Dealing with the dirty laundry

Go and read this post by Em BC at Blind Carbon Copy, <a href="http://bccwords.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/misogyny-and-left-we-need-to-start .html”>Misogyny and the left – we need to start practicing what we preach.ir-leasing.ru

A short extract:ir-leasing.ru

Most attempts at dealing with sexism tend to be through group education around feminism. Focusing on theoretical education, rather than individual behaviour, is seen as addressing issues “politically”. This kind of education is an invaluable tool for fighting sexism. But when abusive behaviour is directed at female members of an organisation, refusing to address individual behaviour is effectively putting the “education” of male comrades above the ability of females to participate in activism.

The argument that these are personal issues still comes up way too often. There was an incident where someone launched a brutal physical attack at his ex’s partner. When the organisation involved was asked to do something about this, it was decided that this was a personal matter and not organisational “business”. vidmate Maybe there was little that could be done in the circumstances. But how can we say we claim to defend women’s rights if misogynist violence just isn’t our business? If we allow people who commit it to be in positions of responsibility?

Harassment is too often simply placed in the too hard basket. When I was subjected to a minor sexual assault by a male comrade, the group involved decided that nothing could be done because it was too difficult politically at the time. I do under­­­­stand why those comrades involved felt this way. But the decision not to do anything had a much worse effect on me than the actual assault. To me the message that came across was that my safety and my bodily autonomy were secondary to organisational issues.

I’m highlighting this post for a couple of reasons.

Some f-cked sh-t has gone down in the British SWP. Suprise surprise, an anti-feminist Trot group has awful internal practice when it comes to accusations of sexual violence levied against a leading member of their hierarchy.

But any anarchist going around feeling smug at the moment must be living with their damned eyes closed.

Seriously, read Em’s article. There is some really basic sh-t that should happen.

When someone is violent or abusive towards women, they should be excluded from our groups, organisations and events. No need to quasi judicial processes or liberal rubbish about balancing rights, when someones behaviour threatens others, or prevents others from participating in safety, exclude them.

When a group with any degree of standing amongst anarchists expels someone for their behaviour, in the absence of evidence of manifest injustice, all other groups should respect and uphold that decision. For too long abusive and violent individuals have simply been able to hop from group to group, pleading victimisation to anyone who will listen.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post.

[150 words removed here]

Update 2013-2-7: I received a phone call from BD this morning. BD stated he will not be attending Camp Anarchy.

BD explained that he had only responded to the Facebook event in order to “stir people up” and agreed that this had probably not been the best course of action. He expressed that there was much he regretted in his behaviour to date.

It was my impression from the conversation that BD’s remarks were genuine, and that in fact he has absolutely no intention of attending Camp Anarchy. As such I have agreed to remove 150 words from post. This does not constitute a retraction of my original remarks, it is only my intention to support BD’s decision to in part address the primary concern I raised in this post.

18 Comments

  1. Just wanted to say thanks so much for posting this. This experience has been very isolating and it means so much when people actually take it seriously.

    Reply
  2. I would like to make some comments about this issue of harrassment and what should be done about it.

    You Wrote: “When someone is violent or abusive towards women, they should be excluded from our groups, organisations and events. No need to quasi judicial processes or liberal rubbish about balancing rights, when someones behavior threatens others, or prevents others from participating in safety, exclude them.”

    I totally agree that such people should be excluded and this should include anyone who is violent to anyone. But I do think a process should be applied that respects the right to a just outcome. It has happened in the past that accusations have been made about ‘sexist behaviour’ without any evidence put.

    In this particular instance regarding BD,the Melbourne IWW applied a process that did take care to respect the right to a just outcome in accordance with the IWW constitution. Indeed, to ensure impartiality, the appeals process was conducted in another country.

    But there were certainly individual members of the Melbourne IWW who were well aware of BD’s record of conduct with regard to the sexual harassment of women but chose not only to not act upon it, but to happily accept him as a member, elect him a Branch Delegate and make him responsible for editing the IWW’s paper ‘Direct Action’.

    There are two current long-standing members of the Melbourne IWW (a husband and wife team probably better known as the principles responsible for Anarchist Events Melbourne) who were aware and cognizant of BD’s attitudes, conduct and behaviour with regard to women in particular.

