Thursday, 31 January 2013

Can the SWP deal with rape allegations?


There are a small number of arguments being put forward by the CC and loyalists which relate to the specifics of how they dealt with the rape allegation.  I attempt here to set out some of the points that I have used to challenge these arguments.  My first point will always be that the party should never have attempted to conduct a rape investigation and I stand by that. 

However, I also believe it is crucial that we take on some of the arguments that we are facing.  This composition has come about as the result of the input (on this blog and in discussions) of many comrades. I don’t take credit for the ideas here.  They have been developed through debate and discussion – exactly in the way that thought and ideas should develop in our party. Nor do I put these forward as a blue print.  They are intended to help comrades deal with the arguments, and I hope that comrades will comment on and challenge this post so that we can continue to develop our thought.

One of my usual experiences is not so much an argument as an incredulous face pulling exercise that seems to go on whenever I ask “would the DC have investigated a murder?”  The expression on the faces of these opponents says it all “why on earth would you equate rape with murder?”  But I think these faces tell a more complex story “why on earth would you equate this allegation of rape with murder”. 

It is not the case that W went to the DC with her clothes torn, bruises and an experience that fits the mainstream story of a rape victim.  If that had been the case, I believe that the DC would have said “we are in no position to investigate this case”.  The reason that the DC thought it was fit to investigate this case is precisely because it did not recognise rape within relationship, acquaintance rape, date rape or whatever you want to call this woman’s experience as a ‘real’ rape.  Part of their disbelief may have been because they were friends or long standing colleagues of Delta.  Part of their disbelief may be because the party’s position on women’s oppression is flawed, it has not kept up to date with the most current theories in feminism and it has not kept itself at the forefront of the battle against women’s oppression.  Part of their problem was that they are human, they live in this world, in this time and, despite protestations to the contrary, they were not immune to the rape myths that exist in this society. 

I have also faced the argument that the DC has investigated 9 rapes in the past (I’m not clear on how recently these ‘investigations’ were conducted).  I believe this argument is put forward to reassure comrades of the competency of the DC.  I don't find it reassuring in the slightest; in fact I find it terrifying.  But it illustrates my points above.  Our understanding of rape has developed over the years.  Rape within marriage was only recognised in law in the 1990’s (England) / 1980’s (Scotland), date rape (acquaintance rape) is an issue that we are continuingly developing our understanding of and we have the women's movement to thank for the progress made in changing attitudes towards these issues.  If the party, in the past has underestimated the seriousness of rape and has attempted to investigate it, surely it is valid to suggest that that time has now passed and we understand enough about rape to understand that it is not a dispute between two people that can be resolved through a disputes committee?

Although one would hope that the SWP would always be at the forefront of understanding and reacting appropriately to violence against women, if we have failed in the past, we need to stop what we were doing and make sure that our approach changes now.  The approaches we’ve taken in the past and those we will take in the future need to be constantly re-evaluated based on what we currently understand about rape.  We should translate the best of practices into our internal mechanisms.

There is an argument, put forward forcefully in individual conversations at the Scottish aggregate which goes something like “What else could the CC/DC do? W wanted them to investigate, they followed her wishes.”  Those of us who challenge the process are then accused of suggesting that women should be forced to go to police.

I would argue that this inability to put forward anything other than the two options above – police investigation or DC investigation – either indicates a cover up or an appalling lack of problem solving skills and actually, we want neither of these in the leadership of a revolutionary organisation.

When my letter to the CC was posted on Lenin’s Tomb blog and then linked to Richard’s Facebook page within a short time there were over 50 comments on one of these forums and over 40 on the other.  Comrades were discussing what could we have done? What does a revolutionary socialist response look like? Where do the police fit in this type of situation?  This is an example of the kind of creativity, willingness to learn and desire to deal seriously with a dreadful situation that exists in our party. This is what should have happened in the leadership and, if it did happen, then it should be straightforward for the leadership to explain to the party the justification for the process it followed.  The CC could tell us what these justifications were without breaching anyone's confidentiality.  The details of the case are confidential; the party's approach to dealing with rape is not.  In fact, if the leadership could explain the route by which it came to decide on its actions then it could only help its case. They are unable or unwilling to do so, and I can only deduce that these discussions didn't happen.

