Image: Pierre-Paul Prud’hon
Nemesis and crime (1808)
It would appear that the International Socialist Organization has launched a defamatory campaign intended to discredit me. Various members of the ISO have been gunning for me ever since I leaked a number of embarrassing internal bulletins from their organization last week. These were sent to me by several different members and former members of the ISO who were troubled by some of the developments taking shape within the organization of late. Some of these documents revealed their leadership’s inaction in resolving an incident concerning a member who had been accused of rape. Apparently this went unreported to the rest of the organization’s membership for more than seven months, until accidentally being brought to light by a few errant statements made in public regarding “Comrade Daniel” (the ISO’s rough equivalent to “Comrade Delta” across the pond).
Preconvention Bulletin 19 — which was only released a couple weeks ago — explained the sequence of events as follows:
During the investigation, it was revealed that two members of the current (2013) XVBC [Xville Branch Committee] had known a year prior that an accusation had been made, one of whom was also on the SDBC with “Daniel” at the time of the incident (July 2012). As of July 2013, no one had spoken to the victim, no disciplinary action had been taken against “Daniel,” no fewer than five Xville comrades knew that there was an accusation, including two members of the (2012) SDBC, and the ISOSC [ISO Steering Committee] was also aware.
Who knows if it would have ever been disclosed to the general membership if someone hadn’t posted about it on Facebook? How embarrassing. No wonder they’re so upset.
Anyway, enough about what the ISO mishandled or got wrong. There’s a clearly established protocol for how to deal with such leaks. If they don’t like the message that someone is spreading, the easiest way to resolve the matter is to kill the messenger. So let’s what calumnies they’ve concocted to convince people that I am untrustworthy. Right now this is the message they’ve decided to circulate:
Anyone who considers defending or associating with Ross Wolfe should always have this reposted, a defense of the FBI arrests of Palestine solidarity activists, as a reminder of what he is. Not just an utterly racist, elitist, sexist troll with a creepy, nasty obsession with wanting Muslim women unveiled. But also an utter scumbag and danger to the Left, ready to call for a state crackdown on activists, no matter what their background. Know your enemy.
Pretty boring stuff, really. The only problem with this kind of rhetoric is that it loses a lot of its effect when such accusations (“racist,” “sexist,” “troll”) are so routinely and casually made. Indeed, these all come from the ISO’s standard repertoire of abuse, terms used to tar anyone who crosses their path. When articles written by a few former members of the ISO critical of the leadership were published on Counterpunch a few months back — on “The Merchants of Shame” and “The Theory and Practice of Idealism in Trotskyism and the ISO” — the response was to dismiss the criticisms out of hand based simply on the venue where the articles had appeared. Sofia Arias wrote up this neat bit of guilt-by-association in an article hilariously titled “Contributing to a Constructive Debate”:
[The Renewal faction has] definitely found a new home at Counterpunch. Counterpunch is literally the last dwelling place that anyone with principled anti-oppression politics would ever go. And I take you to be sophisticated enough to know this, which is why I’m saying it. It has a dwindling readership of the old (white) (male) left. Why? Because it continuously repeatedly uses sexism and misogyny to attract readers (“Angelina Jolie Under the Knife: Of Privilege, Health Care, and Tits”), anti-Semitism (defense of Gilad Atzmon against a campaign initiated by Omar Barghouti, Ali Abunimah, and other BDS activists), out-and-out transphobia (initiating a series of “debates” sympathetic to Trans Exclusionary Rad Fems).
Counterpunch was called out by Jacobin magazine this past summer for its transphobia, and was subsequently threatened with a lawsuit by the vile trans-misogynist Cathy Brennan, who locks arms with the state to destroy trans leftists. Which publication, Counterpunch or Socialist Worker, republished Jacobin‘s call for solidarity? You can take a wild guess.
No one needs to lecture me about some of the truly odious material Counterpunch has been known to publish. With regard to anti-Semitism, one can look not only to Gilad Atzmon but also to Israel Shamir, an apologist for Pol-Pot and Holocaust denier. Should the former ISO members’ decision to have an article published on a site like this be considered an excommunicable offense? I really could care less what someone chooses to publish an article. But evidently the ISO prefers quasi-Stalinist tactics of “amalgamation,” guilt-by-proximity.
Anyway, on to their accusations about me. Regarding “the defense of FBI arrests of Palestine solidarity activists,” they’re resuscitating an old blog post I wrote four years ago on some members of the FRSO (Fightback) who were arrested for supposedly funding FARC. This was when I was going through what I’d call a “Schachtmanite” phase. I was pissed off at the FRSO for having called the cops on some comrades in the WIL in Minneapolis during a demonstration. Plus, I’d been getting death threats from some of their members for a couple months before posting that piece, and hated Stalinists more than usual.
Still, it was a stupid position to take. FRSO members threaten their detractors with violence all the time. Nothing to get worked up about. All the same, it seems desperate that ISO hardliners would try to dredge this up again, especially since I dealt with the post in question months ago. Here’s what I wrote on the matter last March:
Having maintained this blog for several years now, some of the positions taken in pieces I’ve posted in the past may no longer even reflect my current opinion on a given issue. This doesn’t exonerate me for having written them, of course, but hopefully it will alert the reader to the relative fluidity of my perspective over time.
Opinions change. I appreciate Stalinists today more than I used to; at least they come up with cool Promethean shit like the план преобразования природы [plan for the transformation of nature] instead of lame eco-socialist crap.
Moving on: The other major accusation they level against me (regarding my supposedly “creepy, nasty obsession with wanting Muslim women unveiled”) can be dealt with relatively easily as well. At no point have I endorsed Sarkozy-esque laws under capitalism that would oblige religious minorities to shed various articles of faith, although the canonical literature on the matter is far from clear on the issue. Rosa Luxemburg of course opposed Kulturkampf-style Bismarckian laws targeting Catholics in Germany during the late 19th century, but according to her article on “The Anti-Clerical Policy of Socialism” such opposition was only obligatory under monarchies, as secularism should be the natural order of the day in parliamentary democracies.
What the ISO is likely referring to is my translation and reposting of some documents relating to the women’s liberation and unveiling campaigns undertaken by the Bolsheviks women in Zhenotdel, published in journals like Kommunistka between 1921-1923. The mere existence of these documents is an inconvenient fact for the ISO, who looked to the past for precedent in order to ground their activities in the present. Really, they should just consider themselves lucky that I’ve not translated Krupskaia’s articles on the subject from 1927.
My favorite part of the ISO diehards’ whole effort to smear me, however, is that it’s already completely backfired. Predictable though it was, I didn’t even know about this ploy until late this evening, when random people (mostly disaffected or former members of the ISO) started getting in touch with me to tell me about it. “Hey Ross, just wanted to let you know that the ISO’s McCarthyist attacks against you are actually giving you new supporters,” one wrote to me. “I’ve been enjoying your blog all afternoon. Anyways, this seems to happen whenever the ISO encounters any sort of criticism at all. Using liberal smears and Manichean characterizations, they blacklist organizations, people, and publications wholesale.”
Hopefully you now know your “enemy” a bit better than before. This is all the ISO leadership wants, after al. Judge for yourself, though, never forgetting: “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”