Democracy as the Grounding Value of Radical Grassroots Politics

(Featured image: “File:Murmure d’étourneaux.jpg” by Anne Jea. is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

The US isn’t a democracy, but it plays one on TV. When election year comes around, a lot of video cameras point at politicians making speeches about how they’re gonna fight for you and your grandma. A paradise is promised and all you have to do is vote for them as a show of your belief in democracy and freedom. Then after the election is over, politicians go back to playing golf with CEOs.

In a world like ours, one with so many horrors and so much duplicity, it’s not hard to see why some people tire of hearing about democracy. But is there any other way to dream of a better world and move toward it than to get with others and decide collectively what is needed and how to get it?

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What You Need to Know about Liberalism: What It’s Made of, What It’s Missing, and What It Means for Organizing (Part I)

(See Part II here.)

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It is of the utmost importance that we know our enemy. In the context of radical grassroots organizing, this means we must know liberalism.

Liberalism is the water we all swim in. It’s the institutional and ideological political-economic-social apparatus of the contemporary US and Western Europe and has spread to countries on every continent. It’s all too easy to forget it’s there at all because it’s what we all grew up in and is all most of us have ever known.

Naming and defining liberalism can be a small revelation to those who are starting to question the status quo but don’t have the vocabulary to understand what they find unsettling about it and what the alternatives are. To show what liberalism looks like today and to give it a past makes it appear less written in stone and more part of an ever-changing and thus contingent historical process. What can be built can be taken apart.

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The Anatomy of Organizing, Part I

(See Part II here.)

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My mean little idea is that organizing is the most important thing the left should be doing. This would be a nice little idea if in fact the left did any organizing, but this largely is not the case.

Progressive and leftist political organizations engage in a very wide range of activities, but year after year, it seems so little is gained and so much is lost. I suspect a lot of leftist activity is just not advancing the ideals that we hold so dearly.

Organizing is a particular kind of activity for changing society. So much is bound up in that concept that it gets investigated and poked at a lot less than should. If it’s organizing that we want to do but we don’t know what it is, we’re condemned to eat every plump red berry we come across in the name of organizing.

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