    In early November 2011, BD and another IWW member made an application to join the Melbourne Anarchist Club (MAC). Two members of MAC (I was one of them) objected to the application on the grounds of not only BD’s record of sexual harassment of women but also his record of harassment and bullying of people who had been members of groups that BD had been in with particular reference to the SEU, a now-defunct ASF affiliate.

    It was the decision of the MAC in December 2011 to allow him access to events at the MAC space but not to admit him as a member until he could demonstrate that he had changed his behaviour for a period of at least 12 months after which time his application for membership of the MAC would be reconsidered. During this particular decision-making process, the MAC took into account admission of his past behaviour of harassment and his explanation that he had been suffering from schizophrenia and he had sought treatment which had been, according to him, successful.

    The MAC acknowledged it had no particular expertise with regard to making psychological or psychiatric assessments of individuals but had a responsibility to ensure the safety of everyone involved at the MAC. It was also recognised that, as revolutionary organisation, the MAC believed in the capacity of people to change. The MAC was satisfied that this was a just outcome.

    But what of the Melbourne IWW? By this time there were now more people in the Melbourne IWW that were aware there were serious concerns held by the largest anarchist group in Melbourne with regard to BD’s conduct. This same husband and wife team roundly denounced the MAC (and the ASF) as ‘anti-feminist’ and ‘bullies’, BD was cast as a victim.

    It would appear that sectarian hatred had blinded the Melbourne IWW to a serious issue.

    Such was the fear that some women had of BD based on their own experiences that they were unable to participate in activities that they wished to. This became a problem for the Melbourne affiliate of the ASF. A member had wished to participate in the running of the ASF stall at the Anarchist Bookfair (held last year) but having realised the connection between the event organisers and BD, she withdrew out fear of further harassment.

    At this point it became an issue for the Melbourne ASF and the Secretary, JB, was instructed in early August 2012 to contact the Branch Secretary of the Melbourne IWW seeking a guarantee that the Melbourne branch would do what it could to prevent BD from making any attempt at contacting the ASF member.

    Not more than a week after this, the Brisbane IWW Delegate viciously assaulted the Federation Secretary of the ASF puncturing his lung and causing him to be hospitalised in an apparent attempt to intimidate the IWW Brisbane Delegate’s ex-partner (who had been in a relationship with the ASF Secretary).

    There were those in the IWW led by their most senior members who denounced the ASF as ‘liars’, ‘bullies’ and ‘anti-feminists’.The same two senior members of the IWW who have for years denounced the MAC and the ASF as an anti-feminist ‘boys club’ (completely ignoring the many women who are now or have been members).

    You wrote: “When a group with any degree of standing amongst anarchists expells someone for their behavior, in the absense of evidence of manifest injustice, all other groups should respect and uphold that decision. For too long abusive and violent individuals have simply been able to hop from group to group, pleading victimisation to anyone who will listen.”

    I would add that groups should not allow themselves to be blinded by sectarian hatred to the point that it allows people such as BD thrive. They do so at their own peril.

    I think it is important that harassment be dealt with effectively and justly as the MAC has done on more than one occasion. The MAC is a space where the safety of all will be not only taken seriously but be acted upon and will be seen to be acted upon.

    An essential part of this is to not make false denunciations without any evidence borne out of some petty rivalry or sectarian hatred.

    Further, senior experienced members have a responsibility to act upon knowledge they have, and groups on knowledge they receive.

    Failure to do so can only mean that such individuals and groups are complicit.

    Reply
    • Lugius, I already answered your claims in the comments under the article I wrote:

      “Well Lugius, that would be pretty shit if it was what happened. Except that I didn’t know about the sexual harassment at the time I withdrew the application. The reason I withdrew the application was nothing to do with “party loyalty” but because I thought the man was a friend, and because the whole situation made me really uncomfortable. I only found out about the harassment afterwards, and only because the man forwarded me the emails you and the other person who objected to his application wrote. Those emails also listed a lot of different issues which had nothing to do with sexual harassment (I don’t think yours mentioned the harassment at all). At the time the man convinced me that his out of control behavior 5 years ago was due to a mental illness which had only since been diagnosed. He also claimed that he had put in a lot of effort to change and make up for his behavior. In hindsight it was pretty damn stupid of me to believe him.

      I also want to say that when a formal complaint was made to the union about the harassment, I did everything I could to make sure the victim could feel safe and comfortable at future events. Not siding with the harasser on this issue and on another case of harassment were the main things which set off his harassment of me which has gone on for the last 5 months.”

