Tuesday, 12 April 2016

RASEL: Open assembly or libertarian socialist cadre?

There have been a lot of debates within RASEL over the last year which I hope this post helps clarify. I think the main question comes down to whether we are an assembly or cadre.

Question 1: Assembly or cadre? Is RASEL (a) an example of an open community group? That is, a group of 'active' (activist) community members? Or (b) is RASEL a group (cadre) for libertarian socialists?  Or is it both? (From the below discussions, I think there are problems with trying to be both.)

It should be noted that we are not the only organisation which faces this type of question. A parallel example that might help us think about this is the International Workers of the World syndicalist union. Syndicalism means they want the union to eventually be massive and take over all wageplaces in a revolution. It is supposed to an anti-capitalist organisation. However, it has members that are not anti-capitalist. Its preamble to the constitution reads:
It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.

 My understanding is that originally (and maybe still now, technically) people who join the IWW are supposed to agree with this statement in order to join. People are supposed to join and become organisers, promoting the idea of anti-capitalism and syndicalism. However, in reality it often doesn't work like this. Often the IWW helps wageplaces* organise themselves and then these wage labourers (e.g. cleaners) often set up their own branch even if they are not all anti-capitalist syndicalists. In other words they are organised how the IWW wants them to organise, but otherwise they are not supporting syndicalism. In the IWW there are sometimes debates as to whether there should be branches like this, or if it should only be open to anti-capitalists.

Although there are differences between the IWW and the Radical Assembly, and RASEL, I think we have a similar kind of debate to address.

(2) Membership: I've said from the start that I favoured a membership. This was on the assumption (without really thinking about it) that we are (b) a group for libertarian socialists. I couldn't see why we would be open to people that weren't showing their dedication to creating libertarian socialism. For me building libertarian socialsm means people are primarily concerned with building community groups (type (a) groups) that could lay the basis for a future socialist society.  We wouldn't focus on growing RASEL, but would instead try to grow community groups we start, or pre-existing residential groups such as 'Our Forest Hill' (we'd also try to influence such groups politically), or other types of community projects that get people used to collectively allocating resources and making community decisions.

However, having no membership and being open to nearly everyone makes sense if we are (a) an example of a community assembly ourselves. Only a tiny fraction of the population share our more or less libertarian socialist politics so if we want to be a community group we can't be open to only people that share our goals. We have to be open to a whole range of perspectives. Type (a) groups also don't need to have an agreed strategy. They can deal with problems as they arise, as I assume community groups will do in the future.

I get the feeling at the moment RASEL is stuck between being (a) and (b) at the moment. Or trying to be both. We are very open, unfocussed, laizzes faire, and we don't really have an anti-capitalist strategy (we didn't come up with one at the strategy day), which is something you'd expect from a type (a) open community assembly. But simultaneously, we have quite an exclusionary libertarian socialist ideology laid out in our principles (exclusionary in that not many people share it). So not many people want to join. So we're open and non-strategic, yet tiny all at the same time. The worst of both worlds. We are acting like an active community group, asking people from our tiny group to go to this action and that action. Meanwhile the organising work such as making the stall (and banner, and fliers/posters) has has taken about 6 months. If we include public education as cadre-type work, we also haven't made any videos or articles or podcasts. Our educational readings, presentations and discussions have ended up being just for each other rather than the public. Basically, I can't see what community organising we're doing as a group. So we're not a cadre. But we're also far too small to be a type (a) community group.


