A number of statements that detail the history of PLP’s involvement in sexual violence can be found on this site, run by allies of the survivor: http://necessarymeansfight.blogspot.com/
In response to these public statements, PLP released a letter criticizing the allies for daring to tell the truth. You can find their letter here. Similar statements have been released by individual party members to smaller audiences in the last few weeks.
Why PLP’s Letter is an Attack on Women and Our Community
Their statement is the best evidence so far of why PLP itself is a problem. Alternate titles for PLP’s letter could include “Misogynists Unwittingly Confess to Misogyny” or “Shut Up Bitch, I Said Shut Up!”
The goal of PLP’s letter is to take something that is unambiguously wrong, the rape of a woman and subsequent cover up, and make it ambiguous. The tactics they employ warrant listing as we are likely to see them again. They parrot rehearsed statements about the oppression of women to demonstrate their “ally” status, they cast doubt on the testimony of the victim by referring to an “alleged rape,” they attack those who dare to speak up as being “fascist, bourgeois, counterrevolutionaries,” they abstract the discussion to one of process rather than outcomes, they blatantly lie about the actions they have or have not taken, they feign victimhood for being called out and imply that their history of activism in the past ought to buy our silence.
PLP’s letter is directed at three primary audiences: the survivor and her allies, the broader activist community, and PLP’s general membership, affiliates, and allies who may just now be learning of the extent of PLP’s cover up.
As a direct response to the survivor and her allies the letter amounts to one profoundly misogynistic and deeply delusional assertion: "Shut the fuck up!" The survivor and her allies must keep their mouths shut because their honesty hurts PLP and hurting PLP is synonymous with hurting revolution. The survivor and her allies should feel ashamed of doing damage to PLP, an organization worth their support, because it has the right analysis of class and oppression. I am hesitant to write what should go without saying: an organization that does what PLP has done does not deserve support and PLP’s vision of revolution is neither “revolutionary” or worth envisioning.
As a statement to the broader community the letter is designed to muddy the waters. Readers are encouraged to question the credibility of the survivor and her allies and to focus on any number of issues other than the fact that Seth Miller, rapist, remains a prominent member of PLP. Their hope is that by distracting from this, readers will be disinclined to challenge PLP and the issue can eventually boil over without any real consequences. To this end, PLP hopes we will engage in protracted tit-for-tat debate about the finer details of the history and the nuances of revolutionary theory, making the basic reality of rape and cover up undecipherable beneath all of PLP's distractions.
As a statement to PLP’s general membership, affiliates, and allies the letter is even more troubling and outrageous. It is a call to dismiss the public statements by the survivor’s allies outright as the machinations of agent provocateurs. It recasts PLP’s secrecy and cover up efforts as righteous acts of resistance against the police state, which PLP fantasizes is aligned with rape survivors instead of against them. In this context, the survivor and her allies become the enemy, the dangerous, bourgeois, fascist, counterrevolutionary “other” that must be stopped. If you think I am exaggerating, consider this facebook comment about the survivor and her allies published on December 29th at 6:40PM by Fernando Chirino, PLP member and faculty at Chapman University:
I feel compelled to take a moment and say that any member of PLP who believes it is an act of “cowardice” for a survivor of rape to go public in a hostile world does not understand the meaning of the word “courage.”
The letter has one implicit demand from for all groups of readers, that we recognize a collective, comradely obligation to protect PLP from harm. PLP is the real victim in their telling of the story. They would like our protection from things that will hurt their recruiting, from the possibility that their work on behalf of immigrants, workers, or students might be damaged by their work against women, and yes, they also want protection from the police state which they incorrectly imagine would lift a finger, even against PLP, to defend the survivor. In short, PLP expects that we will all protect PLP from being judged by its deeds.
PLP’s letter is in perfect harmony with PLP’s public anti-Feminist position, as stated their March 2012 article, “International Women’s Day: Only Communism Can End Sexism,” from PLP’s publication Challenge:
“Feminism, a bourgeois philosophy, disregards the class nature of sexism. Anti-sexist struggles must reject it, because it divides the working class by blaming male workers and shunning them from anti-sexist struggles. This all-class unity for women sets us up for fascism by mobilizing women against their own class interests."For PLP, when gender concerns are in conflict with class concerns in organizing projects, gender defers to class. PLP promotes a hierarchical, ladder-like understanding of oppression where women’s struggles are not only a lower rung than class struggle, but even below a concern that men might be made uncomfortable by feminism and feel too "shunned." In practice this means that if you commit a misogynistic act but portray addressing that act as being in conflict with "class struggle," even if that act is rape or the cover up of rape, you can get away with it because only a “fascist” would “mobilize women against their own class interests." This is nothing but more of the old, “after the revolution” bullshit that is more about enjoying the benefits of patriarchy than it is a commitment social change. Case in point: Seth Miller raped a woman and is still promoted by PLP as a leader in our activist communities while PLP is criticizing the people who dared to point that out.
Fortunately, no amount of lying, threatening, accusing, misogynistic theory, or manipulative co-optation of our movement’s language of revolution and community can distract from the following basic truths:
- Seth Miller is a rapist and continues to be a member of PLP.
- PLP leaders have decided at multiple points over the last six years to do nothing, ask that others stay silent, and hope the issue goes away so that they can continue to work with Seth without complication.
- PLP only ever talked about some vague future “dialogue” as a way keep the survivor and her allies silent while hiding their decision to do as little as they can get away with.
- PLP blames the survivor for not doing enough, and going about what she has done in the wrong way. They locate the social burden outside of themselves and Seth Miller.
- PLP remains to this day more concerned about publicity and their reputation than the fact they have a rapist in their midst.
It is now a matter of historical record that PLP will sacrifice the bodies and souls of comrades for the sadistic pleasure of prominent party members, as long as the party thinks that doing so will not hurt them in their "real" work. No amount of canned lines about revolution and women’s struggle can negate what PLP tells the community through its actions, or the basic facts of this issue up to this point. The question that PLP has put before the rest of us is, “Should we protect PLP?"
Should We Protect PLP?
Despite PLP’s longstanding desire that this story never be told, they have only ever had the option of how it would be told. PLP’s assumption that secrecy was to be the permanent mode of existence for the survivor as well as a viable approach to addressing the widespread sexual violence in our movements demonstrates only PLP’s depravity. Pressuring the survivor to remain silent in any way is itself an act of violence, replicating the experience of being a discardable tool for another’s use including the terror and profound degradation accompanying that experience.
I will forever feel guilty for accommodating PLP’s desire for secrecy so long before going public. I wanted to give the people who I trusted and respected in that organization every opportunity to do the right thing, in the hopes we could have told a more empowering story about solidarity against patriarchy’s most extreme and violent manifestations. During this time I was depriving our community of critical information about the real danger that PLP and its members pose to women, and my accommodation of PLP may have had tragic consequences. Our impulses to hope things will work themselves out, to avoid conflict, and to see harsh truths in more comforting lights can be both liberating and oppressive forces. PLP turns these impulses against our community, using them the same way a cop uses his baton to bash our brains in. Their goal in weaponizing our impulses to hope and unity is to achieve our neutrality.
Neutrality is the position which accommodates PLP’s demand for protection and silence. By doubling down yet again on secrecy, obfuscation, and inaction, PLP gambles that the rest of the community shares their misogyny. They are counting on us to buy into the idea that class and gender struggles are in conflict and that class trumps gender, they are counting on our desire to avoid confrontation, they are counting on our cowardice to prevent us from making all of the interpersonal sacrifices that we must make to confront PLP but are so much less significant than the sacrifices that are demanded of survivors of sexual violence. By playing for neutrality as the position that protects their interests at the expense of the survivor and women generally, they have removed the neutrality from neutrality. PLP is not worthy of the protection that silence and neutrality affords them. We can no longer tolerate PLP or any groups or individuals that share their values.
Given PLP and Seth Miller’s utter lack of accountability and continued demonstration of profoundly unself-critical misogyny, we must achieve the total exclusion of PLP and all of its members from our organizing and social spaces. We can no longer pretend that through the course of time PLP will reform itself. We cannot entertain the possibility that any solution outside of exile is appropriate while the basic facts of Seth Miller and PLP’s actions are being obscured and denied. I have learned the hard way that the desire to pursue other options is nothing but the desire to return things back to normal at the precise moment we are confronted by how horrific normality is. Changing that reality is not possible without first accepting it, a step PLP refuses to take. Our reality is that we live in a world where rape is OK, and it is so because we don't do anything about it.
We must not believe in PLP because PLP does not believe in us. Their cynical gamble reveals how little faith PLP actually has in our community’s real potential for courage and revolution. Whatever it is that PLP is fighting for, despite whatever sincere delusions they may have about their efforts, PLP is not working for us and is not working for revolution. We cannot tolerate the presence of any group in our community when that group’s position to that community demonstrates such undeniable contempt and pessimism, and we cannot count on others to do the work of confronting PLP for us.
by J. Ball