May 3, 2019

10 Tips for Leftist Organizing

Peter Miller

I have been involved in organizing for the Young Communist League - Lique de la Jeunesse Communiste (YCL-LJC) and also worked on campaigns for free education since I was 19 years old. I recently spent two years finishing my Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Windsor and organizing a YCL club as well as helping with the student movement there. I haven't followed all the advice below as well as I would have liked over the years, but if I was talking to myself ten years ago, this is what I would say. Here's my advice to you on how to be a lead organizer as a leftist on your campus.

1. Pick up the phone and call your comrades:

I should have done this more. Facebook messages get lost, and email messages can be too. Picking up the phone and calling your comrade to find out when they are available for the next meeting, what they think of the poster you emailed out, or when they are available to help distribute flyers at a table for your club. Don't call too often, but calling when important events and organizing efforts are going down is a good way to be more efficient and reduce the headaches of waiting for responses over email or messenger.

2. Run Your Meetings with a regular Agenda:

A proper agenda along with task follow up (see below), keeps your club on track. For the YCL in Windsor, we make sure we always talk about fundraising, recruitment, YCL promotion, Rebel Youth, educational events, YCL Movie Nights, and our work in mass movements at every meeting. It's also good to set up your next meeting at the end of your agenda, so you don't have to go through the headache of finding what meeting time works before your the subsequent meeting.

3. Meet regularly with task follow up:

It's good to get in a routine and meet regularly. Twice a month can work well. And the key to making minutes is writing a task list and making sure your comrades know what they have signed up to do, (minutes?! No one has time for that. It’s all about tasks lists). At the next meeting, you can follow up on the tasks to see what was done, and what still needs to be done.

4. Find time to chat about politics at meetings:

At Guelph, where I was before Windsor, we started talking about new political student movement updates at the start of every campaign meeting, and we began doing this at YCL meetings too. The first point on our agenda is always to go around and hear what comrades have been thinking about or learning about regarding politics at the particular moment. This is a chance for everyone to learn collectively from one another, and it reminds people why they are there: To struggle against capitalism and imperialism, for peace and socialism. At our meetings in Windsor, we often spoke about critical issues during this agenda point, including Venezuela's struggle against US and Canadian imperialist intervention, or the growth of the ultra-right and how to combat them. When we chat about politics and remind ourselves why we are activists, we are more likely to keep at it instead of giving up in a heap of despair.

5. Meet potential recruits in an informal, fun setting first:

Don't overwhelm folks interested in your group with a logistical organizing meeting. A lot of people have never been to a political meeting before and have no idea how it operates. They sometimes get overwhelmed by the amount of work your club does and give up before giving it a chance. Set up regular informal meetings between members of your club and folks interested in getting involved for them to ask you questions about politics and for you to explain your organization's work. Again, chatting about politics, in this case in an informal setting, makes people more likely recognize the importance of struggling for peace and social transformation.

6. Don't call activists in your group "volunteers":

The "volunteer" phenomenon is a term used in the student movement but thankfully not in the YCL-LJC. We don't get involved in leftist organizing to pad our resume but to struggle for a better world. We aren't volunteering for a charity, but trying to build social movements as well as the Young Communist movement in Canada. Calling us volunteers instead of comrades or activists is an insult.

7. Be Patient and Open at your meetings:

I remember hearing from an experienced student activist in Quebec that initially he thought the red square idea was stupid, but soon it took off as the symbol of the glorious 2012 Quebec Student Strike. We might hear ridiculous thoughts at our meetings, but don't shut them down right away, and even take time to try out some of the ideas, which are not too absurd. Also, make sure you are clear about what you are discussing and check in with comrades to see they understand where you are at on the agenda and what you are chatting about in the meeting. It's shitty to be at a meeting where everyone is up in arms about a new, wretched campus administration policy and not have a clue what everyone is talking about.

8. Show your comrades what it takes to build a club or a successful campaign. Don't coddle your comrades, but get them involved:

If you are struggling for free education and doing a lot of outreach, you need to input a lot of emails and phone numbers of folks who want to get involved. This takes more time than one thinks. So get people out for an email inputting party where you all learn the importance of follow up as well as the discipline it takes to do so. Set up creative tasks and get everyone involved - it can be a great bonding experience for your group to make signs and banners together. As well, don't coddle people but bring them on to do one on one outreach in school cafeterias, promote your club at a table for clubs' days, and even conduct joint class talks promoting the fight for free education in classes. Once they do it, they will realize outreach isn't so bad, and it can even be fun when it is done in a team. It just takes a little bit of a push to do that first class talk.

9. Support one another:

It's easy to burn out from our activism but supporting one another is an excellent antidote to this. Everyone needs time to vent about their liberal friend who thinks the left is just as bad as the right or their peers in engineering who are into Jordan Peterson. Meet up with one another now and then in a cheap bar or cafe or someone's place, and invite all your members, to relax and appreciate one another's friendship. Chat about politics, play a board game or two, or better yet, watch some playoff basketball.

10. Build an Action Plan, Reflect and Debrief:

If we are going to grow, we need to build an action plan so we can measure our success, and we need to reflect and debrief so we can build on our success, and set a new course in our organizing plan if this is required. Reflect and debrief on how events went, how your year of organizing went, and figure out what you did right and what you can do better.

I'm about to head out to China for a teaching job and miss the clusterfuck of what will be the upcoming Federal Election. But I know the best antidote to what will be a shitstorm of racist and xenophobic platform points, ridiculous accusations that we are "propagandists for Russia," and old talking points from centrists about the need to "get along," will be to get organizing.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular stories