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

IS Network members standing in Left Unity National Council elections

Voting for the National Council of Left Unity is now open. To vote you will need your Left Unity membership number in addition to a 'ballot code' which you should have received in an email titled 'Left Unity Elections'.

Below is a list of International Socialist Network members that are standing for positions on the council with links to their election statements. We also invite IS Network members to submit statements of support for individual candidates to editorial@internationalsocialistnetwork.org. These will then be published on the site and circulated to members.

IS Network members standing in Left Unity National Council elections:

Tom Walker (Media Officer)
Tim Nelson/Oliver New (Trade Union Officer, jobshare)
Simon Hardy (Directly-elected section and London region)
Steve Freeman (Directly-elected section)
Kat Burdon Manley (Wales)
James Non (Appeals Committee)


Voting closes at midnight on the 23rd March.

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Socialist Resistance: Statement on unity: The way forward for revolutionary unity

In preparation for the meeting held on Saturday 8 Feb as part of the unity process the IS Network is currently engaged in it was decided that each organisation should produce a statement, which they felt would present a basis for unity and realignment in preparation for the upcoming unity conference. The following statement is the product of that.

Divisions on the far left have long been damaging for the wider struggle. The current situation in anti-cuts campaigning (for example) directly reflects the divisions in the far left. The SWP has Unite the Resistance (which actually does precisely the opposite) and the Socialist Party has its Shop Stewards Network. The Peoples Assembly is an attempt to unite across these divides, which is hugely important, but the old disunity still weakens the movement.

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Workers Power: Statement on unity: Towards revolutionary unity

In preparation for the meeting held on Saturday 8 Feb as part of the unity process the IS Network is currently engaged in it was decided that each organisation should produce a statement, which they felt would present a basis for unity and realignment in preparation for the upcoming unity conference. The following statement is the product of that.

For more than a year the crisis of the revolutionary left has centred on the Socialist Workers Party. Sparked by the mishandling of accusations of rape and harassment by women comrades, the leadership’s attempts to suppress opposition resulted in expulsions, factional struggles and two serious splits.

This has led to widespread accusations that the revolutionary left at large is characterised by an abusive attitude to women and dictatorial and undemocratic regimes. It is true that such attitudes and practices are far from being restricted to the SWP: it is not true that all revolutionary organisations and traditions in the UK can be characterised in this way.

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Read more: Workers Power: Statement on unity: Towards revolutionary unity

IS Network: Statement on unity

In preparation for the meeting held on Saturday 8 Feb as part of the unity process the IS Network is currently engaged in it was decided that each organisation should produce a statement, which they felt would present a basis for unity and realignment in preparation for the upcoming unity conference. The following statement is the product of that.

The revolutionary left in the UK is at a juncture that presents the possibility of the creation of new and exciting forms of organisation, but that also presents the possibility of further disintegration, demoralisation and ineffectiveness. This juncture has been created not just by the recent crisis in the SWP but by a long-term trend of the shrinking of the revolutionary left, linked to a number of factors but largely influenced by the state of class struggle.

We believe that the right response to this is to try to bring as many individuals and groups together into a new project as possible. We believe that one of the key strengths of the IS Network since its launch has been its openness and its willingness to rethink ideas and practices, within a shared framework, and we want to carry this process on alongside others.

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Read more: IS Network: Statement on unity

Workers Power: Toward Revolutionary Unity


For more than a year the crisis of the revolutionary left has centred on the Socialist Workers Party. Sparked by the mishandling of accusations of rape and harassment by women comrades, the leadership’s attempts to suppress opposition resulted in expulsions, factional struggles and two serious splits.

This has led to widespread accusations that the revolutionary left at large is characterised by an abusive attitude to women and dictatorial and undemocratic regimes. It is true that such attitudes and practices are far from being restricted to the SWP: it is not true that all revolutionary organisations and traditions in the UK can be characterised in this way.

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Read more: Workers Power: Toward Revolutionary Unity

2014-01-18: Unity organising meeting

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.
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