At the age of 16 I was sexually assaulted by a prominent member of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL).
It was at a pub in Peckham called the Montpelier, at that time near the AWL office. I also remember that it took place on 31 July 2005.
The second incident was a couple of months later, during a fundraiser for AWL front No Sweat at the Ivy House. It was a pub near Holborn, though it has closed down since. He attempted to grasp my penis in the gents’, but this time I fought him off. The would-be attacker was mildly rebuked by the AWL student organiser.
For me as a young man, still in school, these were both early sexual experiences, and traumatic ones.
I’ll admit that at first I didn’t label this abuse for what it was. I was drunk when it first happened, and also ashamed. According to his comrades the assailant had deep mental health issues. I was made to feel that I was at fault for failing to resist, or as if I should have been more understanding of what he was like. Certainly the AWL ‘comrades’ made me feel embarrassed, and that the incident was somehow brought upon me by myself – or could have been appropriately ended by me.
My attachment to the group is long in the past. As long ago as 2008 I was forced out of the AWL, and soon became distant from its politics. Yet it was only in much more recent times that I properly reflected on what I had been subjected to, and the cultish nature of what I had experienced. I had been basically raised into the culture of the far-left as a teenager, and only later gained a proper understanding of how intolerable their attitude towards this serious case would have been in any other real-world situation.
I’ll also admit that I have over the years adopted a kind of persona which doesn’t fit well with confronting this kind of issue. I’d rather just get on with my own political and professional activity, and not have to deal with this kind of group, or this kind of drama. I created a nihilistic, jokey persona as a defence mechanism. I have previously mentioned this episode to only a handful of close friends.
But I changed my attitude since, and become much more aware of what the problem really is. This doubtless had a certain impetus from the SWP crisis after the rape of one of its young female members. In fact at the very moment that that scandal broke out, the AWL student organiser wrote to me (22 January 2013). I had not met him for several years. He was writing over six years after the actual assault took place
His message was basically: ‘We messed it up, sorry’. I could tell that the SWP rape scandal, taking place at that time, was weighing on his conscience – and I could imagine, in a more cynical way, that the organization he had spent fifteen years creating might go on the same scrap heap as the SWP. Mine and other cases of abuse and sexual misconduct surely weighed on the minds of AWLers who wanted to exploit the crisis in their factional rival.
But at that time I preferred to let bygones by bygones. My change of attitude only came in the last two years, and owes to more personal motives. I have learned from multiple sources that the AWL campaign to discredit me far outlasted my own membership of that organisation. Even just a few weeks ago I heard that a full-time AWLer, with whom I had no recent contact, had told one of my employers that I was a ‘serial harasser’. Perhaps he was motivated by envy, or wished to see my employment halted.
In December 2016, another leading AWL member sent a letter to my mother, making a grotesque and personalised allegation against me. There was no truth to his claims. He had made no effort to contact me, and produced no evidence; the letter he sent to my mother’s house was addressed to her personally and claimed that he had reported me to the police, inevitably bringing needless stress and anxiety. In early November seeing me (apparently by chance) in the street, this same individual hurled abuse at me, calling me 'fatboy' and insisting that I 'need to lose weight'.
What particularly irks is that the AWL combine such behaviour with a smear campaign, proceeding by backbiting and innuendo, designed to present my negative attitude toward the group, and sometimes mocking comments on their activity, as a case of ‘disgruntlement’. As if being sexually assaulted – and being the victim of a second attempted sexual assault – were some small issue or somehow my fault.
Just like the SWP, the RCG, the ISN, and all other small groups that harbour sexual predators, their intention in belittling me is to shut me up, to protect their leaders and their organisation. It is a story known to anyone who has seen recent cases of institutions circling the wagons, indeed ones far beyond the shores of left-wing politics.
The AWL's attacks are of course typical of a cult lashing out at former members. To detail this would be a different article. But I will not stand for their attacks on me; I will not stand for a rapist and those who protect him. That is why I feel compelled to speak up about what happened and highlight the AWL for what it is, an organisation no different from the SWP.