Archive for April, 2014

Colluding with others: You can go your own way

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Perhaps your area is a dry spot when it comes to radical organizing. Or maybe there are plenty of leftist groups in your area, but their politics don’t quite align with your own. If you find that regularly meeting up with like-minded individuals is not much of a possibility, don’t feel at a loss––you should see this as an opportunity to start up your own group.

A lot of the tactics for finding like-minded people can also be used for drawing them together, but you’ll be using the platforms in slightly different ways. Here are some tips for starting your own organization:

  1. Draw up a plan.

    Before you jump in and start trying to recruit people for your group, it would be helpful to articulate the ideas you have in mind. Create a pamphlet articulating the transformations that you fight for, assemble a list of readings you would like to discuss over the next few weeks with a group, or construct a mission statement for your organization. Whatever you’d like to do, just put it down on paper or on the web, and make it compelling. You can then rely on this information when trying to get people interested.

  2. Again, start at school.

    If you find that there aren’t any radical clubs at your school, start one. Most schools require a minimum amount of prospective members in order for a group to become officially recognized (AKA chartered), so gather up some friends and classmates and begin fulfilling your school’s requirements.

    Some schools won’t be friendly if you’re a leftist group, and they may insidiously undermine your efforts. The bureaucracy in charge of approving my campus-based organization’s application for chartership has repeatedly rejected it for insignificant reasons that are normally overlooked for other student clubs.

    In some cases, you could also be the target of overt action. In 2013 the school administration at CUNY City College, one of our sister schools, shut down without notice a student center that has historically been used for radical organizing. All of the students’ and groups’ belongings were seized, and a number of students and activists who later moved to take back the center were suspended from school or arrested.

    CUNY students protesting the school admin's practices and policies. Photo credit David McGlynn;

    Organizing can be dangerous, so be mindful of this before trying to start up a group at school. If you find that your campus administration is hostile to your ideas, you can still meet up with your associates on or off campus without becoming a chartered organization. You can also use this to your advantage by publicizing the unjust treatment you’ve faced in an effort to recruit people to your side and organize resistance.

  1. Attend workers’ strikes and activities.

    If class struggle is a central aspect of your politics, there’s no better way of starting up a group than attending workers’ strikes and rallies. You can move with the workers to start organizing other rallies and protests, supporting other strikes throughout your area, doing readings, or even translating pamphlets to other languages so that they can be easily disseminated amongst immigrant workers. Organizing workers’ strikes is also a possibility, but this is an entirely different animal that cannot be adequately addressed within the purview of this book.

  2. Use social media and existing groups.

    Again, social media can be used to your advantage here. Post to radical Facebook discussion groups or your area’s reddit page, or start a Meetup group for the organization or activity you’d like to create. Ask your friends and colleagues if they’d be interested in attending, or ask them if they know of anyone who would be. Publicize your idea through Twitter by tagging users that you think would be interested.

    You can also attend the meetings of groups with whom you don’t completely see eye-to-eye to see if anyone else shares your politics and would like to begin a split-off group. Be discreet: you don’t want to start a fight (unless that’s your thing).

Once you have a small group set up, you can start broadening your membership and participating in direct action, which we’ll tackle next.

Amanda Fox-Rouch (Hunter College)

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Translating philosophy into praxis

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Perhaps you know your way around quite a few revolutionary texts and you’re good at putting them into practice in small ways, but now you’d like to find a space where you can discuss them critically and start putting them into collective practice. Obviously, you’ll need to find other people who are already doing this. But radical groups aren’t exactly commonplace, so finding them is a bit different than locating other information.

How nice it is to discuss world-changing ideas.

Here are some tips for linking up with like-minded people in your area:

  1. Start at school.

    Finding other radicals is relatively easy to do if you’re a college student. Colleges and universities have historically been hubs of leftist activity. Search your school’s website to locate radical clubs––most schools dedicate entire sections of their websites to student organizations. If you’re not a student, you may still be able to attend group meetings at local schools as a campus guest.

  2. Find radical bookstores.

    Most radical bookstores regularly host events that pertain to traditions spanning the spectrum of leftist politics. Even if this isn’t the case with your local radical bookstore, you’re still bound to find like-minded individuals there who you can talk to and begin organizing with. Bluestockings is a New York City bookstore that sells tons of radical texts and also serves as a hub of activity. They host events every single night, including group readings, poetry slams, meetings for radical educators, and so much more. The organization of the bookstore itself is also radical––it’s collectively owned and is run by volunteers.

