Conversations with Gamechangers: Cooperation Jackson

planted: 10/09/2022last tended: 04/11/2022
Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson

Part of Conversations with Gamechangers series. It was an intro to coops, and CJ in particular, followed by questions.

+ CJ
++ community organising
+++ unions
+++ coops
-- Jackson water crisis
---_ broken treatment facility
---_ no availability of drinking water
++ Jackson Kush-Plan
+++ dual power
++++ people's assemblies
+++ democratising the economy
++++_ coops
+++ running for elected office
  • currently a water crisis in Jackson
  • currently in the middle of distribution event
  • types of community organising
    • organising by trades (union style)
    • cooperatives
    • originally coops serviced social and reproductive needs
      • child care coops, etc
    • after: a compromise during 1930s compromise
    • capital struck a deal with some labour leaders
      • national labour board etc
      • set it up so that labour could only work for wages, hours, and healthcare
        • but removed ability for political strikes and political action
          • one union can not work in concert with other set of workers
            • same as UK
      • social security and social welfare as well
      • removed the need for social organising in a sense - divorced the coops from the trade unions
        • limiting what both could do in terms of power and struggle, became special interest groups within bourgeious order
      • coop jackson are intentional in trying to break that
    • history exists in a context of colonization, white power and patriarchy
    • black workers did not work in industries that were allowed to be unionzed
      • e.g. farming or maids
      • because of race
      • black workers were excluded from trade unions
    • lost the ability to own the means of production
    • CJ developing model that gets out of these relations of production
    • Jackson, rouhgly 220,000 in Jackson
      • it has shrunk to about 160-180 thousand in recent years
      • 80% of city is black
    • brain drain: black doctors from Mississipi move elsewhere in the US
    • 85% population is potential leverage of political power
      • black political power
    • Jackson-Kush Plan
      • automous independent power, dual power
        • self-governance through people's assemblies
      • democratising the economy
        • CJ was explicitly for this part of it
      • political power without economic power is symbol without substance
      • additionally running for elected office
        • two mayors have been elected
    • a young project with a lot of experimentation
      • mistake have been made, CJ aim to learn from them
    • CJ about 8 years old
    • accomplishments:
      • community land trust
        • 44 properties
        • collectively-owned
          • saved up money to own outright
            • (CJ don't trust banks, racist institutions)
      • network of federated cooperatives
        • Green Team (landscaping cooperative)
        • Freedom Farms (hit hard by water crisis)
        • Community Production Coop - manufacturing coop
          • digital fabrication coop, 3d printing, electrical design and craft, print shop
        • in the pipeline
          • Zero Waste Jackson (recycling and composting coop)
          • People's Groceries
          • Cannabis coop - medicinal cannabis coop
            • hemp and bamboo as sustainable materials for the CPC
    • withstand pressures of capitalist market
      • largest employer in Mississipi is Wal-Mart
        • a vicious corporation - they want no form of competition
    • some coops have failed, but there's space to do that
      • owning gives this time and space for learning
    • one coop failed (previous recycling and composting coop)
      • too tightly coupled to city system
      • city shut everything down, then the coop failed
    • walmart investor in recreational cannabis in mississipi
  • to democratise economy
    • create supply and value chains
  • most coops in US
    • constructed on friends and favours orientation
      • 10 people who like the same thing, turn it in to an income
    • in CJ, given poverty etc
      • what will given the most independence from market structure and political leverage?
  • e.g. food was weaponised during hurricane katrina, so ownership of food supply is strategic
  • a lot of trial and error in CJ
    • that's something to get used to in solidarity economy

1. questions

1.1. how are the people's assemblies organised and used?

1.2. what does the solidarity economy mean to CJ?

  • what are CJ striving against?
    • entrepreneuriship has been promoted in black community as answer to all problems
    • i.e. individual ownership
      • but this is a continuation of unequal relationships
  • prefer individuality over individualism
  • solidarity is the antidote to individualism
    • being in alignment and in practice with people who are not your blood or kin or clan, but your community
    • productive relationships where we consciously and deliberately depend upon each other

1.3. how to get started in Solidarity economy

  • start with what you have
  • avoid thinking in terms of deficits
  • e.g. if you don't have a job, maybe you have a lot of time
  • who can I work with and how can I work with them

1.4. water crisis in Jackson

  • there's no affordable drinking water currently in Jackson
  • water pressure has been restored (since about a week ago)
    • sanitary system was not functioning
  • need to avoid airborne diseases
    • it's a hot and humid region
    • malaria and denge fever and sleeping sickness are coming back
  • to get bottled water you would have had to go 20 miles out of the city (last week)
    • now if you get to a grocery store early in the morning you can buy water
    • most people don't have enough money to go and buy water
  • CJ doing water distribution
  • all the faith and community organisations are doing water distribution
    • but still not enough people are getting water
  • if you don't have a car, you can't get enough water
  • CJ going to members in the community and doing water drop offs
  • working age people are off working elsewhere sending money back
    • reverse bell curve for the population (lots of young and elderly)
  • no indication as to when the water will be restored
  • problems
    • pipes are old, antiquated and lead, they break a lot
    • treatment facility is broken - it's not cleaning the water
      • billions of dollars to build a new treatment facility
        • state government is refusing to give money for this
  • racial component to how it is playing out
    • state government redirecting money from federal government to white neighbourhoods outside of jackson

1.5. how did jackson get going?

  • it was a long time in gestation
  • going back generations
  • then in 2001…
    • group decided to get together and pool resources
    • $50 a month in to collective pool
    • to buy land in mississipi
    • a lot of patience, a lot of discipline
    • first purchase in 2011
  • additionally some athletes and entertainers from the area
    • they've given back
  • property values are low in mississipi and in jackson
    • might not have been able to do the same thing in atlanta for example

1.6. how to avoid cooptation?

  • foundations come and offer grants with a lot of conditions
  • have to be patient and disciplined and don't be tempted by these
  • a long-term intergenerational vision and being able to stick to it

1.7. accountability processes?

  • open communication and transparent communication

1.8. threats to CJ from the state etc

  • the most concerning of late
    • mississipi has a supermajority that controls state legislature now
    • passing preventative laws
    • e.g. climate justice
      • after helping with committment to reducing emissions by about 10% in a couple of years…
      • state legislature
        • said mississipi must not adhere to any EU standards around climate
  • so CJ have had to censor themselves to some degree
  • FBI sniffing around, trying to intimidate
    • they've been infiltrated, disruption

1.9. how to get those on low income involved?

  • don't just assume that people can participate
    • that is classist and gendered
  • low dues
  • but if can't afford it, then give us some time
  • building up systems that allow people to participate
    • e.g. single mothers - provide childcare

2. Elsewhere

2.1. In my garden

2.3. Mentions

Recent changes. Source. Peer Production License.