Organising to win

Written By: - Date published: 7:31 pm, December 9th, 2014 - 13 comments
Categories: activism, Andrew Little, australian politics, campaigning, democratic participation, elections - Tags:

Labor’s win in the recent Victorian state election was historic – the first time a one-term government had been turned out for more than 60 years. It was also a fantastic example of how organisation can win elections. Labor’s leader Daniel Andrews’ focused on having 5500 active volunteers behind him. 45% of these were not Labor party members, but they made more than 500,000 telephone calls and door-knocked 170,000 houses in a state with a population the size of New Zealand’s.

Last night I heard from one of our organisers who had worked in the campaign. Three things particularly impressed me – they had 26 paid organisers, their campaign was in place years ahead of the election with their persuasion time at least six months out, and  they monitored activity systematically and relentlessly.

This report puts a lot of the organising success down to the community organising principles made famous in the seventies by Saul Alinsky. I know they work – I was a community organiser in the seventies and eighties – we didn’t have Saul Alinsky but we brought a Creole priest from France called Philippe Fanchette to teach us how to win power from the powerless position. He trained many of us before he disappeared into Maoridom, and I still have my old photocopy of Rules for Radicals. Those principles were invaluable in the union campaign in the lead-up to the 1999 election, and in the get-out-the-vote campaign in 2005.

I don’t know if Labour’s 2014 review of the election here has touched upon the importance of organisation, although resourcing was mentioned. I know that Matt McCarten understands the principles, I hope Andrew Little gets to know Daniel Andrews, and I would love it if  our Labour Party could get Stephen Donnelly over here to talk to party members.

It’s true – organisation does win elections. In my opinion, Labour’s organisation here could do with a rev-up.

13 comments on “Organising to win”

  1. Bill 1

    Labour’s organisation here could do with a rev-up.

    I think you’d be pushed to find anyone who would disagree with that Mike. Well, anyone except maybe various gatekeepers and turf managers.

    • Colonial Rawshark 1.1

      Less a rev-up than a total restructure. Where the majority of the names associated with the last 2 campaign committees need to be cut out, and people who both intellectually and culturally get MMP, slotted in.

      And getting two ticks election signage would be a start.

  2. Sirenia 2

    I think the expert organiser Patrick Leyland (ex Wellington) helped the Victoria campaign too.

  3. mickysavage 3

    Good post Mike.

    As a point of discussion is it better to make 500,000 telephone calls or door knock 170,000 doors? My impression is the latter …

    • tracey 3.2

      Mr Seymour thinks it is magical

    • Bill 3.3

      As a point of discussion is it better to make 500,000 telephone calls or door knock 170,000 doors?

      Telephone sales or cold calling? Hmm. Why not raise levels of participation and engagement, like organise, so that the sales pitches can be consigned to the bin of irrelevances?

  4. KJS0ne 4

    I encouraged a certain Labour MP to door knock rather than blast his voice over a megaphone into peoples homes, wait for 10 minutes on the corner then disappear into his van, off to the next spot in a run and gun blitzkrieg style play. There is something to be said for politely and respectfully meeting with people on their terms , not your own. If they wanna talk they can talk, or even invite you in, it shows respect I said, and if they don’t want to talk they can decline.

    I was angry, and to his credit said MP wrote a patient and polite rebuff, basically telling me that he felt his methods were more successful and people loved it. I picked up the distinct air of confirmation bias.

    Greens did wonders in DN North with their doorknocking, scoring ~1/3rd of the party vote iirc. I went out door knocking with them, they’re highly organised , Labour could learn a thing or two I dare say, though I am somewhat skeptical that we will.

  5. McFlock 5

    26 paid organisers would be pretty expensive if they were working full time on grassroots (training and coordinating volunteers, booking hall meetings, doorknocking where there are no volunteers) – but effective.

    But then who has the $$$

  6. tc 6

    Labour clearly needs to ditch the architects of 2 failed campaigns but lets not forget the Abbott effect in victoria and they still have some decent media unlike here so coverage isnt as biased.

    Big Tony’s broken promises on public broadcasting and education funding amongst others combined with his almost bullying approach to the east west link were big factors in removing the liberals.

    victoria has a long history of labour state governments and andrews didnt scare the horses with rafts of new taxes, so organising is critical but the right strategy more so.

  7. Sable 7

    Not surprising given the heavy handed behaviour of the outgoing state government. One unlovely example was effectively making public protest illegal. No I’m not kidding.
    Victoria is a conservative state so this is good news and shows that people will only tolerate so much before they vote for change. The most livable city in the world just got more livable!

  8. Sable 8

    As to Labour in NZ. I believe they are Labour in name only so why would a real party of the people want to waste their time helping this ersatz bunch of neo lib US toady drop kicks.

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