by A. Daniel Roth
Holism and Dual Power
A holistic view of the world demands that we be agile in our organizing toward societal transformation. Holism demands that we understand the problems of our world as interconnected. This interweaving of spheres informs our vision for something better as well. The strategy that we use to get from where we are to where we want to be must also be shaped by our holistic position, and further emphasis on our movement’s strategy is a necessity.
When we view the world through a holistic lens, the world can become confusing. Issues blur into one another. For example, economy becomes intertwined with community, while politics and interpersonal relationships become indivisible. All of the models that we use to organize our perspective(s) begin to climb on top of one another and create an interesting and confounding mess in our minds. Holism may seem intricate and elaborate. Because the world is complex, our movement must have a complex understanding of the challenges we face. There is, however, a fairly simple way of framing all of this.A holistic analysis of the world as it is today creates a web of issues, touching on economy, politics, community identities, human relationships, and environmental sustainability. These spheres are useful to imagine as an aid for envisioning solutions to the problems that we, as a society, face. We often speak of dual power as a model for getting from the present to the future. Dual power emphasizes the importance of creating both alternative institutions and counter institutions in order to move towards our vision. Briefly, alternative institutions are those which embody the spirit of our vision for a better world. Counter institutions play three roles: They protect the alternatives that we build, challenge the oppressions that surround us, and attempt to convince ever widening circles of people that our holistic vision is on the mark.
Dreams and Experiments
Our task is to engage in building a movement towards a society that is participatory, democratic, equitable, and just. This can be done by building toward our visions today (alternatives), and by cultivating partnerships and changing minds, struggling against inequity and injustice, and protecting our visionary structures (counters). We need to be able to describe these institutions with a bit more specificity than the above broad strokes offer. Alternative institutions can fit into one expansive category for now. These alternatives are the structures, organizations, unions, and communities of the future, but now. Alternative institutions can be egalitarian worker collectives in factories, classrooms, and office buildings. They can be food co-operatives, which provide healthy sustenance in our many food deserts. They can be experimental, democratic schools. They can also be participatory community councils. These don’t cover all the possible alternatives that we can begin to build right now, but they are a few examples of institutions that can start to bridge the gap between the real and the ideal.We need to be building towards our visions and experimenting with our dreams right now. Alternatives, if it is not already clear, are supposed to exemplify the world that we want to live in. The alternatives that work will eventually cease to be alternatives. Instead, they will become mainstream institutions as we succeed in our work. Believe it or not there are thousands of beautiful examples of alternative institutions all over the continent and around the world. Some of them are becoming the norm in their societies. We need to continue to build radical media outlets, participatory councils in our communities, collective workplaces, and democratic day cares and schools.
Making change happen takes more than experimenting with building our visions for the future in the present. A sustainable movement needs to address the very real need to support and protect the alternatives that we build. Counter institutions are meant to defend the alternatives and draw people toward our movement. A public alternative school program that is under attack from the political Right needs people who are willing to protest cuts to education budgets and occupy the school board building. Ensuring that access to reproductive health care is safe and legal requires political advocacy and education for communities. Changing the way we interact with our environment demands us to gather together millions of people in order to educate ourselves, change our policies, and stop those who would put profit before life.
Three Paths to Action
Counter institutions safe guard our alternatives and engage people in our movement in three ways: