indispensible reading



by Ian Anderson

On March 12th 2013, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the UK split, over a crisis triggered when the Central Committee defended a member accused of rape. The Disputes Committee, comprised of colleagues and friends of the accused, had found the case “not proven.” While leading members of the SWP challenged this decision, a Special Conference in March reaffirmed it, leading to around 100 members leaving and forming a new International Socialist Network (

This is not an isolated case. In recent years, rape allegations against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange have divided progressives. Whenever nominally progressive men are accused of sexual violence, it reveals divisions in the groups and communities they’re a part of.

When men are accused of rape, “where’s the evidence?” is a common refrain – as seen in the SWP Disputes Committee verdict of “not proven.” But what evidence or proof…

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4 thoughts on “

  1. Hi Sara,

    Sorry, I’ve been a bit convoluted myself, I’m not a clear writer. My comments were about the article on the ‘Fightback’ website, not on your article, I don’t have any issues with that, and am glad you felt able to share your experience.

    I think the issue with the ‘Fightback’ article is that while it correctly makes the point about the general, it doesn’t deal sufficiently with the fact that there often the need to address the particulars of a case, such as when a specific complaint is made to a union, or a party. I think here the move from the general to the particular/specific gives a false impression of what we are trying to advocate, it gives the impression (unintentionally) that the general statistics are relevant in determining the facts of the particular case, but they cannot be. What the general statistics and evidence should do is inform how the case is dealt with, and this is where the question I raised (“are complaints of sexual assault or domestic violence treated in the same way as any other complaint?”) I think simplifies the argument being made in the ‘Fightback’ article while avoiding the possible misinterpretations that the way the argument is made in that article can give rise to.

    I agree fundamentally with the points raised in the ‘Fightback’ article, and in your reply, my argument is that we should perhaps raise those points in a slightly different way, and my “are complaints…” question cuts to the heart of the matter I think.

    Jim L.


    1. Hi Jim

      Okay thanks for the clarifications there. Now I understand what you’re saying (d’oh me) I think your points are valid if a little over critical of the ‘Fightback’ article but ok. Yes, i am agreed – the general – not just a matter of stats but based on a sizeable and expanding body of evidence and a clear marxist understanding and analysis of women’s dual oppression as both women and workers under capitalism is essential to inform an investigation but yes in itself would not be sufficient and would need to be based on the evidence the woman (or man or child) provides, including her direct testimony.

      Yes, we should read everything critically and continue to develop and clarify our argumentation in order to avoid such misunderstandings and ensure our message is understood by our intended readers. Definitely!

      The article has got the ball rolling though and for that it is invalueable. All’s left is for this start to be built on by the relevant organisations of the unions and the left.

      All the best,

      Sara 🙂


  2. Hi Sara, I think that’s an interesting article you’ve posted, but the key message seems to get lost as it’s a bit convoluted. The evidence presented in it is important in drawing attention to the discrepancy between the very low rate of false claims and the attitude taken by authorities when a complaint of rape, sexual assault, or say, domestic violence is made.

    But it doesn’t actually explicitly say how that should relate to individual cases, because when a particular complaint is made, particularities do need to be investigated. The confusion of the general and the particular in the article could lead to some people (as they have in the comments of the article) thinking that individual cases will be a ‘trail by statistics’, which is obviously not the case, or intention of the article.

    I think the matter is actually quite simple. The question that should be asked of organisations about their response to complaints of sexual assault or domestic violence is: are treated in the same way as any other complaint? I would not expect, for example, if I had some money stolen from me by a comrade, to be asked questions about whether I had got my wallet out, whether I had been drinking, and so on. That is obviously a more trivial matter than sexual assault but it serves to illustrate the different way different complaints are handled. I think that question (and the follow up – if you have treated them differently, why?) is all that suffices.

    Jim L.


    1. Hi Jim,

      Many thanks for your contribution. I don’t think I have confused the specific and the general but will reflect on what you say and return to it shortly, if that’s ok?

      The point of my testimony was to draw on the personal – my own experiences – to make the point women should be heard, not silenced and side lined, as can happen too often in my experience. It is using one example to shed light on the wider points about how women who come forward are treated and whether we should be believed or not. The problem is that all the attention goes on looking after the accused man, leaving the woman out in the cold and not believed.
      The main issue is not one of defending falsely accused innocent men (which is statistically minimal); the focus should be shifted to recognise the actual reality – 1 in 4 women are raped in their lives, rape convictions are at an historic low, the gendered dynamics of rank and file woman reporting on a ‘leading’ male with much more polItical power, authority and position to her.

      No one is arguing against the particularities of the case being investigated or the right of the accused to defend himself and have fair trial. the point i’m making is that it is WOMEN who don’t get the fair trial.But I do agree with our New Zealand cdes that as marxists we start from the general – women are oppressed and generally tell the truth about being abused as do children. Only a tiny percent (a disputed figure but nevertheless tiny) do not tell the truth and the evidence indicates there are complex reasons why a woman might make a false allegation). Therefore, It is reasonable to start with the assumption she is telling the truth, the evidence is available if you are willing to admit it, and only then go into the particulars of an individual case.

      I don’t think my post was convoluted I think it’s pretty clear but no matter you are entitled to your opinion.



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