Public statement: My resignation from Fire This Time

February 3, 2008

An open letter to the left and progressive community
on my resignation from Fire This Time;

I’m writing this letter to inform the left and progressive community that I have broken with Fire This Time, MAWO, and all other related groups. Through this letter I also hope to begin to stand accountable for the many irresponsible and destructive things I am responsible for having done when I was a member of these groups.

I have been an activist in Vancouver for more than ten years. In 2002-03 I helped to found the Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice. FTT formed out of an ugly split within the Anti-Poverty Committee. I also played a big part of this split and remained in FTT, Youth Third World Alliance (Y3WA), Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) and other related organizations* as an active member and organizer until the beginning of January last year. I resigned quietly in January 2007, but did not send an ‘official’ resignation letter until October 2007.

This letter has been a long time coming. For better or for worse, I’ve not been up to writing it and going public until now. If it is necessary to explain why it’s taken a year to write, I will just say that leaving FTT was very hard. Emotionally and personally, my experience in the group really messed me up.

There are three things I want to deal with in this letter. And I’ll keep it as short as possible:

1. Why I left FTT;
2. The Fire This Time and the damage done (an apology);
3. What I believe in now.

Over the last two months I have had some discussions with some people in the left about these general themes. While I have apologized to these individuals, I feel that there is a lot of ground left to cover. These apologies have really only been openings to a longer rectification process involving a lot of responsibility-taking and work.

I understand that even those who have never had a direct negative experience with me or withFTT have been negatively impacted by the lousy, sectarian, and confrontational atmosphere kicked up by FTT groups. If you feel that you are owed more than a general apology from me and feel that I should (or have neglected to) contact you directly; I am probably planning to and am just working up the nerve. If you want to, please feel free to contact me: ivanddrury@yahoo.ca

This letter is meant for the broad left-progressive community. There is one additional group that I’d like to speak to that is sadly separate from this community: the remaining members of FTT/Y3WA. However, this group has been forbidden by the leadership (ie. by Ali Yerevani) from speaking to or even receiving emails from me. This letter, as well as another letter directed specifically to them is posted here: https://ivandrury.wordpress.com

WHY I LEFT FTT

In January 2007 I did not have a clear or well reasoned idea of my differences with FTT. A great deal of doubt had been building in me for a long time. I had gotten used to suppressing such doubts as part of the general emotional shut-down that I had performed for the four years I’d been a member of FTT. It took me by surprise when these doubts grew to such a weight that I could not think of anything else.

The main doubt that plagued me was at the foundation of FTT. The principal analysis of FTT is that the entire left in Canada is hopelessly corrupt (the “Status Quo Left” – “SQL”). For me, this analysis made sense based on my frustrations with my experiences up to that point in the activist scene. From my feeling that the activist community was too insular and too much of it self-satisfied, I was able to draw conclusions that I now see as bitterly sectarian. FTT took an extreme view of this “Status Quo” view of the left and reduced the entire left to a homogenous entity identified through the ‘unprincipled unity’ of mutually fulfilling self-interest. Taking a broader historical view of the left today, within a very low point of class and social struggle overall in Canada, these signs of what FTT called the “SQL” seem both inevitable and temporary.

The reductive “Status Quo Left” analysis led to the basic organizational program of FTT: to form a new revolutionary leadership capable of taking over and leading the inevitable revolutionary upsurge in Canada and thereby save it from the corruption of the “SQL”. From this program flowed an endless string of justifications on the part of FTT – from ultra-centralist, abusive internal dynamics to petty disrespectful conduct towards other leftists, to profoundly sectarian sabotage acts. For approximately six months leading up to my initial resignation, I felt that these acts and their justifications were fundamentally wrong. I felt that it was not working and would not work. I lost faith in FTT. And I left when I realized that the group could not be reformed.

With time and space from the group I realized how deeply my differences run – and how massive was the four-year long mistake I had made.

I came to understand that the basic program of FTT is sectarian. That the group itself is sectarian. FTT has never involved itself in a coalition or founded a committee or worked on a project or written an article or taken on a campaign or done anything for any reason other than for the purpose of cadre building. The construction of a ‘pure revolutionary cadre’ has stood above all other purposes as the driving motivation of FTT.

It is a group that has taken an exceptional view of itself. Regardless of the state of class or social struggle, regardless of the level of organization of the left or of the forces of oppressed people FTT stands exceptional as the ‘one-true revolutionary group’. The philosophy of the group is that an individual must be ‘exceptional’ to be a member of this group, to be a ‘true revolutionary’ in a time and place ‘like this’. If the group is the revolutionary exception, and if the members are all the revolutionary exception then surely they stand as exception to all the rest of the left. Thus, you are with us or against us. Thus, one rule applies for what is done to Us and another for what We do to our Opponents (especially in the radical left). Every single principle that is traditional or expected of the left (or, hell, of a decent person) has been systematically sacrificed in order to build the cadre under the umbrella of exceptionalism.

The rationale of exceptionalism is deeply reductionist. It glosses over the multi-faceted complications and complexities that make up the politics of society and the left and pretends that one group can voluntaristically ‘fix’ these problems simply through the will of a ‘small determined group’ with a ‘correct political program’. This reductionism is visible in even the most basic political lines of FTT. From opposing the occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan through the slogan: ‘all the people of ____ demand: OCCUPIERS OUT!’, to approaching Cuba as model society with a model democracy where everyone is happy, to the question of the defense of John Graham against extradition, this reductionism appears again and again in FTT’s practices. The question of John Graham’s defense is a significant example. Only an isolated sect could overlook the broad political principle of not allowing a colonial state to extradite an Indigenous man and political organizer to another colonial state to face a necessarily unjust trial because of ‘working class principles’ against ‘violence in the movement’. I won’t attempt to go into the details of this case or incident: I had already resigned from the group when it was decided to bring Robert Robideau for a tour. But I will point out that the trial Graham is now awaiting in the US has already been conducted (without even the most basic legal rights) by FTT. Is this the job of a revolutionary group? To hold court over oppressed people?

However, while there are sectarian ‘vanguard’ groups all over the world, there is something particularly problematic with FTT. FTT is the production of the vision of one man: Ali Yerevani. He did a one-man entry into the Anti-Poverty Committee (as he had in numerous groups before) with the purpose of dragging out with him some recruits for his own ‘vanguard’ group. Unfortunately, I was among those who left with him.

Since APC I watched Yerevani (and helped him) employ the same tactics in every group or coalition we were (allowed to be) members of. The same stood for student groups, like the Social Justice Centre at UBC. While recruiting, Yerevani would use his charm and charisma to make young people, and predominately young women, feel important and exceptional. However, this sense of exceptionalism came with the steep price of complete devotion to Yerevani. Impatient for his cadre to develop into ‘professional revolutionaries’ he drove these recruits’ political development in his image with a constant one-two of Yerevani-dependent confidence building and Yerevani-dependent ‘ego-smashing’. When a potential conflict arose in a left-progressive coalition or group he would do everything in his power to escalate the situation into a ‘principled’ showdown. If he came out of such fights with new recruits ‘steeled’ in battle; then it was a success.

Hence:

The APC split? A success, it was where the initial FTT cadre came from!

The Stopwar.ca expulsion? A success, it was where the expanded Y3WA cadre was ‘consolidated’!

That these recruits were more and more dependent on Yerevani’s political leadership with every passing conflict and factional fight did not bother him. Yerevani considers this dependency, above all, the sign of what he calls an “advanced element”. He even rationalizes his authority by citing the lineage of his revolutionary ideas back to Lenin, evoking the tired claims of being the one-true-inheritor of the Bolshevik legacy. Yerevani enforces the idea in the group that rebellion against him is egotistical, and a sign of ‘petit-bourgeois tendencies’.

Inside the group Yerevani is a tyrant who tolerates zero dissent to his absolute control. “Discussions” in meetings consist of two or three hour lectures from Yerevani. “Democratic centralism” means agreeing with and enforcing his often arbitrary and mood swinging political rulings on the fly. “Organizational norms” mean constant phone contact with him to receive constant marching orders on everything from speakers’ lists and the admission of ‘opponents’ to events, to which button to wear on which side of your coat. No joke. These “norms” also address every aspect of personal life, like how to hang car keys, what clothes women members are allowed to wear, how to invite someone to coffee, how to flush a toilet. Yerevani actually (shortly before I left) forced every member of Y3WA to sign up on a schedule to clean the bathroom in his house every day for a month because someone had clogged the toilet! (OK, I’m ranting now.)

