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An Open Response to the ISO's "hijacking" of the Northeast & West Coast Anti-War
14 Nov 2001
Modified: 18 Nov 2001
A response to the allegations the ISO "hijacked" the San Francisco and Boston Campus Anti-War Conferences
I know before the conference there were concerns in some coalitions about the ISO. Rumors were quietly going around that the ISO was "behind" the conferences in Boston as well as all over the country. It was said we were trying to "control" the anti-war movement and use it for our own "hidden agendas," This is simply not true.

As a member of the International Socialist Organization, Boston Campus Anti War Coalition and outreach coordinator for the Northeast Campus Conference Against War and Racism. I, nor the ISO, ever did anything but build the antiwar movement as broadly and democratically as possible. I worked just as hard as the many others who gave there days, nights, and weekends to the building of an amazing conference of 350+ students from all over the Northeast. Despite the claims that the ISO "controlled," "dominated," and "silenced" the anti-war conference from Boston to Berkeley, I worked openly as a member of the ISO and proudly. Socialists come from a strong anti-war tradition and have been central to all anti-war movements from the Spanish American war to the war in Afghanistan today.

I was one of the 4 members of the ISO who opposed the use of consensus as decision process at the Northeast conference. When this was discussed, at the Northeast conference planning committee I openly raised and disagreed with the proposal for consensus. Among the 12+ people who took part in the 2 hour discussion, around 8 people voted pro-consensus, we were clearly not in the majority. Consensus was decided upon and respected by all members of the ISO.

Yes, ISO members raised the issue in Boston but for two reasons. First, we thought it was undemocratic for Boston to decide the decision making process of a NE Conference. (I want to make clear this was not an intentional decision made on the part of Boston, we as a coalition had been operating this way since our inception) We in the ISO had the intention of making the movement as open and democratic as possible felt all campuses and there delegates should be part of this discussion. Secondly, outside the ISO, in coalitions from NY to Vermont students were raising their frustrations with the consensus decision making process, decided informally and then formally in Boston.

Since there was a debate in the movement we felt it only democratic, all delegates in the NE attending the conference, decide weather consensus or majority be used. There were three proposals regarding this matter. Two proposals were on modified consensus and the third simple majority. We did not impose, coerce, or dupe anyone. There was a two-hour discussion and when called to vote 64 out of 110 or so delegates, 17 of which were members of the ISO, voted in favor of simple majority.

To say we "hijacked" or had a "hidden agenda" is factually, inaccurate. Accusations like these are insulting to all those outside the ISO (47 delegates) who voted majority, claiming they did because "we" the ISO said so. It has been our position to want as many people as possible to join the fight against this war. To say people had to sign on to our politics to be part of the anti-war movement is a lie. This would mean the movement staying small and ultimately not accomplishing its goal, ending the war in Afghanistan.

The accusations the ISO "hijacked" the conferences were not confined to Boston. At UC Berkeley where the West Coast Schools Against War conference was held similar accusations are occurring. There the ISO is similarly being accused of "dominating" the conference. Again lets look at the facts.
Of over 180 delegates, I think 16 or 17 were members of the ISO (actually two of them weren't there on Sunday, so let's say 15 could vote). Out of 36 workshops, three had ISO members speak at them. None of the speakers at the morning or evening panels were ISO members. ISO members voted with the near unanimous majority on some proposals (National Conference, Coordinating Committee, endorse International Solidarity with Palestine Day, continuing with majority Voting as opposed to opening up a debate on process, etc) and voted in the minority on others, (Feb 7th day of action, numerous procedural votes) and voted on different sides of the questions at other times (March on DC, for example). In other words, the ISO votes didn't determine a single decision of the conference.

First, it is the ISO's politics to defend democracy and free exchange of ideas, not stifle it. In this tradition, we are committed to fight against all elements of a movement, run top down or in a Stalinist way. Why? This would destroy the movement's goals of democracy and free exchange of ideas. If people have questions or concerns about the ISO's involvement in this movement they should be discussed openly and productively. I think the last thing anyone wants is this movement to fall apart, before we've begun, yet long before we've stopped this brutal war.

Second of all, and probably more importantly, these accusations are totally disrespectful of the non-ISO members who have been working so hard to build this movement. I have the utmost respect for everyone I have worked with from all the members of the Boston Campus Anti-War Coalition to the California Students Against War. Regardless of their political affiliations, and frankly I think it is insulting to them, for anyone to say, all there hard work and tireless commitment, was credited to being "duped" by the ISO and the members they have been working with.

