Javier Gárate

Why take direct action against war profiteering? Because it works! Well that is the very short answer. WRI's Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns says that direct action is "any action where individuals or groups act to bring about change themselves, rather than asking or expecting others to act on their behalf. Nonviolent action can be disruptive (like blockading a weapons factory) or constructive (like guerilla gardening)". Often there is the perception that nonviolent direct action (NVDA) involves highly skilled people prepared to take a lot of risks, and that it is not for everybody.

It is true that NVDA is not necessarily for everybody, but the idea of it being for just the "super activist" might be the consequences of the over-professionalisation of activism such as in the case of Greenpeace. At WRI, we prefer to think that anyone can take part in nonviolent action, including direct actions. There are different forms of actions, with different levels of risk, as well as different roles people can play. There is a place for everyone.

Often NVDA is used to bring out an issue that the power holders want to keep unnoticed, for example the exporting of South Korean tear gas to Turkey to be used to repress protest. In the words of Martin Luther King: "we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to surface the hidden tension that is already alive".

You can not build campaigns purely based on NVDA, but NVDA can often provide that launching platform to make the issue visible. Bill Moyer in the Movement Action Plan analysing the different stages of movements. He argues that NVDA is particularly important at the Take Off stage (stage 4), using NVDA as a trigger event. Hopefully the trigger event will lead to bigger demonstrations, the growth of the movement and an increase in public perception about the issue. But the movement still has a long way to go to reach success at this stage.

As we read in Chris Cole's piece on direct action against drones, NVDA is important in bringing change, but also is very important to the people who take action. They have taken a step to decide that they are taking a stand against this injustice, and directly want to stop it.

War profiteers want to keep business as usual as much as they can, to keep the war machine going and its consequences unknown. Arms trade and other war related business are known for their secretive and hidden agreements. This is why I celebrate the work for example of Stop the Arms Fair in the UK, who don't let arms traders have almost a single meeting without disrupting it.

This issue's Campaign of the Month - I Stop the Arms Trade - shows the way to build campaigns that have a strong direct action element, but which also combine lobbying, education and other important steps to challenge the war machine.

Finally, this is my last editorial as I will soon be leaving WRI. I would like say thank you to everybody who has contributed and supported this newsletter and WRI's work on war profiteering -- I look forward to reading the next issue!

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