IS Network

Documents

Bradford ISN Xmas Podcasts

Our bumper Christmas podcast (in two parts). Present were Javaad Alipoor, Brian Collier and Paris Thompson. We talk about the Crisis in the SWP, the forgotten socialist Tom McGuire, autonomism, disputes in the ISN, ecology and population and the student movement. The second podcast contains songs from Javaad Alipoor.

Xmas Podcast Pt.1 >>
Xmas Podcast Pt.2 >>

Add a comment

Announcement: New IS Network discussion groups

The IS Network is launching some new email discussion groups for members to discuss different areas of activity they are involved in. This will hopefully help improve communication across the Network and contribute towards allowing members to self-organise across the country.

The following subjects currently have active groups:

  • Left Unity
  • Anti-fascism
  • Cactus

Each member should receive an email invitation as soon as a new group is launched. However, if you have not and would like to be included in any, or all, of the above discussions please email Tim Nelson and request that you be added. Feel free to email suggestions for other subjects you think would benefit from having a group set up.

Email Tim Nelson >>

Add a comment

Ged Colgan and Paris Thompson: Proposal for IS Network conference

The last week has seen two interesting but quite fractious debates within the IS Network, firstly over the potential employment of a paid administrative assistant, and secondly over the Network’s intervention within the Left Unity project. Both arguments have highlighted certain underlying tensions within the Network that have yet to be resolved, specifically in three areas: how we conceive of the Network and what direction we wish to take it in, what positions the Network should take and policies it should pursue, and how we intervene as an organisation within the movement.

Add a comment

Read more: Ged Colgan and Paris Thompson: Proposal for IS Network conference

Bristol IS Network: The paid worker debate – a proposal

Comrades have proposed that a paid worker is needed for the IS Network to carry out administrative and organisational tasks. We are grateful to Alison LKeith FChina Mand Tom W for outlining in detail in their ‘Parameters’ document the tasks that need to be carried out. Clearly a lot of time and thought has gone into drawing this up, and while it is of great use to know what jobs need to be done, we maintain that these do not require an employee to do them.

Add a comment

Read more: Bristol IS Network: The paid worker debate – a proposal

IS Network and a temporary paid worker – a debate

A debate
1. Paris T’s statement
2. China M, Penny S, Richard S and Rosie W reply
3. Parameters Document
4. Tim N’s statement
5. Rosie W’s response

#1: Paris T’s statement

In recent weeks it’s become apparent that the IS Network Steering Committee has given serious thought to the employment of a Network paid employee. I would argue that at this stage the employment of a paid organiser would be a serious mistake, and is a short-term, bureaucratic response to problems which will need much more thoroughgoing political and organisational answers.

Add a comment

Read more: IS Network and a temporary paid worker – a debate

IS Network Constitution

NAME

International Socialist Network (hereinafter referred to as IS Network)

WHERE WE STAND

We are a network of activists who believe that the present capitalist system, rooted in inequality, exploitation and oppression, and driven towards crisis, war and destruction of the environment, must be replaced by socialism: a system of real democracy and co-operative production for human needs.

Those who produce the wealth under capitalism – the working class – have the power to overthrow it. The emancipation of the working class can only be the act of the working class itself. We stand for the self-activity of the oppressed and exploited, and for socialism from below.

IS Network

Meetings

Meeting: Who makes the nazis? Fighting fascism today

Who makes the nazis? Fighting fascism today

hosted by International Socialist Network
Saturday 2nd August, 1pm,
University of London Union (ULU), Malet St, London WC1E 7HY

With the rise of UKIP and the emergence of a number of small but violent fascist groups like Britain First from the fragmenting of the English Defence League (EDL), new questions are facing activists trying to create a grassroots and vernacular anti-racist and anti-fascist culture. The International Socialist Network will be hosting an open discussion and debate on these issues, from organisation and tactics to anti-raids and migrant solidarity, in the hope of generating new ideas and forming links among anti-fascists.


Facebook event here

Kicking off in Rio: popular protest and the politics of the World Cup


Kicking off in Rio: popular protest and the politics of the World Cup

hosted by North London rs21 and IS Network

Tuesday 10th June,
7-9pm,
Unity Church, 277 Upper Street, Islington, London

Brazil has seen huge attacks on its poor and a fightback from hundreds of thousands as two mega-events – the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 – inflict themselves on a country of huge inequalities. Writer Mike Marqusee and Rio resident Ali Sargent will talk about the politics of these “trojan horses for neoliberalism” and popular protest against them. North London rs21 and International Socialist Network London invite you to come and listen and join the discussion.

http://www.mikemarqusee.com/

Home

Home

Add a comment

Event: People’s Parliament – Beyond Capitalism?

What does resistance today tell us about the need to move beyond capitalism as we know it?

WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE, 7PM-8.30PM, COMMITTEE ROOM 8, HOUSE OF COMMONS

SIGN UP HERE

With:

Luke Cooper (Author of Beyond Capitalism? The Future of Radical Politics)
Simon Hardy (Author of Beyond Capitalism? The Future of Radical Politics)
Lynne Segal (Professor, Birkbeck College)
Maia Pal (Academic, Occupy Sussex)
Chaired by John McDonnell MP

Please allow at least 15 minutes to come through Parliament security. The most convenient entrance to come in at is the St Stephens Entrance

Add a comment

ISN National General Meeting 1 March 2014

NATIONAL GENERAL MEETING

Sheffield Hallam University

Saturday 1 March 11am–5.30pm

We will be holding our next national members’ meeting in Sheffield on Saturday 1 March. An agenda will be released shortly. Among the subjects we will be discussing are revolutionary regroupment, how best we relate to the newly formed RS21, recent debates inside the IS Network, Left Unity, and the environment. Any issues you would like to raise for the meeting or items for the agenda please email secretary@internationalsocialistnetwork.org.

The deadline for the next internal bulletin is Friday 14 February. Please email submissions to secretary@internationalsocialistnetwork.org.

Any motions for the meeting please email to secretary@internationalsocialistnetwork.org. Please lay out your motions in a simple bullet point format.

We will be providing childcare on the day. Could volunteers for the creche please email secretary@internationalsocialistnetwork.org.

Add a comment

Secretary’s Conference Report

Secretary’s Conference Report

I have written a brief report regarding the organisation of the IS Network national meetings, based upon the experience of our recent Politics Conference, as well as drawing upon the lessons of our founding meeting and National General Meeting. This is by no means a definitive account, nor are any proposals contained set in stone; however, it is aimed to be a step towards a standard format and procedure for future meetings. The IS Network is itself a work in progress, and any systems and structures are, and should continue to be, under constant review. However, I believe an agreed-upon standard format is necessary in order to move away from organisation on the hoof, and also to set out parameters so that our democratic forums provide a space which is most conducive for political discussion. There were many issues raised during the conference itself and suggestions as to how to improve our meetings, most notably by the caucuses, but also by individuals. Other lessons became apparent in the course of organising the conference.

Add a comment

Read more: Secretary’s Conference Report

IS Network Politics Conference

As announced earlier this week, the IS Network’s Politics Conference has been rearranged to be on the weekend of Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 October, to take place in London. Details of the venue will be available soon.

Each day will start at 10am and finish at 5pm. We expect to have three or four sessions on each day, with breaks for refreshments and food. A more detailed timetable will be proposed by the conference arrangements committee and will be subject to approval or amendment by the conference itself.

CONFERENCE ARRANGEMENTS COMMITTEE

Alison L from the National Steering Committee is heading the conference arrangements committee and is looking for volunteers from among the wider membership to join her. The job of the conference arrangements committee is to propose the agenda to conference and to collate and manage the submissions from members to ensure that discussion pieces and motions are included in the relevant sessions. If you’d like to help Alison to organise the conference, please email internationalsocialistnetwork@gmail.com

CRÈCHE

We aim to provide a crèche facility. Please let us know as soon as possible if you think you may wish to take advantage of this. Please also let us know if you are able to help with organising and staffing a crèche by email to internationalsocialistnetwork@gmail.com

ACCOMMODATION

We will be doing our best to help match up comrades needing accommodation with comrades who have a spare room/sofa/floor space. Let us know on internationalsocialistnetwork@gmail.comasap if you need help or if you can offer space.

PRE-CONFERENCE BULLETINS

To facilitate as wide a pre-conference discussion as possible and to ensure the proceedings of the Politics Conference are determined by members, we are encouraging members to submit contributions to two pre-conference bulletins.

To give a little extra time compared to what was announced earlier this week, the deadline for the first bulletin is 5pm on Sunday 22 September. Contributions will be published by email to members and on the IS Network’s website by the end of Monday 23 September. The deadline for the second bulletin is 5pm on Sunday 13 October and these further contributions will be published by the end of Monday 14 October.

