Left Unity Disputes Committee Exonerates Ian Donovan of ‘Anti-Semitism’ Smear


I reprint below first an email/letter received today from the Disputes Committee of Left Unity, followed by my response. The contents speak for themselves. It appears that there had been a complaint along the lines of the smear about ‘anti-semitism’ that nearly a year ago was the occasion for a witch-hunt in the Communist Platform, a ‘communist’ grouping within Left Unity, to the National Council of Left Unity itself.

I cannot definitively say who the complaint came from, as I was not officially informed of the existence of the complaint until the investigation of the Disputes Committee had exonerated me. But from some gossip and rumours that had appeared on one or two scurrilous Zionist-inclined blogs, it does seem likely that the complainant was Salman Shaheen, one of the elected principal spokespeople of the party. It is also possible that the complainants were the Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB. Though I think that is unlikely, since repeatedly when challenged to substantiate his allegation that I had a ‘retrograde attitude to Jews’, including in the pages of the Weekly Worker, their leader Jack Conrad responded with … deafening silence.

From that it is easy to deduce that Conrad would not relish the idea of a confrontation/debate with me in front of third parties, which would likely be the result if there were a contested hearing of this question. It would also tend to substantiate my contention that many of their recent criticisms of Left Unity have been from the right. For instance for defending Lutfur Rahman against the Tory/New Labour overturning of his election as Mayor of Tower Hamlets, as well as for LU’s use of slogans to Free Palestine ‘From the River to the Sea’, which denies the right to ‘self-determination’ of Zionist Israel. For the CPGB to line up with right-wingers like Salman Shaheen and try to throw me out of Left Unity would seem rather like forming a right-wing bloc to attack the anti-imperialist left.

It may be that the proceedings of the LU Disputes Committee were at the level of a preliminary examination of the issue prior to any formal procedure, during which it simply became obvious that there was no case to answer, and no need for a hearing. If that is the case, then perhaps my points about natural justice may even be a little harsh.

In any case, I had been looking for an opportunity for an impartial hearing in the working class movement of the smears against me, and now it appears that there has been one, without my knowledge, which has exonerated me from these smears without me needing to lift a finger! This is as impartial a hearing of such a thing as anyone is likely to get, because though I am a member of Left Unity, so are my accusers. The most likely being one of its most prominent figures (albeit very much on the liberal, non-Marxist wing); the other being an organised current with far-from-token representation on the National Committee.

I have not been a sycophantic supporter of the LU leadership – indeed I have been publicly harshly critical of them particularly over their past capitulations to witchhunts against Julian Assange and George Galloway – both highly explosive and controversial questions. Nor have I been a particularly active LU member – for family, as well as political reasons, it has to be said.

And yet I am exonerated by an LU leading committee from an attempted witch-hunt for which both of these entities, which have much more ‘clout’ in LU than myself, do or may bear responsibility. Apparently in the case of Salman Shaheen; definitely in the case of the CPGB for the witchhunting, pro-Zionist capitulatory purge in the Communist Platform last year, and putting these smears into circulation in the first place.

What is good is that the LU DC had no truck with the kind of intellectual dishonesty represented by Conrad and Moshe Machover, his other bloc partner in the Communist Platform, who last year formulated a bizarre motion that tried to equate my views on the Jewish Question with those of Pierre Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin, ideologues of 19th Century anarchism, who according to historical accounts, evidenced racist hatred of Jews. What these charlatans did not manage to do was to quote one iota from either of these anarchists on anything at all to compare with my views. They could not, as my views have nothing in common with these people.

My views do, however, have a great deal in common with those of Karl Marx and Abram Leon , which provided them with their basic programmatic and analytical framework. They also have benefited from partial insights from a number of other thinkers, notably Israel Shahak and latterly Gilad Atzmon and Shlomo Sand. All of these three are non-Marxists, idealistic thinkers to some extent, they all have partial insights and are therefore in some ways flawed. But as Marx did with Hegel, Marxists can make use of their best insights critically in order to construct something stronger and based on the materialist method. It should be noted that all five of these sources of my theses are of Jewish origin; far from being anti-Jewish, in terms of sources, my theses are in fact very Jewish.

Those inclined to smear me in future should take note that this is solid evidence from a concretely impartial working-class source that these allegations are untrue. And those who repeat smears of anti-Jewish racism against me for my militant opposition to all forms of racism and chauvinism, including Jewish chauvinism, will not get off scot-free from such smears.

Letter from Left Unity Disputes Committee to Ian Donovan

(received 6 August 2015)

Subject: Re dispute NC/Ian Donovan

Hello, Ian,

You may be aware that Left Unity’s National Council referred to the Disputes Committee for investigation and recommendation, in accordance with Clause 18(f) of the Party’s Constitution, a complaint that your Communist Explorations article entitled “Draft Theses on the Jews and Modern Imperialism” contained antisemitic views.

The functions and powers of the DC in dealing with such a reference are defined in the Committee’s Standing Orders which were approved by the Party Conference in November 2014, viz :

“Where situations are grave or there is evidence of grave breaches of the constitution or evidence of intimidation or behaviour judged prejudicial under any of the equality strands (age, sexuality, gender, race, religion, pregnancy, religion, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership) {the Disputes Committee} shall have the power to recommend suspension or termination of membership”.

After study and discussion of the article, the Disputes Committee found that there is insufficient specific evidence to warrant our making a recommendation to the NC either for your expulsion or suspension, nor did we deem it appropriate to recommend any other form of disciplinary action.

If you have any questions about the process which was followed, please let me know.

In comradeship,

Janet Gifford,

On behalf of the Left Unity Disputes Committee.

Response from Ian Donovan to Left Unity Disputes Committee

6 August 2015

Hi Janet,

Thank you very much for your email.

I am obviously very pleased that the allegations against my Theses, and indeed against my political views, have been shown after a proper investigation to be groundless. I will be making this fact public straight away, as I have been publicly  smeared  as supposedly having been ‘expelled’ from Left Unity for these views, which are entirely within the spectrum of Marxist analyses.

I would note however that I was not officially informed in advance that there was a complaint against me, or even more importantly that there was a formal investigation of that complaint. I had seen gossip on a blog hostile to Left Unity that Salman Shaheen had mooted the idea of making a complaint, but had no formal notification from either him, the LU NC or DC that such a complaint had been made.

In normal circumstances, I would be entitled to complain at this irregularity in the procedure. However, in this case, this irregularity adds to the authority of the finding, despite the legalistic language about ‘insufficient evidence’, that there is no case to:

“warrant our making a recommendation to the NC either for your expulsion or suspension, nor did we deem it appropriate to recommend any other form of disciplinary action.”

In a way, any defence I would have put forward would have been superfluous either one way or another, as it is my Theses that were under examination. And there is nothing remotely racist about their content, as the conclusion underlines. The fact that the complaint was dismissed so decisively without any defence by myself only underlines the authority of this exoneration, which happened despite a procedure that many would consider is not consistent with natural justice.

It completely undermines any possible future smear about ‘bias’ in my favour, as it is clear that by not inviting a refutation from myself, if anything the procedure was biased against myself.

I would recommend however, that in future the DC should make sure to inform the subject of any future investigation of the existence of such, so that they can prepare a defence. This should be an elementary procedure in all working class organisations. In this case it worked out for the best, but it is still not the correct way to handle complaints.


Ian Donovan

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