[WSMDiscuss] Fwd: Radical Women analyzes the demise of the International Socialist Organization

DAVID KEIL dmkeil at gmail.com
Fri Apr 26 15:52:32 CEST 2019

Jai, I'm glad to see this article on this list. I had independently sent it
out to a number of my contacts yesterday! As I read the two volumes I'll
read especially carefully the chapters on women and on feminism -- David

On Fri, Apr 26, 2019 at 9:21 AM Jai Sen <jai.sen at cacim.net> wrote:

> Friday, April 26, 2019
> *Ideas in movement…, Movements in movement…, Women in movement… *
> *[To my understanding, the author of this analysis Radical Women has again
> done something that is very important, and in fact as important as to
> understand how movements and movement organisations grow and succeed : To
> try and analyse how and why movements and movement organisations collapse
> and fail.  In my experience at least, and whether one agrees with all the
> details or the conclusions of this particular analysis, this is all too
> rare, and so this is definitely worth reading and drawing from :*
> *The meltdown of the International Socialist Organization : How
> anti-feminism, racism, and bureaucracy led to its demise*
> *Radical Women*
> *            JS*
> *fwd*
> *Begin forwarded message:*
> *From: National Radical Women <radicalwomenus at gmail.com
> <radicalwomenus at gmail.com>>Subject: Radical Women analyzes the demise of
> International Socialist OrganizationDate: April 24, 2019 at 6:14:40 PM
> EDTTo: <jai.sen at cacim.net <jai.sen at cacim.net>>Reply-To:
> <radicalwomenus at gmail.com <radicalwomenus at gmail.com>>*
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> The meltdown of International Socialist Organization:
> How anti-feminism, racism and bureaucracy led to its demise*Statement by
> Radical Women, April 23, 2019*
> [image: Logo for the 2008 Radical Women conference, “The Persistent Power
> of Socialist Feminism.”]
> <https://RadicalWomen.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=2917cfc9b3941a9932e363014&id=4c59eb3d1c&e=ca2efeff2d>
> *Logo for the 2008 Radical Women conference,“The Persistent Power of
> Socialist Feminism.” *
> On April 2, 2019, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) publicly
> announced that members had voted to disband because of their failure of
> confidence in an organization to which many had devoted decades. The
> problems centered on sexual abuse, racism, and lack of democracy. ISO’s
> dissolution is proof of the necessity for socialist feminist practice on
> the Left. The tragedy is that ISO is not the only group on the
> international Left that has been torn apart over sexual abuse in the last
> ten years. These failures discredit the entire movement and drive women out
> of radical politics.
> Serious problems became widely known at ISO’s February 2019 convention,
> where participants stood up to a bureaucratic national leadership.
> Old-guard officials had been shutting down nonwhite members who wanted to
> organize in communities of color and form internal caucuses. Members
> recounted how their attempts to raise issues of race or gender were blocked
> and demonized as “identity politics,” which was narrowly defined as
> non-revolutionary, self-indulgent and separatist. As a result of this
> bullying, a reform slate was voted in.
> The next month, however, it was revealed that a leader who was part of the
> reform slate had been accused of rape of a supporter six years earlier. A
> disciplinary committee had investigated and recommended that he be
> expelled. But other national leaders suppressed the charge and overruled
> the disciplinary committee. The rape revelations put the final nail in
> ISO’s coffin.
> *Sexism on the Left*
> Radical Women (RW) knows well how sexism has poisoned radical movements.
> RW was formed in 1967 out of the outrage of New Left women who were
> silenced and belittled by macho anti-war and civil rights leaders. In
> combination with seasoned feminists from the Old Left, RW emerged as the
> world’s first socialist feminist women’s organization. Its mission was to
> be a radical voice in the feminist movement and a feminist voice on the
> Left.
> That voice was greatly needed. New Left men refused to give an inch on the
> issues of inequality and sexual abuse within the organizations they ran and
> in which women were essential fighters but were denied any level of
> authority. Under the immense pressure of the exploding women’s liberation
> movement, some male-led groups adjusted their views to give lip service to
> a watered-down feminism. But little changed in their methods of operation.
