Swp: Dehumanisation Leads to Abuse

SWP sex implosion: it’s dehumanisation in the left that leads to sexual abuse by Anna Chen

When you treat human beings as disposable things in the name of la causa, when appropriation of activists’ labour and good will is the norm, when exploitation of your own side goes unchallenged, sexual abuse is one probable outcome.

The recent rape allegations that have sent the SWP into freefall are a manifestation of a deeper problem in the organisation. The alleged sex abuse seems to have been of a different order to that of the Workers Revolutionary Party in the 1970s and 80s: Gerry Healy regularly raped women activists and the WRP’s internal regime was straightforwardly violent. When I was a member of the SWP between 1996 and 2003, if anything, I found the leading men in the SWP curiously sexless and not half as attractive as the women, and can count the episodes of sex pesting I heard about on the fingers of one hand (without the thumb).

There was the guy who we jokingly named the Lothario of the Left, who seemed all talk and no trousers (he wished!) and who I thought posed no real threat beyond being a bit of a pain in the butt (he wished!). The more serious rumours concerned one senior member of the central committee (now dead) who was so predatory when he was drunk that his close comrades had to keep him away from young women.

Now there’s the case of an SWP woman comrade who has accused a senior party member of rape — and the widespread horror at the way they dealt with it. I’ve only read the kangaroo court transcript and the cryptic comments at SU and seen SWP males up close. What I suspect was happening was that two odd-looking men (politics being showbiz for ugly people) were so repressed that, when they were in proximity to female activists, the power of their party status went to their heads.

This has its roots not only in society but in the culture of the organisation. It’s all very well the SWP flaming their critics but this has been building for years. They continue to stick their fingers in their ears when they should have been addressing the objectification of their own members.

I can empathise totally with W, a woman who has struggled to get a fair hearing, sympathy and respect from her comrades, not to mention an overhaul of dodgy practises, over two years or more and then in desperation went for broke.

In my own case, working full-time for no pay on the SWP’s press over several years while being subjected to their own form of obedience training left me heavily in debt and marvelling at my own stupidity.

I did the press for their Socialist Alliance (SA) and Stop the War Coalition (STWC) campaigns when I should have been working on my own writing, but however many hours I worked, it was never enough for them. You may be behind the computer from 8am to gone midnight on their behalf when everyone else is earning a living, but if the district organiser demands you attend a paper sale at 6am you must do it even if only she and one other turn up and no-one else in the whole of West London does and you only sell one paper. If the central committee head honcho tells you, f’rinstance, to screw over friends and sympathisers Paul Mason and Dave Osler and, later, RMT’s Greg Tucker out of bloody mindedness when they’ve done an excellent job, to refuse to obey their authorit-eye as I did is to invite the SWP’s wrath.

The head honcho I refer to here had offered me patronage when I’d mistakenly assumed his encouragement was appreciation of new blood. If only I’d realised before the sun went down that it was new blood in the way Transylvanian children of the night appreciate new blood, I’d have ridden the coach outta town. My aim had been to bring any skills I might have into the organisation and leave it in a better shape than I found it — those skills chiefly being the ones I’d learned from the talented arts publicists who’d gained me a stack of press for my performance work. As a result the media were beginning to take notice and a strange glint was appearing in the comrades’ eyes.

I was pleased to be asked to write for the International Socialism Journal which head honcho edited (pieces on Sergei Eisenstein and George Orwell). I was glad that the Socialist Review magazine — edited by one of his girlfriends — could use my cultural reviews. I was happy to help out in the printshop proof-reading (for this I received £20 per day once in a blue moon). And being trolley-dolly looking after the outside speakers at their annual Marxism events was fun in parts.

However, head honcho’s sudden announcement that I was now on the Socialist Review editorial board was an unpaid duty too much (they all drew wages). I was supposed to acquiesce to this command because of the star-fuckery honour of attending meetings at Paul Foot’s house. As magnificent as Paul was (I did his national press when he stood for the SA) it was yet one more time-killer and space-filler. On top of this, I was told I was to be the party’s press officer — with no consultation with me — when all I wanted to do was train up members to engage with the media. You can politely decline all you want but this sort of disobedience drives them several degrees off-sanity central.

I’d tried to be a principled comrade, helping other members of the left: to name but three examples, doing the PR that broke SWP’s China Miéville into the public eye for free when he complained that his publisher wasn’t making him famous; free publicity for SA chair Liz Davies’ book Through the Looking Glass; in 1999 paying one skint SWP member a fiver an hour we couldn’t afford for 4 hours cleaning per week (her idea and a fiver more per hour than I was getting for my labour for her party) while she studied for her degree, and nearly taking out a £600 overdraft for her rent arrears before we realised her SWP parents were a lot better off than we were with well-paid full-time jobs. Quite often I’d feed her a hot meal and we’d talk politics, her correcting my poor grasp and explaining why I was petit bourgeois because I was an art worker and we were all atomised. (Others were telling me I was petit bourgeois because I was Chinese and we all work in catering).

But no good turn goes unpunished and the blowback from these instances was typical of the irrational spite and fury permeating much of the left. Maybe it was something I’d done, something I said? But when I asked if I’d done something wrong either politically or personally to deserve the hostility I was getting, head honcho merely muttered that I was “exemplary”. He still wouldn’t tackle the bullying, though.

There is a tide in the affairs of man, and so on. Instead of riding the wave of my fledgling career as a writer and performer, I’d jumped off it in order to service, not the revolution, by some fairly unpleasant middle-management types who wouldn’t have been looked at twice had they not climbed the greasy pole of the SWP.

In order to write my book, Coolie — about the strike by several thousand Chinese workers on the American trans-continental railroad in the 1860s — I’d decided to rent out my flat for a year and move in with my boyfriend. Once fees and expenses were paid, that would allow me to live frugally. Yet here I was in 2001, four years later with nothing written because every minute of time and every inch of psychic space now belonged to The Party, going deeper and deeper into debt for them.

Surely, Anna, I hear you say, it was worth it for the greater good what you done? Well, no, sadly. Head honcho took an axe to the Socialist Alliance to get into bed with the Birmingham mosque and then Respect. Then he did … er … more stupid things in Respect and, several years after I’d pointed out some questionable behaviour and been stuffed for it, he and his mates had to leave the SWP to form Crossfire or Counterfire, whatever the splinter’s called. But I get ahead of myself. And the class should never be premature for then down comes the big Monty Python foot.

Even the big anti-Iraq war demo ten years ago in February 2003 wasn’t immune. What a backstabbing palaver that turned out to be. Head honcho’s side were alarmed by the magnitude of the anger over the coming war and during a critical period instructed their members in the SWP via Party Notes not to build the demo, leaving it to the Socialist Alliance to mobilise (with the notable help of some/a few/several honourable SWP members in the provinces who effectively blew a big raspberry and carried on regardless). Then Birmingham, the biggest and strongest STWC branch, was purged. The hippies who put together the amazing Peace Not War CD as a fund-raiser and cultural response to the impending war were screwed over. When a Jewish socialist group requested platform time to speak against the war, they were refused on the grounds that their presence would alienate Muslims. The guy who’d made their case protested and was told that “you people” were “too sensitive.” I was banned from doing the press on the day but went ahead and worked from home, getting Bianca Jagger and Americans Against the War followed on the march by ITN, doing what I’d been doing all along … Oy veh, it got FUGLY.

That huge demo was built on the spine of the SA and yet the SA chair was denied a place on the platform while Lib Dem Charles Kennedy was welcomed with open arms … and then promptly supported “our boys” once action started. And where’s it all gone, anyway? If the SWP, Counterfire and STWC claim 1 to 2 million were on the march, then they have to give a good account of where they’ve all gone, ’cause it’s not into the left movement.

Who needs this crap?

In the eighteen months of love-bombing it took to recruit me, I received numerous assurances of SWP superiority when it came to human relations. Tony Cliff’s partner, a dear sweet but fiery old lady called Chanie Rosenberg, would do her turn on the platform at conferences, making it clear how, perhaps not every sperm, but every member was sacred. “Like gold dust.”

More iron pyrites than gold, I’m afraid.

