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

Minutes of national members' meeting September 2014

ISN National Members Meeting 27 September 2014


Apologies:  James N.

Minutes: Simon H



Kris introduced the agenda.


Emma R reported on the Transliberation meeting on the 20th September in London.

-     13 people came, very good discussion. Will probably meet again.


Tim N reported on the LU Public sector trade union meeting that was held in early September.


-     25 people came, mainly the far left.

-     Will produce a leaflet and produce a petition against the anti-union laws. Passed a resolution on principles of trade unionism.


Mark B reported on the NHS campaign work.  ISN has published a pamphlet on strategy to save the NHS.


Kat reported on anti-war work

-     ISN produced a leaflet for the Gaza demonstrations over the summer which was well received.

-     Some local campaigns going on, Cardiff StWC is quite active and mobilising people. Most ISN members not active in StWC at the moment due to their position on Syria.



Simon Hardy reported on developments in Left Unity and ISN work.

-     2 day conference in November and a 2 day political event.

-     Environment and Education motions out already, others out soon.

-     Passed a motion at NC on building a NHS demonstration in March of 2015.

-     LU will be standing in a few places for the General Election but not many. General feeling among branches is that they feel it is too soon to stand a GE candidate.

-     Issue of accountability and how the leadership has behaved around certain issues.



Caucuses and members discussions on combating social oppression



Disability caucus


Some members not in the online discussion space. Discussed some ideas around how to network beyond the ISN, including DPAC and others.


Non-disabled members meeting - report back


Recent event at the Labour Party where disabled members were removed from the front row to make way for a photo opportunity.


Issue of disability rights and campaigns in trade unions, it is a big issue that isn't usually talked about very much.  We need to think more carefully about these issues.

Closure of libraries across the country really effects disabled people's access. These kinds of issues need to be central to trade unions and community organisations.


Question raised over the nature of the meetings and why they are being organised.


Comrades from the caucuses should provide points for discussion for the members not in the caucus meeting.


LGBTQ+ meeting - report back


Transliberation issues have come up. Possibility of producing an online leaflet around these issues.

Discussed the FB group and how people could raise


Non-LGBTQ+ members meeting - report back


Discussed how the ISN can develop Marxist analysis and theory around social oppression issues because there is a real lack of it at the moment and mainly post structuralist theories dominate.

Pride movie has come out and is a good opportunity to raise these issues


Members who identify as women - report back


Agreed to have a national meeting for members who identify as women before Christmas.


Urgent need to develop socialist-feminist theory to take our work forward and clarify our positions on several major issues.


Members who do not identify as women - report back


Discuss what we mean by “socialist feminism”


Traditionally the difference was that the oppression of women stems from the economic basis of class society, whereas feminists saw it primarily as a gender relationship.


Shelia Rowbotham and other socialist feminists said there was a system of patriarchy alongside the class structure.  Discussion on the debates around women's liberation prior to a socialist revolution.


People liked the idea of the women's magazine and wanted to know how to help get it running.





Political basis of the network – part 1


Discussed the constitutional documents in Bulletin 1


Speakers – Steven, Simon H, Hazel, Stuart, Tim, Paris, Martin, Alison, Kaff, Kelly, Mark, Emma, Bev, Edd, Mat, Rob, Steve, Simon F.


Vote results


A modest proposal - 5


Forward to a new ISN: For – 22


Original constitution -  0





Political basis of the network – part 2


Stuart’s proposal in IB 2 is referred to the incoming SC.


Javaad proposed to refer the new What We Stand For – 12 against 13 for.  Document was referred to a future meeting.


Tim motivated his proposal on the Politics of the IS Network (IB 2)


Simon H and Mark proposed an alternative where the forums/commissions were treated as working groups.


Several speakers around the proposal.


Amendment from Simon H was agreed with 14 votes for 11 against.


