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 theory and practice of nonviolent direct action, disrupting the system enough to risk arrest, to challenge war and warmaking, are a living, evolving issue. Some frequent arrest-riskers have experienced a growing frustration with the inaccuracy of the still widely used wording “civil disobedience”. “Disobedience” means breaking a specific law which is or embodies the problem, such as African Americans breaking racist Jim Crow municipal ordinances by sitting in at lunch counters legally prohibited from serving them, or Indians processing their own salt from sea water or spinning thread and weaving khadi cloth instead of buying them as legally required from the occupying British. Peace and anti-war activists contend that what governments and corporations do to prepare and perpetrate war is illegal, and they consider their own actions of civil resistance to the governments or corporations as obeying higher laws, be they international treaties and human rights agreements, or national constitutions, or religious tenets, or all of those. Civil resistance actionists uphold the Nuremberg principals that citizens have responsibilities to resist illegal government crimes of aggression, act out of the necessity to technically break a minor trespass or municipal order rule to prevent a much more serious tragedy or crime.
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed criminal charges against Duke Energy for violating the federal Clean Water Act at coal ash sites across North Carolina. The company announced today it has reached a proposed plea agreement with federal prosecutors to resolve the charges. According to a Duke Energy press release, the plea agreement includes $68.2 million in fines and restitution and $34 million for community service and mitigation. The charges include multiple misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act in connection with last year’s coal ash spill in the Dan River as well as unauthorized discharges at other Duke coal plants in North Carolina. The agreement is subject to review and approval by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Southern Oregon communities along a proposed natural gas pipeline route are looking for creative ways to stop the project. Douglas and Coos County residents hope a Community Bill of Rights will give them a legal avenue to assert local control. The pipeline for the proposed Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas export terminal in Coos Bay would run through the property of Stacey McLaughlin. She doesn’t want it there. And speaking out before government officials has been less than satisfying. “It feels like a waste of my time,” she said. So McLaughlin is organizing her Douglas County neighbors to enact a community bill of rights. It would give cities and counties the legal grounds to say no to projects that violate local values.
Our challenge in Milwaukee was to transform a staff-dominated, business/service-style teachers’ union into something quite different. The local had focused narrowly on contract bargaining and enforcement, with the staff playing the role of insurance agents who would intervene on members’ behalf to solve their problems—instead of helping members organize to solve their own problems. It was a codependent relationship—members didn’t have to do much more than make a call to have their problems taken care of, and staff didn’t have to go out to do the hard work of organizing members, except for occasional mobilizations at contract time. The importance of parent/community alliances was downplayed, and the union took the attitude that it was not their responsibility—but rather the administration’s—to ensure quality education.
Often minimized in our history books, the tactics of nonviolent action played a powerful role in achieving American Independence from British rule. One hundred and fifty years before Gandhi, the colonists were employing many of the same tactics the Indian Self-Rule Movement would use to free themselves from Great Britain. The boycotting of British goods (tea, cloth, and other items) significantly undermined British profits from the colonies. Noncooperation with unjust laws eroded British authority as the colonists refused to comply with laws that restricted assembly and speech, allowed the quartering of soldiers in colonists’ homes, and imposed curfews. Non-payment of taxes would prove to be a landmark issue for the independence movement. The development of parallel governments and legal structures strengthened the self-rule and self-reliance of the colonists and grew local political control that would ultimately prove strong enough to replace British governance of the colonies. Acts of protest and persuasion, petitions, pamphlets, rallies, marches, denouncements, legal and illegal publications of articles, and disruption of British meetings and legal proceedings were also employed.
In very harsh dictatorships, concentrating people in marches, rallies or protests is dangerous; your people will get arrested or shot. It’s risky for other reasons. A sparsely attended march is a disaster. Or the protest can go perfectly, but someone — perhaps hired by the enemy — decides to throw rocks at the police. And that’s what will lead the evening news. One failed protest can destroy a movement. So what do you do instead? You can start with tactics of dispersal, such as coordinated pot-banging, or traffic slowdowns in which everyone drives at half speed. These tactics show that you have widespread support, they grow people’s confidence, and they’re safe. Otpor, which went from 11 people to 70,000 in two years, initially grew like this: three or four activists staged a humorous piece of anti-Milosevic street theater. People watched, smiled — and then joined. Nonviolence is not just the moral choice; it is almost always the strategic choice. “My biggest objection to violence is the fact that it simply doesn’t work,” Popovic writes. Violence is what every dictator does best.
We argue that its relationships with the Democratic Party contributed to the antiwar movement’s strength (especially in 2003-2006), but ultimately stimulated its demobilization (especially in 2007-2010). Key to this dynamic is the fact that many activists, organizations, and legislators identify both with the Democratic Party and with social movements. We find that as these identities compete with one another inside people’s minds and inside the decision-making arenas of organizations, partisan identities win out more often than not, thus putting social movements in a precarious position. As a result, social movements often find that they are co-opted, or simply left out in the cold, in the aftermath of their collaboration with major political parties.
AFTER years as a civil rights lawyer, I rarely find myself speechless. But some questions a woman I know posed during a phone conversation one recent evening gave me pause: “What would happen if we organized thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people charged with crimes to refuse to play the game, to refuse to plea out? What if they all insisted on their Sixth Amendment right to trial? Couldn’t we bring the whole system to a halt just like that?” The woman was Susan Burton, who knows a lot about being processed through the criminal justice system. I was stunned by Susan’s question about plea bargains because she — of all people — knows the risks involved in forcing prosecutors to make cases against people who have been charged with crimes. Could she be serious about organizing people, on a large scale, to refuse to plea-bargain when charged with a crime? “Yes, I’m serious,” she flatly replied.
The students’ stated mission was to teach in Freedom Schools and organize African Americans to try to register to vote despite heavy repression. Their unstated mission was to draw the attention of the North to hardcore segregation and force the federal government against its will to support the right to vote. Northern students taking large risks would be attention-getters, and might even offer some measure of protection to the embattled field workers with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, who had been in Mississippi since 1961. Even to take the bus to the training, most students would have endured strong opposition from family and friends fearful for their safety.
It’s hard to overstate either how important FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s statement was last week, or how improbable. The chairman’s proposal, which will be voted on by the full five-member commission on February 26, bans broadband companies from discriminating between different content providers based on who can pay. If the FCC supports it, it protects the Internet from a world in which there are slow lanes for poor content providers and fast lanes for rich ones. At the most basic level, it keeps Comcast and Time Warner from becoming the dictators of what we see, read, and write about. And it’s a political miracle.
I remember in the early days of the Idle No More Movement being awe-struck by seeing natives take to the streets and public places with drums, singing and dancing. It was beautiful, cultural, positive, and yet it was bringing attention to some very painful truths. In Idle No More, Hints of a Global Super-Movement I write about this emerging phenomena and close with a video of Ta’Kaiya speaking at a rally when she was only 11. Together we have seen so much growth and evolution since then, it is a very exciting time to participate in our unfolding future. Velcrow Ripper has made enormous contributions with films like Scared Sacred, and Occupy Love that encourage us to bring a spiritual perspective to our work for positive planetary change.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), via the Freedom of Information Act, obtained FBI documents revealing that the FBI considered the Occupy Wall Street movement, which began Sept. 17, 2011, a terrorist threat — even as they pointed out that the organizers called for peaceful protests and did “not condone the use of violence.” According to Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, “These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security treated protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity.” The perception of Occupy Wall Street as “terrorism” engineered extreme measures taken to undermine the group’s peaceful protests, including constant spying. FBI agents had OWS in their crosshairs as early as a month before the protesters took up camp at New York’s Zuccotti Park.