I looked from pig to man and then man to pig and then back again and wondered who’d look better in a bacon sandwich. Then I looked a bit harder and realised that the senior women had been part of what I once rudely called the “fuck-circuit”: two power couples at the top; a complicated nexus of, ahem, “relationships” over the years; Lindsey calling me into a room at SWP HQ (said to be swept for bugs) to grill me on my new boyfriend. They are OK if you come already attached to a partner but woe betide you if you change partners and the lucky fella’s not from the SWP pool. As the sympathetic partner of a senior member told me regarding my treatment, “It’s because you’re not available.” Mostly, it’s less about sexual coercion and more about idiotic ego.

Once head honcho finally got himself a new special friend, she waltzed over and told me in a most unsisterly fashion that she was doing my job so there! Which would have been lovely had she done the work. That would have been difficult, however, as she was allowed to make a living at a paying job, but the status I’d built up from sheer hard slog over the years made the sweetest love token when handed over on a plate by her beau.

Still, if that’s how the SWP like it — it’s their party and their choice.

We need a strong left that is able to counter the coalition’s attacks on the working and middle classes that are looking like something out of the Enclosures. However, like anyone else who ever looked at the disgusting state of the world and wanted to do something about it, I never signed up for SWP abuse and I certainly never signed up for their omerta that they go around imposing on errant former members on pain of The Treatment. It is important that this stuff gets aired for so many reasons. If they can’t, after all this grief, look at themselves honestly, then they deserve everything they’re getting. And the working class is better off without them.

So, sister W, I sympathise and feel your pain. You learned the hard way that there is little solidarity or comradeship in that tiny corner of the left. I wish you the best of luck in rebuilding your confidence and your self-esteem. Your new life starts here.

Nick Cohen adds his take to the recent SWP mess: Why leftist revolutionaries are not the best feminists.

Anna Chen writes about this in 2003 in A Bad Case of the Trots.

55 comments on “Swp: Dehumanisation Leads to Abuse

  1. Hats Off To Anna! Who account of time spent in the SWP will mirror the experience of many comrades in a variety of left groups… the exploitation and dehuminisation of individuals is the breeding ground for further abuse.

  2. “As the sympathetic partner of a senior member told me regarding my treatment, “It’s because you’re not available.””

    What shall we call her then? “Comrade Z.”? “Comrade Z413″?

    Nothing like a hard-hitting expose that really names names.

  3. stuart on said:

    How sad that someone who was on our side when it came to the Iraq war should end up promoting Nick Cohen. How desperately sad.

  4. John Grimshaw on said:

    H’mmm! Met Cohen once in the Coach and Horses in Clerkenwell. Not that he would remember as he was suitably lubricated. Couldn’t help but notice though how he was surrounded by a seemingly appreciative coterie of largely young female journos.

  5. “Surely, Anna, I hear you say, it was worth it for the greater good what you done?”

    No, you hear me screaming at my laptop, ‘Why were you still doing this?!’ every time I read an example of their behaviour. I’m curious: Did you feel at the time it was for a ‘greater good’? Was it only after the fact, having left, that the requests seemed absurd and selfish, or did you think that at the time but believe it was ‘worth it’ to go along anyway? Maybe I’m just too lazy or selfish myself, but I honestly cannot envisage putting myself out like that for people who’d treat you so poorly.

  6. On the specific references to Birmingham Stop the War, Anna is completely wrong to say that “Birmingham, the biggest and strongest STWC branch, was purged”.

    A minority in Birmingham STW (mostly from the far left) bitterly resented the growing role played by Muslims in the anti-war movement, and equally bitterly opposed the prominent position taken by Salma Yaqoob. A series of very large and passionate campaign meetings resolved the issue by vote. They lost.

    Salma explains this at length in this article: http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=4

    “Although initially we were welcomed and accepted, it became apparent very quickly that not everybody saw our involvement in positive terms and as being unproblematic. Our relief turned to disappointment when labels such as ‘reactionary fundamentalists’ and ridiculous accusations regarding our beliefs and motives were thrown at us by a few individuals who believed that the secularists should not be working with religious people, especially Muslims. This was shocking, not only because this was not what we expected from people who claimed to be anti-racist and fighting against prejudice and injustice, but due to the fact that the accusers did not know me, had not asked me or the other Muslims about our beliefs and stance, clearly had no knowledge of Islam itself, and yet were publicly denouncing our involvement with derogatory and negative statements about Muslims and Islam. They also extended their condemnation to non-Muslims, especially socialists, who were working closely together with us.”

    The SWP can be criticised for many things. This isn’t one of them.

