The Movement Action Plan:
A Strategic Framework Describing The
Eight Stages of Successful Social Movements
By Bill Moyer, Spring 1987
The United States anti-nuclear energy movement was launched in the Spring of
1977, when 1,414 Clamshell Alliance activists occupied the Seabrook nuclear power site
and spent the next 12 days in jail. During those two weeks, nuclear energy became a
worldwide public issue as the mass media spotlight focused on the activists locked in
armories throughout New Hampshire. Support demonstrations popped up across the
United States, and in the following months hundreds of new grassroots anti-nuclear
energy direct action groups started.
The Clamshell Alliance was considered a prototype of the new movement. Activists
throughout the country idealized the accomplishments of the Clamshell activists. They
had created a new nationwide uprising against nuclear energy, the powerful nuclear
energy industry, and the national government's goal (set by "Operation Independence")
of 1,000 nuclear power plants by the turn of the century. Until then nuclear power had
the public's approval and had not been a social issue. We wondered howon Earth they
did it. I eagerly looked forward to attending the strategy conference in February, 1978,
with 45 Clamshell organizers from around New England.
That Friday night, I expected to meet a spirited, upbeat group that was proud of its
accomplishments. I was shocked when the Clamshell activists arrived with heads bowed,
dispirited, and depressed, saying their efforts had been in vain. After two years of hard
effort, the Seabrook nuclear power plant was still being constructed, and Operation
Independence was still going forward. Some people reported massive burnout and
dropout; others spoke of the need for increased militant action, even violent guerilla
actions. None believed they could rally even a fraction of the thousands of people they
thought would be necessary to stop nuclear energy through the upcoming civil
disobedience blockade at Seabrook in the Spring.
I wondered how I could convince these activists, in my scheduled talk the next morning,
that they were extremely successful and considered national heroes by many in the new
movement. I stayed up most of that night creating a model framework (now called
"MAP") that describes stages that successful social movements go through. I presented
the model the next morning, explaining how, led by Clamshell, a new movement was
created; how in one year it had achieved most of the goals of stage four; and how it was
about to move the next stage—majority opposition. The stages framework helped
empower many of the Clamshell activists and helped them create a new strategy.
The Clamshell experience of discouragement and collapse is far from unusual. Within a
few years after achieving the goals of "take-off", every major social movement of the past
twenty years has undergone a significant collapse, in which activists believed that their
movements had failed, the power institutions were too powerful, and their own efforts
were futile. This has happened even when movements were actually progressing
reasonably well along the normal path taken by past successful movements!
The Movement Action Plan (MAP) was first published as the Fall 1986 edition of the
Dandelion. Twelve-thousand copies were published and distributed. This is a revised
edition of that article. People are invited to participate in the continuing development of
MAP and help spread it to local groups.
Social movements are collective actions in which the populace is alerted, educated, and
mobilized, over years and decades, to challenge the powerholders and the whole society
to redress social problems or grievances and restore critical social values. By involving the
populace directly in the political process, social movements also foster the concept of
government of, by, and for the people. The power of movements is directly proportional
to the forcefulness with which the grassroots exert their discontent and demand change.
The central issue of social movements, therefore, is the struggle between the movement
and the powerholders to win the hearts (sympathies), minds (public opinion), and active
support of the great majority of the populace, which ultimately holds the power to either
preserve the status quo or create change.
There needs to be a revival of democracy through "people power".The increasingly
centralized power of the state and other social institutions, combined with the new use of
the mass media to carry out the political process, has all but eliminated effective citizen
participation in the decision-making process. Centralized powerholders now make
decisions in the interests of a small minority, while simultaneously undermining the
common good and aggravating critical social problems.
But people are powerful. Power ultimately resides with the populace. History is full of
examples of an inspired citizenry involved in social movements that achieve social and
political changes—even topple tyrannical governments. Powerholders know this. They
know that their power depends on the support or acquiescence of the mass population.
Nonviolent social movements are a powerful means for preserving democracy and
making societies address critical social problems. They enable citizens to challenge the
prevailing centers of power and become active in society's decision-making process,
especially at times when the normal channels for their political participation are
ineffective. Social movements mobilize citizens and public opinion to challenge
powerholders and the whole society to adhere to universal values and sensibilities and
redress social problems. At their best, they create an empowered citizenry, shifting the
locus of social and political power from central elites and institutions to new grassroots
networks and groups. In recent years, social movements have helped establish many civil
rights for Blacks and women, end the Vietnam War, curb U.S. military interventions, and
topple dictators in Haiti and the Philippines. Presently, there are strong movements
opposing nuclear weapons, nuclear power, South African apartheid, and U.S.
intervention in Central America, among others.
THE NEED FOR A STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK
How-to-do-it models and manuals provide step-by-step guidelines for most human
activity, from baking a cake and playing tennis to having a relationship and winning a
war.While there have been some models available for organizing nonviolent actions,
based on Gandhi and King, and organizing communities, based on Alinsky and Ross,
there have been no such analytic tools for evaluating and organizing social movements.
The lack of a practical analytic model which describes the long process normally taken by
successful social movements disempowers activists and limits the effectiveness of their
movements. Without the guiding framework that explains the step-by-step process that
social movements go through, many activists are unable to identify successes already
achieved, set long and short term goals, confidently develop strategies, tactics, and
programs, and avoid common pitfalls.
Many experienced activists are "take-off junkies". They know how to create new social
movements, but they do not know how to wage long-term movements that progress
through a series of successive stages and win actual positive change. Within two years
after "take-off", most activists inevitably perceive that their movement is failing, and their
own efforts are futile. This leads to burnout, dropout, and the dissipation of movements.
Astoundingly, this happens even when social movements are progressing reasonably well
along the road normally taken by successful social movements in the past! Consequently,
many activists keep repeating the cycle of "take-off" to "despair and burnout" with each
succeeding new movement. MAP can enable activists to be social-change agents who
help their movements progress through all the stages of social movements.
There is another problem we hope MAP alleviates. Most social problems need to be
resolved through changes in policies and structures at the national level. But the national
power of social movements comes from the strength of its local groups; national social
movements are only as powerful as their grassroots, yet grassroots groups often are
unable to make a connection between their own efforts and what happens at the national
and international level. It all seems too distant and unconnected. The Movement Action
Plan, however, enables local activists to clearly see a direct connection between their own
efforts and their impact at the national level.
THE MOVEMENT ACTION PLAN (MAP)
The Movement Action Plan provides activists with a practical, how-to-do-it analytic tool
for evaluating and organizing social movements that are focused on national and
international issues, such as nuclear energy and weapons, nonintervention in Central
America, civil and human rights, AIDS, democracy and freedom, apartheid, or ecological
MAP describes eight stages through which social movements normally progress over a
period of years and decades. For each state, MAP describes the role of the public,
powerholders, and the movement. It provides organizers with a map of the long road of
successful movements, which helps them guide their movement along the way.
Most social movements are not just in one stage. Movements usually have many
demands for policy changes, and their efforts for each demand are in a specific stage. The
different demands of the Central America solidarity movement, for example, might be in
the following stages:prevent U.S. military invasion of Nicaragua (middle of stage seven),
stop aid to the contras (stage six), and a positive peace resolution in Central America
For each of the movement's major demands or goals, MAP enables activists to evaluate
the movement and identify which stage it is in; identify successes already achieved;
develop effective strategies, tactics, and programs; establish short and long-term goals;
and avoid common pitfalls.
Social movements do not fit neatly into MAP's eight stages or move through them in a
linear way. Social movements are more dynamic. Movements have a number of different
demands, and the effort for each demand is in a different MAP stage. When movements
achieve one demand, they focus on achieving other demands that are at earlier stages.
For example, in 1960, the civil rights movement's restaurant sin-in campaign successfully
went through all the stages. This was repeated over the next years with buses and public
accommodations, and it was repeated again in the 1965 voting rights movement, whose
take-off began in March with the Selma demonstrations and ended in August with a
Voting Rights Act.
Finally, MAP is only a theoretical model, built from past experience. Real-life social
movements will neither fit exactly nor move through the stages linearly, smoothly, or
precisely in the manner outlined.
The purpose of MAP is to give activists hope and empowerment, increase the
effectiveness of social movements, and reduce the discouragement that often contributes
to individual burnout, dropout, and the winding down of social movements.
TWO VIEWS OF POWER
Many activists simultaneously hold two contrasting models of power—power elite and
people power. Each of these views, however, leads to opposite movement strategies and
The Power Elite Model holds that society is organized in the form of a hierarchical
pyramid, with powerful elites at the top and the relatively powerless mass populace at the
bottom. The elites, through their dominant control of the state, institutions, laws, myths,
traditions, and social norms, serve the interests of the elites, often to the disadvantage of
the whole society. Power flows from the top to bottom.
Since people are powerless, social change can be achieved only by appealing to the elites
at the top to change their policies through normal channels and institutions, such as the
electoral process, lobbying Congress, and use of the courts. The target constituency is the
powerholders, and the method is persuasion, either convincing existing powerholders to
change their view or to elect new powerholders. The chief opposition organizations are
professional opposition organizations (POOs), which have national offices and staff in
Washington, D.C., with regional offices around the country.
The People Power Model holds that power ultimately resides in the mass populace. Even
in societies with strong power elites, such as the United States or Marcos-led Philippines,
the powerholders' power is dependent on the cooperation, acquiescence, or support of
the mass public. This model is represented by an inverse triangle, with the people at the
top and the power elite at the bottom.
People power is the model used by social movements. The movement's strategy is not
only to use normal channels in an effort to persuade powerholders such as President
Reagan to change their minds, but also to alert, educate, and mobilize a discontented,
impassioned, and determined grassroots population using nonviolent means beyond the
normal parliamentary methods institutions.
THE MOVEMENT'S SOURCE OF POWER
The source of power of social movements lies in two human qualities:
Social movements derive their power from an upset, impassioned, and motivated
populace set into motion. This happens when people recognize that their strongly felt
beliefs, values, and interests are unjustly violated, and the population is provided with
hope that change can happen and a means for them to act. People are specially aroused
to action when trusted public leaders, such as the President or Congresspeople, violate
the public's trust to carry out their duties of office in an honest and lawful manner.
- A strong sense of right and wrong. People have deeply felt beliefs and values, and
they react with extreme passion and determination when they realize that these
values are violated.
- We understand the world and reality, in large part, through symbolism.
