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"The late outrages in this and other places were shameful. [But they have] aroused the indignation of friends and the people of colour in the surrounding country. Thus we have reason to believe that all these things altho meant for evil may be turned to good."--Lucretia Mott, a Quaker, pacifist, and abolitionist in a letter to her friend regarding the riots, vandalism, and murders done by pro-slavery forces in Philadelphia and other northern cities throughout the 1830s.

Jiu-jitsu is a martial art that uses the attacker's force against her or himself. And, because of this reversal, the attackers' greater size and strength only hurts them more. Political jiu-jitsu is a tactic whereby we utilize our opposition's best weapon--violent repression--against themselves. This tactic allows us to dramatically swing public support in our favor, accelerate the conversion process, and induce mutiny within the opposition group.

"We preach revolution; the politicians reform. We say disobey every unjust law; the politicians say obey them, and meanwhile labor constitutionally for repeal." --Susan B. Anthony, women's suffragist and abolitionist.



Political jiu-jitsu occurs when we bravely endure brutal treatment at the hands of our opposition while maintaining openness and nonviolent discipline. Cruelties and brutalities committed against clearly nonviolent people appear reprehensible, inhuman, and monstrous to most people. Outraged by such attacks, people withdraw their support from the violent opposition, and give it to the nonviolent activists--reducing our opposition's power while bolstering our own.

As American sociologist Edward Alsworth Ross put it, "The spectacle of [people] suffering and not hitting back is a moving one. It obliges the power holders to condescend to explain, to justify themselves. The weak get a change of venue from the will of the stronger to the court of public opinion, perhaps world opinion."

The more hostile or violent the repression, the more effective political jiu-jitsu becomes. Modest amounts of repression gives us modest benefits. For example, if a vivisector used minor forms of repression such as name-calling or arrogance during a debate with a nonhostile animal activist, most audience members would be more sympathetic and open-minded to what the activist says. If however, the vivisector defended animal research by pulling out her gun and shooting the nonhostile activist to death, the repression would outrage the entire country (if not the world), focus massive public and governmental scrutiny on animal research, and cause numerous people to withdraw their cooperation with animal researchers. This more violent repression by the opposition would create proportionately larger benefits for the animals. The following historical example accurately portrays this relationship.

Political jiu-jitsu was decisive in the overthrow of Guatemalan dictator General Jorge Ubico in 1944. The nonviolent revolution started small; two hundred teachers petitioned Ubico for a wage increase. He not only denied the request, but also arrested the teachers who had drafted the petition. This repression politically jiu-jitsued. His repression did not cause subservience in the teachers, as he desired, but it only made them more determined to fight. They responded by boycotting the annual teacher's march which is done in honor of Ubico. Ubico increased his repression by firing all of the teachers who refused to attend the march.

This repression also politically jiu-jitsued. By arresting many of the teachers, Ubico enraged the students who, on June 20, publicly demanded social justice, democracy, the release of political prisoners, and other demands that--if not met within 24 hours--would be backed by a student strike. The student strike occurred and the teachers joined their strike two days later.

On June 24, students, teachers, and supporters conducted marches in the street where they emphasized nonviolent action. A peaceful meeting that night demanded the resignation of Ubico. The police responded to these actions and other acts of defiance, by beating up and arresting hundreds of people at a neighborhood religious and social gathering. Of course, these repressive actions were also politically jiu-jitsued. The attacks galvanized even more resistance to Ubico and made the people increasingly fearless and willing to risk physical injury and imprisonment to protest the brutal treatment.

The next morning, June 25, huge demonstrations outside of the National Palace were met by platoons of soldiers, calvary, tanks, armored cars, machine guns, and police. That afternoon, grief-struck women assembled at the Church of San Francisco to pray that the brutalities, repression, and oppression would stop. Afterwards they conducted a silent procession. The calvary charged them, firing into the crowd. Many of the women were wounded, and one--Maria Chincilla Recinos--was killed.

As if in shock, the city literally stopped. This repression completely mortified the whole of Guatemala. The unprovoked lethal violence used against unarmed Christian women clearly revealed the character of General Jorge Ubico--pure evil--and all businesses and stores closed down, no workers went to work, the city streets were deserted, and nothing happened. It was an entire economic shutdown.

That act of repression was to be Ubico's downfall. With no economic activity, General Ubico's power dissolved, and letters and messages demanding his resignation flooded the palace. On July 1, he resigned his post. Although Ubico had ruled Guatemala for 13 years with an iron fist, nonviolent action utilizing political jiu-jitsu took less than one month to oust him from power.

