Chris Bambery, a long-term leader of the Socialist Workers' Party (a large UK far-left group) has resigned with a parting shot that claims that "relentless factionalism in the organisation, driven by the leading group on the CC [Central Committee], shows no sign of ceasing and is doing enormous damage to the party . It is a cancer eating away at its heart."
The official response from the SWP claims that Bambery was "spreading information about internal CC discussions to those outside the CC".
It's an interesting organisation where this is considered a crime! Yet it's pretty normal in far-left organisations from a Communist or Trotskyist background. The leadership are expected to be able to discuss in private so they can talk about the membership candidly. That is, behind the backs of the people who they are supposed to represent, er, I mean lead.
Transparency and accountability exist in form but not in content when this becomes a norm of the organisation. As I've been arguing for some time about these supposedly "Leninist" far-left groups, the CC or equivalent acts as a permanent, secret faction that monopolises the leadership bodies and uses the party structure to implement it’s own line on the membership from above.
Even nominally democratic elections cannot shake such a clique, because to create a coherent alternative to the existing leadership, the culture of discussion in the party must allow alternative currents of thought to develop their ideas. Instead, they are usually treated as a threat to be shouted down immediately in the “democratic” discussion of party life.
I don’t know if this is how Chris Bambery and his supporters now sees the “factionalism” he talks about, but I hope people start to question this method of “leadership building” that relegates the mass of the organisation to followers and footsoldiers.
This undemocratic methodology has paralysed the far left in the face of new developments. It is part of the sectarian mindset according to which groups set up controlled front organisations instead of uniting with other campaigners, or distribute party propaganda instead of campaign material. It has also paralysed the ability of the membership to have intelligent discussion, because not only must you speak the party line, you also can only think the party line (or leave) in this environment.
The verticalist leadership-building methods of so many far left “Leninist” groups have turned them into a phenomenon that practically requires cult de-programming. It’s sad. We can do better than that in the fight for a better world. Most people join the far left because they want a better world: in many cases, we need better organisations as a first step!