7 episodes

How do underdogs, facing far stronger opponents, sometimes win? In this biweekly podcast, based on their book "Practical Radicals: Seven Strategies to Change the World," Deepak Bhargava and Stephanie Luce talk with some of the leading progressive organizers and thinkers today and share insights crucial for the fight to build a better society.

You can buy the book and find out more about the show at www.practicalradicals.org

Practical Radicals Deepak Bhargava and Stephanie Luce

    • News
    • 5.0 • 18 Ratings

How do underdogs, facing far stronger opponents, sometimes win? In this biweekly podcast, based on their book "Practical Radicals: Seven Strategies to Change the World," Deepak Bhargava and Stephanie Luce talk with some of the leading progressive organizers and thinkers today and share insights crucial for the fight to build a better society.

You can buy the book and find out more about the show at www.practicalradicals.org

    6. Narrative Shift with Cristina Jimenez Moreta and Alan Jenkins

    6. Narrative Shift with Cristina Jimenez Moreta and Alan Jenkins

    In the past two decades, progressives have gotten far more savvy at the strategy we call “narrative shift,” learning how to challenge the dominant story and change the common sense on key issues. For example, on same-sex marriage, activists drove a sea change in public sentiment — from 27% support in 1996 to 71% in 2023. And research shows that Occupy Wall Street, which some criticized as a “blip,” was, as one organizer put it, actually a “spark” that ignited mass movements for economic justice, from the Fight for $15 and a Union to the campaigns of Bernie Sanders, and changed how everyday people think about economic inequality. In this episode, we hear from two experts about how to achieve narrative shifts.



    As co-founder and former head of United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the country, Cristina Jimenez Moreta, was instrumental in crafting a narrative of immigrant pride, dignity, and belonging that helped bring about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), providing protection against deportation for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants. Cristina is now a Distinguished Lecturer at CUNY and co-chair of Leadership for Democracy and Social Justice, where she mentors young and emerging leaders and encourages them to think through hard questions like how to make the most of upsurge moments like the Movement for Black Lives, how to harness the power of new technologies like AI, and how to rethink our organizing models to build a bigger “we.”



    Our next guest is Alan Jenkins, a civil rights lawyer and co-founder of The Opportunity Agenda, an organization devoted to narrative shift strategies. Now a Harvard Law professor, Alan has co-authored the 1/6 comic book series, which imagines what might have happened if the MAGA insurrection had succeeded. Alan unpacks the differences between messaging, framing, and narrative shifts, and gives examples of how conservatives and progressives have succeeded in changing the terms of debates. In a wide-ranging conversation, he considers how far we’ve come since Ronald Reagan suggested we “open the border both ways,” how grassroots activists at the 2008 Heartland Presidential Forum in Iowa steered candidate Obama toward a rhetoric of “community values,” and how comic books and interventions in popular culture can help foster the kinds of conversations our troubled nation needs.



    Did Occupy Wall Street Make a Difference?, by Ruth Milkman, Stephanie Luce, and Penny Lewis, The Nation, October 4/11, 2021

    Changing the Subject: A Bottom-Up Account of Occupy Wall Street in New York City, by Ruth Milkman, Stephanie Luce, and Penny Lewis, January 2013

    • 1 hr 26 min
    5. Disruptive Movements with Frances Fox Piven

    5. Disruptive Movements with Frances Fox Piven

    In this episode, we explore the strategy of disruption and talk with one of its leading theorists and practitioners, the legendary scholar and activist Frances Fox Piven. Stephanie and Deepak begin by distinguishing protest from disruption, two types of action that are often confused. They consider famous instances of disruption, like the mass actions on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation that blocked the Dakota Access Pipeline, and lesser-known ones, like the 1975 “Women’s Day Off” that helped win equal rights for women in Iceland. They also reflect on how overdogs use disruption, citing the “Brooks Brothers Riot,” a protest by GOP operatives that may have tipped the 2000 election and presaged the insurrection of January 6th, 2021. Then, in a wide-ranging interview, Frances Fox Piven argues that “the most important achievement of elites is to persuade people that they don’t have power.” But, she explains,  ordinary people in complex societies have enormous “potential power,” the power to disrupt by stopping work, breaking the law, or simply refusing to cooperate. Invoking a chapter of history she and her late husband, Richard Coward, helped write, Piven recalls the Welfare Rights Movement, when poor women of color used their disruptive power to get benefits they had been denied and hugely increased the amount of money spent of welfare in the U.S. Frances, Deepak, and Stephanie also discuss the potential for using disruptive power today, the ways that too much organization can stifle movements, and the essential role of exuberance, ecstasy, and even “sexuality” in movement politics.

    • 45 min
    4. Base-Building in Community Organizing with Make the Road NY’s José Lopez and Ángeles Solis

    4. Base-Building in Community Organizing with Make the Road NY’s José Lopez and Ángeles Solis

    In the Spring of 2021, dozens of immigrant New Yorkers, mostly women, launched a hunger strike that lasted 23 days and was the climax of a campaign to win an unprecedented $2.1 billion relief package for workers who had been excluded from unemployment benefits, federal stimulus checks, and rent relief. At the time, many thought the campaign’s demands were out of reach, but as our guests Ángeles Solis and José Lopez of Make the Road New York explain, years of base-building made this seemingly impossible victory a reality — one that spawned similar demands in eleven other states. Founded in 1997, Make the Road New York, as José says, “focuses on the intersecting challenges that working-class and immigrant New Yorkers face every single day” — and with 27,000 members, it has become a powerful force for justice in the state. During the pandemic, a quarter of Make the Road New York members could not afford to pay rent or put food on the table, and ninety lost their lives. But desperation fueled a bold project of relational organizing, recruiting people in food pantries, leveraging mutual aid to build power, and calling out billionaire profiteers and tax cheats. Before the interview with Ángeles and José, Deepak and Stephanie contrast the approach to base-building in the labor movement (as covered in episode 3) with base- building in the community organizing tradition, drawing on four principles from legendary organizer Arnie Graf’s book Lessons Learned: Stories from a Lifetime of Organizing. They also consider how community organizations can find the right balance between radical vision and practical change in the here and now.



    Episode 4 transcript

    • 55 min
    3. Base Building in the Labor Movement with Greg Nammacher of SEIU Local 26

    3. Base Building in the Labor Movement with Greg Nammacher of SEIU Local 26

    To succeed, any social movement needs people power. And, as the great Ella Baker preached, that takes a lot of slow, respectful work to forge relationships — what she called “spadework.” Base-building is the first of the “seven strategies to change the world” that we elaborate on in our book Practical Radicals. And base-building is so important that all of the other six strategies depend on it. So we’ve decided to devote two episodes to the topic: one on unions and one on community organizing. 

    Today’s episode focuses on base-building in the labor movement, especially the thrilling upsurge in Minnesota, where workers next week (March 2-9, 2024) are preparing to launch a massive, unprecedented general strike. Our guest is Greg Nammacher, president of SEIU Local 26, which represents janitorial, security, airport, and retail workers, and is a key player in this upcoming week of action. When he came to the local sixteen years ago, it was led by Javier Morillo, who wanted to usher in a new era of union democracy and militancy. And it worked! Local 26’s membership has doubled, and by embracing base-building and a “bargaining for the common good” framework, and not being afraid to strike, they’ve won astonishing victories that point the way for union success around the country. Nammacher’s interview is full of gems organizers need to hear: how to foster unity when members speak many languages; how to build “alignments,” not just coalitions or alliances; how to make organizing fun; and how to use social media smartly to build worker networks.  Greg says American labor is in “an incredible moment, and we won't get a lot of these. And so how do we make the most of it so that our members can have better lives and we can have a long-term voice of power in this country?”



    Minnesota Week of Action Fund: https://workingpartnerships.betterworld.org/campaigns/weekofactionfund

    Schedule of Events for Week of Action in Minnesota (March 2-9)



    Episode 3 transcript



    Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker

    • 53 min
    2. What is Power? + Ilyse Hogue on right-wing strategies

    2. What is Power? + Ilyse Hogue on right-wing strategies

    The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King famously said, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and . . . love without power is sentimental and anemic.” But many on the left seem allergic to power. This episode starts with a fundamental question: What is power? 

    Drawing on the influential sociologists Michael Mann and Erik Olin Wright, Stephanie and Deepak present a novel typology, identifying six forms of power and giving examples of each. Then we hear from a guest who has brilliantly analyzed right-wing strategies to build power over the past several decades: Ilyse Hogue, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America and co-author, with Ellie Langford, of The Lie that Binds (which is also a terrific 6-part podcast). Hogue debunks the myth that the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade was the turning point in conservative organizing. In fact, she says the catalyst that activated a white, patriarchal, evangelical movement was Brown v. Board of Education, which challenged the power of churches in education. Hogue describes how in the 1970s, Phyllis Schlafly organized a mass movement to narrowly defeat the Equal Rights Amendment not, as many mistakenly believe, based on opposition to abortion but through scaremongering about women being drafted and being abandoned by husbands who would refuse to pay alimony. Schlafly’s skill at recruiting footsoldiers made her a kingmaker for Ronald Reagan and, decades later, Donald Trump. Hogue concludes with an insightful analysis of the parallels between these two presidents, the lessons we can learn from right-wing successes and failures in amassing power, and the strategic opportunities the left can seize on today to widen fissures within the conservative coalition. 

    • 1 hr 3 min
    1. What is Strategy? with Maria Poblet and Alex Hertel-Fernandez

    1. What is Strategy? with Maria Poblet and Alex Hertel-Fernandez

    Progressives need a strategy upgrade, and this episode points the way, first by delving into one of the greatest victories of the civil rights movement and the strategic masterstroke of Rev. Wyatt T. Walker. Next, we talk with Maria Poblet, Executive Director of the Grassroots Power Project, who argues that “the way strategy is being developed in progressive movements now in the United States is failing us.” She calls for progressives to build skill in what’s known as conjunctural analysis (pioneered by the great theorists Antonio Gramsci and Stuart Hall) and shares case studies of how it can lead to strategic breakthroughs. Then, Columbia Professor Alex Hertel-Fernandez details the lessons he learned from studying right-wing strategy for his book State Capture: How Conservative Activists, Big Businesses and Wealthy Donors Reshaped the American States and the Nation. The episode closes with a look at reverse engineering, one of thirty-six strategic tools described in the book Practical Radicals.

    You can buy the book and find out more about the show at www.practicalradicals.org

    • 1 hr 2 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
18 Ratings

18 Ratings

NibblesandUs ,

Needed

This level of rigor and practicality is needed now more than ever. We need to win. For everyone.

Jake9791 ,

Actionable advice for activists

The discussions in this podcast provide some frameworks for understanding the dynamics of the current social/political/economic situations and actionable advice for activists and organizers who want to have an impact in what often seems like a bewildering landscape.

KarenYoung521 ,

Talking bout the key questions re the left and strategy

First podcast I ever listened to. Deepak is my #1 favorite thinker on this (besides myself). I was a bit triggered by your discussion here of the GOP takeover in 2010. They ruined my state, Wisconsin, and we're still trying to recover. You're right about so many things, esp. "reverse engineering" - that's the first thing I learned about strategic planning. Imagine what success looks like - blue sky it - and then figure out how to get there. Also knowing the opposition. Look forward to more discussion about how we can get from here to there!

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