On the SWP

by Arran James

This is a repeat post of my post below, based on a comment on another blog. I’m reposting it because of a formatting error that makes it pretty hard to read in the previous post.

Reading a few articles over at the International Socialism blog, it becomes clear that Callinicos has attempted to defend the actions of his party’s central committee by accusing it’s accusers of attacking Leninism. Of particular interest is the polyphonic January article, in response to Callinicos, . Particularly,

‘When asked about allegations of a rape cover up in the SWP, by a workmate or fellow student or union activist, give Alex Callinicos’s answer: euphemise about a ‘difficult disciplinary case’ and then mention that Owen Jones is a Labour supporter. See if that works. See if the Party still has their respect next time it launches an initiative. Then consider that the CC, having brought about this situation by their decisions, expect you to do what they will not, which is defend it in public’.

Elsewhere, there is another multiple signatory open letter to the SWP CC from without. In that letter the signatories state that ‘The ongoing crisis in the Socialist Workers’ Party – precipitated by the handling of rape allegations against a senior party member – has raised fundamental questions about democracy, power and sexism in the organisations and culture of the left. ‘

The vertiginous sense of hilarity and horror comes from Callinicos’s claim that ‘not how socialists should behave towards one another’; whereas the CC’s kangaroo court and police mentality towards the women involved (ie: treating them as the accused, rather than the accusers) is a perfectly acceptable way to treat socialists? Perhaps women simply don’t count, or women who cry rape. There is a lesson here: good female socialists keep their mouths shut. The CC’s sovereignty must not be questioned.

Indeed, in another ISN article, China Meillville states that this is a kind of ‘magic of Political Morality’, and identifies it with idealism. One doesn’t have to overcome sexism and patriarchy if one simply asserts that one has already; one needn’t embody the principles of women’s liberation and feminism if one simply rhetorical invokes the language of the same. Yet this magical thinking goes beyond error and cover-up. It allows organisations like the SWP to assimilate feminism in order to neutralise it, and as such it partakes of those practices and ideology of the domestication of women.

In seeking to shrug off the accusations that the rape trials were handled catastrophically badly, and in continuing to see all of this as merely an inconvenience and an embarrassment, Callincos reveals that he and his central committee- or at least the court they set up- are happy to dismiss violence against women. Such a dismissal acts in conjunction with the domestication of women to produce conditions that make the exclusion of women, and violence against women, from the domain of what counts as crime and a meaningful component of socialist struggle. Above all else, this allows for the perpetuation and normalisation of violence against women.

The fact is that the court that turned on the accusers asked the question ‘Is it fair to say you like a drink’? Such obvious victim-blaming is not simply a perpetuation and normalisation at the unconscious level but is an active engagement in a kind of second-order violence against women: first there is the possibility of sexual assault, then there is the certainty of being cast as the criminal. This second order violence also opens the person who may have been raped to being re-traumatised. In Wagner, Nietzsche and Hitler in Kenyan Review , Adorno states that what we now call victim-blaming is ‘one of the most sinister features of the Fascist character’. I am not saying that Callinicos or the SWP are secretly fascist, either such accusation would be absurd- yet there is an undoubtedly a microfascism in operation in all this. As Deleuze and Guattari have it,

Leftist organizations will not be the last to secrete microfascisims. It’s too easy to be antifascist on a molar level, and not even see the fascist inside you, the fascist you yourself sustain and nourish and cherish with molecules both personal and collective.