"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
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
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.
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
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.
FROM SACRIFICE AND SUFFERING TO SUCCESS
"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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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,
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.
LEVELS OF STRATEGIC DECISION MAKING
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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