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Why it is necessary to publicize the rape allegations against leading members of the IMT's Pakistani section

posted 27 Feb 2012, 09:49 by Admin uk   [ updated 4 Mar 2012, 12:20 ]

 by Jonathan Clyne former member of the International Executive of the International Marxist Tendency.  

 

The fundamental reason is because rape is a political question and should therefore be discussed openly.    

The traditional view is that rape is not a political question. It has been seen as personal failure of the rapist or a misreading of signals in a game between adults or simply the inability of some men to control their supposedly naturally greater need for sex than women. All human behaviour is complex and there are always various tendencies at work, but that has never been a barrier to try and analyse the main (often underlying) tendencies at work, without pretending that there can't be other tendencies at work too. The same thing should be done with rape.    

Looked at in that light, none of the above explanations for rape hold, whether rape is explained as a personal or a natural phenomena. Different societies show very different rape rates. The fact that a South African woman has a greater chance of being raped than learning to read and write has nothing to do with either “natural” or “personal” causes. Nor the facts that every sixth US woman has experienced rape or an attempted rape. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_statistics)

In a large survey, 35 percent of US male college students admitted that they would commit rape if they believed they could get away with it. Note, this was a question about their willingness to rape, that is a clearly stated illegal action, not a question about cases that they might defend on the grounds that it was not really rape. Another survey about more loosely defined sexual abuse showed that “43 percent of college-aged men admitted to using coercive behaviour to have sex, including ignoring a woman's protest, using physical aggression, and forcing intercourse.” (http://www.uic.edu/depts/owa/sa_rape_support.html)

All this indicates that rape is not a question of unfortunate isolated incidents, but is a broader problem and has social causes. A problem that has largely been buried.

The causes of rape are connected to the oppression of women, and more generally to the existence of hierarchical societies. Therefore rape must be treated as a political question. Concretely, that means, just like with all political questions, bringing things out into the public sphere for discussion. And working out ways for society to deal with it. Police intervention is an insignificant part of that. Rape is the most unreported crime, and of reported rapes only a tiny minority end in convictions. Factoring in unreported rapes, about 95 percent of US rapists will never spend a day in jail. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape)

Clearly other measures are necessary, and confining it to the police and personal (sympathy and help for the victim) spheres is completely inadequate. Bringing out details about rapes is a necessary part of the political process, just like publicizing details of life under capitalism is an important part of the political struggle of the working class generally. Even if it is considered in bad taste. (Recently the Swedish upper class was scandalized at the bad taste of some activists who organised a bus trip for a “safari” to the “ghetto of the rich” to show ordinary people how the rich lived. Apart from being reported to the police, they were pelted with eggs by a gang of upper class youths.)

Here are two excellent articles about the issue of rape in Pakistan - http://www.marxist.com/rape-women-pakistan.htm and http://www.marxist.com/rape-women-pakistan.htm. It is worth noting that in one of the articles the author comments: “The large number of cases goes unreported because any suggestion of sex is considered taboo in Pakistan”. We should not fall into the trap of not writing about rape because of the risk of being salacious. 

Rape culture is not confined to countries like Pakistan.  A 'rape culture'  is defined as a culture where "sexual violence is both made to be invisible and inevitable" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_culture). Fighting rape culture therefore must involve making rape clearly visible.

Perhaps even more important than looking at the causes of rape is the need to look at the effects of rape. As such, it plays a role in maintaining both women's oppression and the general hierarchy of society. Like any act of violence or threat of violence, it is the ultimate means of maintaining a hierarchy of power. Therefore rape is often systematic and sanctioned from above in war.

In Pakistan, the use of rape as means to maintain power is not an underlying tendency, but openly stated and exercised in countless cases. It is not unusual for a village council to decide to use gang rape as a means of keeping women in their place. This is regardless of the law, and even when gang rape is prosecuted its chances of success are small (for an example see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13158001). Even before things get to court women have to go through a tremendous ordeal in Pakistan. Seventy percent of women in police stations were subjected to sexual and physical violence. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_Pakistan#Sexual_violence) Having gone through that, it is the woman that can end up in the dock, accused of adultery. (http://www.jazbah.org/asmaj.php)

Having said all the above in order to prove that rape is a political issue and should therefore be discussed openly, it would be futile to deny that for me there is also a personal and moral element involved in why I want the issue publicized. Nobody can fight simultaneously against all injustices. One always picks and chooses one fights and often they are related to a personal starting point.

