Party notes

Wise up

Meeting over the weekend, the Provisional Central Committee discussed some important aspects of our organisation, as we face up to the general election and in particular the challenge of growth. Our numbers can double, or quadruple or increase ten or a hundred fold, but without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary party. For that reason it was decided that one of our main priorities during this period has to be education.

It is true that comrades who have been in our ranks for some time have an elementary grounding in our politics. But the urgent need is for all of us to address the problem of ongoing study and theoretical development, not just the newer comrades now joining us.

In our tradition, we strive to integrate education into the day-to-day activities of the Party. Unlike many on the left, we do not attempt to hive it off into the occasional school or 'special' educational event - or at least that has been the idea. Surveying things today, however, it is clear that there is the danger of slipping into the sloppy and philistine habits of others.

It is important that we remind ourselves of the way we structure our meetings and why. As we face up to the pressing organisational demands of the coming period, it is vital that we struggle to reinstate our previous good practice on education. Thus, cell meetings of the Party should be organised in the following way.

First, a political opening. This is organised in a rotating system where each comrade in the group - without exception - will take a turn to lead off a discussion of contemporary political developments. This should not be some bland news digest, but an attempt to highlight perhaps just two, three or four items from the week's news and outline a Marxist approach to them. Under this item, comrades often raise the attitude that other organisations - especially our Socialist Alliance allies - have taken.

Next, a theoretical opening. All cells - again, without exception - should be undertaking collective study. The most useful format we have found for this is for the group to take a particular text and work on it together. An individual comrade will take responsibility to present an opening to the cell of a chapter, a section or even just a few pages, where the material is particularly dense or complex. While one comrade has the responsibility to give an exposition and critique of the author's ideas, all comrades should have read the text and be in a position to contribute to the debate.

Moreover, comrades from particular cells will be required not simply to present openings to their particular cells, but also to wider Party forums such as seminars and schools - in London at our regular seminars. This allows comrades outside the immediate group to participate in the discussion, to read the material and contribute.

Most cells also include an item where the papers of other left groups are reported on. However, it is also important that space is found for comrades to discuss the Weekly Worker. There has been some debate internally between CPGB comrades over our paper, with some feeling that its contents are too obscure and that there ought to be more 'accessible' articles. I will return to this question next week, but we have to understand that the Weekly Worker is the collective responsibility of the Party as a whole. Reading it, discussing its content with other comrades and writing replies and reports for it is not simply the way to make it a more interesting read, but is actually an important form of educating our comrades.

By organising cell agendas in this way, we attempt to integrate education into the fabric of the cell itself. Left groups that clog up their regular meetings with dull organisational discussions and ghettoise the theory in special schools risk depoliticising their activists. Learning, criticising and thinking must be a constant process. Indeed, I have been in cells in the past that - given their highly 'technical' areas of responsibility - have actually organised additional meetings, separate from the weekly 'business' cells, in order to guarantee that politics dominated the basic units of the Party, while ensuring that practical work did not suffer.

It is vital that, as we bring new comrades into our ranks and establish new Party structures up and down the country, we take the question of Party education more seriously. We will ensure that all cells are allocated educational reading to be collectively studied at their weekly meetings. We will also encourage more frequent exchanges between London and our cells around the country, with comrades travelling to other areas to present educationals on aspects of our Party's history; its approach to campaigns such as the Spring Offensive; its attitude to programme in contrast to the economists of the left; our work in the Socialist Alliances; and so on.

In this way, we will attempt to create more of an organic Party culture, a knowledge of the way we organise and think, and why.

Mark Fischer
national organiser