Blueprint for Revolution

Want to know how to use rice pudding, lego men, and other non-violent techniques to galvanize communities, overthrow dictators, or simply change the world? If so, that is the sub-title or Popovic's "Blueprint for Revolution" (2015). For those familiar with this literature, many of Popovic's tactics are of the Alinsky type. The book provides a wealth of examples and motivation. It is also problematic. It offers straw man arguments (p. 86-87). The author wants to support more inclusive societies, but calls groups of people "hobbits" (p. 71, 127) and offers stereotypical assumptions about Arabs being irrational and lazy throughout (e.g. 80, 88; see Said on this). The author suggests this is comedic, but clearly at the expense of others.

Problematic parts aside, the book offers some valuable insight into non-violent action.


  • "A big part of a movement's success will be determined by the battles it chooses to fight, and a lot of that has to do with how well it understands its opponent" (p. 37)
  • "If you recall Gandhi's salt march, you'll remember that he worked in incremental steps and declared all his little victories along the way. That's because he understands the game of nonviolence instinctively" (p. 230)
  • "Laughter and fun are no longer marginal to a movement's strategy. In many cases, they are the strategy. Today's nonviolent activists are launching a global shift in protest tactics away from anger, resentment, and rage toward a more powerful form of activism rooted in fun. And, surprisingly, all of this works even better the harder dictators crack down on it" (p. 123)
  • "Making oppression backfire is a skill, sort of like jujitsu, that's all about playing your opponents' strongest card against them" (p. 129)

Lessons to learn:

  • "the Syrians, like the leaders of the Occupy movement in the United States, were deceived by the apparent simplicity of the revolutions in Egypt and elsewhere. What people didn't realize was that the group of Egypt revolutionaries trained by CANVAS in Belgrade had spent two years winning small victories, building coalitions, and branding their movement before they undertook their Tahrir Square action. Proper revolutions are not cataclysmic explosions; they are long, controlled burns" (p. 80)
  • "A group identity is necessary for any movement, whether its aim is to bring down a dictator or to promote organic farming" (p. 161)
  • "unity, in the end, is about much more than having everybody lined up behind a particular candidate or issue. It's about creating a sense of community, building the elements of group identity, having a cohesive organization, leaving none of your men or women behind, and sticking to your values. It's about doing plenty of things that make others feel as if your struggle is theirs as well" (p. 171-172)
  • "luck matters. The principles detailed in this book, from the grand strategies to the minute tactics, are tried and true, but we are all human beings, and being human means that something completely random and crazy and unpredictable can come along and either catapult you to glory or make all of your well-laid plans obsolete" (p. 256)
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