Assessing the Year-Long Inaction Regarding Charges of Sexual Violence in the ISO (Updated)

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.

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A new publication policy

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.

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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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Who crossed what line? A response to the ISO Steering Committee

[In the January 24, 2014 edition of the ISO Notes, the ISO Steering Committee (SC) calls on the Renewal Faction to repudiate an on-line comment of Shaun J., a member of the faction, as this comment “crossed the line,” in the estimation of the SC.  As the ISO Notes are an internal document, we will not publish the text here, in conformity with the faction’s policy on publication of ISO internal documents. But as the SC has refused to publish Shaun’s response to attacks on him by ISO members in the ISO’s internal publications, we publish the faction’s response here.  This response has also been submitted to the ISO’s internal publications.]

The ISO Renewal Faction rejects the Steering Committee’s demand that we repudiate Shaun J. for his comment on Facebook. We see this as a diversion, yet another attempt by the SC to delegitimize the faction’s existence so as to avoid having to engage directly and honestly with the political questions the faction is raising. However, we believe this incident does highlight some key political questions that are worth examination.

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The experience of a “dissident” in the ISO (I): The Trial

[Prefatory note from the Renewal Faction Committee. The following document was submitted by Shaun J to the ISO Pre-Convention Bulletin on December 23. As of January 10, he has not received even an acknowledgement of receipt; therefore we are publishing it on External Bulletin. Although it contains internal material that we normally would not publish, we cannot deny Shaun the right to reply to the misleading document “Boston Response to ‘Appeal for Shaun,'” which makes a number of attacks on him personally.  Any blame for the publication of internal material lies entirely with the ISO Steering Committee, which should have published his reply in the Pre-Convention Bulletin.]

Introduction

This is a reply to the “Boston Response to ‘Appeal for Shaun J’” signed by some members of the Dorchester branch of the ISO. The “Response” is basically dishonest, and on occasion overtly lying about events with which at least some signatories are completely familiar. In order to demonstrate this, I will present documentary evidence and name all sources of information whenever possible. All documentary evidence has, furthermore, been available to the Center since October 6 or earlier.

In order to make my reply manageable, I have broken it into installments. This, the first installment, will deal with the question of my trial against false charges brought by the state, and how the leading members of the Boston district failed to prioritize my defense.

Before going on, however, I should explain why I am writing this lengthy reply. It is not because I enjoy going over this material; it is, in fact, very painful, and I should prefer to leave it all behind me in order to discuss political ideas. But ideas do not come out of nowhere, nor emanate disembodied from the Conjuncture; they are developed by people, by concrete individuals. It is no coincidence that my experience in the ISO became steadily worse as I persisted in my criticism of the group’s perspectives. This document is therefore also a kind of warning to comrades: to either act to reverse the degeneration of the organization’s political culture; to commit yourselves, in advance and permanently, to agree with whatever the leadership says; or to quit.

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