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The State of Left Ideological Infrastructure, with Johanna Bozuwa, Corinne Blalock, and Daniel Denvir

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Hegemonicon - An Investigation Into the Workings of Power
Hegemonicon - An Investigation Into the Workings of Power
The State of Left Ideological Infrastructure, with Johanna Bozuwa, Corinne Blalock, and Daniel Denvir

This episode continues the series on “What We’re Building” – the most relevant and necessary work happening on the US Left today. Immanuel Wallerstein, the sociologist behind World-Systems Theory, wrote: “The key problem for the Global Left is not its organization, however important that be. The key problem is lucidity.

William is joined this episode by three guests who are working to develop a more lucid understanding of reality and what to do about it. Together they explore the Left’s own ideological infrastructure – the ideas we’re developing, and the means of disseminating them.

This episode’s guests include:

In the discussion they engage the righ-wing economic foundation still leading the academic and policy-making world, the role of the law and courts in our current poly-crisis, and the strategic engagement needed for change. They explore how each guest navigates left terminology in the unique spaces and audiences they find themselves communicating with: When and where are we identifying as “the Left”? Or “Marxist”? Or “Progressive”? And why? The podcast also delves into the importance of good faith, “closed-door” conversations with comrades to develop political education and unity around challenging ideas as well as how respectful and balanced dialogues can be facilitated within those spaces.

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[00:00:00] Sound on Tape: This podcast is presented by Convergence, a magazine for radical insights.

[00:00:13] Daniel Denvir: But then in my political work in Rhode Island, I definitely frequently adopt the progressive framework to create a space for left and left liberal collaboration, which is where, as far as we’re concerned, getting everything we want to get accomplished in the state, that’s where the action is at right now.

[00:00:31] But another layer of complication to that is then that internally. As a group, and I can say this on a podcast. It’s not like secret. We want to, inculcate more left wing political education and political identity. That includes this progressive strategic engagement with liberals as part of our strategic framework.

[00:00:51] Yeah, I think it is complicated.

[00:00:57] William Lawrence: Hello and welcome to The [00:01:00] Hegemonicon, a podcast from Convergence Magazine. This is a show about social movements and politics, strategy and ideology, the immediate present, and the rapidly onrushing future. I’m your host, William Lawrence. I spent my 20s as a member of grassroots social movements, most prominently as a co founder and national leader of Sunrise Movement, the youth organization that put the Green New Deal on the political map.

[00:01:24] Now I’m in my early 30s, trying to make sense of what we’ve collectively learned in this last decade plus of social movements and heightening social crises. I talk with activists and researchers on the left, exploring the guiding theme of power. What it is. How it’s exercised. And how it’s distributed.

[00:01:48] Hello, and welcome back to the hegemonic con. This is the latest in our loose series on what we are building, which are the most relevant and necessary work [00:02:00] happening on the U S left today. This episode is on ideological infrastructure, the ideas we’re developing, and how we’re going to as well as the means of disseminating them.

[00:02:09] And, recently I read a quote from Emmanuel Wallerstein from one of his later life articles written in the 2010s entitled Global Left Past, Present, and Future. And this really stuck with me because he wrote, the key problem for the global left is not its organization, however important that may be.

[00:02:30] The key problem is lucidity. Not really stuck with me because we talk a lot about building organization, but this really highlights that the ideas matter, the, our understanding of reality, how lucid and how clear that understanding is. Matters immensely, and it could make the difference between heading in the right direction or a variety of wrong directions.

[00:02:53] So joining me to talk about this are three amazing guests. It’s really an all star lineup who are working to [00:03:00] develop a more lucid understanding of reality. And what to do about it. We have Johanna Bozuah of the climate and community project, which is a leading climate justice think tank, which is really doing the grunt work of building the policy to flesh in all the details of what we mean by a green, new deal and climate justice.

[00:03:20] We have Corinne Blaylock of the Law and Political Economy Project, which is a network of progressive legal scholars seeking to transform our understanding of the law in order to change it. And we have Daniel Denver of the Dig podcast, whose famously vast archives contain many hours of content on just about any topic of relevance to the contemporary left.

[00:03:43] And Dan is also a co chair of Reclaim Rhode Island. Johanna, Corinne, and Dan, it’s a real pleasure to have all of you here. I’m really looking forward to this conversation. Thanks for having me. 

[00:03:52] Johanna Bozuwa: Thanks for having us on. 

[00:03:55] William Lawrence: So let’s begin with each of the three of you speaking about your work. Beginning with [00:04:00] Johanna what does the climate and community project do?

[00:04:02] Why was it created and what are your main priorities right now? 

[00:04:06] Johanna Bozuwa: Yeah. Thank you so much. So as you just mentioned, climate community project, we are a climate policy think tank. That’s really focused on the intersection of climate and equity in addition to the staff that we have. We have about 40 or more academics at this point that are within this network that we’ve been building and really what we’re trying to accomplish is connecting emerging radical academics to the infrastructure of policy and movements.

[00:04:31] And in our work, we really want to take on the questions of. What are the real and concrete futures that we need to create for a habitable earth and thriving people? How do we get there? What are the real governing questions that we’re going to be confronted with along the way? And the reason why we started is because in the US I would argue our think tank ecosystem on the left in particular is weak.

[00:04:54] We don’t have that ample space to imagine, to articulate, to build alternative futures. And [00:05:00] often centrist think tanks on climate specifically, but I think this applies far beyond, tell the left to get serious about climate policy, a la, I’m sure you know better than any, climate policy. The green dream or whatever.

[00:05:11] But I’d argue that, our proposals are far more serious about the climate crisis. And we aren’t working for a world of eco apartheid. We’re actually working for the bread and roses of climate investment. And in real terms, what that means is connecting these big ideas like green social housing to people’s lived experience of their lives.

[00:05:29] Inability to make rent or pay their utility bills and it was just thinking about that, right? Like the reality that we don’t have a think tank ecosystem on the left with the same depth because on the right, they in fact do have it. They’ve perfected it in some ways. They’ve thrown lots of money into building powerful think tanks and intellectual infrastructure to push their ideas and validate them and ultimately pass.

[00:05:54] The kind of regressive and oppressive policy that we see today, and it works [00:06:00] so well in a lot of ways that it pulls the academy so far right that the left in fact, or maybe I should say more specifically liberals rely on right wing economics. For instance, when Chuck Schumer needs an economist as an expert witness, more likely than not, you’re going to get a Chicago school of economics professor that’s been in rotation for the past 20 years giving the same bad advice.

[00:06:22] And so in contrast, what we’re trying to do at climate community project is build a bench of young upstart, radical majority BIPOC academics who are connected to movements that are able to take that economist place. And because they’re working closely with, Congress. what the ground, these researchers can actually attest to the impact of the recommendations or the research that they’re doing and what it has what the impacts are on community in particular.

[00:06:48] So I think that’s just a little bit of why we started what our raison and how it connects into this kind of conversation today about intellectual infrastructure. [00:07:00] 

[00:07:00] William Lawrence: Thanks, Johanna. Let’s go to Corinne.

[00:07:05] Corinne Blalock: Yeah. The Law and Political Economy Project, or LPE Project, as it is more often known is a group of legal scholars, but also students and practitioners that are really starting from this recognition that law has a central role in all of the sort of terrible crises that are surrounding us, whether they’re economic precarity, racial and gender subordination, environmental catastrophe, law in many ways has really been and the kinds of ideas that law has inculcated is really at the heart of what’s going on.