      I also supported the Brisbane ASF member who was assaulted. It was only after I chased up his complaint that the IWW looked into it (and I think their response was totally shit BTW). If you don’t believe me ask him.

      Frankly it’s pretty shit using this as an opportunity to attack the victim. It’s also fucking disgusting referring to me and the person who harassed me as a “husband and wife team”. I have NEVER been in any kind of relationship with BD [Name retracted by site owner]. Personally I think you have the same kind of mentality as Ben which is that you really don’t give a fuck about violence against women but use it as a political tool when it suits you.

      Reply
      • The husband and wife loogey is referring to is not you and BD, I think.

        When you work out who it is, and if you know who loogey is, It looks like his comment boils down to this: he’s one of those people have been around a long time and accumulated silly grudges (eg against individuals in the IWW) and a huge chip on the shoulder, and will use any shit as an excuse to grind that particular axe.

        Which is pretty disgusting when they use people who have suffered harassment as their grindstone.

        Reply
      • Ah shit I totally misread that. If you weren’t referring to me and BD as a “husband and wife team” then I take that last bit back. Sorry :S

        Reply
      • I am NOT attacking the victim.

        The husband and wife team I’m referring to is NOT a reference to you and BD. The husband and wife team I’m referring to are well known as M and P. I apologise to you if I caused you any confusion and this confusion caused you any stress.

        I was trying to make a broader point petty rivalries and sectarian hatreds which are fine when it comes to the battle of ideas but not ok to ‘respect and uphold decsions’ as Kieran pointed out.

        I emphatically reject your assertion that I “really don’t give a fuck about violence against women but use it as a political tool when it suits you”. This is precisely what BD has said when I first confronted him.

        Accusing me of having the same mentality as BD is grossly insulting and as such you owe me an apology.

        I respectfully suggest that, in future, you posts with due care.

        Reply
    • It wasn’t until after the Anarchist Bookfair that anyone in the IWW became aware that Ben had been asked not to attend in order for the woman he had harassed to be able to attend. This was the fault of Ben, who should have made his branch aware of the request when he received it. I don’t think people should be criticized for giving Ben the benefit of the doubt when the full facts were not available to them. It is the people who are still giving him this benefit when there is now ample evidence of his ongoing actions that has been made available, or who are choosing to remain silent, believing that doing so is an act of neutrality, who are failing victims.

      Reply
    • Yes, sorry again Lugius. This topic makes me extremely anxious and I tend not to read things properly when I’m in that state. No, you’re nothing like BD and I’m sorry I said that. It was completely out of line.

      Reply
      • Yes, EmBc, I completely understand how the topic would make you anxious. In my view, there is far too much silence on the issue of harassment generally. I would think a useful starting point would be a definition of harassment that most of us can agree on. A free and frank exchange of views on any topic without ad hominem attacks is essential to a commitment to free thinking.

        But when individuals behave in a way that is contrary to all notions of a civil society they should be called to account. This would include those who tacitly support by their silence.

        There can be no innocent bystanders. If you are aware of this behaviour and then do nothing, are you not complicit in it?

        BCC, I find your remark appalling as it seems to suggest that the complainant simply bears a grudge and should be ignored. What would you have the Melbourne ASF (or any other group for that matter) do when one of its members is prevented from participating in an activity as a consequence of harassment? Say nothing for the sake of some false unity? Your characterisation of my post as ‘axe-grinding’ diminishes the seriousness of the issue and conveniently absolves you of any responsibility.

        It also disregards the point I had hoped to make with regard to dealing with harassment fairly and justly for which everyone (including yourself) has a responsibility. Until such time that we are prepared to take this collective responsibility, then perpetrators can simply move from one group to another, as KIeran has pointed out.

        If you have some substantive critiques to make of the suggestions I have made, then by all means state them. Mocking the name I have chosen post under serves only to illustrate your lack of respect in my view.

        Reply
    • The Melbourne branch of the IWW did not find out about your request for BD not to attend the bookfair till after it had happened. When we did get the request we did everything we could to deal with the issue. You should already know that because we communicated all of what we were doing to the Melbourne ASF and they accepted that we were treating the issue with due seriousness. In the end he was expelled anyway so there was nothing else that could be done.

