Field Organizing, Part Redux

There are a lot of things that people call “organizing.” I’m not here to debate that — and frankly speaking, gatekeeping what an “organizer” is seems like it would be pretty boring. But I do want to encourage more folks who identify as progressive to engage in “field organizing,” that is, the organizing where you talk with a lot a lot a lot of folks, you have a lot a lot a lot of deep conversations, you inspire a lot a lot of people to action, and you develop a lot of leaders. It’s the type of organizing that — … Continue reading Field Organizing, Part Redux

Back to Basics

Today is the 8-year anniversary of the UC Davis pepper-spray incident. Historically what I’ve done on this day — it’s become a tradition — is I’ve looked back on all the essays I’ve written in the year, and I’ve summarize the biggest “organizing epiphany” I had that year. And this year, looking back at this year’s essays, I’ve definitely run the gamut: I wrote about how Buddhist spiritual concepts could interact with organizing, how existential concepts could interact with organizing, how self-help concepts could interact with organizing, etc. And while I stand by almost everything I’ve written this year, I’m … Continue reading Back to Basics

More Than Anything Take Action

Seeing lots of posts about the end of the government shutdown, about the structural power workers have in standing together, and I’m seeing calls for more threats of strikes and general strikes. If that’s your analysis — an analysis I agree with — then how you get there is getting good at talking with low-wage workers, learning how to inspire large groups of them into taking massive action; that’s a skill that takes a lot of time to develop. If you’re inspired by the end of┬áthe government shutdown, spend more time (for example) knocking on doors and practicing your organizing … Continue reading More Than Anything Take Action

Thoughts on Rent Control & Inside/Outside Strategy

Been reflecting a lot today on the defeat of Measure C, a rent control measure in the City of Santa Rosa that would have helped soften rent gouging by corporate landlords to 3% per year. I was lent to the “Yes on C” field team part-time, and this morning we learned that we lost in a tragic 52.5%-47.5% vote. I use the word “tragic” accurately: it was a common sense measure that the majority of Santa Rosans should have been able to easily rally behind. But due to the corrupt influence of the “No on C” side spreading massive lies … Continue reading Thoughts on Rent Control & Inside/Outside Strategy

From Activism to Organizing: The Difference

I think it took me three years to go from being an activist to being an organizer, by which I mean: it took me three years to have these two epiphanies. (1) People will take initial action if they become personally angry… seems sort of obvious, but when you’re in the heat of one of your first organizing attempts, it can feel a little like, “OF COURSE THE PRIVATIZATION of the University is a fucked up thing. I’m doing soooo much work. Why are the rest of these students not standing up and becoming ‘woke.’ Damn sheeple.” People won’t get … Continue reading From Activism to Organizing: The Difference

Build a Base First, Build Coalitions Later

Many Leftists (and even liberal nonprofits) focus more on coalition building than organizing new people into the movement. I think this is un-strategic (it doesn’t change the landscape by getting those who are already on board to be on board), but a lot of the time the impulse to build coalitions may come from that it seems easier – you have all these people who supposedly care about The Issue, you just need to get them in a room, or at an event/action, etc. Coalition building is not easier. Coalition building is actually harder. When you’re organizing new people into … Continue reading Build a Base First, Build Coalitions Later

Golden Rule of Left Organizing

General rule of thumb: the more Left organizers want to talk with me about anything but politics and organizing, the more I trust them. They care about me as a person; naturally, that makes me care about them too. Yes, rapport building is important for organizing. But importantly, rapport building not for the sake of organizing. That’s the wrong frame. You give a shit about other people, period. Also then organic relationships help politics and organizing. The world is too dark for anything else. Continue reading Golden Rule of Left Organizing