Strategy Notes

On 7 May 2019, I started sending weekly email notes on strategy for creating the society we deserve.

Here you can read the Strategy Notes I've already sent and see some of the topics scheduled to come. Please recognize the list of not-yet-sent topics as tentative. I'll feel free to change them.

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Broad Contents

I generally do a series of Strategy Notes on a topic. Those broad topics have included:

Detailed Contents


2019-05-07, Strategy Note 1:
What strengths do we have in the United States?

We people of the United States benefit from many strengths.

We have a large country with many kinds of land -- from semi-tropical in Florida to arctic in Alaska.

We have a large population with many kinds of people representing most of the ethnicities and cultures of the world.

We live in many ways -- from piled on top of each other in our coastal cities to scattered miles from each other on our interior plains.

Some of us descended from ancestors who originally settled this land thousands of years ago. Some of our people arrived more recently -- in many different conditions and from many homelands.

We have a wide range of attitudes and beliefs. Most of us have a capacity for cooperativeness and for orneriness.

In short, we have the strengths of humanity in general.

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2019-05-14, Strategy Note 2:
Four big problems face the United States

The people of the United States face many problems at the moment. Four of them seem the most dangerous.

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2019-05-21, Strategy Note 3:
Our four big problems violate widely held values

Our country's four biggest problems all violate widely held values, including teachings of most religions.

So given that these four problems violate deeply held values that most people share, why do they persist?

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2019-05-28, Strategy Note 4:
What causes our biggest problems?

Our biggest problems (climate change, oppression of certain groups, governments out of control of the people, inequality) result from the capitalist market.

Capitalism began a few hundred years ago in Europe. Its unsustainable need for growth spread it worldwide. Capitalism also pressures businesses to do four dangerous things:

Capitalist competition pressures businesses to do these things.

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2019-06-04, Strategy Note 5:
What can we do about capitalism?

Assuming we don't want to take our chances enduring it in whatever forms it mutates into, we have two options:

To regulate capitalism, we need to organize sufficient power to overcome the power of capital and maintain that power advantage while we wage an ongoing struggle to keep capital under democratic control.

To replace capitalism, we need to organize sufficient power to overcome the power of capital and maintain that power advantage while we wage a struggle through the transition period to a more humane economy.

I prefer replacement because I expect to like the results better and because it requires a shorter struggle (possibly only a generation or two instead of forever).

We don't have to choose between these two options immediately. In their early stages (organize sufficient power) both options have much in common.

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2019-06-11, Strategy Note 6:
What might regulating capitalism mean?

As we organize power to overcome capital's anti-democratic opposition to regulation, we might want policies like these:

These things theoretically could happen within regulated capitalism. They would require a continual struggle.

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2019-06-18, Strategy Note 7:
What might replacing capitalism mean?

We shouldn't think of our task as just replacing capitalism. Some replacements could have worse results than even capitalism does.

Instead, we have the goal of creating a healthy, humane society. That society won't have capitalist characteristics, but that freedom doesn't define the new society.

Most of us find it very difficult to imagine a society fundamentally different from the ones we have experienced. Capitalism doesn't encourage us to think outside its box.

The fact that we have trouble imagining the details of something doesn't make that something impossible. My grandparents could not have described how to build the Internet, but it exists.

Like any long-lasting human society, our new society must have ways to do certain things:

The current capitalist system produces enormous amounts of goods and services, allocates them in extremely unequal ways, matches supplies with desires incompletely, and totally fails on sustainability. So our new society doesn't need to offer perfection; it just needs to offer enough improvement to make the transition effort worthwhile.

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2019-06-25, Strategy Note 8:
How might our new economy function?

Those of us who can work and want to, do whatever work we want. We make the goods we produce and the services we offer freely available. We help ourselves to the freely available goods and services. We communicate widely to match supplies with desires and to recruit for multi-person tasks.

For work that we agree needs done but too few people want to do, we take turns. This practice likely will result in less efficient production in some cases. For example, if I annually work a three-hour turn collecting trash, I won't get as good at it as people who now do it 40 hours per week for years. I prefer that inefficiency to forcing people to spend large portions of their lives on unhealthy or unpleasant tasks.

We can afford such inefficiency because our new society will not need some of our largest current industries (advertising, financial institutions, real estate, insurance, militaries, most police and prisons, and much lawyering and accounting).

Replacing capitalism this way would create a bigger change than did the Industrial Revolution. It would approximate the scale of the invention of agriculture.

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2019-07-02, Strategy Note 9:
Can elections regulate or replace capitalism?

Capitalism has bipartisan support within our country's establishment. Let me restate that, in case you missed its implication. Both of the main political parties in this country support the cause of our biggest problems. (The minor parties generally do also, but the two major parties have arranged things to keep them insignificant.)

Big money (capital, to use a slightly technical term) has captured both major political parties in the United States, all three branches of the federal government, most state governments, and the minds of many of our people.

These facts mean we cannot realistically expect to save ourselves via elections. We certainly cannot solve our problems quickly via elections.

Elections still matter. We should accomplish as much as we can through them. In some places, local elections have valuable possibilities. At this point in our country's development, however, we cannot expect elections to make the major changes we require.

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2019-07-09, Strategy Note 10:
How we can move forward

What should we do when big money blocks progress through elections? Obviously, we turn to non-electoral methods of making change.

Nonviolent action campaigns --if waged smartly-- can build enough power to break through the barriers that big money has created. (For examples of how the Scandinavian countries used nonviolent action campaigns when the wealthy blocked progress in their countries in the last century, see George Lakey's book Viking Economics.)

By launching lots of nonviolent action campaigns each aimed at achieving some winnable goal that will attract the support of people who do not currently think of themselves as activists, we can greatly expand the active portion of our people and build our movement.

Nonviolent action campaigns can begin small. It probably will work best that way. Some will fail; some will win. Many small campaigns on a wide range of topics let many people from many parts of society get experience waging campaigns. This trains the pool of people who will lead the big upsurge.

To overcome big money in this country, we will need to develop much larger and more strategic campaigns than we have generally seen here.

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2019-07-16, Strategy Note 11:
To grow sufficient power, build a movement

Nonviolent action campaigns working in their locality can win real victories. We need to encourage many such local campaigns.

To create large-scale power, we will need (not immediately, but soon) to network those local campaigns into campaigns with much wider reach.

For example, in the 1970s proposed nuclear power plants faced local opposition. Those campaigns communicated and learned from each other (some more than others). Together, they defeated the nuclear industry's intention to build hundreds of new plants. The industry saw the persistent, widespread, growing power of these campaigns and stopped trying.

Anti-nuclear campaigns constituted one sector of a much larger movement. Other sectors include the Black freedom struggle, labor unions, women's rights, LGBTQ rights, disability access, environmental issues, peace activists, etc.

More cooperation (and sometimes competition) among organizations happens within a sector than across sectors. Both levels of cooperation strengthen our overall movement.

When efforts within a sector grow in strength it can multiply the strength of the whole sector. Multiple strong sectors help create strength movement-wide. We need this multiplying effect of broad cooperation to build the power to create a new foundation for society.

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2019-07-23, Strategy Note 12:
For our movement, we need infrastructure

Healthy, strong movements (and sectors of movements) do not just appear magically. People have to work intentionally to build them, much like people work to build organizations.

