Today marks day 10 of my analysis of Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part One: Power and Struggle, applying it to the movement to save the world from a changing climate.
Some of the nonviolent scenarios Sharp writes about aren’t terribly relevant to our situation in trying to save the climate, others are more so.
One of my favorite nonviolent struggles defeated the Kapp Putsch in 1920. A right-wing coup d’etat was defeated "principally by the general strike of the workers and the refusal of the higher civil servants to collaborate with their rebel masters". When the bad guys took over people all over Berlin simply refused to do their work for days on end. Even the banks refused to turn money over to the new government. The coup collapsed within a few days.
Of course it won’t be easy to crack the internal system of Exxon-Mobil. They’re famous for their corporate discipline and for hiring true-believers (and probably climate deniers as well). But they’re also part of our culture at large, and, again, they are living in “drought central”. Yes, they work in air-conditioned offices, but they watch the news and weather reports, they must have nagging doubts about climate change.
Another inspiring nonviolent struggle fought for Indian Independence.
Sharp: “Jawaharlal Nehru’s experience with noncooperation in the Indian struggle led him to conclude: ‘Nothing is more irritating and, in the final analysis, harmful to a government than to have to deal with people who will not bend to its will, whatever the consequences.’ Gandhi wrote: ‘If we are strong, the British become powerless.’”
A major difference between their struggle and our struggle was they basically had all the time in the world to get it done. Climate change is rushing upon us like a tsunami, and our time to break through is very limited.
That said, Gandhi was a tactical genius, always testing his movement’s capacity for larger actions and working toward making it stronger and stronger. Our movement is, at this point, small and weak. But that can change.
Sharp: “What would happen if people…on a wide scale, knew that they could prevent the imposition on them of unwanted policies and regimes, and were skillfully able to refuse to assist, in open struggle?”
Remember, all of our futures, including the futures of the fossil fuel industry’s families, hinge upon whether we are able to this successfully.
Sharp: “Generalized obstinacy and collective stubbornness are not effective enough. General opposition must be translated into a strategy of action, and people need to know how to wage the struggle…They will need to understand the technique based on this insight in to power, including the methods of that technique, its dynamics of change, requirements for success and principles of strategy and tactics. The implementation must be skillful.”
Read your Sharp, people!