SWP poorly treat 2 young women member victims of sexist behaviour/rape by CC member. Lessons for ultra/anarchist groups?

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S. Artesian
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Jan 12 2013 16:04

Comment from cynical, jaded New Yorker:

Wish I could say I was shocked, but I'm not.

rooieravotr
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Jan 12 2013 17:19

International fall-out: http://grumpyoldtrot.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/swps-serbian-section-splits-from-ist/

and a student revolt within party circles: http://grumpyoldtrot.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/swp-leeds-university-swss-statement/

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Ramona
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Jan 12 2013 19:14

That Leeds SWSS statement is really good, reaffirms my faith in humanity a little

S. Artesian
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Jan 12 2013 22:25

I don't know, not being a Leninist and all that, but it seems to me any party committed to being a party and to the tasks of the party would have immediately and permanently (as permanently as these things go), removed the accused from all official leadership positions. Nobody's that important on a central committee that he or she can't be replaced. hell, a central committee isn't that important that it can't be replaced.

And then? Then if the accuser wants to pursue the matter, he or she can take it up with the bourgeoisie. Really, what's the big deal that requires rallying around a member of the central committee? The "title" "position" is a form, a character, that can be filled by anyone.

Right, you're accused of rape? OK, adios, turn in your platinum status access card to the CC business class lounge. You're done.

And if it means severing all ties with the accuse individual, so be it. I mean if I were a Leninist, convinced that the party was needed to lead the class, and all other that other stuff, the individual is gone in a heartbeat.

Makes me think the problem isn't just with the individual, but the very notion of having, requiring, a central committee.

bastarx
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Jan 13 2013 08:54
S. Artesian wrote:
I don't know, not being a Leninist and all that, but it seems to me any party committed to being a party and to the tasks of the party would have immediately and permanently (as permanently as these things go), removed the accused from all official leadership positions. Nobody's that important on a central committee that he or she can't be replaced. hell, a central committee isn't that important that it can't be replaced.

And then? Then if the accuser wants to pursue the matter, he or she can take it up with the bourgeoisie. Really, what's the big deal that requires rallying around a member of the central committee? The "title" "position" is a form, a character, that can be filled by anyone.

Right, you're accused of rape? OK, adios, turn in your platinum status access card to the CC business class lounge. You're done.

And if it means severing all ties with the accuse individual, so be it. I mean if I were a Leninist, convinced that the party was needed to lead the class, and all other that other stuff, the individual is gone in a heartbeat.

Makes me think the problem isn't just with the individual, but the very notion of having, requiring, a central committee.

My feeling is that the head honchos of the larger and hence more opportunistic Trotskyist groups have all long ago stopped believing that a Bolshevik-style revolution led by them is even remotely possible. Instead they embrace the perks their career in the party brings them which includes access to young women and happily go about their business of trying to steer any social movements that do emerge onto the safe terrain of unions and/or elections.

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cantdocartwheels
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Jan 13 2013 09:09

At the end of the day when you strip away all the lefty language it was just mates closing ranks around mates. This happens everywhere and the anarchist movement definitely cant get on its high horse over it.

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xslavearcx
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Jan 13 2013 11:12

yeah i definately dont think by attaching a prefix to oneself or to a group like anarchist, marxist, or christian acts as a guaranteur against heinious acts and practices.

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Steven.
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Jan 13 2013 13:54
cantdocartwheels wrote:
At the end of the day when you strip away all the lefty language it was just mates closing ranks around mates. This happens everywhere and the anarchist movement definitely cant get on its high horse over it.

in general there is some truth to this. However even though I'm not particularly actively involved in anarchist organisation as such (apart from libcom, which doesn't really count) I'm aware of a couple of cases where things like this occurred (like this), but in these cases the group convened to deal with it did not solely consist of the mates of the accused.