However, I am not saying that the members of FTT/Y3WA do not have agency. They all choose to remain where they are. They are all accountable and responsible for what they are part of. FTT does function like a cult, but it is still made up of a group of young people who voluntarily contribute their time, money, and effort completely to the group – just as I did as a founding and leading member for four years. There are problems with dismissing FTT as a “cult”. This designation denies the role of the young people who are the activist workers of the group. Regardless of the negative impact of this group, it is not a universally negative group. The members of this group have committed themselves completely to work that they believe to be revolutionary and have done important work in forcing discussions on campuses and in some communities about issues of war, social and class struggle, and internationalist solidarity. Merely dismissing their work as simply the machinations of a cult is unfair, and it further isolates the group, closing even more the psychological hold that Yerevani lords over the rest of the membership. In other words: if it’s not a cult now, the continued stigmatizing of FTT by other left groups is only going to help bring FTT members into an increasingly vulnerable and dangerous situation.

However, on the other side of the coin is the qualification that many supporters of FTT or MAWO or VCSC have made: if the group is so bad, why are they so active? They’re the most active group in the city! And they’re attracting so many new activists and young people!

I held many of these justifications throughout my membership in FTT. The breakthrough I reached, shortly before I resigned, can be summarized as follows:

1) FTT’s hyper-activity is for the purpose of ‘cadre building’ and not for the sake of anti-imperialist or pro-Cuba education work.

2) FTT’s ‘cadre building’ is done outside of and exclusive to the dynamics of class and social movement in Vancouver, so non-FTT/Y3WA people lose the opportunity to learn from their own experiences and actions. Instead they are fed ready-made actions and lines.

3) FTT’s energy is directed in these actions only at those who are deemed ‘recruitable’ or otherwise imagined to be of service to the group.

4) FTT’s actions take up space that might otherwise be filled by the organic self-action of oppressed people (rather than this small group of wannabe ‘professional revolutionaries’)

5) Thus the group has stolen a new generation of young activists out of more authentic, spontaneous, organically occurring movements and brought them into this ‘exceptional’ state. Here, they are cut off from the dynamics of society to be burned out through such hyper-activity or (in select cases) to be permanently recruited into Yerevani’s sub-universe. Therefore, they are unable to play the important roles of instigators and counterweights to older and more conservative activists in coalitions such as StopWar.ca. FTT is not building ‘revolutionary fighters’, it is building a ‘good cadre’. What exactly that means can be left to Yerevani’s therapist. Mine thinks it sounds like the construction of automatons.

A focus on cadre building to the exclusion of movement building was rationalized in the days when “small vanguard party/group” meant one had a membership of 100,000 (like the Communist Party of America in the 1930’s) or 10,000 (like the Socialist Workers Party around the same time). Extending this same rationale to a group holding steady at around fifteen members in one city in one country is absolutely absurd and unforgiveable.

There is no easy answer to the question of whether FTT should be isolated or not, as has been called for by some people in the left. If other left groups completely isolate FTT then the walls of their little nightmare world close tighter. But it must also be acknowledged that if they are allowed to participate in some actions or coalitions, their presence can be incredibly destructive. I believe that, as much as possible, these two dynamics should be assessed and balanced out on a case by case basis.

THE FIRE THIS TIME AND THE DAMAGE DONE

Rather than accuse FTT et al of this and that atrocious act (which they will then refute or deny or parry with a slander of me), I think it best to illustrate FTT by talking about those things I know best—the things I was myself responsible for. I am nervous about admitting to this stuff, but there have been questions about nearly every one of these matters and I also think that the dishonesty and lack of accountability that FTT has taken is one of the worst or most telling signs of its sectarianism. So, here’s a list of (some of) the worst things I was responsible for as a member of FTT:

//I manipulated and abused members of Y3WA and FTT.

Usually I was just along for the ride, but occasionally I would lead assaults on ‘petty bourgeois tendencies’ of other members. I carried out “exit meetings” on members who resigned or tried to resign. These involved attempts to humiliate and degrade these people so that whatever was left of their confidence would be broken so badly that they would not get involved in any other group and become our opponents. Usually the meetings worked and these people left politics altogether.

Despite my own shameful abuse of other members, the most painful memories are of those many moments when I did not speak up against Yerevani’s abuse of others. He organized mafia-type meetings on a regular basis. If a member was letting their ‘petty bourgeois tendencies’ show— whether in a political mistake they made, or by how they dressed, or if they looked tired or were feeling grumpy—Yerevani would show up at their door or call and demand a “meeting”. This meeting would usually take place in his bedroom, and he would bring along a witness, like me. The last of these meetings I attended was in the living room of the house that six of us lived in. Yerevani had three witnesses at that meeting, and let them do most of the interrogation. The subject was being berated for her ‘petty bourgeois tendencies’. The specific charge? That she was too attached to her parents. The evidence? That she was refusing to steal from their credit card to buy a computer for “our movement”. The meeting lasted over three hours. In the end, she caved to our extortion. I sat through the entire meeting and never spoke out against what was going on. I knew that I should have, even at the time. But I didn’t.

The consequence of such events repeated nearly daily for over four years is a terrified and emotionally shattered group of young people. They are completely dominated by one leader and forced to crawl over one another and anyone else for his approval.

//I never opposed Ali Yerevani

My gravest responsibility and greatest mistake in four years of membership in FTT/Y3WA was my consistent support of Yerevani’s consolidation of power inside the group. This little-man’s power has placed him in a position of zero-accountability; that is, he can and does get away with anything inside the group. It has meant that the members of this group are routinely terrorized by a man who considers it his duty and burden to educate them about revolutionary politics and organizational norms—down to the tiniest fixed detail of what Our position is. Of course, there is no debate or discussion on these points. The reading lists of members are strictly controlled and even discussion of these readings is restricted to sessions under Yerevani’s control. Yervani knows—from his own experience—that this is centralism without the democratic, but waves away such considerations with the justification that the membership is too “inexperienced” and “immature” to handle democracy. That is, they will not yet think what he thinks without his control. They require conditioning. With silent complicity, and even with active enforcement when necessary, I helped to establish this indoctrination as tradition.

//I helped Ali Yerevani assault Mike Krebs

When another founding member named Mike Krebs resigned in 2005, I harassed and threatened him over the phone. I drove Yerevani to the grocery store where both Mike Krebs and I worked. I stood guard at the back door while Yerevani went in the front. I watched from the back door while Yerevani assaulted Mike Krebs by the cash registers. While it was not a planned action, and though I was shocked and appalled at what I’d witnessed, I said nothing at the time nor when asked about it by a skeptical member of Y3WA afterwards. I defended Yerevani to another founding member, Nasim Sedaghat, when she confronted him at a meeting days after the assault, and then I remained silent when she resigned on the spot. And I lied about this series of incidents every time I was asked by others in the left.

//I helped to create a hostile atmosphere in StopWar.ca

While on the road to expulsion from the StopWar.ca coalition, I accidentally hacked the email account of StopWar coordinating committee member Derrick O’Keefe. While joking with Yerevani and Mike Krebs that most far-leftists in Vancouver probably used some combination revolutionary names as email account passwords, I tested my joke on Derrick O’Keefe’s account… and the account opened. What was done afterwards was no joke or accident. With the justification that we were “defending ourselves”, Yerevani demanded that we read Derrick’s emails and publish them in our “defense campaign”. These emails chronicled an ongoing discussion between Derrick and other coordinating committee members of StopWar.ca. Nearly all of them included personal and confidential notes and information about and from coordinating committee members and some general members of StopWar such as Lawrence Boxall, Sid Schniad, Mabel Elmore, Haseena Majeed Charlie Demers, Jef Keighley, and others. As with everything else, I went along with this against my better judgment. I cooperated with the publishing of these emails in critical documents distributed at coalition meetings, to the media and then by the thousands in FTT newspapers and on the FTT website (where they remain).

This is only one example of the constant ways in which I was responsible for the creation of the hostile climate in StopWar.ca that led to the polarization of the coalition around personal rather than political grounds. The sight of me standing, document in hand, yelling about the Status Quo Left betrayal of the anti-war movement was familiar to everyone in the coalition.

// I dishonestly and disrespectfully interfered with the organizing of other groups and communities

The level of defensive sectarianism was so high in FTT over the last two years of my involvement that the most repulsive of actions became possible. At an event in 2006 featuring a panel of Indigenous speakers, including Aaron Mercredi—a member of Y3WA—another panelist made a comment about cops posing as activists. This particular activist, who is a prominent native youth organizer in Vancouver, was in continual conflict with Mercredi throughout this period. Mercredi was having a hard time standing up to him and was continually being disciplined in Y3WA for not being strong enough when facing off against other people or groups in the Indigenous activist scene. I nudged Mercredi to respond to what I took as an attack on him and Our movement. Aaron did not respond. And then suddenly the discussion was closed.

The whole crowd was invited on stage to participate in a Mayan ceremony (run by some visiting guests) to close the meeting. The moment the ceremony was finished and people started to leave, I called out that there was something still to be discussed. I accused this native activist of calling Aaron a cop, and said that this was COINTELPRO-type activity.

In an unrelated but similar event, I did more to sour relations between the Indigenous community and the Marxist left. When the Six Nations struggle against illegal colonial land development broke out, solidarity campaigns began all-across Canada. FTT immediately felt the pinch of the negative reputation we had built up in Vancouver—including in the Indigenous movement. Regardless of the strain this put on the newly formed solidarity group, FTT (through Aaron Mercredi and I) pushed hard against its exclusion. Even when we were not called for a meeting, we would determine to hunt down the location and attempt to crash the meeting. Mere days before the big Vancouver action, we succeeded in distracting the entire organizing group to focus instead on a long discussion of whether or not FTT would be allowed in the meeting. We were not.

Then, even after being very respectfully dealt with by a leader of the group (whose advice I really should have taken) in a small meeting facilitated by elders from the DTES Women’s Centre, we crashed the demonstration with banners high. I accepted an invitation to help out as a security marshal—an exclusively Indigenous position in the march. Foolishly, I took every position that we had clamoured for like gulls and been allowed out of decency, or pity, or concession, as our “success,” having convinced myself that FTT was integrated and playing a real revolutionary role in the Indigenous movement. Of course, we were not.

When Israel invaded Lebanon in 2006, it became clear that FTT was disconnected from the organizing that was already being done. A new group—the Coalition for Justice in the Middle East (CJME)—was organizing mass actions through a close collaboration between some activists and some members of the Lebanese and Muslim communities. Because of our reputation, there was no way we would be able to get involved in this incredible effort. So the question of how to intervene rose up.

Through our (only) contact in the Muslim community, I had visited many mosques in the Lower Mainland. When this contact began to introduce me to people as “Abbas” I did not object. Yerevani had instructed me early on to “just go with” whatever came up in the mosques. He said that I should not ever “out” myself as a leftist as that would surely destroy our contacts. So I proceeded to attend prayers, go through the motions, and look for any openings in an ongoing attempt to catch up to the CJME as though it was some sort of contest. When anyone asked me if I was Muslim, I’d say, as though ashamed, “No…but I’m interested in Islam.” But when occasionally I was introduced as a “convert,” I would not correct people.

Like this, FTT was able to hold a single moderately sized demonstration with some members of these communities. Ours was a pale— completely opportunistic, dishonest, and disrespectful—copy of the achievements of the genuine coalition built through the CJME.

During this period I led “tactical operations” in StopWar.ca organized marches to ensure the MAWO banner was visible at the front of the march. I appeared at the scene of endless sectarian battles with FTT/Y3WA affiliated campus groups against student union and social justice centres, at events of the Palestine Community Centre, No One Is Illegal, the STATUS Coalition, the Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, etc.

The macho sectarian spirit that took over the group leaked out, poisoning the air in every atmosphere we entered.

//I helped to engineer a split in the Anti-Poverty Committee

I went along with Yerevani when he emerged from the backseat of APC to lead a charge for a complete organizational overhaul from a community anti-poverty group to a Marxist vanguard group. We emerged as “APC Members for Restructuring and Reorganizing”, in the most obnoxious, arrogant manner imaginable, with a ‘revolutionary’ “Action Program to Confront the Liberal Government and Crisis in BC”. Along with the thirty-page program came an ultimatum: accept the program in principle and in entirety, without discussion, or we six signatories will resign. Of course, our move was taken as an assault on the organization from within, and we resigned.

Much of the criticism in that we made of APC was correct, but it was not ours alone. APC had serious limitations that were exposed most clearly through the successes and failings of its work in the Woodwards squat. The great crime of the future-FTT was that most members of APC also had a sense of these problems and were in fact willing to discuss them. Much of the “Action Program” actually came out of recent organized discussions, reflections, and strategy sessions that all of APC took part in. The confrontation and split interrupted this learning process, hijacking the organic development of the activist group and what it symbolized for the Vancouver young left movement.

There are many details and incidents that I have not included here out of respect to the privacy of the people who were wronged. And there are less specific general occurrences that are no less shameful and that will have to be addressed through my future activist practice. Generally, however, unnamed as well as for those names above, my actions as a member of FTT are to be explained in terms of a cult of exceptionalism. When I believed that everything was being done for the construction of a “revolutionary cadre”, I could explain and justify any, and I do mean ANY, action. However, with that ridiculous shroud dropped from my eyes, these things are all incredibly shameful. All a series of terrible mistakes, for which I am incredibly sorry.

WHAT I BELIEVE IN NOW

I am a Marxist. I believe that capitalism cannot be reformed. I believe that capitalism must be replaced with socialized property and production through socialist revolution. I believe that it is only through the self-action of oppressed people that revolution can occur.I believe that ideology alone does not determine the effectiveness of activism today. Activists and organizers from many different ideological traditions have made great contributions to the cause of social justice. There are innumerable ways for individuals to add their efforts to this international movement against capitalism. Yerevani’s rigid definition of what it is to be a revolutionary is a dead end.

I believe that Trotsky’s analysis that the great historical gap between the objectively ripe conditions for revolution and the subjectively weak position of the working class and oppressed people cannot be overcome through simply invoking the problem of ‘leadership’ in the sense of political program and cadre building. I believe that the historical moment that spawned this recipe for sectarianism has passed. No longer do Stalinized Communist Parties command the support of hundreds of thousands and millions of workers in imperialist countries. I believe that the historical crisis confronting the masses of people of the world today—especially in imperialist countries—is a crisis of organization. We, as a class, as a people of many sexes, sexualities, and abilities, as multiple nations with a shared enemy and shared historical interests have never been more fractured and atomized than we are today.

I believe, therefore, that sectarianism and hollow sloganeering is a cancer in our movement. I believe that we as leftists must overcome the historical divisions between us and engage in regroupment—but not as mutual entrist experiments, and not to win over others to each of our “correct” lines on this or that question. We must regroup in order to rebuild the shattered left. We must regroup in order to regain a relevant position in society and in order to fight against the extremely reactionary imperialist order that is tearing our world apart.

Finally, I am for the complete dissolution of FTT and Y3WA, and for the freeing of the membership to do important work within the left as it exists in Canada.

I hold a lot of regret and shame about my four-year mistake in FTT. I understand that the majority the political work I have done in my life has led in the very opposite direction from what I now believe is necessary. If there is anything I am glad to have taken from my experience in FTT, it is to have been humbled by the enormity of my capacity to error. So, to begin my new life in politics—I’d like to begin to say: I am profoundly sorry.

With the hope of real and lasting solidarity, and love;

Ivan Drury

* In the interest of brevity I refer throughout this letter to the following groups as “FTT”:

FTT, Y3WA, MAWO, Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC), the Free the Cuban Five Committee-Vancouver, and Courtenay (FC5), Indigenous Rights and Action Project (IRAP), The May 1 Organizing Committee of 2005, Communities in Solidarity with Hospital Workers, Coalition for a United Latin America (which formed after I left), etc.

