Insurrection & Infrastructure: a Dual Power Guide for Leftists in Britain
Dual Power is at last being talked about in British revolutionary left wing discourse, having previously been ignored outside of a small number of Syndicalist, Anarchist and Communist organisers already familiar with the subject. However the debate here needs to catch up fast to the state of affairs that we are presented with. Accordingly I have prepared this guide, which examines multiple aspects of the concept, including the most recent commentary on the subject from modern Communists and Anarchists in the USA.
This piece can either be read in depth as a piece of work in its own right, or readers can skim it for links to other bodies of work and the quoted texts that I have included. Those seeking a rapid definition of the concept should read the introductory points at the beginning and then skip directly to the Appendix at the end of the article.
What is dual power?
As myself and others have gone on about at length, things are rather bad right now. In the current context of electoral politics and mass liberal protests getting pulverised by the UK state and the inherent conservatism of much of British society, much of the radical left in the UK is turning to an area of revolutionary theory that has been left neglected for many years: dual power. This has particularly come to the fore in relation to questions about the correct organising model going forward, reflections on the Covid-19 crisis, the growth of mutual aid projects, as well as issues regarding climate destruction and ecological radicalism.
Dual power has seldom been explored by the left in the UK, but is the subject of serious debates across the entire spectrum of the left in the United States. With the obliteration of the credibility of the electoral route to power, and the total failure of the mass protest model espoused by liberal environmentalists, many Communists, Anarchists, radical ecological activists and Socialists in the UK are taking notice of this critical area of revolutionary theory.
However, because the movement here has ignored the concept for so long, few have a good grounding in the depth of the theory. This is bad, because dual power is not only a demanding organisational challenge, but it’s a complex and contested subject of theoretical debate.
So what is it?
The answer is complex and cannot really be answered by single explanations any more, as there are now multiple competing definitions, both complementing each other and at odds. In order to disentangle this I’ve attempted to assemble a combined explanation of core terms, definitions and technical concepts, as well as an overview of the modern debate over the term and the contest between the various definitions
The basic core idea is that dual power is where there is a complex of institutions that challenge State and Capital for control over logistics, resource access, political decision making, and social coordination. But the story does not end there…
What it is…
- A strategic doctrine: In many ways, dual power is a framework of ideas about how to organise radical networks and groups in a specific way in order to oppose and actively disrupt the application of state power.
- A form of practice/method: Because it is a strategic doctrine concerned with organisational behaviours on a wide scale, it is also concerned with organisational behavior on a group level, and on an individual level.
- A diagnosis: If dual power is achieved then that means that a circumstance has established itself whereby dual power is physically present in an area or a section of society. In other words you can diagnose when it is happening and it is not an ephemeral concept that flits in and out of existence. It will be societally concrete, a set of existing social circumstances.
- A set of physical things: dual power refers to the existence of physical assets and social institutions. This include physical control over machinery, buildings, food sources etc, combined with active worker unions, health clinics, occupied spaces, networks of supply for material goods under control of radical organisations, and so on.
- A manifestation of behaviours: It isn’t just the dead presence of left-oriented institutions. Participants will be at least partially aware of the greater scope of the things they are involved in. They will know for example that a health clinic that is part of a dual power network is consciously developed as a challenge to state/capital monopolies on the right to supply the means of living.
- Dual power must be counterposed against a lack, or a weakness in state/capital power: Ultimately it arises with the combination of all these aspects into a complex system which is able to actually wrestle control of certain aspects of society and the economy away from state/capital control. It is not merely the establishment of radical infrastructure alone.
- It is thus defined by rupture: dual power stops being a simple collection of capacities by being tied to and a part of a rupture between the old and the new.
What is it Not…
- Not synonymous with mutual aid: Mutual aid is a critical part of dual power but it is not the same thing. Mutual aid is a form of human activity which can have a radical context, such as with squats, refugee support etc, or can be totally cooperative with state and capital and totally alienated by them. Kropotkin describes mutual aid as an emergent characteristic of complex organic life. Humans are social species so they not only do this on basic material levels like looking after offspring, but also realise mutual aid through the social realm.
