not easy to be part of a left wing party like the Socialist Party. It requires time, energy, finance, commitment and certain political outlook and consciousness etc. People join left-wing parties for a variety of reasons – people leave left-wing parties for a variety of reasons. In a previous debate with John Throne he claimed that because the Socialist Party didn’t continue to develop in a linear fashion in terms of growing membership there was something wrong with the internal life of the Socialist Party. He also claimed that because people left the Militant / Socialist Party it only happened because there was something wrong with the internal life of the Socialist Party and if the internal life of the Socialist Party was not ‘left sectarian’ then people wouldn’t leave. These claims are, of course, nonsense.

My wife joined the Militant shortly after I did. She regards herself as a member of the Socialist Party but has not been active in the party for several years. Recently I was talking to another female activist in the Socialist Party and she asked why my wife wasn’t active and what should the Socialist Party be doing to create an environment where my wife was able to be active. I raised these questions with my wife when I got home and her reply was ‘I have a tough job, I have four children with all their trials and tribulations, I have siblings who come to me to solve their problems with their relationships and their kids and their finances and I have workmates who look to me to challenge management (she’s a shop steward) when problems arise at work – where will I find the time to be ‘active’. Now this is not to say that some things couldn’t be done to assist her in being active. She does contribute financially, she is a union activist, she does read party statements and publications, she does occasionally attend public events and socials. In a traditional party she would be regarded as a very active member – in a left-wing party she is regarded as an inactive member.

The Socialist Party is not perfect. It is made up of people who are not perfect. It has flaws – it has good points. It makes mistakes and it does its best to address the mistakes, the reasons for the mistakes and attempts to correct things to make sure they don’t happen in the future. Sometimes it succeeds – sometimes it doesn’t. I have had disagreements with the leadership, with the local full-timer, with the branch committee and with other members of the Socialist Party. I have more former members of the Socialist Party who I am friends with than I do Socialist Party members (this has more to do with my age than anything else). If I have problems with what is happening I raise them within the Socialist Party and I make sure they are addressed in one way or another. I was convinced 30 years ago that the political organisation that was going to advance the cause of the working class in this country was the Militant. I remain convinced today that the Socialist Party is the vehicle best equipped to advance the cause of the working class – that is why I am a member.

The Socialist Party has recently seen several members leaving the Socialist Party. WbS states The SP has run into trouble in the past twenty-four months losing a TD and a number of members.. I would actually dispute the assertion of ‘run into trouble’. Yes Clare Daly has resigned – it was unfortunate but with hindsight probably inevitable because of developments several months previously. But the reality is that her resignation has not had a lot of impact on the Socialist Party. Yes in Swords where she has a base of support in working class communities and the Socialist Party has had to swim against the stream to a degree to consolidate and build its base. But overall the impact has not been significant. Similarly with the latest resignations – in reality, despite the fact that it was unfortunate, it has not had a huge impact. My branch has seen two people leaving – but during the same period we have recruited six very good activists. While the two resignations were unfortunate (one member had been inactive for more than six months) they have been more than compensated for by the new people who have joined. This is the day to day life of a left-wing party – some people leave – more people join. The reality in the Socialist Party at the present time there is no lurching from crisis to crisis – there is no underlying problem of a difficult internal life etc.

One other thing that is different in left-wing parties from the traditional establishment model is the aftermath of people leaving. Few members of traditional parties look back when they pack their bags. I would argue that this is because they didn’t really have a commitment to the party, they weren’t activists, they were in the party for what they could get out of it etc. Many people leave left-wing parties and get on with their lives – most of the people who I know over the past 30 years who left the Militant and the Socialist Party, left on good terms. Many assist the party financially etc. Some I remain very good friends with. Occasionally people who leave do so for reasons that lead them to pointing the finger of blame (rightly or wrongly) at the Socialist Party and feel the need to engage publicly with the party. They expect the Socialist Party to address every individual criticism they have on a public forum despite the fact that often these criticisms were not raised while they were in the party. Inevitably ex-members (who in past times would have been politically on opposite sides) end up in a ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ relationship. There are numerous examples of this among former members of the Militant / Socialist Party and I would be astonished if it weren’t the same for all other left-wing groups. The Socialist Party does not have the time, resources or energy to address every individual and their individual grievances in a public forum. This is then often regarded as the Socialist Party being ‘sectarian’ or ‘bureaucratic’ or ‘dogmatic’ etc. when in reality it is none of these things and in reality such a public debate would solve nothing. The responsibility that the Socialist Party has is to the members of its party and to its wider layer of supporters. Occasionally, if it is felt necessary the Socialist Party will initiate an internal debate on what is happening – like the recent meeting in Dublin. And by the way – the meeting was already planned to assess the recent work of the Socialist Party and what direction the party should be orientating to in the future – the resignations came as part of this assessment and you will not find any reporting of this part of the debate in the articles in the Weekly Worker

