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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Recent Articles in Strategy!

History Teaches That We Have the Power to Transform the Nation, Here’s How.


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.

Misunderstanding The Civil Rights Movement & Diversity of Tactics

Civil Rights leader Ella Baker (date and location unknown) Ella Baker Institute

By Tactical Diversity – It’s gotten to be a pattern on the Left. When Black protest erupts into insurrection, as it did in Ferguson and Baltimore, most liberals and white radicals express empathy for the cathartic release of anger, but urge the oppressed that this is not the way. This is “not strategic,” says the leftist concern-troll. This is “what the police want.” Most of the time they manage to stop short of asking “why are they burning down their own neighborhood?” –if only to be mindful of clichés—but some can’t even help themselves there. In the aftermath, Amy Goodman(seemingly channeling Alex Jones) will spread conspiracy theories on how the government “orchestrated” the rioting.¹ The respectability politics of nonviolence will return. It’s hard to believe that anyone who has paid attention to Black Lives Matter takes these positions in good faith because, of course, the riots in Ferguson were objectively the best thing that happened to a movement that was already more than a year old.

‘No Justice, No Peace’: Clarity Of Purpose, Warning To Ruling Class

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By Glen Ford in Black Agenda Report – The logic of the emerging movement is Black self-determination – the principle that Black people have the inherent human right to determine their own destiny – which, in the immediate sense, means control over how they should be policed, and by whom. The venerable slogan “No Justice – No Peace” has served as a workhorse of the current protest, and would be an ideal organizing principle if the implications of the slogan were fully understood, rather than simply mouthed. The slogan takes the political position that the price that Power must pay for continued injustice against Black people is the loss of civil peace. It is a vow by the movement to transform the crisis that is inflicted on Black people into a generalized crisis for the larger society, and for those who currently rule.

25 Years Later: Lessons From The Organizers Of Justice For Janitors

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By Stephanie Lerner and Jono Shaffer in Talk Poverty – On June 15, 1990, the Los Angeles Police Department viciously attacked immigrant janitors who were striking for the right to organize in Century City, Los Angeles. In a story that is now all too familiar, the police claimed they were defending themselves. Only later, when TV news footage exposed the police clubbing non-violent strikers, was the self-defense claim discredited. Two women miscarried, dozens were hospitalized, and 60 strikers and supporters were jailed. After the violence, the workers regrouped in a nearby park where one of the strikers said, “What they did to us today in front of the TV cameras, is the way the police treat us every day.” Another woman striker told a reporter, “I wasn’t robbing a bank or selling drugs, I’m simply asking for an increase in pay but the police beat us as if we were garbage.”

Organizing Or Mobilizing?

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By Gibrán Rivera in Interaction Institute – Organizers… Bring people together, they organize people to address whatever emerges as the people’s priorities. The organizers focus on listening, building community, building trust and building respect. Organizers welcome conversation, strive for genuine diversity, push for distributed ownership of the group, and know group process. Organizers default toward consensus, need to make sure all views are heard and want to keep everyone engaged. Mobilizers … Work with people in order to focus on a set of steps to get something done. Mobilizers focus on moving people to act. Mobilizers push and pull the people they can to take a sequence of steps. Mobilizers attract and sustain engagement by demonstrating momentum and direction. Mobilizers default toward pushing to the next step.

The Triumph Of Occupy, & The Costs To The Occupiers

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By Jay Elias in Daily Kos – What took a lot longer to reach the public eye, and did so after the cameras were largely off the Occupy movement, was the lengths, many of which were illegal, that the Federal and local governments went to spy on the Occupy movement, to use anti-terrorism powers against them, and to share information about their activities with those whom Occupy was protesting. In 2012, Rolling Stone reported on the Department of Homeland Security’s surveillance of the Occupy movement, which began no less than a month after the protests began in 2011. The DHS report stated that the NYPD was sharing information on the protesters and their plans with landlords and business owners, including according to the DHS memo “large banks”. Rolling Stone also reported that information about the locations and times of protests and gatherings nationwide was “borrowed, improbably enough, from the lefty blog Daily Kos.”