- Not synonymous with guerilla war: guerilla war involves the development of power bases from which to mobilise against state or occupying armed forces, but this doesn’t make it exactly the same thing. dual power can be and often is a component of guerilla strategies, but does not have to be. Not all Guerilla forces seek to topple governments, or control over local institutions. Some do. Some are even in peculiarly cooperative relationships with local authorities on the fringe of central state control, in particular with Guerrilla forces that are closely linked to drug cartels.
- Not something that can exist hand in hand with every strategy: Some strategies are effectively conceptually in opposition to it: for example entryism focused forms of vanguardism, and many electoral strategies are inherently aimed at things that run contrary to the goal of building dual power, due to many interpretations of the concept being based on opposition and usurpation of established unions, civic institutions, and pieces of government infrastructure. For example, establishing an alternate source of control over healthcare challenges local healthcare officials, healthcare charities within the NGO industrial complex, and mainstream unions.
- Most critically it is not just the sum of its parts: it has to exist in a revolutionary context, which is sufficiently extreme as to force a confrontation against the state. Prior to this eventuality it exists as interconnected components with largely radical political characters.
- Not our ideological baby: Dual power is a product of leftist theory but we do not have a monopoly on it as a strategic doctrine. There are examples of reactionary movements achieving similar structures both historically and in modern global politics. While in the leftist context it must be seen as inherently anti-capitalist and anti-state, the broadest definition of the doctrine can merely be anti-government and not bother about the state as a concept or capitalism as a system. In other words, it can be used by any form of insurgency. Remember that bit about guerilla war? At the end of the day, sometimes the guerillas that DO utilise dual power aren’t on our side.
- It is not something that can liberate us on its own, and it is not something intended for peace.
Competing definitions within leftism:
There’s a lot of subtly different definitions of dual power. They aren’t set in stone by god: they overlap a lot, because a lot of development in the concept has happened very recently. In order to sort them at least vaguely, I’ve produced my own assessment of some broad cleavages in the modern definition as of mid-2020. Readers should interpret this section with a grain of salt because it’s a product of my own views on how to categorise the subject but I hope that it proves useful in explaining some elements of the evolving theoretical debate around the subject. There are many ways of seeing dual power, so here are a few:
Leninist origins, early Anarchist influences, and Diagnostic/Emergent perceptions:
Many people focus on thinking about dual power in terms of diagnosing emergent conditions in revolutionary scenarios. In other words, rather than primarily thinking of dual power as an active project alone, they think of it in terms of comparing existing situations to situations described in documented historical revolutions. This traces a direct line of descent back to the intellectual tradition of the Russian Revolution, where multiple theorists commented on the emerging situation of twin poles of political power, one being the Provisional government, the other being the various Workers Soviets. Lenin, Trotsky and others analysed the situation in the contemporary context of 1917. A fascination with these figures is a permanent feature of leftist writing in many circles, and lots of writers have tended to focus on if dual power has emerged in a given context and if the moment is ripe for Bolshevik ( or similar) action. This is not to say that the Leninist tradition is totally passive though, and to assume that Leninist think only of the subject passively, in the context of being observers would be erroneous. Many Leninists do focus heavily on advocating the proactive development of dual power if it is not already present, as it is often considered a prerequisite for revolution by many Leninists writings on the subject, particularly in relation to Maoist insurgency strategies (-more on this later). Many modern American Leninists are ardent in their support of dual power strategies, particularly in relation to debates that swept through the American left prior to 2020. (-more on this later as well.)
In “The Peculiar Nature of the dual power” Lenin states:
“This dual power is evident in the existence of two governments: one is the main, the real, the actual government of the bourgeoisie, the “Provisional Government” of Lvov and Co., which holds in its hands all the organs of power; the other is a supplementary and parallel government, a “controlling” government in the shape of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, which holds no organs of state power, but directly rests on the support of an obvious and indisputable majority of the people, on the armed workers and soldiers.
The class origin and the class significance of this dual power is the following: the Russian revolution of March 1917 not only swept away the whole tsarist monarchy, not only transferred the entire power to the bourgeoisie, but also moved close towards a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. The Petrograd and the other, the local, Soviets constitute precisely such a dictatorship (that is, a power resting not on the law but directly on the force of armed masses of the population), a dictatorship precisely of the above-mentioned classes.”