Sectors and movements generally develop best where they have good infrastructure organizations to strengthen them. Infrastructure organizations provide research, training, strategic advice, news media, catering, retreat centers, and such in the service of multiple organizations.

Infrastructure organizations can serve a particular sector, a few sectors, or the whole movement.

Infrastructure organizations can have formal relationships with (possibly even authority over) the organizations they serve (for example, the federation structures of the labor union sector). They can relate through short-term or long-term business contracts. They can take the form of coalitions. They can have highly informal relationships.

But however structured, infrastructure organizations and individual infrastructure workers provide many of the connections that facilitate cooperation among organizations. When they do that well, they help build a movement.

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2019-07-30, Strategy Note 13:
We can do this job

We have an enormous amount of work to do to turn this world toward something like what we need. Fortunately, we humans enjoy a good challenge. We can do this job. We also can enjoy doing it.

A time will come when people look back on today as a barbarous age. A time will come when everybody gets treated with respect. A time will come when we all have food, shelter, a healthy planet, and opportunities to learn anything we want. That time may come within the lifetimes of people alive today.

Such a time won't come just by happenstance or by electing better officials. It will come because we build a movement capable of creating that new society.

People love working together to accomplish shared goals. Step by step, we've made good progress. With loving determination, fierce patience, and a lot of fun, we can get this job done and celebrate together.

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2019-08-06, Strategy Note 14:
What must we in the United States do to correct the climate crisis? An outline

The next several Strategy Notes will offer details on the following summary.

Climate experts estimate that we must keep our planet from warming more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. To do that, we must stop emitting greenhouse gases by about 2030.

"Embedded in the goal of limiting warming to 1.5C is the opportunity for intentional societal transformation .... The form and process of transformation are varied and multifaceted ...." -- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (, Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C, section 1.4.3

To correct the climate crisis must we replace capitalism? In the long term, yes. We must do that by replacing exchange and property.

In the short term, we do not have to replace capitalism but we must severely regulate it to stop emitting greenhouse gases. Regulating capitalism sufficiently requires organizing almost as much power as replacing capitalism will, but does not require the full ideological and practical shifts needed for the long-term solution.

We must work simultaneously on the short-term (regulation) and the long-term (replacement) projects.

These efforts require a massive scale and a broad alliance. We must work with people with whom we agree about the climate even while disagreeing about other issues.

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2019-08-13, Strategy Note 15:
For correcting the climate crisis, how should we think about short-term and long-term work?

To correct the climate crisis, we must stop greenhouse gas emissions by about 2030.

This date does not mean we work on short-term goals until 2030 and on long-term goals starting in 2030. We must work on both simultaneously.

We who share the long-term goals outlined in these Strategy Notes have the interesting task of working with many people who do not yet share our long-term goals. Some of them vigorously oppose our long-term goals. Nevertheless, we must find ways to work together to win the short-term goals.

Without victory on the short-term goals, our species may not have a good long-term future. The short-term goals gain us the time needed to win our long-term goals.

Even when our short-term allies denounce our long-term goals, we must continue to work with them respectfully. We sometimes should debate long-term goals, but we must do it in ways that let us work together for our shared short-term goals.

We must build friendships with short-term allies with whom we disagree on long-term goals. We must make those friendships real. We must actually learn to like them. We must win their trust and friendship. Nothing less will sustain the necessary alliance.

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2019-08-20, Strategy Note 16:
To correct the climate crisis, what must we do in the short term?

To reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) on the scale needed by 2030 requires action by large governments (especially the United States government) and by large businesses.

We must win regulations to:

In the United States, we have two legislative proposals that could accomplish these goals:

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2019-08-27, Strategy Note 17:
We must also make the long-term change to replace capitalism

In addition to the short-term changes, we must also replace capitalism with an economy that has the possibility of long-term sustainability.

We must replace capitalism for at least three reasons:

These pressures (for growth, for pollution, against democracy) make capitalism unsustainable. In the long term we must not just regulate capitalism but must replace it with a better economy.

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2019-09-03, Strategy Note 18:
Do the emotional work about the climate necessary to think clearly

Noticing the degradation of our environment stirs up many difficult feelings: fear, anger, grief, loss, shame, numbness, etc.

These feelings can distract and confuse us. They can make it difficult to think clearly. They can cause timidity, rashness, self-righteousness, depression, assuming that officials will take care of the problem for us, and other non-helpful behaviors.

We need to think clearly and to act well. So we must acknowledge that we have these feelings and let ourselves feel and express them. Doing so lets our minds heal from the hurts of living in such a messed-up world. That healing helps us think and act more effectively.

However, we must not express these negative feelings unthinkingly. Doing so could add to the confusions (and possibly even the hurts) of others.

We can solve this dilemma by pairing up with each other and taking turns listening as we feel and express our feelings. The active listening skills that form such an important element of training for nonviolent people-power actions work very well for this paired healing work. Organizations working on correcting climate change will benefit from including such paired listening time in their regular activity.

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2019-09-10, Strategy Note 19:
How can we overcome fossil fuel wealth to win our short-term goals?

We must end the fossil fuel industry. Most of its wealthiest owners will oppose us. How can we develop sufficient power to overcome them?

Use officially approved methods ("inside game") to persuade government:

Use methods not officially approved ("outside game") to pressure government and businesses to act:

Back reforms that improve democracy:

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2019-09-17, Strategy Note 20:
To win our legislation, make climate a bridge issue, not a partisan issue

To pass legislation in the United States soon enough to meet our 2030 goal will require determined, realistic political work.

We have to win support from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress. We likely will need bipartisan support to overcome a presidential veto and to maintain the bill in future Congresses.

This means we must make protecting our climate a bridge issue, not a partisan issue.

We must strictly avoid letting any party claim this issue or blaming any party for inaction on this issue. Both of the two main parties have members of Congress who agree with us and members who oppose us. We must support or oppose them based on their actions on the issue, not on their party. We must seek, welcome, and praise helpful actions from all members of Congress. We must build support for the climate in all political parties.

We also must understand that some members of Congress (from both major parties) will speak as if they support our goals while working to dilute, delay, or defeat our bills. We should not pretend that such behavior qualifies as support.

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2019-09-24, Strategy Note 21:
Directly pressure businesses

Make visible the split in businesses over climate. Don't let polluters (such as the fossil fuel industry) claim to speak for business. Insurance companies, for example, seem like potential allies on our short-term goals.

We should consider at least the following methods to influence businesses:

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2019-10-01, Strategy Note 22:
Strengthen the organizations pushing these solutions

Support Citizens' Climate Lobby (

Support organizations advocating for a Green New Deal (GND) including Sunrise Movement (

As Extinction Rebellion (XR, develops a presence in the United States, support it.

In all these groups, have one-to-one chats to raise our long-term goal as an additional step needed (additional, not replacing their focus).

Within groups working for the long-term solution we should:

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2019-10-08, Strategy Note 23:
Engage China (and the world) respectfully and cooperatively

The United States has emitted far more greenhouse gases per person than any other country. We must take more responsibility than other countries for correcting our planet's climate crisis.

Until the US cleans up our act, we cannot effectively call others to act. Yet humanity needs action widely.