[00:07:31] And We’re trying to help reverse these trends by supporting scholarly work that both maps where we’ve gone wrong, but also develops ideas and proposals to democratize our political economy and to build this sort of like more just, equal, and sustainable future. We’re actually not a think tank.

[00:07:47] The work of translation that Joanna is doing is Not quite where we are. Like, we’re not quite so focused directly on policy. In many ways, we’re still at the sort of like changing the [00:08:00] ideas inside the academy. And so these proposals are not necessarily technocratic legal fixes, but instead really trying to, retain that critical attention to the need for power and movement building which definitely was not something that was part of legal scholarship.

[00:08:16] And a huge piece of this is understanding the courts will not save us. So much of legal scholarship for so long was focused on making the right legal argument that, might convince the swing justice. And, For better or worse, we are no longer in that moment. And so we’re really trying to help implicate like a different kind of theory of change, the idea that like, what does it mean for legal change to happen?

[00:08:39] But what we as an organization really seek to accomplish, I think, in many ways is just about paradigm change, because the common sense in law schools, as within government and policy, I think has really become this sort of like neoclassical Chicago school inflected like economic approach.

[00:08:55] And essentially, the Olin Foundation decided to throw millions of [00:09:00] dollars at the creation of law and economics. And they put positions in all of the fanciest law schools. And starting in the 1980s, it slowly just became You know, the sort of like to the point that at this point, I would argue, it’s a lingua franca of law schools today.

[00:09:16] Even if there is some of that larger like liberal, the courts will save us stuff. 

[00:09:21] William Lawrence: This is a course, Lon Econ, just so the listeners are clear that you can take at any law school, which is probably a requirement more or less at most of these places that was literally just invented in the seventies and the eighties.

[00:09:32] I don’t know the exact timeline, but you said the Olin foundation and others were involved and they rolled it out. Across all the legal institutions and flew people out to, the Caribbean and wherever for island resorts to teach them in law and economics. It’s really an incredible story, but the law and political economy as a, as an answer to that, I think is really a brilliant stroke in how you all framed yourselves.

[00:09:57] Corinne Blalock: We maybe should leave this out, but they recently the [00:10:00] Law and Economics Institute offered 12, 000 a paper to critique law and political economy, which is the sort of moment where we really feel like we’ve made 

[00:10:09] Daniel Denvir: it. Hell 

[00:10:10] Corinne Blalock: yeah! Keep it in. Yes! Returning to this question of like, how, Not only did everything become cost benefit analysis in this like very particular sort of like economically inflected idea but also it pushed a bunch of ideas like beyond the pale.

[00:10:26] That what it meant to think like a lawyer was so much about what you couldn’t say, right? So You couldn’t talk about distribution. You could only talk about redistribution, which always came in this moment after we catered to the economy, or to the extent that questions of race and gender stayed in the legal academy, they were really divorced from these questions of the economy, and you really ended up with this sort of bifurcated sort of world.

[00:10:47] And so what law and political economy hopes to do is reintroduce the sort of analysis of power and materialist analysis into legal scholarship. And by extension, policy conversations. We do really feel like there’s a [00:11:00] fundamental connection both because legal scholars move in and out of government but also so many law student grads, like that’s where they’re going in.

[00:11:08] And so we, to some degree are playing the long game by focusing on students, but we do really think that’s an important site. And so in doing so, we also put forward a different model of understanding how change happens. So law schools, when I went 10 years ago, were very much just really about the idea that if you wanted to change something, impact litigation was the way to do it.

[00:11:31] And law and political economy instead is trying to think more about things like law and organizing providing political education for law students and support ways for them to engage in law as a tool for power building. And in doing that, I also think that we’re being somewhat responsive in thinking about like how we started to some degree, it was a demand from the students themselves, right?

[00:11:52] A lot of students go to law school because they care about social justice and they get there and they’re told not to talk about it. And [00:12:00] so it really, they really felt like their education was insufficient. And so in many ways, I think this is a group of legal scholars that are trying to help make legal education sufficient to the political moment.

[00:12:12] William Lawrence: Dan, many of our listeners are familiar with the dig and you’ve done so much to educate us on a variety of topics, but I’m curious for, to hear you take us under the hood a little bit to understand some of your motives and objectives. How did you come to decide that something like the dig was necessary?

[00:12:29] And what are you hoping to accomplish with your ever unfolding vast series of long form interviews? 

[00:12:38] Daniel Denvir: Yeah, the personal immediate reason that I started the podcast is that I had been laid off from my last journalism job and had no idea what I was going to do for a living, given that I committed myself to an industry that was collapsing around me.

[00:12:52] But I had for a long time thought that there was this huge divide between the American [00:13:00] left political organizing world and. American left academia. And I hadn’t really been in exactly in either for a little while. I’d been a reporter but I was very, my partner’s an academic and I know a lot of academics.

[00:13:12] So I went to a college that produces a lot of academics and I’d been an organizer for a long time as well. I knew a lot of organizers and did Very, when I was a local reporter in Philadelphia at the City Paper, I did a lot of reporting that was focused on issues relevant to the city’s social movements, whether education or criminal justice or local or state politics.

[00:13:33] But anyhow, I felt like there was this huge divide between left political organizing and American left academia. And it seemed very different in other countries, especially in Latin America, where I spent a lot of time. And I really wanted to bridge those two worlds because I felt like. I feel like organizers were missing a lot of amazing knowledge that was being produced, but then locked up within the ivory tower.

[00:13:57] And then on, [00:14:00] this wasn’t as much of a motivation, but in retrospect we were about to witness a real radicalization of left academia as well. So bridge, building that bridge, I don’t think this was a motivation of mine initially, but building that bridge in the other direction turned out to be important as well.

[00:14:17] And the moment, which was 2016, I got laid off from a downward spiraling salon. com before the election that year, a couple months, I think. It was a real important moment for the left because we’d been losing for a very long time since I’d been gotten first involved as a teenager in the late 90s during the sort of anti globalization moment.

[00:14:43] But we were just starting. To win or better put, we were starting to think that we could maybe win or at least that winning was the purpose actually building and wielding power was the actual purpose. That maybe [00:15:00] that would should be what we are trying to do. And that was the moment that the dig was born right after the 2016 Bernie campaign and Trump’s election and all of that.

[00:15:10] And So the dig is a unusual podcast in terms of its length and depth of analysis in part because I didn’t really model it off of anything and didn’t just made the podcast that turned out to be the only podcast that I knew how to make or was interested in making and what it became is just fundamentally a political education project that tries to provide the best Most comprehensive analysis possible of anything and everything that might be important for us to understand and in the process I hope that I’m also helping teach people including myself because I’m this is very much my own political education journey as well how to think critically in a more general sense as radicals as socialists as organizers and Yeah, again, I’m not an academic.

[00:15:59] So [00:16:00] I’m approaching a lot of this From the perspective of a lay person and as an organizer and speaking of being an organizer I was an organizer in high school during the anti globalization era that in college during the kind of early anti war movement and then did a bunch of Latin American solidarity organizing full time.

[00:16:18] In the mid aughts during the kind of first pink tide moment, but then I became a reporter. I was very much like openly a left wing reporter, but I was wearing a reporter hat and not directly doing organizing and then started to dip my toe back into that after starting the podcast in 2016. And then with 2020 helped organize this pretty large all, volunteer led grassroots Bernie campaign in Rhode Island in 2020.

[00:16:44] And then when that didn’t work out and Bernie obviously did not become president. A bunch of us founded this group called Reclaim Rhode Island, which is now a major housing justice organization in the state and since I’ve gone into the deep end of Rhode Island politics and organizing in [00:17:00] 2020, that has been another kind of dialectical point of education between being a organizing practitioner and hosting the podcast that I think has has been mutually enriching for both spheres of my life.

