Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 4, 2019

Notes on the Dissolution of the ISO

Filed under: Counterpunch,ISO — louisproyect @ 12:53 pm


During 2013 and 2014, a rift opened up in the International Socialist Organization (ISO) over the results of a rape investigation that some members found to be little more than a cover-up. The Socialist Workers Party in England, which had played a major role in the formation of the ISO, was also convulsed over a sexual attack and cover-up around the same time. Both groups suffered defections but the British fared much worse, with perhaps half the membership jumping ship. In the USA, the ISO had fewer losses but the cover-up resurfaced again this year when a letter to their 2019 convention precipitated a new investigation into the events of six years ago. This time, the members voted to remove those who had covered up for the perpetrator in the name of “due process” and begin a soul-searching self-examination that led to a startling conclusion. The ISO, which is the largest group in the USA that defines itself as “Leninist”, has just voted to dissolve itself. To get a handle on this turn of events, I urge you to see the items posted to their website.

In both the case of the ISO and the SWP, the sexual attack triggered a discussion over whether the “Leninism” that both groups swore by might have led to a cover-up. SWP leader Alex Callinicos, who only referred euphemistically to a “difficult disciplinary case” in a February 2013 article titled “Is Leninism Finished”, argued that it was their model of democratic centralism that allowed the SWP “to concentrate our forces on key objectives, and thereby to build so effectively the various united fronts we have supported.” Instead, the combination of a cover-up and fetishized Bolshevik norms have cost the SWP both members and influence as it staggers along just like the American SWP that has a much more advanced case of political dementia.

Richard Seymour, who was one of the best known and best respected SWP members, would have none of Callinicos’s hooey. In an reply titled “Is Zinovievism Finished”, Richard wrote:

The model operated currently by the SWP is not that of the Bolshevik revolution. It is a version of the Zinovievite model adopted during the period of “Bolshevisation” in the mid-1920s and then honed by ever smaller and more marginal groups. When Alex implies that somehow we have developed a ‘distilled’ version of Bolshevik democratic centralism he is not holding to the tradition of October: it is asking us to choose the model that has led to three of the most serious crises in the SWP’s history in quick succession over the model that actually did lead the October revolution.

I had my own reply to Callinicos in an article titled “Leninism is finished: a reply to Alex Callinicos” that made essentially the same points as Richard Seymour except with some added observations on how such an organizational method leads to intellectual and political monolithism:

Discipline has meant enforcing ideological conformity. For example, it would be virtually impossible for SWP members in Britain to take a position on Cuba identical to the American SWP’s and vice versa. As it turns out, this is a moot point since most members become indoctrinated through lectures and classes after joining the groups and tend to toe the line, often responding to peer pressure and the faith that their party leaders must know what is right.

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  1. Why don’t you do the working class a favor and actually describe in details what occurred on 2013 in the ISO regarding this #METOO rape? Why were there no criminal charges by the victim? What were the internal party processes that actually occurred? According to SEP there was an attempt to adjudicate this crime within the party but the victim apparently did not cooperate? While I find SEP blanket protection of the likes of a Woody Allen obscene, they do have a point, witch hunts are no substitute for a fair due process. I place no faith in the capitalist justice system or any other part of the capitalist system. So it is up to the progressive community to gather the facts at least. Maybe in the future we will be able to deliver some substance resembling justice.

    There is no understanding of what’s wrong with these sectarian Stalinist parties that use Trotsky as a fig leaf to cover up the class which dominates every one of these parties, with out talking about class composition of these parties. Like Groucho Marx once said, “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member”. I consider this the Hippocratic oath for any progressive petty bourgeois regarding a working class institution. Exceptions abound but this easily corruptible and morally weak class has wrecked every party and revolution it joined and took over leadership of, including the Bolsheviks.

    The just having something “big” theory of political theory works well only for frustrated and poorly endowed teenage boys. But broad based social movements have existed in the past and still exist. They prove only to replicated all the that is wrong with little sectarian parties on steroids. The ongoing tragedy or farce of the Syriza movement/party is more then enough evidence to put your stupid and poorly thought out idea to rest.

    You have a centralized organization to protect it from a very rigorous, ruthless and brutal police state trying to destroy it by any means necessary.

    We must build a space in which to organize. But this means educating people first of this very vital issue. WE LIVE IN A POLICE STATE. Everything is monitored and executions executed on a regular basis all covered up by plausible deniability. That’s were you and your comrades at counterpunch jump in. With your lesser of two evilism and pissing on even the least resistance performed by very confused but honest and courageous people in the Antifa and Black nationalist movements.

    We need to fight physically and NOT METAPHORICALLY for this space. We must build institutions which deliver the requires justice that keeps agent provocateurs from destroying entire parties like the ISO without firing a shot. Those two girls/agent provocateurs that put Assange in solitary confinement for years are a perfect metaphor for how impotent and useless you liberals are even when it comes to protecting one of your own!

