[Marxism] Paul LeBlanc: Why I Am Joining the ISO

Dan Russell proletariandan at gmail.com
Thu Oct 29 11:02:45 MDT 2009

I didn't make a grand announcement when I joined the ISO about 6 months ago,
although I doubt anyone would have paid much attention. I had considered
myself a Marxist and a revolutionary but had not been involved in any sort
of activism before joining. What appealed to me most about the ISO at the
time and what is still its strength were all well outlined by Paul. It is an
organization that is very dynamic both in the makeup of its membership, the
activity and leadership at the local level, and the discussion of local,
national, and international issues. As Mark notes, the political level of
members isn't as uniform/advanced as other groups for a number of reasons,
but I think this is a challenge we are ready and working to meet. Having
more long-time, dedicated Marxists like Paul will only help accelerate and
deepen that process and I hope that others come to the same conclusion he

I radicalized mainly around Che, Cuba, and the Bolivarian Revolution over
the past few years and have never taken a stand on the 'state capitalist'
question. I mean to do more reading on it as it is an official ISO position,
but as Paul pointed out, it is not rigidly enforced and is discussed openly.
While I still have an affinity for Che and Cuba (as do many ISO comrades) I
think the our critical stance is important both on principle and to
differentiate ourselves from more Stalinist groups. For a long time the
perceived anti-Cuba bent, particularly some of comrade Farber's articles,
drove me away but since joining I have found the discussion around these
issues very satisfying.

Around the time I joined the ISO I was also very drawn to the Green Party
(having not been political during the 2000-2004 elections where the ISO was
involved in both of Nader's campaigns) and interested in the possibility of
new formations such as the NPA, SA, RESPECT, and Die Linke. I found Louis'
writings on these issues and discussions on Marxmail very useful for my
political development and I think that there is a lot the ISO and the US
left can learn from these examples. I am interested in discussing the
possibility of new formations and I think comrades in the ISO are as well.
Comrade Budgen from the NPA was at our summer conference and there was a
fantastic and mostly supportive discussion, though at times heated, around
the dissolutionist route the LCR took. The ISO has supported that decision
and remains close to all of these groups; comrade Shawki went as far as to
say, if I remember correctly, that were we in France we would have made the
same decision.

That said, I don't think the ISO is looking to become a multi-tendency or
broader-left organization. I think we want to model ourselves after the
Bolsheviks and stay true to a set of revolutionary principles while allowing
for democratic debate and differences on certain issues but ultimately being
united in action. The ISO has always said that it wants to play a part in
forming an explicitly revolutionary vanguard party, but I think that as
struggle and resistance in this country heats up there will be a need to
think about the possibility of broad-left alliances or parties or whatever
formation makes sense given the developments in the working class and the
rest of the left. For me, that is the essence of Bolshevism; democratically
and dynamically adapting your organizational methods to the situations at
hand so as best to advance existing struggles without allowing revolutionary
principles to fall by the wayside.

Addressing the questions of 'democratic centralism' and party organization
that Louis and Marxmail have often taken up, I have not felt that these
methods have been abused in the ISO. I have only been in the organization a
short time and I think the need for political development, recruitment of
new members, and pace of activity have made certain discussions more
difficult to have but I do not think that this will prevent us from growing
and adapting to the political situation while maintaining democratic debate
and decision making.

I would encourage anyone who is interested in the ISO to contact your local
branch (see link below), attend a meeting, and talk with some comrades. All
of our meetings are normally open to the (friendly) public and non-members
are welcome to participate in discussions. Most of our regional conferences
are right around the corner as well. Also, please feel free to contact
myself off list if you have any questions or are in the Chicago area and
would like to talk about what we're doing locally. As I said, there is a
vibrant discussion in the ISO about what every branch is doing on a local
and how that relates to our national organization and we want anyone who
wants to build a revolutionary socialist organization to consider joining


Dan Russell

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