Since this news broke, different parts of the labour and radical movement have treated the SWP differently. Seeing as they still haven't openly and honestly accounted for their disgusting behaviour, I'm of the view of shunning them, actively avoiding them, and making it clear they're nothing but pariahs is the best way of dealing with them. Zero tolerance of sexual violence in our movement means zero tolerance of those who alibi and brush it under the carpet. Others believe in attacking SWP stalls, which in my opinion is self-indulgent and narcissistic. Nevertheless, the SWP have soldiered on trying to rebuild their battered reputation, which is a labour of Sisyphus every time a new recruit or contact Googles the party's history.
As a Leninist outfit, the SWP has long worked behind the scenes in a number of front groups. Set up an organisation dedicated to a particular issue, campaign, and draw people into the party by being the "best builders" of "the movement". One area the SWP have always placed much emphasis is anti-fascist and anti-racist work. Since the success of the Anti-Nazi League in the late 70s and its resurrection in the 90s, the transformation of the ANL into Unite Against Fascism in the early 00s, and foundation of Love Music Hate Racism and Stand Up to UKIP, this has been a fertile seam for party recruitment. And, to show fairness to the SWP's record, it has played an essential role in mobilising protests against the likes of the BNP, the English Defence League, and latterly the occasional real world manifestation of the Britain First Facebook group. That isn't to say there aren't problems with the various approaches to anti-fascism the SWP and its fronts employ, but that's a separate debate.
Fast forward to now. Obviously, in light of the Brexit vote and Theresa May's wrexit speech, the increase in reported hate crime since June, and the continuing exploitation of race and immigration by politicians of the right and the ostensible left, racism is all set to become more of a football. Therefore this weekend's Stand Up to Racism conference is timely and potentially important. The one problem, however, is despite having a steering committee staffed with the great and the good of the labour movement, its co-convenors are Weyman Bennett of the SWP and Sabby Dhalu, also of
And yet the Labour leader turned up anyway.
Disappointing isn't the right word. A phrase full of expletives would perhaps about cover it. And so much for upping his game. Perhaps Jeremy thought that it was important to speak at an anti-racist event by an organisation presided over by Diane Abbott because, well, not doing so might have been interpreted as a snub within days of her appointment. Perhaps he thought it was important to be seen speaking out against racism and bigotry, and this was a convenient platform to do so from. I don't know, and chances are you don't either. But from his point of view, it's so incredibly stupid and reckless.
Jeremy has a commanding bedrock of support in the party, but there is a tension between two broad wings within this base. There's the sweep of reluctant Corbynists, Labour lefties, and others who want to get on with the business of building a broad based movement with the potential of taking Labour to power. On the other, there's the wave of very enthusiastic Corbyn supporters who tend to be totally fresh to politics but unwavering in their loyalty to Jeremy because of the ideas he represents. Mixed in here too are a few old hands whose politics are principled but allergic to adapting them to the concrete situation. Whether he intended to or not, Jeremy today provided cover for the SWP. He affirmed them as a legitimate part of our movement. And for a chunk of his support, especially those who've encountered the SWP (and that would be a good proportion of his seasoned extra-parliamentary activist milieu), this is the sort of thing disconnect and distrust is made of. Especially given the vile nature of the allegations at the centre of the SWP's cover up. And this could serve to prise apart the coalition of the left his leadership rests on.
If the spiking of Clive Lewis's conference speech and his subsequent move from shadowing defence was the first crack in the Jez monolith, this could well be the second.
Correction 10/10: According to his staff, Jeremy was originally booked to do an event in Scotland that clashed with Saturday's conference was cancelled, and so apologies were sent accordingly. When this was cancelled he elected to speak at SUTR. He did not pull out and then go as suggested here. Nevertheless, the rest of the piece remains the case. He knows well who the SWP are, and he also knows what they've done