ISOnuts:

One Stop Activism  and the Gentrification of the Left

 

Featuring the Gang from the International Socialist Organization

 
By Comrade Motopu

 

 

WHY This Pamphlet Exists

     I joined Students Against War (SAW) in the Spring 2005 semester. I was aware that members of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) were in the group, many of them were my friends and classmates, and while I never wanted to join the ISO as I’m not a Leninist, I was happy to work with anyone against the war. I had supported them in the past because they were the most visible radical group on campus. My feelings of solidarity changed once I experienced the controlling clamp down of the group first hand in my activities in SAW. I should have known better, as there was already much written about the group. But I made the mistake of equating criticism of authoritarianism in the Left with a Right wing stance. I did not  realize that it was possible to criticize the Left while calling for a more democratic and decentralized politics than groups like the ISO embody. In other words, some critics of the Left are to the left of those they criticize. But some of us have to learn by direct experience.

                           

                                            Panel 1: Today's the day we start our own ISO cadre

                                            Panel 2: The Central Office has approved me as Regional overseer.

                                            Panel 3: So you can start by pulling this sled comrade.

                                           Panel 4: Rats, this hierarchical organizing structure isn't as guilt free as I'd hoped.

   While the ISO has attained an ideological hegemony on many key campuses their organizing style limits the amount of radical politics that can arise spontaneously.  Young and often inexperienced activists are drawn into their orbit due to their position as “the only game in town”. Rather than benefiting from a politics reflecting growth and incorporation of the many lessons of 1968, the New Left, autonomous working class struggles, or even any kind of  critiques of the old vanguards, these students are brought into a highly centralized and hierarchical old Left network run by  regional organizers who answer to a smaller cadre at the center. It is a form of gentrification, which replaces and excludes other activist communities, replacing them with a monolithic party line based authoritarian structure. ISO members are separated from the rich and varied activist and free thinking milieu in the Bay area, which includes anarchists, left socialists and communists, community groups, different types of anti-capitalists, and all sorts of interesting people. Instead, we see them clutching their Socialist Worker papers, and getting chewed out by their advisors, existing in a bubble. While the ISO does actively participate in some local actions with other groups, often leaving a trail of resentment in their wake, their members are seeing the local scene through the propaganda lens of  their highly sectarian advisors. Secondly, students are led to believe There Is No Alternative. As one of their student members told me: “If it wasn’t for the ISO, there would be no antiwar movement at SF State.”  I tried to explain that the ISO had harassed members of SAW over the previous semesters and how they had also alienated other peace groups on campus. Given that ISO leadership in SAW frames the “reality” of the political situation for its members, it will likely never be possible to express dissent inside the group. There is never a good time to discuss politics in SAW, not at meetings, not on their listserv, not at actions, or elsewhere. It is always to be put off until later, and if one insists, it is seen as disruptive. Hence this pamphlet. This pamphlet does not seek to blame the ISO for any “failure of the movement” which the ISO routinely does to other groups. It does seek to show the shortcomings of ISO type organization, and its glaring inadequacy as a model for any kind of egalitarian future, or for a meaningful movement capable of self-reflection.

     The SAW Experience

     I managed to last nearly an entire semester in Students Against War (SAW) before deciding it was definitely nothing more than an ISO front group. I eventually saw through the ISO members’ constant diversionary singsong of “we wish we were the minority in SAW, but until then.…” The truth is, they don’t need the majority so long as they are positioned properly  to block initiative not emanating from themselves (as has routinely occurred as Campus Antiwar Network conferences, see the reading list below for first hand accounts). Non-ISO members in SAW make up a labor pool, to supplement the overworked and highly pressured members in the local ISO cadre. SAW members work mainly, often exclusively, on ISO projects, with peripheral feel good projects coming from others in the group. These include things like lapel ribbon campaigns, planning for social events, or members occasionally alerting others of local political activities. SAW is also a recruiting ground for the ISO. I found out from an ISO member who was also on another of my political chat sites that each member of SAW was assigned  an ISO recruiter to work on them. SAW’s status as a front group is clear.

               

                                 Panel 1: You can't write Lenin. He died in 1924.

                                 Panel 2: Oh I don't know. I think my ISO advisor might be able to pull a few strings.

                                 Panel 3: And besides, anyone who says that Lenin is dead is a Red Baiting McCarthyite!!!

                                 Panel 4: Things are fine here. I need some advice on liquidating my enemies.

     The main SAW campaign for the Spring semester 2005 was shutting down military recruiters on campus. (This is an excellent goal, but as I hope to make clear, this is not the most important point. The question of “what kind of a movement do we want?” which the ISO constantly puts forward as a tool to smear other groups resembling them, actually deserves serious consideration.) This, as with all other SAW projects, was brought in by members of the ISO. In meetings, a steering committee would bring in the agenda every week. This committee was always guided by the ISO even if they did not have a majority. SAW members would essentially rubber-stamp the agenda each week. This was called “democracy” and it certainly appeared to be, as near unanimous support for projects was always the case. Here is a more recent example of a typical project approval from a post at the SAW listserv:

          “I am just writing to remind everybody that tomorrow is the last general SAW meeting 

          before the Galloway event next Wednesday.  We agreed unanimously last week to build for      

           the event as a group so we should all remember to bring out ten dollars to buy a ticket.”

     (Emphasis is mine. This was posted Tuesday, September 13, 2005 by a member of the ISO. The group rubber-stamped this ISO project, doing PR work for a British MP George Galloway. . Based on what I saw in the group the previous semester, this was likely not a real “consensus” decision which would have meant that actual meaningful discussion took place in an open way. Instead, the ISO brings their own agenda, and discourages discussion which would lead to different ideas on what the group should be doing. Unanimous votes don’t reflect a real democratic process. )

    It took a while before I put two and two together and compared the SAW agenda to that of the ISO, as reflected in their paper and website, and local members’ talking points. They were identical. More precisely, the SAW agenda was a subset of the ISO’s. For the Spring 2005 semester, it was the anti-recruitment campaign. The next semester it was the same, with the addition of  SAW/ISO support for British Parliamentarian George Galloway’s speaking tour. In my awakening to ISO manipulation of SAW, it was helpful that I had a friend in the ISO, who for some reason, and not at my behest, would post messages from their private listserv at my political chat site! He did this to argue against me, but the results were often damning for the ISO. For example, when I told him that I thought the ISO was controlling SAW too much he posted this to my site: "We have a large `ISO lobby' in SAW that essentially ensures that our agenda is put through. There is nothing wrong with this, after all, the ISO puts forth a lot of time and effort into SAW.” The amount of work the ISO members do is a fact, as is their knowing manipulation of groups they are involved with. But apparently, the discussion of pushing their agenda was far more open within the ISO than within SAW. This points out the dual nature of the problem. One of the  most committed and successful antiwar groups in the Bay Area is also one committed to stifling dissent and controlling as many aspects of the progressive and  or revolutionary community as possible. For those who can’t accept this, they will  usually face ridicule and even expulsion after harassment from the ISO leadership.

