Is there, “Something wrong with the party’s case and/or it’s methods.”?

July 2024 Forums General discussion Is there, “Something wrong with the party’s case and/or it’s methods.”?

Viewing 15 posts - 16 through 30 (of 85 total)
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  • #90059
    ALB
    Keymaster
    SocialistPunk wrote:
    the party is in worst shape now than when I left, with many on this forum thinking everything is ok.

    I don't think anyone on this forum has expressed the view that "everything is ok", have they? Some, including yourself (and me), have said that there is nothing basically wrong with the case we put against capitalism and for socialism, but nobody, surely, has expressed satisfaction with the slow progress we have made or said that the methods we are using to get our case across is entirely ok. How to do things better is what we are all looking for, but we need some concrete suggestions.Incidentally, I don't think the party is in a worse state than when you left (the 1990s/early 2000s). That was a period following the collapse of the USSR which turned out to be bad for us (people thought that socialism had been tried and failed) rather than what some of us thought would happen (people would recognise that we'd been right all along about Russia not being the way to socialism). So, these were lean years when we had to fight an uphill battle and when some members dropped out as they saw it as a hopeless struggle.Since the crisis broke out and, being honest, since the Occupy movement stirred things up last year, the atmosphere has changed: capitalism has become a dirty word again and new and former members have been rejoining. As I think you yourself said in one of your posts, if we can't make progress under present conditions we'll never make progress. We think we can. Which is why our Annual Conference this year voted "that a one-day workshop be held at Head Office as soon as practical for the purpose of exploring strategies to exploit the current dissatisfaction with capitalism". This has been fixed for Saturday 20 October starting at 6.30pm. Hopefully, all sorts of new ideas will emerge.

    #90060
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    ALB wrote:
    but nobody, surely, has expressed satisfaction with the slow progress we have made or said that the methods we are using to get our case across is entirely ok. How to do things better is what we are all looking for, but we need some concrete suggestions. 

    This calls for a new thread!'A Brainstorm on alternative propaganda methods'

    #90061
    ALB
    Keymaster
    TheOldGreyWhistle wrote:
    'A Brainstorm on alternative propaganda methods'

    According to its organiser, Comrade Field, that's what the famous 20 October Workshop is going to be.

    #90062
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    ALB wrote:
    TheOldGreyWhistle wrote:
    'A Brainstorm on alternative propaganda methods'

    According to its organiser, Comrade Field, that's what the famous 20 October Workshop is going to be.

    That is good but he has to get people to the workshop. Whereas this forum is accessible to most people. I don't think I know a single person who does not use the internet. Before I rejoined the party I didnt know a single person who attended public meetings. (I realise in this case it is 'workshop') As I have  said on another thread, this is in no way a criticism of the hard work of comrades past and present

    #90063
    SocialistPunk
    Participant
    gnome wrote:
    Quite a few allusions here and from other folk but not one person yet has made any concrete analysis of what they think is wrong with the party and having done so suggested any remedies.   We all genuinely want to hear why the SPGB is "in decline" if indeed it is.
    ALB wrote:
    I don't think anyone on this forum has expressed the view that "everything is ok", have they?Incidentally, I don't think the party is in a worse state than when you left (the 1990s/early 2000s)

