To slightly misquote PG Wodehouse:
“Loon is calling to loon like mastodons bellowing across primaeval swamps”…
The ad above appears in today’s Daily Telegraph: a good choice as, together with the Mail and Express, it’s become more or less the unofficial mouthpiece of Ukip. Today’s edition also carries the following:
The real impact of ‘loongate’, says James Kirkup, is to expose the “running sore” within the Tory party over core ideals.
With reports of Tory party activists already beginning to defect to Ukip over the comments, which have been attributed to an unnamed close ally of Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Political Editor James Kirkup said the story exposed “a running sore” within the Conservative ranks.
Emerging at the same time a Tory grassroots backlash over gay marriage proposals and following on from the Parliamentary infighting over an EU referendum, the Telegraph reporter said the continued Conservative unrest was making life easy for Ukip.
“Everyday is Christmas if you’re Nigel Farage,” he said.
“Each week that comes by the Tories find a way of splitting, dividing, essentially underlining that strategic fracture that they have on the issues where Nigel Farage harvests votes.”
“It is very tempting to vote for a collection of clowns or indignant, angry people who promise that somehow they will allow us to take your revenge…
“[UKIP is] against the political class, it is against foreigners, it is against immigrants. But it does not have any very positive policies. They do not know what they are for”
Kenneth Clarke nailed UKIP good and proper when he said that a few days ago. It was refreshing, as well, to hear him endorse Cameron’s 2006 description (now quietly buried by Tory HQ) of them “fruit cakes and loonies and closet racists.”
Farage and his shower, unused to scrutiny and criticism, have been complaining about “a morally reprehensible” “smear campaign” against its candidates in the run-up to this week’s council elections. It’s unfair, and unsporting, they bleat, to pick up on comments their candidates have made on Twitter and Facebook. Well, welcome to the rough-and-tumble world of serious bourgeois politics, Mr Farage: after all you’ve always wanted to be a part of it, haven’t you?
Today’s Daily Mirror carries an excellent exposé of UKIP candidate Alex Wood giving a Nazi salute and with a knife between his teeth (above). His Facebook page contains these comments about Africans:
“If I’m completely honest mate, they disgust me. I mean just look at the mud huts they live in and how they kill each other. It’s quite barbaric.
” This is what UKIP wants to prevent – our country ending up like Africa or some other third world country.”
The Shiraz legal team tell me that I have to point out that Mr Wood denies making those comments: ha ha ha.
Wood has now been suspended from the party and removed as a candidate: but how the hell did he get accepted as a member and selected as a candidate in the first place?
Even before the Wood exposé, UKIP had been forced to suspend another candidate, Anna-Marie Crampton, following these comments on the site Secrets of the Fed in which she claimed that the second world war was “engineered by the Zionists” in order to bring about the creation of the state of Israel. She also claimed that Zionists caused the Holocaust:
“Only the Zionists could sacrifice their own in the gas chambers…It was thanks to them that six million Jews were murdered in the war.”
Again, our legal eagles insist that I inform you that Ms Crampton denies that she made the comments, claiming the site was…ha ha ha…hacked…
What else have we got? Oh yes, there’s retired sheep farmer Susan Bowen, selected to stand in Tintagel, but now removed following the discovery that she used to be in the BNP.
Then there’s Chris Scotton, suspended from membership and as candidate in Leicester, following exposure of his Facebook “liking” for the English Defence League.
Well, at least Farage and his cronies did something about a few of the Nazis in their ranks: but what about Caven Vines, UKIP candidate in Rotherham, with close links to the BNP, who thinks there are too many Muslims in Britain? UKIP have refused to condemn him or, indeed, do anything at all about him.
Nor has they acted against the vice-chairman of Yeovil UKIP, Godfrey Davey, another candidate on Thurday, who tweeted:
“At the rate this government is going we will end up with civil war it will be us or the imegrants [sic]“.
Mr Davey also has views on other issues:
“Every time you give sodomites an inch they want a mile, no pun, pedeophilia here we come [sic].”
