We Weren’t Ready

As a long-time black radical, I am one of those strange individuals that was actually excited when the election results came in. I’d long been waiting for The Bad Thing to happen that would shake the radical Left up and energize the masses to get up, get involved, and get organized.

As the months rolled on, I feverishly woke from my own semi-slumber and headed out to meeting after meeting in search of groups that were invigorated by this moment. But I found only wild disorganization and enthusiasm-stifling confusion.

After joining and quitting several groups in frustrating succession, I came to the sad realization that

We simply weren’t ready…

It is not one person’s or organization’s fault. A friend of mine used to say, “You have to manage abundance just as much (if not more) than you have to manage scarcity,” and the truth of that statement has been borne out to me greatly in the last few months. From finding adequate meeting space to setting up communication systems to being ready to pounce when there is an opportune moment to strike, I have found a great many groups on the Left severely lacking. While there have definitely been some phenomenal showings, like the airport occupations in response to the travel ban, by and large it seems that a sustained and cohesive uprising is still looking for its get up and go.

Realizing that the “perfect organization” wasn’t just going to present itself to me, I decided to 1) quit or move to the extreme sidelines of the groups that I’d joined, 2) engage in my further political education, and 3) work with others to start my own group.

The Collective for Liberation Ecology and Technology (CoLET) is a new formation focused on addressing some of the infrastructure issues that plague progressive and radical organizations, while also helping to expand the discussion/effort towards technology in the service of environment and true liberation. While we are just getting started, some areas that we already believe radical groups might begin to explore in this political moment are:

  • Mission – What does your group do? Is that apparent/transparent? Is your group focused on the right things for this political moment?
  • Communications – Is your group using Google, Slack, Facebook, and Twitter for revolutionary efforts? Are there alternatives? What are the barriers to moving off non-liberatory platforms?
  • Scale – How/ should you grow your group? Not every organization needs to be a big tent, but those that are need to grow the tent with care. There is no sense inviting people to join a group that is not prepared to truly welcome and onboard them.
  • Space – Where can you meet? Where should you meet?
  • Safety – What policies are in place to ensure safety of the members? How do you deal with internal harassment?
  • Security – Does your group have a security culture around information-sharing? How is that enforced/encouraged?
  • Governance  – How does the group make decisions? Is that transparent?
  • Political Education – What materials and systems are in place to make sure new people understand what is going on and can continue to learn about the group’s political platform?
  • Partnerships – Is your group working in solidarity with any other groups? Why or why not?
  • Fundraising – How does your group raise money? What physical or digital platforms do you use to receive that money and are those platforms aligned with your group’s vision/mission? How is the money used? Is that transparent?

… But We Were Ahead of the Curve

While many of us in radical Left groups are struggling with what to do with the tremendous and often overwhelming influx of people and interest that came our way once the The Bad Thing happened, we have not struggled in understanding this political moment.  We know that what looks like a single, huge earthquake to many people with a newfound radical lens on the world is actually just an aftershock of the many centuries of racist and sexist imperialist/ colonial then capitalist/neoliberal campaigns.

Where this repression and genocide was at dogwhistle levels to so many for so long, we radicals have heard it as a steady drone for decades, if not centuries. In this moment, we need only work on how to be effective at helping others tune into a deeper understanding of what is happening and harness that newfound awareness and energy to spark creativity and struggle on towards liberation.

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