The ISO Renewal Faction announces that it is abandoning its policy of redacting “internal” material from its documents for publication on External Bulletin. From this point forward, all of our documents will appear in public, in full. We will also begin to unredact currently-posted documents.
We have decided on this course because the permanent faction that controls the ISO Steering Committee (SC) has refused to publish our full, unredacted document on the ISO and CERSC. We submitted the document on February 1; on February 10, we received the following email from ISO Treasurer Ahmed S, written on behalf of National Secretary Sharon S:
Sharon asked me to write back to you as she has been traveling for preconvention discussions. We did receive the document. It’s posted on the internet, so yes, we’ve seen it. We will not be publishing it in the internal bulletin.
Unfortunately this is merely the latest example of the manipulation of the ISO’s internal platforms by the leadership faction. When some of us submitted the “Appeal for Shaun J” to the Internal Bulletin, it was held for a week and appeared with an “inoculating” reply from the Steering Committee. The same game was played when we submitted our faction’s platform to the Pre-Convention Bulletin. It goes without saying that the leadership faction does not hold its documents until we can draft replies.
Shaun J’s reply to the lying attacks on him in Pre-Convention Bulletin #7 was suppressed, compelling us to publish it externally. Ben S’s document on the organizational crisis in Atlanta was edited without his permission prior to publication in PCB#9 in order to remove the opening paragraph, which called for “replacing some or all of the [ISO’s] current leaders.”
The limitations of “internality” were clear to us from the beginning, which is why our organizational perspectives propose to replace the Internal Bulletin with a public Discussion Bulletin (the latter being, incidentally, the Bolshevik practice). Carving out a separate intellectual universe for an organization’s members only breeds insularity, sectarianism, and political inertia. Nonetheless we decided to respect the ISO’s current policy–which is informal and frequently ignored–by redacting “internal” material for external publication.
However, we will not allow deference to the status quo to become an instrument by which the leadership faction withholds criticism–or plain facts–from the membership. If our right to communicate with the membership through internal channels is denied, it is easy to find alternate means. This is the 21st century.
A note on the “leak” of internal documents
A large number of ISO internal documents have been published at the Charnel House blog operated by Ross Wolfe. We do not sympathize with Wolfe’s politics at all, but the fact that this “leak” occurred does not surprise us in the least. In the first place, due to sloppiness from the Center on down, internal documents are very often sent to non-members; we know of comrades who have continued to receive bulletins from official branch, district, or national listservs for months after leaving the organization.
More substantially, however, we do not think that the publication of these documents can be separated from the revelations concerning the “Daniel” case discussed in PCB#19. The “Daniel” document demonstrates not only that an ISO branch badly bungled a case of sexual assault committed by a longstanding member; it also shows that SC members–and by March 2013 the entire SC–was grossly negligent and callously indifferent in its handling of the case at best.* It is to be expected that some comrades would lose confidence in the ability of the ISO to deal with problems internally; nor is sexual assault some “private party matter.” In such circumstances, “leaks” are inevitable.
We are completely unimpressed by the outrage that some comrades profess over the release of these documents, even to an unsavory blog–just as we (and they) were unimpressed by similar complaints about the leaking of the British SWP’s material to Socialist Unity or the Weekly Worker. The grandstanding from SC members online is particularly offensive and self-serving.
The leadership faction talks much of “loyalty.” Yet loyalty to an organization is not unconditional, but based on rational confidence. Leaders who, by their own errors, irresponsibility, and cynical actions, lose the confidence of those that they would lead, have no claim on their loyalty. We implore the comrades in the ISO to acknowledge and reflect on the crisis that is erupting around them, rather than join the leadership faction in another futile round of messenger-shooting.
*Without excusing the branch’s handling of the “Daniel” case, we think it commendable that the comrades who wrote the document engaged in self-criticism, admitted their errors, and put forward new ideas for handling such situations in the future. We also note that this example has not been followed by the SC.
