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The AWL, unlike other Trotskyist groups, such as the Socialist Workers Party, calls for a two state solution in Israel / Palestine, and counters the orthodox Trotskyist concept of the former Soviet Union as a deformed workers state, and the SWP's theory of state capitalism with a theory of bureaucratic collectivism which is taken from Max Shachtman. The AWL also lay great importance on democracy.
The group originates from Sean Matgamna's expulsion from the Militant Tendency. He formed the Workers' Fight group with two other comrades. Espousing left unity, they accepted an offer in 1968 to form a faction within the International Socialists (later renamed the Socialist Workers Party).
In 1971 a special conference was called to 'defuse' the Trotskyist Tendency, the name used by Workers Fight within the IS. The members of the TT were given the choice after the conference decision as to which group they wished to belong to.
Workers Fight united with Workers Power in 1975 to form the International-Communist League which published Workers Action, but a section of Workers Power left in 1976 to continue a separate existence. Workers Action increased its activity within the Labour Party, and set up the 1979 Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory. This campaign proved popular, and enabled the group to start the weekly Socialist Organiser paper.
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 1983, the groups split again, mostly over different analyses of the Falklands War.
In the late 1980s the group moved away from its original position that the Stalinist states were degenerated workers states in favour of a bureaucratic collectivist analysis. Similarly they adopted a number of other positions associated with Hal Draper, and with Max Shachtman before he became a social democrat.
Socialist Organiser was banned by the Labour Party in the early 1990s, and activists from the Socialist Organiser Alliance launched the Alliance for Workers' Liberty and gradually moved away from a focus on the Labour Party. It helped to set up the Socialist Alliance.
The AWL now publishes the newspaper Solidarity and the magazine Workers' Liberty.