Marxists, Sexual Politics, and the SWP ‘Comrade Delta’ Case: Representations of and responses to rape allegations within the British Left

Shona McCulloch
  shona.mcculloch@gmail.com
  

Abstract

This paper will present the findings of a study investigating the sexual politics of the Left in Britain in relation to gender violence. The political crisis which developed during 2013 following revelations about the Socialist Workers Party’s (mis)handling of a rape allegation concerning a leading member, and subsequent allegations of gender violence within other organisations, demanded Left activists debate the sexual politics of their organisations and activist communities. How, and to what extent, did ostensibly progressive rhetorical sexual politics fail to immunise sections of the Left against replicating the sexist practices and discourses of wider society? To provide a preliminary insight into this question, 10 online activist debates were subject to a critical discourse analysis, with view to interrogating: how activists represent rape; how the diversity of sexual politics within the Left has been accounted for; and how activists sought to address gender violence within their organisations. This paper focuses on the findings of this study with view to opening up discussion between Marxist academics and activists, based on a nuanced and contextualised assessment of a cross-section of Left activist discussions of this contentious issue. The study revealed a wealth of contradictions within Left sexual politics, ripe for further investigation, theorisation, and ultimately reflection and development. Themes explored include the prevalence of obfuscation from discussing rape as an embodied act; contestations around comradeship, virtue and morality; and the fundamental question of whether rape allegations should be automatically believed.

Marxism - The Left - SWP - gender violence - Critical Discourse Analysis