(3) Censorship: On Facebook I've favoured having a 'page' only type set up, where the people that regularly come to meetings (unofficial members) invite people to our activities or post our information. I've wanted to not have the FB group or have it closed to only the members (about 15 of us) to discuss things. I think this restrictive FB policy makes sense if we are a type (b) group. I didn't understand why we were letting anyone join the FB group and post almost anything. For example, stuff about Momentum. We aren't working with Momentum (although I wouldn't be opposed if people wanted to), so I didn't see it as suitable to be posted by random people we don't know. It was distorting the message of 'the group' (people that go to meetings) and distracting from our projects. If we're going to let people post stuff about Momentum, or any other political stuff the group isn't involved with, why not let people post other irrelevant stuff about sports or shopping, or holidays? Where do we draw the line? However, if we are a type (a) open group it makes sense for anyone in South East London to be able to join the FB group and post pretty much what they like. That we also have an FB page which the informal membership controls implies to me we are trying to be both (a) and (b).

I think we need to think about and clarify what RASEL is to help us clarify our tasks.

*Note I'm trying to not to use the word 'workplace' or 'worker,' as I think it reinforces gendered ideas of work that overlook house work as being work.

Friday, 8 April 2016

All power to the assemblies?

[Still being drafted - please do not share or cite]

Part 1: Intro

Why revolution?
A global socialist revolution is needed. By socialist revolution we mean a transfer of sovereignty from the state to networks of assemblies where the economic set-up is decided freely by the people, rather than imposed by the state, as is the case now, under the capitalist state. By 'capitalist state' we mean a state which is ideologically committed to creating and defending bourgeois property relations. Bourgeois property is where someone makes money out of something simply by investing money. They don't need to do any work. Money creates money.

We can call the state a capitalist state because this is what it explicitly sets out to be, although it euphemistically speaks about promoting 'free trade' and entrepreneurship. According to reigning doctrine, under conditions of 'free' competition we are supposed to get economically rewarded according to work and talent, and maybe a bit of luck. It is sometimes acknowledged that there have to be both losers as well as winners, but there is a social safety net for the losers. Whether this is agreeable-sounding or not is debatable. What is not debatable is that in reality 'free trade' and capitalism are mutually exclusive ideas. Bourgeois property and profit could not exist without the state and hence the use or threat of violence, promoting it at every turn.

We can see this by looking at the original historical accumulation by dispossession  which concentrated land and  resources in the hands of the few in Western countries (taken by genocide of the natives in the USA), creating the original conditions where peasants had to become wage labourers. We can also see it in continued processes of violent expropriation in the global south today including land grabs and the invasion of resource-rich countries (e.g. Iraq) to control them; or the state-centralised money and banking system including multi-trillion dollar bailouts that saved the current global money system; or mass pro-capitalist propaganda and transformation of people into 'human capital' through the education system; or overtly protectionist patent and copyright laws; or tax-payer funded investment in infrastructure, research and development, which massively subsidises trade; or population control including violent state attacks on any significant anti-capitalist groups, notably during the cold war but continuing today to the extent that it was warned by a senior UK military official that if even the mildly socialistic (more a social democrat) Jeremy Corbyn was elected Prime Minister there could be a coup; or laws preventing many types of free labour organising; or a range of other state measures all designed to make the system of bourgeois profit viable. So rather than being a system which promotes freedom, capitalism should be unacceptable to people that care about human freedom.

There are a range of other symptoms of capitalism that mean it should be opposed. A few will need to be mentioned in order to challenge the major trends in liberal identity-politics and social-democratic reformism that suck energy from revolutionary organising. Firstly, gendered and racialised discrimination cannot be solved within capitalism. This is despite the capitalist state being officially opposed to sexism and  racism and sharing many liberal identity-politics ideas such as opposing workplace discrimination on gender or race.

With regards to gender, capitalism functions as a cultural engineering process to turn all people into self-serving, competitive-aggressive individualists. Those designated as men must follow this script or they are not "real men." Simultaneously and contradictorily capitalism also has an inherent tendency to put all the responsibility for necessary non-bourgeois production, reproduction and human sociability on mothers, impacting women more widely, resulting in a a range of destructive gender-relations, pressures, and conundrums. Those that don't meet gender norms are stigmatised. For example, shunned from families, the education system and bourgeois workplaces, over 95 percent of trans-women turn to prostitution. Dr Graciela Balestra estimates the life expectancy of a trans-woman is 30-32 years.

