Resisting Oppression Sexism in Activism: ROSA Statement: Oppose Violence Against Women in the Labour Movement

UPDATE MESSAGE ABOUT THE ‘DIFFERENCE’ BETWEEN ROSA (Resisting Sexism and Oppression in Activism) and the Socialist Party Ireland’s own ‘ROSA’ organisation 27 Juin 2013

Hello, Laura Fitzgerald of Socialist Party Ireland has contacted me to complain about our decision to use the acronym ROSA (Resisting Oppression Sexism and Activism) as part of the title of our statement as the Socialist Party Ireland set up an organisation called ROSA some time before. Whilst I’m happy to say that yes it’s true that myself and other comrades were inspired by their initiative and I think it’s excellent, I’m also happy to clarify that our statement here has nothing to do with the Irish organisation of the same name. Whilst hoping to be sensitive to Laura’s views, those of us who support OUR initiative have discussed Laura’s objections  to use using ‘her’  name and we are not willing to follow laura’s orders as we do not think it’s reasonable. Rosa Luxemberg inspires many socialists, including those outside the CWI and there isn’t a monopoly or ownership of political names, hence the existence of numerous unrelated parties called the ‘Socialist Party’ around the world, for example. Laura’s request unfortunately is not a response to the poltical content of our statement and this is what we are seeking – a debate and exhange on the actual issues, not a petty falling out over who gets to use what names. So just to sum up, I think the SP ireland’s ROSA campaign is great whereas judging by Laura’s initial response, they do not feel able to respond in this sisterly and comradely manner. In the meantime, we will be setting up our ROSA wordpress account group shortly. This is the beginning, Sara and supporters

new signatures added 🙂

Foreword

ROSA are a network of like minded labour movement activists and working class revolutionaries who share a mutual concern and desire to challenge sexism and oppose violence against women and make the movement genuinely inclusive for all. Our statement below is our collective response to the recent cases of sexism, sexual assault and harassment in the labour movement in the U.K. (and internationally) and the ensuing crisis of the left which it has produced. These cases include: the Socialist Workers Party rape / sexual violence allegations r.e. ‘comrade Delta’ case (Manson, P, ‘SWP Leadership – if you don’t talk about it’, 2013), the RMT domestic violence allegations against a leading male member of the RMT National Executive Committee case (Leneghan, C, ‘Domestic Violence and International Women’s Day RMT’, 2013) and the sexual assault allegations against a prominent male trade unionist member of the Socialist Party England and Wales (Mayo, S, ‘Just another Woman’s Testimony of Sexism, sexual assault and male abojuse of power in the labour movement’, 2013). Of course these type of cases are not at all limited to left organisations and in fact major capitalist institutions such as the BBC (Haliday, ‘BBC: new child sex abuse allegations ..’, 2013), the Catholic Church (for ex, Bates, ‘Bishops round on Panorama’s claims of abuse cover-ups’, 2006) and mainstream political parties such as the Liberal Democrats (Syal, R, ‘Liberal Democrats under pressure to reopen old claims of sexual harassment’, 2013) are all deeply embroiled in their own scandals of this character. The common pattern in all of these cases is that the relevant organisational leaders tend to be complicit in covering up reported abuse and silencing the victims / survivors; All of these stories of abuse are symptomatic in varied and complex ways of a deeply unequal, sexist and violent yet ‘modern’ globalised capitalist society.

Nevertheless, this statement focuses itself on the crisis in the labour movement as these organisations are our vehicles for struggle against the system itself. This statement is intended as a socialist follow up contribution to the recent ‘End Violence Against Women’ discussion initiated by a number of different left organisations and union activists, including the Socialist Party England and Wales (SP) statement ‘Combating violence against women: A socialist perspective on fighting women’s oppression by Deputy Secretary, Hannah Sell ,which was published this April (2013).

However, within our grouping, marxists, socialists, anarchists, trade unionists, community campaigners, feminists, LGBTQIA activists, anti-racist / fascists and other lefts are welcome to participate with us and discuss and debate left political ideas and issues. We are not a political party and therefore do not demand or think a democratic centralist approach is possible in this form of organisation at this stage, but we do promote the fullest democracy and debate, guaranteeing every comrade the freedom to publish their own political material where possible.

Our aim is to create a network which is both an educational tool, a discussion forum and a support network for left activists who have experienced problems of sexism and other discriminatory treatment such as racism, homophobia and transphobia etc. If you share our determination to challenge, engage and hopefully change the existing labour movement organisations on these issues please contact us.

We encourage and facilitate open, honest, self reflective and democratic discussion. We do not claim to be infallible or above criticism; instead, we hope to help create a culture on the left which is better able to be genuinely inclusive, democratic, self critical where appropriate, open and collaborative and equal. We think all activists are diamonds: precious, rare and indispensible so long as they abuse no other; activists have the right to remain healthy and not become so over worked, under valued and exhausted to the point at which they end up burnt out. This is no way to treat people; therefore we also want to put the humanity back into the activism of socialists, anarchists, trade unionists et al.

We intend to address the issues of under-representation of women, as well as ethnic minorities and all those who fall outside of ‘traditional’ gender and sexuality binaries in later material. Women are overwhelmingly the majority of inter personal violence survivors and it is this sexism and misogyny we wish to protest against whilst at the same time we wish to make it clear we are opposed to ALL abuse, all forms of discrimination, bullying and harassment. We will expand on this question further on in our statement.

We propose in our statement a number of positive, constructive measures and action points which socialist, anarchist and labour organisations may wish to take to help improve and minimise the organisational problems of violence against women and all discriminatory, hostile and bullying behaviours and actions on the part of some of their members, where this problem exists. But above all, we recognise that these problems are political in character and therefore require political solutions.

Therefore, we hope our contribution here is received in the constructive and comradely manner in which it has been written by ourselves. To repeat the point again, we are NOT proposing the creation of a new party nor are we claiming that we have all the answers – we do not. However, at least some of us are former members of at least one prominent socialist organisation (The Socialist Party) England and Wales, for example) and we wish to note that many of us in this position of former membership regrettably feel we have been ‘pushed out’ and excluded from politics by our former organisation(s). This is a major factor in our decision to organise this network in order to allow us to continue actively in socialist, trade unionist, anarchist and left wing politics.