And the student groups:

Coalition Against War on the People of Iraq and Internationally (CAWOPI-UBC), Langara United Against War and Occupation (LSUAWO), Capilano Students Against War (C-SAW), SFU-MAWO, Douglas Students Against War and Occupation (DSUAWO), Student-Youth Committee Against War, etc.

ftt_diagram.jpg

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45 responses to “Public statement: My resignation from Fire This Time

  1. Astonishing, but welcome that finally one of the ruling triumvirate of this delusional conglomeration of organizations has finally broken ranks and confirmed what we all suspected all along.

    Welcome back to reality, Ivan.
    –Lawrence Boxall

  2. solidarity, ivan.

  3. Bravo, Ivan. A moving story, one that shows courage – but maybe still some engagement with those activists.
    Why has Ali made such a nuisance of himself?

    Yerevani: I met him years ago walking on the Steveston dike.

    I saw him years later at an anti-war movement meeting, laughing and telling me he had been thrown out of 315 groups in the city – he thought this very amusing – I thought he was joking. I took leaflets back to our Vigil group and forgot about him.

    At the next such meeting he was shouting at another comrade that he was a “reactionary” – again I was puzzled why someone whom I knew from a walk in Steveston was trying to make such a mess of the meeting.

    I reported back to our group that Ivan had been very macho, that my leftist friends were little better, that nothing got done and we should not bother with such gatherings.

    From your account he sounds not like a Trotskyists – more like a Communist Party member of 1927 in Germany calling Socialists “Social Fascists” instead of joining them to fight Hitler. Being extremely hostile to other organizations, etc.

    Very troubling.

  4. Welcome back, Ivan.

  5. Dean wrote:
    “From your account he sounds not like a Trotskyists – more like a Communist Party member of 1927 in Germany calling Socialists “Social Fascists” instead of joining them to fight Hitler. Being extremely hostile to other organizations, etc.”

    I think you are giving FTT leader, Ali Yerevani, far to much credit. His disagreements with leftwing organizations were never about ideological differences, they merely pretended to be. The fellow never had a consistent and cohesive attitude that could be realistically be described as an ideology. When his group was expelled from StopWar.ca it was not over ideological differences, but rather over the disruptive behaviour that made it impossible to conduct the business of the coalition.

    Yerevani has never been anything more than an opportunistic shape-shifter preying on the young and gullible, and his politics is pure cynicism calculated to achieve his personal aggrandizement. That has been my opinion of him from the day of his expulsion from StopWar.ca (which I voted against). Since then it has simply been my impression with no real concrete proof. There was no point in expressing it to anyone other than close friends even when I thought that good people were having the wool pulled over their eyes.

    Now Ivan Drury has provided the concrete evidence for what I believed, but could not prove. This frees me to comment with greater confidence.

    There should not be sectarian antagonisms within the left even when there are ideological differences. The right is an intensely formidable opponent which requires that the left treat each other with sufficient respect to enable a united front against oppression, irrespective of the minutia of the ideological brews we like to argue about. I don’t understand how someone can be left-wing and not accord people the respect and dignity that is everyone’s inalienable right. I simply don’t see FTT as part of the left, but rather as a parasite attempting to feed on every progressive group that they have had dealings with. They functioned to confuse people and weaken the impact of the progressive community. They have also behaved badly and abusively towards individuals and this is my objection to them–not their ideology. Their telling of the events that led to their expulsion from StopWar.ca was breathtakingly delusional, to say the least, but so volumous that it was simply too much of a waste of time to attempt bringing clarity to the murkiness they cast over the whole antiwar movement.

    On the day of the expulsion from StopWar.ca, I confronted Mr. Yerevani about why a personal email I had written to a friend was being circulated to people who had no business reading my personal emails. I wanted to know why I was being exposed to public ridicule by an organization I had never wronged in any way. In fact, I had ended up being the sole defender of their right to stay in StopWar.ca up until the moment of their expulsion. Mr. Yerevani’s response to me was that, as a left-wing activist, I had no right to privacy. What can I say, the master has spoken.

    I hope that this lack of a right to privacy extends to allowing me to be very public about what I privately think of Mr Yerevani, and that I won’t have to be punished for petit bourgeois tendencies.

    Lawrence Boxall

  6. A very interesting discussion. Ivan, very courageous. Yerevani has a pathology that is often seen, whether in the left or right. This is likely why the extremes rise and fall with such drama. While I haven’t experienced any of the groups in Vancouver mentioned by Ivan, I’ve come across this same cultish close-mindedness in certain activists in Vancouver. It’s very strange and usually stems from ignorance and lack. It pays to use your instincts. So insightful this confession has been. Hopefully it will teach us all something about letting love and life guide our way rather than hate, punishment, reprimand, order, and code. We must be free to speak what we believe and be open to change our beliefs so that we are not subjected to harassment nor become the harasser ourselves. And let it be known, I too am just as guilty of being a bully. This confession by Ivan has made me see my own past mistakes and has helped me define who I want to be as an activist. Very valuable.

  7. Nothingoesuntoiced

    your obviously still on a power trip, and unable to “EXCEPT” your still not welcome in many communities due to your actions. A blog up isnt gonna make it all better. Indeed its your actions within these communities over several years (the same amount of time or more that you spent abusing Indigenous people and others and still defending!) that will fix or not fix your very tarnished reputation, level of trust you broke in our communities on Coast Salish lands.

  8. When I was a member of FTT, I was trained to immediately dismiss and ignore comments like the one from “Nothingoesuntoiced”. It would have been filed in my computer under some category of ‘opponent’.
    However, I think this comment highlights some important points. That it is _practice_ and not declarations that builds trust and determines effectiveness.

  9. Ivan,
    I want to thank you for the courage you have shown in exposing the inner workings of FTT and encourage you, as you indicate above, to earn your way back into the progressive community through good work and living the principle of solidarity.

    As a long-time activist but recent immigrant to BC I was immediately warned about Yerevani and his various front groups. Thanks to such useful advice from excellent activists like Derrick O’Keefe we were largely able to inoculate the War Resisters Support Campaign from any possibility of disruption.

    Your expose will hopefully help others – who may be conflicted by their own admirable tendency to openness and tolerance – to counter FTT tactics to weaken or split whatever groups or committees they are working in.

    I was also – a long time ago in my youth – part of a group that grew increasingly sectarian and cultish as the radicalism of the Vietnam era subsided. I know how hard it can be to break from this sort of close-knit and self-referential environment. Congratulations, thanks, and welcome to the big, often messy, but essential world of progressive politics.

    Robert Ages
    (Council of Canadians, Canadian Peace Alliance, WRSC-Vancouver)

  10. AS a former member of youth third world alliance I can say that what Ivan says matches my experiences as a member of that group. I first became an antiwar activist when the Iraq war started. At that time I was at UBC, antiwar rallies on campus could draw more than 200 people and organizing meetings had 40 people. After the summer when Bush declared the war over most of those activists disappeared and I was left in a position that if wanting to continue working on the issue MAWO was the only group there with open arms.

    Having very little political experience I found their serious approach and energy exciting. Slowly I became more and more involved. They were the only game in town visible to me that talked about revolutionary politics and were active at the same time. I slowly became more and more involved with them. I lost interest in school and dropped out.

    Shortly after leaving school I joined Y3WA. I finally felt as a young revolutionary I belonged somewhere and had a purpose. By this time I was already beginning to get sleep deprived, I was being told that sleep was subjective and that wasn’t needed as long as you had revolutionary perspective.

    I remembered how myself and another Y3WA member had designed a poster and Ali rejected it. How after lecturing Tamara and myself for an hour (our opinion falling on deaf ears) the poster he finally told us to make had to have the words Allahu Akbar on the Iraqi flag. How this upset the Muslim community and was rescinded. And how when the old version with the words still on it was brought to a MAWO meeting by mistake Ali demanded all the leaflets back without explanation. When one teenager refused Ali yelled at him “this is revolutionary discipline” and intimidated him until it was returned without explanation. I remember how I sat silently and said nothing.

    Common practice while I was in Y3WA was maxing out credit cards, sleeping four our five hours a night until you got terribly ill, breaking relations with your “peti bourgeois” girl friend and parents, calling Ali, Shannon or Ivan every time a decision has to be made and only reading selected articles and your own paper. Depriving yourself of sleep and normal social relations is something you might do during the revolution not in a time of low class struggle.