The Irangate fiasco demonstrates this. Over a period of years, the administration carefully
built up the danger of a new demon, Middle East terrorists, to scare the American people
so they would support future U.S. military undertakings in the Middle East.
Simultaneously, President Reagan was pictured as the nation's protector against this new
demon. His image was built up as a strong father—Rambo and John Wayne rolled into
one. The people were led to believe he will use every means to challenge and defeat
terrorism everywhere. No deals. No compromises.
Reagan's popularity soared. This popularity took a nose dive, however, beginning in
November, 1986, when Irangate expose' revealed that Reagan violated the public's trust
and then lied to the public in an extensive cover-up. This follows the process of the
demise of President Nixon during Watergate.
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS VS. POWERHOLDERS
The process of achieving social change through social movements is the struggle between
the movement and powerholders of the hearts, minds, and support (or acquiescence) of
the general public. The powerholders advocate policies that are to the advantage of
society's elites, but often to the disadvantage of the majority population and in violation of
its strongly held values. Before movements begin, however, the populace is usually
unaware of the problem and the violation of their values, but they would be very upset
and easily spurred to action if they knew. This was the situation regarding nuclear energy
before 1977, the nuclear arms race before 1980, U.S. intervention in Central America
before 1983, and U.S. arms to Iran before the Fall of 1986.
THE POWERHOLDER STRATEGY
The powerholders maintain their power and the status quo by hiding the moral violations
of social conditions and by their policies through the following strategies:
- The first line of defense is through a strategy of "bureaucratic management" to
prevent the issue from becoming a public issue. This is achieved by (1)
"internalized obedience," keeping the problem out of the public's view of the
world and thereby out of people's consciousness; (2) keeping issues out of the
public spotlight and off the society's agenda; and (3) keeping the issue off of
society's political agenda of hotly contested issues.
- Some of the means used by the powerholders to achieve this strategy are the
following:(1) maintain hegemony of information available to the public through
the media; (2) deny that the problem exists (e.g., "no arms have been sent to
Iran"); (3) create "societal myths" which define the problem for the public exactly
the opposite of reality, such as calling the contras "freedom fighters" or saying that
the Marcos Duvallier governments were part of the "free world"; and (4) create
the threat of demons, such as Communism and terrorism, to install fear in the
general population so that they will unquestioningly support whatever policies the
- After a policy becomes a public issue, the powerholders are forced to switch to a
"crisis management" strategy by doing the following:(1) vindicate unjust policies
through "justification myths", which explain that their policies are needed to
overcome a bigger evil (e.g., "we need to support President Marcos, a minor
dictator, to prevent the worse evil of the Communist takeover in the Philippines");
(2) re-emphasize old demons or create new ones; (3) create trigger events to
justify a new policy and to get public consent, such as when the American
Government got the support of the American people for escalating the Vietnam
War by proclaiming that American ships were attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin; (4)
overcome public opposition by first ignoring then discrediting, destabilizing, and if
necessary, repressing the movement; (5) appearing to be involved in a resolution
process through promises, new rhetoric, appointing studies and commissions, and
negotiations, as in the Geneva nuclear arms reduction meetings; (6) make minor
changes through reforms, compromises, and cooptation of opponents; and (7) coopt
- The chief means by which the powerholders maintain unjust policies and keep
them hidden from the public is by having a two-track system of "official" vs.
"operative" doctrines and policies. (These are Noam Chomsky's terms.) Official
policies are fictitious policies which are given to the general public. They are
explained in high-sounding moral terms, such as democracy and freedom.
Operative policies, on the other hand, are the government's actual policies, which
are kept hidden from the public because they violate widely held values and
therefore would upset most citizens. For example, after the Boland amendment
was passed in 1984 forbidding U.S. governmental aid to the Nicaraguan contras,
the Reagan administration adopted an official policy of not providing
governmental aid; yet, the Irangate revelations have exposed the Administration's
operative policy of providing massive covert government aid spearheaded by Ollie
North and the National Security Council.
THE MOVEMENT'S STRATEGY
The movement's aim is to educate and win over an increasingly larger majority of the
public, and to mobilize the majority public into an effective force that brings about social
change. To achieve this, movements need to be grounded in the strongly felt and widely
held human and cultural values, symbols, sensibilities, and traditions of the general
population, such as freedom, democracy, justice, and human rights (but not those
cultural values with which we disagree, such as the Monroe Doctrine's proclamation that
the U.S. has the right to dominate Latin America). Only by showing the Public that the
movement upholds these values, and that the powerholders violate them, can the
population be won over and stirred to the level of passion required for them to act. In
contrast, movement activities and attitudes that violate the society's values and
sensibilities, including acts of violence and rebellious machismo posturing, have the
opposite effect; they turn both the public and many other activists against the movement.
The movement's strategy, mirroring that of the powerholders, needs to accomplish the
- Publicly show that the social conditions and powerholder policies violate values,
traditions, and self-interests of the general public. This includes publicly revealing
the difference between official and operative policies and doctrines.
- Keep the issue and moral violations in the public spotlight and on society' agenda
of hotly contested issues.
- Keep the issue and powerholders' policies on society's political agenda, such as
having aid to the contras voted on in Congress rather than carried out secretly by
- Counter the powerholders' social myths, justifications, anddenials that the problem
- Counter the powerholders' demonology. For example, the thousands of American
"citizen diplomats" who visit Russia counter the Reagan demonology that the
Soviets are monsters and an "evil empire" by revealing that the Russians are
people like us.
- Involve increasingly larger portions of the public in programs that challenge the
powerholders' policies and promote alternative visions and programs.
- Don't compromise too much too soon.
- After a large majority of public opinion is won, have an "endgame" strategy that
mobilizes the populace and institutions to create change, despite the determined
opposition of the central powerholders.
- Finally the movement's organizations and leadership, especially at the national and
regional levels, should serve, nurture, and empower the grassroots activists and
promote participatory democracy within the movement.
STAGE ONE: NORMAL TIMES
In this first stage—normal times—there are many conditions that grossly violate widely
held, cherished human values such as freedom, democracy, security, and justice, and the
best interests of society as a whole. Moreover, these conditions are maintained by the
policies of public and private powerholders, and a majority of public opinion. Yet, these
violations of values, sensibilities, and self-interest of the general society are relatively
unnoticed; they are neither in the public spotlight nor on society's agenda of hotly
contested issues. Normal times are politically quiet times. Some past normal times were
the violations of Blacks' civil rights before 1960; the Vietnam War before 1967; and U.S.
intervention in Central America and support for Marcos, Duvalier, and apartheid before
The opposition of these conditions and policies is small and receives more public ridicule
than support. Consequently, its efforts are relatively ineffective. There are three major
kinds of opposition:professional opposition organizations (POOs), ideological or
principled dissent groups, and grassroots groups that represent the victims.
The professional opposition organizations are centralized formal organizations, often with
national offices in Washington, D.C., which try to win achievable reforms through
mainstream political channels such as the electoral process, Congress, and the
courts.They are hierarchical, with a board of directors, strong staff, and a mass
membership that carries out nationally decided programs. These efforts have little success
because they do not have sufficient public support to provide the political clout required
to create change.
The principled dissent groups hold nonviolent demonstrations, rallies, pickets, and
occasional civil disobedience actions.These groups are usually small, little noticed, and
ineffective at achieving their demands. Through their symbolic actions, however, the
principled dissent groups are a shining moral light in the darkness.
The grassroots groups are composed of local citizens who oppose present conditions and
policies but do not yet have the support of the majority local population. They represent
the victims' perspective, provide direct services to victims, and also carry out programs
similar to those of the other opposition groups.
The powerholders often promote policies that support the interests of society's privileged
and powerful, and which violate the interests and values of the society as a whole. The
powerholders maintain these policies primarily by keeping them out of the public spotlight
and off the society's agenda of contested issues. They have to keep these policies hidden
from the general public because they know that the populace would be upset and
demand changes if they knew the truth. The powerholders are able to maintain these
policies and keep them hidden from the public by successfully carrying out their two-tact
strategy of highly proclaiming their official doctrine and policies, stated in terms of the
society's values and interests, while hiding from the public their actual or operative
doctrines and policies.
A political and social consensus supports the powerholders' official policies and status quo
because the public does not know that the government is actually functioning according
to the opposite operative doctrine policies. Consequently, the general populace is
unaware that the social conditions and public policies violate their values and self
interests; or, when they do know, they believe the justifications as to why they can't be
changed or are needed to protect a higher cause or value. As a result, the public is not
aware that there is a serious problem. Possibly only 10 to 15 percent of the population
disagrees with the powerholders' policies.
The goals at this stage are:
- to document that a serious problem exists,
- to maintain an active opposition no matter how small, and
- to move to the next stages.
The main danger is to be stuck in normal times indefinitely because of political naivete,
not knowing the realities of political and social life, and feeling powerless to create
Normal times are politically quiet times because the powerholders successfully promote
their official doctrine and policies while hiding their actual operative doctrine and policies,
thereby keeping the violations of conditions and their policies out of the public
consciousness and off society's agenda. The opposition feels hopeless because it seems
that the situation will continue indefinitely, and they feel powerless to change it. Beneath
the calm surface, however, the contradictions between society's values and the
powerholders' actual, operative policies hold the seeds for popular discontent that can
create dramatic changes.
CASE STUDY: THE AMERICAN ANTI-NUCLEAR ENERGY MOVEMENT
Stage One - 1940s to 1960s
The American government launched the nuclear weapons era in the 1940s to fulfill its
new role as the dominant world power. This was followed within a few years by the
nuclear energy era.Although it was given lots of media hype as the "peaceful atom",
there was virtually no public discussion and debate regarding the merits of the new
energy policy. The public heard only the official policy that nuclear energy was a modern
miracle which would provide clean, safe, and unlimited electricity that was too cheap to
The operative policy was that the full government apparatus had to provide massive
financial, legal, and developmental support to make nuclear energy possible. At the same
time, all the information that nuclear energy was actually dangerous, dirty, unbelievably
expensive, unnecessary, and finite, was suppressed. The public was not told about the
nuclear accident at Detroit's Fermi reactor in 1966, which was similar to the later accident
at Three Mile Island.
The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was the official governmental watchdog agency
assigned to look after the public's welfare. Instead, it promoted nuclear energy at all costs,
overriding laws, rules, costs, and safety while suppressing all opposition.Nevertheless,
public opposition managed to stop some of the more outrageous plans, such as nuclear
dumping in Cape Cod and a nuclear reactor in Queens. Moreover, a ballot referendum
stopped a nuclear plant in Eugene, Oregon.
