NZ branch of IST on the recent split (fwd)

Tony Tracy tony at
Mon Mar 12 18:27:19 MST 2001

from another email list... thought it would be of interest to some...

(sorry 'bout the formatting)

 - tony

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2001 14:28:51 +1300
From: clockwork orange <thesisteve at>
To: interim.iso at
Subject: [ist/swp-opposition] NZ branch of IST on the recent split

IST/SWP Opposition list -

This is an email that Grant Morgan, leader of the NZ Cliffite group, is
circulating on a NZ Activism egroup about the recent split. Thought it might
be of interest to some.


Forwarded Message:
>To: NZ Activism <NZActivism at> From: "Grant Morgan"
><gcm at> Subject: [NZActivism] Break between IST and ISO-US
>Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2001 09:47:13 +1300 ----- Kia ora
>This list has carried comment, often ill-informed, about the recent
break in
>relations between the International Socialist Tendency (IST) and its
>sister organisation in America, the ISO-US. (The IST is the world's
>revolutionary Marxist grouping, with member organisations on every
>continent and in many individual countries.)
>For your information, below are two statements on this break from member
>groups of the IST. The first comes from the central committee of the
>Socialist Workers Party in Britain, the second from the national
>committee of the Socialist Workers Organisation in New Zealand.
>Our basic criticism is that the ISO-US is on a sectarian trajectory
>disrupts its capacity for dynamic intersection with the post-Seattle
>rise of a global New Left.
>The political conflict between the IST and the ISO-US is certainly not
>unique to the IST or to revolutionary Marxism. It can also be seen, in
>shape or another, in all other groups across the international left
>That's because the post-Seattle surge in anti-capitalist radicalisation
>represents a 'sudden turn in history' (to use Lenin's words), and such
>inevitably produce sharp debates and even serious crises within all
>shades of left opinion.
>The broad, non-sectarian approach of the IST and our decisive rejection of
>the sectarianism of the ISO-US means that we are well-placed to meet the
>exciting challenges of the international growth in political radicalism and
>workers' struggles.
>Kia kaha Grant Morgan SWO international secretary
>On 5 March 2001 the Socialist Workers Party (Britain) broke off
>with the International Socialist Organization, hitherto its sister
group in
>the United States. This was a major step, given that the two
>had worked together closely as supporters of the International Socialist
>Tendency since the late 1970s. However, big issues were at stake.
>organizational divisions are a consequence of large-scale political
>This split can be traced back to the great demonstrations at the World
Trad> e
>Organization ministerial meeting in Seattle at the end of November 1999.
>ŒSeattle was a fork in the road,¹ as Ralph Nader put it. It
represented>  the
>emergence of a new political movement to challenge global capitalism.
>then we have seen further evidence of this anti-capitalist mood ­ the
>demonstrations in Washington, Millau, Melbourne, Prague, Seoul, Nice,
Davos> ,
>and Cancun, and the World Social Forum at Porto Alegre. The
>capitalist institutions have been thrown onto the defensive as a new
i> s
>born. Nader¹s presidential campaign was an electoral expression of this
>great political sea-change,
>This new anti-capitalist movement has polarized reactions on the
>revolutionary left. Some have denied its significance or even condemned
>as reactionary. Others have responded more positively. The SWP and the
>majority of its sister organizations in the IS Tendency have welcomed
>anti-capitalist movement, and mobilized on a Europe-wide basis for the
>demonstrations at Prague and Nice.
>Responding to the anti-capitalist movement has required a significant
chang> e
>in our methods of working. The movement brings together diverse currents
an> d
>organizations in a broad coalition against global capitalism. It is
>essential that it continues to develop on the basis of this unity. It
is in
>this spirit that the SWP was involved in the recent Globalize Resistance
>conferences, which brought speakers such as Kevin Danaher and George
Monbio> t
>to mass audiences throughout Britain. Similarly our Greek sister
>organization, the Sosialistiko Ergatiko Komma (Socialist Workers Party,
>SEK), played a leading role in the ŒPrague Initiative¹ that was
respons> ible
>for the very impressive Greek contingent on S26, and other IS Tendency
>groups are active in building ATTAC in France and Scandinavia.
>The ISO has been the exception to this pattern. It failed to mobilize
>significant numbers to Seattle, pleading the excuse of distance (though
>networks of activists from right across North America took people to
>Seattle). The real reasons for this failure were political ­ a dismissal of
>the labour mobilization in Seattle as protectionist and the belief that
>ISO could make bigger organizational gains by participating in a much
>important demonstration elsewhere.
>Rather than acknowledge and learn from their mistake, the ISO Steering
>Committee have refused to recognize the significance of Seattle. They
>that anti-capitalism is a political phenomenon of any note in the US and
>treat what they insist on calling the Œanti-globalization movement¹ (a
>description that has been rejected by leading critics of neo-liberalism
suc> h