I suppose that in comparison with that sort of fascistic filth, UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom’s comments on Radio Five (John Piennar, Monday April 29) that women of child-bearing age shouldn’t be employed because maternity laws are “too draconian” were relatively inoffensive – even if they did amount to encouraging employers to break the law.
This shower of racists and ultra-reactionaries has been given an easy ride until now, mainly because a large section of the print media (the Mail, Express, Sun and Telegraph in particular) sympathise with them.
But why hasn’t most of the left been more outspokenly hostile to this bunch of racists, homophobes and all-purpose reactionaries? Today’s Morning Star, for instance, carries an extraordinary editorial headed “Ukip’s just a distraction“, some of which could have come straight from a UKIP press release:
“Farage denies that his party is xenophobic or racist, insisting that opposition to immigration is based on sound economic fears that huge numbers of Bulgarians and Romanians are poised to enter Britain, putting pressure on welfare benefits, state education, the NHS, housing and other social provisions.
“In truth there is no major political party in Britain that hasn’t spouted something similar in recent times to justify tough rhetoric about clamping down on immigration.
“So the jibe of racism could equally be pointed at the Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.”
Surely it couldn’t be that the Morning Star, like the Daily Mail and the Tory ultra-right, rather agrees with UKIP on at least one or two matters?
From the AWL’s website and their paper, Solidarity:
By Martin Thomas
Solidarity has criticised the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) on its handling of allegations of sexual harassment and then of rape brought by a young woman member of the SWP against leading SWP organiser Martin Smith.
The SWP leadership’s approach, over two years and more, was to steer as near as it could to bureaucratic brush-off. The case is not closed: the woman involved should have the option of an independent investigation by labour movement people unconnected with the SWP and with some legal qualifications.
Some on the left have attempted to “no platform” the SWP — for example, shouting down speakers on demonstrations who are SWP members. We disagree. The SWP must be confronted politically, not “no platformed”.
The Glasgow protest against the bedroom tax at Easter, several thousand strong and the largest such demonstration in Britain, was disrupted by people (mainly young women) trying to shout down an SWP speaker. Some were violently harassed by SWP stewards, who told them to “go back to their rape demo”, and attempted to get the police to remove them.
The SWP speaker was Dave Sherry, a member of the SWP Disputes Committee. We understand why people object to someone so complicit in the SWP leadership’s handling of the issue.
But shouting down SWP speakers, even Disputes Committee members, will not improve the culture of our movement, or make it more safe and welcoming for women.
In Scotland, some members or ex-members of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) have an added edge to their anger against the SWP because of memories of the destructive 2006 split in SWP, when the SWP sided with Tommy Sheridan.
At a demonstration in York on 6 April, anarchists and Maoist-Stalinists harassed SWPers and in one case spat at an SWPer. An AWL activist running for election in a Unison branch recently was denounced by some because her supporters in the election included SWPers. One union branch has voted not to affiliate to the West of Scotland anti-bedroom-tax campaign on the sole grounds that the SWP has influence in it. Some union branches have seen moves to oust SWPers from office.
The shouting-down and spitting disrupt the labour and socialist movement rather than helping it develop a better culture on issues of women’s rights and gender violence. Often, in unions, such responses will play into the hands of the right wing, which has no better attitude or record than the SWP on women’s rights. A union branch which disaffiliates from a broad campaign because of SWP influence is less, not more, able to make that campaign hospitable for women.
Some of those wanting to “no platform” the SWP learned this approach in the SWP itself, which has a long habit of trying to deal with political issues by anathemas and exclusions.
The International Socialist Group (ISG) in Scotland was formed by people who split from the SWP only in early 2011 (when the Smith scandal was already brewing: there is no evidence that the people now in the ISG did anything specially good on the issue when they were in the SWP).
