Statement by SWP Central Committee
13 January 2013
There has been a series of attacks on the Socialist Workers Party in the media and by assorted bloggers. They concern the party’s handling of serious allegations against a leading member and the arguments (partly arising from the case) leading up to and during our recent conference.
This was an internal matter and we had promised full confidentiality to all involved. So we strongly condemn the publication of a transcript of a closed session of the conference discussing this case. The transcript was publicised against the wishes of the complainant herself.
The attacks are a travesty of the truth. We live in what remains a profoundly sexist society, as is shown by the sex abuse scandals and cover-ups in mainstream institutions such as the BBC and the police.
However, the SWP is not an institution of capitalist society but fights for the overthrow of the system. Our party has a proud tradition of fighting for women’s liberation, as is shown, for example, by our consistent campaigning over the decades to defend abortion, and by our criticism of George Galloway for his remarks about the Julian Assange rape accusations.
Reflecting this tradition, our internal structures seek to promote women to leading roles and deal rigorously with any action by any member that is harmful or disrespectful of women.
It is in the context of this commitment that we took allegations against a leading member of the party very seriously.
Unlike the BBC or any other establishment body faced with such an allegation an investigation into this complaint immediately was set in place.
The complainant made the choice not to go to the police, who are notorious for their systemic failure to defend women. Instead she asked for her complaint to be heard by the body within the SWP charged with dealing with disciplinary cases, the Disputes Committee. We respected that choice.
The Disputes Committee is a body of experienced members who had been unanimously elected by the previous conference. The attacks on it as a ‘sharia court’ are little short of racism.
After a lengthy and thorough hearing, the Disputes Committee did not uphold the accusations and decided to take no disciplinary action.
Five of the seven members hearing the case were women, and one has experience as a rape counsellor. These included two members of the Central Committee, the elected leadership body of the SWP. Its members (who are always a minority on the DC) work with the DC to ensure the political integrity of the party, and to ensure the concerns and decisions of the DC are fed into the CC’s work.
At all times great efforts were taken to support the complainant.
Had the Disputes Committee believed that the accused person was guilty, it would have expelled him from the SWP immediately.
The case was discussed at length at a session of our conference, which voted to accept the report and overwhelmingly re-elected the Disputes Committee. Far from being a cover up this sort of open discussion shows that our procedures and elected bodies are accountable to our membership.
If this case had been raised within a trade union or any other organisation there would be no question that the matter should be treated with complete confidentiality. This basic principle should also apply in this case.
As far we are concerned, this case is closed. This is not a ‘cover up’. It is a determination to reflect the decision of our conference. We believe that both parties to the case should have their right to confidentiality and their right as members in good standing respected.
SWP National Secretary
on behalf of the SWP Central Committee