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Organizing to Free the Land with Kali Akuno

Hood Communist Radio - Free the Land with Kali Akuno
Hood Communist Radio interview with Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson

In this episode of Hood Communist Radio, I sat down with Kali Akuno, the founder of Cooperation Jackson in Jackson, Mississippi. As someone that’s inspired by, and believes in the vision of the New African Independence Movement, I wanted to talk to Kali to hear about how that history influences the work of Cooperation Jackson. We talked about why African people must lead the movement for climate justice, and why it’s a mistake for us to dismiss the rise of the far right in the US as some sort of fringe moment in history. It’s all good stuff that everyone should hear, particularly those of us who are new to the concept of “Free The Land”. With that said, let’s get into it.

Kali: Again, Kali Akuno. I’m based in Jackson, Mississippi. Most of my current work is being conducted presently through Cooperation Jackson. Cooperation Jackson is a mass formation built to execute the solidarity economy portion of— building the solidarity economy portion of the Jackson Kush Plan.
And that is a plan long in the making, but this most recent reiteration of is really trying to construct a kind of a base area here in the Kush district and we’ll talk a little bit about that more later on. But it’s in Kush district, which goes from Mississippi on down to New Orleans and Mississippi, Tennessee, part of Arkansas and Mississippi and Jackson, just kind of like right on the outskirts of that.

I’m originally from Los Angeles , California. Was born there. Parents were deep in the movement. Both sides of the family were deep in the movement. My parents were of the 60s and 70s generation so I’m a period and a product of that time. Their parents go back to movements in the 30s, 40s, and 50s and both sides of the family have a long history of struggle, both in the south and internationally, since some of my folks actually come from some other countries. Spent a bunch of time living in various parts of this empire. I’ve gotten to travel a good portion of the world and be involved with movements all over the world, you know. From the Pan African movement to the international socialist/communist movements. A lot of connections with folks in anarchist current. So I’ve tried to be throughout most of my life non-sectarian to the greatest extent that I can be. But some things you just got to straight up oppose just badass ideas. But, you know, trying to work with as many forces as possible throughout most of my life. You know I come from the generation which when I was a kid there was a phrase I grew up on– grew up with. That “we on the right side of history” “The history was on our side.” That “the victory of the people was basically inevitable” and by the late 1980s, that clearly was not happening. That capital clearly and imperialism clearly had both retained the upper hand and then reasserted themselves.

And we saw that particularly with the collapse of the Soviet Union. For all its faults, it occupied a particular place in the world and in its absence imperialism has been running like a rabid dog. And so there’s a major difference between, pre- ‘91 world and a post- ‘91 world. So in that context, you know, for me coming really of age, my own in my twenties, in the 1990s but having that background was like, “we need to pull together as many forces as possible.” You know I’ve tried to hold that politics in position but still really move a particular line that’s focused in, first and foremost, obtaining self-determination for people of African descent everywhere. But given that, my folks have been here for the greater part of last 400 years, gave some interest, particularly to what many of us called the New African independence movement and trying to lock down a base, secure space for our people to operate here to number one, first and foremost( let’s see anybody tell you), I think the central mission of that was to deconstruct the U.S. empire, dismantle it from within to give more room and leverage to the People’s struggles all over the planet, to transform and build a socialist future.

So that’s always the trajectory that I was born into and have maintained from the beginning and just saw this, us playing our particular part on how we need to challenge the beast that is the U.S. empire, weaken it from within, and ultimately dismantle it. So that’s the thread I’ve been on basically. You know, I grew up with that, but also had to make my own political choice to be a part of it. Right? ‘Cause not everybody in my family— I come from a fairly big family. Not everybody in the family makes that choice. Well, I made that conscious choice, when I was 13 years old, this is what I was going to do and just been trying to figure out ever since then. What’s the most effective way to do this, maintain integrity and principle and keep some food in my belly at the same time? So, that constant challenge for the greater part of 50 years now.

Salifu: If you don’t mind me asking, because you point directly to being 13 years old when you made that conscious decision, what was that moment?

Kali: You know what the clear moment was for me oddly enough? It was the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984. That was the moment that just really brought everything home. Now let me say why because that’s not going to give you enough context. I’ve told the story before. For me what’s the clearest — you know, particularly my father, my father and my uncle ( my mother’s brother), those are the two people who did the most to sharpen my mind ideologically and politically. But as a kid, particularly running around with your father, there’s a looking up to, there’s a respect towards, but I would be lying if I didn’t say some of the things that the brother used to say I thought were a little exaggerated. Like, “okay. I don’t know about that, man.” I wouldn’t say that to him directly. I didn’t have a smart mouth like that, but just being in the back of my mind be like, “I don’t know about that. That’s a little bit exaggerated.” And what he was running down —

Salifu: What’you mean? His stories of coming up or —

Kali: No, no, no. I mean, it was in particular his narrative around how much the U S government actually controlled society and actually controlled the economy of the world at that time. And some of them I’m like, “okay, I can clearly see what you’re talking about, but some of this I think is exaggeration.” And so one of the things he always used to run down to me was, “the U S government runs the drug trade. Us government runs the gun trade.” And I’d be just looking around in my community. I’m like, “alright, it’s a lot of drugs. It’s a lot of guns.” This is growing up in LA. I’m like, “I just don’t see how they run all this in the way that you describe it.” I just don’t. I just couldn’t see that, couldn’t fathom that. And what switched it for me, why it was so critical about the Olympics was the manner in which the LAPD and the LA Sheriff’s department and the whole state apparatus on a local. state and federal level, but particularly a local level, man, they cleared the streets for a couple of months in LA. I mean, it was hard to get a nickel bag for about a three-month period. And they went around and arrested and detained hundreds of people, particularly young brothers, many of them who were members of my family. So I saw this and experienced this directly. That they were being locked up and detained many without charges of many on old bogus, jaywalking ticket type stuff and being held basically to clean the streets and to keep them clean.

And then they created a special kind of red district zone where the tourists can come in and be safe and engage in all of the debauchery that they wanted them to, but with their specific entrepreneurs (if you want to call them that). With the folks that they wanted to do business with, it was legal to do business with for whatever — the sex trade, drugs — whatever you wanted within that context, they had to created a special zone. And it was really just looking at how that rolled out, how it was coordinated, how it was justified, that’s the moment where it really kicked in like, “oh shit. my old man is not exaggerating about the extent and the power, and more importantly, the knowledge of the state.” It was like, “wait a minute. Y’all knew who the heavyweights were. Y’all knew who the middle men and women were. Y’all know who the trade routes were. Y’all have intimate knowledge of this already.” The clear conclusion of that was y’all are allowing this to go on— the destruction. This is ‘84 and this is when the crack war—- the chemical, biological warfare of that nature— really started to peak up in Los Angeles. All the hype and infamy of the Colors movie and all that stuff, well, this is the real side of it right before all that became kind of hype. And I saw that. Witnessed it destroying my neighborhood, destroying my family from the inside out.

And so that’s when it just really clicked to me, like, “y’all are allowing this to happen. So this serves a political purpose for you, for our enemies and it’s weakening us.” And that’s when it really clicked to me. Like, “no, this thing needs to be destroyed.” You know? Not just from the perspective because my parents told me so. It was like, no, I see now myself in real time with my family members and people in my community. I’m seeing how this is functioning and the level at which they do actually have a tremendous amount of reach within, within our community. And that the conditions are created very intentionally to keep us in the position that we are in. And so that’s when it became clear to me I got to make some contribution towards ending this somehow some way.

So that was a big switch for myself from just being a kid who’s growing up and going to political meetings and was kind of there ‘cause, in part, I didn’t have a choice. My parents drugged me there. But that was a moment. It was like, no, I’m here because I want to be here. And I’m going to soak up the knowledge cause I want to understand who we confront and how we fight them. How are we going to accomplish this mission?

That’s when the real switch happened for me.

Salifu: Got it. Yeah. That scene, that’s an incredible moment to have at 13 because I’m thinking of so many people right now, and they’re in their thirties, who are struggling to make that connection. And I think that’s a long time to be sharpening your ideological basis, your ideological understanding of the world.

And that’s a big part of what I’m hoping we can do in this conversation today. Sort of clear up some of the ideological confusion that does exist. And so I’m going to get us into that first question. You know, I noticed it’s like a very sort of one-on-one level question, but for the sake of our listeners who are probably looking for clarity, I want to go back to the mention that you had of the New African independence movement and the Republic of New Africa and kind of talk a little bit about how it played into the development of Cooperation Jackson.

So I wanted to start here because I don’t know if you be in the Twitterverse and the Instagram world like that. There is this relatively new crop, I would say, of young people online who —-

Kali: No.

Salifu: Okay. Well, yeah, I’m gonna let you know, it’s this relatively new crop of young people online who really resonate with that whole idea of “Free the land.” I’m not going to lie, it resonates with me, too, but I’m not sure everybody understands where it originates. And in my reading of Jackson Rising, that was this book that you co-edited, that was kinda my first time encountering the origin story of the phrase. And so I was wondering if you’d be willing to give us a little bit of that history here.

Kali: No problem. Well let me start by saying number one, that is it’s a mixed bag to hear that that is becoming popular, right? Part of me is happy to hear that. Another part of me is concerned. Now I would say in the 10 years that Cooperation Jackson has been either germinating and existing, we were part, I think, of this new popularization of the term both locally and regionally. And I can say from here that some of the popularization was not helpful because it came on the heels of people loosely supporting the Jackson Kush Plan, particularly Chokwe Lumumba’s election to mayor.

In the sense of once it became popular on the heels of him winning the electoral campaign, it was being kind of stripped of its political meaning and content. And just became kind of a stock and trade moving phrase analogous to “Black Power”, which as we all know, (hopefully everybody is aware) can be very amorphous and almost mean nothing without some very clear political grounding and orientation. Both in the understanding of what we mean by power and who wields it and who doesn’t and why, and how it’s utilized and in the subject. The blackness meaning what? As applicable to what? So we’ve played a role in that and I think we have to play a role in trying to clean it up, even if some people don’t like it.

So I appreciate the question, number one. And for those who may not be familiar with the term or its history, number one, this has primarily been one of the main calling cards of the New African independence movement since 1971. Now the term is actually older than that, but it’s kind of stock and trade use within the New African independence movement comes from 1971.

And the critical juncture here is in 1970, there was an election within the provisional government of the Republic of New Africa, which at that time had been in formal existence in two years of war. I want folks to be clear about that. So the provisional government formally comes out of a Black Self Governance Conference that happened in Detroit in March of 1968. And it was out of that conference that a Declaration of Independence was uttered by the more than 500 participants who were there. If you read the list, it was kind of a who’s who of the Black Power Movement of the late 1960s. Everybody got admission Queen Mother Moore to Amiri Baraka to give you a sense of the spectrum. Now, he was still very much kind of within the cultural nationalists framework in that phase of his life. You had a lot of the core folks from SNCC. You had the Obadele brothers who were coming out of an organization called GOAL up in Detroit and folks should know them. Malcolm’s Message to the Grassroots and The Ballot or The Bullet speeches, those were given on behalf of GOAL, who brought Malcolm to Detroit. And in both of those recordings, just so folks understand the links, both of those speeches were recorded on Motown recording equipment that they had borrowed from folks in the community to be able to record that. That’s how you got those speeches. So you had this broad range. Aretha Franklin’s father was there. You know a good part of that happened at his church. He was the pastor that was there. So it was broad to give you a sense of how widespread and how much currency this notion had in 1968.

And so the first group was elected and the initial president was a president in exile. It was brother Robert F. Williams who, at the time, was living in exile in China and then in Tanzania, before coming back to the United States in ‘69, and then doing a little bit of time and getting out in’ 70. But after that term was over, there was a new set of elections and there was a contest between the two Obadelei brothers, Giadi and Imari. They, by this time, had two different conceptions of how they saw the Republic being developed and therefore the government being developed to execute the plan on how to accomplish the building of the Republic. And Imari put down a notion that there should be an actual move on the land, actually occupying some space, some territory in what the movement called The New African National Territory, which according to some is 13 states, according to others is five states. The most popular one that’s out now is typically the five state version. And that those five states are— so folks are clear—Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. So when you see a banner in a lot of the New African independence movements, those are the five states that are being claimed.

And a large part of that claim is that three of those five states, at one point in time had a Black majority before being stripped of them from a lot of intentional terror that was waged against our people at the end of the 19th, beginning of the 20th century throughout the 20th century. And it’s contiguous areas where there are Black belt regions, like the Kush district you heard me talk about earlier, where there are still large concentrations of Black folks who constitute numeric majorities in those counties, in those regions. And there’s other reasons, but those are kind of the two basic reasons. In addition to that’s where a good portion of our folks who were forced into exile from the continent and were forced to work as chattel. This is the area where the greatest number of our people have been concentrated. Not exclusively, don’t ever get that wrong, but where the greatest number were concentrated right within the system of chattel slavery.

So, you know, we got blood here basically. In the soil. And the folks have been buried here and have been working and tilling the soil now going on almost, I think it’s 13, 14 generations. So, that’s another part of that claim.

But this move was made, this call was made in this political dispute. Imari won that election and there was a concrete push in the end of 1970, in the beginning of 1971, to establish a capital. Let me put it into definitive, to establish the capital of the provisional government here in Mississippi. In a small community, not a new community, ‘cause there was a new communities movement (which is important to understand kind of Cooperation Jackson’s history) that got articulated then, this is 1970/ 1971, that Imari was one of the chief architects to establish that. You know where I’m sitting at my house right now, literally the first RNA house is right around the corner.

