When does a direct action campaign start?

When Does a Direct Action Campaign Begin? #

The general pattern of British anti-road protests has been separation into a "Lawful Campaigning" phase and a "Direct Action" phase. The stereotypical sequence would be: years of patient, energetic campaigning, lobbying and awareness- raising by dedicated locals; followed by a last-ditch, hectic and spectacular direct action frenzy as construction begins. This is, of course, a very superficial model, and many of those taking part in each phase will be the same people; but it remains true that there is far too much separation, on many levels, between "conventional" campaigning and direct action. One of the main themes of this guide is bridging the gaps.

It's easy to get hung up on definitions of "direct action", "civil disobedience" etc. (see below for a brief discussion). What matters is that the approach at any time should NOT be stereotyped, but should be determined by whatever seems most likely to delay or STOP THE ROAD. It can be surprisingly easy to lose sight of this objective! For example, if you have heard that roads are going to be cut in the Budget, your last £50 may be better spent targetting Treasury officials and MPs, than on buying D-locks. On the other hand, if the contract to build the road has been let, writing indignant letters to the government is a waste of time, that could be better spent building up camp defences, or finishing off the action phone tree.

Deciding what is and isn't appropriate for the campaign will take debate, argument and broad consensus. One of the main benefits of this sort of discussion is that people with different backgrounds can learn from one another, and that direct action tactics can be used in the campaign as and when required, rather than being artificially separate. It's a big mistake to assume that the spontaneity, passion and daring of good direct action should only be used in a limited section of the campaign, or only by a "special" group of activists.

Direct action is powerful and may benefit from careful planning. Consider things carefully and use it appropriately - but don't be afraid to go with your instincts. We'd definitely recommend starting cautiously and "escalating" tactics as time passes and the start of roadbuilding approaches.

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