Marxism 2013, twenty-five years since the event at which I joined the SWP, was dominated by comradeswith a variety of views fervently believing they were defending their party and our tradition
from eachother. There is clearly a risk of our party continuing to tear itself apart, despite the shared desire to build alarge, principled, active and rooted organisation of revolutionary socialists.Duncan Hallas once reminded comrades that if you want to win an argument, you should focus on the
strongest arguments of your opponents. It’s easy to score debating points, stoke divisions and gainpopularity on your “side” by focussing on
sloppy formulations on secondary issues by your opponents, butthis will only irritate anyo
ne who doesn’t already agree with you –
it won’t win anyone over.
I spent a lot of time at Marxism listening to and talking to people with whom I don’t agree. If I can’t
understand where they are coming from, I have no chance of persuading them. This article aims to bust afew myths in the hope that comrades on all sides of the debates can focus on the central issues.
The faction’s position on Marxism and Doctor Who
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but the opposition does not have a position on Doctor Who, d
espite this beingone of the most popular meetings at Marxism.
It’s necessary to make this point because of widespread misconception about what the opposition is. Manycomrades who haven’t been involved in the opposition seem to think that it has (or ough
t to have) positions
on a wide variety of questions. I keep hearing “the opposition thinks this” or “they think that”
connection with views that I don’t share.
Comrades need to be clear, this web site was set up by people in the opposition to facilitate debateshappening in and around the party
, not as a platform for a faction. I don’t agree with everything that people
have written on it, and I doubt that anyone else does. Articles by Ian Birchall and Alex Callinicos have bothbeen linked on here
do they secretly agree? Articles on this web site have names on them for a reason
they reflect the views of the individuals whowrote them and not necessarily anything more. The web site has facilitated open political debate
something every comrade should welcome. A political culture where comrades daren't ask a question or say what they think because they are afraid of being wrong and where repeating half-understoodorthodoxies is the "safe" option is no use for developing Marxism and no use for developing ourselvespolitically.Within the opposition, just as throughout the rest of the party, you will find comrades who are wrong about awide range of questions. Comrades interested in "opposition bashing" get frustrated that they can't identifya general alternative political viewpoint to attack. This leads them to either attack us all on the basis of what one or two comrades might have said, or to denounce us as politically incoherent. The opposition is
politically diverse precisely because it is
a generalised opposition preparing for a split, but is a broadgroup of comrades who share little more than a desire to end the crisis afflicting the party on a principledbasis that allows us to build in the future.
So what is the opposition?
At the end of the 10 March special conference, the In Defence Of Our Party (IDOOP) faction wound up. Iwas amongst those who argued for this. I thought the party could hold together until the pre-conferenceperiod and that the debates which the special conference had agreed should take place would allow aperiod of political clarification. I thought former IDOOP supporters could look after each other through whatwas bound to be a difficult period. I thought it likely that the pre-conference period would see one or morefactions around positions developed through those debates (not necessarily following the boundaries of
IDOOP v “loyalists”)
.By the end of April it was clear that I and others who had argued similar positions had been wrong. Littlehad been done to get the debates going. Many former IDOOP members had been left isolated and notlooked after. The party had lost hundreds of members, including most of our student groups. Theexperience of those who remained was uneven, but the atmosphere in parts of the party was so bad that itwas impossible for former IDOOP members to ask a question or disagree about anything without being