[Marxism] Australian IST group uncritically backs the SWP CC

Omar Hassan sherrife at gmail.com
Mon Feb 18 16:09:51 MST 2013

The Australian IST grouplet Solidarity has come out slavishly supporting
the SWP CC.

Pretty outrageous really, though not surprising.  I guess when your
organisation collapses and you've isolated yourself from the rest of the
left through extreme sectarianism,  holding on to an international
franchise (however unhealthy the brand) becomes extremely important.  A
substitute for an independent vitality.

> Statement 1
> Statement to members on crisis in SWP by National Committee of
Solidarity, the Australian IST affiliate.
> A number of reports have been circulated on the internet, some of which
have been posted to this list, about the British SWP’s handling of a
serious allegation of rape against a member of the party’s leadership body,
the Central Committee (CC).
> The National Committee has discussed the issue and wanted to set the
record straight as we believe that there is a huge amount of misinformation
circulating, as well as entirely opportunistic and unsubstantiated attempts
to present the SWP as somehow sexist or sectarian towards feminism.
> Against the wishes of the woman who brought the complaint, and the SWP
itself, a long transcript of the debate about this issue at the SWP’s
recent party conference was posted on the internet. While its posting is
unfortunate, it does clarify that the process through which the allegation
was investigated was scrupulously fair and entirely consistent with the
understanding of and record of fighting sexism which revolutionary
socialists and the SWP itself embody.
> The SWP has released a statement on this issue (pasted below) which
points out that, “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
> The decision to deal with this complaint internally through the party’s
Disputes Committee was entirely appropriate. The courts and the police have
a terrible record in handling issues of rape and sexual assault. The only
people we can have confidence in to deal with these issues are those with a
clear political understanding of the way sexism is constructed under
capitalism, how it affects men and women and how it must be fought. This
means it is only experienced and trusted comrades who are capable of
defending revolutionary principles and properly dealing with such sensitive
> For exactly this purpose, the SWP has a standing Disputes Committee that
is designed to deal with complaints about personal behaviour by party
members. It is elected annually by the party conference and reports only to
the conference, the highest democratic forum in the group and the one most
representative of the wider party membership. The Disputes Committee is
composed of up to 10 members elected by conference plus two representatives
from the CC, and operates entirely independently of the CC and other
leading bodies in the party.
> In this case the woman who brought the complaint against the CC member
chose to have it handled by the Disputes Committee rather than going to the
> The claim that the Disputes Committee was composed of friends of the
accused and therefore could not be impartial is wrong. While everyone on
the Disputes Committee knew the CC member accused, it would have been
impossible to find experienced comrades in the party who were not in this
situation given his long-term role in the group. The mandate of the
Disputes Committee, set out in the SWP constitution, is specifically to
investigate complaints against CC members where necessary.
> The accusation that the Disputes Committee asked inappropriate or sexist
questions of the woman who brought the rape complaint has not been
substantiated and was specifically refuted by the Disputes Committee at the
party conference.
> Unfortunately the Disputes Committee issue appears to have been conflated
by some SWP members with pre-existing grievances about party democracy that
were raised by factions formed before the recent party conference.
> Nonetheless, the SWP conference, which heard first hand reports from the
Disputes Committee members and debated the issue, voted by a narrow
majority to accept the Disputes Committee’s report and then re-elected
unopposed the same Disputes Committee. Far from revealing any democratic
failing, the National Committee believes that the democratic structures and
decision-making of the SWP provided the best possible way to handle this
> There has also been considerable social network fascination with the
expulsion of four SWP members for undeclared factionalising on Facebook. We
are in no position to draw clear conclusions about all the issues at such a
distance. But we reject the idea that the expulsions necessarily indicate
any issue with the democratic functioning of the SWP. Expulsions are
unfortunate and difficult decisions in any organisation and we note that
the expulsions were ratified by conference by a margin of 3-1.
> Statement 2
> It is with great concern that we have read that some SWP members of the
Serbian group Marks21 have resigned from the SWP and that the group Marks21
has resigned from the IS Tendency.
> From the statement issued by Marks21, it would seem that there are
significant and long standing issues over which the Serbian group has been
at odds with the Tendency’s stance.
> In particular, Marks21 points to united front and electoral politics in
Europe and the position of support for the insurrection in Syria as two
issues with which the Serbian group disagrees with the general position of
the SWP and the Tendency.
> We do not believe that the differences expressed in the group’s statement
warrant their resignation. As they would know, the Tendency does not have a
monolithic position on these issues. The German group Marx21, although not
formally affiliated with the Tendency, regularly contributes to the ISJ and
attends IST events and continues to play a major role in the Left Party in
> Regardless of your analysis of Syriza or Antarsya, the significant role
of the Tendency group, SEK, building the class struggle against the Greek
austerity regime and fighting the rise of the fascist Golden Dawn in Greece
is unquestionable. There is plenty of opportunity within the Tendency for
constructive discussion of these important questions.
> Similarly, despite the Marks21 statement indicating some closed attitude
within the Tendency, there are opportunities to discuss the issues of the
internet, the Facebook revolution or the international Occupy movements.
The British Socialist Worker has carried an article dealing with the
revolutionary paper (and the internet) in Egypt (
http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=30272). There was an article
about the Occupy movement in the ISJ as recently as June 2012 (
> But Marks21 seems little interested in actively pursuing discussion
within the Tendency.
> Of perhaps greater concern is that Marks21 seems to have quite
opportunistically used what they call the “scandal involving allegations of
rape and sexual harassment” in the SWP as the catalyst for their
> If Marks21 believed there were problems, the comradely response would
have been to have sought to find ways to constructively discuss them. But
Marks21’s resignation precludes that possibility and in the circumstances
can only serve to impede the SWP’s efforts to resolve the issues.
> To have resigned in this way seems worse than hasty; it is designed to
make a difficult situation even more difficult.
> All groups know how difficult these issues can be. In the first instance
the response that might be expected from a fraternal Tendency group is to
have confidence in the democratic processes of the constituent groups.
There are avenues within the Tendency that could have used by Marks21 to
raise any issues it thought the Tendency should discuss.
> As we have indicated elsewhere, the National Committee sees no
fundamental problem with the seriousness with which the SWP has responded
nor with the process or democratic procedures of the SWP to resolve the
> It Britain, it seems to us that the sensitive issues surrounding the
handling of the rape allegations have unfortunately been confused with, and
subsumed by factional arguments over general issues of democracy and the
Central Committee.
> The National Committee rejects the rationale for the Marks21 resignation
and will take any opportunity to urge Marks21 to reconsider its resignation
from the Tendency.

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