– Martha PW
(content note for mentions of sexual violence, rape apology, misogyny)
The Socialist Workers’ Party are rapists and rape apologists, they covered up rape in their ranks and victimised women who came forward about it and decried “creeping feminism”, whatever that is, as an evil sectarian force, they are a writhing nest of misogyny and they are not a friend to women on the left. There was a huge exodus of former members because of the SWP’s complete and utter refusal to be anything other than horrendous misogynist rape apologists. You can read more about that here.
Despite this, they are an omnipresent force at protests in the UK. You will probably see their stalls at demos, you will probably see them handing out their shitty backwards-facing rape apologist newspaper The Socialist Worker, and you will almost certainly see a lot of people holding placards with their name on it. This means protests and demos become a space where women – especially those who have faced sexual violence / abuse / harassment – are not safe or comfortable among the people who are supposed to be on their side. Feeling unsafe at a protest because of the threat of police etc is one thing; feeling as though your allies are throwing you under the bus for the sake of a placard someone handed them is something else entirely.
If you’re at a demo in the upcoming weeks/months/years you can help to deal with this:
- DON’T TAKE SWP PLACARDS/PAPERS/ETC. just don’t take them. just don’t. make your own. take any other placard. whatever. if you really really want to be holding a sign and the only one available to you is a SWP placard, consider bringing paper & tape / a sharpie to the demo with you so you can cover up the SWP logo. but if you can’t do that it is better to have no sign than to have a misogynist organisation’s sign.
- DON’T LET YOUR FRIENDS TAKE THOSE THINGS EITHER. friends don’t let friends support corrupt rape apologists. explain why you’re refusing to tacitly support the SWP by holding their signs and tell everyone else to do the same thing.
- CONTACT THE PEOPLE ORGANISING
— in advance, email or facebook message the organisers of the demo asking if there will be a SWP presence (even if they say no it is likely the SWP will show up anyway) and asking whether it will be tolerated if so. stress the fact that the presence of the SWP actively alienates women (who are, after all, one of the marginalised groups likely to be most affected by whatever it is you’re protesting about, e.g. tory cuts); stress the fact that women will not show up to the demo, or will show up and feel upset and unsafe and triggered, if the SWP are there. encourage stuff like a post on the facebook event making clear that rape apologist organisations will not be tolerated at the demo.
— on the day, and if you feel up to it, talk to stewards (demo stewards, not police stewards) about it if you see a SWP stall or a SWP member handing out placards etc, encourage them to ask the SWP to leave (as politely or impolitely as they feel is appropriate).
— IF THE ORGANISERS IGNORE / DISMISS YOU despite your explanation of why the SWP are an unacceptable presence at protests, or if they are actively affiliated with the SWP, spread that shit on social media, because people who brush off these criticisms should be held accountable for their lack of care for women in their movement.
- MAKE SURE YOU ARE LOOKING OUT FOR WOMEN (whatever your gender) at demos and in other activist spaces where this conflict about the SWP might arise. many many left-wing spaces feel latently hostile and unwelcoming to women already, because they are (like everywhere else) usually male-dominated and issues of sexism and misogyny are brushed aside as women’s problems for women to deal with. this feeling of being pushed out of what should be our movement gets far worse when our complaints about sexual violence in the left are dismissed as ‘divisive’ and ‘sectarian’, especially at protests when emotions are already running high. it’s exhausting to have to defend our right to safety among our ‘comrades’ over and over again. back up your women friends in these arguments, don’t let them face rape apologists alone.
- IN GENERAL – IF YOU’RE A MAN, consider what you can be doing to make your leftist spaces and politics inclusive and welcoming to women; the SWP is only one particularly bad example of an endemic problem. consider a statement or policy of condemnation of the SWP. more broadly, if your group/organisation is predominantly male, ask yourself why that has happened – it’s probably not a coincidence – and how you can fix it. check whether women have ended up doing most of your work, whether that’s activist labour or emotional. pay attention to the language you’re using and whether it erases women’s struggles in favour of a homogenous or outdated idea of ‘class’ or ‘work’. steer clear of calls for “unity” and against “sectarianism” or “division”, which are usually used to shut women up.
Certainly a lot of people holding those placards at demos are ignorant of the crimes of the organisation that made them, and we can only fix that by sharing the knowledge of the SWP’s misogyny as widely as possible and not letting it fade into memory. But many more people know about the ‘scandal’ and continue to accept the alliance and support of these open, unapologetic, dangerous misogynists, whose existence is actively harmful to left-wing women. As long as this problem is not tackled, women will be pushed out of the movement. Organisers have no excuse.