Inaugural Meeting: Motions

Category: Minutes and Motions
Published on Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Written by Admin
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Where Next?

MOTION 1. Motion Proposing to Elect a Steering Group

Proposers: Tim N, Charlotte B, Kieran C, Kris S, John G

We propose that the 13 April meeting elect a steering group to manage the Network's administrative affairs. This group will not be considered a political leadership.

We propose that an individual election be held for the post of treasurer, due to the specific responsibilities of the role, in looking after the finances of the Network.

We propose that six other group members be elected by ballot on an individual basis, with the top six elected. Some of us are also proposing an amendment to this which says that the six additional group members elected shall contain at least three women.

We call for nominations, for treasurer and for the other six steering group positions, in advance of the meeting. Obviously the meeting may decide not to go ahead with such an election, but we hope that the proposal is accepted and we think members should get the chance to put themselves forward in case it is. Nominations should also be accepted on the day.

(MOTION FAILED)

1a. Amendment

Proposer: Bryan S

One of the things which impressed me with the international socialism site was that we quickly replied to our critics. ('is Zinovievism finished?' etc). We need to authorize some body to do this for us until a proper AGM. If we do not elect a separate political committee, then it must be this steering committee.

I therefore propose this amendment:

Replace 'this group will not be considered a political leadership'

with 'this group will also be entrusted to comment on political matters on behalf of the group until our first AGM'.

1b. Amendment

Proposer: Steve E

I'm not wedded to the idea of a political committee with a separate steering group.

What I do think is essential is that we have some body capable of making political and administrative decisions. It needs to be able to act and initiate discussion, but also receive feedback from members.

To this effect, I would like to propose that we expand the size of the steering group to 15. at that scale it can encompass the administrative roles, but also encapsulate a range of political experiences and perspectives.

1c. Amendment

Proposer: China M

Also, as a check against any power-centralisation resulting from this expansion of the organising committee (can we call it that, as a non-presumptious middle ground between 'administrative' and 'political'?), can we also amend the motion to include a rigorous and quick feedback mechanism from the membership to this committee, allowing the former to quickly overturn or change decisions or actions of the latter if necessary.

It's impossible to formalise what this mechanism might be until we decide what constitutes a member, but as soon as we do we should be able to add a suitable system pretty immediately, and can put a placeholder amendment declaring that intent now.

MOTION 2. Proposal for a national IS Network Steering Committee and Political Committee

Proposer: Paris T

I welcome any input into this prior to submission, including changes / amendments.

Two elements - steering committee and political committee. Steering committee to ensure the administrative tasks of the Network are carried out, the political committee to oversee the political work of the Network and carry out the commonly agreed perspectives. The steering committee to be accountable to i) the AGM ii) the political committee. The political committee accountable to i) AGM ii) local groupings and caucuses.

Steering Committee to be composed of:

* Subject to immediate recall

** Dependent on whether we have a publication or not

*** Elected by caucus meetings

I'd suggest that the 4 Steering Committee members and 6 nationally selected members are elected at the meeting on the 13th, with the first PC meeting a month to 6 weeks after the 13th when local groups have a chance to meet, report back and elect members to attend. Ideally PC meetings should be held on a monthly to six weekly basis. The steering committee tasked with arranging the meeting.

On this basis I think we should appeal for nominations for these 10 positions prior to the meeting, and if the proposal is accepted we hold an election at the meeting.

(MOTION PASSED)

2a. Amendment

Proposer: Kris S

(This amendment was accepted by the mover of the motion)

Merge Web Editor and Publications Editor into "Editor".

[Reason - it's the editing that is important, not the medium]

Rename "Secretary" to "Correspondence and Minutes* Secretary"

[Reason - to make it clear that this secretary role is an administrative one and in no way akin to the "National Secretary" of the SWP nor the "General Secretary" role in national trade union leaderships]

*this would also remove the anomaly of having "minutes" as a responsibility of the Chair

MOTION 3. Motion for a temporary Working Group

Proposer: Tom W

"Administrative" tasks are often political - especially in the case of the Editors in Paris' proposal. A rigid separation of administration from politics makes little sense. We do not need a proliferation of multiple committees, including various other committees that may be proposed, at this stage - we need a working group to do some basic set-up work for the network and take on tasks as-and-when they arise.

Creating a 4 or 5 person Steering Committee looks like risks concentrating power in the hands of a few individuals, and titles like Secretary and Editor risk creating a perception that we have a small number of individual "leaders".

