Socialist Workers Party (Britain)

Socialist Workers Party (Britain)

party_name = Socialist Workers Party
party_articletitle = Socialist Workers Party (UK)
leader = Collective leadership (Central Committee)
foundation = 1950 / 1977
ideology = Revolutionary socialism, Trotskyism
position = Far left
international = International Socialist Tendency
european = European Anticapitalist Left
europarl = "none"
colours = Red, White, Black
headquarters = London
website = []

The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is the largest political party of the far left in Britain that stands in the revolutionary socialist tradition.

It has been part of the Respect coalition, an electoral alliance with one MP (George Galloway, not a member of the SWP) and a small number of councillors (several of whom,Fact|date=February 2007 including Michael Lavalette, are members of the SWP). However, there has recently been a schism within Respect between a faction headed by Galloway (Respect Renewal) and a faction led by the SWP (Left List). In Scotland, the SWP existed as a platform of the Scottish Socialist Party, but in August 2006 it decided to split from the SSP in order to pursue a new political grouping with Tommy Sheridan. [Mike Gonzalez, [ "Great opportunity to move forward in Scotland"] , "Socialist Worker", 26 August 2006] To that end, the Socialist Workers Party in Scotland now constitute part of the new electoral coalition Solidarity.

The SWP has an industrial department, which co-ordinates its work within the working class movement and a student section, named the Socialist Workers' Student Society that has groups at numerous universities. It participates in a number of united fronts, most notably the Stop the War Coalition. On the international level, it leads the Trotskyist organisation the International Socialist Tendency.


The SWP publishes a weekly newspaper "Socialist Worker", a monthly magazine, "Socialist Review" , and a quarterly theoretical journal, "International Socialism". In addition it publishes an international bulletin and an internal bulletin "Party Notes", various pamphlets and books (often through its publishing house, Bookmarks), and with others its publishes a number of rank-and-file newspapers, such as "Post Worker", [ [ "Post Worker"] website.] for specific industries.


The leadership is formed by a central committee of around 10, and a national committee. Elections to the central committee are held yearly at the national conference. As of 2006 the central committee members are: Chris Bambery, Weyman Bennett, Michael Bradley, Alex Callinicos, Lindsey German, Chris Harman, Chris Nineham, Moira Nolan, John Rees, Martin Smith and Candy Udwin. [ [ "Central committee elections"] , "Socialist Worker", 14 January 2006]

The national committee consists of 50 members elected annually at national conference. At least four party councils a year are to be arranged by the central committee. At these councils 2 delegates elected from each branch plus the national committee will be entitled to attend. [ [ "Post conference bulletin"] , Socialist Workers Party, January 2006]

Other prominent members include: John Molyneux, Paul McGarr, Michael Lavalette, John Rose, Ian Birchall, Mike Gonzalez, Judith Orr and Pat Stack.


The Socialist Review Group

The origins of the SWP lie in the formation of the Socialist Review Group (SRG) which held its founding conference in 1951 [ "History of the International Socialists" – "Part 1: From Theory to Practice"] , Ian H. Birchall, (originally published in) "International Socialism" 76 (1st series), March 1975] . The group, initially of only 8 membersTony Cliff, [ "A World to Win"] , Chapter 3, Bookmarks, 2000.] was formed around Tony Cliff's analysis of Russia as a bureaucratic state capitalist regime and were expelled from the Revolutionary Communist Party. Three documents formed the theoretical basis of the group: "The Nature of Stalinist Russia", [ [ "The Nature of Stalinist Russia"] , "RCP Internal Bulletin", 1948.] "The Class Nature of the People's Democracies" [Tony Cliff, [ "The Class Nature of the People's Democracies"] ] and "Marxism and the Theory of Bureaucratic Collectivism". [ [ "Marxism and the Theory of Bureaucratic Collectivism"] ] [Jim Higgins, [ "More Years for the Locusts"] , Chapter 3, IS Group, 1997.]

The tiny size of the group meant that they adopted a position of working in the Labour Party in order to reach an audience and recruit. Of particular importance was the Labour League of Youth. Of the 33 members at the first recorded meeting, 19 were in the LLY.

Through campaigning within the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the new Labour Party youth movement the Young Socialists the Socialist Review Group was able to recruit among a new generation of activists and by 1964 had a membership of 200.