> Always these groups (and there were many of them at one time) dragged their
> feet and called Radical Women petty-bourgeois dividers of the class
> struggle for fighting for women’s rights. In Washington State, the
> International Socialists (precursor of the ISO) opposed a state Equal
> Rights Amendment because the male-dominated union leadership claimed it
> would destroy protective labor legislation for women – hiding their
> hostility to female equality behind a false chivalry. When the state ERA
> passed, Radical Women went on to fight for and win legislative extension of
> the labor protections to the entire work force, male and female. The IS
> abstained from this effort.
> International Socialist Organization did not have the backbone to stand up
> to conservative elements within the working class. Therefore, it declared
> the working class to be *free* of such problems. Radical Women debated
> ISO on its twisted theory that “Working class men do not benefit from
> sexism, working class white people do not benefit from racism, and working
> class straight people do not benefit from the oppression of lesbian, gay,
> bisexual and transgender people,” as stated in a 2009 ISO leaflet
> <https://RadicalWomen.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=2917cfc9b3941a9932e363014&id=6ebaf0fa3e&e=ca2efeff2d>.
> It’s hard to believe this viewpoint was promoted by a group that believed
> itself to be a voice for liberation! ISO members, including women and
> people of color, defended that point of view or were accused of “identity
> politics” and driven out.
> As in other sexist Left groups, there were always women in ISO who covered
> for the men in attacking socialist feminism. National leader Sharon Smith
> put forward the group’s position in her book *Women and Socialism* (Haymarket
> Press, 2005). It was a treatise *against* feminism, which it laboriously
> and falsely distinguished from support for women’s equality. After ISO
> members won revision of that embarrassing and archaic line, Smith rewrote
> most of the book (Haymarket Press, 2015) and reversed its approach to
> feminism, with barely an acknowledgment of this about-face. Given that
> history, it is not surprising that Smith was one of the two national
> leaders who suppressed the rape charges.
> Although feminism was finally given ISO’s seal of approval, hostility to
> members who promoted women’s issues did not disappear. Feminism never
> became an organizational practice. This would have meant seeking out the
> views and advancing the participation of female comrades, particularly
> women of color, and eliminating bullying by party officials.
> Instead, ISO’s severe political contradictions on this and other issues
> tainted the politics and internal culture of a group that claimed to be a
> revolutionary force. For example, it refused to endorse electoral
> candidates of other socialist groups, then suddenly jumped on the bandwagon
> of anti-socialist Ralph Nader in 2000. It paid lip service to Lenin’s
> concept of vanguard parties, but soft-pedalled the critical need for
> revolutionary leadership and instead emphasized “revolution from below.” It
> never truly operated through democratic centralism, where the membership is
> the highest policy-making body of an organization. Instead, it used
> bureaucratic centralism to keep an untouchable leadership calling the shots.
> *Which way forward?*
> Rank-and-file democracy is vital for any working-class organization.
> Bureaucratic methods perpetuate bad policies and uphold male dominance and
> white privilege – because to deal with these pervasive social influences
> involves a willingness to shake up the status quo and be open to criticism.
> Bureaucracy is a shield against all kinds of wrongdoing – as evidenced by
> more and more revelations from former ISOers of financial misfeasance,
> sexual assaults, racism, and intimidation of anyone who raised questions.
> Some disillusioned ISO members are mistakenly labelling the concept of
> democratic centralism as the source of the group’s problems. But Radical
> Women functions in a democratic-centralist manner and finds this the most
> effective way to make sure the membership’s will is carried out.
> Others are questioning the validity of revolutionary parties. Radical
> Women knows from years of work with our sister organization, the Freedom
> Socialist Party (FSP), that a deep understanding of feminism by comrades of
> all genders, support for the leadership of the most oppressed, and
> rank-and-file democracy can keep an organization as good as its word.
> Radical Women is also proud of the fact that RW and FSP members of color
> provide leadership on internal and external questions of race and gender
> through the joint Comrades of Color Caucus.
> ISO attracted many individuals who are serious about fighting for
> socialism and human liberation. We hope that these committed radicals will
> not abandon the struggle.
> We invite them to examine the socialist feminist politics of Radical Women
> and the Freedom Socialist Party. Let’s use this opportunity to strengthen
> the U.S. socialist movement on the basis of the leadership of the most
> oppressed.