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I have no idea why anyone would take a charge of sexual assault anywhere else than to a lawyer or a policeman. If a socialist’s house gets robbed, they go to the police. If a socialists’ bike is stolen, they report it to the police. If a socialist’s boss, coworker, or neighbor threatens or assaults them, they go to the police. If a socialist’s child is missing, they go to the police.
That anyone in either England or the US would expect a political organization with no legal authority, prisons, ability to fine, or protect citizens to solve major criminal offenses for them is almost beyond my comprehension. What is entirely beyond my comprehension is why any leading political activist not holding a law degree, when confronted with such an issue, would attempt to solve it through a discussion among their activist friends rather than frankly admit the problem is of larger scope than they are qualified to advise or solve.
Sure the police racially profiles and it breaks strikes. But the fire department also turns its hoses on protestors, and I don’t see any socialists tell their members that fires can only be put out by bucket brigades of party members.
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Slightly off-topic, but I couldn’t think of a more appropriate place (on this site or elsewhere) to post:
In Pre-convention Bulletin #5, p. 16, Todd C. reproduces a table from Labor Notes which he says lists “average dues amounts per month” (his italics) for several unions as of 2004. His purpose in doing so is to suggest that the dues the ISO requires of its members are relatively minimal.
There’s just one problem: what the table actually shows is average dues amounts per year, as the article accompanying the original table makes clear.
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I appreciate the note on the publication of leaked documents. Without necessarily endorsing the decision to publish such leaks, the Renewal Faction at least has the lucidity to recognize the practical inevitability of its occurrence whenever a botched inquiry into sexual misconduct is brought to light. Of course, this recognition in no way indicates political agreement with those who independently published the leaked documents. That the ISO leadership and its hardline supporters would attempt to tar the Renewal Faction’s reputation with guilt-by-association shows just how desperate they are to distract from the gravity of the issues raised by the leaked documents. Either that, or their eagerness to discredit anyone who would level criticisms based on what the content of these documents.
Attacking my character is one thing. Frankly I expected it; and besides, there’s nothing new in the accusations against me. They’re just recycling old charges they made months ago — charges I’ve already addressed. But shooting the messenger is a long-established Cliffite pastime, practically routine by now. But for them to drag the person who first publicly exposed the incident through the mud, dismissing him as someone just out to get the ISO, is really too much. Moreover, the leadership’s willful distortion of the Renewal Faction’s stated views, including its attempt to conflate them with my own, is petty and dishonest in the extreme. I appreciate the support that some have shown for my decision to publish the leaked documents, but this hardly implies that they share my political opinions in other respects.
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The actions of so called cadre in the Seattle branch have historically not built any sort Left unity. While it would not mean much for me to reply to specific ideas presented by the ISORF [expelled] regarding this branch, it can be said that a brief synopsis is not possible, and would be potentially very boring to those interested in worker rights, immigrant rights, or any number of other issues supposedly taken on by this “vanguard” over a number of years. I do not know why the ISORF calls the ISO of Seattle a “series of clubs” because in the context of Union struggles and other issues it actually amounts to “a club” of perhaps a dozen individuals in a state with a far heavier Union density than most other than CA, NY, and HI. what can categorically be said is that “sectarian” would be a severe understatement to describe what I and many others have seen from this lot over the last 15-20 years. It may not be the cult of personality that Bob Avakian and his (perhaps also dozen or so) supporters in Seattle cultivate, but given the information here, it seems quite easy to conclude that the SC of the ISO is perhaps not much different from Avakian. The bleating sheep of the critical theory lot bleat on, while the rest of us in organized labor work towards broad support and consensus. Even the Black Panthers with their empty Maoist proclamations knew better than alienate the general bulk of population they were appealing to. They may have been crazy, and righteously so, but they weren’t idiots.
I apologize to any ISORF people or other marxists who may find my dismissal of critical theory offensive, but revolutionary tactics by their very nature require broad support, and any presupposition to speak for the workers cannot be founded in so-called “objective” analysis of history with no real understanding of the everyday intentions and lives of workers or the oppressed. We have voices of our own, and the vanguard mentality is counter intuitive to many of us.
Pingback: Of Sects and Sexual Misconduct: The Story of the ISO Renewal Faction Fight (Part II)