What kind of new organisation do we need?

This piece by Alan Thornett was published earlier this year as a contribution to our discussion on regroupment. The document was uncontroversial among those who have had a chance to discuss it and goes some way to establishing a framework for the constitution adopted by Socialist Resistance’s refounding conference earlier this month.

We need to start to discuss what kind of new organisation we want to build if the regroupment process is successful, as appears to be the case. The following are some comments on the general principles involved in this rather than trying to propose a detailed constitution at this stage, though we will have to have a constitution before we can create a new organisation.

The new organisation should be strongly committed to building Respect as its central project. Or more precisely it should be strongly committed to building a broad party of the left to tackle the crisis of working class representation — at this stage this means building Respect, but it could mean at a latter stage arguing that Respect should became a part of something bigger and broader which could do the job more effectively.

We should strongly advocate building Respect as a multi-tendency party because it is by far the best way to build it as a democratic and pluralist organisation. Respect is in fact such an organisation already — although this has never been reflected adequately in its constitution.

The new organisation should therefore exist both as a component of Respect and as a public organisation. It should function as a platform inside Respect and conduct as much of its campaigning work as possible through it. At the same time it should have its own publications and public presence, including public meetings, in order to defend its own distinct politics and attract people to it as a current. It should seek to do this, however, firmly within the context of building Respect and in a way consistent with building it. At public events (demonstrations etc) it should give a high priority to the profile of Respect whilst maintaining a profile of its own where appropriate.

The new organisation should be committed to working in Respect in a constructive and non-sectarian way. In other words whilst it would remain an organised current it would not function as a permanent or homogeneous block-voting caucus in Respect. Other than on issues where class lines are crossed or the future of Respect jeopardised it would expect its members to function as part of the discussions in the organisation as a whole and vote as such.

The new organisation should be revolutionary socialist in character. In other words it should be committed to the overthrow of the capitalist system by the working class and the establishment of a socialist society by revolutionary means. It should therefore be committed to the construction of a future mass revolutionary organisation dedicated to this task.

Membership of the new organisation should be based on a commitment to its basic aims and programme and engagement in the political orientation and activities agreed thorough its decision making processes.

The new organisation should not be explicitly democratic centralist but should be based on the principles of maximum participation in the decision-making processes and maximum unity in action. Members will therefore normally be expected to uphold and support the policy decisions of the organisation, promote the publications of the organisation, be a member of a trade union where possible and pay regular dues to the organisation.

The new organisation should have a fairly `traditional’ structure. The sovereign body should be a conference, held at least every two years. This should elect a National Committee (NC). The NC should elect an executive committee from its number to oversee the implementation of its decisions and react to event between meetings. The basic unit of the organisation should be the branch.

Members of the new organisation should have the right to constitute themselves in organised tendencies and factions on the basis of a clear political platform available to all members of the organisation. The rights of such minorities should include the right to meet and organise around their views and adequate opportunity at conference to explain and develop their views.

The new organisation should recognise that various forms of oppressive social relationships are present in capitalist society and that they act as a block to the unity of the working class in its struggle for socialism. It therefore views all oppressive behaviour such as of racism, sexism, homophobia, or violence as against the interest of the working class. Any oppressed group has the right to caucus if they feel the necessity.

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