The direct action frame draws much of its character from it connection with a particular approach to creating social change, rather than any more theoretical ideology. Nonetheless beliefs concerning the tactics for action demonstrate a particular value set that shares much in common with anarchism.
The chapter examines the development of direct action in the UK by briefly examining periods of protest for nuclear disarmament in the late 1950s, for environmental protection in the 1970s and against road building during the 1990s. It becomes possible to see a growing militancy over those years, as well as the development of increasingly sophisticated action practices and a deepening of the political and philosophical messages of direct action.
By offering greater detail about contemporary direct action it becomes possible to specify that political content. Briefly, these ideas include:
- a high value on individual freedom with, as a flip side, a high stress on responsibility for one’s actions;
- a distrust of authority, seen as self-serving;
- a stress on taking forms of action that do not depend on mediation by a third party to be effective;
- a value on the creation of open political spaces for learning, empowerment, and governed by the respect for others’ liberty;
- a developing critique of capitalism that sees the current structures of political economy as responsible for a great variety of social, political and environmental ills; and
- an understanding of democracy as requiring in-depth, free and unmediated participation by all effected by the relevant decisions.