Report On The First Annual Conference Of The Irish Socialist Network
The first conference of the Irish Socialist Network took place on the weekend of June 11th/12th in Outhouse at 105 Capel Street, Dublin.
REPORT ON THE FIRST ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE IRISH SOCIALIST NETWORK
The first conference of the Irish Socialist Network took place on the weekend of June 11th/12th in Outhouse at 105 Capel Street, Dublin. The conference was primarily aimed at finalising the organisational structure of the ISN. The conference was the culmination of six months of debate and discussion amongst all ISN members. It was open to any member to submit a motion and all motions were circulated in advance so that members had the opportunity to submit amendments. The structure/organisation/timetable of the conference was discussed and agreed at a meeting of all ISN members in December 2004. Members from all three ISN branches, Finglas, Belfast and UCD, attended the conference.
There were six sessions over the course of the weekend:
1. What is the ISN?
2. The Principles of the ISN.
3. The Structures of the ISN.
4. Branch Reports.
5. Miscellaneous Organisational Motions.
6. A special session on ‘Building a broad socialist party/new party of the working class’ was addressed by guest speaker, Jo Harvie, member of the Scottish Socialist Party and editor of the Scottish Socialist Voice, which was followed by a discussion involving ISN members and other independent socialists.
The whole weekend was marked by healthy debate in line with the participatory, member-based nature of the organisation. Given the small size of the organisation, motions/amendments were proposed by individual members and debated and voted on by all members present. A number of amendments to motions were proposed and passed. All proposals regarding ‘membership subs’ were defeated or withdrawn. Other issues, which proved controversial, were proposals regarding email discussion list (passed), disciplinary procedures (withdrawn), and rotation of chair at all ISN meetings (passed). Since the purpose of the conference was to discuss internal organisation, policy issues were not on the agenda though members did agree that it was necessary to begin the process of drafting a position paper on Northern Ireland.
Three of the most important motions discussed and passed (with some amendments in the case of the Rules motion) at the conference are reproduced below. The motion on the Role of the ISN outlines the broad political strategy of the organisation. The motions on Basic Principles and Rules and Structures of the ISN, have been adopted as a provisional constitution by the organisation:
THE ROLE OF THE IRISH SOCIALIST NETWORK:
That this conference accepts that the Irish Socialist Network has a dual role to play in the struggle to build a democratic and socialist society:
1. To build the Irish Socialist Network as a democratic, participatory, socialist organisation, informed by the theoretical tradition of Marxism. That to play a decisive role in any new broad formation of the left, it is necessary that the Irish Socialist Network grow numerically and in political influence.
2. To work with other left organisations and individuals to build a new party/movement of the working class, that would unite all those who reject the failed politics of coalition/social democracy and who believe in creating an independent, class struggle, internally democratic organisation, to challenge capitalism in Ireland.
The Irish Socialist Network is a radical democratic socialist organisation, committed to the complete abolition of capitalism and its replacement by a socialist society, by which we mean:
· A transformation of power relationships leading to democratic control of all aspects of society and an end to elite rule.
· Collective ownership and democratic control of all economic structures, wealth and resources, by the working class.
· Equality of all people and an end to all forms of privilege and discrimination.
· Vindication of all human rights; social, political and individual.
· A sustainable society developing in harmony with the natural environment.
The Irish Socialist Network will work to achieve this society on the basis of the following principles:
· Change is brought about by the empowerment of ordinary people not by a revolutionary vanguard or parliamentary elite.
· Openness, equality, internal democracy, consistent activism and a commitment to class politics are essential traits of a socialist organisation.
· Non-dogmatic Marxist thought is essential for analysing society and advancing the struggle for socialism.
· While acknowledging differences we will work in a non-sectarian manner with, and promote dialogue between, all socialist and progressive organisations.
· A key component of socialism is internationalism. The struggle for justice, equality and defence of the environment is global.
RULES OF MEMBERSHIP AND STRUCTURES OF THE ISN
That the following be adopted as the rules of membership and structures of the Irish Socialist Network, pending the adoption of a full constitution:
1. The Irish Socialist Network is a participatory, democratic, member based organisation. All political decisions shall be taken by a majority vote of the whole membership or, at a local level, of all the branch membership.
2. Anyone, over the age of 16, who agrees with the basic principles of the organisation, can join the Irish Socialist Network. Members of the organisation are expected to participate in campaigns and activities, advance and defend the basic principles of the organisation, involve themselves in the democratic decisions making process of the organisation and develop their political awareness through participation in meetings and activities. It is recognised that levels of participation vary according to personal circumstances.
3. Members are encouraged to recognise that different opinions are valued and diversity and dissent is positive. The ISN strives for an internal atmosphere of openness; tolerance and respect where everyone is encouraged to fully participate at all levels. The ISN is opposed to racism, sexism, sectarianism, homophobia and all forms of discrimination. Members should reflect this in their language and behaviour.
4. In general members are expected to argue for and implement organisational policy in their political work. Members may argue for and organise openly and democratically to promote a minority view which is consistent with the basic principles of the organisation. In recognition of the internal democratic process, such members should acknowledge in their external activity that their view is that of a minority within the organisation. Members may not participate in activities that are contrary to the basic principles of the organisation and may not be a member of another party political organisation.
5. The basic unit of the organisation is the branch, organised on a geographical basis. All members must be affiliated to a branch. A branch should meet at least once a month. A branch may appoint officers with specific responsibilities. The branch should consist of at least three people.
6. All office holders in the organisation shall be elected by proportional representation annually, if there are more than two candidates, recallable at any time.
7. The position of chairperson shall be rotated at all meetings of the organisation. The same member may not chair two meetings of a branch or a National Members Meeting consecutively. The role of the chair shall be to encourage full participation by all members in discussions, protect the right of all members to voice their opinions and ensure that meetings are conducted in an efficient and democratic manner.
8. The supreme decision making body of the organisation shall be the Annual Conference. All members shall be entitled to attend, participate and vote at the Annual Conference. Motions and amendments, which must be circulated in advance to all members, can be submitted by branches or jointly by three or more individual members. The rules of membership/structure/principles (provisional constitution) can only be changed by a 2/3 majority at an Annual Conference.
9. To coordinate the activity of the organisation between Annual Conferences, a National Members Meeting shall meet at least once a quarter. All members shall be entitled to attend, participate and vote at a National Members Meeting. The National Members Meeting shall coordinate the activity of the branches, implement the decisions of the Annual Conference and take decisions on issues that have not been addressed at an Annual Conference. The National Members Meeting shall not elect any officers but may delegate specific tasks to certain members.
Finally, just to prove that even Marxists can have fun; on the Saturday night of the conference weekend there was a well-attended social for ISN members, friends, supporters and other socialist activists in Doyle’s pub, College Green!
Paul Moloney - Secretary