Campaigning against war profiteers

Towards developing your campaign strategies:

We know that protest isn’t enough to make the deep changes we want.
Demonstrations alone do not end a particular war or reduce the influence of war profiteers. Faced with an overwhelming task, it’s easy to do the nonviolent equivalent of lashing out – jumping into action or activity without an analysis and strategy. Radicals need to not only get to the roots of a problem — we need to root ourselves and our own actions in something more comprehensive. We need to develop effective nonviolent campaigns.
In order to develop effective strategies groups need to go through a process: name and describe the problem or situation, analyze why it exist, create a vision of what we want with clear goals and then develop a strategy to reach those goals.
Too often groups go directly from naming a problem to picking a tactic. Or we suffer from the “paralysis of analysis”, educating ourselves and others with information and analysis, but never getting to action. We are too often products of the microwave culture, thinking we can change things quickly, forgetting the determination and patience of successful nonviolent campaigns and movements.

First Steps in Developing Effective strategies:

Name and describe the problem. This may seem too simple of a first step for some, but if it is not shared collectively the group may have different descriptions and therefore different stories. We can live with a situation a long time before we can name it and until we name it we can’t change it. And we can’t move to analysis without clarity on what we are analyzing. The process of a group coming together to do this is important to developing collective action.

There are several processes groups that can be use to describe how they, and others, see the problem.

Listening Projects Community Surveys and Facilitated Dialogue ( are organized ways of asking questions that encourage people to look deeper at an issue, describing their feeling and perceptions, creating the potential for transformation while gathering information for developing strategies. Used internationally on many issues, including in areas economically dependent on weapons production, they help a group understand how people describe the problem and give a basis for strategy development.

Describe the Problem Tree – A facilitator draws a tree with roots, a trunk, and branches with fruit. Participants identify the roots (causes), the fruits (consequences), the trunk (the institutions that uphold the system.) Start with the root causes, taking into consideration the culture and political situation. You can also add the values that are found in the soil that “nurtures” these root causes.

Pillars of War – Instead of a tree, use pillars that hold up the war profiteers. The pillars, like the trunk of the tree, uphold the system we have defined as the problem. Once we describe what makes up the pillars, we can begin to describe how to chip away at them, weakening the system.

Analyze why the problem exists. Without an understanding of the problem and why it exists and how it functions and who potentially supports and opposes it, we cannot successfully eliminate it. Who has the power, who has the power to create change? What are the strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats that we face?
What theories do we bring to this analysis? Are we proponents of nonviolent social change? How does that affect our analysis?

These questions, and the following exercises, can be used to move from description to analysis of the problem.

The Spectrum of Allies exercise ( helps us describe who are our allies and our opponents, and where they stand in relationship to us. This analysis helps us understand who we want to move strategically.

SmartMeme ( focuses on “changing the story.” Their strategic resources includes “The Battle of the Story”, based on their belief that “Crafting a successful campaign message requires analyzing and understanding the power of storytelling to structure information in a way that reaches and convinces people.”

Joanne Sheehan