Day 4 of my analysis of Gene Sharp’s The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part Three: The Dynamics of Nonviolent Struggle, applied to the climate movement. Reading Sharp’s books are a prerequisite for anyone who is serious about stopping climate change. Please go to Dr. Sharp’s website, buy these books, and study them.
Today we’re looking at “Leadership in Nonviolent Struggle”. The book we’ve been examining came out in 1973, For this topic I want to start by skipping ahead to another Sharp masterwork, Waging Nonviolent Struggle, which came out 32 years later, in 2005. I feel his analysis of the requirements of leadership had developed by over time, and the updated version is a little more appropriate to the needs of the climate movement.
Sharp: “Leaders need to become experts on nonviolent struggle. Knowledge about nonviolent struggle also needs to be spread widely. Greater knowledge and understanding of the nonviolent technique throughout the population will increase the difficulty for the opponents to “behead” the movement by imprisoning or killing the leaders. Leaders serve as spokespeople and offer, organize, and can implement solutions to problems. Leadership can be by group, committee, individual, or a combination of these.”
A big reason why I’m blogging everyday about Sharp is I’m convinced that the climate movement needs him. The leaders of the climate movement, and every impassioned activist, need to immerse themselves in his books. I’m hoping that, by blogging on that, it will resonate with people, or at least impress upon someone with a louder megaphone than my own that this needs to be universally studied.
The leaders of the movement need to push their followers to read this stuff too. Everyone needs to know this! We want a democratic movement, right? Our movement will be so much more effective if we’re a multi-headed hydra popping up here, there and everywhere. If people read these books, then our leaders need not worry about people doing something to embarrass the movement. That won’t happen if people know how nonviolent action works. It’s frustrating for me, knowing that the leaders of the movement aren’t taking the time to study this. They could be so much more dynamic and effective!
Okay, back to The Dynamics of Nonviolent Action.
Sharp: “Socially significant nonviolent action does not just happen,,,Frustration at the blocking of conventional channels of change, or at least their uselessness in certain situations, may finally have led people to think of unorthodox ways of acting. The situation itself may have become unbearable or threatening, thus requiring radical action…An example of nonviolent action in some other place or time may suddenly be seen as relevant.”
Orthodox methods to get action on climate change have gone nowhere, so we do need to take it to another level. Why not study movements that have accomplished the impossible?
But you really need to immerse yourself in the stuff. Reading a list of the 198 methods Sharp has identified has all the impact of a really long grocery list. But reading his 326 page book that describes those methods in detail is inspiring (The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Part Two: The Methods of Nonviolent Action).
Sharp also has pointed out that you can’t do this with one guy who’s an expert on nonviolence, another who’s an expert on climate science, etc. The leaders all need to be experts on all of it. There’s no easy way out. But, hey, it’s to save the world. Qualify yourself to help lead! Buy and read the books.