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A new organisation: Socialist Alternative statement

The UCD branch of the Socialist Workers Party have recently decided to disaffiliate from the main party and form an independent socialist group, Socialist Alternative. Since most people active on the left in Ireland have to deal with the SWP, we believe the reasons for our decision may be of general interest.

As most people will remember, this time last year there was a genuine buzz on the radical left. Globalise Resistance was founded and brought together many disparate groups and individuals. Two buses of Irish activists went to Genoa and returned full of ideas and enthusiasm. The general outlook seemed positive. Yet soon things turned sour. GR was torn apart by squabbling; Gluaiseacht and the WSM walked out, along with many others. The SWP has generally been blamed for this degeneration, and with some cause: by using GR purely as a recruitment front, they alienated potential allies and squandered a promising

However, it would be wrong to attribute this behaviour to malice or stupidity on the part of the SWP; the real cause lies deeper . For the last few years the SWP leadership has adopted a daft approach of predicting the imminence of revolution at any given time and driving the rank-and-file membership into a frenzy of activism. Eventually they get tired and disillusioned and a new crop are recruited. With party members dropping like flies and the revolution always just around the corner, recruitment takes priority over anything else: certainly over the task of creating a broad-based anti-globalisation group.
The turnover of membership is so high that few party activists have the experience to challenge the leadership, so their political analysis is free to wander ever further away from reality. Wishful thinking and hyper-activism take the place of any realistic assessment of the situation. Since party members spend all their time running around from campaign to campaign, they have little time to read and discuss about politics; if you get the impression that someone from the SWP is just quoting from a
leaflet, its probably because its true.

This sort of thing was going on long before Seattle but the last two years have seen matters get steadily worse. The SWP is heading for collapse within a few years if it doesn’t change course. Unfortunately, because of the party’s undemocratic internal regime, a debate could only begin if it was initiated by the leadership. Since most of the Belfast branch of the SWP were expelled a few months ago for raising similar points, the chances of such a debate taking place are slim. Therefore we’ve decided that the only course open to us is to leave and work as independent socialists. We’ve published a much more detailed account of the problems within the SWP at our website for anyone interested. We have decided to leave the main party and re-name ourselves Socialist Alternative. From now on we will operate as an independent socialist group; we aim to work with other activists on the anti-capitalist left and would like to help build up an activist network of left-wingers who have been alienated by the sectarianism and dogmatism of the existing far-left parties.

Our decision to leave the SWP was not taken lightly; like any intelligent socialists, we deplore the propensity of the far left for splits which paralyse our ability to fight against the system. For a long time, we disagreed strongly with the party leadership yet aimed to reform the SWP from within. Only after realising that this was an impossible task did we opt to break away. There were three main reasons for our decision:

1.The party's approach to propaganda and recruitment is so misguided that it does more harm to the socialist cause than good; its paper, leaflets, posters and slogans give the most unattractive image of revolutionary Marxism to potential sympathisers that could be imagined

2. The party's general political perspective is completely out of line with reality; by exaggerating the scale and depth of radicalisation in Ireland and Europe, the SWP leadership is distracting attention from the work necessary to sow the seeds of a genuine revolutionary upsurge in the future

3. The internal regime of the party makes it impossible for SWP activists to correct the inadequacies of the party line; policy decisions are the prerogative of a self-perpetuating clique who discourage internal debate and isolate dissenters in order to prevent a meaningful challenge to their authority.



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