The progressive movement in Fresno and the Central Valley is growing and attracting more activists all of the time. Just keeping track of all the events is challenging, and attending everything is impossible. Ten or 20 years ago, you might have waited a month for something interesting to happen. Now, there is something happening almost every day; occasionally there are three or four events scheduled on the same day.
The variety and breadth of progressive activities is impressive as well. Every month, there are events in support of immigrant rights, peace, environmental justice, LGBTQ rights, organized labor and much more. There are people in groups who are focusing on police accountability, media democracy, culture and arts because they know that a better world is possible.
One way the Community Alliance newspaper helps is by maintaining a database of progressive groups. That list is available at http://fresnoalliance.com/wordpress/?page_id=305. We also update our Peace and Social Justice Calendar every week at http://fresnoalliance.com/wordpress/?page_id=2390.
As impressive as it is to have hundreds or thousands of progressive activists working on dozens of issues, it is unfortunately not enough. Progressive activists in this and many other communities have fallen into a pattern of focusing their work on a single issue. We do this because we are passionate about that issue and want to work with others who feel the same way.
The problem is that while we win an occasional battle here or there, we are losing the war. Every time we win a battle, the right throws up five more fronts for us to fight on. We are never going to get ahead by reacting to each new assault the right throws at us. We need to become more proactive and develop a strategy to achieve unity and political power.
The Community Alliance newspaper does what it can by providing readers with essential information, oftentimes ignored by the mainstream media, about what is happening in the struggle for peace, social and economic justice. Just page through this issue to see how we validate the work of progressive activists, link natural allies to support each other’s struggles and print a pretty comprehensive calendar of events.
As valuable of a service as it is, what this newspaper is doing is not enough. Progressive groups in this community need to figure out a way to build a strategy for political power that will benefit us all. Developing this strategy will be an indication that the progressive political movement here has reached enough maturity to see beyond our minor differences and unify into a United Front.
If the progressive groups here were to unite and build a working coalition with an electoral strategy, we would elect representatives that reflected our values and hold them accountable. Those elected officials could achieve victories that no individual group could win on their own.
For example, if we elected a majority of progressives to the Fresno City Council we could end environmental racism (see the story on page 22). If we had a progressive majority on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, we could stop the building of a nuclear power plant (see the story on page 1). Progressive issues across the board would be affected if we had a strategy for political power through building unity among the many single issue groups in this community. Through unity and a strategy, we can succeed. If we remain isolated, divided and weak, we will fail.
An encouraging development in building unity in the progressive community is the organizing of a conference this fall by a group with the following goals:
- Unite progressive groups in some way to form a larger base that would give us a stronger voice and develop community among our groups.
- Develop action plans to support various mutually agreed upon issues or candidates.
- Develop a means of ongoing communication and collaboration among the various groups.
I understand that Jim Hightower will be the keynote speaker. The Community Alliance supports this forum and all efforts to build unity on the left. You will be hearing more about this progressive forum in upcoming issues of the newspaper.