The leadership has also claimed that the DC to investigating Delta was not a problem despite the fact that they knew him well and some were friends of his.  The crux of this argument seems to be they were all long standing and well respected party members and because the party is against women's oppression the DC would somehow automatically investigate the allegations fairly and objectively. 

This is a circular argument. Both W and Delta are also SWP  members. By this logic Delta could not possibly commit rape (presumably if by virtue of being in the party we are immune to sexist ideas we must also by extension be incapable of sexist acts); but then would it not also mean by extension that W would be incapable of experiencing rape at the hands of a party member?  How can that recursive logic resolve itself?  Do all of our relationships with other party members exist without the trappings of historic oppression?

Also concerning (given the difference in age and length of time in the party between the individuals involved) is the linking of the DC members’ length of service in the SWP as evidence of their inability to be anything other than objective in the matter.  What does that tell us about the attitude towards W's age and shorter length of time as a member of the Party?  Is she therefore deemed to be less immune to sexist ideas? 

The leadership also questions what else they could have done?  The DC is the body elected to investigate there was no-one else they could ask to investigate.  I would again argue that this inability to develop alternative ways of dealing with difficult situations looks and smells at worst like a cover up or at the very least a complete lack of the type skills one would want to see in a revolutionary leadership.
 
Comrades have asked for an example of what an alternative approach might look like.  This is only one way in which the situation could have been dealt with, there are others but for starters:

 
1.     Acknowledge that the woman came to the internal process because she trusted the Party – that is an honour and a responsibility it deserves to be treated as such. 

2.     Reassure her that the allegation is taken seriously, and that the organisation wants to provide support but be honest, the SWP is not in a position to investigate a rape.  We are not criminal investigators, there may be other victims and an internal investigation could compromise a criminal investigation. 
 
3.     Explore the complainant’s expectations and what she envisages happening.  It is fine to limit people's expectations; it helps no-one if someone who feels they have been badly treated has unrealistic expectations that are dashed at some point during the process designed to deal with their complaint.
 
4.     Explain that the DC's remit is to investigate if someone has behaved in a way that is not in line with the SWP's purpose, aims and values.  So the DC cannot investigate a rape and neither can they find someone “innocent” or “guilty” or “not proven” or “exonerate” them.  The limits of their findings are to matters of conduct and whether allegations are founded or unfounded.  

5.     Because the allegation is so serious the person against whom the complaint is made should be placed on immediate suspension without prejudice.  

6.     The party will need to investigate if his behaviour at any time was at odds with the party's purpose, aims, and values and if so to what extent and what sanctions are appropriate.  If the complainant decides to go to the police (and she should be encouraged and supported to in making her own decision about whether to do so) a police investigation will take precedence.  The party’s investigation into conduct would not be able to begin until any police investigation is finished.  If the complainant decides at any time during any proceeding to go to the police, the internal investigation will be halted until the police investigation is complete.  The member whom the complaint is against will remain on suspension until the whole process is completed.   The complainant should be reassured that this is a normal process and should not be made in any way to feel awkward or guilty about making her complaint, or about the steps the organisation takes as a result of receiving her complaint.  She should be reassured that she did the right thing by coming forward.

7.     The people dealing with the allegation need to be sure that the woman understands the differences between a criminal investigation and an internal one and the limitations of the latter.  The woman should be supported to go to Rape Crisis or another sexual abuse agency so that she can have support; including an independent supporter to help her come to a decision about what she wants to do. 
 
8.     Outline the process in writing (including limitations, what the hearing will look like, what might be asked, who gets to see what; AND setting out the process for the selection of an independent panel to hear the complaint) and encourage the woman to discuss this with her support agency, take time, come back and ask questions etc.  Discuss timings, find out when the woman would like an investigation to take place, perhaps encourage her to take a couple of weeks to think about her options with support but put reasonable limits on it – the organisation needs to deal with the situation.
 
9.     The party should be happy to co-operate with the woman’s choice of support agency and should offer someone from the party to be an internal support for the woman.  The woman should have a say in deciding who this might be.  

Please note:  the information above about the precedence of a police investigation is absolutely standard practice if there is an allegation of a crime having been committed in a workplace or by a worker whose employer also wants to deal with it.  Likewise suspension without prejudice is standard practice in serious allegations.  In care settings, suspension without prejudice can easily go on for a year while a police investigation is carried out.

