If I could make one wish come true on a silver-headed dandelion, it would be to instill a deeper understanding of strategy for nonviolent movements into every single person working for change.
As my friend, Philippe Duhamel told me once, “Strategy without action is futile . . . but action without strategy is fatal.”
So, here’s a strategy tip: a movement is more than an action or two (or even a hundred actions). Sets of well-chosen nonviolent tactics combine to work toward the goals of strategic campaigns. These campaigns ideally build cumulatively on the accomplishments of the previous campaigns, like a set of stepping stones in a staircase that leads toward the broad aims of the movement.
Got that? Actions make up campaigns, which build cumulatively into the arc of a movement.
Campaigns can accomplish a lot of goals … they can strengthen a movement, build participation in the movement. They can erode the position of your opposition by undermining the “pillars of support” that keep the problem in place. They can build new systems and encourage people to leave the old system and join in. They can sway people to shift from being enemies to being allies of the movement, and help people move from passively supporting the goals of the movement to being actively involved in the nonviolent actions and organizing of the movement.
Ponder this with me. In the social change work you’re involved in, are you just engaging in actions upon actions without the framework of campaigns? Or are you pouring energy into campaigns that don’t seem to be building toward a larger goal? Perhaps stop and reassess how the movement is approaching it’s work.
We are part of a long lineage of nonviolent struggle, one that stretches around the world and throughout time. People have lived and loved and suffered and died for this knowledge. Every grain of strategic understanding we know about nonviolent struggle has been brought to us through the hard-won efforts of our fellow human beings. Honor them by researching and studying how nonviolent action works. Respect your fellow human beings and use strategy as you move into action.
I learned this knowledge while writing The Dandelion Insurrection. I realized I didn’t know how to get my characters out of the mess they were in. I googled, “how to bring down dictators nonviolently”, which led me to Gene Sharp‘s work, which lead me to Gandhi, King, the Global Nonviolent Action Database, and a stack of books on nonviolent struggle that is literally taller than I am. The knowledge I learned is the most empowering, important knowledge I have ever engaged with. I recommend the journey, my friends.
What is The Dandelion Insurrection? It’s a novel about a nonviolent movement for change in “a time that looms around the corner of today”, set in a (slightly) fictionalized United States to oust a not-so-hidden corporate dictatorship. Whether or not it’s real . . . well, that all depends on you. Read the book, live the story.
Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, Billionaire Buddha and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, the cohost of Love (and Revolution) Radio, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network. She is a trainer and social media coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence and Pace e Bene. Sun attended the James Lawson Institute on Strategic Nonviolent Resistance in 2014 and her essays on social justice movements appear in Truthout and Popular Resistance. www.riverasun.com