Stand Up To Racism advocated the #taketotheknee trend amidst the protests which have followed the death of George FloydGarry Knight

As the wave of anti-racist and Black Lives Matter protests gain momentum in the UK, the Stand Up to Racism (SUTR) organisation is rapidly gaining followers and media attention. SUTR’s doorstop ‘take the knee’ protests have attracted hundreds of participants in Cambridge alone, calling on people to kneel at their doorstops to protest against systemic racism and police brutality.

On 3rd June, the date of SUTR’s largest doorstop protest to date, the CUSU Women’s Campaign warned students to not cooperate with or support SUTR in any way. In a post on Facebook, which was shared by the CUSU BME campaign, SUTR was accused of being a ‘front for the Socialist Workers’ Party, an organisation which systematically covers up sexual violence.’

The Women’s Campaign also accuses SUTR of ‘try[ing] to co-opt the work of black organisers and the Black Lives Matter movement in order to rehabilitate their own reputation and recruit members’ and urge students to refuse any SUTR materials at protests.

Speaking to Varsity, CUSU BME campaign stated that “SUTR have recently been using the hashtag #TakeTheKnee to promote their profile on social media and position themselves as the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK. SUTR have also been seen at BLM rallies and protests handing out campaign literature to attendants and recruiting them to SUTR meetings.”

While they did not comment on the allegation that SUTR have been using BLM protests to recruit members, Varsity has been told that “Cambridge Stand Up to Racism has consistently been at the heart of opposing racism in Cambridge” and SUTR were “very happy to support last Saturday's magnificent Cambridge Black Lives demonstration, and celebrate the united involvement of black and white young people.

The Socialist Workers’ Party is a far-left and self-described revolutionary party, originally founded in 1950 as the Socialist Review Group. The group aims to advance a socialist agenda in the UK by organising mass movements among the working class, holding that ‘a new society can only be constructed when they collectively seize control of that wealth and plan its production and distribution according to need.’ 

However, the Party lost many members and its reputation between 2010-14, following allegations that reports of sexual abuse and rape were mishandled. In 2010, allegations of sexual abuse were first levelled against the then National Secretary of the Party, Martin Smith who became known simply as ‘Comrade Delta’. In 2012 the complainant clarified that she had been raped, yet the SWP refused to contact the police and instead dealt with the matter internally.

The Party’s Complaints Committee was accused of taking a victim-blaming approach, such as by asking about complainants drinking habits and sexual past. The Committee eventually found Martin Smith not guilty. Members of the Party who disagreed with the verdict were simply told that they could leave the party and, in 2013, members of the party were expelled after publicly discussing the case on social media.

By 2013, more accusations of rape were made against the party’s senior management. It was depicted as a ‘systemic’ problem. By 2014, the Party had Yet SWP has repeatedly tried to rehabilitate its reputation through a series of front organisations and campaigns aimed to recruit members for the SWP and cleanse the party’s image.

This has, however, not stopped the SWP from trying to rehabilitate their reputation and it has been repeatedly alleged that SUTR is a front for the SWP with this exact intention, yet it remains difficult to identify the exact connection between these two groups. As the CUSU policy on SUTR points out ‘lead members of the SWP, such as Weyman Bennett, are also senior figures in other movements such as Stand up to Racism’ but beyond this not much is clear.

The most tangible connection between the SWP and SUTR is the group Unite Against Fascism (UAF). UAF was established in 2003 as a reaction to the British National Party (BNP) with the intention of denying the BNP an electoral foothold. It has been reported that UAF was set up by the SWP yet the connection remains obscure. Perhaps the strongest link between the two is a 2003 article published by Socialist Worker, a publication owned by the SWP, in which Socialist Worker secured interviews with key UAF members, openly promoted UAF events and even suggested that readers donate to UAF.

SUTR itself is not an independent organisation but is instead a brand of UAF, and it is now the primary means through with UAF acts. The SWP frequently retweets SUTR content and has openly supported the SUTR’s protest movements, yet makes absolutely no mention of the connection to UAF. A spokesperson for SUTR Cambridge told Varisty “Our membership, of course, includes people active in a variety of political parties, and also in none: the Labour Party, Green Party and indeed the Socialist Workers Party.” They did not clarify the nature of the relationship between the groups but instead said that “SUTR will always campaign against any forms of sexism and violence against women. It is upsetting and disrespectful to our members to suggest otherwise.”

CUSU’s reaction is less ambiguous, stating clearly in a recent policy on SUTR that ‘the SWP is using SUTR [...] as a front organisation to recruit members and rehabilitate its reputation under the banner of antiracism.’ The CUSU statement asks members ‘not to collaborate or work with the SWP or its fronts in any capacity’. In response, a SUTR spokesperson told Varsity that “We call on Cambridge University Students Union to support all anti-racist events.”

A Keyhole twitter trend analysis conducted by Varsity supports the concerns that SUTR was employing Black Lives Matter narratives to garner support. While the #LDNBLM had a reach of 102.5M users, the SUTR promoted #taketheknee had a reach of 150.4M. The use of these two tags also shows corresponding spikes on the 3rd and 7th of June, both of which are days when SUTR held online rallies, with #taketheknee surpassing the popularity of #LDNBLM on the 3rd. A further snapshot analysis of recent tweets also suggested that SUTR accounts were the primary drivers of #taketheknee.

Graph showing the relative activity over time of #taketheknee (purple) and #LDNBLM (blue) indexed to 100 at peak activityData sourced from Keyhole, table compiled by Wiliam Hunter

Given this upsurge in activity from SUTR, CUSU’s BME campaign reiterated its policy of non-engagement with the group. A spokesperson told Varsity: “we would advise students to refuse conversing or otherwise engaging with SUTR members at protests, and to decline any placards and publicity material handed out by SUTR. If a SUTR member approaches you and tries to argue with you about the SWP's record of protecting rapists, we would advise that you disengage. We would also encourage students to educate others about the need to organise without groups that perpetuate a culture of sexual violence.”


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Students should instead “refer to previous statements by the BME Campaign and other societies such as Cambridge African & Caribbean Society to find out about which groups they can support”.

The SUTR national office did not respond to Varsity’s request for comment.

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