Organizing Upgrade

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5 dgheadshot220This interview originally appeared in Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics and Culture, 5:2, 259-270.  For a PDF of the interview, go here. It is reprinted here with permission.

In the 1960s and 1970s, many activists looked to the prisons for political leadership, while viewing prisons themselves as institutions of repression and social control integral to larger systems of oppression. Around the world, the prisoner emerged as an icon of state repression and a beacon of liberation. If the prison served as the bricks and mortar of oppression, the prisoner became the flesh and blood of movement iconography. Black American prisoners held special sway within this global visibility of confinement, in part because so many prisoners became prolific authors connected to wider social movements of the time. In prison, black activists from Martin Luther King, Jr to George Jackson and Assata Shakur penned tracts that offered trenchant insights into race, class, and American power. Black activists proved the most incisive, the most creative, inheritors of a deep and multiracial tradition of political critique behind bars. These imprisoned author-activists articulate a profound paradox: one of the best places to understand the "land of the free" is the place where freedom was most elusive. It was both a sobering and inspiring message for a generation on the move.

Published in Community Organizing

occupy-wall-street-0Originally Published in We Are Many: Reflections on Movement Strategy from Occupation to Liberation, a book published by AK Press in September 2012.


Reform vs. Revolution

The question of whether movements should fight for reform or revolution is not a new one. It pops up in any time period where people think it’s possible to win one or the other, or both. Thanks to Occupy, the question is on the table again, in this new political climate.

A friend once told me – if you’re struggling to choose between two different options, and you just can’t make up your mind, don’t bother: Just have both. I think he might have meant it in terms of something smaller, like which flavor ice cream to order, but I think we can use that thinking about reform and revolution as well – and many revolutionaries of old have come up with similar answers (Andre Gorz is a good place to start if you are looking for further reading).

Published in Occupy StrategyLab

2011-11-01-ap-occupy-unionsjpg-24a2901bcd67e371This piece is reposted with permission from New Poltiics, Summer 2012.

There isn't a working person alive today who hasn’t idly fantasized about taking control of their lives at work. For many, this is probably just a fantasy about tossing their boss out a window or poisoning their coffee, but others have a more expansive vision of challenging the system of control that gives you an arrogant, unqualified stooge to squeeze the life out of you in the first place.

Militants and radicals in the unions are the ones who take it upon themselves to find the path between those idle dreams and reality. Not so much on the murder front (I hope) but more how to edge forward in the battle for self-control over the course of our work and our lives. The path is rough. It dead-ends, and goes over cliffs. It goes through unexpected terrain where the tools you brought are useless and improvisation is a survival skill. Sometimes the way goes pitch-black and you muddle forward by sense of smell.

Published in Leftist at Work

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