     In my experience I have discovered the following groups that are run by, or manipulated by the ISO: Students Against War, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Campus Antiwar Network (CAN), College Not Combat, and the Stop the War Coalition. The local Proposition I campaign was also an ISO project. There are others. A person might say “well doesn’t this just show the level of commitment of these activists, and isn’t this a good thing?” Yes and no. When maintaining  relationships with these groups, which are dominant on many college campuses, is predicated on “good behavior”, meaning never questioning ISO dominance, pointing it out, or attempting to formulate a grass roots direction for the group, it is obvious that problems will arise for many activists. For those who are willing to play by the ISO rules because at least they are “doing something”, or for those who may not even realize they are being punked, it is difficult to see the level of manipulation. What is happening is a homogenization of the movement by an authoritarian Leninist/Trotskyist group. This means “revolutionary consciousness” is imparted from outside the group by the ISO.

     The  “fraction group”, which meets outside of SAW meetings, is an important tool for the ISO to present a unified front at all SAW meetings, for them to agree before hand on what the agenda for SAW is, and to strategize on the best ways to ensure their goals are carried out by the group.  It was ironic that, when midway through the semester, all the non ISO members in our SAW chapter realized what was happening, and formed our own affinity group to attempt to reign in

ISO total control (to attempt this is known as “red baiting”), while never intending to expel anyone, we were accused of forming a separate group behind their backs. But the ISO excels at double standards.  Even though we could have carried through our desired reforms as we had the majority, we all decided to leave the group because the level of hostility and hypocrisy had become unbearable.   The charges of red baiting were common and frequent, to the point of being comical. Three members had already been dubbed “red baiters” (before we were designated thus as an entire group) for asking the wrong questions. One person had been so dubbed been while still a member of the ISO. From my conversations with a few of these “red baiters”, they displayed many attributes of  battered spouses, afraid to criticize their own abuser, and staying with the “family” which maintained an ideological control over the parameters of discussion and activism. The ISO was a strong patriarchal presence in SAW, despite their shallow feminist rhetoric.

                   

                               Panel 1: Your attack on the non-ISO Left is too wishy washy.

                               Panel 2: You never use the word "Red-Baiter" and you actually respond to their issues with us.

                              Panel 3: Todd Chretien taught us never to respond to their actual issues.

                              Panel 4: Red Baiting Comes to SF State                    

     Stifling dissent was the norm in SAW. It had always been made clear that the listserv should be “kept clear” of debate, [1]     or opinion, which only belonged in the meetings. The problem was, with the rigidly structured meetings, there was neither time allowed for debate, nor was an atmosphere of critical self-reflection encouraged. Meetings moved quickly, according to the ISO centered guidance of the steering committee. The agenda was written at the front of the room on a big paper pad, and if someone wanted to discuss something, it was often seen as sidetracking more important and pressing issues, meaning, the ISO agenda.  During meetings the ISO would hawk their paper at almost every point, at announcements, during briefings, before and after meetings, and they integrated stories from their paper into their comments throughout the meetings. The result was the feeling of being at an ISO meeting, which it really was. The steering committee itself had one charismatic young activist, who was not in the ISO (he was not the only non-ISO person on this committee), but he later admitted that an ISO member had stuck so close to him during the entire semester, that this person was essentially an un-elected member of the committee. At the meeting where our non-ISO majority was ready to discuss the problems within SAW, an ISO member facilitating the meeting actually put forth the proposal that these topics be tabled until the following semester. The reason given was that SAW had to concentrate on defending members against SF State Administration attacks on members who had participated in an anti-recruitment rally. The attacks on SAW were real, but there was no reason we could not carry out the defense of students, which all were agreed on and which had already been discussed extensively, while also addressing the unhappiness of the group’s majority. The proposal to table the discussion was voted down (showing we could have carried any proposal we wanted, including expelling ISO members if we had ever intended to do so, which we did not). The general feeling by this time was that there had been so much intimidation, name calling, and harassment by ISO members of non-ISO members within SAW, that most of us (with one exception) wanted to leave the group, which was seen as a lost cause. Instead, people voiced their genuine disappointment with the structure of SAW, with the rigidity of the ISO members and their need to control things, and with their responses to our organizational complaints. There was never any problem voiced against anyone's’ politics or identification as a “socialist”.  Most of the dissenting members identified as being politically to the left of the ISO.

    Regardless, it was after this meeting that my friend in the ISO sent me this insanely fallacious account of what had occurred at this meeting, which was meant for ISO members only, written by Todd Chretien, the ISO regional organizer, who is at the time of this writing, running for California State Senator:

          Bay Area ISO Notes 5/12/05

          -Cadre Todd

          Red Baiting at SFSU

          Red-baiting came to SFSU in the last two weeks when some members of

          the Students Against War group proposed restricting SW sales at SAW

          events because "the ISO drives people away." Of course, this is a

          ridiculous idea, given that ISO members STARTED the group, make up

          many of the most active members of the group, and were instrumental

           in planning the March 9 counter-recruitment action that earned

          national attention, as well as the wrath of the SFSU

          administration. Comrades at SFSU did a very good job of defending

         their rights to be open socialists in the movement, pointed out that

          the liberal antiwar leadership's tailing of Kerry is to blame for

          the state of the movement (not the ISO), and then put forward clear

          proposals to get SAW moving back in an outward direction.

          Crucially, because the ISO members did not back down in the face of

          this campaign, the members of SAW who were putting forward these

          proposals, withdrew them. While standing up for themselves was

          certainly stressful, and it is disappointing that fellow activists

          succumb to McCarthyite prejudices, they held their ground and

          demonstrated that you don't have to bury your principles in order to

          be good organizers. The SFSU comrades have provided an excellent

          model for the rest of the district about how to be socialists in the

          movements, both when things are going well, and when they are

          difficult. [2]  

     Todd’s version of events is so self-serving, so insidiously and intentionally distorting of the situation, that one has to acknowledge it amounts to telling lies. No one red-baited an ISO member, ever. Why? Because those who were questioning ISO domination were mostly to the Left of the ISO. This bit about anyone challenging their right to be “open socialists” is a complete red herring, and part of their smoke machine to avoid ever discussing real issues. The ISO responses to our complaints never addressed our view that the problem had to do with the stifling centralized structure they enforced. Instead, we were given canned statements about how the antiwar movement was in disarray thanks to the lack of a strong antiwar stance from John Kerry and the Democrats, and how our “McCarthyite prejudices” represented an attack on them. It is evocative of a Karl Rovian strategy to paint our group, which was being stifled, as victimizing the ISO. But as is seen in Todd’s writing, they always claimed the mantle of victimhood, even when they were in total control of our agenda. The “clear proposals to get SAW moving back in an outward direction” were actually the suggestions that SAW members work jointly on a newspaper. But given the level of dishonesty, the name calling, the false charges of “McCarthyite” tendencies, no one was interested in setting out on another supposedly “democratic” project with the ISO/SAW. While Todd’s post may have marked the moment when the mask came off and the disingenuousness of the ISO became as clear as day, it had taken a while for us to uncover the level of contempt the ISO had for us.

                                       

                                 Panel 1: I feel guilty about using SAW as an ISO front group.

                                Panel 2: Without our vanguard the students could only ever achieve trade union consciousness.

                                Panel 3: It's just that their criticisms of the ISO are so spot on.

                                Panel 4: Look, when we seize the State we'll worry about ideas. Five cents please.

     My own problems in SAW initially stemmed from my questioning an article an ISO member posted to the SAW listserv, which characterized Medea Benjamin and Phyllis Bennis, among others, as leading the antiwar movement away from grass roots activism, which supposedly was a complete contrast to the ISO and their backing of Nader’s Presidential run. Rather than analyze a  difference over strategy based on what was possible, the ISO articles essentially blamed any group that had backed an “anybody but Bush” vote in the Presidential campaign for being the root cause of the failure of the antiwar movement. Beyond that, the posted article seemed self-serving, intending to portray the ISO as the only ideologically correct option. But they were backing Nader, who was not anti-capitalist as they claim to be. Another contradictory aspect of their support for Nader was that their publications, The Socialist Worker and the ISR, had consistently taken an anti-UN stance, making clear that they believed it could not be an effective peace keeping force in Iraq or anywhere else, and that it was more a servant of US imperialism. As Bridget Broderick had written in the ISR:  “From the outset, the UN, despite its internationalist rhetoric, has served as a convenient instrument of national foreign policy for the world’s major imperialist powers–a fig leaf for intervention under the auspices of humanitarian concerns or for imposing the will of the‘international community’ on ‘rogue nations.’” [3]   It may strike some as surprising then that Nader was advocating more of this “intervention under the auspices of humanitarian concerns” by outlining a US troop pullout plan for Iraq that would begin with “Development of an appropriate international peace-keeping force: Under the auspices of the United Nations an international peace keeping force...” [4]   Can a group be, by its own definition, anti-imperialist and pro-imperialist at the same time? If the ISO labels an “anybody but Bush” plan pro-war, they should also call a Nader candidacy pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist, unless that is, the issues are less important than gaining hegemony in the antiwar movement. Antiwar activists should be equally critical of liberal strategy and ISO hypocrisy, especially given the ISO’s proclivity to dominate all groups they are involved with, and to paint themselves as ideologically pure, which they are not even close to being.

     If a Kerry victory would have changed nothing, it is also true that a focus on a Nader campaign changed nothing. The election was inherently a dead end if the goal was using it to stop the war. Any revolutionary or even effective action to stop the war would have to take place outside of the normal political channels. So one could agree with the ISO when they said that students and soldiers were showing more initiative than the Democratic Party, without jumping to the conclusion that the ISO was the only viable leader for the antiwar movement. Focusing on Kerry or Nader potentially took resources away from effective antiwar work. The ISO should  place their failed tactics under the heading of “strategies that did not stop the war” and stop pretending they are somehow separate from the general electoral approach of other groups. To make their  charges that other groups callously sold out the movement, the ISO took quotes from Phyllis Bennis and Medea Benjamin completely out of context from every other aspect of their antiwar and progressive work, some of which has actual value. It is the disingenuousness, not the act of criticism that is objectionable. Strategically, backing the actions of liberal groups even as we participate in more radical politics is sometimes advantageous. But one should be aware that both

mainstream liberal groups and groups like the ISO represent just another boss that serves to hold back the antiwar movement, channeling energy into their electoral and party building tactics even as they pander to the masses with pleasant sounding “socialist” rhetoric. Any genuine social justice movement must be free from control of groups like the ISO if it is going to reflect the goals of the people, who historically form a leading edge ahead of parties and trade unions. The ISO is

simply not needed to create a revolutionary consciousness regardless of their propaganda to the contrary. [5]   Such consciousness develops in workers, students, and often in people from all classes via experience in the capitalist system, and from interacting with others who are dissatisfied with the system. While exposure to dissenting ideas and theories is essential, a vanguard party which delegates authority is actually harmful and often prevents needed critical approaches to given situations. Obviously, the scope of ideas and historical criticism that ISO members are willing to consider is extremely limited, and must conform to their rigid dogma.

     These were some of the reasons I had found the initial ISO article on what our movement must look like offensive. I responded by posting the following to the SAW listserv:

        “I personally found the article to be misrepresentative of some of the people who were  

          criticized. After all, the ISO supported Nader, which is a way to try to reach out to a

          broader base, even though this essentially supports reform capitalism. Shall we snipe the 

          ISO for their lack of pure politics because of this? Thankfully, SAW is supposed to be

          more than the ISO's position on things...There is more than one vision for the future of the

          antiwar movement. I'm sure everyone agrees we need to work out ours democratically.”

     I was immediately contacted by an ISO member who stated I should have been more critical of the content, not just the fact that an ISO member wrote it (but my point had more to do with double standards, and stemmed from annoyance that the ISO was posting articles telling us what “our movement” should look like ideologically to the “debate free” listserv, which is unfair). I had to explain that I kept the note short for fear of breaking the stated policy that the listserv was an inappropriate forum for debate. Their chill on free speech had worked. At the next meeting, another ISO activist, who was not an SF State student, but was involved with SAW, pulled me aside to warn me, while smiling, that the ISO will do whatever it wants in SAW and that I couldn’t tell them otherwise. She acted like I was trying to censor the ISO, but I told her that it was I who had been censored from the list the previous semester, by a member of the ISO, David Russitano. I wasn’t sure she had even read my brief post as her comments seemed disconnected. I was later told my post was “anti-Leninist” although it really only said that SAW was not the ISO, which was very threatening to them (and as it turns out, wrong). But I got the message: Don’t criticize or put forward your own ideas, just do what the group is doing to keep things

flowing efficiently. I decided it wasn’t worth challenging them if it was going to make me a pariah.

                    

                                   Panel 1: There's a good Noam Chomsky article in the new ISR.

                                  Panel 2: "If the Left is understood to include "Bolshevism" then I would flatly disassociate myself from the Left. Lenin was one of the greatest enemies of socialism in                                   my opinion." --Noam Chomsky

                                  Panel 3:

                                  Panel 4: George Galloway is pretty good too.