>as Pierre Bourdieu and Susan George) as merely one movement among many.
The> y
>dismissed the demonstrations in Washington and Prague as failures. Even
whe> n
>the ISO has involved itself in the anti-capitalist movement, it has
>to do so on its own terms. The most notable example of this is Nader¹s
>presidential campaign, which the ISO leadership saw as something to raid
an> d
>recruit from rather than a movement that they should help to build as
>of a united left. As soon as the presidential election was over, the ISO
>dropped the Nader campaign, preferring to orient instead on liberal
>Democrats angered by George W. Bush¹s stolen victory.
>The ISO¹s refusal to recognize the way the world was changing brought it
>into increasing conflict with the rest of the IS Tendency. The
>were thoroughly debated at two Tendency meetings in May and November
>at both of which the ISO¹s position was overwhelmingly rejected. The ISO
>leadership responded in February 2001 by expelling six members for
>with the rest of the Tendency. This suppression of internal debate
>the ISO was followed by the Steering Committee¹s involvement in
encouragi> ng
>a split in the Greek SEK. This was initiated by a minority that had
>the mobilization for Prague and denied the existence of the anti-
>movement. A leading member of the ISO, Ahmed Shawki, spoke publicly at
>founding conference of the breakaway group in Athens on 3 March 2001. It
wa> s
>this open acknowledgement of the role played by the ISO in splitting
one of
>their sister organizations that led the SWP and SEK to break with it.
>This division illustrates the challenge facing the entire left in
respondin> g
>to the movement produced by Seattle. Revolutionary socialists can either
>hang onto established routines developed to cope with the right-wing
>ascendancy of the 1980s and early 1990s or change themselves radically
>order to help build a much broader movement within which they can act
as a
>Marxist pole of attraction. It is because we believe that the second
>is essential that we have been prepared politically to fight the
>increasingly destructive sectarianism of the ISO. We regret the loss of
wha> t
>was once our American sister organization, but supporters of the IS
Tendenc> y
>will be playing an active part in the anti-capitalist movement in the
>The SWP, SEK, and our other sister organizations are busy preparing for
>demonstrations at the European Union summit in Gothenburg (14-16 June)
>the G-8 meeting in Genoa (20-22 July). We look forward to working with
>others on the anti-capitalist movement in order together to seize the
>opportunity for the left since the 1960s.
>SWP Central Committee     12 March 2001 -------------------------
>Passed unanimously by the national committee of the Socialist Workers
>Organisation in New Zealand
>12 March 2001
>The leadership of the American ISO, which recently expelled a group of
>long-standing US comrades who were pointing to the significance of the
>global anti-capitalist movement, have now thrown in their lot with a
>breakaway faction from SEK, our sister organisation in Greece.
>The ex-SEK splinter group, just like the leadership of the American ISO,
>have dismissed the strategic significance of the 'fork in the road'
>represented by Seattle (to quote the anti-corporate US presidential
>candidate Ralph Nader).
>They don't recognise that the emergence of the anti-capitalist movement
>is 'a sudden turn in history' (as Lenin put it). They don't see that the
>growth of a radical minority who target the system itself, rather than
>just single issues, is a trend of global significance. They don't link
>the rise of an anti-capitalist mood with the upturn in workers'
>combativity on a world scale.
>Therefore, they are missing what the rest of the International Socialist
>Tendency can see plainly ­ the expanding opportunities for Marxists to
>contribute to, and recruit from, the growing anti-capitalist mood.
>For this to happen, Marxists must approach the movement in a broad,
>non-sectarian way. That means situating necessary debates between IST groups
>and non-Marxists within the context of emphasising our common struggles
>against the whole system.
>Sadly, there¹s been a strong tendency within the American ISO to do the
>opposite ­ emphasising the differences with others in the movement, along
>with separating single issues from the anti-capitalist mood. This is
>political sectarianism.
>It has now been compounded by organisational sectarianism within the
>American ISO, This is reflected by the unjustified expulsion of US comrades
>from the ISO in a bid to shut down legitimate dissent. It's also seen in
the American ISO leadership's support for the breakaway from SEK.
>The national committee of the Socialist Workers Organisation in New
>Zealand looks to the Œpolitics of hope¹, which links the growing
>anti-capitalist mood with the growing combativity among workers. On this
basis, we
>the political and organisational sectarianism of the leadership of the
>American ISO. Their actions, as well as their words, show they have
>politically broken with the rest of the IST.
>We therefore support the call by leaders of the Socialist Workers Party
>Britain and the Greek SEK to formally exclude the American ISO from the
IST> ..
>We will be voting this way at the next IST international meeting.
>-------------------------- (09) 634 3377 (days & evenings)
>gcm at PO Box 13-685 Auckland --------------------------

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