Dual Power Defined
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. The value of reconnecting counter-institutional organizations with explicitly oppositional counter-power organizations is a safeguard against the former’s tendency to become less radical over time. As counter-power organizations are reconnected to their base, they ground their political analysis in the concrete experience of counter-institutions — mitigating against the potential political “distance” between their rhetoric and the consciousness of their families, fellow workers and neighbors.
Dual power does not imply a dual set of principles, and therefore processes — one for public resistance and other for building cooperative alternatives. The process used for both strategic directions has the same set of principles at its root. The anarchist principles of direct democracy, cooperation and mutual aid have practical implications which inform the dual power strategies for revolution.
Direct democracy means that people accept the right and responsibility to participate in the decisions which affect their lives.
Cooperation means that our social and economic structure is egalitarian, that we cooperate instead of compete to fulfill our needs and desires.
Mutual aid means that we share our resources between individuals and groups toward universal need and desire fulfillment.
These principles lend us the foundation for creating inclusive, anti-authoritarian relationships as we work in grassroots organizations. Regardless of the strategic direction within dual power that is being pursued, we will follow the same process — building relationships, organizing these relationships into groups, and moving these groups toward collective action.
We organize in order to build power with others — power that gives us the opportunity to participate in the decisions which affect our lives. It is in the conscious construction and use of this power that we find true democracy.’
An Organizer Active Revolution 2002 From The Northeastern Anarchist Issue #4, Spring/Summer 2002
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