Movement for a New Society

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The Movement for a New Society (MNS) was a U.S.-based network of social activists, committed to the principles of nonviolence, who played a key role in social movements of the 1970s and 80s.

The precursor to the MNS was A Quaker Action Group(AQAG), founded by Lawrence Scott in 1966. Dissatisfied with the response of the mainstream Quaker church to the United States involvement in the Vietnam War, Scott founded AQAG with the intention of sparking a renewed commitment to the Quaker Peace Testimony.

Frustrated by their failure to achieve this end, AQAG members including Scott and “convinced” Quaker George Willoughby, refashioned the group as the Movement for A New Society in 1971. Other founding members included Bill Moyer and George Lakey.

The early members of MNS consciously sought to develop tools and strategies that could be employed to bring about revolutionary change through nonviolent means. Through the Life Center Association[1] (Philadelphia, PA), an organization which survives to this day, MNS members also experimented with co-operative living arrangements, in accordance with their radical feminist and nonviolent beliefs.

Unlike other radical organizations of the time, MNS did not focus its energies exclusively on one issue or injustice. Its members were involved in working for social change on many fronts, most notably in the movement to end US involvement in the Vietnam war, and during the citizen-led opposition to the expansion of the US nuclear industry in the mid to late ‘70s.

According to a description from the MNS publication, Building Social Change Communities (1979),

Movement for a New Society (MNS) is a nationwide network of groups working for fundamental social change through nonviolent action. Together we are developing an analysis of present-day society; a vision of a decentralized, democratic and caring social order; a nonviolent revolutionary strategy; and a program based on changed values and changed lives.

Through the cooperatively owned and managed New Society Publishers, MNS members published numerous pamphlets and books providing practical advice on working for social change, as well as republishing important works on non-violence (e.g. We Are All Part of One Another a Barbara Deming Reader in 1984[2]). The publications of NSP, most notably the cooperatively authored Resource Manual for a Living Revolution (known affectionately within movement circles as the “monster manual”) were a primary source of inspiration and guidance for citizens across the United States as opposition to nuclear expansion grew, and influenced movements as far afield as the Tasmanian Wilderness Society’s campaign to prevent the damming of the Franklin River.

In 1988, MNS was dissolved by its members due to various factors, including its inability to achieve its objective of becoming multi-cultural, as well as difficulty adapting as an organization due to the self-imposed strictures of consensus decision-making. Other issues included conflicting ideas of the importance of leadership, as well as an excessive amount of time spent on internal anti-oppression work, leading to less time for world transformation work.[3] It could also be argued that it had achieved its primary goal of making Gandhian style non-violent action a primary method that American social change activists use to effect change.

New Society Publishers, now based in British Columbia, continues to publish social-change related titles, with an increased emphasis on the practical aspects of environmental sustainability. In 1995, members of the New Society Publishers Philadelphia office started a website, Nonviolence.org, which continues to publish resources, inspiration and analysis. Until his death in October, 2002, Bill Moyer continued to teach his influential eight-stage model for social change movements, the Movement Action Plan, to activists around the US and around the world. George Lakey, as director of the Philadelphia based Training for Change organisation, still works to promote nonviolence as a powerful technique for resisting injustice.

Douglas & McIntyre bought New Society Publishers in 2008. It was repurchased by the original Canadian New Society publishing group in 2013.

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Cornell, Andrew (2011). Oppose and Propose: Lessons from Movement for a New Society: AK Press. ISBN 978-1-84935-066-2

Coover, Virginia ... [et al.] (1985). Resource Manual for a Living Revolution. Philadelphia, PA : New Society Publishers. ISBN 0-86571-015-5

External links[edit]