    DISCLAIMER.The following statement refers to the views of the writer, following discussions with two socialist friends, one a party member. In no way is it meant to claim any authority over the subject. If you are of a mind that the SPGB has no need to alter it's image or approach, please do not read any further as the following may contain views that are likely to cause offense.                                                              ______________________________________To put it simply, the SPGB is not in good shape. Despite what some members think 332 members is not a good enough number for a revolutionary party to carry out effective propaganda. Consideration must also be given to the fact that not all members will be active.So what's going on, how does an organization with such a powerful, undeniable case end up here?I do not pretend to know much of the history of the party, but it has been mention that 600 – 700 members existed in the 1980's. Is that the largest membershipin the party history?But it is the 1980's that I believe lie the roots of the parties present problems.The 1980's saw the biggest, successful attack on the Trade Union movement in this country. The Tory government set out to change the economic landscape of Britain, from industrial to service and financial.Vast numbers of jobs vanished in the heavy industries, steel, ship building and coal mining. Whole communities up and down the country were left devastated practically overnight. The eighties were grim for many families.So here we are in a situation where the traditional base for Trade Union working class conscious politics is wiped out. The communities and amenities, often Union centered (working mens clubs and activities etc) became fragmented and eventually all but vanished.The town I live in has changed dramatically, community life is all but non existent, of the six or seven working mens clubs only one remains, the community activities and events are small and scarce in comparison, the once many pubs are few and far between.At the same time as the decline in industrial communities, another tactic was being implemented to fragment the working class. Workers were encouraged to become "middle class" home owners, the media heavily promoted the idea that Unions and working class politics were outdated and irrelevant in the new "middle class" Britain. New technologies and arenas of communication and entertainment emerged. New pressures and distractions where being heaped upon the working class in Britain.So by the time I joined the SPGB in 1996/97 the traditional breeding ground for working class conscious politics, "Labour socialist" as well as genuine socialist, had withered dramatically. My socialist education was a by product of the 1980's, manifesting itself in joning the party because of personal reasons.During my late teen, early twenties (20yrs in 1991) experiences based largely around music, (I never came across the party) I noticed a surge in single issue politics, the environment and anti-racism, most noticeable. Meanwhile the SPGB, although active seem to have been unable to cope (adapt) with the changes and as a consequence have struggled to attract new members in numbers sufficient enough to counter the natural losses in membership (ahh hindsight).Half a dozen ageing political intellectuals in a dusty pub backroom is hardly likely to appear relevant and attractive to most people let alone younger generations. Then there is the attitude, that appears to dominate. Cynical and critically agressive. Very off putting.I came across an earlier thread fro 2011 by accident recently, "socialism at your fingertips". A forum member put forward an idea of using allotment/garden style co-operatives to connect with the community. Out came the sabers, cutting the idea to shreds. Now I don't think socialism will come about via such programmes, it was a half decent idea to connect with people. The critics obviously thought dusty pub back rooms a more engaging environment? Thankfully some members thought the idea worthy of constructive discussion. Perhaps with party support and organization such a project could be undertaken. It would probably fail, but it would demonstrate a willingness to try to engage with people in the real world, and may even generate positive publicity?I am not putting this forward as a solution, merely to highlight a rather ugly aspect of party image. An image of clinical, critical, often aggressive cynicism. It has been long understood in educational circles that pupils who are nurtured, encouraged and allowed to explore new ideas and approaches to their own education and development, fair better than those who are pushed and bullied.The future of any organization lies in it's ability to attract new members!I will end this here as I am aware it is rather long. There is more to say.   

    #90064
    Anonymous
    Inactive

     Hi Socialist Punk I agree that a few cynical comrades sitting in a pub is not very attractive to newcomers but as gnome has pointed out we need (and I am asking for contributions on another thread) concrete proposals to bring the party into 21st century (and render it ‘user friendly’ so to speak). Do you feel that public meetings for example, are an out of date mode of communication? What other methods are available? How can we improve our image? I hope that people like you and I, who have been away from the party for some time, may be able to offer a fresh perspective.  

    #90065
    HollyHead
    Participant

    A question:If we were a much larger and more attractive party in the past than we appear to be currently what is we were doing then that we are not doing now? Posts #20 and  #21 above rehearse many of the concerns that have been discussed in the party since Pontius was a pilot. Many of them are real and I don't believe that any member really thinks that everything is OK with the way things are. Rather the impression I get is one of  the membership at large looking to the critics (from both inside and outside the party) to come up with worked out and costed alternatives (including a list of comrades willing to do the work necessary to put it into effect.) A suggestion:Party members should please abandon the practice of passing pious resolutions — what the late former comrade Cyril May used to call "duck shoving". You know the kind of thing — exciting and/or adventurous plans for party activity to be carried out by someone else (almost always the EC).

    #90066
    HollyHead
    Participant

    Apologies for the double posting.I've tried to delete one but received the message "Access Denied."

    #90067
    SocialistPunk
    Participant

    Hi HollyHead,Not sure if your post is aimed at me or others on this forum? Maybe I put it badly on my post, but I see the party of the past, doing better because the political environment was more conducive to class conscious politics via the Trade Union movement. Now Trade Unions are pretty much exhausted, but not dead, the arena for political discussion and awareness has changed, and so the traditional recruiting ground has gone. Couple that with the parties inability to adapt to the changing climate, and we have an extinction event on the horizon. I could be wrong?You may have also missed my real frustration at how members often conduct themselves here and in the real world.Intellectual waffle and aggressive criticism do not win any popularity contests. I am afraid it boils down to the cliche of winning hearts and minds. If the party chooses to ignore this then all the activity, old and new will not change a thing.The party (ie members) needs to take a long hard look at itself. Is aggressive criticism the better approach, has it worked well to date. Or is it time for a less aggressive, more interactive, nurturing, educational approach.I know that party members often don't get on or see eye to eye, but it must be remembered that socialist awareness concerns itself with one thing, finding a way to bring about world socialism. That means putting differences to one side, and finding ways of making others aware of the alternative on offer.   As for me coming up with worked out costed alternatives, I thought this party was a democratic party with no leaders?Hell, if you want to change that approach, I am sure it would attract a few people from the left.I have ideas. But when I was in the party, I often felt my ideas were not welcome. I tried, I gave a lot of precious time, for what?

    #90068
    northern light
    Participant

    Yes HollyHead, would you like to clarify that remark. Just who were you refering to, Social Punk, and OldGreyWhistle. There is a lot riding on your answer. As far as I am concerned, these two guys care and are trying to be constructive.

