Change requires organizing. Power gives way only when it is challenged by a movement for change, and movements grow out of organizing. Organizing is qualitatively different from simple “activism”. Organizing means sustained long-term conscious effort to bring people together to work for common goals.
Below is a selection of articles, books, and other resources related to organizing compiled by Ulli Diemer for Connexions. For more resources, check the Connexions Library Subject Index, especially under topics such as organizing, community organizing, labour organizing, workplace organizing, alternative media, boycotts, mass action, media relations, propaganda, protest, resistance, revolutionary politics, solidarity, strikes, tactics, and manuals and handbooks.
Organizing Overviews and Theory
Being an Organizer and Being an Activist is Not the Same Thing.
By Carolina Mascareno Orellana. Community organizers have to know that successful social movements require strategy and long-term work and commitment, not just action. An organizer is someone who knows that you have to win the hearts and minds of the public in order to make real changes. And you have to look for, and convince, the people who still don’t agree with you or are apathetic about the issue. 2013.Common Sense for Hard Times.
By Jeremy Brecher and Tim Costello. Presents a vision of society as it is and as it could be. The means to transform our society, the authors say, are at hand. We have to join together to use them. 1976.Fighting for Hope
By Joan Newman Kuyek. Detailed information and advice on how to organize a group for social change. Kuyek discusses how to “think like an organizer”, build and structure groups, do successful fundraising, research all the possibilities, develop effective leadership, and create a culture of hope. 1990.From Dictatorship to Democracy
By Gene Sharp. A short, serious introduction to nonviolent struggle, its applications, and strategic thinking. Based on pragmatic arguments, this piece presents nonviolent struggle as a realistic alternative to war and other violence in acute conflicts. 2010.Naming the Moment: Political Analysis for Action: A Manual for Community Groups.
By Deborah Barndt and Carlos Freire. A manual for community groups working for social change, which addresses questions such as how to be more effective in organizing, how to maintain sight of long-term objectives while working for short-term goals, and how to anticipate changes and be prepared for them. 1989.A New Weave: Popular Education in Canada and Central America
By Rick Arnold, Deborah Barndt, and Bev Burke. Written for educators working for social change in community groups, trade unions, churches, the peace movement, women’s groups, international development organizations, Central America and other solidarity networks. 1987.The Rain on our Parade
By Rebecca Solnit. 2012. Quote: “You don’t have to participate in this system, but you do have to describe it and its complexities and contradictions accurately, and you do have to understand that when you choose not to participate, it better be for reasons more interesting than the cultivation of your own moral superiority, which is so often also the cultivation of recreational bitterness. Bitterness poisons you and it poisons the people you feed it to, and with it you drive away a lot of people who don’t like poison. You don’t have to punish those who do choose to participate. Actually, you don’t have to punish anyone, period.”Reform or Revolution
By Rosa Luxemburg. Luxemburg argues that working for reforms and immediate gains must be integrally linked to a perspective of working toward a social revolution. 1900.Resource Manual for a Living Revolution
By Virginia Coover, Ellen Deacon, Charles Esser, and Christopher Moore. The Resource Manual is a guide to creating a new society community by community. It is a manual for people who are concerned or angered by the deterioration of our society and who, because they have some sense that their efforts can have an effect on change, are looking for tools to transform it. It is a working reference for those who are prepared to act to create a better life for themselves and others. 1985.Rules for Radicals
By Saul Alinsky. A classic guide for organizers. The first half explains what Alinsky sees as the perspectives and qualities of an effective organizer. The second half is dedicated to the organizer in action and includes a study of tactics. 1971.A Troublemaker’s Handbook
By Dan La Botz. An organizing manual for workers dealing both with major issues and everyday problems in the workplace. A wide range of workplace issues is covered, including, but not limited to, organization amongst immigrant workers, against racism, around women’s issues and around health and safety. There are also different chapters dedicated to different types of strikes, and instructions on how to go about organizing them, as well as strategic planning for forming and running unions. Large chunks of each chapter contain “inspiring as well as instructive” stories of workers’ actual experiences, which help to reinforce the book’s underlying premise that “There are common problems and there are collective solutions”. 1991. See also A Troublemaker’s Handbook 2 2005.We Can Change the World: The Real Meaning Of Everyday Life
By David Stratman. The key to changing the world. Stratman says, lies in a different view of ordinary people, a view that sees them as capable of changing the world. Hope in the future and belief in the possibility of fundamental change – belief in the possibility of revolution – are inextricably linked. 2003.What a Way to Run a Railroad: An Analysis of Radical Failure.
