John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

How did Communist parties handle issues of internal discipline and democracy in Lenin’s time? The recent intense discussion within the British Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) and beyond has heard claims that the SWP rests on the traditions of democratic centralism inherited from the Bolsheviks.

John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Some extended thoughts about Stephanie Bottrill, the woman who committed suicide because of the bedroom tax.

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the killing of Blair Peach by the police. David Renton looks back at Blair Peach’s life as a poet, trade unionist and committed antifascist

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Bunny La Roche of RS21 on Nigel Farage's visit to Kent

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Financial Appeal

We're up and running! An appeal for funds to kickstart the IS Network

Financial Appeal

Ian Beeching: We must embrace women’s gains on responding to sexual assault

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On My Resignation from the International Socialists of Canada

International Women's DayThe crisis in the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP) raises an important issue of principle for socialists throughout the world. A serious accusation of rape was made by a teenage member of the SWP against a Central Committee leading member of the party in his 40s. How socialists respond to allegations of rape is not a tactical question nor is it the internal affair of a single organization. Internal organizational practices are reflections of principles. Although internal organizational mechanisms may vary, when mechanisms to address violations of principle fail, credibility and capacity to participate in movements against oppression are damaged.

As a nurse working in the emergency department, I regularly have patients who are victims of violence. Furthermore, I have loved ones who were the victims of sexual assault and abuse. I cannot reconcile my fervent wish to build a party for socialism with being associated to a political tendency that has as its most dominant constituent a party that has grossly violated its opposition to the oppression of women. As of March 19, 2013 I have resigned from the Canadian International Socialists for its continued association with the SWP through the International Socialist Tendency.

 

Rape is a crime that is equivalent to or worse than violent assault. It is a crime that not only has the potential to cause life threatening physical illness; it leaves many emotionally and psychologically damaged. With 90% of rapes unreported in the UK, any allegation should be investigated as a serious crime. Furthermore, according to one SWP member, at the 2011 SWP national convention, after the accused spoke to the meeting, “There had been an attempt by his allies to rally supporters, resulting in some comrades giving him a standing, foot-stamping ovation.” This reaction to accusations of sexual abuse, regardless of guilt, represents gross misogyny and creates a threatening oppressive atmosphere.

The capitalist courts have failed many people. Sexism and racism in our society is systematic and police often brutalize the oppressed. In Vancouver, where I live, the police failed over sixty women murdered or missing since the 1980s. Many of these women were the victims of racism, sexism and other prejudices that grip our society. I have heard personal testimony of police arresting a young woman who had called 911 accusing her father of beating her.

Historically raped women were often forced into marriage. For hundreds of years it was believed that a pregnant woman could not have been raped because pregnancy required consent. In 1841 the Canadian civil code put the onus on the woman to prove she actively resisted rape. For most of history suspicion was put on the woman and investigation was done into her moral worth and credibility. In Canada, it wasn't until 1983 that spousal immunity to accusations of rape was eliminated. In 1984 a Judge of the Provincial Court of Manitoba said, “Unless you have no worldly experience at all, you'll agree that women occasionally resist at first but later give in to either persuasion or their own instincts.”

In North American history, false rape accusations were a major tool of social control used against blacks and other oppressed minorities. “The accusations against persons lynched, according to the Tuskegee Institute records for the years 1882 to 1951, were: 19.2% for rape, 6.1% for attempted rape.” Men using rape as a tool of racist oppression stripped the legitimate right of women for justice against rape by creating a culture of terror. The civil rights movement mobilized millions in the fight against racism. Alex Callinicos raising the specter of “lynch mobs” of angry members if the debate continued after the special convention of the SWP is a violently sexist statement.

Injustices happen to this day; however, through the struggle of the feminist movements of the sixties and seventies to those of today some of the grossest injustice has been defeated. the police and courts in many instances protect the vulnerable and bring justice to victims of crime. Bourgeois democracy is a system of contradictions. While recognizing the role of police and courts in enforcing hegemony of the ruling class, it also must be recognized that the mechanisms of society, often fought hard for by activists, can protect individuals against acts of violence and crime.