A national consensus supported the powerholders' dreams of a glowing nuclear energy
future. Nuclear energy was not a public issue on society's agenda, for information
supporting the official policies dominated information received by the public.
STAGE TWO: PROVE THE FAILURE OF INSTITUTIONS
The intensity of public feeling, opinion, and upset required for social movements to occur
can happen only when the public realizes that the governmental policies violate widely
held beliefs and values. The public's upset becomes especially intensified when official
authorities violate the public trust by using the power of office to deceive the public and
govern unfairly and unlawfully. Hannah Arendt wrote that "people are more likely driven
to action by the unveiling of hypocrisy than the prevailing conditions."This was clearly
shown by the dramatic turnaround of the American public's opinion of President Reagan
after Irangate exposed that instead of acting on his official policy of leading the world's
defiant fight against terrorists, his operative policy was actually cooperating, supporting,
and making deals with terrorists.
The opposition must prove both that the problem exists and that the official powerholders
and institutions perpetuate the problem. Therefore, the opposition must:
Positive results are not expected now. The point is not to win the cases, but to prove that
the powerholders are preventing the democratic system from working. Eventually,
however, some of these cases might actually be won and have the powerful impact of
creating a movement and social change. After twenty years in the courts, for example, the
NAACP Legal Defense Fund's case of Brown vs. U.S. was won in the Supreme Court in
1954. It established the principle that "separate but equal" was no longer the law of the
land, which became a legal basis for the civil rights movement.
- Undertake research to prove that a problem exists which violates social values and
- Prove that the official doctrine and policies of governmental powerholders and
institutions violate society's values and the public trust. This must be not only from
researching the facts but also from actually trying every avenue for official citizen
participation in the democratic process for deciding on social policies and
programs, and proving that they do not work.
- Testify, undertake challenges, and file complaints in every branch of the
bureaucratic machinery at the local, state, and federal level of both public and
private bodies that are supposed to be open for citizen participation and redress.
- Prove that they are "kangaroo courts". Go to every decision-making body
whether welcome or not.
- File suit in the courts.
- Take their concerns to city council, state assembly, and national Congress. These
programs are usually primarily carried out through the auspices of professional
The powerholders fight the opposition through the normal channels, usually winning
easily while continuing their operative policies and programs. The powerholders do not
feel much threatened or concerned, and they handle the situation as a problem of
bureaucratic management rather than a crisis of public confidence and power. Through
the mass media, they easily promote their official policies while hiding their operative
policies thus successfully keeping the whole potential problem out of peoples'
consciousness and the public spotlight, and off of society's agenda.
Public opinion and social consensus continues to support the government's official
policies and status quo, as the consciousness of the general population remains
unchanged. Yet, even the low level of evolving conditions and opposition causes public
opinion against these policies to rise from about 10 to 20 percent. Except for the rare
media coverage of opponents' activities, the problem is still neither in the public spotlight
nor on society's agenda of contested issues.
- Document the problem, including the involvement of the powerholders.
- Document the citizens' attempt to use the normal channels of citizen participation
and prove that they did not work.
- Become experts.
- Build small opposition organizations.
- Holding the belief that social problems can be corrected by POOs using
mainstream institutions and methods without building a new social consensus,
mobilizing widespread grassroots opposition, and engaging in a long struggle,
which uses extra-parliamentary nonviolent action that changes the present
imbalance of power.
- Continuing to feel powerless and hopeless.
This stage can be particularly disheartening. The problem and the policies of
powerholders continue unabated, there is little dissent or publicity, and the situation
seems like it might continue indefinitely—as indeed it might. Yet the efforts of this stage
can eventually be used to prove that the emperor has no clothes and is a prerequisite for
any future social movement. Nevertheless, this stage is for the stout-hearted, determined,
CASE STUDY: THE AMERICAN ANTI-NUCLEAR ENERGY MOVEMENT
Stage Two - 1970 to 1974
The nuclear energy era moved rapidly in the early 1970s. There were more than 25 new
reactor orders each year. By the end of 1974, the number of operating reactors grew to
52, and the total number of reactors operating, ordered, and under construction leapt to
It seemed that the nuclear era was well on its way to achieving the government's goal of
1,000 operating plants by the year 2000. A total social and political consensus supported
the nuclear era's official policies and objectives, new reactor orders werepouring in, and
the problems regarding nuclear energy were kept out of the public spotlight and society's
agenda hotly contested issues.
There was, however, a tremendous growth of citizen opposition, though still relatively
small and unnoticed. Independent grassroots groups of local citizens sprang up around
many of the new reactor sites. They challenged the building of the reactors in long and
laborious AEC licensing hearings, which were held both locally and on Capitol Hill. While
these efforts were essentially futile, they proved that the AEC hearings were a "kangaroo
court", they documented the overwhelming negative aspects of nuclear energy, and they
made experts out of local citizens. The hearings began being held at local reactor sites;
and statewide citizen initiatives were held. Although most of these initiatives lost by a two-to-one margin, they served to educate the public and build opposition.
The public still mainly supported nuclear power and was little aware of its problems. Yet,
public opinion against nuclear energy grew 20 to 30 percent, as measured by the results
of the referenda.
STAGE THREE: RIPENING CONDITIONS
The "take-off" of a new social movement requires preconditions that build up over many
years. These conditions include broad historic developments, a growing discontented
population of victims and allies, and a budding autonomous grassroots opposition, all of
which encourage discontent with the present conditions, raise expectations that they can
change, and provide the means to do it.
The historical forces are usually long-term, broad trends and events that worsen the
problem, upset subpopulations, raise expectations, promote the means for new activism,
and personify the problem. They are mostly outside the control of the opposition. For
example, some of the historical forces that made the 1960s ripe for the Black civil rights
movement included the emergence of independent Black African countries, the large
Northern migration of Blacks who maintained their ties to the segregated South, the rising
black college student population, and the 1954 Supreme Court's Brown vs. U.S. decision
that provided a legal basis for full civil rights.
A tremendous unheralded ripening process happens within the opposition:
- There needs to be a growing consciousness and discontent among subpopulations
of victims and their allies, providing them with a new level of
understanding about the seriousness of the problem, the values violations, how
they are affected, and the illicit involvement of the powerholders and their
institutions. The discontent can be caused by (1) either perceived or real
worsening conditions, which creates many new victims, such as in the 1970s when
hundreds of new atomic plant sites upset millions of Americans who lived nearby;
(2) rising expectations, as when the new wave of Black college students felt
themselves to be full citizens but were refused the simple civil rights of service at
local lunch counters; or (3) personalization of the problem, in which the problem is
revealed through the experience of real victims, as when four church women were
killed in El Salvador in 1980.
- The growing numbers of discontented local people across the country quietly start
new autonomous local groups, which as a whole form a "new wave" of grassroots
opposition, which is independent from the established POOs. These groups soon
become frustrated with the official institutions, channels, and powerholders, which
they realize are totally biased in support of the status quo; and they become
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increasingly upset with some of the established POOs, whom they see as working
in a dead-end process with the powerholders.
- Small local prototype demonstrations and nonviolent action campaigns begin to
dramatize the problem, put a dim public spotlight on it, and set a precedent for
- A few key facilitator-visionaries provide the new-wave local opposition with
information, ideology, training, networking, hope, and a vision of a rising
- Pre-existing networks and groups, which can provide support, solidarity, and
participants for a new movement, need to become available to be used in the new
movement. The nonintervention movement, for example, had available for its
take-off church networks, which had lots of experience in Central America, and
activists who had been in the nuclear weapons and energy movements, both of
which had just got out of their own take-off stages.
Though irritated, the powerholders remain relatively unconcerned, believing that they can
continue to contain the opposition through management of mainstream social, political,
and communications institutions. The official policies remain publicly believed and
unchallenged, and the operative policies continue to be hidden from the general
A public consensus to support the powerholders' policies, and the problem remains off
society's agenda. Yet, the growing public awareness of the problem, discontent, and new
wave opposition, primarily at the local level, quietly raises the public opinion opposing
current powerholder policies to 30 percent, even though the issue remains off society's
The purpose of this stage is to help create the conditions for the take-off of a social
movement. The goals are:
- Recognize historical conditions that help make a new movement possible.
- Create, inspire, and prepare the new wave groups, including the formation of new
networks, leadership, and expertise that will spearhead the new movement.
- Prepare pre-existing networks to be concerned about the issue and involved in the
- Personalize the problem.
- Begin a small prototype nonviolent action project.
Some of the key hazards of this stage include:
- Not recognizing the ripening conditions for a new social movements.
- Having the bureaucracy, legalism, and centralized power of the POOs squash the
creativity, independence, nonviolent methods, and spontaneity of the new
The stage is set for new social movement. There is a critical problem that appears to be
worsening, proven violations by the powerholders, many victims, spreading discontent,
historical conditions, available pre-existing networks, and an emerging new wave of
grassroots opposition. Yet, no one—the public, powerholders, or even the new wave
activists—is expecting the emergence of a new movement.
CASE STUDY: THE AMERICAN ANTI-NUCLEAR ENERGY MOVEMENT
Stage Three - 1975 to 1976
Conditions were ripening for the take-off of a new social movement. Tens of millions of
citizens learned that they had become personally susceptible to the costs and dangers of
nuclear energy because they lived within 50 miles of a new reactor. The grassroots local
opposition groups quietly grew in size and number and became increasingly frustrated as
the official government institution, the AEC, repeatedly violated its own rules and ignored
reasonable citizen concerns in its support of nuclear energy. The increasing number of
local groups grew into a substantial new wave of opposition.
The opposition organized statewide referenda in 1976, and although they lost in seven
out of eight states, the process served to educate the public and to raise public debate.
Moreover, the Missouri referenda won by a two-to-one margin. This was a severe blow to
the nuclear industry because it ended the state CWIP law, which allowed utilities to
collect the costs for building reactors from ratepayers in their monthly electric bills. The
movement then began getting these laws changed in most states, thereby undercutting
the major means by which utilities were going to pay to build the hundreds of new
Other ripening signs included:
Little noticed by either the movement or the public; however, there were only six new
orders and over 20 cancellations of reactors already on order, dropping the total number
of plants operating and under construction from 260 to 237. The government reduced its
planned number of operating reactors for the year 2000 to 500. Still, the nuclear
opponents held little hope for stopping nuclear energy. The ripening conditions seemed
far short of what would be necessary to stop the apparent expansion of the nuclear
industry. The government and electric utility industry continued their operative policies of
publicizing the glories of reactors, and in these two years 10 new operating reactors
brought the total number of "deployed" reactors to 62. Although public opposition rose
to about 30 percent, nuclear energy still was not on society's agenda and was supported
by the public consensus.
