By Cheri Honkala, founder, 1990s, of Kensington Welfare Rights Organization, Kensington neighborhood, Philadelphia and the Poor People’s Army in the decades to follow.
The following Principles of Unity have been worked out democratically by poor people organizing themselves, and are principles by which the Poor People’s Army functions–slight mods have been made in points 1 and 16. We suggest adopting these for an Abolish Inequality Task Force based in Wisconsin, as well.
1. We support and lift up poor people’s leadership, particularly low-income women and women of color. We seek to develop this new leadership continuously.
If problems arise, we agree to sit down and find resolution in order to move forward for the best interest of the movement.
2. We identify and address the root causes of our poverty.
3. We support the international poor people’s movement as we work locally.
4. We are building a movement that enacts the future we want to see – one based on a cooperative economy and society.
5. We organize for power. This means embracing tactics and strategies that help move the movement towards political independence. We are interested in enacting an alternative paradigm framed on the needs of the movement rather than those of corporate-controlled political parties.
6. We are committed to peace even as we daily suffer violence – the violence of unemployment, hunger, and homelessness. We have a right to feed, clothe and house our families – this is not up for negotiation. We also have a right to speak for ourselves about these inhuman conditions in which we live and have a responsibility to shed light on those that benefit both directly and indirectly from our collective misery.
7. We have a right and a duty to protect our families and each other.
8. We are collectively creating our vision for a different kind of world. We commit ourselves to daily political education, and do not take our leadership roles lightly. We will not allow ourselves to be bought or co-opted.
9. We are committed to making and controlling our own media.
10. We recognize the need for a radical break with the status quo of progressive politics. We can no longer afford to hold onto old models of organizing that do not challenge capitalism. We must actively seek a significant paradigm shift, looking to other peasant models in the rest of the world and organize across borders.
11. We recognize the intersectionality of our oppression. Racism, classism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, abilism, and transphobia intersect in the ways we experience daily violence. However, we will not allow the police, social workers, doctors, scholars, clergy, nonprofits, or political parties to divide us along these lines.
12. We know the entire global capitalist economy is disrupted and undermined as new laborless electronic technology is applied to production, permanently replacing hundreds of millions of workers. These workers are cast out of, or to the margins of the economy, with little or no ability to buy the necessities of life. These workers are a new class created by robot/AI production. Our job is to build unity among this new class based on common poverty.
13. We acknowledge that this country was built on white supremacy, imperialism, colonialism, and militarism, and we resist the ongoing perpetuation of these systems of violence.
14. Our work breaks with the military, prison, nonprofit, and faith industrial complexes.
15. We honor our ancestors, lifting up their histories and work so we may learn from them and share their knowledge with the generations to come.
16. Completely independent of all political parties, including any alternative parties to the two-party system, we are building poor and working class political leadership and representation. We can no longer afford to have our movements used as the ‘base’ of the Democratic and Republican parties – especially at a time when the political elite of both parties are directly or indirectly participating in the diminishment of workers’ rights.