"When Zinoviev is in the majority he is for iron discipline, when he is in the minority he is against it"
I resigned on Wednesday on my way to a Stop the War public meeting in Newcastle which I had been asked not to attend by the Central Committee ... I found this unacceptable. For the convenor of Stop the War to be stopped from speaking at a STW meeting by the party leadership would not be understood or agreed in the wider movement and I thought it would damage the SWP in the movement locally and nationally. I therefore asked if I would be subject to discipline if I went and if I was being instructed not to go. Although no firm answer was given, it was clear from correspondence with the National Secretary that the CC 'reserved the right' to take action against me.
I believe the CC was wrong in the particulars of this case, but that this reflected a more general political error.
The leadership's error was compounded by its reply to my resignation, when it glossed over these issues to assert that I resigned because I disagreed with the leadership and because of my membership of the Left Platform. That is simply untrue, and there is no logic in their statement that my resignation invalidated what I said at conference. I resigned because of their actions which I believe did a disservice to the movement. The assertion that there was no question of discipline is not true: the correspondence speaks for itself, as does the National Secretary's reply to my resignation letter.
Some people have said to me that such political differences should not need to result in resignation. However there are two other issues here. One is the abandonment of the methods of building pioneered by Tony Cliff, following Lenin and expressed most clearly in his 'Lenin: building the party'. Talk of bending the stick, seizing the key link in the chain or indeed polemical debate is frowned on in the present climate, and is definitely not practiced by the leadership. That it strikes me is a serious retreat from how we have built for all my political lifetime.
The second issue is the internal regime, which has deteriorated. There have been more expulsions and 'offers you can't refuse' in the past year than at any time since the 1970s. Any national meeting now seems to be open season for personal attacks on Left Platform members. The disputes committee session at conference was effectively an attack on me by leading members, even though I had been accused of no offence. The only LP member on the disputes committee was not allowed to attend the session, despite the fact that she had written a minority report ...
A leadership often not confident of its political arguments has resorted to gossip, innuendo and moralism. One of the claims about me was that I was 'standing by my man' because I agreed with John Rees politically. I wouldn't insult even a bourgeois politician with that. Again, my record should speak for itself. However, I have felt politically curtailed in recent months: all LP members who submitted journal articles had them rejected; none of us are ever commissioned to write reviews or articles in publications; I was not asked to speak at the women's school, despite having written and spoken more on theoretical questions on women than anyone else in the party. STW was not asked to speak at the RTW conference, despite backing it. Now the leadership attempting to curtail my STW work is a demand too far.
Some of the most swivel-eyed Reesites of two or three years ago have become the most vitriolic anti-Reesites of today. On the other hand, there were quite a few people in the Left Platform who were not personal worshippers at the shrine of the Power Couple, but just happened to agree with them. This included, for instance, people whose centre of activity was Stop The War, and who did feel that the leadership was winding STW down. The concentration of minority supporters in STW, including its national leadership, raised the possibility that it could become, or be seen by the majority as, what in Maoist parlance would be called a factional headquarters. Certainly, the North East organiser (who, not so long ago, would have regarded criticism of Lindsey German or John Rees as a serious disciplinary offence) appears to have treated it as such.
So, on the formal question of discipline, Lindsey disobeyed a direct instruction from the General Secretary, which in SWP terms didn’t leave her a leg to stand on. From a political point of view though, instructing the STW convenor not to attend an STW event because the people organising it were no longer members of the SWP (although they were members in good standing until very recently) does not look very good, and is not made more attractive by the fact that Lindsey herself would have been quite prepared to use that sort of pretext against dissidents in the past.
Which brings us to the schadenfreude issue. Lots of people don’t like Lindsey. In particular, lots of ex-members don’t like Lindsey, because the number of expulsions she was involved in runs easily into three figures. It wasn’t entirely unknown for Lindsey to instigate somebody’s expulsion at CC level, then sit on the Control Commission that would confirm the expulsion. Those with long enough memories will recall Lindsey’s role in the closure of Women’s Voice, where she operated as Cliff’s battering ram, being sent on a tour of the branches to make sure they voted the right way. (If they voted the wrong way they’d be rewarded with a return visit.) In that instance, she managed to browbeat the SWP Gay Group into voting for the closure of WV, only to be closed down themselves immediately afterwards. At the centre, she had a reputation for extreme personal hostility to anyone who crossed her. So we’re not talking about an innocent abroad here.
Lindsey German is a long-standing former CC member who has herself been on the control commission. She understands party discipline very well, and what was asked of her was no less than what she would have asked of any other party member. The people pretending to be scandalised on her behalf don’t sufficiently take the point that Lindsey would be the last person to be surprised by this.