It should be noted that capitalist individualism also has broader implications than gender relations. For example human relations to other species, most visible in factory farming and the mass destruction of the natural environment. Or our relations to future generations, illustrated by our approach to global warming, as explained in Naomi Klein's book 'This changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate'.

With regards to race, neo-colonial practices, including those mentioned above, are necessary to the functioning of the bourgeois system. Such neo-colonial behaviours require nationalist, racist justifications which dehumanise the victims (think of the Arab terrorist that needs dealt with, or the helpless African country that needs 'development assistance' (read: capitalist, neo-colonial exploitation)). Without such racist narratives it is unclear how compliant the domestic populations would be in rich, Western countries. Racism is also used to justify global and national inequalities from colonialism and slavery, that capitalism cannot acknowledge as to do so would raise questions of the legitimacy of the current system. Racism is also stoked to divide the working class so that whites are encouraged to get as many scraps from the table for themselves as possible from the bourgeoisie rather than uniting with the global working class against the bourgeoisie. (Note that here working class here refers to anyone that is not bourgeoisie, although the lines are debatable and blurry. But it would include peasants, the unemployed, self-employed tradespeople, etc.)

None of this is to say that capitalism is the cause of gendered or racial oppression, or animal abuse or destruction of the environment. But it is unclear how any of these problems can be solved without a complete change of the socio-economic system to socialism. This also is not to say that these problems would be won't happen under socialism. But there won't be the same institutional imperatives to maintain these systems. And communities could organise in a way that discourages such systems. For example, with caucuses of historically oppressed groups with veto power over decisions.

How revolution?
The question is how to achieve a socialist revolution. Historically, it was hoped working class survivalist struggles (e.g. for better working conditions, or lower rents) would transform into revolutions. However, since the 19th century it has been observed that this doesn't happen. The organisations  engaged in these struggles tend to not have the ability go further than trying to improve the current system. So supporting as many survivalist struggles as possible is not a credible anti-capitalist strategy for the RA. None of this is to say that survivalist or reformist actions cannot help people in the short term. But they are not revolutionary unless they also include an aspect of alternative institution-building, an idea discussed below. At the moment this doesn't apply to any of the survivalist groups.

Similarly, it was hoped that worker cooperatives could displace bourgeois production. But, due to the pressure of bourgeois competition, this strategy, first started by the cooperative movement in the mid 1840s in England, has never really taken off, despite the appeal of cooperatives. This is not to say that cooperatives are not helpful to revolution. Cooperatives do work as a model for how collective work could be organised in a non-capitalist society. But they are probably not going to grow or spread to the extent that they pose a threat of displacing capitalism.

In Russia, the problem of achieving revolution was almost solved by creating a network of worker assemblies or 'soviets' as the institutional framework which the working class could transfer power to. "All power to the Soviets" was the revolutionary motto. Similarly, in Spain, the problem was almost solved by the syndicalist CNT union being the institutional framework which the population gave power to. However, in both cases the revolutions were not thorough enough. The February 1917 Russian revolution never really solidified itself, and was then outflanked by the Bolshevik hierarchy to create a dictatorship that came no way near socialism. Meanwhile the Anarchists in Spain in 1936 were unable to defend their little sphere from outside pressures and was unravelling from within in the first year. However, both showed the promise in creating a socialist institutional framework that the working class can give power to.

Revolutionaries must create such a framework of working class assemblies in Britain and also take measures to ensure any revolution is more robust and thorough than previous socialist revolutions. This framework should consist of both community-based and industry-based organisations. Community-based organisations are important so that people not working in industries get a say in how society functions. Also, people have community interests that go beyond industrial work, and community organising can reflect this. Industrial groups will still be important. A mass general strike in which the working class occupy the means of production is still a useful tactic for enacting the revolution. So wage-place institutions will be useful. But there should be some kind of collaboration between community and industrial organisations in managing society.

In terms of wage-place organising there is already the Industrial Workers of the World syndicalist union. Its preamble to the constitution reads:
It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.
What is needed are two things. Firstly, the IWW to grow to a size that makes this goal achievable. Secondly, is counterpart revolutionary community organising. At the moment, non-wage place organising is dominated by single issue activism rather than building socialism. To give people training in managing a socialist society in the future, community groups should be built up to manage useful community projects in the present. Two types of projects are needed. These are projects that (1) encourage communities to get used to  deciding on how to allocate resources collectively (possibilities include participatory budgeting); and (2) get people used to confronting state authority collectively with their neighbours to achieve agreed community goals. So direct action groups based on location rather than a single issue. The groups also need to be educated with radical libertarian socialist propaganda if they are to fulfil their potential.  

In terms of making this framework stronger than occurred in Russia or Spain, what is firstly needed is that the framework is strong through the whole country, rather than just parts. Ideally the framework will be international, particularly being linked to a socialist framework in the United States, which showed during the cold war that it is the biggest threat to revolutionary movements.  But the more international the framework the better.

A framework must also be created which cannot be co-opted by a Bolshevik-type, hierarchical party in a revolutionary situation, or authoritarian tendencies that may emerge in the RA. The framework must have clear processes for pushing decision-making power outwards into communities rather than centralising it. In a revolutionary situation, there will inevitably have to be some centralised decision-making, there should be processes to minimise this and make network decision-making as transparent and accountable as possible, whilst limiting the power of individuals. All whilst trying to make decisions as speedily as possible.


The Radical Assembly
The RA should focus on building this type of community self-organising and help the community groups form a network that can, in collaboration with socialist industrial organisations such as the IWW, take power in a revolutionary situation. This means a situation where the capitalist state loses legitimacy or the trust of the population. This could happen with a second major financial crash. It could also happen if Jeremy Corbyn wins an election and the military instigates the coup senior officials warn about.

If the RA takes this path it will need to resist two tendencies on the libertarian socialist left today. The first is that we need to consider ourselves not as 'activists,' but 'organisers.' Here, 'activists' refers to those that do a lot of survivalist direct action or reformist advocacy in various ways. 'Organisers' want to help build working class organisation and prepare the population to take over and manage a socialist society.

The second is that we should not seek to be a bigger and looser organisation, but should rather aim to be a more unified, more coherent organisation. I.e. the RA should aim to continue clarifying an adaptable strategy (I'd favour something along the lines I've mentioned here) and the RA should only be open to people that want to contribute to that strategy. Otherwise the organisation will be pulled in different directions and the necessary revolutionary work won't get done anyway near as quickly and smoothly as it could.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Thoughts and review of 'Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work'

Authored by Nick Srnicek and Alex Willaims, (2015), Verso.

The title


I was reluctant to read the book 'Inventing the future: Postcapitalism and a world without work'. Almost everything about the title of the book put me off. For a start, and this is perhaps a matter of taste, the phrase 'Inventing the future' struck me as extremely grandiose and pretentious. 'I bet they're idiots', I thought to myself, upon first hearing the title. 'Pretentious, self-aggrandising, ungrounded, twits. I bet that book sucks.' Having said this, it should be remembered that publishers often have a say over book titles.

My second problem with the title was more analytical, and it seemed this was less likely to be an issue with the publishers. They use the phrase 'post-capitalism' in the title. Is this some trendy, uber-non-offensive way of saying 'socialism'? When I hear such phrases, alarm bells start ringing, and I suspect I'm about to engage with someone apolitical. Someone that doesn't see the necessity of class conflict. Furthermore, the word 'post' implies a patience with capitalism which I don't have. I’m reminded of when Paul Mason turned up at Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything conference and he gave a talk in which it seemed he thought advances in technology would eventually lead rather naturally to an alternative type of economy (although I couldn’t quite grasp what kind of economy he was talking about). And he didn’t mention class struggle. I'm not a post-capitalist, I'm an anti-capitalist. I don't want to wait for capitalism to somehow naturally run its course and develop into something different. God knows how long that will take and how much more damage will have been done to people and planet in that time. No. I want people to come together to force through a socialist revolution right now. In fact I'm a bit vexed it didn't happen yesterday.