Introduction:


Whilst our title statement puts our focus on violence against women, we of course recognise how anybody can experience inter- personal violence and sexual abuse and this is equally abhorrent. Both socialists and anarchists as human beings are firmly opposed to all interpersonal violence and abuse and wish to help make the labour movement a safe and inclusive place for EVERYONE. Capitalism as an ideology, its violent, ‘dog eat dog’, selfish pursuit of self (and capitalist) interest and its glorification of war, distorts human pyschology to such an extent that all humans can experience violence, degradation and abuse. Nevertheless, women are the primary victims of violence and abuse in society whilst men are the primary perpetrators because women are systematically devalued and degraded by a capitalist society based on both class and gender division and inequality whilst even working class men, exploited as workers, nevertheless are socially conditioned to enjoy so-called ‘male priviledge’, which of course, the most conscious and socially aware men reject (not all men are abusers, far from it). For instance,we quote Women’s Aid on the key question ‘Who are the victims of domestic violence?” on the aspect of gender:

Gender is a “significant risk factor” as women are more likely than men to experience interpersonal violence, especially sexual violence, and to experience severe and/or repeated incidents of violence and abuse. “Women are the overwhelming majority of the most heavily abused group. Among people subject to four or more incident of domestic violence from the perpetrator of the worst incident (since age 16) 89 per cent were women”. (British Crime Survey, Walby & Allen, 2004) – (Women’s Aid website 2013 )

All survivors of inter personal abuse, irrespective of gender, age and sexuality should be entitled to full and specialist NHS support free and on demand but it is vital we highlight the risk to specialist support services for women in particular. We are opposed to all cuts to jobs, homes and services, including all budget cuts to specialist services, including for women and children who have experienced interpersonal violence. Furthermore, we are opposed to the capitalist class’ attempt to destroy the welfare state both in the U.K. and internationally; we are ardent in our opposition to capitalist austerity and many of us campaign for an internationalist socialist world as the only secure basis to create a genuinely, equal world based on co-operation and solidarity, with the wealth produced and distributed democratically with society run and managed by the majority, whilst anarchist comrades do not call for this on a socialist basis.

However, the dual oppression of women as both workers and as women under capitalism means we live in a society where rape culture is normalised and violence against women is endemic. Two women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner (Homicide Statistics, 1998) – 1 woman killed every 3 days ( – Women’s Aid, 2013). It is essential that we make reference to this historical and social context in order to raise consciousness of the battle for women’s rights within the labour movement. Furthermore, we are stating that whilst we acknowledge that both abuser and abused can vary in gender and sexuality (e.g lesbian domestic abusive relationships), in the clear majority of cases, it is women abused by men and this illustrates the structural inequality of patriarchal capitalism in the 21st century. It is crucial that we don’t lose sight of the central issue at stack here; the gendered dimension of interpersonal violence in the political, social and economic context of Rape Culture in modern globalised capitalist society, whilst at the same time, we remain utterly opposed to any forms of abuse, irrespective of the gender identity of the culprit.

Furthermore, we understand why many activists prefer the term ‘survivor’ to ‘victim’ as the first term is positive and suggests recovery is indeed possible in contrast to ‘victim’ which implies helplessness (VictorytotheToils, ‘Betrayal: A critical analysis of rape culture in anarchist subcultures’, 2013). However we have chosen to use both terms to both emphasize the harm done and the possibility of recovery and to reflect how individuals are free to define themselves as they see fit.


Finally, the lessons of the Socialist Workers Party UK (SWP) case (Newman, A, ‘Statement of the Democratic Opposition’, 2012) also needs to be addressed in full at a later point. We will publish more material on this question as soon as we are able, as well as other issues raised directly or indirectly by the statement below. This is followed by an appendix and full bibliography for your information.

STATEMENT: Oppose Violence Against Women in the Labour Movement

  1. It is of utmost importance that the labour movement is a place in which anybody can feel comfortable to come forward with any allegations of sexism, violence or sexual assault in all its forms without being judged and with confidence that the allegations will be examined seriously and democratically with the fundamental agreement that no comrade is indispensable. This can only be achieved if the leadership of the labour movement actually do take up cases seriously and in an informed and sensitive manner, democratically with an attitude that nobody is indispensable and that they must have the membership’s confidence in their ability to do so.
  2. Our starting point should be to believe the survivors, the majority of whom are usually women; just like we approach the question of racism; start from the viewpoint of the oppressed. We need to acknowledge how difficult and brave it is for a member, especially a rank and file member, to come forward with an allegation against another member, especially if the latter is in a prominent or leading position. We recognise how these are frequently, although not always, political relationships in which an unequal gendered power dynamic is at play with the alleged abuser, usually male and the abused, often female. All of our comrades are vital with an as important and equal contribution to make to their party / labour organisation as their better known leader comrades. We need to support comrades who come forward with such allegations – it is our duty of care: anything less is not acceptable.
  1. It is also important for such leaders to acknowledge the facts around false allegations of rape / sexual assault / domestic violence – only a tiny minority of such allegations are false and no more common than false allegations for other crimes such as burglary etc. Such cases should be contextualised on the basis of our Marxist understanding of women’s oppression and the social reality of rape culture in society (Bowcott,O, Rape investigations ‘undermined by belief that false accusations are rife’, 2013).

Presumption of Innocence

It is important that any person accused of committing interpersonal violence and abuse is given the right to defend themselves by the investigating party, be it the police or a revolutionary party, for example. We are very sensitive about genuine concerns regarding the principle ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and understand and respect that this is both a genuine and legitimate concern of socialists, particularly if they personally know and respect the accused (Sell, H, ‘Combating violence against women: A socialist perspective on fighting women’s oppression‘ ,2013). However, sometimes these concerns on their own are in practice one sided and there is the danger that legitimate concerns as above are used opportunistically and / or naively to ignore the equally important questions, particularly when armed with the facts around the actual rates of false allegations. The following questions need to be addressed adequately by investigators of such complaints:

– What evidence does the victim / survivor provide e.g. personal testimony, medical evidence, photographs, diaries, witnesses etc?

– What legitimate, evidence based reasons are there to disbelieve the person making the allegations?

– What precisely are the benefits for a survivor to make a false allegation?

– What is the balance of power here, the gendered power dynamics of personal / political relations in the case in question?

– Was the accused in a position of power or authority over the alleged victim / survivor?

– Is the survivor / victim vulnerable in any way?

– Is it not possible to make an informed assessment of the verity of the complainant’s claims and if not, who could be consulted for expert advice, e.g. specialists in the relevant field, e.g. specialised NHS workers?

– Surely it is reasonable for the survivor / victim to be believed, as any suggestions otherwise may actually compound and worsen the original trauma?

– How can the organisation concerned do its best to MINIMISE any further distress to the victim / survivor and what support has been offered to them?

All of the above must be factored in a fully rounded analysis AS WELL AS the right of the accused to defend themselves and be ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Everybody has the right to a fair trial, including the complainant and not just the accused.

Nevertheless, if an investigating party concludes it is unable to verify which of the two parties is to be believed then the answer to this dilema is to hand over the investigation to the relevant authority which will be in a place to do this e.g. specialists within the organisation and / or an outside body e.g. the police in cases of criminal acts.

  1. Therefore, this is a message to the socialist left and the labour movement as a whole: if you are complicit, however naively and well intentioned you may be, in trying to protect misogynistic abusers and sidelining and abandoning (usually) female survivors, you reap what you sow: you WILL be implicated in these scandals and will suffer the inevitable political damage including both attacks from the bourgeois press and the other left wing parties etc.
  1. Our movement must be a genuinely equal environment, free from sexism, racism and homophobia as much as possible. Whilst we acknowledge these are primarily political issues, we advise organisations to also consider the lessons of organiisations which have used pro-active measures such as adopting a ‘Safer Spaces Policy’, or guidelines for appropriate behaviour, such as the policy Occupy Sheffield adopted on 20th November 2011 at the evening General Assembly. By a safer spaces policy or guidelines we mean a set of mutually agreed rules of conduct to pro-actively promote healthier, constructive relationships and minimise and hopefully help PREVENT sexism, racism, bullying, abusive and harassing behaviour and actions of group members, providing clear mechanisms to challenge such unwanted behaviour, deal with internal complaints and create a supportive group environment within the given organisation(s).We quote the Occupy Sheffield policy in full in the appendix. It could assist triggering an internal discussion on how members are expected to behave with each other and help raise their consciousness from the day they join and such policy or guidelines would need to be adapted and revised so that it is 100% relevant and applicable to each organisation concerned, if such policies are not already in place. Members would both benefit from and become much more aware of their own behaviours and actions from the adoption and internal discussion of such a policy.
  1. We recognise the danger of the capitalist establishment using the political issue of male abusers of women (or any other cases of abuse) as a means to attack socialists accused of such crimes to weaken the socialist struggle as a whole (Sell, H, Combating violence against women: A socialist perspective on fighting women’s oppression‘, 2013). Violence / abuse of women cases also raise important questions for revolutionary socialists on how we deal INTERNALLY with prominent socialist abusers AND what methods of recourse we advise survivors / victims to take within the remits of capitalist democracy e.g. We support the right of victims to report violent and abusive crimes to the police and to access relevant support on the NHS etc e.g. Sexual Assault Referral Clinics etc. But above all, Violence Against Women cases which have emerged since (and will emerge) on the revolutionary left and the labour movement as a whole raises the key question: Do we continue to politically collaborate with known, evidence based proven, abusers? What evidence do we have that they have sufficiently changed and are the survivors – usually women, but not always – asked for their input into possible disciplinary action against the abuser?
  1. The SWP Comrade Delta case (Newman, A, ‘SWP Democratic Opposition Statement’, 2012) is now notorious and discussed by working class people across the U.K., Eire and throughout the world. We think it is correct to start from the premise that the women who made the allegations were telling the truth, as the mostly likely situation statistically speaking alone, let alone when we consider the power dynamics at root in this and other cases within the Rail Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) ( Leneghan, C, ‘Domestic Violence and International Women’s Day RMT’, 2013) and the Socialist Party England and Wales (Lewis, B, SPEW: Peter Taaffe and his own scandal’, 2013). The two female complainants in the SWP case were rank and file members, possibly with none of the power or status or authority of the full time leadership of the SWP. It’s an act of courage for rank and file members in any party to come forward with allegations of rape, sexual assault and harassment against a party leader. Survivors like this often worry if they will be supported and believed by their organisational leaders and may even fear a hostile and unsympathetic response, especially as SOCIETY disbelieves women and other survivors every day in ‘our’ most popular capitalist newspapers e.g. The Daily Mail and The Sun etc.
  1. Furthermore, the answer for socialists uncertain they can take a survivor’s word on its own is to factor in the evidence (e.g. the survivor may well be receiving counselling, doctor’s support, plus accessing any other specialist services such as Women’s Aid and NHS Sexual Referral Clinic units). In fact, socialists should advise survivors in this position to access this support immediately and offer a specially trained advocate from the organisation itself to support the survivor.
  1. Therefore it is the duty of socialist and labour movement leaders to ensure they are fully educated in the complex and varied issues around domestic violence / rape / sexual assault / harassment so they can use an evidence based approach when investigating internal cases of this nature (Fightback, ‘Socialists and sexual violence claims an evidence based approach’, 2013) including seeking out specialist support from relevantly trained comrades and seek advice from relevant organisations i.e. Women’s Aid.

The guidance from the U.K. Domestic Violence charity Refuge is also instructive and should be studied closely by all investigators. Here they address the vexed question: Will he change? [http://refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/help-for-women/will-he-change/]

  1. We support the right of survivors to report sex crimes to the police and should not put any pressure on victims not to do this out of a misguided and misunderstood conception of party / union ‘loyalty’. We cannot be complicit in the silencing of survivors of abuse. Our duty is to champion their fight for justice and publicly condemn the abuser, no matter the ‘perpetuator’s power or position.
  1. We should advise survivors / victims to seek specialist support from their G.P.S, therapists, specialist support services such as sexual assault referral services, Refuge, Women’s Aid etc. Whilst we recognise that organisations / parties can’t provide these services ourselves, our duty of care means we should offer both personal, political and practical support, including publicly if requested by the survivor.
  1. Equally, it is the duty of the leadership to organise an intensive and far reaching campaign of political education about violence against women and interpersonal violence in general and to directly challenge sexist, misogynistic and abusive behaviours. Women and all survivors (irrespective of gender and sexual orientation) should be playing the leading role with the full and active support of their organisations. Likewise, women and survivors generally should be given the space and practical and political support to organise to discuss these burning political issues and to educate the membership as a whole about this complex topic.
  1. As one anonymous female comrade herself testifies:“The whole issue of domestic violence is mind-blowing, I used to work for Women’s Aid and had all the theory and all the training yet still got caught up in his snare of psychological warfare- questioning whether it was my fault, minimizing it, allowing myself to become isolated and control gradually be taken over my life. The issues are so complex and not being believed/ questioning yourself/being isolated causes more damage than the bruises. – i.e. the response of society does inflict more damage than the actual event, in a lot of cases.”.
  1. Furthermore, we do not ask each worker to prove they are being exploited, because we know how work is organised under capitalism, how profit is taken from the mass of workers. While we seek information on the specifics of a workplace situation, we do that on the basis of a broader analysis. Similarly, our analysis must proceed from knowledge about how gender oppression works” [Fightback, ‘Socialists and sexual violence claims an evidence based approach’, 2013].
  1. We are opposed to all interpersonal violence and abuse of power but at the same time we believe women’s equality should also be at the heart of anybody who believes in the anti-capitalist struggle to change society (especially in the heart of socialist and anarchist revolutionaries); it is also a fact that over half the world’s population and indeed a majority of the working class in the 21st century are women. There can be no strive towards a better society without our female comrades! We don’t want to be a part of a movement that alienates women or anybody else wanting to fight for Socialism.
  1. We are in favour of bringing these issues to the fore in the light of the SWP’s scandal of it’s attitude towards both women’s emancipation and internal democracy (or lack of!) at a time where the capitalist media have jumped on the case and used it to demonise left-wing politics(Malik, S and Cohen, N, ‘Socialist Workers Party leadership under fire over rape kangaroo court’, 2013). We think socialist and left parties and trade unions must issue a statement on the shambles that emerged with kangaroo courts, significant splits and the afore-mentioned attack on the credibility of the left as a whole. We believe that remaining silent on the issue is irresponsible, unjust and damaging.
  1. It is the responsibility of elected leaderships of such bodies to:

a) Reassure everyone in the movement that we oppose violence against women (and any other form of interpersonal violence) within our own ranks and will immediately investigate the accused, allowing said comrade the right to self defence, but equally important, supporting the survivor and centring the energy, care and attention for the survivor, not leaving the survivor isolated whilst concentrating solely on supporting the accused. This is particularly the case if the evidence is clear, if the survivor’s testimony, witnesses, medical and police evidence prove insufficient for said investigators

b) Secondly, it is the responsibility of the leadership to issue a statement on violence against women in the labour movement, drawing on lessons learned from previous cases as well as ongoing ones from this crisis.

c) Thirdly, it is an opportunity to clear the name of said organisation(s), explain the actual campaigning record on these issues and address the questions of democratic centralism, including putting the issue in it’s broader social, economic political context; Internationally, we are in an era of growing revolutionary opportunites for struggle alongside the threat of counter-revolution from the capitalist powers following the Arab Spring and massively increased radicalisation of the working class and women in particular across the continents. This debate has to be taken in this context, including not least the changing mood in U.K. society on this issue too e.g. the impact of the Jimmy Saville scandal, the Catholic Church and related cases throughout the political and cultural establishment here r.e. the main capitalist parties and their own sexist crises such as in the recent cases concerning the Liberal Democrats (all previously referenced). We should outline our political programme for women and the working class here and internationally and our specific programme on rape / sexual assault /domestic violence / sexual harassment etc.

d) Fourthly, it is an opportunity for organisations to reflect upon their own handling of such cases up until now and draw the necessary political and organisational conclusions and to educate the membership on women’s oppression – the double oppression of working class women.

In this time of crisis we look to the leadership! But as activists and revolutionaries we also share their responsibility in taking the revolutionary struggle forward and this is why we can not be silent on this issue.”

  1. Some of our comrades and indeed friends have approached us with the argument that by demanding action we are failing to understand that this is a reflection on wider society, that we don’t understand that we aren’t immune to these issues because some of us are a part of socialist organisations and parties. In reply, we say this:

‘We are active Marxists and our approach is explicitly based on Marx and Engels’ analysis of women’s oppression as the product of the rise of the family, property and the state. We do understand that we live under capitalist, class, patriarchal society and that these issues are a product that comes from that. We understand that even amongst those workers and youth that are economically and politically inclined to socialist ideas, from an embryonic instinct to an advanced consciousness, sexist and other discriminatory attitudes are common- but they must be clearly addressed and challenged by both the leadership and members as a whole.’

