Issues with Common Cause

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Steven.
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May 23 2018 04:15
Issues with Common Cause

Split from identity politics thread:

justthisonce wrote:
For years I have used libcom as a resource for information and political writings/updates with an analysis that I generally appreciate. Viewing this site also means that I periodically have to scroll by Khawaga and some of the absurd tales he has to tell about me and an organization of which we were both once members. I generally just ignored this nonsense because on the left we are all far too familiar with self-important academic-types who are pushed out of an organization and have an ax to grind on the internet. Now unfortunately I see that this has gone on to such a point that an admin of libcom is under the impression that Common Cause folded because of some kind of spree of sexual violence ("Didn't Common Cause dissolve because of mass defections related to how it handled numerous sexual assaults?"). So, I feel the need to respond.

I am a woman who was for many years in the notorious 'Toronto branch' that Khawaga mentions so frequently. The branch was, in fact, made up of more than 30% women and it was women and trans people who spearheaded the Allies Like These article but Khawaga is happy to erase the contributions of these people in order to fit this narrative that he has been spinning. I frankly don't care to hash out every argument that occurred in this organization. That would be silly and a waste of time. The organization closed up shop because members had moved on in their organizing and the organization had outlived its usefulness. Despite Common Cause no longer existing, there are some things that are worth clarifying on this very public website.

1. There were no accusations of sexual assaults made between members of Common Cause. The series of "sexual assaults" being referred to here did not occur. They were not accusations that were made. There were women like me, however, that are survivors of rape and were provided extensive support by our comrades in Toronto Common Cause. This just isn't something that you read about publicly on the internet and frankly, I wish I wasn't having to write about it now.

2. The member that Khawaga is talking about who made that absurd statement about abortion being the decision of the community and who was involved in an accountability process that both Khawaga and I were part of (as supporters) was, in fact, Khawaga's best friend. No one agrees with this abortion statement. Like, obviously. Khawaga knew this member before anyone else in Common Cause and they joined the organization together. Khawaga and this member were both kicked out of Common Cause. The member Khawaga has been discussing behaved reprehensibly towards multiple people both inside and outside Common Cause and was removed from the organization after he refused to engage in an accountability process about this behaviour. Other organizations that he was involved in were informed of this as well.

3. Throughout this accountability process, Khawaga demanded that I take responsibility for this person's abusive behaviour to others, including myself, and even called into question my own experiences with rape.

4. Khawaga's branch did not leave Common Cause, they were voted out of Common Cause by a unanimous vote of the membership for not paying dues (for years), not completing tasks, inappropriate behaviour and not maintaining political standards within their branch.

You are welcome to discuss the inadequacies of any article that we wrote as Common Cause. Most of us are not academics and did (and continue to do) our organizing on top of full-time jobs so I am sure there are many holes that you can point out. Most of us had never written an article before. The reasons for those critiques however should not be this inflammatory, bitter and revenge-motivated nonsense that Khawaga has been allowed to spread for years.

I don't intend for this to become any kind of back-and-forth or flame war. I have noticed that the conversations that get the most attention on libcom often have to do with splits, discord or other left bad blood. Many of us former Common Cause members have been aware of the ways in which we have been discussed or characterized by a rather active member of libcom for years. If any of you know Common Cause members, you will likely be able to identify me and find me on facebook if you wish to discuss this further. I would have rather not had to out myself on this public forum to counter anonymous attacks on my and my comrades' character by someone who is insulated by their anonymity and the discomfort I and others would feel discussing these private situations so publicly. But here we are.

There are many times I would have liked to engage on this forum to discuss my environmental, anti-MRA or neighbourhood organizing. I thought about posting when I and my neighbourhood organization were being targeted, harassed and threatened by MRAs in Toronto. All of these times, I did not engage with this forum because I was afraid of being targeted, identified and further slandered by Khawaga. As I post this now, I am worried about what Khawaga will do but I was shocked when I saw how far these stories were allowed to go.

