The original article "New Kids on the Historic Bloc" was written by Jon Liss and David Staples This article takes off from where that one left off and is based on an interview between Rishi Awatramani and Jon Liss.
We are living through dramatic times. What do you find to be the significant shifts and how do they change the context of the work we are doing now?
I go back and forth on how significant the shifts are for the movement. Obviously the economic crisis and the election of Barack Obama are pretty significant shifts. Those two combined allow for a different conversation of what the conditions are. However, the response by the administration to the crisis has not been a significant shift. The initial response (i.e. We need to Save the Banks) and the later response focused solely saving the financial industry, instead of taking the opportunity to invest in other kinds of economic recovery. The response followed pretty mainstream and historical reactions to crisis.
Organizing Upgrade is honored to offer a preview of this insightful reflection on organizing – Engaging the Crisis: Organizing Against Budget Cuts and Building Community Power in Philadelphia – which will appear in Left Turn magazine #36 (April/May 2010). You can subscribe to Left Turn online at www.leftturn.org or become a monthly sustainer at www.leftturn.org/donate.
On November 6, 2008, just days after Philadelphians poured onto the streets to celebrate the Phillies winning the World Series championship and Barack Obama the US presidency, Mayor Michael Nutter announced a drastic plan to deal with the cities $108 million budget gap. Severe budget cuts were announced, including the closure of 11 public libraries, 62 public swimming pools, 3 public ice skating rinks, and several fire engines. Nutter also stated that 220 city workers would be laid off and that 600 unfilled positions would be eliminated entirely, amounting to the loss of nearly 1,000 precious city jobs. In classic neo-liberal style, the public sector was to sacrifice, while taxpayer money would bail out the private banking institutions.
Ed. Note – As we explore the work of movement building and the fight for revolutionary change we need to simultaneously examine the roots of our actions, the roots of ourselves. Hashim and Tiffany Yeomans-Benford are two young organizers from Miami, Florida. Their work is grounded in racial justice and feminist struggles. We asked them to discuss the role interpersonal love plays in their fight for a better world. They brought forward a shared practice and value they have in their relationship called “Intimate Liberation.”
The authors draw on their shared experience in a hetero-sexual marriage. In this society marriage is a privileged institution from which gay and lesbian couples are excluded. There is a vibrant struggle to reform this institution, as well as a debate among radical queers as to if the fight for marriage rights is really the right fight. In future issues of Organizing Upgrade we will be examining more of this debate, as well as bring much needed queer perspectives on organizing, revolutionary politics, and yes, even that mystical thing called love (which for queers is simply an act of resistance and asserting our own humanity). Now on with it….
These are dramatic times politically, socially, and economically. What do you think are the most significant shifts happening right now, and how do they change the context of our work?
Some important dynamics at play are the housing crisis, the financial meltdown and the rising unemployment rate. Working people – the working class, the poor and the working poor – are facing the brunt of this crisis. They are feeling the impact of neoliberalism more sharply than ever, even if they aren’t articulating it as “neoliberalism.” The response is manifested as a resentment of corporate greed. There’s a growing anti-corporate sentiment in society today, which could mean that conditions are much riper for mobilizing than they have been in the past.
I am at a crossroads. I spent more than half my life writing about people who tried to change the world, largely because I, too, wanted to change the world. The history of social movements attracted me because of what it might teach us about our present condition and about how we might shape the future. When I first embarked on that work, nearly 20 years ago, the political landscape looked much clearer: We needed a revolutionary socialist movement committed to antiracism and antisexism. Buoyed by youthful naiveté, I thought it was very obvious then.
Aarti Shahani is a public service fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a writing fellow at Justice Strategies. She talked to Roberto Lovato, businessman, activist and founder of Presente.org, the face of the campaigns to demand Lou Dobbs’ ouster from CNN by Latino and pro-immigration activists. Here’s their conversation (which was originally published on the Feet in Two Worlds Blog).
In December, a delegation of racial, economic, and environmental justice organizers went to Copenhagen for the UN Climate Negotiations. They were there fighting for real solutions to the crises that capitalism has created in poor communities around the world. The “Copenhagen moment” must now rapidly become the “people’s moment” if we are to win a just transition to a new world. Left values and vision will be essential in leading us out of the ecological crises we’re in. And taking on this mission can take the Left out of the defensive and reactive stance that we’ve been pushed into over the last few decades into a proactive and visionary approach towards leading the transition to a new world.