Organizing then and now (Re: Abortion Rights: Marxists and Liberals

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at
Sun Feb 7 19:52:19 PST 1999

-----Original Message----- From: Frances Bolton <fbolton at> To: lbo-talk at <lbo-talk at>

>Today's activists don't have stories that are as glamorous, or as
>historically important, as those of activists who were active in the 60s.
>There is simply nothing like that going on, at least in the States. The
>sharing of one's experiences during those also seems to have the effect >of
reminding younger activists and would-be activists that they will not
>measure up, that their activism will be puny in comparison.

I don't know about Alex but I find a lot of 60s stories irritating because I am not that impressed by the results and am often more impressed by the work being done by today's activists. As your comments indicate, there is the assumption that there is little to learn today, so folks from the 60s feel a need to lecture young activists about what "real organizing" was like.

Having gone through the mobilizations around Prop 187 and Prop 209 in California, I find it bizarre to hear anyone claiming "nothing" serious is going on in the organizing sphere. In the last four years, the Latino community went through a wholesale political transformation - a mass mobilization that moved the state from an anti-immigrant majority to putting a latino in as not only Speaker of the state assembly but in the minority leader position of the GOP. Communities in latino and asian neighborhoods were mobilized in completely new ways.

This all happened in the context of a new upsurge in labor union organizing that halted the decline in unionization in the state and actually increased the percentage of workers in unions in California this past year. The Los Angeles labor council went from a stultifyingly conservative force to new dynamicism.

Let me put it this way; I would not trade my last eight years on the streets of California for a similar eight years back in the 60s. I actually enjoy hearing good stories from the past from "comrades", but those comrades have usually been those who were also engaged in social movements today. Then, the lessons usually take the form of "well we did this really well then, which would be useful today, but it's great that people today are doing these other things so much better than we did back then."

---Nathan Newman

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list