Note: The below article has some important lessons regarding the differences between strategies and tactics used by “inside,” beltway lobbying organizations (read: Big Green NGOs) and the rebellious, grassroots, frontline earth defenders. While so-called “dignified” civil disobedience is important, it is equally important that the Big Greens don’t claim all the credit for making the ultimate sacrifice, while grassroots movements around the country are taking serious, not-so-dignified (but effective) direct action.
-The GJEP Team
By George Lakey, March 12, 2013. Source: Waging Nonviolence
One of the hardest things in the world is, if I may borrow a biblical phrase, to read the signs of the times.
A new call to action has been issued by leaders of 350.org, Rainforest Action Network, the Hip Hop Caucus and others, to stop President Barack Obama’s possible approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Signers promise, if necessary, “to engage in serious, dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could get you arrested.” The call has already attracted over 50,000 signers to a pledge to engage in arrestable actions if the president says yes. I’m a signer. But I wonder whether we could be called to a higher level of action than the current pledge promises and therefore have a greater deterrent effect.
This kind of tactic has been used before. A previous pledge of resistance in the 1980s attracted tens of thousands of signers and probably prevented then-President Ronald Reagan from sending U.S. troops into Nicaragua to overthrow the democratically-elected government there. Preparations were underway in neighboring Honduras to launch a U.S. invasion. The CIA was already implicated in the killing and torturing of Nicaraguans through the Contras, and the U.S. had already broken international law by laying mines in the harbor of Managua. President Reagan wanted all Latin American countries to understand that only governments approved by the U.S. empire would be allowed to stand.
A mass outcry arose in the United States around the pledge organized by my fellowWNV columnist Ken Butigan, Sojourners editor Jim Wallis, American Friends Service Committee staffer David Hartsough and others. It promised major civil disobedience in Senate offices and elsewhere around the country should the commander-in-chief give the invasion order. The 1 percent was aware that their dream of 1,000 nuclear power plants in the U.S. had been foiled by mass direct action at plant sites in the 1970s, only a decade before. Reagan found it prudent not to give the order. (These campaigns can be found in the Global Nonviolent Action Database and provide inspiring reading: search in the title line for “pledge” and “nuclear.”)
The failure of timidity