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

April 24, 2017
· 37 rsvps

DSA is in the process of forming a Queer Socialists Working Group. This call will cover a discussion of possible activities for the group, its proposed structure, assigning tasks, and reports on the revision of DSA's LGBT statement and on possible political education activities. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 51 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 7 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

May 06, 2017
· 46 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  2 pm ET; 1 pm CT; 12 pm MT; 11 am PT.  

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 69 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
· 18 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.