Tag Archives: cross-class coalitions

Class and Movement-Building: How does Class Shape Participation in Movements?

At this political moment, we hear urgent calls to organize cross-class, multiracial progressive movements to press for fundamental change. Since activism looks different among people of different classes, the challenges of organizing progressive movements vary by class.

 College-educated professional-middle-class (PMC) and wealthy activists are more likely to make an individual commitment to an issue and then seek out a group with a compatible ideology and mission. Today millions of them want to be part of a resistance movement, but to the extent that some PMC-led organizations have an individualistic and ideological inner culture, they may repel some working-class potential recruits. How can PMC activists’ solidarity muscles and cross-class alliance-building skills be strengthened? Conversely, working-class and poor activists tend to get involved through preexisting affiliations, whether with a workplace, a religious congregation, a neighborhood, or through invitations from family members or friends. It’s a challenge to expand locally rooted working-class efforts beyond a trusted circle to wield more power in a wider sphere. How can the scope of working-class activism be widened? Also, working-class and poor people may be biographically unavailable due to being low-wage, undocumented, single parents, etc., yet many working-class, poor, and multiply marginalized people have been powerful activists. What processes of empowerment have enabled them to take on public leadership, and how can those be replicated in other communities?

Special thanks to Guest Editor Betsy Leondar-Wright, who curated this exciting dialogue.

Thanks also to our wonderful group of contributors.

Frederic Rose, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (essay)
Hahrie Han, University of California, Santa Barbara (essay)
Linda Stout, Spirit in Action (essay)

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo


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Reviving Democracy: Prospects for a National Cross-Class Politics

By Frederic Rose

The fault lines of class, race, geography and party played out dramatically in the 2016 election,  demonstrating how polarized and dysfunctional our politics has become.  Our political system seems unable to address the long litany of crises facing us from climate change to extreme inequality to perpetual wars to gun violence.  Politics is being fought as a zero sum game in which we are forced to choose between competing goods like growing the economy vs. fighting climate change, or immigrant rights versus the rule of law.  These seemingly unresolvable policy fights reflect a deeper failure of our political system to realize the promise of democracy, where people from different points of view and persuasions are forced to recognize and negotiate their differences through public dialogue and debate. While segmented media bubbles and segregated social circles feed this kind of polarization and paralysis, organizing and coalition building especially across diverse social and class lines can reinvigorate our democratic process and develop more sophisticated policy agendas that integrate social and economic goods.  This is the promise of cross-class and multi-sector coalition building that has been successful at the local level and that needs to be brought into our national politics.

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