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ISO Hijacks BOSTON and SAN FRANCISCO Campus Anti-War Conferences
by Jeff Hall (Jeff8163 [at]
Wednesday Nov 14th, 2001 1:40 AM
Not only did the ISO hijack the west coast campus anti-war conference, they did it in Boston as well.
As submitted to a local organizers list:


As many of you may have already heard, the Boston Campus Anti-War Coallition (BCAWC) Conference was hijacked by the ISO last weekend. In response, I'm compiling a packet to distribute to the BCAWC on the ISO and "Why Authoritarian Vanguardist Groups Demand and Assert Hierarchy Within Coalitions"

I began constructing this packet yesterday, mostly from info available at's "What you should know about the ISO" and testimony from delegates to the conference.

Today I found out that an IDENTICAL co-opt had been pulled at the San Francisco conference. For more info, please check out, San Francisco.

In any case, the BCAWC, for all its short-comings, is pretty aware of what happened/what the local ISOers are trying to pull here. Nato and a few others on this list can probably give more details on what happened here in Boston this weekend. We called them to task on their tactics and threw a wrench into their plans when Nato voiced a grievance demanding adequate discussion of a prior resolution establishing the group as non-partisan and non-hierarchical and it split the room just about 50/50 between supporters of the resolution, and ISOers. This led to the complete breakdown of the conference, although the ISO continued to pass resolutions and plans of actions after dissenters broke off to discuss "what to do next". People are generally unsure where to go from here - whether to splinter, boycott the next conference the ISOers rammed through (in their homebase, Chicago), or what.

So, below is a letter I plan to include in the packet I am assembling of articles from, Retrogression Magazine, and testimony from the Boston, San Francisco and Chicago (which seems to have been co-opted as well) conferences.

Just a heads up that this is going on. The good news is there is a STRONG, in fact, overwhelming anti-hierarchical sentiment in the Boston Campus Anti-War Coallition, but more help/advise is definitely needed. Meetings are 5:00pm, Sundays, at the Emerson Student Union, 96 Beacon Street, intersection of Beacon and Arlington Street. All are invited to the meeting, especially if you're a sincere activist or anarchist working at a campus, taking classes on a campus, or doing any sort of organizing on a campus.

Jeff H.

November 12, 2001
Dear friends,

The effective co-opt of a coalition, systematic disenfranchisement of dissenters and consolidation of authority (which should not exist within an anti-war coalition in the first place) into the hands of partisan committees and simple majorities which we witnessed at the Northeast Regional Conference Against War and Racism during the delegates meeting, November 11th, mirrors the war we are opposing because it is not an isolated incident, but part of a cycle.

Our criticism of the International Socialist Organization and their deliberate hijacking of the conference need not suffocate within the whispers of the disenfranchised.

Both the anti-war and anti-globalization movements are evolving in ways conducive to full democratic representation of all voices, including those of the minority, through means such as consensual democracy and modified consensus that authoritarian leftists groups like the ISO have always opposed, and will continue to oppose according to their Party Lines, despite the fact that the majority rules decision-making model has become obsolete within modern global justice activism.

We must examine the ends embraced by authoritative vanguardist party groups and understand that "party-building" and gaining a foothold of power for their party within activist coalitions systematically supersedes their concern for the group's productivity and democratic viability as a whole.

This is why they insist on a hierarchical and partisan coalition. They want, for their party, positions of authority within a pecking-order of committees and executive structure. The non-authoritarian working groups that were used to organize the Northeast Regional Conference Against War and Racism, and much of the social justice direct action we have witnessed since the WTO protests in Seattle, have been highly effective and democratic. There is no need for authority or exclusion in the anti-war movement. Yes, the anti-war movement needs leadership, as contributed by everyone in their own unique ways, but it does not need leaders with authority to make resolutions, policies and plans of action that do not have the full consent of the group they "represent".

