Monday, 23 November 2009

A Party to Win? Clare Solomon's expulsion from SWP

(written on my iPhone so I can't see the whole post at the same time-sorry if it's too rambling)

Dear comrades, friends & fellow travellers,

Two months ago myself and James M were suspended from the SWP. James has had his suspension lifted and is able to participate in party debates at conference although is not able to sell the paper, attend branch meetings, central London, Soas or otherwise. It is a great shame that the party has enforced restricted membership on such a dedicated revolutionary.

On Saturday, however, I was expelled. (addition to original post) I was expelled for 1) putting on an event called Mutiny which they claim was autonomist 2) for sending 6 friends a private email and 3) I was accused of 'lying', ie for not accepting that this was a factional email or event.

I have been a member for four turbulent years. My sister and I joined the SWP at Marxism 2005, the year of the London bombings which had me penned in my Brunswick Centre flat in Russell sq, a mere 100yds from the bus bomb.

How glad I am that I was amongst people such as you all at this difficult time and that my distress was channelled into becoming a revolutionary. Through learning from and participating in discussions about how to change the world I was won to the idea of having to do this collectively.

The seed of this was sown in my mind in 2003 when the local Stop the War branch used my restaurant (Char Bar in Cromer St) to hold planning meetings. Coming from a military family background (my dad was in the Military Police!) meeting these people and seeing their desire to fight back against the impending war on Iraq was certainly a life changing experience. My first ever demo was the 2m people one on 15 July 2003. I attended with my own homemade banner with the Gandhi quote 'an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind': my, how I have changed.

After joining the SWP in July 2005 I threw myself into activity at SOAS university, central London, with an unquestioning commitment. I was consequently elected as Co-President of the Students' Union on a Student Respect platform in March 2006 having built up a layer of support through our activity. The people in the SWSS group were extremely dedicated, and we regularly had new people attending the weekly planning meetings and engaging in activity.

And we soon turned the union on it's head. General meetings went from attendence of around 30 people twice yearly to now between 100 and 150 of a student body of only 3,000 on campus every 6 weeks. Election turnouts have become the highest in the country (30-33%) with many candidates standing on highly political manifestos. We did all this not just by handing out tons of leaflets in the rain but by making the links between local issues and national, indeed international, happenings. We also built so successfully by doing a combination of protests, meetings, filmshowings, socials and by getting involved in other societies; by attempting to relate to people on many different levels. This was my first experience of building anything political and this was, I still feel, a very succesful strategy.

Soon after I began my first term I was also elected to the National Council of Respect. Needless to say electoral politics was what I was most familiar with so the transition to revolutionary socialism came about through this process. Although I am not arguing for a 'stageist' approach, it is clear to me that one does not necessarily become a revolutionary overnight: the relationship between activity and theory is continually affected by external influences (and vice versa).

The Respect split of 2007 was very upsetting for me. I remember crying when George left the NC meeting. I had even been on Big Brother's Little Brother as one of his defenders for the upcoming eviction shows. Even as an NC member I was, to be honest, unclear of what had happened in Respect so it is of no suprise to me that many other people have come to lots of different conclusion-it is nigh on impossible to ensure an equal distribution of information. And being remote by either time or space from an event or happening only adds to potential distortions. Luckily the Internet is changing all this, and changing the way we relate to each other. (I am presenting a paper on this topic at HM this weekend-see http://mercury.soas.ac.uk/hm/conference2009.htm for registration details).

Just prior to returning to being a student after my 2 term stint in the SU I was asked to be Central London organiser of the SWP for a month, taking the reigns from the previous person who is well known as being a more-than-fulltime revolutionary! I learnt a hell of a lot in this time. It is an extremely hard job both mentally and physically. I focused on changing the way we did paper sales and we had 11 new people attending branch meetings within 2 weeks. We recruited about 7 or 8 to the party in a space of 3 weeks.

Coming back to Uni I was in the strange and disturbing situation of not having any established comrades from the previous year. Some had left SOAS and those that did return we had not retained. We had a new and very different organiser and a whole new National SWSS office team. The anger at the collapse of the banking sytems helped us rebuild a vibrant swss group; we recruited 8 people and retained 6 of them (which is a very high percentage).

SOAS was the first Uni to go into occupation over Gaza and we were central to a number of other occupations. Whilst on one hand this strengthened our already great relationships with a wide layer of people, on the other it left us behind in our school work and slightly fragmented as a group. None-the-less we learnt a great deal from these actions and are all still dedicated to building the party this year.

The combination of having new organisers, of underlying differences in both the party and on the wider left and of having a wide millieu of anti-capitalists around us proved very diffilcult for me to carry out hard party arguments and turn new students into convinced revolutionaries. The doors were also opened to new activist groups having inspired them into getting active. This has given us even more to contend with.

However 3 more Soas people have joined the party since last year.

In the summer myself and a few friends (including James M), both SWP and others, organised a very successful event called Mutiny-Money on Trial which aimed to play around with culture and politics, blurring the boudaries and looking for new ways to attract young people. As far as we were concerned what we did was exactly what revolutionaries should be doing: we took our cue from the post conference bulletin which encouraged us to take creative initiatives. We spoke to the cc prior to the event and took on board their feedback. As a consequence two people joined the party and Mutiny attendees were central to setting up a new branch. Five people that we know of wanted to get more involved and were only put off from joining once they heard of our suspensions. Just to be clear, far from being told not to be involved, a member of the CC said 'if it goes well come back to the party and we can see how to take it forward'.

And now I have been expelled.

