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

A view of the national members' meeting from some members of the women’s caucus

This report is additional to the minutes of the national members' meeting which can be downloaded here

The meeting of the women’s caucus was very positive, with approximately ten of us in attendance. The main proposal which was agreed by the caucus was to hold a national women’s caucus meeting, inviting all members of the Network who identify as women, to be held between now and Christmas. We all agreed that caucus meetings of 20 minutes at National Meetings did not give adequate time and space to develop a meaningful discussion about the many manifestations of sexism that we face and are resisting– such as our experiences of sexism at work, at home, in our communities, in our campaigning and in our own organisation. More than this, one of the main areas we felt that we wanted to develop much more systematically in the Network was our theorisation about women’s oppression and about socialist feminism. We felt that it was no longer adequate to just talk about organisational methods to combat any sexism in the Network, important as these are, but that we needed to more thoroughly develop and discuss theories about women’s liberation, and how these theories intersect not only with racism, homophobia and transphobia but also how they fit (or perhaps don’t fit) with other feminist theories, and with a Marxist analysis and class politics. One of us reported that the day-long trans-liberation meeting had afforded the space to develop a meaningful discussion of trans issues in a safe environment. We felt a day-long event could both help to increase women’s participation in the Network, and also provide the time and space to discuss theoretical issues, and to develop ideas and discussions which could eventually be turned into articles for the website or into pamphlets.  We reported this back to the whole meeting, and there was a general agreement that a day’s women’s meeting was a good idea, and it was agreed to set a date for this later in the meeting. Unfortunately, this never happened – and we think that it should be seen as a priority for the date to be agreed as soon as possible and for the Network as a whole to support the organisation of the meeting.  It was very positive, however, that the meeting of those who do not identify as women discussed the question of socialist-feminism which was put to them by the women’s caucus and showed a willingness to support as far as possible, the further development of the Women’s magazine, which the meeting agreed needed to be developed and supported further.

We were pleased that there were more women present at this national members' meeting than there had been at the two previous meetings, and pleased that women contributed to the important discussions about the future structures, organisation and politics of the Network. However, we also had some criticisms of the way the meeting was conducted, and some of us felt that there seemed to be less effort made to make the meeting inclusive and to encourage women to participate on a truly equal basis. We don’t think that this was deliberate, and we are not blaming any individuals – but rather we think it shows the need to be constantly vigilant about how are meetings are conducted, and that we must be very aware of how easy it is to fall back into bad habits. We were disappointed, for example, that there were no women chairing any of the sessions. There also seemed to be no prioritisation of female speakers and there was no encouragement for women to contribute to the discussions. This was especially the case in the afternoon sessions of the meeting – particularly in the sessions on Left Unity, Scotland and the EU. Discussion was often slow to start with, so speakers – usually men – were allowed to speak for long periods, with the time allowed for contributions only curtailed towards the end of discussions. We realise this happens because people often need time to decide what to say or for the debate to take-off. But this particularly disadvantages female speakers, who are often more likely to speak later in the debates, especially if they are feeling unconfident. This meant the meeting heard long speeches from men in the Network, and many of the women’s contributions were time limited. We suggest that in the future more attention is given to time limiting all contributions from the beginning, and especially to a more pro-active encouragement of women, and other less confident, speakers. We should consider doing our meetings a bit differently – for example, holding a “snake” discussion that goes around the room, allowing for everyone to speak for two minutes (with the right to not take your turn if you don’t want to contribute). We feel this would create a less male dominated meeting and a more inclusive atmosphere. We feel it would make the report backs from the caucuses feel less tokenistic by putting our liberation politics into practice.

We were also disappointed that the 50% quota of women on the Steering Committee was not met. Of course, we realise that this is itself a consequence of women’s oppression, where many women members of the Network do not have the time, energy or confidence to commit to being on the Committee. But we would urge that the new SC makes a call out to women members to be co-opted on to the Committee, and to take part in the Working Groups. We think this would signal our intentions to make women’s involvement in the Network a priority. We know that Network members are committed to furthering women’s liberation and women’s involvement, and we hope that this report and our suggestions here will help to make this commitment more visible in both the organisation and the politics and theorisation of Network members. 

Women's Caucus: We want a women's mag

Dear Friends and Comrades

We are writing to invite you to participate in the setting up of a new women's liberation magazine, and would like to invite you to our initial meeting in central London on Saturday 18 January Goldsmiths University rm. Richard Hoggart Building, Room 307 from 12 to 6pm on Saturday 18th January. Please see link below.

Please feel free to share this, and invite others.

The idea for the magazine first stemmed from discussions in the women's caucus of the International Socialist Network, and with wider discussions with other women in the movement.

Although the idea was initially inspired by discussions about the role and content of the SWP's Women's Voice from the 1970s and early 1980s, this magazine is not intended to replicate Women's Voice and nor is it intended to be the magazine of one organisation. Rather we are aiming to involve a wide-range of organisations and individuals in writing for the magazine, and also in editorial decisions and in the production of the magazine.

We have copied below our initial statement of intent about the magazine, which was agreed by the women's caucus of the ISN. This statement is not set in stone, but was written to form the basis of an open discussion. The precise form, content and style of the magazine, including its name, will be up for discussion at the launch meeting on 18 January.

Statement of Intent:

• Editorial decisions will be taken by an editorial board of women, elected at the launch meeting in January, accountable to the groups and individuals supporting the publication.

• From a leftist perspective

• Multi- party, including women from an assortment of different backgrounds

• As accessible as possible

•The content will mainly be written by women, but we will also welcome contributions from people who do not identify as women or who experience other forms of oppression.

• Diverse - a mix of theory and day-to-day life, including reports, reviews, artwork... anything a woman wants to produce and express

We do hope that you will choose to get involved in this project. We have had many positive responses from a wide-range of women on the left, and believe that such a magazine could not only make an invaluable contribution to debates on the left, but could also connect with an audience beyond existing left groups.

If you are interested in coming to the meeting, please do let us know by emailing the address below. Similarly if you would like some more information, or to chat to one of us, then do get in touch.

If you are bringing children, please also let us know on the gmail address below so we have an idea of numbers. We will cater for children at the event.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In comradeship,

Women's Caucus of the International Socialist Network

How to find Goldsmiths:

2013-11-06: Women’s Caucus Teleconference Report

The women’s caucus teleconference meeting, held on the evening of the 6th November, was well attended, by women comrades from all over the country, which was great to see. Unfortunately we had technical issues, so 4 of our comrades had to pull out of the meeting early, which was problematic because at least one of the comrades was there specifically to contribute to the women’s publication section. I noticed a good balance between young students and older and more experienced comrades.

A large part of the meeting was taken up by the women’s publication and organising our next women’s caucus meeting in Sheffield. There were some brilliant and creative ideas flying around in relation to the publication, Magpie had offered her expertise in advance, offering to copy edit and coach less experienced writers, which I’m sure will be extremely useful and ensures fairness.

Read more: 2013-11-06: Women’s Caucus Teleconference Report