Movement Strategy

February 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

I am shamelessly reposting the following from the Occupy St Louis site, which takes George Lakey’s advice from yesterday’s Link Loving and fleshes out the model. This is worth taking ten minutes to read and really think through.

Anybody want to spend a weekend mapping this out?

Create a strategy that:

  • builds on a shared vision
  • guides a largely decentralized network of groups
  • guides which tactics make sense & which don’t
  • combines non-violence with non-cooperation
  • use humor in actions to connect with people
  • validates alternatives
  • supports the experience of freedom
  • expands the skills of cooperation
  • is a political and community strategy
  • links short-run struggles to more far-ranging goals
  • takes down the top/bottom power structure while simultaneously building a new one
  • is a community strategy that links today’s creativity to the new society that lies beyond the power shift


  • the power of strategy as a unifying force
  • that strategy guides which tactics work, and which don’t
  • strategy = power

Strategy is aimed at dismantling the top-down direction of the current power pyramid.

  • identify the pillars that hold the pyramid in place
  • weaken and finally break the compliance of those at the bottom of the pyramid

Five Stages–Strategy for a living revolution

These stages are simultaneously sequential and overlapping. Cyclical and linear.

  1. Cultural preparation-consciousness raising
  2. Organization building
  3. Confrontation
  4. Mass political and economic non-cooperation
  5. Parallel Institutions

These stages occur organically with lots of overlap. Picture society as a cluster of sub-societies that respond to the following stages at different rates. Activists might go through the first several stages over and over again. We may end up more in cyclical motion than linear progression.

Stage One: Cultural Preparation

Create the vision of what we want. Create strategy around that vision:

  • consciousness raising — be inspirational
  • get rid of hierarchies of domination
  • be the change we want to see, not just as an individual process, but a collective and cultural shift
  • unlearn racism, sexism, homophobia, religious bigotry, classism
  • vision builds unity because tactical disagreements and personality clashes pale in the perspective of our goal
  • vision reduces co-option because its integrity is a rebuke against meaningless compromise

Stage Two: Organization Building

Develop our shared vision of a new society. Develop a broad strategy.

  • organization is essential to generate enough force to make a difference
  • spontaneous movements of resistance can be appreciated symbolically, but don’t change structures
  • recognize and deal with our internalized oppression and how we oppress others

Balance differentiating and joining to create a thriving movement:

  •  activists are good at spotting hypocrisy and differentiating themselves from it
  • when differentiating becomes a habit, the group doesn’t have enough unity to accomplish anything significant
  • when joining becomes a habit, conformity results and the group loses its creativity to thrive
  • balance makes it easier to a) reach across class and racial line, b) pick up on organizational innovations, c) support innovators in our own groups

Promising Organizational Forms

  • alternative institutions–great labs for putting vision to work (co-ops, presses)
  • ongoing affinity groups which come together over issues (working groups)
  • transformational networks to share critical information rapidly (Facebook, twitter…)
  • radical caucuses


While a discipline of secrecy is sometimes useful, it is a choice that requires careful thought. Covertness is the most effective organizational style to undermine a movement. A “security culture” hurts the movement by:

  • breeding paranoia, reducing trust and morale
  • reducing the ability to develop and sustain alliances
  • reducing growth potential
  • encouraging the power structure to invest more resources into infiltration

This stage creates the alternative institutions and cohesive organizations necessary to fill the power vacuum opened in Stage Four.

Stage Three: Confrontation

The audience is the yet uncommitted public. Open conflict motivates the public to pay attention. The confrontation stage is tricky and many movements have been lost in this stage.

  • mass action with revolutionary content to promote rapid growth of the movement
  • giant and prolonged drama and public outreach.
  • as outreach becomes more vivid, we are viewed as the “good” guys
  • create “dilemma demonstrations”
  • decide specifically whom we’re trying to influence
  • use campaigns as our major tool to move from reactive to proactive
  • heighten the contrast between protestors and police behavior
  • take a powerful attitude toward the prospect of state repression

Create “dilemma demonstrations”. Direct action that puts the power holders in a dilemma. If they allow us to go ahead and do what we intend to do, we accomplish something worthwhile related to our issue. If they repress us, they put themselves in a bad light. Either way the public is educated about our message.

Decide specifically whom we’re trying to influence

  • the public is composed of sub-groups
  • create a political/cultural/economic map of these subgroups
  • decide who we most need to influence to meet strategic objectives
  • create tactics accordingly

Use campaigns to become proactive rather than reactive

  • having our action agenda dictated by where and when the power holders want to have their meetings is not staying on the offensive
  • reaction disempowers us
  • campaigns put us on the offensive
  • a campaign is a focused mobilization of energy with a clear objective that can be sustained over a period of time

Heighten the contrast between protestors and police behavior

  • the power of the confrontation stage is the drama
  • drama in the streets can’t carry a complex analysis requiring long dissection and persuasion
  • drama in the streets needs the simplicity of contrast between the protestors’ behavior and that of the police
  • use appropriate symbols to heighten contrast
  • draw a line–anyone acting like a police provocateur is assumed to be one

Take a powerful attitude toward the prospect of state repression

  • the power holders will use co-option and violence to repress us
  • the purpose of repression is to induce fear so we will give up fighting
  • one of the most fundamental choices is our attitude towards repression, be fearless

The third stage is a period of rapid growth to the point where enough people get involved to enter Stage Four and seriously weaken the power holders’ pillars of support.

Stage Four: Mass Political and Economic Noncooperation

Having done significant cultural preparation allows the organizations we build to be more cooperative, egalitarian, creative, and strong.

  • the fastest growth of organizations will be during this period of time
  • utilize local assemblies that mobilize people–take on local issues and concerns
  • confrontation: mass demonstrations, sit-ins, boycotts, civil disobedience, blockades, funerals…
  • insurrection is not enough, there must be strong organizations in place to provide the strength and infrastructure to prevent a power vacuum

Stage Five: Parallel Institutions

The visionary movement with its infra-structure of experienced organizers and facilitators step into the vacuum and create, step by step, a new society that supports freedom and democracy rather than domination.

Bottom-up restructuring

  • is born out of everything done in the previous four stages.
  • atmosphere of turbulence encourages mainstream as well as radicals to seek alternative ways of getting things done
  • the new society is co-created with mainstream people
  • interventionary tactics allow us to match alternative institutions to the one’s we’re replacing

Affinity Groups

  • have grown phenomenally in their training and solidarity
  • played major roles in the noncooperation stage
  • gained valuable on the ground experience
  • gained ability to make decisions quickly when conditions change in Stage Five
  • train new members
  • act as a lightening rod to ground reactionary opposition
  • help occupy difficult sites

Transformational Networks

  • unity requires shared information
  • transformational networks and technology have been being developed all along
  • come into their own in Stage Five
  • maintain communication
  • provide coordination to direct essential services and negotiate agreements


  • local, regional, national, transnational
  • grow organically from the work of affinity groups, transformational networks, radical caucuses
  • retain the lessons learned
  • put attention to cultural differences in communication styles
  • assist newly formed and forming councils to do their jobs on all levels
  • taxes are paid to councils rather than the government of the oppressive order
  • organize essential services: traffic regulation, garbage collection, etc.
  • national council works with other councils to dismantle the national government by distributing its legitimate functions to local, regional, and transnational levels
  • work with workers’ caucuses, cooperatives, and affinity groups to dismantle, in an orderly way, those corporations worth decentralizing

Recognize that transformation takes time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Movement Strategy at Casper ter Kuile.


%d bloggers like this: