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News Updates
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.

17
Feb

2018 Congress Day 2: Noelle

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.


Noelle, Philadelphia:

The theme of our second full day at the 2018 LeftRoots National Congress was ‘Trust through Rigor,’ which rang true for me as we started the day with practices that grounded us in our histories, culture, selves, and one another as comrades. We celebrated the lunar new year and a comrade’s milestone birthday, and centered together. In this large space, with over 200 comrades, I felt connected and plugged into the very moment we were in. This set us up for a major protagonist challenge for the day: attempting to engage in principled struggle. Our NCC facilitators put forward our aims: to ground our assessments (even if only partially articulated) and be willing to shift our positions if we were so moved by other assessments being offered. An analogy that I found useful was that this exercise is like jumping on a trampoline – it allows us to see what we cannot currently view, and to practice doing that again and again (taking a leap to see what’s beyond the horizon). As I reflect on this exercise, I am struck by how much listening and openness is required, along with trusting the process—that we can, in fact, be rigorous while upholding our own and each other’s dignity. Our comradely relationships can actually be strengthened in these moments as we get to know each other, ourselves, and who we are struggling with and for.

As the day continued with self-organized meet-ups and the introduction of the Little Red School (yeah!), I noted how many of us—particularly myself—are wrestling with our own underdevelopment and are hungry for the space to build the capacities that will ultimately lead to us all getting free. At the end of this day, I am more clear that I am here for all of that—and I am ready to get down with my comrades that dedicate themselves to the self-transformation required to get there. I am feeling incredibly appreciative for LeftRoots—all of the cadres that are building this organization, and the leadership bodies and staff that have made sacrifices beyond what many of us know. Last full day—let’s go!

17
Feb

2018 Congress Day 2: Kat

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.


Kat, Philadelphia:

After an incredible and dense first day, we kicked off day two. In a lot of ways, conveying my feelings into a blog post about this day has felt really difficult. If day one had my brain ready to explode from the sheer amount of processing I needed to do to engage in the conjunctural analysis as well as ready to bawl my eyes out as the weight of this moment hit me again and again, day two definitely struck a different chord with me and among many at the congress that yet feels impossible to put down in a few paragraphs.

Day two kicked off with a spectrogram to test out where cadres were on various significant issues that arose in the Strategy Get Down and to begin the hard work of engaging in principled struggle. From there we held various break out groups on topics cadre had proposed that ranged from discussing the role of gender in the document all the way to the particular challenges and realities of being an Executive Director of a movement organization and a cadre member. We re-elected our amazing national secretary, Steve, and held a consulta to hear assessments and recommendations about the organization from any cadre who wanted to put something forward.

All of that sounds pretty straightforward but in practice, it drew out a series of emotions in me (and others) that at times did not feel pleasant. As a member of the Cadre Care local committee and praxis circle, a Philly CC member, and someone still grappling with my own political underdevelopment and all the shit that comes with it as a young Black Leftist, I would argue that the majority of my time in LeftRoots has been about moving through a whole host of unpleasant feelings as I continually transform to be able to do what is necessary to win in these coming periods.

As we prepared to engage in the spectrogram, we were reminded that now we had to learn to put niceness aside and learn to struggle with one another. As Steve spoke to us about why we should re-elect him, he made a call for all of us to see this organization as ours and to build it. That we should not vote for him unless we were willing to step into greater transformation and be accountable to that collectively in this new period. As we fight day in and day out against the fucked up shit this system causes, we can often assume that in our spaces with our folks, things should feel easy and effortless. In practice, we are struggling individually and collectively against too many years of white supremacy, heteropatriarchy and capitalism, and inherent in that is the fact that struggle is hard. It is not fun. It brings up infinite feelings that at times we’d rather not deal with and yet it is beyond necessary to move through to grow stronger and reach beyond what currently exists.

So while I wish I could write about how exciting the second day was, that shit was hard for me and that is ok. The second day underscored the mundane and heavy reality of the work we have ahead of us. It reminded me that through that work of struggle and collective transformation, we can build the deeper comradeships and capacities we desperately need to win. That there is no other way to get to 21st century socialism but through, no matter how hard it gets. With so many others counting on us, there is no other option than to continue digging in. And as I moved through all these emotions and talked with other comrades, I am reminded of how deeply I am committed to this organization, this work and to seeing the vision we have put forward become the reality.

16
Feb

2018 Congress Day 2: Najla

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.


Najla, San Francisco Bay Area:

We opened the second day of National Congress with some energizing chants in Spanish, followed by a political Dragon Dance performed by members of our Bay Area branch to celebrate Chinese New Year. We were reminded that culture is our weapon!

To kick off our day, we also heard a shout out to some of the local caterers we had enjoyed and would be enjoying for the remainder of Congress. This felt important and reminded me of all the intentionality with which we put the conference together and the impressive feat of doing so with predominately volunteer labor. As a local cadre I had the opportunity to participate in the conference planning committee and I developed new capacities as I helped think through everything from our choice of venue and transportation plan, to the upcoming Black Panther movie screening. This Congress is for us, by us.

My favorite part of the day was the chunk of the agenda for which we were encouraged to huddle with cadres around a topic of our choice as it related to advancing our strategy for socialist liberation. Something I appreciate about LeftRoots is the space we are given as members to shape our organizational focus, and I was glad to see this practice reflected in our Congress agenda.

I stepped up to co-facilitate a conversation about gender and cisheteropatriarchy where we came up with recommendations for the organization to more intentionally address sexism when it inevitably shows up in our interactions with one another. We shared our feelings and dreamt up new ways of relating to one another.

At 8pm, eleven hours into our day together, we held a No-Talent Talent Show where we shared laughs and courageous singing. While the talent show went on, the breakfast crew that I was a part of chopped onions, tomatoes, potatoes, and cracked over 300 eggs. We are in the process of building a Left organization that treats joy, kitchen work, and relationship building with the same respect and rigor we treat intellectual debate. ❤️

16
Feb

2018 Congress Day 2: Nora

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.


Nora, San Francisco Bay Area:

Day two of the 2018 Congress gave comrades the gift of diving in deep — deep into our collective imagination, deep into our alignments, and deep into our assessments of where we are and where we need to be as an organization building toward liberatory socialism.

During dinner with my praxis circle, after hilarious conversations about which kind of superhero power we’d like most to acquire at this current moment and what music we’re currently listening to for inspiration, a comrade said something that really resonated with me: we need to make this movement irresistible. We need to make it impossible for the general public to ignore it or not want to be part of this revolution.

It made me think about the inherent joy that is at the core of the mass struggles we’re all a part of; the joy that is the engine that keeps people in struggle moving; the joy that is inside our songs, our families, our communities, our cultures, our traditions, our humanity. We do this work, we grapple with the difficult questions, we directly confront the terror of this current moment because we want to see that joy replicated and pushed forward everywhere.

One of our organizational leaders spoke passionately to us about the origins of the Cuban revolution, how just a few dozen revolutionary activists were able to topple a powerful dictatorship — and how that revolution was grounded not just in liberation for Cubans, but in the need to support and stand with anti-imperialist, anti-colonial revolutions across the world, specifically on the African continent. It was a lesson in deepening our imagination, remembering our capacities to really, truly change our world, and to never stop moving toward liberation for our comrades in struggle everywhere.

16
Feb

2018 Congress Day 1: Jonathan

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.


Jonathan, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

On the first day of the LeftRoots Congress, we dove right into our mandate to “Make the impossible possible.” It was exhilarating to be in a room full of comrades, most of whom have spent our whole lives organizing “in the trenches” against day-to-day injustices, giving free reign to our revolutionary imagination as we told the story of how we actually won liberation. It felt like finally breathing fresh air (perhaps not coincidentally, this is also how it feels to visit California from Pittsburgh).

A fast-paced, high-energy blend of collective, individual and small-group work, the best moment for me in “The Story of How We Won” was the moment in which our small groups were presented with the “conjuncture” that right-wing legislators revoke the right to vote for people without outstanding student loans. Rather than debate the constitutionality of such a law, or proposing challenging it in the courts, my small group made up of comrades from coastal cities and rural New England as well as the Rust Belt immediately came up with the response of a student loan strike. This, to me, is one of the most important roles of LeftRoots: fostering the ability to see ruling class overreach as a strategic opportunity to raise the scope and militancy of the struggle.

After flexing our revolutionary imagination, we practiced “conjunctural analysis” — how to look at the balance of forces in a particular historical moment, under particular historical conditions. Being given an hour to work our way through an exercise developed by Latin American social movements over the course of several years was challenging, but also energizing. If we as social movements and Leftists are going to get out of the rut of doing the same things we have been doing, we need to develop these new “muscles” of analysis and practice. The physical sensation of sitting in a circle of a dozen organizers, trying to piece together an analysis of the totality of popular forces, was not unlike the first time I did strength training — awkward and sometimes painful, but leaving me wanting to do it again, to get better.

As LeftRoots National Secretary Steve Williams reminded us in the opening of the Congress, it is both a great responsibility and a great privilege to figure out how to do what so many people around the world need us to do, to begin a process of revolutionary transformation of the U.S. It will be hard work, but the first day of our National Congress gave us a good foundation for the revolutionary road ahead.