On 17 February 2014, the National Convention of the International Socialist Organization voted to expel the Renewal Faction. Our delegates were excluded from this session, as they have been from the last two days of the Convention.
A longer statement is forthcoming, but we wish to take this opportunity to thank our comrades inside and outside the ISO who supported us during this difficult struggle.
Freedom and Renewal!
Update: The resolution to expel the Renewal Faction is reproduced below. It is recorded as passing “Many for, 6 no, 1 abstention.”
Whereas the Renewal Faction has refused to renounce and remove specified documents from their website, in defiance of an ISO convention resolution that required them to do so or face disciplinary action; continues to engage in snitch jacketing; exploits confidential information for the cynical purposes of point-scoring; exposes our organization to state attack; and spreads slanderous lies about the ISO leadership:
We, the delegates of the International Socialist Organization’s 2014 convention, the highest decision-making body of our organization, declare that members of the Renewal faction are no longer considered members of the ISO.
Jonah B. (New York City), Héctor A. (New York City), Phil G. (Madison), Sherry W. (New York City), Lauren F. (Chicago), Melissa R. (Chicago), Elizabeth W.-F. (Madison), Tony P. (San Diego), Bekah W. (Atlanta), Tom G. (Atlanta), Jonathan E. (Atlanta), Sean P. (Atlanta), Keegan O. (New York City), Brian K. (Poughkeepsie), Nisha B. (New York City), Royall S. (Greensboro), Ann C. (Boston), Amanda A. (Boston), Alpana M. (Boston), Khury P.-S. (Boston), Madeline B. (Boston), Akunna E. (Boston), Sid P. (Bay Area), Avery W. (San Diego), Fermin V. (Amherst), and Rigo G. (Chicago)
Good riddance! Should have been expelled immediately after snitch-jacketing a fellow comrade.
“Snitch-jacketing”? What does this even mean? Doesn’t make sense. They reported that a member talked to the police. What part of that is not true?
You ISOers need to stop being so damned mean-spirited. You are a vicious bunch. You were sinking your teeth into the RF long before the police issue came up. You’ve done nothing but trash the Socialist Outpost ex-members who have been too nice to you.
Yes, because police are obviously always honest about who they talk to and what was said.
It was confirmed by Keegan and another person that he was detained and was talking to them. If it were not true, he would have denied it by now.
At what point did RF get the official story from Keegan and his branch? At what point did RF contact leadership bodies to bring these accusations forward for investigation?
They are arrogant assholes. They always have been.
I left the organization after 2.5 years in 2012. for specifically:
1. Outdated organizational methods. Bringing up the fact that the world has changed since 1917 felt like I was committing a sin when it came to the reactions of the older members of the branch.
2. The push for the recruitment of colored people in a very condescending way (I am colored).
3. Forcing some of my poor comrades to ‘pay up’ or not be allowed to take part in activities of the group. I don’t think that paying dues should be a pre-requisite for being part of a socialist organization. Also, I think that it shows a general lack of understanding of poor people. After all, I am a complicated immigrant from a so-called ‘third-world’ nation, the $10-20 dues goes a long way for poor people, including myself and my comrades.
4. When the issue is brought up, to dismiss it, leading me to believe there is no way to have an impact on the organization, logistically and theoretically.
5. Dismissal of non-party-line theoretical views and the subsequent indoctrination process with party-line rehashes.
6. Shameless claiming of ‘being part of struggles’ by Socialist Worker when all that really is happening is we’re passing out placards and chanting at a protest. I felt that the dignity of organizing struggles was tarnished.
7. Oh yeah, when I tried to work with other left groups (being a sort of complicated ‘immigrant’, I had not context of left-wing America quibbles), the immediate shutting down of that attempt, leading to what is essentially in-group incest.
8. General egotistical behavior. Everyone seems to imagine themselves to be some mixture of Huey Newton, Che Guevara, Lenin, and Trotsky.
9. Demonization of theoreticians that have made great contributions to the ‘theory for the people’, misleading people new to the left into believing that the world consists of only a crude view of orthodox Marxism.
10. Inability to combine theoretical insights from outside of the organization and use it for the purposes of enhancing the organization.
11. The organization leadership consists of too many old people. I am not being ageist, I am saying that the dogmatism of some members can be explained by their exploitation of the fact that they are older. This is odd, since most of the membership consists of students. I did not see a single young person in the steering committee two years ago when I went to the convention.
12. Oh yeah, criticism of the organization yielded a general severing of friendship/comradely ties. I didn’t understand it, but I guess it has something to do with self-importance. After all, Lenin didn’t give a fuck about having friends, right? Oh wait. I didn’t join the ISO to make friends, but I believe friends are made through struggle. So, if we struggle, we are friends. Hence the word ‘comrade’, which shouldn’t denote ‘workmate’.
