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Sexual abuse: Don’t toe the party line

25 February 2013

3:33 PM

25 February 2013

3:33 PM

A scandal broke in the Socialist Workers Party a few weeks ago after a woman member claimed a Trotskyist tribune of the working class had taken time off from promoting world revolution to rape her. The SWP did not behave as any decent person would and advise the woman to contact the police. In its paranoid mind, the criminal justice system conspires to discredit true revolutionaries, if given half a chance.

Instead of involving detectives and judges, the party’s disciplinary committee set itself up as a kangaroo court, and “tried” the man it would identify only as “Comrade Delta”. The minutes show the paranoia with great clarity. One of the seven “judges” said that the SWP had ‘no faith in the bourgeois court system to deliver justice’.

But then nor could its “proletarian” disciplinary committee. The “judges” had no independent evidence – how could they when they were a bunch of Trots rather than a competent court? They were not impartial. They knew the “accused”. They valued the “leading role” he had played in the party. And they acquitted him.

I wrote in the Observer

That’s the way it is on the far left. The hierarchical party always has the potential to become a rapist’s playground. Consider the predator’s opportunities. The rank and file has to obey the party line without question. The leaders of political cults, like their religious counterparts, increase their power by fostering paranoia. Members can trust no one outside the party, especially the police and judiciary. The SWP says that Comrade Delta’s alleged victim was free to go to the police and chose not to, but party dogma insists that justice is impossible in bourgeois courts. Only when it is too late do women learn that the alternative disciplinary system of Marxist-Leninists exists to control them and let the leaders do as they please. The parallels with the Catholic church are too obvious for me to labour.

My colleagues are working on more stories of rape on the far left. One as yet unreported case comes from a woman who wrote to me after my Observer piece {details redacted}

I wanted to tell you that I was in the SWP a few years ago, and was physically and sexually abused. Following the rape, I left the party, but was encouraged to take the complaint to the disputes committee to make sure he didn’t do it to other women in the party. The disputes committee meeting lasted 5 hours. I was asked if I had been drinking. They said that if {the alleged assailant} and I had recently broken up my case would be invalid. They constantly asked me if I was still attracted to him, and referred to instances of him hitting me as ‘shaking’. They also constantly asked if I was sure I had not consented to sex.

The disputes committee also told me that if I talked to the media or anyone else that I was in trouble. {The man} was allowed to bring two character witnesses who claimed I was a convincing slut, and he had my statement for a month before the meeting, but I had no idea what he would say in his

Notice the tenor of the questioning. Are you a vengeful ex-girlfriend? Are you a drunk? Are you still besotted with him? Are you sure what he did to you was really so bad? You wanted it really didn’t you? Naturally, after this performance, the SWP let its comrade off with a few years suspension from the party, and hushed up the scandal.

The fault with the far left’s rape tribunals is not just that they run show trials – they are Marxist Leninists, after all, and show trials are what they do – but that they allow politicians to usurp the role of the police and courts.

The same criticisms apply to the Liberal Democrats. Lord Rennard maintains his innocence. Fair enough. But if the Liberal Democrats have evidence that a crime has been committed, they must take it to the police. Internal party committees are not a substitute for competent detectives and competent courts. The shameless behaviour of Lib Dem spin-doctors is already suggesting that the supposedly “independent” investigators face a potential conflict of interest.

For you do not only find paranoia on the far left. Even though Channel 4 News, which houses the most left wing broadcasters in TV journalism, broke the scandal, the party line as delivered to both the BBC and the Guardian is that the “Tory press” is using the allegations to get Clegg or to undermine the Leveson report or to further some other plot or smear.

In other words, “we are the real victims here” – the cry of all the over-privileged, self-pitying baby-men of our time. You can already see the argument building that, if the Liberal Democrat investigators uphold the women’s claims, they will be doing the Daily Mail‘s bidding, an unforgivable sin in the eyes of the faithful.

In these paranoid circumstances, you can no more guarantee that the Liberal Democrats will put the interests of justice before the interests of the party than you can expect the Socialist Workers Party to provide an alternative to a court of law. Conspiracy theory, manifesting itself as a paranoid fear of a “bourgeois state” or “Tory press”, prevents an honest evaluation of the facts.

I have one further point, which I accept it is difficult for a man to make. If women in either the Liberal Democrats or the Socialist Workers Party feel that the hierarchy is brushing their grievances aside for the sake of political convenience they should not just go to the police. They should also think of going to a TV studio and making a fuss. I know, I know, easy to say and hard to do. But there is nothing the Comrade Deltas and Comrade Cleggs fear more than a woman speaking to camera, live and on air.

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