A Socialist Southern Strategy in Jackson

The Malcolm X Center for Self Determination, Opened in Jackson, MS in the 1980s by The New Afrikan People’s Organization

We know that the literal meaning of the word Utopia is no-place. It doubles as a word meaning a perfect world. Appropriately, the Latin American literary giant, Eduardo Galeano, who came from the continent which has gifted the world so many of this and last century’s attempts to reach the unreachable, gave us the very best spin on the word. Utopia lay always “at the horizon.” “What then, is the purpose of utopia?” Galeano asked. “It is to cause us to walk.” 1

Utopia, Galeano knew, was nowhere, except in our dreams. It was a reverie. In contrast to the no-place of Utopia, struggle is terrestrial. It starts somewhere, and advances elsewhere, but is always grounded in place, even if with eyes fixed on the far horizon. This rootedness has often been a line of division between leftists in the Global North and South – whether the place in question is that of nation, land, or ecology. The agrarian question, the environmental question, and the national question are only disentangled with difficulty, and often only in thought. In the Global South, struggle often interweaves them into one piece of historical cloth. Where does a national question of liberating the land end and the agrarian question of land redistribution begin? Where does equitable land distribution end and sustainable farming begin? And where does the fight for sustainable farming end and the fight for national control over farming technologies, macro-economic architecture, and, increasingly, farmland itself begin?

The different but mutually constitutive historical trajectories of the North and the South have produced a number of theoretical tensions, which I here present as a series of hypostatized oppositions. Nation versus class as the subject of history. Land versus labor as the target of liberation. Productivist industrialization versus sustainable technics as the means for creating a free society. 2

When debates touching on these tensions occur – Prometheanism versus peasant agro-ecology, industrial agriculture versus a peasant project, 3 anti-environmentalism versus political ecology 4, growth versus degrowth – they remain at loggerheads. 5 More often, they simply do not occur. Their scarcity, and the inability to arrive at unity-in-difference, are, I think, mostly due to attempts to universalize from the Global North. A century and a half of fossil-capitalist imperialism has set the stage for what Zak Cope calls a “divided world, divided class.” 6 The social topography of the world-system is so uneven, its heights so high and depths so low, that there is a great difficulty for many in the North even to hear the voices, say, of the small Costa Rican coffee-farmers struggling to sow and harvest a sustainable polyculture, demanding states which support them, agrarian reforms to give them more land, juridical protection from transnational seed and chemical companies foisting unwanted inputs upon them, and the categorical end to the anthropogenic climate change which may make their world unlivable. 7 And of course, in the background of such distance is the petroleum-fueled attempt to dissolve the US agrarian question. 8 But nevertheless, and against the urbanophiles who consider the peasantry a dying class in the Global South, the agrarian question remains central. 9 Of course, the indigenous-colonial question, the US’s originary sin, is in its way an agrarian question, as well as the national question. But precisely because the settling of the US was the great primitive accumulation which sought to clear the ground for US capitalism, the ongoing struggle for decolonization has always been an uneasy visitor to Northern anti-systemic thought.

It is of no surprise that in the lands occupied by the United States, Black radicals have been the ones to introduce or push major elements of Global South struggles, in terms of theory and practice – especially around the triad of land, nation, and the specific ecological question of sustainable farming. In their positions on both internal Black self-determination and self-determination for other peoples, they have raised the national question and its relationship with a territorial land base. This has been visible in support for anti-imperialism – especially anti-Zionism as articulated through Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party – and nationalism as an expression of and contribution to anti-imperialist struggle. Black radicals have ceaselessly organized and theorized in solidarity with and drawing inspiration from the Global South. Such interchange has also been visible in the fusion of the land question and the ecological question as it emerges through farming, made concrete in the experiments with land acquisition of the Black nationalisms of the 1970s and 1980s and blooming struggles for food justice and food sovereignty from Oakland to Detroit. These have all been examples of how spatially Global North struggles have raised logics of struggle much more prevalent in the Global South. This is so because historically excluded and subjugated African-descended peoples have so often conceptualized themselves as an extension of the Global South, forcibly uprooted and placed in the settler-lands of the Global North.

