Welcome to Issue Two of Out to Win!, LeftRoots’ journal exploring strategy to win socialist liberation from the perspective of US social movement leftists on the frontlines of today’s struggles. We’re so glad you’re reading this.
Like all of LeftRoots’ work, Out to Win! is rooted in our two organizational purposes: developing strategy and developing strategists. Our movement needs shared strategy that can coordinate action across sectors and regions for maximum effect, and it needs people who can develop, evaluate, and carry out such strategy.
In our first issue, we focused on the first of these purposes, strategy development. We shared ‘We Believe That We Can Win’, an internal discussion document in which nine LeftRoots cadres outlined a broad strategy for socialist liberation in the United States. The issue also included a number of responses to ‘We Believe…’ that reflect our commitment to developing grounded strategy through principled debate. That initial peek inside the bubbling cauldron of LeftRoots strategy development work also established the basic idea for Out to Win!
In this second issue, we’re focusing on our second purpose—developing revolutionary strategists—while still giving readers a window into LeftRoots’ strategic work and discussions.
Who is LeftRoots?LeftRoots is a national project to help rebuild the US Left by developing strategy for socialist liberation, and developing social movement organizers into left strategists who can create, carry out, and evaluate strategy. Because we know successful movements for liberation are led by those most invested in fundamental change, our membership is predominantly people of color, women, and LGBTQ. Some of us have been leftists for decades, and many of us are newer to the left. You can read more about LeftRoots here.
DEVELOPING STRATEGISTS: CADREFICATION IN LEFTROOTS
LeftRoots’ work to develop revolutionary strategists is based in the understanding that liberation is necessary, it is possible, and that we (the U.S. left) have a way to go before we are ready to win it.
We know that human beings created capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy, and we know that human beings can unmake these systems to create something better. But knowing that is not enough. We also need to know how to do it. We need to learn new ways of being effective, both individually and collectively, that will allow us to move together, creating and carrying out shared strategy for change on a revolutionary scale. We call this process ‘cadrefication’—becoming revolutionary cadres. In this regard, we call our own members ‘cadres’ as an aspirational term.
At its heart, Out to Win! is a part of that cadrefication process: a forum for LeftRoots members to practice writing about and debating strategic questions, and a way for us to invite scrutiny and feedback from social movement leftists beyond our organization. Though the content of this journal focuses on strategy, for us the foremost function of this journal is to help cadres develop their revolutionary capacities.
With this as our point of departure, we thought it would be helpful to share with you LeftRoots’ cadrefication framework. This document outlines our understanding of what a cadre is, what capacities she has, and how she grows and develops. This framework is what we use in LeftRoots to plan and assess how we’re developing our revolutionary capacities, both individually and collectively.
Hopefully, this approach—foregrounding developing our individual and collective capacities—will resonate with something in your experience. After all how many of us have been through something like this?: You go to a movement convening (or many) – maybe a conference, a coalition meeting, or a planning retreat – with a group of movement organizers needing to make tough choices about the road ahead. Chances are, your group is on the defensive, stretched to capacity, and dealing with multiple pressures, both internal and external. Emotions are running high, because the stakes are real and personal. You know you need to outsmart and outorganize your opposition, and you’re trying to decide what the next strategic step should be.
But you face some real challenges, even barriers, to collectively figuring out that next strategic step. Maybe you struggle to understand what’s causing the current situation, and what’s motivating the actions of people on different sides. Maybe everyone doesn’t agree on what a win or a loss looks like in the first place. Maybe you struggle to make space for the grief and rage that people are holding while trying to make hard choices about what you can actually do.
Pretty much everyone in LeftRoots has experienced something like this. In these situations, skills, training, and experience can make the difference between spinning your wheels and creating a plan that makes it possible to win big. What if more of us could make sharp assessments of the terrain and decide what to prioritize? Or build unity and clarity in a group, and hold our human needs and emotions in a way that strengthens us? What would be possible? Few of us in the U.S. left have had the political training to find out. That’s just the truth in our current conditions on the left.
In LeftRoots, we’re working to counter this by intentionally developing the capacities we need to chart a strategic path toward liberation. That development happens in myriad ways, including political education, succeeding and failing in our movement work, discussion and debate with comrades, and individual study and reflection.
With respect to Out to Win!, our main approach is to foster cadrefication through writing about strategy. Occasionally, though, we will also feature pieces about the cadrefication process itself. In this issue, we have two reports from LeftRoots delegations abroad, delegations aimed at giving participants’ political development a concentrated push forward through meaningful connection with other left movements around the world:
DEVELOPING STRATEGY: LEFTROOTS’ FRAMEWORK AND APPROACH
Everything that went into creating Issue One of Out to Win!—from the months that the nine authors spent writing ‘We Believe That We Can Win’, to the year that we spent debating that document within the organization, to the articles that several teams of LeftRoots cadres wrote in response to ‘We Believe…’—has been crucial in the development of LeftRoots’ liberatory strategy framework. (see the introduction to issue 1 for more) This framework is the core set of elements we think any complete and coherent strategy needs to have. We are working to turn this framework into a toolkit that other social movement leftists can use to develop and evaluate liberatory strategy. We look forward to sharing this toolkit soon, perhaps in a future issue of Out to Win!.
One of the main lessons we learned from producing and discussing ‘We Believe…’ is that the left is currently so underdeveloped in the U.S. that there is a lot that we just don’t know. Most of plotting a way forward as revolutionaries are working from our best historically and situationally informed guesswork based on ideas that have never been fully tested in our context, or maybe anywhere. That requires us to be humble, and to be focused on learning everything we can as we go. The way we stay disciplined to that learning-oriented humility is by using a hypothesis-based approach.
Whatever we are doing in LeftRoots, whether it’s developing a new on-the-ground strategy project, suggesting an adjustment to our organizational structure, or building out a new political training program, we build our work around concrete and testable predictions about what will happen if we take a certain action. Those predictions must have real-world grounding and be measurable in a way that will allow us to evaluate whether they were correct. We remain open to a hypothesis being proven or disproven; the important thing is to know one way or the other. Thus, success is not necessarily the hypothesis proving true, but also knowing whether we were right or wrong. This is a new approach for us, and we are still collectively developing, adjusting, and learning it. One step in clarifying this approach has been cadres trying it out in practice and then writing about it. In Issue Two of Out to Win!, we are very excited to include two in-depth explorations of cadres’ use of hypotheses in their work in social movements. Developing mass protagonism details several organizations’ experiments in developing and unleashing members’ revolutionary capacities to play leading roles in shaping decisions, campaigns, communities and the world in which we live. Building the Left with rank-and-file base-building is a first-hand account and analysis of rank-and-file organizing in a union context. We’re excited to offer both of these articles as illustrations of our efforts to learn from one another about how we can most effectively apply a hypothesis-based approach to our work for liberation.
STRATEGIC DISCUSSION AND DEBATE
Out to Win! is meant to be a forum for dialogue about liberatory strategy. Nothing that appears in this journal is meant to be the last word on anything. We’re sharing our ideas and our work in order to strengthen our thinking through critique from comrades inside and outside of our organization. This is why we’re devoting part of each issue to responses that seek to further our understanding of the strategic implications of articles we published in previous issues. In Issue Two, we’re publishing four short pieces responding to articles in Issue One:
These are ongoing debates, so we encourage you to also submit an article responding to the content in this issue for Issue Three; which is due out in September!
We hope Out to Win! can be a vehicle through which we can practice our collective duty to support one another in sharpening our strategic thinking. We are excited to continue to include response and debate in every issue of Out to Win! and we hope to continue challenging one another with the aim of sharpening our assessments. If we’re going to win, we’ll have to push one another to think and act beyond what has previously seemed possible. In this regard, the journal is a tool for us to collectivize the knowledge we gain from proving our hypotheses correct, and for learning how to redirect when we miss the mark. What we make of this tool is ours for the doing. May it help us in the struggle to achieve our goal of winning 21st century socialism.
The editors of Out to Win!
If you would like to submit an article responding to something in this issue, e-mail us at email@example.com by June 30, 2020.
Get Involved: Join LeftRoots’ Compa ProgramIf you’d like to keep building with us, we invite you to join LeftRoots as a Compa. LeftRoots Compas are politically committed supporters who contribute financially and engage in a growing set of LeftRoots programs in order to help rebuild the US left. While LR members (the ‘cadres’) complete an extensive recruitment process and agree to high participation expectations once they join, LR Compas can join online and participate in programs within their interest and capacity. You can sign up here to become a Compa.