Our Way Out: Dual Power and the Future of Organizing

How can revolutionary change be achieved today? Many web3 evangelists will tell you that the tools now at our disposal hold the answer. However, much of the web3 landscape is shaping up to look a lot like what we’ve seen before. Promises for ‘disruption’ of the status quo espoused by tech and finance founders, massive venture capital presence, and asset values being manipulated by the controlling few. Part of the reason the Web3 space lacks revolutionary ideas is that it exists within a late stage capitalist society that has been deeply shaped by centralizing tech and finance corporations. We cannot build something new without first acknowledging the role of capitalism and its limitations.

When organizing for political change it is common to use big tech platforms that can assist with promotional and operational processes due to their ease of access. What has already been shown and will likely become more true over time is that this is not a viable strategy. Relying on the centrally controlled tools of tech giants who have opposing interests to political organizers will never lead to revolutionary change. Revolutionary change will only be achieved if these two seemingly distinct camps (organizers and tech builders) work together to both oppose extractive entities and build resilient institutions that will replace them. This is Dual Power.

What Is Dual Power?

Dual power is a two-part strategy that consists of public resistance to oppression (counter-power) and the building of alternative democratic, participatory institutions (counter-institutions). In other words, one part fights the existing systems by mobilizing against them while the other builds resilient, people-led institutions to take their place.

The term ‘dual power’ originates from Lenin during the Russian Revolution. At the time, dual power was originally described as a period of transition, however, over the last century the model’s basis in local democracy has come to be recognized by many as the ultimate strategy of liberation movements.

Dual power is currently practiced in a wide range of projects, from Cooperation Jackson to the Zapatistas in Chiapas. Mutual aid and the cooperative / solidarity economy can be seen as a collection of parallel institutions to capitalist businesses and establishments. The dual power framework helps us acknowledge the realities of today while preparing for the ideal future we want to live in.

Why Should Dual Power Go Digital?

While dual power is largely thought of as a tool in the physical organizing space, social movements (and the broader public) have become more reliant on digital tools for coordinating quickly and decentralizing operations. The problem is that being wholly reliant on big tech has serious implications. As most platforms exist today, their default model of governance is centered around its few powerful investing bodies, rather than its users, due to the profit-incentive structure of capitalism. Members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have seen the issues of relying on digital infrastructure owned by Google and have advocated for the use of open source tools.

Countless organizing groups have reported having their dissenting content suddenly censored and/or removed from platforms like Instagram. Outside of activism, the way in which existing Web2 social media data mining companies steal our attention and fill every vulnerable space with advertising has been met with widespread disgust. The need for departure from these abuses of power has never been more clear.  We can fight these systems by keeping our data from them, moving to decentralized alternatives, and inviting others to come with us.

Alternative open-source social media platforms like Mastodon provide a great service, but have not gathered the same popularity as the giant tech platforms we know today. While calls for a mass shift away from big tech have been made, it’s been difficult to get away from already established social networks despite all of their flaws. This is not a sign that it’s impossible to shift, but it shows the power of inertia inherent to established institutions. Since you cannot cleanly separate technical from social relations though, this is not just a social problem, but a socio-technological one. The conditions for change need to be set before a mass shift can begin. In this specific context, tools like the Mastodon Twitter Crossposter are the seeds of change that can help us create accessible bridges between the new and the old.

Building digital dual power means building digital democracy - platforms, protocols and toolkits that can be co-designed and co-governed to serve collective needs over individual capital gain. By creating this infrastructure, we can establish freedom from the current digital dictatorship that is designed solely to extract value by selling, surveilling, and data mining. These tools, built under strict demand to return profit, will never be effective agents for anything but extraction. While the majority of tech platforms are run this way, there is a growing movement to change this paradigm in and outside of web3. Teams are using the affordances of blockchains for making built-in democratic political structures for the digital tools we rely on in this day and age.

How Do We Create Digital Dual Power?

As it stands, web3 and crypto generally aren’t on course to create positive revolutionary change as there is not nearly enough critical reflection in the space, even among the most well-intentioned enthusiasts. To get to a place where we might actually affect change, we need to build with the goal of improving material conditions for the many. As is the mission of most social movements, we must educate our networks on the historical political and industrial events that got us to where we are today and share our criticisms widely.