By Charles Landry, David Morley, Russell Southwood, and Patrick Wright. On the failure of the left to be serious about organizing. The authors argue that movements for change have to examine their assumptions and become more intelligent about how they organize. 1985. Excerpt hereVisions, Programs, Manifestos
Selected Manifestos, Programs, Strategies, Visions of the Future, and Political Statements from the Connexions Library. Documents include the Levellers’ manifesto of 1649, The Communist Manifesto, Rosa Luxemburg’s Reform or Revolution, the African National Congress’s Freedom Charter, and many more.
Strategies, Tactics and Techniques
The Fire This Time: Burning Bridges
Some activists hold back from condemning tactics that are politically stupid and destructive, like the recent Ottawa arson attack by an anarchist group, because of a commitment to the doctrine of a ‘diversity of tactics’. However, the original idea behind a diversity of tactics, that is, a variety of approaches to organizing for change, has been appropriated by activists devoted to property destruction as a media spectacle, who feel that they should be exempted from criticism by other activists, no matter how much their tactics serve to undermine the building of a broad-based movement against capitalism.Grassroots Cells, Devil’s Architects
A review of The Householders Guide to Community Defence Against Bureaucratic Aggression, a pamphlet which outlines the organizational principles and campaign tactics that communities can use to fight projects or developments being foisted on them by unresponsive government bodies, whether by elected authorities or by civil servants.Guide to taking strike action
Tips and advice on how to effectively organise and carry out strike action at your workplace. The article stresses the importance of involving everyone, and of making decisions democratically.How to Light a Prairie Fire
If there’s one thing many people need to understand, it is this: sustained mass movements rarely happen unless many of the participants believe they might win.Let’s Get to Work
Building a worker-centered campaign transforms not only the union members involved but also the union they belong to. The task is not just to salvage labour’s existing institutions but to transform them and build new ones.Making the most of spontaneous rebellions at work
Advice on how to react when a big issue immediately angers a large number of people at your workplace, in order to try to organise effective action and build collective confidence for further actions.The New Worker Organizing
Many, perhaps most, worker centre-based organizing projects focused on workers in low-wage jobs, are conducted with the active support and, often enough, leadership provided by a variety of community-based organizations, with support from one or more unions.Organising your workplace: getting started
You’re working, or just started work somewhere, where there is no active collective workers' organisation. What can you do to get organised?Organizers Worth Their Salt
“Salting” – the tactic of getting organizers hired at a targeted workplace in order to start a union organizing campaign – offers something the labour movement badly needs: a space for young people to develop skills as workplace organizers.A Strategy for Antiwar Organizing
Anyone concerned with re-building the antiwar movement should make their highest priority developing a realistic strategy to organize those unorganized and inactive millions. The converse is also true. Without an organizing effort that reaches those new people and builds for the long haul, we don’t have a prayer of defeating the most massive war machine in history. We desperately need an unsparing evaluation of past efforts and a sober strategy equal to the enormity of the tasks ahead.Summit Protests Are Obsolete
A lot of folks went to the G20 protests, sincerely wanting to stand up and be counted against savage global capitalism and its consequences. The problem is, almost nobody who didn’t participate, especially those who only heard of the protests through the media, has any idea what the protests were about, or why the protesters were there. Quote: “So what is left from these summit-hopping protests, beyond the tons of garbage and reaction that local movements have to pick up afterwards? Some brief media stories about violence – by police or by protesters, whether against people or merely against property, you can’t ever count on the mass media to distinguish between the two, and you ought to know better in advance that that will be the case – is about all that is left over when the show has packed up and gone. Nobody outside the event’s own protagonists knows what the protest was about, or why it was done.”Talking About Organizing
Commentaries and stories about the experience of union organizing: what works and what doesn’t.What It Takes to Build a Movement
Activism = self-expression; organizing = movement-building. Quote: “Young activists I met were surprised to learn that major events, such as the Columbia rebellion of April 1968, did not happen spontaneously, that they took years of prior education, relationship building, reconsideration on the part of individuals of their role in the institution. i.e., organizing. It seemed to me that they believed that movements happen as a sort of dramatic or spectator sport: after a small group of people express themselves, large numbers of bystanders see the truth in what they’re saying and join in.”The Whistle-Blower as Deep Mole
There’s an intriguing idea based loosely on the union practice of ‘salting’ a workplace. Salting consists of union activists secretly hiring into an anti-union shop in order to promote unionism from within. Salting whistleblowers is a similar idea: getting people hired into a corporation engaged in wrongful behaviour in order to document and expose corporate wrong-doing.Work-to-rule: a guide: Taking industrial action without losing pay by following your work’s rules so strictly that nothing gets done
Instead of striking, workers with demands that the bosses are unwilling to meet can collectively decide to start a “work-to-rule”. Almost every job is covered by a maze of rules, regulations, standing orders, and so on, many of them completely unworkable and generally ignored. Workers often violate orders, resort to their own techniques of doing things, and disregard lines of authority simply to meet the goals of the company. There is often a tacit understanding, even by the managers whose job it is to enforce the rules, that these shortcuts must be taken in order to meet targets on time.
