What We Stand For

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We’re the Chicago district of the International Socialist Organization (ISO). The ISO is a national organization, founded in 1977, with branches in cities and on campuses all across the country.

What do we mean when we say we’re socialists? We mean that we oppose all social relations in which persons are exploited or oppressed by others — we mean that we’re for a radically democratic society where working people own and control the wealth their labor creates.

The ISO is committed to fighting for socialism-from-below, not socialism-from-above. This means that we believe that socialism can only be won through the active struggles of ordinary working class people themselves. It cannot be handed down from above or imposed from without. Hence, we do not support authoritarian, bureaucratic states such as China, North Korea or the former USSR. These top-down regimes are fundamentally at odds with the basic ideal of socialism-from-below.

The core political outlook of the ISO — the roster of basic political values we share as members of a common organization — is listed below in “Where We Stand,” which was democratically adopted at our founding convention in 1977 and amended several times since then by convention delegates.


Socialism, Not Capitalism
War, poverty, exploitation, oppression and worldwide environmental destruction are products of the capitalist system, a system in which a minority ruling class profits from the labor of the majority. The alternative is socialism, a society based on workers collectively owning and controlling the wealth their labor creates. We stand in the Marxist tradition, founded by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, and continued by V.I. Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky.

Workers’ Power
Workers create society’s wealth, but have no control over its production and distribution. A socialist society can only be built when workers collectively take control of that wealth and democratically plan its production and distribution according to present and future human needs instead of profit. The working class is the vast majority of society and is the key to the fight for socialism. Workers’ central role in production gives them a social power — by use of the strike weapon — to paralyze the system like no other social force. We support trade unions as essential to the fight for workers’ economic and political rights. To make the unions fight for workers’ interests, rank-and-file workers must organize themselves independent of the union officials.

We actively support the struggle of workers and all oppressed people for economic, political and social reforms, both as a means to improve their conditions and to advance their confidence and fighting strength. But reforms within the capitalist system cannot put an end to oppression, exploitation or ecological devastation. Capitalism must be replaced.

The structures of the present government grew up under capitalism and are designed to protect capitalist rule. The working class needs an entirely different kind of state — a democratic workers’ state based on councils of workers’ delegates.

We do not support candidates of capitalist parties like the Democrats or the Republicans. We support genuine left-wing candidates and political action that promotes independence from the corporate-dominated two-party system in the U.S.

Capitalism is an international system, so the struggle for socialism must be international, uniting workers of all countries. The international working class is the only force capable of solving global problems like war, hunger and environmental destruction.

Socialists oppose imperialism — the division of the globe based on the subjugation of weaker nations by stronger ones–and support the self-determination of oppressed nations. We oppose all immigration controls. We oppose U.S. intervention in Cuba, the Middle East, and elsewhere. We are for self-determination for Puerto Rico. China and Cuba, like the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, have nothing to do with socialism. We support the struggles of workers in these countries against the bureaucratic ruling class.

Full Equality and Liberation
Capitalism divides the working class, based on sexual, gender, racial, national and other distinctions. The specially oppressed groups within the working class suffer the most under capitalism. We oppose racism in all its forms. We support the struggle for immigrant rights. We fight for real social, economic and political equality for women, and for an end to discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We support the fight for Black liberation and all the struggles of the oppressed. The liberation of the oppressed is essential to socialist revolution and impossible without it.

The Revolutionary Party
To achieve socialism, the most militant workers must be organized into a revolutionary socialist party. The ISO is committed to playing a role in laying the foundations for such a party. We aim to build an independent socialist organization, rooted in workplaces, schools and neighborhoods that, in fighting today’s struggles, also wins larger numbers to socialism.

Still interested in learning more about where we stand? Check out the following: