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Towards Revolutionary Regroupment

 

KD Tait welcomes the decisions of the recent ISN conference and the encouraging work of the RevSocs, before outlining our perspectives for unity

 

ISN conference takes step forward

In October, the International Socialist Network (ISN) a recent split from the SWP, held its first ‘Politics and Policy’ Conference.

The conference was democratic and inclusive, with observers from the Workers International League (WIL), Socialist Resistance (SR), the Anticapitalist Initiative (ACI) and Workers Power.

The weekend was an example of how a commitment to democratic debate and participation can enable political confidence to grow and practical initiatives to flourish.

Debate ranged from the nature and tasks of rank and file organisation in the unions, to the role of intersectionality and feminism in elaborating a Marxist analysis of social oppression. Perspectives were agreed for an orientation towards militant working class antifascism, building a rank and file movement in the unions and launching a women’s newspaper.

These are all positive steps forward, which show the ISN – just a few months old – is beginning the process taking the first steps in distinguishing from the best of the SWP’s tradition whilst separating from and rejecting the worst of its opportunist practice.

The ISN is distinguished from the other SWP-splinters Counterfire and the International Socialist Group (ISG) principally by its orientation to the task of regrouping various fragments of the revolutionary left.

We welcome the plan agreed by the conference for joint work between SR-ACI-ISN-WP towards a conference in early Spring, which aims to be the setting off point for a process of regroupment.

A final positive feature of the conference was the role played by the ISN’s young members. Often astute, sometimes iconoclastic, the youth of all the organisations will be key to the success of the project.

 

Revolutionary Socialists: a new force on campus

The student members of the ISN and WP have been active in forming and building the Revolutionary Socialists, a group for students and youth. In Manchester, the ACI has built the Manchester Anticapitalist Students group with former members of SWSS.

The RevSocs held their first national meeting in August, where we agreed a common platform and constitution.

Although many of the plans and perspectives agreed at the conference were probably over-ambitious, an excess of enthusiasm and ambition is no bad thing – especially in a student movement which was defeated in 2010 and has seen many of its national and local structures wither away.

Nevertheless, the strongest groups – Sheffield and Leeds, have made headway in the first term of activity on Campus, and the Liverpool group has held sizeable meetings.

The main focus of activity has been joint work with Feminist Societies to campaign against the rape culture dominating the student club scene, and mobilising student support for the 31 October Higher Education Strike.

Although the joint strike by Unite, Unison and UCU was a welcome step forward, the day itself exposed the weakness of the student movement. While Sheffield, SOAS, Sussex staged brief occupations; other campuses like Leeds were unable to even get a Student Union presence on the day.

The Revolutionary Socialists face a long and uphill struggle to build a genuinely independent, self-sustaining and national youth organisation. We cannot foresee what struggles are to come, nor whether we will succeed in overcoming the sectarian self-isolation of the youth wings of the other left organisations.

What we can say though, is that in order to thrive and grow as a revolutionary organisation, the RevSoc groups and members who support our platform will need to be a central part of the revolutionary regroupment process.

In this process we will defend the autonomy of our organisation – that is, our right to criticise, think freely, and democratically make our own decisions – and champion the special methods of agitation and struggle needed to win radicalised youth to a perspective of the revolutionary socialist transformation of society.

 

Perspectives for unity

Over the last month a barrage of defeats and sell-outs has hit the labour movement.

The privatisation of the CWU without a fight, the calling off of teachers’ strikes, and above all the unprecedented surrender by Unite at Grangemouth have all sparked a debate about how the left, especially those who consider themselves to be revolutionaries should respond.

Some on the left have gone so far as to say that – because revolutionaries are so few, divided and isolated – we are simply not fit to offer a way forward. First we have to re-examine everything and then begin a slow and painful re-elaboration of socialist politics. This is a counsel of despair and it lets the rotten leaders off the hook completely.

Armed with an alternative strategy for working class around which we can unite our forces – we can begin to mount a challenge to the political and union leaderships with no stomach to fight.

In fact the task of developing a fighting strategy – an action programme- is more urgent than ever. It is also inseparable from its embodiment in a fighting revolutionary socialist organisation; one which can challenge not only the union bureaucracy and the Labour Party but also the serious misleadership offered by the larger “revolutionary” groups, within the working class.

They have played their own part in the failures of the last three years, either through wilfully dividing the forces of resistance (the SWP and SP) or by toadying to the left bureaucracy (Counterfire and the CPB). A new organisation must fight, equally, this sectarianism and this opportunism

The (narrow) decision of the ISN conference not to immediately liquidate itself into a so-called pluralist or “broad” organisation with Socialist Resistance and the Anticapitalist Initiative (ACI) was a wise move, as was the decision to enter into serious political discussions with Workers Power and other left forces.

Workers Power will take these discussions very seriously. Our aim is no less than revolutionary unity on the basis of an operative revolutionary programme and an agreement to act together in a coherent and effective way in the various struggles of the working class and the oppressed.

We do not expect to solve all the political issues that divide our different traditions before we unite and work together. Indeed we suggest right away as much common work as possible on a wide range of issues like antifascist and antiracist mobilisation, local anticuts actions, and solidarity with the Greek workers or the Syrian revolution.

Discussions and differences would likely continue for some while even after a principled fusion and we would loyally accept all majority decision about, for example public expression of differences; where we have disagreed with our former comrades in the ACI and SR. In any case it is the disciplined carrying out of democratically agreed decisions for action in the class struggle that is the heart of genuine democratic centralism.

As issues which a revolutionary regroupment process needs to address, we suggest:

  • Building a rank and file movement in the unions – challenging the full-time and unelected bureaucracy as a step towards the transformation of unions into democratic fighting organisations – effective weapons in the service of their members.
  • How to coordinate and relaunch the fight back against the austerity government? After the top table speechifying at the Westminster People’s Assembly and given its “leaderships’” close ties to the CPB and the union bureaucracy, can we look to local People’s Assemblies to act as the starting point for a national fightback against the attacks on jobs, pay and living conditions?
  • The character of the Labour Party today and our attitude to the Labour Left. What sort of an alternative to it can we build today? Is it a left reformist or a revolutionary one? If the latter then can we work towards building such a party in Britain in the foreseeable future. The Left Unity Conference on 30 November will see these issues debated, if not resolved.
  • The reviving and growing women’s movement – will it and should it be an all class feminist movement, socialist feminist or do we need a working class women’s liberation movement. We would suggest series of local forums to discuss the various strands and their theories but we also support the idea that has been floated to relaunch a women’s paper which we believe should combine discussion on theory with orientation to he lives, experience and struggles of working class women.
  • The question of international political organisation among revolutionaries – the issue of a new International.
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