“Global economy pushed to brink” read the front-page headline of the Financial Times as the AWL’s national committee met on 24 September to discuss amendments and redrafts of the main documents up for debate at AWL annual conference on 22-23 October.
We decided that the conference agenda should be geared around the challenges posed by a very-possible new capitalist crash, and an almost-certain extended capitalist depression.
The rest of the left — from the mainstream Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, through the left union leaders, right to groups like SWP and SP — have been timid on the economic issues. The message varies from “cut VAT” through “stop tax loopholes” to “stop the cuts”, but includes no strong transitional measure against capital.
Our conference should centre on whether we are right to raise demands like “Expropriate the banks”, “a workers' plan”, “a workers' government”, and how to gain traction for them.
A main perspectives document on “AWL and the next year”, a report on “Building the AWL”, and other documents were amended and endorsed by the NC.
The committee also debated procedures for the conference electing a new national committee. Some members argued for a “nominating commission” — an ad hoc body, elected by conference and separate from the outgoing national committee, which discusses the nominations in detail and reports to conference with a suggested list. Candidates not on the suggested list can then be advocated, and the vote is then by simple first-past-the-post.
When AWL used this procedure before, some years back, the conference never or almost never ended up voting for exactly the suggested list; but some argued that the suggested list helps promote discussion on the overall shape of the NC, rather than just the merits of individual candidates.
The majority of the national committee thought that this was unnecessarily laborious; might hive off too much of the discussion on the new committee to a small subgroup; and would give signals of small-group control when we need to emphasise openness and broad involvement.
The national committee minority will now take its views to conference for debate.
Further regional pre-conference meetings, for AWL members to familiarise themselves with the documents, issues, and debates, will be held in London on 9 October, York on 15 October, and Sheffield on 16 October.