Left Inside/Outside Project

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Left Inside/Outside Project

New Virginia Majority Training: Solidarity Spring

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From Freedom Road Socialist Organization newsletter June 2019:

New Virginia Majority Training: Solidarity Spring. Two Liberation Road cadre attended a training that was coordinated with the Inside/Outside Project and New Virginia Majority (NVM). The training focused on learning about the analysis, strategy and methods of NVM because of their long practiced and developed electoral centered strategy. Cadre got to meet and build with members of CPUSA, DSA, and LeftRoots. It was an enriching experience for all with budding political relationships that will exist beyond the training.

#peopletakepower

Calvin Cheung-Miaw October 1, 2017 ·

Oct 19th - we're hosting a conversation with Rukia Lumumba from the Jackson, MS and Rafael Navar from Communications Workers of America.

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Part of #peopletakepower, a series of online discussions about elections, defeating the racist right-wing, and building left and progressive politics. Brought to you by the Left Inside/Outside Project, with Organizing Upgrade. Co-sponsored by Freedom Road Socialist Organization, LeftRoots, the Communist Party USA, and more to come...

Left unity in the 2018 elections

Left unity in the 2018 elections-Participate on May 23, Posted: 19 May 2018.

The Communist Party (CPUSA) is collaborating with several left groups and progressive activists to promote unity and coalition building in the electoral arena. The Left Inside/Outside Project began shortly after the 2016 elections in response to some on the left who sat out the elections or encouraged building a 3rd party at the time.
The groups agree that defeating the extreme right domination of government and the courts is a strategic imperative and building electoral coalitions with every force possible including with the Democratic Party is key.
The next collaboration is an online webinar Wed. May 23 featuring a panel of representatives from the CPUSA, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), LeftRoots, and others followed by small group discussion.
Rossana Cambron, chair of the Membership Engagement and Organizing Committee will represent the CPUSA.

This event is aimed at encouraging participation and interaction of members of all the groups. The CPUSA urges its members and supporters to participate.
Comradely,

1984 and 1988 Rainbow Coalition

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Join a discussion with organizers from the 1984 and 1988 Rainbow Coalition

Thank you all for joining our Left Unity call in May, about electoral strategies. We will be sending out a report on the call soon.

In the meantime, we wanted to extend an invitation to you to join an online discussion on Thursday, June 28, at 5:30 pm Pacific / 8:30 pm Eastern, with left organizers from the Rainbow Coalition. The Rainbow was a multiracial progressive formation that propelled Rev. Jesse Jackson's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988.

The discussion is hosted by our friends at Organizing Upgrade. There are limited registrations available for this call, so register soon if you're interested: https://goo.gl/forms/ZLyS0RoaoEJ4DiFJ2

The current list of panelists includes Bill Gallegos, Jamala Rogers, Ellen David Friedman, Ted Glick, and Cathi Tactaquin, with Bill Fletcher and Rishi Awatramani moderating.

The panel will attempt to draw out lessons from the Rainbow years for left movement activists today that are once again attempting to build independent political power through electoral strategies and also contest for power within the Democratic Party.

By looking at the different strategies of left organizations in engaging in the Jackson 1984 and 1988 campaigns, the panel will examine:

  • the potential and the shortcomings of independent left electoral engagement
  • debates about left and social movement relationship with the Democratic Party
  • role of elections in broader social movement and revolutionary processes,

We hope you'll join Organizing Upgrade for a rich and inspiring discussion.

In solidarity,

the Left Inside/Outside Project

The Left We Want to Build

"The Left We Want to Build: Breaking Out of the Margins" was a letter published in Organizing Upgrade Friday, 09 June 2017.

The election of Trump has upended US politics. Across the political spectrum, activists and organizations are reckoning with the ascent of authoritarian white nationalism to the White House and the GOP’s headlock on 25 state governments and Congress. All of us feel it: the urgency to think and act in new ways, to expand our vision and take risks.
The questions of power and scale - how will we develop a base large enough to contend for power? - have moved to the top of the left’s agenda. The existing left, made up of unaffiliated activists and organizations with real strengths but also significant limitations, cannot meet the challenges ahead. We need a leap.
We believe that building a left trend - an alignment of organizations and individuals - based on strategic unity is key to making that leap. The current fragments that make up the left are agreed on many things, such as: being rooted in oppressed communities and the working class, and the need for grassroots social movements. We understand that elected officials, regardless of party or political belief, are pushed and pulled in many directions, making vibrant, disruptive social movements necessary to any project for social transformation.
But the left is badly divided on how to relate to the country's political system and engage in electoral politics. This won't work. Only determined, long-term, energetic efforts to break out of the margins based on a common view of how to engage in our electoral system, while also building mass protest, offer a chance to make the left a force in U.S. politics and, eventually, a contender for power.

