Radical feminist poet, teacher, and activist
Special abilities: extradimensional travel and Jedi mind tricks
Revolts and skates in: Koreatown
How did you first get politicized? Radicalized? Active?
My first boyfriend (seventh grade so we lasted about two weeks) listened to the bands stray cats and the clash and his cousin was into punk and skating. I started skating in fifth grade. My friend Sonja’s dad was a security guard at a local venue so we went to shows.
So that whole counter culture scene got me reading lyrics and questioning the government and authority right?
But I’d say learning how to act in a room with a grip of other people practicing modified consensus and direct democracy didn’t happen until I got involved with the Socialist Party USA (SPUSA) and the California Student Union (CASU) in 2013. How I got active with those groups is I heard about them and just dove in.
I’m a kinesthetic learner so I have to get hands on to get an understanding of how things work.
What are your current positions and roles with student organizing and the Socialist Party USA (and anything else)?
I’m on the periphery of One Struggle (onestruggle.net) at CSUN (California State University, Northridge.) They just formed as a club. Last semester we were coming up with points of unity and circulating a petition to get CSUN to divest from fossil fuels. Really just establishing some roots, figuring out how we work together, trying to learn more about our campus.
This semester we’re about to start rallying students in solidarity with the CSU professors strike. I’m reading about it online and scheduling interviews with professors to work up an article to submit to The Socialist (national publication of the SPUSA, www.thesocialist.us.) That way I’ll be informed when talking to students about what’s going on…
For the SPUSA I’m currently the Female National Vice Chair and Local Organizer Liaison so I’m working with the National Committee and new members across the U.S. who are trying to get locals started. In the L.A. local I’m trying to facilitate an educational program for new members (we’re getting a lot of them lately) and do coalition work with Schools L.A. Students Deserve (www.schoolslastudentsdeserve.com) and Stop LAPD Spying (stoplapdspying.org.)
But I’m also taking 4 classes and student teaching, so it is a lot to juggle.
Didn’t you get into Socialist Party USA by starting a student chapter? How did you end up in your SPUSA position? What is it like going from student organizing to the party work?
Yeah! So when I joined the SPUSA it was over the summer of 2013 and they had an active local in L.A. and Ventura. I was spending most of my time at Moorpark community college so Justin Simons and I decided to start a club on campus called the Young People’s Socialist League. We functioned as a youth affiliate to the party and were autonomous, which means we focused on issues specific to our campus. I understood the importance of connecting to a broader movement so I got hooked into CASU and would take issues from our campus to give input at the Union conferences and then bring back the focused demands to Moorpark.
One demand I remember we had come up with was democratizing schools which was tied into fighting privatization. So at Moorpark we campaigned against the vending machines and the contract our school had with them because it meant we had no cafeteria and the students were fired up about being denied nutrition
Going from student organizations to party work is simple for me because it’s a part of that need to connect to a broader movement. Capitalism is global. Our organizing needs to be international as well.
I got elected vice chair in the SPUSA at the last national convention. The SPUSA has them every two years. I was a delegate for CA. Basically if you’re active and involved and doing good work, people recognize that and give you more responsibility.
So the work is pretty fluid?
Yeah! It all overlaps and intertwines.
Especially, I think, because feminist process has taught me this work is mostly about activating and empowering others to get involved, I employ a philosophy of Wu Wei and going with the flow when things appear chaotic.
Jen, center left in black shirt, and also pictured, Mimi Soltysik, far right, green shirt, Socialist Party USA 2016 presidential candidate.
Socialist Party USA doesn’t have immediate plans for ballot access does it? What are its goals?
So as far as electoral work, we actually have it in our platform and principles to be involved electorally. So we have presidential candidates (facebook.com/Rev2016/) but their campaign is actually anti-electoral which means we’re using the unique media opportunities of election year to get people thinking about how to participate in political work in their communities rather than thinking they can just vote once every four years and shit will magically get better.
The platform’s an ongoing extensive piece of work but the simplest way I can explain it is that we’re for workers controlling the means of production, we’re anti sectarian, multi tendency and we don’t dig oppression of any kind. We’re really open to a variety of political ideologies and strategies because capitalism is a huge evil beast and we can’t afford to do any more infighting.
So when I’m working, I’m making sure I’m listening to what people are saying and trying to help them find solutions by discovering their strengths and skills and by connecting them to other people who I know who’s goals and skills complement theirs. That sounds like corporate work but you know, we’re not trying to profit of the exploitation of our fellow human beings.
I’m finding corporate work, in many cases, especially marketing and sales, is pretty much the same as organizing, just for a monetary profit instead of some other goals.
And that makes sense because that’s the model we’re most familiar with. As things evolve, I’m sure organizing will take on a whole different look.
I bet the way they organize in Chiapas is unique…
The way the Brazilian landless workers organize is unique…
The way the Kurdish women organize is unique…
I agree. I feel like it’s what organizing looks like when it’s got a capitalistic political theory at its base. Organizing around other political theories looks different, but our societal political theory is pretty corporate right now and when you organize you are operating as a member of society functioning within that political theory.
We all gotta learn from each other.
I think what I’m trying to hone in on is the overlap in these narratives… What I’m trying to hone in on: the overlap between marketing and organizing, like building a third party to challenge the corporate party duopoly and a small business operating in a niche consumer market as a challenger brand.
So like a question would be: What do you think of your brand… What is the Jen McClellan brand?
Oh man. See but I hate branding. It’s a great ploy for a company trying to get their image and slogan in your head so you’ll mindlessly pick their product over another at the store. You can’t brand consciousness though. I get the usefulness of taglines and shit for campaigning too. Right? Like slogans and chants help unify and direct the energy of people… but I don’t know if I have one particular to me. Maybe my daily mantra is along the lines of “seek happiness. Do no harm.” But even that’s idealistic and I’m really a practical person.
“You can’t brand consciousness though”
I’ve been reading how you can use MRI machines in coordination with other methods like polling and focus groups. Mine the collective subconscious and then relay those results against somebody’s neurological activity.
I think from that we have all largely been conditioned into working in narratives built around brands… brands as a psychological complex… like we’ve got a lot of scar tissue from all these hot plates of iron with logos coming at our brains.
That sounds exactly as awful as geoengineering and the atom bomb.
It’s all pretty related. Social engineering.
Where’s my money wrench. ….?
So you are socially engineering peeps on some exponential universal level that makes it hard for the one track mind hot iron cattle herder brands to tackle… Right? Or what are you doing to peoples heads?