When Does the Resistance Begin? And Who Will Lead

lThe blog asks why #metoo, Black Lives Matter, Occupy, or even the Democratic Party have not called for a General Strike, another massive march, or some other form of civil disobedience. What could this look like? Who will lead?  What could happen? Blog includes Erica Chenoweth TedTalk on the historic effectiveness of nonviolent direct action.

What Would It Take? What Would It Look Like? Could It Succeed?

In yesterday’s blog, I examined a Richard Wolff Truth-Out article, wondering what it will take to pivot from the assumption that different forms of capitalism represent the boundaries of our economic and political realities, or if some sudden breach might be possible. Wolff did not really provide a road map to that transition, but his thoughtful analysis did cause me to question:  Why is the Democratic Party not doing more than talk? Where is their call for direct action? Resistance?  Demonstration?  And why is it that the Democratic Party is so reluctant to meet in the streets?  The blog caused me to question why hundreds of thousands of Basques have hit the streets while the streets of America have remained empty after the Women’s March and the far more modest Earth Day protests. If you missed it, a review of yesterday’s blog might be a good idea before proceeding here.  Click here to review that blog.

Over the past two months, I have been ruminating about what it would take to get us back into the streets. And I have found evidence of things brewing nationally and here in NM. Roxanne and I are involved in a Nonviolent Direct Action Study Group comprised of graduates of a two-day nonviolent direct actin training conducted by leaders of the Civil Rights movement.  I am a statewide coordinator for the emerging Poor People’s Campaign which calls for 40 days of nonviolent civil disobedience beginning on May 13, and recently Retake connected with a national movement focused upon launching a coordinated taking to the streets should Mueller be fired. So things are percolating.

But as I watch the news in Spain where the Basques are in open insurrection, I wonder what it would take to push Americans from studying resistance to resisting, to actually risk our personal safety and privilege and shut it down. And what would shut it down mean? This blog begins an inquiry into these questions.

Erica Chenoweth’s compelling 12-minute Ted Talk, offered below, was given in 2013 before Trump and what we face now were even being contemplated broadly. So her talk then might have seemed far more theoretical. She begins by questioning which form of resistance is more effective in the face of an oppressive government: violent or nonviolent resistance. Her assumption initially had been that violence would be necessary to oppose a truly oppressive regime, but after two years of research, she found the reverse to be true.   Based upon her examination of hundreds of cases of resistance worldwide between 1900-2006 involving more than 1000 people, she found that nonviolent resistance was twice as likely to achieve success than violent resistance.

What’s more, she found that from 1940 to 2006, nonviolent resistance was becoming increasingly effective in achieving sustained success and a transition to peaceful, more democratic resolutions that did not rely upon military force to sustain change. Finally, Chenoweth describes what research shows is required to create a meaningful pivot in policy or to reverse government oppression. She cites the oft quoted statistic that only 3.5% of the population committed to focused and sustained resistance is needed to topple a regime. In the US that amounts to 11.3 million people. But how do we achieve the critical mass, 11.3 million of us committed to sustained resistance?


Retake Leadership is exploring what is involved in organizing effective nonviolent resistance. Three of the leadership team is involved with a Nonviolent Direct Action Study & Action Group that is studying effective nonviolent movements across the world and discussing what we can learn and apply here in the US and in NM. We are beginning by reading and discussing Chenoweth’s exhaustive study of historic nonviolent movements, Why Civil Resistance Works, The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Resistance. At the same time, Roxanne and I are participating in the NM state leadership group coordinating the launch of Reverend Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign.  A full day retreat is scheduled for January to begin recruitment and planning for the statewide Poor People’s Campaign that will launch May 13. If you want to find out more and be kept up to date on the New Mexico Poor People’s Campaign, click here to get to the Poor People’s CampaignNM Facebook page. Planning has begun for a direct action at the Roundhouse in February and details will be shared, as they become concretized. Click here to sign up for the national Poor People’s campaign. By signing up you will receive notifications of planning, training and action as it unfolds in NM.

