What do liberation, process and a safe environment all have in common? For me, they all converged in Clamshell Alliance.
In Western Mass some of us had been meeting regularly in Greenfield to stop nukes and support alternative energy before Clamshell got started. We had already fought and stopped the proposed Montague Plains nuke. A few of us had also started developing MNS (Movement for a New Society) regionally in New England as an offshoot of the MNS community in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Some of us were also very active in liberation struggles and advocating for consciousness around freedom issues. Clamshell became a convergence point for all three of these movements.
Several of us went to the very first Clamshell non-violence training with Frances Crowe in May 1976. After that short training, Laura Mazza and I became trainers and vaulted to co-chairing the Training Committee. We trained all the trainers for Clamshell Alliance who then trained every person in every affinity group for the big action in 1977.
Every training included a component on liberation issues including racism, sexism, classism, homophobia and ablism as equally important to stopping nukes. The earth was important to protect and be in harmony with – and so were people! We explained how all oppression has similar dynamics and that they are not separate. The specifics of each oppression is unique and they way the oppression is carried out differs, but the underlying dynamic is the same.
This thinking was extremely radical for that time. I feel Clamshell Alliance, through our non-violence training, helped propel that understanding into more mainstream acceptance. Our non-violence training materials that we developed became the basis for the non-violence training materials for all the other anti-nuclear movements.
These Clamshell training materials then became the basis for other social change movements. I think this is an incredibly important legacy of Clamshell – our training materials got widely spread out as the basis for non-violence training. So, from our decision to include liberation as a core issue, that discussion spread across this country in the movement.
The culture of the Training Committee was very different than the culture of much of Clamshell. Process was an issue we emphasized. We taught people in the Training Committee to pay attention to HOW we did political work. We showed that the means was equally important to the end. We taught that the means created the ends. We included this consciousness in the non-violence trainings as much as we could. We certainly modeled it in the meetings we had – even the ones with over 50 people.
MNS was a great resource for paying attention to the way we interacted with each other. MNS had lots of tools for process, enhancing the quality of meetings and long-range strategy. There was a small group of New England MNS from Boston, central Mass, Vermont, New York, and Western Mass who met weekly in Greenfield to strategize how to make Clamshell more inclusive, less male-dominated and more effective on long range planning and strategy.
Our small NE MNS group was a fulcrum point between Clamshell Alliance which had regional and situational authority and the national MNS people who had a lot of experience in movement building, process and non-violence. It was a very wild balance for us as things heated up in early 1977 – being in the middle between these two groups of very strong opinionated people who both had a lot to offer each other, but didn’t necessarily recognize each other’s authority.
In the Greenfield group I was involved in we had many of the core people of the anti-nuke movement. We had already stopped the proposed Montague nuke. Sam Lovejoy and others poured their lifeblood into this issue and were very powerful personalities and dedicated people. I was delighted to be working with this group, but I was a little younger and felt run over.
I was full of all the tools I learned from MNS and I wanted more process! Every week I made suggestions of how to run the group in a way that I felt was more in line with our values of non-violence. I am sure I was a thorn in much of the group’s side. But they always included me anyway and we are all on good terms over 30 years later. Now many of these tools are in the mainstream.
Susanae Hoch, Laura Mazza and I (all three MNS Clams) focused a great deal on long range planning because we felt that needed improvement. We would arrive with long rolls of paper with strategy laid out for time periods. We urged people to put things into a bigger context and see what made sense in the long term. We wanted people to build a sustainable movement rather than focus on just direct action.
We worked on consensus and that was a major legacy of Clamshell. So dutifully they sighed and listened politely (more or less) and then ignored what we said. We, “those 3 women,” kept showing up with our charts and logic and spoke out again and again.
After the successful Clam occupation on April 30, 1977, we had another big Congress where all the members of Clamshell were welcome. There were probably several hundred of us in a big theater. We three were there with our charts. This Congress was for deciding our next steps. We all were all riding high after the transformations that happened for so many people.
People from the Seacoast – they had the ultimate authority because it was their turf and their community – spoke out quite a bit. It seemed that the consensus of Seacoast folk was that there was not the will from the local community for another occupation. To the three of us, it was clear that we would run into problems if we planned another occupation for the next year.
“We three women” made our presentation with our charts and people thought it sounded good, but let’s move on get to the “real work.” As the group was deciding the next strategy, two men from New York got up and had their say. They had missed the opportunity to be at the last occupation and they wanted their chance. They didn’t care that the Seacoast people said there wasn’t local support – they were sure that would turn around once the decision was made and the time was closer.
Quite a discussion ensued! Many people were ready to indulge these men’s desires, no matter the consequence. “We three women!” kept raising the issue that the Seacoast said it wouldn’t work and we had to implement this idea of putting plans into a larger perspective – which was stopping nukes and supporting alternative energy. People were muttering at us all over the place.
All evening steering committee guys took turns coming over to Susanae, Laura and I and begging us to agree to occupation. We explained again and again that it would be a big problem long term, but they didn’t care. People would say, “We know they are wrong, but just give them their way!” “Those 3 women!!” – we heard it again and again all through the evening.
As usual, this Congress operated on consensus. This discussion went on for hours. Lots of us spoke out and said one way and then another that if we agreed to occupation, we would have terrible problems down the line and let’s strategize what is best for at least the next year … to no avail.
Eventually, everyone else, who was objecting, withdrew their objections. Susanae, Laura and I held consensus up for about 3 hours alone as we argued again and again that it was easier to agree to occupation that night, but there would be hell to pay down the line.
But around 3 am when once again, one of the guys came over to beg us to stop blocking consensus, we sadly did. We heard later that those two guys from New York were probably government plants to disrupt our beloved Clamshell. I don’t know if it is true or not, but that was the result. As far as I am concerned, the need to change the occupation to a demonstration was a terrible blow to the Clamshell Alliance.
We would have held out longer, but it became clear that the majority of people knew the occupation was wrong but was going to let two men hijack the process. It is so sad that it looks like we were correct in our analysis and the results of short-term thinking were so devastating to the organization.
Part of the Clamshell legacy is for movements to pay attention to long-term strategy and look at things in a larger context. Standing up for principles is an important part of the lesson here too … people were indulging two men who did not have Clamshell’s interests in mind. Also, as part of the legacy, the Franklin County (MA) Progressive Network, that Court Dorsey and I started, made an organizational structure that would prevent individuals from derailing the goals of our group.
Clamshell Alliance leaves an incredibly creative legacy of implementing consensus in large groups, affinity groups structure, and mandatory non-violence trainings for civil disobedience. Including liberation and process tools with trainings was innovative. The movement-building tools that MNS people shared in the armories transformed many people’s lives. It was incredibly exciting and exhilarating!
Diane Clancy, who lives at 32 Abbott St. in Greenfield, MA 01301, was involved in the Clamshell in the Western Mass. Region since the beginning. She worked in Support City in 1977 and was always in a support role (no arrests). She was a trainer, Co-Chair of the Training Committee, and her Affinity Group was Susanae Hoch, Laura Mazza, and Diane Clancy. Her contact info is firstname.lastname@example.org, www.dianeclancy.com and www.dianeclancy.com/blog.