    (Incidentally, the view that the February 2003 demo was ‘built on the spine of the SA (Socialist Alliance)’ is completely ridiculous).

  7. Anna Chen on said:

    Mark, here’s the perspective from the other side in the Birmingham STWC dispute. Now that both Salma’s statement and their’s are available here, I suggest people read it then have a right old barney about it, generating more heat than light that leaves us none the wiser. For a change.
    http://www.sue.be/politics/swp/

    Manzil: “Did you feel at the time it was for a ‘greater good’? ”
    Yes.

    Tony Collins — heh!

  8. Mark: The SWP can be criticised for many things. This isn’t one of them.
    (Incidentally, the view that the February 2003 demo was ‘built on the spine of the SA (Socialist Alliance)’ is completely ridiculous).

    I agree – but while I don’t 100% agree with Anna’s political judgement on these specific points, that doesn’t invalidate her story,

    What is more, even though I think they were politically misguided at the time the likes of Steve G and Sue B were treated like shite, which exaggerated the political divide, and it all didn’t need to be so polarsied

  9. Andy, my interest in this is only to correct the repeated resurrection of this decade-old sectarian myth about Birmingham Stop the War. It has little or no bearing on Anna’s account of her own experiences. As far as I know, Anna was not involved in the events in Birmingham.

    A significant minority of the ‘left’ in Birmingham reacted to the mass participation of Muslims in the anti-war movement with barely disguised hostility and a strong belief in their own entitlement to lead.

    Polarised? You don’t say…

  10. Andy Newman: What is more, even though I think they were politically misguided at the time the likes of Steve G and Sue B were treated like shite, which exaggerated the political divide, and it all didn’t need to be so polarsied

    thats the critical point here false polarisations and treating people like shite… which ends up dehumanising some indivduals [often on both sides of the false polarisation] it is into this nasty environment that other forms of abuse can fester.

    The key to prevent this is genuine democracy, genuine debate not stitch ups and exclusions…

  11. Although I know that Anna Chen did sterling work for both the Socialist Alliance and the Stop the war Campaign, I don’t think that professional and slick PR was as important to these campaigns, particularly Stop the War, as she appears to think. That’s not to say that the SWP apparatus treated her, or indeed these movements, with respect.

    I also agree that it is a great pity she’s advertising the views of the odious little pro-war hack Nick Cohen on her blog. Nasty Nick doesn’t hate the far left because of sexism, but because they helped to mobilise people against an imperialist war he embarrassed himself by becoming a cheerleader for.

  12. Neil Megson on said:

    “The more serious rumours concerned one senior member of the central committee (now dead) who was so predatory when he was drunk that his close comrades had to keep him away from young women.”
    handy he is now dead, eh? One again Anna Chen, failed liberal PR person, comes out with a load of drivel to ‘explain’ why she was so persecuted.

    you weren’t persecuted Anna, you were just ignored cos your politics are crap.

  13. Karl Stewart on said:

    An interesting article Anna, one that paints a picture of appalling working conditions.

    1. Does the SWP pay its employees the London Living Wage of £8.55 ph (£7.45 outside London)?
    2. Are the pay, terms and conditions of SWP employees the subject of collective negotiations between the recognised unions and the employer?
    3. If so, which trade unions are recognised for these pruposes by SWP?

  14. Neil Megson on said:

    This article is laughable from beginning to end. Strange that Chen never made these allegations at all when she was in the party. Probably because they are not true.

    “…one senior member of the central committee (now dead) who was so predatory when he was drunk that his close comrades had to keep him away from young women.”

    Handy for you that he’s dead, isnt it Anna? Means he cant deny your lies.

    You, Cohen and Newman deserve each other.

  15. jock mctrousers on said:

    ” …made the sweetest love token when handed over on a plate by her beau.”

    I try to picture a social milieu where someone could talk like that in this day and age. The upper reaches of the vanguard of the proletariat?

  16. Karl Stewart on said:

    Neil,
    Does the SWP pay its employees the London Living Wage of £8.55 ph (£7.45 outside London)?
    Are the pay, terms and conditions of SWP employees the subject of collective negotiations between the recognised unions and the employer?
    If so, which trade unions are recognised for these pruposes by SWP?

