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Nonviolence Resources

Seabrook—Wyhl—Marckolsheim: Transnational Links in a Chain of Campaigns

When 18 people walked onto the construction site of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire on 1 August 1976, it was the first collective nonviolent direct action against nuclear power in the USA. Many opponents of nuclear power considered such tactics too radical. Later that month, when 180 people committed civil disobedience at the site, the organizers, the Clamshell Alliance, used nonviolence training and the affinity group structure for the first time. In the future, these elements became well-known and practised throughout the nonviolent social change movement. On 30 April 1977 over 2400 people, organized in hundreds of affinity groups, occupied the site. During the next two days 1415 were arrested, many jailed for two weeks. This action inspired the anti-nuclear power movement and created a new international model for organizing actions which consisted of training for nonviolent direct action and consensus decision-making in a non-hierarchical affinity group structure.

Actions and Solidarity campaign with South Africa

The first calls for an international boycott of apartheid South Africa were made as early as 1958, and in Britain it was seen as a major strategy to be pursued when the Anti-Apartheid Movement was launched in 1959. At the intergovernmental level, South Africa's system of apartheid was widely condemned, especially after the 1960 Sharpeville massacre: in 1961 South Africa was thrown out of the Commonwealth (then called the British Commonwealth) and in 1962 the UN set up a Special Committee Against Apartheid, the next year agreeing a "voluntary" arms embargo. Yet it was not until the 1990s that apartheid finally ended.

Introduction

This section is a collection of stories and strategies on the use of nonviolence around the world. Stories help us learn from past experiences, and many of these describe how people learned strategies from campaigns in other parts of the world and strengthened their campaigns through international cooperation.

Evaluation

Evaluation allows us to learn from our experiences. Always everybody makes some kind of informal evaluation of an event - be it personal reflections, talking it over with friends, or a meeting of a group of core organisers ('leaders'). What we propose here, however, is that there be a structure for feeding back lessons from an event. Rather than leave evaluation to chance or confined to an elite, it should be set up as a planned and collective activity - valuing the input of people who have played different roles, who bring different kinds of experience and even levels of commitment. Preferably everyone who participated in an action or in organising an event should be encouraged to take part in evaluating it.

Jail support (MOC-Spain experience)

The experience of MOC (Movimiento de Objeción de Conciencia) in helping people in prison is based on the civil disobedience campaign against obligatory military service - the campaign of insumisión 1971-2002 in which thousands of insumisos were jailed. During this period, various ways of supporting prisoners were suggested and tried. One of the most valued, without a doubt, were the 'support groups'.

Legal support

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Introduction

On trialOn trial
Legal systems are different in every country. However, for actions where it is likely that participants will be arrested, it is always useful to have a 'legal support team'. This advice on forming such a team in Britain is adapted from the first section of a much longer briefing by the Activist Legal Project at: http://www.activistslegalproject.org.uk

Roles in, before, and after an action

Every action requires a range of different tasks - some very visible (i.e. the people blocking a street, the press spokesperson), other less visible, and more in the background. It is the role of the Coordinator/Organizer, or the facilitator at meetings, to identify what roles are needed and how they can be filled. Each of these tasks are equally important, as all together make an action possible. Some of these tasks, like outreach and organizing, may be shared by several people. And those people may take on other tasks, such as scouting the site. Consider rotating tasks where possible, such as meeting facilitation. It's important that the people responsible for various tasks during an action work together as a team, which takes preparation before the action. You can find more details on some of these tasks in this handbook, especially in Nonviolent Campaigns, Role of Media, Working in Groups, Legal Support, and Jail Support.

Check list for planning an action

There are times when you'll be preparing a one-off action, perhaps as your contribution to someone else's campaign, or as a stand alone event in itself. Other times your action will be part of your wider campaign strategy with each and every action being a step towards your overall campaign aims. Here we provide a check up list to keep in mind while planning an action:

consensus decision making

Within nonviolent movements, and especially during nonviolent (direct) actions, the question of decision making requires special attention. As nonviolence is more than the absence of violence, and closely linked to issues of power, the methods of decision making used within nonviolent movement need to avoid creating new relationships of power-over, and need to be participatory and empowering.

Affinity Groups

An affinity group is a group of people who have an affinity for each other, know each others strengths and weaknesses, support each other, and do (or intend to do ) political/campaign work together. Most of us will have had some childhood/formative experience of being part of a group whether informally, as in a group of kids that are the same age and live in the same street, suburb or town, or formally, as in being involved in a sports team. However, affinity groups differ from these for numerous reasons, as explained below, (hierarchy, trust, responsibility to each other etc).

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