There’s a new book, Lewis Street, it gives you the address that one of the sisters who are members of RNA 11 just published. I think it came out in the middle of 2021. I’ll try to grab it in a minute so folks can see it or just call it up. ‘Cause it’s kind of slipping my mind right now, but I know it’s got Lewis Street in the title. So that’s literally right here. Now that’s important then later on as we get into understanding Cooperation Jackson, why we’re here and why we’re in the particular community that we’re in. It’s because of this history. We are a product of this history and the outgrowth of this history, and a continuation of the organizing work and the legacy that our elders put down before many of us were even born. So you gotta put it within that context. But what happened in August, just to kind of speed it along, what happened in August of 1971, there was a march to kind of occupy Atlanta. And there was a standoff, the first initial standoff, that happened with the police and out of that people adopted a phrase that was being used, primarily at the time I think where many of our people got it, was a phrase that was being used by folks in the Namibian independence struggle, in Angolan independence struggle, which was to “Free The Land.” To free it of white supremacy, colonial domination, and to return it back to the democratic control, self-determined control of our people to establish sovereignty on the land for us and how we want to live and govern ourselves. So that phrase got put out there somewhat spontaneously in this August protest against the police and the FBI, and all the forces that were assembled there and it almost resulted in the shootout. It was somewhat avoided successfully through Imari, Chokwe and many other people who were there kind of guiding the police to back off. But that resulted in, a couple of days later, the house on Lewis Street getting raided and then that wound up—- initially I think it was about 22 of our people who wound up getting arrested. And 11 of them, the RNA 11, wound up doing some substantial time. Including Imari Obadele, who wasn’t even at the house at the time that it was raided and shot up by the police and by the FBI and the Mississippi bureau of information, the Mississippi version of the FBI. And that happened on August 21st, 1971.

So I want everybody to remember that date ‘cause it winds up being monumental a couple of different times around the creation of Black August, in particular. 1970 and ‘71 was so critical when we lost first Jonathan Jackson in California, then George Jackson, his older brother, the year after. And that was August 21st and August 7th, respectively. So just to put some of this history and intensity in context. Now, also a couple of months before that in 1971, Jackson State University, which is less than a mile from my house in the same direction, it was shot up by the U.S. army reserve for folks protesting the Vietnam war and the forced inductions and draftees that they were doing at that time. So many people have heard about Kent State and the white universities. Well, right here, you know, you had two Historically Black colleges and Universities that also got shot up. And that was just a couple of months before. So, you got to put ‘71 in that context in this movement, but the phrase grows out of that. As this movement and this stand to actually establish a capital, to establish a precedent on the land to build a Republic that is where the phrase kind of first gets charged, first really gets taken up within the New African independence movement. And there’s a natural fit. If you’re talking about independence and coming from what people used to call the Malcolm Doctrine that “land is the basis of independence,” coming off that Message to the Grassroots speech this was a clear step in that trajectory and the clear logic that basically approached the mass line that people could understand who you are. “This is who y’all are, and this is what you are about,” about freeing the land so that we have some standing on it and some control over the resources to break the chains of white supremacy, capitalism that grip and control and have dictated our lives.

So,we want to make sure — I’m one of these people— I want to make sure that people both understand this history, but then also understand what we mean. Because I think there’s a general sense in which I see it being used here or there which people are kind of applying it in a very broad, generic term of wherever we may be. Any and all efforts at Black land ownership or Black land reclamation, whether it being like in Vermont (a project that I’m working on), you can use it to mean you are making an effort to— I think how people are trying to use it now, making the effort to decommodify the land and then a deeper effort to decolonize the land. And those are two intertwined, but not exactly the same things. So I think in that sense, personally, it’s helpful to use it, but it needs to be put in context of where we actually can have viable self-determination within the context of North America? And in that sense, you then have to come back to the Republic of New Africa in that concept. An idea where Black folks can exercise concrete, consolidated, concentrated political, and economic power. That you have to have a much more strategic approach and understanding of and recognize that that’s not necessarily possible to see in a place like Vermont, but it is very viable and possible in a place like Mississippi based upon the space, time and conditions and where and how our forces are organized, concentrated, and then what can be built on the basis of that concentrated, both presence (the numbers) and the political will and execution with the combination of controlling the land and the resources that we can execute with that

So, if you’re going to use the term, know the history and then put it in a strategic context is what I would ask folks to do. That’s what ultimately, I think, gives it power, and why the concept, when it’s rightly applied , has been such a threat to the U S empire.

Salifu: Right on. Thank you. And so with that, part of what you have done with Cooperation Jackson is really try to make that phrase actionable, really try to turn it and really try to continue that legacy and turn it into something material. Contribute something material toward that process. And part of that is advancing the Jackson Kush Plan that you brought up earlier which I see is a pretty significant offering on behalf of African people in the U.S to advancing actual socialist revolution here.

So again, I was reading through Jackson Rising and one of the things that stood out to me was there’s a section talking about these three primary contradictions in U.S. society that Cooperation Jackson is trying to expose. And then there’s this one that really stands out to me and it’s about exploiting the ecological limits of the capitalist system. Because, again, I feel like that takes that phrase, you know, “free to land” and really centers it, I feel like, in a way that doesn’t really happen when we start having conversations about African liberation because people always try to strip us out of the conversations about environment and climate and things like that.

And so I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit about that because what I noticed is that through the book, ecology and environment —even as I follow you online and read your works, you really one of the only Black figures that I know and that I follow whose work is always addressing this idea of climate and climate catastrophe.

Kali: Well, let me say why. I mean, we are going to— we are already bearing the brunt of the advance of climate change and we need to start acting like it and recognize it. Some of the uniqueness of maybe how I was raised, I grew up and spent a lot of time in the state of Washington ( which I think is one of the most beautiful places on earth, that region up there, that particular type of rainforest). I was the kid who hated zoos cause I was like having fish to me and having dogs and cats, that was a form of slavery. It was like, “they supposed to be running free. They ain’t supposed to be locked up in some cage or in a fish bowl. That’s cruelty to animals.” When I was taught about slavery and what it was, I just turned around and looked, “well, we got some dogs over here and like, what’s the difference?” It was like, “wait, we can’t be restricting another being ike that we need to let them free.” So some of that was always there for me, you know? Just so folks know. Anybody who’s known me for awhile, that kind of consciousness has always been there. But the wake up call, if you would, for me on another strategic level was Hurricane Katrina and what happened to our people, not only in New Orleans, but what happened to them and Gulfport and Biloxi and the areas down there, which that story has not been told as much. Those communities got just as devastated and districts destroyed. And those are also majority Black areas down in Southern Mississippi.

And that was kind of a wake up call of like, “let us critically and strategically analyze this.” We already had clear sense, those of us who were following the science, at that time this was 2005, that by 2050 large portions of the south would be underwater, if all the climate models came true. And guess who lives in most of them low limb areas? Us.

So the lands that we are presently occupying will be gone. And then where are we going to find home and make home? Like, where would we be allowed to find home and make home? And as land becomes more at a premium within the capitalist framework, when we put that piece in there, we would be more and more excluded both from viable land and lose whatever access. So we got a stake in making sure in the here and now, even as bad as our positioning currently is within the United States, that we do not want this to get worse because it’s going to mean some cataclysmic stuff for us in our positioning relative to this overall society and their system. In the sense that we think is bad now, it would only get worse if the worst outcomes of this come to pass. So that’s what really made it real to me.