  17. Neil Megson on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    why are you asking me? I am not a member of the SWP, nor a supporter. I am simply pointing out that Chen – the Samantha Brick of the liberal left – is talking out of her bottom.

  18. Karl Stewart on said:

    I’ve no idea who Anna is, but she’s written an article which paints a picture of appalling working conditions in the employment of the SWP and you accused her of lying.
    So I thought you might therefore know something about the Ts&Cs of SWP employees.
    If you don’t know, then how can you say the author of this article is lying?

  19. Neil Megson on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    employment? Chen doesnt claim to have been ‘employed’ – she was working, voluntarily (and very hard, it must be said). Its quite common in left organisations.

    I do recall her from the SA – which I was an active member of – and her somewhat egotistical opinion of herself and her achievements from back then.

  20. Jellytot on said:

    @16Handy for you that he’s dead, isnt it Anna? Means he cant deny your lies.

    They’re not lies. Most knew what he was like. We used to joke about it in a manner not dissimilar to the way we cracked jokes about Hallas’s alcoholism. I’m ashamed of that looking back.

    @19I am not a member of the SWP, nor a supporter.

    No, but you do a good impression of one.

    If you actually involved yourself with that Party then a lot of what Anna states in her account rings true.

  21. Karl Stewart,

    TandCs of Party workers has always been one of the unspoken about subjects on the far left. A few years back I compared notes on with an ex Millie full-timer- they had tons of them. I had two jobs in the old CP, first as maternity cover for the Communist Student full timer and secondly as a full timer for Hackney Borough CP- both paid a massive dole+ housing benefit+ 50 quid cash in hand, expenses if you were lucky. My millie mate got exactly the same- no TU rights. In some of the campaigning organisations it was a little better- CND, AAM- the ‘cushy’ jobs were at the Morning Star and some of the party businesses, but Central Books, Progressive Tours etc didn’t make much either. You needed a partner who earned money, luckily mine was a cab driver.

  22. Karl Stewart on said:

    I worked at the Morning Star and it certainly wasn’t “cushy” Pete.

    However, we did have proper contracts of employment, collectively negotiated wages, Ts&Cs and recognised unions – NUJ and Unite(GPMU).
    Pay was low, we pushed to get it higher, nearly went on strike once while I was there, but there was a proper employment set up.

    From what I’ve heard about the SWP employment practices, it sounds appalling.

  23. Karl Stewart,

    The point Karl is that compared to some Party wages theCP, the Millies and the SWP the Morning Star was comparatively cushy- you had union rights, didn’t have to draw the dole, lie through your teeth at Job Centre interviews, you got paid regularly. It’s the price you paid for doing what you thought was the necessary thing at the time. You did’t complain about it just got on with it, but I was glad when I finally got a real job at the FT and could buy things like new clothes instead of really on jumble sales.

  24. Marcus Battel,

    Sorry, deceitful and manipulative behaviour (unpleasant though it may be) for the purposes of conducting affairs, constitutes “abuse” only amongst the most arrogant and self-absorbed who don’t care how much they devalue the term. This and Tommy Sheridan’s dalliances have no place in political discussions.

  25. jock mctrousers on said:

    Marcus Battel,

    From the rant you linked to:

    ” There is another eclipse, on Tuesday 21st December 2010, again in Gemini. A time when secrets come out. I wonder what it will bring.”

    Astrological materialism much? I agree with Omar.

  26. jack: I don’t think that professional and slick PR was as important to these campaigns, particularly Stop the War, as she appears to think.

    How important was the Daily Mirror in building the Deb 15th demo? How important was it that the anti-war argument managed to get onto Nesnight, and Question Time, and the Today programme?

    How do you think the news organisations started to talk to StWC instead of CND as the main voice of the peace movement?

    These were the job of the press office

  27. Neil Megson: Handy for you that he’s dead, isnt it Anna? Means he cant deny your lies.

    That is strange. Surely after the revelations of the last few weeks the idea that everyone talking about sexism in the SWP must be a liar is wearing a bit thin?

    And why is there always so much greater annimosity shown to women who write about experience of abuse?