Thirdly, 'a world without work', suggested that this was a book about vision. This is fine, but choosing this one feature of a future society to focus on - labour practices (or lack thereof), seemed problematic. What about the political set up? The decision making? The title suggested an automated utopia, but an automated world is only a utopia for all people if they have equal control over goods and services. Again, is this going to be a communist/socialist world? And did the authors plan on laying out some ideas for getting there? If not, the book seemed more or less a waste of time. There are already many utopian schemes such as 'the Venus Project', which don't seem particularly relevant to anything.

But I decided to read the book. A friend of mine had started reading it and, talking to her, I got the impression that the book was as scathing about the state of the current-day revolutionary left as me. So I thought it might be interesting. Another reason I thought I should check it out was that one of the authors is speaking at the Radical Assembly's Future Society event, which I don't really plan on going to, but it would be good to know what other people in the network are thinking about. Then I found out Verso had a 90% off sale, so it would cost me less than two quid. Nothing else on the Verso site jumped out at me so I decided to give Inventing the Future a shot.

The book


The book started with a critique of the current day activist left, which I mostly agreed with. They criticise the lack of large scale revolutionary thinking, and also the reactive, fire-fighter politics, and politics of protest prevalent on the left today. I was largely happy with this critique, and think this chapter is probably worth a read.[1] After this critique of the current left's 'folk politics' as they call it, I was waiting for a discussion of how the left could, as a solution to this situation, build mass, powerful working class institutions, perhaps on an international scale which pose a genuine threat to the reigning order. However, such a discussion never came.

Instead, they talked a lot in the book about the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS), Friedrich Hayek’s neoliberal think tank. Established in the 1940's, the MPS helped set up several other think tanks, which Srnicek and Williams (S&W) claim are largely responsible for the changes from post-war Keynesianism to our current 'neoliberal' global economic set up. The authors' central proposal was that the left takes influence from this organisation by building its own network of think tanks and becoming influential in education and the mainstream media. I was disappointed by this strategy suggestion to put it mildly.

Firstly, S&W fail to acknowledge that insofar as these neoliberal think tanks gained popularity with power centres, it was because their ideas are supportive of increasing the power of the bourgeoisie. Where their ideas conflict with bourgeois power, they are largely rejected. No head of state considers really implementing Austrian economics, and letting the major banks fail, for example. Further, rather than being masterminded by the MPS, economic shifts towards neoliberalism have largely reflected shifts in the balance of power between, in blunt terms, working class organisations and the bourgeoisie.[2]  The idea that this process was driven by any think tanks seems to be a bizarrely naive misreading of history.

Further, the suggestion that leftist think tanks could replicate the supposed ideological success of the MPS, seems fanciful to say the least. This is not to say I don't think the left should have a network of think tanks or try to be as influential as possible in all forms of media and education (although keeping in mind the problems that come with engaging with especially the mainstream media). However, it is ridiculous to suggest the mainstream media and education systems would ever let revolutionaries become anywhere near hegemonic.

Some of S&W's other suggestions were fine, even inspiring. Their proposal that the left needs to reclaim the territory of big visions, progress and utopian thinking was welcome. I enjoyed the discussion of the long term vision of fully automated society in which people are provided for and all are free to pursue their own interests. I could also get on board with some of the reforms they suggest as stepping stones, including universal basic income and a four day working week. They also mention various interesting tactical ideas such as 'proxy strikes' in France where workers don't declare a strike, so still get paid, but allow the community to blockade or occupy the workplace.

