A Brief History of the AWL

The AWL Basic Education Programme

Second edition.

Issued 1997

HTML version issued 1998

The AWL: A Brief Outline of Our History

Mid-1966: the Workers' Fight group, forerunner of the AWL, formed by a small group of comrades breaking from the main existing would-be Trotskyist groups - Gerry Healy s SLL (which was by far the strongest group until the early 1970s, but has now dispersed), and the "Militant" (RSL). They indict the "Militant" as "old-fashioned passive sectarians... buried in the Labour Party"; the SLL as a sect relying on "verbal bombardment... with large elements of Stalinism mixed in... Their world-view is apparently determined by their factional needs of the moment". Workers' Fight publishes a magazine of the same name, and its members are also involved with the Irish Workers' Group and its publication An Solas/Workers Republic.

December 1968: The IS (today called SWP) has grown fast (as the SLL defines itself out by extreme sectarianism) and become "Leninist", at least on paper. Workers' Fight takes up a unity call, joins as a small organised grouping ("tendency") in IS. Battles on the troops in Ireland (1969), the general concept of a revolutionary party, and Europe (1971). In the battle over Europe, IS moves to expel the Workers' Fight group and start tightening up what was previously a loose, even chaotic, organisation into the closely-controlled SWP of today.

1972: Year of great class struggles. Spontaneous mass strike movement forces freeing of five dockers jailed under Tory anti-union laws. Workers' Fight distinguishes itself by its agitation for a general strike and its energetic trade-union work.

1973-4: While maintaining trade union work, Workers' Fight moves to more involvement in the Labour Party.

1975-6: Workers' Fight fuses with a "Left Faction" which has formed in IS under its influence and been expelled. About two-thirds of ex-"Left Faction" then walks out to form what becomes the present Workers' Power group.

1978-80: Our group deepens its orientation to the Labour Party, is instrumental in launching the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory, which plays a prominent initiating role on the left in the big Labour Party rank-and-file revolt of these years.

1981: Merger with Workers' Socialist League, a grouping which has come out of the disintegration of Healy's SLL (which is rapidly going crazy) and tried to find its way back to Trotskyist politics. Ex-WSL group continues to disintegrate, however, with splinters hiving off through the years 1982-3. We expel the embittered rump group round the ex-WSL leadership in 1984.

1984-5: The Miners' strike. After defeat of miners' strike: "back to basics". We strive to think through the logic of the various issues which have separated us from other would-be Trotskyist groups; revise our politics on Israel-Palestine, Ireland.

1988: After always being distinctively sharper in our anti-Stalinism than other would-be Trotskyist groups, we conclude that the formula of the Stalinist systems being "degenerated and deformed workers' states" no longer makes any sense at all. They are not "post-capitalist", but systems of class exploitation which represent a dead-end episode within the era of capitalism.

1990: The Labour Party bans our paper "Socialist Organiser".

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