Paid Organiser and other paid members

April 2024 Forums World Socialist Movement Paid Organiser and other paid members

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    Given the recent urgent calls for General Secretary, Treasurer and Head Office Organiser, I thought I would raise a discussion that's been had before here on the party employing a paid organiser. Also I would like to try provide a historical summary of past discussion.

    1934 – Conference 1934 Overs & Nicholls “That any future Full Time Paid Propagandist should be nominated by Branches and subject to a Party Poll. The principle of the second ballot to apply.” Cd. 25-7

    1943 – It seems there was some wide-ranging discussion on the matter at 1943 conference

    Conference 1943 Curtis & Hampson “That the matter of the appointment of Full-Time Paid Propagandists be left in the hands of the E.C.” Cd. 18-7

    Conference 1943 Glasgow Branch “That the 1941 E.C. Ruling that Full-Time Paid Propagandists are ineligible to serve on the Propaganda Committee or as Propaganda Secretary be rescinded.” Cd. 26-18

    'E.C. 2.11.43 The Finance Committee put forward the following recommendations in reply to Comrade Wilborne’s suggestion that a Ruling should be made governing the expenses of paid Party Officials. …'

    1945 – In the biography of Tony Turner titled Speaking for Socialism it states 'During the war years Tony acted as full-time Central Organiser. He was paid around 5 GBP per week, which enabled him to work for the Party without the need to find another job. In his capacity of Central Organiser and speaker he travelled the whole of the country, paying periodic visits to Glasgow, Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol, etc. Some members resented Tony being paid by the Party. At the 1945 Annual Conference a resolution was passed that this arrangement should cease.'

    1950 June Standard commented 'Members for Full-Time Posts are to receive special training. The Examination Committee has reported to the Executive Committee presenting a list of subjects on which they propose to examine the members whose names have been submitted for training.'

    1959 – 'The Investigation Committee is concerned specially with the need for a part-time or even full-time paid worker on the "Standard"; this should be, in our view, the secretary to the Editorial Committee. At the end of the war circumstances enabled the Party to have the services at Head Office of a member who was a capable writer and also knew the working of the Executive Committee, and this is something needed today. The Party should look at this realistically, however, and see that it must be prepared to pay a wage to a capable member comparable with that which he would obtain elsewhere.'

    1965 conference resolved "That the EC be instructed to explore the possibilities of employing a comrade as a full-time paid research worker and writer, and that steps be taken to establish a fund reserved solely for the payment of this comrade"

    1982 – the resolution I saw for 1982 conference was quite to the point – That the Party establish in principle the need for a full-time paid Head Office Organiser"

    2009 ADM discussed this but I'm not sure if arising out of another matter with one member commenting 'No substance to claim that money prevents members taking up the posts'. Presumably this led into the discussion at the following conference.

    2010 conference seems to be the most recent in-depth discussion with a particularly in-depth statement from branch including a job description and person specification even aside from Head office organiser duties (HOO).

    2016 – One resigning HOO commented HOO duties take up half-a-day a week, a figure considered a very conservative estimate by other members.


    Ever since its inception the party based its structure and organisation on a 20th C ‘trade union model’ where its officers are part-time [and unpaid] and the EC are all elected volunteers on an annual basis by the membership to administer party affairs. This structure was fine so long has the party membership was mainly based in London and there were ample volunteers ready to take up these posts. And also the EC met fortnightly. This is no longer the case for the party membership have diversified to all parts of the UK and also the membership has decreased, not only in London but also in other major cities. Which has led to the growth of Central Branch membership, who do not have direct access to the decision making process and are not actively encouraged to become involve in party affairs. Plus the fact the EC now meets on a monthly basis rather than fortnightly. Therefore, what we are witnessing is a diversification of the membership over a larger area of the UK with the knock on effect of a pool of volunteers no longer readily available locally to call on to administer the party through HO. However, what is most dis-concerning is the fact that many of the branches are either inactive or at a very low level of activity. These current issues and problems exemplify that such a structure has some very serious inbuilt disconnects regards to continuity and sustainability when the trade union model is projected to a national level and the EC meet less frequently. And begs the question whether the present structure is fit for purpose given the diversification of the membership. However, the main fault line of such a structure is all these posts [party officers and EC] are mainly reactive rather than proactive due to the fact they only deal with the administration of the party on a monthly basis rather than on a daily basis. And also their reactivity is a reflection of their role as a volunteer. Whereas, with a paid post the person holding the post is expected to be proactive and responding accordingly. Consequently, the remits, responsibilities and roles of all elected posts reflect this status quo. For instance the role of the General Secretary is to minute the proceedings of the EC/Conference/ADM and deal with party correspondence and nothing else. For the GS has no remit or responsibility to administer the day to day running of HO or provide oversight to any of the individuals or committees working from HO.  And when major things go wrong everyone usually has wait until the next meeting of the EC for them to get sorted. Which can lead and does lead to dysfunctionality on the smooth running of party business. A case in point is when a printer or computer breaks down and needs replacing only the EC can order the procurement. Why wait a month when all it takes is a phone call by the GS to the nearest dealer, or ordering over the internet? The fact of the matter is these problems and issues of diversification and the dysfunctional administration at HO is having a major impact on the central activity of the party – which is to propagate socialism – and it needs to be addressed and fixed urgently! If we are to seriously considering ridding ourselves of the major disconnects mentioned above we need to re-evaluate the present dated structure and assess and examine all the possibilities available to us in order to bring the trade union model up to date?

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