Monday, October 28, 2013

The Dissident's Toolkit

Want To Topple An Autocrat? Street Demonstrations Are Just One Tool Among Many.


Research shows, in fact, that demonstrations are just one of many tools that civil resistance movements can use to effect change. 

Successful movements are those that use a wide array of methods to pressure their state opponents while keeping their activists safe. The demonstration tactic we're used to seeing is just one of many hundreds of tactics available to civilians seeking change -- and successful campaigns for change must use more than just a single tactic.

Maria Stephan and I conducted research on a related but broader question: "When does civil resistance work?" The results of our research show that opposition campaigns are successful when they manage to do three key things: 
(1) attract widespread and diverse participation; (2) develop a strategy that allows them to maneuver around repression; and (3) provoke defections, loyalty shifts, or disobedience among regime elites and/or security forces.
Attracting participation is perhaps the most important of these tasks, since the ability to provoke defections and outmaneuver opponents often depends on whether the movement enjoys large and broad-based support. The most important singular factor for a successful campaign is its participation rate. 
According to the NAVCO data set, which identifies the outcomes of over 300 nonviolent and violent campaigns worldwide from 1900-2006, none of the cases failed after achieving the active and sustained participation of just 3.5 percent of the population -- and some of them succeeded with far less than that. 
Of course, 3.5 percent is nothing to sneeze at. In the United States today, this constitutes over 11 million people. But how do movements get this large in the first place, especially in countries where overt participation in a mass movement is highly risky?
One way organizers can grow their movement is by including tactics that are safer and therefore more attractive to risk-averse participants
For example, instead of relying solely on demonstrations or protests, many movements will allow people to participate through "electricity strikes" where people shut off their electricity at a coordinated time of day, or by banging on pots and pans in the middle of the night to signal the power in numbers. 
Engaging in these types of actions may draw in more ambivalent people while also allowing them the opportunity to develop a sense of identity with the movement and its goals. 
In Chile under Pinochet, for example, outright demonstrations against the dictator were far too dangerous. In one instance, Pinochet was so threatened by the subtext of some popular songs that he banned public singing; it didn't take much. But when people began to bang on pots and pans, it let them demonstrate their defiance anonymously in the safety of their own homes. 
As the people's metallic clamor for change became louder and louder, anti-Pinochet organizers and their supporters became emboldened to press for more disruptive and overt action. 
A similar movement is underway in Egypt today, where the "Masmou" movement has led thousands of people to bang on pots and pans inside their homes at 9 p.m. each night to signal that there are viable alternatives to both the al-Sisi government and the Muslim Brotherhood. 
In highly repressive environments there is, indeed, safety in numbers. And actions like this can signal that one is not alone, while making it quite difficult for the government to crack down on participants.
Once people do begin to mobilize, the effects on the internal politics of a tyrannical regime can be intense. 
As Gene Sharp rightly argued, no regime is monolithic. Every leader is 100 percent dependent on the cooperation, obedience, and help of the people that form the regime's pillars of support: security forces, the state media, business or educational elites, religious authorities, and civilian bureaucrats. And when such people begin to reevaluate the regime's role in their long-term interests, they can actually be pulled away from supporting the leader. This is much more likely to happen the more people are mobilized against the opponent.
Why? Because no regime loyalists in any country live entirely isolated from the population itself. They have friends, they have family, and they have existing relationships that will bring with them in the long term, regardless of whether the leader stays or goes. 
As the literary critic Robert Inchausti is credited as saying, "Nonviolence is a wager -- not so much on the goodness of humanity as on its infinite complexity." 
Take an example from the so-called "Bulldozer Revolution," a Serbian people power revolution against Slobodan Milosevic that toppled him in October 2000. In this case, once it became clear that hundreds of thousands of Serbs were descending on Belgrade to demand that Milosevic leave office, policemen ignored the order to shoot on demonstrators. When asked why he did so, one of them said: "I knew my kids were in the crowd."
This policeman wasn't alone in Serbia or elsewhere. We find that, in general, security forces tend to defect much more often when they face nonviolent campaigns (as compared to armed uprisings), particularly as the numbers rise
Controlling for other factors, security forces are about 60 percent likely to defect when confronted with the largest nonviolent campaigns and over 30 percent likely with the average-sized nonviolent campaign. 
The defection of security forces occurred within the ranks of the Iranian armed forces during the anti-Shah resistance, within Filipino armed forces during the anti-Marcos uprising, and within the Israeli military during the first Palestinian Intifada, to name but a few examples. And these loyalty shifts can be crucial for the outcomes of these campaigns: They increase their chances of success by over 60 percent.
Of course, demonstrations -- and people power movements in general -- tend to fail as often as they succeed. But when we look at outright failures -- such as Tiananmen Square, the 1956 Hungarian uprising, or the 2007 Saffron Revolution in Burma -- a few patterns become evident:
The failed campaigns never spread to include vast proportions of the population, and failed to shift between highly risky tactics and safer ones. 
But they also failed to establish a long-term strategy to make the campaigns sustainable, which was especially important given the brutality of state repression. 
The average duration of a nonviolent campaign was between two-and-a-half and three years, but few of these campaigns had a long-term strategy, besides the wishful hope that tactical victories might make the regime comply with their demands.
Campaigns of civil resistance are underway in many countries around the world, movement planners must carefully analyze the political effects that tactics like demonstrations have. 
If these tactics fail to increase sympathy for the campaign at home or abroad, diversify the base of participants, and encourage defections among regime elites, then they are not helping the movement's chances of succeeding. 
But rather than abandoning the struggle because demonstrations stop working, movement leaders would do well to appreciate the many other nonviolent methods of protest and noncooperation they can bring to bear against their opponents. 
The campaigns that ultimately succeed will be the ones that fully embrace Sun Tzu's warning that "tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."