In our moment, questions and quandaries of land, revolutionary nationalism, the frictions and convergences of struggle in the core and the periphery, and finally what forms of struggle – in the most literal sense – can make a world big enough for everyone, find one of their most vivid and inspiring contemporary experiments in Jackson, Mississippi. There, the organizing of Cooperation Jackson, which has sought to build political power, economic autonomy, and eco-socialism, invites us to consider simmering questions of transition, organization, and strategy as they exist today. The publication of Jackson Rising, a book on their ongoing struggles, allows us to do so in the spirit of political experimentation and the utopian vision necessary for this task.

Jackson Rising and Models

Much of the book – a hybrid strategy guide, manifesto, and movement history in real-time – is flush with descriptions of what Cooperation Jackson is doing in their bid to change the world. It is rich with references to the Mondragon Experiment in the Basque Country, Kerala, and the Latin American experiments. It is a blueprint, based partially on other buildings.

Marx and Engels did notoriously caution against such sketches, a warning engraved in much leftist thought. But those two were of their time. They wrote against a Utopian Socialism which sought to sidestep the struggle for utopia. Our moment is long on struggles, short on utopias, and shorter still on plans to depart as opposed to just resist current dystopias. If anything, disdain and disenchantment for existing paths to utopia suffuses major sectors of the Marxist tradition, gummed up in mental constructs of bureaucratic rentier petrostates, state-capitalisms, or economistic, politically-blind cooperatives. One cost of this turn away from the struggle for utopia is that we have fewer tools which would help us concretely pose questions of just social and ecological transitions in the US context.

Indeed, such experiments, from the Keralan social-welfare system to the Mondragon co-ops, sometimes seem real but petrified – securing some dignity for their beneficiaries, but no longer capable of giving history a push. But there is something lacking in such a viewpoint. Such institutions are what have come of people trying to change the world, the institutional crystallization of struggle. If they have only put the brake on history hard enough to partially slow the train of destruction, they have not done differently than any of the great twentieth century revolutions, or most of those which are ongoing in Latin America in the twenty-first. So maybe they should again be placed on the palette we use to paint our own mental pictures of medium-scale revolution.

Experiments with mutual aid or self-managed production bloom on small scales in places like Philadelphia where the Philly Socialists’ blend of ESL classes and community gardening. Or the brake-lights programs of some chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America – amidst considerable contempt and friction from the ossified social-democratic old guard. But a just transition to a sustainable and egalitarian society, starting from the ironbound structures of an advanced industrial economy, raises tremendous, very close to unthinkable obstacles vis-à-vis vision, strategy, and social base. How much industry can we have, and how can we reduce its carbon footprint? Can or should people in the US return to farming? Can the electricity infrastructure be de-carbonified and de-commodified? What is the appropriate scale – Kirkpatrick Sale’s bioregions, in which biota, landscapes, and watershed structure political scale? 10 Or John Friedmann’s agropolitan districts – the smallest units capable of providing for the basic needs of their inhabitants? 11 How to weigh and balance city and countryside, industry and agriculture? How even to begin to form just answers to such questions in a world maldeveloped by ecological imperialism, the costs of “development” dumped so freely on the poor? 12 How to pose questions of transition amidst and against the strategic choices of conquest of state power versus dual-power versus autonomous building-from-below?

Answers to these questions exist in the models of the Global South – they are really experiments, because there are no models – but less so in the Global North. And it will take endless tinkering, experimenting, flourishing, and failure just to get started on the path to an equitable transition in the North. And the day is getting late! So, maybe we need to worry less now about the risks of penning blueprints, and not worry at all about fresh attempts to draw upon, slice up, mix and match the experiences of the past and present alike.

Enter this book, the story of Cooperation Jackson, a struggle on the US left that draws freely on past and present lessons and losses. It has no parallel of which I know. On that basis alone, it is not so much that this is an odd document – there is nothing odd about the book. It is more that it is so very different than the doleful pessimism tinting far too darkly dominant lenses used to view past and present attempts to change the world that it surprises slightly the reader.

Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi

For who else dreams so big, with such serious, committed, grassroots urgency? Who else tries to weave together cooperative economics with eco-socialism, to draw together Zapatista-style, Bolivarian, and Mondragon-inspired self-management, co-ops, and constituent assemblies, with food sovereignty, and calls for national and international solidarity? Who else has mapped out the social landscape on which to wage such a struggle? Who else has laid out a strategy to get from here to there? Such rhetorical questions are not accusations. They are only meant to highlight how much work there is to do, and what this book offers for anyone thinking about what kind of work needs to be done and how to do it. We must start somewhere. Starting somewhere means starting with an idea of our destination, drafting the engineering diagrams, and then building the political-economic vehicle to get from here to there. 


The plan did not come from nowhere. Cooperation Jackson, the experiment’s productive core, emerged from a long history of radical Black nationalism. At least one lineage of this way of thinking was Harry Haywood’s Black Belt thesis. 13 This idea emerged organically as part-and-parcel of the broader national-colonial question, in which nations – in this case, the Black peoples of the southeastern states of the US – had the right to self-determination. Self-determination was premised on a line of difference between peoples, raising the question of autonomy and who constitutes the political subject demanding autonomy. Self-determination is territorially bound – it occurs on a land-mass. The national-colonial question’s radical edge was formed by its capacity to shatter the political chains binding colony to metropole. It was an anti-imperial struggle, and radical for that reason.

But imperialism, and capitalism, have also, or perhaps always, concerned themselves with zero-sum struggles over land. Land was the basis of a flurry of social and anti-colonial revolutions: from France to Russia, from China to Algeria. In the words of Malcolm X, “Revolution is based on land. Land is the basis of all independence. Land is the basis of freedom, justice, and equality.” 14 Land during the heyday of anti-colonial national liberation was the territorial basis for autonomy and freedom from the empires’ expansionary threat. The New Afrikan Independence Movement (NAIM), founded in 1968, carried that insight forward and brought it to the imperial heartlands. Explicitly drawing on Malcolm X, it endorsed land as the basis for people to be “masters of our own destiny” as well as the Black Belt Thesis, in which a swathe of southern states from South Carolina to Louisiana would be the land-base for a New Afrika. 15

In the 1970s in Detroit, the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika, which emerged from NAIM, looked for a place where they could purchase land. They did so in Mississippi, breaking through a physical barricade to arrive at their plot. There the cry, “Free the Land” emerged. Chokwe Lumumba, Jackson’s former mayor, was one of that movement’s leaders. As his daughter, Rakia Lumumba, relates, the saying “embodies the understanding that critical to people’s ability to exercise human rights, is their ability to exercise self-determination and governance of territory.” 16 That slogan and the idea of self-determination converge into the agrarian question as Fanon and Cabral framed it – land as the irreducible basis for a people to control their lives and take hold of society’s productive forces, alongside the need not merely for juridical ownership but political control over that land. 17

In 1984, Lumumba broke with the NAIM to found the New Afrikan People’s Organization, which argued land “constitutes the material basis upon which we can exercise our collective will.” 18 It went on to establish the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) as its wing for political action and mass work. 19 Multiple streams then came together into Cooperation Jackson. First was the Jackson branch of the MXGM. It did base work in the area. It built up youth programs and helped hundreds of young people to make it to college. Afterwards, organizers in Jackson helped thousands of survivors of Hurricane Katrina. As Chokwe Lumumba notes, “We literally sent tons of material aid to Gulf Coast survivors of Katrina, and we created political programs, political projects, and political organizations in order to fight the abuses that the Katrina residents were suffering.” 20 MXGM also facilitated a survivor’s assembly to aid New Orleans residents.

New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina were crucial in multiple ways. The disaster led both to heightened abuses of New Orleans’ Black communities as well as brief national attention towards them. After this apocalypse, there was talk about it being a “wake-up call” that would put environmental justice on the agenda. That’s exactly what happened among those whom Katrina hit hardest. As Lumumba noted, “we later decided that we would create an assembly for ourselves in order to advance our political objectives, so we wouldn’t wind up in a situation like the folks did down in New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast.” 21 Enter the Jackson People’s Assembly and the Jackson-Kush Plan.

Here Jackson Rising skates a bit quickly over a crucial moment where analysis of the terrain of struggle and threat, strategy, and vision come together. Huge portions of the Black population live in the South, with many population centers below sea-level. Anthropogenic climate change, the maker of rising seas and catastrophic storm surges, makes floods more likely. This is not simply statistical probability but the near-past and present which unfolds in front of our eyes. Some now predict that the poorer counties of the US, disproportionately in the Black Belt, will experience climatically-induced austerity by century’s end. 22 They are already experiencing it, too. Unplanned municipal sprawl and the Promethean delusion of destroying wetlands and fantasizing – hallucinating – to dominate nature with endless and endlessly expensive concrete levee systems led to the destruction of New Orleans and more recently, parts of Houston. These southern states’ acute vulnerability to anthropogenic global warming also speaks to how Cooperation Jackson poses problems in the US settler-state which are typically and soothingly, if not numbingly, imagined as those of the Global South. Climate refugees, islands threatened with deluges and submersion in the Pacific, and soon-to-be underwater deltas in South Asia are what the environmentalism of the poor in the Global South confronts as questions of survival or annihilation. 23 Cooperation Jackson raises them in a part of the North tied by history, ancestry, racism, and poverty to the Global South. Ecosocialism as the response to those threats is an ideology, which, when fleshed out in a program, is a framework for community, working-class, and perhaps global survival.

Taking account of this fact after Hurricane Katrina was an explicit part of Cooperation Jackson’s strategy. But it is a little more muted in the book than it is in the struggle and its pedagogy as it unfolds in Mississippi. This is a bit of a missed opportunity. For Cooperation Jackson may be doing something unique – at least in the US. The storms slicing across the South are not only of our grandchildren, in climatographer James Hansen’s phrase. 24 They are our storms. And not just of the South but also the US’s North, as Hurricane Sandy proved. If we do not want more or we wish to ride them out, we had better do something. So, what do we do? In the slogan of Cooperation Jackson, we build and fight, fight and build.

The Jackson-Kush Plan

Based on their assessment that a coherent developmental alternative and a path to reach it was needed, MXGM drafted the Jackson-Kush Plan, which ought to be required reading for anyone concerned with US-based organizing. This remarkable blueprint, included in Jackson Rising, offers something uncommon in our movements and our moment: long-run strategic thinking, linking base-building to a project for permanent social change.

Why Jackson, and why the Southeast? They argue that the region has never been heavily industrialized. Instead of a labor force with a past or present relationship with industrial unionism, this area has been primarily a site of resource extraction alongside the super-exploitation of labor. In their analysis, capital has shifted from a period of needing Black workers as workers – as it did during the slave trade, in the post-bellum period of sharecropping or otherwise cheapened agricultural labor. The geographical mapping of power relations and Mississippi as a weak link in US capitalism dovetails with a need for the Black population to set up a strategy to break with the logic of capital and its devaluation of Black lives. 25

Jackson was where MXGM, the initiator of Cooperation Jackson, thought that “a project like ours can maneuver and experiment within in the quest to build a viable anti-capitalist alternative.” 26 They aim to set in motion ecologically sound industrialization, first in Jackson, then “the Kush district, and eventually the whole of Mississippi,” and all along not building anything for the working class but working with, within, and among the working class “through the agency of its own autonomous organizations.” 27 Here it is worth highlighting that Cooperation Jackson’s Black autonomous organizing is that not merely of nation but also of class.

We can understand the first of Cooperation Jackson’ four goals in these terms: “to place the ownership and control over the primary means of production directly in the hands of the Black working class of Jackson.” Means of production start with the land and nature’s gifts, control over the transformation of primary products into goods and service, and energy production. Here it seems to me that Cooperation Jackson goes beyond a question of national liberation understood as erecting a political-territorial state as a container and basis for self-determination. The lessons of the anti-colonial revolutions meld with notions of self-management as the core of socialism and a just transition: “A population or people that does not have access to and control over these means and processes cannot be said to possess or exercise self-determination.” 28 Self-determination is not just a claim to territorial sovereignty, but also about popular control over the production which unfurls within any set of lands.

