Back in November 2005 the first Critically Chatting gathering took place. It was organised by a small group of people, who’ve been involved in youth and community work in England for up to thirty years. Across this period the Caucettes, as we used to call ourselves, have caucused regularly to argue the toss about ‘what on earth we think we’re doing?’. Of course we’ve done so in the light of our commitment to radical social and political change. And, without doubt, arguing this corner has got tougher in recent times!

A Socialist Caucus Reunion

Twenty Five Years On : A Socialist Caucus Reunion

Our initial meeting focused on the Green Paper, ‘Youth Matters’, one more expression of New Labour’s behavioural and instrumental approach to social and political issues. Central to this debate was the question of whether even the idea of a distinctive Youth Work practice ‘on the side of young people’ could survive its battering at the hands of the government and its ‘new managerial’ bureaucracy. Since then a series of further CC gatherings held in London, Wigan and Liverpool have broadened the discussion, pursuing such themes as the hypocrisy of the ‘Respect’ agenda; the taken-for- grantedness of representative democracy; the necessity of resisting and subverting the Management imperative; the contradictory character of the ‘community cohesion’ strategy;  the inadequacies of Social Psychology; and the Neo-Liberal Agenda and Youth Work.

As you might expect we have not been overrun with support. On the other hand close to a hundred folk have participated in a range of stimulating conversations across the interrelated spheres of Youth and Community Work, Adult and Community Education, and the Voluntary Sector in all its many guises. In particular our spirits have been raised through renewing old and forging new contacts and friends.

Against this background there is a genuine desire to keep the Critically Chatting initiative alive. An organised and critical opposition to the ‘generalised conformity’ suffocating so much practice is sorely needed. This is easier to say than to do. Indeed our desire to encourage local, regional and national meetings has run inevitably into difficulties. Often interested and sympathetic people feel too tired or dispirited to turn out. And, of course, they need time too for themselves, their lovers, their children, their families and their mates! On the optimistic front more people have been drawn into organising and contributing to our efforts – so much so that we feel available now to call ourselves the Critically Chatting Collective. In addition we have derived strength and energy from sister groups tangling creatively with the same dilemmas – the National Federation of Detached Youth Work, the National Coalition for Independent Action and the collectives behind the journals of CONCEPT and YOUTH & POLICY.

It is in this context that this  blog and web site makes a fresh appearance. We’re moving to WordPress  in order to  allow hopefully greater interaction between ourselves, readers and supporters. It seems useful to have a place, which can support critical dialogue in the following ways:

  • by using the Blog to keep people abreast of and stimulate debate about  topical and significant happenings in the arena of Youth and Community Work and the world Beyond!
  • by  spreading the word about and commentating on the Critically Chatting gatherings and other initiatives such as the Youth and Policy and Federation of Detached Youth Work  conferences;
  • by creating a fund of provocative and questioning articles,  resurrecting past gems alongside encouraging the creation of contemporary comment;
  • and by directing people to other sites and places, where critical debate about Youth and Community Work and, if we are allowed to be a touch pretentious, the future of humanity is fostered.

We do this in the spirit of inquiry contained in the following quotation:

“‘We  do not have any Good News to proselytise concerning the Promised Land glimmering on the horizon, any book to recommend whose reading would exempt one from having to seek the truth for oneself” [Cornelius Castoriadis 1972]

and  in the romantic vision of these words:

Workers of the world, awaken!
Rise in all your splendid might
Take the wealth that you are making
It belongs to you by right.
No one will for bread be crying
We’ll have freedom, love and health
When the grand red flag is flying In the Workers’ Commonwealth.

[Joe Hill of the Wobblies, One Big Union for All Workers]

We look forward to your active involvement in the struggle to chat and act critically!

Published on November 19, 2008 at 11:51 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Just found you

  2. I have just found your blog looks good it is asking the right questions in the right areas. I am a probation officer who hates the way New Labour treats our young people and the managerialism it uses. I belong to a socialist group within the union and I will now tell other members about your blog. Together we are stronger, once I am recognised I will say more.

  3. Papa

    Well pleased you’ve found us and that you think we’re asking the right questions. Please spread the word and certainly let us know more about your thinking and practice. Being long in the tooth I’ve got memories of being inspired by CaseCon and the efforts of probation workers in the 70’s.

    If you’ve time look at the Open Letter, ‘In Defence of Youth Work’ on the February Blog and let us know if it connects at all to your struggles.

    Strength in Solidarity


  4. WINDOWS FOR pEACE (UK) have recently developed an exciting resource pack for those working with young people aged 15- 21. It contains many activities designed to promote dialogue between young people from Muslim, Palestinian, Arab and Jewish backgrounds. The focus is on the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel.
    The pack encourages discussion and the development of skills of hearing and communicating diverse views.

    Copies of the pack are available for £12.50 plus £1.25 p & p and can be ordered on line.

    Windows for Peace (UK) is also running facilitators training to help people promote dialogue on Wednesday 23rd and Thursday 24th September 2009 at Warrington Peace Centre. Trainers include those involved in Windows Channels for Communication which works in Palestine and Israel

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