    But you and the rest of counterpunch are just a bunch of wind bags who make a comfortable living whining, nagging and diverting the working class from offering a effective resistance to their increasing powerful enslavement. In another generation or so AI will make any kind of resistance academic. The Capitalist Skynet will start another World War like they have already done twice to mow the grass/Working class. Only World War III will just eliminate the entire Working class as AI is replacing the very need for the Working class. Earth will be populated solely by lusty plutocrats, insane scientists and their AI machines.

    By the way, no need for the vast majority of your beloved petty bourgeois, either! No more workers to mislead and deceive!

    I cannot wait for your pithy sneering reply. Only try to make them a little more entertaining. You are a professional writer. While I am just a poor old worker.

    Comment by Richard Allen — April 4, 2019 @ 2:01 pm

  2. The Capitalist Skynet will start another World War like they have already done twice to mow the grass/Working class.

    I hold out hope that the Terminator can save us. I am sending Arnold Schwarzenegger a copy of Marx’s Grundrisse to help orient him.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 4, 2019 @ 2:08 pm

  3. Thoughtful article, Louis.

    Comment by Kurt Hill — April 4, 2019 @ 4:07 pm

  4. […] there is plenty of discussion around this development among the usual suspects, with much debate over whether it represents the final exhaustion of the Leninist model or if in fact the democratic […]

    Pingback by On the Dissolution of the ISO – NeoPopulism — April 4, 2019 @ 5:12 pm

  5. In the recent debate in the ISO over what orientation to have towards the DSA and the Democratic Party (of which the former is a de facto faction of), the ousted “old guard” leadership and its supporters upheld a position for class independence, i.e., no support to a capitalist party and its candidates. Most of the newer participants in this discussion, no doubt dazzled by the rapid growth and ballot box success stories of the DSA, were the most open to trying to “takeover” the Dems and get behind hipster “socialists” like AOC. It’s hard to believe that a question like this, probably the cutting edge issue of left wing politics in the USA today, was not at the center of the ISO’s demise despite all the hype being generated by a rape that took place six years ago. Having opportunistically tailed after identity politics and political correctness (in the same way that they they tailed after Brand Obama’s internet “mass movement” in 2008), its hardly surprising that people weaned on that kind of stuff would turn around and use it against the same leadership that promoted it in the first place.

    Comment by Roy Rollin — April 4, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

  6. There’s much to be said, obviously, but I just wanted to state something that should be known: The SWP (the US “party,” of Jack Barnes) covered up a rape by a leading party member in 1995. Actually, the rapist was not yet a national “leader”: he rose higher in the ranks in subsequent years, and is still some sort of “leader,” who is put forward as a candidates in electoral campaigns. Barnes’s handling of the case, aided by loyal functionaries like Norton Sandler, could hardly have been worse: a textbook example of blaming the victim and instinctually sympathizing with the rapist. One of many such episodes that contributed to the decline of this group, that in recent years has come to resemble LaRouche’s groups. The SWP is now a genuine rightist organization, to the degree it exists; its principal function is fund-raising, to maintain two or three individuals, but in its meager publishing efforts, it espouses its respect and admiration for Trump and for the Bundy family. Its decline goes back a very long way, but by the ’90s a leadership cult was well-entrenched, and Barnes could say anything — in this case, “the so-called victim was actually the provocateur and should be banished” — and the members would automatically raise their hands in agreement. This particular case was actually far worse than I can describe in a few minutes, but I’ve tried to describe it at other times over the last 20 years and no one seemed to be interested.

    Comment by Joan Little — April 5, 2019 @ 2:58 am

  7. I place no faith in the capitalist justice system or any other part of the capitalist system.

    That being the case, why do you criticize the victim for not filing criminal charges ? Perhaps she shares your sentiment.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — April 5, 2019 @ 2:23 pm

  8. You have a centralized organization to protect it from a very rigorous, ruthless and brutal police state trying to destroy it by any means necessary.

    It’s disturbing that thus far few seem to be focusing (rationally) on mass organization for safety. The nature of “centralized” needs to be discussed, but it’s clear that networks of activist cliques and affinity groups as in Occupy–let alone Jacobin discussion groups and DSA factions–do not have the potential for providing safety in the Trumpocalypse that seems to be looming (Trump himself of course being completely fungible and ephemeral). Without a sense of safety (=solidarity, safety in numbers with strategy and tactics) people may lack courage and purpose.

    NB: The statement quoted does not IMO represent the status quo in the USA at present–police are shooting people of color at a record rate for being colored, but at present they seem to be laughing at self-denominated socialists. To be sure, the oppressor function of the police is obvious in any “gentrifying” community to those whose eyes are open … This is not what Allen seems to be talking about, but … . Besides the organization has to put forward a program and strategy that go well beyond protection — “taking up the gun” a fantasy … .

