swp crisis

(Trigger Warning) Rape in the SWP: a comrade’s testimony and experience of the disputes committee

In December of last year – I was still at this point a member of the SWP – another member (I refuse to call that person a comrade) raped me. At first I refused to accept it and actually felt guilty. This person had been sexually harassing me for about a month prior to the attack and part of me felt that I should have said something sooner. In January, after confiding in a comrade who made me realise what really happened, I decided to file an official complaint with the SWP’s disputes committee.

This was not an easy decision to make. I had sat through that disputes report at conference that same month, with the man who raped me just a few seats away, and had been disgusted at what I had heard. However, I and other comrades truly believed that it must have been a one-off – that the appalling behaviour shown throughout must have been a mistake that would be rectified and never repeated. I think we all know now that we were wrong.

In late January I contacted my organiser to inform them I wanted to make a complaint. It was suggested that a female member in the district would hear my complaint and act as my intermediary. The organiser was a close ‘friend’ of both myself and the offender, and had been in the same house at the same party the night it had happened. I am not going to go into the details of the event, but I will outline the disputes procedure.

I made an initial complaint (of sexual assault, however the description of what happened can be nothing but rape) in which I detailed everything that had happened that night to my intermediary, who took notes. She got in touch with the disputes committee, forwarding the notes that she had taken the night I spoke to her. These notes were sent to Pat Stack, who sent them to Charlie Kimber, who then suspended the offender while the disputes committee (DC) looked into the case.

The DC replied that the complaint had to come from me in my own words. I emailed the DC myself, again forwarding the notes from my intermediary, saying, ‘Please accept this email as my formal complaint to the disputes committee. I have attached the previously forwarded, by [***], notes with one slight change and these are the basis of my complaint.’

As it turned out this still wasn’t enough, and I received this rather abrupt email telling me so:

“Currently, the DC is in receipt of your email (30th Jan 2013) that asks the DC to accept this email and its attachment – [***] previously forwarded (23th Jan 2013) notes with one slight change – as your formal complaint to the DC.  You have described these two documents as ‘the basis of your complaint’.

You are asking the DC to accept a third party description of what you said to the third party, as the complaint. This is not possible. Currently, the DC has still not received your account of what happened to you, while the defendant has been suspended for the past two weeks.

You need to finalise your own complaint.

Further, on the phone on Wednesday evening, you named three people to whom you have previously disclosed the identity of the defendant and to whom you are currently disclosing where your DC process is up to. You have done this even though you have open access to your chosen intermediary. Your actions are breaching the confidentiality that must surround complaints processes as well as identities and complaint details.

We recognise that this is difficult for you. We are trying to enable you to communicate clearly with the DC, and to protect the well-being, information and confidential identity of involved Comrades to the best of our abilities. It is vital that we work out the most constructive way forward from this juncture. The DC asks that you contact us at your earliest opportunity to discuss this further.

This correspondence is confidential between the DC and yourselves.”

I replied with this:

“Here is my statement, I have been out of the country so sorry for the delay.

In response to you saying i have broken confidentiality, i spoke to the other comrades before i decided to come to disputes as i didn’t know what to do, i was wary of the disputes committee due to recent events and the report back that sat through at conference. Also one of these comrades is a female comrade who i know had previously felt uncomfortable at the behaviour of [***] and had helped me come to terms with what had happened.”

Throughout the whole of this process the need for confidentiality was constantly repeated to me. I, as someone who had been through something horrific, was being told that I could not talk to my friends and comrades – that I must only to talk to a woman who up until this point I had very little to do with.

After sending my statement it was arranged for Rhetta and Jackie from the DC to come to my area and interview both me and the offender. At this point I believed that this was my case being heard. On the evening of the interview Rhetta and Jackie asked me to talk them through the events of the night, which I did. Some of the questions that followed included “what effect would you say drink and drugs had on you that night?” I was also asked and pushed to talk about abuse that had happened to me previously, as earlier on that night I had been emotional and had confided in the man that assaulted me. This was extremely upsetting for me during a process that was already hard enough.

There is also some of the assault that I cannot remember fully, not due to intoxication but rather that I have blocked it out. He spoke to me throughout, however while I can still hear him talking, feel it in fact, I cannot remember exactly what it was he said.

At the end of a very long and upsetting interview I was asked what I wanted to happen next. When I enquired further what was meant by that, I was asked whether I would like to make it an official complaint and have an official hearing. Up until this point I thought that this was already so and that this was part of the official hearing.

