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“ORGANIZE” as buzzword

I’m always interested in how some activists throw around the words “organize” and “organizer”. The words are often used as mostly undefined buzzwords. As Matt Bruenig Tweeted today, “If I didn’t [know] better, I’d think some people are in it for social status, and attaching the label ‘organizer’ boosts status.”

I think that’s part of it. But sometimes there’s just an honest lack of clarity. Many mistake event-planning for organizing. To organize, in the political sense, is not to organize an event or even a protest. It is not just a creative project. Political organizing may very well involve all of the above activities, but its essence is not itself these activities — all of which can be carried out without necessarily building or being accountable to a substantial social base.

Organizing, in the sense we mean here, is to organize a social bloc into a political force. It is to name, frame and narrate the formation or progression of a group; to articulate its goals, grievances and targets; to move it into strategic action; to align other social forces in a common direction; and to leverage this force for political ends.

Organizing is not a call out for individual self-selecting volunteers. Organizing entails starting with what already is (as opposed to trying to build everything from scratch) and engaging with people as they are.

Organizing is a mess, not a refuge.

1 Comment

  1. sleibson says

    I’ve thought that it would be interesting to study the shifting and divergent uses of “organizing” in a political sense. I’ve also heard it used to characterize relational approaches that deeply involve folks directly affected as opposed to advocacy or mobilization.

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