International Socialist Organization
|Join the party!|
|Opiates for the masses|
The International Socialist Organization is
the street team of American publisher Haymarket Books, Inc. an American Communist Party that proclaims themselves Trotskyist, despite the fact that they were kicked out of their sponsoring international party, founded by Tony Cliff, for not being revolutionary enough. Despite the fact they are a group of political people, they never run a candidate for office, don't try to form coalitions with unions, are known for turning any event they are invited to into a show-stealing spectacle of self-aggrandizement, and have been known to be especially nasty to those they don't feel are committed to the cause enough. This sounds familiar, and will become more so as you read on.
At some point in the 1970's, things began to fall apart in the Left and the British Socialist movement was fractured into hundreds of schisms. One of these was the ISO, who established themselves in 1976 after a bit of a tiff with those opposed to their ideas. As things moved forward into the 1980's, the ISO decided to focus their energies on forming a vanguard party of intellectuals. As such, they became the permanent feature of campus protests, leafletting the hell out of anything they could, sort of like Lyndon LaRouche, but not racist.
 Intellectual Bullying
First, a genuine desire for a world-shaking shift in your view of reality installs the need for 'The Truth'. Like the aforementioned religions, usually the first encounter with the faith will be with a missionary, proselytizing away for anyone to hear and distributing literature like no one's business (they maintain a weekly tabloid-styled newsletter, International Socialist, as well as a publishing house that issues handsome volumes filled with ISO dogmas and teachings). The irony that self-proclaimed socialists make such a big issue out of filling sales quotas on their literature is not lost on anyone in the know.
Once in the fold, new recruits are fed a steady diet of dogmas and doctrines, most of which have more to do with the ideology of their paper-company sponsors out of Chicago and less to do with those writings by Marx. In fact, their publishing arm, Haymarket Books, has plenty of books on Marxist thought but doesn't even publish Das Kapital, which is sort of like a Christian publisher not printing a Bible.
Once the acolyte is properly prepared, they are given their missionary role and asked to draft peers into the group while keeping up sales of the newspaper. Many former members can go on about how they felt more like over-glorified volunteer paperboys than real revolutionaries, which speaks volumes about what this whole mess really is about.
Then, of course, is the meeting. Accounts vary, but the main idea is that the new guy goes through shaming exercises about not selling enough papers, recruiting new peers, and not toeing the revolutionary line properly. The other big part of a meeting consists of focusing on some rudimentary Marxist texts and agreeing that the ISO version of it's interpretation is the only proper one. Independent thinkers are often chastised for the thought crime of challenging the Party line.
But the creme-de-la-creme of the ISO is their obsession with Soviet history. Unless you agree with their extremely convoluted account of St. Trotsky's life, a narrative which excuses him for every mistake he ever made and blames everyone else for his failures, you are nothing but a counter-revolutionary. According to this line of thought, Emma Goldman was being a class-traitor when she infamously called Leon a crybaby and hypocrite for complaining about Stalin's purges while a decade before he had held his own purge at Kronstadt . In summation, this is less of a reading circle or political party than a cult of a dead personality.
- ↑ cf. David Graeber, Direct Action: An Ethnography. It's pretty clear that the coalition-building orientation as opposed to Direct Action has something to do with a publishing firm not wanting to be connected to anything illegal, or else they would be much less antagonistic to the American union movement, who they call 'reactionary'.
- ↑ http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Sectariana/ISO.html
- ↑ http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/goldman/works/1938/trotsky-protests.htm