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Khawaga
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May 23 2018 15:40

Wow, there are so many lies in this post that I don't even know where to start, so I guess I will just take it paragraph by paragraph and point out some of the most egregious ones.

Quote:
For years I have used libcom as a resource for information and political writings/updates with an analysis that I generally appreciate. Viewing this site also means that I periodically have to scroll by Khawaga and some of the absurd tales he has to tell about me and an organization of which we were both once members. I generally just ignored this nonsense because on the left we are all far too familiar with self-important academic-types who are pushed out of an organization and have an ax to grind on the internet. Now unfortunately I see that this has gone on to such a point that an admin of libcom is under the impression that Common Cause folded because of some kind of spree of sexual violence ("Didn't Common Cause dissolve because of mass defections related to how it handled numerous sexual assaults?"). So, I feel the need to respond.

One: I have no idea who you are. I have my suspicions, but that doesn't matter. So I have never written anything about you; only about Common Cause or the Toronto branch as a collective.

Self-important academic type: funny. When I was a member I was a grad student, like several other members. But I guess, academic becomes an insult to only the ones that you don't like.

Pushed out of the org: straight up lie. Sure, you lot wanted to do that, but our branch left.

On the dissolution: in the original post I specifically clarified that CC didn't fold because of sexual assaults.

Quote:
The branch was, in fact, made up of more than 30% women and it was women and trans people who spearheaded the Allies Like These article but Khawaga is happy to erase the contributions of these people in order to fit this narrative that he has been spinning. I frankly don't care to hash out every argument that occurred in this organization. That would be silly and a waste of time. The organization closed up shop because members had moved on in their organizing and the organization had outlived its usefulness. Despite Common Cause no longer existing, there are some things that are worth clarifying on this very public website.

How am I erasing the contributions of anyone? Especially in the TO branch? Anytime I've mentioned specific articles or people have asked who wrote it, my answer has always been that they were written collectively, but that the TO branch did the majority. That actually giving recognition rather than what you claim.

That women were in the branch has got nothing to do with how good you are at dealing with sexual assaults. One of the major problems the rape survivor in the end had, was with a women in the TO branch who used, when the survivor finally got an accountability meeting with the TO branch, told her she was making shit up, crazy and so on.

And for what it's worth: I haven't read those articles of yours for very good reasons given that they came out after you lot had repeatedly traumatised a rape survivor that sought accountability from your branch and how you treated her. Her issues were never just with her rapist (who was a TO CC member), but with the entire branch and several individuals in that branch.

Quote:
1. There were no accusations of sexual assaults made between members of Common Cause. The series of "sexual assaults" being referred to here did not occur. They were not accusations that were made. There were women like me, however, that are survivors of rape and were provided extensive support by our comrades in Toronto Common Cause. This just isn't something that you read about publicly on the internet and frankly, I wish I wasn't having to write about it now

.

True, I have never really heard of sexual assaults between members of CC. But a member, while he was in your branch, did psychologically traumatize, brankrupt, and in the end rape his girlfriend. It was this girlfriend that our branch supported through half a year of hell

Quote:
2. The member that Khawaga is talking about who made that absurd statement about abortion being the decision of the community and who was involved in an accountability process that both Khawaga and I were part of (as supporters) was, in fact, Khawaga's best friend. No one agrees with this abortion statement. Like, obviously. Khawaga knew this member before anyone else in Common Cause and they joined the organization together. Khawaga and this member were both kicked out of Common Cause. The member Khawaga has been discussing behaved reprehensibly towards multiple people both inside and outside Common Cause and was removed from the organization after he refused to engage in an accountability process about this behaviour. Other organizations that he was involved in were informed of this as well.

In this paragraph is where the lies really start to pile up.

1. the member that said this is not the person who raped his girlfriend, but someone else. The person who overhead this comment: the woman that was raped. From what she told me, nobody challenged that statement but her.

