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Report Back: ISO Hijacks BOSTON and SAN FRANCISCO Campus Anti-War Conferences

by S Thursday, Nov. 15, 2001 at 10:16 AM

Not only did the ISO hijack the west coast campus anti-war conference, they did it in Boston as well.

As submitted to a local organizers list:


As many of you may have already heard, the Boston Campus Anti-War Coallition (BCAWC) Conference was hijacked by the ISO last weekend. In response, I'm compiling a packet to distribute to the BCAWC on the ISO and "Why Authoritarian Vanguardist Groups Demand and Assert Hierarchy Within Coalitions"

I began constructing this packet yesterday, mostly from info available at infoshop.org's "What you should know about the ISO" and testimony from delegates to the conference.

Today I found out that an IDENTICAL co-opt had been pulled at the San Francisco conference. For more info, please check out indymedia.org, San Francisco.

In any case, the BCAWC, for all its short-comings, is pretty aware of what happened/what the local ISOers are trying to pull here. Nato and a few others on this list can probably give more details on what happened here in Boston this weekend. We called them to task on their tactics and threw a wrench into their plans when Nato voiced a grievance demanding adequate discussion of a prior resolution establishing the group as non-partisan and non-hierarchical and it split the room just about 50/50 between supporters of the resolution, and ISOers. This led to the complete breakdown of the conference, although the ISO continued to pass resolutions and plans of actions after dissenters broke off to discuss "what to do next". People are generally unsure where to go from here - whether to splinter, boycott the next conference the ISOers rammed through (in their homebase, Chicago), or what.

So, below is a letter I plan to include in the packet I am assembling of articles from infoshop.org, Retrogression Magazine, and testimony from the Boston, San Francisco and Chicago (which seems to have been co-opted as well) conferences.

Just a heads up that this is going on. The good news is there is a STRONG, in fact, overwhelming anti-hierarchical sentiment in the Boston Campus Anti-War Coallition, but more help/advise is definitely needed. Meetings are 5:00pm, Sundays, at the Emerson Student Union, 96 Beacon Street, intersection of Beacon and Arlington Street. All are invited to the meeting, especially if you're a sincere activist or anarchist working at a campus, taking classes on a campus, or doing any sort of organizing on a campus.


Jeff H.

November 12, 2001

Dear friends,

The effective co-opt of a coalition, systematic disenfranchisement of dissenters and consolidation of authority (which should not exist within an anti-war coalition in the first place) into the hands of partisan committees and simple majorities which we witnessed at the Northeast Regional Conference Against War and Racism during the delegates meeting, November 11th, mirrors the war we are opposing because it is not an isolated incident, but part of a cycle.

Our criticism of the International Socialist Organization and their deliberate hijacking of the conference need not suffocate within the whispers of the disenfranchised.

Both the anti-war and anti-globalization movements are evolving in ways conducive to full democratic representation of all voices, including those of the minority, through means such as consensual democracy and modified consensus that authoritarian leftists groups like the ISO have always opposed, and will continue to oppose according to their Party Lines, despite the fact that the majority rules decision-making model has become obsolete within modern global justice activism.

We must examine the ends embraced by authoritative vanguardist party groups and understand that "party-building" and gaining a foothold of power for their party within activist coalitions systematically supersedes their concern for the group's productivity and democratic viability as a whole.

This is why they insist on a hierarchical and partisan coalition. They want, for their party, positions of authority within a pecking-order of committees and executive structure. The non-authoritarian working groups that were used to organize the Northeast Regional Conference Against War and Racism, and much of the social justice direct action we have witnessed since the WTO protests in Seattle, have been highly effective and democratic. There is no need for authority or exclusion in the anti-war movement. Yes, the anti-war movement needs leadership, as contributed by everyone in their own unique ways, but it does not need leaders with authority to make resolutions, policies and plans of action that do not have the full consent of the group they "represent".

If twenty some odd ISO party members ganging up on three non-party delegates and bringing them to tears in an informal meeting regarding conference protocol is not coercive, opportunistic and divisive, I don't know what is. If ISO party members blatantly lying to the general assembly about how many party members and sympathizers were present isn't deceitful and coercive, I don't know what is. If the ISO regional pay-rolled supervisors presence and consistent conferring with ISO delegates who were supposed to be acting as representatives of their campus is not a sign of an ulterior party agenda, I know not what is.

ISO members fool themselves into thinking that 51% of a body has a legitimate right to undermine the voices of 49% of a body for the sake of efficiency because that sort of mentality is inherent within their vanguardist organization where dissenters are expected to tow and preach the party line, "until it is changed."

They call this opportunistic acquisition of power-by-majority tactic, "building the socialist alternative," so they can move forward with agendas through broader coalitions without the mandate of the individual members of that coalition.

Of course, by beating back dissent they usually turn enough people away from the task at hand that there isn't much opposition left for them to reckon with, and they subsequently establish a front group that speaks not for a wide range of students, or minorities, or workers, or whatever the case may be, but a highly centralized ISO puppet group that lacks legitimacy in numbers and purpose as people do not care to partake in a process which they have been ostracized from by majority-rules bully tactics, stacked-deck facilitation or partisan "group" objectives.

Again, the ISO co-opt of the Northeast Conference against War and Racism is not an isolated incident, but a recurring pattern within the "left" instigated by authoritarian party groups who muscle their own desire for positions within a hierarchy above the values of democracy, freedom of association and the pressing need to cultivate an activist unity that is based on cooperation and equality, rather than competition, coercion and the twisting of arms.

These archaic tactics of manipulation had no place at the conference and have no place in the future of the anti-war movement. This is not meant as a letter debating the pros and cons of democratic consensus versus majority rules, as there remains no legitimate justification for having opened the conference with that debate in the first place.

This packet was assembled to share the idea that what happened November 11th was not an isolated incident but part of a cycle of authoritarian vanguardist parties defusing the effectiveness of groups and coalitions that should be inherently non-partisan and united by inclusive decision-making, rather than crushed by backwards centralist domination and partisan competition for authority over other members of the group.

How ironic that after hijacking the conference, the ISO proceeded to steer the process to an end that did not inspire or unify, but rather one that crashed and burned against a wall of partisanship.

In solidarity,

Jeff Hall

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Thanks Jeff Jim Ricker Friday, Nov. 16, 2001 at 7:56 AM
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