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Analysis
18
Aug

LeftRoots in the news

In These Times Magazine recently wrote a profile of LeftRoots, “Socialists of color to the front“:

LeftRoots doesn’t see itself as the final home of this 21st-century socialism. Rather, it is “attempting to lay the groundwork for the launching of a political instrument in the future,” Kümm says. LeftRoots, she says, is a way to “train up social movement leftists to be prepared to take part in the launching of that political instrument.” LeftRoots folks are candid about how far the Left has to travel before it can flex its political muscle the same way as robust cadre movements of the past (the radical Black socialist autoworkers in Detroit in the late 1960s and 1970s, for example). But LeftRoots intends, after a couple years of rigorous study, experimentation and analysis, to draw a clearer picture of the sorts of vehicles the Left needs to bring its vision to life.

 

Read the full article here.

 

18
Apr

LeftRoot’s journal about liberatory strategy

The introduction of the first-ever issue of Out to Win! LeftRoot’s journal that explores strategy to win socialist liberation from the perspective of leftists on the frontlines of movement struggles inside the belly of the beast.

 

Click here to download the full edition

 

Liberatory strategy in this moment

Any discussion of strategy to win a certain future must begin with an assessment of the present. So let’s start with some broad points about this moment that we (you and LeftRoots) probably agree on (since, after all, you are reading this brand-new LeftRoots publication).

Since you picked up or downloaded the journal, we probably agree that we are in a moment filled with dangerous reaction and unprecedented possibility. That human activity is threatening humanity’s very existence. That right now, a ruling class hell-bent on intensifying imperialist war, neoliberal austerity, unfettered extraction of natural resources, and militarized crackdowns is dominating the planet. That overlapping crises—economic crisis, ecological crisis, as well as crisis of empire—are raining chaos and misery on the world.

And, like us, you’ve found power in the face of all of this by coming together with others to take action. You’ve knocked on doors. You’ve attended and organized marches and rallies. You’ve gone to political education trainings. You’ve done everything you can think of. Like us, you take hope as you see people all around the world rise up in search of genuine solutions.

The nature of this historical moment—an oppressive system in deep crisis—makes fundamental change possible, but it does not make it inevitable. Scattered and disconnected action alone, no matter how heartfelt, will not be enough to overcome the powerful forces of reaction lined up against us and against the planet.

This fact, then, begs a vital question the Brazilian popular educator Paulo Freire posed often: What can we do today, so that tomorrow we can achieve what seems impossible today?

That’s where liberatory strategy comes in.

 

Who is LeftRoots?

In the last weeks and months, working people across the country have taken action to win better schools, to win quality healthcare and wages for hotel workers, and to force the federal government to re-open. Community members have rallied to win justice for survivors of police brutality. Everyday people have elected a wave of politicians promising to enact progressive and radical policy at the state and federal levels.

Committed and talented organizers and activists— guided by a critique of exploitation, white supremacy, cisheteropatriarchy, and colonialism, by a vision of a better future, and by a belief that that future is achievable—have worked tirelessly behind the scenes of all of those struggles. Drawing on the insights of the Chilean political activist Marta Harnecker, we call this growing group ‘the social movement left’. LeftRoots grows out of this social movement left.

We are a national organization of social movement leftists with a shared conviction that people like us—leftists engaged in mass organizations and social movements— have a unique, but as yet unfulfilled, role to play in helping to reimagine and give life to a broad U.S. left that is as radical as it is grounded in mass struggles. In LeftRoots, we are preparing ourselves and one another to play that role.

Because the forces fighting for a better future will battle that monstrous triumvirate of capitalism, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy, LeftRoots has intentionally cultivated a membership with super-majorities both of people of color and of women and gender-oppressed people. Most of us became active in the movement in just the last ten years, and for most of us, LeftRoots is our first experience in a self-described socialist organization. And while we might not look like what most people in the United States think of when they think about socialists, we know that a strong and vibrant left committed to winning liberation for all people and the planet must draw many, many more people from our communities.

Our central purposes are to:
1. Develop strategy to build 21st century socialism; and 

2. Develop cadres with the individual and collective 
skills to formulate, evaluate, and carry out such a strategy. 


Together, we hope to help pave the way for the type of revolutionary organization in the U.S. that will successfully link diverse struggles into a common quest to bring about a system which achieves freedom, equality, and self-determination for all. This means a global social and economic system based on popular participation in politics, the economy, and all aspects of civil society that is in balance with the planet’s regenerative capacities.

We call this system “twenty-first century socialism”. Others use different terms to describe similar visions. Whatever we call it, we cannot win it without grounded and comprehensive strategy. And the ability to develop, evaluate, and carry out strategy is a skill we all can learn.

Unfortunately, we haven’t cultivated it yet. Far too few social movement leftists in the United States have been trained as liberatory strategists. That is not because of any individual short-comings. Historical and structural realities have made it difficult for U.S. organizers and activists radicalized over the past thirty years to get the training we need. We plan to explore some of those reasons in future issues of this journal but for now, it is enough to say that social movement leftists can and must learn to be socialist strategists. It is our only hope for winning the future our people and planet deserve.

We hope Out to Win! will help all of us develop the strategic capacities that our movement and our future need.

 

A toolkit for liberatory strategy

Okay, strategy is important, but what is it, exactly? When LeftRoots says ‘liberatory strategy’, we mean a theory of change that describes how a set of aligned forces might, on ever-changing terrain and against opposing forces, shift the balance of power in order to make fundamental change in a society.

Since the reality of ‘fundamental change’ can seem so far over the horizon, many of us are likely to have different theories of what it will take to get us there. After all, many ‘21st century socialists’ will have different visions in mind for a truly liberated society, and many will have different assessments of where we are starting from now. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But without
a common framework for how we turn our various visions and assessments into coherent strategies, those differences can produce unnecessary confusion and conflict between individuals, organizations, sectors and regions that need to learn from each other if we intend to win.

To support social movement leftists clarifying their own strategic orientations and to facilitate more productive debate and discussion, LeftRoots is working to develop a framework for liberatory strategy based on our work, study, and reflection—our praxis. So far, this framework has eight components:

1. Vision. Liberatory strategy must be grounded in a clear vision of a liberated society that brings an end to capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy. This vision offers not only a sense of direction, it also informs what capacities, practices, and commitments we must develop to make the vision real.

2. Systemic Analysis provides a structural assessment of the society’s base and superstructure. This systemic analysis both informs the basic categories of how society is organized as well as reveals whether that system can support the grounding vision.

3. Conjunctural Analysis is an assessment of the concrete conditions of the moment and of the terrain we’re fighting on. Our struggles take place in existing conditions, not ideal or abstract ones, so a grounded analysis of what is actually happening now, of the state of and shifts in social, economic, political, and cultural systems, is critical.

4. Strategy provides the narrative throughline of how the vision can be achieved despite the opposition’s resistance.

5. With Scenario Planning we can prepare to respond to possible, near-future events in ways that advance the strategy. These scenarios grow from the conjunctural analysis and an assessment of how change is happening.

6. Hypothesis are building blocks of strategy: answers to key strategic questions that must be proven or disproven in practice. Guided by materialist curiosity, the movement should gear its actions toward testing the validity of a strategy’s hypotheses.

7. Action. Strategy alone does not guarantee victory. We have to do the work, and social movement leftists need to be skilled in many areas in order to carry out the diverse set of activities a successful movement will require of them.

8. Evaluation & Assessment. Strategy is not chiseled into stone. It is living, evolving theory that must incorporate lessons and new information over time. With evaluation and assessment, we can determine what worked, what didn’t, and why. This should happen throughout the strategy development process so we can make any necessary adjustments to make our work more effective in the future.

Needless to say, each of these components relates to the others. None of them exists in isolation. But we distinguish them within this framework in hopes that it supports our collective ability to discuss and debate strategy in ways that advance and strengthen our work.

Future issues of Out to Win! will explore these components in more depth, but as you will see, all of the articles in this issue will be tagged to the component each one addresses most directly.

 

Why publish this journal now?

After our founding in 2014, LeftRoots spent its first three years developing our individual and collective capacities for liberatory strategy. As the rising tide of right-wing nationalism and Trumpism came into sharper relief in 2016, we felt an incredible sense of urgency and sped up our process.

In April 2017, nine LeftRoots cadres, elected by the membership and the leadership, formed an ‘advance team’ to produce a discussion document that would give us something concrete to reference and play with as we began organization-wide conversations about liberatory strategy. In September 2017, after just six months of working together, that team completed the first document in this issue, “We Believe That We Can Win”. The organization spent the next year discussing and debating its content and developing a plan to share some of our discussions with the movement.

 

“We Believe That We Can Win”

It is important to note that “We Believe that We Can Win” is not LeftRoots’ line. It will not provide the singular basis for all of LeftRoots’ (or LeftRoots cadres’) activities internally or externally as we move forward, nor is it something around which we are trying to align other movement forces. It is the starting point for LeftRoots’ (and we hope the movement’s) continuing discussion about liberatory strategy.

“We Believe that We Can Win” simply represents the consensus of the advance team that wrote it. It was their best effort—given their current skill and knowledge and the time limits they were working with—to produce an example of a strategic orientation that could guide not just a campaign or an organization, but an entire revolutionary movement. It is sweeping and ambitious, and we believe that it can foster the types of discussion about liberatory strategy that we need.

It can be hard to remember how quickly conditions have changed in the past two years. As we publish the first issue of Out to Win!, “We Believe that We Can Win” is now more than a year old. Some events it imagined have come to pass and are now part of what many of us understand as the ‘new normal’ but they were not that in the spring of 2017. And, of course, many things have happened that it did not anticipate. Despite the monumental shifts in U.S. and world politics since its writing, though, we think that “We Believe that We Can Win” remains an important document to share and discuss.

It builds on the three prior years of organizational discussions to synthesize and articulate our framework for liberatory strategy, while moving beyond that framework to put informational and analytic flesh on the skeleton it provides. For the (non-LeftRoots) reader, it provides a peek inside the early stages of our development as strategists.

The organizational discussions about “We Believe that We Can Win” that began in the spring of 2017 are ongoing. They have revealed major weaknesses in places where the ideas are underdeveloped and entire questions remain unexplored. They have also uncovered debates within LeftRoots, where we lack organizational consensus and need to more fully explore our differences and to subject some of those differences to testing in practice.

This document does not mark the end of a process but the beginning of one. It is one example of a set of strategic hypotheses based in the context of current conditions. It is a discussion document, produced by nine of our comrades, that has pushed our collective thinking forward, and we hope it will do the same for others.

 

Articles submitted in response to “We believe…”

As stated above, LeftRoots’ internal discussions about “We Believe that We Can Win” have revealed differences and debates within our membership. As we prepared to share “We Believe that We Can Win”, several teams LeftRoots cadres came together to write critiques of and responses to “We Believe that We Can Win” that would be published alongside it. This inaugural issue of Out to Win! includes not only “We Believe that We Can Win”, but also seven response articles:

 

We are losing, but we can win: caravans, imperialism and waging the war of position for 21st century socialism


by the LeftRoots Ad Hoc Anti-Imperialism Working Group


“As of this writing the U.S. is actively attempting to overthrow the government of Venezuela
and there is a very real threat of a U.S. backed coup or even a U.S. invasion and thus far social movements here in the U.S. are engaging in very little organized resistance to this intervention … As social movement leftists it is imperative that we work within our organizations, particularly mass-based base-building organizations, to incorporate anti-imperialism and internationalism into the way we frame our campaigns and develop our strategy.”

 

Liberation for our people and our planet: ecological justice and the struggle for 21st century socialism

by LeftRoots’ Environmental Justice and Climate Justice Praxis
Circle

“The scale of the crisis, which will impact millions (or likely, billions) of people, presents opportunities to unite a large number of social forces in a broad, counter-hegemonic united front that can advance the kind of transformative, and ultimately anti-capitalist, program we need…The united front will need to contend with a devastatingly short timeline that demands radical results on climate change faster than we are likely to be able to assemble the forces necessary to fully overthrow capital and realize our vision for an ecologically just socialism of the 21st century. This has profound implications for strategy, tactics, and program.”

 

Taking account of state violence: A proposed revision of We believe that We can Win

by the Ad Hoc State Violence Study Team


“[W]e find that “We Believe That We Can Win,” fails to foreground the role of the state, and its coercive capabilities, throughout its assessment of the system and our current conjuncture. In essence, the role of the state as an instrument of coercion in “We Believe That We Can Win,” remains underdeveloped and understated… Perhaps more so than any other factor, the racialized violence of domestic policing and immigrant detention, mass imprisonment and military intervention have the potential to bring together [Black, Latinx and Indigenous people from the lower layers of the working class], while also building a coalition inclusive of the associated social forces.”

Gender oppressions and revolutionary strategy

by the Unicorn Collective. Unicorns include: Adlemy, Cynthia, Erika, Luz, Najla, Rose, Tara, and more

“Class, race, gender, sexuality, and planet are essential parts of our vision, our assessment, and our strategy…Those of us who came together as a collective to write about these intersections felt an analysis of cisheteropatriarchy was underdeveloped in “We Believe That We Can Win,” and that the 21st century socialism that we are working towards cannot exist without dismantling multiple oppressive systems at once.”

The Role of Asian American and Pacific Islander Movements: Race, nationality oppression and revolutionary strategy

by Carolyn Chou, Cecilia Lim, Lydia Lowe, Don Misumi, Sian Miranda Singh ÓFaoláin, Jensine Raihan, Helena Wong

“Strategy still needs to emerge from collective practice, analysis, and struggle, so it is premature for LeftRoots to name specific “driving forces” at this moment. We believe that social movement activists, including LR cadre, need to learn more about the role of AAPIs in the US …[W]e believe that the vast majority of AAPIs of all classes have a stake in the struggle against racial monopoly capitalism and that the struggles of the most exploited sectors of the AAPI working class have particularly advanced and continue to advance the interests of the entire working class and benefit all of US society.”

The Nonprofit Industrial Complex is a master’s tool


by the Nonprofits and Revolutionary Strategy Study Team

“One of the defenses of the Nonprofit Industrial Complex from leftists who run nonprofits is that nonprofits are just a tool we can use to do revolutionary work. We argue that the NPIC is not a neutral tool, but rather a master’s tool as Lorde describes it. Working in a social movement nonprofit puts us squarely in a neoliberal institution, within the master’s house, where our interests as a working-class are obscured and our strategies and practices become aligned with the capitalist class interests that drive the system.”

The revolutionary potential of a revived union movement


by members of the LeftRoots Labor Praxis Circle


We argue that the features of the unions make the union movement critical to the labor movement, and the labor movement as a whole is vital to (a)
the defeat of Trumpism and (b) our ability to build a 21st-century socialist movement to scale… Our praxis circle plans to do further study, which will draw from our experiences and from the experiences of other left unionists …We invite unionists to become part of Left Roots and join us on this journey!

Strategy & base: A praxis for power

by members of LeftRoots’ Basebuilding Praxis Circle


“Given the interlocking ecological, political, and economic crises impacting the vast majority of humanity, why aren’t exploited and oppressed communities flooding into community organizations and committing their lives to overhauling society? … Because we are anchored in basebuilding organizations across different sectors and geography nationally, LeftRoots is in a unique position to convene movement leaders to synthesize, test out, and further develop a transformative basebuilding praxis.”

 

Reading these articles in context

Each of these articles was drafted by LeftRoots members in some collective process. In most cases, the writing offers a glimpse into months of internal discussion, debate, theory, and practice. Like “We Believe that We Can Win”, they do not reflect a unity among all LeftRoots members; rather, they represent the views of the groups that drafted them.

For many, it was the first time trying to write about strategy and strategic questions in this way. As in every issue of Out to Win!, we hope the pieces here offer grounded assessments, sharp analysis, and an intersection of theory, practice, and reflection. We also know that writing such pieces is a skill that we will develop over time, and that we will stumble at times along the way.

For this inaugural edition of Out to Win!, our editorial team worked with the writing groups to present their arguments as strongly and clearly as possible. We have been very mindful to avoid editing the ideas and arguments themselves, though, and it has been up to the authors to determine the shape and content of their final articles. As such, each article presents the distinctive views of its authors, and not of the editorial team, the National Coordinating Committee, or the organization as a whole.

 

Click here to download the journal

3
Oct

LeftRoots hangOut: 2018 report-back from ENFF and MST in Brasil

In the summer of 2018, for the third consecutive year, LeftRoots had the great privilege to send some of its cadres to study with the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) in Brasil. This powerful, mass social movement of rural workers has fought for land reform and social transformation since its founding in 1984. It also runs a school, the Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandes (ENFF), built by the volunteer labor of MST members, designed for the study, training, and political development of the international working class. From late May to mid-July, LeftRoots cadres Nikki and Ariel took part in the Fifth International Course for Political Educators at MST’s Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandes (ENFF). This seven-week program of intensive work and study brought together scores of English-speaking activists and revolutionaries from dozens of countries around the world. As you would expect, it was a rich, intense, complicated, and rewarding experience. Nikki and Ariel hosted a hangOut to share their reflections on their time at ENFF. We are pleased to share the recorded video with you here.

