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The left must put its house in order on women's rights

This weekend (2-3 November) the socialist organisation called the Socialist Party will hold its “Socialism 2013” event at University of London Union. I am making a statement on this for the same reason I made a statement on the Socialist Worker Party’s “Marxism” event taking place here in the summer.
 
Although it has been less widely reported than the SWP’s “Comrade Delta” controversy, the Socialist Party is linked to comparable cases involving abuse of women's rights.
 
Earlier this year, Steve Hedley, at the time an SP member, and an Assistant General Secretary of the RMT trade union, was accused by his former partner Caroline Leneghan of violent physical and psychological abuse. Not just the SP’s practical response to this incident, but the content of its public statements on the issue, was extremely bad, indicating serious issues with the organisation’s politics on women’s rights.
 
One cannot go into detail here, but you can read in great detail about it all in Caroline Leneghan’s statement and in http://womensfightback.wordpress.com/2013/10/13/hedley/ (these notes explaining the case and the SP’s role). Warning: these contain discussion of violence against women and in the first case photographs of injuries.
 
(The formal RMT investigations into the allegations against Steve Hedley are now concluded. The RMT decided to take “no further action” - not because Hedley was exonerated, but for reasons explained in the notes linked to above. We are obviously not trying to reopen these investigations. This statement is about the Socialist Party's response to the case.)
 
The SWP’s handling of the Martin Smith case was also extremely bad, but there has been major dissent, argument and struggle over it inside the SWP – even splits. At least as far as we can see, there has been little similar in the SP.
 
In addition, Steve Hedley is documented as making a number of very aggressive and sexist verbal attacks towards a young woman activist online – see her blog. These comments are a matter of record and were made at a time when he was an SP member, and RMT AGS, yet neither organisation has said anything about them. Why?
 
I call on Socialist Party members to challenge their leaders over these issues and their handling of them, and fight for them to be discussed properly in their organisation. I say: you owe it to the women involved, and to the health of our movement.
 
I say again: the left needs to put its house in order on women’s rights urgently.
 
 

Daniel Lemberger Cooper

University of London Union Vice-President (2012/13 & 2013/14)
Twitter: ULUVICEPRESDLC
07840136728