And then looking at it from the perspective of being a partisan in the New African independence movement, I was like, “that also means that a good part of the national territory will be gone.” It will not exist. We will not have a material basis to actually exercise sovereignty and self-determination. So again, it’s in our best interest to get on this now and to start making impacts towards the type of system change that’s going to be needed to stave off the worst aspects of climate change.

Some of that’s already baked in and been baked in for a minute. We need to be real about that. But there is enough time. The sooner we can force either a system change or major reform from capital, and I prefer the former rather than the latter, there’s still some time to make some critical changes and to stop some of the effects. Or at least not have them run into this runaway scenarios that are already off the charts. And people would rest assured that a lot of critical indices, we are already well past where most of the climate change models were at for like a 20 or 30 year cycle. We are already there. And so the pace is accelerating beyond what many of the models are already exceeding.

So Black folks got to take this real. African people got to take this real. And then when you look at it and you extend it to your broader view, your broader Pan-African view, the continent is already being ravaged by climate change. I would argue, based upon things we’ve seen in the last decade, without question what people call the Arab spring, a large trigger of that was climate change. Particularly a couple of years of drought from 2009 on the heels of the great recession, if you want to call it that, from 2006 to 2008, where it made— if you look, go back to Tunisia, you go back to Egypt, you go back to Syria in those early days— the price of bread just became unsustainable as a staple. And in most of those countries, there were price controls which the governments had in place to make these basic items and stables affordable. Now, for folks who don’t understand, this is a common way in which a lot of countries stabilize their economies, in particularly in the third world or global south. When that was broken, it just broke the backs of many of the vast majority of poor folks who then had very little option, but to demand systemic change. So that came on the heels of that drought and it led to a broader social revolution and transformation. This has been going on in the Sahelian and the Saharan desert in the continent. And now you see it start to go further out where rain patterns are fundamentally erratic. And I would argue the point I was going to get to, we have one wave of climate induced regime change, forcing dynamics in 2010, 2011, 2012 to 2013. That was largely concentrated in North Africa. We are now seeing, I would argue basically from 2019 ‘til the present, that impacting the Sahil in a whole different way. And then a lot of these rash of coups that you see going on in Burkina Faso, in Chad, and Mali, I would argue a subtext to that is climate change. I mean, you look at some of the stuff that’s been going on in Central African Republic, in Chad and in Nigeria, in particular, I think they make the case most clear, particularly. Like some of the stuff around the Boko Haram areas, what’s some of the central fights that folks were fighting over as farmers versus the grazers? And they’re both losing land and the quality of the soil is being depleted. So it heightens the contradictions and heightens attention and only leaves the limited number of ways for that to be resolved outside of a real democratic regime where people come together and make determinations over economics in a democratic way, which is not an offering in most capitalist societies.

So we are already experiencing this, y’all. And we have to take it serious in a way that I don’t think that we are or not enough because we the folks already bearing the brunt of it. And if we don’t step up and kind of take the reins of that movement, then it’s going to continue to have a lot of the weird shit that people just think is “white kind of hippie stuff” as the front and center dynamics when that’s more of a side show to what the rain issue is— millions of our people being displaced. And if you look at how many of our folks are dying in the Mediterranean on a daily basis, the story that’s kind of being piped down for a lot of different reasons, primarily the United States to take some attention away and take some of the heat away from the democratic party. But look, it’s millions of our people trying to cross the Saharan desert in search of a better life and going up to North Africa. Many are being captured and enslaved in Libya since that’s been utterly gutted and destroyed by armed forces that are still allied with the United States and other European forces who are well aware that this is going on. And then when folks try to make the crossing to get into Europe, they’re meeting fortress Europe. And liberal Europe is basically disappearing just like liberal United States is. And the large part of that has to do with more of our people migrating there. And then they actually have to confront the conditions that their Imperial ventures created. And now it’s coming back home, as folks are trying to make a way.

So we got to approach this not only from the local level, but from the global level. It is in African people’s interests to take climate change seriously and start leading this fight.

Salifu: Thank you for that. And I think you mentioned at the end of that, “we got to start thinking about it on a local level and on a global level,” but I feel like what Cooperation Jackson honestly is trying to do on a local level is model what that reality could look like and potentially force the hand of other people around you to begin to adapt some of those procedures and things.

And so, I feel like people can always sort of look more into what it is that Cooperation Jackson does, but I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the program. Like, the sort of program and the structure that you guys have created that is trying to address some of those concerns right now, right here in the U.S., right there in Jackson.

Kali: Yeah. I mean, briefly the basis of our work is the community land trust that we have. The Fannie Lou Hamer community land trust. We now have close to 60 plots of varying sizes. One, we own a whole kind of strip mall with a grocery store called The People’s Groceries that we’ve been struggling to develop, at this point, in the midst of this pandemic. It’s been like fits and starts, ups and downs, you know? But I’m sure everybody has some story like that in the midst of this pandemic now. So that’s the largest single piece that we have. But that’s the foundation. And the effort of what we’re doing is why community land trust? Because within the limited legal kind of structure that presently exists within, that is the most guaranteed option of decommodifying land that is available to us right now. ‘Cause we don’t— we have people who are in office in Jackson. But we don’t have state power. There is a difference. A big difference. So short of state power, we gotta use the forms and then try to protect the forms that we are able to use to the greatest extent possible.

Now I say that’s a foundation for us because the other principle about decommodifying the land and then building structures on it is that we now get to determine basically land use and land rents. Land rents is one of the key aspects of exploitation within the capital system. So we’ve been trying to jettison that and then basically make all of the rents for all of the cooperative unions that we presently have and are developing on, or they come in the future, to give them space where they have minimal rents and they have that being part of fcompetitive advantage that they might have against other forces in the community which are having to rent. ‘Cause a lot of small businesses, and be clear cooperatives still are small businesses at the end of the day (at least within a legal framework as it presently exists), make sure that they can be stable, that they can experiment and are given time and energy and leisure to do so within our context. Because part of what we’re trying to do— and want everybody to be clear, we’re not into co-ops for co-op sake. We want everybody to understand that. Like co-ops can either be instrumental working-class self organization or they can be petty bourgeois deviations. They can go either way. The form lends itself to either one. So it’s really up to the class consciousness and the political consciousness of the people who are working within these co-ops to determine what their program is and what they’re building them for. Now, we’ve been very explicit in trying to build class struggle co-ops. Which means that these are co-ops that don’t seek to divide the overall working-class. And in our context, you’re talking about an overwhelmingly Black/ New African working-class. So rather than trying to be in competition for kind of a race to the bottom type thing which sometimes is the selling points for cooperatives in the United States, at least in many other places that co-ops can survive because they can sell, they can exploit themselves to a greater extent than say other workers could in other companies. And that’s how they survive lean times and trying times. That’s one of the selling points and I think we need to call it what it is: a level of self exploitation. And you’ve got to do a level of self exploitation to get this work started. I want everybody to be clear about that and not think it’s like a magical bullet is going to take some things away. It’s not. You gotta actually try to run and operate your own thing where you gotta be responsible for the good, the bad and all the outcomes. Sometimes it can be much harder than just showing up in clocking in for work and clocking out and then going home and forget about what you got to do at work.

