Introduction – The ISO’s Demise
The revolutions of the twenty-first century – namely, the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, and other revolutions in the Arab world, have posed a number of important questions for socialist revolutionaries today. Questions related to the state, political opportunism, organization and its relationship to spontaneity, etc., have become live and active questions in the wake of what many would describe as incomplete revolutionary processes, where the old has been cast away but the new has yet to be born. The lack of sufficient organization in a context where the working class has been in retreat for decades has allowed opportunist forces to coopt or even engage in counterrevolution against these revolutions, which makes the question of organization – and more specifically, what kind of organization – central to the left today.
The United States in particular is seeing a rise in struggle not seen since the 70s, with Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, the Women’s Marches, the airport protests following Trump’s Muslim ban, #MeToo, the teachers’ strikes, the rise of Democratic Socialists of America, and various other seemingly spontaneous movements demanding a change from business as usual. Some of these struggles have developed more radical sentiments than others, but it goes without saying that there is finally a widespread sense that the system – whether it is the influence of money in politics, the criminal justice system, or capitalism itself – cannot provide for the needs of the many.
This qualitative shift in working class consciousness, borne out of a quantitative decline in living standards, has given rise to largely episodic struggle that dies down quickly but raises a number of important questions about the system as a whole, at least in the abstract. The convergence of social demands with economic demands, exemplified by the antiracist demands made by teachers on strike, the walkouts over sexual assault and harassment at Google and McDonald’s, and a trend towards intersectional, multi-issue social movements are prime examples of how workers are just beginning to struggle on a qualitatively higher level than they would in years past. What is needed now is for organization to crystallize and provide the inertia required to carry these struggles forward. Without organization, the pull of reformism and the myriad ways the ruling class attempts to pacify the masses will draw the working class away from sustained, militant struggle from below.
In this context, with a rise in struggle globally and where the need for organization could not be seen more clearly, it would seem like awful timing for one of the largest revolutionary socialist organizations in the US, the International Socialist Organization (ISO), to dissolve. In many ways, its collapse was a blessing in disguise, no matter how heart wrenching it was. As a comrade close to me has pointed out, we are lucky it collapsed only at the beginning of the new socialist movement instead of when revolution is around the corner. The ISO’s collapse provides many useful, albeit difficult, lessons about revolutionary organizing and the role of cadre, so if the new socialist movement can no longer benefit from the ISO’s existence, we need to ensure it benefits from a proper autopsy of the ISO’s collapse.
To provide an overview of the acute (as opposed to structural) causes of the ISO’s dissolution, on March 13, 2019, a letter written by a former member was sent to the membership by the Steering Committee (SC), the ISO’s main leadership body. This member served on the ISO’s National Disciplinary Committee (NDC) in 2013 when it heard its first rape case. The accused was a prominent member of the ISO and his election to the SC at the ISO’s 2019 Convention prompted the former member to write the letter. The letter described in detail how members of the 2013 leadership invoked questions of procedure and due process to impede the progress of the investigation, and despite a near-unanimous decision to expel the accused, the SC stalled for months and essentially forced a mistrial, at which point they handed the disciplinary case over to an alternate NDC which exonerated the accused due to a lack of evidence (the first NDC collected evidence that led them to their decision but the SC withheld it from the alternate committee and claimed it was inadmissible).
It is worth noting that within internal SC discussions of the disciplinary case, a hostility to “identity politics” was used to invalidate sentiments along the lines of “believe survivors,” bourgeois legal conceptions of guilt were imposed by the SC onto the disciplinary process, and panic over state intervention repeatedly came up as a way to impede the progress of the case.
The ISO was thrown into crisis following the release of this letter. Members of the existing leadership swiftly expelled the rapist and suspended the members of the SC involved in the cover-up, and in a little over a week, a crisis leadership team was established and a Google group was created to allow membership-wide discussions. Over the next few weeks, more revelations came to the membership’s attention, most notably the bullying and abusive behavior of key members of the leadership. Many members came forward, aided by the unprecedented increase in horizontal communication, and agreed that the behavior of the 2013 leadership during the investigation was not unlike behavior they had experienced personally.
