Proposed Amendments to ISO Rules and Procedures

[The following amendments were submitted to the internal bulletin as amendments to a larger proposal from the Rules Commission established at Convention 2013. As the Commission proposal is an internal document, our amendments are presented here relative to the current ISO Rules and Procedures.]

The five proposals below are submitted by the ISO Renewal Faction for consideration at the National Convention.

Proposal 1: On membership

Amend Rule II.D by adding the language in bold:

Whenever possible, every member will belong to a duly constituted branch of the ISO. It shall be the prerogative of the branch to admit members in its locality to the organization, unless the prospective member has been the subject of prior disciplinary action. In the event that a member outside the branch (e.g. a member of another branch, a member of the Steering Committee, etc.) objects to the admission of a new member, the branch may refer the issue to the Disciplinary Committee.

Explanation

It has always been the case in practice that branches have the prerogative of allowing admission of new members, and this is correct and should be formally recognized as such. In the case of Shaun J, the comrade resigned from the organization after a storm of personal animosity from the branch of which he was then a member. When a new branch was formed in his area in which he felt he could do productive political work, he applied to the branch, and the branch approved his admission. When the Steering Committee objected to Shaun’s rejoining, it did so on the basis that it had the right to overrule the branch’s decision, effectively making up new rules to bar a long-standing critic from rejoining. This despite the entreaties in two Socialist Worker articles that critical former members who truly wanted to help the ISO should rejoin the organization.

Proposal 2: On factions

Add the following rule regarding Membership:

Members who wish to promote a particular set of positions or perspective in the organization have the right to form or join a faction. A faction consists of a group of members who declare their intention to coordinate to advance their views to the national organization (or a local branch).

(1) A faction has the right to present in the local branch on all disputed questions, on a parity basis, provided that branch’s faction membership is at least the size of the branch’s delegation to the next National Convention. Furthermore, if multiple branches combine for a discussion, this rule applies if the given condition is satisfied in any of the branches.

(2) A faction has the right to compel elections by platform for all leadership bodies and delegations, save those elected by the National Convention.

(3) In the interest of open dialogue and debate, a faction must make its existence known to the national organization (or the local branch in question) in a timely fashion. It is understood that a faction as a collective expression requires time and discussion to formulate its positions. Unless it can be proven that a secret faction not only exists but is actively and surreptitiously disrupting the organization, charges of “secret factionalism” may not be leveled against a faction once it declares its existence to the organization.

Add the following rule regarding Discipline:

During the preconvention discussion, and for a month after the National Convention, disciplinary action against any member of a faction existing during the preconvention discussion must be referred to the Disciplinary Committee, except in cases where immediate action is necessary to prevent irrevocable harm to individuals or the organization.

Add the following rule regarding Convention:

If at least five percent (5%) of delegates to the National Convention adhere to a faction, this faction has the right to be represented on the Convention Steering Committee; and the right to present on all disputed questions, on a parity basis.

Add the following rule regarding Leadership:

A faction that wins one seat on the National Committee is entitled to a second.

Explanation

The language on factions as it stands in the proposal from the rules commission is completely inadequate, and poses the question not in terms of the rights of a faction, but rather in terms of the disciplinary action that can be taken against a group of comrades who hold specific views in opposition to the leadership. Hence, the need for extensive language to develop the actual rights of members to form factions.

The ISO Renewal Faction grew out of an informal discussion among comrades from different branches around the “Appeal for Shaun J,” but that discussion led the comrades involved to formulate a larger critique and set of political ideas. While the discussion tended toward an organized expression, it was only three weeks before the announcement of the faction that the participants met to discuss the issues involved and decide on the formation of a faction; nor did the faction attempt to recruit until after the public announcement. The charge from the Steering Committee that the ISO Renewal Faction engaged in “secret factionalism” is not only uncharitable, it is incorrect and intended to portray the faction as a “hostile,” “alien” force so as to attempt to avoid any discussion of the faction’s political content. Fortunately, many members of the ISO, even if they did not agree with the faction’s ideas, nonetheless engaged in the political discussion. The fact that several members felt the need to distance themselves from the faction before agreeing with portions of the faction’s positions simply shows how the leadership faction produced a hothouse atmosphere in which the discussion became unnecessarily tense.