It is also premature to elect Editors for a website and publication that we don't yet have, and regional reps when we so far lack a regional structure. There are many other positions we could create (Student Organiser? Fundraiser?) - the selection of these ones is arbitrary, and somewhat confusing.

The key point is that we do not yet know what kind of structures we need, so should create only an outline, interim structure.

The priority now is not to create our ideal structures for all time, but to get a group in place that can get things done organisationally and feel empowered to make low-level political decisions when required, bringing larger strategic decisions to national meetings.

We should elect a temporary Working Group only, according to the following proposal:

14 comrades elected at this meeting on an individual basis.

At least 7 to be women.

A Treasurer to be elected separately because it is a position of particular trust.

Other tasks to be shared out among those elected to the Working Group. This may include forming subgroups, eg. a website subgroup.

Caucuses will have the right to elect 1 rep each when they are established.

Regional representation to be discussed when regions meet.

All members will be subject to immediate recall.

Existing nominations from the forum should be used for this election, as well as any nominations made at the 13 April meeting.

This temporary Working Group should last a maximum of six months, with new elections ideally at our next national meeting.

It should meet face-to-face monthly, but also communicate by phone/Skype more regularly and be able to make decisions by email vote if they are urgent.

MOTION 4. Short motion on discipline

Proposer: Tom W

The IS Network is not a party - it is a network. As such it does not have agreed 'lines' or any discipline with which to enforce them. We are democratic, but we are not 'democratic centralist'.

This does not mean that we can't make decisions. We can make decisions about what the network will say in collective statements, whether it will have a publication, etc with no problems at all - we can have a democratic vote and decide to do these things. What it means is that the organisation and whatever structures it may set up cannot impose its own decisions on individual members.

For clarity, however, this does not mean that behaviour contrary to our fundamental principles, eg. sexist behaviour, will be tolerated within the organisation.

(MOTION WITHDRAWN)

FOCUSES OF ACTIVITY

MOTION 5. Proposed statement in response to left unity greetings from Socialist Resistance and Anticapitalist Initiative

Proposer: Kieran C

The International Socialist Network (IS Network) has formed in unfortunate circumstances that we who have established it would never have wished for. The past few years have been punishing for the British working classes, which are facing attacks under the Coalition government which have not been seen for generations. Our former party, the SWP, has been found wanting and unable to act as an organiser against the onslaught. In our founding declaration, we said that were committed to retrieving the best aspects of the tradition that had guided the IST and SWP from the recent crisis and to building a new Left.

Despite everything, we have seen real reasons why socialists can be hopeful. There has been massive anger against cuts and austerity in Britain as in the rest of the world and since the student protests of 2010 and the following year's international wave of insurrectioniary struggles, we have seen that this anger can be mobilised as a force that challenges the ruling classes. While struggle has been sporadic in Britain, there have been signs that this does not have to continue indefinitely: we have seen mass strikes, riots and marches. What we need to organise now, in the work places, the community groups and the campuses to build in and learn from groups of working class people coming in to struggle.

It should be a source of fantastic enthusiasm to socialists that Ken Loach’s call for an alternative to the watered-down neoliberalism of New Labour in the name of Left Unity has attracted many thousands of supporters from around the country. This sort of response, at a time when Labour is in opposition, really raises the possibility that we can establish a functioning party committed to fighting capitalism. We want to be part of this process of Left realignment and to reach out to the millions of people were previously not beyond the reach of the Left.

It is in this spirit that we welcome greetings from Socialist Resistance and the Anti-capitalist Initiative, who have expressed similar hopes that a new socialist Left can be built in Britain. We hope that we can work with them and many others in turning Left Unity in spirit into a genuine struggle for a better world. This would be really remembering what was best about the International Socialist tradition: building mass organisation to build socialism from below.

(MOTION PASSED)

5a. Amendment

Proposer: Tom W

add to end:

We also note the Anticapitalist Initiative's discussion document (see Appendix 1) on whether a new, democratic, multi-tendency revolutionary organisation can be formed in Britain. This is a separate process from Left Unity, which is a broader 'radical left' rather than revolutionary organisation, but there is no contradiction in participating in both. An organisation that unites revolutionaries from different traditions would be a real step forward.

We want to be part of the "revolutionary unity" discussion and representatives from our steering committee/working group will attend any talks along these lines, not to make any snap decisions but to bring any proposals back to be discussed and voted on at our next meeting.


(AMMENDMENT PASSED)

MOTION 6. Motion for an IS Network ‘Festival’ event

Proposer: Rich T

I would like to propose a motion that we organise a festival of ideas to be held in September. It is already clear that in the wake of the SWP crisis this year’s Marxism will severely suffer, not only through poor numbers, but in that only six speakers have been confirmed and two of those have since dropped out.

An event of this type is no mean feat and will require considerable organising; with this in mind I believe it is important to remember two things.

Firstly this event should be about having a real opportunity for the left to come together and discuss ideas and build proper links, it is not simply an arena for mass recruitment and re-affirming the party line.

Secondly, hosting a ‘Marxism style’ event does not mean trying to recreate Marxism and so does not mean we have to be looking at a three day event with 100 sessions, instead it may be more realistic to work towards a two day event with 30 sessions.

In the discussions around this subject on the forum it has been suggested that if we are to continue to build strong relationships with organisations such as Socialist Resistance and Anti-Capitalist Initiative then it could lead to us co-hosting a festival event, this is something that I feel should also be considered.

(MOTION PASSED)

CONSTITUTIONAL PROPOSALS

Draft Constitution

Proposer: Andy L

Name

International Socialist Network (hereafter referred to as IS Network)

Aims

This network has been formed to allow those who share values associated with International Socialism to communicate, share ideas, and decide how to organise themselves in the future. It is our intention that this constitution be flexible and reflect the developing nature of our organisation.

Membership

Membership is open to anyone who agrees with our aims, subject to approval by their region. The committee can create exceptions to membership if it thinks them necessary, but these should be put to the membership at the first opportunity. Members may be asked to pay a subscription according to their means. Where there is a dispute as to the suitability of an individual for membership, this shall be addressed to the Disputes Panel.

Regions

Members will be organised into regions or branches, depending on the number of people in an area. The purpose of the region is to co-ordinate activity and serve as a point of contact for IS Network members.

Regions may choose to organise themselves as appropriate to their area and membership. This may include electing a committee, whose work should be reported at regional meetings.

The size and location of regions shall be determined by the National General Meeting.

National General Meeting

The National General Meeting must take place at least once a year. Additional National General Meetings may be convened at any time at the request of 10% of the regions or 20% of the membership, or by the National Steering Committee. At least 2 months' notice shall be given of each National General Meeting, unless it relates to some event outside our control which requires a faster response.

All members with organisational functions can be held to account or replaced at the National General Meeting.

National Steering Committee

A National Steering Committee of 1 delegate to every 10 members in each region will be elected at the NGM. Up to 10 officers can also be elected, to include:

The National Steering Committee shall meet as a minimum every two months.

Democracy

The basis of democratic decisions shall be by simple majority vote within properly constituted meetings. Decisions are binding on the organisation. Individual members will not face disciplinary measures if they do not agree with decisions or carry out planned activity, unless the disagreement is so fundamentally outside our aims in s.1 that the organisation thinks it necessary to reconsider their membership. Such a dispute should in the first instance be approached with comradely discussion at a regional level. The disputes panel can also hear complaints concerning membership.

Disputes

The National General Meeting shall elect a Disputes Panel of 8 members, none of whom shall be members of the National Steering Committee. Its primary purpose is to resolve political disputes between members of the IS Network, and rule on whether prospective members be admitted to the IS Network in the event of this being refused by the Region. Complaints which are or may be of a serious nature can be discussed with the panel to consider the limits of what can be done on a case-by-case basis. In no way will the panel attempt to perform the function of a court. Functions of the panel:

Accept complaints, and decide how best to proceed depending on nature of complaints. The panel may recommend courses of action outside its remit. Where the panel is the only reasonable means of redress for a complaint of a serious nature, it may seek advice as it sees fit.

The panel may:

Give a warning Suspend a member Expel a member Dismiss a complaint Fail to find resolution Recommend other mechanisms for resolving a dispute

The panel will be held accountable at the NGM.

Caucuses

All members who self-identify in an oppressed group, have the right to organise as a Caucus. Each caucus shall report to the all national meetings and be represented on the committee.

Finances

The National Treasurer shall supply an interim report to every meeting of the National Steering Committee; and shall supply a full report, including audited accounts, to the National General Meeting.

