Categories
Personal

What do you say to a man about to lose everything?

(A letter I wrote on September 16, 2013)

And I mean everything.

I said goodbye to a dying man tonight, Anna.

His body – bony. Raspy. Mottled. Hunched.

His voice – surprisingly strong.

His eyes – oh his eyes.

His eyes were so scared, Anna. They were the eyes of a young man about to be forced to storm in a trench in Verdun. The eyes of a sick man in a hospital bed, with no machinery around to even check his pulse.

They looked up. Up because we loomed over his tiny frame on his low hospital bed. Up because that’s where your eyes go when you plead.

Anna this guy was dying and his wife wasn’t even there. Dad’s at her apartment/dorm right now trying to get her to stay with him until he dies.

And he’s going to die tonight. The doctors have stopped doing anything proactive, really.

We stood in this awkward half-circle around his bed and each said hello (but really goodbye). I went first. Then Shelly asked if she could hug him and cried. Then Talie gave him a hug. So I got on the hug train.

I was trying to smile. I think if I were going to die I’d like cheerful energy around me, instead of sadness everywhere. Right?

We went outside. Washed thoroughly. Those hospital sinks are nice. Warm-water luxuries. Then I said out loud “I wish I said I love you too”.

Dad said I could go back but he didn’t seem to enthusiastic about it. “Don’t worry. He knows” Shelly chimes in “it doesn’t matter. He won’t even remember.”

“I want to live a life without regrets”. I said. So I walked back in and told him. Shelly and Talie came in with me too. It was nice. Much less stilted. Then Dad had some alone time with him.

Dad finally fessed up to Joe that he is dying. Did he have any final wishes? No. Okay. Crying.

We left the hospital then and in my heard I just heard the phrase over and over again. That lyrics from the Mountain Goats’ Woke up New: “The world in its cold way started coming alive.”

What a cruel joke.

Categories
Misc

It’s a good thing that SUNY Geneseo just raised so much money because Andrew Cuomo is out to kill it.

I used to run PeoplePoweredRochester.com. Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here.

WXXI news is reporting that SUNY Geneseo just raised a record-breaking $23 million over the past 5 years.

And it’s a good thing, too, because the state has been slashing the SUNY system to the bone. I was at the SUNY Geneseo commencement this May. I was shocked to the extent that the University President spoke frankly about their finances. He talked about how the state is funding less and less of the school budget, and how it imperiled their mission of a quality education for all.

Public schools are essential to the health of our democracy. Education is a human right, and state and community colleges are the only way we can provide it at an affordable rate. Student loan and grant programs, if they only go to private colleges, will just drive up costs. We need public schools not only because they’re good themselves, but also to keep private schools honest (through market competition!)

In the midst of all this budget cutting, department closing, and tuition-increasing, Governor Andrew “1%” Cuomo is making a big deal of a grand poobah commission to cut taxes.

So after this happened:

Cutting SUNY
Governor 1% wants to cut taxes

The Governor is insisting that everything is peachy. So great that we can start cutting taxes. And thus the “emergency” “we have no choice” cuts to education become permanent.

Here’s what New York’s tax structure looks like (without the temporary top brackets about to expire):

Via tax-rates.org

Via tax-rates.org

The top bracket is $20,000! Maybe if we used the same brackets say, say, any other state, we’d be able to cut taxes for the majority of citizens and still be able to offer a quality education to all.

Categories
Misc

The Workers Justice Center is the coolest local group you’ve never heard of.

I used to run PeoplePoweredRochester.com. Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here.

They have a ton of staff. They explicitly work for social justice and human rights. They go into the homes of farmworkers and tell them their rights, sometimes facing shotgun-wielding agriculturalist landlords in the process.

Yes. There’s a group in Rochester that goes into the fields and faces down farmer-aristocrats to give the workers legal protection. And they’re even government-funded.

The Workers Justice Center comes out of a merger of two different groups just a little while ago. Now, they have an office in Rochester, an office in Kingston, and a small satellite office in Albany. But don’t be fooled – they have contacts and power around the state.

The Rochester group (you might know them by their old name – Farmworker Legal Service of NY) operates out of a nondescript office on the eastern part of Culver road. Their staff includes lawyers, directors, and support. Their staff also includes many people who actually drive down to talk personally to farmworkers day after day. It’s inspiring.

So what does the Worker Justice Center (WJC) actually do? They have six areas of expertise:

  1. Anti-Human Trafficking
  2. Know Your Rights for workers
  3. Domestic Violence legal aid.
  4. Workplace Safety Training
  5. Advocacy and Lobbying
  6. Community Engagement with partners about the above 5 items.

Let’s drill down into a few of these, shall we?

Human Trafficking

WJC has set up 4 different roundtables (they call them task forces) in the state. Each taskforce has local nonprofits, legal aid groups, law enforcement, business groups, goverment agencies, etc. They all work together on human trafficking issues. And this is the real deal – just a few days ago, for example, staffer Renan Salgado just got back from a trip to Mexico on assignment

Know Your Rights and legal aid

WJC shows up to the homes of farmworkers and educates them about the legal protections they do have. Often, workers live on the property of their employer. Those employers don’t like that WJC visits (sometimes to the points of calling police, waving shotguns, making threats, etc), but the law is on their side! Tenants anywhere have a right to invite guests over. Did you know that?

