11 Apr 2011

Chris Bambery resigns from the SWP

Saw this on Alex Snowdon's blog including Chris Bambery's resignation letter.

To be honest while I have criticism of the SWP, generally they seem to have been doing good work, I have been very impressed with their support for climate action which has not been about parachuting in but long term steady work where people like Jonathan Neale and Martin Empson have worked cooperatively with Green Party members like me.

Some of their student activists like Chaz Singh and Mark Bergfeld have also really impressed me.

Locally SWP members out here in Berkshire are excellent and great to work with.

It's difficult to judge the contents of Chris's letter, although I thought he was good at the Coalition of Resistance conference last November.

I think far left parties need to rethink, radical social change from the grassroots is emerging amongst students and young people, there is an interest in Marx but little in enthusiasm for traditional left political parties.

To be fair to the SWP, all political parties have internal disputes and people resign.

In the past long standing members of the Green Party sometimes resign but generally people outside parties don't take much notice....the SWP for good or ill gets a lot of attention because so many people on the left were at one time members.

Incidentally I have been a Green Party member since 1980, I have not been tempted to join a far left party, although I have a strong left politics....I do think a lot of people in parties like the SWP, CPB, etc do very good work and are open to new thinking.

Without getting into a blog comments war, I would value peoples thoughts....what is this all about?


skidmarx said...

To start with, this isn't really likely to rock the SWP.
Generally seen as a bit of a hard nut, though I saw him very relaxed a couple of times , so can attest he has a human side.

I'm not entirely sure about the ethics of printing letters not intended for public consumption, though if this comes via Alex Snowdon's blog one might speculate that he's linking up with the Counterfire crew, which wouldn't necessarily invalidate his criticisms, but might set them in an unfavourable context.
It might be worth mentioning that he was in the IMG before the SWP, so it isn't the only far left tradition he's familiar with. Did always seem to be permanently on-message with what the SWP was saying, so it can't be said it's not a bit of a shock and a bit sad.

Eamonn said...

Who gives a monkey's? Trying to build the SWP is like trying to fill the bath with the tap full on and the plug out. They have been playing this splits and fusions thing since they were founded (but without the fusions)
I would remind would remind Chris Bambery of what Tony Benn said when he left Parliament "I want to spend more time on politics"

bat020 said...

The SWP CC's initial response to Bambery's letter is online here (you'll have to scroll down a bit): http://www.swp.org.uk/party-notes

Derek Wall said...

I will blog it up!

Calum said...

Derek, you ask "what is this all about?". This followed your comment about far left organisations, so I'd like to refer readers here to an analysis of what living in a damaging organisational form can do to its participants.

Too often far left groups have a cult-like form & practice. Bambery's resignation, following those of other prominents & less well-known members, can usefully be seen in the light of the work of Dennis Tourish.

Tourish raises issues that are experienced, known, but hardly ever discussed. The results are repeated failures of small groups and, crucially, a production line of disenchanted & harmed militants.

Please read Dennis Tourish, "Ideological Intransigence, Democratic Centralism & Cultism: A Case Study" & his intro to it, both @ www.whatnextjournal.co.uk (access via index).

It is penetrating, hitting the nail on the head. It should be given by each far left group to each new contact & each current member. Transparency forewarns.

Derek Wall said...

thanks, while I agree with this kind of analysis I don't think it can be reduced to it.

I also get the impression that Chris Bambery was more authoritarian than some of his critics.

So he is not in revolt against this kind of stuff.

Calum said...

Tourish was a member of Irish Militant 1974-85, 6 years as a full-timer. His paper is mostly on Militant, with some discussion of a US Maoist self-criticism group.

Tourish focuses on 6 features:
rigid beliefs
authoritarian inner-party life
leaders acting arbitrarily
deification of leaders


Please tell others who would benefit from reading & discussing Tourish's analysis.

Tourish also co-authored with Tim Wohlforth "On the Edge", which also covers Fred Newman and Healy (excerpts @ amazon.com - but not @ .uk). It's reviewed by Bob Pitt in What Next?

Derek Wall said...

All good, bare in mind while I am not a Leninist and definately not an advocate of cartoon authoritarian versions of this model, I do lots of work with people in Leninist parties who are increasingly aware of this kind of critique and want to do something different.

I do think at least some people in the SWP want to do a more fluid, less top down and more effective left politics.

but to repeat I really don't think this is Chris Bambery's line of thinking (alas).

Calum said...

Derek, I only mentioned Tourish's paper coz it provides a context for what's just happened (& I think it should be better known).
I don't know Bambery but the vid u posted allows an impression to form.
As you implied, I think the NPA's intention & some of their current difficulties show that creating a more pluralist organisational life is quite difficult for those coming from a democratic centralist tradition when the new org'n is much more heterogeneous in personal histories & expectations. I just hope the NPA doesn't prematurely explode.

Derek Wall said...

thanks Calum, pluralism is something which can be difficult to achieve and I appreciate the suggestions for reading.

PaulB said...

"I do lots of work with people in Leninist parties who are increasingly aware of this kind of critique and want to do something different."

From the little I have seen of it, this analysis hits the nail on the head, and is a really useful thing for all on the left to use to revise their practise now that 1968 is upon us. Whoops!

john matthews said...

Derek says swp and other far left party's open to new thinking that sounds like wishful thinking.

Derek Wall said...

You could be right John but you never know, I agree some caution is necessary