ISO Internal Bulletin on elections, Fight for 15, and “triumphalist, sectarian” Socialist Alternative

The following document, written by the International Socialist Organization (ISO) West Coast organizer Todd Chretien and a leading Chicago member, appears in the group’s Internal Bulletin #1 (June 2014), pp. 2-8. We are publishing it on External Bulletin because it makes a number of slashing criticisms of Socialist Alternative (SAlt) in a forum in which SAlt cannot possibly respond; we also suspect that the ISO’s perception of its own centrality in, say, the Chicago Socialist Campaign would be of interest to other campaigners. What’s more, we consider the existence of two distinct and mutually-inconsistent discourses within the ISO–one for public consumption, the other “real” one for those “in the know”–to be incompatible with the development of an open and critical left.

Furthermore, while we are amazed by the arrogance and sectarianism displayed in this document, we believe that there is a rational core to some of the criticisms lodged at SAlt. Debate about SAlt’s highly sanguine perspective, and about Kshama Sawant’s ultimate support of the Seattle minimum wage measure, should be had out–publicly.

The document below is unchanged from the original, except to correct obvious typos; to add hyperlinks; and to redact names of ISO members who are not staff or otherwise prominent members.

The Editorial Collective

Perspectives around Elections

After Kshama Sawant’s city council win in Seattle, the ISO Steering Committee appointed a elections committee that was delegated to reconnoiter and coordinate possible electoral opportunities and endorsements for the ISO nationally. This committee released a pre-convention document in January of this year that can be found in PCB#17, which outlined an assessment of the terrain and charted the outlines of our strategic choices in the short and medium term. This document aims to follow up and assess some of them political points and organizational conclusions made there as they have thus far played out five months on. Next, it will examine differences between the ISO and Socialist Alternative’s approach to elections as well as critique SA’s misassessment of the current political period. Lastly it will briefly develop a conceptual framework outlined in PCB#17 for thinking about the relationship between election work and building the revolutionary party.

Where We Are and How the ISO is Approaching the 2014 Elections

A confluence of factors, including six years of Obama and the Democrats’ failure to deliver on the hoped for ‘change’ that was so central to electoral messaging in 2008, the growing class divide between the mainstream parties and the working class, and the anti-establishment populism of the Occupy movement began to set a stage for a possible electoral expression to the left of the Democrats.[1] A minority faction of Democrats have attempted to adapt to that space with the populism that propelled Bill de Blasio to win New York’s mayoral race in the fall of 2013, yet the most powerful forces within the Democratic Party continue to defend neoliberal policies aiming [to] enforce a “kinder-gentler” version of austerity.

In December of 2013 two events occurred that reflected this opening. In Lorain County, Ohio the Central Labor Council organized a slate of two dozen city councilors on an Independent ticket and did very well in local elections. The other was the election of Socialist Alternative’s (SAlt) Kshama Sawant to Seattle’s city council and a very close council race in Minneapolis by SAlt candidate Ty Moore.

Following Sawant’s election, SAlt called for the need to “come together on a national level to run 100 independent candidates for the the 2014 mid-term elections.”[2] Despite this being an unlikely goal, the ISO determined that a strategic approach to concrete situations where an electoral opening existed should be undertaken. This would be done in a fashion that politically situates our election work as being “a subordinate political tactic which must be integrated into an overall strategy of building up working-class organization and consciousness on the road to a clash with the existing relations of production and the state which sanctifies and guards them.”[3] We have approached electoral endorsements of independent candidates and possibilities of running our own candidates with an understanding that there is a political space that we can relate to with the tactic of elections. However, our perspective on elections is quite different from SAlt’s for a number of reasons tied to deeper differences in perspective and political principals with SAlt that will be addressed below.

In the ISO Elections Committee (IEC) Report there were a number of “potential endorsements” laid out that will be reviewed and updated as to progress, or lack thereof, since the writing of the document.

