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ISO Should Be Marginalized
by Socialist Style Purge
Wednesday Nov 14th, 2001 1:01 AM
They have embarrased the left for too long.
Wheather it is the SWP and their ANSWER group, or the ISO and their conference, the authoritarian left have embarrased true seekers of freedom and social justice for too long.

No matter how good their organizing is, they are a group fundamentally dedicated to a deformed and heirarchical (immoral) society.

I wouldn't work with Nazis if they were the best organizers in the world. As for the SWP, they are Stalinist-- which is literally worse than being a neo-Nazi (in terms of sheer numbers killed).

The ISO is more of a cult than an 'activist' group, with their brainwashing 'self-critisicm' and ultra-authoritarian demands that all memebers adhere (literally) to a party line. Many former ISO members (after all, it is a revolving-door operation) speak of their time there with the "glad I got out" tone common to other cult survivors.

This doesn't seem better than capitalism at all.

Just as the right-wing has to dissavow racist nuts like the Aryan Nations and the Militias, etc. so should we on the left dissavow groups (completely) like the SWP and the ISO.

They are not fighting for the kind of society we want, nor the kind of society anyone should want.

Democracy is a paramount concern central to freedom, the blatant way the ISO abuses this notion in its private 'cadre' meetings and public deception (nationally coordinated takeovers of other groups, establishment of front groups, etc.).

It is long past time for us to stand up and say we won't associate with authoritarians whose 'revolutionary' society would make Bush's squelching of dissent seem mild.

All power to the people- none to the 'party'!
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by cracker
Wednesday Nov 14th, 2001 11:06 AM
Thank you mister police officer for trying to divide us. And really, you should do your homework before you go off to the bar because the International Answer aka IAC is affiliated with Workers World Party, not the SWP. Stoopid.

This person is an ass and knows nothing about politics. Gaining political power is about allying yourself with folks you don't agree with 10 or even 50 percent of the time, but unite anyway to achieve a specific goal. The left, yes even the WWP, CPUSA, ISO, etc., are so small in this country that it is just plain ignorant for folks not to get together under a common goal.

If this dumb ass cop would do hers homework, s(he) would know that the right joins up all of the time. Do you really think they agree on everything? No. But what they do agree on is making a pretty miserable existence for us.

We are in such a terrible time right now that any talk of isolating individuals or groups on the left should be soundly discredited and the folks saying it should be made to sit in a corner with a dunce cap on.
by Chuck0 (chuck [at]
Wednesday Nov 14th, 2001 5:53 PM
I didn't write the above rant, but I'd like to respond to several of the points in the first response. I have been an activist on the Left for many years and have had ample opportunity to watch the vanguardist Left in action. The vanguardist Left desperately fears critical thinking within their organizations and within movements, especially criticism directed at their organizations. This is why many of these groups were late to get on the Internet. It's probably the case that the ISO would discourage its members from reading these posts on Indymedia.

They have refused to respond to criticisms of their vanguardism and petty manipulations of activist groups and coalitions. When they have chosen to respond, they avoid the the criticisms using the following methods: 1) appeal to unity within the movement; 2) accuse the critic of being sectarian or divisive; or 3) accuse them of being a cop. They will also play nice and suggest that the critic is misinformed or hasn't done any hard activist work.

It's true that none of these groups are big enough to "take over" the Left or activist causes. But if they are left to pursue their own agenda, they will burn you. There are so many activists, radicals, and anti-capitalists who aren't members of these organizations, that it doesn't make sense to ally with them because the "left is weak" or "doesn't have the numbers." These organizations are *not* the Left. They are what is commonly called the "loony Left," the paper-selling, Mao-quoting, vanguardist left. They represent a small minority within the Left.
by Voline (voline [at]
Thursday Nov 15th, 2001 2:00 AM
The argument that we should hold our noses and work with vanguardists in order to achieve certain common, short-term goals is ridiculous. The very undemocratic, conspiratorial behavior that we object to on moral grounds is also INEFFECTIVE.

In my experience hierarchical organizations kill people’s enthusiasm and creativity. Organizations where dissent is stifled are organizations where plans and ideas are not adopted because they are the best that have come from frank cooperation and debate, but are adopted because of WHO holds them.

In their quest for power and command, authoritarians manipulate processes, railroad their agendas, and in the process alienate people – exactly those people who are new to organizing for social change. They cause experienced democratic organizers to quit, and put-off people who might otherwise join the movement.

