Does anyone else have a problem with gatekeeper activism in their communities?
In Sacramento, where I live and organize, any coalition work that might be to the benefit of the working class has a serious hurdle to overcome. Old guard activists acting as gatekeepers and cliquish behaviors.
Sacramento, being a capital city with a modest population, (not a small town but not exactly a big city either) there is inevitably a lot of political activity here, and lots of organizations that pop up to address the many issues in our community.
There are some issues with these organizations though, many have good intentions but 1. Most of them are not democratically run 2. the same handful of people make their way into leadership positions in these small handful of organizations, leading to no diversity of tactics. 3. leaders of these organizations will talk about "community" while simultaneously keeping new and budding organizers out. 4. they let personality differences effect which organizations they associate and plan events / campaigns with, holding back both organizations abilities to help the working class.
In the spirit of saving face, I will not list the organizations or individuals in question, however, if you are a Sacramento activist and you wonder, "Is James talking about me right now?" I probably am.
The thing is I am not trying to call out these organizations, I'm trying to call attention to a very serious problem in the fight against capitalist oppression.
Leaders and organizers do the cause and working class no favors by letting personalities dictate what organizations are worth working with.
You can read more about this in other blog posts of mine (Class Not Cliques, and The Case Against Personality Cults) In any case, the four tiers I mentioned earlier hold back the revolution in the following ways.
1. Any organization that is not democratically run, transparent with finances and decision-making, dooms themselves to either fail or becomes destined to go from being an organizaition that is helping people in the short term to a member of the non-profit industrial complex in the long-term.
2. The same 10-15 should not be the same people in charge of the handful of organizations. We will never build a mass movement if the same person leading the mutual aid group for immigrants is the same person chairing a homeless persons coalition.
3. It is a fine line between being a "community" and behaving cliquishly. Many leaders in Sacramento like to think that by being stand offish they are protecting the community they have created with fellow activists and leaders, when in actuality they are only standing in the way of growing the movement. No organization is sustainable unless it is frequently bringing in and elevating new leaders, PERIOD!
4. Without naming names, I can vouch that some organizations have gone out of their way to keep my DSA chapter out an unaffiliated with their work. Despite the fact we have the largest reach of any organization and are in a position to mobilize hundreds if not thousands, personality differences between leaders of certain mutual aid organizations and DSA leaders has led to these organizations keeping DSA out of helping the cause, they act like they have a monopoly on their issue, a monopolization of the cause, if you will. Any organizer who stands in the way of coherent coalition building is no organizer. If you let personality differences dictate which organization you work with you are single-handedly holding back the movement AND you are restricting your own cause unnecessarily.
Gatekeeper activism needs to end, if you use your organization to monopolize a cause then your cause is doomed to fail. Sacramento activists and organizers, I implore you, this is not high school, this is the real world and we have that world to win. Stop holding back your own cause!