Taking Power and Making Power

In her book Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide (South End Press, 2005), Andrea Smith writes about Sista II Sista's duel strategy of "taking power" and "making power":

There are local organizing models that rely on the dual strategy of what Sista II Sista describes as "taking power" and "making power." On one hand, it is necessary to engage in the oppositional politics to corporate and state power by taking power. Yet if we only engage in the politics of taking power, we will have a tendency to replicate the hierarchical structures in our movements. So it is also important to "make power" by creating those structures within our organizations, movements, and communities that model the world we are trying to create. Many groups in the U.S. often try to create separatist communities based on egalitarian ideals. If we "make power" without also trying to "take power," we ultimately support the political status quo by failing to dismantle structures of oppression that will undermine us.

Realize that the vegan ideal of non-exploitation requires both taking power and making power. In fact, the necessity to both make power and take power has always been an inherent part of the vegan movement. For instance, when vegan movement cofounders defined veganism and started to develop the organizing model for the original Vegan Society, they used a dual strategy based on working simultaneously to abolish existing exploitation while also working to establish an alternative order of society based on non-exploitation. This dual strategy of the working to abolish exploitation and establish non-exploitation fits easily with the Sista II Sista duel strategy of "taking power" and "making power."

As Andrea Smith points out, it is necessary to both make power and take power. An example of attempting to make power without taking power is the uncritical promotion of so-called "vegan" products. These products are said to make being "vegan" more "convenient." That is, promoting these products could be thought of as a way to make power by making it easier for us to avoid exploiting other animals. However, without also taking power these new products fail to dismantle the structure of oppression. When so-called "vegan" options are offered by corporations like McDonald's, KFC, Burger King, Deans Foods, Kraft Foods, ConAgra Foods, etc., this strategy of making power is complicit and often collaborative with the existing order of corporate power. So what is framed as making power ultimately undermines our movement by giving up power to corporations, which happen to be deeply invested in continuing the structure of nonhuman animals' oppression.