Download readings from the bar on the left.
Reading List & Discussion Questions below.
Steve Williams, “Demand Everything: Lessons from the Transformative Organizing Model”
- What is Williams’ primary critique of the U.S. left over the past few decades?
- Why did Alinsky reject explicit left-wing organizing, why did he seek to be “anti-ideological?”
- 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?
- 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?
- What does it mean to “walk with vision”?
- Why was it important that POWER called for free public transportation for all young people, rather than just low-income young people?
- Why does Williams call outreach “the most fundamental ingredient of organizing”?
- Why does he call effective outreach an “exchange” between the organizers and the community members with whom she interacts?
- How does Williams believe organizers should strategically choose the activist struggles in which the participate? Why is Gramsci important for him?
- What are some of the criteria POWER used to assess the “revolutionary edge” of reform struggles?
- Why is democracy important for more than moral/ethical reasons?
- In what ways can democracy be instrumentally helpful in activist struggles, and in why is democratic participation so important for transformative organizing in particular?
- What is Williams’ critique of “leaderless” activist organizations (like Occupy)?
- How does Williams understand leadership, and how is this different from the way leadership in understood in many traditional organizing models?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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
- How do Featherstone et. al characterize the ideology of the contemporary activist left, and what are the key features of this ideology for them?
- Why do they think the ideology of contemporary activists reflects contemporary capitalist ideology?
- What are some examples of the negative consequences of “activistism”?
- What are the practical effects on left organizing of not having a larger vision of social change within which to situate local struggles?
- 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?
- 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?
- What is Featherstone et. al’s alternative to activistism? Is it convincing?
- 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?