Open letter to Michael Rosen from the SWP Central Committee

Dear Michael,

We are sorry it has taken us so long to reply to your “open letter”. (It was only recently delta-force-posterbrought to our attention by a member who used the internet). We would now like to publicy respond and publicy apologise. It’s no secret that for many years we have benefitted personally and politically from your close asosciation with the SWP and its forerunner the International Socialists. It was useful that you used to read and sometimes wrote for our journals, and supported many of the campaigns we supported or initiated  over the years. Some of us have been personally friendly with you too.

It’s also no secret that we have now admitted the damage done to the SWP as the events unfolded around “Comrade Delta”. We now accept that this is not because people have assumed that he was guilty of what he was accused of. We understand that others people’s disagreement is based entirely on a view of the absurd and inappropriate procedures we followed.We now accept that we ended up putting the survival of the organisation ahead of the very principles that we advocate. For this we aplogise.

We now accept that the moment the accusation was made, all we needed to have done was to suspend Delta with ‘no prejudice’ on full pay. Our current proposals to ammend the Disputes Committee procedure demonstrate this. The right and proper thing for us to have done was to have interpreted that as suspension from all his activities for the SWP including organisations where the SWP works with others as with Love Music Hate Racism and United Against Fascism. We could and should have offered the accuser/accusers the best possible advice you could find – including legal advice. We aim to rectify this at our forthcoming conference, and the CC has already implemented some changes. (OK, it took a year and the loss of 500 members, but this shows that democracy really does work in the SWP and that the CC really does listen to its members). We accept that at that point, we didn’t need to conduct an inquiry or put into practice any kind of disputes procedure. All we needed to have done was wait. This would have behaving ethically and entirely in line with how any of our members would behave in a work situation. We now accept that there is no justification for the proposition that the SWP should behave in any way that is different from the kind of procedures that have been won by trade unions in workplaces in order to safeguard everyone involved in such situations. We apologise to comrades W and X for this as well as the wider movement.

We can now see that to good activists like you on the outside of the organisation have witnessed what looks like a mixture of incompetence and arrogance. We would like to apologise for the following:

1. Even though our whole direction as an organisation is to face outwards, we avoided giving honest accounts of what has been going on.We no longer think this is irrelevant or unnecessary and accept that this attitude was part of the problem. As you know , we’re very proud about presenting to the world a view on matters of sexual oppression, liberation and equality. As this case has unfolded, we have failed totally in overcoming the problem that what we say and how we have behaved don’t match up. We now accept that this was disastrous.

2. We can now see that despite our refusal to publicly even mention the word rape util 30th September 2013, those like you Michael on the outside can see that there have been mass resignations, suspensions and the formation and dissolution of factions. It was a mistake to present a face to the outside world of an organisation soldiering on, sure of itself, sure of its stand on everything, and indeed sure that it is the right kind of organisation. Frankly speaking,we know that this too has looked absurd. We have been in trouble. We have made things worse by pretending that you’re not

3. This leads us to the question of our structure. We can see that now is not the time for a socialist organisation to take the form that your organisation has. When IS became the SWP, we know Michael that you thought at the time that this was a mistake. You said that it was, if nothing else, presumptuous . You said it seemed to be a way of trying to create a leadership role (‘vanguard’, if you like) with the wrong personnel and at the wrong historical moment. Whatever the rights and wrongs of declaring ourselves to be the Socialist Workers Party, we feel that to change our name would be a mistake. We will however be examining both our structures, and the theory of the “vanguard party” over the coming period, and we will be taking on board many of the ideas of comrades inside and outside the party, including yourself.

4. Over the years, you’ve been keen to co-operate with individuals, journals, events and campaigns and you’ve have worked with Martin. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of other non-SWP people could say the same. If for no other reason than that this group of people have worked with him, we will give an account of what has gone on. We now accept that by not doing so, we treat you with arrogance and disrespect. We know it was wrong that you had to learn by rumour and internet chat thatmartin has resigned from the SWP. We see that that has an impact on how good people like yourself view the SWP, LMHR and the UAF. It is true that we thought that Delta’s intervention and presence in these organisations was significant so of course his sudden non-presence is just as significant. We know that we need to explain and account for all this. We know that if we don’t, howcould we expect to approach the outside world in the future?

