In her article, Alyssa draws conclusions I find true. Particularly true that the "movement" must contain the voices of those directly affected by policies, classism, racism, gender discrimination, and all types of oppression. It's the real stories of individuals who speak to issues best. We intend to bring together a diverse group of folks to do this work, to ultimately change the Constitution, stopping corporations from controlling every aspect of our lives, and of our governance. Who wants to join us as we strategically approach the City of Olympia about corporate personhood at the municipal level? Monthly meetings will take place, to be announced this next week. Corporations do not have the rights of living human beings--nowhere in the Constitution is that stated. And Citizens United is the worst Supreme Court decision since Dred Scott, having now given [multinational]corporations the rights to buy our elections, and enjoy "free speech" or cash to purchase US elections.
"The recession is making people from different backgrounds and walks of life realize that the challenges they face are structurally similar; that not only blue- but white-collar jobs have been degraded and outsourced, and in fields from administration to academia the jobs that remain are increasingly insecure, contingent, and contractual. The looseness and spontaneity of these reactions speaks to a growing energy without an effective outlet, suggesting that progressives need to think about how to better support grassroots organizing, encourage experimentation with new forms of organizing, and create a connected but independent network of diverse organizations and campaigns chipping away at the powers that be.
I sometimes suspect that some progressives see President Obama’s decision to leave community organizing for Harvard Law as validation of policy and legal approaches to tackling injustice over movement-building. But Obama’s career trajectory is actually a case in point for why the Left can’t be led primarily by progressives with middle-class backgrounds and elite educations, even if they’re genuinely concerned with social justice. Organizing is hard work, and it takes a long time. It can’t be done by people who have the option of leaving for greener pastures; it has to be done by people who are embedded within and committed to the communities they’re organizing for the long run.
Because one thing is for sure: a movement consisting of middle-class supporters with a vague commitment to social justice will not succeed in addressing the root causes of its decline on its own, and it will certainly not succeed in addressing -- or perhaps even in identifying -- the issues that plague the poor and working class. As Vivien Labaton and Gara Lamarche of the Atlantic Philanthropies argue in the American Prospect, "Too often, debates unfold without the voices of those most affected informing them. To win the message wars and, more important, to make the strongest case possible for change, we need to put those voices front and center.”
Figuring out how to do this -- how to expand leadership and build a new type of movement that can not only lend power to progressive politics but help form and shape it -- is perhaps the most important challenge facing the American Left today.
Alyssa Battistoni is a writer and graduate student in geography and environment at Oxford University.