Friday 29 May 2009

Branch Meeting: Political Discussion

An essential ingredient of any Socialist Party branch is the weekly political discussion. Unlike trade union and mainstream political parties our meetings are organised around a talk on a certain topic. Unfortunately the pace of work in our branch has meant the branch programme fell into neglect for this week only, and so instead we had a session about the role of the political discussion.

Brother A opened with a few observations about the importance of the weekly lead off. It helps build the political understanding of comrades on topical issues as well as introduce and explore other subjects that might be just as important, but don't often get an airing. Crucially political discussions help round members out and prepare us for the sorts of conversations we can have in the course of activity, be it with the general public, trade unionists and other lefts.

P added that you can be thrown any sort of question while you're on stalls. While it's no use pretending to have infallible knowledge on every topic under the sun, some degree of understanding of a particular issue can reflect well on the party. For example, during the bank collapses in autumn last year he had to bat away all kinds of curve ball arguments that claimed it was "manufactured" or that some how immigrants were to blame(!) On one stall he was even asked about the party's attitude to nuclear weapons.

J came in and said lead offs on historical events were opportunities to draw out the key lessons and how they apply to our political practice today. As an example from last year, P talked about the series of cadre schools WestMids SP ran on Trotsky's The History of the Russian Revolution. Even though the events described took place some 90 years ago, Trotsky's description of the vacillating roles the parties played in the revolution find their echo in organisations that represent the interests of the same classes in the present.

Moving on to tips, Brother F said he always tries to add a number of questions on the end of his talks to get the discussion flowing - this is especially useful if the discussion is complex or of a theoretical nature. Sister A added that she's done q fair few where she knew absolutely nothing about the subject beforehand, and it has forced her to learn.

The important thing to remember, replied A, was these are not seminar room discussions. Our discussions are always linked to action.

With that in mind we managed to sort out upcoming topics for the next eight weeks on the Iranian Revolution, European election results, Why The Socialist is vital, Marxism and the state, Art and revolution, Politics of genetic engineering, How to put a leaflet together, and the BNP.


HarpyMarx said...

In order for a group to grow branch education is vital along with education schools at national level. No matter how busy you are you cannot afford to leave education at the political wayside.

Also, I know that it can be see as dull and for the geeks (no one in particular in mind... just me) but you can, especially for younger cadre, make it that it relevant and relates to their own experiences. Music is a good case in point.

Just my own humble tuppence h'alfpenny on the subject....

Phil said...

Every time I hear local Labour councillors and hacks mouthing off rams home to me the need for consistent political education.