13. Talking about revolution so openly. Do people understand what ‘revolution’ is? You know the enemy has a lot of guns, right? Once again, it demonstrates a sort of naivety on the part of the organization.
14. Just because Sherry W or Ahmed S say powerful things shouldn’t make your genitalia swoon. Seriously, the love affair with the party ‘leadership’ and the emphasis on reading their books has limited theoretical horizons. In fact, they are part of the problem a lot. We should be more objective about how we evaluate our leaders, the symbols we hold, and so on.
And on and on. I could go on for a while. The differences seem very petty, the self-importance makes the left unable to actually unite. I am not being idealistic and saying that we (the left) should all sing kumbaya and smoke a joint while singing solidarity forever (well… I’m half not saying that). I’m just saying that there seems to be an arrogance involved that should be dropped.
I really support your effort to do something like this. I would rather remain anonymous, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the ISO is a negative influence on left-wing politics, despite having put so much effort into growing it. Good luck, comrades!
What serious steps did you take within the organization before you left to address these issues?
I don’t want to sound bitter, but the mere bringing up of said issues always yielded accusations of sinfulness. I mean, the first time I brought it up, I was given the official ‘line’. The ISO has a ‘line’ for every issue, whether it be about dues or about their theory or about why the paper is important and so on. I tried to speak both to the branch ‘elders’ and to regional organizers. It was not going to go through the proper channels, I realized. I even brought some of these issues up during regional conference calls.
A large portion of the organization is enamored by the regional organizers because they can spit their views of Trotsky, and sound angry and resilient. Usually, they prey on new students of the left, and of course their authority comes from their being older or officially praised by other new ‘comrades’ they recently discovered. It is a vicious cycle.
Every member has the right to make a formal proposal at branch meetings, write for the internal bulletin and write pre-convention documents containing proposals. While having a conversation with leadership is absolutely a necessary step, I’m curious as to whether you brought these issues through those existing channels specifically for consideration of the entire membership – not just the leading members in your vicinity.
I am a believer in building the local branches first before attempting to change the entire organizational structure, and give them the ability to be flexible enough with methods, since there are cultural differences with every city. Hence, my priority was changing my branch first, but protocol seemed to always be an obstacle for such a maneuver. At its height, before I left, the branch had around 12 people, all of which I had discussed these issues with. It is not a coincidence that the majority of them left the branch after my leaving.
It seems as though you are speaking to an experience with the organization as a whole in your original comment, not to an experience with a 12-person local branch. Also, the procedure in changing local level political strategy can be voted on in the local branch and won with a majority. If the majority of your branch left with you over these issues, it seems as though you would have had the support of their vote when making proposals which address them to the branch formally.
Is it possible that the issues you raised could be handled differently in other local branches with different internal cultures? Is it possible there may have been a different response to your argument had you brought these issues to the greater organizational body? While I would agree that these issues are best to address within the local branch level, but all members should take responsibility to raise issues they believe to be plaguing the organization as a whole to the entire membership body.
Oh I had their support. I mean, I was delegate to the convention, so obviously I had some sway. Also, half the branch were my friends that I recruited. Things got worse when the elders in the branch, the ones that were closer to the SC, would use their sway to essentially keep me silent by having the regional organizer ‘speak’ about how we should approach doing things, the ‘classical ISO’ way. And of course, that makes dissent impossible.
It’s far more complicated, but the one simple thing in the whole thing is the fact that there are still problems that obviously haven’t been address, even since I’ve left. It is of no matter to me anymore, initially I thought it was just me and my group of friends who found these issues to be pertinent, so we didn’t challenge it at the national level (not that we could have without being expelled anyways). But seeing the RF do what they’re doing just confirmed my suspicions, which is why I decided to comment here.
Very reminiscent of the swp. As soon as you question the permanent leadership’s right to rule, you’re toast
Will the RF do something politically productive or spend their politicial energies on more attacks on the ISO?
I’d like to see the attempt to bring together a Left Unity Party. A sort of anti-capitalist Green Party — using tht anology simply to say it would be a board party but also explicitly anti-capitalist.
Do we really need another One True Left Party? If socialists really want one, the most successful (putting it generously) going right now is Socialist Alternative. Might as well join them?
Not the same thing. The idea is an anti-capitalist party, not another sectarian socailist party.