They went on further to say that it was unlikely that the DC would be able to find either way, especially taking into account the level of intoxication, without being sure of the effect it had on me (in fact I was stone cold sober by the time the assault happened, which I repeated throughout). They said that I couldn’t remember everything (in fact the only thing I couldn’t remember from the actual assault was what he had been saying to me), and that a hearing would be harder for me.

I was encouraged to drop the case, whilst being told that “it is of course your decision, you do what’s best for you”, etc. Given such a bleak choice I decided to drop the complaint. I in no way feel this decision was mine – I was basically told there was no point, something which, as I found out more later on, was most definitely true.

I feel it is worth mentioning that the interview with Rhetta and Jackie was extremely stressful for me and damaging to my already frail mental health. They made me feel as if I was ridiculous for making a complaint and too damaged a person to really assess what had happened and how to deal with it. Following the interview I fell into a week-long state of mania. This is the real effect of what the SWP’s line towards women and rape is: it damages people, it is dangerous. During the week that followed I was phoned three times by my intermediary and by members of the DC to essentially make sure I kept quiet: “If anyone asks you about the complaint or why it was dropped just say ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ and ‘it was my decision’.” Well actually I do want to talk about it and it wasn’t my decision.

I have since found out that he was able to read my statement, while I have not seen his or even heard from the DC what he had said in response. Also he was able to have a character support, who turned out to be someone not even in the party. I was offered no sort of witness, despite the fact that I listed in my statement another female comrade in the district and mentioned that they would be happy to confirm that they had not only felt uncomfortable in that man’s presence but had also, previous to the assault, mentioned to me that he was acting in a harassing manner towards me.

I feel that it is no coincidence that the DC showed favour to a male member who was very prominent in the district and was starting to make a name for himself nationally within the organisation. A male member who was sent by the district to special conference (after my complaint) – even my intermediary voted for him – on a strong pro-CC line, who then went on to be on the district committee, and who is still a visible presence at demos, meetings, etc.

The similarities in how the cases of W and X were handled and how mine was are striking, and should be proof to anyone that the Socialist Workers Party is a group that is sexist, full of bullies, and above all will cover up rape to protect its male members and reputation. Taking this on board, the SWP is counter-revolutionary and is against the socialist tradition; we cannot have a revolution without fighting for the liberation of all oppressed groups – to cover up rape is oppressing women. So anyone who is a revolutionary, a socialist, a decent human being should have nothing to do with the SWP and its abhorrent practices. Deprive them and all rape apologists of air, do not in engage in any way. They are not worth the energy of revolutionaries – in short they are scum and we need not bother with them.

If any other person wants to come forward and share their story please do, or speak to someone you feel confident speaking to – we are not in this alone. Solidarity.

International

Letter from Brazil: call for solidarity from CSP-Conlutas independent union federation

On the Eve of the World Cup A Wave of Strikes Shake Brazil

It is time for strikes. After the huge mobilizations last June, primarily the youth, now it is the working class and they are shaking Brazilian cities.

In Sao Paulo, on May 15th, the city came to a halt. In the morning metalworker (engineering workers) strikes together with homeless movements (MTST and Ocupação Esperança) blocked avenues in the urban areas. In the city centre, metro (tube) workers demonstrated in the morning and municipal teachers demonstrated in the afternoon. Strikes and demos were the headlines in all media.

But the mobilizations are not limited to May 15th. Municipal teachers are holding demonstrations with thousands every week during the last 40 days. Bus drivers went on strike for two days against the mayor, the bus companies and their union, eventually bringing Sao Paulo to a halt. In Cubatão, a highly industrialized area in in Sao Paulo state, thousands of outsourced workers are on strike stopping sectors of the local Petrobras refinery. In Sao Jose dos Campos, engineering workers (General Motors) are holding stoppages. University employees, teachers and students of the University of São Paulo(USP), together with their counterparts in UNICAMP and UNESP universities, are on strike demanding more funding. On top of that, engineering workers are scheduled to go on strike next Thursday, June 5th.

In other capitals across Brazil, the situation is no different. In Rio de Janeiro teachers’ demonstrations and bus drivers stoppages combine and show the workers’ mood and strength. In others capitals, key sectors of the working class are on the offensive. Different sectors of federal public workers are going on strike. Even the police, both military and civil, are holding protests across the country.

The economic slowdown and high indebtness is changing the mood among working class families. There is a general feeling that things are not getting better. On top of that Brazilian government spent huge sums in the football world cup which is gathering general disapproval for the lack of funding for public education, healthcare and transport. The polls show that 55% of the Brazilian population believes that the world cup will be more of a burden than a benefit for working class people.

INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY TO THE STRUGGLES IN BRAZIL

Besides the current struggles – teachers, university employees, metalworkers, public workers, the police and homeless movements – the metroworkers of Sao Paulo might take action on June 5th and there will be a national day of mobilizations next June 12th when the World Cup starts.

We ask labor and youth movements across the world to express solidarity to Brazilian workers. Motions and demos will be warmly welcome. Advancing the workers struggles in Brazil will be an advancement for the working class worldwide.

Long live the workers struggles in Brazil!
Long live the International Solidarity among the working class!

Dirceu Travesso

on behalf of CSP-Conlutas – São Paulo, June 2nd 2014


Model Motion

This union branch/meeting/Trades council/social organisation wants to send its solidarity to the Brazilian working class.

Having read your letter “On the Eve of the World Cup: A Wave of Strikes Shake Brazil” we want to express our support to all the strikes and social struggle activities that are taking place in May and June.

We support all your struggles for a better life for housing, decent employment with decent contracts and wages.

In particular we support the feeling of millions of people against the big business of the World Cup and that is making millions for Fifa and the multinationals and used money that should be spent on health, education and transport.

FIFA’s World Cup contributes to the violation of human rights, the right to adequate housing, the right to free movement, the right to work and the right to protest. Forced evictions have occurred all over Brazil in the wake of the Cup and have left many homeless and destitute.

We therefore wish you every success in your struggles against Fifa, the national, state and local governments of Brazil and the multinationals.

End the criminalisation of the Brazilian and British struggles

Long live the workers struggles in Brazil and Britain!

Long live the International Solidarity of the working class!

International

Is today a victory for revolution or counterrevolution

In a way, both. I’m currently sitting just off Tahrir Square with the woman who started ‘no to military trials’, a musician, one of Cairo’s most active street artists, and a novelist of the revolution. That is precisely the question we’re discussing now – and we are split down the middle. Half of us see this as a victory for the revolution and the other half as a victory for the counterrevolution – half as a step forward, half as a step backwards.

We’re in this café, not the square, for a reason. We all feel and know that this is not the square we owned – as if we have no tangible place in it, despite knowing that we hold a ‘place’ in the revolution.

Which half of the discussion are you in?

I’m in the optimistic half. Despite the fact that I’ve been most vocal about this unease for a few weeks now. Here’s why.

Two years ago there were untold millions who either knew nothing of the revolution or had no time for it because they couldn’t afford a minute off. Some resented it for stripping them of their privileges. Others even saw it as a return to the nice, ‘civilised’ Egypt that they knew under British occupation and the monarchy!

What we have today is a mixture of the following. Several million Egyptians who previous took to the streets and remember the Muslim Brotherhood’s lies, the blood they abandoned and the blood they themselves spilled. And many more, particularly outside the cities (where Morsi still managed to fare well in the presidential elections after a six month majority in parliament) have taken to the streets to protest their despair and disappointment in those they placed their faith in – not just now, but for a good 20 years.

However overarching this is a set of objections to the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule that transcend class, religion, social occupation or revolutionary reference-points.

What are the politics of the protests, and which tendencies dominate?

There is still a very strong discourse that Mubarak, and Sadat’s regime before him, built over many years and for specific historical reasons. This discourse is built on both a rejection of ‘political Islam’ without a rejection of Islam itself – indeed they entrenched Islamic discourse. At the same time they built a fairytale scenario where the Muslim Brotherhood and its members contain some transgenerational, transpolitical trait that causes them to rule ruthlessly and dictatorially, in a manner that is somehow worse than Sadat or Mubarak’s dictatorships.

This is what motivates the majority of Egyptians on the streets today, though to varying levels. It is most extremely entrenched within the middle classes, and among Coptic Egyptians and older generations. Another motivating feature of the protests is a bourgeois notion of safety or “law and order” having disintegrated over the past few years, particularly under Morsi’s rule.

However, the revolution itself is yet to explicitly take up an ideology or “leadership”, and there are so many who have taken to the streets against Morsi simply to protest against their social and economic living conditions without any clear alternative in mind.

I feel the majority of those I encounter are there to remove the Muslim Brotherhood and their beards before they are out to remove the government. Here, I am in a minority. Beyond that though it seems as if most people are out to remove the government rather than wanting to install the military in power. Here, I am with the majority.

