Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing
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During the 30 years since the massive opposition to Jim Crow policies known as the Civil Rights Movement, community organizers have been slowly building multi-issue political power in low-income and minority communities. At the same time, of course, national U. The coming years will tell a tale of national disaster or of a rebirth of democracy, depending not on who occupies the White House or what nations they choose to bomb in what order, but depending on whether community organizing has come of age and grown large and sophisticated enough in time.
How do you do community organizing? How do you sign poor people up, convince them to pay dues, persuade them to do most of the work themselves, guide them into winnable campaigns, and educate them while yourself learning from them what needs to be done? This work involves a dedication and psychological wisdom unlike any other. The ability to improvise and to influence without controlling requires wit and humility that not everyone can find immediately. Fortunately, Lee Staples has given us a manual for organizing.
If you want to do this work, keep this book in your back pocket. If you want to understand democracy, read this book and then go and actually observe some of the work described. Organizers rarely pause in their endless work to share what they have learned. Journalists and academics hardly know this mountain of knowledge is out there. But Lee Staples has collected much oral knowledge and put it in a book for us. We desperately need an unsparing evaluation of past efforts and a sober strategy equal to the enormity of the tasks ahead. A lot of folks went to the G20 protests, sincerely wanting to stand up and be counted against savage global capitalism and its consequences.
Salting consists of union activists secretly hiring into an anti-union shop in order to promote unionism from within. Salting whistleblowers is a similar idea: getting people hired into a corporation engaged in wrongful behaviour in order to document and expose corporate wrong-doing. Almost every job is covered by a maze of rules, regulations, standing orders, and so on, many of them completely unworkable and generally ignored.
Workers often violate orders, resort to their own techniques of doing things, and disregard lines of authority simply to meet the goals of the company. There is often a tacit understanding, even by the managers whose job it is to enforce the rules, that these shortcuts must be taken in order to meet targets on time. By George Lakoff. Lakoff explains how conservatives think, and how to counter their arguments.
Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing by Lee Staples
He breaks down the ways in which conservatives have framed the issues, and provides examples of how progressives can reframe the debate. Writing letters to the editor is an effective and inexpensive way of getting publicity for your point of view, your cause, and your organization. Howard Ryan describes how consensus decision-making crippled and destroyed the anti-nuclear movement in the United States in the s.
The difference is that with voting the will of the majority holds sway, while under consensus an individual or minority wields the power through exercise of the block or veto.
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Consensus proponents have ignored how preventing people from doing as they wish can be no less coercive than forcing them to do as they do not wish. The present pattern is one in which undefined responsibility is too lightly undertaken without considering the nature of the job and whether, for example, a volunteer is the right person to do it. And when things start going wrong it becomes even more difficult to reallocate responsiblity. Experience shows that clear patterns of accountability are crucial if a collective is to function effectively.
How do we make our organizations attractive to large numbers of people? And how do we keep these folks engaged for the years, even decades that it will take to create a sustainable society? Here are some suggestions about how to make our movements strong and feed our spirits as we organize.
And when organizers, progressive media and others on the left do acknowledge culture, why is it usually kept on the sidelines? A guide to conducting productive and inclusive meetings in the context of working for social change. Discusses the democratic organizational forms appropriate to movements working for societal change. To unite people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, to coalesce the various groups into a real movement, to pool resources, mass organizations are needed.
Unless working people can organize their solidarity into mass organizations, they will not be able to develop the power to challenge our very powerful adversaries -- the corporations and their government. The democratic model is better both in principle and in practice. This is because democracy allows a group to proceed with what it wants to do in the face of people who are obstructive, obnoxious or insensitive.
Consensus, on the other hand, allows people who are insensitive or stubborn to bring the whole group grinding to a halt. Group problems to be aware of and challenge. In order to work successfully to change things we must also pay attention to our own behaviour. More often than not, men are the ones dominating group activity. Suggestions for dealing with the classic dilemma of a democratic opposition organization: having a structure in which responsibilities are delegated to those with the time and expertise to carry them out well, while at the same time maintaining democratic control by the membership of those to whom responsibility has been delegated.
Any group of people of whatever nature that comes together for any length of time for any purpose will inevitably structure itself in some fashion. The structure can be overt, or it can be hidden. The rules of decision-making must be open and available to everyone, and this can happen only if they are formalized. This is not to say that formalization of a structure of a group will destroy the informal structure. But it does hinder the informal structure from having predominant control. Organizing soldiers to resist war. We need a full-time organizer at the coffee house who has roots in the military.
Specifically, we need a veteran of the war on terror who can effectively do outreach on the base.
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This will play a really important role in reaching soldiers who have not yet been to the Different Drummer but might be interested. Some ideas about organizing a community group to fight for democracy and against a reactionary government. Campaigns to organize unorganized workers are taking place in different situations and different countries. Sometime big unions are involved, sometimes the campaigns are local. They are a growing movement, and they are having an effect. Two other dramatic films about prolonged strikes in mining communities which provide an excellent picture of the problems, struggles, organizing, and solidarity that embody strikes are Salt of the Earth and Matewan.
All of these films vividly show that when miners go on strike, it is not only that male miners who are engaged in the struggle, but also the women and children in the community. Over the last several years, a revolving network of militants in Paris, France, have developed a strategy and tactics for winning strikes by marginal, low-paid, outsourced and immigrant workers against international chains, in situations where the strikers are often ignored by unions to which they nominally belong, or are actually obstructed by them.