Types of contributions might include:

  • Agenda proposals – Which subjects should be covered, how many, how long should each session be?
  • Reports – What has worked well in your locality and what less so?
  • Position papers – What should be our attitude to developing initiatives on the left, and within the organisations of the class?
  • Motions – proposals for action by the IS Network or changes to how we work
  • Discussion documents – What is the IS Network for? How do we see the current terrain of class struggle, and what do we aim to do within it?
  • Conference procedure – How will each session be conducted and concluded?
  • Theoretical debate – How much of what we describe as ‘our tradition’ remains relevant, and what do we need to rethink?

The above are just a few of the examples which have occurred to us – your contribution can be on any subject and follow any approach. Pieces can be of any length – as short as you like, as long as you think people will read.

Send your contributions to secretary@internationalsocialistnetwork.org

The more contributions we receive before the first deadline of 5pm on Sunday 22 September, the more members will have to read, discuss and respond to in the second bulletin.

Get writing!

Steering Committee

IS Network

Minutes and Motions

MINUTES: Steering Committee face to face meeting 31 May 2014

Summary of main points:

  • IS Network members’ meeting on 3 August.  This meeting will agree a new constitution and a plan of action for the IS Network for the rest of the year.
  • 13 June is the deadline for the contributions to the first bulletin for the meeting.
  • We will then have a members’ meeting/conference towards the end of the year to adopt a new political statement/document.  The aim is to get the IS Network established with a clearer political identity.
  • On 2 August we are planning on having a London meeting on the topic of anti racism and anti fascism.

Agenda

  • Political discussion post-elections
  • Role of the SC and report-backs
  • Members’ meeting
  • Anti-fascist / anti-racist meeting
  • Women’s mag
  • Left Unity
  • Festival proposal

Political discussion post-elections

We discussed how UKIP did in the elections. UKIP didn’t do very well in the locals compared to the previous local election, though they did win several new councillors. However UKIP did do better in the European Election. Paris said that UKIP are not a fascist party but a militant Tory split. Where UKIP decline, the fascist parties could pick up support and this is their hope, as expressed at a recent BNP meeting.

Brian doesn’t think UKIP will last and will filter back in to the Tory party and agreed they’re not fascists or proto-fascists, but their base is in the lower middle class. However, UKIP did well in Wakefield, a small working class town so it might be worth having a strategy of confronting UKIP.

Javaad explained that the reason the UKIP vote may have been up in Rotherham may be because that is where children were taken from a foster family because they voted UKIP, so it could have been viewed as an attacked by a bureaucratic council on people’s democratic rights. Now that Britain First are organising, BME communities are under attack. We need a working class struggle against chauvinism. Wherever the BNP get in, attacks on BME people go up.

We discussed whether there should be a call for a Labour vote and there appeared to be consensus on the left where you can and Labour where you must, so in a Labour safe seat we should consider alternative left parties. There was concern that if the left does nothing, we could have a right wing government.

It was noted that the left did dismally in the locals and European elections – only one Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate managed to win a seat; however, he is ex-Labour, already rooted and known in the community. TUSC got only 31,000 votes in total in the Euro elections. TUSC are not making roots or building branches and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) aren’t really involved.

Some organisations on the left want to focus on setting up anti UKIP campaigning. Kris pointed out that being anti UKIP doesn’t really do anything in and of itself and we need to focus on building an alternative.

Simon said UKIP is imbued in a nationalist-chauvinist Britishness, that being anti-UKIP only makes sense in relation to Europe and the left won’t really be able to fight them until they have a confident position on Europe – and not by aping the nationalist demands the way that No2EU does. UKIP argue that they aren’t racist, they’re arguing for a fair points system, so the “anti-racist” arguments need to be more intelligent than the ones the left deployed against the BNP.

Jenny said we should be thinking about how immigration rules operate and pointed out the unfairness in the earning threshold in relation to partners moving to the country from outside the EU. Kat thinks we can win these arguments in Wales because most people wouldn’t be earning more than the threshold needed to bring a spouse in to the country. Immigration rules such as these keep families apart and children away from a parent.

The polls were close between Labour and the Tories, and Labour aren’t winning the arguments. There is a political crisis of the mainstream parties and Javaad pointed out that UKIP is a manifestation of the collapse of the Tories.

Luke placed UKIP as one expression of the long-term process of recomposition of the working class and the move from politics of distribution to politics of recognition. A recent article by Paul Mason tries to grapple with this in a flawed way, but it does identify the importance of culture and the ways in which racism is mediated. There is no direct line between cuts and racism for example.

Paris argued that the left needs to do long-term work in working class communities.

Simon and Javaad talked about a rightward shift after the elections, which has already started with comments from Ian Duncan Smith about wanting to lower the amount of time a tax paying migrant can claim unemployment benefits for.

UKIP did really well in Wales, only approximately 6000 votes behind Labour and coming 2nd in the European elections, getting approximately 200 thousand votes. UKIP got 10% of the vote in Scotland.

Role of the Steering Committee and report-backs

The points we think we should consider as an organisation are: After the current phase of regroupment talks what next for the IS Network? Are we just a network, a revolutionary current, a democratic centralist organisation? Should we recruit? Should we continue as an organisation?

The points we should consider as the SC: How do we organise as a committee? Encouraging members to organise themselves. Making political decisions and our mandate.

Simon thinks there is value in keeping the network going, that there is quality in our ideas, so therefore the network is still useful.  However, we ought to review the constitution, which is based on branches because our branches are weak and we operate more as a network. Left Unity (LU) is the only organisation on the left which is growing at the moment, so we should look at ways we can contribute to LU.

Javaad said that Leeds/Bradford have a meeting on Tuesday and they are inviting non-members and thinks that the IS Network has the potential to be the organisation you can get colleagues along to from work. Javaad wants to pull the organisation in to branches and getting the network more organised. We should have a strategy of working in LU and other organisations such as The Old Swan.

Paris argued that we’re the libertarian socialist strand of the left. We’re asking the right questions, even if we’re not answering them. Paris suggested putting on meetings with other groups. We need a strategy, educational, programmatic debate and clarity of ideas. The IS Network are the main organised group in the Anti Fascist Network (AFN) and helped set it up in the first place.

Jenny asked how we’re going to take the organisation forward. Jenny thinks that the democratic centralist model is not a relevant model going forward and that rs21 are making a mistake using this model and that they are going in the wrong direction.

Simon thinks the IS Network needs a political identity. We have some insights and good ideas, but not an overarching strategy for the left. Over the next few months we should have discussion groups and a codification of what socialist should be saying and doing. One of the lessons of the ACI was that it lacked coherent leadership and ideas; they should have spent more time trying to forge distinct libertarian Marxist tradition. A manifesto for the IS Network could cohere the organisation and provide a more solid framework to go forward.

Luke pointed out that some of the initial focal points of the ISN such as democracy and liberation have been ‘mainstreamed’ to some degree on the left. A good focus would be looking at social movements and questions of form/content around these alongside the tendency toward regionalism, separatism and nationalism. In Liverpool we saw the ISN as a space to discuss certain key questions while getting involved in existing campaigns, although we were unable to maintain this.

Kris thinks we need to just do more stuff as an organisation and not just talk about it. Kris does not think the SC has a better handle on anti-fascism and anti-racism that the rest of the network so does not think we need to take a lead on it.

Paris stated that if the SC dissolved the network would cease to exist so as the leadership we have to do stuff and coordinate stuff.

Simon thinks we need a political leadership. The leadership needs to coordinate otherwise the branches will just be doing their own thing.

Javaad suggested having strategic discussions. When people stand for election they do so on their politics which will give the SC the mandate to lead politically.

Kris said realistically we don’t have contested elections and there has only really been one since the network’s inception.

Simon thinks the leadership body is quite weak. We need a political organisation, we should move towards a political organisation. We don’t have what most groups would consider cadre to push the organisation forward.

Brian said the network is united by a minimum number of things; we need to define ourselves and need political work to tell people what the network is for. We need room for disagreement, so should define our programme and emphasis disagreements around it.

Action

SC – Build another conference later in the year. August members meeting should produce a draft plan for the October conference, with a political and strategic document. What we want to bring to the left and a 3-4 month plan, voted on at conference.

Simon and Kris – to draft a provisional Constitution for the network which reflects the state we’re in now.

Javaad and Paris – to contact branches to discuss educationals and attending the next members’ meeting.

Members’ meeting

We agreed the first bulletin should be out by 14 June and final contributions should be submitted by 13 June, for the 3 August members meeting. We agreed that two members of the SC will contact members to let them know about the first bulletin deadline. We agreed to submit a report of work carried out on the SC to the national members meeting.

Action

Brian – Will submit a report on the Ecosocialism conference and a piece on unity.

Paris and Javaad – Will contact members for contributions to the bulletin.

Javaad – Will submit a piece on IS Network / AFN work and a report on the IS Network SC.

Jenny – Will submit the finance report.

Kat – Will submit a piece on immigration and campaigns.

Kris – Will submit a piece on regroupment.

Paris – Will submit a piece on the state of the British fascist movement.

