This posting  covers the Introduction and Contents of the second part of Allan Armstrong’s review of the book, Breaking up the British state, Scotland, Independence and Socialism, edited by Bob Fotheringham, Dave Sherry & Colm Bryce of the SWP. The full article can be seen at:-


This posting  covers the Introduction and Contents of the second part of Allan Armstrong’s review of the book Breaking up the British state, Scotland, Independence and Socialism, edited by Bob Fotheringham, Dave Sherry & Colm Bryce of the SWP. The full article can be seen at:-


Part 2 – To Party or not to Party?

 1. The limits of Left social democracy and constitutional nationalism

 2. Tail-ending Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Leonard and Left social democracy

3. The SWP’s economistic and ‘national exceptionalist’ approach provides no alternative in the political arena

 4. ‘Maginot Marxist’ attempts to dismiss the significance of struggles against oppression

5. The shared history of two unionist states – the USSR and the UK

6. Conclusion



The first part of this review, Breakin’ up is so hard to do, examined the thinking and theories which have led to the SWP adopting Scottish independence.  It looked at the political reasons why the SWP is unable to devise an immediate republican, ‘internationalism from below’ strategy’ to resist Johnston’s reactionary unionists, or to provide an alternative to the constitutional nationalists’ floundering attempts to bring about constitutional change.

The second part of this review, To party or not to party?  looks into the SWP’s long-standing claim that it provides THE Socialist party alternative to the constitutional parties – particularly the social democrats, be they Labour or the SNP.  But it also offers an explanation as to why ButBS is so muted in making any such party claims for the SWP today.  It links this to a wider social democratic legacy, which has had such an impact on the British Left.  Whilst wanting to reject British Labourism, and the SNP leadership’s social neo-liberalism ButBS is still mired in an acceptance of much Left social democratic thinking.

ButBS wants the SWP to be seen as a Marxist and revolutionary socialist party, adhering to what it claims to be Leninist methods of organisation.  Therefore, ButBS embraces Vladimir Lenin (and Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky too).  In an attempt to appear orthodox, ButBS uncritically invokes the Bolsheviks’ 1917 Declaration of Rights.  This declaration addressed the oppressed nations, which the new Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic inherited from the Tsarist Russian empire.  However, for various reasons, this declaration has not left Socialists a legacy which we can champion today.  The Bolsheviks’ failure to embrace an ‘internationalism from below’ strategy contributed to this.

Therefore, the second part concludes by advancing the case for a different sort of party – a socialist republican party.  It also makes the case that the ‘internationalism from below’ strategy developed in these islands by James Connolly and John Maclean, should make a major contribution to such a party.  This is not done with the intention of creating a new orthodox Connollyism or Macleanism, but in an appreciation that they, along with others (some now neglected, some now misunderstood, and some now forgotten) pointed to another way of thinking and organising, which has increasing relevance today.


The first part of this article can be seen at:-



also see:-

1. A critique of Jeremy Corbyn and British left social democracy – part-2 (c-f)- Allan Armstrong (RCN) 

2. The role of platforms- Iain Robertson (RCN)

The role of platforms in the Scottish Socialist Party – Why are the RCN a platform?

3. The need for a program – Brian Higgins (RCN)

4. What is republicanism? – articles by Allan Armstrong, Bob Goupillot, Bernadette McAliskey,  and Iain Robertson (posted on Republican Socialist Platform blog)


1 Comment

  • I think that you are correct that the SWP are economistic, workerist and that they don’t concern themselves with ‘high’ politics i.e how we are ruled and why we put up with it. Why is this?

    One reason is that they are not democrats. They fail to grasp the importance of democracy in at least 2 important senses;

    1. As a weapon that the proletariat and its allies can wield against the ruling class because we are the overwhelming majority. Democratic advances strengthen us and weakens the enemy. It is a sign of our success that the bourgeoise has to pretend to be democratic. It is a sign of our failure that the masses believe that or feel indifferent to high politics.

    2. Democracy, requires open and honest debate and this allows us to utilise the creative potential of our class, to educate ourselves and to come up with the best answers and cultural responses to the issues that confront us. Committing to a democratic path has its challenges but in the medium to longer term it pays off. It is also empowering for individuals to feel that their contribution is valued – it is a bedrock of egalitarianism.

    Organisations like the SWP are not egalitarian – they tend to be dominated by people, traditionally male, with big egos. (Few people had a bigger ego than Tony Cliff). These organisations attract people who are looking for answers. For some people these guru like figures provide all the answers. Such organisations do not require and often shut down democratic input from below. They have no need for democratically created programmes or methods of accountability- hence a democratic critique of capitalist society is not required. Revolution is a primal upsurge of the people which The Party hopes it can some how lead. My experience of the SWP is that when the class does rise (Miners Great Strike, the Poll Tax) they find themselves completely unprepared and scrabbling to catch up. They have no democratic method of learning from experience and correcting their strategy and tactics.

    We covered quite a lot of this in the republican pamphlet that we produced for the RCN. It might be worth revisiting that.

    Comradely regards,