7.3 – Why Activists Don’t Develop Strategy for Tyrant’s Removal

July 3rd, 2012

This is Ethiopian Review Policy Research Center’s series on From Dictatorship to Democracy extracted/quoted from books and articles published by Albert Einstein Institution and similar sources.

Without UNITY There is no Mass Disobedience.
Without STRATEGY There is no Effective Action.
Action without DISCIPLINE Leads to Chaos and Vandalism.

Activists who fail to plan, plan to fail

Why is it that activists who have the vision of bringing political freedom to their people should so rarely prepare a comprehensive strategic plan to achieve that goal? Unfortunately, often most people in democratic opposition groups do not understand the need for strategic planning or are not accustomed or trained to think strategically. This is a difficult task. Constantly harassed by the dictatorship, and overwhelmed by immediate responsibilities, resistance leaders often do not have the safety or time to develop strategic thinking skills.
Instead, it is a common pattern simply to react to the initiatives of the dictatorship. The opposition is then always on the defensive, seeking to maintain limited liberties or bastions of freedom, at best slowing the advance of the dictatorial controls or causing certain problems for the regime’s new policies.

1. They may not see the need for broad long-term planning of a liberation movement. Instead, they may naively think that if they simply espouse their goal strongly, firmly, and long enough, it will somehow come to pass.

2. They simply live and witness according to their principles and ideals in face of difficulties, they are doing all they can to implement them. The espousal of humane goals and loyalty to ideals are admirable, but are grossly inadequate to end a dictatorship and to achieve freedom.

3. They may naively think that if only they use enough violence, freedom will come. But violence is no guarantor of success. Instead of liberation, it can lead to defeat, massive tragedy, or both. In most situations the dictatorship is best equipped for violent struggle and the military realities rarely, if ever, favor the democrats.

4. They are not aware of the need of action based on careful calculation of the “next steps” required to topple the dictatorship. Without strategic analysis, resistance leaders will often not know what that “next step” should be.

5. They are acutely aware of the multitude of actions that could be taken against the dictatorship and unable to determine where to begin, some people counsel “Do everything simultaneously.” Such an approach provides no guidance on where to begin, on where to concentrate efforts, and how to use often limited resources.

6. They may see the need for some planning, but are only able to think about it on a short-term or tactical basis. They may not see that longer-term planning is necessary or possible.

7. They may at times be unable to think and analyze in strategic terms, allowing themselves to be repeatedly distracted by relatively small issues, often responding to the opponents’ actions rather than seizing the initiative for the democratic resistance. Devoting so much energy to short-term activities, these leaders often fail to explore several alternative courses of action which could guide the overall efforts so that the goal is constantly approached.

8. Inside themselves, they do not really believe that the dictatorship can be ended by their own efforts. Therefore, planning how to do so is considered to be a romantic waste of time or an exercise in futility. People struggling for freedom against established brutal dictatorships are often confronted by such immense military and police power that it appears the dictators can accomplish whatever they will. Lacking real hope, these people will, nevertheless, defy the dictatorship for reasons of integrity and perhaps history. Though they will never admit it, perhaps never consciously recognize it, their actions appear to themselves as hopeless. Hence, for them, long-term comprehensive strategic planning has no merit.

The result of such failures to plan is planning to fail one’s strength is dissipated, one’s actions are ineffective, energy is wasted on minor issues, advantages are not utilized, and sacrifices are for naught.If activista/organizers do not plan strategically they are likely to fail to achieve their objectives. A poorly planned, odd mixture of activities will not move a major resistance effort forward. Instead, it will more likely allow the dictatorship to increase its controls and power.

Unfortunately, because comprehensive strategic plans for liberation are rarely, if ever, developed, dictatorships appear much more durable than they in fact are. They survive for years or decades longer than need be the case.

For those Planners, Activists or Organizers who want to study the fundamental of Startegic Planning, the video below explains the “whole enchilada” of planning principles, that you might want to view it in segments.