The latest episode in the efforts by PSC/Labour Party functionary Ben Soffa, and the PSC Executive, to defend their indefensible and unconstitutional behaviour in seeking my expulsion from PSC purely for my Marxist political views about Zionism, is immediately below my reply, which suggests some constructive ways out of the hole the PSC leadership has dug itself into over this case.
Below Soffa’s letter to me is an exchange between Soffa and Tony Greenstein which, in which, though it really does not solve the question, Tony makes some good points about the lack of natural justice of the PSC appeal process which asks the AGM to consider complex matters that would be better considered by an elected, impartial body. And Ben Soffa concurs, that this is a flawed process that basically denies natural justice in complex cases.
Be that as it may, breaches of natural justice and workers democracy must be fought in the here and now, and the attempts to evade this in Ben Soffa’s latest letter are obvious.
Reply to Ben Soffa by Ian Donovan, 20 April
I am sorry. There is a simple remedy for this problem. You must be aware that it simply is not even possible to encapsulate the complex political and constitutional issues involved in this case and to provide those considering the case with proof of what is said in the appeal in 400 words.
When the Labour Party did a report on multiple and questionable allegations that were made as part of a large-scale purge of this type, they ended up producing a report 850 pages long in PDF form. My appeal is 15 pages long in Word format. If it were in the desktop-published PDF format of that report it would likely be less, maybe only 10 pages. Why is such a small document so difficult for you to circulate? It’s hardly like the Labour Party report!
The text and appendixes contain evidence and context of your multiple violations of the PSC Constitution as well as explanations of the views of the LCFI on Zionism which I am being purged for.
Referencing the existence of a longer text is simply not good enough since that longer text will not be circulated to the participants in the AGM and it is virtually certain that most of the participants in this AGM will not follow up footnotes references to an unfamiliar website.
This is a question of principle. It is simply wrong for evidence in an appeal of this nature to be excluded from what is presented to those judging the appeal. Particularly on the say so of the other side in a dispute of this nature. I gave you plenty of notice of the scope of my appeal, and time to refute me.
I did not drop it on you at the last minute before the 10-day deadline but sent it to you on 7th March. I gave you SEVEN WEEKS NOTICE! That was principled behaviour because I don’t believe in smears and gamesmanship. I believe in the need for workers democracy as a matter of principle. You have had plenty of time to formulate a response that refutes it in full. If you cannot, that is because your case is weak. And you don’t have any right to exclude evidence and argumentation because your case is weak, and in reality non-existent.
My appeal is not of book length. It is only 15 pages or less depending on format. You have no valid reason to suppress it. If you choose to do so the moral and political responsibility rests on you.
Even Tony’s intervention in this case does not properly address the questions of principle involved here. If the Executive breaks constitutional clauses as you stand accused of in my appeal, with considerable evidence and argumentation to back that up, it is a matter of principle that the AGM should hear the full evidence under clause 16. Not to allow that breaks clause 16, contradicts natural justice, and even more importantly puts the Executive in command of the AGM when in fact it should be the other way round.This is not my doing. You rode roughshod over democracy and the PSC Constitution at the previous AGM and part of my appeal is about holding you accountable for that.
If the AGM is to hear appeals, then it has to do it properly and allow proper consideration of the evidence in those appeals. If it does not do so and is not allowed to do so then this process is contrary to natural justice. You appear to have conceded this in your exchange with Tony on the AGM’s capacity to conduct such appeals.
And you should be aware that proceedings that are contrary to natural justice are also dubious in their legality.
An even simpler solution to the dilemma that you have put yourself in would be this: call off your purge. Simply withdraw the expulsion and allow the appeal without the need for any interruption of the AGM. I will pay the back dues to PSC over the past year or so since the incorrect and unjustified expulsion to maintain continuity of membership. And PSC should organise a proper, public debate or even policy conference of PSC members on the nature of the Zionist lobby (and what to do about it) later in the year, when hopefully the pandemic is over. I will help in organising it. There are so some powerful speakers on this who would no doubt be delighted to address PSC members, such as Norman Finkelstein, Phil Weiss of Mondoweiss perhaps, as well as Tony and myself. That will solve the problem of disruption to the AGM which has been caused by your appalling bureaucratism, not those resisting it, and begin to repair the damage you have caused.
Ben Soffa email to Ian Donovan, 19 April
as you will have seen in my response to Tony, I am taking a very flexible approach in an attempt to facilitate your appeal. Despite the two previous deadlines having passed, I still stand ready to receive a statement of up to 400 words from you (which could reference the existence of a longer text) by noon tomorrow (Tuesday).
In the absence of that, the process will sadly need to continue without you putting your case directly to members – but that will be your choice.
Ben Soffa response to Tony Greenstein, 19th April
thank you for your email. I agree it is only correct to separate what is a fair process from the merits of any individual case. We are trying really hard to facilitate this and would still be willing to accept a statement from Ian of the appropriate length (I will email him further on this imminently).
As you may have seen from the correspondence Ian has published, we have now on multiple occasions encouraged him to submit a statement that can be distributed to members. We have extended the deadline when he rejected the initial request and been clear about how we would proceed were he not to make a 400 word submission.
Within the realms of the current constitution we have replaced the previous practice of a three minute speech (which as you know, caused issues for those less well equipped to speaking in such an environment) with a written statement of broadly equivalent length. With the statements being distributed ahead of the AGM this will give members the ability to consider the item more carefully and if they were to wish to, to seek out further information on the matter. I would suggest that this is not only a fairer, more accessible process, but probably acts somewhat in favour of most appellants.
I also agree that the AGM is not the most appropriate mechanism for appeals to be heard. Indeed back in 2012 we consulted on diverting appeals to a committee of three patrons. A small standalone committee elected by the AGM would also seem like a perfectly reasonable way forward. Hopefully this is something that can be resolved in the review we wish to undertake this coming year.
I would much rather be able to put both sides of the argument in front of members and have them decide than have any dispute about process, so I’d once again encourage Ian to submit an appeal of the requested length which we can distribute.
Tony Greenstein letter to Ben Soffa, 19th April
I have only just seen this and I have read nothing of the proposed expulsion so I can’t form a view on it though I have my suspicions.
I do though have serious disagreements with Ian, as he knows, over his view on the ‘Jewish Question’.
However this is a question of democracy since Ian has the right of appeal. Clearly as you say the AGM can’t spend half the day considering this and 400 or 500 words is, on the face of it reasonable. If Ian wishes that people read a much longer document comprising 15 pages (which I doubt many will) the obvious answer is that the 400 or so word summary links to the longer document and that this is made clear in the documents sent out. That way people have a choice.
On the wider question. It is unsatisfactory that appeals should be heard by the AGM anyway, not least because they are not in a position to seriously consider them. Consideration should be given to the election of an independent appeals panel of 3, elected by PR and not consisting of employees or Executive members to hearing such appeals. That will of course require a constitutional amendment but that is the way to proceed in my opinion.