Other early influences on the concept include writings by proto-anarchist Proudhon, whose writings in “General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century” have exerted a modicum of influence on anarchist and libertarian socialist thought regarding questions of revolutionary Infrastructure. However, Proudhon is generally not favoured by many modern leftists, and undoubtedly it is Kropotkins omnipresent work explaining the role of mutual aid in natural life, society and politics that is the most influential in the Anarchist sphere on this matter. The importance of the concept of political mutual aid to the concept of dual power is so obvious as to not require going into any detail. To put it simply, political mutual aid is now a core pillar of the whole concept, and it is no wonder, given that Kropotkin considered mutual aid to be “the surest means for giving each other and to all the greatest safety, the best guarantee of existence and progress, bodily, intellectual and moral.”. Those unfamiliar with the concept should consult widely available anarchist and libertarian-socialist sources on the subject, or indeed, the man himself, particularly the latter chapters of the main body of the work.
The (in)famous Murray Bookchin made a few comments regarding the role of dual power in his models of a transforming society, as have other followers of his philosophical and ideological work. Much of this was focused around late 20th century developments in his theoretical trajectory with influence from studies of democracy and urbanisation. Accordingly, Bookchinite contributions often tend to focus on the town and city as being the centre of gravity for political transformation, and weighed heavily into the interpretations of dual power as being about the civic legitimacy of alternative centres of popular sovereignty. Another significant influence from this camp was the mild but noticeable introduction of ecological concepts which introduced the “green” side of the equation into the concept. As a result of this, the concept began to expand scope in the broad libertarian-left theoretical tradition, and Anarchists and Bookchinites has been particularly notable in its return to prominence. Bookchin’s writing came to more mainstream prominence particular in the aftermath of the 2011 revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, prompting even theoreticians willing to tolerate cooperation with liberal democracy to note his influence on their positions:
“At the time, however, “dual power” was essentially descriptive. The American anarchist theorist Murray Bookchin was the first to flesh out the concept into a strategic framework for transformative politics. In his political blueprint, called “libertarian municipalism,” confederations of directly democratic assemblies would be forced into conflict with the nation-state, making continued coexistence impossible. We advocate a somewhat more flexible approach than Bookchin’s — engaging with liberal democratic governments wherever possible to
restructure them in a participatory and ecosocialist direction. Even so, his theoretical work on dual power is central to our strategy.” (From “Community, Democracy,and Mutual Aid: Toward dual power and Beyond. By John Michael Colón, Mason Herson-Hord, Katie S. Horvath, Dayton Martindale, & Matthew Porges, available as a PDF here)
Ultimately, the main effect of this was to lend weight to a growing tendency to use the concept of dual power in programmatic terms rather than descriptive ones, although it also made it open to a certain liberal de-fanging of its revolutionary potential. Since this contribution, the debate has expanded far beyond Bookchin’s particular ideological position, and has also taken on influence from other radical directions.
20th Century warfare/Guerilla influences:
Both via the Maoist tradition, and via the rise of other significant military-political movements, there have been a number of significant historical and contemporary examples of revolutionary forces using strategies similar to dual power in local zones of influence to enhance and support guerilla campaigns, and other forms of warfare. Maoist, and Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideological schools of thought often lay claim to this, but the history of the 20th century demonstrated that the concept of dual power is not the exclusive purview of the leftists. Many militant forces have used it. The Maoists were particularly notable for it at numerous points in time, notably in India, where the Naxalite movement was sufficiently developed to be at the point of setting up its own schools and mid level civil engineering projects as well as utilising their own concept of “revolutionary taxes”, a hotly contested term, even amongst Maoists. However, it is notable that some Naxalite writings claim that dual power cannot exist in certain specific circumstances in Guerilla campaigns:
“When the guerrilla forces have the upper hand, the people’s power can exist. The enemy rule will go on temporarily when the guerrilla forces retreat in the face of the enemy onslaught. There cannot be dual power in the same area simultaneously. It will be either the enemy’s power or ours.”
Trotskyist guerilla fighter & theorist, Regis Debray took a slightly different line in his work “Revolution in the Revolution”, stating:
“For the attainment of this goal, the guerrilla movement is not the highest form of revolutionary struggle; “dual power”must be instituted at the base, that is, a call must be made for the formation of factory and peasant committees, the proliferation of which will ultimately permit the establishment of a single United Confederation of Workers; this confederation, by means of instantaneous and generalized rising in the mountains and the cities, will be the instrument for taking power…”
Other key case studies that illustrate the influence of modern militia/terrorist/guerilla forces on the development of dual power as a theory include Ukrainian Neo-Nazis, who have made great use of the development of cultural and civic institutions to assist their integration within Ukrainian Civil society, and Hezbollah, one of the most complex and successful armed groups on the planet.
Hezbollah is particularly notable because it has a major presence in many nations, but specifically in its home nation of Lebanon it exists in such strength that is often described as a “state within a state”. Western writers, discussing the concept of counter-insurgency have made deep studies of the subject, producing various statements about the group and its simultaneous existence as a social force, political party and independent army within the Lebanese political context. In his work “Out Of the Mountains” , popular mainstream expert on Western experiences in counter-insurgency, David Killkullin notes that:
“…the example par excellence of a wide-spectrum group is Lebanese Hezbollah. Hezbollah brings to bear an extremely broad range of capabilities across the full spectrum of a well-developed normative system… … The organization began as a small militia that received training from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, funding from Iran, and political support from Syria as well as from the Lebanese Shi’a community. Over time, however, Hezbollah has expanded and diversified into a wide-spectrum social and political movement that not only includes a capable military wing but also maintains regional and district administrative councils, law enforcement organizations, dispute resolution and mediation systems, employment programs, health clinics, schools, labor representation, a reconstruction organization, charity programs, a mass political party with elected representatives in the Lebanese parliament and at the local and regional levels, a series of local radio stations and print publications, the satellite television channel Al-Manar, and a significant Internet presence. Hezbollah is, in effect, a counterstate within the territory of Lebanon. This counterstate fields an extraordinarily effective “fish trap” system of incentives and disincentives that fully encapsulate its target population: you can live your whole life within the Hezbollah lifestyle and almost never need to engage with the outside environment.
Hezbollah’s strength derives from its ability to create a full-spectrum normative system that dissuades people from opposing its agenda, gives them tangible administrative and economic benefits in return for support, and persuades them to participate in its program. The system rests on three pillars — Hezbollah’s capable terrorist and military organizations (giving it coercive and intimidatory power); its social and administrative programs, which benefit Lebanon’s urban poor and marginalized communities of all religious groups; and its non-coercive political and propaganda capabilities.”
This brief overview of Hezbollah’s complex, dynamic power-plays in its regional environment should demonstrate to the careful reader three things of note: 1, that Hezbollah considers this systemic capacity to be totally core to its model, 2, that it differs ideologically, in the most extreme manner, from the practice of most Communists or Anarchists, and 3, that the integration of the project within existing states and cooperation with local inter-state geopolitical military alliances runs counter to the goal that most leftists would hold themselves as adhering to: emancipation from, rather than control of, the State and Capital. Nevertheless, it is a highly instructive real world example.
Just as stark in all those regards is the example of the conscious efforts of Ukrainian Neo-Nazis within their local civil society and state structures. The Azov Battalion in particular is notable for setting up a variety of social service institutions in order to develop their political legitimacy. A writer for Haaretz notes: “Semenyaka describes the movement as trying to build “a state within the state,” providing a number of services to people in a country where, plagued by poverty and a still-hot war with Russia, the government isn’t always able to step in. So Azov tries to do it all. It publishes a monthly newspaper, runs children’s camps (some with Ukrainian state help), provides services for veterans and generally does everything it can to show Ukrainians that it is a force for good.“ Further research into Ukrainian Neo-Nazi organisational methods by Open-Source investigators Bellingcat reveals that multiple Other Neo-Nazi groups are heavily focused on growing their presence in mutliple parts of the nations cultural apparatus.
Why are these reactionary organisations doing this? Because they sense power in the sinews of this form of activity. These efforts are not synonymous with what we call dual power, but they are similar and are major systemic elements in the campaign of Neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine to integrate their politics into the politic mainstream, and in Hezbullahs strategic of social control, protest repression and hegemonic maneuvering in the internecine domestic political environment of Lebanon. For this reason, they can be examined both to provide a warning, and a lesson.
Further influences toward Infrastructuralism- Modern complex theories of dual power emerge:
This brings us to the present: The historical confluence of multiple schools of theory, of multiple practical examples, of evolving modern movements, is all feeding into the continuing development of this concept. From this we reach the modern context: The Modern New Left movement, and the rise of millenial leftism and the current wave of radical youth movements. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, political events in the western hemisphere created numerous other currents that influenced the development of this theory.
As a result of numerous wide ranging contributions, dual power today is widely understood as being about more than alternative centres of decision-making and political/cultural sovereignty, or the diagnosis of political events. Rather, the always present, but frequently undernourished infrastructural side of the equation is now being emphasised by a growing number of writers, though not without pushback from some quarters. This has been heavily influenced by groups such as the Black Panthers, who famously advocated for the combination of a wide variety of social programs, run by their party, including soup kitchens and armed community defence, in turn leading to further influences on wider leftist radicalism following their dissolution into numerous successor parties, some of which have agitated for dual power strategies relatively recently. The other massive factor that caused the pivot to refocusing on infrastructure occurred during the Obama era, as disaffected left-liberals began to swell the ranks of the then nascent modern leftist revival in the United States, against a backdrop of events that destroyed community lifelines to thousands of working class people.
The Occupy movement and the Black Lives Matter movement are endlessly credited with creating much of the modern American leftist movement, and for good reason. Indeed there were early mutterrings on the subject of dual power in writings relatively close to those events and many modern African American led Leftist groups which benefited from or came into being after this period are also major proponents of the program, notably the Black Socialists of America, who relentlessly advocate for it on social media, and the well known Cooperation Jackson.
Notable events include massive mutual aid projects known as “Occupy Sandy”, and other similar disaster relief projects, as well as the popularity of notable modern guerilla movements which utilised the strategy, most well known of which being the EZLN:
“The Zapatista organization itself has very exacting requirements: in addition to adhering to its ideological principles, members must follow a set of standards that include rejecting aid from the official government and abstaining from alcohol. It is not surprising that at least some in each community decline to join. “The issue,” Pickard said, “is how to convince people to give you legitimacy, if not through an election” (given that the Zapatistas reject the current electoral system).
How do they do it? It’s certainly not through access to greater resources, although the Zapatistas do have a system of taxation. They charge a ten percent tax on projects by outside agencies including NGOs and the official government (the highway tolls were dropped in 2003). Within communities, assembly decisions are resourced by labor or in-kind contributions from each family in the community. Coffee and craft coops bring in additional venues and international solidarity provides a further supplement — the clinic at Magdalena, for instance, has been supplied by Médecins du Monde for a number of years. But the total budget of the resistance communities is, to say the least, austere.” Source.
The range of ideological influences is very complex, and developed in the Western political context largely amongst the new generation of Millennial/Zoomer leftists who are extremely theory oriented, though we hardly eschew organising and are now running the show in many groups. The new conception is much more focused on integrating mutual aid concepts, on integrating community action, supply of physical materials and meeting material needs, this trend takes ideological and practical inspiration from Black Panther food kitchens, independent unions, food-not-bombs etc, with special note to the climate change question, as well as combined deep organising models.
The kinds of US organisations involved in dual power Politics are often also concerned more heavily with workplace organising, and the influential Base-Building theoretical current in the communist /anarchist /socialist movement, and tend to de-emphasise electoral politics often totally rejecting it. This is not universally true however and there are some democratic socialists who advocate for movements towards Solidarity-Economy focussed routes whilst also holding to gradualist approaches, and on occasion even electoralist positions. Accordingly they frequently get into tangles with opposing theoreticians across the revolutionary spectrum.