Ecosocialism emerges through reworking “processes of material exchange and energy transfer,” and more specifically, “distribution, consumption, and recycling and/or refuse.” 29 Means of production are not just things, but also processes in dynamic interaction with the non-human world. Thus, the second plank is to “to build and advance the development of the ecologically regenerative forces of production in Jackson, Mississippi.” They speak of an autonomous and mobilized working class as the agent of development and charting a developmental strategy that regenerates and restores rather than razes and ruins the ecology and the environment. This, in turn, is part of a democratic transformation of “the political economy of the city of Jackson, the state of Mississippi, and the southeastern region.” 30

These principles take on programmatic form in the dense network which Cooperation Jackson is trying to build. First, the local cooperatives. Second, a cooperative incubator. Third, a cooperative school and training center. And fourth, a cooperative union and bank. This last component is crucial, because capital is necessary for systematic and harmonized development. We are accustomed to thinking of capital as the monopoly of the wealthy. This has truth. But capital also exists in banks, and banks have capital in part because they have depositors. Credit unions need not use their capital for stock-market speculation or bond purchases. They could equally use it to support communities and municipalities like Jackson trying to take control of their productive future. Although, it must be noted that that such a stage can only be intermediary, given that currency itself is a tool of capitalist domination. Hence part of Cooperation Jackson’s pedagogy involves discussion and interest in alternative- or crypto-currencies, as technologies useful for breaking with that tool of control. 31

Food sovereignty is another central thread. Popular and working-class control over the food system has long been an ambition across the Global South, and in areas in the Global North which have faced the harshest attacks of US capitalism. Amidst aggressive alienation of labor, and populations increasingly peripheralized to the reserve army of labor, urban gardens are popular. Amidst suburbanization’s aftermath and the gutting of metropolitan tax bases, brownfields and underused space pock poorer US cities. Putting them to use to grow healthy food makes good sense. It makes better sense amidst endemic unemployment. This might annoy Universal Basic Income advocates who think we should pass life in sun-dappled meadows discussing Aristotle and aesthetics while machines do everything. In the real world machines cost money and gobble up material. And something must be done in the here-and-now about insufficient access to good food and structural unemployment, to say nothing of peoples’ desire for unalienated, socially productive work in which we can take pride.

Furthermore, access to food for the hungry has also been a staple of Black independent organizing at least since the Black Panthers’ free breakfast program in Oakland close to 50 years ago. Lack of access to good, healthy food in poor Black neighborhoods has been structural. This has given rise to the diagnosis of food deserts – the book uses the much more politically charged and exact indictment of food apartheid – where fresh food is either scarcely available or tremendously expensive due to retail-level markups. Nutrition-related diseases are higher in these communities than elsewhere. Against this background, Cooperation Jackson includes a farm-to-grocer integrated system. In addition to urban farms, they are creating a People’s Grocery, and building links with Black farmers across Mississippi. Unsurprisingly, the program recalls Brazil’s Fome Cero (Zero Hunger) program, which links the Landless Workers’ Movements production cooperatives in the Brazilian countryside to state-supported purchasing in urban favelas. 32 Food sovereignty is another way Cooperation Jackson has articulated – has been forced to articulate – its program using a language which is much more the lingua franca of peasant and urban movements in the Global South than in the northern metropole.

A final aspect of eco-socialism is remaking Jackson as a zero-emissions and zero-waste city by 2025. They aim to do so by changing the city’s transit fleets, expanding public transportation, and retrofitting homes. Municipal-scale action is crucial, as is keeping in mind, as the Indian economist Prabhat Patnaik notes, that “the concept of infrastructure has a class dimension,” and an ecological dimension. 33 Eco-socialism is the choice to replace carbon-emitting vehicles and privatized taxi fleets with carbon-neutral fleets, public transportation, and zero-carbon fuel sources. That is a matter of infrastructure. Infrastructure is matter of developmental choice. And development is a site of class struggle.

Notes on Industrialization

One aspect of this breathtakingly ambitious experiment that merits a certain critical notice is their engagement with industrialization. Before delving into Cooperation Jackson’s plans, it’s worth considering or reconsidering the left debate about industrialization. Thirty-five-odd years ago, a dialogue about appropriate and inappropriate technologies and scale occurred among and outside those identifying as Marxists. E.F. Schumacher, Arghiri Emmanuel, Ivan Illich, and Celso Furtado were among the participants. 34 The debate was not so much resolved as it evaporated. This occurred, at least in part, because debates about development’s character collapsed with the collapse of the USSR. It turned, first, on the costs and benefits of the relative capital-intensity of different technologies. Second, it turned on whether different technics better-suited different social formations with different levels of development of their productive forces. The debate developed in a context wherein countries large and small, but all far bigger than Jackson, encountered massive difficulties as they attempted to erect industrial plants. They further faced questions of the degree to which industrialization was a path to development or simply a mechanism for accumulation. Even many regions which had partially successful interludes of industrialization, like Latin America’s Southern Cone, have faced deindustrialization, in part because of excessively open economies as ruling classes helming national projects shifted ever-more into alliance with international capital.

Nevertheless, the industrial question still lingers in developmental thought and practice. Cooperation Jackson’s industrial question is not the fools’ crusade of industrialization on any terms, as quickly as possible. Rather, the question is how much industrialization, on what terms, and how soon – and what industrialization can add to working-class power and autonomy, severing it from external dependence. For example, one aspect of industrialization is energy production. The transition to renewable energy – a pillar of their program – is part of how people can set to work. Others facing such questions, such as NUMSA, the South African mine workers’ union, have come to similar conclusions. 35 They have taken ownership of the transition as part-and-parcel of the national industrial strategy – another way in which Global North and South converge in the thinking and program of the Jackson experiment and its Black autonomous organizing.

Cooperation Jackson, because of Mississippi’s peripheral incorporation into the US productive system, does not face the question of what to do with an industrial workforce in the same way other regions of the country might. Its situation is perhaps like that prevailing in the swathes of Latin America and Africa which deindustrialized, or never industrialized to begin with. In such regions, as in Jackson, there are huge urban populations entirely outside productive circuits. Thus, Cooperation Jackson emphasizes organizing the existing service-based workforce into cooperatives. Their industrial program focuses on 3-D printers and production for use-value rather than exchange value, seeking both to sidestep, and in a way transcend, questions of light versus heavy industrialization. I am not sure, in fact, if transcendence is the right word. Bracket might be more appropriate, since carbon-neutral cars and the heavy machinery for a clean transition must come from plants. In any case, I cannot really say if the complex technic of printers is feasible. What I find most valuable, if not invaluable, about this attempt is that Cooperation Jackson is the only force I know in the US beginning to pose the industrial question in an ecosocialist framework both programmatically and practically. The bid must be understood, placed, and evaluated accordingly. We need many more such experiments before we can arrive at answers, or even a method of posing questions and evaluating the plans which are their answers. Even if Cooperation Jackson succeeds only in seeding the idea of eco-socialist industrialization in a thousand fields in the US, that will have been a success.

Of course, the question of planning carries with it the question of power – since plans march in parallel with policy and politics. Indeed, is an industrial strategy possible without the scaffolding of a supporting macro-economic framework? This question is partially addressed in the Jackson-Kush Plan itself. So, a second striking element of Cooperation Jackson is its explicitly political dimension. If politics without economic self-determination is hollow, economic cooperatives without a political strategy and a political shell to organize such cooperatives can become, in Peter Marcuse’s phrase, “small defensive towers in a landscape not changed by their presence.” 36 Cooperation Jackson is attempting both at the same time, underpinned by a system of communal assemblies which aim to serve as vehicles for popular power and popular control over decision-making.