"Labour Worker" and International Socialism Group

The paper "Industrial Worker" was created in 1961, and was quickly renamed "Labour Worker" before evolving into "Socialist Worker". "Socialist Review" was reduced in size and then scrapped. [Jim Higgins, [ "More Years for the Locusts"] , Chapter 7, IS Group, 1997.] The Socialist Review Group became the International Socialism Group (IS) at the end of 1962.

With the Labour Party in power, and many Labour members becoming disillusioned, IS started doing more work that was external to the Labour Party. After 1967, few IS members were active in that party. In 1965, an article in "Labour Worker" said "Obviously Marxists should take those positions which give access to the direct workers’ organisations. But in the wards and GMCs the practice of buying the right to discuss politics by over-fulfilling the canvassing norms, should cease or be reduced to the minimum."

It marked a turn to more of a focus on work in the trade unions, and a key part of this process was the pamphlet published in 1966: "Incomes policy, legislation and shop stewards", which opposed the Labour Party's incomes policy and discussed how it could be fought. [Tony Cliff & Colin Barker, " [ Incomes policy, legislation and shop stewards] ", London 1966.]

1968 saw the IS heavily involved in the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign and large numbers of student struggles from which it recruited [ [] ] . As a result the IS grew from 400 to 1,000 members but also suffered many splits.Tony Cliff, [ "A World to Win"] , Chapter 4, Bookmarks, 2000.]

The early 1970s saw the creation of rank and file newspapers and a general turn to industry, including setting up factory branches Ian Birchall: [ "History of the International Socialists" – "Part 2: Towards a revolutionary party"] (originally published in) "International Socialism" 77 (1st series), April 1975] . During the 1972 miners strike, "Socialist Worker" was taken and sold by miners.Jim Higgins, [ "More Years for the Locusts"] , Chapter 11, IS Group, 1997.] Between March 1972 and March 1974, the membership of IS increased from 2,351 to 3,310, and also recruited a large number of manual workers into membership. With hindsight, Tony Cliff concluded that the years 1970-74 had been "the best years of my life". [Tony Cliff, "A World to Win", Bookmarks, London 2000, p. 124.]

Labour in power, the SWP formed

In 1974 Labour returned to power and introduced the Social contract which implemented a voluntary incomes policy, with the backing of many left wing union leaders such as Hugh Scanlon and Jack Jones. This period also saw an increase in the number of full time union convenors and these factors along with an increase in unemployment have been blamed by Tony Cliff and the SWP for a drastic fall in union militancy [Tony Cliff, "A World to Win", Chapter 6, Bookmarks, 2000.] . In 1974 the IS was ambitious and optimistic [Tony Cliff, "A World to Win", Bookmarks 2000, p. 132.] expecting to double the number of factory branches over the year. In practice they declined swiftly from 38 in 1974 to only three or four by 1976. When the firefighters went on strike in 1977 against the Social Contract the IS was unable to deliver any significant solidarity. The national rank and file movement fell apart. In 1976 the SWP decided to stand in parliamentary by-elections but the results were very poor and the original idea of standing in 60 seats at the next election was dropped. [Tony Cliff, "A World to Win", Bookmarks 2000o, p. 142.]

In January 1977 IS was renamed the Socialist Workers Party. This decision was a result of the move to stand in elections along with a perception that: "IS’s ability to initiate activity, rather than simply join in movements launched by others, had never been greater. Industrially, there were more members than ever able to lead disputes in their own workplaces." [Ian Birchall: [ "The Smallest Mass Party" - "Part 3: Facing the crisis", SWP 1981.] According to Martin Shaw this occurred with no real discussion within the organisation [Martin Shaw: [ "From the International Socialists to the SWP"] , "Socialist Register 1978".] and Jim Higgins has claimed "Its founding was for purely internal reasons, to give the members a sense of progress, the better to conceal the fact that there had actually been a retreat."Jim Higgins, [ "More Years for the Locusts"] , Chapter 14, IS Group, 1997.]

Anti-Nazi League and Rock against Racism

Another campaign to which the SWP was central at this time was the Anti-Nazi League (ANL). The National Front (NF) had grown in the 1970s, and by 1976 the NF had polled 15,340 votes in Leicester and large votes elsewhere. They were even more visible on the streets through graffiti, racist attacks and street protests. A key turning point came when, on August 13, 1977, thousands of anti-fascists, including large numbers of local black youths, prevented the NF from marching through Lewisham. This was to lead to the creation of the ANL as an initiative between the SWP and sections of the Labour Left. It also received support from other Trotskyist groups and the Communist Party.

