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Branch structures

The Branch Committee

Branches that grow to more than eight or nine members should elect a branch leadership – a branch committee – to help organize the branch’s activities. Much of a branch's ability to grow and to gain political experience depends on the effectiveness of its branch committee.

A branch committee's responsibilities are twofold, and it should hold regular meetings to achieve them: First, it must make sure that the branch's routines (branch meetings, literature tablings, dues payments, etc.) are established and consistently carried out. This does not mean that the branch committee must directly organize every activity – that would be counterproductive. Instead, the branch committee must make sure that someone in the branch is organizing each activity. The goal for every branch is to encourage all members to participate fully in carrying out branch responsibilities. This goal can only be achieved through comradely inspiration and motivation. Once members understand why a particular activity is important – such as fundraising – they are much more easily convinced to take responsibility for achieving the branch’s goals.

Second, the branch committee helps the entire branch chart a political direction by regularly assessing the state of the branch and its involvement in movements, the success of fractions and activities, political questions that need to be addressed, and other political challenges facing the branch at any given time. In other words, the tasks of the branch committee are not "mechanical" or "bureaucratic"; rather, they require political judgment, confidence, leadership and flair.

The branch committee should be composed of branch members whose political judgment and experience, enthusiasm for the politics, and commitment to the organization are high. Every branch should elect its branch committee on an annual basis, but can also hold an election whenever necessary if the majority of the branch agrees to it.

Other Branch Leadership Roles

Each branch, in order to be successful, will need individual members to take responsibility for the coordination of certain areas of work – and the larger the branch, the more areas of work there are. The biggest branches should have a branch organizer, a membership coordinator, a contact coordinator, a treasurer, a Socialist Worker organizer, a literature organizer, an International Socialist Review organizer, and an organizer for each of the branch’s fractions.

Branch committee members should play some of these roles, while other members in the branch can fulfill the rest. In smaller branches, one branch committee member might be able to take on more than one of these roles, while in larger branches that becomes less efficient.

The following are brief descriptions of the duties of the various organizers and coordinators in a branch:

Branch organizer
The branch organizer is the member who is responsible for the overall direction of the branch. This person should be prepared to propose meeting topics and activities for the branch to organize around and to offer a political lead to the branch based on current ISO perspectives. Keep in mind that these should all come in the way of proposals and not decisions, since the branch should make these decisions in branch meetings to ensure branch democracy.
Membership coordinator
The membership coordinator keeps track of the status and development of both long-standing and new members. When someone joins the ISO, the membership coordinator works to involve the new member in branch activities and to help broaden their understanding of the ISO's politics. When someone joins the ISO the membership coordinator should organize a formal meeting with one or several new members to review the organization's formal requirements for membership and to answer any questions – political or organizational – that new members might have.
Contact coordinator
The contact coordinator makes sure that branch members are in regular contact with nonmembers who have expressed an interest in the ISO. And keep in mind that, despite the wonders of internet communication, there is still no substitute for personal phone calls and face-to-face meetings. The contact coordinator also takes charge of branch mailing lists and sign-up sheets with an eye toward focusing on the nonmembers who seem the most interesting in getting involved with the ISO. The contact coordinator should make sure that all branch comrades are engaging people around us in ongoing political discussion and activity, with the aim of convincing them of Marxist politics and the need for socialist organization.
The treasurer is responsible for collecting monthly dues from branch members (and signing them up for automatic dues withdrawal), coordinating branch fundraising activities, and sending funds to the national office.
Socialist Worker (SW) organizer
The SW organizer oversees distribution, sales, and payment for the print paper. This person also assigns members to write articles for The more articles branches write about local events, the better becomes as a left resource. Our goal is for all members to be thinking proactively about contributing articles to the website on an ongoing basis.
Literature organizer
The literature organizer makes sure that the branch has a full stock of books and pamphlets, pays its literature bills and promotes relevant literature within the branch and to nonmembers. The literature organizer should also help to make sure that the branch organizes regular literature tabling.
International Socialist Review (ISR) organizer
The ISR organizer encourages members and nonmembers to purchase a subscription to the ISR, finds local bookstores to carry the ISR, and uses articles from current and back issues of the ISR to help educate ISO members. The ISR organizer should also make sure that the branch sells the ISR to contacts and allies, and at movement meetings and demonstrations.
Fraction organizer
Each fraction should have a fraction organizer. The fraction organizer makes sure that the fraction meets regularly and puts forward proposals for consideration at the fraction’s meeting, in consultation with other comrades in the fraction. The fraction organizer should also make sure to provide periodic reports to the branch committee or branch organizer and the branch as whole, at branch meetings.

Branch “routines" are a springboard for involvement in struggle

The branch roles and routines described above are not by any means the sum total of branch work. On the contrary, a branch's routine is the springboard that allows the branch to play a more effective role in struggle. As Karl Marx argued, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” The ISO is not a talk shop but an activist organization.

Well-established routines make it possible for branches to respond quickly to changing political conditions and to help to initiate struggle alongside other activists whenever needed. New branches should be prepared for some challenges in establishing the branch routines, but once they have been politically motivated and established as the branch norm, they will become second nature to branch members. The result: a strong branch, with members always on the lookout for opportunities to become involved in local struggles, whenever they arise.