The section provides information on strategic nonviolence and links to organizations that provide training in nonviolent resistance, effective strategy and creative actions. For more information on a common vision and strategy that unites people into an effective national movement please see our page, about PopularResistance.org
Featured Video: The video to the right is an hour-long presentation on grand strategy given to the Fellowship Of Reconciliation in Olympia, WA. It is a reflection on how organizers can grow social movements to be impactful enough that they can effect social change, and it highlights principles and a theoretical framework that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of actions and tactics.
Organizations and Websites
Recent Articles in Strategy!
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, www.truth-out.org
June 13th, 2013
The fact is, United States and world histories show that an organized and mobilized populace is what has always caused transformational change. This history is not taught in our education system or emphasized in the heroes we idolize in our culture, but it is so significant that it cannot be hidden from view. The country could not operate if the people refused to participate in its corrupt systems. The ultimate power is with us, if we let go of fear and embrace it. Now that there is a history of more than 100 years of modern resistance movements, there is data to show what works and what doesn’t. As a result, we can develop a vision, a strategic plan and tactics that make success more likely than ever before.
Cross-posted at CreativeResistance.org. Against this calamitous backdrop, we are starting to see hope in the country’s next generation of campaigners, organisers and even artists. These new hybrid cultural activists have been dubbed “artivists” and are continuing the struggles of their predecessors with a new approach. The author MK Assante describes the artivist as someone who “uses her artistic talents to fight and struggle against injustice and oppression by any medium necessary”. For two weeks in February, I had the privilege of joining almost 200 activists, organisers and artivists in a Nairobi community centre (unnamed for security reasons) for an Artivism Lab.
Middle-class Americans take it for granted that whatever hardships we face in life, we can always count on food appearing on the table. Supermarkets feature well-stocked shelves, restaurants bustle with business, and the choice of cuisines available to us would even dazzle Old World aristocrats. But the great majority of the world’s peoples don’t enjoy such blessings. For them, the task of feeding their families is a challenge they face anew each day. Chronic hunger and malnutrition afflict close to 850 million people; another billion subsist on substandard diets; and billions more spend a huge portion of their income, even as much as half, on their humble meals of rice, wheat or corn. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognizes the right to food as integral to a satisfactory standard of living, affirming “the right of every individual, alone or in community with others, to have physical and economic access at all times to sufficient, adequate and culturally acceptable food that is produced and consumed sustainably, preserving access to food for future generations.”
Here’s the scenario: This year’s epic drought devastates agriculture in California. Water use is rationed, so the cost of grain goes up, and, because cattle eat grain, the cost of beef goes up too. To cut expenses, the owners of a fast food restaurant cut a worker’s wages and benefits by a couple bucks an hour. Next month he won’t be able to send money to his wife and kids back in Mexico, where the same drought is also decimating farms—and may be contributing to even more northward migration. What’s the origin of the restaurant worker’s predicament? Is it climate change, which makes droughts more severe and more likely to persist? Is it the labor policies that allowed the worker’s wages to be cut? Or is it that NAFTA has flooded the Mexican market with cheap, U.S.-grown corn since 1996, forcing him to leave his family’s farm and migrate to California in the first place? The likely answer is that it’s a little bit of everything.
Saturday’s protest in Rome was the latest in a series of actions around a common project. What can organizers elsewhere learn from Italy’s movements? “The Italian movements may provide us with at least one clue on where to start: by sitting down together and carefully spelling out a common project behind which disparate political groups, autonomous movements and isolated individuals can unite. What is needed is a single banner capable of sustaining a broad popular coalition behind a set of shared aims and principles.” Tens of thousands of protesters marched on Rome this Saturday to denounce the austerity measures and economic reforms of Matteo Renzi’s new government and to restate their call for income, housing and dignity for all.
“Nonviolent action” is one of the names people sometimes give to the conflict behavior reported in this database. Other names are “people power,” “civil resistance,” “satyagraha,” “nonviolent resistance,” “direct action,” “pacifica militancia,” “positive action,” and more. We mean a technique of struggle that goes beyond institutionalized conflict procedures like law courts and voting, procedures common in many countries. We study the methods of protest, noncooperation, and intervention that typically heighten a conflict – and the use of these methods without the threat or use of injurious force to others. Our definition is not located in the discourse of morality and ethics, although some people may choose to use nonviolent action for ethical reasons. Instead, we focus descriptively on what people do when they use this specific “technique of struggle.”
Developing useful theories for social change is very challenging. Two recent articles in Truthout show us that one major difficulty is to get theory to work from the bottom up. Once it wanders away from the reservation of experience, it’s on a wrong path. Let me use an analogy to explain my thinking here. It’s not meant to convince you, but to clarify what I want to say in this article. Think of society as a garden, full of a rich diversity of productive plants in beneficial relationships with each other. Think of culture as the soil they are embedded in, from which they draw essential nutrients, and to which they contribute their own stuff for its enrichment. Social change movements, at their best, want to fix a world dominated by exploitive relationships. Most social change theory, in my opinion, is aimed at fixing particular systems, practices, toolkits, etc. Theory that works from the ground up focuses on the soil itself, since this is what creates and sustains the dominant relationships.
On the left, it has long been argued whether electoral politics can have any lasting effect on positive societal change or whether activists should instead focus solely on building social movements. In the latter camp, commentators such as Patrick Barrett, writing in Truthout, argue that a run for president by Bernie Sanders, for example, would be a huge waste of time and resources, and some even call forboycotts of elections. Why? The “social-movement-only” proponents argue that electoral politics is counterproductive because it undercuts social movements by diverting too much energy to elections. The argument goes that even electoral movements independent of the two-party system, such as the Green Party, weaken popular movements by pacifying them and quickly devolve into duopoly politics as usual. The boycott argument goes that US elections are completely undemocratic, that voters are invited to choose between various representatives of the same corporatocracy.
Leaders from eight tribes in South Dakota and Minnesota pitched their flags. Participants erected nine tipis, a prayer lodge and a cook shack, surrounding their camp with a wall of 1,500-pound hay bales. Elders said they would camp out indefinitely. Speakers said they were willing to die for their cause. This spirit camp at the Sicangu Lakota Rosebud reservation was the most visible recent action in Indian Country over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. But it was hardly the first … or the last. On the neighboring Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Debra White Plume, an activist and community organizer involved in Oglala Lakota cultural preservation for more than 40 years, has been leading marches, civil disobedience training camps and educational forums on the Keystone XL since the pipeline was proposed in 2008. White Plume is the founder of the activists groups Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way), the International Justice Project and Moccasins on the Ground…
Late last month, over 100 teachers, students, and parents from across the country gathered in Denver for the United Opt Out National Spring Action, a conference aimed at growing the resistance to corporate education reform and high stakes standardized testing across the nation. While the opt out strategy remained central, the conference attendees participated in weekend-long discussion groups focused on devising even broader strategies to build a broad-based movement aimed not only at stopping the corporate education reform machine, but at transforming and democratizing public education as a whole. The groups focused on a number of areas from winning back local control of school boards to strengthening teacher unions to educating the broader public about the effects of corporate reform on their communities and their children’s futures. Their aim is nothing short of a revolution in the public education system. “This is the education revolution,” said high school senior and conference speaker Alex Kacsh. “We are creating a better tomorrow.” How is not taking or administering a school test part of the revolution? High stakes standardized testing is the cornerstone of the neoliberalism’s corporate education reform agenda – and also its Achilles heel.
All year long, the Backbone team appears in our region and across the country, but only one time per year does the country come to us. For the past four years this gathering has been at the cusp of movement innovation, a source of numerous collaborations, and a spark for countless creative actions from viral Flash Mobs to Giant floating buttocks. Our giant 1% arrows banner and light projections preceded Occupy. 2012′s camp lifted up Eviction Protection in the Seattle area and now our allies are celebrating a victorious Eviction Blockade. Our first camp even helped save an island! ARE YOU CURIOUS WHAT HAPPENS AT ACTION CAMP?- SEE THE OFFERINGS AT LAST YEAR’S NW ACTION CAMP Below
Although Saul Alinsky, the founding father of modern community organizing in the United States, passed away in 1972, he is still invoked by the right as a dangerous harbinger of looming insurrection. And although his landmark book, Rules for Radicals, is now nearly 45 years old, the principles that emerged from Alinsky’s work have influenced every generation of community organizers that has come since. The most lasting of Alinsky’s prescriptions are not his well-known tactical guidelines — “ridicule is man’s most potent weapon” or “power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Rather, they are embedded in a set of organizational practices and predispositions, a defined approach to building power at the level of local communities. Hang around social movements for a while and you will no doubt be exposed to the laws of Chicago-style community organizing: “Don’t talk ideology, just issues. No electoral politics. Build organizations, not movements… Focus on neighborhoods and on concrete, winnable goals.”
Susana Pacara, one of the founders of Radio Lachiwana in Cochabamba, Bolivia, believes that communication work is a key part of the defense of territory. She doesn’t mean this in an abstract way. Over the years, Pacara has fought the privatization of water, the construction of mega highways and the attacks on the rights of coca growers. She’s braved tear gas and repression with such bravery that she’s earned the title “Mamá Susana.”And now she’s fulfilled her dream of transmitting these stories of resistance and defense at the national level. In Quechua, “lachiwana” refers to a little bee that makes its hive in the most secret of places. The word could almost just as easily describe Pacara herself. At 49 years old, she has a small build, which she says helps her get to all sorts of places, and a curious expression.
We troublemakers keep hoping for the spark that will set a wildfire of workers in motion. The worse our situation gets—economically, politically, ecologically—the more we yearn for a vast movement to erupt and transform the landscape. It’s not impossible. Look at 1937, when workplace occupations spread everywhere, from auto factories to Woolworth’s. The 1930s wave of militancy forced Congress to aid union organizing with new laws and to enact Social Security and unemployment insurance. Industrial unions formed during that upsurge continue to this day. So why not here and now? In our lifetimes, we’ve seen sparks—but we haven’t seen them spread like that. In some ways we’re more connected than ever before, able to watch each other’s struggles in real time on our phones. Yet mostly, the sparks haven’t leapt from one workplace or one Capitol rotunda to another. The Occupy movement is the shining exception.
The Debt Resisters’ Operations Manual (DROM) seeks to provide widely applicable yet detailed information about debt as well as strategies for resistance. It highlights our commonalities—namely, that people are not alone in their struggles against debt—as well as our different relationships to debt. We strive to analyze debt from many different angles, always maintaining a nuanced, critical analysis that is conscious of race, gender, class, sexuality, age, ability, and their intersections. We strive to write in simple language and will work to translate the manual into languages other than English. A 120-page pamphlet version of the manual was collectively researched and written in August 2012 as a contribution to strengthening and expanding the debt resistance movement.