Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Strange goings on in Socialist Appeal

Socialist Appeal is the British section of the International Marxist Tendency, a rather grand title for an organisation of probably less than two hundred people. For those of you not familiar with this sect, it is the remains of the old Militant Tendency that did not leave the Labour Party.

Frankly it's not an organisation that anyone is likely to bump into either. The only time I've ever noticed Socialist Appeal (also the name of their newspaper) was when a handful of their supporters set up a stall outside the Brighton Conference Centre when the PCS union was having it's annual bash down at the seaside.

However some strange events inside their minuscule group have come to my attention.

It seems 5 of their members have been expelled/suspended or whatever they call it from Socialist Appeal for "rumour mongering". Initially this just sounded the normal kind of Stalinist whataboutery that the Trot sects have a habit of indulging in.

But there appears to be a more than a little whiff of "scandal" at the very least. Something perhaps a little more serious it has to be said.

And guess what it involves "young (female) comrades" and more than a little misogyny.

At the strangely named blog Peace to the Cottages. War on the Palaces the dissident five write:

If ‘circulating rumours’ and ‘allegations’ is an expellable offence then some action must be taken against Ben Peck as well. If we have ‘circulated rumours’, it is because new comrades concerned about the organisation have come to us to ask about members they have had bad experiences with. On the other hand, almost everyone one of us have heard rumours about ourselves, and those who have told us about them have told us they originate from full-timers, almost exclusively from Ben Peck. Ajmal has been called ‘lazy’ and a ‘backstabbing bastard’, Shaista has variously been called a ‘bourgeois feminist’ or ‘out-of-control’, Samuel Bayliss has been called a ‘coke-head’ or a ‘drug-addict’ of various kinds, Keziah Keeler has had misogynistic and baseless questions asked about her along the lines of ‘how many men has she slept with?’. These kinds of comments have not been made in secret but in front of many other comrades such at such events as branch meetings or socials. Needless to say these rumours are absolutely disgusting, and have no basis in fact. They have been completely made-up to try and discredit members who have legitimate concerns with the conduct of full-timers. Moreover, they have a political aspect to them, where the female comrades have essentially been portrayed as sexually promiscuous, flirting and with and attempting to seduce older full-timers, sleeping with lots of comrades, etc. The readiness to spread these lies about outspoken women in the organisation accurately reflects the generally abysmal line that the organisation has towards women’s liberation.

One of the primary complaints we want to make is that members have known for a long-time that Ben Peck, in his interactions with female comrades and contacts has consistently stepped out of line. When Ajmal was first getting involved in the organisation Ben Peck was in a relationship with a female contact which ended in him threatening to destroy her laptop. This contact lived with female comrade Stella Christou and branch meetings were regularly held at their house. When this contact broke up with Ben she asked for branch meetings not to be held at this house any more, something Stella overruled, regularly bringing Ben back. Many comrades are also aware of when he began a relationship with a semi-contact and friend of comrade Ruth O’Sullivan. At the time this semi-contact was 16 and Ben was 30. Although she was of consenting age Ben was in a position of trust over her, like a teaching assistant or youth counsellor. In instances of sexual relationships between an adult in a position of trust and a minor (even one of consenting age) it is considered statutory rape. Ben Peck was in charge of school-student work at the time. Sleeping with contacts therefore is morally reprehensible and borders on illegal. This is not something that happened in secret either. Many people in North London Branch, as well as comrades at the centre, would certainly have been aware of this and, strangely enough, the appropriateness of this conduct was never called into question.

In general Ben’s behaviour towards young female contacts and comrades has been consistently out of line and many comrades have been witness to this. We’ve attached screenshot evidence of disgusting and inappropriate remarks that Ben made to Shaista when she was just a sixth form student around 2-3 years ago. At the time Shaista brushed these comments off because she was new and wanted to get further in the organisation so she gave him the benefit of the doubt but in no way did Shaista encourage and/or reciprocate this kind of ‘attention’ from Ben. She did not act immediately repulsed because she feared making a scene. It is only later as she saw more evidence of his inappropriate interactions with female comrades that Shaista became aware of how out of line this was and decided to share it.

One female member writes:

Whilst in a “relationship” with Ben G I didn’t realise how manipulative he was in terms of my associations with other comrades, namely “the clique”. He would tell me how inappropriately Shaista had acted at the previous World School (that she had drunkenly made herself look stupid on several occasions, baited Alan Woods in front of everyone) and also how she was not in “good standing” with the organisation. This all had an adverse effect on how I viewed her and those around her. With hindsight, this was hideous, misogynistic behaviour from a full-timer who should not perpetuate harmful, divisive rumours among young female comrades, especially when he had significant influence over me at this time. In addition, a full-timer should never reveal the personal details of a comrade’s standing in terms of subs/attendance in order to rally other comrades against them. I feel that the carelessness of Ben was due to his misogyny- something that he refuses to even identify; he probably never expected it to backfire and for me to actually talk to Shaista and get clarity on these malicious rumours. 
Since the termination of my close relationship with Ben, following discussions with other comrades, I have come to realise the relationship itself was inappropriate and abusive. I was often drunk or inebriated in some way when I would see Ben and although for a long time I insisted it was a consensual relationship, I feel like he took advantage of my vulnerability as a young woman interested in Marxism. He did not do enough to stop the relationship from developing. I will never deny that I approached him on several occasions and this is what has prevented me from identifying the abusive character of the relationship for so long; he will probably use this as a defence without considering the position of power he had over me.
Not quite "Comrade delta" stuff I know. But equally disturbing that yet another far-left organisation has leaders who behave badly.

1 comment:

  1. The post you link to fails to mention two things:

    1) The comrades were never expelled - they had received an email saying that if they failed to take up their issues through the democratic channels of the organisation, combined with their non payment of dues and lack of activity, they would be taken off the books. Instead the comrades decided to send that letter, which, if you read, clearly states that they resigned. The idea that they were expelled came from rumours - expulsion is a serious measure that the executive has to meet up for, discuss, and inform the expelled comrades about.

    2) The Control Commission (an elected commission comprised of rank-and-file members, i.e. not members of the Central Committee, with women comprising a majority) is investigating these allegations, despite the fact that these comrades insinuate otherwise. Not only this, but the Central Committee is meeting to draft a Code of Conduct and Anti-Harassment Policy.

    By the way, you should note that the IMT has thousands of members in over 30 countries on all continents. The congress of the Pakistani section which was held last month was attended by 2,800 people. In Britain the organisation doubles your estimates.