Statement in response to attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, Stand Up To Racism and the SWP
The decision by Jeremy Corbyn to speak at the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) conference on 8 October has led to some bitter attacks on him, SUTR, and the Socialist Workers Party.
It is important to put the record straight. It is particularly crucial because the greatest potential damage will not be to the SWP but to the wider movement against racism and austerity.
We want to confirm that, as many other people have said, that the SUTR conference was not “an SWP event”. The SWP is only one of the many parts of SUTR, and certainly does not control it.
Its president is Diane Abbott MP, its co-chairs are CWU union leader Dave Ward and Talha Ahmad of the Muslim Council of Britain. Its vice chairs include Kate Osamor MP, Rabbi Lee Wax and Labour MEP Claude Moraes.
The SUTR conference was a huge success and can be the start of a mass anti-racist movement. The speeches by Corbyn and shadow home secretary Abbott were very important and came at a crucial moment.
The Tory government is viciously attacking refugees and migrants to deflect from the real problems in society caused by the bankers, big business and the politicians who support them.
Instead of contributing to the building of a broad anti-racist response, those who now hound Corbyn over his involvement are weakening the movement and have handed a gift to the Labour right who seek to remove him.
What about the specific issues about the SWP that have been referred to? Certainly they raise important matters. The SWP takes women’s liberation, and the fight against all forms of oppression, very seriously. We condemn all instances of sexual violence, harassment or oppressive behaviour.
In 2012 one allegation of rape and then later one of harassment were directed against a leading member (now former member) of our organisation. Because those involved making the complaints did not want to go to the police, the SWP tried to deal with the matter through its internal processes.
It is not true that we forced those making accusations to come to a party disciplinary body. It was the accusers’ (wholly understandable) decision not to go to the police.
These internal processes did not find any of the accusations proven. None of this was a “cover-up”. The case was dealt with under the party’s rules applying at the time. So far as was possible while observing the confidentiality of those involved, It was fully reported to and debated at our national conference and assessed by the delegates. But it caused deep concern in the party.
Far from stopping argument on the matter, it was debated at three national conferences that were themselves preceded by extensive discussion.
What then happened?
Firstly (nearly three years ago), we acknowledged that there were inadequacies and problems with the processes by which we dealt with these matters. We have sought to address them. A body independent of the party’s leadership heard submissions and looked at the procedures of other organisations. New—and better—processes were adopted.
Secondly, (nearly three years ago) we said that the two women who brought very serious allegations suffered real distress and we were sorry for this. We also recognised that many people suffered real distress as a result of what took place and we were sorry to all of them for that.
These statements are available on our website.
We made mistakes and we have tried to learn from them. But whatever mistakes were made, they were not because the party or its leadership are sexist or trampled on the politics of women’s liberation or covered up injustice. We have been part of campaigns against sexism and sexual violence, for abortion rights and for equal pay since we were founded 50 years ago. We will continue to be part of them.
It is a great disservice to use these important matters for political point-scoring. As we know, sexual harassment and violence run deep in many institutions, from schools and universities, to the BBC, to the Catholic Church, to political parties, to the House of Commons, to the trade union movement.
Such matters needs to be discussed and addressed properly, not used against the anti-racist movement, Corbyn and the SWP.