Several comrades have asked why the Faction Rules are so strongly centralistic, with so much decision-making power invested in the Faction Committee. This is a good question that reflects some real shortcomings in our current approach; but also demonstrates some misunderstanding of what the faction is trying to do.
Let’s start with the latter point. It should be kept in mind that we are a faction within a larger organization–not a new organization. As our Organizational Perspectives make clear, we advocate a far more democratic and less centralized regime within the ISO, which flows out of our understanding of the conjuncture. However, in order to fight for our views, we felt that it was necessary to organize ourselves in a very disciplined way.
We emphasize the necessity of a fight precisely because of the ways in which we have seen the leadership increasingly act to undermine our political positions by way of maneuvers, and to use that same method of bureaucratic maneuver to exclude members with critical views from the ISO. Comrades need to understand that an argument over the political direction of the organization is not a simple matter of the exchange of differing views, eventually reconciled through detached reflection. It is in fact a struggle over the character of our intervention in the class struggle. Our leadership self-consciously (and wrongly) acts as a permanent faction for its own preservation; we refuse to close our eyes to these facts.
It is not true that to fight for greater democracy in the organization, the faction has to be internally greatly democratic. That is a “prefigurative” principle that the history of all class struggle invalidates. Unions (partially) democratize the workplace, but those who start a union organizing drive are obliged to work initially as a compact group, even in secret. A comrade who refused to join an organizing drive because the organizers were “undemocratic” (secrecy is indeed not democratic) would not be thinking very realistically.
All that said, we do intend to reorganize the faction on more democratic principles if we grow large enough to make that significant. (Right now we’re so small that everything can get worked out informally.) All important–and plenty of unimportant–issues are discussed on our list by all faction members in order to promote horizontal communication, participation, and direction to the FC.
We can and should evolve. For example, the faction has opened up External Bulletin to contributions that don’t bind faction members but promote clarification, debate, and discussion about questions facing the faction. There is surely more that can be done. None of us have great experience with factional struggle, so inevitably we will make mistakes–and improvements.
Finally, though, we must insist that we have already made a significant contribution to democracy in the ISO by informing the members of the crisis in the organization, a crisis that the leadership has irresponsibly kept concealed. As Lenin said: “It would be absurd to speak of democracy without publicity, moreover, without a publicity that is not limited to the membership of the organisation.”
We hope that more comrades will join faction’s fight–and help us to fight better.
Shaun J (Boston)
This is a Discussion article; it does not define faction policy and is not binding on members of the faction.