Guilt by association: Jeremy Corbyn, Weyman Bennett, racism and rape

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the controversial Stand Up To Racism conference on Saturday. Was he right to attend? [Image: Socialist Worker.]

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the controversial Stand Up To Racism conference on Saturday. Was he right to attend? [Image: Socialist Worker.]

This is a thick tangle to unpick.

It seems Jeremy Corbyn is again under attack – this time for attending and speaking at a ‘Stand Up to Racism’ (SUTR) event on Saturday.

It has been asserted that he should not have attended because another speaker at the event was Weyman Bennett, a co-convenor of SUTR and (we’re told) a central committee member of the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP). I have to include “we’re told” in that description because I haven’t yet found a list of SWP central committee members. He is definitely joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism (UAF), though.

In a letter signed by many organisations and individuals we might all recognise, available to read here, it is claimed that the SWP and its members should not receive support because of the way two female members were treated after they made allegations of rape against a central committee member known only as ‘Comrade Delta’. It seems they were subjected to a ‘kangaroo court’ in which they were asked victim-blaming questions about their behaviour and drinking habits. The allegations were subsequently dismissed.

The letter goes on to make the very broad claim that the whole of the SWP – every member – collectively disregards rape and sexual violence, and that its front organisations including SUTR should receive no support.

My problem with that is, I do not believe that rape and sexual violence are ignored by everybody in the SWP. I don’t know how many members that organisation has, but I’m willing to bet it is diverse enough that the claims against those who ran the ‘kangaroo court’ – if accurate (and the SWP strongly denies that they are) – reflect the behaviour of only a small number of members. That is not to justify their behaviour in any way, if true.

Mr Bennett does not appear to have been involved in this matter, although their are claims that he is complicit – for which I would like to see substantiation. The two judges were Amy Leather and Pat Stack, according to a Guardian report.

The article states that the two women who made the allegations were subjected to intimidation in order to prevent them from divulging their evidence elsewhere and the matters were not taken to the police. Why not? If they could talk to a national newspaper, why not the police?

As for SUTR being a front for the SWP: SUTR’s president is Labour’s shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott. One of the vice-chairs is Kate Osamor, shadow international development secretary. You can see why Mr Corbyn might have been invited to attend this organisation’s event. Other members are listed here, so you can look up their own affiliations yourself. The claim that it is an SWP front doesn’t seem to stand up.

So we have a claim that Jeremy Corbyn should not speak at an event organised by a group that isn’t a front for the SWP, because he would be standing alongside a man who wasn’t involved in the SWP’s (alleged) cover-up of rape allegations against a senior member.

That’s what I’m getting from all of this. Correct me if you think I’m wrong, but make sure you have evidence that shows clear connections between the allegations and the people to whom they relate.

Novara Media’s Aaron Bastani has claimed the SUTR event was organised by the SWP because it is mentioned on an SWP ‘upcoming events’ page:

But the same page mentions a Momentum event, British Medical Association strikes, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, Black Lives Matter and others. Are they all SWP front organisations? (I note that Black Lives Matter is also a signatory of the letter urging headline speakers including Mr Corbyn not to attend Saturday’s SUTR event.

It has been claimed that Mr Corbyn was shown an earlier version of the letter and his office then said he would not be attending – but then he changed his mind and attended anyway. Some have asserted that he lied about not going, but others have said he could have had another event planned that was cancelled at the last minute. I don’t know. It may be that he examined the available evidence – as I have, decided it didn’t stack up and went along to support his shadow cabinet members.

Owen Jones, who was originally scheduled to speak at the event, pulled out on the understanding that it was SWP-organised.

Perhaps he should read this. It repeats the claim that Mr Bennett was complicit in a rape cover-up but, again, with no evidence.

So there you have it.

Was Jeremy Corbyn right to attend the event and speak up against racism, considering the context?

Or – and this is an important question – would it have been more harmful if he had stayed away?

Imagine the headlines: “Corbyn snubs anti-racism event!”

What would you have done in his position – and for what reasons?


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5 thoughts on “Guilt by association: Jeremy Corbyn, Weyman Bennett, racism and rape

  1. Di Finch

    Underlying all this is the very real problem of the fractured nature of the Left. If ever they want to be electable they need to find common ground and move in it.

  2. mohandeer

    A lot of people still believe that Cliff Richard was involved with child abuse, but the police have interviewed him several times and have not found enough evidence to charge him. If JC was invited to speak on a platform Cliff Richard was also attending as a speaker, would we even have this anti Corbyn attack? Certainly if the press went after Sir Richard because of his alleged involvement at Elm Guest House, it would evoke controversy among his fans and those who are not. Well the difference is that Weyman Bennett is not famous or wealthy and nothing has been proved against him either as a culprit or even as being complicit. Until such evidence is produced that shows he was, we can always claim that the BBC was by association, wrong to have courted and promoted Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris, even though there were complaints at the time.
    Given the alternative scenarios I have just suggested, in answer to your question as to whether Jeremy should have attended, the answer is a resounding yes – innocent until proven guilty, to all who were smeared by accusations that were not even voiced to the police, but it did get the accusers in the toilet papers. If those accusations had any real substance then why shy away from the police but sell the “story” to the tabloids? David Cameron porked a pig, does that mean that anyone sharing a platform after it was known was wrong to do so? Methinks, any exscuse is as good as the next, more so if it is specious in it’s origins.

  3. Geoff Ryan

    Mike, there is no doubt the SWP badly handled the allegations of rape against comrade Delta, who was a leading member of the organization at the time. The failure of the SWP leadership to take the allegations of rape seriously and their belief that they were better able to assess the allegations than the police caused ructions inside the organization. There were two splits from the SWP, the first creating the International Socialism Group (now no longer in existence) and some time later RS21 (Revolutionary Socialism for the 21st century). In each case it was anger at the way in which the SWP leadership had handled the issue and the unwillingness of the majority of SWP members to challenge the leadership.
    What was Weyman Bennett’s role in all this? I have no idea. But even if he was involved in the SWP’s dreadful cover up of rape does that mean Jeremy Corbyn should never appear on a platform with him (or any other SWP member)? In my view no.

  4. Robin T Riley

    There was a by-election in Glasgow on Friday. I think the plan was to go and talk and have a photo taken with them. He does this after most by-election victories. Unfortunately they weren’t successful. I’m guessing this is why he didn’t think he could make it earlier in the week, but became free.

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