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Chapter Three: Tactics Are Transient


Chapter Three: Tactics Are Transient

 

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Fanfare for the Future. In coming weeks we will follow up with more excerpts from this volume, but we hope many readers will order it from our Online Store for yourselves, and then to pass on to others. 

 

 

 

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Tactics are just endeavors one implements that have a contained quality about them. To strike, to occupy some venue, to march, to blockade, to rally, to teach in, to leaflet, to riot, violence or nonviolence, internet or face to face, whatever. Like strategy, but even more so, tactics are most often time bound and place bound. We string together tactics to implement program. Stringing together programs implements strategy. Strategy attains vision.

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Are there general tactical insights that can guide what to do or not do, for what to be cautious about or to go all out with? To see, we consider two examples.

Violence Begets Defeat or Too Much Pacifism? font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
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font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>First, regarding an issue that almost always seriously engages movements, how do we evaluate matters of violence and nonviolence? What characterizes obstruction, property damage, or, further along this scale, aggressive or violent options, and how might folks reasonably argue their preferences for or against all of these?

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>On one side, pacifism, or principled–non transient–nonviolence, typically comes from a religious or philosophical stance and says that violence (or in some implementations even property damage) is a bad personal choice that brooks no exceptions. Many pacifists argue publicly on behalf of political nonviolence using evidence, values, and experience of the sorts we’ll address below. They respect and interact positively with those holding different opinions. There are other pacifists, however, who don’t primarily use evidence, logic, and experience to argue for nonviolence, but instead assert that to reject nonviolence is immoral. Their morality/religion trumps political debate.

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>When adherents of a political view assert that all other actors must agree or be irrelevant, it is often called sectarianism. Agree with me or you are a political infidel. 

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>In philosophy or religion, similar rigidity is often called fundamentalism. Agree with me or you are a moral infidel. 

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Here’s the hard part: When a pacifist says that everyone must be pacifist because all other options are immoral, it is almost assuredly fundamentalist. Lifestyle, philosophical, or religious pacifists have every right to argue that the movement should always be nonviolent, of course. But if they do it merely by proclaiming greater morality–end of story–they can’t expect to be taken seriously by those with different views. More, the same goes for those who assert the limits of nonviolence from atop a high moral horse. Those who say that disruption and violence are essential to building movements and winning change, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is a tool of the state, are similarly sectarian. How might folks reasonably argue their preferences for or against obstruction, property damage, or aggressive or violent options, compared to merely proclaiming their preference and dismissing all who disagree?

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>With any tactic we can usefully ask:

  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>What are its effects on those who utilize it?
  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>What are its effects on those it seeks to pressure?
  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>What are its effects on the those who dissidents wish to organize?
  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>What are its effects on enduring movement organization and culture, those implementing the tactic?

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mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>It is also important to note that different people have different definitions for what constitutes violence or nonviolence. To some, property destruction is violence and to others it is not. Additionally, there are a whole host of tactics, such as obstruction and blockading, which can involve certain amounts of physical confrontation with members of the public, the police, or other agents of the state, even when participants are merely standing their ground. Civil disobedience can range from extremely passive to downright aggressive. And then there are issues of self-defense in the face of brutality.

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>For the purpose of this book, rather than to sort through these issues, we think it is more useful to see tactics as lying on a spectrum ranging from passive to aggressive, with pure nonviolence at one end and all out offensive violence on the other. Most of the discussion in this section will focus on areas in the middle of this spectrum, since those are the most common tactics that would be employed and debated by movements described in this book.

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>One side claims that tactics “exceeding” nonviolence tend to be good in that they: 

  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>delegitimate authority
  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>reduce tendencies to obedience
  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>uproot accommodationist habits and culture
  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>inspire participation among youth, working people, and minorities
  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>enlarge courage
  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>graphically pinpoint protestor’s anger
  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>promote increased media coverage that communicates the movement message more widely, and also 
  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>raise high social costs for elites, thus pressuring them to meet demands. 

