The proof

The Green Left Weekly discussion list  isn’t necessarily the centre of my political universe , but it is a handy exchange of opinion’s for those who value them.Any email list is as good as its subscribers and you cannot always pick who they will be. The left -- and the farther left you go the more doctrinaire it can become -- is notoriously dedicated to polemic.

Nonetheless, it is the most frustrating feature of wayward political existences like this that so often words are rated for much more than they’re worth. Of course everyone is their own adjudicator, but the brutal fact of radical politics is that you are so often forced to occupy the margins and words alone won’t get you any closer to the real thing. So words, argument and the culture of difference can seem more real than they are.

Given the ease of modern publishing -- given the web and internet -- the cascade of words seems to have become a massive torrent while less attention is paid to the coal face where the work is done: the movements built, and the parties assembled. Vladimir Lenin may have waxed on about the "unity" of theory and practice but I suspect he had something else in mind.

Debating is at least doing something which addresses the frustration of seeming only doing so little. It’s therapeutic in the same way that ‘ventilation’ -- that delightful psychologic buzzword -- works for all of us. Winning an argument --or thinking that you are winning an argument -- is a touch preferable to talking with yourself and may even be better than doing something!

Nonetheless, there are debates and discussions that must be had, even if they are perennial in nature. And a debate done right is probably the very best tool that any thinking through process could strive for. Debating an issue is the sharpest way to explore it because it takes no prisoners. It is a cognitive spiral relentlessly pursuing a conclusion. Otherwise what’s the point? You debate to decide what to do. To debate on any other basis isn’t worth that much because it isn’t useful. To be really worthwhile a debate must have (to borrow a term) a use value.

That's where an obvious phrase kicks in: the proof of the pudding is in the eating -- because that’s so true! No matter how many the exchanges, practice itself is the only lord.

We cannot afford two politics -- the politics you do and the politics you talk about. Otherwise argument becomes an exercise in abstractions.

After so many years on the proverbial ‘left’ I’ve learnt to value debate and discussion(and now, the GLW discussion list). I now, I hope, more consciously do my thinking collectively rather than pretend I suck so many unique or copyrighted notions out of my very own thumb. I can afford to be ever so humble because I’ve learnt that I can be ever so wrong.

My partner will no doubt tell you otherwise...but let’s just say that in the realm of politics, outside domestic disturbances, I rely on the views of others in order to develop my own.

This brings me to the key point of this exercise, this thinking through which I began with my first paragraph: the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I latched upon this maxim through the German playwright Bertolt Brecht  who swore by it. So too do I.