We felt that, apart from the odd exception, it has always been the
discussion part of a political meeting that was the most interesting. So
the first we decided to do is ditch the monologue at the start.
We invited people round to one of our houses saying that we are going
to have a political discussion and we're going to try out doing this in
a far more friendly and relaxed way and let's see if it works.
The conditions were everyone brings food to share and everyone
brings some thought they'd like to discuss. This could be a question
they don't know the answer to, a problem we face as activists, an
article they've recently read or an issue they simply feel passionately
For this first experiment we chose to have a broad title of the
environment and I have to say it went extremely well, particularly my
Having the discussion round someone's house, over a meal makes things
much more relaxed, and does not stop people coming if they don't have
What about potential problems though? Aren't we limiting it to people
we want to have dinner with and by not advertising we don't allow new
faces? Both true and one of the problems of the left has been its
reliance on closed cliques and circles - what I would say in response is
that we were very careful not to invite a pure revolutionary core, but
different people from different political perspectives and experience.
What the movement can't do away with is the public meeting, democracy
and all of that. But what we did was create a free space where political
discussion is not only possible but also the rigorous control of any
over aching dogmatic theory was absent.
We estimated that the right number is between 6 and 8, although
having tried it once it's possible you could have ten. It was pretty
impressive how the discussion stayed (mainly) on track and didn't
degenerate into how's it going at work, etc. The lack of a summing up
was really, really good - particularly because everyone brought
different thoughts, the discussion had been so wide ranging and
interesting, and at times quite stretching that the day ended with the
feeling that we had covered a lot of ground in an in depth manner.
One worry I had was that of "keeping control" what if someone
dominated the conversation or went on for ten minutes on a particular
point? The fact is it didn't happen - so we'll cross that bridge if and
when we get to it. There's something about not just talking left but
bringing the social back into socialist that was extremely worth while.
I thought I'd report it here because it's something that everyone
can do and it was interesting to take part in. The proof of that is that
although we'd sort of thought it would be a couple of hours we ended up
discussing politics for five hours, and even then we were cut short due
to the fact that people had to work in the morning.