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2014-01-18: Unity organising meeting

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Unity Organising Meeting

Saturday 18 January

Present

Kris S (IS Network), chairing.
Tim N (IS Network)
Terry C (Socialist Resistance)
Liam M (Socialist Resistance)
David (Workers Power)
Richard B (Workers Power)
Simon H (Anti-Capitalist Initiative and IS Network)
Joanna R (Anti-Capitalist Initiative)
Ruth L (RS21), observer

  • Tim N: outlined the idea of a unity conference as laid out in the motion below:

    “That revolutionary realignment is central to our perspective of the ISN, we seek to build a united revolutionary multi-tendency organisation in the UK.At the moment we are in talks with the SR, ACI and WP- we should continue these talks, joint statements, publications and actions where possible.In addition to this we should approach Plan C, the IWW, Workers International Network, A-fed and others both nationally and locally.The ISN should seek to build joint forums, meetings and action with others on the revolutionary left to build a organic foundation for revolutionary unity.In place of an early 2014 / March 2014 foundation conference, we should build an open national meeting for ALL those interested in building a united multi-tendency revolutionary organisation as the beginning of the process of building such an organisation.”It was suggested by the IS Network Steering Committee that for such a conference any other groups to be invited should be approved by all four organisations, but any one organisation can invite any individuals they like."

  • The delegates from the various groups discussed the politics of the different organisations first.
  • David S: Workers Power have not been involved until now, despite wishing to be, largely because of Socialist Resistance opposing their involvement. It is important to discuss the political basis for unity. Workers Power does not agree with the idea of a monolithic party. Pluralism is a necessity. The current conference proposal from the IS Network is very broad. At the conference we should discuss key class policy positions. Hope RS21 will be part of the process. We should all go away and draw up a statement which we think should launch the conference. The process will help clarify the basis for unity and therefore who should be included.
  • Liam M: Recounted a recent verbal confrontation with Richard B in which he felt that Richard had not displayed behaviour conducive to unity. Socialist won’t walk away if Workers Power are involved, but think it would be healthier if they were not. ACI, IS Network and Socialist Resistance all agree on key questions of democracy and feminism. All are also committed to Left Unity as a project. Also keen for RS21 to be involved. Socialist Resistance has voted that it will dissolve itself into a new organisation and its only condition would be that its members could remain in the Fourth International.
  • Simon H: We need a class struggle party, and should push for Left Unity to be one. If Left Unity collapsed it would be a major defeat for the left. It is likely to take a long time to develop, Syriza’s big election breakthrough came after 11 years of growth. Left Unity needs a stronger revolutionary tendency. Revolutionary unity is a necessity as we are fragmenting. No small group since the 1970s has been able to grow. Workers have traditionally not joined the revolutionary left in any great numbers. At the moment, given our size, most people would rejecting joining any organisation that enforced a strict line.
  • Richard B: In response to Liam. Exchange with Liam referred to before would have been better expressed in a more structured context, however it was over an important political question (trade union affiliation to the Labour Party) which should be discussed in a proper way in future.
  • Terry C: The issue of internal democracy is central. Imposing discipline inside an organisation is a problem. We should draw up the basis for plurality. There is an issue of equality in process. It creates difficulties when one organisation moves the goal posts. We had an agreed project and the IS Network changed the terms. The motion as laid out by the IS Network is problematic, for example it names the IWW, which is a trade union not a revolutionary organisation.
  • Richard B: No doubt there are different emphases. Party democracy is one important question, but it’s not the only one. For example on the question of the trade union bureaucracy Workers Power is closer to ACI and the IS Network than Socialist Resistance is. The IS Network has voted down direct merger with Socialist Resistance but voted for this conference which involved all the groups here instead.
  • Kris S: It’s not for the IS Network to decide the terms of the unity process, but it’s not for me and Tim to override the decision of the IS Network as agreed at its conference.
  • Tim N: Unity is a process, we’re not going to iron out all the differences overnight. People’s politics are in a state of flux and they are moving in different directions. A multitendency organisation is necessary at this point in time. Even if we wished to, we would not be able to form a strong, cadre, combat organisation with the forces at our disposal right now. Only a loose multitendency organisation can contain all the differences of opinion at the moment and allow us to work out what our idea are and what we should do.
  • Simon H: The healthy parts of the left are involved in a profound process at the moment. This is also coming at a period of intense class warfare against the working class and the poor where our side isn't properly fighting back. At this point in time we need to emphasise democracy over centralism. We have been involved in this process for quite some time and no progress has been made. March, as suggested by the IS Network, may be too soon for a conference. Agree we need to write a launch statement. There is a risk of greater fragmentation. The IS Network and the ACI have serious internal disagreements.
  • Liam M: Asks if Workers Power would dissolve themselves the same way Socialist Resistance have voted to. Socialist Resistance don’t enforce a line, for instance in Respect they did not caucus before meetings or all vote the same way.
  • Ruth L: RS21 is only one week old and its Steering Committee is very provisional. It would be premature to get involved in unity discussions. Do want to work with others. Probably won’t be part of the conference as a group, but individuals may be.
  • David S: No-one disagrees on the state of the left. It is a good thing that things are shaking up on the left. In answer to Liam, if a political basis for unity on which Workers Power is agreed then they will dissolve, on the condition their members will remain in the League for a Fifth International. The aim should be to build a revolutionary organisation that can make a difference, which should be organised and as large as possible. You cannot conceal disagreements in a mass organisation, nor should you. A statement should be drawn up to state this aim. Each organisation should write a document, and they should be circulated around the different groups. We should meet regularly and invite each others’ members to events.
  • Terry C: In many ways Socialist Resistance and Workers Power have more in common with each other than they do with ACI or the IS Network. Both are relatively homogenous and have been about for some time. Suggests holding conference after Easter.
  • Tim N: Suggests that rather than go off and write separate statements each group delegates one person and the statement be written collaboratively. We also need to draw up an agenda and book a room.
  • Terry C: We all need to take any ideas back to our groups before the next meeting.
  • David S: We should write separate statements, circulate them, then discuss them at the next meeting. If agreed, that’s the basis for the conference and future meetings.
  • Kris S: The statements should be written with an eye to establish what we think the other groups will agree on, rather than what they will disagree on.
  • Terry C: While the statements should aim to agree, they should make clear any red lines that your organisation has.

Decisions

  1. Conference will be on 26 April, London.
  2. Workers Power will book a venue.
  3. Each group will write a draft unity conference statement, and circulate them to the other groups (2,500 word limit).
  4. Next meeting 8 February.