The SWP’s own approach is now coming back on them. For example, the SWP and the AWL disagree on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The AWL argues that a workable and democratic settlement must recognise the rights to self-determination of both nations, Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews, and must therefore be a “two states” formula (a real one, not the Israeli government’s hypocritical “two states”, meaning all power to Israel and parcellised bantustans for the Palestinians). The SWP argues that justice for the Palestinians can be achieved only by conquering Israel and subsuming its people into an Arab state.
We’ve seen the SWP, not in an over-excited outburst by some young activist but in an official letter signed by Alex Callinicos, hyping this up into an absurd claim that the AWL “supports the Israeli state’s terror against the Palestinian people”. The outrage is selective: the SWP is relaxed about cooperating with people who really do support the Chinese state’s repression of the people of Tibet. The hype serves not to give due urgency to debate, but to replace it by curses (“Zionists!” “racists!”).
The ISG writes that the way the SWP handled the scandal “replicated the culture of… rape apologism”. On the streets, that translates into broadside denunciation of SWPers as “rape apologists”.
There is a reasonable case for the labour movement and the left not accepting Martin Smith, in particular, as an organiser and a representative until some better tribunal than the SWP Disputes Committee has delivered a verdict. And, in fact, despite protesting that Smith remains “in good standing”, the SWP CC has quietly pulled him out of public organising roles.
The investigation by the SWP’s Disputes Committee, all of whose members knew Smith well, was unsatisfactory. But the wider left is even less equipped to deliver a verdict than the SWP’s Disputes Committee was. Smith, like any other similarly accused, should be considered innocent until proven guilty.
Something like half the active SWP membership came out in one degree or another of opposition to the SWP Central Committee’s handling of the case.
Other SWPers backed the CC because, despite everything, they believed the Disputes Committee. Or because they were persuaded by the Central Committee’s cursing of its critics as feminists who had ceased to look to the working class, or as semi-anarchists. Such wrong attitudes do not make them “rape apologists”. Their attitudes can be changed by serious argument, not by shouting and spitting, and not by tactics which help the right wing.
The self-righteousness of the ISG does no service to women’s rights. As well as criticising the SWP, the AWL has also attempted self-examination. How would we have dealt with similar allegations in our own organisation? Even the best political positions and education programmes are no guarantee against individual abuse. Do we have strong enough safeguards against the sort of lower-grade wrongdoing which seems to have formed the background to the Smith scandal: older activists using their “prestige” in political activity for sexual advantage with young members and contacts?
Attempts to “no platform” the SWP cut against that sort of self-examination and against the rational argument — sharp and angry where necessary — by which alone the labour movement can progress.
Russian soldiers entering Germany at the end of World War Two raped as many as two million German women. In east Berlin some 100,000 women were raped, and up to 10,000 died as a result (Antony Beevor: Berlin: The Downfall). Communist Party activists across the world denied these facts or tried to explain them away. Trotskyists vehemently criticised the CPs, but they still sought to work with rank-and-file CP workers in the labour movement where there was common ground, and to re-educate them.
In 2001 the SWP openly “explained away” the Taliban’s abuse of women in Afghanistan (SW, 6 October 2001). The AWL criticised the SWP, but did not rally against the SWP in any way that could help the “bomb Afghanistan” brigade, then in full flood after the Twin Towers atrocity. We sought to discuss with and convince SWP members of the wrongness of their politics.
We should be criticising, debating with, and politically confronting the SWP in an attempt to persuade activists and clean up the culture of our movement.
What description would fit the refusal to allow people to run, simply because of their gender? What would you call such fundamental discrimination and denial of basic human rights to 50% of the population? Surely not ”apartheid” ?
Gaza marathon: UN cancels race over Hamas ban on women
From the BBC website:
The UN agency which organises Gaza’s marathon has cancelled the event, blaming the refusal of the territory’s governing Islamist Hamas movement to allow women to run.
The marathon was scheduled for Sunday and would have been Gaza’s third.
Hamas said the marathon could go ahead if “local traditions” were respected.
Conservative elements in Gaza have sometimes complained about mixing between the sexes, especially in schools and at sporting events.
The UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) said in a statement that it had taken “the disappointing decision” after “discussions with the authorities in Gaza who have insisted that no women should participate”.
