Feminists and student activists stuck posters up on the ULU building today, some with the ULU statement on them, some with other slogans criticising the SWP leadership's behavior.
Immediately, a number of SWP members - some wearing red organiser t-shirts (they say "team" on them in arty white lettering), mostly not - run at the people with the posters, tear them down, and rip them out of their hands. They shout at us that we are sectarians, that we know nothing, that we're "idiot kids."
Before long, seeing that the aesthetics of the situation don't look good, a canny organiser shuffles around and then up to me and Dylan Tynan. "Comrades, step back and let the women tear the posters down."
Then, a stallholder from Bookmarks approaches me head on - yes, me, the big man standing around, not any of the far better versed and more experienced and eloquent women activists who are all around me - and talks at me for several minutes. He prods me intermittently and gets gradually closer, in a monologue that is mostly focused on the fact that I know nothing and am just "a fucking student", and his intention to sue ULU for the money for room bookings because its officers were "disrupting" the event. (If the definition of "disruption" includes putting posters up, then perhaps that accounts for why the SWP leadership has such a compulsorily optimistic account of how much they are "disrupting" the state and capitalism).
"Look," he says "there are people here from Syria and Greece". That's right, comrades, keep quiet about this feminism stuff - god knows what foreign dignitaries will make of all the fuss you're causing! Eventually he calls me a posh boy and walks off. "Yes, that's what you are." "What do you mean posh?" "You, you're all fucking posh boys".
Sitting outside just afterwards, I overhear two stallholders. "Well, you were an eyewitness account to that." The other replied: "Yeah, *and* we sold out of papers three times."
Earlier, I had an altercation in the corridors with a much younger event staffer. He also shouted loudly that I was a sectarian etc and should focus on "real campaigns" (because I don't do any of those, you know). He later berated me for being in the Labour Party... "wait", I said, "how do you know I'm in the Labour Party?" (The subtext of this being: I'm not in the AWL and disagree with them on a lot of stuff; and given that this guy didn't know who I was, he could only haven drawn that conclusion if he had been briefed to think that *anyone* handing out ULU statements was in the AWL, the dastardly dastardly AWL).
It is not sectarian to challenge rape apologism and sexism in the left. It would sectarian to allow this continue, inside our movement, inside your own student union, without saying anything at all; how much more sectarian is it to shut down debate and shout down dissent and bark cultishly at anyone who says otherwise? None of the people who shouted at me, or who I could hear shouting, were interested in arguing: they were interested in denying anything was wrong, and calling people names.
I have never had a more encompassing afternoon to summarise the aggression, the sexism, the cultishness, the refusal to address anything other than with slurs and incantations that pervades some parts of the left, than today. And I don't mean that I'm denouncing everyone in the SWP, or trying to recruit you to something else (there's nothing else that I'm even a member of). What I mean is that if this is what the biggest socialist organisation in Britain looks like, I hate to think what a socialist society run by it would look like, let alone our prospects of ever getting there.
The SWP would institute a Stalinist dictatorship, pure and simple. They need to be opposed at every turn.