Constitution

The Constitution may be amended by simple majority vote at the National General Meeting.

Dissolution

The IS Network may be dissolved by a two thirds majority vote at the National General Meeting.

(MOTION PASSED)

Amendment on Factions

Proposer: Tom W

Add: "Factions. The right of any number of members to set up a faction at any time will not be interfered with. Factions will have the right to distribute their documents through any national lists the network creates. No member will face disciplinary action or any other penalty, formal or informal, for being part of a faction."

Amendment to Aims

Proposer: Rich T

The IS Network is a network of revolutionary socialists, within the International Socialist tradition, open to all socialists who believe in socialism from below and that our freedom is not a gift but must be taken. We will however work alongside all within the movement who oppose neo- liberal austerity measures and want to fight capitalism and oppression in all its forms. We support the right of all oppressed groups to self-organise. As a network of activists, we take part in trade unions, anti-austerity campaigns and anti-fascist campaigns. We seek to carry the IS tradition into the process of left realignment in Britain, whilst at the same time re-evaluating our own tradition.

Amendment to Membership

Proposer: Rich T

Membership shall be granted to anyone who agrees with the aims of the IS Network. The steering committee can create exceptions to membership if it thinks them necessary, but these should be put to the membership at the first opportunity. Members may be asked to pay a subscription according to their means. Where there is a dispute as to the suitability of an individual for membership, this shall be addressed to the Disputes Panel. Members of the IS Network are allowed to dual-card (formally be a member of another organisation). Regional groups may affiliate to other local groups such as RevSoc etc.

