Statement on the SWP and its Rape Apologism

People may be aware of the allegations of a cover-up of sexual assault and rape within the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), and the subsequent repression of SWP members who questioned it. Anarchist Federation members and other comrades in Manchester and Glasgow were man-handled & attacked when they confronted SWP leaders over their rape apologism. The SWP has not spoken out against these assaults carried out by its supporters.
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Bristol Anarchist Federation has always had strong political, theoretical and tactical disagreements with the Socialist Workers Party, however we have sometimes worked alongside them on broader campaigns. For example we joined a coalition with them and other groups under the “We Are Bristol” bann,er to organise against the English Defence League march last year.

Since then, with these allegations, it has become very clear we cannot tolerate an SWP presence on any similar campaigns again. A large number of SWP members, particularly younger members in Bristol, have left the organisation. On a national level, after it became clear the organisation and its leadership would not change, hundreds of members and some entire student branches have left. As such those who remain offer at the very least tacit support for the views and actions of the Central committee.

Recently what remains of the SWP in Bristol were blocked from entering Bristol University’s Freshers Fair where they had a stall booked via their student wing (SWSS). They refused to provide the Students’ Union with a statement regarding their position on the views, actions and rape apologism of their (national) central committee. We support the work of Bristol Left and Bristol FemSoc members who first raised this issue with the Students’ Union.

Bristol SWSS and Bristol SWP branch’s unwillingness to condemn this makes them complicit in rape, rape apologism and patriarchal power dynamics and as such we will not organise with them or work along side them in future.

Although we agreed this in private months ago, we recently heard the EDL are coming back to the city, so we are taking this opportunity to make public our condemnation of the Bristol branch of the SWP and their national counterparts in their unwillingness to condemn the sexism, rape apologism and patriarchal power structures which exist within the organisation. The SWP have taken no steps to deal with this situation and in fact have only shored up these behaviours with their attempts to cover up, persecute dissenting voices from within their organisation, and victim blame.

Further to this the SWP are barred from events, demos, public meetings and all other activities we solely organise. We believe that the presence of people who support the SWP’s central committee, their banners, placards and propaganda, contravenes our safer spaces policy. For these reasons they are not welcome and would be asked to leave. Individual SWP members (not including paid employees of the SWP) who do not support the actions of their Central Committee are still welcome to attend (without SWP propaganda), however we would question why such an individual would still be in the party. Finally we will propose barring the SWP from all future events we are jointly involved in organising.

For more information on the SWP scandal see page 8 of Organise! Magazine #80
For more information on safer spaces, read this article by our comrades in Glasgow.

Update: New developments as the SWP sink further after their conference (shedding yet more key members) and face more opposition around the country.

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12 comments

  1. johng

    FYI-I left the SWP over this back in Jan with the IS network. I understand why you’ve felt you had to make this statement (especially after the latest revelations shocking and horrifying even to those of us already shocked and horrified: ‘could this get any worse?’ as one old comrade remarked: yes it could).But you ought to realise that there is still an organised opposition in the SWP. A lot of us think they should already have left but they argue that they want to smash the CC they hold responsible for this or be smashed out trying to. FWIW Its not my judgement that whatever political differences exist between comrades like myself and comrades who remain in the organisation (which are real), this has anything to do with shock and horror at the behaviour of the leadership of the SWP leadership and its minions, or indeed courage in facing up to them. So there would be an answer from those who don’t support the CC but remain in the SWP. I think its important to register this.

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    • Bristol Anarchist Federation

      This is areason we added the line ‘ Individual SWP members (not including paid employees of the SWP) who do not support the actions of their Central Committee are still welcome to attend’. Also we wouldn’t have released a statement like ths untill after the previous factions attempts at holding the CC to account failed, resulting in most of them leaving.

      I’d wish anyone who wants to hold the CC to account the best of luck, and would welcome a dialog with them. However we also hold the oppinion that it is not just the individuals but the fundemental structure of the SWP that would require changing. ‘change from within the system’ is not a strategy we generally support, its why we don’t run in elections for example. After everything thats happened is hard to justify still being a member of the SWP especially if that means you’d still be out in public selling their paper and holding thier placards with no publicly visible dissent.

      Most importantly we needed to take into account not just issues around working with individuals who are/were in the SWP, but also how having an organisation with their official line on rape apologism present at our demos/events would make other individuals and groups feel. We came to the conclusion that, especialy with the Bristol branches refusal to distance themselves from these views, we couldn’t continue to work with them as a group.

      [Views expressed in this comment are the views of one blog admin -as opposed to the initial post which has been agreed by the group as a whole].

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  2. Pingback: SWP crisis: who is saying what « Jim Jepps
  3. Anon

    A slight clarification in relation to the SWP and the Freshers’ Fair: it was a newly formed university society that had its own stall taken away, as opposed to the party externally booking a stall.

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  4. Pingback: Statement on the SWP and its Rape Apologism | Hastings Anarchists
  5. Di O

    Surely it is better to encourage those still misguided enough to stay in the SWP to leave. By banning them, you risk them feeling that this is an authoritrian act and make them more likely to stay with the bankrupt outfit. The left has for generations been infected with ghastly women exploiting macho leafers- such as Gerry healey of the WRP. But in an action against our external enemies, we need to stand together, whilst arguing ferociously about points like this.
    DP (ex member of International socialists in 1970s & other groups)

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