Rather than subject myself to more of their lies and misrepresentations, I will recall the last ISO lecture in Chicago about anarchism I had the misfortune to witness. In it, the speaker ranted in a hostile fashion against anarchism and anarchists. The speaker included gems like the claim that Emma Goldman was anti-worker, had no faith in the people, and "like all anarchists" was essentially middle class and elitist. Emma was the famous anarchist feminist and labor agitator who was jailed repeatedly for teaching about birth control. She was deported for her radicalism and agitation on behalf of workers. She assisted Alexander Berkman in his attempt on the life of Henry Clay Frick, the steel baron who ordered his thugs to kill strikers. This "international socialist" speaker had the gall to get up in front of an American audience and denounce Emma as an enemy of the workers! If it weren't for Emma, this scummy politician wouldn't be able to speak in the U.S.A. against capitalism without fear of deportation! Emma Goldman was a poor, passionate, articulate, radical immigrant. Emma always advocated for the oppressed. The only thing that allowed this speaker to forge such astounding lies is the fact that Americans today have an impoverished understanding of history, beaten into them by a government school system: just the kind of propaganda machine these "socialists" would love to run. This ISO speaker railed on and on, with the lies and distortions about anarchism and anarchists piling up on each other so fast that it was difficult to tell where one lie ended and the next distortion began.
After this speech, I saw the speaker outside, alone. I posed the following question: "Since you've obviously done a good deal of research on anarchism and its history, why would you then make up lies and distortions about it, if you care about the people and revolution? Why not just tell the truth, and let people make up their own minds?"
The response: "Because I don't think anarchism will work. Socialism will."
Never mind the fact that bossy, authoritarian, statist, party "socialists" do not have the monopoly of socialism that they would like to have over politics, society, and the economy. Most anarchists and many other anti-authoritarians are also socialists. We just happen to believe that "vanguards" and "socialist governments" are corporations by a different name and reorganized capitalism, respectively.
They're also hosting their workshop on the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) at their summer school. When they held this workshop in Seattle after the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial, they claimed that the IWW was purely historical, that it "ended" during the Red Scares. Well, there just happened to be IWW members at the workshop! They challenged this falsehood. In fact, the IWW had a big presence at the WTO protests, and helped lead a big contingent of militant unionists from the AFL-CIO labor march to the direct actions downtown on November 30. All this while there were no ISO people around. If the IWW is dead (while actively organizing workplaces, rallies, marches, literature, pirate radio, the second longest running union website in the world, and much else), while the ISO only puts on workshops and sells papers full of lies, what does that make the ISO?
Rather than let people base their opinions on the truth, these little bosses prefer to manipulate the people they so despise. They do not think that if the people knew the truth, they would make revolution. So, the bossy socialists and communists believe the people must be tricked into revolution, not approached as equals deserving of the truth.
No wonder the ISO will also host a speech entitled IN DEFENSE OF LENINISM. If this is what Leninism looks like, it needs vigorous defense. The ISO gives the same kind of defense capitalism needs and has displayed at mobilizations for the last few years - lies, distortion, and violence by their media and police. Expect identical behavior from authoritarian "socialists" and "communists," and their media and police.
Maybe they can explain to us how "Liberty," in the view of such authoritarian communist and socialist groups like the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), and International Socialist Organization (ISO), really means only freedom from exploitation by capitalists. If we REALLY understood communism, we would know that exploitation by some nutty "vanguard party," or better yet, "revolutionary government," is infinitely preferable, and is in fact necessary for total freedom and liberation. As is clear today, such Party Dictatorships are, in fact, the worst lie ever perpetrated: that people can be "made free" by a totalitarian regime.
It is pure bunk.
Given that this group is willing to falsify, manufacture, and distort information to suit their manipulative ends, don't attend their conference expecting to learn. If you must go, go to disrupt these lying, phony "revolutionaries," with the truth. Go armed with information, and expect to call them on their rivers of crap. The only reason they are better than the FTAA, WTO, FBI, or the Pinkertons, is that they currently have less power. But they want as much power as they can get.
As for all the great work they have done organizing for mobilizations in the last year, it's also bunk. They've brought people to events to sell papers. At the Republican National Convention, a "cadre" of ISO "vanguards" committed themselves to blockading a strategic point during the day of direct action. As soon as the police asked them to leave, they got up and left, abandoning the people they had agreed to assist in making things difficult for the Republicans. As a former ISO member later confided to me, his time in the ISO prepared him well for the corporate world, with all the same back stabbing, hierarchy, and opportunistic focus on growth and recruiting rather than doing what is right. They see people as "human resources," as do capitalists. They also see the rest of the world as "natural resources." Just like capitalists, they believe resources exist to be exploited.
These people are a cult. The party bosses meddle in the personal and sexual lives of the rank and file members. There is a vast amount of lying, manipulation, falsification, and deception within the group - about revolutionary history, about current disputes with other groups, other movements, and other philosophies, about contemporary politics (they supported NAFTA!), and about virtually everything else they can think of. Do not expect a "summer school" any more honest from them than you would expect from the government or a corporation like Shell or Exxon.
No single ideology or philosophy has directed the recent surge of activism. However, anarchism has been an enormous force within it, and continues to be. At the "big win" that energized a lot of this movement, the WTO in Seattle, there were no leftists in sight during the main events. The labor march was organized by AFL-CIO liberals (although many of the rank and file are quite militant and revolutionary, they are still typically not members of these authoritarian groups like the ISO). The direct actions (blockades, street parties, squatting, and corporation-smashing) were virtually all organized by anarchist activists. Days after the city exploded in insurrection, the authoritarian left showed up on the streets, at marches, handing out hastily xeroxed leaflets at the prisoner solidarity marches.
As usual since the fall of the Iron Curtain, authoritarian communists and socialists have been trying to claim credit for the work of and discredit anarchists, just as they did in the 1930's to the anarchist industries, farms, hospitals, and militias in Spain that fought the fascist Franco. Rather than fight fascists, the socialists and communists used their guns to round up anarchist and libertarian-marxist political prisoners far behind the front lines. Because of their betrayal, Spain was lost to fascism until 1975. Franco's victory emboldened Hitler and Mussolini to begin WWII.
Please don't let it happen again. Do not walk naively into this ISO event. Either boycott, or go prepared to challenge some very slick lies, the way you would approach any earth raping, worker crushing corporation.
I would like to see Kenneth Riley, one of the persecuted South Carolina dockworkers, Ronald Jones, exonerated death row inmate, and several other events listed. In fact, I would love to debate the issues of power and domination in leftist organizations, during the Leninism and Anarchism workshops, but there is no way I will hand these professional liars -150. Besides, having seen similar ISO events, I know it will be a tightly controlled lecture format with a strictly limited question/answer period, not real debate. However, to register and attend would be giving direct material support for a scummy corporation in the guise of a revolutionary organization. Instead, please make your donation directly to a strike support fund, anti-death penalty group, an ongoing environmental struggle, or some other legitimate cause. Talk to the better guest speakers outside this conference. Get in free, if you can.
For a free humanity and a living earth (for anarchy),