In her article “Don’t ban the SWP!” (Solidarity 344) Cathy Nugent argues, rightly, I think, that we should “challenge and protest”, “try to discuss with” SWP members, not try to ban.
Along the way, though, she drops in the assertion: “There is no doubt whatsoever that the SWP has been guilty of rape apologism, of denying the complaints of rape by women in their organisation”.
I still think what I wrote in Solidarity 281: “The SWP leadership’s approach, over two years and more, was to steer as near as it could to bureaucratic brush-off”. But: “Such wrong attitudes do not make them ‘rape apologists’.”
Bodies investigating rape charges should have a default, fallback assumption that there is a crime to be investigated. But there must still be room for due process, for “innocent until proven guilty”, for the possibility of finding that a particular charge does not have enough evidence.
Pat Stack, chair of the disputes committee which heard a rape charge against then SWP organiser Martin Smith, dissociated from the committee report and later quit the SWP with RS21. He said that there was inadequate evidence for the rape charge, but Smith was guilty of sexual harassment.
Is he right? I don’t know. We don’t know. But we haven’t heard Stack, or the SWP for that matter, saying, as rape apologists do, that there was sex without consent, but “what else could she expect?”, or “she was asking for it”, or “she had no bruises or cuts, so it couldn’t be rape”, or such.
The SWP leaders’ bureaucratic brush-off (which very many SWP members have protested about, to one degree or another) is quite bad enough to bring them condemnation. Verbally inflating that condemnation into a claim that the SWP, as such, is “rape apologist”, feeds the culture on the left where every perceived mis-step becomes, not cause for debate, even angry, hot debate, but cause for banning (“racist”, “misogynist”, “pro-imperialist”, “Islamophobic”, etc.)
Worse, that verbal inflation culture chooses “soft targets” (smaller groupings on the left). No-one tries to ban the Tory Party as being, as such, “rape apologist”.