[Originally published on RISocialism.org.]
It is with the greatest regret that the Brown Branch of the International Socialist Organization announces its unanimous decision to collectively resign. This was not a decision we made lightly. We realize it will mean the loss of access to many of the resources that the ISO provides and that it will greatly hinder our work to no longer be part of a national organization. It is therefore only because things have gotten to a point where it is no longer possible to envision our work with the ISO as productive to furthering the cause of socialism that we have resigned. We remain as committed as ever to the cause of revolutionary socialism but we have been forced to organize independently of the ISO.
The main reason for this is that the Organization has shown itself to be undemocratic. This has mainly been revealed by the expulsion of the ISO Renewal faction at this past convention. While we recognize that the majority of the delegates were opposed to the proposals of the faction, this does not give them the right to expel them. Nor does it give them the right to subject them to the profanities, jeering and shaming that they were exposed to in the convention. To vote down the faction proposals is one thing, but to expel the faction for being an organized group of people who propose alternative perspectives to the leadership is quite another. If we accept this we are accepting an organization in which disagreement is only permitted if it is not organized. And as we all know as socialists and activists, unorganized dissent is virtually powerless.
We are not defending all of the actions of the faction. Since the one faction member who was a part of our Branch was expelled with the rest, this decision was made by non-faction members. We do in fact think that many of the arguments of the faction revolved too much around the case of Shaun J and other individual and personal problems. They did also make certain mistakes as a faction. However, the leadership of the ISO used these mistakes and this focus on personal cases to attempt to discredit the faction instead of the organizational and political perspectives of the faction. As such these were not addressed and the faction was expelled from the Organization before being able to participate in the voting section of the convention.
Strategies and perspectives are supposed to center around trial and error. If they do not work, we should assess them and and adjust accordingly. In a healthy organization they should be the subject of comradely debate. There is a distressing lack of such debate in the organization right now. For instance this can be seen in the post-convention bulletin, which we did not receive directly by the way even though we are still a branch in good standing and have a current member on the mailing list for such documents. All of the Steering Committee’s proposals were voted for unanimously or almost unanimously and those opposing it in most cases did not even receive seconds. This has been the case at every other convention that we have been to.
These undemocratic elements would have been acceptable if they could be changed. Having parts of an organization that one disagrees with is almost always part of any collective project. If we could have organized and fought to change these problematic elements within the ISO we would have stayed and tried to do so. However, the faction attempted to bring some of these problems to the fore and were expelled for it. We are left with no other alternative than to believe that such change cannot be effected within the ISO and so we are forced to leave it.
Our decision to leave the ISO is also based upon the impracticable position that the Convention’s decision put us in. Both the faction member within our branch and those within the city branch were key to our organizing. Without them, the bulk of our comrades in the area are gone, and we lose a leading member in our branch. Splitting from the faction members would dramatically reduce our ability to organize around Brown University and Providence, and will create a schism among Rhode Island socialists. Such conditions are not reasonable if we aim to do meaningful organizing.
Furthermore, if we remain in the ISO, we would be forced to justify to our allies in struggle the fact that very respected and reliable comrades were expelled for opposing the national leadership in an organized manner. Not only do we disagree with the expulsion of the faction and other comrades; we also feel that to justify the expulsion of our comrades would undermine our integrity and our credibility on campus and in the city.
We remain optimistic that we will be able to continue to do good work as socialists. Our branch has grown both qualitatively and quantitatively in the past few years. We have a vibrant branch that is independent from the city branch, that holds regular tablings and public forums, that holds monthly internal education discussions and looks poised to expand even further as we develop a broader left on campus. We are doing great work with our SJP and Divest Coal chapters and are a respected presence on the left. Of course, socialism cannot be created in Brown or Rhode Island alone and so we will collaborate with socialists across the country and the world. This includes members of the ISO, for in spite of the problems we have mentioned, we know that comrades in the ISO are firmly dedicated to socialism. Our main challenge now is to help rebuild the left and this will be the focus of our activity.