Several high-profile opinion writers and activists have vocally distanced themselves from today’s protest because of the alleged involvement of the Socialist Workers party (SWP), who they are critical of due to the handling of a rape allegation dating back to 2008.
They include Owen Jones, who organised last Monday’s Downing Street protest and co-founded the Stop Trump Coalition. He said: “I’m not taking part in tomorrow’s Trump demo because of the leading role of the SWP in it, a cult which covered up rape.”
His tweet refers to how the party set up what critics say was a “kangaroo court” to hear allegations of rape and sexual misconduct dating back to 2008 against one of the party’s senior leaders. A leaked transcript of the party’s annual conference in January 2013 allegedly showed how the leadership pleaded with hundreds of activists to trust in the committee’s verdict. Around 700 members later resigned from the group, according to International Socialism.
In a series of tweets, journalist Abi Wilkinson explained why she believed it was important to raise concerns about SWP. She said: “The anti-Trump demo tomorrow is organised by a front of the rape cult SWP. It would be unacceptable for the Labour leadership to endorse it.”
She added: “Allowing the SWP to rehabilitate their image and recruit via fronts potentially puts young people in serious danger.
“Lots of people getting newly politicised at the moment & they need to be made aware. Tell people at protests. And don’t take their placards.”
Meanwhile another writer, Ellie Mae O’Hagan, called on Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn not to ignore requests to dissociate himself from the SWP and to take a stronger line against misogyny.
Today’s protest was jointly organised by the Muslim Council of Britain, MEND, Friends of al-Aqsa, Stop the War, the People’s Assembly and Stand Up to Racism. The latter is considered by some as a front group for SWP and a way for them to recruit new members.
A spokesperson for SWP said: “It’s a great shame that on a day of such a magnificent demonstration against Trump, some people are seeking to divide the movement. This is the time for the greatest unity, not to be attacking each other.”
Trump, he said was a threat against women, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, black people and migrants and “we need to unite against him and stop his visit to Britain”.
Regarding the controversy, the SWP released a lengthy statement on the subject in October last year. It said that the woman had not wanted to go to the police so they tried to deal with the matter themselves: “[Our] internal processes did not find any of the accusations proven. None of this was a “cover-up”.
“The case was dealt with under the party’s rules applying at the time. So far as was possible while observing the confidentiality of those involved, It was fully reported to and debated at our national conference and assessed by the delegates. But it caused deep concern in the party.”
The full statement can be read here.