Part of the challenge that we have is that I’m constantly 24 hours a day thinking about how things are working, how they operate ‘cause we are responsible for them. And that’s a blessing and a curse. And I say the blessing part of it is it’s getting us to have a deeper understanding of what it means to be self-determined that I would tell people straight up. The level of self-governance in the lessons you have to apply there? That is a critical piece that ultimately we’re going to have to dig into on a broad level. And the curse about it is that you are kind of always on. You’re never really off. And sometimes we know, particularly in the modern present day context where there’s so much both good and bad reference to self care, you can get into some dangerous territory with that self exploitation.

Salifu: It’s individualized like crazy.

Kali: Right. You can get into some dangerous territory depending on how you frame it and how you see it. But again, were you exercising your own agency and your own choice in a democratic manner? That’s what I think the true blessings come in of this particular form and how it’s helping, I think, in its best days, in its best ways, people to learn what it means to self-govern and why I think the self-management piece is so critical. That’s the bedrock and right now we’ve done a bunch of shifts in the course of the pandemic. A few things have kind of survived. A few things have had to be reorganized just cause when everything shut down, it was impossible to operate certain kinds of things. But where we got going, they’re humming along pretty well, is Freedom Farms Urban Farming Cooperative. It’s actually expanded considerably in the mix of the pandemic for a lot of different reasons. It’s the one kind of endeavor where a lot of people can still be self-employed themselves and work with a great enough distance that they’re not coming in contact with each other cause it was always an open air space. So they really didn’t have to stop, almost everything else did have to stop at different periods of time or stop and start. We’ve had to do that a couple of different times. But there’s the Green Team, which is landscaping and lawn care. A spinoff off of that, which is developing and just now starting to do business, is a recycling and composting co-op. One of the things about how hard this is, this is our third go around trying to put this co-op in motion. And finally, I think we done figured out the kind of the niche. But you know, time will tell if that’s going to last because the city itself right now is in a major clash over its trash contract and the mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, is in a bit of a fight with the city council over who’s going to get their contract.

He’s trying to take it out of, this is Antar, he’s trying to take it out of the hands of a major transnational corporation called Waste Management, which has had the contract, I think, now the better part of almost 20 years and give that contract over to another operator.

Salifu: Yea, Waste Management is what people typically see in their city.

Kali: All over. Them and Republic. Those are the two big boys. Yeah. Those are the two big boys. So he’s trying to— he’s trying to move them on out of the scene but you know running into some push back. And I think in some ways why I’m mentioning all this, is some ways our recycling piece is going to have to figure out how to adapt to what this new context and struggle is doing. That piece is emerging. And then we have the Community Production Cooperative. It’s recently gone through some pretty remarkable shifts, but this is in part why we wanted to focus on this. So the community production co-op, let me say what it is so folks are clea. What it is is a small manufacturing cooperative that utilizes primarily digital fabrication technology. So that’s 3d printers, mill cutters, water pressure and laser cutters to do precision cutting, milling, drafting, drilling, compost molding, all those different things. And so we went, from the beginning of pandemic, really ramping up to do t-shirts and a couple of different 3d printed products. In the middle of the pandemic, when that clearly wasn’t going to work out at least to generate some income, we shifted to mass production and we started doing two types of mass production there. This is one of the cloth masks that our unit has been making with these kinds of straps so you don’t have to put it around your ears, you can put it around your head. And then another one is 3d printed masks and those have been much more limited because of how long it takes to make them et cetera. We first started doing those and just giving them out to healthcare workers and other frontline workers so that they can have kind of like maximum protection when the N95 masks were at a critical shortage. And now they’re just open for a kind of sale on the market. And now, their newest project we got them working on is actually doing 3d house printing. So that’s what we’re at with that. And trying to combine some techniques to make sure it’s sustainable and grounded in our community and the design principles that we want to put in there. And of all these different things, we do our own kind of carbon footprint analysis reduction piece. Another critical piece for us, like with the farming and the composting. Again, to keep it in line with the broad kind of principles that we’ve been articulating, one of the main things that we’re trying to do here as a main kind of political project is to heal the soil. Top soil erosion is a real thing, y’all, on the global scale. But also in a place like Mississippi, which has been— Mississippi, after generations of cotton production, cotton is one of the most destructive products for soil anywhere. So we got a lot of kind of healing of the land that we’re trying to do to make it productive for future generations. Trying to do our own seven generations thinking.

So that’s why we made it, in part, a major investment in those two particular things to meet political objectives. One being food sovereignty, the other one is about sustainability. And we made these political choices not because — we want folks to be clear— not because they’re the best market choices (meaning that they’re going to provide the most stable, steady income for the worker owners) but to meet the broader political objectives that are situated within the Jackson Kush Plan and trying to advance the overall positionality of the New Afrikan independence movement and be able to make sure that 20, 30 years down the road my kids and their kids will be in a position to not only have something to inherit, but have it be of a higher standard in quality than what exists now.

Salifu: Thank you for that. Thank you for that. I feel like I learned something new about the cotton piece just now. So, yeah, thank you for that. One of the key reasons why I brought you here today to talk to you is because of a recent essay that you wrote called Some Thoughts On What Can Be Done to Withstand the Neo Confederate Neo-fascist Conquest of Power. We republished it in Hood Communist for our first week of African Liberation Month because we feel like it included some really practical,but overlooked insights and I’m gonna read a little bit of it cause you, you come straight out the gate in the introduction of it like,

“it is my honest assessment that as of right in this, we have a little less than two years before the Neo Confederates and neo-fascist install a reactionary dictatorship by the end of January of 2025. In light of my comments regarding this development, many people have been asking and rightfully so what should be done to confront the advance of this ultra reactionary dictatorship over the U S empire.”

And for people who hear that and it’s like, “oh shit, what should be done”, definitely go read the piece. But my question for you immediately off the bat was about your political ideology and the tools you use to observe the world and come to this kind of analysis.

Kali: Man, that would take a long conversation. Let me, let me see. I mean, if folks want to understand my own development there’s one source, particularly from an ideological perspective, there’s one source I would particularly direct you to and that is Amilcar Cabral. His practical way of making theory not only digestible, but concrete to the space, time and conditions that you are confronting, I’ve always thought was some of the sharpest things out there and I’ve always tried to emulate that. So when I try to write, I try my best to —- I want to give you a grounding, the audience. A grounding in both the theory, the history, but then make it as concrete as possible. Like, what do we want? When we say we have to develop a program, what does that mean? What does it look like? Feel like, taste like? So I try to break it down into the microscopic, to the best sense that’s possible for folks who are anywhere and say, “well, okay, I think I can do that.” Or “I can apply some of that to where I’m at and into what I’m doing.”