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>The other side claims that tactics “exceeding” nonviolence tend to be bad in that they: 

  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>help authority rationalize its legitimacy
  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>increase tendencies to thoughtless individualism, amorality, and paranoia
  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>put off unorganized working people, women, and minorities (not to mention those unable or unwilling to participate in violent settings)
  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>curtail open discussion and democratic decision-making
  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>obscure the focus of protestor’s anger and distort media coverage from substantive discussion of issues to hysterical discussion of bricks and fighting thereby disrupting communication to broader audiences; and also
  • 10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
    "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>give elites an excuse to change the rules of engagement to their advantage. 

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>The point by point contrast of the two approaches highlights the complexity of judging tactics. The perspectives are almost exactly 180 degrees apart. 

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Is having teach-ins, marching, rallying, doing civil disobedience, obstructing roads or meetings, or destroying targeted windows, draft card files, a missile nose cone, or a war-making facility, or trespassing, rioting, resisting arrest, or even escalating to pro-active aggression against police, scabs, or other sectors, typically a good choice? To know, we have to decide which claims by advocates of different stances are typically true and which are typically false, and how we regard the overall tally.

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>But a complicating factor is that we have to consider each case on its own merits. Why can’t we have an across-the-board and always binding judgment? As convenient as that would be, and as much as adherents on both sides act as if it is obviously possible, we cannot have such universal certainty because in some situations aggressive tactics yield all the positive effects their advocates expect and minimize debits, yet in other situations aggressive tactics yield all the debits their critics anticipate and deliver few if any benefits. Thus there are no universal rules about abiding or exceeding nonviolence. Sometimes one tactical choice fits. Other times it doesn’t. Thus we have to assess each tactic people might opt for in each situation, seeking to maximize potential benefits and minimize potential ills.

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>For example, proponents and critics of aggressive tactics need to pay very special and priority attention to not providing authorities a rationalization to obscure the government’s wrong-doing. Proponents and critics must be sympathetic to those disagreeing with them and work hard to increase democratic participation and reduce tendencies to anti-social individualism, paranoia, or passivity. They must try to find ways to increase possibilities of wide participation and open discussion and decision-making, and particularly to prevent their tactics from alienating sought-after constituencies. They must put a high onus of evidence on themselves on behalf of avoiding adventurism or endangering others or otherwise weakening the balance of power between the movement and elites, whether by action or inaction. They must raise social costs today consistently with being able to do so even more successfully tomorrow. Likewise, it is important to undertake or refrain from actions in ways that don’t fracture the movement, that don’t reduce sympathy for the movement or obscure its message among constituencies it seeks to reach. And both advocates and opponents of any particular tactic must avoid pressuring movement participants into hostile stances toward one another.

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Pursuing violent tactics by disdaining participation and democracy or by wildly imagining non-existent conditions looks like macho play-acting rather than seriously seeking maximal impact. Opposing aggressive tactics by equating minuscule disruption or destruction with the unimaginably inhumane and catastrophic violence of elites looks like fundamentalism rather than seriously seeking maximal positive impact.

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>On the upside, when groups who either advocate or oppose aggressive tactics pay serious attention to strategic concerns so that others are aware of their motives, logic, and attentiveness–as well as how they take into account the views and agendas of their protest partners–then while folks may still sharply disagree about choices, the dialog can be one of respect and substantive debate.

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Surely we can all ratify that respect and substantive debate are worthy goals. Then doesn’t it also follow that having protest norms that facilitate groups communicating usefully is much better than having protest norms which pit disagreeing groups against one another in ideological death matches? “Different strokes for different folks” is a good slogan, as long as we add that the different folks need to also pursue mutual concern, understanding, and empathy.

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>There are demonstrations in which property destruction, for example, grows organically from the event’s logic and its intentions, such as clearly enunciated and widely supported and understood assaults on particular draft boards or ROTC buildings. There are other demonstrations where property destruction is counter-productive and irresponsible due to endangering innocent folks and diluting the message and solidarity of the event. 

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