Part 2 of 4
Continuing my summary of Gene Sharp’s seminal work on nonviolent strategy and tactics for regime change started in Part 1, the problem of exercising power from a position of weakness is addressed.
Acts of Political Defiance
Sharp breaks down the elements of “Political Defiance” as follows: (1) it doesn’t accept that the outcome of the confrontation with the state will be determined by the means preferred by the state, (2) it develops a structure and discourse that is difficult for the regime to target, (3) it can target the regime’s Achilles’ Heels and sever its Sources of Power, (4) the movement is flexible enough to pivot between dispersed actions and actions focused on a specific objective, (5) the movement provokes the regime into forced errors, (6) it can mobilize or utilize nonmembers from society at large, (7) the movement through its acts [not through policy changes in the regime] causes a dispersion of power from regime to the people.
It is key to interrupt the relationship of the population at large to the regime that is characterized by “cooperation, submission, and obedience.” In effecting these kinds of attitudes nonviolent political defiance is more effective than a bomb or an assassination, no matter how well targeted. Sharp identifies nearly 200 tactics that may work toward this end (see below).
While your goals and Grand Strategy should not change, remember that the power relationships are dynamic, particularly once Political Defiance starts making progress, and with it the Rules of Engagement will be in flux. The Movement should be responsive but not reactive to developments. “Disciplined courageous nonviolent resistance in face of the dictators’ brutalities may induce unease, disaffection, unreliability, and in extreme situations even mutiny among the dictators’ own soldiers and population. . . . In addition, skillful, disciplined, and persistent use of political defiance may result in more and more participation in the resistance by people who normally would give their tacit support to the dictators or generally remain neutral in the conflict.”
There are four kinds of responses on the part of the Regime. The first is Conversion, which is brought on by disgust with the regime’s actions and sympathy for the Resisters. This is the rarest and happens on a person-by-person basis. The others are Accommodation, Nonviolent Coercion, and Disintegration.
- Accommodation is good for a labor union seeking certain demands but which is not seeking an overthrow of the system.
- If a Movement’s final goal is the Disintegration of a Regime it should avoid mobilizing the masses around demands that can be accommodated since, once those demands are met, the Movement must start from zero at rebuilding opposition to a Regime which can now make itself appear reasonable and open to the concerns of the people. Comment: With this in mind, I do not believe that France should adopt the 3 Strikes Laws. Turning to Mass Incarceration is not objectionable on moral grounds but may help create a modus vivendi that would make remigration unnecessary in the eyes of the masses.
- Nonviolent Coercion occurs when the Command and Control of a Regime’s oppressive bodies becomes unreliable. This can be a sign of impending Disintegration or of a looming civil war.
Defiance is contagious. When it is seen to avoid fatal crackdowns and addresses real problems, political defiance will capture the imagination of the masses and inspire numerous copycat groups and actions.
Secrecy or Openness
Sharp proposes that Movements using “secrecy, deception, and underground conspiracy” are making a mistake. He feels that Intelligence agencies will inevitably discover the intentions and plans of a movement and that secrecy actually contributes to the feeling of fear rather than diminishing threats. It affects the number of people who can participate in an action and may lead to nonviolent principals being breached as standards of behavior are harder to police within the group. He makes exception for the creation and distribution of propaganda and intelligence gathering against the Regime.
Comment: This is the hardest pill to swallow as there are plenty of counter-examples of successful groups which maintained secrecy. Also it takes for granted the risk involved in being “outed” as an Enemy of the State and that the Regime with the ability to read all our emails, listen to all of our phone calls, and track our location would have foreknowledge of political actions. I can see how this might be helpful to build international sympathy, but the fact is there is no reservoir of sympathy for us. No one is protesting at French Embassies over the fact that Esteban Morillo is rotting in jail for delivering a single punch against a gang attack by antifa. One of his friends who was also attacked, Samuel Dufour, was released last month after spending over a year in jail without trial. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch never reported this irregularity in due process. No one will cry for us when we are persecuted, so this cannot be a point in favor of Openness. Furthermore, in previous generations many of our people were prepared to shed blood in the streets for a political cause. The hundreds of Iron Guard members who were illegally murdered by the Romanian state did not deter the continued adherence and agitation of those remaining. In our times, people are not so willing, and lighter methods of persecution have had greater effects. Historians do not shy from writing about the role of secret organizations in the upheavals of Chinese history, but when it comes to our own history, they ignore the undeniable. This is one point where I strongly disagree with Sharp.
Ironically, Gene Sharp advises against foreign sponsorship. This is surprising considering the conventional understanding of how movements building on his work gain support. Organizations like Freedom House, National Endowment for Democracy, and the Soros organizations are undeniably linked to the US State Department and its intelligence services.
Comment: The problem for us is there is no ideological ally running any country in the world or any reputable NGO or IGO. It is best practice to remain cautious about anyone who shows up out of nowhere with a load of easy cash. As Michael Moore pointed out in Fahrenheit 911, even Quaker Peace Groups were infiltrated by the FBI. According to Trevor Aaronson, author of The Terror Factory, 99% of the FBI’s “terror-related arrests” involved a government official who leading the group or instigating the violent plans. This is also true for 17 of the 20 most dangerous terror plots since September 11th, 2001. Groups such as ours are their preferred target. I believe it is best practice for meeting organizers to announce at the beginning any discussion of violence will lead to expulsion and being reported to the authorities. This must be then followed through on by the leadership and the rank and file.
Gene Sharp revisits the issue in Chapter 7 suggesting that it is possible to use “external pressure” that supplements “internal struggle” in order to:
Obtain diplomatic, political, and economic sanctions by governments and international organizations against the dictatorship. These may take the forms of economic and military weapons embargoes, reduction in levels of diplomatic recognition or the breaking of diplomatic ties, banning of economic assistance and prohibition of investments in the dictatorial country, expulsion of the dictatorial government from various international organizations and from United Nations bodies. Further, international assistance, such as the provision of financial and communications support, can also be provided directly to the democratic forces.
Comment: Americans should get a chill up their spine when reading this because as long as they have any awareness of international relations they should know this would require a radical reshaping of the international order. The German Defense Minister, on a charm tour of the US right now, will not even criticize her own country’s involvement in the massively unpopular Afghanistan War, nor will she stand up for her own people as the biggest target of Mass Surveillance. Russia may be willing to take pot shots at American shortcomings, but apart from the price of gas in Central and Eastern Europe, they have no levers with which to put pressure on the US (and for how long?). The same goes for Iran and China. Brazil’s own President was directly spied on and the boldest move she could manage was to cancel a state visit to Obama.
The only aspect of the New World Order in which such techniques might work is through the BDS Movement (Boycott, Disinvest, and Sanction). I have stated elsewhere that I hope all Jewry currently residing in White countries will collect in Israel to become a nation like any other, but the Zionist Project must be made exceedingly difficult though not impossible. A dollar spent by Sheldon Adelson on subsidizing Israel’s economy is a dollar he does not spend on buying US politicians.
Strategic Planning – Anticipating Surprises
Political Defiance Campaigns are often sparked by accidental events (i.e., “new brutalities, the arrest or killing of a highly regarded person, new repressive policy or order, food shortages, disrespect toward religious beliefs, or an anniversary of an important related event”). It is up to leadership to anticipate such moments and have plans ready to implement. To do this there not only needs to be a Grand Strategy in mind, but also a comprehensive list of strategic goals. This list of strategic goals must include both those which are realistic at the time and those which are not. Also a sense of the opposition’s motivations and of the mood of the masses which is as objective as possible is needed (particularly difficult amongst a counterculture that feels at odds with the mainstream).
Many such movements “do not plan a comprehensive strategy to bring down the dictatorship, concentrating instead only on immediate issues, for another reason. Inside themselves, they do not really believe that the dictatorship can be ended by their own efforts. Therefore, planning how to do so is considered to be a romantic waste of time or an exercise in futility.”
Comment: I believe this is what drives the fascination with collapse scenarios in the United States. It is much easier to hope for a deus ex machina than to make a decades long Strategic Plan. Perhaps the collapse will never come and perhaps the Strategic Plan will not work. As long as there is no accurate means of prediction, we might as well pursue each according to our gifts. But in the case of the US, the survivalists and military veterans have the collapse scenario covered.
Sharp gives as excellent an explanation of the concepts of Grand Strategy, Strategy, Tactics, and Methods as any I have seen. It is necessary to understand these distinctions before proceeding. It was often stated by Realists (the school of foreign policy theory) that George W. Bush’s administration lacked any Grand Strategy and that they lacked an Exit Strategy. The latter was a more common critique, since as most anti-imperialists, whether far-Left or far-Right, did not believe a desire to truly exit existed and because Exit Strategy is a concept much more easily understood. Grand Strategy, on the other hand is a bit more complicated.
