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

Paul Summers: IS Network trade union caucus report

Just a little personal anecdote from the recent trade union caucus:

I was pleased today to be able to attend the first of the IS Network's trade union caucus meetings. It felt good to talk with comrades from the IS Network and beyond about our modest efforts to change the world, to contribute to making it a better place for/with the mass of the population, our class. And it was NOT one of those "when this pub closes" discussions either...each journey starts with the first step.

Most of us talked about the effort and courage shown by students and low paid, precariat, zero hours contracted workers - and the need to engage with, relate to, and organise with them.

As one of the "68" generation ("old hacks"), we need to differentiate what is useful knowledge of our experience from what is currently no longer of much relevance or use.

Sometimes that can seem abstract - as a retired worker, I no longer have to contend directly with the pressures, demands and degree of exploitation imposed on younger workers.

But then I get home, and those impacts are hot on my tail: my daughter works in exactly those conditions, to assist her to make her way through university and reduce her debt. So she gives the managers a lot of notice that she cannot work next Saturday due to family commitments that she wants to take part in. Now I hear she is incensed with unsurprising rage, as yet again managers simply act like she has said nothing, and she's rostered for a shift next Saturday, despite offering to do a shift on another day when no one else wants to do it!

This is more evidence that managers simply ride us and ride on our efforts. To her credit, she shows some interest in joining a union, building a union - but like many of my younger comrades have said, and i do NOT make light of it, it’s hard - times are very hard!

We have to hope, we have to believe, that one of the points of organising together is that we collectively remember and learn from our history. Individually it makes sense that we do not always remember, but as a collective we need to remember and learn. If we are capable, it is because we stand on the shoulders of giants - those who went before us, and may well have faced similar problems, even if in different specific circumstances before us. We need to pass the lessons on and adapt them to new circumstances. We may only be able to make modest steps but I believe the effort is worth it.

So this is sent with solidarity greetings for all those who dare to struggle, dare to try, dare to win!

I post this with a musical link, because I also believe in trying to lift our spirits:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6OtpcZk_1U

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A contribution to the discussion on rank and file movements

The following piece was submitted by Martin Ralph, a comrade in the International Socialist League, based in Liverpool. It is a contribution to the ongoing debate within the IS Network, and the wider revolutionary movement, about the ongoing need for and possibilities of creating a rank and file movement within this country.

How different would the situation be today for workers if the unions had continued the fight to secure public sector pensions in November 2011?  Millions would now confidently mobilise in the knowledge they were in a struggle and united fight against the government’s attacks on wages, jobs and benefits.

That retreat by the union bureaucracies in this and subsequent struggles such as by the majority leaderships of the CWU, NUT and Unite (at Grangemouth) make it very clear today that new rank and file struggles and leaders need to emerge and the bureaucratic stranglehold over the unions needs to be fought.

While many national leaderships retreat a number of local disputes in the UK have won involving different unions and workplaces.

On the picket lines, in November and December, of the FBU, and UCU, Unison and Unite in HE, and UCU in FE discussion often turned to the need for joint national strikes. The TUC Congress voted for united action; however, no union has prepared for it. Which union has called all their branches and joint shop stewards' committees to discuss united action and discuss with other union branches, trades councils and social movements, such as the anti-bedroom tax? To our knowledge, none.

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From the pickets: Reports from strikes in FE/HE

On 3 December workers in universities from the Unite, Unison and UCU as well as UCU members from FE colleges took strike action as part of their fight for fair pay. Here we have reports from picket lines:

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Support Unite Grassroots Rank and File

A new organisation is being launched in Unite the Union, the largest trade union in Britain. It is an attempt to build a genuine rank and file organisation of Unite members and build a real alternative – led by grassroots members rather than full-time bureaucrats and officials. The recent disaster at Grangemouth shows the need for a confident, organised alternative to top-down "struggle". A key workplace, known for its high level of organisation, saw its members being delivered a deal which agreed to job losses and pay cuts, lost the workers their right to full-time convenors, and guaranteed a three-year non-strike agreement. This was a massive and real defeat, and could lead to demoralisation, as it suggests that even where we are strong we were unable to win.

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Higher education strike - Sheffield

On Wednesday night around 45 students staged a rally by the recently formed Left Caucus in support of the HE strike. We marched from the University of Sheffield concourse to the Richard Roberts Building which was then occupied. Initially we were told Management Security would turn up but they didn't. We maintained a mutually friendly atmosphere with security, most of whom were going on strike from 12. A member of the SWP was turned away at around 9pm as the occupation had voted to maintain a safe space, which encompassed turning away rape apologists. A line was drawn on oppositionists in the SWP, who it was agreed would be welcome. In the occupation we felt strong links had been made in terms of organising for the future and emphasis was placed on the atmosphere, particularly between the Anarchist Student Network (ASN) and RevSoc. Outside the occupation, it was reported that at 5am activists had blocked the Arts Tower entrance with recycling bins which were quickly moved.

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Higher education strike - Liverpool

The universities strike in Liverpool was a success: all classes at Liverpool Hope University were cancelled by management, as were many at Liverpool John Moores Uni, while the University of Liverpool campus was ghostly compared to normal.

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