Before we took the vote on the proposal as amended by Simon H – Sam spoke against the motion as amended. It was clear that there was confused about what the nature of the amendment was so it was withdrawn in favour of the original motion. The first section was amended to bring it into line with the discussions at the NMM that we should limit our theoretical work to more manageable tasks so it was agreed to vote on the idea of having forums rather than the ones explicitly mentioned in the original draft.


Vote result


Tim's motion was passed with an over whelming majority.



Treasurer's report


Jenny gave a report on subs and members payments.


We need to fix the payment button on the website as some new members have not been able to set up payments yet.


Complaints group report


Steven gave a brief report from the Complaints Group. No official complaints have been submitted but it has given advice on a couple of issues.



Electing officers


Mark B volunteered to be elections officer for the NMM and to compile a list of people willing to stand.



Political debates – Aftermath of the Scottish referendum

No motion tabled – general discussion.

Speakers: Javaad, Simon H, Martin, Tim, Alison, Darcy, Stuart, Michael.



Political debates – Left Unity

Motion was the section in part 3 of Simon and Mark's document in IB 1 that focussed on LU.


Speakers: Simon, Edd, Mark, Kris, Kat, Matt




Political debates – Left Unity (cont.)


Speakers: Bev, Paris, Steve F, Richard, Tony, Simon H, Javaad


In favour – 17

Against – 12

Abstentions – 9


Resolution is adopted.



Motion on the EU


Martin motivated.  Emma, Stuart, Simon, Steve F, Darcy. Martin summed up.


Motion on EU:  for 4  - against 21 - abstentions 7


Motion was defeated.


Short reports on other issues.


Richard spoke on fracking


Rob on Rotherham child abuse scandal


Mark spoke on the NHS campaigns





Political priorities for the ISN and election of officers


As per the new constitution a series of working groups were decided upon and members volunteered to take part in them.  The following working groups were agreed on.


Working groups (with numbers of volunteers)


Left Unity                                            10

Publications working group                11

Transphobia                                        10

Trade Unionism                                   11

Environment                                       13

NHS                                                     7

Anti-racism                                         7




It was agreed that Tim N is overall convenor of the forums.


The following forums on theoretical and political work were agreed.



Leadership and revolutionary organisation              

Contemporary social movements


Elected officers

The following people were elected to the officer positions.


Convenor – Sam and Kelly and Kris (job share)

Secretary – Steven

Treasurer - Jenny

Membership officer -  Simon H


Note: Agreed to send an appeal out to women members of the ISN to stand for future SC positions to ensure gender parity on the committee.


Complaints Group - Alison, Toni and Javaad




Motions that were passed at the September National Members Meeting of the ISN


Appendix A


Organising the IS Network


National Members Meeting

1. The National Members Meeting should be convened no less than 3 times a year. The NMM is the sovereign body of the IS Network.


Working Groups

2. Each NMM will formally agree a number of working groups. Each working group should have clear objectives and goals for the next 3 months or 6 months. The goals are essential as they are measurable and give a clear indication of success in a particular area of work.

3. The working groups are made up of whichever IS Network members want to be involved in that area of work. They can have their own meetings, Facebook groups, e-groups or whatever forms of communication they deem necessary to function.



4. IS Network members in a local area can form a branch to coordinate local activity and undertake political discussions and educationals. The branches are autonomous units of the organisation.

Branches may determine their own activity and elect their own officers, organisers and committees as they deem necessary. If a branch is properly constituted and meets regularly then it is entitled to be represented on the National Steering Committee by two branch members, at least one of whom must be a woman.


Steering Committee and Officers

5. The Steering Committee will be composed of 4 elected officers (convenor, secretary, treasurer and membership officer) plus each working group and caucus is entitled to be represented on the National Steering Committee by two members, at least one of whom must be a woman. These representatives are subject to recall by their own working group and the working group can decide when they are rotated.

6. At least two officers will be self-identified women.

7. Convenor – the convenor will be responsible for calling national meetings, facilitating self- organisation among members and ensuring co-ordination among working groups

8. Membership officer – Responsible to updating the membership lists and ensuring that the IS Network is in regular contact with members as well as responsibility for ring rounds for national members' meetings.