The power of the economic boycott as one tactic in a larger movement played a major role in in the s in bringing down the apartheid laws that were used to repress black South Africans. Great organizing campaigns are like great love affairs. You begin to see life through a different lens. You change in unexpected ways. You lose sleep, but you also feel boundless energy. You develop new relationships and new interests. Your skin becomes more open to the world around you.
We sang at the spring Peace Walk, and at an anti-uranium rally. We even disrupted the B. Peace Conference and yet received a standing ovation from the assembly. Throughout history, work stoppages have been used for economic and political purposes, to alter the balance of power between labour and capital within single workplaces, entire industries, or nationwide. Strikes have won shorter hours and safer conditions, through legislation or contract negotiation. What was that? You listened to their concerns and ideas.
You were able to correct bad information they had gotten from the media.
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In , Oscar Olivera was the spokesperson for a popular resistance that stopped the privatization of water in Cochabamba, Bolivia. In , they met face to face and shared their stories. Discusses the strains that take their toll on intentional communities. To have a chance of succeeding, intentional communities need to start with a shared analysis of what kind of social change is needed, common agreement to a written sense of principles, a common strategy for moving ahead, and a mutual understanding of the conditions of living together.
Martin Glaberman reflects on his experiences as an autoworker and a Marxist activist. Until someone can tell me that work has become real nice under capitalism, whether in the United States or anywhere else, I say that is the fundamental basis of our theory and our practice. Work sucks. And sooner or later workers are going to resist it in whatever way they can But the fact that society forces them to struggle begins to transform the working class. An interview with Myles Horton of the Highlander Center. Ultimately there is an economic base. But most problems are not that closely associated with economics.
People have real values People have a wide range of interests and too often organizers limit the people they are working with to their own value system. I think workers are very often way ahead of organizers in terms of the way they think about life. Cushing is a real expert at this, treating everyone he meets with gentle, earnest consideration. In organizing, this attention is vital. Many know Oscar Olivera as the voice and the organizer of the water war in Cochabamba in Others remember his experience as a factory worker.
We broke with authoritarianism. We forced them to understand that we make our own decisions. Al Giordano writes about his history of organizing. Listening is the first skill and duty of a community organizer. Before we can get somebody to do something, we have to learn what he and she want, which is usually different than what we presumed they wanted. Our movements for change face powerful opposition from those who control power and wealth: the rich, corporations, and their political and ideological apparatus.
Here are a few articles about how the other side organizes and combats movements for social change. By Chris Hedges. Hedges argues that the movement resembles the young fascist movements in Italy and Germany in the s and s, movements that often masked the full extent of their drive for totalitarianism and were willing to make concessions until they achieved unrivaled power. By Keiron Farrow. What all the current anti-fascist approaches have in common is that they miss the real danger. It lies more immediately in the far right colonising the anti-mainstream vote and developing party loyalty, thereby blocking the development of an independent working-class politics capable of defending our conditions and challenging neoliberalism.
As Israeli elites increasingly fear for the long-term prospects of the Zionist project they are likely to be more ruthless, unscrupulous and desperate than ever. The anonymity of the web gives companies and governments golden opportunities to run astroturf operations: fake grassroots campaigns, which create the impression that large numbers of people are demanding or opposing particular policies. Attempting to mix subcultural anarchist mores with a cross-cutting class analysis that hinges on racial separatism and ancestral traditions, such as tribalism, Anarchist Nationalism demonstrates a worrying tendency of reactionaries to co-opt radical language in attempts to gain control over large popular fronts.
Rick Berman, the king of corporate front groups and propaganda, was caught on tape detailing his attacks on public interest groups in the labor and environmental movements. Berman specializes in setting up pro-corporate front groups to attack grassroots citizen groups. Berman advocates and practises a range of dirty tactics and propaganda techniques.
It is designed to help advocates frame their views for the media, develop educational programs and materials for their constituents, and talk to their fellow citizens in meetings and informal discussions. A handbook for dealing with hate groups in communities across North America, dealing with the nature of such groups and how they work and how communities can band together to combat them.
Poor responses to hate groups are also discussed and analyzed in the case studies so they can be learned from. Below is a small selection of organizations, websites, and online tools concerned with organizing. For more organizations and websites, check the Connexions Directory A-Z and the Subject Index , especially under topics such as organizing , community organizing , labour organizing , solidarity , and alternative media. Works to help build a stronger more unified grassroots movement. It supports locally-based grassroots organizing by sharing political analysis, mobilizing for direct action, monitoring the centres of corporate and government power, expanding channels of communication, and sharing skills and infrastructure.programmingjunkie.com/427.php
Roots to Power: A Manual for Grassroots Organizing
Effective organizing requires information and analysis of what is going on in the world — something the mainstream media are not designed to provide. This page provides an annotated list of alternative media, media designed to go beyond the mainstream narratives and provide information and analysis about struggles and organizing. An event calendar listing events related to social justice, human rights, environment, and activism. A free tool for organizers and activists. Submit events here.
Password required; request one here. Highlander serves as a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the American South. It works with people fighting for justice, equality and sustainability, supporting their efforts to take collective action to shape their own destiny.
Through popular education, participatory research, and cultural work, we help create spaces — at Highlander and in local communities — where people gain knowledge, hope and courage, expanding their ideas of what is possible.