  1. Chicago Teachers Union’s Independent Political Organization: While this initiative holds out the promise of future developments, it is also worth pointing out that there is nothing automatic about CTU charting a course independent from the Democrats. Recently, the delegate assembly voted overwhelmingly to endorse Democrats, including Jay Travis and Will Guzzardi. The background to this discussion was outlined in the PCB and quoted SW article.[4]
  2. Tim Meegan: The Chicago District is taking part in working on the campaign of the teacher and CORE member’s bid to run for alderman in the 2015 Chicago aldermanic campaign. His campaign is running as an independent and billed as a movement candidate on the planks of $15 dollars an hour wage increase, fully funded public schools, and opposition to privatization. While this campaign has promise because of the resonance of the teacher’s struggle in Chicago, we will be contesting with others in his campaign to resist the pull of the Progressive Caucus in the City Council; the terrain of the progressive Democrats.
  3. Chicago Socialist Campaign: This formation of different socialist groups (ourselves, SAlt, Solidarity, Socialist Party) as well as independent socialists has been able to produce a candidate. The Chicago District has been involved in the launch of the candidacy of socialist and prominent labor and immigrant rights activist Jorge Mújica. Mújica launched his candidacy on May Day and is running explicitly as a socialist. While the campaign is in its infancy and faces a number of challenges to run a campaign that is viable; the ISO is at its core and this will serve as a unique case of a coalition-based explicitly socialist campaign.
  4. Dan Siegel: Activist and civil rights lawyer Dan Siegel is running for mayor of Oakland as an independent (he deregistered from the Democratic party before announcing) and his candidacy has a movement-based campaign trajectory. Siegel has received an ISO endorsement and we will be working to support his campaign.[5] Like the Meegan race, there are significant pressures from left/liberal Democrats to blunt the campaign’s more radical messages. And, like Chicago, it remains to be seen if any of the particular local dynamics which made Sawant’s victory possible (support by local weeklies, absence of any “lesser-evil” dynamic, etc.) will develop. In fact, Sawant’s success in riding the demand for a $15/hour minimum wage into office has already led the leading liberal Democrat in the race to support the initiative to raise the minimum wage in Oakland to $12.25 plus COLA and benefits (what turns out to be a very close parallel to the deal recently struck in Seattle). This makes it harder for Siegel to distinguish himself for his support for this initiative, as well as his promise to fight for $15 as mayor. This dynamic of forcing the Democrats to support more left-wing reforms is positive, but it does cloud the clarity of an independent alternative. Even if is this is NOT true on a national level, the left/liberal enclaves where an independent/labor/socialist candidate is likely to gather the most support are precisely those areas where it is easiest for the Democrats to talk left in order to undermine a genuine left alternative. How this plays out in Oakland remains to be seen.
  5. Hawkins/Jones: Of the “other races” outlined in the PCB the one that is most noteworthy is the recent nomination by the New York Green Party of Howie Hawkins as gubernatorial candidate. A prominent Teamster labor activist, Hawkins has run for a variety of offices over his political career both as a Socialist and as a Green, and has been a close ally of the ISO since 2000. Hawkins approached ISO member Brian Jones and asked him to be his running mate for Lt. Governor. Hawkins during his 2010 run for the office was able to win enough votes to get the Green party on the ballot, without which it is very difficult to get on statewide ballot. It is unlikely that Hawkins/Jones can give Cuomo a run for his (huge chest of) money and the absence of a credible Republican threat means the media will tend to ignore the Green ticket because it can’t “spoil” the election for Cuomo. However, the Hawkins/Jones campaign has an excellent opportunity to raise socialist ideas to a broad audience and as a Teamster/teacher team, they have a chance to garner a significant labor/education audience. Finally, they will both have the inclination and the know-how to link up with social movements, union activists and organizations, using the campaign to help knit together rank-and-file and left activists more closely for future actions. The ISO will strongly support this campaign and highlight Hawkins/Jones’ socialist views on both the need for an alternative to the Democrats and strategies for rebuilding class struggle unions and social movement organization.[6]
  6. Nic Caleb for Portland City Council: While this race did not receive much attention beyond Portland (except for the interview with Caleb in SW), it showed that there are spaces where radical candidates can gain a significant hearing. Caleb is a young college instructor who was radicalized through Occupy and decided to run for city council with very little experience or backing in the wake of Sawant’s campaign in Seattle. Both SAlt and the ISO endorsed his campaign, along with key environmental and other activists and Caleb took 19% of the vote against the liberal Democratic incumbent.
  7. Ballot initiatives: The ISO has also been very involved in ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage in Seattle (described more below) and in the Bay Area with ballots to raise the minimum wage in Berkeley, Richmond and Oakland to $12.25 in 2015 (with a guaranteed yearly COLA and paid sick days–which means that by 2025, Oakland workers will essentially get the Seattle deal–Seattle will be at $18/hr then and Oakland at $16, but Oakland will have not count health care and tips as part of the wage as is the case in Seattle, so it might even be better). And, in San Francisco, SEIU 1021 may put a 15 initiative that would be superior to both the Oakland and Seattle efforts on the ballot in November. We should keep our eyes out of the possibility of spreading initiatives like this.

It should be noted that the electoral work that we are currently relating to has a number of tactical differences. With the basic understanding that there is some space to the left of the Democrats we are exploring tactically what is the best way to exploit the opening. In some cases this in explicitly socialist campaigns and in others they have a more independent labor/social movement quality. We should continue to assess the different opportunities and challenges these present.

We have this sober and patient approach because of our basic perspective around elections that sees them as useful components of building a working class movement and not as the sole tactic upon which to hang our hat. Nor do we see it useful to run small propaganda campaigns in a manner unrelated to broader labor and social forces. The question posed in the ISO elections committee document still stands:

[H]ow do we build continuity of the left in between elections, do we see elections as a place to amplify the smaller struggles we are a part of, and do they provide left alternatives to the two party system? This is also tied to the question of left candidates emerging from real social movements, labor struggles etc. as opposed to a candidate who isn’t rooted in struggle in any way, but is a charismatic figure running for office. Planting the seeds for real left parties that are grounded in struggle must be n important component part of our long-term strategic thinking.

It should be kept in mind that, however important these electoral initiatives are, the Democrats retain a near total lock on union, non-profit, community group, and student loyalty within the context of the two-party system. For example, in the Bay Area, nearly the entire labor movement is pulling out all the stops to support a pro-labor Democrat in a race for state assembly against a Democrat who is running on his opposition to the right of public sector unions to strike. On the part of most unions, this race is gathering far more energy than even the fight to raise the minimum wage in Oakland.

Nevertheless, the left-wing candidates and initiatives discussed here can be an important part of laying the basis for a bigger challenge in 2016 and beyond. So, what are the most effective ways to plant those seeds? To answer this question, we must evaluate today’s balance of forces. Here, SAlt and the ISO have significantly different views of the terrain on which we are operating.

Triumphalism v. Clear-eyed Analysis

The remainder of this document is not meant as a comprehensive critique of SAlt, but merely to point toward some differences that explain how and why we differ over significant issues. Our goal is to help ISO comrades place some of SAlt’s actions in perspective and make them easier to understand. While we believe these differences are real, we also know that ideas change in struggle and that now that comrades in SAlt are faced with the opportunity to grow from a tiny group of some dozens to a more significant political group, they will reflect on their own experience and draw lessons from the struggle which may well challenge some of their long-held assumptions. One of the lessons they will have to confront is how to differentiate between instant paper membership (or even online membership) and the training of experienced socialist activists and cadre who are embedded in social movements and workplaces for the long haul.

Halfway through 2014, SAlt’s call for 100 independent candidates has not emerged. Back in January in the PCB#17 document, we pointed out that their advocacy of this overblown perspective was not accidental, but flowed from their political perspectives. Why could they make such an elemental mistake and why did they walk away from it without comment? The answer lies in SAlt’s weak grasp on the challenges facing the rebuilding of a fighting working-class movement and the complexity of organizing a revolutionary socialist organization as part of that struggle.

Undoubtedly the lack of an explosion of left candidates is primarily a result of the weakness of the organized left. Sawant’s win (and some of the resultant campaigns) provides evidence of an ideological opening that exists, but also shows that the sustained level of struggle to crystallize consciousness and anger into organization and clearer political trends remains lacking. The character of fightback is still one that is marked by episodic flares of activity. This dynamic is not so dissimilar from what we saw, to give one example, last summer with the important protests to protect women’s reproductive rights. The occupation of the Texas state house was an inspiring moment and anyone who downplays its importance is missing the forest for the trees, but it was not followed up by a sustained upsurge in Texas or elsewhere.

