Friday, 15 December 2006

Chatting at Socialism 2006

For the first time in over 2 years I've had something appear in the Weekly Worker.

You can read my short letter here – just scroll down to 'boring'.

Don’t get me wrong it was good to chat with Tina Becker again - last time was about 4 years ago! But there were some things she said that about summed up the cpgb's skewed grasp of reality for me.

We chatted about the Socialism 2006 sessions we’d attended. She noted the debates she'd been in weren’t particularly interesting or wide-ranging. That and the observation SP comrades showed an uneveness of political clarity. Well I wasn’t in a position to comment as I had attended discussions other groups didn't bother coming along to. It’s not easy to score sect points in materialist dialectics, anti-BNP strategy and LGBT liberation you see.

But she does have a point. In a sense. The average ceepeegeebee, spart or ittie-bittie is more likely to be clued up on Marxist theory, history of the workers movement and sectarian trivia than a typical Socialist Party comrade. On the other hand I'd suggest our members are more able to relate to people outside Britain's far left bubble. This is not to do down our efforts at educating our members and supporters. Rather it reflects the fact that the political level of our membership is uneven because we mostly recruit people fresh to socialist politics. So small wonder the debates weren't upto the cpgb's exacting standards.

When I pointed this out to TB she had skepticism written all over her face. But it is true! For example of the members Stoke branch has recruited this year I'm the only one who has a background on the revolutionary left.

Well Tina might not believe me. Never mind. But allow me to venture this observation.

People who come into their organisation, buy their paper and chat to them tend to be leftists of one stripe or another. cpgb activists concentrate their organisation's resources on trying to influence other activists. The result is in the group's theory and practice the left have come to be substituted for the working class as a whole, hence the reason why TB found it difficult to grasp my point. The "real" working class, largely untouched by socialist politics lies outside the cpgb's frames of reference because it never engages with them.

Once this is grasped it's easy to understand why the experiences of the class are off the cpgb's radar. A more perfect example of being conditioning consciousness is seldom found.


Jim Jay said...

"It’s not easy to score sect points in materialist dialectics, anti-BNP strategy and LGBT liberation you see." Where there's a will there's a way surely...

But on a more serious note - there's political education and there's political education. There are people who've read every nook and crannie of the Marxist cannon and don't have a clue how to get active in their union, what is happening in their local public services and or even what the living breathing eft activists are doing in their own town.

I'm all for reading philosophy and theory of all cannons but if I had to choose between a fighter and a theoretician... no contest

housey said...

IMO it's a mistake to distinguish too much between theory and practice - of course there is a dialectic between the two. Theory is a distillation and generalisation of practical experience, and practice should be informed by theory.

'Activists' who rush from one campaign to another (bit like the SWP) are ineffective, as are armchair theoreticians (like the CPGB) who never test their ideas.