Interview: The ISO and the left in the United States

Natalia Tylim, of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) participated in the Argentinian MST´s XI Congress this December. We interviewed her about the political situation and the opportunities the left faces in the United States.

Anticapitalist Network: How would you describe the political situation in the United States?

Natalia Tylim: The political period we are living through is one shaped the economic crisis of 2008. This crisis opened an epoch of austerity and scapegoating, intensified class polarization and oppression, and increased inter-imperial rivalry especially between the US and China. Our rulers restored growth to the system, but at enormous social cost to the people whose labor creates such growth.

All this has produced political instability throughout the world, facilitating the emergence of a new right from Trump to Le Pen, as well as a new left in the form of broad parties like Syriza, as well as the resurgence of the British Labor Party under Corbyn. In the US, the emerging left was expressed in Sanders’ insurgent campaign inside the Democratic Party that put forward a slew of popular demands for reform — from Medicare for All to free higher education — as well as democratic socialism as a political worldview.

On top of this, the combination of the economic recovery, ongoing austerity, tight labor markets, and growing class anger produced the beginnings of a recovery in the labor movement, most dramatically symbolized by the wave of teachers strike last spring, hotel workers this fall and struggles against sexism impacted by #MeToo.

AN: What do you think of the rise of democratic socialism?

NT: All of these developments have fueled the rise of a new socialist movement. DSA has been the principal beneficiary of this new moment. It is now a large multi-tendency reformist formation of 50,000 that combines activism and an electoral orientation on the Democratic Party. Various currents hope to reform the Democratic Party in the model of Sanders, and a minority aims to use the party’s ballot line to eventually launch a new socialist party. At the same, the ISO and every other socialist organization has grown as well, though at a much smaller ratio.

AN: How is the ISO relating to this movement?

NT: There are many new questions that are built into the political period we are living through. It is therefore completely unsurprising that debates have developed inside the ISO about how to build and what to do today. These discussions revolve around how to best set ourselves up to influence and strengthen the new Socialist movement in the U.S. We want to build the revolutionary wing of this new movement, as the ISO, but also with any forces/individuals who are also committed to that vision.

We have entered an exciting new phase of radicalization with new possibilities as well as old and new pitfalls. While our side debates and tries to advance, the leaders of the Democratic Party are also trying to consolidate the left-wing shift in consciousness into a party fort the 1%. There is an inbuilt challenge we face as revolutionaries in the US: the socialist awakening that is rising has not yet produced an independent political alternative. The question is what strategies and what tactics will best build the self-activity of the tens of thousands of people looking for a socialist alternative today.  The ISO is an organization of about 1,000 people in a country of 300 million. We must be modest about what we represent, but also bold about the impact we can have. The book on how to build the socialist Left under Trump in advanced capitalism has not yet been written – it’s on us to debate, discuss and navigate the new moment we face together.