" Madam Miaow Says: February 2013

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Foxconn trade union a sham



Oh dear. The highly publicised trade union at Foxconn, the factory whose output includes Apple iPhones, is not as worker-friendly as the PR makes out.

The official trade union federation, All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), of which Foxconn's is a member. is hardly likely to lead a walk-out. Any effective collective union activity in China has been unofficial and therefore illegal.

Now there's an election looming for union leaders and serious flaws in the process range from the farcical to banana republic.

Josh Eidelson writes in Salon:
When the Chinese factory giant Foxconn – famous for mass suicides and military-style management – announced recently that it would begin allowing workers to elect their own local union leaders, it brought a wave of positive press for its Western customers like Apple. But will it make any difference for Foxconn employees, the workers who make wildly popular products such as iPhones?

“The precedent we have for these democratic union elections is not very encouraging,” said Eli Friedman, a professor of international and comparative labor at Cornell. Even if “they’re run reasonably well, and you get some kind of activist” elected as a local union leader, “the problem is when they actually try to do anything for their members, they – as in many places – will face retaliation from management.” Worse, “oftentimes higher levels of the trade union, or the government, will collaborate with management to either make this person’s life incredibly difficult, or just force them from office.”

Western companies profiting from shameful sweatshop labour kicked up when China made a stab at improving workers' rights.

China’s federal government passed a major pro-labor law in 2007, and has since encouraged minimum wage increases by municipalities. The laws were blasted by U.S. business groups, which warned that they would hurt investment in China. Friedman credits the laws to the desire of some in the Chinese government to dampen worker protests while transitioning to a higher-wage economy with greater domestic consumer demand.

But the laws haven’t calmed China’s strikes. Instead, the five years since the new labor law went into effect have been marked by an upsurge in strikes: tens of thousands of walkouts per year, without legal protection, by workers acting independently of the ACFTU. What gives?

Friday, 22 February 2013

East Asian actors show the way forward in Border Crossings' "Consumed"


Review published in the Morning Star.

A tale of lost love, miscommunication, betrayal and money, Consumed is theatre for grown-ups. It stands light years above the usual rinky-dink ghettoised east Asian offerings seen in British theatre, with layer upon layer of meaning suffusing this devised multi-media play.

Director Michael Walling, whose conception this is, brings a delicate Tarkovskyesque pace to the stage; its slow full emptiness is a refreshing palate-cleanser for audiences bored with productions that skitter along the surface.

Set in modern-day Shanghai where fortunes are to be made through ruthless enterprise, British businessman John Bartholemew (Serge Soric) strikes up a fancy for Su Chen (Song Ruhui) and pursues his "shanghai dot beauty" on Skype with the connivance of business acquaintance Tong Zheng (Ning Li) acting as interpreter.

Su and Tong are of the generation that lived through the Cultural Revolution, and the emergence of their shared history as students in the immediate post-Mao era explores how far they have come and what has been lost.

All three actors give gripping performances. Shanghai Theatre-trained Song Ruhui is an outstanding presence, exuding beauty, intelligence and sensitivity — my favourite combo.

Special mentions must also go to Dori Deng for the multi-media design which was well-judged, helping the story along without dominating, and to Nick Moran for his simple stark black and white set.

I wasn't keen on Border Crossings' Re-Orientations, which I thought depended too much on a clichéd feminisation of China. However, it led to this new play which shows that, like the Chinese characters, they have come a long way.

Comparing the recent The Orphan of Zhao with this, it's clear how infantile, limited and outdated the RSC's output is. Border Crossings has cannily placed itself on the progressive side of history and represents one powerful way forward for east Asian themes and actors.

For dates see here

Thursday, 21 February 2013

SWP meltdown: blogging "filth" spoiling our game



"Any influx of young members presents challenges that we have to be able to respond to ...”

SWP faction leader and Central Committee member Pat Stack wrote to members of his beleaguered party, saying: "I think a lot of comrades would like some respite from the filth that is out there (here I’m talking about non-party bloggers), but these expulsions will only give that filth fresh impetus."

