Without care, we lose
Organizations can’t function effectively unless people tend to unstated tensions. Protest organizers can’t sustain militant direct action without people providing first aid and legal support. Parents and caregivers can’t participate in events unless people make intentional space for kids. In short, the success of movements frequently rests on their collective capacities to do caring labour consistently and well.
Resisting sectarianism, growing the left
Today, in a time of overlapping crises and fast-paced social media cultures, sectarianism has taken on new and destructive forms. We regularly put energy into tearing down the efforts of others who share many of our aims but who we see as wrong-headed. But many of us, as activists and organizers, are exhausted from cycling through teardowns and hungry for something more constructive.
Researching the right
Unlike the oppositional right, our fight is for collective liberation. We seek to overturn ruling relations and institutions that produce domination, exploitation, and oppression. We aim to create a world in which everyone can flourish. In order to do this, we need to be real about our opponents. This means going beyond caricatures and quips. We can out-organize the far-right, but only if we’re serious about understanding them.
Building, not branding
People whose names we will never know propelled liberatory struggles of the past. With plenty of contradictions and messiness, they fought oppression and exploitation, nurtured freedom dreams, and won victories that we sometimes take for granted today. For the most part, they were neither rich nor famous, nor did they become rich or famous through their movement efforts.
Revitalizing left internationalism
In concert with people around the world doing good work, we can resist despair and isolation. We can build strong relations, individually and collectively, across movements and borders. We can recognize our responsibilities, rooted where we are, in getting one another free. We can win a new world by winning across the world.
Bottom-up strategizing for social change
Increasingly, activists and organizers are discussing the question, “What’s your theory of change?” For the most part, this is positive. As climate justice organizer and activist-scholar Jen Gobby explains, a theory of change lays out our thinking about “how we will make change in the world and why we think it will work.”
20 years after Seattle: Dispensing with myths
Over the last two decades, counterproductive myths have developed around the Battle of Seattle. Now is a good time to dispense with them. One way to do this is to revisit the history from the perspective of those who were involved in organizing the mass direct action. I was one among them.
Humbly growing older on the Left
That kind of vulnerability, especially from those who are relatively privileged, is tremendously valuable. It encourages us all to re-examine assumed certainties, and to admit when we’ve been wrong. If we show up with open hearts and ears, curiosity, thoughtfulness about our words and actions, and stay humble and vulnerable, we aging activists can offer so much more than criticism, to movements today.
Training for movements
Many activist spaces these days spend time developing critical analysis through events, writing, and discussion. What can we learn about current movements based on how they are training people? Not only are activists struggling mightily, but our collective capacity is lower than in some previous periods. Tobuild the large-scale, sustained, combative movements we need, we will have to generate new and relevant mechanisms for spreading the skills that activists need.
For a grieving optimism
Organizing out of our grief for this planet and all of us on it rests on the certain knowledge that, for the vast majority of us who are not rich, most of the problems facing us now are at a scale beyond our individual capacity to solve. The way to be a grieving optimist is to band together with others who care about this world, and to struggle. We can be wonderful. We can be magnificent. We can turn this shit around.
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