Letter of resignation from the
International Socialist Organisation (Australia)
May 25, 2003
To the International Socialist Organisation
It is with reluctance that we have decided to resign from the
International Socialist Organisation.
The downward spiral of the group over the last two years shows
sign of abating. The respite from the general atmosphere of hostility
and defensiveness following our last conference in December 2002 was
only temporary. The resignations of long-standing comrades since
conference have been met with indifference from the ISO national
Despite a stated commitment at conference to resolve our
in the context of building the movement and the ISO, we have seen
heavy-handed organisational measures and a refusal to discuss
differences in a comradely fashion by the ISO leadership.
"Looking reality in the face" is the starting point for
mistakes, but there is a complete failure to acknowledge the scale of
crisis that confronts the group. Critical comments are dismissed out of
hand or met with allegations of factionalism. We have no confidence
that this is about to change.
Following conference, we saw the emergence of a massive
international anti-war movement and the largest anti-war demonstrations
in Australia's history. That the ISO failed to grow out of this
movement, has no greater political coherence, no larger established
periphery and if anything smaller meetings is a serious indictment of
the current practice of the group. This compares poorly with the
dramatic political response and growth the organisation experienced in
the first Gulf War. In itself, this recent failure should cause serious
self-reflection on the part of the group. That this follows two years
of intense internal crisis is why we have decided to act today.
Similarly, despite the resilience and significance of the
movement, the group seems unable to systematically integrate the
campaign into its political work. On campuses, we have failed to build
out of any of the very significant movements that have punctuated
political life on campus. Discussion of the ISO's failure to build has
been limited and discouraged.
This failure to analyse the current period or to reflect and
appraise our own successes and failures in relating to the period, must
cause confusion for all members at all levels of the ISO and may go
some way to explain the malaise we believe is endemic in the
"A good militant today is an informed militant,” wrote Susan
soon after Seattle. Yet the underplaying of politics has been a
persistent feature of the group's perspective in recent years.
Conference itself recognised that there had been a one-sided emphasis
on activism that had depoliticised the group. However, there has been
no attempt to systematically redress this problem.
At the last conference, many comrades attempted to identify
issues underlying the crisis in the ISO. This was an attempt to assess
the state of the group and try to understand the causes of our lack of
growth in a period that is a very positive one for socialists.
Many of the issues raised in the pre-conference document An
Urgent Need to Take Stock remain relevant. Two of them are of
(i) Ideological intervention and the role of a small group.
emphasis on building the "next big event" means that the question of
political intervention is constantly down-played. Consequently, despite
overstatements about the possibility of "leading the movement" the
organisational response means that we don't offer a political lead on
campuses, local groups or in campaigns where we can find an audience
for our ideas and have some influence. The group shifts from issue to
issue often without any political discussion and without a sustained
commitment to the campaigns. This makes it impossible to build long
term relationships with other activists.
(ii) An organisational structure that fits with the period and
needs of a small group. The period demands a high level of political
discussion and debate, yet current Marxist Forums are often devoid of
theory, polemic, traditions and historical experience. These are
crucial to respond to and to explain the political questions thrown up
in campaigns as well as general questions presented by the crisis in
capitalism which comrades face when interacting with classmates,
co-workers and friends.
There is also a lack of political space for the very thing
crucial to developing members' confidence to understand and to lead -
discussing and learning from intervention in the campaigns themselves.
It has become impossible for us to discuss our differences
current perspective and practices of the ISO within the framework of
the ISO. Attempts to do so are met with animosity. In turn this
animosity clouds the issues, avoids responding to the substance of any
criticism and most importantly impedes the process of understanding the
world and our role in it. We hope a resolution of these differences
will become possible as we work together in future struggles.
We remain committed to the need for revolutionary
essential elements of socialism from below and the fundamental politics
that distinguishes the International Socialist Tendency.
We take seriously the task of bringing Marxism to the layers
people influenced by anti-capitalism and who are politicised by the
anti-war and refugee movements. We will shortly convene meetings to
discuss how we can begin that task.
By establishing a practice of working alongside others on
trade unions, in campaigns and other work, we hope to make socialist
ideas relevant to the struggles in which they are involved and to show
the links between those immediate struggles and the capitalist system.
We believe that a lively, comradely and political practice of
discussion and debate is central to building a socialist movement.
We don't underestimate the difficulties, but there is no doubt
the questioning of the prevailing world order holds many opportunities
for socialist ideas to gain a significant hearing. The sheer numbers of
people who came out again and again to oppose the war on Iraq against
the lies of our rulers and their media as well as the determination of
the refugee movement are evidence of that possibility.
We therefore tender our resignations from the International
Emilie Awbery, Greg Brown, Brett Cardinal, John Cleary,
Gault, Paul Gibens, Mark Gillespie, Mark Goudkamp, Kym Hickey, Paul
Jacobs, Silja Leskinen, Shelly Menzies, Eliot Morland, Jean Parker, Ian
Rintoul, Andrew Rivett, Nikki Thiedeke, Liz Thompson, Michael Thomson,
Jess Reed, Josh Wood