[00:17:12] William Lawrence: Thanks for that. And thanks all three of you. Really just for tremendous work you’re I think leading with your organizations in your respective fields And so I just really can’t imagine a better group to be tackling these questions Let’s talk about the matter of developing intellectual frameworks and policy ideas that are immediately relevant to reform minded organizing and political campaigns.

[00:17:37] This is not the only question we’re going to be asking here. We’re going to be moving into successively greater levels of abstraction. But let’s start with the immediate, the kinds of ideas that you need in order to wage either an electoral campaign or a serious legislative policy reform campaign.

[00:17:54] And at least stand a fighting chance and maybe even win. Johanna, I [00:18:00] think this is the primary purpose, if I’m not mistaken, of a climate and community project. So maybe we can start with you and ask what you’ve learned about some of the barriers, but also how to effectively develop ideas that are ready for primetime.

[00:18:15] Johanna Bozuwa: Yeah definitely. And I think you hit on it. And it sounds even in this group, there’s just this theme around connecting and like creating connective tissue. And for us, it really is about that connective tissue between movement leaders and movement organizers, researchers, and policy makers. And to be frank, it doesn’t always go perfectly right.

[00:18:35] Like we’re coming from academics who are very used to writing 90. pages and we’re working on always trying to create a more helpful format for the work that we do. And we often have timeline issues, right? Academic semester schedules often don’t really mesh with the rhythms of a grassroots movement, which is also definitely not the same as electoral or legislative [00:19:00] sessions.

[00:19:00] And even I do think that we have been able to learn in the period of time that we’ve been operating about what does work, how do we think these different constituent groups together to build power? Because, we at CCP see ourselves as a project that’s built hoping to build power on the left.

[00:19:19] Not just trying to convince people to, to listen to us because we have smart backs, but we’re doing that power building, which means that we have to be in conversation, in relationship with communities on the ground, with policy makers that are going through those electoral cycles. And on, on community, one thing that we take very seriously Is our community review process at Climate and Community Project.

[00:19:43] In other words, we are trying to ground truth our research and our policy recommendations to the realities that people are experiencing. And this means actually receiving feedback from groups or people who are directly impacted or working with folks who are directly impacted on [00:20:00] the proposals or the research that we are actually putting forward.

[00:20:03] very much. And in academia, peer review is very much a well known process. It’s there to ensure the highest quality of the research, but we want to take community review just as seriously as peer review. Because I think this process of community review has helped us both build relationships with folks, for instance, in the housing justice movement, folks who are on the front lines of mining.

[00:20:28] And it allows us to actually work to sync up those timelines. Or those demands effectively so that it actually sits with the campaign campaigns they’re working for and for us community review is one way of doing this. But beyond that, we’re also trying to do outright co design with policy groups.

[00:20:47] For instance, we worked with this organization taproot earth for two years on a Just a platform for a just transition from the Gulf to Appalachia that was built through a series of people’s [00:21:00] movement assemblies. So a practice that’s rooted in kind of us South black liberation movement. And we Like through that from hearing from frontline folks as to what they wanted in their community is translated that into policy recommendations and provided the research to justify the those demands so that they could use that in their advocacy.

[00:21:22] A similar one. Actually, we worked with DSA, the New York DSA on the Bill Public Renewables Act definitely in the early days as they were doing the ideation, we worked with them to develop out a report that actually outlined what the New York Power Authority could do if it was enabled to be a Renewables powerhouse and how to actually embed democracy and bed jobs and labor provisions.

[00:21:47] And we also did things like economic modeling for them that they were able to then take to policymakers and say, Hey, look at what we could actually accomplish. So those are just examples of how we can actually use the [00:22:00] power of research, the power of these experts and folks within academia and actually directly tie them to folks on the ground who are trying to do that campaigning, and I think, this is a little bit to current piece as well in terms of that next generation in some ways of academics that are coming through.

[00:22:20] We have a junior fellows program that we run, so it’s a lot of the research assistance. It’s a lot of folks, that are early in their PhD or in their master’s that we’re helping to ground in a leftist analysis and build relationships with movement comrades that then those are the folks that are either going to go further in their PhD are going to continue to do this type of research now that they’ve been exposed to it.

[00:22:43] Or you might find them that they join the DOE or they join a squad member’s office in Congress, but now we have that relationship and we have that grounding and also that I speak here to institutional power, but I think that those are some of the same folks that are. [00:23:00] Maybe going to start a Green New Deal campaign in their state with a deep, very deep understanding of the issue of the terrain.

[00:23:06] So I think that it can work in both. It’s about building those relationships and those and those ties so that we can be far more powerful in the work and organizing that we’re doing. So it’s both kind of that short term. Can we get this, build public renewables past, which in fact, we were able to with the, Okay.

[00:23:23] incredible power that was built with that coalition, but also that longer term, longer, longer term gains that we’re talking about in terms of just changing I think Corinne said the lingua franca that we’re all using and changing what relationships are held by folks that are entering into these positions.

[00:23:43] William Lawrence: Something interesting in what you’re saying I hear is this is about learning how to work slow sometimes. And it’s also about learning how to work. Fast at other times, you need the data. You need the data to convince so and so to get over the finish line of a certain [00:24:00] campaign to build a majority in a legislature or whatnot.

[00:24:03] And other times, like in the taproot earth example, you need to be willing to engage over two years with the people’s movement assemblies, because that’s the Social force that’s actually going to be that is willing to carry those particular ideas forward. And none of that is necessarily aligned with the academic timeframe.

[00:24:20] So this is about learning how to move in those flexible sort of ways. Dan, I’m curious if you’d like to add anything on this subject perhaps speaking from your perspective as a housing justice organizer in Rhode Island. 

[00:24:32] Daniel Denvir: Yeah. We are really hungry for good policy, at least at the state level, or at least at the level of the super itty bitty bite size state of Rhode Island here.

[00:24:43] And I think the same is true now that we have a left majority city council in Providence with a socialist city council president. We have a lot of potential and power to move interesting legislation here, but all of our legislators and [00:25:00] city councilors are part time. And so they all pretty much. Have regular day jobs and squeeze in legislating, in their, free time and they don’t have their own staff to develop policy or things like that.

[00:25:13] So there’s a big weakness there, but also a huge opportunity for organizers in places like Rhode Island to develop policy into legislation that passes into law. And so we spend a lot of time hunting for good housing policy and there’s just not enough of it out there. There’s some, we’re very thankful for those, Outfits that do exist.

[00:25:34] Center for public enterprise policy link. Obviously I’m a huge fan of climate and community partnership. I yeah, I guess my point would just be to emphasize that, that doing this sort of policy work is extremely concretely useful. 

[00:25:51] William Lawrence: And why don’t we go back to Corinne and hear about LPE’s efforts to clean up a bunch of messes.

[00:25:58] Corinne Blalock: Being relevant. [00:26:00] So there certainly is a lot of appetite for really making the work that we’re doing relevant. I think that there have been critical legal movements before that have failed to do that. And I think LPE to some degree distinguishes itself by really wanting to make itself useful.

[00:26:13] And I think part of that. From an organizational standpoint is being responsive. And I think that there have been things that have just come to us where We don’t always know what the best form of, because we cover so many different areas, there isn’t this sort of this is the obvious sort of terrain on which you can be most helpful to the movement.

[00:26:34] And one that had come up relatively recently, and to some degree, somewhat surprisingly to me, was that we ran something on inflation. And I had somebody reach out from a sort of racial justice and economic justice organization to be like, Hey, can you help us translate this stuff? Because they kept coming up against this sort of like argument about inflation.