In response to Eric Clapton's public support for Enoch Powell, Rock Against Racism was set up in close collaboration with the ANL, and a series of successful carnivals were organised. Some of the bands involved with Rock Against Racism were The Clash (as seen in the film "Rude Boy"), The Buzzcocks, Steel Pulse, X-Ray Spex, The Ruts, Generation X and the Tom Robinson Band. By 1981 the NF had fragmented becoming far smaller, and the campaign was wound up. [Dave Renton, [ "The Anti-Nazi League, 1977-81"] , on the website]

The "downturn"

From 1978 Tony Cliff became convinced by some of his comrades that the period of rising militancy had come to an end [Cliff, Chapter 7] [ The broad party, the revolutionary party and the united front ] ] and a downturn had begun. Cliff writes that: "The crisis in the organisation went on for about 3 years, 1976-79". By 1982 the SWP was refocused completely on a propagandist approach, with geographical branches as the main unit of the party, a focus on Marxist theory and an abandonment of perspective of building a rank and file movement. The rank and file organisations were wound down as was the women's organisation "Women's Voice" and the paper for ethnic minorities "Flame". The closure of "Women's Voice" in particular was bitterly disputed [see Chapter 10 of "Sex, Class and Socialism" by Lindsey German for more on this] , a sharp debate taking place between those who believed the result would be to ignore the specificities of women's oppression, and those who believed that feminist theories were in danger of losing contact with the united interests of men and women workers.

During the 1984-85 miners strike the SWP's propaganda concentrated on the need for solidarity and explaining why this was not happening. Cliff described the approach as one of concrete propaganda: "It had to answer the question 'What slogan fits the issue the workers are fighting over?'" [Cliff, chapter 6] .

This change in outlook and methods was viewed by many on the left as being a retreat into sectarianism by the SWP [see for example, "Where is the SWP going?" [] by Murray Smith of the Scottish Socialist Party] but this change in methods is credited by the SWP as allowing it to survive a very hostile period with substantial numbers of party members . In contrast Murray Smith described it as "jumping from one campaign to the next and hostility towards the rest of the left" [ Where is the SWP going? ] ] .

The 1990s

The early 1990s for many of the far-left was a period of demoralisation and disorientation due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, for the SWP this was seen as a vindication of their long held analysis that the Soviet Union was a 'state capitalist' society. They believe that "the transition from state capitalism to multinational capitalism is neither a step forward nor a step backwards, but a step sidewards. The change only involves a shift from one form of exploitation to another form for the working class as a whole", [Harman, The Storm Breaks, ISJ 2:46] .

The SWP were involved in the campaign against the Poll Tax in England although is has been claimed they failed to intervene in Scotland . They also helped relaunch the ANL in 1992 in response to the growth of the British National Party (a similar party to the National Front), and campaigned against the Criminal Justice Bill (with the memorable slogan of "Kill the Bill").

In 1997, despite being highly opposed to Tony Blair's policies, they called for a vote for the Labour Party, with the belief that there would rapidly be a crisis of expectations in Labour which would lead New Labour voters to question their allegiances and open up opportunities and space for organisation and activity to the left of Labour that are traditionally occupied by Labour when it is in opposition. John Rees wrote in July 1997: "In the mid-term the 'sado-monetarist' strategy followed by the Labour government will clash increasingly sharply with a working class movement which has drawn hope and confidence from its electoral victory over the Tories." [ [ The Class Struggle Under New Labour ] ] .

Recent Activity

More recent work is influenced by the SWP's analysis of a "current revival in consciousness and combativity, discernible from the mid-1990s and unmistakable since the Seattle demonstration in 1999." Recent activity has seen the SWP involved with the Socialist Alliance in England and Wales. Its Scottish members joined the Scottish Socialist Party as the Socialist Worker Platform in May 2001 . In Scotland, involvement in the Scottish Socialist Party has now been succeeded by involvement in Solidarity, and in England and Wales involvement in the Socialist Alliance has been succeeded by involvement in Respect.

On a campaigning front the SWP has been heavily involved in the anti-war movement through the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) - Lindsey German is convenor of StWC. The SWP has also been involved in the anti-globalization movement, which it believes is more accurately described as the 'anti-capitalist' movement, mostly through the Globalise Resistance organisation and the World Social Forum and European Social Forum.

The SWP organises Marxism, a five day 'long weekend' of meetings and events held in central London each July since 1977 [ [ Ian Birchall: Facing the crisis (1981) ] ] . It is the largest annual event held by any far-left group in Britain, and one of the largest of its kind in Europe.Fact|date=February 2007

The SWP has several members holding positions with Student Unions across the country, including 4 at Sheffield Hallam University, 5 at SOAS, 6 at Goldsmiths, 3 at Essex, and varying numbers of others at Middlesex, Portsmouth and Manchester.

