April 21, 2021
The SWP is involved in 2021 alongside many others in actions against racism, the Tories’ police bill, climate chaos, sexism, in support of strikes and in other forms of resistance against the government and the capitalist system.
In the course of this involvement, issues have been raised about the party’s record and of events in 2012-13.
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.
Unfortunately, these processes proved to be flawed, and failed the two women who made the complaints. We have learned from and sought to correct these weaknesses so that nothing like this could ever happen again.
But 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. Nor is it true that there 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?
First, 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. You can see the review of our procedures here.
Secondly, 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. You can see the report from our conference in 2013 here.
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 need to be discussed and addressed properly. For ourselves we continue to subject our own practice and procedures to critical scrutiny. In 2019 we conducted a review into the behaviour we expect of our members that has made our disciplinary process even more robust. This also resulted in guidelines on expected behaviour for our members to follow. But we are not complacent, and we hope to learn from others in the struggles we engage in together.
Category: Press releases