I met Mark Steel once. We had a drink after one of his gigs. It was at Paisley University Student Union. Wasn’t called a university back then. It was a mere Polytechnic. Althusserian snob Richard Seymour will think my education is insufficiently good to qualify me to comment on anything to do with him or anything else. Well, he can fuck off. I’m gonna have my say.
I forget which year it was. Maybe his diary secretary can remind Mark when he did this gig. I can’t even remember if I was still a member of the SWP or not. One thing I do recall is that there were only three of us drinking together. This may come across as a piece of name-dropping, an anecdote whose only function is to alert the world to the fact that once upon a time I was deemed important enough to have a drink with the great Mark Steel. Believe that if you like. But I want to get this off my chest because at least part of what I am going to say has a bearing on some of the issues Mark Steel is discussing.
Firstly, the other person at the table was the woman responsible for me joining the SWP. I can’t even remember if she was still a member of the party or not. Thinking back my guess is that had to have happened after the Paisley branch had been amalgamated with one of the Glasgow branches. As I recall she was one of about half the branch who quit the party as a consequence of this decision. I very much supported it.
I need to explain how this woman got me to join the SWP. I am telling this story although it risks some of those witch hunting the SWP smearing me. That is okay. I have nothing but contempt for them. The best that can be said for them is that they are too stupid to know what they are doing. I am going to take the risk because I want to persuade others who are sitting on the fence, or who have not had an opportunity to think things through sufficiently. Here goes…
I met this woman at Gilmour Street Station selling Socialist Worker. I had just got off my train after hard day’s work. I told her I already had the paper, having bought it at Central Station in Glasgow. I brought my copy out of my bag only to find that it was Socialist Challenge that looked very similar in design. When I bought a copy she asked if I’d read it before. In those days I was buying every paper: Newsline, Militant, Socialist Action, Socialist Worker, Morning Star, everything I could get hold of. I couldn’t understand why there were so many parties who hated each other. This woman who will remain nameless told me about their next branch meeting, showing me where in the paper it was listed and invited me along. I didn’t want to go. It clashed with Top of the Pops and I hadn’t missed that since I got into music. On the other hand, she was friendly and I had just been dumped. Had it not been for the fact that I fancied her, I probably would never have gone to that meeting. What does that say about me?
I admit it: the spark that got me to join the SWP and set me on the road to decades of interest in far left politics that went beyond being a spectator was the fact I fancied a woman. I can’t remember which of us was older. We probably were about the same age. I kinda guessed she was way out of my league but I did imagine something might develop. It was obvious to me from the beginning that not only was she out of my league, but she was in a relationship. After several weeks attending branch meetings, I gave in and took out a party card which should never have been offered to me because the more I learnt about the SWP, the more I was convinced it was not for me: it was far too left-wing. I only joined because I got tired of all the nagging by the branch secretary. I did enjoy the debates, which helped me clarify my own politics. I was anxious that unless I did surrender they’d tell me I was no longer welcome to attend branch meetings. Although it was hormones that got me to these meetings in the first place, it was politics that kept me returning week after week.
Can I ask if it is outrageous that sexual attraction to someone made me get involved in politics? I don’t think so. I never made any move on this woman because it would clearly be unwelcome as she was in a relationship, a relationship with another member of the party that I got on well with. People in the world of left-wing activism do flirt with each other. They try to chat each other up. And it is not unknown for someone to do this and to be rebuffed. That has never happened to me. The only reason I have been spared this is because I am so timid. But it is not sexual harrassment to have made the first move and find the other person isn’t interested. That only becomes a problem if someone won’t take no for an answer or if their advances are crude. The allegations that are being used by Richard Seymour’s fan club are hysterical nonsense that wants to criminalise any man who doesn’t wait for a woman to make the first move. If that is feminism, then it is ludicrous.
A second argument that is being used by Richard Seymour’s fan club is a significant age difference. So what? The only age that matters is the age of consent. If we accept that that is sixteen, then it is none of our business if a young adult has sex with someone much older. That is not sexual harrassment. Richard Seymour’s fan club are effectively supporting entrapment of socialists by telling them that young women have a legal right to have sex with them but not vice versa. These so-called feminists are reactionary. They can look down their noses at men who do this, but unless they call for the raising of the age of consent, then they are engaging in a witch hunt.
Furthermore, Mark Steel needs to familiarise himself with who he is supporting. Richard Seymour was acting as a double agent within the Socialist Workers Party for John Chamberlain. John Chamberlain calls for the age of consent to be abolished. John Chamberlain supports seventy year old men having sex with twelve year old boys and girls. Justify that, comrade Mark Steel!
As for the rape allegations… Earlier today I saw Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Stammer refer to a significant number of women who have gone to jail for making false allegations of rape, having gone so far as to perjure themselves. On Question Time a couple of week’s ago we heard UKIP supporter Neil Hamilton explain that the woman who had accused him and his wife of rape eventually spent a long time in jail having been exposed for inventing a pack of lies about the pair of them. The reality, comrade Mark Steel, is that false allegations are made. And these are serious.
Those who are smearing the SWP are doing so without a shred of evidence. They are effectively engaging in a disgusting trial by media, and every last one of them are descending into the gutter indifferent to the fact that what they are saying is actionable. It is libelous. This is an outrageous witch hunt. Mark Steel is defending a witch hunt. How dare he.
Later today I will say something about what Mark Steel and I talked about as we downed our pint. That also has a bearing on what this witch hunt is all about.