It is also worth noting that a police investigation may be dropped because of lack of evidence, or a case be dropped in court, or a defendant found not guilty but an employer or organisation may still find that conduct was below what should have been expected and discipline the individual(s).

 - Linda Rodgers

35 comments:

  1. Thanks (from outside the party) for a radiantly sensible analysis. I particularly like the way it critiques the idea that the DC comrades could be trusted to be extra-specially non-sexist by virtue of their position in the party, and draws out its horrible logical implications.

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  2. I think this is a great contribution. I would submit a few things: 1) in the case of a rape, a special version of a disputes committee be convened composed entirely of women. Rape is not just a dispute--it is a political crime against our tradition, and a unique tool of oppression of men against women (over 99% of rapists are male). Male comrades should have full confidence in women comrades to reach a just conclusion. 2) Male comrades could still be of assistance--mostly by not f***ing raping someone.

    Seriously, the nature of these discussions suggest, as many have rightly pointed out, that our theories (and practice) have lagged behind others who are unafraid of using the term "feminist" in a positive way, and thus need to be revisited going forward. Among this, I would second Linda's proposal that a revolutionary party/organization support a woman in *whatever* criminal or administrative action she decides to pursue (or not pursue). The hesitation and squeamishness I've seen about this on the part of some comrades stinks of a crude (quasi-anarchist) attitude to and understanding of the state and the nature of the relationship between reform & revolution. Yes, the state and the police are sexist institutions, and women have often/usually been mistreated, condescended to, and blamed when they've gone to them. But, what if we demanded that they not be? What if, upon treating a rape survivor this way, a police station or courthouse (or business) was greeted with a noisy picket because women knew to call us up because of our uncompromising opposition to women's oppression? I think to do so would help expose the structural inability and lack of interest on the part of the state to do anything about sexism, as well as helping to get justice for women in the here and now.

    Thoughts?

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    1. Just reread what I wrote and I should clarify, I'm in the US now, though I was in the SWP briefly in the late 90s. I was using "we" in the "all us revolutionaries" sense.

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  3. My CounterPunch write-up on the SWP crisis: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/01/31/is-the-party-over/

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  4. I agree that the often unstated presumption that the party is the only place in which allegations of this nature can be effectively investigated suggests a simplistic understanding of the role of the state and legal system. The courts reflect the contradictory attitudes and limited understandings prevalent within society, and instututions like the police have a sexist as well as racist bias. However, reforms to the handling of these allegations as well as to statutory provisions have been hard fought for and in some cases won. To belittle the significance of such successes, and implicitly undermine the importance of successful rape convictions in securing women's safety and as part of pushing for social change, is a mistake. To assume that the DC is able to step outside of the world in which we live and carry out quasi-judicial proceedings was shortsighted and dangerous for all parties concerned. I strongly agree that a choice between the police and the procedure used was a false dichotomy. The suggestions above seem like common sense.
    The approach of the DC was also contradictory...if they recognise the real limitations of our legal institutions, why do they for example use the legal definition of rape? Will they do so again in the future? Does the DC consider whether the way in which they handle cases could impact on the success of potential future prosecutions, eg the possible effect on the admissability of evidence? Could the way the DC handles these matters in fact make justice harder to achieve? These are discussions which the party needs to open up to.
    It is alarming to hear that this is the party's tenth rape 'case'. I wonder how the 'conviction' rate compares with that of the CPS? And if we knew, what would that even mean, given that so many questions need to be raised about our procedures? Has the party even developed its own quasi-legal discourse based on this unknown 'case law'?
    Due to the complexity and difficulty of this area of personal experience and law, the party must be seen to understand the problems a woman faces in making decisions about the way they want their experience dealt with, and to support that decision in ways like those suggested as above.
    Possibly all female panels should be something which could be requested in a situation like this.

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  5. There are some good points made in this article, but some wholly wrong ones too.

    "The reason that the DC thought it was fit to investigate this case is precisely because it did not recognise rape within relationship, acquaintance rape, date rape or whatever you want to call this woman’s experience as a ‘real’ rape."

    The article then mentions that there have been nine previous investigatins into rapes. I am aware - from having been a member in the local districts at the time - of two of these. Both were 'date rapes.' Both were expelled, and the reasons made known amongst the membership. To say the party, and the members of the DC, do not recognise such rapes as 'real' is not just wrong, it is incredibly ignorant and undermines the good points that are made.

