We can read Marx, Rosa, Lenin, and all of our leftist favorites until we’re bleeding and vomiting theory. However, there are texts that leftists, especially leftists who consider themselves organizers, should read which have nothing to do with leftism. Despite lacking our theoretical lens they do still bring a depth of important knowledge that many people who organize are lacking.
Reading texts that are pertinent to us and our praxis is important to developing our organizing abilities and the scope of our message. However if we supplement our knowledge of socialism with these other texts, then we can all be better organizers and then there will be no stopping the coming Red Tide.
So here are three non leftist texts that leftists and organizers should be familiar with:
1. Declaration of Independance, The Constititution, Bill of Rights, and All Amendments
Please don’t quit reading the article! I am not advocating for the watered down social democracy that comes with the all too common liberal American acceptionalist fetishization of the founding of America. Nay, far from it. I am suggesting we read this material because we need to know what we are up against. We need to know what the law of the land actually if we want to cultivate it for revolution. In war one makes no assumptions about the enemy, and information is the key to winning all wars. Make no mistake, we are indeed locked in a class war against racism, ablism, and patriarchy. Therefore we must take nothing for granted. We easily can point out the inherent racism and patriarchy in the documents written by white slave owning men, but eventually you get to a point where that is merely stating the obvious. What will help us win is understanding the laws written by these agents of colonialist elitism so that we can show how revolting they really are. We need to know what the enemy will use against us when we point out how “free” this world actually is. As said in the Art of War, “information is the key to victory.”
And speaking of the Art of War…
2. The Art of War
Everyone should read and reread Sun Tzu’s Art of War. It is a sort of unofficial guide to successful organizing against your enemy. It emphasizes strategic thinking over reactionary thinking, a problem that the left needs to expiedently address. We are quick to protest and react when we see an injustice in our workplace or our community and we should be, however we often forget certain truths about our capitalist enemy when we put all our energy into our reaction instead of figuring out their tactics.
We forget such truths as, “Appear at points where the enemy must hasten to defend,” an example of why workplace and general strikes are more effective than symbolic marches or gestures. Or for those who romanticize anarchic revolts over anything peaceful or procedureal, they could learn from Sun Tzu’s words, “the skillful leader subdues the enemy’s army without any fighting… he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field.” Do not get me wrong, I am not against armed or militant uprising, I simply do not romantize it nor should any leftist. Because it is even in the Art of War that a physical battle, “is nothing to take lightly, and must always be a general’s last resort.”
3. Robert’s Rules of Parlimentary Proceudre.
Those in organizations such as the Democratic Socialists of America are familiar with this debate all to well. On the one side you have people who refuse to use Robert’s Rules because they find the language problematic or they simply reject structuralism in their organizing, not to mention those who find the jargon all together inaccessible and therfore they are alienated from the decision making body. There is also the fact that in order for Robert’s Rules to be effective you need a strong and knowledgable chairperson using them. This in turn forsakes the people who our society has taught they need to be quieter and meeker than others. Others favor Robert’s Rules as a way to streamline decision making and assure that meetings are productive and follow a sense of structure.
Personally I am on both sides of this issue, I will defend Robert’s Rules as a tool as much as I can but I am not insensitive to how alienating or regressive it can be at times. Robert’s Rules is effective yet it is often used to silence people who try to speak truth to power. I think the balance that is needed is making the language more open and accessible while acknowledging that Robert’s Rules does not have to be followed for every single decision made by a democratic body.
However every leftist and organizer should familiarize themselves with Robert’s Rules for similar reasons as to why they should study the Constitution. We have to know the enemy to defeat the enemy, and a harsh truth is that our enemy, in the form of the legislative bodies in this country, use Robert’s Rules. From city council meetings to Congress, this parliamentary procedure is what gets used to run their meetings and the people who are less knowledgable about it are at the mercy of the knowledgable. The enemy is dependant on our ignorance of the law and parlimentary procedure to keep us subjected to their rule. If we come to any governing body with knowledge about the materials they use against us, then we are forcing the enemy to “hasten” to defend a place they did not think they would have to defend.
So there you are, three texts that leftists and organizers should read which have little to do with leftism but still make one a better leftist for knowing them. In order to defeat American Imperialism we must understand the documents which American Imperialism is founded on. In order to defeat our enemy we need to acknowledge that this is class war and we therefore need the knowledge that wins a war. In order to defeat our political enemies we need to understand the procedures that they exploit in order to silence us.
If we want to win, we need to do our homework.