We can learn a lot about strategy from the U.S. civil rights movement. What worked for them in facing an almost overwhelming array of forces was a particular technique known as the escalating nonviolent direct action campaign. Since that 1955-65 decade we’ve learned much more about how powerful campaigns build powerful movements leading to major change. Some of those lessons are here.
I was among the 100,000 who marched in San Francisco’s Women’s March the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. While enthusiasm for the struggle seemed high, an important question was looming: What’s the strategic plan, as we head into the Trump era? Although there’s no simple answer, I offer this 10-point plan — fully open for discussion and debate.
Nonviolent campaigns are often dramatic and catch the attention of millions—think of Standing Rock water protectors resolute in the face of a brutal police force. All the more puzzling that the concept of a “nonviolent campaign” is little known and often ignored when people talk about how to mobilize power.
Source: Waging Nonviolence
You may have heard the story of the woman who was walking her dog one night and found a man on his hands and knees, searching the sidewalk under the streetlight. “Can I help you find something?” she asked.
“I dropped my house key over there,” he replied, gesturing behind him, “and I need to find it.”
“But if you dropped it over there, why are you looking here?” she asked.
“The light is much better here,” he answered.
I remember the story when I think about the many Americans who know that huge changes are needed in economic and climate policy, and turn to the electoral arena to find their power. They won’t find their power there because the system is so corrupted, but they nevertheless look for their power “under the streetlight,” where middle school civics textbooks tell them to look.