SocialistWorker.org has in the last several days hosted one of its most remarkable exchanges in recent–or even distant–memory on a series of issues related to the theory and practice of the International Socialist Organization (ISO). Although I am, regrettably, no longer a member of the ISO, I am rather “implicated” in the debate, so some comrades may be interested in what I think about it; and in any event, it behooves all revolutionaries to take an interest in what the ISO is interested in.
If you have not been following the discussion, here is a “cheat list” of articles and letters, in chronological order:
- “The contradictions of August 24” (Shaun Joseph, 8/6)
- “Understanding the united front” (Paul D’Amato, 8/13)
- “Limitations of the united front” (MB, 8/21)
- “The ongoing relevance of the united front” (Paul D’Amato, 8/22)
- “Why national marches still matter” (Paul Heideman, 8/22)
- “Liberalism and the united front” (Keith Rosenthal, 8/27)
- “Marches, Marxism and the united front” (Adam Turl, 9/3)
- “Our past should inform our present” (Alan Maass, 9/4)
- “Liberalism, reformism and the united front” (Todd Chretien, 9/5)
More is hopefully forthcoming, but this set of writings will inform my response here. Each piece is relatively lengthy, and each raises a complex set of issues that are not fully addressed in any subsequent piece. In this sense the whole sequence may strike one as frustrating or abstract, but I think it repays sympathetic attention, since comrades are clearly “pulling the threads” of the discussion with unusual boldness, and saying things that have been on their minds for some time.
If you’re a member of the American International Socialist Organization (ISO)–and why wouldn’t you be?–you may have experienced an amusing bit of cognitive dissonance on the morning of July 22. On the one hand you would have received the latest ISO Notes from the national center promoting the 50th Anniversary March on Washington as the crucial next step in the anti-racist struggle following the vile acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer. The August 24 march will be, per the Notes, a chance to initiate a national outcry against racial profiling, police misconduct, unemployment, and a number of other aspects of systemic racism.
On the other hand, if you listened to Democracy Now! that same morning, you heard this from Cornel West:
Brother Martin would not be invited to the very march in his name, because he would talk about drones. He’d talk about Wall Street criminality. He would talk about working class being pushed to the margins as profits went up for corporate executives in their compensation. He would talk about the legacies of white supremacy. Do you think anybody at that march will talk about drones and the drone president? Will you think anybody at that march will talk about the connection to Wall Street? They are all on the plantation.
Earlier in the same interview, he was even more slashing:
We’ve got a black leadership that is deferential to Obama, that is subservient to Obama, and that’s what niggerizing is. You keep folks so scared. You keep folks so intimidated. You can give them money, access, but they’re still scared. And as long as you’re scared, you’re on the plantation.