Difficulties of Organizing
“Too many organizations today are content with being federations of religious institutions, perhaps adding a few of the most interested unions. This has serious limitations. First, there will be little challenge to engage in more militant tactics even if the situation calls for them. Church people tend to be too polite to use them., despite Martin Luther King’s eloquent defense of nonviolent direct action. Second, there won’t be a critical mass of people experiencing a common problem the way that, for example the tenants of a badly managed, high-rent, poorly maintained building experience their landlord. (243)
“For a community or mass organization, the difficulties are immense. The tendencies toward becoming an agency, toward absorption in one of the political parties, toward comfort and cooptation, toward internal factionalization and away from struggle around issues are powerful. Four things are necessary, I think, if these tendencies are to be avoided.
First, the vision of leadership and membership must be developed. This vision must combine careful attention to local issues and organization building with a sense of participation in something bigger, something that will be part of turning the country around, of taking power back from the ‘fat cats’ and returning it to the people, of judging public policy through the lens of economic and social justice, and of participation by people in its determination.
Second, there must emerge in the local organization-building and issue struggles a sense of power that comes from victories won in struggle. This is what will involve large numbers of people and encourage them to take part. So-called apathy will be overcome when people find themselves in situations where they can do something. With this sense of power there will be excitement, meaning, and fun. These are the glue of a successful people-power organization.
Third, democratic membership control must exist in these organizations. As the people build them, so can they control them. Forms for effective participation must be elaborated and nurtured. Democratic membership control is the final guarantee of the integrity of the organization.Fourth, these organizations must be funded through activities of their members and the people who will benefit from their action. No foundation, government agency, church or other charitable body is going to long fund such an organization without distorting its character. Self-financing is a difficult lesson to learn. It is just beginning to be mastered by people’s organizations around the country.” (244)
A COMMUNITY ORGANIZER'S TALE by Mike Miller, Berkeley:Heyday Books, 2009. CSCO believes this is the best book on organizing. Miller has been with CSCO for many years.