Strategizing for a Living Revolution

by George Lakey

Otpur (“Resistance” in Serbian) began as hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands of young people took to the streets to rid their country of dictator Slobadan Milosevic. Impatient with the cautious ways of many of their pro-democracy elders, the youths organized in coffee bars and schools, posted graffiti almost everywhere, and used their street actions to embarrass the regime.

Milosevic counter-attacked. His police routinely beat up the protesters, in the streets and more thoroughly in the police stations. His spies were everywhere. His monopoly of the mass media meant that the Otpur was described as hoodlums and terrorists.  In October 2000 Otpur won; joined by hundreds of thousands of workers and professionals, the young people threw Milosevic out. His party was in disarray, his police in confusion, his army was split.

From the moment Otpur began it had a strategy. The young people were immensely creative in their tactics and at the same time realized that no struggle is ever won simply by a series of actions. Otpur activists knew they could only succeed by creating a strategy that guided a largely decentralized network of groups.  Cynical outsiders were skeptical when Otpur activists claimed not to have a leader, when the young people said they were all leaders and shared responsibility for their actions and their common discipline. What the skeptics overlooked was the power of strategy as a unifying force, taking its place beside the rebel energy and the lessons of recent history that the young people shared. Otpur activists didn’t need an underground commander giving them their marching orders because they shared a strategy they believed in; they were happy to improvise creatively within that strategic framework.

Read all of this article: Strategizing for a Living Revolution

EDITOR’S NOTE: George Lakey is director of Training for Change and editor of the invaluable website Global Nonviolent Action Database. He has taught peace studies at Swarthmore College, Temple University, and the University of Pennsylvania, and was co-founder of Jobs with Peace Campaign, director of the Quaker Action Group and founder of Men Against Patriarchy. He has been the recipient of the Ashley Montague Peace Award, and has published six influential books and countless articles. Among his works are: Strategy for a Living Revolution , Exploring Nonviolent Action, and Strategy for Non-Violent Revolution.  The website of Training for Change gives a more extensive biography and bibliography.

“When planted in the garden, the mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds, became a large tree, and birds came and made their home there.” Luke 13:19

“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.” M. Gandhi