Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Leninism on Way Out as ISO Crisis Deepens.

with 17 comments


Still Flogging a Dead Horse.

”  To defend press freedom the 19th century French liberal Benjamin Constant used analogy. * He imagined a society before the invention of language. Suddenly people could speak. When it undermined order figures in authority began to regret this state of affairs. Gradually the innovation was accepted. Nobody any longer had the idea of forbidding talking on the grounds that it could be used to spread rumours, lies or fantasies.

Perhaps the Socialist Workers Party will consider Constant’s argument when they next stick on their internal documents, “Under No Circumstances Should This Text be Posted on the Internet, For SWP members Only.”

* Cited Page 227. Les Gauches Françaises. Jacques Julliard. 2012.

Tendance Coatesy, The Crisis of the SWP,  Leninism and the Left. February 2013.

Louis Proyect writes today (extracts),

One wonders if the ISO leaders might have anticipated the “security breach” that allowed the documents to become public. After all, in the electronic age, what’s to prevent a Marxist version of Edward Snowden from cropping up? This is especially true given the leaks that took place in the British SWP, the group that spawned the ISO. Those leaks were focused primarily on the British SWP’s refusal to punish a top leader who had allegedly raped a young female member. As is the case with bureaucratic institutions in general such as the Catholic Church and the military, there is a tendency to defend those in power, no matter what they do. If you’ve reached the point where you’ve become tired of bureaucratic abuse from the ISO leadership, why not let the rest of the left know what’s going on behind closed doors?

Proyect’s  objects are many but this sticks out,

I want to address the question of the “right” of a Leninist organization to keep its discussions shielded from public view at the end of this article, but will start with an evaluation of the ISO’s current woes, which according to both sides in the dispute is very real.

He concludes,

The real issue is not security, but the right of a sect to keep its deliberations a secret. When you stop and think about it, all of these “Leninist” groups operate on a mercantile basis that is concerned with maximizing market share. Their internal bulletins are analogous to reports discussed by the board of directors leading up to a sales campaign. What business is it of Pepsi to know what Coca-Cola is up to? How can we let Socialist Alternative know what we have planned for 2014? Hush now, comrades. Mum’s the word.

While I will not be around fifty years from now, I am convinced that “Leninism” will be long dead. If we are fortunate enough to be capable of rallying the forces needed to transform American society, it will be on a basis that has little to do with the imagery associated with the Smolny Institute and the Winter Palace. We will write our own future based on the living struggle that we surely have in front of us. Every effort has to be bent toward uniting the greatest number of people on a principled class basis. In a way it is too bad that ISO cannot understand the role it can play in helping to catalyze such a movement. One hopes that they can figure out a way to emerge out of the existing stagnation and rise to the occasion.

The background to this crisis is given on the External Bulletin site,

The organizational crisis and its political roots

The International Socialist Organization (ISO) has been in a general crisis since 2009. This has not been experienced or understood as a general crisis, but rather a series of disconnected and personalistic branch crises. But if we merely list the crises that we know about, the general nature of the problem becomes clear: (see links for more)

Perhaps the conclusion is not as radical – certainly not about the Leninist roots of their problems – as it could be,

To sum up, the political roots of the ISO’s organizational crisis lie in the group’s failure to adequately theorize the neoliberal phase of capitalism. Its past practices are increasingly ineffective in a new conjuncture, but it lacks the “theoretical capital” to invest in the ideation of strategy. Itself impoverished in ideas, the leadership has adopted a defensive posture, concerned–in many ways legitimately–that a politically weak organization cannot handle the internal struggles that will be required to generate and test new ideas. But there is no alternative to this internal struggle if the organization is to progress.

Update: Opposition expelled from ISO, here.

More details and comments on this split on Howie’s Corner.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 18, 2014 at 1:32 pm

17 Responses

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  1. The ISO have just expelled its’ opposition in the form of the renewal faction:


    Not sure anyone would want to be a member of a group that doesn’t like poor people:


    So good riddance to Leninism, can’t happen soon enough in my opinion!

    Howard Fuller

    February 18, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    • Thanks for the update Howie.

      Andrew Coates

      February 19, 2014 at 10:51 am

  2. Well, they’re like cults aren’t they? You need to prove your commitment by handing all your income over.

    Igor Belanov

    February 19, 2014 at 1:12 pm

  3. Igor, you are correct. It’s worth reading the exposure of the WRP on this subject in the excellent “What’s Left” by Nick Cohen. He gives instances of people being physically threatened to buy more and more of the party paper to the detriment of their family’s welfare.

    Check out Trial By Jeory for the latest embarrassments for the far left in Tower Hamlets. Even the creepy Jon Lansman of Left Futures is quiet on the debacle. Will these groups now just disappear or will they manage to recruit just enough new members to stagger on?


    February 19, 2014 at 3:48 pm

  4. Left groups vary as wildly as any political party.

    The ISO is not a cult.

