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Toward Socialist Unity

By Bonnie Weinstein

Fight Back

Fightback!:
A Collection of Socialist Essays

by Sylvia Weinstein


At the same time faith in capitalism is on the decline, and a revolutionary, anti-capitalist socialist alliance is most urgently needed, one of the largest socialist organizations in the U.S., the International Socialist Organization, voted to dissolve.

The reasons for the group’s dissolution were partly explained in a post titled “Taking our Final Steps,” that appeared April 19, 2019, on the website of their newspaper, Socialist Worker and signed by their most current leadership:

“In late March, current and recently resigned members of the International Socialist Organization took the highly unusual step of voting to dissolve the organization. ...Our newspaper Socialist Worker has ceased production, and we are developing a separate, independent body tasked with reporting on the botched 2013 sexual assault allegation so that former ISO members and the rest of the left might learn from our mistakes. ...Unfortunately, the impact of decades of undemocratic practices, including a hostility to caucuses and the self-organization of members of oppressed groups, as well as the recently revealed egregious treatment of allegations of sexual assault, meant that we were not able to recreate ourselves.”1

The demise of the ISO is not an isolated incident of the revolutionary left in the USA, and across the globe. The organized, revolutionary socialist left has been in decline for decades since the great upsurge beginning in the 1950s and into the ’70s that included the Cuban revolution, the civil rights movement, the rise of Black Nationalism, the Vietnam antiwar movement, the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee strike, the women’s liberation movement, the LGBTQ movement, along with the student radicalization and free-speech movement that included the May 1968 general strike and occupation of universities and factories throughout France.

The capitalist class did all it could to squash these growing upsurges through their systematic divide-and-conquer assault on the working class. Civil rights demonstrators were brutally beaten and murdered. In 1965, as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. were having talks about organizing joint actions, Malcolm X was assassinated February 21, 1965. Three years later Martin Luther King, Jr., who was in Memphis, Tennessee to support a sanitation workers’ strike, was speaking out against the War in Vietnam, and was in the midst of organizing a massive Poor Peoples March on Washington, was assassinated April 4, 1968. Their deaths were a product of the extreme racism and bigotry the capitalist system thrives on.

All during those years, the capitalist class was on the warpath to destroy organized labor as well. In the 1960s a third of American workers belonged to a union. Today, only one-in-ten are in a union.

What was missing during these times of turmoil—and is still missing today—is a class conscious labor leadership—one that recognizes that capitalism itself is what’s standing in the way of social justice and economic equality for all workers.

To build such a leadership among the working class, there needs to be a strong socialist vanguard that can lead the way—that can expose how class collaborationist politics leads only to defeat—and a principled, internationalist, anti-capitalist program is the is the necessary prerequisite for achieving justice and equality for the workers of the world.

The “branding” of the socialist left

The primary role of revolutionary socialist parties is to nurture class-consciousness—the awareness that the very nature of capitalism is the enslavement of workers—an economic system that exploits labor for the private economic gain of the capitalist class at the expense of labor. The job of socialists is to teach that there can be no mutually beneficial alliance between workers and capitalists. (Individual capitalists, of course, are welcome to participate in and support any of our independent struggles and are invited to contribute generously to them.)

However, while most of the revolutionary socialist left adheres to these principals they have been unable to unite; and have, instead, fractured and dissipated and, in the case of the ISO, actually disbanded. And, already, various parties on the left are inviting ex-ISO members to join their party, without considering what is really needed in order to win a socialist world.

So what went wrong with the revolutionary socialist left? Ironically, as the left and organized labor has been declining, capitalist competition has revved up.

All products are now “branded”—Apple vs. HP, Nike vs. Adidas, Prada vs. Coach, the Warriors vs. the Clippers, and on and on—brands that are at war with each other to “capture the market.” This branding has become second nature to us and has powerfully permeated our culture—competition being the driving force of capitalism—“the biggest and the best and smarter than all the rest”—the goal to strive for.

This self-destructive ideology has rubbed off on the left. While the various revolutionary socialist groups and parties agree on 90 percent of the issues workers are faced with, the idea of uniting in some way to fight together toward a socialist solution is not even considered—each group is “protecting their own territory” in spite of the need for unity on the left.

This has to end.

Building a world socialist alliance

We socialists must end our branding wars among each other. This doesn’t mean that we need to disband our organizations, tendencies, etc., but we must find a way to work together toward the goals we all share. The solution is to form a multi-tendency alliance or party united under certain basic principals:

  • Pro-socialism and anti-capitalism—the goal being to rid the world of capitalism and establish socialism.
  • No support to capitalist parties or parties that seek to create an umbrella where capitalism and socialism can co-exist—they cannot.
  • Full support to the independent organization of oppressed peoples in their own defense; and including these groups as full and equal partners under one roof.
  • Full and transparent democratic organizational structure where the majority of our ranks rule and can carry out and test our program in the real world; then go back to the drawing board when necessary to improve it.
  • Full support to all united-front-type organizations fighting for specific goals such as opposition to war, prisoner defense, defense of immigrants and asylum seekers, Black Lives Matter, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and more.
  • Full support to worker’s struggles toward a better standard of living including the formation of their own leadership and organizations, strikes, and more.

These are just a few examples of points of unity that we could organize around. Instead of being in competition, each group could be viewed as bringing their own unique perspective to the general discussion toward unity of program and action to end capitalism and build a socialist world. It is the opposite of capital’s warring competition. It is the most important example we socialist can set. This is what’s needed in today’s world. This is what we can glean from the dissolution and fractionalization of the revolutionary left across the globe. The time for socialist unity is ripe!



1 “Taking our Final Steps”

This article as well as others on the dissolution of the ISO can be read at:

SocialistWorker.org, April 19, 2019

http://socialistworker.org/2019/04/19/taking-our-final-steps