Direct action

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Direct action is activity undertaken by individuals, groups, or governments to achieve political, economic, or social goals outside of normal social/political channels. Direct action can include nonviolent and violent activities which target persons, groups, or property deemed offensive to the direct action participant. Examples of nonviolent direct action include strikes, workplace occupations, sit-ins, sabotage, property destruction and graffiti. Violent direct actions include assault and murder. By contrast, grassroots organizing, electoral politics, diplomacy and negotiation or arbitration do not constitute direct action. Direct actions are sometimes a form of civil disobedience, but some (such as strikes) do not always violate criminal law.

The rhetoric of Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi promoted non-violent revolutionary direct action as a means to social change. Names for these include "Satya-Graha", meaning "truth-force" in sanskrit.

Direct action participants aim to either:

  • obstruct another political agent or political organization from performing some practice to which the activists object; or,
  • solve perceived problems which traditional societal institutions (corporations, governments, powerful churches or establishment trade unions) are not addressing to the satisfaction of the direct action participants.

In general, direct action is often used by those seeking social change, in some cases, revolutionary change. It is central to autonomism and has been advocated by a variety of marxists and anarchists, including syndicalism, anarcho-communism, insurrectionary anarchism, green anarchism, Marxist Humanists, anarcho-primitivist and pacifists.


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