Letter of resignation from the ISO: Ben S (Atlanta)

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.

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Questions and concerns about the ISO and CERSC (Unredacted)

[Unredacted as of 12 February 2014; see our revised publication policy.]

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.

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Proposed Amendments to ISO Rules and Procedures

[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.

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What is the crime? To publish internal documents–or to criticize them?

A common “charge” against the ISO Renewal Faction–popular with the leadership faction especially, as it avoids engaging in politics–is that we have not respected the organization’s Pre-Convention process inasmuch as we have published internal documents. But in fact the faction has not published anything that can be credibly interpreted as internal, as Nurit T has explained.

The leadership faction has an amusing rejoinder to this: they consider it an offense to publish anything submitted to the Pre-Convention Bulletin, including our own writings. This (improvised) “norm” is said to apply even if we redact all internal material. Continue reading

A guide to bad arguments and distractions

One of the elements of the degeneration of our democratic structures has been an infestation of distractions and bad arguments, sometimes called logical fallacies, that have all too often replaced reasoned debate. If we are to renew our democratic culture, we need to recognize these problems in both other comrades’ arguments and our own. It must be emphasized that while this document was written in preparation for debate around the ISO Renewal Faction criticisms, most of the these have been going around for years, and they aren’t acceptable in any debate.

  1. That’s not Leninist
  2. That’s anarchist
  3. That’s anti-leadership
  4. The ISO is under attack!
  5. These criticisms should have been brought up earlier
  6. This is the wrong way to bring these issues up
  7. They’re on their way out of the ISO
  8. Why should we care, they’re just ex-members
  9. They want to destroy the ISO!
  10. Of course they would say that, they’re middle class
  11. Here’s a list of exciting things!
  12. That’s factionalizing
  13. Other problems

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A note on the Faction Rules

Several comrades have asked why the Faction Rules are so strongly centralistic, with so much decision-making power invested in the Faction Committee. This is a good question that reflects some real shortcomings in our current approach; but also demonstrates some misunderstanding of what the faction is trying to do.

Let’s start with the latter point. It should be kept in mind that we are a faction within a larger organization–not a new organization. As our Organizational Perspectives make clear, we advocate a far more democratic and less centralized regime within the ISO, which flows out of our understanding of the conjuncture. However, in order to fight for our views, we felt that it was necessary to organize ourselves in a very disciplined way.

We emphasize the necessity of a fight precisely because of the ways in which we have seen the leadership increasingly act to undermine our political positions by way of maneuvers, and to use that same method of bureaucratic maneuver to exclude members with critical views from the ISO. Comrades need to understand that an argument over the political direction of the organization is not a simple matter of the exchange of differing views, eventually reconciled through detached reflection. It is in fact a struggle over the character of our intervention in the class struggle. Our leadership self-consciously (and wrongly) acts as a permanent faction for its own preservation; we refuse to close our eyes to these facts.

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