Class 3 outline – Theory Social Change, lobbying, direct action

Class 3 – Monday, March 7, 2022


  • Theory of Social Change
  • Lobbying, litigation, direct action, civil disobedience, build it yourself
  • STOMP Strategic Power Analysis


Required Readings:


  1. CC_Path-to-Power.indd (  – read section in files
  2. What It Takes to Change Hearts and Minds – YES! Magazine (
  3. Civil Disobedience Is the Way to Tackle the Climate Crisis | Time
  4. How to build a new world in the shell of the old (

Optional Readings

  1. Campaign Issue Organizing – in files
  2. Campaign Planning Handbook – in files
  3. Climate Resistance Handbook – in files
  4. Sierra Club Movement Organizing Manual -in files
  6. Civil rights movement
  8. How to write an effective letter to the editor – in files
  9. Earth First!.!



3: 35 Review Agenda

– March 14, Commons 250

– Class representative election

3:40 News Update

– State of the Union
– Fridays for the Future protest

– March 8 NY Renews. March 9 Divest NY Teachers Lobby Day

3:45 Lobbying, litigation, direct action, civil disobedience, build it yourself

4:00 Litigation

4:10 Focusing on hearts vs mind – less on traditional change

4:20 More Direct Action – Blowing it Up

4:30 comments, Q and A

4:40 break

4:45 Advocacy Plan – Why did you pick your particular group – teams?

5:00 STOMP Analysis

5:10 Writing Letter to the Editor

5:20 Sunrise March 21
– Fridays for the Future, Earth Day


3:45 Lobbying, litigation, direct action, civil disobedience, build it yourself

This is mainly about philosophy of how social change occurs. I did include materials in the file about how to run campaigns. A campaign is a sequence Of tactics with a clear goal, demand, AND target that builds capacity and Shifts public opinion on your issue.

We are going to cover this over the next two classes. Today will focus a little more on theory, the next on successful advocacy campaign.

Traditional approach – pass a law – ban fracking, promote renewable energy
– get money in the budget – follow the money
– deny permit for fossil fuel plants
– sue – especially over permits, fail to follow proper procedures, drag it out
– get resolutions passed by local governments, sign on letters for organizations, petitions (more for name collection), call in days

There is a whole academic body on the theories of social change. One large school focuses on the traditional ways to win reforms: passing laws; demonstrations; litigation; elections. Others focus more on reshaping the economy, creating the society you want. Others see the need for more fundamental radical change, which can impact your choice of tactics and targets, from civil disobedience to direct action to destroy fossil fuel infrastructure, to focusing more on changing people’s beliefs rather than traditional roles for government and civil society.

To win a particular issue, you normally need to develop a plan of action, which requires a political analysis of targets, allies, opponents, timeline, escalation of . Not just move from action to action. This is the how to materials in the file section, plus the STOMP analysis we will do. Coalitions especially for rally seldom produce long lasting efforts.

You either change the minds of the people making the decisions or you replace the people making the decisions – though it is often money behind the scenes making the decisions

Flaws in democracy in the US – elections winner take all, massive campaign contributions (change the rules of the game and they just master the new rules)

My own story: NYPIRG, plastic bag theory, FOI law suit, community organizing

Law school I would do a class analysis when asked to review a case Professors would leave me alone after that.

Bolstar fight – Mexican-American with Scottsdale across the street from a Native American reservation. Halloween action

Direct action – Alinsky, rules for radicals, 13 rules

Build power. Issues are secondary to organizational power.

Saul Alinsky – The Rules for Radicals

The Rules

  1. “Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.”
  2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
  3. “Whenever possible go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
  4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
  5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.”
  6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
  7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
  8. “Keep the pressure on.”
  9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself. “
  10. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.”
  11. “If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside; this is based on the principle that every positive has its negative.”
  12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”
  13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. “

Those who wish to be the most radical must appear to be the most reasonable

Lobbying – a very obscure way of creating laws and thus hopefully social change. Very arcane rules. But it is set up at each step to enable the rich and powerful to buy it. And even if you win, the law as written gets severely weakened at the last minute and then the industry overwhelms the regulatory process to weaken it and implementation even further.

4:00 Litigation – children’s trust, suing fossil fuel companies, challenging EPA authority

Depending on what type of case you bring, a successful climate litigation case could result in:

  • Governments having to take action to reduce national GHG emissions;
  • Governments having to take action to protect vulnerable communities from climate impacts;
  • Big carbon projects being cancelled, leading to reduced GHG emissions;
  • Corporations being held accountable for their contributions to climate change, being made to either pay or change their business operations; and
  • Financial divestment from the fossil fuel industry.

