Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Political Organizing Without Electeds & Nonprofits

This essay was written yesterday before the Bay Area Reporter published Liz Highleyman's story about the meeting last Saturday. It is in response to a post from longtime queer feminist writer Anne-christine D'Adesky that she posted to the Bay Area Queer Anti-Fascist Network's Facebook page.

That page has been unavailable today, so I've not been able to share this with the network yet. Reading how Liz gave a lot of space in her story to the electeds and nonprofits, I feel doubly justified in putting forward this response:

Many thanks for the dense fact filled report back, Anne-christine D'Adesky. In my queer book, it's sign of mature organizing when reports are written up on meetings and actions by those who organized the events. My feedback follows, as someone who wasn't present and has been around a number of decades queerly agitating.

You cite ACT UP as your primary organizing model and I come outta that school, and one reason ACT UP succeeded was because of egalitarian ways. We didn't carve out time for electeds and non profit leaders. They were certainly free to speak like everyone else and participate.

I'm uncomfortable, not the best word but it will do, that two elected were given mike time in the big group meeting, as were four or five folks from nonprofits.

As you may know, I have allergies with politicians and nonprofits, generally speaking. What I'd like to suggest is that at future big group meetings that no time be alloted to electeds or nonprofits. Let them wait like everyone else to speak during public comment time.

There is a need for queer and progressive organizing free of domination by electeds.

Last week, in addition to the Bay Area Queer Anti Fascist Network, which doesn't roll off my lisping tongue so easily btw, the San Francisco Vision political network or whatever the hell it is, held a "What the Hell Just Happened?" town hall at the Women's Building in San Francisco.

Over 350 people showed up to hear a current and former member of the Board of Supes, and aide to another current supe, and a paid political consultant, and to have about 40 minutes of public comment time. So I am told by those who were present, which doesn't include me.

Let's talk ineffective organizing. The organizers didn't, um, organize themselves to take notes and maybe a foto or two so they could issue a report back to those who weren't in attendance.

Seriously, if you gonna gather that many folks to prep for further resistance to Trump and his policies, take some damn notes and tell us what the hell was discussed and decided. Otherwise, it's just political masturbation.

We must create space that is community driven and free from colonizing by the electeds and nonprofits. They don't allow us to attend their strategy meetings at the Board of Supes or City Council or the board meetings of nonprofits - two privileges I want.

I am advocating for keeping the electeds and nonprofits on a tight leash, to better develop activist leadership or strenghen what exists, and a network that can sustain itself for the coming battles with the Trump Administration.

A bit of history. Eight years ago, I saw Prop 8 have great polling before the election and we lost on the measure. Folks had dreams dashed at the voting booth, we took to the streets, community meetings were organized to fight back and Join the Impact and Courage Campaign mobilized.

Two presidential elections later, we've not heard from either of those groups, if they're still around, and all the post election 2008 agitation seemed to produce two major victories for LGBTs: gay marriage and gays in the military.

What I'm asking of this new network is a conversation that takes into account these concerns so that this current wave of anger and organizing doesn't crash with little to show for our efforts.

1 comment:

Dean Ouellette said...

my own report back in response to your entry...

[to preface, I arrived at the meeting about a half hour late so I missed whatever introductions, rules, etc. took place that set the tone of the gathering, but overall I felt encouraged by it.]

as far the emphasis on non-profits at this first gathering, my thoughts are that in this climate of 'time is of the essence', people are looking to get out ahead of the coming problems, and figured let's save what's already in place.

as far as electeds, I believe Kaplan was chosen because she had just returned from Standing Rock. the Emeryville official was sitting in front of me as just another member of the group, and only took to the mic for a quick statement of support when requested by whoever was at the mic at that moment.

I agree that any kind of effective movement needs to remain non-partisan. I also make room for the possibility that people who are attached to parties (or non-profits) will have something to contribute; it's a matter of keeping the Party (or non-profit) distanced appropriately.

the short leash is a good idea, and it's also a good idea to keep an open mind about people who become successful in their campaigns as the nature of campaigns changes (talkin' to you, Mr. 10,499 votes, congratulations!).

political parties and non-profits may offer the lure of structure, mailing lists, 'legitimacy', etc., but they will always come with strings attached.

or maybe not, maybe these 'uncharted waters' will change the relationship between established organizations, their clients and their funders. same for potential baggage and conflicts of interest.

having written all that, there will always be a need for 'free radicals' to be on the frontline.