I tell you these things not because I want pity or to win your support but because I think it is important to contextualise my involvement in the movement and hence help understand the trajectory which has landed me where I am today.

Being expelled is upsetting to me not just because of any personal attachment to the party but because I understand the need for a coordinated attack on the ruling class and that this can only come from below. We need a strong organisation to be able to carry this out and we only get a strong organisation through constant debate, discussion, disagreement and, hopefully, democratic decision making. There needs to be debate in a revolutionary party to get clarity. The history of ideas is, afterall, the history of the clash of ideas.

Whilst my case has become the source of a lot of distorted tittle tattle for reasons not always clear to people I am pleased that comrades are at least debating the direction of the party and the effect that this will have on the wider movements.

I have great respect for the SWP and do not wish any internal problems to become problematic for building a strong resistance in what looks set to become a period of increasingly deeper recession. The left faces huge challenges for the future both fighting the BNP and organising working class resistance. We need a united fight back and any problems the SWP have will impact on the possibility of this happening.

I reject ALL the accusations against me and I believe thy have made a mistake in expelling me. What concerns me is that it may mark a change in the kind of party the SWP wants to be.

I do reserve the right to appeal to conference in January and I trust comrades to be fair in their assessment of the situation.

Thank you again and I look forward to having these debates in the open.

In solidarity.

Ps. I have obviously been following with great interest the discussions on various blogs and will continue to do so. I would like to thank you all for your lively and lovely contributions (even from you Sacha!) and I welcome any more constructive criticism. Please respect the fact my blog is about building not internal squabling. Some of the analysis you guys have been offering is really rather good-we can all learn so much from each other and these forums have provided a place for us to do this.

63 comments:

Jim Jay said...

Sorry to hear about your troubles Claire.

I might be being slow but I couldn't actually tell from your post why you were expelled as you jumped straight from the events you were organising to the expulsion - you may well be being cautious so as not to prejudice your appeal, which is fair enough, but seeing as SOAS is head and shoulders above other uni's for left activity and as a central part of that you should take at least some of the credit - so it just seems mad to expel someone whose doing successful work...

or perhaps that's the problem and if you'd been less successful in your activities no one would have thought you were a threat.

Derek Wall said...

sorry to hear your news, I like the Zizek quote very much by the way, socialism is more about wikis than a central committee, I know some good people in the SWP but I think Marxist politics needs to be democratic, pluralist and adaptive, the best of the left do this, take a look at socialist voice from Canada and the latin american left.

The UK left need a major rethink and not just the SWP.

A lot of Green Left people are ex SWP by the way and I think some ex SWP like my friend Jerry Hicks have really thrived in Respect.

What ever you do keep up the mutiny!

AC said...

What a tragic mistake it was to expel you Clare. This decision deprives the SWP of an imaginative, open-minded, inspiring and hard working Leninist. Anybody who has seen you in action over the last few years will know what a mistake your expulsion is.
Over the last few years you have repeatedly cropped up in the videos I have shot - all evidence of you organising the resistance - fighting for the cleaners to get the London Living Wage, helping lead an occupation over Gaza, helping lead an occupation against the deportation of SOAS cleaners and organising the brilliant Mutiny event. Thankfully you are surrounded by good comrades who will continue to work with you and look to you for inspiration - and I'm very proud to be one of them.

Solomon's Mindfield said...

Thx guys. A quick addition-a minor ommission!

(addition to original post) I was expelled for 1) putting on an event called Mutiny which they claim was autonomist 2) for sending 6 friends a private email and 3) I was accused of 'lying', ie for not accepting that this was a factional email or event.

gazasolidarity said...

Hi Clare - sad to hear that you've been expelled from the party. Hey, what the fuck is this mutiny thing anyway? Hopefully will still see you on the barricades. GaryM

florence durrant said...

Sorry to hear this Clare; like Jim Jay above I am equally peplexed; and also like gazasolidarity I wonder what this Mutiny thing was all about. You are great as a comrade Clare so I hope your appeal succeeds because there is more that unites true revolutionary socialists than devide. Personally, I am a stage in my life where I could do with a bit of therapy just to get my head round to real life problems that affect ordinary people. But mine is a different story; but nothing will make me jeopardise my relationship with the SWP as there is strength in numbers! Good luck.

Jim Jay said...

you were expelled for the mutiny event? I watched that on-line, there wasn't anything about it that struck me as 'off message'.

Perhaps there was someone behind the camera with a huge banner that read 'the SWP sucks'? If not I don't know what on Earth they could be thinking.

Bizarre.

Anyway, I hope you don't let this get you down.

Luna17 said...

Mutiny: Money on Trial, which took place in September, was precisely the kind of event the SWP leadership would have loved a few years ago. There's no objective reason why it should be different now, especially considering the ideological effects of the economic crisis and the increased prominence of climate change as a political issue (these were both major themes).

The problem is twofold. Firstly, the current leadership is determined to crush the Left Platform faction and its supporters - any excuse will suffice. Secondly, there's now a retreat from what is disparagingly referred to as 'nostalgia for the recent past', i.e. taking anti-capitalism seriously. An event like Mutiny is frowned upon because it reflects a political perspective - oriented on the movements and the post-Seattle, post-9/11 political upturn - that is now rejected.

This is daft, not least because Mutiny was clearly a roaring success (I've read the reports and seen the YouTube stuff) and an opportunity for the SWP to engage wider layers of radicalised people.

Auraliser said...

Clare, you have been a great inspiration to me as a fellow travelling activist, and have been central to my own transition towards 'becoming a revolutionary'.