    I was shocked when I found out over a month after joining the organization that Mike had in fact been assaulted. I had been told before that that mike was mentally ill, that he was a traitor and going for an easy life and that Ali did not assault Mike. I believed all of these lies and even helped spread them.

    The internal discipline was extremely abusive. It included two mandatory education classes a week that were at least three hours each. One mandatory y3wa meeting that could go from 8pm or 9pm to 3am in the morning. A MAWO meeting, a VCSC meeting, your campus antiwar group and all the political assignments (such as postering or making a leaflet) we had on top of for me what was a 40-hour workweek. There was also always tabling, rallies and picket.

    I also was under pressure for refusing to take sick days off work to do political work. Many y3wa members would constantly lose their jobs because they would take to many sick days. Ironically when they were fatigued to illness they would go to work and sleep in the washroom or in my case in the meet freezer. I was also taking heat for avoiding the mandatory monthly hiking trips and instead spending the time with my girlfriend.

    Almost everyone in Y3WA live in houses with others in that organization. Without the money in the bank for a months rent food and deposit, disagreement is repressed out of fear of being thrown onto the streets. A Friend of mine who left Y3WA shortly after I did was forced to beg for money from his abusive family after he left so he would not end up on the streets.

    An example of the mindless sectarianism is how three of us walked in circles for hours around sunset beach during the gay pride parade in 30 degree whether and with heavy containers and a table because we were kicked off the grounds by the organizers after we had decided to set up next to the main sponsors table not having registered. I told the other two that we should set up outside the grounds or pack up and simply hand out leaflets. They insisted on finding a spot inside the grounds were they had just been banned. After getting sick and tired of walking in circles for hours and almost about to drop from the heat I told the two I was with that I was leaving. The funny thing is if they had payed $100 like everyone else they could have had a table. $100 dollars to reach thousands is not a lot considering they spend around $5000 dollars or more on an issue of fire this time and distribute them free at skytrains were most get thrown in the waste bin.

    There was a fire this time “public forum” I attended where a young activist they had deemed “hostile” for criticizing the group and being emotionally upset at her ex boyfriend in the organization. By the way they played tapes of her crying on his voice mail to the entire y3wa meeting, I regrettably did not voice opposition. They banned her from the meeting and forced everyone else entering the room to remove their cell phones and all other electronics.

    When in the organization I believe that there is no alternative. That Y3WA is the only true revolutionary group probably in all of North America. Having devoted so much time money and passion to a project it is very difficult to just let it go.

    When I left I did so largely because I was exhausted, sleep deprived, emotionally in pieces and being put under tremendous pressure to donate the $5000 dollars I had saved for school. I could not handle Ali shouting at us at 3am to pawn our TV’s and Radios all so we could put out another issue of Fire This Time. I am not one to horde money but young people should have the right to education without taking out debts if possible. I was donating more than $200 dollars a month and only working a dollar above minimum wage.

    It took me six months after leaving to engage in political activism again. I slept and got a better job and realised how wrong what I had been doing was.

    When I read Canadian Bolsheviks by Ian Angus and the section on the third period and the conception of united front from below saw a striking similarity to Y3WA’s conception of the SQL that Ivan describes in his letter.

    Their conception of building revolutionary organization is dead wrong. A revolutionary organization should function so members can freely criticize without fear. Be open to a wide variety of ideas and opinions. The Bolsheviks themselves were far from a homogenous group; the political differences inside were often huge and often never resolved. People should be free to independently read, go to school and have healthy relationships with both political and non-political people. Ultimately as a revolutionary you put the interests of the class and the struggle before the interests of your organization. The movement is not an organization or its fronts. The only presidents for the “organizational norms” of Y3WA come from people like Stalin and Mao not true revolutionaries.

    Since I have left I have been involved in countless campaigns and organizations such as the Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign, Communities for Laibar Singh, Stopwar and others. I also helped found a socialist organization that organizes monthly forums called Vancouver Socialist Forum. This organization values differences and is open to debate and anyone interested in socialism that can work in a non-abusive and non-sectarian manner. I work with a wide spectrum of people with all kinds of different ideas and find value in them all.

    The revolution cannot be made with sweat and blood alone and definitely not with a closed mind.

    Ian Beeching

  11. There may yet be hope for the left.

  12. Well done. The vanguard model is doomed. It’s a lousy organizing principle, always was, and is open to all sorts of abuse–not only internally, but visited upon “the people” generally when such groups come to power.

    The key sentence in your account is this: I believe that the historical crisis confronting the masses of people of the world today—especially in imperialist countries—is a crisis of organization. Right on. If we really want radical democracy, we’d best start modeling it.

    Again, good on ya. Or, Right On, as we used to say back in the day.

  13. A courageous and intelligent letter by Ivan.

    I only hope that Yerevani is a just a misguided, manipulative egomanic. My fears are much worse, especially after his support for the U.S. FBI position against native Tuchone activist John Graham, who has struggled for four decades for indigenous rights, exposing health dangers of uranium mining, and so forth. Graham is a real hero of the people, now in jail in South Dakota. Yerevani is a poser and menace at best and possibly much worse.

    Ivan, admitting mistakes, models the sort of self-critique and awareness that is essential for real social change.

    I hope the Unitarian Social Justice Committee wakes up soon to the menace in their midst.

    rw.

  14. First of all, I would like to applaud Ivan’s courageous confession of all the mistakes that he feels he has done as a person and also as an activist to the movement.

    The FTT, though small in number, has done a great disservice to the idea of Marxism and the idea of Vanguard Party. It has created confusion amongst many youth as to what a revolutionary vanguard organization is really about. Unfortunately, the FTT is not the only group that does such thing. I could name a lot of so-called Marxist/Trotskyite groups who descend into such sectarian-cult practices.

    The problem is not with the idea of vanguardism itself. The problem lies with inability to apply Marxism at all. Vanguardism, as a method of organization, is not something that is conjured up out of the blue sky. It is a historical result of class struggle, in that a cadre-based organization is needed to provide leadership to the movement. Only those organization whom the masses believe in are worthy of the names of vanguard, the FTT is by no means a vanguard organization at all. Suffice to say, to be a vanguard organization is more than just proclaiming oneself to be such, it is about winning the confidence of the masses through hard persistent and HONOURABLE works in the day to day struggle of the masses. That is what it means to be a vanguard.

    The sectarian-cult trend seen in FTT is also evident in many non-vanguard (anarchist leaning) groupings, as my personal experience can attest.

    The crisis of humanity is reduced to the crisis of leadership. And we have seen again this sick crisis in the form FTT and Ali.

  15. Do any of you realize that the techniques you describe here – sleep dep, constant shouting, isolation etc are pretty much the same as those used at Gitmo? Agree with US policy or not as you will, but at least they use these against their self-described enemies – you use them against your putative friends.

    Truly Scary

  16. Sounds like this Yervani guy actually walks the lefts talk a little too much.

    Socialism, communism, collectivism it always ends with tears.

    If only there was some way we could have seen this coming.

    Solidarity comrade!

  17. I called Ivan’s confession “astonishing.”

    Ian Beeching’s confession is stunning. I have worked with him in the past few months and had no idea that he had been part of Y3WA. Ian is a thoughtful, gentle person; it is monstrous that even he could be so overpowered by that criminal triumvirate that ran those groups since FTT’s beginnings around five years ago.

    This does not have anything to do with politics in the normally accepted sense of the word, yet the whole business taints the left by association. A grotesque caricature of revolutionary organizations, FTT and its various fronts are clearly cultish, Ivan Drury’s analysis, notwithstanding. Ian Beeching provides further evidence for what many of us suspected and did very little about, perhaps because the slippery nature of the beast was difficult to deal with.

    The question for the left is:

    Do we share any responsibility for allowing this abusive treatment of young people to occur in our midst? I believe we are our brother’s and sister’s keepers. Exactly what needs to be done is still unclear to me, and I’m asking the community for guidance.

    I think we should be putting our minds together and working out a sensible approach to problems like this one—before someone really gets hurt.

