Since this phenomenon, of leaders who are in fact primarily mascots, is common to both Labour and the Tories, you'd be right in thinking that it has a common cause.
Oppression Is Our Context
When Red Fightback first started, it was a small group endeavouring to develop a Marxist-Leninist organisation that actually combatted reaction and oppression in its ranks. This was both a simple premise and a rigorous enduring promise.
Racism, misogyny, transphobia, ableism and intersections thereof; oppressive behaviour and apologism permeate countless organisations, including those nominally on the left. We recognise both the enactment and the covering-up of oppressive behaviour as unacceptable liberalism. As Mao says, ‘Liberalism is extremely harmful in a revolutionary collective. It is a corrosive which eats away unity, undermines cohesion, causes apathy and creates dissension.’ Our position is therefore not just a matter of evident principle, but also of necessary pragmatism for building the revolutionary movement.
But we also knew from the start that our goal could never be to simply avoid oppressive behaviour, to bunker down and hope for the best. We live under racial capitalism, and everyday from birth have been infused with the oppressive logic of this system. There is no ideology that guarantees immunity to oppressive behaviours amongst its adherents - clearly. Where there are people who have been racialized, gendered and embodied - that is to say, everywhere - there are people who have been taught to exploit and oppress, and people who have been exploited and oppressed.
The task of principled communist organisations, then, is not to avoid oppressive behaviour but to combat it.
The character of an organisation is not determined by whether any oppressive behaviours occur within their spaces, but by how they handle it when these behaviours inevitably do happen. We must expose and oppose organisations that refuse to address these problems, or that cover them up. And in organisations where there are principled efforts to address oppression, we must criticise in a comradely fashion in order to improve these efforts.
We believe in the principle that oppressed people liberate themselves via self-determination. Indeed, that is the only path to meaningful, lasting liberation. Therefore, when we come across instances of oppression, we centre the oppressed, the victim, the survivor. Where there is truth to be unearthed, we pursue it, but we commit to take those who have been harmed at their word. Where the people harmed want retaliation, we stand shoulder to shoulder. When the people harmed pursue expulsion, that is what we do. Where the people harmed request anonymity, we guard them. Where the people harmed hope for restoration, we facilitate it.
Of course, this is not permission for others who have not been harmed to not act. Comrades who are able to prevent harm, or stand in harm's way in the moment, or help seek justice, are obliged to do so. Solidarity is not a slogan, but action. In Red Fightback we educate in our branches, we criticise one another, and we organise against oppression.
We are abolitionists, and we do not pursue punitive outcomes for their own sake. But to avoid an idealised notion of restorative justice we must accept two qualifiers. Firstly, that the possibility of reconciliation is on the terms of the oppressed - if they do not seek it or want it, it is not an option. And secondly, that restoration may not be possible without larger (state) apparatus than we have available to us right now.
Bear in mind that all this applies equally to anyone accused of harmful behaviour. You are not the exception. When harmful behaviour is committed, by us or by our friends or comrades around us, we must always address it with determined criticism, a rejection of ego and an unflinching pursuit of practical restoration and concrete liberation.
In Red Fightback
During our less than 4 years of existence there have been a number of departures from our ranks, including founding and senior members. Some have been expelled, others have left on their own accord. Our disciplinary structures prioritise the safety of people, the integrity of the party, and the potential for people to grow and improve; these three principles are ranked in descending order of priority.
Red Fightback contains caucuses, in which oppressed comrades can self-organise. These are the Anti-Patriarchy Caucus, the Disability Caucus, the Racially Oppressed Caucus, and the Past and Present Sex Workers’ Caucus. These caucuses lead their struggles independently within the Party, and the rest of the Party recognises their leadership. Beyond caucuses, Red Fightback’s national strategy states that we ‘continuously recognise the need to mitigate against the influence of structural racism upon our Party culture and structures, and we should endeavour to build the confidence of the racially oppressed working class through both our words and actions.’ Beyond caucuses, then, our party as a whole is committed not just to anti-racism as a conceptual idea, but to anti-racism as a practice. We are a Party committed to becoming and being a tool of Black and Brown people in struggling for their own liberation.
When our own cadres fail to live up to those principles, strategy and purpose, they must be brought in line or moved aside. Any principled communist recognises that if their own errors are detrimental to the struggle, they may need to step back - perhaps even from the party and organising itself. This reality can be hard to come to terms with, but must be accepted. A Communist Party is a party of the workers and oppressed, fighting to achieve their own emancipation. Red Fightback’s primary task is the building of that Communist Party, capable of uniting and leading the people in the fight against capitalism. We base our membership, our conduct, our discipline, and our expectations on this task: how capable is a comrade in aiding the struggle to build a Communist Party worthy of the name?
We welcome criticism, discussion, and people coming forward. Red Fightback will always have the backs of the oppressed.