When the US stops releasing greenhouse gases, that change will make an enormous contribution but will not by itself solve the problem. This problem requires engaging most of the world's people.

Every country currently releases greenhouse gases. Our climate crisis affects everybody. All people and countries have an interest in correcting it.

Because the current US government hinders climate progress, we must engage directly with our peers in other countries, especially China. We must approach those engagements with complete respect, a bit of humility, and a spirit of cooperation.

The people and government of the People's Republic of China will play a particularly important part in the world's climate struggle. Because of the size of their population, their position as the center of manufacturing, and their growing international influence, the choices they make matter more than most. The world will benefit immensely if they offer good leadership on the climate crisis.

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2019-10-15, Strategy Note 24:
When we replace capitalism, what might our long-term solution look like?

Strategy Note 17 explained why we must replace capitalism.

The new society likely will have the following characteristics:

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2019-10-22, Strategy Note 25:
How might we win the long-term changes?

It could happen that everybody wakes up one morning determined to not cooperate with property relationships or exchange relationships and instead to live on the basis of sharing and solidarity. That could happen. We should not assume it will happen just because the long-term livability of our planet would benefit.

Instead, we must carefully prepare our society's culture to encourage that determination.

We know smart, persistent work can make major changes in human cultures. Consider the changes in our country in the last 100 years on women's rights, race, and LGBTQ rights. These changes did not happen automatically. People worked diligently to create them. People still work to move them forward.

Some early steps in preparing our culture for the needed changes in our economic relationships might include:

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2019-10-29, Strategy Note 26:
Can we make these changes? Do we have a chance?

Yes, we have a chance.

No law of nature or of logic prevents any of these goals.

We have the possibility of achieving all of these goals.

We have no certainty of success. We have no certainty of failure.

The future --our future-- remains completely undetermined.

The goals outlined here will require some work to accomplish. The choices we make and the actions we take (together with the choices and actions of everyone else) will create the society in which we live.

We have choices to make. We have work to do. Let's get it done.

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2019-11-05, Strategy Note 27:
Let's create an economy good for working people. An invitation.

To create an economy good for working people and to keep it so, working people must make the economy's decisions together.

We need accurate information and the clarity of mind to choose correctly in our decisions. It may also help if we understand why previous economies harmed us.

We can learn about why the present economy harms us by participating in it as working people and especially by working together to try to make life better for us all within that old economy. However, participating in the old economy also tends to confuse and mislead us about the economy, about ourselves, and about other people.

Offering each other our ideas, guesses, and theories about why our current economy hurts us (and all working people) and considering each other's ideas and talking about those ideas should help us develop our understanding.

In these next several Strategy Notes, I offer my current thoughts about why our present economy hurts working people and how we can create an economy that will serve working people well. It should help my understanding if you consider my ideas and give me your thoughts on them. Please do.

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2019-11-12, Strategy Note 28:
What does "the economy" mean?

The word "economy" means the set of human creations (physical and mental creations) that affect production and distribution of goods and services. These creations include the relationships, institutions, customs, laws, habits, attitudes, beliefs, physical infrastructure, and anything else we humans create that pertains to how we do work, produce things, and decide who gets to use what.

This definition includes all work we do (not just paid work). It includes work we do for ourselves (brushing our own teeth, for example), the work we do without pay for our families (cooking, cleaning, caring for children, work still done mostly by women), and the volunteer work that sustains our many organizations.

This definition also includes all the ways we allocate goods and services (not just buying, selling, renting, and the like). It includes gifts, begging, sharing, gambling for things of value, loaning a tool to a neighbor, smuggling, piracy, theft, conquest by war, and picking up a lost coin on the sidewalk.

The transactions in economic relationships can range in scale from intimate ones (washing an infant's face) to vast mergers of transnational corporations.

So the task of creating an economy good for working people includes many components.

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2019-11-19, Strategy Note 29:
The old economy hurts and confuses us.

We currently have to participate in this old economy to survive. While participating as workers can help us learn about how it functions, this inhumane system also hurts workers and confuses everybody about the economy, about ourselves, and about other people.

According to the federal government (, over a dozen people die each day in the United States from workplace injuries. In North Carolina, one of us dies roughly every other day.

We who (under the old economy) need to sell our labor also encounter demeaning messages. If we don't have a job, we get blamed -- even though the current economy doesn't create enough jobs to employ everyone. If we manage to get a job, we get told to show gratitude and to consider ourselves lucky to have found an employer willing to exploit us. If our job directly serves humans or involves any dirtiness, we get looked down on by people whose jobs isolate them from people.

Generations of such mistreatment and anti-worker propaganda can confuse us. It can cause us to almost believe the negative messages about us and about other workers. That internalized oppression hinders our progress. We must free our minds from such falsehoods.

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2019-11-26, Strategy Note 30:
We can heal our minds from the harms of oppression.

Bob Marley sang, "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery! None but ourselves can free our minds."

Fortunately, just like our bodies have ways to heal physical injuries, our minds have ways to heal themselves. Given decent conditions, they work quite well.

To heal and clear up confusions, our minds need three basic things:

It also helps to have accurate information about our world, but given the three basics we can usually figure out how to get that.

When we have such conditions and take time to talk about whatever concerns us, our minds automatically use the opportunity to sort through old associations in our memory, heal old hurts, and clear up confusions. This process mostly happens without our awareness. In such a context, laughing, crying, and talking engagedly and non-repetitively show that our minds have found the internal path to healing.

We can pair up and take turns listening to each other to help each other do that healing work. We often will feel better afterwards, but --more importantly-- we will think more clearly and act more effectively.

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2019-12-03, Strategy Note 31:
The current economy has two realms. We can live with only one.

We can think of the current economy as consisting of two realms:

In the exchange realm, participants own things (including their ability to work) and trade them for things (such as money) other participants own. The exchange realm includes those activities that most mainstream economists think of as economic activity (buying, selling, hiring, renting, etc.).

In the free realm, participants provide goods and services without receiving anything in trade. This realm includes most of the work people do for themselves and for their households. It also includes uncompensated volunteer work. Much open-source software comes from this realm.

Without the free realm's work (mostly done by women) that raises children and gets adults ready for each workday, the exchange realm would have no workers. The exchange realm depends parasitically on a healthy free realm.

The relations humans require (self maintenance, love, care of children and the infirm) happen mostly in the free realm. Most of the harm to working people and our environment happens in the exchange realm.

We can --and, in the long term, must-- abandon exchange and base our economy entirely on the free realm.

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2019-12-10, Strategy Note 32:
We must (as soon as possible) free ourselves from exchange.

Any economy that includes exchange (ownership and trading the ownership of something for something else) creates relentless pressure in directions that harm working people.

Exchange pressures participants in its economy to:

Any economy that includes exchange will have these pressures. These pressures tend to create an undemocratic and unsustainable economy that exploits workers and the environment, an economy much like our current one.

To create an economy good for working people, we must free ourselves from the old habits of exchange. As we design our new economy, we should use as our model the free realm of the current economy and keep exchange from creeping into it.

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2019-12-17, Strategy Note 33:
How might our new economy function without exchange?

We who can and want to work will do the work we want to do. We'll make the fruits of our labor freely available. We'll help ourselves to the fruits of other people's labor.

