By ACORN Manchester (@AcornManchester)
Co-operation Jackson is an unapologetically revolutionary project aiming to build the foundations for economic democracy and social liberation. Based in Mississippi’s state capital and with a history rooted in the civil rights struggles of the US South, the movement combines social enterprise with grassroots democracy and critical engagements with electoral politics to create the basis for alternate popular power.
This Monday, 27th May, Manchester ACORN welcomes Kali Akuno and Sacajawea Hall to explain the story of Co-operation Jackson’s achievements and struggles. Based on the Jackson-Kush plan’s strategy of people’s assemblies, support for the solidarity economy and autonomous political organisation, this event is an opportunity to learn directly from their experiences of putting radical change into practice.
More than a community organising model, Co-operation Jackson’s plan has been to create a coherent economic and social alternative, informed by eco-socialism, co-operative experiments and the history and theory of black liberation movements. While operating in a very different context to Manchester, the challenges and opportunities they face have lessons for all those looking for a way to create large-scale social transformation in the cities and neighbourhoods within which we live.
At the core of their movement are three inter-connected strands. The first brings together worker co-operatives, educational projects, community land trusts and permaculture to create a solidarity economy within everyday life. Rather than acting as separate initiatives, these form part of a long-term strategy for enabling popular working class control over local economies alongside grassroots democratic assemblies. In doing so these are intended to provide the basis for building an autonomous political movement that goes beyond the sum of its parts.
Greater Manchester has no shortage of social economy initiatives, ranging from charities to community projects and housing co-operatives. There is also renewed official interest in co-operative economies, with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority currently running a call for evidence for a Commission to “support the development of the co-op sector". At a national level, the Labour Party’s exploration of alternative forms of ownership is a sign of a willingness to explore co-ops as a means of broadening asset ownership while reducing inequality in the face of stagnant private investment, financialisation and the challenges of automation.
Closer to home there has also been the well known ‘Preston Model’, a form of localised economic development based on community wealth building through social enterprise and strategic procurement. To the extent these developments seek to bring about social change, there are lessons to be taken from urban movements that have sought to strategically bring about political and economic democracy via organising across and between cities. These range from Jackson in Mississippi, to Barcelona in Spain or Rosario in Argentina among many other examples, a development sometimes called the ‘new municipalism’.
Movements such as Co-operation Jackson are about more than implementing better policy agendas or electing better representatives however, as shown by its internal debates and complex relationships with the election of a ‘radical mayor’ in 2016. A fundamental part of their strategy is instead a transformation of society from the bottom-up through the creation of new sources of social power that go beyond the national and local state. These can draw on multiple strategies, from food sovereignty, co-operative federations, campaigns against racial profiling by the police and new digital exchange platforms, to popular assemblies, participatory budgeting or citizen-initiated ballots.
Manchester and Jackson are two cities with very different histories and experiences. In a city scarred by rampant gentrification, entrenched inequality, the encroachment of the far right and the ongoing disaster of ecological collapse, we nonetheless have many lessons to learn from the struggles and experiences of movements such as Co-operation Jackson if we are to work collectively in building a genuine alternative.
ACORN’s event ‘A Movement With a Plan: Co-operation Jackson’ will take place on Monday 27th May from 7pm-9pm at Partisan Collective, 19 Cheetham Hill Road, M4 4FY. Tickets and more information can be found here https://www.facebook.com/events/600647957114933/
25 May 2019