[00:26:54] It’s just this sort of like hard stop about all of the ideas that they were excited about doing. It’s like, [00:27:00] how are you going to do this without causing too much inflation? And That wasn’t necessarily their wheelhouse. And so it’s about us trying to try to fill in like where it seems like it makes the most sense.

[00:27:10] And then on the flip side, you have the law professor who just does it from beginning to end for you. The example I always use is Luke Herron’s, work on the sort of student debt cancellation. So he comes out of Occupy as a law student really involved with the debt collective and interested in sort of debt jubilee, but then decides to write a law review article on the sort of non radical, intermediary step that’s necessary about president’s executive power to cancel student debt under the current legal regime, which actually it turns out it’s not how Biden chose to do it.

[00:27:40] But that is a conversation for another day. And so Warren’s campaign adds it to their platform during the primary, and then to some degree, it just, student debt cancellation became part of the conversation. I think that one of the things for us is just that you can’t always, not every legal academic is going to take their ideas and translate them from the radical idea [00:28:00] to this like more concrete proposal.

[00:28:02] But I think LPE attracts a kind of academic that is invested in that. And sometimes like with Luke, you just get the benefit of them just doing it on their own. But as an organization, I think we’re trying to think more about. Doing like open courses in public education on, on, on topics that we know are looming.

[00:28:21] The one that’s coming up for us is the Supreme Court, right? It’s that is looming for everybody. Any kind of progressive legislation that you’re imagining, like the court is potentially in the way. And so it’s again, just like trying to figure out ways that we can make this stuff accessible.

[00:28:35] And law review articles are notoriously 90 pages long. And so there is definitely a process of translation. And so we are. Focusing on that. But it’s early days. 

[00:28:48] William Lawrence: You mentioned inflation. I think you all have done great work on the monetary policy stuff in general. The MMT crowd.

[00:28:54] And then, there are various people who are elaborating on and further defining the parameters [00:29:00] of where the MMT framework is useful. And a lot of that has been happening at least adjacent to your space and with, I think, a lot of the same sorts of thinkers. And that stuff, I think, is only also going to become More and more relevant.

[00:29:13] And talk about lucidity. To have an accurate view of what the Federal Reserve does, what it’s capable of, what the U. S. Treasury does, what it’s capable of and their role in domestic policy, but also the whole edifice of global capitalism. I can’t think of a more important question for all of us to be really clear on, and we’re not there yet but you all have been educating us on that front.

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[00:30:29] William Lawrence: Okay, so this next question is for all three of you, and I think it’s about the sort of choices you need to make in order to frankly market ideas in the kind of online landscape in which we live and find an audience. Amid infinite possible audiences, never seemingly exactly the one you want about how to cast an audience and cultivate the conversation that one wants to cultivate about these ideas that matter so much.

[00:30:55] So I, I think that all of us here would identify as. As [00:31:00] leftists, and we often identify as such. And yet also some of us, maybe all of us, at times do work that we describe as quote unquote progressive. And, I’ve found progressive to be a practical label that allows In my view, leftists and liberals to do work and be in conversation together to be in coalition together under the same banner of identification when necessary, and this can be really tactically useful to be a progressive as a leftist, but it can also lead to confusion.

[00:31:35] Meanwhile, within the self proclaimed left, there are those who hold that it’s very important to specifically identify as a socialist. And. Then others who resist being pinned down in that way. And then there are a growing number of intellectuals for whom it is very important to identify as a Marxist specifically.

[00:31:56] And if you don’t adopt that label, it might be tough to enter [00:32:00] their circle of discourse. So I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this question. When you’re doing your intellectual work, who are you doing it for? That’s one question. Who is your. Desired audience is your audience the left and you unabashedly just signal it to the left, or maybe you’re trying to smuggle leftist ideas into liberal minds under the banner of progressivism, or maybe it varies by circumstances and whatever strategy you’re pursuing, whatever program area you’re operating in what choices do you make about how to brand your ideas in order to reach Transcribed your desired audiences and have a desired conversation.

[00:32:37] Let’s start with Dan, and then we’ll go to Corinne and Johanna. 

[00:32:41] Daniel Denvir: Yeah, that’s a really interesting question. I would say that in my intellectual work, i. e. the podcast, my political education work, The Dig, I didn’t, it’s, pretty explicitly left socialist. Marxist coded, but fairly friendly to liberals who are [00:33:00] left curious because I am reasonable, relatively reasonable and nice and like especially, recently my two part episode on the history of Jewish Zionism, anti Zionism, a lot of young left wing anti Zionist Jews felt like it was a good podcast to send to their liberal Zionist parents.

[00:33:20] Which I was hoping would be the case, and it turned out to be, which is great. But then in my political work in Rhode Island, I definitely, frequently adopt the progressive framework to do just what you said, Will, which is to create a space for left and left liberal collaboration, which is where, as far as we’re concerned, getting everything we want to get accomplished in the state, that’s where the action happens.

[00:33:43] Is that right now, but another layer of complication to that is then that internally as a group and I can say this on a podcast, it’s not like secret we want to, inculcate more left wing political education and political identity. That includes this progressive strategic engagement [00:34:00] with liberals as part of our strategic framework.

[00:34:04] So yeah, I think it is complicated and I think that there are pitfalls. I don’t regret, I think this progressive framework is certainly necessary for organizing at least in the Rhode Island context that I’ve experienced it. But there certainly are pitfalls where it becomes such an all encompassing term that it becomes very confusing.

[00:34:27] What it means in it allows for people who are not from the left as I understand it to attempt to define progressive in a way that’s actually hostile to left politics. And I think we see that we’ve seen that in Rhode Island a number of times. And I think we’ve seen it on a national level probably a number of times, i.

[00:34:52] e. I’m Hillary Clinton. I’m a progressive who gets things done. 

[00:34:56] William Lawrence: I’m John Fetterman. I’m a progressive to, to get [00:35:00] elected. And now I’m actually jumping off the progressive train in the opposite direction. Corinne how do you all navigate with this? I know that these labels are probably incredibly charged in the legal academy in certain corners.

[00:35:12] Corinne Blalock: They certainly are. I will say that we don’t actually identify ourselves, I think, as either progressive or leftist explicitly ever, I think, is a decision. But when you think about the legal academy and, to some degree, the policy space, there is, leftism is something that they’re not really prepared to handle.

[00:35:33] The, I think because so much of the work that we do is focused on changing the conversation within law schools and within legal scholarship, oftentimes there is a way in which we have to meet them where they are as far as, and sometimes It’s hard for me because before going to law school, I was in a Marxist theory PhD.

[00:35:53] And so I really some it’s still easy to like, get my back up by the sort of you’re not a [00:36:00] good leftist, you’re not a good Marxist and I, but I also fully understand that we want to hold power. And we are really fighting for that. And yeah. If one of the places we’re going to try to do that is within these sort of legal conversations that like, we can’t come in the door that way.

[00:36:15] And so we rarely unabashedly signal to the left camp, but I think also we oftentimes frame it more coalitionally, right? So like lefts and progressive, right? As opposed to a list where, You can imagine yourself anywhere in the continuum. You might fall as opposed to really trying to.

[00:36:34] That said, I do think the decision to call ourselves law and political economy was strategic. I think that it has, it does allow us to enter into conversations where if we had named ourselves the way that critical legal studies had that we wouldn’t have entrance into some of these kinds of conversations.