    Here is corroboration of Anna’s story:

    http://workersparty.org.nz/2013/01/21/swp-sexism-and-bureaucratic-centralism-on-the-left/

    Another former SWP member told The Spark about an incident which happened in the early 1990s:

    an SWP Central Committee member sexually assaulted one of my friends (this was not a matter of an ‘unproven allegation’, since the person admitted his guilt at great length to me, putting it down to his heavy drinking). … She fought back, and eventually stopped him in his tracks … The woman didn’t want to pursue the matter in any way and, not surprisingly, dropped out of the SWP shortly afterwards. As an SWP district organiser I raised this with the CC, asking that the person be disciplined even though there was no complaint as such, but it was explained to me that “this sort of thing happens under capitalism”, and nothing could be done about it. (7)

  28. old timer on said:

    John Grimshaw: John Grimshaw

    It isn’t whether or not Cohen was surrounded by impressionable, star struck youngsters. It is whether or not he, i.e. anyone, abused said position of power.

    You noticed it, I have noticed it, Anna Chen speaks of it. It’s an old tale, is it not?

    So the question is, once conscious of this sexual (or any) power relation, what do you do about it? If you are saying Cohen took the young women home then he is as bad.

    The point is the SWP leadership fed on an imbalance and abuse of power, as we both (all) know. The women with power in the apparatus abused it also, but less so in the bedroom I imagine.

    That’s why this mess happened. Weirdo, out of touch fruitcakes with a delusion of grandeur in charge of an organisation which attracts young idealists.

    Basically they all should have known better. As you and I and any decent person does. That’s the point of ‘the project’ (as it was called), I had hoped.

    I don’t agree with every nuance of Anna’s article, but she’s basically spot on! Well done to her.

  29. #32 “How important was the Daily Mirror in building the Deb 15th demo? How important was it that the anti-war argument managed to get onto Newsnight, and Question Time, and the Today programme?”

    Well, it was important but let’s start from the actual context. The thing to bear in mind about the Stop the War campaign was that it was a genuine mass movement. In his article in the Observer on Sunday, Nick Cohen idiotically describes it as an ‘SWP front.’ Like everything else he’s had to say on the subject of the war, he’s way off the mark. It may have been initiated by SWP members and others on the left, but it connected to a much wider sentiment and mobilized hundreds of thousands of people. We shouldn’t forget this. People from diverse walks of life contributed their own talents to it, whether it was trade unionists, community activists, artists, musicians, pensioners, school kids who walked out their classrooms or staff on the London Underground who announced the details of demos over the underground PA system.
    It was the energy of all those people that built the momentum, and that was what drew tabloids like the Daily Mirror in behind the campaign. The mainstream media, although reflexively hostile and distrustful of movements that challenge the establishment, are forced to ‘keep up’ once those movements reach a critical mass. Of course, a press office plays a useful role, but certainly not a decisive one.

  30. old timer: So the question is, once conscious of this sexual (or any) power relation, what do you do about it? If you are saying Cohen took the young women home then he is as bad.

    Sorry, much as I dislike Cohen, if a woman decides to sleep with him, OF HER OWN VOLITION, then that is up to her. Some of you appear to be conflating the consensual with the coercive.

  31. Jara Handala on said:

    Omar,

    Just a thought on the degree to which consent can EVER be freely given: if one doesn’t choose (that is control) the CONDITIONS in & thru which one finds oneself having to make a choice, how can that choice be free?

    It is this reality of control over the conditionality of action that shows how restricted is the so-called exercise of free-will, of choice, of self-determination, of one’s freedom.

    Even so there does remain a big difference between being coerced overtly, coerced subtly, &, in another dimension of conditionality, being convinced one has freely choosen what one does.

    The difficulty is identifying where a particular act sits within these dimensions of a free/coerced continuum & a self-evaluation of what one has done when one can’t help but be in conditions of alienation, of distorting ideology, of class conditions that, to use Larkin’s words, fuck you up.

    But to be honest, at this time of night, & thinking of what it may be like to be having sex with Nick Cohen, I frankly don’t care. Good luck, is all I can think of saying, & check for hidden cameras.

  32. lone nut on said:

    Anybody with the slightest connection with journalism would, I imagine, have to stifle their laughter to see Nick Cohen taking the bully pulpit in the struggle against sexual harassment. What next, Cohen on the evils of the demon drink? In any case, I gather his behaviour may have moderated since he was placed under a virtual curfew by his wife. Don’t worry, he won’t sue. And it is also worth pointing out that there was quite a lot of rape and sexual abuse at Abu Ghraib and other detention centres run by the forces Cohen so lustily championed when they invaded Iraq.

