Political Activism

The term political activism is here used to describe active campaigning in various forms, to achieve specific political objectives.

People can be consciously active in politics.  Apathy is a possible choice – implying either a lack of knowledge as to how to participate, or a belief that their participation would make no difference – but neither of these reasons is defensible, given the number of mechanisms available:

●  By voting in democratic elections, people can choose politicians.

●  In a democracy, they can choose to join a political party (; that gives them an opportunity to influence its policies and its choice of leader.  Joining the party in a one-party system would be at least a statement of conformity, and might also provide a mechanism for exerting political influence.

●  They can apply pressure on politicians, by demonstrating or by direct communication (

●  They can join political pressure groups (6.4.4).

●  If a non-political interest group decides to apply political pressure, its members would normally support it; merely being counted as part of its membership is a form of support.

●  They can donate time, money and facilities to political parties or to pressure groups (6.4.5).

●  They can avoid buying goods and services from countries or organisations they disapprove of, perhaps because of concerns about the workers’ human rights (  This use of economic power can have a political effect if such purchasing decisions are explained and publicised.

●  People can explain their concerns, if they are given an opportunity in consultation processes (6.5.3).

Some of these forms of participation depend on free speech, as discussed later in this chapter (  The power of political activism to challenge a government is implied by President Putin’s determination to crack down on it: “Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 also marked the start of a new, all-out drive to eradicate public dissent in Russia.”  Putin was probably worried that political dissent might grow into a sufficiently powerful movement to overthrow him.  Historically there are instances of popular pressure building to become an unstoppable force, but in democracies it is more likely that some politicians will take notice of public feeling and adjust their policies accordingly.

Many people might find themselves to be in opposition to a government, often alongside many others who share their views.  They will want to continue to apply pressure on specific issues or on general policy directions, even though the government they oppose might be popular with the majority of the population.  As described later in this chapter, people need to be able to apply pressure and raise governance issues (, and then participate in meaningful negotiation (6.8.4), even if they haven’t joined an interest group.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6611.htm.