I have sometimes thought it might be a hit if the doings of political groups distinct from and to the left of the Democratic Party could be variously portrayed as a soap opera or a play. Were I to provide a title I think aptly contemporaneous, I might choose “As The World Burns.” The idea is twofold: first, to frame everything else with the crisis of our existence today, the active destruction of our planetary home; secondly, given that frame, to present the processional of Marxist organizational expulsions, dissolutions, and recombinations in appropriate perspective. There are real issues here, as there is real human suffering (resultant from really despicable behavior), but the scope is inescapably ironic given that especially “vanguard formations” are expected to be driven by focus upon the calamities of millions being destroyed by the predations of capital and imperialism…rather than being consumed by their own, internal poisoning.
There is a further irony, inasmuch as the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the UK some years ago suffered the very same kind of crisis that has now brought the ISO in the US to euthanize itself. In both instances, powerful males in democratic centralist organizations were long shielded from what proved to be valid charges of raping some female members of their respective organizations. It should also be noted that prior to the SWP’s public denouement, another UK Leninist grouping, the Workers League, proved to be a sexist stalking ground for its head honcho, Tim Wohlforth. What is it about these organizations that occasions this kind of vicious patriarchal behavior? Is it all hypocrisy, or is there something about the vanguard cloister that gives rise to this sort of thing? It’s worth noting that another self-styled demcent/Leninist group in the US, Radical Women, has critiqued ISO in terms that do not credit democratic centralism as the culprit for fostering what seems epidemic in the vanguards.
As a former member (for about a year) of ISO’s predecessor, the International Socialists (IS), I am sympathetic with the wish to have a safe milieu of independent Marxist thinkers who participate in the struggles of our time. Unlike the wretched stories coming out now about what some female comrades endured, my own departure was unremarkable; it is to be hoped that the future will not hold further stories such as these. Of one thing we can be certain: the guarantor of that happy transformation will only come from the vigilance and principled behavior especially of male comrades. We must be feminist socialists, not socialist feminists; in this era, both are needed in tandem, but feminism must lead.