“Sorry” seems to be the hardest word!

Dear Alex….

I was just wondering how your parents and schoolteachers brought you up.

young CallinicosWhen I was just a little boy, my parents would insist that whenever they caught me doing something wrong – whether accidentally or on purpose – I had to say “sorry”.Before they reach three years, most children struggle with meaningful apologies, though learn that “sorry” is what adults want you to say when you’ve done something wrong. But by the time the child is three, they are beginning to understand how an apology can help make amends. Sometimes its harder to apologise when the mis-deed or hurt caused was accidental. But a four year old can understand that it can be the right thing to do.
One parent-advice site puts it like this
Apologizing helps your child accept responsibility for a wrong and provides a tool to make things right again. It helps the child dig himself out of a hole. It clears the air, helps heal the relationship, and gives it a new beginning.

As I grew up, I found that I was able to apologise without prompting. As an adult, I find myself apologising to my own children, to my parents, my colleagues, and friends. I used to regularly apologise to my SWP branch for rude or sarcastic e-mails. Now I apologise on facebook for not researching properly or when a satirical piece is taken the wrong way.

So Alex.

What the hell is the matter with you?

Why are you and the rest of the Central committee intent on splitting the SWP over a infantile refusal to say the word “sorry”?

Who else finds it so hard to say sorry?

1 Car Drivers after an accident.

According to insurance companies, hardly a model for revolutionary organisations, you should never apologise after a crash even if you were the sole cause.…….stop the car. Do not apologise or admit fault and take the name…..” says one. [LINK]. (Though in Some states in the USA have laws that prevent a plaintiff from using an apology as evidence of liability.)

2 The Military-Establishment

Again, hardly a model for revolutionaries. But saying “sorry” is seen as a complete no no for the average general. Its as if they admit mistakes and apologise, the troops may question all orders. Hence the 90 year wait for the British to apologise to those shot for desertion during the senseless carnage of the First World War. Or the Japanese reluctance to the sexual enslavement of hundreds of thousans of Chinese and Korean teenage girls and young women during the 1930s and early 40s. Or the point blank refusal of Bush and Cliton to apologise for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

There are exceptions.Recently Obama apologised for the loss of civilian life in Afganistan at the hands of US drones, though this was widely seen as a ploy to improve relations with the Afghan rulers and secure a role for the US miltary beyond 2014.

3 The Political Establishment

Until recently, an apology was almost unheard of in the world of politics. The Australian government hit the headlines in (2008) with a public apology to the The Australian “Aboriginal” population. The US senate recently tied itself in knots over how to apologise for slavery without saying sorry. Similar mumblings have been heard from th e British Establishment regarding the million who died int the Irish Famine.

On a smaller scale, politicians, top civil servants and media bosses have become master of the “non-apology apology”. These people, again, hardly a model for democratic revolutionaries, play a ludicrous game of

  1. Never admitting mistakes

  2. Claiming everything as a success

  3. In extreme circumstances, using a non-apology apology

The politicians guide to how be seen to apologise without saying “sorry”

Alex, perhaps this is something you are considering.

Firstly, express regret. Everyone can agree on this – that bad things are bad ; and that it would have been better if they’d never happened. At this stage its best to be totally vague about what is regretted. This also avoids the idea of anyone being responsible or accountable.

Secondly, if the expression of regret is not enough, then it is permissible to say that “mistakes were made”. Once again, it’s important to be vague about what mistakes, and avoid any notions of responsibility or accountability. It also implies that the “mistakes” were accidental; that there was no deliberate intent behind the mistakes, almost like a spot of bad weather.

Thirdly, the word “sorry” can be used as a last resort, but even here it is possible to avoid intent, responsibility, and blame. The wording must include the phrase “if I offended anyone”, as this allows the magic “sorry” word to be used while simultaneously implying that the victim is really to blame for being offended. Once again, it absolves everyone of any responsibility and any need to learn from un-named mistakes.

Lessons from the German IST

Most SWP members, unlike yourself I presume as its “International Secretary”, knew nothing of the rape allegations against Central Committee members of the SWP’s sister organisation in Germany in 2001. How those allegations divided their organisation into three camps, and how the organisation surved a split and rebuilt are of course interest to us in Britain, though in your silence , perhaps you expect us to beileve that you too were ignorant.

So just in case you really knew nothing, thanks to a then leading members blog post, you will see that there are some striking parallels from which we can all learn.

Initially, as the truth of the allegations slowly came out to the rest of the group, the younger members exited.

Florian, wrote last year how the initial opposition to the CC were

motivated by a sense of moral outrage…. they presented a series of ultimatums that could not be won in the immediate term and left the organisation shortly thereafter. Although they originally insisted that they would stay in the organisation and fight over the long haul, the combination of moral outrage (which quickly developed into a deep hatred of the CC) and demands presented as ultimatums fed a logic of escalation that led the[m] out of the organisation and later into a political desert.”

Those who stayed, but organised as a faction to fight for big changes to be made, also followed a familiar path

They allowed themselves to be cajoled back to the side of the leadership through a series of minor compromises and promises on the part of the CC.” Addressing the SWP Opposition in 2013, Florian writes “This price of such a move on your part would be further stagnation and decline of the SWP, not to mention the loss of hundreds of disappointed comrades. The only thing that can prevent the exit of these comrades is to offer them the prospect of a long-term fight in the SWP for the SWP.”

So Alex, say “Sorry”, Unite the Party and Save the SWP!

Everybody now agrees that the original Disputes Committee report into the rape allegations against the SWP ‘s National Secretary was not acceptable. Indefensible in fact. The inadequacy of the procedures, an issue many left the SWP over, has now been accepted by all. So have all the other demands of the opposition.]It would not take much to go a little further than the expression of “regret” and talk of how we would’ve “done things differently” if given a chance to turn back the clock.

Nobody wants to leave an organisation and the friendships that often go with it, which many have spent much of their adult life a part of. As Florian wrote last year “Building up revolutionary organisations – even small ones – can take years, if not decades. Destroying them only takes a matter of weeks.

So just say it.

Say “Sorry”, to the two women who were left wanting healing and justice by inadequate procedures and bureaucratic control freakery.

Say “Sorry” to the Disputes Committee who should never have been put in the position they were.

Say “Sorry” to all those members who were driven out, suspended, expelled, or told to leave in order to keep the allegations under wraps.

Say “Sorry” to all those women and male survivors inside and outside the SWP who’ve had to relive their own nightmare.

Say “Sorry” to the rest of the Left, who’s ideas and organisations have been tarnished by the allegations, the cover-up, and the cover-up of the cover-up.

Say “Sorry” to all those members who’ve been shouted at, sworn at, called “scab”, told to shut up, lied to, denied democratic rights, spat at etc during the desperate attempt to maintain a pretence of perfect leadership.

Do you really want to split the SWP because you won’t say sorry?

Do you really want to drive yet more out of the SWP because you won’t say sorry?

Is that really how you want to go down in history?

As the leadership of an infantile disorder


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