- Laurie Penny suggests the Socialist Workers party is on the verge of collapse because “its leadership cannot confront its own misogyny” (The SWP and rape: why I care about this Marxist-Leninist implosion, 12 March). The SWP isn’t sexist and it isn’t collapsing.
- It is true that a leading party member was accused of rape. However, far from “convening its own court, comprised chiefly of the alleged attacker’s friends, to decide whether rape had occurred”, the party engaged a committee, elected by its annual conference, to deal with the issue. This was at the request of the woman who raised the complaint.
- This committee reported its decisions to the next annual party conference where members considered whether the matter had been dealt with properly. Everyone, rightly, took this issue extremely seriously, in line with our commitment to fighting for women’s liberation. This is a world away from the culture of cover-up in organisations like the Catholic church, the BBC and the Liberal Democrats.
- The complaint was investigated, and reported to members as openly as possible while respecting the complainant’s request for confidentiality. Two national delegate conferences voted to accept the integrity of the investigation. Nonetheless, our recent conference also decided to examine our procedures to see if they could be improved.
- Penny says: “For some men on the left, it seems, feminism is just a petty bourgeois distraction from the real fight.” This is highly offensive to SWP members, particularly to women members who have been at the forefront of fighting sexism. The subjugation of women, and the violence that flows from this, are intrinsic to class society.
- That’s why the fight against that oppression must be a central concern to anyone who wants to do away with capitalism, and why SWP members, women and men, have always been leading in battles for equal pay, for abortion rights, against sexism on university campuses, and against the monstrous way the police and courts treat women. Unlike many on the left, we joined the SlutWalk protests, recognising them as an expression of rage against the disgusting treatment of women. We believe women cannot be free until capitalism is destroyed by a revolution led by women and men together. No socialism without women’s liberation, no women’s liberation without socialism. That’s why it is crucial to challenge sexism, wherever it rears its head, as an integral part of the fight for a better society.
- Nor do we accuse those who raise criticisms “of being ‘bourgeois media stooges’ or, worse, police informants”. However, we refuse to take lessons from the likes of the Daily Mail, which dared to claim it was defending women’s rights by savaging our party.
- The torrent of misinformation has led some to think the worst of our party. We ask people to look at the facts and the record of the SWP and its members. Penny is right to say that the SWP matters and has done laudable work in the Stop the War Coalition, Unite Against Fascism and the resistance to austerity. We are determined to continue working with others against the coalition’s attacks and will fight for a better world, where people come before profit, and we tear out the roots of all forms of oppression.
[From The Guardian, Thursday 21 March 2013 19.00 GMT: Challenging sexism is at the heart of the SWP’s work]
I should have posted that before but didn’t get round to it. My bad.