Movement for a New Society: Training, vision, strategy more

The Movement for a New Society (MNS 1971-1988), was a global training and action network of groups, whose mission was to “spread the tools and consciousness of nonviolent social change.” MNS members developed a critical and comprehensive analysis of society; a vision of a decentralized, democratic and caring social order; nonviolent revolutionary strategies and tactics; and programs aimed at changing values and lives. Their rapid and intensive development, implementation, and spread of these across North America and to every other continent, earned MNS a reputation for proven effectiveness and track record of successful accomplishment on many progressive goals.

MNS was founded in 1971 in Philadelphia by leaders of A Quaker Action Group, former staff of the American Friends Service Committee, and secular activist pioneers and veterans of the Civil Rights, peace, anti-war, anti-nuclear, and environmental movements. Prominent among these founders, who were prolific organizers, strategists and authors, were: George Lakey, Bill Moyer, Richard and Phyllis Taylor, Lynne Shivers, George and Lillian Willoughby, and others.

MNS members functioned via a network of “collectives” and founded, led and/or developed numerous other efforts and organizations addressing many timely political concerns. Among these were: Keystone Safe Energy Alliance, Pennsylvania Jobs with Peace, New Society Publishers, Common Courage Press, Community Printing, Peace Brigades International, and many others.

MNSers also experimented with simple living, community and personal growth, drawing on feminist, anti-racist, anti-classist, and Quaker values, testimonies, and processes. They established “Life Centers” in Philadelphia and other cities, whose resident activists set up or nurtured local co-ops and community organizations and coalitions of many stripes.

Beyond these, MNS’s pioneering application and promotion of new shared leadership models, open and inclusive decision-making, effective meeting facilitation, “macroanalysis seminars,” and other group processes, inspired and guided a wide range of progressive campaigns and organizations through the 1970s and 1980s. Particularly significant was the key role in the anti-nuclear power movement of MNS trainers, facilitators and processes, such as quick decision making in affinity groups. The best known historic example was in the successful, massive nonviolent civil disobedience actions by New England’s Clamshell Alliance to stop construction of a reactor at Seabrook, NH. Over 50 MNS members and trainers were among 1414 activists arrested “occupying” that site on May 1, 1977, who spent the next two weeks “jailed” in five New Hampshire National Guard armories!

Subsequent movements continue to utilize and benefit from its many influences — from opposition to exploitative corporate global trade, to Occupy, to local “affinity groups” like Earth Quaker Action Team, to today’s racial and gender equity, climate, peace, justice, labor, human rights, and innumerable others.

See Moyer’s final training video and “Rainstorm” of MNS  2-min. “light-and-lively” (ice-breaker) 2009.

Movement for a New Society: Training, vision, strategy more.
Find key MNS documents in Swarthmore Library Peace Collection.


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