In The Forge’s recent Organizing Mega-Corporations issue, Lauren Jacobs argues that “we need to be much more ambitious in our thinking and disciplined in our strategizing…. One part of building towards [an ambitious political] project has to be thinking about how we organize.” Jacobs is asking us to think beyond single issues and approaches, to collectively commit to uncertainty, and to set our sights on the project of building a working-class movement that can change the world.

As Black women who are working to undo structural inequity at the intersections of white supremacy, capitalism, cisheteronormativity, ableism, and patriarchy, we see our own approach to liberation echoed in Jacobs’s words. We both work for Liberation in a Generation — a national movement support organization building the power of people of color to transform the economy — Azza as the senior policy manager and Kendra as the communications director. We’re committed to bringing grassroots organizers of color to the forefront of the antimonopoly movement, especially in policymaking, advocacy, and narrative change.

Jacobs points to a set of practices through which we can wrench power back from corporations and blaze a path toward collective liberation. One of our takeaways in reading her piece is that thinking about how we organize is central to antimonopoly — and all movement — efforts. As Dessa Cosma of Detroit Disability Power says, “how we do the work is the work.” In particular, we believe that to build stronger movements, we need to build up our ambition, be strategic in our discipline, and lead with the process. 


Exercising Ambition

Building up ambition is a visionary project. It asks us to think beyond what we (think we) know and show the possibilities of what could be. Futuring is part of the struggle, and it takes time. And more time. And more time after that. Black and brown folks, and Black women in particular, literally and figuratively can’t afford much, including our time. But it’s important to make time for ambition. As Connie Razza and Solana Rice recently wrote, “Racial capitalism depends, in part, on us staying in survival mode, on our exhaustion preventing our dreaming.” 

And so, ambition is a practice, just as — to borrow from Mariame Kaba — “hope is a discipline.” It’s a muscle that we have to repeatedly exercise in order for it to grow, especially as we confront — and ultimately overcome — the difficult, day-to-day crises that outsized corporate power deliberately stokes in our communities. 

By practicing ambition, we shield ourselves against megacorporations’ insistence that this is the best the world has to offer. A practice of ambition is incompatible with cynicism. Instead, ambition creates the necessary space to imagine alternative economic arrangements, to experiment daily with liberatory ways of relating to each other and the natural world, and to reclaim the ancestral wisdom that colonialism sought to bury. Because there’s nothing more that the Jeff Bezoses and Elon Musks of the world want than for us to stay (down) where we are. 

Chris Smalls, Derrick Palmer, and the team that won the first successful union drive at Amazon exemplify this ambition. As Charlotte Alter wrote for TIME, “By conventional standards, the Amazon Labor Union — just a year old and less than 10,000 members strong — isn’t actually that big. Not when compared to its long-established unions with hundreds of thousands of members. That’s part of what made its victory over a very big, very powerful, and fiercely anti-union company so audacious.” 

Smalls knows that ambition is ammunition. It will propel us all toward a new economy that disallows corporate extraction and exploitation. Ambition is the fuel we need to not only endure and confront today’s oppression but also push past where we are and where we’ve been. Smalls named that “the ALU represents the new face, the new-school style of 21st century organizing. Where younger adults are taking charge and putting workers in the driver’s seat.” What’s the point of ambition if we don’t use it to evolve?


Leaning into Strategic Discipline

We must also become more disciplined strategizers — and be more strategic with our discipline. Diligence and rigor are important, but they shouldn’t constrain our instincts, intuition, or willingness to experiment. Too often, our institutions are risk averse and cautious — qualities that can make it difficult to act with urgency or to pivot to meet the moment. 

At Liberation in a Generation, a fairly young movement support organization, we often say that we’re building the plane while flying it. As we stretch ourselves to meet our ambitions, we make space to name what we don’t know. Conventionally, that might mean taking a beat. But sometimes it also looks like going with our gut and forging ahead even when we’re unsure. For example, in strategizing about how to address the Big Business Economy, which derives its power and profit from racism, we struggled to categorize the project’s structure: what questions did we want to answer? Rather than holding off the project until we, as an individual organization, concretely defined its pillars, we called on our community across the movement and invited them to do it with us. Through a series of conversations, we generated clear, collaborative areas of inquiry. Our intuition to move forward on the work was stronger than our fear of getting it wrong — and, in the end, we developed a stronger project as a result. 