Billboard Liberation Front
Techniques for improving outdoor advertising.Don’t Think of an Elephant
By George Lakoff. Lakoff explains how conservatives think, and how to counter their arguments. He breaks down the ways in which conservatives have framed the issues, and provides examples of how progressives can reframe the debate.Grassroots Media Relations: A Short Introduction
A guide to if, when, and how to seek media coverage for a cause.How to Lobby like a Pro
To reach the government with your message you need to lobby like a pro.Is your Web site media-friendly?
How to make your Web site media-friendly.Writing Letters to the Editor
Writing letters to the editor is an effective and inexpensive way of getting publicity for your point of view, your cause, and your organization.Writing Letters to Politicians
A guide to writing letters to politicians.
Groups and Group Process
Blocking Progress: Consensus Decision Making In The Anti-Nuclear Movement
Howard Ryan describes how consensus decision-making crippled and destroyed the anti-nuclear movement in the United States in the 1980s. According to Ryan, “voting and consensus can both involve forms of coercion, i.e. forcing one party to accept the decision of another. The difference is that with voting the will of the majority holds sway, while under consensus an individual or minority wields the power through exercise of the block or veto. Consensus proponents have ignored how preventing people from doing as they wish can be no less coercive than forcing them to do as they do not wish.”The collective decides...
The authors discuss why collective decision-making doesn’t always work as well in practice as in theory. Quote: “At the heart of the matter is the problem of defining responsibilities in radical projects. The present pattern is one in which undefined responsibility is too lightly undertaken without considering the nature of the job and whether, for example, a volunteer is the right person to do it. And when things start going wrong it becomes even more difficult to reallocate responsiblity. Experience shows that clear patterns of accountability are crucial if a collective is to function effectively.”Happy Activism
How do we make our organizations attractive to large numbers of people? And how do we keep these folks engaged for the years, even decades that it will take to create a sustainable society? Here are some suggestions about how to make our movements strong and feed our spirits as we organize.The informal work group
Stan Weir on some of his life and organizing experiences at different jobs, and on what he describes as the “the only organizational form opposed to formal bureaucracies which cannot be captured by them”, the informal work group. Quote: “A work-place isn’t a collection of individuals so much as a collection of informal groups. Until you recognize that, you’re not really into utilizing the power of people in the workplace.”If I Can’t Dance
David Rovics asks why so much of the left in the US is so attached to being “dreadfully boring?” Why do so many people on the left apparently have no appreciation for the power and importance of culture? And when organizers, progressive media and others on the left do acknowledge culture, why is it usually kept on the sidelines?It Ain’t the Meeting, It’s the Motion
A guide to conducting productive and inclusive meetings in the context of working for social change.On Organization
Discusses the democratic organizational forms appropriate to movements working for societal change. Quote: “The power to change society requires a mass movement, and the development of solidarity among working people on a large scale. To unite people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, to coalesce the various groups into a real movement, to pool resources, mass organizations are needed. Unless working people can organize their solidarity into mass organizations, they will not be able to develop the power to challenge our very powerful adversaries -- the corporations and their government.”One Vote for Democracy
Argues that the ‘consensus’ model of group decision-making rarely works well, and is inherently anti-democratic. The democratic model is better both in principle and in practice. Quote: “Democratic groups are better equipped to deal with process problems. This is because democracy allows a group to proceed with what it wants to do in the face of people who are obstructive, obnoxious or insensitive. Consensus, on the other hand, allows people who are insensitive or stubborn to bring the whole group grinding to a halt.”Overcoming Male Oppression
Group problems to be aware of and challenge. Quote: “People want not only to be accepted in these groups but also to make a contribution and be active participants. In order to work successfully to change things we must also pay attention to our own behaviour. More often than not, men are the ones dominating group activity.”The Problem of the Democratic Opposition Organization
Suggestions for dealing with the classic dilemma of a democratic opposition organization: having a structure in which responsibilities are delegated to those with the time and expertise to carry them out well, while at the same time maintaining democratic control by the membership of those to whom responsibility has been delegated.The Tyranny of Structurelessness
Contrary to what we would like to believe, there is no such thing as a “structureless” group. Any group of people of whatever nature that comes together for any length of time for any purpose will inevitably structure itself in some fashion. The structure can be overt, or it can be hidden. Thus so-called “structurelessness” is actually a way of masking power. Quote: “For everyone to have the opportunity to be involved in a given group and to participate in its activities the structure must be explicit, not implicit. The rules of decision-making must be open and available to everyone, and this can happen only if they are formalized. This is not to say that formalization of a structure of a group will destroy the informal structure. It usually doesn’t. But it does hinder the informal structure from having predominant control.”