Simon – Will submit a piece on the Labour Party.

Kat and Simon will coordinate the bulletin.

We have a provisional venue but no crèche.

Anti-fascist / anti-racist meeting

We talked about who we should invite to the meeting. Some of us thought that the meeting should be mainly about anti-racism and partly about anti-fascism.

We debated three options in terms of who should be invited to the meeting:

  • Regroupment conference
  • Public meeting
  • IS Network meeting

Javaad argued that an anti-fascist meeting is pertinent to the work of the IS Network.

Kat thought that the meeting was going to be anti-fascist and expressed that an anti-racist meeting is an entirely different meeting. Kat suggested inviting No Borders campaign groups and anti-detention groups to participate in an anti-racist meeting, because we should look at anti-racism in the context of immigration now that immigrants are going to be targeted as a result of rightward shift in public opinion.

Simon thinks we should have the meeting focused 80% on anti-racism and 20% on anti-fascism.

Jenny identified that BME groups and refugees can very often be too afraid to get involved in politics.

Action

Voted on whether to have the meeting as an anti-racist or an anti-fascist meeting and the room was split so we agreed to have an anti-racist and an anti-fascist meeting to be held on 2 August.

Javaad will contact Tim N to discuss and organise the meeting.

Women’s Mag

The editorial meeting is on 21 June.

Joana R has written a proposal for the way forward as an editorial group.

Kat advised that the editorial group will have to decide the next steps and we will be reporting back.

Simon thinks the women’s mag could do with a statement and consider class as part of the publication’s focus, and also that the women’s mag could do with a new name.

Kat advised we will discuss these things at the editorial meeting.

Left Unity

Simon advised the Left Unity National Council meeting is on the 7 and 8 June. There are several issues we need to discuss and we need a strategy policy.

Kat said there are issues with the way the women’s caucus operates.

Jenny said that complaints have to be handled carefully.

Paris suggested having an action programme to rally people around.

Simon posed the question how do we differentiate ourselves from the Greens. Yes, socialism and freedom of movement, but what else? Left Unity have explicitly stated we are a socialist organisation and we have passed a no borders policy, but in election terms what difference does that make?

We discussed elections and some thought that LU shouldn’t be an electoral party and we all agreed this shouldn’t be our main focus. We would like to see LU become a grassroots campaign party, rooted in communities, that stands in elections as a component of its strategy but not the culmination of its strategy.

Paris said that political methodology is central. We need to be active and mobilise people and should focus on a few constituencies to stand in. Paris wanted to know whether the Leeds issue will be raised at the NC.

Simon’s not clear about whether Leeds will be mentioned.

We have an LU left meeting on 1 June.

Regroupment

We discussed the meaning of ‘joint work’, it was unclear to some on the SC what this means in practice. It was implied in the letter from rs21 that they would consider doing joint work. rs21 are in the situation of their members drifting off if they engage in joint work. However, the IS Network and rs21 are doing joint work on the ground anyway.

Javaad argued that regroupment should be wider than just the 4 groups. We should have a conference with various communists groups putting in motions. We should regroup to the left and do practical joint work.

Simon pointed out that the Anarchist Federation (AFed), Plan C and Solidarity Federation (SolFed) are not interested in regroupment or a united organisation.  We should focus on concrete things happening now, such as the possibility of LU merging with the NHS party. SolFed have argued that the left should not unite, just the class and that fragmentation is natural.

Paris said we should work with groups such as AFed in our local areas.

Javaad argued we should have a communist parliament and re-organise the whole communist left in Britain.

Simon argued that this would not work.

Javaad argued that the re-organisation of the communist left will get us all talking and this will be a beneficial process.

Action

Kris will put together a balance sheet of regroupment so far.

Festival

We discussed how the festival will be different to other festivals past and present. We reflected on festivals such as the SWP’s Skegness and Marxism and Counterfire’s Dangerous Ideas. Javaad pointed out that Lawrie C has talked about putting on a festival in the North-East of England. We considered an autumn festival but then camping would be out of the question (not necessarily a bad thing).

Action

Javaad will look into the possibility of having a North-East of England festival.

Meeting closed

Add a comment

IS Network steering committee teleconference minutes (12-v-2014)

Agenda:

  1. Next national members’ meeting
  2. Progress on further regroupment proposals
  3. SC representation from other areas
  4. Reports
  5. Anti-fascist work
  6. AOB

1) Next national members’ meeting

Given the previous decision to invite other organisations to a second one-day unity conference on 2nd of August, and the previous decision that a national meeting requires a good deal of notice, Kris S argued that Saturday 30th of August was the next realistic date available.

