Confederating counter-institutions

As I was sitting in the dark this morning praying about what to write, I noticed the light from the sunrise reflecting on the clouds in front of my windows. So, I went out to take some photos. Photography has been one of the threads of my lifelong foundational stories.

On my way to Mutual Aid Saturday I stopped at Easter Lake, even though it was raining heavily. So, I rolled down the window and shot the photos from within the car.

Easter Lake, Des Moines, Iowa

I usually avoid the subject, but American politics is in the news as the Midterm elections approach. The Republican party is no longer participating in the democratic means of governance. That is such a radical departure, and the damage can only be minimized by not electing those politicians.

But even if the Democrats win control of the Senate and House, they will continue to be beholden to corporate financial influence and White superiority. Continue to use armed forces throughout the world. Or as one of the most glaring failures, will continue to support the fossil fuel industry. For example, releasing millions of barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves and supporting carbon (CO2) pipelines.

Whatever happens in the election, our political, economic, and social systems will continue to fail, and fail completely in the face of environmental catastrophe and chaos.

I see all of this through my experiences with Mutual Aid, which is as much about building beloved communities as it is about supporting people’s survival needs. It is important to build Mutual Aid communities now in preparation for continued collapse.

There will continue to be a need to transition from the current, dominant systems of governance to alternatives such as Mutual Aid. This process is referred to as “dual power”.

Dual Power

How do we effectively build political space where direct democracy, mutual aid, solidarity, and an ecologically sustainable human existence can prevail? To start with, we need to be able to provide for our immediate needs. In doing so, we must organize to seize control of powerful nodes of production, reproduction, and realization while simultaneously cultivating models of the society we wish to live in.

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.

Dual Power: A Strategy To Build Socialism In Our Time, DECEMBER 31, 2018 – CAUCUS STATEMENT. DSA

Building counter-institutions

In this graphic the concepts under Red/Green New Deal are counter-institutions that are being built now.

Confederating counter-institutions

Buffalo Rebellion

The recently formed Buffalo Rebellion is an example of confederating counter-institutions.

Buffalo Rebellion is a new coalition of Iowa organizations that are growing a movement for climate action that centers racial and economic justice. The Earth Day Rally will be an afternoon of honoring Mother Earth through sharing stories and visions for climate justice and taking action together for a world that puts people and the planet before profits for a few.

Following the Earth Day Rally, Buffalo Rebellion will be holding two days of immersive training to develop 100 grassroots leaders who will build local teams to take on climate justice issues in their community and come together to create a thriving state-wide movement.

Formed in 2021, the Buffalo Rebellion is comprised of seven Iowa organizations: Great Plains Action Society, DSM Black Liberation Movement, Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, Sierra Club Beyond Coal, Cedar Rapids Sunrise Movement, SEIU Local 199, and Iowa CCI

Buffalo Rebellion

I believe that world-ending and world-making can occur, are occurring, have always occurred, simultaneously. Given that racial and ecological violence are interwoven and inextricable from one another, more now than ever, Black and Indigenous communities—who are globally positioned as “first to die” within the climate crisis—are also on the front lines of world-making practices that threaten to overthrow the current (death-making) order of things. Put otherwise, our communities, quite literally the post-apocalyptic survivors of world-endings already, are best positioned to imagine what this may be. This, after all, is the radical promise (if as of yet unachieved) that was and is extended to us by the world-making projects of abolition and decolonization.

Maynard, Robyn; Simpson, Leanne Betasamosake. Rehearsals for Living (Abolitionist Papers) (p. 31). Haymarket Books. Kindle Edition.

But it’s not just that mutual aid can ease material conditions or help striking workers so that they have more power against the bosses. Its assault on the existing power structure runs much deeper. Consider this: if mutual aid can meet the food needs of everyone in a city without them having to pay for the food, what’s the point of paying for food in the first place? Start asking questions like this, and you can quickly start to unravel the capitalist economy itself in that local area. Capitalism is based upon a network of institutions that draw their power from control and exclusion. Free access is capitalism’s poison. By building up the capacity to universally provide resources on a non-market basis, we plant the seeds for capitalism’s ultimate destruction.

In all this, we must remember that mutual aid runs not from the socialist movement to the grateful workers but is something workers do for each other on an egalitarian basis. We must work to ensure our mutual aid raises each other up as opposed to charity which hands down from “on high.”

Dual Power: A Strategy To Build Socialism In Our Time, DECEMBER 31, 2018 – CAUCUS STATEMENT. DSA

Buffalo Rebellion

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