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(en) THE NORTHEASTERN ANARCHIST #5 - What, If Anything, Is A Dual Power Strategy? - A response to the 'Bring the Ruckus' statement by Wayne Price

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 28 Mar 2003 08:40:52 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

Bring the Ruckus, the statement by the
Phoenix Ruckus collective, declares itself for
"a dual power strategy". It defines this as "one
that directly challenges institutions
of power and at the same time, in some way,
prefigures the new institutions we envision..."
As an example, it gives its Copwatch
campaign. Other "popular protests", however
well meaning, if they do not lead to this
so-called dual power strategy, "should be
abandoned" by revolutionaries. It gives the
example of animal liberation, but could have
cited many more popular struggles.

What is "dual power" anyways? The term itself
arose during the 1917 Russian Revolution. The
Russian word "dvoevlastie" is usually
translated as "dual power", but could be
given as "double sovereignty", or "two-power
regime". It was used in Russia after the old
Czarist state had been overthrown and a new,
pro-capitalist regime, the
Provisional Government, was set up. It
claimed to be for capitalist democracy
although it did little to carry out a bourgeois
democratic program (it did not call elections
or give land to the peasants or self
determination to the oppressed nations of the
Russian empire). But at the very same time,
another power existed - the popular soviets
(councils). Rooted in factory committees and
local bodies, these directly represented the
workers, peasants and soldiers. Originally they
were just popular bodies to
coordinate strikes. But they had such support
among working people that they came to
shadow the new capitalist state. For a period,
there were two centers of power, the
Provisional Government and the affiliated
soviets, and this was the dual power regime.
This could not last indefinitely, and eventually
the soviets were used to overthrow
the Provisional Government. A coalition of
Bolsheviks, Left Social Revolutionaries
(revolutionary populists) and anarchists used
the soviets to smash the previous regime
and set up the soviets as the new power. As is
well known, the Communist Party eventually
replaced the soviets with a bureaucracy as the
new state, which is another story.

Trotsky generalized this to other revolutions
for the sake of revolutionary strategy (see
Trotsky's History of the Russian Revolution).
Paraphrasing his ideas (as I now
understand them): During revolutionary
periods, it is unusual for rising classes to
establish a new power overnight. Instead, what
is more common is for there to be two or
more institutions, competing for potential
power. At some point this may take the form
of outright civil war, with each side fighting for
territory. One side tends to
include neighborhood committees, workplace
councils, associations, directly-democratic
forms and councils of delegates, which are
counterpoised both to the power of the old
state and of the new capitalist state. All too
often, the popular organizations do not see the
need to stand on their own. They hold
themselves subservient to the
liberal-democratic forces, until it is too late
(which is what happened in Spain in the '30's).
It is the job of the revolutionary organization
to awaken people, to get
them to see the need to overthrow all the
states in favor of the popular association as
the new power (in Spain, this was finally seen
by the 'Friends of Durruti', but too

In the current North American anarchist
scene, the term "dual power" floats freely with
little to no connection to its original
revolutionary meaning. For example, it is
often used to describe the
alternate-institution strategy. That is,
capitalist institutions should be gradually and
peacefully replaced by cooperatives,
intentional communities, worker-run
businesses, free schools, etc.

These should spread and grow, behind the
back of the capitalist state, until they would
take the place of the authoritarian system.
This is a program that goes back to the
early utopian socialists or to Proudhon. There
can be nothing wrong with founding
cooperative stores or worker-run enterprises.
These are good in themselves and need no
justification. But when they are proposed as a
strategy for replacing capitalism they are no
better than other forms of reformism. Rather
than build a movement to confront
the system, this strategy means to slip away
from it. But the system is not run by fools (or
at least, not entirely by fools). If such a
movement were ever to threaten
them, they would suppress it, and there would
be no mass movement to fight for it. More
likely, the rulers would have co-opted it long
before things reached this stage.
Coops tend to fail by success. That is, they do
well and merge into the capitalist economy. (I
live in a coop building, very well run by its
tenants, and no threat to

The Ruckus-ites have a very different
intention. They want to confront the capitalist
state. But, they tie their hands with a rigid set
of rules. Somewhere there may be a
document explaining why revolutionaries must
directly challenge the state and prefigure new
institutions at the same time. I have not seen
it. The reasons are not
self-obvious. As they know, although the level
of struggle has increased, we are nowhere near
a revolutionary situation in North America.
We are far from a real dual power
situation. While Copwatch is a very good
program, it does not really threaten the state
under current conditions. Union organizing
(very difficult in Phoenix) would be a
greater threat to business at this point.
Instead I propose a strategy of opposition and
class struggle.

Revolutionaries should encourage any and all
mass struggle from below against the
capitalist class and its institutions. We should
be for anything that opens up people's
eyes to their oppression and leads them to
fight for their own interests. We should
support the needs of all oppressed people,
while connecting these to the struggles of
the working class, due to its strategic power to
change society. We support demands that
would improve the lives of ordinary working
people, and we propose demands and
methods of struggle which lead to further
opposition to the ruling class.

Whether or not this oppositional approach is
called a dual power strategy is not important.
I do not see any advantage to calling it dual
power. There is no point in tying
our hands with rigid definitions of what sort of
struggles may or may not be supported.

Wayne Price
Open City Anarchist Collective

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