Power of Community—Organizing for the schools St. Paul children deserveWritten by Eric S. Fought for the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers local 28 (SPFT) and GPP, this report tells the story of SPFT's transformation from a business union to a social movement leader. This transformation has involved a process of shifting the union's internal culture, building lasting partnerships with parents and community leaders, shifting the conversation about teachers and public education, through ongoing work on narrative, and winning a landmark contract that emphasizes education quality and equity. Eric S. Fought, 2014
Theories of Power for OrganizersThis is one of our classic essays on how organizers can use the 3 faces of power to build and act from a long-term strategy. It offers the theory behind our tools for developing social movement infrastructure (second face) and struggling on the terrain of ideas and meaning-making (third face).
Power and Social Change: OverviewWe've used this essay over the years in our consultations with organizing groups and networks. They have used it to guide them in shifting more resources into building the 2nd face of power (infrastructure) and using the 3rd face of power (Ideas, worldview, narrative).
In his new book, Ta-Nehisi Coates centers White Supremacy as the defining feature of the U.S. polity—its essential nature. According to this reviewer, it is a fatalistic view. But black activists have always believed in the possibility of change.
We are reading Nancy Mclean's new book on the intellectual roots of today's conservative politics, with its mix of cultural conservatism and libertarian economics. This review provides a good analysis and overview of the book and its importance for this political moment.
This is a welcome overview of the vital role of feminist movements in knitting together and leading a United Front. We offer it to generate a healthy debate, at a time when it feels that people are 'drawing lines in the sand,' and insisting on 'purity.'
Can ‘taking matters into your own hands’ ever be more than vigilantism? Is it called for in the face of white supremacists, whose views are anathema and should have no legitimate place in our public discourse? Is it a necessary part of resistance? These questions have been thrust upon us by recent events. Jedediah Purdy, a thoughtful analyst of our nation’s jurisprudence and its tangled roots, suggests there are no straightforward answers. His essay is worth reading; it is not offered here as an endorsement of violent resistance.
Congress used to have more power and influence than the President. The Senate, especially, set the domestic and foreign policy agendas. Not that these were the 'good ole days;' after all segregationists and Dixiecrats had outsized power in both Houses throughout the 20th Century. Still, if we want to understand John McCain's call for the Senate to "return to regular order," and current nostalgia for the Senate's golden age, this article helps us get a sense of how the combination of rules changes and the sharp right turn of the Republican Party have combined to create the current dysfunction.
“In the context of rethinking representation (and the role of representatives and those being represented), we maintain that it is possible to expand the deliberative community and to redefine not only who can decide on public issues, but how decisions are made.”
Local Councils have long been the place where citizens interact with public services, having some measure of democratic control over decisions affecting their lives. Successful councils, like the Greater London Council of the late 1970s and early 1980s, were laboratories for direct democracy, with diverse groups of people coming together to address local needs. Thatcherism sought to weaken, and in some cases, destroy, these laboratories, as part of the neoliberal attack on all things 'public.' In doing so, the role of the state has been relegated to policing, and state functions reside more with national entities. Today, the rich pay less in taxes for local services while the poor and working classes pay more for less adequate, and less responsive, services.
In his final book (written in his 90s) this great historian of the 19th and 20th centuries reflects on the anti-democratic tendencies of left-leaning ruling elites. He asked: “How can we expect to transform human life, to create a socialist society (as distinct from a socially owned and managed economy), when the mass of the people are excluded from the political process, and may even be allowed to drift into depoliticization and apathy about public matters?”
Our friend Jonathan Smucker has written an important and fascinating book about hegemony, Gramsci, and organizing. This review in the New Republic will give you a sense of the book, and also of the distance the New Republic has traveled in the past few years - a positive review of a book about hegemony!
In this overview of recent books on the climate crisis and the economy, Kunkel notes that, to claim a future where ‘humanity and nature’ coexist and thrive, we must address capitalism’s tendency to commodify land, labor and the natural world in ways that devalue all three.
Johanna Rupprecht, who grew up on a family farm in Winona County, Minnesota, tells the story of a strategic campaign of the Land Stewardship Project (LSP), led by the members of LSP’s Winona County Organizing Committee and Johanna as organizer. One result of their organizing — a county-wide ban of mining and processing for frac sand (sand that is used extensively in fracking operations) – is reason enough for celebration. The growth in LSP’s base at every level – new supporters, new activists, new members, new leaders – is another important achievement. And the shifting of worldview and narrative, to lift up what the people actually value and what people believe can and should be – this, if we can continue it, may be the biggest victory of all.
This article is a precise explanation and defense of a left, anti-racist populism. The mainstream press often claims that populism is a threat to democracy. But as the author notes, "The basic meaning of democracy—the rule of the people, or popular sovereignty—is nowhere to be found. Instead, democracy appears to refer to a series of institutions and norms," institutions that have little to do with the people. She reminds us of "the Madison of The Federalist Papers who denounced any politics that gave vent to 'a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project'—the Madison who demanded a 'total exclusion of the people in their collective capacity.'”
Chantal Mouffe and her (late) partner Ernesto Laclau have been major theorists about democracy, neoliberalism, and populism. They helped shaped the thinking of many of the leaders of Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. This article explains the background of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s left populist stance in the French elections.
America has a monopoly problem and neither party is addressing it. To more credibly speak to the concerns of workers, small business owners and consumers, the Democrats must become the Anti-Monopoly Party.
"Wainwright challenges the Left to get serious about participatory democracy. Creating and sustaining participatory and democratic action will require a transformation of government’s relation to society in general and economics in particular. The mentality of government that we see today has been shaped by neo-liberalism. It distorts the way government relates to both civil society and markets."