SWP Conference - December 2013
Hundreds of delegates gathered at the Socialist Workers Party’s conference last weekend. The party’s national secretary Charlie Kimber writes on the way forward for revolutionaries
The SWP faces a big task to turn outwards and for members to make a renewed effort to strengthen our party after a difficult year.
Across the globe profound and sustained crisis will lead to repeated explosions socially, economically, industrially and politically.
There will be opportunities for revolutionaries to intervene. But this intensifies the need for a party that is capable of working with other groups but maintaining a revolutionary edge.
We have a battle plan going into the spring and summer (see below).
We will push for action in the trade unions and against the bedroom tax and the cuts. But we will also fearlessly take on the lies of the racists. We are the party that says the problem is not the Bulgarians or the Romanians, the problem is the Etonians.
They’re trying to divide the resistance, we are going to unite the resistance. It’s only going to be possible to deliver this battle plan if we have stronger branches and a stronger party.
Branch meetings need to address big political questions.
Districts and branches need to think about our public meetings. We’ve had a series of successful meetings on racism, resistance and revolution around the Say It Loud book.
And some areas held sucessful public meetings after Nelson Mandela’s death to discuss his life and politics.
Regularly winning new people is essential for a revolutionary party, and we have recruited around 800 people this year. But we also need to retain members and develop them. Structured educationals are important.
And there needs to be detailed attention to the nuts and bolts of the organisation.
We need to link this to increasing the sales of Socialist Worker and think how every comrade can get one or two more sales.
It would be foolish to pretend this has not been a difficult and divisive year for the party. We have seen very sharp internal discussions–and regrettably some people have left the SWP.
The conference passed overwhelmingly a motion that set out the political context of the divisions and the debates they have sparked.
And delegates passed near-unanimously a revised set of procedures for our disputes committee which looks at matters of discipline and conduct. We hope this will give every member confidence in the processes.
Furthermore the central committee (CC) made a statement that many people have suffered real distress as a result of taking part in or giving evidence to the disputes committee, or due to slurs on the internet and we are sorry to all of them for that.
Specifically two women who brought very serious allegations suffered real distress.
We are sorry for the suffering caused to them by the structural flaws in our disputes procedures, the way in which the two cases became a subject of political conflict within the party and slurs on the internet.
Delegates showed through the votes at conference that they did not believe the party and its leadership are sexist or trampled on the politics of women’s liberation or covered up injustice.
The group of CC candidates proposed by the outgoing CC won 449 votes. An alternative group of candidates proposed by a faction received 69 votes. Now the party needs to unite and move forward.
There will be lots of debate, but there will be a united party around the perspectives voted on by conference.
The working class faces immense challenges and attacks. But we can help increase and shape the resistance, and build socialist politics at the heart of every fightback.
A battle plan for building resistance and the revolutionary party
- The SWP will throw itself into fighting to raise the level of resistance locally and nationally in the workplaces. We will, for example, push for the teachers’ union leaders to deliver the strikes they have promised. We need many more strikes and for those strikes that do take place to be more effective. We want no repeat of the experience of Grangemouth.
- We will continue, alongside others, to build the Unite the Resistance (UTR) initiatives. There should be meetings to discuss the lessons of the struggle and where next for the union movement. UTR aims to create and develop networks of solidarity. We will be part of the launch of a campaign for justice for fast food workers alongside unions and MPs.
- We will continue to build the People’s Assembly and its actions— including the recall conference on 15 March and the budget day demonstration on 19 March.
- We are wholly committed to combating fascism, racism, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant scapegoating. In particular we will push strongly for the broadly-supported demonstrations against racism on 22 March. We will be part of the campaigns to kick out MEPs Nick Griffin in North West England and Andrew Brons in Yorkshire & Humberside.
- We want to continue the good start we have made in the colleges and universities. It’s exciting to see a resurgence of struggle among students—and we want to be at the heart of this. But we also need to continue our emphasis on ideological meetings and putting forward a clear socialist analysis.
- The campaigns against the bedroom tax, benefit cuts and other welfare assaults remain important. We need to think about our intevention in the election in May.
- There will be important political campaigns too, such as the independence referendum in Scotland. Through all this we will seriously work to strengthen our branches and increase the sales of Socialist Worker.
The dates of Marxism 2014 are 10—14 July in London
Central Committee motion to conference
1. That we have achieved real successes in the last 12 months, but this has been a difficult and divisive year for the party.
2. The December 2013 conference has to debate fully the contested issues in the party and then move forward united. There will continue to be constant discussion, but it will take place within the party rules and without permanent factions.
3. The immediate issues that have divided the party flowed from the Disputes Committee (DC) report at the January 2013 conference. But these have meshed with and highlighted a series of important political questions that have simmered inside the party for a decade or more.
1. That all the comrades involved in the DC hearings sought to apply our politics in a principled way at all times and tried honestly to do the best they could in the circumstances. All DC hearings have been conducted with integrity.
2. That our disputes processes can be improved and were shown not to be adequate to deal with the cases of sexual misconduct and their aftermath. We hope the review of the DC procedures will deliver a widely acceptable and credible process. We support the broad sweep of the DC review (subject to amendment by conference).
3. Many people have suffered real distress as a result of taking part in or giving evidence to the DC, or due to slurs on the internet.
4. The two complainants suffered real distress because of flaws in our disputes procedures and because of the way in which the two cases became a subject of political conflict within the party and on the internet. This was a collective failure that the SWP greatly regrets.
1. Our continuing total commitment to fighting against women’s oppression and for women’s liberation.
2. That this fight, like that against all forms of oppression, can only be won as part of a wider fight for the socialist transformation of society and an end to exploitation.
3. Our view that the key agency in winning such a transformation of society is the working class.
4. Our view that a party broadly within the Leninist tradition is a necessary part of winning that revolutionary change.
1. To call upon all comrades to go forward from this conference, to work together to rebuild trust and engage in comradely debate as we seek to test our ideas by putting them into practice together.
2. In order to strengthen a broader leadership and ensure more regular debate inside the party the National Committee should meet at least six times in 2014. We call on NC members to play their role in reporting back from the NC to branches in their own district and other districts which do not have NC members.
3. The existence of permanent factional organisation damages our ability to operate effectively as a party and must cease. Unless this conference votes to support permanent factions, any attempt to continue such factions outside a pre-conference period will lead to disciplinary action to defend the collective decisions of the party.
4. To publicise this motion widely inside the SWP and on the SWP website.
This was passed overwhelmingly
The conference also passed overwhelmingly a review of the party’s disputes committee processes. The review originated in a motion at the March 2013 conference which elected a body to look at the disputes committee procedures. It took suggestions from a very wide range of SWP members as well as consulting procedures used by other organisations.
The review body produced a report to the September meeting of the National Committee. This has been widely debated in the party and was then discussed at the recent national conference. After the discussion of amendments and a serious debate, the final review was passed with around 500 delegates voting for it, none against and two abstentions.
The full review of the party's disputes committee processes passed at the December 2013 conference can be seen here
For more reports from our conference click here