Role in the Tommy Sheridan defamation case

The SWP joined the Scottish Socialist Party as a platform in 2001. In November 2004, Pat Smith, a member of the SW Platform and SSP EC member attended an emergency meeting to discuss allegations in tabloid newspapers about SSP leader Tommy Sheridan's personal life. Accounts of the meeting are contested, with several leading SSP members stating that Sheridan admitted to visiting a swinger's club at the meeting, while Sheridan and others denied this claim. In the course of the meeting Sheridan was recalled from the convenorship, a unanimous decision supported by Smith. It transpired that Smith took this decision without consulting the SW Platform and the SWP disagreed with the EC decision to recall Sheridan describing it as a “blunder” by the SSP leadership and calling for Sheridan’s immediate reinstatement.

Sheridan took the "News of the World" to court for defamation in Summer 2006. At the trial Pat Smith testified that at that meeting Sheridan had denied attending a "swingers'" club and having extramarital affairs. Her evidence was supported by another SW platform member, Mike Gonzalez, who testified that although he did not attend the meeting, he believed the allegation to be unfounded. A jury subsequently found in favour of Sheridan and awarded him £200,000 damages. An appeal by the "News of the World" was scheduled for December 2007 but has been delayed until an investigation into perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice has been concluded.

In the aftermath of the trial, the SW platform left the Scottish Socialist Party together with the Committee for a Workers International, Tommy Sheridan and Rosemary Byrne to set up a new party called Solidarity.

In February 2008, Pat Smith was charged with perjury in connection with the evidence she gave in the case.


Duncan Hallas, who was a founding member of the predecessor of the SWP, wrote: "The founders of the group saw themselves as mainstream Trotskyists, differing on important questions from the dominant group in the international, but belonging to the same basic tendency." [Duncan Hallas: [ Introduction] to "Origins of the International Socialists", Pluto Press, 1971. (accessed 2008-05-29)] Here "the group" refers to the Socialist Review Group, forerunner of the SWP and "the International" to the Fourth International - the main Trotskyist grouping.

Because it sees itself as Trotskyist, the SWP describes itself as a 'revolutionary socialist party' and considers itself to stand in the 'tradition' of Leon Trotsky. It also shares many of the political positions of other Trotskyist groups, a tradition rooted in Marxism and Leninism (see for example Tony Cliff, "Marxism at the Millennium" [Tony Cliff: " [ Marxism at the Millennium] ", Bookmarks, 2000. (accessed 2008-05-29)] ). In common with other Trotskyists the SWP defends the body of ideas codified by the first four Congresses of the Communist International and the founding Congress of the Fourth International of Leon Trotsky in 1938.

Its supporters often refer to their beliefs as 'socialism from below', a term which has been attributed to Hal Draper. This concept can also be traced back to the rules of the First International which stated: "the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves" [ [ Rules of the International Workingmen's Association] (accessed 2008-05-29)] They see this as distinguishing themselves from other socialist groups, particularly both from reformist parties, such as (the Labour Party) and from various forms of what they disparagingly term 'Stalinism'—forms of socialism usually associated with the former Soviet Bloc and the old Communist Parties. These are seen as advocating socialism from above. In contrast Cliff argued: "The heart of Marxism is that the emancipation of the working class is the act of the working class. "The Communist Manifesto" states: "All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority." [Tony Cliff: [ "Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Indonesia"] , International Socialism 80, September 1998. (accessed 2008-05-29)] For more on this see "Marxism at the Millennium" (2000) [Tony Cliff: " [ Marxism at the Millennium] ", Bookmarks, 2000 (accessed 2008-05-29)]

The SWP also seeks to differentiate itself from other Trotskyist tendencies. Three key theories are at the centre of its difference from other Trotskyists: State Capitalism, Deflected Permanent Revolution and The Permanent Arms Economy (see below for more details).

Unlike most Troskyist organisations, the SWP does not have a formal program (see for example the Transitional Program) but an outline of the SWP's ideas called "Where We Stand" [ [ "Where We Stand"] , in every issue of "Socialist Worker". (accessed 2008-05.29)] is published in "Socialist Worker" every week.

