Editor of the Socialist Review, the Socialist Worker’s Party’s (SWP) monthly magazine, Judith Orr, was invited to speak to UEA’s Feminist society about women’s liberation on Thursday 17 January. However, questions quickly turned to the rape allegations that recently emerged against a senior member of the SWP.
Judith Orr was confirmed as a guest speaker at the Feminist society’s discussion forum on Marxism, Feminism, and Women’s Liberation several weeks prior to the emergence of information regarding accusations of sexual assault against a senior member of the SWP’s central committee.
News of an internal disputes committee’s decision to exonerate the party member caused controversy both online and within the party, resulting in the resignation of several key members.
In an announcement on the society’s Facebook group, society president Hattie Grunewald stated “we had invited Judith to speak to us long before this story broke.
“In the interest of free-speech and lack of censorship, we are not planning to withdraw our invitation; however, we do plan to hold Judith accountable for the actions of her party.”
After giving her intended talk on women’s liberation at the meeting, Orr opened up the floor to questions. Several audience members expressed concern at the SWP’s handling of such serious allegations.
It was questioned whether it was fair of the SWP to deal with the matter internally instead of going through the court system, and whether an internal body could effectively punish such a serious offence if the party member had been found guilty.
Orr maintained that the SWP were “more accountable than any other organisation,” being entirely intolerant of sexism, racism, homophobia, or any other hateful prejudices within their party.
The decision to go through the party’s disputes committee, which Orr noted was elected yearly to ensure fair representation, was entirely the decision of the victim and expressed sadness on behalf of both parties involved that the matter, which was meant to be “utterly confidential,” had come out against their wishes.