Taking the Meat Out of the ISO

by JON HOCHSCHARTNER

Alan Peck, a vegan and member of the International Socialist Organization, the largest group on the revolutionary left, hopes to launch an animal-liberation tendency within the organization. He believes capitalism and animal exploitation are connected and suspects a significant minority of the ISO would be interested in joining the tendency. While saying all this, he wanted to be clear that he was speaking for himself, not the organization as a whole.

Peck was first introduced to the ISO in late 2011. “I met the local branch of the ISO during the first general membership meeting of my union after I was hired, right as Occupy Wall Street broke out,” he said. “I’d already followed left-of-Obama politics for a number of years, so when a guy made a proposal to endorse Occupy San Diego and form an Occupy solidarity group within our union, I made a point to strike up a conversation with him.”

As it happened, the person Peck spoke with was a revolutionary and together they joined the Occupy San Diego Labor Solidarity Committee. There he found that “many of the activists making the clearest, best arguments and being the most effective leaders were all from this strange socialist group,” Peck said, referring to the ISO.

His political transformation occurred quickly. While the Occupy San Diego General Assembly fizzled, the Labor Solidarity Committee to which he belonged flourished. “Within a handful of months, I transformed from a disaffected former Democrat who thought a repeal of Citizens United would solve everything, into a full-on Marxist,” Peck said.

He believes the ISO needs an organized tendency for vegetarians and vegans to agitate for animal-liberation positions within the group. “The combination of laws, customs, and economic incentives that support animal agriculture closely resembles other systems of oppression within capitalism, often eerily so,” Peck said. “Just as we believe that racism, sexism, and queerphobia will not end without the overthrow of capitalism, and capitalism cannot be overthrown without challenging these oppressions inside the system, I think that what we do to animals is interrelated with the exploitative system of capitalism in the same way.”

Still, Peck seems to concede that widespread veganism is not necessary to overthrow private ownership of the means of production. “Materially, there is nothing keeping the working class from organizing to overthrow the rulers while still eating animals,” he said. “However, the ideologies that support the infliction of unnecessary suffering on non-human animals in the interest of profit are the same ideologies that must be confronted and undone in the process of ending capitalism and building a better world.”

Additionally, Peck said, the worst animal abuse occurs on factory farms, the same spaces where the most severe exploitation of human workers and degradation of the environment also take place. “Given these facts, I think it is right for revolutionaries, and revolutionary organizations, to challenge the system of animal exploitation,” he said.

Peck is hopeful that a sizable portion of the ISO membership would join an animal-liberation tendency. “In the branch, about a fifth are vegan or vegetarian,” Peck said, adding he believed that percentage might join the tendency. “I don’t know the landscape in other branches. I suspect the numbers are similar in other urban branches.”

He said he hoped an animal-liberation tendency within the ISO would achieve at least four things. The first task would be to, Peck said, “develop an analysis of animal exploitation using Marxist theory — a material analysis that includes the historical development of our relationship to non-human animals and the struggle against animal exploitation. There is surprisingly very little written from this perspective.”

The second task would to be end socialist hostility toward animal activists. “I’ve watched this aggressiveness and defensiveness calm since I came to the branch, and I think that’s due largely to having multiple open and confident vegans in the branch who can make the case against animal exploitation — including the ethical arguments — without moralizing individuals or oppressed groups,” he said. “This could be replicated elsewhere.”

The third task, Peck said, was to “convince the membership that veganism is not just a lifestyle choice that should be respected, but is a valid form of political expression akin to a movement boycott — as opposed to a bourgeois peer-pressure boycott like not shopping at Wal-Mart.” The fourth task, which Peck said might be a long way off, would be to convince a majority of ISO members that the liberation of humanity is bound together with the liberation of non-human animals, so animal exploitation should be addressed in the organization’s revolutionary platform.

Jon Hochschartner is a freelance writer from upstate New York. Visit his website at JonHochschartner.com.

Jon Hochschartner is a freelance writer from New York. 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 03, 2015
Sal Rodriguez
How California Prison Hunger Strikes Sparked Solitary Confinement Reforms
Lawrence Ware
Leave Michael Vick Alone: the Racism and Misogyny of Football Fans
Dave Lindorff
Is Obama the Worst President Ever?
Vijay Prashad
The Return of Social Democracy?
Jeralynn Bluford
Quantitative Easing for People: Jeremy Corbyn’s Radical Proposal
Paul Craig Roberts
The Rise of the Inhumanes: Barron, Bybee, Yoo and Bradford
Lynn Holland
For the Love of Water: El Salvador’s Mining Ban
Geoff Dutton
Time for Some Anger Management
Jack Rasmus
The New Colonialism: Greece and Ukraine
Norman Pollack
American Jews and the Iran Accord: The Politics of Fear
John Grant
Sorting Through the Bullshit in America
David Macaray
The Unbearable Lightness of Treaties
Chad Nelson
Lessig Uses a Scalpel Where a Machete is Needed
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America