Taking steps towards revolutionary unity


This joint statement was agreed by the International Socialist Network, Anticapitalist Initiative, and Socialist Resistance delegations to recent unity talks. They met to discuss the formation of a united revolutionary tendency last weekend.

Delegates from Socialist Resistance, the Anticapitalist Initiative and the International Socialist Network came together on Sunday 7th July to discuss the next steps on the road to forming a united, plural and heterodox revolutionary tendency on the left in Britain.

These discussions were born out of the recent crisis and split in the Socialist Workers Party, which led to the formation of the International Socialist Network, and also inspired debate all across the left in Britain and internationally on how we should move away from the top down and monolithic conception of revolutionary organisation that has proven so damaging in recent years. All of the delegations agreed that they were committed to building an open, democratic and radical left, which encourages free thinking, is built from below and can reach out to a new generation. Wherever necessary delegates tried to make clear the terrain of the debate within their own organisation to the other delegations. This was important for encouraging an open and honest culture in the discussions. It also made clear that the groups participating were not, and did not want to be, monolithic in their approach to revolutionary politics, but even in our own groups we were already attempting to practice pluralism.

Initially discussion focused on a document from Simon Hardy and Luke Cooper (ACI), ‘what kind of radical organisation?’. Discussion was wide-ranging but focused on the questions of building new left parties, trade union and social movement activism, and democratic organisation. Alan Thornett (SR) had produced a response to the document that focused on the difference between a broad party project and a revolutionary Marxist tendency, as well as raising some differences over how the question of democratic organisation was put across in the document.

After two delegate-based discussions of revolutionary unity it was agreed that the debate must be opened out to our wider networks and memberships, and a date for a joint national meeting was agreed for October. There was also a useful discussion of practical collaboration: plans floated for a joint 12 page publication, a common perspective for student and youth work in the autumn, working together to make Left Unity a success, and developing a joint BME caucus. For more information on these discussions then contact any one of the three different organisations involved, SR, ACI, and the IS Network.



  1. Stuart King
    July 11, 2013 at 1:05 pm · Reply

    Revolutionary regroupment is an excellent idea but being democratic and pluralist is more than just words. It should start with our own practice. Why did discussion focus on only one document from Luke and Simon when two other documents were circulated in the ACI one from Cat one from me. What privileges just one of these?

    We discussed an approach from Workers Power to be part of these revolutionary regroupment discussions and that they be invited on Sunday. Socialist Resistance wanted them excluded, a very “non-pluralist” approach.

    The ISN steering committee was in favour of them attending. In a London ACI meeting we thought we should have the comrades from WP there to find out what their thoughts were (I think Manchester ACI thought the same). Yet they weren’t invited and the exclusion was carried through. Comrades from WP attend these meetings in London and the sky has not fallen in.

    The sooner we have membership to membership discussions the better, that way all points of view in the four organisations can be heard.

    • Jara Handala
      July 16, 2013 at 11:14 pm · Reply

      Hi, Stuart.

      You raise a number of serious matters that warrant discussion.

      1) If only one of ACI’s documents was discussed at the 7 July meeting, have you received an explanation from the ACI negotiating team why this happened? Out of interest, do ACI post-holders ever reply to queries & requests put to them by members?

      2) Workers Power:

      a) how do you know it was SR who stopped them taking part? I say this coz our elected Steering Cttee felt they couldn’t tell us who it was, that we perhaps didn’t deserve to know (no point asking them why they decided this coz they don’t do requests – no acknowledgment email, certainly not a reply):
      “Opposition to the inclusion of Workers Power in the talks has been expressed by one of the groups involved.” http://internationalsocialistnetwork.org/index.php/is-network/minutes/156-23-jun-2013-steering-cttee-minutes

      b) no explanation offered on SR’s website. Do you know why they refused to give permission?

      3) Revo unity discussions between members of the 3 (or 4?) groups:

      a) what preparations have been made in ACI to allow an informed discussion to occur both within your group, & with members & supporters of the other 3?

      b) unfortunately no preparations have been made within ISN for such informed discussions. Also there have been no reports of ANY discussion occurring except that taking place in meetings of the decision-making bodies, the Steering Cttee & the National General Meeting.

      c) perhaps more significantly, no decision has been made that an informed discussion is even necessary, & what it would require. (No point asking our 19-personed Steering Cttee to discuss what’s involved as . . . you got it, they don’t do requests.)

      So it looks like, at least from our side, things will proceed piecemeal, ad hoc, & local. Guess the mutual aid, the living of solidarity, will come in the localities, which can only strengthen all our memberships, despite everything else.

  2. Jara Handala
    July 11, 2013 at 4:32 pm · Reply

    As an ISN member, I heartily welcome this joint statement.

