In my RBA, I use the term activist handbook to refer to resources that articulate a general framework for movement building, inspire activists with examples of specific tactics, and encourage activists to adhere to nonviolent strategies in their campaigns for regime change/revolution. Having analyzed a number of activist handbooks, I argue that educational materials for activists are effective in convincing people to use nonviolent tactics because they construct a logical appeal that emphasizes the strategic value of nonviolence. However, I also want to address the significance of these texts; is this logical appeal necessary to sustain an activist movement? I have concluded that examining how these texts persuade their readers to follow the principles of strategic nonviolent resistance is critical because campaign success and the subsequent transition to democracy are dependent upon these texts’ ability to convince all members of the movement to adhere to nonviolent tactics. This is because violent resistance, even when used by only a few members of an otherwise nonviolent movement, allows the regime to crack down on protestors. Additionally, long-term efforts to create a more democratic system may be more likely to succeed if activists develop the basic infrastructure of a transitional democratic government within their revolutionary movement.
The foundation of my argument is the idea that the government’s reliance on the cooperation of its citizens allows activists to compromise the regime’s power through nonviolent action. That said, certain aspects of nonviolent strategy might initially be counter-intuitive to many activists, which is evident when protestors get caught up in the moment and forget to craft a long-term plan for their movement. This is especially problematic in campaigns for regime change, because activists need to follow through (even after they have “won”) and replace the authoritarian system with a more just, open one. Having discussed these ideas, I will analyze the rhetoric of activist handbooks and use the framework I’ve build in my paper to discuss how the authors’ logical appeals are important to the success of activists’ campaigns and subsequent political changes.