Socialist Workers Party secretly run student society

The Cheese Grater can exclusively reveal that UCL Socialist Worker Student Society (SWSS), affiliated to the Socialist Workers Party, is not run by UCL students, but by the old-school Trots at the central party apparatus.

The SWP has gained infamy for its efforts in 2011 to cover up allegations that a leading party member, known as Comrade Delta, had raped a teenage activist and sexually assaulted others.

The SWP has previously tried to hijack UCL activist events. In January, its representatives set up a stall to sell newspapers and Party memberships to students during a protest, organised by the student group Decolonise UCL, despite a request from the BME Officer for the group to stay away.

Outside influence

Weekly meetings of the 33-member SWSS are led by Lewis Nielsen, a  paid cadre of the Socialist Workers Party. Nielsen works in the Party’s Student Office and is the author of several pieces of official SWP literature. Each week, he invites a guest speaker to address the society, usually someone also heavily involved in the SWP itself.

These guests are also often writers for SWP publications. One recent speaker is the lead writer for a pamphlet published by the Party, which proclaims that it ‘unconditionally support[s] Hamas when it is engaged in military or non-military struggles against Israel.’

Nielsen has been contacted but did not respond to a request for comment.

Most attendees at SWSS events are not UCL students, with many having no connection to any university and using the society simply as their local branch meeting.

Past meetings were advertised on the Socialist Workers Party’s national website as the ‘Central London Branch Meeting,’ though these references were removed after the Union began to investigate the society.

A clear violation

Union regulations stipulate that ‘Clubs and Societies must notify the Union of any events that involve external speakers (defined as individuals that are not part of the Union or UCL) through the procedures provided in the Club and Society Procedures and Guidance.’

Mataio Dean, the President of UCL SWSS, responded by saying that ‘We would think The Cheese Grater would have more important things to cover’, before deriding our investigation as ‘lies about our society’. (We will take note, thanks Mataio!) However, the nature of the meetings was, until recently, unknown to the Union, meaning that the society cannot have followed procedure.

Not only are the weekly speakers and SWP organisers prohibited from attending SWSS meetings under Union rules, so are many of the other attendees. Dean complained to The Cheese Grater that rules concerning speakers are ‘targeting the main activist group on campus with unfair levels of scrutiny and red tape.’

Societies at any university are supposed to be run by and for students, not organised by external organisations. A spokesperson for the Union said, ‘We are now investigating the allegations raised against the Socialist Worker Student Society in line with our complaints and disciplinary procedures.’

With an SWP employee running the society here, it raises questions about how prevalent this kind of entryism is at universities across the country — and how other student groups could be infiltrated by external organisations.

Blake Coe
Image credit: Microwave Chef, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license

This article appeared in CG Issue 64.