FSI09: Building a Movement for Civil Resistance

The sixth presentation at the Fletcher Summer Institute (FSI) for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict focused on the organizational side of civil resistance by drawing on the United Democratic Front’s (UDF) experience in apartheid South Africa.


What is needed for a successful movement?

  • A vision
  • A trigger
  • Leadership
  • An organizational base
  • A strategy
  • Broad unity with a range of allies

I found the trigger factor quite interesting. In the case of the ANC, the positive trigger was the end of the Cold War. Triggers provide windows of opportunity for action. Another example is Milosevic’s decision to call for early elections, which presented Otpor with a window of opportunity. So triggers can be both external and internal.

Elements of the South Africa movement:

  • Multi-level and decentralized organizational structure
  • Leadership was replaceable
  • ‘Branding’ and public presence (e.g., posters)
  • Mobilization and spreading of tactics
  • Local flexibility and creativity
  • National strategy and direction

Organizing outside existing structures is a key feature of the resistance movements that took place in South Africa and Serbia.

One participant noted the parallels often referred to between South Africa and Israel/Palestine. Earlier in the day one presenter argued that if one million unarmed Palestinians got together to march towards Jerusalem, it would be impossible to stop them. Another participant countered and noted the 600+ check-points in the West Bank.

The “final word” by someone else in the room: “You obviously have not seen the power of one million people marching.”

Patrick Philippe Meier

One response to “FSI09: Building a Movement for Civil Resistance

  1. Pingback: Brokekid.net » Monkey Vs Robot – My Weekly Idealist post

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