New rules for radicals: A discussion on how to live together

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Organizing different organizations is sometimes an impossible task.

In times of growth we can all grow in our desired direction, with plenty of room for yourself, but in times of decline when budgets are tight, the competition increases for a decreasing amount of resources.

Then the conflicts begin.

I am not a community organizer although I once tried and failed miserably. That is fine, we all have our roles in the movement, and perhaps mine is to see some of the patterns that are keeping us down.

I will start with one suggestion using my own hometown of Tucson as an example, but I’m sure your city has similar issues.

Tucson has a lot of good people and activists, and it seems that we sometimes devote more energy to fighting with each other than fighting “The Man.”

We will all agree that ALEC and Koch are no good for you, we will agree that we need stronger labor unions, better schools, Medicare and immigration reform, just to name a few.

But the people we fight most are usually ourselves, instead of the Republican legislators causing these problems… or the local Democrats that enable their policies.

Factions are intense in Tucson, and I will not name groups here on purpose, but I’m sure you can all think of at least two organizations that would be unstoppable if they worked together, yet are always fighting. The issues in Tucson may include Immigration or Ethnic Studies in addition to all the other “progressive” issues out there.

We are mostly Democrat but the Democratic Party many times works against us. We voted for Obama and yet are disappointed time and time again. We claim to be a peaceful city yet our economy relies on the production of weapons of mass destruction. Without that “trickle-down” war money at our local restaurants and businesses, Tucson’s economy would collapse because we are dependent on that blood money. For US Congress the TEA Party was so bad that we had to vote for Blue Dogs to represent us in Tucson, with the exception of the more progressive Grijalva.

Which brings up another split…

My focus here is not on the splits, but on how to live together from here on out, so I have a proposal, ready for discussion and debate, but at least as a start on a “new rule.”

Now of course, any form of “rule” is further oppression, and rules are made to be broken (hence the paradoxical problems progressives produce), so perhaps it can be an unspoken “agreement” of sorts.

The problem as I see it is that different groups are fighting with one an other, but for the most part all these groups are good. Sure, you may think the leader or member of another group is evil, but I’m sure they feel the same about you. I know I will always be hated by some progressives, and I criticize progressives, so I am part of this dilemma also.

My solution is that we all agree to work separately if we need to to accomplish our goals until the healing takes place. Sometimes you just need some time apart. There are SO MANY problems out there that surely we can stay busy for quite some time.

Since time is necessary to heal old wounds, the next agreement is to understand that since we are in the healing process, other groups cannot be badly spoken about if they do not join on to one group’s movement.

For example, let’s say we have groups A and B and they have some friction between them that needs to be mended. So A and B go off and do their own projects, which I’m sure will be good and beneficial despite what A says of B and vice-versa.

Now let’s say A has this brilliant idea and is going to march or protest or something.

A is not allowed to badmouth B if they do not join all along, since the agreement is that they will work independently until tensions fall.


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A can surely invite B to help out, but B is not expected to and there should be no hard feelings if B declines because of the agreement.

Now, a problem may arise in that people are needed for these movements, and that is why I propose recruitment as a way to solve this.

Back to a scenario: A and B are similar groups that work on an issue X.  A and B have similar membership, perhaps 50 people each working on this.

If 100 people are needed for an event or protest or rally, than instead of group A hating on group B for not helping out, it is up to group A to recruit 50 new members or participants for this event.

I see good in this in multiple ways. One is that instead of hating other activists for not helping, we should be holding the general population accountable first.

If the Tucson metropolitan area has 1 million people, then 50 people is less than a fraction of 1%. If an event requires 100 or 1000 people, then we need to start educating the public and getting them more involved!

Otherwise you fight just to get a 100 people together, and the powerful ignore them because it’s only a 100 people, and then the 100 people blame each other for losses.

If any change is really going to occur we need to turn 100 into 1000, and 1000 into a 100,000. Even if you reach that high goal, you are still only going to be 10% of the population.

But even if you are only a mere 1% of the population, with a “mere” 10,000 activists, you are still a force to be dealt with! A group of this size can link arms around buildings, shut down intersections, stop mines from being built, etc.

If you cannot convince 100 people to join your cause from the general population, then do not hate on another organization for not joining your cause, even if you think it is the greatest idea, because they have their own approach to solving the problem.

This is why it is important not to bad-mouth or sabotage. I respect that you will do things your way, I will do things my way, but I will not bad-mouth you to the media or in public. I will respect your approach, since you do not even have to be doing anything to begin with, just like 99% of the population is doing nothing. So thank you for doing something, anything.

If group A’s idea starts to work, then B can always join along later if that appears to be the solution. This is sort of an evolutionary process applied to activists. Separate the feuding populations, evolve, and see what happens. Later on when the separations end, there may be many more new ideas that exist, and then the working together can begin again.

Maybe it is just a year that is needed apart. Maybe just a decade. Maybe it is going to take a huge event to put aside our differences immediately.

That was my short discussion on why I propose a rule something like the following:

Thou shalt respect other activists and progressive organizations working on similar goals as yours. You also have the right to not join on board an work independently on a solution and they must respect you also, and neither group shall try to sabotage the other group.

I know this is asking the impossible, but it’s a start towards a solution, and furthermore it is an acknowledgement that a problem even exists.

It is important to make a distinction between community organizations and politicians that vote. A bad vote is a bad vote and needs to be called out, but I will not hate on other organizations if they do not want to join me in lobbying for or against this vote.

There are many problems out there, and I should just focus on gathering new activists from the general population, which will be good for the movement overall as more people because active and aware.

This is what conservatives can easily do with their propaganda news network targeting older retired people with lots of time and money on their hands, or at least more time and money than the youth have. This is probably why Pima Dems LD meetings lack diversity, but I’m not going to change their minds, so I (we) need to bring some new minds into the mix.

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