Across Britain people have been galvanised to take action over Trump, with protests taking place ever since his "Muslim ban" came into effect. Last Monday I spoke at a massive rally outside Downing Street where tens of thousands of people gathered to both protest the executive order and call out our own government's immigration policies. There was a popular feeling in the air and for once it seemed possible to have diverse voices all speak up with those directly affected by Trumps policies.
Today in Grosvenor Square at the US embassy more folks have come out to continue the movement opposing Trump. It's important the pressure hasn't let up, but if I could attend I wouldn't have because Stand Up To Racism – a group heavily organised by the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) – have taken a leading role in calling for this protest. Perhaps you've never heard of them but I think their role will hamper rather than bolster this movement. Let me explain why.
In 2013 rape allegations involving a senior figure within the SWP became public knowledge and from there emerging claims simply got worse. Instead of supporting the woman who came forward much of their party’s leadership stood by their fellow central committee member and fought a brutal battle against all those who questioned their behaviour, according to reports. Having come forward to address the sexual violence she'd suffered, one woman was reportedly subjected to questioning by the party’s disputes committee about whether she “liked to have a drink”.
In the end many members left over the alleged cover up and leadership culture, yet the party itself continues – albeit much smaller than they once were – with a leadership strikingly like the one it had three years ago. Ever since fierce factional fights ended with expulsions and a membership exodus nothing has been done to address the allegations of a toxic rape culture at the SWP.
Stand Up To Racism is just one of the organisations the SWP holds huge power in and is using to rehabilitate its reputation. Having surrounded themselves with a broad group of allies under the umbrella of an anti-racist front they once again get to call large demonstrations and attempt to control burgeoning social movements. Their papers, placards, leaflets and remaining members will be all over today’s protest. But I'm afraid many attending will not see or hear their history.
Creating mass, popular movements is important and that will likely be the only way to beat back Trump and his ilk. That sort of politics will also be critical if we're to address racism here in the UK and win our own arguments over immigration and Islamophobia. But if we're going to avoid past mistakes it's important to pay attention to who’s allowed in leadership positions at these protests. I do not want to be led by those accused of behind the alleged SWP rape cover up.
Misogyny and rape culture cannot become easy compromises in the service of a greater cause. Dealing with women's oppression is not in opposition to dealing with racism. In fact we know well that Trump is guilty of both racism and misogyny – what sort of movement against him would ignore either?
Rape culture is definitely a poisonous social problem. The case of Stand Up To Racism is now an opportunity for us to stand up to rape culture across the board. If we take a hard line stance against the SWP, refuse their attempts at re-emerging without addressing the great harm they've caused, it's also good practice for ending widespread apology for sexual violence and sexism. If mass movements aren't possible without opposing toxic patterns of behaviour it might be that we’re not ready for that yet.
But I don't believe that – we can beat Trump without ignoring either women or victims of racism.
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