Thanks for the impetus, Pat. Aside from noting the commonplace party practice of throwing people off the back of the sleigh to save one's own skin, let us explore the question you raise:

WHAT IS FILTH?

"Filth" is an alleged rape taking place when a woman is nineteen, 2 years after she and her party leader meet, at which time he is forty-six and she seventeen.

"Filth" is an appeal to the party's internal disciplinary body being met with a kangaroo court run by several of the party leader's friends, who then exonerate him.

"Filth" is the woman denied access to his evidence while he sees hers: the game is surely "I'll show you mine IF you show me yours."

"Filth" is a woman ostracised, cast out as unclean with a scarlet letter "A" carved into her forehead.

"Filth" is her friends put under heavy manners by the party's attack dogs, fresh from their two-minute hate.

"Filth" is power relations that exist under capitalism going unchallenged and amplified in the party playground. All that youth and pulchritude — yummy!

"Filth" is continuing to claim exemption from "bourgeois morality": may I remind you once again that Trotsky wrote "Their Morals and Ours", not "Their Morals and We Ain't Got None".

"Filth" is saying "you don't lie to the class", and then lying to the class about how many members you have. Claiming 7,000 while actually having far fewer than 2,000, even after it has been brought to your attention (remember?), is far from clean.

"Filth" is honeytrapping people who want to change the world for the better, who bring love and hope to the party, and then find themselves smashed up on the rocks of the politics of envy and the drive for personal power.

"Filth" is love-bombing potential recruits and then treating them like your property once they've joined.

"Filth" is demanding their full-time intellectual and physical labour for no pay while you draw a salary.

"Filth" is paying your printshop workers well below the minimum wage. How many staff are employed at below Living Wage rates and with no workplace trade union representation — and what happened to that fulltimer's tax and National Insurance, by the way?

"Filth" is expelling four members for the thought-crime of discussing issues on Facebook. The internet to the party in 1998: "What does that mean to a postie on eighty quid a week?"

"Filth" is denying potential recruits the free information with which to make an informed choice: in the public interest, Caveat Comrade.

"Filth" is Professor Darkside's puppies fed the stolen milk and apples and now look: lynch-mobs and goon squads patrolling the perimeter.

"Filth" is practising filth and yelling "Filth" louder than the next guy.

"Filth" is watching your party go from excess to excess and being surprised when, like a child given no boundaries by the grown-ups (of which you are supposed to be one), it does something RE-E-E-E-ALLY ba-a-a-ad!

"Filth" is knowing all these abuses exist while in a leadership capacity and doing nothing about them.

"Filth" is pointing the finger when three fingers point right back atcha.

"Filth" is a mirror.

Read the background in SWP Sex Implosion

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

British East Asian Artists at the Young Vic Open Space: Video Pt 1



Almost 200 actors and theatre creatives — mostly of east Asian heritage — attended this unique event in London on Monday 11th February 2013. "Opening the door" was facilitated by Improbable in association with Equity, TMA/SOLT, Arts Council England, ITC, CDG and the Young Vic Theatre, and galvanised by the British East Asian Artists group.

Up for discussion: how do we end the marginalisation of east Asian actors in British theatre?

An event for east Asian actors had been planned last year, before the casting controversy concerning the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of "The Orphan of Zhao" erupted. The British East Asian Artists led an international protest over the RSC giving 3 minor roles out of 17 to east Asian actors for a play championed by the theatre as "the Chinese Hamlet".

As a result, the Open Space day took on a new urgency and drew a capacity crowd attracted by not only the opportunity to discuss the issue of our exclusion from theatre and our own culture but also the chance to find ways to take action and solve the problem. It was thrilling to see so much talent in evidence from an overlooked minority, and we were delighted to see the theatre representatives who turned up taking notice.

It's the role of the revolutionary to make visible the invisible— and you can't get much more invisible than us.

