What is the Goal of Socialist Organizing Today?

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Reading List & Discussion Questions below.

Steve Williams, “Demand Everything: Lessons from the Transformative Organizing Model”

  1. What is Williams’ primary critique of the U.S. left over the past few decades?
  2. Why did Alinsky reject explicit left-wing organizing, why did he seek to be “anti-ideological?”
  3. Why does Williams disagree with Alinsky’s model? Why does he believe that articulating a vision of an alternative to capitalism is essential for the success of the left?
  4. How does Williams differentiate transformative organizing from traditional organizing? What are the different time horizons of success for each of these models in Williams’ view?
  5. What does it mean to “walk with vision”?
  6. Why was it important that POWER called for free public transportation for all young people, rather than just low-income young people?
  7. Why does Williams call outreach “the most fundamental ingredient of organizing”?
  8. Why does he call effective outreach an “exchange” between the organizers and the community members with whom she interacts?
  9. How does Williams believe organizers should strategically choose the activist struggles in which the participate? Why is Gramsci important for him?
  10. What are some of the criteria POWER used to assess the “revolutionary edge” of reform struggles?
  11. Why is democracy important for more than moral/ethical reasons?
  12. In what ways can democracy be instrumentally helpful in activist struggles, and in why is democratic participation so important for transformative organizing in particular?
  13. What is Williams’ critique of “leaderless” activist organizations (like Occupy)?
  14. How does Williams understand leadership, and how is this different from the way leadership in understood in many traditional organizing models?
  15. How does the pedagogy of Freire and Horton differ from traditional pedagogical models, and why was POWER willing to sacrifice time they could have spent on organizing to educational trainings for members and staff?
  16. Why does Williams think that coalition work based solely on tactical unity rather than strategic vision limits transformative organizing, and what alternative methods does he propose?
  17. How does POWER’s conception of solidarity (following Machel) differ from other conceptions of solidarity, and what concrete benefits has POWER seen thanks to Solidarity work?
  18. Why does Williams think it’s so important to focus not just on transforming society through collective organizing, but also on transforming individuals by focusing on the specific needs and concerns of organization members? How does POWER focus on the individual needs of group members?

Liza Featherstone, Doug Henwood and Christian Parenti, “Action will be Taken: Left Anti-Intellectualism and Its Discontents,” from Radical Society

  1. How do Featherstone et. al characterize the ideology of the contemporary activist left, and what are the key features of this ideology for them?
  2. Why do they think the ideology of contemporary activists reflects contemporary capitalist ideology?
  3. What are some examples of the negative consequences of “activistism”?
  4. What are the practical effects on left organizing of not having a larger vision of social change within which to situate local struggles?
  5. What is the relationship between the decline of Marxism and activistism, and what are the practical effects of Marxism’s decline, in the eyes of Featherstone et. al?
  6. What is the relationship between activistism and non-profit culture for Featherstone et. al, and why do they find this relationship problematic for left politics?
  7. What is Featherstone et. al’s alternative to activistism? Is it convincing?
  8. How do Featherstone et. al characterize the differences between activist culture in the United States with activist culture in other parts of the world. Is this a fair assessment?

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

May 25, 2017
· 32 rsvps

Join DSA's Queer Socialists Working Group to discuss possible activities for the group and its proposed structure. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

What Is DSA? Training Call

May 30, 2017
· 40 rsvps

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 90 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 25 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

June 13, 2017
· 2 rsvps

Join Bill Barclay, Chicago DSA co-chair, and Peg Strobel, National Political Committee and Feminist Working Group co-chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement. 9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Bill Barclay, chocolatehouse@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 7 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 5 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.