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Analysis
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.

16
Feb

2018 Congress Day 1: Myrna

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.


Myrna, Boston:

One of these days, I am gonna write a blogpost about how LeftRoots is the Cardi B of the 21st century socialism world. But it’s 1.30am right now and that really means its 4.30am since I rock out on the east coast time. And to say I am annoyed is an understatement, because for whatever reason — I lost that blogpost as in the application closed on me and then saved an hour ago. SO this is what I got for you…

LeftRoots is an organization full of people who are deeply committed to getting free and will go to the ends of the earth in search of tools to make this happen. Because of this deep commitment, there is a demand that you bring your authentic self. People make a deep effort to see you which results in a deepening of commitment to one another. We had spent the last 3 months rigorously setting up support structures to help us get through a milestone. And this support structure allowed us to dream.

And dream we did. In a small group I was a part of we dreamt of the little red school, one of the political training programs we are developing for LeftRoots members, no longer being little because it got big! We needed alternatives and we followed the traditions of schools like the freedom schools and the universidad sin fronteras. It would teach trades that were/are necessary to rebuild areas that are severly struck by the climate crisis. It would also teach a curriculum on transformative and restorative justice that would be necessary to learn because we need alternatives to policing.

And also we had to do sobering assessments as to where we are and contend with that overwhelming feeling of how much work we have to do and all the tensions that brings up in our bodies and minds.

Grateful for the ability to sit with my praxis circle at dinner and play a game of telephone where my name ended up being “something” and someone was a park ranger, and we renamed our strategy doc “We will win oh shit!”

We’ve been doing movement sing alongs and chant alongs, so it’s only appropriate that I offer one up here, especially since it helped me write this post a second time (the first post I had Bruno Mars on heavy rotation, because we got it going on and don’t it feel good to be us.):

16
Feb

2018 Congress Day 1: Pam

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.


Pam, San Francisco:

At 6 am, I woke up eager to get ready for Day 1 of the Congress. Yes, that is early, but I wanted to make sure I had my readings, photos for the altar, breakfast, and quiet time to focus and mentally prepare myself to be fully present for this long awaited day. I was also excited to pick up longtime comrades from out of town and be reunited with them as cadres in LeftRoots. Driving over the bridge, I could not wait to finally meet cadres from all across the country who I’ve met virtually on “zoom”, others who I’ve crossed paths with in the past, and the young people who I’d yet to meet.

We made our way to the church and right away I could feel and see the camaraderie among folks who most likely had just met for the first time; checking us in, welcoming us inside, setting up the food station, distributing interpretation equipment and swag, and folks leaning over flip chart paper making last minute posters. It was a good hour and a half before Day 1 was to begin but already the room was filled with folks arriving early to help, mingle, and settle in. Have you ever been in a room where absolutely everyone was happy as heck to be there? Well that’s what it felt like this morning.

Aside from this early morning dose of great LeftRoots energy, the side walls were adorned with maybe 100 photos of revolutionaries past and present. These were not only a welcoming and beautiful sight but it was as if their spirits were in the room with us. I took a walk and visited with every photo, most I knew and some I didn’t. Some like Berta Cáceres held special meaning for me, and I spent more time to embrace her memory, commitment, and achievements. If you have not done so yet, I encourage you to take this same stroll and feel the magic.

I am of the belief that staying healthy includes at least 8 hugs a day and many many belly laughs. Well, today was a very healthy day! Also, LeftRoots cadres are very funny people! I got my fair share of hugs but what put it all over the top was children, lots of children! Children from 6 months and up. I was impressed to see that the childcare had rooms and activities set aside by age but if they wanted to visit mom or dad, they were free to do so. Thumbs up!

Finally, the agenda. There was a good mix of presentation and interactive learning and “practice” activities. The “practice” activities challenged us test our skills at analysis, challenging hegemony, and articulating our vision. These were an engaging and fun space where we got to listen and work with each other. At the end of one of the activities we were asked to name a challenge that had come up during the activity. The challenge I had was trying to “keep my mouth shut!” It was so engaging and energizing I needed to practice restraint. To be honest, I don’t think I did a very good job.

Well, it’s 12:58 am, I’ll close here. I look forward to Day 2 and getting to meet more cadres, deepen my understanding of the strategy, and explore the various options for how we will engage in practice together. Good night.

15
Feb

2018 Congress Day 1: Zein

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.

——-

Zein, Philadelphia:

I arrived at LeftRoot’s National Congress to find the Oakland church space buzzing – folks flooding the registration table, children darting between people’s luggage, longtime-comrade-hugs and nice-to-meet-you hugs. The kind of buzz when people there with a purpose. Kind of buzz when you’re trying something new.

Soon all 200 seats were filled and our attention grounded. Our bodies warmed the room – someone cracked a door to the breeze outside. Among the agendas and logistics up on the walls hung portraits of Leftists, movement leaders, and cultural warriors, strung together in room-sized necklace. A picture of Karl Marx perched in a corner behind Angela Davis, W.E.B. Du Bois, and dozens of other revolutionaries of color. Embraced by our movement ancestors, we welcomed each other.

The children were welcomed first. A whole committee of kids occupied the stage, dancing, playing, and being willful. We honored the Indigenous peoples that first stewarded the land. Then the people that brought us here – ancestors, communities, and support systems. Welcomed queer and trans comrades. Welcomed folks that came into the movement during the 1960s and 1970s – and folks that came in the last 5 years. Shouted out the under 30s, the over 50s and all in between. We represented 22 states and 42 cities, across sectors and issues – labor organizers, housing rights, and climate justice to healthcare workers, Black Liberation, and immigration justice folks.

