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Activism, Organizing and Movements:
Recommended Reading

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The Organizer's Handbook , published by the War Resisters League. Remains one of the best basic how-to's for beginning activists.

Reclaiming America (1999) by Randy Shaw. Using specific campaigns from the 1990s, he makes the case that in an age of corporate-led globalization grassroots campaigns must be linked to national struggles in order to be effective.

Insurrection (2003) by Kevin Danaher and Jason Mark. The founder and communications director of Global Exchange team up for this vigorous exploration of recent corporate accountability campaigns against sweatshops, Big Tobacco and the WTO. By documenting different threads in the movement for global justice, it gives the reader a strong sense that people can and do make a difference.

Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky are two classics that every community organizer should read.

Prime Time Activism: Media Strategies for Grassroots Organizing by Charlotte Ryan and Making the News: A Guide for Activists and Nonprofits (2003) by Jason Salzman are useful guides to dealing with the media.

CHEJ's Community Assistance Web Page offers a variety of helpful publications for community organizers.

Organizing for Social Change: A Manual for Activists by Kim Bobo et. al.

Other sites to look at include The National Organizers Alliance,, Grassroots Policy Project, Sociosite.

Culture Jam by Kalle Lasn, the editor of Adbusters magazine, reminds you of the fun that activists can have, although it seems to place an inordinate amount of faith in the how much can be accomplished through pranks, billboard liberation and other forms of "culture jamming."

Defying Corporations, Defining Democracy: A Book of History and Strategy by Dean Ritz, ed. A collection of essays by Richard Grossman, Ward Morehouse and other leaders of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD), a network of activists that challenge judicial doctrines central to corporate power. As Grossman points out, "challenging the legitimacy of the corporation and organizing to limit its rights and powers under law are not regarded as obvious or logical. Such ideas are often dismissed as unrealistic, utopian, and counter-productive." So it is that many of POCLAD's ideas, such as petitions to revoke corporate charters, have yet to be gain mainstream acceptance. Nevertheless, the first stage of any struggle to significantly challenge corporate power has to be an educational process, and POCLAD is at the vanguard of such efforts.

Challenging Corporate Rule: The Petition to Revoke Unocal's Charter(1999) by Robert Benson is available here. Information about charter revocation is also available from CELDF.

Corporateering: How Corporate Power Steals Your Personal Freedom And What You Can Do About It (2003) by Jamie Court. Drawing from his experience battling for consumer rights in California, Court has written a useful dissection of the means by which corporations have come to dominate our culture. For more information go here.

Movement History (also see labor, other topics)

Democratic Promise: The Populist Moment in America by Lawrence Goodwyn is one of the classics of American History.

A People’s History of the American Revolution by Ray Raphael explores how common people shaped the fight for American independence.

A Short History of the U.S. Working Class From Colonial Times to the Twenty-First Century by Paul Le Blanc is a concise history of the U.S. working class by a writer committed to the labor movement.

American Radicalism 1865-1901 by CA Destler

Toward an American Revolution: Exposing the Constitution & Other Illusions by Jerry Fresia is a refreshingly candid assessment of the Constitutiona and early American history. He argues that the true intent of the “Founding Fathers” was to protect their property and ensure that the poorer majority would have no real voice in political affairs. An important antidote to the facetious assertions about the Framers’ visions of Democracy.

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn.

A People’s History of the Supreme Court by Peter Irons.

No More Lies by comedian and political activist Dick Gregory tears the mask off many of the myths of American history. The distillation of hundreds of lectures given on college campuses across the country.

Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail (1977) assesses the difficulties and effectiveness of two strategies: conventional electoral politics and mass resistance and disruption.

The Marxists (1962) by C. Wright Mills is a good introduction to Marxist thinking and many of the key political and revolutionary leaders influenced by it.

Parting the Waters (I), Pillar of Fire, and At Canaan's Edge by Taylor Branch chronicle the civil rights movement.

Right-Wing Movements and History:

Friendly Fascism (1980) by Bertram Gross is a prescient description of how it could happen in the U.S.

American Fascists (2007) by former New York Times foreign correspondent Chris Hedges is a courageous, blunt attack on right-wing religious fanaticism.

The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America by Economist reporters John Michlethwait and Adrian Wooldridge is a useful overview of contemporary American conservatism.

Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unraveling of the American Consensus (2001) by Rick Perlstein traces the beginnings of the right-wing ascendancy within the Republican Party.

Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence From the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers by Jean Hardisty

Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States by Sara Diamond

Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort (2000) by Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons.

Secrecy and Privilege (2004) by Robert Parry is the definitive history of the Bush family’s history of ties to right-wing extremist groups (e.g. the Moonies) and cover operative networks. Parry was one of the first reporters to break key stories involving Bush Sr., including Iran-Contra and the October Surprise. He continues his intrepid reporting at Consortium News.

Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement by Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall

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