It goes beyond just education, however. WJC has a network of contacts and informants. When an employer abuses their employees – physical harassment, wage theft, abuse, whatever – they meet with the workers and take the case as far as it needs to go – often in court.

Advocacy and Lobbying

Farmworkers don’t have the same rights as the rest of us do. They don’t have the right to collective bargaining, overtime pay, a day of rest, or disability insurance. At least, not in New York. The WJC is part of a statewide coalition to lobby to fix it. Every year, the bill, “Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act” just barely loses in the Senate. This year, WJC has joined the statewide committee of the coalition to pass it.

The big picture:

They aren’t a union, and aren’t trying to organize workers into one. Instead, they’re building a network of people who can call for help instantly when their rights are being violated. WJC then builds a case with the people under attack, and they jointly decide whether to accept a settlement, fight in court, etc.

“With farmworkers and agriculturalists, it’s David versus Goliath. We always side with David”

The WJC prides itself on always siding with the “Davids” that are farmworkers, and has been known to throw hasty rallies outside police stations to keep people from deportation. At the same time, they still have good relationships with law enforcement through their joint work on human trafficking.

It’s an impressive balancing act that they’re pulling off. So far it’s been working out well. They’re soon going to help setup a new anti-trafficking taskforce for the Southern Tier, and their contacts with workers are so extensive that they’re hiring extra staff to deal with the influx of cases.

Categories
Misc

Event Reportback: Metro Justice’s No War in Syria Rally

I used to run PeoplePoweredRochester.com. Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here.

Remember the Metro Justice-led No War in Syria event?

I’ve been to my share of rallies outside the federal building. This was one of the liveliest and most fun. Maybe the visible presence of TV crews helped.

Yes, TV crews! In the legacy media, the event was covered by WHECWRDC, the Democrat and Chronicle, and WXXI. Gary McLendon at the D&C has a particularly nice article.

In the grassroots media, AlBrundage wrote a report with our friends at Rochester Indymedia:

Forty or so local activists gathered in front of the US Federal Building on September 13 2013 to send a strong message to Senators and Representatives inside.  “We do not want war with Syria.”  The rally was organized on short notice by Metro Justice and co-sponsors were Rochester Against War and Band of Rebels.

Passing cars honked their horns in support of the protesters.  One driver even stopped and offered cash to a demonstrator to support the cause.  How often does something like that happen at an antiwar rally?

The signs was abundant and clear, and my friends at the rally agreed that they were pleased to see new faces there. Good work, everyone.

Categories
Misc

Richards probably would’ve lost

I used to run PeoplePoweredRochester.com. Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here.

So says Aaron Wicks, the only person I know of who came close to calling the primary race correctly.

The bottom line is this: an active, full-throated Richards candidacy remains a longshot and would require Richards to do things with his campaign he wasn’t able to do when he could and did have the open support of prominent Democrats. Without their public support, Richards could rely only on behind-the-scenes efforts, and those could prove to be explosive for all involved. Richards will not actively contest this race on the Working Families and Independence lines. He will not renounce those lines either. He will suspend his campaign, and being the public servant that he is, will continue serving as mayor. Until the end of his term. Should duty call once again, should something unusual come up that explodes that status quo and makes Warren an untenable candidate, Richards will be available to serve again. But I wouldn’t wait for that something unusual.

Notice that he wrote this two days before Richards’ formal announcement.

Tucked into that piece, however, is this little nugget: “one could argue that Warren, as the more liberal candidate, would lose liberal votes to White, the Green Party candidate.”

Is Lovely Warren the more liberal candidate? Actual liberals and organizers I talk to disagree. Her education agenda is scary. And her mentor and patron, David Gantt, is no friend to the left. (For this paragraph , let’s treat liberal and left as synonymous)

I wonder what’s been going on in Alex White’s head through all this.

Categories
Misc

6 things worth learning at Greentopia.

I used to run PeoplePoweredRochester.com. Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here.

I took a stroll through Greentopia the other day. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Despite its name, Delta Laboratories, inc, is a local nonprofit that has 2 main functions: organizing thousands of people to clean up streams on Earth Day, and providing environmental education to kids in nearby schools.
  2. The new high-stakes testing model adopted in New York this year is already having adverse effects. Teachers are afraid to let their students skip class to go on environmental field trips, because low attendance lowers their stats.
  3. The local Sierra Club has 3000 dues-paying members. That’s a ton of people! I had no idea.
  4. R-Cause.net, a local anti-fracking email newsletter and website, is maintained through 2 women who use a vanilla gmail account to send mail to 2000 people every week. I tipped them off to the existence of free tools like Action Network. Hopefully that’ll make a big difference.
  5. I always knew that Small World Food was a delicious worker-run bakery, but I didn’t know it was so small – there are just 3-4 full time worker/owners and a smattering of interns.
  6. ReConnect Rochester (a pro-public transit volunteer group) is run by the same guy, Mike, who writes RochesterSubway.com. Rochester Subway is well-worth your time, by the way.

