Thursday, March 9, 2017

Why Popular Assemblies Sweeping the Country Are Building Blocks of the Resistance


From Raleigh to Los Angeles, communities on the frontlines are building the movement infrastructure for a coordinated fightback.
end: teaser start: byline
March 1, 2017


“One thing that is very clear under the Trump administration is that we do not have the luxury of remaining in our silos and organizing around individual issues,” Manzoor Cheema, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based organizer with Muslims for Social Justice and Project South, told AlterNet. “Attacks are happening across the board against immigrants, refugees, Muslims, black communities, workers and Jews.”

Cheema is one of countless organizers across the country working to pull off large popular assemblies to empower and connect the communities caught in the crosshairs of this multi-pronged assault. With roots in the U.S. Black Freedom movement, Latin American encuentro and left formations across the globe, such forums appear to be gaining steam, as growing crowds cram into packed community meetings to plot out strategies for resistance. While the issues and tactics may vary, organizers from across the country emphasized to AlterNet that the aim is to fortify independent social movement infrastructure to enable a broader and more effective fightback—and determine the needs of the most-impacted communities during this harrowing political moment.

In Los Angeles alone, at least 10 popular assemblies since November have drawn crowds ranging from 900 to dozens. “We've gotten together to discuss the current political moment and to remind folks that they are not alone, and there are other people who will be working and struggling with them,” Armando Carmona, spokesperson for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told AlterNet in January. “Out of those assemblies, there have been mobilizations, know your rights workshops and other convenings to discuss neighborhood defense committees.”

These formations are part of a larger ecosystem of resistance to Trumpism that continues to build on a large scale, as millions around the world take to the streets,  stage direct actions and use their bodies to resist the ongoing spike in immigration raids. “With this whole political crisis going on, reaction isn’t enough,” said Reed Ingalls, an organizer with the Seattle Neighborhood Action Coalition, one of numerous bodies that has been organizing popular assemblies in districts across the city since election night. “Right now the aim is building support, mutual aid and community power. The basic idea is, let's start helping people get organized and let's do it neighborhood by neighborhood, connecting to where people live and connecting to issues they're facing.”

'Growing deeper'

While some popular assemblies are connected to regional organizations like the Atlanta-based Project South, others are springing up independently. “People are building new mechanisms of community power,” David Abud, regional organizer from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told AlterNet. “This is coming from an understanding that there will continue to be state violence against our communities. The state isn't going to be the one to stop that violence coming to us; we are the ones that will be able to stop it.”

For Cheema, whose organizing of People’s Movement Assemblies (PMAs) is informed by Project South, it is critical to create meaningful spaces that center people most impacted by oppression and injustice—an aim that takes significant leg work. He noted that local PMAs date back to the early 1980s, with the group Black Workers for Justice laying the groundwork for the processes in motion today.

“We have what we call an anchor coalition that launched the PMAs in North Carolina’s triangle area,” he explained. “It was founded on May Day of 2016 by 15 organizations that are led by workers, people of color, latinxs, Muslims and Jews.” Groups in the mix include Black Workers for Justice, Muslims for Social Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace, Fight for 15 and United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE) Local 150.

“Our first assembly in December was led, organized, convened and facilitated by these organizations,” said Cheema, who noted that the PMAs provide translation and free childcare. “We are very particular that the leadership should rest with the communities most impacted by the struggles we're highlighting. At the same time, the meetings are open and transparent.”

“Out of that meeting, we developed working groups that will sustain the process and maintain the focus of the assembly,” continued Cheema. Since December, the coalition has organized three more PMAs attended by at least 100 people each.

An announcement for a January PMA in Raleigh addresses local and national issues, proclaiming, “Trump has appointed corporate and Wall St. executives and enemies of the working class and oppressed peoples to his cabinet, wealthy elites that hate the very people their departments are designed to safeguard. The right wing in Raleigh is trying to maintain their control of the governor's office and has made power grabs altering control in many state departments.”

According to Cheema, there is still work to be done to center the people most impacted by these trends. “We recognize that we need to do focused outreach to impacted people, which we call ‘growing deeper.’ At the last PMA we were reflecting on the need to reach people who are impacted but don’t have resources, and might not have transportation.”