If twenty some odd ISO party members ganging up on three non-party delegates and bringing them to tears in an informal meeting regarding conference protocol is not coercive, opportunistic and divisive, I don't know what is. If ISO party members blatantly lying to the general assembly about how many party members and sympathizers were present isn't deceitful and coercive, I don't know what is. If the ISO regional pay-rolled supervisors presence and consistent conferring with ISO delegates who were supposed to be acting as representatives of their campus is not a sign of an ulterior party agenda, I know not what is.

ISO members fool themselves into thinking that 51% of a body has a legitimate right to undermine the voices of 49% of a body for the sake of efficiency because that sort of mentality is inherent within their vanguardist organization where dissenters are expected to tow and preach the party line, "until it is changed."

They call this opportunistic acquisition of power-by-majority tactic, "building the socialist alternative," so they can move forward with agendas through broader coalitions without the mandate of the individual members of that coalition.

Of course, by beating back dissent they usually turn enough people away from the task at hand that there isn't much opposition left for them to reckon with, and they subsequently establish a front group that speaks not for a wide range of students, or minorities, or workers, or whatever the case may be, but a highly centralized ISO puppet group that lacks legitimacy in numbers and purpose as people do not care to partake in a process which they have been ostracized from by majority-rules bully tactics, stacked-deck facilitation or partisan "group" objectives.

Again, the ISO co-opt of the Northeast Conference against War and Racism is not an isolated incident, but a recurring pattern within the "left" instigated by authoritarian party groups who muscle their own desire for positions within a hierarchy above the values of democracy, freedom of association and the pressing need to cultivate an activist unity that is based on cooperation and equality, rather than competition, coercion and the twisting of arms.

These archaic tactics of manipulation had no place at the conference and have no place in the future of the anti-war movement. This is not meant as a letter debating the pros and cons of democratic consensus versus majority rules, as there remains no legitimate justification for having opened the conference with that debate in the first place.

This packet was assembled to share the idea that what happened November 11th was not an isolated incident but part of a cycle of authoritarian vanguardist parties defusing the effectiveness of groups and coalitions that should be inherently non-partisan and united by inclusive decision-making, rather than crushed by backwards centralist domination and partisan competition for authority over other members of the group.

How ironic that after hijacking the conference, the ISO proceeded to steer the process to an end that did not inspire or unify, but rather one that crashed and burned against a wall of partisanship.

In solidarity,
Jeff Hall
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Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Amber
Wednesday Nov 14th, 2001 2:25 AM
all I can say is Wow! how did the ISO think that they could get away with this and keep it quiet? I think this needs to go all around and we as anti-authoritarians and as anarchist, or even progressives need to come togehter and work together. Even communisits from the PLP were against this, and working with us more this weekend in the bay area. I actually can deal with some of the communists and think that they should be involved cuz they are not as psychotic and controling as the ISO is.
but still WOW! so they did this on both coasts? how could they get away with this? how could they not know that this would happen? what are they stupid or something? geez what a coincidence that the SAME exact thing happens on both coasts, but still the ISO has wonderful excuses for it. How dumb do they think that people are? they are just as bad as Bush who talks to the American people like children because he thinks they are stupid. The ISO really does not think highly of people to try to trick and lie to them in this way.
by the burningman
Wednesday Nov 14th, 2001 8:40 AM
I understand the frustration and rage people are feeling at being manipulated.

But the answer is: The organized these conferences. There would have been no conferences if they hadn't worked for weeks to pull them off.

Were they dishonest? Yes.

But remember, just because someone can point out their manipulations doesn't mean they themselves aren't doing the same thing.

Anarchists try to take shit over, usually by complaining about the "process." In the meantime, their chosen process is exactly as alienating and domineering. Try to disagree and you will be mocked, attacked and baited nonstop.

Just notice that the ISO doesn't spend oa lot of time attacking other leftists. They try to organize shit they can control. Well, go organize and rather than hating someone else for what they've done, show us how to do it.

Here in NYC, the "anti-authoritarian" left just had a gathering. After two thirds of the crowd left in utter frustration, the last 30 people decided that ANY STRATEGY OR GOALS would be "authoritarian."

