LeftRoots was founded on the belief that the U.S. Left was too fragmented, insufficiently rooted in social movements and insufficiently grounded in movement-wide revolutionary strategy. At the time, the assessment was that there was a disconnect between revolutionary theorists and the people most connected to and leading the emerging mass struggles.
How could we, as General Baker of DRUM said, “turn thinkers into fighters, fighters into thinkers”?
LeftRoots set out to answer that question by testing it in collective practice with social movement and party Left organizers and activists committed to building a new sort of organization and collectively transforming themselves in the process. We call this transformation cadrefication, the process of growing the capacities that we saw time and time again as critical to making viable any attempt to achieve liberation for people and the planet: our strategic skills, our political organizing skills, our social-emotional capacities, our organization building skills.
In surveying members about why they joined LeftRoots, we heard a fairly common set of stories.
From social movement leftists with little experience in the revolutionary Left, we heard: “I was doing work in housing / environmental / education / racial / immigrant / gender / worker justice, and I could see all these other people doing that too, but I couldn’t see how what we were doing was going to add up to winning socialism for our people.”
From veterans of the New Communist Movement, we heard: “I could see this new generation cropping up, talking anti-capitalism, but not with a forward-looking program for socialism. And I could see my peers who bore the burden of our mistakes, of our commitment to discipline without resilience.”
And from the generation in the middle, the ones who started the LeftRoots project, we heard: “It was exciting to see so many Black and Brown, gender-oppressed young organizers coming up, really down to throw down, but they had this anti-leadership orientation and liberal care practices. And from my time working with the more experienced revolutionary Left, I was pretty sick of the same people, mostly (but not all) white, mostly (but not all) men, trying to figure out what to do, disregarding this next generation.”
So for ten years LeftRoots worked to build a national cadrefication project, to transform hundreds of organizers, activists, base-builders, movement trainers and party leftists into revolutionary cadres with shared frameworks for strategy and organizational culture. This effort, alongside other interventions, could set the conditions for at least one (new or renewed) revolutionary cadre organization to take root in the movement ecosystem and fundamentally reshape it.
In 2021, LeftRoots began conversations to assess the work needed to close out the project, the readiness of the movement ecosystem and LeftRoots’ relationship to other movement forces. From these conversations, the Socialist Organization and Strategy (SOS) process was born, as was a partnership with Liberation Road.
The following text is taken from the 2023 SOS website and can serve as a snapshot of our thinking as we began our sunset and the initiation of the new formations.
About the SOS
The SOS Process for Socialist Organization and Strategy is a multi-tendency, non-sectarian process anchored in a commitment to socialism, liberatory strategy, and cadre organization. A decade in the making, it was initiated by LeftRoots in 2023, and has been held in co-partnership with Liberation Road. The core purpose of the SOS is to support the launch of one or more independent cadre organizations in the U.S., equipped with strategies for revolutionary change.
To make this purpose possible, we’re undergoing a process to cohere and align leftists around two strategic tendencies, ground them in healthy, disciplined organizational culture, and provide the necessary resources to grow these new organizations. The vision for this work is guided by two urgent questions: What are the steps we need to take to win liberation for people and the planet, and how can we build organization capable of advancing those steps?
Why Cadre Organizations?
To win socialist revolution, revolutionary Cadre organizations are necessary.
We are leftists who come out of social movements, organizing oppressed and working-class people, to fight the symptoms of this exploitative and violent system. We believe that building our people’s power in mass social movements is key to ending racial capitalism, patriarchy and empire. And right now, after decades of neoliberal assaults and successful right-wing pushes to “take back” the country, turning mass organizing into real power requires rebuilding a strong U.S. Left. A Left with a bold, unwavering offensive strategy to win the socialist liberation that our people, and the planet, deserve. In order to do this, we need revolutionary cadre organizations that can pursue strategy at the scale of our overlapping crises. This strategy, called liberatory strategy, builds the capacity of our movements to shift the balance of power in order to defeat opposing forces and carry out revolutionary change. Currently, such strategy does not exist within our movement ecosystem, and 21st century cadre organizations are a critical intervention towards making that possible.
A healthy movement ecosystem will feature various types of organizations, each playing distinct and, ideally, complementary roles. However, cadre organizations are an essential organizational form needed to advance socialism. Cadre organizations are Left formations whose members are united around liberatory vision, assessment, and objective. They have been essential to historic people’s victories across the globe. They work to carry out shared strategy for liberation in a united and disciplined way, going far beyond campaigns and sector-based organizing and work. They are political instruments that can unite movements and offer strategic and political leadership to create a real path to liberation. Many of our strongest Left organizations in the U.S. agree that our current level of revolutionary organization is insufficient to the task. The lack of strong 21st century cadre organizations with liberatory strategy is a missing component of the U.S. movement ecosystem currently and a key weakness of the U.S. Left.
Two Strategic Tendencies. One Commitment.
There is no one organization that will get us to liberation. This is why the SOS Process is “multi-tendency.” This means we believe it is important for leftists to have clarity about their strategic tendency (aka their alignment with a particular liberatory strategy) and get into cadre organizations with other people who are aligned with that tendency and committed to testing it. We believe it is important to encourage coordination across strategic tendencies without antagonism or sectarianism, but also without false unity. A strengthened, more resilient Left is possible when we can be grounded in this kind of humility and allow space for multiple strategic tendencies to flourish in principled relationship.
The SOS Process is committed to supporting the potential launch of two cadre organizations aligned with distinct strategic tendencies that emerged out of a sincere and rigorous strategy development process within LeftRoots.
The Arc of the SOS Process: 2023-2024
Cohering a Core
The process started with bringing together movement leaders from across the country representing a wide variety of sectors (such as labor, Black liberation movement, climate, land sovereignty, housing, abolition, and more) to get clear on their strategic tendency and alignment with the SOS Process. It also established two independent core groups of leftists who have taken responsibility for developing the foundational structure, strategy, and program of these future cadre organizations.
Engaging the Left
Now, we are supporting these newly formed cores to engage more leftists across our movements and invite them into the SOS Process.
Launching New Formations
LeftRoots will sunset at the end of 2023. In 2024, new or renewed cadre organizations will launch. They will focus on building their membership, establishing their organizational culture, and beginning a new scale of coordinated strategic political work in principled relationship with other organizations in the movement ecosystem.
Having completed our experiment, LeftRoots has now sunset, though its imprint exists in the former members, the comrades who supported the project and the new formations launched from the SOS process.
We are proud, reflective and excited for the next chapter. Toward a better Left! Toward a better world!
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