By the Coordinating Committee: Krisna S, Jesse M, Valerie L, Peter H, Pam F, Lisa D, James C, Dave B
The Spring Socialist Network was founded on June 30, 2019 with 25 members, including a coordinating committee of 3, a social media committee of 6, and no paid staff. A year later we have 50 members, including a coordinating committee of 8, a social media committee of 17, and two part-time staff. Spring Magazine is now nearly a daily publication, with more than 160,000 page views in the first year, more than 4,000 Facebook likes, more than 1,400 Twitter followers, and nearly 20,000 Instagram followers. Below is a brief summary of some of the pillars of our growth, which we can continue to build into our second year.
Economic austerity, climate crisis and movements against oppression have brought socialism back into popular conversations. Spring was founded as part of this broader socialist renewal, with the aim “to learn from struggles, apply their lessons and socialist politics to build movements, and through the process build socialist organization.”
We debated the name of our group and decided on Spring Socialist Network. We chose the name Spring to express the optimism of renewal, from new seasons to new struggles and organizations, building on prior legacies. We chose a colour scheme of green and blue (as opposed to the red and black of many other far left groups) to engage a wider audience, and reflect the importance of climate justice. We called ourselves a network (rather than an organization or a party) as a realistic appraisal of our small size and structure. We initially had no paid staff and only needed three people on the coordination team: a convenor to organize meetings, treasurer to keep track of finances and membership dues, and editor to edit content for Spring. We also developed a code of conduct, and a summary of what unites us.
We also called ourselves the same name as our publication to emphasize that it is through the production and distribution of Spring Magazine that the Spring Socialist Network will grow and take shape. From the Bolsheviks to the Black Panthers and the Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists, revolutionary journalism is central to building revolutionary organization. As Egyptian socialist Hossam El-Hamalawy explained, “the process of journalism is a process of organization… you sending a report means that you are engaged on the ground at the same time as you are connected to the rest of the members of the movement… correspondence with the site is not a luxury or only the responsibility of the small number of comrades who run the site, but should continue to be the task of the largest possible number of comrades, if not all of them.”
Socialist renewal applied to journalism means applying the theory of socialist publications from the 20th century to the practical advances of the 21st century: from the start we had print versions of Spring (which have been on hiatus during COVID-19) but key to Spring achieving a wider audience was the social media committee intervening through multiple online platforms. We also organized a socialist media workshop to discuss the politics and share the skills of writing and distributing socialist media.
It is through the regular production and distribution of Spring Magazine that we have been able to build and recruit from movements in which we are active, from prisoners’ rights to decent work. Using Spring Magazine to amplify movements has also allowed us to build new relationships in other movements. This is especially true for our Sudanese solidarity work and what has now become our abolitionist work. This process of organization has been accelerated first by paid staff time focused on revolutionary journalism—from expanding Spring writers and turning writers into members, to connecting to tenants and prisoners rights groups—and then through an expanded coordinating committee.
The fight against oppression has always been central to socialism. As Claudia Jones wrote, “The triply-oppressed status of the Black woman is a barometer of the status of all women, and that the fight for the full economic, political and social equality of the Black woman is in the vital self-interest of white workers, in the vital interest of the fight to realize equality for all women.” But because of the legacy of Stalinism, much of what is considered socialist politics is restricted to Europe and reduced to class.
Socialist renewal needs to centre equity and reflect the international working class. Theoretically, we have begun to elevate the historical contribution of indigenous socialists like Howard Adams and José Carlos Mariátegui, and Black socialists like Claudia Jones and CLR James; and to elevate contemporary socialists from the Global South, like Vijay Prashad and indigenous socialists like Nick Estes. Practically, we have sought to centre equity in our movements—supporting Indigenous communities leading the climate justice movement, racialized and migrant workers fighting for paid sick days, Black activists leading movements for abolition, and activists from the Sudanese and Palestinian diaspora building solidarity for the struggles of their homelands. Growing by emphasizing anti-oppression will also allow us to centre equity organizationally, growing from what began as a predominantly white organization to one that reflects the diversity of the working class.
As Lenin observed, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” The crisis of COVID-19, and its intertwined crises of racism and recession, has created another series of weeks where decades are happening. Longstanding demands are suddenly gaining a wide audience, from full immigration status for all migrants to defunding the police, and the ruling class response is rapidly changing—from providing CERB, pandemic pay and halting evictions, to a violent return to “normal” based on building prisons rather than homes. With such rapidly changing terrain it’s essential that organized socialists have a regular routine to discuss and debrief movement developments, and collectively plan our next steps based on our available resources. The weekly zoom calls allowed us to keep organizing and growing despite the COVID-19 shutdown, but now that the economy is reopening we can begin to balance our pan-Canadian meetings with more local meetings to build in the cities where we are rooted.
Socialist organization is based on democratic centralism: freedom of discussion, and unity in action. Democratic centralism means collectively learning and then sharing lessons as quickly as possible. We were among the first socialist organizations to launch online public meetings, drawing over 220 people to our first webinar-style meeting on March 22 (COVID-19: a socialist response), and then drawing between 40 and 100 people every two weeks for similar big-topic public meetings.
At the same time, our bi-weekly Spring members’ meetings allowed us to draw from experiences across the country to respond to debates, debrief socialist practice and adjust the way we organize. Just as rapidly, we moved away from large public webinars every two weeks to weekly organizing meetings where we could better assess our interventions and invite like-minded people to participate and see for themselves how we organize.
Meanwhile, our regular reading groups give us a chance to explore the way socialist theory applies in practice.
Every step of the way, democratic centralism has allowed us to figure out how to prioritize our limited resources, and how to both identify and intervene in movement debates. For example, we have collectively grappled with how we respond to the call for basic income that CERB has revived, and to motions to defund the police but only by 10%. Together, we have wrestled with proposals to provide paid sick days, but at public, not employer, expense. As a group, we have had to think through tenant organizing initiatives that target landlords but not the state. By moving to weekly meetings, which are organized by the coordinating committee and that now draw between two and three dozen members and activists from across the country, we have been able to navigate the changing terrain and tactical debates. Thanks to the growth of our network we are better able to build, assess and intervene in struggle—joining a caravan for migrant worker solidarity, helping organize phone banks and days of action for paid sick days, and deputing on city council motions to defund the police.
If this is what a small network of 50 can do, just imagine what we could do with 100 members – or 200! Our first doubling (going from 25 members to 50) included expanding our social media committee, expanding our coordinating committee, and adding part-time organizers. As we spring into our second year, this year’s convention will be an exciting opportunity to discuss what steps are needed to continue building movements and building our network.