This month two ‘left-wing’ feminist comrades decided to circulate a petition in light of the recent rape allegations regarding the SWP and a current case regarding Domestic Violence (DV) concerning an internal investigation concerning an official in the RMT, who also happens to be in the SP. I reproduce the petition below.
“We the undersigned labour movement activists stand in solidarity with all women opposing all forms of male violence against women. We recognise that male violence against women is endemic in society, and that our movement is obviously and unfortunately not exempt. We believe that our trade union and labour movement has the potential to transform society for the better. Therefore we have a particular responsibility to confront and challenge male violence against women within our movement. Male violence against women is not acceptable in any case. It must not be tolerated from those who hold office or power in our movement. We recognise the enormous challenges faced by women victims of male violence, and the pressures which women face, including from abusive men, not to complain about violence and abuse. We therefore believe that, when women complain of male violence within our movement, our trade unions and political organisations should start from a position of believing women.
We believe that all women who complain of male violence have the right to be listened to and supported. All labour movement activists have a responsibility to work to ensure that our movement is a safe space for women. Because we stand in solidarity with all women opposing male violence we accept that we have a responsibility to women throughout our movement, whether or not we are members of the same trade union or the same political organisation.
We therefore address these demands to all trade unions and political organisations which are part of our labour movement.
Marshajane Thompson and Cath Elliott”
On the surface of it, who can disagree with the belief that no woman in the trade union movement should ever suffer DV from a fellow trade unionist or comrade in a political party. However I hope that we can move beyond the surface and look a bit deeper, given that this will no doubt become part of a motion for the TUC conference. This petitions aim is ostensibly to make left-wing men reject; sexism, domestic violence, rape, etc, although it has to be said that this is what most trade unions and left-wing groups do anyway.
“Hecuba” from the comments section on the wordpress site “Making the Movement Safer for Women”…sums up, what it is the authors of this petition really want to achieve; “I wholly support this statement which does not capitulate but names male violence against women as the primary oppression all women continue to be subjected to. The Trade Union Movement has a duty to ensure that whenever a woman/women speak out and charge a male, particularly a male who holds political/Union power, she is not immediately dismissed as ‘a liar’ but is believed. Too many men, particularly those males within the political left are continuing to enact their male pseudo right to dominate/oppress women. We must also focus on the immense problem of men within Trade Unions and/or left wing politics who continue to oppress women and these men use cunning and guile to ensure they are never held accountable for their male oppression of women.
Silence enables men to continue to oppress women, which is why it is essential women work together to support each other and believe women whenever they bravely speak out and hold a male/males to account. Male violence against women will never be eliminated until such time as women speak with one voice – enough – women are not innate liars, but powerful men use their power to ensure this misogynist myth remains ‘truth’ rather than male created fiction.
Jennifer Drew Scottish Women Against Pornography”.
My main problem with the above and below is that it rather negates any trade union/left-wing political party from having an internal investigation, in order to try and sort out the truth, because if the woman is to be “automatically beleived. It also puts reps/officials into the uncomfortable position of having to investigate the private lives of members. A task that they are not trained for, in the same way that the same people above and below were so vorciferously condemning the SWP Disputes Committe for. Rather than just everyone feeling that if they do not sign/or have misgivings being made to feel like they endorse violence against women.
I feel that if we do perport to the notion that “our trade union and labour movement has the potential to transform society for the better”, then despite it being an admittdedly emotive subject, that we should look at this as calmly as possible. Which includes looking at the state on men facing DV, DV amongst the gay community, etc.
If we are truely serious about taking a stand for a better world that see’s domestic violence become a shadow from the past, then the way to start is not with peitions written in an atmosphere in which one fears being denounced if one does not sign.