With each welcome swelled larger and larger cheers. And in that vibration of the room I felt the magnitude of our task – to hold the seriousness of the crises we face while advancing toward liberation – to care for each other while doing the hard work of developing revolutionary strategy. To envision a fair, socialist economy and pave paths toward it together.

LeftRoots seeks to help overcome the fragmentation among the U.S. Left – to build bridges between our movement silos, honoring our different experiences and traditions. Congress is only one step on the road, but even in the those first moments I felt the power of bridges. The power of communion around revolutionary possibility.

The welcomes ended and we got to work. A facilitator summed it up, “relationships make new things possible; things we can do together we can’t do on our own.”

15
Feb

2018 Congress Day 1: Bryan

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.


Bryan, Philadelphia:

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.

14
Aug

A pivotal moment in Charlottesville

The centuries-old battle against white supremacy in the United States claimed another life, another hero, this weekend. On Saturday, August 12, James Alex Fields murdered Heather D. Heyer as part of his participation in the white “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Fields smashed his car into a peaceful crowd of anti-racists, crashing into other cars and hurting as many as 19 people in addition to killing Heyer. Other white supremacists and neo-Nazis attacked and injured other anti-racist counter-protestors throughout the weekend.

LeftRoots and its members share the grief and pain of those injured in Charlottesville and the loved ones of the victims and survivors. We stand with all the people of Charlottesville and other people of conscience who, when hundreds of white supremacists, many bearing fire and weapons, descended on their town, came out to the streets to oppose them. Their resistance to white supremacy is as inspiring as the attacks against them are horrifying.

This new surge in far-right violence is nothing alien or exotic to the U.S. political experience. Indeed, such violence is endemic to U.S. racial capitalism, and has been from the very birth of the nation. While not novel, the political character of this weekend’s violence was unusually naked and ugly, such that even Republican leaders have had to denounce white supremacy as “un-American”. Except, of course, for Donald Trump, who has refused to name white supremacy, Nazism, or the KKK, instead vaguely condemning hate and violence from “many sides,” using false equivalence to let the far-right terrorists off the hook.

As noted by Jelani Cobb in the New Yorker:

“We have entered a new phase of the Trump era. The breach that Trump has courted since he first emerged in public life has become apparent; it is more deadly and its architects more emboldened. What happened in Virginia was not the culminating battle of this conflict. It’s likely a tragic preface to more of the same.”

Indeed, far-right forces are planning a follow-up march in Richmond, Virginia, on September 16. We can expect more violence and intimidation from them there.

This is a pivotal moment, one that calls for the left to mount a serious resistance, together. We cannot afford to let the white supremacist far-right use this weekend’s tragedy as a springboard to further organizing, consolidation, and terrorism. The U.S. body politic cannot afford it, the left cannot afford it, and Black America, which bears the brunt of such violence, certainly cannot afford it.

LeftRoots stands tall in its commitment to ending all systematic oppression, including white supremacy. There is no denying that such injustice has a firm place in the United States’ past, but it has no place in the future we are building.

—The LeftRoots National Coordinating Committee


We encourage our comrades to stay abreast of the conversation and developments with the following organizations:

27
Apr

LeftRoots hangOut on the MST and ENFF

In the fall of 2016, three LeftRoots cadres—Alex, Paige, and Ying-sun—got to spend seven weeks studying at the Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandes (ENFF), the national school of Brazil’s Movement of Landless Peasants (MST—Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra). On April 6, 2017, the three of them hosted a national LeftRoots hangOut to talk about their experience. This is the recording of that hangOut.

 

4
Nov

LeftRoots Strongly Condemns the Rightwing Attack and Police Raid on the Movimento Sem Terra (MST) School

On the morning on November 4, 2016 police and military forces raided the National School Florestan Fernandes (ENFF), which is the leadership development school of the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST), where social movement leaders from around the world are currently gathered to study and build together.

Three community organizers who are members of LeftRoots are currently studying with the MST at the ENFF, and we have received word from them that they are okay and were not injured in the attack.

According to reports, police raided the school at 9:25 am local time and fired live ammunition into the air. At the time of the release of this statement, police had withdrawn from the school and were posted in front of the ENFF waiting for warrants to be issued.

LeftRoots condemns this attack on the MST, which is clearly part of a growing assault on social movements and the Left by the rightwing government which took power in a coup earlier this year.

The MST plays a vital role in not only building powerful grassroots organizing for indigenous, afro-descendant, women’s and poor people’s land rights in Brazil, but also plays a critical role in building a strong and vibrant Social Movement Left around the world, in part by bringing together cadre in their political education school, which was the subject of this raid. We call on all progressive forces to stand with the MST and Brazilian social movements.

While we standby for more information and direction from the MST as to how they would like international allies to respond, in the meantime we are asking folks to IMMEDIATELY call the US State Department and the Brazilian Embassy to demand that the police and military stand down, stop their attack on the MST and ENFF, release any activists who have been arrested, and cease intimidation tactics against social movements and human rights activists. It is helpful to note that there are U.S. citizens studying at the ENFF, which is currently under siege, and to demand the US pressure Brazilian officials to end the repression against the MST.

Brazilian Embassy: (202) 238-2700

U.S. State Department: (202) 647-6575