  3. Use social media intelligently.

    In this case, social media is your best friend. Scour Facebook for radical groups that discuss ideas that you are interested in. If there are some posters in your area who you vibe with, suggest linking up or ask if they know of any groups that would welcome your participation. You can also search Facebook specifically for radical organizations in your area. may be used for the same purpose.

It’s nice to engage with texts and ideas in the coziness of isolation, but it’s even better to link up with people and begin putting your ideas into practice.

If there isn’t a radical group in your area, why not start one? We’ll discuss this next.

Amanda Fox-Rouch (Hunter College)

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Giving Back: Be Prepared

Thursday, April 10th, 2014


Now that you have recognized your strengths and passions, and you understand the importance of researching, we should discuss expectations and how to get started. Unless I have become the J.K. Rowling of the “how to” eBook world, which would be an awkward title, you are probably reading this alone. There is no fan club picking this up, so you are probably sitting at home and reading this because 1. I know you and made you, or 2. You have a personal interest in volunteering, but do not have an available organization or club to tell you step-by-step guide on options and expectations. Hopefully these tips will help you feel more comfortable, flexible, and prepared to begin serving in your community.


  1. Serving can be more than a soup kitchen
    Nothing is wrong with serving weekly at a soup kitchen. But why is this always in the movies as the most popular hit volunteering opportunity? There is so much more than that! Look back at your skills and personality traits and use those to serve. If you like building and creating with your hands, jump on a Habitat for Humanity project. If you’re artsy, offer to paint or create illustrations for a nonprofit. Love sports? Volunteer to be a children’s soccer coach for a season with children. The more interests you have, the more opportunities you have to serve.

    Don't be Barney Stinson and wait until mandated Community Service to volunteer locally.

  2. Be realistic with your wardrobe
    This should be very obvious. If you are working with children or teenagers, dress in a way that you would want your child to dress. It’s awkward for parents to meet a youth leader and have to worry about “where to look”. If volunteering with a professional organization, dress to impress, despite the fact that you’re not a staff member. If you love volunteering there and they’re hiring, who would they rather hire, an outside candidate or you? More likely than not it’s fine to wear a t-shirt and jeans. Just be smart.
  3. Commitment
    No fancy way to say it, it’s a pretty important trait so there is no three word combo like “commitment ceases conflict”, although that does sound good. When you find an organization you love, you will be on fire to serve. And hopefully when you go, you will enjoy your experience so much that you won’t want to leave. But don’t dive in too deep. Be realistic with your schedule, yet tactful. If you can volunteer once a week, awesome! If you can only commit to once a month, that’s fine too. As time passes you may feel like you’re missing out, and you will find a way to make time in your schedule. Like I stated in a previous article, if you volunteer somewhere you love, it won’t even feel like work.
  4. Practice Flexibility and Patience… what everyone loves to hear!
    That was sarcasm, if you didn’t realize, or is this the first sentence you have ever read by me? It’s preeettty common in my writing. As much as I would like to encourage you to volunteer in a position that you love, the fact of the matter is that specific position may not always be open. But don’t feel discouraged; instead try a different job. As always, you never know: but you might love it. If not, hopefully you can just get your foot in the door for other volunteering opportunities in the future. For example, at my church in Jersey I serve on Sundays helping with young children…like babies… with poop and stuff. It was not my first, or second choice, but I knew the church needed the help. Now not only do I love seeing the same little faces each week, but I’ve talked to others about different serving opportunities that I can use my talents for. And now I am helping with the social media aspect of the church. Because I was willing to help in one way and waited patiently, jumping at other volunteering opportunities, I am not only enjoying working with children but also assisting 140 characters at a time.


Awe isn't this such a precious picture of changing a diaper...ABSOLUTELY DECEITFUL...but I will spare you the horrifying details...


I hope that you feel a bit more prepared, not to change a diaper, that requires real life experience, but hopefully you feel open and ready to serve where ever you are placed! You are probably still wondering why I haven’t helped you connect with an organization or tips towards that. Well, keep reading.



Samantha Bringas

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