Open Letter to the Seattle Chapter of the International Socialist Organization from a Wobbly

Chuck0's picture

May 28, 2000

To the Seattle ISO;

Recently, your organization held a public forum (May 24th) about the union of which I am a member, entitled "Who Were the Wobblies". After attending this forum, many things became clear to me about the nature of your organization, and reaffirmed everything I have seen in the years I've been active in Seattle, as well as accounts from fellow activists in Seattle; that your organization does nothing but to further deface the term "socialism" and alienate working people from learning about the class struggle. Your forum has also exposed your agenda of misinformation, as it is obvious to many people that the IWW is in fact alive and well; in other words, you are lying.

I will not bother to discuss the historical and ideological differences between our respective organizations. What I am interested is a discussion on what the ISO is currently doing in Seattle and the Northwest to build anything besides creating division amongst radicals, disrupting other organizations to forward your own agenda, and devoting organizational resources toward bashing other groups and tendencies that are actually doing practical work. Unfortunately, it is clear to me that this would be a very short discussion, because the answers to such questions are a resounding "nothing".

The ISO does not support political prisoners, yet socialism demands that the party stands behind those most affected by the system. I have never seen the ISO ever devote resources in support of Leonard Peltier, except to show up at a rally in 1998 long enough to sell newspapers. Nor is the ISO doing anything in support of people charged with felonies stemming from the WTO protests.

The disruption on the part of the ISO was one of the leading factors in the collapse of the Seattle Mumia Defense Committee. While the idea of your "Campaign to End the Death Penalty" is good, it is useless if its only purpose is to push the politics of the ISO, instead of defending those who face murder at the hands of the State. So while Abu-Jamal still faces death, the ISO has done nothing to reverse the damage to local organizing around the issue. In fact, the ISO is doing nothing at all.

The ISO has never supported the struggle around the African American Heritage Museum and Cultural Center, yet your organization can find the energy to distribute leaflets urging members of the African American community to abandon their neighborhoods and daily lives to come out to the UW campus to listen to you run your mouths about joining the ISO; ironically I have seen these posters 100 feet within the meeting location for the Cultural Center, 23rd and Cherry. Why is it that your organization can invade a neighborhood with leaflets like missionaries or the CIA, yet you cannot stick around long enough to listen to what people have to say about their own daily struggles?

When Gary Locke, Paul Schell, and the National Guard turned Seattle into a police state, and gassed the people of Capital Hill, why didn't you, in all of your revolutionary fervor, support the call for a General Strike?

When housing activists were getting thrown out of a building that was being expropriated for the low income and homeless on 9th and Virginia, last November, where were you?

When members of the ILWU, the Steelworkers, IWW, and other union members were getting clubbed and beaten near the Labor Temple on December 1st, where were you?

When the IWW organized a May Day event, the only one in Seattle with an explicitly anti-capitalist message, where were you?

Which brings me to the central point of this letter, which is your disinformation campaign about the IWW. Apparently you are not satisfied with doing nothing, and have moved toward disrupting the work of organizations that are doing something. The fact that you did not even call the IWW call to confirm the (non)existence of the IWW shows your complete disconnection with the world around you ; it would have been easy to do, since we are listed in the yellow pages under "Labor Organizations". The fact that your own newspaper, the Socialist Worker, ran an article about an IWW strike in late 1996, that an ISO member taking part in your disinformation campaign actually showed up to that picket line once (on the heels of Jobs With Justice), and the fact that a full third of the attendance of your "forum" were IWW members, it baffles me that your organization will take the position that we were crushed "out of existence" by the US government in 1919 (perpetuating another myth that our activities are and were limited to the U.S.), when the ISO has already acknowledged us in the recent past.

This, in spite of us presenting to your membership a chronology of our history from 1905 to 1999, proves that your only interest is denial of reality, and continued sectarian and cultist attitudes toward working people. It should not be a terrible surprise to you given all of these facts, culminating in the announcement that this disinformation would be presented to your "convention" in Chicago, that we chose to wobble your meeting and walk out before it was concluded, after much patience and restraint in response to your ideological dishonesty and intolerance, not to mention disrespect. If these are the kind of politics you wish to push within the AFL/CIO, then you are a liability to the labor movement, as many of our members are also members of these unions.

Let me make this very clear. You are in fact acting as agents of the capitalist class by spreading disinformation about an organization that is comprised of members of the working class, which has an explicit strategy for workers running the workplace and economy democratically (something not respected by the ISO, apparently). Further lies will not be met with silence, and future attempts to actively disrupt our organizing activities directly by you, or in collusion with other organizations, will be directly challenged by me personally, and I can guarantee that there will be fellow workers that will do the same.

My advice to you is to drop your campaign of lies, apologize to us for your error, and prove your worth in the struggle by making a contribution and standing in solidarity with the oppressed, and encouraging organizing on the job in unions chosen by those workers, even those unions that are anti-capitalist and do not agree with your politics. You may be surprised by the results.

John Persak

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