[Marxism] A reply to the ISO Steering Committee
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Feb 16 16:36:46 MST 2014
This just showed up as part of a forward to Mike Ely's Open Letter to
Ross Wolfe from the ISO's internal bulletin #27. Wolfe had put the ISO's
internal documents up on his blog and Ely deemed it tantamount to
snitching. Wolfe is a former member of the Platypus group, a leftish
discussion club of graduate students and junior faculty enamored of
Adorno for some reason and hostile to the existing left. From the ISO
This discussion is clearly ongoing. And the confusions abound. Louis
Proyect of Marxmail conflates “Leninism,” operating in
“semi-clandestine” manner with the simple right of organizations and
movements having the right to debate internally without the expectation
that all their discussions are posted for the world to see.
ISO Steering Committee
There's a double-standard at work here. On May 29, 2013 an open letter
condemning the Platypus group appeared on Richard Seymour's blog that
was written by Ben Campbell, who had developed a rather unhealthy
obsession with the Platypi at the time. Ben was a former member with a
grudge about being poorly served. As I told Ben at the time, he was
making a mountain out of a molehill. What if he had spent 11 years in a
cult that he had donated over $25,000 to and then was booted out like I
was? In any case, I signed the open letter since it wasn't going to have
any impact on them one way or the other and because there's nothing I
love better than scandals and pissing contests.
Among the signatories is Sherry Wolfe, a well-known member of the ISO
who has an asterisk next to her name indicating that she is speaking for
herself rather than the organization. Right...
It was brought to my attention by Ross Wolfe (no relation to Sherry
obviously) that the letter's prima facie evidence for ostracizing the
Platypus group from the left rests on the very use of private email that
was cited without the author's permission:
As one important example, Platypus' opposition to left solidarity with
Palestine leads Cutrone to the following, decidedly non-leftist,
Now I am going to say something for internal consumption only (this
is perhaps a "closeted" position): At this point, the only hope that the
Palestinians have is in and through Israel, precisely as a "settler
colonial state," not independent of, let alone opposed to it. Just as
the only hope for Native Americans has been through integration into the
As should be clear from Chris Cutrone's words, the comment was meant
only for the eyes of those receiving the email ("something for internal
consumption"). But that did not stand in the way of Ben disclosing it
without Cutrone's permission, nor Sherry Wolfe adding her signature.
What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
In terms of the other business about "Leninism" and "semi-clandestine"
operations, I probably will have a lot more to say about this in a piece
for Counterpunch but will close this post with a comment I made to FB
On the fallacies of secret internal documents.
You know, my memory (and my eyesight) ain’t what it used to be.
Fortunately there are other parts of my anatomy that are in surprisingly
good shape for a 69 year old.
Anyhow, on my way back from Fairway, a great grocery store that is one
of the few remaining pleasures of living in NY, I just remembered that
after every SWP convention when I was a member, there were articles in
the Workers League and Spartacist League newspapers commenting on our
line resolutions that had obviously come into their hands. They really
let us “Pabloite revisionists” have it with both barrels. Somehow we
survived such attacks, only to perish from the “turn to industry”
orchestrated by our own leaders.
We knew that they had people in the SWP and even could figure out who
they were. In Boston we had Dick and Carole, a couple of ex-Workers
Leaguers who supposedly had a road to Damascus conversion that persuaded
them to join the SWP. When we saw them walking out of the headquarters
with a new batch of documents, we knew that they were going to be mailed
to the WL national office.
Big fucking deal.
Who could care less about Tim Wolforth ranting and raving about how we
were tail-ending Black Nationalism? Or Jan Norden writing that our
failure to adopt a slogan like “Victory to the Vietnamese Revolution”
was a sign of capitulation to imperialism? In fact the documents were
most often a restatement of the positions adopted at a previous
convention. Reading them was like reading the Militant. There were, of
course, documents written by minority tendencies but their views, like
those of the Sparts and the WL, hardly mattered.
Within the Leninist left, loyalty is understood in relative terms.
Before James P. Cannon knew about the Left Opposition, he was loyal to
the CP. Afterwards, he connived to split it and form a new group—an
obviously disloyal act. That’s how Leninist politics operates, after
all. If you are looking for purity, you’d better join the Jehovah’s
Witnesses or the Seventh Day Adventists. Or better yet, stop messing
around with sectarian practices including the “cadre-building”,
security-fetishizing, hammer-and-sickle iconographasizing (yes, I know,
this is not really a word) bad habits of the Leninist left. We need a
movement that rests on transparency and accountability. In that
movement, we’d function like the Bolsheviks who kept no secrets from the
More information about the Marxism