    It’s still too bad that Allen’s statements sound so nutty and incoherent as stated–there’s an important issue here that socialists may not be addressing. It isn’t only forging a correct line that matters, but forming as it were brigades that can maneuver strategically and provide a reliable presence in peoples’ lives when electoral politics turn nasty and the sellout “centrists” lose and go home to nurture their stock portfolios. Those people can afford to wait decades until another Sanders appears briefly on the horizon.

    Armed insurrection is a pointless fantasy–“organization to protect” is a good idea … .

    Well, unlike Louis and many others, I’ve never organized a damn thing. So maybe I’m out of my depth.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — April 5, 2019 @ 3:41 pm

  9. “In fact, the DSA is the kind of organization that is needed today because its “big tent” approach allows for people with variegated ideological predispositions to join and become actively involved with all sorts of struggles. Unfortunately, its pro-Democratic Party orientation prevents me from recommending it.”

    This is an incredibly odd statement. Perhaps the author is not aware the Socialist Party of America of the great Eugene V. Debs which broke apart in the 60s into two camps. The DSA and the SP-USA over whether or not we should cooperate with the Democratic party especially at the time concerning the Vietnam conflict. Today both the DSA and the SP-USA are very much active but thanks to the fortunate rebranding of the term “democratic socialism” by a certain US Senator, the DSA has benefited numerically with middle class champagne socialists 1) because they are willing to work with and within the Democratic Party and 2) because of Saint Bernie of the Bourgeois. I would like to point out that the SP-USA remains committed to being a multi-tendency anti-capitalist party. We have Leninists, Maoists, anarchists and everybody in between. Why doesn’t the author endorse or recommend the SP-USA’s as a party with a “big tent” approach who refuses to work with the Democrats or Republicans. Our party is growing every month, new locals are being added, and several more are actively organizing. The ISO’s dissolution is tragic in the sense that it weakens the Left but there are parties out there who remain committed to the establishment of socialism. I understand that some of our “scientific” comrades may feel uneasy in a party that doesn’t operate on the principles of democratic centralism but then again here we are and the ISO is no more. Does the SP_USA have its issues- of course, what human institution does not have issues. Still, I would hope the author could understand that there is more than just the DSA that claims its legacy from the ashes of America’s great socialist legacy.

    Comment by Claudius Fabious — April 5, 2019 @ 7:06 pm

  10. I am by no means opposed to the SP-USA and counted David McReynolds as a good friend. It is just that my orientation now is to a loose network of socialist groups like the kind the Philly Socialists are part of. I would like to think that at some point they, you, Solidarity and the remnants of the ISO can all be part of a broad leftwing current.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 5, 2019 @ 7:15 pm

  11. Dear Mr Kalosar thank you for offering me some respect, that these people who you automatically and unreservedly defer to, only ridicule. I only happen to be 60 years old worker who has done his politics completed funded from his own labor on his own time and is now broken in health). You would think that this alone would deserve a patient listening to. We are living in most desperate and dangerous era ever known to Humanity. Respective nuclear subs sitting a few miles off the coast more than prepared to eliminate the Human species in less than 5 minutes. So I can be forgiven not to be patient or polite when I hear the same bullshit that I have been hearing for the last 40 years,

    I consider ridicule something which is beneath the profanity thrown at me by the likes of a Paul Street or Glen Ford of the African Agenda report. I can at least respect class hatred of the middle class towards the working class. You claim that, ” I’ve never organized a damn thing. So maybe I’m out of my depth.” But collectively over the ENTIRE SPECTRUM OF SO CALLED PROGRESSIVES what the hell have they organized? Books, speeches, websites, etc… The best of them like ANSWER/WWP actually organized marches or protests that have a physical nature or like Meda Benjamin who gets manhandled in some act of civil disobedience. I have far more respect for these physical organizers then these website working class heroes. What is common to all of these heroes is their respective whining, nagging and misleading. Which is a full time and life time profitable profession. Michael Moore has earned $50 million, Chomsky $2 million, Amy Goodman $10 million, etc… Louis can tell you what his Albino pay master pays him!!! After decades of failure and things have gotten much worse than before. These snake oil salesman offer more of the same. They have been around for so long and there is so much turnover in the activist community, that these people have gotten away with their consistent record of Marxian phrase dropping, red baiting, castrating pacifism and demoralization. Whether they call themselves Democratic Socialists, Black Nationalists, EcoSocialists, FemiSocialists, etc… they all play whack-a-mole reformism. They are given plenty of space by the Capitalist ruling class as they are doing a tremendous service at dividing the working class, wasting its precious time and resources.

    After years of working with these bastards, I actually said the hell with it. I just go and try to organize a WalMart by myself and literally begged these heroic comrades to lend a hand. After a year of unloading trucks, I broke my shoulders and I was let go until my shoulders healed. No one bother to come by the WalMart to see if my efforts made any headway. Even a Louis like sneer would have been appreciated. Of course the workers I was organizing kept asking were all these great comrades. It was all so embarrassing. I particularly resent those well educated liberals who call themselves Marxists

    But finally I learn who I was dealing with as in Milton’s Paradise Lost these petty bourgeois prefer to, “better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven”. NO ONE is organizing the Working Class in the US or Venezuela where I spent 7 years in the barrios of Caracas, (unions in Venezuela have no more independence than those in the US, Note of course that I still support the Venezuelan masses from this US imperialist attack. I just believe that eventually the Chavistas will just sell out, just as the rest of those morally degenerate petty bourgeois around South American have already done. The middle class is just not to be trusted). This class of progressive intellectuals are being paid to disorganize the Working class. They are very well educated. They can quote verses from every revolutionary document in History and many, most have never heard of.

    If all these swine quit their easy and very safe day job and just joined Walmart there would be many stores unionized en-masse. To this day not a dam store none of which has anything like the population of old GM auto factory, many of which have only a couple of hundred employees. And yet we are supposed to believe the fiction that they can’t be organized by billions of dollars unions that act more like insurance companies then unions. Maybe if the ISO were not just recruiting son-in-laws of multi-millionaire like Sharkey in EXISTING UNIONs. Then the unorganized might have a union as well. Hell didn’t Bernie just organize his own staff in a phony union.

    Over at the overly educated cabal or inteligencia at counter punch might have figure out the union organizing problem after the many decades of all of them being around, studying, pontificating and writing tomes. If we can’t organize 20 workers at your local McDonald, why the hell are you talking about vast social movements and reformist parties. It is easy to preach “pie in the sky when you die”, this is a well proven technique used theologians for thousands of years to enslave chattel slaves or wage slaves like today.

    Our water, air and food are poisonous. The American gulag make Uncle Joe Stalin’s gulag like a holiday. Anal rape has become a national joke We are in permanent state of wars, which kill millions. Yet you still want to play “whack-a-mole” reformism , lesser to evilism, still working on long range plan of revolution after EDUCATING THE MASSES, etc.. !!!

    I let you in on a SECRET, IF YOU ARE NOT A REVOLUTIONARY TODAY YOU NEVER WILL BE!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are what you do!!

    PS: if you want to read the names of those killed by the police lookup, killedbypolice.net, there is at least 1 name per day for as many years as have been documented in the website. This database is by no means complete, only those which have been documented by the activist community. Organizations like the FBI has stated that they have no need to document their victims. There are millions of private security as well as. No one is documenting their mayhem either.

    If you are waiting for another F-35 loving Democratic party collaborator, riding a $200,000 Golden parachute and multi-million book dollar payoff for endorsing an Wall Street Clintonite you will not have to wait long!!!

    If you research my allegations you would not not find them so nutty. Do your own thinking, stopping looking to a professional like Louis to do your research and thinking for you.

    Comment by Richard Allen — April 6, 2019 @ 7:23 pm

  12. Hey Mr SP-USA,

    One of your leaders, “Stephanie Cholensky”, made the following statement:

    “It is not faith in democracy and the constitution that is waning. Americans lack faith in their elected representatives, and for good reason. For every person who can’t find a job, or who works full time and can’t make ends meet, and for the growing majority of Americans that identify themselves as independent voters, I see a potential member. We cannot allow this opportunity to slip through our hands!”

    This sounds like a marketing slogan. Particularly manipulative sounding is the ” cannot allow this opportunity to slip through our hands!”, the exclamation point being her own.

    It appears she has faith in the US “democracy and the constitution”. She does not have the intellectual integrity to add US but will anyone deny she is talking the the US variation. Charles Beard” in his magnus opus over a hundred years ago , “Economic Interpretation of the American Constitution” put to rest the fiction of democracy and the real intentions of our slave owning founding fathers and their personalized Constitution. Mr Beard was not a Marxist, only a far more honest variation of a liberal then what we suffer from.

    No where on the SP web site will you find anything but reformist pablum. Not a word about even the possibility of a need for a revolution if things got worse, as if things could get much worst.

    There is no democracy in the US not even a bourgeois democracy like that European working class suffer from. The US ruling class obeys none of their own laws which is very definition of a bourgeois democracy. They have even murdered one of their own who serving as a president when he veered an inch to the Left, i.e. JFK. The US is a banana republic in every sense as that former lawyer for Chiquita banana or United Fruit Allen Dulles amply demonstrated.

