Tuesday, 26 November 2013
South London Slavery case, Maoists implicated
Is a title I didn’t think I’d be writing for a blog when I started out but a recent case has exposed a really dark side of left wing sects? Today's revelations about the so-called 'Lambeth Slavery' case have linked those arrested to the remnants of a small Maoist group that operated in Brixton in the 1970s. The central allegation seems to be that supporters of the group formed a collective that degenerated over time into an abusive scenario where several women felt themselves to be controlled and unable to leave the house of their own free will for many, many years. Two people were arrested in a Lambeth Council flat at Peckford Place, Angell Town in Brixton - with press reports identifying them as Aravindan Balakrishnan and Chanda Balakrishnan, formerly leading members of a group called the Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. Unless and until this case comes to court and all the evidence is out there, it's probably best not to speculate too much about the details. It is pretty clear though that this would be a unique situation arising from very particular circumstances - and certainly no basis on which to generalise about slavery in modern Britain. Clearly there are disparate cases of extreme exploitation, abuse and servitude but maybe the isolated nature of such a tiny sect becoming detached from reality in more ways than one is a case for concern.http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/slavery_in_london_an_hysterical_morality_tale/14331 A really interesting piece over at Bob from Brockley http://brockley.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/brixton-maoist-sex-cult-slave-shocker.html "In some ways the Maoism of the group is irrelevant: their key features are those of a cult rather than those of a Leninist party. (As Lurdan writes in the Libcom discussion thread: "Looking at their writings now they seem to exhibit all the indicators of a classic millenarian sect based on an apparently literal belief in the immanence of global revolution.") However, there are features of Leninist parties that encourage cult-like activity. Comrade Bala's group is among a very small number of Leninist parties to degenerate into pure cults (NATLFED on the US West Coast is the classic example and the LaRouche network is the most successful) but many more Leninist groups are on a cult continuum. Being at war with the "bourgeois" (or "fascist") state is an exemplary control technique for forcing members into absolute loyalty and trust of insiders and absolute break with mainstream society. But more specifically there are two features of Leninist doctrine that lead to cult-like behaviour. The first of these is the notion of the vanguard party; the second is that of democratic centralism. Both are sketched out in Lenin's what is To Be Done?, written at the turn of the last century in the context of an ultra-authoritarian police state where open, democratic political organisation was impossible. The principle of the vanguard party came from Lenin's conviction (based on the thought of his two intellectual mentors, George Plekhanov and Karl Kautsky) that the "the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness," and not able to develop true class consciousness by itself. Thus - whereas Marx argued that the working class could only be emancipated by its own hand and that "communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties because] they have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat" - Lenin saw a need for a vanguard to bring class consciousness to the workers. This means, inevitably, that an enormous investment is made in the truth of the party's positions: only the party is able to pierce the veil of illusion under which the rest of us labour. And the principle of democratic centralism (fully formulated by the Bolsheviks in 1905, with an increasing emphasis on the "centralism" bit rather than the "democratic" bit only later) is that a party can come to a decision democratically but once it does it must carry it out without dissent. These principles were passed into the hands of the megalomaniac psychopaths who have flourished in the movement since Lenin's death. Both principles are used to enforce absolute obedience to the party leadership, and to stifle all criticism. Criticism, however trivial, undermines the party's claim on truth, exposing that it lacks the true consciousness the workers expect of it. It is this stifling of dissent and total identification of the party leadership with the truth that enabled Gerry Healy, the leader of the WRP (for many years the largest Trotskyism group in Britain) to abuse countless female party members, as detailed in Comrade Coatesy's "Vanessa Redgrave and the Red Sex Slaves: A Marxist Analysis": What was the character of this sexual abuse? It was later stated that the women Healy pressurised into having sexual relations with him ‘mistakenly believed that the revolution – in the form of the “greatest” leader demanded this, the most personal sacrifice of all. They were not coerced … physically, but every pressure was brought to bear on them as revolutionaries’. The situation was ‘not so much rape but … sexual abuse by someone in a position of power and trust’. It was Dave Bruce comments, ‘wholesale sexual corruption in a manner analogous to these religious sects. There’s a very close parallel’. It is what has enabled the Socialist Party (the WRP's successor as the biggest Trot group) to attempt to sweep under the carpet up all discussion of very serious sexual abuse allegations. And it is what enabled the Socialist Workers Party (until recently the SP's successor as biggest UK Trot group) to totally cover up a series of allegations about leading member (and Unite against Fascism organiser) "Comrade Delta". In the lowest moment in the SWP Delta saga, the SWP refused to subject him to "bourgeois courts" (although it hasn't stopped their activist Professor Michael Lavelette from threatening bourgeois legal action against those making accusations about his role in getting Comrade Delta an academic sinecure in, of all the most inappropriate places for someone facing a rape allegation, a social work department). The SWP's refusal of "bourgeois courts" is different in degree and not in kind from the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought's view of "the fascist state"; Comrade Delta's actions are different in degree and not in kind from Comrade Bala's enslavement of Rosie and other women." Alot of murky things go on on the far left and i've been witness to some. We can’t simply brush these things under the carpet or pretend these people do not exist. We must confront them and confront our own traditions and practices on the left which allow these groups and people to get into these awful positions. My thoughts are with the women now who have an incredible uphill battle to regain their lives and start again. After 30 years of forced slavery I cannot imagine how hard it will be for them to readjust back to everyday life.