The Sawant victory is another manifestation of this. The Sawant victory, and the subsequent opportunities noted in the IEC Convention document, should be seen as another indicator of the presence of an ideological opening for socialist ideas and the possibility of work around elections being fruitful avenues for these ideas. However our approach must be sharply differentiated from SAlt’s triumphalism and we should not see this as evidence that we ought to rush to run ISO candidates in many places, begin forming a new “broad” party in the near term, or that regroupment of the far left is the order of the day. The building of a genuine mass socialist party is something that requires forces larger than us, which will have to be created by sustained struggle and the practice of a whole period of united front-type engagements. Here, for instance, the long history and the enormous battles which have made Syriza possible (despite the tensions within it) are instructive. No one local election, however noteworthy, can mark a “historic” transformation of the balance of forces, as SAlt tends to explain Sawant’s city council race.

The election of Kshama Sawant was a significant win and Socialist Alternative should be congratulated for taking good initiative around a particular opening. Since the election, Sawant has operated quite well, projecting herself as a public figure, and being very savvy in front of a camera. The $15 movement in Seattle is certainly stronger because of her presence. Chris M’s May article in SW does an excellent job of analyzing the dynamics of SAlt’s work in the $15 campaign in Seattle and he is currently working on another which will explain SAlt’s decision to drop the “15 Now!” ballot initiative and to critically support the Seattle Mayor’s “15 by 2022” plan.

While we should certainly recognize the plan as a step forward, describing it as an “historic” victory, made possible by SAlt’s election campaign, both overstates the nature of the victory and wrongly describes SAlt’s actions as the “decisive” link in the chain that led to the compromise. This is not to say that their actions were inconsequential, far from it. But, the thousands of fast food workers who have risked their jobs by taking action, the SeaTac referendum, and Bay Area ballot initiatives sponsored by SEIU 1021 and others should not be understood as secondary, as SAlt’s analysis implies.[7] Furthermore, there is a legitimate question to ask as to why Sawant decided to cast her city council vote in favor of the mayor’s plan after all her amendments (to close the gaping pro-business holes in the plan which she had rightly denounced the week prior) were rejected.

Furthermore, while they were “energetically engaged in a debate within the labor movement”, their self-promotional style tended to alienate key left-wing allies in labor, civil rights and social movements and make the building of a genuine united front (as opposed to the SAlt-run 15Now! formation) possible. This is important because a genuine united front–not with the labor leaders who opposed a better 15 ballot, but with those who supported it, along with the other forces mentioned above–would have been the only way to build up a movement powerful enough to push the mayor and city council Democrats further towards a better compromise or to challenge them at the ballot box. As it was, SAlt’s strategy was good enough to get the mixed compromise, but not good enough to mobilize enough force to get something better. Hopefully, SAlt comrades and others in the movement will draw these lessons.

Next we will explore some of the political reasons behind SAlt’s relationship to other forces in the working-class movement, and, finally, its approach to handling relations with the ISO.

From 100 Candidates to 15 Now!

In November, SAlt called for 100 independent/green/labor candidates to run in the midterms. Throughout their publications they stressed the urgency of this task. Yet, two months later the “next step” of 100 candidates disappeared and the formation of $15 Now! appeared in its place. This was not based on a collaborative discussion with other forces in the movement (either in electoral or Fight for 15 terms), but was rather a decision SAlt made because they felt they could lead the 15 movement on a national basis and this would bring them maximum profile, out of which they believed they could grow to be an organization of more than 1,000 members by the end of 2014. The method carried out by SAlt does not seem focused on working with broad left and working-class forces (not to mention civil rights, women, LGBTQ, or immigrant rights organizations) in order to develop political relationships to create sustainable democratically run coalitions for elections or for social movements. SAlt’s self-description is that they are the tip of the spear and that they will win forces to follow them. As they wrote in April,

our recent growth shows the tremendous trajectory of Socialist Alternative…. We are also well-positioned to be the left wing of the coming move toward independent working-class politics.[8] [emphasis added]

This is not to deny that there is a great deal of interest in SAlt in the wake of Sawant’s victory, but disparity between their stated view of themselves and their forces is evidence of the need to reflect on the accuracy of their perspectives. This is important to note because this is not just “irrational exuberance” (which should be temporarily forgiven in the wake of Sawant’s very exciting win), but the logical and sustained extension of their politics. The triumphalism that exists throughout their publications and the heralding of the coming of a “new revolt” is not purely rhetoric. It is a perspective.

