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Woman’s Place UK Letter to the SWP after Abusive Protest Outside Meeting, “A Women’s Place is not in Prison”.

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Protesters Outside Women’s Place Meeting.

SWP: Stand Up to Misogyny, Racism and Abuse

Many people saw this on Twitter:

This letter expresses the views of Women’s Place. To make their position clear we reproduce it in full.

Dear SWP,

Your paper’s coverage of the protests against Professor Kathleen Stock at the University of Sussex made it clear that the SWP believes it is legitimate for women who recognise that sex is a material reality to be harassed and intimidated at their workplace. The protests have now resulted in Professor Stock being obliged to leave the university. While the piece does say that women like us should not be driven out of our jobs, it gave a signal to your members that they have your organisation’s support if they take part in such protests, whatever the professional or personal impact on the targeted woman.

D, who identifies as an SWP member on Twitter, organised just such a protest at our public meeting A Woman’s Place Is (Not) In Prison on Wednesday October 27th at the QE2 Centre in London.

D’s public Twitter feed encourages people to join the SWP. D has retweeted statements suggesting that protesting at events like ours is a form of “anti-fascist solidarity”. The same individual also tweeted the time and location of our meeting encouraging people to protest at it and described Joanna Cherry MP and women who share her opinions as “absolute Nazis”.

Almost 600 women had bought tickets to hear an all-woman panel discuss how prison punishes women for being poor, violently abused and vulnerable. It was a meeting which would have been of interest to any socialist or feminist as it was discussing the cruelties of the prison system and alternatives to it for vulnerable working-class women.

There were only about six protestors and videos of them are circulating widely online.

Our event coincided with a conference for Black people in business as part of Black History Month.

People attending our event and the Black business meeting, venue staff and our stewards were subjected to the most extreme outpouring of racist and misogynistic abuse. The apparent organiser and leader of the protest, D, and the SWP by association, bear responsibility for the protestors’ language and behaviour.

These include comments such as:

“Shut the f*ck up, you c*nt” shouted into the face of our chief steward.

“Call Weightwatchers, your body’s not doing it.”

“Your hair is minging, buy a weave.”

“Your breath smells like you’ve been eating ar*e, have you been eating her a*se?”

“Are you a lesbian? No man would want that.”

“Your breasts are on the floor, buy a bra and some hair dye too.”

“You fucking bald b*tch.”

“You’re a stuck-up b*tch.”

“I have a better body than you. Like, you have no bum. How do you sit down? What kind of man would want you? A blind man?”

“We don’t want pensioners. We don’t want dinosaurs like all you lot. You are not going to be around in 40 years. Well, 40’s a push.”

“You call yourself a woman? DIE! DIE! DIE!”

To people arriving for the Black Business event (who did not interact with the protestors):

“You went through slavery, you went through discrimination, rape, sexual harassment, the slave masters raped and sexually abused you and now you are abusing me, as a trans woman?”

“You were persecuted. You were nothing under slavery.”

“You look me in the eye. Your ancestors went through slavery and you are here. Hang your head in shame. Slave Master! Yes! Slave Master!”

“You call yourself Black people?”

“Why are you here? Are you supporting these Nazis? Are you supporting neo-Nazis?”

We are asking that the SWP openly stands up to racism and misogyny organised and facilitated by one of its members. As a self-described socialist taking part in the protest and someone who has spoken on behalf of Stand Up To Racism, D had a duty either to tell his collaborators to stop the racism, misogyny and offensive behaviour against women at the venue or to walk away from it. D did neither but instead contributed to it.

It will be apparent to you from watching the videos that our activists refused to engage with the abuse. We are committed to respectful debate on questions of sex and gender with people who disagree with us.

The intimidation to which we were subjected by people who are practising what you preach will not prevent us from organising other major events in the coming months.

We are part of a resurgent women’s liberation movement to which your group is hostile. We accept that, but we would like an assurance that if your members take your paper’s advice and protest against us that they will not permit abusive, racist, misogynistic behaviour at mobilisations for which you are politically responsible.

Some of our activists work alongside SWP members in unions and campaigns. This is an impossible relationship to maintain if people in the SWP are saying in public that we are equivalent to fascists. If this is now the approved position of the SWP it needs to be stated explicitly. If it is not, that also needs to be stated explicitly, if only for the benefit of your members who seem unclear on the question.

The best way for your organisation to do that is to publish a public statement unequivocally repudiating racism, ageism and misogyny which will remind your supporters that they are unacceptable in every circumstance.

Response from a one-time leading figure in the SWP.

This is not the first protest outside a Women’s Place Meeting:

Women’s meeting besieged by raging crowd (2019)

The Morning Star reports from Woman’s Place UK’s Labour Party conference unofficial fringe meeting.

AN ANGRY crowd besieged a Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) meeting in Brighton on Monday night, crowding and shouting: “Shame on you” at individuals entering and banging on the windows throughout in an attempt to drown out the speakers.

Protesters chanted that “WPUK is a hate group,” repeating claims by some trans activists that the feminist organisation is hostile to trans people’s rights, an assertion rejected by speakers at the event.

One woman was doused in water as she entered while a young PhD student was reduced to tears and missed most of the subsequent meeting because the “terrifying” experience brought on a panic attack.

The protest against WPUK’s A Woman’s Place is At Conference event was endorsed from the platform at Momentum’s The World Transformed event, leading to a larger turnout against the meeting, but protesters were heavily outnumbered by the 100 or so women and a few men who braved the demo and attended.

One retired female police officer said the policing of the demo was “a disgrace,” saying one protester had leaned in and screamed: “Shame on you” in her ear.

Socialist feminist campaigner Dani Ahrens said the leadership of the LGBT movement had moved away from a liberating vision as it became closer to corporate sponsors.

This Blog is not a supporter of Women’s Place.

Apart from the accusations against the SWP, whose background in well known, it seems as if this culture war is not going away.

This is not the right way to debate the issues around gender critical feminism.

It should be condemned and opposed by the left and all democrats.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 30, 2021 at 9:27 am

Posted in Free Speech, SWP

Tagged with , ,

David Miller, Socialist Worker, Spiked, and Academic Freedom.

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SWP – “Disagreeing with Miller about the significance of the Israel lobby is far less important than the need for solidarity with him now.”

Academic and intellectual freedom are serious issues at present. Socialist Worker, commenting on the sacking of Bristol lecturer David Miller, says, that the University \\\2wanted to get of Miller, probably as a result of government pressure.” Alex Callinicos continues, “When it couldn’t pin antisemitism on him, it used the hurt his remarks may have caused some students to dismiss him. This manoeuvre is typical of the senior management of contemporary universities, who operate like the bosses of businesses.

“The statement affirms Bristol’s commitment to academic freedom but this is clearly a lie. Freedom of speech is impossible if you punish people for offending others. “Galileo Galilei offended the Pope and his cardinals when he said the Earth went around the sun, but this doesn’t mean the Inquisition was justified in forcing him to recant.” (Defend David Miller and academic freedom Alex Callinicos.)

On Spiked one-time Revolutionary Communist Party Leader Frank Furedi says, “I have little time for Miller or his obsessive fantasy that Zionism is responsible for the evils of the world. But despite his warped worldview, it is still wrong for Bristol to fire him. Academic freedom is a foundational principle in university life – it is far better to challenge Miller’s abhorrent views than to suppress them.” One can only agree with these words, were they not from somebody waging his own culture-war from the National Populist HQ who says little about his own side’s efforts.

The one-time backer of No-Platform, Callinicos, says, “It’s a basic liberal precept that toleration matters precisely when one doesn’t agree with the views under attack. But we live at a time when liberal institutions such as universities don’t respect their principles.”

The problem lies there. As the SWP top-theoretician’s fellow liberal Nick Cohen righty wrote last Sunday, “As it is a familiar experience for contacts to tell me in confidence that they are frightened of speaking their minds, while pretending in public that nothing is wrong, the canard that cancel culture does not exist needs to be tackled.” Shouldn’t progressives be in favour of people wanting to speak their mind? Nick Cohen.

One would nevertheless find it hard to place David Miller in the camp of those opposed to Cancel Culture. Or Socialist Worker as a resolute defender of free speech.

Here is what Alex Callinicos wrote after the murder of our comrades from Charlie Hebdo (Paris attacks are a legacy of imperialism. January 2015),

The closest French equivalent to the Socialist Workers Party, the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA), (NOTE, a claim most people would strongly contest) issued a statement condemning the Charlie Hebdo massacre headlined “Barbaric and reactionary madness”.

Of course it was right to condemn the massacre, but the NPA was wrong to call the attack barbarism (and even, in another statement, its perpetrators fascists). This is exactly how ruling classes frame their wars in the Muslim world. 

