28 Mar Planning for a Just Transition
Cross-posted from Outgrowing Capitalism
” For transformative ideas to take root, there must be a plan for a plan that makes the goals explicitly known. This serves 3 main functions:
- A roadmap for organizers to measure their progress against
- A starting place for the education of the newly radicalized/activated
- A common program shared between radicals of diverse organizations dedicated to realizing different components of this vision
This is especially crucial to the success of long-term revolutionary organizing which seeks to alter society at the institutional and cultural level (instead of only focusing on immediate reforms, campaigns or insurrections)
The Jackson-Kush Plan
The best current example of this today is the Jackson-Kush plan, developed over a decade or more through the intensive study of the Malcom X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) for the bioregion centered around Jackson, Mississippi. From this plan, numerous organizations have been developed, leading to a more advanced/matured arena of political struggle for liberation than in many areas of the contemporary united states of america. All of these organizations, from the Jackson People’s Assembly to Cooperation Jackson’s solidarity economy and the various mayoral administrations which have developed out of it position themselves as instruments of the Jackson-Kush Plan, aimed towards a larger shared vision.
Such a plan does not have to be all that detailed to be effective. In fact, simplicity may be preferable, as it allows for experimentation within its framework. For example, the Jackson-Kush Plan gives a short introduction before jumping right into its 3 main pillars which form the substance of the plan. I quote from this section:
“The J-K Plan has three fundamental programmatic components designed to build a mass-base with political clarity, organizational capacity, and material self-sufficiency to advance core objectives of the plan. The three fundamental programmatic components are:
- Building People’s Assemblies
- Building a Network of Progressive Political Candidates
- Building a broad-based Solidarity Economy”
The plan then goes on to provide historical, theoretical and contemporary justification for these pillars to advance the cause of black self-determination, working class power and social ecology. In the course of this explanation it makes 3 other important points which I think any similar plan must address:
- Dual Power: How does this plan fit into the overall revolutionary left project? How does pursuing these three pillars contribute to the development of dual power between the people and the state/ruling class institutions while making limited use of them economically/socially/politically while still addressing issues of working class survival and quality of life?
- Organizing and Campaign Strategy: How ought the plant to be carried out? The J-K Plan lists a number of ongoing or future efforts which MXGM believes to be crucial to its success. These include:
- An education center focusing on youth and community engagement, with the aim of developing significant leadership cadre out of these programs, who will then go on to organize components of the J-K Plan.
- A community land-and-food sovereignty initiative aimed at the creation of community controlled land, food, workplace and housing using a community land trust as its main acquisition instrument.
- Workplace organizing for black and immigrant precarious workers in the region through unionization, worker’s centers and legislative efforts
- Electoral campaigns for municipal and county offices by candidates mandated by people’s assemblies to carry out specific policy objectives that further the J-K Plan
- Alliance-Building between organizations, initiatives and communities on a multi-racial, relatively united front against conservative/reactionary forces, with the aim of converting more and more people to adopt all or parts of the J-K Plan.
- Education/Promotion: The document calls for readers to promote and discuss the elements of the J-K Plan and support it materially, as well as adapt it for their own cities and regions to build a political-economic force across the country
Along with these elements, an ecosystem of anchor organizations are necessary to maintain, promote and implement aspects of the plan. These organizations are cohesive, educated and committed to seeing the effort of liberation through. They are, in other words, revolutionaries. In the case of the J-K Plan, this role is fulfilled by MXGM, Cooperation Jackson, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund and their regional and international allies. This configuration may look different elsewhere, but generally follows this rule.
All of these elements combine to form a comprehensive vision of transition to a new social paradigm. The elements within such a plan can be experimented with, but as long as the goalposts and purpose remain standing, the plan is solid.
Focusing on the PNW
There are several challenges I foresee in trying to adapt this elsewhere, particularly in the Pacific Northwest Region. I will attempt to explain as many as I am able, and propose a few idea on how to address them.
Race and Class Consciousness: The Pacific Northwest, in comparison to Mississippi and the Gulf Coast region, is relatively affluent, politically “progressive” and majority white. This makes it more challenging to identify agitate and organize a cohesive political constituency to build this project. Exploitation is just as pervasive here, but mediated by high-incomes and social welfare. Class consciousness is not as well developed, even in areas of poverty. Liberal politicians of diverse identities administer policies of racial, gendered and economic injustice, making it harder to discern allies from enemies along gendered, class or race lines. When challenged, it is not uncommon to see them use the language of identity politics against progressive-to-radical policies such as police reform and accountability. It is harder for racial minorities to address issues of self-determination in majority white population centers. Even as a unified group, minorities are typically unable to form large enough constituencies to achieve major gains. Implicit racism, even from left-leaning politically active whites is a major barrier to coalition building across racial lines. Many projects (including this one!) are proposed and carried out by white organizers who are either too naive or unskilled as organizers to significantly bridge the gap between racialized communities with shared political consciousness. Even organizing by geography is unlikely to form minority-majority constituencies without resorting to caucusing. Meanwhile, much of the “white working class” remains mired in racism and reactionary beliefs to begin working in effective coalition with minorities immediately.
Asymmetry of Metropolitan, Suburban and Rural Power: A few major cities contain nearly all of the progressives, power and population, but not much of the poverty. Racial minorities and low-income workers of all sorts are being forced into the suburbs and smaller cities without leftist political infrastructure or culture outside of a few small college towns. An intentional focus on smaller, more marginal population centers, such as western Washington’s Kent Valley or the rural towns of southwest Washington around Olympia will be very difficult to accomplish, but vital to success in the long-run, as these are where many of the most oppressed and exploited people live, not so much the big cities. However, for major political gains in the short term, the large cities such as Seattle and Portland must be the main focus. Political victories won there tend to validate the implementation of similar campaigns in smaller towns around the state, such as Seattle’s Progressive Income Tax campaign in 2017, or the Sanctuary Cities movement.
White Supremacy: While not as immediately overt as the Gulf Coast, white supremacists and various other sorts of dogwhistle-politic, fascist-sympathetic reactionaries are not an insignificant force, particularly in a white-majority region. These roots go deep in local history, which must be addressed consciously by radicals of all colors. The state of Oregon, for example, was founded as an explicitly white-supremacist ethnostate until the 20th century when other races were allowed to settle there. Only a small minority of the current white-supremacists are organized, but those that are exert a disproportionate influence on the rest of the conservative, relatively apolitical whites in the area. And the numbers of organized reactionaries have been growing in recent years. A program of intervention through education and community building among populations targeted by white-supremacist recruiting, carried out by dedicated socialists and anti-racists will be necessary to nip this obstacle in the bud before it gets absolutely unmanageable.
Influence of The Billionaire Class: In this region the ruling class and highly paid reactionary-to-apolitical workers maintain a disproportionate superiority, both in numbers and wealth-assisted political power. High paying jobs in urban centers concentrate wealth. Most of these highly-paid workers are unorganized and/or have little class consciousness, and usually only vague ideas about social justice and liberation. The owners of the companies accumulating this wealth are among the world’s richest people, including Bill Gates and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, both of whom live in the Seattle area. Some of the more liberal and philanthropically minded of these may be persuaded to support left wing causes and reforms, but most will likely oppose them and continue their projects of redevelopment, dispossession and accumulation as part of the international ultra-rich. Finding ways to outmaneuver them, even more so to expropriate their wealth will be very difficult.
There are, however, a few upsides to working in the PNW
One is the established liberal-progressive political majority. Most PNW state’s Democratic primary conventions caucused in favor of the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016, in favor of a moderate Democratic Socialist platform. This ideological majority, however long it may last, gives radicals a farther-left baseline to work from than most other regions of the USA. Playing this to our advantage, by slowly radicalizing and organizing the so-called Berniecrats, opens up a lot of space in the social and legislative arenas to push through non-reformist reforms that institutionalize features such as public healthcare, drug decriminalization and participatory budgeting that give the working class more breathing room and have tangible beneficial impacts on reducing oppression along racial, gendered and economic lines. Additionally, there is already a significant population of various sorts of self-described radicals in the region, from greens to socialists, anarchists, communists, abolitionists and indigenous activists, to name a few. Many of these people are organized, but many are not, which makes it difficult the actual percentage of the population sympathetic to left-wing ideas. But people in both categories who hold these views can be more easily persuaded to adopt ideas from a regional transition plan and put them into practice in their organizing.
Along with this, we also enjoy a rich regional history of radicalism for social movements to draw upon. The worker’s movement was once very strong here, from the IWW to the Seattle General Strike and more. Multiracial coalitions fighting exploitation, pollution and human rights violations were formed, Utopian Socialist settlements were common, indigenous activists lead civil rights struggles. Cooperatives have been a long-standing economic form in the region and ecological consciousness is well-developed. The lack of a viable minority-majority will make it difficult to organize along national-liberation lines as in the US South. But on the other hand, this demographic situation makes it necessary, first and foremost to organize explicitly along shared values and ideals across demographic divisions, without having to incorporate incompatible preferences and ideals within such in and out-groups. This will be more difficult at first, and probably be the source of a good deal of internal conflict, but potentially very fruitful in the long run for advancing racial and gender liberation in the region comprehensively, if it is approached thoughtfully on the part of all parties involved.
All this being said, I think that a Pacific Northwest version of the Jackson-Kush Plan is still necessary and feasible, especially as the number of radicals who have expressed interest in building dual-power and directly-democratic cities have increased in recent years. The trick will be finding language that all can agree upon, and is easily communicable to the general public and addresses the specific concerns of the people of the PNW. I think that the key components of the J-K Plan ( people’s assemblies, limited/instrumentalized electoralism, and cooperative/solidarity economy development) still ring true, and will form the base of a regional plan, but may differ in language and some specific policy proposals. This is something I would like to attempt over the coming years in collaboration with many others. The first step is to draft the thing, the next is the share and revise it as widely as possible, before disseminating it to study groups to begin forming cadre in various locations who will begin experimenting with different aspects of the plan. Hopefully this approach will spread far beyond Jackson, MS, and take root in many areas of North America to act in solidarity and unity towards a transitional socialist program that does not repeat the mistakes of decades and centuries past and improves the lives of all, disproportionately benefitting the most oppressed in our society and getting us off of the fast-track to ecological catastrophe.”
To read the full-text of the Jackson-Kush Plan, visit: