Setting up a Local Group: A Guide

The Fife Campaign for Socialism group was originally formed in the summer of 2017 and is now firmly established.

Since its inception it has managed to recruit members to both CFS and the Labour Party, whilst also being active in a number of campaigns in the local community.

Detailed below are a number of key lessons the co-ordinators of the group have learned which hopefully can be of use to CFS members forming groups in other geographical areas.

1.0 Arranging meetings

1.1 Advertise your meetings as widely as possible. CFS will be able to help you reach fellow CFS/Momentum members in your community. Use social media. Distribute fliers. If you are arranging a public meeting – send a letter to your local paper providing details of the group and the meeting. Using facebook for example “Create events” for meetings – this also helps you have an idea of likely attendances.

1.2 In the beginning especially you may find it helpful to try and get guest speakers who have a degree of profile. This will help gather interest and may attract some press coverage e.g. for our first meeting we had a local Councillor deliver a talk on “Socialism and the Labour Party” and the local paper published an article on this.

1.3 Don’t neglect discussion. Whilst some people will wish to just come along and listen, others will want to speak.

1.4 When picking a date to meet, make sure that it doesn’t clash with any local CLPs. It seems obvious but it has happened to us! Make sure you know when all the CLPs in your area meet and any other groups which attract a similar audience (e.g. Trades council, Peoples Assembly, PROGRESS… (wee joke there!!) etc)

1.5 Find a venue that people can get to. This might not always be the cheapest but if people can’t find you then you are shooting yourself in the foot right away. Pick a venue that is fairly central to the area you are operating in and try to ensure that it has good transport links and is easy to locate.

1.6 Don’t go chopping and changing venues. If you are trying to establish a group you need to have consistency.

1.7 Don’t get hung up on attendances. Of course you want people to turn up and ideally attendances would grow exponentially over time but that isn’t realistic. If you find the secret to that, then please share! More likely, attendances will fluctuate and sometimes be dependent on circumstances out with your control.

1.8 Ask people what they want from meetings. Get their suggestions on guest speakers or discussion themes.

1.9 Don’t be shy at meetings to ask for donations for room hire etc. People expect this. Our group also regularly run raffles too to try and get funds.

1.10 In early public meetings, you may get one or two comrades from other parts of the left come along who are keen to get their viewpoints across. As long as they are respectful you have nothing to worry about (just make sure that you have more CFS members there and that they are in the minority!).

1.11 At public meetings we always begin by giving a brief overview of CFS and its history and details about how to join. Usually we also put fliers on seats etc.

1.12 Normally we have speakers followed by a discussion. Generally ninety minutes is adequate.

1.13 If arranging guest speakers, you may wish to try and get two for the night if you can. This helps reduce the stress if there is a late cancellation. It may happen for one speaker, but less likely two will cancel on the same night. Pretty obvious but if you have two speakers, try and be gender balanced if you can.

2.0 Organising

2.1 Form a steering group early on amongst your more active members. Try and get as many people involved in different tasks as possible.

2.2 Whilst our meetings have generally been open to the public, with the exception of one, we have a private facebook page which allows us to communicate as members of CFS. This is useful for arranging events and campaigns etc.

2.3 It is important to work with local union activists and groups. In Fife, CFS members are regularly involved in events working in partnership with for example: Fife Trades Council and Peoples Assembly.

2.4 We have tied in with various campaigns (e.g supporting Richard Leonard in the leadership election) by getting group photos done with members holding up messages of support/posters etc – all good for sharing on social media etc.

2.5 Getting a local banner(s) early on is useful because you can then start to build up your presence at local demos/protests/campaigns etc (through contacts in a particular union we were able to get banners done very cheaply).

For more information, contact: Liam Thomson E: mrliamthomson@yahoo.co.uk