“My understanding is that, since Trump, there is a bigger interest in the PMA model to build stronger coalitions and networks across the country,” he added. “But this movement is not geared towards getting Democrats elected. We need independent structures rooted outside political parties in the grassroots, where people hold accountable whoever is in power.”


From Alabama’s Black Belt to Zapatista Autonomous Zones

While the current iteration of Raleigh PMAs may be new, the model stems from deep-seated traditions.

“There is a history here,” said Kali Akuno, the co-director of the Mississippi-based group Cooperation Jackson and an organizer with the nationwide Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Akuno, who has been organizing popular assemblies in Jackson, underscored that “the history of the mass meetings tradition really goes back to slavery. Here in Mississippi, right after the Civil War, you had these well-organized and planned popular assemblies among formerly enslaved black people to spread information, spread news, try to find family and recreate community. That tradition and memory lived on into the 1950s and 60s, particularly around Freedom Summer.”

Project South looks to mid-1960s Black Freedom organizing in Alabama, led by the Lowndes County Freedom Organization and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during Jim Crow. The effort focused in Alabama’s Black Belt, where white plantation owners maintained socio-economic control over black residents, many of whom they employed as sharecroppers. When black residents in Lowndes County began organizing against near-total suppression of the African-American vote, many faced retaliation in the form of evictions from white landowners. Organizers held mass meetings and erected tent cities to house the newly homeless, an infrastructure that lasted two years and included community defense against white supremacist violence.

At the age of 85, Nellie Nelson, a former sharecropper in Lowndes County, told journalist Connor Sheets in 2016, "I was very interested in the mass meetings because I wanted to learn all I could and do all I can because we needed better assistance here in Lowndes County and we needed to get together.”

But organizers also look beyond U.S. borders, including to the Sixth Pan-African Congress Congress held in Tanzania in 1974, as well as the Zapatista Movement for National Liberation, which launched an offensive against the Mexican government and the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. The Zapatistas, who continue to organize and hold territory in Chiapas, Mexico, built community assemblies into their political tradition from the outset, as a form of self-governance and aotonomy for historically oppressed indigenous communities.

Meanwhile, World Social Forums date back to 2001, when people from across the globe gathered in Brazil to stage an alternative convergence to the World Economic Forum, a gathering of the global capitalist elite. Inspired by the Latin American encuentro, social forums have since been organized locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, including in Iraq, which held its first social forum in 2013 under the banner of “Another Iraq is Possible with Peace, Human Rights, and Social Justice.” Some of the first PMAs in the U.S. took place at such gatherings, including the 2006 Border Social Forum in El Paso, Texas/Ciudad Juarez.

Project South began escalating its efforts to organize Southern Movement Assemblies in the immediate aftermath of the so-called Arab Spring, and the organization cites public assemblies at Tahrir Square as a source of inspiration. Groups at the helm of this resistance in Egypt, including the April 6th movement, today are aggressively persecuted and hunted by the regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, with the backing of the United States. Nonetheless, Project South notes that Tahrir Square constituted an important site of resistance, writing: “The government suspended communications services, but people used other methods and set up medical tents, cultural events and political discussions.”

The 2012 launch of the Southern Freedom Movement was inspired, in part, by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina on Gulf Coast communities. "After witnessing and experiencing the disaster of Hurricane Katrina and the inability of movement to respond effectively, Southern leaders initiated regional strategies to build stronger infrastructure to ensure capacity to respond to growing crises on every frontline," writes Project South.

Project South co-directors Stephanie Guilloud and Emery Wright told AlterNet over email that, since 2008, there have been at least 400 People's Movement Assemblies across the United States. “Organizations across the South facilitate what we call Frontline and Community Assemblies at the local level,” they explained.

“In the lead-up to the sixth Southern Movement Assembly in October of last year, anchor organizations that are part of the Southern Movement Assembly organized a dozen frontline Assemblies across the South, organizing formerly incarcerated people in Alabama, young people in Atlanta, and rural folks across the Black Belt,” Guilloud and Wright continued. “Project South and the other anchor groups expect that number to increase, possibly double, this year. Assemblies will be taking place throughout the summer and early fall.”



‘How Do We Fight Our Way Out of This?’