So the victory for the revolution today, in my opinion, shows the ruling class’s weakness. Our prime fear should not be the military, as there are many who do not find the answer to their prayers there. The victory for the counterrevolution is quite frankly the threat of popular sectarian violence against a particular group of citizens that also happens to be the military’s greatest political foe.

Can the rank and file of the army be split from the generals, or is this over-optimistic?

The rank and file of the army will only consider such a situation if the majority or a large number of lay soldiers are forced to rule and govern, and deal with civilians. However, if the army can achieve what it had managed to not only in the shape of Morsi but also Sadat, Mubarak and Nasser – that is, rule under the auspices of revolutionary or liberal parliamentary governance – then there is no need for such direct rule, and as a consequence the circumstances will not necessarily be ripe for the institution’s disintegration.

We’ve heard over the years about efforts to form a new, mass workers’ party. How far have these efforts got?

Notions of class have nowhere in Egypt’s history (save for short spells in the 1890s and 1920s-30s) asserted themselves over political, cultural or socio-religious considerations. It is difficult to speak of a workers’ party when we cannot speak of any more than 700,000 to a million Egyptians who identify with this notion at the most basic level.

Working class self-organisation has not ebbed one bit over the past five years, and under current circumstances there is nowhere for working class consciousness to go but to develop further. However I say this to emphasise that while revolutionaries in Egypt use the slogan “general strike until the regime falls”, and many agree, on the ground for all of us the main contradiction that needs explaining – or the main discourse we feel we lack – is a revolutionary narrative against the current government that stands on clear principle with respect to the military’s role, while also rejecting the reactionary discourse against the Muslim Brotherhood specifically and supporters of political Islam more generally.

Right now I can hear the calls to prayer, and a march chanting ‘Egypt (clap clap clap) Egypt’. And this is what I was referring to earlier in terms of the reactionary discourse of the revolt, making nationalist, militaristic sentiment the focus.

What is the left doing, and what does it have the capacity to do?

The left has the capacity to nurture and give confidence to those sections of the square who have no vested interest in military rule. We are working hard to keep chants and art against “el 3askar” (military rule) on the walls and on our tongues. The left will no doubt work hard to defend human rights and reject any calls for indiscriminate violence against any group. It will continue to build campaigns against sexual assault, and against the electricity shortages across Egypt’s governorates. However uncomfortable we might sometimes feel, communists’ place is on the streets, where the masses are.

What do you think of ElBaradei’s manoeuvring?

This is also a topic we have been discussing for a few days. At one end there are those like myself who thought the army’s game was to keep supporting the revolutionary movement on the street – and popular violence against the Muslim Brotherhood – while leaving the Brotherhood in power until its organisation had disintegrated enough to no longer pose a threat to the military. This would also have meant waiting until at least a good chunk of the population were at the point where they were begging for the army to rule. The other half predicted that the street would outstrip the military’s expectations, and want the government out ASAP.

ElBaradei or any similar liberals might be an unnecessary phase for the military if popular demand for straight-up military rule is high enough, and the Brotherhood is weak enough. For those with the latter view, ElBaradei is part of a larger play than just encouraging popular revolt against the Brotherhood, and will quite frankly be the next suit the military will rule through.

It is important to remember that the US government plays a not insignificant role in these outcomes. If the US has given up on the project of a client political Islam state in Egypt, at least for the time being, them some setup with ElBaradei at the helm is not unlikely.

I can hear celebrations – gunshots in the air. I’m half deaf! Wish you were here

International

Statement of Resignation – IS Canada

Statement of Resignation

  1. Opposing violence against the oppressed, including violence against women, is a question of principle for socialists.
  2. There has been an allegation of very serious sexual violence involving a leading member of the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers Party UK (SWP).
  3. The SWP Central Committee has failed to deal with this with the seriousness it deserves. It has persistently rejected efforts by a substantial number of its members and supporters to address this adequately. In fact, members of the SWP have faced disciplinary action for attempting to remedy this situation.
  4. The International Socialists (I.S.) in Canada has been for many years, and remains, a member of the International Socialist Tendency (IST), of which the SWP is the largest and leading organization.
  5. In January 2013, delegates to the annual convention of the I.S. in Canada voted (14 to 2, with one abstention) to reject a resolution calling on the leadership to write a public a letter of concern over these matters.
  6. It is now March. The SWP has held a special conference on this issue. The SWP leadership remains intransigent. The leadership of the I.S. in Canada still remains silent, and therefore continues to be undifferentiated from the SWP in the IST.
  7. Silence is not an option. On principle, therefore, we the undersigned can no longer remain as members of the International Socialists. Regretfully, please accept this as our letter of resignation.