I propose that our movements organize their present-day work in order to consciously move their visions forward along any of these 3 prongs:
1) pushing back against oppression (disruptive activism and organizing)
2) expanding knowledge, relationships, and popular imagination (education and cultural work)
3) working to build power and meet needs through alternative structures (constructive counter-power)
By naming—from the bottom-up and based on our own different contexts—both our visions of change and the varieties of power required to realize those visions, I believe that our movements will be better situated to choose daily actions that match up with a larger struggle. The hope is that today’s activism and organizing can steadily intertwine and weave together toward forming an anti-authoritarian counter-power, an alternative social structure that can someday rival, resist, and replace today’s dominant systems. To help us even more consciously and consistently build toward that counter-power, I think our groups, campaigns, and coalitions should discuss and organize our work along three strategic prongs: pushing back against oppression; expanding knowledge, relationships, and popular imagination; and working to build power and meet needs through alternative structures.
I have already touched on these three prongs in earlier sections, but a brief example might be helpful. Using this three-pronged orientation, the group fighting against a new youth jail might organize linked initiatives such as, 1) a feisty, noisy, and joyful direct action campaign that pushes lawmakers to redirect funds toward education and social supports while also harassing potential private prison contractors to back out of the deal; 2) a longer-term program of relationship building and grassroots skill-sharing that regularly brings families of incarcerated youth together with each other and with less directly affected families, and which also brings non-incarcerated youth into regular contact, trust-building, even letter-writing with incarcerated youth; and 3) a partnership with schools and grassroots neighborhood assemblies to experiment with bottom-up, cop-free systems of restorative or transformative justice, which might eventually take over jurisdiction from the prison system.
I am aware that organizing like this across all three strategic areas of struggle requires a lot of capacity and human energy to do well, and thus that pushing our groups to always cover all three prongs can spread us needlessly thin. We can end up sucking much needed resources from one really strong project in order to prop up the wasted husks of weaker projects that we just can’t seem to get off the ground. But this is where we must take a breath, step back, and realize that we’re not all alone and isolated in our groups. We have an entire ecosystem of movements to tap into and, with a crowdsourcing approach to activism and organizing, we can come to expect contributions to our projects from all sorts of previously unlikely sources.