A Strategy for Socialist Liberation in the United States
Introduction: Making the Impossible Possible
The potential to build socialism for the 21st century is greater today than it has been in at least a generation. At the same time, the threat of fascism or some form of authoritarianism in the United States is very real. In this pivotal chapter of human history, we must work relentlessly to strengthen the former possibility while neutralizing the latter. This requires radical change at multiple levels.
The inability of the capitalist class to steward the planet and to meet the needs of the world’s peoples urgently calls for bold action. Against multiple crises, various forces are competing to define what that bold action should be. The volatility of this moment demands cleareyed strategy to make possible what has long been impossible. We must assess and gather the revolutionary potential that lies in our current conditions, shift the balance of forces more favorably toward our aims, and root ourselves in the strengths we possess even in this time of relative weakness.
LeftRoots cadres and social movement organizers across the country are doing crucial organizing, mass mobilization, direct action, direct service, academic, artistic, educational, and therapeutic work to address the crises in our communities and in the world. Despite the promise and actual gains of these struggles, we often feel isolated in our work. Too frequently we are fighting for important reforms with little more than a radical slogan to connect them to a visionary strategy.
Building a powerful left requires developing both liberatory strategy and revolutionary strategists. LeftRoots was founded to meet this dual purpose. LeftRoots is a national formation of Left social movement organizers and activists in the United States who want to connect grassroots struggles to a strategy to win liberation for all people and the planet. LeftRoots is committed to 1) developing strategy to win socialism for the 21st century, and 2) to developing cadres who have the capacities to evaluate, formulate, modify and carry out that strategy.
In February 2017, LeftRoots selected a group of nine cadres to serve on an Advance Team to create the document you are currently reading. Over a nine-week period, our assignment was to articulate a vision of 21st century socialism; to assess the current system, conditions, class and social forces; and to project likely near-future scenarios. From this, we were to draft at least one strategy for socialist liberation. If there were strategic differences among us, we were to draft as many strategic orientations as necessary. The organization would then use whatever we came up with to begin a four-year process of strategy development, experimentation, and capacity building.
Each of us came to the Advance Team from different theoretical traditions and movement work. None of us had ever taken on a project like this. All of us questioned whether we were up to the task. Still we dove in, fueled by the trust of our comrades, and by the yearning to build the kind of strategy that this moment demands. We researched, debated, wrote, sang, laughed, and cried. We struggled with each other and with ourselves, discovering our limitations and developing our abilities. In the end, this challenging and comradely process led us to strategic unity and also deeply transformed us. We know that all LeftRoots cadres, along with our movement allies, will also be transformed as we forge a powerful path forward together. When we felt overwhelmed by the task before us, we often returned to the words of Paulo Freire. We posted them on the wall of every room in which we met. Now we offer them to all of you as we collectively engage in this daunting and exciting process: “What can we do today, so that tomorrow we can do what we are unable to do today?”
What you are about to read is imperfect and incomplete. We are painfully aware of some of the gaps it contains, and how these expose our limitations. Still, we believe it is the best we could have come up with given constraints of time, energy, and experience. We acknowledge these shortcomings to you, comrades, not out of modesty, but as an invitation to engage and to lead.
The document is divided into three main chapters: Vision of 21st Century Socialism, Assessment of the Current System, and Strategy for Socialist Liberation. These flow from LeftRoots’ definition of transformative revolutionary strategy: a framework that projects what series of actions can, on shifting terrain and against an opposing force(s), align a set of counter-forces to build the power and influence needed to achieve a currently unattainable objective. Transformative strategy serves to guide the decisions, tactics and plans of aligned forces to make the advances and build the capacities we need to meet our goal. All three components– vision, assessment, and strategy– are essential for grounding us in our time, place, and conditions.
This document is not LeftRoots’ new line. For LeftRoots cadres, it is a jumping-off point for all cadres to deepen our capacities as strategists, to sharpen our individual and collective clarity about how to struggle today in a way that advances us toward liberation. Over the next three years, Leftroots cadre will engage in a strategy development process that includes developing assessments, scenario projections, and strategic interventions that build on, or differ with “We Believe That We Can Win.” Cadre will also engage in shared organizing experiments to test hypotheses contained in this document and in other strategic orientations developed through this process. In 2021, cadre will come together at a Congress where we expect a culmination of this multi-year process to result in the ratification of a strategy, or multiple strategies, that cadre have developed. At that point, Leftroots will become one or more political formations operating from a strategy or strategies for winning 21st century socialism.
It is important to note that we focused our work specifically on shifting the correlation of forces in the United States. LeftRoots takes inspiration from the strength and wisdom of movements around the globe, and seeks to build comradeship and joint struggle at an international scale. Socialist liberation must be rooted in international solidarity, especially for those of us struggling within a settler colonial and imperial superpower like the United States. Liberation here cannot rest on exploitation and subjugation elsewhere. However, the reality is that many movements beyond U.S. borders are more mature and vibrant than our own, and the relative weakness of the U.S. left hinders our capacity to support popular struggles throughout the world. It is our duty to change that.
To transform society, social movement left forces must be brave enough to change ourselves and the way we do our work. There is no single person, front of struggle, constituency, or organization strong enough to face down the enemies before us. We must bring together our different trajectories and accumulated wisdoms, and then synthesize and grow beyond them. We must ruthlessly assess our conditions, align our strengths with the weaknesses of our enemies, and vigorously build our forces. The imperative to construct a bigger “we” brought LeftRoots into this strategy process. It will carry us forward as we debate, amend, and apply the ideas captured here to achieve a better world for future generations.
All cadres have stretched and made sacrifices to participate in LeftRoots because we yearn for something even more powerful, even more beautiful than to defend ourselves and each other from the brutalizing onslaught of this period. We want revolutionary change. We want liberation. We believe that we can win.
Read the full version of We Believe We Can Win in Issue 1 of Out to Win!