Monday, January 08, 2007

selling papers


Over on Stroppyblog there was a recent discussion about the practice of selling socialist papers on the street.

This is an interesting question, as the nature of an organisation’s publication, and how it is distributed tells us a lot about its strategy and ambitions.

I first joined the SWP in January 1978 in Bath, where was had a serious little branch of about 13 comrades, including several manual worker shop stewards, and the convenor of a local rubber mouldings factory. Most of our papers were sold by these militants to their colleagues, or at factory gate sales to well organised factories. We did a one hour paper sale on Saturday morning in the town centre, where two of us would sell it, and other comrades would simply come along to the pub and watch us out the window. This was not dilettantism, the comrades were genuinely sceptical about the point of selling papers on the street.

I rejoined the SWP in 1986, after a few years in the Labour Party. And the culture was completely different. I was for quite a while Bristol District Socialist Worker Organiser, in charge of all sales, so I know exactly what we were doing. After the Miner’s strike we had about 50 people coming regularly to a weekly meeting for the whole city, and were selling perhaps 150 papers per week. This was very routinised, with Friday evening and Saturday sales, the main point of which was to get names and addresses, then on Tuesday and Wednesday evening we organised “contacting”, the main point of which was to get people to branch meetings. If after three visits one of the contacts had failed to come to a branch meeting we crossed them off the list for good. To be fair, towards 1990 we did try to get every comrade to deliver three papers each to people we regarded as long term periphery, but this failed as it was in addition to the already highly committed routine.

So what had happened in the meantime?

When I joined it n 1978, the newly launched SWP was still an organisation in transition. The launch of the SWP out of the International Socialists was based on a mistaken and wildly optimistic perspective. According to Cliff: “There is no doubt that in a few years’ time, perhaps six, perhaps eight, perhaps ten, Britain will face a level of unemployment of three or four millions. [Thre will be two choices]… One is the revolutionary socialist alternative – the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of socialist planning. The other is the fascist solution: If there are three million unemployed get rid of black workers, the Irish and the Jews’. … If, ... there is a mass revolutionary party of sorts, it can grow quickly in the months of the crisis so it is able to lead the working class to power. … The conclusions for us are clear. If, when the revolutionary crisis comes to Britain, we have 40,000 members, there is no question that we can grow to 400,000 or perhaps half a million.”

So the SWP was expecting very rapid growth, and a revolutionary situation during the eraly 1980s. But more significant in Cliff's article was the shift in the emphasis away from established industrial militants. To use examples of the old approach: during the 1960s Geoff Carlsson has built a significant IS branch at the ENV factory in North London, largely by recruiting militants, often with a CP background. In the early 1970s the IS had built a serious presence in the AUEW in Birmingham, particularly in the Lucas plant. When Roger Protz was editor of Socialist Worker, the paper was aimed foursquare at politically and industrially experienced workers.

In launching the SWP, Cliff's article specifically mocked this previoulsy established practice of the IS: "Some revolutionaries do suffer from elitist notions. They think of the barricades as follows: In the front row there is an Imperial Father of the Chapel representing craft workers in all their glory. He is wearing his gold chain of office to pay homage. Or is it perhaps to say you have nothing to lose but your chains. And then there are some representatives of section one of the Engineering Union. Only then if there is enough room in the street they would in their generosity allow some blacks, a few women and some youth – if they know their place, that is."

The IS strategy had been that the shop stewards movement, which had a tradition of self reliance, militancy and solidarity, would be required by the logic of defending its own organisation to transcend the limitations of capitalist economics – if they put the interests of their members before that of profitability The Rank and File movement could therefore be a transitional form of organisation, if a large enough minority of the shop stewards could be won to revolutionary politics. The IS was therefore not a party, but a group of militants arguing for a party to be built, and with a strategy for how that could be acheived, based upon actually existing conditio0ns in the movement of the time.

