KEY COMPONENTS OF SUCCESSFUL SOCIAL MOVEMENTS

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"For me, the most important lesson
[of the Freedom Movement] is that by respecting the fact that fellow activists could passionately disagree over strategy and tactics—yet remain allies—they strengthened SNCC and the Movement as a whole."
From Bruce Hartford's article in the current issue of Urban Habitat.
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Five Examples of Civil Disobedience to Remember

From a Guardian article by Richard Seymour August 20, 2012.
Salt March

1. Gandhi's Salt March - India 1930
. . . the campaign had long-term effects that weighed against its failure to win its immediate goals. In the first instance, it was inspiring for those taking part, since many had never been organised before. Second, it announced to the world that the Indian masses were a serious force, and that the British authorities had been forced to negotiate with their leader. Third, it stimulated further waves of civil disobedience. Finally, the Salt March had a tremendous influence on the thinking and strategy of other insurgents, such as Martin Luther King.

2. Extremadura campaign - Spain 1936
. . . it was not just a question of taking over the land. There was a debate about what should be done with it – whether it should be collectivised or allotted to individual owners. The seizures provided not just land and work, but also a democratic forum, a focus for arguments about the whole future development of the society.

3. Flying pickets and sit-ins - U.S. during the Great Depression
Jose Bove
. . . .the "flying squadrons" of pickets marching from town to town during the textile strike of 1934, urging workers to walk out. This was particularly important because these workers were often distributed in small production facilities, and had little industrial muscle by themselves. A second key moment was a series of sit-ins by workers in steel and auto factories. This involved workers obstructing production simply by occupying a strategic area of a plant and refusing to move: a highly effective tactic that was also less violent than the picket lines and was later used by civil rights and anti-Vietnam war campaigners.


London Poll Tax Protest
4. Dismantling unwanted enterprises - France 1999
. .  Bové's [attack on McDonalds] was just one of a wider series of stunts disrupting the purveyors of GM and junk food flooding the French market. These actions brought to the fore not just Bové, but an entire layer of agricultural activists. They formed a significant part of the anti-capitalist movement and later joined the struggle against the European constitutional treaty, as part of the coalition that delivered the "No" vote.

5. Poll tax non-payment - London 1990

You can surprise the authorities every once in a while, but they learn from their mistakes and incorporate the lessons into future plans. What is important is that underlying such spontaneous actions is a much more durable form of civil disobedience. . . . a nationwide network of campaigns and non-payment unions had developed. These groups brought people who were ordinarily isolated, or not politically active, together. Their strategy was to resist at every step: refusing to register for the tax, contesting liability orders from the council (thus clogging up the legal system) and finally refusing payment. This was highly effective.

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