We'll communicate widely and frequently about what work needs done. For work we agree needs done but too few people want to do, we'll take turns.

Taking turns may sometimes lower our productivity. If I work one shift collecting trash annually, I won't get as good at it as folks who currently do five shifts per week. I prefer that lower productivity to forcing people to spend their lives on unpleasant or dangerous work.

We can afford lower productivity in some areas because people doing work they want to do will achieve higher productivity in other areas. In addition, much work done in the old economy will become unnecessary. Vast industries will vanish: advertising, insurance, banking, real estate, finance, stock markets, much policing and prisons, and most military work.

With our freed resources, we can clean up our environment, provide everybody drinkable water and nutritious food, make workplaces safe, create universal health care and learning opportunities, and enjoy a flowering of the arts.

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2019-12-24, Strategy Note 34:
An important detail we will need to figure out.

Last week's Strategy Note likely did not answer all questions about our new free economy. I hope you didn't expect a detailed blueprint in under 200 words.

However, I should mention a big question that I have not yet answered: In our new free economy, how will we coordinate production and distribution on a humanity-wide scale?

The old exchange economy uses prices and the way profit-seekers supposedly respond to prices to coordinate production and distribution. It works somewhat, though unequally and inefficiently. Profit-seekers frequently waste resources because they mis-estimate future demand or future availability of inputs.

So our new free economy doesn't need to coordinate perfectly. It just needs to not do much worse.

Without exchange (and therefore without prices) how might we coordinate? How do we know where to send the trainload of bananas our crew just harvested?

Imagine an Internet-based system in which providers list what they have available and what they plan to produce in the future while consumers list what they want and when they want it. The system then matches for best efficiency. Easier imagined than done, but I expect we can figure it out.

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2019-12-31, Strategy Note 35:
Four questions about key relationships.

Four questions can help us understand how an economy affects working people:

In our current economy, the exchange realm and the free realm answer these questions differently. The completely free economy we need to build will offer even better answers.

The exchange realm answers these questions as part of a package of rights called "ownership". People (or organizations) that "own" the means of production also "own" the results of workers' work, decide what workers produce, and (to the extent workers allow) decide how workers work.

Some people (the owning class) "own" the means of production. Some people (the working class) do not own means of production and so (within an exchange economy) must sell our ability to work (to use the means of production) in order to earn the means to live.

Some people have mixed relationships to the means of production. Some workers also have some ownership. Some owners also do some work. Most people have predominately one relationship (selling their ability to work).

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2020-01-07, Strategy Note 36:
Three projects to replace the current economy with the better one.

To replace the current economy with the better one, we should work on three projects simultaneously:

These three Projects exist only conceptually. Many organizations will pursue activities in more than one Project. The boundaries between projects will blur.

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2020-01-14, Strategy Note 37:
Project 1: Organize!

To create the new economy, we must build new organizations and strengthen existing organizations.

Strengthening labor unions, while necessary, will not suffice to create an economy good for working people. Most current unions do not have that as a goal; they just try to improve working conditions and pay within the old economy.

Our next organizing tasks:

We cannot create our new economy by bargaining better union contracts or by electing better politicians. Bargaining and voting can only win better versions of the old economic relationships. Such victories matter. Alone, they will not get us the world we deserve.

Creating our new economy requires acting outside the norms of the old economy. We need nonviolent people-power action to build non-exchange relationships of production and distribution, to defend our new relationships, and to dismantle institutions that maintain property and exchange.

The nonviolent actions we organize to win workplace struggles, oppose discrimination, and correct climate change help spread the skills and build the trusted relationships we will need.

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2020-01-21, Strategy Note 38:
How to think about North Carolina's union density.

Tomorrow the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, will release estimates of 2019 union membership. You'll likely see news about the poor state of labor unions, especially in North Carolina, where we and South Carolina generally have the least union density.

A few suggestions to help make sense of the news:

In spite of the decline of US union density in recent decades (and fluctuating low density in North Carolina), labor unions remain the strongest sector of our broad movement, including in North Carolina. Our common enemies attack unions as a way to attack our whole movement. Unions should support and defend other sectors. Other sectors should support and defend unions.

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2020-01-28, Strategy Note 39:
Project 2: Regulate!

Regulating businesses will not create our new economy. Certain kinds of regulation, however, can help.

We should regulate to do a few urgent things:

Specifically, we should use our electoral power and lobbying influence to:

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2020-02-04, Strategy Note 40:
Project 3: Replace! (Part 1)

A few tasks --in the order they likely should begin-- in Project 3 (replacing the old economy with our new one):

Some tasks in this list (and in its continuation next week) may seem unrealistic now. The more modest early tasks will change the balance of power in society and make the bolder later tasks possible when their time comes.

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2020-02-11, Strategy Note 41:
Project 3: Replace! (Part 2)

Last week, Strategy Note 40 listed some early tasks in replacing the old economy with our free economy. Today's Strategy Note continues that list. This portion of the list may make more sense if you review the previous portion.

Remember, the early more modest tasks will change the balance of power in society and make the bolder later tasks completely realistic when their time comes.

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2020-02-18, Strategy Note 42:
The three Projects strengthen each other.

Only Project 3 can make the changes we need in a way that can last. However, Projects 1 and 2 do three necessary things:

At any moment, most people and organizations will specialize in some aspect of only one of these three Projects. Some will not even recognize the existence or the usefulness of the other two Projects. All these efforts can strengthen each other, however, if they treat each other as allies or at least avoid speaking ill of each other. We can hope that some will praise each other and seek ways to cooperate. Optimally they will inform their members about this three-project strategy, about their organization's role in that strategy, and about the valuable work their allies do in all three Projects.

Meanwhile, the strength we develop through the three Projects will help us defeat two short-term threats: rightwing authoritarianism and the climate crisis. These two threats (and the racism supporting them) need our immediate attention. We cannot permanently eliminate either threat within the old economy, but we can (if we move all three Projects forward simultaneously) develop enough strength to reduce their immediate danger.

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2020-02-25, Strategy Note 43:
What about non-workers? Do they have a place in our new economy?

First, we need to notice that almost everybody belongs to the working class. You don't have to hold a big wrench in greasy knuckles to count as a worker.

You belong to the working class if you work for a living, would if you could get a decent job, live on income from somebody else's job (like children depend on parents's jobs), depend on charity or public assistance, scratch your subsistence from land held in common by your village (as do some peasants), run a small business in which you do not employ anyone, or live on your past work (such as a pension). This includes the vast majority of today's humans.

The tiny owning class consists of those few people who own the means of production and hire other people to work for them. In our new free economy, no one will function as owners previously did.

Just as we treasure and support people who cannot work, we will also welcome former owners as they abandon claims of ownership and "come home to" the working class. Many of them will find useful work they want to do. Some will lack skills (or will have confusion or emotional problems). We will support them (as we support all people with disabilities) and help them develop to their fullest.

In the new free economy, we will value all people as people (and not just for their productivity).

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2020-03-03, Strategy Note 44:
We can create an economy good for all. Four things you can do now.

No law of nature or of logic prevents us from creating an economy good for everybody. It will require steady work, but we can do it.

Ready to help make it happen? Please try these four things:

This transformation in our economy will have bigger effects that did the industrial revolution. It will approach the scale of the development of agriculture. It will require a lot of work. But, as our history shows, we humans can make big changes.

We can do this. Let's get it done.

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2020-03-10, Strategy Note 45:
Let's end war! A practical plan.

Humans sometimes disagree. Our conflicts can result from different opinions, different perceived material interests, and mistaken interpretations of others.

Some human conflicts become so inflamed and recruit (willingly or unwillingly) so many participants that we call them wars. Wars make enormous profits for a few people, but affect most people quite negatively.

War harms so many people so extremely that most people have wished, hoped, prayed, or worked for a world without it.

Our technology developed to a level 75 years ago that gave war the possibility of exterminating our species. Developments since have multiplied such possibilities. Careful diplomacy, moments of relative rationality, and sheer luck have prevented our extermination so far. Good for us.

I think we can do better than that. I think we can actually achieve our ancient wish to eliminate war.

In the next several Strategy Notes I sketch an analysis of what causes war and of how we can free ourselves from it.

If such a project interests you, please consider these Strategy Notes carefully and tell me what you think of them. I look forward to your thoughts!

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2020-03-17, Strategy Note 46:
The cycle of fear that supports war

Consider the following cycle:

  1. The people of a country fear attack. The fear could result from false, exaggerated, or real dangers.
  2. The military claims to protect the country.
  3. Believing they have no better option, the people fund the military.
  4. With fluctuating competence, the military actually defends (in order of declining priority):
    1. Their own institutional interests.
    2. The interests served by their funders and superiors (in the United States, the interests served by Congress and the President).
    3. The dominant institutions of the country.
    4. The territory of the country.
    5. The people of the country. Institutionalized classism, racism, sexism, and regionalism may cause variation in how well the military protects specific portions of the people.
  5. To prepare for their task, the military must imagine new threats and design defenses against those imaginary threats. This leads to an arms race against imagined potential future threats. Only the people who profit from supplying those arms (and the military bosses) can win such a race.
  6. To justify the military budget, the military bosses and the interests who profit from military spending must keep the people in a state of fear.

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2020-03-24, Strategy Note 47:
Two tasks to end the military cycle of fear

The cycle described in last week's Strategy Note sounds like a scam, but crime does not drive that cycle. Profit does.

In the United States, companies that make big profits from military spending place their jobs in many Congressional districts to help maintain funding. Communities --and the capitalist portion of the national economy-- become dependent on military spending.

Until people see better protection, they will fund the military. Because the military likely does us more harm than it prevents, we have a good chance of developing a better defense. In a few weeks another Strategy Note will describe our better option.

Profit-seeking drives the cycle. It also strengthens the influence of managers and owners of businesses that sell to the military. To stop that, we must replace exchange with sharing. No matter what reforms we make, until we make that deeper change, we will face the threat of a return to dominance by the capitalist class and the resulting profit-driven pressure for war.

To end the military cycle of fear, we must simultaneously work on a short-term task (develop a more effective defense than the military) and a long-term task (replace exchange).

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2020-03-31, Strategy Note 48:
Imperialism causes many of today's wars

Because capitalism drives businesses to gain control of the government and to constantly expand, we get the growth of an international form of capitalism often called "imperialism". Such a system uses military and economic power to subordinate weaker countries (client states) to a stronger country (the imperial state).

Imperialism requires client states to provide the imperial state with cheap labor, cheap material resources, and an expanded consumer base. It transfers wealth from the poor to the rich. It requires force to maintain, ultimately in the form of war.

The way imperialism functions shifts over time. Imperial states rise and fall. Since about 1945, the United States has held a dominant position as the world's most powerful imperial state.

Empires generally face opposition. Other countries seek to grow in strength. Dominated people seek to depose their overlords. The United States began as a revolt against the imperial power of the 1700s. Now others revolt against it. Since about 1973, those revolts (some armed, some nonviolent) have gradually reduced the worldwide dominance of the US-centered empire.

As empires decline, they fight to maintain a failing system. The United States appears well into that phase.

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2020-04-07, Strategy Note 49:
What causes imperialism?

What causes imperialism? The same thing that causes capitalism: exchange.

When an economy rests on a foundation of property and exchange, all actors in that economy (individuals, businesses, corporations, governments) have a need to accumulate wealth so they can have something to trade for what they need. This need to accumulate leads to a desperate urge to grow and expand. A single country does not allow enough room for larger actors to grow. So businesses become international.

Businesses recruit their home government to smooth the way for their international projects. Imperial governments happily assist "their" businesses because doing so strengthens the imperial system.

Any economy that includes property and exchange will tend to develop capitalism, imperialism, and war.

Strategy Notes 24 and 33 outlined how a new exchange-free economy can function. Until we make that long-term change in our economy, we will face the threat of war.

In the shorter term, we need to spread non-military --even non-governmental-- methods of defense. As these methods become widely used and many people see their superiority, public support for war, the military, and governments that rely on them will decline. Then many possibilities will develop.

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2020-04-14, Strategy Note 50:
What should our defense methods do?

Let's examine defense logically. What do we want our defense methods to do? We want them to keep our people alive, healthy, and free from coercion. We also want them to maintain valuable institutions of our society.

As we saw in Strategy Note 46, the military does this (to the extent it does it at all) with different priorities than we want.

The military prepares to wage war and does so when ordered. Theoretically, we could use war to defeat attempts to kill or coerce us. In practice, war generally has other purposes.

Advocates for a strong military claim it deters threats against us: without it, marauders would overrun our country and subjugate us to their evil wishes; with it, potential marauders see they would fail and don't try. Perhaps, if potential marauders exist. Instead of arguing about that, let's just add it to what we want our defense to do, as an example of keeping us free from coercion.

So we should evaluate proposed methods of defense primarily by how well they keep our people alive, healthy, and free from coercion. Secondarily we'd like them to maintain valuable social institutions.

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2020-04-21, Strategy Note 51:
How should we defend ourselves?

How should we keep our people alive, healthy, and free from coercion?

Make sure everybody has good food, clean water and air, healthy shelter, exercise, opportunities to learn whatever they want to learn, easy ways to communicate widely with others of their choosing, work that suits them, and healthcare when needed. To fund these priorities, cut military funds and tax the rich. That should mostly keep people alive and healthy.

The third goal (freedom from coercion) requires sustained, collective, nonviolent people-power action. Early steps include:

Strong nonviolent action can defend from the coercion of exploitative relationships and defend our growing exchange-free relationships. If sustained, that can end war.

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2020-04-28, Strategy Note 52:
Reduce the military's influence.

Do any of these things that make sense for you:

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2020-05-05, Strategy Note 53:
Build an effective movement against war.

Join and support organizations working against war (even if they haven't yet adopted this strategy):

Win anti-war groups over to this strategy (instead of mere lobbying and protesting, which won't get the job done by themselves).

Read, subscribe to, help fund, and tell others about Waging Nonviolence

Learn and help others learn how to wage nonviolent people-power campaigns that win. Sign up for a training from Ready the Ground Training Team ( See some readings on nonviolent power in the book-review section of this website.

Support groups that train people for nonviolent people-power action like Ready the Ground Training Team (

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2020-05-12, Strategy Note 54:
Wage nonviolent campaigns to transform society.