“Action Will Be Taken”: Left Anti-intellectualism and Its Discontents
Though embraced by people who imagine themselves to be radical agitators, the thoughtless compulsion to ‘action’ mirrors the pragmatic empiricism of the dominant culture. Because ‘activist-ism’ emphasizes practicality, achievability, and implementation over all else, efforts to understand the deep structures of capitalist society with the goal of developing long-term strategies to change them necessarily get shunted aside.At the Escuelita Zapatista, Students Learn Community Organizing and Civil Resistance as a Way of Life
Some basic principles of the Zapatistas’ organizing process can be culled from the textbooks and the experience, such as discipline and hard work, face-to-face community outreach, long-term planning, reduction of government dependence through collective work projects, avoiding confrontation with the enemy and emphasizing shared experience to convince unsympathetic neighbors..Bain Co-op meets Wages for Housework
The story of the struggle that gave birth to a housing co-operative and destroyed the credibility of the Wages for Housework sect.Call Centre Unions Build International Connections
Workers are realizing they have to organize globally to combat companies who move production from one low-wage location to an even lower-wage location, in an endless effort to reduce workers’ wages and working conditions everywhere.Can Soldiers Resist?
Organizing soldiers to resist war. Quote: “It’s really important to have a safe place for veterans to go and articulate their views off-base. We’ve been able to recruit a large active-duty Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) chapter due to the events at the Different Drummer. We need a full-time organizer at the coffee house who has roots in the military. Specifically, we need a veteran of the war on terror who can effectively do outreach on the base. This will play a really important role in reaching soldiers who have not yet been to the Different Drummer but might be interested.”Citizens for Local Democracy
Some ideas about organizing a community group to fight for democracy and against a reactionary government.Citizens Groups Scores Success in Anti-lead Battle
Citizens fight lead pollution in their neighbourhood.Community organising: a new part of the union
A look at how Unite’s community union membership is working.Fast food rights: organising the unorganised
Campaigns to organize unorganized workers are taking place in different situations and different countries. Sometime big unions are involved, sometimes the campaigns are local. They are a growing movement, and they are having an effect.Harlan County USA
A 1976 documentary film about a miners’ strike in Kentucky. Two other dramatic films about prolonged strikes in mining communities which provide an excellent picture of the problems, struggles, organizing, and solidarity that embody strikes are Salt of the Earth and Matewan. All of these films vividly show that when miners go on strike, it is not only that male miners who are engaged in the struggle, but also the women and children in the community.How Not to Get Eaten When the Dinosaurs Escape from their Cages
The Risks of Moving too Quickly to Occupy TV Stations, and “Suggestions for Radicals” Who Are in for the Long Haul.The March
A critical account of a peace march.Marx and Makhno Meet McDonalds
Over the last several years, a revolving network of militants in Paris, France, have developed a strategy and tactics for winning strikes by marginal, low-paid, outsourced and immigrant workers against international chains, in situations where the strikers are often ignored by unions to which they nominally belong, or are actually obstructed by them.Mkhuseli “Khusta” Jack and the Art of the Boycott
The power of the economic boycott as one tactic in a larger movement played a major role in in the 1980s in bringing down the apartheid laws that were used to repress black South Africans.Organizing in a small town
Experiences organizing in an Ontario community.Organizing with Love
Great organizing campaigns are like great love affairs. You begin to see life through a different lens. You change in unexpected ways. You lose sleep, but you also feel boundless energy. You develop new relationships and new interests. Your skin becomes more open to the world around you. Life feels different, and it’s almost like you’ve been reborn. And, most importantly, you begin to feel things that you previously couldn’t have even imagined are possible.Our Little Victory
Organizing against Litton in Prince Edward Island.The Raging Grannies
“We began by singing to theatre lineups. We sang at the spring Peace Walk, and at an anti-uranium rally. We even disrupted the B.C. Peace Conference and yet received a standing ovation from the assembly. We’ve been ignored in shopping malls, loved by senior citizens’ clubs, and called “pinkos” by others.”Strike Lessons from the Last Twenty-Five Years: Walking Out and Winning
Labour’s strike effectiveness and organizational strength have long been connected. Throughout history, work stoppages have been used for economic and political purposes, to alter the balance of power between labour and capital within single workplaces, entire industries, or nationwide. Strikes have won shorter hours and safer conditions, through legislation or contract negotiation.Traite du Savoir-Vivre for the Occupy Wall Street Generations
“Community organizing? What was that? It was kind of like social networking, except there was no Internet,” notes Renny Cushing, organizer and theorist of the 1979 Take It to Wall Street occupation. “You went to people’s homes, sat around their kitchen tables. You listened to their concerns and ideas. You were able to correct bad information they had gotten from the media.”Two Struggles, One Story
In 1985, Mkhuseli ‘Khusta’ Jack organized a consumer boycott in the city of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, which helped end racial apartheid. In 2000, Oscar Olivera was the spokesperson for a popular resistance that stopped the privatization of water in Cochabamba, Bolivia. In 2013, they met face to face and shared their stories.Why Do Communities Fail?