The SWP has incurred a real loss with this expulsion; in your phenomenal energy, enthusiasm, openness and ability to explain revolutionary politics in creative ways.

As a non-swp member involved in organising the fantastic Mutiny event earlier this year, I am at a total loss as to what the problem was with you and James being involved. It was well-attended, lively and full of faces I had never seen at activist meetings before, all of whom were so excited to get involved in future events and take part in the political meetings and actions advertised in our 'activist goody bags' at the end.

I look forward to continuing to work with you on local, national and international campaigns.

In solidarity.

Tom said...

I've been following your activism with great interest for a while now. It's just bizarre that the SWP would expel someone who seems to be so committed. Completely bizarre.

I'd been mercifully unaware of this Left Platform/main current 'split' until now as well. It's disappointing that the SWP can't see the bigger picture and move together with some pluralism, towards what is essentially a shared goal.

Respectable Citizen said...

MUTINY could be a useful concept, it has a lot of potential, you can do it at home, at work, in the party branch meeting. Think Camus's philosophical distinction between rebellion and revolution.

It makes me think of the work of socialist historians Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker on the seafaring proletariate & the conversation that took place on ship soviets and in the docks of Europe and America and the Atlantic

Check out the seminal 'Many Headed Hydra'
http://www.eco-action.org/dod/no10/books_hydra.htm

One of my other patron saints of libertarian marxism, CLR James wrote of Herman Melville & Moby Dick in his crucial tome 'Mariners, Renegades & Castaways'

I have to say the current game of the far left leaves me cold & I have retreated into an intensive reading of the history of the British and Welsh proletariate, devouring the work of EP Thompson, 'The Making of the English Working Class', Christopher Hill on the revolution of 1649, AL Morton, Rodney Hilton on the Peasants Revolt, reading Tom Paine, the finest Englishman of the 18th century and writer of some of the finest prose in the English language and so on.

The British Marxist Historians offer an account of working class self-activity that deserves to be more widely known and there writings on popular struggle and collective bargaining through riot, the mob & the moral economy of the english crowd could be useful in these dishonest times.

Best wishes, Adam Johannes

Respectable Citizen said...

PS. In the words of George Orwell - "IF THERE'S ANY HOPE IT LIES WITH THE PROLES"

Chris Chilvers said...

our case is upsetting but, unfortunately, far from unprecedented.

In the Respect Party, there is a large number of us who either left or were expelled from the SWP. We have been able to find a suitable home for our politics and practice that addresses a mass audience (in some areas). This has happened without the restrictions of democratic centralism but with great mutual accountability through discussion and informal organization.

Looking at the history of 'bolshevik' organization, it is debatable whether democratic centralism has ever been compatible with achieving a mass audience.

Your innovative and frame breaking political approach, including events such as Mutiny, is exactly the model that we look to develop that addresses the anti-capitalist mood and milieu in this country. Viva Palestina was a similar frame breaking notion (though with a different cultural emphasis). Please persist with it, it has real possibilities and please do get in touch if and when you need some help or want to discuss with comrades.

The SWP will turn on you. In the days and weeks ahead, remember what makes you a socialist and the sheer rebellious mood that keeps you going. The public service cuts and the war in Afghanistan are about to change the audience and scale of left agitation in this country and your talent will be sorely needed.

Peace, justice and equality!

Southpawpunch said...

I thought your comment – “(Even as an NC member I was, to be honest, unclear of what had happened in Respect) so it is of no surprise to me that many other people have come to lots of different conclusions - it is nigh on impossible to ensure an equal distribution of information” was very good.

So many of us are in different organisations, or none, because of different conclusions based upon an unequal distribution of information.

So much time wasted, silly arguments enjoined and pointless rivalries engendered because some theoretician reads the tea leaves one way; another a different way.

I'm not being anti-theoretical - the tea-leaves do need to be read - but people need to be a lot more modest about their abilities and admit they can't yet do this; they are not seeing all the tea-leaves, they are just making guesses.

I have admired you activism and hope we all end up in some large Left unity organisation.

Solomon's Mindfield said...

From an anonymous person:

Sorry to hear that you were expelled from the party.
It makes absolutely no sense to me. Of all people, you, the most approachable, eager to help and inform. Not a good decision. I was seriously thinking about joining the SWP (amazingly enough it is here in Turkey where I have seen clearly the benefits of a revolutionary party) and this completely puts me off. What a shame.

Anonymous said...

I hope this does not put too many potential comrades off joining the SWP. The SWP, like any organisation, does make mistakes and is not perfect - but is the ONLY serious revolutionary socialist organisation in this country. Personally I think your expulsion was a serious mistake and I sincerely hope that your appeal is successful and you are readmitted to the party. Your reaction to your expulsion has been disciplined and sensible and you have avoided the internet tantrum which characterised a certain other's recent expulsion.
We have a world to win - the stakes are too high for great organisers and dedicated revolutionaries like yourself to be relegated to the world of sects and infantile ultralefts.
In comradeship,
T.

disillusioned said...

Your suspension and now expulsion is disappointing. I've asked about what happened and the "official line" I've heard justifying the party's actions doesn't persuade me. This a big mistake. We need a united resistance and a strong left - and this kind of witch hunt only weakens the party. I sincerely hope your appeal is successful.

james o'toole said...

i dont think it helps posting on a public forum where people who are obviously hostile to the notion of a disciplined revolutionary party can get a dig in at the SWP.
you're giving them the platform.
although as a now non member you can say what you want but really if you're claiming you want to be re admitted then you're hardly helping yourself.
democratic centralism is the only way to organise effectively under capitalism- democratic in order to 'learn from the class' and centralist because of unevenness in consciousness.
the SWP in UK seems to be making a concerted turn to the class and some people seem to still be stuck in a previous period.
conflict internally is both desirable and nessesary to go forward united and strong.

londonstudentfeminist said...

Dear Clare,

I find the way that the party have treated you just devastating.

Since we met at the STW Manchester demo in 2006, salsa dancing with Al Jazeera you have provided an endless source of inspiration to me both as an activist and as a friend, most significantly in your steadfast support to London Student Feminists, despite vocal party reservations.

I am proud to be one of countless students you have mobilised and invigorated across the country, and especially at SOAS, who I know like me will stand in solidarity with you at this difficult time.


With love,


Elly James
NUS Women's Committee

Anonymous said...

Clare

I read this post with no surprise at all - well apart from the fact that you want back in...

You sound baffled. The fact is you scred the leadership because they saw you as a threat. You are clearly a strong activist who can think for themselves. The SWP (and I would argue ANY political organisation - so this is not just a did at the SWP) really do not want independent thinkers. They want sheep.

I was once in another Trot-left organisation for 10 years and it was a constant struggle. Eventually I was assaulted by a leading cadre adn took that through the internal complaint procedure. they decided he should write to em to apologise and I received a 3 page letter attacking everythign I'd ever said and done. At that point I realised I didn't want this group to be the vanguard and I left organised politics.

I was active in the Socialist Alliance and saw how the SWP act. I've met others who have been expelled and they have similar stories to yours. They are bullies but they are not alone in that - so anyone who tells you their group is better is lying.

It is politics. You are either a manipulative scheming hack or you are constantly bullied. Do you want to be Lindsay German? That's the question you should ask yourself.

I really wish you well in whatever you decide. If you would like to talk with me about my experiences, I am happy to meet up. I work in one of the Bloomsbury colleges near SOAS. My email is kiwirevo@yahoo.co.uk.

A Very Public Sociologist said...

T: "The SWP is the ... only serious revolutionary organisation in the country". I think me and my SP comrades would dispute that bold claim.

When someone is expelled for "1) putting on an event called Mutiny which they claim was autonomist 2) for sending 6 friends a private email and 3) I was accused of 'lying', ie for not accepting that this was a factional email or event.", that raises questions concerning an organisation's "seriousness".

Still, IMHO they're mad to expel you, Clare. Their loss and don't let 'em drag you down!

Activism is an Art said...

Clare, a quick question.
The SWP, like most trotskyist groups operates on the basis of a perspective. These are decided aat national conference NCs etc.

You wanted to build these Mutiny events

Did you go to an NC and argue that these Mutiny events should be a prioity for the party. That it should be part of the National perspective, that SWSS mmbers across the country should organse them.

Or did you go off and organise it yourselves, contrary to the decesions, because you are opposed to the direction of the party and want to prove the "anti cap" movement is still alive. As long as your oh so creative. Because that is of course how the ebbs and flows of the class struggle are determined, by levels of creativity.
The bolsheviks must have had a serious poster designer

proletkult said...

Activism as Art sez:

Or did you go off and organise it yourselves, contrary to the decesions, because you are opposed to the direction of the party and want to prove the "anti cap" movement is still alive.

Party Notes, 6 April, 2009:

What we are seeing is a resurgence of the Anti-Capitalist movement...

Perhaps you should pay more attention to the perspective in future?

skidmarx said...

Good luck with your appeal. You can see some the vultures gathering wishing to use your case to damage the SWP. Parties do need some discipline, and if you've violated it then you have to take your lumps, but it would seem a shame for the party to lose you when the differences seem so slight. And hopefully even if you do lose , you won't end up bitter like Chris C and co.

Jim Jay said...

Clare is undergoing what is a very stressful and unpleasant experience. Expressing sympathy for her is not being a 'vulture', it's being a human being.

You might equate not being in the SWP with being carrion but you should recognise that you're in a small minority on that one. I can assure you she is very much alive and well.

Personally my experience of Clare has been through events like the internet for activists event and the occupation of SOAS over the deportation of the cleaners recently - she's very impressive and I hear nothing but praise for her from all quarters.

If the SWP don't want her then that's their idiocy, but personally my concern is for the shoddy way people on the left often get treated by their organisations which creates a danger of them burning out, feeling miserable, or sometimes, yes, becoming bitter.

These are human reactions to being treated like dirt, but best avoided in my opinion. Life goes on, as they say.

Sophie J said...

Hi Clare, I have taken a few knocks myself in life and in my time in the SWP, however the SWP remains a party to inspire and develop those who want to fight for improvement in life and is a party worth respecting.

A couple of things I have learned through this episode; 1)no-one should be elevated above the cause we serve (that is not a personal attack, just something I think is relevant here)and 2) what is the nature of anti-capitalism and our place within it?

The fact is that the SWP orientates very much on trade union and industrial struggle, we need to keep this and be true to ourselves (there is a body of theory and practice to back up this priority) there is the need for discipline, to ensure co-ordination and unity.

My hope is that you return to the SWP one day and very soon, all the best

Anonymous said...

Clare

As a very longstanding party member, I'm sorry about this because you are obviously distresssed at the outcome. I don't know the rights and wrongs of the decision, but don't give up. If you want to get back into the SWP, keep trying and ask the Disputes Committee/CC what you need to do to get your card back. If you really want to be, I'm sure you'll eventually be readmitted, provided you feel you can keep party discipline. Wishing you well, Jonathan.

Anonymous said...

I think the awful thing is that so many people inside the party are saying, effectively, "hope it all works out" - but not one person is saying "I am going to fight your corner inside the party".