Wage nonviolent campaigns to transform society:

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2020-05-19, Strategy Note 55:
Can we actually end war?

Eliminating war seems impossible to many people, possibly even to you. I say we can do it.

"Impossible" means it cannot ever happen. Calling something "impossible" makes an extremely strong claim. Such claims need extremely strong evidence. Hunches, traditions, long-held expectations, and mere feelings don't prove the claim.

War does not result from any law of nature. Logic does not require it. We don't need it. Therefore, we can eliminate it.

That doesn't make the task easy.

The social forces that profit from war --or for other reasons desire it-- currently have overwhelming influence. Changing that fact will require building a massively strong social movement. We currently have only a tiny glimmering of such a force.

With good strategy and effective, sustained work, small beginnings can grow in power and influence.

The strategy outlined here approximates a good strategy. With experience using it, we can learn and improve it.

Now we need effective, sustained work. The worst hindrances to that come from hopelessness and discouragement induced or increased by our opponents' propaganda. Reject our opponents' propaganda. Reject hopelessness and discouragement.

Logic says we can do this. We want it. Let's make it happen.

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2020-05-26, Strategy Note 56:
First thoughts on our current pandemic

A few first thoughts on our current pandemic:

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2020-06-02, Strategy Note 57:
For strong organizations, chat!

Organizations --like gardens and friendships-- need tending. They especially need care in difficult times.

Organizations consist of numerous person-to-person relationships. Those relationships always need tending. They especially need care now.

In most organizations, most of the time, that care for relationships happens (to the extent it happens) without explicit notice. It happens off the official agenda, in informal chats, often initiated by women. Those chats share ideas, clarify misunderstandings, and maintain solidarity.

Experienced organizers learn that the most important talk happens after the meeting ends as people stand around and chat. With in-person meetings replaced by online communication, does your organization have a way for those essential chats to happen?

Most organizational leaders can't endure adding more videoconference or phone hours to our days right now. So don't add, replace! Cancel the least valuable half of your currently scheduled conference calls. Replace them with informal one-to-one phone and video calls.

Check in with key people. Ask how they feel. Listen. If they ask about you, answer honestly. Chat. Encourage them to make similar calls to people they care about in the organization.

Your organization needs many such chats.

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2020-06-09, Strategy Note 58:
Demonstrations? Strikes? General strike?

The need to avoid gathering in person to reduce the spread of the virus hinders the usual boring rallies and marches. Good. Perhaps we can think more creatively.

With so many businesses and public agencies (schools, etc.) closed, strikes do not look widely feasible. However, strikes look powerful in a few situations such as transport of goods and online sales such as Amazon. Strikers will need to carefully maintain essential services or make clear why they must interrupt service to protect their health. Strikes for pay may not get as much public support as strikes for safety measures and healthcare during this time.

The stay-at-home orders create a situation similar to a general strike (or general lockout) except workers don't take power and administer operations. Notice the difficulty of the exchange/capitalist economy when people withdraw their labor and purchases from it. If we had already built widespread exchange-free methods of production, distribution, and coordination, we'd have an excellent opportunity to advance toward the world we all deserve.

We haven't developed that strength yet. Other crises --including other pandemics-- will come. Make the gains we can from this crisis and prepare for future opportunities.

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2020-06-16, Strategy Note 59:
Whose death and suffering matters?

While the deaths and suffering from this pandemic demand attention, let's remember the completely preventable deaths and suffering in "normal" times from poverty, lack of food, lack of clean water, lack of healthy shelter, lack of healthcare, racism, sexism, militarism, homophobia, xenophobia, unsafe workplaces, and pollution.

Politicians, the media, and most of us don't treat the deaths and suffering from such "normal" causes as a crisis. Why?

Perhaps some people matter more than others. Perhaps people don't matter unless they have wealth or they produce wealth for the masters of our exchange-based economy.

But when the current pandemic threatens that fragile economy, we see action. The dramatic early actions of politicians in response to this current pandemic show what they can do when they want to.

Why do politicians address (at least partially) this current pandemic but not our climate crisis, poverty, starvation, lack of clean water, unsafe workplaces, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, militarism, homelessness, and lack of healthcare? Perhaps because this current pandemic threatens their fragile exchange-based economy while that miserable economy causes these "normal" harms.

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2020-06-23, Strategy Note 60:
What ideas do we need readily available?

In March, Carroll Webber wrote, "New human suffering is raised into view ... and a general determination to alleviate it. This presents us with a need and an opportunity for doing work without pay and receiving goods without paying for them. We might be able, in this crisis that's crushing normal economic modes, to take strides toward the ideal society.... Poor people have always helped each other."

Yes, poor people help each other on an individual-to-individual and small-group basis. Now we need to generalize that tendency from generosity within an exchange-based economy to a fundamental principle of relations within a worldwide exchange-free economy.

Milton Friedman wrote, "Only a crisis --actual or perceived-- produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around." Friedman wanted a drastically different economy than I want, but this quote deserves thought.

I doubt the ideas of an exchange-free economy lie around sufficiently available yet for large numbers of people to take them up and make the full change we need. Key word in that sentence: yet. We will have other crises. Let's use this one to spread the needed ideas.

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2020-06-30, Strategy Note 61:
Help everyone understand this crisis.

We must win the struggle over how to understand this crisis. The lessons people draw from this time will make a big difference. A few key learnings to emphasize:

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2020-07-07, Strategy Note 62:
Build key organizations.

During the current pandemic and economic disruption, build organizations that prepare for future opportunities:

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2020-07-14, Strategy Note 63:
What might happen next?

At least four scenarios could result from this pandemic and its depression:

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2020-07-21, Strategy Note 64:
Ask key questions! Listen! Learn!

This current pandemic and its associated recession/depression will cause enormous suffering. They likely will accelerate capitalist accumulation, increasing inequality. They will not by themselves end capitalism or exchange.

This pandemic and depression could weaken capitalism and exchange if many people organize against capitalism and exchange or expand their exchange-free relationships.

Therefore, we have as our key strategic task starting discussions that help people correctly understand their experiences during these two linked crises. Those discussions will often fit well within efforts to organize for immediate needs.

Create opportunities to ask a few questions:

Ask such a question. Listen respectfully. Repeat with a different question or a different person. Notice how the people you listen to change their thinking. Try asking and listening slightly different ways. Notice what you learn. Keep doing it.

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2020-07-28, Strategy Note 65:
Build BLM. Defeat totalitarianism.

Today's Strategy Note takes a different form from usual. Instead of a short note with my thoughts, I offer you links to articles on two urgent strategic questions.

I know both authors, have learned a lot from them, and think highly of them as people and as strategists. One Black, one white, decades different in age, both have devoted their lives to building our broad movement. They likely have trained more activists in more countries than any other dozen movement trainers.

Please read and consider their recommendations in these two articles. Then share these suggestions with others.

The choices our movement makes on these topics may make an enormous difference. Let's get this correct!

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2020-08-04, Strategy Note 66:
Organize! (Why. Who. Whom. How. For what.)