      I’m not however going to defend the attitude of the IWW as a whole around these issues. But I don’t think the real problem is sectarianism (although BD did his best to cultivate this, obviously to keep people from finding out what he’d been up to in other groups). I think the real problem is a culture where violence, misoginy, sexism etc are considered personal issues, and where most people just aren’t willing to stick their necks out. There are some good people in the IWW who have stood up to abusers, and who are trying to change things. I wish them well.

      Anyway until there is some kind of federation or whatever (not holding my breath), I think the best thing that can be done is to make these things as public as possible. Which is why I think it’s really good that Kieran has posted this. Also having good safer spaces policies for events is important, we’re trying to work one out for Camp Anarchy which will mean that abusers will be banned. Better communication between the groups would also really help but I don’t know what kind of formal structures could be set up.

      Also BD and his supporters threatened me with defamation for saying publicly that he was harassing people. I know someone who is currently being dragged through the court by her rapist who wants an AVO and is claiming her outing him is “harassment”. Abusers taking out AVOs on their victims is a quite common tactic. I think we need to set up a way of outing these people that is safe and that abusers can’t use the state to prevent.

      Reply
      • Look, I admit I’m a great critic of the IWW generally on a number of issues but credit where credit is due, as a Branch, the Melbourne IWW was exemplary in its reponse. At the time, I had the expectation they would ignore it and do nothing. In this instance I was wrong.The Melbourne ASF didn’t request that BD not attend as it was too late (meeting schedule). The request was that BD have no contact with any members of ASF Melbourne at all.

        You make a very good point about the general attitude of violence, misogyny, sexism, etc. being regarded as a personal issue. This is where the loyalty of friends or ‘party loyalty’ kicks in. Because the ASF is a federation of separate autonomous affiliates, no individual can be expelled from the ASF. Consequently, the behaviour of the individual is the responsibility of the affiliate that particular individual is a member of. If the affilate fails to take responsibility for the individual, then the affiliate risks expulsion from the federation. This the classic method of anarchist organisation.

        Unlike the IWW, where the General Secretary-Treasurer is elected to their position by the general membership, the ASF Secretary is chosen from the membership of the affiliate designated by the ASF Congress as responsible for the Secretariat. Where the GST of the IWW can accrue power by a mandate from the entire membership, the Secretary of the ASF cannot. The anarchist model of organisation, the federation, dissipates power.

        BD was a Branch Delegate of the IWW, in some way similiar to an ‘Organiser’ in a reformist union. It provided to BD a measure of autonomy unaccountable to the general assembly to sign up new members. ‘Delegate’ has a different meaning in the ASF. The mandate of an ASF Delegate is purpose-defined and time-limited and is always and instantly accountable to a duly constituted assembly of the affiliate.

        BD was also made Editor of ‘Direct Action’. Together, these two positions that he held in the IWW gave him a measure of power and influence which he was able to exploit to his advantage in his effort to resist accounting for his personal behaviour. In an ASF affiliate, there are no friends only comrades. Comrades that have duties and responsibilities in addition to rights.

        An anarchist federation provides a mechanism by which it is not possible for an individual to jump from group to group avoiding scrutiny and accountability. An anarchist group committed to the principle of replacing the government of people with the administration of things will take the appropriate responsibility for the inappropriate behaviour of the individual member. The best example that I know of is the MAC which has twice dealt with the issue of sexual harassment justly and effectively.

        A commitment to these methods are necessary if any anarchist group is to maintain an effective and viable alternative to State instrumentalities for the provision of just evidence-based process-driven outcomes and the sustenance of a free and equal civil society. In the absence of this, expect more AVOs and defamation suits in the courts.

        Reply
      • Yeah I pretty much agree with all you’ve said about the IWW’s form of organising. I was writing a response with examples but it was just turning into an angry rant.

        As far as the organising model you suggest being able to deal with predatory individuals.. Yes there’d be better communication and it would be harder for someone like BD to play up sectarianism to their advantage or skip from group to group. It would also make it harder for individuals like him to accumulate power (which he really was doing quite systematically).

        However I still don’t believe that it would be anywhere near enough. I really believe that any organising model can be corrupted if people aren’t coming from the right place politically and personally. I think ongoing education and organising around sexism and violence is always going to be necessary.

        Also “effective and viable alternative to State instrumentalities for the provision of just evidence-based process-driven outcomes”… This might be possible in cases of harassment because by it’s nature it tends to leave a lot of evidence. But in sexual assaults there is often no evidence at all except for the victims word. What evidence there is tends to be medical or forensic and no anarchist group has the capability to investigate that at the moment.