2. The person who raped his girlfriend was never my best friend. I did, however, at one point consider him a good friend and a comrade, but after he moved to TO we really didn't hang out that much. Given that he had lived in TO for about 3-4 years before he was expelled, you lot knew the guy much better than I did. You lot saw how he behaved towards his girlfriend but did nothing (indeed, you treated her as just the girlfriend, an appendage to a CC member).

3. I did not join CC with the rapist. Indeed, he joined a 1-2 years prior to me (I think 1.5 years). I refused to join CC for the longest time due to their position of national liberation. Indeed, there were several members from both the Hamilton and TO branches that were actively trying to recruit me. I did in the end join at the same time as we restarted the London branch that had earlier dissolved due to people moving and leaving. That was sometime in 2012. The rapist joined sometime in 2009 or 2010.

4. I was not kicked out of CC, I left with my comrades in the branch. We then dissolved the branch. Whether you lot had a meeting where you went through some motions of kicking us out, I don't know and I don't care.

This is worth quoting in full because on this point I am in complete agreement with the OP:

Quote:
he member Khawaga has been discussing behaved reprehensibly towards multiple people both inside and outside Common Cause and was removed from the organization after he refused to engage in an accountability process about this behaviour. Other organizations that he was involved in were informed of this as well

That rapist is probably one of the most manipulative pieces of shits I have ever known in my life. Too bad I realized a lot of the manipulation with hindsight, but the first time I realized it was when I started to get to know his girlfriend better (we went to the same school) and she told me about his behaviour. Now, he did start an accountability process with the survivor (a process that according to her, CC hijacked and she also said that it was pretty clear to her that what CC was interested in was the reputation of the organization, not much more), but it was clear early on that he would not change. I am glad to hear that you informed other organisations (though from anecdotes from the survivor, he still seems to be in the radical community in TO). Seriously, fuck that guy.

Quote:
3. Throughout this accountability process, Khawaga demanded that I take responsibility for this person's abusive behaviour to others, including myself, and even called into question my own experiences with rape.

A complete lie. The only person I had a lot of contact with in this process was the rape survivor. I did not want to speak to any people from the TO branch because of all the shit you put the survivor through. I have never ever called into question anyone's experience with rape. This is the point where you are just slinging shit in the hope that something will stick.

Quote:
4. Khawaga's branch did not leave Common Cause, they were voted out of Common Cause by a unanimous vote of the membership for not paying dues (for years), not completing tasks, inappropriate behaviour and not maintaining political standards within their branch.

Yet again, a complete lie. We left the organisation right after a day school that was held in Kitchener (I think) in 2014 (I think; I may be a year off) and after several TO members had treated another one of our branch members like shit so much so that he called me fucking crying his eyes out. It was unanimous.

While I will admit that we weren't the best at regularly paying dues, they were always collected and we made sure that at that day school we paid all the dues owed. We did not want to owe you guys shit in the case that we were leaving.

Again, you throw some "problematic behaviour" shit to see if it sticks, and wtf does "maintaining political standards" mean? We get it, you lot hated our branch and really had it out for two of us. Thing is, our branch was diverging from you politically over both how to treat rape survivors, but also a host of other issues. Again, this poster is just trying to retcon history with making shit up.

Quote:
You are welcome to discuss the inadequacies of any article that we wrote as Common Cause. Most of us are not academics and did (and continue to do) our organizing on top of full-time jobs so I am sure there are many holes that you can point out. Most of us had never written an article before. The reasons for those critiques however should not be this inflammatory, bitter and revenge-motivated nonsense that Khawaga has been allowed to spread for years.

I've not read the articles, I don't think it matters whether it's written by "academics" or not or anything like that. What I do take issue with is that you write articles like this when you treated a rape surivor like actual dirt. She went through years of hell, she still has not completely recovered to her old self and that is in part to what you did to her (not just her rapist). There should at least be some connection between theory and practice.

Quote:
I would have rather not had to out myself on this public forum to counter anonymous attacks on my and my comrades' character by someone who is insulated by their anonymity and the discomfort I and others would feel discussing these private situations so publicly. But here we are.

