The ISO replies to Alex Callinicos

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Sat Mar 17 16:30:43 MST 2001


Dear comrades:

As some comrades will have already heard, the SWP Central Committee has
severed all ties with the ISO and is encouraging other groups in the
International Socialist Tendency (IST) to do likewise. On Monday, March 5,
the ISO received a letter  (attached) signed by Alex Callinicos and Panos
Garganas (of SEK in Greece) announcing that they no longer considered us
part of the IST. The letter asserts that the  "final straw" prompting our
expulsion was our alleged engineering of a split in the Greek organization,
SEK. Two days later we eceived a document which attempts to lay out the
case for our expulsion from the endency. The document, which the SWP has
also posted on their website, is an embarrassment. It is littered with
falsehoods, substitutes assertion for argument and stands reality on its
head. The writing and public distribution of this document is an indictment
of the SWP leadership, which apparently thinks that if lies are repeated
often enough they can be passed off as the truth.

The ISO leadership had no part in encouraging a split in SEK. Nevertheless,
though not one single member group in the Tendency has bothered to  discuss
the matter with us, they have swallowed the SWP CC's accusations wholesale.
The letter sent to the Tendency by Panos Garganas captured better than
anything else the hostility of SEK's leadership to the ISO and the gutter
level to which politics has been reduced in the IST, when he ended with the
statement "Tendency beware." We no longer accept the SWP's judgement of who
is and isn't part of the IS tendency uncritically and believe we should
judge for ourselves. (It is worth noting that the Greek organization, SEK,
continued to maintain relations with a split from the Turkish organization
a little more than two years ago. But, as far as we know, SEK was not
threatened with expulsion from the Tendency.)

Three other organizations, the SWP in Ireland, the IS in Canada and the SWO
in New Zealand have sent us letters ending their ties with  us-indicating
that the proposed international meeting will simply rubber stamp this
decision. The speed with which the leadership of the four organizations
acted suggests that the decision to split with us was arrived at without
even allowing a discussion of the matter inside their respective
organizations.

After our last convention the SWP declaration of support for 6 former
members of the ISO made clear their intent to expel the ISO from the
Tendency. Such an expulsion cannot be justified politically, so the ISO has
been charged with breaking the norms of democratic centralism and engaging
in "thuggish" behavior-again, claims that have no  basis in fact. As
comrades know, these charges have been made for international consumption.
The two leading members of the British SWP and two members of the Canadian
IS who attended our convention never raised these charges during the
convention where we allegedly engaged in this "thuggery." Indeed, Alex
Callinicos'  intervention at our convention stressed how small the
differences between the two organizations were (after having only recently
informed the SWP's own National Conference that the ISO needed to be
"saved" by the SWP). The Canadian comrades told us that they did not
believe we failed the test of war or the test of Seattle, and even went so
far as to renounce the ultra-left slogans that they marched with on April
16 in Washington, D.C. ["One Solution, Revolution"]. Whatever else can be
said about the ISO and its membership we would never stand idly by while
comrades' democratic rights were trampled. The expelled comrades, who are
now referred to as representatives of the IST in the U.S., had all of Their
documents published in the pre-convention bulletins. They were invited to
present their case at two meetings in both New York and Washington, D.C.
before the convention, were invited to attend the convention (since they
were not delegates and the one delegate who supported them was seated), had
full speaking rights at the convention where the issues under debate
occupied the first day of the meeting. Alex Callinicos did not attend the
first day of the convention, but arrived, and left, the second day of the
convention.

As comrades know, ISO delegates at our last convention unanimously rejected
the faction's views, and voted a resolution calling upon the SWP CC to
cease its  factional activity inside the ISO. After the convention, the six
continued their factional activity, including reducing or suspending dues
payment, convincing other ISO members to quit the organization and refusing
to meet individually with a member of the steering committee to discuss
these matters. After the convention, they boycotted branch meetings and
sales of Socialist Worker and continued to operate as a faction refusing to
work with or under the direction of the local and national leaderships. For
this (and not for their political views) they were expelled from the ISO.
Had anyone bothered to look into the matter they would have discovered
these plain and indisputable facts. Yet the SWP leadership can, without the
slightest blush of shame, remove the ISO from the tendency for allegedly
engaging in the very same practices that it has engaged in toward the ISO.

