Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dual Power Strategy

Dual Power is a concept first written about by Lenin, in his article "The Dual Power," of 28 April 1917, which described a situation after the February Revolution in which two powers, the workers councils (or Soviets, particularly the Petrograd Soviet) and the bourgeois state apparatus of the Provisional Government coexisted with each other and competed for legitimacy. Lenin argued that this essentially unstable situation constituted a unique opportunity for the Soviets to seize power by smashing the Provisional Government and establishing themselves as the basis of a new form of state power.

This Duel Power Strategy has been used with great success all over the world, particularly the colonised world, from China to Cuba, to Nicaragua to the current struggle of the Zapatistas in Mexico, to Hamas and Hezbollah. The key element is to proclaim the Revolutionary state power, and starting to turn that de jure state power into a de facto state power, bit by bit, by drawing the strength and legitimacy away from the bourgeois state and to the Revolutionary state. Our efforts are not directed towards some great Revolutionary moment to come, but towards every little action we do being an actual Revolutionary action. If we provide one person with something that they could not get from the bourgeois state, be that thing of a material or psychological nature, then we have carried out a Revolutionary act, we have weakened the enemy and strengthened the Republic. The bourgeois economic crisis will provide the space for us to act in, and we must never be afraid to step into the space that the contracting bourgeois state leaves open for us. The Revolution is about people taking control of their own lives and making them better. The Community Councils, with direct democracy, as the vehicle of this Revolutionary change.

Now, in 1917, the Soviets were immeasurably stronger than the RM is today. But, at the same time, you have to put things into perspective. Compared to the whole population of the Russian Empire, the Soviets were a small enough force. Lenin refers to them as "weak and incipient." The other point is that it is the essence of Marxism that we learn from the past. Lenin had not based the Revolution on a "Duel Power Strategy," in the text above he says: "The highly remarkable feature of our revolution is that it has brought about a dual power. This fact must be grasped first and foremost: unless it is understood, we cannot advance. We must know how to supplement and amend old “formulas”, for example, those of Bolshevism, for while they have been found to be correct on the whole, their concrete realisation has turned out to be different. Nobody previously thought, or could have thought, of a dual power." It seems clear to me that if Lenin had thought of a Duel Power Strategy as early as the uprising in 1905, then he would have used it - when the Soviets were even weaker still. A key point to remember is that the Soviets, in 1917, were in the process of being absorbed into the bourgeois state. The Soviets did not think of themselves as a state power, and, indeed, were not a state power any more than the modern trade unions in Ireland are a state power. The moment the Soviets became a state power was when Lenin named them as such. It seems incredible that one man naming a diverse collection of workers councils as a state power would really make them a state power - particularly as most of Lenin's Bolshevik comrades thought he was crazy to say such a thing. But, as we know, that is what happened. The belief in the state power of the Soviets spread from the mind of one man, Lenin, into the minds of a handful of supporters at first, and then into the minds of millions.

We must also remember that for the period of Easter Week 1916, the Republican leadership were, in effect, using a Duel Power Strategy, even if they didnt call it that. They were setting up a state power in opposition to the de facto state power of the British Empire. Why was it a state power? Only because they named it as such. Needless to say, it was quickly crushed. Again, between 1918 and 1922, the same strategy was used - but the big error of the 1918-22 period was that no attempt was made to set up Soviets, or Community Councils among the ordinary people, so, for the most part, they did not feel part of the Republic themselves - it was something they looked at from a distance. This is not surprising, considering that the native Irish bourgeoisie were in charge of Sinn Féin, and had no intention of allowing the ordinary people to take control and possession of the Republic. If the RM can’t set about the work of setting up Community Councils and a de facto Dual Power, then all talk of the Republic is idle, but if we are serious about doing this work, then having the Republic that was proclaimed in 1916 and defended in blood by thousands of Volunteers, will be an immeasurable boost to us, and something that will hold us together when the going gets rough. The enemy finds itself fighting the Republic of Pearse and Connolly, and not just something new and untested. Having the state power of the Irish Republic, right from the founding of the very first Community Council, with only a handful of members, prevents the CC from thinking of itself as merely a community group, working within the bourgeois state and seeking to reform the bourgeois state. If we do not have the state power from the very start, then we are always fighting a loosing battle against the mentality that the CC's are not revolutionary, but reformist. Very soon the bourgeois state will offer the "community groups" money in return for their full absorbtion (like what happened with provo community groups in the six counties), and how are we going to explain that this would defeat the whole purpose, unless the members of the Community Councils know, right from the start, that they are democratic institutions of the Irish Republic, and not merely "community groups."

In short, we should not wait till the Brits have gone home to begin living in the 32 County Irish Republic. We can do it right now, under the nose of the enemy. Social change become the engine and fuel of Revolution, not its consequence.

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