On a personal note, I also ran into one of my favorite cousins, made some art with little kids, tasted local apples from a CSA booth, drank a flight of beer at the Genesee Brewery, and we were all treated to a a “guerrilla musical performance” by a bunch of volunteers at Greentopia. Festivals are fun!

Categories
Misc

EVENT ALERT: Metro Justice flexes old and new muscles to oppose war in Syria

I used to run PeoplePoweredRochester.com. Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here. (Here’s the wayback link to the original)

When: 5pm – 6:30 Thursday
Where: 100 State St
What: Petition dropoff to both Senators opposing war in Syria. Then a strategy meeting about what to do next afterwards.
(Link)

Metro Justice has spent the last couple of months or so setting up their swanky new website and organizing tool. Tomorrow, they’ll have their first test to try it out. First, they’ll drop off a petition they’ve gathered opposing attacking Syria. Then, they’ll convene a strategy meeting to figure out their next steps.

This move is unusual for Metro Justice.

The group, Rochester’s premier broad-left organization, has a history of anti-war activism in Rochester. While it was founded as an allied group to FIGHT, it’s more recently known for its anti-war work. Membership shot up during the run-up to the Iraq War, and for many years Iraq was *the* primary focus for Metro Justice. Over the past few years, however, they’ve taken a new tack.

The new Metro Justice is both more member-driven and domestically focused. In fact, the two are entwined: Back in 2011, they engaged in an intensive internal discussion about values and strategy which ultimately culminated in their 7-point platform: Fight For Economic Justice.

Since then, Metro Justice has mainly taken on campaigns around housing justice, dignified retirement, and health care for all. More recently, they’ve switched to a wholly new integrated database/website/online organizing system. They used that system to blast their membership yesterday, asking them to sign a petition against war in Syria, and then signers were asked to commit to attending a rally scheduled for tomorrow. These are Metro Justice’s new muscles, and they’re flexing them for the first time.

They aren’t just relying on fancy online tools, however. As I type this, members across the city are calling other members and asking them to commit to the rally. These old-school organizing techniques aren’t going to be dropped any time soon.

While the rally and petition dropoff are the headline event, some are more interested in the meeting that will follow. Colin O’Malley, their organizing director, told me in a statement:

The most empowering part of this is that we’re not simply rallying and then dispersing, but committing to building a more thoughtful and dynamic anti-war movement in Rochester. The strategy meeting after the rally is a first important step.

We’ll see how it goes!

Categories
Misc

The new train station will be labor-friendly. Right?

I used to run PeoplePoweredRochester.com. Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here. (Here’s the wayback link to the original)

The D&C reported in today’s paper that the new Intermodal Train Station will use a project-labor agreement. That means, among other things, unionized construction. Or does it?

The long-awaited “intermodal” station is set to begin this winter, Cuomo’s office said, and the labor agreement will detail eligibility for unions and non-union shops to work on the job.

I’ve sent out a few emails to learn more about the non-union clauses in the PLA. Louise Slaughter, who is generally solid on labor, praised the agreement, so it must not be that bad. Or is it?

As far as I know, project labor agreements are one of the few bright spots for the Rochester-area labor movement. The county (under Republican Maggie Brooks) has historically used PLA’s over the last decade, whereas the city (under a succession of Democrats) only started them under the Richards administration.

I have no idea how common it is for state-funded construction to be under a PLA. Do you?

Yeah, when it comes to labor, Rochester politics don’t quite map the same way that they do nationally.

The fact that he’s actually using project-labor agreements, along with the reality that Lovely Warren wants to dismantle public education, is why I support Richards in the election today.

Categories
Misc

Election Reax & liveblog: WOW. Lovely Warren won the Democratic Primary for mayor.

I used to run PeoplePoweredRochester.com. Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here. Here’s the wayback link

Wow. Wow. Warren won the primary, 58% to 42% with all precincts reporting.

What does this mean?

I wonder if the big Warren boost came in part from the growing unrest over awful police practices? The large local rallies and news stories these days regard the police – Benny WarrEmily GoodBrenda Hardaway, even the Trayvon Martin case led to a march against racist policing.

More thoughts:

This is a defeat both for the institutional left and institutional Democratic party. The Working Families Party and labor unions partnered with the Joe Morrelle / establishment wing of the Dems to take on Lovely Warren.

This is a win for David Gantt.

This is a win for the corporate education privatization lobby.

This is a showcase of the power of an organized African-American community.

Does Richards still run on the Working Families Party and Independence line?

Update 1:

Council Races and School Board: Seems like the incumbents all won.

City News has its take up. It’s a good one.

Brian Sharp (D&C reporter) on twitter says: “Richards spox says tonight likely not the night for Richards decision on staying in the race for Nov #voteroc

Update 2:

Did I hear someone on WXXI say that Joe Morelle should resign? I can’t see that happening. Not that I saw Warren winning this race either.

Just heard Richard’s concession speech. Nothing about whether he would run again or not – but I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t.