PMAs have played a critical role in connecting currently and formerly incarcerated people with each other and movements on the outside. In 2011, Montgomery, Alabama, hosted the the Formerly Incarcerated People’s Movement Assembly, described by the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance as a "historic gathering committed to three shared strategies to challenge key areas of the prison industrial complex including discrimination in employment, shackling of women prisoners during labor, and voting disenfranchisement after time served.”

Kenneth Glasgow is an organizer with The Ordinary People Society and the Free Alabama Movement, which is led by incarcerated people and coordinated last September’s national prison strike “to end slavery in America.” He told AlterNet that people across Alabama have continued to organize PMAs “related to the criminal justice system and the drug war.” This includes assemblies led by formerly and currently incarcerated people and their families, which is accomplished via conference calls and going inside prisons.

“We put out questions and get feedback on what we need to address them, when and how,” Glasgow said of the PMA structure. “Once we do that, we are able to do some kind of action. Usually it is some kind of rally, march or protest to address that particular issue. We’ve been to prisons to protest and been in front of the Department of Corrections to hold marches and rallies.”

It was at such a PMA in January that the Free Alabama Movement decided to launch a boycott of Aramark, a leading distributor of food to prisons, and Corizon, a key medical company that profits from prisons. “PMAs work so well because they’re simple,” he said. “People come up with questions. We answer those questions with solutions. Everyone has a buy-in and a tie-in.”

According to Glasgow, who lives in the town of Dothan, Alabama, PMAs across the state and southern region “have grown tremendously since Trump was elected. People are really scared and want to get involved and get engaged.”
The PMAs are gaining steam as people across the country experiment with new formations. Ayako Maruyama and Kenneth Bailey work with the Design Studio for Social Intervention in Boston. Since November, their organization has created a "Social Emergency Response Center," modeled after natural disaster emergency response centers, but designed to respond to the current political crisis. The space, open to all, provides opportunities for communal food sharing, collective healing, political discussion, political art creation, film screenings, radical library perusing and music. “We need ways to train civil society to address social emergencies as part of our civic practice,” said Bailey.

Akuno underscored that “it is a constant struggle to build popular assemblies, keep them functioning, keep them vibrant, keep them responsive to the issues of the day and keep them from being sectarian vehicles. When done right, when done at its best, I think assemblies are the most profound tools of bottom-up, participatory democracy that holds the interests of the communities, unlike any other vehicle I have ever worked with.”

“Right now they are critical because so many people in our society are socially oriented towards being individuals and being individuated,” he continued. “This breeds an atmosphere and political culture where there is no solidarity. But solidarity is an absolute must right now. An assembly is a practical way to build solidarity and ask questions like, ‘How do we resist, how do we fight our way out of this and what is our program to create the future we want?’”

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Make America Ungovernable


http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/make_america_ungovernable_20170205
Article by Chris Hedges
February 5, 2017



Donald Trump’s regime is rapidly reconfiguring the United States into an authoritarian state. All forms of dissent will soon be criminalized. Civil liberties will no longer exist. Corporate exploitation, through the abolition of regulations and laws, will be unimpeded. Global warming will accelerate. A repugnant nationalism, amplified by government propaganda, will promote bigotry and racism. Hate crimes will explode. New wars will be launched or expanded.

And, as this happens, those Americans who remain passive will be complicit.
“We don’t have much time,” Kali Akuno, the co-director of Cooperation Jackson and an organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, told me when I reached him by phone in Jackson, Miss. “We are talking two to three months before this whole [reactionary] initiative is firmly consolidated. And that’s with massive resistance.”

Flurries of executive orders and memorandums are being issued to demolish the anemic remnants of our bankrupt democracy. Those being placed in power—such as Betsy DeVos, who if confirmed as secretary of education will defund our system of public education and expand schools run by the Christian right, and Scott Pruitt, who if confirmed as head of the Environmental Protection Agency will dismantle it—are agents of destruction. In the eyes of the Christian fascists, generals, billionaires and conspiracy theorists around Trump, the laws, the courts and legislative bodies exist only to silence opponents and swell corporate profits. It is impossible to know how long this transformation will take—it may be longer than the two or three months Akuno fears—but unless we mobilize quickly to stop the Trump regime the end result is certain. 