- The end of the Vietnam War in 1975 made anti-war activists and networks
available for a new movement.
- The temporary success of the occupation of the Whyl, Germany, nuclear plant site
by 25,000 citizens provided an inspiring method of nonviolent resistance.
- In the Spring of 1976, the AEC local hearing decided to license the Seabrook,
New Hampshire, nuclear plant construction plans, ignoring the overwhelming legal
arguments against it. A few weeks later, the Clamshell Alliance held the first civil
disobedience occupation of a nuclear plant site. Inspired by the Whyl mass
blockade, Clamshell announced it would organize a mass blockade the next
STAGE FOUR: SOCIAL MOVEMENT TAKE-OFF
New social movements surprise and shock everyone when they burst into the public
spotlight on the evening TV news and in newspaper headlines. Overnight, a previously
unrecognized social problem becomes a social issue that everyone is talking about. It
starts with a highly publicized, shocking incident, a "trigger event", followed by a
nonviolent action campaign that includes large rallies and dramatic civil disobedience.
Soon these are repeated in local communities around the country.
The trigger event is a shocking incident that dramatically reveals a critical social problem
to the general public in a new and vivid way, such as the arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing
to move to the back of a Montgomery bus in 1955, NATO's 1979 announcement to
deploy American Cruise and Pershing 2 nuclear weapons in Europe, or the Marcos
government's shooting of Ninoy Aquino as he arrived at the Manila airport in 1983.
Trigger events can be deliberate acts by individuals, governments, or the opponents, or
they can be accidents.
By starkly revealing to the public that a social condition and powerholder policies
blatantly violate widely held cherished social values, citizen self-interest, and the public
trust, the trigger event instills a profound sense of moral outrage in the general populace.
Consequently, the general population responds with great passion, demanding an
explanation from the powerholders and ready to hear more information from the
opposition. The trigger event is also a trumpet's call to action for the new wave opposition
groups around the country.
A new social movement is created only when the opposition organizes a dramatic
nonviolent action campaign immediately following the trigger event and when the
nonviolent action campaign is repeated in local areas across the country. The nonviolent
action campaign keeps the public spotlight on the problem and builds social tension over
time. This "politics as theater" process becomes a social crisis, which turns the problem
into a public issue. The shooting of Aquino, for example, was followed the next week by
a million people in a Marcos-banned funeral march down the streets of Manila, and the
NATO Cruise and Pershing 2 decision was followed by gigantic protest demonstrations in
the capitols of Europe.
The success of nonviolent action campaigns is based on sociodrama demonstrations.
Sociodrama demonstrations are simple demonstrations that:
These are dilemma demonstrations in which the powerholders lose regardless of their
reaction. If they ignore the demonstrators, the policies are prevented from being carried
out. If, on the other hand, the demonstrators are harassed or arrested, it puts public
sympathy on the side of the demonstrators and against the powerholders. For example,
during the sit-ins when Blacks sat at the lunch counters to eat, if angry white crowds
attacked them or the police arrested them, the public got upset and sided with the
demonstrators; if the police did nothing, the Blacks would either have to be served or,
just by sitting there, prevent business as usual.
- are dramatic and exciting;
- enable demonstrators to put themselves into the key points where the
powerholders carry out their policies;
- clearly reveal the values violations by the powerholders;
- show the movement supporting and representing the values, symbols, myths, and
traditions of the society; and
- are repeatable in local communities across the country.
The new movement takes off as the nonviolent action campaigns are their sociodrama
actions are repeated in local communities throughout the country. The demonstrations in
Manila, for example, were followed by demonstration throughout the Philippines. The
1977 Seabrook reactor occupation created immediate spontaneous support
demonstrations across the country, and, within months, hundreds of new grassroots antinuclear
energy groups started up, who soon began occupying their own local nuclear
Scores of new independent local action groups spring into being, forming a new wave
decentralized grassroots autonomous opposition that is based on non violent resistance.
Movement take-off is the result of thousands of people across the country taking
spontaneous actions and forming new protest groups (or revitalizing old ones). These
new groups usually adopt loose organizational structures that are based on direct
participatory democracy, little formal structure, and loosely defined membership.
Together these groups form a new wave of movement because they are a new force and
are not connected to either the established POOs or principled dissent organizations.
Why do social movements take off? Some of the reasons why movements take off are:
- The right conditions were created by the earlier stages.
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- The public, altered by the mass media because of the trigger event and nonviolent
action campaigns, is outraged by the contradiction between its values and the
social conditions and powerholders' operative policies.
- The new movement groups join the powerholders as the keepers of society's
values and symbols.
- The new climate of social crisis gives hope and inspires action by many citizens.
- The repeatability of the nonviolent action campaign is local areas provides
grassroots activists with an effective means for involvement, which they believe
can be effective.
- Participation in the new movement gives meaning to many peoples' lives because
it gives them an opportunity to act out their beliefs, feelings, and spirituality.
The powerholders are shocked, upset, and angry. They realize that the genie is out of the
bottle. They have lost on the first law of political control: keep issues out of people's
consciousness and the public spotlight, and off society's agendas. They take a hard line in
defending their policies and criticizing the new movement, calling it radical, irresponsible,
and even communist-inspired. While some liberal politicians support the movement's
position, mainstream Republicans and Democrats alike continue to support existing
Within a year or two, public opinion opposing government operative policies rapidly
grows from 30 percent of 50 percent, as for the first time the general populace sees the
operative policies and hears views countering those of the powerholders. The public is
upset and concerned by the stark contrast between what they see and hear in the news
and what the government tells them. That is, they begin to see for the first time the
difference between the official and operative policies revealed to them by the trigger
event and the movement.
The overall goal of this stage is to get the whole society to begin seeing, thinking, and
acting on the social problem. A movement take-off gets the whole society moving on the
The specific goals are:
- Create a new grassroots-based social movement.
- Put the powerholders' policies in the public consciousness and spotlight and on
society's agenda of contentious public issues.
- Create a public platform for the movement to educate the populace.
- Create public dissonance on the issue. That is, force the general population to
have to think about the issue by having two contradictory views of reality
presented to them constantly.
- Win the sympathies and the opinions of the public.
- Become recognized as the legitimate opposition.
Getting the powerholders to change their minds and policies is not a goal of this stage!
The main pitfalls of this stage are:
- political naivete;
- burnout from overwork, not seeing progress as success, and unrealistic
expectations of immediate victory; and
- arrogant self-righteousness and radicalism.
The take-off stage is an exciting time of trigger event, dramatic actions, passion, a new
social movement, public spotlight, crisis, high hopes and output of energy. Both a
previously unrecognized social problem and official policies become a public issue, and
within two years a majority public opinion is won.But take-off is the shortest stage. After
relatively rapidly achieving the goals of this stage, the movement progresses to Stage Six.
However, many activists don't recognize this success. Instead, they believe that the
movement has failed and their own efforts have been futile; consequently, they move to
CASE STUDY: THE AMERICAN ANTI-NUCLEAR ENERGY MOVEMENT
Stage Four:1977 - 1978
The nuclear power opposition turned into a social movement in the Spring of 1977. the
arrest and jailing for two weeks of 1,414 Clamshell Alliance protesters who were
blockading the Seabrook nuclear power construction site served as the trigger event,
putting this issue in the worldwide media spotlight for weeks.Support demonstrations
sprung up across the country while the protesters were still in jail. National media
interviewed the jailed protesters daily, providing them with a platform for educating the
public and becoming recognized as a legitimate opposition. Moreover, by the end of the
year, the Seabrook action inspired the formation of a new local anti-nuclear groups and
similar blockade actions across the country, launching a new anti-nuclear energy social
movement led by the new wave of local independent groups.
By 1978, local and state referenda went against nuclear energy in a number of places.
Kern County, California, reversed the two-to-one vote of 1976, rejecting the planned
Wasco nuclear plant. New Hampshire voted against CWIP and voted out pro-nuclear,
anti-Clamshell incumbent Governor Thompson. Public opinion rose to about 50 percent
against nuclear energy.
The nuclear industry again appeared to be advancing nicely, as the number of operating
plants rose to 71. But there were no new nuclear reactor orders, and 21 reactors already
under construction were cancelled, drastically reducing the total number of reactors
opeating under construction to 195. The powerholders took a hard line in support of
nuclear, warned of future blackouts and a weakened America, and attacked the new
movement as violent, naive, and anti-American.
The opposition successfully created a new social movement through nonviolent actions,
became recognized as legitimate, educated the general public, and put nuclear energy in
the public spotlight and on society's agenda.
STAGE FIVE: IDENTITY CRISIS OF POWERLESSNESS
After a year or two, the high hopes of movement take-off seems inevitably to turn into
despair. Most activists lose their faith that success is just around the corner and come to
believe that it is never going to happen. They perceive that the powerholders are too
strong, their movement has failed, and their own efforts have been futile. Most surprising
is the fact that this identity crisis of powerlessness and failure happens when the
movement is outrageously successful—when the movement has just achieved all of the
goals of the take-off stage within two years. This stage of feelings of self-identity crisis and
powerlessness occurs simultaneously with Stage Six because the movement as a whole
has progressed to the majority stage.
Belief that the movement is failing
Many activists conclude that their movement is failing because they believe that:
- The movement has not achieved its goals. After two years of hard effort, which
included big demonstrations, dramatic civil disobedience, arrests, court scenes and
even time in jail, media attention, and even winning a majority of public opinion
against the powerholders' policies, the movement has not achieved any of its
goals. The government is still waging the war in Vietnam, building five nuclear
weapons a day, or sending aid to the contras. The problem, however, is not that
the movement has failed to achieve its goals, but that expectations that its goal
could possibly be achieved in such a short time were unrealistic. Achieving
changes in public policies in the face of determined opposition of the
powerholders takes time, often decades.
