IMPLEMENTING STRATEGIC NONVIOLENCE
"Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a weapon
unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobels the man who
wields it. It is a sword that heals. Both a practical and moral answer
to the Negro's cry for justice, nonviolent direct action proved that it
could win victories without losing wars."--Martin Luther King,
cannot be taught to a person who fears to die and has no power of
resistance..." --Mahatma Gandhi
So how does someone implement strategic nonviolence in their own
community? We offer a few steps to get you started:
- Gain a fuller understanding of Strategic Nonviolence. A solid
understanding of strategic nonviolence drastically improves our ability
to organize effectively. One of the best ways to see the full
implications of strategic nonviolence is by analyzing personal
experiences. Look at past conflicts you have had with parents, friends,
and acquaintances. Think of protests and campaigns you have been a part
of. Remember the behavior of both sides, how the other side reacted, and
the ultimate results of that encounter. Determine what principles of
strategic nonviolence were and were not being used and whether they
accurately predicted the outcome of the individual conflicts.
Reading more books on strategic nonviolence, as well as those
advocating different views will also give you a more comprehensive
understanding of it. It might be good to re-read this booklet in a few
days after digesting what you have read.
Finally, engaging in respectful discussions with other activists who
disagree with strategic nonviolence forces you to think through the
issue more carefully, make more distinctions, and ensures you are not
getting a one-sided view of the situation. All of these tasks will help
you gain a better understanding of strategic nonviolence so that you can
expertly execute it.
- Develop self mastery. Strategic nonviolence demands much of its
soldiers. You will want to develop your inner-strength and selflessness
so you can maintain nonviolent discipline regardless of the repression
you face. Inner discipline can be strengthened through meditation,
prayer, visualizing how you will respond to difficult situations, or
other methods that will help you gain the discipline necessary to give
others unconditional respect, while also developing the fearlessness
necessary to endure sacrifices for the animals.
Anger often causes people to break nonviolent discipline. Notice what
makes you angry and analyze why it makes you angry. At the root of all
anger is the desire to control someone. Who is it you want to control?
What is it you want them to do? Does your anger help create the desired
change or inflame the situation? If you are angy at yourself, change
your offending behavior. If others are the source of your anger,
recognize you only have control over your own actions and that no one
should have the power to reduce you to anger or hostility. Discipline
yourself to rise above such anger and hostility. By developing inner
strength, we become more effective soldiers and we set a good example
for others to follow.
We must also honestly assess our fears and the sacrifices we are
willing to make. If we are unwilling to do an action, why are we
unwilling to do it? What are we afraid of? Inconvenience? Humiliation?
The loss of our job? The loss of our freedom? The loss of our lives? Why
are we afraid of these things? Are they reasonable fears or have we
blown them out of proportion? Are we ready to make these sacrifices? If
so, then there is no need to fear them. If we are not ready to make
these sacrifices, why aren't we? In what situations would we make these
sacrifices? Analyzing our fears and our willingness to make sacrifices
helps us understand our limits, while encouraging us to overcome many of
the fears which we hold that are baseless.
- Find people who want to be a part of an affinity group willing to
implement a strategic nonviolence campaign for animal liberation.
Strategic nonviolence depends on cooperative action for its power, so
the next step would be to find other animal activists who want to be
involved in a strategic nonviolence campaign. You might want to give a
copy of this booklet to those who are unfamiliar with strategic
nonviolence so they can make an informed decision as to whether or not
they want to be a part of your affinity group. Copies of this booklet
are available from the Animal Liberation League.
- Set goals and develop an operational plan. Once you have an affinity
group, develop campaign goals and other policy and operational plan
decisions. Take time developing a realistic plan that motivates and
inspires your affinity group members to stay active and make sacrifices.
An example policy and operation plan can be obtained from the Animal
- Establish group communication. Once the goals and plans are decided,
good communication will ensure everyone understands the long- and
short-term goals, how they will be achieved, and how strategic
nonviolence works. This group-wide understanding will maintain
organizational cohesion, cooperation, and focus. It will clarify the
objectives and keep activists aware of their responsibilities.
