Thursday January 17 2013

SWP: Another week, another resignation

Jon Hosier explains why he has chosen to resign from the SWP

Exit

I am writing to you to make you aware of my resignation from the Socialist Workers Party and my reasons for this. In light of the recent articles in the national media, and other resignations, I feel, as a recently new member, it is important to highlight my concerns as well.

The way in which the SWP handled the cases of Julian Assange and Jimmy Savile, both within the party (discussions at branch meetings) and through Socialist Worker, made me proud to stand with others who saw through capitalist notions of justice, women’s liberation, gender and power relationships. We are aware that women are too often not taken seriously or treated in a manner that helps push them deeper into their trauma, pushing back their ability to process and come to terms with the horrors that they may have endured.

This is why I have been so appalled at the handling of the recent allegations heard by the party’s disputes committee. Despite our concern over the methods the current political system uses, we are not independent of it; we are part of this system and therefore in order to change it from within, we need to be seen to be a legitimate organisation that works for the good of all people. How else will the SWP ever be seen as a viable alternative by the masses?

With allegations of rape, our hands are tied and we are very limited in our abilities to carry out true justice ourselves. We do not have the means in order to achieve this. We can only stand by to a certain extent and allow the processes of the capitalist police and courts take their course. But, because we are aware of the injustices and the inherent flaws in these capitalist institutions, we can only offer to serve as a ‘buffer’ of sorts to soften the blow to both parties if either faces the often cold and uncaring hand of the state.

We could debate and discuss what could potentially be within our remit, all at the discretion of the accuser, perhaps, advocating adequate counselling services for the people involved, making sure that, if they have grievances with the handling of the case - such as, treatment by the police, issues with legal representation and counselling/crisis services - we can be there to offer support and advice.

The DC has defended its actions, saying, “had the disputes committee believed that the accused person was guilty, it would have expelled him from the SWP immediately”. This statement fails to address the wider consequences of a guilty verdict of rape and/or other sexual misconduct. Does this mean as long as the defendant has no access to female comrades, it is acceptable for women outside the party to be at risk of being attacked?

The DC’s response to a now hypothetical situation does not address the fact that the accused will need mental health treatment for an underlying illness and/or help them to address their abusive violent impulses if they are indeed guilty. Where is any suggestion of such a programme?

Obviously, in the current political system, rehabilitation either does not go far enough or is patchy, even non-existent in some places, with the state all too ready and willing to put people in jail, with little or no support in preparation for life after their sentence, let alone helping them become aware of their actions and learn to address and adjust their behaviour to become functional members of society. Regardless of our views, it’s currently all we have.

What if the accused is innocent, regardless of the internal decision made, but proven by an established court of law? It would be yet another injustice at the hands of the disputes committee. When someone is accused of such a crime, there needs to be a proper system of investigation and court-based time for them to defend themselves adequately. Neither of these could be achieved through the sham court of the DC. Due to the lack of credibility of the DC, comrades have had to draw their own conclusions concerning this matter, mostly based on conjecture and hearsay, which will inevitably filter out into their personal lives and involvement with the party, causing it to become a constant reminder for those actually involved.

The DC never had the right to investigate this case in the first place. One of the committee members knew the accuser from being in the same district and, aware of a conflict of interest, they stepped down from the case. Five committee members were or are comrades on the CC, having close ties with the accused. Seven comrades on the disputes committee then viewed the ‘evidence’ for “four long days” to conclude, in their opinion, a verdict of not guilty. We are also told that this decision was not reached unanimously - one comrade disagreed, believing harassment was “at least likely”. How can it be that seven people on a disputes committee took it upon themselves to be judge, jury and executioner in matters of such magnitude?

Surely, this is a case of bad judgment on behalf of the DC even to entertain the idea of holding a committee on an issue such as rape? I do not doubt that members thought about the matter seriously, but it was not a jury of the accused’s peers. Rather, to quote a recent member in the news, it was “a jury of his mates”.

One of the most important attributes of a socialist, in my view, is the capacity for humility. I may be wrong but, by admitting our mistakes, we learn from ourselves and from others; in turn helping to shape the society we want to live in. Humility opens us up to being accountable for our actions, especially for those in our leadership who we allow to hold a certain level of power over democracy in the party.

I see no humility and no acceptance of wrongdoing by the disputes committee or the central committee with their dealings in this case. Now conference has passed, the factions have dissolved and dissent kept in check (under threat of expulsion) until the three months preceding next year’s conference, as stated in our constitution. A pressing issue such as this needs to be resolved at the time, not a year later. Otherwise the SWP stands for even less than the parties that claim to be democratic at the moment.

I have seen no reasonable outcome to the problems we face and no longer feel the SWP in its current form reflects my values, morals and understanding of socialism. Therefore, I feel I have no other option but to leave the SWP.

 

Jon Hosier

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