Democratic Socialists of America is celebrating “ACORN’s Kick-Ass Activism” with the publication of a new book by John Atlas entitled “Seeds of Change”.
John Atlas is a longstanding DSAer, being an active member as far back as the mid-1980s. In fact, in 1979 he spoke alongside fellow DSAer, Nancy Kleniewski and Ruth Yanatta Goldway at a Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee-initiated Democratic Agenda Conference (In 1982, DSOC was to merge with the New American Movement to form the DSA).
Peter Dreier, who served as an advisor for Obama’s 2008 Presidential Campaign, writes at the DSA’s Talking Union blog, praising Atlas’s book to the skies,
“No group was better at kicking ass than ACORN. That’s the story that John Atlas tells in his fascinating new book… Seeds of Change is full of fascinating people, colorful anecdotes, and political drama, but it is really a story about the hard but hopeful work of bringing about progressive change…
Atlas also reports on ACORN’s cunning “homesteading” campaign in Philadelphia in the 1970s that involved members illegally taking over blocks of abandoned housing in order to pressure local officials to direct funding for repairs and rehabilitation. He describes ACORN’s bold and successful campaign to pass a statewide referendum in November 2004 to raise Florida’s minimum wage by a dollar an hour…
Atlas devotes a chapter of Seeds of Change to the ACORN-affiliated Working Families Party, which has groomed activists to run for city and state offices in New York, helped them win elections, and played an important role in building a progressive coalition with labor unions and other groups.
Atlas, like ACORN’s leaders, expected Obama’s victory in 2008 to give the organization even greater influence. But during the campaign, and soon after Obama took office, ACORN became the target of a right-wing assault that it was unprepared for and, ultimately, unable to survive. Atlas reports on what he describes as the “tragedy” of ACORN’s downfall…
Atlas’s history of ACORN is sympathetic to the controversial group, but does not shy away from exposing its weaknesses, clashes over strategy, internal power struggles, tensions between white Ivy League organizers and a membership of mostly blacks and Latinos, as well as ACORN’s trouble with staff turnover…
Although Atlas recounts ACORN’s rise and fall, Seeds of Change does not end on a downer note. Atlas shows how, over the years, ACORN has been a real school for democracy, training thousands of activists who, even after leaving ACORN, continued to work as effective organizers for hundreds of community groups, unions, environmental organizations, and other public interest groups. Many ACORN veterans worked as key staff for elected officials and some became successful politicians themselves. Atlas also notes that ACORN’s willingness to experiment with different strategies and approaches has changed the field of organizing in numerous ways.”
As an amusing side-note, Dreier’s article was originally entitled “ACORN’s Kiss-Ass Activism”, until Talking Union editor Jason Schulman noticed the mistake and changed the title.
2 thoughts on “DSA Celebrates new book on "ACORN’s Kick-Ass Activism"”
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