Rather than “secret factionalism”, the greater danger is actually permanent factionalism, a state that Joel Geier declared natural and desirable when discussing leadership in his talk/document on Zinovievism. Counter to comrade Geier’s assertion is what James P. Cannon said on the matter at the end of a faction fight in the American SWP in 1953:

There is a fourth method of leadership which has been very common. I have seen much of it in my time–that is the leadership of a permanent faction…. It is absolutely necessary for the leadership to see clearly what a temporary faction is, what its legitimate purposes are, what its limits are, and the danger of the faction hardening into permanence…. There is no greater abomination in the workers’ political movement than a permanent faction. There is nothing that can demoralize the internal life of a party more efficiently than a permanent faction…. If a permanent faction happens to get control of the leadership of the party and runs the party as a faction, it is bound to exclude others from any real place in the leadership. By that very fact it drives the others into the organization of counter-cliques and counter-factions, and there is no longer a single cadre in the leadership of the party.

Proposal 3: On the National Committee and Steering Committee

Add the following rule regarding Convention:

The Convention elects the National Committee and the at-large and alternate members of the Disciplinary and Appeals Committees. The Convention determines the manner by which it elects members of these bodies.

Add the following rule regarding Leadership:

Between National Conventions, the authority of the Convention is vested in the National Committee (NC). The National Committee serves as a the ISO’s ongoing national leadership body drawn from around the country.

Add the following rule regarding Leadership:

The National Committee shall make decisions on immediate questions and on questions tabled to it by the Convention. The NC shall report its decisions to the membership no later than sixty (60) days after the NC Meeting.

Add the following rule regarding Leadership:

The Steering Committee functions as the national administrative body of the ISO between Conventions and NC meetings. The Steering Committee is responsible for implementing the ISO’s perspectives and initiatives as decided by the Convention and the NC. It is appointed annually by the National Committee immediately following the National Convention; the NC shall determine its size and composition. The Steering Committee is accountable to the National Committee and may be recalled by the National Committee. The SC is responsible for organizing a national office, for overseeing the production of ISO literature, and for staffing the organization. The Steering Committee shall publish a list of the organization’s staff and update it as needed.

Explanation

The explanation for this is contained in the ISO Renewal Faction’s Organizational Perspectives.

Proposal 4: On district and regional leadership

Add the following rule regarding Leadership:

All branch organizers shall be elected by the branches over which they preside. In areas where multiple branches are close enough to comprise districts (in large metropolitan areas) or regions (in coherent geographic areas, e.g. New England, Texas, etc.), the members of those areas will elect district or regional committees, as appropriate. The district or regional committees will appoint a district or regional organizer from among the committee’s members. The district or regional organizer is subject to recall by a majority vote of the district or region over which they preside.

Explanation

The explanation for this is contained in the ISO Renewal Faction’s Organizational Perspectives.

Proposal 5: Section title

Introduce the following section title for rules regarding Leadership:

Leading bodies–National Committee, Steering Committee, district and regional committees

Explanation

The ISO Renewal Faction’s proposals revise the priority and content of this section. Changing the title brings it into harmony with the actual content of the section.

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2 thoughts on “Proposed Amendments to ISO Rules and Procedures

  1. Just on the matter of “[a] faction consists of a group of members who declare their intention to coordinate to advance their views to the national organization (or a local branch)” (proposal 2), I recently wrote something on the different bases upon which members of a professed revolutionary socialist or anarchist organisation can associate with one another. This was motivated by trying to think through how a typology & its labelling can go a long way to eliminating the hostility towards the f-word, faction, & more importantly towards members who criticise leaders.