What did Jesus say about throwing the first stone?
by Scott (play [at]
Wednesday Nov 14th, 2001 9:01 AM
You know, as a minor member of BCAWC I watched this whole thing happen with my own view. I'm new to Boston, and new to organizing.

It was very sad for me to watch this happen. In BCAWC it seems we've managed to keep things working pretty smoothly, without any one group taking too much control. However, it's interesting to point out that the one person _I_remember_ suggesting that we have this conference to coincide with the conference in Berkeley is an ISO member. This makes me wonder if our whole BCAWC group was unknowingly high-jacked into organizing this conference for the ISO so that it wouldn't look so obvious when they did what it appears they have done.

Oh my my!!!

So we go into the review phase to look at how we (BCAWC) can go on as a non-exclusive group and still keep ISO members in check (as in, preventing them from taking control again). Just like they used our group to help organize something for them, we need to learn how to use their organizing skills/energy to help organize things _with_ us (without taking control of our group).
by Jeff Hall (Jeff8163 [at]
Wednesday Nov 14th, 2001 10:11 AM
The Northeast Campus Anti-War Conference was NOT organized by ISOers. It was organized by the Boston Campus Anti-War Coallition, which operates quite efficiently by consesual democracy and a series of working groups tackling different aspects of local organizing efforts. The conference was organized by a broad consensus based caolition of students, the majority of whom are neither party-affiliates or anarchists. The very students who put the most work into organizing the conference were completely subjugated to the ISO co-opt and some of them left early in frustration over watching something they put so much work into disintegrate into an undemocratic sham.

Jeff Hall
by the burningman (nycburningman [at]
Wednesday Nov 14th, 2001 12:19 PM
Jeff, sorry. It seemed initially that the ISO had organized regional conferences under a front's name. Now I see I was wrong and that they, at least in Boston, tagged on and then subverted another conference. I'm not defending them for a second.

If the ISO is really taking over groups, the best thing to do (in my experience) has been to identify their leaders and tell them in no uncertain terms that you know what they are doing and if they don't stop you will turn the conference against them.

If necessary, distribute fliers that apologize for having to do it. Make sure that indisputable incidents that the conference experiences are mentioned and then also note previous examples of the same behavior.

I worked with the ISO off and on throughout college as a part of coalitions. They would try to take things over and when it was clear they couldn't, they would move on. Unfortunately, they would always come back when mass work was happening. But, such is the price of free organization.

Sectarians are like a democracy tax. If you allow anyone in, they swarm after any other people do and quickly make themselves the issue.

Tackle it head on, but always always treat the individuals like human beings. They have an extremely high turn-over and many good people get swept up only to leave shortly. If you treat them like shit, decent socialists will quit the movement rather than join a better group.

Lead by example and even the ISO will follow.
by B. Traven - Chicago
Thursday Nov 15th, 2001 2:41 AM
Given the critical assessments about the regional anti-war conferences that are appearing across the IMC network it's pretty apparent that the ISO has learned absolutely nothing about authentic progressive coalition building since the Gulf War. Same old sterile, formulaic action proposals, same laughable semi-clandestine style of work, with scant attention paid to the inclusion of other voices, particuarly from communities of color and targeted communities...including international student organizations. Not surprising for an organization whose membership has historically been comprised of activists recruited from schools where other forms of left political activity are virtually non-existent, leaving ISO the only game in town for those interested in socialism and revolutionary change.

I suspect that the ISO leadership has assessed that having been completely out-organized by the WWP initiated ANSWER Coalition on the East Coast and unable to advance their organizational priorities and recruit membership from community based anti-war coalitions in the Midwest and West Coast- where they have to contend with both ideological competition and consensus driven decision making, the current organizational strategy is position the organization as a "leading force" in the broader anti-war movement by initiating their own campus based coalition. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that internal ISO communications reflect this assessment.

Same old shit. Different war.

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