There are various writers and organisations who are central to the North American revival of this theory, with the major organisational proponents including groups like the more revolutionary components of the Demcratic Socialists of America ( A dominant force in the American far-left), such as the Libertarian Socialist Caucus (LSC) and the Communist Caucus, the former having created an entire manifesto based on the concept, the latter being ardent proponents of class struggle organising within the pluralistic, yet often fractious DSA umbrella. Other leading proponents that dabble in the strategy to one extent or another are the Marxist Center organisation, Black Rose/Rosa Negra and the Symbiosis umbrella organisation. All have made efforts in the direction of coordinated mutual aid and dual power organising, combined with deep organising models, to one extent or another. The BSA (not to be confused with DSA), which were mentioned earlier in this essay have also joined in rhetorical support of this trend. A selection of source materials by these organisations has been collected in the first appendix to this work.
The key conceptual development of this movement of modern theorists is this: Dual power is now commonly conceived of, in our circles at least, as being a matter of creating an independent network of infrastructure to meet material needs, both for normal requirements, and in relation to the logistical challenges imposed by future insurrection, by disaster, by austerity, and by climate collapse, combined with the more classical ideas about creating structures of alternative Sovereignty in communities. This is seen by many modern writers as being achieved via a complex of Alternative Institutions and Counter Institutions. In relation to Counter Institutions, the LSC claims “When possible, these counter-institutions link up politically, economically, and socially to form a self-sufficient ecosystem; and ultimately, confederate into direct-democratic political bodies in and across communities all over the world. Our goal in building up this infrastructure is to create counter-power. Counter-power is our ability to delegitimize, disrupt, and demonstrate our power against the current regime by developing and deploying cutting-edge cultural and organizational practices. These practices form part of the direct action toolbox which can collectively be used to undermine and delegitimize social, political, and economic hierarchies” , while the frequently cited ( and criticised) Sophia Burns wrote ia dual power FAQ linked below that lays out its own scheme for the distinction between alternative and counter institutions. Anarchist writers have weighed in over the last few decades from various points of view, ranging from the relatively moderate to the more hard line, whilst other sources have criticised a tendency to gradualism that has made itself known in the debate partially due the influence of Bookchin’s legacy, and partially due to other trends of creeping liberalism that have emerged via Marxist and Democratic Socialist camps. However, against the sweeping backdrop of electoralist solutions being wiped out, climate collapse advancing day by day, disaster communism becoming a shibboleth, accelerationism becoming all too real by the minute, this tendency, whether motivated by liberalism, by opinions of revolutionary tactics, or other considerations may yet give way to a determined, agitated and aggressive stance on this school of revolutionary theory.
How can we build it here?
Up until now I haven’t gone much into my opinions in this piece in any detail other than minor asides. I shall do so now, and accordingly, I would like to encourage readers who made it this far to strongly consider contributing in their own right to this debate.
Let us consider the physical components at play within our movement:
We already have some components that could be forged into the most basic skeleton of a nascent dual-power complex. (I have written about this, as well as other related concepts elsewhere.) Our base union movement is organisationally diverse and very dynamic, though two of the more popular grassroots unions have an element of friendliness towards mainstream politics, and may not be so conducive towards or final aims as they are towards the goals of the Labour Party. Independent medical infrastructure is existent in a prototype level, though it is miniscule and barely exists. This is exhibited in the LGBTQ cultural experience of evading the de facto embargo of healthcare on the trans community, in the recent growth of protest first-aid training and community care operations via Queercare, and has to a certain extent been hinted at in the recent and ongoing experience of minor levels of community care being exhibited in our mutual aid groups in response to the Covid-19 crisis. We have basic practice in small scale food logistics thanks to the mutual aid groups as well. The antifascist movement is still an operable force, but is only growing relatively slowly. Renters unions are experiencing a massive surge in popularity, yet the most well known ( ACORN, LRU and Living Rent) have a history of institutional cooperation and are not yet fully radicalised vehicles. It is possible that one or more of them may become so, but this will only happen with effort. The anti-raids network exists, again in highly limited form. The recently resurgent climate movement has been severely bruised with the obliteration and defeat of the liberal side of the movement led by Extinction Rebellion, but it is still present and intermingles with many other areas of struggle.
