International Socialist Organisation (Australia)

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International Socialist Organisation
LeaderCollective leadership
FounderTom O'Lincoln, Janey Stone, Ross Mackenzie, Dave Nadel and Chris Gaffney
FoundedMarxist Workers' Group (1971)
Socialist Workers' Action Group
International Socialists
International Socialist Organisation (1980s)
HeadquartersMelbourne, Australia
NewspaperSocialist Worker
IdeologyDemocratic revolutionary socialism,
Political positionFar-left
International affiliationInternational Socialist Tendency
This article is about the International Socialist Organisation in Australia. For other uses, see International Socialist Organization (disambiguation).

The International Socialist Organisation (ISO) was an Australian Trotskyist political organisation, founded in 1971, originally as the Marxist Workers' Group (MWG) until it became Solidarity in a merger in 2008 with two other socialist organisations. It was the official representative of the International Socialist Tendency (IST) in Australia.



The ISO formed in 1971 as the MWG, then as the Socialist Workers' Action Group (SWAG), and finally the International Socialists (IS), becoming the official representative of the IST in Australia. The IS expanded from its initial base in Melbourne until it had branches in every major Australian city. The organisation published a paper until 2008 called Socialist Worker.


The IS saw a breakaway faction in the 1980s called Socialist Action led by Tom O'Lincoln and Carole Ferrier which later rejoined the IS. At this point they changed their name to the ISO.[1]


A faction fight beginning in 1993 led to the expulsion of leading ISO members in 1995, mainly but not exclusively in Melbourne, who went on to form Socialist Alternative (SA).


Another period of internal crisis beginning in 2001 led to a loss of members and a further split in 2003 when another grouping of members around former leader Ian Rintoul left to form a group known as Solidarity.[citation needed] Somewhat prior to this O'Lincoln also left, eventually joining Socialist Alternative.[2]

The ISO was a founding component of the Socialist Alliance which grouped together a number of Australian socialist organisations. In 2007, the ISO voted to withdraw its involvement at its national conference, criticising the failure of the project to achieve its intended goals and the role of the Democratic Socialist Perspective in that failure.[3]

On 3 February 2008, the ISO, the Socialist Action Group and Solidarity agreed to merge, with the new organisation to be named Solidarity and based in Sydney. The new Solidarity replaced the ISO as the official representative of the IST in Australia.[4]


During the ISO's peak[edit]

The organisation had around 300 members at its peak[5] and built a history of supporting militant direct action. It was active in the Right to March campaigns in Brisbane under the Joh Bjelke-Petersen government.[6] The ISO was involved in actions against racism, which physically confronted the rise of the nationalist One Nation party led by Pauline Hanson.[7] They participated in the S11 demonstrations in Melbourne[8] that disrupted a meeting of the World Economic Forum.[9] And some of its own members, including Mick Armstrong, Jill Sparrow and Jeff Sparrow were labeled the Austudy Five after being arrested at a National Union of Students demonstration in Melbourne against the Paul Keating government's proposed abolition of Austudy.[10]

During the ISO's decline[edit]

The organisation's main priority from 2003 was to build opposition to the Iraq War and oppose the Australian government's involvement. The group also identified the need to fight Islamophobia and work alongside the Islamic community in Australia.[citation needed]

The ISO argued that the anti-war movement needed to build a broad-based united front against the war. It identified building locality based peace groups, in Brisbane Southside,[citation needed] Moreland,[citation needed] Newtown[citation needed] and Leichhart[citation needed] and the Just Peace group in Perth,[citation needed] as a way of building networks of anti-war activists.

During 2006, the ISO helped organise a national anti-war conference named "Unity for Peace" in an attempt to broaden the anti-war movement's base of support.[citation needed] The conference was the culmination of a speaking tour of the US anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and Dr. Salem Ismael from Doctors for Iraq and was attended by approximately 60 organisations and attracted 350 people.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Marching down Marx Street: The International Socialists in Australia, 1972-92". Tom O'Lincoln's Red Sites. 1992. Archived from the original on 16 February 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  2. ^ "About Tom O'Lincoln". Tom O'Lincoln's Red Sites. Retrieved 21 October 2009.
  3. ^ "ISO leaves Socialist Alliance". Ozleft. 2007. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  4. ^ "Forging Unity For the Struggle Ahead". Socialist Worker. 13 February 2008. Retrieved 20 February 2008.
  5. ^ "The origins of Socialist Alternative: summing up the debate". Marxist Left Review. Spring 2010. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  6. ^ "How Bjelke's protest ban was beaten". Socialist Worker. 7 September 2007. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  7. ^ "Fighting racism: students and youth set clearer goals". Green Left Weekly. 15 October 1997. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  8. ^ "World Economic Forum has police bracing for biggest operation in years". Lateline. 6 September 2000. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  9. ^ "Whose Streets? Our Streets! Activist Perspectives on the Australian Anti-Capitalist Movement" (PDF). Tom Bramble of the School of Business, University of Queensland and John Minns of the School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Australian National University. Retrieved 1 September 2010.
  10. ^ "Civil liberties under threat". Green Left Weekly. 17 August 1994. Retrieved 1 September 2010.