An extract from the SWP's pre-conference bulletin. If only the "comrades" below showed as much concern for the survivor of alleged rape and sexual assault.
Stop the witch-hunt
Over the last several months there has been a campaign against a leading member of our party. This campaign has been carried out by a minority of comrades and shocked and appalled the majority of us. Although the campaign has been carried out by a minority it has done serious damage to the party as a whole, forcing us to focus on internal matters to the detriment of building the fight against austerity. The campaign has been a key element of all the factions formed, including the secret and unconstitutional ones. The campaign has to stop and stop now. Consequently, we propose that any comrade or groups of comrades continuing with it in the branches, via social media, blogs or in any form must face sanctions. These sanctions may, regrettably, have to include disciplinary action up to and including expulsion from the party.
The Disputes Committee
The Disputes Committee, and before it the Control Commission, investigates and handles disputes between comrades and breaches of party discipline. And, as our constitution states, “The Disputes Committee reports to Conference, where its activities are subject to endorsement or otherwise,” (SWP Constitution, Section 7, Disputes Committee). It is the custom and practice of the SWP, and suggested by our constitution, that the findings of the Disputes Committee are made public for the first time at Conference.
The secret faction
Therefore, we were greatly surprised to read before our Annual Conference that a number of comrades had formed a secret faction (for which they were correctly expelled) at least in part because they disagreed with the handling of a case heard by the Disputes Committee involving the comrade. These people took their action before they had heard the Disputes Committee’s report and so one can only assume that they based their opinions on hearsay and speculation. It is hard to see how facts and reasoned argument could have played a role.
Unfortunately the secret faction was only just the beginning of the campaign. Both statements of the factions formed in the run-up to the Annual Conference made reference to the case. The faction statement of the ‘Democratic Opposition’ claimed that “It is disturbing that the comrade concerned did not voluntarily step down...” This was an absolute disgrace. (It is not clear what ‘steps down’ means here because the comrade had announced that he would not be standing for re-election to the Central Committee.) Again it should be made clear that these factions were formed without actually hearing the report of the Disputes Committee. (By this time the Central Committee (CC) had made a statement to a National Committee meeting which was subsequently summarized at a number of aggregates but the statement merely made members aware that an allegation had been made and that the Disputes Committee would present a report at our Conference.)
At Conference the Disputes Committee offered its report, which found that after a detailed and rigorous investigation the complaint was not upheld and thus no disciplinary action was taken. A debate took place concerning the Disputes Committee’s handling of the case after which Conference voted to accept the report and the decision of the Disputes Committee. And that should have been that. Unfortunately, the campaign against the comrade showed as little respect for democracy as it did for facts or reason.
In the branches
Having failed to force the leading comrade from an active role a number of comrades tried to pass motions in their branches calling for a Special Conference. The pretext here was a number of articles in the national press. A key demand of many of these motions was to continue the campaign against the comrade requesting that, for example, he no longer do paid work for the party. Those driving the campaign failed to get the 20 per cent of branches required to call a Special Conference, showing the lack of support for their campaign against the comrade and their political perspectives. What they were successful in doing was causing the party to become increasingly polarised.
The unconstitutional faction
Having failed to force the comrade out of a leading role in the party and our united front work a number of comrades launched an unconstitutional faction. (As the CC rightly pointed out at the time “The CC does not accept the right to form factions outside the three month pre-conference discussion period. Such factions open the door to permanent factions and permanent oppositions, making it impossible to unite and intervene effectively,” (CC Statement).)
Many of the people who formed the faction are so focused on their campaign against the comrade that they are prepared to go the length of breaking our constitution to demand that the comrade “...stand down from any paid or representative roles in our party or united front work for the foreseeable future,” (Faction Statement).
Stop the witch-hunt
Let us be clear that this comrade has been found guilty of nothing. Yet he has faced a concerted campaign over many months to oust him from a leading role in the party. A campaign that has seen people form a secret faction, launch two factions, attempt to call a Special Conference and, finally, break our constitution. It has been a campaign that has paid little heed to fact or reason but rather has been built on hearsay, speculation and sometimes downright lies. It has been nothing short of a witch-hunt. But it is a witch-hunt that has to stop. And it has to stop for three reasons:
(1) If the disputes procedure is ignored, or subverted it makes it impossible for any comrade to be confident of fair treatment, either if they are a complainant or are complained against. Every comrade must have the right to make a complaint if they so choose, and no-one is above being questioned, criticised or disciplined. It does a disservice to all of us if a proper system of investigating and adjudicating on such matters is destroyed. That is the danger of the way the faction has approached the issue.
(2) It does a grave injustice to the comrade.
(3) It has thrust our party into possibly the biggest crisis it has ever faced. It has forced us to focus on internal debate during the longest economic depression in modern times when we should be focusing all our energies in building the biggest possible fightback against austerity.
Consequently, we propose that any comrade or groups of comrades continuing with it via the branches, social media, blogs or in any form must face sanctions. These sanctions may, regrettably, have to include disciplinary action up to and including expulsion from the party.
Terry (North London)
Penny and Donny (Edinburgh)