Women must rise up and organize against them
The International Socialist Organization (ISO) crumbled under the revelation that newly-elected steering member Joe Richard raped a woman in 2013 and ISO leadership covered it up even after the disciplinary committee found him guilty. Despite current leadership claiming to have expelled the offender, they only refer to Joe Richard as the “respondent” and have failed to expose him publicly. Even as the ISO officially dissolves in the wake of this scandal, they betray women with their last breaths. Weeks after the incident became public, Richard’s page on the ISO website was still intact, with no updates or warnings about the danger he poses to women.
Joe Richard is not even an isolated incident. The San Diego chapter of ISO also found Chuck Stemke guilty of attempted rape in 2013, only because he was slated to speak on a women’s rights panel and a non-ISO activist came forward against Stemke and ISO. Leadership merely expelled him, with no further consequences.
In Joe Richard’s case, he was found guilty of sexual misconduct by a vote of 6 to 1 and of rape 5 to 1 with 1 abstention. The vote in his favor comes from 2013 Steering Committee member Nicole Colson who blackmailed the investigators into declaring a mistrial. The “trial” itself constituted further abuse towards the victim. The witnesses used were clearly favorably biased towards the accused and repeatedly put down the victim’s complaints with misogynist statements and even went as far as to call her a “known false accuser.” At one point they even decided not to talk to a certain witness and said, “Whatever you do, don’t interview Comrade X. She’s a virulent feminist.” As a result of this blatant disregard for the safety of women in their organization, Joe Richard was left free to rise in the ranks for six years.
The Steering Committee of 2013 who covered up the results of the investigation included a longtime member known as Sharon Smith. Not only was she involved in this cover-up, she actively used the ISO’s illegitimate disciplinary committee to clear Joe Richard’s name.
Sharon Smith is the author of “Women and Socialism”, a Haymarket Books publication. She grotesquely went around different ISO chapters in 2018, including the Austin chapter, to speak about ‘The Power of “#Me Too”’. Smith exemplifies the two-faced, revisionist nature of the International Socialist Organization. While the ISO makes appeals to revolutionary thought, they had no dedication to the working class and silence the voices of survivors. They call themselves “revolutionary socialists” but the most action we’ve seen them take in Austin is selling newspapers or opportunistically joining ineffective coalitions.
One of our supporters, a former ISO Austin member, wrote to us:
“I don’t know how surprised I could really be with the downfall of the organization, while I was surprised with how quickly it all came down on them since my departure, it was a fate destined for them. Their inherent revisionism is their ultimate downfall because, for all their talk about women’s liberation, they would never take the militant action necessary to liberate women and oppressed nations. When I organized in the Austin chapter, it was only for a short amount of time because the environment was so toxic and dismissive to women, oppressed nations, and, most importantly, the working class. There were a number of discussions concerning predatory behavior from male membership and even serious cases that leadership was supposed to investigate but overlooked, as they were seemly more concerned with newspaper sales and declining numbers at meetings.”
The Austin ISO chapter has been inactive since October of last year and has relegated itself into an online resource called “Austin Socialism from Below Network.” Even when the ISO book has closed, revisionists still continue to leech and expend energy to stay relevant online.
As the ISO collapses, women have come forward from other “leftist” organizations such as the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), revealing misogyny and hushed-up abuse has long been rampant in these revisionist circles. Women are telling their stories of abuse at the hands of men who claimed to be “allies,” as well as the people who covered for the abusers.
One woman said on social media, “I left the ISO years ago after being cruelly sexually manipulated by a much older member so like color me not surprised that a full on rape cover up is what finally shot them in the foot but man, this is some shit.”
Another woman recounted on Twitter how, for years, the Los Angeles chapter of the DSA covered for a serial abuser and stalker, which led to many women leaving the organization in frustration and fear. In the meantime, the DSA chapter of Austin continues to mock militant organizing while doing no substantial work themselves. The best they can manage is a bowl-a-thon fundraiser for a non-profit.
One PSL member revealed in a medium article, “I have witnessed and been the recipient of blatant, aggressive misogyny from a few members of the PSL and, worse still, other party members have shamelessly attempted to hide this abuse, to “delete” it and sweep it under the rug, rather than to confront and put an end to it.” This declaration comes as no surprise, as the revisionist PSL’s Austin chapter notoriously harbored rapist and sexual predator McKinley Forbes despite multiple demands for banishment from local organizing spaces by revolutionary organizations.
The militant women of Popular Women’s Movement–Movimento Femenino Popular (PWM-MFP) know that it is no accident that revisionists can’t seem to hold abusers accountable. Their postmodern identity politics are poison and only serve to protect those who seek power and prestige even as they exploit vulnerable members of their organizations. Furthermore, we see a glaring trend with these revisionist organizations. They either reject the proper line of how to solve problems by discreetly cloaking these horrid acts of violence from the public with zero speculation or investigation, or they do investigate the accused but then succumb to individualism to protect the abuser. Finally, in ISO’s conclusion, they dissolve and irresponsibly allow rapists like Joe Richard to slink away unscathed. We reject their milquetoast version of “socialism” as a breeding ground for capitalist appeasers who have no problem with the abuse and sexism that comes hand-in-hand with bourgeois attitudes.
Earlier this year PWM-MFP exposed a few of the local sexists and abusers of Austin and rightfully called for their public exile from leftist spheres where they could further harm women activists. As militant women organizers, we have the science and material basis for class revolution. We know that the only way to combat bourgeois misogyny is with disciplined, organized violence against the enemies of the working class. Revisionist organizations can only ever use a false guise of “socialism” to further their own opportunist lines and those will never include taking a hard stance against the misogynists in their midst.
Our organization is proof that militant working women around the world can organize and show their force. We have forcefully fought for power by pushing against the macktivists and abusers of Austin, taking whole streets on International Working Women’s Day, and pouring our anger and frustration into combat training. We know we must arm ourselves and working class women against the endless exploitation and degradation we face under the ruling class. Working class women must unite and organize as the revolutionary forces we are and struggle to take power. Join us as we put a stop to misogynists infiltrating our spaces and impeding revolution with their sexism. We refuse to tolerate any more humiliation at the hands of revisionists organizations whose fake notions of socialism include harboring rapists!
PUSH OUT REVISIONIST RAPISTS!
ORGANIZE WORKING CLASS WOMEN AGAINST ABUSERS!