Lastly, for all those interested in understanding these accusations we have to examine who is spreading them and why. These people have agendas too. It's called red-baiting. In Boston what was a normal, healthy and honest political debate, between consensual democracy and simple majority was exploited, not of differences in political ideas but of "hidden agendas," "party politics" or political affiliation. Accusations such as these have done the most to divide and destroy the left. It is not the ISO or socialists who have destroyed movements but rather those within the movement, who try to control who can and cannot be involved. Frankly, we can't afford to do this. We want, as well as need, all sorts of political organizations in our movement, socialist or not. It is wrong to exclude, attack or choose any groups over another. Socialists and non-socialists alike should stand up to these attacks, because it is the only way we are going to move forward and build a movement to stop this war.

Gina Sartori
International Socialist Organization
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Red Baiting?
14 Nov 2001
The accusation of "red baiting" is ridiculous, especially in light of the fact that those who have levied criticism against the ISO are indeed "red" (i.e. leftists) themselves, and in most instances, further to the left than the ISO (anarchists).

Playing victim of a supposed "red scare" does little to support your claims. I have yet to see a non-ISO member challenge any of the Indymedia posts that accuse your organization of "highjacking" this past weekend's student organizing conferences. Popular consensus outside of your group would indicate to me that there is some basis to these accusations, and people should continue to be weary your antics in the future.
Hey from Chicago
14 Nov 2001
Here's a repost from Chicago.

By, the way, it's still called red-baiting even if it comes from the left. In fact, if you think about it, it's worse, since essentially your attacking one of your own, despite some differences (I think anarchists and socialist politcally agree on much more than the the status quo or the right-wing).

It's fine to raise concerns and criticisms that are constructive, the problem seems to be that since some people lost the vote, they want to destroy what work has been accomplished - 100s of people at antiwar conferences. This certainly will not help build the antiwar movement no matter what individual or group
is involved.
RE: Hey From Chicago
by Yari Johnson 9:23am Wed Nov 14 '01
rebelde80 (at)

I am sorry that the Berkeley conference did not seem to be democratic and inclusive. I have seen control and factionalism destroy conferences in the past. The only way to insure that it does not happen is be open and democratic.

This comment is mainly to respond to ChicagoMAMa...why dont you put your name? Did you attend the conference in Chicago? I helped to set up the conference and before two weeks ago I have never heard of ISO. I am not part of ISO. I was allowed to participate and I even helped to MC part of the Discussion on Sunday. The conference was very carefully set up to ensure that no one group could "take-over". Delegates were carefully scrutinized to insure that they were only from campus-based Anti-war groups and not multi-issue groups. Delegates had to be elected as a representative from their group, not just any member attending the conference could be a delegate, only an elected representative. Although, I was the only representative from my school, our anti-war group has not consolidated and I was note elected as a delegate and therefore I was perfectly fine in not voting...I was still able to voice my opinions during the voting session and give suggestions. Who ever wanted to help and participate in the conference was welcome. I would like to encourage others who attended the conference in Chicago to come and voice their opinions. I did not feel any animosity at any point during the conference and much was accomplished. It was by far one of the most educational and productive conferences I have been to.

Please add comments.


Yari Johnson
President of the Student Alliance (student body)
Roosevelt University
Recruitment disguised as coalition building.
15 Nov 2001
Given the critical assessments about the regional anti-war conferences that are appearing across the IMC network it's pretty apparent that the ISO has learned absolutely nothing about authentic progressive coalition building since the Gulf War. Same old sterile, formulaic action proposals, same laughable semi-clandestine style of work, with scant attention paid to the inclusion of other voices, particuarly from communities of color and targeted communities...including international student organizations. Not surprising for an organization whose membership has historically been comprised of activists recruited from schools where other forms of left political activity are virtually non-existent, leaving ISO the only game in town for those interested in socialism and revolutionary change.

I suspect that the ISO leadership has assessed that having been completely out-organized by the WWP initiated ANSWER Coalition on the East Coast and unable to advance their organizational priorities and recruit membership from community based anti-war coalitions in the Midwest and West Coast- where they have to contend with both ideological competition and consensus driven decision making, the current organizational strategy is position the organization as a "leading force" in the broader anti-war movement by initiating their own campus based coalition. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that internal ISO communications reflect this assessment.