     Later in the semester an ISO member posted another ISO article called “Attempts to limit debate only weaken antiwar organizing. What kind of movement do we need?”  which again reviewed the failings of other groups, grossly misrepresenting the main focus of each group. The title carried a doubly charged hypocrisy for me as it was posted by the same ISO member who had censored me the previous semester. While the ISO may claim they are engaged in electoral politics only until the revolution arrives, the unpleasant truth is that they are constantly crushing revolutionary thinking  in groups they are involved with, as was seen with their stifling of direct democracy in SAW.  This is what vanguardists must do, because they believe that students, workers, and all others cannot autonomously act in their own interests. This stems from the wisdom of Lenin, who argued that the proletariat can only ever achieve “trade-union consciousness” unless the revolutionary impetus is introduced from outside by the vanguard party. [6]   The sad thing is that people in SAW go along with this!

     The last straw for the ISO, and the thing that brought the wrath of not only local ISO members, but now of their regional organizer Todd Chretien (see above), and other Socialist Worker writers  down on the non ISO members, was when we dared to point out that poorly written ISO criticisms of Naomi Klein’s supposed position on the Iraqi resistance (as portrayed in an ISO article posted on the SAW site), amounted to fabrications. (Defending Klein from ISO distortion is in no way the same as adhering to her political beliefs.) Klein’s position was described in this ISO article as characterizing the Iraqi insurgency as “unthinking fanatics and Islamist’ extremists.”   According to the ISO, the effect of her position was to “shut off any serious discussion about what antiwar activists in this country ought to know about what is taking place in Iraq.”    The truth was that Klein was questioning whether blanket statements about supporting the resistance missed the point that there were reactionary elements in it which could not be ignored or romanticized The ISO was insisting that activists must adhere to a position that was so vague as to amount to a meaningless string of words.  This served as McCarthy style loyalty test in which the ISO demanded that activists “support the resistance”.  But such a statement is in no way revolutionary and is actually short sighted and self serving, insisting that a party line, even if it is infantile, be adhered to by other groups to prove they are not capitalist dupes. Supporting reactionary segments of the resistance, seemingly unconditionally, is not at all what one would expect from an outfit that claims to be based on a class struggle analysis. Supporting nationalist resistance unconditionally and in total is not the same thing as defending  the working class in a given country! This is a recurring weakness in ISO party line stances, which seem designed to discredit other antiwar groups as “not radical” enough. They should instead be elaborating a clear defense of the workers from imperialists from without, while simultaneously criticizing reactionaries inside the country that is being defended. But they don’t do that. Instead they insinuate that any criticism of aspects of the resistance amounts to support for U.S. imperialism. Such a Manichaean description of the situation is about as theoretically nutritious as an ideological twinkie.

                      

                                    Panel 1:So you quit ISO and joined Adventure Club? [7]    

                                    Panel 2: It's just as well. You never sold enough papers or recruited any members.

                                    Panel 3: Your ideas about autonomy and anti-authoritarianism show a lack of political maturity.

                                    Panel 4: I'd rather be an infantile Leftist than a creep.

       “Anti-Imperialism”, Bolshevism, and the Politics of Authoritarian Centralists

           “If the left is understood to include 'Bolshevism,' then I would flatly dissociate myself   

          from the left. Lenin was one of the greatest enemies of socialism, in my opinion, for  

          reasons I've discussed.”

          “Leninist doctrine holds that a vanguard Party should assume state power and drive the

          population to economic development, and, by some miracle that is unexplained, to freedom

          and justice. It is an ideology that naturally appeals greatly to the radical intelligentsia, to

          whom it affords a justification for their role as state managers. I can't see any reason --

          either in logic or history -- to take it seriously. Libertarian socialism (including a substantial

          mainstream of Marxism) dismissed all of this with contempt, quite rightly.”

           -two quotes from Noam Chomsky [8]  

     The ISO’s blind spot to generalized pro-nationalist “anti-imperialism” came up again in the Fall 2005 Semester when they threw their backing to British MP George Galloway. Galloway had made some great scathing remarks against the war and Bush, but he does not put forward a compelling critique of the state, nor of dictators who are the “enemy of his enemy” and fellow “anti-imperialists”. In an effort to sweet talk Saddam Hussein, whom Galloway had rightly been critical of in the 1980s, into allowing UN inspectors into Iraq, he made regrettable comments to the mass murdering nationalist dictator, telling Saddam “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.” There are a handful of other laudatory quotes from Galloway to Saddam, which he says were aimed more at the Iraqi people than Saddam himself. But Galloway has also said of Fidel Castro that “He’s the most magnificent human being I’ve ever met." It’s one thing to defend the people of Iraq against US imperialism, or to point out that Fidel has been far better for Cuba than Batista had been, but to offer uncritical praise of this sort is in no way reflective of revolutionary politics. Galloway’s general lack of criticism for the brutality of the state is clearly underscored in an interview with the London Guardian:

          “I am on the anti-imperialist left."

           [Interviewer] The Stalinist left?

          "I wouldn't define it that way because of the pejoratives loaded around it; that would be 

          making a rod for your own back. If you are asking did I support the Soviet Union, yes I

          did. Yes, I did support the Soviet Union, and I think the disappearance of the Soviet Union   

          is the biggest catastrophe of my life. If there was a Soviet Union today, we would not be

          having this conversation about plunging into a new war in the Middle East, and the US

          would not be rampaging around the globe." [9]  

     So the ISO, while constantly working to distance itself from any association with Stalinism or the Soviet State (post-Lenin anyway), throws their weight behind Galloway, whose position on “what kind of a movement we need” seems not to match their own anti-Stalinist rhetoric. [10]   But his “lesser of two evil nation states” model of revolution is consistent with statist Bolshevism, and Trotsky’s view on imperialism, and while there is some truth to what Galloway says about the nature of a (limited and opportunistic) Soviet check on US imperialism, to imply that the Soviet Union was therefore somehow a viable option for or defender of the future of socialism is grotesque. And yet the ISO were supporting this nationalist MP because he was “antiwar” which becomes meaningless in the context of his politics. While the ISO would like to focus on the fact that they are “Leninist” and not “Stalinist” and that they are therefore somehow representing what they call “real socialism”, this support for Galloway is but one stance that exposes their cheap opportunism.  The fate of socialists and communists in Iran under the Ayatollah Khomeni proves the weakness of this type monolithic “anti-imperialist” stance, as does the fate of leftists under the Baath party of Saddam Hussein. U.S. imperialism must of course be resisted, but to portray equally oppressive states or leaders as an “alternative” only sells out the people who will become their victims. These contradictions run through all of the ISO’s political theory and actions, and shapes their Iraq policy which supports “the resistance”, as if it  could be supported or denied as one monolithic entity. A more thoughtful view has

been espoused by Stephen R. Shalom at Znet:

          "...we support the right of the Iraqi people to engage in resistance, whether armed   or 

          unarmed, by all legitimate means, and condemn acts of terrorism targeting innocent

          civilians, especially sectarian attacks. Moreover, we support any forces, armed or

          unarmed, that are fighting for the liberation of Iraq and to achieve a democratic and

           progressive outcome and we withhold our support from those whose tactics are

           systematically unacceptable and from those who would impose a rigid

           dictatorship—whether secular or Islamic—over the Iraqi people." [11]  

     The ISO chastises fellow liberals for supporting bourgeois imperialist political parties, while allying with those who remain silent on dictators, and while backing candidates who hold positions the ISO has labeled imperialist. These are the sorts of contradictions that come up again and again with the ISO. In this, they are hard to separate from groups like ANSWER and other statist authoritarians. That the ISO are also Trotskyist in no way establishes their “real socialist” credentials either, as anyone who has studied the Russian Revolution should admit. It might be different if they did not constantly claim to be the guardians of correct socialist theory, smearing others as sellouts, but they do.

