The great Lenin debate of 2012

(Or, the bankruptcy of “Leninism” Rediscovered)

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Over the past several decades, much of the international Left has come to question the “Leninist” party-building model that was hegemonic among Western socialists for the majority of the twentieth century. In the United States, it appears that the crisis of “Leninism” has sharpened in the years since 2008. While “Leninist” groups are notoriously prone to factional strife in general, this period seems to have witnessed an intensified tendency toward splinters and splits within these groups. Inevitably, this trend has generated new scatterings of disaffected ex-members, at least a portion of whom remain active in politics and activism. This process has been aided by the writings and (in some cases) the ongoing interventions of previous generations of ex-”Leninists,” who have, no doubt, helped many newly purged and “bureaucratically excluded” comrades to make sense of their experience within the sect-based Left. To this end, influential roles have been played by the likes of Louis Proyect and other former members of the 1970s-era U.S. Socialist Workers Party. Many former “Leninists” have also been influenced by such historical critics of sect-based socialist organizing as Hal Draper and Bert Cochran.[1] Continue reading

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Response to “Critique of the Renewal Faction Documents”

A note of preface

Like my document “An assessment of the Atlanta branch in light of the Renewal Faction documents,” the following is a reprint of a piece first published in one of the ISO’s 2014 Pre-convention Bulletins — in this case, PCB #11, released on January 11.[1] As I explain below, this particular piece is structured as a reply to a critique of the ISO Renewal Faction written by one of my then fellow Atlanta branch members. For reasons of courtesy, I have chosen to adjust the text here in order to avoid referencing this comrade by name. Where necessary, I simply refer to this individual as “the author.”

Notably, I had initially planned to publish this piece on Red Atlanta more than a month ago. At that time, however, I decided to hold out in order to let some of the tension set in motion by the bitter factional struggle subside. Now that some time has passed, I wanted to go ahead and publicly release this document, as I think it provides some worthwhile insights about the crisis within the ISO and — in addition — the nature of the current capitalist conjuncture. Continue reading

A friendly reply to Saturn’s “Friendly rebuttal”

First of all, let me say that I enjoyed reading Saturn’s “Friendly rebuttal to ‘Idealism in Trotskyism and the ISO’” for the simple fact that, after having been subjected to untold numbers of unfriendly critiques directed at the ISO opposition during the recent factional struggle, I found the article’s “spirit of comradeship” to be a refreshing change of pace. [1] Truly, this is the type of document that begs for someone to reply in kind.

For this reason, I wanted to take the time to respond to Saturn’s article. I’ll begin my reply by first outlining the content of the argument that Saturn’s piece seeks to critique. Following this, I’ll then detail Saturn’s own argument. Finally, I’ll conclude by expounding upon my own opinions on the matter. Continue reading

On personalism, politics, and the ISO leadership’s self-fulfilling prophecies

Throughout the course of the recent factional struggle within the International Socialist Organization, one of the main arguments put forward by the ISO leadership in their effort to discredit the Renewal Faction was the claim that the faction’s documents are apolitical and personalistic. This particular assertion was repeated in, among innumerable other sources, the ISO Steering Committee’s document, “Holding the Renewal Faction accountable,” contained within Pre-convention Bulletin #27. The document proclaims that “the output of faction members – as well as the faction itself – has tended toward… personalistic, destructive material.”[1]

This accusation is ridiculous. Throughout the entire pre-convention period, the Renewal Faction’s documents have, without exception, sought to address vital political and organizational questions facing the ISO. (I encourage anyone that believes otherwise to revisit — among other pieces — the Renewal Faction’s platform documents). Furthermore, to the extent that it can be said that the debate around the Renewal Faction came to take on a personalistic tone, this development was almost exclusively the result of the hostile stance adopted by the ISO leadership and its loyalist defenders. From the outset, the leadership consistently refused to engage the Renewal Faction on a political level. Instead, their approach hinged – above all else – on an effort to discredit the Renewal Faction by accusing us of committing a series of procedural heresies. By adopting this approach, the ISO leadership avoided addressing the innumerable political questions raised by the faction. Continue reading

An assessment of the Atlanta branch in light of the Renewal Faction documents

The following document was written in preparation for a perspectives discussion meeting held by the Atlanta branch of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) on 10 December 2013. The document was then published in the ISO’s Pre-Convention Bulletin (PCB) #9 in January 2014. In the latter version, the ISO leadership apparently made the decision to remove the document’s opening paragraph, which calls for “replacing some or all of the organization’s current leaders.”

The version of the document published below restores this passage in full. Additionally, this version includes a few corrections and updates. Most notably, I have added links to several relevant documents published in the period since this piece was originally written. A passage that rehashes the Renewal Faction’s core arguments from “The organizational crisis and its political roots” has been omitted. I have also made a few minor adjustments to the document in order to avoid providing information that recognizably identifies former members and contacts of the ISO Atlanta branch. 

As a final note, let me conclude by stating that, over the course of the past few months, my views on the crisis within the ISO and the state of the group in general have evolved considerably from the one presented in the document below. As I summarized in my “Letter of Resignation from the ISO,” I have come to “question the viability of the ISO as a vehicle for revolutionary Marxist politics.”

–Ben S Continue reading

Letter of resignation from the ISO: Ben S (Atlanta)

This letter was first published on External Bulletin, the website of the ISO Renewal Faction.

To all my comrades both inside and outside the ISO:

This letter is intended to announce my resignation from the International Socialist Organization. This decision has been prompted by my experience in the months since I first publicly expressed my support for the ISO Renewal Faction late last year. To summarize in brief, as a result of my endorsement of the Faction, I’ve been effectively isolated and iced out of both the Atlanta branch and the national organization as a whole. This has made it all but impossible to continue my involvement within the group. Continue reading