Any party that grew out of the shop stewards movement would have a wealth of experience. As Chris Harman fortuitously described the concept: “The revolutionary party exists so as to make it possible for the most conscious and militant workers and intellectuals to engage in scientific discussion as a prelude to concerted and cohesive action..” We don’t need to agree with the IS concept of revolution to see this is a far cry from the SWP today, which organises very few militant workers, and does not involve discussion, but rather expects members to accept the decisions of the leading committees.

Given that it probably takes at least ten years for an industrial militant to become established, that class solidarity is always informed by some ideology, and that the full Heinz 57 varieties of left groups were active in the unions, as well as the CP and Labour Party, it inevitably meant a battle of ideas, and a debate to win these militants over. Protz’s paper played that role. Unfortunately by 1978 when I joined the Paul Foot edited Socialist worker was really bad (known as the punk paper). Chris Harman as editor did later much improve the paper, but only by making it an almost entirely propaganda paper, aimed at the existing party faithful, and the random encounters of the streets sales.

What is more, established industrial militants often know more, and trust their own judgement better than the political committees, however august, and however clever the dialectical pyrotechnics. Just a few years after IS engineers in Birmingham played a key role in the 1972 victory of Saltley Gate, Cliff had expelled the lot of them for breaking party discipline by not supporting a decision imposed on them from London to back an IS candidate in the AUEW elections, as opposed to a Broad left candidate, with whom they had built a long term relationship.

It is no coincidence that the expulsion of the IS’s main industrial cadre happened only months after Gerry Healy expelled the WRP’s main industrial base at the Cowley plant, including the most experienced Marxist militant in the country, Alan Thornett. In similar fashion, the Socialist Labour League had declared itself a revolutionary party, and the All Trades Union Alliance, within which the SLL’s militants had built a significant periphery especially in Oxford, and the car industry generally, was subordinated to the WRP.

In both the WRP, and the increasingly "Leninist" IS, ,the trade unin militants were told what to do by full time political apparatchiks, and when they disagreed, were booted out.

By 1986 the SWP strategy was to act as a propaganda group, consciously steering left while the rest of the class was retreating to the right. There was a quite entertaining internal life, with strong group cohesion, enjoyable debate, and a relaxed attitude to drugs, drinking and casual sex. In so far as there was strategic continuity, it was based upon the assumption that once there was an upturn in the class struggle, then the old ways of working would be dusted off and used again.

But the nature of the beast had changed, and the reasonably large infrastructure of full timers (before the print shop shut, I understand the SWP employed over 100 people), meant that there were targets to meet, and a payroll to feed. Thus institutional inertia, combined with group loyalty, and a distaste for debate with the rest of the left, means that the SWP today is still largely a propaganda group, as it is very hard to change direction.

But what is the strategy. Respect is an admission by the party that it does not believe that a mass socialist party can be built by recruiting direct to the SWP. But the way of working they have adopted means they find it very hard to build anything pluralistic, as they believe they are the leadership and we are the led.

It is in this context that we should see the street sales. They are not an opportunity for the group to develop a dialogue with the most advanced militants, but rather trawling for new recruits – the greener the better.

26 comments:

Louisefeminista said...

Yeah, my post on Stroppyblog really came about cos of that quote I read but also thinking about my own experiences.
I always did better at selling at conferences esp. if I had intervened in a debate and therefore ended up selling quite a few papers.

I think AN has a point about trawling for raw recruits.

Funnily, enough I remember lurking around the Socialist Worker stall they had in B'ham New Street when I was 14/15. I used to pass there regularly and watch them selling the paper. They recognised me and chatted briefly BUT not once did they try and recruit me or tell me about meetings. Never! So, I joined the LP instead.

But what I am interested in is how the various groups perceive their own press. Do some engage more in the "hard sell" than others? How is paper selling explained to members (wasn't really explained to me re: the function)?

But arent members made to feel a tad guilty if they haven't sold the correct numbers of papers? I always thought it was appallingly competitive when comparing branches who sold loads and branches who didn't (bloody charts!). Felt like a bit at school.

Grouchy said...

