The comrades who have resigned due to the Socialist Workers’ Party’s handling of claims of rape and sexual harassment against prominent activists acted in accordance with their sense of revolutionary socialist integrity. As some of them say in their statement of resignation:
“The organisation’s tradition of fighting women’s oppression has been seriously undermined by the handling of a number of rape and sexual harassment allegations by the Disputes Committee and the Central Committee and the crisis of democracy and accountability in the party this has laid bare.”
They are to be congratulated for taking their commitment to women’s liberation and intolerance of sexual violence so seriously. It is always difficult for dedicated socialists to walk away from an organisation to which they have devoted large amounts of time and energy. It means breaking friendships and working relationships built up over years of activity in the class struggle but sometimes it is necessary.
It is good that they very quickly announced that they intend to remain as active, organised socialists in the International Socialist Network and that they will be discussing theory and politics as well as organising events. The risk after a traumatising event like this is that people draw very negative conclusions about the possibilities of building healthy, pluralistic and democratic socialist organisations and retreat into inactivity. Offering a new perspective is the way that this can be avoided.
Some comrades, who are deeply unhappy with their leadership’s handling of claims of sexual violence made by young women in the organisation, have decided to continue a struggle inside it. We respect their decision to do so as it is based on a deep knowledge of the SWP and a serious assessment of the possibilities. While we share the concerns expressed by those who opposed the leadership , we accept that those who have supported it have done so because they are satisfied with its handling of the internal enquiries and subsequent decisions. We acknowledge that they are dedicated socialists with whom we will continue to work in many areas of class struggle.
However the reputation of the SWP has been grievously damaged by the perception that senior cadre receive no meaningful sanction when women say that serious wrong has been done to them. This view is shared across the entire radical left outside the SWP, among many trade union activists and the feminist movement. We leave it to those who remain in the organisation to work out how they will address this problem. They must accept that the relationships they have with other forces will now be different and all will be looking for strong signals in public that a meaningful reappraisal of how sexual violence is dealt with has taken place.
Socialist Resistance has argued for a long time that there are two things the radical left has to address and we would very much like those comrades leaving the SWP as individuals, networks or organisations to be part of both processes.
The first is a process of realignment of the revolutionary left. We should be aiming to reduce the number of groups on the far left. To people new to politics and existing activists the shades of difference between many left organisations are difficult to grasp. It is much more important to combine a reassessment of past practice with the development of a new perspective.
The second task is preparing the ground for a left alternative to Labour. Ken Loach is currently agitating fiercely around this issue. Socialist Resistance along with others is taking part in the Left Unity project as we think it is giving socialists who are concerned by the lack of working class political representation an opportunity to work together . Although we are aware that it is a very small step in that direction we think that it is important that a framework is in place and relationships of trust are built. We also collaborating with the Independent Socialist Network and the Anti Capitalist Initiative and we strongly hope that the International Socialist Network chooses to become a factor in unifying the left.
This will necessarily involve a period of discussion and reflection. If the comrades are looking to work with other Marxists to help build a new revolutionary organisation in Britain and to contribute to offering working people an alternative to Labour we will be willing partners in such a project.
Socialist Resistance National Committee
16 March 2013