They prefer to hound fellow activists

Peter Tatchell has some sharp words for the purity-enforcing virtue-signaling pseudo-leftists who spend all their time and energy attacking other leftists for making an unauthorized departure from the Dogma Express. Mind you, Tatchell has done some of that himself, even recently, even very recently – distancing himself from Julie Bindel and Germaine Greer, for instance. Nevertheless his counterblast is refreshing.

The future of progressive politics is under threat, again. But this time from the left. Historically, socialists and greens have made gains by building broad alliances around a common goal, such as the campaigns against the poll tax and the bombing of Syria. We united together diverse people who often disagreed on other issues. Through this unity and solidarity, we won. The government of the day was forced to back down.

Nowadays, we are witnessing a revival of far ‘left’ sectarian politics and it is infecting the Green Party too. Zealous activists, seemingly motivated by a desire to be more ‘left’ and pure than rivals, are putting huge energy into fighting and dragging down other campaigners. Corporate thieves and war criminals often get off scot-free by comparison.

The issues many of these sectarians highlight are not the mega crimes of mass murder in Syria and Yemen, fuel poverty, unaffordable housing, global hunger, climate destruction or transphobic and racist violence. They prefer to hound fellow activists.

Good people are being forced out of the progressive movement by hair-splitting, holier-than-thou ‘left-wing’ puritans. Their dirty tactics of smears and false accusations are borrowed from the far right, and have a whiff of McCarthyism.

That is correct. If you don’t agree that the word “women” should be dropped from all discussions of reproductive rights, you’re a terrible shunworthy person.

The often dishonest, poisonous, aggressive tone of the current wave of sectarian attacks is a total betrayal of the ethics of comradeship that are supposed to be green and left values. People’s good intentions and long radical commitments are dismissed, even ridiculed; often over minor disagreements and sometimes based on distortion and fabrication.

The far right rarely receives the hatchet jobs that sections of the ‘left’ do on their own people who fail to follow the ‘correct’ party line.

These tactics are not only cruel to the individuals who are targeted, they also weaken progressive politics and drive good people away, which strengthens the political right and the power elite. As a left-wing green committed to securing radical social change, this destructive behaviour concerns and disturbs me.

It’s not new behavior – but in the past there wasn’t the internet to amplify it and disseminate it into every inch of the world.

Many progressive people and organisations have been victims of this low politics, including the Iranian communist and feminist, Maryam Namazie and activists in student Atheist Secular and Humanist Societies, who have be falsely accused of racism, anti-Muslim prejudice, neo-colonialism and worse.

Yep. I’m friends with many of them as a result.

Then he gets to particulars: a pervasively inaccurate attack on him.

A classic example of this dirty ‘left’ politics is the article by Chris Jarvis (Bright Green, 21 February 2016).

Read Tatchell’s piece for the details. Toward the end he gets to the Fran Cowling shunning.

Jarvis resumes with further false narratives: “Tatchell’s controversy…(has continued) this time in relation to NUS LGBT+ Officer (Women’s Place) Fran Cowling’s decision not to share a platform with Tatchell at an event at Canterbury Christ Church University….Cowling is free to decide who she wishes to share a platform with and who not to. It is nobody’s God given right to expect people to wish to debate them.”

Who said otherwise? I never did. On Newsnight, RT, the Telegraph and elsewhere I did not say I was no-platformed and I defended Cowling’s right to not share a platform with me.

My objection was to Cowling’s false allegation that I am “racist” and “transphobic” and her equally false claim that she was acting on behalf of the NUS membership who, she dishonestly claimed, believe that I am racist and transphobic. The NUS membership never made any such ruling and I was not on the NUS no-platform list. For nearly three weeks, I privately contacted Cowling seeking dialogue and asking for evidence of her allegations. She ignored my request and refused to speak to me. That’s why I went public.

Jarvis then rebukes me for signing an Observer letter that defended free speech, including the free speech of people I strongly disagree agree with on trans issues and who I have repeatedly criticised, such as Julie Bindel and Germaine Greer (I’ve also been critical of Julie Burchill on these issues).

There, he does it again. He “criticizes” them in exactly the unfair way he objects to, recycling other people’s claims about them even though some or many of those claims are not true. These claims get passed around and around and around and around until it becomes impossible to remember which ones are true and which are bullshit – but that’s a reason to be very cautious about what claims you pass around. I’ve seen Tatchell do some careless echoing.

Then Jarvis claims: “Tatchell tacitly endorses the idea that people should not be able to collectively decide the people that they chose to invite to speak at events that they are organising in their own spaces.” More nonsense. I defend the right of people to invite or not invite who they choose. What I actually said is something very different: that if one group invites a speaker, another group should not have a right to veto that invitation – unless the speaker is guilty of threats, harassment or encouraging  violence – or demands discrimination such as forced gender segregation.

Well that’s such a subtle distinction it’s elitist to expect anyone to make it.

Jarvis carries on with more distortions: “Tatchell has continuously called for the stopping of ‘Islamists’ from speaking on campuses up and down the country for hate preaching.” Not true. I have not called for the banning of mere “hate” preachers. I have opposed platforms being given to Islamists who go beyond hate to endorse the killing of other human beings; specifically the killing of Muslims who turn away from their faith, people who blaspheme, women who have sex outside of marriage, LGBT people and Ahmadi’s and other minority followers of Islam. This is more than just hate. It is encouragement to murder. Endorsing violence is my red line.

The real issue is much more than Jarvis’s article. What he wrote is indicative of a bigger, wider problem that is infecting and damaging left and green politics: the decline in civility and honesty, and the rise in sectarian attacks on other activists. We can never build a successful a mass movement to challenge the Tories, UKIP and the far right if people in our movement are attacking each other and obsessed with minute political purity. The sectarians say: better fewer but purer. I say: unite the many to defeat the few.

Well said…but that should apply to Bindel and Greer, too.

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