While all of this was happening, the organization was bleeding members, with resignations streaming in left and right. The crisis leadership team set up a national call (a few hundred out of the nine hundred or so members attended) to discuss the crisis and make proposals about the future of the ISO, and many were seriously considering dissolving the group or at least refounding it. The crisis leadership team set up a voting system for proposals on the future of the ISO, and ultimately, with the rapid breakdown of trust and democratic centralism, the membership voted to effectively dissolve the organization a week or so after the national call.
In my opinion, the speed of the ISO’s collapse was a result of the accumulated contradictions that had developed over the years. During the crisis, bonds of trust were broken and salt was thrown in existing wounds, but there was already discontent brewing beneath the surface. For many, even though the ISO’s politics seemed sound, there was a disconnect between its theory and practice that had already alienated many.
This alienation found its expression at the ISO’s 2019 Convention just a few weeks prior to the crisis, where numerous issues were brought forth that revolved around a culture of bullying, abuse, and undemocratic practices on behalf of the leadership and key cadre. Summarized briefly, these issues consisted of (1) a set of inadequate, internally cultivated (i.e. by a small segment of the leadership) perspectives and strategies. These included inadequate perspectives on labor and movement work, the “campus perspective,” a perspective that emphasized branch routines on college campuses at the expense of labor and movement work off campus, and a dismissal of legitimate arguments about the need for discussion of the Bernie 2020 question. (2) A culture that put down comrades of color and often excluded them from leadership through micro-aggressions, hostility to “identity politics” and caucuses, and severe pushback when these comrades would raise arguments about issues of race and identity that conflicted with those of the leadership’s. It is no coincidence these issues entered the spotlight during a period of heightened struggle. Members were coming up against the inadequacy of the perspectives imposed top-down by the leadership in their everyday branch work, and the growth of DSA while the ISO stagnated made it impossible to ignore the fact that something needed to change.
It is worth noting the changes that took place during Convention, as well. In the months prior, the leadership decided to shift to individual elections, so at Convention, the membership elected a slate comprised of around 50% people of color, with representation from the platforms that had developed at Convention. The old leadership, which included the 2013 leaders who covered up the rape case and were responsible for the majority of the perspectives deemed inadequate, chose not to run. During the discussion on perspectives, members were in wide agreement that the “campus perspective” (which emphasized exhaustive, propagandistic branch routines like paper sales, public meetings, etc.) was inadequate and flexibility was required in order to properly engage with the new radicalization. A proposal often referred to as “retooling” was passed that granted branches this flexibility to experiment with meeting structures and allow more time for labor and movement work. A POC caucus was formed, and the Convention voted to automatically invite comrades of color to future Conventions as guests.
Most of these changes were byproducts of the experience of heightened levels of struggle. Many people, especially younger members and people of color, spoke on the Convention floor about the need to discard the old leadership’s inadequate perspectives, and argued for a more democratic organization where perspectives would be cultivated from the bottom up, through struggle, and not imposed from the top down by a group of seasoned cadre. We saw the emergence of a new layer of cadre during the Convention period, who challenged the old ways of doing things and emerged organically from struggle. The ISO’s final Convention period provides a model for how cadre actually develops, as opposed to the mechanical interpretation of cadre development the ISO held for much of its existence.
Where Did the ISO Go Wrong?
A useful starting point to understanding the ISO’s problems comes from David McNally’s 2009 The Period, The Party, and The Next Left, which contains a critique of the “micro-party” model the ISO adhered to. McNally describes the micro-party perspective as consist[ing] in believing that building a small revolutionary group is in essence the same thing as constructing a revolutionary party. Fundamentally, then, this perspective involves a simple syllogism:
- There can be no socialist revolution without an authentically revolutionary party;
- Our group is the custodian of the authentic revolutionary tradition;
- Therefore, there can be no socialist revolution without our group (i.e., building our organization is the key to constructing a mass revolutionary party)
The conclusion of this syllogism – that building the organization is the key to constructing a revolutionary party – can be seen quite readily in the perspectives of the old leadership of the ISO. Branch routines like paper sales, public meetings, book groups, etc., and an emphasis on recruitment, all while tamping down alternative perspectives through bullying and “interventions,” provide concrete examples of this. The goal of reproducing the organization materially translated to reproducing it ideologically as well, and as such, the ISO required a strict level of ideological homogeneity in practice, like the British Socialist Worker’s Party (SWP) it descended from.