Same old shit. Different war.
Coordinated Efforts of Anti-War Cooptation
15 Nov 2001
From reading the posts and counter-posts on the various Indymedia's, it is interesting to see the level coordination the ISO is capable of in manipulating campus anti-war activity simultaneously in three different cities. Impressive, really. What is even more impressive are the coordinated responses to the accusations of the "highjacking" of the campus activist groups from a number of different ISO personalities. It almost seems like these responses were anticipated in advance, knowing full well that they would be called on their shit after these conferences by concerned activists. Huh...
ex-ISO folks make great organizers
15 Nov 2001

ex-ISO members (and other folks who have quit, or been kicked out of, lefty vanguardist-type parties) often make great organizers, so let's treat the individuals with respect, while we criticize the organization.

here in portland, OR, the vibrant anti-authoritarian activist scene is full of people who have left or been kicked out of parties like the ISO (they have strict party discipline, ya know)

so, please--treat everyone--especially the newer, less experienced recruits with respect--they may be good friends, organizers, comrades down the line...

but let's keep spreading the word about the ISO, the IAC, and other groups that are trying to control movements...but let's do it in a way that builds the movement, not divide know the right loves to see us battle among ourselves and splinter our efforts--they even encourage it

i think what we should do is work really hard to build democratic organizations or networks to build the movement to stop the war--it's going to take a long time--i believe bush and co. want this war to last a long time, if not forever (it sure helps justify all kinds of stuff they love, from corporate welfare to the crackdown on any form of dissent)

it's old and tired, but true:
the people, united, will never be defeated
15 Nov 2001
Oh this is real convincing from trotbaiter

"Popular consensus outside of your group would indicate to me that there is some basis to these accusations..."


I suppose whoever posts the most is telling the truth.
I never heard of the ISO before this battle broke out and I have no real inclination to defend them but the stupidity of most of the critisism leveled at them on IMCs today is amazing.

The arrogance of the so called radical anti-authoritarian,
awesome youth anarchist whatever splinter group is all that comes through. FUCK THAT.
may be the ISO needs to do some thinking
15 Nov 2001
I didn't go to any of the anti-war conferences in question. I have occasionally been in situations where I've worked with the ISO in the past; those have been mixed--sometimes good, sometimes bad.

I have to say that I find the accusations of ISO manipulation credible. As for the non-ISO delegates, I wonder how many of them were from ISO front groups. And, to any ISOers reading this, please don't deny that you have front groups. I have definitely seen at least one in action--the Emergency Response Network.

A suggestion for folks in the ISO. May be you honestly don't believe that you hijacked the conferences, etc. You might, however, want to stop and think about what it is you do that angers so many other progressive groups. That other groups consistently get angry with you should maybe get you thinking that you are doing something wrong. You often refer to other Leninist groups as sectarian because they won't work with other groups. Fair enough. But most of us find the ISO highly sectarian in the way you work with other groups--always pushing your own organization, trying to sell papers and recruit members, violating agreements with other groups about action strategies and just doing your own thing. It comes across as quite arrogant. It makes it so other groups don't *want* to work with you. And there are Leninist groups that don't have this problem--the Communist Party and Freedom Road Socialist Organization. (For the record, I am an anarcho-pacifist and fundamentally disagree with Leninist ideology on many points.)

For the rest of us on the left--I would like to point that, while it's easy to point fingers at groups like the ISO and IAC, it's not like all the rest of us are pure. Sectarian groups represent extreme cases of problems that you can find in other groups. I've been in supposedly anarchist or democratic groups where decision-making was dominated by a few people. I've been in groups where there has been hideous in-fighting over things that shouldn't have been fought over (and I have participated in this in-fighting). I'm sure many people reading this have seen similar things. It's not just the ISO. All of us need to get our acts together a little more. The sectarians are simply the worst offenders. While we try to think of constructive ways to deal with them, let's not forget to look at problems in our own groups.

Bread and Roses,
Me! Me!
17 Nov 2001
I think the ISO is dominating and fracturing this post. This post was a perfectly unified thread before *THEY* came along with their faction-of-a-faction-of-a-hundred-year-old-faction. If it wasn't for the ISO this thread would be an effective force in the larger movement, operating on a basis of analytical unity through a consensus process, and we would have conquered all other threads by now. What a wonderful place this post would be if the ISO hadn't come along and ruined it for us all.
For a world without bosses!
18 Nov 2001
If the revolution erupted tomorrow and the capitalist plutocratic bosses were replaced by the bureacratic bosses of one of the authoritarian alphabet soup, would we like the world we live in?

I think the clear answer for most of us is no. Most of us are committed to the creation of a world without bosses of any sort. The fact that they modify their boss with the word "Party" does not exempt them.

Authoritarians and anti-authoritarians have nothing in common!

Frank Little