Our Position on Abolition is below.
Co-op Not Cages’ purpose is to promote worker cooperative products and services within an anti-carceral and internationalist framework. We see worker cooperatives as a viable and necessary democratic alternative in opposition to the economic dictatorships our communities suffer from daily. And they need to be supported to become the mainstream, which Co-ops Not Cages will help to make possible by helping to spread the word about them to support them in multiple ways at their various stages of development and in their different essential forms.
WHO WE ARE
We constitute a worker cooperative ourselves. We are proletarians who have been consistently swindled, used up, and spit out by the system. We’ve been employed by “mom-and-pops,” owned by minorities of our own race, nonprofits, and multinational capitalist giants, all of whom have robbed us, bullied us and degraded us in fundamentally the same ways.
We understand that capitalism of color is not the answer, nor rainbow capitalism or state communism. But we embrace our agency, our capacity to love and nurture, and our will to freedom as powerful tools and the essence of our beings. And so we are pushing forward this worker co-operative to be part of the change we need.
WHAT ELSE WE’RE ABOUT
We want to promote a worker cooperativism that is incompatible with a world founded on coercion, cages, and global privilege. We are internationalists. We are abolitionists. And so our show’s format could take unusual measures to honor these values, including taking time to help our viewers inch closer to reaching across the razor wire fences of this carceral society.
One way we hope to practice our values is to donate at least 10% of any ad revenue from our efforts to worker cooperative development for prisoners, Black and Indigenous folks, for peoples in the global south, and other minorities. And we’ll be showing proof of such redistribution when such money begins to come in. So, please suffer through advertisements to share the wealth if you can.
Along the way, we’ll be thinking of other ways to redistribute wealth to our class siblings across the world.
WHY WORKER CO-OPS?
Worker co-operatives are an essential pillar of the free society, nurturing the kind of immediate self-management and intentional responsibility and power sharing that will contribute to the powerful change in sociology our communities need to build a better world. And they are an essential part of the better world.
We need a better world. Humanity is staring down the barrel of self-annihilation. The totalitarianization of the United States and the world is accelerating at terrifying speed. The two stage theory of change (take governmental power, then change our lives) is not the answer; neither are crude ideas of spontaneity.
We don’t want to give the impression that buying from worker cooperatives and developing the worker cooperative economy will solve all our problems. And so we hope that in this show’s growth that we will be able to facilitate solutions with worker co-ops and our audience about the broader social transformation that worker cooperatives need to be part of, including ecology and degrowth.
We are engaging in risky territory. The outward presentation of someone or a worker co-op can hide their true nature or conduct . We can be deceived. And we expect to find carceralism in worker co-ops as much as carceralism exists among the population, including radicals. Our goal is to take risks to have a chance at changing others who need to be changed along the way, which will inevitably mean mistakes and failures and not knowing what to do with our limited insights until we get it right.
If the oppressed begin to sidestep unnecessary battles to take full control of resources at the expense of the ruling classes, all who participate shall be subjected to disinformation, lawsuits, defamation, digital mob action and many other forms of repression. But even before the government were to do this, the current blood thirsty culture of Americans will mean ordinary people, including radicals, might very well constitute a counterinsurgency to the positive effect we are trying to press forward. We live in a very carceral culture where people, even the well-intentioned, want human sacrifices of those who are not exactly like them. Such people are impetuous and demand swift answers, so they can play judge, jury, and executioner. They are not rooted in real collective processes that require drawn out consensus processes across communities nor are they rooted in subversive experiences that ground people to how the State extorts and renders people unable to speak the truth fully many times without having the effect of turning our own words into death spells against others who would get caught in the crossfire. We ask for deep empathy, especially while we live under the watchful monitoring of States.
We wish that our supporters could kindly hold us accountable to the change we profess to want since it is always a challenge for human beings to connect means to ends. And we hope we can be forgiven if we make mistakes, be given a chance to repair, and even given help when we fail. We’re just flawed proles trying to bust out of our own cages, too.
We hope Co-ops Not Cages survives and evolves to be a useful tool of autonomous working-class action. And we hope that we’ll be lucky enough to support you and your community toward universal emancipation.
POSITION ON ABOLITION
Approved by the Co-ops Not Cages Assembly on June 12th, 2021.
The Prison-Industrial Complex[*]
- The prison-industrial complex (PIC), which includes external armed forces and courts imposed on communities, are social evils that ravage and endanger our society and must be eradicated by solutions meticulously built by communities animated by the spirit of Self-Determination.
- The primary function of the PIC is profiteering, exploitation, and power over others to the benefit of the ruling classes–not to reduce or prevent real harm among people nor to give consent-based justice to survivors of harm.
- The PIC concept of justice—rooted in Punishment, Degradation, Authority, and Torture—has disastrously failed and will always fail.
- Self-governing communities who engage in transformative and restorative justice, harm prevention, non-violent conflict resolution, consensus and mediation, forgiveness, community rehabilitation, and other unforeseen solutions can and will replace the PIC.
- All prisoners, regardless of their innocence or guilt of crimes against the rulers’ laws or crimes against society, must receive dignity and healing.
- Creating communities of resistance, self-governance, support, love and mutual aid across the razor wire fence are revolutionary acts.
- We who call ourselves abolitionists must attempt to integrate prisoners in our efforts.