This "freedom bus" was torched by segregationists in Anniston, Alabama in May of 1961. "Freedom Rides" consisted of black people riding in the "whites only" section of segregated busses. As freedom riders exited the burning bus, segregationists attacked them. The freedom riders gained much support and sypmathy for courageously enduring the violence and hostility and after only a few months of freedom rides, the U.S. goverment integrated all buses, trains, and waiting rooms.

Political jiu-jitsu is a powerful force, and we need to utilize it for the animals. Its power lies in the fact that regardless of how our opposition responds to us--as long as we maintain persistent, courageous, open, and nonviolent action--they are doomed to failure. If they punish us for our acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, they look monstrous and lose support. But, if they do nothing, our actions will escalate until we dismantle their operations. But in order to effectively invoke the power of political jiu-jitsu we need to establish through our behaviors that we are open, honest, nonviolent, nonhostile, and courageous.

Furthermore, in order for us to use political jiu-jitsu, some of us will have to suffer, and we must be willing to do so. If we are not collectively willing to endure the sacrifices forced upon us by our opposition's repression, the repression may demoralize us and create submission to our opposition. Therefore, we must maintain persistence despite our casualties. But to maintain persistence, we must be personally willing to endure casualties, and watch our fellow comrades endure casualties. If we are willing to make these sacrifices, then casualties only make us stronger and spur us on to victory!

We now further examine how our suffering helps the struggle.


"We must all sacrifice our own needs for the needs of others."--Aung San Suu Kyi, who voluntarily stayed under house arrest, separated from her husband and children for six years, rather than permanently leave her home country of Burma, where she leads the nonviolent democracy movement against an oppressive military regime.

Civil disobedience challenges the opposition and forces them to respond. When they respond with repression, we suffer. We must all face the harsh truth that some of us will endure long prison sentences, injuries, and possibly even death during the course of our struggle. By facing this reality, we can emotionally and psychologically prepare for the sacrifices we must endure and build the inner strength needed to maintain nonviolent discipline while enduring the opposition's violence. Activists who are unable or unwilling to make these sacrifices can fill the other equally essential roles within the struggle.

As we evaluate the amount of suffering we can endure, we should not be discouraged by that potential sacrifice. For these sacrifices allow us to: maintain persistent action despite repression, utilize political jiu-jitsu, accelerate the conversion process, and strengthen our movement's determination to fight.

"I was scarcely breathing, but I was willing to suffer whatever the cause required." --Lucretia Mott's thoughts while pro-slavery forces mobbed her house intending to burn it.


By understanding the role our voluntary suffering has in gaining animal liberation, we can increase our ability to bear the brutality. During the struggle to free India from British rule, Nehru--who fully understood the need to suffer for his cause--was beaten by a mounted police officer with a lathi. Recalling the beating, he wrote how he didn't feel the pain of the blows because of the "exhilaration that I was physically strong enough to face and bear lathi blows." By grasping the role our suffering plays in the struggle, we too can share Nehru's ability to courageously endure violence with a glow in our heart that animal liberation is that much closer.

First, our suffering allows us to remain uncooperative with the abusers. We have already discussed the need to persist despite repression in order to withdraw our cooperation, show our determination, inspire others, and not compromise our beliefs, so we will continue.

Second, the asymmetrical conflict--created by our opposition using violence against our nonviolence--allows us to use political jiu-jitsu when they brutalize us. The public will view the suffering inflicted upon us as unprovoked and wrong. Uncomfortable with this repression, the public will withdraw their support from their opponent and give it to us.

Third, courageously suffering at the hands of our opposition accelerates the conversion process. Education rarely is enough to convert the public. Conversion often occurs after a person experiences a lot of emotional discord. When nonviolent activists suffer at the hands of the opposition, strong and conflicting emotions may result in onlookers. Often, waves of guilt, anger, shame, and frustration wash over them as their old habits clash with their new--possibly unconscious--beliefs. This emotional conflict provides the motivation to change their offending behavior. Once their behavior is in line with their new belief, their mental discord dissipates as well.

Our voluntary suffering helps to create this emotional discord in others. Say, for example, we are beaten by workers while administering aid to animals suffering at a stockyard. The public's emotional outrage, caused by our unjust beating, will turn to guilt when they realize they share responsibility for our suffering because they eat the very animals we were trying to help. Furthermore, the worker's violence will discredit the stockyard's authority, and make the public more sympathetic to our cause and willing to listen to our message. And, if the public honestly examines the horrible suffering caused by the meat industry, this will certainly create even more emotional anguish. All of this emotional conflict--generated directly or indirectly by our suffering--helps accelerate the conversion process.