In 2015, 21 youth, and organizational plaintiff Earth Guardians, filed their constitutional climate lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, against the U.S. government. Their complaint asserts that, through the government’s affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.


Current Status:

The youth plaintiffs are awaiting a ruling on their Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint and the Motion to Intervene filed by 18 states, led by Alabama.

State and local governments have begun to sue fossil fuel companies for knowingly contributing to climate change. Similar to what governments and groups did against tobacco companies. Took a long time but eventually begin to win.

4:15 Focusing on hearts vs mind – less on traditional change

Engler article Should we push for transformation within existing institutions, or should we model in our own lives a different set of political relationships that might someday form the basis of a new society?

Occupy Wall Street (Micah Sifray) took off because it was authentically filled with desperate, hopeful ordinary people, many of them students burdened by extraordinary college debt. After mainstream journalists got over their initial skepticism, many were impressed by the Occupiers’ authenticity and shared that in their coverage. The movement’s commitment to radical participatory democracy also meant that anyone could start an Occupy; unlike the nonprofit advocacy industrial complex, the barrier to entry to Occupy was low. At the same time, the choice to occupy and hold space demanded a lot of activists and gave many of them meaningful roles to play. And three young women were sprayed in the eyes.

Engler:  a clash between ​“strategic” and ​“prefigurative” politics could be seen in the Occupy movement. While some participants pushed for concrete political reforms — greater regulation of Wall Street, bans on corporate money in politics, a tax on millionaires, or elimination of debt for students and underwater homeowners — other occupiers focused on the encampments themselves. They saw the liberated spaces in Zuccotti Park and beyond — with their open general assemblies and communities of mutual support — as the movement’s most important contribution to social change. These spaces, they believed, had the power to foreshadow, or ​“prefigure,” a more radical and participatory democracy.

In the 1800s, Marx debated utopian socialists about the need for revolutionary strategy that went beyond the formation of communes and model societies. Throughout his life, Gandhi wavered back and forth between leading campaigns of civil disobedience to exact concessions from state powers and advocating for a distinctive vision of self-reliant village life,

Anti-nuclear Clamshell Alliance established an influential organizing tradition for direct action in the United States. They pioneered many of the techniques — such as affinity groups, spokes councils, and general assemblies — that became fixtures in the global justice movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and which were also important to Occupy Wall Street.

Where strategic politics favors the creation of organizations that can marshal collective resources and gain influence in conventional politics, prefigurative groups lean toward the creation of liberated public spaces, community centers and alternative institutions — such as squats, co-ops and radical bookstores.

Alternative communities developed ​“within the shell of the old” create spaces that can support radicals who chose to live outside the norms of workaday society and to make deep commitments to a cause.

a prefigurative rejection of formal leadership and rigid organizational structure served second-wave feminists well early on when the movement ​“defined its main goal, and its main method, as consciousness-raising.” However, , when the movement aspired to go beyond meetings that raised awareness of common oppression and began to undertake broader political activity, the same anti-organizational predisposition became limiting. The consequence of structurelessness, Freeman argues, was a tendency for the movement to generate ​“much motion and few results.”

4:20 More Direct Action – Blowing it Up

Extinction Rebellion – citizens assembly (more later)

Earth First – Monkey wrench gang – Edward Albee –

Emissions continue to grow as does investments in finding more fossil fuels and infrastructure

Earth First! is a radical environmental advocacy group[1] that originated in the Southwestern United States. It was founded in 1980 by Dave ForemanMike Roselle, Howie Wolke, Bart Koehler, and Ron Kezar.[

Inspired by several environmental writings, including Rachel Carson‘s Silent SpringAldo Leopold‘s land ethic, and Edward Abbey‘s The Monkey Wrench Gang, The co-founders of the group were called to action during the second “Roadless Area Review and Evaluation” (RARE II) by the U.S. Forest Service, which they considered a sell-out by mainstream environmental advocates. The activists envisioned a revolutionary movement, with the goal to set aside multi-million-acre ecological preserves all across the United States. Their ideas drew upon the concepts of conservation biology, which had been developing for over twenty years by notable scientists like E. O. Wilson; however, mainstream environmental groups were slow to embrace the new science.