The Committee for a Workers International (CWI)–the version of the Fourth International to which SAlt is affiliated–maintains that Europe is in a “prerevolutionary situation” and that what is required now is “further experience through the formation of distinctive mass parties, accompanied by the strengthening of Marxism and a farsighted leadership.”[9] Thus the next step for the working class is the creation of a mass party, the concrete tasks of socialists today is a mass break from the Democrats. This triumphalism and exaggeration is writ large into their description of their electoral interventions, not just in the US, but internationally. For example, in South Africa, CWI’s tiny group ran in the elections and won 0.05% of the vote under the name Workers and Socialist Party. They touted this nonshowing, nonetheless, by writing “the low vote cannot erase the enormous strides that WASP has taken in its short existence in establishing key points of support amongst the working class. Our vote may have been low but it represented the most class conscious sections of the workers.”[10] The idea that SAlt’s co-thinkers in South Africa represent the “most class conscious sections of workers” would be laughable, if it weren’t so destructive. Not just to the left in general, but to the comrades in SAlt itself as it means that they are completely out of touch with South African reality and are importing that distortion into their work in the U.S.

SAlt see themselves as the ones providing the “leadership and Marxist programme” that will play an indispensable role in leading to a mass break from the Democrats. Therefore, working to build broader coalitions of real working-class and left forces (united fronts) is of secondary importance and trails behind in their strategic approach. This helps explain why, for example, they continually overestimate themselves, arguing with people to join SAlt because “our organization is uniquely positioned to challenge the two parties of big business from the left.”[11]

Another component of their exaggeration of the electoral tactic is rooted in their conception of revolution. Socialist transformation, to the CWI, is to be conducted either through revolution and workers councils (as the ISO would argue) OR through “a rapid and peaceful socialist transformation” of society. As Peter Taafe–leader of the CWI–argues: if a “Labor government were to nationalize 200 monopolies, banks and insurance companies…a decisive blow would be struck against these…firms who are the real government of Britain.”[12] He notes that with this, the bourgeoisie “would be compensated for the nationalisation for their assets.” These steps “would allow the introduction of a socialist and democratic plan of production to be worked out.” And thus “a peaceful socialist transition of society would be entirely possible if such bold steps were to be taken.”[13] For the CWI, socialism can be instituted by parliamentary means. This differs sharply from the necessity of a revolution-from-below to smash the state apparatus that Marx and Engels held central to their politics and that we in the ISO adhere to.

This view of the potential for a “peaceful fashion” of revolution, can lead them to downplay extra-parliamentary struggles against oppression as they see these issues as lying outside of what they would call unifying working-class demands. Note how little SAlt says about the anti-black racism that is so core to the issues that surround the economic inequality of the $15 demand and that serves as a key material and ideological plank in the reproduction of American capitalism. There are other differences (SAlt is against Boycott Divestment and Sanctions and is supportive of police unions for example) that will not be covered here but it is important for comrades to know them. (See S—‘s document on “Who Won In Seattle?” in PCB#9, January, 2014). The point of all this is to argue that SAlt’s actions flow from their deeply-held political views and it would be naive to discount the importance of the differences we hold over some of these critical questions.

SAlt and ISO

Nonetheless, these stated differences did not stop the ISO from approaching SAlt in the wake of Sawant’s win to discuss possible collaboration. As of now, the results have been mixed. In Seattle, our west coast organizer met with Sawant’s campaign manager twice and attempted to establish a formal system of communication between the ISO and SAlt in order to avoid miscommunication and facilitate a working relationship where possible. Unfortunately, SAlt failed to follow up on these meetings and there remains no formal means of communication between our two organizations. We hope that can be rectified. There are other examples of SAlt’s reticence to engage with the ISO. For instance, despite an offer by the west coast organizer to discuss the potential terms of bringing Sawant to speak in the Bay Area, SAlt has not followed up on this offer, nor did they communicate with the ISO branch in Portland when Sawant gave a public talk there. Nonetheless, ISO comrades in Portland supported the event and attended. In New York City SAlt and the ISO spoke together on a panel about independent electoral opportunities. However, when asked about the potential for future joint electoral work, it became clear that they are not interested in participating (at least for now) in any unified coalition of left forces to run candidates. Chicago appeared to be the exception to SAlt’s standoffishness as one of their members was one of the founders–with the ISO and a number of other groups– of the Chicago Socialist Campaign mentioned above. However their stance to this also shifted along with their national emphasis towards $15 Now as their Chicago member has now backed out of this work.

