Are we trying to win or experiment? I want us to have it all.
Posted on December 20, 2017
Lately, I feel the movement pushes us into these binaries and false choices. Do we want to go deep or do we want to get to scale? Do we want to win or do we want to experiment? I want us to build power to have it all.
This comes up less when we are fighting bad things and more when we are actually trying to go on offense and fighting for what we want.
Fortunately, the words of movement elders are always helpful. One OG reminded me that if I don’t like the situation, we can “create our own context.”
Don’t get me wrong, this is not mysticism. We CAN have it all when we create long term movement vehicles / organizations that can allow for a broad set of approaches (from direct action and organizing to policy and electoral) with short and long term goals towards a liberatory vision.
“We CAN have it all when we create long term movement vehicles / organizations that can allow for a broad set of approaches (from direct action and organizing to policy and electoral) with short and long term goals towards a liberatory vision.”
Without this, too often, winning tends to be what is the most pragmatic; and experimenting is tends to be what is most innovative or radical and not actually contesting for power. Don’t we want to do both?
(Just to note, I like to talk a bunch about experimentation so some of this is a note to self.)
To me, the purpose is building our collective power — people power — regardless if it is winning or experimenting.
Here are some questions I think about:
Are we deepening our politics? We are at the height of alienation and fragmentation, we need to keep building that muscle to connecting our issues, our struggles and our peoples. We need to break out of our silos, specific identities, and sectors towards a collective vision.
Are we developing our capacities and for what? We need to prepare ourselves to lead and govern. Whatever Trump does next, whatever comes next in our movement and world, we are going to need to learn how to govern within institutions and systems AND in our own communities.
Are we winning material changes in people’s lives? This one is probably the hardest and where there is the most debate. We need to be winning things but without experimentation, our “wins” become too small and incremental to move the hearts and minds of people.
“We need to be winning things but without experimentation, our “wins” become too small and incremental to move the hearts and minds of people.”
Truth be told, we tend to lose more than we win. I remember in the 90s we lost almost every campaign — literally. So how do we address people’s immediate needs and keep people in the movement? Even though we did not “win,” we seeded a generation of organizers who are leading today. I was among one of them. I also learned to build collectives and organizations, some of which are still around today.
As always, there is no one size fits all. Sometimes you need to do more of one thing than another. This strategy though needs to be grounded in local time place and conditions so folks on the ground know best. This is easy said than done and there is constant crisis(es), it feels. But if we don’t begin taking baby steps towards this, the crisis will only get worse. Like that saying goes sometimes we need to go slow to go fast(er).
This is ALL possible and what I want for all of us.
So let’s try to be more dialectical in the next period. 2018 will be a year of a lot of short termism and long term visioning. We will need to learn to struggle some of this out and learn to do some new things. This is all out of love, not shade. All love and all power to the people. <3