Stand Up To Racism: Stand Up To Rape Culture

An earlier version of this open letter was initially addressed to several of the headline speakers, it has since been adapted since many have now cancelled their plans to attend.

We, the undersigned, want all planned speakers and delegates to withdraw their attendance from Stand Up to Racism’s conference on 8 October. We ask because the speakers will share the bill with Weyman Bennett, Stand Up To Racism’s co-convenor and a central committee member of the Socialist Workers’ Party.

This must include refusing to lend any support to the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) either directly, or indirectly through its front organisations including “Unite Against Fascism”, “Unite the Resistance”, “Stand up to UKIP” and “Stand Up To Racism”.

We call on people to do this because the SWP’s well documented failing of two women members who accused the then central committee member of the SWP, known as “Comrade Delta”, of rape and sexually assault. The complainants were asked classic victim-blaming questions about their behaviour and drinking habits. Some members of the SWP leadership denounced the complaints as motivated by a “dangerous feminism”. SWP members who in 2012-2013 challenged the central committee’s kangaroo courts were expelled from the party – many more left in disgust.

This is not about bad individuals. The SWP as a whole is an acute example of collective disregard for sexual violence. Their culture and leadership continues to put its own internal interests above tackling rape and supporting complainants within its ranks. Sexual assault and harassment are not unique to the SWP, or to left-wing organisations, but the SWP’s unwillingness to address its failings show it should not to be worked with.

As one survivor said,

“I want people to know it’s a systemic thing. They’ve done this a few times, covered things up in the interests of the party and it’s a dangerous environment to be in.”

The racialised violence that has followed the Brexit vote demands a strong anti-racist movement; this movement must be principled and intersectional. This means recognising what Kimberlé Crenshaw and other Black Feminists have shown, that sexism and racism do not operate in silos rather oppressions often overlap and intersect. We cannot build an anti-racist movement organised by rape apologists and anti-feminists. We must end the bankrupt politics of the past, not rehabilitate some of the worst proponents.

It is vital for women and non-binary people – particularly people of colour who wish to resist the racism they experience – to be able to organise politically without groups that facilitate or cover up sexual assault. The SWP and the campaigns they lead are demonstrably not capable of offering this.

Jeremy Corbyn, originally billed as the headline speaker, has already pulled out of the conference. So has Owen Jones and other top billing speakers. We ask all invited speakers and delegates to stand up to rape culture and follow suit. Do not help the SWP rebuild itself through Stand Up To Racism.

Editorial note: The authors later wrote an amendment to this letter after it emerged that Corbyn did in fact speak at the conference. Read the amendment here.

Groups Signed

AFem Conference organising committee
Bis Of Colour
Black Lives Matter UK

Brighton Solidarity Federation
East End Sisters Uncut
Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth
London Campaign Against Police & State Violence
Nottingham Solidarity Federation
Southall Black Sisters
Southwark Notes
The Free University of Sheffield

Individuals:

Reni Eddo-Lodge, Author

Dawn Foster, Author

Rahila Gupta, Author

Laurie Penny, Author

Daniel Trilling, Author

Alex Williams, Author

Gracie Mae Bradley, Coordinator, Against Borders for Children

Jude Wanga, DRC Campaigner

Charlotte Bence, former SWP member

Elaha Walizadeh, Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation

Samantha Asumadu, Media Diversified

Aaron Bastani, Novara Media

Ash Sarkar, Novara Media

James Butler, Novara Media

Manishta Sunnia, Oxford Black Women’s Group

Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters

Alison Phipps, Director of Gender Studies, Sussex University

Sanaz Raji, Unis Resist Border Controls

Zoe Stavri, Writer

Roz Kaveney, Writer

Nikesh Shukla, Writer

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Categories: Media

64 replies

  1. How much does it take to take sexual violence seriously? I know a bit about the SWP debacle and as far as I can see those who did not want to deal with the sexual harassment and sexual abuse perpetrated by a member valued party cohesion above supporting women who had been abused.

    That didn’t pan out so well for them did it? – about 400 left the party I believe, including 2 women who I know personally who were deeply committed for a long time.

    I met a young man last year who recently joined – he knew NOTHING of what had happened – so apparently the SWP are carrying on like nothing happened.

    Like

  2. Unfortunately I saw this article too late, but I thought it was worth a comment so we can support any similar petitions you make in future.

    On behalf of Birmingham Socialist Students, we would like to offer our full support for this cause and join the fightback against the SWP’s attempt to rebuild itself. As a group that strongly opposes any form of rape apology, victim blaming, and anti-feminism, we understand the need to separate the SWP from other left-wing groups. The University of Birmingham have banned the SWP from our campus, and during our external activism we have experienced the SWP attempting to target our group, despite us distancing ourselves. Following on from this, we plan to share this petition and write a full statement to clarify that we in no way are affiliated with the SWP, and will not stand for harming women in this way. If we could be added to this official list of anti-SWP groups, it would be much appreciated. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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