Will the ISO enact measures to democratize their organization such as getting rid of the slate system, getting people off of the NC and SC who have been on for more than 5 years, and giving the rank and file a voice, or will it continue to run like a top-down sect whose members fighting for democracy feel forced to go public?
More than five years? It seems to me that the SC hasn’t changed much in 10, 20, and 30 years. If being on the SC meant you were a librarian or chief stamp collector it wouldn’t matter much. But if you are supposed to be a democratic organization responsive to new ideas and the membership, more flexibility would be expected.
Of course, you’re supposed to be so busy doing 20+ hours of work a week for the group that you never have to time to reflect on its structural problems, much less try to change them. But every good service employee knows that running around frantically is the sign of a novice doing things wrong. To do things right you stop, think, and plan strategically. In the professional world there’s an accounting at the end of every night that tells you whether you are doing things right or not. But where finances are concealed from the membership, no one is able to measure the leadership’s perspectives or the organizational methods.
There is a democratic deficit in this organization, which is all the more frustrating because of how many otherwise highly intelligent people are in it. Until that deficit is resolved the organization will never attract a “mass” following. Most militant people are suspicious enough to expect more.
All correct, “member of 8 years”.
I was picking a number (5) to advocate for term limits. The leadership faction is permanent, since ’83 and those since ’83 decide on who gets on the nc and sc. The SPUSA is the same. The National Secretary has been there since the 90s, and the corrosion shows.
To all those on the left. It takes many many years to build an organization of committed revolutionaries, and it can be destroyed rather quickly. I hope the RF members, and any former ISO member, can respect the Democratic decision of the entire membership of the ISO and help them in the project of building the left. Gather your own forces and make meaningful contribution in your blogs and other outlets that the left can engage with… When there are members who are committing their life to building an organization… It’s not okay when people (who should be organizing against exploitation and oppression) are actually organizing against committed revolutionaries. The state is already doing their job to destroy us, don’t make it any easier for them
Your post is horseshit. Members forming a faction and fighting for democracy is not “organizing against committed revolutionaries”. Throwing out members on trumped-up charges? Now that is “organizing against committed revolutionaries”.
The way in which the faction has organized their disagreements has been disastrous. The part where I mentioned “organizing against committed revolutionaries” comes from the faction almost having a priority to engage disgruntled ex-members and other on the anti-ISO left, before the actual ISO membership. When I take a step back and assess the RF’s efforts, it seems like they were less effective at engaging the membership politically and more effective at channeling as much discontent as possible towards the ISO.
The RF spoke, the general membership heard, and wasn’t swayed by the RF’s efforts. In the end, I hope the RF members can find time to come together and develop initiatives that can carry the class struggle forward. I don’t believe any more bruising has to take place, for either side, and that there comes a point in which we all must move forward with our own political lives and respect the work that every revolutionary socialist has to offer – because no person or organization is perfect.
The RF did make mistakes, they were a bit all over the place, but if their docs were not banned from the pre-convention bulletins, they would not have been so public. And their blog here really raises the issue of whether or not these groups should be private.
There really is not an “anti-ISO left”, you are feeding into the ISO’s bizarre, paranoid delusion that everyone is out to get them. A lot of the source of their problems is that they treat every public and private criticism as a “sectarian attack”. Honestly, it is getting to the point that every leftist outside of the ISO is seen as a “sectarian”, every left on-line publication is seen as “sectarian” and “hostile”. Questions inside the organization itself are treated as attacks. And those who say uncomplimentary things, well, you can only mistreat so many people before it comes back to bite you. I did not see the RF trying to egg on anyone, I saw a lot of ex-members who said, “yeah, this has been going on for a long time and it is true”. You are repeating the false narrative that the ISO was victimized. They were not.
Another thing that hurt RF was one member bringing up that an ISOer talked to the police and linked documents. There probably wasn’t anything to it, a scared 18 year old kid is what it appeared to be. But Shaun made the claim on his own personal Facebook; though he only said that the member talked to the police, he did not know what was said. The leadership opportunistically jumped on this and turned it into an RF issue trying to divide the faction. They called on the faction to repudiate Shaun. Why? It was not on the list of the faction’s demands and was not on the blog. When the faction would not repudiate Shaun, they used it as a wedge to divide the faction from the membership. They knew what they were doing, they have been pulling stuff like this for a very long time. They saw an opportunity and they took it. Fighting dirty is an art they have long mastered. However, Shaun should not have brought it up, at least publicly, he gave them that in.
The issue is not about perfection; the issue was about democracy. Read the Socialist Outpost contributions if you have not. I think that the signals from the 2013 Socialism convention gave former members hope that the organization was going to change for the better.
Unfortunately, that seems to not the case. And these types of groups are near extinction because they are not changing with the times or meeting the demands of the younger generations to be open, transparent, non-sectarian, living in the present, and democratic. That is why so many of them are identifying with anarchism.
Trumped up charged? The RF deliberately refused to comply with a democratic vote in a Leninist organization. “Trumped up” indeed.
“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 call the German Socialist Party a democratic organisation because all its activities are carried out publicly; even its party congresses are held in public. But no one would call an organisation democratic that is hidden from every one but its members by a veil of secrecy.” –Lenin
So is your point that the ISO cannot be democratic since it’s convention is not public? Again, an absurdity. An out of context quote from Lenin in 1903 says nothing to justify the idea it expressed- Lenin is not a deity or prophet, nor did he practice complete public transparency- as you’re well aware.
All this is tangential to the point- you are a member of an organization committed to democratic centralism, and yet refused to comply with a vote. This is not a “trumped up” charge, it is a clear violation of the idea of democratic discipline. I was extremely sympathetic to the RF before the convention, but the moment you decided to overrule the vast majority of ISO members, the convention had every right to expel you.
Violation of democratic centralism? Maybe I missed something but I don’t know what they did that would violate democratic centralism. Violate the distorted version of it where you can’t have factions or disagreements, sure, but not what it was and should be.
The convention specifically voted to have RF remove the internal documents from their external facing website. They resolutely refused to comply. This case is pretty cut and dry, now. If they had complied and continued to argue against the position there would be a question, but as it stands they clearly violated the privacy of the victim of assault and then refused to comply with a mandate voted on at convention.
How did they violate the privacy of the victim? By talking about the case? Oh how convenient would that be for you? To keep it swept under the rug, the fact that the ISOSC dropped the ball?
Please stop hiding behind the survivor, the person whom the ISO did not listen to for over a year.
They violated the privacy of the victim by publishing information that the victim wanted kept private. You are correct that the SC and the local branch made serious mistakes- as we agreed at the convention. The idea that it was “swept under the rug” is either drastically ignorant or purposefully inaccurate.
The details of the case on this site are so general and vague that there is no revealing information about the survivor. You just do not like the fact that your group’s errors were pointed out, this can be one way of sweeping it under the rug, so please stop with the huffing and puffing over confidentiality. It was not violated. And please stop speaking like a partisan. Your group still cannot back up its allegations of “slander”.
Does RF deny that the original posting of the sexual misconduct case included the name of the survivor’s location?
“Does RF deny that the original posting of the sexual misconduct case included the name of the survivor’s location?”
I don’t see it now. Was it there? I don’t know. How about if it was it was a mistake. But no, of course not, you are too busy tarring and feathering to consider that. This is nothing but point scoring.
Look, you guys need to stop demonizing people. You are calling people,”brosholist”, “sexist” and in your SW article today, you accuse RF of “slander” and “violating the standards of decency”, you call them “liars” in the beginning of the piece because they pointed out that the SC dropped the ball (not a lie). Come on, how can anyone have an honest conversation with such extreme rhetoric, which is all that has pretty much been coming from the ISO since the RF started?
The location was certainly in the original post, which the convention only became aware of in the middle of the convention. If the RF felt that this was a mistake, they should have said that at the convention. They did not.
The location was given in PCB#19, which was leaked online well before we published our statement.
So, your reason in including the location when first publishing the post was that it was already leaked online, therefore that made it OK to shirk your own individual responsibility of protecting a sexual assault survivor’s identity?
You’re a real piece of work, els. They have since redacted the name of the city, and you still want to fight about it.
You are not interested in justice or a better world, you just want a pound of flesh of any and all critics to deflect from the criticisms of RF. Ask yourself why the ISO has NO outside supporters in this factional struggle, very much unlike RF.
“If the RF felt that this was a mistake, they should have said that at the convention. They did not.”
I thought that you all said that they left the convention. Which is it? More point scoring, it is not there now. Feel good to tar and feather? They may have made a mistake in listing the locale, but your SC made a mistake in declaring it a “local matter” and not addressing it. Your local branch organizer initially defended this guy.
We can spend all fucking day listing mistakes. Put down the pitchfork. Tone down your rhetoric, it is just making you all look bad.
How does expelling people “build left unity”?
The only “organizing against committed revolutionaries,” that I see is the orchestrated expulsion of a faction.
The RF deserves credit for their sincere efforts to promote renewal and democratic process within an organization that has made a lot of contributions to socialist organizing and advocacy during the last several decades. I admire their dedication to their principles and their efforts to promote renewal within an organization to which many of them have devoted important parts of their lives. Certainly sectarianism within the socialist left has been a problem for a long time, but factions are an established way for people in a group to organize in support of common goals.
It was also natural that the RF would establish links with current and former ISO members who shared their concerns and visions about the organization. While I am sure mistakes were made, and in particular I think it is an open question to what extent social media can have a negative impact on socialist organizing, it is always a challenge when a caucus or faction is incorrectly perceived as a threat by national leadership and viewed with hostility, as was apparently the case here.
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Good riddance! My delegate voted to kick you out with my 100% support. you guys are shady as anything. I dont want to be comrades with people who leak internal documents, lie and slander activists as snitches when in fact your snitchy behavior of leaking docs may have cost a comrade their job, fucking pathetic. WALK AWAY AND DONT LOOK BACK
Enjoy being a order-taker inside your phone booth of co-thinkers. Accusing the RF of “snitch-jacketing” is a form of slander.
Be something else in life other than a point-scorer.
OH and PS: Ross leaked the docs, get your story straight, know what you are actually talking about before you accuse.
Its over. Time for the RF to either renounce their attacks and rejoin the ISO, or find something more productive to do with their political time. Seriously – 10 years from now if we are still hearing from former RF members, then you know something’s wrong.
Oh yeah, we’re all just lining up to join your shitty little sect, especially after we have seen how you treat your dissenters!
Then move on. If you are still posting here tomorrow, there is something wrong with you.
Why the fuck are YOU here?
If you’re here attacking the ISO for being a sect then why don’t you go start your own non-sect organization, and let it’s politics and practices speak for itself. Or are you already a part of a democratic socialist organization?
Curiosity. I don’t plan on making polemics and personal attacks against the RF my main political task for the next 10 years though.
A psychologist (“there is something wrong with you”) and a web cop rolled into one!
Polemics and personal attacks are all that RF have gotten from the ISO. The substance and politics are coming from RF.
If you do not like the RF or its supporters, you really should not be here, and you should go elsewhere instead of trying to control others.
Seriously, you people have done enough damage and told enough lies. Get the fuck off the page.
I’m a Boston-area member of the Socialist Party. I’ve worked with ISO both in Boston and nationally, and with still-active former ISO members. I’m concerned about relations among socialists of different views and tendencies. I’m gathering that there’s a painful situation within ISO or between ISO bodies and former members. I would like for us all to find ways to work together effectively on labor, women’s, racial-justice, and antiwar struggles. I’d like to understand better the recent problems that I’m reading about in this thread.
David – I wouldn’t expect to get a better understanding on this blog. The faction has attracted a number of folks who disagree w/ the ISO. Best bet is to read this reply by the ISO Steering Committee: http://socialistworker.org/2014/02/19/a-response-to-slander
Clearly, reading the link from ‘Socialist Worker’ is only going to give the ISO leadership’s side of the story. In order to read a more critical series of accounts about the crisis in the ISO, here are some of the more significant articles by ISO oppositionists and ex-ISO dissidents:
1.) Socialist Outpost, “Setting the Record Straight.” http://www.socialistoutpost.com/blog/2014/2/12/settingtherecordstraight
2,) Socialist Outpost, “A Letter to Comrades in the International Socialist Organization.” http://www.socialistoutpost.com/blog/2013/10/9/a-letter-to-comrades-in-the-international-socialist-organization-iso
3.) Vanessa B., “My Bureaucratic Exclusion from the International Socialist Organization,” External Bulletin. https://externalbulletin.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/my-bureaucratic-exclusion-from-the-international-socialist-organization/
4,) ISO Renewal Faction, “Questions and concerns about the ISO and CERSC,” External Bulletin. https://externalbulletin.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/questions-and-concerns-about-the-iso-and-cersc/
5.) Shaun J., “Valences of the United Front (III),” To Repeat. http://torepeat.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/valences-of-the-united-front-iii-the-struggle-for-culture/
6.) “Theory and Practice of Idealism in Trotskyism and the ISO,” Counterpunch. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/11/08/theory-and-practice-of-idealism-in-trotskyism-and-the-iso/
7.) Pham Binh, “Thinking of Joining the ISO?,” The North Star. http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=9055
Good job. Don’t want to trigger that independent thought alarm.
I share David K’s concerns about the recent strife within the ISO, and the importance for socialists to transcend political differences and work together in harmony in pursuit of important goals.
Thanks to Ben for providing a very useful bibliography concerning the recent crisis in the ISO. As Chris has stated, and as is typically the case in conflicts between entrenched leadership and activist cadres, the substance and politics have come from the RF.