LeftRoots hangOut: Report-back from women’s delegation to Vietnam

In December, 2017, three LeftRoots cadres—Merle Ratner, NTanya Lee, and Rose Brewer—got to spend a few weeks on women’s delegation to Vietnam, one of the few surviving 20th century socialist experiments. On April 19, 2018, the three of them, along with LeftRoots compas Cathy Dang and Juliet Ucelli, hosted a national LeftRoots hangOut to talk about their experience. This is the recording of that hangOut.

 


Summary of 2018 LeftRoots Congress

Marking a key milestone in its development, LeftRoots held its first National Congress in Oakland, California from February 15 to 18, 2018. Roughly 200 LeftRoots cadres travelled from various corners of the United States to attend. In preparation for the Congress, these cadres had been participating in rigorous study, discussion and debate over an initial strategy document, We Believe that We Can Win. Developed by a nine-member Strategy Lab Advance Team, We Believe…would serve as the basis for identifying areas of alignment and disagreement within this national formation of Left social movement organizers and activists.

In looking towards the Congress, LeftRoots had four overall goals:

  • deepen the camaraderie amongst the members of its branches,
  • take a leap in cadrefication – as in, developing the capacities related to becoming effective cadres – through nuanced discussion and debate of the political moment and the appropriate strategy,
  • launch the next phase of the Strategy Get Down, a multiyear process for further developing one or more strategies to win socialist liberation, by assessing alignment withWe Believe…, and
  • strengthen organizational leadership and cadre protagonism, or political agency, during the period leading up to the 2021 Congress.

From the outset, cadres received a warm welcome with a range of LeftRoots swag, from a t-shirt and a red-and-black scarf featuring the iconic phrase “¡make the impossible possible!” by Chilean philosopher Marta Harnecker (who prepared a solidarity greeting) to a small notebook, LeftRoots stickers and pin buttons.

With its theme of “Seeing what’s Possible,” the first day started with a grounding honoring cadres’ ancestors. Through a collective breathing exercise, cadres honored the indigenous peoples’ land upon which the four-day event would be taking place, remembered the revolutionary history of the Bay Area, and shared deep gratitude to all of those who paved the way for this first Congress. Cadres also remembered the four-year history of LeftRoots, touching on the growth it has made and scale it has achieved in a relatively brief period of time.

In the afternoon, cadres participated in two key exercises.  Focused on the need to strengthen collective vision, the first exercise called for cadres to break into small groups to practice making assessments, refining their strategy. Called “The Story of How We Won,” this exercise emphasized the challenge of dealing with a rapidly changing political moment, forcing each of the small groups to adhere to their vision of socialist liberation, while responding to a series of scenarios. In contrast, the second exercise introduced cadres to examining both the correlation and momentum of forces to make a conjunctural analysis of the various factors shaping the current moment’s strategic implications. Working again in small groups, cadres pieced together a shared assessment of the current conjuncture, particularly the strength and character of forces on the left and the right. At the end of this exercise, each small group offered its assessment of Left social movement forces, ranking them as closer to being in “disorientation”, than “an accumulation of forces,” and a long way from “a revolutionary,” or even, “a pre-revolutionary moment.”

The second day’s theme was “Trust through Rigor.” Recognizing the importance of culture as a weapon in political struggle, LeftRoots cadres observed a Dragon Dance, a traditional Chinese performance celebrating the Lunar New Year. Cadres then moved into a spectrogram exercise, organized to illustrate the range of opinions on some of the most contentious hypotheses in We Believe…. Identified through a pre-Congress cadre survey, these hypotheses included:

  • We Believe…’s analysis and mentions of imperialism is good but not enough.
  • I have a clear idea of what an effective international solidarity strategy looks like.
  • I agree withWe Believe…’s assessment that we are unlikely to build socialist hegemony in the time necessary to avoid the onset of catastrophic environmental crises.
  • I agree withWe Believe…’s recommendation that in the first phase, left forces should be open to viable proposals to curb carbon emissions even if they rely on market mechanisms.
  • We must engage in electoral work in order to defeat Trump and the forces he represents.
  • Leftists will have to employ an inside/outside approach with the Democratic Party to work not only with progressives but also neoliberals with whom we have important political differences.

Facilitated so as to model principled and comradely debate, this exercise sparked a rich conversation that helped identify areas of growth for cadrefication and to deepen analysis with an eye towards the 2021 Congress. In contrast to the morning’s exercise, the afternoon schedule offered cadres an opportunity to participate in a range of breakout sessions. In these sessions, cadres met according to their caucus, praxis circles, or working groups to prepare strategies and explore joint work to be carried out after the Congress. This second day also featured the election of LeftRoots’ National Secretary, with cadres tapping Steve Williams from the Bay Area chapter to continue serving in this role for the next two years. And to close out the day, the National Coordinating Committee hosted a consulta, an open question and answer process through which cadres provided input and feedback on the organization’s strengths and weaknesses.

The third day set the tone for launching the next phase of LeftRoots’ development. Under the theme of “Ready to Struggle, Ready to Learn,” cadres once again met in their praxis circles and working groups to further their strategic analysis and firm up several proposals for joint work. The day’s schedule also set aside time for the members of each of the seven branches to meet, including those located in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia, as well as the two at-large branches, which held their first in-person meetings. These breakout sessions provided branch members with an opportunity to collectively reflect on their experience of the Congress and brainstorm how best to advance the call for organizational growth and cadre protagonism. The closing for the third day highlighted the range of political experience within LeftRoots, with cadres identifying their formative moments of politicization during decades that ranged from the 1960s to the 2010s. Standing shoulder to shoulder, cadres arranged themselves in a large circle and sang “I’m a socialist,” a song inspired by the South African Freedom struggle and used to end branch meetings.

Just as each day of the Congress had been designed to strengthen different analytical skills and political capacities, each evening included an event that prioritized camaraderie, creativity, and simply enjoying each other’s company. From dining together at a local Vietnamese restaurant to cheering on cadre performances in the inaugural “No-Talent talent show” and enjoying the Oakland nightlife (in their LeftRoots t-shirts), the first National Congress gave cadres ample opportunity to form and deepen relationships amongst comrades.

On the fourth day, the Congress ended with an opening weekend viewing of the movie Black Panther. Prior to this exclusive screening, a panel of LeftRoots cadres spoke to the political and cultural significance of 1960s era Black Panther comic as well as the movie’s resonance with contemporary politics. Afterwards, many cadres left for the airport, while others used the last few hours together to share a meal or visit the Redwood National Park.

Following the Congress, all of those who has been in attendance spoke of their greater sense of LeftRoots as a consolidated force, while also expressing a sense of feeling more connected to the individuals in it. By bringing cadres together from around the country, the Congress succeeded in leaving a lasting impression on cadres of their role within the organization as well as their collective capacity. Moreover, most of those who attended expressed a deeper understanding of LeftRoots and a commitment to taking on work within the organization, while many of them also conveyed a greater sense of clarity about the Strategy Get Down process and a willingness to play a leadership role within this process. Overall, the 2018 Congress laid a significant foundation upon which LeftRoots cadres will look to build over the months and years to come.

18
Feb

2018 Congress Day 3: Jonel

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.


Jonel, Miami Florida:

The day began with a breakfast that you have to write about. Pancakes, potatoes, and frittatas. It was the last day and the food crew held us down!

Shortly after the opening we moved into one of the most exciting parts of the day for me, the Strategy Get Down Session where we got to explore the different strategy labs. I attended the Electoral Lab. The Electoral Lab takes a stab at Phase One of the Strategy. It’s exciting to be moving towards doing actually Leftroots work. Especially when the work is so aligned with work that is already moving in Florida.

Then there was branch meeting time. Finally! As a member of the Fannie Lou Hamer Branch, where we’re constantly looking at each other through a computer screen, being in person together was really special. I learned a little more about my branch members and got a glimpse of who they were and where they were coming from. It also left me hungry for more space with the branch and even more excited about starting an in-person branch.

The closing of congress was beautiful, moving, and truly representative of what it means and feels like to be in Leftroots. Steve led us out of the main room into the sanctuary. The way that we knew it was time to move from the main room was by the generation that we came into the movement. Starting from the 60s and going into the 2010s where I entered the movement. Coming into the sanctuary we were greeted by each generation with joy, love, and community. And of course we closed out in song: I’m a socialist, I’m a feminist!

18
Feb

2018 Congress Day 3: Romeo

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.


