Being socialists, we realise that in order to bring about the social change we seek we need large numbers of people, yet the vast majority of left groups today are small, even when compared with bourgeois political parties, let alone the mass movements of yester-year. This prompts many thinking leftists to ponder the question of recruitment, how can we grow our organisation or our movement. Quite naturally we try to look at this question empirically, what has worked for us, where have we recruited from in the past, this approach however, which seems fairly dominant on the left, is flawed.
It may seem tautological, but it is important to realise that the left that exists today is composed of the people who are drawn in by the methodology of the left today, and they are a very small percentage of the population. This means that whenever we look within our own ranks to discern “what has worked” the answer that will invariably return is “more of the same”.
“We recruited comrades X and Y from that ill-attended public meeting last year, lets do one of those again”, “standing in that election allowed us to sign up ten more comrades, lets do more of that”.
This in-built conservatism (with a small C!) is furthered by the fact that the existing membership are predisposed to like your present methodology, after all it was the basis on which they were recruited, and having being practicing it for the duration of their membership it is well within their comfort zone.
The combination of this inertia with a utter lack of ambition and a focus on short-term gains has ensured that the left has remained marginalised over the past decade. The obsession with propaganda, often left immeasurable through lack of metric, lest someone realise the ineffectually of the entire approach, I believe, is the primary way this conservatism manifests itself. That’s not to say propaganda is counter-productive, it is still a “net positive”, its still better to produce it than not, but with our movements resources limited as they are we have to seriously question whether this approach ought to remain our priority, or whether our resources could be better invested elsewhere.