That said, outside of the formal organisations in the broader anarchist milieu there are some pretty vile men about. But then in an informal milieu/scene dealing with stuff like that is not so simple, even from the point of view of who should even attempt to deal with it

rooieravotr
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Jan 13 2013 17:25

View from an outsider who was on the inside: http://grumpyoldtrot.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/alan-gibbons-for-a-creative-regroupment-of-the-left/ Much recognition there, I must admit, I traveled s similar road, in and out the Dutch IS, in my case - before - and there's a difference with Gibbons - moving to anarchism.

wojtek
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Jan 13 2013 21:44
Quote:
Steven wrote:
However even though I'm not particularly actively involved in anarchist organisation as such (apart from libcom, which doesn't really count)

You are aware of libcom's shit reputation right?

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Ramona
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Jan 13 2013 21:47

Shit reputation with regard to anarchist organising, or gender issues, or attitudes to sexual violence, or just general shit reputation?

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Steven.
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Jan 13 2013 23:14
wojtek wrote:
Quote:
Steven wrote:
However even though I'm not particularly actively involved in anarchist organisation as such (apart from libcom, which doesn't really count)

You are aware of libcom's shit reputation right?

not sure what that's got to do with how the SWP handled a rape accusation confused

wojtek
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Jan 13 2013 23:36

Gender issues, but the two are related surely. On the first thread about the Afed discussion on privilege theory women were dismissed as liberals, shouted down and then asked to prove they felt belittled, culminating in someone being blamed for being felt up.

S. Artesian
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Jan 13 2013 23:58

^^That happened here?

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Jan 14 2013 00:13
wojtek wrote:
Gender issues, but the two are related surely. On the first thread about the Afed discussion on privilege theory women were dismissed as liberals, shouted down and then asked to prove they felt belittled, culminating in someone being blamed for being felt up.

TBH, I fully admit to not reading that thread after it got past a few pages cos I found it really depressing and I was sick and stressed anyway.

I'm acutely aware of libcom's collective shit reputation on gender issues and I think it's not undeserved, and I guess perhaps not wanting to read that thread cos I couldn't face the train wreck is symptomatic of that - I'm not a new poster, I've been an admin since we started, I can fully appreciate that elements of the site are massively off-putting for female posters and that makes me incredibly unhappy. We are working to change things, but yeah, we've a long way to go.

I am proud that the admin team both collectively and individuals have been quick to get involved in conversations and processes in our organisations and in the wider anarchist movement with regards to dealing with sexual violence within the anarchist movement - none of these processes have been perfect, but I can assure you trying to support friends and comrades in Edinburgh and London around these issues hasn't been a walk in the park, and I've personally come up against plenty of people who would be quick to fight against any kind of process or even discussion about dealing with cases of sexual assault. My blog about safer spaces and what we do when they're violated didn't go down well with everyone, much as the comments on this site were, on the whole, supportive.

So yeah I perhaps get a little over defensive and very discouraged to see the "manarchists on libcom" still being the thing we're known for, but it's not like we can quite say that's behind us.

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Jan 14 2013 09:14

Also I think it's worth pointing out that the person who was a dick about someone being groped was banned. And of course there are over 5000 people who post here, and we cannot control what they say, so we are not entirely responsible for everything everyone says here. We can't pre-emptively ban everyone, we can only do so after they have said something out of order.

Still, this ground has been covered in lots of other discussions. I still don't see the relevance in terms of my point saying that where comparable situations have arisen in UK anarchist organisations that I'm aware of it was dealt with differently. This does not equate to me saying that all of libcom's posters have impeccable gender politics. Indeed many of them have entirely shit politics all round.

Though frankly I have no fucking idea why any sex pest dickhead would even bother pretending having anything to do with radical politics. And I wish they would all just fuck off. Unfortunately that is not likely to happen…

wojtek
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Jan 14 2013 17:22

Steven, how about reflecting on your own fuckiness in that thread - asking people for evidence that they had been belittled/shouted down, I mean come on. What happens when admins are being sexist? Will other admins make them accountable? Why did it take until page 9 and victim baiting for an admin to intervene?

