Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Galway PBP 2020: time for clarity on the allegations or for moving on.

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Guest post from Des Derwin

The suspension (and subsequent expulsion) by People Before Profit of its Galway West candidate on the day of the general election has been followed by accusations of dismissal of members’ complaints for long before that day, of exclusion of complainants since that day, and by discussion of the events and surrounding events on Facebook and Twitter. Now another left organisation, the Connolly Youth Movement, has taken it upon itself to enter the fray with a strong public statement (23rd March) supporting the woman at the centre of an assault allegation and criticizing the response and leadership of People Before Profit. And implicating a separate organisation (Solidarity-The Socialist Party) in the process.

A new thread on Facebook (25th March) about this was tagged to my timeline. So, in a way, involving me, a bit, publicly. I’m reluctant to add fuel to the Facebook fire, for reasons I hope are explained below. I have removed the tag. But not commenting at all would, I feel, amount to the type of polite silence that has accompanied allegations of abuse down the years. Maybe here might be a cooler and quieter place to say a few initial words.

I would like to preface my remarks by saying that I have a long history of clashing with sectarian and bureaucratic politics within and without this organisation, and in relation to other organizations too. Never did I imagine that serious personal or gender based abuse might be present or tolerated. 

Secondly, I believe this organization (People Before Profit-Socialist Workers Network) has developed enormously in recent years. Obviously on the outside with its growing social and electoral presence, and also on the inside with gradual moves towards openness and broadness. It is now a real political force, with a daily practice of struggle and it has drawn far ahead of its rivals on the radical left who remain hopelessly stuck in their small group ways. 

Thirdly, PBP-SWN has some of the best activists, deepest Marxist thinkers, and impressive and authentic people on the Irish left. I have several friends who are active members including one of my closest. 

That said I have just two further things to say now. I believe the Galway members who complained, went public and are still aggrieved. 

However, there is a problem with the discussion and airing of all this on Facebook and Twitter. Or rather with the piecemeal, confusing way it has been aired there. As I said I believe the complainants. In so far as I have been able to glean their case from its scattered presentation. But despite copious comments, snippets of information, names named, dark hints of a history of similar happenings, and obvious detailed knowledge by some of those posting, over the course of the best part of two months, as well as a formal statement from at least one other left organisation, there has been no detailed and referenced narrative account of the case published, as far as I know. The statement signed by Galway members has not been published for instance, as far as I know, yet it has been discussed and referred to on long threads on Facebook, the most open of fora, and a personal email in response to the statement was published there. 

This leaves outsiders at a disadvantage. How are we to form a reliable view with only snippets of contested information? The charges being made are very serious and if true would be potentially scandalous for the socialist movement. If false they would be highly irresponsible. Similar episodes in other countries were accompanied with clear accounts of what happened and when. The same should be offered in this case or the discussion will be either (understandable) ventilation for some, entertainment for others or dismissible by still others as unwarranted attacks or baseless gossip. 

It follows also from all this publicity and allegation, especially now that a whole organisation has weighed in behind it, that People Before Profit should publish a comprehensive response, and not confine itself to the one brief statement on the actual Galway suspension itself or follow the well worn practice of meeting instances of accusation and criticism with official silence.

A clear, formal and public presentation of the events and their history should be made, and the allegations lifted from the guerilla world of social media or from some Phoenix Magazine type realm, or else the matter should be left for the historians, as indeed some of the most directly affected have done for their own well-being.

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