How To Organize
Getting Saturday off to a boring and wonkish start:
Organizing is a practice aimed at helping people create the social movements and political organizations necessary to wage campaigns and win power. How do we make real the promises of democracy? Organizing is a time-tested strategy for empowering the people.
This is a lengthy analysis of a vital issue. I'm only going to touch on the headers, with short additional highlights:
Organizing Relies on Action/Movement/Experience
"The people…will, if given a chance, learn the right and best course by bitter experience.” Experience is the teacher, the movement is the school, organizing is the method.
“The organizer’s work is designed to produce social action because it is in the tumult of political life that leaders emerge, relationships develop and transformations in consciousness are realized.”
This is a key point. We were all young and stupid once:
“Organize the Unorganized!”
Telling people that they have been duped or turned into fools and that we are right is not the organizer’s way. We do not call people out. We call people in to activity. Organizers are wary of exclusivity. We aim to include rather than exclude.
“Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do, or think as you think, or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.” — Malcolm X
MLK on cooperation:
Here is King’s critique of his own work:
“Our most powerful nonviolent weapon is… also our most demanding, that is organization. To produce change people must be organized to work together in units of power.
And contemporary example of effective organizing:
Today, organizing continues in all kinds of projects around the country. A recent union drive at Stamford Hotel used deep organizing methods for a big win. The Democratic Socialists of America are engaged in a very promising effort to build a base using a deep organizing strategy. Teachers self-organizied the historic West Virginia strike.
Two of my favorites projects are The Young Patriots, and The Poor People’s Campaign. Both have roots back to the last revolution. Both address the intertwined issues of our time.
Organizing Demands Engagement
Organizing focuses first on the people, secondly on those in power. In choosing tactics, campaigns, or language the need for engagement with people takes center stage. Speaking truth to power only works once you are well organized and have spoken truth to the people.
The organizers most important target then is the enemy within: fear, fatalism, denial, and distraction. By engaging people in gradually escalating action we diminish fear and fatalism and all the forms of social control that keep people in their place.
Relationship Building and Leadership Development
Baker argued that the movements needed:
“The development of people who are interested not in being leaders as much as in developing leadership among other people.”
Participation, Democracy and Self-Determination
Huey Perry an unsung Appalachian organizer:
“A community action group consists of low-income people organized together to identify their problems and work toward possible solutions….I feel it is necessary that we take our time and build an organization that involves the poor in the decisions as to what types of programs they want, rather than sit down and write up what we think they want.
Summing it all up:
The organizer yields power to the people as a strategy for winning power for the people. This is the deep dual meaning of the classic slogan “Power to the People.”
Give light,” Ella Baker said, “And the people will find the way.” Democracy is the “light,” finding “the way” is self-determination.
Organizing is a democratic means in keeping with democratic ends. There are plenty of shortcuts but they just won’t get you there.
What Is Organizing?
Last, but not least a brief explanation from an internal link to explain "Deep Organizing":
DSA can commit to a deep organizing model, the possibilities are profound because we are a national organization. A farmer in Minnesota can align with immigrant workers at a processing plant in a nearby state. Workers and activists in far away cities can align with those farmers and laborers at any number of points of interruption: storage, distribution, consumption, and more. DSA can be a conduit of resistance nationally. This type of solidarity is only possible if we first establish deep organizing bonds with those farmers and immigrant workers, if we form a base. That work starts at the chapter level.
We are inspired by base-building organizations like Cooperation Jackson, Put People First, Philly Socialists and others. Respectively, they’re created a worker-owned cooperative system, a statewide universal health care campaign, a citywide tenants union all while cultivating active working class constituencies made up of the very people who benefit most from these programs.
Organizing is working and spreading out:
These groups have organized incredibly diverse memberships. What’s more, poor and working people not only join, they become essential and respected leaders too. We need to build connections with these and other base-building organizations, learn their techniques, and prepare our own members to do similar deep organizing work in their respective chapters.