Inside/outside strategy

Based on this thinking, a number of left organizations and activists have begun discussing the possibility of creating a higher level of political alignment based on an inside/outside political strategy.
"Inside/Outside" means organizing both inside and outside of electoral politics, and building power inside and outside the Democratic Party. We believe this strategy offers the best opportunity to build a force that directly fights back against white nationalism and the far right, while also working steadily to challenge the neoliberals in the Democratic Party. We also think this strategy is the only one that will set the left on a path to grow with the surging activism that takes civic engagement seriously, the large numbers of leftists and progressives deciding to run for office, and the increasing pull of an inside/outside perspective across the social movements we're immersed in. The alternative, we believe, is to be consigned to the political margins at a moment when everybody else left-of-center is embracing the fight against the right wing at all levels, including in the electoral arena.

Why?

Engaging in elections and inside the Democratic Party will be crucial to political strategy in the U.S. for the foreseeable future. Let's look, for instance, at the 2016 presidential election. We understood that a Trump victory would mean the emboldening of white supremacist organizations, a ramping up of state terror in communities of color, an assault on basic democratic rights, and - given GOP control of the House and Senate - an opening for the far-right to push a maximum policy agenda.
The presidential election was not unique. Although the Democratic Party leadership has been heavily influenced by neoliberalism since the 1990s, the polarization of the electorate according to ideas about race, gender, and religion, the growing organizational capacity and communications apparatus of the most reactionary sectors of the GOP, and the Republican Party's links to sectors of capital most staunchly opposed to environmental regulation, drives very real differences between the two parties. In elections around the country, stakes is high.
All this means something for our political work. The utter ruthlessness with which the right-wing wields power - look at the states where the GOP controls the state legislatures and the governor's office - means that ignoring elections, or seeing them primarily as opportunities to propagandize, puts our movements perpetually on defense.
And although working-class alienation from electoral politics is real, most civic organizations and politically engaged folks - especially union activists and people of color - understand that the outcomes of elections will have serious consequences for their lives. Most activists who care about progressive change, for instance, reasonably feel that defeating Trump in 2020 is an absolute priority, as is defeating Republican rule at the state and Congressional level in 2018 (while also challenging neoliberal Democrats in primaries). And electoral politics in general is one of the few ways the left will be able to engage with people at the scale we have to.
The fight against the far right is strongest when it is energized by an inspiring vision for economic and social justice. Campaigns for openly socialist candidates and progressive challenges to neoliberal Democrats must all be part of the political mix. And the opportunities for broadening the reach of progressive and left forces will be greatest when they both struggle within and work in tandem with the larger anti-Trump or anti-right front. That is, we have to “walk on two legs” by building the movement against the far right, while also challenging pro-corporate neoliberal hegemony within the Democratic Party.

A Left Trend

A left trend is an alignment of left organizations and organizers that self-consciously share a political analysis and strategy, and pursue some collaborative work. We see the left inside/outside trend as one crucial piece of the progressive alliance that we hope will lead the anti-Trump fight. This trend has an indispensable role to play in the anti-Trump front: strengthening the anti-militarist wing of the progressive alliance, projecting a vision of economic and racial justice, and elevating an intersectional feminist politics. There is also a conflict within the Democratic Party over which voters to outreach to and what its political vision will be; we don't believe the left can afford to sit on the sidelines as those questions are settled.
But in order for the left to seriously tackle these challenges, it must do two things. First, it needs to find a way to connect with the tens of thousands of newly active people who may identify as part of the broad and ideologically diverse social justice left but who do not see themselves as part of a collective left project. This social justice left encompasses, as Bob Wing has written, "socialists, radical anti-racists, nationalists, and feminists, liberation theologists, strong social democrats, labor militants, pacifists, anti-imperialists and everyone else" who will fight against corporate and concentrated power. A stronger and more cohesive left depends upon connecting with the social justice left to develop a new sense of the "we" who are working towards fundamental social transformation based on a shared strategic perspective; this will be much harder to accomplish without a left trend.
Second, the organized socialist left needs to balance out the strengths and weaknesses of its different organizations and activist networks. All of the organizations and networks we belong to have important strengths, but also very real limitations in terms of size, demographics, or geographic or sectoral concentration. None of them, in their current form, are capable of playing the strategic role we believe the left must play in the next period. A left trend might have that potential - the ability to reach far beyond the existing left to create a force that can move us from defense to offense.
Having an alignment of left organizations and activists will allow us to move political discussion past the current debates - as important as they are - about whether or not to engage in electoral politics, whether or not to engage with the Democratic party. Instead, we can measure our ideas against our most exciting and inspiring victories, as well as draw lessons from our efforts that come up short. We can debate the questions we confront in our on-the-ground work: how do we build a winning majority while advancing the struggle for collective liberation? How do we scale up from local or state-level efforts? Through our dialogue, debate, and organizing work, we can build a deeper strategic unity (and clarify our differences) around the left's role in electoral politics and U.S. politics more generally. To do that, we need to create a venue for frank discussion across organizational and other boundaries, and a way for activists to communicate about and summarize their work.
The current lack of a left inside/outside trend has created real weaknesses. To take one example, racial justice organizers operating mainly through 501c3's have done important work with some of the most marginalized communities in U.S. society. But the constraints of working in a c3 means that, with some very important exceptions (you know who you are), our deep organizing has not translated into political power. At the state level, this has meant that even massive street protests such as the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina could do little in the face of a scruple-less right-wing with complete control of the state government. Nationally, this meant we could not provide an effective counterbalance to Clinton's machine in communities of color during the presidential primary, nor (besides some key protests) were we able to effectively shape the Sanders' campaign's program around racial justice.

Today, more and more 501c3's are asking questions about the limits of their work and how to move beyond it, looking to those community organizations that have made serious gains by integrating civic engagement work. A strong left trend with deep links to racial justice organizing could accomplish much; it could, for instance, shift local or state-level politics to push for effective civilian oversight of police, decriminalization of poverty, and funding basic social infrastructure in communities of color. All of those demands require both the hard, patient work of grassroots organizing and the willingness to use elections to move the political center-of-gravity in legislatures.
The 2016 presidential election marked an historic failure of the left; despite some important efforts, we were unable to unite in leading the fight to defeat Trump and the far right, to stand alongside the oppressed and the exploited. This has made it even more urgent to throw down in the struggles ahead that will shape the future of U.S. politics, to move the left out of its narrow silos towards the scale that can create collective liberation. The left we want to build is all of us.
In unity and struggle,

By October 19 2017, these names had been added.

DSA support

Democratic Socialists of America supports the Left Inside/Outside Project.

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JAMES SKILLMAN May 18, 2018 at 9:47 pm (Organizing Upgrade).

It would appear that DSA as an organization is not on board with this, since its signers “indicates organization is for identification purposes only”. Is this expected to change?

CALVIN CHEUNG-MIAW May 31, 2018 at 2:43 am

Hi James,

DSA’s electoral commission recently voted to support the inside/outside project. That’s different from signing onto this statement, but future statements from the project will likely represent that body as well as the other organizations. Thanks for your question! Hope you explore some of the other articles on OrgUp. In solidarity, Calvin

The DSA National Electoral Committee has joined the Left Inside/Outside Project and will be participating in a call to discuss left political strategy. Here is the invitation for those interested in participating:
The Left Inside/Outside Project invites you to a cross-organizational discussion of left political strategy. This video conference will feature speakers from different organizations in the Left Inside/Outside Project providing their perspective on the key questions facing leftists that are trying to build electoral power alongside social movements, all while navigating the complicated terrain of Democratic party politics. We will also have small group discussions and describe opportunities for collaboration across organizational lines. [4]

Discussion of left political strategy

The Left Inside/Outside Project invites you to a cross-organizational discussion of left political strategy. This video conference will feature speakers from different organizations in the Left Inside/Outside Project providing their perspective on the key questions facing leftists that are trying to build electoral power alongside social movements, all while navigating the complicated terrain of Democratic Party politics. We will also have small group discussions and describe opportunities for collaboration across organizational lines.

Date/Time: May 23rd, at 5 pm Pacific / 8 pm Eastern

In solidarity,

Calvin Cheung-Miaw on behalf of the Left Inside/Outside Project.[5]

Phone conference

On May 23, 2018 the Left Inside/Outside Project hosted a call that brought together representatives of the Communist Party USA, Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, Democratic Socialists of America, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and LeftRoots. The call focused on approaches to electoral politics of these organizations. It also provided an opportunity to explore potential for political alignment among the part of the left that broadly agrees with the strategy of building power inside and outside of electoral politics, and inside and outside of the Democratic Party.

Although there are significant differences among (and within) these organizations, generally they see electoral politics as a crucial one for the left to engage in. While engaging in electoral politics has its limitations, it presents huge opportunities, which the experiences of these organizations demonstrate, including a path to governing. In the U.S. today, where the fight against the far right must utilize all possible methods, it is also a necessity.