5. To be clear, it is not the alleged behaviour of Martyn, it’s not the accusers’ behaviour, it’s not the behaviour of resigners, expellees or factions that has ‘infected’ our dealings with non-members or affected our standing in the world. It is solely our handling of an accusation that have caused our problems. In other words, all the time being we spent rooting out dissent, giving long lectures on the virtues of Magical Leninism, giving detailed accounts of why this or that faction have got it wrong, was utterly misspent. We now see that from the outside, it all looks like pissing in the wind – or worse – deliberate obfuscation or crap busywork, displacement activity.

6. Sometimes is has felt as if we are on the verge of imminent collapse. But we will not just carry on as we’ve been carrying on. Its true that we can seem to have boundless energy, producing documents and journals, running meetings and events, ‘getting on’ with taking part in campaigns. We accept that until we have dealt with this crucial matter, involving a key member of our organisation in an open and ethical way, most people on the Left such as yourself won’t be supporting events that are presented as SWP events. We fully accept that when we will bump into each other in campaigns, our comments on eg sexual oppression, liberation and equality will be looked at in a particular light. Our claims to be able to handle things with adeptness and insight will be up for scrutiny too. We know from our experience of the last year that plenty of people in the environment of campaigns will also raise an eyebrow about the nature of our organisation when it asks for support but was unable to fulfil the basic minimum when it came to an affair like this. We hate the term, but this whole matter has raised questions for many about our ‘core values’ (!).

7. Once it became clear that our organisation had screwed up, all we needed to have done was say, “we screwed up”. Then, we could and should have quickly put into place the procedures that people follow in workplaces and announced that that was what we had done. Now will aim to set up a discussion process which will examine why and how an our organisation espousing our views on sexual oppression, liberation and equality could have got it so wrong.We plan to continue that discussion on how to get it right in future. We all make mistakes. There is absolutely no reason why the SWP shouldn’t have made a mistake. That’s not the issue. The issue is how we handle a mistake when we make it. We apologise for anguish caused to so many people due to our slowness to recognise this.

8. We accept that many people are saddened by what’s happened and find it depressing to think that people who valued our opinions watched us walk into this thorn-bush and go on entangling ourselves with it in the most ludicrous ways and still not to be able to find a way out of it, even though the key figure in it all has walked away from it. We apologise for this and hope to be able to unentangle ourselves.

9. Throughout this whole affair we’ve seen aspects of a “my party right or right” state of mind when reading what SWP loyalists have written. That’s to say, ‘if we concede that we’ve got something wrong with this Comrade Delta affair, this will only bring comfort to the enemy…so even though something’s not right, loyalty comes first’. Or put another way: ‘if the Daily Mail are saying that we got it wrong, we’ll have to say that we’re getting it right’.

All we can say is that there comes a point at which this kind of view is not only unhelpful, it becomes dangerous. To put it another way: it brings ideas and views that I think are valuable and necessary into disrepute. International capitalism can only offer inequality and war. It can develop ‘production’, it can develop ‘the economy’ but only by enriching tiny minorities, while dividing and impoverishing millions of others. An inevitable part of that is a state of permanent war. Trying to move from this status quo has been a project that has so far failed. No single person, no single organisation, no single country has the solution to this. There is no point in pretending that any group does. We now propose that what follows from this is that it is less necessary to recruit people to this or that organisation and much more important to develop the ideas and actions which enable people to see that this status quo is not necessary or inevitable. People are entitled to examine us and ask us if we can suggest anything better. If, at the heart of what we’re doing, there are things going on that are indefensible or plain wrong, we have to say so, or we go backwards. We think this last year is a good example of going backwards.

Are we sorry? You bet we are.

Central Committee of the Socialist Workers Party, October 6th 2013

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