The Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group's submission to Compass on "Political Education" needs to be submitted on 23 February. In the light of points made in the appropriate Dronfield Blather comment box and in a phone message to me from Ken Curren, I have amended our initial proposals slightly as indicated below. Other changes have been made to fit in with the word-limits stipulated by Compass.
If you wish to see further amendments, then please give the details in the comment box on this thread over the week-end.
Policy Name : Political Education, Political Education, Political Education.
A vibrant and intelligent political culture requires issues to be debated openly (but not violently) within the context of widespread commitments to civil liberties, including those of free expression. In the modern Labour Party and often in the wider Labour Movement, a past tradition of considering practical political alternatives in the light of the concepts of social equality, collectivism and democratic participation has tended to be sidelined. This is not an argument for the adoption of a political dogma by today's movement; for core values themselves need to be under continual testing and re-examination and to be attuned to changing circumstances. But unfortunately in today's movement too often core values tend to have withered away, rather than being re-assessed and updated.
The Labour Party in particular needs to encourage and facilitate internal debate and discussion about our times. A key avenue to achieve such an approach is the establishment of a political education programme to stimulate debate and discussion amongst what could then become a growing and active membership.
Such an approach is likely to require a serious publications' avenue which the Labour Party membership could contribute to. This would require moves towards a weekly Labour Party newspaper, the establishment of a theoretical journal, the publication of discussion pamphlets, the running of discussion groups and study courses; plus the use of web-sites and other avenues of more modern technology. The Labour Party itself should aim at running such provisions, building upon the efforts (amongst others) of Tribune, Chartist, the Fabian Society and Compass.
Such forms of Political Education will, however, only achieve a living impact when the internal structure of the Labour Party is openly democratised - yet political education could also encourage such a development.
The TUC, individual Trade Unions and the Co-operative Movement form essential parts of our Movement. They have their own traditions of providing their own internal educational programmes. The focus of such activities are often centred around the practical needs of health and safety representatives, shop stewards and equivalents. These programmes need to be leavened with fuller investigations around the historical, political and core values of the Labour Movement.
Ways and means of re-establishing a pre-Thatcherite tradition of working class education centred on the earlier practices of Colleges such as Ruskin, Coleg Harlech, the Northern College and Newbattle Abbey need to be explored.
Note : the word limit for the above is 400 words, a sentence has been removed from the original in order to meet this limit. The section now totals 388 words.
Arguments In Favour
(1) An intelligent, questioning and democratic labour movement would help to raise the whole level of political debate and tackle the limitations of the ya-boo politics.
(2) It would help to make clearer and more coherent political choices for the electorate.
(3) It would improve the Labour Movements image, especially amongst young people and in its links with the International Labour Movement.
(1) If it took the wrong turn, expanded political debate within the Labour Movement could lead to disruption and turmoil.
(2) It could encourage entrist techniques into the Labour Party.
(3) It could turn the Labour Party into merely a debating society.
Note : This section goes together with the one entitled "Arguments In Favour", the total has been cut back from 124 words to 98 words to meet the 100 word limit.
How Does The Policy Relate To The Core Beliefs Of Compass? (i.e. equality, collectivism, sustainability, democracy.)
This programme essentially caters for the extension of Compass style understandings into the wider labour movement, whilst guarding against any tendency of these to become dogmas.
Note : Unchanged, 26 words. The limit is 100.
How Does This Build The Institutions Of Social Democracy?
It will help to develop a labour movement which will press for (a) an internally democratic Labour Party, (b) the opening up of the democratisation of governmental, parliamentary and local authority institutions and (c) will encourage serious political debate within the popular media.
Note : Unchanged, 43 words. The limit is 100.
What Are The Cost Implications?
The start of a political education programme throughout the labour movement could initially be done at minimal cost. What is needed is encouragement from labour leaders and Labour's head office to participate in a range of voluntary political educational activities. This would begin to set up the structure for summer schools, courses and publications which would often be financed by those encouraged to participate in what they saw as meaningful political activities. Costs would mainly be related to scholarships and staff payments when voluntary course directors and tutors could not be attracted.
Note : Unchanged, 92 words. The limit is 100.
Who Wins And Loses Amongst The Electorate?
If political education within the labour movement operates in ways which encourages questioning and debate, it is likely to help develop a relevant and appealing political perspective for the Labour Party. This would provide clear and intelligent choices for the electorate. In such circumstances, it would be vested interests that would lose out. If, however, political dogma distorted the uses of such avenues, then this would alienate wide sectors of the electorate.
Note : Unchanged, 73 words. The limit is 100.
A Sound Bite For The Public?
Informing and understanding the political dimensions of everyday life.
Note : Fully changed, from suggestions in the comment box by Blogger Brader. 9 words. The limit is 25.
Where Has This Worked Before?
Although what has been suggested has never worked fully within the labour movement, aspects of this approach can be seen in the work of people such as the Webbs, the Coles and R.H. Tawney as well as in the past work of Workers' Educational Association, University Extension Courses and the residential Colleges for working people mentioned earlier. Given modern technology, use of Computer communication systems can now be employed. It is a practice we are developing with the Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group and on this blog.
Note : The final sentence has been added, following a suggestion from Ken Curren. 91 words. The limit is 100.