The call was moderated by Rishi Awatramani from LeftRoots. Speakers included Sendolo Diaminah from Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Rossana Cambron from the Communist Party USA, Christian Bowe from DSA, Maria (Maria Poblet?)from LeftRoots and Janet Tucker from the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.

Critical points made by the speakers focused on the importance of strategic thinking and planning in terms of electoral politics and its place as part of a broader movement strategy. As Diaminah noted, political control is important not only for the victory of socialism, but even before we reach that point. Cambron added that elections are part of the building progress. Thus elections are not a question of voting for the lesser of two evils, but rather are a response to the question of which candidate will create the best environment to move things forward.

Maria from Leftroots stated that their members are involved in building independent political organizations led by communities of color. They came to value electoral work through experiencing the limitations of winning campaigns that were transformative, visionary campaigns but which didn’t translate into long-term governing power.

Christian Bowe described DSA’s electoral work. He noted that DSA is working to build capacity to support and field our own candidates, and use elections to build DSA. DSA views elections as just one area, but critical area, of struggle. DSA wants to use data generated from work in elections to use in other kinds of campaigns like union drives, Medicare for All, and housing work. He added that it’s ultimately not the name of the party that determines what an elected person does once in office, but rather the interests and power of the constituencies they represent.

After the initial presentations breakout sessions were held to allow participants to discuss their organization’s work and that of other groups. Janet Tucker (CCDS) gave a brief presentation on her small group discussion. The discussion was lively and wide-ranging, covering questions of how folks in different organizations but in the same geographic region might collaborate, digging into the nitty gritty of data sharing among organizations and campaigns, how we sum-up candidate experiences and build a deeper bench of candidates, and moving into questions of governance after election day.

The notes also shows a lot of local and historical experience that should be mined for lessons. These include stories like that of one participant who wrote, “we have the tasks of enfranchising working class people, nominating socialist and/or progressive anti-corporate candidates where they are viable, training people to become such candidates, developing the campaign capacity to elect them, but in the near term defeating right-wing incumbents with whomever is nominated. In most cases this will involve diverse coalitions of the 99% whom the 1% systematically seeks to split using wedge issues, especially racism and patriarchy. The Poor People’s Campaign can become an important vehicle for enfranchising and mobilizing the poor during elections as well as in between.” Another participant stated “This is a ‘CIO moment.’” – comparing today to the 1930s when the CPUSA threw its resources into creating a center-left alliance/ organization to build a new labor movement.

Rishi Awatramani (LR) closed with a mention of shared questions and themes from the small groups:

  • What organizations do we need to double down on?
  • What organizations and forms do we need to build to get to scale?
  • How do we build with our core constituencies while navigating terrain of building independent political organizations, and struggling with the Democrats?
  • How do we change the balance of forces, which requires sometimes supporting neoliberal Democrats while moving our own anti-neoliberal politics?
  • Who do we see as our key ‘base?’
  • Can we use struggle in electoral arena to link our threads of work?
  • How do we build infrastructure that we need to have an independent political organization?
  • If we’re thinking about building a majoritarian movement, that involves our base and beyond, we need a new ‘we‘ – we understand class/race/gender don’t dictate politics, it’s on us to build the political subject we need.

The Left Inside/Outside Project anticipates scheduling another left unity call that will go into more depth in some of the questions raised during this session.[6]

Challenges Ahead, the Wind At Our Backs

From an article on Organizing Upgrade October 5, 2018:

Fighting Trump and Building the Left, from the Left Inside/Outside Project.

We’re still less than halfway through this thing.