The seeds of digital dual power have been emerging for some time. Projects like WikiLeaks and SciHub have used cryptocurrencies to get around financial blockades while Iranian citizens use them to evade American imperialist economic sanctions. Similarly, groups like AssangeDAO are creating democratic structures for organizing capital in support of international activist campaigns to be immune from financial blockade. These examples show the potential for using cryptocurrencies for building counter-power within the dual power framework. Groups like Trust have done research on how web3 tools can help assist labor unions in organizing workers for strikes, which is important for building out labor as a counter-institution to corporations.

The technological affordances of blockchains also make them a promising medium for building counter-institutions. The growing popularity of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) shows the potential of facilitating democratic governance in digital spaces in a way that was not feasible before. However, many DAOs have a long way to go in unlearning hierarchical and capitalistic tendencies (both in funding and structuring) in order to adopt more democratic operating models. We’re less impressed by the self-named DAOs that are more like financial flash mobs which raise funds to make spectacular purchases and more inspired by DAOs like dOrg and 1Hive, who are re-thinking the way we work with democratic models.

An interesting development in the web3 space was an article published by jacob.eth, (co-founder of Zora) illustrating the term “hyperstructures”. What they are identifying-although using different vocabulary than what most leftists are used to- is the new technological affordance of blockchains and smart contracts that can be used to create new resilient public infrastructure which can run for free, forever, and be governed democratically as protocols as opposed to platforms. While like all new paradigms, this is a double edged sword. If done with care, however, these resilient protocols can facilitate digital governance models that are resistant to being subsumed into the existing capitalist framework and act as important infrastructure for facilitating counter-institutions.

How is Breadchain Building Dual Power?

At Breadchain, we are growing the cooperative and solidarity economy on the blockchain to utilize the potential of resilient decentralized protocols. We're building a community of projects that all have a shared mission - create dual power by sharing knowledge and resources in order to increase collective strength/capability. One of the ways we plan on building dual power in the context of web3 is through soft launching our Breadchain Crowdstaking Application - our engine for funding post-capitalist projects within the Breadchain network.

To participate, all you need is some DAI and MATIC on Polygon and you can start using the application. The application is a smart contract on Polygon that forwards Crowdstakers' DAI into an interest generating Aave lending pool. 100% of the generated interest gets sent to the Breadchain Cooperative which is controlled democratically by its members. In return for giving DAI, Crowdstakers mint (bake) our token, BREAD, as collateral in the same quantity as they gave in DAI. The BREAD token then acts as a digital “local” currency for the Breadchain ecosystem. Digital as in crypto and local not as in geographic locality, but in shared values around cooperativism. Similar to a local currency, it is intended to keep value within the defined locality.

Crowdstakers can burn their BREAD token to receive an equal amount of DAI back. In this way, Crowdstakers are not donating any of their DAI but are instead giving Breadchain permission to take the interest generated on their DAI and use it to fund the operations and future projects from Breadchain. You can think of it as a decentralized cooperative bank that is used for funding decentralized cooperative projects.

Once you have some BREAD, you can join the token-gated channel “#bread-holders”. (More info on how to do that in the discord group.) We will also be air dropping 10 BREAD to every comrade that gave to our previous Mirror publication on Mutual Aid. Since this is our soft launch we’ll be looking for the community’s feedback along the way in the “#bread-feedback” channel of the Crypto Leftists Discord. In the meantime, you can soon expect a revamped home page that connects to the app, another Mirror publication with more detail on the application, and informational clarity regarding things like the BREAD token supply and yield accumulation. If you’re looking for another way to support post-capitalist projects you can do so by giving to our Open Collective, purchase the NFT associated with the piece, or support us via Panvala.

Our network includes projects like PactDAO, which is organizing with mutual aid networks in NYC, LaborDAO, a project for exploring the use of web3 tools to assist the labor movement, and Basis, which is exploring mechanisms to create a distributed, ecological productive system that is managed by the producers themselves. These are just some of the projects in our growing network, and we are extending an invite to those who share our goals to apply here and join us.

The revolution will not be funded by the current rulers of the economy. If we are going to attempt to live with the contradictions inherent to building the new in the shell of the old, funding will certainly not come from the state-regulated banking sector. Only by creating bonds of solidarity and networks of mutual aid that cultivate dual power will we reach true economic democracy. BREAD is not a governance token or some other speculative financial product, and it is not just a stablecoin. It is a form of economic expression that shows support for a vision of post-capitalism that deals with the reality of capitalism today. It is the solidarity primitive necessary for building dual power counter-institutions.

Authored by: @marisa_rando and @TBSocialist. Edited by @MonolithBrah.
Original artwork by: Einxel Reyes, Chicago-based artist // worker-member of PactDAO

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