Stand Up row is overshadowing Trump protests
The resistance against Donald Trump has been led by women. But, says CAROLINE CRIADO PEREZ, plans for a protest in London have proved problematic
When Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, women around the world said: 'Enough.'
It wasn't just that a man had beaten a woman. It was that this man had beaten this woman.
Hillary Clinton is widely acknowledged to have been the most qualified candidate ever to have run for president. She was also rated the most honest candidate in the race (yes that includes the saintly Sanders).
By contrast, Trump had no experience, no qualifications, and had lied brazenly throughout the campaign. This is before we even address his greatest hits: mockingly mimicking a disabled reporter; tarring Mexican immigrants rapists; bragging about grabbing women 'by the pussy'. And then of course there were the 19 women who accused Trump of sexual harassment and assault (all of which he has denied).
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For Trump to be elected after all this felt like a slap in the face. It felt like proof that for too many people, a man — any man, this man — was preferable to a woman.
Around the world, millions of people erupted on to the streets in women's marches, and ever since, the resistance to Trumpism has been led by women.
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And now he's coming to Britain. His trip had originally been planned as a state visit in February 2017, but was called off amid fears that the great British public might conduct a mass moonie on the Mall. This trip is to be a more low-key affair. A 'working visit'.
You would be forgiven for imagining that organising a march against America's pussy-grabber-in-chief would be a rather straightforward matter; a single issue uniting all sorts of people from all walks of life. Not so. What the protest against Donald Trump highlights is the extraordinary complexity and tension between different groups of activists ostensibly positioned on the exact same place on our political spectrum.
To understand this story, you first have to understand the history of the Socialist Workers Party — in particular, its spectacular implosion in 2013 following allegations of rape against a senior figure, known only as 'Comrade Delta'. The SWP was accused in reports of setting up a 'kangaroo court' which slut-shamed and victim-blamed the complainants (one woman left a hearing in tears having been asked if she 'liked to have a drink'), and let Comrade Delta off with a slap on the wrist. At the time the SWP denied a cover-up and said it did not recognise this account of the hearing.
Nevertheless the scandal was to be the downfall of what was once the far-left's most prominent political party. Today, no self-respecting progressive would be found dead at an SWP event.
And this is where things get murky. The SWP wasn't about to give up its influence without a fight, and so, its critics claim, its leadership began a process of setting up various closely-linked organisations. Organisations such as Stand Up To Racism, which was denounced by the left-wing commentator Owen Jones in 2017 as 'a front for the SWP'.
Stand Up To Racism is in turn part of a coalition called Stand Up To Trump. And Stand Up To Trump is part of a coalition that has organised the Together Against Trump march – one of two marches that will take place on July 13 to protest the Trump visit. Confused? Welcome to the British Left.
As well as the Together Against Trump march, which starts at Portland Place at 3pm, there is a march organised by Women's March London, which starts at 12, also at Portland Place. When I spoke to Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu from Women's March London and Shaista Aziz from Stop Trump (a leading member of the Together Against Trump coalition), they both seem remarkably relaxed about there being two protests. Both women insist there is no conflict between the two groups — which rather raises the question, why have they not united in a single march?
Aziz and Mos-Shogbamimu are both impressive and passionate advocates against the kind of divisive politics Trump and his administration represent. Both are clear that women must lead the protest. Aziz explained that there will be a bloc of women leading their march, which she called 'a carnival of resistance'.
Mos-Shogbamimu told me that the Women's March will be using the noise of pots and pans as a symbolic gesture of recognising women's power: 'Women have been told that the kitchen is where they belong', she tells me. 'Now watch us use those pots and pans to bring about change.' Listening to these two women echo each other it's hard to see why this can't be a single carnival of resistance.
Which brings me back to Stand Up To Racism. Jones, who is also involved in Stop Trump, has repeatedly tweeted that the SWP is not part of Stop Trump. But Stop Trump will be marching alongside Stand Up To Racism as part of the Together Against Trump coalition. And whether or not Stand Up To Racism is an SWP front, its co-convenor certainly is the same Weyman Bennett who is a central committee member of the Socialist Worker's Party.
Aziz and Mos-Shogbamimu both emphasise the need to focus on Trump and not any potential conflicts or divisions — and, in the circumstances, they are right to do this. The issue here is not with Stop Trump or The Women's March leadership. The issue here is with Stand Up To Racism whose presence in the context of a protest against a man as proudly misogynistic as Trump is undeniably divisive and unhelpful. The SWP leadership remains largely the same and it is claimed that little has been done to address the alleged culture problems.
And so my message to the Stand Up To Racism is this: if you care about women, if you care about Britain really standing 'together against Trump' and everything he represents, you should stand aside on this one.
Leave the organisation of this movement to women like Aziz and Mos-Shogbamimu. And in so doing, let the rest of us get on with resisting.