We are excited to announce the launch of La Vida Local, a new initiative to incubate sin el estado (without the state) work within our Mijente membership!
What is Sin El Estado (Without the State) Work?
“Sin El Estado” takes the work of resistance and moves it one step further into the realm of imagination and transformation: as gente living under state capitalism, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy, we are often asked to define ours our existence in relation to the dominant structure. Often we find ourselves in what we can call a “1st space.” That is, living under the conditions mentioned above. As organizers, activists, and resistors, we tend to also live in a “2nd space” where we are forced to react en contra or against these conditions. “Sin el estado” work offers a “third space” that allows us to be more than passive participants of state capitalism or as victims/people in struggle against. This frees people up to explore other, liberatory ways of existing as individuals and communities–right here, and right now.
Sin el estado work differs in the ways it relates to existing power structures. The Zapatistas, for example, talk about dual-power: the necessity of contesting for power from above (within the existing structures) while simultaneously building power from below (the grassroots). Because of this, sin el estado work often overlaps with the existing structures anyway, and thus sin el estado work can overlap with “desde el estado” and “contra el estado” work.
Those overlaps can look like:
-New ways of carrying out “contra el estado” work–such as direct actions and organizing tactics that show us a version of what the new world we are fighting for could look like and how it would function.
-Long-term organizers in Jackson, MS have taught a lot of us what is possible when you elect your candidate but continue to carry out peoples’ assemblies and caucuses to discuss important community issues–not just to make sure the mayor checked the box of receiving input, but because the mayor knows the people will hold him accountable during his term, not just every four years at the ballot box.
Sin el Estado projects answer “yes” to one ore more of the following questions:
- Can you live off it?
- Can you eat from it?
- Does it replace a harmful entity?
- Does it exercise the muscles for participatory democracy?
Here are some examples of sin el estado work across various sectors:
Alternatives to Governance
As more of our gente gets elected to office, we must ask each other: what are the mechanisms, structures, and behaviors that allow us to co-govern and do not replicate the dominant culture of governance? As activists and organizers, we often get trained in differentiating from the mainstream, in building power to win against. However, to be generative while in power, to implement different mechanisms for community input and manifestation requires different muscles altogether. Some of these strategies and tactics are simple interventions around authentic community leadership development, meeting facilitation, and building aptitude for productive conflict and principled struggle.
Example: Participatory budgeting is a way to build and exercise democracy year-round, not just at the ballot box. You can read more about participatory budgeting here.
Alternatives to Institutions
Public institutions–such as schools, hospitals, libraries, and public transit–if they are even adequate, can often perpetuate the dominant culture’s narrative. We must experiment with “third space” projects that attempt to replace these institutions in our lives altogether.
Examples: Projects such as childcare cooperatives, unschool/freeschools,and alternatives to community policing/911.
Alternatives to Capitalism
The ways in which we are beholden to capital keeps us tied up in innumerable ways. From jobs that don’t pay enough or don’t schedule enough hours, to lopsided profits for billionaires who do nothing for us. From the financial/banking/credit system to supply chains that poison the environment, most of us are affected by capital’s grip on our communities. Experimenting with alternative financial institutions can create spaces away from our mainstream economic system. Some of these are informal and/or quite distanced from our economic system, like tandas or people bartering bread for eggs in a neighborhood, and some of them are heavily formalized and have high proximity to capitalist economies, like the food co-op you don’t even realize is a co-op that stocks all kinds of major national brands.
Examples: Tandas, producer/consumer/worker cooperatives.
What’s important about Sin el Estado work?
It’s not just about creating opportunities for sharing or alternatives to oppressive structures, although that is certainly part of why we do the work. Dominant culture is constantly shaping and reshaping our brains into conflict-averse, self-blaming, anxious beliefs and behaviors that make us poorly equipped for winning and for being generative about what happens once we’ve won battles for power. Sin el estado projects can help individuals and communities get a taste for radical democracy, pro-conflict, confidence-boosting, trust-building new beliefs and behaviors that can help us get the goods and keep them.
Why is Mijente tackling this?
Because it’s part of our framework! However, in US organizing spaces, it’s often the most ignored work. Sin el estado work actually builds skills that are necessary for the battles ahead. Latinx people can be among the lowest-paid workers in the US. We can organize for greater wages but we can also just make our own way. We can hustle. In particular, our undocumented gente are often excluded from mainstream democratic processes (voting, collective bargaining, etc.) Lastly, we do this work because our people often have few, if any, safety nets to just try some shit and take risks.
We know our gente has what it takes to experiment and try new things out. We’re excited to provide an opportunity to seed new work and see what grows!
Are you a Mijente member and have an idea for a project? Click here to apply!
If you’re not a member yet, make it official at mijente.net/join!
Are you interested in supporting this work? Click here to donate to the fund!
Nikki Marín Baena is Director of Finance and Economic Development at Mijente. She has about ten years of experience working in co-ops, helping people start, finance, and scale worker-owned co-ops, and sometimes talking people out of trying to start them.