A response to the #MeToo movement

19th January 2018
The following statement was agreed by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) conference in January 2018

The SWP opposes, and fights actively, against all forms of oppression. Any oppressive behaviour is completely unacceptable.

The recent revelations about sexual harassment at every level of society, the immensely positive speaking out about harassment and the #metoo movement, need a response from all organisations.

As the party’s Central Committee wrote in the run-up to the conference, “This foregrounding of issues around oppression based on gender and sexuality is hugely positive. The greater openness about harassment, sexism and abuse of power means that many more people are challenging their own ideas and behaviour, and are more willing to challenge others.

“But it’s also true that the common sense politics of today tends towards privilege theory and patriarchy as explanations for gender-based oppression. This means that discussions which begin with structural oppression quickly end up with individual solutions.

“Therefore socialists have a lot to contribute to the discussions about oppression – not least asserting that ending oppression which is deeply rooted in class society means a broader, united struggle against the ruling class which benefits from it and perpetuates it every day.”

We therefore set out the following expected behaviour.

1. The SWP has zero tolerance of sexual harassment or other forms of oppressive behaviour and strives to make this a reality in all areas of its work.

2. We encourage anyone who experiences or has experienced any such treatment to raise it with the party at branch or national level as appropriate. This is often difficult. People may feel confused about what has taken place, and society makes people believe that they are often responsible themselves for the harassment they have faced.

3. We hope to achieve, and will continue to work for, an environment where everyone can feel able to talk about these matters and then see appropriate action by the party. Everyone is entitled to operate in an environment free from harassment and intimidation in a culture of openness and be fully aware of how the party will deal with any transgression. The party has a set of formal procedures for such action.

4. However good the party’s processes and practices, it is inevitable that the oppressive and coercive behaviours created by capitalist society are sometimes reflected in the actions of party members. At every level we should be aware of this and reflect on the way we all act towards each other.

We further believe:

1. Formal procedures are not enough, but they are important. The party has been operating a new set of procedures since December 2013. We believe that these have proved robust and have served us well. But after four years there are some changes which should be considered. We will look at the results of the Labour Party’s review of its procedures, and other reviews that are taking place and see if there are ideas we could gain from.

2. All new members of the party, along with the other materials they receive, should be sent a document with points 1 to 4 (in bold above) when they join together with details of the role of the DC and a method of being able to contact the DC in confidence.

3. We are aware that other organisations will be issuing or updating their own codes of conduct in the near future. The expected behaviour noted here should be used by the party for now. But it may need to be updated or improved. To this end we will elect a group to look at whether such improvements are necessary and what they should be.