But his framing in trying to think through the tools that he learned from dialectical historical materialism, but also be grounded in the practical African reality of what he experienced growing up in the Cape Verdean islands—- again, talking about climate change and all this stuff he grew up in the Cape Verdean islands, for those who don’t know, periodically suffer through famine ‘cause it’s a very dry, very airy region. And when he was a kid, he watched many folks in his country, his countryfolk starve literally to death from famine and started to learn that, yes, there’s a climate factor to this, but more importantly, there’s also a social factor to that ‘cause it wasn’t like food was in short supply. It was the nature of how it was distributed that made many people starve. Not that there wasn’t enough, it just wasn’t shared in a democratic way. It was shared through private appropriation and private owners and control. And a whole bunch of other stuff coming particularly from a Third World Marxist tradition, in particular for me, was my grounding and is still the source in terms of how do we both analyze the world around us and how do we put ourselves in the best thinking and then in the best practical ways of taking our thinking and making them actionable items that we can do to get the outcomes we want. That is what kind of guided me. And this particular piece, I’ll be honest with y’all, I’ve been— it’s kind of like getting tired of sounding an alarm with a broader kind of left, if you want to call it that within the United States. And as long as I’ve been doing this work, I know a lot of folks on the left and kind of occupied my own position within it. And one of the things that I’ve been deeply frustrated, for the last 25 years, is that people underestimated the organizing capacity and the strategic thinking of the far-right. And for me, bringing something home, I used to do radio myself for a good number of years. I was a DJ, spinning for parties and other stuff like that. But I was a radio presence, actual commercial radio, student radio and commercial radio for a fair number of years and in the 1990s.
And part of the thing with me being involved in that was trying to make sure that I gained skills in how to set up and manage microwave radio station, like the short wave radio stations. And the point was trying to take that knowledge and then be able to teach people all throughout the empire how to set up your own radio station so that we had our own, basically, propaganda units. Thinking about it in that particular way to get our messages across. I will go —this is ‘89, ‘90, ‘91— to get trained. And it became very clear to me by like 1990, very early on with me doing that, that ‘the right’ was on that man. So I’d be going to some of these trainings and I’d be right next to skinheads and clan members and all these forces of the right who were giving me skills.

So it gave me a particular insight into what their thinking was. And then I’m an avid reader so I started reading all their materials. I want to read The Turner diaries. What they’re saying in it, what’s that about? What are they thinking? What are they putting out there? And to me, I could see, from being involved in those trainings, that it was serious. That it was organized. That they had a steady and growing cadre of folks and that it was moving more towards the right. And I could see what I would call the shortcomings and failures in our movements organizing at the time in trying to convince our own people that this was a viable tool that we should be using. Now, mind you, this was before the internet kind of blew up into the thing that it became in the mid-1990s. And so radio was a much more powerful tool in our communities, but there were some shortcomings of imagination that existed amongst our people and amongst the movement. And so it was like, let’s get two radio stations off the ground. This was a goal I think we had. I saw on a paper I put up in 1993, it was like me and some comrades, “we gonna try to get two radio stations up by the end of the year,” and we wind up getting two of them up. But in the course of that time, I’m watching us do two and it took us a year to do that. Some of these cats that I’m still in these communications with, these right-wing nut racists, I’m watching them do two a month, right? Like steadily. Just watching them grow.

Salifu: That’s a different level of organization,

Kali: Different level of organization, different level of commitment, different level of investment. So I’m just sitting back over the years, watching them steadily grow and people are like,”this is fringe, this is fringe.” I’m like, “look, look, look, if they the only people talking to people in rural Mississippi and Iowa and Kansas, upstate New York… if that’s the only people talking to them year in and year out, people are going to gradually gravitate towards them, particularly if they use with the formats that they were using.” So the format that Fox has kind of dominated with in the last like 20 years, I would tell people I’ve watched that fundamentally develop on radio first. Right-wing radio kind of perfected this news that’s not shared from the perspective of giving you facts, date, time and place, but giving you a political orientation around and a political reading of the information that they are self-selecting to present. That format that’s all just kind of like talk hosts, Fox dominated before CNN and MSNBC to kind of adopt this forum where you don’t even see—- I think the only real news that you get nowadays is like in the morning and all the rest of it is just opinion all day long on MSNBC and CNN and Fox, fundamentally. That came from talk radio shows. But what Fox did was take a lot of the dialogue that used to happen in the right-wing radio to talk radio and the thing was, I saw the beauty of it because of me doing radio, I’m a night owl historically. And so the first radio show I had was like three o’clock in the morning, 3-6. And then as I got more seniority, I decided to just stay there and do basically, on the commercial radio show I was doing for a couple of two years, I had from 11 to like five o’clock in the morning, that was my preferred time to be on. And half of that would be music, half of that would be commentary and it’d still be billions of people up at 2, 3, 4 o’clock in the morning wanting to talk and wanting to argue, wanting to be in debate and share. So I’m experiencing this and finding so many people were kind of some aspects of our persuasion in it, I could just see the right is growing exponentially at this and building a base that we are not building. So for me, that put me in a situation some 30 years ago of taking the far-right seriously. And all these people saying, “well, these are all these fringe ideas,” and I can just sit back from my vantage point of I’ve been studying them, I’ve been following, I’ve been monitoring. And so when the tea party emerged, I think that makes sense. You can see that coming if you had been paying attention. Right?

I remember arguing with folks in 2016. Arguing with my momma, I was like, “Donald Trump gonna win the election.” They’re like, “no there’s no way in hell.” I was like, “no, watch y’all are underestimating that—

Salifu: People swore that it couldn’t happen.

Kali: That it couldn’t happen. I was like, “ no, I don’t think y’all are paying attention to what he is actually feeding and what he is enabling, what he is speaking to.” That has been cultivated over a long period of time. They are primed, they are amped and they are ready for this message. That was the piece I thought that people just didn’t pay attention to on the heels of how successful the Tea Party was. So I didn’t put this piece out for folks to panic. That’s the exact opposite of what I’m hoping that folks would do. I was arguing with somebody a couple of weeks ago. I was like, “panic was 10 years ago. We already passed that, we missed that opportunity a while ago.” Now I think it’s a question of, within the limited time that we have, how do we best position ourselves and what material basis can we establish that might enable us to engage in sustained struggle? And then be clear about what the weaknesses of the period are and what we need to call on automatically.

And that was the other component I really wanted to get out of this. Look, in comparison to most other phases within the history of the last fifty to one hundred years, this is probably the most weak the left has been in the Western world. At least at any point over that period of time. We just do not have the organized basis to really mount an organized challenge to these folks. What we do have is kind of a new phenomenon of a broad kind of progressive to radical social consciousness that’s out there, that’s been built up (I think in particularly by these new tools at our disposal) with social media in particular where you got a lot of young folks who just don’t really see a real future within the system, don’t believe in capitalism. I’m not quite sure they know what the alternative really is at this point, but that’s fine.

