Why are places like Oakland, Seattle and Los Angeles major hubs for revolutionary movements? Why do we not have these hubs in the South?
As organizers in Texas it can seem a daunting and seemingly impossible task to create a culture of resistance in these areas. These are common problems that are associated with organizing in the South.
- Vast areas of land between city centers.
- Reactionary politics of the general population / low education levels.
The first point affects organizing in several ways. Distances between cities limits the amount of face-to-face time between cadre we already have and makes it difficult to find a suitable location that is convenient to everyone. This usually results in one or two members having to drive very far to attend meetings and can add to the frustration when meetings do not produce results. Also, when there’s a protest, low turnout can demoralize our base and cause new membership to fall away thinking that it’s hopeless/ not worth their time.
We have chosen to combat this a number of ways. Most of our planned events are planned and advertised at least 2 weeks in advance, which gives our cadre time to ask off from work and arrange rides. Also we switch the venue every other time to allow the attendance of those who travel is inconvenient. Reaching out to new membership is vital! A simple text thanking them for attending or call asking them out to chat over coffee is an effective way to let them know that their attendance is welcome and that they are wanted. After a new member has attended a few events, ask them to teach a class, lead a reading or choose a movie to screen. We cannot develop good leadership if the same cadre fulfill those roles over and over.
Low education and reactionary politics are some of the greatest stumbling blocks we encounter as southern organizers. Texas ranks 43rd in education among other states. This means that we can’t simply print off Das Capital or any other revolutionary texts and expect new comers to understand the concepts that are taught. We try to speak as plainly as possible and explain these concepts whenever asked. NEVER EVER EVER answer a question from a comrade with read such-and-such. It makes you seem like a pompus dick and that they are wasting your time. If you cannot break down complex ideas simply to explain to your comrade, than you do not understand them well yourself and should brush up on it. If you don’t know, let them know that you don’t know. Reactionary politics are also very difficult to navigate. Racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and transphobia are pervasive in the South and elsewhere. What should we do when inevitably they manifest in our membership. In our organizations we do this:
- Stop them mid-sentence.
- Explain why what they are saying is reactionary without apologizing to them.
- Ask questions after to ensure they understand why that behavior is reactionary.
- Move on with the discussion.
We’re not going to get anywhere if we make our cadre feel stupid. We’re all on the same team and we must remember that our ignorance is a weapon used by the capitalists to keep us supporting institutions that don’t hold our interests. The only way to build a culture of resistance in the South is by taking care of each other.