    No were can I find in the Socialist party extensive literature or history a clear description of the class struggle which is what all of what ails us, is all about. The Socialist party has a particularly infamous history even in the Eugene Debs period where the great man complains of not being able to eradicate racism in the southern sections of the party. Look for yourself how the party collaborated with the CIA, FBI , etc… during the COLD WAR. If there is any party that deserves to be in the dustbin of history it is your party. It is a shame that Liberal Imperialists like the Lannan foundation itself capitalized by ITT’s NAZI Germany submarine factories and famous for assisting inn the violent overthrow of the Don Quixote Allende regime believe in recycling old trash like the Socialist party in all their many flavors.

    PS: Louis, your friends indict and expose you!

    Comment by Richard Allen — April 6, 2019 @ 8:10 pm

  13. Kalosar,

    Not only do I criticize the victim but all involved as well. It is all of our duty to expose the injustice of the capitalist system by precisely attempting to seek justice in the system and revealing how it does not exist. She should have also given an opportunity for the internal processes of the ISO to fail as well and then exposed that injustice. Then it becomes our duty to win justice for her.

    Turning into a WMD that destroys an entire political organization for the benefit of even worst organization further to the right is not the justice that she deserved or earned, even if it was proven that she was raped. Collective suicide is not the answer, as what the so called vote to dissolve the party accomplished. I have serious doubts about the democratic nature of the vote. I suspect it was more a vote of those who held the purse strings of the party.

    Let me ask you what if she is a agent provocateur and she was not raped? Like those 2 women who accused Assange of sexual misbehavior. Both friends, with the second a week after the first. One of which went to Cuba to attack the failed revolution from the right. False rape accusations are no different then McCarthy red baiting or the Salem witchcraft trials. The capitalist system puts an obscene number of barriers between humanities sexual relations. For the specific purpose of monopolizing, commodifying and profiting from this most intimate of human relations. False or unsubstantiated rape accusations just puts an aspect of fear into into already strained intimate relationships among the masses. What do we do next, forced everybody to wear body cameras 24 hours a day and 7 days a week?

    Look what moral degeneracy has been created by the Catholic Church’s greedy restriction of the natural rights of priests and nuns to their own sexuality. Something done to stem the early church leaders tendencies to passing on church property to their children. It is also done to introduce fear and threat of retribution as confessions gave leaders of the church a weapon to be used against rebellious priests and nuns.

    We must defend some semblance of due process or we will turn into barbarians. The irony of the #METOO movement is how they wax poetic over unsubstantiated rape accusations, while remaining silent on the institutionalized factory like wide scale sexual terrorism in the American gulag or even the military. It is one thing to demand due process, but still another thing to demand punishment irrespective of due process.

    When did the rape of a woman become the sole source of injustice and cruelty in the US? Being homeless full time is far worse than being raped for an hour. In fact being raped is just one aspect of life for homeless people, people in jail or the military, both men and women.

    Cruel and inhuman punishment has become one more Constitutional bad joke. Torture has become SOP in America both in and outside the country, Note the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the matter. Without terror, Capitalism could not function at all. Homelessness is not an accident or product of individual immorality but a stick to make workers subservient and hard working. This is not the only WMD in the capitalist arsenal. There is also hunger, no sex, no respect, no protection against criminals or the police, etc… I highly recommend everybody to experience the not so tender mercies of the social welfare system in the US, or the proselytizing or enforce brain washing of the religious charities. The sodomization of the mind is worse than that of our sexual organs. We have only to observe the behavior of these religious creatures and the mayhem that their fanaticism creates or justifies, today and over the past thousands of years.

    Anal sodomization has become a part of American culture and a common joke in its mass media. Young men, particularly minorities walk around with their pants drawn down exposing intimate portions of their buttock. This is habit born of necessity as belts are removed from prisoners because it use in suicides motivated by these sexual assaults. The prison system serves as the only university education that these people will ever receive. Not excluding the damage done to these young people in that a psychopathic institution which is the US military which exposes these young people to horrors, in the pursuit of neo colonial wars of exploitation and obscene war profits. Young minds are destroyed in their millions, suited solely to become either killer cops or their victims.

    All that you liberals write does not account for even 1% of the real pain and suffering in the capitalist World today. Things are not only worst then you imagine , they are worst then you even CAN imagine!

    Comment by Richard Allen — April 7, 2019 @ 11:51 am

  14. Today, 7Apr, the New Militant site published an analysis of the ISO implosion. It’s by the editor, who used to be an ISO member in the 2008-13 period. In part they addressed one of the things that puzzled me, namely, why disapproval of the former leadership concerning the 2013 alleged crime expressed itself with intensity, rapidity, & finality. Powerful & visceral, the shock wave effectively carried an appraisal of betrayal, castigating the offenders as traitors; & in shattering confidence in the organisation it caused a majority of those who cared to vote to order its dissolution. With hindsight will they judge this an over-reaction? Have they been intemperate? With those deemed responsible removed from office, even no longer members, what’s the big problem, why would anyone think *the organisation* has to go? As a matter of interest, has anyone seen a member’s explanation?

