By Joel Segal
Love the mentioned 10 point program listed below [see Comments in “Building a Full Employment Movement: Options for Action (2/14/14 Draft)“] It’s like a modern version of the Black Panther’s 10 point program in the 1960’s.
I believe now we need a 21st century/ 2014 ten point plan!
After working in Congress for 13 years, city government for 10 years, and state government for 3 years, I believe that the only realistic way to move forward in building a new America with shared prosperity, health care, jobs, and housing for all, guaranteed economic security and a sustainable environment, is through a united multiracial movement and coalition like the African National Congress, Solidarity in Poland, SNCC, SDS, and the SCLC in the 1960’s.
I think once we as humanists, people of good will, compassion, progressives, and people of faith “take a time out” to asses the state of the progressive movement; we can begin a much more serious and robust discussion about how we can take our country back from far right extremists and corporate elites.
We have not really had this discussion in many years….but its not too late! Living in N.C. for the past year and seeing the power of the Moral Monday movement has given me hope that we can change America if we move forward together! But, not if we stay stuck inside our cubicles, on the Internet all day, and being more focused on foundation grant proposals rather than actual movement building. Both can be done!
Lets be honest: The progressive movement works in independent silos, which is why it will never be able to be effective politically: because the far right is totally connected and coordinated on every level—we are not. 🙂
What keeps progressives from obtaining real political power in the U.S. is not the lack of funding for a progressive organization. I think it’s ego, the foundation industrial complex, no real sense of urgency to defend the human family from harmful corporate and government policies, or not understanding democratic decision making and coalition building due to lack of training or experience.
Or, simply not knowing how to democratically manage or administer a broader big tent coalition. For years I have heard grassroots activists tell me that they oppose working in larger coalitions because they will loose their freedom.
I worked in Congress for years establishing Congressional task forces and managing hundreds of staffers and Members working on health care, jobs, etc. With agreed upon rules and protocol, it was always smoothe functioning. This was because we had structure, and it was a Congress– nobody ever complained about losing their freedom. Activists in Egypt did not worry to much about loosing their freedom as they built their coalitions, because they were too busy building unity in the streets to win the freedom for millions of their oppressed people.
With the very real threat of climate change on the horizon, big tent coalition building will be the only way for us to survive as a human race. Otherwise, the oil, gas, and coal companies and their stockholders will just take down civilization. They probably already have a secret plan authored by Newt Gingrich to establish moon colonies, once we have reached the tipping point with climate change.
I contend that if we continue to organize in our own individual silos, this will be the reason why we could see the end of civilization as we know it–because we simply did not take the time to listen to each other about how to effectively organize transformational and deep systemic change movements by creating more dynamic and politically powerful coalitions. Good news: It’s never too late to reverse that. 🙂
All too often we have leaders and activists who are way too uptight, and often not so nice to be around. They lack the love, empathy, love speech, heart ears, compassion, and spiritual nature that have defined successful social justice movements throughout. history. We also need more music, artists, comedy, poetry, breaking bread, and spiritual bonding in our future coalitions.
I like The Rev Sadler and Rev Shipman N.C. Way: They could organize any movement anytime if activists studied and learned how they organize and build grassroots communities filled with so much love, kindness, food, music, humility, and soul.
And, currently, the best social justice leaders I have met across the nation usually just don’t have the requisite funding to organize like minded cool and spiritually grounded people who can motivate others and build authentic grassroots movements one community at a time. If the movement is grounded in love, good will, and sincerity, it can be hugely successful! But not if talented activists have to live off of Roman noodles and canned franks and beans every day.
If we established some kind of Progressive National Congress, modeled after the Indian National Congress, or the African National Congress, Solidarity in Poland,or the People Power movements the the Philippines, Egypt, or Burma, then we would could have a realistic chance of changing America. Perhaps it’s time to really study how these successful social movements obtained unity and political power— and learn from them. Americans do not always have the correct answers right?
Imagine if one big tent umbrella organization was formed, like the African National Congress, and 30 million people gave one dollar per month for its operation. We could establish a $30 million dollar a year multi issue and multi racial progressive organization not dependent on the generosity of the one percent foundation world; or the affluent liberal individual donor world. And, we could work cooperatively together on multiple social justice causes as one extended family supporting each other as the beloved community Dr. King envisioned when he was alive.
Think how much cooperation there would be if progressives were funded by smaller contributions from fellow progressives! Then we could run our own progressive democrats on the local, state, and federal level who could work to implement an agreed upon 10 point plan. We could have our own magazine, newspaper, tv station, town halls, symposiums, and scheduled media appearances on national tv. This is all possible if we wanted a unified progressive movement, and were truly serious about it.
The far right wing organized a similar united front in the 1980’s with the election of Ronald Reagan. They established Fox News, and think tanks like the Heritage Foundation. They went even further by creating the Tea Party movement; and developed an electoral strategy that took over the House of Representatives and 25 state Governorships. If they can do it, why can’t we progressives do it?
Hey if unity worked for the right wing, then perhaps we can replicate their strategy, but to accomplish good things like single payer health care, jobs and economic security for all, or transitioning to clean sources of energy.
Perhaps it’s time for progressives to create our own version of the Tea Party, funded by the people–one united progressive Congress with chapters and working committees in 435 Congressional Districts, and operating in 50 states.
What other political structure could possibly match the power of a multi billion corporate industrial, medical, and military complex, Members of Congress and Governors who represent their interests, and with the consent of the affluent comfortable class, racists, anti-gay extremists, and social Darwinian radical extremists who have taken over the people’s house— the House of Representatives and 25 state General Assemblies?
And, with very little serious discussion or push back by progressives about how to take our country back from this very well organized and well funded right wing and dangerous energized minority that many respected political experts are saying may take over the Senate if we do not fix Obamacare?
American progressives, sadly, often take on the attitudes and beliefs of the oppressor—-and that’s “radical individualism” and ego. So there would have to be carefully selected experienced and egoless leaders to begin this discussion of assessing the state of the progressive movement; and how to create a Coalitions of Coalitions that can take back our country from the Tea Party extremists.
Rep Conyers, who has worked for 45 years as a progressive Member of Congress, use to always ask me why progressives fail to unify and think strategically. He knew this was the only way to successfully fight back against the far right wing, because he worked in successful social change movements with Nelson Mandela and Dr King. He understood very well what he called the “4th branch of government” —the power of the people!!
The election of President Barak Obama showed us all that anything is possible in American politics with unity, deep grassroots organizing, motivation, mature leadership, and heartfelt cooperation.
All the best,
Former Senior Legislative Assistant and Speech Writer
Rep John Conyers, 2000-2013