After years of organizing with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Kali Akuno served as Director of Special Projects for the Black Nationalist mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, Chokwe Lumumba. He was also co-director of the US Human Rights Network, and co-founder of the School of Social Justice and Community Development, a public school serving the academic needs of low-income African American and Latino communities in Oakland, California. He is currently the co-director of Cooperation Jackson, a network of worker cooperatives fighting to create economic democracy in Jackson, Mississippi. He also helped create Ungovernable 2017, a movement dedicated to organizing nation-wide resistance to the Trump administration, beginning on inauguration day.
1. What are your thoughts on the multiple counter-inaugural events being planned? What might that organizing process tell us about how resistance might be organized going forward?
The fact that there are multiple counter-inaugural events being planned all throughout the United States, and not just in D.C., on the 20th and 21st is a good thing. This motion represents the broad diversity contained within the United States and the depth of outrage and concern that exists in regards to the ultra right-wing shift that is about to occur at all levels of the Federal government, and in most of the state governments, and the clear threat to the human rights of numerous communities that the Trump regime clearly threatens and poses.
In the immediate future, we can definitely expect that the ongoing resistance will have a broad, diverse, and autonomous character. This in itself is not a bad thing. But, I would note that it not necessarily a good thing either, as without a higher degree of political and strategic alignment and coordination between the various social movements and political forces mounting the resistance, we won't be able to withstand the onslaught that the Trump regime and the reactionary neo-Confederate forces are planning to unleash. So, we have to overcome the fragmentation that has plagued the left in the United States for decades, and be clear that we cannot rely upon the liberals and the Democrats to be consistent and principled allies in the struggle against the resurgence of white nationalism.
2. What would be the ideal outcome of the counter-inaugural actions? What do you expect to happen?
Being realistic, the most critical thing the counter-inaugural actions can do is serve notice to Trump and the reactionary forces aligned with him, that the majority of the peoples contained within the United States will not comply, will not consent, will not surrender, and will not be subjectively governed. This will serve to weaken their confidence and give pause to some of their initiatives. But, we need to be clear that given their ideological commitment, these reactionary forces might stall and shift a bit, but they aren't going to stop. So, we need to be prepared to engage in sustained struggle. And to this end, if the counter-inauguration is indeed massive, as in engaging tens if not hundreds of millions of people throughout the United States, it will bolster the confidence of the forces of resistance, which is critical, given how shocked, saddened, and alone the majority of people in the United States felt after Trump won the election. Confidence emboldens individuals and movements' will to resist, preserver and ultimately march to victory. So, the counter-inauguration initiatives are and must be viewed as a critical first step in the resistance to the Trumpocalypse, and the launch of the transformative movement the country and the world needs to avoid world war and a climate catastrophe.
3. What role do groups organizing for Black empowerment play in speaking out against "white identity politics" and challenging Trump rhetoric and policy?
The Black Liberation Movement has been calling out and challenging the ills of white nationalism and settler-colonialism since the inception of the English settler-colonial project, which became the United States. So, long before Trump emerged on the scene. The centrality of the Black Liberation Movements role in challenging this reactionary ideology and social force has never wavered and will never waiver. The world should expect Black people and the Black Liberation Movement to play a leading role in the resistance to Trump and the advancing neo-Confederacy at every level.
The question of who and how the white working class is going to be organized and turned into a force for revolutionary transformation, instead of a bulwark of settler-colonialism and imperialism is a fundamental question. A question that has plagued the left for centuries. There have been some promising signs over the past 2 and half years that a younger generation of whites, from working and petit-bourgeois class backgrounds, are willing and trying to break from the hegemony of white supremacy. This has meant engaging in solidarity, and at times in joint struggle with the Movement for Black Lives and Indigenous sovereignty. But mor – much more – has to be done. Trump might be a catalyst for further change. Effective organizing and time will tell.
4. What risks could anti-Trump movements run? What pitfalls would you warn organizers and the newly-politicized against?
How Trump Will Bring Back Class Struggle
As we see in Indiana with Senate Bill 285, which aims to criminalize protest, the reactionary forces that are now coming into power, fully intend to utilize all of the repressive tools at the disposal of the United States government to quell resistance, and ensure the longevity of their rule. So, all of us, the veterans and rookies of struggle must get prepared for the worse - massive surveillance, repression, imprisonment, isolation, and assassination. We would be fools to take the new situation lightly. We must learn, really learn, from the failures of societies and movements in the past that failed to fully challenge white nationalism and fascism as they emerge, and even more so when they get a grasp of power. We have entered a period where sacrifice, self-sacrifice of the highest order, is imperative. If we don't view the situation this way, and resist as if our lives depended upon it (which they in fact do), we will find ourselves either back in the 16th century or extinct. So, people should expect intense repression and get prepared to make tremendous sacrifices.
5. Why fight?
We must fight because Trump and the reactionary forces that are now poised to run the United States government are a threat, a real threat to humanity. The course that they are on will only exasperate national and global inequality, hasten civil and world war, and drive the climate and the biosphere to the brink. These forces must be defeated at all costs without question. But, we must not return to the capitalist status quo of the world-system, either in its liberal, social democratic or neoliberal forms. The liberal center cannot hold and must be viewed as just as problematic as the emergent fascist form of that order as is the neoliberal order. We have to fight for more. We have to fight for the future, fight for social emancipation on a global scale based on a liberatory program based on the decolonization of land and knowledge systems, the democratization of the productive forces, the full automation of the productive forces, the decarbonization of the economy, the full democratization of markets and the processes of value exchange, and a regenerative social order based on zero-waste and the restoration of the biosphere.