The witch hunt against the SWP is not going to go away anytime soon. Loyalists cannot simply keep their heads down and hope it will because the party’s enemies will simply get bored. Part of the task of extricating themselves from this mess is to go on the attack. Expose those behind this witch hunt. Every single one is a hypocrite: John Chamberlain, Andy Newman, Tony Collins, Phil Burton-Cartledge, Richard Seymour. The more that comes to light about their support for cover-ups of sex crimes, and even support for some of these crimes, the easier it will be to help crush this witch hunt, and force confused comrades to come to their senses, wake up and smell the witch hunters.
Having said that, this is just part of the package required to defeat the witch hunt. Concessions have to be offered, acceptance that a mistake or two has been made. There have been mistakes. There is no shame in ‘fessing up to that. The shame would be in stubbornly refusing to consider this even as a possibility. What do I think has been done wrong?
Firstly, I do not question the motives of those who decided to investigate these allegations internally. Having accepted that, I think the way this drama has unfolded proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is essential to accept that such accusations will never again be dealt with internally. Those who want to make them have no option but to go to the police. At least some of the CC’s critics argued this, and it is possible that conceding this point at an early stage may have lessened the damage caused by Richard Seymour and co.
Investigating such matters internally clearly cannot be in the interests of either the accused or the accusers. If a ‘not guilty’ (or ‘not proven’) verdict is passed down by the party’s disciplinary committee, the accuser will almost certainly simply start the process all over again – either by inciting a new Richard Seymour to climb out of the woodwork, or else to go straight to the police. And if the accuser has indeed been a genuine victim all along, then they would have every right to do that, whether they initially wanted to or not.
What does this mean? It means that nothing can be gained by the party investigating such matters internally. It was always an accident waiting to happen. If this was not obvious to everyone before this started (and I am not going to pretend that I could have predicted it), it must be by now to pretty much everyone. That has to mean that the party will accept that it cannot resolve such disputes from here on in. Apart from everything else, it lacks the essential forensic and other resources necessary to settle such issues. Accept this fact and move on.
There is an attempt being made to muddy the waters by shifting ground, and many good comrades are not thinking this thing through. What was clearly no crime whatsoever is being used by a certain kind of moralist to demand punishment in such a way as to intimidate someone who did nothing wrong. At least, not from the point of view of the law. And neither was it a breach of discipline from the point of view of the party’s rules. This relates to age difference and consensual sex.
No one can be disciplined for disobeying laws and rules that did not exist. Should such rules exist? I would argue that they should. I think most SWP loyalists would agree about that.
A child does not metamorphose into an adult in a single day. In the UK we have an age of consent of sixteen. We cannot justify any law that allows sixteen year olds to have sex with those older than they are (even a lot older than they are), but deny the right of their partners to have sex with them. Anyone who defends such a lop-sided position is being illogical. What is more, they are justifying a form of entrapment that will inevitably help the capitalist state to set up honey traps. Having said that, society can take a dim view of mature adults taking advantage of the fact that young adults are still in the process of maturing.
We accept that teachers and other authority figures cannot be allowed to abuse their power when dealing with young adults in their care. When it comes to full-timers, similar rules should be in force. Bring them in immediately. No SWP member is going to oppose this.
There should also be encouraged within the party of a culture that discourages mature members getting involved with young adults. Let them experiment sexually with each other, rather than the rest of us.
Having said that, it is hard to draw up a definitive set of rules that cover all eventualities. Young people can form romantic and sexual relations with others without any help from anyone else. Some young adults prove themselves to be more mature than those physically much older than they are. Is it fair to such young adults to tell them who they can form relationships with? Can we do that if they are convinced they know better than their friends and family, not to mention the branch committee? I’m not sure we can.