A (Hopefully) Reasonable Response to Events in the SWP

Sat 12th Jan 2013

I think it’s very important that I draw two distinctions here, in light of current events.

Firstly, I myself am a member of the Socialist Party, not the Socialist Workers’ Party. These are two entirely separate organisations who, though we are both revolutionary socialist parties and we both want to see a society for the 99%, have entirely different approaches to many issues, political and organisational.

Secondly, it’s important that we draw a distinction between the actions and attitudes of the grassroots members of a party, and the actions of its leadership, especially in a situation where the leadership has become isolated and estranged from the grassroots, in both its attitudes and actions. It is therefore vital that people from ANYWHERE on the political spectrum do not see the events of the past month within the SWP as a reflection on left-wing politics, or upon the lay membership of that party. The vast majority of activists I know in the SWP are class-fighters, anti-sexists and are committed to democracy. The actions of their leadership, I believe, tar and blacken the reputation which lay activists have spent decades upon decades building with their bare hands. Indeed, as has been proved by the debates had at their congress, lay members were simply powerless to prevent the awful processes which have taken place, cut out from any democratic involvement as they were - indeed, through the report of the disputes committee the CC placed delegates in the most pernicious of situations, voting either against sexism and against the victimisation of a young female comrade for reporting possible abuse by a senior official, or against the Party that they themselves had in many cases given their lives over to building.

Yet if the entirety of the Left fails to learn the lessons of these events, it will be at the detriment of our activity and our ability to fight for a better society. The existence of sexism within left-wing parties is to some degree an inevitable reflection of the sexist, racist and homophobic society we find ourselves in. This can, and must, be mitigated to the lowest possible level by the creation of solid democratic structures which enfranchise specifically oppressed groups, such as women. It is not left-wing politics which creates sexism or favour sexists, but a lack of democratic accountability which allows sexists to become abusers in the very worst of cases, such as the nightmarish case of Gerry Healy - history has repeated itself in this case (though to a much lesser degree), where the members of the SWP’s central committee felt duty-bound to defend Comrade Delta from accusations of rape made by one woman, and accusations of harassment by another, identifying the interest of Comrade Delta with the interests of the Party as a whole. Thus, I urge every member of every party which fights for socialism to ask yourselves - are we the best we could be, democratically and in relation to dealing with these issues?

Therefore: a witchhunt of the Left as a whole, is unjustified. A witchhunt of SWP members, is unjustified. Forthright and honest criticism of the leadership of the SWP in particular, but also those of all organisations on the left, is not only justified but a necessity if we are to collectively move beyond these harrowing events.

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