Posts Tagged ‘Ahmed Shawki’

A letter from the Steering Committee; a reply to the Steering Committee

November 22, 2013 3 comments

On November 13, I rejoined the International Socialist Organization (ISO). Eight days later, the ISO Steering Committee addressed a letter to the Boston district (Cambridge and Dorchester branches) on the question of my membership. Four members of the Cambridge branch–including the entire branch leadership–issued a reply the following day (November 22).

I reproduce both letters in full below.

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Through which period are we passing?

October 31, 2013 2 comments

This essay is a criticism of the perspective that the 1990s and 2000s represented a “transitional period” between a “downturn” of class struggle in the US during the 1980s and the onset of a future “upturn.” This perspective, originally developed by the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the mid-1990s, found itself displaced in the SWP by the idea that “the 1990s are the 1930s in slow motion”; however, it was revived by the International Socialist Organization (ISO) in the US after its break with the SWP. The seminal remotivation of the perspective from the ISO is Ahmed Shawki’s “Between Things Ended and Things Begun,” which appeared in the summer of 2001. The perspective was upheld subsequently in an internal document for the ISO’s National Convention 2007.

Today, the “transitional period” perspective (TPP) seems to have been retracted by the ISO leadership; I say it “seems” this way because it has never been formally retracted in writing, despite being formally promulgated in writing. (Here I mean “retracted” in the strict sense that the perspective is admitted as having been wrong even at the time it was proposed.) The rejection of the TPP was indicated, in the first place, on the floor of the ISO’s Convention 2013, in response to arguments put forward in an earlier version of this piece. Later, at his Socialism 2013 talk on “Perspectives for the Left,” Shawki distanced himself from “Between Things Ended and Things Begun,” saying, “Rereading it, there are so many mistakes in that article.” Unfortunately, he didn’t go into detail, noting only the “absolute underestimation” of the neoliberal transformation of society; still, since the article’s main thesis is the TPP, it is fair to assume that this perspective has been abandoned, at least rhetorically.

Since I was, I believe, the noisiest critic of the TPP within the ISO, I suppose I should be happy that it has been effectively discarded. And indeed I am–but I am not happy that this has become yet another example of a “silent switch” in the group’s political policy. Additionally, and related to the preceding, I do not think that the comrades have really broken with the underlying schema of the TPP, which predicts that the US should be currently experiencing an “upturn” in class struggle. In any event, since my work is, to my knowledge, the only systematic attack on the TPP–as opposed to a mere “declaration” of its falsehood from some Subject-Presumed-To-Know–I thought it would be useful to reproduce the arguments in a more accessible medium. (The original document was a submission to the ISO’s 2013 Pre-Convention Bulletin series. It has been substantially revised.)

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Valences of the united front (III): The struggle for culture

October 19, 2013 9 comments

This is the final installment of a long essay, begun about a month ago, on a set of issues raised by a then-recent exchange of letters in; one should read at least the introduction and preferably the prior installments before continuing. Here we treat the “general perspectives, practices, and culture” of the International Socialist Organization (ISO).

When a writer publicly commits himself to a task that is, perhaps, a bit beyond him, it is a great relief to find that others have unexpectedly done the work for him. (And slightly embarrassing to realize that they have done a much better job than he could have.) In that spirit I enthusiastically direct you to the “Letter to Comrades in the ISO” from the Socialist Outpost group. As a prickly Trotskyist scholastic who never entirely agrees with everything in any document–I entirely agree with everything in that document.

I don’t think I can improve on the Outpost letter, but I can add some additional observations from my perspective as a member of the ISO until very recently, who may as a result have a more immediate sense of where it has been and may be going.

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