Democratic Party Affiliation in Mississippi “A Compromise Made In Error” Says Cooperation Jackson’s Kali Akuno.
It was natural enough. To be white in Mississippi is to be a Republican, to be black is to be a Democrat. So when the leaders of the Malcolm X Grassroots Organization, heir to organizational efforts in Jackson Mississippi since the early 1970s considered running candidates for local office they did what looked like the sensible thing. They ran Chokwe Lumumba and his son Chokwe Antar as Democrats. Kali Akuno, a former member of the MXGM leadership team now says that joining the Democrats was a strategic compromise “made in error.”
Becoming Democrats was supposed to have been a compromise, Akuno observed at the Movement School for Revolutionaries held October 21 in Jackson MS. It was to have been a temporary thing while MXGM built its own independent political organization to fight for the kind of thoroughgoing social and economic change outlined in what became the Jackson Kush Plan, or if that didn’t work might try to building the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party that kind of political arm. But neither were much tried. Effectively the MXGM crew simply suspended their own views to enlist as Democrats. They did this so successfully that after running four local campaigns in ten years a great deal of black Jackson which voted for its candidates doesn’t know about Jackson Kush or the principles the MXGM stands for. In Akuno’s book he said “that’s not a victory.”
Adofo Minka and Kali Akuno said they both advised Chokwe Antar not to run for mayor this time, for similar reasons. When Chokwe Lumumba ran for mayor in 2012 the city of Jackson had a budget surplus. Now the new mayor is confronted with what Akuno called a kind of Syriza Trap. Its central business district under state control, the privatization of its schools and water the razing of several black neighborhoods nearly imminent, and an emergency management regime coming to strip elected city government of the ability to do much of anything without approval from bankers. The Lumumba administration is already working with advisors from the Gates Foundation, perhaps trying to choose its own emergency managers before these are chosen by somebody else. Governing in 2017 means having to manage capitalism’s crises without questioning capitalism. It means being the black faces who administer the cuts and austerity and gentrification. It means giving up the right to criticize other Democrats who take orders from their contributors/investors, and giving up the right to oppose the permanent wars too. This isn’t what some signed up for.
A national narrative is out there, said Minka in which Bernie Sanders gets credit for electing Chokwe Antar and some talk up their supposed ability to recreate the electoral success of Jackson around the country without the least idea of what underlies it.
“Antar is having to figure out every day... where can I compromise with these folks and where can I fight them,” said Kali Akuno. Mississippi tea party types hold the governor’s chair and a supermajority in the state legislature, emboldened by Trump in the White House. State lawmakers have responded to mere discussion of some sustainability and human rights initiatives with bills to outlaw them.
It’s a set of crises that can’t be addressed, Akuno asserts, by electing more Democrats. Something else has to happen. Chokwe Antar may hold office, but he can really neither build nor fight effectively. That requires something quite different from another campaign for office.
It requires organizing which prefigures the kind of society and people we will have to become in a post-capitalist world. That something else is promoting the transition to a solidarity economy in which workers have rights on the job, where economic justice and sustainability at home and peace abroad are priorities. Four years ago Akuno and others founded Cooperation Jackson to do just those things.
Cooperation Jackson is about taking as much land off the speculative market as possible. It’s about founding and fostering cooperative enterprises in every economic niche to train working class people to run their own world, to demand and to achieve economic democracy. There’s a long game and a short game and a short game, observes Akuno. Short term compromises with the Democrats don’t advance our long game.
You can find Kali Akuno’s Oct 21 remarks here on YouTube
or the audio alone here on SoundCloud.
Please share them widely.
Take a deep dive into what Cooperation Jackson is all about here in ThisIsHell’s interview of Kali Akuno and Ajamu Nwangwaya co-editors of Jackson Rising, the Struggle For Economic Justice below.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via email at [email protected]