The British East Asian Artists are planning an online laboratory/playground facility at our website for writers, actors and creatives to network and get together to try out ideas — a platform for artistic collaboration from informal readings and experiments to formal readings and performance.
Please join the BEAAs at:
Facebook
BEAA website
Twitter

Michelle Lee's report on her session: Who are the gatekeepers?
Daniel York's report: The racial purity pecking order
Lucy Sheen's report: In The 21st Century Why Are British East Asians Still Portrayed Using Prejudist, Racist Victorian Views?
Amanda Rogers' report: What do casting directors actually look for?
Paul Hy's report: Positive Discrimination - Would It Be A Good Thing To Press For?

Full story of the RSC The Orphan of Zhao controversy.

Video shot and edited by Anna Chen


Monday, 11 February 2013

East Asian actors in Young Vic love fest: Opening the door

British East Asian Artists L to R: Michelle Lee, Lucy Sheen, Anna Chen, Jennifer Lim, Amanda Rogers, Paul Hyu, Kat Golding, Daniel York (minus Broderick Chow, Hi Ching and Chowee Leow) 

A fab time was had by all at today's long awaited Open Space event hosted by Improbable at the Young Vic in London. It was scheduled last year but acquired an added significance when the British East Asian Artists had a widely publicised run-in with the Royal Shakespeare Company over their questionable casting of The Orphan of Zhao (in a triple-bill with Brecht's Galileo and Pushkin's Boris Godunov). Complaints flooded in from across the globe and helped draw nearly 200 participants including actors, writers, and theatre and casting professionals to today's Opening the Door.






Pix by Anna Chen except for BEAA group shot taken by Ashley Thorpe on Anna's Lumix.

Friday, 8 February 2013

I had a gay dog: if only David Attenborough knew

My beloved Scruffy 


WHERE ARE ALL THE GAY ANIMALS???!!! shrieks Dr Brett Mills of the University of East Anglia, intimating that national treasure David Attenborough is some sort of horrible homophobe with a nuclear family agenda to promote in his wildlife documentaries. All that telly animal porn and not one paw up the posterior, not one Brokeback mounting, not even the odd instance of rimming when a cursory observation of pets in the park tells us that goes on around us all the time.

Where are they? Well, I had one for a starters. My beloved Scruffy the Wonder Dog, a rough-haired dachshund, who struck up a friendship with the Yorkshire terrier belonging to the ex-wife of a boyfriend.

The Yorkshire was an aggressive little mutt, even shorter than Scruffy, but he was intent on having his doggy delight with my baby who, in the absence of flowers, wine or even a juicy steak, wasn't interested. But the Yorkie would not take no for an answer and would wear him down until Scruffy stood still for it.

And so it came to pass that the ex-wife's dog came to put the girlfriend's dog under heavy manners and assert dominance through the act of animal lurve. It was like watching a canine Joe Pesci inflict himself on Leonardo de Caprio.

Reminded of Platoon where the bullying officer accuses one grunt of being "the sort of of person who'd take another person up the ass and wouldn't even have the manners to give him a reacharound", when the Yorkie was spent (after about thirty seconds) and it came to Scruffy's turn, the Yorkie would swagger off, yapping and snapping when Scruffy tried to mount. Poor Scruffy!

Boyz, boyz! A little more consideration, please.

So I can attest to the truth in the good doctor's claim that the animal kingdom contains all sorts of sexual expression — sea-horses being an interesting case in point. Can the BBC now please give us the gay animal porn for which we all secretly hanker? We pay our TV license fee as well, you know.

I had a gay dog: if only David Attenborough knew

My beloved Scruffy 


WHERE ARE ALL THE GAY ANIMALS???!!! shrieks Dr Brett Mills of the University of East Anglia, intimating that national treasure David Attenborough is some sort of horrible homophobe with a nuclear family agenda to promote in his wildlife documentaries. All that telly animal porn and not one paw up the posterior, not one Brokeback mounting, not even the odd instance of rimming when a cursory observation of pets in the park tells us that goes on around us all the time.

Where are they? Well, I had one for a starters. My beloved Scruffy the Wonder Dog, a rough-haired dachshund, who struck up a friendship with the Yorkshire terrier belonging to the ex-wife of a boyfriend.