    The New Militant article is right to say the organisation couldn’t have been healthy – it proved so fragile – but referring, as in the below passage, to two agents of cohesion only scratches the surface of a satisfactory explanation, not least when the remaining full-timers seem to have stayed together, simply switching loyalty:
    “The mishandling of the 2013 case is not enough alone to explain the speed and extent of the ISO’s dissolution. What the case (and subsequent revelations) did was strip away all the prestige and confidence held by the party leadership and the apparatus. A healthy organization with a clear political vision and strategy could recover, the ISO is dissolving because precisely that apparatus and leadership were the only thing holding it together.”

    The article describes practices showing that the ISO was in substance bureaucratic centralist, quite light on ‘the democratic’. The absence of contested elections, not even Kim v. Kim, is always a bad sign. I would imagine that the ISO would have passed (or is it failed?) the Tourish test, his checklist of characteristics that I linked to in Louis’ post on Paul Le Blanc. On a separate matter, newer members may have been more open to a DSA/AOC orientation rather than ploughing on with the IS tradition for another 50 years.

    Mike Macnair, of the British Weekly Worker group, has his tuppenceworth, even citing two of Louis’ posts; next week, with all the network-talk, he’s doing an article defending democratic centralist organisation:

    Comment by Jara Handala — April 8, 2019 @ 12:54 am

  15. I think it is a very bad idea to write such an article without giving your real name. The worst thing the Internet has fostered is the use of anonymity. We need accountability, especially when you start a website based on the idea of reinvigorating the left.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 8, 2019 @ 1:00 am

  16. What a remarkable admission made by the NEW ISO, that the OLD ISO was too irrelevant, too close to pro Clinton race baiting and pro-Imperialist policies in Syria to be in danger of an agent provocateur attack via an agent making a false and unsubstantiated rape accusation.

    Please note I find the WSWS/SEP’s defence of the likes of a capitalist like Woody Allen to be both reactionary and even stupid. However we ALL must defend due process and force the capitalist injustice system do its job, if only to prove to the masses the very illegitimacy of the system and the consequent necessity to overthrow it.

    There are many methodologies to deal with real situations of rape that are available to a real working class institution. If any of you have forgotten how we used to deal with scabs, traitors and agent provocateurs starting reading. This is the difference between a tea and cookie eating social club of whiners and nagging petty bourgeois and an organization that claims to organize the working class in the class struggle.

    Comment by Richard Allen — April 8, 2019 @ 2:47 pm

  17. Richard, you are both a blowhard and an Assadist. You might find yourself shown the door fairly soon.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 8, 2019 @ 2:52 pm

  18. Richard, my “respect” for you FWIW does not extend to your angry and IMO false statements about Louis Proyect, with whom I neither have nor seek any quarrel of which I am aware at present.

    I have been harping perhaps unnecessarily and at too great length on the need for mass organization–hardly an original theme–and I think the aspect of safety is an important one. I thought I saw some inkling of that in the line I quoted from your post. This is just a variation on the well-worn theme of needing mass working-class organization IN ADVANCE of running people for office. To me, the DSA idea of making socialism from the top down places the working masses in grave danger when Sanders and AOC go down in flames as they will, and I think it’s pretty clear that people are bright enough to see that. A bit of real live solidarity would help a lot with that sense of endangerment, and might diminish the appeal of the Right, which IMO depends to some extent on a feeling of safety in the hands, so to speak, of an angry god who is mostly angry at some Other. Also, disciplined mass organization could provide a buffer against the excesses of the state and corporations in the likely scenario of a landslide Trumpocalypse. These are fairly abstract and general statements–needing to be fleshed out by people who have a better idea about things than I have.

    Your description of the police state doesn’t really apply in the current situation–yes, people of color are being killed right and left but socialists in general are mostly being ignored, if not laughed at. Invoking the all-out police state at present, like screaming “Fascist” every ten seconds, may be a distraction in a situation where clarity is required.

    I have no pretension to being a revolutionary, just a concerned citizen with a big mouth. Please don’t put words in it.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — April 8, 2019 @ 6:56 pm

  19. Dear Kalosar,

    I write to protect you against pseudo Marxists and to encourage you to become a revolutionary. We really have no choice. Socialists are not being ignored or laughed at, they are being targeted if you pay attention to the extreme right and their part of the US Empire. Which now includes the US Presidency.

    Yes a space for corrupt and mad scientists, engineers and skilled highly paid workers to produce the WMD’s still exists. However wage levels for the rest of the population are so low that half the population lives in a state of extreme terror. One must live on $30,000 an year or less of this half, to understand what fascism and the police state is all about. However there have been mysterious suicides and accidents among middle class socialists and progressives as well, Michael Hastings, etc….