  33. John Grimshaw on said:

    I have no knowledge of whether the Cohen I briefly met was sleeping with any of those women and if he was, as long as it was consensual, I don’t care. However the man I saw was not just drunk on beer but on his own self-importance and he clearly expected his audience to be appreciative of his amazing skills as a journalist. So I find it a little strange that he then thinks he can print stuff in the Observer (in his now reduced column) having a pop at the SWP (maybe rightly) taking some kind of moral high ground. As has been said already given his support for imperialism and his strange obsession with killing Muslims, I find it strange that any sensible radical would want to have his links on the bottom of their web page etc.

  34. prianikoff on said:

    The main point is that Anna Chen’s quote in the Cohen piece was disgraceful. If she was misquoted by him, she ought to write to the “Observer” and seek an apology.
    Newman’s interview in the Swindon Advertiser equally, was a disgrace.

    What we’re seeing is a “United Front” of sectarian opportunists, the Daily Mail, Harry’s Place, the Times and Nick Cohen.

    The Stalinists on the blog treat the issue of sexual abuse in a purely factional way, contrary to the arguments of the SACP-YCL in the case of Jacob Zuma.
    These are the same people who were so convinced that there was a Hotel Bristol, that Leon Sedov had been to Copenhagen and that Ramon Mercader wasn’t an employee of the GPU!

  35. Jara Handala,

    Surely that just reiterates Omar’s point: if there is no non-coerced consent, we’d have to argue there is no substantive difference between seduction and rape. Or indeed that anyone who is famous, powerful, influential etc. is inherently unable to engage in mutually consensual and ethical sexual activity.

    Cohen has many flaws (although not stinginess, as I once found out when he was deep in his cups, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away). There’s no need for us to muse on his personal relationships.

  36. prianikoff on said:

    Get down to the substance of Manzil’s arguments and you have a hard-core right winger.
    Someone whose knee-jerk reaction is to always defend the State.
    So deep it must be a trained reflex.

  37. prianikoff on said:

    You don’t seem to realise the extent to which you’ve revealed your underlying psychological motivation already.

  38. prianikoff:
    You don’t seem to realise the extent to which you’ve revealed your underlying psychological motivation already.

    Which would be?

    I regard my underlying psychological motivation as being fear and disbelief that I might accidentally be in the same room as someone so obviously unbalanced as you, and yet not know it.

  39. Manzil: Or indeed that anyone who is famous, powerful, influential etc. is inherently unable to engage in mutually consensual and ethical sexual activity.

    And for certain sections of the “left” , you can add one more adjective: male.

  40. Jara Handala: Just a thought on the degree to which consent can EVER be freely given: if one doesn’t choose (that is control) the CONDITIONS in & thru which one finds oneself having to make a choice, how can that choice be free?

    So no sex ’til socialism? Gotcha…

  41. Jara Handala on said:

    Manzil,

    I simply made the point, & it’s not often made, that rather than just considering someone weighing their options one should step back a little & recognise that any decision we make (be it conscious or non-conscious) is necessarily made in CONDITIONS not of our choosing. (Echo of Marx & the making of history, of course.)

    And yes, it makes us realise that (independent of what physiological science can tell us) the scope for free-will is not as expansive as liberal ideas make it out to be, that it makes the idea of freely-given consent not as valid as one might have thought.

    That’s what happens when we appreciate that the CONDITIONS in & thru which we act are not conditions we have chosen; & that means there is ALWAYS coercion involved when we act, & our free-will & our giving of consent is ALWAYS significantly circumscribed, albeit varying in the degree!

    Many of us readily recognise that there is a compulsion to hire out one’s ability to work (labour power), that these coercive conditions exist, but not many of us readily say our other everyday actions might involve only a small degree of consenting & the exercise of freely given intention.

    Part of socialist politics is finding ways to communicate that that is how things are & how people can overcome their confining conditions & liberate themselves. In the last 250 years or so we haven’t been too good at this!

  42. brainwash on said:

    #16

    1. Does the SWP pay its employees the London Living Wage of £8.55 ph (£7.45 outside London)?
    2. Are the pay, terms and conditions of SWP employees the subject of collective negotiations between the recognised unions and the employer?
    3. If so, which trade unions are recognised for these pruposes by SWP?