The Yorkshire was an aggressive little mutt, even shorter than Scruffy, but he was intent on having his doggy delight with my baby who, in the absence of flowers, wine or even a juicy steak, wasn't interested. But the Yorkie would not take no for an answer and would wear him down until Scruffy stood still for it.

And so it came to pass that the ex-wife's dog came to put the girlfriend's dog under heavy manners and assert dominance through the act of animal lurve. It was like watching a canine Joe Pesci inflict himself on Leonardo de Caprio.

Reminded of Platoon where the bullying officer accuses one grunt of being "the sort of of person who'd take another person up the ass and wouldn't even have the manners to give him a reacharound", when the Yorkie was spent (after about thirty seconds) and it came to Scruffy's turn, the Yorkie would swagger off, yapping and snapping when Scruffy tried to mount. Poor Scruffy!

Boyz, boyz! A little more consideration, please.

So I can attest to the truth in the good doctor's claim that the animal kingdom contains all sorts of sexual expression — sea-horses being an interesting case in point. Can the BBC now please give us the gay animal porn for which we all secretly hanker? We pay our TV license fee as well, you know.

Iraq war 10 years on: betrayal of a generation's political beliefs

Tony and Cherie celebrate the Year of the Snake

Last night's Iraq War debate at Goldsmith's — sponsored by Huffington Post and featuring Claire Short, Owen Jones, Mehdi Hassan and David Aaronovitch among others — asked "Was it worth it"", generating many outraged tweets and some interesting debate.

Tweeted quotes include:
Mehdi Hassan — "I approached 60 well known hawks and invited them to participate and a lot of hair was being washed tonight. They've worked out that here is not much to defend in the bloody war." and "What we are directly responsible for is the hundreds of thousands of people that have lost their lives."

Shiraz Maher says
"Yes human rights abuses still exist and yes the infrastructure is devastated, and if it means I don't have electricity 24 hours a day to replace Saddam, I think it's a small price to pay."

20:40 – 7/02/2013
Owen Jones closes to loud applause
"Iraq is 150th in the world freedom index and one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.

"They were wrong about the WMDs, they were wrong about the human cost. And they were wrong about Iraq becoming a flourishing democracy

"Only 30% of Iraqis say they're better off.

"Tens of thousands of Iraqis died, 4,500 US soldiers - for what, to disarm a country that had already been disarmed?

"Ten years on I will say this: We have to learn the lessons and we have to make sure this will never happen again."

20:25 – 7/02/2013
Aaronovitch is quoting the late Dr David Kelly about his comments on weapons on mass destruction in Iraq.

He's interjected by Mehdi Hasan who goes back to a quote Aaronovitch said at the time: "If nothing is eventually found, I... will never believe another thing that I am told by our government"

David says he later admitted that wasn't the right thing to say.

Today, Sam Parker writes at the Huffpo "How Tony Blair and Iraq robbed a generation of their faith in politics":
Up until 2001, I think most of my generation still believed, in an abstract way, that Tony Blair was a decent man. ... But now suddenly, Blair was siding with Bush at every turn. When the president launched his War On Terror, Blair said he'd back it. When the president said he believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Blair said he believed it too. The press presented him as Bush's poodle, and we winced in acknowledgement.

Then came Resolution 1441 and Hans Blix. Blix swept into the darkening saga like a comforting beam from a lighthouse. The arrival of the peaceful Swede, with his glasses and nervous smile, seemed to my young mind like democracy at work. All Iraq had to do was open to doors to the weapon inspectors, show they had nothing to hide and war would be avoided. Like Piggy from Lord Of The Flies, Blix was supposed to be the rational voice of intelligence. But like Piggy he was taken out of action by an unstoppable boulder: an American government that had made its mind up to go to war long ago.

Blix didn't find a thing, because there were no WMDs to find. By 31 December 2002, his team had reached the same conclusion as an Iraqi dossier presented to the UN during the same period: they were in the clear. It should have ended right there. Instead, two years later, Blix would tell the BBC what by then we all already knew - Bush and Blair ignored him and dramatised a threat in order to start a war. ...