Will there be pressure on Alex White to bow out of the race now, so that Richards has a better shot at winning?

There was an upset in the Henrietta Republican supervisor primary. The winner was the one *not* endorsed by the Conservative or Independence lines. Good?

Update 3:

WXXI has the Lovely Warren victory speech:

Update 4:

The D&C has their quick reaction article up. It doesn’t seem to say anything we don’t already know.

Commenter Alicia O has a nuanced take: (slightly edited for clarity)

I’m feeling torn about this. I want to see changes and new leadership and it is exciting to see people come together to take a stance against the status quo.

There is a lot to say about it all, but I’m most concerned with education. I’m VERY opposed to many aspects of Warren’s stated position/plan to “improve” city schools. She says in the plan that she supports recruit corporate charters and wants to attract Teach for America to the area. Rochester has plenty of highly qualified teachers in the area. The failure of city schools to prepare students does not have to do with finding teachers, rather, it’s about systemic inequality and disenfranchisement. She is extremely misguided if she thinks more Charters and TFA are the solutions.

However, she also has mentioned great ideas like partnering with Historically Black Colleges and expanding a school’s community. I hope that more informed people can steer her in the right direction and make her realize that supporting privatization is actually at odds with her vision.

Then again…politicians say stuff to get elected, so maybe she was just trying to appeal to everyone in the document. (Vouchers and charters are what supposedly lures more affluent families into sticking around in the city…but what about the promise of public ed.?) Lots to think about.

People can read her education document here. [pdf]

Meanwhile commenter Zora has a more straightforward take:

Alex White should step out of the race for the general election so he doesn’t take votes away from Richards….

Update 5:

Seth Voorhees of YNN (but in a personal capacity) tweets: ”Richards says he’ll take a few days to consider next move, after losing Dem primary to Lovely Warren.”

Meaghan M. McDermott at the D&C has a nice roundup of the suburban races.

I think it’s time to pack it in. What an upset! Definitely a shakeup in the perceived and real power for different factions within the Democratic party of the city. I’m sure we’ll know more in the following few days. Night night everyone.

Categories
Left

3 Proposals for Effective Anarchist Organizing

This post was written by friend of blog Mara Chinelli:

After touring the country for several weeks, Rochester Red & Black’s Colin O’Malley returned to Rochester to deliver his talk on what building a revolutionary anarchist organization could mean for social movements in the United States.

(If you’re interested in the audio and full notes, check this out).

If you missed him in any of the 17 cities he swung through, here are some points that I think are worth considering.

“Consensus wasn’t handed down in stone tablets from the gods of anarchy”
While spending time with the Red Libertaria, the Argentinian anarchist organization that led workplace takeovers in the early 2000s, Colin pitched a question that would seem reasonable to most American lefties: how do you come to a consensus with so many members and reconcile differences in perspective and objectives?

Categories
Misc

Election Day: Organizational Endorsements and Personal Speculation

I used to run PeoplePoweredRochester.com. Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here. (Here’s the wayback link to this post)

Today’s primary election day. What races are you watching closely?

I’ve collated a roundup of endorsements from generally left-of-center groups around town. You’ll see it below. If you find others, please send them my way.

Warning: thinly-sourced speculation ahead!

Looking at these endorsements, the two candidates that noticeably escape a consensus are Marlowe Washington and Liz Hallmark.

I don’t know why lefties are split on Washington. With Hallmark, however, I do have a theory.

Rumor has it that Liz Hallmark started her campaign late. So late that she wasn’t able to even apply for an endorsement from the Working Families Party in time. That probably holds true for other endorsement-making bodies as well.

While the Working Families Party has a broad slate of endorsements, it seems that their main push is for the mayor’s race. I’ve run into a few friends who tell me about a joint Democrat/Working Families Party paid canvass for Richards, and I haven’t heard anything about jobs canvassing for the other candidates endorsed on the WFP line.

Word on the street, too, is that Warren, while being happy to win the primary outright, is setting herself up to run again, and stronger, in 2017. Others think she might run on a new ballot line against Richards in the general. I’m skeptical of the latter claim – I doubt she’ll do so notably well in the primary that the addition of Alex White in the race would siphon enough votes from Richards to get her the crown.

I guess we’ll see soon enough!

End thinly-sourced speculation.

Here are the local endorsements:

Working Families Party:

Tom Richards, Mayor
Matt Haag, Rochester City Council
Jackie Ortiz, Rochester City Council
Marlowe Washington, Rochester City Council
Jose Cruz, School Board
Candice Lucas, School Board
Van White, School Board

Rochester Labor Council:

Tom Richards, Mayor
Marlowe Washington, Rochester City Council
Jackie Ortiz, Rochester City Council
Loretta Scott, Rochester City Council
Dana Miller, Rochester City Council
Matt Haag, Rochester City Council
Jose Cruz, School Board
Candice Lucas, School Board

City Paper:

Tom Richards, Mayor
Matt Haag, Rochester City Council
Jackie Ortiz, Rochester City Council
Dana Miller, Rochester City Council
Loretta Scott, Rochester City Council
Carolee Conklin, Rochester City Council
Jose Cruz, School Board
Candice Lucas, School Board
Van White, School Board

Coalition for Justice in Education:

Liz Hallmark, School Board

Diane Ravitch:

Liz Hallmark, School Board

Categories
Misc

Is TED progressive? No. Should you go? Definitely.

I used to run PeoplePoweredRochester.com. Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here. (Here’s the link to the original)

The TED brand of conference is resolutely “apolitical”, to its great demerit. Robber barons rub shoulders with scientists and marvel at technocratic attempts to fix the problems that they themselves caused. Tales of people-powered organizing are only entertained once in a while, and only when the countries affected are safely exotic and far away.

There’s one in Rochester soon. You should go.

Seriously! Here’s an application form.

Here’s why:

The short version:  There will be smart, passionate, and powerful people there. You want to meet them, befriend them, and build alliances. After all, TEDxRochester is quite a different beast from the flagship event.

The longer version:

The speakers at TEDx aren’t the point – instead, you want to mingle with the attendees. Luckily for you, the organizers have spent hours and hours cultivating a guest list of interesting, driven, or powerful people. Young professionals, entrepreneurs, hip young pastors, etc. You want to meet those people. You want to meet them because they’re the competent, passionate people that make amazing members or allies.

As organizers and activists, we fail when we live solely in our own bubble. That’s a fairly anodyne, even boring statement. Let’s take it a step further, though: “As organizers, we need to be engaged in – and even help build – local civic society.”

There are a few reasons why organizers should have a stake in building even apolitical civic society:

  1. As citizens organize any kind of group, including neighborhood or charity groups, they become comfortable with participating, funding, and leading. You’ll benefit from those skills and assumptions becoming the norm.
  2. Already existing local groups make your life as an organizer so much easier – you can partner with them on projects, or engage with them to try to convince them of your values.
  3. A strong civic society broadens the pool of engaged citizens. Engaged citizens are exactly the sort of people you want to recruit.

In short, a civic society is a society in which you can participate. It’s a framework to work in and generates organizations worth partnering with.

So apply!
http://www.tedxrochester.org/register/

More info:

There are, confusingly, two separate TED-branded conferences in Rochester every year – TEDxRochester and TEDxFlourCity. TEDxRochester is the one I’m discussing at the moment – it’s the one with the application up.

TED is the flagship conference in California. It was so successful that local volunteers organize TED-branded events across the country.

Categories
Left

Raw Notes from Rochester Red and Black’s Building a Revolutionary Anarchism

(A friend asked me to post this because his site is down)

Yesterday, Rochester Red and Black hosted a lecture titled “Building a Revolutionary Anarchism”. It was quite interesting!

Read on for a quick description of the event and my copious notes.

The lecturer, Rochester local Colin O’Malley, had spent the last seven weeks traveling the country giving this talk, and now ended his tour repeating it to a friendly local audience.

I counted at least 28 people there (not including the speaker). Nine expressed interest in joining Red and Black after the talk – a real coup for the organization!

A written version of this argument is here.Colin’s updates from the road are here. There’ll be a real report on the talk soon. For now, here’s the audio of the presentation and my detailed notes: (For your convenience, I frequently put the approximate time in the notes, so you can fast forward the audio clip to the correct time)