'State Capitalism'

The SWP maintains an opposition to what it terms 'substitutionist strategies'. This is the idea that social forces other than the proletariat, which is for Marxists the potentially social revolutionary class due to its 'radical chains', may substitute for the proletariat in the struggle for a socialist society (see above). This idea led the founder of the SWP, Tony Cliff, to reject the idea that the USSR was a 'degenerated workers' state', the position held by other Trotskyists and derived from Leon Trotsky's analysis in the 1930s. Cliff argued that in fact the USSR and Eastern Europe used a form of capitalism which he referred to as 'bureaucratic state capitalist', and that later so did other countries ruled by what he termed Stalinist parties, such as China, Vietnam and Cuba. Cliff's approach to this idea was published in the 1948 article "The Nature of Stalinist Russia" [Tony Cliff: [ "The Nature of Stalinist Russia"] , (1948) (accessed 2005-05-29)]

Other IS/SWP theoreticians such as Nigel Harris and Chris Harman would later extend and develop a distinct body of state capitalist analysis based on Cliff's initial work. This theory was summed up in the slogan "Neither Washington nor Moscow, but International Socialism". The slogan is said to have originally come from Max Shachtman's group, the Workers Party, in their paper 'Labor Action' and was only borrowed by the IS/SWP at a later date. This is seen as ironic because one of Cliff's concerns when first developing his idea of state capitalism was to differentiate his ideas from the idea of bureaucratic collectivism associated with Shachtman (see for example "The theory of bureaucratic collectivism: A critique" (1948) [Tony Cliff: " [ The theory of bureaucratic collectivism: A critique] " (1948) (accessed 2008-05-29)] ). However, the formula also echoes the Fourth International's 1948 manifesto, "Neither Wall Street nor the Kremlin". Cliff's version of the theory of state capitalism can be differentiated from those associated with other dissident Trotskyists and left communists, such as CLR James and Raya Dunayevskaya.

'Deflected Permanent Revolution'

As a Trotskyist tendency, the SRG/IS was faced with developing an explanation as to why and how a number of countries in the former colonial world had succeeded in overthrowing the rule of various imperial powers and forming states characterised by the SRG/IS as being bureaucratic state capitalist. In part, such an explanation was needed to understand why these colonial revolutions had not developed into uninterrupted or Permanent Revolutions, as predicted by Leon Trotsky in his theory of the same name. Taking Trotsky's theory as his starting point, Tony Cliff developed his own theory of 'deflected permanent revolution'. He argued that where a revolutionary working class did not exist, the intelligentsia could, in certain limited circumstances, take the leadership of the nation and lead a successful revolution in the direction of a state capitalist solution. The outcome of such a revolution would be deflected from the goal of a social revolution as envisaged in Trotsky's original work.

Cliff's essay "Permanent Revolution" was first published in "International Socialism Journal", No. 12 Spring 1963, [Tony Cliff: [ "Permanent Revolution"] , International Socialism (1st series), No. 12, Spring 1963 (accessed 2008-95-29)] in response to the Cuban Revolution and largely took it and the earlier Chinese Revolution as its subject. However, the general concept of a deflected permanent revolution would be much exercised as a key analytical tool by IS theoreticians in the coming years. Most notable in this respect is the work of Nigel Harris in relation to India and later of Mike Gonzalez on Cuba [Peter Bins & Mike Gonzalez: [ "Castro, Cuba and Socialism"] , "International Socialism" 2:8, Spring 1980 (accessed 2008-5-29)] and Nicaragua. Most recently the theory has been given a central place in Cem Uzun's work "Making the Turkish Revolution".

The 'permanent arms economy'

State capitalism and deflected permanent revolution came to be seen as central to a distinct IS politics by the mid-1960s along with the theory of the 'permanent arms economy' (PAE) which sought to explain the long boom in the global economy after the Second World War. This boom was in contrast to the period after the First World war where there was a period of stagnation.

The three theories taken together are often seen as being the hallmarks of the IS tradition, although this is contested by some former leaders of the IS, including Nigel Harris and Michael Kidron both of whom worked on the PAE and now repudiate it, and by some other Trotskyists outside the IS Tradition. The PAE, the most contested of the three theories, is also the only one that did not originate with Tony Cliff.