[00:36:50] And so I do really like that piece of your question really resonates because I do think we are trying to get in these like much more radical ideas. And [00:37:00] certainly there are like self identified like individual scholars who really are just owning their leftism within the legal academy, but they sadly are pretty few and far between.

[00:37:10] William Lawrence: Thanks. It was a really is the name. I’ll just say it again. It’s very elegant to open up the door to the analysis of political economy, to answer to law and econ. It’s to sound also none of those words individually are objectionable and are going to result in you, getting run out of the room, but it’s very clear what what you intend to accomplish to the audience who.

[00:37:32] Are the people you’re trying to reach. It really is a master stroke. 

[00:37:36] Corinne Blalock: Thank you. Yeah, it’s funny. Actually, we get confused sometimes with because political economy was a phrase that sort of like particularly the Virginia schools of sort of public choice held on to. And so people sometimes I but I think there’s something nice about that, like within Yale’s website.

[00:37:53] Law and political economy is listed under an area of study of law and economics, which I think is fantastic because that’s [00:38:00] it’s we were getting behind the curtain in a way. 

[00:38:03] William Lawrence: Very interesting. Let’s go to Johanna. 

[00:38:06] Johanna Bozuwa: Yeah. I think I resonate a lot with what Corinne and Dan have said.

[00:38:09] I am a leftist. I am a Marxist. And I would say in some ways climate community project is far, More unabashed about that in comparison to other think tanks in this realm, but to in some ways, quote, my colleague, Daniel, Donna Cohen, sometimes we can be a Gemini organization where we have two different faces that we’re bringing into spaces because we are trying to bring a socialist and leftist orientation into climate work.

[00:38:38] And also when we’re talking to some of our more liberal friends. We are positioning are what we think as maybe not so radical, but they think as radical as actually basically the baseline of what we have to do at this point in order to avert like the worst impacts of the climate crisis. But I [00:39:00] think, I’ve been thinking a lot about when you this question in terms of Coalitions and will you said this very neatly at the beginning like sometimes you need that identifier of progressive in order to in order to be taken seriously and to be a part of a big tent.

[00:39:16] But when we’re building that big tent strategy. I think we have to be really concerned with how strong the left is, because that’s the only way that we’re actually going to ensure that we’re not on the cutting room floor. 

[00:39:29] William Lawrence: You can get lost in progressivism if it just becomes progressivism. It can become liberalism.

[00:39:35] Johanna Bozuwa: Exactly. And, to speak to the winds of the climate movement as of late like we just had this big inflation reduction act. That was passed. And we did find that we got a massive bill and it has a lot of climate investments. But if you’re talking to some of the grassroots organizers, they feel absolutely sold out by that bill because it didn’t make those investments because it was [00:40:00] still investing in things like direct air capture and carbon capture.

[00:40:04] Sequestration. And, there’s lots to get into in terms of that. But I think what it speaks to is like we as the left haven’t built a strong enough base ourselves to be able to say that we can, we will not be sacrificed. Our issues are not going to be sacrificed because right now what we’ve seen is that they can’t sometimes we are the thing that is left behind.

[00:40:25] And if we are going to do that. so much. Enter into unlikely alliances, for instance, in order to win because we want to win but we haven’t done that work. I think that puts us in a very meager and bad position for the governing. And I think, I just talked about the inflation reduction act, but I think we could say the same about, the pro progressivism that Biden had when he went into the, into office.

[00:40:46] And now we’re, we find him three to four years later. 

[00:40:50] William Lawrence: Yeah. So let’s move now out of I guess talking about our organizations, particularly or your fields. And we’re going to move into a series of questions that are more [00:41:00] surveying the ideological landscape in a broader sense. And, I said this before we recorded, but obviously we’re just four people.

[00:41:08] These are you ask. different people these questions, we’d get different answers. This is not the final word on the most significant ideological debates facing the US left in 2024. It’s just one conversation among many. Let’s try to let it flow. And I do invite hot takes if you’ve got them.

[00:41:26] So first question is like, What gives you encouragement when you look at the ideological landscape on the U. S. left today? The substance of the ideas themselves as well as, you could speak to the means of developing, disseminating, and then conversely, what do you find lacking? What are we really struggling with at this moment in time?

[00:41:50] Daniel Denvir: I think perhaps the most exciting ideological development on the left has been the explosion of ideas. The new explosion of internationalism around solidarity with [00:42:00] Palestine over the past few months. And I don’t think we really understand fully the ideological political strategic implications of what that means.

[00:42:09] But for a long time, many of us on the left have been bemoaning the lack of internationalism on the American left. But there’s also a lot of reasons why that internationalism hasn’t existed. And you can’t just will the quote unquote left as though there’s like a man, can I please speak to the manager of the left, please?

[00:42:25] There’s not, can you turn up the internationalism? That’s not how it works. Like it took a particular moment and set of factors to make this internationalism happen. Obviously. A key part of that fact, a key factor there is the terrific genocide in Gaza. But I think this newfound internationalism, something we haven’t really seen in the U.

[00:42:45] S. since the more third worldist moments that had their last big expression, I think probably in the Central America solidarity movement of the 1980s. I think that is a point of no return [00:43:00] in the sense that things will be different forever in ways that we don’t fully understand. Yet, and everything that we’ve done before without fully incorporating an internationalist or anti imperialist or whatever you want to call it perspective will now have to incorporate that.

[00:43:17] And not because someone cranky on the internet about the left not being internationalist said so, but because now substantively on a popular level, leftist Americans are internationalists. And I don’t know what that means, what in terms of 

[00:43:32] William Lawrence: Zers are internationalists. And it’s because of what we’ve seen and what we’ve experienced and there is no going back from that.

[00:43:42] Daniel Denvir: Yeah. And then in terms of what shortcomings, at the top of the interview, will, I think you counterposed organization. Yeah. Ideology in the quote you had, but I would say ideologically that we’re still lacking an appropriate theory of how to organize ourselves and build power, and I’m not saying I [00:44:00] have some answer like, oh, if you’ll listen to me, we’d have it.

[00:44:02] I think we need to do have more interesting. I actually think there’s not enough intellectual production and discussion and education around organization and power building and strategy. I think we have yet to create the sort of organizations that have spaces that build sort of, cadre like leaders who are able to do conjunctural analysis and build organization and create strategy in the way that we need.

[00:44:36] And I think that would be the thing I want to see happen more than most. 

[00:44:40] William Lawrence: I think there are folks who would agree, but would also say that. We have the answer to the organizational question. We largely fell short in the movements of the 2010s and the answer is this revival of the party form. We need the mass workers party.

[00:44:55] And certainly there are a lot of people in DSA of which I’m a member who believed that that question is [00:45:00] answered and we just need to build the 20th century party again. And I’m sympathetic to it in a sense, because we’ve seen what the lack of organization. Leads to, and you interviewed Vincent Bevins, and this is a major takeaway from his new book, If We Burn, which is about these movements, not just in the U.

[00:45:16] S. context, but worldwide. But I totally agree with you. I think this is one of the places where I would want to really interrogate, be like, okay, so if that’s a hypothesis, what do we need to do to put that to the test? What are the most compelling arguments for why the 21st century party is not going to be like the 20th century party?

[00:45:34] What other insights about, I don’t know if it’s networked organization or doing doc democracy. Do we need to rescue and incorporate in some sense into our vision of a 21st century party? What does that have to do with the internationalism question and how to do that? Not just in one country. So there’s at least two or three episodes for future conversation.

[00:45:54] Corinne, what’s your thoughts on this? 