... Guardian/ICM polls at the time put support for the war at just 29% of the public, with 52% opposing. But Blair heard about polls all day long. Naively, I thought a million people marching past his window would be impossible to ignore.

A little over a month later, at 9.34pm on Wednesday 19 March, we watched on television as the first bomb fell on Baghdad. 28 British soldiers would die before the month was out. ...

... The worst legacies of the Iraq War belong to the families of the soldiers and civilians from Iraq, Britain, America and everywhere else forced to make sacrifices for an illegal occupation. But another legacy, one harder to measure than body bags, is the way Tony Blair's hubris robbed a generation of their faith in politics.

In the latest New Statesman, Laurie Penny writes similarly of her generation's betrayal over the Iraq war, not only by Blair's government, but by infighting within the left leadership that squandered the chance to harness the energy of between 1 and 2 million people who attended the mega-march against the war in February 2003.

"It was the first time I remember being part of something larger than myself. It was ony later, after the war and the next six years of progressive assault on cilvil liberties had broken any faith I or my schoolmates might have had in the Labour Party, that I learned about the endless arguments that went on behind the scenes. At the time I had no idea of the factional squabbling that prevented the march from becoming the powerful people's movement it might have been. ... My generation's lack of faith in the political process has often been mistaken for apathy. It is only now, with ordinary people across the world putting their energies into movements that bypass mainstream politics, that the betrayal of Bush and Blair's war is beginning to be understood. We have kn own since we were at school that it's not enough simply to have our voices heard. We have to make sure that we are listened to — and we're still working out how to do that."

It is tragic and positively criminal to see what Bush and Blair did to our democracy and to this generation in particular. But the left's dereliction in abandoning them to a political vacuum while they play at toytown bolshevism is positively revolting and not in the desired meaning of the word.

The SWP (and this includes the leaders of the Counterfire splinter who were part of this themselves) and their dehumanising style of politics is doing more harm than good and is closer to the Morlocks in The Time Machine herding the Eloi underground to be eaten than any serious bid to make a better world. The world burns, the left fiddles and the rest is ashes.

How the left squanders its good will: A Bad Case of the Trots.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

World's most expensive everything for the rich: £1000 coq au vin


Are the rich buying these thousand-quid meals with the tax they'll be saving when the top rate drops from 50 per cent? Or with their gargantuan bonuses?

I've been banging on about obscene conspicuous consumption for a while now, especially during the increasing attacks on the poor in the midst of a triple-dip recession. We've had squillion quid burgers and today I read about the £1,000 coq au vin for champion cocks. Glad to see the Guardian commenting on the trend for world's most expensive food marketing ploys.

There's something particularly degenerate about the need for the super-rich to rub it in like this when they should be paying their fair share of taxes. Remember, there is no recession for the top 1 per cent.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

SWP recruitment drive: Pinnochio on Pleasure Island




Yeah, take a big drag on it, kid. Oh why oh why didn't I listen to Jimminy Cricket?

Pinnochio at Pleasure Island, recruited by the SWP.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

SWP sex implosion: it's dehumanisation in the left that leads to sexual abuse


Updated version of this article here.

When you treat human beings as disposable things in the name of la causa, when appropriation of activists' labour and good will is the norm, when exploitation of your own side goes unchallenged, sexual abuse is one probable outcome.

The recent rape allegations that have sent the SWP into freefall are a manifestation of a deeper problem in the organisation. The alleged sex abuse seems to have been of a different order to that of the Workers Revolutionary Party in the 1970s and 80s: Gerry Healy regularly raped women activists and the WRP's internal regime was straightforwardly violent. When I was a member of the SWP between 1996 and 2003 (EDIT: I left the SWP in Feb 2001, over their response to the Selby train crash which is a whole other story, but carried on doing the PR for the SA, STWC and MWAW until 2003), if anything, I found the leading men in the SWP curiously sexless and not half as attractive as the women, and can count the episodes of sex pesting I heard about on the fingers of one hand (without the thumb).

