We need a ground campaign!

The world is on fire.

Revolutions are happening all over the so-called “Third-World”, calling for the downfall of the neoliberal order, all while the global north does what it can to fan out the raging flame. For the first time in decades, socialist ideas are actually on the table in both the US and the UK. China's economic dominance is weakening and people can feel it. All of a sudden, it feels like revolution is finally in the fucking air.

In the Philippines, a palpable amount of discontent over the current administration's backdoor deals with China resulting in them selling the nation out in all but name as well as the thousands killed during his so called “War on Drugs”. The fact that the 30th ASEAN Games is being compared to Fyre Fest is just so much icing on this shit cake. And if we, leftists and especially Libertarian Socialists, move carefully but quickly, we might just be able to catch up with the rest of the world.

But how do we do that?

We organize, of course. But how exactly does one go about that?

There are two basic methodologies that we could use to achieve that. They are essentially the same if you look at them closely enough, but the theories and thought processes that went into formulating them are diverse enough that they warrant being discussed as two separate strategies.

First is the Mass Line.

Mass Line

Originating in Mao Tse-Tung's interpretation of how the Marxist-Leninists achieved victory in the October Revolution, this process is used to provide a leadership of the masses that is “from the masses, and to the masses”. This means taking the ideas of the masses, concentrating them and finally going back to the masses to explain and propagate these ideas in order to drum up action.

Let's break this down:

  1. Gather: Go out into your community, preferably in groups, and each organizer would speak to the locals about what they think about a certain issue, if you're organizing around a single issue, or what their concerns are about their community, their livelihood, etc. Make sure to let them do most of the talking and ask them open-ended questions.

  2. Concentrate: Regroup with all of your fellow organizers and find a common narrative in the information you guys have gathered. Interpret it using a critical framework relevant to the issues found. Formulate solutions based on the narrative and your group's interpretation of it.

  3. Return: Explain and promote your group's findings and your proposed solutions to the issues that were raised using a variety of tactics. Wheatpaste posters, social media, and good old one-on-one conversations with many of the same people you've spoken to about the issues being discussed. During this phase, one must drum up all the support that you and your comrades could muster for your campaign. A short, memorable slogan is useful in winning mindshare in whatever community you're in.

One must keep in mind that this is an iterative process, and must be repeated sufficiently often in order to not lose sight of the needs of the masses and lose the revolution's foundational strength.

Now, we must keep in mind that this method is optimized for a centralized organization, see how it distinguishes between “organizers” and “community” in all stages of formulating the Mass Line. Not to mention the fact that this is best done by an already organized group. Whether or not having a “vanguard” leading the charge for social change is problematic is not within the scope of this work.

What is within the scope, however, is how you could possibly build a vanguard group, or a network of organized groups working together.

Enter the IWW's Organizing Conversation, AKA...

The A.E.I.O.U.

Developed by the Industrial Workers of the World in order to unionize workplaces and form a One Big Union in order to overthrow capitalism and the state, this method can be easily adapted into many settings and issues.

This can be done with or without a large group assisting you. Although you can certainly perform door-to-door canvassing in the style of the Mass Line, it would not be as effective. This also has the added benefit of, if done correctly, actively including the community or workplace you're organizing into the organization you are building.

Each part has two phases – 10% Introductions and 90% Follow-Up.

And remember, there's no script for doing this correctly, just talk to them as a friend and as a fellow person.

  1. A – Agitate: Begin the conversation by talking about their problems in their workplace or community. Follow the 80:20 principle, let them do most of the talking and ask them open-ended questions. Use leading questions and paraphrasing in order to link their grievances with those in power and how they got their power. Evoke feelings of anger. Anger, being an active emotion, can be directed towards action. Just take care not to fan their flames too hot as to shut down their ability to think!

    • Take note of what grievances and issues that come up in your different conversations, as this will be important later during the Organize phase.

    • After the initial conversation, make sure that their motivation and desire to change their material conditions keep burning. One of the best ways to fuel that is by -

  2. E – Educate: Discuss with them both Theory and Practice.

    • By Theory, discuss with them how and why there is a power imbalance between the community and whatever is causing the issues they're facing. Describe alternatives and socialist solutions. And more importantly, ask them what solutions do THEY see for their concerns. Remember the 80:20 principle.

    • By Practice, discuss how these possible solutions can take shape in the community or workplace you're organizing. Who might be other people interested in the project? Where would be a good place to meet? When should different tasks be done? And, most importantly, why is it important for this project to succeed.

    • And when you follow up with them, make sure that they are developing both the theoretical foundations by asking them what they think about the issue and their thoughts on other adjacent issues. And most importantly how those in power would react to the project, which leads us to...

  3. I – Inoculate: Mentally and preparing your comrades for a pushback from those in power is important to not lose their support, much like vaccines prepare the body for when viruses and certain bacteria attack the body. When you get to this point, open the topic by asking them what they think the company you guys are working for would do, for example, if they found out about your unionization efforts? Or what would the local government do if they found out you and many others are planning to delay, or even completely stop a project that could potentially leave an entire community homeless?

    • During your follow up, make sure to ask them if they think the authorities know what your group is up to, and what things could be done to prevent that from happening.
  4. O – Organize: Everyone is sufficiently motivated. Everyone knows what they're doing. Everyone is mentally and emotionally prepared. Now it's time for some collective action!

    • First, discuss your notes about all the grievances that were shared during the Agitate phase and construct a narrative of what is going on and form an analysis using relevant theories much like in the “Concentrate” phase of the Mass Line.

    • Then, split the tasks that need doing, creating posters, talking to prospective members, etc. Form committees if they always need doing. Then follow up with all the tasks, and have them follow up on each other's tasks as well.

  5. U – Unionize: Depending on the particular needs of your organization, you guys might want to register with the relevant local and national government authorities as they do provide some degree of protection for some forms of collective action. Also, this serves as a way to formally introduce your cause to a much wider audience and allow your organization to join much bigger initiatives like the aforementioned IWW.

    • While unionization might not need follow-ups once you're registered, one must certainly make sure that phases A to O are regularly repeated in order to maintain the organization's momentum and cohesion. This is an iterative process as well and must be a continuous process of re-orientation and motivation.

One could see the similarities with Mass Line, especially during Agitation and Organization phases. The main difference is, the AEIOU process includes the community being organized into the organizing process and finding solutions in a much more direct manner than what could be found in the Mass Line


But, what about both?

Especifisimo is a form of social organizing popularized by the FARJ in Brazil that is summarized as:

A specifically anarchist organization can, for example, use mass line tactics to assist with a certain issue in a community. After the success of the program, it would then be easier to initiate an organizational drive via the AEIOU process and leave a stable Anarchist presence in the area.

Different tactics aside, the time to act is now. The foundations of the neoliberal world order is buckling under the weight of its own corruption, and we must take advantage of any moment of weakness.

Now more than ever is the best time to be a socialist, and we must not waste this opportunity to bolster our ranks and directly participate in the people's struggle to improve their material conditions. All we need are some boots on the ground, some crazy assholes knocking on people's doors and having serious discussions about their lives.