A Brief Introduction to the International Socialist Organization
Issue #21, October 1995
'Philosophers have merely interpreted the world. The point is to change it.'
— Karl Marx.
The ISO is an international group of socialists who believe in the principles of 'socialism from below.' Contrary to many on the Left, we do not identify socialism with the repressive and bureaucratic regimes of Stalinist Russia, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, or Latin America that have called themselves 'socialist' or 'Marxist' but in which workers do not democratically control the means of production. We are an activist group that emphasizes working people's power to transform society through their own democratic organization and self-activity — through the kinds of mass movements and militancy that won civil rights in the United States, that ended apartheid in South Africa, and which won whatever basic social welfare rights workers throughout the world now enjoy.
Branches of the ISO can be found throughout the United States. For a full list of branches, see any copy of the ISO biweekly paper, Socialist Worker or write to Socialist Worker at PO Box 16085, Chicago, Il. 60616.
Below is a statement of 'Where We Stand' adopted by the numerous international representatives of the International Socialists. For more literature on the ISO and its sister organizations, connect to the Marxism home page on the World Wide Web: http://www.anu.edu.au/polsci/marx/marx.html.
'Where We Stand'
We stand for the principles of socialism from below — for the direct and democratic control of society by the working class.
Although workers create society's wealth, they have no control over its production and distribution. A socialist society can only be built when workers collectively seize control of that wealth and democratically plan its production and distribution according to human needs instead of profit.
The working class, both blue-collar and white-collar, is the vast majority of society and is the key to the fight for socialism. Liberation can only be won through the struggles of workers themselves, organized independently of all other classes and fighting for real workers' power.
We support trade unions as essential to the fight for workers' economic and political rights. To make the unions fight for workers' and students' interests, rank-and-file workers must organize themselves independent of the union officials.
Revolution Not Reform
Reforms within the capitalist system cannot put an end to oppression and exploitation. Capitalism must be overthrown.
The structures of the present government — parliaments, the army, the police and the judiciary — cannot be taken over and used by the working class. They grew up under capitalism and are designed to protect the ruling class against workers.
We do not support candidates of capitalist parties like the Democrats or the Republicans in the USA, the Liberals or the Tories in Canada, or the Liberals in Australia.
The working class needs an entirely different kind of state — a workers' state based on councils of workers' delegates and a workers' militia. These councils based on elected delegates from the workplaces and the neighbourhoods will become the ultimate decision-making body in society. As in the Paris Commune and Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, they will be organs of direct democracy whose delegates can be recalled by the electors. Combining political and economic functions, workers' councils will allow direct participation in the running of society by the working masses.
At most parliamentary activity can be used to make propaganda against the present system.
The struggle for socialism is part of a worldwide struggle. We campaign for solidarity with workers in other countries. We oppose everything that turns the workers of one country against those of another country. We oppose imperialism and support all genuine national liberation movements.
We oppose all immigration controls and policies which divide workers of different countries.
The experience of Russia demonstrates that a socialist revolution cannot survive in one country. China and Cuba, like the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, have nothing to do with socialism. They are state capitalist regimes which oppress and exploit workers. We support the struggle of workers in these countries against the bureaucratic ruling class.
Full Equality and Liberation
Capitalism divides the working class — pitting sections of workers against one another, men against women, race against race, straights against gays and lesbians We oppose racism in all its forms. We support the right of aboriginal peoples, blacks and other oppressed groups to organize for their rights and in their own defense.
Black liberation, women's liberation and lesbian and gay liberation are essential to socialist revolution and impossible without it.
We fight for real, social, economic and political equality for women and for an end to discrimination against lesbians and gays, and youth. We support the struggles of all oppressed groups against any form of discrimination.
The Revolutionary Party
To achieve socialism, the most militant workers must be organized into a revolutionary socialist party to provide the political leadership and organization essential to a successful revolution.
The International Socialists/Socialist Workers Party are taking the first steps towards the building of such international revolutionary socialist parties — rooted in the workplace and able to provide political direction within the working-class movement. As revolutionaries, we help to build every struggle that strengthens the self-confidence, organization and socialist consciousness of workers and the oppressed. The revolutionary socialist party can only be built through the involvement of socialists in the daily struggles of workers and the oppressed.
We urge all of those who agree with our politics to join us in the struggle to build a revolutionary party.