     The only thing that is hard to understand is why old Left authoritarianism is still around today given all that we know about the Bolsheviks’ dismantling of the Soviet workers’ councils’ autonomy, the brutal crushing of the Kronstadt uprising, Lenin’s love of Taylorism and “one man management”,  his opposition to  workers’ management, and the anti-democratic one party system that he set up, long before Stalin came to power (see the reading list at the end of the essay). Yet college students all over the country enter into their activism through either “socialist” groups like the ISO, or their fronts like SAW. One begins to see the limitations this puts on the future of the movement, and why many are choosing to start new groups away from such outfits. Even if the ISO was totally genuine, which they are not, and stuck to theirprinciples as espoused in their rhetoric, which they don’t, wouldn’t the fact that they are calling for centralized dictatorship of the proletariat, which under Lenin was a dictatorship over the proletariat by one party, be enough to cause activists to question their entire model for the future?

     Since the ISO is anti-Stalinist, doesn’t that make them part of the progressive “New Left”? Here it is useful to consider the complete resistance to any substantial critical commentary on Lenin, Trotsky, or of the Bolsheviks before Stalin. In my  personal involvement with the ISO, this point was brought home to me like a slap in the face. I had been asking my friend, the ISO member, to please read Maurice Brinton’s The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control, a short, but densely packed examination of the rhetoric of the Bolsheviks from 1917 to 1921 as compared to their actions regarding workers’ self management, which the Bolsheviks opposed. This is the response I got after my fifth or sixth request: "At this point in time i dont feel comfortable enough to read the brinton article. My ISO advisor and I both feel that i need more education

before taking on such critiques." Quite chilling. Kronstadt is another subject seemingly off limits for ISO members who are lower in the ranks, and for which a party line response exists for those further up in the hierarchy. This is my experience, and I’m sure there are those in the group who read widely, as is evident from the ISO website, but it is hard to tease out any original thoughts on these topics from local ISO members. Ida Mett, Brinton, Chomsky, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, Daniel Cohn-Bendit; they’re all just plain wrong on Kronstadt according to members of the ISO, or just plain taboo.  Left Communist critiques need not even be considered by ISO members. They are told by their local leadership that Left Communism is “Kindergarten communism” for those who have yet to “grow the fuck up”, or so my friend in the ISO says he was told at  a recent ISO meeting. [12]    Such boring and insubstantial “critique” is to be expected

from the group, whose members often prefer reciting and reshaping quotes from Lenin to engaging in thoughtful consideration of issues and opposing views.

                       

                                     Panel 1: I lost control of another Students Against War meeting today.

                                     Panel 2: Everyone started talking about the Bolsheviks crushing the Kronstadt uprising.

                                    Panel 3: Then a spontaneous reading from Brinton's The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control broke out.

                                    Panel 4: I wish I wasn't a Leninist.

     For the ISO, it is as if the world revolutions of 1968 never happened, and the overthrow of the ideological positions of the Old Left and the failed state socialists never occurred. The New Left did not begin in 1968  as is sometimes thought, but was launched largely in response to the invasion of Hungary by the Soviet Union in 1956. In that same year, Kruschev began the “De-Stalinization” process, in which the crimes of Stalin were examined, if only opportunistically. This began a steady crumbling of unconditional support for the Soviet Union from CPs worldwide.  Rather than incorporating the developments in criticism of the Old Left, which included a fresh look at the authoritarianism of Lenin and Trotsky, the ISO and groups like them cling to failed models of state socialism and state managed revolution, in which a transitional stage will somehow lead to “real socialism”. This is in part based on the contention that Stalin represented a clean break from Lenin and Trotsky, who are seen by many left academics and authoritarian socialists alike as representing “real socialism” in contrast to Stalin’s supposed betrayal of the Bolshevik revolutionary program. But there are many clear indicators that the Bolsheviks, even by late 1917, began dismantling the Revolution, which had begun as a proletarian and peasant uprising ahead of party control or guidance.

But What Do You Really Think?

     Having outlined some of my personal experiences with the control freaks in the ISO, and having explained some of their self-righteous political stances, which they insist are more advanced than any “infantile” or “ultra-Left” positions, allow me to tell you how I really feel.

     The ISO is a logo. It's “rock and roll” or “hip hop” activism for youth who know that there is something horribly wrong with US foreign policy, and maybe even capitalism. [13]   The ISO is a red fist of strength, a symbol, in reality, of the brute force of Lenin and Trotsky crushing dissent in the Russian Revolution; a single fist, like a single party, guiding the masses from a position of strength, a “revolution” which led to a new set of rulers over the proletariat.

     The ISO is McSocialism. But I shouldn’t be flip. There are differences between the ISO and McDonald’s. While McDonald’s pays their workers minimum wage, the ISO pays their work force nothing (and bring your ten bucks for Galloway tickets...nose-bleeds I’m afraid). The ISO labor pool is two tiered. The outer labor pool is called SAW. These activists usually don’t even know they are working for the ISO, a far more covert relationship to the central company than

any sweatshop worker in the Third World has to say, Nike, or Levis. But  the level of homogeneity in the “product” coming from the corporate structure of the ISO and the product of McDonald's, Nike, or Levis,  is comparable.