- Judging that the movement has failed because it has not achieved its goals after
two years is analogous to parents criticizing their daughter for not graduating after
completing two years in college with straight "A" grades.Parents don't do this
because they know that achieving a B.S. degree is a four-year process. The
movement, therefore should be judged not by whether it has won yet, but by how
well it is progressing along the road of success.
- The movement has not had any "real" victories. This view is unable to accept the
progress that the movement has made along the road of success, such as creating
a massive grassroots-based social movement, putting the issue on society's
agenda, or winning a majority of public opinion. Ironically, involvement in the
movement tends to reduce activists' ability to identify short-term successes.
Through the movement, activists learn about the enormity of the problem, the
agonizing suffering of the victims, and the complicity of powerholders. The
intensity of this experience tends to increase despair and the unwillingness to
accept any short-term success short of achieving ultimate goals. "What difference
does it make that a majority of the American people and Congress oppose contra
aid, when people are still being killed in Central America?" This is another version
of judging the movement for not having achieved its ultimate goals rather than by
whether it is making reasonable progress along the road.
- The power holders seem too powerful—they have not changed either their minds
or their policies, but defiantly proclaim them louder than ever, totally ignoring the
protests of the movement and the objections of half of the populace. The failure of
the central powerholders to change either their minds or policies is a poor
indicator of the movement's progress. The central powerholders will be the last
segment of society to change their minds and policies. The longer that the public
sees that the powerholders are violating social values and ignoring the democratic
majority opinion, the higher the political costs to the powerholders for continuing
those policies. Continued used public exposure of the powerholders upholding
these policies in the face of public opinion, therefore, can be an indicator that the
powerholders' original goal of keeping the issue out of public consciousness and
off the society's agenda is failing. For example, with increasing worldwide media
coverage of President Botha's proclamations of apartheid and the effects of this
policy, the world's resistance to apartheid increases.
- The movement is dead because it no longer looks like the take-off stage. The
image that most people have of successful social movement is that of the take-off
stage—giant demonstrations, civil disobedience, media hype, crisis, and constant
political theater—but this is always short-lived. Movements that are successful in
take-off soon progress to the much more powerful but more sedate-appearing
majority stage, as described in the next section. Although movements in the
majority stage appear to be smaller and less effective as they move from a national
to local focus, and from mass actions to less visible grassroots organizing, they
actually undergo enormous growth in size and power. The power of the invisible
grassroots provide the power of national social movements.
- The powerholders and mass media report that the movement is dead, irrelevant,
or non-existent. The powerholders and mass media not only report that the
movement is failing, but they also refuse to acknowledge that a massive popular
movement exists. Large demonstrations and majority public opposition are
dismissed as "vaguely reminiscent of the Sixties", rather than recognized as social
movements at least as big and relevant as those 20 years ago. And when
movements do succeed, they are not given credit. The demise of nuclear energy is
said to be caused by cost overruns, high lending rates, lack of safety, Chernobyl
and Three Mile Island, rather than from the political and public opposition created
by the people power.
By the end of take-off, many activists suffer from "battle fatigue". After two years of
virtual 'round-the-clock activity in a crisis atmosphere, at great personal sacrifice, many
activists find themselves mentally and physically exhausted and don't see anything to
show for it. Out of quilt or an extreme sense of urgency, many are unable to pace
themselves with adequate rest, fun, leisure, and attendance to personal business.
Eventually, large numbers of activists who were part of movement take-off lose hope and
a sense of purpose; they become depressed, burn out, and drop out.
Stuck in Protest
Another reason why many activists become depressed at this time is that they are unable
to switch from protesting against authority in a crisis atmosphere to waging long-term
struggle to achieve positive changes. Many activists are unable to switch their view of the
process of success from one of mass demonstrations to that of winning the majority of
public through long-term grassroots organizing. Consequently, being active in Stage Six
feels like they are abandoning the movement. In addition, many principled dissenters
believe that the majority stage movement is not pure enough. The new movement
organizations are seen as a new oppressive authority. Many other activists originally
joined the movement assuming it was a short-term time of crisis and are not prepared for
long-term involvement. Finally, another reason why many activists are unable to switch to
Stage Six is that they do not have the knowledge or skills required to understand or
participate in the majority stage. For example, nonviolence trainers play a critical
leadership and teaching role during the take-off stage, but virtually disappear in the
majority stage because they lack the understanding and skills to train activists to
participate in this stage.
Rebelliousness, machismo, and more "militant" action and violence are some of the
negative effects of feelings of despair and powerlessness.
Some activists at this time adopt more militant, even violent, actions. They believe the
nonviolent methods used to date have failed because they were too weak. New splinter
groups are started to carry out the militant strategy, such as the Committee for Direct
Action at Seabrook in 1979. These efforts are often rrckless and defiant acts of despair,
frustration and rage, which stem from the collapse of unrealistic expectations that the
movement should have achieved its goals within the first two years. Because they turn off
both other activists and the general public, militant actions invariably do more harm than
good. These methods are also advocated by outside groups who want to use the
movements to pursue their own ends, or by agent provocateurs.
The movement needs to make deliberate effort to undercut this problem. First, it needs to
reduce the feelings of despair and disempowerment by providing activists with a long
term strategic framework, such as MAP, which helps them realize that they are powerful
and winning, not losing. Also, it is important that the movement adopt clear guidelines of
total nonviolence, which are widely publicized and agreed to by all groups and activists
which officially participate in the movement. The nonviolent policy must be enforced by
having nonviolent guidelines and training for all demonstration participants, and by
having adequate "peacekeeping" at all demonstrations.
The feelings of failure and exhaustion, the organizational crisis, the calls for militant
actions, confusion, hopelessness, and powerlessness all contribute to widespread burnout
The loose organizational model of the new wave local organizations begins to become a
liability after six months. The loose structure promoted the flexibility, creativity,
participatory democracy, independence, and solidarity needed for quick decisions and
nonviolent actions during take-off. But after six months, the loose organizational
structures tend to cause excessive inefficiency, participant burnout, and an informal
Movement activists need to realize what the powerholders already know—that power
ultimately lies with the people, not the powerholders. They need to recognize the power
and success of social movements—including their own. Some ways in which activists can
overcome their identity crisis of disempowerment are the following:
- Use an analytic framework of successful social movements, such as MAP, to
evaluate their movement, identify successes, and set strategy and tactics.
- Form personal/political support groups that enable activists to participate in
movements as holistic human beings, take care of their personal needs, reduce
guilt, have fun, and provide support (and challenge) in doing political analysis and
- Adopt a strict policy of nonviolence.
- Adopt "empowerment" models of organization and leadership at both the national
and local levels. The empowerment model is a third way that tries to maximize the
positive and minimize the negatives of both the hierarchical and the loose models,
trying to blend participatory democracy, efficiency, personal support, and
effectiveness. This model of leadership more resembles the nurturing mother than
the strong patriarchal father. While the national organization leadership need to
coordinate and represent the whole movement, their primary goal should be to
nurture the empowerment of the grassroots and foster democracy and non-elitism
within the whole movement.
- Help activists evolve from protestors to long-term social change agents. Provide
social change agent training, which includes not only nonviolence but all the skills
for understanding and organizing successful social change movements.
- Continue a hardlinestrategy, including escalatingtheir policies to prove that they
are in charge and that both the movement and public have no effect.
- Infiltrate the movement to get intelligence and to confuse, disrupt, and discredit
the new activism. Agent provocateurs promote wild schemes, violence,
structurelessness, disorganization, rebelliousness, machismo, and schemes to
The general populace experiences dissonance, not knowing who or what to believe.
While many agree with the movement's challenges, they also fear siding with dissidents
and losing the security of the powerholders and status quo. The alternatives are unclear
to them. The general citizenry is about evenly divided, 50 percent to 50 percent, between
the powerholders and the movement. Movement violence, rebelliousness, and seeming
anti-Americanism turn people off and tend to frighten them into supporting the
powerholders' policies, police actions, and status quo.
The overall goal is to help activists become empowered and move on to Stage Six, to
catch up with their movement. They need to learn what the long road of success looks
like, and how far they have come along that road. Some specific goals are to help
- become strategists by using a framework such as MAP,
- form political and personal support groups,
- adopt nonviolence,
- adopt empowerment models of organization and leadership, and
- move from protesters and long-life social change agents.
The chief pitfalls of this stage that must be overcome are:
- Disempowerment—feeling the movement is losing when it is succeeding
- The "tyranny of structurelessness" and anti-leadership
- Rebellion, machismo, and violence
- Despair, burnout, and dropout
The crisis of identity and powerless is a personal crisis for activists. After the experience of
a movement in take-off stage, their view of the world and themselves is transformed.
They come to realize that the problem is more serious than they had thought, the
governmental institutions, powerbrokers, and democratic processes which they thought
would help solve social problems were actually part of the problem, and that the problem
can only be resolved if they are part of the solution. Rather than feeling depressed and
powerless, activists now need to recognize the power and success of themselves and their
movement. The need to realize that their movement has successfully progressed to Stage
Six, to the majority opinion stage, and they need to catch up to it by finding a role for
themselves and the group in waging Stage Six.
CASE STUDY: THE AMERICAN ANTI-NUCLEAR ENERGY MOVEMENT
Stage Five:1978 Plus
While anti-nuclear movement progressed to Stage Six in 1979, many of the new wave
activists got stuck in Stage Five, beginning in 1978. They believed that their movement
was ineffective and dying. Not one reactor was permanently stopped by nonviolent
blockades, and attendance at demonstrations dropped rather than increasing
exponentially as was believed to be necessary. They did not count as important their
successes—that in two years they created a new nationwide grassroots-based social
movement, a majority of the public questioned nuclear energy, the public was being
educated, and nuclear energy was put in the public spotlight and on society's agenda.
These activists chiefly saw that reactors continued to be built and started up. They
discounted that there were no new reactor orders, dozens of plant cancellations, and
rapidly dropping number of nuclear reactors being built and on order. They judged that
their movement was losing because it had not yet won, not by how well it was
progressing along the long road of success.Consequently, many activists, feeling
powerless and despondent, burned out and dropped out. Others, still believing in the
romantic myth that the nuclear energy era was to be stopped by forceful resistance,
started "militant" groups such as the Coalition for Direct Actions. This strategy died,
though, after several years.
Many of these activists joined demonstrations during re-trigger events, such as the 1979
Three Mile Island accident, and most soon joined the Nuclear Freeze or non-intervention
movements when they achieved take-off stage in the early 1980s.