Unrwa “is working on a programme of other events, which will be forwarded to those interested as soon as possible,” the statement adds.
“We regret this decision to cancel the marathon but we don’t want men and women running together,” Abdessalam Siyyam, cabinet secretary of the Hamas government, told AFP news agency.
“We did not tell Unrwa to cancel the marathon and we haven’t prevented it, but we laid down some conditions: We don’t want women and men mixing in the same place,” he added.
The Palestinian territory is almost exactly marathon length from top to bottom.
Last year, thousands of runners braved freezing conditions to take part, including some women. Palestinian runner Nader al-Masri won the event on its first two occasions.
In previous years, Hamas has supported the race and provided security.
In the past there have been attacks on the UN’s summer camps for children in Gaza after complaints that boys were allowed to mix with girls, the BBC’s Jon Donnison reports.
The marathon was due to be part of the UN’s fundraising efforts in order to run those camps, our correspondent adds.
Julie Bindel, a socialist feminist [or should that be "radical feminist" ? - see comments below], writes in the generally right-of-centre magazine Standpoint. It should go without saying that us Shiraz’ers don’t necessarily agree with all of what she argues:
Disrespect for women: Tommy Sheridan (left) and George Galloway (right) share anti-feminist attitudes with the Occupy movement
Feminism’s natural home is the political Left. The struggle for equal pay, kick-started by the female workers at the Ford Dagenham car plant who went on strike in 1968, was supported by male-led unions. Socialists are assumed to be in favour of total equality between men and women and castigate the Right for considering women to be only worthy of childrearing and housekeeping.
In 2012 the Trades Union Congress appointed a female general secretary, Frances O’Grady, for the first time in its 145-year history. Yet the Tories managed to vote in a woman as party leader as far back as 1975. Who says sexism is the domain of right-wing traditionalists?
The leading contemporary socialist feminist thinkers such as Sheila Rowbotham and Lynne Segal are well known in the academy but will never become as prominent publicly as their male counterparts. The reason for this is straightforward. When women work with leftist men to achieve a common aim, any issues specific to women are often seen as a “bourgeois deviation” and counter to the wider cause.
In 1964 Stokely Carmichael, the prominent US Black Power activist, was asked about the role of women in the civil rights movement. He replied, “The only position for women in the movement is prone.” Carmichael’s remarks caused outrage among many women and are still considered emblematic of the entrenched misogyny of 1960s activist movements. Sexism on the Left on both sides of the Atlantic has a long and shameful history. One Berkeley anti-war leader said of feminists in 1969, “Let them eat cock.” At Students for a Democratic Society meetings, “brothers” reported their unique dreams for utopia which included, “Free grass, free food, free women and free clothes.” If and when women tried to criticise male chauvinism within the movement, their actions were mocked. Such sexism prompted the feminist critiques of the New Left that would later develop into the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s.
Despite more than four decades of feminism, sexism on the Left has barely abated. As recently as 2004 former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone warmly welcomed to City Hall Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Muslim cleric who advocated domestic violence and the stoning of adulterous women, and justified doing so when challenged. Al-Qaradawi was a speaker at a conference, hosted by Livingstone, defending the “right” of Muslim women to wear the hijab. Although the conference claimed to promote “choice”, al-Qaradawi has ruled that wearing the hijab is not a matter of choice but of religious obligation. There were no feminists of Muslim origin invited to speak at the conference or any Muslims critical of religious doctrine. Feminist critics of Livingstone’s friendly relationship with al-Qaradawi described the conference as a one-sided presentation of religious fundamentalism masquerading as a human rights debate.
George Galloway is a fine example of a man on the Left who appears to consider women as inferior. Galloway, along with left-wing heroes Ken Loach, John Pilger and Michael Moore, is a supporter of Julian Assange, currently holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in order to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face questioning on allegations of sexual assault and rape.
