As socialists, our work is inherently forward looking. We are working to not only build a life we want for ourselves and communities, but also to figure out together what that life can look like.
The election “season” this year has no discrete end, with anxieties over national U.S. politics only promising to climb rather than dissipate as the months move on. Comrades in Chicago, alongside those across the country and past borders, know it is not the time to ease up on our struggle to build a movement for working class power. However, in continuing this work, we cannot replicate extractive and exploitive neoliberal practices. In being vigilant of transforming our everyday tactics, we will fortify our movement for generations to come. Our most sturdily renewable resource is our collective hope. This we can sustain through solidarity in struggle, community care, and keeping our sights set on what we can achieve together in our lifetimes. Socialist organizing gives inroads to engage in such practices for both seasoned and newer comrades alike.
In April 2020, Chicago DSA was an organization of 2,300 dues paying comrades. By November, we reached 3,000. In the wake of an election cycle that laid bare the failings and violent mechanisms of the neoliberal state, more folks than ever seek an alternative political home. As such, it is imperative to remember liberatory movement is not made up purely of numbers; the connections and investments built among comrades (alongside the practices that make them happen) are utterly invaluable.
This necessity is given voice and direction with CDSA’s recently revamped Rose Buddy mentorship program. Gaining confidence through transparency and availability of information, the mentorship program makes space for experienced CDSA comrades to encourage and create opportunities for new members’ more meaningful, long-term engagement. It’s important to highlight that the Rose Buddy mentor-mentee relationship is not an unilateral exchange. Listening to each other’s experiences, interests, hopes, and goals goes into a fruitful Rose Buddy experience: new CDSA members get help navigating the organization and learn what our overarching values and goals are while the mentor gets to listen to what brings someone to CDSA and cultivate their peer-to-peer organizing skills.
This focus on building generative relationships among comrades should not be relegated to only mentorship programs, and will go a long way if such a perspective were put to practice across the board in each space within CDSA. The key is recognizing our socialist values are not simply enacted in end goals or outcomes. To make a movement last, we must take care in how we engage with each other now.
These practices can take many shapes and forms, each small intentional act building up an ongoing culture of collectivity and care among comrades. Socialists love meetings but getting business done in our spaces should not replicate extractive capitalist dynamics. Even as there is much to be done at all times, take care to not rush. Make sure to put time into your agendas to have comrades check-in on how they are doing, creating a space to see each other more authentically. Distribute roles for meetings and tasks to make the work more sustainable and avoid organizer burnout in the long run. This is also imperative in letting people learn organizing skills in a collaborative environment. Red Reading Circle ⭕️ of the CDSA Political Education and Policy Committee has role sign-ups for over 10 different small tasks each week to keep the group moving and not reliant on only a few comrades’ energy. They also take time each week in their agenda for introductions and reflections on how their collective process and decision making is going. Our RRC comrades know this is not “extra” or “add-on” work, but rather is integral to the group’s cultivation as a whole.
Create joy when and where possible, it becomes easier with practice. While commiserating on how exhausted many of us are can be relatable, just remember why we are committed to this work in the first place. Comrades of the newly restructured CDSA Creative Team (who has a volunteer-based, non-elected steering committee of currently 11 organizers called the Creative Facilitators to coordinate work normally only one or two committee chairs would handle) starts their meetings with a P.I.E. check-in—physical, intellectual, emotional—to ensure comrades can come into the space as whole individuals. The Creative Team also ends general meetings and political education sessions with the practice of mística, borne out of the Brazilian Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST). Mística is a practice of sharing elements of art, spirituality, and culture together to foster a group’s sense of collective identity and solidarity.
Talk to your comrades and see what their ideas are to bring more sustainable organizing practices in your community to life. Our future of liberation is not a light at the end of a finite tunnel, and our movement will grow and flourish if we put the due effort into creating hope and the world we want to see now, together.
I give thanks specifically to my comrades Ali, Jonathan, Tina, Katie, and Gabi for their support and collaboration for this piece.