The problem with democratic centralism is that the people who are subject to it don't take responsibility for the democracy: If people don't know the reasons for the expulsion, get on to your organisers! Debate it in your branches - take it to conference.

Otherwise, when the appeal comes, the loyalists will support whatever the disputes committee has decided. We all know that that's how it works.

It's a shame. If Clare wants back in to the party, what she needs most is people standing up for their convictions and saying to the NC, DC and CC all the great things they're saying on these blogs.

Clare deserves better than people simply wishing her well: She brings a serious breath of fresh air to the student work of the SWP, and brings a way of working that all revolutionaries could do with adopting.

Luna17 said...

The comment from Activism is an Art sums up the strange contortions some in the SWP are getting themselves into. You shouldn't have to go to a National Committee and propose something. We need serious activists, who take initiative and create success stories. They should be able to crack on with building successful, vibrant and highly political events, which reach out to people who may not normally attend political meetings. The last thing a revolutionary organisation needs is a culture of timidity and caution.

As proletkult comments, the leadership claimed a resurgence of the anti-capitalist movement in the aftermath of the G20 protests earlier this year. But now it seems the argument is that engaging seriously with anti-capitalist currents is 'nostalgia', despite the biggest crisis of the system since the 1930s. Responding to that crisis purely on an industrial level - when, so far, its effects are primarily ideological and politcal - will serve the left badly.

As for james o'toole's argument that secrecy is an essential ingredient of democratic centralism: Lenin certainly valued open and free discussion (going beyond party members), and many Leninist groups have been far more open about disagreements than today's SWP. Opening up the debate is categorically NOT an abandonment of democratic centralism.

polizeros said...

This time it was SWP in Britain who purged Clare Solomon, apparently for thought crimes that led to traitorous behavior. As one who was purged from a far left US Marxist grouplet a few years back, I can sympathize. The process is jolting. But then you realize those comrades weren’t really ever friends or even comrades. Extremist ideologues put politics before friendship, before most anything really. So the alleged comradeship is basically bogus as it is based on you following the party line. Solomon will probably find she is much better off having left them all behind.

From my blog

http://polizeros.com/2009/11/24/socialist-left-distinguishes-itself-by-continued-irrelevance-and-purges/

Anonymous said...

Best of luck to you Clare.

I was kicked out of the SWP after being a member for 10 years almost a decade ago, for reasons as trivial as this too, but to be honest it was the best thing that could have happened to me, both politically and personally.

I can understand why people cling to the hope that they belong to a disciplined and organised revolutionary party, but to be honest who would want to live in a world run like this? Would we call it socialism?

We all still have a world to fight for, a world better than this too

In Solidarity
Danny

SeanMI said...

Activism is an Art said:
The bolsheviks must have had a serious poster designer

Yes, they had several: Alexander Rodchenko, El Lissitzky, Lyubov Popova, Varvara Stepanova, the Stenberg brothers, and others from the Constructivist movement. The Bolsheviks were famous for their avant-garde poster designs, which revolutionised modern art and graphic design.

Of course, under Stalin those activist artists who wouldn’t toe the line and shift to state-sanctioned Socialist Realism were purged...

Anonymous said...

I think some posters should get this into perspective. The comrade has been expelled from the SWP. This does not mean that she is not wanted in the party and would refute such fantasy statements of her being 'purged'. However respected or 'important' a comrade is doesn't matter a jot if you don't adhere to party discipline. I know that people hostile to the SWP and democratic centralism may whoop at that but comrades know that when they join a revolutionary organisation, discipline must be kept. I think what has happened is unfortunate and commend the comrade for her public reaction to the expulsion, especially compared to the disgraceful antics of recently expelled comrades on this very post.
Conference will decide whether your expulsion should be upheld.

noel douglas said...

I think the nasty and underhand methods that were used to 'prove' her guilt actually do show she is not wanted in the Party, to be treated like that in the most unethical, Stalinist way disgusts me and many others regaradless of my own criticisms of what I think is a very weak and overly bureacratic leadership. You simply cannot do what they did and have any legitimacy, we all know there is a real problem with serious debate in the Party and all the CC members, and former CC members are to blame for the mess this is causing–it's disturbing to see people who I have had a great deal of respect for acting like paranoid cult members, she organised a cultural event that recruited member ffsake! HM have there conference this weekend, HM was a group that the CC at the time said must not happen, but now CC member write articles and speak at events for it.

Anonymous said...

When you are expelled you are not even allowed to attend public party events; if she was wanted in the party she could've simply been suspended from branch activity.

Also, she was not told to stop what she was doing: She was doing some interesting and energetic work and only afterwards was she told it was wrong. She didn't break discipline - no one told her to stop. So will the people who keep talking about discipline and the NC please stop it?

That's the problem. The people who blandly talk of expulsion as, essentially, "it wouldn't have happened if you'd done nothing wrong", are assuming that the party leadership - any party leadership - are right in all cases. But look at the way expulsions have been carried out in recent years: No proper hearings, secret evidence that the accused isn't allowed to see (or, isn't even told of the existence of) and is withdrawn after the expulsion so it can't be presented at appeal, whispering campaigns etc.

An honest leadership would place all evidence before the members, but what we've seen time and time again, from the 2007 expulsions to now, is that people are expelled based upon first a decision to expel and then the fabrication of the evidence to support it. Or worse, the application of standards to that person that are not applied to others.

No one who supports the leadership is being disciplined, despite some people doing far worse than Clare's crimes. There are serious allegations that are covered up, because the person is a loyalist. There is dubious political activity, bullying, deceit - but if it is done by a leadership loyalist, no one does anything. Send a bad email during a factional fight and you're out though.

luna17 said...