After 9/11 George W Bush talked about a struggle between civilisation and barbarism. Ex-right wing president Nicolas Sarkozy echoed him on the steps of the Elysée presidential palace last week.

This discourse implicitly justifies the right of Western imperialist states to bring order and freedom to “backward” societies and combat “Islamofascists” worldwide.

The NPA statement goes on to accuse the attackers of “sowing terror, against freedom of expression, freedom of the press in the name of reactionary and obscurantist prejudices”. This effectively endorses the dominant identification with Charlie Hebdo—“Je suis Charlie”—with a magazine that has gloried in publishing horrible, bullying racist caricatures of Muslims.

Not much of defence of Charlie’s freedom of expression there. Those backing Charlie Hebdo, the learned theoretician asserted, stand with a bullying racist horrid weekly. Slaughtering the cartoonists, staff and people who happened to be in their offices, was not “barbarism”. It was highly inappropriate to call the murderers ‘fascists’. They, if “nasty”, were really acting as part of the “legacy of imperialism”, and the fault lies with those that bequeathed that heirloom.

In fact one see here that Callinicos and the SWP have little interest in freedom of expression, except, in the Miller case, when it suits their cause of defending a potentially larger pool of “critical scholars” and showing up university authorities.

The politics of universities, dominated by business-driven managers, and, it is said, competing staff and student identity politics of the right and self-identifying left, is not something this Blog cares greatly about. If Nick Cohen is right this culture has been inflected by narcissism, fear, ‘feelings’, by sneaks, and heresy-hunters, to put it no higher.

We are strongly in favour of free speech and the liberty of debate.

As one of the greatest defenders of this principle put it,

“Let her [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter? Her confuting is the best and surest suppressing.”
― John Milton, Areopagitica 1644.

Milton claimed to have met Gallio, besting Callinicos, “grown old a prisoner of the Inquisition, for thinking in astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought.”

A lot of the politics at play at present look like, as Milton said, attempts to “expel sin” – reducing debate to rival expressions of moral outrage. That is, liberty of expression reduced “into the power of a few”.

Milton liked people who had done a bit of ground-work, the “deep mines of knowledge”, before speaking,

“When a man writes to the world, he summons up all his reason and deliberation to assist him; he searches, meditates, is industrious, and likely consults and confers with his judicious friends; after all which done he takes himself to be informed in what h writes, as well as any that writ before him.” (Areopagitica).

Which certainly does not look like the kind of work behind the ranting about inter-faith chicken soup (and his bizarre conspiracy charts) that Miller went in for and will no doubt continue.

Or as this chap says:

Tony Greenstein started this petition to academics and supporters of civil liberties

Professor David Miller of Bristol University called for an End to Zionism and said that the Union of Jewish Students, which is affiliated to the racist World Zionist Organisation, is using Jewish students as pawns and playing on their fears of anti-semitism.

David Miller has come under vicious attack from the Jewish Chronicle and a full spectrum of Zionist organisations including the Board of Deputies of Zionist Jews, the Union of Jewish Students and a multiplicity of Zionist organisations.

In Israel they imprisoned a dissident Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour who spoke out against the racism that Arab citizens of Israel experienced.  We refuse to allow Israel’s undemocratic norms to become the normal in this country.

We support Professor Miller’s right to speak out about Zionism and the racist State of Israel.

It is not David Miller who should be condemned but the Zionist movement and a state that refuses to supply vaccines to the 5 million Palestinians under its control whilst inoculating its own Jewish citizens.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 6, 2021 at 11:34 am

Should the Left Back Insulate Britain or Condemn them as an Elitist Hobbyists?

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Desperate woman following mum's ambulance begs Insulate Britain protesters  to move as they block four corners of London

Climate Protest as a Disruptive Hobby.

“For Hobbyists, their left wing politics are their identity, their raison d’être, and the source of much of their self-worth. But unlike earlier radicals, they are not at the vanguard of any movement, but are instead largely removed from the groups they seek to represent.”

David Swift. A Left for itself, Left-wing Hobbyists and Performative Radicalism. Zero Books. 2019.

Swift harked back to groups that claim to stand for a variety of inter-sectional struggles, and he made a sweeping judgement. But you can’t help feeling that the Climate Change and Insulate Britain movements fit the hobbyist bill.

Following the set back to the governing prospects of Corbynism and distant from the mass labour movement they also mark a return to the leftist folk politics of direct action.