STAGE SIX: MAJORITY PUBLIC SUPPORT
The movement must consciouslyundergo a transformation from spontaneous protest,
operating in a short-term crisis, to a long-term popular struggle to achieve positive social
change. It needs to win over the neutrality, sympathies, opinions, and even support of an
increasingly larger majority of the populace and involve many of them in the process of
opposition and change. The central agency of opposition must slowly change from the
new wave activists and groups to the great majority of nonpolitical populace, the PPOs,
and the mainstream political forces as they are convinced to agree with the movement's
position. The majority stage is a long process of eroding the social, political, and
economic supports that enable the powerholders to continue their policies. It is a slow
process of social transformation that create a new social and political consensus, reversing
those of normal times.
Although movements need to organize both nationally and locally, they are only as
powerful as the power of their grassroots. All the national offices in Washington, D.C.,
The Movement Action Plan 27
can do is "cash in" on the social and political gains created at the community level all
over the country. The movement's chief goal, therefore, is to nurture, support, and
empower grassroots activists and groups.Finally, activists also need to have a grand
strategy for waging Stage Six majority movements to win positive social changes against
the strong opposition of the powerholders.
The opposition needs to wage a Stage Six strategy. Too often strategy has meant a
calendar of events, an assorted number of unconnected campaigns, and reactions to new
governmental policies. A Stage Six strategy includes a set of strategic programs, new
organizational and leadership models, and an overall grand strategy.
- Ongoing low-intensity local organizing. The key to Stage Six success ultimately is
the ongoing, day-in and day-out basic efforts of grassroots local activists—public
speaking, information tables at supermarkets, leafletting, yard sales, and so on—all
involving face-to-face education of citizens by their peers and keeping the issue
before the public.
- Massive public education and conversion. The basic purpose of the movement in
this stage is to educate, convert, and involve all segments of the population. This is
accomplished through a broad variety of means, including the mass media. Most
important, however, are direct contacts through the low-intensity activities at the
local level, through sidewalk tables, demonstrations, leaflets, petitions,
housemeetings, literature, and bumper stickers. The issue needs to be re-defined
to show how it directly affects everyone's values and self-interests and what they
can do about it.
- Build a broad-based pluralized movement. The movement needs to include all
segments of the population through coalitions, networks, co-sponsorship of events
and petitions, and directly involving all constituency groups, example,
unemployed, Blacks, workers, teachers, Hispanics, religious, women, students,
etc. This includes movement organizations within each constituency such as
Women for Peace and Teachers for Social Responsibility. In addition, the
movement needs groups in all three categories—professional opposition
organizations, new wave grassroots, and principled dissent. The different
movement organizations must be allies with each other, overcoming the tendency
towards self-righteousness, anti-mosity, and divisiveness.
- Renewed use of mainstream political and social institutions. As the movement
wins larger majorities of public opinion, mainstream channels (e.g., Congress, city
councils, officials, election campaigns, candidates, courts, official commissions and
hearings, and ballot referenda) are used with increasing effectiveness. While they
serve to build the movement—keeping the issue in the public spotlight, educating
the public, and so on—they also win actual victories on demands where there is
big public support in places where the movement is strongest and the central
powerholders weakest, often at the local and state levels. These successes serve to
build the movement's success from the ground up over the coming years. For
example, the opposition to U.S. direct military invasion of Nicaragua has been (at
least temporarily) successful at the Congressional level, but not at the central
powerholder level of the Reagan administration. And nuclear energy plans have
been halted at the local and state levels, while the central government and nuclear
industry maintain their policies favoring increased use of nuclear power. Also, the
opposition to nuclear weapons has been built into a national consensus, which is
putting enormous pressure on the national government.Even President Reagan
has tried to appear to be ending nuclear weapons, especially U.S. missiles in
Europe, where there is overwhelming public opposition.
- Nonviolent rallies, demonstrations, and campaigns, especially at critical times and
places. Although the movement now includes a wide range of programs, it must
continue to have nonviolent actions, rallies, and campaigns, with occasional civil
disobedience. While nonviolent actions should be held at traditional times and
places, such as on Hiroshima and Nagasaki days, they should also occur at critical
times and places, such as when Congress votes on aid to the contras, when
dictators visit, and during re-trigger events, such as the Chernobyl accident.
Because people are involved in so many different programs in this stage, and
many no longer see the purpose of some nonviolent actions, the numbers
participating in any specific national or local demonstration usually drop below
those of the take-off stage (with the exception of some new crises). However,
because there are nonviolent actions happening in hundreds of local communities
around the country when movements are in the majority stage, the nationwide
total number participating in demonstrations actually increases enormously in this
Although nonviolent actions sometimes do help win immediate successes, such as
change a city council member's or Congressperson's vote, their chief purpose is to
help achieve many of the goals of Stages Four to Six, such as keeping the issue in
the public spotlight and providing a platform for the movement to educate the
- Citizen involvement programs. The movement needs to develop programs in
which large numbers of common citizens can become actively involved in
programs that challenge current traditions, policies, and laws, while simultaneously
carrying out the society's values and the movement's alternatives. This empowers
the movement and citizens because they can carry out their values and goals
without waiting for the powerholders to make the decision for them. This is quite
different form isolated alternative "demonstration" projects. Citizen involvement
programs put large numbers of people directly in contradiction with official
policies. Some excellent massive citizen involvement programs of today's
movements include the sanctuary movement, in which local churches and towns
throughout the country provide official sanctuary for Central American political
refugees; the thousands of "citizen diplomats" traveling to Russia and Nicaragua;
sending tools and aid to Nicaragua in violation of U.S. sanctions; and nuclear free
towns, counties, and even countries, such as New Zealand and Palau. These
programs educate and convert the public, demonstrate the alternative values and
policies sought, demonstrate the extent of popular opposition, undercut the
authority of the powerholders to carry out their policy goals, and build change
from the bottom up.
- Respond to new trigger events, such as the Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl
accidents, to again put the issue in the public spotlight, educate the public to new
levels of awareness, build the movement organizations, and increase the pressure
New empowerment organization and leadership model
Movement organizations must switch from the "loose" to the "empowerment" model.
The loose organization model was highly appropriate at the beginning of the new
movement. It allowed for creative, spontaneous activities, which included civil
disobedience and quick, flexible, and direct decision-making by all involved. But after six
months the loose structure rapidly becomes a liability. It becomes too inefficient, people
burn out from long meetings, the most experienced and strongest activists become
dominant leaders, new people have difficulty becoming full participants, and the whole
organization evolves into a informal hierarchy. The empowerment organization model is
the name given to a new structure that activists must construct themselves, in which they
try to maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages of the hierarchical and
loose models. Its goal is to be participatory democratic, efficient, flexible, and capable of
lasting over the long haul. This requires more structures, but structures that assure these
This is a critical time for the offices and staff of national movement organizations. While
they need to advocate practical policies of "real politics", maintain the organization, and
operate in bureaucracies (no matter how "collective"), they must prevent the organization
from becoming a new POO, and the staff from becoming new movement elites. The
primary goal is to serve, nurture, and empower the grassroots and to ensure that internal
participatory democracy is carried out. The staff model must continue to be that of
nurturing mothers, not dominant patriarchs. When the national staff behaves as if they
are the movement, the grassroots dries up and the movement loses its power.
Activists need to develop a "grand strategy" for waging social movements in Stage Six.
Lacking a viable strategy, most activists are unable to see a relationship between their
day-to-day activities and the accomplishment of the movement's goals. Some of the key
elements are the following:
- Keep the issue in the public spotlight and on society's agenda over time. Keep the
policies and conditions which violate the values, interests, and beliefs of the
majority of the populace in the public spotlight. Over time, this helps build the
social and political conditions for change because it helps fulfill Robert Jay Lifton's
view that the way to get rid of a social delusion is to keep telling the truth. The
present social movements against nuclear weapons and in opposition to U.S.
intervention in Central America should recognize as tremendous success the fact
that these issues have been kept in the public spotlight and on society's social and
political agendas for a number of years.
- Identify all of the movement's key goals and identify which stage each is in and
develop strategies to achieve them. Identify the movement's full range of
demands, from the very specific to the general, such as end all nuclear weapons,
stop nuclear testing, stop Star Wars, and stop U.S. Euromissiles. Strategies,
submovements, and campaigns need to be developed for each of these major
demands. Activists should identify which MAP stage the movement is in for each
of these demands and develop strategies, submovements, and campaigns to
achieve each major demand. For example, stop U.S. direct invasion of Nicaragua
might be in Stage Seven, official support for the contras in Stage Six, and a
positive Contadora peace resolution for all of Central America is possibly just in
- Counter the powerholders' strategy. The movement needs to identify the
powerholders' long-term goals, strategies, and programs and develop counterstrategies
against each one. For example, the U.S. is considering invading
Nicaragua, supporting the contra's war against Nicaragua, preventing a meaningful
peaceful Contadora resolution, etc. The movement needs to develop campaigns
to prevent the government's achieving each of these objectives.
- Beyond reforms:propose alternatives, larger demands, and a new paradigm. The
movement now needs not only to protest present policies but also to propose
specific alternatives.In the process of struggle, people act their way into thinking,
and they learn that the problem is much bigger than they had thought. They come
to realize that their original concerns were merely symptoms of much bigger and
deeper problems; consequently, the movement needs to make larger demands.
This ultimately includes the necessity for a whole new worldview or paradigm. The
movement against Cruise and Pershing 2 missiles in Europe, for example, realized
that they needed to remove all nuclear weapons from East and West Europe. This
has led a new worldview of a nuclear free East and West Europe that will become
increasingly neutral and independent of the Soviet-United States superpower bloc
- Guide the movement through the dynamics of conflict with the powerholders.
Waging a social movement is similar to playing chess. The movement and
powerholders constantly engage in moves and countermoves to win the public
and build conditions to support their own position. The movement tries to build
moral, political, and economic conditions that will erode the support that enables
the powerholders to continue their policies. The powerholders keep changing their
policies to keep their capacity to maintain the status quo. The movement's goal is
to keep weakening the powerholders' position and raising the price that they must
pay to continue their policies. The Reagan administration, for example, seemed
about to invade Nicaragua in 1984, but the anti-intervention movement raised
public opposition to a new level. The government then switched its chief focus to
supporting the contras, but the movement made this illegal by helping pass the
Boland amendment, thereby forcing the government to undertake the high-risk
policies of illegal and unconstitutional covert aid through Ollie North. This has
weakened President Reagan's capacity to wage his policies in Central America as
well as elsewhere.