Following on from the previous comment: there's been an absolute paucity of evidence in both my case and in Clare's. In my own hearing there were a number of 'witnesses', but not one of them had anything concrete (emails, minutes of meetings, etc)to present as support for their remarks. This is also true of the Central Committee's presentation of its complaint. So it's all gossip, hearsay, speculation. I had - by contrast - submitted numerous items in advance (in my defence) and there were supportive written submissions from at least 12 local members (including a number who are not supporting the faction).

For anyone interested in justice and democracy within the party, it is surely essential that standards are lifted. Proper evidence is needed if a sanction as severe as expulsion is going to be applied. Differences should be addressed through political discussion, and alternative views need to be tolerated and respected. Crucially, there should be consistent standards, rather than differential treatment based on where you stand in internal poltical debates.

florence durrant said...

noel douglas said...

You make so much sense - thank you. Some of us are pawns caught in the middle. We are damned if we do and we are damned if we don't. I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the whole of CC, current and ex. I have attended meetings at SOAS organised by Clare and non members; and party comrades have made a good contribution. But I am someone who has been sidelined from all decision makings in the Party. I can blame individuals for that but I suppose it is because of my criticism of the lack of democracy and transparency in both the leadership and some districts.

So, this is not just about Clare. It is about the split in the CC. Party members are not responsible for the split as we all now know, and I have been open and honest in my criticism in some blogs of some CC members as I felt that was an opportunity to tell my side of the story. If Clare is penalised purely because of whose side she took, that will be tragic - hence all of us who know Clare support her and encourage to appeal against her expulsion.

Darren said...

Just out of curiosity, has anyone ever been expelled from the SWP and then been readmitted after an appeal?

florence durrant said...

Darren, personally i don't know anyone as my first experience of expulstion from the SWP was in the RESPECT debacle. However, this is not about precedence, it is about facts. I believe a Party like the SWP needs dynamic and innovate forward thinking individuals who are not driven by power, promoting self-interests, status or money. If in her appeal Clare is found not guilty, then she has to be reinstated.

Anonymous said...

Darren: yes

Darren said...

anonymous:

Could you expand on that?

Rosa Lichtenstein said...

I have tried to explain why this sort of thing has been happening on the far left now for well over a hundred years, here:

http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2009_02.htm

Anonymous said...

Claire
We chatted about this a couple of weeks ago just North of LSE (so you know who I am).

I don't agree with the Left Platform: I think John and Lindsey have the wrong analyses of what the party should be doing.

BUT speaking as one of those few comrades who came back after a disciplinary process, I think it's all wrong that you've been expelled.

I've been there and I know it's horrible.

If I get elected to conference, and I hope I will

There will be a report from the Control Commission and if no-one else does it first I personally will put a vote to rescind that part of its report which endorses your expulsion.

Harrods

florence durrant said...

Harrods, my words indeed. I had a brief chat today with a comrade who is on this Left Platform. One of the things I love about nursing is that we believe in informed choices, i.e. I give my patients all the information and details about a situation and they make their own informed choice/decision. Unfortunately, that has not been so in our Left politics. In my experience some comrades seem to think that socialism means keeping other comrades in the dark about issues that matter to them. This is what I mean by people insulting my intelligence. So, this is what this comrade said to me today;
"Clare's expulsion from the SWP is not about John Rees, it is about Clare's imaginative innovation not being accepted by the CC." Unfortunately our conversation was disrupted by this comrade saying 'This is not the place to discuss about Clare.' I think it is because we had started attracting some gossip mongers. I am a believe in innovation and imagination and I cannot stand a 'Yes Sir/Mum' kind of attitude to life.

Unfortunately, arguments always give me a migraine and hence I give thanks and take my hat off to the past 7 years in the SWP whose endless arguments caused me to have the mothers of all migraines. But a time has come for all of us to cut this crap of deliberate arguments for the sake of arguments. Our blogs are read by the whole world and I want the SWP to be a name to be proud of worldwide. How can that be when everyday someone is expelled for reasons unknown to the rest of the members? Clare has put her case on her blog and some of us who follow her blog share sympathy with her. Her supporters say it is not about John Rees. I don't support John Rees either, neither do I support the Left faction. My heart is in building a vibrant foward thinking and innovative revolutionary left alternative to mainstream politics with no sectarianism. So, I find that this whole business is sidetracking us from our real struggles. Is there a way to minimise this confusing situation? Here I mean - Can Clare and the CC get to the bottom of their disagreements and reach a consensus as it seems like we will never know the ins and out of this kafuffle. Our class struggle is more important than individual differences.

Green Gordon said...

I'm really struggling to see how people can defend this decision. Or is it a case of not rocking the boat so that they can one day join the Party elite. Very depressing. And this isn't being used as ammunition against the SWP, it is the symptom that has made people discouraged by the SWP.

Szygy said...

Just out of interest, there's one thing I don't get: why was the outcome different for James M? Why was it that you were expelled but he was not?

Anonymous said...

Oh for Heavens sake will you all just grow up

Solomon's Mindfield said...

Szygy: Not sure but I think they said that there wasn't enough evidence.

Anonymous 2 Dec 2209: Who are you telling to grow up? And why be anonymous if that is all you want to say?

Everyone else, thanks. My lips are sealed. I think I have said what needs to be said. If others want to then that is up to them.

Thanks for your support and lets hope Socialist Morality prevails.

Tom, SWP said...

I am very confused by this whole thing.