THE END OF PRISONS
- We recognize the legitimacy of multiple approaches to abolition, bearing in mind the critical necessity of maintaining peace among abolitionists of different non-State supporting persuasions to avoid giving government and other anti-abolitionist forces easy opportunities to use asymmetrical positions among us to destroy our movements and decrease whatever cooperation and solidarity is possible between us.
- We recognize that the oppressed are always in a legitimate position to resist, even use violence, against the oppressor, even against Legal Crime. We recognize that not every legitimate attack on the oppressor is strategic or tactical and that our resistance can unintentionally strengthen our oppressors, requiring constant discussions among abolitionists for better paths forward to emancipation.
- We agree to the ethics of revolutionary action as well as reforms that actually diminish the torture prisoners face.
- The prisons will be emptied, never to be filled again, as a result of the masses who undergo a social transformation embracing an abolitionist way of life with all the responsibilities this entails and creative solutions to address the difficult challenges we face in the dismantling of a carceral-thinking and -practicing society. EMANCIPATION IS IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT THIS. It is either a societal transformation or a make-believe one. These are not tasks that can be handed to others but constitute the work of abolitionists that define us as abolitionists.
OTHER ABOLITIONIST VALUES
- We are raised in a corrupt world. It is best to assume we are at least sometimes corrupt in our thinking and practices and the simple realization of this does not result in automatic transformation. The world we seek to build is so different than the current. It is a slow- and long-term transformation and will never be automatic. As we judge others we must judge ourselves.
- People do commit harm to others. And communities, including abolitionists, are often baffled about how to address or prevent such harm and give justice to survivors. It is wise for abolitionists to develop solutions within community frameworks to the satisfaction of communities who shall inevitably play key roles in emptying the prisons.
- We are against purity politics and associating only with “perfect” people. While safe spaces and safe associations are indispensable, it is also necessary to go out into the corrupt world in order to have a transformative influence on others whom we think we can change. “Passing the buck” on trying to socialize others into an abolitionist way of life, shaming others who try to do this where you cannot, or enforcing complete segregation away from the “imperfect” and corrupt is part and parcel of carceralism. Of course, there are moments where such attempts can go awry and abolitionists must be “reeled back in”.
- It takes time to build trust with others for collaboration, to see who’s really “pulling” someone’s “strings”, to assess real motives and facts, and to see if others behave as carceralists or government agents. This is made all the more difficult because of the infiltration of the ruling classes’ employees or support base in grassroots organizations. Engaging with any group or person is a risk. But we cannot avoid all risks and must interact with society to reweave it where we can.
- We are open to those who wish to transform us where we can improve as well.
- Carceralism is deeply embedded in our communities, even among self-identifying radicals. Abolition does not mean condoning the behavior of individuals or multitudes who reproduce the foundations of a carceral society.
- Instead of being demagogues and populists, we must focus on carrying out the (often “invisible” and not flashy) molecular work of creating the moral, material, relational, and spiritual conditions needed for a carceral-free world.
- Every conquest requires an oppressive “leadership” from the conquered population to “legitimize” such conquest and to assist in extirpating the truly liberatory elements of a conquered people who are struggling to be free. We would never seek to constitute any type of leadership and the destruction of such leadership, including the mentality that enables it, is necessary for emancipation.
- We stand against cults of personality, opportunism, and the fetishization and deification of anyone. No one is above reproach. By giving any member of the oppressed classes power over others, including irreproachability, we reproduce the sociology of carceralism and we end up at square one.
- We will not engage in virtue signalling, “radicaler than thou-ism”, and mindless populist or demagogic rhetoric that often seek to impose values and “correct” standards of behavior on others in alienated frameworks without meaningful attempts at community processes. Such practices are another pillar of carceral society.
- Nothing should be “automatically embraced as constructive and empowering; not everything can be rejected as a pure instrument of coloniality. It is possible, however, to aspire to build a different worldview, project of coexistence, and institutions with the collective set of ideas and practices that we have (from everywhere, including Europe, but not only Europe) and that we can create.”[**]
- We should always be ready to abandon solutions that are not working or that even become new forms of oppression of our own making.
- Revolutionary activity includes, but is not limited to building anti-carceral units of dual power self-government, economies, and consensus-based conflict resolution; creating actual face-to-face community on abolitionist foundations; learning about the historical destruction of our movements and infusing these lessons into our communities; calling in (and if necessary, calling out) “activists” who behave as agents disrupting our movements; practicing forgiveness and redemption; building actual consensus and encounterist safe spaces to connect communities; taking the initiative to stop cycles of harm; and abandoning revenge that would unnecessarily start or perpetuate cycles of harm that must end for our emancipation.
- Other meaningful action is whatever increases our confidence, enthusiasm, autonomy, initiative, participation, solidarity, our egalitarian tendencies and self-activity. Sterile and harmful action is whatever increases our differentiation through hierarchy, alienation, our reliance on others to do things for us that we must do ourselves and the degree to which we are manipulated by others – even by those allegedly acting on our behalf.
- We must end racism, classism, patriarchy, ableism, cis-gendered privilege and ALL other interrelated forms of oppression that the PIC perpetuates, creates, and multiplies.
- We are internationalists and transnationalists.
[*] Much of the language in this document was taken from Prison Abolition Prisoner Support’s “We Believe” statement.
[**] Nelson Maldonado-Torres. Outline of Ten Theses on Coloniality and Decoloniality.