Finally, a National Action If Mueller is Fired has been created. For this, we will need to be ready at a moment’s notice.  RISE Stronger New Mexico has scheduled a rapid response #Resistance Action in Santa Fe if special prosecutor Robert Mueller is fired. Similar rapid response networks have been established in hundreds of cities across the US. The local event details will mirror the national plan which can be found here: https://act.moveon.org/event/mueller-firing-rapid-response/search/?source=MFT/ The Santa Fe rally will begin hours after news breaks of a Mueller firing: If Mueller is fired BEFORE 2 P.M. local time —> events will begin @ 5 P.M. local time, If Mueller is fired AFTER 2 P.M. local time —> events will begin @ noon local time the following day. Our gathering place will be the bandstand on the Santa Fe Plaza.   Click here to RSVP for this event. It is not a Facebook event, so anyone can sign up.

Taken together, it is clear that actions are being planned, thinking is occurring, and possibilities are being considered. This blog will keep you appraised as things materialize. The blog will also continue to offer alternatives to capitalism, colonialism, sexism and racism, the four-headed beast that has defined America as a historic power.  The video below presents compelling evidence that nonviolent resistance is a viable strategy for opposing an oppressive regime. Our daily news presents continuing frightening evidence that we our government is becoming increasingly oppressive and with Fox News the dominant news source for tens of millions of Americans, openness to the narrowing of freedom appears almost inevitable. Readiness is all, my friends. Stay tuned.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne



Categories: Economic Justice, Community & Economic Development, Election, Political Reform & National Politics, Personal & Collective Action

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6 replies

  1. Good stuff Paul. The National situation is the real issue of course, and there is little visible that reflects any movement or change by any of the important groups. The main problem, as some of us see it, is that the Clinton/Obama operatives still have control of all of those you mention above and more. Bernie is still operating essentially on the side lines and will remain there as a fringe “leftist” as long as these people stay in control. They do not see the damage they have caused, nor how what they did (or did not) do may in fact, lose what is a “shoo in” election in 2018! And that is the problem!

    I would suggest a major push at the National Progressive level to hold a “caucus” somewhere with the primary intent being to organize and publicize State Progressive Committees. Develop a National Agenda (Bernie’s Agenda plus) which then forces the Democrats to discuss it openly. But all the major people must be there and also the “MoveOn’s and the Credo’s etc. There they can be challenged directly and openly and the Progressive movement will leave at least knowing who is opposed to it and who is with us. There must be a way to do this by the end of February because things are going to heat up soon.

  2. Hi Paul n Roxanne. Any failure to be attached to the D party lies inherent in its nature and structure. The baseline of that D word used to coalesce around the misguided belief that the constitution permanently leveled the field for every person, regardless of whether they voted or not. Through the efforts of FDR, 150 years of frustration began to lift for many, as equality finally grew a few teeth. No matter one’s position on any assumed liberty, (labor rights, suffrage, public lands legacies, civil rights, educational opportunity, etc.) There was room for all under the D banner. FDR, a 1%er himself, undressed the savage nature of the single-minded elitists after yet another abyssmal failure on their part to prove that self-absorbed excess created unquestioned monarchy.

    But relief from even some oppression brings a wicked backlash on two fronts; those down and out can be re-enslaved via petty addictions popularized by their oppressors, and the universal truth that reptile brain FEAR always drives the bully sadist class. Just as during Reconstruction, when lack of will combined with euphoria and fatigue failed miserably to destroy the infrastructure and iconography of the imperialistic south, the Blue Bloods were not stripped of ALL wealth and influence when Wallace was driven out, thus strangling the socialism that would have had the popular momentum after VE/VJ was actualized.

    If imperialists are not pauperized they will just shapeshift a bit while continuing to feed their parasitic appetites. The Catholic potus was soon destroyed, Nam refueled the capitalists, Ford legitimized corruption once again, which eviscerated Carter via treasonous acts by the imperialists in only THREE weeks. The stool pigeons raygun and papabush bred the frankensteins Ailes and Atwater, and now, 35 years later, the hegemonists are again fully in control of the most deranged martial/police state since Rome, the legacy of history we still worship for its cruelty and sadism.

    I suggest we ponder the strategy of efficient energy management surrounding resistances of any kind going forward. A few crushing defeats in the streets may well force all UG. Control of the Net will facilitate surveillance, forced poverty will complete the calculated divisionary tactics that have effaced the D image.

    These times are unimaginable to those who do not realize they are merely treading water in the middle of the pool. Meanwhile the capitalists (far too gentle a characterization) are using slave labor to raise the sides of the pool above the reach of even the tallest swimmer. They read and watch everything we say and do. What makes any of us believe they are not in our midst on Christmas Eve, Love your Savior and spend your credit card tax cut, they say as they pat our little heads, handing us a toxic candy cane with a bemused smile that fails to reveal their shiny teeth. I do not now nor ever have believed in Santa or the Immaculate Conception. All they say is too good to be true. Talk is worthless, words are poison.

  3. I’m in for some non-violent action! There is such a pressure building up within our country that the potential for peaceful revolution has never been higher, but with the onslaught of unbelievable, illegal and immoral affronts coming down the pipeline every day we have become paralyzed. There must be a catalyst to break through the deer in the headlights feeling and get us all moving.

    I am torn between the value of patience and the responsibility for taking action. I think build it and they will come applies here though. When we look at Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela they each began small and persisted despite setbacks until the whole world was behind them. We don’t need to have something on the scale of the Women’s March on day one, only something that will inspire hearts and minds and break through the fog of the 24-hour news cycle day by day until it grows beyond one group or person into a collective movement.

  4. Thank you Bill for your suggestions but I believe we need to take into account the power of the Democratic Party’s culture and subcultures. A culture of millionaires and multimillionaires. We may need to do some reading on how to change corporate and institutionalized cultures first.
    Mick. I wish you could attempt to use your vast knowledge and analytical abilities to consider some possible solutions instead of creating a negative and demoralizing monologue. It really does not help and tends to drive people away. I think your knowledge and critical skills can be very useful to those who want deep change
    I think that the culture of the Democratic party, and that of the Republican party too, can not be changed until 70% of their members are replaced. I do agree with the view that non-violent resistance can achieve better results than violent revolutions. But, I believe we first need to realize that all revolutions begin from within each of us and that, in our present culture, we, each of us, performs acts of violence every day. When, as I get up to prepare myself coffee, and I turn on both, my little espresso machine and, in the winter, the lights, I contribute to sickness and eventual early death of many thousands of people/children and other Life as well. When I turn on my car I do the same. With all of you we do it!
    The Morgans, Rockefellers, Marses, Slims, Waltons, Sauds, Kochs, Rothschilds and Gates’ of the world, together with the likes of the Habsburgs of yesteryear, whose dynasties are still alive and well, have had people design, and continuously improve, an economic system (capitalism, neoliberalism…) to serve their need to increase their power to controll everything around them. I thought that this economic system keeps us entrapped. I always imagined one external trap but as of late I came to the stark realization that there is also a trap inside us. So, I am in a trap because I need this computer and my car and electricity and now my cellphone. But we entrap ourselves when we choose, for example, to buy, due mostly to the illusion of saving money, comfort and convenience, from Amazon, Whole Foods, eBay, Walmart, etc. Every time we buy from any of the above we participate in a very, but very violent system. As it has been said for a long time. We should vote with our money first. This is, maybe, the first test of our commitment to leading a life of activism.
    I thought I was done with my old mantra but I am renewing its use:
    “If I am not for myself who is (will be) for me?
    And being (if I am only) for my own self, what am ‘I’?
    And if not now, (then) when?”

    • Eduardo. I do not write negativity, just realism based on what is now true and has been so before. You are learned and keen, and know the massive dilemmas we are caught inside. We need many resilient allies, and to get even close people must be devoid of the illusion of hope. Frankly, I ponder all of this daily but have yet to find the thread. Out of many, one. That is the only inspiration I have, and it exists only in what is left of the biodiversity of Wild Things. We should visit more, in person.

  5. In a capitalist system where the flow of money equates power, the people have always had the power. In addition to nonviolent acts of civil disobedience, a work stoppage of 3 days will bring great awareness. At the same time, ask all who resist the corrupt government and economic system to simply not pay credit card bills, mortgage bills, insurance bills for one month. Pick a month, promote this monetized resistance action and watch the corporate world go crazy. Yes there will be minor “late fees”; and the system will grind to a halt as the beast of capitalism turns on itself. The people have always had the power to bring government to a stop. The question is, do we have the will to do so.

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