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.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence will be holding a series of weekly online and in person courses on nonviolence modeled after Michael Nagler’s popular class at UC Berkeley. It is an in-depth study of what M.K. Gandhi called “the greatest power at the disposal of humankind.” The greatest-and arguably, the most neglected. What can we learn from the theory, history and potential of this great force? How can we practice it safely and effectively? These and more are questions we will be looking into. Michael Nagler is Professor emeritus of Classics and Comparative Literature at UC, Berkeley, where he co-founded the Peace and Conflict Studies Program in which he taught the immensely popular nonviolence course. Among the books he has authored are The Nonviolence Handbook: A Guide to Practical Action (2014) as well as The Search for a Nonviolent Future, which received a 2002 American Book Award and has been translated into Korean, Arabic, Italian and other languages.
We are not obliged to pick a team in that dismal spectator sport of bipartisan corporate elections. Otherwise the whole electorate is only marginally more democratic than any official Congress of a one party state, with the difference that we get to split roughly half and half when career politicians demand our votes and loyalty. We can have democracy in this country, or we can have “the two party system,” but we cannot have both. What they really demand is that we vote for the party of their choice. They even try to pick our pockets for campaigns we just do not buy. In both mid-term and presidential elections, the “progressives” of the Democratic Party grow progressively more hectic and fervent, even as the moral stock of their chosen party crashes through the political bargain basement. My suggestion is that we treat them as dotty relatives devoted to a hobby we do not share.
Consider this scenario: Hundreds of people gathering at town square in the morning have become thousands by the afternoon. The chanting from the protesters is only drowned out by the growl of police tanks rolling up a residential street. No Justice! No Peace! No Justice! No Peace! The police begin setting up barricades, pushing the crowd back with riot shields. To your left, a teenager picks up a baseball sized rock. He rears back for a pitch as if he was on a dusty mound in the ninth inning of a game too close to call. As you watch it leave his fingertips and tumble into the air, two smoke bombs land ten feet behind you. In the haze, the crowd lurches forward, pushing the barricade in a cacophony of coughs and cries. A woman in front of you loses her balance and falls against a police officer, who cracks her jaw with his baton in the chaos of his own fear and frustration. Most of us participate in social activism with the best intentions. We want change for the better. But far too often the tension caused by the inevitable tragedies that precursor uprising overflows into violence. What then, comrades? How can we hope for the best, while preparing for the worst? Your smartphone is a Swiss army knife of protest enabling applications. Here’s a few tools to have on hand before you head to the streets:
Would Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic marches to end segregation and grant voting rights to Black Americans have happened at all if Bull Connor’s police owned the same military equipment that the Ferguson Police Department has today? Can peacefully exercising First Amendment rights create any lasting change if police have the weaponry – and, apparently, the legal authority – to immediately and violently disperse crowds? Bull Connor became legendary as the Birmingham public safety commissioner who ordered police dogs and fire hoses to be used on peaceful civil rights protesters in 1960s Alabama. Birmingham became known as “Bombingham” after multiple racially-motivated bombingsaimed at intimidating the city’s black residents rocked the city, from the North Smithfield neighborhood to the notorious 6th Avenue Baptist Church bombing. In response, Dr. King declared “Project C (Confrontation)” on the Birmingham police, both to expose Connor’s heavy-handed law enforcement approach and to fill the jails with civil rights protesters willing to throw themselves at the grinding machine of the nation’s most racist police department.
Ferguson is not just about systemic racism — it’s about class warfare and how America’s poor are held back, says Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Will the recent rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, be a tipping point in the struggle against racial injustice, or will it be a minor footnote in some future grad student’s thesis on Civil Unrest in the Early Twenty-First Century? The answer can be found in May of 1970. You probably have heard of the Kent State shootings: on May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on student protesters at Kent State University. During those 13 seconds of gunfire, four students were killed and nine were wounded, one of whom was permanently paralyzed. The shock and outcry resulted in a nationwide strike of 4 million students that closed more than 450 campuses. Five days after the shooting, 100,000 protestors gathered in Washington, D.C. And the nation’s youth was energetically mobilized to end the Vietnam War, racism, sexism, and mindless faith in the political establishment. You probably haven’t heard of the Jackson State shootings.
