Our moment in history (1970’s—now) is characterized both by a crisis of the left and progressive movements and the dominance of the right and conservative movements. The right has saturated the media and public thinking with the idea that ‘big government’ is at the root of social problems and, through capturing political office, has implemented policies that destroy the public infrastructure that is the foundation of the economy. Meanwhile they shamelessly use government to further enrich the wealthy, shift the costs of economic and ecological crisis onto the poor and working class, launch imperialist wars, and spread anti-immigrant, racist, sexist, and homophobic values in our communities.
We understand that this domestic situation is but one element of the international neoliberal system in which the role of government has been shifted to better facilitate the massive shift of power and wealth from the working class and oppressed people to the corporations and the ruling class. We understand the global neoliberal regime as the imperialism of the 21st century, and identify it as the main enemy of the people of the world and the planet itself.
Left and progressive forces in this country, while resisting neoliberalism, have been unable to reverse or even halt the political shift to the right. The source of this impotence is the failure of the left to build independent political organization and movements that can effectively fight for and demonstrate a real alternative to neoliberalism. The left and progressives have largely focused attention on social movements and resistance, leaving the struggle for government office to the right and those sections of the center who unite with the neoliberal approach to economy and government. Those operating within the political arena have failed to articulate a viable alternative. Without an alternative economic and political agenda that can unite our movements, the left and progressives remain marginal voices of dissent, unable to substantially change the course of events or the balance of power.
We envision a new moment in history, moving towards a different future, and driven by stronger, more politicized movements. This moment is characterized by the central role that government and the public sector plays in stewarding our economy and our ecosystems in the interests of people and the planet rather than profits and corporations. But this is not a government that stands above or apart from everyday folks. It is a government made up of the poor, people of color, LGBTQ people. It is a government and a public sector that has been democratized—where decisions are made by those most affected, not by experts, bosses, or unaccountable politicians.
Government is not something that happens “over there” in city hall or the legislative building, but is increasingly understood as “governance”: the way we work together and make decisions about our shared needs and resources. Our movements are the engines of this democratization of governance because they fight to transform our society into a place for collective deliberation and justice and, in the course of struggle, transform people as well as institutions. This practice of transformative democracy—which has replaced representative, neoliberal democracy—is moving us towards a society where exploitation and oppression no longer exist.
To achieve this vision we believe it is necessary to build a new kind of organization and a new approach to organizing. The Center’s goal is to build a political organization and connected social movements that are able to contend for power at the state level. Starting at the city/county level, the Center’s strategy is to work with local communities to create “People’s” organizations that unite political organization with mass (issue-based) organizing and the building of resilience institutions.
By political organization we mean the development of independent organization capable of running candidates for office, rooted in precinct level organization, mass organizing, a left-progressive political program for governance, and a political education process that gives its members all the necessary tools to understand and participate in every level of government.
By mass organizing we mean the building of membership organizations, run by members and focused around winning both specific fights and overall democratization within the institutions that affect members’ lives.
By resilience institutions we mean the construction of long-term organizations for the meeting of community needs based on principles of self-governance, solidarity, cooperation, and social and ecological justice.