Surplus Value Creation Within the ISO

     It is true that ISO members are not in a strictly “capitalist” social relation since they are not earning a wage, but the effect on members shares many of the side affects of such a relation. The fact that the members of the ISO and its front groups do not control their own direction or their own labor is an indication that they are replicating the social relations of commodity production in a microcosm claiming to represent a revolutionary alternative. “In the world of commodity production, praxis is not pursued in accordance with autonomously determined aims, but in accordance with the directives of external forces. Economic laws take on the appearance of natural laws; but their power depends solely on the ‘unawareness of those who participate in them.’” [14]   The product coming out the ISO is ideology and their advertisers are recruiters. The advertisements for this ideology are embodied in the Socialist Worker paper which every ISO member is forced to sell and read. The workers are the members, who give their labor to replicate themselves by turning their labor into more members, through paper sales and parroting the party line. Their labor adds value to the ISO as a group. This surplus value is harvested by the leadership, who are the capitalists. The labor is inherently alienating, not coming from the experience or needs of the workers themselves. The capitalist leadership of the ISO reinvests the new human capital into more replication of members. To successfully compete with other groups and ideologies, the ISO pushes its labor force as hard as possible, even to the point of mentally abusive treatment, name calling, and systematic belittling, while providing the minimum needed to keep them working. This includes occasional “socialist” retreats, the right to throw parties, potential for upward mobility in the hierarchy, and the indoctrination into the closed echo chamber of rhetoric which is itself supposed to represent “knowledge”. As in all capitalist structures, the surplus value is extracted from the workers for the benefit of those at the top, who only, it is said, want what is best for all of their followers. In this trickle down “socialism” the ISO capitalists’ real interest is not in creating better lives for the group or society, but in attaining a monopoly for their product (ideology which recreates their own infrastructure), and in maximizing their profit (higher status as a group) to invest in “variable capital” (more members/workers/followers).

     The ISO is open about the fact that their members must adhere to a party line (product) once it is decided on, although their “ads” (papers/recruitment raps) to potential recruits are about as manipulative and disingenuous as any coming out of a Wall street agency, and similarly based on “market research” carried out on “hot issues” that will gain membersby playing on guilt and insecurity, or by flattering the potential recruit.

     The ISO is organizationally a Satanic Mill, Mrs. Pincher’s Orphanage, and Lord of the Flies rolled into one. They shroud this all in a mystical vision of “democracy” as if the rank and file members had as much say in the party line as the leadership. This is a pyramidal hierarchy, just like all capitalist relations are, and those at the top are responsible for the ideology, which is supposedly reflective of and in the name of the rank and file.

     The “democratic” structure is also a duplication of the State and citizen relationship, and about as genuine a democracy as occurs any State. Citizens get to rubber-stamp decisions already made at the top.  The term “revolutionary” should only be applied to the ISO in the way it is applied to a great new breath mint (a social coup) or a faster computer. The end result is alienation; alienation from one’s labor in the group; alienation from friends in and out of the group; alienation from one’s own potential as a human being. Like Piggy from Lord of the Flies, one is left off camera, a quietly gushing crimson stream flowing into the sea as your spectacles float out of frame.

     The “activism” of the rank and file membership therefore is nothing but a hollow and droid like echoing of that party line, an advertisement, with seemingly little or no self-reflection or deeper understanding of the context and meaning behind their ideological zeros and ones. Individual members only make up a fleshy reification of a total ideology. Here is a good example which will already look familiar to the reader of this pamphlet. I t was posted by my ISO friend  to my political chat site as a “good post from comrade Arturo”on the situation in SAW in the Spring 2005 semester:

          Comrades,

          In the context of a collapsing left and the antiwar movement's hastening move to the right,

          the ISO and other radicals has come under increasing attack in the form of red baiting and

          sectarianism.The attack that we are experiencing within SAW is not isolated. It is a  

          conscious attempt nationally to marginalize radicals and blame us for the state of the  

          antiwar movement. Our best defense is a good offense. By this I mean being confident

          about our politics, confronting the red baiting head-on, fighting for democracy in SAW

          and winning people to our side by arguing that artificial divisions in our ranks only weaken

          the antiwar movement.

          --Arturo Serna

     The complete adherence to party line, the complete avoidance of substantive consideration of the issues facing SAW is a telling look into the psyche of a typical ISO member who has been hounded and threatened into the grossest sort of conformity. It is hard to even look at, and saddening to think this person believes he is defending “democracy”. What kind of democracy can flourish where substantive debate is intentionally discouraged and shelved, and where one group intentionally guides all members from outside of the group  itself? He is unable to realize the debate in SAW was launchednot from the right of the ISO, but from its left. His belief in the party line means he can swallow an ideological inversion of reality whole without blinking. But this conformity may be exactly what ISO members find appealing. Once authority is given to those above one’s self, all that is required is faith. Faith in the organization, like faith in a religion, or a State, frees one from feelings of responsibility to struggle with solutions to such serious problems such as the future of the Left, how to stop the war, and other weighty and often depressing issues. Because as many know, when we engage with such questions in an honest way, we are often left with serious doubts, and nagging feelings we may be missing something important. These feelings may lead us to reach out to others for their input, to read widely, to ask questions, to debate, and think critically. This is what ISO members generally do not do. For them, there are simple answers, predigested histories, imbibed ideological stances, and restricted and guided readings, which judging from the statements coming from members, are mostly made up of articles from Socialist Worker and the International Socialist Review. These approved bits of cud need only to be memorized, or even better, cut and pasted, as comrade Arturo’s “analysis” of the situation above shows quite clearly.

     Predigestion, safety, easy answers, all lead to self-righteousness and moralizing in defense of the group. There is a very short song lyric by the Sisters of Mercy that could describe a Republican, a Democrat, or a member of the ISO with equal precision:

           “Fix” 

          Love for the party love for the nation

          Love for the fix for the fabrication

          Love for the corpse for the corporation

          Love for the death and for the defecation

          Romance and assassination

          Give me the love of genocide

          Give me love

     Whether the corporate body is Walmart or the ISO, we see similar results. The corpse results from the worship of a dead ideology; from the self-negating immersion in it. When the ISO refers to “individualism” as a negative, they mean the kind of mentality that leads to capitalist exploitation and alienation, but in practice they mean anyone outside the ISO. This is because the very structure of their organization, the rigid hierarchy that rewards some more than others, and puts leaders over the led, (the leaders are the ones who know how to succinctly dumb everything down) can’t avoid becoming a tool for repressing creativity, critical thinking, local autonomous action, and  two way communication.

     Instead, the ISO acts like Debord’s Spectacle, presenting itself as the truth, commanding the discourse, and saturating the scene, through its newspapers, and through its instruments-- like advisors and regional leaders, who are all tied to party line and central command, where the “democratic” decision making takes place, and then trickles down this “reality” to the rank and file in the group and its fronts. The membership has no option but to “choose” this “reality” because they have no input in a one-way system. And yet this is the model for the future that is said to assure the transition to “socialism”. The self negating loyalty required for this anti-socialist project can only scoff at any concern for what the politics of the group actually stand for. It is represents the necrophiliac mind of the song lyric above. The love of “success” over substance can lead a member of such a group to turn a blind eye to the shortcomings of ideology and to lose sight of the fact that the goal of a “Left” is supposed to be liberation and egalitarianism, which cannot exist one without the other. Authoritarianism is real, palpable, and alive in the ISO despite any snickers at the suggestion, or the use of quotation marks around the word on their part.

