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?

Film Discussion: When Abortion Was Illegal

March 26, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Directed by Dorothy Fadiman, When Abortion Was Illegal (1992, nominated for an Academy Award, Best Documentary Short Subject) reveals through first-person accounts the experiences of women seeking abortion before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973. We are one Supreme Court nominee away from a return in many states to back-alley abortions. Join Amanda Williams, Executive Director of the Lilith Fund, to discuss challenges to reproductive justice and abortion access. (Lilith Fund funds abortions for women in need in the Central and South Texas area.) Learn about how to participate in April Bowl-A-Thons to raise funds for low-income women. View the film here for free before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

March 30, 2017
· 32 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.  9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 50 rsvps

Historian John D'Emilio's presentation will do 3 things: Provide a brief explanation of how sexual and gender identities have emerged; provide an overview of the progression of LGBT activism since its origins in the 1950s, highlighting key moments of change; and, finally, suggest what issues, from a democratic socialist perspective, deserve prioritizing now. John co-authored Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, which was quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional. 1 pm ET; 12 pm CT; 11 am MT; 10 am 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 Peg Strobel, peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 30 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT. Here's a blog post about PHIT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

April 04, 2017
· 53 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-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 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 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 Joseph Schwartz, schwartzjoem@gmail.com.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Feminist Working Group

April 12, 2017
· 14 rsvps

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's and LGBTQ issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

April 16, 2017
· 6 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.  8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 9 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.