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"Organize" as a Buzzword

little fish organized into a big fish shape chasing an actual big fish

I’m always interested in how some activists throw around the words “organize” and “organizer”. The words are often used as mostly undefined buzzwords. As Matt Bruenig Tweeted today, “If I didn’t [know] better, I’d think some people are in it for social status, and attaching the label ‘organizer’ boosts status.”

I think that’s part of it. But sometimes there’s just an honest lack of clarity. Many mistake event-planning for organizing. To organize, in the political sense, is not to organize an event or even a protest. It is not just a creative project. Political organizing may very well involve all of the above activities, but its essence is not itself these activities — all of which can be carried out without necessarily building or being accountable to a substantial social base.

Organizing, in the sense we mean here, is to organize a social bloc into a political force. It is to name, frame and narrate the formation or progression of a group; to articulate its goals, grievances and targets; to move it into strategic action; to align other social forces in a common direction; and to leverage this force for political ends.

Organizing is not a call out for individual self-selecting volunteers. Organizing entails starting with what already is (as opposed to trying to build everything from scratch) and engaging with people as they are.

Organizing is a mess, not a refuge.

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