On the 23rd February 2016 the Socialist Party received a letter of resignation from 10 former members which accused the party of having covered up the abuse of a comrade. We rejected this accusation and replied in a statement of the 24th February. This reply can be found here:
We stand by that statement and have no need to repeat its contents, however a new comment from former comrades in Aotearoa/New Zealand has appeared in relation to the same affair, therefore a brief reply is in order.
A statement, entitled ‘Safety for women within our organisations’, has appeared on the Socialist Voice website purporting to represent “the members of Socialist Voice in Aotearoa/New Zealand.” Our understanding is that this organisation has largely dissolved, so it is unclear exactly who authored this statement, but from what we can tell it is the work of two remaining individuals.
The Socialist Voice statement incorrectly accuses the Socialist Party and the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) of having failed to consider that given accusations of abuse may be valid. As outlined previously, these accusations were thoroughly and sensitively investigated by an independent international commission with the results of that investigation presented to members of the party.
While the complainant was never sanctioned for making any allegations, or treated as if they had committed a crime, it is true that they (and their supporters) were disgraced when it became apparent that they had acted in an extremely dishonest way. Far from being silenced this small group of people were afforded their full democratic rights within the organisation, including potentially the option to form a faction and convince the majority of their views. Instead, they decided to leave the organisation and launch a slanderous campaign, rather than stay and risk the sordid details of their conduct being revealed.
In our view the Socialist Voice statement implies a position inconsistent with a material view of the world, one which was also voiced by some of those who have left our organisation in Australia. That position is that when a woman accuses a man of abuse, the woman is always to be believed in every circumstance – in this case regardless of evidence for false allegations.
Hannah Sell, a member of our sister organisation in England and Wales, noted in an article: “Some feminists argue that false accusations of male violence against women never take place, or are so infrequent that they can be discounted. There is no doubt that the oppression of women under capitalism is reflected in an ingrained tendency by capitalist institutions to dismiss women’s claims. It is much, much more common for women to not report incidents of violence against them than it is for false accusations to be made. … Nonetheless … false accusations do happen, for any number of reasons. … Capitalism distorts all human relations and this affects both sexes. To conclude that we live in a society where women and children are oppressed does not mean that you can conclude that individual women or children are never guilty of wrong-doing including making false accusations of violence against them.” (‘Combating violence against women: A socialist perspective on fighting women’s oppression’, published April 2013)
To outright reject the possibility of false accusations means abandoning a materialist approach for a form of identity politics. This would make it difficult for an organisation to play a credible role in combating real cases of abuse. In our society, it is a fact that abusers, both male and less commonly female, use a range of tools against their targets. Among these tools are the phenomena of ‘gaslighting’, of false accusations, and of character assassination.
A declaration that any accusation of abuse is to be believed despite substantial evidence to the contrary is a pledge to systematically support abusers in situations where these tools are being used. An organisation that took this approach would find itself inadvertently supporting abusers in some circumstances. Such an organisation would have little credibility in defending victims of any gender, a key component of fighting for women’s rights under capitalism.
Unfortunately the minority who have left our organisation in Australia, and those behind the Socialist Voice statement, have chosen to ignore evidence that was presented to them. In fact when a female member of the CWI International Secretariat (IS) tried to explain the investigation process to the New Zealand comrades via a Skype hook up she was verbally abused and told not to elaborate on the findings. No attempts were made by the New Zealand group to discuss the matter with CWI members in Australia.
The fact that the former New Zealand comrades chose to release an ill informed statement online instead of trying to win support for their position within the CWI only further highlights a lack of seriousness on their behalf. We agree that it is best that Socialist Voice no longer associates itself with the CWI or the Socialist Party in Australia.
Socialist Party National Committee