On February 21st, Twin Cities DSA held one of the largest events we’ve ever had – “Ten Strikes, One Evening,” a panel discussion with labor and environmental historian Erik Loomis about his book A History of America in Ten Strikes. Among the 125 people in attendance were DSA members, union members, community members, workers of all sorts – all gathered together to discuss labor history and socialism.
The event was held at the East Side Freedom Library in St Paul; library founder Peter Rachleff told us that it was the best-attended event they’ve held at the library since it opened. It was sponsored by three local unions, Education Minnesota, IBEW 292, and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, and by the Labor Education Service at the University of Minnesota.
DSA organizers Amy Tran, and Bree Richardson, and I (Joanna DeLaune) handled logistics and planning for the event. Appearing on the panel to discuss the book with Erik Loomis were Diana Walter of DSA’s Socialist Feminist Branch, Munira Mohamed of Racial Justice, and Joanna DeLaune substituting for Dave Kamper of the Labor Branch, as he was under the weather. Many other DSA members pitched in to make the event happen.
Our chief goal in organizing the event was to provide an educational opportunity for DSA members and for other members of the community – in particular, to strengthen our understanding of the interrelatedness of race, gender, class, and other identities; and to sharpen our understanding of worker power and how it functions in the world. When workers fight for their rights — why do they win? Why do they lose? And how can we replicate the winning conditions and not the losing ones? These are all questions that should be central to our analysis as socialist organizers. Given the turnout we had, I believe we were wildly successful in meeting this goal.
One of the things I’m happiest about, though, is how we were able to use the event to advance other, additional goals. For example, because of the centrality of these questions about intersectionality and worker power, we wanted to encourage DSA members to engage with them more thoroughly than it’s possible to do in a two-hour event on one evening. So we asked members to read the book in advance. One DSA member contributed 40 copies which we distributed to DSA members and to sponsoring organizations for them to pass along to their members. Racial Justice and Labor branches each read and discussed a chapter of the book during their branch meetings. We scheduled a book discussion for DSA members and their guests on the Sunday before the event.
Other goals we had for the event included strengthening relationships with other unions and organizations in the left/social justice community, and using the event itself as an organizing tool to engage newer members. We were able to forge valuable relationships as we worked with our sponsors to promote the event. We also gave some copies of the book to DSA organizers who have more contact with newer members, and asked them to distribute the books and invite people to the event.
For me, one of the key takeaways from organizing this event is that if we take our time with planning and if we are thoughtful about what we are doing, events or actions that we plan don’t have to stand alone. They can be part of a larger strategy of organizing and building the socialist future that we want to see. It’s actually not that difficult to organize a big event like this in a holistic way, as long as you start out with plenty of lead time so that things are not rushed.
We should be incredibly proud of what we accomplished! It’s my hope that we will take these lessons forward and continue to think holistically about our organizing, and always ask how we can use the infrastructure we’re building to accomplish more and better things.