The case of “Comrade Daniel”

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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.
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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.

22 thoughts on “The case of “Comrade Daniel”

  1. Ultimately this is just a lack of professionalism in this organisation, one that may well derive from the personal/charismatic basis of authority in these organisations. In this sense I really prefer the bourgeois forms of party organisation, which seems to produce much better results in a democratic setting. I think it also leaves less scope for outside provocateurs.

    It’s sad how people’s energy and personal/bodily integrity is wasted in these pointless ‘playing Lenin’s/Trotsky’s party’ exercises. Communism for sure won’t be achieved through finding the optimal form way to structure a committee or whatever.

  2. What’s sad is to see how petty this all is on the part of a supposed leadership. Is this what Communism bodes for the future? If such people were in real power would we see not dismissal, but the death of innocence, too? Maybe Zizek is right: we who are Communists have a right to our pessimism…

    • If this crowd came to power, I would quickly make for the border. Much as I value Marxism as a way of understanding the world, I have yet to see it successfully used in a political sense. Sad to say, only some reformists have achieved some temporal results.

      Though, just remember ancient Athens was for a very long time also seen as an example that democracy didn’t work.

      • Yea, I understand. Seems this notion of Badiou and Zizek of the Communist Idea returning is a false hope at the moment. With humans at the helm such notions preclude causal efficacy when the passion of egos are still in the ideological drivers seat of outmoded thought forms. Should we say these leaders are the embodiment of false-consciousness? Rather than Socialists they embody the ideological footprint of a Neaderthal socius: and, we can’t have that, that would be to disparage a viable species, though extinct. We want go there….

  3. Thank you Ross for posting this.

    This is why I believe in transparency. You were right to release the documents. The ISO painted the person above, who gave this account, as a hostile “sectarian”. Unbelievable.

  4. Glad you are reporting on this. As someone who was a member for 6 years until quite recently, I was horrified to learn this occurred in 2012, we’re just now hearing about it, and no one in the SC has been held accountable for their gross mishandling of it.

    However I disagree with your editorial comment: “what is at issue here is not whether the alleged incident mentioned at the outset actually occurred.. but I do not think anyone reading this is in a position to weigh in on the guilt or innocence of “Comrade Daniel.” Yes, this is about the ISO mishandling and covering-up a sexual assault charge, but to claim we are not in a position to say whether this guy is guilty is to say we’re not in a position to say whether or not the survivor is a liar. The innocence of the victim of attempted rape should be taken unless proven otherwise. It certainly has not been proven otherwise. In fact, in doc #19, “Daniel” initially admits that the description of what happened is true! And I’m sure you know the data on this, that only a tiny fraction of sexual assault reports are false, yet a massive # of sexual assaults go unreported.

    Still appreciate you reporting on this.

  5. Hmm… so the ISO is a “victims’ rights” organization that considers those accused of rape to be “guilty until proven innocent” based on the “fact” — (which has never been proven scientifically) that “[f]alse accusations of sexual abuse made by people who face gendered oppression are incredibly rare”! Stalin would approve. The truth is that there appear to be no peer-reviewed, comprehensive scientific studies on false rape allegations (according to Wikipedia). Perhaps the ISO know of some? If so, they did not bother to cite any scientific study backing up the claim that false rape accusations are “incredibly rare”. The Wikipedia article we cite here reports that studies have indicated the percentage of false rape accusations to be between 2-90% — a ridiculous assertion indicative of the utter lack of scientific studies of the issue. Our cursory analysis of these generally poor studies would indicate somewhere around a 6% occurrence of false rape accusations. While that is a small number, it is not “infinitessimally small”. Add the heightened power of making such an accusation against a political opponent and you have not a typical, but an extremely unusual case — the case of “Daniel” can not be considered to be a “typical” rape accusation. The legal principle that the accused to be considered “innocent until proven guilty” must be followed; the ISO abandons this incredibly important legal protection afforded to persons accused of any crime! This would be shocking in any revolutionary socialist — not to mention Trotskyist — organization; but not in one like the ISO that so fulsomely embraces and employs the methods of the Stalinists they pretend to hate so much.

