The Non-Violent Army
those of us who believe that fundamental change is needed in the United States
and the world, there is a new development that we all need to welcome,
understand, support and work with: the non-violent army.
just-concluded protests in Washington, D.C. against the IMF and the World Bank
bore witness to this historic development. Many thousands of people from across
the country followed up successfully from the November 30, 1999 disruption of
the World Trade Organization in Seattle by focusing the attention of the world
on these two linchpins of the world's corporate-dominated, destructive, economic
and financial system.
traditional military army is made up at its base primarily of young people. This
is true of the non-violent army of this first decade of the 21st century; fully
80-85% or more of those who blockaded the streets of downtown D.C. were under
traditional army is organized using platoons, companies, battalions, brigades
and divisions. The non-violent army is organized on the basis of affinity
groups, flying squads, clusters and slices.
traditional army is trained in techniques of offense and defense, expecting to
take and inflict casualties. The non-violent army is learning the techniques of
civil disobedience, jail solidarity and legal issues, while also expecting to
face tear gas, pepper spray, clubs, rubber bullets, horses, arrests or beatings.
It makes no plans for the infliction of casualties on anybody.
in traditional armies have uniforms and equipment appropriate to their
situation. The non-violent army uses sneakers, boots, vinegar-soaked bandanas,
eye goggles, ponchos and an occasional gas mask.
armies have communications systems in place for those times when engaged in
battle. The non-violent army uses cell phones and walkie talkies, bicyclists and
runners on foot, and a tactical operations group to re-deploy flying squads and
clusters as needed.
armies have weapons of destruction. The non-violent army has weapons of the
heart, spirit, mind and organization.
in four and a half months this non-violent army has mobilized its forces, and it
will do so again. Throughout the days of preparation in D.C. leading up to the
April 16th mass disruption, in evening "spokes council" meetings
attended by many hundreds of people, the leaders of this non-violent army
emphasized that as significant as this one battle was, there was a critical need
to build an on-going movement.
cannot do justice to the importance of this development.
is a new type of movement, in many ways. It is led predominantly by women. It is
deeply committed to democracy, direct democracy in which the goal is respect for
the opinions and input of all who are part of the movement. It is a movement
which sings; one of the most moving songs has these words: "Rise up, we
don't have long; Come together, keep our movement strong." It integrates
art, dance, humor, theatre, drumming and creativity into its work and actions.
And it tries to operate by consensus.
is not a movement without weaknesses. The most glaring is its racial
composition. Despite organized and active outreach efforts, and despite holding
its demonstrations and blockades in predominantly African American Washington,
D.C., the percentage of people of color participating in the meetings and the
street actions remained in the single digits, percentage-wise. Perhaps even more
significant, there were no people of color in major, visible positions of
leadership for and during the street actions.
is also a movement, a non-violent army, struggling with how to build a national
organizational structure and process based on direct democracy, consensus and as
much decentralization as possible in a country as big as this one when people
are not together in one city planning for an action. Even when together, the
efforts to hammer out consensus sometimes mean the alienation of those not able
to "hang" with long meetings.
these weaknesses cannot obscure the fact that the groups under the Direct Action
Network umbrella which worked together on April 16th have provided a jolt of
electricity, again, to the progressive movement, to the country as a whole, and
to struggling people the world over. Through a deeply-felt commitment to taking
action to save our endangered ecosystem and improve the lives of the world's
poor, here and abroad, this non-violent army of thousands is displaying
international solidarity of the highest magnitude. By their willingness to put
their bodies on the line for global justice they are reminding us all that,
indeed, there "ain't no power like the power of the people, and the power
of the people don't stop."
Ted Glick is the National Coordinator of the Independent Progressive Politics Network and an activist in the New York/northern New Jersey area.