A Bit More re the ISO

Before the demise of the International Socialist Organization disappears completely from the rear view mirror, I wanted to mention a couple of other articles on the topic that I found interesting.

A piece outlining the internal functioning of the group and the nuts and bolts of the internal coup which preceded the dissolution decision is The Crisis and Collapse of the International Socialist Organization at The New Militant. It is a worthwhile case study in the life (and death) of a sect.

A more interesting and more political take on the events can be found at the Socialist Equality Party website. The piece, with a much sexier title, Factional provocation, middle-class hysteria, and the collapse of the International Socialist Organization, offers a plausible analysis of the political basis for the death of the ISO (provided, of course, than one can read around the article’s tedious and predictable Trotskyite insistance that only its particular flavor of Fourth International can save us).

Thus, according to the SEP:

In the statements issued by the ISO…. [r]eaders are expected to believe that the alleged mishandling of an accusation of sexual assault, which occurred six years ago, has caused the political collapse of the International Socialist Organization.

This is preposterous and will be believed only by those who are either hopelessly naïve or hopelessly stupid. The unleashing of a sex scandal in a political organization is aimed invariably at generating hysteria, stampeding the membership and preventing an open and rational discussion of program, perspective, strategy and the interests of conflicting internal factions and social forces. Only in the aftermath of the organizational massacre, as the smoke begins to clear, do the political interests and aims that precipitated the crisis begin to emerge.

… it is evident that the outcome of the crisis has been an extremely sharp movement to the right.

The article goes on to argue:

Whether or not the complete dissolution of the International Socialist Organization was the intended outcome of the political conspiracy organized by a section of the leadership is not clear. However, it is the logical outcome of the ISO’s right-wing, middle-class and thoroughly opportunist politics, in which all the various factions involved have participated.

Reviewing one of the articles posted on the ISO website by a supporter of the ascendant faction, the SEP piece seems exactly right in arguing that it

… exposes the hysterical psychology, akin to a lynch mob, that prevails among ISO members recruited on the basis of middle-class identity politics.

As for the major themes at issue in the breakup of the ISO, the article sites three – relations with the Democratic Party, the desire of ISO trade unionists to free themselves from party limitations, and conflict over the disposition of the ISO’s assets which, according to the article “run into the millions of dollars.”

Of these factors, the desire of much of the ISO to liquidate itself into the Democratic Party left via DSA seems most significant:

The liquidation of the ISO has effectively removed an organizational barrier to the integration of its dominant faction into the political orbit of the Democratic Party.

Prior to the February convention, the ISO was engaged in a protracted internal discussion of the political implications of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s election to Congress… With the 2020 election approaching, the Democratic Party is exerting immense pressure to organizationally disarm and integrate potential opposition from the left.

… Significantly, the March 15 statement of the SC states that the ISO (or, presumably, its remnants) will “study how the ISO can relate to socialist campaigns run on Democratic ballot lines.”

So, I would have to agree with the SEP that the dissolution of the ISO is yet another example of the inability of the erstwhile anti-capitalist left to resist the gravitational pull of the political black hole which is the anti-populist popular front centered by the Democratic Party and fundamentally devoted to stabilizing the neo-liberal order in this time of political crisis.

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On the Dissolution of the ISO

Meeting in the wake of an internal scandal over the handling of a rape accusation the International Socialist Organization, America’s largest remaining left cadre organization has voted to dissolve itself

Naturally, there is plenty of discussion around this development among the usual suspects, with much debate over whether it represents the final exhaustion of the Leninist model or if in fact the democratic centralist party sect as we have come to know and love it represented a “Zinovievist” deviation from Lenin’s healthy understanding of the organizational question.

I have mixed feelings on this myself, but I suppose that, to put it mildly, the experiences of the past 100 years or so would tend to argue that we should move on from that ideal, however we may describe it.

To be clear, I am no longer a leftist and I have no even lingering nostalgic regret for the disappearance of this organization.  I was never, either as a Trot, post-Trot or anti-Trot, at all sympathetic to the Third Campism of the ISO, nor did I like the organization’s adaptation to PC-style identity politics (something which did not, however, save the outgoing leadership from accusations of racism, etc.).

Still, while I will not miss the ISO as an organization, I get the feeling that the decision to dissolve (as opposed to simply purge and go on) is a throwing in of the towel on the revolutionary (as opposed to just the Leninist/Zinovievist) project and yet another symptom the broader disappearance of the left as an even minimally authentic oppositional movement.

Increasingly, especially via the predominance of disparity-oriented identity politics, the left and even what purports to be the far left is being incorporated into the system as a sort of loyal opposition, enlisted in an elite-dominated popular front against fascism populism as the most minor of partners.  And that part is too bad.

Calm Before the Storm?

I haven’t been posting much lately because, honestly, there hasn’t been that much I’ve felt moved to post about.  This isn’t to say that nothing has been happening – more that, whatever dramatic and even terrible events may have occurred, they have had a same-sh*t-different-dayness to them for awhile now.

I expect that things will be getting more interesting as the 2020 elections approach, however, not so much because of who will end up as president as because of just how out of hand things promise to get in the meantime and the likelihood that American political culture will be permanently changed as a result.

