On Saturday, a “national unity demonstration against fascism and racism” saw trade union leaders, Labour MPs, Momentum, and thousands of others turn out to march through the streets of London. The march was organised by Unite Against Fascism (UAF), Stand Up To Racism, and Love Music Hate Racism, three worthy-sounding causes backed by unworthy figures with malign intentions.
All three groups are fronts for the Socialist Workers’ Party, a far-left anti-democratic political party. The Red Roar has previously covered the reasons why the SWP ought to be boycotted in several articles. The short version is that they are accused of covering up sexual assault by a senior party figure against a young member.
After the rape scandal caused huge damage to its reputation on the left, the SWP set up several front groups to draw in new support, as well as funds, from people who might be repelled by the controversial party’s brand. Weyman Bennett, a member of the SWP’s central committee, became the co-convenor of Stand Up To Racism, Joint-Secretary of UAF, and Director of Love Music Hate Racism. Not only are the same SWP figures behind these organisations, their social media accounts regularly tweet identical messages.
Labour frontbenchers, trade union leaders, and other public figures co-signed a letter earlier this month promoting the demonstration in The Guardian, which made no mention of its organisers. This was almost certainly a conscious decision to avoid the criticism Jeremy Corbyn and others faced for addressing a 2016 demo organised the SWP. Indeed, Weyman Bennett’s name was left off the signatories entirely.
In 2016, journalists Owen Jones, Dawn Foster, Abi Wilkinson, and Laurie Penny, as well as figures from alt-left sites Evolve Politics and Novara Media, protested Corbyn’s appearance at the Stand Up To Racism event with letters, social media posts, and articles in national newspapers. This time around, that criticism was nowhere to be seen. Most of the well-known signatories of a letter calling on Corbyn to “not let the SWP rebuild itself through Stand Up To Racism” two years ago stayed silent during the weekend’s march, while Owen Jones and Aaron Bastani retweeted several posts carrying its hashtags.
So why have previously outspoken critics of the SWP given in to this “cult which covered up rape”? And why do organisations with membership numbers and resources far outweighing the SWP continue to support its front organisations?
After last year’s General Election showed that a socialist government could be in reach, many of these writers have shifted from being critical friends of Jeremy Corbyn to public cheerleaders, trading their independence for greater prominence on the left. Since the election, Labour frontbenchers’ participation in other events organised by the SWP have passed without comment. This reluctance to offer criticism lest it be interpreted as infighting may also explain why Momentum and some unions continue to support the SWP.
Whatever the Labour leader and his circle say, goes, and the leader has always made his feelings clear on the SWP.
Just as Corbyn happened to find himself alongside individuals accused of blood libel and holocaust denial in his campaigning on Israel-Palestine, he has worked with Weyman Bennett despite his role in the SWP’s rape scandal. Two years after Bennett was accused of bullying one of the complainants in the scandal, he introduced Corbyn to speak at a Stand Up To Racism and Fascism event, at which Corbyn said of Bennett: “in Weyman we have somebody very special and very principled and very good. Weyman, thanks for everything you do, have done and will do.”
Unfortunately, it appears that victims of sexual assault can no longer count on solidarity from a disciplined far-left whose sights have shifted from moral victories to impending power.