Notes on implementation of AWL conference decisions
(Draft by Martin, 10/06/04).
This text went to the AWL National Committee on 12/06/04, which scheduled it for discussion at the next NC on 05/09/04.
1. We decided to campaign for a "Third Camp" stand on Iraq, against the US/UK and against the Islamist and neo-Ba'thist resistance. The practical priority is building a solidarity campaign for the new Iraqi workers', unemployed and women's movements.
Action: Continue building IWSG and its initiatives. Continue seeking collaboration with trade unionists to build a broader solidarity campaign. Get more AWLers actively involved in IWSG. Seek to build in other unions networks similar to the IWSG network in Unison. Responsibility: Martin/ Sacha.
2. We resolved to campaign for universal, comprehensive, compulsory state schooling, and against the hijab, while opposing the new French law.
Action: Develop contacts for a campaign using the battle against a Christian fundamentalist foundation gaining partial control over a school in Doncaster. Responsibility: NUT fraction.
Some detailed policy points here were remitted to the NC. Proposal: schedule discussion, with written preparation, at September NC.
3. We resolved to continue promoting independent socialist election candidates, and generally an independent AWL profile, while also fighting for the unions to assert themselves within Labour structures, notably through the Labour Representation Committee.
Action: We have already, since our conference, done the independent socialist campaigns in Sheffield and Manchester. Further:
a) Build LRC conference. Intervene there with ideas of (i) a focus on union self-assertion in Labour structures; (ii) campaign for repeal of anti-union laws; (iii) no confidence in Blair; (iv) ongoing organisation. Responsibility: TU caucus.
b) Build pro-LRC networks in individual trade unions. Responsibility: fractions.
c) Depending on how much the LRC idea "takes off", consider possibilities for building local LRC groups e.g. sponsored by Trades Councils.
d) Approach AGS, Socialist Party, and hold-out Socialist Alliance groups to start discussions on a socialist presence in the 2005 general election, which we envisage to include one of our comrades standing in a selected constituency. Responsibility: Martin and Pete.
e) Approach SWPers and other pro-Respect leftists to discuss the experience of Respect and argue with them for a turn back to socialist politics. How much scope and leverage this activity can get will depend, of course, on how well or badly Respect does on 10 June, future developments within Respect, and how bad the internal troubles within the SWP are. Responsibility: Martin and Sacha.
4. We adopted proposals on AWL-building which prioritise getting out more, building campaigning No Sweat groups which reach out to a large audience, and organising public, collective, accessible AWL branch activity.
Note: The poor attendance at conference indicates that we have a serious problem with the level of morale, vitality, and activism of our members. Some general background to this problem - the effects of repeated disappointments on the older generation of activists, the broader crisis of socialist political culture, the diffuseness of the new politicisation and the consequent difficulty of getting a grip on it - has been discussed in our conference documents.
Additional recent factors seem to be: (a) Hopes raised and then dashed when the big numbers mobilised for the anti-war marches dissipated so quickly, with relatively few lasting gains for ongoing left-wing activism of any stripe; (b) The liquidation of the Socialist Alliance seems to have had a surprisingly adverse effect on our comrades' morale (i.e. the loss of a certain milieu - however limited it was, and however much comrades grumbled about it - has increased a sense of isolation).
On the EC we have discussed some ideas to see if they might help branches regain a milieu and recover morale - for example, local "global justice forums", or an effort to revitalise local Trades Councils. These ideas may well prove useful in many areas in the normal course of developing our work. We do not, however, wish to propose them as new priorities. They are not a substitute for the basic work of changing our culture in order to develop AWL branches with regular businesslike meetings and systematic and accessible public activities, and campaigning No Sweat groups. Any suggestion that those basic tasks can be set aside in favour of some new and easier priorities would be counterproductive. Moreover, the schemes in question are not necessarily easy sure-fire successes.
Action: (a) A drive to improve branch meetings, on the lines already discussed in our documents, so that they really become the centre of our members' political lives. Practical specifics: there should be minutes from every branch meetings (typed, or handwritten and photocopied, it doesn't matter), a copy of which is sent to the office; which are checked at the next meeting; and which include a list of who's committed to what activities in the period up to the next meeting. Organisers should phone any members who miss branch meetings to brief them on what they've missed and arrange their commitments for activity in the period up to the next meeting. Members who miss meetings repeatedly should be invited to discuss and, if not willing to attend and be active regularly, lapsed. With efficient branch meetings, we can efficiently organise paper distribution, regular and accessible AWL public activities (bulletin distributions, stalls, paper sales), and contact work.
(b) A renewed drive on education. Each branch should have a regular study course up and running by September.
(c) We now have a number of local No Sweat groups meeting regularly, which is a step forward. (i) Develop No Sweat groups in those remaining areas where we have AWL branches but there is still no No Sweat group. (ii) Build the No Sweat groups as active, outgoing, coalition-building groups which undertake consistent and planned campaigns (on the USAS model).
(d) Develop No Sweat in the colleges - where it has some of its greatest possibilities, but has not really been devleoped yet - through systematic work with No Sweat material in larger left/green groups like People and Planet.
Responsibility for coordinating all these: Secretariat and student committee.