Transformative Organizing | Buy the pamphlet!
Eric Mann's 60-page pamphlet "The 7 Components of Transformative Organizing Theory" identifies seven core principles of social movement building and is a companion to Mann's forthcoming book from Beacon Press, "Playbook for Progressives: The 21 Qualities."
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Excerpted from the text:
Transformative organizing is a powerful framework to ground and guide our work.
- Transformative organizing transforms the system itself and is in revolutionary opposition to the power structures of colonialism, patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism in its current form, which is imperialism.
- Transformative organizing transforms the consciousness of people who participate in the process of building organizations, struggles, and movements.
- Transformative organizing transforms the organizers themselves as they stand up to the Right, reach out to the people, and take on the system.
What are the 7 Components?:
Transformative organizing seeks radical social change through the strategy of building an international united front to challenge the U.S. Empire.
Transformative organizing is based on an analysis that the United States is a structurally racist, imperialist power. Driven by the need to relentlessly expand that is characteristic of advanced capitalism, the U.S. operates domestically and internationally to control the economies and governments of every nation in the world-especially the nations and peoples of the Third World in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. That is why it calls itself “the superpower.” Transformative organizing, therefore, is situated in a worldwide movement with a strategy to challenge the U.S. Empire.
The transformative organizer is a conscious agent of change, a revolutionary educator with a plan to intervene in and make history.
One critical goal of the ruling classes—those who own and control the means of production, consumption, education, and armed force–is to achieve political loyalty and voluntary obedience from the classes and peoples they dominate. Their political system puts on an ideological full court press that is carried out through government, the corporations and employers, the family, schools, media, trade unions, and churches. When it succeeds, many exploited and oppressed peoples come to accept the established relationships of class, race, and gender domination. They believe these power relations are natural, part of some moral master plan, or just inevitable. When they do seek social change, they tacitly agree to limit their demands to reforms within the ground rules of the dominant system. Transformative organizers challenge the moral legitimacy and ideological hegemony of the capitalist system and its historical master narrative of empire building.
Transformative organizing requires the leadership of society’s most exploited, oppressed, and strategically placed classes and races.
Transformative organizing generates social movements that involve members from all classes of society–from the most privileged to the most oppressed. Yet a winning strategy is based on analyzing the forces most capable of leading that movement. Given the specific history of the United States as a settler state built on genocide, slavery, stolen lands and stolen peoples, certain radical organized forces have led historic struggles against U.S. atrocities and have proven to be the most successful leaders of the resistance.
Transformative organizing is produced by transformative organizations.
From the first days of Spanish, French, British, and later U.S. colonization of the Americas and the first moments of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, there have been spontaneous and organized forms of resistance. Throughout U.S. history, many transformative organizations have fought for radical objectives against the U.S. Empire. What are some of the key characteristics from which we can evaluate and build organizations today?
Transformative organizing becomes truly transformative in the course of battle.
The true assessment of the effectiveness of an organization and its organizers can only be measured in practice–in the actual struggle for power. An organization’s success is ultimately judged by its capacity to take on powerful corporate and government forces, put forth radical demands, and wage long-term battles. Transformative organizers and organizations build their reputation in high visibility campaigns that fight for and often win important structural changes and improvements in the lives of real people.
Transformative organizing transforms the organizers.
A fundamental premise of transformative organizing is that social being creates social consciousness; that is, the consciousness of organizers is shaped by their location and their experiences in the social system. At first a garment worker, a bus rider, a farm worker may decide to “just get a little involved” in a social movement. But as they change from observer to activist to organizer, their consciousness changes. As they fight the company that has not paid their wages, defend neighbors who are being deported, organize co-workers in the sweatshops to demand better pay for their piece work, ask for longer breaks from their employer as they pick avocados in the brutal heat, fight off sexual harassment in the workplace and police harassment in the school yard, they experience changes, often monumental changes, in their consciousness.
Transformative organizing requires a transformative political program.
Transformative organizing is best understood by its coherent program of concrete demands that force the system to make radical structural changes. Protestors, organizers, revolutionaries are often asked, “What is it that you people want?” When people consider joining a movement for radical change, their first question is, “What are we fighting for?” Throughout history, transformative demands have motivated the strongest social movements with the greatest mass participation, militancy, and duration. What are some current demands that can shape a political program?