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9 Jun 2013: National Mtg Minutes

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International Socialist Network National General Meeting

Sunday 9 June 2013
Start time: 12:00
Attendance: 50

Session 1: Left Unity and Revolutionary Realignment

IS NetworkChair: Toni M
Start time: 12:00

  • The agenda was proposed and PASSED.
  • It was requested that nominations for the Steering Committee be submitted to the Secretary, to be voted upon at the end of the third session.
  • The chair proposed that two observers, one from the Anti-Capitalist Initiative and one from Workers Power, be invited in. This was PASSED.
  • A greeting was read out on behalf of the Workers International Network.
  • The current discussions between the IS Network, the Anti-Capitalist Initiative and Socialist Resistance were debated. There had been one meeting between representatives of the three organisations, as outlined in the report. It was questioned why there had been no timetable for formal merger agreed- was this because a timetable was proposed and rejected? It was explained that people at the first meeting had very different ideas about what timescale was desirable, and no decision was made. Some concern was raised that realignment was happening too fast, before the Network has had time to properly establish itself.
  • Joint work currently taking place between IS Network members, the International Socialist Group, the September 15th Group and Scottish Socialist Party members in Edinburgh was described, including a joint meeting of 27 people and joint activity in the Radical Independence Campaign.
  • The provisional decision to refuse talks with the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Alliance for Workers Liberty was discussed. The decision not to send a speaker to the CPGB event, the Communist University, was debated.
  • It was argued we needed to clarify which groups we are looking to unite with and why. Some argued that only those organisations which share similar aims to the IS Network should be engaged with formally. It was also suggested that our approach to CPGB should be less negative than towards the AWL, even if we reject talks.
  • The first national meeting of Left Unity was reported back on by some who attended. The meeting had voted to look to launch a new left party in November. Local groups are already in the process of founding a new political party from the bottom up; each local group is deciding procedure and politics for itself. It was argued that we need to set out in more detail what we see the Network’s role being in Left Unity, and how we will organise within it.
  • Local Left Unity activity was reported back from Waltham Forest and Cardiff.
  • Greetings from the ACI were delivered by their observer, who argued for the need for a new, heterodox, revolutionary organisation; the ultimate aim being to liquidate into each other.
  • Greetings from Workers Power were delivered by their observer, who emphasised the need for a revolutionary party, and the need to question what sort of organisation we wanted Left Unity to be.
  • Our relationship towards those who had no interest in any kind of party, such as anarchists, was raised, and it was argued that we need to work with them too.

Move to Vote

  1. Proposal to continue talks with the ACI and Socialist Resistance - PASSED.
  2. Proposal to support Workers Power’s request to join the talks with ACI and Socialist Resistance - PASSED.
  3. Proposal to ratify rejection of talks with the AWL and the CPGB - PASSED.
  4. Proposal to overturn the decision of the Steering Committee and to accept the invitation to send a speaker to the Communist University - PASSED.

Session 2: Perspectives and the Movement- Reports Back from Caucuses and Activity in the Localities

Chair: Kris S
Start time: 13:45

  • A political day school hosted by the TSSA union was reported back from, and the importance of community trade unionism was emphasised. The question of whether socialists should be looking into working more in social projects was raised. This work could be done with anarchists and others.
  • The question of how we orientate towards the opposition still inside the SWP was raised. Although some members believe it is not helpful to intervene in the business of the internal opposition, this may have to change. 350 members have left since May; there is now a steady drip of membership. Opposition within the SWP is divided over the way forward. An open letter and an intervention at Marxism were suggested. A fringe meeting at Marxism was suggested.
  • The question of more international work was raised, suggested that we send a delegation to La Fête de l'Huma festival in France. It was pointed out that we have a number of international members, but these links need building on. Our relationship with the ISO was raised as something which needs further discussion.
  • The question of UAF was raised, and the limitations of their current strategy. In many areas, the UAF and SWP were reported to have been a conservative force. Suggestion that we look to other anti-fascist groups as well as working in UAF, and orientate ourselves towards mass direct-action. The role of UAF in Sheffield was discussed. Although UAF had been central in building the demonstration, they had attempted to block confrontation with the EDL in favour of a Multi-Cultural Festival away from the fascist demonstration. Rev Soc was part of a breakaway which attempted to confront the fascists.
  • There was a report of the development of Bristol Socialist Caucus and Red Roots from a Bristol delegate.
  • There was a report of joint work with Socialist Resistance and the Anti-Capitalist Initiative, and anti-fascist work in Brighton.
  • There was a report back from the Women’s Caucus. Aamna M was elected as Women’s Rep to the Steering Committee. An email discussion group is being set up, and there was a discussion about setting up a working group to discuss a disputes process, which it was agreed can’t be rushed into. It was suggested the disputes panel should have a representative from every caucus. Constitutional proposals from the Caucus were to be passed to the Secretary to be voted on in the third session.
  • The document “What Can We Do To Strengthen Working Class Consciousness and Organisation? Some Proposals” was raised and discussed. It was argued that the IS Network needs something to offer, beyond support for Left Unity and revolutionary realignment, and we should start with the working class. We can’t ourselves change the weaknesses in the class, but we can re-orientate ourselves. The proposals in the document were debated. There was a suggestion for an UKUncut-style action against bad employers, and looking into a unionisation campaign. There was a suggestion for a public meeting on the working class and unions.
  • There was a report back from the Disabled Caucus. The meeting wasn’t big enough to elect a rep for the Steering Committee, but this may be done online. It was argued that the left does not do enough around disability, and this needs to be addressed by the Network, particularly given that the cuts are affecting disabled people in a big way.
  • There was a report back from activity in Northampton. The importance in getting active in the movement with activists in a variety of campaigns was emphasised.
  • Plans for a BME Caucus were raised and discussed.
  • There was a report back from the LGBTQ Caucus. Simon K was elected as LGBTQ Rep for the Steering Committee. Various problems with the SWP’s approach to LGBTQ issues were discussed in the Caucus. The need for the Network to start to theorise LGBTQ through the self-organisation of LGBTQ members was emphasised. A Facebook group is being set up to help with this.
  • The question of the Rev Socs not affiliating to the IS Network was raised. It was suggested we should approach them for formal affiliation, but was countered that the IS Network saw itself as a temporary formation and the Rev Socs aim to be permanent , so they should wait to see how things develop before affiliating.

