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Cambridge Defend Education bans the SWP

Solidarity with all survivors! | 07.12.2014 12:57 | Cambridge

'As activists and students within Cambridge Defend Education (CDE), we wish to make it absolutely clear that we will not, under any circumstances, organise with the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP).'

As activists and students within Cambridge Defend Education (CDE), we wish to make it absolutely clear that we will not, under any circumstances, organise with the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP). This is not because of any disagreement on theory, but because of the SWP's historic and continuing role in supporting rape culture, and undermining liberation groups.

At recent demonstrations worryingly large sections of the activist community have continued to directly engage with the SWP (by holding their placards, buying their newspaper, etc.) Others have nonetheless not made it clear that the SWP are not welcome at such events. People in both of these groups are either unaware of the SWP's history, or are unwilling to hold them to account. While ignorance of the SWP's history of institutional sexism may well be considered an excuse, that such ignorance persists is symptomatic of a culture which marginalises, stigmatises and routinely denies the experiences of survivors of sexual violence - beliefs and attitudes still far too often found within the left.

The lack of action on the part of the unaware and the unwilling directly undermines the claims of liberation politics, causes psychological distress and harm to survivors of sexual violence, and directly contradicts any claims of solidarity with women and feminist movements.

An increasing number of people seem to be unaware of, or have forgotten, the SWP's history, so, for context, we will go into some detail about recent events. In 2013, a leaked report showed that a senior member of the SWP - 'Comrade Delta', later revealed to be Martin Smith, former National Secretary - had been accused of the sexual harassment and rape of two junior members. [1] The issues were dealt with internally via a 'disputes committee', a mock court staffed by friends and long-time colleagues of the accused. The women who made the complaints were subjected to extended victim blaming,and cross-examined over past relationships. Since the leak, others have come forward with similar stories, painting a picture of systematic institutionalised sexism and rape apologism. Attempts to challenge the SWP, both internally and externally, have been met by vicious and sometimes violent responses. Hundreds of party members have since left, with those former members who spoke out or challenged the SWP's handling of the allegations being threatened with expulsion and accused by the party leadership of 'creeping feminism'. Others have been harassed, threatened, and bullied into silence.

Historically, the SWP's attitude towards activists who do not toe the party line has been threatening and dangerous to various movements. Those who seek to directly confront racists and fascists, for example, have been prevented from doing so or even turned over to the police by SWP organisers. Most recently, the organisers of a prominent SWP front threatened to give personal details of the London Black Revolutionaries to police after they dared to organise solidarity demonstrations for Ferguson without consulting the self-proclaimed "leaders of the movement". [2]

Following the Free Education demonstration on 19th November, members of CDE appropriated copies of the SWP's paper, the Socialist Worker, and burnt them. They did this for two reasons. Firstly, as an act of solidarity with survivors of sexual violence and those organisations and individuals that have already taken a stance against the SWP, such as students at Sussex University, Goldsmiths Feminist Society, and Edinburgh University Student Union. Secondly, in order to send a clear message to the SWP and their supporters that their presence - indicative of the left's refusal to seriously challenge sexism within its own ranks - is not a welcome one.

We acknowledge that burning literature is a controversial tactic, although it remains unclear whether or not SWP recruitment tools count as literature except in the most literal sense. The burning of SWP leaflets and papers may well have been a rash act, but it was borne out of legitimate anger at the attempts of rapists and rape apologists to (re)legitimise themselves through attendance at recent protests. It's a real and genuine form of privilege to be able to reflect on all the potential consequences of expressing your anger before you shout out. There's more to political discussion and action than sanitary discourse in existing and well-defined debating space. We wanted to tell the SWP - a group with considerable economic power for a 'left' organisation, and the white male capital to rebrand itself as authoritative on issues it knows nothing about - that they are not welcome.

We stand with the student groups who've attempted to keep their campuses free from rape apoligism, and were inspired in our action by the Goldsmiths Feminist Society, who similarly burnt SWP materials, and faced a huge backlash from individuals within the left. Moves to disrupt circulation, expressions of destructive anger are often the only tools available to those shut out of other means of political expression. Fascists burning books is a different act from survivors of sexual violence and their allies destroying the means by which a group of rapists and their apologists try to silence them.

It is in this context that the Socialist Worker's Party is not welcome in CDE's spaces and actions. This is not because of their Marxist politics. It is instead due to the SWP's role in reproducing rape culture and patriarchy within activist communities, which is in direct conflict with CDE's commitment to creating safe and accessible activist spaces and communities. CDE will not work with rape apologists. They are not the leaders of our movement.

[1]…/ and…/

Solidarity with all survivors!


Display the following 10 comments

  1. An Intersectionalist Speaks on behalf of the CDI — Cambridge Defend Intersectionalists
  2. Hmm... — Underprivileged
  3. The less SWP contamination the better — Skid-Marx
  4. More info — @
  5. Comrade Delta - in perspective — Lorna
  6. Trial by gossip — Casio
  7. Article 11 — International Day For Human RIghts
  8. Some Boring Facts — Tedious D
  9. the counterfire alternative — D-real
  10. Cambridge Defend Education are lying! — Godzilla