Everyone knows the story of the boy who cried wolf. Everyone knows the lesson. At least in theory. Some of us appear to have forgotten how to live our lives by it.
As is clear by Andy Newman’s having to back-peddle on his smear mobile this afternoon, sometimes there is smoke without fire. Sometimes pictures don’t tell the whole story. Sometimes (actually always), the accused needs to be allowed a fair trial if there is a case to answer. Contrary to what the likes of Andy Newman think, an allegation is far from being proof. Sometimes they are fabricated, for all manner of reasons. It is not for socialists to second guess in such circumstances. It is for a jury to decide, to decide after they have heard all the evidence, alibis, potential motives, and testimony from everyone involved. No jury can reach a decision before weighing all this up. That is mob rule. It is the kind of thing that made a reputation for Rebekah Brooks and Kelvin McKenzie. It is not what socialists are meant to do.
Andy Newman today is, utterly disingenuously, claiming he never named Steve Hedley as a violent thug. No one believes him. A jury would not believe him if that is to be his defense when it comes to damages for libel. And many of those who added one or more of the 173 comments did name Steve. And their libel was, and still is to this day, hosted by Andy Newman’s blog.
I hope that the collapse of the allegations against Steve will wake others up when it comes to allegations being spread all across the media by Richard Seymour and his acolytes. Let me make it clear for the benefit of the hard of thinking that I do not think the SWP central committee necessarily got everything right, that they made the right call on every occasion. I have already made it abundantly clear that I do not believe that to be the case. I am certainly pleased that the overwhelming majority of Pat Stack’s supporters are choosing to stay members of the SWP, to defend their party against Richard Seymour’s witch hunt. I want these comrades to play their part in helping the SWP improve procedures for dealing with such allegations in the future.
However, there remains no evidence against the accused. Until this is proven in a court of law, he remains innocent of all charges. That is how I am going to treat him. And it is how I suggest it is how everyone else does too.
Let us for the sake of argument agree that in both of these cases the common verdict is that there is no evidence against anyone, what is the consequence of what has happened?
A lot of the supporters of British capitalism and western imperialism think that the war to topple Saddam Hussein was a serious strategic mistake, especially given its pretext was on his stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. They now believe that this war has undermined their ability to launch a war on Iran, which they feel is necessary. I’m glad military intervention in Iran is made more difficult as a consequence of the West’s bloodbath in Iraq. Every cloud, as they say.
The reason for the detour into this cock-up of Western imperialism is that going in all guns blazing without thinking through the consequences of your actions (of the long term damage you will do if you get it wrong) can only make a bad situation worse. And, from the perspective of Western imperialism, their decade-long adventure in Iraq did make things worse even from their point of view.
The same applies to socialists who go in all guns blazing, trying to smear a comrade as guilty of a crime when we lack any evidence that this is the case.
Allegation do not now, nor can they ever, constitute evidence in and of itself. We need corroboration. If a case happens to be compelling to the prosecuting authorities and the alibi weak, counter-claims of the accused non-credible, then a jury may well find someone guilty on the basis of the testimony of the accuser alone. But if this is possible, then we need even stronger protections for the accused to get a fair trial.
Prejudging guilt without hearing the accused side of the story is obscene. It has to end. Those who engage in this witch hunting behavior inside the socialist movement have to grow up.