    I suggested three kinds of self-organisation by members, with no time limit on their formation:
    a) to explore a concept, idea, argument, topic, theme, decision, policy, tactic, strategy, part or all of a programme, area of work, areas of work currently ignored (call this a working group);
    b) come together to try to alter a decision, policy, tactic, strategy, part or all of a programme, area of work, ignored areas of work, but without the intention of changing the existing leadership (call this a tendency);
    c) ditto, but with the intention of changing the leadership, because, for example, it is not believed their mind can be changed, or confidence has been lost in them, perhaps so badly that they can’t be trusted (call this a faction).
    http://cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/989/letters

    The one point I would add to what was published is that the l-word, loyalty, is fundamentally loyalty to one’s fellow members, not the so-called leadership. All too often this has been conflated by incumbents & their supporters, invariably in a self-serving way. Instead the organisation is the ‘property’ of the whole membership, & the job of leaders is to serve members: they are their servants.

    All professed revolutionary socialists & anarchists need to develop healthy ideas & norms of behaviour concerning comradeship. Almost all accounts focus on leadership so I started to explore what is meant by its necessary companion, its correlate, followership. Then in an alliterative moment I thought about fellowship as a synonym of the much-degraded word ‘comradeship’. So I did a piece on leadership-followership-fellowship.
    http://cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/990/letters

    Perhaps readers may find these ideas of interest.

  2. I agree with Proposal 1, Proposals 3 and 5 are pretty much cosmetic, Proposal 4 is pretty innocuous, but Proposal 2 grants factions a totally disproportionate amount of power.

    >A faction has the right to present in the local branch on all disputed questions, on a parity basis, provided that branch’s faction membership is at least the size of the branch’s delegation to the next National Convention. Furthermore, if multiple branches combine for a discussion, this rule applies if the given condition is satisfied in any of the branches.

    So in a branch of 11 people, one person can present on a parity basis on any topic by simply joining a faction? What’s the justification for this? Why is the right to speak on any topic that each member already has not enough? Why does joining a faction make your opinion so important you get to present for half the time on any given topic?

    >During the preconvention discussion, and for a month after the National Convention, disciplinary action against any member of a faction existing during the preconvention discussion must be referred to the Disciplinary Committee, except in cases where immediate action is necessary to prevent irrevocable harm to individuals or the organization.

    So I can flout branch discipline for a quarter of the year by joining a faction? That’s convenient! Maybe I should start my own! Especially given how long it often takes for the Disciplinary Committee to hear a case, this is totally unjustified.

    > A faction has the right to compel elections by platform for all leadership bodies and delegations, save those elected by the National Convention.

    Don’t all members already have the right to propose an alternate slate to any elected position?

    >Unless it can be proven that a secret faction not only exists but is actively and surreptitiously disrupting the organization, charges of “secret factionalism” may not be leveled against a faction once it declares its existence to the organization.

    Really? Factions can’t even be *accused* of secret factionalizing until proven guilty? That flouts all rules of procedure and even logic. How is an investigation supposed to be carried out if one needs to prove the faction guilty before they can even call for an investigation?

    >If at least five percent (5%) of delegates to the National Convention adhere to a faction, this faction has the right to be represented on the Convention Steering Committee; and the right to present on all disputed questions, on a parity basis.

    This grants a wholly disproportionate amount of power to 5% of the membership, and is a huge encouragement to any group of 5% who agree on any particular issue to form a faction around it. Me and half a dozen friends who happen to be elected delegates could form a faction, say we have a dissenting opinion on every issue on the agenda, and be given the right to present on every topic at the convention on a parity basis. If you want to allow such powers, there would need to be a much higher barrier of entry, 25% at the very least.

    >A faction that wins one seat on the National Committee is entitled to a second.

    Why? How about they get two seats if they win two seats? Seems only fair.

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