Several weeks ago, I gave a talk on being an organizer, but not just any kind of organizer I wanted to define what the role is of a radical Black organizer in today’s world. Today when meanings and definitions have been supplanted in exchange for feelings, desires and hopes. Today when so-called radical organizing has led us into being an appendage to the democratic party as opposed to being in opposition to both major parties and the capitalist state system. Today when people have become millionaires while claiming to be fighting for a collective Black self-determination or abolition. Today when the United States is on the precipice of an implosion, while we remain mostly unorganized and unprepared for the very open return of white supremacist/fascist activities. Today when the state and corporations continue to maintain Black oppression and servitude via control over the means of production, wage slavery, police violence and propaganda/celebrity culture.
During this time what should a radical Black organizer be thinking and doing? Here are six must for radical Black organizers to consider and do today, to be effective in the face of an anti-radical environment.
1. Defining a Radical/Revolutionary Black Organizer – A person who is part of an organization who seeks to support the building of organizations, institutions, and or collectives primarily of poor and working-class Black people to change the material conditions of those people. An organizer must work together with those people to gain power (the ability to control and direct phenomena for the purpose of a working-class Black-led radical struggle) and resources (land, property, money, people) for the continued fight against capitalist and white supremacist domination. We must be fighting to bring the ownership of the means of production and the political apparatus that controls said production under the control of poor/working class Black people.
***Note activist are important but their lack of connection to organization makes them more individualistic which makes them unable to fulfill the task of organizing for collective power.
2. Organizers must have a radical ideology that guides their work – An organizer must not be swayed by propagandized ideas of integration, equality, equity, of Black capitalism/wealth accumulation by full participation in elections to make change, by policy/legal fights. An organizer must understand the nature of capitalism and capital accumulation so as to protect themselves and those they work with from being easily captured by the goals of capitalism that works to undermine movement building. Using different tactics to win victories and power is necessary however there must be a clear understanding that capitalist know no bounds in defense of their wealth and power.
Ultimately your ideology must be sound enough to recognize that election victories, grant accumulation, property ownership, policy victories, etc. do not translate into radical change. In fact, depending on how a “victory” is achieved in these areas they may actually hurt radical change. The organizer must understand that unless the means of production are “transferred” under the control of poor and working-class people and white supremacy can’t harm Back people, then we have not won. We may have won some individual battles but that is not the same as being a part of transforming society. Having a radical ideology will keep one grounded in that fact.
3. Organizers must organize – Organizers primary purpose is to swell the ranks of the organization, move people to do organizing work and build together on an ideological framework. That can be done through campaign work, meetings, service work, mutual aid, canvassing, conversations, etc. Organizers must be prepared to enter discussions with individuals to promote the need for radical organizing as a method to change the material conditions of the people. Organizers must spend a critical mass of their time working amongst the masses of people. Only quality time spent will create results in moving people to push pass the ideological and propaganda limits that have been created to stop us from questioning the system of racial capitalism.
4. An organizer must hold the collective together – The role of the organizer is not to win every argument, it is not to debate every topic for ideological clarity, it is not to correct at every moment, every inconsistency. In other words, an organizer must learn to read the room and understand when it is appropriate to reach a consensus, to win an argument and or to lose and to try at another time. The organizer must understand the protracted nature of the struggle and how to win people over to ideological and political positions over time. The organizer must expect disagreement and must look for ways to bring people to a new understanding without losing people whenever possible. A measurement of success is simple – is the collective growing, are more people joining, are we retaining more people than we are losing. If not then we must re-evaluate our work
5. An organizer must raise the level of resistance – Through words and deeds, the organizer must help bring people to action and help take away people’s fear of the state and its tactics. Organizers must challenge authority without being reckless with the people around them. They must engage people to understand that if you don’t challenge the state and only retreat from confrontation with the state you are not organizing for power. If you only create a practice of being a maroon you are leaving the levers of power in place to attack you whenever it seeks to. Resistance creates courage and it creates the opportunity for “victories” as oppose to just being given crumbs to go away.
6. An organizer must not give in to liberal-left dogma. Liberal dogma has taken over from radical organizing. It has purposefully limited our vision and mission of what we should be attempting to accomplish. It has turned us inward as opposed to fighting for material gains, leaving us satisfied with the rhetoric of self appreciation as nothing around us changes for the better. Here are some ultra-liberal talking points to challenge.
· Don’t be Ultra-local – If you are not from this hood, you can’t organize here. Organizers understand that capital is transnational and so must be the strategy to defeat it. Organizers should be able to adapt to different environments and move people to organize from wherever they are, with the right training.
· Don’t believe that there are no leaders – People who tell you there are no leaders are usually vying for leadership themselves, for control over ideology, over people or over money (there is always a leader over the money, that role people don’t abdicate). A better way to think of it is that leaders also follow and followers will also lead. Time circumstance and expertise/experience should contribute to when and who leads
· Politics, not representation should lead (even within formations that have an identity as a pre-requisite for joining)– Just as limitations should not be placed on people based on their identity to join, lead and or organize. identity alone does not make one specially endowed with organizing skills, know how or a command of politics and history. Those must be learned.
· There are no Born Organizers – Organizing is a skill with intuitive aspects to it. But having the gifts to organize does not in and of themselves make you one. Without ideology study, practice and humility, you can just as fast turn into a charlatan, an egomaniac, and a grifter. We have seen plenty of those in the last decade.
Written by Kamau Franklin, member of Community Movement Builders