Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Chris Harman: a small element of truth

People that follow internal developments in the Socialist Workers' Party rather more closely than I do sometimes argue that Chris Harman is the keeper of the orthodox Cliffite flame against the depredations of the Rees-German revisionist clique.

Who knows? No political differences at the higher levels of that organisation are ever revealed to the ordinary membership, let alone the wider left.

But if there is anything in the theory, then Harman's contribution to this week's Socialist Worker - written in the context of the impending launch of the Sheridan party on Sunday - makes interesting reading:

However some on the left, including some of Tommy Sheridan’s former comrades in the SSP, are suspicious of the conference. They say that socialists cannot base themselves on the politics of personalities and that this can only end up building up egos that come to see themselves as more important than the movement.

This is very similar to the arguments used by some people in England who refuse to back Respect because of the role George Galloway plays in it.

Many false arguments start from a small element of truth. And the sort of socialist society we want to see cannot be established by any individual, however eloquent or committed ...

Socialist Worker supporters are working with many others to build this weekend’s conference, not because we have suddenly joined some Tommy Sheridan fan club, but because together we can draw in the forces for a new movement that is powerful and confident enough to value the talents of individuals without bowing down to them.

Absolutely the correct position, comrade. Let no one ever forget these elementary propositions. Especially those who the remarks are probably aimed at.

I do have some personal experience in these things. In the mid nineties, I was a member of the Socialist Labour Party. In just three years, I saw the organisation transform itself from a relatively healthy regroupment of class struggle activists into a personality cult based around Scargill.

So a word to the wise to anyone signing up with the Sheridanistas. Make sure your main man's undeniable ego is never allowed to override the basic norms of labour movement democracy. Otherwise your project could go tits up sooner than you think.

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