Formal Statements 
1. Public Speeches 
2. Letters of opposition or support 
3. Declarations by organizations and institutions 
4. Signed public statements 
5. Declarations of indictment and intention 
6. Group or mass petitions 

Communications with a Wider Audience 
7. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols 
8. Banners, posters, and displayed communications 
9. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books 
10. Newspapers and journals 
11. Records, radio, and television 
12. Skywriting and earthwriting 

Group Representations 
13. Deputations 
14. Mock awards 
15. Group lobbying 
16. Picketing 
17. Mock elections 

Symbolic Public Acts 
18. Displays of flags and symbolic colors 
19. Wearing of symbols 
20. Prayer and worship 
21. Delivering symbolic objects 
22. Protest disrobings 
23. Destruction of own property 
24. Symbolic lights 
25. Displays of portraits 
26. Paint as protest 
27. New signs and names 
28. Symbolic sounds 
29. Symbolic reclamations 
30. Rude gestures 

Pressures on Individuals 
31. "Haunting" officials 
32. Taunting officials 
33. Fraternization 
34. Vigils 

Drama and Music 
35. Humorous skits and pranks 
36. Performances of plays and music 
37. Singing 

38. Marches 
39. Parades 
40. Religious processions 
41. Pilgrimages 
42. Motorcades 

Honoring the Dead 
43. Political mourning 
44. Mock funerals 
45. Demonstrative funerals 
46. Homage at burial places 

Public Assemblies 
47. Assemblies of protest or support 
48. Protest meetings 
49. Camouflaged meetings of protest 
50. Teach-ins 

Withdrawal and Renunciation 
51. Walk-outs 
52. Silence 
53. Renouncing honors 
54. Turning one's back 


Ostracism of Persons 
55. Social boycott 
56. Selective social boycott 
57. Lysistratic nonaction 
58. Excommunication 
59. Interdict 

Noncooperation with Social Events, Customs, and Institutions 
60. Suspension of social and sports activities 
61. Boycott of social affairs 
62. Student strike 
63. Social disobedience 
64. Withdrawal from social institutions 

Withdrawal from the Social System 
65. Stay-at-home 
66. Total personal noncooperation 
67. "Flight" of workers 
68. Sanctuary 
69. Collective disappearance 
70. Protest emigration (hijrat


Actions by Consumers 
71. Consumers' boycott 
72. Nonconsumption of boycotted goods 
73. Policy of austerity 
74. Rent withholding 
75. Refusal to rent 
76. National consumers' boycott 
77. International consumers' boycott 

Action by Workers and Producers 
78. Workmen's boycott 
79. Producers' boycott 

Action by Middlemen 
80. Suppliers' and handlers' boycott 

Action by Owners and Management 
81. Traders' boycott 
82. Refusal to let or sell property 
83. Lockout 
84. Refusal of industrial assistance 
85. Merchants' "general strike" 

