Richard North, 30/07/2015  

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Sitting on my desk for a long while have been many books on revolutionary theory and the acquisition of power, including in which number has been Gene Sharp's book on "Power and Struggle". Not until recently, however, have I acquired (at the behest of The Boiling Frog) Sharp's slender but vitally important volume entitled " From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation" (free .pdf download here).

Although intended to assist campaigners attempting to overthrow dictatorships and install democracy, much of the advice is relevant and useful to our campaign to leave the EU, and especially the chapter on strategic planning. So important is it that I decided to reproduce the essence of it in this post, adapted to apply specifically to the referendum campaign.

If what he says can be summed up, it is in one sentence. Sharp says, "If one wishes to accomplish something, it is wise to plan how to do it". But, he then goes on to say:
The more important the goal, or the graver the consequences of failure, the more important planning becomes. Strategic planning increases the likelihood that all available resources will be mobilised and employed most effectively.
To plan a strategy, Sharp tells us, means to calculate a course of action that will make it more likely to get from the present to the desired future situation. In terms of our current struggle, that means getting to a state where we are a free, independent function country, outside the EU.

Taking from Sharp and modifying his work, we can say that a plan to achieve that objective will usually consist of a phased series of campaigns designed to produce a majority of the people in favour of leaving the EU, and to weaken the determination of those who would keep us as members.

Sharp acknowledges that strategic planning is a difficult task. But, he says, the failure to plan strategically means that one's strength is dissipated, one's actions are ineffective, energy is wasted on minor issues, advantages are not utilised and sacrifices are for naught.

If we do not plan strategically, we are likely to fail to achieve our objectives. A poorly planned mixture of activities will not move us forward. Instead, it will more likely strengthen the opposition. In order to help us think strategically, Sharp says, clarity about the meanings of four basic terms is important.

Grand strategy is the conception that serves to coordinate and direct the use of all appropriate and available resources (economic, human, moral, political, organisational, etc.) of a group seeking to attain its objectives.

By focusing primary attention on the group's objectives and resources, grand strategy determines the most appropriate techniques of action to be employed. Leaders must evaluate and plan which pressures and influences are to be brought to bear on the opposition. It will also include decisions on the appropriate conditions and timing under which initial and subsequent campaigns will be launched.

It sets the basic framework for the selection of more limited strategies for carrying out the campaign. It also determines the allocation of general task to specific groups and the distribution of resources to them.

Strategy is the conception of how best to achieve particular objectives in a conflict, operating within the scope of the chosen grand strategy. It is concerned with whether, when and how to fight, as well as how to achieve maximum effectiveness. A strategy has been compared to the artist's concept, while a strategic plan is the architect's blueprint.

In devising strategies, planners must define their objectives and determine how to measure the effectiveness of efforts to achieve them. Tactics and methods of action are used to implement the strategy.

Tactics relate to the skilful use of one's forces to the best advantage in a limited situation. A tactic is of limited action, employed to achieve a restricted objective. The choice of tactics is governed by the conception of how best to utilise the available means of implementing the strategy.

To be most effective, tactics and methods must be chosen and applied with constant attention to the achievement of strategic objectives. Tactical gains that do not reinforce the attainment of strategic objectives may in the end turn out to be wasted energy. A tactic is thus concerned with a limited course of action that fits within the broad strategy, just as a strategy fits within the grand strategy.

Tactics are always concerned with fighting the campaign, whereas strategy includes wider considerations. A particular tactic can only be understood as part of the overall strategy. Tactics are applied for shorter periods of time than strategies, or in smaller areas, or by a more limited number of people, or for more limited objectives.

Method refers to specific means of action, which in the context of a political campaign can mean the social media, letter-writing to local newspapers, leaflets, rallies and public meetings.

On the broader front, the development of a responsible and effective strategic plan, concludes Sharp, depends upon the careful formulation and selection of the grand strategy, strategies, tactics, and methods. The main lesson is that a calculated use of one's intellect is required in careful strategic planning. Thus:
Failure to plan intelligently can contribute to disasters, while the effective use of one's intellectual capacities can chart a strategic course that will judiciously utilise one's available resources to win the campaign.
Interestingly, Sharp suggests that there are sound reasons for making the grand strategy widely known. The large numbers of people required to participate may be more willing and able to act if they understand the general conception, as well as specific instructions. The knowledge could potentially have a very positive effect on their morale, their willingness to participate, and to act appropriately.

The general outlines of the grand strategy would, of course, become known to the opposition but they would find out anyway. Knowledge could cause them to change tactics to our advantage, while contributing to dissension and defections from the Europhile camp.

All it needs then is that there should be a grand strategy – one that we are all capable of following, one that we can all feel that we own. Your views on that would be much appreciated.

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