Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 23, 2016

Mass resignation from Australian section of Peter Taaffe’s CWI over abuse of women members

Filed under: sexual abuse,Trotskyism — louisproyect @ 2:51 pm

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The Committee for a Worker’s International is the aspiring Trotskyist Fourth International led by Peter Taaffe. It was one of two major groups that emerged out of Ted Grant’s Militant Tendency that had a long-term entryist presence in the British Labour Party; the other tendency is called the International Marxist Tendency and is led by Alan Woods. The CWI’s section in the USA is called Socialist Alternative and is notable for party member Kshama Sawant being elected to the Seattle City Council.

I don’t know much (anything actually) about the Australian section called the Socialist Party but the most prominent figure in the walkout is Stephen Jolly. I refer you to what Greenleft Weekly, the newspaper of the Socialist Alliance, wrote about him:

Stephen Jolly, the Socialist Party candidate for Richmond, is a high profile activist with electoral runs on the board.

He came to prominence with the campaign to reopen Richmond Secondary College in the early 1990s, and has been on the frontlines of many campaigns in Melbourne’s inner north since, including recent efforts to stop the East West Link and to defend public housing.

He was first elected to Yarra Council in 2004 with a 12% vote in his ward, and his record as a councillor fighting for working people is reflected in votes of 29% in 2008 and 34% in 2012. He received more than 9% in Richmond at the 2010 state elections.

His campaign is highly visible throughout the electorate, with numerous posters declaring the campaign slogan of “put a fighter into parliament”, “stop the East West toll road tunnel”, “cap public and private housing rents”, “plan our city for residents not developers, “free and frequent public transport”, and “protect our live music and arts culture”.

It is of course worth noting that this is pretty much a repeat of what happened to the British SWP in 2014. Does such a reoccurrence reflect a structural flaw in such “vanguard” formations? Very likely so. With so much authority vested in the top cadre that implicitly serves as the avatar of Lenin and Trotsky, there is a tendency to look the other way when cases like this develop. Keep in mind that Gerry Healy, who was the leader of the largest Trotskyist group in Britain, was expelled for preying sexually on young female members of his sect.

From Stephen Jolly’s Twitter account:

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  1. So much for the Socialist/Marxist Utopia! It’s very foolish to think about people in this way: vanguard/followers, etc. Would you agree? It’s really quite damning of the whole project, that this kind of thing happens all the time.
    I wonder if you’ll publish my comment.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — February 24, 2016 @ 4:06 am

  2. It’s not limited to left groups. All inward facing cults end up like this including neo-fascist groups and all the major religions.

    Comment by Forty five pound — February 25, 2016 @ 4:33 pm

  3. It’s not just the British SWP that had this problem. In 2012/2013 Taafe’s Socialist Party of England and Wales condoned a sexual assault on a comrade in South Wales. The assault was carried out by a union official, so don’t rock the boat comrades, especially as his subs help to keep the bloated full time party hack bureaucrats in work.

    Comment by Doug — February 25, 2016 @ 8:25 pm

  4. There are a number of flaws and false assumptions in your article. This saga is not “a repeat of what happened to the British SWP in 2014”. I won’t go into every detail due to the time I have and resources at my disposal.
    I’ll refer to the accuser and accusee as the ‘Female comrade’ and the ‘Male comrade’.

    A number of allegations were made against a Male comrade in the SP national Secretariat (The highest elected leadership body) by a Female member of the NS. These two comrades have had a long personal public history within the party over almost a decade. The Male comrade, the Female comrade, Stephen Jolly and another male comrade made up the NS. The latter three had been political allies for a number of years and were among those who quit the party. So immediately this situation is different to the SWP because it was a majority of the leadership here who were at odds with the investigators and in the end the majority of the party. Among the rest of those who left were the brother of the other male NS member, his personal friends in the party, and some inactive members. Hardly the mass exodus Jolly told his connections in the media.

    It needs to be said that among the majority of members who stayed in the party are at least three female members who have suffered sexual assault themselves, two by ex-party members in the past. In fact, the Male comrade was appointed by the Female comrade to deal with the party’s response to rapist. The Male comrade led an effort to get the ex-member banned for life from Trades Hall were SP’s offices reside. So it begs the question, why would a victim appoint their assaulter to assist dealing with a proven rapist within the party? That doesn’t make sense.
    When I first head of the allegations, my instinct was to believe the alleged victim and I asked some female comrades who had suffered sexual assault what they thought in the scheme of things in the world with rapists getting of scot-free and survivors not being believed. They said that they have that instinct too, but knowing what they knew about this case and the evidence against it, they could not reasonably believe it to be true.

    Here are the sequence of events of the investigation the party conducted.
    The Female comrade took her allegations to the International Executive Committee who appointed two comrades from two different sections, one Male, one Female to come to Australia to conduct an investigation over a number of weeks.

    Those two comrades travelled over, conducted their investigation and then brought their findings to a party membership meeting. They found that the allegations of sexual assault, attempted murder of an ex-comrade who left the party after raping a different Female comrade were false. I don’t know all the details, but a part of their findings was that the Female comrade making the allegations continually changed her account of things almost every time she was interviewed over the investigation (The allegations were said to have taken place more then a year ago, long enough that she wouldn’t have been in shock or debilitating trauma. She has continually been a full-time worker for the party with the Male comrade over many years). The Male comrade admitted to the charge of pushing the Female comrade in an incident. The international investigators recommended that both of the comrades be separated within the party, and knowing that a split was possible, the party took a vote on the findings and the majority supported the findings.

    Unhappy with the findings, the Female comrade and her supporters then demanded a new investigation using local comrades, which seems like it would less unbiased. Of course this was not going to happen so they left the party.

    This is more or less everything I know. Feel free to ask questions.

    Comment by An unbiased SP member. — April 18, 2016 @ 3:59 pm

  5. Anyone who knows a few names of people in the SP leadership can, from this, work out who the accuser and who the accused is. Wow! What a bust-up!

    Comment by Unbiased Observer — April 21, 2016 @ 2:24 am

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