But those assemblies exist in a factious tension with the earlier decision to take municipal power. Was it a mistake to seize power before building up the germs of economic institutions that could, by themselves, change people’s lives and ensure their social production outside the state’s ambit? The forces which initiated Cooperation Jackson elected Chokwe Lumumba, and then his son, Antar. The latter is now poised to govern amidst a riptide of austerity from which it may be difficult to escape. Cooperation Jackson has a political orientation. But their political orientation raises in turn another question: do they have a governing strategy to endure taking political credit, or blame, for having to oversee, with sharply limited maneuvering room, the Jackson’s worst austerity? Is one necessary? The record of left governments under imperialist economic attack is understandably not pretty, because it is not easy to govern austerity.

In a recent interview, Akuno stated that Cooperation Jackson could become the US’s Mondragon. The book frames the struggle to reach such a goal as a question, or an experiment. That is another way of saying that it frames this effort to change the world as an invitation – to critically watch but also to directly engage with the issues with which they are engaging, and to create political networks which can help them resist the attack which will surely come at even the faintest and barest whisper of success. In some ways, perhaps it has already come. Will the cooperative experiment weather it and beat it back? I would say let us see, but that would miss the point. The answer depends, also, not on what we see, but what we do, and whether we have the collective capacity to muster the resources to defend one of the US’s few experiments in real utopias. I hope the answer is yes.

Thanks to Linda Tigani for discussion and correcting mistakes on an earlier draft.