This Strategy Note begins a series on organizing. The series will consider questions such as:

I base these Strategy Notes on more than 50 years of organizing in North Carolina. With others I have organized identity groups (for example, workers at my job), issue groups (environmental, anti-conscription, peace, anti-rape, etc.), and infrastructure groups (media, list enhancement, training). I have helped start, maintain, and disband coalitions of organizations. I have watched many other organizers and coached organizers in their efforts.

My experience in these contexts influences my thinking. Your context may differ in important ways from mine. My mistakes show I still do not fully understand organizing. Please consider these ideas, but trust your own thinking.

Please let me know which ideas you agree with, which you disagree with, your reasons for agreeing or disagreeing, and any questions you have. Discussing your feedback may help us both understand organizing better.

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2020-08-11, Strategy Note 67:
What does "organizing" mean?

Organizing simply means bringing people together and helping them cooperate to accomplish some shared goal. It can include building an ongoing organization in which people work together.

Organizing does not happen automatically or by magic. People learn how to do it. People organize by persistently practicing a small set of learnable skills.

Organizing (sometimes also called "leading") happens whenever people cooperate toward a shared goal. Somebody thinks about the people involved, their goal, and how to make progress toward their goal. It mostly happens informally. Most organizers/leaders don't have a title or formal recognition for what they do. With thoughtful practice, most people can get good at it.

Most organizations would benefit from helping everybody in the organization learn these skills. Hardly any organizations do so.

Some organizations hire people whom they call "organizers." They train these people poorly, if at all, and often don't let them do real organizing. Instead those "organizers" merely mobilize people to show up for events or to implore elected officials to do or not do something. Sometimes such mobilizing makes sense, but it doesn't qualify as organizing.

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2020-08-18, Strategy Note 68:
Why organize?

Social power comes from cooperation. If people don't cooperate (work together, whether gladly or reluctantly) they don't accomplish anything on a large scale.

Individuals matter to human societies, but they only influence society to the extent that others cooperate with them or with their ideas.

Cooperation --especially cooperation of more than a few people sustained longer than a few minutes-- requires organization.

Social power, therefore, requires organizing. To accomplish anything on a large scale, somebody must organize people to cooperate in doing it.

Organizing means helping people to:

Organizing multiplies strength and effectiveness. People working together can accomplish much more than the same people working singly. Organizing makes that cooperation possible.

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2020-08-25, Strategy Note 69:
What does it take to organize?

Organizers need to do several simple, normal, human tasks:

Almost everybody does some of these things, at least some of the time. Good organizers simply do most of these things most of the time.

Any human who can communicate both ways with another human has an opportunity to organize. Humans cooperate best when they all organize -- when they all think about their shared goals, think about the people involved, and help each other work together for their shared goals.

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2020-09-01, Strategy Note 70:
Whom should we organize?

Short answer: Organize everybody.

Slightly longer answer: Organize everybody. Start with the most powerful people -- workers who directly produce or transport essential goods and services.

A second answer: Organize everybody. Start with the people most discriminated against. In the United States today that means people of color (especially Black people), people of low wealth, immigrants without official permission, people with noticeable disabilities, women, young people, old people, LGBTQ people, non-christians (especially muslims and jews), and rural people.

A third answer: Organize everybody. Start with the people closest to you.

Best answer: Organize everybody. Start with the intersection of the three previous answers. Start with the direct production workers most discriminated against and closest to you.

Most people with wealth (including many people who consider themselves "middle class") don't know direct production workers. If you have little connection with these most powerful people and don't want to join them, start organizing wherever you meet people. Without direct production workers, you can't develop major power but you can still get some things done.

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2020-09-08, Strategy Note 71:
Why first organize direct production workers?

The people who directly produce or transport essential goods and services have the most power in any society, including in the United States today.

All societies depend on direct production workers. Individually these workers have only small amounts of power. When these workers (or any substantial portion of them) decide to combine their individual power, they collectively can redirect society however they wish. Exploitative economies systematically conceal this fact and weaken the confidence of direct production workers. If they didn't, they wouldn't last long.

The capitalist portion of our present economy has so weakened the confidence of direct production workers and weakened workers' organizations --especially unions-- that they currently have much more potential power than actual power. We have the task of building the confidence and organizational structures to turn that potential power into actual power.

We should organize workers before organizing non-workers in order to build organizations that working people will find welcoming. Organizations that start with other segments of society will generally have cultures that suit those segments better than they suit the most powerful people -- direct production workers.

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2020-09-15, Strategy Note 72:
Why first organize the most oppressed?

Strategy Note 70 recommended giving priority to organizing the people most discriminated against by society. Why?

Consider these reasons:

Organizing any segment of society happens best when done by people who belong to that segment. The second best organizers come from a segment of society that does not serve as their most visible oppressors. The most-discriminated-against people generally do not function as agents of society's oppression against many other segments. They can often serve as organizers for other segments. Organizing the most-discriminated-against people first produces the most widely capable organizers.

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2020-09-22, Strategy Note 73:
Why first organize the people closest to you?

Strategy Note 70 recommended giving priority to organizing the people closest to you. "Closest" here means geographically closest and/or most intimately related.

Why should we first organize our friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, co-worshipers, and other close associates?

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2020-09-29, Strategy Note 74:
Look for existing organizers

Wherever you start your organizing, you will get the quickest growth if you organize the organizers and lead the leaders. Any group of people already has informal (but highly respected) organizers and leaders within it. Find them. Organize them. Then they will organize the people they already lead.

These existing organizers/leaders usually do not have titles and usually will not put themselves forward as "leaders." They don't talk loudest, first, or most often. It takes listening and observing to find them. You want to find the people whom other people like and whose judgment they trust. We have such skewed images of leadership that people will generally not name these existing leaders first if you ask about leaders.

Likability and trustworthiness alone don't make a leader. Look for people who initiate cooperative actions that other people participate in. Remember the characteristics of good organizers listed in Strategy Note 69? Look for people who do such things, even on the smallest scale.

Everybody has the potential to lead and organize. But some people already do. We focus first on those people in order to build an organizing structure that later can help everybody do it.

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2020-10-06, Strategy Note 75:
Test your assessment of organizers

You will often have hunches about who functions as an existing organizer/leader. Value those hunches, but test them.

How do you test such a hunch? Ask the person to get other people to do something where you can see whether people did it. Usually pick something low-risk and easy, especially when you first test your hunch. In some contexts, getting signatures on a petition might work. If people do it because she or he asked them, then you guessed correctly. If not, then you guessed wrong or you chose a poor test.

Leadership and organizing ability fluctuate over time. Fairly frequently you must test your beliefs about who organizes and leads in order to keep your assessments current.

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2020-10-13, Strategy Note 76:
Strengthen existing organizers

When you think you have found an existing leader, help them strengthen their leadership/organizing ability.

Give them high priority for your time. Respond promptly to their calls, texts, and emails. Chat with them frequently. Get to know them and let them get to know you.

In one-to-one chats, ask each leader to help by doing a specific task. In one-to-one chats, debrief with them about how those tasks went. Ask what worked well. Ask what ideas they have for helping things go even better next time. Ask what felt difficult. Ask what they enjoyed. Listen and learn from their answers.

Point out specific things they did well. Praise at least two such specific things. If you can't think of two things they did well, you didn't listen carefully enough to their answers. Wake up and attend to what they say!