I have either been a member of or hung around the fringes of several political parties / groups – mostly when I was in my teens – the Socialist Party (despite its flaws) is by far and away the most democratic organisation I have every been a member of (and that includes trade unions, community groups, sports clubs etc as well). I will defend it from external attacks that in my opinion are unwarranted. I refuse to engage with 20 year old beefs from former members of the CWI – primarily because they have been dealt with in the past. In the same way I refuse to engage with the urban myths that have built up around the Militant / Socialist Party like ‘the Militant supported Imperialism in the Falklands’ or ‘the Militant offered to shop poll tax rioters to the cops’ etc. Every time a new left-wing activist of one of the competing left-wing groups tries to earn his wings these urban myths emerge and then this new ‘recruit’ gets huffy because CWI members won’t engage.

Last point – from WbS –

So given that, and given that if there’s ever going to be genuine cooperation on the Irish left in whatever form, whether platform party, campaigns or whatever we al have to work together let’s keep it as civil as possible.

Despite what is claimed by many who frequent this blog – the Socialist Party is committed 100% to building a mass left-wing working class party. But I will emphasise this point – The Socialist Party is not in favour of left re-groupment (at least not without it being on a principled basis with an open and frank exchange of ideas and there is no basis for this at the moment) – the Socialist Party is of the opinion that it would be very difficult to have such a development given the small nature of the left and the history between left organisations. For a mass party to develop it would require the involvement of large numbers of new working class activists – not just existing members of left groups or lefty independents too stubborn to quit. Hopefully a large influx of new fresh layers (i.e. well into four figures) would cut across all the ‘issues’ between the existing left – rendering such ‘issues’ redundant in the grand scheme of things and the focus would be on debating how to advance the cause of the working class. The ULA didn’t disintegrate because of ‘left sectarianism’ by the Socialist Party (and notice that this claim is always made against the SP when the WUAG were the first group to walk away – and the SWP had effectively withdrawn months previously as well). The ULA did not survive because it failed to attract any new fresh layers in any kind of numbers that would make it workable.

One more issue I will address – in recent times there has been a concerted attack on the concept of the ‘revolutionary party’. This is being fed from 1. a distrust of political parties among the working class in general (and who could blame them) and 2. it is being driven by left-wing individuals and groups who regard revolutionary parties as ‘left sectarians’. This is a political battle that needs to be fought without compromise. The history of the working class has demonstrated the utter necessity of the building of a revolutionary party as a key component for a successful workers revolution. Those who oppose the concept of the ‘revolutionary party’ are playing into the hands of counter-revolution and all Marxist revolutionaries must resist any efforts to undermine the necessity of building the ‘revolutionary party’.

Now – I have exorcised my demons for a while and I leave the field open to others to continue if they wish.

revolutionaryprogramme - August 13, 2013

So many words and yet somehow the issue of why the expelled group around John Throne were not allowed their right to due process by being able to appeal against the expulsions.gets left out…

As regards the necessary struggle to build a revolutionary party JRG is correct in abstract though it doesn’t have much to do with the concrete practice of the SP/CWI who consistently refuse to present a revolutionary programme to the working class and attack as “ultra-left” anyone who attempts to do so.

critical media review - August 13, 2013

Just a quick point on ‘the revolutionary party’ and attacks on such. As far as I have read the literature on revolutionary parties is in fact a discussion on ‘what is a revolutionary party’ and especially son good research on how the Bolshevik party itself actually operated. I don’t believe this represents an attack, but rather a healthy discussion and should be treated as such. I realise the party does not have the time to reply to every ‘gripe’ however some literature explaining its concept of the ‘revolutionary party’ and why it believes it’s current structure and strategies could add to that discussion in a fraternal manner. It is mistaken to see such discussion as an attack rather than discussion which should be the norm in a vibrant left wing culture, and I see no reason why the party as a major part of the left in Ireland and internationally shouldn’t, to say we couldn’t be bothered or have no time is to reject political theory and leaves Marxism in a very poor place.

critical media review - August 13, 2013

On phone – that should read ‘why its current structures and strategies are the best method available and that this could add to the discussion in a fraternal manner.’

Jolly Red Giant - August 13, 2013

I agree that further discussion and documents would be appropriate. There has been some discussion within the Socialist Party on this issue and my own branch will likely be discussing it over the next few of weeks.

