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.
“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.
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
The Free University of Sheffield
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