Open letter to the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers’ Party from union activists

We are all union activists who work with SWP members in our union branches, in the various democratic bodies in our unions and in the wider union movement. Some of us have SWP members in our workplaces, some of us participate in SWP led campaigns or vote for SWP members in elections. Many of us, whatever our politics, recognise that our SWP comrades can be relied on to speak up for our class and union members’ interests, to be at the forefront of campaigns, to turn up on picket lines, and to support those of us who are victimised for our union activities.

For these reasons, we have not been able to ignore the recent crisis in the SWP. We have been concerned, and at times appalled, as we have heard about complaints being swept under the carpet in 2011, disciplinary committees including close friends of the accused, women quizzed about irrelevant details of their behaviour and drinking habits, SWP members instantly dismissed for discussing these matters, while another member who has been the subject of complaints continues to represent SWP campaigns, and the revelation that the word ‘feminist’ is used as an insult within the party.

No one is saying that other left organisations have an unblemished record when it comes to dealing with sexism, sexual harrassment, or sexual assault, but the SWP Central Committee now appear to be ignoring the many voices both inside and outside their party who are telling them that they have got it badly wrong. Instead, Alex Callinicos wrote an article that avoided all mention of the women involved, and dismissed accusations of harrassment, and worse, as “gossip”. It is clear that the CC are not listening to the significant number of members who are expressing their dismay at recent events.

While many of us welcome the recent open letter from academics and others who speak at SWP events, our message to you is different. We are not saying we won’t work with SWP members. That isn’t even an option, while we are in the same unions we will of course be working side by side. But, your members are right, it has changed things. We are dismayed, we are appalled, we feel uncomfortable round SWP members unless we know that like many of your members, they are equally appalled.

If the CC continue to respond by ignoring the issue or closing down debate, as well as losing some great activists, you are going to find your remaining members have a harder time organising, campaigning, and making connections with other union members, through no fault of their own, but through the fault of their Central Committee, who are putting them in an impossible position.

Fortunately there is still time to reconsider, and we hope that you do.

All names in a personal capacity.

Glyn Harries, UNISON Local Govt
H. Akram, UNISON Health
Holly Smith, GMB
Harry Stephens, UNISON HE
Jack Green, UNISON Local Govt
James Collins, UNISON Health
Jon Rogers, UNISON Local Govt
and UNISON National Executive Committee
Kirstie Paton, NUT
Louise Lambe, UNISON HE
Marshajane Thompson, UNISON Local Govt
and chair of UNISON United Left
Mille Wild, UCU
Naomi Bain, UNISON HE
Phil Dickens, PCS
Richard Brodie, UCU
Dan Jeffrey Lambeth UNISON
Jon Fanning York UCU/IWW
Mark Lancaster PCS
C. Gent UCU and IWW
Mark Boothroyd UNISON Health
Ronnie Williams IWW and USDAW
Rastco Novakovic, BECTU
Ed Lewis, NUT
Kirsten Hey, UNISON
Jason Travis, Manchester NUT
Chris Wellbrook, Sheffield IWW branch secretary
Floran Astraneiri, IWW
Aaron Peters, UCU
Andrew Berry, UNISON Local Govt.
Keith Ames-Rook, West Mids IWW / UNISON
Helen Sheridan, PCS
Andy N, York IWW
Conor McC, NUT
Steve Mills, UNISON/IWW
Marion Hersh, UCU, STUC LGBT Workers’ Committee and IWW
Cath Elliott, Unison Regional Convenor Eastern region
Richard Smith, UNISON
Tala Birch, Unison and IWW
Dee Leary, PCS
William Brownings, Health & safety Rep, UCU
Doug Rouxel, UCU & UCU Left Steering Committee.
Tom Davies (NUJ national executive)
Jonathan Meacock, Unite
Sarah Feeney, UNISON Local Govt

If you are a union rep and would like to add your signature, please email

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Open letter to the SWP

This letter has been sent to the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers Party and other party members.

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. We believe that the way in
which the central committee of the SWP has handled the situation, and
its lack of a reasonable response to the legitimate protests voiced by
many of its own members, as well as others on the left, point to
issues that cannot simply be swept under the rug.

We have all previously participated in events and initiatives promoted
by the SWP, including the annual Marxism festival, or written for its
publications. We continue to value the commitment and work of many SWP
members as trades unionists, activists and comrades. Nonetheless, we can no
longer in good conscience participate in SWP publications and platforms
until the party recognises and seriously addresses the legitimate
criticisms of its handling of this case and the ensuing crisis.

Greg Albo, Abbie Bakan, Jairus Banaji, Matthew Beaumont, Nicholas Blincoe, Robert Brenner, Sheila Cohen, Gail Day, Steve Edwards, Nadine El-Enany, Samuel Farber, Phil Gasper, Peter Hallward, Adam Hanieh, Owen Hatherley, Sarah Irving, Owen Jones, Paul Kellogg, Brian Kelly, Conor Kostick, Robert Knox, David McNally, Kim Moody, Adam Morton, Kevin Murphy, Alf Gunvald Nilsen, Ilan Pappé, Laurie Penny, Charles Post, Nina Power, Gregory Schwartz, Julian Stallabrass, Peter Thomas, Alberto Toscano, Daniel Trilling, Thomas Walpole, Jeffery Webber, Rafeef Ziadah

If you have previously participated in events and initiatives promoted
by the SWP, and would like to add your signature, please email Comments to this post are closed.

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