McNally rightly points out that this micro-party perspective was due largely to the broader conditions of defeat and reaction that plagued most of the ISO’s existence, and that it has both benefits and drawbacks: it is a great way to keep a group going during such a period, but when confronted with an emergent socialist movement, the group finds itself disconnected from the radicalization, as the ISO found itself. It is worth quoting him at length here:
“Of course, there are periods in which zealous commitment to the micro-party model can give a group considerable durability and staying power. The belief that building your group is the key to a future socialist revolution may create a zeal and fervour that can see a group through difficult times. But all of this comes at great cost. The more the group clings to the messianic notion that its small cadre of members is the historical embodiment of proletarian revolution, the less attentive it is to real developments within the wider society, the more it is prone to mistrust any social movement it does not control, the less capable it is of learning from new developments, the more closed off it is to influence and reshaping by emerging radical forces. To once again cite Hallas, “the semi-religious fanaticism that can give a group considerable survival power in adverse conditions” comes “at the cost of stunting its potentiality for real development,” i.e. of dulling its capacity to become a revolutionary expression of a real social and political radicalization.”
There is much from McNally’s piece that provides an invaluable analysis of the ISO’s collapse, but one argument that provides another useful point of departure for analyzing the ISO’s warped perspectives concerns its idea of “readiness” once a mass radicalization breaks out:
“Given that there is no army, no class vanguard, ready to be lead, the small group project becomes the construction of an ostensible leadership-in-waiting. This then gets transmuted into the notion that the task is to make sure “we’ll be ready” – with a disciplined cadre and a determined leadership – when the masses look to the left. In the process, a completely undialectical notion of leadership develops – one in which ostensible “leaders” can be selected and trained outside the process of building a real mass working class movement. A hot house conception of leadership thus comes to the fore, according to which revolutionary cadres can be artificially bred in the atmosphere of the disciplined small group. All of this produces a fetish of leadership.”
The idea was that if we can be ready for when levels of struggle pick up, if we can (prefiguratively) produce the layer of leaders necessary to guide the radicalization once it emerges, then we will already be on our way towards a revolutionary party. This ignores the concrete ways in which cadre actually develop. Cadre emerge from struggle, they cannot be artificially produced. Insofar as reproducing the organization and its ideas during low levels of struggle was the ISO’s primary goal, it developed a conception of cadre that was premised upon leading in ideas rather than leading in struggle. At that point, cadre-building simply reduces to producing copies of the existing leadership and ideological conformity becomes valued over new ideas emerging from struggle. The ISO’s propagandistic modes of struggle – tablings, paper sales, largely symbolic protests, attending events where there was the possibility for intervention, etc. – reflected the idea-centric perspective it held both in theory and in practice.
If the ISO was the custodian of the “authentic” socialist tradition (at least in its politics), then the logical conclusion was that other groups were not. Being a descendent of Trotskyist organizations, and having survived one of the worst periods of retreat in working class history, the ISO was no stranger to isolation, so often times its idea-centric perspective tended towards sectarianism in practice. It developed strong critiques of other emerging and existing movements, but insofar as its terrain of struggle was predominantly the realm of ideas, the ISO set itself up for sectarianism. During the Convention season, the old leadership argued against some of the membership’s new perspectives on the basis that the emerging radicalization was superficial at best and dangerous reformism at worst, which was likely due to an overgeneralized and detached view of developments like the growth of DSA. This ignored the heterogeneity of DSA and reflected a hardened opposition to emerging movements, but most of all, it reflected the leadership’s disconnectedness from the on-the-ground work its members were doing.
