is the third article of a 7-part series that will focus on the issues
in our radical movements that I think need our immediate and ongoing
attention. I am using the ancient eastern concept of chakras for the
body as a parallel to our movement’s energy wheel. Healers
believe sickness occurs when the body’s chakras are blocked or
out of alignment. Likewise, the U.S. Left and our social justice
movements need our collective introspection, analysis and adjustments
that lead to unblocking our energy/chi points. A weakened Left, and
especially the Black Left, have been unable to provide this critical
guidance over the last twenty years. I do not have the space to go
too deep into my thinking although I have been pondering and talking
about this very subject for a few years now. I am looking to
stimulate a higher level of principled discussion about how to
energize and organize the social forces coming into play at this
pivotal juncture in history and how we can rebuild a formidable
radical movement in this country.
will work unless you do.” - Maya Angelou
movement for freedom, justice and equality needs to raise the bar of
our excellence. Clearly, there are people in the social movements who
develop and practice good—even exemplary-- workstyles. However,
our struggle against the empire has not been optimized because of our
attitude and approach towards the work. What is a radical workstyle
and what does it look like in our movement spaces? We must unblock
this chakra so that it leads to the full intensity of the collective
is how we carry out the plans emanating from our strategy and
tactics. The way in which we carry out that work is connecting to an
ideological worldview; it is a vivid reflection of our belief that
our struggle is both worthy and winnable.
most of our organizations and hence our movements, individualism runs
rampant. When there are no accountability mechanisms, the
individualistic behavior undermines the effectiveness of the
collective. Individualism and mediocrity are toxins; they often
destroys the unity of the group in achieving its goals.
are people who don’t read, acknowledge or respond to emails,
texts or calls in a timely and considerate way. They take on
assignments but don’t follow through with them or complete them
in a half-ass way. People are late to gatherings (or are no-shows)
even when they have assignments germane to the event’s success.
They don’t study because they already have the answers. These
people are incapable of engaging in genuine self-criticism and do not
respond well to constructive criticism.
the 1990’s, Kalimu Endesha coined a phrase for the above set of
behaviors. Endesha is one of the founding members of the Organization
for Black Struggle and is a veteran organizer. He called it “ghetto
volunteerism” because we’ve internalized the oppressor’s
belief that since we are not important, nothing we do is either.
Endesha was also reminded us that we all know these behaviors would
never be tolerated in the corporate or business workplace. Try being
late at the Ford Motor Company. If people have a sloppy and
irresponsible workstyle on their paying gigs, there’s a price
to pay. So why bring these practices into the righteous work of
further elaborated on ghetto volunteerism in a piece he wrote.
movement has abandoned high standards regarding a revolutionary work
ethic. There is little accountability to one another or to the
collective. People agree to do a task and it’s a throw of the
dice if they will follow through on their commitment. If they don’t,
can’t or won’t do what they gave their word to do,
there’s usually no advanced warning, no explanation and rarely
any self-criticism. The “whateva” attitude has infected
our liberation efforts in a serious way and threatens any meaningful
progress and genuine unity.”
radical workstyle takes into consideration the value of time and
relationships. We can never recoup time and so we must always
proceed in the most efficient and effective manner possible. When we
breach trust in our relationships, rebuilding broken trust takes time
radical workstyle reflects a conscious understanding that our actions
are important and connected to the work of others. When we don’t
show up or follow through, there are negative organizational and
psychological impacts on the collective.
radical workstyle advances the group’s goals and influence. It
can take the best of our individual knowledge, experiences, skills
and talents to another level. Adversely, it can squander human
resources and energies as well as impede the forward motion of our
radical workstyle promotes a model of what we think are necessary and
appropriate practices in collective spaces. Think of it as a
projection of what new people to the movement should see when they
step up to make a commitment to work on transformational change. They
are presented with the expectations for their participation.
radical workstyle lifts and celebrates the positive attributes of
quality, discipline, collaboration, integrity, innovation, study and
political analysis, strategy and tactics provide the direction to
meet our goals. In some cases, we have principles of unity that give
us additional guidance as to how people will work together on
achieving the mission, strategy and tactics. Rarely do we give people
the elements of a radical workstyle and how to perfect it. A radical
workstyle is a collective workstyle.
enemies and detractors absolutely count on the fact that
individualism will have sabotaging effects on our strategy and unity.
It is imperative that we embrace a radical work style in this era of
neo-fascism as part of advancing a radical vision and strategy.
individualism and liberalism!
article: Unblocking the chakra of organizing.