You will recall that Socialist Unity previously published a near verbatim transcript of the session at the SWP conference in January which discussed the now notorious attempted cover up of allegations of rape by a leading male SWP leader, to whom we attributed the moniker “Comrade Delta”.
The failings of the SWP’s Kangaroo court which exonerated Comrade Delta received widespread press coverage, in the Guardian, Daily Mail, and the Independent. It subsequently emerged that the young woman, W, making the allegations against Comrade Delta was only 17 when their “relationship” began. Comrade Delta himself was around 50 years old, and in a position of authority over her; representing a clear imbalance of power.
The transcript showed that W was not the only woman who had made allegations against Delta.
A member of staff of the SWP, referred to as X, had also made a complaint, but the SWP made procedural excuses to minimise this embarrassing fact. This was X’s contribution at the SWP conference debate:
KAREN: The next speaker will be X.
(Note – X was named in the conference and spoke openly, however I am not naming her in this transcript)
X: Some comrades will already know that I’m the second woman who’s come forward as part of the dispute, and it’s me that’s been removed from my position in the (removed) department. I wanted to say that I’d been a district organiser for (removed) years and I hope people will respect that I wouldn’t come forward lightly.
I want to start by reiterating what Candy said – that this isn’t a trial, comrades won’t get to hear both sides of the story, so you’re never going to be in a position to decide who you believe. However, comrades can take a position on whether the process you think has been adequate.
I also want to add that I think it’s entirely disingenuous that leading members have denied that there is a second complaint. My evidence was effectively a second complaint, but because of the experience of the first case I’m unwilling to have it heard by the current disputes committee as a separate dispute. I don’t accept the account given that they’re not aware of the substance of my complaint – it’s the same as the account that I’d given in the first place.
I want to just quickly outline why I think there were problems with the way the dispute was conducted. First I think the composition of the disputes committee was problematic. Viv has mentioned that five of the seven were former or current CC members, most of the people have close or long term working relationships and in some cases friendships with the accused, and while I don’t for a second question the personal integrity of the individual comrades, when it comes down to, as they said, whose version of events you’re most likely to believe, I do think it creates an unfair bias in this case.
And I want to reiterate – it’s not an attack on the comrades’ integrity, or as the CC argued in their statement, about questioning the comrades’ ability to apply our politics on women’s oppresion. (inaudible)
I believe the nature of the investigation was fundamentally flawed. The accused was able to see my evidence four days in advance of any questioning to prepare his defence. I was not made aware of the evidence the accused brought to contradict the case, so I had no opportunity to challenge his testimony. I was still denied the right to even basic details of his response – whether he’s denied it ever happened, given a different version of events. None of my witnesses were called. I was never cross-questioned following the accused’s evidence.
Obviously there are instances where people may come forward with malicious intent, so it’s right to investigate claims. However in our tradition we argue that women do not come forward lightly in cases like these. We should start from that belief and attempt to substantiate the woman’s complaint. U don’t believe that the DC in my case shows this to have happened.
Finally – (voice breaks) in my opinion the worst part was the nature of some of the questioning. I was asked if it was fair to say I liked to have a drink. That’s all I need to say on the matter.
Just very quickly, I’m running out of time, but I just wanted to address – because the question of my job has been raised by the factions, to avoid any confusion, I wanted to address this. It is true that I did initially resign. (inaudible) Charlie rightly refused to accept my resignation on the basis that I shouldn’t be punished for bringing forward a complaint. Within days of the hearing I asked to be allowed to return to work, but in many meetings and appeals to the central committee I was repeatedly told that I’d disrupt the harmony of the office.
The worst part and the most stressful part of this is the motivations that have been ascribed to people coming forward. We’ve had accusations of the state – (Karen calls time)
X did in fact put in a further formal complaint about Comrade Delta, after the January 2013 SWP conference. I understand though, that the SWP Central Committee has decided that the disputes committee will not now hear the complaint made by X against Delta until the new year, in 2014.
The significance is that X was removed from her job in the SWP office after being a witness for “W” because the SWP National Secretary, Charlie Kimber, allegedly said that her continued presence would “disrupt the harmony of the office”. She was asked when complaining of sexual harassment ”is it fair to say you like a drink?”. Quite contrary to how you would expect a woman complaining of sexual harassment to properly be treated, attempts have been made to isolate, silence and discredit her.
My sources tell me that Sheila M, a disputes commitee member who led the discussion off at SWP conference in January, has now submitted a motion to an emergency SWP National Committee (called at 4 days’ notice) opposing the decision not to hear X’s case.
Rumours abound that some SWP disputes committee members have been censured by their own union branches for their roles in the dispute last year, and we could speculate that this has brought some external pressure to bear on leading SWP members.
It is hard to avoid the suspicion that the SWP have decided to postpone hearing X’s case until 2014 because the Central Committee are hoping this will drive X out the party, which would mean they would never have to hear her case, and they can maintain Delta has only had one complaint made against him; thus assisting his political rehabilitation.
Incidently, the American socialist James Cannon once quipped that people always have two reasons for what they do: the good reason and the real reason. According to the always well informed “Soviet Goon Boy“, the ostensible reason given by the SWP for calling such a hurried National Commitee meeting, is to to discuss the fact that a new oppositionist website has been set up. If you beleive that, then I wonder if you would be interested in a very sound business proposition to buy the Sydney Opera House from me?