In a context where being the guardian of the true socialist tradition was valued so highly, the tools of ideological conformity – bullying, “interventions,” and even abuse – became the mechanisms of leadership, and we saw this play out very clearly in the ISO’s treatment of comrades of color. Being a member of an oppressed group inevitably leads one to experience the world in different ways and draw different conclusions than those who do not experience the same oppressions, so when repeating the old political line becomes the task of cadre, marginalized groups tend to be excluded from leadership positions and from the organization’s conception of cadre unless their experiences align with the organization’s political line.
Likewise, insofar as reproducing the group was the chief goal of the organization, anything that threatened that goal – like an accusation of rape committed by a member close to the leadership – was met with hostility. The real goal of a revolutionary organization, to be a tribune of the oppressed, became subsumed by the undialectical notion that building a “time capsule” for revolutionary ideas is the way to achieve liberation.
It is also useful to analyze the ISO’s hostility towards “identity politics” through the lens of the micro-party critique. The old leadership’s hostility to “identity politics” during discussions of the rape case, as well as the claims that caucuses for people of color were influenced by the supposedly neoliberal school of thought, were reflective of a trend of differentiation from emergent social and academic movements during the period of defeat the ISO was immersed in. It is certainly true that during this period, strains of neoliberal thought emerged that privileged individual action and experience over mass action and solidarity to challenge oppression. Today, there is still a similar tendency to ignore the wider structures that cause oppression and use atomizing, individualistic arguments to draw anti-solidarity conclusions. The ISO’s mistake, however, was assuming that a variety of mostly correct claims about caucuses, the role privilege plays, etc., were byproducts of liberal thought, and hence must be rejected.
It should be said that this “trend of differentiation” from emerging movements I described earlier was undoubtedly applied unequally. The ISO usually made it a point to “meet people where they’re at” and offer principled critiques of emergent movements it disagreed with without resorting to sectarianism. For example, despite how Obama was clearly not the savior many liberals made him out to be in 2008, the ISO recognized the significance of the election of the first black president and took this into consideration when formulating critiques. The misapplied critiques of identity politics and asymmetry in how the ISO chose to differentiate itself were products of the lack of democracy within the ISO, where perspectives were developed at the top instead of by the input of the majority of members.
Toward a Renewed Model of Cadre-Building
It is in the context of the dismal failure of the ISO’s cadre-building project that the question of revolutionary leadership – how it develops, its character, its accountability to the movement, etc. – acquires prime importance. There has been an understandable tendency to distrust, doubt, or even reject the ISO’s project, namely the idea that there needs to be a vanguard layer of cadre that can serve as leaders within the existing radicalization and eventually in the revolution. Some have argued that any project that attempts to build a layer of cadre will inevitably devolve into a culture of hero-worship that shields cadre from criticism and enables them to abuse their power. In what follows, I will try to make the case that the ISO’s problems were much more complex than this surface-level analysis and were rooted in problems particular to the isolation it existed in, rather than being an inevitable consequence of attempting to build an organization of cadre. However, I will only address these claims in passing, and will instead focus on reconstructing a model of cadre-building adapted to the current conditions that avoids the contradictions in the ISO’s model. This needs to be done while paying careful attention to the particularities of the ISO’s problems (hence the detailed account of the ISO’s collapse) and some of the ways in which solutions to those problems emerged from the ISO’s developing cadre in its final months, namely, during its final Convention season.
Despite this not being my primary focus, it should still be said that building organization of any kind requires safeguards against abuses of power, regardless of how “correctly” an organization undertakes a cadre-building project. Leadership should be elected by, accountable to, and recallable by the membership, and perspectives and strategies should be cultivated by the membership and not imposed top down by the leadership. Term limits should be seriously considered, and mechanisms should be put in place to prevent careerism. Horizontal communication between members should be allowed to the fullest possible extent, and the “unity in action” part of democratic centralism should not be conceived as “freedom from criticism” – instead, in the interests of democracy, members should be allowed to offer arguments and proposals contrary to ones already decided by majority vote.
The ISO’s undemocratic practices were in dialectical relation to its flawed perspectives – that is, these practices sustained the development of flawed perspectives through a culture that suppressed debate, but at the same time, certain perspectives (like the idea that the ISO was the custodian of the authentic socialist tradition), created a culture that strived for conformity, at the expense of democracy. Having democratic practices and cultivating perspectives from below by building cadre the “right way,” are two components of a unitary whole, so it is impossible to achieve one without striving for both. For the purposes of this article, however, I will mainly discuss the latter.