However, there are some issues around their future society and reform proposals. Firstly, it is unclear how they are applicable to rural, peasant societies which still exist in large parts of the world. But even further than this, as mentioned, the book isn't very helpful in terms of providing a credible strategy for how the left in the West can get from where it is now, in a state of weak 'folk-politics', to a globally hegemonic movement with the power to achieve fully automated luxury communism, or even the intermittent reforms. So whilst the book has some interesting ideas, it is not really a very practical guide for revolutionaries, as one might hope from the grandiose title 'Inventing the Future'. In fact the core strategy suggestions from S&W, if taken seriously by enough current activists (you never know), could possibly manage to weaken the revolutionary left even further. An impressive feat.

On the other hand, in terms of proposing “the left’s” go-to revolutionary utopian ideas, then the book does this in a lively, and thought-provoking way in parts. And the critique of the present day “left” is largely worth paying attention to. Plus it’s not that long. So overall I found it a good effort and worth reading.  



[1] Having said this, I’m not sure how original the critique is. I feel I’ve been reading similar critiques for the last 10 years. John Sanbonmatsu’s ‘The Postmodern Prince: Critical Theory, Left Strategy and the Making of a New Political Subject’ (2003), Monthly Review Press, is an early example. A recent example is this Scott Jay blog post ‘The postmodern left and the success of neoliberalism’: http://libcom.org/library/postmodern-left-success-neoliberalism.
[2] See David Harvey’s book ‘A Brief History of Neoliberalism’. There are free PDFs of it online. S&W try to refute Harvey’s arguments in the book but I don’t think they do a good job of it. They argue that because Keyensianism was dominant and was seen as being in the interest of capitalists, this shows neoliberalism was not brought about due to class interests. But they fail to consider that Keyesnianism was temporarily seen as being in the interests of the bourgeoisie to make concessions to the working class in the face of a well-organised, potentially revolutionary working class. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Thoughts on RASEL strategy

What is RASEL? Libertarian socialist school?


The question, 'what is RASEL?' has been raised a lot recently. My initial idea is that we should think of ourselves as a 'libertarian socialist school'. Firstly, let’s look at the 'libertarian socialist' (libsoc) aspect. For me, 'libsoc' means two things. Firstly, it means aiming to take action to create non-oppressive social institutions that manage society in a way which supports human flourishing (replacing the state, capitalism, patriarchy, racism, etc.). Secondly, it means organising in a way which reflects our values as far as possible (i.e. in a non-oppressive, inclusive, supportive way). As we've discussed, this dual goal of promoting social transformation whilst organising in a 'prefigurative' way (trying to create the future society in the present) is a traditional libertarian socialist aim. The 'school' aspect of the 'libsoc school' means that we help each other learn about (including through action) how systems of oppression work and how best to take action in pursuit of a libsoc society, paying attention to the successes and failures of other groups, as well as our own experiences.


External project ideas


If our goal is creating a libsoc society, our primary aim should be building or laying the foundations of participatory, inclusive social institutions that can manage society in line with our principles. Here are some projects which I think can help build or support these institutions, some of which we've already started working on:
* Supporting wage-place (AKA workplace) organising.
* Building or supporting alternative 'prefigurative spaces' such as the field, community gardens, co-ops, green energy projects etc.
* Apply popular pressure on local and national governments to devolve power downwards through participatory budgeting, and then we encourage marginalised people to participate.
* Propaganda/media work.
* Radical education projects and debate/discussion societies for everyone.
* Helping people organise collective direct actions such as eviction resistance or rent strikes or other political events - and trying to get them to form or join long-term organisations.
*Try to make our work replicable or scalable by creating written processes which others can use. 
*Networking with similar organisations on projects throughout London, the country, and eventually overseas, building a framework for organising joint actions effectively, and becoming capable of acting in moments of economic/social collapse to fill the void with a libsoc order.
* Community stalls to inform our work from the street level and also spread our ideas.