Romeo, New York City:

Waking up early after an organizational talent show (filled with both decades of impressive skill being showcased, and some self-admitted shenanigans) went late into the night, I woke up early on the final day of our organization’s formal gathering. The day was the end of the beginning for many members, given the understanding that what we achieved in our first congress is only the start of the hard work we’ll have to put forward as revolutionaries. The previous days proved to be filled with joy and camaraderie as we built with cadres we’ve never met or have only spoken to online, but also with the discomfort necessary to grow as revolutionaries and as an organization.

The day started with a breakfast organized by dozens of comrades, as they’ve been doing throughout the congress, to feed the hundreds of us that made it out. The many ways the congress came together is a testament to the growth the organization is experiencing, given that an effort like this would have not been possible perhaps even a year ago. Like the two before, the day was filled with discussions of the insights and challenges cadre members are having across the nation with their social movement work, with their LeftRoots branches, with their personal relationship to the struggle, and with how to move forward and integrate the many different perspectives and experiences we all bring. The reflection continued through the day as we all took some time to discuss the goals and progress of our congress, which was to further our strategy-development process and our development as strategists—the first step in allowing us to build power as both a leftist organization, and alongside the broader left in the US and around the world.

The bulk of the day was composed of various working meetings on topics like how to build core leadership in the organization from communities that will be critical to the future of the struggle, or how to assess where the environmental movement is and what LeftRoots’ unique contribution to the movement could be. Cadres’ myriad kinds of meetings about different movements was a constant reminder of just how varied and grounded the work we’re doing is. That was then followed by having the branches—both the in-person ones across the country and the online ones—each come together to discuss the insights and commitments cadres had made over the course of the congress and how they would impact our growth and work in the future.

The hundreds of us who were able to make it out to the congress, while holding those who couldn’t in our hearts, came together to close out the congress with an intergenerational homage. We moved into the large sanctuary room of the community church we’ve called home in the order of our “movement birthdays”, with those os us who have been in the struggle for over five decades filing in first, there to greet the rest os us as we made our way in. For younger members like myself, getting to celebrate those who have formed and continue to form a path and an example for us while also being celebrated and carrying the torch of the struggle was a testament to how LeftRoots is on the right track to building an organization the left needs.

The beauty of that activity led to our singing and jamming together to finally close out the congress, to finally start the end of the beginning for the organization’s first foray into not just building strategy, but implementing strategy for liberation. To proceed into the future of an organization that I’m very grateful and proud to be a part of.

18
Feb

2018 Congress Day 3: Andrés

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.


Andrés, Philadelphia:

It’s crazy to think of being at the end of our first Congress. So much of my experience in the organization has felt like a big drumroll up to this moment; our success as a collective at raising enough money to get everyone here felt like a climax that didn’t leave much room to imagine what being here, together, would feel like. And yet, being here now, today has simply felt like a step into what to us as revolutionaries must be inevitable—a necessary transformation.

It was helpful to hear our staff acknowledge first thing that YES, we’re all tired and perhaps spent, but that it is necessary of us to continue engaging in rigorous camaraderie, and to show up fully. As we thanked the folks who held down our space, our logistics, and our food, it felt like a celebration of what was once thought of as impossible; a true political act.

I participated in a break-out workshop on cadre care and culture, which was awesomely facilitated and provided a really insightful platform for thinking collectively about what are all the dimensions of truly becoming cadres, blending support with rigorous accountability, grounded in emotional intelligence. It was really moving to spend time with other folks imagining in detail what our interpersonal and systemic relationships would look like in a liberated society, and to begin chiseling down concrete steps in building towards that now.

I also spent my lunchtime meeting with folks in my praxis circle, also looking toward the future and feeling a sense of both excitement and anxiety: what are we going to build in this new period of experimentation? How can we make this space relevant for the continued political development of folks in our sector?

After a riveting presentation on our collective tech capacities, and fantastic New Wave rendition of Minecraft by our Lil’Rooters, we moved into a conversation with folks in our Branch, to grapple with what does it mean for us in Philadelphia to enter this new period, what will we hold ourselves to, and how do we continue building our capacity for rigor and collective accountability. This question has been heavily on my mind throughout the Congress, and it has been really hard to wrestle with other comrades through our liberalism and deformity. If yesterday (day #2) showed us anything, it is that YES we built this, and we have a long way to go in answering this question in particular.