The tendency, rightly, would have considered it absurd if the ISO issued a
etter to the tendency declaring that we no longer consider the SWP part of
the tendency because they have behaved in such a relentlessly sectarian,
bullish and hostile manner toward their sister organization in the U.S. We
believe, therefore, that expelling the ISO from the IS tendency is a
reckless, sectarian and irresponsible act.

In expelling the ISO, the SWP CC is applying a hypocritical double
standard. The SWP leadership can, apparently, engage in factional
intervention in the ISO, backing a tiny faction, and openly siding with
that faction against the ISO, but our decision to send a comrade to Greece
is considered grounds for expulsion from the Tendency. We plan to write a
response to the SWP's document and  circulate it soon. But it should be
noted that the central assertion of the document-that we are incorrigible
sectarians-was refuted once again by the conferences that we held in
Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco and Austin March 3. The East
Coast Socialist Conference New York City, drew 275 people;the San Francisco
Conference 150; the DC conference 170.  Featured speakers there were
Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for  Women, Bob
Naiman, a key organizer of the A16 protests last year and a leading FTAA
organizer, and Arturo Griffiths  the head of the D.C. Statehood Green
Party. The Bay Area Socialist Conference featured Medea Benjamin, a key
organizer of the Seattle protests and a Green Party Senate candidate.
Speakers in New York City included a resentative from NOW, Al Sharpton's
top assistant, Dedrick Muhammad, and a lead organizer from SalAmi in
Montreal, a French Canadian direct action group that is organizing for the
FTAA protest. Our featured speaker was Leonard Riley, from the Charleston
dockers who are facing criminal and civil charges for standing up to riot
cops on a picket line last year. Besides mobilizing for the FTAA protest in
Quebec, an ISO Teamster comrade in Seattle got his Local to lead labor
efforts for a bi-national protests on the Canadian border near Vancouver.
In  Southern California ISO comrades initiate what will be a historic
protest along the San Diego-Tijuana border. They initiated a recent
teach-in that featured David Bacon (mentioned prominently in Harman's ISJ
article),Jaime Cota, a maquiladora organizer and a laid-off Boeing worker.
We just got the endorsement of the San Diego central labor council as well
as maquiladora organizers for the border protest. Our comrades are
traveling to Mexico City to meet with Zapatista leaders to request their
endorsement as well.

The politics and organization of international socialism have suffered a
severe blow. The tragedy is not the alleged hopeless sectarianism of the
ISO, but the fact that the SWP failed to provide the leadership necessary
for the tendency to grow in the 1990s. This is not a crime. The crime is to
cover up that failure and then search for scapegoats abroad. In spite of
our expulsion, we remain proud adherents to the traditions and politics of
the international socialist tendency, and will continue to work with any
organizations who are willing to have open, fraternal relations with us,
whatever our disagreements may be.

There is no precedent for expelling an organization wholesale from the
tendency in this manner-and we intend to answer the slanders about us,
defend our  organization and urge others to join us in fighting the
bureaucratic degeneration of the tendency's leading group.

The SWP leadership has now been involved in six splits in as many years in
IS Tendency groups internationally. Whatever the immediate cause of each
split, these splits point to a method that the SWP has applied throughout
the tendency. For all the talk of nonsectarianism and of new methods of
work, our expulsion has been conducted along the lines of the worst
traditions of the sectarian left. Far from being outside the growing
radicalization we are at the center of rebuilding the left in the U.S. We
are deeply involved in the new radicalization and in all aspects of the
developing struggles. But we have never counterposed the new
radicalization, the new movement, to the building of revolutionary
organization. We are against any attempt to say that party building is
sectarian or counterposed to involvement of the struggle. The IS tradition
proudly fought to maintain the legacy of

Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Luxemburg-summed up in the first four
congresses of the Communist International. We believe that this tradition
provides us with the best guide to facing the coming battles and stand
proudly in the tradition we have helped build and develop. The ISO will, as
it has always done, continue to struggle alongside all those fighting to
win a better world.

ISO Steering Committee

March 12, 2001


Louis Proyect
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