Here, insinuating that I am "outing" anyone and have been attacking specific individuals. My vitriol has always been levelled at the organisation, in particular the collective behaviour of the TO branch.

Quote:
All of these times, I did not engage with this forum because I was afraid of being targeted, identified and further slandered by Khawaga. As I post this now, I am worried about what Khawaga will do but I was shocked when I saw how far these stories were allowed to go.

Absolutely ridiculous. If you had posted I wouldn't know who you are as I the only usertags I am familiar with are the ones that I've seen a lot. To reiterate: I have never ever said anything about any individual member in TO CC, but for the rapist. Please, go through all my posts where I have written about CC (there aren't that many; I may have posted in 5-6 threads) and you can see that I primarily refer to TO CC.

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Serge Forward
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May 23 2018 21:05

Good grief. Someone's telling porkies but who?

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May 23 2018 21:19

Khawaga
I’m trying to follow this but am pretty confused. Were you yourself a member of The Toronto branch?

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Khawaga
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May 23 2018 21:26

No, I was a member of the London branch.

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Noah Fence
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May 23 2018 21:35

London? Ontario presumably? I mean, CC isn’t in the UK, right?

justthisonce
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May 23 2018 21:29

See, this is what is so unsatisfying about these types of conversations. I will say you are incorrect and then you will call me a liar. You will say your branch left (in a super principled way, no less) and did no wrong but also, the entire provincial organization voted unanimously to kick you out. What is the unitiated reader to do? Was Common Cause just another left organization with problems and discord or was it an organization sheltering a branch of monsters mentioned now only in shocking tales told on libcom about collective votes on abortions and abuse? What are we, the Sparts?

Well, what is a more likely story here: that everything you have said is true or that there was discord within a revolutionary organization around politics and personal behaviour? That in the end there was no branch of perfect saints and no branch of demons that apparently an entire organization sheltered. That, when you tried unsuccessfully to split the organization after you were called out on inappropriate actions and behaviours, the rest of the organization voted your branch out. That years later, the organization like many others closed up shop. That there was a member who started in the London branch but was also for a time in the Toronto and Hamilton branches who behaved reprehensibly and refused to engage in an accountability process for his behaviour. He refused to be held accountable for his misogyny, harassment and abuse. That member was expelled by the Toronto and Hamilton branches because of it. That you and I, as well as many others, were involved in a messy, painful and unsuccessful accountability process. That both you and I made mistakes in that process. Sadly, we see this on the left all the time. I considered for a while pursuing an accountability process with you for the things you had done to me but in the end, I just moved on because I knew it would be pointless. And now, 5 years later you are still talking about it on libcom not because we were horrible monsters of mythic proportions but because you have bitter feelings and an ax to grind. And because none of us participate actively in this forum due to your presence here so you were able to run your mouth off unchallenged.

It should be obvious that there are multiple sides to this and that your opinion, rather than being some pure truth is a self-serving representation of something that was complex, involved flawed human beings and a group of revolutionaries trying to figure things out. As an organization, we sometimes succeeded but we often times failed. I and others acknowledge that openly. But for me and many other women, Common Cause was an organization that gave us a political voice, supported us as rape survivors and for me personally, supported me in a messy, painful and public process of leaving a long-term abusive relationship with a well-known anarchist communist. Throughout all of this, Common Cause members supported me to express myself, develop my politics, grow as an organizer and a political entity, and move past the abuse I experienced. I was encouraged to take on important positions in the organization, both organizational and intellectual in nature. There was lots wrong with Common Cause. A bunch of people in their 20s doing revolutionary politics aren't going to get it right. We didn't get it right. Many of us are still working in our organizing to get it just a bit more right. But the image you are presenting here? Well, it just isn't accurate.

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May 23 2018 21:46

Nobody is ever perfect, but what you put that survivor through is beyond the pale.

Quote:
That, when you tried unsuccessfully to split the organization after you were called out on inappropriate actions and behaviours, the rest of the organization voted your branch out.

