Social Movements – A diversity of tactics, a paucity of participants

Ward Churchill, Peter Gelderloos and others have argued that the option of using violence needs to be available to movements fighting entrenched power, even alongside mass participation in nonviolent tactics like occupations and strikes. “Why tie our hands behind our backs?” they ask. Occasions may arise, they insist, when repressive police and military violence require that the movement be ready to defend itself with specific and strategic violence. I’ve publicly debated Ward Churchill on these questions, and I agree they deserve careful thought.

I see them as important questions during a stage of mass political and economic noncooperation in a movement — stage four in my five-stage framework. But I’ve also argued that violent tactics have little merit when a movement is still relatively small, in stage three, which I call “confrontation.” That’s the stage when movements are able to mount demonstrations of thousands, but not hundreds of thousands. Because stage four is far more massive than stage three, it can use tactics like large-scale strikes and prolonged occupations.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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