2022 Organizing Guide

Table of Contents

5. Or Else:
Using Pledges as a Tactic

In short-term campaigns or when just starting out with our tactics, we may have to use a pressure campaign approach to drive contact by constituents to a legislator’s office. Bureaucrats and people in leadership positions are often targets in our campaigns, because they can likely respond to and meet our demand. This approach demonstrates popular support for a change, but more often than not it mobilizes - not organizes. The contact doesn’t have an “or else” at the end of it that’s credible. Liberals believe politics starts and ends with politicians, but socialists know that workers make the world go around and building a base that knows our stuff and is ready to hold the line is our task.

As you build up your committee, members, and relationships, consider using a combination of regular public political education by your chapter or with many chapters in your region/state, as well as engaging in anti-privatization fights in your community to build relationships, and rallying your constituency around a pledge campaign. As your engaged membership grows and organizers become more capable, or as the conditions call for it, you want to escalate, and this is a great way.

In your pledge campaign, gather pledges from constituents who are willing to publicly state they will refuse/withdraw support: they will withhold donations, business, and/or votes from targets who do not take the action you demand. If this sounds militant, it is, and that’s ok: there is massive dissatisfaction at the American healthcare system right now, and the fact is that there has been no transformative change to it despite the crisis that COVID presented.

This approach can prepare individuals to act as a collective and already-existing membership organizations like unions to collectively bargain outside of work. Organizers should investigate a winnable demand that’s deeply and widely felt in their community, both inside and outside the chapter - like those discussed in “The Structure of a Campaign,” but instead of asking constituents to drive a contact to your target expressing support, clearly ask them if they would withhold their donations, business, and/or vote from them unless they meet the demand.

Use canvasses, phonebanks, friendbanks and interpersonal outreach, and other tactics. Set up a petition website, such as an Action Network, with the pledge text clearly stated: “I refuse to support you if you do not meet this demand by the end of 2022,” and have committed people add their information and reasoning for support to it. You can also have your data entry volunteer from canvasses enter in the pledges of those who have no comment.

Importantly, keep in touch with those who show their support so strongly this way. Hold regular “Calling Party” events in your chapter to get together and contact those who have pledged to check in on how they are, bring them into the organization, your ongoing political education events, and update them on the campaign. Keep track of their responses.