This is not enough, and is in fact, very little. We have not, as a wide movement, inflicted that many defeats on our opponents on any level other than tactical for quite a while. We do not hold much physical infrastructure at all. There are perhaps scattered squats, bookshops and cultural venues, but this is not remotely adequate, and barely deserves the title “infrastructure” in the sense mentioned in this context.
We therefore should:
1- Recommit to organising methods that directly strengthen components of what could become a dual power complex: We need to strengthen and further radicalise the base unions, with a particular eye for radicalising the community organising structures affiliated with the movement and the renters unions, which are still relatively moderate.
2- Select areas of focus in the mutual aid movement: We may need to be rather ruthless when it comes to selecting which mutual aid groups to focus our efforts in. It will be clear to anyone who is involved with the phenomenon that many of them are closely linked to right wing or liberal civic and political institutions like the Labour Party. We certainly do not have the ability to radicalise all of the mutual aid efforts, as the tendency to ignore early calls for a rent strike campaign and towards legalistic officialdom in many of the groups demonstrates.
3- Become much better at training organisers, not merely within organisations, but also across the whole spectrum. What do i mean by this? Well, basically, given the habit of activists to circulate between organisations, we are effectively in a large Petri dish filled with its own ecosystem of constantly interacting parts. Cross pollination between organisations and tendencies occurs naturally, and has many effects. One of the most positive of these effects is that people share skills and on occasion organisations will train people in other groups. This may or may not strengthen the organisation doing or receiving the training on a case to case basis but as a general practice it massively increases our capacity. In other words we need an internal mutual aid culture of training and skill sharing and that must go beyond occasional “skill-share sessions” and become organisationally habitual to our structures.
4- Begin assessing points of vulnerability in the political and economic system where we can carve out small niches. With patience and a durable application of effort we can establish situations where those niches coalesce into more coherent structures. However, if the squatting movement has shown us anything, it is that most efforts in this direction will fail.
5- Because of this we should be willing to accept and prepare for circumstances where a large quantity of our individual projects fail. It is common for committed activists to abandon organisations if a campaign they were committed to begins to falter or is deprioritised by the organisation. This is often a symptom of burnout in the individual. It is also a symptom of an organisational inability to account for that burnout, and prepare for loss. We are certainly very used to our projects failing, but we do not tend to put in place organisational redundancies to insure against this. This applies on the level of supporting individual activists in need of burnout, and it applies on larger levels as well. The challenge of figuring out how to do this is great and we are unfortunately only going to learn how to do it via bitter experience.
6- Because our projects will often fail, we must be adaptive and maneuverable, and prepared to prioritise and deprioritise efforts intelligently and collectively. Part of this means assessing the likelihood of success with sobriety, and part of this means deciding whether or not it is worth continuing with projects even if their failure is highly likely- there are many times when projects that are doomed in and of themselves, are capable of creating second order benefits. A failed organising drive may be worth continuing at a reduced level to hold onto existing gains, or to train more organisers, or to retain capacity for a future allocation of effort while a group of organisers recovers and assesses reasons for failure. The critical matter is that we should have a systemic ability to assess which battles are worth continuing for the sake of the wider struggle, even if the battle itself offers diminishing returns in its own local context.
7- Because of our currently limited numbers and the vast amount of work at hand, this general plan does mean massively deprioritizing support for reformist efforts: they must be considered an unnecessary indulgence now. No organisation currently existing has the resources, human, financial or otherwise, to simultaneously commit to the electoral front and to the complex and demanding tasks of deep organising and infrastructural development which are to hand
The subject of revolutionary strategy is a complex one and I will continue to write about it elsewhere. I hope that this document proves useful to its readers, and that above all it provokes a simultaneous debate of new strategies and a commitment to organising outside of the cliques of Momentum/Labour infighting, university radicalism, and failed vanguardism, and instead develops in a healthy cooperative relationship with seriously militant direct action, workplace and class organising and hard nosed practical protest agitation.
Good luck, and maybe I’ll see some of you out organising.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
Appendix: Definitions and Commentary from Modern Western Organisations and Writers
“The term “dual power” has been used in several ways since it was first coined. The following definition builds on the previous meanings of dual power, most importantly by articulating the equal and necessary relationship between counter-power and counter-institutions. In the original definition, dual power referred to the creation of an alternative, liberatory power to exist alongside and eventually overcome state/capitalist power.