Judging from the noises coming out of the Democratic pack, as typified by the recent travails of Beto O’Rourke and the buzz over reparations, it seems like the race/gender cards will be getting played harder and faster than ever before.

Thus, while I only look at The Root when I’m feeling particularly masochistic, I have to at least partially agree with Michael Harriot’s recent piece The 6 Kinds of Woke White People. Occasionally amusing and consistently indicative of the unapologetic disdain for whites so prevalent in the Democratic Party and most of the “left”, the article tells us:

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A Good Case In Point

“I, Spike Lee Of Sound Mind And Body Will No Longer Wear Prada Or Gucci Until They Hire Some Black Designers”T.I., Soulja Boy, and Others Call for Gucci Boycott After Blackface Scandal: ‘Apology Not Accepted’

I’ve noted arguments by Adolph Reed and Walter Benn Michaels that identity politics as currently practiced in the USA is completely consistent with the logic of capitalist development, rather than a challenge to it.

As Reed said for example:

… race politics is not an alternative to class politics; it is a class politics, the politics of the left-wing of neoliberalism. It is the expression and active agency of a political order and moral economy in which capitalist market forces are treated as unassailable nature…. As I have argued, following Walter [Benn] Michaels and others, within that moral economy a society in which 1% of the population controlled 90% of the resources could be just, provided that roughly 12% of the 1% were black, 12% were Latino, 50% were women, and whatever the appropriate proportions were LGBT people.

I could not resist noting Mr. Lee’s courageous statement as a particularly instructive example.

(If you have missed the recent controversy re Gucci’s balaclava knit top turtleneck you will certainly want to catch up.)

From the Black Agenda Report

There just aren’t that many left sites worth reading these days for anything other than know-your-enemy purposes.  One outstanding exception to this, however, is the Black Agenda Report (“News, commentary and analysis from the black left”) which, having apparently resisted absorption by the system, consistently provides a fresh and provocative take on things.

Of course, BAR and I obviously disagree regarding the site’s insistence that any self-defensive movement by middle American whites is necessarily racist and supremacist, however, reading around that one can appreciate the articles’ consistent recognition that the the co-optation of black community leadership by the globalist system represents a betrayal of the real interests of the black working and middle classes and that the “resistance” is a ruling class ploy.

Of particular interest is an article by BAR editor Glen Ford published in July, Russiagate is a Ruling Class Diversion, which I’ve been meaning to discuss since then but, due to my habitual procrastination, am only getting around to mentioning now.

The article begins by reviewing the system’s response to Trump’s election:

Trump’s howling racism was what made Democrats believe he was the ideal candidate for a trouncing by Hillary Clinton, who could be counted on to escalate Barack Obama’s general military offensive and to aggressively pursue TPP and other corporate governance arrangements…. When Clinton lost, the ruling class panicked and resolved to bring down the Orange Menace no matter the cost to U.S. institutions and to the appearance of stability in the very bosom of the empire. The rolling coup was begun.

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What’s Left?

Pity the poor left, reduced to shilling for the military, the CIA, the FBI, the foreign policy establishment, the Democratic Party, various Silicon Valley billionaires, and now the “bourgeois press” (as we used to call it when there actually was a left).

For most of the left, this absorption into the system has gone almost unnoticed, however there remain a few individuals swimming (with great difficulty) against the current.

An interesting example of the agonies endured by some in an effort to maintain an independent position can be found in the introduction to a 2015 article by Paul Street republished yesterday at CounterPunch: Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People.

Street’s article is now prefaced by a groveling, paragraphs-long apology for daring to take a critical stance toward what any leftist once recognized as one of the pillars of the system:

I detest the malignantly racist, sexist, narcissistic, and authoritarian pathological liar and bully Donald Trump on many different levels, and I share none of his sick world view, but the corporate media really is, well (to use Trump’s recurrent phrase), “the enemy of the people.”

Here below is an essay I first published (on the venerable radical Website ZNet) in the late summer of 2015…. It was written from a Marxist and international socialist and anti-imperialist perspective and not at all from a Trumpian, white-nationalist standpoint.

He goes on to wring his hands over what he calls

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On the Death of the Left

The evidence of the death of the Left is all around us. You can see it by the fact that on campus being left-wing means having blue hair and thinking a man can become a woman by having an operation.Brendan O’Neill

From Back to Enlightenment values: An interview with Brendan O’Neill by Chris Mansour at Platypus Review. O’Neill is the editor of sp!ked “Britain’s first online-only current-affairs mag… a metaphorical missile against misanthropy.” With roots in the British new left (its predecessor was Living Marxism) sp!ked has moved far from its Trotskyist origins towards an idiosyncratic libertarianism and is now “a fan of reason, liberty, progress, economic growth, choice, conviction and thought experiments about the future, and not so big on eco-miserabilism, identikit politicians, nostalgia, dumbing down and determinism.”

The magazine has played a particularly positive role in its defense of “freedom of speech with no ifs and buts,” particularly in the UK, where the prevalence of speech codes and aggressive no-platforming by the left make US universities appear to be bastions of tolerance. (See, for example, its Free Speech University Rankings for 2018.)

Overall, sp!ked is one of those things you just have to keep reading, libertarian or not.