There are a very interesting series of blog posts on Jon Cruddas’s website as Nick Lowles, Jon’s campaign director travels around the US looking at campaigning methods used by the reinvigorated American left.
One that really jumps out is on community organising groups in Chicago. Many of the groups are founded on the community organising principles of Saul Alinsky, who’s book Rules for Radicals is like a text book for organising underprivileged communities.
There are plenty of descriptions of the campaigning “rules” in the book on the web. As Nick says:
His strategy was about engaging communities on the issues that really mattered to them. This involved a listening process and an acceptance that local people knew best about their local area and local communities often know the solutions to their problems. It involved leadership training and recognition that the key issue was power; who has power and how you obtain power.
I remember joining the excellent local Labour Party in Finchley in 1993. The party had a huge network of supportive community groups. The Young Socialists had helped to save the Phoenix Cinema in the 1980s, many party members had worked to set up the East Finchley Community Festival. These networks not only helped the community, they also helped Labour form the first ever Barnet Labour-led administration in 1994 and then take Thatcher’s old seat in the 1997 election. It remains a strong, committed Party, but local parties across the country seem to have lost many of those links.
Nick quotes David Ostendorf of the Centre of the New Community:
“We need to get back on the ground and build relationships with communities. You have to build a trust base and trust relationships with each other. That is where the fabric of society has been ripped apart. People have been customised to compete against each other, to blame each other when things go wrong. We need to help rebuild the bonds within communities, to get people to begin to work together around improving social justice for all”
That is really the key. My big hope for the deputy leadership election is that we will finally be able to debate how we renovate the party and rebuild the coalition of support within the very communities that we are here to work for.