    The fact that the ISO also dispenses with the long-standing legal principle that accusations must be either written in the hand of the accuser or copied down word-for-word and then signed by the accuser before legal proceedings can even begin against the accused is also cause for condemnation! If an accuser is not willing to do this simple thing, then no case can be brought against the accused; this alone should be ample reason for a person who was actually seriously sexually assaulted to comply with such a requirement. If they do not, then the issue should be dropped unless there are other witnesses to the incident that can come forward and provide compelling signed statements of fact. Part of building a society where all people are treated equally regardless of sex is teaching and training people to stand up for their rights and to have the courage to come forward when they have been abused by any person, no matter their position in society — this is doubly true in the communist movement! The “victims’ rights” movement is a prosecutorial weapon created by the bourgeois judicial system used to steamroll the presumption of innocence in serious crime cases. For the ISO to ape such undemocratic and blatantly unfair manifestations of the bourgeois judicial system of the capitalists is to make a mockery of the socialist movement as a movement that fights for a truly just society.

    “We must therefore approach every accusation as though it is almost certainly true.” What a statement! Here’s hoping that we’ll never live in a world run by “socialists” such as these!

    Workers of the World, Unite!

    Independent Workers Party of Chicago

    • The ISO is not a fucking court and theirs is not the job of “proving beyond a reasonable doubt”. If someone comes forward with a claim and there is no proof that it is false, then the accused has to go. That should be the standard of any organization.

      And you citing of Wikipedia shows that you know nothing about this topic and have done no research. Try again.

      • “The ISO is not a fucking court” – no. The ISO is a socialist organization that allegedly wants to overthrow the capitalist system and build a new socialist society to supplant it; which means that if they had their way they would be in charge of construction of the new legal system would they not?

        You, too seem to have a problem with the concept of “innocent until proven guilty”. We’ll shine a bit of light on the subject for you: many innocent people have been murdered in “star-chamber” proceedings where an accusation was as good as a conviction: The Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, Stalin’s show trials in the ’30s, the McCarthyite witchhunts all took place when the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” was either not promulgated yet or where the authorities ignored it in order to deny their opponents any opportunity to defend themselves. Enlightenment philosophers developed the concept that people accused of crimes should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law in order to prevent the imprisonment and execution of innocent people. To Marxists, to Leninists and to Trotskyists this was and remains an excellent legal principle, and it is partially in the memory of all the millions of victims of “guilty until proven innocent” that we will fight to the death for “innocent until proven guilty” because the future of human civilization depends on the defense of such hard-won victories as that one! If you don’t understand that, you are a fool! What country are you from, “Bing”? What PLANET are you from? We never thought we’d have to fight to defend the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” in a supposedly “socialist” forum, but here we are! It is a testimony to how far below basic revolutionary socialist consciousness perople are today.

        We cite Wikipedia because the article we cited gives a quick overview of the status of our understanding of the question of the incidence of false accusations of rape – and right now, we have no real scientific studies to base any opinion on. If you have better data, it is your duty to SHARE IT WITH US! We’ll review it, and if we think it’s good, we’ll add it to the Wikipedia article or start a new one if necessary.

        IWPCHI

    • Your comment implies that I am speaking for the ISO. You’ve misunderstood. They’d be horrified by that suggestion. I was part of a faction within the organization (until we were expelled at convention over the weekend), that was critical of the SC’s handling of this case. None of the leadership involved have been held accountable, which is one of the things we proposed should happen. It is one of the reasons for our expulsion. The comments below mine make some of the points I planned to, and probably better than I could have, so I won’t repeat them.

      You can read the faction’s statement on “Comrade Daniel” if you wish.

    • I shudder to think of how your organization would handle such an incident. No wonder there are so few women on the left, as so many leftist men refuse to take violence against women seriously. That you care far more about the plight of the accused than what occurred to the victim is incredibly telling. Perhaps you’d be more comfortable as an MRA than on the left?

      • FW: We think it is quite shocking that you and your co-thinkers are at odds with the legal concept of the presumption of innocence, which is a basic right enjoyed by every person accused of a crime here in the US since the Revolution and which is a part of practically every national and international criminal code. We “shudder to think” that people who today call themselves “socialists” find this vitally important aspect of the legal protections of the rights of the accused to be incompatible with their worldview. To say that you are a confused person is to understate the situation by orders of magnitude. You must be either (1) very young and suffering from simple ignorance of the law (which is curable via education) or you are (2) very stupid or (3) maybe a right-wing nutjob. We’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say it’s #1.
        Read this and get back to us:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presumption_of_innocence

        What the ISO proposes in their Internal Document 19 is nothing less than a complete abandonment of legal principles that underpin the fundamental human rights of accused persons. Ask any lawyer what she or he thinks about getting rid of this important legal protection afforded those accused of crimes.

        We discussed in an earlier comment just how we would proceed with this case: since the person who was allegedly abused refused to furnish a signed, written statement of her charges, we would consider the matter to have been a personal conflict between the two people that they resolved between themselves. We would also consider that the refusal of the accuser to press charges after having undertaken a “whispering campaign” against “Comrade Daniel” accusing him of serious crimes to be a major crime in itself – that of deliberately slandering a person, our comrade, in an effort to neutralize his effectiveness as a member of our party. We would have to consider the very real possibility that the entire case was a set-up organized by our political opponents to smear and politically neutralize a popular and effective party worker. The accuser’s “hit-and-run” tactics would be looked upon as the style of the work of an agent provocateur much in the manner of the style of the women who accused Julian Assange of sexual abuse.

        What third-party non-witnesses whose only information on the issue was obtained via “hearsay evidence” (you’ll want to look that up, too) had to say about the case would be not worth writing down. However, since “Comrade Daniel” was browbeaten by the ISO’s initial kangaroo court into confessing that the initial story as told by the accuser was true, the local would have to determine if his admission of questionable conduct towards his accuser merited some kind of censure. If we did come to such a conclusion, then he’d be censured (or perhaps even expelled) by the local after a disciplinary hearing was held at which he would be given the opportunity to explain his side of the story. If that method of dealing with such a case frightens you, c’est la vie.

        IWPCHI

  6. I am posting here as this seems a reasonable site with some rational discussion going on — have not bothered to try on UK sites, complete waste of time. This is based on UK experience.

    Trying to be brief:

    We first need to acknowledge the actual nature and treatment of rape allegations in the (bourgeois) Criminal Justice System (CJS). This essentially involves massive underreporting of cases, low numbers of reported cases going to trial and even fewer convictions. (There is a good summary at Fig. 1.1 An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales 2013.)

    In the last 20-years the police have vastly improved their treatment of complainants but we clearly still have a long way to go. There remains a strong disincentive to report.

    One can clearly see institutional sexism as a causal factor however there is no getting away from the fact that consent defence rape is difficult to prosecute. The same survey indicates that 90% of complainants know the alleged perpetrator — consent defence is always going to be high.

    I focus on consent defence because this is likely to form the big majority of cases which occur inside voluntary organisations of “the left”. It goes without saying that such organisations will not have access to any other investigatory evidence especially medical or forensic. Nor of course should they.

    That organisational responses to the recent high profile cases (Delta & Daniel) were made up on the hoof says a great deal — lack of professionalism coupled with complacency about the nature of “the party”. That leaders did not seek external assistance from impartial experts seems to prove this.

    In the UK we have the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, any number of who would have advised the SWP (UK) as to appropriate approaches to consent defence rape allegations within the membership. Ideally long in advance of any occurring.

    That said, left organisations will, almost certainly from time-to-time, be faced with allegations from the most serious and difficult end of the sexual offences spectrum — consent defence rape. They also have no advanced plan as to how to deal with them.

    It seems a reasonable response to me for “the party” to say; “we do not have the expertise required properly to deal with such allegations”. That does not mean they should not have systems to support complainants, they should. They should also have approaches designed to support the complainant through the CJS should they wish to report. In addition there must surely be democratically agreed rules procedurally to manage such situations.

    If, however, you are going to play at “bourgeois justice” then you damn well have to be better than it, and also be seen to be better than it. In both these cases “the party” fell significantly below that standard. One can easily imagine that the process was harmful to the complainants.

    A non-socialist feminist said of the above argument — “but you would convene an impartial tribunal for any other alleged assault, you clearly devalue sexual assault against women”. Not an unreasonable point. My response; “Possibly, and we might make a half decent job of it. Sadly however we currently cannot deal with rape as well as the state (who aren’t that good themselves) and we have the propensity to make things very much worse”.

  7. (I was replying to iwpchi, not Bing, in case that isn’t obvious. Sorry I seem to replying in the wrong place.)
    Bing, I agree with you, “If someone comes forward with a claim and there is no proof that it is false, then the accused has to go. That should be the standard of any organization.”

  8. The Communist movement (which the ISO leadership has consistently derided and is not a part of) has always had procedures in place to handle all kinds of allegations that might be brought against members of their parties. The Spartacist League we know for a fact has had such from its earliest days; so does the Socialist Workers Party and the CPUSA. It does not surprise us to find out that the internal disciplinary procedures of the ISO are as haphazardly thrown together as their political programme.
    In the Leninist vanguard party, every member is required to adhere to the party principles without fail; abandoning those principles by committing alleged outrages such as “Daniel” was accused of would lead to an internal party investigation to be instituted immediately, which would interview both parties and come to a proposal as to what should be done. There would be a party meeting at which every member would be present (youth and full party members) and the results of the investigation would be presented, and the issue would be brought up for full discussion. Members could propose the punishment to be handed down, if any was deemed necessary. These would run the gamut from no punishment at all to temporary suspension of the membership of the accused all the way to outright expulsion with prejudice (meaning that there would be no way back into the party under any circumstances – a lifetime ban). The decision as to whether or not to press criminal charges in the bourgeois courts against the accused would depend on the accuser alone. This is – in broad outline – how we understand the way a communist party would function in such a case and this is basically how we in our party would proceed. We certainly wouldn’t need to call the “Haldane Society” to decide if we would afford the accused all the rights any accused person would obtain in a US court of law. He or she would be “innocent until proven guilty” by a jury of his peers made up of party members. Regardless of the outcome of a trial in a bourgeois court, the party would come to its own conclusions as to whether or not they wished to have this person remain as a member of the party. Of course, if we determined that this party member had been falsely accused of sexual assault we would defend him or her to the hilt throughout any trial that took place in the capitalists’ court system… and if the party investigation had determined that the acusation was true, we would have nothing to do with his/her legal defense beyond protesting any outrageous volations of his or her basic rights as a defendant, as we would do for any other citizen.
    These 100-year-old and more internal disciplinary rules of socialist and communist parties were created to prevent a political opponent or agent of the class enemy from throwing our organizations into chaos via the simple expedient of having an agent provocateur hurl an incendiary accusation against a party member – as happened to the ISO’s branch organization. To pretend that there was no possible political motive in the case of “Daniel” is to reveal one’s own stupidity. The history of the communist movement is replete with examples of agents provocateurs and even internal political bandits attempting to destroy leading and rank-and-file party members via lying accusations. Does the case of Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition come to mind to any of you? The Scottsboro Boys? Mark Curtis? More recently: Julian Assange?
    The ISO’s lack of Leninist party principles and methods of operation not only allowed a political opponent to stand their entire branch organization on its collective head with a single Facebook post; it has allowed the accusation to disrupt their ENTIRE organization from top to bottom; and it promises to disrupt their upcoming party convention this year as well! What a bunch of rank amateurs the ISO leadership are!
    If we are going to fight for a socialist revolution then it is incumbent upon us to study the history of the evolution of bourgeois judicial systems as we intend to create a new system that is far more “just” than their class-biased system ever could be. But there is much that we recognize as being of value in the bourgeois system, including the protections that are afforded the accused, and many safeguards that are incorporated into the rules of evidence. In the US, we had a revolution that established such advanced ideas as the principle that all accused persons be considered to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, judged by a jury of their peers. These very rational concepts will not be jettisoned by a Trotskyist revolutionary party in a socialist USA! On the contrary, they will be among the very valuable contributions to human civilization that have been achieved by the capitalist class during their epoch that we will retain in the new socialist system. It is extremely disturbing to read the comments of people here – presumably socialists, or at least socialist sympathisers – to the effect that they are opposed to the principle that persons who are accused of crimes should be considered “innocent until proven guilty”! These people would not be admitted as members of any revolutionary socialist party we can imagine – certainly not the one we are trying to create – as they are not “ready for prime time” politically at all, and espouse medieval legal concepts that went completely out of existence in the US in the late 18th century – and practically disappeared in most of the rest of the world by the middle of the 20th.
    The idea that women are so delicate that there should be special rules for handling cases involving rape or sexual abuse is ludicrous. It takes as its point of departure the fundamental thesis of woman-hating reactionaries that women are ‘the weaker sex” and must be protected from all unpleasant things – like testifying in open court before the world when they level serious accusations against another person. This is pure horseshit! The idea that we need “special courts for women” presupposes a sort of “separate and unequal” status of women before the law, which is unthinkable for any Marxist worthy of the name! We demand equal treatment for women in all aspects of life and work to provide all the support towards educating and encouraging women to take their rightful place as full equals of men in every possible way. The ISO proposes to do away with basic protections for accused persons in order to patronizingly “defend” the “weaker sex” from the difficult but entirely necessary unpleasantries encountered in bringing serious criminal charges against another person in a public courtroom. To say that an accuser doesn’t even need to furnish a written and signed statement describing the facts of the case against the accused is an attempt to bring the judicial system back to a state even more primitive than that of the religious court that oversaw the Salem Witch Trials! This is outrageous and a complete abandonment of the Marxist struggles for building a more just society for all and for equal rights for women. This is nothing less than the latest confirmation that the ISO leadership and party programme is not Trotskyist, not Leninist not Marxist and not socialist in anything other than the name!

    IWPCHI

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