  • “The standard talk on this doesn’t really include a talk on Anarchism.” But this one will
  • What is an Anarchist Communist?
    • Communists aren’t Stalin. The basic idea is: “All wealth belongs to all people”
    • “Unlike social democrats who slice off a bit of wealth of the 1% and give it to people so they don’t freak out”
    • On the political side, we’re anti-State. Not anti-government. “Government is how we collectively decide things.” Current government isn’t great, but we can build something different.
    • The state is the coercive apparatus: military, police, prisons. The “legitimacy of violence” of the government. That’s what we’re against.
    • (3:50)
  • We should be revolutionary, not reformist: (4:30)
    • “I don’t think we evolve into that”.
    • Changing our habits, our votes, etc won’t work.
    • (5:20) To me, revolution is that movement when workers are so organized that they say we don’t need bosses anymore .. ..popular assemblies say we don’t need representatives anymore
    • Revolution isn’t necessarily gun-running.
    • Revolution supposes building organizes. It’s not just spontaneous.
  • Outline of how the talk will go:
    • Narrative of how I [Colin] have changed
    • How Argentinian’s organize [so differently!]
    • Big picture
  • Colin’s story (8:15):
    • Buffalo. (Grew up some in Buffalo some in Salt Lake City)
    • Saw the movie “The Take”
    • “My mother lives in a neighborhood where Bethlehem steel was”
    • Bethlehem Steel, GM, and Ford, was most of the economy of Buffalo.
    • (10:15)
    • ‘Cycle of hopelessness’ in Buffalo
    • People in Buffalo to this day … are always looking for a capitalist silver bullet.
      • “Someone will come reopen Bethlehem”
      • People are waiting for a great capitalist hope.
    • I have a friend who grew up in Cambridge. He gave me a movie called “The Take”
      • It’s about the formation of worker cooperatives in Argentina.
      • He gives me the movie and says this is exciting. Cooperatives are cool!
      • When I see that, I had a different reaction:
        • “What’s wrong with my family, my community that forming a cooperative didn’t even occur to us?”
        • “Why isn’t that happening here?”
      • 12:50
      • I’m thinking “oh they must run their meeting differently. They must have slightly different messaging”. I didn’t get that there were doing something fundamentally different.
    • With 0 plan whatsoever, I get an OK from school to do study abroad in Argentina.
      • 14:50
    • Background to why the economy of Argentina exploded:
      • In the late 90′s, Argentina is the model of perfect capitalism.
      • There’s a group called Picateros that show up in rural Argentina. In the context that people die of starvation.
        • Local people would picket/blockade the main road to oil extraction, and held it hostage until they get some wealth.
      • In 2001, it turns out that Argentina isn’t a huge success but instead has a bunch of credit.
      • Default on their loans.
      • Government gets an IMF loan unless they depeg form the dollar
      • BUT FIRST they tell the Rich (who take their money out of the country)
      • Then freeze the banks for everyone else.
      • Mass Uprising.
      • Motto is “they all must go”.
    • Argentina organizing
      • Neighborhood Assemblies show up.
      • Charity, food, anti-eviction
      • As workplaces were shut down, already-unionized workers took over shuttered factories.
      • (23:00)
    • Back to Colin’s story: get to Hotel
      • He comes in as an anarchist with an anti-organizing mindset.
      • In the hotel, there’s a bunch of organizers shooting the shit.
      • One of the things I immediately noticed was there wasn’t nearly the discomfort we have about ideology in this country. People used ideological terms freely without whispering around like they do in the US.
      • The remaining workers cooperatives hadn’t sold themselves or hired a new boss. They were the radical ones.
      • Asked how they took over the hotel and made it a cooperative: “We broke in one night, we took a few rooms, made them livable, and slowly took over”
      • 28:30
      • Woman says: “I was part of a revolutionary anarchist society. We had an understanding that there was a crisis in capitalism, we saw a way to organize around it, so I worked in a hotel for 7 years waiting for that moment”
      • That blew my mind.
        • My idea was that socialists hijack rallies, anarchists throw bricks, or instead have meetings debating whether they should have meetings and make decisions.
    • 32:00
    • The Thought of Malatesta
      • I was like “omg just organize don’t wank around talking theory. What’s the point?”
      • 150 people there at this discussion group to talk about Malatesa.
        • Nice library
        • Few punks.
        • Grandparents and their grandchildren
        • 40, 50, year olds
        • slick fashionistas
      • Everyone is a member of red libertarian and also a member of another organizing group
      • They weren’t talking about “in a post-revolutionary society, should we have currency or not?”
      • Anarchist isn’t just a vision for a future world, it’s a roadmap for struggle.
      • 35:30
      • When Malatesta was organizing in Buenos Aires, what challenges did they face and how did they deal with it?
        • CASE STUDY
      • And what does that mean for where we’re at now?
    • Specifics of how they run things? 37:15
      • “Of all the people you have, how do you come to consensus about what to read/ where to organize?”
        • “We don’t use consensus, and we’re not sure why your American anarchist organizations do”
        • None of the organizations in Argentina use consensus
        • Consensus comes from Quakers in anarchist circles in the 70′s .
        • 39:00
      • “How do you deal with the debate of ‘do we have meetings’ ‘do w make decisions’ or not?” “How do you deal with conflicts between the communist who wants to take over factories vs the primitivist who wants to burn them down?”
        • We don’t. It’s our 12-page paper on aims and principles and if you disagree don’t join.
        • 40:30
