Author: George Lakey

Icelanders force accountability for banks — why can’t we?

by George Lakey. Ever since Iceland’s economy collapsed in 2008, the country has been busy reinventing itself. The first step was to restore democracy through a turbulent nonviolent struggle, then to force resignations in the financial sector and secure a criminal conviction of their prime minister for dereliction of duty. Now they are exploring getting […]

How a small group can take a long walk — and make a difference

by George Lakey. I just walked 200 miles across Pennsylvania in Earth Quaker Action Team’s Green Walk for Jobs and Justice. The Patriot-News, which serves Pennsylvania’s capital of Harrisburg, called us “a multimillion-dollar threat to the sixth-largest bank in the nation.” I wouldn’t claim that this young group should be taken as an exact model […]

Did the Norwegians have a revolution?

by George Lakey. For the better part of a century, some visionaries have been trying to break out of the dominant belief that there are only two means of forcing change: reform through elections and revolution through violence. The rigidity of that binary choice still strangles thinking today. A Norwegian, for instance, once wrote to […]

The more violence, the less revolution

In the discussion within the Occupy movement on whether violence is necessary for making change in the United States, the debate has so far conflated three of the movement’s possible goals. Are we talking about using violence to produce regime change? Or do we really mean “regime change with democratic institutions following the change”? Or […]

Activism for the end times: Mass actions or focused campaigns?

It’s not only voices on the religious right who claim we’re in the end times. There’s no doubt that major changes are needed in order to confront a range of deepening ecological and political crises. One response to this is despair—always a seductive option when we feel powerless. Another is to join some stampede into […]

Who’s really violent? Tips for controlling the narrative

Occupy Wall Street is similar to many movements in contending that its opponent—for Occupy, the 1 percent—is maintaining a system whose structural, systematic violence far exceeds any violence exhibited by the movement itself. For example, movements will say that class oppression or sexism or racism hurt people in the daily course of life, pointing to […]

Occupy the long view

What many in the Occupy movement are now searching for is a way to think collectively about strategy. I don’t know anyone who expects that a lone intellectual will emerge with The Way Forward. What are needed are tools that help diverse activists think together about strategy, and a coherent, movement-based framework that proposes a […]

How not to block the black bloc

The headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer told us last week that, on the other side of the country, a brick hit a police officer in Oakland and sent him to the hospital. Civil Rights organizer Jim Bevel predicted headlines like this in the ’60s when arguing about the then-current version of “diversity of tactics.” He said […]

What about the rest of Africa?

As the one-year anniversary of the Arab Spring is being celebrated in the media, some journalists have asked, “What about the rest of Africa?” Lisa Mullins of PRI’s The World put it this way on January 24: “The pro-democracy revolts of last year … got people in sub-Saharan Africa wondering if they’d ever see an […]

How Swedes and Norwegians broke the power of the ‘1 percent’

While many of us are working to ensure that the Occupy movement will have a lasting impact, it’s worthwhile to consider other countries where masses of people succeeded in nonviolently bringing about a high degree of democracy and economic justice. Sweden and Norway, for example, both experienced a major power shift in the 1930s after […]