As an ex-SWPer whose periods of membership in `the smallest mass party in the world' spookily seem to coincide almost exactly with yours, I agree with what you say. Recent reflection, particularly informed by Jim Higgins' very interesting `More Years for the Locust' - at http://www.marxists.org/archive/higgins/1997/locust/index.htm - has finally led me to rejecting the SWP version of democratic centralism (all centralism, no democracy). I wrote a paper on the history of Socialist Worker in 1983 which was finally published in the April 1985 issue of `Media Culture & Society'. For the research I wen to Colindale and went through all the back issues of Socialist Worker, and its predecessor, Labour Worker. I also interviewed dear old Roger Protz, at CAMRA. His period of editorship in the early 70s produced far and away the best SW. And yes, the `punk paper' was absolutely bloody awful. It even had Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons contributing to it - that's how bad it got. But it wasn't really Paul Foot's fault (the editor at the time). Sadly, the blame has to be put at Cliff's door. He was undoubtedly a giant of his time, but he got his perspectives completely wrong (which can happen to anyone), and then proceeded to drive a coach and horses through the IS' organisation to make sure it was adopted. That was the beginning of the end. Sad.

AN said...

Thanks grouchy, where were yu active, do I know you? Dpo you have a copy of the paper still, I would be intersted in reading it.

Anyway - there is some merit in Higgins' book, not least in that it does make you think. But the rather sarcastic tone is a bit of an obstacle for current SWP members reading it I think,

And also Higgins has the benefit of hindsight, and people I know who were in the IS during the early 70s describe him as a bot of a Stalinist himself.

a very public sociologist said...

Hold on Louise, you're saying they didn't try and recruit you???? I understand it was quite a long time ago (;)) but it seems so out of character. I think when I was around the SWP no meeting would be complete unless they'd asked my to join 6 or 7 times.

Louisefeminista said...

A Very Public Sociologist: "I understand it was quite a long time ago"....

Cheeky, comrade, OK, I may remember the 1980s very clearly but my memory hasn't eroded over the years. Contrary in fact, more crystal clear. It is true, the SWP didn't, I repeat didn't, try and recruit me.

I did visit their stall every week and buy the paper and chatted to them BUT they never ever tried to recruit me (sob!)or tell me about meetings.

Am I the only person the SWP failed to recruit who actually wanted to join(anything!)?

Sean said...

Andy, I think you are a little unfair on Higgins. His analysis in his book was not based on hindsite - what happened to IS/SWP was more or less exactly what he was saying would happen at the time of the split. Of course, what actually happened was worse, more grotesque and essentially more tragic than any of us who were booted out or left at the time imagined it could be.

I worked on the paper with Roger until 1972 and knew Jim quite well. To describe him as 'a bit of a stalinist' is entirely wrong. He was an autodidact and working class intellectual of quite formidable stature. He had a mordant, not to say savage, sense of humour and it could be quite nerve wracking to be the target of his merciless piss taking. He took no prisoners in an argument, but even when he was persuaded to become National Secretary (a move he regretted for the rest of his life) he was never an authoritarian.

And yes, I agree with grouchy's assessment of Socialist Worker under Protsky - it was certainly the best popular socialist paper produced in Britain since the heyday of the Daily Worker.

AN said...

I am very happy to be corrected on this Sean, I can see that a savage sense of humour could be mistaken for "stalinism" for those on the worng end of it.

With regard to hindisght, and please do correct me if I am eorng, did not Higgins support the restrictions of factions in the IS following the Workers Fight fiasco?

And perhaps my reading of "More years of the Locust" is incorrect, but it seems to include a critique of democratic centralism that goes beyond the critique that the IS opposition, or the Workrrs league published at the time??

Dave Riley said...

I don't want to make a habit of haunting British far left blogs to drop commentary (and this is my second 'drop' today)but I think you are wrong, Andy, on the question of the paper.

To some degree I see what you mean by the way the various IS tendencies use paper selling here in Australia. A similar approach was followed by the SLL here -- local franchise of the WRP -- but they did their selling mainly house to house in the outer suburbs.

