For the use of power we need to adopt both an ethical and a pragmatic approach, this may be difficult and something of a balancing but it is vitally important. Chosing the appropriate means for our ends is the only way to ensure our actions will have utility in the long term. We need to reject the lure of short term fixes that can be forced precisely because they will not have longevity. All our individual behaviours, the language we use and the way our actions demonstrate commitment and confidence must become and integral part of the project. 

Non-violence is a strategic choice, and it is chosen because is is the only route to change that will have any long term utility. Non-violence is not just a tactic to be abandoned if a fight seems more likely to have an effect. Cooperation and collaboration will not, and cannot be brought about by competition and conflict. Force always caused an opposed reaction but even compliance, until I can reverse things, is not a foundation that, permanence can be built on. Only persuasion has any chance.

Can I imagine a situation where hard power is used, yes I can, but only in order to establish reciprocity. The only circumstance I can imagine hard force being used is where it is necessary to demonstrate that use of hard powers against holistic political economy will not be allowed to pass. Remember it has to be appropriate, proportionate and not be seen as an escalation, and it will always be followed by a willingness to cooperate. If used at all, it will require careful and difficult thought, as well as carful and difficult en-action. 

Choosing means

Choosing means become critical, so here are some guidelines: 

  • Educate people in the alternative, show how it works, build up solidarity and self-confidence
  • Don’t take on the existing power structure on build an new one based on the practical working alternative vision 
  • The model for leadership is facilitation, a leader is first among equals, and the servant of the team. A leader seeks consensus. In this model a leader who also has a proposal for consideration stands down to make the proposal and someone else facilitates.
  • The person or group who have the problem have to deal with the problem, not have a solution handed down to them
  • Not every problem in the world can be solved by intervention, it you don’t have the power (the likelihood of success) using force is no only unethical but it also lacks utility. It lacks utility because it won’t work long term, and although it may deliver compliance for a short time, the maintenance cost is going to be very high
  • However, the reverse is also true, people with the problem must be given the power to solve it for themselves, this is called empowerment in business and is sometimes fashionable. Even so it is rare in practice but at least  the principle is recognised. In Great Britain the devolution settlements in Wales, Scotland and Northers Ireland are the only examples I can think off that go anywhere near this. In all other cases we seem to have had a unrelenting process of centralisation and removal of things from close scrutiny.
  • Charities take note, you do not get a free pass from this commentator however laudable the ends are the principle of empowerment needs to be applied rigorously, many charities are guilty of corporate management and doing it to people 
  • Within all solutions include and develop processes that increase commitment. We know what this means, we just have to to do it. Participation, consensus building and commitment building are not optional and must be built into the process
  • Always be positive, make positive suggestions, demonstrate in favour of things not against things

When dealing with (the inevitable) opposition from entrenched power and those who want to maintain division and competition

  • Always use seek soft power tactics first when faced with resistance
  • Never let the use of power against you go un-responded to, make the response proportionate, always be explicit about what you are doing and always be ready to co-operate (never bear a grudge)
  • Mobilise protest to show strength (we are many they are few)
  • Be prepared to use civil disobedience when needed Note: Non-Violent Civil Disobedience
  • In extremis wait – nothing lasts forever – the communist regimes in Eastern Europe imploded 

Personal behaviour 


Rhetoric and sabre rattling should be avoided. Once you fail to deliver on a threat you are showing weakness. When faced with a challenge an empty threat actually signals willingness to let things pass.  If chemical weapons are declared to be a ‘red line’ then that is what they are; you have to know in advance what is a proportionate response and what happens next?


You have to be a player with a stake in the outcome. Once in you cannot walk away. A reciprocal process has started. This is why it is necessary to have a political vision; you have to know where you are going to end up. If the means are going to be suited to the ends then there has to be an end for it to be suited too. After toppling the Libyan regime what political settlement do you want in the country, if you don’t want to be in the EU, what do you want the relationship to be? If you want a peaceful transformation of society what exactly is it going to be transformed into and what means will bring it about?

I contend that joining a political party or becoming an activist campaigning to right wrongs, do not, of themselves, have the necessary utility, a different strategy and new tactics are needed.