This is total bs. We had been thinking of leaving the org for months before we did. We stayed because we thought we could actually work things out; when we realized that you were not interested in anything like that we left. The only so-called "inappripritate" behaviour I did was to NOT share the information the survivor had told me with you because she did not want me to.

I am not claiming I am presenting the "truth" on this matter, I am giving my version of events and what has been told to me by others, which is all I can do and have done.

Quote:
I considered for a while pursuing an accountability process with you for the things you had done to me but in the end, I just moved on because I knew it would be pointless. And now, 5 years later you are still talking about it on libcom not because we were horrible monsters of mythic proportions but because you have bitter feelings and an ax to grind.

Again, you are lying, though can't say I am surprised that you do this sort of public gaslighting. And no, I am not really dredging this up. Someone else did; and this is often (but not always) how CC comes up on libcom. I want to put that fucking shit behind me; indeed this shit is still giving me anxiety given how the TO branch treated both the survivor and those of us who supported her.

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May 25 2018 07:56

Just some comments from an outsider.

Seems like you're saying this guy was crafty enough to manipulate you Khawaga, so perhaps he was able to do the same to the others in CC?

CC is a defunct organisation, so that practically eliminates a motive for justthisonce to keep "justifying" it for the sake of it.

justthisonce said you doubted her own story of abuse (which you have not confirmed it seems). She didn't just bring up this sensitive info for nothing, but because it is part of her argument, namely that in her (similar) case the treatment by the CC was exemplary. So if the response by the CC was good in one case, and bad in the other, that at least indicates the CC's conduct wasn't systematically awful. And it complicates the question: how is this possible that (apparently the same people) can act well in the case of justthisonce, but act poorly in the other case?

Red Mermaid
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Jul 16 2018 18:02

I think I can help set the record straight on this issue.

I was friends with the survivor at the time this happened. She often confided in me about the situation with Common Cause. She told me they were causing her emotional trauma.

But when I started finding out the details, it slowly became clear that Common Cause was making every reasonable effort to do right by her.

It took me a long time to figure this out. She’d make very strong statements about how terrible they were, without being specific. I asked for details because I thought the better I could understand the better I could support her.

The more I learned the more I realized she was perceiving mistreatment where it did not exist. (In time I observed that this is a pattern she has.)

I can see how friends of hers who did not ask for details would be completely mislead by her. Khawaga, I can only assume this is what happened to you.

I will list what I was told by the survivor and let readers judge for themselves.

(Khawaga, if you think I am wrong about anything I say here, please correct me.)

(Continued next post)

Red Mermaid
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Jul 16 2018 18:02

WHAT HAPPENED

* A member of Toronto Common Cause, let’s call him Mr. X, raped his girlfriend, and had a pattern of and emotional abuse towards her.

* For a long time after the rape, Common Cause did not know about it. Nor did they know about the abuse.

* The survivor told her friend (Khawaga) about the rape. Khawaga was in the London branch of Common Cause. At her request, Khawaga did not inform the rest of Common Cause.

* When Toronto Common Cause eventually found out about the rape, they were very upset at Khawaga for hiding it from them. It was dangerous for other members in the group to not know there was a potential rapist in their midst, especially because he was living with two Common Cause members and their children.

* Up to this time, and unknown to Common Cause, the survivor and Mr. X were involved in an accountability process mediated by Khawaga (and I think perhaps another member or two or London Common Cause). It had not been going well… Mr. X was defensive and uncooperative. The survivor got fed up and decided she didn’t want to continue.

* After finding out about the rape, Toronto Common Cause immediately suspended Mr. X from their organization. Very soon after they kicked him out completely.

At this point I want to pause and ask: If Toronto Common Cause were really such terrible rape apologists, why did they immediately suspend the rapist after finding out what he did, and then kick him out completely?

* As I said, by this point the survivor was no longer interested in an accountability process with Mr. X. But she reached out to Toronto Common Cause because she wanted an accountability process with the entire Toronto branch. Toronto Common Cause had a toxic dynamic of members being emotionally abusive towards each other (I know of two men who left Common Cause Toronto because they felt bullied). The survivor believed this dynamic was in part responsible for Mr. X becoming abusive towards her, and for raping her.

