“(U)prising can be a craft, and this…craft can change the world.” (p. 283)
In their 2016 book, This Is An Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping The Twenty-First Century, brothers Mark and Paul Engler are writing to and for people who want to change the world.
Drawing on Gandhi’s Salt March and Dr. King’s Birmingham campaign, as well as dozens of more recent examples, they make a richly documented, carefully argued case for the importance and utility of what they call “momentum-driven organizing”—well-planned, disciplined, intentional organizing campaigns specifically aimed at creating unarmed revolts that overturn longstanding power structures.
This Is An Uprising is filled with inspirational (and cautionary) tales of real-life nonviolent campaigns from around the world (though with a US focus) in the past century, and in particular, during the last 25 years. It’s a book that can be read quickly, but bears (indeed, even cries out for) careful and detailed examination.
In that spirit, this will be just the first in a series of posts on the book; and will conclude with a paragraph from This Is An Uprising that sums up and defines what momentum-driven organizing is:
“Momentum-driven organizing uses the tools of civil resistance to consciously spark, amplify, and harness mass protest. It highlights the importance of hybrid organizations, such as Otpor and SCLC, which can build decentralized networks to sustain protest mobilizations through multiple waves of activity. It goes beyond transactional goals by also advancing a transformational agenda, and it wins by swaying public opinion and pulling pillars of support. It is attentive to the symbolic properties of campaigns, showing how these can sometimes be just as important as instrumental demands, if not more so. It uses disruption, sacrifice, and escalation to build tension and bring overlooked issues into the public spotlight. It aspires, at its peak, to create moments of the whirlwind, when outbreaks of decentralized action extend far beyond the institutional limits of any one organization. It is willing to polarize public opinion and risk controversy with bold protests, but it maintains nonviolent discipline to ensure that it does not undermine broad-based support for its cause. And it is conscious of the need to work with other organizing traditions in order to institutionalize gains and foster alternative communities that can sustain resistance over the long term.” (p. 283)
If that paragraph seems filled with jargon….well, it is. Every field of human knowledge develops and uses its own jargon so that practitioners can have a common vocabulary and understand what they’re talking about. It’s the task of This Is An Uprising—and of subsequent posts in this series—to clarify, define and illustrate what the Englers’ terminology means and how it can be used.
Crossposted at: https:/masscommons.wordpress.com