I have no problem with a healthy and fraternal debate – that is to be welcomed. However, there is also a concerted and sustained attack on the concept of a revolutionary party from certain sources on the left – some under the guise of attacking left sectarianism or bureaucratism and others on the basis of a retreat from a revolutionary outlook.

RosencrantzisDead - August 13, 2013

However, there is also a concerted and sustained attack on the concept of a revolutionary party from certain sources on the left – some under the guise of attacking left sectarianism or bureaucratism and others on the basis of a retreat from a revolutionary outlook.

Really? Who?

Kevin Higgins - August 14, 2013

But Jolly, the idea of the centralist revolutionary party as conceived of by Lenin circa 1903 has been proven again and again not too work. Some other way is needed. He meant well and his mistake was understandable in the context. Your mistake is of an altogether more serious variety. You sound like a religious fundamentalist, someone who, emotionally, needs this leadership line you so loyally type to be true. But it isn’t working, Jolly, and it isn’t going to work. And I think you know this really, that’s perhaps why you protest so loudly and long that nothing is wrong.

revolutionaryprogramme - August 14, 2013

Well in terms of the working class taking power and opening up the possibility of creating a society which will act in the interests of working people rather than the interests of capital the Leninst centralised revolutionary party has been successful where all other models have not – in the case of the 1917 Russian Revolution.

And at the level of theory and practical experience of the last century or so of the class struggle it is hard to imagine how the capitalist state can be defeated by any other organisational form.

Which is not to argue that the model is a simple template that can be directly applied to today’s situation but certainly there are some general lessons that can be learned from that experience of 1917 and the period immediately afterwards when the newly created 3rd International put the prospect of spreading the overthrow of capital beyond the boundaries of Russia, through Europe and the rest of the world.

Or to argue in any way that the bureaucratic organisational form of the CWI/SP presenting left-reformist lies to the working class has anything much to do with the lessons which can be learned from that model.

workers republic - August 13, 2013

Much of what JRG says is fair enough, but it does not adress the claim by John that he was falsely accused of embesselment; that is a serious charge. If it is true, and I believe John to be an honest person, it reflects badly on the CWI and on his former comrades. And why wasn’t he denied the right to appeal his expulsion.


workers republic - August 13, 2013

That should read;- why was he denied the right of appeal.
In solidarity.

que - August 13, 2013

I was a bit sceptical when I saw the length but that was a damn fine post JRG.


‘in recent times there has been a concerted attack on the concept of the ‘revolutionary party’.’

That part didn’t gel with me though. I yesterday wrote that I thought this self-labelling as a revolutionary party was a bit over down. For my part that linking into a concerted, organised effort to undermine the concept but it just seems a bit silly.

que - August 13, 2013

For my part that’s not linking into a concerted, organised effort to undermine the concept its just the over referencing seems a bit silly.

Croslandite - August 13, 2013

On a side point, I’m curious about JRG’s insistence on the super-human levels of activism (including stupendous financial commitments) which are required within the Socialist Party. There’s a quasi-religious aspect to this which is perhaps a little disconcerting.

Given the dim prospects of this revolutionary party ever actually leading a revolution, how do the individuals involved justify going on the tenth paper sale of the month when they could be doing something more enjoyable? After a certain point, that kind of frenetic activity — which,as JRG himself seems to concede, holds zero prospect of actually achieving its aims — must be utterly demoralising. By contrast, until the late Seventies, Communist activists in many countries probably felt they stood a good chance of taking power (and did in fact do so in local government).

It also rules out the SP ever forming the basis for a “mass” party because the vast majority of people, even those who are really interested in politics, will never be prepared to make those kinds of sacrifices. I also wonder how much of this fabled activism is not just busy work.

WorldbyStorm - August 14, 2013

The key line in your comment is that the vast majority of people will not be prepared to make those sacrifices, and I’d add engage on that level. And it’s not restricted to political activity in that form. Perhaps you are active in local community and residents groups too and if so ill bet your experience is like mine, it’s soul destroying trying to mobilise people even when their direct interests ar at stake in the most immediate way.

Shay Guevara - August 14, 2013

“Those who oppose the concept of the ‘revolutionary party’ are playing into the hands of counter-revolution.”

So it’s not that they’re mistaken, or wrong, or need a good talking to or whatever – they’re actually “playing into the hands of counter-revolution.” We haven’t had the revolution yet, unfortunately, let alone the counter-revolution! But Jolly Red Giant is already conjuring up this mythical counter-revolution to place people he disagrees with away over on the other side of the barricades – in the same camp as the Whites in the Russian Civil War, in fact. I think we could do with a revolutionary party – but this way of branding disagreements goes a good way to make sure you won’t get one.

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