Discusses the strains that take their toll on intentional communities. To have a chance of succeeding, intentional communities need to start with a shared analysis of what kind of social change is needed, common agreement to a written sense of principles, a common strategy for moving ahead, and a mutual understanding of the conditions of living together.“Workers have to deal with their own reality and that transforms them”
Martin Glaberman reflects on his experiences as an autoworker and a Marxist activist. Quote: “I think self-activity is the response of working people to the nature of their lives and work. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s quiet.... the one thing that I think is an absolute given: workers will resist, because work sucks. Until someone can tell me that work has become real nice under capitalism, whether in the United States or anywhere else, I say that is the fundamental basis of our theory and our practice. Work sucks. And sooner or later workers are going to resist it in whatever way they can.... What Marx said was: We’re not talking about going door-to-door and making workers into ideal socialists. You’ve got to take workers as they are, with all their contradictions, with all their nonsense. But the fact that society forces them to struggle begins to transform the working class.”
Profiles and Reflections of Organizers
An interview with Myles Horton of the Highlander Center. Quote: “I think that it is a terrible mistake to assume that people’s self-interest and group interests are only economic. When it comes down to it, if you don’t have enough to eat to live, then you have a problem. Ultimately there is an economic base. But most problems are not that closely associated with economics. People have real values.... People have a wide range of interests and too often organizers limit the people they are working with to their own value system. I think workers are very often way ahead of organizers in terms of the way they think about life.” See also Horton’s autobiography, The Long Haul and We Make the Road By Walking, a book based on conversations between Myles Horton and Paulo Freire.Grace Lee Boggs: Living by the Clock of the World: Grace Lee Boggs’ Call for Visionary Organizing
Grace Lee Boggs recently argued that activists should spend less time on protest organizing because it “leads you more and more to defensive operations” and “Do visionary organizing” because it “gives you the opportunity to encourage the creative capacity in people and it’s very fulfilling.” See also the recent film “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.”Renny Cushing: Tapping the Power of Community to Pull the Plug on Nuke Plants
“You have to have fun in order for something to be sustainable,” Cushing says, “and in a way, the work is so serious and the underlying issues are so serious that sometimes you need a bit of humour to keep you from being consumed and overwhelmed by the seriousness of the cause in which you’re engaged.” It’s also an effective weapon, he says: “Humour can really help demythologize your opponent.” But the essence of community organizing is creating connections and bringing people together. Cushing is a real expert at this, treating everyone he meets with gentle, earnest consideration. In organizing, this attention is vital. “It really is talking to one person at a time and having other people sharing the conversation, so you begin with a sense of security and how you interact with a person,” he says. “When you do this kind of work,” Cushing adds, “it relies on an enormous amount of trust. If you’re going to change the world, you have to trust other people to do it with you.”Oscar Olivera: The History Behind the Organizer of the Water War
Many know Oscar Olivera as the voice and the organizer of the water war in Cochabamba in 2000. Others remember his experience as a factory worker. Quote: “We didn’t just recuperate our water; we broke an economic model that not only expropriated resources but also our spirit. We broke with authoritarianism. We forced them to understand that we make our own decisions.”Al Giordano: Nothing Is Ever Won Without Organizing
Al Giordano writes about his history of organizing. He says: “All organizing begins with the telling of a story. When we listen carefully to somebody’s story, we learn what motivates him, what she is passionate about. Listening is the first skill and duty of a community organizer. Before we can get somebody to do something, we have to learn what he and she want, which is usually different than what we presumed they wanted.” See also Giordano’s article Traite du Savoir-Vivre for the Occupy Wall Street Generations
Understanding the Opposition