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    1. Belboid
      My argument is not that the outcome of the investigation indicated a lack of understanding of rape, but rather that the decision to investigate in the first place was the indicator – both at this point and in the past. In this argument, the outcome is irrelevant.

      I was aware that in some of the previous investigations the party had found individuals ‘guilty’, but I believe this illustrates my point rather than undermines it. The highest sanction that the DC can place on a comrade is expulsion. Given this limitation, would the DC see fit to investigate a murder or a different type of rape and would expulsion be considered an adequate response? I contend that it would not. The fact that the DC does see fit to investigate, indicates to me that date/acquaintance rape is not viewed as seriously as other crimes and thus I conclude that the DC does not conceptualise date rape as ‘real’ rape.

      I hope that clarifies my argument.

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    2. I'm afraid I find that a deeply unconvincing argument. The comparison with murder is little short of absurd - not because one is a 'proper' crime, but because of the (possible) role of the party in the crimes being committed. one of the reasons Delta was in a position to carry out a rape [whether he did so or not, he was clearly 'in a position to'] was because of his role within the party. The fact that he is a senior figure gives him power and influence, it makes it harder to refuse his attentions. Such power roles are at the heart of 'date rape' - and they make it a very different crime to murder. Sorry, but if you do not see that, then i think you dont have a very thorough understanding of what rape is.

      As to whether expulsion is 'adequate' - this is a ridiculous non-argument. Can you show one person saying that it would be 'adequate'? No, because it obviously isn't. But what else can an organisation do, apart from exclude individuals from participation in its activities (and letting it be known why that person is excluded). Of course that is inadequate, but if the complainant choose not to go through the bourgeois courts, then the party has no power to impose any greater sanction (except maybe down a dark alley one night - would that be any better?)

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    3. Linda's entire post is about "what else an organisation can do"! I think the key point is 2 - the party could have acknowledged that it was in no position to investigate, adjudicate and if necessary punish a rape, and that something else would need to be done. (As for *what* else, well, re-read the post.)

      What the party gains from internal dispute resolution, it seems to me, is closure - both in the sense that a line is drawn and everyone moves on, and in the sense that the details of each individual case are closed off to everyone not involved in resolving them. In the case of a crime as serious as rape, I think this is an appalling way to operate. If Delta had been expelled, would his crime have been made public? Presumably not - look at the other nine cases, or rather don't. I'm sure those men were all gutted to be expelled from the party, but otherwise they've got off scot-free - and their current partners, friends, comrades have no idea about their past. I'm all for the rehabilitation of ex-offenders, but I think that's taking it a bit too far.

      As for "the role of the party in the crimes being committed", I admit I can't think of any murder cases in Britain arising out of party work, party discipline or power relations within a party, but it's hardly an absurd idea; I think it's all too easy to imagine.

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    4. "Such power roles are at the heart of 'date rape' - and they make it a very different crime to murder. Sorry, but if you do not see that, then i think you dont have a very thorough understanding of what rape is." belboid

      Are you suggesting that power roles aren't at the heart of murder? Something like 3 women a week get murdered by male partners/ ex-partners in the UK (I think it's on the order of 3 a day in the US). Maybe you think murder is about strangers jumping on people in dark alleys.

      In other words, I don't think your claim that the murder analogy is absurd holds up.

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  6. "To say the party, and the members of the DC, do not recognise such rapes as 'real' is not just wrong, it is incredibly ignorant and undermines the good points that are made."

    UNFUCKINGBELIEVABLE.
    SEYMOUR, YOUR LENINIST BULLSHIT IS OVER FOREVER. WITH MORONS LIKE THIS ON YOUR SIDE, YOU DON'T NEED ENEMIES MY SON

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    1. I'd say Sean's comments are quite indicative of the autonomist quarters the opposition is seeking support from.

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  7. This was the tenth rape investigation, in a small political party with a commitment to women's liberation? Given the statistics about under-reporting, I do wonder wtf has been going on in the SWP. And if the punishment is just expulsion, well...

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    1. I must have missed this, but where do the DC or CC say in the conference transcript that they are investigating the alleged rape in the manner, and with the techniques and support of the bourgeois state?