A new book examining working class opposition to the Vietnam War, Hardhats, Hippies and Hawks (Cornell University Press, 2013), by Penny Lewis, is a timely and important book filled with lessons for today’s labor, peace and especially, environmental movements. She unpacks the myth that working class Americans supported the Vietnam War. A fiction created by Nixon and the Republicans in service to the industrial military complex. The book’s subhead, “The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory,” challenges the constructed narrative of the antiwar movement and focuses our attention on the motivations of those who created the false storyline. Though the research for and origins of her book were the subject of her doctoral dissertation, the book is a good read, accessible to all. She argues that in the early years of the antiwar movement, the formal organizations that opposed the war were dominated by middle class and often college students, but that shifts dramatically in the later years. And, had the early activists reached out to broader audiences, like workers, the movement could have been more successful, much sooner. She examines the many characters and films about Vietnam, from Gump to Platoon and everything in between, and compares Hollywood to reality. The book documents the particularly important contribution to end the war made by Chicano and Black movements. Lewis explains the crucial role of the active duty and Vietnam veterans during the war. Anyone who has successfully gotten Vietnam vets to open up and discuss the war will not be surprised by the stories Lewis recounts.
With major protests in the news again, we decided it’s time to update our cell phone guide for protestors. A lot has changed since we last published this report in 2011, for better and for worse. On the one hand, we’ve learned more about the massive volume of law enforcement requests for cell phone—ranging from location information to actual content—and widespread use of dedicated cell phone surveillance technologies. On the other hand, strong Supreme Court opinions have eliminated any ambiguity about the unconstitutionality of warrantless searches of phones incident to arrest, and a growing national consensus says location data, too, is private. Protesters want to be able to communicate, to document the protests, and to share photos and video with the world. So they’ll be carrying phones, and they’ll face a complex set of considerations about the privacy of the data those phones hold. We hope this guide can help answer some questions about how to best protect that data, and what rights protesters have in the face of police demands.
Have progressives made a mistake of lumping all conservatives together and fueling their political energies into hating them? Or are there what Ralph Nader calls “anti-corporatist conservatives,” who loathe undeclared, endless wars as much as progressives? And should progressives seek alliances with these anti-corporatist conservatives to oppose unnecessary wars, corporate welfare, NSA violations of our privacy, and many other issues where there is what Nader calls “convergence?” Earlier this year, AlterNet published a C.J. Werleman review of Ralph Nader’s new book Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State (Nation Books, 2014), that paints Nader as having lost either his mind or soul and become a dull-witted lackey for the Koch brothers. Yet, Nader’s book is endorsed by Robert Reich, Cornell West, and other critical-thinkers on the left (along with conservatives opposing corporate cronyism). Whom should we trust? Before Werleman begins his condemnation of Unstoppable, he assures us, “I like Ralph Nader. I like his politics and I like the causes he has championed,” and he lists some of Nader’s accomplishments, including auto and highway safety laws, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Roger Annis: Can you describe the origin of the “Maidan” protest movement that arose last year in central and western Ukraine? What was its social base and program? Daniel Grigor’ev: To begin with, the so-called Maidan movement isn’t something untypical for Ukrainian politics. You see, unlike some other post-Soviet countries (including Russia), the Ukrainian bourgeoisie found itself unable to promote any kind of stable, governing agreements. Instead, we see a number of business clans who are constantly fighting with each other in an effort to get the biggest share of national wealth. That’s why protests, demonstrations, intense debates and more or less democratic procedures are common there, though it may be very misleading for someone who hasn’t yet analyzed the nature of the newborn, post-USSR countries. When it comes to the social base, I think it would be accurate to distinguish two main categories. The first would be mainly Kiev’s “middle class” (which isn’t a middle class in a European understanding, but a relatively small and extremely privileged group). Apart from considering all the Maidan events as some kind of adventure (or a perfect place to take some selfies), those people provided a number of demands, which say a lot about their viewpoint. For example, we heard about “European choice,” “joining the Western world,” “becoming a part of civilization” and so on. Those claims seem rather peculiar, given the fact that no one invited Ukraine to become a part of the European Union.
Depression can be ontologically (way of being) embraced as a natural expression of empathy; a rational response to the present conditions of psychopathic Earth “leadership.” Choosing to embrace rather than resist so-called “depressed” thoughts and feelings opens a pathway to possible proactive thoughts, speech, and actions to transform present conditions to unpredictable and even unimaginable virtues. That is, if a human being is going to participate in the transformation of present Earth conditions, then it seems normal for most people to have reactions that may include shock, horror, denial, sadness, fear, rage, depression, and anxiety in becoming responsible (response-able) to Earth conditions when factually embraced. This is a temporary stage that those of us with experience observe often, and almost all of us have gone through ourselves. Initially painful reactions is a transitory phase to discovering openings for action in this condition. It also opens real-world exercise of religious/spiritual/philosophical self-expression for ontological peace within this condition.
