Still one of the best organizing-related writings I’ve read.
Replace Yourself by J. Pierce
The primary task of an organizer is to build more organizers. We need more and more working class leaders and the way to do this is to constantly replace yourself. Here’s a few easy ways to help you build up your successors:
Reveal your sources so others can think with you: “I had a long talk with MK recently. He really convinced me that we should reorganize as a shop committee instead of having one or two ‘stewards’. He gave me this awesome article on how IWW shop committees used to work.” Telling others where you got an idea from demonstrates that you think of them as equals. You also provide an opportunity for them question your sources.
Show others how it’s done and take them through the process: “Hey Keith, has anyone showed you how to post an article to iww.org? I’m going to post that write-up on the strike right now. Let me show you how to do it. We need another person who can post.” Pass on the technical know-how so others can be ‘experts’ just like you.
Encourage people because you believe in them and you know they can do it: “We really need this message to get to the people upfront. Can you have a talk with Shannon? She respects you and you’re the best person to talk to her.” You run faster for coaches that want to win. We’ve got to show that what we do matters and that we believe in each other.
Ask people to do things that are difficult. Move them to take on responsibilities outside their comfort level: “I’m glad you’ve been talking things up so much at your shop. You’re one of our best guys, Jerm. The next step is for you to start coming to the Industrial Organizing Committee meetings. I know its gonna be tight with your schedule but we’re gonna help you fit it in. You have to be there or this thing doesn’t move.” We need to help others break out and step up. It’s a sign of respect to ask people to do difficult things.
Train your replacement for an officer position: “Hey, Mei, you got a second? Has anyone talked to you about becoming the chair of the Committee? I’m going to be stepping down at the end of my term and you’re everyone’s pick for this position. Put some thought into it. Meanwhile I’ll start showing you what the job entails.” If we train new officers properly and regularly, we can avoid crust and dust in our leadership structures.
Encourage other members to read what you’ve read: “For those that didn’t make it to the Summit, Maxine did a killer presentation on the legal barriers to organizing in her industry. It totally reminded me of this thing I read in an old One Big Union Monthly. So I ran off some photo copies of that article for y’all to check out. I think it will help us come up with some good strategies we can try.” In making IWW history and principles accessible, you cut down on the knowledge monopoly and pass on valuable lessons and experiences.
Introduce people to each other and have them exchange phone numbers: “Tenaya, have you met Steve yet? Steve, this is Tenaya. Yeah, you guys both work in the same industry and would have some awesome stories to tell each other. You two ought to collaborate and submit something for the next newsletter.” By introducing and ensuring info exchange, you avoid ‘Ol Boys Clubs’ and now information doesn’t have to go through you.
The task that we have as IWWs is to build working class leaders everywhere we go. We are constantly looking for opportunities to teach others what we know so that they could do what we do without us.