“The forces around Trump have a plan to roll this [attack on democracy] out,” said Akuno, who was the coordinator of special projects and external funding for the late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba in Jackson. “They have a strategy. They have a timeline. They know whom they need to divide and whom they need to recruit. They are consolidating their base. Those who try and chalk this up to Trump’s pathology miss the intentionality, the strategic aims and the objectives. We will do ourselves a great disservice if we underestimate this regime and where it is going.”

Stephen Bannon, the president’s chief counselor, was behind the ban on Muslims entering the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries—a ban you can expect to see extended if the Trump administration is successful in removing a stay issued by a district court. He was behind the order to the Department of Homeland Security to draw up lists of Muslim organizations and individuals in the United States that, in the language of the executive action, have been “radicalized” and have “provided material support to terrorism-related organizations in countries that pose a threat to the United States.” Such lists will be used to criminalize Muslim leaders and the institutions and organizations they built. Then, once the Muslims are dealt with domestically, there will be new Homeland Security lists that will allow the government to target the press, activists, labor leaders, dissident intellectuals and the left. It is the beginning of a fascist version of Leon Trotsky’s “permanent revolution.”

“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too,” Bannon told writer Ronald Radosh in 2013. “I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

The Trump regime’s demented project of social engineering, which will come wrapped in a Christianized fascism, can be implemented only if it quickly seizes control of the bureaucratic mechanisms, an action that Max Weber pointed out is the prerequisite for exercising power in industrial and technocratic societies. Once what the historian Guglielmo Ferrero calls the “silken threads” of habit, tradition and legality are gone, the “iron chains” of dictatorship will impose social cohesion.

“This problem is not going to be solved in the 2018 elections,” warned Akuno, the author of the organizing handbook “Let Your Motto Be Resistance” and the former executive director of the New Orleans-based People’s Hurricane Relief Fund. “That hope is an illusion. The democratic apparatus will be completely gutted by then. We have to look beyond Trump. We have to look at the consolidation on the state level of these reactionary forces. They are near the threshold of being able to call for a constitutional convention because of the number of governorships and state legislatures where they hold both chambers. They can totally reorder the Constitution, if they even continue to abide by it, which they may not. We are facing a serious crisis. I don’t think people grasp the depth of this because they are focused on the president and not the broader strategy of these reactionary forces.”

“We have to encourage a broad noncompliance strategy of ungovernablity,” Akuno said. “Not complying. Not consenting. We have to struggle on every front. We have to expect that the courts will not protect us. We are going to get less and less protection from the police. The slightest act of civil disobedience will mean jail. We have to mentally prepare for that. We have to build serious organizations, drawing upon the examples of forces that fought authoritarian regimes in Latin America and Europe. Either we submit to not having any protection as workers, women, queers, blacks, Latinos or indigenous or we fight back. These forces [arrayed against us] are not willing to compromise. I hope it does not come to violence, but we know the proclivities of the society and the forces that run it.”

If nonviolent protest is met with violence, we must never respond with violence. The use of violence, including property destruction, and taunting the police are gifts to the security and surveillance state. It allows the state to demonize and isolate a mass movement. It drives away the bulk of the population. Violence against the state is used by the authorities to justify greater forms of control and repression. The corporate state understands and welcomes the language of force. This is a game the government will always win and we will always lose. If we are perceived as a flag-burning, rock-throwing, angry mob that embraces violence, we will be easily crushed.
We can succeed only if we win the hearts and minds of the wider public and ultimately many of those within the structures of power, including the police. When violence is used against nonviolent protesters demanding basic forms of justice it exposes the weakness of the state. It delegitimizes those in power. It prompts a passive population to respond with active support for the protesters. It creates internal divisions within the structures of power that, as I witnessed during the revolutions in Eastern Europe, paralyze and defeat those in authority. Martin Luther King Jr. held marches in Birmingham, Ala., rather than Albany, Ga., because he knew Birmingham Public Safety Commissioner “Bull” Connor would overreact and discredit the city’s racist structures.

The Trump regime is populated with blind fanatics. They believe in one truth, which is whatever they proclaim at the moment (any such declaration may contradict what they said a few hours before). They are possessed with one idea—conflict. They venerate a demented hypermasculinity that includes a sacralization of violence, misogyny, a disdain for empathy, and the self-appointed right to engage in bouts of frenzied rage. These characteristics, they believe, are a sign of masculinity. The highest aesthetic is militarism, violence and war. Without conflict, without enemies real or imagined, their ideological structures and racism collapse into a heap of contradictions and absurdities. They will attempt to thwart nonviolent, nationwide resistance with force. And they will attempt to stoke counterviolence, including through the use of agents provocateurs, as a response. If we speak back to them in the language of violence, we will fail. We will be transformed into the monsters we seek to defeat.

Bannon and his followers on the “alt-right,” self-declared intellectuals, ferret out facts and formulas that buttress their peculiar worldview and discard truths that contradict their messianic delusions. They mouth a few clichés and quote a few philosophers to justify bigotry, chauvinism and governmental repression. It is propaganda masquerading as ideology. These pseudo-intellectuals are singularly incurious. They are linguistically, culturally and historically illiterate about the Muslim world, and about most other foreign cultures, yet blithely write off one-fifth of the world’s population—Muslims—as irredeemable.

The inability of white supremacists like Trump and Bannon to recognize the humanity of others springs from their spiritual impoverishment. They mistake bigotry for honesty and ignorance for innocence. They cannot separate fantasy from reality. Such people are, as author James Baldwin said, “moral monsters.”

Evil, for them, is embodied in the dehumanized other. Once the human personification of evil is eradicated, evil itself is supposed to disappear. Except, of course, that as soon as one group of human beings is annihilated, another human embodiment of evil rises to take its place. The Nazis began with Jews. Our fanatics are beginning with Muslims. History has shown where they will go from here.

“The nationalist is by definition an ignoramus,” the Yugoslav writer Danilo Kis said. “Nationalism is the line of least resistance, the easy way. The nationalist is untroubled, he knows or thinks he knows what his values are, his, that’s to say national, that’s to say the values of the nation he belongs to, ethical and political; he is not interested in others, they are no concern of his, hell—it’s other people (other nations, another tribe). They don’t even need investigating. The nationalist sees other people in his own images—as nationalists.”

Like all utopian dreamers they believe their authoritarianism is being implemented for our benefit. They are like Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, who oversaw the burning of Giordano Bruno at the stake and who argued that eradicating heretics does them a favor because it saves them from their own damnation. It is impossible to have a rational dialogue with people who view reality through the binary lens of black and white—us and them. They do not recognize the right of dissent. Dissent is at best obstruction and probably treason. Fanatics, in power, always become inquisitors.

The acts of resistance—including the massive street protests the day after the inauguration and later the demonstrations that grew out of the ban on Muslims, the Department of Energy’s refusal to give the Trump administration a list of employees that worked on climate change, acting Attorney General Sally Yates’ refusal to enforce the travel ban and hundreds of State Department staff members’ signing of a memo opposing the immigration restrictions—terrify those around Trump. These reactionaries do not trust the old elites and their bureaucrats and courtiers, including the press, which Bannon has called “the opposition party.”

Akuno, who supports the appeal for nationwide general strikes, cautioned that such a call might be premature “because unions don’t know if a general strike is called how many members would comply, given how many voted for Trump.” He also noted that because the Trump regime is carrying out assaults on so many fronts, resistance will tax the resources of the left.
“This shotgun assault effectively divides the left,” he said. “Do I defend Chicago if, as Trump says, he puts tanks in the streets or do I go to Standing Rock if I am black? These are the kinds of choices we will be forced to make.”

“We are going to have to bring this society to a standstill,” he said. “We are going to have to disrupt the flow of commerce. We are going to have to disrupt the nodal points of distribution. We will not only have to figure out how to get on the highways, but disrupt Amazon.com and UPS. We have to get workers there, even though they are not unionized, to see these acts as in their long-term interests. And we have to build strong, fortified bases locally and link them together.”
Trump loyalists are counting on enough support from the police, the military, private contractors and the organs of internal security such as Homeland Security and the FBI, along with newly empowered white vigilante groups, to physically crush those who defy them. They will attempt to use fear and even terror to paralyze the population into acquiescence.

“It is not accidental that the Trump regime immediately went after the water protectors at Standing Rock,” Akuno said. “Standing Rock forced the wider society to look at itself, its history and its origins. It raised serious questions. Do we want human civilization to survive? Are we willing to destroy ourselves for short-term profit? Standing Rock exposed the U.S. colonial project and challenged capitalist logic. It showed us that we have to make a choice between oil and water. It asked us which will take priority for human beings.”