Our courageous suffering also creates emotional discord in some members of the opposition. Many of them will give us reluctant respect because of our bravery and dedication. Some will feel shame and guilt for using violence against us. Others will feel a lack of control because they can't effectively respond to our nonviolent civil disobedience. Many of them will also feel emotional discord because the favorable public opinion they once took for granted, has now surged against them. All of these components will contribute to the emotional storm in the opposition's minds that will force them to reevaluate the issue, and start them down the road of conversion.

Finally, our suffering also helps increase our determination to fight. As Sharp writes, "When nonviolent actionists understand the role of suffering in the dynamics of their type of struggle, and regard suffering as not simply a necessary risk, as in war, but also as an effective weapon for strengthening their cause, casualties will not lower their morale. Voluntarily accepted suffering for the sake of winning goals may instead enhance morale and unify the actionists and others in support of their objective."

Because suffering allows us to persist in acts of noncooperation, utilize political jiu-jitsu, accelerate the conversion process, and strengthen our determination to fight, we should not fear it, but rather view it as an opportunity to further help the animals. This does not mean that we should try to provoke the opposition's violence; it does mean, however, that we must never back down when confronted with it.


"I have found that mere appeal to reason does not answer where prejudices are age-long and based on supposed religious authority. Reason has to be strengthened by suffering and suffering opens the eyes to understanding."--Gandhi

We must avoid over-simplifying the conversion process. Over-simplification causes those who disagree with strategic nonviolence to ridicule the process, and those who support it to create unrealistic expectations. We must be aware of conversion's limitations to avoid both of these problems.

To begin, while not everyone can be converted, this does not invalidate its power and effectiveness. Activists should realize that conversion can be a slow process. One should not expect a fur farmer--or any opposition member for that matter--to convert to an avid animal rights activist overnight. Conversion happens in incremental steps, which means we need to remain patient and nurturing--yet persistent--throughout the entire process.

Nonhostile appeals to the opposition--where we explain our grievances and demands--help the conversion process. Personal contact with the opposition shows our human side and undermines any industry propaganda which paints us as hostile, violent fanatics who have ulterior motives. Because conversion happens gradually, we must appeal to them to do actions which edge them in the right direction, yet do not compromise our belief in animal rights.

Furthermore, during the conflict, activists should provide "breathers" for the opposition. If they feel constantly under attack, they will not have any "down time" to reexamine their position. Therefore, during direct action campaigns, we should avoid constantly bombarding the opposition with civil disobedience, and thus allow time for the conversion process to work.

It is also good to trust your opposition, and act on that trust. When we have high expectations of them, they often strive to meet those expectations. The following is a good example of how trust, respect, personal contact, and making incremental appeals to the opposition helped the conversion process and gained a victory for women's rights.

In 1913, women suffrage activist Elizabeth Booth lobbied the Illinois legislature to grant women the vote. At the start of her efforts, she met with the leader of the opposition within the legislature. At this meeting she respectfully introduced herself and acknowledged the fact that he was committed to voting against the bill for women's suffrage. She further said she also knew he was a gentleman of his word, who keeps his promises. She then requested he promise her one thing; that he would not actively attack the suffragist's campaign.

"[Nonviolent action] was grasped by the Negro masses because it embodied the dignity of struggle, of moral convistion and self sacrifice. The Negro was able to face his adversary, to concede to him a physical advantage and to defeat him because the superior force of the oppressor had become powerless." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

He was charmed and impressed by her professionalism, sincerity, and boldness, and gave her his word to not work against the campaign. As Booth continued her efforts, she maintained contact with him. He not only kept his word, but, at times, even offered her excellent professional advice.

On the big day, with just minutes before the vote, Booth noticed that seven legislators pledged to vote for the bill were missing. She fluttered a note down to her friendly adversary on the floor, and he retrieved the seven missing legislators in time for them to cast the deciding votes that gained women the right to vote in Illinois. Booth's opponent had not at that time fully converted to where he supported women's suffrage, but he had definitely started the conversion process, and ultimately was decisive in helping women win the vote.

Now that we understand the components of strategic nonviolence: nonviolent discipline, fearlessness, open defiance, and persistence, as well as its strategy of noncooperation and tactics of civil disobedience, political jiu-jitsu, and conversion, we can start to put it all together and further understand their strategic relationship to each other.


