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Weathering the storm

A brief report on the 2024 Tempest convention

Kirstin Roberts and Natalia Tylim report of the 2024 Tempest convention held in Chicago over the long weekend of February 17-19.

Image of a ship buffeted by a storm in the middle of the sea and circled by birds.

At a glance

Tempest’s 2024 Convention was an incredibly grounding event and helpful gathering. The main themes of the weekend were: recentering on our shared politics and project; building avenues for mentorship and political education for new members; the centrality of Palestine and Labor organizing for our work. A thread that wove through the whole weekend was the need for building stronger relationships between members involved in shared work—that being a missing link since the organization launched remotely (at the height of the pandemic) and grew at the national level first, often before those ties were built. The way we interact and discuss is an important component of being able to weather the challenges of strategic and tactical debates that are present in this political moment.

At our core, Tempest is a revolutionary socialist organization made up of members across the country who are embedded in different organizing spaces—Palestine and labor being the two struggles where the majority of our members are involved in one way or another. The purpose of our organization is to: 1) Build stronger and more rooted democratic organizations that are part and parcel of an effort to rebuild a Left capable of overcoming the challenges of the U.S. political terrain; 2) In order for us to contribute to the first, we need spaces for education, strategic debate, and coordination among Tempest members and our allies.

The purpose of everything we do is to be able to play a role in advancing the struggles we’re involved in, and rebuilding a principled socialist movement that understands the centrality of anti-oppression, sees the working class (in all its diversity) as the agent of change, holds a clear internationalist position, and has a revolutionary and anti-capitalist horizon. There is also a broad agreement on the need to expand our vision of what is included in “the tradition” beyond a small sample of historical examples, to make clear that socialism from below includes a wider swath of international and abolitionist currents.

To serve these aims requires stronger and more coherent structures and spaces within Tempest. This goes both for local branches, where members will be in the best position to build ties and democratically develop perspectives fit for local organizing and nationally for our working groups, educational work, and membership development.

Day One: The Tempest project in context – What is our tradition and what are we trying to build?

This session took up the importance of the tradition of socialism from below, not as an identity or a badge, but as a necessary tool for advancing class struggle, movements, and demands. There was broad agreement on the underlying principles that make up that tradition and discussion on how to make it more encompassing and welcoming to the younger radicalization that we are organizing with today. Whatever debates we may have on how to define “our tradition” the convention was united on core commitments: socialism against barbarism, self-determination for all oppressed peoples, abolition of the carceral state, internationalism, working class self-emancipation, and revolution as the only solution to climate catastrophe and genocidal wars.

Day One: Rebuilding revolutionary organization – multiracial organizing, political culture and political goals

This session took up questions of how we build relationships and create political spaces where people feel welcomed and heard. This includes embracing the idea—one that the revolutionary left has sometimes rejected to its own detriment— that the personal is indeed political. It also means developing thoughtful harm and accountability approaches.

In the presentations and discussion there was wide agreement on what we aim to be: a democratic, multi-racial, multi-gendered working class revolutionary socialist organization that is embedded in struggles against oppression, imperialism, and capitalism. It was widely recognized that newer comrades and more experienced comrades had much to learn and gain from each other. It was also widely agreed upon that we had much work to do to become the organization we want to be. A strong sense of shared commitment to tackle our deficiencies and build upon our strengths was evident. Much gratitude was expressed for the People of Color Caucus, the Harm and Accountability Working Group, and other folks helping us work through these questions..

Day Two: International greetings

We had a several guests attend the Convention and started the second day with some short solidarity greetings from: International Socialist League, Socialist Alternative (Australia), 4th International, Midnight Sun (Canada), Democracia Socialista (Puerto Rico) and Insobornables (Mexico), Solidarity (U.S.), and Barbara Smith.

Day Two: Internationalism and Palestine

Tempest has an impressive degree of participation and rootedness in Palestine organizing across the country. Some key things that came up in this discussion were: strategizing about how to extend and expand the Palestine movement beyond the ceasefire demand; the necessity and challenges of building more inclusive, democratic organizing spaces for newly radicalizing people entering the movement; leveraging our implantation in labor work in the service of strengthening the Palestine work; the importance of political analysis with regards to internationalist orientation and the Democrats; the need for a Palestine Working Group in Tempest that can contribute to the organizing members are doing locally.

Day Two: Advancing Tempest’s labor work

A majority of Tempest comrades are union members and many are active in local union chapters. The discussion focused on the labor work people are already doing and what Tempest nationally can do to support those efforts and allow us to be more than the sum of our parts. Three main proposals brought up: 1) Industry groups (starting with pre-k-12); 2) The priority of Palestine work within our labor organizing; 3) Education about labor history and theories of labor organizing and the development of resources to support those doing this work.

Day Two: and ideological projection

It was widely agreed that the website is impressive in both substance and scope given our size. The managing editors spoke at length about the work of the Editorial Board, how it functions, and the importance of having a site that reflects the organization and publishes multiple positions where there is disagreement or an evolving understanding. Questions and ideas were brought up about how we can better utilize the website in our movement work and in our efforts to educate and give voice to a new generation of revolutionaries in the U.S. and internationally. An important issue was addressed: the vast majority of pieces are still written by men—ideas on developing writers from oppressed groups were discussed and proposals addressing this concern were voted on. Ideas for how more of the Collective can support the work of the Editorial Board were also raised.

Day Three: Caucus meetings

In addition to the agenda points written above, we also had time built in for POC/Oppressed Gender Caucuses and also asked non-POC and non-gender oppressed members to meet during those blocks as well. These helped inform the discussions throughout the weekend.

Day Three: How is Tempest organized? What structures do we need to carry out our work?

This session focused on the question of how we organize ourselves in order to move forward on our priorities of both building infrastructures of dissent and providing training and education on the core set of politics. How do we link the individual work that is happening to the project as a whole? This discussion emphasized the need to have clear and accessible points for entry into the group and introductions to the politics in order for new people to better participate. It also took up the need to build spaces that are additive to the work people are already doing.

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Kirstin Roberts and Natalia Tylim View All

Kirstin Roberts is a preschool teacher in the Chicago Public Schools. She is an active member of the Chicago Teachers Union, a community activist in the 50th Ward United Working Families, a life-long socialist, and member of the Tempest Collective.

Natalia Tylim is a member of the Tempest Collective based in New York City.