[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.
[The following document was written in preparation for a perspectives discussion meeting held by the Atlanta branch of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) on 10 December 2013. The document was then published in the ISO’s Pre-Convention Bulletin (PCB) #9 in January 2014. In the latter version, the ISO leadership apparently made the decision to remove the document’s opening paragraph, which calls for “replacing some or all of the organization's current leaders.”
The version of the document published below restores this passage in full. Additionally, this version includes a few corrections and updates. Most notably, I have added links to several relevant documents published in the period since this piece was originally written. A passage that rehashes the Renewal Faction's core arguments from "The organizational crisis and its political roots" has been omitted. I have also made a few minor adjustments to the document in order to avoid providing information that recognizably identifies former members and contacts of the ISO Atlanta branch.
As a final note, let me conclude by stating that, over the course of the past few months, my views on the crisis within the ISO and the state of the group in general have evolved considerably from the one presented in the document below. As I summarized in my “Letter of Resignation from the ISO,” I have come to "question the viability of the ISO as a vehicle for revolutionary Marxist politics." --BS]
As Atlanta branch comrades are by now well aware, I have been profoundly influenced by the recently-released collection of documents by the ISO Renewal Faction. The central claim that underlines these documents is that, since 2009, the ISO has been in a state of organizational and political crisis. This assertion forms the basis for the Renewal Faction’s appeal. Indeed, the group’s stated goal is to solve the current crisis through revivifying the ISO’s internal intellectual life, correcting the organization’s bogus current perspectives analysis, replacing some or all of the organization’s current leaders, and adopting a practical program that’s congruent with the organization’s goal of becoming rooted in the working class.
Despite the centrality of this claim to the Renewal Faction’s appeal, the observation that the ISO is currently undergoing a period of crisis is by no means universally accepted within the organization. This said, a number of recent decisions by the organization’s leadership seem to indicate that there is significant disillusionment within all ranks of the organization. For one thing, the leadership has (correctly) asserted that there exists a world-wide crisis in the revolutionary Left. To a great extent, however, the ISO has adopted a defensive approach to trying to understand this problem. This seems to have been the basis for the organization’s decision to call for replacing the fall regional conferences with regional “day schools,” which centered on reading a series of well-known texts from the ISO’s established canon of Marxist literature.
We receive the International Socialist Organization (ISO) leadership’s statement “A response to slander,” published in the Socialist Worker (SW) of 19 February 2014, with sadness. It is written by people who evidently think little of their audience. The authors assume that their readers cannot or will not acquaint themselves with the facts of the matter; that they cannot or will not independently investigate a controversy and make up their own minds. The statement is an argument for those who need no argument; persuasion for those who require no persuading.
On 17 February 2014, the National Convention of the International Socialist Organization voted to expel the Renewal Faction. Our delegates were excluded from this session, as they have been from the last two days of the Convention.
A longer statement is forthcoming, but we wish to take this opportunity to thank our comrades inside and outside the ISO who supported us during this difficult struggle.
Freedom and Renewal!
Update: The resolution to expel the Renewal Faction is reproduced below. It is recorded as passing “Many for, 6 no, 1 abstention.”
Whereas the Renewal Faction has refused to renounce and remove specified documents from their website, in defiance of an ISO convention resolution that required them to do so or face disciplinary action; continues to engage in snitch jacketing; exploits confidential information for the cynical purposes of point-scoring; exposes our organization to state attack; and spreads slanderous lies about the ISO leadership:
We, the delegates of the International Socialist Organization’s 2014 convention, the highest decision-making body of our organization, declare that members of the Renewal faction are no longer considered members of the ISO.
Jonah B. (New York City), Héctor A. (New York City), Phil G. (Madison), Sherry W. (New York City), Lauren F. (Chicago), Melissa R. (Chicago), Elizabeth W.-F. (Madison), Tony P. (San Diego), Bekah W. (Atlanta), Tom G. (Atlanta), Jonathan E. (Atlanta), Sean P. (Atlanta), Keegan O. (New York City), Brian K. (Poughkeepsie), Nisha B. (New York City), Royall S. (Greensboro), Ann C. (Boston), Amanda A. (Boston), Alpana M. (Boston), Khury P.-S. (Boston), Madeline B. (Boston), Akunna E. (Boston), Sid P. (Bay Area), Avery W. (San Diego), Fermin V. (Amherst), and Rigo G. (Chicago)
(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.
The ISO National Convention demands that the Renewal Faction take down External Bulletin by the morning of Monday, 17 February, on pain of disciplinary action; and that the Renewal delegation repudiate the last four statements of the faction, on pain of exclusion from Convention.
The Renewal Faction, including delegates and guests to the Convention, declines to renounce or remove anything on External Bulletin. We can’t renounce what we think.
Update: Based on the notes of our delegation, we present below the text of the resolution that excluded us from Convention. This may not be an absolutely faithful reproduction, as delegates were not given a written version, but we believe it to be accurate in substance. We are, as always, willing to correct any errors brought to our attention.
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.