Our movements for change face powerful opposition from those who control power and wealth: the rich, corporations, and their political and ideological apparatus. Here are a few articles about how the other side organizes and combats movements for social change.American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America
By Chris Hedges. Hedges examines the Christian Right’s origins, its driving motivations and its dark ideological underpinnings, with interviews and coverage of events such as pro-life rallies and weeklong classes on conversion techniques. Hedges argues that the movement resembles the young fascist movements in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, movements that often masked the full extent of their drive for totalitarianism and were willing to make concessions until they achieved unrivaled power. 2006.Anti-fascism isn't working
By Keiron Farrow. What all the current anti-fascist approaches have in common is that they miss the real danger. This doesn’t lie in the BNP taking power, in the possibility of concentration camps or any of the other scare stories we’ve been hearing recently. It lies more immediately in the far right colonising the anti-mainstream vote and developing party loyalty, thereby blocking the development of an independent working-class politics capable of defending our conditions and challenging neoliberalism.How to Spot – and Defeat – Disruption on the Internet
Tips for recognizing and fighting online disruption and disinformation.Israel’s New Strategy: “Sabotage” And “Attack” The Global Justice Movement
The Reut Institute’s analysis vindicates the effectiveness of the Boycot Divestment Sanctions strategy. As Israeli elites increasingly fear for the long-term prospects of the Zionist project they are likely to be more ruthless, unscrupulous and desperate than ever.The need to protect the internet from ‘astroturfing’ grows ever more urgent
Online comment threads and forums are increasingly being hijacked by people who aren’t what they seem to be. The anonymity of the web gives companies and governments golden opportunities to run astroturf operations: fake grassroots campaigns, which create the impression that large numbers of people are demanding or opposing particular policies.The New Face of the Radical Right?
Attempting to mix subcultural anarchist mores with a cross-cutting class analysis that hinges on racial separatism and ancestral traditions, such as tribalism, Anarchist Nationalism demonstrates a worrying tendency of reactionaries to co-opt radical language in attempts to gain control over large popular fronts.Rick Berman Exposed in New Audio; Hear His Tactics Against Environmentalists and Workers' Rights
Rick Berman, the king of corporate front groups and propaganda, was caught on tape detailing his attacks on public interest groups in the labor and environmental movements. Berman specializes in setting up pro-corporate front groups to attack grassroots citizen groups. Berman advocates and practises a range of dirty tactics and propaganda techniques.Talking Back to the Right
According to Jeremy Brecher, the right’s enormous success in framing public debate is based not just on isolated issues, but on an overall definition of what the debate is about. The purpose of this guide is to suggest ways that progressive community-based advocacy groups can reframe the right’s definition of the debate – ways that can connect with deeply-held values and understandings. It is designed to help advocates frame their views for the media, develop educational programs and materials for their constituents, and talk to their fellow citizens in meetings and informal discussions.What’s the Matter with Kansas?
Explores the rise of conservative populism in the United States through the lens of Thomas Frank’s native state of Kansas. According to his analysis, the political discourse of recent decades has dramatically shifted from the class animus of traditional leftism to one in which “explosive” cultural issues, such as abortion and gay marriage, are used to redirect anger towards “liberal elites.”When Hate Groups Come to Town: A Handbook of Model Community Responses
By Randall Williams and LynKim Wells. A handbook for dealing with hate groups in communities across North America, dealing with the nature of such groups and how they work and how communities can band together to combat them. Poor responses to hate groups are also discussed and analyzed in the case studies so they can be learned from.
Selected Websites and Online Resources
Below is a small selection of organizations, websites, and online tools concerned with organizing. For more organizations and websites, check the Connexions Directory A-Z and the Subject Index, especially under topics such as organizing, community organizing, labour organizing, solidarity, and alternative media.
