“We weren’t prepared for the realities of power.”

The title line is one of the biggest cliches that our social movements have come to know. Oh, how many millions of times it’s been said, in how many thousands of interviews, panel discussions, memoirs, hagiographies, lectures to young militants at the knees of their elders.

Repeated. Repeated. South Africa. The Soviet Union. China. Cuba. France. Venezuela. Spain. The labor unions. Civil rights. The Green movement. The non-profit sector. Even Occupy.

It’s so tired, so rote, the disconnect between the insurgent ideals that social movements use to rally their forces and destabilize power, and then the betrayals that they commit once they have become the new establishment.

But cliches exist because they contain common truths. They unearth common problems that need solving. And this problem of power, of how to utilize it and sustain it and keep it rich, lively, participatory, and well-dispersed–oh this problem is something really worth pondering.

Power. Popular power. My intellectual and political passions just keep narrowing in on this idea, and on the challenge of making it more than a slogan. I’ve got these two writing projects just floating here, gathering pieces of evidence and argument, getting stronger and more interesting the more I read, and talk, and work my day job. Anti-authoritarian movements do not like to plan for the realities of power; they like to imagine themselves always banging on the walls outside. I want to help movements think of ways we can more firmly embrace the question of power–and not just shallow, disruptive power, but generative power, creative power.

The job of our movements, the absolutely most pressing job, is to help people prepare themselves for power. It is the only way that anti-authoritarian movements will ever win. We win when so many millions of us are so damned confident and practiced and even bored with the realities of people power that it feels like a forgone conclusion that we should just be running all this shit ourselves, all together, all the time.

Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi