What follows is an account written by the person described by the Steering Committee in Preconvention Bulletin 19 as “a member of a different socialist organization…extremely hostile to the ISO.” This individual, who has asked to remain anonymous, is close friends with the woman who accused “Comrade Daniel” of attempted rape. In the following, the author disputes some elements of the account presented in PCB 19, or at least what he feels are some glaring omissions. Slight grammatical edits have been made, but have been reviewed and accepted by the author as conveying its original substance unchanged.
My only editorial comment is that what is at issue here is not whether the alleged incident mentioned at the outset actually occurred. This may seem a provocative position to take to some, but I do not think anyone reading this is in a position to weigh in on the guilt or innocence of “Comrade Daniel,” especially as no details of the event in question appear. (Indeed, the accuser prefers that such details be withheld). What is at issue, however, is the International Socialist Organization’s response to these allegations. Or, more accurately, its lack of a response. As the author of the following makes clear, cases like this are hardly exclusive to the ISO.
We were out drinking with a friend when she started telling myself and two other friends that she was having some problems with her boyfriend. She shared her story, and while Document 19 takes great pains to inform the reader that the majority of the
[city name redacted] branch and at least some members in national leadership think that while it was obviously a violation of consent, it didn’t amount to attempted rape. However, I’m confident that if the reader was aware of what happened they would characterize it correctly.
I would also hope that the reader is understanding with the position I’m placed in as someone who is outside of the ISO, knows the story, and yet didn’t have the event happen to them, making me unwilling to share it with the world. Because of the leak of Document 19 however, I have decided that I will share my side of what happened, especially as the Document saw fit to mention me, and generally obscured the matter more than it revealed.
Anyway, she said she wanted the ISO to know what happened since the perpetrator was elected leadership in the branch and was carrying himself as a strong anti-sexist. That’s how their relationship started and she was worried he would use that as a predatory tool. We discussed it and decided the first thing to do would be to have the woman who was with us talk to a female friend in the branch. We figured that would lead to a report to leadership, as she was part of the leadership herself, there’d be some form of disciplinary hearing, and the perpetrator would be expelled.
Unfortunately that didn’t go as planned. The ISO member we informed, herself a longtime friend of the perpetrator, said that it didn’t amount to attempted rape — because “if he really wanted to, he would have” — and she refused to report it. I was stunned when I heard her say this, but the woman who spoke to her said while she was disappointed as well, she had actually expected that response. As a former member of the ISO herself, she said that complaints with the party, political or personal in nature, are usually viewed with hostility due to the party’s siege mentality.
Some time later, maybe a little under a year, someone on my Facebook feed shared a new article written by the perpetrator [later dubbed “Comrade Daniel”] in Socialist Worker about the importance for men to stand with women against sexism. At the time the SWP-UK thing was still pretty fresh, but out for long enough that everyone who was curious about it could look it up and see what had happened. The Left in general seemed to be more on edge and vigilant about this sort of thing.
But as far as I was concerned, the victim’s worst fears were coming true before my very eyes. The perpetrator was continuing to build a reputation for his anti-sexism work. Furious, I reposted the article, adding that its author liked to prey on women.
This represented a serious lapse in judgment. I’d made a mistake by not getting permission to go public with the story before I actually did, a decision I regret and for which I later apologized. Some friends in the ISO branch messaged me asking what happened, so I arranged a meeting with one in order to talk about it. In the meantime, a few people affiliated with the branch (but not members) started to accuse me of all sorts of things, calling me sectarian and claiming that I wanted to destroy the branch. Correctly, however, they took me to task for not getting permission to share someone else’s highly personal story.
Later I learned that members of the
[city name] branch, led by the woman who we’d first informed, were doing damage control. They told some influential people in the local activist scene that there’d been an accusation saying that the perpetrator [“Comrade Daniel”] attacked some woman — but that of course it wasn’t true.
Two to three months afterwards the truth eventually got out. I was contacted by the ISO branch member I’d set up a meeting with, who told me that they were working on a draft of new disciplinary rules. Moreover, if the woman who “Comrade Daniel” attacked wanted anything to happen, she’d need to submit a written statement. In the meantime the perpetrator had left the party. Only then did members of the local branch finally get around to interviewing the victim, so that there’d be some sort of formal statement to work with in taking disciplinary measures. So I left thinking everything had been resolved, or would be shortly.
Some time later Document 19 was released, revealing details of how the branch dealt with the issue internally. The document contained no information to suggest that they had actually expelled the perpetrator at that point, meaning he could potentially come back if the branch held a vote on the way he would be disciplined. It did suggest, however, that the majority of the branch’s members agree that what occurred didn’t actually constitute attempted rape. Since then I’ve learned that another document has been leaked, which indicates that the perpetrator, “Comrade Daniel,” was only finally expelled in absentia February 6th, 2014, the same day that Document 19 was published on The Charnel-House [the document was actually published February 7th, 2014, as a commenter below rightly points out].
One last thing I’d like to address is my claim that there was a coverup. I believe this is a reasonable assumption to make, then as now. We had informed a member of branch leadership of what happened, and we now know (because of Document 19) that she told all but one of the other members of branch leadership at least some of what happened. And yet they did nothing until I went public with it on Facebook.
But even just going on the fact that she didn’t move the party machinery forward in processing the complaint is enough to allege a coverup. This way, though, the blame would rest on only one person operating on the inside and a few others who she told. Nothing widespread. We also know that she informed at least one person in the ISO’s national leadership of what happened. We don’t know the details of that conversation, however. It’s quite possible that she made the same dismissive comments and lied about the situation, just as the rest of the branch had done months earlier when questioned. Unfortunately, we don’t know (and can’t know) unless either she makes a statement publicly or the ISO Steering Committee member does.
This is not an issue exclusive to the ISO. A few years ago the Progressive Labor Party had a similar incident, and I’m sure we’re all familiar with what happened in the UK with the SWP.