Why did you choose to carry out the meetings on Socialism and Culture under the banner of Mutiny, rather than SWSS?

And how do you respond to the claim that you dissolved SWSS at SOAS to build Mutiny?

What (although I think personal emails should not be used against you in this manner) was the content of the emails?

As far as I am concerned, I have seen you as an active revolutionary, and I feel it's a real shame to lose you from the SWP.

Yours,
Tom.

neprimerimye said...

Could I ask where you see yourself going politically? Do you see yoursef and your political friends as standing in the IS tradition and therefore identify as a Trotskyist or communist?

Solomon's Mindfield said...

I wasnt really planning on having a big discussion about this because I didnt want to break party discipline without realising (again)but since Tom has asked sensible questions i will endevour to answer, briefly.

neprimerimye: YES!

Tom: your 3 q's

1) The event was a cultural one called 'Money on Trial' not 'Socialism & Culture', but I guess that is not the main point. We did three 45 min discussion sessions: Music & Resistance, Green Money & the Government & our money (War, expenses, education etc)

You can watch the videos here: http://jointhemutiny.wordpress.com/blog/

It was done in the summer holiday, deliberately before students came back to ensure it didnt interfere with student work.

The organising team was about 50% SWP and 50% not so we did it as Mutiny (coz this is a great word to imply 'Mutiny against the system', or so we thought)

2) I have never heard this claim before!! It's funny how many conspiracy theories i have heard!

3) The content of the email was totally inocuous and was sent to 6 friends. Apparently this constitues 'factionalism'. I am unable to say more about this at the mo but I'm sure you will find out.

4) Thanks :-) I was really gutted. As far as I was concerned I thought I was doing what we should be doing. We were building for the Rage Against New Labour demo, we had invited Tower Hamlets strikers to speak, we asked some respected SWP to speak and we had LMHR CD's in every goody bag.

Like I said in my post, if they wanted me not to do it they should have argued, politically, not to do it.

When Colin S was student organiser he was always really good at patiently explaining why one should or should not do something. I am not one just to do something for the sake of it. My son and a few of his friends were involved and this, to me, was a good sign!

Anyway, I'm sure you will have more questions which I woould be hapy to answer so feel free to post more.

Thank you for your support and I hope to see you soon... C

Anonymous said...

I'm not so inclined to be as charitable to Tom as you are, Clare.

Re the "dissolving SWSS" - Tom, how do you respond to the charge that you simply pick up gossip and repeat it without first finding out if there was any truth in it? This is so typical of how party members operate during expulsions - they simply assume that they are given facts.

Put it this way, Tom - if you felt it was open to question, why didn't you say "Clare, some people are claiming that you dissolved SWSS to organise Mutiny - is that true?"

Your third point is the most depressing - why is it just "a shame" to lose Clare? Is that it? Is that all you can say? Is that all you will do? Won't you be fighting in your branch to get this ridiculous decision overturned? Won't you be offering Clare your full support?

Clare, I know you see supportive words in Tom's comment. But the truth is, Tom didn't even take the time to find out the truth. And there is clearly a major spin operation being run by organisers over your expulsion, to make sure that people lose sympathy for you.

This is how they work. It's how they operate.

And sadly, it's what John and Lindsey did to superb effect in 2007.

neprimerimye said...

But why do you hold that your faction is Trotskyist when it has a position on the Party that would effectively liquidate the organisation?

florence durrant said...

And sadly, it's what John and Lindsey did to superb effect in 2007.
7 December 2009 20:10

Guys, for the sake of Clare and her political future why can't we put this debate to rest? Clare is an adult, she has the support of her friends and comrades.
Annonymous, I don't doubt your assertion of what John and Lindsey did in 2007, but that has nothing to do with Clare. My experience with John and Lindsey dating back from 2003 has not been a nice one, but their behaviour has nothing to do with my today because both Lindsey and John are out of the CC, they are history and their influence in the Party has gone with them. Clare is a new babes in the Party, so comrades, let Clare fight her own corner and clear her name without bringing the likes of John & Lindsey into the picture. The SWP is not Lindsey and John, and I will be damned if anyone sacrifices his/her political future for these two people! Good luck Clare, the SWP is getting stronger today more than yesterday and part of the reason is the absence of John and Lindsey from the CC. These two are not worth fighting for because they never fought for anyone but themselves!

Jim Jay said...

Oh come on Florence - if Lindsey never fought for anyone but herself why was she allowed to be on the CC since, what, the early eighties?

I've got no brief for either J or L and I have plenty of criticisms for John in particular but whatever their faults you have to recognise they earned their place in the leadership of the party and certainly showed more tactical and strategic clarity than some of their fellow CC members who were entirely uncritical of them until it suited their purpose.

It doesn't mean you have to think they are nice people or never made a mistake - and John has certainly been guilty of hubris on many occasions, but the idea they were taking the party on a course it didn't want to go in just is not right.

florence durrant said...

Jim Jay, I was not around in the
80s, so I don't know how Lindsey earned her role in the CC. I have read some of her books and listened to her speak - there is dynamism in some of the things she wrote and said. I am not arguing against that. It is putting her arguments into practice that I am critical of. Like all those who listen to gossip from comrades, I have heard a lot of complaints of those expelled from the Party, and Lindsey and John are made reference to nearly all the time. I have also experienced what it is like to be on the wrong end of both L & J as you call them even though I have never held a conversation with either of them apart from hello and goodbye. Hence my reference to them is of today not the 80s and I base argument and criticism from a 7 year observation of both Lindsey and John.