I have visited Pakistan many times. I have seen the position of women there. I know some of the people involved. And since its inception until two years ago, I sat in the leadership of the IMT. I bare a certain responsibility for what has possibly happened.

I don't give a damn about the present political positions of the IMT, but I do care when a person is possibly seriously affected. Then I feel I must act within the means available. I seriously regret I did not act decisively when I came to know about a similar issue years ago. Then I hid behind the women's assurance that I need not pursue the matter.

It is impossible from a distance to dig out all the facts about an individual rape case. But that makes it no less important to bring to light alleged abuses and allow them to be dealt with openly. Leaving it to the leadership, to deal “sensitively” with the issue, appears to have been a failure in this case. Two years have passed and nothing seems to have been done.

To my knowledge letting the leadership deal with these things “sensitively” has always been a failure, whether it was dealt with by the leadership itself or a control commission. In practice the control commission is not independent, but selected by the leadership. Of all the cases I know of issues of any type going to a control commission, I know of none which I consider has dealt fairly with the issue.

An example is the experience of a young Swedish comrade who was raped many years ago by a  South African comrade. At an international control commission the Swedish comrade was subjected to the type of interrogation that would be unacceptable if done by the police or a court of law in Sweden. After that the South African was suspended for two years and the whole thing was silenced. Nothing was done to use this dreadful event to clarify the gravity of this issue to the whole organisation. Rape, just like all other political issues, must be dealt with openly.

The internal culture of the IMT and its predecessor the CWI is such that it tends to smooth over the behaviour of its leaders. This is in keeping with its closed in atmosphere where no discussion is allowed to be held publicly (and even internal discussion must “go through the proper channels”). The justification for this is that “the leadership must lead” and that a united image must be presented to the outside world, lest it give ammunition to “the enemy”.

Without committing myself to the guilt of those that stand accused, I find the testimonies published on this site sufficiently credible that they should be publicized in order for the case to be dealt with openly. I know from personal experience that some of the important circumstances connected to the case are true. I have been in close contact with the leadership of the Pakistani IMT's section for many years. It is clear to me that the consumption of alcohol among the leadership is clearly excessive, even by European standards, never mind the standards of a country where alcohol is illegal. There is a strong social pressure for comrades to consume alcohol. I also personally know of two incidents when a heavily intoxicated leader of the Pakistani section overstepped the boundaries of unwanted sexual attention, although the incidents were not of  the gravity that affected Comrade F.

The publication of these testimonies is an attempt to inform members of the IMT of what has been going on. They are unlikely to hear about it any other way, as the leadership maintains a monopoly over the means of communication within the organisation. It expels people who do not accept that. The best that can be hoped for at this stage is that the wrong Comrade F has been, most likely, subjected to be redressed by IMT members demanding a thorough and open investigation. The perpetrators should be expelled if found guilty.


Reply to what seems to be the IMT's defence against the rape allegations

From Jonathon Clyne

On http://www.revleft.com/vb/gang-rape-allegations-t168012/index2.html, an internet community that discusses small left groups, somebody who calls himself Leon T puts forward what I think appears to be the IMT leaderships attempt to (internally and to close sympathizers) dismiss the rape allegations. It worth analysing this effort. This is what Leon T writes:

The allegations made by Heiko Khoo, and a clique of expelled members of the IMT are COMPLETELY false. This is part of a smear campaign by HK and some ex members to blackmail the Tendency to re-admit them (or else). I have reviewed all documents and testimony's by the witnesses and accused, and find little to no validity in them. Just as a few examples: The situation took place over 2 years ago, and has only been brought up since the expulsions. NO official legal action was taken at the time. The accusers refuse to allow anyone to question the "so-called" victim. The accusers said they would gladly sweep this under the table if they were re admitted, thus making them complaisant in the act if it indeed happen. No one actually witnessed a rape, but a room full of very drunk comrades with different degrees of clothing on, including the "so-called" victim.

Heiko Khoo is a megalomaniac, and ever since his expulsion a few years ago has sworn to slander the IMT, and bring it down. In many ways he is similar to the case of Atlee Yarrow and the SPUSA, after his expulsion.

The leadership of the IMT were and have been all over this since the allegations were made, and made several trips to Pakistan to see for themselves.”

Let us take things bit by bit.

1. “The allegations made by Heiko Khoo, and a clique of expelled members of the IMT are COMPLETELY false. This is part of a smear campaign by HK and some ex members to blackmail the Tendency to re-admit them (or else).”