There undoubtedly needs to be an organization of the most militant layers of the working class that can help engage with and develop the best aspects of the radicalization happening around us. Social and labor movements inevitably die down due to the pull of reformism and the influence of capitalist ideology, and after these movements end, the majority of people involved will either be pulled to reformism or go back to everyday life under capitalism. Organization is the factor that bridges the gap between movements, accumulates lessons, and builds a base of people willing to use the experience of the past to aid the movements of the present. Both within and outside these organizations, there is a layer of the working class that, through experience in struggle and by studying history, builds the organizational skills and theoretical knowledge required to effectively assess a situation, analyze its character, develop perspectives and strategies, and put together ways of best pushing the movement forward. If this layer of cadre can be recruited to or developed through an explicitly revolutionary organization, the radicalization around us stands a better chance of developing further.
The existence of mixed consciousness – i.e. the simple fact that people will draw different conclusions from struggle, with varying degrees of radicalism – creates the need for an organization of the most militant elements of the working class, but it also creates the conditions for the emergence of one. Class-consciousness is necessarily heterogeneous, and hence why the influence of an organization with a political program is key, but the fact that there exist layers of the working class that come to revolutionary consciousness quicker than others tends to cause those layers to join and create organizations. Sometimes this radicalization process is random (as anyone who has asked their comrades “so how’d you become a socialist?” could testify), but in a lot of cases, radicalization happens along lines of identity and social location. For example, some will see a “win” for a “progressive” Democrat as a good thing, whereas the trans people absent from the Democrat’s healthcare plan will see it differently. Similarly, police presence at an abortion rights defense protest might alienate a person of color from the liberal organization organizing the protest and push them towards the radical left contingent at the protest, whereas someone else might be glad that they are being “protected” from the anti-choice bigots.
These examples demonstrate how identity and past experience radicalizes – the real cadre that emerge from struggle often do so because they directly experience capitalism at its worst (or in the eyes of the ruling classes, at its best). People at the intersections of a variety of different oppressions tend to adopt radical outlooks at higher rates because of their particular social location. As a result, Marxist organizations must be able to value the experience of oppressed groups as a vital component of developing perspectives and strategies accurate to the world around us. The ISO’s pushback against arguments in favor of caucuses or new ways of thinking about identity was in practice a rejection of the lived experience of oppressed groups in the organization, particularly comrades of color. However, to be clear, the resulting exclusion of comrades of color from leadership roles within the ISO was a product of its rigid conception of cadre, not an inevitable consequence of a cadre-building project. A real cadre-building project must take the experiences of marginalized groups into account instead of valuing conformity to a predefined set of perspectives.
The fact that class-consciousness is uneven means that the masses as a whole generally do not have a political program other than the rejection of the existing order, which is why there needs to be an organization of the guiding layers of the class. As Leon Trotsky, Bolshevik leader and Russian revolutionary has argued,
“The masses go into a revolution not with a prepared plan of social reconstruction, but with a sharp feeling that they cannot endure the old regime. Only the guiding layers of a class have a political program, and even this still requires the test of events, and the approval of the masses. The fundamental political process of the revolution thus consists in the gradual comprehension by a class of the problems arising from the social crisis—the active orientation of the masses by a method of successive approximations.””
I think it’s incredibly important to note how these “guiding layers” do not go into revolution with a prepared plan, either – they develop and change it through struggle and through engagement with the rest of the class, even (and especially) during periods of revolutionary upheaval. This is why the militant minority – the guiding layer – cannot be disconnected from the class and the radicalization; it needs to come directly from it. The accuracy of the guiding layers’ political program needs to be proved in practice, and it cannot be imposed onto the aspirations of the masses. An organization’s perspectives, strategies, and tactics need to make sense to people and be based on the current conditions, not just on what is objectively good for the class.