      The DC and CC act on behalf of the SWP, not the police or courts and their review of the matter is designed to ensure that if the alleged rape and/or harassment did take place the offender would be out of the party. Nowhere did I read in the transcript of the DC report to conference that they thought they had the power or means to conduct a forensic investigation and then fine or imprison the alleged culprit.

      I think those within the opposition who are looking for support from those to the Right of them outside the Party are going have some difficulty explaining how it is that 'all' instances of 'criminality' (militancy at rallies, occupations etc) should not in future be reported to the police. The concept of the 'rule of law' is rather absolute to liberals after all...

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    2. Amnesties are my favourite counter-example to this kind of well-er-bourgeois-law-innit line. In 1970 the Italian government - under heavy pressure from the Left - passed an amnesty retrospectively de-criminalising offences committed in the context of strikes and demos during the Hot Autumn: the balance of forces had shifted, and consequently those acts ceased to have been crimes. All entirely compatible with the rule of law.

      Picture yourself on the morning after the General Strike. Does what Cde X did, back in 2013, still look like it ought not to have happened? Does Cde X still look like [s]he ought to have been punished for it? If the answer's No (which it will be in most of the examples you're thinking of), let it go. If the answer's Yes, damn right you should tell the police.

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    3. Fred, you're missing the point, I think. It isn't that Smith did something...anything...criminal per se. It's that he harassed and raped a young woman comrade*. This is a fundamental abuse of male privilege, a despicable use of a weapon of oppression, a crime against all women and all the oppressed, and a betrayal and a crime against our tradition. If you're seriously equating a rape with illegal strike activity, then you completely miss the point about what women's oppression is. No one cares a whit if Smith threw a garbage can through a high street window during the poll tax riots. Every socialist on the planet should care immensely that he raped someone. (Just as everyone should care if he were seen partying at a BNP/EDL concert. Imagine his denial/apology, "Of course I wasn't there, but I'm no angel and sometimes the stress of all this party work gets to me. I hope the comrades understand." [standing ovation].)

      *I know it's supposedly *not proven,* but if comrades actually paid attention to women's oppression, then they'd know how extraordinarily rare a false rape charge is; but if members actually want to pretend that **Smith** is the victim of a frame-up by someone (who wanted it kept quiet and didn't want to go to the police), well then they are lining up with all the right-wing scum who peddle this kind of sexist filth. If the SWP actually cared about fighting women's oppression--or even its image, ffs--they would have suspended Smith immediately, given W all the support she required, including/especially if she wanted to go the police, and then **made verbatim transcripts of the hearings PUBLIC** (redacting W's name only, if she desired) to show the class and the world how seriously it takes women's oppression, and how brilliant its ability to deal with these issues is compared to the existing courts. Instead, it chose to protect one of its own (and throw another of its own under the bus) and tell anyone concerned by such issues as the oppression and exploitation of women to keep quiet and focus on "things that matter." The only solution to staining its reputation forever is to reverse course: recognize the failings openly and issue a public apology; expel Smith; reprimand, suspend, or expel anyone involved in this cover up; retry in public or make public the DC transcripts; vindicate W; and rededicate the SWP to the complete eradication of sexism, wherever and whenever it raises its head.

      Otherwise--fair or not--it will be lumped FOREVER with the WRP and Healy's rape cult.

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    4. I largely sgree with Dave's view but not all of it. First and foremost, the allegation is rape, it is a crime. Thats what is important to bear in mind here. A criminal act has been alleged and the SWP seems to think it is above the law.

      The SWP and their arguments on womens liberation is now entirely bankrupt by the actions of one rather unattractive leader, Martin Smith (allegedly).

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  8. Based on what I've seen at work, if a manager or higher up engages in sexual misconduct, there is a coverup. If a union activist were accused of sexual misconduct they would be immediately suspended, pending an investigation, and fired if single shred of evidence turned up to support the accusation. A "professional revolutionary" should not expect more leniency than the average shop steward. The best way to ensure this is to report any thing immediately to the police. If the police use it as an excuse to persecute the organization, so be it. Revolutionaries should know how to hire lawyers and defend themselves. This is what standing with the oppressed looks like. Holding yourself exempt is what standing with the Catholic Church looks like.