I was not expelled. The majority of the Swedish section voted to leave. While we considered staying on and letting ourselves get expelled, we firmly rejected that option. We wanted to show that the IMT was not worth belonging to. We preferred possible international isolation, than staying on there. Heiko was expelled, but I am sure the last thing he wants is to be readmitted.

2. “The situation took place over 2 years ago, and has only been brought up since the expulsions.”

It is not uncommon that rape cases take a long time to be brought up. Just think of all the paedophile cases in the Catholic Church that took decades to come to surface. Rape is a sensitive issue, embedded in a rape culture that puts pressure on people to keep the issue private. I have only brought it up now, because I knew nothing about it previously. I cannot exactly assess the motives of why the expelled Pakistani comrades have only brought it up now. However, being familiar with the mindset of the IMT leadership, I know it is considered a cardinal sin to take up criticism of any sort, without going through the “proper channels”. That is, only raising things with the leadership and giving them an interminable amount of time to deal with things “sensitively”. To take things up in any other way is heavily criticized and to take things up publicly is subject to immediate expulsion. A comrade was expelled at a British CC meeting for publicising previous abuses in Pakistan. And that was at the same meeting where she said she was going to resign. Despite that offer, she was expelled to make sure that the message to everybody was clear - raising things in public could not be tolerated.

3. “NO official legal action was taken at the time.”

Apart from what has already been mentioned in the above paragraph, anybody putting forward this argument is either blissfully unaware or deliberately misleading of what happens to women when they make rape allegations officially in Pakistan. See my previous contribution.

4. The accusers refuse to allow anyone to question the "so-called" victim.”

Considering how a rape victim that I know personally was treated by an international control commission, I think that is entirely justifiable. And unnecessary, as many others have come forth and are prepared to testify. It is not uncommon for rape victims to consider the “investigation” as a second 'rape'. This has nothing to do with whether the “investigators” are men or women. In the Swedish case mentioned earlier, the woman “investigator” was by far the worse.

5. The accusers said they would gladly sweep this under the table if they were re admitted, thus making them complaisant in the act if it indeed happen.”

With this statement Leon T scores an own goal. Either this is a complete lie, a vain attempt to smear the accusers, or it is true, in which case it means that the accusers had something of substance with which to negotiate.

6. No one actually witnessed a rape, but a room full of very drunk comrades with different degrees of clothing on, including the "so-called" victim.”

Judging from the testimonies, it is not clear that sexual intercourse was completed, but that does not disqualify it from being a rape. This is how rape is defined “Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. A person who commits an act of rape is known as a rapist. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent.[1][2][3][4]” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape). To say that it is only rape if sexual intercourse has been completed is archaic. Even Leon T acknowledges that the alleged victim was very drunk and therefore incapable of valid consent. Abuse of authority seems to also have been involved, as have coercion and physical force. Today a sound body of knowledge exists that it is not unusual for rapists to be impotent, instead they utilize their hands or an object such as a bottle or a knife to complete the rape. (http://www.jem-journal.com/article/S0736-4679%2808%2900930-X/abstract)

7. “He [Heiko] is similar to the case of Atlee Yarrow and the SPUSA, after his expulsion.”

After his expulsion Atlee Yarrow joined a white nationalist group in the USA. Hardly comparable to Heiko who has continued to passionately argue for Marxism. To compare him to a fascist and call him a megalomaniac is simply slander.

8. The leadership of the IMT were and have been all over this since the allegations were made, and made several trips to Pakistan to see for themselves.”

The Pakistanis who have raised the allegations and who have testified, claim that the IMT leadership internationally have not even answered their appeals that the case be raised. Going to Pakistan “to see for themselves” can hardly be taken seriously, if they have not spoken to eye witnesses, and accepted their expulsion.

If this is the best the IMT leadership can manage, it seems that they are guilty as charged. However, it cannot be excluded that Leon T is not in possession of all the facts. Which just goes to prove the need for an open investigation, if the IMT does not want to stand unfairly condemned.

What does an open investigation mean in practice? It does not mean that the alleged perpetrators or the alleged victims be tried in public either in a kangaroo court composed of IMT members or of other leftists. Nor does it mean that the case should be given to the Pakistani courts. It does however mean that all the facts and documents connected with the case should be made available to a public discussion, while guaranteeing the anonymity of those involved. This is the only correct way of dealing with what is essentially a political issue.




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