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The national organization

The branch is the representative of the ISO at the local level, but the ISO is a national organization, and its policies and positions are set at the national, rather than branch, level. The annual national convention, which brings together elected delegates from every branch of the ISO, is the ISOs highest decision-making body. It assesses the ISO nationally and votes on plans to move the ISO forward in the coming year.

Between conventions, the ISO steering committee (SC), elected by branch delegates at the national convention, is empowered to make decisions related to the day-today functioning of the ISO. This includes producing all of the ISOs publications, including Socialist Worker newspaper and the daily website SocialistWorker.org, and the ISO Notes. (The ISO Notes is an internal publication -that is, for members onlysent from the SC to branch organizers, to be distributed to all members. Sent out approximately every 2-3 weeks, it includes reports on the activities of the organization and should be discussed in branch meetings.) There are two other national leadership structures in the ISO: 1) The national committee (NC); 2) the national branch council (NBC).

1) The NC: The ISO elects the national committee (NC) at its annual convention. The NC is a national leadership body that is broader than the SC, which meets two to three times per year with the SC to discuss a range of political issues, perspectives, strategies in movements, etc. in between national conventions.

2) The NBC: The national branch council (NBC) is a consultative body that meets with representatives of the steering committee via monthly conference calls (which can be scheduled more frequently if needed). Every branch is entitled to a representative to the NBC. This representative should be the branch organizer or, if the branch organizer is unable to attend the conference calls on a consistent basis, another comrade elected to represent the branch. Members who are in localities with fewer than five members (and therefore too small to constitute a branch) can request observer status on the NBC by emailing the ISO Organizing Department.

At the national convention, the national organization sets out a general perspective, which is then debated and voted upon by all branch delegates. The steering committee and the national committee are accountable to the decisions made at the national convention, but both also have the authority to implement changes as needed in between conventions. Each local branch, as part of the national organization, should plan its activities with an aim to implement the national perspective. (See the Rules and Procedures for a more detailed explanation of the national convention and the ISOs national leadership bodies.) Branches should maintain regular contact with the national office (orgdept@internationalsocialist.org), regional organizers, and district organizers, who exist in large cities that have several branches. This contact allows branches to discuss branch successes and problems, to get ideas for branch activities, and to clarify the organization's positions on fast-breaking political developments. Branches should also contact the national office to request speakers and materials such as newspapers and membership cards. If a branch would like to invite a speaker from the national office, the branch should plan to defray the costs of travel for that speaker, as discussed above.

Decision-making and leadership in the ISO As described above, the ISO is not a collective of autonomous local branches, but a national organization with a national perspective. This flows from our overriding political task to play a role in creating a future revolutionary party capable of coordinating class struggle on a national scale against a centralized and powerful ruling class. This task by definition requires a degree of centralization within the organization.

As described above, the national convention is the highest decision-making body in the organization. But the organization cannot function solely on decisions made by its annual convention. The pace of struggle requires an elected national leadership capable of making day-to-day decisions about the ISOs publications and its actions based on the general perspectives of the organization in between national conventions.

Just as we recognize the necessity of organized leadership within the working class movement, we recognize the necessity of organized leadership within a revolutionary organization. Our organization is action-oriented, so it must be able to take action at a moments notice and this requires members to entrust its democratically elected leadership with the authority to make the necessary decisions.

At the same time, our aim is to develop an ever-widening layer of leadership among members people capable of taking initiative, thinking on their feet, and leading our work. Such members we call cadre: self-selecting members committed to developing themselves as Marxist activists. This involves a serious approach to both Marxist education and activist experience, with the aim of earning leadership over time in the struggles in which we are involved.

We are therefore both democratic and centralist, described by Lenin as democratic centralist. Our basic approach to organizing can be summed up by the phrase, freedom of discussion; unity in action. Keep in mind, however, that the ISOs political principles are also set by our adherence to Marxism. Our opposition to racism is a principle that is not open to dispute, for example.

Without debate, discussion, and democratic decision-making, the organization would be unable to elicit the fullest political commitment and input from each member, or to generalize from experiences within the organization, which will naturally vary by individual, branch, region, and area of work. Full debate and discussion are necessary to develop a national perspective, which we do annually at the ISO convention.