What tactics can be used to implement good communication? Some
organizations create a general pledge for their volunteers to sign which
details the behaviors expected from them. Meetings, booklets, or
leaflets can educate newcomers on the group's goals and strategy, and
the roles that activists have in achieving those goals. Discipline
leaflets--which explain the expected behavior of demonstrators--can be
distributed at protests to ensure activists are aware of your policy and
Group activists can also be designated to enforce policy by approach
those activists who violate nonviolent discipline in an attempt to
explain the need for the policy and appeal to them to stop their
offending behaviors. When doing so, these enforcers should be humble,
respectful, and nonjudgmental, but also assertive. If the activist still
refuses to abide by the affinity group's decisions, invite them to leave
and organize their own demonstrations with their own affinity group that
agrees with their tactics.
Communication is also vital within affinity groups. Affinity group
meetings should be conducted so group members know what action is
planned, what possible outcomes will result from the action, and how the
group should respond to each outcome should it arise. If activists will
be risking arrest, the group needs to decide how far they will take
their noncooperation with the courts, what is expected of each activist,
how activists will respond to violence, who will handle court support,
and so on. Such communication will help maintain affinity group
solidarity, decrease fear among group members, and keep them focused and
prepared for all contingencies.
- Change the world. The fate of the world now rests in your hands! You
have an education, self mastery, a group, a goal, a plan, and some
established communication channels. Now you just need to implement your
plan and help create a nonviolent world that respects all life. Best
wishes to you!
A PLEA FOR UNITY
"In the present stage of the Woman's Suffrage movement in
this country a division in our ranks is rather to be deplored, for when
friends [fight] new-comers hesitate as to which side to join; and from
fear of being involved in personal bickering they withhold their names
and influence altogether; still more deplorable is the result to the old
friends themselves, when instead of fighting the common enemy,
prejudice, custom, unjust laws and a false public sentiment, they turn,
as the old Abolitionists in their divisions did, and rend each
other."--Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the October 28,
1869, issue of their magazine The Revolution.
As activists, each of us needs a strong mind and the assertiveness to
make our own decisions. Therefore, we urge you to not blindly adopt the
suggestions and ideas presented in this article. Instead, we strongly
suggest you critique, analyze, and discuss these ideas to see if they make
sense to you or not. Only if these arguments make sense to you, and stand
up to your scrutiny, should they be adopted.
As a movement, we must continue to refine and improve our strategy.
This booklet is not intended to be the final word on strategy, but merely
a contributor to our movements' ongoing discussion on the best way to
achieve animal liberation. The Animal Liberation League hopes this booklet
accurately communicates the power of nonviolence, but fear any weaknesses
or oversights of strategic nonviolence arise from inadequacies in our
presentation, and not because of any inherent faults in the weapon system.
Therefore, we encourage further discussions to clear up any possible
The Animal Liberation League believes strategic nonviolence is the
animals' best hope for complete and lasting animal liberation. We advocate
and promote its use and conduct our campaigns accordingly. This booklet is
our proposal to the movement at large. To those of you who support this
proposal, we invite you to implement it with us, or on your own in your
To you readers who disagree with strategic nonviolence, we offer you
our unconditional respect and moral support. Despite our disagreement, we
feel a deep kinship with all people touched by the desperate plight of the
animals. Anyone who carries the burden of the animals' struggle on their
shoulders deserves our compassion and understanding. Fighting the
seemingly omnipresent selfishness, greed, and violence is a formidable
challenge that can easily overwhelm us and send us into despair,
depression, and apathy. It is important that despite our disagreements, we
support each other as activists and individuals.
Our disagreements will at times prevent us from working together.
However, we must work with each other when we can, and respect each
other's differences when we cannot. This mutual respect will make us a
diverse, supportive, strong, and unified movement. And, as we march down
that road to victory, we will do so shoulder to shoulder and arm in arm
until we finally reach our destination. Total animal liberation is not a
dream. It is ours for the taking. We just need to be unified, fearless,
determined, persistent, and willing to make sacrifices to obtain it. So on
with the struggle!