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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kris will put together a balance sheet of regroupment so far.
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).
Javaad will look into the possibility of having a North-East of England festival.
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IS Network steering committee teleconference minutes (12-v-2014)
- Next national members’ meeting
- Progress on further regroupment proposals
- SC representation from other areas
- Anti-fascist work
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.
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.
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)
- Proposal for next one-day unity conference
- Reports back from departments
- Steve Hedley
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.
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.