Rich T proposed looking again at the calendar to see if there was any way of bringing this date forward. Kris S & Rich T to discuss prior to a date’s being announced.

Javaad A proposed that a social should be part of any NMM planning and that was agreed

2) Progress on further regroupment proposals

In response to the invitation sent to other organisations for a further one-day unity conference in August, Kris S reported back on a brief reply from rs21 explaining they need to discuss further within their Steering Group, and a reply from SR which seemed to object to our unity bulletin proposals’ being pursued before a further small meeting of the various groups’ representatives.

It was agreed to await further response from rs21.

3) SC representation from other areas

Kris S reported no progress on getting a rep from the northeast.

Javaad A has been in touch with the new members dual-carding with the International Socialist League, some of whom are based in London and are planning to get involved in London IS network activity. It would be particularly welcome if women members get involved and possibly stand as woman rep from London.

4) Reports

Steve Hedley / TUSC / RMT: Kat B reported back on the Hedley petition. Over 250 signatures and other high-profile women in the movement being approached. Election is on 22nd of May so the petition needs to be sent off to TUSC within the next few days, to give them a chance to consider and respond to the petition.

Alison L reported back on the activists’ meeting about Steve Hedley, in London. During the meeting an activist reported that there are RMT members who feel too intimidated to come forward with their concerns about the issue within the union. The activists’ group will meet again in a month, by which time it will be the RMT general secretary election will be closer.

Women’s publication: There is a face-to-face women’s publication editorial meeting planned for London on the weekend of 21st/22nd of June.

Branch and Membership: Javaad A has been in contact with new members – as reported there are about 5 ISL members joining us. The full ringround of members on the contact list has also started.

5) Anti-fascist work

It was a bad weekend for anti-fascists, with the EDL outnumbering our side in Rotherham and Britain First fascists & loyalists intimidating people at various mosques in Bradford. Javaad A reported that Leeds/Bradford branch will be discussing a proposal to initiate activity in Bradford in response.

Rich T and Javaad A discussed differing approaches to anti-fascist work, and agreed to take the discussion into the membership and to write pieces for the IS Network bulletin. Javaad A also reported that there has been a proposal for a regional stewarding meeting in the north and another proposal for a national meeting of anti-fascists. Javaad to update further.

6) AOB

rs21 event: rs21 is running a workplace activist training day on Saturday, some Network members will be going. rs21 organisers have made clear that IS Network members are welcome.

World Cup meeting: IS Network London and rs21 North London are planning a meeting on the politics of the World Cup in Brazil with Mike Marqusee

Facebook: We have the intersectionality pinboard up and running on Facebook.

IS Network Steering Committee teleconference minutes (06-v-2014)

Agenda:

  1. Proposal for next one-day unity conference
  2. Reports back from departments
  3. Ukraine
  4. Steve Hedley
  5. AOB

1) Proposal for next one-day unity conference

Kris S: put forward a number of suggestions to be proposed to other groups involved in the unity process:

A day on feminism and women’s liberation (women’s caucuses could form joint working group to plan how the day works.) – Use intersectionality as a prism through which to conduct the day. – Day event on rebuilding trade unions and working class organisation and infrastructure. We discussed having a series of day events.

Luke S pointed out we need more discussion oriented toward wider questions of class composition, social movements, neoliberalism, the kinds of discussions taking place by groups like Plan C et al… ‘nature of the period’ in rs21 parlance. Issues relating to gender and the trade unions will naturally form part of these discussions.

It was suggested that the topic of ‘housing’ should be considered as a day event.

2) Report backs:

Branch and Membership: Javaad A has taken responsibility for branch and membership and will be working on the membership lists, with a view to contact people on the list and establish whether our contacts are actually members, whether they are paying subs and whether they are in a branch etc.

Treasurer: Jenny updated us about the bank account. Bank account should be put in to the treasurer’s name in about a week.

Publications: Luke reported back that he is taking primary responsibility at the moment. There is a need to reconstitute the pubs team and make it more constitutional in terms of gender balance. We discussed the issues that may be involved in commissioning articles at the moment, particularly from our unity partners. We need to be careful about what we publish in relation to topics such as the Ukraine, consulting members as much as possible. We still need a report back from publications, as discussed after the conference. Luke will look to get more members of the publication involved in a publication report and will also look to produce a short blurb outlining pubs group to members, highlighting contact email, the members on the publications group, invites for contributions and reports etc.

Unity talks: International Socialist League members want to join the ISN as individuals. We should publish things on the site that they are involved in like the local anti cuts election campaign (Old Swan Against the Cuts). We considered whether ISL members would get a representative on the SC. Clarified it would be good to have someone on the SC, but there is only a regional position in London for a woman member at this time. ISL members are welcome to stand as regional reps. There is a meeting in London this month where women members are encouraged to stand for the regional rep position.

Action: Luke will write a short blurb inviting contributions for the website.

3) Ukraine:

We held one meeting in London, published a couple of articles on the site. WP sent us their petition asking us to sign it. ISN has not signed it as a group yet, though individuals have signed it.

Simon H: recommended attending upcoming SR meeting on Ukraine. It is hard to know what is happening on the ground in the Ukraine so best thing is to write an article updating Tim’s analysis reaffirming certain principles about the situation.

Kat B: Individuals can write articles about it for the site, as long as we make it clear these are individual perspectives and not that of the ISN. Kris: We should ask Tim and Luke S to write a piece for the website with links to different viewpoints and a brief explanation (neutral if possible) encouraging people to read as much as they can around it.

Action: Luke S to approach Tim N to help write a brief explanation encouraging people to read as much as possible about the Ukraine.

4) Steve Hedley We discussed the Evening Standard piece about Hedley being a communist holding a gun and standing next to Bob Crow, big red baiting article. Question is why haven’t they mentioned about the allegations of domestic violence? www.standard.co.uk/news/transport/the-wouldbe-next-bob-crow-who-revels-in-bringing-london-to-a-standstill-9325940.html. There is no reason we could think of that the national press aren’t running a story about the abuse allegations against Steve Hedley.

The women’s caucus reported back that a targeted letter has been produced to send to people on the left to get them to sign it. It was discussed whether we should approach the RMT’s women’s committee. However, concerns were raised that women in the RMT may be under a lot of pressure about this issue. We will be looking to approach more people in the RMT.

Action: Kat will contact the Women’s pubs group and the caucus regarding the petition etc.

IS Network

Donations and Payments

Donations and payments

Why We Need the Money: In a word “capitalism”. Until we win (and some ‘theoreticians’ might argue for a very short while after, but let’s not start all that here…) we need funds to support the Network’s regular and one-off activities.

The various online activities (hosting web sites, digital plumbing work and infrastructure) all cost us along with producing print-based materials (such as our forthcoming journal). We also produce leaflets, posters and pamphlets and of course need cash for venue bookings and, on occasion, to help comrades with travel costs.

We’ve done away with fixed ratios and subs levels in favour of a more realistic call on our members to “pay what they can afford”.

Having a regular income level means that we can plan ahead and do more with the limited funds we receive so if you can afford to make a regular commitment that’s by far the preferred option for supporting us. IS Network members receive regular reports on where we spend our money and there is are multiple arenas for raising questions and having them answered with regard to the group’s finances.

Thanks for your support.

If you can make a one-off payment then please click here.

If you are an IS Network member or you want to support the Network with regular donations then please complete the Direct Debit form here:

NB. Once you’ve given us a Direct Debit mandate (by clicking the button above) our Treasurer will be in touch to set up the amount, frequency and your preferred date for ongoing contributions.

We’re up and running!

The IS Network was able to pull together hundreds of revolutionary socialists in barely a fortnight. In a matter of weeks we were able to create a discussion forum, this web site, hold our first national meeting (with a host of international delegates), draft a constitution, elect working groups and begin the task of recreating a genuinely open, democratic and activist-led IS across the country.

No one would have chosen the particular circumstances that led to the IS Network’s formation but the first thing we discovered is that there is a great deal of enthusiasm for breaking with top-down, bureaucratic methods of organising within and debating the issues vital to the growth of our movement. We have big plans, starting with a range of public meetings across the country, coming very soon. We are keen to start work connecting with activists and trade unionists in the fight against austerity, and ambition isn’t something our supporters lack. Money, however, is.

We’ll be holding regional meetings in the coming weeks and we want to continue producing leaflets, pamphlets, posters, badges, books, e-books… the entire set of tools you’d expect from an organisation that doesn’t separate theory (for the ‘experts’) from practice (the ‘do-ers’). So if you’re broadly supportive of our aims then we’d ask for two things: To join us, and/or make a donation.

Soon we’ll be offering suggested contributions for those who want to be IS Network members, according to income. We’ll be offering subscriptions to our publications. But we need help to get started.