The necessity of a cadre organization that adapts to the current radicalization without dissolving itself into it is expressed beautifully in former ISO member Jen Roesch’s piece Spontaneity and Organization, where she writes:
“The job of a revolutionary organization is to base itself on the mass spontaneous upsurge, to merge with it, to develop its best aspects, and out of that to develop a conscious understanding of the aspirations implicit in those actions and crystallize them into organizations that can provide a concrete alternative as people begin to make sense of their world and their place in it.”
It should be clear by now that the aspirations implicit in the radicalization need to be the basis for revolutionary organizing. Cadre must emerge and/or develop through the radicalization, and their role must always be dynamic, adaptive, and conscious of the particularities of the context in which they’re organizing – they can’t simply be a “battalion of haranguers,” as McNally put it.
The ISO’s mistake was conceiving of cadre, of this militant minority, as a group who had perfected their ability to defend the ISO’s political line instead of their ability to adapt the ISO’s core politics to the moment, which inevitably required deviation from the perspectives generated internally by the leadership (who typically weren’t involved much in struggle in the first place). We can see this in the ways the ISO (and the organizations it came from, like the SWP) attempted to built cadre – through reading materials primarily produced by the organization, by getting involved in struggles primarily to intervene and project its political line, etc. We can also see this in the fact that those who rose in the organization’s ranks typically were able to do so because the leadership deemed them “yes men,” and subsequently excluded people of color who had ideas that challenged some of the ISO’s perspectives. In practice, the ISO’s methods of cadre-building were antithetical to the ideal of “socialism from below” the organization valued so highly – it had built cadre that positioned themselves above the radicalization instead of with it.
Ultimately, real cadre are built through struggle, and unfortunately the ISO existed during a period where high levels of struggle were not a reality. The mere fact that during this past Convention period, so many people started developing their own organizational perspectives through struggle and then went on to make deep changes in the organization’s outdated perspectives proves that cadre undoubtedly serve a positive role, even within an organization whose tendency is for cadre to toe a certain political line. We ultimately need a conception of cadre that does not rely on perfecting one’s ability to defend a political line. We need to conceive of cadre as real leaders in struggle, not leaders in ideas who will later go on to lead in struggle once levels of struggle pick up.
The experience of the ISO’s final Convention proved the claim that cadre-building will always lead to cadre-worship untrue in practice because there was a widespread disavowal of the leadership’s past practices and a sweeping change to the composition of its leadership and modes of organizing as a result. In the course of several months, the bulk of the membership and existing cadre not only rejected cadre-worship, but also did a complete one-eighty on many perspectives espoused by the leadership. All it took was a period of heightened struggle for people to realize the inadequacy of the leadership’s perspectives, and real cadre – the comrades who spoke on the Convention floor directly arguing against the leadership’s perspectives, their bullying, etc. – started to emerge. Struggle produces real cadre, and the ISO’s existence during decades of defeat created an environment where producing cadre meant reproducing the existing leaders. A culture of cadre-worship is not an intrinsic feature of a cadre-building project, it is a product of the particular conditions of the organization.
The failure of recent revolutions (i.e. during the Arab Spring) in the absence of sufficient revolutionary organization, and the subsequent repression and political opportunism that followed, along with the largely periodic struggle in the US that is only beginning to crystallize into concrete, sustained organization prove that these lessons are incredibly important today. Pure spontaneity is not a viable strategy, as the pull of reformism, the influence of capitalist ideology, and the various other barriers to sustained organization, i.e. the Democratic Party in the US, constantly attempt to suck people back into a framework where change happens on ruling class’s terms. If we take the power of the working class as our starting point, which all revolutionaries should, then the task of organization should be to give expression to the deep aspirations of the class and provide an alternative wherein the masses control their own destiny. Jen Roesch, writing in 2012 after the Arab Spring and Occupy, illustrates this urgency of this task with the utmost lucidity:
“Whether people will resist, whether they will spontaneously struggle, whether they are capable of vast acts of heroism, sacrifice, and creative innovation are not at question. […] The question is whether we can pose an effective reality—whether substantial working-class organization, rooted in these struggles and conscious of its own aims and an understanding of the forces arrayed against it, can successfully contend for power. The struggles we have witnessed have posed the question of such power, but it is one that remains to be answered. For those of us who want to go beyond challenging an unjust and barbaric system to replacing it with one based on the solidarity, creativity, and all the human potential we have been privileged to witness in the last year, this is the task. It is by no means easy or guaranteed, but it is the only way forward.”
