Camp Anarchy Safer Spaces policy

So Camp Anarchy in Melbourne has just passed it’s Safer Spaces policy. Personally I am really proud that we were able to adopt such a great policy. IMO this is way ahead of most groups or events in Australia and I hope they take note and catch up soon!

 

Camp Anarchy is a Safer Space

In designating this event a safer space, we are making an explicit political decision to prioritise the voices of people who are experiencing oppression at the hands of another person so that they feel empowered to participate and feel supported by a radical community. We are not a judge and jury, we are not the cops; but we are a community with shared ideals about the rights of people to feel free of oppression.

People attending this conference are asked to be aware of their language and behaviour, and to think about whether it might be offensive to others. This is no space for violence, for touching people without their consent, for being intolerant of someone’s religious beliefs or lack thereof, for being creepy, sleazy, racist, ageist, sexist, hetero-sexist, trans-phobic, able-bodiest, classist, sizist or any other behaviour or language that may perpetuate oppression.

Abuse and discrimination will not be tolerated at Camp Anarchy; nor will targeted harassment, assault, sexism, homophobic or racist behaviour. Everyone who attends Camp Anarchy is expected to engage with respect, adhere to, actively create and enforce if necessary the creation of a space that contrasts with the sexist, racist, oppressive norms of mainstream society. There will be a no-tolerance policy for sexual or physical violence, persistent harassment, or threats of sexual or physical violence. Anyone violating this may be asked to leave and will not be welcome at the event.

This process is not easy. Please question in advance your capacity to deal with being asked to leave the space if necessary and how you would react in a progressive way if you or a friend of yours was called out for abusive behaviour.

Alcohol and other drugs are not an excuse for bad behaviour. Everyone can expect to be held accountable for their behaviour regardless of the effects of alcohol or drugs. For this reason we ask that you be aware of your capacity to remain in control of your emotions, actions and reactions when consuming alcohol or other drugs.

Things we all need to do to help create a safer space:

  • Respect people’s physical and emotional boundaries.
  • Always get explicit verbal consent before touching someone or crossing boundaries.
  • Respect people’s opinions, beliefs, and different points of view.
  • Be responsible for your own actions.
  • Be aware that your actions do have an effect on others despite what your intentions may be.
  • Take responsibility for your own safety and get help if you need it.
  • Look out for children and try not to leave anything around that could endanger them.
  • Be mindful of how children are interacting with each other (ie: bullying dynamics).
  • Keep the conference space and all workshops alcohol, nicotine and drug-free until the evening, and be aware of and responsible for your actions under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Respect designated substance-free spaces at all times.
  • Be aware that raising your voice or other aggressive body language may be understood as abusive behaviour by others.

Attending Camp Anarchy means agreeing to behave in a manner that is compatible with the safer spaces policy. Any group or individual engaging in violence (including sexual violence, threats and harassment) may be asked to leave at the discretion of the survivor, other affected persons and the organising and grievance collectives.

Our safer spaces policy includes supporting survivors by asking that people who have perpetrated sexual or physical violence not attend this event, or that they amend their behaviours at the event (ie: not drinking alcohol), at the discretion of those harmed and the grievance collective or other affected persons. We see this as a political stance in amplifying the empowerment and inclusion of survivors and challenging an oppressive culture.

Need Some Assistance?

Camp Anarchy will have a grievance collective set up with people on-hand to help with possible conflict, mediation, support and enforcement of the safer spaces policy.

If you experience or witness any behaviour that crosses your boundaries or makes you feel uncomfortable or if you are feeling like you would like to talk to someone confidentially about anything please feel free to talk to a member of our grievance collective. These people will be readily identifiable and will not breach your confidentiality without your permission.

Conflict resolution

There may be conflict during the time that we are at this conference and the organisers have designed a basic process for dealing with this. This process is based around the principle that a resolution deemed positive to all parties involved should always be sought first, but that a survivor’s right to feel safe and empowered is the key priority.

If any conflict arises that anyone feels cannot be resolved without some help, they should seek the assistance of one or more members of the grievance collective or the organising collective. If the harmed person in a conflict (ie: survivor of abuse or harassment) is not satisfied with a proposed resolution, they have the option of taking the issue to the whole conference to make a final decision on what action needs to be taken.

In dealing with conflict, the grievance and organising collective will be survivor-centred, meaning that the survivor’s rights will always be prioritised.

NOTE: If any survivors want further support in making this event accessible to them, they can contact the grievance collective at campanarchygrievancecollective[AT]gmail.com

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Response to Counterpunch on the Anarchist Book Fair venue

So Counterpunch has posted an article attacking the Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair for using a venue owned by a BDSM porn company Kink.com. The ABF has published quite a good response here. Anyway below are some thoughts I had on the issue…

– Promoting disgust at alternative sexual practices like BDSM in order to further your political goals is kind of bigoted
– Why is using a venue owned by a porn company worse than any other company, including as was pointed out in the ABF response, universities that profit from war research etc?
– Why can’t they find a woman or even a sex worker to write about this stuff rather than some guy trying to promote his book?
– Why is he going on about “the anarchists” as if it’s one faction where everyone agrees? Seems to be trying to say that a very broad group is all anti-feminist or something.
– Some of the ABFs have had some really groundbreaking Safer Spaces policies to deal with abuse within activist circles (there is some discussion about this here). This is really a very difficult issue to address and it’s a lot easier to focus on symbolic stuff like what venue is used than actually DO SOMETHING DIRECTLY about violence in the community.

Misogyny and the left – we need to start practicing what we preach.

TRIGGER WARNING: This article discusses rape, sexual assault, stalking.
I decided to write this after having a very difficult experience. Over the last few months a friend, her ex partner and I have been harassed, stalked, and our reputations dragged through the mud. Friends who have supported us have also been targeted by this harassment.

Most upsetting, the perpetrator has convinced a number of people to support his behavior, believing that he is the real victim. This is despite most of them not knowing any of us, never having bothered to find out the other side of the story, and the individual involved having a history of harassing women. These people, at the harassers word, have gone as far as to discuss whether my friend was raped, decide she was crying wolf, and call up the alleged perpetrator to inform him that they had decided she owed him an apology.

Some of the people who participated in this abuse are well known on the left. And many of them attended Reclaim the Night rallies, one even writing an article about it.

What has also been extremely upsetting is the silence of people who know what’s going on. Throughout this process very few people were willing to stick their necks out, and those who did have also been subjected to harassment and bullying. Most people have stayed silent, remained on good terms with the harassers, or have stated that they consider what happened a personal matter.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a one off experience. I’ve been an activist in the radical left for 16 years. During that time I have been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, stalked and coerced into a relationship, all by supposedly radical, pro-feminist men. And I’ve seen this, and worse things, happen repeatedly to other women on the left. I am not only talking about sexual violence and harassment, but all the individual abuse that is directed at women on a routine basis and which undermines our ability to engage in activism.

I know that the left doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists in the same misogynist society that everyone else does. But what continually shocks and frustrates me is the collective response to these problems. At best people often just look the other way. At worst perpetrators are supported while victims are blamed and/or pressured to keep silent.

Most attempts at dealing with sexism tend to be through group education around feminism. Focusing on theoretical education, rather than individual behavior, is seen as addressing issues “politically”. This kind of education is an invaluable tool for fighting sexism. But when abusive behavior is directed at female members of an organisation, refusing to address individual behavior is effectively putting the “education” of male comrades above the ability of females to participate in activism.

The argument that these are personal issues still comes up way too often. There was an incident where someone launched a brutal physical attack at his ex’s partner. When the organisation involved was asked to do something about this, it was decided that this was a personal matter and not organisational “business”. Maybe there was little that could be done in the circumstances. But how can we say we claim to defend women’s rights if misogynist violence just isn’t our business? If we allow people who commit it to be in positions of responsibility?

Harassment is too often simply placed in the too hard basket. When I was subjected to a minor sexual assault by a male comrade, the group involved decided that nothing could be done because it was too difficult politically at the time. I do under­­­­stand why those comrades involved felt this way. But the decision not to do anything had a much worse effect on me than the actual assault. To me the message that came across was that my safety and my bodily autonomy were secondary to organisational issues.

It seems that victims are expected to just get over abuse, and our reactions are quickly condemned. During the last few months, out of frustration, I’ve named the person harassing us, on Facebook. A lot of people have seen this as evidence that I was the one bullying him. I have also said some angry things about the organisation involved. I know this has lost me friends. I am sorry that my words hurt people that I respected and cared about. But in my defense, I just wish that people could understand how frustrated and powerless this situation has made me feel. I have been under constant stress, I’ve failed uni and it has affected my health. It’s not just because of the harassment, but also because it has brought back constant memories of being coerced into an abusive relationship, which in many ways I experienced as 2 years of rape.

On the other hand, abusers are often protected and misogynist behavior is actually condoned. This is particularly the case where the perpetrator is a well known activist. People continually defended the person who I was recently harassed by as being a “hard worker”, as if that made his behavior OK. They also excused his behavior as a result of stress due to being accused of harassment, yet showed no such sympathy to our responses to being harassed.

People often dismiss bad behavior against women who have the wrong politics or are part of the wrong group. Too many times male comrades have told me they don’t care about sexism or violence against more privileged women. I have even heard of members of left groups using physical threats and aggression to intimidate female activists they disagree with.

Sometimes even in the most serious cases, victims are pressured not to go to the police. Activist communities are encouraged to sympathise with abusers. A truly horrible, but unfortunately not that uncommon, example is what happened to Molly. She has been incredibly brave in writing her story here: http://rapeisreal.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/my-story-2/

Often the fact that people have perpetrated or enabled this kind of abuse is well known. Years ago a friend was stalked by another person on the left. He eventually assaulted her partner and they had to get a restraining order. A well known socialist who was in a position of power, knowing full well what had happened, supported the stalker in court and wrote him a reference. He did nothing to even discourage this person’s behavior, which continued after the restraining order was obtained. Many people know that this happened, but they have never pulled up this well respected lefty for his behavior.

Over recent years I’ve noticed a marked decline in the number of women participating in radical left groups compared to men. This is usually attributed to broader social pressures, such as having less time, being discouraged from participating in political issues etc. But in at least 2 groups I’ve been involved in I’ve seen instances where women members have been systematically targeted (sometimes even by other women) for bullying and harassment, compelling them to leave one after another. Even without such systematic attacks, the pressure of having to deal with continual sexism or abuse eventually wears many women down. It is very noticeable that the organisations that take sexism, especially individual sexism, seriously are the ones that still have higher percentages of female members.

This is not a problem that is isolated to certain parts of the left. The incidents I have mentioned are just *some* examples of abuse that I’ve witnessed. While I haven’t mentioned names of individuals or organisations, I do want to make it clear that they happened in different groups across the radical left spectrum.

I believe that if these were racist attacks the response from people on the left would be very different. I’m not saying the left get’s it right on racism issues. I still encounter people talking about “reverse racism” or getting angry at being called out for their privileged behavior, and it’s very frustrating that so few people turn up for events like deaths in custody rallies. But I just can’t see a situation where a respected member of the left would go to court to defend someone who’d attacked another because of their race. And I can’t see most groups on the left seeing a racist attack by one of their members as a personal issue.

I think the core of the problem is that we still haven’t come to terms with the messy reality that the personal is political. It’s much easier to deal with issues that are further away. Where the left is involved in feminist issues it focuses on things like pay equality, abortion rights, etc. When it deals with the issue of violence against women it does so in an abstract way, for example going to a Reclaim the Night march, or campaigning for better resources for victims of domestic violence.

But we know that most women will be abused, assaulted, harassed or sexually assaulted during their lifetimes. The majority of this violence happens from people who are close to us. And for a lot of us that means our comrades.

Individual violence against women needs to be taken seriously. We should be trying to create an environment that is safe for women so that they can fully engage in activism. I know that there are no easy solutions, but if we really value the contribution of women as much as men, then the left needs to take it’s head out of the sand. We need to take misogynist violence as seriously as we take racist violence. It needs to be treated as a hate crime.

This means not only education and consciously creating an environment where women are respected, but also putting into place structures that support that. We need policies to tackle harassment and violence in all our organisations.  They need to be carefully thought through and designed to protect the victim. It’s not enough to leave dealing with really tough situations up to individual discretion. This isn’t some kind of fluffy liberal solution. This is a necessary form of defense against the routine violence that is used to uphold male privileged.

It also means being prepared to make tough decisions. If a woman feels uncomfortable being around a male who has abused her, we need to put her safety above his right to be involved in activism. If we have to remove a male comrade from an organisation in order to stop them abusing someone, then we need to be prepared to do this. Otherwise we are effectively deciding that males are worth more than females, that abusers are worth more than their victims.

But most of all we need to speak up. The thing that most enables abuse to happen is silence. Sexism need to be called out. Individuals who engage in or enable abuse must be held accountable. Anything that silences victims needs to be challenged.

It is the personal responsibility of anyone who claims to believe in social justice not to let abuse take place right under their own noses. We need to take a real stand against misogynist violence and abuse in our own organisations and communities. We need to start practicing what we preach.

Originally posted at http://bccwords.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/misogyny-and-left-we-need-to-start.html#more

Beware of socialists bearing petitions

A member of the Lebanese Communist Party once told me that the reason he became a communist was that when he grew up the communists were the best people, the most decent, honest and generous. This is something I’ve thought a lot about since, because most Australian socialists don’t seem to think in those terms.

Of course, most socialists are very decent people who are committed to making the world a better place. However, within the organisations there is often an attitude that because we are trying to make a revolution by any means necessary, little things like personal integrity just aren’t as important as politics. So if achieving your aims requires telling a little white lie every now and then, that’s acceptable, perhaps even your duty as a revolutionary socialist.

One example that I’ve seen persistently over the years involves petitions. Socialist stalls usually have a number of petitions on them about whatever issue is big at the moment, and members will often put a lot of effort into getting people to sign them, but not one of these petitions ever gets sent anywhere. Every single one ends up in the rubbish.

Most socialists don’t really believe that petitions will change anything. They only use them to attract people to the stall so that they can talk to them and try to sell them newspapers. I was involved in the Socialist Alliance for years and in that time we had hundreds of petitions, of which probably 99.9% were not real.

Usually socialists will pretend that the petition is to be sent to the Federal Government or somewhere equally vague, but not always. A friend was amazed when she asked a Socialist Alternative member where the petition she was signing would be sent, and they told her “We don’t send them anywhere – we just use them to talk to people.”

Aside from the total disrespect to the person signing the petition, what makes this particularly frustrating is that there are plenty of people out there trying to collect signatures for real petitions. But it is near impossible to get many socialists to collect signatures for them.

One example I found particularly infuriating occurred at the time of Israel’s 2008 “Operation Hot Winter” attacks on Gaza. Shortly after Israel’s massacre of over 100 people including many children, Kevin Rudd passed a bi-partisan motion supporting Israel on the 60th anniversary of the Nakba. A Palestinian friend launched a petition against the motion; a number of high-profile politicians and journalists supported it and thousands of signatures were collected by mosques.

I tried to get Socialist Alternative to support the petition, but Mick Armstrong refused because he felt that it could be interpreted as promoting a 2 state solution. So instead of getting people to sign a real petition for Palestine, Socialist Alternative spent several weeks collecting signatures for their usual fake, but politically pure petitions for Palestine.

Socialist Alliance on the other hand did formally agree to support the petition when I raised it at a meeting. I brought piles of copies of the petition to their office, put them in every stall box I could find and constantly promoted it to other members. Yet most people just didn’t collect signatures for it, and time and time again fake petitions about Palestine would appear in its place.

There were a few people in Socialist Alliance who staunchly refused to use the fake petitions, but most of the membership never even questioned the practice. They believed it was a harmless and that getting the chance to talk to people who signed the petitions was just more important. The problem is that even if it seems harmless, it still involves going out on the streets day after day and lying to people. What kind of political culture is this building? What attitude does it reflect towards the people we are trying to win over?

I do believe that we need to make a revolution by any means necessary – the possibility of climate disaster makes this more important than ever – but I also believe that those necessary means include conducting ourselves with honesty and integrity.

I don’t know if all the socialist groups use fake petitions, but I strongly suspect they do. So if you are asked by a socialist to sign a petition, before you do make sure you ask them where they are going to send it, and don’t accept “to the Federal Government” as a response.

 

Originally posted at http://bccwords.blogspot.com.au/2011/04/why-you-should-never-sign-socialist.html#more

Articles I’ve written or co-written

In Green Left Weekly

Why unions should support Palestine

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian al Nakba (the Catastrophe) — the razing of up to 418 Palestinian villages and the driving of 700,000 Palestinians from their homes by Zionist forces to create the State of Israel.

Kevin Rudd addresses Zionist fundraiser

Fifty people gathered outside of the Crown Casino on March 18 to protest Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s support of a gala dinner of the United Israel Appeal — Refugee Relief Fund (UIA), a Zionist organisation.

Durban and the West’s racist hypocrisy

The Durban Review Conference, held in Geneva on April 20-24, was supposed to review the progress made in implementing Declaration and Program of Action of the World Conference against Racism held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.

Israel — the case for a union boycott

The horror of what is unfolding in Gaza is forcing more people to come out to support Palestine. People are coming out onto the streets in tens or hundreds of thousands all over the world.

Socialist candidates: for stronger, greener communities

The Socialist Alliance will stand two candidates for the City of Maribyrnong in the November council elections, on a platform of “community and environment before developers’ profits”.

Hezbollah TV station may be banned

The United States administration has stepped up pressure to ban Hezbollah TV station Al-Manar (The Beacon) in Australia and Indonesia.

Student suspended for Free Tibet protest

Students from Melbourne’s Collingwood College protested on August 21 in defence of a student who was threatened with suspension for wearing a “Free Tibet” T-shirt.

Islam, racism and women’s rights

A French court has denied a woman citizenship because she wears a burqa — a veil covering the entire body — according to a July 11 Reuters report.

Inter-Palestinian strife as Israel continues attacks

A bombing that killed five Hamas members and a five-year-old girl on July 25 in the Gaza Strip has escalated tensions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories between the Hamas government in Gaza and the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA), based in the West Bank.

Prisoner exchanges a defeat for Israel

“I return from Palestine, only to go back to Palestine. I promise families in Palestine that we are coming back, me and my brothers in the resistance”, newly released Samir Kuntar, one of the longest serving prisoners in Israel, told a jubilant crowd of tens of thousands in Beirut on July 17.

Peace requires justice — end the Gaza siege

Despite raids by Israel that left six people dead in the Gaza Strip and numerous rockets launched by Palestinian resistance group Islamic Jihad the previous day, a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas government in Gaza took effect on June 19. At the official start of the ceasefire at 6am, both sides appeared to be holding the truce.

Brumby extends Connex contract

Victorian Labor Premier John Brumby said on August 21 that he will only extend his government’s contracts with Yarra Trams and rail company Connex until the end of 2009, after which there will be a world-wide tender for private operators of Melbourne’s public transport systems.

Arrest of Tamil activists condemned

On June 12, 80 people attended a meeting in support of two Tamil activists who were recently arrested for allegedly sending tsunami relief funds to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Israel’s deadly weapons keep killing in Lebanon

A new report on the effects of the cluster bombs used against Lebanon by Israel during its July-August invasion last year was launched at the Northcote Town Hall on May 29. Around 100 people attended, including members of the Lebanese community, politicians, local councilors and activists.

Connex fails the soapy water test

Private train operator Connex is under fire after tests revealed its fleet of new Siemens trains were unable to brake if soapy water was on the tracks.

Gary Meyerhoff 1975-2006

Gary Meyerhoff, long-time activist and founder of the Network Against Prohibition (NAP), died from an AIDS-related illness on October 7. A tireless campaigner for the rights all those who slipped through society’s cracks, Meyerhoff was an optimist and not afraid to push the limits. He organised around issues and with sections of society that other activists usually put in the too-hard basket.

Gaza siege rally

On February 1, 100 people gathered outside the State Library of Victoria to protest the Israeli siege of Gaza. The protest was initiated by the Melbourne Palestine Solidarity Network and organised by a wide range of groups including Australians for Palestine, Women for Palestine, Melbourne Stop the War Coalition, Federation of Muslim Students and Youth, Socialist Alliance and Resistance.

Sex-work bill unlikely to pass

Working as a prostitute is not illegal in Tasmania, but it is illegal to “live off the earnings of a prostitute”. The Tasmanian Sex Industry Regulation Bill, introduced into Tasmanian parliament on June 7, would have allowed for legal brothels and for sex-workers to work in pairs. However, the bill has now been adjourned in the upper house and looks unlikely to pass.

Muslim-oriented Palestine committee launched

At least 100 people attended the Palestine: Global Perspective conference, held at the Victorian State Library on March 29.

In Industrial Worker/Direct action

Community Blockades Proposed Gas Hub, Protects Indigenous Land In Australia

For over 100 days local residents, environmentalists, and Indigenous owners have been blockading a site for a proposed gas hub at James Price Point in North-Western Australia.