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Mass mobilization (also known as social mobilization or popular mobilization) refers to mobilization of civilian population as part of contentious politics. Mass mobilization is often used by grassroots-based social movements, including revolutionary movements, but can also become a tool of elites and the state itself. The process usually takes the form of large public gatherings such as mass meetings, marches, parades, processions and demonstrations. Those gatherings usually are part of a protest action.
Mass mobilization is defined as a process that engages and motivates a wide range of partners and allies at national and local levels to raise awareness of and demand for a particular development objective through face-to-face dialogue. Members of institutions, community networks, civic and religious groups and others work in a coordinated way to reach specific groups of people for dialogue with planned messages. In other words, social mobilization seeks to facilitate change through a range of players engaged in interrelated and complementary efforts.
Government mass mobilization
Governments can utilize mass mobilization to provide national support for the causes they are working for. Many governments attempt to mobilize the population to participate in elections and other voting events. In particular, it is important for political parties in any country to be able to mobilize voters in order to gain support for their party, which affects voter turnout in general.
Nazi Germany applied mass mobilization techniques to win support for their policies. The Nazi party mobilized the population with mass meetings, parades, and other gatherings. These events appealed to the people's emotions.
Social media and the Internet have made mass mobilization easier to organize and disseminate ideas. The Internet has grown in political importance, and has played a significant role in many mass mobilization efforts.
The Arab Spring is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on Saturday, 18 December 2010. To date, rulers have been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen; civil uprisings have erupted in Bahrain and Syria; major protests have broken out in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Oman; and minor protests have occurred in Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Western Sahara. Clashes at the borders of Israel in May 2011, as well as protests by Arab minority in Iranian Khuzestan, have also been inspired by the regional Arab Spring.
The protests have shared techniques of mostly civil resistance in sustained campaigns involving strikes, demonstrations, marches, rallies, as well as the use of social media to organize, communicate, and raise awareness in the face of state attempts at repression and Internet censorship.
Nonviolence vs Violent Tactics
According to Donatella della Porta and Sidney Tarrow, the mechanism that produces violence in the declining phase of the collective action cycle is a result of the competition that arises among different sectors of the social movement. Together they formed a theory stating that as mass mobilization winds down, political violence rises in magnitude and intensity.
In his study of the wave of mass protests that took place in Italy between 1965 and 1975, Sidney Tarrow stated that “[i]n the final stages of the cycle, there was an increase in the deliberate use of violence against others. But this increase was a function of the decline of mass protest, not of its extension. Indeed, deliberate targeted violence did not become common until 1972-3, when all the other forms of collective action had declined.” All of which leads him to forcefully conclude that “[o]rganized violence was the product of demobilization.”  Donatella della Porta, in her comparative analysis of political violence and cycles of protest in Italy and Germany between 1960 and 1990, maintains that “when mass mobilization declined, the movements went back to more institutional forms of collective action, whereas small groups resorted to more organized forms of violence.” 
Mark R. Beissinger, in his study on cycles of protest and nationalist violence in the Soviet Union between 1987 and 1992, also detects this pattern, but in this case violence takes the form of ethnic communal conflict rather than terrorism. As he says, “the rise of violence in the USSR in significant part was associated with the decline of nonviolent mobilization contesting interrepublican borders.” 
During the 1870s, the “populists” or “nihilists”, the proponents of a Russian variant of anarchism, organized the so-called “pilgrimages to the people”, which involved small groups of members of the urban, petit bourgeois intelligentsia going into small villages to persuade peasants of the necessity of revolution. However, their efforts had little effect on the peasantry, and it was after this bitter experience that they made the momentous decision to adopt terrorist tactics.
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- Sidney Tarrow, Democracy and Disorder. Protest and Politics in Italy 1965-1975 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 306, author’s italics.
- Donatella della Porta, Social Movements, Political Violence and the State. A Comparative Analysis of Italy and Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 53, author’s italics.
- Mark R. Beissinger, Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 290.
- See Ronald Hingley, The Nihilists (London: Weidenfield and Nicolson, 1967), Ch. 5; Lindsay Clutterbuck, “The Progenitors of Terrorism: Russian Revolutionaries or Extreme Irish Republicans?” Terrorism and Political Violence, 16 (1) (2004): 154-81.
- Weapons of Mass Mobilization, Wired, Issue 12.09 - September 2004 - blogs as modern tools for mass mobilization