We have the power to make the country ungovernable. But we do not have much time. The regime will make it harder and harder to organize, get into the streets and carry out the nationwide strikes, including within the federal bureaucracy. Resistance alone, however, is not enough. It must be accompanied by an alternative vision of a socialist and anti-capitalist society. It must reject the Democratic Party’s attempt to ride anti-Trump sentiment back into power. The enemy is, in the end, not Trump or Bannon, but the corporate state. If we do not dismantle corporate power we will never stop fascism’s seduction of the white working class and unemployed.

“The evil which you fear becomes a certainty by what you do,” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote in his play “Egmont.”

Now is the time not to cooperate. Now is the time to shut down the systems of power. Now is the time to resist. It is our last chance. The fanatics are moving with lightning speed. So should we.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trump vs. the People: Round 2, Saturday, January 28, 2017



Comrades, the resistance mounted today against Muslim bans should definitely be applauded. Without question the mass resistance resulted in a favorable judicial outcome this evening. As is said, direct action gets the goods. But, folks should not be fooled and over swayed by the actions of the court, and should definitely not get stuck in a logic of believing that the courts, or the law in and of itself, is going to save us. It won't. Our enemies are too determined, and yes, too smart for that.

We have to understand that most of what Trump has advanced was designed to consolidate his base and cement his power more than anything. His bold actions this past week demonstrated to his base that he is a "man of his word", not a typical politician, but something more. Trump and his team know that most of his "executive orders" will be struck down by the (present) court. In fact, it is more than likely that they are counting on them being struck down, which for them in many respects is a good thing. It is good cause it will prove a political point about liberalism, fortify their arguments that they are going to have to resort to more extreme measures to "protect" the country, and compel their base to take more militant action. Like judo masters, the initial counter moves of the courts will enable Trump and the Neo-Confederates to advance the more critical parts of their agenda, their economic program in particular, with little fuss from their right flank. In many respects Trump and Bannon are taking a page in power building from their friend Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant who has made it known that he doesn't support various policies to help him govern, he advances critical reactionary policies that he knows will be struct down and fail because they help advance his rule.


So, let's not get overconfident and start placing our faith and trust in the system. It's not what is going to save us. We have to save ourselves and the actions of the day oriented in that direction.

Friday, January 27, 2017

There are no shortcuts





By By Alexis Stephens


As grassroots groups and community advocates across the country brace for increasingly anti-democratic and authoritarian opposition, organizers in the South bring a wealth of wisdom and experience dealing with such challenges.

America's Tomorrow spoke to Kali Akuno, co-director of Cooperation Jackson, founded in 2013 to promote economic democracy and worker-owned cooperatives in Jackson, Mississippi. Akuno talked about the organization's work and how it has dealt with a series of setbacks and trials, including the passing of Jackson's mayor — longtime activist and organizer Chokwe Lumumba — in 2014, ongoing state threats to local control of land and infrastructure, and the uncertainty of the new presidential administration. He also shared his analysis of the local context in Jackson and offered some advice to grassroots organizations around the country about how to both survive short-term threats and lay the foundation of long-term sustainability.

In the wake of Mayor Chokwe Lumumba's passing and his legacy of Black organizing, what has the landscape looked like for Cooperation Jackson?

The first six months of the [Yarber] administration were somewhat difficult for us. Cooperation Jackson had been tied to and identified with the legacy of Mayor Lumumba and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and I think Mayor Yarber was initially very wary about any engagement with us. But over time we found some ways to collaborate on things that we all saw as mutually beneficial for us and the city.

There have been a number of issues this year where there has been a high level of agreement between our organization and the mayoral administration — primarily the threats that have been coming down from the Republican supermajority at the state level and some very targeted threats against the City of Jackson. One example is the state legislation that is allowing a governor-appointed regional board to take over operational control of the airports in Jackson. A broad, united front came together [to fight that], which included the Coalition of Economic Justice, city council, and our county legislative delegation. I would say the overall legacy of the plans that brought Lumumba into office is very much alive.

In which programs and initiatives are you seeing the most success?