Grand strategy is the conception that serves to coordinate and direct the use of all appropriate and available resources (economic, human, moral, political, organizational, etc.) of a group seeking to attain its objectives in a conflict. Grand strategy, by focusing primary attention on the group’s objectives and resources in the conflict, determines the most appropriate technique of action (such as conventional military warfare or nonviolent struggle) to be employed in the conflict. In planning a grand strategy, resistance leaders must evaluate and plan which pressures and influences are to be brought to bear upon the opponents. Further, grand strategy will include decisions on the appropriate conditions and timing under which initial and subsequent resistance campaigns will be launched.
The following is a helpful list of questions to begin the discussion of Grand Strategy:
How might the long-term struggle best begin? How can the oppressed population muster sufficient self-confidence and strength to act to challenge the dictatorship, even initially in a limited way? How could the population’s capacity to apply noncooperation and defiance be increased with time and experience? What might be the objectives of a series of limited campaigns to regain democratic control over the society and limit the dictatorship? Are there independent institutions that have survived the dictatorship which might be used in the struggle to establish freedom? What institutions of the society can be regained from the dictators’ control, or what institutions need to be newly created by the democrats to meet their needs and establish spheres of democracy even while the dictatorship continues? How can organizational strength in the resistance be developed? How can participants be trained? What resources (finances, equipment, etc.) will be required throughout the struggle? What types of symbolism can be most effective in mobilizing the population? By what kinds of action and in what stages could the sources of power of the dictators be incrementally weakened and severed? How can the resisting population simultaneously persist in its defiance and also maintain the necessary nonviolent discipline? How can the society continue to meet its basic needs during the course of the struggle? How can social order be maintained in the midst of the conflict? As victory approaches, how can the democratic resistance continue to build the institutional base of the post-dictatorship society to make the transition as smooth as possible?
Comment: So what is our Grand Strategy? For historical reasons France already had a number of distinct and slightly overlapping networks that made the original base of the FN. Now the party and the movement are expanding beyond these networks that provided the resource types enumerated above. In the US, on the other hand, there is a very active and rich stable of writers. Without an organizational base any sympathizers will remain outside the organized struggle. Of course, there is good reason for this since anyone with a good corporate or government job would be fired if discovered. Contrary to Sharp’s advice, it seems that organizing that is not announced in a public forum is necessary. So, using these limited resources, the first objectives should be toward expanding the human and organizational resources that will then attract economic power and claim political power. However, though the specific actions working towards building our Human Resources must be secret, this piece of our Grand Strategy, along with others ought to be publicly announced.
When the grand strategy of the struggle has been carefully planned there are sound reasons for making it widely known. The large numbers of people required to participate may be more willing and able to act if they understand the general conception, as well as specific instructions. This knowledge could potentially have a very positive effect on their morale, their willingness to participate, and to act appropriately. The general outlines of the grand strategy would become known to the dictators in any case and knowledge of its features potentially could lead them to be less brutal in their repression, knowing that it could rebound politically against themselves. Awareness of the special characteristics of the grand strategy could potentially also contribute to dissension and defections from the dictators’ own camp.
Also, making the guidelines of Strategy and Tactics known to the general public “provide[s] a test to identify counterfeit “resistance instructions” issued by the political police designed to provoke discrediting action” or to distance the movement from unpopular actions carried out by agents provocateurs and government false flag actions.
Once a Grand Strategy is formulated it should not be revised unless there is a major change in the society, economic system, the environment, or fundamental political change.
This leads to Strategy,
the conception of how to best achieve particular objectives in a conflict, operating within the scope of a chosen grand strategy. Strategy is concerned with whether, when, and how to fight, as well as how to achieve maximum effectiveness in struggling for certain ends. . . . Strategy may also include efforts to develop a strategic situation that is so advantageous that the opponents are able to foresee that open conflict is likely to bring certain defeat . . . the Strategic Plan is the basic idea of how a campaign shall develop, and how its separate components shall be fitted together to contribute most advantageously to achieve its objectives. . . . In devising strategies democrats must clearly define their objectives and determine how to measure the effectiveness of efforts to achieve them.
Sharp advises activists that despite their limited resources, they must be aware of which action groups and individual activists have the capabilities for pursuing each particular objective. There must be very precise clarity in defining strategic objectives and the roadmap for reaching those objectives.
Just as military officers must understand force structures, tactics, logistics, munitions, the effects of geography, and the like in order to plot military strategy, political defiance planners must understand the nature and strategic principles of nonviolent struggle. Even then, however, knowledge of nonviolent struggle, attention to recommendations in this essay, and answers to the questions posed here will not themselves produce strategies. The formulation of strategies for the struggle still requires an informed creativity.
Here are the questions that Sharp recommends working through when devising a campaign strategy:
• Determination of the specific objectives of the campaign and their contributions to implementing the grand strategy.
