The Weekly Worker defends Socialist Party over domestic violence/sexism row and tells more lies about AWL

Submitted by AWL on 16 January, 2014 - 11:58

(The Weekly Worker has replied to this statement; we have replied to their reply here.)

The Weekly Worker, newspaper of the "CPGB", has published an article alleging a Workers' Liberty attempt to cover up incidents of sexual abuse by a student activist (not an AWL member).

They also accuse the AWL of hypocrisy for highlighting the Socialist Party's failings in its response to allegations against RMT assistant general secretary and former SP member Steve Hedley.

We are quite used to lies from the Weekly Worker, but this looks staggeringly dishonest even by their standards. The article is either unbelievably ill-informed or a carefully constructed tissue of lies (maybe a bit of both).

Note first their virtual endorsement of the SP's "arguments" about Steve Hedley (on form, perhaps, from a group that entitled an article about the SWP's Martin Smith case "Rape is not the problem", but still slightly shocking). They come close to condemning the AWL for pursuing the issue.

Beyond that the article is full of various lies about us, but we will limit ourselves to setting out the facts of the case it refers to (contrast our exactness to the lack of facts in the WW).

1. The person accused of sexual abuse is not and has never been an AWL member, organised sympathiser, financial contributor, regular ally, etc. He has attended a few AWL public events, and mostly in 2011/12. The incidents of abuse did not take place at AWL events or have any connection with the AWL.

2. No one denies he is guilty of wrongdoing, or has published any defence of him.

3. The individual in question was expelled from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and told he is not allowed at NCAFC events. No one in the NCAFC opposed this, including the AWL. In fact he himself did not oppose or object to it.

4. He attended parts of our Ideas for Freedom event in June 2013 as a paying individual participant. At that time and for some time afterwards no one objected to his attendance. Another person planning to attend IFF asked our organisers not to bar him, but to arrange things to limit his personal contact with her at the event. We did that, and put in place other conditions designed to ensure that he would not be present at any of the socials and would be kept under observation at all times. At the time these arrangements were concluded to the satisfaction of everyone involved in the discussions. In the end he spent most of the event in the ULU bar (no alcohol, just food, tables and stalls) talking to non-AWL members who are or were his friends. (We did not publicise these arrangements, through a statement or whatever, for obvious reasons - it would have been totally inappropriate.)

5. The WW article seems to imply that the individual in question molested or abused people at IFF - which is not the case and which no one has claimed. This is so bizarre that in this instance maybe WW has genuinely misunderstood. Surely not even they could by so cynical as to consciously invent this.

6. The WW quotes a complaint about encountering him at an “event”. They claim this event was IFF but in fact it was another, non-AWL event.

7. He has attended no AWL events since IFF 2013 and we have deliberately had no political contact with him.

8. In December 2013, following further discussions on the issue and re-assessment, we contacted him to tell him he is not allowed to attend AWL events - despite the fact we had had no contact with him since June.

9. No one has left the AWL because of the case.

Of course, it is possible to think we should have handled this, or elements of it, differently. But the idea that there is any comparison with Martin Smith or Steve Hedley is not so much bizarre as surreal. The contrast with the Socialist Party's handling of the Hedley cases, and their vocal and continuing defence and promotion of Hedley – who, unlike the individual concerned here, does not admit he has done anything wrong – could not be clearer.* And we will continue to highlight the SP's disgraceful conduct over the Hedley cases, regardless of whether Weekly Worker and the "CPGB" are now among the SP's defenders.

If anyone wants to contact us about any of this, they should feel free: awl@workersliberty.org

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* The equivalent would be if we had denied the person in question had done anything wrong; published articles defending him, attacking his victims for their mental health problems, hailing him as an activist and saying we would continue to work closely with him; and then invited him to speak at a major national AWL event.