  18. i suggested this two years ago – that we hold some sort of community meeting and repair damages between FTT and the wider activist community. I’d just come back to the city for the summer and no one was really interested in that proposal.
    People are stubborn, feelings were hurt, and no one really wanted to put their energy into (re)building a movement. Plus, its hard. When people are convinced they are right, there is little you can do to convince them otherwise. As Ivan stated, he would have automatically filed all concerns aways as voices of “opponents”.
    I don’t know if we bear responsibility, but perhaps now IS the time for some sort of community response. Wish I could be there.

    Just wanted to note to “nothinggoesunnoticed” that while you are right – actions reveal yor true intentions – I am unsure as to what Ivan has been unable to EXCEPT (sic), or how exactly he is on a power trip. While his public apology is technically a series of words, I would argue that the publicness of it, and the acceptance of responsiblity for his actions, is as much an example of practice as anything else. One step at a time, man. Plus, I’m quite sure that Ivan is aware of how unwelcome he is/was in certain communities and has clearly displayed the consciousness to take that into account before jumping back into activist waters again. What with all the gossip and grudges in activist circles in vancouver, I’m sure it will be quite some time before he can forget.

  19. Ah, Elise, while people are certainly stubborn, myself included, I don’t think stubbornness was the issue. People want to put energy into rebuilding, but they know from long experience that the way to do it is not to try to engage in some sort of rapprochement with FTT.

    I would have declined such a meeting not out of stubbornness but out of an entirely reasonable opinion that it would have accomplished nothing. Such an effort would require good faith from all involved if it were to succeed, but Yerevani never has been and never will be capable of it. The only thing that has ever mattered to him is his power. The only thing he will ever do is lie and abuse people to achieve it. As far as I’m concerned he should be treated like any other unrepentant abuser in our communities – rapist, batterer, whatever. The task at hand, as I see it, is to figure out how to have our work as little affected as possible by him, how to protect other activists from being drawn in and exploited by him, and how to respond when and if they want out or get out.

  20. where’s Ali “Creep-of-the-Decade” Yerevani now? he sounds utterly satanic, yikes.

    those who have been in contact with, and especially those maimed by, Ali Yerevani have a duty, i think, to do what they can to prevent him from doing the same to other young and/or vulnerable activists.

    that would be a good place to start in rebuilding from this terrible disaster.

    “Truly Scary” – yes.

  21. I believe Ivan Drury and other groups owe an apology to political prisoners and student activists in Iran for having supported pro Iranian Islamic Republic people and groups such as Ali Yerevani and the Iranian Community against War (ICAW).

    No decent Iranian activist is willing to come to anti-war demonstrations of the “left” anymore. Why are “left” groups such as the UBC Social Justice Club still supporting pro-Islamic regime groups such as ICAW while students and activists in Iran are being tortured and killed by the brutal repressive Iranian regime. Can’t you be anti-war and for human rights? Shouldn’t you be?

    The students currently imprisoned in Iran under torture were also against war, and were calling for justice and human rights and an end to the brutal regime’s dictatorship. I think they are all owed an apology.

  22. Thanks for having the bottle to write that letter Ivan
    The analysis of FTT from all of you about your involvement is important reading
    We need to know the complete territory, not just the part we are comfortable with
    In Solidarity Carel

  23. As a War Resister here in Vancouver, I came here to
    fight against the injustice that my nation is
    committing against the innocent people of Iraq. I
    chose Vancouver for several reasons: 1. Closer to
    where I was stationed in the US Army. 2. The weather
    is great here. 3. The anti-war effort here seemed
    stronger, especially with the past of west coast
    politics.

    So, I came, and when I arrived at the border, I was
    arrested. Not for some heinous crime, but for
    standing up for my right to make a moral choice, and
    also for standing up for the rights of others to do
    the same.

    But today, I am free. I am active. And I am raising
    hell in an effort to stop this war. But I also feel
    ashamed. I feel ashamed that because of the alleged
    actions of one man, people that are fighting for one
    common goal, are not fighting together.

    I don’t care if there have been riffs in the past. I
    don’t care if I don’t know the entire story. I wasn’t
    involved in this until I received e-mails about it,
    forcing me to make a choice. I refuse to make that
    choice. I refuse to stop working with a group that is
    aiding me in fighting against the United States
    Government.

    Someone has to make a stand, and seeing that I was
    strong enough to make a stand against the US Army,I
    think I can make a stand against squabbling factions.
    I am a United States War Resister. I am fighting for
    the rights of a people that have my former employer,
    an imperialist renegade government, on their doorstep
    every night and day. I am fighting for love, and
    against war.

    And in this fight, I claim no side. As long as the
    people I work with are fighting in the same fight, for
    the same goals, I will help them, be it Stopwar.ca,
    MAWO, FTT, or any other group, as long as they are in
    this thing with me, I consider them to be my comrades.

    So, make a choice. Either fight, as you have for
    years now, and stay divided, or someone, make a stand
    and address the problems so that we can move on
    together.

    With much love and respect,
    Brad McCall

  24. Well, that’s the unfortunate thing, isn’t it? That this kind of repugnant behaviour divides genuine people from one another.

    But if there’s to be unity, then there also needs to be accountability. Many people have endured a great deal of abuse – verbal abuse, threatening language, and in some cases direct assault – from Yerevani and his ilk over the years. A good deal of effort has been exerted to try to continue to work while containing the abuse, all to no avail. People have refused to work with him in an effort to protect themselves from him, and also because frankly it’s a complete drain on any kind of productivity to constantly struggle against his efforts to control or destroy any organization within his reach.

    I have some difficulty considering someone my comrade who serially abuses young activists, particularly young women, someone who has more than once responded to political challenges with physical violence. One thing worth mentioning is the particularly misogynist quality of Yerevani’s behaviour, the way he targets young women, the way he uses young women as front “leaders” for groups over which he actually maintains complete control. I want a world without war, but I also want a world without violent misogyny, and I will not ignore one to accomplish the other – in fact I’d suggest that the two are inextricably linked and that neither can be accomplished in the absence of the other.

    So. You want someone to make a stand and address these problems. I’m going to suggest that one of those people should be you. Your comrade is assaulting people, stealing their money, forcing them to go without sleep, and so on. We have tried everything we can think of, for years now, and have not come up with a solution. I ask you in all sincerity – what do you propose should be done about it?

  25. It is a very positive development that this testimony, and others, are now being put in writing.

    For years many individuals and groups on the Left have maintained a principled policy of having nothing to do with this organization. Its leader, Ali Yerevani, is a sociopathic, abusive and extremely manipulative individual. Even before Drury’s letter appeared, there were numerous public letters explaining acts of violence and threats carried out by Yerevani. Of course, many people new to activism may not be aware of this history, but the documentation of Yerevani’s unacceptable behaviour is available for those with doubts or who are curious – just do a simple google search.

    It is a sad commentary that a handful of individuals on the Left, despite being fully informed, continued to work with and endorse FTT and its front groups. But the vast majority of the Left and activist community has wanted nothing to do with them for years.

    So it is especially galling that certain right-wing commentators and pro-war bloggers (example here: http://rjjago.wordpress.com/2008/02/08/inside-the-anti-war-cult/) appear to be trying to play up Drury’s letter as some kind of indictment of the Left or of the anti-war movement as a whole. This is nonsense.

    What we object to about Yerevani – his lies, his vicious sexism, his violent and threatening outburts, his emotional abuse, manipulation, his dictatorial suppression of even a hint of dissent – are precisely manifestations of the larger societal phenomena that those of us on the Left are dedicated to fighting against.

    This destructive sectarianism of FTT is a great reminder to us all that we must strive to build movements that themselves are animated by the same values we wish to promote for society as a whole: openness, pluralism, respect and equality of treatment for all members. And it is a sobering reminder of the destruction that can be wrought by a cruel patriarchal personality hiding his desire for absolute power over others behind “revolutionary” rhetoric.

    Derrick O’Keefe

  26. Stephanie,

    My suggestion: Lead by example. Make it clear that the actions of one man will not manipulate the strength of a movement.

    You invite me to make that stand? I am. I consider myself an activist…member of no one group, but friend to all, no matter what the weaknesses may be. I concentrate on the strengths. And I refuse to let the accused actions of a person keep me from working with a VERY active group. Just because some devote their lives to a movement, it doesn’t make them members of a cult.