This sort of approach by SAlt is not isolated to the ISO, but extends to others as well. Their intervention in both the Labor Notes conference and the Left Forum relied heavily on propaganda and exhortation. And while Sawant spoke very well in both places and was warmly received, the vibe (for lack of a better word) that SAlt gives off is not one of patient collaboration, meaningful engagement and implantation, but of a sort of shallow impatience that does not resonate with experienced militants who have a better sense of the challenges than they do. Certainly, Sawant’s agitation and SAlt’s energy is welcome, but it remains an open question if they can learn to collaborate more effectively in the decades to come in the project of building a bigger and more coherent revolutionary left. This project is one which the ISO will remain committed to.

While it is certainly the case that we have and will continue to work with SAlt, how we do so is important. It remains to be seen if SAlt can overcome its sectarian tendencies and learn how to genuinely collaborate with other forces on the left. Their recent practice leaves something to be desired in this department, but the ISO should continue to collaborate where possible without trying to force unity where none exists. The ISO endorsed Sawant and attempted to collaborate with SAlt in Seattle on the 15 Now! campaign. Sawant agreed to speak at our invitation at the launch of the rank-and-file challenge in the Seattle teachers union elections and at a fundraiser for Hawkins/Jones at the Left Forum. However, SAlt does not see building any sort of ongoing alliance with the ISO as a priority and it would be naive on our part to ignore this. Rather than attempting to patch up some sort of unity for appearances’ sake, for instance, by hosting joint meetings or swapping speakers at national meetings (for instance, it didn’t occur to SAlt to invite a high-profile ISO speaker to share the platform in Seattle when they held their SAlt national conference…the very next day after the April 26 15 Now! conference), it is better to continue to attempt to establish a working means of communication between our two organizations. This sort of practical working relationship and collaboration, in place of the tendency of the left to cry “unity” where little exists, has always been our general method with respect to other groups on the left. It should continue to guide our approach in the future.

Towards Parties

Our stated goal is no different from Socialist Alternative’s. We are “dedicated to the project of creating a revolutionary workers’ party as a part of a worldwide movement for socialism.”[14] However we are going about this task in way that is different from SAlt’s approach. Our vision is not that the ISO will just become the revolutionary workers party when it reaches a certain size and we drop the “O” and add a “P.” The creation of real mass party of revolutionary workers will undoubtedly involve forces larger than us. Our work is in the creation and development of Marxist militants who are able be involved with those larger forces, movements and unions in order to weave the threads that will in the future pull sections of these forces into that thing that will be a party. Our work in unions with rank-and-file caucuses is part of that work. The battle in the CTU around the Independent Political Organization is part of that work. The work with System Change Not Climate Change and the leftward shift of the Green Party is part of that work. Our current experiments at building around the electoral opportunities (both explicitly socialist and not) are part of that work. All of this can be seen as developing the connections and organic leadership required to stitch together a framework of the creation of something larger. Undoubtedly struggle will be a key component as a sustained movement will have to be an infrastructural component; the catalyst for this thing to be forged. It is an important distinction that this is our method and that we do not see ourselves as the tip of the spear and demand that we be followed. Leadership is earned, not simply declared. And that takes building a capable organization of revolutionary socialists. We don’t build the ISO so that it will become a party. We build the ISO so that we can construct a party. This task is one that must be carried out with larger forces. Though regroupment may come about through that process, joining with groups smaller than ourselves is not the necessary precondition for that to occur. It is the building of the party that is the precondition for the possibility of actual unity, one that is a revolutionary unity bound in struggle as opposed to unity for the sake of unity, devoid of political character.

 b— (Chicago) and Todd C (Oakland)


1. Lance S, “The State of U.S. Politics,” Pre-Convention Bulletin #1, January 2, 2013.

2. Bryan Koulouris, “Seize the Opportunity for Independent Working-Class Politics!,” Socialist Alternative, November-December 2013.

3. Alan M, et al., “ISO and Elections 2014: ISO Elections Committee Report,” Pre-convention Bulletin #17, February 2, 2014.

