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Fightback No. 127 (May 2019)

FB126 web

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On April 5, we published a report about recent attempts made to shut down our events in Ottawa and Toronto. Following the publication of this report, an anonymous individual made allegations online against two ex-members of Fightback. When we responded to these allegations detailing the investigation and actions we had taken, the entire comment thread was deleted along with the allegations and our response. This is no way to achieve accountability in the movement and can lead people to no other conclusion than that these allegations are fabricated and being used as part of a political attack.

The Allegations

The person who made these allegations went by the facebook name of “Shia Ali”. Their comment mentioned two cases involving two individuals who are no longer members of Fightback. It must be noted that this is the first time that we have ever received any concrete details such as names of the alleged abuser(s) or dates since this conflict began.


Both of these cases were from at least five years ago. The first case was unknown to us until now, while the second was a known situation for which we took action at the time to rectify. As with any report of abuse or harassment in our organization, we immediately investigated the case involving Camil.

On Tuesday April 9th, we made the following comment in response to the allegations:

Hello,

This is the first time that we are hearing about an incident at the 2014 Marxist Winter School involving Camil. We have done an investigation as best we can based on the limited information provided and here is what we have found so far: We have spoken to Camil and he denies that this event took place. He wasn’t staying in the hostel as he had an apartment in Montreal and was staying there. He also billeted two comrades at his place that year who have verified this.

It is claimed that there were full-timers and other members who witnessed this incident. None of our full-timers have any recollection of any such incident. We have also spoken to the two comrades who were conduct officers that year and they have said that they have no knowledge of this incident. There was no complaint made either to the main organizer of the school, the executive committee, or the conduct officers. If there had been knowledge of an incident like this at the time, we would have taken action immediately.

We always take instances of abuse and harassment very seriously. It is however difficult to deal with if we do not have more information. Do you have any other information of this incident such as who witnessed it?

With regard to Arash, several years ago, when he was still a member, the executive committee heard rumors about Arash making inappropriate comments as well as having made unwelcome advances to female comrades and contacts of our organization. While there was no official complaint about his behavior, this is nonetheless unacceptable in our organization and we had words with him to make this clear and he was given warnings. Had this behavior continued, more serious action would have been in order. Arash however subsequently left Canada and has not been a member of Fightback for 4 or 5 years (long before Bernie ran for the Democratic Party nomination).

What would you suggest we do in these two cases?

The withdrawal and the fight against abuse in the movement

Mysteriously, after about ten minutes, the entire comment thread disappeared. The account “Shia Ali” has also disappeared.

Why was the comment deleted as soon as we responded requesting more information? The only possible explanation we can think of is that this allegation against Camil was a fabrication and therefore could not be substantiated. If this person was serious about accountability, they would not have deleted the allegation and they would have actively sought us out to provide us with information. Unfortunately, they instead acted in a frivolous manner. This behavior has no place in the movement. The movement must have a clear and accountable way of dealing with questions of abuse and harassment, and this isn’t it.

The small group that disrupted our event in Ottawa alleged that we have a “culture of abuse” in our organization. But it is very strange that when we ask for names of abusers and information, we are confronted with a wall of silence. A handful of individuals have said that naming an abuser would be inappropriate, while also claiming that we already “know the names.” However, if we already know, what then is preventing them from forwarding a name? These same individuals have also claimed that the names are “widely known” on the left. If so, why hasn’t a single member of our organization, as well as many other people we’ve spoken to on the left, been made privy to that information? It is also curious that the only time in which someone finally did provide names, they had to dig back to 5-6 years in the past to find anything, before then withdrawing the allegations. If this was such a prevalent issue, surely there would be plethora of recent problems.

We have nothing to hide and our record on this is clean and clear. If there are individual instances then we want to see them addressed more than anyone. We have absolutely no interest in harboring abusive behaviour, as this can only do harm and inevitably lead to collapse. We encourage our members and activists in the movement to always bring up their concerns or any experiences involving harassment or abuse, and we seek to foster an environment of mutual support where people feel comfortable doing so.

That being said, no organization is perfect or immune from the ills of capitalist society. Fightback is an organization that intervenes in and recruits from mass movements of students, workers and oppressed groups, the consciousness of which inevitably carries scars of the society we live in. While we always do our best to actively change this through education and action, it is inevitable that there will be breaches of conduct which will need to be addressed. But it is disingenuous to take isolated instances and generalize them to paint an entire organization in a negative light.

A political attack

When our comrades asked the people who disrupted our event at Ottawa what they expected us to do, they responded by saying “get the fuck out of ottawa” and “stop all recruiting,” and that “the leadership should resign.” There was a similar comment by one person on the above mentioned thread who said “Honestly fightback should just take a hint from the ISO and disband already."

The above commentary shows that the primary motivation of these people is political. They have shown that they are not interested in ousting abusers and protecting survivors, as their entire mode of action serves to thwart that aim. Refusing to facilitate a genuine investigation, presenting and then withdrawing unsupportable allegations, mixing political issues with those of harassment, show there is no intention to actually resolve these questions. Any reasonable person will see that this is a blatant attack on Marxists, our ideas, our methods and traditions.

Over the past period, Fightback has grown by leaps and bounds, going from the smallest group on the revolutionary left to the largest. Over the same period, the rest of the revolutionary left has dwindled and many groups have disappeared completely. Debates about which methods work to build a revolutionary organization and which ones don’t are being proven in action. Now, some people who have lost this debate have decided they have nowhere else to turn but to underhanded methods.

Not only are these methods in no way conducive to resolving questions of abuse and harassment in the movement, they also happen to create fertile ground for fascists and state agents to operate. In this environment, anyone is free to operate with complete anonymity and impunity - claiming something vague, leaving it impossible to deal with in order to tarnish and destroy revolutionary organizations. The FBI employed these same methods to undermine left-wing groups and civil rights leaders during the time of the notorious COINTELPRO program. By ignoring due process, the movement opens itself to this sort of state meddling like never before.

We defend a serious approach in dealing with cases of abuse and harassment. Information must be provided so that cases can be investigated, abusers held accountable and justice carried out.  All forms of abuse are unacceptable in the movement and demand immediate accountability, investigation and action. The movement must insist on investigation and action. Those who deny genuine investigation, action, and accountability are actively attempting to destroy left wing movements, and we cannot allow this to continue.

The movement must reject the gossip culture where malicious actors can weaponize allegations for political ends. What we are dealing with here is not a genuine concern over harassment and abuse. What we are dealing with is a political phenomenon. It is the use of false accusations to attack a political idea. We, the Marxists, stand for an irreconcilable struggle against capitalist society. For that to be achieved we need to build a strong organisation with clear revolutionary ideas. It is this concept that is under attack and we will fight back every time such scurrilous and false accusations are made.