Action by Holders of Financial Resources 
86. Withdrawal of bank deposits 
87. Refusal to pay fees, dues, and assessments 
88. Refusal to pay debts or interest 
89. Severance of funds and credit 
90. Revenue refusal 
91. Refusal of a government's money 

Action by Governments 
92. Domestic embargo 
93. Blacklisting of traders 
94. International sellers' embargo 
95. International buyers' embargo 
96. International trade embargo 


Symbolic Strikes 
97. Protest strike 
98. Quickie walkout (lightning strike) 

Agricultural Strikes 
99. Peasant strike 
100. Farm Workers' strike 

Strikes by Special Groups 
101. Refusal of impressed labor 
102. Prisoners' strike 
103. Craft strike 
104. Professional strike 

Ordinary Industrial Strikes 
105. Establishment strike 
106. Industry strike 
107. Sympathetic strike 

Restricted Strikes 
108. Detailed strike 
109. Bumper strike 
110. Slowdown strike 
111. Working-to-rule strike 
112. Reporting "sick" (sick-in) 
113. Strike by resignation 
114. Limited strike 
115. Selective strike 

Multi-Industry Strikes 
116. Generalized strike 
117. General strike 

Combination of Strikes and Economic Closures 
118. Hartal 
119. Economic shutdown 


Rejection of Authority 
120. Withholding or withdrawal of allegiance 
121. Refusal of public support 
122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance 

Citizens' Noncooperation with Government 
123. Boycott of legislative bodies 
124. Boycott of elections 
125. Boycott of government employment and positions 
126. Boycott of government depts., agencies, and other bodies 
127. Withdrawal from government educational institutions 
128. Boycott of government-supported organizations 
129. Refusal of assistance to enforcement agents 
130. Removal of own signs and placemarks 
131. Refusal to accept appointed officials 
132. Refusal to dissolve existing institutions 

Citizens' Alternatives to Obedience 
133. Reluctant and slow compliance 
134. Nonobedience in absence of direct supervision 
135. Popular nonobedience 
136. Disguised disobedience 
137. Refusal of an assemblage or meeting to disperse 
138. Sitdown 
139. Noncooperation with conscription and deportation 
140. Hiding, escape, and false identities 
141. Civil disobedience of "illegitimate" laws 

Action by Government Personnel 
142. Selective refusal of assistance by government aides 
143. Blocking of lines of command and information 
144. Stalling and obstruction 
145. General administrative noncooperation 
146. Judicial noncooperation 
147. Deliberate inefficiency and selective noncooperation by enforcement agents 
148. Mutiny 

Domestic Governmental Action 
149. Quasi-legal evasions and delays 
150. Noncooperation by constituent governmental units 

International Governmental Action 
151. Changes in diplomatic and other representations 
152. Delay and cancellation of diplomatic events 
153. Withholding of diplomatic recognition 
154. Severance of diplomatic relations 
155. Withdrawal from international organizations 
156. Refusal of membership in international bodies 
157. Expulsion from international organizations 


Psychological Intervention 
158. Self-exposure to the elements 
159. The fast 
a) Fast of moral pressure 
b) Hunger strike
c) Satyagrahic fast 
160. Reverse trial 
161. Nonviolent harassment 

Physical Intervention 
162. Sit-in 
163. Stand-in 
164. Ride-in 
165. Wade-in 
166. Mill-in 
167. Pray-in 
168. Nonviolent raids 
169. Nonviolent air raids 
170. Nonviolent invasion 
171. Nonviolent interjection 
172. Nonviolent obstruction 
173. Nonviolent occupation 

Social Intervention 
174. Establishing new social patterns 
175. Overloading of facilities 
176. Stall-in 
177. Speak-in 
178. Guerrilla theater 
179. Alternative social institutions 
180. Alternative communication system 

Economic Intervention 
181. Reverse strike 
182. Stay-in strike 
183. Nonviolent land seizure 
184. Defiance of blockades 
185. Politically motivated counterfeiting 
186. Preclusive purchasing 
187. Seizure of assets 
188. Dumping 
189. Selective patronage 
190. Alternative markets 
191. Alternative transportation systems 
192. Alternative economic institutions 

Political Intervention 
193. Overloading of administrative systems 
194. Disclosing identities of secret agents 
195. Seeking imprisonment 
196. Civil disobedience of "neutral" laws 
197. Work-on without collaboration 
198. Dual sovereignty and parallel government 

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