John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

How did Communist parties handle issues of internal discipline and democracy in Lenin’s time? The recent intense discussion within the British Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) and beyond has heard claims that the SWP rests on the traditions of democratic centralism inherited from the Bolsheviks.

John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Some extended thoughts about Stephanie Bottrill, the woman who committed suicide because of the bedroom tax.

Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the killing of Blair Peach by the police. David Renton looks back at Blair Peach’s life as a poet, trade unionist and committed antifascist

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Bunny La Roche of RS21 on Nigel Farage's visit to Kent

Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

Financial Appeal

We're up and running! An appeal for funds to kickstart the IS Network

Financial Appeal

Portsmouth Socialist Network: Moving forward after December

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IS NetworkOn Tuesday 7 January ten comrades (another three who wanted to attend sent apologies) who were formerly members of the Portsmouth SWP branch met to discuss joint activity. It included comrades who had resigned immediately after Special Conference last March and joined the IS Network, people who had left during the course of last year but joined nothing, and those who had left after last month’s conference. A well-respected local socialist who had been in the International Socialists in the 1970s and is currently in the Anti-Capitalist Initiative also sent apologies saying they would be like to be involved in future events.

Despite some tactical disagreements over the past nine months, we had been united in our opposition to the appalling actions of the SWP Central Committee and were clear that the current crisis of the SWP is a (particularly horrific) symptom of long-term problems surrounding lack of democracy and bureaucratisation. We stayed in close contact over the last year and had been active together in local anti-fascist activity.

As one attendee put it, ‘all of the people who have left the SWP over the last twelve months need to sit in the same room and discuss in an honest and comradely way what we are going to do’. It is clear that we can achieve very little working separately or in competition with each other. After all we are all still revolutionaries committed to socialism from below. It was agreed that the formation of a new revolutionary organisation is the central long-term goal but what that should look like and how we should organise should be developed by collaboration in localities. Political differences on secondary questions should not necessarily preclude organisational unity. It was generally agreed that the revolutionary regroupment process was a big step forward for the far left.

By unanimous vote it was decided to constitute ourselves as Portsmouth Socialist Network. By working together as a loose network we can approach other groups and propose joint work, visit picket lines to offer our collective solidarity and produce leaflets or a newsletter. We agreed that individual membership of other groups is not problematic but we didn't preclude a collective affiliation to a national organisation in the future.

We discussed ideas such as the formation of a local ‘radical forum’ where socialists, anarchists and others on the left and in the workers’ movement can discuss strategies, the possibility of a joint meeting with our friends in Hampshire Feminist Collective and becoming more involved with an anti-fracking campaign two comrades are helping with at a location just north of the city. Some members have been attending meetings of the local Anti-Fascist Network grouping – Portsmouth has had a continuing problem with racist intimidation around a mosque and Muslim school – and we are clear that countering the far right is a key priority locally.

It is very positive that ex-SWP members and other socialists who are attracted to the regroupment process are organising similar events in a number of other cities. As for ourselves, it is a very exciting development for us in Portsmouth and we are cautiously optimistic about organising locally on this basis.