There was the guy who we jokingly named the Lothario of the Left, who seemed all talk and no trousers (he wished!) and who I thought posed no real threat beyond being a bit of a pain in the butt (he wished!). The more serious rumours concerned one senior member of the central committee (now dead) who was so predatory when he was drunk that his close comrades had to keep him away from young women.

Now there's the case of an SWP woman comrade who has accused a senior party member of rape — and the widespread horror at the way they dealt with it. [EDIT 2: we now know she was 17 and he was the 46-year old party leader when the the alleged assault took place, the complaint coming two years later.) I've only read the kangaroo court transcript and the cryptic comments at SU and seen SWP males up close. What I suspect was happening was that two odd-looking men (politics being showbiz for ugly people) were so repressed that, when they were in proximity to female activists, the power of their party status went to their heads.

This has its roots not only in society but in the culture of the organisation. It's all very well the SWP flaming their critics but this has been building for years. They continue to stick their fingers in their ears when they should have been addressing the objectification of their own members.

I can empathise totally with W, a woman who has struggled to get a fair hearing, sympathy and respect from her comrades, not to mention an overhaul of dodgy practises, over two years or more and then in desperation went for broke.

In my own case, working full-time for no pay on the SWP's press over several years while being subjected to their own form of obedience training left me heavily in debt and marvelling at my own stupidity.

I established and ran the press for their Globalise Resistence, Socialist Alliance (SA) and Stop the War Coalition (STWC) campaigns when I should have been working on my own writing, but however many hours I worked, it was never enough for them. You may be behind the computer from 8am to gone midnight on their behalf when everyone else is earning a living, but if the district organiser demands you attend a paper sale at 6am you must do it — even if only she and one other turn up and no-one else in the whole of West London does — and you only sell one paper. If the central committee head honcho tells you, f'rinstance, to screw over friends and sympathisers Paul Mason and Dave Osler and, later, RMT's Greg Tucker out of bloody mindedness when they've done an excellent job, to refuse to obey their authorit-eye as I did is to invite the SWP's collective wrath.

The head honcho I refer to here had offered me patronage when I'd mistakenly assumed his encouragement was appreciation of new blood. If only I'd realised before the sun went down that it was new blood in the way Transylvanian children of the night appreciate new blood, I'd have ridden the first coach outta town. My aim had been to bring any skills I might have into the organisation and leave it in a better shape than I found it — those skills chiefly being the ones I'd learned from the talented arts publicists who'd gained me a stack of press for my performance work. As a result the media were beginning to take notice and a strange glint was appearing in the comrades' eyes.

I was pleased to be asked to write for the International Socialism Journal which head honcho edited (pieces on Sergei Eisenstein and George Orwell). I was glad that the Socialist Review magazine — edited by one of his girlfriends — could use my cultural reviews. I was happy to help out in the printshop proof-reading (for this I received £20 per day once in a blue moon). And being trolley-dolly looking after the outside speakers at their annual Marxism events was fun in parts.

However, head honcho's sudden announcement that I was now on the Socialist Review editorial board was an unpaid duty too much (they all drew wages). I was supposed to acquiesce to this command because of the star-fuckery honour of attending meetings at Paul Foot's house. As magnificent as Paul was (I did his national press when he stood for the SA) it was yet one more time-killer and space-filler. On top of this, I was told I was to be the party's press officer — with no consultation with me — when all I wanted to do was train up members to engage with the media. You can politely decline all you want but this sort of disobedience drives them several degrees off Sanity Central.

I'd tried to be a principled comrade, helping other members of the left: to name but three examples, doing the PR that broke SWP's China Miéville into the public eye for free when he complained that his publisher wasn't making him famous; free publicity for SA chair Liz Davies' book Through the Looking Glass; and in 1999 paying one skint SWP member a fiver an hour we couldn't afford for 4 hours cleaning per week (her idea and a fiver more per hour than I was getting for my labour for her party) while she studied for her degree, and nearly taking out a £600 overdraft for her rent arrears before we realised her SWP parents were a lot better off than we were with well-paid full-time jobs. Quite often I'd feed her a hot meal and we'd talk politics, her correcting my poor grasp and explaining why I was petit bourgeois because I was an art worker and we were all atomised. (Others were telling me I was petit bourgeois because I was Chinese and we all work in catering).