The problem I think rests primarily in the first instance in that the whole project -- the Socialist Worker project, for example -- is geared that way as something contained by the needs of one standalone outfit. I think that's a pity as the exercise can be much more effective and fruitful as an open political one.

{I also find the SW not a very useful reflection or commentary on UK politics at all, compared say, to its US namesake in regard to its country of origin.I also think the SSP hasn't harnessed SSV as effectively as it could be used as a way to reflect pluralism, reflectiveness and a political openness.)

I see no problem with recruitment, with "trawling for new recruits", but I think it is a mistake to see that as the over riding or 'only' focus.

This especially backs onto the debate of whether it is preferable to run a web based publishing project(as the World Socialist Web Site has done) rather than a hard copy enterprise. ie: Why bother with the street?

Well I think the street is primarily where it is at politically because each 'paper seller' is a walking and talking exercise in alternative outlook/socialist politics and organising & activism. Street selling holds the line in a way the passivity of a web presence alone does not. And more so than any activity I can think of when you front the real world with your politics for all to see you are forced to interact with whatever is out there -- and deal with it.

I know that can be a big ask --as Stroppyblog has pointed out.

So a sort of dialogue is set in motion where your street presence and the interaction you experience in the public domain becomes a crucial part of your political dynamic. The paper then becomes a thinking through process of testing and tweaking your advocacy and politics.

That presumes that your sellers and your publishers are in political sync and there is a fruitful too-ing and fro-ing within the publishing organisation.That essentially was what Lenin meant when he married the newspaper to the party question. The paper was to be engineered so that it became the party's compass.

In the case of Green Left Weekly, the SW form has been transcended as in the first instance it was pitched , back in 1990/91, as an open regroupment exercise. (And to some degree it has been very effective in that regard but not as effective as it was hoped).

GLW isn't strictly a line paper in the sense that Lenin was talking about in way of a "all Russian newspaper'" In fact that it is published by the DSP here isn';t even self evident to maybe most of its readership..

This was a major debate in the Socialist Alliance here: was GLW overwhelmingly DSP line paper or could it be employed as major reach out tool for the Alliance? At the time BOTH papers -- GLW and Socialist Worker -- were being asked to come on board and integrate to create a publishing venture sponsored by a new unity party. But it was absurd gesture to try to place an equal sign between GLW and Socialist Worker either by dint of intended function, reach out or readership.

I don't deny that paper selling seems a relentless imperative with all the attributes and angst touched on in the StroppyBlog exchanges -- but thats' political existence for you. You have to be up front with your politics and you have to be involving as well so that you do foster the debate that needs to be had. And in that sense the paper formats that exchange and discussion while also carrying the news the major media don't print.

And if it also trawls for new recruits -- thats' all for the good.

AN said...

Thanks Dave, that is a useful contribution to a debate. Don’t misunderstand me, I see nothing wrong with left groups recruiting people, and I also believe public paper sales can be an important part of creating and sustaining a left political culture, and intervening in the wider political culture of society.

But the question of what type of paper, and how it is sold reflects upon the wider strategy of how you see a socialist society coming about, and the role of the organisation in contributing to that outcome.

If I lived in Scotland I would happily sell SSV on the streets, or in Oz I would happily sell GLW. Both are good papers, that popularise socialism in the context of building a broad socialist party, which is the key strategic task of the left now.

My criticisms were specific to socialist worker, really to raise the question of how the SWP see their strategic direction, and how do street sales fit into that.

Sean said...

Andy, as far as I can remember - and that's getting less and less reliable - there was no formal restriction on factions until after the ISO was expelled. Certainly there was no general rule against factions at the time.

The view that I and others who had supported the original fusion with Matgamna's group came to was that he had in reality entered in a classic sectarian raid for members and used IS's openess in a really cynical way. Even after Matgamna got slung out, my recollection of IS is that it's internal regime retained its openess to debate and healthy disregard of authority. That's why the sacking of Roger and Jim came as such a shock to so many of us.

