Interference in the democratic process at the PSC AGM
Prior to the 2009 AGM, a secret memo was circulated to a selected list of people who had access to voting rights by virtue of their membership of PSC and/or affiliated organizations. The memo asked them to attend the AGM and dictated to them to vote on motions and for a list of candidates to the EC. The memo was headed “This is a personal note – not for circulation”. It stated that:
“This will in my view be an extremely important AGM because of the need to get the focus of the campaign firmly fixed on the events in Gaza and to keep trade unions at the centre of the PSC. There is an opposition within PSC which I firmly believe would take us well away from these objectives.”
The clear implication was that those candidates who were not on the list were doing the exact opposite. Because the memo was secret, the other candidates were therefore not given a chance to refute them. For a full copy of the secret memo which was leaked and put on the internet visit here. Some trade union representatives had three voting cards, and though they had no way of testing the truth of the allegations, their votes carried more weight than those of active members.
How does the EC intend to ensure that unfair methods to influence the outcome of votes will not be used again?
2. Fairness, accountability and equal opportunity in recruitment processes.
The three most recent appointments of office staff have gone to individuals with strong connections to the same, little known, organisation (Socialist Action.) The three staff members who are reputed to be affiliated with this organisation are Sarah Colborne, Denis Fernando and Ruquayya Collector.
We are not questioning the commitment or ability of these individuals to make an important contribution to the campaign for Palestine and we recognise that everyone has political beliefs. However, we do not believe it is plausible that a recruitment process incorporating principles of fairness and equal opportunities, and aimed at selecting the best candidate for the job, could have had this result.
This is particularly the case when you consider that a job opportunity within a campaign organisation for Palestine would be expected to attract a significant number of candidates.
We are concerned that the interests of one organisation could have a disproportionate influence on PSC actions. Socialist Action members now act as gatekeepers between the membership and central administration. PSC’s reputation as an organization free of any political agenda other than solidarity with the people of Palestine and their campaign for liberation has been jeopardized, preventing it from becoming a mass movement.
Please explain how PSC ensures that staff recruitment conforms to equal opportunities, including an explanation of the advertising, short listing and interviewing process?
Several people have left the PSC office unwillingly in the last few years. We are concerned about the high turnover of staff in PSC over the last few years, which has an inevitable effect on the ability of the office to provide a consistent and adequate service to the membership.
What steps are the EC taking to address this issue?
Members are very concerned about an (un-minuted) statement by the PSC Director at the branch 30th May branch forum that all the money collected during January as a result of the war on Gaza had been spent.
We therefore request an interim statement of accounts, and the budget for the current year, demonstrating how the Executive proposes to ensure PSC’s financial sustainability.
If we have a management / leadership team which is predominantly drawn from the same or similar background, or which holds to one political perspective there is little room for alternative viewpoints to be voiced, or for creative dissent to emerge.
Constructive and challenging dialogue is a tremendous engine for imaginative thinking and precludes a blinkered approach; such dialogue is much likely to happen within a highly homogeneous group – where is the stimulating tension going to come from? And where’s the democratic representation of the views of a diverse membership?
PSC INTERNAL MATTERS
Internally it has been a difficult year for the EC and the staff of PSC who have been subject to a campaign of harassment and in some cases personal abuse by widely published emails and a blog. These actions can only detract from the work of PSC and help those who want to see PSC fail in our efforts to build a mass movement.
We resisted engaging with the perpetrators, however in August a group of 13 people made unsubstantiated allegations to the EC. Since these were simultaneously distributed widely and the PSC were being subjected to public calumny, after two weeks the EC felt they had to make a response absolutely refuting the allegations. Regrettably two members of the EC resigned as they felt this had been dealt with precipitately.
At a branch forum in Sheffield .. they unanimously called for the two EC members to rescind their resignations. This call was later reiterated by the EC but unfortunately preconditions were demanded to which ther EC could not agree.
The size of the task that PSC has is enormous. We must continue to make solidarity with the Palestinian people our priority and not become embroiled in internal disputes. Differences in PSC should be conducted through the democratic processes that exist. Unity around our objectives, democratically agrred at the AGM, is of paramonunt importance if we are to build on our effectiveness.
[if !support Footnotes]–> Though we recognise the Wikipedia is not an unbiased source of information for those unfamiliar with Socialist Action, a description is available here (there is little other information available because it does not have a website and operates in a secretive manner):
The Wikipedia entry states: “Socialist Action is a small Trotskyist group in the United Kingdom. … From the mid-1980s Socialist Action became an entryist organisation, attempting to take over other organisations,with members using code names and not revealing their affiliation.”