The PAE originated with a member of Max Shachtman's Workers' Party/International Socialist League named Ed Sard in 1944. Sard, writing as Walter J. Oakes, argued in "Politics" that the PAE was to be understood as allowing capitalism to achieve a level of stability by preventing the rate of profit from falling as spending on arms was unproductive and would not lead to the increase of the organic composition of capital. Later in 1951 in "New International", this time writing as T. N. Vance, Sard argued that the PAE operated through its ability to apply J. M. Keynes multiplier effect. [T. N. Vance: [ "The Permanent War Economy"] , "New International", Vol. 17 Nos. 1-6, January-November 1951 (accessed 2008-05-29)] ) Although briefly mentioned by Duncan Hallas in a "Socialist Review" of 1952 the theory was only introduced to the IS by Cliff in 1957. [Jim Higgins: [ More Years for the Locust] (1997) (accessed 2008-05-29)]

In his May 1957 article "Perspectives of the Permanent War Economy", [Tony Cliff: [ "Perspectives of the Permanent War Economy"] , "Socialist Review", May 1957 (accessed 2008-05-29)] Cliff offered the PAE to readers in a version derived from Sard's earlier essays but without reference to Keynes and using a Marxist theoretical framework. This was the only attempt to develop the idea, which it is suggested explains the long post war boom, until the publication of Mike Kidron's "Western Capitalism Since the War" [Michael Kidron: " [ Western Capitalism Since the War] ", Penguin (1968) (accessed 2008-05-29)] in 1968. Kidron would further develop the theory in his "Capitalism and Theory". Additional work was also contributed by Nigel Harris and later by Chris Harman. However it should also be noted that Mike Kidron was to repudiate the theory as early as the mid-1970s in his essay "Two Insights Don't Make a Theory" [Michael Kidron: [ "Two Insights Don't Make a Theory"] , "International Socialism" (1st series), No. 100, July 1977 (accessed 2008-05-29)] in "International Socialism" No. 100. This was followed by a rejoinder from Chris Harman ("Better a valid insight than a wrong theory"). [Chris Harman: [ "Better a valid insight than a wrong theory"] , "International Socialism" (1st series), No. 100, July 1977 (accessed 2008-05-29)] Since this time the PAE has assumed less importance within IS theory, as the long boom which it seeks to explain recedes into history.


Certain ways of working have also become part of the SWP tradition and groups linked to it in other countries. Accessible and actively-sold publications are central to the SWP way of working. This includes a quarterly theoretical journal which aims at being accessible to most activists. This contrasts with the propaganda publications produced by some Trotskyist groups around the world.

Secondly, an extremely open way of recruitment - the SWP is extremely easy to join. Many people who join do not stay long, but the party considers that this is the best way to test people's interest and determination, rather than going through an initial period of 'candidate membership', involving education and induction, as other revolutionary goups have been known to set up (for example Lutte Ouvrière in France). The SWP has never gone in for pseudonyms (or "party names") as have sections of the reunified Fourth International .Thirdly, neither tendencies nor "permanent" factions ("permanent" insofar as they exist in between pre-conference periods) are permitted by the SWP constitution. Factions may be formed around any issue in the few months before a party conference, but the party conference decides the issue and the factions may not continue after the conference. This contrasts with Fourth International organizations such as the LCR in France, where tendencies, and factions that exist outside of pre-conference periods, are very present in party life. Some commentators defend the idea of tendencies and factions as a sign of healthy debate and democracy. Others consider that permanent factions can only lead to paralysis in party activity, and a tendency to avoid key decisions.


The SWP has been criticised by some in the direct action, anti-capitalist, and anarchist movements for its perceived attempts to manipulate them for its own ends [" [ Monopolise Resistance?] " published by the Brighton-based SchNEWS collective)] . These criticisms were echoed by some within the anti-war movement. The SWP, for its part, tends to promote the view that reliance on direct action by small groups is elitist, and instead favours mass mobilisations, strikes, and the most militant mass action that can be achieved at any given time. [See e.g. " [ Socialist Review] ", November 2002]

The SWP has been accused of being overly accommodating to the allegedly reactionary concerns of some practising Muslims; for example its anti-Zionist stance has been accused of being anti-semitic by Zionists, and it has also been accused of sidelining the issues of gay rights and abortion.The "where we stand" column in Socialist Worker, however, outlines the party's commitment to gay rights. Such criticism has tended to come from pro-war liberals but it has also been voiced by some left-wing groups [ [ Respect conference: a setback and an opportunity] , Socialist Resistance statement] . Much of this criticism is directed at the policies of the Respect coalition of which the SWP is a large component. [ [,,1769484,00.html Bigots, racists and worthless buffoons - so why do they keep getting elected?] , Nick Cohen, "The Observer", Sunday May 7, 2006] .

For its part the SWP denies these accusations; it argues that it supports abortion rights and campaigns against the lowering of time limits for abortion, [ [ Abortion rights] , Farah Reza, "Socialist Worker", 5 November 2005] it also claims that the Respect coalition has a clear commitment to opposing homophobia. [ [ combating homophobia] , "Socialist Worker", 26 November 2005] The SWP responds that there is also a clear distinction between racist prejudice against Jews and opposition to the policies of the state of Israel.

The SWP has also caused controversy by supporting the elements of the Iraqi insurgency, describing it as the Iraqi resistance [Alex Callinicos, [ "Victory to the resistance?"] , "Socialist Worker", 21 August 2004] and endorsing George Galloway's support of Hezbollah, who they describe as "the resistance". [ [ "Hizbollah is right to fight Zionist terror"] , George Galloway, "Socialist Worker"; [ "Facts point to an unequal conflict in the Middle East"] , "Socialist Worker", 29 July 2006]

Some have attacked the SWP's politics as "second campist" - i.e, too uncritically supporting all groups opposed to the United States government, without offering independent working-class perspectives. [] They claim that the group's "anti-imperialism", rooted in a 1987 change in attitude to the Iran–Iraq War when the USA 'intervened', forces it to ally with anti-socialist groupings for the sake of opposing a "common enemy". [ [ School on the politics of the SWP, July 1 - 2, 2000 ] ] This is also reflected in the "Unconditional but critical” support for the IRA, any act of terrorism against an imperialist government is supported without exception.

There has also been criticism and debate in, around and outside the party about its perceived failure to intervene or be a visible part of many united front movements; some commentators criticising it as sectarian. Nevertheless the SWP has, for example, started campaigning on climate change in the past decade and is involved heavily in united fronts such as the Stop The War Coalition and Unite Against Fascism, and has been involved in many such fronts in the past, most notably the Anti-Nazi League. However, this strategy in turn has been criticised by others who see the SWP as using these alliances opportunistically or as front organisations.

Members of other socialist political parties often claim that the SWP is undemocratic.Fact|date=May 2008 However, this is fiercely countered, and the SWP has an annual conference with its central (using a slate system) and the national committee elected by delegates, as well as policies for the next year being proposed and voted on with alternatives offered to some proposals.

The Scottish Socialist Party is also critical of the Socialist Workers Party, which was formerly a platform within it, for the role that it played in the Sheridan libel case, and the subsequent split to form Solidarity, accusing them of unprincipled opportunism. [Ally: [ "The SSP crisis: personality cult or class-struggle party?"] , Indimedia Scotland Legacy Archive (accessed 2008-05-29)] The SWP have responded to such allegations by suggesting that "The personality is political". [Editorial Comment: [ "The personality is political"] , "Socialist Worker", No. 2016, 2 September 2006 (accessed 2008-05-29)]

Some accuse the SWP of being centrist - vacillating between revolution and reform [Andrew Johnson & Mike Pearn: [ "The SW Platform in the SSP: A Response to Gregor Gall"] , "What Next?", No. 30, 2005 (accessed 2005-05-29)] Permanent Revolution (UK) and Workers Power argue that their position of winning reforms through the Respect coalition is reformist, and therefore makes the SWP a centrist, rather than revolutionary party.

Notable members


*Anti-racist activist, Weyman Bennett
*Political philosopher, Alex Callinicos
*Convenor of the Stop the War Coalition and past London mayoral candidate, Lindsey German
*Historian, Mike Gonzalez
*Political and economic analyst, historian, Chris Harman
*Science fiction author and legal theorist, China Miéville
*Art historian, John Molyneux
*Respect National Secretary, John Rees
*Historian, Jim Wolfreys

Former (including former members of the IS)

*Mathematician, Adrian Baddeley
*Political scientist and labour historian, Verity Burgmann
*Journalist, Julie Burchill
*Journalist, Garry Bushell
*Labour historian, Raymond Challinor
*Literary Critic, Terry Eagleton
*Politician, Jim Fitzpatrick
*Children's author, Alan Gibbons
*Economist, Nigel Harris
*Journalist, Christopher Hitchens
*Journalist, Peter Hitchens
*Writer and barrister, Andrew Keogh
*Journalist, Rod Liddle
*Philosopher, Alasdair MacIntyre
*Political writer, Sean Matgamna
*Sociologist, Andrew Milner
*Politician, Stan Newens
*Mathematician, Seymour Papert
*Beer writer, Roger Protz
*Musicians, The Redskins members Chris Dean and Martin Hewes []
*Feminist writer and theorist, Sheila Rowbotham
*Political scientist, Martin Shaw
*Comedian, Mark Steel
*Sociologist, Laurie Taylor
*Sociologist, Frank Webster
*Actor, Samuel West

