This is an excerpt from The Jackson-Kush Plan, developed and implemented by Cooperation Jackson in Jackson, Mississippi. The heritage and challenges faced by the founders of this movement are quite different from our own in the 05401PLUS environs, but their fight for neighborhood power, independent political agency, and cooperative economic structures is instructive and inspiring to our own local efforts. See the plan in its entirety at https://navigatingthestorm.blogspot.com
Program or Pillars
The J – K Plan has three fundamental programmatic components that are designed to build a mass base with the political clarity, organizational capacity, and material self-sufficiency to advance the objective of building an autonomous power. The three fundamental programmatic components are:
- Building People’s Assemblies
- Building an Independent Political Party
- Building a broad-based Solidarity Economy
The People’s Assemblies that Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) and New Afrikan People’s Organization (NAPO) are working to build in Jackson and throughout the state of Mississippi, particularly its eastern Black belt portions, are designed to be vehicles of Black self-determination and the autonomous political authority of the oppressed peoples’ and exploited classes contained within the state. The Assemblies are organized as expressions of participatory or direct democracy, wherein there is guided facilitation and agenda setting provided by the committees that compose the People’s Task Force, but no preordained hierarchy. The People’s Task Force is the working or executing body of the Assembly. The Task Force is composed of committees that are organized around proposals emerging from the Assembly to carry out various tasks and initiatives, such as organizing campaigns (like Take Back the Land) and long-term institution building and development work (like land trusts and cooperative housing).
The People’s Assemblies model advanced by MXGM and NAPO as a core component of the J – K Plan have a long, rich history in Mississippi and in the Black Liberation Movement in general. The roots of our Assembly model are drawn from the spiritual or prayer circles that were organized often clandestinely by enslaved Afrikans to express their humanity, build and sustain community, fortify their spirits and organize resistance. The vehicle gained public expression in Mississippi with the organization of “Negro Peoples Conventions” at the start of Reconstruction to develop autonomous programs of action to realize freedom as Afrikans themselves desired it and to determine their relationship to the defeated governments of the Confederacy and the triumphant government of the Federal Republic.
It is this legacy of People’s Assemblies that MXGM and NAPO are grounding ourselves in, and one we encourage others, particularly those in the Occupy movement, to study to help guide our collective practice in the present to build a better future.
Independent Electoral Politics
MXGM and NAPO firmly believe that at this stage in the struggle for Black Liberation that to firmly advance the causes of attaining economic democracy and self-determination, that the liberation movement must be committed to building and exercising dual power. And while we believe that the building of autonomous power outside of the realm of the state (i.e. the government) in the form of People’s Assemblies is primary, we also believe that engaging electoral politics on a limited scale with the express intent of building radical voting blocks and electing candidates drawn from the ranks of the Assemblies themselves is important. As we have learned through our own experiences and a summation of the experiences of others, we ignore the power of the state at our own peril.
However, it should be clear that we do not engage the electoral system of the settler colony that is the state of Mississippi because we aim to legitimize its existence or its claims to being a democratic institution. Rather, we engage it first and foremost to try to negate its repressive powers and to contain the dictatorial power and ideological influence of monopoly capital in Mississippi. From police violence to the divestment of jobs and public resources, there are many challenges facing our communities that require us to leverage every available means of power to save lives and improve conditions. Secondly, we struggle to engage it as a means to create political openings that provide a broader platform for the struggles to restore the “commons”, create more public utilities (i.e. universal health care and comprehensive public transportation), and the democratic transformation of the economy to be waged.
It is this combination of building and exercising dual power – building autonomous People’s Assemblies and critical engagement with the state via independent party politics – that are the two fundamental political pillars of the J – K Plan.
The critical third pillar of the J – K Plan is the long-term commitment to build a local Solidarity Economy that links with regional (like the Southern Grassroots Economics Project) and national (like the US Solidarity Economy Network) Solidarity Economy networks to advance the struggle for economic democracy as a transitional means to the construction of socialism (which we still define as “from each according to ability, to each according to work”).
Solidarity Economy or Solidarity Economics is a concept that emerged from social movements primarily in Latin America in the 1980’s and 90’s fighting against the imposed austerity of neo-liberal capitalism, the authoritarian order of the neo-colonial state regimes, and the countless exploitative impositions of US imperialism. Solidarity Economy as a concept describes a process of promoting cooperative economics that promote social solidarity, mutual aid, reciprocity, and generosity. It also describes the horizontal and autonomously driven networking of a range of cooperative institutions that support and promote the aforementioned values ranging from worker cooperatives to informal affinity based neighborhood bartering networks.
Our conception of Solidarity Economy is inspired by the Mondragon Federation of Cooperative Enterprises based in the Basque region of Spain. Our conception attempts to draw from the best practices and experiences of the Mondragon system and combine them with the best practices and experiences of the Solidarity Economy and other alternative economic initiatives already in motion in the United States.
Our struggle in part is to make these practices and experiences relevant in Jackson and Mississippi Black belt on the one hand. And on the other to make greater links with existing cooperative institutions (again like the Southern Grassroots Economies Project and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives) in the state and the region to extend and broaden their reach and impact on the local and regional economy. The practices and experiences that MXGM and NAPO are working to organize based on our assessment of the aforementioned examples and what we think would be the most relevant and translatable in the Jackson context consist of the following:
- Building a network of cooperative and mutually reinforcing enterprises and institutions, specifically worker, consumer, and housing cooperatives, and community development credit unions as the foundation of our local Solidarity Economy
- Building sustainable, Green (re)development and Green economy networks and enterprises, starting with a Green housing initiative
- Building a network of local urban farms, regional agricultural cooperatives, and farmers markets, drawing heavily from recent experiences in Detroit, to realize food sovereignty and combat obesity and chronic health issues in the state associated with limited access to fresh produce and unhealthy socialized eating habits
- Developing local community and conservation land trusts as a primary means to begin the process of reconstructing the “Commons” in the city and region by decommodifying land and housing as a means of transforming property relations and subjecting privately appropriated social production to democratic processes
- Organizing to reconstruct and extend the Public Sector, particularly public finance of community development, to be pursued as a means of rebuilding the Public Sector to ensure there is adequate infrastructure to provide quality health care, accessible mass transportation, and decent, affordable public housing, etc.
In building along these lines we aim to transform the economy of Jackson and the region as a whole to create the material base needed to support and build the autonomous politics we are pursuing. But, we see that Solidarity Economy, if developed to its own logical conclusions, represents the limit of economic reform possible within a capitalist framework of social production governed by a bourgeois social order. We are clear that in order to build socialism that something more than just the principles and institutions of economic and social solidarity will be needed. What we believe will be needed are new political and social identities crafted on the transformation of consciousness produced in part by engaging in the practices associated with Solidarity Economy and radical participatory and horizontal democracy. Solidarity Economy when pushed to its limits as a means of heightening contradictions within the capitalist system we believe is a transitional strategy and praxis to build 21st century socialism and advance the abolition of capitalism and the oppressive social relations that it fosters.