It is very difficult not to conclude that former member of Sinn Fein MS. Cahill is telling the truth when she speaks about being raped by an IRA member and speaks also about how her experience was handled. This must be discussed and every effort made to further alert society about this issue of sexual and physical abuse especially against women. While this is done we should consider two things. One, there are many forces now who want to use this to weaken SF. This is natural. However this should not in any way prevent principled people from demanding the truth come out. SF has a case to answer. The second aspect of this is that this should not be confined to abuse in SF. This abuse, of women and (men) exists in all sizable revolutionary left organizations. (I am not suggesting that SF is a revolutionary organization)
The way this is handled is usually this. The victim is approached by the leadership and appealed to that in the so-called interests of the organization and the revolution they keep quiet. This puts enormous pressure of the victim and has to be condemned. It is not in the interest of the revolution or of any revolutionary organization to have such abuse covered up. The priority has to be to combat this abuse, and not just in this or that organization, but in the left and the working class in general. The priority must be to have a non-sectarian approach. That is not to be against this abuse when it happens in some other organization and keep quiet when it happens in the organization we may be part of. The general evil of sexual abuse has to be taken up wherever it exists.
There are some noticeable voices on the left that are quiet at the moment. But before going to those I would like to applaud those large numbers of members of the SWP who stood against the pressure of their then leadership and took on the sexual abuse of a leading member of their own organization. This is an example to all left groups. These Comrades had their priorities right. They have to be congratulated and thanked for this.
But there has been sexual abuse in other organizations. Just a couple of years ago I was contacted by a leading member of the CWI in Canada. The then leading member, a male, had beaten this member up, broken her finger, threw scalding liquid at her, thrown her out on the freezing Toronto winter street with no shoes and then began a campaign of phone calls to her workplace saying she was unstable and in this way trying to keep her quiet. The initial reaction of the CWI leadership was to send one of their leading members to Canada to try and keep this woman Comrade quiet. In the course of this the leading CWI member called the woman Comrade who was physically abused a "whiner." When I took up her case I was accused of "using" of "manipulating" this woman Comrade. This continued until I had to get off a list i was on the abuse against me was so bad. And this was inspite of the woman Comrade saying that she considered the attacks on me for taking up her case as a continuation of the abuse she had suffered. There are other women members in the CWI who have been abused and who have not been defended by that organization's leadership. These cases have been hushed up.
This is damaging for the CWI and for the revolutionary left and for the working class struggle. it also allows the special oppression of women to continue to proceed without being openly opposed by the revolutionary left. This weakens and discredits the revolutionary left. It makes it more difficult to build a united working class movement. Divide and rule is not just based on religion or race but also on gender and the special oppression of women. Leading members and the entire membership of the CWI and all left organizations where this abuse had taken place have a duty to speak out openly. The CWI have well known leading members such as Joe Higgins, Paul Murphy, Shama Sawant, Ruth Coppinger, where are these Comrades when it comes to the abuse in their own organization. Where are they in relation to the abuse in SF. One of the other damaging factors in relation to keeping quiet in ones own organization about these abuses is that this paralyses you in relation to taking them up in other organizations. Joe Higgins, Paul Murphy, Shama Sawant, Ruth Coppinger, and the entire membership of the CWI have a duty to speak out.
How should cases like Ms. Cahill be handled in a revolutionary left organization which does not believe in working with the state apparatus? It is obviously not acceptable for such cases to be handled by the apparatus of the organization that is being accused of the abuse. I would like to suggest this idea. I would be interested in hearing other views. I would like to suggest the setting up some form of Dewey Commission. This was the commission of highly respected individuals who were brought together in the late 1930's to hear the charges made by Stalinism against Trotsky. This heard evidence and had prosecution and had lawyers and evidence was taken and evaluated. I believe that in any country where cases of abuse are made in revolutionary organizations that such a commission should be set up and evidence heard. There would be respected individuals who could be asked to serve and who would agree to serve.
I can hear people say but what would this do, this commission would not be able to put people in jail etc. The first thing this commission could do would be to bring out the truth. This would be a great weight of the shoulders of the victim. In bringing out the truth this would identify and condemn the perpetrator. Society and especially the working class could decide what should be done to this person. There would be all sorts of possibilities, a complete boycott of this person by society would be one. The working class could also organize to defend the victim against this person if threats were made against her or him. Sean.