Citizen Action’s Radical Pragmatism

What is a movement building compromise?

The Necessity of Compromise:  Progressive power inside and outside government is greater now than it has been since the 1960s, but is incomplete. To pass new policy at the federal level (or enact executive action at the state level) we must find common ground with corporate-funded Democrats, which by definition means compromise.

Citizen Action’s Radical Pragmatism: Citizen Action is committed not only to being on the right side but to building the grassroots and political power to actually achieve economic equity and antiracist structural reform as defined in our long term issue agenda, the Citizen Action platform. 

We do this through revolutionary incrementalism. Citizen Action seeks to win advances in the short term that are steps toward system transformation. We seek to win the far end of the possible within current power constraints, while using every issue and electoral campaign to build the much greater grassroots and inside power required for social transformation.

Some compromises are stepping stones towards our ultimate goals, and others set the movement for reform back. Citizen Action leaders assess each possible compromise case-by-case, based on the following standards.

Citizen Action Standards for Stepping Stone Compromises: 

  1. Advances which on balance tangibly improve the lives of the multiracial working and middle class in the short term;
  2. Anti-racist and egalitarian policies that reduce inequality by incrementally advancing social and economic equity for everyone left out;
  3. Structural changes and regulations which shift power away from corporate and ultrarich oligarchs toward popular democratic control;
  4. Policies that provide vehicles for movement organizations to build the future power for transformational reform:
    a) Stretch Goals that are Winnable Now: The policies represent the far end of the possible in the now (a particular legislative or political context), are messaged as evolutionary steps to radical transformation, not end points, and can be built upon.

(Example: Medicare and Medicaid, which expand access to medical care for the most vulnerable, and provide public (not corporate) health coverage where the government sets the fair price, and are expandable into a future universal public health care system).

      b) Build Hard (Grassroots) Power: The only way to defeat organized money is more and better organized people. Good policy advances are those that can be used as galvanizing issues for movement organizations to build an ever larger and more capable multiracial and cross-class grassroots army to win revolutionary advances in the future.

(Example: During the early Civil Rights Movement, banning discrimination on interstate buses and local buses such as in Montgomery, helped encourage and build momentum for the more powerful movement that ultimately achieved what seemed impossible for centuries before: full civil and voting rights)

      c) Build Soft (Ethical/Worldview) Power: Structural racism and inequality are built both on institutional power and ideology and worldview. Good stepping stones advances help movement organizations over time shift worldview towards deeper public support for true structural reform.

(Example: Overturning and replacing false beliefs that are barriers to transformational reform movements, such as “more police make communities safer,” “phasing out fossil fuels will cost jobs and raise energy prices,” “social supports such as health care, child care, and paid family leave will discourage work,” and Medicare for All will deny individual control of our personal health care decisions.”)

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