     And Finally, the Gentrification

     The reversion to such a discredited Old Left model mirrors the step backward that San Francisco and the nation have taken economically and socially as capitalism in crisis once again takes off the gloves in its attack on the working class, middle class, and poor. The ISO’s ascension parallels the broader phenomenon of the gentrification of our city. The substantial gutting of the Mission, the yuppification of the Polk street scene, the disappearance of the old anarcho-punk collectives, the destruction of the International Hotel, and even the flight of progressive non-profits is part of the same gentrifying movement as the imperialism of the ISO in the Left. Such shallow one size fits all activism is surely part of the same culture that brings us more malls, that replaces punk with Hot Topic, that substitutes Care Not Cash for solidarity with the homeless and genuine concern for their needs, that replaces Davey D. with Clear Channel, and that locks us out of having any kind of real input into what is after all our future. If nothing else, remind yourself that the future belongs to all of us, not a chosen cadre of enlightened beings who believe that they have to educate us on the problems we face in our daily lives, mediating between us and our desires. Theory is good, and it allows us to isolate the factors of

exploitation that control us, but theory and history also expose groups like the ISO as hypocritical, self-serving, and lying self-appointed vanguards who are totally corrupt and out of touch. Resisting them is a must. Ideology is not theory. Any group that wants to rewrite the history of the Left to justify repressive tactics is a dinosaur. To the Dinosaurs, we quote Keith Richards, who told the Black Crowes' singer “It’s been done mate.” Now is not the time for rehash. Now is the time for genuine grass roots direct democracy, and working class thought and action in our own best interests, and in the interests of all the victims of capitalism. To start with, we must admit that State based “socialism” has been acknowledged as a failure, just as capitalism has. The reason is basic in that the function of the State is to serve as a vessel for nationalism, which is in of itself a  "methodology for conducting the empire of capital." [15]    When the ISO reaches out a friendly hand to bring you onboard with their “revolution” it is important to realize that, should they win, their goal is to become the leadership in such a new state, a “workers’ state”, but a state nonetheless. Here, one must examine the history of the Russian Revolution and the Bolshevik Party, which the ISO openly models itself on.

     We are witnessing the rise of movements around the planet that have become aware of both the destructiveness of liberal solutions, and the stifling hypocrisy of authoritarianism. The ISO embodies both tendencies. Organization need not mean parties or states. These models have failed us. The solutions and answers cannot be imparted on the masses from above or outside by a vanguard party, they must arise through autonomous action which tests theory, and creates new theory. Participation will be undertaken freely, not by coercion or under condescending control and command from a centralized body that is outside of those engaging in action. We know how not to make revolution. The way forward is less certain.

                          

                                       Panel 1: I resigned as overseer and joined Adventure Club.

                                       Panel 2: What?!! You Red Baiting McCarthyite traitor!

                                       Panel 3: I'm going to tell the Larouche people to beat you up.

                                       Panel 4: I always thought the two groups were connected.

 

Suggestions For Further Reading

 

Specifically on the ISO:

“ISO alienates SF State activists-SAW site debate Part 1” online at:

http://www.infoshop.org/inews/article.php?story=20050529001500670

 “ISO alienates SF State activists-SAW site debate Part 2”

http://www.infoshop.org/inews/article.php?story=20050531124816353&query=ISO%2Balienates%2B

ISO: THE JOY OF SECTS by John Lacny

http://a4a.mahost.org/iso.html

 “Why did ISO hijack Berkley CA Schools Conference?”

 http://sf.indymedia.org/news/2001/11/109100.php

This is from late 2001 and is a critical view of the first CSAW conference. Having attended the 2004 Campus antiwar Network conference, I saw “Robert's  Rules” used as a sleight of hand way to control the vote,from “delegates” who had been chosen to guarantee the ISO got what it wanted, and all the issues voted on also seemed to have been brought to the table by the ISO, aside from a ribbon campaign which did not matter. At one point, the Spartacists asked for the group to vote merely to endorse their anti-ROTC rally at Berkeley, Robert's  Rules were manipulated to take the vote out of the majority and into the hands of the delegates. But the groups of students were not allowed to tell their delegates how to vote at this stage, and a no vote on the endorsement emerged from what had been a yes vote seconds earlier. The reason? Bad blood between the Spartacists and the ISO, two authoritarian left groups, and the fact that an ISO backed rally was taking place two days after the anti-ROTC event, and they didn’t want their thunder stolen. If an antiwar conference can’t even endorse a simple anti-ROTC rally, what is the point?

Response to ISO ‘Democracy or consensus?’ article on antiwar conferences

http://www.indybay.org/news/2001/12/111552.php

More complaints about ISO disingenuousness and manipulation explained.

Despite Schism, Brown antiwar groups make last-minute plans to express opposition

http://www.brown.edu/Students/INDY/alpha/oldstuff/032003/2.html

     At Brown University, a group tells of the ISO “invading” their meetings and attempting a take over.

Why did ISO hijack Berkley CA Schools Conference? (2)

http://www.infoshop.org/inews/article.php?story=01/11/12/2340074

 Same piece as above but with different follow up posts, at a specifically anarchist site.

 ISO Hijacks BOSTON and SAN FRANCISCO Campus antiwar Conferences

http://www.indybay.org/news/2001/11/109269.php

Criticizing the Authoritarian “Left”.

http://www.infoshop.org/texts/iso.html

I have not read every article on this page, and it is a mixed bag, but worth looking at.

Vampire Alert!

http://www.eco-action.org/dod/no9/seattle_vampire.html

Related to the British SWP group, which the ISO has recently split from.

The antiwar Movement and Iraq:

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=7933

 Stephen Shalom dismantles ISO position on supporting “the resistance” and puts forth  a more thoughtful, and more socialist option

 “Which Side is the ISO on, Working Class Socialism or Nationalism and Islamism?”

http://www.impassionedinsurrection.info/ISOfornationalism.html

The dangers of the ISO position on the Iraq situation examined.

More Online resources

Three on Kronstadt:

Alexander Berkman on the Kronstadt Rebellion:

http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/anarchist_archives/bright/berkman/kronstadt/berkkron.html

“TROTSKY PROTESTS TOO MUCH” By Emma Goldman. Online at:

http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/Goldman/Writings/Essays/trotsky.html   

Among other things, a critique of Trotsky’s role in crushing the Kronstadt rebellion and a  defense of Berkman’s assessment of it.

Ida Mett on Kronstadt:

http://www.struggle.ws/russia/mett.html

     More Online:

Nestor Makhno Archive:

http://www.geocities.com/nestor_mcnab/makhno.htm

Makhno was an anarchist in the Ukraine who successfully fought against the White

counter-revolutionary forces and the invading German armies during World War I

 before the Bolsheviks under Lenin betrayed the Makhnovites.