> Every day, capitalism is losing credibility and socialism is gaining. But
> if half the human race cannot trust the leaders and organizations
> struggling to make revolutionary change, the whole socialist effort is
> doomed. This is not a secondary or tertiary question. It is the main issue
> facing the global Left: either women’s rights and leadership contributions
> will be recognized and nourished – or socialism is just a pipe dream.
> ______________________________________________________________________
> *To learn more about the socialist feminist critique of ISO, please see
> these resources:*
> “Radical Women responds to International Socialist Organization on the
> impact of racism, sexism and homophobia on the working class”
> <https://RadicalWomen.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=2917cfc9b3941a9932e363014&id=e930a3d9c6&e=ca2efeff2d>
>  (2009)
> “ISO: taking the feminism out of women’s liberation”
> <https://RadicalWomen.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=2917cfc9b3941a9932e363014&id=a8fceeec17&e=ca2efeff2d>
>  (2006)
> “The revolutionary harmony of Marxism and feminism”
> <https://RadicalWomen.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=2917cfc9b3941a9932e363014&id=a01fa7f9ac&e=ca2efeff2d>
>  (2011)
> “Revisiting ‘Feminism and the crisis in the British SWP’”
> <https://RadicalWomen.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=2917cfc9b3941a9932e363014&id=279e653cc3&e=ca2efeff2d> (2013,
> 2019)
> “In Defense of Marxist Feminism: Radical Women and Freedom Socialist Party
> Debate the International Socialist Organization”
> <https://RadicalWomen.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=2917cfc9b3941a9932e363014&id=2190021aee&e=ca2efeff2d>
>  (2008)
> ------------------------------
> You can find fiery Radical Women writings
> <https://RadicalWomen.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=2917cfc9b3941a9932e363014&id=d84adf1ccc&e=ca2efeff2d> on
> the RW webpage
> <https://RadicalWomen.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=2917cfc9b3941a9932e363014&id=e62d8d274b&e=ca2efeff2d>.
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> <https://RadicalWomen.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=2917cfc9b3941a9932e363014&id=16bca6d119&e=ca2efeff2d>
> .
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> Seattle, WA 98118 USA.
> ------------------------------
> *Read the history of socialist feminist pioneer tradeswomen!*
> *High Voltage Women: Breaking Barriers at Seattle City Light*
> *by Ellie Belew*
> $20.00 – 224 pages – Photos, index, notes
> Order at www.RedLetterPress.org
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> ------------------------------
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> *______________________________*
> *Jai SenIndependent researcher, editorjai.sen at cacim.net
> <jai.sen at cacim.net>Now based in New Delhi, India (+91-98189 11325) and in
> Ottawa, Canada, on unceded Anishinaabe territory (+1-613-282 2900) Current
> associations : www.cacim.net
> <http://www.cacim.net> / http://www.openword.net.in
> <http://www.openword.net.in>CURRENT / RECENT publications :Jai Sen, ed,
> 2018a – The Movements of Movements, Part 2 : Rethinking Our Dance. Ebook
> and hard copy available at PM Press <http://www.pmpress.org/>Jai Sen, ed,
> 2018b – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ?, Indian
> edition. New Delhi : AuthorsUpfront, in collaboration with OpenWord and PM
> Press.  Hard copy available at MOM1AmazonIN
> <https://www.amazon.in/dp/9387280101/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1522884070&sr=8-2&keywords=movements+of+movements+jai+sen>, MOM1Flipkart
> <https://www.flipkart.com/the-movements-of-movements/p/itmf3zg7h79ecpgj?pid=9789387280106&lid=LSTBOK9789387280106NBA1CH&marketplace=FLIPKART&srno=s_1_1&otracker=search&fm=SEARCH&iid=ff35b702-e6a8-4423-b014-16c84f6f0092.9789387280106.SEARCH&ppt=Search%20Page>,
> and MOM1AUpFront <http://www.authorsupfront.com/movements.htm>Jai Sen, ed,
> 2017 – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ?.  New
> Delhi : OpenWord and Oakland, CA : PM Press.  Ebook and hard copy available
> at PM Press <http://www.pmpress.org/>Jai Sen, ed, 2016a  – The Movements of
> Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ? and Jai Sen, ed, 2016b – The
> Movements of Movements, Part 2 : Rethinking Our Dance (both then
> forthcoming from New Delhi : OpenWord and Oakland, CA : PM Press), open
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