    Their origins are in the ideas of Hal Draper, a critic of ‘sects’.

    The very fact that their problems are aired so clearly shows that there is real debate in their group.

    Expelling people takes place in the Tories, Liberal and Labour, as well.

    I disagree – as a (Marxist) democratic socialist – with their type of politics.

    But they are not in the same league as real cults: they do not permit any debate to begin with.

    If you had a met a real political cult, the WRP is a case in point, you would know it!

    Andrew Coates

    February 19, 2014 at 5:44 pm

  5. Madmullah: there is such a stream of dodgy things coming out of Tower H amlets council that I find it hard to tell which particular incident or series of incidents you are referring to.

    Particularly as you suggest any of them might have something to do with “the far left”.

    Since the SWP-Galloway lash-up ended and the SWP-Respect councillors went their own ways, including defecting to the Tories, I haven’t been able to notice any influence of the “far left” there at all, and certainly not on Ted Jeory’s blog.

    There’s some stuff (lots of it) about the Mayor Lutfur, and about the local Labour party, but neither of them can reasonably be classed as being on the left, and certainly not on the far left.

    So what are you going on about?


    February 19, 2014 at 6:05 pm

  6. My references to the far left relate to the defence of Lutfur Rahman and his Islamist kleptocratic regime which was supported until recently by the far left site Left Futures. It has featured defenses of Rahman although not recently as his corrupt administration has become too much for even Michael Meacher and Ken Livingstone.

    The web site East End News which paid for by Rahman through the tax payer of Tower Hamlets is edited by Jenny Fisher who has been a long time Kennite, and as far as I know still is. You are correct to refer to the SWP/Galloway fiasco as a lash up and the revolution starting in Tower Hamlets, and then of course Bradford, is still a major source of embarrassment to numerous Trots who still can’t figure out what exactly happened.

    Myself and other observers of the East London scene are of the view that it was the collapse of Respect when Bangladeshi community leaders didn’t need it any longer much more than the SWP rape cases that brought the far left to the state that it is currently in. There has never been any attempt by the far left to work out what happened accept attempts by Galloway to blame SWP control freakery, as if he didn’t know, and the SWP claiming Galloway had moved to the right!

    I accept that if you don’t live in the East End and don’t follow the processes closely the whole thing can be a bit confusing. I wonder if Philosophy Football have any ” Bradford Spring” Tee shirts left or did they print over them? Whatever did happen to the Bradford Spring anyway?


    February 19, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    • I am told that Jenny (who I know) is not too fond of this Blog.

      I wonder why……

      Andrew Coates

      February 20, 2014 at 11:35 am

  7. “The very fact that their problems are aired so clearly shows that there is real debate in their group.”

    Wish this were true, but the Renewal Faction was expelled for airing these grievances.


    February 20, 2014 at 6:04 am

  8. Ok, if Michael Meacher and those writing his website is “far left”, far enough. But that “newspaper” run by Jenny Fisher (wasn’t she on the EB of Briefing once?) is more than a bit, hm, “thin on content”, isn’t it? 4 pages do not a free paper make. It’s not even substantial enough to line a cat litter tray with.


    February 20, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    • She is the “original” Briefing with Christine Shawcroft.

      Has anybody heard anything of them lately?

      Andrew Coates

      February 20, 2014 at 1:32 pm

  9. “that brought the far left to the state that it is currently in.”

    I am glad the drone supporting, Islamophobic left make clear distance between themselves and the far left. This is helpful, socialists want nothing to do with the drone supporting left.

    But my point re this article is this:

    What does this have to do with freedom of the press?

    “He imagined a society before the invention of language.”

    He imagines that language was invented? By who, god?

    Socialism In One Bedroom

    February 20, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    • By whom, it’s by whom.

      Obviously the invention of language has only made an imperfect entry into your chamber, Beddie Boyl

      Andrew Coates

      February 20, 2014 at 1:34 pm

  10. “By whom, it’s by whom.”

    I noticed that decents have a habit of trying to make themselves look superior, they prioritise this before all else. This would help explain their support of imperialism and their disdain of the masses. There is an implicit belief within decency that the unwashed need the enlightened few to show them the error of their ways!

    But the actual questions were:

    What does this have to do with freedom of the press?

    Who invented laguage?

    Socialism In One Bedroom

    February 20, 2014 at 2:21 pm

  11. ” decents have a habit of trying to make themselves look superior, they prioritise this before all else. ”

    Ignoring the strange “decent” tag, you do you make it easy for us, don’t you, Mr./Ms Lonely In His/Her Own Bedroom?


    February 21, 2014 at 12:07 am

  12. I realize that I’m commenting on a five-year old post but this is important:



    March 19, 2019 at 9:14 pm

    • I am just going to post on this – spooky!

      Andrew Coates

      March 20, 2019 at 11:37 am

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