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Tempest Collective inaugural convention report

A brief report from the first convention of the Tempest Collective, by the newly elected Steering Committee.

Tempest Collective members from across the United States gathered last month for our first convention to discuss current U.S. and world politics, the state of the U.S. Left, and revolutionary organization for today. About 40 percent of our members came together in person (masked and vaccinated) in Chicago, while the majority of our other members were able to participate remotely online in a relatively seamless hybrid convention.

While the grim and worsening realities around us, combined with our small size, continue to warrant a very large dose of modesty about what we represent, the important and meaningful steps we took at the convention are a small milestone along the path to building a much larger, principled, revolutionary Left that is rooted in the working class.

A 1797 engraving by Benjamin Smith based on a painting by George Romney, Act I, Scene 1 of The Tempest by William Shakespeare.

Firstly, it was immensely clarifying to step back and collectively think through our moment together in a sustained way, both at the convention itself and in 180 pages of written documents circulated internally in the months leading up to it. Our discussions of the state of the world, the U.S., and the U.S. Left painted a multifaceted analytic picture of our moment that could only have come from a broad collective, with varied experiences and expertise. This is a very rare thing on the Left. So many radicalizing people are searching for serious analysis and clarity about the world, while fewer and fewer are able to provide it in a way that is useful and meaningful in organizing work. Despite our small resources, Tempest has been able to rise to this task in crucial and much-needed ways, even as we continue to develop new analyses, debate, and experiment.

One of the most important parts of the convention was the section with greetings from international observers and observer organizations. The overwhelming majority of those remarks made it clear that we are part of a committed, international effort, fighting for the same aims and willing to learn from one another. It was also clear that Tempest is becoming a key player on the U.S. revolutionary Left, and our project is something in which people on the Left all around the world and in the U.S. are paying attention, whether they agree with us or not.

Secondly, we came out of this convention with organizational perspectives that did not exist in the same way going into the convention. Through these discussions, we cohered a broad-based understanding that we want comrades currently implanted in their work to continue being implanted, whether in workplaces, abolitionist community groups, DSA chapters, or other projects where they have built and are building important political relationships through common activity. The strength of our politics lies in the experience and creativity of our members.

From multiple vantage points, we converged on a general perspective that Tempest should serve to support the work of our implanted members, providing a base for comrades to be more effective organizers. We can do this in several ways: most importantly, through providing political analysis on the website, which is useful for discussions with those we are working with, as well as bringing in potentially interested people we meet to write and reflect on their work. Another way the collective can be a resource and support for members is by expanding our political education and training efforts so that when embedded comrades bring others (and especially newly radicalizing people) into Tempest, they can get a solid political education and become more effective revolutionaries in their own work.

Both of those roles—the clarity of analysis on the website and the political education our collective can provide—speak to an underlying conviction: politics matter, and revolutionary politics (creatively applied, permanently curious) will be crucial in cohering and rebuilding a militant minority and the infrastructures of dissent we so desperately need to advance workers’ power. Through Marxist education, analysis, and movement work, Tempest aims to become an organization that can train and provide revolutionary cadre to the struggles where we are involved.

Those are the main accomplishments of our convention and pre-convention period. That said, as we transition from an exclusively online organization formed in the midst of a global pandemic to more on-the-ground organizing, we have a lot still to figure out, and—as many rightfully emphasized throughout the weekend—experimentation should always be a guiding ethos as we go forward.

Outstanding questions and tasks include how to meet and build locally together where we have many comrades in a locale in a way that doesn’t overshadow the important work comrades are already doing, but supports them in it; how to support more geographically isolated comrades where they are; how we grow, where we expect new members to come from primarily, and the question of recruitment, especially of members who are not cis white men; how best to cultivate a culture of accountability and learn from the failures of previous organizations with regard to sexual assault and coverups; how to approach organized socialist and abolitionist groups for joint work; and preparation for the Socialism 2022 conference.

Coming out of the convention, we decided to form a People of Color Caucus and to organize a cadre school for women and gender-nonconforming comrades and support it financially. We also devoted resources to the creation of a new podcast, which we aim to launch early in the new year.

This is of course a summary assessment, and comrades will have more thoughts in the coming weeks and months, but for now, we wanted to take a moment to put a finer point on what we achieved. Thanks to all comrades for making the Tempest project something real and promising. We have a world to win!

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Tempest Collective Steering Committee View All

The Tempest Collective Steering Committee is the elected standing, political leadership body of the Tempest Collective, between the monthly Collective meetings.