Fightback Responds to Allegations: Lessons for the Movement

We reprint here a public statement by the Canadian section of the IMT. The US section of the IMT stands in absolute solidarity with our sister section in the face of this recent political attack.

Recently, an “open letter” was published online by an ex-member that contains serious allegations against Fightback and the International Marxist Tendency. In it, we are accused of sweeping gendered violence “under the rug.” We are supposedly also complicit in “very real sexual exploitation, victim-blaming, and abuse apologia.” This is absolutely false as we will demonstrate in this statement. We have a zero tolerance policy for abuse or harassment. We insist on investigating every case and when guilt is established we take swift action—and that is what we have done in these instances.

The facts of the cases mentioned in the open letter are of fundamental importance. In the instance involving the author of the open letter, the abuser was expelled within eight days of us first being made aware of the abuse. In another incident raised, the perpetrator was suspended after a commission investigated the case and established that abuse had taken place. The allegations raised in a third incident were only made known to us in the open letter itself and within a few days we had put into place a control commission to investigate the matter.

It is an unfortunate fact that abuse is an all too common occurrence under capitalism, and as an organization with hundreds of members, we are not immune. We have the utmost sympathy for anybody who has suffered abuse, as millions have in Canada. Unfortunately in the open letter, these cases have become politicized and linked to an identity politics-based critique of our organization which has been spread on social media. It is argued that because we disagree with identity politics and its methods we somehow harbor abusers. But the facts show that the exact opposite is the case.

Once the facts are known, the only criticisms which remain are those which are explicitly political in nature, and which have absolutely no bearing on dealing appropriately with abuse. The aim of the open letter is clear: to cause maximum damage to our organization and cause confusion in the movement at large. We hope that this statement makes the picture clear for all to see.

A political attack

The political nature of these criticisms is obvious in the letter written by an ex-member, where the only individuals who are named are political leaders of the IMT: Alex Grant, Ted Grant, and Alan Woods. Curiously, the names of the abusers are absent. People must ask themselves: why is this? If the purpose of the letter is to deal with abuse and protect people, wouldn’t the abusers themselves be named, and not the IMT’s political figures (one of whom is now deceased)?

At the beginning of the letter, it is claimed that in our recruitment meetings we ask people “if they agree with the organization’s stance against ‘call-out culture.’” This is not something that we raise in recruitment meetings so we can only assume that what the author really means is our staunch opposition to identity politics, which we do discuss with every new recruit in depth. Starting with this, the letter weaves a story, connecting facts, half-truths, and outright falsehoods to portray a completely false picture of our organization and our politics.

The final crescendo is a whole slew of baseless political critiques of the IMT. It is claimed that Ted Grant, the main theoretical founder of the IMT, was of the opinion that homosexuality would disappear under socialism. But the links provided do not provide one ounce of evidence to back up this claim. The letter quotes Alan Woods, who was criticizing the abandonment of a class position by the SWP in the 1960s, and tries to claim that therefore the IMT does not fight against oppression in all of its forms. The dishonesty of this is clear for all to see and anyone who follows our website and participates in our activities on the ground will know that this is completely false.

Our approach to cases of abuse

Our organization has a no-tolerance attitude to abuse and the facts back this up when looking at the cases raised in the open letter. We insist on a full investigation, due process and enacting disciplinary measures if guilt is established. While this process is rarely easy, taking disciplinary action without due process is dangerous as it opens up the possibility for accusations to be weaponized for political reasons. As well, due process is necessary to protect the victim, as it allows the accusations to be proven concretely and in this way the abuser can’t maintain a narrative of victim-blaming or denial when found guilty (which often occurs when there is no proper investigation).

Unfortunately, the fact that we insisted on investigating each case properly and did not wish to implement disciplinary measures without first having properly established the facts has been denounced as “protecting abusers.” This is not a serious allegation. Once the facts were ascertained and it was clear that abuse had taken place, the abusers were removed from the organization under terms agreed to by the victims. This all took place in relatively short order.

This serious method is unfortunately not the norm on the left. Instead, rumors, innuendo, and vague accusations are common and are used to settle political or personal scores. The absence of due process and the acceptance of identity politics methods leads to infighting, demoralization, and cynicism and is generally ruinous for the movement. We appeal to everyone to reject the culture of rumors and innuendos which do nothing to achieve clarity or to fight against abuse. On the contrary, this culture is the best context to create confusion between what is real and not, and discourage victims from speaking out as their words can be twisted and their abuse politically weaponized.

The need for a serious attitude with due process is also important when we look at the pernicious role that false allegations have played to destabilize and ultimately destroy revolutionary organizations. The most notable example of this was the COINTELPRO program run by the FBI whose efforts contributed to destroying many left-wing organizations including the Black Panthers. It would be naïve to assume that these methods, incredibly effective in their application, will never be used again by state actors or others on the left to settle political scores. If a revolutionary organization decided to ignore due process, and instead chose to treat every allegation as an established fact, it would be opening itself to future attack by state (and other) actors. Indeed, such an organization would collapse like a house of cards at the first serious blow. Of course, this is of little concern to left-wing “activists” of the Twitter variety, who have no interest in building a serious organization and are incapable of doing so.

Weaponizing abuse for political purposes

From day one, while we insisted on dealing with the abuse, the now ex-member insisted on using these cases of abuse to level political criticisms against our organization. But conflating cases of abuse with political critiques, to the point of withholding information on alleged wrongdoings until those critiques are addressed, only impedes our ability to deal with abuse. Should a potential perpetrator remain unpunished until our organization revises its approach to identity politics? Does this make any sense to anyone?

In fact, adopting identity politics does nothing to help deal with abuse. A good example of this is the International Socialist Organization (ISO) in the US which adopted Postmodernism and identity politics, publishing articles to support this. This did not stop the ISO from being thrown into crisis in 2019, after an “independent disciplinary committee” came to the conclusion that the ISO national leadership had covered up a case of sexual violence. But what has happened with our organization is precisely the opposite: We have not adopted identity politics and we have a good record on dealing with abuse.

We are accused of not believing victims of abuse. But the facts do not support this claim. The truth is that we did listen intently to both victims, established guilt after thorough investigations, and rapidly excluded the perpetrators from our organization. Another post online states that “Fightback doubles down on victim blaming.” The rank insinuation here is that we blamed the victims for being assaulted. But when and where and how we did this, is not mentioned. We never blamed anyone for the abuse they suffered and it is slander to say otherwise.

What is really meant here is that because someone was abused, that their wider political criticisms must also therefore be true. Anyone attempting to challenge political or organizational criticisms made by someone who was abused—therefore must not be believing the victim. But the facts show that we believe the victims and dealt with both cases in a relatively quick manner. Resulting discipline was also agreed upon by discussing with the victims.

A method to destroy the left

We must be clear. Weaponizing allegations is the chosen method to destroy the left. The movement must come to terms with this and develop a serious approach to investigating and dealing with cases of abuse. This means not allowing cases of abuse to be weaponized for political purposes and maintaining due process so that every case can be investigated fully. Anything short of this allows accusations to be weaponized for political purposes and disciplinary measures to be implemented prior to the establishment of the facts. This sets a dangerous precedent which actively harms the movement and the fight against oppression.

We recently saw this in Britain where the Corbyn movement has been destroyed through the use of false allegations of anti-Semitism. But the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report demonstrated that cases of anti-Semitism were dealt with more swiftly under Corbyn than under other party leaders. Most importantly, the report stated that the main hindering factor in dealing with cases of racism was the political interference of the right-wing bureaucracy of the party who were weaponizing accusations of anti-Semitism to attack Corbyn and regain control of the Labour Party. Unfortunately, Corbyn bent to these accusations, admitting to something that was not true. This just emboldened the right wing of the Labour Party who used any admission of guilt to ramp up their attacks.

The open letter also mentions a situation which occurred at York University in 2018. The event occurred in the middle of a TA strike, where allegations were leveled against us by our political opponents. It was claimed that we harbor abusers. Our approach at the time was to demand details so that if there was an abuser, they could be dealt with and our members and people in the wider movement protected. We did everything in our power at the time to try to resolve the situation, including proposing an independent process to look into the matter. Still to this day, no abuser has been named yet people who are politically hostile to Fightback raise this in order to try to damage our organization. The lesson from this instance is that we did not give in to these attacks and we did not apologize for what we had not done. We did not do what Corbyn did. The result is that Fightback is stronger and the clear political nature of that attack is clear for all to see.

The movement in Canada must learn the lessons of this. Fightback and the International Marxist Tendency stand by a serious approach to dealing with cases of abuse. We oppose weaponization of accusations for political purposes and insist on investigating and acting on each and every case.

We will not liquidate

The clear goal of these online attacks is to say that Fightback and the IMT are bankrupt and that we must therefore liquidate as an organization. Calls for “those of you who are still members” to “quit” show exactly what this attack is all about.

This is clearly an attempt by postmodern identity politics partisans to destroy the largest Marxist organization in the country. With references to the ISO (who liquidated after covering up a sexual assault case) and the British SWP (who are a shadow of their former selves after protecting one of their leading members who was accused of rape) the open letter attempts to play on people’s emotions to attack our organization. But the facts stand out and people can see that these accusations don’t withstand the slightest scrutiny. Unlike these other organizations we dealt with abuse, and unlike them we have not capitulated to postmodern identity politics.

Dissolving an organization which has swiftly dealt with sexual abusers does nothing to combat sexual abuse. Liquidating the largest Marxist organization in Canada does nothing for the working class and the oppressed, and directly hinders the fight against capitalist oppression.

We will not be deterred in the slightest. Our banner is clean and we will continue organizing and building the forces of Marxism in Canada. We will continue defending a serious approach to combating sexual assault. We will continue fighting the capitalist system and the oppression it promotes. The victory of socialism depends on it.

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