The basic format we adopt is one of informal dialogue and debate. A topic may be chosen and everyone present can talk around this topic attempting to move towards a general consensus.
A general consensus does not imply total agreement on an issue (though sometimes this is achieved), it usually means we achieve a common framework in which we agree to constructively differ. For instance, we might not agree on which economic system was best for an anarchy, but agree that it should be decentralized and non-coercive, with each local economy experimenting with its own economic form. The next issue of debate would then be the mechanism of exchange and distribution between communities, a less heated topic.
We think this approach is more realistic than attempting to get everyone to agree and more practical than letting each individual retain incompatible ideas.
The position above demonstrates one important central concept we share. That is, anarchist politics should be conscious and intentional. The way we live should be according to how we want to live, not according to how the majority wants to live at some historical point, or what form of life is necessitated by the condition (we think) we have found ourselves in. We recognize that both these considerations are important, but consider them secondary. As primary considerations they are not conducive to freedom, and often inform the propaganda of authoritarians.
Once a set of ideas, or a variety of alternatives, have been produced in this way a publishable essay is produced from the notes. Individual members also produce personal essays but these too have been influenced by earlier debates. No one idea can be said to be better than an other it is only when we are able to test our ideas against experience that discrimination will be possible.
The methodology applied at present is to hold regular, informal dialogues. These start as general conversation in an relaxed venue (pub or cafe) and gradually move onto the topic of discussion. Often however it has been found that the dialogues are more productive if no topic is imposed and an issue of current importance to all those present is allowed to emerge. The facilitators job is then to identify an emerging topic that is suitable for a publishable product, or that relates to an issue earmarked for publication (though the group has now evolved to a stage where all tend to take part in this selection). If no topic emerges a stock topic is decided on.
The debating group currently has a transient membership of around a dozen, usually up to half of which are available to take part at any one meeting. Not only regular members take part in this dialogue but guests are also welcome. We have also welcomed overseas anarchists to our meetings when they visit London (something that often adds an extra perspective and fresh ideas to an often over parochial British anarchism).
The debates from each meeting are minuted and notes made of points of agreement and uncontested opinion. These notes are then circulated at a subsequent meeting and extra comments are added to them by members. This ensures that the points made by contributors have been understood properly, guarantees that no ones views have been excluded or forgotten and enables other members not present at the first debate to add their comments.
A topic will often continue over into the next meeting, or emerge again at a latter one, thus debate on it is quite intensive and all members of the group, and guests, have the opportunity to fully contribute. Notes are constantly updated on a topic and continually circulated.
Once the issue has been exhausted, as far as members are concerned, a volunteer converts the collected notes into a coherent text, which should represent as nearly as possible the views of the group.
Even after publication (privately or on the Internet) the topic may emerge again as the groups composition changes or opinions evolve. Notes are taken and if a major shift in consensus away from a published text occurs, the text may be withdrawn and the process be repeated, this time combining the new notes with the original consensus. But so far this has not proved necessary.
By this process a body of varied stances, proposals and theories is gradually built up. These should both reflect and clarify developing ideas in the wider 'anarchist movement' and attempt to put new concepts on the agenda of anarchist debate in general. The aim being to create a coherent framework of diverse perspectives, unified in multi-directional activity, against a common enemy and towards a common goal. The age of the one dimensional, ideologically driven, mass movement is over. It is no longer a viable possibility.
We do not see ourselves as any intellectual authority or central 'think tank', but aim merely to develop, clarify and propagate ideas on which consensus may be possible. We are not interested in academic elitism or scholarly techniques, but rather seek to produce and talk about ideas in ways that are accessible toe eveyone. We would like to see a number of similar groups and other forms of debate emerge nationally and encourage networking and exchanges between them. We find that many anarchists agree on a number of points and that it is often confusion over language that causes sectarianism. Dialogue can penetrate the veils created by differences of language and perspective, clarify what we agree on and promote greater unity. This is the essence of authentic anarchism. Those who are not interested in this and merely wish to impose their ideas on others should find another movement.