4. Marilena Marchetti, “Declaring independence in Chicago,” Socialist Worker, January 14, 2014.

5. Oakland ISO, “A real alternative for mayor in Oakland,” Socialist Worker, May 13, 2014.

6. Brian Jones, “Offering New Yorkers a choice,” Socialist Worker, May 8, 2014.

7. “Victory for $15 in Seattle! How socialists built a winning movement,” Socialist Alternative, May 29, 2014.

8. Kelly Bellin, “Socialist Alternative growing rapidly,” Socialist Alternative, April 20, 2014.

9. Peter Taaffe, “Another year of mass struggles beckons,” Socialist World, December 31, 2013.

10. International Executive Committee of the Committee for a Workers’ International, “‘The world situation and tasks for the CWI’,” Socialist World, December 16, 2013;  Weizman Hamilton, “South Africa: Elections 2014,” Socialist World, May 9, 2014.

11. “Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative candidate in Seattle, is on pace to be elected to City Council,” Socialist Alternative, November 11, 2013.

12. Here it is important to note that he is not speaking about a “labor government” in a general sense but the British Labor Party.

13. From The State: A Warning to the Labour Movement (1983). Available online through

14. Preface to ISO rules and procedures, available in Rules Bulletin #1, October 2013.

8 thoughts on “ISO Internal Bulletin on elections, Fight for 15, and “triumphalist, sectarian” Socialist Alternative

  1. Are we to assume that the release of this document while the ISO national conference, Socialism 2014 is in session, is nothing more than a coincidence.

  2. Pingback: Sectarian Delusions on the American Left » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

  3. Pingback: The ISO versus Socialist Alternative | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

  4. Pingback: The ISO and the Democrats: Hear no evil, see no evil | to the victor go the toils

  5. Hey, you have misread the article quoted by you,
    “Another year of mass struggles beckons” 31/12/2013
    by Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party (CWI England & Wales).

    You farcically assert that “The Committee for a Workers International (CWI)–the version of the Fourth International to which SAlt is affiliated–maintains that Europe is in a “prerevolutionary situation” … “.

    On the contrary: Europe is NOT yet in a pre-revolutionary situation, but IS moving towards a pre-revolutionary situation.

    The above article makes clear that the (not yet factually-correct) quote “Europe in a pre-revolutionary situation” is actually made by “The British populist demagogic – and largely right-wing – commentator, Nick Cohen, from the Observer newspaper”, when he says “Today’s crisis has left Europe in a pre-revolutionary situation”.

    An apology from you is in order, don’t you think?

    Plenty more absurdities in your article — unfortunately, no time at present to address them.

    Your article’s sniggering subsection “From 100 Candidates to 15 Now!” is devoid of sense.
    The goal of having hundreds of working-class candidates, independent of and in opposition to the bosses’ Republican and Democrat parties, run in elections; and the goal of building $15Now to become the mass political party of the working class throughout the country, in battle against those self-same bosses’ parties: how can you possibly counterpose the one goal against the other?
    On the contrary: those two aims nourish each other.

    The choice before ISO is both stark and clear:
    Do you want to just wave a little red flag from the fringes of the working class movement and consign yourselves to irrelevance?
    Or do you want to join $15Now, as full and equal organizational members thereof, with full mutual freedom of discussion, criticism and action — so we the working-class can make history together?

    Dump the Elephant, Dump the Ass! Build a Party of the Working Class!

  6. Hey, if it’s not clear to you, just to make clear: your anger appears to be (rightfully) directed at the ISO. The people who run this website were expelled from the ISO back in February. I suggest you contact the ISO directly to take up the issue. They’re not likely to listen to us at this point. Good luck.

    • Hi “riredteacher”,

      Thank you very much for the information — your expulsion by the ISO misleadership is an outrageous betrayal by them of Leninist democratic centralism.

      It would be great if you and your comrades hold discussions with the Socialist Alternative comrades.
      In any case there surely is enough agreement for you and your comrades to — organizationally, while fully preserving your organizational identity — join $15Now.
      Together let’s take on the capitalists’ snake-oil salesmen and their Republican-Democrat two-headed snake!

      Dump the Elephant, Dump the Ass! Build a Party of the Working Class!

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