Galloway implied that once a woman had agreed to sex with a man her ongoing consent was implicit, even if she were asleep. His remarks were deemed to be so offensive to women that the then leader of the Respect party, Salma Yaqoob, resigned in protest. “It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder,” Galloway pontificated in a YouTube video, “and said: ‘Do you mind if I do it again?’ It might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette, but whatever else it is, it is not rape or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning.”
Suggestions by a number of men on the Left that Assange’s two accusers are part of a CIA-inspired honeytrap and that the great man himself is the only victim are in themselves indicative of a culture of “bros before hos”, a term some left-wing women have heard male counterparts use.
Nowhere is sexism and hypocrisy on the Left more evident than in relation to the abuse of women. The late Stieg Larsson, heralded as a left-wing anti-sexist hero for his portrayal of women’s resistance to male violence in his Dragon Tattoo trilogy, once said that those who campaigned for the rights of women in immigrant communities wanted only to “portray all male immigrants as representatives of a single homogeneous attitude towards women” and that such people “only talked about honour crime because they wanted to divert attention from how white men raised in the ‘patriarchal structures of Swedish society’ abused and murdered women as a matter of course”.
It was recently revealed that some male “leaders” of the Socialist Workers Party attempted to hold a sharia-type court hearing as a response to an accusation of rape. Tom Walker, a journalist on the party’s paper, Socialist Worker, resigned in disgust at the blatant anti-women stance taken by the central committee. “There is clearly a question mark over the sexual politics of many men in powerful positions on the Left,” he said. “It may shed some light to learn that ‘feminism’ is used effectively as a swear word by the leadership’s supporters. In fact it is deployed against anyone who seems ‘too concerned’ about issues of gender.”
Similar tales of sexism and downright misogyny came to light in Scotland during the Tommy Sheridan debacle. Sheridan, a charismatic working-class activist and convenor of the Scottish Socialist Party, stepped down from his post in 2004, citing his wife’s pregnancy. But it later came to light that the News of the World had got hold of explosive evidence of Sheridan’s extramarital affairs and trips to a Manchester swingers’ club. Sheridan admitted his indiscretions at a party meeting but demanded that members cover for him for the good of the SSP. The feminists refused on a matter of principle.
Catriona Grant, equality spokesperson at the time, says that Sheridan decided his best form of attack was to pretend that a political plot by feminists was afoot. “Seemingly the women in the party wanted to get rid of him by means of a matriarchal coup. Sheridan found himself talking publicly about witches and dark arts,” Grant told me.
Sheridan went on to sue the News of the World in 2006 for defamation and won £200,000 damages. But following a subsequent police investigation he was convicted of perjury, and sentenced to three years in prison, of which he served one. (Andy Coulson, formerly News of the World editor and David Cameron’s communications director, and two other journalists have since been charged with perjury and other offences in connection with the Sheridan case.) Gregor Gall, professor of industrial relations at the University of Hertfordshire, is author of a book on Sheridan. I asked if he considered the male party members who covered up for Sheridan to be sexist. “There were concerns about his behaviour when he was in Militant [before setting up the SSP] and complaints were made, but the leadership in London chose not to act on it. I suppose they didn’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”
The Occupy movement appears to be yet another left-wing movement dominated by sexist men. One female member, who asked not to be named for fear of being classed as a “splitter” or “scab”, explains that the movement is a perfect example of “mostly young, almost exclusively white, almost all middle-class men, who thought that the revolution was finally here. But don’t bother mentioning the oppression of women in society, sexual harassment on site, or how we end up doing all the dirty jobs in the camp, as they’ll talk over you, or shout at you to stop monopolising the conversation.”
She added: “There’s no point questioning the objectification of women, or the way we’re talked down to and not listened to by men on the site despite often having many years of campaigning for social justice behind us.”
Women in the workplace suffer sexism from men of all political persuasions, but the reality is that the very unions that can potentially support them against discrimination and sexual harassment, for example, are themselves often bastions of male privilege. Cath Elliott is a union activist and freelance writer who finds herself battling sexism almost on a daily basis. “Having been involved in left politics since I was a teenager I thought I might have got used to sexist left-wing men by now,” says Elliott. “But no, it is always disappointing when men on the Left sell women out.”