The powerholders launch a hardline conflict management strategy to defend their
policies, which included the following:
- Promote new rhetoric and myths and re-emphasize the threat of outside demons,
such as terrorism and Communism, to try to rally an increasingly skeptical public.
- Increase their counter-movement strategy to gather intelligence; discredit the
movement; cause internal disruption, control, and steer the movement; preempt it
by claiming to do the movement's program (e.g., "Star Wars will end nuclear
weapons"); and try to co-opt the movement under mainstream political control
(e.g., co-sponsor grossly watered down Congressional bills).
- Engage in the dynamics of conflict with the movement by switching strategies,
stance, and policies as needed, for example, from invading Nicaragua with U.S.
troops, to supporting the proxy contras and waging low-intensity warfare against
- Publicly appear to be engaged in a meaningful "negotiation process", while
actually carrying out operative policies and doctrines without giving up any
Powerholders keep pronouncing that their policies are correct and winning. Finally, splits
begin happening within the power structure, as over time pressure from the new social
and political consensus force increasing portions of the mainstream political, economic
and social elites to switch their position, even openly oppose the policies of the central
powerholders in order to protect their own self-interests. The issue is now hotly contested
within Congress, the Administration, and all other political levels.
Public opinion opposing the powerholders' policies grows to as much as 65 percent
within a few years, and then, over many years, slowly swells to a large majority of up to
85 percent. The populace, however, is evenly splitover wanting a change in the status
quo. Half fear the alternatives more than they oppose the present conditions and policies.
By the early 1970s, for example, 83 percent of Americans called for an end to the
Vietnam war, and currently 65 percent oppose aid to the contras and U.S. military
intervention in Central America.
- Keep the issue and the powerholders' values violations in the public spotlight and
on society's agenda.
- Switch from only crisis protest to waging protracted social struggle to achieve
positive social change.
- Gear efforts to the public to keep winning a bigger majority opinion.
- Involve large numbers of the populace in programs at the grassroots level.
- Propose alternatives, more demands, and a new paradigm.
- Have activists able to use a strategic framework such as MAP.
32 Bill Moyer
- Adopt empowerment organizational and leadership models.
- Activists become stuck in the protest stage.
- Movement violence, rebelliousness, and macho radicalism.
- Believing that the movement is losing and local efforts are futile.
- National organizations and leadership disenfranchise grassroots activists by
dominating the movement.
- Cooptation by powerholders through collusion and compromise.
- Political sects dominate the movement organizations.
Over many years, perhaps decades, public opinion against the powerholders' policies
swells to an overwhelming majority of up to 85 percent, as was opposition to the Vietnam
War. Almost every sector of society eventually wants to end the problem and current
policies—most politicians, the Democratic Party, celebrities, professionals, students,
Middle America, youth, the unemployed, local governments, and the general population.
But strangely, nothing seems to change. The problem continues, Congress seems unable
to make decisive votes, and the central powerholders continue their policies, although
with cosmetic changes. Moreover the movement appears to be in a lull. There are
demonstrations, meetings, and activists, but they seem small, routine, and mechanical, as
the movement's position has been adopted by the mainstream of society. Over the years,
however, the weight of the massive public opposition, along with the defection of many
elites, eventually takes its toll. The political price that the powerholders have to pay to
maintain their policies grows to become an untenable liability.
CASE STUDY: THE AMERICAN ANTI-NUCLEAR ENERGY MOVEMENT
Stage Six:1979 to 1992
From 1979 to 1987, the anti-nuclear energy movement has been progressing in the
majority opposition stage. Public opinion against nuclear energy keeps growing bigger.
Seventy-eight percent of Americans now oppose building more reactors, and many local
and state officials fight against starting up even completed local reactors and proposed
waste sites. Similar majorities exist in Europe, where 50 percent of citizens favor shutting
down operating plants.
The nuclear industry continued in sharp decline. Although the number of licensed
reactors has increased to 98, the total number of reactors operating and under
construction has dropped from 195 to 123. There have been no effective new orders for
14 years, and over 100 reactors orders have been cancelled—even ones that are 50
percent complete. The secrets of the powerholders' operative nuclear energy policies are
now known by many citizens. Nuclear energy is outrageously expensive, dangerous, and
unnecessary;and it is tied to nuclear weapons, which manypeople oppose. Trigger events
such as the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents have also spurred public
opposition. If the present trend of no new orders and reactor cancellations continues,
nuclear energy will die out early in the next century as existing reactors come to the end
of their 25-year life expectancy.
The federal government, both political parties, and the nuclear industry still promote
nuclear energy and want hundreds of operating reactors by the year 2000. The federal
bureaucracy, for example, subsidized nuclear energy through tax breaks and outlays
amounting to $56 billion in 1984 alone. Also, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
is now trying to drop its rule requiring local government involvement in establishing
emergency evacuation plans as a prerequisite for reactor licensing. The NRC is
attempting this because the local and state governments are preventing the licensing of
the completed Shoreham and Seabrook reactors by refusing to be part of the evacuation
plans. The pro-nuclear strategy now is to streamline licensing nuclear into one easy step,
develop new light-water reactors, respond positively to new accidents, develop a social
and political consensus through propaganda, bail out threatened reactors, open waste
sites, deregulate the utilities, develop space weapons that use lots of nuclear reactors, and
regionalize electrical production to get around state controls. The anti-nuclear strategy is
to educate the public, respond to new trigger events with demonstrations and education,
and counter the pro-nuclear strategies of saving the nuclear industry by opposing rate
hikes, bailouts, rule changes, and so on. For example, the movement is presently
challenging the NRC's proposed changes in its evacuation plan rules which would permit
the Seabrook and Shoreham reactors to become fully licensed. In addition, the
movement is advocating the new soft-energy path of conservation, cogeneration, and
solar power to replace the hard-energy path. Much of the movement's efforts are now
being waged by POOs and local groups using the mainstream institutions and channels,
such as the courts, state utilities, legislation, referenda, and electoral politics.
STAGE SEVEN: SUCCESS
Stage Seven begins when the long process of building opposition reaches a new plateau
in which the new social consensus turns the tide of power against the powerholders and
begins an endgame process leading to the movement's success. The Stage Seven process
can take three forms: dramatic showdown, quiet showdown, or attrition.
- Dramatic showdown resembles the take off stage. A sudden trigger event sparks a
mobilization of broad popular opposition and a social crisis, but this time the
overwhelming coercive force, in a relatively short time, changes policies or
leadership. This was achieved in each issue of the early 1960s civil rights
movement, such as when the Selma march started President Johnson and the
Congress into motion that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 within a few
months. Activists usually feel that they won and had played an important role in
- Quiet showdown. Realizing that they can no longer continue their present policies,
the powerholders launch a face-saving endgame process of "victorious retreat".
Rather than admit defeat, they proclaim victory and start a publicly recognized
process of changing their policies and conditions to those demanded by the
movement and social consensus. The powerholders try to take credit for this
"victory", even though they were forced to reverse their previously hardline
policies, while activists often have difficulty seeing their role in this success. A
current example is President Reagan's efforts to reach an agreement with
Gorbachev to end Euromissiles.
- Attrition is when success is quietly and seemingly invisibly achieved in a long
process which could take decades, in which social and political machinery slowly
evolves new policies and conditions, such as the present winding down of nuclear
energy in the United States. During the attrition process, activists usually have
even more difficulty recognizing the successful endgame process and the fact that
they had a crucial role in causing it. In all three forms, once the endgame process
starts, final success is not guaranteed. Until the change is finally actually
accomplished, the situation can be reversed. Stage Seven involves a continual
struggle, but one in which the opposition is on the offensive until the specific goal
The chief engine for change switches from the "movement" to traditional progressives;
the "nonpolitical" majority of the population; and mainstream political, social, and
economic groups and institutions. The public becomes involved in a broad range of social
actions which keep the spotlight on the issues, reveals the evils of the present policies ,
and creates real political and economic penalties. Most of the business and political
powerholders are forced to defect from their ties to the status quo, because it is in their
self-interest. The penalty for defending the status quo has become bigger than for
accepting the alternative. The politicians will face hostile voters at their next election, and
the business community can suffer loss of profits or business community can suffer loss of
profits or business through boycotts, sanctions, and disruption of the marketplace. There
sometimes is a general, worldwide insurrection which isolates the central powerholders
and their dwindling support.
The opposition's efforts and feelings vary according to the endgame form:
- In dramatic showdown, the movement more resembles the take-off stage, in
which it plays a massive, publicly obviousrole involving mass-demonstrations in a
time of crisis leading to success in a relatively short time, such as the toppling of
Marcos, following the election process, or the achievement of the 1965 Voting
Rights Act, five months after the Selma campaign.
- In quiet showdown, the movement continues its strategy and of both take-off and
Stage Six, and while still publicly active, activistsneed to work hard to recognize
the victory and their own role.
- In attrition, the endgame process is often not recognized as success, the
movement's role is much less visible, and much of the opposition's efforts are
carried out through the work of elites and the POOs.
The viability of the central powerholders' policies is eroded economically and politically.
The majority of powerholders join the opposition view, while the central powerholders
are isolated and eventually defeated. The central powerholders are:
- forced into making fatal mistakes, such as President Nixon's ordered Watergate
break-ins and other "dirty tricks" against the opposition, or when President
Reagan felt forced to violate the Boland amendment through illegal covert aid to
- increasingly prevented from doing what is fully required to successfully carry out
their policies, such as when the Pentagon was prevented from carrying out
programs it felt were necessary to win the Vietnam War; and
- resort to extreme emergency acts of political and economic decrees and
repression, which serve only to spur the opposition. The economic, social, and
political penalties erode the base for support of the powerholders to either
continue their policies or remain in office.
The central powerholders have three different endgame strategies, according to the type
- Custer's last stand (in dramatic showdown), in which they hold out until either
their policies are defeated in the mainstream political process, such as in the
courts, Congress, or referenda, or they lose their office or position through
elections or mass social actions and pressures;
- Victorious retreat (in quiet showdown), in which the powerholders lose on the
issue, but in reversing their policies declare victory for themselves; or of
- Persistent stubbornness (in attrition), in which they hold out in an increasingly
losing cause over many years, until one of the above two endings occur.
