SWP (GB) leader attacks ISO

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Sat Mar 17 09:50:36 MST 2001


"An American tragedy: the International Socialist Organization" by Alex
Callinicos

The roots of the SWP (US)'s failure can be traced back to the mistaken path
that it - along with the rest of the Fourth International - took after the
Second World War when Trotsky's analysis of Russia as a degenerated
workers' state was turned into a sacred dogma. The International Socialist
Tendency originated in this moment of crisis, and in particular in Tony
Cliff's critique of Trotsky and development of the theory of state
capitalism. This allowed us to maintain the classical Marxist conception of
socialism as the self-emancipation of the working class and to develop an
approach to party-building that started from the realities of proletarian
life rather than the fantasies of orthodox Trotskyist programme-mongers.

But sectarianism need not be the consequence only of orthodox Trotskyism. A
formally correct theoretical analysis is not sufficient to confer immunity
to it. The challenge posed by the new anti-capitalist mood has polarized
the far left in a way that cuts across traditional lines. Orthodox
Trotskyists have been divided in their response. Perhaps the most sectarian
reaction came from the leading French Trotskyist organization Lutte
Ouvrière (LO) provides an example of this response. LO did not take part in
the nation-wide demonstrations held in France in solidarity with N30 in
Seattle, dismissing them as a bloc of left nationalists and right-wing
Gaullists, and denounced the entire anti-WTO movement:

Today the internationalization of the economy, under the aegis of the
capitalist states, is a fact. To wish to oppose it, in the name of tainted
protectionist ideas, of nationalism, is to risk drifting towards openly
reactionary objectives. It is moreover no accident that, at Seattle, one
can find united on this terrain as well Third World nationalists as the
leaders of the American car workers' union UAW, who did not hesitate to
organize punitive operations against the American owners of Japanese cars
in the 1980s. Because, for both, their opposition to internationalization
seeks to bring about a convergence of the interests of the population with
that of their national bourgeoisie.

More recently LO has attacked the French peasant leader José Bové for
taking direct action against the introduction of genetically modified
organisms into agriculture, accusing of him effectively being in alliance
with President Chirac and the Gaullist right to block scientific research.
The Ligue Communist Révolutionnaire, the other main French Trotskyist
organization and the most important surviving affiliate of the Fourth
International, has taken a much more positive approach in principle. Some
of its members play a prominent part in ATTAC. USFI supporters sought to
raise the profile of a distinctively socialist analysis by arguing that the
'anti-globalization movement' must stop treating 'the question of the forms
of property of the means of production, communication, and exchange as a
taboo question', and put the issue of social ownership back onto the
agenda. But the LCR failed to mobilize seriously for Prague or even - much
more disgracefully - for Nice.

Regrettably the rise of the anti-capitalist movement has also divided the
IS Tendency., as shown by the case of the International Socialist
Organization (ISO), which has been the IST's American affiliate since its
foundation in 1977. The ISO emerged in highly unfavourable circumstances.
It was faced with a far left in collapse and the end of the mild upturn in
workers' struggles in the US that had accompanied the immense political
radicalization produced by Civil Rights, the Vietnam War and the ghetto
risings.

Despite these difficult beginnings the ISO was able to build on open
socialist politics during the Reagan era, when much of the rest of the
American left was collapsing into the Democratic Party. The group first
made a larger scale impact during the Gulf War of 1991, when it played a
key role in building a national alliance of student coalitions opposed to
the war. Subsequently the ISO was active in supporting a number of major
industrial struggles, most notably the 1997 UPS strike. It was also the
driving force in the development of the Campaign against the Death Penalty
(CEDP). By the end of the decade the ISO claimed about a thousand members.
It seemed much better prepared politically and organizationally than the
SWP (US) had been in the 1960s.

Full article at: http://www.swp.org.uk/INTER/INTER.HTM


Louis Proyect
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