The relevence? It's called getting our own house in order.

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Jan 14 2013 17:59
Steven. wrote:
Though frankly I have no fucking idea why any sex pest dickhead would even bother pretending having anything to do with radical politics. And I wish they would all just fuck off. Unfortunately that is not likely to happen…

Because in a lot of anarchist/activist/alternative scenes there has been historically a laissez-faire attitude to such behaviour, and abusive behaviour in general, these people can slither around squats, camps, protests etc. without much hassle, and to an extent the subcultural dynamics facilitate such behaviour.

Caiman del Barrio
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Jan 14 2013 18:35
Steven. wrote:
Though frankly I have no fucking idea why any sex pest dickhead would even bother pretending having anything to do with radical politics. And I wish they would all just fuck off. Unfortunately that is not likely to happen…

This is a bit of an odd thing to say IMO. Do you think that all sex pests are career sex pests, all devious, conspiratorial manipulators looking for the best subculture/community to infiltrate in order to commit sexual abuse? I'd say the vast majority are just chancers - often under the influence, often motivated by deep-seated (ie unconcious) hatred & resentment for women - rather than Hannibal Lector types. And I'm sure that most of them would believe that they're bona fide anarchists/radicals regardless of their behaviour towards women. Tacks certainly refuses to fuck off, for example, and there's a second example of a student radical in the UK who's been openly challenged and apparently ostracised only to insist on showing up to various events.

I'd say rather than telling individual would-be sex abusers to fuck off (although obviously anyone who does commit sexual assault should be ostracised, at least until there's sufficient contrition & rehabilitation), we should be challenging the behaviour within them/ourselves.

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Jan 14 2013 19:53

Yeah, excellent post by Caiman del Barrio. This isn't just about individual relationships but recognising how far rape culture pervades into our lives as a form of patriarchical violence. Simply stating that our groups/our politics are against sexist behaviour isn't enough; challenging sexism requires us to analyse and recognise how our interactions both as individuals and groups are influenced and dominated by structures of patriarchical oppression and how we come to replicate those structures.

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Jan 16 2013 16:56
cantdocartwheels wrote:
At the end of the day when you strip away all the lefty language it was just mates closing ranks around mates. This happens everywhere and the anarchist movement definitely cant get on its high horse over it.

I think that's over-simplistic to the point of actually liquidating libertarian critiques of hierarchical and authoritarian power structures.

I take the point that libertarian or anarchist groups are also going to encounter issues around sexual abuse and even the most rigourously horizontal organisational structures and practices are not capable of fully guarding against the informal hierarchies of status, affinity and influence that accompany group dynamics in current society. But the statement above bends the stick too far in the authoritarian direction (i.e. the one that maintains that any supposed difference between authoritarian and libertarian relations are nonexistent and/or pure bourgeois ideology). Also it's less perceptive than the dissident SWP reflections already published on this issue, which do make the connection between the abuse and an internal political and structural top-down, anti-democratic/bureaucratic culture.

Yes the rape culture and that of sexual abuse is omnipresent throughout society, but even though abuse may occur within the body of Alcoholics Anonymous or the Catholic church, it does not mean that the two organisations (or, to take a specifically Irish example, the GAA) are equivalent. The church has been exposed as a virtual machine for enabling and perpetrating abuse in a way that AA or the GAA never will. And that is inextricably connected to the authoritarian and hierarchical and psychologically abusive and domination-oriented nature of the church. Not "just a bunch of mates closing ranks around mates" - that would be an utterly woeful assessment of the role of the church in perpetrating sexual abuse in Irish (and other) society. Similarly the abuses of a Gerry Healy are inconceivable without the hierarchical and authoritarian structures of the WRP and the culture of self-abnegation it promoted (in the name of the revolution) amongst its members. The critique of the structures and coercive psychology of the power to abuse apply equally to BBC pop radio DJs, residential social care managers, psychiatric hospitals, etc - any social institution that grants people unlimited, unmonitored and unchallengeable power over other people, particularly the most socially powerless, is a structural enabler of the abuse that inevitably follows.

