The Tactical Activists

terrain-analysis-2by Sakej, November 21, 2016 (via Facebook)

The “battlefield” for political, social, economic and environmental justice issues is shifting.
The opposition (government and industry) has been gearing up for a huge conflict with their own population for decades now. They have planning, re-writing their operations manuals, recruiting, re-organizing, re-equipping, and re-training their law enforcement agencies to effectively suppress domestic political dissidence. There is no doubt about it nation-states have domesticated war.

Industry has become a force unto itself. At one time industry was completely dependent upon the state to provide security, in the form of police, to protect the interests and assets of the corporations. Now with the rise of privatization of military functions and services we see the emergence and ascendance of Private Military Corporations (PMCs).
Industry is in a situation where there have very little obstacles (political or legal) to hiring their own private armies and I do mean armies. PMCs are not the run-of-the-mill security companies. PMCs employ former elite military soldiers with extensive combat experience in other imperial campaigns of conquest where they gained invaluable experience shutting down protests, quelling riots, targeting protest leaders, capturing or neutralizing the opposition’s leadership, suppressing rebellions, crushing insurgencies and pacifying the population’s political dissent. They are the masters of imperial battle skills.
Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA) have “militarized” their doctrine for responding to protest and political dissidence. They are employing more combat veterans, surveillance and weaponized drones, LRADs, ADS, MRAPs, GPS tracking, mass CCTV, bio-metric ID, software surveillance, next generation less-than-lethal weapons, normalizing the increased frequency of deploying assault teams and snipers, psychological operations, the utilization of covert “black sites”, slew of trumped-up charges, law suits, anti-activists legislation, terrorist labels, and the list of “weapons” goes on.


Police with armoured vehicles form a line in front of barricades in North Dakota during #NoDAPL action, October 2016. Photo: Crimethinc

Years ago, activist’s campaigns surely were met with force, that hasn’t changed but the nature of that force and the way it is “triggered” has changed. The political and legal threshold to “trigger” a massive militarized LEA response is much lower than before. In the political environment almost any form of dissent is being promoted as some kind of act of terrorism. The legal environment has followed the political atmosphere by being further manufactured to protect the corporation’s interest in criminalizing dissent.
This “police-state” like environment amounts to a more intense “battlefield” for activists. These new “battlefields” require more planning, more preparation, more training in order to achieve activist’s objectives while balancing that with reducing the chance of arrests, injury or even death to the activists.
Many strategies, tactics and skills used by activists have already been rendered obsolete as LEA has had decades to develop counter-measures to typical forms of protests.
There was a time, long ago, when political dissent could be conducted with peasants and pitchforks because the equipment and training level of a soldier, at that time, wasn’t much different than that of a typical civilian. The evolution of weapons, military technology, military organizing, military training, military tactics and skills, which have leaked into LEAs, has created a huge security-capability gap. This security-capability gap has vastly expanded, especially in the last few decades, to the point where benign forms of political dissidence, such as protests, are met with overwhelming militarized force denying any forms of effective political opposition.
Activists are throwing themselves into an environment where they are at the very low end of the security-capability gap while the government is on the highly capable opposite end. Furthering this imbalance of power is the condition of activists choosing to limit their engagements the opposition to just the use of political action. This means they are at an enormous disadvantage when it comes to pressuring a resolution, applying power or responding to raw force.
This severe disadvantage can only overcome with quality of skills, cunning application of tactics and masterful creation of a strategic plan.
It is time to create a shift in activists thinking and operating. Shift can begin with revising strategies from the same-old, predictable, static actions to ones that are built on smaller organizations, better trained, more capable, more mobile, more flexible, more dynamic, more security-conscious, more bush-capable, more networked with other organizations, more maneuverable, decentralized command, and using rapid concentration of power and effects followed by rapid dispersion. Then skills need to be developed to meet the needs of those kinds of strategies.
To modify their skill-base to meet the objectives set out in a strategic plan activists organizations should review, analyse and critique their current skill sets, determine what is obsolete, identify skill set deficiencies, what skills need to be improved, what are some innovative new skills and techniques. Then a training plan is developed for teaching the new skill sets to an established standard.


An example of restricted terrain: a forest and mountain range in BC.

The criminalization of activism is pressuring activists to consider becoming tactical. The concept of “tactical” should be understood as operating with a specific mindset, in a highly organized manner that satisfies the conditions of the tactics being employed. It would mean activists would have to modify how they think about conflict areas, how they organize and train, how they plan, how they communicate, how they equip themselves, how they assemble, how they move as a group, what kind of actions they engage in, how they get out of an action area, how they disperse and go back to their daily lives.
Don’t let the word “tactical” confuse you. Tactical does not necessarily have to mean the use of firearms. A group can operate in a tactical manner but remain non-violent in its doctrine, if they should choose so.
Being tactical means activists can start to effectively create counter-measures/counter-tactics to the law enforcement tactics used to cordon off, kettle or envelop protest groups allowing police to conduct key raids and/or snatch and grabs of key protest leaders.
To start to counter the effects of LEA tactics activists should include a “tactical” dimension into their planning and executing of campaigns.
There are so many ways to make tactical changes to existing activist’s organizations and modis operandi. For example, one aspect of the tactical dimension that activist can develop is to include skill sets that allow activist groups to operate in restricted terrain. Restricted terrain is found in places like woodland, mountains, swamps, and jungle environments. Restricted terrain robs the LEA officers of a critical asset, their vehicles. Restricted terrain denies or severely hinders the operation of vehicles, such as police patrol cars, SWAT trucks, MRAPS, police buses as well as providing some concealment from air observation.
terrain-analysis-1Operating in and from restricted terrain provides a sanctuary as it is much harder to pursue an activist team off-road. It forces the pursuer to have to dismount their vehicles, disperse into smaller search groups and chase the activist teams into the unfamiliar difficult territory. It is a nightmare scenario for LEA.
Operating in and from restricted terrain means that activists plan the use of restricted terrain to assemble, move through to gain surprise, launch an action from, move through after an action is successfully conducted and to covertly disperse from.
To effectively utilize restricted terrain the activists have to be trained in and practice these skill sets. Failure to do so will likely lead to getting lost in the bush, being late for mission execution times, showing up at the wrong place, losing the element of surprise or being compromised during movement.
It’s no small endeavor to shift to a more tactical nature of an organization but it will increase the groups capability, reduce the chances of injuries, arrests and failure, and the training will filter out the less committed and build a strong group cohesiveness.

Posted on November 22, 2016, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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