For the Attention of the SWP Central Committee
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
"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:
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."
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
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?
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
The introductory statement to the document is also untrue:
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
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.
it is false to claim that the party is somehow immune from sexism.
There is no theoretical or evidence basis for making this claim.
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.
SWP Edinburgh Branch
Shop Steward, Scottish Women's Aid
Unite CYWNfP Edinburgh Branch Committee
Unite CYWNfP Regional Industrial Sector Committee, Scotland.