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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, Jr.

"Nonviolence 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 Liberation League.

    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 strategy.

    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 miscommunications.

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 own communities.

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!

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