As the crisis of austerity deepens, forcing workers and the public to swallow the costs of the global financial meltdown, the need for the radical imagination is more urgent than ever. But what is it, actually? How can we understand the radical imagination as more than a hollow slogan? How can it be a critical tool for building movements to reclaim our world from a renegade form of capitalism rooted in sexism, racism, homophobia, mass incarceration, the illegalization of migrants and the destruction of the earth? These are the questions we ask and seek to answer in our book The Radical Imagination: Social Movement Research in the Age of Austerity (Zed Books, 2014), which is based on our study of today’s social movements. Here are a few key things we learned. The radical imagination is not something that we have as individuals; it’s something that we do, and that we do together. The idea of the imagination typically makes us think about our own unique, individual mental worlds. But in a very real way, our mental worlds are shared imaginative landscapes. When we tell stories about our past, present and future or about inspiring victories or humbling defeats, we are crafting such landscapes through dialogue and participant power.
“Where is the Palestinian Gandhi? In Israeli prison, of course!,” was the title of an article by Jo Ehrlich published in Modoweiss.net on December 21, 2009. That was almost exactly one year after Israel’s concluded a major war against Gaza. The so-called Operation Cast Lead (December 27, 2008 – January 18, 2009) was, till then, the deadliest Israeli attack against the impoverished strip for many years. Ehrlich was not in the least being belittling by raising the question about the “Palestinian Gandhi” but responding to the patronization of others. Right from the onset, he remarked: “Not that I’m in any way playing into the Palestinian Gandhi dialogue, I think it’s actually pretty diversionary/racist. But sometimes you have to laugh in order not to cry.” Indeed, the question was and remains condescending, ignorant, patronizing and utterly racist. But the question was also pervasive, including among people who classify themselves as “pro-Palestinian activists”.
Why is there no non-violent outcry against America’s military-industrial complex?(MIC) A Congress that is complicit in its wars, surely will not reign it in. While the MIC contractors during the U.S. invasions of the Middle East and Africa have reaped billions in profit, the fact is probably a majority of Americans are war-weary and want out of President Obama’s ongoing foreign entanglements, replete with drone warfare and other crimes against humanity. Yet their elected representatives in Congress continue voting $700 billion annual budgets to wage wars and to create hideous new weapons of mass destruction ranging from more lethal (if that is possible) atomic bombs to germ warfare, both illegal by treaty. Americans have been gulled into believing that the 2,000 military bases they operate around the world are “defensive”, and can prevent a terrorist attack—the folly of which was proved on 9/11. In fact, they are springboards for military control of every part of the globe. The Pentagon, says The Washington Post, also has a Special Operations Command that operates in at least 65 nations that is largely unknown to Americans.
All nonviolent struggles are conducted simultaneously in the political and strategic spheres, and these spheres, which are distinct, interact throughout. I have discussed this at length elsewhere.1 Despite this, only rarely have nonviolent struggles been conducted with a conscious awareness of this vitally important relationship. Gandhi’s campaigns were very effective partly because he understood the distinction and relationship between politics and strategy in nonviolent struggle. And the failure of many campaigns can be attributed, in part, to the fact that most activists do not. To illustrate the distinction and the relationship between these two spheres, and to highlight their vital importance, this article discusses them within the simpler context of nonviolent actions.
There’s a well-known quote from Mohandas Gandhi that, like many of his, is now common enough to verge on cliché: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Every so often it describes a situation perfectly. One such occasion was this Monday, reading Matthew Cunningham-Cook’s recent piece “Why the fossil fuel divestment movement is a farce.” The title isn’t as far off in its description as one might think. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary explains a farce as a funny staged production about “ridiculous situations and events.” An economy that can only operate through the extraction of land and labor is a ridiculous situation to find ourselves in as a society; rightfully so, no one is laughing. The climate crisis is one catastrophic symptom of an economic system that has not only driven us to the brink of destruction, but every day destroys millions of communities in our own backyard and around the world. The movement, though, has progressed in a less linear fashion than Gandhi imagined. For its first two years, divestment was largely ignored by university administrations, the media, the investment community, and just about the entire public. It’s been laughed at its fair share already, but — quicker than anyone predicted — is already starting to win. As noted in the article, not only have major cities and institutions committed to divest, but the international conversation on climate change and extraction is already starting to change. Endorsements have come from such unexpected places as the World Bank, and even former Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs’ COO Henry Paulson this past week.