Alliance for Global Justice.org
Works to help build a stronger more unified grassroots movement. It supports locally-based grassroots organizing by sharing political analysis, mobilizing for direct action, monitoring the centres of corporate and government power, expanding channels of communication, and sharing skills and infrastructure.Alternative Media List
Effective organizing requires information and analysis of what is going on in the world – something the mainstream media are not designed to provide. This page provides an annotated list of alternative media, media designed to go beyond the mainstream narratives and provide information and analysis about struggles and organizing.Center for Third World Organizing
Dedicated to building a social justice movement led by people of colour.The Connexions Calendar
An event calendar listing events related to social justice, human rights, environment, and activism. A free tool for organizers and activists. Submit events here. (Password required; request one here.)Highlander Research and Education Center
Highlander serves as a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the American South. It works with people fighting for justice, equality and sustainability, supporting their efforts to take collective action to shape their own destiny. Through popular education, participatory research, and cultural work, we help create spaces – at Highlander and in local communities – where people gain knowledge, hope and courage, expanding their ideas of what is possible. The founding principle and guiding philosophy of Highlander is that the answers to the problems facing society lie in the experiences of ordinary people. Those experiences, so often belittled and denigrated in our society, are the keys to grassroots power.Libcom.org
Libertarian communist site devoted to the goals of liberty and community, with some valuable resources on organizing and on the history of radical political movements and organizing, including an Organizing Toolkit.Labor Notes
Labor Notes is a U.S. media and organizing project by and for union activists. Through its magazine, website, books, conferences and workshops, it promotes organizing, aggressive strategies to fight concessions, alliances with workers’ centers, and unions that are run by their members. It encourages connections between workers in different unions, workers centres, communities, industries, and countries to strengthen the movement – from the bottom up.Marxists Internet Archive
Large searchable archive of the writings of Marx and Engels and others in the Marxist tradition. A rich resource on the history of the theory and practice of movements for radical change.Media Names & Numbers Organizing Upgrade
Organizing Upgrade is an attempt to engage left leaders and innovators in the field of community organizing in a strategic dialogue.Solidarity
A socialist, feminist, anti-racist organization featuring articles and analysis on current events and the history of radical movements.Sources
A service to help organizations get more media coverage. A Sources membership allows members to disseminate an unlimited number of news releases; to feature their media profile on the Sources.com website, and to be listed under all the topics and issues that the organization is prepared to speak to the media about. Sources is used primarily by journalists looking for experts and contacts when they are doing a story. Organizations that list themselves in Sources signficantly increase their odds of getting called by reporters. More info here and here; membership form here.Workers’ Action Centre
WAC works with union and community allies to address the roots of the problems we face and the weak laws that allow racism and poverty to affect our lives and our workplaces. WAC is committed to developing leadership amongst the workers directly affected by low wages and poor working conditions, and to actively involve them in our campaigns and advocacy work to improve wages and working conditions for all workers.
Selected Books and Pamphlets
This is a small sampling of books and pamphlets related to organizing. For many more books and resources, check the Connexions Subject Index, especially under topics such as organizing, community organizing, labour organizing, solidarity, manuals and handbooks, and alternative media.An Action A Day: Keeps Global Capitalism Away
By Mike Hudema. Hudema presents a list of actions to change the world, directed towards garnering public attention and instigating discussion. With a little creativity, they can be tailored to suit a wide spectrum of causes. 2004.The Activist Cookbook: A Hands-on Manual for Organizers, Artists and Educators who want to get their message across in powerful, creative ways
By Andrew Boyd. Practical skills for activists and organizers. 1999.The Activists’ Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Participatory Democracy
By Aidan Ricketts. A guide to grassroots activism. Practical tools, methods and strategies needed for a successful campaign. 2012.Another world is possible if...