  1. Yes, this is a situation that isn’t helped by the mainstream propaganda inflicted on the class every day, of course owned by the capitalist class themselves. We understand that there are no invisible filters surrounding the left that only allow within our walls those purged from discriminatory attitudes. We also understand that people can change over time but we are adamant in the duty of care we have towards our women comrades and all oppressed comrades that fall victim to these vile products of this corrupt, decaying society we are so determined to overthrow. The task is to launch a mass campaign of political education on women’s oppression and how it is absolutely linked to the class struggle. The two are entwined, you can not be a class fighter if you are not also a firm fighter for women’s rights within the movement itself.
  1. Moreover, we do not believe that every man in society is capable of sexual assault or other forms of violence and abuse of women. We are sure our comrades also acknowledge this. But we need an informed, evidence based assessment of such individuals and above all we must ensure the survivor is satisfied that the attacker has both changed sufficiently and has adequately apologised and reformed by fully admitting sole personal guilt and responsibility for said crime(s). If either the survivor and / or the evidence indicates otherwise, immediate disciplinary action should be considered once an investigation has been completed, with a recommendation of expulsion if the offence is a criminal one.
  1. We do not think any leadership in this position should consider it a ‘choice’ between the abuser (recognised as guilty by said leadership following a fair investigation ) and the survivor. Instead the outcome of such an investigation needs to be clear: expel the criminal and keep the survivor. If you do the opposite and keep the assailant on a mistaken and incorrect notion of ‘socialist forgiveness’ the damage you will inflict to our struggle will never be forgiven by those of us with the political integrity to speak out.
  1. Furthermore, we are writing this statement in the sure knowledge that the most radicalised women, workers and above all else, the youth, share our sentiments and zero tolerance attitude. Yes, it is true that sexism and misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia and all such social issues will not be eradicated under this decaying, crisis ridden capitalism system

.However it is both correct and laudable internationally for the Rage Against Rape, One Billion Rising movement, the SlutWalk protests and Reclaim the Night etc campaigns to have it as their aim to stop violence against women now and fight with every inch of our bodies to make the labour movement and social struggle a safe space for women today, a safe place for the revolutionary struggle to take place as we fight for an end to this rotten, corrupt, decaying capitalist system and its replacement by a genuine socialist system where capitalist distortions can be overcome once and for all; This could be achieved by a revolutionary struggle to overthrow the capitalist oppressers and bring the ownership and control of production into the majority’s hands. This process could transform both economic, cultural and social life, eradicating the state, private property, the money form and begin the end of millenia of class division and patriarchy. This new, equal society would create the material conditions to enable abundance for everyone and would give each new generation greater freedom and opportunities than the last in ways we can only dimly imagine now.

  1. The struggle for women’s rights is inextricably interwoven with the class struggle and deserves high prominence in the revolutionary programme for the socialist struggle of the working class in all its forms. In the case of revolutionary parties not least, but other labour and social movement organisations should also make the women’s struggle a key and central part of their program for the organised working class. We fight for both the liberation of the working class and women but in fact our struggle goes further than even these bold ambitions: A key part of our struggle is for genuine human freedom and creativity to express our identities liberated from the fetters of socially constructed categorisations which many of us believe is only possible on the basis of a socialist world.
  1. Our socialist and marxist political perspectives for mass struggle and resistance by women, the working class and the oppressed as a wholeare wholly optimistic.
  1. The new generation – young, energetic, fresh and the future leaders of the workers revolution both in the U.K. and internationally – do not share the tired, conservative outlook of silence, inaction and indifference of some of our labour organisation leaders whatsoever. They – we – are the music of the future. It’s time socialists, Marxists, trade unionists and community campaigners everywhere start listening and learn to correct past mistakes.

Viva la revolution!

In struggle and solidarity,

  • Sara Mayo, Carlus Hudson*,  Francesca Cunliffe, Nick Parker,  Jake Ceileachair
  • * Carlus asked for me to include this reservation by his signature: ”

    ‘with reservations on the minor point about the document’s presentation of the anarchist position, but otherwise wholeheartedly supporting the document’

     
     
     

June 23rd 2013

Appendix

1) Domestic violence – the facts – from www.refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/what-is-domestic-violence/domestic-violence-the-facts/

General

2 women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner (Homicide Statistics, 1998) – 1 woman killed every 3 days

1 in 4 women experience domestic violence over their lifetimes and between 6-10% of women suffer domestic violence in a given year (Council of Europe, 2002)

Domestic violence has a higher rate of repeat victimisation than any other crime (Home Office, July 2002)

Every minute police in the UK receive a domestic assistance call – yet only 35% of domestic violence incidents are reported to the police (Stanko, 2000 & Home Office, 2002)

The 2001/02 British Crime Survey (BCS) found that there were an estimated 635,000 incidents of domestic violence in England and Wales. 81% of the victims were women and 19% were men. Domestic violence incidents also made up nearly 22% of all violent incidents reported by participants in the BCS (Home Office, July 2002)

On average, a woman is assaulted 35 times before her first call to the police (Jaffe, 1982)

Children

In 90% of domestic violence incidents in family households, children were in the same or the next room (Hughes, 1992)

In over 50% of known domestic violence cases, children were also directly abused – NSPCC (1997) found a 55% overlap; Farmer & Owen (1995) found 52% overlap

Health

30% of domestic violence either starts or will intensify during pregnancy (Department of Health report, October 2004)

Foetal morbidity from violence is more prevalent than gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia (Friend, 1998)

Cost to society

In November 2009, Sylvia Walby of the University of Leeds estimated the total costs of domestic violence to be £15.7 billion a year.  This is broken down as follows:

The costs to services (Criminal Justice System, health, social services, housing, civil legal) amount to £3.8 billion per year

The loss to the economy – where women take time off work due to injuries – is £1.9 billion per year

Domestic violence also leads to pain and suffering that is not counted in the cost of services.  The human and emotional costs of domestic violence amount to almost £10 billion per year

2)Occupy Sheffield General Assembly Safer Spaces Policy

Everyone deserves and has the right to feel safe. This camp will not tolerate abusive behaviour. Accordingly we ask that people treat each other as they would wish to be treated – with respect and tolerance.

Never touch someone without their permission. If you are unclear whether you have permission or not, then don’t.

Be aware of the connotations of your language. Many common expressions use discriminatory language so think before speaking.

Do not make assumptions about anyone’s gender, pronouns, sexual preference, abilities, ethnic identity, survivor status, or life experiences. Do not be derogatory to anyone about these things.

Be prepared to challenge hateful, discriminatory, or oppressive language.

If you are challenged, do not become defensive, but listen and think and learn.

Be aware of your own privileges when engaging in discussions. Others did not necessarily have what you did or the same life that you have had. Do not deny the validity of other people’s experiences.

Do not film or video people without their permission.

Do not speak over or interrupt other people.

Take care of yourself mentally and physically. Know where to get support and identify where First Aid is available on the camp.