    I made this plain in a comment I made two hours ago on our ISN Website, it being the first attached to the statement. As you know, it says, “the groups participating were not, and did not want to be, monolithic in their approach to revolutionary politics, but even in our own groups we were already attempting to practice pluralism.” In that spirit I have asked our Website editor(s) to publish, as an article, a two-part analysis I have made of the ongoing SWP crisis & what it means for our ISN & its values. It is of wider interest, not least to yourselves & SR, as it shows that we in the ISN still have a lot to learn, that we shouldn’t be afraid to face that fact, & together come up with ways to remedy matters.

    What I argued takes inspiration, in part, from views on radical participatory democracy, & from a resolution passed by the Fourth International in 1985, ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat & Socialist Democracy’, developing some ideas found in sections 7, 8 & 13, & applying them to being in a Marxist organisation in today’s Britain:

    Below is what I said today on our ISN Website. (In error one sentence appears twice.) Comments from yourselves & members of SR would be most welcome:

    “In the context of this timely & very welcomed statement I reproduce below the email I have just sent to our ISN Website editor(s).

    In doing so I apply both what’s in the joint statement, & what our ISN stands for. The spirit of the statement is refreshing, the need to be “plural and heterodox . . . encourag[ing] free thinking, . . . built from below . . . encouraging an open and honest culture”. It says that “in our own groups we were already attempting to practice pluralism”, & that “it was agreed that the debate must be opened out to our wider networks and memberships”. Our ISN value of making our proceedings transparent also justifies posting this email.

    ‘Dear ISN Website editor(s),

    Given the values of our ISN, & in the spirit of today’s joint statement on revolutionary unity by ourselves, the Anticapitalist Initiative, & Socialist Resistance, I ask you to publish as an article, & as soon as you can, my two-part analysis of what & how our ISN can learn from the ongoing SWP crisis, & how we might improve the way we do things.

    This analysis, as you presumably know, was posted on Sunday & yesterday (Wednesday) in our ISN Public Forum:

    As Ian Birchall put it last Thursday, “The internet allows us to develop a debate that is much more rapid, responsive and extensive than printed publications. It would be strange if revolutionaries did not welcome such possibilities.” The focus for discussing has shifted from ‘the paper’.

    I hope you can publish as soon as you can, not least so that we, the ISN, can show to the ACI, SR, & the rest of the left, that we treasure, in the words of today’s joint statement, being “plural and heterodox”, “encourag[ing] free thinking”, “committed to building an open, democratic and radical left . . . built from below . . . encouraging an open and honest culture”. It would show that we, the ISN, can proudly practise this in the range of articles we publish prominently on our Website. It would also help show “that the groups participating were not, and did not want to be, monolithic in their approach to revolutionary politics”.

    It would add substance to both the claim that “even in our own groups we were already attempting to practice pluralism”, & demonstrate our commitment that “the debate must be opened out to our wider networks and memberships”. ‘Pravda’ & all the other publications showed the diversity within the ranks. Our ISN Website should be no different.

    It is through free & frank discussion involving the most participants that differences can be expressed, new evidence & arguments can be presented, all improving our chances of reaching a better understanding, & deciding what we do. By bringing the more heterodox into view, differences amongst us can be given recognition, honoured, greatly improving our ability to remain united in our socialist work.

    Being “plural and heterodox” requires giving ISN members access to the means we have to disseminate our views to the world, to ‘the class’, to fellow members. Our Steering Cttee has consistently said ‘the Forum is dead’. Some of us have consistently tried to cajole our Steering Cttee into being strategic, proactive, & start promoting it. Well, if our Website is alive then I ask it to publish this two-part analysis. Why not have it in a prominent place, upfront on the Website, ending up in the list of articles, rather than having it hived away through the tiny aperture in the top-left corner of our homepage, the portal labelled ‘Forum’? That makes sense, doesn’t it? That would accord with our values, purpose, & tradition, yes? That would accord with our joint statement with the ACI & SR, yes?

    As Tony Cliff put it more than 50 years ago, “The managers of factories can discuss their business in secret and then put before the workers a fait accompli . . . Since the revolutionary party cannot have interests apart from the class, all the party’s issues of policy are those of the class, and they should therefore be thrashed out in the open, in its presence. The freedom of discussion which exists in the factory meeting, which aims at unity of action after decisions are taken, should apply to the revolutionary party. This means that all discussions on basic issues of policy should be discussed in the light of day: in the open press. Let the mass of the workers take part in the discussion, put pressure on the party, its apparatus and leadership.” http://marxists.org/archive/cl… ‘Trotsky on Substitutionism’

    Today’s joint statement is an achievement given the appalling history of destructive & wasteful sectarian animosity amongst the far left, at least since the late 60s, if not the early 50s. Our common hope, expressed in today’s statement, is “forming a united, plural and heterodox revolutionary tendency on the left in Britain”.

    Publishing this two-part analysis on our Website today can help show to all that we, the ISN, mean this by having a publishing policy that encourages all of us to be “plural and heterodox”, not afraid to ‘go against the grain’, to ‘swim against the current’. For far too long in the British far left unorthodox views & evidenced arguments have been suppressed. Now is another chance to change.