The public demands change. The opposition to the powerholders is now so
overwhelming that the whole issue is publicly recognized as the "good guys vs. bad
guys". One is either for decency or for President Marcos, apartheid, and the Vietnam
War. While a majority opposition has existed for some years, up to now the mass
population was not willing to act on their beliefs. They had not acted because they:
- felt powerless,
- did not know what to do,
- were not called to action by a trigger event and crisis, and
- feared the alternative (e.g., Communism, or the unknown) more than they desired
Citizens are so repulsed that their desire to end present policies and conditions overtakes
their worry about the consequences of the alternative.
They are ready to vote, demonstrate, and even support the central powerholders in
changing present policies. For example, people want an end to nuclear weapons more
than they fear Soviet attack and takeover.
The movement's goals for this stage include:
- Wage a successful "endgame" strategy to achieve one or more demands.
- Have activists recognize the success and their own role in it.
- Raise larger issues and propose alternative paradigms.
- Create new decentralized centers of power based on more participatory structures
and an empowered public.
- Continue the movement.
The movement needs to avoid:
- compromising too many values and key demands;
- achieving minor reforms without building toward basic social change;
- having activists feel dismayed and powerless because they do not recognize
success and the movement's role in a successful endgame; and
- having apparent final victory end the movement.
The movement finally achieves one or more of its demands. It now needs to address
some hard questions: What is success? What needs to be done next? The movement needs
to recognize successes achieved, follow up on the demands won, raise larger issues, focus
on other demands which are in various stages, and propose larger alternatives and a new
CASE STUDY: THE AMERICAN ANTI-NUCLEAR ENERGY MOVEMENT
Stage Seven:1993 Plus
The anti-nuclear energy movement can win either by attrition or dramatic showdown. If
present trends continue, nuclear energy will end slowly by prolonged decline of attrition
early in the next century as described in the previous stage. This will require continuous
opposition by the movement to the public and private powerholders' attempts to revive
the industry through government institutions. The central powerholders will continue to
promote nuclear energy until nuclear energy becomes completely untenable
economically or political, or until they lose office.
On the other hand, nuclear energy could come to a dramatic showdown ending as the
result of a major nuclear accident as in the following scenario: In the Summer of 1993, an
accident (some think it was the first act of terrorism within the United States) at a nuclear
plant located in a densely populated metropolitan area in Northeast causes devastation
far greater than that of Chernobyl. All nuclear plants in the U.S. are ordered shut down
pending an investigation. The fate of nuclear energy is at the top of the nation's agenda
for the next fifteen months. Eighty-five percent of Americans oppose the restart of the
reactors. Finally, just before its end-of-the-year break, Congress votes to end nuclear
Both of these success options require that the general populace understands and accepts
an alternative means for meeting the nation's electrical energy needs. By that time, the
movement must have educated and convinced the populace that the nation can switch to
the soft energy paradigm.
STAGE EIGHT: CONTINUING THE STRUGGLE
The success achieved in Stage Seven is not the end of the struggle but a basis for
continuing that struggle and creating new beginnings.
The movement has to continue the struggle in five different ways:
- Celebrate success. The successes of Stage Seven and the movement's role in
achieving them should be clearly recognized by activists.
- Follow-up. There needs to be follow-up, mainly by the POOs, at the local and
national level (1) to make sure that the new promises, laws, and policies are
actually carried out (e.g., after the 1965 Voting Rights Act a major effort was
required to assure that Blacks were actually allowed to vote); (2) to achieve
additional successes, which are now possible under the new political conditions
and legal mandate; and (3) to resist backlash which might reverse the new gains.
- Work on achieving other demands. The movement needs to focus on achieving
other demands, which are probably in earlier MAP stages. After the civil rights
movement desegregated restaurants in 1960, for example, the whole MAP stages
process was repeated with successive movements to achieve integrated buses,
equal public accommodations, voting rights, and work to end poverty.
- New social consciousness, issues, and movements. The modern student and
women's movements emerged out of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War
- Beyond reform to social change. Social movements need to go beyond immediate
reforms to build toward fundamental structural changes by (1) creating
empowered people who become life-long social change agents, and not just oneissue
protesters; (2) creating ongoing grassroots political organizations and
networks; (3) broadening the analysis, issues, and goals of movements; (4)
propose new alternatives and worldviews or paradigms that put forward new
political and social systems, not just oppose symptoms.
Governmental bureaucracies are supposed to carry out new laws and directives but could
drag their feet and even fail to follow through. While most powerholders will be part of
the new social and political consensus and try to carry out the new laws and policies,
some may counterattack to reverse the new successes, as the Reagan administration did
in ignoring the Boland amendment and continuing its support of the contras after 1984.
A new social consensus of about 80 percent of the populace supports the favorable
resolution of the movement's demand and the resulting new policies and conditions. The
new demands on which the movement now begins focusing are supported by between
10 and 80 percent of the public and are different MAP stages.
The movement's goals are to assure that the demands achieved are maintained and to
circle back to focus the movement on other demands.
The chief hazards of Stage Eight are having the new successes either inadequately
implemented or revoked from backlash.
There is no end. There is only the continuing struggle, acted out in cycles of social
movements. The process of winning one set of demands creates new levels of citizen
consciousness and empowerment, and generates new movements on new demands and
Peoples' movements move the world further along the path towards more fully meeting
the spiritual, physical, social, and political needs of humanity. Moreover, the very process
of being fully involved in the struggle of peoples' movements contributes to peoples'
political and spiritual fulfillment. Activists are part of the emerging people-power
movements around the world. People worldwide are struggling to transform themselves
and the world from the present era of superpowers, materialism, environmental
breakdown, disenfranchisement, abject poverty amidst opulence, and militarism, to a
new, more human era of democracy, freedom, justice, self-determination, human rights,
peaceful coexistence, preservation of the environment, and the meeting of basic human
Consequently, the long-term impacts are more important than their immediate successes.
The civil rights movement, for example, created a new positive image of Blacks among
themselves and whites, established nonviolent action as a means to achieve people
power, directly spun off the student and anti-Vietnam War movements, and inspired
peoples' movements got the American people, for the first time, to challenge and change
American foreign policy and created the "Vietnam syndrome" in which the American
people oppose the century old policy of U.S. military intervention in Latin America to
achieve the interests of American powerholders. Social movements are also contagious:
Philippines people's movement spurred similar efforts in Haiti, Chile, and now South
CASE STUDY: THE AMERICAN ANTI-NUCLEAR ENERGY MOVEMENT
Stage Eight: Through 2025
If the nuclear energy endgame is that of attrition, the movement will have to continue its
vigilance and opposition indefinitely into the future, opposing the barrage of central
powerholder efforts to revive the nuclear energy era, until there is a total social and
political consensus for cancelling nuclear energy and switching to a soft energy path. On
the other hand, the dramatic showdown scenario could go as follows: The industrialized
world is rocked again in 1995 by the report of an international commission that was set
up following the 1993 accident to predict the world's energy future into the next century.
Its findings went far beyond the nuclear energy issue. The study included many of the
coming crises that had been documented over the past 30 years. It showed that the
current rates of fossil fuel (oil, wood, and coal) energy production would cause many
catastrophes by the year 2025. The greenhouse effect would raise the Earth's
temperature reducing the agricultural production and creating the loss of many coastlines
from the melting of glacial ice; the Earth's ozone layer would be reduced, causing
hundreds of millions of additional skin cancers; forests would be devastated by acid rain;
the oceans would be threatened; and the world's production of oil would peak and drop
by 50 percent, as the available oil sources dry up, and oil production over the next five
years would drop while prices skyrocketed.
Nations throughout the world hastily turn away from the hard energy policies based on
high consumption of nuclear and fossil fuels and begin crash efforts to adopt soft energy
About This Issue
The Second edition of the Movement Action Plan is an expanded and updated version of
the Fall 1986 Dandelion. It includes suggestions from readers of the first edition and
attenders of the MAP workshops, and has grown from eight to sixteen pages in length.
Please sent your feedback—affirmations, criticisms, Ideas, and references.
This edition was produced by Jeff Aiken, Sharon Kocher, Bill Moyer, and Sean Stryker.
Editing and productions coordinated by Sean Stryker, Green Alternative Information for
About the Author
Bill Moyer has been an organizer, writer, trainer, and strategist with a wide range of social
movements for over 25 years. His experience includes work with the civil rights, anti-
Vietnam War, anti-nuclear energy and weapons, European nuclear disarmament, and
non-intervention in Central America movements. He was staff with Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Poor Peoples' Campaign,
director of the American Friends Service Committee's Chicago open housing program,
national nonviolence trainer, and co-founder of the Movement For a New Society and its
Philadelphia Life Center. Currently Bill is the National Project Coordinator of the Social
Movement Empowerment Project.
The Social Movement Empowerment Project
The Social Movement Empowerment Project is a technical assistance program that is
developing the Movement Action Plan and educating activists to use it. The goal is to
have activists in a wide variety of movements apply MAP to their own organizing and
strategizing. SMEP has a local Board of Directors, a National Advisory Group, a full-time
Project Coordinator, and support volunteers across the country.
The Social Movement Empowerment Project is carrying out the following programs:
Please let the SMEP office know if you are interested in helping the program by
distributing materials, setting up or attending trainings, giving a financial contribution, or
assisting with fundraising.
- Develop, publish, and distribute MAP publications. There were 12,000 copies of
the Fall 1986 MAP Dandelion published and sold, and 12,000 additional copies of
this second MAP tabloid edition have been published. Additional
upcomingpublications include a MAP wall poster, a book (1988), and training
- Train activists to understand and use MAP. The Project Coordinator is holding
MAP trainings and presentations in five regions of the country.
- Train activist-trainers to teach others to understand and use MAP. Beginning in
late 1987, several pilot training for trainers workshops will be held in several
regions.Training for trainers will be held in five different regionsin 1988, and there
will be a national MAP trainer gathering.
The Social Movement Empowerment Project has received financial support from the A.J.
Muste Memorial Institute, New Society Education Foundation, Funding
Exchange/National Community Funds, as well as a number of individuals.
The Movement for a New Society
The Dandelion is published four times a year by the Movement For A New Society. MNS
is committed to feminist, nonviolent social change and has members and affiliates in 19
states and five other countries. MNS members work to build more effective social
movements through organizing, networking, coalition building, training, and developing
analysis, vision, and strategy for social movements. For more information, write to MNS,
P.O. Box 1922, Cambridge, MA 02238.
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