• Consideration of the specific methods, or political weapons, that can best be used to implement the chosen strategies . . . smaller, tactical plans and which specific methods of action should be used to impose pressures and restrictions against the dictatorship’s sources of power . . .
• Determination whether, or how, economic issues should be related to the overall essentially political struggle . . . care will be needed that the economic grievances can actually be remedied after the dictatorship is ended. Otherwise, disillusionment and disaffection may set in if quick solutions are not provided during the transition period . . . disillusionment could facilitate the rise of dictatorial forces promising an end to economic woes.
• Determination in advance of what kind of leadership structure and communications system will work best for initiating the resistance struggle. What means of decision-making and communication will be possible during the course of the struggle to give continuing guidance to the resisters and the general population?
• Communication of the resistance news to the general population, to the dictators’ forces, and the international press . . . Exaggerations and unfounded claims will undermine the credibility of the resistance.
• Plans for self-reliant constructive social, educational, economic, and political activities to meet the needs of one’s own people during the coming conflict. Such projects can be conducted by persons not directly involved in the resistance activities.
• Determination of what kind of external assistance is desirable in support of the specific campaign or the general liberation struggle. How can external help be best mobilized and used without making the internal struggle dependent on uncertain external factors? Attention will need to be given to which external groups are most likely, and most appropriate, to assist, such as non-governmental organizations (social movements, religious or political groups, labor unions, etc.), governments, and/or the United Nations and its various bodies.
A Tactic is a limited action employed to achieve a restricted objective. . . . To be most effective Tactics and Methods must be chosen and applied with constant attention to the achievement of strategic objectives. . . . Tactics are applied for shorter periods of time than strategies, or in smaller areas (geographical, institutional, etc.), or by a more limited number of people, or for limited objectives.
Tactics cannot conflict with Strategy or Grand Strategy.
Comment: For example, if one of our primary claims to moral superiority is the fact that Israel does not extradite white collar criminals (and despite numerous abuses our governments do not protest), it must be seen as counter-productive to fill our coffers through white collar crime. Also, guerilla movements such as the IRA and the Weather Underground have robbed banks and armored trucks to fund weapons purchases. A movement that seeks to restore order to countries that have descended into multi-racial violent chaos through nonviolent means must be more careful in how targets are chosen and how the action will be perceived by the public. There is a reason why Wall Street banks that acquired regional retail banks tended to leave the local brand name in place, “reputational risk management.” Also, the perception of the activists and that of the public are often at odds. A Black Bloc Anarchist may see property destruction as non-violent and victimless, but this is not the case for the vast majority of Whites. These kinds of disconnects of perception definitely exist between our activists and the pool of potential supporters.
Finally Sharp mentions Methods, the exhaustive list of which appears below:
The Methods Of Nonviolent Action
THE METHODS OF NONVIOLENT PROTEST AND PERSUASION
1. Public speeches
2. Letters of opposition or support
3. Declarations by organizations and institutions
4. Signed public statements
5. Declarations of indictment and intention
6. Group or mass petitions
Communications with a wider audience
7. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols
8. Banners, posters, and displayed communications
9. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books
10. Newspapers and journals
11. Records, radio, and television
12. Skywriting and earthwriting
14. Mock awards
15. Group lobbying
17. Mock elections
Symbolic public acts
18. Display of flags and symbolic colors
19. Wearing of symbols
20. Prayer and worship
21. Delivering symbolic objects
22. Protest disrobings
23. Destruction of own property
24. Symbolic lights
25. Displays of portraits
26. Paint as protest
27. New signs and names
28. Symbolic sounds
29. Symbolic reclamations
30. Rude gestures
Pressures on individuals
31. “Haunting” officials
32. Taunting officials
Drama and music
35. Humorous skits and pranks
36. Performance of plays and music
40. Religious processions
Honoring the dead
43. Political mourning
44. Mock funerals
45. Demonstrative funerals
46. Homage at burial places
47. Assemblies of protest or support
48. Protest meetings
49. Camouflaged meetings of protest
Withdrawal and renunciation
53. Renouncing honors
54. Turning one’s back
