The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty: who we are, what we do

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty aims to build a movement which can replace capitalism, the current economic and social system based on class division and exploitation, with a new society based on consistent democracy, collective ownership and solidarity – socialism.

We are involved in many movements, struggles and campaigns. Our central focus is the organised labour movement – including trade unions and the Labour Party. Our organisation exists to educate and organise socialists so we can transform the labour movement into a force capable of liberating the working class, and humanity, by overthrowing capitalism.

Why the working class?

Capitalism means a world run according to the drives and dictates of the owning and exploiting minority which appropriates the wealth produced by those who have to work for wages – the big majority of people in Britain and a huge and ever-growing minority worldwide. The “working class” is not just manual workers with a particular accent – it is everyone who has to sell their ability to work in order to live, train drivers and teachers, cleaners and social workers, call centre and IT workers and many, many more...

The capitalists always organise on a “class struggle” basis – fighting militantly and even violently for their interests against those of workers, oppressed people and the planet. Since the economic crisis began in 2008, they have been more aggressive than ever. To make real headway against these predatory appetites, the working class must learn to think and respond in kind. The class struggle will continue as long as capitalism does – to end it, we must fight to win it.

Under capitalism, people are oppressed on many different bases – including gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, sometimes nation – and struggles against these oppressions are crucial. The left must champion them. But it is only the (incredibly diverse) working class itself, as the basic fuel cell and driving force of capitalism, that has the possibility of challenging and overturning the whole system, creating a social and political force that can allow all liberation struggles to triumph.

The limited, insecure human rights and elements of democracy working people have won over centuries remain cramped and imprisoned within the confines and pressures of capitalism – a system in which huge areas of social life are completely excluded from democratic control and accountability, and in which the rich not only own the means of producing wealth, but dominate the media, the apparatus of administration and every structure of power.

Stand up for socialism

It is because we want to help the working class defend and liberate itself from capitalism that we are socialists. We want a left that fights for socialism – a world freed from class exploitation, an international system in which collective ownership of social resources and production for need allow much more genuine democracy, an end to dangerous climate change and a sustainable relationship between humanity and nature, a comfortable and secure life for everyone, and thus a radical flowering of freedom and individuality.

Until the 1970s or 80s, it was quite common for people even on right wing of the Labour Party to say that, whatever about immediate policies, they ultimately wanted a socialist commonwealth. Today, after the collapse of Stalinism in Russia and Eastern Europe, and decades of neo-liberal capitalist offensive, even the left is reluctant to talk about socialism. For the majority today, socialism is either discredited, or something they know little about.

Of course there are major differences among socialists about how to get socialism and indeed what it means. Since the left has won the leadership of the Labour Party, those differences have become more obvious. There needs to be a debate – and the point is the debate should be framed in terms of socialism. Socialists need to educate for socialism, to set down the goal of winning people to fight for a new and radically better world. Campaigning on this or that issue, or against austerity, is not a substitute.

Popularising socialist ideas is not counterposed to, but necessary for, shifting the political debate. Without the spread and growing influence of socialist ideas in the 1880s and 90s, the Labour Party – not socialist, but a big step forward for independent working-class politics – would never have come into being.

After the disaster of Stalinism, we need to refound and renovate the socialist tradition, to clear away the influence Stalinist and Stalinist-inspired ideas have on even the anti-Stalinist left, so that we can build on clean, open ground.

Against Stalinism

Many people, parties, and even states, both in history and today, call themselves "socialist". For many people, "socialism" and "communism" are synonymous with the states that existed in Russia and Eastern Europe prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the states which exist today in China, Cuba, North Korea, or Vietnam.

We believe that these countries were not and are not socialist. They were based on systems of class exploitation just as brutal as capitalism at its most savage; in some ways, they were worse, with workers not even having the limited freedoms to form independent unions which we have in most major capitalist states.

