The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL) met for our annual conference on 26-27 October at the University of London Union. The purpose of the AGM is to review our activity over the previous year, debate and decide policy, agree our political priorities, and elect our National Committee.
The conference noted some significant successes. AWL has been integral to the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, which has beaten back Tory attempts to cut maternity and A&E services, preparing the hospital for closure.
We helped coordinate the international campaign to defend Australian trade unionist Bob Carnegie, victimised for his role in a successful construction workers’ strike.
Now contempt of court charges against him have been dismissed.
AWL members at the University of London have been centrally involved in the “Tres Cosas” campaign of outsourced cleaning, catering, and security workers, launching a rank-and-file workplace bulletin in coordination with the campaign.
But we face lots of challenges, too. We remain a small group, operating in a period defined not by high levels of struggle and significant victories, but one in which even a well-organised, industrially-powerful workforce like that at Grangemouth can go down to total defeat. The conference’s main focus was on how we could step up and improve the essential work of AWL — agitating, educating, and organising for revolutionary socialist ideas in the labour movement.
A debate on our perspectives and work for the next 12 months recognised that neo-liberalism was still dominant and assertive, and organised labour weak. The ongoing squeeze on real wages makes explosions of class conflict likely but we can’t know when. The conference agreed a number of key activities and initiatives
AWL members will work to hasten those explosions, and to help support and shape them when they arrive. We agreed to expand our workplace and industrial bulletins, building on the successes of Lewisham Hospital Worker and The Open Book at the University of London, as well as looking for opportunities to build or rebuild rank-and-file networks in trade unions, like the Local Associations Network in the National Union of Teachers to which we have been central.
We’ll support the establishment of “Left Forums” on campuses, discussion groups that can give students a space to discuss a range of anti-capitalist ideas.
We’ll work on the campaign to free jailed Iranian trade unionist Shahrokh Zamani, petitioning and organising direct action. And we agreed to focus on self and mutual education within AWL, as well as implementing a system of “mentoring” to help new comrades develop and sustain their activity. The conference received reports on the group’s socialist-feminist activity, our industrial work, and our publications and literature.
In a debate on the left, the conference noted the ongoing shifts and realignments created by the continuing disintegration of the SWP, but also acknowledged that many of the splinters and regroupments are yet to break with SWP orthodoxy on, for example, international issues, or are breaking only inconsistently. We agreed to seek discussions, both at an individual and organisational level, wherever possible, and work towards the maximum possible left unity in action accompanied by the maximum possible openness in debate.
A specially-scheduled session on Sunday morning began a discussion about the controversy surrounding the introduction to Workers’ Liberty 3/1, from 2006, which has recently been attacked (on social media and elsewhere) as “Islamophobic” or straightforwardly “racist”. Conference preferred to have a general discussion on the issue than a snap vote on an emergency motion. Unfortunately one comrade, rather than stay inside the AWL and fight for his view on the article, opted to resign and spread false reports about the debate.
We will continue this discussion (in which there are a range of views) in meetings, on our website, in future issues of Solidarity and in internal bulletins.
The conference voted, in a wider discussion about climate change and environmental activism, to modify our previously-held position of opposition to nuclear power (see page 9). The new policy accepted that, given the timeframe now implied by the scale of climate change, nuclear must be considered as an option in any non-fossil-fuel-based energy mix.
The conference heard international greetings from Amin Kazemi of the Iranian Revolutionary Marxist Tendency, Gona Saeed of the Worker-Communist Party of Iraqi Kurdistan, Victor from L’Etincelle in France, and received a written message from Marksist Tutum in Turkey. The comrades from Iran and Kurdistan also participated in a discussion about the Middle East, which noted the possibilities and necessity for solidarity with workers’ organisation in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere, but also noted the ongoing dangers posed by Islamist repression and sectarian reaction.
The documents discussed and voted on can be read here.