THE METHODS OF SOCIAL NONCOOPERATION
Ostracism of persons
55. Social boycott
56. Selective social boycott
57. Lysistratic nonaction
Noncooperation with social events, customs, and institutions
60. Suspension of social and sports activities
61. Boycott of social affairs
62. Student strike
63. Social disobedience
64. Withdrawal from social institutions
Withdrawal from the social system
66. Total personal noncooperation
67. Flight of workers
69. Collective disappearance
70. Protest emigration (hijrat)
THE METHODS OF ECONOMIC NONCOOPERATION
(1) ECONOMIC BOYCOTTS
Action by consumers
71. Consumers’ boycott
72. Nonconsumption of boycotted goods
73. Policy of austerity
74. Rent withholding
75. Refusal to rent
76. National consumers’ boycott
77. International consumers’ boycott
Action by workers and producers
78. Workmen’s boycott
79. Producers’ boycott
Action by middlemen
80. Suppliers’ and handlers’ boycott
Action by owners and management
81. Traders’ boycott
82. Refusal to let or sell property
84. Refusal of industrial assistance
85. Merchants’ “general strike”
Action by holders of financial resources
86. Withdrawal of bank deposits
87. Refusal to pay fees, dues, and assessments
88. Refusal to pay debts or interest
89. Severance of funds and credit
90. Revenue refusal
91. Refusal of a government’s money
Action by governments
92. Domestic embargo
93. Blacklisting of traders
94. International sellers’ embargo
95. International buyers’ embargo
96. International trade embargo
THE METHODS OF ECONOMIC NONCOOPERATION
(2) THE STRIKE
97. Protest strike
98. Quickie walkout (lightning strike)
99. Peasant strike
100. Farm workers’ strike
Strikes by special groups
101. Refusal of impressed labor
102. Prisoners’ strike
103. Craft strike
104. Professional strike
Ordinary industrial strikes
105. Establishment strike
106. Industry strike
107. Sympathetic strike
108. Detailed strike
109. Bumper strike
110. Slowdown strike
111. Working-to-rule strike
112. Reporting “sick” (sick-in)
113. Strike by resignation
114. Limited strike
115. Selective strike
116. Generalized strike
117. General strike
Combinations of strikes and economic closures
119. Economic shutdown
THE METHODS OF POLITICAL NONCOOPERATION
Rejection of authority
120. Withholding or withdrawal of allegiance
121. Refusal of public support
122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance
Citizens’ noncooperation with government
123. Boycott of legislative bodies
124. Boycott of elections
125. Boycott of government employment and positions
126. Boycott of government departments, agencies and other bodies
127. Withdrawal from government educational institutions
128. Boycott of government-supported organizations
129. Refusal of assistance to enforcement agents
130. Removal of own signs and placemarks
131. Refusal to accept appointed officials
132. Refusal to dissolve existing institutions
Citizens’ alternatives to obedience
133. Reluctant and slow compliance
134. Nonobedience in absence of direct supervision
135. Popular nonobedience
136. Disguised disobedience
137. Refusal of an assemblage or meeting to disperse
139. Noncooperation with conscription and deportation
140. Hiding, escape and false identities
141. Civil disobedience of “illegitimate” laws
Action by government personnel
142. Selective refusal of assistance by government aides
143. Blocking of lines of command and information
144. Stalling and obstruction
145. General administrative noncooperation
146. Judicial noncooperation
147. Deliberate inefficiency and selective noncooperation by enforcement agents
Domestic governmental action
149. Quasi-legal evasions and delays
150. Noncooperation by constituent governmental units
International governmental action
151. Changes in diplomatic and other representation
152. Delay and cancellation of diplomatic events
153. Withholding of diplomatic recognition
154. Severance of diplomatic relations
155. Withdrawal from international organizations
156. Refusal of membership in international bodies
157. Expulsion from international organizations
THE METHODS OF NONVIOLENT INTERVENTION
158. Self-exposure to the elements
159. The fast
(a) Fast of moral pressure
(b) Hunger strike
(c) Satyagrahic fast
160. Reverse trial
161. Nonviolent harassment
168. Nonviolent raids
169. Nonviolent air raids
170. Nonviolent invasion
171. Nonviolent interjection
172. Nonviolent obstruction
173. Nonviolent occupation
174. Establishing new social patterns
175. Overloading of facilities
178. Guerrilla theater
179. Alternative social institutions
180. Alternative communication system
181. Reverse strike
182. Stay-in strike
183. Nonviolent land seizure
184. Defiance of blockades
185. Politically motivated counterfeiting
186. Preclusive purchasing
187. Seizure of assets
189. Selective patronage
190. Alternative markets
191. Alternative transportation systems
192. Alternative economic institutions
193. Overloading of administrative systems
194. Disclosing identities of secret agents
195. Seeking imprisonment
196. Civil disobedience of “neutral” laws
197. Work-on without collaboration
198. Dual sovereignty and parallel government
3. p. 50.
4. p. 42.
5. p. 43
6. p. 51
7. p. 52
8. pp. 43-44
9. p. 53
10. pp. 53-55