My gripe with Lindsey is simple, 'Why fight for John and not others?' How many comrades have been witch-hunted or expelled from the Party in the past 7 years and how many times did Lindsey resign from the CC in their support? But she did with John, and went on to fight on his behalf despite the fact that John did something against the Party principles; something that both John and Lindsey would have supported expulsion if it was another comrade. That is not revolutionary politics, because real revolutionaries don't play family affairs with politics. What she did is undemocratic and extremely worrying for some of us who engage in these struggles in good faith. Fundamental principles were broken here and there is no excuse for that. Believe you me, I am not being vindictive or malicious because the proof is there for all to see. Lindsey should not have resigned from the CC on account of John, so why spend all efforts defending the indefensible?

Luna17 said...

Tom poses the charge that the SWP student group at SOAS was dissolved in order to build the Mutiny event instead. Pause and think about that one, before posting it here or repeating it anywhere else. The event was on 24 September. That's at the very start of term (or possibly before it). So, the process of organising and promoting the event was clearly during the long summer holidays, when a student group wouldn't be active anyway. This is obvious.

Also, there are lots of things SWP members have been involved in that haven't been organised under the SWP banner. It's normal - or used to be - for members of the party to collaborate with non-SWP members in events and initiatives of one sort or another. This is largely about reaching out to wider audiences, and developing co-operation with a range of activists and others on the left and in the movements.

florence durrant said...

Luna 17, I don't want to take your word as gospel, but if what you say about Clare is true, then I will go ape on behalf of Clare! When I joined the SWP in June 2003 I thought it was a charity or an NGO until a comrade I met at Marxism 6 days later explained what the SWP was all about. I filled in the membership forms during my lunch break in Hackney on the 30th June, by July I was carted off to the Kent District because I live in Kent and soon after that hell broke loose. All I did was invite the organiser to my house, and next thing I knew was this friend who explained what the SWP was all about turned against me.It took me a long time to realise that politics is shit unless you have comrades to explain the ins and outs and to stand up for you if you make a genuine mistake. I have been to hell and back for simply filling in forms and trusting people.

Tony Cliff's Building the Party is what it says, i.e reaching out to other networks beyond your little comfort zone. From what you say Luna 17, this seems to be what Clare was trying to do. So, if we disregard Clare's involvment in the Left faction, then I don't see any reason for Clare's expulsion from the Party. But I don't want to underestimate the influence of John and Lindsey in this case because I know that they were behind my annus horribillous. Even then, they also tried to pull me to their side when things turned upside down for them. Hence I can understand how people got involved with them to form the left faction. I don't know about Clare's experience and input in this left faction. My assumption therefore is that as an adult Clare knows what step to take next.

Solomon's Mindfield said...

I am not going to defend Lindsey or John on the basis of what either of them did or did not say on a Tuesday in 1995 or 2005.  In the same way as I am not going to defend myself, or continue to argue with Jonny J, for a heated (drunk!) argument we had in the pub a fortnight ago. We argued, we disagreed, we got over it and apologised to each other. 

Humans, being all too human, sometimes react to things in ways that may upset other people. Sometimes this is intended but usually not. Sometimes this is because of political necesity, sometimes because of stress, or one of the many other pressures that life imposes on us.  And sometimes even hardened political figures feel under attack and may, sometimes, be a bit defensive which may, sometimes, come across as being rude. And anger, well, that can come about for so many reasons.

And if someone is politically wrong then so be it. We do not get clarity of ideas by agreeing with everyone all the time.   

And sometimes the person on the receiving end of said, sometimes imagined, treatment may be the one in the wrong or have got the wrong end of the stick.

We are all too human, sometimes.

So, you see, I will not allow my piece of the internet to be used for personal attacks. Please keep it political and I will defend your right to disagree.    

I will also defend those who decided collectively that the most democratic way to have a disagreement with the Party was to form a faction. And I would even if I didn't agree with them. As I said in the original post, most people do not, for various reasons, have access to all the goings on in an organisation. This, in these days of the internet, should become less of a problem but in the meantime, if nothing else, every comrade (and others!) has much more of an opportunity to participate in the debate and will, through the various mtgs etc, be at least a little bit aware of the issues. 

That I support the (right of) the faction has nothing to do with personalities. This is a political issue. And a very difficult decision it was.  

neprimerimye said...

I too agree with the riht to form a faction. Indeed I hold that such a right ought not be limited to an artificial period of three months.

Far more importantly though I would argue that the very exisatence of the SWP as a Marxian communist group was placed in jeopardy by the actions of that part of the then leadership that sought to liquidate the group into the populist misalliance that was Respect.

As a result of that the misnamed Left Faction must be dealt with politically and have their politics exposed as being in contradiction with the basic concepts of Bolshevik Leninism.

Anonymous said...

Why the heck does anyone want to lower themself by hanging around with these self-important creeps? Sounds like a lucky escape! In a few years time you'll feel embarassed you were ever in the SWP. Real life starts here.

Anonymous said...

Clare

You joined a cult

The cult needs its followers to think the same way

You thought outside the box

The cult didn't like it

They kicked you out.

And now you are suprised!

Blimey and you are at University...

Kapitano said...

So the short version is:

* Clare Solomon was expelled for being a supporter/member of the so-called "Left Faction" - Rees, German and their gang of a few dozen

* The leadership trumped up some silly non-charges against her to do it. This is the leadership of the newly open, democratic SWP, apparently.

* Members of smaller, more cultish parties are using it as an excuse to call the SWP cultish.

Sounds like things haven't changed as much since Rees was deposed as some had suggested. I'm still in the SWP, but only because there's nothing better available.