Respect others’ need to safely negotiate the site. Keep access routes clear of rubbish and clutter so that people of all abilities can safely move through the space.

The camp environment can be very intense. If you feel exhausted or stressed take time to take a break from the camp – go for a walk, visit a friend, or phone somebody close to you.

Please help us to maintain the camp as a place of safety and mutual respect. People who violate this policy may be asked to leave the camp.

References

Author Year Title Web address online Accessed date (appr)

‘Another Angry Woman’ blog, author anonymous

2013

There is nothing unusual about the Steubenville rape’

Http://stavvers.wordpress.com/

 

yes March 19th 2013

‘Another Angry Woman’ blog, author anonymous

2013

I’m on the radio talking about sex and hierarchy’

http://stavvers.wordpress.com/

 

yes March 13th 2013

‘Another Angry Woman’ blog, author anonymous

2013

Rape in the headlines: is there a war on?’

http://stavvers.wordpress.com/

 

yes March 12th 2013

Owen Bowcott

2013

Rape investigations ‘undermined by belief that false accusations are rife’

http://guardian.co.uk/society yes March 2013

Stephen Bates

2006

‘Bishops round on Panorama’s claims of abuse cover-ups’

http://guardian.co.uk/society/media yes 26th October 2006

Cath Elliott and Marsha Jane Thompson

2013

‘Our movement must be a safe space for women’ statement

http://womeninthelabourmovement.wordpress.com

yes 12th March 2013

Fightback (authors unknown)

2013

Socialists and sexual violence claims: An evidence-based approach’

http://fightback.org.nz/2013/03/14/socialists-and-sexual-violence-claims-an-evidence-based-approach/

yes 2013

Josh Halliday

2013

‘BBC: new child sex abuse allegations emerge against staff other than Savile’

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media

yes 30th May 2013
Steve Hedley 2013 ‘Steve Hedley’s Resignation from the Socialist Party’ http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/16319 yes 14th March 2013
Caroline Leneghan 2013

Domestic Violence and International Women’s day RMT

http://carolineleneghan.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/3/

yes 8th March 2013
Ben Lewis 2013

‘SPEW: Peter Taaffe and his own scandal’

http://www.cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/953/

 

yes March 2013
Andy Littlejohn 2013

‘Steve Hedley’s statement – Not “Cleared of Domestic Violence” with a Case Still to Answer’

http://carolineleneghan.wordpress.com/

yes April 7th 2013
Shiv Malik and Nick Cohen 2013

Socialist Workers Party leadership under fire over rape kangaroo court’h

http://www.guardian.cokyk/society

yes March 9th 2013
Peter Manson 2013 ‘SWP leadership crisis -if you dont talk about it www.cpgb.org.uk/ yes 21st March 2013
Sara Mayo (published as Sa Kollantai) 2013

Justanother woman’s testimony of sexual assault, sexism and male abuse of power in the labour movement’

http://sakollantai.wordpress.com

yes 11th March 2013
Sara Mayo (published as Sa Kollantai) 2013

‘Follow up statement on -Just another woman’s testimony of sexual assault, sexism and male abuse of power in the labour movement’ http://sakollantai.wordpress.com

http://sakollantai.wordpress.com

yes 9th April 2013
Sara Mayo 2013

Sara Mayo’s resignation from the Socialist Party

http://sakollantai.wordpress.com

yes 11th April 2013
Sara Mayo 2013

A message to members of the Socialist Party England and Wales – part 1

http://sakollantai.wordpress.com

yes 24th April 2013
Andy Newman 2012 ‘SWP democratic opposition statement’ http://socialistunity.com yes 24th December 2012
Occupy Sheffield 2012 ‘Occupy Sheffield Safer Spaces policy’ In this refs section!   November 2012
Refuge 2013

What is domestic violence?

Http://Refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/what-is-domestic-violence/ yes 2013
Hannah Sell 2013

Combating violence against women: A socialist perspective on fighting women’s oppression’

http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/campaign/Women/16503

yes April 11th 2013
Hannah Sell 2013 Letter to Sara Mayo

http://sakollantai.wordpress.com

yes 10th April 2013
B.Seaton 2013

‘Is the SWP finished?’

http://athousandflowers.net/

yes 29th March 2013
Rajeer Syal 2013

‘Liberal Democrats under pressure to reopen old claims of sexual harassment’

Http://www.guardian. co.uk/poltics

yes 22nd February 2013
‘To the victors go the toils’ author unknown 2013

The SWP and women’s oppression: a brief history of failure

http://victortoils.wordpress.com/ yes March 13th 2013
To the victors go the toils’ author unknown 2013

The Anatomy of a Cover-up: How Organizations Respond to Patriarchy and Reinforce it

http://victortoils.wordpress.com/ yes April 12th 2013
To the victors go the toils’ author unknown 2013

‘Betrayal: A critical analysis of rape culture in anarchist subcultures

http://victortoils.wordpress.com/

yes April 12th 2013
Women’s Aid 2013

‘Who are the victims of domestic violence ?’

http://www.womensaid.org.uk/domesticviolencearticles

yes April 2013
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           

The Coalition Government and broadening the fight to end violence against women and girls beyond the Criminal Justice System

Karen Ingala Smith

On the 25 November 2010, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Coalition Government launched the Call to End Violence against Women and Girls, just over six months after it had come in to power. It was followed in March 2011 by an action plan comprising 88 supporting actions for taking the strategy forward. In the foreword, the Home Secretary Theresa May acknowledged:

“The causes and consequences of violence against women and girls are complex. For too long government has focused on violence against women and girls as a criminal justice issue”

and went on to say that prevention would be at the heart of the government’s approach, along with working with families and communities to change attitudes. Lynne Featherstone, then the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities and Criminal Information added that

“This suffering is a form of gender inequality and it is wrong”.

It…

View original post 1,831 more words

Iain Duncan Smith’s most shocking statistical lie yet: Child poverty

Vox Political

According to a TUC report, average wages have dropped by 7.5 per cent since the Coalition came into office. This has a direct impact on child poverty statistics, which the government has conveniently ignored in its latest, Iain Duncan Smith-endorsed, child poverty figures.