    Everything we do is monitored at a far more precise and minute level then was ever achieved by the worse of the fascist States in the US. Every remotely progressive organization penetrated and destroyed or in the process of being destroyed by agent provocateurs. Did you not just notice what they did and doing to the ISO, Assange, Manning, etc…?

    Well is seems I have been tagged as a Assadist, (where did that come from????) and threaten with banishment again. It curious how liberals are such an intolerant, hysterical and hypocritical lot.

    One becomes a revolutionary the minute one asks hard questions. After all we are living in a toilet in every sense of the word if you are making less than $30,000 a year, again half the country. Much of the rest of the population are a paycheck away from falling into this status.

    Don’t worry Louis I’ll be dead soon, I recently got layoffed, if I can’t get one of the few jobs that I am still qualified for to hold out 2 years until I qualify for Social Security. But I shake like a leaf suffering from Parkinson, can’t bend my knees due to arthritis and I can no longer unload WalMart trucks since they broke my shoulders. Nothing frightens me more then the Americans streets and with my many hemorrhoids will not be able to take much sodomization in the American Gulag, so I will have to find my own way out of this miserable life.

    If I don’t have a right to be angry who does, so maybe I can be forgiven not having the time to develop a polite petty bourgeois relationship and consequently be properly understood?! But pseudo Marxists and their parties only want to teach their workers what to think and not how to think.

    It reminds me of an old joke:

    “a guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office and says, hey doc, my brother’s crazy! He thinks he’s a Marxist chicken. Then the doc says, why don’t you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs. ”

    You should take this opportunity to have a discourse with a worker who has read and understood Marx’s Capital. You will admit this is very rare for any worker on the planet today.

    Do you guys understand just how much we are suffering in the midst of so much wealth? My life is done, but have some mercy on the children, become a revolutionary PLEASE! Stop fixing this evil system, i.e reformism, it’s already working perfectly!!

    PS: What does IMO or FWIW stand for/mean?

    Comment by Richard Allen — April 9, 2019 @ 1:51 pm

  20. IMO means In My Opinion; FWIW means For What It’s Worth. I’m 71 years old and still working full time to support two disabled nieces who apart from my support and that of a better off sister have exactly $6000 a year in disability support and food stamps. So yes, I get the suffering.

    I think about suicide every day–I won’t get to use my retirement savings so why not leave them the whole potato. And I’m a well-off guy by comparison with most.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — April 11, 2019 @ 2:54 pm

  21. “Neo-Kautskyist” comrade Peter Moody wrote this article on the demise of the ISO:

    Comment by Jacob Richter — April 12, 2019 @ 3:18 am

  22. Thanks for that, Jacob. Unfortunately Peter mixed up two alleged crimes, thereby removing the basis of the first quarter of his article. The Renewal Faction (Nov2013 – Feb2014) was not aware of the alleged rape that was involved in causing the ISO to shatter. What that faction spoke to on their website, the day the 2014 annual national ISO convention opened, Sa15Feb, was an alleged attempted rape. It had been disclosed for the first time to the whole membership on W5Feb in Pre-convention Bulletin #19; the next day the alleged attacker, ‘Daniel’, was expelled (he had already resigned but expulsion stopped him re-joining).
    https://externalbulletin.org/2014/02/15/assessing-the-year-long-inaction-regarding-charges-of-sexual-violence-in-the-iso/ (cited by Peter, but misunderstood)

    Click to access preconvention-bulletin-1911.pdf

    The main source of 2019 documents is ISO Leaks. They’ve published a very slightly edited version of the M11Mar email to the Steering Cttee (SC) that sparked everything off. This was from ‘FM’, ‘Former Member’, who was one of the two National Disciplinary Cttee “investigators” (the ISO job title) sent in Apr2013 to take statements about what happened the previous month. The site also has SC majority & minority statements – & Keeanga’s anodyne resignation letter (yes, not surprisingly, she was on the SC throughout 2013). It seems no SC member has remained in the ISO to face accountability for what they did & didn’t do.
    https://twitter.com/isoleakss/ (first tweet Th28Mar, the day before the ISO voting ended)
    https://medium.com/@isoleakss/inside-the-international-socialist-organizations-dissolution-after-a-rape-cover-up-b954e354143 (SC, 16Dec2018, loosened the dam by replacing SC slate election with individual candidature)

    It seems there were 900 ISO members the month before the Feb convention (@isoleakss). According to a table published as a tweet by @isoleakss (Su31Mar), the voting on 23 of the 28 proposals was by 474 people: 379 members (80% of voters); 48 who resigned in the two weeks before the vote; 22 in branches that had disaffiliated; & 25 unspecified others. 468 voted in the section, “[t]he future of the ISO as an organization”. Here the Socialist Worker report seems to be highly misleading: “[a]round 70 percent of those who voted chose proposals that dissolved the ISO in some fashion, versus proposals that delayed the decision or favored the group’s continuation, though with major changes. The proposal that won an outright majority of votes put forward a plan for a period of transition before disbanding.” I say this because the most popular option, “[f]or building a new model of revolutionary socialism” (proposal #13), got 256 votes (55%), & that doesn’t require dissolution, does it? One that did, “[d]issolve the ISO” (proposal #24), got only 81 votes (17%)! *81 voted for dissolution*. So where does this c. 70% come from?!? (I did have the Google Group link of the full proposals but currently can’t find it: anyone have it?)