No amount is too small – or too big. If you’re in a position to help build a democratic, non-sectarian socialist movement, committed to women’s liberation, anti-racism, and the fight against environmental degradation, please consider donating what you can. Thank you.

“There’s never been a better time to be a revolutionary socialist!” (Lenin-ish)

If you can make a one-off payment then please click on the Paypal button [here]

IS Network

Join Us

Join the IS Network

If you want to join the IS Network then please email the Network Secretary and we’ll get in touch to let you know about local contacts and what’s planned and happening near you. If you’re outside the UK and want to support us then please email the International Secretary.

Caucuses

Review: Strike for America: Chicago Teachers Against Austerity

Strike for America: Chicago Teachers Against Austerity by Micah Uetricht
Published by Jacobin/Verso 2014
Review by Simon Hardy

Read this book, I can’t recommend it enough. In fact, every trade unionist and socialist worth their salt should read this book. It tells the story of how a rank and file caucus in the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) won the leadership of the union, then led it in an all out strike in 2012 against budget cuts and attacks on terms and conditions that lasted 10 days before achieving significant victories. What makes this feat pretty amazing is that they went from a meeting of 5 people to leading an all out strike in less than 5 years, and the union itself hadn’t had a strike since 1987.

When the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) was set up it was largely due to the defeats of previous attempts by the left to win the leadership and transform the union. Notably, after a disastrous “left” leadership in 2001-04 when Debbie Lynch signed a terrible deal with the Chicago Board of Education and then tried to sell it to union members as a “left” victory. The return of the old conservative leadership who were unwilling to do anything about school privatisations, closures and endemic racism across the city against young black students led to the formation of CORE, a rank and file initiative that hoped to learn the lessons of previous defeats. They started off as a small reading group discussing The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, within a few months they had pulled together a network of activists across the city who wanted to do something about the destruction of public education in the city.

When they won the leadership elections in 2010, CORE members set about transforming the union from top to bottom, turning it from a typical top down ‘negotiation and services union’ into a fighting union that coordinated actions from the bottom up. How did they do this?

  • When they won the leadership they put every elected official of the union and organiser on the average teachers salary in the city.
  • They reallocated resources from office based departments to activism, getting full timers out alongside members in schools to build joint meetings with parents and teachers about the attacks coming from the Democratic Party mayor (Obama’s right hand man Rahm Emanuel).
  • They held readers group for their organisers, discussing key texts from the history of militant trade unionism like Farrell Dobbs’ Teamsters Rebellion.
  • They politicised the strike (as much as they could within the limits of the anti-union ordinance of the city) and made sure that the members were engaged and driving the action forward.
  • As soon as they were elected they prepared for their strike which happened two years later – they knew if they stuck to their convictions it would lead them into a headlong confrontation with the Mayors office and the board of education and they made plans for it from the start.
  • When they were offered a renegotiated contract after a week of strike action they didn’t agree it, they made sure every CTU member had a copy and read it and discussed it at their daily delegate meeting which ran the strike before anything was agreed.

The important lesson here is that they didn’t just win the leadership, they used that position to transform union democracy from top to bottom. They didn’t want to end up like Lynch, well meaning but trapped in the bureaucracy with no way out who ends up betraying her principles. How many times has this happened in our trade unions? Whilst the outcome was not a total victory, some concessions were won by the bosses, the ultimate feeling of the strikers was that the strike achieved its goals, because the members were mobilised, empowered and they forged bonds with local parents and community groups which turned around years of anti-teacher rhetoric from the media and the Democratic Party. it is very hard to win an outright victory in an age of austerity, but what the CTU showed is that you can hold back the tide and even win some victories, for instance they defeated an attempt to remove the cap on class sizes and they won higher classroom budgets.

The book is well written by Uetricht, it has a clear and accessible style and he carefully balances the political side of it with sometimes funny anecdotes (my favourite being about the first pamphlet that CORE issued with a disastrous typo on the front page) and really shows the tremendous solidarity that the people of Chicago had in support of the teachers strike. It is actually quite an emotional read, considering how working and poor people rallied to the teachers dispute years of teacher bashing and right wing propaganda in the press. It shows you what can be done with a rank and file movement that has a clear strategy and fights to win, knowing how to combine leading a union with grassroots activism by the members.

Clearly not every strike strategy can be replicated in every other place – but the CTU strike is rich with lessons which at the very least can inspire trade unionists that these kind of actions are possible. That the CORE led union managed to get a 90% turn out with a 92% yes vote for strike action demonstrates that they must have done something right to engage members and win the argument for action. The CTU strike of 2012 is an inspiration that we should all look to.