Child poverty is calculated in relation to median incomes – the average income earned by people in the UK. If incomes drop, so does the number of children deemed to be in poverty, even though – in fact – more families are struggling to make ends meet with less money to do so.

This is why the Department for Work and Pensions has been able to trumpet an announcement that child poverty in workless families has dropped, even though we can all see that this is nonsense. As average incomes drop, the amount received by workless families – taken as an average of what’s left…

View original post 965 more words

Details of Claimant Commitments Emerge And Show the Biggest DWP Farce Yet

the void

pauline-jobcentreA recent response to a Freedom of Information request reveals the first clear details of what will be expected of claimants when Universal Credit is launched.

The new benefit, which will be rolled out nationally from October, will replace all unemployment and sickness/disability benefits along with housing benefits and working tax credits.  All claimants who are unemployed or working part time will be expected to sign a ‘Claimant Commitment’ detailing how they will try to find a job or ‘more or better paid work’ if already employed.

Those who do not have a significant health problems will be mandated – under threat of sanction – to take part in Work Related Activity (meaning work, workfare, jobsearch or training) for 35 hours a week.  Single parents with children between the ages of 5 and 13 will usually be required to spend 24 hours a week looking for work.  Even those with…

View original post 670 more words

The Coalition is hoodwinking us towards totalitarianism. Will the ‘People’s Assembly’ halt this?

spot on

Vox Political

“The people are not ready to embrace Socialism and may never be ready.”

“What, a cobbled together bunch of leftie socialists?”

“It will take more than a few breakfast TV celebrity socialists turning up in community centres to shake people awake, and armchair socialism – like conservatism, capitalism, fascism, communism and any other political ism that involves a minority seeking to impose its will on the masses down at their local community hall – is the last thing that anyone needs.”

“It would just be a talking shop of unelected and ‘celebrity’ allegedly left-wingers, who like to hear the sound of their own voices. It does not have any democratic structure, and would just be a sort of an admiring glee club, that would allow its supporters to have the illusion that something is being done.”

“Even if you got five million people to march through London protesting over the…

View original post 942 more words

open letter about the Socialist Party England and Wales and the Women’s question

I sent this letter to Hannah Sell privately (even though I’d titled it as ‘open’) back in Feb 2013 and never received a full written reply from Hannah or the E.C. – unless you count Hannah’s dismissal of my position of opposition to the unionisation of prostitution as ‘petty bourgeois’ in her letter to me and 40 other comrades in April this year which was mainly regarding my complaint against Les Woodward. That letter, and my replies, I reproduced on this blog at the time.

Below I reproduce the letter I sent largely unedited EXCEPT that I now remove the name of the relatively new comrade who supported burlesque / lapdancing at Socialism 2012 from the floor because I do not have want to upset or embarass her in anyway (and besides she may well have changed her position now) and my grievance was with the leadership and never with her. In fact I think this nameless young comrade is otherwise great, just mistaken on this aspect of the program (I refer to her now as comrade X). In another place I also ‘un-name’ a local full timer named in my original letter as the point I was making was fairly minor and yes,  it’s a subjective, personal view of said full timer.

Apart from that , this is 99% as the original letter was written, with no substantive changes otherwise.

I’ve decided to go public with it now as I think it provides important clues as to why the leadership, wary of any dissent, were so keen to accept my resignation in April this year, preferring instead to keep my sexual assailant, Les Woodward, as a member.

Dear Hannah,

 
This letter via email is not about nor does it refer to my complaint against Les Woodward. Instead I write as a long standing, active and committed member of our organisation since I joined at Socialism 2000 who feels obliged to make some critical remarks about some important political and organisational problems I am convinced the party has when it comes to both our programme for women and their emanicpation and socialism AND a culture (say at the Euro School, for example )  which far too often lacks respect for women and overlooks the problems of male stalker comrades, for example, which we the unfortunate women can not so easily escape. However inadvertently, I believe female comrades – many of whom I know personally and have worked with for years – are frequently unvalued and under used by some of the male full timers in several different regions at least.  Nor are their immense contributions , that is – our many female rank and file members- acknowledged and utilised as they should by many male full timers. The women to be championed above all, are the most oppressed and silent – women without formal education etc, older working class women who struggle all their life, and above all, working class women of colour – rank and file women members are still a rare sight on most of our platforms where female E.C. members of the party are not available to help rectify this. Instead, I have personally spoken to and befriended many many female comrades who have all shared with me experiences of misogynistic bullying from certain male comrades. It is not enough for us to keep repeating blindly the mantra ‘It’s just an isolated few cases each year’ as the likelihood is many women do not complain to the party at all and / or fall away from activity or drop out all together. I have witnessed many such cases in Wales since I have been a member. I think the party leadership ought to publicly admit to comrades above all else that we are not perfect or immune to problems of sexism and that we should and must organise effective political education to try to create a safer culture for women as a high party priority.
 
 This last point is also a major reason why I think we are mistaken to prioritise the lightweight and fluffy ‘Rape is No Joke’ campaign and instead I advocate that we organise at a national level – and from the centre –  a serious Stop violence against women type of national campaign, much more along the lines of our Indian, American and Swedish comrades do so – that is RAGE Against Rape – because rape is a crime but also young women in particular want to see protests against cuts and violence – not lame comedy shows organised by us! Further, this type of stop violence type of campaign needs also to take up as well as sexualised violence and rape, the problems of:
 
          domestic violence / incest / molestation / sexual harassment including name calling, bullying and stalking on the streets, public transport and at work and school etc / oppose the sex trade and trafficking of women
 
Now this brings me on to the problems I perceive – and other comrades in the party share – we have with our present national structures for Socialist Women and the paucity of theoretical material the leadership has produced in over the ten years I’ve been a member. Important social and economic phenoma pertaining to women such as the expansion and ‘legitimisation’ of the sex trade and huge promotion of both lapdancing and burlesque are specific examples here where I am not satisfied that the comrades responsible for this work have correctly addressed such issues as part of party’s overall programme for women, whilst CADV has been on the backburners for years and has not been an actual campaign since the early 1990s – e.g. years before I even joined. 
 