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  9. Thanks for this, Linda - an excellent piece. Easily giving the lie to the idea that there were only two choices - the usual DC, or "get lost we don't care".

    And pointing out the absurd circular argument involved in "the DC must be unbiased because they are experienced SWP members" is very powerful too.

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  10. Hi Linda, must disagree with your first point. I believe there is a duty on the party to investigate a serious complaint against a member. This said there is much merit in your suggestions on how such an investigation should proceed.

    One small disagreement are your comments on a police investigation taking precedence. My experience is that the practice of employers waiting for a police investigation and/or a court hearing before dealing with a disciplinary matter is becoming more rare. Many employers now proceed and use the argument that the burden of proof in a disciplinary is the balence of probabilities rather than the more testing criminal proof of beyond a reasonable doubt.

    I have a more serious concern about how this debate is proceeding. There is widespread concern about the DC report reflected in the narrow vote at conference. However with regard to some of the other issues eg permanent factions there is not the same widespread support hence the more significant majorities against those proposals at conference.

    I think the support for radical change to the SWP structures is a minority, even if a significant minority. Should we be concentrating on changing the DC process and I would argue clarify other aspects of party discipline rather than press for changes that have not yet got majority support.

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    1. It would seem that questions about party structures are arising largely due to the way that the DC was handled, and concerns around the process suppressed. If you accept that there seem to be some serious issues around the DC which at least warrant internal scrutiny and possible change, then the fact that this seems to be the last thing on the party's agenda leads to bigger questions as to how this can possibly be. There doesn't seem to be widespread support for eg permanent factions and other radical changes (so the accusations re: 'creeping isms' are a red herring), but the failure of the leadership to respond to its membership and the crisis generally risks worsening the situation and undermining trust in organisational matters, both inside and out.

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  11. Writing as a none(ex)member of swp: I noticed in most of the Swss statements that you carry here, there is an assertion that "feminism" should not be used as an insult. Well clearly to call someone a feminist is not in itself an insult; neither is it an insult to call someone a black nationalist or Irish republican, or anti imperialist, or a peace campaigner, or even a trade unionist. The point is that the Swp is a not a party of feminists but one of revolutionary socialists. In working with feminists,trade unionists, anti imperialists etc it has always been thought necessary to guard against diluting the revolutionary political conciousness of party members. I would say that even a quick reading of the Swss statements would give ample evidence for the other claimed insult of autonomism. The Swp is so much more than Stop the War and the ANL.
    Yes the alleged rape incident may have been dealt with better, but you have voted on it at conference, and you have narrowly lost. But you have lost. It seems to me that since you have lost the party vote you have now moved to persuade the Swp s periphary of your case. Although you claim to be members of the Swp , you are in fact openly engaged in public anti Swp agitation.
    To claim to be in the tradition of Cliff , Hallas, Harman is to have understood nothing of their lives work. Clearly they would have been your most vigourous opponents.
    I am surprised you havent been expelled already.But hey, maybe tomorrow. To genuine SWP members and SWSS members I would reccomend talking to the older members of the branch. To the older members , you have to patiently explain the need for discipline based on political understanding of the need for a genuine Leninist party, Trotsky and Luxemburg both came to accept that view.

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    1. Writing as a non-member of the SWP, it strikes me as the height of arrogance for non-members to tell current members how to deal with disputes within the party. Can you not imagine that there might be situations when root-and-branch reform of the party would become necessary? Or that such a situation might have arisen?

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    2. I am a concerned ex member too, and glad that the points raised above that the swp is a party of revolutionary socialists, not feminists, black nationalists etc have been. It is not an insult to be a feminist; it is something that revolutionary socialists are not, although we engage with them as has already been said. I understand there have been severe problems over the last number of years, problems which contributed to my own departure from it. Structure and democracy, well maybe, but i think this current situation is born out of frustration, of being unable to grow, unable to keep the membership and being unsure why. The lack of tangible class struggle and instead anti-capitalism threw many comrades who could not grasp what was going on, what it mean't and what the implications were, many party members did 'tail' the movement, and also i would say, looking back although i didn't participate, there were levels of depravity, a lack of a sense of what comrades were doing in the party ( i hope you know what i mean as i don't really wish to spell this out ). I think Richard and others are right to try to address this situation, and i also think the so called 'loyalists' are right to attempt to hold the party together and hold on to a revolutionary socialist solution to womens oppression. It has been a test too, the results from conference were a majority to accept, yes it was a slim majority but democratic centralism requires rigorous debate and them all acting with the majority decision, perhaps we can learn that from all of this too.

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  12. Yes Phil, I am sorry I genuinely dont mean to be arrogant. I dont live in the UK anymore, and I do not know all the facts. But of course like many socialists outside of the SWp I do care about what happens. This very International Socialist blog has several statements from groups of non members and foreign based socialists telling SWP members how to deal with the dispute within the party, isnt that arrogance on their part then too?

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  13. "Politically or 'sexually'. The dc of the SWP agonised and split over whether there was an outside chance that delta might have harassed someone. if any of them had imagined for a second that he had actually raped someone, let alone had a history of repeated rape, he'd have been out the door quicker than you can say 'Where we stand'"

    Says an SWP member at the discussion forum 'Urban 75.' Totally and ludicrously missing the entire point of why people are so angry about this.

    http://www.urban75.net/forums/threads/swp-expulsions-and-squabbles.303876/page-157

    If this remains the 'line' of the SWP and moves are not made to overhaul the organisation the SWP is finished.

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  14. I'm not a member of the SWP, but all of us on the far left are affected by this sorry episode. You only have to look at Nick Cohen's appalling attack on the whole left in today's Observer to see that. So, the SWP leadership has done us all - not only in the UK either - a deep disservice by the way that it has handled - and is continuing to handle - this case. The other reason I am commenting is that there is still discussion to be had in the left of how to deal with cases like this and I consider this posting to be an important contribution for us all.

    A left group, in the UK under current conditions, is in no position to adequately carry out a rape investigation and "trial" and it is hubris to think that it can do. This blog rightly points out that that the DC could perfectly well have investigated the alleged perpetrator for breaches of "norms" (harassment,sexist behaviour etc.) and expelled him if they were found to be substantiated, without prejudicing any other actions the complainant may want to take at a later date.

    I was disturbed to see that the DC had "investigated" and "tried" nine other alleged rapes. I don't want to suggest that the victims should necessarily have gone to the bourgeois courts instead, but at least there the different accounts of what actually happened would have been aired in public. I presume the SWP membership knows nothing of what went on in these previous trials, as they don't with Delta's? This is not a small issue, especially in issues of rape, where public campaigning, as a result of some of the terrible things that have gone on in trials, has had a big influence (but not enough) in improving the law and police and trial procedures.

    Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i47NAtcxEc

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  15. I'm pleased to read in the motions to conference that ISJ articles on rape are in the pipeline. Reflecting on where I stand has led me to recollect the political influences that led me to what I consider to be a solidly materialist position on "where does rape come from?" But honestly I cannot recall a single SWP publication that was not brief and platitudinous on the subject. I was actually struck by a polemic on liberation theology that talks about the everyday violence of capitalism (so actually I get my Marxism from the Catholics!) Can comrades suggest what I should have read?

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  16. I support the attempts to democratise the SWP. I also think accountability of 'leading comrades' would be greatly improved by amending the Constitution to make the DC solely composed of lay members, with no CC representation as that body has shown it can't be trusted. If legal advice says there would be no interference with any possible judicial proceedings then the first work of the DC would be to re-hear the allegation made by Cde. W.

    Now my point.

    Linda, do you believe it is true that the DC has deliberated upon 9 previous rape cases?

    Also what is the evidence for there being 9 cases?

    (I have just made a detailed comment on this matter at www.socialistunity.com, 'The Empire Strikes Back' topic on the front page.)

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  17. I expressed myself clumsily & unfeelingly at the very end of the opening paragraph, so please let me apologise & clarify what meaning I had hoped to convey.

    Contrary to both the opinion of the DC & the 15 January statement by the ISO Steering Cttee. (www.socialistworker.org front page) I do not believe a supposed revolutionary socialist organisation in either a liberal democracy or indeed in a workers' state should investigate & adjudicate upon any alleged serious crime. The ISO shows how ludicrous it is in saying such an organisation "MUST . . . have the CAPACITY - and indeed the RESPONSIBILTY" (my emphases) to judge a rape allegation. I'm pleased that it seems Phil Gasper rejects this as he's an initial signatory of the boycott of the SWP (see www.openletterswp.wordpress.com).