I am convinced that one of the reasons we were able to shut down the WTO in the Northwest was because vanguardist parties are not strong here. The people who took part in the direct action, who blocked delegates from reaching the meetings, were not part of any formal structure, let alone a “party.” With the notable exception of a good number of Wobblies.

Working with authoritarians is no fun, it leads to bad tactics, and it is a bad overall strategy. You are not going to build a mass popular movement by lying and arm-twisting and centralizing– not one that will ever accomplish any good, anyway.

Looking at the history of mass movements for social change, no good has ever come from trying to gloss over fundamental differences in order to work with authoritarians. As they grow stronger, they grow nastier. It’s a direct line from the politburo, er “steering committee” to the gulag.

When they are as ineffective a bunch of jerks as the ISO clearly are, it’s not even expedient to work with them.
by isoresistance
Friday Nov 16th, 2001 8:36 PM
coming from a former iso member who feels very glad to have seen the light and escaped, socialist style purge from above has the right idea, and cracker sounds like iso.
by jenn (awol647 [at]
Sunday Dec 16th, 2001 2:34 PM
I am considered to be on the left because of my work with Accion Zapatista. I live next door toa dedicated Socialist and ISO member. I have been to many rallies/ events put on by the ISO in Austin, TExas. And let me tell you they put most of them on. Yes, when open calls are made to groups to attend meetings, the ISO always has people there. But this seems to piss alot of people off, I guess they jsut aren't as cool as Anarchists burnign flags are. Which is not what I think the purpose of anarchism is but that comment is equivalent to your entire artcicle in regards to the ISO.
so speak for yourself. i'm not embarrassed and that's that.
by comrade x
Thursday Feb 28th, 2002 6:15 PM
Nothing is stopping "non vanguardists" from having events except themselves. Stop putting the blame on others for your own laziness and inability to organize.

Whoever does the actual legwork for an event deserves the spotlight..

In my experience anarchist groupings are completely unreliable when organizing. Sure, Anarchists will voluenteer to leaflet, to call people, to get equipment, etc, but come the day of the event - almost nothing has been done on their end - the horrible "vanguardists" end up picking up the slack and then getting blamed for "dominating" the event. There is no accountability in the ever shifting world of anarchist clicks. I won't even work with anarchists groups anymore..

As far as leaderlessness goes, just because anarchist clicks don't have any formal leadership or heirarchy, hardly means they have no leadership or heirarchy. Anarchist cults do completely away with procedural and bureaucratic mechanisms to keep leadership in check - anarchist cults are cults of personality par excelence.
by blah
Friday Mar 1st, 2002 3:27 AM
Ummm, if I'm not mistaken, the ISO AND you silly anarchists are ALL marginalized already.

Ya know, one thing you can learn from corporate America is how to FUCKING ORGANIZE! Y'alls attempts at it are pathetic, at best.
by chp
Friday Mar 1st, 2002 7:25 AM
Uh... did you read about the WTO meeting in Seattle that was shut down? I was there. There weren't very many socialists there. The protesters and activists were mainly unionists, progressives and anarchists, and the anarchists had a very successful nonhierarchical 'network' style of organization. That is why everything worked so well.

Where has a socialist group had comparable success lately? It seems more like there will be large numbers at an event, but once they find out what Int'l ANSWER really is, the numbers plummet.
by mike
Friday Mar 1st, 2002 7:31 AM
i'm left of left. i'm so far to the left nobody can touch me. U can't touch this! my leftism is so pure, so unadulterated, it's purer even than CIA heroin from Afghanistan.

You anarchists and vanguardists are all a bunch of right wingers in my book. I purge you. I purge you from everything. i purge myself. that's right, i'm so leftist i realize even i have rightist tendencies so I announce a Cultural Revolution against myself. i put myself in a reeducation camp.

i'm so leftist i purge myself of rightism by shooting myself. that's right. i'm so leftist I don't even exist. I am pure spiritual ether in a cloud of pure, perpetual leftism. Ah, freedom!
by african
Friday Mar 22nd, 2002 4:58 AM
anarchist groups are white boy cults of personality..
by Chris
Monday May 6th, 2002 5:06 PM
Just to clear up a few points:

" As for the SWP, they are Stalinist"
?? Which SWP are you talking about? I know the british Socialist Workers' Party is strongly influenced by Tony Cliff, who first came up with State-Capitalist anylsis of the Soviet Union. Both the ISO and the SWP were founded on the line, "Neither Washington nor Moscow." I think the American SWP, although I am not sure, follows in this tradition too.