This is why I felt such deep emotions as we closed out the Congress with a call from our national staff for revolutionary rigor in this new moment: this will be hard, and there is no other way than to push right through it. Here we go.

18
Feb

2018 Congress Day 3: Lydia

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.


Lydia, Boston:

About 40 years ago, when I was 20, I participated in the founding congress of a revolutionary left organization, mostly people of color, in Oakland. The passion and inspiration that I felt then brought tears to my eyes.

Today, we passed out of the meeting hall and into the church sanctuary, generation by generation—activists forged in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, the oughts, and finally the “youngest” who have emerged since 2010—touching each other one by one with a hi-five, a clasp of the hand, a hug. For this 60 year-old revolutionary, there was nothing more inspiring than that moment.

There were challenges as well. As we tried to practice honest, constructive feedback and struggle, we managed defensive and reactive feelings as well. We spent the day in breakout groups, struggling with our confusion, our differences, our need for clarity, but preparing to launch collective work projects and committed to learning together through the work. Since I have felt this as LeftRoots’ most important challege for the past two years, since I joined, I left with a feeling of momentum, hopeful that this practical learning is what will push us forward in greater unity and in developing a more cohesive and bottom-up organization.

18
Feb

2018 Congress Day 3: Thomas

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.


Thomas, New York City:

The theme today: “Ready to struggle, ready to learn.” I’m deeply and wholly full, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and physically. One of my commitments during this congress is to build and deepen camaraderie with my comrades in LeftRoots. That commitment transpired in many ways, one of which was to chop it up, break bread, and party it up!! As much as I felt physically exhausted on the morning of our last day, after a night of dancing and deep building with comrades over good old Jameson, processing the past two days, I was determined to bring my whole self (with the aide of lots and lots of caffeine) into day 3, our final day together. I’d be lying if I convey that I was not in physical pain from the previous night, but the conversations, the brilliance that comrades brought, and the energy of day 3 gave me lots of sustenance that kept me going.

The love that went into the nourishing breakfast, prepared by comrades with some revolutionary cooking skills, elevated my capacity to be fully present and set up me and all of us to bring our best selves forward. We had the fuel to engage powerfully in the next steps process for the Strategy Get Down – the process my comrades and I are protagonizing around to develop strategy for the liberation of our people and planet. A huge part of this protagonism is the LeftRoots Labs—on-the-ground experiments, grounded in praxis, that test our strategy and can propel us forward. After being guided through the number of labs (at least 10!!), I initially navigated to the narrative strategy experiment. This one is looking at doing a rigorous analysis of the current hegemony that can help us develop a counter-hegemomic frame that can strengthen our forces and weaken the opposition’s in the struggle for a world beyond capitalism, heteropatriarchy and white supremacy. Narrative strategy work prepares us to enter the battle of ideas in the US, a terrain our movements have ceded to the Right. This is no small intervention and contribution we can make in the coming decades. I am in awe!

Given my personal and mass-based work-related commitment to electoral work, and especially given the political moment we are in, I then navigated to the electoral lab that a number of our comrades have been putting a ton of intentional thought into. This particular set of comrades shared their proposal for possible ways to engage electorally, with an eye towards our long term vision. There is so much brilliance among these comrades! We discussed some key criteria for how to engage and protagonize in the electoral terrain to not only advance projects to defeat Trumpism and the reactionary forces this represents in the upcoming elections, but to cohere the seeds for a political instrument. Stay tuned is all I gotta say!!

After having space and time for each branch to deepen with one another and process our experiences of the congress, after each of us extending appreciations to at least one other comrade through a LeftRoots love letter, we closed out the day in a powerful, powerful song coming out of the South African anti-apartheid movement – “Why I Am Socialist”. Even though we may not be about church, we took it to church on this song. There was laughter, there was joy, there was crying, there was love, there was a whole range of emotions that held us all.

As I reflect at the end of this historic congress, and as I get ready to commit in my protagonism in a unique and critical way to advance our vision and strategy for liberation, I feel affirmed, really affirmed that as an immigrant from Ethiopia, I’ve made the right decision to stay in the US and have my longing and vision for moving back to Africa on hold. This is huge for me. It’s transformative to know that I’m in deep relationship with other revolutionaries who are committed and ready to advance a vision for another world grounded in love and rigor. This is our responsibility; not only do our movement family in the US depend on us, but my people in Africa and elsewhere are also counting on us to be successful. The world needs us to win.