    Todd Chretien has published three posts since the one that Louis wrote about, & “[i]n the next few essays, I’ll take up the pitfalls of some of this [ISO political] work in terms of voluntarism and organizational blindspots[,] as well as suggest some paths to explore for the hundreds of ISO members who are now considering where we go next.”
    https://revolutionary-socialist.org/2019/03/31/why-i-voted-to-dissolve-the-iso/ etc.

    Lastly, there’s another site set up by former ISO members, including Saman S & Adam T. In their first essay they refer to the SC minority (Ahmed Shawki & Sharon Smith et al.) as having written “the laziest resignation letter in Trot history.” They continue, “[t]his is the letter of a group of bosses to their employees and customers blaming *them* for their business going bankrupt. What matters here is what caused that bankruptcy. It was the rebirth of the socialist movement in conflict with a flawed sectarian model in the group’s organizational DNA.” And that’s their key point:

    “[w]hen the upturn that was meant to save us finally came, with the return of strikes, with the return of socialism-as-movement, the SC Minority acted like deer in the headlights. They denied the importance of DSA. They clamped down on questions of organizational affirmative action. They pushed out anyone who threatened the structure they had built. The SC Minority’s answer to an actual upturn, was, in effect, ‘socialism in one organization.’ To their credit the SC Majority, and the majority of the ISO rank-and-file, rejected this abject failure of imagination. This rebellion, however, exposed the extent of the rot. It was not just the SC Minority’s failure. It was an organizational and political failure. All of us were complicit, to one degree or another. Our organization had been meant to keep the ‘seed’ of Marxism safe until the ground was more fertile. But when the time came to plant it, our seed was denatured and mutated.”

    Nevertheless they look to the future, including this: “[w]e should also begin, across the left, an open, comradely, and materialist discussion about why the sect-form has failed.” There is much to say here.

    Comment by Jara Handala — April 13, 2019 @ 9:37 pm

  23. Correction: I misremembered the pre-Convention ISO membership given by ISO Leaks: it wasn’t 900 but a “nominal membership of 980”.
    https://medium.com/@isoleakss/inside-the-international-socialist-organizations-dissolution-after-a-rape-cover-up-b954e354143 (their essay, Th11Apr)

    Comment by Jara Handala — April 13, 2019 @ 11:35 pm

  24. When did supposedly say this quote? And in what context?

    Comment by Stephanie Cholensky — April 15, 2019 @ 2:05 pm

  25. I have not said anything publicly on the ISO split and do not plan to. Even if I did, I wouldn’t claim to be speaking for or representing anyone but myself, and certainly not the entire organization and membership of the SP-USA. I wrote one thing on the matter, on the SP-USA members only list, and this is it, cut and pasted:

    “I’m glad to see members aren’t gloating or kicking fellow anti-capitalist comrades in the ISO when they’re down.”

    I’m more concerned with tearing down capitalism than tearing other socialists down.

    I’m not sure what you are quoting, I doubt it is a letter-for-letter quote from me, but I am sure it wasn’t in reference to the ISO split. I am also sure you don’t know the first thing about my opinion on any of the issues you speak of. If you think I’m wrong about Americans still having faith in broad concepts like democracy and the Constitution but not politicians, that’s fine. But don’t claim that any general statement about thew views of most Americans automatically represents my view as well. I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re merely mistaken, but lying about the context of the quote and falsely extracting my beliefs from it, and extrapolating that to be the views of the entire party leads me to believe you’re just dishonest. It is one thing to disagree with someone politically, it is quite another to lie about their political stance in order to make yours seem better.

    Comment by Stephanie Cholensky — April 15, 2019 @ 3:57 pm

  26. To describe Richard Seymour as ‘one of the best known and best respected SWP members’ illustrates why you should never comment on matters you know absolutely nothing about.
    Stick to arguing malthusian bollocks leave Marxism to those who understand it.
    Jesus the stupidity and arrogance of the petit bourgeois pseudo left never ceases to amaze

    Comment by Lenin — May 23, 2019 @ 3:57 pm

  27. I love how a troll can use Lenin as a tag. Delusions of grandeur…

    Comment by louisproyect — May 23, 2019 @ 6:15 pm

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