Twenty-one months in, we can survey the damage done by the Trump administration. The GOP congress has been plagued by internal division, giving the resistance some breathing room. But the White House has worked efficiently to advance an agenda of inequality and repression: what it lacks in competence, it makes up in ruthlessness. It has successfully hollowed out the EPA, implemented the Muslim travel ban, spread ICE’s terror from the borders to the courthouses to schools, frozen the Justice Department’s modest engagement with anti-police-brutality work, undermined affirmative action, escalated attacks on workers’ rights, and chipped away protections for LGBTQ folks. However devastating these policies are, longer-term damage will likely come from the large shifts Trumpism has created in the U.S. political landscape. We may have an extreme right-wing Supreme Court majority for decades, as well as a federal judiciary packed with know-nothings and ideologues. Trump’s career as a demagogic speaker and troll – perhaps the only thing he’s been good at in his entire life – has helped consolidate and legitimize a resurgent white nationalism and intensified racist and anti-immigrant attitudes among a layer of GOP supporters beyond explicit white nationalists. In this, Trumpism fits into a global pattern of rising racism, ultra-nationalism, and authoritarianism. We’re in for a long struggle.
Few believe we have overestimated the danger posed by Trump. If anything, Trump has been the most honest political campaigner in recent memory, at least attempting to follow through on all his pledges to turn the U.S. into an ethnonational state. Defeating Trumpism remains an overwhelming priority for the left. This is a struggle that takes place everywhere: in the streets, the ICE offices, the town halls, and – we wish to emphasize this – at the ballot box. Nearly all GOP politicians are dependent on the base of Trump supporters for their political futures, while opposition to Trump from the capitalist class has been muted. As a result, GOP officials have been unwilling to break with the Trump regime beyond occasional tepid or indirect criticism. We won’t defeat Trumpism without driving the GOP from power, a task that is also fundamental to shifting the overall balance of forces in US politics, not to mention achieving radical reforms. This translates practically into working within an anti-Trump front capable of accomplishing that task and, with few exceptions, engaging with the Democratic Party and voting for Democrats to defeat right-wing candidates.

The existing anti-Trump front brings together people with an extremely wide range of ideologies. This is the reality we work within, but we also believe the resistance is strongest when it is rooted in a vision for a society that works for everyone. A vision that can mobilize the working class, young people, and communities of color, and energize a broad coalition – often with women of color at its core – is absolutely necessary in the struggle against Trumpism. Ben Jealous, Stacey Abrams, Lee Carter, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Andrew Gillum – all of these campaigns, in addition to the teachers’ strikes, ICE blockades, the Medicare For All campaign, the mass movement to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation, and DSA’s rapid growth, give us inspiration about the possibility of moving progressive and left politics to the forefront of the resistance. A dynamic left can make a real contribution by supporting these radical and progressive campaigns and movements, elevating their demands and candidates, and ensuring that racial justice, internationalism, and working-class politics are not sidelined despite pressures from the centrist forces in the anti-Trump front.
There are no easy answers to the question of how to handle the tasks of uniting as many as possible to defeat the right-wing while building independent power for progressive and left forces. But recent history provides a wealth of experiments for the left to learn from as we try to navigate a path forward while engaging in electoral politics. These include the election of Chokwe Antar Lumumba as mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, which has developed participatory democracy within the city; the Workers’ Education Society in St. Louis, which incorporates political education into its efforts to “build a ward-based progressive political machine“; Durham for All, which elected a sheriff and District Attorney as part of a larger Decriminalize Durham campaign; New Virginia Majority, which played an important role in electing Ralph Northam and defeating the terrifically awful Edward Gillespie; the Larry Krasner campaign in Philadelphia and the Wesley Bell campaign in Ferguson, both led by decaraceration activists; and the many state-level victories by open democratic socialists. These projects all engage a wide range of forces and have successfully expanded the electorate among immigrants, communities of color, the working class, or the formerly incarcerated. Most have left individuals or organizations playing key roles. None of these projects are perfect or without limitations. But all of them are important. They seek to retain independence and initiative within the broader fight against the far right, working to build up organizational capacity and popular bases needed for the political struggles that will emerge through 2020 and beyond. They are all worth drawing lessons from.
It’s a challenging time to be part of the U.S. left, requiring us to work on many levels. We have to unite and advance the broad resistance to Trump; strengthen the progressive wing of the resistance and efforts to fight for peace as well as economic, racial, gender, and environmental justice; and continue the work of building a movement for fundamental social transformation – socialism. We believe these tasks cannot be separated from each other, and the left will be successful at none of them if we ignore the very real contests for power that take place in electoral politics. The left will grow in numbers and influence to the extent that we immerse ourselves in the political motion bringing working-class communities and communities of color into the resistance, make a significant contribution to building the broad anti-Trump front, and serve as a force for unity, tenacity, and hope within its ever-growing progressive wing.
But it’s also an exciting time to be part of the U.S. left. We have momentum on all the levels we have to work on, and more energy for these efforts than we have seen in decades. We take the inspiration from the examples listed above, and recognize that our main challenge is bringing our work to scales that will be able to shift the balance of forces in the U.S. The Left Inside/Outside Project formed out of a common feeling that U.S. politics after Trump required both serious engagement with electoral politics and a left that could work collaboratively to build on our existing strengths. Twenty months later, we still believe this: our commitment is to work ever more closely together with this vision, to learn from one another, build on our most advanced experiences, and build a more unified and effective socialist movement that is in this fight for the long haul.

In solidarity,

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