I want to pause again to ask: If you were the member of an organization, and one of your comrades raped someone, and the survivor then wanted an accountability process – not to hold the rapist accountable, but to hold an entire branch of your organization accountable for what he did – would you think this is appropriate?

If they'd known about it and not acted, then yes. But they had no idea.

If the survivor said that you and your organization was in some way to blame for one of your comrades deciding to rape someone – would you be ok with this?

I know I sure as hell wouldn’t. I’d be offended at being blamed for someone else’s despicable actions. But amazingly…

* Toronto Common Cause agreed to meet with her and listen to her concerns about the branch. Actually they met with her twice.

* Toronto Common Cause also responded to multiple very long emails from her (we’re talking several pages each time) where she would describe how she was hurt and wounded and outraged by their treatment of her.

So what were they doing that she felt so hurt by?

(Final part in next post)

Red Mermaid
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Jul 16 2018 17:58

HER GRIEVANCES

(1) She was upset because Toronto Common Cause said that, if they were going to meet with her, they would want space not just for her to express her grievances and concerns about them, but for Common Cause to express concerns they had with her behavior. Reasons being:

a) She’d had angry outbursts at a couple of their members.

b) She’d been saying some very nasty things about members of Toronto Common Cause to activists that these members were trying to work with, causing rifts in their relationships.

c) Inappropriate behaviour towards a member of Common Cause, a woman who was trying to be a support person for the survivor during this process. The survivor was sending her multiple emails, sometimes several in one day, and then getting very angry when her responses weren’t quick enough (even though she generally replied within 24 hours – despite being busy with work and school).

Common Cause felt this was all inappropriate and that they should discuss this. The survivor was very, very upset that Toronto Common Cause wanted to make this part of the meeting. She felt it should only be about their behavior, not hers, and to expect anything else showed they didn’t care about her as a survivor.

(2) She was upset that they did not respond to her emails fast enough. She sent multiple emails to Toronto Common Cause, multiple pages long. The organization would take about a week to reply. She felt very hurt and upset by this.

They tried to explain to her that it took a while to respond because, as an organization, they had to collectively discuss and agree on what to say. But this didn’t matter to her. She still felt it was a sign they didn’t care about her or her needs.

(3) She was upset by the tone in their emails. She felt it reflected a coldness toward her, a lack of empathy. I asked to read these emails and they just seemed polite and professional. I suppose professionalism can come across as cold, but they were always polite and several times voiced concern for her wellbeing. From her perspective, though, they were cold and uncaring.

(4) There was a woman in Common Cause Toronto (mentioned above in #1) who was the survivor’s main contact person. The survivor would at times email this woman multiple times in a single day. If this woman did not respond by the end of the day, or even within a few hours, the survivor would feel very upset and hurt.

(5) Toronto Common Cause did eventually meet with her, twice. They listened to her concerns about their toxic interpersonal dynamics within the branch, and they agreed that this was something they needed to work on. They were not willing, though, to accept the ridiculous notion that they shared the blame for Mr. X abusing or raping her. She found this invalidating and distressing.

(6) The survivor requested a third meeting with Toronto Common Cause. But at this point the branch had had enough. They explained to her that for months they had made her the priority and this left them with little time for their organization to do political work.

It wasn’t just the time it took to meet with her; it was all her emails, and the fact that they had to spend meeting time discussing her concerns, discussing how to respond to her emails. More than half of their time as an organization was spent on her, and had been for months.

They felt they’d done all they reasonably could to address her concerns. And so they were no longer willing to meet with her. She was extremely upset by this. She saw this as a terrible betrayal.

* * *

Khawaga, if you think I’m getting something wrong or missing any important info, let me know. But you should consider that you were likely misled by someone who, though wonderful in many ways, is deeply troubled and has a tendency to perceive insults and betrayals where none exist. (A pattern she’s had with many people, not just Common Cause.)