|PLANNING CAMPAIGNS |
By Ed Hedemann
Most movement programs revolve around organizing single, unrelated events--demonstrations, forums, whatever. Were these activities strung together in an integrated fashion- building on one another- the impact and potential for success would be magnified dramatically. Such is the advantage of campaign organizing.
The campaign provides and escalating series of actions over a period of time focused on a target in order to achieve specific goals. Persistence and a systematic approach are key ingredients of a campaign.
All this is not to say demonstrations should not be organized on individual dates like Hiroshima Day (August 6), Tax Day (April 15), and so forth. But, when possible, actions which are part of campaigns can make a stronger statement.
Planning a Campaign
The first step is to do the basic groundwork of self-education on the issues and problems to be combated. This can be accomplished through research, study groups, workshops, and conferences.
The next step is to decide where to focus out initial efforts. What you need to find are weak points in the opponents "armour," which will provide levers or handles to focus criticism and action.
During one phase of the Indian campaign for independence from Britain, Gandhi selected the British monopoly on salt as the focus for a campaign. At first this appeared to be an insignificant issue to worry about, compared with independence itself. But because salt affected everyone on this rather hot subcontinent, because its cost was a hardship on the masses, and because it was relatively easy to manufacture (and thereby violate the salt laws), it became an ideal symbol of why independence was being sought. The British viewed the Salt Campaign as "nothing less than to cause a complete paralysis of the administrative machinery." In retrospect, the yearlong campaign was the most spectacular effort in the 28-year struggle for independence.
The United Farm Workers grape boycott is another example of a well chosen campaign in the struggle to win union recognition and better conditions for farm workers.
One of the most important steps in a campaign, after determining the target or focus, is to choose the short range goals. Long range goals are easy, e.g., world peace or no military. But sometimes if short range goals are not clearly defined, then the campaign could be stalled. Short range goals should be winnable within the near future (providing a boost and the encouragement needed to keep your group moving toward the longer range goals), measurable (you ought to be able to tell when you have accomplished them), set on a timetable to allow for periods of evaluation, be a significant step towards the long range goal(s).
For example, in opposing the establishment of a Junior ROTC unit in a local high school, your medium (or short) range goal might be to prevent the unit from setting up. A short range goal could be getting the local paper (or student body) to come out against the unit. And example of something which is not a short range goal would be the holding of a forum or having a picket. These represent vehicles toward your goals, rather than goals themselves. Saying that a short range goal is "to educate the student body" has little value as a goal unless it is measurable (e.g., a poll or vote).
In setting goals, you might consider establishing a bottom line on what is acceptable, to guard against being coopted into ending the campaign without making any fundamental change.
Who are the opponents? How can they or their supporters be won over or neutralized? In the example above, the opponents might be the school board or principal. The supporters might be the community, PTA, local paper, or clergy.
After this analysis, a plan of action set on a timetable is needed. This plan of action should be in a step-by-step escalation. Escalation is necessary if the pressure on opponents needs to be increased. This des not necessarily mean the previous level of activity is abandoned, but simply that an escalated stage of activity is added to the previous stages. For example, education should be a constant and complementary component of every campaign- never being abandoned. In the campaign above, the first level of action is to approach the school board and ask them to turn down the JROTC application. Should that fail, set up study commissions to analyze the value of a JROTC unit; solicit outside opinions; hold public forums; write letters to the editor; etc.
Should and escalation be necessary, picketing, leafleting, or boycotts might be next. Beyond that, demonstrations, marches, and rallies could be organized. Then perhaps, a student strike, and maybe carefully chosen civil disobedience actions.
Organizers should not lightly go from one level of a campaign to the next. Each stage should be evaluated and considered seriously. Remember, shifting to the next stage does not mean activities at earlier levers should always be forgotten (e.g., going from picketing to a sit-in does not necessarily mean picketing should be discontinued).
Step-by-Step Escalation in a Nonviolent Campaign
Analyzing a Campaign
1. Dates of the Campaign
|Resources on Campaigns |
Conquest of Violence, Joan Bondurant, see pp.45-104, 1965. Analysis of five Gandhian campaigns.
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