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 16 2013 18:37

I think making the link to unaccountable/hierarchical structures - as some of the SWP dissidents have done to an extent - is important. But at the other extreme - the 'structureless' informal hierarchies of the activist/anarchist/squat/punk scenes - there's also plenty of horror stories (though also a lot of the literature on accountability processes comes more from this quarter).

And like I say, formal anarchist orgs can't really get on a high horse. The AF dealt with the one case we know about well. SF's dealt with a few things ok. But generally that's meant expulsion/naming, which could just mean someone moving on to another scene/city/subculture and repeating the pattern. Naming/outing might help there, but it's kinda the nuclear option, not to be used lightly. I know there's been some attempts at formal, survivor-led accountability processes where the perpetrator commits to change their behaviour and is supported in doing so. There's been mixed success afaik, though a lot of the info is rightly need-to-know, and I don't need to know much.

But doing the above needs a supportive culture where survivors feel able to speak up and know they'll be supported - even if they're naming someone on the central committee or informal hierarchy equivalent. I know in the AF, the existence of the women's' caucus was crucial. SF recently created a Women's' Officer post to serve a similar role. But there is opposition to these kind of things from some quarters.

And libcom, including the admins, including me, has been and remains to an extent pretty implicated in that shitty dismissive culture, which has real effects in silencing survivors and therefore letting people get away with this stuff. We've taken some steps to improve things*, but when even the admins don't want to venture into some threads, or are sometimes part of the problem ourselves, I don't think we can pretend it's all in the past.

* following feedback from users, as well as several offline incidents which have brought the stakes of that kind of 'banter' into harsh perspective.

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Jan 19 2013 12:40
cantdocartwheels wrote:
At the end of the day when you strip away all the lefty language it was just mates closing ranks around mates. This happens everywhere and the anarchist movement definitely cant get on its high horse over it.

true ... in 1988 or 89, the anarchist scene in Frankfurt was ripped apart after an anarchist who was an editiorial collective member of the journal AKTION (probably then one of the most popular A-journals in Germany, not to be confused with today's Die Aktion) and an FAU activist drugged his partner trying to rape her, the AKTION editorial group did split more or less on gender lines with a male majority excusing the perpetrator's attempted rape while the local FAU branch saw its priority in siding with the woman, don't remember if they formally expelled the perpetrator or if the latter left the FAU voluntarily ... AKTION split into two journals which disappeared after one or two issues

generally speaking, there are Maoists, Trotskyists, Anarchists, Autonome, hierarchical, non-hierarchical, etc. who expel rapists & etc. relatively fast (which unfortunately does not mean in many cases that the victim/survivor will ever feel comfortable in the org again, many leave despite the rapist being expelled) and there are those who don't ... as far as I know, the historical FSLN, the FMLN and many maoist guerilla groups in India and Nepal generally execute(d) members who were convicted of rape while "in action" (which I do not advocate at all!!!)

p.s.: having been involved myself in orgs/projects who had to deal with cases of rape and domestic violence and and where at least on an informal level a kind of general consensus existed, that these things are unacceptable and that that there is no place for a rapist/etc. in an emancipatory project, it is my experience that it is very unpredictable - despite the best intentions - what will happened, after these things become known, sadly, it is not really possible to have an action plan after the catastrophe had occured

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Jan 19 2013 22:14

Good points raised there by Entdinglichung. Even if the SWP's closed central commitee obviously exacerbated things the problem they had is something that occurs everywhere.

IMO I think the point is its not just about dealing with the ''other'' of 'evil sex pests'' as some have said here but about recognising that such actions the tip of a pattern of behaviour endemic in todays society. One in 5 women are sexually assaulted at some point and tbh almost all women get comments/harrassment from time to time.. My sister works in a pub, she gets comments most nights, You cant however just say ''i hope all those evil sex pests don't become interested in anarchism'' because the pub in question is just full of ordinary people like us. You have to find ways to collectively deal with this stuff, which is definitely not easy.

