[Marxism] The expulsion of the Renewal Faction from the ISO

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Sat Feb 22 18:43:13 MST 2014


[To Marxmail subscribers: this was prompted mostly by a discussion in 
Solidarity's "internal" --members and cops only-- email list which has 
finally been reestablished ... and it took less than three months! A lot 
of what I say below is based on lessons drawn from my personal 
experiences in the SWP-US decades ago. Solidarity as an organizations 
has lots of sins ... but not in the camp of suppressing debate and 
discussion.]

I think anyone with a little experience in matters like this should have 
realized that the leadership had decided to expel the Renewal Faction 
even before the bulletin with the announcement of the formation of the 
faction came out. That is because the same bulletin had an indictment of 
the faction formally issued by the Steering Committee as a whole that 
very much reminded me of the sort of venomous approach the SWP (USA) 
leadership used to drive out and expel members of opposition groupings 
when I was part of that leadership from 1979-1985.

A mountain of accusations such as the SC leveled at the RF at the 
/outset/ of the discussion obviously seek to inoculate the membership, 
to prevent them from calmly considering the views of the opposition. And 
having /official leadership bodies/ adopt formal positions not just 
against the procedures but the actual political proposals of the 
minority early in the discussion, as the New York District Committee did 
in Bulletin #8 (the first one dated in January), prejudices the debate 
even more.

According to the Renewal Faction's website, the ultimatum that would 
lead to their expulsion was presented by what seem to be a few people 
from different parts of the country, none of them apparently members of 
the Steering Committee. I hope there is more that the Renewal Faction 
isn't telling us, like that this was a commission especially named or 
something, because the idea that the Steering Committee went out and 
rounded up a half dozen shills to present what was obviously a very 
carefully-through-through tactical approach in driving these comrades 
out of their group after one day of a three-day convention, instead of 
comrade Ahmed or one of the others behind the motion standing up and 
taking responsibility for it, leaves a REALLY bad taste in my mouth.

*  *  *

What happened is in line with the impression one gets from looking at 
details of various cases of resignations/expulsions/exclusions that have 
been publicized in the last few years. Those illustrate that the ISO SC 
has extraordinary authority in the group, appointing district organizers 
who are responsible not to the district membership but to the SC; 
excluding members within a branch's geographic jurisdiction from 
participation in branch life and placing them in a punitive at-large 
status; and even deciding who is and is not a dues paying member in a 
given branch's area. Since it is elected by the convention, the SC is in 
reality not subordinate to the NC, whatever theory may say otherwise.

I think this is wrong: people filling organizer and other positions 
should be elected, not appointed from above. Subsidiarity and respect 
for the autonomy of "lower" units, especially the base membership units, 
is extremely important if the organization as a whole, and especially 
its central week-to-week national leadership, is to be under the 
effective, and not merely formal and theoretical, control of its 
membership.

This isn't just a problem of bureaucratic procedures but of "democratic 
centralism," misnamed "Leninism," 
<http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=7727>where everyone is obligated to 
have the same priorities and tactical approaches, and the local unit's 
task is viewed as simply /applying /the course set by the Steering 
Committee. In theory, of course, this isn't the SC's course but that set 
by the convention. However, the very narrow scope of local decisions 
leads to branches that do not have much of a political life of their 
own, are not really focused on and rooted in their local areas, and thus 
branch delegates routinely approve whatever the national leadership 
proposes.

The stifling ideological monoculture that results makes even small 
differences uncontainable. The homogeneity or similarity of experiences 
from one area to another, often quite an artificial one, means that 
there is little ground in diverse experiences for a materially grounded 
discussion. There is an invisible reality distortion field that 
surrounds the organization: everyone shares the same narratives about 
the same three, four or five events: Egypt, Chicago teachers, Wisconsin, 
Occupy, creating a hermetically sealed self-referential micro-universe.

The world looks different once you get beyond the organization's 
gravitational field.

That of course is a big reason for the centrifugal tendencies that we 
see in the ISO, including that often it is only /after/ finding yourself 
/outside/ the reality distortion field that surrounds the organization 
that you come to finally be able to verbalize more fully and argue 
cogently for alternative approaches or positions.

Joaquín



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