    So, as an example, I will continue to work with all groups that want to work with me.

    Brad McCall

  27. Unfortunately, Brad, to me the example you’re setting is that if someone is useful to your cause you’ll overlook or minimize anything else they do. I think that’s unfortunate.

    Weakness is something I have no issue with. I have weaknesses. We all do. But I don’t think that threatening and assaulting people because they stand up to you or don’t want to work with you is a “weakness”. I think it’s predatory and abusive. The ruthless exploitation of power over other people is antithetical to everything I stand for.

    That you continue to work with someone who engages in this kind of conduct is one thing. That you feel no obligation to address it in any way is another. I asked what you believe should be done about it. Your answer is: nothing. That’s not good enough for me, nor is a “stand” that essentially is comprised of a refusal to engage with any of these issues because you deem them unimportant.

    I find all of this horribly ironic in light of Yerevani’s constant haranguing about “unprincipled behaviour” and “opportunism”. I leave you to discover that irony yourself.

  28. Hi Brad,

    You don’t know me, but if it was a year and a month ago, you would. I was a central organizer with MAWO and Fire This Time. Until February of last year I ran the MAWO classes that happen still in Joe’s Cafe. I know that most of the MAWO people will change the subject if you ask them about me, but we know eachother really well.

    I’m sorry that my statement came out of nowhere for you, but there’s some more things that might help you understand the seeming extremeness of this statement:

    1) They’re using you.
    If you ask Ali about this, he won’t even deny it. And he’ll tell you that he’s being used too, “by the movement”. He’ll say that everyone is used all the time, it’s just a matter of choosing who you get used by. But even though it’ll seem brutally honest and sincere, that’s his trick, he’s lying. You’re not being used in that Honourable, Altruistic way. You’re not being used to further the cause of the fight against the war. You’re being used by MAWO to insulate themselves against the rest of the left. And why do they need to insulate against other leftists? Because, in the words of another commenter here, they try to take over or destroy every group they have ever worked with. You are usable in this factional, sectarian “battle” because you are a war resister, and that makes you (rightly) an important symbol for the anti-war movement.

    2) They don’t support you.
    Ask Ali about this too. He takes a strange, anachronistic approach to the matter of war resisters, and he directs the politics of MAWO. Yes, one man does this. I myself sat through the secret meetings that take place to decide the MAWO agenda and decisions. They usually happen the night before the MAWO meetings, which are more shows than democratic meetings. Ali’s bizarre “revolutionary” position on war resisters is that they are individualists. He is “against” war resisters in principle. He believes that war resisters “should go back to Iraq to open the fight within the ranks of the military.” He takes this position wholesale from the Bolsheviks in 1917, who had organizers throughout the military and were standing amidst a revolution of soldiers. I don’t know how he imagines that this translates directly to the experience of soldiers in the US today, where there are no leftists to speak of, practically no one with organizing experience, and rebellion in the ranks takes the form of random acts of sabotage or… desertion. This comes back to point number one. Ali justifies MAWO’s support of war resisters by saying, “as long as they’re here anyway, we can find a way to use them.”

    3) They will demand loyalty from you.
    I believe it is a mistake for you to believe that you can work with MAWO and StopWar.ca. When the pressure mounts, they will eventually demand loyalty from you. They did this with another war resister who was around previously. Just after he had started to open up to some members of FTT more personally and exposed his emotional vulnerability, Ali ordered that all personal contact with him must be cut. After one StopWar.ca event that this war resister spoke at instead of a MAWO event at the same time, Ali decided that this war resister was “using us” for friendship and that we needed to all cut our ties with him completely. Suddenly, and without explanation, no one from FTT/Y3WA called him again, and would neither answer or return his calls. If he did get ahold of someone, we were to be cold to him. Especially cruel considering that our *entire* approach to him had previously been one of friendship (in order to win him over). And this was someone who was dealing with the trauma of having fought in Iraq, someone who had worked to get over a lot in order to trust us emotionally and as friends. I think it is completely inhuman the way we treated him.

    Finally, I’ll refer you to the part of my statement where I talk about their *real* objectives in organizing. Their objective is not, despite their high level of activity, to build an antiwar movement through mass education and activism. It is to build their “revolutionary” cadre. This is their strategy. Not unity. Actually unity is impossible except on their terms. And their ultimatum (“follow us if you’re honest”) is why their calls for “unity” are hollow. Their strategy happens in opposition to the interests of the movement. So, despite all the evidence of their incredible levels of activity, they are actually damaging the movement with all their work; because they are damaging the efforts of the majority (of diverse, multi-opinioned people) to build mass coalitions and actions against agreed upon common evils. Fortunately, I think this is being overcome. Holding them to account and fighting their sectarian and destructive role in the movement is not only possible, it is being done – and you can be part of that.

    Thanks for resisting the war, Brad;

    Ivan

  29. Ivan,

    Though I’ve not been directly involved with MAWO or FTT, I have seen and/or heard about many of the events that you refer to. As someone on the periphery, this letter rings very true to me. Over the years, the actions, tactics and attitudes of you and others in these groups left a definite impression on me as a young radical in this city. I have been alternately confused, enraged and repelled by the judgmental and exclusive nature of your politics.

    Initially, I could not understand how you, MAWO, and FTT could have made such a bad name for yourselves in this city. My impression was that there must be a way to work with such an obviously bright and dedicated activist, regardless of political differences of opinion. However, after sitting through a few coalition meetings and witnessing consistent confrontation, domination, and arguing, I was over it. My perception was that you were not trying to build a movement, but rather to create division and destroy any cooperation or solidarity between groups. All of this was obvious from arms’ length, so I can only imagine what an impact it would have had on those more directly involved. Luckily, I was already active and these experiences didn’t cause me to become cynical about the movement as a whole. However, I’m sure some others did. And I did find myself a little less proud to call myself a radical; worried that people would think me arrogant, reactionary, sectarian.

    Today I find myself much less confused. In particular, I really appreciate the public nature of this letter, and your humble tone. You should know that many of us have made similar mistakes and bad choices either in our personal or political lives (and sometimes both!). I know about the “emotional shutdown” that you described, and can imagine how difficult it must have been to decide to leave the group. And it must have taken some true reflection and serious courage to face yourself and your mistakes so honestly and directly, and then to open them for scrutiny from your community. I find it rare, generous, refreshing, and an example for others to follow – myself included. And I am actually reassured that you took a year to get to this letter – I imagine that it means that you are taking some care of yourself, rebuilding healthy relationships, and rethinking many of your views and behaviors. That will all hold you in good stead.

    I hope that today you are happier and healthier than you were a year ago. That you are surrounded by people who will support and encourage you in this new vision, and will welcome you back to the movement. And that your future organizing – which, after all, centers on building relationships with others – will truly reflect your hope for and love of the world. I will now look forward to crossing paths, and will be happy to consider you a potential ally.

  30. That’s quite the letter. I can imagine how hard it probably was to write that. It’s never easy to admit that we’ve made a serious mistake, or to recognize we’ve held false beliefs. It’s never easy to choose to change.

    No one likes being wrong. Disillusionment is painful.

    The inner struggle to be honest with oneself, the lifelong struggle to be honest about the consequences of one’s choices, this is surely the real eternal struggle, much more than class struggles about rich or poor, or bringing more social justice to the unjust world.

    To live with the self-discipline to bring ourselves to always act justly, and to work with the self-awareness to judge whether our acts are indeed furthering justice… now, there’s a challenge.

    To be committed to justice is to be at war with ourselves first, society second. To be unjust is an inescapable part of our human nature, to be needlessly cruel towards our fellow human beings is the natural state of man. Even when our intentions may be pure, we may still end up doing more harm than good. If we as individuals have a hard time being just, it’s no wonder that there is so much injustice in our world. We choose to make it so.

    Sometimes it seems easier to reshape the world, than to reshape ourselves. It seems easier to make everyone else subject to change, in order to avoid the disillusionment of we ourselves having to change how we see what we see… Despite the huge strain and effort involved, too often we, in our vanity, prefer to conjure up a fairyland of illusions, rather than to summon the humility to try and see things clearly as they are. If we’re sincere in our belief in wanting to change things for the better, we could find no better place to start, than changing ourselves for the better. And to have a hope of doing that, we need honesty, awareness, and humility.