    I worked at East End Offset(SWP printshop) between 1996 and 2003 and can say what i know from that time. People can take or leave other’s accounts of working for the SWP – obviously those of us telling our story are no friends of the Party now so may be biased but the facts are correct in my recollection.

    Firstly there was a gap between the white collar political employees and the blue collar printshop employees. There was a further divide between the officially employed staff and the ‘volunteers’ (basically cash in hand employees). I was always a ‘volunteer’ but unlike Anna Chen’s account i was always paid. Volunters received £21.25 a day in 2002-3 , believe me the amount sticks in my mind! That was for 9 till 5. However we signed on and received Housing and C/Tax benefit and JSA and i understand the official employees were hardly any better off after tax etc , they just had more security and did’nt live with the fear of the Job Centre catching us working or (as happened more than once) being sent on work training/finding courses meaning they we could’nt be at the printshop.

    The official employees were members of the Graphical , Paper and Media Union (i think thats right) and we had a Union branch (a chapel)and Union reps, however that was purely nominal.

    I did believe that what we did was for the best , the greater good and an act of self sacrifice i suppose and i still don’t regret as lot of it. We printed Private Eye at that time which was an enormous job which was a miracle that we printed it each fortnight. Most of our print runs lasted an hour or two but that took the best part of 24 hours non-stop and still the hardest graft i have ever done! – I can only guess how much the SWP was paid for that contract in particular.

    The relationship between the managers or supervisors and the employees was exactly the same as anywhere else and i can understand the possibility for abuse to exist. I was told more than once that “we are not a co-op” , i.e do as you are told. That disappointed me more than the low pay which we accepted – i did go into it with my eyes open and we were asked to commit to a period of time , maybe 3 or 5 years.

    I don’t have any horror stories but do tend to believe those of others , especially when people’s accounts are in contrast to those of the ‘leadership’.

  43. Jara Handala: And yes, it makes us realise that (independent of what physiological science can tell us) the scope for free-will is not as expansive as liberal ideas make it out to be, that it makes the idea of freely-given consent not as valid as one might have thought.

    That’s what happens when we appreciate that the CONDITIONS in & thru which we act are not conditions we have chosen; & that means there is ALWAYS coercion involved when we act, & our free-will & our giving of consent is ALWAYS significantly circumscribed, albeit varying in the degree!

    But if there “is always coercion” – an inoffensive philosophical concept, but either a useless or dangerous one legally – then the question immediately posed is: what degree of ‘background’ coercion should be regarded as qualitatively sufficient to define an act as non-consensual under the law.

    And in the context of a discussion of sexual abuse, and in regards to a situation which any reasonable definition would regard as being consensual (or, to humour the idea there is always coercion, tolerably coercive!), I think it is inappropriate to suggest consent isn’t consent.

  44. brainwash: i did go into it with my eyes open and we were asked to commit to a period of time , maybe 3 or 5 years.

    Crikey, like the army? :D

  45. Jara Handala on said:

    Manzil,

    I have argued that consent, more accurately, is ALWAYS coerced consent, because no-one ever controls & chooses the conditions in & thru which that consent is given.

    What varies is the degree of coercion. Some coercion is accepted in an unacknowledged way in EVERY act we do. Some coercion seems to be quite benign, ‘heavy’ coercion is always destructive & oppressive.

    The liberal idea of freely-given consent is inscribed in many laws. I’m simply saying that the application of law is to circumstances in a capitalist society where no consent is EVER unconstrained: coercion is ever-present.

  46. The fact that I can still remember Anna Chen’s take on Orwell is a testament to her writing abilities. ISJ literary critiques are usually dull drivel; usually you forget what you read right after you stop looking at the page.

    The SWP is guilty of wasting people’s talents instead of harnessing them and giving them free reign, but I suppose at this stage that is the least of its crimes.

  47. Jara Handala: I have argued that consent, more accurately, is ALWAYS coerced consent, because no-one ever controls & chooses the conditions in & thru which that consent is given.

    So, putting aside work, how would this change in a socialist society ? What conditions would have to exist, in the sexual scenario mentioned above, to achieve a form of “uncoerced” consent? Genuine questions.