Clash in the Socialist Party

Submitted by Matthew on 16 October, 2013 - 12:02

As the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) moves towards its December conference with hot dispute between its Central Committee and a large opposition faction, the Socialist Party (SP) is also immersed in conflict.

The SWP dispute originates with discontent over the handling by the leadership of charges by SWP women members of sexual harassment and rape.

The opposition has moved on to broader questions of SWP regime, but not yet to SWP public politics. A new article by SWP leaders Alex Callinicos and Charlie Kimber responds by claiming that the roots of the dispute lie in the opposition’s lack of confidence in the working class and trend towards “movementism”.

We must hope this spurs the opposition to widen its sights further to the public political questions.

The SP generally has an even more controlled regime than the SWP. Concerns over the SP’s response to charges of sexist bullying made against one of its prominent trade unionists have not spread far.

The opposition in the SP is different. Bruce Wallace, an SPer in Scotland, has challenged the SP’s economic analyses; the debate seems more factionalised than you might expect on such theoretical issues. On 24 September the SP website highlighted a full-dress reply by SP leaders Lynn Walsh and Peter Taaffe; on 25 September Wallace, on an oppositional blog which he has run since March 2013, published a response co-signed by a number of others.

Wallace draws on the writings of the US writer Andrew Kliman. Kliman, in contrast to most other Marxist analysts of the statistics (including us), argues that the rate of profit has been falling in the USA consistently since 1947; that the real wages of the US working class have been rising; and that the rate of exploitation has not been rising.

The debate over his claims involves complicated arguments about statistical classification and adjustments.

The main idea Wallace draws from Kliman is that the current crisis originates from large and constant trends of capitalism, and that a political answer can be nothing less than the full nationalisation of all the main means of production.

He criticises the SP leadership for having its prominent trade union activists, in the PCS, endorse weak Keynesian economics, and for itself proposing more limited demands, such as the nationalisation of the banks.

Actually, week to week, the SP today scarcely even mentions nationalising the banks, but focuses instead on the negative claim “no cuts” and, to add militancy, the call for a 24 hour general strike.

Wallace, according to his blog, joined the Militant tendency (forerunner of SP) in 1974. He was out of activity between 2003 and 2012 and spent time studying Marxist economics.

The reply by Walsh and Taaffe attacks Kliman more than Wallace, and Kliman more for his view that the Stalinist USSR was state-capitalist and for his aversion to party-building than on his statistical analysis.

Kliman is a member of the Marxist-Humanist Initiative. The MHI was formed by a split in 2009 from the News and Letters group, which upholds the ideas of the late Raya Dunayevskaya.

SWP crisis continues

Alex Callinicos and Charlie Kimber have written a long defence of the SWP’s recent past in the latest issue of International Socialism (The Politics of the SWP Crisis).

It starts with the following “[The deep division in the party] has not stopped us acting as a revolutionary organisation. We have had successes and recruited hundreds of new members.” And goes on in the same delusional way.

Dave Renton has produced a forensic analysis of the article and the sorry sequence of events inside the SWP over the last year.

But Renton’s article does not deal with the latest testimony and allegation of a rape and botched internal investigation inside the SWP. You can read about that on the International Socialist Network website.

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