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News ::
Opportunity To Be Preached To in Chicago
10 Jun 2001
That's right, the International Socialist Organization will allow you to be preached at and told what to think for only $75.
The ISO will be holding their "Socialist Summer School" this weekend, June 14 through 17. Do yourself a favor--skip it. Yes, there will be some great speakers, like Ken Riley, but the ISO is not the group with which to put your energies. Why, you ask, do I feel this way? Not because they're bad people. But because of much that I've seen of the group after watching their floating in and out of different parts of the left over the past years.

(Note that this may well be dismissed as "Redbaiting." To be clear, I often identify as a socialist-feminist and consder socialist ideals to be among the long-term driving forces of the left. When the ISO dismisses criticism as redbaiting, ask yourself why they won't take it on directly. They may also argue that I'm doing the work of the right by criticizing them. This, too, is faulty and beside the point. If we can't honestly criticize one another on the left, we will not grow.)

So what are these impressions I've gotten?

1) That the ISO is unaccountable. How many members know who runs the ISO nationally, what the structure is, and how to impact it? Who knows who is on it? Or how it makes decisions about hiring organizers?

2) That the ISO is parasitic. Oftentimes, ISO members will come to others' events specifically to hawk their papers and prommote their organization. One must question whether their priority is the cause itself or simply promoting the ISO. They also seem to bounce from cause to cause, depending on political winds. Where, for instance, have the ISO supporters of Nader gone? Are they building the Greens or other third parties? Or will they simply pop up again at the next election cycle and glom onto another campaign there? Here in Boston, the ISO has put its name on buding work, welfare rights work, death penalty work, globalization work. Yet in only some of this have they actually been reliable coalition partners in the long haul. Other times they've simply floated away. Is it because these issues no longer seem like fashionable recruiting grounds?

3) That the ISO is dogmatic. You can see this in almost any of their discussions, in which certain members tell those in attendance what is right. You can notice it in discussions with ISO members, in which it's clear that they're reflecting a party line. I have also heard stories of members being kicked out due to their beliefs, though I can not personally substantiate this--can anyone else comment on it?

As I said before, ISO members are not bad people--I count several as friends. But the organization has shown itself to me to be untrustworthy and opportunistic on many occasions. For a group that considers itself to have a vanguard role, this is especially problematic to building the left.

I invite ISO members to engage with this--not to say that it's redbaiting or that I'm doing the work of the right or other such nonsense, but to seriously engage in a way that means organizational change. But I'll believe it when I see it.
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