9. Secretary – the secretary will respond to all correspondence and keep the records of the organisation, including minutes of national meetings

10. Treasurer – the treasurer will keep all financial records and will initiate payments, which will be subject to confirmation by another national officer

11. The Steering Committee is charged with the following responsibilities:

a) Oversight - to make sure that the working groups are functioning

b) Resources - making sure that the working groups, branches and any members engaged in campaigns are getting the resources they need

c) Collaboration - facilitating discussions with other left groups or individuals as part of our wider realignment goals.

d) Representation - the SC will strive to make sure that oppressed groups are represented on it, including 50% parity between self-identified women and men.


Decision Making

12. National decisions will be made at a national meeting and on the basis of a simple majority vote among participants.

13. In an emergency situation, on the request of at least five Network participants, the convenor may call an e-poll to approve the Network’s temporary support for a new initiative, subject to a simple majority and to the e-poll’s having a number of participants at least equal to the attendance at the most recent national meeting.

14. Decisions are not binding on any individual, except where that person has been elected to a national officer role and then only when they are carrying out that role.

15. All positions within the IS Network shall be filled by election and will be subject to instant recall. Any position is open to being filled on a job-share basis. Each post will be open for re-election at the next NMM.



16. A Complaints Group (CG) of three – including at least two self-identified women - will be directly elected at a national meeting. No national officer will also sit on the CG. The CG will elect a chair from within its number. The CG will exist to consider difficulties between participants in the Network which cannot be resolved informally. It will follow the procedures outlined in Appendix ii.



17. This Constitution may be amended by simple majority vote at a national meeting.



18. The IS Network may be dissolved by a two thirds vote in favour at a national meeting.


Appendix B


Motion on forums

1. That the ISN will set up forums for discussion on subjects agreed at the NMM

2. These forums should share and discuss reading material, and write their own discussion pieces, with the eventual aim of writing up detailed policies.

3. These forums should publish policies as IS Network pamphlets.

Appendix C


Left Unity is key

1. There are a variety of opinions on Left Unity in the IS Network. While as a project it has huge faults, for a number of reasons it is centrally important in the current conjuncture despite those flaws. First of all with the collapse of "actually existing socialism" the revolutionary left is even more isolated than before, our long-term goals are harder to convince people of. As such, the new left party formations that have emerged now appear as strategic necessities for a left that is in a process of recomposition and realignment internationally. The fact we lack(ed) such a party in Britain was a terrible weakness of the left, one that is only now being overcome.


2. When we talk about rebuilding the working class and its culture of resistance, we can't forget the important role that political organisation and cultural initiatives played in that. As EP Thompson pointed out in The Making of the English Working Class it would be wrong to only think that trade unions and purely economic relations created the working class - the radical political societies, unorthodox religions, discussion circles and working class festivals all helped form and shape the workers movement as a thing in itself and for itself. We have to think where can our energies be best placed to do similar today?

3. Building Left Unity as a broad, democratic party with a strong revolutionary tendency within it would massively strengthen and build the left movement in general. Small left revolutionary groups cannot do it on their own - and neither can the "reformist" left which often lacks organisation or political strategy. We urgently need to create a radical, anticapitalist party that takes the fight to self-organisation and full democracy to the heart of every workplace, trade union and social issue in the country.

4. Importantly, it's the first attempt at a new party which isn't controlled and dominated by any one sect, and which has formally quite democratic and open structures which are relatively easy to join and influence. It is emerging when the entire political situation is in a state of flux and will likely remain so. The conservatives are deeply unpopular, but are getting away with their attacks due to the lack of resistance from the union movement and left, and this makes them strong despite their unpopularity. Labour are galloping to the right due to the Tories successes and the emergence of UKIP. Labour are alienating more and more of their base as they try and stay in the good books of an increasingly vicious ruling elite. In this environment people will be looking for a political alternative, and for the moment, Left Unity is it.


5. Left Unity has the potential to grow. Also crucially it provides a wider framework for our activism and gives it organisation and focus. Naturally, it has its problems, part political in the form of a largely left-reformist politics, part organisational in many non-functioning branches and already top heavy leadership structures. But it is a project in formation, and we can help to make it a success if we get stuck in. As Left Unity grows it will recruit more people whose politics are far from radical – it will become even more vitally important that there is an organised left wing in the years ahead as the pull of electoral politics and the "centre ground" acts like a siren song on Left Unity - as it has done on every other new left party in Europe.


6. The IS Network as a flexible and open network should be attractive to those in Left Unity who want it to become more than Labour Mark II. We can take the lead in popularising key socialist ideas within Left Unity, like democratic planning and the reorganisation of the economy as a solution to the crisis. If we work steadily at popularising socialist ideas in campaigns and politically within Left Unity we can ensure that Left Unity has clear principles and "red lines" that can prevent any drift to the right and ensure that it remains relevant and as radical as it needs to be. For us, anticapitalism has to be at the heart of any new left project, not a renewed social democracy.


Giving Left Unity a campaigning focus

7. We have to resist any attempts to pull LU onto a trajectory of electoralism. It badly needs a national campaigning project to spearhead and ensure it doesn't get mired in boring debates about electoral strategy. Our proposal is for IS Network members to campaign for LU to take an important role in spearheading campaigns for a Living Wage, the unionisation of Tesco's and a shorter working week.


8. If the IS Network takes the lead in pushing for such a campaign we can ensure it is organised democratically, from the bottom up by approaching the already existing living wage campaigns and trade union organisations. It is a strategic struggle around resisting the declining living standards of the class, it shifts the blame of low pay and poverty onto the bosses not immigrants and it will play an essential role in potentially reversing the decline of trade union membership. In short this kind of campaign is essential to give LU life and focus independent of already existing campaigns and struggles.



Bradford ISN Xmas Podcasts

Our bumper Christmas podcast (in two parts). Present were Javaad Alipoor, Brian Collier and Paris Thompson. We talk about the Crisis in the SWP, the forgotten socialist Tom McGuire, autonomism, disputes in the ISN, ecology and population and the student movement. The second podcast contains songs from Javaad Alipoor.

Xmas Podcast Pt.1 >>
Xmas Podcast Pt.2 >>

Announcement: New IS Network discussion groups

The IS Network is launching some new email discussion groups for members to discuss different areas of activity they are involved in. This will hopefully help improve communication across the Network and contribute towards allowing members to self-organise across the country.

The following subjects currently have active groups:

  • Left Unity
  • Anti-fascism
  • Cactus

Each member should receive an email invitation as soon as a new group is launched. However, if you have not and would like to be included in any, or all, of the above discussions please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and request that you be added. Feel free to email suggestions for other subjects you think would benefit from having a group set up.

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

Ged Colgan and Paris Thompson: Proposal for IS Network conference

The last week has seen two interesting but quite fractious debates within the IS Network, firstly over the potential employment of a paid administrative assistant, and secondly over the Network's intervention within the Left Unity project. Both arguments have highlighted certain underlying tensions within the Network that have yet to be resolved, specifically in three areas: how we conceive of the Network and what direction we wish to take it in, what positions the Network should take and policies it should pursue, and how we intervene as an organisation within the movement.

Read more: Ged Colgan and Paris Thompson: Proposal for IS Network conference

Bristol IS Network: The paid worker debate - a proposal

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.

Read more: Bristol IS Network: The paid worker debate - a proposal

IS Network and a temporary paid worker - a debate

A debate
1. Paris T's statement
2. China M, Penny S, Richard S and Rosie W reply
3. Parameters Document
4. Tim N's statement
5. Rosie W's response

#1: Paris T's statement

In recent weeks it's become apparent that the IS Network Steering Committee has given serious thought to the employment of a Network paid employee. I would argue that at this stage the employment of a paid organiser would be a serious mistake, and is a short-term, bureaucratic response to problems which will need much more thoroughgoing political and organisational answers.

Read more: IS Network and a temporary paid worker - a debate