Thursday, January 05, 2006

Challenges to Progressive Movement Building

A roundtable of some prominent progressive Boston activists and intellectuals held a few months ago [Pam Chamberlain, "PRA Roundtable on Movement Building," PRAccess - Fall/Winter 2005, Political Research Associates] addressed "challenges to progressive movement building" and reached a few points I think are worth emphasizing:

Marlene Fried, a reproductive justice activist and Hampshire College professor, recently returned from India, where she saw far less fragmentation among movements than here. The activists speculated that the United States ends up with a splintered collection of movements because organizers are issuebased, and not sufficiently engaged in cross-issue or multi-issue work.

Another big problem identified by the group was the professionalization of advocacy, shifting the focus away from grassroots organizing. "You need people-to-people [connections]," said Penn Loh, the environmental justice advocate.

Many folks noted other missing elements of successful progressive movement building —an inspiring movement ideology/culture, a critical mass of people, and the ability to seize the political moment. When movements are robust it doesn't matter if there isn't a lot of money. But money is critical when movements are fallow.


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