If you were trying to refer to the Worker's World party, the main force behind the IAC and ANSWER, you would be correct in assuming that the WWP are apologists for many exteremly undemocratic and repressive regimes, such as Cuba under Castro, the Stalinist Soviet Union, or North Korea, etc. These governments, however, are something that the ISO totally rejects as any kind of model to be followed or "socialist" state.

The Marxist-Leninist tradition of socialism sees the economic and political empowernment of the workering class as essential to achieve a world in which the needs of the majority of humanity are met (socialism). This was accomplished in the early years of the Soviet Union by largely through the manifestation of industrial unions and Soviets. A soviet, or worker's council, is essentially a democratic forum for workers to exert their control over production. Because both of these, and other, key units of working class organization are banned in countries like China, Cuba, N. Korea, the Stalinist USSR, etc, the economic empowerment of the working class has been replaced by an unwieldy bureacracy, which acts in its own interest. This condition has nothing to do with socialism. Your association of state-capitalist dictatorships with organizations that are totally opposed to them is a sign of either ignorance, or malicious intent to slander activists that are genuinely committed to a better world.

When you can't win through debate, resort to name-calling, right?

"The ISO is more of a cult than an 'activist' group, with their brainwashing 'self-critisicm' and ultra-authoritarian demands that all memebers adhere (literally) to a party line. "

I've been in the ISO for almost 2 years and neither I, nor anyone else I know of have ever been forced to write "self-criticisms" about anything. Also, you obviously have a very twisted interpretation of Democratic-centralism, which is the organizational theory the ISO is based on. This basicaly means that before an action or event that the ISO, for example, is participating in, there will be lots of debate about what we as an organization need to be focusing on beforehand, and then we vote on a course of action to take, and if there are very many abstentions, or the vote is split very closely, more debate will follow and we will democraticly decide upon a course of action to take. This theory is evolved out of simple tactical nessessity, and can actually be very successful and democratic. If you can't handle that, just don't join the ISO, it's that simple.

The "authoritarian" leadership you are so afraid of, is actually democraticly eletected and maintained, and central committe, or branch comitte members, can be removed at any time through a democratic vote. You seem to believe that in ALL socialist groups; the organization will only be designed to suit the needs and desires of the Leadership. The organizational structure of the ISO, however, is designed to suit the needs of planning and coordination, and cannot exist without the majority consent and democratic electoral participation of, the entire membership of the organization.
by chp
Monday May 6th, 2002 7:07 PM
Here is a chart someone made showing their opinion of positions of various sectarian groups along two axes (it's not etched in stone. other people can have other perspectives on this, but they do offer bits of evidence)

My own experience or view of the ISO was largely formed by this member of the ISO who worked on the same floor of a hospital as me. He invited me and a friend to his recruitment meeting at his house, and they fed us herbal tea, and my friend gave over a phone number and I didn't. They would call him every day and try to set him up selling the papers, and listing all the events that they were supposed to be at. He had to stop answering the phone. A big guilt trip was aimed at me every time we walked by each other in the hall because if I didn't want to buy a newspaper etc. that meant that I was doing the equivalent of joining the other side and was a bad person. He couldn't relate as a normal person or talk about ordinary things, so I had to start avoiding eye contact. They went about politics like doing penance, or like doing good works to earn points for heaven, regardless of whether it was effectual or not. They had to be outside at lunch and after work selling the paper rain or shine 20 hrs a week. They'd be at fun events but never partaking in the fun but just selling the paper or reeling through their selling points to possible new recruits.
by anti-ISO
Tuesday May 7th, 2002 2:40 AM
indeed, we shall not be assimilated
by anti-ISO
Tuesday May 7th, 2002 2:40 AM
indeed, we shall not be assimilated
by anti-ISO
Tuesday May 7th, 2002 2:40 AM
indeed, we shall not be assimilated
by yep
Tuesday May 7th, 2002 8:30 AM
Dont let those last imags fool you. COINTELPRO was more professional. We have now sunk to the level that right wing kids think they can play up our differences. Its kinda sad if you think about it.
by anti-ISO
Tuesday May 7th, 2002 1:40 PM
yep, you've been assimilated
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