What Radical Justice Could Mean & Evidence It Could Be Possible

This post includes a vision of a radically new future from Jackson, MS (with a 20 minute video), a profile of a radical volunteer run community collective in Montreal, and a brief snippet on Beto O’Rourke’s radical Texas campaign. Great stuff.A Nation Rising Could be About to Emerge.  While immigration and family detention, an escalating trade war, and the latest offensive Trump tweet grab the headlines, simmering throughout America is a brooding unhappiness with the status quo and an increasing recognition that traditional solutions can’t address extraordinary challenges. For a prior blog describing how progressive, even radical, campaign messaging can win in the south and in rural America, click here.

Retake Our Democracy wants to tap into that brooding dissatisfaction and help advance a progressive agenda in NM. And you are being invited to be part of that. Retake volunteers are beginning a campaign by picking up the phones and reaching out to our supporters to engage them in a sustained community education and organizing effort. Stay tuned and pick up your phone when we call or contact Lynne Fischer at lynneafischer@gmail.com. The Roundhouse Advocacy Team meets today (4:30-6:30pm) at New Energy Economy, 343 E. Alameda, and this is the team making calls to hundreds of supporters who have indicated an interest in getting involved. Find out how you can help.

Tuesday’s and today’s blog posts are keepers, points of reference for inspiration throughout the summer, as we profile what can happen when people rise up and don’t just say no to the status quo, but who say yes to a new vision of America. We start with the most radical vision of all, Jackson, Mississippi, and then go to Texas and Montreal to find more inspiration and models from which to build.

Jackson Rising A Radical Vision for America’s Future

Nowhere have I read anything that so clearly captures what the socialist-collective vision of America could be than in Jackson Rising by Kali Akuno and Ajamu Nangwaya, co-founders of Cooperative Jackson. Jackson Rising grasps the dynamics of capitalist and colonialist oppression and provides a principled path to justice. For a 20-minute interview with Kali Akuno with Chris Hedges (another leftist hero) scroll to the bottom of the blog.

There is no way I can do justice to Jackson Rising’s clarity, so I will simply provide a handful of excerpts. I highly recommend that you order the book as every single page posits the path forward. Click here to order the book directly from Cooperation Jackson.

It is worth noting that in many ways, as reported below, Montreal has actually implemented parts of Jackson Rising’s vision, albeit on a small but important scale. This book will be the best $30 you’ve spent in 2018.

From Rising Jackson:

The Settler Colonial State:  “Mississippi’s development as a settler-colonial state has fundamentally been contingent upon the extraction of natural resources, such as timber for colonial and antebellum shipbuilding, and cash crop agriculture, such as cotton, tobacco, sugarcane and rice, which were primarily sold as international commodities. Mississippi, like most of the South [PG: and NM] has not been able to break out of its historic position within the US and world capitalist system of being a site of resource extraction and the super-exploitation of labor.”

What Jackson Rising Is NOT Proposing. “We are not seeking to replicate the dynamics of “development” in the standard capitalist sense. The central dynamic of capitalist development has little to no regard for the preservation of the environment and ecology.”

Self-Organizing: What Jackson Rising IS Proposing: “Self-organizing means directly organizing the working class through various participatory processes (e.g. unions, assemblies, etc.) primarily at their places of work or points of production, but also where they live, play, pray and study. The point of this self-organization is for workers to make collective, democratic decisions about how, when and to what ends their labor serves, and about how to take action collectively to determine the course of their own lives…. We have to create a new legal framework and paradigm that will enable any form of productive endeavor to become a cooperative or solidarity endeavor.”

Self-Determination Is Central to the Jackson Rising Vision:  “Self-determination is not possible within the capitalist social framework, because the endless pursuit of profits that drives this system only empowers private ownership and the individual appropriation of wealth by design…. Reproducing capitalism, either in its market-driven or its state-dictated forms, will only replicate the inequalities and inequities that have plagued humanity since the dawn of the agricultural revolution. We believe that the participatory, bottom-up democratic route to economic democracy and eco-socialist transformation will be best secured through the anchor of work self-organization, the guiding structures of cooperatives, and systems of mutual aid and communal solidarity and the democratic ownership, control, and deployment of ecologically friendly and labor liberating technologies of the industrial revolution.”

What Would a Jackson Rising World Look Like? “Our aim is to fashion and create a regenerative economy, one that not only restores and replenishes the resources it extracts from the earth, but aids in the acutal restoration of our earth’s ecosystems. We aim to do this by building a set of reinforcing institutions—such as green worker cooperatives, community land trusts, eco-villages, and centers of community production.”

In essence, Jackson Rising no longer wants to beg or lobby others to allow modest progress toward justice or to lobby others to develop business, housing, and opportunity — they want to be the developers and cut out the capitalist, colonialist middle man. While this vision may seem too radical to be attainable, check out the meteoric trajectory of Beto O’Rourke’s campaign in Texas, and then the astonishing collective community center developed in Montreal. We can do this!

Beto O’Rourke: Can a Punk Rock Bassist Conducting Town Halls While Jogging in the Sweltering Heat Defeat Ted Cruz? Mounting Evidence Says: YES!

Jamming with Willie Nelson, jogging Town Halls, strong support for Medicare for All and a path to citizenship, together mark an unlikely winning candidate in Texas, but Beto O’Rourke is quickly climbing in the polls. Where once he trailed by over 25%, polling now shows him down between 3%-10% with five months of campaigning to go. His candor, sense of humor, and commitment to principles has him being labelled “the JKF of Texas.”  Click here to read an excellent Politico report that provides a close look at Beto O’Rourke and how his most unconventional campaign is building momentum in Texas.

Montreal Volunteer-Run Community & Worker Collective: A Model of Economic Justice for NM

Resilience is a remarkable blog site much like Next City and increasingly it is providing fodder for the Retake blog. Today, we feature a radical Montreal community center, organized, designed, built and operated entirely by volunteers. It is a model for collective, socialist business/development that could be replicated anywhere in NM where volunteers say: enough is enough, we can do this ourselves.

From Resilience: “A developer bought a crumbling property from the City of Montreal for a dollar to build a conference center, to the displeasure of a core group of local residents who had been eyeing the building for years, hoping to turn it into a community space. ‘You know those breeds of dog that, when they bite down on something, are physically unable to let go?’ says Natacha Alexandroff, a founding member of the Bâtiment 7collective. ‘That’s us.’ ”

“We found it inadmissible that an outside promoter could have this property for a dollar, when the community, including people whose families had worked for generations in the shops, couldn’t,” Alexandroff says. “We woke up one morning and found that they were starting to demolish the building, so we formed a ‘crisis cell’ that became the first Bâtiment 7 collective.”

Today, a large cadre of community volunteers have created the Bâtiment 7 Collective. From Resilience: “Bâtiment 7 opened to the public in May of this year, still entirely staffed by volunteers. The large complex houses a bicycle workshop, a car repair garage, a woodworking workshop, a co-op grocery store, a library and event space, a bar and a tiny microbrewery — and that’s just the ground floor. The second floor reveals ceramics, metalworking, screen-printing and digital printing workshops, as well as a darkroom, a sprawling common room, a branch of a neighborhood art school and a youth-run, queer-positive game room managed by a local youth group.”

Caroline Monast-Landrieu, a recent university graduate, longtime Pointe-Saint-Charles resident and Bâtiment 7 activist commented:  ““It lets us take ownership of the means of production in a way that we usually can’t in the rest of the world. Normally, if your car breaks down and you take it to the garage, they repair it and you pay the bill. But here, you can spend time with our volunteers and learn to do it yourself.” Each workshop is run by a separate cooperative, accessible for a scaled hourly, daily, or monthly fee depending on the cost of maintaining the equipment and how frequently the user plans to go there.”

A quote from one of the Bâtiment 7 activists perfectly captures their aspirations: “We’re not anti-development, we want to be the development.” To read the full Resilience report on Montreal and Bâtiment 7, click here.

Bâtiment 7 has essentially operationalized a good deal of what Jackson Rising has articulated so well. Certainly, what Jackson Rising has envisioned and what Montreal has achieved are not easily replicated, but with inspiration and effort, we can get there. We are looking forward to our 3-4 days in Jackson and hope to meet with many of those working with Mayor Chokwe Lumumba to implement Cooperation Jackson.

So little to lose, so much to gain. It is time to BE the development.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Economic Justice, Community & Economic Development, Personal & Collective Action

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8 replies

  1. This is some really cool stuff, yet it does not really translate here. I don’t see any so called progressives asking why. These kinds of topics are safe, all about some people over there somewhere. The problems here in Santa Fe, can be ignored, since they might challenge the local status quo. You wonder why only white financially secure people over 50 responded to that survey, this is why. The real local problems are going unspoken, there is no one articulating them. If people had access to the facts they would feel a collective sense of horror, instead we have this!

    • I am guessing you have not really been reading the blog long or you would have seen that allies of our like Somos, Dreamers, Earth Care, Chainbreaker, Tewa, and New Energy Economy are all doing their part on the vanguard of change here in Santa Fe. We need more people like you to become involved directly. Perhaps you might try coming to our Roundhouse Advocacy meeting tonight? 4:30-6;30, 343 E. Alameda. I sincerely do not believe you could read this blog and say we ignore Santa Fe problems.

  2. What doesn’t translate is that these examples were carried out by grassroots activists long embedded in their communities. Here we have relative newcomer white financially secure people over 50 counting on and supporting (we hope!) community organizing by the groups mentioned by PG, who are mostly overwhelmed with the size and extent of the problems they are dealing with, yet determined to carry on.

    • Almost all of Retake’s work has been in alliance with those organizations and we always take our cues from them. You are correct, that they are over-subscribed in trying to address the myriad of challenges faced by the populations they serve. Our hope is that what we learn from the Road Trip can help inform conversations with our allies and perhaps Retake folks can help do some heavy lifting directed by our allies that makes it more possible for these groups to replicate that which they find compelling and possible.

  3. Local people in northern New Mexico have hundreds of years of experience in cooperative endeavors. Look to the acequias, which are (among other things) irrigation collectives in which everyone contributes and every contributor receives a share of the benefits. These are democratic, self-governing collectives with a great deal of organizing know-how which maybe could be applied to many areas of New Mexico life.

    • Very interested to learn more about this, Greg. If you can send links with articles about this, that would be great.

    • Yes corndogcatman it would be interesting to learn more about an institution that can remain “democratic” even after hundreds of years.

  4. Thank you so much for the Kali Akuno interview. Mind blowing breath of truth.

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