The missing letter


“We have read with mounting horror the press coverage of the crisis in the SWP, including the coverage in your newspaper. It has been the most painful reading for us because while we could quibble about this or that detail, we know that your essential criticisms are true. Sometimes in life, you can do no better than to hold up your hands and apologise. This is one of those occasions.”

“It is true that several women have forward with complaints of rape or sexual harassment by leading members of our party, and that we investigated them, and it is true that afterwards, when they describe their experiences, the complainants said they felt they had been let down badly. We did not adopt those procedures with the intention of covering up sexual abuse, but it has since become obvious, as we have listened to the criticisms of our disputes procedures, that our procedures were simply and utterly unfit for the tasks we gave them.”

“There has been an intense period of discussion within our party about what we should do. For a long time, we thought that if we tried hard enough to pretend that there was no problem, it would go away. It has not. We now realise that this stain will not be removed unless the party undergoes a serious, and systematic, period of reform. For this reason we have decided to:”

“Apologise to the women who put in complaints. We have written to all of them inviting them to resubmit their complaints to a fresh investigation. We have approached individuals outside the SWP, from the women’s movement, the trade unions, and others with practical expertise in investigating serious sexual complaints. I am proud to say that nine independent figures, of high authority within the movement, have agreed to participate in a fresh panel of inquiry. Its sole remit will be to establish whether there was conduct inappropriate of a socialist party. If the panel finds that there was misconduct, we will accept that decision. I am glad to be able to confirm that on receiving guarantees as to the independent of this process, the principal complainants have all agreed to come forward as witness to it.”

“Suspend from membership of the party all individuals subject to serious, sexual complaints. We are not prejudging the outcome of the new investigation, but we recognise that there is no confidence in our old procedures, and it is not appropriate for a situation to continue where those accused of serious misconduct can use their positions within the organisation to lobby for their own positions.”

“Release those members of the organisation from full-time roles who have been exhausted by the experience of defending the indefensible.”

“Elect a new Central Committee, Disputes Committee and National Committee. They will be individually elected by a secret, postal ballot of all members.”

“Begin a discussion within and outside the organisation as to what it was about our procedures that enabled us to continue on such a destructive path for so long. We have begun discussions with individuals in the movement (Liz Davies, Mike Marqusee, Kevin Ovenden, Rob Hoveman, Nick Wrack and Salma Yacoob) who were formerly members of the organisation or our close allies, and whose treatment we now acknowledge echoes our treatment of the recent complainants. We will restore to full membership the “Facebook Four” and anyone who has left the Socialist Workers Party in the past 12 months but now wishes to rejoin.”

“Begin a second discussion within and outside the organisation as to how we can learn from the contemporary women’s movements. It has become obvious in recent weeks that when we refer to the party’s history of fighting women’s oppression, the proudest moments we can point to now all belong to the relatively distant past. For ten years and more, our best activity has been limited to responding positively to initiatives begun by others. We will be co-odinating open, public discussions with activists from SlutWalk, the F Word, Abortion Rights UK, the women’s organisations of the trade union and student movements, to establish bases for joint work with these campaigns on a far greater scale than we have done.”

“Make the party transparent by publishing in future a public note of all meetings of all our elected committees, including our National Committee and Central Committee. The transcripts of the proceedings of our old Disputes Committee will be published, as will transcripts of the independent panel of inquiry.”

“Finally, I am grateful to you newspaper for its giving us the space to put our version of events. One of the obstacles which the far left has to surmount is the common belief that socialists have no interest in engaging with the millions of people who share some of our beliefs but are outside our ranks. I hope your readers can now see for themselves that this is untrue. We want a dialogue with people who are not our members. We are champions of democracy, openness and honesty. We do not merely say that these are our politics, we try to live them in everything we do. Where we fail to match the standards we have set ourselves, we are confident enough in ourselves to admit that we were wrong. Thanks you for giving us a chance to put our own house in order.”

(Originally published, with thread, here).

One response »

  1. Excellent letter, Dave, but you might as well have sent a letter to Cameron asking him to stop his attacks on welfare and pensions for all the good it would have done.

    And, in the last decade or so, when has this ever been true?

    “We are champions of democracy, openness and honesty.”

    And I say that as someone who, up until this debacle, closely associated herself with the SWP.

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