NOTE: these sessions were originally planned to commence from Weds 22nd April, now changed to start on Mon 25th May.
FURTHER update: the series is extended to add another session on Mon 15th June
Reveille for Radicals reading group
“Reveille for Radicals” by Saul Alinsky is the original handbook for social change. It is the foundational text for the Citizens movement, discussing both the theory and practice of community organising for social good. It explores what it means to be a ‘radical’ and describes how community organising through the use of ‘people’s organisations’ can empower people and radically transform communities.
The reading group will discuss the text in order to understand Alinsky’s ideas, and to explore their relevance to community organising today. Members of the group will be asked to read chapters of the book in advance of meeting, and to share their understanding, insights and reactions at each of a series of three (Zoom) meetings. (Don’t worry if you can’t read the all of the week’s material in detail. Scan through the chapters and read what you can and come along anyway.)
A pdf copy of the book (1st edition) can be downloaded free from: https://historyofsocialwork.org/eng/zoeken.php?q=reveille&zoek.x=6&zoek.y=4 or you can buy the paperback 2nd edition from online booksellers. Many people are boycotting Amazon so you might want to get it from one of the alternatives listed here: https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/retailers/shopping-guide/booksellers.
In week 1, meeting on 25th May, 5:30 – 7:00pm, we will discuss Part 1 of the book: ‘Call me a rebel’. This includes the first three chapters:
1) What is a Radical?
2) Where is the Radical Today?
3) The Crisis
In this material the group will be forced to consider whether we are radicals, whether we want to be radicals, and whether we ought to be ‘Radicals’. Is the work of Citizens radical? Should it be? What is the relationship between radicals, liberals, socialists?
Weeks 2, 3 and 4 cover Part 2 of the book: ‘The Building of People’s Organisations’.
On the 1st June, 5:30 – 7:00pm, we will discuss chapters 4-7:
4) The Program
5) Native Leadership
6) Community Traditions and Organizations
7) Organizational Tactics
On the 8th June, 5:30 – 7:00pm, we will discuss chapters 8 and 9:
8) Conflict Tactics
9) Popular Education
On the 15th June, 5:30 – 7:00pm, we will discuss chapters 10 and 11
10) Psychological Observations on Mass Organisation
11) Reveille for Radicals
Chapters 4 to 10 draw on the practical experience of building successful ‘people’s organisations’ to explore how problems encountered in community organising can be tackled. Although the context is America and 70 years ago, the issues and answers are surprisingly relevant here and now. Many of the principles used by Citizens groups in the UK today can be seen in the examples that are described, and in the studying the book we can see where they come from and why they work. In the group, though, we will also need to discuss how things have changed and what we should do differently.
Chapter 11, the final chapter, is a rallying cry for action and a passionate commitment to democracy:
“The fundamental issue that will resolve the fate of democracy is whether or not we really believe in democracy. Democracy as a way of life has been intellectually accepted but emotionally rejected. The democratic way of life is predicated upon faith in the masses of humankind, yet few of the leaders of democracy really possess faith in the people. If anything, our democratic way of life is permeated by people’s fear of people. The powerful few fear the many, and the many distrust each other.”
Reveille for Radicals is an inspirational text and reading it is to be excited and provoked!