Move to Vote

  1. Proposals from “What Can We Do To Strengthen Working Class Consciousness and Organisation? Some Proposals” - PASSED.
  2. Send a delegation to La Fête de l'Huma - PASSED.
  3. Public meeting on the working class and unions - PASSED.
  4. Steering Committee to formulate a position on international contacts - PASSED.
  5. Write an open letter to the SWP Opposition - PASSED.
  6. Hold a fringe meeting at Marxism 2013 - PASSED.
  7. Affiliation campaign towards the Rev Socs- FELL.

Membership and the Constitution

Chair: Richard T
Start time: 15:00

  • How regions were to be divided up was questioned. Some branches don’t seem to fit easily into any of them. It was explained that the regions as outlined are largely arbitrary for the purpose of electing representatives to the Steering Committee.
  • It was argued that National General Meetings should not always be in London and should be rotated around the country.
  • Some details of wording in the constitution were questioned. Corrections to be passed to the Secretary for addition after the meeting.
  • Issues around the formation of a disputes procedure were raised. Is there a mechanism for scrutiny? There needs to be a distinction between confidentiality and secrecy. It was suggested the Steering Committee produce some guidelines and proposals for the next meeting. It was argued that in the meantime the Steering Committee should handle disputes, and assemble an ad hoc disputes panel if required.
  • It was debated whether majority vote was the only, or best, way to make decisions.
  • There was a proposal that the Steering Committee look into the possibility of employing paid workers.
  • The number of directly elected Steering Committee members was debated. It was argued that 14 are too many, and the weight should be with the regions and the Caucuses. Some suggested cutting the number to 6 or 4. Many roles can be carried out by people who are not on the Steering Committee. It was countered that the branches at the moment were weak or non-existent, and it could not be guaranteed that regional reps would be elected straight away, such a small number of directly elected Committee members in the meantime would lead to a dysfunctional committee.
  • Constitutional proposals from the Women’s Caucus were debated. The IS Network will uphold expulsions from, in particular but not exclusive to, the SWP for oppressive behaviour. Where there are concerns of any oppressive behaviour, this will be discussed by the relevant caucus- this was questioned as a blanket rule and was suggested that it be amended to allow the Women’s Caucus to make exceptions where they think appropriate. Argument that it laid too much trusty in a disputes procedure proven to be corrupt.

Move to Vote

  1. Proposals from Women’s Caucus:
    • The IS Network will uphold expulsions from, in particular but not exclusive to, the SWP for oppressive behaviour. Where there are concerns of any oppressive behaviour, this will be discussed by the relevant caucus – PASSED, but referred back to the Women’s Caucus for reconsideration.
    • Anyone wishing to raise a complaint or concern preliminary to a formal complaint may raise this with the Steering Committee, the Disputes Committee, or the relevant caucus - PASSED.
    • Steering Committee to set up a working group to develop a disputes process - PASSED.
  2. The Steering Committee is to look into the possibility of employing paid workers - PASSED.
  3. There cannot be a National General Meeting in London more than twice in a row - PASSED.
  4. The Steering Committee will look into reducing the number of nationally elected members to be voted on at the next National General Meeting, on the condition that regions and a disputes procedure are in place - PASSED.

Elected Steering Committee

Kris S (Chair)
Keith F (Treasurer)
Tim N (Secretary)
Aamna M (Women’s Rep)
Simon K (LGBTQ Rep)
Toni M
Ellen T
Linda R
Ciara S
Alison L
Richard S
China M
Penny S
Rosie W
Tom W
Luke S