The AWL’s annual conference, which decides our policy, sets the framework for our activity and elects our leadership for a year, will take place in London on 22-23 October. AWL has grown by nearly 50% in the last year; this will be our biggest conference for some time.
In many political parties, there are all kinds of tricks and filters to prevent conferences from exercising real control over those who run the organisation. One mechanism is limiting the amount of information that the membership have about what will take place at the conference, and thus the amount of input they have into it.
This is the case in the Labour Party and many trade unions — but also, for instance, in much smaller left-wing groups like the SWP. As a somewhat smaller organisation, the AWL has the advantage that all members can attend our conference. However, that is not the basic difference.
The preparations for AWL conference are open to all members of the group. The documents commissioned by our National Committee — on general perspectives, the unions, students, the North African/Middle Eastern revolutions and building the AWL — have been circulated to all members. Any AWL member can propose amendments or submit additional documents. As usual, we are holding a series of regional preconference meetings for members to discuss the documents; the first of these have already taken place.
AWL members who joined less than six months ago can attend and speak, but not vote on the documents or in the elections for our National Committee. We maintain this system of “candidate membership” not because we want to limit our democracy, but because we take it seriously. Comrades should have gone through a basic process of political education and induction into AWL activity before they can become full citizens in the group. We are part of a political tradition going back most of two hundred years, and have our own tradition going back more than forty.
We want to maintain and develop these traditions, which is why we insist on a minimum period of political education and integration before comrades can vote.
• If you’re not an AWL member but would like to come to the conference, email firstname.lastname@example.org