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Ronnie Dugger FEATURES The People vs. the Runaway Trains BY MICHAEL KING PHOTOS BY ALAN POGUE “We left with four solid things: one was a mission statement; one was a provisional set of by-laws and a constitution; the third was a new name; and the fourth was a national council.” Kati Winchel4 national coordinator of the newly-renamed Alliance for Democracy, summed up the main accomplishments of the national organizatiorth founding convention, held last month in the Texas Hill Country. In the wake of the convention, the Alliancei national officers and members across the country were looking backward with a sense of achievemen4 and forward with a combination of eagerness and determination. central theme running through the post-convention reflections of the participants is energy: they arrived with hopes of finding kindred spirits work ing to build a movement for democratic activism, and they came away with a renewed sense of purpose and a conviction that they were not alone. “People are very excited,” said Winchell. “They were leaving with what they hoped to get out of the convention.” After more than a year of networking and planning, the convention was the first extended chance for many members to meet and engage with like-minded activists from across the country. “The Convention was profoundly successful,” said founding co-director Ronnie Dugger. “We bonded very well, there was a deep amity, and a determination to keep out of the cesspool and swamps of process arguments….People here believe this is happeningthis has happened.” Al Krebs from Washington state, and a member of the Alliance’s interim steering committee that had organized the convention, emphasized the political experience represented by the core group of nationwide members among the 250 who had gathered for the convention. “We took a survey at the convention, and the average person there had worked twenty-five, or twenty-six years in social justice and political work. So there was a sophistication about the discussions, and an interest not in rhetoric, but in getting a structure in place and getting something done.” In addition to its organizational and structural agenda, the convention was intended to at least begin setting the national issue and action priorities for the Alliance. Nine pre-convention “task force” committeesranging from alternative economics, education, electoral reform through environment and health carehad prepared reports for discussion and debate. It was a large ambition, and as it turned out, there was more free-form discussion than formal decision-making. One of the tasks for the next few months is to develop an organizational structure that reflects a national consensus, while still leaving the driving force and decision-making to the local alliances around the country. The Alliance is committed to what it calls “deep democracy” within its own organization as well as the larger society, and it is still trying to discover and create what that means in practice. Dugger expects a process whereby the national council will review the task force reports for national organizational priorities, and then submit its recommendations to the larger membership for voting. Like everyone in the organization, he is eager to begin reaching out for action, but cautious about the forms such action may take. “We are finished with preaching to the choirteaching ourselves and each other. I don’t mean that process is over, but we’re through the first step. We are at the pilot actions and networking stages. If we can get through that phase in the next few 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 20, 1996