Direct action

action intended to reveal an existing problem, highlight an alternative, or demonstrate a possible solution to a social issue

Direct action originated as an anarchist term for economic and political acts in which the actors use their (e. g. economic or physical) power to directly reach certain goals of interest, in contrast to those actions that appeal to others (e. g. authorities).

Depiction of the Belgian general strike of 1893. A general strike is an example of confrontational direct action.


  • Direct action, having proven effective along economic lines, is equally potent in the environment of the individual. There a hundred forces encroach upon his being, and only persistent resistance to them will finally set him free. Direct action against the authority in the shop, direct action against the authority of the law, direct action against the invasive, meddlesome authority of our moral code, is the logical, consistent method of Anarchism. Will it not lead to a revolution? Indeed, it will. No real social change has ever come about without a revolution. People are either not familiar with their history, or they have not yet learned that revolution is but thought carried into action.
  • In its essence direct action is the insistence, when faced with structures of unjust authority, on acting as if one is already free. One does not solicit the state. One does not even necessarily make a grand gesture of defiance. Insofar as one is capable, one proceeds as if the state does not exist.
    • David Graeber, Direct Action: An Ethnography, Oakland: AK Press, p. 203, 2009.
  • What gets forgotten in relation to direct action mobilizations is the promise implicit in their own structure: that power not only needs to be contested; it must also be constituted anew in liberatory and egalitarian forms. This entails taking directly democratic processes seriously—not simply as a tactic to organize protests but as the very way we organize society, specifically the political realm.
  • Direct action enables people to develop a new sense of self-confidence and an awareness of their individual and collective power. Direct action is founded on the idea that people can develop the ability for self-rule only through practice, and proposes that all persons directly decide the important issues facing them. Direct action is not just a tactic, it is individuals asserting their ability to control their own lives and to participate in social life without the need for mediation or control by bureaucrats or professional politicians. Direct action encompasses a whole range of activities, from organising coops to engaging in resistance to authority. Direct action places moral commitment above positive law. Direct action is not a last resort when other methods have failed, but the preferred way of doing things.
  • Right now we're in the early stages of World War III. It's a war to save the planet. [Direct] action will be getting stronger. Eventually there will be open war.
    • Paul Watson, quoted in The Pied Pipers of Pacifism: Lee Hall, Gary Francione, and the Betrayal of Animal Liberation by Steven Best and Jason Miller (2009). p. 52

See also

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