While in fairness it would certainly be worthwhile to read the SC response which Radical Educator has provided, trying to get a good understanding of the recent crisis in the ISO from the SC documents would be as useful as trying to understand the crisis in the Ukraine by reading the Russian Federation press releases.
Although, perhaps we should ask the dissidents in the Ukraine to stop complaining about the leadership in their country and get on board with the program, just as the members of the RF are being asked to either put up or shut up.
So it appears that the RF members opposed the ISO leadership publicly and were expelled for it. Are you surprised? The ISO and many other cargo cult leninist groups are opposed to 1) the need to allow opposing views and criticisms 2) The need for transparency 3) Measures that threaten tight control of the central leadership over the entire organization.
I can only hope that those former ISO members who are now expelled, will continue to work to learn and grow as political activists. I hope they can learn that revolutionaries do not need to “join” any group or organization to be a good revolutionary–you don’t need a treehouse club, you only need a solid foundation of principles to start with.
Please explain to me how a socialist revolutionary puts their ideas/principles into practice without an organizational arm to carry them out?
I appreciate the replies by the SC, marc, and Ben. I found the SC statement and the ‘Socialist Outpost’ items I read somewhat helpful. I like some of the items by Susan Rosenthal.
I belonged to the SWP (US) many years ago and have gone toward a multi-tendency approach to socialist organizing. I recall a long period of bitterness after my separation from the SWP. There appears to be a wish from many sides for some sort of socialist regroupment.
It must be difficult for people today to see members of their organization go away bitterly, or to lose connection with an organization and comrades with whom one has worked for a long time.
On Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 1:28 PM, External Bulletin wrote:
> Red commented: “Please explain to me how a socialist revolutionary > puts their ideas/principles into practice without an organizational arm to > carry them out?” >
Please excuse me for my much belated response. I had only just noticed your response today.
The question is whether one can put ideas and principles into practice without an organizational arm to carry them out–sometimes this is possible and sometimes it is not. But, the question you do not raise is how a revolutionary organization worth fighting and dying for comes into existence. I do not believe that the ISO is an organization worth fighting and dying for, and I do not believe that groups like the ISO are capable of carrying out the principles and ideas which serve the movement. I believe that there are presently no organizations worth fighting and dying for.
Revolutionary principles and ideas are worth fighting and dying for! So that is the beginning. Joining an organization can sometimes be beneficial to self-discovery of these principles and ideas, but many times these organizations frown on self discovery. Why? They frown on your ability to think for yourself.
Eventually there may come a time when we have a revolutionary organization built on a foundation like piles hundreds of feet deep into bedrock instead of a flimsy club for 12 year olds built on sand. What will build it? Revolutionaries with a strong connection to the principles and ideas which serve the movement will build it through the exchange of information in public meetings and debates, and public statements. I believe that an online democratic news service will greatly serve this purpose to fertilize a conscious core of experienced and trained RED activists of many trends to sort through the negative baggage our heritage drags, and the most positive principles and ideas that glow like gems in the mud.
Posted within the hour on the main public thread for Britain & Ireland discussing matters about the British SWP, &, for the last few weeks, the ISO:
“Paul le Blanc is a very decent fella and a fine Marxist. But there’s something a little ironic about him closing down discussion on his FB wall tonight about anti ISO slurs (on a thread he started) when he was happy enough to join in the avalanche of half truths on the Prof’s wall a year ago. Once you let the genie out of the bottle… ” (whole comment)
The commentator is a member of the British SWP who opposed the SWP oppositions over the allegations of multiple rape by the then National Secretary. (Yes, most have not recognised the multiple nature of the allegation).
I think many of the criticisms on this page are legitimate, and if the ISO can’t deal with them then they’ll always be irrelevant, because this type of behavior systematically alienates potential new members who are among some of the most oppressed, and so the most radical. The air of self-importance around standing at demonstrations handing out fliers or selling Socialist Workers is frightening. I know myself and others who are committed revolutionaries who were excluded from meetings and events and treated as hostile outsiders, simply because we couldn’t afford the dues and we read literature that landed outside the purview of accepted discourse by the SC.
I get the feeling that the leaders of the ISO really aren’t that serious about revolution. They’re serious about the notion of being serious, and so will stomp down any dissent the deem to be bourgeois. But the ironic part is many of them have comfortable 6-figure jobs in academia or are hedge fund babies, and so have personal interests in keeping the system the way it is. They have so much to lose, that sometimes the older members in the branch would sit out, “because I’m a professor and I have to be careful”…are leaders like that seriously going to lead a revolution? And it’s not like everyday members actually have the feeling like they control anything, and can elect the leadership.