A difference with the identity left or right is that they claim to stand for the whole human race and planet, if not a few more things besides. This is the basis on which to act in elitist vanguard ways. They have so far succeeded in alienating ordinary people without an express interest in their cause but have also cut them off from a large section of potential supporters.

Today it is blocking roads. Not long ago it was a variety of counter-produtive actions.

Such as this one:

One of the most ridiculous actions of Extinction Rebellion in East Anglia was the defacement of Ipswich Borough Council’s Offices in Russell Road. In February 2021 a spin off from the movement, Burning Pink, they sprayed the front of the building with large graffiti. Ipswich Council has a Labour majority and takes the issue of Climate Change very seriously.

Two women have been arrested after the main office of Ipswich Borough Council was daubed in pink graffiti by members of a political party.

The council’s Grafton House office in Russell Road was targeted by environmentalists on Monday morning, February 15.

A message in bright pink paint reading “tough love” and “12 demands ultimatum” was sprayed on the front door and windows and the Burning Pink party has claimed responsibility.

Several police cars attended the scene, while the council’s graffiti team removed the message early Monday morning.

A spokesman for Burning Pink confirmed the party were behind the vandalism, which came as part of a move against 15 councils nationwide who in their opinion have failed to act on their promises after declaring a climate emergency.

This is what the left of centre and Green conscious Council said,

The group that is thought to have carried out this vandalism is making demands around climate change. However, the council has already declared a climate emergency, has been reducing its carbon footprint for years and has a plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

“Just last week the council’s executive agreed to acquire a site for a new carbon neutral depot to run key services from; we’ve already spent millions on new electric and lower emission vehicles, made thousands of council houses more energy efficient through solar panels and better insulation and have planted hundreds of new trees.

“Climate change is everyone’s responsibility – while the council is playing its part, the government and others need to do their bit too.”

Burning Pink, campaigning on climate change and plans to abolish democracy and replace it with a system of citizens’ assemblies chosen by lot to reflect the’ real’ poulation, got these votes.

Date of electionConstituencyCandidateVotes%Position
2021 London mayoral electionLondon-wideValerie Brown5,3050.2%20th (last)
2021 Bristol City Council electionWindmill HillRachel Lunnon901.7%9th (last)
2021 Ipswich Borough Council electionSt Margaret’sSue Hagley781.2%5th (last)
2021 Oxfordshire County Council electionHanborough and Minster LovellDave Baldwin340.9%5th (last)
2021 Suffolk County Council electionSt Margaret’s and WestgateTina Smith1682.1%7th (last)

The latest incarnation of this mouvance is Insulate Britain, ““set up by people in XR and related networks”.

This elitist group is shy about how its internal decisions work. It is suspected that it works by ‘consensus decision making’ between a handful of activists. There is no democratic membership structure. Those prepared to engage in the vanguard politics of blocking roads are largely self-selected. The nature of the protests, which involve potential physical harm to motorists and demonstrators, as well as arrests, excludes mass participation and promotes those willing to ‘sacrifice’ themselves.

Socialist Worker argues that the left should support the campaign.

Climate activists are right to block roads (21st September.)

The Tories and right wing media have launched huge attacks on the climate action group, Insulate Britain. But Sophie Squire argues that in the face of government inaction and repression it’s right for protests to be disruptive.

But the Tories and the right wing press have whipped up a backlash against the “eco mob” and “enviro zealots”.

The left must not line up behind this onslaught and has to defend the need for protests to be disruptive.

The SWP does however note, “Direct action is most effective when large numbers of people take part. Thousands participating in this kind of action at the Cop26 protest could not only block a road but have the power to shut down a whole city.”

This is what people are increasingly saying,

But with their actions causing further division rather than instigating positive change, what are they actually trying to achieve? If it just to raise awareness of climate change – then the vast majority of people agree that something needs to drastically change. However, blocking roads is clearly causing nothing but harm to everyday working people’s lives.

The below are reasons why Insulate Britain are getting spurned:

Few are going to listen to this,

 Insulate Britain released a statement saying: “We share the frustration of the people being delayed on the roads today. Does our government know what to do? The disorder on the roads today suggests otherwise.

“The Insulate Britain protests could end immediately, the government has a choice: make a meaningful statement that we can trust on insulating our homes, or make the decision to imprison those people who are more scared of the destruction of their country than they are of fines or a six-month sentence.”

The self-regarding final sentence says it all.

The voice of would-be martyrs stands out as that of elitist hobbyists.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 4, 2021 at 5:30 pm