Brendan O’Neill, an extreme libertarian formerly associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party and its magazine Living Marxism, is one of many men on the Left who defendspornography despite a long battle by feminists to show how it degrades women. In a recent article, “A Marxist defence of Page 3 girls”, on the LeftCentre website O’Neill quoted Marx on press freedom before wading into the feminists who gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry about sexist media representation of women. O’Neill called them a “bevy of feminists”, “a shrill chorus”, and “boob blockers”.
Male Labour MPs are not exempt from uttering the odd sexist rant. Austin Mitchell, Labour MP for Great Grimsby, tweeted to Louise Mensch when she resigned as a Conservative MP, “Shut up Menschkin. A good wife doesn’t disagree with her master in public and a good little girl doesn’t lie about why she quit politics.” Although his comment was probably intended to be tongue in cheek, it still showed a blatant disrespect for women. When David Cameron told Angela Eagle, an openly lesbian Labour MP, to “calm down, dear” in the Commons it attracted widespread criticism. Somehow men on the Left seem to get away with it more easily, perhaps because of the patronising view that the working classes treat their women rough and ready (despite the fact that successful leftwingers are rarely working-class these days).
Vera Baird QC, Solicitor-General in the last Labour government and now Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, says that she gets tired of some left-wing men sidelining women and disregarding crucial issues such as sexual violence and harassment in the workplace. “Feminists have long challenged men’s sexism, whether in trade unions or political groups, but unfortunately the same old stories keep being told. It is high time those particular men recognised that we are not going to wait for the so-called ‘revolution’, meanwhile standing there, cap in hand, waiting for our turn to speak out about what matters to women.”
Sucheta Chatterjee, a lawyer and feminist activist, recently posted on a social networking site what she imagines to be in the heads of her male comrades. “Just stop bitching about feminism and race issues. Stop being divisive and undermining the class war. How many times have I told you that after the revolution, life will be paradise? Women will be treated like full-fledged humans and blacks will be taken seriously. Till then, shut the fuck up. And bitch, go make me a sandwich. Only fair trade wheat please.”
As much as I loathed the Thatcher government I have always felt deeply perturbed by the misogyny directed towards Baroness Thatcher by men on the Left. When I hear young male socialists today shout “Burn the witch” and other such grotesque slogans I realise that the vitriol towards her goes beyond a robust dislike of her political legacy. It comes also from a woman-hating resentment that she climbed to the top of the political tree. I will not be dancing on Thatcher’s grave or holding a street party when she dies unlike many of my male comrades. I would sooner celebrate the end of the left-wing dinosaur and the beginning of true political equality.
By Cath Elliott (reblogged from Too Much To Say For Myself):
There’s been some discussion online about last Saturday’s debate at UNISON’s National Women’s Conference on Motion 30: Support Rape Victims not Rape Deniers, so as the original mover of the motion at #unwc13 I thought perhaps it might be time for me to give my take on it all.
* * *
First though, some personal background.
The Socialist Workers Party was the first political party I ever got involved with.
It was back in the early 80′s when I was 13/14 years old and just starting to get interested in politics. I’d written off to the Anti-Nazi League, whose address I’d found printed on the inside sleeve of the latest Tom Robinson Band album, and someone from the ANL who lived locally had contacted me and invited me to meet up with him. And so I had, not knowing at the time (and not realising until many years later in fact) that the ANL and the SWP were inextricably linked.
I was 14, he was 24, but before too long we were ‘an item’; although to give A his due he behaved impeccably, and in light of some of the stuff that’s now coming out about the SWP and its history with young women it seems I was one of the lucky ones.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I have many fond memories of Saturday mornings spent selling the paper, of the hours spent in A’s kitchen churning out indecipherable leaflets on the old hand-cranked printer, and of being in awe of, and desperate to learn from, this small group of adult men who called each other comrade and talked openly of a need for revolution.
I’m not sure how long it all lasted, but eventually I moved on and got involved with the Young Socialists instead, and while there have been a couple of occasions over the years where I’ve come close to rejoining the party, most recently at the start of the Iraq war, to be frank I’m just not a party animal: I can’t and I won’t do unswerving or unquestioning loyalty to any so-called ‘leadership’, and sadly that’s what the SWP has always demanded.
I have though supported plenty of SWP events over the years and, as the old cliché goes, some of my best friends are Swappies….
* * *
Background to the Motion
In September last year the NUS passed a motion condemning George Galloway for his comments on rape and denying him a platform at future NUS events. Rather than retract his remarks, Galloway’s response to this was to threaten to sue them.
The deadline for submission of motions to this year’s UNISON’s Women’s Conference was 18th October. At this point Galloway was still making threats, so in solidarity with the NUS position my Regional Women’s Committee submitted a similar but slightly toned down version of their motion.
Our motion was accepted onto the conference agenda, and as chair of the committee and as the Eastern Region Delegate it then became my job to move it.
* * *
In January this year it was revealed that the SWP had held an internal Disputes Committee hearing into rape allegations against a senior SWP activist and long-standing member of its Central Committee. The case against Comrade Delta – who it now turns out was in his late forties when the alleged rape took place while the young woman concerned was still a teenager – was found not proven.
Furthermore, as the published transcript of the Disputes Committee Report to SWP Conference makes clear, the young woman concerned, Comrade W, who made the allegations against Comrade Delta, was asked entirely inappropriate and victim blaming questions during the Disputes Committee hearing – questions about previous sexual history and so on – while the Disputes Committee itself was comprised in large part of Comrade Delta’s friends and allies.
All in all a pretty shameful state of affairs then, and one that’s been written about extensively in the weeks since it all came out.
* * *
I was made aware during conference that some SWP activists were planning to speak against the Galloway motion.
Word had somehow got out to them that there was a risk the party would be getting a dishonourable mention in my moving speech. I am after all one of the union activists who recently signed the open letter to the SWP Central Committee asking them to reconsider their stance, so the SWP had held a meeting and, egged on from the back of the conference hall by a full-time SWP employee, were preparing to justify the Kangaroo Court tactics Comrade W had been subjected to, and to defend the indefensible.
I was baffled by this decision, especially given the party’s now much publicised record on handling rape and sexual violence within its own ranks. But on the Saturday morning the motion was due to be heard, after I’d seen that at least one of the SWP women involved had signed the now notorious 500 signature shit list, and after this leaflet had been handed to me on my way into the conference venue, I was also bloody angry.
So in anticipation of the things I suspected they’d be saying in their opposition speeches, I sat down and wrote my right of reply.
* * *
The first half of my opening speech was pretty much a rip-off of a piece I’ve published on this blog already – Assange, and feminism’s so-called male allies. That’s one of the joys of being a writer, you can plagiarise yourself to your heart’s content.
So I talked about Assange and Galloway and Pilger, and about my disappointment with those leftie men who are prepared to sell women out for the sake of other leftie men.
And then I talked about the recent goings on in the SWP:
“Our comrades in the Socialist Workers’ Party haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory recently either over the issue of rape and sexual assault.
For those of you who haven’t heard, the SWP held an internal hearing into rape allegations against a senior member of its Central Committee, the membership of which was made up from all accounts of a majority of the alleged perpetrators close friends and allies. The alleged victim was then asked exactly the kinds of questions we would condemn if they were asked in any so-called bourgeois court of law.
Questions about the victim’s previous sexual history, victim blaming questions to try and show that if the alleged incident did take place the victim herself must have borne some responsibility for whatever went on.
Quite rightly the SWP have been roundly denounced for its Kangaroo Court tactics, and sadly but inevitably some of our own colleagues, comrades we would ordinarily be proud to stand alongside, have found themselves and their allegiances come under scrutiny.