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Jan 21 2013 12:56
Joseph Kay wrote:
I think making the link to unaccountable/hierarchical structures - as some of the SWP dissidents have done to an extent - is important. But at the other extreme - the 'structureless' informal hierarchies of the activist/anarchist/squat/punk scenes - there's also plenty of horror stories (though also a lot of the literature on accountability processes comes more from this quarter).

as far as I know, Lutte Ouvriere which is pretty hierarchically structured deals with cases of sexist or other types of violence in the organization very fast and strict (as with internal opponents of the general party line and other stuff, they define as "deviant") ... and in the mentioned scenes, you occasionally have also few cases of quick reaction ... not always in an anti-authoritarian way but more like "rough justice", after an rape in the largest squat in Hamburg in the the mid-80ies, the (male) perpetrator and his (female) partner who did at least nothing to stop her partner from raping and torturing another women were severely beaten, shaved and dumped without clothes and money at night somewhere in the countryside (also the only case of rape in the radical left of which I know which later also led to a prosecution by a court)

Joseph Kay wrote:
And like I say, formal anarchist orgs can't really get on a high horse. The AF dealt with the one case we know about well. SF's dealt with a few things ok. But generally that's meant expulsion/naming, which could just mean someone moving on to another scene/city/subculture and repeating the pattern. Naming/outing might help there, but it's kinda the nuclear option, not to be used lightly. I know there's been some attempts at formal, survivor-led accountability processes where the perpetrator commits to change their behaviour and is supported in doing so. There's been mixed success afaik, though a lot of the info is rightly need-to-know, and I don't need to know much.

to their credit, it was my perception from the outside that the FAU is really dedicated to develop a good practice for cases like this

Joseph Kay wrote:
But doing the above needs a supportive culture where survivors feel able to speak up and know they'll be supported - even if they're naming someone on the central committee or informal hierarchy equivalent. I know in the AF, the existence of the women's' caucus was crucial. SF recently created a Women's' Officer post to serve a similar role. But there is opposition to these kind of things from some quarters.

even if you have these kind of structures, it is my experience that a rape survivor who is generally deeply traumatized (mostly for her (or his, I know at least one case of a man raped by another man in the radical left) whole life)) is far more likely to speak first not to any kind of supporting structure but to persons (inside or outside the org), she feels she can really trust and who will believe her ... some opposition against specific structures (by people who do not have anything against immediately expelling rapists) comes from the fear, that this will create a "two-tier system" of appeal rights for members in an org ... in reality, to handle a rape case in a normal (democratic) framework of something like a Disciplinary Commission would be similar to a rape trial at a normal law court with all its implications, it is my experience that especially a good organisational constitution which defends individual and factional membership rights against administrative expulsions will completely backfire in cases of rapists who insist on their "rights" as an org member

Joseph Kay wrote:
And libcom, including the admins, including me, has been and remains to an extent pretty implicated in that shitty dismissive culture, which has real effects in silencing survivors and therefore letting people get away with this stuff. We've taken some steps to improve things*, but when even the admins don't want to venture into some threads, or are sometimes part of the problem ourselves, I don't think we can pretend it's all in the past.

* following feedback from users, as well as several offline incidents which have brought the stakes of that kind of 'banter' into harsh perspective.

one last remark, one of the most problematic aspects of public discussions about concrete rape cases on the radical left are those orgs and individuals who try to make political gains out of the fact that something has happened in another org/scene, they do not like

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Jan 21 2013 10:42
Joseph Kay wrote:
which could just mean someone moving on to another scene/city/subculture and repeating the pattern.

or simply to another political group which will be glad to have recruited a "good activist" what the MLPD did after another group (where friends of mine were involved) and a union had expelled a man after a case of domestic violence

