[Marxism] A preliminary thought on the debate within the ISO

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Feb 16 10:44:23 MST 2014

I am writing this now mainly as a note to myself but thought it would be 
worth sharing.

At the bottom of the one-sided faction fight between the permanent 
leadership grouped around Shawki is tension generated by the disjuncture 
between the revolutionary projections of the leadership group and the 
failure of any kind of real breakthroughs in terms of numerical growth 
or political influence. On both sides there is an acknowledgement that a 
kind of stagnation has set in.

I doubt that there is anything that the ISO can do--based either on the 
majority or minority's prescriptions that can change this. It is an 
observable characteristic of "Leninist" groups that they have a 
life-cycle. Sometimes the contradictions generated in the final stages 
of the life-cycle can lead to an implosion, like the American SWP. In 
other instances, the group just sputters along just above or just below 
a certain number. My guess is that the ISO's number is between 800 and a 
1000, large enough to serve as a pole of attraction for young people 
trying out being a Leninist revolutionary until it is time to raise a 
family and settle into a career.

Small groups such as these tend to burn people out. A thousand people 
are capable of heroic self-sacrifice for maybe 5 to 10 years but after 
that reality sinks in. America is not likely to have a socialist 
revolution any time soon.

Another type of politics is possible. Instead of having 1000 people 
running around like hamsters on methamphetamine, you can have 10,000 
people or even a lot more sharing the load. This means that people will 
be able to raise families and do all the other things that normal people 
do and still be politically active. The American SWP decided that this 
would be like becoming Jerry Rubin marielitos and went on a campaign to 
reduce their 2000 strong group to the 120 it is today.

If the ISO leaders were really smart, they'd use their human capital and 
their experience to serve as a catalyst for the broader left party we 
desperately need. Ahmed Shawki paid lip-service to this idea a year or 
so ago but I am afraid that he and his lieutenants are constitutionally 
incapable of making a turn that will benefit them and the rest of us.

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