FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
Norman Pollack
Taiwan: A Pustule on International Politics
Kevin Martin
Nuclear Weapons Modernization: a New Nuclear Arms Race? Who Voted for it? Who Will Benefit from It?
David Mattson
3% is not Enough: Towards Restoring Grizzly Bears
Howard Lisnoff
The Person Who Deciphered the Order to Shoot at Kent State
Dave Archambault II
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Statement on Dakota Access Pipeline Decision
Nick Pemberton
Make America Late Again
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail