Though we outlined the local stage in great detail in Part 1, let us start with a quick review. First, you have identified, joined, created or coalesced a group of progressives and socialists organized around a particular population (we have assumed these are tenants, the houseless, or incarcerated people). Second, this group has been guided towards “solidarity” organizing, doing mutual aid, advocacy and protests as necessary but has focused on not just incorporating the affected population into your work but in organizing this population for themselves, so they are elevated from tokens and representatives that may be co-opted into leaders of their own communal struggle, with their own “union” organizations. Finally, the solidarity group and the union(s) it has organized have a strong, cooperative relationship based on mutual respect, where the union can begin to lead itself but the more seasoned organizers of the solidarity group still provide guidance and push back against reactionary tendencies that may flare up.
The next stages of the struggle must necessarily be spoken of more broadly. These stages will be shaped by the successes and setbacks of previous stages, the specific organizational decisions made and forms chosen, and on the subjective class and political consciousness of the masses, the unions, the solidarity organizations, and the elements of leadership of each of these.
This is not to say that we can make no plans; indeed, we must make thorough plans if we are to succeed. We merely point out that plans for these stages must be flexible and dynamic, responsive to specific developing conditions and not static or dogmatic, and must be constantly reanalyzed as we approach them to bring them in line with the conditions as they change – and as we change them.
We must also avoid the trap of assuming that these stages are discrete, that each group will pass cleanly from one stage to the next. At all times, local stage activity will be relevant as tenant solidarity groups organize more and more buildings into unions, prison solidarity groups expand their contacts inside or make contacts in other nearby prisons and jails, and houseless solidarity groups continue working to meet the needs of their union and non-union houseless populations and bring the latter into the former.
It may be that some groups see an opportunity to begin connecting stage organizing relatively quickly, perhaps even prematurely by our prescription, while others take longer to enter into the connecting stage. Adapt the plan to your organizational needs and conditions while maintaining the core focus on unionization and solidarity over advocacy.Continue reading “Nontraditional Unionism (part 2)”