Up until the split IS's version of democratic centralism had been decidedly heterodox, as befitting an organisation whose politics could be described (as Higgins once said) as 'a heresy of a heresy'. After the split, many of us came to the conclusion that the whole concept of democratic centralism and 'the party' had been so devalued by stalinism and the comic opera bolsheviks of the various 'orthodox' trotskyist and post trotskyist sects that it should be quietly left in a ditch as we travelled on. I think that that is a conclusion that Higgins came to himself in his later years in Norfolk.

AN said...

yes you are correct Sean - and it seems I have to retract all my criticisms of HIggins!

I checked Higgins' book on this issue, and apparently the ban on factions was instigated at the December 1975 Party Council, moved by Duncan Hallas. (there really would be a good Shakesperean play about Hallas's role in all this - we all kill the thing we love)

Grouchy said...

Andy, I was in the south-east, then London, so I think it's unlikely that our paths crossed. I've been wanting to get that paper on SW onto the web for some time, but I don't have a website and I think it may be a bit long for a blog. However, I do still have a few copies of it (the publishers gave me 50 copies at the time, and amazing as it might seem, demand never outstripped supply). Looking back on it, it is very much an historical account not a theoretical one, but I think some people would find it interesting. I actually wrote it as the dissertation for my Media Studies degree during a spell out of the party. There was a fairly senior SWP member lecturing there, who told me it would be a waste of time to attempt such a subject, but as I couldn't think of anything else to do I did it anyway. I found it quite amusing when he approached me a couple of years later wanting to publish it in an edition of a journal that he was editing! If you have an address you're happy to put on this blog I could send you a copy. I know I've got 'em about here somewhere.

AN said...

Yes i would like a copy, if you don't mind.

PO Box 1177
Swindon
SN1 4XB

AN said...

I wonder if any current memebrs of the SWP will care to join this debate. Or is it beneath them?

neprimerimye said...

In relation to the internal regime of IS in the early 1970's I think there are two factors to consider.

In the first place we have to look at the conviction of the ledership that they formed the core of a Leninist group and what that means. I make no apology for not taking that subject up here and now.

Secondly it is worth remembering that the fiasco of the fusion with Workers Fight marked the thinking of the leadership as to how much license factions could be allowed.

In any event it was after the defusion with the matgamna sect that factional rights were limited. Basically what happened was that a rule was introduced that limited the functioning of factions to the pre-confwerence period only. A rule that the then united leadership approved of including Jim Higgins.

It is very interesting but when discussing IS history in More years for the Locust Higgins does not so much as mention a number of the factional disputes that took place after the defusion with Workers Fight. In part because it would have pointed up his own role in removing those factions, in particular the right opposition, from the ranks of IS using tools he helped put in place and later protested against when used against him.

That said the IS regime was quite liberal even after the defusion with Matgamnas sect followers and a regular Internal Bulletin appeared. Meaning that the formal prohibition of factional rights was not a major problem until Cliff decided to abandon his own politics.

When that happened of course part of the leadership, basically elements round Higgins and John Palmer, and a section of the industrial cadre found themselves purged by Cliff as he fell into delusional behaviour and adopted the methods of a cutprice Zinoviev.

Finally I note that the reason why SW was so damn good under the editorship of Protz was that IS knew how to listen to the most advanced layers of the class and given them a voice. Something they could only do however as a result of the bouyant workers movement of the day and as a result of their orientation on the class and opposition to all frorms of substitutionism.

Dave Riley said...

Obviously I cannot comment on the inner workings of the SWP but I wanted to add just one more remark in regard to " selling papers" --and that is that the Green Left Weekly project was clearly a successful exercise about getting out of the box by reaching out and engineering a new political relationship between an organ and its readers and supporters.

I think one of the core failures until recently of the regroupment projects in New Zealand is that they have not generated a collective voice by fostering the exchange and debate a newspaper facilitates. While the key tools for regroupment is pluralism and inclusiveness, it is also about engineering a greater political and organisational unity by fostering dialogue and shared activity.

I hate to seem old hat but I cannot imagine anything as useful in that regard than a shared publishing project which is much more than being a memo to the populace. So I cannot imagine a regroupment project on the socialist left prospering without such a tool at its disposal.

AN said...

I agree with that Dave, but whether or not the shared publication needs to be a weekly "red top" is more open to debate. (There is also another questin that a printed publication may be financially self sustaining, whereas a left web-site never will)

Mike clarification of how and where the resriction on factions in the IS came from is very useful. Although Mike doesn';t agre with us about the need for left regroupment, it is very imoirtnat for that project nevertheless.

Firtsly, there is no prospect of a broad socialsit party in England without some engagement with teh SWP. And the culture of that organisation of limiting internal debate creates an obstacle to them working in broader projects, as they find it hard to respect the norms of democracy that allos pluralism to work. Some critique of where that tradition came from in the SWP is overdue. (Obvioulsy the SWP are a factor in Scotland and Germany as wll)

Mike is right ( and this confirmed my own earlier recollection, which was a bit shaken by Sean), that the right opposition were basically hounded out of the IS, due to technical infringements of the rules about factions.

The significance of the right opposition (despite the bizarre progeny that have evolved from it, the RCG, and the neo-Thatcherite Institute of Ideas) is two fold. Firstly, as with all factional platforms it was not a fully worked out set of ideas, but they challenged the core tenet of the IS (and most left groups at the time - that we were in a pre-revolutionary situation) - this was adebate that should have benefited the whole orgnaistaion, had it been conducted in a less polarised context.
Secondly, the Right Opposition opposed the rank and File staretgy of the IS, atb a time when this was the strategy not only of the Higgins, Hallas, Protz and Palmer, but also of Cliff, Harman, et al.

the contemporary relevence of this is the degree to which an organisation can support factioon rights for a platform that has a fundamentally opposed concept of what the nature of the organisation should be. I haven't fully thought out a position on tis, but the behaviour of the SWP and CWI factions in the SSP suggest that platforms which fundamentally oppose the party, and are biding their time to undermine it, may be more troouble than they are worth. Or perhaps the issue could have been managed better had the United Left been formed earlier, and fougt harder for their vision of a broad party.

As a spocific questin for Mike, or anyone else who may know. I am perplexed by the fact that Roy Tearse (formerly the war-time industrial organiser of the RCP, and thereofre one of the most experienced trots in Britain at the time) was a member of the right Opposition (and a leading infleunce on the later discussion group) - yet was not in the IS?

Is this beacsue the IS was nt sufficiently heterogenous to permit him membership, or did he simply not want to join?

Anonymous said...

Out of interests what are the opinions of the SW under it's current editor, Chris Bambery?

neprimerimye said...

First of all on the 'right opposition' as far as i can tell from reading their documents they were far more catastrophist than IS was in 1973. In fact contrary to Andys assertion IS very firmly rejected the notion that Britain was in a pre-revolutionary period.

That the 'ro' did not have a worked out program is formally true. Largely, I suspect, because it contained some very heterogenous elements. They did however manage to produce such a document imemediately after the expulsions. And then split. So much for programs!

As for Rawlings Tearse his history is interesting and sad. As the Industrial organiser of the WIL/RCP he did sterling work but to some considerable degree it was based on an extremely catastrophist interpretation of the perspectives put forward in the Transitional program. This is suggested by my reading of the pamphlet he produced entitled MAY DAY AND THE INDUSTRIAL WORKER which goes far beyond the more cautious statements of Haston or Grant at the same time.

He seems to have played little role in the post-war period struggles within the RCP and dropped out when the Pablo-Mandel-Healy alliance destroyed Trotskyism in britain,. he then did a degree in economics and was around IS circles after 1968 but chose not to join restricting himself to attempts to ifluence IS from without. there is a note on this by Hallas in an IB of the day which I may place on my blog at sme point.

After the 'ro' departed IS he led, if that is the right word, the quietist section which formed the Discussion group and vgetated away until his death years later. No tragedy but a bit of a pity to see real talent go to waste.

AN said...