By Susan George. George suggests that we can create a new and better world if we act together to bring about changes. She stresses the importance of combining numbers, organization and alliances with “knowledge in itself”, inspiring educators, the rejection of illusions and the practice of non-violence in order to achieve change. 2004.Autonomous Media: Activating Resistance & Dissent
By Andrea Langlois & Frederic Dubois. Autonomous media are vehicles of social movements that attempts to subvert the social order by reclaiming the means of communication. 2005.Calling All Radicals: How Grassroots Organizers Can Help Save Our Democracy
By Gabriel Thompson. Thompson argues that we can reclaim our democracy through grassroots organizing. Community organizing is defined as a process of creating leaders from under-represented communities so that they can feel empowered and go on to challenge the status quo, rather than be perpetually dependent on the aid of others. The chapters then delve into the strategies for directly confronting those in power, and building relationships between members of the marginalized community itself. 2007.Combatting Racism in the Workplace: A Course for Workers
By Barb Thomas and Charles Novogrodsky. How workers can equip themselves with arguments and information to resist prejudice. 1983.Counter Power: Making Change Happen
By Tim Gee. Argues that no major movement has ever been successful without “counterpower,” or the power that the “have-nots” can use to remove the power of the “haves.” This book sets out to demystify the power dynamics of social change. 2011.Farm Gate Defence
By Alan Wilford. Farm Gate Defence takes its name from the tactics of farmers who have blocked driveways to stop bailiffs and sheriffs from seizing equipment, live-stock and produce. These farm gate defences have been combined with other actions such as tractorcades, demonstrations at local banks, and sabotaging auctions. 1986.Get Up, Stand Up. Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporte Elite
By Bruce E. Levine. Levine asks why most people remain passive and appear resigned to powerlessness. Why aren’t we all out in the streets? Levine analyzes the causes, and suggests ways of recovering dignity, energy and unity in order to wrest power away from the corporatocracy. 2011. Quote: “In the end, successful activism requires pragmatism, common sense, and wisdom. In concrete terms, this means assessing the consequences of a specific action -- and taking action based not on emotional impulses or ego attachments.”How People Get Power: Organizing Oppressed Communities for Action
By Si Khan. A book about community organizing, written for organizers. The author is a community organizer active in Appalachia and the Deep South, and most of the material in the book is from his personal experiences of working in the rural South in the US. The book is a step-by-step handbook of effective organizational techniques, starting from the moment an organizer analyzes and enters a community to the time s/he leaves it after enabling its people to be in a position where they can handle their new power on their own. 1970.Rank and File: Personal Histories of Working Class Organizers
By Alice Lynd and Staughton Lynd. Oral histories of labour organizers, rank and file militants who organized in their workplaces. 1974.Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild
By Deborah Siegel. Siegel wants readers to know about the multifaceted and contentious history of what is called feminism’s “second wave” so that they can avoid both the trap of rebelling against its supposed stodgy “political correctness” and that of idealizing its supposedly harmonious “sisterhood”. 2007.Ten Thousand Roses: The Making of a Feminist Revolution
By Judy Rebick. An oral history of the women's movement in Canada from the 1960s through the 1990s. 2005.Transforming Ourselves Transforming the World: An Open Conspiracy for Social Change
By Brian K. Murphy. Written for community workers, adult educators and social activists of all kinds, Murphy’s book addresses society’s pessimism about social change when confronting large corporations and governments, and provides means for empowering ourselves and making change happen. 1999.Uncivil Obedience: The Tactics and Tales of a Democratic Agitator.
By A. Alan Borovoy. Borovoy maintains that we can and should push for social change without breaking the law. He claims, “We can be completely obedient to the law and absolutely miserable to the government, at one and the same time.” 1991.We Are Everywhere: The irresistable rise of global anticapitalism
Notes from Nowhere Collective. We Are Everywhere is a book of stories, stories written by activists from the front lines of resistance against capitalism and economic globalization, tales of struggle and rebellion from participants in a movement of movments. 2003.We Make the Road By Walking: Conversations on education and social change.
Myles Horton and Paulo Freire. Horton, the founder of the Highlander Center, and Freire, a Brazilian educator, discuss their experiences and their views on participatory education, on the differences between education and organizing, and on working for change, in this thought-provoking book. 1990. Myles Horton: “Use of expert knowledge is different from having the expert telling people what to do, and I think that’s where I draw the line. I have no problem with using information that experts have, as long as they don’t say this is what you should do. I’ve never yet found any experts that know where the line is. If people who want to be experts tell people what to do because they think it’s their duty to tell them what to do, to me that takes away the power of people to make decisions.... They learn by doing what you’re supposed to do, and there’s no empowerment that comes as a result of that. There is an organizational success, maybe, as a result of that, but there’s no empowerment of people, no learning.”Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History
By Staughton Lynd and Andrej Grubacic. A dialogue about organizing and social change. Lynd: “SDS and SNCC foundered in part because they never adjusted to the increased size of their organizations. SDS at the beginning was a couple of dozen friends. Years later there were literally hundreds of thousands of young people in the anti-war movement who identified with SDS. You can't operate democratically in a movement with thousands of participants as if you were still a roomful of friends.”Working for Peace: A Handbook of Practical Psychology and Other Tools
Edited by Neil Wollman. Advice on getting organized, preventing burnout, networking with other groups, communicating effectively, and changing attitudes. 1985. Quote: “In as many ways as possible, let the general public know that there are plenty of opportunities for them to get involved with your group and with the peace movement in general. Mentions projects that can be worked on and exactly what people should do to get involved. Many people wnat to do something for peace, but they don't know whether their participation is needed, how they can get involved, or what they can do to help.”
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