In 1601, African freedom fighters established the village of Palenque de San Basilio in what is now Colombia and in so doing broke the imperial logic of enslavement. From this village, African people established their own cultural, social and political systems in the Americas, including their own language, in counterposition but also independently from the genocidal hegemony of the rapidly expanding European colonialism of the territories. For decades, the growing community of people of Palenque de San Basilio launched attacks on the nearby port of Cartagena where ships arrived carrying kidnapped African people, vowing to free all enslaved Africans arriving there. The Palenquenos at once resisted and built.
Between 1959 and 1974 the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (the PAIGC) created liberated zones on the territory it had taken back from Portuguese colonial forces. By the end of colonial rule in 1974, this liberated area constituted two thirds of the territory of Guinea-Bissau which half of the population lived on. On this territory, during the bloody war of independence, the PAIGC and the peoples of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde began to construct the decolonized society they were seeking to create. They formed village committees, to deepen direct democracy in each cantonment, elected from and by the people with at least two of the five positions on the committee being held by women. They also established people’s courts, health clinics, and schools and began to develop the basis for solidarity economics through People’s Stores in which an exchange, rather than purchase, system was established for goods and products. In these liberated zones, the PAIGC and people of Guinea-Bissau were able to build counter-hegemonic realities despite being faced with the direct assault and wrath of fascist colonial forces. They resisted and built.
The world in 2017 is marked by a global fascist surge: from the reactionary religious or ethnically based southern fundamentalisms, to white supremacist populism in the North. These right wing forces are gaining traction out of the systemic collapse of liberal democracy and neo-liberal capitalism. Often couched in anti-globalization or even anti-imperialist language, these fascisms are led by classed elites uninterested in shifting the super-exploitation of the last decades of capitalist voracity but cementing divisions amongst the working classes. In the global Black world, colonial patronage and an internal comprador class have been maintained in the economic relationships established by globalized capitalism. Ecocide has given an ever more desperate twist to the struggle of peoples to protect land and territory.
Black people across Africa and the diaspora live outside of hegemonic imperialist logic because our very survival counterposes our disposability in the system. Our cultural expressions are by their nature thus counter-hegemonic, but like Benkos Biohó and the Palenqueros, we are surrounded, impacted and affected by the imperatives of globalization’s engulfment. Without counter hegemonic intention, we become mere pawns to use, dismiss and discard at the will and necessity of colonized interests: Black communities pose little threat as territories of resistance and militarized murderous police are established to ensure even the menace of Blackness is quelled. But when Black territories are organized, when we call to action our collective survival, when we split with the crumbs of the state, end our collaboration, resist and build—then our territories become liberated zones: epicenters of rebellion, posing clear and present threat to the logic of patriarchy, capitalism and white supremacy. If effectively engaged to build Black futures outside of the logic of domination, we can begin to realize radical queered, decolonial, crip, feminist, Black realities: liberation practice.
Autonomous or liberated Black territory is space where the relationship of people to land, exchange, life, value is torn away from the logic of capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and domination, and where self-determination and direct democracy mean that people are able to shape realities in the image of their freedom dreams. Cooperation Jackson attempts to create economic democracy and self-determination within the oppressed Black nation inside the belly of the imperial beast itself. It is a star in a constellation of African Autonomous Zones throughout the Black world, with self-determining communities being built across Africa and the diaspora.
As you have read, Jackson Rising is an attempt to document the theoretical foundations, practical applications and hard lessons learned from this emerging African liberated zone. What the success of the Jackson-Kush Plan demonstrates is that we, as our ancestors, can develop and execute effective liberation strategies through organizations of struggle like the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and Cooperation Jackson and democratic experiments like the People’s Assembly. But, one Palenque or Kilombo or Autonomous Zone is not enough. We need thousands of Autonomous Zones and we need them to link on the basis of mutual aid and solidarity to break the back of imperialism and move us towards collective liberation and eco-regeneration.
In this moment, the lessons of this book are essential reading to all people interested in saving this earth from the devastation of capitalism and building a world free from oppression where many worlds are possible. So, wherever we are, wherever we are situated, let us develop our plans to resist and build!