On February 15, 16, and 17, LeftRoots is holding its first national congress. Members from across the country are gathering to identify, discuss, and debate the key features of the current moment, the strategic implications of those conditions, and how LeftRoots and its members can continue to develop and grow to make decisive interventions to push the moment closer to 21st century socialism.
After each day of the congress, a few LeftRoots cadres will blog about their experiences that day in hopes of giving those interested a peek at what we’re doing in California and why we’re so excited about it.
I walked into a church auditorium in Oakland after milling at the crowded registration table. Here is where I would join the LeftRoots 2018 National Congress. Standing in the room, decorated with the portraits of dozens of revolutionaries from the US and internationally, the significance of the moment started to sink in. This congress is the first time, in the short life span of this organization as a national endeavor, that a super majority of the cadre members are in the same room with each other.
Many of us have worked to build an organization with each other over only video conferences, e-mail chains and forum posts. And yet we’ve had numerous moments that have helped us see our common purpose. The room itself today was also a product of our collective work together. National staff member Ayoka Turner reminded us this packed church auditorium was the product of no single person or even workgroup: “It is our space, we collectively made it, and what it will manifest is up to our protagonism.” We’ve gotten this far in the development of this organization with a continent between us all, and for the next few days we are to bridge that difference.
To start the day, LeftRoots National Secretary Steve Williams reminded us what we have come together for, “not a funders gathering or coalition meeting… we are at the 2018 LeftRoots congress to build an organization committed to sparking the emergence of radical, connected, and vibrant left in the United States.” The social movement leftists assembled here are clearly a testament to where we’ve come in a short four years. “We are not yet where we need to be, but we are in a different place than we started,” Steve explained.
And that message, where we need to be, was core to the theme of the day – “Seeing What’s Possible.” LeftRoots exists to strengthen the capacity of cadre to make our movement work more strategic; and to individually and collectively craft, strengthen, sharpen – and help to win – strategies for socialist liberation. There might be multiple roads of how we get there, but we aren’t going anywhere without building the capacities of social movement leftists and building up critical parts of society to do it.
And so, another practice for the day took us through a speculative journey – the story of how we won. We borrowed from fiction to collectively craft a narrative of what the journey may look like on the road to socialist liberation. We reckoned with the all-too-real scenarios of increasingly frequent climate disasters, massive stripping of voting rights, and economic recession. On the way we imagined the movement responses that divided the forces we are up against and built our own. In this prefigurative telling of our history, we united grandmothers and students through student loan debt strikes. We deepened the protagonism of a nation through American Idol-style broadcasts and enacted far reaching constitutional reforms. We began to stretch our imagination of what winning – in the revolutionary sense – may look like.
Another key practice of the day aimed to develop our collective understanding of conjunctrual analysis. In my own short training in Marxist tools of analysis, the skills to make an assessment of the moment is the comfort of too few people. Today we stretched to make these tools a priority for every comrade. We looked at the dominant forces and the strength of popular forces, and asked each other to assess where we are on the revolutionary road. What we said after a scant hour of discussion among 200 comrades is that on the whole the left is disoriented. This moment requires the left to assess, reorient and lay the foundation for future organization. The left lacks strategic and organizational coherence that we will need to win. But, as one comrade said, “we’ve got our eyes on building the type of alliance of forces that we need to fight and win structural and revolutionary change across society.”
And so we closed our formal program for the first day with a final session, looking at the state of our own organization. What our National Coordinating Committee proposed, for this moment, is a drive toward experimentation and action with reflection. To move out of disorientation on the left we need “not just more people acting, but acting with minds toward strategy, and how we will bring about a new world.”
After the first day of the Leftroots 2018 National Congress, its clear we’ve begun a process to develop ourselves and each other to be those kinds of actors in our movements.