Conference, declaring a man to be innocent of rape and other crimes of sexual violence, purely on the grounds that he’s been engaged in important work that many of us would like to see continued, while discounting women’s testimonies and women’s concerns in the process, is just the same old same old, men protecting men protecting men, and selling women out in the process.
Well we’re calling on UNISON to take a stand. We’re calling on UNISON to refuse to grant a platform to anyone who blames women for the crimes of sexual violence committed against them, and who perpetrates rape culture through the victim blaming attitudes they espouse.
Conference we know that no platforming is a controversial measure, and it’s not something we propose lightly. But at the same time we also know that every time a rape denier spouts their victim blaming poison another woman is silenced, and we refuse to play any part in that.
Conference please support the motion.”
And then the SWP got their chance to speak.
And they blew it.
I was apparently being “nasty” and making “serious allegations” against their party. I’d been reading too much of the right-wing press and I didn’t know what I was talking about. There had been five women at the Disputes Committee hearing, and it had all been conducted impeccably and the party was beyond reproach. The ‘process’ the SWP had used to determine the guilt or innocence of Comrade Delta had been fair. And so on and so forth…
We had a queue of women lined up to speak in support, but in the end the debate was closed down after conference had heard two more speakers for and two speakers against the motion.
Right up until the point when the SWP decided to make it personal I’d been looking at my hastily scribbled Right of Reply speech and wondering whether I should tone it down a bit. But after listening to the disgraceful attempts to justify the SWP’s recent behaviour, and after hearing myself practically being accused of being some kind of right wing stooge, I decided to go for it:
“Conference, as I said in my opening speech we do recognise that no platforming is a controversial measure.
However, to have the SWP come up here and pretend that their concerns are centred on some idea that we want to no platform anyone whose views differ from ours quite frankly takes the biscuit.
No, the SWP doesn’t care about sexism or about rape victims. The SWP’s only concerns are about the implications of this motion being passed for the 500 of its members, many of them UNISON activists, who yesterday signed a statement supporting the actions of its Central Committee. Their concerns are solely about what will happen now that 500 of them have outed themselves as misogynists and rape deniers.
In the leaflet that many of you would have been handed this morning outside the conference centre the SWP say: “We believe that the allegations made by the women in the Assange case should be taken seriously and investigated.” My question for the SWP would be – why then don’t you believe that allegations made by your own women members against your own activists should be taken equally seriously and investigated?
I know this is controversial conference, but please support the motion.”
The motion was passed overwhelmingly by UNISON Women’s Conference, with only five women voting against it and several hundred grassroots trade union women voting for it.
* * *
There are legitimate arguments to be had about no-platforming people, and I wish we could have heard those arguments at women’s conference. Unfortunately though the SWP picked the wrong fight on the conference floor, choosing instead to try and defend and justify the party’s recent despicable behaviour.
And now things have got even worse for them, with the party expelling activists for the simple crime of talking to each other on Facebook without the Central Committee’s permission or something. Meanwhile those swappies who have openly discussed the details of the case face no sanction whatsoever.
I’d be interested to hear whether those who got up and opposed UNISON’s right not to give Galloway a platform will feel a similar urge to get up and defend their own (now expelled) comrades’ rights to speak at the SWP’s hastily called Special Conference on March 10th. I won’t be holding my breath though….
Oh, and as for Galloway, he apparently has no problem with no-platforming anyone …
A show of hands! That’s how the Socialist Workers Party cleared a comrade of rape
- Female party member made claims against full-time party activist
- Dispute was heard by party’s ‘disputes committee’, decisions of which need to be ratified at annual conference
- Five of the panel’s members had previously worked alongside the accused
- SWP insists victim herself chose not to involve the police
PUBLISHED:23:48, 1 February 2013| UPDATED:23:49, 1 February 2013
The SWP crisis, caused by their leadership’s dreadful mishandling of rape allegations against “Comrade Delta,” has now reached Youtube, thanks to a dissident young comrade (who is, it has to be said, a terrible singer):
Meanwhile, here is The Leadership’s response to the allegations and criticism…