Today I turn 48. I have been reflecting on my age in the past two weeks: the 40s are the best so far. If you’re not there yet, you have your 40s to look forward to. If you’ve passed it, let me know what I can expect in my 50s, 60s, and beyond. My 40s have been pretty stellar. I am truly comfortable in my skin, cozy with who I am, in the words of Queen Bey.
I started this birthday fundraiser a week ago sharing about Solidarity Research Center’s work on radical municipalism in our project, the Municipalism Learning Series. My understanding of radical municipalism is informed by many traditions, including the work of Murray Bookchin and Erik Olin Wright. The learning series emerged from my inability to locate tools for building a framework and movement in the context of Los Angeles, an absurd city rife with contradictions. I established the series with the goal of introducing the concept and its application to a broad audience in North America.
The experiment to build a municipalist movement in Los Angeles has been underway since the beginning of 2022. I approached the question of whether Los Angeles was ready for municipalism as an organizer and a researcher, and based on three assumptions: first, that movements are cyclical and go through ebbs and flows; second, based on research by Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan that only 3.5% of a population needs to engage in a movement in order for substantive change to occur — that’s 140,000 people in Los Angeles across 114 neighborhoods or approximately 1,200 per neighborhood; last, movements since the Battle of Seattle and Occupy Wall Street have morphed into decentralized networks.
The first phase of the project was to gather autonomous social movement actors across the city into a decentralized network, which we named Los Angeles for All. Our network represented the spectrum of the left in our city: from groups that are building alternatives, such as worker cooperatives and community land trusts, to those providing mutual aid to unhoused neighbors, and to those reimagining and municipalizing public institutions such as establishing a public bank.
We also took advantage of the movement moment in October 2022, when tapes were leaked of a private conversation between three city council members and a local labor leader that revealed an anti-Black agenda and backroom deals on redistricting. We helped to facilitate a Los Angeles Peoples Movement Assembly process, starting in the east side, and invited other researchers to collaborate on mapping and interviewing movement leaders.
Unfortunately, the research collective struggled with accountability and did not produce a movement map nor summarize their conversations with leaders. We have, however, facilitated over six Peoples Movement Assemblies, convening on average 50+ people together from across the spectrum of the left. We hosted learning sessions between Los Angeles activists and their peers with the Southern Peoples Movement Assembly, Cooperation Jackson, and Chicago Community Councils. We have a database of 30+ interviews, 200+ social movements, and 500+ individuals that we can activate.
Our next phase is to organize beyond the left, using a combination of Marshall Ganz’s snowflake model of neighborhood organizing and Steve Deline’s method of deep canvassing, to catalyze convenings of neighborhood assemblies. We have also been learning about the theory and practice of intercommunalism by philosopher and Black Panther Huey P. Newton. The theory was Newton’s attempt to lay out an analysis of the historical conjuncture in 1970, as well as formulate a political strategy for the Black Panther Party given his read of the moment.
The idea in a nutshell was that global capital has superseded the authority of the nation-state. The world was instead a collection of local communities under the spell of empire. The role of the revolutionary was not to gain national sovereignty or independence, according to Newton, but to liberate territories within the larger empire. To seize the means of production in the local terrain and build cooperative networks with other liberated zones.
We are in the midst of a nine-session study group where we start with the thinkers that inspired Dr. Newton, such as Descartes and Kant, to reading unpublished speeches and writings by Dr. Newton that Delio Vasquez has generously shared with us. Kazembe Balagun is our Intercommunalism Research Fellow and is working on a longform article with his reflections on the framework, a public panel scheduled for February 14, 2024, and a research report reviewing the theory and offering historical and contemporary case studies.
We need your support to ensure that this work and other projects such as Los Angeles for All can continue. We raised $17,444 — which is 75% of our budget — but we still need $5,955 or else Solidarity Research Center will end this year in the red.
Please support our work as a birthday gift for me, for the liberation of our communities, and the realization of cooperative networks between liberated zones.
Last day to raise $5,955!
In deep appreciation,