Introductory briefing for new members
Activists and sympathisers
An activist - or member - of the AWL is expected to:
There is a six month period of 'candidate' membership for all activists, during which they are not entitled to a vote. During this period, before becoming full members, new activists go through a basic education course and establish a regular pattern of activity (this system is designed to protect the AWL's democracy, by ensuring that the people who have the deciding votes on our policy are those who are firmly committed to carrying them out and who know something of the political background to those decisions).
If you want to help our work, but are not willing to become an AWL activist, you can become an AWL sympathiser. We ask sympathisers to pay us a regular financial contribution - as much or as little as you like. Only activists have a deciding vote in our political decisions (e.g. at our conference).
Precise details of our decision-making and structures - including activists' rights to discuss and dissent - are outlined in the AWL constitution.
The obligations of activists
We have a basic education course which includes short items to read on fundamental issues of Marxist politics.
Your local group will organise a series of discussions to cover the basic reading course. Once you have completed this course part of your AWL work will be to help other new members educate themselves.
It is indispensable, of course, that you read the books we publish, the magazine, and the paper Solidarity, and join in the discussions around these which are held in your AWL branch.
All revolutionary activity depends on convincing people of our ideas, and almost always face-to-face discussion is decisive in this.
In every sphere, we seek out those who are interested in talking to us, and try to develop discussions, ensure they receive our literature regularly, and develop areas of co-operation in practical work.
The rules are simple:
We aim to get regular, structured political meetings with those that are interested. Such meetings can begin with whatever a particular individual is interested in, and move on to more abstract ideas and general Marxist theory. We encourage people to read our material and the Marxist classics - by lending or selling literature to them - and then encourage them to discuss what they have read with us.
The main point of such discussions is not so much to get people to do things, but rather to convince them of our ideas.
Once someone has a minimal commitment you should ask for them to help our work, give money and promote our organisation.
Selling our publications
Selling publications is important financially. It is even more important politically. It is one of of the two main ways we have of getting over our ideas (the other is by the main ways we have of getting across our ideas and making new contacts.
If you feel nervous at first, do a sale alongside or with another comrade. Here are the rules for the various types of sale:
We have no big financial backers and our organisation could not function without regular financial contributions from our members and sympathisers.
The most reliable and time-saving method of paying subs and literature money is by standing order, monthly. (Download a form here). If a comrade does not have a bank account, payment is made in cash to the local branch treasurer. We ask comrades to guarantee a minimum number of paper and magazine sales and include this money in their standing order payments.
The minimum number of papers and magazines comrades take is six of each, per issue (one for yourself and five to sell), although it should be possible, soon, for most comrades to sell more.
The minimum monthly subs are: £2.50 unwaged; £5 students; £5 waged (rising, dependent on income and circumstances).
Many branches make small local levies to pay for meeting rooms and other running expenses.
New activists are invited to an introductory school. This school deals with some basic ideas as well as practical matters of AWL organisation.
In addition education schools are regularly held at local, regional and national levels.
Our basic meetings, local branch meetings, are held weekly. Local AWL public meetings are monthly.
In addition to local branch structures and meetings the AWL operates through 'fractions' organised around areas of work. We have various trade union fractions, a student fraction and we operate 'fraction work' in the Labour Party (i.e. certain specific AWL members operate, carefully, in the Labour Party, where our organisation is banned and open membership can lead to expulsion).
Fractions have their own convenors and meetings, organising our day-to-day work in their particular areas of responsibility. Ask the AWL office if you need contact details for your relevant fraction, or have any other questions about how the AWL works not covered by this briefing.