Activism and Social Movements / Alliance Politics / Total Liberation

Healing Our Cuts

Healing Our Cuts
Anthony J. Nocella, II, republished from

Over the last 16 years, I have learned a lot from my involvement in a number of intense social movement based conflicts and from the field of conflict studies. Most of my knowledge is experience based, rather than what I have read or been trained. In this article, I share my thoughts on social movement conflicts and methods of managing and transforming them in a constructive process.

All social movements have divisional tensions, some more explicit and more entrenched than others. Where tensions encourage open debate and constructive dialogue, these interventions can be extremely constructive and empowering for the movement in question. However if simmering tensions are left unchecked and unresolved, these may well lead to openly destructive conflicts that not only severely compromise the impact and effective nature of the movement, but may ultimately lead to the implosion and terminal demise of the movement itself.

Social movements have always faced divisions and critical debate around a wide range of issues from underground activism vs. working within government structures to short-term goals vs. longer term goals, to the concept and nature of direct action.

Given the desire for strategies, tactics and processes which work to harness constructive and collaborative discussion and outcomes this short intervention has two goals. First, this article considers the many factors and causes of destructive behavior and, second, it highlights ways to actively transform conflict and re-unite social movements. This does not mean that activists will all conduct the same tactics or engage in the same strategies. This is vital if the movement is to ensure that its presence and impact is such that will make maximum and long-lasting positive change in the global community among all.

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