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.