1 Eduardo Galeano, Las palabras andantes (Buenos Aires, Rep. Argentina: Catálogos Editora, 1993) Most translations of this passage render “caminar” as “advance”; more poetic but also progressivist.
2 Lewis Mumford, “Authoritarian and Democratic Technics,” Technology and Culture 5, no. 1 (1964): 1–8.
3 Philip McMichael, “A Comment on Henry Bernstein’s Way with Peasants, and Food Sovereignty,” Journal of Peasant Studies 42, no. 1 (2015): 193–204; Philip McMichael, “Commentary: Food Regime for Thought,” The Journal of Peasant Studies 43, no. 3 (2016): 648–670; Harriet Friedmann, “Commentary: Food Regime Analysis and Agrarian Questions: Widening the Conversation,” The Journal of Peasant Studies 43, no. 3 (2016): 671–692; Henry Bernstein, “Agrarian Political Economy and Modern World Capitalism: The Contributions of Food Regime Analysis,” The Journal of Peasant Studies 43, no. 3 (2016): 611–647.
4 Anthony Galluzzo, “On The Latest Recipes For The Cookshops of the Future,” accessed May 25, 2018, http://www.academia.edu/17282611/On_The_Latest_Recipes_For_The_Cookshops_of_the_Future.
5 Although it did not speak with one voice, with dissents from Alyssa Battistoni and Thea Riofrancos the main thrust of the Jacobin Summer 2017 special issue on the environment was basically Promethean; see the many responses on the Entitle blog, and John Bellamy Foster, “The Long Ecological Revolution,” Monthly Review 69, no. 6 (2017): 1–16.
6 Zak Cope, Divided World, Divided Class: Global Political Economy and the Stratification of Labour Under Capitalism (Kersplebedeb, 2015).
7 Ivette Perfecto and John H. Vandermeer, Coffee Agroecology: A New Approach to Understanding Agricultural Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services, and Sustainable Development (London ; New York: Routledge, 2015).
8 Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (San Val, Incorporated, 1996).
9 Mike Davis, Planet of Slums (Verso, 2007) basically paints the slums as where the action is for future global revolt. David Harvey, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution (Verso Books, 2012), xv notes, for example, “that the traditional peasantry was disappearing and that the rural was being urbanized,” with the result that “the mass of humanity is thus increasingly being absorbed within the ferments and cross-currents of urbanized life.”; cf. my response to these arguments Max Ajl, “The Hypertrophic City versus the Planet of Fields,” in Implosions/Explosions. Berlin: Jovis, ed. Neil Brenner (Berlin: Jovis, 2014), 533–550.
10 Kirkpatrick Sale, Dwellers in the Land: The Bioregional Vision (University of Georgia Press, 2000).
11 John Friedmann, “Basic Needs, Agropolitan Development, and Planning from Below,” World Development 7, no. 6 (1979): 607–613.
12 John Bellamy Foster and Hannah Holleman, “The Theory of Unequal Ecological Exchange: A Marx-Odum Dialectic,” Journal of Peasant Studies 41, no. 2 (2014): 199–233.
13 Harry Haywood, Negro Liberation (Liberator Press, 1976).
14 Malcolm X, Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements (Grove Press, 1965), 9.
15 New African Independence Movement, “Why We Say Free the Land!,” accessed May 19, 2018, http://www.freedomarchives.org/Documents/Finder/DOC513_scans/NAPO/513.NAPO.NewAfrikanDec.pdf Cooperation Jackson with its emphasis on the claims of indigenous people to the land carries out the NAIM principle, “We recognize the claims of Native Americans to this land and will struggle side-by-side to help them regain their land.
16 Rakia Lumumba, “Foreword: All Roads Lead to Jackson,” in Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi, ed. Kali Akuno and Ajamu Nangwaya (Daraja Press, 2017), xiii.
17 Sam Moyo, Praveen Jha, and Paris Yeros, “The Classical Agrarian Question: Myth, Reality and Relevance Today,” Agrarian South: Journal of Political Economy 2, no. 1 (2013): 93–119.
18 “Founding Statement of the New Afrikan People’s Organization,” accessed May 19, 2018, http://www.freedomarchives.org/Documents/Finder/DOC513_scans/NAPO/513.NAPO.NewAfrikanDec.pdf.
19 Akinyele Umoja, “The People Must Decide: Chokwe Lumumba, New Black Power, and the Potential for Participatory Democracy in Mississippi,” The Black Scholar 48, no. 2 (April 3, 2018): 7–19.
20 Chokwe Lumumba, “Free the Land: An Interview with Chokwe Lumumba,” in Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi, ed. Kali Akuno and Ajamu Nangwaya (Daraja Press, 2017), 131.
21 Lumumba, 132.
22 Solomon Hsiang et al., “Estimating Economic Damage from Climate Change in the United States,” Science 356, no. 6345 (June 30, 2017): 1362–69, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aal4369.
23 Joan Martínez-Alier, The Environmentalism of the Poor: A Study of Ecological Conflicts and Valuation (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2003).
24 James Hansen, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity (A&C Black, 2011).
25 Kali Akuno, “Until We Win: Black Labor and Liberation in the Disposable Era,” September 4, 2015.
26 Kali Akuno, “Build and Fight: The Program and Strategy of Cooperation Jackson,” in Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi, ed. Kali Akuno and Ajamu Nangwaya (Daraja Press, 2017), 10.
27 Akuno, 5.
28 Akuno, 3-4.
29 Akuno, “Build and Fight: The Program and Strategy of Cooperation Jackson,” 4.
30 Akuno, 3-4.
31 For reflections on alternative currency systems in the transition to eco-socialism, see Colin Adrien MacKinley Duncan, The Centrality of Agriculture: Between Humankind and the Rest of Nature (McGill-Queen’s Press - MQUP, 1996), 164–77.
32 Hannah Wittman and Jennifer Blesh, “Food Sovereignty and Fome Zero: Connecting Public Food Procurement Programmes to Sustainable Rural Development in Brazil,” Journal of Agrarian Change 17, no. 1 (January 1, 2017): 81–105; M. Jahi Chappell, Beginning to End Hunger: Food and the Environment in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and Beyond (Univ of California Press, 2018).
33 Prabhat Patnaik, “Developing ‘Infrastructure,’” Patnaik, MR Online (blog), December 8, 2016, https://mronline.org/2016/12/08/patnaik081216-html/.
34 Arghiri Emmanuel, Appropriate Or Underdeveloped Technology? (Wiley, 1982); Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality (Boyars, 1990); E. F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as If People Mattered (Random House, 2011).
35 Vishwas Satgar, “A Trade Union Approach to Climate Justice: The Campaign Strategy of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa,” Global Labour Journal 6, no. 3 (2015).
36 Peter Marcuse, “Cooperatives on the Path to Socialism?,” Monthly Review 66, no. 9 (2015): 31.

Author of the article

is an editor at Jadaliyya and Viewpoint and a member of the International Jewish anti-Zionist Network.