      • “Okay, I walked into your library. You handed me a book. You give away papers. Where do you get all your money?”
        • Dues!
        • Shantytown debate and vote on doubling dues.
        • 44:15
        • Our money works better pooled.
        • People in shantytowns had a vote on what to do with their collective budget.
      • The difference between anarchists here and there is that they make no bones about making an organization.
      • Whereas in the US we call ad-hoc things organizations.
      • 48:00
  • (Break for questions and comments)
    • Q: Are there low-hanging fruit efforts in Rochester that could really use organization?
      • A: I’ll get to that.
      • The notion of business entrepreneurialism is not “what’s the next great project?” instead of “what should I join?”
    • Q: What’s the relation between workers coops and political organizations?
      • That’s my next thing I talk about!
      • You’re totally right! I skipped from workers coops to revolutionary political entities
      • Pretty all the major (true) cooperatives I ran into said “a cooperative isn’t the point. It’s a tool to class struggle”
      • 53:00
    • Q: But I like cooperatives!
      • remember they’re a means to an end and sometimes don’t work
    • Q: What was the educational background of the people in Argentina?
      • All over the map.
      • The way we organize is that we ask people to be very intellectual.
      • I never ran into people saying that the poor/working class couldn’t understand intellectual ideology.
    • Q: Can you talk more about people trusting others with their dues money?
      • Lets talk about this at the end.
    • 60:00
  • Especifismo is the core of the organizing model
    • “The theory of the role of revolutionary organization”
    • Breakdown into 3 pieces:
    1. Anarchists should have their own explicitly anarchist organization built along the unity of theory and practice.
    2. That anarchist organization shouldn’t rest on that theory and practice, but instead should work to develop a relevant theory and practice to that movement today.
      • “I’m a member of an anarchist organization, we had theories and views, we applied them to the economy and figured out where it would be going.”
    3. Social Insertion
      • Revolutionaries in South America have worked on the view that there are 2 different sorts of movements necessary for revolution. And they’re quite different.
        • One: Revolutionary Anarchist organization. Unity of theory and practice. Document of uniting principles. By it’s nature, it’s a small organization because it expects a lot from people. A lot of people won’t join it.
        • Two: Social Movement. Massive broad-based organization that derives it’s power from numbers and the unity along an action. It’s only relevant if it attempts to incorporate everyone in a particular grouping. The social movement must incorporate a lot of ideas that aren’t ours.
        • 68:00
      • The revolutionary anarchist organization should embed itself in social movements. The members of the organization should be actively engaged in social movements.
        • This sounds Leninist! But it’s not!
        • Leninists do this:
          • Try to take over leadership
          • Showing up, try to take over leadership, don’t, then poach all the revolutionaries from it
          • Disrupt the social movement that isn’t a recruiting competitor to us
        • Anarchists do this:
          • We should engage as members of social movements genuinely
            • Capturing leadership doesn’t work because your members won’t follow you.
          • “Engage in productive ways as people who have something to offer”
          • Engage in the battle of ideas. Try to change people’s minds.
            • Don’t leave if you don’t get your way.
            • Maybe you were right, and they’ll see it and trust you more.
            • Maybe you were wrong, and you’ll learn.
    • Why social movements need anarchists
      • Anarchists in the US have over the last 50 years been on the sidelines spitballing
      • There’s a long-term tendency of social movements to succumb to the hegemonic ideas of the society.
        • Typically, mass movements have been started by good organizers with revolutionary ideas, community buy-in, etc.
        • What they do, typically, is (because Saul Alinsky said “don’t talk about ideology”) only message.
        • New members come in because of the message. The new organizing core is ideologically adrift. They hit roadblocks and then do “common sense”.
        • Drift down to centrist (non-revolutionary) strategies.
        • Social movement organizations have a basis in class struggle. Need revolutionaries to remind them.
    • Why anarchists need social movements
      • Anarchists in this country suck at organizing.
        • 83:60
        • (Colin “I’ve seen this all over the country”)
        • “If I meet some mcdonalds workers who need help with a fight, there are very few anarchists who I could point them to”
        • The organizations who anarchists sling shit at, can turn out people much better than we can.
        • Lovely Warren is offering nothing, but has connections and can turn so many more people than we can.
        • We need theories and models that are actually connected to reality.
        • We’re “interesting philosophy club” 86:00
      • What happens at the moment right after say the George Zimmerman trial, when you need a response but don’t have the strength to do anything?
        • Random anarchist: “Let’s stop having babies!”
        • How the hell would that be a meaningful response to Trayvon Martin’s mother?
    • 89:30
    • Especifismo history:
      • An idea out of Uruguay in the 80′s.
      • Why? Anarchists had a ton of power then. (General strikes, armed insurrection, anarchist labor unions). Then they were crushed anyways.
      • Those not fighting the dictatorship thought a lot for 20 years about how to win next time.
      • 92:30
      • Not silly infoshop anarchists, but revolutionary anarchists that almost won, writing about how not to lose to fascism next time.
  • 95:00 end