Deceased (including deceased ex-members)

*Political activist, Tony Cliff
*Political activist, Duncan Hallas
*Writer and cartographer, Michael Kidron
*Investigative journalist, Paul Foot
*Writer, Peter Sedgwick
*Political activist, Harry Wicks
*Physician, David Widgery

ee also

*History of the Socialist Workers Party (Britain)


External links

WP pages

* [ SWP web site]
* [ Socialist Worker online]
* [ Socialist Review online]
* [ Searchable text of several SWP publications including ISJ and SR]
* [ International Socialism online]
* [ Bookmarks] the SWP's bookshop and publisher
* [ International Socialist Archive]
* [ The Smallest Mass Party In The World] by Ian Birchall: a history of the SWP and its predecessors to 1981, written by a prominent SWP member.
* [ Cliff,T. A World to Win] , Bookmarks Publications, London, 2000. ISBN 1-898876-62-2 Tony Cliff's autobiography.
* [ Origins of the International Socialists] Duncan Hallas
* [ Resistance MP3s, site with MP3s mainly recorded at the SWP's annual Marxism conference]

Non-SWP pages

* [ Martin Shaw. The Making of a Party? The International Socialists 1965-1976]
* [ Mark Thomas has had enough of the SWP]
* [ The CPGB on the Socialist Workers Party]
* [ The AWL on the Socialist Workers Party]
* [,542,0,0,1,0 Workers Power on the Socialist Workers Party]
* [ The reunified Fourth International on the Socialist Workers Party]
* [ More Years for the Locust: The Origins of the SWP] , Critique of Cliff and the SWP by Jim Higgins, former National Secretary of the International Socialists.
* [ The Struggle for Socialism Today: A reply to the politics of the Socialist Workers Party by the Socialist Party]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • History of the Socialist Workers Party (Britain) — The History of the Socialist Workers Party begins with the formation of the Socialist Review Group in 1950, followed by the creation of the International Socialists in 1962 and continues through to the present day with the formation of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Socialist Workers Party (Ireland) — Infobox Irish Political Party party name = Socialist Workers Party party articletitle = Socialist Workers Party (Ireland) party leader = foundation = 1971 ideology = Trotskyism international = International Socialist Tendency european = none… …   Wikipedia

  • Socialist Workers Party (United States) — Infobox American Political Party party name = Socialist Workers Party party articletitle = Socialist Workers Party (United States) party chairman = Jack Barnes senateleader = N/A houseleader = N/A foundation = 1938 ideology = Communism,… …   Wikipedia

  • Socialist Workers' Party (Greece) — The Socialist Workers Party of Greece (SEK) is an affiliate of the International Socialist Tendency (IST). It is the second largest organisation in IST behind the Socialist Workers Party of Britain. Leading members include Panos Garganas and… …   Wikipedia

  • Socialist Workers' Party of Germany — The Socialist Workers Party of Germany ( de. Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, SAPD), was a political party in Germany. The it was formed by a left wing splinter group which split off from the SPD in the autumn of 1931. In 1931 the… …   Wikipedia

  • Socialist Equality Party (United States) — Infobox American Political Party party name = Socialist Equality Party party articletitle = Socialist Equality Party (United States) party chairman = David North senateleader= None houseleader= None foundation = 1966 (as Workers League) ideology …   Wikipedia

  • Workers' Party of Ireland — The Workers Party Páirtí na nOibrithe Leader Mick Finnegan General Sec …   Wikipedia

  • Socialist Equality Party (UK) — The Socialist Equality Party is a Trotskyist political party in the United Kingdom. It is part of the International Committee of the Fourth International, which publishes the World Socialist Web Site.The party s origins lie in the Workers… …   Wikipedia

  • Socialist Workers Organization (New Zealand) — The Socialist Workers Organization was a Trotskyist organisation based in New Zealand. It was part of the International Socialist Tendency, the Socialist Workers Party s international tendency.The Socialist Workers Organization was established by …   Wikipedia

  • Socialist Labor Party of America — The Socialist Labor Party of America (SLP) is the oldest socialist political party in the United StatesKenneth T. Jackson: The Encyclopedia of New York City : The New York Historical Society; Yale University Press; 1995. P. 1083.] and the second… …   Wikipedia

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.