    #90069
    Ed
    Participant
    SocialistPunk wrote:
    You may have also missed my real frustration at how members often conduct themselves here and in the real world.Intellectual waffle and aggressive criticism do not win any popularity contests. I am afraid it boils down to the cliche of winning hearts and minds. If the party chooses to ignore this then all the activity, old and new will not change a thing.The party (ie members) needs to take a long hard look at itself. Is aggressive criticism the better approach, has it worked well to date. Or is it time for a less aggressive, more interactive, nurturing, educational approach.

    I couldn't disagree more with this dumb it down use kid gloves approach. I think we all have our own individual style and I would hope that most of us try to tailor a conversation to the individual we're talking to. You'd get pretty boring if you just said the same thing over and over again in the same manner and even if a certain style works with most it may seem ridiculous to another. And I think if you stop using scientific language too much you risk loosing actual theory by diluting it. Anyway what I'm saying is it depends who you are talking to and people respond differently to different styles.I should also say that I used to hold the exact same position as you on this.But I was wrong  I think either you've had some very bad experiences with someone when you were in North East Branch or you are working off a false assumption. Because in my experience members are excellent at conveying their message on a one to one basis and I've not yet seen one member who has the same style as another.

    #90070
    SocialistPunk
    Participant

    I am not in the least bit surprised you don't get it Ed. I am finding a lot of it on this forum.I am not being critiical of individuals. Not yet anyway!So you accuse my appeal to considerate behaviour on this forum and avoiding the use of agressive intellectual words and waffle, as dumbing down?You are right, oh wise one. I am a mere socialist sympathiser an ex member and not worthy of respect? How could I be so foolish to think that I could challenge the authority of the Guardians of all socialist knowledge?For starters I was not referring to how socialists conduct themselves in their own time. Most of my criticism comes from looking at this forum. The smart arsed jibes, and know it all self congratulating. It looks poor.But I seem to recall you sneering at observations before.I suppose if we do so well on an individual basis, we don't need a party.Hang on, what's that I can hear? Yes I think it is the hundreds of socialists Ed has managed to convert all by himself. I hope there are enough membership forms to go about.Now when you are ready to discuss things constructively?

    #90071
    SocialistPunk
    Participant

    I must apologise for my last post. I can only think I must have been in "forum mode".It looks pretty crap, doesn't it?Since I joined this forum I have seen a lot of this kind of behaviour.I'll say it again, it doesn't look good on a public forum.

    #90072
    Ed
    Participant

    What one person finds intellectual another person would find normal. I was speaking to a couple of colleagues the other day about philosophy and I had to raise my game because my arguments were too basic, the other didn't know what a stock broker was or an eel or an avocado. (don't ask how those three things came up in a single conversation). it seems to me that you are saying that we need to stop using intellectual words (whatever they are) because workers don't understand them. Well workers are not a homogenous group. They have different levels of education in different areas. To some using basic language is more appealing but to others you just look stupid and utopian because they want the full argument presented in a scientific way. So when talking to workers about socialism you have to adapt what you are saying. If anything the membership should be improving their theoretical knowledge not trying to dumb down.

    #90073
    ALB
    Keymaster
    SocialistPunk wrote:
    Maybe I put it badly on my post, but I see the party of the past, doing better because the political environment was more conducive to class conscious politics via the Trade Union movement. Now Trade Unions are pretty much exhausted, but not dead, the arena for political discussion and awareness has changed, and so the traditional recruiting ground has gone.

    I think you've got an important point here (which of course doesn't just affect us). We have in effect seen ourselves as part of the broad "working class movement" and this movement establishing socialism when it has been won over to socialist ideas. The language we use — "working class", "exploitation", "surplus value", etc, even "socialism" — assumes a certain degree of "trade union consciousness" amongst those we are addressing.Now that this has declined and less and less workers consider themselves or are considered "working class" this reduces our audience and makes our case seem irrelevant to those outside this reducing audience. That we do, even now, get a better echo mainly amongst people who have a trade union consciousness or who consider themselves working class finds some confirmation in our election results. We do better in seats and wards with a big Labour Party majority and we do better up North than we do in London.Having said this, I'm not sure what we can do about it. Obviously we can't stop talking about "socialism" or "working class" without ceasing to be ourselves. But at least we can make it absolutely clear who we mean when we use the term "working class", i.e not just factory or manual workers but anybody obliged to sell their mental and physical energies for a wage or salary. We don't always do this, with the result that many listeners or readers don't realise that we are addressing them. Myself I always talk of "the wage and salary working class" but I'm not really convinced that to talk of bosses appropriating "unpaid labour" or "the surplus product of the worker's labour" really goes down amongst office workers and workers in service industries, ie workers who are not actually producing a tangible product. Having said that, those are the jobs that most of our members work in these days, whatever significance that has.

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