Over the years I have continuously raised these points at all levels of the democratic structures of this organisation and whilst I find most of our members are thrilled to discuss and debate these questions, the reception I get from the majority of N.C. members or full timers when I raise it is for me to be met with at best a sigh and an ironical raised eyebrow to outright hostile suspicion. I know there are other wonderful N.C. comrades who are not like this I fully appreciate them as they have helped keep me both sane and in the party. Nevertheless I can go on no longer accepting the status quo within the party – that is why I write to you personally about these matters as I do not find that my opinions are taken seriously as they should unfortunately by some of the most senior party leaders in Wales, including specifically our IEC representative, Alec Thraves. Other comrades are ok.
 
 I would like this situation to change and as a constructive start I thought I’d ‘go straight to the top’ in the hope that I will not only be heard but also discussed with and engaged with as comrades on equal terms which I know you will do, whatever your response(S) to this letter may be but I honestly feel like I’ve been both side lined and under used for years by a party I serve so loyally.
 
Hannah, I have much more that I want to address by writing to you. I will probably need to write more than once to be able to make all the points I need to make which I’m not going to cover here. However, in this correspondance I will now express some ideas and observations I would like to make about the N.C. selected National Women’s Committee structure AND related to this the question of written material on women and whether it is at a sufficiently high level at present to actually critically engage with our intellectually curious young marxists joining us in South Wales at least. New comrades have such a thirst for ideas but this is left to marxist discussion groups etc, where older comrades – according to the views of one local full timer, for example – have no part to play. I feel that I am taken for granted, as are many, many other comrades not in the so-called public eye of the party leadership.
 
In recent years I have observed a marked dip and then rapid fall in the overall political, theoretical and above all marxian philosophical  engagement with both historical and contemporary questions around women’s oppression and the socialist tasks of the revolutionary party at the national women’s meetings  – but not in many regions, districts and branches where we have female thinkers AND activist comrades who add so much of the freshness, complexity and challenges to the discussions at national women’s meetings, despite often weak contributions from one or two of the women committee members during generalised leadoffs on women and the cuts at this year’s Women’s meeting, for example. Welsh comrades proposed a new pamphlet or charter for women but whilst these were taken aboard (BUT NEVER FOLLOWED THROUGH – SM June 2013) I am disapointed that my offer at this meeting to do unpaid work for the centre for 3 weeks in January was never taken up. I am trying to work collobaratively with key comrades but feel very much that I am not being made use of at all by centre when I am more than happy to write, speak etc and that it was only Arti and Margaret who took up my offer and in Arti’s case, helped her produce a page of the text for the Rage Against Rape intervention.
 
 I realise these are quite harsh criticisms to make but I have heard the same tired, shallow and generalised leadoffs about women at national women’s meetings and women’s sessions at Socialism for years and it not only does not challenge or engage, many incorrect and false positions have been propounded by leading female comrades on the following issues, as recently as Socialism 2012, when Sarah Wrack, introduced the session by explaining that ‘we’ do not have a problem with burlesque or lapdancing. Sarah as a full timer is my representative and she does not represent either my views  nor did she represent the views of the many other rank and file women both present and not at the meeting itself. Sarah did not reply to my point of critique nor did any of the other London full timers there present at this meeting correct the point, instead ALL staying silent when a very naive and new Scottish comrade argued in favour of prostitution. I am disappointed that the full timers and national comrades present remained silent on this.
 
 I am also disappointed to hear Dave Reid report to me yesterday that Jane James thinks I was wrong to oppose burlesque and lapdancing as sexist as this is ‘insensitive’ of me to comrade X. I think that is politically completely incorrect of Jane here and would suggest in the friendliest comradely way that Jane should try instead to correct X instead of myself and take my lead by actually trying to engage X in a discussion where X may just have to contemplate that she is wrong  to publicly champion such a sexist and demeaning activity in her capacity as a Socialist Party member (and not me for OPPOSING it as a member) and actually try to convince X to change her mind! For years it has been left to a handful of comrades such as myself – in my case with no official party position beyond branch officer – to take these issues up and challenge such backwards ideas and practices. 
 
I’m afriad I also would like to complain that Christine Thomas did not reference / acknowledge / credit or refer to the unionisation of prostitution discussion document produced by Mariam Kamish, Katrine Williams and myself in Feb 2005. In Christine’s book she actually plagerises our argumentation AGAINST unionisation – without ever crediting us as her source! – to argue the oppositie point! She argues in favour of unionisation of prostitution in print which was not the compromise agreement the E.C. reached with us in 2006, following the E.C. reply a year later by Christine herself.
 
 The compromise was that unionisation was the party’s position but comrades wouldn’t publicly advocate it as they recognised its flaws as well as the complexities of the issue. Yet Christine’s text was published unedited, with no explanation to the three authors clearly referenced in said text by any cde who had followed and read up on debate on this decision to print or why we were not referenced, as is standard academic practice as followed by Trotsky and Lenin but perhaps not Stalin. If this was an ‘oversight’ please can our document be referenced in future editions hereonin. Neither Mariam or Katrine have asked me to raise these points by the way. it is the concern of mine for obvious reasons.
 
 This deeply disatisfies me and I do not think the question of what programme we put forward for women on prostitution and its related activies of lapdancing, porn etc is a finished debate, as I know anyway as french comrades have told me that there was ‘a debate about prostitution’ in the C.W.I. not that this has been acknowledged at party meetings here in England and Wales. Alas, comrades travel so we hear of these things anyway! I think we need to be a lot more open about these differences of opinion and not just about the debates where a section won out – or sections in this case -China / Hong Kong and Sweden over the question of whether China was state capitalist or not, for example. I have written extensively and in depth about these issues for many years and intend to publish at some point later this year. I would prefer to do so as not an oppositionalist faction but as a recognised member of this party who has something to contribute and therefore could potentially be published by our organisation – at some future stage – and through further discussion and exchange of experience and ideas and campaigns.
 
Comradely yours,
 
Sara Mayo, February 2013