The collapse of the ISO has been difficult for many on the revolutionary left, especially its former members, and I am no exception. I will never forget what one of my comrades reminded me one day when things felt hopeless – whether the ISO is here or not, people will continue to struggle against capitalism and its apparatuses that exploit and oppress. Organizations are part of a process – they each have their limitations and go in and out of existence despite their necessity. But it is always the struggle from below that serves as both the catalyst for organization and the engine of historical change. As Trotsky has pointed out, “Without a guiding organisation, the energy of the masses would dissipate like steam not enclosed in a piston-box. But nevertheless what moves things is not the piston or the box, but the steam.” Just like how engineers and physicists discovered they could harness the power of steam, revolutionaries like Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky learned that organization provides the mechanism to express and unleash the energy of the masses. No matter what organizational forms emerge in the coming years and decades, we must always remember that working-class struggle from below is the driving force behind our vision for a better future.
Kieran Cavanagh (he/him) is a former member of New Paltz ISO branch.
 A reference to a quote by the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. Gilbert Achcar, a prominent theorist of Middle Eastern politics, has used this as a way of understanding the relapse of the Arab Spring – Gilbert Achcar, Morbid Symptoms: What did Gramsci mean and how does it apply to our time? (2018), in the International Socialist Review, Issue 108. https://isreview.org/issue/108/morbid-symptoms
 Kristin Sheets, Inside the #MeToo Revolt at Google (2018), in Socialist Worker (US). http://socialistworker.org/2018/11/13/inside-the-metoo-revolt-at-google
 Ann Coleman, #MeToo Strikes at McDonald’s (2018), in Socialist Worker (US). http://socialistworker.org/2018/09/19/metoo-strikes-at-mcdonalds
 For more information, see Socialist Worker, The ISO’s Vote to Dissolve and What Comes Next (2019), in Socialist Worker (US). https://socialistworker.org/2019/04/02/the-isos-vote-to-dissolve-and-what-comes-next
 The SC members overseeing the case claimed guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, despite the fact that the ISO rules clearly stated that only a preponderance of evidence (more evidence than not) was sufficient to expel the accused.
 Up until some point during the 2019 Convention period, the ISO had a “Political Committee” within the SC that was responsible for developing perspectives. The members comprising the Political Committee were also were responsible for the bulk of the abuse pointed out by the membership.
 Some have suggested the emergence of a group of members willing to endorse a Democrat was a sign of the ISO’s impending collapse. I disagree with this. Although I do not personally agree with the strategy, it is an example of a group of cadre thinking dynamically about what kind of strategies are necessary today, which is a welcome break from the mechanical application of the “we don’t support members of capitalist parties” line from the ISO’s Where We Stand document.
 For more detail, see ISO Steering Committee, Apology to People of Color in the ISO (2019), from Socialist Worker (US). https://socialistworker.org/2019/04/09/apology-to-people-of-color-in-the-iso
 David McNally, The Period, the Party, and the Next Left (2009), from http://davidmcnally.org/?p=1077. Originally sent as a letter to the 2009 ISO international organizer, but was never distributed to the membership.
 This is not to say that the ISO did not engage in struggle; it was part of many commendable campaigns and coalitions and its members were frequently involved in local activism. My point is that the overarching theme of many of its perspectives involved leading in ideas, not struggle.
 Vladimir Lenin, Freedom to Criticise and Unity of Action (1906), from Marxists Internet Archive, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1906/may/20c.htm
 Leon Trotsky, Preface to History of the Russian Revolution (1930), from Marxists Internet Archive, https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1930/hrr/ch00.htm
 Jen Roesch, Spontaneity and Organization (2012), in the International Socialist Review, Issue 85. https://isreview.org/issue/85/spontaneity-and-organization
 McNally, cited above.
 Roesch, cited above.
 Trotsky, cited above.