For an outward looking SWSS
University of East London (UEL) Socialist Worker Student Society (SWSS) holds the International Socialist tradition in the highest regard. A tradition founded upon breaking from the evils of Western capitalism and the horrors of Stalinism, and one that fights to this day for real working-class emancipation. A tradition that has fought tirelessly against sexism, racism, homophobia and the class exploitation that capitalism creates. It is as proud followers of this immense political tradition that we feel the necessity to write this statement.
Our SWSS group publicly condemns our leadership’s recent handling of a serious allegation of sexual abuse brought against a leading member of the party. We believe the subsequent inability of the Central Committee (CC) to address the crisis embroiling the party, is paramount to, and indicative of their refusal to accept any responsibility for their bureaucratic mishandling of the case, concerns and political turmoil comrades have faced in both the pre and post-conference periods.
We recognise that this is a crisis that could and should have been avoided. We believe that the reprehensible response the CC have conjured up represents a detachment from the hostility comrades have faced in their workplaces, campus’s and unions, which has paralysed our ability to carry out the interventionist work required of a revolutionary party. The clear demarcation of the leadership’s relationship to the membership, and their insulting disregard for the political turmoil we face in our respective workplaces and campus’s was typified in the most recent pseudo claims in Party Notes, denouncing the political concerns of the emerging opposition as seeking to overturn our Marxist analysis of women’s liberation, and no longer seeing the working class as central to the fight for socialism.
We also condemn in the strongest terms possible, the hostility and negligence being emitted onto our student groups across the country, where comrades have faced a tirade of slander and personal assaults, whilst a section of disgraceful sectarians have tried to score political points without any regard to the confidentiality of the women involved in the DC case by circulating the transcript of the DC session at conference.
We affirm and stand by our organisation’s commitment to women’s liberation. We adhere to the party’s proud theoretical tradition of understanding women’s oppression through a revolutionary Marxist perspective, and we acknowledge the tremendous work the party has done in fighting for women’s liberation. We celebrate Lindsey German’s 'sex, class and socialism', Chris Harman’s “Women’s liberation and revolutionary socialism”, and Tony Cliff’s “Class Struggle and Women’s liberation”, as the cornerstone of our political tradition. We will always agitate within this tradition, and we will build the organisation and the wider developing movement by doing so. However we reject the following; the failure of the DC to carry out the investigation into allegations of a sexual nature in an entirely impartial way, the concomitant manner in which the DC and the CC have failed comrade ‘W’ and the membership by undermining ‘W’s’ rights and moving to stifle any dissenters who supported her, and the brandishing of the term ‘feminism’ as an apparent insult. All of which we believe mark a sharp departure from our party’s tradition on women’s liberation. We recognise that across the world, a broad movement is developing, from Slut-Walks, Pro-Choice Demonstrations and Anti-Sexual harassment rallies. Therefore we see feminism as a root in to class politics, and not a root out, as it was in the downturn of the class struggle that saturated the early 1980’s. We also maintain that no political organisation is abstracted from the impacts on society under capitalism, including our own organisation.
We note that SWSS’s across the country are facing the destruction of our groups, our work and our relationships with various societies on our campuses. Our student’s union officials are facing serious pressures, including votes of no-confidence and no-platforms. The possibilities of united left slates are in disarray as left activists vary from refusing to work with us, to petitioning and demanding public statements. We are no exception. Confoundedly, the SWSS Notes emailed to us by the Student Office this week provided no attempt to deal with the tumultuous situations we are confronted with. Instead of displaying any form of political lead, this has hailed yet another departure from our party’s political tradition, and did not resemble the political content or strategy one would expect from a revolutionary party. This is epitomised by the notes argument that we should stand SWSS-only slates, as opposed to forming united left slates, or trying to rebuild relationships with societies and activists who would have otherwise stood with us in elections. We face the distinct possibility of having the gains we’ve made in our SWSS groups around the country for the last three years being substantially rolled back, unless the leadership is willing to address the situation we face, and bare responsibility for their role in it.