That was Colin’s full talk. What follows are the notes from the discussion after the talk.

  • Q/A:
    • Q: How do we get over people being afraid of dues?
      • There’s a big problem with individualism here
      • People need to stop sucking and thinking “I need to agree 100% to join”
      • 0:00 starts here
      • There are a lot of scams out there!
    • Churches
      • Let’s not blame Americans for our failures.
      • People want to bear witness. That leads to not thinking about effectiveness.
    • “Fighting against” vs “Let’s have fun!” Give ‘em hope.
      • Jake Allen: Leninist “heighten the contradictions” is dumb. Let’s talk about victory.
      • Colin: Most people engage with us as ‘lightbulb lefties’. Intellectual. Aha moments. How many people join social justice because it materially makes their lives better? That joy thing is a bit individual. We need to engage people in actual material fights that improve their day-to-day life.
        • When we find real material wins for people.
      • Shenzie: When we win, that’s really fun.
      • Sahar: Ceasar Chavez was a legendary organizer that had 19 years without a victory.
      • Zora: “Culture of resistance”. Meetings suck. It’s hard work to organize. Community picnics etc can be strategic and effective.
        • If we’re all assholes, no one will want to go to a meeting with us because we treat them like shit.
      • Patton Mannix: But living in a bubble sucks! Talk to your neighbors.
      • Colin (respond to Zora): One thing that worked in Buenos Aires. They took over a chunk of the street (with a permit), do a play, then have a stew on. Dance.
        •  Then in the end tear down a stage back and show a meeting.
      • Alykhan: Respond to Zora: Gandhi institute is cool. Show up to community organizations that actually have members.
    • Q: Melissa: How do you deal with people who beg off due to time or money constraints?
      • Crickets
    • Q: I took time off from the left because they suck. Are they good now?
      • Colin: Yeah, they still kind of suck.
      • Colin: Implicit: But yeah Red and Black doesn’t suck.
    • Talking about Red and Black. Jake talking about SDS -> Red and Black.
    • Q: Mara : How can we engage with things like Enough is Enough to help them be better? (not sure I understand)
      • Krauss: I’ve been going to EiE for 3 weeks now. It’s A. mostly PoC, B. trying to organize.
        • It’s discouraging to not see class-struggle politics in EiE.
        • AKA I’m on board with Social Insertion.
    • Q: Root: There needs to be safer spaces.
      • Kat: Go to the R&B consent thing
      • Zora: Single-issue organizations aren’t built in a sustainable way. R&B is good because people can say stuff like “can you actually pull this off?” “are we treating ourselves well?” “how do we make decisions?”
    • Shenzie: Things like EiE or TBTL are good, but imagine a city where each neighborhood associations did all of that.
      • Colin: Let’s self-reflect on Rochester. The anti-organizational impulse in rochester has lead people to only do issue-based groupings, decide that they’ll stay ad-hoc, and not let it structuralize.
        • Some of that kind of organizing using affected people as interesting adornments in our struggle but never allow them to feel ownership.
        • It’s not only that we don’t win, we burn people away from wanting to engage in our work.
        • Our work is completely important and it’s dangerous to treat it as a hobby.
  • I’m interested in Red and Black, how do I get involved?
    • Facebook
    • Talk to a member
    • Read the platform
    • Hang out with us
    • Education committee meets at 1pm next Sunday at Starry Nites
    • Normal meetings are at 7pm on the first Thursday of every month.
Categories
Misc

About People-Powered Rochester

I used to run PeoplePoweredRochester.com. Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here. Below is the text of the about page.

The situation:
The progressive/populist/people-powered movement in Rochester is stronger than many know, but weaker than it can be.

All too often, liberal reformists don’t talk to radical organizers. Electoral-focused progressives are unaware of grassroots associations. Enthusiastic newcomers aren’t matched with experienced activists looking for new blood. All the while, the great bulk of the city is woefully unaware of our presence. The silos of tactics, nominal ideology, and issue area divide and diminish us.

There’s a flourishing ecosystem of different grassroots groups in our neighborhoods. Dedicated and smart people are experimenting with new tactics and organizing models every day. However, these groups often aren’t aware of each other, can’t learn from each other, and don’t work together. There’s a real lack of movement communication and movement consciousness. We’ll need much more of both if we want to succeed.

Our mission in short:
We want the best parts of the political left in Rochester to grow. We want them to strengthen. And we want them to win.

Our initial strategy:
We’re going to build a community online that consists of the broad left in Monroe County. Organizers and onlookers, center-left and radical left, electoral and direct action. As the community grows in numbers and coherence, so will our power. Specifically, as the community grows, we’ll draw more people to get involved in “meatspace”, connect disparate parts of the movement together, and push existing organizations towards excellence and accountability.

Don’t forget applauding great projects as they happen. That’s also really important.

Our proposed tactics:

  • Breaking news
  • Introducing readers to the exciting and positive world of people-powered organizations in Rochester
  • Asking critical questions from a position of respect and kindness
  • Provoking intra-movement discussion and debate
  • Explaining or exploring the context of the different news of the day
  • Sharing best practices

In short, we will be curious, we will be opinionated, and we will be passionate. Enjoy!

Categories
Misc

Conception

I used to run PeoplePoweredRochester.com. Since that website is defunct, I’m importing some older posts over here. Below is the first post on the site

Hi!

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had an idea kicking around my head that just won’t go away.

We need a lefty media/community/discussionspace … thing in Rochester.

It would need to appeal to:

  • Onlookers, and then start getting them involved in local organizing
  • Organizers, and push them towards excellence (and being good to each other)
  • Legacy media and thought leaders, and showcase the strength (and newsworthiness!) of our different efforts

A bloggy/newsy site seems to be the best way to go about it.

The sort of site you pull up in the morning as you drink your coffee. The sort of site you mention to your political friends because you never seem to stop reading it. The site where dedicated organizers hang out, shoot the shit, and interact with enthusiastic newcomers.

But why?

Because we as a broad left won’t win in Rochester until we become stronger. We can become stronger by:

  • Building relationships between leaders of strikingly different organizations.
  • Making sure to celebrate our smaller victories along the way.
  • Recruiting more members and donors.
  • Reaching outside our normal circles.
  • Building a culture of collaboration and respectful questioning.

What is this broad left? It’s composed of groups of different tactics, ideology, and issue focus. They often don’t work well together. That division is bad. It leads to weakness and blind spots. Part of the mission of this site should be to restore the broader flag of “broad left” or “people-powered movement”.

This site can help with all that. Or possibly it will fulfill a different function entirely. The best plan is just to do quality work, and see where it leads.

It’s time.