    Disillusionment is painful, but wonderful, for the changes it brings: clarity of insight, a clearer glimpse of the Truth.

    In my atheist days I heard some advice I didn’t want to hear, but followed anyway, and it ended up changing my life. Supposedly it comes from Sigmund Freud: “if one would regard oneself as a true skeptic, we would do well to occasionally be skeptical of our own skepticism”.

    To explore the unthinkable: “what if we’re wrong..?”

    Now, there’s a challenge.

  31. Ivan,

    Since it is not my nature to repeat what others have said for the sake of saying it, I’ll just say – thanks for sharing.

    I too appreciate the honesty and the critical approach of your letter. And you obviously understand that trust takes time to build, or rebuild.

    I am so heartened by the tone of the comments here as others reflect on your experiences and those of others. I too have felt the compulsion to be on guard and ever vigilant against the organizational behaviour of members of FTT et al in the work of the War Resisters Support Campaign. As a Catholic Worker and Christian anarchist, my desire is always to build grassroots community so this goes against my being. In particular I have recognized the intelligence and good nature in many of the young activists of MAWO and felt such a loss at the obvious disconnect with them.

    Thank you for addressing the war resister ‘issue’. Brad, as all of us, will make his own choices on this. But he has the benefit of your perspective now. Thank you in particular for mentioning the situation of the above un-named war resister. I can corroborate that whole story and that was definitely tragic and cruel treatment of an already broken individual. I have a tendency to feel somewhat ‘parental’ about war resisters and generally cringe when they make contact with MAWO. At the very least, when MAWO is spouting support of war resisters it is very evident that the support they offer is in no way practical or geared to sustain the life of a political refugee.

    I look forward to seeing you contribute once again to the struggle for peace and justice.

  32. Dear Brad:

    There is something deep inside that makes me sad when I read some of what you say. It is good to practice solidarity with the oppressed and those who struggle against oppression even when we don’t agree fully with their analysis and their solution. There is something that stirs the spirit when we are acutely aware of the common humanity that we share beyond the differences. When we ignore that common humanity and let the differences mean everything so that we reject the whole person, we deny our own humanity to the same extent that we deny the other.

    Ethics is an integral part of all that we have to consider when we engage with others be it in the struggle against oppression or any other activity that we do in community with others. However, ethics and moral behaviour are not simply a matter of following a prescription and knowing what to do at any given time. Ethical behaviour requires thought and insight through a lifelong dynamic of evaluating what we have done and what we propose to do and sometimes getting it right and often making mistakes.

    If it were simply a question of ideological differences I would fully support what you suggest. One has to draw the line at abusive behaviour, however, as Stephanie has clearly expressed above. Yerevani claims to be an ally in the struggle against oppression, but the evidence points overwhelmingly to the fact that he is oppressive in his behaviour towards youth and women. He has also been disruptive towards First Nations organizations struggling against oppression, not to mention being disruptive towards the entire left in Vanc0uver.

    The amount of time that people have spent soul-searching in their reluctance to reject someone who purports to be progressive has also been a substantial cost to progressive movements.

    Continuing to work with Yerevani implies that his abusive treatment of women and youth is not sufficiently significant to you. As I am sure that that is not the case, please reconsider.

    While I have problems with your decision to work with FTT, I congratulate you on your decision to refuse to be a party to US criminal behaviour in Iraq.

    -Lawrence Boxall

  33. It is bizarre and dispicable that such small-minded self-agrandissement happens at the expennce of real activism. My question is does the letter just continue with the tradition of exceptionalism? The very idea that he thinks his actions warrant a public apology is egomaniacle. A truely remorseful person whould have written letters to each organization/individual that he wronged and offered a complete truth regarding his relationship with/actions towards them. Outing them as victims of his manipulations could even re-victimize them and/or further slander them. Furthermore, in order to be accountable he must fully acknowledge the wrongness of his actions is to confess all of his crimes to the police. Including the extortions. Finally, what is the reason for the “this is what I think now” part? Who cares what he thinks now? The audacity to assume that anyone should take the slightest interest in the ideas of a shallow, unprincipled, small minded criminal shows that he has not really changed a whit.

  34. Hi I van:
    Very courageous. I told you and I repeat. Ali is working for some intelligence agency. Which one would be difficult for me to say. Coming from a country where we had to deal with a military dictatorship and how the different “intelligence agencies work” in different environment, how they neutralize and work towards not building coalition but to keep the left and the dissent under watchful eyes.
    Freat, they allow people to talk about the problems but they are given no choices or sounds like the new conservative party of Canada under Steven Harper.
    Perhaps you should talk with David Orchad about some of the tactics used to coward him. An eye opener.
    Ali is not my cup of tea. I told you that I could not deal with him. I invited you many times to come to my home for a visit and you refused.
    I also have to tell you that APC had some leaders that used some discussing tactics as well. That is why I got away from it.

    Stop the war is also in the same league as a union sustained outfit. I never forget the stacking of a meeting with postal union members to get you guys voted out.
    There is a lot of corruption everywhere. I have seen it all. The most poignant part of the issue is the racism and the sexism (which are denied exist).
    So I am watching and I asked myself many times: Ivan is smart why can’t he see the works of the intelligence agencies on Alis’ behaviour?
    Well welcome back. And there is one thing that yours truly has right: It is appropriate to go to each organization and apologize for your behaviour.
    However I don’t agree with the last phrase. Indeed it takes courage to come out and tell the truth. Yours truely if you were serious you would put your name on print.

  35. They still go to common events

    Too much talking but at the last anti-war event I tried to gather people to kick those guys out of the event and nobody had the gut to do anything against them.

    Speak out loud or do not say anything, do not be big chickens that just speak anonimously on the internet.

  36. Let's sue them

    To do what they have done encouraging young kids to steal from their parents and the arassment that Alison Bodine, Kira, Noah, Ali, Tamara, Tom and the other leaders constitutes a criminal action.

    Ivan should pay back all the pain he has inflicted to so many people by suing Ali Yerevani, and get this agent out of the peace movement.

  37. I am proud of you for owning up to your mistakes and trying to right your wrongs. I know that you have a good heart and a brilliant mind and now you will be using them to really better the world.

  38. Thank you for this. I think this is great information for anyone who is looking to get involved with any activist group anywhere. Over the coming years the numbers of people will only be growing, and your words will be valuable to all of them. I’ll be sure to pass this along.

  39. Ivan, having known you for years, I can’t believe you helped do that shit to Krebs. Ever since I heard about it, I’ve warned people about this organization, and worried for YOUR safety. As it turns out, not only were to a participant in that kind of behaviour, but you inflicted it against not just a fellow activist but a long time friend. I have a hard time believing that any amount of peer-pressure could make me do something like that to you.

    I’m glad you left. I hope you’re safe. And I hope you continue to look INWARD to figure out how/why you are capable of that kind of action.

  40. It’s been over a year since I first read your letter.

    I had begun moving away from the group for other reasons, but your letter helped to solidify my own feelings.

    You had been the main reason that I had kept coming to meetings. I enjoyed your talks and your conversation.

    Thank you for coming out and letting us know what was going on.

    I’d be interested in talking to you.

  41. Ivan
    I am new in town, thank you very much for for coming out and tell your experience.

  42. Thank you Ivan. Excellent work. -Deb

  43. Touche. Solid arguments. Keep up the amazing effort.

  44. Dear Ivan,
    I am glad you made individual and collective amends here. Ali sounds like and agent provocateur. When people get over their issues of charismatic cock worship, the rest of us here in community, will help with the come down.

  45. This is one of the greatest things I have ever read. Harrowing story, lucidly explained.

    Of course, there is a lot said about you, too; Ivan the great stirrer of the pot at Carnegie, and so on and on.

    I wish that personalities didn’t matter. Unfortunately even great ideas have to be propagated through people, and people aren’t necessarily great. We are fault-finding, strident, brusque, off-putting, or conversely weak, pragmatical, compromising, complacent… in short, human beings.

    Anyway, you fell in with an interesting guy and were inspired and that’s to your credit; you then had second thoughts, which means that your brain and soul kept functioning, and that is even more to your credit.

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