What is PEP?
The Popular Education Project (PEP) is a collective of organizers and popular educators from popular movements in the United States. Together we have decades of experience working in diverse communities of struggle, including organizing workers, immigrants, homeless people, survivors of police abuse, youth, faith communities, antiwar, and local peace economy activists.
PEP is a collective of hopeful militants, indignant with the injustice in the world and committed to overcoming global oppression and exploitation, wherever it exists.
As organizers, we have experienced the challenges in understanding how our economic system is built and how our society works. As a result of our collective lack of political education, we have struggled to diagnose our issues, determine the most appropriate demands, and connect with other groups with whom we could build power, especially groups outside the United States.
As a political education collective in the United States of North America, PEP, we understand the necessity of internationalism, anti-imperialism, and the rejection of American exceptionalism through struggle and solidarity with the dispossessed worldwide.
We built PEP to provide a space for organizers, leaders, and activists to study, discuss, and reflect on the issues that we encounter in our society and in our political and economic system. Our work is inspired by the popular education programs of movements across Latin America and more than a century of revolutionary struggles in Russia, China, and beyond.
We apply popular education, understanding it as the scientific study of society, starting from the material reality and the knowledge of the dispossessed. We study the issues in our communities by building a critical dialogue and by looking to the theories that have historically explained the problems of the poor and the working class.
Popular and Political Education
Some elements of the concepts of popular education trace back to the French Revolution in 1789. It evolved in the nineteenth century and reached a critical juncture in the aftermath of the Soviet revolution of 1917 and then was advanced further by the work of Antonio Gramsci in Italy. The modern incarnation of what we call “popular education” can be traced back to the waves of anti-imperialist struggle that swept Latin America in the 1960’s.
During this period liberation theology emerges (focusing on organizing within ecclesiastical communities) and revolutionary left cadre developed radical techniques for adult education and new processes for political formation. Paulo Freire and others extend this work (through what were known as CEB’s — Comunidades Eclesiais de Base) and developed a method for teaching and raising political consciousness that revolutionized education for the people.
How We Work
Short Courses: PEP coordinates, co-leads, and participates in short educational sessions lasting from one to three days. These typically take place on site with a particular organization. The content of these types of programs will be designed together with the local group after studying and reviewing the themes the local group would like to focus on and gain a deeper understanding of.
- Intermediate Courses: For a more focused and intense program of study, PEP will organize retreat-style intermediate courses. These courses typically last five to ten days and bring together participants from more than one organization. In these spaces, PEP will work to create a holistic learning experience, drawing from our four pillars of ideological education: work, culture, study, and collective self-governance. These courses require that participants make a commitment to sleep and remain at the retreat for the entire duration of the course. The content of the intermediate courses is less issue-based and more theoretical, seeking to begin building a broad analysis and diagnosis of the issues we encounter.
Summer School of Resistance (SSR): To further the development of a study practice within organizations, PEP hosts a several-week summer school once a year. The objective of PEP’s Summer School of Resistance is to bring together militants, organizers, and leaders from many organizations, both nationally and internationally, to engage in a program of very intense and focused study and discussion. These courses are co- created by participants, who are seen as essential builders of the course, producing a rich space for theoretical study and debate grounded in real organizing and struggle. PEP’s holistic method of ideological training is further developed in SSR, also incorporating research projects, community visits, and guest professors to aid in the design of political education programs that participants can implement in their organizations. The Summer School of Resistance requires participants with a high level of commitment to working-class struggle and with a desire to engage in a process of lifelong political education.
- Debate and Conjunctural Analysis and Continued Study: PEP members will participate in, lead, and facilitate sessions of discussion and debate regarding the current social, political, and economic context of our struggle to further develop an understanding of political economy. These sessions will happen via webinars or conference calls at pre-set times, covering a range of topics relevant to working-class struggle.