The Socialist Party received a letter of resignation on 23rd February 2016, signed by fourteen people. While all those who signed the letter are known to us, at least four were not formally members of the party as they had either previously let their memberships’ lapse, or they had never been dues-paying members to begin with.
The Socialist Party takes accusations of harassment and violence against women seriously, and we have a fundamental duty to punish and take disciplinary action against any member shown to be guilty of this. We live in a society where women are routinely subject to sexual harassment, and survivors of abuse are usually disbelieved and often find no justice.
The Socialist Party completely rejects the claim that any cover-up of allegations of abuse has taken place. In other instances our international organisation, the CWI, has intervened to remove members guilty of such actions, regardless of those members’ standing within the organisation. It is exceedingly rare for claims of abuse to result in a finding of false allegations.
A series of complaints and allegations were made by one member of the party against another. An independent commission and investigation was organised to look into them thoroughly and sensitively. A two person team was selected, with two long-standing members – one a man, the other a woman – from our sister organisations in Britain and Sweden. Both have an exemplary record in dealing with these issues with concern and openness towards alleged victims.
The investigation process followed our democratically agreed structures, and was agreed to by all parties, including those who now complain about its work and conclusions.
At no stage was any attack or abuse directed at the person raising the allegations. Neither has there been any attempt to prevent anyone from raising any other issues with the investigation process. The investigators made themselves accessible to the membership, and made members aware of their progress.
At the conclusion of the investigation, none of the allegations were proven, and many were disproven.
It became apparent to the investigators that more than one person had made false and misleading allegations in recent months, in an apparent attempt to slander a party member, with a view to driving them out of the party.
Following these conclusions it was recommended that one of the people found to be providing misinformation be asked to step down from their position. This recommendation was supported by a clear majority of the membership at a democratically convened members meeting.
The allegations appear to have been made in an attempt to take advantage of our (correct) openness towards treating sexual assault claims seriously. This dishonest, undemocratic method is unacceptable to the Socialist Party, as it undermines the confidence of genuine victims of abuse in coming forward. We stand proudly by the fact that we encourage and support victims of abuse in coming forward, and will not allow this recent cynical manipulation of our politics to prevent us from doing so in future.
It is disappointing that those that did not agree with the decision have decided to leave the party. It is telling that three of the signatories comprise the majority of the former leadership body, who have discredited themselves in front of a majority of members by their actions.
They only began to challenge the investigation when it became apparent that the conclusions would run against them. Since then, they have initiated a slander campaign, on social media and in the pages of the capitalist press, against the majority who voted against them.
It is telling that these people did not attempt to appeal the decision internally, or seek to convince the majority of the members of their point of view. Without any substance to their claims, they employed tactics based on fear, threats and manipulation. One of the main arguments they employed was to demand that the false allegations be ignored in order to preserve the party’s reputation, with the implicit threat to slander the party if it did not agree with them.
We believe our reputation is better preserved by the truth.
Regrettably, one of those who conducted themselves in this way during this dispute was Cllr Stephen Jolly. We recognise the important role played by Stephen Jolly in many struggles. His role as a Yarra City Councillor fighting on behalf of working class residents over many years is fully recognised by the Socialist Party. This is a position he won due to both his own work, and to thousands of hours of work contributed by members of the Socialist Party.
Despite this, Cllr Jolly in the recent period has become increasingly estranged politically and organisationally from the membership of the Socialist Party. During the investigation, a series of allegations were also made against him by Socialist Party members, particularly concerning his social conduct and his general attitude and approach towards women. At one stage, he proposed a rotten deal disguised as a “compromise” when he realised key allegations were being found to be false. This deal proposed that the alleged perpetrator remain in the party without appropriate sanctions. We absolutely reject any such deals; if someone was found guilty as described, we would have taken appropriate action against them.
The allegations made against Cllr Jolly were such that it was highly unlikely that he would have been selected as a Socialist Party candidate at the next council elections had he remained a member. Unfortunately these events make it impossible for the Socialist Party to endorse him at the next election in any way.
The Socialist Party stands by both the integrity of the investigation and the subsequent decisions, made democratically by a majority of our membership. Our commitment to fighting against the oppression of women, and for a socialist society that is based on equality, has never been stronger. We condemn those who attempt to manipulate these issues for their own political gain, and will never allow them to weaken the struggle for women’s rights and socialism.
Socialist Party NC, 24/2/2016