Saturday, October 10, 2009

Video: Organizing Working-Class Communities

This is an interesting video of a talk in Toronto by Steve Williams, the co-director of an organization called POWER which is based in working-class communities of colour in San Francisco. Some of what he has to say about organizing in working-class communities made me nod my head enthusiastically, some of it I feel kind of unsure about, but all of it speaks to hard challenges and hard choices that all strands of the left must face in order to emerge from our current irrelevance. And all of it comes from someone intimately involved in one instance of a particular kind of mass-based organization that exists in various U.S. cities and that are doing some of the most effective and interesting radical organizing work in North America right now, so I think it deserves some serious attention.

The talk was organized by the Socialist Project and endorsed by No-one Is Illegal - Toronto, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, and the Black Action Defence Committee. This is actually the second part of the event -- it was preceded by a short talk by Sam Gindin, which you can also find here.


the red toque said...

yep. the story of working through divisions between black and latino/a communities was interesting; the point that few activists are engaged with people where capitalism wreaks most havoc also valuable. he lost me with cadres and the excitement of people getting into lenin.

Scott said...

Hey RT!

Yeah, those are some of the areas where I also felt unsure. However, I think it's important to kind of dig beneath the particular leninist veneer that the language of "cadre" and the mention of 1917 puts on his underlying point -- that people are often hungry for history and analysis they can use as tools in their own everyday and collective struggles. Sometimes the desire of much of the left for a vaguely defined but shallow "inclusivity" ends up amounting to a kind of patronizing unwillingness to be up front about ideas we find useful or to prioritize supporting people in meeting that thirst for knowledge, ideas, and tools. There have to be ways to respond to that that are not as hierarchical, pre-determined, or instrumentalist as they can be in more leninist ways of doing things.