        Also even if a good investigation can be carried out and the perpetrator is found to be guilty what then? Being expelled from a group isn’t exactly a just punishment for sexual assault. We can’t lock the person up. Any evidence given to the police after that would be tainted and probably result in the accused being let off. So unless someone is willing to use violence then you’re pretty much letting them off anyway.

        So far I have not seen any perfect way of handling these issues and I doubt there ever will be. This is why there are ongoing discussions about safer spaces policies which prioritise survivors over accused etc.

        Reply
  3. The Camp Anarchy Safer Spaces policy has been completed:
    http://campanarchy.org/safer-spaces-policy

    Reply
    • Forgive me, but knowing the track record of the organisers of Camp ‘Anarchy’ with regard to their complicity with harrassment and assault, I can not take it seriously.

      EmBc, you make a very good point when you point out the difference between sexual harrassment and sexual assault. Where it may be possible to do something as a group about harassment such as calling it out and letting it be known and expelling the perpertrators, it is a different matter when it comes to assault (of any kind).

      Going to the police is generally thought of as wrong within the anarchist scene but what if your daughter didn’t come home from school? Would you call the Camp ‘Anarchy’ Safer Spaces Committee?

      Last year, the then Secretary of the ASF, DF, was assaulted by the Brisbane IWW delegate, AS. An assault captured on CCTV and serious enough for an ambulance to be called (punctured lung causing internal bleeding) and serious enough for venue management to involve the police. Many in the ‘anarchist’ milieu called on the DF to press charges against AS but declined to do so as he firmly believes in the principle of not involving the state.

      What has the Brisbane IWW done? Nothing. Nor has the AUSROC of the IWW done anything. Indeed, one of the organisers of Camp ‘Anarchy’, also a member of Melbourne IWW, defended AS at the recent Brisbane Anarchist Summer School when AS’s behaviour was challenged by a woman from Radio 4ZZZ. This same woman has been denounced and an apology demanded of her!

      The are those who are involved in the organising of Camp ‘Anarchy’ who have in the past (and I’m going back to 1996) encouraged the assault of one anarchist by other anarchists, defended the harassment of anarchists by someone, who had engaged the law firm Deacons against the MAC and not satisfied, climbed to the top of Ahouse tearing off the roofing iron, as ‘direct action’. Despite knowing that this same person had harassed women were happy to have them in their home at a social function and when called out for this complicity, complained that they were being harassed!

      This only half of it. In the absence of a properly organised anarchist federation in Australia expect more rank hypocrisy from self-appointed, unaccountable to anyone, organisers of camps and bookfairs purporting to be ‘anarchist’.

      Until such time as the organisers of Camp ‘Anarchy’ are held to account and take responsibility for their complicity in the harassment and assault of men as well as women you can expect more of the same. Expect more BDs going from one group to another engaging in behaviour that simply would not be tolerated in any civil society.

      This issue of dealing effectively with harassment and assault from a recognisably anarchist point of view is inseparable from the issue of anarchist organisation.

      Reply
      • Well, I for one welcome the adoption of this safer spaces policy, which as far as I can see says nothing about not going to the Police if your child doesn’t come home from school.

        Reply
  4. Lugius, I think you should reread what I was saying. I was explicitly arguing that sometimes it is *more* appropriate to go to the police and anarchists shouldn’t tell people not to.
    Also regarding CA, I don’t know the incidents you refer to, buy the individuals you are tslking about (by their own choice) did not write the policy nor will they be enforcing it. The purpose of the policy is so that people like BD cannot attend. It will be enforced.

    Reply
    • I don’t think we are in disagreement. I was making a broader point anarchist organisation (or the lack thereof). Camp ‘Anarchy’ and the like will always be popular because nothing is asked of the participants beyond paying the admission fee, attending the ‘workshops’, going blah, blah, being seen in attire as fashionable as it is radical and then going home.

      Year after year, conference after conference and still the same lack of any discernible anarchist organisation beyond ‘networks of affinity’ (translation: clicques) where those such as BD (and he is just the latest example) are protected because they have the right friends.

      No-one has apologised to the women who suffered harassment by BD including those who were prepared to support him including avowed ‘anarcha-feminists’.

      The problem is not individuals, the problem is structural.

      I agree with you EmBc, if the protection is absent then call the cops. This doesn’t mean you support the violent suppression of picket-lines.

      Reply

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