[00:45:57] Corinne Blalock: I think I want to You brought up the sort of like [00:46:00] generational point, and I will say that it’s so striking in law schools, like I think the thing that gives me hope on a daily basis is that you have students going to law school want to talk about abolition and want to talk about climate change and really the degree to which the conversation where I graduated from law school in 2014 and it just, it’s unrecognizable.

[00:46:18] And I think that like that shift is the thing that continues to give me hope, even as things are bleak. And then I just want a second that I do think Dan is right. That the shift to the international and really as hard as this moment is seeing how far we’ve come as far as solidarity with Palestine, I do think is pretty striking.

[00:46:38] Johanna Bozuwa: Yeah plus again to what has been said about internationalism. I had that kind of top top of my notes here in terms of things to mention, because I do think we are seeing this sea change. And I think it is really interesting. How does that translate beyond this moment? How do we keep that momentum up?

[00:46:55] How do we move from a relatively Protectionist [00:47:00] policy orientation to something that is about that building that solidarity. And a couple of other things as I was thinking about this question. One is around labor organizing and how that shifted in recent history as well. I think we’ve just seen such a ratcheting up.

[00:47:19] In, since I was in my early twenties, most of my colleagues are. Friends, colleagues didn’t know what a union was, didn’t understand that it was for them. They thought it was for like old white men. And now we’re just seeing like Starbucks unionizing. We’re seeing these contracts being renegotiated and incredible things being won through them bargaining for the common good coming through with teachers unions.

[00:47:43] This is a real sea change in. Modern American history where I think to a certain extent, labor unions were written off as recalcitrant or and had been just filed away for decades that they weren’t seen as, a source of power. [00:48:00] And I think we’re really seeing a shift in the left taking it seriously that this is a source of power and actually bringing people over in the process, bringing more people to this grounding of leftism and Marxism that I think is a really exciting possibility for us moving forward.

[00:48:18] And one other thing that I’ll mention and will you I know have, we’re very involved in this in the climate movement is moving from a concept of scarcity to abundance, especially when it comes to climate organizing, but I think it also goes beyond that, where we had been so constrained for decades and we As the left, we’re not very strong, but it was the messaging wasn’t really hitting right when it came to climate.

[00:48:44] It’s that you things would be taken away. But I think the real shift in people’s minds that has made people think, Oh, climate policy is for me is the fact that we have shifted to a framework of abundance and taking care of everyone’s everyday needs and [00:49:00] wants, and that becomes all the more important as we’re seeing crises around us like COVID, like the climate crisis hit more and more.

[00:49:10] William Lawrence: Boy, that’s an interesting one. Cause you know, I feel like we did that, successfully in a lot of ways with the green new deal frame. And then nevertheless, we’ve experienced the last several years of how that got filtered through the lens of American global competitiveness and geoeconomic dominance.

[00:49:26] And some of these questions about frankly, the role of the American consumer on a global stage and whether or not we are proposing the continuation of the the American consumer way of life and its translation into China and presumably the rest of the globe is really viable in a climate changing world.

[00:49:45] So I think we like made that move and now we need to reckon with the contradictions inherent even in that move. And I’m wondering how we can inspire a sense of abundance for people in the United States, while frankly, Destroying the [00:50:00] American way of life and the negative connotations and material realities that has come to mean, 

[00:50:06] Johanna Bozuwa: yeah, to just jump back in on that.

[00:50:08] I think that’s exactly it. It’s about redefining abundance in a lot of different ways. And to bring, Invoke Theoria Frankos, another CCP member, and I think a good friend of many on this show. She has done just an incredible job about, as we’re talking about abundance, as we’re talking about this transition, thinking about the ramifications.

[00:50:29] Of transition. So a lot of her work is looking at the impacts on the front lines of mining for things like lithium and these transition minerals that are necessary to power those electric, those ever bigger electric vehicles to power the solar, right? But what we’ve been working on within climate community project is saying actually there is a way for us To visualize the future, identify the world we want to live in, and then go back from there to where we are now and actually do the [00:51:00] planning that’s necessary to accomplish those goals.

[00:51:02] And now also, when you’re talking about the next generation, I think there’s also this shift in mindset from. The great American lifestyle that they, rightfully or like they have not gotten to actually seeing that like they love buses. They want to be on buses. They want to be on public transit.

[00:51:18] There is also this kind of modal shift that’s happening at the same time that gives us, it gives us an opening. But I think, to get back to that piece that you’re talking about a U. S. abundance, like we have a very warped sense of what abundance should mean. And so how do we as the on the left actually redefine what abundance is?

[00:51:36] And. It’s degrowth with this kind of framing of we can actually plan and manage the resources that we have so that people can live full and, vital lives. 

[00:51:47] William Lawrence: We have the form of abundance where, you we have more abundant everything than anyone else in the world. And yet we work longer, spend more time in our cars, live shorter, die sooner.

[00:51:59] Kill [00:52:00] ourselves more often. So I think there’s definitely an appetite for an alternative. Can I ask a Go ahead, Dan. 

[00:52:05] Daniel Denvir: Oh, I wanted to ask the two eco socialists a question on this, which is the GND, the concept of the Green New Deal, obviously did like a ton of political, discursive, ideological work.

[00:52:17] In the latter half of the last decade, where do you think it is now in terms of its utility in being able to build the coalitions necessary and ideologically construct exactly what you’re talking about, which is this kind of low carbon leisure and abundance vision that needs to be articulated if we’re going to achieve a just transition to what degree does Green New Deal Well, 

[00:52:47] William Lawrence: I can say I think think the move that’s okay.

[00:52:49] So one thing that’s happened in the last several years in the climate movement is that after the initial upsurge of the Green New Deal push, which then was filtered into the build back better negotiations [00:53:00] and ultimately the IRA, it was pretty clear even dating back to 2019 that In 2020 that there was going to be another upsurge of movement on the supply side to say no to fossil fuels because the Green New Deal was really about learning how to say yes to things and some of the no, we were quiet about the no for a period of time and that was a political choice and it came with contradictions and it was clear that you weren’t going to hold back the reality that we need to keep it in the ground and so now, this I forget if it was At some point last year in 2023, there was, now the latest, biggest climate march in New York City was saying, keep it in the ground.

[00:53:37] It was a march against fossil fuels, and it was the largest ever such event. And so I think that again, there’s like a dialectic relationship to the yes and to the no. And so there was this Recuperation of the no after we learned the yes and discovered the contradictions of that has been very necessary and I think was actually entirely predictable for those of us who were like working [00:54:00] on that through the heights of the Green New Deal years.

[00:54:02] And I’ll say now I think that I actually there’s a lot of juice in the orange yet of the green new deal. And I attended and spoke at a a green new deal rally hosted by the green new deal network in Dearborn, Michigan with Rashida Tlaib was there Abdullah Hamoud, who’s the Arab American mayor of Dearborn was there, and he’s a progressive guy.

[00:54:22] We were at the UAW union hall. And their officials were speaking there and we’re in this period of being in a democratic trifecta government here in Michigan, which is letting us down in a lot of ways and is falling short of what we all know is necessary. And there was power in that room, labor, young people, environmental justice, and we were saying no.

[00:54:43] We were saying, yes, we were talking about power. So that gave me a lot of inspiration and made me feel like, I, it’s very different in every state of the country, I’m sure, but here in Michigan, I feel like there’s a lot of, we’re ready for a green new deal for Michigan. And we got to learn what it looks like to continue to [00:55:00] grow.

[00:55:00] build the potential that’s inherent in that coalition. 

[00:55:02] Johanna Bozuwa: Yeah. And I couldn’t agree more that there is this new or I don’t think it’s new. Like we have always, we have seen the antifossil fuel protests over the years, right? Keystone XL was like a marker in a lot of climate activists activation.