Uncertainty is uncomfortable, and discomfort can elicit a fight, flight, or freeze response. Sometimes we need to hold tight, to execute the strategies and best practices that we know are most likely to lead to winning campaigns. But other times, we need to let go and reach for something else, something that speaks to our ideals — and which might work or might land us on our asses. Uncertainty is possibility too. We need to get more comfortable with risking failure to reach for something big.

When Smalls and Palmer planned the initial walkout at the Staten Island Amazon facility, disciplined strategizing would have meant waiting until the right moment, when they had the right numbers, to take a stand. Instead, Smalls created the moment, telling the media that “at noon, on March 30th, it’s going down” and that 200 people would be walking out. He knew he only had about five people on but that the folks who would be outside on their lunch breaks would provide the perception of a large, collective drive. “Look what we did,” he said that day. “That gave me a little bit of confidence.” When ALU moved forward with its union drive, all conventional standards — filing with only 30% on cards, for example — pointed to failure. But they were able to crack something open that no one else had figured out.

And so, strategic discipline is also a practice. Disciplined strategizing would say: Wait until you have the numbers. But strategic discipline says: Yes, we know what the bar is, but we think we can organize a different way — so let’s go for it. 


Leading with the Process

Finally, process is as important as outcomes. How are we organizing? Who leads the work? What values define who we work in community with? Where can we expand our ambition? When do we employ strategic discipline? 

The process itself is a practice. We know that union drives are a core dimension of disempowering big corporations, as ALU so powerfully demonstrates. And we know that organizing around a shared goal doesn’t mean minimizing alternative mechanisms for achieving it. We are literally trying to create an economy — and world — that we’ve never seen before, so we should be as open minded as possible to all available routes to getting there. 

Kendra recently spoke with Veronica Avila, who focuses on worker campaigns with the homies at the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE). She underscored the importance of going after corporations in a way that is not dependent on policy. Yes, we want to win higher wages through sectoral bargaining and other federal reforms. Yes, we need safety standards that are enforced by the law. We also have to value other processes — like resetting narrative intervention goals and reprioritizing mutual care — that will move us in the same direction of taming corporate power while broadening the scope of our tactics. As we birddog elected officials about the PRO Act, for example, we should pinpoint the ways to engage local constituents on corporate power’s harm beyond the workplace and then strategize around those entry points. A potential ally in Pittsburgh may not yet see the value in collective bargaining, so let’s first activate them with the story of how a private multinational corporation profited from poisoning their water. As Hurst states in The Forge, “there's a lot of room to let a thousand flowers bloom.” 

As we shift perspectives and generate cross-issue solidarity, let’s also stop to check in on one another. The fight against megacorporations must be rooted in sustainability — of the planet, of Black and brown communities, and of workers’ livelihoods and lives. We must continually recommit to not being depleted ourselves, physically, financially, or in spirit. This looks like elevating access needs and valuing disability justice, redistributing income and wealth, and centering joy


Practicing Liberation

Who’s at the helm of our drives also matters. If we want to equalize a top-heavy economy and dismantle corporate power, we cannot rely on top-down, white-led formations to determine approaches or temper our ambition.

The fact that the gig worker organizing space is very white, for example, doesn’t align with the fact that gig workers of color endure disproportionate harm on the job. We must center gig workers of color while intentionally and deliberately de-centering whiteness.

Most importantly, process should always put the people with the least positional power first. As we wrote in a recent report, frameworks like Black Women Best compel us to

move beyond restrictive white supremacist and capitalist modes of being, relating with one another, and studying the world around us. Those in power have long presented the inequity, instability, and violence we collectively navigate as inevitable and even necessary. We are told that in capitalism there must always be winners and losers, forcing us to labor under conditions that crush our bodies and spirits to access life-sustaining resources that are increasingly captured by corporations and rationed by the state.

If taking on megacorporations and building economic liberation is the goal, we won’t get there without liberatory processes that are shaped by liberatory actions, discipline, and ambition. 

Liberation itself is a practice. So let’s keep working at it. 


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