We are forty years into that phase of capitalism that those in economic and radical circles know as “neoliberalism.” Margaret Thatcher famously defined it as “There Is No Alternative.” No alternative, that is, to the free market, the free flow of capital.
In brief: the last forty years have seen a massive push by the capitalist classes of the world to privatize, deregulate, capitalize, deunionize, undemocratize. Many books have been written about this process, wherein the US working class has lost 20 per cent of its purchasing power, while union density has dropped from 28% to 12%; wherein the world is now, for the first time in history, more than 50 per cent proletarian; wherein all the old certainties about economics, politics and society are now dead. Consciousness lags behind the course of material changes, so perhaps we should not be surprised that so many, particularly of the older generation, view all of this as a loss of what was a golden age, and cling so doggedly to notions that are now simply a lost cause.
A recurring complaint of the Renewal Faction, and before that me personally, regarding the political method of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) was that the group rarely assessed its own activity. It seemed, therefore, that it would be gauche for me not to attempt an assessment of the faction itself. I should stress that these are my views as an individual on questions that were more often than not disputed within Renewal itself–the ISO leadership faction’s image of us as a clique ruled by one person (me) notwithstanding. I think other Renewal comrades would (and should!) produce different assessments.
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.
[I began writing this during Convention, but the Renewal Faction’s exclusion from Convention, followed two days later by our expulsion from the ISO, led me to abandon it. However, as it contains some possibly useful considerations of a general nature, plus some possibly funny jokes, I’ve decided to publish it, in spite of its incompleteness and abrupt ending. –SJ]
The “Organizational Perspectives” of the Steering Committee appear in Pre-Convention Bulletin (PCB) #27, which was promulgated to the International Socialist Organization (ISO) membership–and dozens of others who happen to be on an “internal” list–on 14 February 2014 at 6:31PM. The Convention began the next morning; that is, the Convention is expected to pass judgement on a document that it will have seen just the night before. Or if you want the real truth: it is not expected to pass judgement on the document. It is expected to accept it.
(For anyone that wants the short version of this document, feel free to skip to the Lies and Accusations section at the end of the document to read a summary of what I’ve been accused of by the ISO Steering Committee and my responses.)
This document goes into detail about my activity in the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and includes examples of how the organizational culture created by the leadership faction leads to comrades being ostracized, bullied, pushed out, slandered, and expelled for having disagreements, even when those disagreements are within the boundaries of the ISO’s politics.
At last year’s convention, many members recoiled in horror at the complete mishandling of the allegations of sexual assault brought against “Comrade Delta,” a leading member of the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP). It was at this same convention that comrades discussed the case of an activist in Boston who had recently been accused of multiple cases of sexual assault. What the majority of those in attendance at the 2013 Convention did not know was that at least one member of the ISO’s Steering Committee had heard similar reports of sexual misconduct from a long-standing member in “Xville” six months prior.
The existence of these allegations emerged just over a week ago in a document included in Pre-Convention Bulletin #19. The authors of the document, “Addressing Allegations of Sexual Misconduct Made Against Members of the ISO,” argue that the current procedures of the organization do not go far enough in seriously addressing issues of sexual harassment, assault, or other forms of intimate violence. While we in the ISO Renewal Faction agree with that conclusion, when presented alone it is, at best, myopic in its understanding of the organizational dynamics that allowed a much-liked, long-term member to remain a member and elected leader of the organization a year after the allegations of the assault first emerged.
According to the Xville document, “Daniel” (the pseudonym the Xville comrades use) was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in July 2012. Though several members of the branch, including those on Branch Committee (BC), knew about the allegations, they wouldn’t become public knowledge until the following year, when an activist mentioned the case on Facebook in July 2013. Then, and only then, did this become an official branch matter.
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.
To all my comrades both inside and outside the ISO:
This letter is intended to announce my resignation from the International Socialist Organization. This decision has been prompted by my experience in the months since I first publicly expressed my support for the ISO Renewal Faction late last year. To summarize in brief, as a result of my endorsement of the Faction, I’ve been effectively isolated and iced out of both the Atlanta branch and the national organization as a whole. This has made it all but impossible to continue my involvement within the group.
In addition to this, my experience within the Atlanta branch–which, I should note, closely parallels and interlocks with that of my comrades in the ISO Renewal Faction–has led me to question the viability of the ISO as a vehicle for revolutionary Marxist politics. In sum, I’ve come to doubt the ability of the ISO to fulfill its stated purpose of “playing a role in laying the foundation for a [revolutionary socialist party].” Despite this conclusion, I remain as dedicated as ever to the politics of revolutionary Marxism and socialism from below.
The Center for Economic Research and Social Change (CERSC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization legally independent of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), but to which ISO members have contributed significant time, money, and talent. The success of CERSC, especially its Haymarket Books project, is due in great part to ISO members. Some of us in the Renewal Faction, for example, have supported CERSC since its foundation in 2000. We have a sense of investment in the nonprofit, and consequently a sense that we ought to understand and influence its direction, especially as it intersects with the life of the ISO.
Through our experiences and a study of the publicly-available information about the finances of CERSC (available here), we have become concerned that the development of the nonprofit may be a force tending to undermine democratic accountability and control in the ISO. It occurs to us that the membership of the ISO ought to know much more about CERSC and the relationship between the ISO and CERSC given the contribution that the former makes to the latter. This document therefore poses a series of questions about the leadership, finances, and apparatus of the nonprofit. It concludes with further considerations of the importance of the questions we raise in the general context of the left today.
This document is based overwhelmingly on material available to the public–most of it filed with the state and/or federal government. In the rare instances where we use internal material, it is redacted for external publication.
[The following amendments were submitted to the internal bulletin as amendments to a larger proposal from the Rules Commission established at Convention 2013. As the Commission proposal is an internal document, our amendments are presented here relative to the current ISO Rules and Procedures.]
The five proposals below are submitted by the ISO Renewal Faction for consideration at the National Convention.