SU sends students to controversial “SWP front” conference

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Lancaster University Students’ Union is facing criticism for promoting and sending students to a conference hosted by Stand up to Racism, an organisation thought to be linked to the controversial hard-left Socialist Workers Party (SWP).

The organisation Stand Up to Racism (SUTR) has been accused by prominent commentators on the left such as Owen Jones of being a “front” for the Socialist Workers Party.  Prominent politicians such as opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn have spoken at Stand up to Racism events, though have faced criticism from their own supporters in the process.

The SWP has been deeply controversial since 2013, when allegations of a rape-cover up by the party leadership precipitated a collapse in their membership numbers. The incident, involving alleged sexual assault by “Comrade Delta”, a member of the SWP’s governing executive, saw the party criticised for looking at the case in an internal court comprised of other members of the executive rather than referring the matter to the police. The Socialist Workers Party has consistently denied the allegations and state that they “oppose all manifestations of sexism”.

The Lancaster University Feminist society described the Student’s Union support for the conference as “unacceptable”:

“We find the Union’s decision to fund students to attend a conference by Stand Up To Racism incredibly worrying. Considering the history of allegations of sexual abuse and harassment within the SWP, it is of great concern to us that the organisation continues to be active and attempts to recruit students under various guises.”

“The Feminist Society and its members are strongly in support of radical anti-racist struggle, but there is no place for rape apologism or misogyny within our movements.”

A tweet posted by the Union offered to send up to four students who were “passionate about equality” to the conference of Students Against Racism, the student wing of the Stand up to Racism movement, which took place on Saturday the 3rd of March.

According to the weekly newspaper of the Socialist Worker Party, one of the speakers at the Students Against Racism conference was Weyman Bennett, who has remained a member of the SWP executive throughout the crisis the party has faced. His presence at past SUTR events has drawn condemnation and call for boycotts from liberation groups such as Black Lives Matter UK.

On the Stand up to Racism website, the conference was described as aiming “to bring together students and staff from across the country to discuss how we can build a movement on our campuses to challenge racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism.” It was co-hosted by the Muslim Engagement and Development group, a group which has been accused in the past of hosting “illiberal, intolerant and extremist” speakers by right of centre thinktank The Henry Jackson Society .

A spokesman for the Students’ Union said:

“It was with the best intentions that we supported two students to attend the Stand Up to Racism Conference and feedback from them was that the content of the event itself made it a worthwhile activity.”

“We were not aware of concerns about the organisation of the conference at the time we promoted this opportunity, which were only brought to light after we had committed to supporting students to attend this event.”

“This matter was raised at the last meeting of the students’ union executive and as a result we will be revisiting our processes for deciding to commit resources to external events and conferences such as this.”

Stand Up to Racism have also been approached for comment.

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