In this section:
A Direct Action Campaign can
- Win concrete improvements in people’s lives.
- Make people aware of their own power (by winning victories).
- Alter the relationship of power between people, the government, and other institutions by building strong permanent organizations and relationships
Phases of a Campaign
- Preparation: doing your research, analysis, dirt digging, escalation planning etc
- Launch: begin negotiations and making campaign and demands public
- Battle: engage a comprehensive campaign and protest tactics
- Settlement: winning your goals or getting better than your bottom line
Steps in a Nonviolent Direct Action Campaign
Each step continues through the duration of the campaign. For example we need to continue to research and education throughout. Each step builds/escalates to the next while setting up your opponent to do the right thing. You need to give them opportunities to do the right thing at every stage and when they don’t, you make it public; soon they begin to expose themselves. At some point it will be clear that negotiation is no longer possible and that the opponent is no longer a welcome player in our community and must be replaced.
- Investigate –understand the nature and extent of problem. Gather information and evidence, know who is responsible, what do people want to do. You need a clear statement of the problem and the solution and evidence that backs up your case.
- Negotiate – give the opponent a clear, fair, documented and publicized opportunity to resolve the conflict. Exhaust established channels for change
- Educate – get the word out! Go door-to-door, leafleting, teach-ins, petitions etc
- Demonstrate – marches, pickets, etc. Build support and increase pressure
- Direct Action – sit-in’s, blockades, occupations – create a crisis to force your opponent and the public to address the issues. Aim for dilemma actions where possible. Dramatize the conflict. Show your depth of commitment and test the determination of your opponent. Spark actions by other groups elsewhere to increase the heat
- Protracted Struggle (or War) – move from negotiation (although keep the door open) to the creation of alternative or parallel institutions while we shut the other one down.
- Victory, Settlement – while a victory might just be mitigating damage or you may not get everything you want, but victories are a necessity for long-term movement building and culture shifting.
The Art of the Campaign is engaging your opponent at every step. At the beginning we inform them of the solutions to the problems and give them the chance to do the right thing. They fix it or not. We escalate and educate and get more people involved and go back. We give them the chance to do the right thing. They fix it or not. We escalate and engage in demonstrations. We go back and give them the chance to do the right thing. They fix it or not. We escalate and engage in direct action. We go back and give them the chance to do the right thing. They fix it or not. We escalate and at some point we determine that our opponent is no longer a responsible member of our community and we seek to close them down while replacing them with another entity. In workplace situations this may be easier said then done depending on the industry.
Click here for a Campaign Planning Worksheet to plan out each stage of your campaign
Mechanisms for Change
- Conversion – convince them to change
- Acquiescence – they go along because they don’t want to fight
- Accommodation – reach a compromise
- Coercion – force an opponent to give up
- Disintegration – opponent no longer has anything to give up, incapacitated
What A Direct Action Campaign Can Do
• Point a Spotlight: Raise public awareness about an institution, program or injustice. Bring hidden wrongs to light. Example: Campaigns against WTO,IMF/World Bank; genetically engineered foods.
• Delegitimize Organizations, Institutions and Programs: Withdraw consent from the functioning of unjust bodies, laws, programs. Interfere with their operations. Raise their social costs. Examples: U.S. Civil Rights Movement, antinuclear activism, etc.
• Build a Movement: Provide opportunities for people to engage in action, experience solidarity and support, take greater risks, deepen commitment. Examples: almost any powerful action.
• Educate and Inform: Both those in the movement and those who hear of actions: Almost every good action.
• Strengthen Voices of Reform: It may not be our intention or goal, but when thousands of people are out in the streets, institutions are more likely to listen to ‘respectable’ critics within. Examples: calls for more ‘transparency’ within WTO and World Bank; de facto legalization of needle exchange in SF.
Nonviolence in Direct Action Campaigns Is About
• Vision: We embody the world we want to create, we use means consistent with our ends. We engage in imaginative action. We expect to win.
• Choices: We do not let structures of force limit our choices. We expand the choices of our opponents.
• Patterns: We understand the patterns of violence and control so we can make choices about our responses. We learn how to de-escalate tension and potential conflict in order to expand our range of choices in any situation.
• Communication: We communicate with each other, with our potential allies and with our opposition, and develop our communication skills.
• Energy: We look at situations energetically and learn skills for shifting and directing energy.
• Inclusiveness: We focus on expanding our movement and increasing opportunities for people of diverse needs and awareness to take part. We resolve our internal conflicts through discussion and negotiation.
• Respect for diversity: We respect our own differences, needs, cultures, life circumstances, politics and views as well as differences of gender, race, sexual orientation, age, physical challenges, etc.