The legacy of Stalinism continues to cast a long shadow over left-wing politics around the world, both in terms of the belief that those states represent some kind of model to aspire to, and in terms of Stalinist methodology: unquestioning deference to bureaucratic party or union apparatuses, and the cynical alliances advocated by some on the left with anti-working-class forces such as jihadist Islamism in the name of "anti-imperialism".

Workers' Liberty wants to clean off the muck that Stalinism has heaped on the name and ideas of socialism, and rediscover the radically democratic core of revolutionary socialist politics.

Transform the labour movement – fight for a workers’ government

The AWL argues and educates openly for socialism. We also develop and campaign for demands to change society in the here and now, and to develop the labour movement into a more adequate instrument for that fight. We want to develop demands which can act as a bridge towards overthrowing capitalism, by developing workers’ organisation, consciousness and ability to fight for their interests against the bosses. Demands like:

• Taxing the rich to reverse all cuts and create quality public-sector services, jobs and homes for all.
• A real Living Wage for all without exceptions; banning zero hours contracts; scrapping anti-union laws and introducing strong trade union rights so that workers can fight to improve their position.
• Public ownership of the banks and high finance to end the banks functioning as an engine of crisis and inequality, unlock resources for social investment and create a public banking, pensions and mortgage system serving the whole community.
• Reversing privatisation; pushing forward democratic public ownership of services and industries.
• Democratic reforms to both how government is shaped and to the bureaucratic state machine.

To make it possible to fight for and win these demands, we need to fight for dramatic changes in the organisations of the labour movement:

• The trade unions: recruiting thousands and then millions of new members, while fight to make them into militant, democratic organisations of struggle, controlled from below by workers and not by a materially privileged bureaucracy. A special emphasis on recruiting, organising and defending migrant workers alongside those born here.
• The Labour Party: transforming its politics, democratising it from top to bottom and bringing elected representatives, particularly the MPs, under control. All socialists should join Labour.
• The left, and in particular Momentum, need to become capable of winning these changes.

We believe socialism is impossible without a revolution – a mass movement that breaks up the state machine (police, army, top judges and civil servants, monarchy...) that exists to protect capitalism and replaces it with a fundamentally more democratic system, in which representatives and managers are recallable and mandatable delegates, without material privileges. But such a revolution will only be possible when the mass of the labour movement and working class want it, ie are won over to revolutionary socialist ideas.

As a step forward, we advocate the whole labour movement fights to create a workers’ government – a government as accountable and responsive to the labour movement as the Tories are to the capitalists, and which acts and helps mobilise against capitalist wealth and power.

Educate, agitate, organise

Many times in the last century, the absence or inadequacy of socialist organisation has meant revolutionary openings missed, and capitalism surviving when it didn’t have to – with terrible consequences for humanity.

Many times big, broad left-wing movements have come to be disastrously misled, or rapidly dispersed in a crisis for lack of a coherent, organised and politically clear core which could gain influence and help bring the movement to greater clarity. The ongoing left-wing movement in the Labour Party faces just that risk.

The radical socialist left in Britain is divided. We pride ourselves on encouraging cooperation and debate between different socialists organisation. At the same time, we believe we are doing work do develop socialist ideas and work in the broad labour movement which no one else is doing.

We educate, agitate, organise for socialism by:

• Working in the trade unions to develop working-class struggle and transform the trade union movement. Build rank-and-file workers’ networks. Publish workplace bulletins to promote socialist ideas at the grassroots.
• Working in the Labour Party to develop a working-class political voice and a movement for a workers’ government. Work in Momentum to make that possible.
• Working in the student movement to build strong, left-wing campus Labour Clubs, push forward student struggles, transform student unions and NUS and develop student-worker solidarity.
• Working in many different movements, including women’s liberation and ecological struggles, and build links between them and the labour movement.
• Publishing a weekly socialist newspaper, Solidarity, pamphlets and books; organise regular meetings, debates and study groups.

Want to help? Work with us, discuss ideas with us and consider joining!

For more information on the AWL, such as what we think and how to join, see our resources page here.