If you agree with their ideas for improving their work, ask how they will make those improvements. Listen attentively. Speak less than they do.

On rare occasions, offer a specific suggestion for improvement. Keep it brief. After they have acknowledged hearing the suggestion, praise a third specific thing they did well. Listen some more.

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2020-10-20, Strategy Note 77:
Organize organizers; make yourself unnecessary

Strategy Note 75 recommended testing your identification of existing leaders. When your hunch about an existing leader/organizer tests as correct, bring that person into an ongoing group of such people.

Make sure they see that group as useful! If you have done your job of asking questions and listening, you should know what matters to them. Use that knowledge as you design this group's first gatherings. Do not waste these people's time.

Design this group (and as soon as possible engage them in designing the group) to help strengthen their organizing ability and to help them develop their understanding of increasingly larger contexts of that organizing.

This team of organizers should (gradually at first, but as rapidly as possible) take over from you in guiding the organizing effort in their context. If you do a good job as an organizer, you rapidly become unnecessary.

When you become unnecessary and move on to organize elsewhere, maintain communication links with them. They will occasionally want to chat with you to think through a problem. You may want to ask them to help with something. You will find these informal organizer-to-organizer relationships extremely valuable. Keep them strong.

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2020-10-27, Strategy Note 78:
Avoid charismatic leaders

As last week's Strategy Note 77 explained, good organizers and good leaders seek to make themselves unnecessary.

In contrast, charismatic leaders weaken our movement. Their big performances cause many people to feel "I can't do that, so I can't lead." Their model undermines full participation and real democracy.

The ability to give a rousing speech can sometimes make a valuable contribution, but good speakers do not earn the right to make decisions for the organization.

Charismatic leaders who learned their leadership practices as clergy in religious organizations tend toward highly centralized, even autocratic decision-making practices. When they think of their movement work as a divine calling or as a moral requirement, they often think it necessary to make the organization's decisions themselves.

Centering decision-making in one person exposes an organization to serious risk of corruption and confusion of various kinds. Even without corruption, such organizations will not develop a widespread leadership capacity, will have difficulty surviving beyond the one person, and reinforce habits of submission among their members. That model can sometimes accomplish useful things in the short term. It does not, however, offer a path toward full liberation.

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2020-11-03, Strategy Note 79:
Organizing can feel difficult

Sometimes organizers feel ashamed or embarrassed about a problem they've encountered in organizing.

Recognizing a problem which you have not yet solved does not deserve shame. It deserves praise.

Working on an organizing problem without success does not make you a bad organizer. If no unsolved problems existed about how to organize a society good for everybody, we would have already done it. If you encounter such problems, good for you! If you never have problems, you've probably chosen goals too small or have ignored important facts.

I've claimed that organizing only requires normal human abilities and that anyone who can communicate can do it. I haven't claimed that it will always feel easy. Organizing sometimes feels difficult, even to skilled organizers.

Sometimes it helps to remember that our feelings do not reliably represent reality. Frequently and objectively evaluating our progress can help. Sometimes asking an experienced organizer for an outside view of our progress helps. Sometimes making time for a good cry or a loud rant with a trusted listener helps clear our mind. Sometimes we don't find anything that helps with the feelings and we have to just keep organizing anyway.

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2020-11-10, Strategy Note 80:
Consider the emotional dynamics

From time to time, events shock people at many places on the political spectrum. For example: Trump's 2016 election, the current pandemic, blatant racist murders by police. Such shocks can loosen old mental habits, at least for a moment. Emotional unsettledness generally does not last long. People will tend to settle into new mental habits, but may retain for some time a more-or-less-conscious awareness of the changeableness of society.

At the level of emotions, our opponents' messages depend on a foundation of fear, especially fear of difference (race, religion, worldview, class, nationality, sexuality, etc.). At the level of emotions, capitalism itself depends on fear, especially fear of scarcity. Any arousal of fear will tend to reinforce the inhumane tendencies of capitalism and other forms of oppression. Therefore, we must avoid appealing to people's fears, including fear of oppressive forces. Anger rests on a foundation of fear. Stoking anger stokes fear.

At the level of emotions, our politics rests on a foundation of love. Or at least can and at its best does. Love need not mean vague do-goodism. Love can motivate a fierce determination for fairness. Love can mean a determined insistence on respect for everybody.

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2020-11-17, Strategy Note 81:
Nine strategic questions

Organizing consists of helping people work together to accomplish some shared goal. An example: "Hey, I'm going for a 20-minute walk at the start of our lunch break. Wanna come?" "Sure." You've just organized two people to accomplish a shared goal.

Larger goals --for example, building a society good for everybody-- may need larger organizations that last longer. The principle, however, remains the same. If you can invite people to do something, you can organize. If you can notice what helps, notice what hinders, adjust your methods accordingly, and keep trying things, you can get good at it.

For those larger goals, nine questions can help:

  1. What do you want?
  2. Who else might want that?
  3. What can you do now to help y'all work together to get it?
  4. Does anybody oppose y'all getting it?
  5. If anybody does, who?
  6. Why do they oppose you?
  7. Where does your power come from?
  8. Where does your opponents' power come from?
  9. What can you do now with the resources you have now, to shift the future power balance in your direction?

Encourage your group to talk about these questions.

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2020-11-24, Strategy Note 82:
How should we think about goals?

Organizing works best as a goal-directed activity. Clarity about goals helps guide the work.

It often helps to have goals on a range of spatial scales (local, continental, global, universal) and time scales (short-term, intermediate, long-term). It especially helps to sequence these goals so the earlier ones help accomplish the later ones.

Never choose a goal that you think impossible. Difficult yes, long-term yes, impossible no.

Use methods compatible with your goals. For example, if you want a feminist society, you must not denounce opponents because of their womanhood.

Whenever possible, define your goals in terms of what you want, rather than in terms of what you reject.

It often makes sense to work with people who share some goals with us but do not currently share other of our goals. We don't have to agree on all goals in order to work together on the goals about which we do agree.

People who work with us on short-term goals may gradually come to agree with us on longer-term goals.

Can we win short-term, issue-based campaigns now? Some yes, some no. We discover which issues belong in which category by trying to win, just like always.

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2020-12-01, Strategy Note 83:
Questions about charismatic leaders

Strategy Note 78 on avoiding charismatic leaders prompted questions. In this and next week's Strategy Notes I'll reply to them.

How do I define a charismatic leader? Charismatic leaders center their leadership on their personality. They exhort people to join in achieving goals they specify rather than helping people discover collective goals. They seek publicity and use it to gather supporters. All leadership rests somewhat on personality, leaders often propose goals, and groups often recruit through publicity, so this definition becomes a matter of emphasis.

For example, contrast the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ella Baker. Baker avoided publicity while building NAACP branches across the South, staffing SCLC, fostering the creation of SNCC, and mentoring younger organizers. Most of her groups continued well after her leadership. King skillfully used publicity while building SCLC and his prominence. SCLC dwindled after his death.

The media with their simplistic understanding of organizations partly create charismatic leaders. Sexism selects men for such roles more often than women. Other forms of prejudice select people with formal education, wealth (or the ability to mobilize wealth from others), an urban location, tallness, and conventional good looks.

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