Review Blog

Sep 14 2017

How to resist: Turn protest to power by Matthew Bolton

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Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408892725
(Age: Secondary - Adult) Recommended. Matthew Bolton was Citizen UK's lead organiser for the national Living Wage Campaign whereby different community groups united to win the 'national living wage' for low-paid workers. In this little pocket-sized book he shares what he has learnt about campaigning on social justice issues - 'practical tools and principles to show how people can get together and make change happen'. He puts great emphasis on democratic participation, helping people to be effective citizens. It would be really useful for students of Civics and Citizenship to read this book, to go beyond the feel-good protest march, and gain the sense of empowerment from actually uniting and achieving goals through well-planned strategies.
History students would also gain greater insight into civil rights movements of the past. Bolton reveals how the famous incident where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus was not just frustration at the end of a long hardworking day; Rosa had been active in the civil rights struggle for ten years before the bus action. But at the right moment her action captured national attention.
Similarly the strategy of 'action in the provocation of overreaction' is illustrated by the events of Selma 1964-65. Selma was chosen by Martin Luther King and other key civil rights leaders precisely because of its reputation for violent conduct towards African Americans. The violence directed towards a peaceful march at Selma drew national attention and became impossible to ignore.
Other strategies are revealed in the book - with lessons learnt from the failures as well as the successes. There are many useful tips, but none more useful than the Iron Rule - shift from trying to solve people's problems for them, to building the capacity of people for collective action and political change. It is a great lesson. I think all readers could learn something from this guidebook.
Helen Eddy

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