ISO opposition list shut down again--and started a third time

Ben Seattle Left-Transparency at
Sun May 28 16:07:59 MDT 2000

Phil (from the marxist-worker list):
> I see that the bureaucratic campaign by the ISO and
> SWP leaderships have once again managed to shut
> down the ISO-SWP-IST opposition mailing list by
> complaining directly to egroups.
> This disgraceful action - which is the internet
> equivalent of crossing a picket line - deserves the
> condemnation of all working class activists
> everywhere. ...

First some good news:

In response to an inquiry I received email informing me that the
opposition has set up a temorary discussion list.  Anyone can
subscribe simply by sending email to:

        interim.iso-subscribe at

Also, in case anyone wants to visit their web site, it is at:

The action to close down the list does indeed deserve
condemnation--by working class activists and even by ordinary
people who believe that everyone should have the right to create
and participate in email lists and the kind of discussion that is
now possible thru the internet.

One question I have had--is how was it _possible_ for the ISO
leadership to pressure Topica and then eGroups to close down
mailing lists that were started by their political opponents?
Does that mean that _any_ political email list could be closed
down by people who do not like it?

The answer, most likely, relates to a minor tactical misstep that
was probably made by the opposition.  The founders of the
ISO-SWP-IST list may have started their list by simply
subscribing various email addresses--including addresses that
were part of the "ISO notes" list (I assume some kind of internal
list used by the ISO).  ISO members were then urged to complain
to Topica (and probably eGroups after that) about being
subscribed without their permission.

> If you would like to complain about being
> subscribed without your consent, you can
> write to "abuse at".
(email sent by Katherine for the ISO steering committee)

Companies such as Topica and eGroups must necessarily take a very
hard line against subscribing people to a list without
permission--because otherwise spammers would take advantage of
this--and the companies would suffer severe damage to their
reputation or even risk ending up on the "Real-Time Black Hole"
list maintained by anti-spam forces.  Many ISP's refuse to
receive email from any company on the black hole list.

I don't think this will happen again.  The email I received from
Rakovski suggested that they were going to be very careful about
not subscribing (or even sending direct invitations to) anyone
that might then complain about being "spammed":

> Feel free to promote the new list on other listservs,
> newsgroups, mailing lists etc and to tell your friends,
> however to try to avoid a premature shut down I'm
> not going to be sending out invitations to the list
> (other than this one email)

What can we do?  For one thing we can spread the word about their
new interim list.  We should also make clear that it was wrong
for the ISO steering committee to urge that anyone write to
abuse at topica.  Situations like this will naturally lead to hard
feelings and lost tempers.  The ISO leadership, like anyone who
is trapped in denial, must feel, subjectively, like they are
face-to-face with annihilation.  It is the competition for
survival existing between groups on the left that conditions many
sincere activists to practice or accept sectarian behavior.

The ISO opposition will build its third list--this time more
slowly because they must be cautious about giving anyone grounds
to accuse them of "spamming".  It looks to me like they will win
this fight--in terms of becoming a well-known resource where open
criticism of the trajectories of their trend can be found and
made.  More than this--the ISO opposition, by taking the road of
open discussion, is helping to pave the road to the future of a
left in which disagreements are sorted out in a principled way
and in full view of (and with the active participation of) the

All groups on the left must learn to accept, and even welcome,
open discussion and criticism.  Such discussion will help them to
recognize and correct their errors and to thereby prove that they
are deserving of the respect of the masses.

Ben Seattle
----//-// 28.May.2000

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