We're seeing success in the development of our three co-ops: Freedom Farms Urban Farming Cooperative, Nubia's Place Café and Catering Cooperative, and Mississippi Waste Alternative, a recycling and composting cooperative. The core membership of each is under the age of 25. There's a youthful willingness to try something new and a healthy optimistic attitude when they encounter people or dynamics that tell them that they can't do something. Our own analysis of why these co-ops are moving faster than others has revealed that youth leadership is a factor. To outside observers, the most concrete measure of success is the actual operation of a co-op — if the farm is able to increase its productive yield, for example. And that's grown each quarter. But young people are also acquiring skills and certifications, and putting in hours. Those are all things we're looking at objectively as measures of our success: how many people we're able to train, recruit, and bring into the process.

Cooperation Jackson is still very much a baby as an organization. In a short period of time, we've been able to build several functioning and emerging cooperatives and to acquire a community center and 20 parcels of land in West Jackson. We have three houses that are the core basis of our housing co-op and emerging eco-village. When Chokwe passed away so suddenly, many of us were in doubt in the first couple of months about where we were going and what might be possible. From that dark place to where we are now, I would argue that we've done fairly well.

What advice would you give to other grassroots economic development organizations that might be facing preemption at the state level over the next two to five years?
Your basic organizing principles don't fundamentally change. In fact, they become even more important than ever before. The first thing is you have to build your own base; and, if you are trying to build a transformative business like the co-ops that we're trying to build, you have to work to communicate your own values to your network very clearly. Outside of building your own base, you have to make connections and links and build allies with other folks who share similar interests. I don't think everything has to be in complete alignment, but I think there's a critical synergy where you have to agree on some things. But don't compromise your mission or settle for short-term, expedient gains. That's a critical piece.

Sometimes we become too fixated on immediate victories and results, and this doesn't really lead us to building strategic allies and strategic relationships in the way that is most helpful. There are not really any shortcuts. A lot of people are counting on — or have built a lot of their strategies and programming around — new technology, particularly social media as a way of reaching people. That's good for mobilizing people, but it's not a tool for organizing people. We have to make that distinction. In order to organize people, you have to build relationships. You have to make sure that you're creating the context and bringing people into situations where they can see each other face to face, to engage in dialogue and exchange about their issues, about their concerns, about their aspirations.

We have to be very intent on rebuilding social solidarity. I think a lot of the angst that is there now — particularly in light of Trump's victory — is based upon a deepening sense of social isolation. Folks feeling that they're more alone, and more exposed, now and more siloed than ever before. But our counter is not to retreat further into small and local. I think our counter is to go deeper, build more connections, reach out more. I think we're over-emphasizing and stressing too much about what's going to happen this first year. That could lead us into a number of traps, as opposed to us digging deep and building the relationships that are necessary, coming up through that process of organizing people, and then developing a program and a vision that will enable us to build, to push back, and to create a whole different set of policies to complement our vision down the road.

Could you say more about your vision for deepening relationships?
At present, our state politics break down fairly consistently along racial lines. But we know that we can make some inroads, particularly with younger, college-educated White folks — and there are about 250,000 to 500,000 of them in the state. We feel that we can and must do a good job recruiting, organizing, and reorienting them in a more left and progressive direction. And if we can just move the bottom end of that number, we change the politics of this state profoundly and we can end the Republican domination of the state. This is something that's practically doable, but you have to be willing to stand back a little bit, look at the long-term view, assess what's really needed, and then develop the strategy to go out and reach those communities and build a relationship with them. And not see everything as lost or totally out of our reach, when it's really not.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How to prepare for the Trumpocalypse



From teleSur. Originally published on Thursday, January 19th, 2016. 
1. What are your thoughts on the multiple counter-inaugural events being planned? What might that organizing process tell us about how resistance might be organized going forward?

The fact that there are multiple counter-inaugural events being planned all throughout the United States, and not just in D.C., on the 20th and 21st is a good thing. This motion represents the broad diversity contained within the United States and the depth of outrage and concern that exists in regards to the ultra right-wing shift that is about to occur at all levels of the Federal government, and in most of the state governments, and the clear threat to the human rights of numerous communities that the Trump regime clearly threatens and poses.

In the immediate future, we can definitely expect that the ongoing resistance will have a broad, diverse, and autonomous character. This in itself is not a bad thing. But, I would note that it not necessarily a good thing either, as without a higher degree of political and strategic alignment and coordination between the various social movements and political forces mounting the resistance, we won't be able to withstand the onslaught that the Trump regime and the reactionary neo-Confederate forces are planning to unleash. So, we have to overcome the fragmentation that has plagued the left in the United States for decades, and be clear that we cannot rely upon the liberals and the Democrats to be consistent and principled allies in the struggle against the resurgence of white nationalism.
2. What would be the ideal outcome of the counter-inaugural actions? What do you expect to happen?

Being realistic, the most critical thing the counter-inaugural actions can do are serve notice to Trump and the reactionary forces aligned with him, that the majority of the peoples contained within the United States will not comply, will not consent, will not surrender, and will not be subjectively governed. This will serve to weaken their confidence and give pause to some of their initiatives. But, we need to be clear that given their ideological commitment, these reactionary forces might stall and shift a bit, but they aren't going to stop. So, we need to be prepared to engage in sustained struggle. And to this end, if the counter-inauguration is indeed massive, as in engaging tens if not hundreds of millions of people throughout the United States, it will bolster the confidence of the forces of resistance, which is critical, given how shocked, saddened, and alone the majority of people in the United States felt after Trump won the election. Confidence emboldens individuals and movements will to resist, preserver and ultimately march to victory. So, the counter-inauguration initiatives are and must be viewed as a critical first step in the resistance to the Trumpocalypse, and the launch of the transformative movement the country and the world needs to avoid world war and a climate catastrophe.
3. What role do groups organizing for Black empowerment play in speaking out against "white identity politics?" in challenging Trump rhetoric and policy?

The Black Liberation Movement has been calling out and challenging the ills of white nationalism and settler-colonialism since the inception of the English settler-colonial project, which became the United States. So, long before Trump emerged on the scene. The centrality of the Black Liberation Movements role in challenging this reactionary ideology and social force has never wavered and will never waiver. The world should expect Black people and the Black Liberation Movement to play a leading role in the resistance to Trump and the advancing neo-Confederacy at every level.

The question of who and how the white working class is going to be organized and turned into a force for revolutionary transformation, instead of a bulwark of settler-colonialism and imperialism is a fundamental question. A question that has plagued the left for centuries. There have been some promising signs over the past 2 and half years that a younger generation of white's, from working and petite bourgeois class backgrounds, are willing and trying to break from the hegemony of white supremacy. This has meant engaging in solidarity, and at times in joint struggle with the Movement for Black Lives and Indigenous Sovereignty. But, more, much more has to be done. Trump might be a catalyst for further change. Effective organizing and time will tell.

4. What risks could anti-Trump movements run? What pitfalls would you warn organizers and the newly-politicized against?

As we see in Indiana with Senate Bill 285, which aims to criminalize protest, the reactionary forces that are now coming into power, fully intend to utilize all of the repressive tools at the disposal of the United States government to quell resistance, and ensure the longevity of their rule. So, all of us, the veterans and rookies of struggle must get prepared for the worse - massive surveillance, repression, imprisonment, isolation, and assassination. We would be fools to take the new situation likely. We must learn, really learn, from the failures of societies and movements in the past that failed to fully challenge white nationalism and fascism as they emerge, and even moreso when they get a grasp of power. We have entered a period where sacrifice, self-sacrifice of the highest order, is imperative. If we don't view the situation this way, and resist as if our lives depended upon it (which they in fact due), we will find ourselves either back in the 16th century or extinct. So, people should expect intense repression and get prepared to make tremendous sacrifices.

5. Why fight?

We must fight because Trump and the reactionary forces that are now poised to run the United States government are a threat, a real threat to humanity. The course that they are on will only exasperate national and global inequality, hasten civil and world war, and drive the climate and the biosphere to the brink. These forces must be defeated at all costs without question. But, we must not return to the capitalist status quo of the world-system, either in its liberal, social democratic or neo-liberal forms. The liberal center cannot hold and must be viewed as just as problematic as the emergent fascist form of that order as is the neo-liberal order. We have to fight for more. We have to fight for the future, fight for social emancipation on a global scale based on a liberatory program based on the decolonization of land and knowledge systems, the democratization of the productive forces, the full automation of the productive forces, the decarbonization of the economy, the full democratization of markets and the processes of value exchange, and a regenerative social order based on zero-waste and the restoration of the biosphere.