In April of 1975, an American Colonel who fought in the Vietnam War told a North Vietnamese Colonel, "You know you never defeated us on the battlefield." The North Vietnamese Colonel pondered this remark and then replied, "That may be so, but it is also irrelevant."

Although we can roughly evaluate a tactic's effectiveness by determining its impact on both the opponent's sources of power and our own, there is another way to help us decide the most effective strategies and tactics to implement. Classical military strategy explains the levels of strategic decision making which allows activists to fully analyze a conflict; measure their progress; maintain focus; determine the efficacy of their plans, strategy, and tactics; and help spot emerging problems before they become critical.

Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler, in their book Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: The Dynamics of People Power in the Twentieth Century, have adopted these levels of strategic decision making to suit nonviolent struggles. Some decisions are more important than others, and these levels help us keep perspective on which decisions take precedence. According to Ackerman and Kruegler, the five levels of decision making are, in order of importance: policy, operational planning, strategy, tactics, and logistics.

The most important decisions are made on the policy level. On this level we decide our goals; what sacrifices we are willing to make in terms of time, resources, and personal suffering to accomplish the goals; and which weapon system (strategic nonviolence, guerrilla warfare, conventional warfare, terrorism, etc.) we will use to advance our objectives.

Goals should be measurable, concrete, have a deadline, and be of vital importance to the activists. Realistic, measurable goals, with a deadline help keep activists motivated and focused. Larger goals that will require a lot of time should have subordinate intermediate goals. Intermediate goals further serve to focus and motivate the activists, but they also help measure performance, and, as the goals are met, increase the confidence and empowerment of the activists, while undermining the belief that the opposition is somehow "omnipotent." The majority of activists should find the goals of utmost importance so they are willing to make many sacrifices to achieve them.

The operational planning level is where we outline in concrete terms how we will achieve the objectives detailed on the policy level, with the weapon system chosen at the policy level, and without incurring more sacrifices than we are willing to make which was also decided on the policy level. On the operational planning level, we also decide the primary mechanism for achieving our goals (conversion, accommodation, or nonviolent coercion), what actions will be used at the start of the campaign (being sure to match those actions to the levels of commitment and skills of the current resistance force), and map the precise steps needed to move from our current position to victory. The operational plan also determines which tasks will be important on the strategic, tactical, and logistic levels and decides who will be responsible for them.

The operational plan is static. It does not change throughout the struggle, but, instead, plots its course. However, the effectiveness of the operational plan is based on the ability of its author or authors to accurately assess the opposition forces, the activists, and the impact of their strategies and tactics. Therefore, it may prove inaccurate and need modifications to correct those inaccuracies.

Despite its potential to be inaccurate, the operational plan imparts numerous advantages to a struggle. By explaining how the goal may actually be achieved, it gives the troops hope and inspires them to greater heights of activism. It serves as a yardstick to measure our progress, prevents lack-of-a-plan-paralysis, and ensures we maintain the initiative and are not simply reacting to the movements of the opposition.

On the strategy level, decisions determine how to allocate the activists' resources. The decisions on this level are subservient to the operational plan, but, unlike the operational plan, are very dynamic. They need to constantly fluctuate in response to the opposition's movements and the changing situation of the activists. On this level, activists want to ensure they are not squandering their resources on insignificant tasks or spreading their resources too thin to make any significant impact.

The tactics level is where decisions on how to handle an individual encounter with the opposition, public, or other relevant player, are made. For example, should we hold signs and leaflet, stage a sit-in, have speakers, raid the targeted facility, or do a combination of these activities at our next protest? Tactical decisions are subordinate to the levels already mentioned. This means our tactics should never contradict the decisions we have made on the policy, operational planning, and strategy levels.

The logistics level is where we decide how to conduct the physical tasks needed to fulfill the strategic and tactical decisions. For example, if on the tactical level we decided to give speech at the protest, the logistical level would concern itself with how to get the podium, microphone, and amplifiers to the protest site and set up in time for the protest.

It is crucial to understand that each level is subservient to those levels above it. When each subservient level stays within the bounds established by the higher levels, a consistent, focused, and powerful struggle results. But, if our tactical decisions contradict the decisions made at the policy level, we waste our energies on counterproductive actions that hurt our chances of success. Therefore, we must strive to keep our actions within the boundaries prescribed on the dominant levels.

A good strategist understands the level to which each decision pertains. This allows her or him to quickly see if less important decisions are taking precedent over more important decisions or if consistency in decision making is being maintained. In this way, the levels of strategic decision making simplify the task of sorting beneficial from counterproductive strategies and tactics.


