Corinna LotzParticipant4th December 2017 at 4:11 pmPost count: 4
So here’s our thoughts. Not all of course, I shall spare you a dissertation!
Communication from us
We spoke about communication a lot. Unsurprisingly we concurred that this was a problem for Left groups. Some of the problems we spoke about are probably pretty obvious — that language used is preachy and (often deliberately) opaque. Tom also spoke about a Chilean group he is in contact with who seemed fairly comfortable with deceiving people to get them on side. We were both very displeased with this. Being on the Left should indicate a commitment to truth. We felt such approaches were an admission of defeat and would only serve to increase the political estrangement of the young.
More pertinent to the experience of the young, we spoke about what Tom aptly called macho forms of communication. To us, this was often reinforced by older people. Not to tar all old people with the same brush — young people are guilty of not listening too — but given that a lot of older people are generally more seasoned politically, they tend to be more powerful in group discussions. This, in turn, can put off those less knowledgeable.
Tom spoke about being at a World to Win meetings where a young colleague requested that meetings commence with a collective reminder to be conscious of what meaningful inter-relating should be about — where we try responding to the previous speaker’s points as opposed to hijacking in with our individual thoughts.
Tom coined an acronym CAGED (Class, Age, Gender, Ethnicity, Disability) that covers a lot of the status-based pressures that can impede political participation. We felt it was important to remain mindful of these factors and how they can interact with group discussion.
Subordination came up quite a lot through discussion. This is perhaps self-evident to us, in that power wants to keep people subordinate, but is nevertheless important to acknowledge. At least for me, the idea of resisting subordination is quite powerful. We spoke about it through a few avenues:
By capital (E.g., Shit employment, disempowered employment)
By media (E.g., Corbyn’s experience)
By schooling (E.g., “Psychological Warfare” Tom has observed in schools)
By (parts of) the older generation
Making politics different
In engaging the young, we felt that new methods and approaches would be appropriate. Tom’s thinking was anchored by a good quote from Einstein: “If you’re not achieving your goals, check your methods”. With this spirit in mind, we spoke a lot about music as a novel way of bringing people together. There are plenty of songs that contain searing political critiques and can help to open up new ways of seeing the world. For example, John Lennon’s Working Class Hero is still as relevant now as it was 45 years ago.
Although we have been somewhat critical of Older people in facilitating intergenerational inequities — again, I stress, far from all older people — we both value the experience of those who have been organising for a while. Many Older people have important experience of what hasn’t worked. The challenge is to draw upon that experience in order to do things better. So, far from being purely incumbent on the Older generation to change, the younger generation also have lot to gain from listening to Older people. To do this, we need an atmosphere of solidarity between generations, which seems lacking.
We also have a real faith in the capacity of all people to engage in creative work. Although we haven’t proffered any strong ideas on how to facilitate this, it is a good principal to hold on to.
The experience of the young
As ever, alienation is a central problem to the experience of the young. This notion of alienation underpinned a lot of what is spoken about here.
Also, amongst the Young, there is a sense that the system is broken. So I think there is an atmosphere ripe for political mobilisation.
A big one. A lot of our conversation acknowledged the dominance of modern forms of social media. However, despite acknowledging this, we were fairly uncomfortable with many aspects of social media. Just because young people use social media as their primary form of communication, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that it’s not alienating.
Indeed, a lot of what consumer capitalism is about is instant gratification, which is very similar to how social media works. As a consequence, it’s also very possessive: we struggle to be away from our screens. Also, it’s not controlled by us, but by algorithms, so it’s very undemocratic. I think opening up a conversation on this could be fruitful (I don’t know what you think Tom, I just suggested this). Anyway, we both valued face to face contact quite a lot.
Being on the Left
In many respects, we are fighting an uphill task. Participating on the Left — as I’m sure many have experienced — requires being on the receiving end of a lot of mocking and vilification. The media is by and large not our friend: it’s a pretty bourgeois institution. And we have to fight the propagandising force of popular culture, which can distract us from things that actually matter. What Dylan said at the start (“That more people are bothered by the Man Utd score”) rang pretty true.
What we can do in RDM
These following ideas are only possibilities based on what we have been discussing; obviously better ideas may appear with time.
Use novel communication methods to bring people together(music)
Work on creating community
Scott is designing a popular education course which may go modestly towards the latter two points
Build upon Tom’s experiences in Education
We also discussed plenty of resources/readings which inspired us. Maybe something with that?
I should say that this only scratches the surface of what we spoke about. The breadth and depth of our conversation gives me hope that we can create something useful.
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