Bottom-up Democracy: From Crisis to System Change through Dual Power

Monday, August 24, 2020 - 8:00pm to Monday, October 19, 2020 - 8:00pm
Online

COVID-19 has exposed tremendous gaps in social, economic, and governance systems upending our daily experience of living and working. Communities have offered an active response to the crisis with autonomous and decentralized mutual aid efforts rising to address neglected and unmet needs. Arundhati Roy names this pandemic a portal, opening a path for us to uproot unjust, unsustainable conditions within our current society and mobilize movements for transformative systemic change. Protests of the police killing of George Flood have swept the US and further exposed the unjust and crushing gaps and inequities of our current systems, and especially, regarding policing of Black communities.

These crises raise questions about the legitimacy of our economic and “State” systems. This 9 webinar series offers a space for those wanting to shift or deepen their current organizing lens towards more transformative power building and systems change. This shift speaks to an inclusive, liberated future of direct democracy, ecological well-being and a just, regenerative economy.

From mutual aid to tenant organizing, to municipal governance, and more, we will examine initiatives that emerge from social justice, economic solidarity, and collective self-determination, including those recently inspired by COVID-19, policing protests and beyond. These movements for a people’s direct democracy which challenge our current governing and economic structures will inform presentation and exchange among participants. We will consider how these initiatives and those of attendees can continue to: meet immediate needs, protest injustice, build grassroots people power, establish alternative social, economic and environmental  institutions, and create alternative governing institutions, together creating counter power capable of challenging and ultimately supplanting existing systems (the strategy known as “dual power”).


Register Here


Symbiosis is an emerging confederation of community organizations across North America, building a democratic, just, and ecological society from the ground up. Member organizations are local, place-based, grassroots institutions or institution-building movements who constitute the core decision-making body of the confederation. Partner organizations are ideologically-aligned allies, usually beyond the local level, who support development of such a confederation.

If you miss a webinar, check this page for the recordings of previous webinars.

Dual Power Series: Topics and Sequence

Click registration link above to see webinar date/times and to register for those of interest. The date/time of some webinars is to be determined (see asterisk).

Opening: Dual Power Series 

  • Show ways current crises (pandemic and policing) create openings for transforming current dominant systems. Introduce dual power as transition strategy. Overview the dual power series.
  • Mon 8/24, 8:00pm ET / 5:00pm PT

Clarifying Dual Power: Theory, Background, Practice

  • Dual power theory and background, (some repetition of first webinar), key historic/contemporary examples, connections to social ecology, deeper analysis & broader horizon.
  • Tues 9/1 8:00pm ET / 5:00pm PT

Solidarity Economy and Dual Power

  • Show breadth of solidarity economy: extending beyond mutual aid, beyond worker coops; building sustaining infrastructures. Show varied collective resistance-communal histories of black, other communities of color. Address opportunities/challenges of framing solidarity economy structures as explicit dual power/revolutionary.  Inclusive cases from conventional to revolutionary, and racial justice.
  • Mon. 9/7, 8:00pm ET / 5:00pm PT

*Mutual Aid to Dual Power

  • History & context of mutual aid – responses to neoliberalism and austerity – without a connection to dual power, mutual aid can fill in where state and charities are failing, thereby rescuing capital-state. Incorporate reflection and discussion about participants’ own projects.
  • Week of 9/14, final date and time TBD

Framing Tenant Organizing as Dual Power

  • Reforms, revolutionary reforms, revolutionary transformation: Minimum demands (defend tenant rights, build tenant power) to Medium demands (occupancy and use, squatting, CLT’s, housing cooperatives, co-housing cooperative communities etc.) to  Maximalist demands (massive societal/structural transformation, end commodification of housing, protect and defend de-commodification) Also tactics, framing, democratic decision making, structure. End goals — decommodifying housing.
  • Monday 9/21 at 8:00pm ET / 5:00pm PT

*Black Lives Matter – Policing Transformation

  • The rationale, framing, and strategy/tactics of the Black Lives Matter uprising focused on transforming policing.  Give recognition to the work of Black Lives Matter Movement and to how their patient, persistent organizing laid the basis for the current vast uprising.  Webinar will give most attention to describing and helping participants visualize alternative frameworks for policing, e.g programs/structures to replace social, safety, etc functions now performed by police, and showing how these can constitute a form of counter power to the state (within a dual power framing).  We will also give some attention to historic framings within Black resistance that have opposed existing police institutions, possibly including the broader framing by W.E.B Dubois and Angela Davis of Abolition Democracy.
  • Week of 9/28, final date and time TBD

Dual Power in Municipalities

  • Municipalities are often seen only as the” creatures of the state”, fully dependent and subordinated to it. However, from Mexico to France, movements have taken the commune as a place for organizing and creating a counter-power to the municipal institutions in the form of popular assemblies. These movements created a situation of dual power between, on the one hand, the institutional city council working on the basis of the representative system, and subordinated to the state, and, on the other, popular institutions functioning face-to-face and in direct democracy, accountable to the people. This webinar will be focused on a review of international cases where the municipality is taken as a site for direct democracy through popular assemblies: Cheran in Mexico, The Yellow Vests in France and U.S. case to be determined. 
  • Sun. 10/4, 3:00pm ET / 12:00pm PT

Comprehensive Dual Power

  • Historic case studies: the First Intifada, the Russian Revolution, Spanish Civil War, Paris Commune, Haudenosaunee.
  • Week of 10/12, final date and time TBD

Dual Power: Looking Ahead

  • Developing alternative directly democratic institutions that anticipate future crises, respond to dual power challenges, address Left criticisms, and more.
  • Week of 10/19, final date and time TBD