After The Uprising: Lessons From Rojava For Baltimore

Stop Lethal Force

By Ben Reynolds for ROAR. How can we create the fundamental change we so desperately need? We need a superior strategy to the failed strategies of the past; we need a means to turn an uprising into a revolution. History offers a few successful examples of popular organizing we can draw from. During the French Revolution, the popular assemblies of the Paris sections formed a radical base that pushed the developing revolution forward. The Russian Revolution of 1917 saw deliberative popular bodies known as “soviets” overthrow the provisional government in the name of bread and peace. These kinds of systems — based upon deliberative councils and assemblies — frequently appear in any period of unrest or upheaval, and have recently emerged in Argentina, Spain, and elsewhere. In the present, the Kurdish movement in Turkey and Syria employs a developed version of this system known as “democratic confederalism.” Face-to-face neighborhood assemblies form the base of political decision-making, while successive councils operate at the district, city and regional levels. The councils and assemblies deliberate upon all of the issues facing the community and attempt to organize the means to effect necessary changes.

Riots And Social Change

A protester throws a gas canister back at police during clashes in Baltimore, Maryland, April 28, 2015. Photo: Eric Thayer/Reuters/Corbis

By Jonathan Chait in NY Mag – The recent spate of protests against police brutality have changed the way the left thinks about rioting. The old liberal idea, which distinguished between peaceful protests (good) and rioting (bad), has given way to a more radical analysis. “Riots work,” insists George Ciccariello-Maher in Salon. “But despite the obviousness of the point, an entire chorus of media, police, and self-appointed community leaders continue to try to convince us otherwise, hammering into our heads a narrative of a nonviolence that has never worked on its own, based on a mythical understanding of the Civil Rights Movement.” Vox’s German Lopez, while acknowledging the downside of random violence, argues, “Riots can lead to real, substantial change.”

Beyond Confrontation: Community-Centered Policing Tools

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By Policy Link – On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, was shot multiple times and killed by Darren Wilson, a White police officer, in Ferguson, Missouri. This tragic act provoked grief and outrage in Ferguson and across the country. We mourned the loss of an innocent young man, taken before his time, and recognized that his killing was the latest in a long and rapidly growing succession of cases involving police use of lethal force against unarmed people of color. The disproportionate, militarized police response to subsequent community protests in Ferguson — including the use of tear gas and snipers, curfews enforced by armored trucks and tactical units, and the unwarranted arrest of multiple journalists — further incensed the country and, in conjunction with Michael Brown’s killing, raised an urgent question: What must change so that not one more person of color is unjustifiably and indefensibly killed by the police?

Questioning Consensus

General Assembly at the Occupy Wall Street protests. Occupy Wall Street protests, Sept. 26, 2011. Caroline Schiff. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Proponents make broad claims for consensus process. They argue that it is intrinsically more democratic than other methods, and that it fosters radical transformation, both within movements and in their relations with the wider world. As described in the action handbook of an Earth Day 1990 action to shut down Wall Street, which included a blockade of the entrances to the Stock Exchange and led to some 200 arrests, “Consensus at its best offers a cooperative model of reaching group unity, an essential step in creating a culture that values cooperation over competition.” Few, though, know the origins of the process, which shed an interesting and surprising light on its troubled real-world workings.

Flipping The Script: Rethinking Working-Class Resistance

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

By Henry A. Giroux in Truthout – I then realized that I had to flip the script to survive and became acutely aware that the alleged strengths of ruling-class types, such as their, cold, hypermasculine modes of embodiment, along with their ruthless sense of competitiveness, their suffocating narcissism, their view of unbridled self-interest as the highest virtue, their ponderous and empty elaborated code, and their often savage and insensitive modes of interaction, were actually poisonous deficits. That was a turning point in my being able to narrate and free myself from one of the most sinister forms of ideological domination, “those unexamined prejudices that keep us from thinking.” For me, this involved a slow process of unlearning the poisonous, sedimented histories working-class youth often have to internalize and embody in order to survive.

Green Economies Require Alliances B/W Labour & Indigenous People

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By Harsha Walia in Ricochet.Media – The bold leadership of unions that revive principles of social unionism ensures that unions are not simply advocating mobility within capitalism and state structures, but are primary allies in the struggle against capitalism and imperialism. As Herman Rosenfeld, a former GM worker, writes, “Job security is key, but what kind of jobs? Is the job security strategy one that works against the interests of the rest of the working-class and First Nations peoples, or in partnership with them? Moving away from the narrow focus on the short-term sectoral interests of a relatively small group of workers, whose jobs are currently defined by their employers, is a critical way of building unions as fighters for the class as a whole, and for a different, sustainable, and hopefully anti-capitalist future.” Simply put, workers shouldn’t have to extract toxic sludge. Workers want and need clean air, clean water, and a more equitable future.

Overcoming The Barriers To Developing A Strategy To Win

Photo by Roger Peet

By Chris Dixon in Writing With Movements – What exactly is strategy? Rahula Janowski, a longtime activist in San Francisco, summed it up well: “What’s your goal? What can you do to get there? What are your plans to get there? That’s your strategy.” In this sense, strategy is something we can develop on many different timelines (from days to decades) and scales (from small groups to global movements). In all cases, however, a strategy is a plan or series of plans for moving us from where we are to where we’d like to be. A major problem in left movements in North America is that we tend to do this sort of planning so infrequently. This, unfortunately, is what a lot of left political activity looks like. As we struggle, Tracy emphasized, there are no guarantees, but we can improve our possibilities of getting what we want if we’re intentional about what we’re doing. It comes down to a question, he said: “Do you want to have a chance at winning something?”

Bernie Sanders Is No Eugene Debs

Bernie Sanders in front of image of Eugene Debs in 1990, Getty images

UNFORTUNATELY, TOO many self-professed socialists in the U.S. have abandoned the socialist principle of independent political action. They argue instead that whether or not to support a Democrat or an independent candidate is a question of tactics, not principle. That was not the case when the United States had a viable Socialist Party. The political independence of the Socialist Party is a major reason why it was viable, why it had power, why it elected many of its candidates, why it was central to the political dialogue of the country. After the demoralizing and self-defeating experience of fusion (cross-endorsing the more progressive Democratic and Republican candidates) that undermined and ultimately destroyed the Greenback Labor and People’s Parties of the recently past Populist era, the Socialist Party of America put into its constitution a ban against endorsing the candidates of the capitalist parties.

Nuclear Freeze Prevented Apocalypse, Climate Movement Can Too

Demonstrators march hand in hand toward Central Park under a large banner reading, 'Freeze The Arms Race,' during a massive Nuclear Disarmament Rally, where about 750,000 gathered to rally for a nuclear arms freeze, New York City, New York, June 12, 1982. (Photo by Lee Frey/Authenticated News/Getty Images)

2014 was the hottest year in recorded history. 2015 is on track to be even hotter — and yet, before the most important international climate talks of the decade, even the most ambitious promises of action will fall short of what science demands. At the same time, the movement to stop climate change is also making history — last year the United States saw the biggest climate march in history, as well as the growth of a fossil fuel divestment movement (the fastest growing divestment campaign ever), and a steady drumbeat of local victories against the fossil fuel industry. In short, the climate movement, and humanity, is up against an existential wall: Find ways to organize for decisive action, or face the end of life as we know it. This is scary stuff, but if you think no movement has ever faced apocalyptic challenges before, and won, then it’s time you learned about the Nuclear Freeze campaign.

Radical Dreams: The Democracy Movement, Plan For Revolution

Democracy

It is time to declare independence again, this time not from a king, but from ruling Forces of Greed (FOG). This column is a blueprint for a citizen revolution. We have more individual wealth than any other nation, with the most billionaires and the most millionaires. At the same time we have the most hunger and homelessness among major industrialized nations, the most without health care among industrialized nations, and the most people in prison by any measure. It takes a massive prison system to make American capitalism work as it does on behalf of the ruling FOG. And as the rich get richer, average wages have fallen, since 1973, for those who work for a living. Although our corrupt Congress keeps increasing its own pay to keep up with inflation, the working poor have lost about a third of their buying power since 1968 as the minimum wage has fallen far short of both inflation and a living wage.