I propose that our movements specifically articulate what forms of power need to be reclaimed, fortified, or invented in order to win our visions in the real world, so that current activism can custom build scaffolds toward that power.
It is dangerously easy to pump out dazzling visions of remade societies that flash briefly and then fade into disappointment, their only tether to reality being phrases like, “if only we all…” or “if everyone could just change to be like this.” We cannot get lost down the alleys of baseless utopian schemes or naïve daydreams. Our visions, though they should be colorful and wild, really need to connect the dots from where we are to where we want to go, being honest and clear about the distance to get there.
As I said in an earlier section, I believe that backwards planning is a terrific tool for connecting futuristic visions to the on-the-ground circumstances we face right now, and a particularly useful lens for this kind of backwards planning is the question of power. How might power need to shift and be exercised differently if we want to achieve a world without prisons? What power do bosses and landlords currently have that needs to be transferred or abolished to achieve a workable non-capitalist society? From what twisting matrices of power do white supremacy, patriarchy, and heterosexism replenish themselves? What interpersonal power and social skills do all of us need in order to collaborate effectively in a vast participatory democracy?
I think that as our groups, coalitions, and larger movements pick their initiatives and fights, our internal planning processes should specifically point toward these longer-term questions of power. Beyond the immediate disruptive people power we need to push power-holders to meet a given demand, what are the more systemic types of people power that we would need in order to make the power-holders completely irrelevant, and how far away are we from getting there? What are our specific and concrete power needs—like, let’s actually make lists!—and what are the barriers to meeting them?
Here we need to be extra clear about something, though: at this point I am not suggesting that groups need to plot out complete strategies for how to achieve what could be decades or centuries long struggles for new types of power. That comes through time, work, experience, and collective reflection. What I am proposing is that groups do their part to get us on the right track by naming and listing the power needs that it would eventually take to reach their ideal outcomes.
By doing this, group by group by group, and publicly sharing our findings, what we will end up creating will look like a huge wish-list or help-wanted ad for diverse forms of popular power—a perfect catalyzing agent for a crowdsourcing, ecosystems approach to creatively militant movement building.