These things are relative Mike. Certainly compared to the Healy line in 1974 "Tories prepare for dictatorship", the IS was quite sober.
On the other hand I remember a comrade in Bristol tellng of how she and a few other leading cadre were given a private meeting with Cliff where he described how they should prepare for clandestine work if there was a coup.
As far as I can see (and jst about remember) the whole of the British far left at the time were operating on the unspoken assumption that decisive battles were just round the corner. Whether this was formally described as pre-revolutionary, or pre-pre-revolutionary is neither here nor there.
My understanding of the right opposition is somewhat informed by my own experience of being in the Labour party in bristol, where of course many of them ended up, (having a last hurrah in the campaign against the 1991 gulf war).
From converstaions (which may of course have been masssaged with hindsight to make them seem more perceptive than they were) i would have said they were less catastrophist, as the central point, (for Tearse's supporters - rather than yaffe's) was that social democracy was much more stable than the IS believed, and the LP would prevent the economic slump developing into a revolutinary crisis. Hence them being the "Right" opposition, and not the left opposition.
Incidentlly, the development of the left oppostion must have been running at the same time as the IS opposition of Higgins et al?

And in brief answer to the anonymous question, I am afraiid I am not qualified to comment on the SW of Chris bambury, as i never read it. Currently I subscribe to Scottish Socialist Voice and the Morning Star.

neprimerimye said...

Sure Andy you are correct from what I've been told, by the late Billy Williams of the EETPU, and Cliff was warning comrades circa 1974 that Britain was on the verge of a coup. But none of that made it into the public press as far as I can tell. In other words it was largely for internal consumption and motivated by Cliffs factional needs of the day.

With regard to the differing economic and political anlyses of IS and the right opposition i think it clear that IS officially rejected catastrophism. Such a conclusion flowing directly from the work done on the PAE in my opinion by Kidron and others. As for the right well they had different views and I doubt that the Tearse wing ever developed a consistent view onsuch questions given their eternal dithering. And the yaffe neo-Stalinist wing that formed the RCG was most defintely catastrophist.

That said I would agree that both the Cliff faction and the ISO/Workers League differed, in terms of perspectives, as to the length of the honeymoon period between the class and the Labour Govt. of 74-79. The point being that both were of the opinion that workers struggles would continue to rise in scale and intensity as a result of the deepening crisis.

PS If 2 copies of the study Grouchy wrote of SW be sent to the following address I would be most grateful Mike Pearn c/o Revolutionary History BCM 7646, London WC1N 3XX. If any costs are incurred please let me know.

AN said...

I dunno Mike.

As you know, a lot of the debate in the SWP, and I am sure in the IS before that, is verbal, and never gets put to paper.

The PAE argument would relate to the persistence of the post war boom, but the slump following the 1973 oil crisis, was pretty much the end of its operative period, so PAE doesn't contradict a catastrophist reading.

I have never read any of the IBs from that period, but my understanding was that yaffe was tilting at the PAE for two other reasons: i) to attack the theroetical troika of state cap, PAE and deflected permaneent recolution at its weakest point, and thus weaken the whole edifice; ii) demonstrating the so-called greater sophistication of his university chums over the auto-didacts an workers of the IS.

Perhaps we shoudl drop this - as I am sure this discussion is getting obtuse to everyone except us two.

Grouchy said...

Mike, if I can find `em, you can have `em - no costs involved. I think I should just say again though, this is very much a historical narrative, and has little theoretical content. It is based mainly on a kind of content analysis, reference to other published accounts, an interview with Protzy, and some quotes from internal bulletins. As it was written in 1982 it also lacks perspective on what happened to the paper after Protz. I am sure I had no clear idea at the time. But I hope you'll find something of interest in it.

neprimerimye said...

OK I'll drop it except for two final comments.

1/ The central advocates of the PAE within IS were themselves academics. I reer to Kidron and Harris.

2/ As i understand the PAE it was held that as a result of its affect that future slumps would be evened out and not as dramatic as the slump of the 1930's.

Grouchy said...

To Andy and Mike - copies of the piece on SW have been posted to you today, so you should receive them sometime soon.

AN said...

Thanks grouchy,