    The first task of the sort of DC I spoke of would be to ask Cde. W if she wanted to meet them. I strongly regret not saying that. My intention in saying the DC should again attend to her allegation is that from the outside, only having carefully read the transcript of a recording of the Conference session, the DC had behaved outrageously. Let me be clear: I have total confidence that any set of lay members having met Cde. W (& attending to anything she thinks the SWP can do for her), & having discussed the record of the DC proceedings, would realise they could NEVER be competent to deal with her allegation. That is what I meant to convey, although I don't think my initial comment came anywhere near to doing that. Again, I regret what I wrote.

    I hope, Linda, that you can answer my 2 important questions because having introduced the topic of 9 (or 10) previous rape cases into the public realm we all need to understand unambiguously what you are saying.

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  18. You write, "I have also faced the argument that the DC has investigated 9 rapes in the past". Having re-read this I have 3 more crucial questions.

    (1) I now realise that combining 'investigation' & 'rape' in the way you did is unusual because what's normally said is either 'an investigation of alleged rape' or 'we agree with the accuser that a rape had occurred'. What you wrote, "the DC has investigated 9 rapes", can only mean that the finding of the DC was that there had indeed been 9 rapes. Is that what you meant to say?

    (2) You say "the DC has investigated 9 rapes". As you can appreciate, this does not necessarily mean 9+9 people. That is, it could be 2 people: one interpretation consistent with what you wrote is that the DC has judged there to be a single SWP member who raped 9 times. The point is this: given what you were told about the DC's work how widespread is rape in the SWP?

    (3) As the great majority of rape trials end in acquittal it is likely that the DC has heard other than the 9 you refer to. Do you know how many SWP members have said they were raped but have had their claim rejected by the DC?

    I hope you can clear this up because many commentators on the net & people at work & in the labour & socialist movement are saying you have been told the DC has judged there to be 9 rapists in the SWP.

    Thank you.

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  19. I think your proposals as to how to deal with this are appropriate. However, as this was already the disciplinary method used by the SWP in the past, it difficult to blame the leadership for carrying through their usual procedure.

    As I understand it, the woman who made the allegations did not want to go to the police. If so, then she knew that the maximum sanction against the accused would be expulsion from the SWP and one must assume that this appeared an appropriate sanction to her.

    If there were previous rape allegations this implicates people who now present themselves as so much better, like Rees and German, who now lead Counterfire. If one accepts that this method of investigation is in itself fundamentally flawed, then the previous cases which found men guilty were also flawed.

    The origin of all of this is of course not the bad intent of some SWP hacks, but the method of dealing with the world. The belief in the superior justice and morality of the party. This could have some validity where the society has a more reactionary attitude to rape for example in a country like Iran. And the historical genesis of the current problem lies precisely in the attempt to inoculate the SWP from society when it its own attitudes were more progressive than society at large.

    I do find the general atmosphere around the issue of rape is becoming like 'holocaust denial' and this is not a healthy development. This begs all the more for an external appraisal of these forensic issues rather than emotive posturing.

    The issue then goes to the heart of the discussions about rape in society in general rather than in a political group. After all why should rape in the SWP be treated any differently than in society as a whole? And those who defend the rights of the abused should protect them regardless of their political views.

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  20. Does the DC have 'terms of reference' written down anywhere? What are the limits of its investigatory powers?

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  21. I find that even most of the non-SWP people who've contributed here have nevertheless situated the issue within the context of the self-proclaimed 'far-left' and its imagined interests. Mention has been made of the 'bourgeois' nature of the police and court systems as if there exist some 'proletarian' alternative.

    I would like to ask a question: Suppose a rape victim were to take the matter to the police and the it was prosecuted and a conviction secured; what would the SWP DC do then? Would they say the bourgeois court could be trusted and their own investigation took precedence? Or, would they say that the case was proven in court and the DC takes that as its cue to act. And, would this apply to other political formations such as the Labour Party - Cyril Smith comes to mind?

    Self-regulation in matters of party protocol, policy and practice is one thing, but where a reactionary crime is alleged, other things surely take precedence. Of course the victim should have been guided by the DC to lodge her complaint with the police. The fact it did not shows the sectarian interest being uppermost, even against the membership.

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