 “Noam Chomsky on Anarchism, Marxism and Hope for the Future”

Online at:     http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/interviews/9505-anarchism.html

 Contains the scathing remarks about Lenin quoted above.

Rosa Luxemburg “Organizational Questions of the Russian Social Democracy

[Leninism or Marxism?]”  online at:

http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1904/questions-rsd/index.htm

 Luxemburg warns of the dangers of imposing revolution on the masses from the outside as  Lenin had outlined in What is to be Done?

Books:

The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control by Maurice Brinton available  online at:

http://libcom.org/library/the-bolsheviks-and-workers-control-solidarity-group

 Brinton outlines clearly the difference between Lenin’s rhetoric and the actions of the  Bolsheviks during and following the Revolution, all before the rise of Stalin.

The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism by Freddy Perlman. Available online at:

 http://personal.inet.fi/private/nw/perlman.html

A good short book on the common traits of all nationalism, even revolutionary and left  nationalism with right wing nationalism.

Obsolete Communism: The Left-Wing Alternative by Daniel Cohn-Bendit.

Especially relevant for student activists who want a view into the spirit of 1968 in Paris, and to see how various communist parties and trade unions played a role in

holding back revolutionary possibility.

Other 

The Anarchist Library at City College San Francisco:

 http://www.anarchistlibrary.org/

They offer free classes every semester and the library itself is a great place to read and

meet people. 

For Communism John Gray Website:

http://www.geocities.com/~johngray/

A great site with Left Communist/Council Communist, Anarchist, Situationist links and more.  Shows that there need not be a dividing line between anarchism and communism, and that the Leninists and Trotskyists are not the only game in town.



[1]  “I think this list should be used for communication and sharing of ideas. NOT for debates. IF we use it for debates then people will leave this listserve. The place for debates is in the meetings.  Because that is where debates can be concrete and action can be taken and hopefully at least part of the debate can be solved. It is democratic where as listerves can't be. Respectfully yours, David Russitano” Source:http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SAWSFSU/message/1329 But of course, the meetings were not a place for debate either, and were rigidly guided by the ISO.

[2] This is not the entire post. This entire post, and the SAW listserv argument which it was embedded in is very instructional on the whole process by which SAW members were disillusioned and hounded out. It can be found online at infoshop.org under the title “ISO Alienates SF State Activists”. This link is highly recommended for those wishing to come to grips with what the ISO does to members in groups it controls. It is posted in two parts.

[3]  Bridget Broderick. “Can the UN bring peace?” online at: http://www.isreview.org/issues/07/can_UN_bring_peace.shtml

[4] “Nader: US Should Withdraw From Iraq US Should Underwrite an Appropriate International Peacekeeping Force, Encourage Iraqi Self Rule and Continue Humanitarian Aid to Rebuild Iraq” Online at: http://votenader.org/why_ralph/index.php?cid=55v

[5] For example, when the anti-war demonstrations disrupted San Francisco as the Iraq war  started in 2003, no one was  running and screaming for their ISO advisors in a  confused panic. The spontaneous actions that emerged were carried out mostly by various groups and individuals without the leadership of any vanguard or party. And despite the fact that these actions did not stop the war, and should be critiqued, they were among the most strident and visible protests since that time, and had nothing to do with A.N.S.W.E.R., the ISO, the Spartacist League, or any other vanguard plan. When in 2005, a city wide riders strike against MUNI fare hikes broke out, the tens of thousands who participated over the week had no guidance from any vanguard leadership. The grass roots organizing of that strike was  done by community members, day laborers, anarchists, and anyone who decided to join in the effort. Such spontaneous action showed a high level of awareness of class based issues. There was no need to be taking orders from a central office anywhere.

[6] I have been told by a member of “Speak Out!” another Trotskyist group on our campus, that to suggest that the fact that the ISO acts like they do has any connection whatsoever to Leninist philosophy is “religious thinking” and a purely “idealist” way of viewing things. While he didn’t call me “infantile” which is a favorite term of the ISO whenever discussing anarchists and people to the left of themselves, I still heard the echo of Lenin, who often referred to his opponents’ views as religious. To say my views are idealist is to call me an idiot who doesn’t have a grasp on the materialist view of history. But to suggest that the tactics of the ISO are in no way linked to the examples of Lenin and Trotsky, and yes to their “ideas” about organizing is ludicrous! For a good critique of Lenin’s stance on imparting the revolution from a vanguard see the Rosa Luxemburg article listed at the end of this pamphlet.

[7] The Adventure Club is an anti-authoritarian group started at SF State in the Fall semester of 2005. Their first action was organizing for and participating in the city wide MUNI Fare Strike.

[8] “Noam Chomsky on Anarchism, Marxism & Hope for the Future” online at: http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/interviews/9505-anarchism.html

Second quote online at:http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Styx/5592/anarchy.html

[9] These quotes can be found in many places. I took them all from http://www.democratsdiary.co.uk/2005/04/gorgeous-george.html which is not affiliated with the Democratic party by the way.

[10] In fact, even his excuse about why he was flattering Saddam embodies a position the ISO supposedly opposes. Galloway says that he was attempting to convince Saddam to allow UN weapons inspectors into Iraq. In December 2002, an article on the antiwar movement in the ISR stated the following: “The same logic applies today to those who insist that the antiwar movement advance the ‘positive’ notion of supporting UN weapons inspectors in Iraq. Again, this concedes the right of the U.S. to position its plans to attack Iraq as “disarmament” when UN weapons inspections inevitably fail. The U.S. and British “Desert Fox” bombing of Iraq in December 1998 showed that the U.S. is quite capable of staging a confrontation over inspectors as an excuse for war.”

[11]

 Stephen R. Shalom. “The antiwar Movement and Iraq”

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=7933 Shalom is not calling for a “pristine resistance” either. He is saying that one should not “support” reactionaries. The article gives many good examples of anti-imperialists not worth “supporting” from the Taliban, Japan and Germany during World War II (as anti-U.S. imperialism only), al-Qaeda etc.

[12] I would like to separate this quote from the other quotes from ISO members as being given after my falling out with SAW, and therefore, it is possible this source is now being used to feed me false statements to discredit the other quotes as being false as well. But the quotes are in harmony with other things ISO members have said to me, and the language itself, reflecting their constant parroting of Lenin, also leads me to believe this was actually said.

[13] Although if the ISO is rock and roll it is more Allanis Morrisette than  Patty Smith, more Creed than Crime, and  more Pat Boone than Hendrix, even more Beck than Brainbombs. I don’t know hip hop too well but I’d say the ISO was more Vanilla Ice than they are the Coup. If they were jazz, they’d be more Kenny G. than Coltrane.

[14] Members of the Situationist International and some students at the University of Strasbourg. “On the Poverty of Student Life.” 1966.

[15] Freddy Perlman, The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism (Detroit: Black & Red, 1985)

 

 

 

 

 

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