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Protest Movements Don't Need A Spearhead To Be Successful
20th January 2011
Andreas Whittam Smith | The Independent
"The unstoppable power of leaderless organisations" – that single phrase has been running through my mind as I have watched the popular revolt in Tunisia. It comes from a treatise about management of all things, The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom, published in 2006. Forget about the spider for the time being. The thing about starfish is that they don't have brains in the normal sense, though they do have rather complex nervous systems. If you cut an arm off a starfish, it grows a new one. Some can replicate themselves from just a single limb. Leaderless organisations are like starfish.
The protest movement in Tunisia has the same features. When bullets and beatings cut off one participant, another comes forward. Does it have a brain? Is somebody in charge? I have looked carefully to see whether a single person or some small group has been leading the revolution. I cannot find any evidence. On the internet I have read Tunisia's French language newspapers now free to publish without censorship. There is no mention of a controlling mind. I have likewise read the blogs (try nawaat.org/portail/). Nothing. Students and professional people have led the way, but the movement has been essentially leaderless. There is no Lech Walesa figure, the Polish trades union leader who used strikes in the late 1980s to bring about free parliamentary elections and the elimination of the Communist dictatorship.
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