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Jan 21 2013 12:28

from http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article27616 by "Socialist Resistance" ... you don't have to have that optimistic view of the SWP to draw the conclusion, that the SWP's crisis will also affect "us"

Quote:
The SWP is now going through arguably the most turbulent period in its history. This will have an impact on the entire radical left in Britain and will also affect left currents internationally. If the SWP disintegrates this will be a profoundly negative outcome, as it will mean the demoralisation and fragmentation of thousands of activists who relate to the party, and a weakening of the class struggle left in unions and campaigns. It will also shape the views of tens of thousands of activists whose understanding of revolutionary Marxism is strongly influenced by their contacts with the SWP. In particular, the radical left is looking to see how the party deals with issues of internal democracy, women’s rights and its understanding of feminism. The right wing in the union movement is also following it closely and we can expect that they will use it in dishonest polemics against the entire left.

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Jan 21 2013 13:00

http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2013/01/19/anti-semitic-slur-swp-cri...

Quote:
A new dimension has been added to the crisis in the SWP by Gilad Atzmon declaring that charges of sexual harassment and rape against leading SWP organiser Martin Smith are a "tribal" (read: Jewish) conspiracy.

Atzmon is sure that the charges are only invention, and the real issue is "tribal" (Jewish) harassment of Smith because he has been the chief mover in the SWP sponsoring gigs by Atzmon.

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Jan 22 2013 12:36

this sick piece is not taken from East German television news from summer 1989 but from the current issue of the SWP's Party Notes

Quote:
Socialist Worker editor Judith Orr spoke at a very successful Feminist Society meeting at the University of East Anglia last week and her talk on Marxism and Feminism was warmly received.

a reply at http://internationalsocialismuk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/reply-to-party-no...

Quote:
Each week, Party Notes apprises SWP members of news about the party's work, and the perspectives arising from it. It is intended to help members orient themselves in the frontlines they fight on. This is the theory. In practice, it has become a propaganda sheet for the Central Committee in its internal battles, so manifestly fraudulent in its claims that it ceases to be useful to members.

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Jan 24 2013 18:52

I don't think that we can take any pleasure in this, although it is hardly surprising and the CC has reacted to this as they have to any other 'threat' to the party (read themselves).

Of more interest is when this happens in our own organisations and how we deal with it. And sadly the figure of 1 in 5 sexually assaulted is probably a top low. I think virtually every woman I know has been groped and others have survived worse. We must support survivors and we can't assume that just because we believe in equality that we automatically practise it. We need to work on all of our prejudices. Not in the navel-gazing self-flagellating pointless way that the left is mocked for but in a real way when faced with real situations. Obviously an anarchist organisation which isn't trying to defend its formal hierarchy would struggle but it also requires people to take ownership of the issue and fight for it which survivors are not always willing or able to do. In the same way as everyone at a meeting should feel that they can address it everyone should be able to make a complaint and be listened to.

To be honest the saddest thing about this is that a so many of the decent sounding voices in this are still defending the party line and describing this as out of character or not what the party is really like. I hope that they will start thinking more critically about it a recognise that it is a corrupt institution that allows abuse of power to take place and sex is just one way of doing that. And sadly imperfect anarchist organisations will have these problems and hopefully they will deal with them well. I remember the AF actions as being done well.

Although the discussion about the safer spaces was something I found a little painful I think ultimately it did end up in a good place. I personally felt I had a better understanding of the issues and I think quite a few posters and hopefully readers did too. I know it does take its toll on people who do speak out which is why we have to share what we've learnt. If a comrade takes the time to explain a theory to me I would try to pass it on, and it should eb the same about this even though it seems a bit more 'personal' we are trying to re-organise ourselves as well as society.

In terms of morality one of the SWP people said it well (although in a bad context) ad I took it to mean just because we reject bourgeois morality does not mean we do not have ethics. So while we may reject bourgeois notions of monogamy we would still consider it wrong to deceive a partner and have an affair. We might consider property as theft but we don't steal from our own class.