Socialist Worker

Are the SWP vampires on the movement?

by Matthew Cookson
Published Sat 17 Feb 2001
Issue No. 1735

One of the most exciting developments of the new anti-capitalist movement is how it has brought together all sorts of people with differing views about how to change the world. This has been seen most recently in Britain with the Globalise Resistance counter-conference tour. Environmentalists, socialists, anarchists and many others have come together to discuss how to take on the power of the corporations.

Yet a minority of groups and individuals have been highly critical of socialists, particularly the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). A leaflet handed out by a few anarchists at some of the counter-conferences accused the SWP of being 'vampires' and parasites of the movement. 'The SWP has a long history of seizing on every new 'issue' or movement and trying to dominate it, recruiting who they can and then moving on to the next big thing,' the leaflet said.

Yet let's take a closer look at what the leaflet is saying. It accuses the SWP of involving itself in every issue or movement. Absolutely. We are proud of being involved in many issues, whether it is the anti-capitalist protests in Prague, Nice or Davos, building support for London tube workers or the Dudley hospitals workers fighting privatisation, for the Vauxhall workers fighting for jobs, or against racist attacks.

We want to involve the widest numbers of people as possible in each campaign. But we also want to connect up the different struggles against different horrific effects of the system in order to make the fight against capitalism more effective and powerful. Every campaign, no matter how big or small, brings people from different political backgrounds together against some aspect of the system. Some of those involved are influenced by some of the myths thrown at us daily in the media, which always tries to present issues as if there were no connections between them.

Many people and groups will have contradictory ideas about the world, and about how we take the movement forward.

So some people involved in the developing anti-capitalist movement, for example, passionately condemn Third World debt but do not necessarily see a connection between debt and war. As socialists we always try to make the connections. So we argue that the military might of NATO acts as debt collector for institutions like the IMF and World Bank.

The capitalist system which condemns millions to die because of debt repayments and austerity measures imposed by the IMF and World Bank is the same system which has given us slavery and racism, sexism, inequality and war. We see the need to fight the whole organisation of a society where a tiny minority own and control all the wealth and what gets produced. The anarchist leaflet also accuses the SWP of trying to control and direct the 'resistance of the oppressed'. It says that a revolutionary party as is 'much our enemy as the bosses'.

Instead the movement should have 'no leaders giving us orders, just mutual aid and solidarity between groups and individuals'. But in every new movement there is a battle of ideas about which direction the movement should take.

So in the anti-capitalist movement individuals have already come to the fore as 'thought leaders' who have taken the movement forward. People like Susan George, Naomi Klein, Walden Bello and José Bové have become widely known as symbols of resistance. The aim of a party like the SWP is not to lecture people from on high or to deliver change on behalf of people.

It is to organise the most militant sections of society so that we can convince and involve even wider layers of people in the struggle to change the world. We want a network of militants and activists who argue for socialist ideas, organise in their workplace, colleges or schools, and push for struggles to go further against the system.

We are for democracy and debate inside the movement, but we also see the need to be organised in order to centralise our forces to fight against the real vampires – the capitalists.


Article information

What Socialists Say
Sat 17 Feb 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1735
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