Thursday, 17 January 2013

Letter to the Central Committee

For the Attention of the SWP Central Committee

I am writing to express my condemnation of the process used by the leadership of the SWP to deal with an allegation of rape.  As the shop steward at Scottish Women's Aid I am horrified that the leadership of the SWP - of which I have been a member for 18 years - thought that it was in a position to investigate a serious crime such as rape. Would the DC have investigated a murder? I would guess not, but then what does that say about the level of seriousness with which the CC and DC treat rape?

The series of decisions made by the CC and the DC around the processes for dealing with this allegation of rape and their inability to either pull back from them when they started to go wrong, or to respond reasonably to criticism after the fact (despite access to a very clear analysis of what was wrong with the decisions made) indicate a real lack of understanding of rape, its definition and its consequences.

In addition to my concerns about the sheer inappropriateness of some of the lines of questioning -as raised by many others - I have a more general concern about the lack of specialism in the DC which is required when dealing with rape victims, and the separate set of specialist skills required when investigating rape when there is only one word against another.  This allegation is about rape and sustained abuse within a relationship with a huge power imbalance rather than for example an isolated incident. My point is not that certain types of rape are more or less serious others. My point is that the investigators were not trained in understanding and investigating the different manifestations of violence against women and the various responses required depending on the experience of the woman.

We do reject the bourgeois system of justice but in this case aspects of the bourgeois process were used, and having read the available documents relating to this case it is not convincing that there was a there a clear analysis and understanding of what aspects of an investigatory and quasi-judicial process were accepted and which were rejected. Clear decisions around process needed to be made and then fully explained to the complainant so that she was aware of what exactly she was getting into, its limitations and how effective it could possibly be in terms of her need for a resolution and could make her own choice on that basis.

This shambolic playing at investigator, judge and jury held a real risk of ruining someone's life and it is no thanks to the leadership of the SWP and only testimony to the woman's strength if it hasn't.

The response of the CC following the leaking of documents onto the internet and the subsequent media publicity has been the shamefully offensive "Statement by the Central Committee in response to attacks on the party". This document is only further evidence of the failures of this process.

"Had the Disputes Committee believed that the accused person was guilty, it would have expelled him from the SWP immediately." This statement alone sums up my point. Really? Do you think this could be an adequate response to rape? No responsibility to any other woman who might be at risk?

This document also states:

"If this case had been raised within a trade union or any other organisation there would be no question that the matter should be treated with complete confidentiality. This basic principle should also apply in this case."

Of course confidentiality should apply; however, confidentiality really isn't the issue here. The decisions you made and the way in which you handled the investigation are the issues. Focusing on confidentiality is a poor attempt to obscure the failings of the process and close down the debate.

As anyone who works in an organisation or operates in a trades union knows full well this matter would NOT have been dealt with through internal mechanisms. The procedures for investigating disciplinary matters or disputes between colleagues are not used by organisations or trades unions to investigate serious crimes. How could you not know that? Or are you just assuming that a sheepish membership will accept this untruth?

Even by your own terms you failed to follow the "basic principles" of a standard trade union process.  I would refer you to ACAS good practice guidelines in terms of appointing individuals to panels that don't have a personal connection with the individuals involved in the dispute being heard.

The introductory statement to the document is also untrue:

"A series of attacks on the party have appeared over the last few days - many in newspapers which are the sworn enemies of women's liberation and workers' rights".

Most of the attacks on the actions of the CC and the DC are not in newspapers which are the 'sworn enemies of women's liberation'. Again, why lie to us? It does your position no good at all - most of us do have access to the internet.  The issue at hand for the membership is never what the enemies of women's liberation and workers' rights say about us and to us, but rather how we can hold our head up and explain our actions and decisions with integrity to the world outside of the party with which we come into contact on a day to day basis. Your actions have seriously damaged the party's integrity and members' ability to operate.

Finally, it is false to claim that the party is somehow immune from sexism. There is no theoretical or evidence basis for making this claim.

I have seriously considered my position in the party over the last few days. I know many others who feel the same way that I do.  I have decided I want to stay a member, however I can only remain as a member of the SWP on the basis that action is taken to remedy this:

· Conference must be recalled and the entire CC and DC need to resign.
· There needs to be an immediate and public apology to both of the women who made complaints including an acknowledgment of the mishandling of their complaints, and
· An immediate apology must be made to the membership of the SWP who have been shockingly let down by their leadership.

I would appreciate a sensible and thoughtful response to this letter.

Linda Rodgers
SWP Edinburgh Branch
Shop Steward, Scottish Women's Aid
Unite CYWNfP Edinburgh Branch Committee
Unite CYWNfP Regional Industrial Sector Committee, Scotland.


  1. I resigned last Sunday as I thought I was on my own and about to be expelled. I emailed Charlie saying how concerned I was and he didn't bother to reply. He hasn't responded to my resignation, so I don't if it's been accepted. I've been in the Party for 16 years, so to just ignore me like this is really rude, I feel. I wrote my resignation without reading anyone else's, but it turns out it's the same as everyone else's because the problems are obvious to everyone, except the DC and CC it seems. I still don't know if I'm in or out. But I've been concerned for awhile that the CC were 'walking on their hind legs' and we'd become a 'top-down' organisation, which goes against everything we're supposed to believe in. I'm going to have to put my letter across two posts as it won't fit on one.

    Dear Charlie,

    I have read your email, which is nothing short of propaganda, and the transcript you mention. I am horrified at so many things, not least the fact that conference members were told not to report back to their branches. I have been a member of the party for 16 years and to not be told of something so serious is unacceptable. I don't want to be a member of a party where all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.

    Firstly, this was not 'an internal matter'. This allegation was far too serious for the SWP to deal with on their own without outside help. The only crime more serious than rape is murder. If one of our members was accused of killing another member, would the SWP try to deal with that on their own too? Also, the bourgeoise law system the SWP has so much contempt for, does have three things in its favour. Any member of the Judiciary or Jury who have a prior connection to the accused or the claimant are required to declare it from the outset and remove themselves from the case. A panel comprised of friends of the accused, who admit they've known him for years and do not really know the claimant, is not a fair panel. Both sides are given all statements and evidence in advance and are able to answer accusations. In this case, evidence was given to the accused only. The claimants could not even respond to anything he said and still don't know what his defence was. The DC admit there were no witnesses, but chose to believe the testimony of someone who had been their friend and colleague for years. Which means they were biased whether they intended to be or not. No attempt was made to redress this by convening a panel of rank and file members, yet another example of some animals being more equal than others. But even this would not have been enough as no one in the SWP has been trained to deal with an allegation of this magnitude. A bourgeoise court would have access to forensic evidence, which could have proved one way or another who was telling the truth in situations where there were no other witnesses.

    What is even more horrifying is the line of questioning the DC chose to employ. The previous sexual history of the claimant is irrelevent. It's one of the reasons that victims of rape and sexual assault are reluctant to report it as they do not want to be 'on trial' and have their sexual past paraded for all to see to defend the indefensible. The SWP of all organisations should know that the only relevent criteria is consent. She should never have been asked why she went for a drink with the accused. We go out for drinks with our comrades all the time without questioning it as men in the SWP, especially those as high up as 'Comrade Delta' (I am well aware of who that is, by the way), are perceived to be safe.

  2. The treatment of both claimants by the SWP, both before and after was, even by bourgeoise standards, abhorrent. Comrade W had to ask to to have someone accompany her as she knew no one on the DC, something that Comrade Delta did not have to worry about. This should have been given automatically. Their treatment afterwards amounts to shunning. Comrade X has been moved as a punishment for daring to bring an allegation against a member of the CC.

    We are not the Catholic Church. Burying information like this should not be something the SWP should even consider. Candy had the nerve to say 'We are here to protect the interests of the party'. Does that include protecting members of the CC and hanging the claimants out to dry? The party I joined in 1997 would NEVER have behaved like this.

    I know you want this to just 'go away' and you want rank and file to just accept the judgement from above. Issues swept under the carpet have a way of coming back and biting you, as the BBC discovered after the Savile Inquiry. Since I've been in the Party, we have only made the National Media twice. The first was for our oppsition to Workfare, which was brilliant. The second is for this, which has left SWP members hanging their heads in shame. We should be focusing on bringing down the ConDems, but at the crucial moment, the SWP is imploding.

    Finally, in the interests of honesty and full disclosure, something which the SWP seem to have lost, I need to disclose that just after I joined the Party, I was raped. My branch never asked about my previous sexual history. When my self esteem was at it's lowest, they made me feel I was still important and I still had something to offer. I was somewhere safe. I can't say that is the case now. The irony of the fact that the reason I stayed is now the reason I must leave is not lost on me. It breaks my heart as I'm having to leave an organisation who were to me, the family I didn't have. And before you accuse me of being biased due to my personal history, I suggest you get your own house in order first. As a rape survivor, I cannot be part of a Party of rape apologists.

    It causes me great sadness and pain to have to say this, but I have no choice. I hereby resign from the SWP.

    PS You've also lost some of the youngest and most gifted members of the Party, which is an absolute tragedy.

  3. BTW, the first email I sent Charlie was before conference. I understand he might have been inundated, but he could've sent a generic email out to all of us.

  4. Delta's membership should have been suspended immediately the allegation against him was made. To not do so was to be prejudiced with the idea that he probably had not commited rape.
    Had the CC had a neutral belief, then they would have acted on the basis that he could
    have commited rape, in which case once again his membership would have been suspended.
    That his membership was not suspended tells us they thought him likely innocent, this
    belief could only come from knowing him personally.
    The DC investigation then, was carried out by people who knew him, with the tacit
    belief from the CC that he was innocent.
    To pre-suppose him innocent was an act that is completely anti-thetical to marxist
    ideas, what you see is not what you get. Do the naive CC not know people tell lies.
    Do the naive chauvanistic CC think anyone commiting a sex offense would just admit it.
    I myself was sexually abused as a child, the people who do these things are such convincing souls, if the CC had any contact with the real world they would have responded by saying, we cant know if Delta did rape a comrade, therefore we suspend his membership. Then they could have sought outside help.
    Instead these lofty theorticians consigned reality to a dustbin, and stuck two fingers up at the real world.