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Submitted by AWL on Tue, 06/12/2011 - 01:27

How do the AWL interpret democratic centralism and how do you put it into practise internally?

Our policies are decided by collective discussion and majority votes. Once a policy is agreed upon, the discussion does not "end". Comrades who disagree with the policy are not expected to pretend otherwise, nor are they required to keep their disagreement "internal". They would be expected to explain the majority line, but are free to explain publicly that they are in a minority and give their reasons for disagreeing (in fact, if they are halfway serious about their ideas, they would be expected to do that). They are "forbidden" only from acting in such a way that sabotages or undermines the collective action of the majority in carrying out the agreed policy - in other words, they can explain their disagreement/difference publicly/externally, but they can't actively organise against the majority line.

This is from our constitution (available online here):

"All activists are obliged to support the majority decisions of the relevant AWL bodies in action. They also have the right to express dissenting opinions, to gain a fair hearing for those opinions, and to organise inside the AWL to change AWL policy.

"Activists should not pretend to hold beliefs contrary to their real ones. Minority comrades have a right to state that they hold a minority position, and to give a brief explanation, but without making propaganda outside the AWL against the majority line. They have a duty to state to the best of their ability what the majority line is, and in any vote or practical action they must support the majority line unless a decision has been taken to have a free vote."

Does the AWL accept the existence of internal factions?

Yes. From the constitution again:

"The AWL rejects the ideal of a monolithic, single-faction party, and strives to build a culture where differences are resolved by rational and constructive discussion without hard-and-fast factional lineups. It recognises, however, that as a last resort any group of members has the right to form a faction or tendency to fight for a particular point of view within the AWL, offer itself to the membership at the AWL conference as an alternative leadership, or campaign for election in the organisation.

"The AWL recognises a tendency as an ideological grouping organised for an ideological discussion within the organisation. The AWL recognises a faction as a group which sets out to fight either for a change of policy of the AWL on a particular issue or to replace the existing leadership by members of the faction.

1 - Members wishing to form a faction must circulate to all AWL members a platform explaining their views, signed by all members of the faction. The faction must make an uptodate list of its members available to any AWL member on demand. Membership in the faction must be open to all AWL activists who agree with its platform. Candidate activists can not be recruited to a faction.
2 - Factions can produce their own publications for circulation within the AWL, can hold internal meetings to put over their views, and can put up members for election on a factional platform. Factions have a right to proportional representation on the National Committee and in any election to delegates to conference.
3 - All faction meetings and documents must either be strictly internal to the faction, or open to all members of the AWL. This clause can not be used to restrict private conversation or correspondence between individual AWL activists. A faction must not carry its platform outside the AWL without the permission of the conference or the National Committee."

How does the AWL see the role and function of the vanguard party?

The "vanguard party" is the most politically-advanced workers organised into a collective political organisation. Its role is to help the rest of the class develop politically and organisationally to the point at which it is capable of taking and holding social power. In any revolutionary situation it is extremely likely that there would be more than one "vanguard party". This is a different conception from the anarchist caricature or Stalinist distortions of the idea, which conceive of a "vanguard party" as a monolithic bloc which gives the class its orders. A concept of a "vanguard" (more revolutionary layers with the working class, organising in discrete political bodies) was common to both Marxism and early anarchism.

In what way, specifically, do you see Marxism as "scientific"?

Because it starts from an analysis of material reality. We do not see it as a religious dogma or some special formula that can simply be applied to an issue to produce a cut-and-paste political line without actually having the analyse and assess the issue at hand.

Do you see the Labour Party as one of the "organisations organically generated from capitalist class relations"? Do you still see it as part of the labour movement?

Yes. Its historical origins as the political wing of organised labour (which still play a significant role in terms of workers' consciousness) and its ongoing structural link to unions representing the majority of organised workers in the UK make it very clearly "part of the labour movement". At times it's a more significant site of struggle than at other times (right now it's a more significant one than it was 5 years ago but a far less significant one than it was 25 years ago) but until that link to the unions - the bedrock organisations of the class - is literally or effectively severed then the Labour Party, like it or not, remains part of our movement.

Hope these answers were sufficiently clear. Other AWL comrades may have different interpretations on some of the questions.


Daniel Randall

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