During the group’s early years (1980–1986), Earth First! mixed publicity stunts (such as rolling a plastic “crack” down Glen Canyon Dam) with far-reaching wilderness proposals that reportedly surpassed the actions that mainstream environmental groups were willing to take (relying on conservation biology research from a biocentric perspective).

after 1987, Earth First! became primarily associated with direct action to prevent logging, building of dams, and other forms of development which may cause destruction of wildlife habitats or the despoliation of wild places. The change in direction attracted many new members to Earth First!, some of whom came from a leftist or anarchist political background or were involved in the counterculture.[

Fridays for the Future – 2 to 4 million people in September 2019

In How to Blow Up a Pipeline, Andreas Malm makes an impassioned call for the climate movement to escalate its tactics in the face of ecological collapse. We need, he argues, to force fossil fuel extraction to stop—with our actions, with our bodies, and by defusing and destroying its tools. We need, in short, to start blowing up some oil pipelines.

Offering a counter-history of how mass popular change has occurred, from the democratic revolutions overthrowing dictators to the movement against apartheid and for women’s suffrage, Malm argues that the strategic acceptance of property destruction and violence has been the only route for revolutionary change. In a braided narrative that moves from the forests of Germany and the streets of London to the deserts of Iraq, Malm offers us an incisive discussion of the politics and ethics of pacifism and violence, democracy and social change, strategy and tactics, and a movement compelled by both the heart and the mind. Here is how we fight in a world on fire.

Physically stop the use of any new fossil fuels. And force governments to dismantle existing

Young people have to do it. We have been too polite. Ministry for the Future.

Build it yourself – CCA, public power, community ownership

Progressive groups can’t make decisions – set up your own company – worker cooperative

4:30 Q and A – comments

4:40 break

4:45 Why did you pick your particular group; advocacy plan

Main organization doing advocacy with;

Include information re: joining listserve;

outreach to leadership;

attending meeting(s),

; participating in lobby day or protest;

writing letter to editor,

bill memo;

what issue(s) to focus upon;

social media plan;

legislative visits.

Provide dates, key contacts.


5:00 STOMP Analysis – Primarily Outline

5:15 promoting March 21st Sunshine meeting

-get poster to office that puts it up
– social media, Instagram post
– invite 3 -5 of your friends
– school newspaper – the Beacn

5:20 how to write a letter – mention sample letters in the file

– you need to submit it and get it published
– personalize it, specific point, reflect your advocacy plan
– 200 to 400 words; op ed

Keep short paragraphs. Two to three sentences.

How to get your letter published and make it count:

  1. Make your letter relevant to their paper! Editors are more likely to print letters that are responding directly either to breaking news or an article or commentary published in the previous two days (for dailies) or the previous issue of a weekly paper. The typical format is to open your letter with something like: “Re: your article “Bag Ban Bagged?” (city news, June 13)…”
  2. Stay focused. Don’t try to address more than one issue in your letter – it’s much more effective to focus on just one important point (these letters have to be pretty short, after all).
  3. Do drop any and all relevant names! Whether you’re trying to catch the attention of a member of Congress or local decision-maker or a corporation or local business, putting their names in your letter helps ensure that they’ll see it. Elected officials scan news clips with a vengeance and chances are that any self-respecting business or individual will have a google news alert set up.
  4. Play by their rules. Make sure to follow all the guidelines and stay within the word count limit of the target publication (usually 200 words or less).
  5. Do a ruthless edit before you submit. Remove every non-essential word. For example, don’t say, “I think…” – as that’s implied. Avoid using jargon or acronyms without first spelling them out. Cleaning up your language also minimizes the chance that the editor will make significant changes to your letter.
  6. Just the facts, ma’am. Back up your argument using only verified facts and take the time to check original sources rather than repeating “facts” cited in another media outlet. You should footnote your letter to help ensure that the editor trusts your facts.
  7. Draw the connection. Explain how readers will be affected by the issue you address and don’t be afraid to share your own reaction, informed by your place in your local community, profession, age, gender, race, etc.
  8. Make a call to action. Ask your readers for action, including your elected representatives. You can also point people to more information or explain how to get involved whenever possible.
  9. Don’t let your letter get lost in the shuffle. Put your letter right in the body of your email as most papers do NOT accept attachments. If the paper does not include specific instructions about what to include in your subject line, something like “Letter re: TOPIC or ARTICLE YOU ARE RESPONDING TO” is a good default option. And you MUST include your contact information, including a phone number where you can be reached.
  10. Follow up if your letter gets printed. If your letter does make it into print, send a clip of it to your elected officials to make sure they’re aware of it – this can provide particularly useful leverage if you’ve had trouble getting them to agree to a meeting… Don’t forget to tag them if you share it on social media, too.
  11. Let us know your good news, too! Email us the link or a scanned copy of your printed letter at And share it with the world via social media if you’re active on any platforms.



Bennington Divestment