    It would also show, as far as our ISN goes, that “the groups participating were not, and did not want to be, monolithic in their approach to revolutionary politics, but even in our own groups we were already attempting to practice pluralism.” (Incidently, this justifies its inclusion in this week’s ‘Network News’, our emailed newsletter.)

    For far too long in the British far left unorthodox views & evidenced arguments have been suppressed. For the first time since whenever, more of us can unite on a principled basis. Celebrating, encouraging expression is a necessary part of that, not a luxury or a danger. We need to do all we can to contribute to a new dawn, to less of a splintered sunrise.’”

    • Jara Handala
      July 21, 2013 at 1:59 pm · Reply

      It’s been brought to my attention that only the first of the 5 links in my post are live:

      The 4 defective ones, with a space added to each, are:

      http ://forum.internationalsocialistnetwork.com/thread/253/swp-takes-new-turn-learn
      http ://forum.internationalsocialistnetwork.com/thread/254/swp-crisis-isn-learn-2
      (almost 2000 views between them; posted 7 & 10 July)
      http ://revolutionarysocialism.tumblr.com/post/54588200394/ian-birchall-replies-to-his-critics
      http ://marxists.org/archive/cliff/works/1960/xx/trotsub.htm

      Please correct, or leave this comment as a necessary supplement.


  3. David Ellis
    July 15, 2013 at 1:25 pm · Reply

    True unity will only be achieved on the basis of a programme that relates to real world events and the real world concerns of the class. Anything else is a bunch of sects horse-trading.

    Agreement on: 1. Syria; 2.Egypt; 3. Palestine; 4. A programme for the transition to working class power and socialism for the British working class. Additional things for agreement: Nature of China; Nature of Russia; Approach to EU and Europe. Agree on these and you might have something worthwhile. In any case the grouping that adopts coherent policies on these things will grow very quickly without the need for regrouping with the others. Sects don’t grow cos they don’t got no politics.

    • John Grimshaw
      July 16, 2013 at 10:24 am · Reply

      Unity will be achieved in action. And by this I also mean organising and activity within the working class. As long as we continue to remain a bunch of academic theorisers what’s the point of us?

  4. Harry Blackwell
    July 15, 2013 at 10:21 pm · Reply

    Revolutionary realignment, democracy and the new left

    7pm Tuesday 23rd July at the University of London Union, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY
    (Nearest Tube: Goodge Street/Russell Square)

    A joint public meeting of the Anticapitalist Initiative, International Socialist Network and Socialist Resistance

    Recent changes on the British left have opened up the prospect for revolutionary regroupment for the first time in many years. They equally pose the question of a different type of unity that brings those from diverse radical traditions together. Can we form a plural, heterodox, and effective anticapitalist tendency in Britain? A panel of speakers from the International Socialist Network, Anticapitalist Initiative, and Socialist Resistance, will reflect on this question and report on the discussions that have already taken place amongst the three groups on revolutionary unity.
    INTERESTED IN THIS NEW PROJECT? The process isn’t just about bringing together already organised socialists, but is equally about reaching out to the new layers of activists, and those have grown disenchanted with top down politics and are looking for something new. Contact [email protected] if you would like to find out more.

  5. Southpawpunch
    July 17, 2013 at 9:29 pm · Reply

    I’m pleased to see this possible revolutionary regroupment but I also think we need revolutionary unity.

    I have written more about this on the SR thread (http://socialistresistance.org/5371/taking-steps-towards-revolutionary-unity-2#comment-52521). I think all should be invited to your discussions. I appreciate the level of simply plain rudeness (e.g. ignoring emails) that there is but we should think of the big picture – the unpleasant person in the office isn’t their entire membership.

    The objections to an invitation to all revolutionaries appear centred on ‘you need a minimum level of agreement to proceed’. I don’t think you do – you could even, for example, have in the group people who argue we should be in the Labour Party and they would have space to argue that doubtless minority view in the group’s public media.

    The other objection would be expressed that there are those who are so mad that we can not work with them. I think that also untrue. I’d invite all from libertarian anarchists to members of the Stalin Society.

    If the latter joined but still denounced the group as a typical ‘Trotskyite anti socialist tool of Western imperialism’ in their media or in meetings, that’s fine. All would get their alloted time. It’s only if any group attempted to get an unfair share of voice (i.e. continually refusing to stop when their time is up) would it be necessary to take sanctions up to exclusion.

    There’s whole host of issues I would vehemently disagree with members of say the AWL, SP, CPB and even the CPB(M-L) and World Revolution, but beyond a few short-sighted hacks, I’ve always found Left members to have similar aims. Those who deliberately set out to disrupt would be but a very small part of any umbrella left organisation.

    No-one can come and say ‘we have been proven to be right, follow our way’. We are all failures. So let’s all talk.

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