Noting that there are already groups doing similar type things, in terms of external actions which will come out of RASEL, I think there are three categories:
1) RASEL 'students' support projects or join groups we think are good (e.g. we might decide to help Solfed with a project). [Note that in this scenario, if people only come to a few meetings but it inspires them to move on to something else that is in line with our goals, we would have been successful.]

2) We change the way outside groups or projects function. For example, we might bring new meeting processes to outside groups we're involved with which we learn from RASEL. Or outside groups might hear about us and copy aspects of what we do, as other RA groups have done already.

3) We start new projects where we think there is a gap. Examples include the abortion clinic, college, and library projects.



What can RASEL contribute that isn't already out there? 


1. There are lots of political groups which only want change within the current system, or reject visions of systemic change on principle. Or they don't think of strategies for creating systemic change. RASEL can offer a (libsoc) vision and strategic ideas for creating change. 

2. There are groups (and individuals) which have a libsoc vision or strategies but don't have a localised network like the RA does.  We can use this network to both spread and feed into libsoc ideas and practices. We could eventually seek to decentralise even further.


Interested in other people's thoughts.   

Friday, 6 November 2015

Thoughts from facilitation training

The Radical Assembly had facilitation training on Tuesday. It doesn't sound like the most exciting thing in the world but Roger Hallam, one of the founders of the housing co-op network, Radical Roots, gave the training and some interesting questions came up. 

How do we introduce ourselves?
Roger explained that a good facilitator will introduce the meeting by saying what the group is, some guidelines we use to conduct meetings, and what the meeting is for. This is so that newcomers or people that have been out of the loop for a while get a better grasp of what is going on. And it helps give guidance to the meeting. As far as I'm aware we skip the first part in RASEL of explaining what we are. I think this is because we haven't fully agreed as a group. I suspect answering the question 'What is RASEL?'  will help us clarify with each other what we should be doing and how we should be doing it. And this will help us have more productive meetings. Hopefully, agreeing the flier text will help with this. There has also been talk of a strategy day, which I think might be helpful.


Exclusion and common knowledge 
We spent most of the workshop practising dealing with problem behaviours during the training. I've been told that we are quite 'on it' in RASEL in terms of not being exclusionary or oppressive in terms of gender, although at times we have slipped up. But one thing Roger highlighted was that activist groups can also be exclusionary by using lots of technical political language. I imagine this also includes taking for granted that people will understand political arguments on a range of social issues from immigration, to gender, to parliamentary politics, to economics and so on. And being snobbish about people that don't approach each issue from the most radical angle is a common complaint of leftist groups. I'm not sure how far this is a problem in RASEL but it’s something else to consider and keep an eye on. Especially if we wish to keep newer people engaged.  

I do think in RASEL we've been addressing this to a large extent by engaging in self-education so that there are not a few leaders with far broader political knowledge than others. There are plans to record some of the discussions in some way on the website for new people, which I think will also be useful.

Facilitation training and compulsory empowerment?
Roger also explained that one of the reasons Radical Roots expanded to dozens of groups quickly, was that each new member of the network had to have facilitation training. It was compulsory for people to be empowered this way. The result was that people gained an insight on how to have productive meetings and the organisation's cohesion was very strong. I am personally quite receptive of the idea of at least encouraging all people involved in RASEL to get facilitation training. I'd also be interested in refresher training sessions for experienced facilitators. This isn't just to make sure meetings are as high quality as possible (my experience is meetings work best when everyone supports in facilitation. We could also use such trainings to reconsider and update our meeting processes and guidelines). It is also to help empower people in RASEL in whichever way we can. For example, it is a skill that can be used by individuals when engaged in local campaigns with outside groups. I'd be interested in a group training event every few months or so.

Thoughts welcome.
-David