"The five levels of strategic decision making offer a framework in which to reduce misperceptions and to avoid missing the significance of particular events. Leaders who clearly see the difference between these levels will not be tempted to reason from tactical outcomes to strategic conclusions. That is, they will not be susceptible to misconstruing either a victory or a defeat on a limited front as having any more than its real, and limited, significance. The [historical struggles] we looked at are replete with examples of confusion between tactics and strategic outcomes with sometimes disastrous consequences."--Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler

History is littered with examples of leaders who ignored these strategic levels of decision making and suffered greatly for it. Bloody Sunday was an excellent example.

On January 9, 1905, thousands of Russian workers marched towards the Winter Palace, home of their beloved Tsar, Nicholas Romonov II, to petition him for relief and better conditions. The workers believed the Tsar was unaware of their poor living conditions. Many were forced to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week, earn only subsistence wages, live in cramped accommodations, and had few political or civil rights. They believed the police and the bureaucrats were responsible for the problems, and hid them from their "little father," as they affectionately called the Tsar.

On January 9, 1905, political jiu-jitsu occurred when the Tsar's soldiers opened fire on peaceful, unarmed petitioners assembled near the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. Over 200 people were killed. In the aftermath of "Bloody Sunday," widespread strikes and troop defections crippled the Tsar's ability to rule Russia.


As they peacefully approached the palace in a spirit of humble reverence, the last thing they expected was what they got: the Tsar refused to hear their petition and ordered the guards to keep the people out of the palace square. As the masses approached the palace, guards opened fire on the unarmed crowds of men, women, and children, killing an estimated 200 to 4,000 people and wounding many more. The carnage shattered the workers' former image of the Tsar as their "little father," and clearly revealed his tyrannical nature.

The killing of nonviolent petitioners aroused strong protests from the population. During the rest of January, more workers were on strike than had been for the last decade. Numerous medical, legal, agricultural, and pedagogical societies denounced the regime, and called for a constituent assembly. Many soldiers refused to obey orders or actively mutinied. As historian Charques put it, Bloody Sunday "did perhaps more than anything else during the whole regime to undermine the allegiance of the common people to the throne."

So what happened here? Well, whether the Tsar recognized it or not, he had sought a tactical victory at the expense of an operational plan decision. The Tsar's goal (a policy level decision) was to rule Russia, his operational plan to maintain this goal (as our discussions on the sources of power would reveal) would be to maintain the people's obedience and cooperation.

However, when the Tsar considered how to respond to the petitioners, he allowed the tactical goal (a goal that may be achieved at a single encounter with the opposition) of keeping the petitioners out of the palace square to supersede the operational plan's requirements that he maintain the obedience of the people. On the tactical level-- the Tsar was victorious that day. His troops successfully kept the people out of the palace square (achieving his tactical goal) and his troops easily regained control of the streets as the shootings broke up the protest procession. However, this superficial victory on the subordinate tactical level violated the operational plan by encouraging his subjects to become defiantly disobedient. Overall, this action severely weakened his power and ability to rule.

You might have already noticed that what happened on Bloody Sunday was, from the worker's perspective, a case of political jiu-jitsu. However, when we gain tactical goals--such as getting media coverage, increasing our opposition's expenses, occupying an animal abusers office, disrupting an abuse establishment, etc.--at the expense of our written or unwritten policy and operational plan decisions, we create a situation where political jiu-jitsu works against us! This is why it is very important that the less significant decisions made on the lower levels remain subservient to the more important decisions made on higher levels.

So let's determine what our movement's best overall policy and operational plan is so we can relate this information in a concrete manner to our struggle.


"It is vital to start from a plan that envisions how the desired outcome may be achieved."--Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler

So what are the implications of these levels of strategic decision making on the struggle for animal liberation?

First, we must determine our struggle's overall policy. Our ultimate goal is total animal liberation which we defined earlier as everyone voluntarily adopting a vegan lifestyle. What are we willing to sacrifice to obtain this? The answer to this will constantly change, but it can be said with certainty that to achieve this goal, many of us will need to be willing to sacrifice our money, time, careers, liberty, and freedom, and some of us must be prepared to sacrifice our lives.

What weapon system will be most effective in achieving total animal liberation? Strategic nonviolence. As adopting strategic nonviolence is a policy decision, its intrinsic components of nonviolent discipline, openness, honesty, and persistence are binding on all other levels of decision making.

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