A response to the AWL on SWP and “no-platform”

So, the AWL recently published an article about why, although the SWP did indeed do something bad, no-platforming them is out-of-order. Here is my response, which you can find in the Mayday issue of their magazine.

The people who are effectively “no-platformed” now are people who cannot be around the SWP. The no-platform policy is not a magic wand we can wave, even at fascists. Organisations and individuals must be held accountable, by everyone, everywhere, for everything. There is no difference between “politically confronting” someone and what people are doing when they shout them down (as on the Glasgow bedroom tax demonstration).

This is different from wanting to no-platform the SWP for chanting “we are all Hezbollah” (even though such chants already make people like me feel essentially excluded from demonstrations in solidarity with people in Palestinian territories). There is a mass movement within the SWP and the wider left contesting them around the issue of women’s rights, but not around the Hezbollah chants. All companies exploit their workers, but we only target specific ones when there is a live struggle against them.

Also, you can ignore the Palestinian issue when marching alongside the SWP about something else, but when you’re a woman you can’t ignore the issue of women when you see them around – be it on a bedroom tax demo or on a May Day march. It’s just another slap in the face from the patriarchy, and either you fight back, end up beaten up (I’ve never won a fight in my entire life) or in jail, or you submit, go away, and drown your humiliation in alcohol and other distractions.

It is obvious that the acts of protest taken up by many different individuals and semi-formal groups, be it the attempts by part of the SWP to challenge its constitution, or people challenging them when they see them in public spaces, must be supported, but also open to criticism, like any other acts, on the basis of whether they are politically sound and as efficient as they can be. The anger at the current SWP’s policy of ignoring that there is an issue at all is not going to go away. Making the organisation acknowledge there is something wrong with its behaviour is a clear first step, and a difficult one at that. We do not have to use the term “no platform” (which it is not, by the way. We would argue the tactic used by Glasgow comrades takes root in the gay liberation direct action practice known as zap, and makes much more sense in its proper context), as it has strong connotations, but if we are to have any effect at all on an organisation that has managed to be so dismissive and rigid up to now, shock-and-awe tactics making it impossible for them to function are in order, as long as they refuse to acknowledge any problem.

We might have different views on the issue of organisation, different ends and methods as well, some might be against all hierarchies and centralism, some might think this case is just the matter of a bad apple. But none of us want, anywhere in the social movement, a structure which allows and condones the structural oppression of anyone. Despite all the horror, disgust and self-doubt this case caused, it is a chance to build real unity, between people as disparate as the original SWP dissenters, queer and feminist activists, Marxists who are boycotting the Sidney Historical Materialism which allows Solidarity, a local group who supports whole-heartedly their sister organization, the SWP, to give talks, and of course, the ever-ready anarchists. These events were hard on us all, they made us question what we stand for and what we might be allowing to happen around us, we now need to think about healing, and take collective responsibility in a feminist and revolutionary way.


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