How can you talk about replacing society with one where the productive members of society take control, when in your own organization the ones on the ground selling SW’s or doing actual branch organizing have no actual control over anything? Most of the reactions to these concerns are all very childish, even though they don’t have to be
Just a request for information from you or anyone else about how egalitarian the ISO is: you say, “the ones on the ground selling SW’s or doing actual branch organizing”, so do the elected national leaders, those on the Steering Cttee & the National Cttee, (1) have paper sale quotas like the minions, (2) do street sales & man SW/ISO tables like the ciphers, & (3) visit John or Joanna, a recent contact (sounds like Cold War espionage – but then conditions are hostile)?
The same questions were asked in recent years of SWP prominents: when did anyone ever see Callinicos or Kimber selling outside Fords at 5.30am, or on Balham High Road on a Saturday lunchtime?
(Just a note for anyone inclined to umbrage: ‘manning tables’ comes from manus, Latin = hand, so fair or otherwise.)
I can’t speak that much about the SC, I rarely saw them at my branch, and when they came, it was usually the regional organizer ‘checking up on things’ or someone from Chicago giving a talk. The ‘elders’ that I did organize with only occasionally did actual ground work, and they were much less important in terms of the actual building of the branch and raising funds than the rank-and-file. They acted more as commissars relaying info from Chicago given their privileged access to national-level organizing, which I was excluded from, and their function was largely to reign people into ISO political lines. Again, I think a lot of it largely was stemming from the fact that they had “real world responsibilities”, like trying to get tenure. They were even too timid to take over a street during Occupy even though we had the numbers and people were willing.
I’m not saying that national-level organizing is not important work. It’s just that the average rank-and-file that are doing most of the labor have little to no actual control over the organization, either in terms of politics/theory or broader praxis. They also systematically alienate those who don’t fall in line with their Leninist-Trotskyist-Cliffism, or who can’t afford to pay dues. I helped do real labor for them for about a year, building the branch and selling papers, but I was consistently treated in hostile ways because I would try to introduce more sophisticated political theory (beyond the SC’s own books which are actually very bad), and eventually I was completely cut off because I couldn’t afford the dues, and my level of engagement was off-and-on because I was working full time and going to classes full time.
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It seems to me that people (ex-ISO members mostly) are frustrated that their own politics couldnt substantially sway the ISO’s general membership away from the political lead put out by the elected leadership. The ISO isnt undemocratic – its just members lacking a political argument that can sway people disguised as “undemocratic”
If EX-ISO members are so set how to be politically perfect – THEN GO SPEND YOUR TIME DEVELOPING A REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALIST ORGANIZATION THAT WILL SPEAK FOR ITSELF
The extent of you all coming together should be the production of your own politics aimed at engaging everyone on the left and establishing the foundation for new political projects that can speak for themselves – but it seems to me like everyone on here is way more committed to attacking the ISO — this to me is sectarian
You didn’t sway anyone in the ISO – and this website is becoming a clear expression of your pain and political defeat — at some point you will have to give it up and move on with your own political projects
This might be true of some ex-ISO members, but, speaking for myself and the majority of the branch we had that ended up leaving (or, getting excluded), there was open hostility to difference. Sure, hypothetically I’d like to see an organization that reflected my politics, as would any leftist making political arguments. But the core of the complaints seem to be that there is a real lacking of the democratic platform for average members to make arguments to be discussed in fair ways. It’s hard to see when caught up in the ISO ideology, but there really is hostility to difference. Your response is typical, “if you have a difference, then go make your own organization, because we can’t handle actual democratic arguments.”
The young members who have tried to renew the ISO might end up doing frustrated and desperate actions, but this stems from a lack of a real democratic forum, not their failure to convince within a democratic space. There is a poverty of philosophy within the organization which contributes to a lack in self-critical engagement. Members are openly hostile to political disagreement and criticism, and become defensive and paranoid. You can’t just claim, “well we have conventions!”, because that is ignoring the core of the arguments being made. Those conventions are becoming about as democratic as the congress of the Communist Party of China.
If the ISO was serious about building a revolutionary organization, the very fact that so many are making similar arguments about how they were excluded or alienated from the organization should lend at least a serious reformation. Otherwise the ISO will always be irrelevant and stuck selling SC propaganda at other people’s protests.
Your response is typical, “if you have a difference, then go make your own organization, because we can’t handle actual democratic arguments.”
This isnt my approach – its not about going off to found another organization because of a difference — rather – If dozens of revolutionary socialists (mostly ex-iso members) are going to constantly come together and spend a substantial amount of time discussing disagreements with the ISO (on external bulletins, on social media, informally, etc.)- in terms of moving forward – at some point you gotta see that the time spent here could be better used to build new political projects that everyone on the left could grow from — it just seems to me that the longer this goes on then it remains clear that the political project itself is to attack the ISO which I believe to be sectarian
This may be difficult for an ISO member or supporter to understand, since the group characteristically lurches from one thing to the next without thinking, but we would actually like to assess our experiences, precisely so that we can “move on” effectively. Only a liberal endorses a “look forward, not backward” mentality. I was in the ISO for 15 years, and I’m not going to “leave it alone” the day after I get expelled, regardless of the irritation this may cause in certain quarters.
Anyway if you don’t like it, you can block us on social media and pretend the website doesn’t exist. Modern capitalism gives you many ways to shut your eyes, if you want to shut them.
I never wrote “move on” or “look forward, not backward” or “leave it alone” and I didnt intend for this to be my tone either.
As Marxists, of course we should see any new projects that are taken up as dialectically linked to the work of the past.
“You didn’t sway anyone in the ISO – and this website is becoming a clear expression of your pain and political defeat — at some point you will have to give it up and move on with your own political projects”
The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty weighs in: ISO excludes minority
It is ironic that Red and others have accused the RF of sectarianism, because when the ISO was expelled from IS Tendency (IST) in 2001 at the behest of the British SWP, the ISO and its leadership were accused of “profound sectarian degeneration.” In a sub-heading entitled “An American Tragedy: the International Socialist Organization” (part of a larger document), Alex Callinicos repeatedly attacked the ISO and its leaders for being sectarian, and concluded with the following statement: “The sectarianism of the ISO ….. has now led them to seek to destroy the Tendency of which they were once among the proudest members.” http://www.marxists.de/intsoctend/callinicos/isodoc.htm
The lesson? The “losing side” in a factional struggle will be accused of sectarianism and perfidy, just as the members of the RF have been so accused by the ISO Steering Committee. What goes around comes around.
Red and others have mentioned that the RF was unable to win broad support from the ISO general membership. When I was one of the exponents for internal democracy within the National Assembly (forerunner of the United National Antiwar Coalition), I noticed that even amongst the members of the CC, there was a supreme reluctance to go against the top leadership. The same was true at national conferences, which tended to rubber-stamp the leadership documents. This is typical of most groups, especially those committed to “democratic centralism”. It is also true that others in the ISO who shared concerns similar to those of the RF (such as Socialist Outpost) had already left, or been expelled, previously.
Red suggests that the RF website has become a forum for people “attacking the ISO”. This charge is really unfair. I don’t have the impression that most of those posting comments here are intrinsically hostile to the ISO. I certainly am not; I have a long record as an ally of the ISO within the antiwar movement, and started reading ISR a few decades ago. The recent events within the ISO are troubling specifically because of its historical importance on the US left as a focus for socialist theory and socialist organizing.
Finally, Red refers to this website becoming an expression of the “pain and political defeat” of RF members. Perhaps true, but why not? RF members have devoted as much as 15 years of their lives to dedicated service and support of the ISO and its political work: public events, branch meetings, branch committee meetings, conference calls; long hours working in community coalitions; Saturday afternoon paper sales on college campuses; recruiting new members; etc. etc.
After up to 15 years of this kind of dedicated service, do you expect the RF members to just say, “OK, that’s it, time to move on to the next project”, without serious reflection on what happened and why? That would be neither sane nor logical. I know some of the RF members, and they will certainly move on to productive political work and new challenges. The future of the ISO, however, is less certain: when an organization attacks and expels some of its most committed members, who were sincerely trying to promote renewal, its future can become tenuous and problematic.
The more people on the left feel the need to come together and commit time to discredit the ISO the more it proves their legitimacy within the left. If we really agree that the ISO is irrelevant then why the need to come together to try to prove so? I heard some of my fellow anarchists talking about this website the other day and I figured I would check it out. I’m going to stay out of this mess though because there are better things worth spending my time on then having to prove what we already know, which is that centralized organizations are authoritative.
The ISO is insufficiently democratic and organizationally inadequate to the tasks of a revolutionary organization. But it is not irrelevant.
I’m following this discussion with empathy both for the ISO members and the former members. What would interest me most is to see efforts to bring about collaboration among different socialist tendencies on urgent questions like U.S. intervention in Venezuela, NATO expansion and provocation in Ukraine, and reproductive rights. I’m with the Socialist Party but my own political tradition is closer to that of ISO. I left behind the sort of organization form that seemed to me to encourage factional and sectarian behavior that no one joined the socialist movement to carry out, but that somehow we have all carried out nevertheless.
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