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John Riddell: Democracy in Lenin's Comintern

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Richard Atkinson: Death and the Bedroom Tax

Dave Renton: Who Was Blair Peach?

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Bunny La Roche: Nasty Little Nigel gets a rude welcome to Kent

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Financial Appeal

We're up and running! An appeal for funds to kickstart the IS Network

Financial Appeal

Bristol IS Network: The paid worker debate - a proposal

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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 L, Keith F, China M and 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.

 

Politically, the role that a paid worker would play seems confused and contradictory. On the one hand, it is suggested that the role would be “apolitical”; on the other the possibility of them being elected is floated. The comrades in favour of a paid employee do not seem to understand what the objections are. We maintain that administrative and organisational tasks are by their very nature political, but having an elected worker is no solution. It is democratic on a superficial level only. To give members the chance to elect a worker is fine; to give members the chance to decide what tasks need to be done, delegate those tasks amongst themselves and then carry them out for themselves, with thorough discussion at every stage, is far more democratic and also develops within the membership the skills and relationships for the network to function as such.

Moreover, and most importantly, the decision to appoint a worker would in itself be a political act. Frankly, when a large section of the membership feel they are not being communicated with properly, when they are relatively inactive (and not necessarily through choice), when they feel disconnected from their own organisation, to employ someone to carry out admin is a quick fix. It is a substitution for actually going about the task of cadreising your own membership. It is substitutionism, pure and simple.

It is suggested that “at the end of the agreed period, the committee should commit to examining the results of the experiment, with a view either to declaring it a success, and repeating it (employing the same, or another, member for another fixed period), or declaring it a failure, and returning to an entirely voluntary model of organisation”. To say this while mocking those of us who fear the possibility of creating a layer of bureaucrats is absurd. On what basis will this so-called experiment be judged a “success” or not? It is our contention that if the IS Network employed somebody, it would no doubt be better organised in six weeks’ time than it is now, or would be if we carried on as we are. However, if we as an organisation actually go about the job of involving each and every member in a thoroughly democratic way, it may be six months before we have that same level of organisation, but alongside that we will also have developed a stronger, more confident cadre.

For the time being, yes, there are specific tasks that need to be carried out. And so we suggest a proposal should be put before the Network, discussed, voted on, for these tasks to be carried out by members voluntarily.

We suggest a campaign within the Network for comrades to elect the following officers at branch level:

  • Secretary: responsible for collating local membership lists and coordinating other officers and liaising with the SC (most time-consuming);
  • Meetings organiser: books room, ensures flyers/posters get made (max 3hrs a week), ensures provision for members with childcare/disability requirements as best the branch can;
  • Treasurers: takes care of local funds and ensures that subs info is passed to the SC.

These officers will, we hope, allow the branches to develop organically, with a local identity and autonomy so people can own the organisation and actually do the most important bit which is to organise action and discussion locally. If a group of comrades can’t, for whatever reason, complete this task, then this should be seen as being that the objective conditions do not exist for a branch in that region and members should be invited to join the nearest local functioning branch. Once branches become to large/cumbersome they can obviously create and foster the development of a new branch. Comrades, these are not new proposals or new strategies; frankly this has been our bread and butter for years, which gives us the confidence that it can succeed.

To supplement this, it is suggested that a phone tree is developed between secretaries to foster lateral support, solidarity and mutual aid in the development of branches across the country.

National tasks will of course be the responsibility of the SC but hopefully the local organisation can take sufficient weight from their shoulders that these comrades can take them on and distribute their organisation through the network.

This won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick. But it will mean actually involving the membership in the day-to-day running of our own organisation. It will mean developing us all as revolutionaries. Because if we can’t do these basic things, we might as well just pack up and go home.

Gethin B
Graham B
Sam B
Ashleigh F
Matt H
Simon K
Andy L
Tim M
Toni M
Rob M
Aamna M
Jamie P
Will Q
Ciara S

If you would like to add your name in support of this proposal please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..