Alliance for Workers' Liberty

From Academic Kids

The Alliance for Workers' Liberty (AWL), also known as Workers' Liberty is a small Marxist group based in the United Kingdom. The group has had a complex history, but has always been strongly identified with the theorist Sean Matgamna. The AWL publish the newspaper Solidarity. The group has international links with Workers' Liberty Australia and Sarastus in Finland.


Workers' Fight

The AWL traces its origins to the document What we are and what we must become, written by the tendency's founder, Sean Matgamna in 1966. Publication of this document led to his expulsion from the Revolutionary Socialist League, and with a handful of supporters, he formed the Workers' Fight group. Espousing left unity, they accepted an offer in 1969 to form a faction within the International Socialists (IS, later renamed the Socialist Workers Party), and named themselves the Trotskyist Tendency.

Trotskyist Tendency

The Trotskyist Tendency (TT) clashed with the leadership of the IS over many issues, for instance arguing against voting no to the Common Market, and for a "Troops Out" slogan regarding Northern Ireland. This was a particularly controversial issue at the time, the IS leadership arguing that an immediate withdrawal of troops would harm the nationalist cause given the attacks by some loyalists on nationalist areas.

In 1971, the leadership of the International Socialists called a special conference. They claimed the purpose of the conference as a "defusion" of the two groups, while the TT claimed that they were expelled, given that they did not wish to leave.

International-Communist League

Outside the IS, the TT, much increased in size, again became known as Workers' Fight, until they united with Workers Power in 1975 to form the International-Communist League. This group published Workers Action, but much of Workers Power left in 1976 to continue a separate existence. Workers Action increased its activity within the Labour Party, and in 1978 set up the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory. This campaign proved popular, and enabled the group to start the weekly Socialist Organiser paper.

Workers Socialist League

In 1981 the I-CL fused with Alan Thornett's Workers Socialist League which had now also joined the Labour Party. The organisation mostly worked through the Socialist Organiser Alliance. In 1984, the groups split again, mostly over questions of internal democracy and different over the national question. The key issue was the Falklands War, the I-CL group arguing for self-determination for the Falkland Islanders.

Socialist Organiser Alliance

The Socialist Organiser Alliance grew from the broad left Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory. By 1983 the paper was dominated by Matgamna's supporters (by then in the Workers Socialist League) and was clearly identified with that faction. In particular, splits with independent Labour left politicians such as Ken Livingstone over the GLC's policy of increasing local taxes to pay for improved services weakened the alliance.

The group decided to organise their student work, forming Socialist Students in NOLS to campaign within the National Union of Students. This was successful, winning numerous elected positions, and they continue to provide a left opposition in the NUS through their work in the Campaign for Free Education today.

In 1985, the group reassessed its politics, and adopted a two state position on Israel-Palestine, and in 1988. The group moved away from its original position that the Stalinist states were "degenerated workers states" in favour of a bureaucratic collectivist analysis, with a minority around Martin Thomas holding a state capitalist analysis. Similarly, the group adopted a number of other positions associated with Third Camp socialism.

Alliance for Workers' Liberty

Socialist Organiser was banned by the Labour Party in 1990 when it was not allowed to register. The register was an attempt to regulate entryists, but this measure was aimed at the Militant Tendency and had little effect on the newspaper. In 1993 Socialist Organiser re-launched its organisation as the Alliance for Workers' Liberty and gradually moved away from a focus on the Labour Party. In 1998, the AWL helped to set up the Socialist Alliance. Their Scottish members form the Solidarity Platform in the Scottish Socialist Party.

The AWL launched the fortnightly left newspaper Action for Solidarity with some independent socialists. It is now identified with and controlled by the AWL, and known simply as Solidarity. They published the journal Workers' Liberty as a bi-monthly magazine until 2001, when it became an occasional journal.

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