APPENDIX- Anticapitalist Initiative discussion document on revolutionary unity

  1. Developments on the revolutionary left are moving quite quickly since the split in the SWP. There is a real opportunity now to collaborate with other tendencies with the aim of launching a new revolutionary organisation in Britain.
  2. The possibility of unity is based on the following overlapping points.
    • Firstly, the seriousness of the austerity crisis and the lack of a credible revolutionary alternative requires all serious militants to question their past practices and figure out new ways of moving forward. Some groups and individuals are already doing that. This is part of what Alex Callinicos has referred to as the "crisis of the party model", something that he must be acutely aware of by now.
    • The Labour party has not tacked left, as many predicted back in 2010. If anything they have maintained their centre course, refused to really campaign against any of the cuts and are reduced to a cynical criticism of a coalition government whose main direction they support. Despite the efforts of well known activists like Owen Jones the Labour left has also failed to grow or gain significant ground, hindered by the fact that many labour left councillors have so far been unable to mount a credible opposition at the level of local government to the cuts budgets.
    • The crisis in the SWP itself has created a split of many activists who represent some of the least sectarian, most open, honest and principled members of that organisation. They are engaged in an internal debate over what happened and the way forward.
    • The growth of various forms of autonomism and more libertarian tendencies into new organisations and movement is an important development in terms of brining a healthy, non-hierarchical dimension into the left which is more tactically adaptive and responsive than many tired old Leninist-Trotskyist groups.
    • The existence of the ACI itself is not an insignificant factor in the possibility of unity. We have managed to carve out a (small) but important place on the left as activists willing to break from past habits and traditions and honestly explore new ways of working. The ACI, only a year old, has brought together people from quite different traditions, seen off "interventions" by sects and stabilised itself around a core groups of supporters, as we saw at our recent Manchester meeting. Our appeal for more unity on the left - initially laughed at by some since many of our members themselves emerged from a split - is having some impact in terms of the terrain of debate and rethinking what is possible. Our growing alliance with Socialist Resistance is part of that process, and, whilst there are no doubt many points of difference, we can recognise a desire in both organisations to branch out into something larger and more dynamic.
  3. A new revolutionary organisation should not look like a typical "Leninist-Trotskyist" current as it has been understood: a programmatically defined group, quite rigid notions of discipline, apparatus heavy, and so on. It's need to be heterodox, plural, but explicitly revolutionary. Likewise, this would not be "just another organisation". We should argue for it to be an organisation that breaks the mould in terms of traditional left organising. The aim is for this to become the leading revolutionary organisation in Britain in terms of potential for growth, openness, flexibility and democratic accountability.
  4. It would be marked by a new political dynamism which breaks from more rigid conceptions of Leninism or autonomism to create an organisation which explores different strategic approaches and ways of organising.
  5. We should approach the International Socialist Network, Socialist Resistance, International Organisation of Participatory Society and Plan C to discuss this proposal in more explicit detail. These groups represent a range of views from more traditional socialism to autonomism and Parecon new left ideas. Each has strengths and important points to contribute.
    • IOPS' organisational model of autonomous local units and maximum internal democracy is very similar to how the ACI currently operates
    • Socialist Resistance's understanding of revolutionary democracy, their emphasis on feminism and ecology is a useful contribution. Like IOPS they also have important international contacts and connections.
    • Plan C's work on the centrality of social production and reproduction, as well as their emphasis on new forms of organising for new layers of the working class is very important
    • The ISN(ex-SWP) is quite a heterodox organisation, much like the ACI, some are more Leninist whilst others are rethinking the whole question of organisation and political approach. They were on the side of the angels in the faction fight over the sex abuse scandal and represent some of the most healthy elements of the revolutionary left.
  6. Is there 100% agreement across these constituent organisations? No. But there is a shared interest in new forms of organising, new ways of approaching the left and new ways of thinking through politics. In the current situation each has some illuminating points to contribute. Points of difference may include the nature and role of the working class in a revolution, the question of a revolutionary 'state' or not, elections, and the exact role of a revolutionary organisation. However in the current situation none of these point to irreconcilable divisions that need to be maintained to keep our various organisations "pure".
  7. Suggestions for practical next steps
  8. How to go forward? Local meetings of the ACI where these organisation are at least invited (if not co-organising with us) is a good step forward. The ACI and ISN groups will be discussing similar issues and going through very similar debates in terms of what they are doing and what direction to go in, so it makes sense to have at least some joint meetings together (this doesn't mean that we demand the ISN come to all our meetings of course!)
  9. An open meeting of people from each group to discuss where there is agreement or not would be a real step forward. However, in the process of pushing for unity the question is not so much what we all agree on but on working out how we can disagree without it leading to splits and irrevocable divisions. This means being more creative and intelligent about forms of organisation which will have to be marked by forms of elasticity rather than a rigid institutional approach to majority votes and "party lines".
  10. The organisation should be built on principles first, class independence, revolutionary strategy, democratic organs and networks of the workers movement and popular forces, opposition to imperialism and . These will inevitably be somewhat abstract at the beginning, but they will also the foundation from which the strategy and tactics will flow. Agreement on principles and organisational framework does not require complete agreement on tactical questions.
  11. An important principle of any new organisation should be local autonomy for groups. Any national coordination that exists should be empowered to issue political statements and discuss campaigning priorities but the ultimate responsibility for their campaigns and political lines rests with the local groups. National conferences can act as a useful place to air differences and even vote on disputed questions, but again the autonomy of the local units doesn't require them to enact any campaigning priorities passed. National conference is a place to convince the wider membership, to win the argument in open debate and try and change peoples minds in the open spirit of comradeship and debate. Disenfranchising large parts of the membership because they lost a vote by a narrow margin is not a healthy way to go forward.
  12. But alternatively any minority has a responsibility as members of the organisation to the majority. Whilst no one is gagged or 'silenced' for disagreeing with any majority decisions, in the spirit of unity and comradeship it is important for everyone to act in such a way that is conducive to the organisation as a whole going forward.
  13. Possible organisational forms
  14. In the process of unity we should be flexible. Maybe we will start with a coalition of groups at the beginning (though we should be aware that individuals not in any group may also want to be involved) - but our ultimate aim should be a united organisation preferably without platforms/factions, though this might be necessary at the start as people learn to collaborate and work together more closely. There should be no ultimatums on anyone to "dissolve" or disband themselves if they don't wish to do so.
  15. If people who are already in international organisation like IOPS and the Fourth International want to retain their membership of those groups then of course that is their right, and they should be able to organise and meet separately if they so wish, whilst remaining part of the larger organisation.
  16. The aim would be to ultimately dissolve the ACI into this broader formation, though this might not happen straight away. The ACI is not going to be the group that founds the revolutionary organisation of the future, though we can play an essential role in making that group possible and playing the role of the "glue" that can hold together disparate tendencies and traditions. As such the ACI is transitional, it is in the process of being created whilst it is also becoming something else, with a view to being transcended. As such if the ACI continues to exist in two years time then it will only be because the opportunity to create something larger and more plural was missed - an eventuality that would be a real missed opportunity to break the revolutionary left out of the ghetto and move us forward into the 21st century.