Le cadre du militant socialiste

Recently, while giving a final exam in one of my French classes, a student raised her hand to ask about the meaning of a word in the reading, a passage on changes in the workplace in France since 1975. “What does ‘cadre’ mean?” Naturally, as an American, she pronounced it as any American socialist would: “KAH-dray”, rather than the French “kɑdʀ”. Given the context of the classroom, and wanting to speed the exam along without getting hung up on simple vocabulary needs, I naturally responded: “Manager”. But I had to stop and chuckle to myself.

You see, I was recently expelled from an organization that had as one of its stated goals to train a socialist “cadre” in preparation for a future (or present?) mass radicalization that would bring about the formation of a mass revolutionary party, to which we would contribute our “cadres”. While the faction of which I was a part developed critiques of many aspects of said organization, what I found increasingly troubling was the difference between the stated (or implied) conception of what socialist militants should be doing, and the reality of what the leadership thought (and thus, directed into reality).

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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.]


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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A reply to two arguments against the faction

In response to our faction not being legitimate because it is open to members that have been bureaucratically excluded:

The problem is that not including bureaucratically excluded members would mean accepting the Steering Committee’s (SC) exclusion of Shaun J, which has been little more than them not wanting him to be in the organization but also not expelling him. No satisfactory reasons have been given for this.

Back on October 6, the response of the SC to the appeal for Shaun was that the idea of reinstatement didn’t make sense because Shaun had left out of his own volition, and thus it wasn’t up to them.

Shaun, along with another member that had resigned, were allowed to rejoin the branch in Cambridge. After that it was deemed that Shaun was not a member by Ahmed S, who was acting as a representative of the SC. The SCs letter to Boston after Ahmed’s visit does not explain why Shaun is not a member (except vague references to his having left in a splash and having agreed with external critiques). To see more on the exchange, see here.

If we want to get technical, there are currently no rules on how factions should or shouldn’t be composed (there is only a proposal by the Rules Committee, to be voted by this convention), but on the other hand, the SC has effectively excluded Shaun without going through any of the appealable procedures mentioned in the rules (suspension, censure, expulsion). It seems kind of bizarre to consider those grounds for not including someone that has been crucial for the conversations that created these documents, which are being widely discussed and debated in the organization.

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In defense of our comrades

The ISO Renewal Faction affirms that Shaun J (Cambridge, MA) and Vanessa B (Washington, DC) are members in good standing of the ISO, with all the rights and responsibilities thereof. They have been excluded from membership, in violation of our Rules and established practice, by the Steering Committee. We reject these bureaucratic maneuvers and call on all members to recognize and defend the status of our comrades. We appeal to Convention to clarify the situation by reaffirming that Shaun and Vanessa are members in good standing.

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