I think each generation kind of gotta study that and struggle with it on their own. Hopefully the people don’t make the same mistakes that earlier generations did. So studying and struggling with folks who have a little bit more experience, with both the good and bad that we bring, it has to be done. We shouldn’t sleep on the collective experience that I think the left has gained in the last 10 years. Now it’s mixed, by all accounts. It’s a mixed bag. But rest assured that the country, this empire, was deeply shaken by what happened in the summer of 2020. The George Floyd rebellion shook them up in a lot of fundamental ways. And I would argue with folks that if you don’t really take that seriously into account, then you don’t really understand what happened on January 6, 2021 and why that was so imperative for them and why when the right is making this argument, which is kind of stock and trade for them, but making this argument that they feel like they have to do this to save their country. The animus behind that is what they experienced, from their perspective, in the summer of 2020. When they felt like their fundamental way of life was being threatened, what it means to their psyche to see statues of Columbus come down and statues of other racists and settlers come down. How they see themselves being threatened in a race. And if you don’t really look at that and put how they view it in perspective, then you don’t understand the book burnings that we’re seeing now and the book bannings that we’re seeing now and this kind of obscure focus on critical race theory and why we need to get it out of the curriculum and all this other kind of stuff. This is the counterrevolution in action. We didn’t get to an actual level of revolution, unfortunately, but this is the counterrevolution in action. And because it’s actually organized, it can get these things. Why it can go so quickly—- critical race theory, whatever the hell that might mean to them, which basically means, “we’re just not going to teach anything opposed to white history, anything that we don’t like.” Why that can be passed, I think it’s 10 states now it’s been passed in the course of less than six months? That’s organization, y’all! Is it fabricated? Is it well-funded by billionaires? Absolutely. But they can tap into a number of grassroots forces and organizations and then ransack the school boards, ransack the state legislatures and say, “y’all better do this or else.” We don’t have a corresponding force in that particular way. So we are in a weak position there, but we’re going to have to try to flip that, I think. And that’s what I’m trying to put out in this piece and say that the strength that we do have, we know that there are millions of people seriously angry and disaffected. The challenge we have is, can we start setting up the mobilization effort now to challenge these folks and put a major disruption to their program while there’s still time to do it and learn some of the critical history?

So some of the things that are out now, I would encourage folks to really look at and study. Profoundly different context, but some critical lessons here, I want everybody to go, try to look up The Battle of Chile. And I’m saying that there’s a lot of things to study, but if you look at that whole three-part series, you see some of the critical ways in which the right organizes and what it is capable of and what they’re aiming to do here. And you see this play out in real time in some of these tactics that they use. So one of them currently, even though it’s in another country, is something that’s going to be here pretty soon, but pay attention to what’s happening up in Canada with this truck strike, this right-wing truckers strike. And the supply chain disruption that they are doing very intentionally and understanding the piece where they fit in at being an intervening force at the critical check points of the distribution of both goods and services in the flow of capital. That’s going to come here as something that the right is going to implement, but guess what? Y’all, we can do the same damn thing for our own purposes on our own and I would argue, we actually could bring more people to the party then they can, but we got to be bold enough. We got to be clear enough and build up the capacity and the will to try to move in that particular way.

And so another part of the paper is trying to shock more of the progressive and social democratic forces that are kind of on our flanks and they kind of dominate the scene and to say, “y’all gonna have to come off of just having listservs and just having conversations and actually put some skin in the game on this mobilization” and start calling for pledges of resistance following the model that comes from, in particularly I think the best use of that, at least in my lifetime, was how that kind of plays a resistance would use to mobilize solidarity and support for the revolutions that were taking place in central America in the seventies and eighties.

So that’s what I was just trying to make some of this. Recognizing our weaknesses, but also try to make it practical and concrete in a way that folks can digest, think about it and start acting on a local level. Even if it’s just five or six people at the start in your local community, get started with that and build outwards. Those are practical things that we can do that don’t force us to have to panic, but to get real about the situation, see it for what it is, stare it down and start organizing to intervene.

Salifu: Got it. And I got two more questions for you and I’m gonna let you get outta here, but I wanted to respond to what you were saying about the lack of people on the left taking the threat seriously. I feel like a part of that, or at least a part of it as it relates to people in my generation, is that the only sort of response that we ever hear to the right’s antics is this sort of liberal hysteria that has no materialist basis. It’s always pushing us to the polls. It’s always pushing us to invest in a Biden administration, to invest in Ruth Bader Ginsburg or whatever that lady’s name is. And as you are talking, and even when people go and read the piece, I think a part of the distinction that’s being made there is that you aren’t approaching this from a perspective of somebody who is under any illusions of the empire, right? Like you use words like bourgeois democracy, liberal democracy, and all those things indicate a certain level of materialist engagement with the world that we live in and how finance capital shapes and impacts political decisions in the U.S. and the material reality of imperialism. But even people, I think, and I’ve been guilty of this before, those of us who claim to have sort of like a solid grasp. of those things have still been very much so like, “don’t bother me about the right.” So I feel like the piece is a really critical intervention in that way.

Kali: I hope so. I mean, ‘cause part of the thing that we need to interrogate is, “who is the right?” When we say “the right,” what do we mean? ‘Cause I think we need to be clear, the entire political establishment in the United States is a right wing operation. There is no place in the world that you can go to where the democratic party could be considered left, progressive in any form or fashion. It would be the actual right wing party in most countries in the world. So the world should be our standard, not some American exceptionalism so that we understand how things are actually moving and then where we fit into that. So we gotta get out of this kind of myopic piece. They have an interest in curtailing the neo- confederates and neo-fascists going full stream with their program. But look, don’t be confused. They don’t have no major beef with aspects of their program when it really comes down to it, right? The most fundamental difference that really is at the heart of their program right now being just square is that the Trump variant of it is isolationists. And the liberals, if you want to call them that, they’re very clear their bread is buttered through extracting from the globe. Not from the U.S., from the globe. And so they can’t give up the empire. To give up the empire means that this thing crashes. On that sense, the liberals are far more clear about how imperialism actually functions and operates than some of these forces or these isolation forces of the “new right” and so they are trying to, with all their might (and some of it might succeed), they’re trying to get the conservatives to kind of come back on board, particularly with forces like Mitch McConnell, like “Mitch, you know we know you crazy. We know you got these— you might want to ban abortion and you might want a balanced budget initiative and all that other kind of stuff, but we need the empire. So we can compromise with you on keeping the empire. And we’ll just have these little territorial things, but when it fundamentally comes down to it, we got some agreement.” You best believe that’s how Biden and them are going to play this, particularly now, since the last couple of days, Mitch, I think, has gotten some clear indication from a faction of the capital that they want to break with Trump. So now he’s starting to speak up, right? And make his claim like, “ let me try to get this cat out of the equation.” What did he say yesterday or two days ago? He done finally come out and repeated what he already said once before, but now more forcefully in the context of Trump making his move and really trying to consolidate power, which he’s basically done over the course of the last year. Now they’re trying to strike back just a little bit. Pence opened the door slightly by saying Trump was wrong. Now more of them are trying to do that. So they got a contest amongst themselves. But you watch, mark my word, in the course of the next couple of weeks, watch how McConnell is pitched by MSNBC and CNN as a hero for speaking the truth and calling January 6th what it really was. They’re going to start praising him and it would show people the deep alignment that these forces have around maintaining the empire and best believe y’all that ain’t got nothing to do with us. Nothing to do with us. Now my focus is— to be honest with you, I’ve always been watching these folks go at each other and watching the empire crumble, and I’m in the background cheering, I ain’t gonna lie to y’all. Like, “yeah, okay, I hope this thing falls faster. I hope it falls within my lifetime. I hope I get a chance to see it.” You know? So I’m kind of rooting it on. But the other part of it is while that’s still going on I’m deeply concerned because the violence that will erupt is going to be directed at us. Let’s not lie to ourselves about that. So that’s where we might have some like temporary, very tactical kind of alliances with these liberal forces in kind of containing the violence that they’re going to unleash, but it’s temporary. It’s tenuous and temporary, at best. And if they can find some way to maintain the established bourgeois order at whatever compromise that they need to make best assure that they will. If they maintain what exists, that ain’t nothing to praise. We still getting killed, shot down in the streets, treated like dogs exploited to all hell and that’s under their best days, you know? So ain’t nothing to celebrate there or to kind of feel like, “oh, we’ve been satisfied.” No, the exploitation still continues and our struggle needs to be struck on that particular basis. And so that’s why I try to use certain words to be very clear about both of these – the Democrats, Republicans— both of them are to the death enemies. And we need to be clear about that. They just have a different timeline and a different speed and a slightly different kind of tactical and sometimes strategic approach on how they want to explore this and how they want to extract from us. But they still exploiting and extracting from us, regardless of how it’s shaped up, what they call it, what paint they put on it, or what lipstick they put on it, or a perfume, whatever. It still winds up being the same pieces at our expense. And we need to be clear about that.

