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.
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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.
Linda Sartor is not afraid to die. Dedicated to nonviolence, she spent 10 years after September 11, 2001 traveling to conflict zones throughout the world as an unarmed peacekeeper, with roles ranging from protective accompaniment to direct interpositioning between parties when tensions were running high. She documents her work across the world — in Israel/Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran and most recently Bahrain — in her new book, Turning Fear into Power: One Woman’s Journey Confronting the War on Terror. Inwardly quiet and exceedingly humble (she chose to sleep outside for eight years of her adult life), her courage and conviction are not only refreshing, they’re infectious.
Don’t think that this will be over soon. This is fundamentally a war of patience and a test of our endurance,” 17-year-old Joshua Wong, student leader of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, tweeted on Thursday. For the past several weeks, the protesters have been putting on a clinic in organized, disciplined civil resistance: Tens of thousands of activists continue to throng the downtown streets and thoroughfares, demanding the resignation of Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying and threatening to occupy government buildings. Occupy Central, student coalitions, and other opposition groups have called for mass strikes while insisting that they will not back down until their ultimate goal of universal suffrage is achieved. Still, as momentum has slowed, the lingering question is, what next?
Russell Brand and the author Naomi Klein have called for a “revolution” that could potentially see oil giants like Exxon Mobil dismantled. Speaking to Brand as part of a podcast exclusively shared with The Huffington Post, Klein agreed with the comedian’s call for a political and economic revolution, but warned: “It’s not going to happen in the right way if we don’t talk about the distribution of resources.” The pair zeroed in on multinational oil giants such as Exxon Mobil, referring to them as companies that were “addicted to stupid money”, with Klein arguing that the world could convert from fossil fuels to renewable energy within 15 years. “What the hell’s going on,” said Brand. “Is there no money in it? Why don’t people do it? They could still make money out of windmills couldn’t they?”
Unlike other slogans, though, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” is not just voiced. It is also embodied. Contained within the phrase is both a plea not to shoot, as well as the bodily imperative to lift one’s hands up. Since Michael Brown’s murder, we’ve seen photos of young black men and women in Ferguson, Tibetan monks from India, black Harvard law students, school children in Missouri, young people in Moscow, and a church congregation in New York City with their hands up. What does this gesture mean for the different bodies that enact it? How do protesters assign new meanings to such a codified bodily gesture? How can we read these protests as choreographic tactics and gestures of resistance? Why is the deployment of the body in the case of the Ferguson protests so significant? I want to offer five ways of reading this gesture in the following list, which is by no means exhaustive…
As the Customary Chief of Mitchikanibikok Inik (Algonquins of Barriere Lake) for almost 20 years altogether, I was also under constant attack by the federal and Quebec governments. I had a target on my back because I fought with everything I had against the Quebec and federal governments to protect our ancestral lands from over exploitation and our Algonquin Anishinabe way of life for future generations. In the 1980s, our traditional territory, located about 3 hours north of Ottawa in Quebec, was being devastated by clear-cuts. Under my leadership we camped out on Victoria Island for weeks and blockaded logging roads for months to get the governments’ attention and let them know they were on Algonquin territory and that we never gave up our jurisdiction to the land.
A rebellion can’t last forever. But in the weeks since the killing of Michael Brown, the people of Ferguson, Mo., have been keeping it up for the rest of us. Now is when vision matters most — a vision or visions that can carry people from the moment to momentum, within which a movement can mature and grow and win. That’s why we should be discussing proposals like Forward from Ferguson, a new report by Max Rameau, M Adams and Rob Robinson — all veterans of the influential housing-justice group Take Back the Land, now working as the Center for Pan-African Development. The document, drawing on utterances of Malcolm X, calls for the U.S. racial justice movement to turn from the framework of civil rights to human rights. This is Malcolm speaking: We need to expand the civil-rights struggle to a higher level — to the level of human rights.
Had he lived to this day, I wonder, what Professor Fang Lizhi, a beloved sage of China’s pro-democracy movement, would say. Accused by the government of being a “black hand”, Fang was one of the intellectuals whose initial call for democracy helped trigger the 1989 student movement. Professor Fang’s was a call to resist the temptation for an immediate victory and to recognise potential success in the long run. This wisdom is consistent with research findings about the outcome of social protest. It is very rare for any protest to have its demand immediately met – an unjust law changed, or a targeted official removed. In most examples, even defeated protests would surely help bring about the social changes the protestors fought for.
This past August, when protests in response to the police killing of Michael Brown did not abate after the first few days, instead attracting forces such as the New Black Panthers and the Revolutionary Communist Party, first the right-wing blogosphere, then other media, started reporting on “outside agitators.” What was remarkable – leaving aside what one thinks of the particular actors being “outed” – was the way such media seemed focused on and effectively worked to undermine, a certain kind of protest. Such press behavior in Missouri along with such things as revelations of spying on Muslim-American leaders, the making an example of Occupy activist Cecily McMillan, and other such repressive phenomenon, point to the omnipresence in 2014 of ubiquitous police-state measures in play. Sometimes covert, sometimes just the normal operation of things, they are an expression of a repressive terrain that has become effectively a way of life for anyone seen to be standing on the wrong side of the dominant authority.
Last month, John Crawford III was shot and killed in a Wal-Mart just outside of Dayton, Ohio. He had gone to the chain store to get S’more ingredients for a cookout later that day. As he wandered through the aisles, talking on the phone to his girlfriend LeeCee Johnson, Crawford picked up a BB gun lying on the shelf. Seeing this, 24-year-old Ronald Ritchie called Beavercreek police, informing them that there was a “gentleman walking around with a gun in the store…pointing it at people.” Ritchie later changed his story, admitting to The Guardian that “At no point did he shoulder the rifle and point it at somebody.” This admission did little for the 21-year-old Crawford, who was gunned down by Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams just five minutes after Ritchie’s call. Still on the line, Johnson — mother of Crawford’s two young children — heard her partner’s last words: “It’s not real.”
But too often we use marches and rallies in place of any other public action to put pressure on decision-makers and build support for our campaign. They’re good for partying or as a mass mobilization after grassroots support is built — but there are many more effective ways to create low-risk opportunities for gathering people together. On the heels of the People’s Climate March last weekend, where more than 300,000 people gathered to demand international action on climate change, it’s important to take the time to reflect on what marches can accomplish — and what other tactics can be used instead.
Benjamin says that the activists launch their actions knowing full well they face arrest – and that knowledge frees her psychologically, for example, to berate the president of the United States for authorising drone strikes in Yemen before an international television audience. “We don’t like getting arrested – it takes time and it’s expensive and takes lawyers,” she said. “But we’ve been arrested dozens of times.” Benjamin has also been denied entry into Canada and Egypt, where she says an Egyptian policeman fractured her shoulder attempting to force her onto a plane out of the country. But in Washington, the Capitol complex and committee hearings are by law and democratic tradition open to the public unless secret intelligence matters are being discussed.
Brave resistance actions of all types are necessary to stop the march toward greater extraction and burning of fossil fuels. If they build it, it will be used and we must keep carbon in the ground to mitigate the climate crisis. Resistance actions are having an impact, making extreme extraction of energy less profitable and stopping projects. But resistance alone will fail. If extreme energy extraction halts and there is nothing to fill the need for energy and other basic necessities, many people will suffer. We must build alternatives to fill the gaps. The success of alternative systems will draw people to them and make the current dysfunctional systems less relevant. As market demand decreases, dirty power plants will close.