30 July 2009

Rules of Debate

[CU post for Friday 31 July 2009]

The Rules of Debate and Procedure of Meetings are a bit like language, or political education, or the Internet. They are communistic. For the most part they are not given as authority. They are not imposed by a “state”. There is no enforcer.

For example, the South African Communist Party has no standard Rules of Debate or Standing Orders. Unfortunately this does not prevent people from claiming “Points of Order”.

The nature of the notional “rules” is such that they are effective to the extent that they are held in common by the members of a gathering.

In the CU “Basic Communism” series, our summary of Wal Hannington’s 1950 booklet “Mr Chairman” was to be included with the item on Trade Unions that we featured yesterday. Hannington [1896-1966, pictured] was well known as a communist leader of the unemployed workers’ movement in Britain in the 1930s.

Hannington wrote: "The Chairman is there to guide the meeting, not to boss it." This is the most valuable message in his book. The Rules of Debate and the Procedures of Meetings are only justified to the extent that they liberate the people present, and they become useless to the extent that they are felt as a burden.

The point is not for the Chairperson to “keep order”, or for individuals to be bullied down with “points of order”. The Chairperson serves the meeting and the meeting needs to know how to guide the Chairperson. Everything works best when everyone knows the generic Rules of Debate.

Trade Unions are probably the biggest reservoir of knowledge and practice of the Rules of Debate. Communists who are involved in Trade Unions have to be able both to reproduce, and also to continue to learn, from this great tradition.

Click on this link:

Mr Chairman [Procedure at meetings, extracts], 1950 (1516 words)


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