Salifu: All right. So here’s my last one for you. And part of the reason why I like to read you and like to hear you speak with other people is, again, because of that rootedness in materialism which I believe has to come from some sort of prolonged process of political education over time. And so for Africans that are listening to this and are like, “I know three other people in my community, we gonna get together, we’re gonna start trying some things.” And Hood Communists, we are very big on the process of political education. And so even if you can’t think of specific titles off the top of your head, what do you think are some of the topics, some of the things that people who really want to begin a serious political education process that you gotta be discussing within that process and doing. ,

Kali: To understand this period, you got to read Black Reconstruction in America. Go get it. W E B Du Bois, make sure you read that. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney , a starting point. If you can get your hands on Walter Rodney’s —- I forget the title of it, it was just released by, I think, Pluto press. [It’s] a manuscript that folks put together of some of Rodney’s writings about the Russian Revolution. That one is a damn good one to get your hands on to understand a number of different things, the practical kind of concrete things. I would definitely tell people to go get a Unity and Struggle by Amilcar Cabral and study that one thoroughly backwards and forwards. Two books, The Wretched of The Earth by Fanon and The Dying Colonialism by Fanon are definitely ones that are worth reading. Aimé Césaire work, Discourse On Colonialism, check out that where he gives what’s stilll, I think, is the sharpest analysis around like imperialism and some other things and how he analyzed the Nazis, in particular, and the fact that the Germans had the colonize Europe and cannibalize Europe because they were shut off from their colonies in Africa and in the rest of the market and what that context is about. It’ll help you understand what’s going on right now with this Russia theater that’s going on with the Ukraine and how the United States and the Western powers are looking at China. So it’s still got a lot of relevance to this day.

State and Revolution. If you’re going to go there, definitely State and Revolution. That should be a tenant. And if you want to go even further, I would check out The Grundrisse by Marx. If you struggle with Kapital, which most people do, you still should read that one. But the Grundrisse actually encompasses some of the things in an incomplete way that Marx wanted to do with the entire series of what he wanted to do with Kapital. You got to remember the three volumes that have come down to us are very incomplete. He initially wanted to do a 21 books series that he kind of laid out of how he wanted to see things. So a lot of the things that wound up being kind of only anecdotal or a spot on. In the Grundrisse, he actually goes into that. So I would recommend people take, give that a good look. Another piece, I would say to kind of understand a lot of the debates that are being had now with many of the people who are challenging kind of like the Leninist model of organization, check out Rosa Luxembourg’s writings, particularly her writing on imperialism and then her writing on struggling with Lenin and struggling with the Bolsheviks about both the general strike or the mass strike and in the form of the party. I think those are some good pieces to check out. Another one, I would say going, coming back more this way, I would encourage folks to read for a broader understanding of kind of Western hemisphere contextualization is go check out the Open Veins of Latin America. That’s another one which I think is well worth rereading in the here and now. Yeah, that one’s well worth reading in the here and now, I think, to get a deeper understanding of some of the moves that are being made in the background, as we speak, in Latin America. Or how the United States is quietly trying to consolidate that backyard territory yet again and on what basis. For us to understand what’s been happening most recently in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and then how some of this stuff is shaking out in Colombia and what the blow back is. And even some of the framing around some of the stuff that’s happening with Cuba now, and some of the transition stuff that it’s being forced to go through, that’s another good piece to really look at and grounded in a lot of different ways, I think, to kind of broaden people’s perspective.

And then lastly, for today anyway, I would say almost anything that you can get by Samir Amin about imperialism and the global functioning of the capitalist system, get your hands on. Samir Amin was an Egyptian brother, economist and sociologist, primarily worked out of the last 30, 40 years was teaching in Senegal out of Dakar. And accumulation on a global scale, that was unequal exchange, some of those works for us to really understand. And his book I was arguing so people understand where some of our thinking, particularly mine, you’ll see his influence in the Jackson Kush plan, Samir Amin. Particularly his work on delinking and that concept of how to execute a program like that in the ongoing onslaught of capitalism in the imperialist domination of the world system. Definitely check that one out. If you’ve read some of our stuff, my stuff in particular, understand that his work was a major influence and be like, “okay, this is the broader macro dynamics and strategy that we can kind of think through and apply to move us from this position of domination independency towards asserting what political agency we have and how having that be able to intervene on the material plane.” And not just be subjected to kind of a holy either economistic approach or just a wildly subjective approach that we can just do anything and leapfrog stages of development and growth, et cetera, et cetera. That book is a critical one, I think, to read. So, that would be my list for right now I can go on, but I think that gives people a good foundation.

Salifu: Okay. Got it. Thank you. I appreciate a lot of those titles that call back to imperialism. Cause that’s another struggle we have on the U.S left right now is getting people to understand that imperialism is indeed the principle contradiction in the world today. So I want to thank you again so much, Brother Kali, for being here, for giving me your time, for giving your time to Hood Communist and we really, really appreciate you. So thank you.

Kali: Keep it up, Y’all. Love getting, reading your work on a regular basis. You know I’m putting it out there. So keep up the good work.


More from this Writer

“To educate the masses politically does not mean, cannot mean, making a political speech. What it means is to try, relentlessly and passionately, to teach the masses that everything depends on them; that if we stagnate it is their responsibility, and that if we go forward it is due to them too, that there is no such thing as a demiurge, that there is no famous man who will take the responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people themselves and the magic hands are finally only the hands of the people.”
― Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

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