Sunday, 11 April 2010

How to start a new left wing group: the rules

1. Don't do something simply because it's what you did in the past.

2. Don't do anything purely because it's NOT what you did in the past.

3. Encourage questions in meetings. Discourage people from making the same standard 3-minute contribution they've made for years.

4. Avoid the words socialist, communist, Marxist, workers and Party when coining your group's name. It is the 21st century.

5. Avoid 'new' when deciding on a name. Today's new is tomorrow's old.

6. Avoid cliche, jargon and empty phrases. 'Networks' is good. 'Resistance' is good. 'Networks of resistance' is less good.

7. Newspapers out, websites in. Simples.

8. Spend more time discussing ideas than what your logo will be. But get the logo right from the start.

9. Don't waste time slagging off whatever group you belonged to in the past. It's like talking about your ex when you're with a new partner.

10. Learn how to use any available technologies, but do something a bit different with them.

11. Keep a sense of perspective. Your group may be tiny, but so are all left wing organisations. Some are just less tiny than others.

12.. Rediscover the ABC of your tradition. It's all been done before.


  1. Well, that's us told. By a month-old group of 60 people.

  2. Anything in particular you disagree with? Or are we hiding behind anonymity and evading the issues?

  3. 13. Give yourself titles like convenor or secretary or editor.

  4. 13. Set up a pretentious blog that no one reads and spend your time living in the delusion that you are a political guru.
    14. Reproduce other articles from those who share your delusion
    15. Tell us all what to do but never do it yourself

  5. I'll try to be more positive than your anonymous critics even though I do;t share your tradition.

    Don't try to do everything (badly), do one or two things (well) and by example other initiatives will develop,

    For what its worth what might a Counterfire version of 'Marxism 2010' look like? For those of a certain age the Marxism summer event first developed as an alternative to the CP's Communist University of London but was always more of a party-building exercise unlike the CP's genuine attempt at a counter-course. Today how might an event embrace the principles of pluralism, participation, the prefigurative and the pleasurable (I prefer these 4 'Ps' to any pre-existing ABC) and is Counterfire up for such a venture? 'Mutiny' suggests it might be but this would be on a far grander scale and demand some serious coalition building around a very particular, and much-needed, project.

    Mark P

  6. What's wrong with calling yourself socialists, etc when you are socialists, etc?

    Are you going to give out cards with a website on them on the picket line? You really think people in struggle will check it out?

    "But get the logo right from the start."

    Im enthralled as to when you're all gonna pull your fingers out and actually get any of this done. It had better be a damn good logo aswell.

  7. I'm really not impressed by the Counterfire website, as it is no substitution for a revolutionary party (and neither are 'counterfire activist networks')

    As matt said above, what happens when you visit a picket line, talk to a co-worker at work, speak to anyone on a demonstration? Hand out buisness cards with a fancy logo?

  8. Nobody has suggested that anyone doesn't call themselves a socialist. I do, however, think it would be daft to give yourself a name that makes you seem identical to numerous existing groups, has lots of negative baggage, and sounds like you're fonder of preserving heritage than changing the world.

    As for the "you can't take a website down the picket line" thing... Have a look at the reports, through words and video, of pickets, rallies and protests on counterfire. On saturday I was in London and went to two protests, doing reports and video. Lots of people can do that sort of thing. You don't need to be clutching socialist papers as a shield - selling papers is often a means of evading actually talking to people (I did it for years, so I know!)

  9. and spending our time blogging on the net isn't? :)

  10. Blogging is one of many ways of reaching, and connecting with, people. Socialist newspapers can perform the same function. The point is that - as any SWP current or former member knows - selling SWs is very often a poor way to open up communication with people. This is especially true when people adopt the approach - increasingly common - of standing outside events and barking at people, rather than getting stuck into coalition0building work and selling papers in that context.

    In any case, the idea that papers are necessary if you're going to involve yourself in strikes, protests etc is self-evidently nonsense. There are alternatives and - if socialists are to organise effectively in the years ahead - relying on the roughly the same technology as the Bolsheviks had is not going to cut it.

  11. Mark P

    Sorry for the delay in responding. Yes, I'm sympathetic to what you suggest. Anything ambitious along those lines will emerge from smaller-scale initiatives, so we need to experiment with different formats etc and see what can be developed.

    It's vital to have forums and events which are genuinely inclusive exchanges of ideas, where people bounce ideas around, ask questions, explore ideas, admit to uncertainties rather than purporting to know everything. That's what we'll be aiming for with the Counterforum on 2-3 May - see for details - and beyond.

    And yes, a vital thing when (starting) small is to focus on doing a few things extremely well - agreed.

  12. wonder what 'comrade matt' does when he visits a picket line?

    and what reason could there be that 'people in struggle' WOULDN'T check out a website?

  13. Haha, I love this!

    It all applies to existing groups as well, lol.

    I agree with some of the things the negative folk have said, but there's a time and a place - cripes, folks, can't you appreciate a bit of fun!