Dual power theorizes a distinct and oppositional relationship between the forces of the state/capitalism and the revolutionary forces of oppressed people. The two can never be peacefully reconciled.
With the theory of dual power is a dual strategy of public resistance to oppression (counter-power) and building cooperative alternatives (counter-institutions). Public resistance to oppression encompasses all of the direct action and protest movements that fight authoritarianism, capitalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and the other institutionalized oppressions. Building cooperative alternatives recreates the social and economic relationships of society to replace competitive with cooperative structures.
It is critical that these two general modes of action do not become isolated within a given movement. Counter-power and counter-institutional organizations must be in relationship to each other.” — SOURCE
Seattle Communists/Communist Labor Party:
“What does dual power mean?
dual power is both a type of institution and a strategy to change the world. dual power means new, independent institutions for people to meet their own needs in ways capitalism and the government can’t or won’t. Unlike nonprofits, where a board of directors (and usually wealthy donors!) makes the decisions, dual power institutions are created and controlled by the people they benefit. By developing them, people create a second kind of social, economic, and even political power, separate from government and capitalism. (That’s what the “dual” means, in duality with the current system.) These new community institutions then govern themselves using participatory democracy, which means that everyone plays an active part in decision-making.
What kinds of dual power institutions are there?
dual power institutions come in two flavors: alternative institutions and counter-institutions. The two kinds of dual power institutions do this from different (but complementary) angles. Alternative institutions meet a need directly. Counter-institutions challenge capitalism’s way of doing things. Alternative institutions start making a system that’s just, while counter-institutions work against one that’s unjust.“ -SOURCE
Democratic Socialists Of America- Libertarian Socialist Caucus:
“Dual power is a strategy that builds liberated spaces and creates institutions grounded in direct democracy. Together these spaces and institutions expand into the ever widening formation of a new world “in the shell of the old.” As the movement grows more powerful, it can engage in ever larger confrontations with the ruling class — and ultimately a contest for legitimacy against the institutions of capitalist society.
In our view, dual power is comprised of two component parts: (1.) building counter-institutions that serve as alternatives to the institutions currently governing production, investment, and social life under capitalism, and (2.) organizing through and confederating these institutions to build up a base of grassroots counter-power which can eventually challenge the existing power of capitalists and the State head-on. In the short term, such a strategy helps win victories that improve working people’s standard of living, helps us meet our needs that are currently left unaddressed under capitalism, and gives us more of a say over our day-to-day lives. But more excitingly, in the long run these methods provide models for new ways of organizing our society based on libertarian socialist principles. They create a path toward a revolutionary transition from a capitalist mode of production. This revolution will liberate us from both the need and the drive to create wealth for the rich, making possible a socialist mode of production that seeks to benefit all of humanity and free us from the lonely confines of commodity relationships.” — SOURCE
From UK Indymedia, circa 2002, by Brian Dominick:
“There are two dualities at work in the modern strategic concept known as dual power. First, there is the classical notion of the relationship between (1) the current establishment and (2) the second social infrastructure pitted in opposition to it.
Here the status quo consists of a market capitalist economy, an authoritarian republic, patriarchy, adultarchy, judeo-christian eurocentricity, white supremacy, etc. These are the ideologies and institutions which make up the oppressive system according to which our society operates. By necessity, then, our oppositional dual power, our alternative infrastructure, must be based on decentralized socialist economics, a participatory democratic polity, feminist and youthist kinship, and a secular yet spiritual, intercommunal culture. Those will be the building blocks of our new society, and the masonry has already begun.
The second duality is between (1) the creative force of forming new social institutions and transforming oppressive ones into liberatory, and (2) resisting or destroying what is useless and oppressive to us in the current establishment. In other words, we need to approach revolutionary social change with constructive and a destructive tactics in our toolbox. We cannot build until we make space, but our alternative social infrastructure will not make itself, so we must establish it on the ruins of the old order, in the shadow of that order.” -SOURCE