But no good turn goes unpunished and the blowback from these instances was typical of the irrational spite and fury permeating much of the left. Maybe it was something I'd done, something I said? But when I asked if I'd done something wrong either politically or personally to deserve the hostility I was getting, head honcho merely muttered that I was "exemplary". He still wouldn't tackle the bullying, though.

There is a tide in the affairs of man, and so on. Instead of riding the wave of my fledgling career as a writer and performer, I'd jumped off it in order to service, not the revolution, but some fairly unpleasant middle-management types who wouldn't have been looked at twice had they not climbed the greasy pole of the SWP.

In order to write my book, Coolie — about the strike by several thousand Chinese workers on the American trans-continental railroad in the 1860s — I'd decided to rent out my flat for a year and move in with my boyfriend. Once fees and expenses were paid, that would allow me to live frugally. Yet here I was in 2001, four years later with nothing written because every minute of time and every inch of psychic space now belonged to The Party, going deeper and deeper into debt for them.

Surely, Anna, I hear you say, it was worth it for the greater good what you done? Well, no, sadly. Head honcho took an axe to the Socialist Alliance to get into bed with the Birmingham mosque and then Respect. Then he did ... er ... more stupid things in Respect and, several years after I'd pointed out some questionable behaviour and been stuffed for it, he and his mates had to leave the SWP to form Crossfire or Counterfire, whatever the splinter's called. But I get ahead of myself. And the class should never be premature for then down comes the big Monty Python foot.

Even the big anti-Iraq war demo ten years ago in February 2003 wasn't immune. What a backstabbing palaver that turned out to be. Head honcho's side were alarmed by the magnitude of the anger over the coming war and during a critical period instructed their members in the SWP via Party Notes not to build the demo, leaving it to the Socialist Alliance to mobilise (with the notable help of some/a few/several honourable SWP members in the provinces who effectively blew a big raspberry and carried on regardless). Then Birmingham, the biggest and strongest STWC branch, was purged. The hippies who put together the amazing Peace Not War CD as a fund-raiser and cultural response to the impending war were screwed over. When a Jewish socialist group requested platform time to speak against the war, they were refused on the grounds that their presence would alienate Muslims. The guy who'd made their case protested and was told that "you people" were "too sensitive." I was banned from doing the press on the day but went ahead and worked from home, getting Bianca Jagger and Americans Against the War followed on the march by ITN, doing what I'd been doing all along ... Oy veh, it got FUGLY.

That huge demo was built on the spine of the SA and yet the SA chair was denied a place on the platform while Lib Dem Charles Kennedy was welcomed with open arms ... and then promptly supported "our boys" once action started. And where's it all gone, anyway? If the SWP, Counterfire and STWC claim 1 to 2 million were on the march, then they have to give a good account of where they've all gone, 'cause it's not into the left movement.

[EDIT: I was reminded that the STWC's leading Rees/German axis declared direct action and civil disobedience to be "elitist". Independently, two train drivers stopped an ammo train and students had a protest but nothing bar the usual march came from STW. They just sat on it while many thousands of innocents died, Iraq's infrastructure was destroyed and JP Morgan led the syphoning off of the nation's assets.]

Who needs this crap?

In the eighteen months of love-bombing it took to recruit me, I received numerous assurances of SWP superiority when it came to human relations. Tony Cliff's partner, a dear sweet but fiery old lady called Chanie Rosenberg, would do her turn on the platform at conferences, making it clear how, perhaps not every sperm, but every member was sacred. "Like gold dust."

More iron pyrites than gold, I'm afraid.

I looked from pig to man and then man to pig and then back again and wondered who'd look better in a bacon sandwich. Then I looked a bit harder and realised that the senior women had been part of what I once rudely called the "fuck-circuit": two power couples at the top; a complicated nexus of, ahem, "relationships" over the years; Lindsey calling me into a room at SWP HQ (said to be swept for bugs) to grill me on my new boyfriend. They are OK if you come already attached to a partner but woe betide you if you change partners and the lucky fella's not from the SWP pool. As the sympathetic partner of a senior member told me regarding my treatment, "It's because you're not available." Mostly, it's less about sexual coercion and more about idiotic ego.

Once head honcho finally got himself a new special friend, she waltzed over and told me in a most unsisterly fashion that she was doing my job so there! Which would have been lovely had she done the work. That would have been difficult, however, as she was allowed to make a living at a paying job, but the status I'd built up from sheer hard slog over the years made the sweetest love token when handed over on a plate by her beau.

Still, if that's how the SWP like it — it's their party and their choice.

We need a strong left that is able to counter the coalition's attacks on the working and middle classes that are looking like something out of the Enclosures. However, like anyone else who ever looked at the disgusting state of the world and wanted to do something about it, I never signed up for SWP abuse and I certainly never signed up for their omerta that they go around imposing on errant former members on pain of The Treatment. It is important that this stuff gets aired for so many reasons. If they can't, after all this grief, look at themselves honestly, then they deserve everything they're getting. And the working class is better off without them.

So, sister W, I sympathise and feel your pain. You learned the hard way that there is little solidarity or comradeship in that tiny corner of the left. I wish you the best of luck in rebuilding your confidence and your self-esteem. Your new life starts here.

EDIT Friday 8th Feb 2013: One of Comrade W's friends spoke up for her at the conference:
"The first thing I want to say is that the complainant in this case frequently asked to come to this session, so she could be aware of what’s being said about her, because it is her case after all. She was prepared to speak out so that people could hear about her experiences and learn from what’s happened here, so that it wouldn’t happen again. But she was denied that right by the CC.
She was questioned about why she went for a drink with him, her witnesses were repeatedly asked whether she’d been in a relationship with him, and you know, she was asked about (The chair begins to talk over X to warn about providing details) … she was asked about relationships with other comrades including sexual relationships. All this was irrelevant to the case.
We’ve got a proud tradition in the party of rejecting that line of questioning by the state. This is about consent. To date she hasn’t been told what evidence was presented against her by Comrade Delta and by his witnesses. She felt she was being interrogated and felt they were trying to catch her out in order to make her out to be a liar. She did not accept the line of questioning, saying ‘they think I’m a slut who asked for it’."

"Her treatment afterwards has been worse. She feels completely betrayed. ... The disgusting lies and gossip going round about her has been really distressing and disappointing for her to hear, and the way her own witnesses have been treated in Birmingham hasn’t been much better. ... Is it right that a young woman has to plan her route to work avoiding paper-sellers, or that she comes away from a meeting crying because people refuse to speak to her? Is it right that her witnesses are questioned about their commitment to the party because they missed a branch meeting?"

It's what they do.

[EDIT 24 Feb 2013: I was just asked this question — "Is it true there are an estimated ninety SWP staff employed at below Living Wage rates and with no workplace trade union representation?" Well, SWP, is it?]

Anna Chen writes about the state of the party in 2003 in A Bad Case of the Trots.


Anna Chen's poem "What is Filth?" inspired by Pat Stack's blogging "filth" comment.

Soviet Goon Boy on wtf's wrong with these people?!

The Guardian on more sex pest allegations inside the SWP.

Cath Elliott on the no-platform for rape deniers vote at the UNISON National Women's Conference last week.

Nick Cohen adds his take to the recent SWP mess — the point I was making, that this was no Workers Revolutionary Party Gerry Healy case, gets missed: Why leftist revolutionaries are not the best feminists

Some analysis on why this happened and the "logic to the madness": Leninism and the 21st Century.

Tendence Coatsey on the SWP Crisis

Who is saying what about the SWP Crisis.

Sam Leith quotes me in his FT piece about the anti-Iraq war demo ten years on: Protest's last stand?

They don't appreciate criticism.

Don Milligan on the People's Assembly Westminster rally 22nd June.

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