[00:55:18] In fact, DAPL all of these things. So the green new deal I think is now has been able to build out this traction, build out this framework that. Yeah, feels really different to folks. And now it’s this. I feel like we have this opportunity to merge those two kind of splinters in a really powerful way.

[00:55:37] And I think it gets to the point that the green transition is happening like that is true. Now, the question now is like, How fast and for whom? And that’s where this kind of like the wind down of fossil fuels becomes really crucial because we get we learn who’s going to own that transition in a lot of ways.

[00:55:54] And this year actually is the first year that the international climate talks actually in their text. [00:56:00] Includes winding down a fossil fuels. That is a huge difference from where we were even, two or three years ago because of the massive amount of pressure that’s been put on.

[00:56:08] So I think that’s a really exciting piece that, the U. S. Is actually far behind on. And I think it’s like importing some of that resistance back into the United States. States is one of the biggest exporters of fossil fuels in the US And I think, with the Green New Deal we have, we’ve thought a lot about this as climate community projects that really emerged out of the energy of the Green New Deal.

[00:56:29] And like the academics and researchers who were so committed to that vision. And honestly we haven’t come up with a better term that like encompasses that energy and that power of the coalition that can coalesce into like the vision. We’ve. Run campaigns by a different name for a great new deal in different ways and people are, what we hear about is getting the Green New Deal on the ground in the end and making sure that people’s houses are livable and decarbonized.

[00:56:54] It doesn’t always have to be called the Green New Deal, maybe getting back to our, Daniel’s Gemini [00:57:00] organization or, strategy here, but I think that, when it comes to what’s the banner, it still feels relevant today in a lot of ways. 

[00:57:09] William Lawrence: So we’re going to wind down with one more question about the, about, about the ideas landscape and then a question about forums and how we can build the kind of spaces where these conversations can actually keep flourishing.

[00:57:22] So you know, part of the task of ideological development and really any scholarship, any study of ideas, inquiry about ideas is. Focusing on the right things and not going down the wrong rabbit holes at the wrong times, going down the right rabbit holes at the right times. So among the U. S. left, broadly speaking, or you could focus in your field, what are the ideological questions and debates that you think are vitally necessary and urgent for us to be having real debate?

[00:57:55] Right now in 2024 and similarly, what are [00:58:00] the debates you think are better avoided at least for now and set aside for later and perhaps much later? 

[00:58:08] Daniel Denvir: This is maybe re answering also the last question you asked in answering this one. But I also think that we’ve made major advances. in 2023 coming into 2024 from 2020 in terms of a lot of really tiresome, stale debates around class versus race, around what it means to be a quote unquote ally.

[00:58:33] It’s not that there aren’t plenty of problems or shortcomings, both in terms of arguments we hear from so called race reductionists or from so called class reductionists. It’s not that we don’t still hear tired. Ally like hyper deference white guilt politics articulated. We still do, but it’s way less pervasive than it used to be.

[00:58:55] I think it might just be the monumentality of the [00:59:00] and monstrosity of the genocide going on in Gaza that it makes it clear that what’s required is not like a ton of discursive performance, but just like concrete solidarity And which means doing what is possible to achieve the urgent task of ending the genocide.

[00:59:22] And I think that sort of strategic, non senti unsentimental clear headedness is hopefully the kind of way we Approach power building and left politics in the future 

[00:59:40] William Lawrence: that’s going to help with the left being able to stand on business without having to take certain shit from liberals, which goes back to something we were talking about earlier as well.

[00:59:50] There was a ceasefire protest at the mother Emanuel AME church just this week. And of course, there was the usual even though there were black people [01:00:00] participating in the protest. 

[01:00:01] Daniel Denvir: The CNN reporter literally said though, tweeted that the protesters were all white. It was even though like literally a video right there with a black woman.

[01:00:08] So 

[01:00:09] William Lawrence: We’ll expect the retraction. Just kidding, but yeah, but that just doesn’t have any juice in it anymore. It’s like you’re chanting four more years in the church and that’s sacred, but to say that we should stop the war is profane. It just there. So I’m glad that we’re moving to a place where that sort of stuff doesn’t stick.

[01:00:28] Yohanna, Corin, 

[01:00:29] Johanna Bozuwa: yeah. I, this is maybe le less of guess I’m not totally sure, but I think like one of the kind of like sectors or areas that I think we have a lot of opportunity right now in a lot of ways is on housing On the left. I think that this is actually. One of the that is where people are feeling right now.

[01:00:49] They’re like, people are being evicted every single day. Dan knows this better than like many of us, right? Because you’re, working with reclaim Rhode Island on housing. And [01:01:00] Will, I know you’re working on this in Michigan as well. And current LP has written about, housing and these intersections too.

[01:01:06] And I just, I think that, tenants unions, the power of tenant organizing really, leveled up in a substantial way during covid because it was this moment in which we had to Fight collectivize, people had to be in their homes and there was this Reckoning with that on the media stage and you know in our communities far more than we have had in the past maybe and I think that it’s a very fertile ground for additional organizing and I also think that it’s an important opportunity to connect Urban and rural communities and folks like that because they are living through the same crisis, like the same rental crisis, the same utility burden crisis and that could actually by offering up, things like green social housing tenant protections actually could be a space for us to build the left in a really powerful way and bring folks who [01:02:00] feel disenfranchised who are falling to the right, we’re losing them to the right and actually bring them in and say, we can build a better world and we’re showing you how we’re doing it right now.

[01:02:09] Daniel Denvir: Yeah. I really want to co sign that. I think that the housing crisis is a fundamental one. The reason that reclaim, which started in 2020 is an omnibus. Pro Bernie progressive organization. The reason we shifted into becoming mostly a housing justice organization is because we had to ask ourselves the question of like where was the crisis resonating on a popular level in a way that we could organize a base beyond kind of our self selecting group of left activists who comprise our organizational core.

[01:02:39] And it was very clear that housing was the issue. And so we’re seeing all over the country, of course, as a result of this housing crisis and upsurge, In tenant organizing and houses just housing justice organizing and social housing Demands, but it is very inchoate, chaotic early [01:03:00] stages. I don’t think we as tenant organizers actually have best practices yet.

[01:03:06] I don’t think that there, I think there’s a lot of experimentation going on. I think there’s far too few resources going into tenant organizing. It will require staff. The same way that the labor movement requires labor organizing the tenant movement really does require dramatically more staff tenant organizers to get this done and we need to get it done and we need to not we need to figure to get it done we need to figure out how to get it done and so like tenant organizing has a lot of the same challenges that labor organizing does in terms of the power differential between tenants.

[01:03:43] And landlords compared to the power differential between a worker and a boss, but labor organizing at least has a much stronger set of practices, knowledges, traditions to [01:04:00] draw from. On the other hand, you could turn that on his head and say that labor, the labor movement is. more tied down by bad sets of traditions and habits and whatnot.

[01:04:10] But yeah, I think we really need to figure out how to organize tenants. And I think that there’s a lot of potential political power there as well. A lot of the places that we’ve been trying to organize tenants in Rhode Island are places where the left It never is active in the state, but could be.

[01:04:32] William Lawrence: One of the critical questions there is yes, more staff, tenant organizers in order to be able to form more powerful tenant unions. But then for that to really start to become a virtuous cycle, we’ve gotta figure out the financial engine of tenant organizing, because that’s the thing that the labor movement has, which none of the other left or progressive organ organizing outfits in the country has, is the ability to be.

[01:04:55] Financially independent because of the the dues based funding [01:05:00] model. Of course, DSA is dues funded and that’s something that DSA feels rightly very proud of. But if we could figure out how to get tenants, tenant unions to pay for themselves, it would be a game changer. And then we could actually, we could conceivably be talking about tenant organizing and worker organizing as two sides of that same class power coin until we can figure out the financial engine.

[01:05:21] I think. The realities of tenant organizing will be more like other left progressive power building community organizing, which is good and valuable, but hasn’t shown that same kind of scale and durability that the labor movement has 

[01:05:34] Daniel Denvir: fully agree. 

[01:05:35] William Lawrence: Yeah. Corinne, do you want to throw anything else in on this topic before we move to our final question?

[01:05:41] Corinne Blalock: Just really quickly, I do think the moment for talking about disempowering the courts has come. I feel like. of people inside who really had been, focused on the courts for a long What was coming but I think that Based on the set of decisions they made over the last year. There are very few people that their decisions [01:06:00] have not Materially touched their lives whether you’re invested in like climate organizing or whether reproductive rights I mean it just the list goes on and on and I do feel like We can start to have a conversation that we really that’s really been off the table up until now and I feel like it’s a conversation we need to start having I Don’t necessarily think the path is quite so clear forward, but I do feel like it’s political moment has come and it’s something we do need because it’s only it just impacts so many of the other things that we care about.

[01:06:31] William Lawrence: Yeah. The I was an alternate delegate at the DSA convention this year in August. I can’t claim to be a very active rank and file DSA member, but I, I find the internal politics fascinating and there’s a lot of value to being in the organization. And I believe in a lot of it.

[01:06:45] Although I don’t think DSA is the main character, which is one of the problems with a lot of DSA ers. It’s not the main character yet. DSA main character syndrome. It’s real. But but it could be, and there’s reason to believe that it might be. But anyway, this is just to say that one of the [01:07:00] the factions is, their thing is basically to wage struggle against the U.

[01:07:05] S. Constitution. That’s, and I’m like, this is good. This is good. This is the direction we need to be going because this is about politicizing the roots of our legal order, not just the courts, but also the Senate and many aspects of the executive. And I think that was something that you just made me think of.

[01:07:21] Yeah. And I would be remiss if I didn’t say that. Go ahead. 

[01:07:25] Corinne Blalock: Yeah, if I didn’t put in a plug for Aziz Rana’s book, which is literally about to come out on this about particularly this preoccupation and how pernicious it’s been for American politics, this sort of like obsession with the Constitution. 

[01:07:36] Daniel Denvir: 800 pages of Aziz Rana coming soon.

[01:07:38] William Lawrence: Wow. Okay there’s a lot of there’s a lot we need to keep discussing, obviously. And so our final question is What are the best forums that you think we have for discussing the ideas in an open ended way? Really, we need to be having an open ended, multi tendency, cross [01:08:00] disciplinary conversation, cross academic disciplines, but also, of course, then across the academia to practitioner divide, which I think is.

[01:08:09] It’s getting bridged, but still remains to be bridged even more. So just what are some of the forums that you think already exist? If you can think of some and then what might we be looking for if we’re trying to either find or populate or create some sort of forum that doesn’t exist to keep exploring these important ideas?

[01:08:28] Daniel Denvir: I think one thing that we really need, but don’t really have, and I’m just speaking for my personal. Experience organizing with reclaim is off the shelf syllabi or packages approaches to doing organizational political education and how even like ideas of how to incorporate that in a way that’s Substantive, but not too time consuming into the life of an organization [01:09:00] into the work of everything from campaign planning to leadership development.

[01:09:06] It’s just something that we are attempting very slowly to figure out from scratch, but that keeps taking longer and longer to do because we’re very busy with all of the pressing exigencies of doing politics. The legislative session just started were. Starting a huge fight with a landlord, et cetera, et cetera.

[01:09:30] It keeps getting delayed. Anyhow, I feel like that would be helpful if there was a clearer way to do that all. 

[01:09:40] Johanna Bozuwa: No, I think that there, there are some forums that we have right now, I think DSA increasingly is. Providing a role in space for that amidst some of the main character vibes.

[01:09:49] But I think like there are really important conversations and new campaigns and strategy that’s being deployed and being reutilized not only by DSA, but I think like a, as someone who [01:10:00] works a little bit in the public power space and people fighting for energy democracy, DSA has had a massive influence on how those.

[01:10:07] Campaigns are building themselves that goes beyond DSA. And I think the fact that they are bringing things like a power analysis into these spaces that often don’t have that, I think, is a really important piece of the puzzle. But I do also think we just need, as you were describing, some more of these targeted spaces to bring folks together across constituencies Across vectors to find those commonalities and then be able to fight for them collectively and people that we wouldn’t expect to be together.

[01:10:36] So in our work on transportation climate and community project. Recently, we brought together, labor union activists. We brought together IT folks who are on the front lines of mining. We brought folks who are doing transit justice in their cities and in their local areas and climate folks because those folks actually have never been in a room together and actually done the coordination and thought through their strategy and thought through their commonalities and [01:11:00] soar.

[01:11:00] And I think. There are these kind of target opportunities that we could do where we’re actually doing the planning together far more effectively, but that takes space. And I think that speaks to something that Dan mentioned where when you are having to fight like the system in so many different ways, it just It disallows for that type of like spaciousness, and I think a question that I’m always left with is like, how do we build the spaciousness into our organizing that we can actually do that type of long term planning together, how we can bring organizers in, academics who may have more of that space into our organization.

[01:11:34] It back into this. And and I, so I think that’s something that I’m still always trying to find in the rat race even of organizing. How do we bring in space again? 

[01:11:44] Corinne Blalock: Yeah, all of that, everything you guys have said really resonates for me. I do think, I wanna make a case a little bit for the closed door conversation.

[01:11:52] So much of what LPE has focused on in certain ways is like having like difficult conversations. ’cause like we don’t agree on [01:12:00] everything. And if. When everything, political education is so important, but I think also having the space to really hash things out amongst yourselves and to disagree in ways that don’t feel like the stakes are huge in that moment, or you’re going to rip apart the coalition.

[01:12:15] And so like really trying to create these sort of like places where we can come together, I think is really a valuable and necessary piece in all of this. 

[01:12:24] Daniel Denvir: Can we end by you sharing some juicy gossip from, top five juiciest moments from closed door conversations in the last year?

[01:12:32] Johanna Bozuwa: Let’s close door then. But yes, I have to say plus Korean in terms of being able to show United Fronts while also being able to have those really important in depth discussions. Fights over, what is what are we trying? What are we reaching? What are we going for? What are the strategies that we deploy?

[01:12:50] And yeah, but having that balance and that tension 

[01:12:53] Daniel Denvir: behind closed doors, not on Twitter. 

[01:12:56] Johanna Bozuwa: Oh, my God. Yes, please. 

[01:12:58] William Lawrence: Curated [01:13:00] dialogues that are with people https: otter. ai prepared to actually have that conversation with respect and with good faith. Please, let’s do that. Okay. Yeah. Karim Blaylock, Johanna Bozua, Daniel Denver, thank you for everything you’re building and let’s keep building.

[01:13:16] Corinne Blalock: Thank you so much. Thanks so much for having

[01:13:22] William Lawrence: us. This podcast is written and hosted by me, William Lawrence. Our producer is Josh Elstro, and it is published by Convergence, a magazine for radical insights. You can help support this show and others like it by becoming a Patreon subscriber of Convergence for as low as 2 per month at patreon. com slash convergence mag.

[01:13:41] You can find a direct link in the show notes. This has been the hegemonic on let’s talk again soon.

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