There is still work to be done – and we will vehemently fight against any rolling back in the student strategy, which is hastily becoming evident after the unexplained decisions to remove leading student organisers, the prevention of leading student activists from running in national elections, and the futile strategy proposed in this week’s SWSS notes. SWSS have not been the only ones facing the brunt of this backlash. Comrades have gone into their workplaces and faced bullying and belittling by their colleagues having read the articles online, as it has now spread to be a debate among various left organisations, including a commentary by Owen Jones.
If complaints of sexism or allegations of any sort are made, we stand by a full and thorough investigation by the DC, but believe that the work and purpose of the DC must be reviewed, after the evident concerns that have been expressed by many comrades in relation to the recent handling of the DC’s investigation into allegations of rape. We also believe this process should be absolutely free from the weight imposed by the Central Committee, through the use of elements of the apparatus and organisers.
We recognise that within our organisation members will play significant roles in leading various struggles and representing the party in our United Front work. This can mean that some members have more influence inside of the organisation dependent upon the work they’ve done, their position and the length of time they have been in the party. In addition we also recognise the immense capability and pressure that members of the SWP can have on the outside world. This means that when a fight is to be had, the SWP punches above its weight and has a disproportionate impact for our size.
Our ability to punch above of our weight is phenomenal, and therefore we celebrate the significant impact the party can have in struggles, and we understand that the roles our leading members fulfil for the organisation in these struggles can mean they have a powerful influence inside of the party. However, this should in no circumstances mean that when a member brings forward an allegation of sexual misconduct against a leading member of the party, they should have to face the kind of horrendous questioning and treatment comrade ‘W’ did.
Furthermore the CC position that the “case is now closed”, is an indication and a sign of a developing defensiveness. The CC’s inability to address the internal and public furore does not enable our comrades to make a political response to the questions being asked in our workplaces and on our campuses. Rather we have been subjected to a disingenuous appeal to ‘confidentiality’ in the party’s public statements, quasi-retorts in this week’s party notes about members trying to overhaul our tradition, and facile responses in our branches that were aimed at trying to disengage from the current crisis, and fill comrades with an overwhelming sense of encouraging optimism that this will just simply pass us by. These inadequate responses, fail to recognise the crisis that has engulfed our organisation, they do not acknowledge the damage being done to the party’s work, and they offer no sensible lead or explanation to our members and those that we work with.
We have been among some of the biggest and proudest builders of the Socialist Workers Party over the recent years, delving not only into student work, but across all of our united front’s, when the political period is tense, the party often rightfully utilises its students for building the organisation in every form, as our position in the class, and responsibilities, allow us to be more flexible. We will continue to build the organisation no matter how much pressure is applied onto the SWP and its student members. This is because it is an organisation we are exceptionally proud of; an organisation we want to fight for.
SWSS maintains its ability to have direct control over the way it organises on a local level, from caucus agenda’s, meetings and speakers, and our wider United front work, not autonomous from the organisation, but in unison with the organisation and its national strategy. Whether it is the strategy to build a strong rank-and-file worker’s movement, fighting back Tory austerity, or carrying on the tradition of breaking the backs of fascists, who seek to marginalize and scapegoat oppressed minorities. This is to say that we do not want the political undermining that has been on-going pre and post-conference to continue to affect the way we build.
UEL SWSS desires to move forwards as a unified party, but unless the CC take responsibility for their failures to lead in a time of crisis and immediately engage in a politically constructive response to our members and those we work with, the descending trajectory of our organisation and the failures of our leadership to address it, will bring our party in to disrepute, forever hindering our ability to intervene in the coming class struggles. Comrades, we want to bring down the Tories, stop the cuts, smash the fascists and strengthen the left and workers confidence to fight back across the world. We believe that the SWP is the revolutionary party capable of having this impact, and we will continue to fight for the vanguard party that we can be. Therefore we believe that our leadership has to reconsider their impotent position and respond reasonably, as would be expected of a revolutionary leadership, to the crisis we are in. Thus we demand; there be an amnesty over the punishment of comrades that have expressed concerns, no students should be isolated, marginalised or expelled from the organisation based on their factional declarations within the pre-conference period, as by right members are entitled to, there must be a full review over the Disputes Committee, and that Comrade Delta should not represent the party in any public or united front work during this extremely difficult period.