Laurie Penny explains why she thinks we should care about the current troubles of the Socialist Workers party - now, in her words, 'on the brink of collapse', 'its reputation... in tatters', 'haemorrhaging members'. I don't know about on the brink of collapse; we shall see. But the loss of reputation and the loss of members are both plain facts. And one reason why we should care, according to Penny, is that the SWP has been 'a significant organising force on the British left'.
Yes, it has, but I still don't care. There are at least three reasons, in my view, for not caring; indeed for viewing the SWP's debacle with unmixed satisfaction. First, there are the origins of the debacle itself - as Penny describes them, vile, and carrying the 'self-justifying implication that little things like rape allegations against male leaders can be dismissed in the context of the "wider struggle"'. An organization like that deserves to go down the tubes. Second, there are the SWP's positions on a range of issues, representative of what I like to call the verkrappt section of the left.
But the most important reason is this. No member of the left who is also a genuine democrat should be pleased to see the left weakened by developments that detract from its democratic and pluralist breadth. But an exception should be made for sects whose commitment to genuine democracy is skin-deep at best and non-existent at worst. The SWP is still defending a concept of the vanguard party that entails a monopolistic attitude to both political representation and intellectual debate. The left not only doesn't need this; it should now be entirely beyond it.
Penny says that socialism without feminism isn't worth having. Socialism without democracy isn't either.