The timing of reading this book is not lost on me, although I admit I was a bit hesitant on whether I would enjoy it. Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything by Becky Bond and Zack Exley is about how big groups of people can create massive change.
The authors were the brains behind the volunteer movement of the Bernie Sanders campaign to become the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. The book provides insights into the campaign effort through strategies and tactics that can apply to any big organizing effort.
“Rules for Revolutionaries is a bold challenge to the political establishment and the “rules” that govern campaign strategy. It tells the story of a breakthrough experiment conducted on the fringes of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign: a technology-driven team empowered volunteers to build and manage the infrastructure to make 75 million calls, launch 8 million text messages, and hold more than 100,000 public meetings—in an effort to put Bernie’s insurgent campaign over the top.” – rulesforrevolutionaries.org
There are two reasons that I wondered if I would enjoy this book. First, I believe that change happens through a consistent and persistent effort over time. Big change – either on social issues or to the various systems – doesn’t happen very often in one big swoop. (Yes, the Trump presidency could likely prove me wrong). The Sanders campaign – with issues like breaking up Wall Street, free college tuition for everyone and universal health care – went big to try to achieve big change. Nothing wrong with that or those issues. However, I don’t believe the process or approach to achieve them was based on reality.
Second, Bernie lost. As some of my closest friends will tell you, I was no particular fan of his campaign even though I did attend one of his rallies with said friends in Iowa City early in the campaign. I struggled to get past the fact that he lost, especially at the beginning of the book. It’s also hard to tell now if his coalition has the sustainable effort, process and support to continue to push and/or implement big change.
With all that aside, the book is a quick read with a ton of good real-world examples on how to organize and deploy a massive group of volunteers around a common theme no matter your politics.
“The big vision, big goals, and big organizing that these revolutionary new rules enable, that is what this book is about. If we can put these new rules into action, and keep rewriting our rules to meet the obstacles that stand between the people and the change they want to see, then we can start to win the radical change necessary to address the pressing issues of our time.”
I did enjoy this book and it opened my eyes, especially on the tactics of big organizing which is the main point of the book. I also agree with the big revelations: The work of any big movement will be distributed and funding will come only from small donations.
The book is widely available.